a blog by knut skjærven

The Lightness Of Life (6)

How do you use the visual radar?

It is really very ease. All of us know how such a technique works.

An example: Many modern photo-related programs have, for instance, face detection. You feed the database with pictures of a face and the machine will be able to recognize the face in other pictures. You name that face. It is very handy if you want to search for a person in a large catalogue of images.

In photography the visual radar works the same way. Your mind is the program and that database that holds the data. Like a computer program you have to feed it. Feed it well, and it will serve you well. Feed it lousy, or not at all, and will serve you lousy. Or not at all.

When you study the photographs of famous photographers, or the paintings of celebrity painters, it is like feeding a machine with data.

Also: It helps a lot if you know what you are doing. Roaming museums and photo books will not do it alone. You have to tell your mind what kind of mission you are on. You have to tell it that you are on a data collection mission. You could say for instance: we are here to study the use of light and composition. Whatever you decide. That, then, is what you have to set your mind up to.

Study a limited number of objects at a time. Maybe even only one single picture to begin with. Later you can go for more advanced stuff like a photographers style,  his use of people and spaces. His uses of lights and shadows. Et cetera, et cetera. Soon you will walk down your own alley.

Try to remember what you see. Having HCB as a mentor it is clearly HCB’s photos you want to study. When you have collected enough data you are ready to go to work. In the city, if you are street photographer. In the countryside, if that is what you prefer.

And again, if you just roam around mindlessly you get nothing out of it. Being out there you have to turn on the radar. Let it know that you intend to use it. Let is scan the surroundings for you. The streets, the cafes and the parks. The people passing. When something interesting comes along the radar will stop you. Ask you to take that picture.

You will be surprised how well it serves you once you have discovered that you have one. And you have set it to use.

Kids In Alley (7). © Knut Skjærven.

Kids In Alley (7 ). I would like to have said that this photo is the result of feeding my mind with HCB data, but unfortunately that is not that case. Not that I recall anyway. The reason I can say this is that it is shot in 2002 and that was long before I new much about HCB. Other than the expression Decisive Moment. What arrested me was the strong contrasts on the wall opposite. If I am lucky, I said, someone will pass this alley and I will get a chance to press the button at the right moment. Someone came, they spotted me and the boy tried to get his kid sister out of the way not to spoil my picture. Luckily he didn’t manage.

—–

What About Henri Cartier – Bresson? The Lightness Of Life.

(Links to all sections).

Prelude; The Lightness Of Life (1); The Lightness of Life (2 & 3); The Lightness of Life (4); The Lightness of Life (5); The Lightness of Life (6); The Lightness of Life (7); The Lightness of Life (8); The Lightness of Life (9); The Lightness of Life (10); The Lightness of Life (11).


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