Compose the picture Sammy and wait ! 8


Street Photography Aix-en-Provence

(English Version at the bottom of the page)

« Compose the picture Sammy and wait ! ». Sam Abell célèbre photographe américain qui a travaillé pour le National Geographic avait 15 ans quand son père lui donna ce conseil. Cette phrase a eu une résonance particulière chez lui.

Mon ami John Harper m’a fait passer le lien YouTube d’une longue vidéo où Sam décortique certaines de ses photos en nous expliquant la composition de celles ci. Rien n’est laissé au hasard. Cette vidéo est un véritable cours sur la composition. Elle est assez longue mais tellement intéressante que je vous recommande vivement de la visionner ici.

Cette vidéo m’a donné envie de décortiquer quelques unes de mes photos. Je suis loin d’avoir le talent de Sam Abell, mais c’est un exercice de style assez intéressant pour comprendre une photo. Qu’est ce qui a attiré mon attention, pourquoi ça marche, pourquoi j’ai déclenché à ce moment...

Photographs are built by the decisions the photographer makes.

Cette photo a été prise au mois d’avril dernier alors que nous passions quelques jours sur l’île de Porquerolles. Sam nous incite à nous concentrer en premier lieu sur l’arrière plan car c’est ce qu’on verra en premier. Ici c’est le ciel. Il était dégagé et sans nuage. Il permet à mes personnages d’être sur un fond uni et clair qui les permet de se détacher du ciel. J’ai voulu intégrer dans ma composition les pins sur la droite. J’avais déjà mon cadre en tête. Mon exposition était déjà faite sur le ciel lumineux car je voulais ne garder que des silhouettes. J’ai attendu que mes deux garçons se déplacent vers la gauche. A ce moment, j’ai vu un goéland qui allait entrer dans le cadre. J’ai attendu un peu et j’ai fait la photo. Sans cet oiseau cette photo ne serait pas la même.

The power of the horizon line will make or break your photograph.

Cette photo a été prise à Banyuls-sur-mer il y a pas très longtemps. J’ai tout de suite aimé cette photo. Pourquoi ? Je me suis dit qu’il y avait 3 personnages (ce nombre magique), la silhouette du monsieur et son attitude me plaisait, l’horizon légèrement incliné, la lumière venant les éclairer subtilement dans le dos. C’est en regardant la vidéo de Sam Abell que j’ai compris. Sam nous explique l’importance et la puissance de la ligne d’horizon. La tête et les épaules du personnage sont au dessus de la ligne d’horizon et ça confère une force à la photo.

Focus on the back layer.

Encore une photo prise à Banyuls-sur-mer. Mes enfants sont mes meilleurs modèles. Ils ont tellement l’habitude de me voir faire des photos qu’ils ne prêtent plus attention à mon appareil quand je traîne à côté d’eux. Ici je me suis concentré sur le ciel. D’ailleurs il occupe presque 75% de l’image. Il était nuageux et très lumineux. Je me suis posté à cet endroit intéressant car j’avais un bout de terre en arrière plan et au premier plan ces morceaux de bois de tailles différentes qui avaient un côté très graphique. Là aussi j’ai attendu. Mes réglages étaient faits, ma composition aussi. J’ai attendu que mon fils entre dans le cadre. Il est exactement là où je voulais qu’il soit. Il ne se superpose pas avec les morceaux de bois. La lisibilité est quasi parfaite. Je regrette juste que son épuisette ne se détache pas plus du ciel.

The subject matters, but focus on the background first.

Cette photo a été prise à Aix-en-Provence. C’est un spot que j’ai découvert récemment. Il n’y a pas beaucoup de passage. Je suis resté un moment à faire des tests de composition sans aucune personnes dans le cadre. Juste pour savoir comment utiliser les lignes, les ombres que m’offrait cet endroit. Comment cadrer pour donner du dynamisme à la photo. Je savais déjà que je devais faire la mesure d’exposition sur le mur d’en face. Ce qui me permettrait d’avoir des noirs bien sombres. je devais aussi utiliser un point de vue au ras du sol pour donner du dynamisme. J’ai vu arriver cette maman et sa fille. J’ai tout de suite été attiré par la robe à rayures de la petite fille. Ma composition était faite depuis longtemps. J’ai juste attendu que des personnages intéressants viennent compléter le tableau. Encore une fois ici, comme l’explique si bien Sam Abell, je me suis concentré sur la composition et non le sujet.

