Categories: Bay Area, California, Environment, Outdoors, Photos, Rants and Raves
Photo: The fresh green hills of Briones Regional Park in spring, looking toward Mount Diablo, Contra Costa County, California
One of the things I always tell participants in my workshops, presentations, and especially when I’m doing professional image critiques or portfolio reviews, is something that is often lost or not truly recognized by many beginning photographers; namely that photography is all about communication. This is especially true for most of the ‘I-just-like-taking-pretty-pictures’ crowd. Simply put, as a media, photography is a form of visual communication. As photographers, we use the frame of the camera as a conduit for expressing our vision of the world around us. Our goal as a visual communicator should be to have a clear and focused idea of what story we are trying to convey with our photos. It should then be much easier for the viewer to pick up on that story. Hopefully, the result will be that a viewer will share in your emotional connection with your subject, and can internally relate to the message that your image is trying to convey. If you don’t have a clear idea of the story you are trying to convey, or are unable to frame that story in a visually concise manner, you’re very likely to get a quick and dismissive “that’s nice,” as the viewer oh-so briefly looks at, and just as quickly moves on from your photo.
In a recent workshop, a participant asked, “How many photos does it take to make a story?” The simple answer is just One. Every picture should tell a story. If any of your photos aren’t telling a story, then the question begs to be asked, “Why did you take the picture?”
When you are able to take a series of photos, each reinforcing or adding to the others, then the strength and clarity of your story becomes clearer. This works for books filled with beautiful landscape pictures, a diary of travel scenes, to photojournalism-style essays involving any aspect of life, especially the harsh, gritty, or ugly truth that sometimes surrounds us.
Take for example the lead photo in this post. This is Briones Regional Park here in the East Bay hills of the San Francisco Bay Area. It my personal Shangri-La. It is where I hike to get my exercise, to clear my thoughts, refresh my soul, escape, and rejuvenate. The photo shows the fresh green landscape looking as lush as you might expect to find in the rolling hills of the English or Irish countryside, yet it’s mere miles from some of the largest population centers in California.
But what other kind of story about this beautiful place could I tell with my photography? Well, let’s take a look at some of the scenery I encountered on a single day’s hike last week. A friend of mine didn’t think I should waste my time with this, yet I felt a strong personal drive that this was a story that needed to be told. Furthermore, under the ‘Pictures are worth a thousand words’-category, I felt I could use my photography to tell this story in a much stronger fashion than I could than with words alone. What do you think?
This is an image of a plastic doggie waste litter bag. I’ve been seeing more and more of these left along the trails, as if some ‘responsible’ pet owners think that someone is employed by the park to provide trailside pick-up service for their pet’s waste. This is clearly not the case, as it is well posted that dog owners are responsible for cleaning up after their pets AND packing out the trash; NOT leaving it for others to see or deal with. It’s becoming such an epidemic at our local park that it’s starting to negatively impact on the visitor experience. In fact, just the other day I saw a father walking ahead of me with his family and pointed out a bright orange baggie of dog waste that someone left a few hundred yards from the trailhead and garbage can. In fact, the photo here was taken approximately 100 feet from the parking lot and a trash can. On this hike I encountered nearly a dozen such instances of inconsiderate pet ownership waste. The sadness of it all leaves me feeling like these dog owners are what they leave behind.
These first four images were all taken within one-quarter mile of the parking lot. But wait… there’s more… Read the rest of this post »