Got Up and Went ... Photographing!
Types of photographic jaunts
Let's arbitrarily put photographic activity into three categories.
1/ The most formal I could call a shoot, when I, with or without clients, set aside time for a specific project. Some shoots take a few minutes, others days or longer. One can "shoot" a landscape, an event, a portrait - anything. It just means a specific, delineated project.
A dedicated evening of photography, Upper Canada Village, Alight At Night, 2017: a "shoot"
Militia re-enactors at a civic event - I went there on a "shoot"
2/ At the other end of the spectrum lies what I might call incidental or impromptu photography. There need be nothing trivial about the results, but it comes from simply having a camera with me (could be a cell-phone), and finding unexpected moments in the midst of some other activity.
Between cloud layers - snapped out an airplane window - no planning - it just happened!
Attending a Blue Jays baseball game - "impromptu" - although clearly I had an ultra-wide-angle full-frame fisheye lens with me!
3/ Then, it feels like I recognize a middle category, that of intentional photography but with a less defined time-frame or subject - or both. Today I'm calling that on-the-prowl photography.
Simply heading out to see what I could find to photograph - I found this!
Out for an evening walk with my brother - but he did say, "You had better bring your camera" - so was this "impromptu" or "prowling"? Unlike in this photograph, the lines blur.
Out for a drive, with camera, looking for things to photograph - a "prowl"!
You may already see some overlap, for which reason I refer to the division into three types of photography sessions as "arbitrary".
And I wish to emphasize that I'm describing categories of photographic activity, not of photographic styles or themes. Despite the sanctity of the eventual image, about which nothing matters more, the image has got to come from some sort of photographic activity. Nothing about the image might clue you in as to what activity generated it, and that doesn't matter, except for the photographer, who had to be engaged in doing ... something.
This blog concerns itself with one of those "somethings" - the one in which a photographer picks up a camera and sees what might happen.
Get up, get out, get going!
Day by day, when the urge strikes, if nothing else pressing demands my time, I will get up, go out and look for something to photograph.
Sometimes I have a scene or location in mind, sometimes I do not.
Sometimes I will find something, and sometimes I will not.
For myself, when on the photographic prowl, I lean towards dawn, with its fantastic light - given clear skies - and its quiet. The world gets busier soon after, and stays busy through dusk. The light at mid-day pleases sunbathers - not photographers: too white (boring!), and much too harsh, with deep, unsightly shadows with sharp borders. But photographic prowling has no rule about nocturnal or crepuscular activities; wherever and whenever you can find or make it happen, then make it happen!
Fortunately, I live in a lovely area, but some similarly-minded photographers seem to live in a visual nirvana, e.g. Ray Mackey, Newfoundland. He posts a new photo almost every day, and finds vistas which are fairly consistently breath-taking. (He says he very often eats his dinner cold - must be a dusk-leaning photographer!)
Now ... what can compare with the Thousand Islands? People who live along the St. Lawrence River here can attest that they never see the same view twice. Large swaths of the shoreline are on private land, however, which is a little problem, plus to get the great shots you have to be there at dawn or dusk, on a day when the weather and light are cooperating ... so it can happen, but there's much more to it than simply releasing the shutter.
And as noted in a recent blog, things which are appealing to the eye don't necessarily resonate with the camera, and vice versa. Let me state frankly that I find my lovely locale difficult to photograph. Still, sometimes I just need to use a bit more imagination.
Only by going there, early in the morning, did I find this mysterious fog on the river, a fishing derby about to start - and a small cruise ship leaving the harbour
We have many local examples of out-and-about photographers, prominent among them being Ian Coristine. The man has produced a plethora of very impressive work. It hasn't hurt that he flies an ultra-light airplane ... creating a vantage unavailable to most of us! But even on the ground, he finds vistas - and also details - which will take your breath away.
So: on-the-prowl. What might you find? What might you seek?
Well, as I sometimes say, I live in a (small) city, so I photograph a city.
Brockville, Ontario, Canada - oh, the night-life!
I live in a city where we can get out in the countryside in a few minutes, so I photograph the countryside.
Not twenty minutes from my house, a misty reflective swamp at dawn.
I travel, so I do travel-photography.
We were not on a photographic expedition - but I had my camera with me! This is Virgin Gorda in the British Virgin Islands.
I don't do street-photography as much. The intrusion too often feels to me simply disrespectful, plus it leaves sometimes murky areas of legality in the privacy realm. Stopping and asking to take someone's photo is another matter, except that even then, street-photographers don't consistently get model releases; but I have a couple of regrets of occasions when I didn't ask.
Everyone makes exceptions. This breaks all my rules. I do not find the composition satisfying. I was photographing this fellow without permission - that felt predatory. But hey! C'mon! Karma wanted me to do it, and so I just shot from the hip.
Street photography becomes this simple to me: would I approve if someone unknowingly took my picture, and then published or posted it, even though, with a photo taken in a public place, some jurisdictions allow it? (Here in Canada, just to make life more interesting, the laws vary by province.) Generally not. Some people, however, make it hard to resist.
Other than privacy considerations, people provide an endless source of amazing, unscripted photographic material. Under real world conditions, however, I also often find street photography lazy, with photographers showing work which they otherwise would not, just because the subject seems interesting. What about the light, the background, the composition, etc.? For me, if it isn't a good photo overall, unless the subject really interests me, then I'm not going to show it.
Another exception. She in quasi-punk, he not, just hanging out, wonder what they're thinking and talking about ... and I think it hangs together well as a photograph..
Let me comment on a few more photographs which I made just by going out and doing it.
Just yesterday, I went out during a heavy snowfall, got a few good captures, then remembered chancing upon this photographic feast some time ago, so had another run at it.
I went out looking for something specific I had espied recently, only to find it unsatisfactory, but noticed this moon staring back at me. I recalled that something astronomical (literally) was happening, went out into the countryside, and snapped a few frames, immediately before sunrise. By the way - none of these individual events are rare, but getting them all at one time must be less frequent: this was a "super blue blood moon partial eclipse".
Having done an errand around town, and camera gear at hand, I just prowled, not sure what I might find. I had done King St. before, under various conditions, and had done the City Hall (with variable success) - and then the scene above appeared before me.
It turns out that I prefer the Brockville City Hall from the other side ... and reflected in the water.
The St. Lawrence River lies on an international seaway, so I'm going to photograph the occasional ship!
One morning at dawn I ended up - again! - at Blockhouse Island, in Brockville, thinking that I had been there over the years too often and would find nothing new. But always changing, this was a new light, and a new pattern of snow and ice. (And this is one of several printed works of local scenes currently hanging and for sale at Richard's Coffeehouse in Brockville.)
Visiting overnight in Kingston, mid-1980s, I had noticed this scene, and so hopped out of bed at dawn (as I so often do!), drove to it, and still like the shapes.
So, "prowling": the word connotes a bit of a predatory activity, and I don't like that in human terms, but its accuracy in the photographic sense resonates more. We "take" pictures (although we "make" photographs ...).
But it also means on-the-move, and I do mean exactly that. Great photographs will not come to me. I have to go out and find them.
While you're here:
Remember that I make photographs and that I sell photographs.
Almost everything which you see on this web site is for sale. Prices at the time of writing, for example, for an 11x14" fine-art print with a generous white border would be about $40, and you can go up or down from there. Check the rates page. More importantly, check out my gallery.
Book a portrait-sitting - the right frequency with which to commission formal portraits is a bit more often.
Thank you so much for reading.
Charles T. Low