Suspect Photography

words and images from david george brommer

Tag: composition

The Aesthetic of Compositional Perfection and Post Production

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

The fog was thicker than pea soup at the Dickey Ridge Lodge.

I’m one of those odd people who throw on a heavy backpack and hike in the woods for days. I have been doing it for a long time now, at least 25 years. I have a dwindling network of friends who I go on these hiking trips and we fancy to call our selves Trailpounders. Among all the miles I have hiked in pristine wilderness across many states I am reluctant to carry a cameras, or serious one at least. The reason being weight, and getting the picture right. Cameras can weigh quite a bit, and add to that good lenses so that you can make high quality photographs is daunting when you’re crossing mountains and pushing every fiber of your body to keep moving up switchbacks.

I have been tasked by B&H & Sony to create a program on the RX10. The focus of the program will be, “Travel Composition with the RX10”. To prepare for the program I have been shooting exclusively with the RX10 and pushing what it can do while learning what it cannot do. I’m familiar with the camera, and those who follow my blog will recall the initial review of the RX10 I wrote and shot a little under a year ago.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America's National Parks are for everyone, every age.

Elderly folk appreciating the park. They moved slow, but stuck a cord inside me. America’s National Parks are for everyone, every age.

This past weekend the Trail Pounders planned a four day hike in the beautiful Shenandoah National Park. Since I was working on material for the presentation, I figured this would be the perfect place to shoot with the RX10 and put it to test doing some nature photography. I would suck up the weight (1.79 lb / 813 g with battery and memory card) and stuff the camera in my trusty Moutainsmith Frost Fire pack.

The trip was excellent and pretty heavy duty. I’m not getting any younger and that pack isn’t getting any lighter. I felt I could have reached for the camera more often, but hiking (especially in a group) is an act all of its own. We managed to traverse about 17 miles in three days which didn’t afford me much lens time. On the trail we crossed a pine covered mountain top (Neighbor Mountain) and ran the ridge. I came across these interesting pine cones that had survived a fire, called a pack break and took some photos. I did my “composition dance” and moved around trying to find that perfect angle to capture the pine cones, you know that angle, the one with a perfect background and every branch facing the right direction? Well I couldn’t find it. I just couldn’t get the lens, the pine cone, and what I wanted to capture groove.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

Pine Cone as it was shot- no editing.

As I sat editing I thought, “I was so close… but darn those extra branches”… I saw them when I shot and figured they would not cut my mustard. It was then that I figured I’d work them in post and try to rescue them. This wouldn’t be retouching per sey , but more compositional rescue. I busted out my trusty Wacom table and set to it. After the image was cleaned up I ran it through Silver FX and finished it to my personal standards.

Pine Cone

Did I succeed? Did I just polish a turd? I always joke that I have taken so many bad photographs that when I do shoot now, it’s with a great intensity to only shoot what is decent if not compositionally perfect. But now, when the world is simply not cooperating it might be safe to shoot the best you can, and then do some very heavy post to get it right. Ethically I’m not 100 percent behind this, but I do feel good that at least the option is open. What do you think?

Here are a few more from the first edit. I shot in jpeg and used the creative modes that are built into the RX10 such as “Autumn Leaves” and “B&W”. Each image is taken into Photoshop and massaged.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Home and Shelter. I have had this tent since 1993.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

Hiker JA- one of the Trail Pounders founders. Note, a circular polarizer was used to clear up the water behind Joe.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a  Trail Pounder for years and didn't even know it.

SHAZAM! Joey V, he was a Trail Pounder for years and didn’t even know it.

Fall Leaves straight up.

Fall Leaves straight up.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

The lone tree sits in the fog.

I’ll post a link to the RX10 Presentation when it goes live. If you don’t live near NYC, we will be recording the presentation and I’ll post that too.

Till then, this Trail Pounder is signing off!

The three last Trail Pounders.

The three last Trail Pounders.

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Climbing the Mountain – Thoughts on Finding Photographic Style

Rancho Los Cruces, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico. Sony RX10

Rancho Los Cruces, Baja California Peninsula, Mexico. Sony RX10

The Mountain. No, I’m not talking about a character form a George Martin novel or a Janes Addiction song. I’m talking about a vast project and desire to create something amazing. The Mountain is all the work ahead of you, all the plans, the complications, the raw effort. The Mountain soars in front of you, its height is dizzying and when you are in the shadow of the mountain the temptation to do nothing, to not try to move forward freezes you. Letting the mountain daunt you will be the equivalent of rolling over and going back to sleep, thus condemning you work to photographic mediocrity. But you are stronger; you will climb the mountain and figure out how to let your photographic voice soar in an orgy of style that will define your photography!

