Sunday, November 19, 2006

What to photograph?

click photo to enlarge
Question - what's a suitable subject for a photograph? Answer - virtually anything! Yet, for an amateur photographer there is a great danger of slipping into a photographic rut. Friends, family and holiday shots are undoubtedly the most common subjects. But how does the amateur move beyond these and not end up producing yet another sunset?

Often photography supports a hobby. I see many enthusiasts photographing trams in Blackpool, Lancashire. And any time a steam train runs up the Settle-Carlisle line, vantage points along the route are manned by train buffs with cameras. Many birdwatchers (birders in the modern parlance) "digiscope" i.e. photograph birds using a digital camera connected to their telescope.

But to move beyond these narrow confines is harder. Books, magazines, and internet photography forums are a good starting point for ideas for subjects, approaches and techniques. But one strategy that I have found useful is to name a subject to yourself and work at it until you get an image that satisfies you. The subject can be as prosaic as some vertical blinds. I took this as a starting point, and over a few days produced two shots (out of about thirty) that satisfied me. They are here and here. I've recently been trying to produce a shot using a local 1930s hall as the subject. On the face of it this building is photogenic, but it is big, painted cream, and is very long. Here's the first image that I am reasonably pleased with. A shaft of light had pierced the clouds and lit the dome and the nearby beach, whilst the sea behind was being hit by a squall. A ferry came into view, battling through the rain, and the contrast between the bright building and the dark ship seemed a possibility. A couple of gulls helped out with the composition. I used a long zoom at 300mm (35mm equivalence) and boosted the ISO to hand hold the camera in the strong wind. The post processing is minimal.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen