There must be many frustrated photographers out there in the locked down world. Frustrated because to many, photography involves getting out with your camera, finding some beautiful or interesting location or building and finding ways of showing it. Or perhaps you enjoy street photography, finding those unexpected and amusing juxtapositions. Trouble is we’re not allowed out except for certain limited purposes and I don’t think that focussing a lens and pressing a shutter button really constitutes a form of exercise.
But that does not mean we have to stop photography. This post will explore ways we can continue our craft at home and might even open up our ideas to new visions and a new approach to photography.
This oft criticised genre conjures up thoughts of beginner’s painting classes and early Fox Talbot photography. Yet it allows photographers to give full rein to their creativity. Everything is under their control: subject matter, lighting, colour scheme. Forget the bowls of fruit and flower arrangements, there are plenty of items around the house that could be used. Explore effects of different colour combinations, or even one colour on a white, grey or black background. Familiar objects can be seen completely differently when photographed, especially when taken out of the context we are used to seeing them in. Alternatively, you could try to photograph them from an unusual angle or with different lighting so that they look like something they are not. If you are an avid collector, try to make an interesting arrangement of your collection. Don’t limit yourself to one picture if you can make a story with a series. I have done this with garden ornaments with my Gnomes Revolt series.
The View from your Window
We are so used to what we see out of our windows that we probably don’t even notice it. But there are differences now. Out of my front window I see much less traffic and more people out walking, cycling, families walking the dogs or out with the kids on their bikes, and grocery deliveries. This might not seem remarkable enough to warrant a picture, but how about setting a camera up on a tripod and firing off shots as these groups walk past. The background will be the same, representing the constancy of the view from the window, but the activity that happens will change. When things get back to normal, this will be a unique record of some of the adaptations we will have gone through.
You might not think of yourself as a people photographer but the inclusion of people in landscape and architectural work can add an extra personal touch, it can make an impersonal photograph more meaningful and relevant. I don’t know about you but I know how nervous, clumsy and embarrassed I would feel when I tried to direct people. If you’re locked up with your family, this might be an ideal opportunity to start to overcome those limitations. After all, they are probably as jaded with the situation as you are and might welcome something different. Look at different ways of posing them and lighting them, knowing that you can’t really go wrong because no-one (other than you and your lockdown mates) are going to see them.
Photography is about light, yet indoors there is not so much. We don’t notice with our normal vision because our eyes adapt so well, but as soon as you get the camera out you notice the shutter speed slows down so you get camera shake, the ISO goes up so you get noise and/or the aperture opens up so you don’t get the focus you want. Try putting your subject by a window, especially a north facing one. This will give a nice even soft light. The shadow side exposure can be controlled with a white sheet or large piece of card if it is too dark. A dark material will darken the shadow for a more dramatic look.
For small objects a simple anglepoise lamp can be used to good effect. This nativity scene was lit by a single anglepoise lamp with a 60 watt bulb.
There are ways of coping with longer exposures. Some of us are better than others at hand holding but there are things we can do to help.
· Don’t hold your breath, this tends to tense the body, which makes things wobble.
· Lean against a wall or place your elbows on a table.
· If your equipment has vibration reduction or image stabilisation, turn it on. This can give you and extra 1 to 3 stops latitude.
· If you have a tripod, use it. If not try to find a level surface, like a table or a mantelpiece, you can rest your camera on. Either way, switch the delay timer on to reduce the effect of operating the shutter button and the mirror flying up (on an SLR). And turn image stabilisation off.
I hope this all makes sense and that it will give your hobby a renewed boost so that you come out of this a wiser and more crafty photographer. If you have any questions or comments, drop me a message.