Transcend the Snapshot
I want to just jump right in and start talking about kind of the overview where we're going to go over the next two days uh, session one, I'm going to kind of talk about this broad scope of photography, we're going to kind of step aside from the adventure side of things, and we're going to talk basically about the core photograph, and I don't care what type of photographer you are, I don't care, uh, what you're avenue is for recording photography. I think that what I'm about to teach over the next two days will really, truly just transcend any discipline, and I think that comes from the fact that I was formally trained as an architect and then further progress into becoming a photographer. From there, I actually became an adventure photographer because there were two core sports that I really got into skiing and mountain biking, and that kind of brought me into a marketplace that was assailable for me. So here in session one, we're going to we're going to talk about the snapshot, and w...
e are then going to talk about subjects, vision and a little bit about my favorite subject, which is me okay, so who's this workshop for it's essentially for any photographer, any person for that matter that wants to go beyond the idea of the snapshot, right? We want to look at an image like this and know from our kind of core existence that there's really nothing there, all right? We're looking at a photograph that yeah it's a pretty sunset and there's some kind of mountain ridge silhouetted but where's the core subjects you write, what are we looking at besides a pretty sunset? People can argue, oh, it's about the mountain ridge line where people can argue that it's about the the color of the sky with the clouds, but is there truly any thing going on there that is beyond the snapshot? Not really right? I kind of have a minor degree and writing I took a lot of creative writing courses in college, and it kind of opened my eyes to this different aspect of creative expression and one thing that now as a zay focus on creating core stories and, uh, producing not only the written word but producing the images that go along with that. That kind of editorial article piece I used a dictionary a lot, and I've got one of those really big fat ones that the pages are like paper thin, and I look up words all the time to kind of give myself a better idea of where I'm headed, and so throughout this the next two days, you'll you'll see kind of things that I have defined along the way that have further help to me kind of hone in my craft so what? What is the snapshot? And I go to my dictionary and I looked it up and that the word that really stands out to me the two words that really stand out to me are quickly and brief so if we're out there using an iphone or out there using a dslr and we're just taking very quick unthought out shots were producing snapshots right? And my goal is to not produce the snapshot I want to design in which I want to create so I want to go away from being quick I want to think about what I'm about to dio I want to transcend the snapshot here we are we're all photographers most of us have been out in an environment very similar to this at one point does matter what were photographing, what subject matter right? We were outside we're about to take a photograph and we're looking for subjects so here we are the photographer doesn't matter what kind of photographer we are there's probably one of each of these types of photographers here in the room, right? We're not all adventure sports photographers were not all commercial photographers were not all landscape photographers, but what we're going to talk about truly can transcend the type of photographer you are if you design a photograph if you think about a photograph that goes beyond the snapshot it truly doesn't matter what you're shooting you're subject becomes a relevant because your subject is just the graphic representation of what you're about to create make sense so let's define the word photograph we all know what it is we all went to school we all you know? But where does where does this kind of definition come into play here? Well, it's a picture made using a camera it's put on film or other light sensitive material right? The sensor camera sensor but beyond that we all get it right we're going toe record a moment in time so doesn't matter what the subject is then if we're about to record a moment in time, there are moments that we get to witness throughout our life regardless of what our subject matters. Okay, so if you're the wedding photographer and you're sitting here watching me talk about adventure sports photography, you can totally get something out of it. You can totally come away with an idea that kind of transcends the idea of just you being a wedding photographer portrait photographer what's what's our subject in all these shots we're talking about a graphic design element a communication of something that truly goes beyond the snapshot doesn't know architecture photographer like I said it was an architect was a builder for fifteen years simultaneously decided that photography was my thing built that career out of my background but also used by background to help build me build the position that I wanted to go in a direction I wanted to go in as a photographer when you break down a photograph of new its core elements it doesn't matter you're you're you're gonna transcend your subject matter right shooting wildlife everybody has a reaction okay? I don't necessarily want to portray a wild animal in nature in the way that we would see it right? I've got this camera that does all these amazing things for me. So how do I use not only those tools to my advantage but how do I use my vision? How do I go beyond what the common person would see thinking of ways to use the tools the red birds stands out