Adapting to the brutal winter of 2014 in NYC. Fujifilm Xpro1 18 mm f2.0

Adapting to the brutal winter of 2014 in NYC. Fujifilm Xpro1 18 mm f2.0

The way to go over the mountain of work ahead of you is actually quite easy. Take one step at a time and keep moving. I would now like to introduce you to something everyone one of us has in their pocket, The Goal Compass. Every great person who achieves something wonderful sets their goal compass and moves in that direction with little deviation. This doesn’t just apply to photographers, imagine Christopher Columbus and the mountain he had to climb to discover the new world. He needed ships, he needed sailors, he had to break a history of convention that stated what he wanted to do was impossible. The planning took over a decade, but he stayed the course and made his spot in history. He could not be deterred and every movement he made was aimed towards his goal. We are not explorers seeking the New World, we are photographers, and fortunately our goals are easier than Columbus.

However the Mountain does stand before us and it can be daunting. By setting the goal compass on plateaus to traverse you will be amazed at the creative ground you will cover. Here is style deconstructed and that which reveals a simple formula  serving as a map to travel over the mountain in the most expedient way.

  1. Master the camera and lens you are utilizing. Use a specific technique to create the image and perform specific post process treatments.

  2. Find subject manner you want to explore deeper. This is idea made reality in the camera viewfinder.

  3. Create a body of work around the subject and place by using the same camera and techniques.

The Euclidean triangle that is the base to developing photographic style. At what point on the triangle are you?

Note: This is an exert from my upcoming book on Finding and Developing Photographic Style. Want to learn more? Come to Brommer’s Style and Composition in NYC Workshop in April.

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Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC 4 Day Intensive Workshop April 17th to April 20th

Message Man in Chelsea

Finding Photographic Style and Composition in NYC  is a four day intensive workshop to develop your style and advance your composition skills with classroom sessions, assignments, museum and gallery visits, critiques, and guided photo walks in some of NYC’s iconic neighborhoods led by David Brommer. Photographers who are looking to perfect their skills and spend every waking moment in the city that never sleeps will be taking advantage of high level instruction and techniques with an emphasis on creating a body of work that will feature their own voice. Being exposed to new visual concepts and photographs from a series of visits to selected Chelsea galleries and two iconic photo collections at ICP and MoMA, students will ultimately build a solid portfolio of images.

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Classroom sessions: In this part of the program, David Brommer will deliver his two signature lectures “Finding Photographic Style” and “Composition Beyond the Rule of Thirds”  to give you the right tools to create a series of compelling images during your time in NYC. The classroom will serve as a home base, providing an environment for post processing and critique sessions, as well as working as an arena to discuss ideas and evaluate progress. The classroom sessions will be held at the photo department of New York Film Academy , a brand new facility in Battery Park  with state of the art classrooms with views of the Statue of Liberty and the port of NYC.

Photo Walks: The photo walks will explore iconic neighborhoods and landmarks including The Brooklyn Bridge, Lower Manhattan, Central Park, The West Village, Times Square and Grand Central Station. A live model will be available for one selected location photo shoot that will also feature a mini lighting workshop.

Gallery Visits: The neighborhood of Chelsea, with its more than 300 galleries, has the highest concentration of visual art per square foot on the entire planet. This experience will be a unique opportunity to visit key institutions and enjoy short gallery talks.  The itinerary will include Steven Kasher Gallery, Robert Mann Gallery, Bruce Silverstein Gallery and Clamp Art.

Final Party: The grand finale of the workshop will be the “Black & White” dinner, a party hosted by David Brommer and his wife Barbara. During the party the students will showcase their work and enjoy a “Black & White” menu of photography inspired gourmet dishes created by Barbara, (a chef and Bauhaus schooled artist).

Notes: This is an intensive workshop with lots of walking. It is not a basic class, it is intended for intermediate and advanced photographers. Class is strictly limited to 12 students. Be prepared to work hard, create dynamic photographs and grow as an artist.

Fee: The fee for the workshop is $699.00. Workshop is limited to a maximum of 12 students. The fee includes admission to ICP and MoMA and the final party.

Meals are not included, however we will be enjoying the vibrant NYC food scene.

Payments: A $200 dollar deposit is required to hold your reservation. The final balance is due March 31st. Students paying in full by March 1st receive a $50 discount for the workshop (for this option, please use the Early Bird Enrollment button to pay).

Chose your payment option from one of the three below:

 

Workshop Cancelled. Subscribe to this blog to find out when more will be offered.

