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Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes

Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes

Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes 1
Your guide: John Dexter
Photography has been John’s passion on and off for 40 years but in the past four years, he has been concentrating on developing his own ICM technique, kickstarting his passion for photography again. To see more, visit www.johndexterphotography.com and see @johndexter photography on Instagram and YouTube for video tutorials.

ICM (intentional camera movement) photography has changed my life – it is exciting to be able to create unique art that cannot be replicated and to see the world in a new way through your camera. In this feature I will explain how I create my ICM images, as there are many aspects to this technique that can be used. I hope to inspire you and send you in the right direction so that you can eventually develop your own style of ICM photography too.

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Intentional camera movement is a wonderful way to record abstract observations of everyday scenes

Take lots of photos
First and foremost, unlike conventional photography you are free from rules and you can shoot in all weather, any time of day. Good light will sometimes help in your creation of an image, but just work with the light you have. This freedom is what makes it exciting and allows you to create unique art. However, this does not make ICM easy; quite the contrary.

With rules you have guidelines on what makes for a good image, with ICM it is all down to practice, vision and creativity. Take lots of images of the composition that you have chosen. As a rule I will take anywhere from 200 to 500 shots if I think it will make for a good final image. ICM is very random in its results, however proficient you get, so be prepared to have a massive throwaway rate. If you get one good image from this number of shots you are doing well and sometimes you will get nothing. Just remember with digital it costs you nothing to press that shutter. After taking the shot, look at it on the camera screen and assess if that is the look you are after.

If not say to yourself, what do I have to change? It may be your camera settings, camera movement, a longer or wider lens, or a slight movement to improve the composition? I find they always look better on the camera screen than they will do on your computer. Very often after viewing my images on the computer and finding one that I like, I think it can be improved so I will return to where I took the shot and retake it, adjusting my settings or movement.

Getting set up
You don’t have to own an expensive camera or lenses for ICM. After all, we are not after pin-sharp images here, but if you are thinking about selling or exhibiting your work, better gear will pay off when enlarging your images. Best of all you can leave the tripod at home! When it comes to lens choice, the composition will determine the focal length lens you will need, whether it be a wideangle or zoom, but always focus on the subject as you would if it was a conventional shot. A neutral density filter is highly recommended and a worthwhile purchase.

These can help you control the length of the shutter speed in varying lighting conditions. When it comes to selecting your camera settings, I recommend shooting in shutter priority mode for full control over the shutter speed. The required shutter speed for this technique varies between 1/3sec to 2 seconds. This is dependent on the time required to move the camera and the look you’re after. For example, bigger movements will require a longer exposure.
If you find you can’t achieve a slow enough shutter speed owing to bright ambient lighting conditions, that is when you will need to attach a neutral density filter. Typically these filters come in a range of light-reducing strengths.

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A pulling technique enabled me to create the illusion of waves breaking over the groynes

I find that a 6-stop ND filter works well in most scenarios. Exposure is unpredictable with ICM. Learn how to read your histogram so you can see if you are clipping your highlights or shadows and then adjust your exposure compensation accordingly. White balance is not so important, as we can tweak the colours at the editing stage, but I will use anything from sunny, cloudy or even auto. Choosing a composition A good starting point is to look for colours, structures and shapes and experiment thereafter. If it helps, look at other photographers’ work for inspiration. As this technique is so experimental, keep shooting and you’ll soon get a feel for what works for you and after time you will develop your own unique style.

Camera movements

On my ICM journey I’ve found that certain camera movements suit particular compositions. This is only a guide however, remember it is all about experimenting and seeing what works for you. The most important thing with any type of ICM movement, is to try varying shutter speeds and degrees of movement to the camera. Look at your composition and decide what you want the image to look like. In time you will learn what movement to use to achieve that result.

Panning vertically and horizontally
These are the most commonly used movements in ICM photography. A vertical pan is typically used for trees as it follows the line of your subject(s) or a horizontal pan for seascapes and landscapes to emphasise the horizon and separation of elements such as the sky and ground. In these examples, the image below shows a vertical pan – from bottom to top – to capture some moored boats.

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If I had started the movement from the top of the composition, the masts may have disappeared from the top of the frame. My other image (below) is the same scene and I decided to ignore the natural vertical lines created by the masts and instead I’ve panned the camera horizontally.