right it's in a field of green those are complementary colors, those air design elements and if you want to shoot landscapes, how many people go to the tetons and stand in the same spot that ansel adams stood? How many people stand in the same spot that are wolf did or frans lanting did when they first discovered these places? There are hundreds of them thousands of them every year, so is there a way to see the iconic shot find the iconic shot and then transcend that as well? Or how about going abstract about talking about something different that you see simple shot of rust it's amazing what you can find when you start looking at the world differently right now I can shoot that stuff but then I can shoot completely diametrically opposed stuff as well. So a retired navy seal came to me and wanted issue to production catalog and I said yes and I looked at it again from a design standpoint, what are they using where the tools that they see as the top you know, as as trains kind of experts what how do they work? And as an outsider I can get into that I can see it I can see the design elements I can see the way they function and I can sit there and take those shots I don't I don't know how they work, but they know how they work and I can see them work and then I can say, ok, I'm going to be the translator here I want my viewer to see something that they may not necessarily see and then I wantto make that connection to their audience as well and it works this simple as being a father and my son's first day to school riding the bus and do I do I need the ten thousand dollars d s a lot to get that shot? No, I whipped the iphone out of the pocket it's a moment right? And we all react to that moment in some beat up truck that's on the farm fields in the skagit valley where I lived when I lived here, anybody have an idea what this is taking? It looks like washers. It looks like the end of bullets is actually a countertop in a restaurant so that's for micah. So if you can see things like that and show the world something different that they have, you guys may have even eaten off of that counter in this restaurant it's in bellingham, right? So but you may not have never even noticed that, and I just noticed it because when we sat down, our table was cleared and there were no utensils, there was nothing else to distract me, and I'm like, oh, there's a pattern there, and I've never seen that pattern of for mike. I built one hundred homes in my career, and we've never used it. I've never even seen it in the little chip shirt thing, so there's something different, right? And of course, if I can see all of that, I can totally see what I want to photograph. I wanted I can totally understand my marketplace. Now I shot on the previous photos you may not know I've ever shot a wedding in my life, right? In fact, I only shot four, but and the one that I showed you was recent and it was one of the athletes that I photograph on a racing regular basis. He called me up and he said, I'm getting married, I don't have any money and I need a photographer, so he did it and I did it for free, but I also did it with the same concept that I do anything it doesn't matter that I'm not charging him, I'm not going to stick him with giving him a poor portfolio of images from his day. No, I'm going to look at that thing graphically, and I'm going to shoot it graphically and that's, what we're really going to talk about teaching in the next two days is how to communicate is subject to a viewer, we're going to become translators, we have to know what the cause and effect is going to end up being, and we have to be the middleman. We have to be there in the scene and we have to then go out there and show that will show the world that scene and we have to do it in a way that makes that viewer want to stay on our photograph want to come back, not be a snapshot, right? So subject matter transcends the photographer, you are going to transcend that the, uh, snapshot, we're going to transcend our subject matter what he thinks next, right vision those look like my glasses because I am blind is about without contacts uh my son you know again playing so what's vision the ability to think about a plan, imagination or wisdom think about when we were growing up where kids this has a huge impact on photography and what we will talk about that over the course of the next two days okay it's just a very solemn moment hiking in a storm it's about as simple as you can get but yet it still has meaning without losing the meaning right is that have impact? Does anybody feel emotion when they see that photograph we do right? We totally get what's going on here the roof of an airport in china they may see where I'm going with us it's my daughter we're driving in the truck when the windows or down hair's blowing everywhere soft light coming in okay solemn autumn day in jackson, wyoming where I live every morning I take my dog for a one mile walk she's twelve years old she can barely move but I found that walking her every morning half a mile out half a mile back in has made her able to kind of just walk by yourself again without drugs and all that kind of stuff so this is where we walk and I'm just out there every day carrying a backpack that weighs thirty pounds I'm got my phone in my pocket. I'm walking down a trail with her, you know, it's a it's a forty five minute deal. It kind of relaxes me. Gets me going for the day that coffee and in my coffee in my hands I'm feeling good and it's autumn and we get faulk going to take a picture, right? Doesn't matter. I see this world. I see the whole world through subject matter. My daughter and her and my niece playing in a fire truck, but notice how I'm kind of confusing you. I'm not just showing you them sitting through the inside of the fire truck sitting there pretending and dr no, I see reflections