Through failure comes movement.

Through failure comes movement.

f/6.3, 3/10 sec, at 51mm, 160 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

I’m working on my curriculum for my “Teaching Others to Fish” photography workshop. In creating an outline I see a pattern of knowledge. I think it’s important for the photographer to:

1. Know your vision.
2. Know your gear.
3. Know your technique.
4. Know your client.
5. Know your subject.

Before you get all excited, this is just a draft outline. However, maybe as a subset under “Know your vision”, there should be a “Know the why.” Of course if you’ve read David duChemin’s Within the Frame you know how important the “why” is. This is an area that I am always pushing myself. It’s a constant struggle between my vision and my why. This last Lumen Dei was like that for me. I took many good images, some very good images. But, I was frustrated because I was constantly working on technique to better facilitate my “why” and what I really wanted to do was let go, and play.

After my conversation on Depth of Field with Nevada Wier and studying her images, I found I was challenged by her great ability to communicate her vision through movement. Many of her images are strangely fluid and show movement through various techniques. I made it my goal to work with slower shutter speeds this trip, to drag the shutter, to pan and use other techniques that would showcase movement. Below you will see some of my attempts.

One of the comments Nevada made to me the day before I left was, “Expect many more failures than successes.” She was absolutely right. What I didn’t count on, was the frustration and the feeling of wasted opportunities. Of course, in hindsight it was not wasted at all. But, after returning from a day of shooting and all you have to show is a CF card full of experiments and failures it can get quite discouraging. But like I said, in hindsight it was well worth it. I am pleased with the progress and the motion I was able to capture.

This Lumen Dei for me was about color and motion. I think I’ve communicated that in these few images.

 

f/7.1, 1/25 sec, at 24mm, 320 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IIf/4, 1/20 sec, at 24mm, 400 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IIf/2.8, 1/13 sec, at 50mm, 160 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IIf/2.8, 1/20 sec, at 200mm, 200 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IIf/22, 1/30 sec, at 24mm, 100 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IIf/22, 1/30 sec, at 24mm, 100 ISO, on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II

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20 Comments

  1. david sanger

    Love the monks’ blur Matt, especially the kids since they seem so light and innocent.

    Crisp color, clear vision.

    thx

    Reply
  2. Craig Ferguson (@cfimages)

    In some ways, a CF card full of experiments is more satisfying than a CF card full of perfectly exposed photos that don’t express any creativity or vision. Even if none of the former work. 🙂

    Reply
  3. Matt

    Craig, More satisfying? Hmm, I don’t know about that. More useful in the long run, probably. But going out all day and shooting and coming back with a bunch of blurry images, I would never call that satisfying. 😉

    Reply
  4. Keith Talley

    Matt, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had cards full of experiments and thought they were all crap, only to find months or years later a photo within the photo that works. And I mean one that really works. Also, sometimes the only “why” is because its beautiful. You know that every photo works or it doesn’t based on your perspective. How many times have people seen a photo of yours that they Love, and you think its crap. Photography is like golf, even the best shank shots.

    Reply
  5. Mark Olwick

    “Perfection” has been so engrained in us, it’s tough to let go. Nature is movement, nature is messy, nature is emotion, nature is perception. By letting go of the “technically perfect” concept, you open yourself up to capturing the world around us as it truly is, and how we exist within it.

    Capturing emotion and perception is notoriously difficult, and what sets an artist apart from a snapshooter.

    Mark

    Reply
  6. Craig Ferguson (@cfimages)

    Keith said it exactly. Sometimes the photo needs to wait for our vision, skills or mood to catch up. I’ve seen it happen often enough, where I find an old photo that I thought was a failure and it suddenly “works” that I’m no longer bothered if I get a card full of failures. Then again, I do my experimenting close to home so maybe that has something to do with it.

    Reply
  7. Dave P

    Agree with Mark – from my perspective as a snapshooter trying to be an artist. Telling a story, hopefully in a cohesive 1,000 words, is utterly through vision.
    I love the overhead view of the street – the chaos on the road vs. the static calmness of the vegetable stand.

    Reply
  8. Marco Ryan

    Matt

    Everything is relative. ..Some days I am just glad to have the chance to have a CF card full!!

    Your images continue to inspire, to demonstrate that it is as much about exploring your own creativity, to keep pushing at that personal comfort zone.

    That emotional intelligence,; that desire to continue to perfect your craft is what makes you a great photographer.

    What is humbling and (I think!) rewarding for us keen amateurs is that seasoned pros still go through the same angst and frustration (although admittedly the outcome tend to differ!)

    Your pdocasts, your work and you continual desire to seek perfection is why you have so many followers…..

    Many thanks for a truly inspirational post

    Reply
  9. Marco Ryan

    Matt

    Everything is relative. ..Some days I am just glad to have the chance to have a CF card full!!

    Your images continue to inspire, to demonstrate that it is as much about exploring your own creativity, to keep pushing at that personal comfort zone.

    That emotional intelligence,; that desire to continue to perfect your craft is what makes you a great photographer.

    What is humbling and (I think!) rewarding for us keen amateurs is that seasoned pros still go through the same angst and frustration (although admittedly the outcome tend to differ!)

    Your pdocasts, your work and you continual desire to seek perfection is why you have so many followers…..

