Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday's Fab Photographer: Douglas Knisely


Today's Friday's Fab Photographer is: Douglas Knisely.

Take it away, Doug.

I was delighted and honored when Rick offered to feature me on his blog.  While assembling a new portfolio on 500px.com recently, I was thinking a lot about images that had a huge emotional impact on me when I first saw the subject, light, and composition -- scenes that literally made my knees shake and my heart race from the adrenaline rush to execute quickly and proficiently in order to capture the moment before it vanished.  Fortunately, I usually fall into a zone and operate almost on auto-pilot, making fewer mistakes than when I shoot deliberately. What a rush!

Nothing could exemplify that emotional rush better than this scene of a man in the window of a market district neighborhood in one of the few remaining old neighborhoods in Shanghai.  Interestingly, the man seemed to be fully aware that I was shooting and had probably been watching us conspicuous boisterous Americans coming down the street.  Yet he remained with me as I recorded several images.  This is the composition that I saw, and with a little perspective adjustment and a lot of careful work to deal with the extremely dynamic range, it worked out to my delight.




While taking a morning stroll near a Cancun beach, I came upon a model shoot.  Having taken only a Canon G9 P&S along on that trip, my knee-shaking near-panic attack was caused because getting in range quickly enough without arousing attention to catch that amazing scene and nail the details was going to be daunting.  As when shooting with camera phones, another current passion, I have always been a huge believer in going for the image no matter what gear is at hand, even if it means looking like a doofus.  I ended up with several favorite keepers from that trip, two of which I have printed large on canvas!


Ahhh, those glorious S-curves, with graffiti and fascinating lighting as a bonus!  There wasn't a bit of doubt about the desired composition, nor the nature of the HDR that it would take to execute, but how to get contorted over a fence on tripod for the long HDR series while dodging the trams that periodically emerged from the left side of this tunnel?  Adrenaline came to the rescue once more, although the tram drivers' adrenaline was probably also running high as I swung back out of the way each time!


Even though these scenes are vanishing at an alarming rate in modern urban China, they are still plentiful.  But finding the right light, subject, simplicity, composition, and moment still requires a convergence of a lot of variables.  There wasn't any doubt about this moment when the light, the steam waft, and the subject converged, and it was gone in an instant.  Waiting around and even going back two other days failed to produced anything that worked anywhere nearly as well as this, despite my attempt to will it into existence so many times before and since.


In some spare time after a meeting, I was wandering around with a new 8mm fisheye lens on a crop-factor camera -- far from my usual kit.  I nearly lost it when I spotted these aligned outriggers from across the street by those trees and just knew this image had to be in there somewhere.  Right light; right lens; right subject.  That's a rush!

Clearly I'm addicted to the rush of finding these magic moments, and for me, that's what photography is all about.  Sometimes it can feel discouraging, like it will never happen again, but searching for images for this post and finding far too many candidates reminded me that the magic will come if you just keep an open eye and keep shooting.

Thanks, Rick, for all the encouragement and comments.

Twitter @dknisely

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