Xiomáro MNHP Workshop Video 2

Morristown National Historical Park

Open Transcript


Hi I'm Xiomáro, and if you're just joining in this is actually the second video that I'm doing presenting some very simple tips on how to improve your photography. I'm a nationally exhibited artist. I'm a published author and I'm also a teacher different workshops on photography and, as I mentioned in the previous video, I am Morristown National Historical Park's Virtual Artist-in-Residence. "Virtual" because of the pandemic ordinarily I would do a presentation like this in a live setting, but for the sake of safety we're going to do it through a video however you can come to the park because I do have a fine art photographic exhibit over at the Jockey Hollow Visitor Center at Morristown National Historical Park and, uh, these are photos that are facing outward on the windows you can actually view them from outside the building in a nice safe setting. These photographs are documenting in an artistic way some of the key features of Jockey Hollow. In case you don't know, Jockey Hollow is actually the site where George Washington's troops were encamped during one of the bitter winters of the American Revolutionary War so you're going to see some images based on that, but for today's video what I want to do is I want to present to you a couple of tips that can improve your photography regardless of what kind of camera you're using. A lot of what I'm presenting is geared towards smartphone cameras since that seems to be the way most people are photographing nowadays, but if you're using a point-and-shoot or DSLR, these tips would apply too. In the previous video, I covered five tips that were mostly technique based. You know just how to hold the camera and how to position yourself, but for today's two tips it's more about how to see, specifically, how to see like an artist. So, it's two very simple elements. You'll be familiar with these elements anyway, but by drawing your attention to it what I'm hoping is you'll come away with an awareness of these elements so that when you're taking a picture and composing it, you'll be able to utilize these elements and come up with a picture that is hopefully more artistic more creative and more importantly more unique to you. So, without further ado, we're going to get right to it we're going to cut to my studio. There I have a computer. My workstation where I can show you some of the images by way of example so what's on let's just head on over there right now

All right, so here we are in the studio, um, I'm at my computer and so I just wanted to show you some examples of images to demonstrate some of the tips I'm going to make. Basically, I think the very first tip to consider is to look for lines. All right, to look for lines in your subject because when you think about it it seems like almost everything has been photographed there's very little that we haven't seen in an image someplace. So, because everything has been photographed so much it becomes harder to make a photograph that looks different from what has been seen before it's probably impossible to make something that hasn't been seen before; however, one thing that I find that's helpful, which I use in my own photography, is to sometimes forget about what the subject is and try to look for an element that's in that subject in this case line. So, let me give you an example what I'm talking about. Here's a photograph of the cabins at Jockey Hollow. I took this photograph and you know anybody could have taken this photograph. They could have done it with a cell phone, with a DSLR, a point-and-shoot. It's a pretty common way that you would represent something that you've seen, right? An overall location shot nothing wrong with it, however if you start thinking about lines then you kind of approach it in a different way. You know, you'll notice for instance that there are vertical lines or I should say horizontal lines right of the of the logs that make up the cabin. So, you certainly see that here in the image if you start focusing or zeroing in on the lines it might take you to a different place photographically that you wouldn't have gone to before. So, in my case when I was photographing this I started really focusing on the direction of the lines and what caught my attention was see if I can point that out to you right back here there's a chimney right so I wanted to see what that chimney was all about. I went to the back and I got this particular image what I liked here was when I really studied the the chimney and looked at it from different angles and points of view with a focus on the lines, I noticed that even though the cabins look like they're pretty. You know, pretty straight edges that there was actually some curves here. I really like that curve that you see it's almost serpentine right off the the circular logs so you actually have a curve in the line, right? I'm going to show that to you right there but then you also of course have the circular curve of the logs themselves and I found that interesting because in addition to showing this, this curve or this path that kind of takes your eye somewhere it's also in stark contrast to the other lines in the image, which are very straight, right? These horizontal ones and even these vertical ones from the trees so, uh, and also you have another curve here. I forgot about that there's a curve here from the shadow which together with the curve of this line here almost gives you like an hourglass shape so what happens is it's just kind of playing around with the lines and creating a composition where you're still representing something that you saw in the log, you know, in the log cabin but you're presenting it almost, uh, almost like in an abstract way so there's actually layers of things to look for in the image. So, that's one thing to consider right just looking at lines in in that manner. Let me give you another example, okay? So here's a photograph of the Wick House again. It's a photograph that probably anybody could have taken, you know? It's just a dead-on picture that represents this is the house, right? But another way to approach it is to well like what I did here. So here what I did was, um, I looked at the lines formed by this fencing here right, and by photographing at an angle what it does is I'm using lines to make your eye travel someplace so it has a destination, It goes from right to left or left to right, but basically kind of leads to the Wick House so it's a different way of showing that particular structure. The other interesting thing too is when you think about it when we look at an image we're looking at something in three dimensions. right? In 3D. So it's, um, you know from side to side up and down and also in right and also we're looking at it from a wider viewpoint right? I forget what our periphery of vision is, I think it's like 180 degrees or something like that, but you're looking at something that's much larger than what's being represented you know in your photograph and your voter in your photograph. You're just taking a little piece of it a little square or a little rectangle, right? And also you're not experiencing the other things that you are viewing. Although you're looking at something you're also smelling the air right? or the flowers. Uh, you're hearing birds. Uh, there's other senses that that's at play. So, sometimes when you, when you experience something and you look at your photograph it doesn't really seem to be the same thing as what you saw, right? Does that ever happen to you? or you feel like it's not as impactful or, or not as dramatic and, and one of the other elements that's involved in that is the fact that a photograph is just a two-dimensional image. So you're trying to capture a three-dimensional experience in a very small two-dimensional medium. Especially by the time you post it to, you know, Facebook or Instagram when people are viewing that on their phones it's even smaller still. So, one of the tricks with playing with lines is you can at least create almost an illusion of a three of a third dimension of depth. When that line takes you towards an imaginary back of the photo, right? So you have a foreground here, right? Or this area here you have the tree and then behind the tree you have this house and your eye is taken there by the line of this fence. So, something else to consider when you are composing your photograph--tip number two is to look for the element of light okay? And light's a pretty key one. If you think about it, photography really means light right, right? So, photo is light graphy is lighting. So, light is a very important element of photography and most photographs I think if you kind of see what's out there on social media or in magazines they tend to be bright sunny and cheery. Like this one, you know? Nice blue sky with lots of clouds and nothing wrong with that but if you want to add a different, um, a different feel to your photographs you might want to consider embracing the darkness, right? So, here I'm inside the cabin and you certainly have light coming in from the door, the doorway, in the window, but as you can see the inside of the cabin is shrouded in, in darkness. You can still make out some detail of course, but imagine if I had taken this photograph with a flash right on my phone or on my camera. If I use the flash this will look very different. It'd be a lot brighter of course perhaps cheerier. You'd see a lot more detail, but it would have a different feel. To me this looks more realistic. This is actually what it looked like when I was inside. And I guess it would be pretty much the way it would be for the soldiers who crowded into this little structure, but also, I think that by having it shot this way it adds an element of romanticism. Maybe even an element of mystery because you don't really see everything. So, I think that's another way of adding interest to a photograph that otherwise would look pretty ordinary. Another thing to consider with light is how it plays on an object. So, here this is a doorknob of the Wick House and what I really liked about it was that it was such a bright sunshiny day, that it cast this, um, this shadow, interesting, shadow as you can see on the lower left of the knocker. And what I liked about it is that it almost forms, it almost forms like a mask with menacing eyes saying who goes there? So I, I kind of like that. And what's interesting too is that when you are considering the element of light it's really not an element that stands apart by itself. It's really in related with other elements like the previous one we discussed, which is line, right? So by looking for a light, you're also looking for the lines that are created. These circular lines created by the shadow so they're all interrelated with each other.