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In this case it makes no difference if it is left to right or right to left but creates an interesting effect.

A subtle shake
This technique requires a subtle shake of the hand, almost as if you can’t hold the camera still. I occasionally will use this for people or if I just want to soften the image, such as a landscape with trees in the scene.

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Pulling
This movement involves pulling things into the image like clouds (above) or sunsets. For the latter, I focused on the ruins, pressed the shutter and then moved the camera into the sky, pulling the ruins into the sunset. Another example of this is pulling water over rocks to give the illusion of waves breaking.

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Extreme movements
This involves twisting the camera with a flick of the wrist and moving it left or right, up and down, all at the same time. I don’t use this movement very much but this example (right) is an example of the results – this technique can produce very abstract images and is worth experimenting with.

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Create a curve
For this image example of Stonehenge (below), I have moved the camera in an ark shape from 11 to 1 o’clock to add another dimension to the scene.

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A moving subject
All the other examples show how to add a sense of movement to static subjects. In this example I’ve allowed a moving subject to do some of the work for me. All I’ve done is give the camera a little shake to soften the background and it’s produced a wonderful result.

Master Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) for more creative landscapes 10

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Seven Steps to Master Forest Photography

Seven Steps to Master Forest Photography

Forest photography can seem overwhelming, chaotic, and hard, but if you follow these seven steps, you ought to improve a significant amount.

I absolutely love forest photography (also known as woodland photography), and I have spent a significant amount of time in Danish forests the past one and a half years. In my latest video, I finally got fog in one of the most mystical forests I have found in Denmark, and I decided to share seven tips to master forest photography. “Mastering” is always a problematic term to use in an artistic field, but if you follow the seven steps below, you should see a significant improvement in your woodland photography.

Step One: What

First and foremost you need to find yourself something interesting to photograph. I usually try to find something that stands out in the forest. It can be a lone small tree among larger trees, it can be a tree of a different color relative to the surrounding trees, or, as in the examples of this article, trees that look like something out of a fairytale. It is important to emphasize that you do not necessarily need to find something uncommon but look for something that piques your interest. I also have an interest to photograph my local beech forests exactly because they are rather common in Denmark.

Step Two: Settings

My forest photos tend to fall within the focal range of 35mm to 105mm. Occasionally, I shoot wider or longer (mostly longer). By avoiding the wide angle focal lengths, I can zoom into the scene and create some perspective compression where it looks like the trees are standing closer together. Having zoomed in, you also need to use a small aperture to get the entire scene in focus. On my full frame Sony a7R III, I usually shoot at f/16. I also tend to keep the ISO as low as possible (to get as noise-free a photo as possible) and let the shutter speed be whatever is required to get a proper exposure. If it is windy, you may need to compromise the ISO or aperture to avoid blurred branches and leaves.

Step Three: The Sky

The eye tends to be drawn to the brighter parts and high-contrast areas of a photo. Step three is trying to avoid including the sky in your photo. The canopy of the forest is full of small holes where you can see the sky, and these small holes can be highly distracting. This step goes along with step one, as it is easier to avoid the sky when you use longer focal lengths. Furthermore, by avoiding the sky, you “close off” your scene from the outside world, which makes for a much more intimate and mystical photo.

Step Four: Composition

The composition of the photo is extremely important. Creating a proper balance is essential, but within a forest, it is also important to create an aesthetic separation between the trees. Try to have the dominant trees of the scene separated an equal amount to create a proper rhythm and balance. I also like to use forest trails as leading lines, leading the eye through the photo from the foreground and into the forest, which also helps emphasize the depth. Getting a good composition is all about trying to improve the aesthetic quality of your photos to make them pleasing to look at.

Step Five: Fog

Step five is to use fog to your advantage. If you can go during foggy conditions, the fog helps to separate the trees, emphasize depth, and create a mystical atmosphere. I cannot overrate how important fog and mist is for forest photography. With more experience, you also get better at predicting fog. For this specific location, I waited for half a year before I got a chance to photograph it with fog. It was very much worth the wait!

