Living with Nature - School on Blog
A night owl is hidden among the leaves of a narra tree. It is motionless, but it is aware of the movement of its prey, small mouse playing on the ground below. The photographer had just set up his special infrared camera with automatic electronic flash. He himself is hidden in camouflage. The owl stirs, then swoops down on its victim, its powerful claws clamped in a deadly squeeze. The shutter releases: one. two, three shots in succession. The flask makes detail images of the bird's plumage and watchful eyes, and the victim's writhing in hopeless struggle. You could almost hear the piteous cry of the prey. Result: these three photographs are among the final entries in a national photo art contest on nature.
A photographer suspects four men who entered a bank one afternoon to be robbers. Using a telephoto, he trains the lens at the scene. Just as he had made a good position where he cannot be seen, the photographer waits for action. The robbers move. There is pandemonium, shots ring, people run for their lives. Policemen arrive and exchange fire. The photographer gathers courage. Result: six photographs documented the daring bank robbery. These photos were published in the newspapers, and helped the police apprehend the culprits.
These are two dramatic cases whereby photography is used to capture and present subjects and events which are of special human interest. The events however, are contrasting in emotional appeal and theme, even if the common subject is conflict. Here conflict is shown as biological and social phenomena. One spells survival, the other depicts irrational social struggle.
Setting aside the philosophical aspects of these two sets of photographs, I wish to convey the message that photography is a tool, one for the arts, and the other, for documentation. Photography is used to express the creativity of a person behind the lens. Creativity is the very essence of art. The night owl photos are an expression of that creativity. On the other hand the bank robbery photos are documents, and they have no direct value as work of art in spite of their significant and practical importance.
What then make photography an art? Like a painting, a photograph may be considered an art if it possesses the following attributes:
1. Subject - What is it about? What particular topic does it show? Convey? This leads us to the theme.
2. Theme - What does the photo mean? What is its underlying meaning? What is the interpretation of the viewer? In short, what is the message.
3. Message - With the subject and theme provided, what does the artist wish to convey? Does it tell a story, or just present a situation or scene? Is the message concrete or is it abstract?
4. Perspective - The eye moves and searches. Where is the focal point? Where do the lines converge? Is the vantage point at the foreground or background? Is the perspective
diagonal, inverted V-shape, X-shape, parallel? To fully appreciate the perspective, take note of contrast - light and shadow, and contrast among colors.
5. Contrast - Here light and shadow show contrast. So with cool and warm colors. If the lines are bold the figures appear distinct. Are the lines parallel and repetitious? Or, do they cross? What time of the day was the photo taken?
7. Harmony - This means unity of parts. Every part is integral to the whole photo. As a result the photo exudes - like music - a fine tune of colors and lines, shade and light, and finally, balance.
8. Balance - Be sure the photo is not heavy or light at any side. The eye is not trained at a particular part. Symmetry is the key. Even asymmetrical subjects can show balance. Imagine an enlarged amoeba, a shapeless one-celled creature.
Photography sessions under an expert are a must for those who engage in photography as a hobby. Workshop with modern photography tools and equipment are likewise a must. It taps talent and hones it with the touch of art. In the process he becomes trained as an artist-photographer - and subsequently, and artist himself.
Art lies in the person behind the camera - not the camera per se even how modern and sophisticated it may be. State-of-the-art in photography still lies on the person.
Today, film cameras are very seldom used. They have been replaced by digital cameras. And the uses of the camera have tremendously expanded from micro-photography for microorganisms, scanning electron microscopy, nano photography, to satellite imaging, heat-sensitive imaging. Telezoom cameras are a thousand times more sensitive than they were a decade before. Hidden cameras are everywhere. And anyone today can operate a camera. Just point-and-shoot, then edit the photo with the computer. And the computer is equipped with scanner, enlarger, and transmitter to any desired destination through the Internet.
In spite of all these developments, the basic rules of creative photography remain the same. ~