Recently this book caught my eye. Well, it was the title that caught my eye first, as anything ‘Zen’ always draws me! And then it was the book cover, with a long-exposure shot of the seashore and the sky in black and white – elegant, uncluttered, with a Zen feel to it. I was curious to find out more!
Disclaimer: I am not advertising this book. I don’t know the author or the publishers. My interest is purely in my own interaction with the text and the enjoyment and illumination I have gleaned from reading it and following the exercises, albeit in my own way!
I’ve been seriously engaged with my camera(s) for 7 years now, and I am always on the lookout for ways to refresh my photography, to quite literally keep my photography ‘fresh’. Usually I collect books centred on the work of famous photographers, past and present, or on a specific area of technique – but this promised something rather different. Book shopping for me has to be online, as I live a little too remotely to access a bookshop – so I read online reviews and decided to take the chance, and bought it. Not a Kindle version, but the real thing, as I do still love the physical experience of a book – and this one looked like the design and physical layout might be rather special, and an experience not to be missed!
I have not been disappointed. More than a month on and I am still revelling in the first two ‘lessons’, reading and re-reading, and engaging with the text and the exercises that round off each lesson. There is so much to enjoy, to think about and ponder, so I decided to write about it all as I go along. My division of topics here will follow the six lessons of the book, but picking out parts that resonate especially for me.
1) Daily Practice I expected to skip these first steps that are designed to get the reader into the habit of using the camera every day, regularly, to snap everything that catches his/her eye. To start seeing as a ‘photographer’. I do something similar already – but I was surprised when I took a trip down memory lane!
2) An Open Mind Getting into the ‘zone’ – the right frame of mind for the ‘magic’ to work. For me this is the centre of the refreshing experience I want to find through the book. Mushin is the Japanese name for the state where the mind is calm, uncluttered, no distractions, no rush.
3) Show – Don’t Tell Learning the language of photography. This set me pondering the wider implications of the question – why don’t we teach our children visual literacy? We teach them verbal literacy – to speak, read and write. But where is the teaching of how to see?
Back to Basics Section.
A look at Ulrich’s 5 basic elements that together give us the visual photography ‘tools’ we use every day. He divides it into: The Frame – The Light – The moment – Colour and tonality – Treatment of the subject.
Sounds easy and straightforward! But the elements are all interlocking, and each covers a whole lot more than you think!
So I’ll still use Ulrich’s division – just separating out one more element, Composition, to look at in depth. And to make it easier to navigate through the elements I’ll split them into 1 or 2 elements per page, then link on to more in-depth pages. That way you can take a quick look, and move on – or click through and go a bit deeper. So:
4) Back to Basics 1 – This covers The Frame and Composition. Just a few thoughts on both, and how I think of them and use them myself. Then there are extra pages that delve a little deeper into these two areas:
a) The Frame – and how to use it
b) Composition – and some thoughts on shooting trees and ‘still life’
c) Negative Space – some more thoughts on composition
5) Back to Basics 2 – This covers The Light. Light is the absolute basis of seeing, and the absolute heart of photography! A few thoughts on this essential subject, and looking a little deeper into some interesting areas:
a) Shooting with natural light
b) Shooting with artificial light
c) Mixing natural and artificial light sources
d) The elusive Bokeh and lens flare
Back to Basics 3 and beyond (still to come)
d) The Moment
e) Colour and tonality
f) Treatment of the subject
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