Is anyone else into Slow Photography?

Is anyone else into Slow Photography?
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(Youssef Ismail) #1

Is this Slow Photography thing a backlash to the crazy plethora of the number of photographs produced in the digital photography age?

I still use my good old 4x5 and it does not get any slower than that.


(Preston Birdwell) #2

Just curious, @Youssef_Ismail, but what is the “Slow Photography thing”?

At my age, everything is slow. :smiley:
-p


(Brent Clark) #3

I too would like to hear how you define “slow photography”. I’ve heard the term before, so my interpretation would have it be about developing a relationship with a place and subject over repeated visits and meticulously working on compositions in a thoughtful manner with much less of a “run and gun” or “spray and pray” approach.

If that’s along the lines of “slow photography”, it is definitely my favorite kind but admittedly it is not always possible. Here’s two recent images. To me, one of them exemplifies “slow photography” and the other exemplifies well… “not slow photography”.

Exhibit A:

I travel around the country a lot so I see a lot of new places on rushed trips. This however was taken in my home state of Wisconsin, which I have lived in my entire life. I’m much more familiar with nature and its subjects here, so I am in less of a “honeymoon” phase with it and see it more like a long term relationship. Additionally, I slowly worked on this composition over the course of two overcast days. I was very meticulous about it and thought a lot about how I wanted the end result to look like. It was slow and relaxing and I have a nice sense of satisfaction knowing that I crafted this image with a lot of intention.

Exhibit B:

This is from my trip to Great Sand Dunes in Colorado this past summer. I don’t live here and I’ve never been here before. I traveled by plane, rented a car, drove here, hiked up and down the stupidly tall first ridge of dunes, and a storm started developing. Being here during a storm is a generally bad idea. It was windy, it started to rain a bit, and it was unsafe to be there due to the chance of lightning strikes. I saw a sexy curve, ran down to it, fired off several photos, and hauled ass outta there. NOT slow. It was a rush and I enjoyed the adrenaline pumping through my veins and I generally like the photo. Given more time, I probably would have been able to refine my composition a bit more, but I would have missed the interesting and very transient conditions.

So long story short, I think both fast and slow photography can be great! I would love to hear others’ definitions of slow photography and see examples of it.


(Jennifer Renwick) #4

To me, “slow photography” is part of the creative process. It’s about slowing down when out photographing, and connecting to the scene and nature. This day in age, it’s become about “getting the shot” and forgetting about why we’re in the scene in the first place. It’s so easy to get caught up in concerning yourself about what you need to walk away with, and missing the connection you’re trying to make with nature and the viewer of your images. I utilize this process almost every time I’m out in the field shooting. When I approach a scene, I take time to sit and look around. I note the colors, the feelings the environment is conveying to me , sounds that I hear, ect. This in turn helps me focus in on what I’m interested in photographing. I don’t even get my tripod out for the first 10-15 minutes I’m there. This helps me to forgo the “tunnel vision” that can sometimes happen when you set up in a spot. The more you connect to a scene using your senses, the better the creative process in making an image. If you connect with the scene, the viewer will too.
This is just my take on what it means, and I’m sure it could be defined in other ways. I think the main point of “slow photography” is about slowing down and connecting with a place. I just wrote a story about how I was rushing around Yellowstone National Park worried about what I was going to come away with. When I slowed down, I took note of other details around me that I had missed, and came away with a large collection of natural abstracts that make me happy, and offer a unique take on a heavily photographed area.
This day in age, with everything being stressful and rushed, I try not to let that influence my photography. I’m all about slowing down and connecting. Hope that makes some sense :slight_smile:


(Igor Doncov) #5

Jennifer has stated it very well. Incidentally you can tell by looking at an image whether slow photography was used.

My approach to slow photography is to shoot the same area from different viewpoints. I find that shooting helps me see better, with each succeeding composition being better than the previous one. Invariably there is a big difference between the first and last shot, with the last being a keeper. I used to be able to ‘search’ with just the viewfinder, take very few images, but most were keepers. I don’t consider futzing with camera setups and equipment to be very beneficial in slow photography.

I agree with Jennifer that photography at its best is a relationship between the photographer and the subject. The good images show that relationship.


(Paul Breitkreuz) #6

Youssef, yes a bit slower then even before. I alternate every other week between MF & LF…no digital in my bag.


