Archive for category Bits and Pieces

How Learning Tennis Will Improve My Photography

The Rescue Team © Knut Skjærven

The Educator © Knut Skjærven

You should try it.

First I will let you in on a little secret.  I have started learning tennis.

I say started learning tennis and not started playing tennis. The last would  be too pretentious.

The reason why I want to learn tennis is that I have no less than 8 people in my close family who play or are learning to play tennis. I thought I would join them. I have my first lesson this Wednesday after having practised on a wall for two weeks and seeing that I lose fewer and fewer balls by hitting them into the small stream behind the training wall.

No, I have not been on the court yet, since that would be waste of somebody else’s time. But I will get there. Of that I am very sure. Maybe even this year.

What strikes me is how similar this tennis training is to learning street photography: You start by searching on the internet, you view the free videos, you get the fundamentals of rackets and grips and positions by training them in the dining room. When you are ready you practice on an outdoor wall when no one is seeing you. You try to keep expenses down by collection the balls that go sky high.

I am trying to be realistic about it and realise that with my experience of years I will never be really good, but I will be as good as I possible can.  That’s the decision. I am very optimistic about it since I progress a little every time. Playing sons and daughters and even grandkids is no small deal. That will be next year.

So I practice.

Why do I say this?

Many years ago I read something that I have never forgotten.  I don’t remember who said it but it relates to what I would describe as cross over training. You benefit greatly it you manage to use experience in one area  to other areas. Like tennis to photography. Like photography to tennis.

Or any other cross over.

If you are a good doctor use your medical skills in street photography. If you are a good lawyer use your lawyer’s skill in street photography. If you are a good blacksmith, carpenter, IT professional, web designer, dentist, innovator, businessman,  banker, student, or whatever you can think of, use the experience you have already or are in the process of acquiring. You will progress much faster.

In tennis there is an expression that I like. You need to acquire  Muscle Memory. You have to train till your muscles remembers for you.  When that happens you can run on autopilot and forget what the instructor said about handling forehand and backhand.  Knowledge and experience sits in your muscles. The faster you get there the faster you can move ahead.

When you are out there you have no time to think and you will miss the shot if you are not in the right position and know what to do from there. The ball comes fast and so does the balls of street photography. You have to observe it when it comes, get in position and then hit it.

Top spin is another matter that I will rather not talk about at this stage. It is difficult. That is among the itching images in tennis. The cool shooting that makes the difference.  One day I will get there.

Good luck with it. Whatever it is that you want to cross over. I will go for the wall.

Terms to memorize: cross over learning, auto piloting, muscle memory, cross over.

August 18, 2013

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

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Street Photography. What Is It?

The Swing © Knut Skjærven

The Swing © Knut Skjærven

Street photography. What is it?

First and foremost it is a questions of attitude. It does not need to happen in a street, but for the most part it does.  Streets are everywhere. Maybe that is the lesson. The countryside is about to be closed down for all others than local beards and seasonal visitors.

Street photography is defined here as a type of photography in which people and human interaction are the bearing elements.  No dead dogs, no plain fields, no facial portraits, no houses wide and high, no diamonds in the sky. Only plain and simple people shooting. Storytelling.

Shot in a public place of any kind. Not staged, not posed.  Not spoken to or directed. Life in the raw. People in context telling a story by their mere being there. Call it straight photography.

The idea is that a photo should be the first sentences in a story that you complete when you see the picture.  You are invited to use your creativity and play along.

Typically it will be low key photography rendering subtle moments from the flow of everyday life. Often positive moments and some even with a smile. Never harassing, rude and offending. You want to give back more than you take away.

Street photography, understood this way, is indeed a far cry from the dark rolls of photo documentation seeking crisis, seeking human suffering, seeking catastrophe.

Street photography should  always be silently surprising.

Street photography must not to be confused with street documentation. In street photography you add a little. It got to be shot for a reason and that reason have to be aesthetically distinctive. Don’t tell the story in words, show it in photographs. The thousand or more words.

We call it Itching Images. The best of moments will stick to you. Even after they are gone.

That is the ambition.

Terms to be remembered: Itching Image, low key photography, street photography, straight photography, storytelling.

August 16, 2013

© Knut Skjærven 2013. All rights reserved.

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Bits And Pieces: Leading The Way

Dirty Dancing (Mirror) © Knut Skjærven

Dirty Dancing © Knut Skjærven

Dirty Dancing © Knut Skjærven

Dirty Dancing Mirror © Knut Skjærven

You don’t have to take a stand on this on the spot, but look at the two image for a while and see that they are very different. Yet, they are the same only mirrored.

The first image is the original. The second its mirror.

