LaRoque Challenge - Follow-Up 3

I mentioned last time the value of serious play. One of the things that came out of it for me is something I never expected. Specifically the way that I use the frame in context with the geometry of the scene. You may not see it because you are not inside my head with all of my baggage. For me it's a stunning difference. The interesting part is that it snuck in there without me intending it to or even trying. I just shows up now without having consciously thought about it while shooting.

If you have been shooting seriously for a while and taking time to go back and analyze your images then you know what I am talking about when something new and identifiable just consistently "shows up". The longer that you have been shooting the less this actually happens. I highlighted that in my part II follow-up. That may be a little hard to wrap your head around due to it's very personal nature for me so I thought I would take a minute and expand on something a bit more concrete as another example of the value of serious play. Something I casually mentioned somewhere about my aversion to 1/8 second. That's a bit easier to follow as an example for just about anyone.

A very long time ago when a primary focus of mine was upping my image quality game from a technical point of view (film days) I did way too much analysis on various shutter speeds used in various contexts on various cameras. After a lot of work I determined from my then limited point of view that 1/8 second was the worst possible shutter speed to use in just about any situation. Worst in terms of ultimate image quality. I won't go into why I came to this conclusion but it was plainly evident to me at the time.

So that thought process is a wrap - done and done. Avoid 1/8th of a second. A lot of time goes by. What I shoot, how I shoot, why I shoot, what I am looking for in a photograph, etc all changes vast amounts. Technical quality is sort of there if I want it but in a lot of cases it's a "who cares" kind of thing for me. I know when a shot needs it and I know when a shot doesn't. It's a big deal if you are still figuring out how to do "image quality technical things" once that's put to bed and you work on other stuff - dozens of other things and the microscope you are using to look at your images changes a lot - it's not such a big thing.

Fast forward to a week or so ago when I was experimenting with the optimal shutter speed to render my fabric of choice the way I wanted it to render. Turns out to be 1/8 second. My reaction to that was semi-negative even now. I decided to use it anyway - even though in my mind it was a "bad shutter speed". In the past I may have decided not to use it as I would have been focused on optimizing different things based on where my head was at then - who knows.

Much to my chagrin it turns out 1/8 second is a great shutter speed to use with the way that I shoot now years and years later. Why? Because I tend to shoot people somewhere between 3ft and 10ft away and I tend to shoot them while they are in a state of transition or motion. Not running in circles or anything. Just casual motion. Is it optimal from an IQ point of view - no. Is it pretty freaking great from an effect point of view under those conditions with the way my technique has evolved over a long period of time? Hell yes. What was a automatic built in "no go" for me is now in my toolbox of technique to use when I want to use it. Old dogs - new tricks. Hang-ups, baggage, long hard experimental data - out the window. Serious play is good because it permits reevaluation of things you thought you knew in a different light at a different point of time in your own photographic journey.

Based on a few questions via email and other internet communications about process etc I decided the easiest way to explain a bunch of stuff in one fell swoop was to just show you a semi-edited contact sheet of the session. Specifically the part that I originally set out to do prior to shooting images for some upcoming lighting field guides. I say semi-edited because these are the shots where I didn't portray Anastasia in a bad light (couldn't resist that). My ego is strong enough to show you the whole thing but this is pretty much all of um anyway. I just don't like to show other people in a way they don't look good especially if it's my fault.

From these you should be able to see the couple of concepts we tried with the fabric and how they went. You may also see why I have reevaluated my long held bias against 1/8 for the way that I shoot now. Not for general purposes but for specific creative use. So… for those of you interested - the entire session can be viewed here…

Anastasia LaRoque Challenge Series Contact Sheet

Let me know what you think - if this leaves any unanswered questions for anyone, just ask. I am an open book with this stuff.


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