Step Six: Light

If possible, try to position yourself as to photograph towards the light. It does not have to be towards the sun itself. It can be towards an opening in the forest where the light beams down through the canopy. Having the brightest part of your scene well inside the frame makes sure the eye is fixed within the photo. Furthermore, having the trees silhouetted against the light emphasizes their shape and simplifies the photo.

Step Seven: Do Not Get Stuck

When you have followed all the above steps, make sure not to be stuck in one composition. Move the camera a little forward, backward, or to either side and zoom in and out. Only a few centimeters can make a substantial difference to the depth, the separation of the trees, and the balance. It is notoriously hard to review your photos in the field and avoid unwanted mistakes. Having many slightly different photos of the same scene makes sure you can choose the best in the post-processing phase.

Bonus Tip

Learn to edit. A proper edit of your photos can make a great photo into a sublime photo. It does not have to be heavy editing, but adding vignetting, removal of specular highlights, cleaning the photo, desaturating colors, increasing the highlights, and dodging a forest trail can really go a long way.

Seven Steps to Master Forest Photography 11

Seven Steps to Master Forest Photography 12

Be sure to check out the corresponding video above for even more photos and more thoughts on woodland photography. Let me know down in the comments if you have more tips for woodland photography.

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Master light in your photography with Michael Freeman

Master light in your photography with Michael Freeman

Master light in your photography with Michael Freeman 13
Your guide; Michael Freeman
One of the most widely published photographers worldwide, Michael Freeman has worked for most major international magazine and book publishers in a long career. A leading photographer for the Smithsonian Magazine for three decades (more than 40 assignment stories), Freeman has also published 147 books on a range of subjects. Based in London, Pre-pandemic, Freeman travelled for half of each year on shooting assignments, principally in Asia. See his website here

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In this new age of computational photography, when tone, colour, and content can be altered almost at will, few constants remain. One thing remains resistant to digital manipulation, however, and that is the quality of light. Light is not only the basic commodity of photography; it’s also very often the quality that brings excellence or even magic to a picture.

Never mind that it may seem unpredictable and uncontrollable, being able to handle light well is a major skill for every photographer. What’s important is to be able to understand it, to know what kind of light will bring out the best of the subject in front of your camera, and especially to know how to get the most out of any kind of light. That’s why I’ve organised my book (Light & How to Photograph It by Michael Freeman) in a non-standard way – a practical approach that works for us as photographers. As I see it, there are three major groupings: light that you can plan for, light that changes so quickly that you have to chase it, and light that you can help along.

All of the lighting in this book is of the kind you could call ‘found’ lighting over which you have no real control, most of it is natural daylight, some of it the artificial lighting that illuminates our environments.

Waiting for the light
Sitting around waiting doesn’t sound like much of a management technique, let alone a light-management technique, but done properly it delivers the results. It depends, though, on knowing what you’re waiting for, and this understanding takes things to a different level. Natural light, which is mainly what we’re dealing with here, comes from a combination of climate, weather, and time of day.

Climate means location, and you can plan for that by organising a trip. Weather and time of day continue without any possibility of influence from you, and this is where intelligent waiting comes in. ‘Intelligent’ because waiting involves planning, and it’s a very deliberate approach to photography. Most of all, it’s about knowing what light is possible from all the combinations, what each kind of light is good for in shooting, and how to extract the most from it in timing, framing, composition, viewpoint, and a sense of colour (or black & white).

Practically, as a photographer, I divide light into the kinds I can expect, and the kinds that take me by surprise. This makes perfect sense for shooting, because they each prompt a different way of working. Naturally, there are borderline cases, such as a shaft of sunlight that spotlights a small part of a scene. If you’re just passing through a new place and the weather is uncertain, this will probably come as a surprise. But in a location you know well, and in a bout of predictable sunny weather, that spotlight will be repeated, with a slight difference, the following day.

One thing I’m going to warn about is falling into line too easily with the accepted norms of attractive light for photography. Not every scene has to be gorgeous and lyrical. Imagery means variety, and hunting for the perfect – and therefore the same – golden light across a pretty landscape actually means giving up on your imagination and following the herd. I’ve done it myself, and it’s often hard to resist. It’s especially common in contemporary published landscape photography. The problem is that taking this approach means heading in the same direction as others – a sort of photographic gold rush.