    Many thanks for a truly inspirational post

    Reply
  10. Erin Wilson

    I completely adore the Old Delhi street shot. Adore.

    Reply
  11. Matt

    Keith – The “Why” for me is not, why take the image, it is “why” shoot it this way instead of that way. Why use an 85 1.2, why not a 200 at 2.8.. and the “whys” go on. Knowing the “Why” is critical in expressing your vision. But the learning of the why is what take so much dang time. I suppose, it can be taught, but I find I learn better by doing and self discovery. I suppose most folks are like that. I agree with you that photos are very subjective. But, you know, maybe more than most, that subjectivity doesn’t feed you. The client does. So when the client wants an image that shows the loneliness of the big city, it is more important than ever to know what factors and what lenses will help communicate that. I guess, I am saying the why and the how are interconnected and it is a constant struggle to understand that connection and use it effectively. You are right, sometimes/often, a picture needs to be taken just because it is a beautiful moment and for no other reason.

    Thanks Marco and all of you for commenting and dropping by. Good to see there are still readers afters a month of no communication.

    Reply
  12. david sanger

    Matt- there’s some aspect of the way you say you shoot which is very much by feel. I understand the process of trying to get behind what is really obvious to what is behind it all. The straight on or standard angle shot, even if you have to take it, isn’ t. But moving into the area where I don’t know how it’s going to come out is the only ay to get out of the rut, the cliche.

    I really like motion shots but never know when it is going to show dynamism and energy and when just blurred stuff. Somehow getting into a rhythm and being tuned into the subject seems to work best, then look at it all back in the hotel, or at home.

    Shooting to capture mood, whether the client specifically asks for it or not, gives images with more impact.

    The tension/conflict I feel is with unpredictable stock agency editors, in that I never know what kind of response I’ll get. Better to try to be true to the spirit of the subject and trust the images will sell.

    Reply
  13. alamond

    Matt said: Good to see there are still readers afters a month of no communication.
    It was worth to wait!!

    Reply
  14. Michael Maher

    First off, thank you for the images and the readers who left comments. Very helpful!

    However, I’m not sure you should have framed the discussion around failure or maybe I misunderstood, shouldn’t it about developing the mind’s eye with less of an emphasis on experimenting with technique.

    Beautiful light and a hint of motion give life to an image. Perfecting this is more about seeing what is not always apparent to the observer and less about slow shutter speeds.

    Thank you for crediting Nevada, her images are truly inspiring.

    I have also shot the same subject represented on your blog. Feel free to visit http://www.michaelmaherphotography.com

    Reply
  15. Matt Brandon

    Michael – Thanks for dropping by. The word “failure” was used only because I needed a catchy title and it played off the idea of wading through so many bad images while practicing technique.

    David – You wrote, “I really like motion shots but never know when it is going to show dynamism and energy and when just blurred stuff.” Good point. What I found is if the motion is communicating something to me and then I try to add it into the image, it is best to leave enough of the subject that is still identifiable. This helps communicate something is happening in the frame; movement. If the subject gets too blurred then we loose contexts and as you stated, it just becomes a blurry shot.

    Reply
  16. Jon McCormack

    Matt,

    Wonderful images – great sense of time and place. What makes them even more amazing (to me) is the fact that I was standing right beside you when you shot many of them and I didnt get anything nearly as good. Plenty to aspire to here!

    J

    Reply
  17. Jon McCormack

    Matt,

    Wonderful images – great sense of time and place. What makes them even more amazing (to me) is the fact that I was standing right beside you when you shot many of them and I didnt get anything nearly as good. Plenty to aspire to here!

    J

    Reply
  18. Nevada Wier @nevadawier

    Hi Matt. Yep I know all about the “delete, delete, delete” that results from using slow shutter speeds, panning, and experimenting. However, since I am always looking for a few images to surprise me at the end of a trip… they usually are the ones that were taken during the most difficult light, challenging situation, or when I was being the most experimental and creative. Anyone can photograph in great light but then there is the rest of the day. I applaud your dedication and efforts! 1/10 sec and be there! Excelsior! Nevada

    Reply
  19. Marco Ryan

    MattEverything is relative. ..Some days I am just glad to have the chance to have a CF card full!!Your images continue to inspire, to demonstrate that it is as much about exploring your own creativity, to keep pushing at that personal comfort zone.That emotional intelligence,; that desire to continue to perfect your craft is what makes you a great photographer.What is humbling and (I think!) rewarding for us keen amateurs is that seasoned pros still go through the same angst and frustration (although admittedly the outcome tend to differ!)Your pdocasts, your work and you continual desire to seek perfection is why you have so many followers…..Many thanks for a truly inspirational post

    Reply
  20. Marco Ryan

    Matt

    Everything is relative. ..Some days I am just glad to have the chance to have a CF card full!!

    Your images continue to inspire, to demonstrate that it is as much about exploring your own creativity, to keep pushing at that personal comfort zone.

    That emotional intelligence,; that desire to continue to perfect your craft is what makes you a great photographer.

    What is humbling and (I think!) rewarding for us keen amateurs is that seasoned pros still go through the same angst and frustration (although admittedly the outcome tend to differ!)

    Your pdocasts, your work and you continual desire to seek perfection is why you have so many followers…..

    Many thanks for a truly inspirational post

    Reply

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