(Hank Pennington) #7

My first association was with “slow dining,” a particular favorite of ours. And yeah, I’m a fan of “slow” photography in that context, landscape in particular. Even with digital I might walk for hours before finally succumbing to one setting. With digital I certainly will shoot more, but I’ve been known to dwell on a particular scene and “work it” for hours. I’m sure that’s left over from all my 4x5 years. We long ago folded up our darkroom, and naturally the 4x5’s have been collecting dust ever since. Call my slow photography “homage” to those good old days… Without the chemicals. :wink:


(Ryan Stikeleather) #8

I want to practice “slow photography”, but I usually end up with “spray and pray”.

I like both @Brent_Clark’s and @Jennifer_Renwick’s comments, and I know I should be using those methods, but I usually lose my focus when I’m in the field. I’ve built up so much anticipation before I go out, that when I get there, I panic a little, lose my concentration…and then it’s all downhill from there. I’m so worried I won’t come home with a good image, I forget to enjoy where I am, and appreciate being in nature.

I had this problem during my recent fall trip. Part of my problem is that I don’t get to go shoot that often, so when I’m finally behind my camera, I really want to maximize my time, and effort. It devolves into “get an amazing photograph”, and less about being surrounded by the environment, and letting the scene develop for you.

I know this sounds like the opposite of being creative, but maybe I need a Time-to-be-Creative checklist. Ok, now that I write that out, it sounds ridiculous.


(Brent Clark) #9

I totally get that! I have those feelings a lot, too. For me it faded a bit as I put in more trips and years. My mantra is generally “take one good photo per trip”. Once I get a halfway decent picture, the pressure is off and I can relax more.


(Ryan Stikeleather) #10

That’s good advice. Now I just need to put it into practice :slight_smile:


(Bill Pelzmann) #11

Ryan, I can understand that with limited opportunities, you would feel more pressure. I view my photographic hobby as the motivation to get me out to experience our incredible world. So, coming back with good images is just a bonus. That relives me of any pressure. I hope you find something that works for you.


(Hank Pennington) #12

That’s where I’m at. If I start feeling rushed or pressed my photography goes to pieces. But when I relax even a moment and appreciate a great place, it usually kicks off a thread of photo insights. I guess what I’m saying is I ask myself why I like a place so much, and once I zero in on that my photography steps up. But if I don’t take that little extra time, my photos just don’t come off.


(Paul Breitkreuz) #13

After reading most all the comments I thought I’d respond to the point about feeling pressure to “get the keepers” as it were. I think we all go through that off and on to a degree. Many times it’s our own competitive thoughts that take over. I’m my own worst enemy or opponent in that respect. I’ve always been that way and too old to change now. More so if you’re out of town and not able to return to the location within a certain season, or the all-around costs associated with a busted outing is all that the budget will allow.

I think there is a point we need to step back and say we gave it our best shot. Life has challenges and many can be downright tough on a photographer to make the actual positive image connection on each and every outing. That does not mean each outing was not a positive one overall. Maybe you saw an item for a return trip or the planned site just needed better weather or light. Still it was a good outing in the end.

With that said there is nothing wrong with spending a good amount of time planning the best approach to maximize those positive connections. I never go to the field without using Google Earth, TPE, and Weather Underground in advance. This last couple years I find myself hiking in the dark more and more to get to locales before sunrise and have started using my eTrex GPS unit to minimize missing exact tripod setup points. To me it increases the odds in obtaining those keepers and cuts down on the losses just a bit in money, time and energy. If the all-out honest effort is applied ahead of time and there are no keepers there is no need to feel alone at that point in the missed images of life. We all have that at times.


(Harley Goldman) #14

As an old 4x5 guy (still own it, never use it), I tend to “think” methodically in the field, even with a digital camera. It took a while to slow down as I switched over and in fact I continued to use the 4x5 until I started using the digital more like a LF camera from a mental standpoint.

I miss the setup and zen of 4x5, but I most definitely do not miss the film color casts (boy, did I mourn the demise of the original Velvia 50), the cost of film and processing, the scanning and seemingly endless dust spotting of scans, etc. I still have all my 4x5 gear and may do some B&W photography in the future, but I thoroughly enjoy the digital process in the meantime.


(Hank Pennington) #15

Pretty darned good summary. We have a substantial collection of 4x5 gear and a large two-station darkroom, in addition to a ridiculous collection of MF gear. All of it is now sitting in boxes waiting for “someday.” Meanwhile we have found much of the same contemplative satisfaction in our digital gear, making it too easy to leave that great old film gear stored safely in our barn.