Again, you know, we often will take bright cheery photos but this was taken towards the end of the day and I really liked the drama that was being created in the sky. So, there's nothing wrong with this area here, which is the trees being very dark you can still make out some detail, but even it was pretty much, you know, all black we still know we can still make out that there are trees. And because it is so dark, what it does is that contrast makes the sky even more dramatic as well as the grass on the bottom. So, it's almost like a, a three layered composition on the top you have this layer that is also dark and dramatic, but you still have this bright spot of light right by the sun. And then you have this nice light color over here this kind of orange tone. And then you still have a patch of blue sky which is kind of nice it almost tells a story. We're going from a clear blue sky to dusk then you have this layer that's very dark and mysterious and romantic. And then you have another layer underneath which is also, well not as dark as the trees, but it is darker right so you kind of have a light up on a little bit light on top, very dark in the middle, and lighter on the bottom. And, so that I think creates a more interesting composition. And again, some people might even consider taking the picture thinking "well it's too dark to take a photo" or they might take the photo and try using a flash, which really wouldn't do very much because the flash is not going to be strong enough to light up the, um, the trees in the background. At most it might light up the immediate foreground, but it wouldn't have the same feel as this picture and that's something to consider, you know? When you're photographing something, it's not just creating a representation of what you saw, but is there a way to, um, to convey a feeling or a mood that you might have experienced. Because, again, uh, when you are taking in a scene like this, you are taking it in in real time--with all of your senses--you know, in three dimensions and with a wider field of view. And by the time you reduce all that to a photograph, you're losing a lot of those elements. So in order to introduce some of those elements back in or to suggest them you have to play with your composition. So, consider that you know they're elements of of line and light that you can consider when you're composing your image. So there you have it. It's two simple elements to think about when you're composing your shots. They're almost like musical notes so you want to think about line and the different ways that line can be represented in your composition. And you also want to think about light. If you only focus, even just on those two elements, you'll come to see that it really changes how you take pictures. So, so try that out. In fact, you might even want to just come to Morristown and do some photography with your cell phone thinking about those very elements. Uh, but I hope that you'll come here and you'll also check out the exhibit that I have that I mentioned. It's over at the, uh, visitor center. Uh, also there'll be a video, another one that'll be broadcast pretty soon. That one's going to present an overview of the different photography I've done for various National Park sites apart from Morristown and then we're going to do one more video in this particular series in this workshop. And in that next video, which will be the last one, I'm going to present, uh, three more elements that you should be thinking about. Kind of like line and light but there are three different ones that kind of combine. And I think when you start adding those three it'll really give you a nice palette of options for creating your your images. So I'm Xiomáro and on behalf of myself and Morristown National Historical Park, we invite you to check out the park's website for more information about these programs and the the exhibit. If you want to find out more about me and my work with Morristown, as well as other National Parks and also my books, uh, you can go visit not with an S--it's with an X I O M A R O dot com. And I'll see you next time.


Artist in Residence Xiomáro demonstrates two tips for improving your photography skills in this fifteen minute workshop.