30 Projects.

Yesterday, I was sitting in B&N for what felt like hours digging through digital photography books, trying to absorb as much information about manual settings, f-stops and the like as I could. I even got in a cool conversation with another guy who needed some help with macro shooting (and I actually helped him!). When I spend time at B&N, I usually pick up 5 or more books on the same subject so I can compare and contrast their awesomeness. And this book won. People Pictures: 30 Exercises for Creating Authentic Photographs by Chris Orwig. This book contrasted greatly from the other textbook-like books I had in my pile. Instead of the usual objective approach, Chris uses one that is meant to touch the heart, to humble us as photographers, and to help us use our photography to enrich our souls and the souls of others.

This book is, as you may have realized by the title, a book of exercises that are meant to help photographers take great “people pictures”. Chris Orwig’s main focus is honesty, creating photos that capture the truth about a person. He writes this book in a humble and realistic style, far from that of your usual photography instruction books. I have the impression that he wants his readers to not only grow as photographers, but as people, and I really appreciate that.

There are five main sections of the book:

  • ”            Section I – The Foundation begins with discussing the thoughs, ideas, and concepts that develop the groundwork and set the stage of your photography practice.
  •             Section II- Tell as Story focuses on how we can create pictures that have substance and are filled with a narrative arc.
  •             Section III- Connect explores the importance of makin ga personal connection with the subject of your frame.
  •             Section IV- Practice Makes Perfect is where you will put your shoulders to the grindstone to hone your skills and try out a variety of formats and techniques.
  •             Section V – Making it Your Own provides you with an opportunity to develop your photographic voice by working on more challenging and rewarding projects. “

I’m excited about starting this book, I do the first exercise, Three Chords and The Truth, today with my sister. It’s a pretty simple exercise that is meant to go back to basics and use as little gear as possible. He puts a lot of emphasis on simplicity, which is probably another reason I’m really excited about this book–the other photography books were overwhelming.

So, I am going to try to blog about every exercise I finish as I go. Keep me accountable! I’ll let you know how the first exercise went soon!

Teaching Myself By Teaching You Part III: Simple ISO

It’s pretty simple, ISO. If you’ve ever used film, you probably already know what it is, but to the digital crowd, its definition may be a little hazy. For me, all I knew was: Low ISO=clear photo , High ISO=grainy photo.

So let’s look a bit deeper into what ISO really is.

For a DSLR, the ISO represents the light sensitivity of the image sensor. “In terms of film, ISO is used as a rating system to tell you how sensitive the film is to light, or how fast the film is.  The lower the ISO number the more time the film needs to be exposed.  The faster the ISO film speed, less light is required to take a picture.” (here.) 

Digital cameras generally measure ISO in doubling increments (from low to high: iso200, iso400, iso800, iso1600) where a low ISO will provide a clearer photo, and a higher ISO will provide a “noisy” or grainy photo. Why would you want a grainy photo? Well, in certain cases, lighting is too low to capture a clear photo, so a higher ISO is necessary.

For example, I went to my city’s “Occupy WallStreet” general assembly a month and a half ago in order to take a few shots. The meeting took a few hours, and by the time it was over, the sun was long gone. Taking photos in a setting where the lighting is quickly diminishing, such as dusk, forces me to alter ISO in order to still be able to capture decent photos (I didn’t have my Speedlight on me).

This photo was taken using ISO400, it was kind of an overcast, dusky time of day.

But as the light diminished, I had to hike my ISO up to 800, then to 1600. Below is what an ISO1600 photo looks like:

Yay grainy! From my experience, ISO helps you to capture movement a little clearer in dim light. This crowd obviously could not stay still and the light was almost gone, so ISO1600 really was the only option. Good news is, there are programs out there that are especially made to get rid of that annoying “noise.” I just do not own anything like it. Honestly, the only thing I’ve ever done in order to make my grainy photos look a little clearer is upping the contrast and maybe using a sharpening mask.

If you find any cool, (even affordable!), programs that can help with the loud noise, let me know!

So What is ISO?

“ISO is a standard telling you how sensitive your film/digital sensor is to light.

