The Magic Frame: Eyes, Brains & Lenses

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(I have been away!)

Have a look at the photograph above. It has not been edited, and is – compositionally – a rather crappy photograph, I think.

What you see, is the Qutb Minar rising above the trees that make up a large part of modern Delhi.

The Qutb Minar was built around 1100 AD, or thereabouts, and is one of the main structures of the Second Cities of Delhi (third, if you count Indraprastha – 1500 BC) in that list. It is one of the main monuments of The Slave Dynasty, the first of the Dynasties of the Delhi Sultanate.

It is a devilishly difficult bits of architecture to photograph. When I took this shot, I was on a hill on the opposite side of the road, by a seventeenth century tomb, of a gent called Adil Khan.

You can see the smog and haze of Delhi, and another tomb on the far left of the photograph.

When I took the photograph, I felt the heat and humidity of the afternoon. I felt the wind in my hair, blowing a bit of dust into my face. When I saw the Qutb Minar rising majestically above the trees, like it has these almost 1,000 years, I felt the brilliance of history, and the spirit of the kings of old. Men who contributed to the making of Delhi. Men who’s legacy many in the current government would deny, because of their religion. Men, who’s legacy has been forgotten in modern days rush and bustle, by people who’s faces are buried in their phones, while they are driving – or not.

Oblivion beckons these old kings.

While I love my photography gear, the camera can be a a rather cold and unforgiving machine. It records. Period.

It records superb compositions, and it records awful compositions with equal efficiency.

So, here’s the nub – while it is critical to feel the emotion when we are photographing, it is equally important to remember the principles of photography at the time we press the shutter. 

Photoshop, or work in the chemical dark room can repair – to some small extent – some of the damage caused by bad photography, a good photograph is a good photograph.

It is the task of the photographer to translate his/her emotion / memory of the image, into the final product.

Different genres of photography have different constraints. Some, like landscape are more contemplative. In street photography, you need to be alive to the moment and to people; in the studio you have to be alive to the person you are photographing, even though you may be assisted by a team.

The camera will translate a bad composition into a bad photograph, despite the emotion you may have felt at that time.

Likewise, it will translate a good composition into a thing of beauty, thus enhancing the emotion.

You need to use the lens of the camera, to translate what you see with your eye and think and feel, into a great image.

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