Shooting into the light
Shooting directly into the sun carries its share of technical problems, simply because of the huge range between the sun’s disc and foreground shadows. The term for this is dynamic range (what photographers pre-digitally used mainly to call the contrast range), which technically speaking is the ratio between the maximum and minimum light intensity in a scene.

There is also the dynamic range that the camera is capable of, and the dynamic range of how you show the final image, whether on a screen or as a print, but for the time being let’s discuss the scene dynamic range. Shooting straight into the sun gives about the highest dynamic range that you can face in photography, and in fact, truly high dynamic range (HDR) means any view in which the light source itself is visible. Oddly enough, dynamic range was less of a problem with film than with digital, according to my point of view (not everyone’s).

This might sound strange, given that digital images have such amazing potential for being processed any way you like, but one of the differences between film and a sensor is clipping. The way film responds to having the sun in-frame is to grade smoothly from highlights to the out-of-range white of the sun.

A sensor just loses it sharply, because once each photosite on the sensor is full of photons, it delivers pure white to the processor. This is known as clipping, because there is a sharp cut-off in what the sensor can record of highlights. It also varies by channel between red, blue and green. One effect of this, when the colours go beyond the gamut of the color profile, is banding, which looks
terrible, (see Banding and Processing, below). 

Chasing the light
Yes, chasing light is a real expression used by photographers. Magnum photographer Trent Parke, for example, defines his work this way (‘I am forever chasing light’), and it means the search for special lighting conditions falling on a subject that deserves it and responds to it. Or, as Parke continues, ‘Light turns the ordinary into the magical.’

This is the flip side of waiting for the type of lighting that you can fairly confidently plan for, and it carries with it a different attitude and a different way of working. The lighting conditions I refer to in my book are more short-lived and liable to appear at short notice. They include, for example, storm light, the light through ground fog, edge light and light shafts. The varieties of storm light, for example, are elusive and momentary, because storms by definition are fast-changing and unpredictable events.

And the thing about unpredictability and rarity is that it tends to carry a premium. When sunlight bursts through heavy storm clouds, perhaps illuminating a sheet of falling rain, even the least light-sensitive person feels the sudden difference, the vision made all the more valuable because we know it is not going to last for long.

Storm light
This is the king of fleeting light that breaks through during a storm – or at least, during particularly heavy and cloudy weather. Storm systems and thunderclouds being what they are, this kind of break (in both senses, in the clouds and in luck) is virtually impossible to predict, and it remains one of the classic chasing-the-light scenarios. It transforms a scene from one with almost zero possibilities into the opposite, an image that has focus, drama, and contrast.

Further tips

Banding and processing
None of the above is any reason to avoid shooting into the sun, but be aware that the processing will take longer. This banding reduces if you reduce the exposure with the raw converter’s slider; also, the raw converter’s highlight-recovery slider will help. It may even be necessary to make two versions from the raw converter and blend them later.

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Here you can see evident banding

Finally, using Replace Color in Photoshop after raw conversion allows you to target ‘bands’ and change their hue (yellow tending to green is common), saturation and lightness. An alternative if you have the camera locked down is to shoot a range of exposures and make an HDR image file.

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…and here the banding is smoothed out

Blocking the sun
You can shoot into the sun without having to see its disc, and avoid the dynamic range problems. One useful way around this is to position yourself so that something blocks the sun’s image. The dynamic range is still high, but more manageable. Depending on what is doing the blocking, and on whether there is space beneath it, there are two possible side effects, and they can be turned to advantage in making the shot more interesting. One is a cast shadow, the other a reflection of the sun on the ground or whatever other flat surface you see.

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Blocking the sun with one of these made it possible to use its powerful shape a second time in the image, by bringing its shadow on the light-green grass into the frame

The second uses the reflection effect. I had spent the afternoon having the Blackbird (below) towed around the airfield at Beale AFB, and this was to be the last shot before sunset. Of course, gauging the exact point of sunset and having the aircraft positioned exactly on the axis between sun and camera meant a lot of messing around, but it was worth it. I did not want a silhouette in this case. Instead, I needed to show detail, hence blocking the sun to pull down the dynamic range, and with the camera low on the runway pick up the red glow of the sun’s reflection. If the sun had been in shot, incidentally, it would have overwhelmed this kind of reflection.