(Youssef Ismail) #16

When the old NPN site was vibrant and activity there was high and digital photography was coming to age I would periodically attempt to start a discussion by asking the question, “Why do you make photos of what you make photos of?” The discussions never went anywhere.

For me, Photography was always a means to becoming better connected with my environment. It was a way to become intimate with nature as I really took the time to look, compose, measure the light, the tones, think about the subtle nuances in the shadows or the direction of the light. I came away with much more than a photograph. Then in hindsight when I would view my transparencies on the light table the photos that were successful were capable of transporting me back to that moment and my spirit would soar with the same elation I found when I composed it. Then before I shared it with the world I would ponder on why I ended up there at that moment to see and photograph that scene. I would think about what was going on in my life and how seeing that scene worked in to the whole scheme and what I could learn from it.

Case in point, and Preston and Harley might remember this, but back in 2008 I was coming off one of the worse summers, sales wise, that I had ever had. We were all meeting for 4 days in the eastern Sierra for fall color. The last morning we were all in Aeire Crag on the June Lake Loop. Everyone was working on a stand of vibrantly colored aspens but I could not figure out what to photograph and did not find what the others were all worked up about over those trees. So I wandered in the canyon among the dry sage brush and came away with these two photos. Later on upon reflecting on the images wrote up the captions below them and shared them with the world on my website.

StrangledLrg
Strangled

Life is hard. At times the pressures of life can be so overwhelming that it can make a person feel like they are being strangled, especially if they are told that the world as it is known is about to come crashing down. We also have an amazing way of scaring ourselves into thinking and acting in the strangest of ways. Fear, False Events Appearing Real, always appears out of nowhere, manufactured in the recesses of our minds. Falling prey to these manufactured fears is crippling, whether they come from with us or from others. But in reality we have nothing to fear, as the world has been here for a very long time and people have survived in it even during the most difficult of times. By putting our trust in the One who made this grand world and just relax we will find the grip of our fears loosening and we can continue on our way, with ease and security.

And

deathshandlrg
Death’s Hand

Death is the one inevitable truth that we all must face at some point in our lives. We must either feel its wrath when its cold and foreboding hand emerges from the unknown darkness of the unseen world to take hold of a loved one or when we have to confront it ourselves at the moment when we die. As frightening and ominous as death seems, it is only through death that we can appreciate life, for it is only then that we realize the love we hold for loved ones and how precious life truly is. And for those who succumb, death is only the beginning of the next leg on the journey to meet The Living and Everlasting.

‘Slow photography’, even though I never liked labeling, has always been my method. Even though I always went out with the intention of making the next great photo, I never knew what I was going to find or whether the photos I made were going to be any good at all. But What I did know is that in the end, I always came away with a better sense of who I was and what the world could offer me on my journey through life.

So if I may, aside from the ‘slow photography’ idea, why do you all make photographs?


(Ryan Stikeleather) #17

Maybe we should start a new discussion on “Why you make photographs?”


(Tony Siciliano) #18

Years ago I took a workshop with David Muench at Zion. Every evening he took us to the same spot for the same shot. Most of the people were pissed: they wanted something new, for him to show us his greatest hits. For me it was an epiphany. You just keep going back to the same place.


(Chris Mitchell) #19

I’ve also recently heard of this. I guess it goes hand in hand with most landscape photography. I love sitting by a lake or waterfall when you have all the time in the world. Everything melts away and I can reach a nice ‘flow state’ almost akin to mindfulness practice. However, when shooting seascapes and fighting with ever changing rides and composition this is definitely not the case.


(Ben Horne) #20

“Slow Photography” Pretty much defines my style of photography. Nothing about it is fast. I return to the same locations year after year (this was my 10th consecutive year visiting Zion for fall color), and I usually spend a week to 10 days in the field on each trip. I also enjoy just sitting down and just enjoying the world around me. It provides me a sense of inspiration, and allows me to find subjects that I would otherwise not notice. I can’t tell you how many of my favorite photos through the years are scenes I walked past several times and didn’t even notice until I slowed down a bit, and things really started to stand out.

Some of the constraints that slow down my photography are imposed by the camera I shoot, others are imposed by my own sense of discipline, but one thing is clear — slowing down and taking a moment to better observe your surroundings, and spending more time on a composition has led me to capture photos I am far more satisfied with. I have very few compositional regrets after the fact, and I feel that the photos tell a more genuine story about the location.


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