The Art of Photography: A Man and His Camera

The image above was not done with photo editing software. It was made in the dark room by combining two negatives.
The image above was not done with photo editing software. It was made in the dark room by combining two negatives.

ON ONE KNEE out in the street with the parade approaching, I don’t need to be consciously thinking about how the camera works, what the histogram might look like, or how chemicals worked in the dark room. What I need is the ability to make the settings necessary to get what I want quickly and accurately then get out of the street before the majorettes knock me down and stomp me. There are times,however, when I do want to know the nuances of exposure, composition, metering and post production.

“Self-taught” is the description for my education in photography and over the years my library has swelled with a variety of books and magazines. The majority of books are the works of other photographers. Until recently, my interest has been in areas that did not involve human portraiture. My interest in jazz music has led to my interest in the work of Francis Wolff, John Abbott, and William Claxton. Wolff’s work in particular is amazing due to the fact this his portraits were not posed. They were working shots of musicians during rehearsals and jam sessions. Wolff had obviously done some preparation as the lighting was ideal.

Barnbaum-CoverOne of the most helpful books I own is one on exposure and specifically how to use the “manual” setting on my camera for the desired exposure. Another favorite is a “how to get this shot” type book with suggested settings. With the addition of The Art of Photography – An Approach to Personal Expression, by Bruce Barnbaum, the technical aspect of my library should be complete.

Mr. Barnbaum’s book (from Rockynook) is actually a revised edition of one originally published in 1994 and is filled with over one hundred examples of his work. (Studying the work of others is both educational and inspirational.)

This version gives readers the benefits of thirty-five years of refinement and experience from a teacher who has earned the distinction of “one of the world’s finest landscape and architectural photographers and instructors.” Eighteen chapters fill over three hundred pages with topics like: “Communication Through Photography”, “What is Composition”, “Elements of Composition”, as well as others on light, visualization, creativity and presentation.

Walter Barnbaum
Bruce Barnbaum

Barnbaum approaches the “zone system of exposure” with separate chapters for film (yes people still use film) and digital cameras. This reviewer found the chapter on personal philosophy in photography particularly inspiring as I have long pondered over concerns with manipulation of images and an ethical way to express myself with my work. I strive to show people what I saw through the viewfinder.

Selecting subjects, composing the shot and then “getting into the moment” all are addressed in several key chapters and culminate in the one titled, “Visualization”. For me, these all add up to zen-like experiences and make me feel as though I’m going into the image right through the viewfinder. Barnbaum is successful in bringing the title to reality for the conscientious student: when a person with a camera can express themselves with their work and truly communicate with the viewer, he or she will have discovered The Art of Photography.

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Please click the book cover image to read more about FCEtier and his novels.

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