A Call to Series

As an amateur photographer, there are things about my craft which bother me. One of these is how often I will end a session or come back from a trip with one or two (or three, if I am lucky) good shots that are completely unrelated. Different themes, lighting, processing style, or locale give them a totally different feel from each other, and, for my own part, they cause me to feel like a snapshooter, and my online sharing to look sporadic and uninspired.

On a recent trip to the big city (Portland) I chose to take only my GM5 with Olympus 17mm f/2.8 lens for some street shooting. The 34mm-equivalent lens is good for taking in slightly wider street scenes, where a subject’s immediate surroundings and some background can be part of the picture. Further, I chose the camera’s Dynamic Monochrome art filter, giving me a contrasty black and white image through the viewfinder, though I also shot RAW for more latitude if I needed it in post processing. This gives me a good reference point for my finished monochrome image by saving the JPEG file, but gives me a better RAW file as an editing canvas.

I shot quite a few frames that day, mostly from the hip with the lens pre-focused to a set distance. This can be tricky and I’m by no means a master at it – the proof being in the pudding, as many of my shots were quite badly framed (the fixed LCD of the GM5 is not ideal for this type of shooting… but they managed it in pre-digital times, so I have no excuse!). There were only two that I liked enough to edit and print. But those two made me realize something when I displayed them together.

 

By themselves, neither stands out particularly. But together, both exhibit rather unconventional angles, which I used to try and balance the geometry. In the first image, this was done by leaving the shadowed edge of the building beneath which I stood angling into the top left in the opposite direction than the right-hand building leans in. In the second image, the strong tilt was an unintentional by-product of hip-shooting, but I left it that way rather than trying to straighten it, as the background buildings line up in a zigzag horizon that fascinates me. Both they and the two gentlemen convey a sense of movement left to right. This attempt to harmonize the jumble of architecture, to my eye, unites the two.

So, herein is the opportunity: rather than create one image which you like, work off that image and find something to tie another image together with it. Try not to stop there, but create another. The stronger the tie or ties, the better. But, key to the success of this endeavor, you need to display the connected images together. I really like printing, and places like Ikea have very inexpensive frames. Surveying work you’ve put together, rather than one-offs, is a very rewarding feeling and, I believe, can strengthen your photography.

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