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The Gorgeous Hues of Robert Caplin’s Photojournalism

September 9th, 2013 No Comments

It is enough to merely absorb the rich – even intense – and lustrous hues of Robert Caplin’s photographs and luxuriate in them.  How he does it is reflected in what he is principally drawn to: “First and foremost, I’m attracted to beautiful light both hard and soft,” explains Caplin in a just-published interview on the Leica Blog.

Caplin’s work is regularly featured in America’s premier periodicals including National Geographic – but you wouldn’t need to be informed of this fact if you but look at this classically NatGeo image.

To the question, “Was or is there a . . . type of photography that influenced your work or inspired you?” Caplin unhesitatingly answers, “Absolutely – photojournalism.”  The article supplies gobs of pictorial proof demonstrating this fact.  However, inclination towards photojournalism hitched to a preference for colour results in a wonderful departure from conventional B&W photojournalism: witness the photo of a homeless man or panhandler and other pedestrians at night with a brightly-lit stall to one side.  A B&W image would not have put over the tonal contrasts and realism that Caplin’s colour version does.

Caplin clearly does not only capture a moment – decisive or otherwise – or a situation or an event; he sees and brings out the hues that are inherent in the moment, situation or event.  Indeed, you can partly infer this from one of his methods of working: “Sometimes I’ll find a pocket of light and simply wait for a person or a moment to pass through.”  The photo taken in the evening of a man repairing a window of a brick house is a prime example of this mode of operation that resulted in a photo with lovely hues and colour temperatures due to different light sources.

Sometimes “the person or moment” is no more than a small silhouette bringing the gentlest and deftest of human touches to what is primarily a sedate study in architecture, composition, light and textures.  On other occasions colour, composition and light serve to support and accentuate what is primarily a spontaneous portrayal of human emotions and, indeed, that “moment” depicting a memorable instant in a human life.

It is this unusual combination of factors and approach that make Robert Caplin truly an unique photographer.


Room Portraits and Street Shots

September 3rd, 2013 No Comments

Room Portraits

Photographers have been embarking upon some unusual projects of late.  We’ve seen families in different countries with their food and children of different nationalities with their toys on this blog. 

Now, Menno Aden joins the club with photographs of rooms with their . . . things!  The genesis of ‘Room Portraits’ was sheer chance, explains Lori Fredrickson on Popular Photography.  Nevertheless, the final concept was to “capture an overhead view of an entire room” to show the room for what it is: a space inhabited and designed to a person’s particular tastes and needs for that space.

Six of Aden’s varyingly vertiginous views are available online.  Perhaps the word ‘portrait’ is not as out-of-place as one might initially think it to be: doesn’t this functional and sterile operating room have a markedly different ‘personality’ than this colourful and chaotic lived-in living room?

Street Shots

The Leica Blog has posted an article about a classic street shooter; he who moves unobtrusively and in stealth.  As the photographer, Cyril Jayant puts it: “I always attempt to be discreet and not to show my presence . . . .”

Jayant captures moments in time, seeing what other persons may miss.  Take the photo of a dozen-plus legs surrounding one cute pooch (a seeing eye dog, probably).  If the crop had been tighter in the upper-right corner, the dog’s eyes would have been the only eyes in the frame.  As it is, he pops out of the picture, given the tones (near-white amid dark greys and blacks).

Or take the photo of a pair of legs.  Is he repairing something?  Or just sleeping off a few beers?  In any event, it’s funny!  That’s not coincidental; Jayant’s interviewer noticed it too and asked him about “[h]umor and whimsy [being] strong elements . . .” in his work.

Other elements in his photography are mood, ambiguity, and story, and all three are seen to a ‘T’ in ‘Cyesta;’ an image with several possible explanations and no ‘right’ one.

Also worth a look is the vision Jayant carries on his jaunts.  Would you believe that Paris’s Jardin de Luxembourg from the right angle and right time on a grey snowy evening turns into a still from the original Bela Lugosi Dracula?