 

The Workshop Reservation Deposit ($200.00) is NOT refundable. If you cancel before April 15th you will obtain the fee refund minus the deposit amount (i.e. Workshop cancellations are subject to a $200.00 fee).

If you wish to pay by check please email me directly for instructions and payment information.

Any students who wish to bring a Fujifilm X System camera will receive special love. However, any digital camera or iphone is recommended. While the Suspect does love film, it will be hard to add film to the critique sessions and receive instant feedback.

Any questions please feel free to email or ask in the comment field. Thank you and see you NYC soon.

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The Exhibition at the old Hospital and the Zeiss Touit 12mm for X-Pro1

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

View of Val di Chiana from the Old Hospital

I’ll be honest, I’m not that much of a super wide guy. My preferred focal length is just a little wider than normal view. The 28mm to 35mm is pretty perfect for me. Back in May, I got two lenses from Zeiss to try out, the 35 1.8 and 12mm 2.8 Touit lenses. I walked with the 35 1.8 around NYC for a few weeks testing the lens before I passed it on to Gabe from Ruinism and wrote about it on my “Part 1” of the Zeiss Touit tests which can be found here in this earlier blog. I then began to shoot with the 12mm and actually had trouble making images I was excited about. It wasn’t that the gorgeous lens was anything less than a great optic, it was I who had issue with the lens. For those who follow my blog, its not just words, the images have to back up what I’m saying. The environments that I was testing the lens in were just not coexisting and the lens wasn’t working for me. Well, all that changed yesterday when I took the 12mm and mounted it on my trusty Fujifilm X-Pro1 with the aim of checking out some exhibitions at the Cortona On the Move Photo Festival in Italy. All of the images are shot using the 12mm 2.8 at ISO Auto 1600, color shots are Velvia Film Sim Mode unless I chose the B&W Y mode (I used film sim bracketing so I was able to capture it all).

Study in the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

Study of the geometry of Composition in Tuscany

This photo festival is really unlike any other that ever existed before. Taking place is Cortona Italy, a hilltop medieval city made famous lately by the Frances Mayes book, “Under the Tuscan Sun” (Mayes tells the tale of being an expat American and finding herself while rebuilding a Tuscan villa) the festival consists of a series of exhibitions that are found in odd locations throughout the city. By using spaces that are currently unused or abandonded, the festival curates photography with a theme of movement, travel and exploration. It’s a super cool way to explore the old city and see some photography and also, gain entry to spaces that would otherwise not be available.

The festival for the second time was able to procure the old hospital and transform it to a gallery featuring edgy and stimulating photographers as well as a retrospective look at the now defunct Newsweek magazine. For me, hospitals are associated with death, and I found it fitting that Newsweek (which ended publication in December of 2012) a perfect fit to showcase multiple news themes that it was known for, along with some of the brightest documentary shooters. Indeed, the exhibition is aptly titled, “An Autopsy”. RIP Newsweek.

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

Crowd sourced installation where readers of La Republica were asked to submit photos taken prior to 1999

I have a new hero, Zed Nelson, who over 5 years shot in 18 countries across 5 continents the diaspora of western concepts of beauty being exported as a new manifestation of aesthetic globalization. His work is akin to Lauren Greenfield and Erwin Olaf but has a technical savvy and execution I was moved by. The room that Zed is displayed in has wide-open windows that over look the city and the valley below. Visitors are torn between looking at glass jar containing fat taken during a liposuction procedure and a view to die for. The dichotomy is exquisite.

Sol Neelman is a North West photographer who couldn’t cut it as a jock, and became a photographer. His are larger than life shots of extreme and weird sports. The subject matter is instantly interesting and his timing for the camera frame impeccable. I look forward to purchasing his book of the complete project, the exhibition left me wanting more.

Salvatore Santoro documentary of his childhood home and despotic local of Campania was what I felt the weakest of the exhibitions, yet still the spirit of the festival pervades the curation of work. While Salvatore’s work is solid, the subject matter is sad and the locations simply run down from the effects of mafia and pollution. I preferred to look at weird sports and go back in history with the covers of Newsweek.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The 12mm super wide lets you explore space unlike a normal view.

The crazy Italian photographer I met at Photo Show Milan, Antonio Manta led a workshop at the opening of the festival. This wild spirit and master printer always works with a quirky twist on his portraiture and his workshop embodided that spirt. He set up a red carpet with an inspired throne in front of the signature building in Cortona, the Palazo del Comune and had his class photograph tourists and while choosing the theatre location for the Cortonesi (locals) to be photographed. A selection from his class is on exhibit and shows the organic nature of the festival, work from students attending on display.