of the fire of the fire station in the glass eye want to make you guys think about photographs kind of interesting, right? And again, what happens when the brilliant photographer forgets to change the battery in his dslr in thailand? And the sun starts setting? And the truck, which has the extra battery, is four miles away. You don't have a choice at that point, right? Your post what I have in my pocket iphone. So if aiken transcend the snapshot and I can transcend the subject matter, what have I got going for me? I've got a device that will capture a moment in time. That's my camera and I'm the photographer guy and I'm about to take a photograph so it truly doesn't matter, right? So that whole series of photos all taking with an iphone do you see how it doesn't matter all of a sudden the device does not matter it's the vision it's the way I see the world you give me a rectangle of any shape proportion, size, whatever and say you need to find a subject and put him in this frame I'm going to do it because I don't look at it as well what's my what are we shooting? Where am I going? What is how does this thing work? I don't really care I see that rectangle and immediately start working an idea there's something to see there's something to see in this room you know we confined subjects anywhere we just have to be open to looking for them it's my garage looking from my garage howling blizzard winds a couple days ago way have had negative fifteen degree temperatures as our lows came in with one storm that left twenty inches in my driveway and on my long it's dark out I got my life the light onto the outside of my house and I open the garage door and like oh there's something to take a photo of their not wanting to go deal with the dea sell our I go grab a camera right I grab a camera that can go on my camera, I can simultaneously shoot background stuff in the field while shooting actual subject matter, okay? So when you are in the field, you mentioned the story about where the camera battery was way back in the car, but even given not having that situation like let's say you your camera is working to you sometimes go between like the go pro in the iphone and and your your your large format camera I sometimes yes, but typically if I have my one d x with me that's kind of my my mission if I but there are times and I can tell you specifically when I was in thailand a couple weeks ago, I pulled out, I have a new iphone six and I pulled it out to shoot a bunch of video, and I'm like, totally enamored by this thing, you know, it's like the greatest camera in the pocket, it shoots two hundred forty frames per second video mode and that's like something I've never had the opportunity to teo utilize, so I'm kind of enamored by that, so yeah, in the thailand trip, I was whipping that thing out everywhere, and we're going to see some stuff coming up about that, but for the most part, if I have a professional camera with me I will use that professional camera if I do do not or something malfunctions or I forget a filter or lens or something then I start looking at other options great thank you ok, so we're talking about another device here we're not talking about an iphone but this little puppy can fit anywhere as well you know you go in your pocket go in your bag as well as additional right and again what am I looking for? I'm looking for subject matter and the the publishing world that I kind of make my living out of and work in you know they may not accept this shot because it's originally shot as a j peg but that doesn't mean that I'm not going to get the shop because I can use it for my marketing purposes I can I could use it for my website I could use it for social media I could highlight the device I used to to get the shot with it's all about kind of having that vision right within the vision yes we do need to know how to use the cameras were using the devices were using but for the most part I look at the world I see something and I want to take that shot. Does anybody see a little glimpse as to what I may be talking about with these shots and there's a sticker there so I actually got contract id to do this and this was specifically needed to be shot with a device that is other than my professional dslr okay oh so these last three shots were part of that proposal okay I'll tell you with a go pro now if we know the device if we know what lens we're dealing with if we know what it's that products limitations are well we can work within the zone right so yeah these shots publishable right they look produced they have subject matter they have content yet taking with go problem okay let's we're going to talk about one more side of life here since I've been taking photos for well been taking photos for probably twenty years but getting paid to do it for fifteen do we have a subject here yes it could be two things right could be the weather that is on the road it also could be about the photographer taking the photos as well that reminds me of home right now where it's fifteen below again moments in time right sunset is kind of funny I took this photograph I went down to the river I knew the rafters and kayakers were running this section of the river when I lived in vail colorado and every spring when it's high water class five rapids they're all there so went down to the river with my gear sat on the side there was a bridge that also crossed over would stand on the bridge knew what time they were coming down, it was almost at sunset right before dark it's after work experience for the rafting company, and they were selling it to locals. There weren't a lot of tourists in town. I knew I had subjects, so I went down there and I tried to get shots like this, and then I ended up selling the photos to the rafting company, okay? Because they had never seen anybody take photos like this. They were they