Most of my workshops students will remember me telling them to pay attention to where all the other people are pointing their cameras, and then turn 180 degrees and look the other way for their shot.  The truth is if I wanted a postcard I’d buy a postcard and most postcard images are done better than most tourists can do themselves given the short time frame and ‘this is what you have’ conditions.  So why carry the gear and go through all the hassle when a 20 baht selection of post cards will ultimately provide you with better images to send home?

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F8 1/125th 15mm ISO 100

 

Most of my workshops students will remember me telling them to pay attention to where all the other people are pointing their cameras, and then turn 180 degrees and look the other way for their shot.  The truth is if I wanted a postcard I’d buy a postcard and most postcard images are done better than most tourists can do themselves given the short time frame and ‘this is what you have’ conditions.  So why carry the gear and go through all the hassle when a 20 baht selection of post cards will ultimately provide you with better images to send home?

I want my photography to be different, to invoke emotions I’m feeling to show what I’m seeing, to share what I see in my personal mind’s eye with the viewer.  Postcards can’t do that.  So I use other photographers as a sort of wind sock, if they’re facing a certain way then I know to turn the other way and take a good look at what’s available.  Invariably, with enough work, I’ll come up with a shot you won’t find on most postcards and I’ll like it better.

On this day I was leading a group workshop at Wat Ratchaburama in Ayutthaya, one of my favorite places to give workshop students a primer into their pending trip to Angkor Vat Cambodia which was also on this groups itinerary.

 

Having passed on this nugget of information to the group I started to think about something else.  One person was running around climbing the tallest structures and trying as many different angles as possible.  He’d been here before and you could tell.  He probably spend months looking at his last images and thinking about what he’d do differently, so once on site he was like a Tasmanian Devil possessed going from shooting location to shooting location and I’m guessing making a fair number of captures.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F8 1/125th 22mm ISO 100

 

Having passed on this nugget of information to the group I started to think about something else.  One person was running around climbing the tallest structures and trying as many different angles as possible.  He’d been here before and you could tell.  He probably spend months looking at his last images and thinking about what he’d do differently, so once on site he was like a Tasmanian Devil possessed going from shooting location to shooting location and I’m guessing making a fair number of captures.

Some of those new to photography looked a bit unsure of themselves and weren’t taking any pictures so I’d stop by and chat with them and offer some suggestions.  It’s amazing how well received ideas for shots become when the person is having difficulty coming up with them themselves.  And still others were taking so many images that no matter how well I tried they didn’t even know I was there.  Another pair were chatting about their night out in Patpong the night before and were probably only there because they were expected to be.

This got me to thinking how many images each person was taking and ultimately how many they would keep, print, or display in some way.  I’ve seen students capture up to 600 images in two hours on site.  Others barely 50.  Some want to be sure to capture every detail of every place they visit, others take what they see others taking, and the very rare photographer is carefully taking it all in, studying the scene, the other photographers, the weather, light, angles, this person you can tell has the eye.

“The Eye” you don’t see that often.  It can’t be forced and only with great difficulty can it be learned.  But it’s not a “either you have it or not” trait.  I firmly believe you can wake up one day and having been the worst photographer in the world for the last 30 years.. today he/she wakes up and they have the eye.  The world has changed for this person.

Most often I see The Eye in a person with zero technical knowledge of their gear.  They try really hard to tell me what The Eye sees and ask me to help them capture it.  A young Thai lady was like this on a workshop last month.  She definitely had The Eye and could see all kinds of great compositions, but her technical knowledge was limited and she just wasn’t able to make the captures without step by step instruction.

 

 

Others know all the technical and want me to teach them The Eye.  I reckon it’s about 1000x easier to teach technical skills than it is The Eye.  The most difficult part about teaching The Eye is in the student first realizing they need to learn it, and second in getting them to slow down long enough and look at what’s around them so the eye can develop.  Breaking the old habit of documenting every possible scene can be more difficult than giving up smoking.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm F4 @F8 1/80th 24mm ISO 100

 

Others know all the technical and want me to teach them The Eye.  I reckon it’s about 1000x easier to teach technical skills than it is The Eye.  The most difficult part about teaching The Eye is in the student first realizing they need to learn it, and second in getting them to slow down long enough and look at what’s around them so the eye can develop.  Breaking the old habit of documenting every possible scene can be more difficult than giving up smoking.

Ultimately a very small percentage of photographers develop The Eye.  It’s difficult, it either comes naturally in rare cases or learned over time and most often with instruction for most.  What about you?  Where are you at?  Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?  I’ve been in most of them at one time or the other.  Either of the Arts comes to me only after a difficult struggle whether it be singing, playing my guitar, photography, or design.

But trust me on this one, if I can learn these things than anyone can learn.  What about you?  Where are you at?  I maintain it’s a good question to ask yourself.

 

 

Ultimately a very small percentage of photographers develop The Eye.  It’s difficult, it either comes naturally in rare cases or learned over time and most often with instruction for most.  What about you?  Where are you at?  Do you recognize yourself in any of these descriptions?  I’ve been in most of them at one time or the other.  Either of the Arts comes to me only after a difficult struggle whether it be singing, playing my guitar, photography, or design.

Canon 5d Mark II, Sigma 12-24mm @F8 1/80th 15mm ISO 100

 

Comments about these images from top to bottom:

Image 1:  I love the light first, the dark cloudy sky and sun falling on the far lawn with just enough light falling on the near wall for definition.  About 2/3rds of the frame over we have an interesting wall leading straight out of the frame to an upright brick structure at the end The big wall and large openings through which you can see other structures and the dark cloudy sky adds.  Every angle is controlled. And the monks taking pictures of themselves adds to an already strong composition.  They weren’t needed, but I think they add. Not too busy, not too empty.

Image 2:  Here the subject is the monks reviewing their images.  Monk’s like photography too! And what a great scene for monks to photograph themselves within?

Image 3:  One of my group workshop students had tons of energy, a repeat student with boundless enthusiasm. This is not an easy perspective to keep vertical much less horizontal as well.  The man near the top lends scale to the structure.

Image 4:  Shooting into the light changes all the colors and is the main reason I find value in this image.  Still, I love shooting right down the center of the frame in portrait mode with the top third of the scene having a structure and fence intersect horizontally.

Btw - I took seven images at this location.  Technically the shots were easy captures so I was sure of them, no need to shoot several and hope one comes out well.  The hard part was working with the wider angles and perspectives.  Four came out as my mind’s eye saw them, three didn’t.  How many images would you have taken during this two hour period?