April 27, 2012

Film Love

I love to work with film.  A shame I waited so long to pick use it again.  Its been nearly a year since I last worked with medium format.  It makes me slow down.  Makes me compose more, study more, observe more.

Feelings of anticipation are similar to the wait for Christmas morning by a child.  It begins when you pull the finished roll out of the back of the camera and grows when that cartridge of moments is dropped off at the print lab.  Days later you pick up the scanned images and rush home to view them on screen.  Christmas morning becomes old hat after a certain age.  This never gets old.

This slowing down helps in the learning process.  I noticed a couple problem areas that keep creeping up in my work:
(1) I cut off people's hands.  I've been doing this because I thought the face was the morst important part of a portrait.  I want the viewers focus to be there because the face tells the story without speaking.  But an art director pointed out to me recently that the hands tell the story, too.  This is true.  We carry so much of our character in the texture of our hands like the lines on our face.  If it enhances the story, it should be left in.  If not, then get closer.

(2) The key to shooting good black and white photography is a keen observation of highlights and shadows.  Open shade offers opportunity for a gradual transition from highlight to shadow that can be dramatic and help show subtle expressions.  Placing a subject with dark skin or clothes in front of a bright background is tricky.  The exposure required for a bright background can throw off an accurate reading for the foreground.  This is where some of the trial-and-error experience is helpful.  It can also take attention away from the subject (not good).  That's not to imply it can't be done well.  Erica McDonald does it very well.  So does Elliott Erwitt.

Here are a few of my film scans that taught me the above.  Overall, I like these photos but I want to see more hands.  HANDS!

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