had people out there shooting photos, but maybe shooting in from the bank again, they weren't finding material that had subject driven photographs coming to to them, and they were they kind of bit on my lord right in alaska on a on a cruise in keen eye fjords national park. We're getting ready to actually eat dinner, but they both captain is taking us, and he's really wanted to dinner right at the base of the glacier, wildcat it's really cool year this cracking sound, and on and on, we ended up having to like a bolt out of there because a big chunk came off and the boat started going on this big wave that was was started, but he had so many toys and things for us to kind of utilize while we're on this boat that you know again it's about the gear it's about what we're where we are we have we have a lot of stuff going on here, right there's subject matter and if your skier you know this it doesn't get any better than this untouched blower powder shooting in winter's awesome lights low you can go out all day we don't have to struggle with light we don't have to struggle with anything essentially mean that that son stays right at that low rise and we just have to go out there and utilize it right we have to know that that happens can we do this in mid summer? Well no we can't because there's no snow but also the sun is going to be up here as opposed to that low you know, this is high noon in december, so I'm always paying attention to those kinds of things and it's you know, it's in the details everything I see love old beat up trucks you know, one of these days I'm going to own one probably because I'm just going to drive my truck into the ground and it's going to become one of these but I don't know there's so much texture and quality kind of to these old vehicles and especially when they're running you know when people drive those things I think that's just it's cool it's just a piece of history, so what do what do we think the connection with these photographs so you see the case and kind of building for you guys, it's not about the device, it's, not about the medium it's truly about your vision and is truly about the way you look at the world and that's what's important, I don't care about the subject matter. I don't care what type of photographer you are. We're going to talk about all of this how to create this great shot and again, I'm going to talk about it in the adventure sports side of my career because that's truly what gets me fired up in the morning is to go out and shoot adventure sports, okay, jay, how much? If I can ask, how much are you still shooting film and how often you know, I'm really kind of thinking about doing it again? Yeah, there's a fellow photographers name's, dan barham and he's his vancouver based and he just did this crazy project that kind of really inspired me. He was given the task to go out and photograph a catalog, but he could only use a cannon eighty one and two lenses and he had to shoot film great and the project was just it's amazing. I mean, he shot black and way and kind of a high eye, so color film and the shots just look spectacular. So now I'm like maybe I should get a film camera again and just start messing around with that I think that could be kind of a cool thing to to progress with next you know let's just go back now let's try it but I haven't actually shot uh film in ten years maybe it all started with the first five d I think that was the first camera that was kind of affordable in the digital marketplace for somebody who uh didn't have a ton of money and at that time I didn't have the ability to just go out and purchase like a one d which was in the market to s oh yeah, I think it's about ten years, ten years I actually have shot but what's funny now is with all of these high I so cameras and low noise ratio sensors and all of that kind of equipment I finally so kind of reverting back to, like adding grain to my photographs and adding this kind of textural element that's gone and lots of people are like why in god's name would you ever want to do that? And I just think there's, you know, we've taken it so far that we don't we don't have kind of that romance and I think all technology kind of goes through those kind of hiccups you know, somebody then comes up with an idea well, we can we can add the recording hiss back into digital noise you know, sound recording and so there are people out there creating presets for light room that you know bring you back to those kind of film days and and I think that's kind of cool so you know, I think there's like I like the classic truck but I also I also like the brand new truck to you know, there's like I fight myself all the time kind of thing goal to make it okay so our vision transcends our equipment and our means so the equipment doesn't truly matter but it does the snapshot we just don't want to deal with like yeah jewish shoot snapshots now yeah but I throw him out too but I don't that's not necessarily where I want to go with my photography uh and if I have a snapshot moment can I create something more with that that's my goal right uh and then we're going toe transcend whatever we're shooting I don't I don't care if you guys are wedding photographers I don't care if you're nature whatever your background discipline whatever gets you fired up in the morning to put a camera to your eye and go out there and take photographs that's where I want you to go I want you to learn over the next two days howto take that subject that you see in your rectangle and truly make it a dynamic subject truly make your viewer engaged by what you're shooting so it doesn't matter to me if it's a landscape wedding or whatever let's let's pound people over the head with our subject matter and make them stand and look at our photographs for longer than going yeah it's just a snapshot moving on all right