Shoot from the dark side

Today, the members of the Kamloops Photo Arts Club were privileged to receive a visit and presentation by Ted Grant. Who is Ted Grant, you ask? This web page:  Ted Grant’s Bio sums up quite nicely who Ted Grant is, and the importance of his role in Canadian photojournalism.

While I purchased a ticket to attend his presentation, I actually did not expect that I would come away from it with new inspiration because photojournalism and photographing people are not among my top interests. I think that not very many people know about Ted Grant, but that might be because of his modest attitude about his work. His passion is photography, simply put. Ted says his beating heart is the driving force behind his photographs. When I heard that, my own heart started to beat a little bit harder.

Ted shared with us these concepts, which resonated quite strongly with me. Some of these concepts are not new, really….

  • Never leave home without your camera.
    Ted explains: It’s when you leave home without your camera, that stuff starts to happen. The idea is that you’ll never get that once in a lifetime shot, if you don’t have your camera with you.
  • Be the first to arrive at any event, and the last to leave it.
    Ted provided several examples to illustrate this comment. Two photos that stood out in this regard are 1) Pierre Trudeau sliding down a bannister. All other photojournalists had already exited the building, and when they heard the commotion behind them discovered they were unable to re-enter the building in order to capture the moment. And 2) The Queen dropping her purse on the ground while on a visit to Canada. The Queen, as well as all the male dignitaries surrounding her, bent down to pick it up. The photo conveys the question – who’s gonna pick it up first? Ted Grant was there for both of these moments.
    Now…. when Ted says to be there first, he doesn’t just mean 1 hour prior. He told us about being at his designated shooting spot for an Olympics event at 7:30 a.m., but the event he was to shoot was not scheduled to occur until 1:30 p.m! Now… I call that dedication!
  • If you can see it, you can photograph it.
    Ted never carries a flash. His strongest photos all contain dramatic shadow and light, using the available light at the scene.
  • Don’t think about it. Just do it!
    A famous baseball player once said: You can’t think AND bat. All through his presentation, for each photograph Ted described to us, he always said: “Geez, would you look at that! CLICK!” Ted’s style is that he raises the camera to his eye, and when he sees the little red light illuminate in the viewfinder, he clicks. No thoughts about aperture, shutter speed, or whether the lens cap is on or off. This means that you must be very comfortable with your camera, and you must also prepare the camera in advance. BE READY! (I lose many precious moments myself, as I fumble with my camera bag, tripod, and camera settings.)
  • Light is the life of any photograph.
    This statement goes hand in hand with: If you can see it, you can photograph it.
  • When conversing with others, we listen with our eyes. As photographer of people, watch the eyes. Watch what they are doing. Watch how the eyes interact with light.
    When setting someone up for a photo, don’t just ask the subject to pose (because it will look posed). Ask the subject to look at something specific (maybe at something behind you), and as the subject searches for what you told him/her to look at, watch the facial expression (you should see the mind working). And finally….. DON”T BREAK your connection with the subject through your viewfinder, even if you must ask the subject to do something slightly different. Stay focussed in the moment, then CLICK!

Dancing Boots

And finally:

 Shoot from the dark side. This simply means to position yourself on the shadow side of the subject. Ted says this is called Rembrandt lighting. The effects in black and white photography are beautiful indeed. When you are out taking photographs, watch the light on your subject. Look for the shadow side, and learn to recognize it. Then use it in your photos.

I came away from the afternoon session with Ted, feeling new inspiration and a promise to myself to work on people photography skills more in the future. I’m glad I went.

You can see Ted Grant’s work here: Ted Grant Photography

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