If you’ve been a photographer for more than a day, you have most likely loaded a roll of 35mm Kodachrome film. It was the film I learned on. The film I learned to see light through, learned my limitations with, and the film I waited excitedly for to be processed at the lab. Yes, actually waiting to see your imagery with anticipation, eagerness, and always a bit of nervousness to see the results.
In this beautiful tribute to film photography and Kodak specifically, legendary documentary travel photographer, Steve McCurry, ventures out to literally capture the last roll of film produced by Kodak. It’s moving and humbling to be apart of this industry, seeing it’s movement and progression, and sometimes, digressions. Steve’s passion and imagery have inspired me immensely… to go the extra mile to get the perfect shot, to really see your subject and capture an image with heart, not just document the scene around you. I hope you enjoy this short film, giving appreciation to the end of a beautiful era.
One of the many reasons I love Central Oregon is for all the outdoor activities at my fingertips. Because I’ve been shooting a lot of stock images recently, It’s been a great chance for me to bring my camera along to the activities I love doing. Recently, I went kayaking and rock climbing with some friends. Here are some of the picts that resulted. (note: i am not the person doing the dangerous climb that’s silhouetted, I am however, the girl in the shot showing off my rear!) Not as impressive, I know.
After spending 6 months on a trip
around the world, the last three in Africa, my eyes have been open to the opportunities to help others less fortunate. My husband and I spent those 3 months working in a township called Red Hill, living amongst the Xhosa people. Yes, we lived in a “squatter camp” in a shack, and loved every moment of it… well, almost. We were able to help the people living there rebuild their homes after a huge fire that destroyed all of what meager possessions they had. Our team built 79 homes in 2 short months and witnessed changes in people that last a lifetime. Here are a couple images of the faces I saw on a daily basis. Unforgettable!
Recently, I got to hike with some beautiful people through the Himalayan Mountains, seeing spectacular views, culture, and wildlife. There were chai and dahl shops along the way to rest and enjoy the scenery, but the best part was making it to our final destination at snow-line and basking in the views. We came across nomadic goat herders along the way, who were gracious enough to allow me to photograph them and ask questions, literally hiking through goat poop in order to do so.
Sharing a morning cup of chai with our host in the Himalayas. We spent the night under his tent which doubles as his home, shop and kitchen. It was magical.
As a professional photographer, understanding, discerning and controlling light is one of the most crucial elements for producing captivating imagery. No matter the subject matter, no matter the project. In the creative world of professional photography, there is an element of subjectivity. Do I want a moody emotion to portray our concept or do I want a bright airy feel to the image? Working closely with creative directors, designers, and clients, understanding the intention of the image and creating a mood and feeling for the audience is the end result, but taking the concept and turning that it in to a tangible product can’t happen without knowing lighting.
Here are a few tips to help understand lighting better. Whether you’re a novice photographer looking to improve your skills, a creative director who would like to better articulate your needs to your photographer, or whether you’re a client looking to understand the photography world a little better, these 3 tips will help.
1. Watch for shadows and highlights.
As you go throughout your day, look at what different light sources are doing. Is your desk lamp creating a hard shadow because it’s a bare bulb? Do your white curtains cause really soft shadows on your couch? Do the patterns from your stairs or blinds cause different shaped shadows? I know, these questions might seem elementary, but as soon as you start recognizing what different types of light sources do to create different types of shadows and highlights, the easier you can start re-creating it. There are many different types of light, which cause different shadows. You can use it to your benefit and alter light with precision. Harsh light with direct shadows, soft light with diffused shadows. These help create a mood. Ask yourself if you want a mysterious image; having harsh shadows with very little detail in the shadow area can help create the right mood. If you want a cheerful image, having little shadows with soft light might help brighten it up.
2. Look through magazines and try to recognize light direction and quality.
When I was being trained at Brooks Institute of Photography, one of my first lighting assignments was to put a binder together of all the different types of lighting (light quality) and light direction. My teacher literally gave me a list of 50 or so lighting demands to fulfill. For example, an image using a 1:4 lighting ratio with the light coming from camera right. Diffused light coming from behind the camera. (Gap Baby uses this technique often). Rim light, butterfly light, Rembrandt etc etc. The list went on. It was amazing. What it did was teach me to see light and all its effects in order to mimic it myself as well as learn the vastness of its uses. I think I even still have the binder, in fact. The quality of light refers to its harshness. Do you want a very soft light or a direct light? If you wanted to photograph an interrogation room, chances are, the light would be from above with a bare bulb. It’s not flattering for a portrait, but it’s emotional and harsh, conveying the appropriate emotion. If you wanted to photograph a Charmin ad, talking about the softness of the toilet paper, soft, diffused lighting would help convey that better. Light direction helps to determine where shadows land as well as what aspects of the subject to highlight. For instance, if I’m photographing food, I want a lot texture, which is not going to be achieved by putting the light right above my camera (on camera flash) or behind me. It might be soft light or hard light, but it won’t get the appropriate look because of the light direction and placement.
3. Try to be intentional about seeing lighting color temperatures.
Lighting temperature is another way to control your lighting effects and convey the message of your client. There are many different color temperatures, measured by the Kelvin temperature scale. An easy way to describe a basic temperature is warm or cool. If you are photographing an iceberg for Patagonia outdoor gear, you may not decide to put that warming gel on your lights to warm things up. Perhaps, a warm light would be appropriate for a cozy fireplace scene with a glass of brandy. Do you get the distinction? Understanding color temperature and utilizing it or altering it will help create a more concise message in the photograph. Not to mention appropriate color balance. In addition, there are always lights in various locations that a photographer will need to balance or work around. For instance, overhead fluorescent lights do not create flattering light for a portrait. If you need to photograph an executive in a boardroom, however, learning to either work around the fluorescent tube, overpowering the green-tinted light, or putting a gel over the light will be a necessary decision for the photographer to make. Balancing color temperature is necessary in order to avoid having a green tinted CEO, looking sick to the stomach.
In short, I can’t stress enough how important knowing and controlling light truly is for photographers, or for choosing a knowledgeable photographer for your next project. If you have any questions or would like to keep this discussion going, please feel free to comment below. It’s kind of a passion of mine, and would love to “geek” out with some more lighting talk.
//Want to see more on lighting? Check out this previous post with a cool before/after : lightingmatters
Well, its officially 12 days before my husband, Nick and I leave for our adventures overseas for 3 months! January 21- April 17! Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, South Africa, Mozambique, Argentina, and Cost Rica!
One of the reasons we are going to the 9 different countries we are visiting is, of course, photography! I am so excited to photograph the different sceneries and people groups- and even teach photography in Cambodia! Wow- chance of a lifetime! Another main purpose of the trip is to serve others less fortunate! We are teaming up with multiple different organizations to volunteer our time, services, and help wherever we can! That will include everything from loving and playing with children who have been orphaned in South Africa to volunteering our time and labor to help re-paint an orphanage in Thailand, to just being eager, willing people to serve others ! We couldn’t be more excited! Jesus said in Galatians, “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” and that’s what we intend to do – Show Jesus’ love to those who otherwise might not know what it’s like to be loved. I will continue posting pictures and stories of our time overseas and hope to be able to stay connected with whoever wishes! Also, if you are interested in booking Paula Watts Photography for assignments, please feel free to email me at email@example.com and we can discuss bookings for projects in April!
Really enjoyed that film insight to a photographers world of the enjoyment of his photos.
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