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?
Im pretty sure Ive written about this before, but its a horse thats alive and well and kicking, so here goes again.
I remember a couple of lines from another song I heard 40 years ago I dont care what you say, you can go your own way, and Ill 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 dont recall his name. If you can help, please get in touch.
Its 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 its 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.