“Photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place … I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” - Elliott Erwitt
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Welcome to the iPhotographMagic Melbourne Architectural Workshop with
Robert Dettman B Arch AFIAP AAPS
I’m looking forward to a fun and informative photography weekend in what is perhaps Australia’s premier city for innovative, progressive contemporary architecture. The workshop will only be a start. I hope it will inspire you to grow a deeper interest in architectural photography and develop your own style of “seeing”.
I’m sure that in addition to the program outlined here there will be opportunities for good food, good wine, good cheer and good conversation. ;-)
September 2o Friday Evening
Getting to know you. We would like to understand where each participant is in their photography journey. We will then talk about some theory and suggestions for working in the field. Time permitting we will touch on some relevant techniques in using Adobe Lightroom.
September 21 Saturday Morning
In this location, we will meet the challenge of looking for compositions where densely packed, tall buildings are crowded into the street scape. We will be practicing Elliott Erwitt’s observation, “it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them”.
September 21 Saturday Afternoon
We will move to another location where there is more space around the buildings and the opportunity for another approach to photographing architecture. In preparation for the evening shoot there will be an introduction to the specialised but rewarding subject of architectural photography at night.
September 21 Saturday Evening
We will start at sunset at a selected location and prepare to photograph in the blue hour. We will learn what it is about that time of day that can make wonderfully vibrant photographs. When darkness sets in we will learn how to handle high dynamic range scenes. For this exercise you will need a tripod and know how to access exposure bracketing setting in your camera.
September 22 Sunday Morning
At a location chosen for its variety in built environment, this will be a time to practice what we have learnt and to expand our “seeing” skills across all categories including building portraits, details, architectural street, and whatever creative interpretations fertile minds can produce. An assignment will be set with a follow up critique and post processing in the afternoon. We will learn how to take a wide angle shot without a wide angle lens and, for those with a neutral density filter, experiment with long exposures to understand the effects they can produce.
September 22 Sunday Afternoon
Discussion, critiques and post processing instruction.
I take inspiration from New Zealand photographer, Tony Bridge, who says:
… what do you do, when making an accurate likeness of what is before you is simply … not enough? When your equipment makes it so infernally easy? When you begin to realise that you are saying the same thing as everybody else? When you finally come to trust your own voice and heart and journey and, well, nothing else really matters? You really don’t give a shit, because you are deep into a conversation that only you seem to be aware of. You realise there isn’t a room in the mansion for you, that there is no one to talk to. As a result, you will have to talk to yourself. Or build your own mansion.
So, you set sail and eventually end up walking the gangplank you were always seeking.
Then it dawns on you, some way out, that in fact, the gangplank has no end, and that although you can’t see the end, it doesn’t really matter.
Over a period of years I realised that a worthy goal is to develop a personal style, voice or expression. Exploring that path means that many of the conventional ideas and rules of “good” photography are only limitations and that thought leads to the realisation that all the “good” photos look the same.
Look the same? How can that be? Clearly they are all different!
OK, so you have made a technically perfect photo of a mountain in great golden light with a wonderful foreground, fantastic composition, and you’re ecstatic about it. But really, it’s just another beautiful picture of a mountain. It’s not fundamentally different to thousands of other beautiful pictures of mountains. You might have advanced your skills and felt a thrill of success, that’s important, but the fact is most of the work was done by mother nature and a hi-tech camera. Sure, you turned up at the right time and composed the shot, but there is nothing original about that. Every day more than 100 million people do a similar thing and post the result to instagram. The competition is fierce and the only way to be noticed is by being different. Once one’s ego lets one accept that reality, a troubling malaise set in, the only escape from which is to venture out alone, down Tony’s scary gangplank leading to … who knows where?
At that point we’ve changed gears mentally and have become artists.
How to do that? Everyone will have a different answer - a unique answer. And that’s the point. For me, the answer is contained in the way I see the subject matter and how I post process the image. Even that statement can be dismissed as prosaic but it’s the thinking behind it, the process and the outcome that counts.
Tony Bridge has updated a famous Ansel Adams quote for the digital era. He says, “The capture is the score and the post-production the performance.” So, in a tutorial format I will demonstrate some of the techniques I use in post processing to create images, some will be like millions of others, but others will be my own interpretation of reality as applied to architectural subjects.
If you would like to read Tony Bridge’s full article, it’s here.