Do you wait for photographs? Set up your tripod on a scene and then wait for something to happen? Lots of people think this is how #AnselAdams worked, but he didn’t. From everything I’ve heard he was’t patient enough, and neither am I. I find that my most favorite photographs are a response to light, to fleeting moments that unpredictably come into being, exist for a very short time, and then disappear. So while I rarely “wait” for a photograph, I’m always waiting on the light, which is an active process of looking, exploring, slowing down, sensing, tuning in to my environment. I waited on the light for a week to make this photograph. After some challenging life stuff, I took off for a week to camp on the #bigsur coast to clear my head and refresh myself. I spent a week exploring the nooks and crannies of the coast, watching tides rise and fall, but my 4x5 view camera stayed in my bag because a persistent marine layer created dead gray light that just didn’t inspire me. As you can imagine, that left me pretty frustrated because I thought I’d make a lot of new work that week, and on the last day of the trip I faced the prospect of returning home without even exposing any film. But on that final day while exploring an area just south of Carmel, the light started to break. In a mad dash, I broke out my view camera and quickly set up on the scene before me. I was only able to make a few exposures before the light left, but one of those captured what i saw as a rare pastel light illuminated the waves and tide pools. That one picture, on the last day, because I didn’t pack up early, made the whole trip.
Wisner 4x5, Nikon 135mm f5.6 W Lens, Fuji Velvia, exposure unrecorded, likely ƒ32-45
Do you have a flare problem? I’m not talking about the JJ Abrams Star Trek over-the-top creative use of it, I’m talking about those times that it’s killing the richness and saturation of your photographs. You know it can do that, right?
Lens flare is caused anytime light is falling directly on the lens. You don’t have to be pointing directly at the sun to cause it…It can happen even when the light source is outside your frame. When any bright light is hitting your lens, it causes all kinds of stray reflections that bounce around inside your lens and ruin contrast and saturation.
Camera phones are particularly prone to it. Look at this pair of photographs. The first picture was taken with no shading on the lens. The sun is outside the frame towards the upper left. The contrast and saturation have been degraded significantly from the real live view I saw with the naked eye.
I noticed the flare on the screen, so I made a second picture where I used my hand as a shade to stop sunlight from falling on the lens.
As you can see, the results are dramatic. The shaded photo shows a significant increase in contrast and saturation, both in the red leaves and the background, and shows the scene the way I intended.
Using a lens shade on your camera will help avoid flare, but the best way to avoid it is to know what it looks like through your viewfinder so that you can fix it anytime it appears. It’s just one of the many things to be aware of every time you are making a photograph.
Rich Seiling is a pioneer of Fine Art Printmaking, having worked on thousands of prints for leading photographers.