Not only have the persons changed places, but the story they tell are very different too. In the first image the man is leading the lady in the dance. The third person standing in the upper right corner is clearly the looser in the threesome.

Mirror the photo and  that is not the story told.  Here the lady has turned into the leading partner. The dark lady in the left side corner is no longer the loosed. She is neutral or even supervising the dancers. She is on top of the situation.

This change of stories has to two with the placement of people within the frame and where they are related to the left and right half of the frame. The left side is the stronger side. From there comes strength, supervision, the driver’s force. Even optimism.

The right side stands in opposition to this.

You might argue that in the mirrored image even the leading lady is on the right side. That might be so but she is still on the left side compared to the gentleman.

You can have our own experiment by mirroring one of your photographs where there is a good distribution left and right. Do it, and tell the two very different stories that most likely come out of it.

Is left always going to be the stronger side? Not necessarily because there are forces that probably could level the dynamics at play here. But in general, all others things being equal, the left is the stronger side.

Has this anything to do with cultural traditions? Like the fact that we in some parts of the world generally orientate us from left to right? Like in reading and writing?

The answer: It migth very well be so.

Good luck with it mirroring you images.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and photo.

Copenhagen, May 31, 2013.

This post is in category Bits And Pieces.


From The Slide Presentation: New Vision

From The Slides Presentation © Knut Skjærven

From The Slides Presentation © Knut Skjærven

I have started working on the slide presentation for The Workshop in June 2013. Slides of a general interest will also be posted here.

Knut Skjærven © All rights reserved.


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The Crowd / Plane Integration

The Crowd. © Knut Skjærven.

The Crowd. © Knut Skjærven.

On this site you will also see visual examples of themes treated in more length in other posts. This is one.

I find The Crowd to be a good illustration of the type of Itching Images labelled Plane Integration.

There is even a commission based on this itching technique – Commission 05. It is illustrated with a shot from the same location that you have in The Crowd. 

The point is that if you combine visual elements in a new way you get a new message or story. One that was not there before you came along and you fixed it with your camera.

Often these situation will be very unique and you can never do them over. Look, for instance, at the two ladies faces in the left hand side of the photograph. The first one up in the corner, the second further down on the same side. It looks like it could be mother and daughter. Thus closing a gap of generations.

I am sure that you already have similar shots in your portfolio. Anyway, good luck with exploring the idea.

Let me remind you that the first workshop based on Street Photographer’s Toolbox will be held in Berlin, June 20 – 23, 2012. Go here to read the Draft Program. The workshop is quite unique and you will not find anything like it or even similar to it. Trust me.

If you have questions to the workshop, or to itching images in general, please ask them :-).

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved: text and picture.

December 27, 2012.

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Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Leaving The Comfort Zone © Knut Skjærven

Leaving The Comfort Zone © Knut Skjærven.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

Many thanks to all who participate in Street Photographer’s Toolbox. I am honoured. I am sure that we will see even more development during 2013. I am already looking forward to it.

Best regards



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What Gig?

Gig Shooting. © Knut Skjærven.

Gig Shooting. © Knut Skjærven.

I want part of the game too. The gig game.

I would be inclined to say that this is a gig shot. If you agree, then tell me a) what is the gig part of it, and b) is it the trickery type or the non trickery type?

And for the really advanced: what gestalt factor(s) does it relate to and why?

I am looking forward to your suggestions :-).

Many thanks. Have a good weekend.

© Knut  Skjærven. All rights reserved. Text and Picture.

December 7, 2012.

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People Say: Elisabeth Maurice.

Elisabeth Maurice, Paris, France.

I had the luck to be one of the chosen for the toolbox program. And the least i can say is that i am very enthusiastic about it! It’s like benefiting from your knowledge and experience as well in terms of theory, as of practice.

Each commission highlight a thematic I must admit wasn’t aware of and is always beautifully illustrated.

Maybe as a watcher I would have noticed something or have a feeling that there was something behind it without knowing what at all. The toolbox really helps me with giving advice and guidelines for certain kind of shots, and this step by step. So now when I see a photograph or take one I feel happy I can say it’s more that a feeling I got but I know what “kind” of shot it could be. I start to see the concrete benefit for when i’m in a situation I start to recognize it. I mean my eye see it and then my mind recognizes it can be a certain kind of shot.

What is wonderful is that there are some that i integrate easily and for some others I take ages. But you are an excellent coach!

You have patience enough to answer me everytime, even complete the commission with another article if i don’t get it, and keep pushing me up!

So has you can see i’m a happy lucky student ! I just find it great for I learn a lot and very motivating!

Facebook Group: Worldwide Street Photographers, November 4, 2012.

Quoted with permission.


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