let's crush instagram with the iphone and crazy shots taken with our iphone on instagram as opposed to pushing the shots we take with our professional de esa lars and putting them on instagram you know, I kind of vowed to myself when I joined instagram tio never put anything up there that wasn't taken with my iphone and maybe silly to a lot of people to do that, but for me it's that's kind of where that marketplace started and I feel like I should be able to produce something that I put up on instagram daily that gets people kind of going with the device that it was meant to be going on that's just my own personal belief in it you don't have to follow it obviously, but that's where I go question from from this section because I know we're going to sort of change gears a little bit here how do you balance the unpredictability of natural organic adventure nature of your work with having preplant vision for a specific shoot or job? Do you totally lend yourself too? Whatever happens yes and no. Yes and no, I definitely go into a lot of projects with preconceived ideas. When I was in thailand's, I didn't do a ton of research for the project that I was working on, but I did do enough research to kind of figure out kind of what I wanted to capture subject matter wise, and when I got there, everything just went out the window of the trails were a lot mohr they're more different than I thought they were going to be. I had a lot of heart have very hard time kind of getting my subjects on guy was there with a very, very well qualified professional mountain laker, and after the second day, I was like, I'm kind of freaking out here like I don't I don't know what we're gonna we're going to photograph, and, uh, he just we just kind of this brainstorming session, and we started figuring it out together, you know? So I do go into things kind of prepared, but then I can honestly say three quarters of the time having a preconceived idea and a preplanned idea gets tossed to the wind as soon as I get to that location. And, um, but I try to get shots based on and overall concept of an article that I'm trying to think about, or, uh, you know, preparing for before you go to some extent because I just don't want to be kind of standing out there with zero idea I need to have some kind of drive in some kind of kind of initiative but the overall goal truly is to make the photograph really organic looking in the end it doesn't matter if I've totally designed the photograph preconceived it from day one going to put it right ryder here going toe put this person here this person's going to be doing this etcetera etcetera if I'm setting up a shot in that regard I truly stand back and look at every shot I take of that scenario and make sure that it looks kind of fluid and open that it represents my style and I think at this point in my career I'm pretty good at that but I also don't think that I am awesome at it I think it takes a lot of thought and it takes a lot of my time to truly just focus on doing that. You know? I want to have this kind of organic flow to my work and uh even even went on planning things out so it kind of works both both ways I think but nine times out of ten earth wait seven times out of ten I I'll go to a location preconceived idea and nothing works so I have to just improvise and the beauty of what I do and how I do it I'm truly inspired every day I mean you can see from taking the shot of walking my dog in the morning to shooting something for national geographic it's it's just truly about loving what I dio and being passionate about it and knowing that it's as much a product my success is as much of a product of me wanting to be successful in being inspired but by what I'm doing as it is uh thinking about it as well I think that work okay, so all right, so we're gonna move on um let's just do a quick little review our photographs need to go beyond the snapshot right doesn't matter the device doesn't matter what we're trying to achieve our subjects become more important than our photography focus right shooting weddings yes it's about the bride but at the same point how do we interact with that bride? How do we find an element of their character or their beauty etcetera that would then make anybody look at the photograph ago really like that? This morning yuri and I were looking at the latest issue of photo district news and there's it's all about food photography they did a food photography, compass competition and in there there's this great overhead shot of a table of people eating and I just love the shot I should've syrian he was like that's really, really, really nice so I think uh I think when you're successful then it doesn't matter like I don't shoot food I don't shoot but I totally got this concept of the table and the way the shot was laid out in the way they processed it and on and on so it was successful in may our vision needs to look through the equipment and the means right doesn't matter what device I have in my hand my pocket arounds me if I see something I'm going after it period and I'm going to figure out a way to show that subject to my viewer so that they're like, wow, this is pretty cool and I don't I don't succeed all the time people misconstrue that you know it's it's hard work to get the shot the way you want to get the shot and you have to work for it every day and then uh the final destination does not matter right? I don't care if you're a professional photographer or beginner photographer I don't care if you're trying to compete against me or trying to compete against guys in newsweek or time or whatever your deal might be or just trying to get snapshots of your grandkids snapshots of photographs of your grandkids and george is posting things that social media right let's we're going to take photographs let's take photographs that have passion you know let's