  • Higher the ISO, the more sensitive the film/sensor is to light.
  • ISO speed affects allowed aperture and shutter speed combinations.
  • Higher the ISO, the more grainy or noisy pictures may appear.”

Yeah, sometimes I steal stuff from other sites. I can’t explain everything! 🙂

Resource: National Press Photographers Association (NPPA)

The National Press Photographers Association (NPPA) is a highly distinguished organization for photojournalists. After following the site for a few weeks now, I can say that it definitely is something that an aspiring photojournalist, like myself, should be a part of.

NPPA was founded in 1946 and since then has become a driving force in the worldwide journalism industry. Their mission statement states that the NPPA

“is dedicated to the advancement of visual journalism, its creation, training, editing and distribution, in all news media and works to promote its role as a vital public service.”

Some early struggles (and eventual breakthroughs) for the NPPA were trying to allow cameras in courtrooms, and stronger communication and relations between the government and the media. Now, NPPA runs many other programs whose beginnings were during the 40s.

The NPPA now provides national and regional workshops geared toward the training of photographers and photojournalists for both print and television.

Membership to the NPPA is open to “professional news photographers and all others whose occupation has a direct professional relationship to photojournalism” and students with serious photojournalistic aspirations.

The NPPA provides a “Code of Ethics”, that is the basis for the way they run. This provides a strong Ethos for NPPA as a credible association.

Screen shot from the NPPA Ethics page

The NPPA website is very user-friendly and allows easy navigation. They have an extensive amount of resources for students, and that’s where I spent most of my time snooping. I found that the NPPA runs a blog specifically for student photojournalists called, The Visual Student, here, you will find interviews with current interns, multimedia resources, volunteer opportunities, workshop dates and locations, and opportunities to submit portfolios for critiques. I found this blog to be extremely helpful with remaining informed about the current affairs within the network of young photojournalists.

"The Visual Student" NPPA-run blog for students

The NPPA provides scholarships for students of any age wanting to further their photographic education and resources for “Professional development” along with a myriad of other helpful resources.

The more I learn about NPPA, the more I want to become a part of it. The prices for membership are found here. Hopefully I can begin gaining experience and resources from the NPPA as soon as possible!

NPPA membership Pricing

Timelessness is the Goal.

As a photography enthusiast, I pay a lot of attention to the rhetorical effectiveness and artistic quality of a photo. Over many years, I have acquired a taste, opinion, and personal style concerning photography, so my eye for photos cannot be easily dismissed. Therefore, I decided to challenge myself and think outside of  *my box. The night that this assignment was first presented to me, I sat down, grabbed a pad of sticky notes, and brainstormed “The Goal of a Photo” from what I believe to be the Photojournalist’s point of view. One little sticky note barely fit what I came up with, but it managed to with dignity. The following words and phrases are what I came up with:

The Goal of a (Journalistic) Photo

  • to educate
  • to create timelessness
  • to be self explanatory
  • to be thought provoking
  • to capture quality
  • to be informative
  • to aid in discovery
  • to be objective
  • to be stirring
  • to be culturally understanding
  • to inspire action and change
  • to tell a story
  • to communicate a message
  • to broaden perspectives
  • to create a rhetorical situation
  • to share the truth

My personal favorite, which led to a small epiphany about my understanding of photojournalism, was “to create timelessness.” I realized that timelessness is the goal of every serious photographer. But what  is timelessness? Photographer Thomas Gardner says this: “Timeless? That’s just something which transcends period or era and is something that would have been enjoyed a thousand years ago or a thousand years hence” in response to this article on photo.net. He goes on to say, “What will “make” the image ‘timeless’ is that [a photo] will still have the same impact on the unsuspecting, a thousand years from now in the same manner that it would have had on similar unsuspecting if shown to those of a thousand years ago.” Gardner insists that a “timeless” photo is one that can stand the, excuse the cliche, “test of time,” and still be perceived by its viewers in the same way. Is that true? Or is timelessness relative to the viewer? Subject to change from person to person?  Eugene Scherba (author of the timelessness article from earlier) states, “So here I make a statement: When people say “this is timeless,” they mean a specific style in mind.” I believe this is more valid than the thought that timelessness is one universal category.

So, what is timelessness to you?

Do you think it is the goal of a photographer?