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dudler’s latest blog : take it to the limit


Take it to the limit

18 Aug 2020 8:54AM  
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To quote The Eagles. But have you tried it, with anything – let alone anything photographic?

I’m pretty sure I’ve written about this before, but it’s a horse that’s alive and well and kicking, so here goes again.

I remember a couple of lines from another song I heard 40 years ago – ‘I don’t care what you say, you can go your own way, and I’ll go mine. Living close to the edge, living so close to the line.’ I remember that the writer/singer was young, played a mandolin, and was far too good-looking, but I don’t recall his name. If you can help, please get in touch.

It’s good advice for achieving excellence. Brilliant success is often just a step from catastrophic failure: and though you may not want to apply this to climbing or flying, the risks are different in pictures.
So, if you have an f/1.4 lens, try shooting with it wide open: practice at getting pin sharp images at full aperture. Only a small part of the frame will be sharp, possibly – and it’s the contrast between that sharpness and the softness elsewhere that makes the image.


Or push the shutter speed. Put your camera on a tripod, add ND filters, and see how low you can take the shutter speed. Turn running water milky, or eliminate the pedestrians from a busy street, leaving a few eerie ghosts looking into shop windows.

Wind the ISO right up, perhaps: shoot a black cat in a coal cellar today. Or add closeup lenses or extension tubes and see just how close you can get to a subject.

If you shoot conventional compositions all the time, try negative space and a small subject in a bottom corner. And if you normally shoot happy portraits, ask a subject to look serious. Frown even: some models will be interested if you want them to cry in a picture. Visit the extremes of emotion.

If you normally shoot with elaborate props and glamorous costumes, try a plain backdrop, one light, and give your model nothing to do. If you are shooting images of a model who works nude, strip her of all clothing, and just ask him or her to stand still for a picture. One photographer I know suggests shooting head-and-shoulders portraits of a nude model. The look, the attitude, will be completely different.
Some people will take this to the extreme of deliberately making a model feel uncomfortable to elicit a wider range of expressions – think of the story of Yousuf Karsh in Ottawa, taking a wartime portrait of Winston Churchill, pausing the work to go over and take away the trademark cigar. The result is a growling, defiant bulldog of a leader.


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