Look for structure, shapes, leading lines.

Street Photography Aix-en-Provence

Sur cette photo, j’ai été attiré par les lignes verticales et aussi ces triangles de lumière. Je suis resté longtemps sur place à peaufiner ma composition. Entre le moment où je suis arrivé et le moment où je suis reparti, la lumière et les ombres avaient changé. Cette photo est parmi les dernières que j’ai faites. La composition était primordiale pour moi ici. Je savais que ça fonctionnerait. J’avais ici des lignes directrices, des lignes verticales, des triangles. 

Sur cette autre photo, la lumière venant de la droite donnait un côté très graphique à ces marches d’escalier. La mesure d’exposition a été faite sur les parties lumineuses pour avoir des ombres profondes et pour résumer ces marches d’escalier à des rectangles lumineux. Quand cette personne est entrée dans le cadre, j’ai eu de la chance de le voir jeter un coup d’œil vers le soleil. Ce qui m’a permis d’avoir son visage partiellement éclairé.

Compose the picture and wait.

Cette photo a été prise à Jouques, là où j’habite. Nous étions aller faire une randonnée pour rendre un dernier hommage à un ami parti trop vite, trop tôt. Arrivés au sommet de la montagne, nous avions un point de vue magnifique sur l’Etang de Berre et on devinait au loin la mer. J’avais commencé une composition en incluant dans le cadre un ami qui consultait son smartphone. J’ai fait quelques photos mais c’était assez banal. Mais je sentais qu’il y avait du potentiel. Il manquait juste quelque chose d’intéressant en plus. J’ai attendu un peu et c’est à ce moment que les personnes sur la gauche se sont mis à montrer dans quelle direction était Marseille ! 

Cette photo a été prise en fin d’après-midi dans Aix-en-Provence. Cette ruelle derrière le Palais de Justice était partiellement baignée de lumière et offrait de très jolies ombres. Les bâtiments offraient des lignes intéressantes. Ne me manquait plus d’une personne dans ma composition. Le seul endroit où je pouvais placer une personne était sur ce fond clair entre les deux bâtiments. J’ai attendu un peu d’avoir quelqu’un exactement là où je le voulais avant de déclencher. Là encore la photo a été composée sans personne dedans. La mise au point et la mesure d’exposition ont été faits au préalable.

J’avais repéré cette vitrine lors d’un précédente sortie Street Photography. J’avais réalisé quelques photos mais rien de bien intéressant. Je suis donc repassé devant pour peaufiner ma composition. Je savais que j’avais là plusieurs plans intéressants. Ce mannequin au premier plan, le trottoir au second plan et l’autre côté de la rue en arrière plan. Ce n’est pas une rue particulièrement passante mais j’ai eu de la chance pour le personnage en arrière plan. Là aussi c’est beaucoup de patience, mais ça marche parce que la composition a déjà été pensée et au final la photo avait déjà été réalisée mentalement. 

J’aime cette façon de procéder dans la rue. C’est un process très lent. Une approche plus zen de la Street Photography. Mais quand j’ai envie d’un peu plus d’action, je me rapproche plus quitte à envahir l’espace personnel des personnes que je photographie. Mais là ce sera pour un autre post ! 

 

~ o ~

Compose the Picture Sammy and wait !

 

 

 

Street Photography Aix-en-Provence

« Compose the picture Sammy and wait! ». Sam Abell, the famous American photographer who worked for National Geographic was 15 when his father gave him this advice. This sentence had a particular resonance in him. My friend John Harper gave me a YouTube link to a long video where Sam is dissecting some of his photos and explaining the composition. Nothing is left to chance. This video is a real course on composition. It is quite long but so interesting that I strongly recommend you to view it here.

This video made me want to dissect some of my pictures. I’m far from Sam Abell’s talent, but it’s a pretty interesting exercise to understand a picture. What caught my attention, why it worked, why I clicked the shutter at that time …

Photographs are built by the decisions the photographer makes.

