Working a Scene – Vermont Barn
The beginner photographer approaches a scene, raises their camera and “takes” the picture. A seasoned photographer “works” the scene, studying all the possibilities of composition from various angles. Unless you work out all of the possibilities of a scene, you don’t come away with the best possibility. Often this requires revisiting a scene more than once, perhaps in different seasons.
In the video above fine art photographer Edward M. Fielding (www.edwardfielding.com) comes upon an old historic New England barn and explores the possibilities of the scene at a location in Windsor, Vermont.
This old barn complex in Windsor, Vermont is eye catching when driving by with its complex arrangement of buildings, weathered boards, red painted doors etc but capturing the feeling of the place is different than snapping a shot from the road. You have do actually engage in the landscape and explore the various angles and arrangements of the composition. Bottom line is to get into the scene and make an photograph rather than take a snapshot.
Below are some photographs of this area taken at different times of the year as well as some thoughts by other photographers on how to work a scene in photography.
“Making a picture just right takes time, even when the thing you’re photographing isn’t moving. Instead, you do the moving — closer, not so close — change lenses, commit to a tripod, micro compose some detail, step back, reconsider, recompose, repeat. And when it looks right it also feels right — just so.”
— Sam Abell, from The Life of a Photograph
“The compositional dance is about figuring out a way to move you and your camera, which in turn moves the smallest of details inside your viewfinder for maximum visual impact. You can make use of all photographic techniques to create the atmosphere or emotion you are feeling and want to transmit. It’s about recognizing and understanding what it is that attracted you to the subject matter in the first place, and then determining — through concentration and instinct — how best to communicate those feelings through the photograph.” – Steve Simon
“We don’t always have the time or opportunity to revisit a given scene many times in order to make ourselves happy; however, we should at least be convinced that we have produced the best possible image given the limitations of our own visit. This means that even if a scene is immediately interesting/ arresting, the first image may not necessarily be the best one. Sometimes our instincts are right, sometimes our timing is lucky, and it is; more often than not, there’s always something to be improved.
If you take a look at the work of great photographers immediately before and after a famous image – the Magnum Contact Sheets book is highly recommended for this because it puts the chosen frame in context of what happened immediately before/ after by showing the rest of the frames on the roll – you’ll see that they all have something in common: they spend a lot of time experimenting with variations on the same basic idea, exploring options, and usually end fairly soon after getting the shot they want.” – Ming Thein
“If you’re walking around a city or village and you stop to take a photo, that means something caught your eye (enough to make you stop and photograph it, right?). Don’t just take one shot, shrug your shoulders, and move on. Remember, something made you stop, so there’s probably something there, and taking one quick snapshot probably won’t uncover it.
Your job as a photographer is to “work that scene” and find out what it was that captured your attention. The first step is simply to slow down—stop, look around for a moment, and see what it was that drew your eye in the first place. Was it the color, was it a doorway, an archway, was it some little feature, or something big? If you can figure it out, then you’ll know what to shoot, but more often than not, we can’t exactly describe what it was that made us stop and shoot, but it definitely was something.
Your job is to find it, and to work that scene by trying these techniques: (1) Shoot the area with different focal lengths—shoot a few shots in really wide angle, then try 100mm, then zoom in tight, and see what you find. Stop and look at your LCD to see if you’re getting close. If you see something that looks like it has possibilities, then (2) try changing your viewpoint. Shoot it from a very low angle (get down on one knee) or try shooting it from above (look for stairs you can shoot from or a rooftop angle). This can make the shot come alive. If that looks really good and you’re getting close to nailing the shot, then (3) try varying your white balance (try changing it to Cloudy and see if having the shot look warmer looks better, or try Shade for a warmer look yet). Try all these things (work the scene) and my guess is one of those shots will bring a big smile to your face.” – Scott Kelby