I am currently taking the Documentary Photography course with Open University HK. Its a rather interesting course, as it encourages students to do “mini-projects” of their own topics. Most enthusiasts mainly think in terms of getting THE perfect photograph, yet in documentary, its about getting a series of photographs to convey a strong message, its not just about the technique, but the story behind the project. This course requires students to do just that.
The mini project below was taken a few years ago during Cantonese Opera Day in Hong Kong, each photo captured different emotions, just by looking at the subjects’ eyes. Try to come up with mini project topics of your own and go shoot it!
One of the techniques I like to use is simplify. This idea was further consolidated during my OUHK class, “Photography Lighting Techniques”. The teacher introduced the idea of noise, not the unwanted colours and spots when you shoot at high ISOs, but the unwanted and distracting objects in your frame. They will make your photo concept “fuzzy”, which is worse than a fuzzy image (out of focus).
Anyway, the above photo was another evidence for my love for simplification. The hippo was yawning, with a quarter of its body out of the water. The photo was so simply construed, that all the attention will be focused on the hippo alone. Then the slight reflection of the grass on the side of the pool gives some context of the location.
Less is more, it applies to photography. Think clearly about what you want to show before pressing the shutter button, and make “clear” and “sharp” images; remember its the concept that counts before the quality of the photo!
Another piece of assignment for the lighting techniques course for OUHK. The flash was aimed at the white wall behind the cup. I also placed two black clothes on both sides of the glass to get more accented outlines.
I admit that I am more of a natural light photographer I tend to minimize the use of flash. For me this course really encouraged me to shoot more with my flash guns (in this case one Canon 580 EXII was used), and experiment on different lighting techniques at home, a more systematic approach towards fill flash, gobos, reflectors, diffusers etc.