The “Candid Moment [with] a Story Behind It” —Eric Kim

February 25th, 2013 No Comments
Logo for Leica Camera

Logo for Leica Camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Only a few days back we blogged about a photographer from South Korea who cut his teeth in America.  Today we bring to you a photographer from America who has a portfolio on South Korea.  The ‘contrasts’ continue: the South Korean photographer shoots in a derivative, personalized ‘fine art’ style while the American espouses a more documentary, hard-edged, ‘classic’ street shooting style.  As street shooters, though, both have one thing in common: a love of Leica.

Though this Leica interview is from May 2011, it’s worth checking out Eric Kim: Korean Street Photographer from Los Angeles as a sharp ‘contrast’ to The “Fine Art Street Photography” of K. Chae.

The phrase “candid moments of everyday life” defines Kim’s style well and the sentence “street photography . . . is less about the image but more about the story behind it” completes the definition as it distinguishes his style from Chae’s.  This photograph of two women sharing an umberella on a rainy night (somewhat reminiscent of Brassai?) is the exemplification of Kim’s street shooting philosophy.

Check out this somewhat Cartier-Bresson’ish image (a very high compliment, yes).  The static pose of the mime (or statue, whichever it is) is set off wonderfully by the moving woman, with the viewer’s eye enjoying a further distraction in the geometric lines and curves of the interior architecture.

Here’s something radically different: an overtly geometric, symmetrical and artistic photograph.  This image also projects a sense of direction: notice the narrow beams of light in the top half of the image and the broader ones at the bottom (both of which are laterally symmetrical and directed upwards), the movement of the bicyclist, and the arrow at the bottom.

Kim is also an active blogger who plugs other photographers, offers tips, and announces his workshops.  You may want to read a few tips or attend a workshop if you want to capture a “candid moment [with] a story behind it” as in this delightful image.

Going back to Kim’s definition of his style, perhaps he is more versatile than he thinks he is: doesn’t this sharply gradated, evocative, unusual silhouette count as . . . ‘Fine Art Street Photography’?


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The “Fine Art Street Photography” of K. Chae

February 20th, 2013 No Comments
Logo for Leica Camera

Logo for Leica Camera (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Fine art street photography” – at first glance that sounds like a contradiction in terms and also seems a little pretentious.  But before coming to a final judgement, take a tour of South Korean photographer K. Chae’s imagery and you may reconsider.

“My attention to color is what sets my work apart from other street photographers,” Chae says, in an interview published on the Leica Camera Blog. “People often comment that they confuse my photographs with paintings. I never shoot B&W.”  

On that note, here’s Exhibit A: a luscious photograph of a kneeling, slender maiden writing out the names of bakery items on a display case.  The careful composition, the ‘moment in time’, the ‘story’, the details, the splashes of colour – this is really a new approach to street shooting.

In diametric contrast is this photograph with literally two hues but infinite tints, a truly artistic composition, and an oddly hypnotic sense of depth (partly attained by perspective and partly by the combination of focal length, f-stop, and focus-point).  It’s almost an abstract composition (and it would look really hypnotic on a large canvas).

This photo again is street shooting (frankly, at its finest) but here ones sees lines – including leading lines – galore, lots of texture, and a clear story – in fact, this one picture tells two human interest stories.

Want some more?  Just set aside ten minutes, visit Chae’s website, and admire the enthralling slideshow.  If actions speak louder than words, so do pictures, and Chae’s portfolio ‘loudly’ proves that his work is truly “Fine art street photography”. 

Despite how Chae sets himself apart (as do his distinctly unusual ‘street shooting’ photos), like most street shooters his “primary weapon of choice” is (surprise, surprise!) that well-beloved of street-shooters, a Leica.  He loves it “because it is difficult to use,” as he is averse to “current developments of cameras where it seems cameras make the picture for you.”  

In addition to further particulars about Chae’s affinity for Leicas, the interview plumbs his philosophy of photographic art and, indeed, everything surrounding photography, such as the importance of learning and experience, the “shades of the earth,” and the need to nurture fresh talent.

In closing, if you haven’t clicked on any of the links above, take this on trust: don’t leave without clicking this one: if the saying “the eyes have it” is true, these ‘have it’ in spades.