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Capturing the spotlight
When it happens, it’s similar to a light being switched on suddenly. Thick, heavy storm clouds like those in this picture are unlikely to leave any but the smallest gaps, hence the spotlight effect illuminating just a small part of the scene. Overexposing is a real and disastrous danger, and even though shooting continuous is a sloppy way of dealing with a landscape, if there are any doubts about the exposure, it’s better to bracket heavily than lose the shot. Brief time to work within is the other problem with storm light.

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The difference between this brief spotlight on a mountain range in Tibet and the evening light immediately before (above) and after (below) is enormous

The clouds are almost always too thick and moving too fast to allow anything but a short gap in their cover, sometimes seconds, rarely more than a very few minutes. That often means moving quickly to find a clear viewpoint: for the Tibetan shot this meant first driving fast and then running to get an empty foreground.

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With spotlight

A break on the horizon
Similar to the kind of storm light we saw, but located right on the horizon, this kind of lighting often works best by shooting toward the light. The reason is that it is rarely powerful enough to light things up intensely, for much the same reasons that spotlighting variety of storm light is usually so small and brief. Cloud thickness and fast movement due to storm activity tend to keep the gap small and brief, and there is an even greater thickness of cloud stretching horizontally than upwards. As with all these kinds of storm light, it works because of the contrast between dark and light. This is light that seems as if it doesn’t belong in the overall scene.

These two examples were taken at different ends of the day: sunset for the Indian bathers in Kerala, and sunrise in Cornwall. In both cases, it was simple perseverance without much expectation of things working out. The sudden break on the horizon is rare, but the only way of capturing it is to be there on the off-chance. What you don’t see here are all the occasions where nothing happened and the clouds stayed solid.

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Bathers at Kovalam Beach during a brief break in the monsoon

The Kerala shot was taken during the monsoon, so certainly not expected, but I had to shoot the story anyway. It was a little unusual in that people were happy to go bathing under thick cloud and occasional rain. It wasn’t that they saw the sun and rushed into the sea.

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Dozmary Pool, Cornwall

Dozmary Pool is the site where, in Arthurian legend, the sword Excalibur first appeared, and where it was returned. Again, this shot was taken for a story, on Camelot, but due to bad weather the day before I was tempted to give up and return some other time. The problem was that it looked pathetic and unimpressive in rain and cloud, whereas the story demanded that it have some presence. I returned for dawn the next day, fully prepared to wait for a while and then leave. Then the light broke for about ten minutes, and all changed. Luck, of course, but you have to give luck a chance.

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This technique article features extracts and images from the book, Light & How to Photograph It by Michael Freeman. Published by Ilex Press, £22.99 – website here. All photography: Michael Freeman.

Further reading
Master natural light for stunning shots
Complete guide to outdoor light

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Was Caravaggio the First Master of Light?

Was Caravaggio the First Master of Light?

Light has been fundamental to art for centuries predating the camera. However, utilizing realistic and impactful light — an objective of many photographers and artists today — wasn’t always the case.

Photography has seen many labelled “masters of light” over the decades; Henri Cartier-Bresson, Fan Ho, Richard Avedon, Sabastiao Salgado, Bill Cunningham, Ansel Adams — and these are just off the top of my head. My knowledge of the art world, insofar as painting in particular, is almost nonexistent, but I suspect there have been as many or more in the same time frame. Nevertheless, Renaissance era art didn’t necessarily treat it in the same way. Many scenes were what we would regard today as flat, or if they have contrast, many seemed unrealistic. That isn’t to say photo-realism (a term that obviously didn’t exist at the time) was the goal of the painters, though some appeared to aim at it. There was one artist, however, who seemed to master light — particularly dramatic lighting — before many others: Caravaggio

In another wonderful video essay by Nerdwriter1, we are shown the work and life of Caravaggio, one of Italy’s most famous — and infamous — artists of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. His style of painting is much discussed, and that is an interesting topic, but what’s more interesting to me, and more pertinent to us as photographers and videographers, is his use of light and shadow. His masterful and realistic application of golden hour light and low-key scenes gave mood and drama to his images in a way few others had. As art historian Andre Berne-Joffroy put it: “What begins in the work of Caravaggio is, quite simply, modern painting.” Curiously, it also shares many characteristics of successful photojournalism and street photography over the last 100 years.

