Archive for category The Book

What Is An Itching Image?

Rain Dance © Knut Skjærven

Rain Dance © Knut Skjærven

The title of the book is Itching Images.

What are Itching Images? What are the characteristics of an Itching Image?

An Itching Image is a photographs with an extra. Something that sticks out and stays with you.  You can sense the presence of the photographer.

Common for all itching images is that they show that you have taken charge. You at not led by the  technical capacities of the camera, nor are you dictated by what is going on around you. You have taken the drivers seat. You are in charge.

There are many ways you can show that you are in charge. They can all be seen in the photographs. It is no longer a question about that THINK you are in charge. Your likes or dislikes are rather unimportant. There will always be levels of subjectivity, sure, but in making Itching Images subjectivity takes a second seat. Charge is there for all to see.

But, but, but: You need the capacity to read visuals. If you have that you will probably have the capacity to make itching images too.

Here are the roads to making Itching Images. There are three types:

1. You take charge of the whole image and makes sure that there is not too much or too little information. Your message comes through stressing the whole image.

2. You take charge of a part, or parts, of the whole image and make your points so strong that other information being there are kept in their place. Your message comes through stressing parts of an image.

3. You combine 1 and 2 in taking charge of both the whole image and distinctive parts at the same time. Your message comes through stressing the whole image and parts of the image.

None of these are better than the others but the more wholeness you get in your photograph, the less are the chances that your image will fall apart by people concentrating on irrelevant items.

In analysing whole and parts you could have a go at the photographs above. What type would you say it was: 1, 2 or 3?

I have my answer ready.

There will be plenty of examples of itching models later on. In fact many are already here. What is described in this post are itching types and not the variety of itching models that can be included in each of the types.

Good luck with it.

Terms to memorize:  Itching Image, take charge, whole, parts, itching type, itching model.

August 22, 2013.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.



Parsimony: You Will Most Likely Miss The Mouse

The Brass Band © Knut Skjærven

The Brass Band © Knut Skjærven


Parsimony is the name of the game. I am not trying to be smart  here. I really mean it.

You should take account of that when you take your fine street pictures.

I picked up this strange terms a couple of months ago, and in the beginning I did not understand what it was all about.

Parsimony comes together with another term that is more common: orderliness, which we will call simply order. Order is not concerned with what you shoot, but the way you arrange what you shoot.

Parsimony is used within science where it means that if a set of hypothesis’ are competing the more simple should be accepted. It is called The Principle Of Parsimony.

The principle also works in art and, as I see it, could be a great gain also in photography and street photography. In street photography it is suggested to mean that of competing readings of a photograph the simpler will win.

I phrase myself with some delicacy here since the term parsimony is not normally used in photography. Hardly ever in street photography.

Look at it this way: Human perception is very different from camera perception. Under the right conditions and with the rights settings you camera sees everything. Every detail is rendered.

Not so with human perception where much of the reading in a natural attitude relies on knowledge and past experience. What you actually perceive in any situation is just enough to make things work.  You economise.

If I am on the highway driving to a familiar place I do not perceive every single detail along the way as a camera would. I just pick up enough information to get me there safely.

So also with the reading of photographs. You just pick up enough information “to get you there safely”. Even if the photographer’s intention was that you should see all that is included in his/her fine picture, your probably only pick up the most distinct pieces. Readings can go terribly wrong.

Parsimony in street photography tells you that a) you need to know something about how human perception works, and b) you have to take that into account when you take your street photographs.  It might be easy to control things if you are in a studio situation or if you are a painter, but it is pretty hard to do in a street situation where both you and you objects could be moving.

If your photograph is of an elephant and a mouse (not a likely street scene, though) that photograph will not work if you let the elephant take up most of the frame and hide half of the mouse under a mess of leaves in a low corner (order).  The camera will see both, but most likely you will only see the elephant. Parsimony will suggest that it is an photograph of an elephant since that hypothesis is more simple than one including a half hidden mouse.

If you want this different you need to change  the order of things. That can be done with size, placement, lights, direction, etcetera. Another matter and another time.

It all comes back to simplicity does’t it? Parsimony is the name of the game in human perception and thus in perception of photographs. If two or more interpretations are possible your reader will most like go for the simpler one. Human perception economises. As a street photographer you need to know this.

Good luck with your future handling of parsimony. And with the order of things.

Terms to memorise:  parsimony, orderliness, order, human perception, camera perception.

August 19, 2013.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

This post has been inspired by Rudolf Arnheim.

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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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Stand Up And Be Counted

Be Counted © Knut Skjærven

Be Counted © Knut Skjærven

So what it is going to be then? After this summer of so much sun and so much content? And a train trip from Paris to Berlin that lasted 29 hours.

The expression Stand Up And Be Counted comes to mind and I have decided to use it. You will have to do the counting and will do the standing. Means that I have made a commitment, and that is no little thing when non commitment seem so much easier to do.

I have decided that much energy over the next year must go into making a small book on Itching Images. Why and how to get them. Much along the lines of Street Photographer’s Toolbox but with a clear beginning, middle and end. A clear structure.

Nothing big size, but enough for me and hopefully many more to get a little bit brighter on what street photography can be. A small book of learning with stress on easy understanding, precise information and usefulness. A practical book with many photographs. And many practical exercises.

The project will also be the hub for The Workshop to be arranged in 2014.

It shall not be more than 100 pages long and filled with useful information on how to improve and make street photography even more interesting. You are welcome to follow the process since bits and pieces will be published on this very site.

In fact, much of the work has already been done so it is primarily a work of adding, rewriting and editing. And to find a way to publish it.

So these are the words. If you care to do the counting, I will do the standing. We can reverse the order later on.

One year from now is the deadline. Most likely it will come much faster.

Good luck with it.

© Knut Skjærven. All rights reserved.

August 8, 2013.

Posts that are related to this project will be tagged The Book. There will also be a special section on The Book in the blogroll.



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