This photo was made last April while we spent a few days on the island of Porquerolles. Sam urges us to concentrate first on the background because that’s what we’ll see first. Here, it is the sky. It was clear and cloudless. It allows my characters to be on a plain and clear background that allows them to detach themselves from the sky. I wanted to integrate in my composition the pines on the right. I already had my frame in mind. My exposure was already made on the bright sky because I wanted to keep only silhouettes. I waited for my two little kids to move to the left. At that moment, I saw a gull that was going to enter the frame. I waited a bit and I made the picture. Without this bird this photo would not be the same.

The power of the horizon line will make or break your photograph.

This picture was made in Banyuls-sur-Mer not too long ago. I immediately liked this picture. Why ? I thought there were 3 characters (this magic number), the silhouette of the gentleman and his attitude pleased me, the horizon slightly inclined, the subtle light in their back. It was by watching the video of Sam Abell that I understood. Sam explains the importance and power of the horizon line. The head and shoulders of the character are above the horizon line and this gives the photo a strength. It’s not enough but it’s a plus !

Focus on the back layer.

Another photo taken in Banyuls-sur-Mer. My children are my best models. They are so used to seeing me making pictures that they no longer pay attention to my camera when I hang out next to them. Here I concentrated on the sky. Besides, it occupies almost 75% of the image. It was cloudy and very bright. I stood at this interesting place because I had a background with the coast and in the foreground those pieces of wood of different sizes that had a very graphic aesthetic. Again I waited. My settings were made, my composition also. I waited for my son to enter the frame. He is exactly where I wanted him to be. He does not overlap with the pieces of wood. The readability is almost perfect. I just regret that his fishing net does not come off any more from the sky.

The subject matters, but focus on the background first.

This photo was taken in Aix-en-Provence. This is a spot I recently discovered. There is not much going on. I stayed a while to do composition tests without any people in the frame. Just to know how to use the lines, the shadows that this place offered me. How to frame to give dynamism to the photo. I already knew that I had to do the exposure measurement on the opposite wall. Which would allow me to have very dark blacks. I also had to use a low point of view to give dynamism. I saw this mother and her daughter arrive. I was immediately attracted by the striped dress of the little girl. My composition had been made for a long time. I just waited for interesting characters to complete the picture. Again here, as Sam Abell so well explains, I concentrated on the composition and not the subject.

Look for structure, shapes, leading lines.

Street Photography Aix-en-Provence

In this picture, I was attracted by the vertical lines and also these triangles of light. I was there for a long time to work on my composition. Between the moment I arrived and the moment I left, the light and the shadows had changed. This photo is one of the last ones I made. Composition was paramount for me here. I knew it would work. I had leading lines, vertical lines, triangles.

On this other picture, the light coming from the right gave a very graphic side to these stairs. The exposure measurement was made on the highlights to have deep shadows and to summarize these stair steps to bright rectangles. When this person entered the frame, I was lucky to have him take a look at the sun. This allowed me to have his face partially illuminated.

Compose the picture and wait.

This picture was taken in Jouques, where I live. We were going to hike to pay a last tribute to a friend who left too soon, too early. Arrived at the top of the mountain, we had a magnificent view of the Etang de Berre and we could tell the sea off. I had started a composition including a friend who was consulting his smartphone. I did some pictures but it was pretty mundane. But I felt there was potential. It was just missing something interesting. I waited a little and it was at that moment that the people on the left began to show in which direction Marseille was !

This picture was taken at the end of the afternoon in Aix-en-Provence. This alley behind the Palais de Justice was partially bathed in light and offered very pretty shadows. The buildings offered interesting lines. I just needed a person in my composition. The only place where I could place a person was on that clear ground between the two buildings. I waited a bit to have someone exactly where I wanted it to be. Again the picture was composed without anyone in it. The focus and exposure measurements were pre-set.

I spotted this shop window at a previous Street Photography session. I had made some pictures but nothing very interesting. So I went back to work on my composition. I knew that I had several interesting layers. This mannequin in the foreground, the sidewalk in the middleground and the other side of the street in the background. It is not a particularly busy street but I was lucky for the character in the background. There is also a lot of patience, but it works because the composition has already been thought and finally the photo had already been realized mentally.