Was Caravaggio the first master of light? Was he drastically ahead of his time with his approach to how scenes are lit for mood and drama? Art History majors, now is your time. Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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Meeting a master of street photography

Meeting a master of street photography

Just a few minutes on Google Street View reveals that Vasco Trancoso’s home town is a pretty exciting place for a street photographer. The hard, direct and piercing Portuguese sun creates deep, sharp-edged shadows in the narrow streets. And every now and then those dense blankets of shade are slashed open by bright blades of golden light that streak across the pavements to play on the faces of the vibrant buildings. Contrasts of highlights and shade mix with conflicting colours, textures of wall tiles and flaking paint, and bejewelled by the shapes of the local going about their daily life against a backdrop of solid architectural lines. You can see this too in Vasco’s new book, 99 – a visual exploration of the compositional potential of a town called Caldas da Rainha. 

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There’s a strong running theme in 99 of people silhouetted against bright backgrounds

Unlike a lot of photographers who claim to be documenting the life or people of a place, Vasco is happy to admit he is rather more interested in creating visually stimulating pictures. ‘Above all,’ he says, ‘my work is an interpretation of the reality. I don’t try to describe places I shoot faithfully, but rather to fictionalise the reality to discover myself.’ 

I like this idea as it frees us to shoot what pleases us instead of having to think the whole time about whether the picture is a useful part of some deeper story. We don’t have to engage in worrying about issues, the truth or the viewer very much at all, and working this way liberates the photographer to concentrate on style. We can take things the way they present themselves to us – which is a nicely laid-back way of working. We are always being told we need to embed ourselves, to get to the bottom of the story, but here’s Vasco telling us he takes life as it comes and at face value. 

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Even Vasco’s self-portrait is very much in keeping with his style – shadows and geometry

Staying close to home
Vasco used to be a gastroenterologist but when he retired he decided to dedicate himself to photography. Like most of us, he took pictures when he was younger but it wasn’t until he stopped working that he had the time to devote to it seriously. He took up street photography and concentrated on working in the region in which he lives, with its beach (Foz do Arelho) and Óbidos Castle. Most of us instinctively look far from home when on the hunt for exciting pictures but Vasco isn’t interested in the easy life.

‘On the one hand, photographing close to home is a kind of tribute to my city and allowed me a rediscovery of the place. Trying to see the miracles of light and colour that happen in everyday life, that we often don’t notice because we are very used to going through the same places for many years, was a challenge. I think creating something special out of ordinary moments is more difficult to do in our own city – where everything seems so boring and banal. This also gave me the opportunity to make a body of work in a place that had not yet been photographed in a creative way, whereas all the big cities in the world have been photographed exhaustively. It was an exercise in the ability to observe and be happy photographing a place where I also feel happy.’

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Here the woman appears to be almost drowning in the colours around her

Vasco’s book is extremely colourful, with many pages on which colour is the subject over any of the physical elements in the scene. It is hard to believe that he used to shoot his street work exclusively in black & white. He tells AP that in 2016 his ‘photographic voice’ changed without him really thinking about it.

‘Actually I love colour work more because it allows me to highlight certain elements and patterns in an image. Colour brings out extra meaning and better depth, layers and three-dimensionality – improving object recognition and the relationship between elements within the frame. In my interpretation of the street carnival colour is an important protagonist – avoiding a merely illustrative role. I like to enhance compositions with dark areas, transforming the image into an almost abstract qualities of light, dark and colour that most photographers find exciting. ‘I tried to avoid a title for the book that was pretentious, but needed something that means the same in Portuguese and English because the book is bilingual. The simplest option was to choose the total number of photos: 99.’ The book is more than bilingual as it is the pictures, not the text, that do the talking. 

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Bold primary colours and conflicting lines provide strong visual impact

Weapon of choice
Interestingly, all the pictures in this book were shot on the original Leica Q compact camera. Vasco used to use a Canon EOS 5D III and a 5DS R with a wide zoom and a standard zoom, but found them too heavy and that their size made him stand out in the street. Switching to the Leica Q allows him to go unnoticed because the camera is so much smaller, but it also has a silent shutter – and Vasco likes the colours it produces.

