Atlantic waves Gloucester, MAAtlantic waves Gloucester, MASummer surf along the back shore of Gloucester.

A Lesson in "Seeing" better photographs

August 06, 2014  •  Leave a Comment

Several years ago a good friend of mine who is a very good photographer offered to give me a refresher course in "seeing" not just making a photograph. Well I was kind of taken aback as I at that point had been a professional photojournalist for over twenty years. I started to think about it and said sure why not learn how someone else does it. He is a fine art landscape and nature photographer of some note. His images are in the collections of several museums and private collections and I value his opinion on many things photographic. 

He took me out into the woods without any photo gear and handed me a plastic slide mount and said here ya go. I looked at him like he had three heads and said "what the hell is this for". He then said "use this 35mm slide mount as a guide as you look around for possible subjects". I still had my doubts but gave it a whirl anyway. As I moved around looking through my "slide mount" I began to discover that it was indeed a really cool method of looking at the world through a 35mm frame.

I have since adapted this way of "seeing" to my M9. Since the M9 gives you the opportunity to see several frame lines with the use of the frame line lever under the rangefinder window one has the ability to visualize how things would look with different lenses. I feel this is unique but has been around for many years. Yes, you can do this with your big dslr and a zoom lens but is much simpler with the rangefinder. I have found that I feel free with my lightweight M9 looking around for interesting subjects.

Here is a lesson in seeing that I challenge you to do. It can be done anywhere at anytime. I find it works best when you are alone in an interesting place not doing anything. Relax and start to look around concentrating on elements around you. If you concentrate hard enough you can "see" as a lens on your camera. Look for different areas that can be focused in on from one location not moving around and try to visualize the lens you would use. The key to this exercise is to do it from one location and see how many interesting images you might be able to come up with. I did this recently at a funeral of all places. Not really the best place since it was packed with people. It was in a Greek Orthodox church which was very ornate. I had no idea what the priest was talking about so I started to look around imagining images and what lens I would use. If that was not enough to keep my mind busy I started thinking about exposure and what f-stop would be appropriate for certain images. 

The Leica M9 or any rangefinder for that matter is the perfect tool for "seeing". It enables you to be unencumbered by the beast DSLR and jumbo pro lens. If you get a chance, try using your rangefinder in this way or do it "old school" as my friend does with the 35mm plastic slide mount. I think you will be amazed at what you see.

 

I came upon this image on Bearskin Neck in Rockport many years ago but it is still one of my favorites. The use of the wide angle lens makes the globe seem larger than it is and the many reflections (four I believe) really hold my interest. It's been photographed by many people over the years but I still feel mine is unusual.

 


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