Discovering Photo Technology & Technique

Continued from: Personal Musings on Photography, Tech + Art

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression

The Art of Photography: An Approach to Personal Expression

Along the way, I was slowly learning about the technical aspects of photography: lenses, aperture, ASA/ISO, exposure time, depth of field, contrast, latitude, etc. These bits of technical knowledge would at first emerge more by accident than study. As a teen I progressed further, developing and printing my own photos – I began thinking of photography in terms of both the physics of light and the chemistry of film emulsions.

What does that mean? The physics tells us about how light interacts with environments, how it reflects, absorb and diffuses.  It also tells us how the light behaves as it passes through lenses and prism onto the film plane.  Chemistry tells us how the light interacts with the film emulsion, which is a thin layer of light-sensitive material and how the film emulsion reacts to chemicals that develop, stop and fix the image to the paper or other backing.

Uelsmann / Yosemite

Uelsmann / Yosemite

The chemistry and physics continued to tickle the science-tech geek in me as the creative aspects of the medium tickled the would-be artist in me. But I was not fond of the slowness of the darkroom process and I hated the chemistry involved. Anyone who's worked in a B&W darkroom knows of the nauseating sulfurous gas smell that emerges when the acid in stop bath accidentally gets into the fix – nasty stuff.

Along the way, I gradually learned about the creative aspects of lighting, color and composition. I studied the masters while trying to learn the so-called rules and attempted to break them. Perhaps that's why I was so damn slow to learn. Sure, I would take note of the rules, but it was always more interesting to test them and look for ways to break them. This is very slow, but there are long-term gains with this slower process: a deeper understanding of what works and what doesn't work.

Man Ray

Man Ray

I remember while in our late teens, my friend Randy, who was a photography partner-in-crime, once told me, "never blur the foreground." It was something he no-doubt repeated from a photo-journalism class he was taking. My first thought is why not? There are no rules...

So over the next few weeks I tried to figure-out how to blur the foreground and still create interesting, compelling photos... something that perhaps took dozens of years for me learn to do well. I also took much inspiration from famous rule-breaking experimental photographers such as surrealist photographer, Man Ray and master of the darkroom, Jerry Uelsmann.

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