Charlatan

I loved how with the use of Newsweek large proofs the festival was able to make a political commentary on thier home country and the world at large. Seeing a Tim Hetherington print as well reminded me what a genius we lost in Libya and I lament that we can’t have Tim’s eye look at current events any longer.

fallensign

Walking the corridors of old hospital and looking at great examples of photography is inspiring, but doing so with the super wide 12mm Zeiss Touit was the icing on the cake. I wanted to take it all in, not just a slice. What better way to examine it all than with a larger than life lens? After all the trying with the lens, I found its home in my bag, as I travel. All the shots in the blog entry are shot with the 12mm, I’ll let the images do the talking.

View3

The super wide is great at taking it all in, and perhaps if Cortona On The Move festival is about travel going places, then its official lens should be the Touit 12mm.

B&W  w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

B&W w/ Yellow Filter Film Sim mode

David Brommer on August 22nd and 23rd will be conducting a Composition seminar in Cortona that is part classroom, part portfolio review, and part photo walk. A trip to the old hospital will be in order!

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

Steps leading to multiple levels of the exhibition

Two Day Workshop in Cortona, Italy August 23rd and 24th at Cortona On The Move Photo Festival

Doors of Tuscany Shot with Lensbaby

Doors of Tuscany Shot with Lensbaby

Cortona is a photogenic medieval hilltop city located in the south of Tuscany that is a photographers paradise. So much in fact, that three years ago a group of enterprising young photographers created the Cortona On The Move Photo Festival to showcase photography themed around travel and movement. The festival features exhibits, talks, portfolio reviews, contests, and workshops spread out through the winding alleyways and squares. The exhibits are in old hospitals, wince cellars, churches and other antique locations. Visitors get a map and while exploring the city, get to view a seriously curated assemblage of todays top contemporary photography as it relates to travel and the concept non-static photography.

presskit

For over a decade I have been visiting this corner of the world (I was married to Barbara in Cortona in 2003 as matter of fact, we are celebrating our TEN year anniversary-I love you Barbara <3) and photographing with different techniques. The location is enchanting, and with the festival firmly routed in the city, all the more interesting.

Cortona view of the Vale shot with Fujifilm Instax

Cortona view of the Vale shot with Fujifilm Instax

This year, I proposed a two day workshop to help photographers view this city with an eye for advanced composition. If you are looking into a trip this summer, you simply can’t go wrong with COTM and a visit to Tuscany. Here are the details for the workshop:

Detail of rear of Church 8x10 Camera 14" Kodak Ektar Lens

Detail of rear of Church 8×10 Camera 14″ Kodak Ektar Lens

COMPOSITION IN CORTONA: BEYOND THE RULE OF THIRDS

Digital cameras can practically do it all, but what they can’t do is adjust for good composition, a fundamental quality of a great image.  Ironically, the technological wonders of the digital era have  made some of us blind to seeing photographs as art, and although the latest digital cameras may be able to perform in almost any light, if you can’t “see” the shot, then you won’t capture a memorable image.

Cortona on the Move festival will host American photographer David Brommer for a special two part seminar. The first part, an afternoon lecture and slide show of Brommer’s popular, “Better Photographic Composition – Beyond the Rule of Thirds” program where Brommer will cover the basics of composition and then go further into more complicated compositional elements. Directly following this presentation will be a review of students work. The class will resume the next morning for a photo walk in Cortona where you will get to put what you just learned to practice.

This seminar is ideally suited for those with a basic understanding of photography but wish to advance their skills by learning compositional fundamentals and techniques that will dramatically improve their images.
MATERIALS: Attendees may bring up to 5 of their best images for review on a USB thumb drive for the Friday session. For the photo walk on Saturday, attendees are recommended to bring a Digital SLR with wide to normal angle lenses, a fully charged battery and memory cards. Tripods are not recommended as this is a photo walk, however comfortable sneakers are a must. We will be covering a lot of ground on old cobblestoned streets.

 DATES: August 23rd 4 pm to 7 pm  (class room session) and August 24th 7 am to 10 am (Cortona photo walk)

COST: 125€

The organization of the Festival will help the participants to find affordable accommodations.

To enroll, make a bank transfer to:

Associazione Culturale ONTHEMOVE
Banca Credito Cooperativo
Iban: IT 66 N 084 8925 4010 0000 0361 220

Info: workshop@cortonaonthemove.com

I will conduct the class primarily in English, however a translator will be on site. I hope to see some of my American friends, or make new acquaintances in Cortona.