‘I am very adapted to this camera and this makes everything easier. I use the neck strap, but sometimes wrap it around my wrist to make it even less obtrusive still. I realised with the cameras I previously used my photographic voice was best expressed with a wideangle between 24mm and 35mm, so the 28mm of the Q allows me not only a great depth-of-field but broad perspectives and compositions with a greater distance between the various different layers.’

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Great expanses of black are often punctuated with splashes of colour

Vasco’s images all have extensive depth-of-field demonstrating a front-to-back sharpness that pulls in the close subjects as well as the environment in which they are captured. The effect lets us know that the backgrounds here are exactly as important as the foregrounds, and it is only the light and the colours used that separate one from the other. The depth-of-field also means that Vasco doesn’t have to be too concerned with where the focus is in the shot, as on most occasions the camera won’t be able to miss. ‘In general I work with a high enough ISO, for example ISO 800, to give me a shutter speed of 1/500sec or 1/1000sec when I’m using a small aperture to gain that extensive depth-of-field. I look for a speed of around 1/1000sec because I often shoot while walking. This is all very much easier in Portugal because we usually have bright light and sunny days.’

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Vasco’s tips for street photography
* Always have your camera with you, and go out a lot with it. You never know what will happen.
* Live photography with passion – without restrictions and stay focused on each image you are making.
* Look once and then go back to look again. Revisit the same places and try to discover new opportunities.
* Patience is the key. To form your own photographic voice takes a long time. Without denying all the influences that you may have – be genuine. Try to be original.
* Find inspiration by frequently looking at the books and exhibitions of great photographers.

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Master Urban Abstract Photography With These 8 Tips

Master Urban Abstract Photography With These 8 Tips

Capture something you may not have normally noticed by shooting abstracts in the town or city where shapes and colour will become your focus rather than big buildings and busy streets.

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Architecture

Building

 

To help you give your urban photography an abstract feel, here are 8 top tips on what, how and where to take your photos when out exploring a town or city. 

 

1. Focus On What’s Interesting

When you find something that catches your eye, think about how you can compose the shot to take the subject away from its surroundings so it becomes abstract rather than a great city shot with several interesting elements. The key to capturing an image that works is to create an image out of something ordinary that you wouldn’t normally see while still creating an appealing shot.

 

2. More Than One Point Of Interest

When you have a subject that has multiple points of interest you have the opportunity to capture various elements, some which may not have seemed so obvious as working in an abstract way at the start.

 

3. Create Scale

Just because you’re capturing abstracts doesn’t mean you always have to work up-close. Think of it as cropping out unwanted elements rather than using your lens to zoom in. Use surrounding elements to emphasise size but still frame the image so the building’s surroundings are removed, giving emphasis to its shapes and patterns rather than it having context. 

 

4. Use Colour

By using a single bright colour in a shot that’s mostly of the same shades can give the viewer of the image a point of focus that can also be used to guide and lead the eye to other points in the shot. This is even more so when the area is limited and contrasts so greatly with the rest of the image. Strong blocks of colour can also work well but you don’t want one to overpower the other so the viewer doesn’t pay attention to the rest of the frame. 

 

Door

 

5. Look For Shadows 

This isn’t something our eyes tend to see but when arranged in the frame properly, they can be a great subject matter on their own or enhance the shapes/patterns of an object you’re making your point of focus. 

 

6. Lines Work Well

 If you want to use lines in your image, try to find a location that gives you a shot that has lines that vary in size and colour. Bolder lines can have more impact than small, faint ones and do remember they will still guide the eye through the shot and tell the viewer where they should be looking. Don’t think lines have to be straight either as a curved line will still guide the viewer’s eye. 

 

7. Shoot Through Other Objects

If you find a rain-covered window or even a water feature that can be used to capture a distorted reflection thanks to the ripples in the water, use them to your advantage. Keep an eye out for coloured glass, reflective buildings and any other items you think will give your city shots that abstract feel you’re searching for. 

 

8. People Like Patterns & Symmetry 

As humans, we like to see repeating patterns and symmetrical objects so take advantage of this. Patterns can guide the eye across an image as well as make your abstract shot more interesting thanks to the shapes they create. 

 

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