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Ideas from Two Pros . . . and Caveats about Going Pro

February 15th, 2013 No Comments

One month back we published an article about photographers drawing inspiration from works of art.  Coincidentally, earlier today, Gina Milicia wrote, “Some people will tell you that it’s wrong to copy but for centuries, every generation of artist has imitated the masters before them” in an article about ‘5 Fail Proof Portrait Poses’

It is more of a post than an article but Milicia gives a few sharp and unusual suggestions and illustrates each with a photo.  Her post is not so much about static poses as commonly understood but includes dynamic ‘poses’ as well.  The aim is to relax a self-conscious subject and get him/her ‘loose’.  One suggestion: ask your subject to jump for joy!

Richard Bram is similar to Milicia in that he photographs people but dissimilar in that he shoots candids, “the quirkier moments in the events I was covering [which became the] beginning of the edgier street photographs,” as quoted in this interview with Bram on the Leica Blog.

Bram’s experiences in PR and personal bent are such that street photography is only one area that appeals to him – travel and musicians are also of interest to Bram.

This lengthy interview is worth reading for the in-depth ideas it conveys about a particular photographic approach and style in which the background is of vital importance and whose ultimate goal is to capture “the significant gesture.”

Bram says, “One evening at a party, I told a friend who’d run a fine art photography school in Louisville that I was thinking of becoming a photographer.”  If you are harbouring the same intentions, then before taking the plunge, read 10 Myths About Being a Professional Photographer by Ron Longwell.

Many of Longwell’s ‘heads-ups’ are spot-on and to-be-expected, like “Professional photographers get to set their own schedule.”  Yet others are equally spot-on but are surprising eye-openers, such as “The market is oversaturated with photographers.”  Isn’t it good to know that that is a myth?!

One or two of Longwell’s ‘myths’ are a bit odd.  For instance, “I need professional camera gear to be a pro photographer.”  Hmm, methinks you do need pro gear if you’re going to be a pro . . . better not turn up at that ad agency shoot with a Coolpix or Cyber-shot – else that may be the first and last day of your pro career!


Street Shooting — and ‘Home Shooting’!

December 24th, 2012 No Comments

If you’ve got into the groove of ‘street shooting’, it’s no big deal to you.  But if you haven’t, the idea of pointing your lens at strangers may seem a little intimidating. 

In The Ethics of Photographing Random Strangers on the Street, Ming Thein provides, not only a sketch of the ethical issues involved, but, tips and techniques as to how to go about doing something that, according to him, “requires balls.”

The idea behind street shooting is to document a ‘slice of life’; to capture the unguarded moment.  For this reason, stealth is important; as Thein puts it, “the more subtle issue of ‘quantum mechanics’ . . . if you become a participant in the image, then the reaction you provoke from your subjects will necessarily disrupt whatever it was you initially wanted to capture.”

And that is the heart and soul of authentic street shooting.  The article lays out a few ‘hows’ and Thein explains what works for him.  To his tips one may add: either remain still or be constantly on the move, do not follow anybody, ensure that flash is off, wear clothes that make you invisible, and don’t look like a photographer – look like a darn tourist!

If street shooting’s not your cup of tea and Thein fails to convince you to take the plunge, let John Gravett show you how you don’t even have to stray from home to capture some amazing images in Photographing Household Objects.

Gravett’s imaginative techniques allow you to create fascinating, abstract, images without using anything more specialized than a sheet of polarizing gel or macro lens!

Shooting plastic cutlery through a polarizer introduces a delightful effect of interlacing colours.  (Note how Gravett arranged the cutlery and composed his shot.)  How about giving the same treatment to a textured or embossed plastic bottle?

The techniques Gravett brings to bear on a paperweight and a Slinky are nice but the pick of the bunch has to be his experiment with water, oil, colour paper and angled flash.  Not only are the forms, colours and ‘scene’ quite arresting, the final image makes for quite a pretty artwork that NASA may like to post on its website, if only to befuddle an astronomer or two!

Merry Christmas to all our readers!

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