I like this way of operating on the street. It is a very slow process. A more zen approach to Street Photography. But when I want a little more action, I get closer and invade the personal space of the people I photograph. But this is for another post !


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8 commentaires sur “Compose the picture Sammy and wait !

  • Lin Zee

    Jeff in my opinion this is by far your best blog post because of the way you’ve explained your process for taking images. I think your technique was formed way before the Sam Abell lecture was forwarded on by John Harper.

    I just commented on John’s latest post and echoed two of his biggest points during his lecture, ‘compose and wait’ and ‘head and shoulders above the horizon’. These two and particularly the latter sticks in my head simply because of the strong separation technique that draws the eye to the subject.

    Also love the fact how you expose for the sky to obtain silhouettes. Another technique I love to use every now and again together with the camera light metering modes, i.e. spot vs matrix vs centre weighted.

    The way to Marseilles is a brilliant image!

    Cheers Lin.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Auteur de l’article

      Thanks a lot for your words Lin ! I really enjoyed writing this one. I was just afraid people would misunderstood my approach and thought that I was a bit pretentious to propose a lecture of some photographs of mine. They are not perfect, they are not top shots but I had to share the excitement I had while viewing the video of Sam Abell. His words speak to me. I’m still growing up as a photographer. This video is like being present at the lecture. And yes I’m not the same one before and after the lecture !
      I would like to see you come back to some street stuff Lin !

      Cheers mate !

  • John Harper

    Judging by this selection of photographs it won’t be long before you are asked to lecture, a video made and people forwarding the link as a must see. There really are some gems amongst this presentation and I totally agree with Lin, your best blog so far. Sam Abell offered some very wise words, as do you. They say « Patience is a Virtue », how true that is in photography.

    Before I read this blogpost I had written about my dislike of seagull shots in my latest blog, strangely the gull makes that shot. Of course it’s not just a shot of seagull, it’s part of the overall composition and man, it works perfectly.

    Cheers for now. John.

    • Jeff Chane-Mouye Auteur de l’article

      When you sent me the link with that video John, I was amazed by Sam’s words. I didn’t know about him until now. But just listenning to him triggered something inside me. Sometimes I know that a picture pleased me but it was often hard to explain why. I just ended up saying « I like it ». But dissecting photographs helps you grow up your photography. I must understand exactly why it works. Of course it’s not enough. You can’t explain clearly the soul of a photograph. The emotion it brings to you, but the composition can be easily dissected. This one hour lecture of selected photographs is priceless. People could argue that in Street Photography, everything goes too fast to compose correctly. Yes it’s right things go damn fast. But if you train your eyes with the basis of composition it will be really helpfull when you have to compose quickly. Just speaking of « head and shoulders above the horizon line ». It makes sense. You get a strong « figure to ground » with the character on a clear background. It’s stronger ! You can have that while having a low point of view. So the conclusion is get down on your knees to make the photograph. As simple as that. I could keep on talking on this video for hours 😉
      Cheers John ! thanks again for sharing this video and for your words !

      • John Harper

        I’m always looking at backgrounds before I shoot, this video enforces that discipline, pushes me to look deeper. Another thing I’ve done for many years is get down to eye level of your subject, no shot of a child will work if you’re looking down on them, even better if we can bring the horizon into play to contrast our subject matter.
        As you say, dissect your photographs, analyse them and learn. Of course Street is totally different, often there is no time and the scene chaotic, I suppose then one could say that composition isn’t overly important, especially if you’re capturing an unfolding story – the story or narrative then takes precedent.

        It really is a marvellous lecture form Sam Abell, anyone interested in photography should watch it. A brilliant lesson from an extremely talented and knowledgeable photographer.

        • Jeff Chane-Mouye Auteur de l’article

          Composition is really important. Of course in the street, evrything might be a litlle messy, but as Sam told us. Clarity from chaos. We have to extract some scenery in the street to get a good capture. The way he built the picture with different layers is outstanding. Of course it’s difficult to make such an image in the street, but we can make less complicated photographs with just 2 or 3 layers. And we can only do that with method. I’m about to write another article dealing with a different approach of the Street Photography. More shooting with the guts, with instinct.