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Canon 1ds Mark II, 70-200mm F2.8L IS  @F4  1/200th 95mm  ISO 800

 

 

One of the best photographers I know has impressed me for years with the way he uses light to achieve a style/look I consider unequaled in his field.  We’ve bantered back and forth about photography, politics, and religion.. the three areas best left to discussion between family members or really good friends.  We often share some of our latest work or even an old favorite.  There was something about his style/look I couldn’t quite put a finger on, yet for years I tried to figure it out. 

 

Finally I just asked, and he told me.  In effect what he was doing was exposing different parts of the scene for the best look just for those parts, and then blending the images together in layers to create the final image.  Through the manipulation of exposure he could highlight the important parts on the subject, lines/curves/shape, while subduing extraneous detail which tended to distract.  Properly practiced this technique can make a photograph really POP without being apparent to the viewer why it pops. 

 

Just because you know how someone does something, doesn’t mean you can do it yourself.  Our styles and subjects are very different, yet the technique and ‘look’ would surely be useful to me.  Often, with such work, the difference is in the subtleties, or perhaps more accurately.. what isn’t there more than what is there.  I practiced, I tried to find a way to apply his highly successful look, but I never felt I was putting the right pieces together.  Until this photo.

 

An old diesel locomotive powers across The Bridge Over River Kwai at sunset with two tourists awed by its presence.  What I saw in my mind was simple, the sunset, the bridge, the locomotive, and two tourists in awe.  What was exposed in my camera was far different, way too much detail distracting from the shot.  Having bracketed the shot I noticed each exposure value either hid or accentuated detail on certain parts of the shot.  Now the idea was flowing in my mind, and soon Photoshop was flowing on my monitors.  The result is this week’s feature photograph. 

 

This photograph is significant because I was able to see and draw from the most subtle part of someone else’s style, and bring it into my own style, and the image was better for it.  I feel I was successful.  Sure, I have a long way to go with this particular technique, but I’m happy with this modest start.  No, it’s not how Craig would have captured or processed this image, but I can’t help but feel there is at least a tiny piece of him in the image.  A small part of the essence of his technique intermingling with mine.

 

Really, this is how we form our individual styles.  Over the course of years.. and often longer.. we see and learn tiny pieces of technique and style.. and then put them together with what’s inside us.  The result, if real, is a new style unlike anyone else’s style.  Someone told me a few years back “I could tell it was your image by the way it looked.”  Thank you!  It was then I knew that finally, after many years of work, I was starting to develop a style of my own.  A signature style. 

 

Not everyone will love it, perhaps not care for it at all, but it will be yours.  And often the most controversial style becomes the most famous, the most sought after, the most viewed.  Bad or good, if someone can look at your work and immediately associate it with you, and no one else, then you’ve developed your own style.  You’re now ready to snatch the pebble from the old priests hand and leave the temple.

 

Craig Lamson is a guest writer on www.BangkokImages.com.  Check out his interview and some of his work here , and some of his reviews here  , and here  , and here  .  Here too!