~David

Suspect Photography Workshops: West Village Photo Walk, Saturday May 18th 2013

Village Americana

Village Americana

When it comes to charming neighborhoods, New York City’s West Village is second to none. From turn of the century carriage houses to ornate brownstones and winding little streets the West Village has a romance all its own. This photo walk will culminate in the “secret garden” which will be in full bloom and offer exquisite photographic opportunities.

 

Hidden gardens found and photographed.

Hidden gardens found and photographed.

 

David will share his secrets to photographing great compositions and teach you to spot the elements that will help you capture this colorful and eclectic New York neighborhood. An emphasis on choosing repetitive elements to seek out and photograph will be encouraged to reinforce a project based thought process. This photo walk will set a great foundation for capturing, “Sense of place” and introduce you to the full potential of your camera.

Barrow Street

Barrow Street

This Photo Walk will begin at a local Village café where David (and a few cappuccinos later) will show you how to properly set your camera’s functions to maximize this type of “street shooting”. You will also be given a “shoot list” to help you navigate and keep your vision sharp. DSLR’s, Digital Point and Shoots with override settings, and Mirrorless cameras are all welcome. Take this opportunity to learn your camera better, as David will be able to show you how to get the most out of the complex menu settings of a modern digital camera.

The lessons you will learn will be invaluable next time you are on vacation and roam about with your camera.

This West Village Photo Walk is limited to 10 attendees and runs from 9 am to noon. You are welcome to arrive at 8:30 am with a small portfolio (print or tablet is fine) to get some feedback on your photography.

This photo walk is rain or shine, and costs $79. per person. Please use the pay pal button to process the payment. Suspect Photography Workshops will gladly refund your payment in full if you cancel 3 days or more before the photo walk. Canceling two days before the day of the photo walk  will earn you a workshop credit for future workshops.

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Studies in Light and Composition

Studies in Light and Composition

Entrance to the secret garden

Entrance to the secret garden

Village Chracters

Village Characters

Any questions please feel free to contact David Brommer. David has taught numerous photo walks and attendees always walk away with some great images, new photographic ideas and most of all, fun.

Remember, the limit is ten attendees and this walk is going to sell out so jump in now and reserve your spot.

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Zen, Zones, and Focal Lengths are now the new drugs.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm, Snapseed processed

The sublime pleasure of seeing space surrounding the self as a trained photographer is our greatest gift and pleasure. Shape, lines, shadows, highlights, objects, nuances of patterns, both similar and interrupted, the delicate ballet of balanced forms, transitions of contrast defined in air and matter while viewed in whole, then fractured and selected inside a frame, bounded by our souls perspective focal length. It is sublime when in the zone, when all those take prioritization in you vision, the camera clicks, and its done.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm 1/200 f 8 200 iso jpg

The sometimes and not-often secret peak of the photograph making experience is felt in a tremor of the shutter release and can be drawn out for 3 seconds or more after the exposure, this is the satisfaction sensation. You did it. You got that shot amongst a special plane of non-interest.

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Snapseed processed

Shooting and seeing is akin to seeking. What it is you seek may not be known to you, walking about armed with your camera and having no particular agenda. Space will reveal what is interesting, time will put your body in the right temporal position and you just might make an interesting photograph. Or you can exert heavy control and manufacture the perfect storm to capture that superlative image. Shooting in a studio makes you the great creator of light, like Lucifer and Prometheus you can encase your image with brilliant photons, be the master of the subject and set. Photographers that create in a studio assume the aspect of gods.

Fitness bill boards

Fuji X Pro 1, 18mm Snapseed processed

How can you shorten the length of mediocre image making from the creating of greater images? There is one way, and that is to make lots of images on an almost daily basis. Live in the margin of seeing, be ready to take the viewfinder as a macroscope for living in this space, here, breathing these sights, and feeling those reflections. Incorporate “often” as way of answering the question, “when do you take pictures”. Raise the camera and make exposures often.

Fuji X Pro 1 18mm 1/30 f 4 iso 400 jpg

A click is a drug and the resulting image the high. Multiple clicks lead to visible euphoria and in that fog of stimulus better images lie. Do it enough and you will find a reliable friend in f8 and a fickle friend at f 1.4. Stay shooting and 1/15 second all of sudden seems like a month. ¼  second and a year shoots by a like the Silver Surfer on speed.

Sean Kernan told me Tidd Hido said, “I think I’m addicted to the feeling of having just taken what I think is a good photograph.” Feed your addiction and makes lots of images. Embrace the “studium” and don’t bogart the camera.

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