Ajax and Karsh

I just spoke as one of the keynote speakers at an Ajax Photography Club event called “Discovering Karsh”. All about Armenian Canadian photographer Yousuf Karsh, whom The Economist, after his death, described as “the best portrait photographer in the world for the past fifty years”. 

Karsh can teach photographers today a thing or two, and that was the subject of my presentation. He was a master at light, mainly in moody low key portraits (think of the grumpy Churchill portrait, where Karsh had respectfully pulled the cigar from Churchill’s mouth), for one. Google it—for copyright reasons I cannot reproduce it here.

He was also a real people person, and that was his super power. He studied his subjects before a shoot. He talked to them. At length, often, if given the opportunity. Instead of taking 100 pictures and choosing one, he took one or two when the moment was right. He was a master at choosing the moment. And his subjects trusted him and his ability to make them look good.

Google “Karsh” and see the iconic portraits that defined the 20th century. Sure, Karsh is not everyone’s taste—his portraits are low-key and often moody—but they are certainly masterful. And they defined the people that he photographed as well as reflected them. As a portrait photographer, if you can do that, you have made it.

 

 

Why I am not switching yet.

“Mirrorless” is all the talk. Everyone, it seems, “is going mirrorless”.

But not me, and not many other photographers either: not quite yet.

Canon 1D Mark IV camera

Canon 1D Mark IV camera

Why not switch to the latest technology?

Well, while mirrorless offers advantages, like

  • Preview information (eg histogram) through viewfinder.
  • Post-shot view.
  • Smaller, lighter! Especially if you get the new lenses.

…there are also good reasons for pros to hesitate and hold off. Here’s a few:

  • If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.Why mess with something that is proven to work?
  • Mirrorless is unproven. Looks good, but it’s new. Why risk it?
  • Battery life. Not as good, not nearly as good as the pro DSLRs
  • Dust. The sensor is exposed and every lens change introduces dust.
  • New lenses needed—and that’s a major investment. Or you use adapters and invest in those, and forego the “smaller” advantage. Adapters are always iffy anyway: another point of failure.

As you see, there are good reasons to not mess with something that ain’t broken.

 

 

Today’s workshop…

…was all about light.

Look how differences, some small, in light can make any picture very different from the others. Our lovely model Bryna, in a few snaps I snuck in while teaching:

And that’s why knowing flash is a skill that will serve you well. After all, with flash, you are in charge. Stand by for more, much more, in the way of workshops and other teaching and training.

 

 

Tips for landscapes.

Valley of fire, NV

I’ll give you a few landscape tips for beginners, today.

    1. Use the right lens. I recommend either the ultra wide lens (10-20 on a crop camera, 16-35 on a full frame camera), to show perspective and depth; or a telephoto lens, to bring backgrounds closer.
    2. Use a low ISO, like 100 or 200.
    3. Use a high f-number, like 11 or 16. Especially important if you use the telephoto lens above.
    4. If you can, use a tripod. The two settings above may well require it.
    5. Focus one third into your scene. That gives you the best sharp focus range.
    6. Just in case, carry a polarizer and an ND filter. The polarizer for removing reflections or to emphasize some blue skies, and the ND filter for slow shots of waterfalls or water surfaces.
    7. Consider shooting some panoramas. For those, use manual setting, so that all pictures are exposed equally. Avoid foreground objects. Turn the camera while on the tripod, overlapping successive images by, say, 30%.
    8. Don’t pack too much. Weight doubles hourly when carried!
    9. shoot at the best time of day. Often, that means 5pm or 5am, the “golden hour”.
    10. Consider bringing a flash. More than you’d expect, you’ll want to light up your foreground.
    11. Keep the image simple. Pay attention to detail.
    12. Look for attention points in the foreground, middle ground, or background. Like frames, reflections, s-curves, juxtapositions, etc.
    13. Prepare. Enter location coordinates, found on google, into your gps.
    14. take one iPhone picture so that you have the coordinates, and then copy them in Lightroom from that iPhone picture to your other photos. Unless, of course, your camera already has a gps built in.

These fifteen rules should get you going! For a little more detail, see my Landscape Photography book on http://Learning.photography .


Come to my April 27 workshop in Toronto, if you want flash techniques that work. See the previous post.

One flash

Today, I taught a Hamilton workshop. From that workshop, one photo that illustrates how you can take a photo with just one flash. Here’s student Paul.

This kind of chiaroscuro lighting is simple and very effective. And you don’t need much. One off camera flash.

Many more workshops coming up, starting with one in Toronto in under a month, where I’ll be teaching exactly that.

See here for details. Early bird pricing only until April 1!

"Flash Techniques for Quick Creative Success" – Toronto, April 27 2019