let's work with our subject question do you go out like pretty much each and every day with with a with a job and my necklace and a job and man but something in mind because you keep a camera in your pocket but do you go out each and every day thinking I'm going to find something today or my looking for something today that's that's kind of your question I I don't do that I because I know my phone's in my pocket and that if you know sascha watch is going to run across the highway in front of me I'm going to try and get that shot of sasquatch but I don't go out there like let's focus on this today or let's try and shoot this today I truly just try and let it be an organic experience for me you know that I happen to live in a place that is full of nature you know it's full of wildlife my town population is ninety five hundred people live in a very small community we have lots of wild terrain around us I live in wyoming which is I believe the lowest populated state in the united states and I even think our population is less than the town of anchorage now so the wilds where I live truly inspire me every day and I could be driving down the road and you know there's a bull moose five feet from my car so I don't like go out physically trying to take shots there are times where I'm like, I need to go out today and take a photograph of something because I feel that need to kind of create I feel like I've been sitting in the office too much for something like that, um, so I will do things like that even when I'm not I don't have an assignment, uh, hands, there are projects that I kind of come up with, and I have this, like, four page document of ideas anytime I have an idea, I log into my icloud account and update the document and put that idea in there, and there are times when you know, my my brain is stagnant, and I'm kind of looking for inspiration, and I open this thing up and loan, behold there's something there that either I can go shoot or follow or something there that kind of inspires me to go shoot something else. So it's, it is a daily kind of lifestyle, uh, but I don't go out there every single day with the mission of shooting something, but if I see it, I'll shoot it. So how do you know? How do you keep that bull moves that's factory from your car becoming a snapshot e don't know, I don't know if I'm getting a question of cross yeah. How do I how do I make it more of a subject that somebody would be interested? Because he's probably going to move the moment to move he's he is going to move and that's the thing. Ok, well, maybe it's not the bull moose that day. Maybe that bull moose on the side of the road five feet from the truck is about pulling the truck over and leaning up against the bumper of the truck and just watching and experiencing what's going on around me. Okay? And maybe a shot transcends that moment, right? Maybe a shot grows from two hundred people all of a sudden. See this bull moose pull up and you know, they're surrounding this thing and I've got a fish I shot with one hundred people watching a bull moose, you know, our there's, the five year old child, kind of with their parent hand held in the foreground and there's the bull moose that they're staring, you know? So just like just thinking about how this scenario may break down, those are all different kind of factors. It's kind of funny. Not yesterday, the day before I took my dog for a walk on that same path that I showed you and I was walking with my head down and she wasn't on a leash and I was just kind of walking and I hear a twig twig snap in front of me and I look up and literally there's a bull moose like fifteen feet in front of me and I was like, oh, this isn't good because when you get startled from them they kind of get startled and moose they're kind of they're very just aggressive in general they're kind of angry loser very angry so I'm like only got dogs off the leash I'm fifteen feet from this guy it's freezing cold out he's probably angry because of that and now it away d'oh so I kind of looked up and and I was startled and he looked up and he was like, oh my god there's a person there and I'm like, oh my god there's a moose there so I just kind of step backwards got the dog on the leash and then we kind of walked around him and I didn't even take a photo I d I did not have the wherewithal to pull my phone out of my pocket take a photo this guy even though I was so close to him and they even on an iphone it would be fulfilled so but it was a cool moment, you know? So you just you figure out ways that sometimes you have to pass up the moment and you just put it in the memory banks right other times you there jay's the term graphically as a verb earlier about how you look at subjects and how that's kind of part of what you do to transcend you talk about what you mean by looking at it graphically, yeah, we're going to talk about that is truly going to be the core of today. We're going to talk about graphically building an image and because I went to school for architecture and started falling prey to this photography thing and started loving it more than sitting at a desk, designing houses and things like that, uh, when I started getting better at photography, I needed to figure out a way that kind of guided me. And then as I started teaching more and more workshops, I had to figure out a way to teach others to do what I was essentially kind of ingrained in me, and that was we're going to talk about design because that's, what I was I was talkin school was how to design a house, how to design a drawing, how to design a presentation, and we're going to talk about that here in a couple minutes when we talk about kind of my history of getting into photography, so yeah, the next thiss whole day is going to be about design and how we design a photograph, but thank you for asking a good question