by Harry Flashman
Your favorite photographer
If you are interested in photography (and I presume you must be if you are
reading this column) then you probably have bought a few photography books,
and by now you have a favorite photographer.
You do have a favorite photographer, don’t you? No? Well, you should!
Everyone should have a photographer whose work stimulates you to greater
heights. For me, I have many whose work I enjoy - Norman Parkinson, Helmut
Newton and Jeff Dunas all rate high, but one photographer who inspires me
not only with his images, but also with his words, is Larry Dale Gordon.
I have many photographic books in my personal library including the
irreplaceable “Shooting your way to a million dollars” by Richard Sharabura,
and others including Al Satterwhite and Michael Busselle. However Larry Dale
Gordon has his own special magic.
Now when I say that your favorite photographer’s work should inspire you,
that does not mean that you should rush out and slavishly copy their work.
Don’t laugh, I have seen it done so many times in camera club level
photographers who have been most upset when I mark them down for copying,
rather than being creative.
When I say “inspire” I mean that you look at the work and say to yourself,
“How did he/she do that?” You should look at the end result and work out how
you can use that technique, to produce your own shot. Half the fun in
photography is working out “how to” with the other half being the enjoyment
of looking at the final image.
So why does Larry Dale Gordon inspire me? There are many reasons. First off,
he is a self trained photographer, who believes that the way to learn is to
do it. Let me quote you from one of his books, “I learned photography
through experience; by putting film through the camera, peering through the
lenses, trial and error, and pondering every facet of light. It’s the only
way. If you think there is another way, or a faster way, write a book
telling how and you will make considerably more money than by being a
photographer.” These are very wise words. Cut them out and stick them on
your bathroom mirror and read them every day! In fact, a renowned Thai
photographer, Tom Chuawiwat, used to tell me that professional photography
was the only job where the client paid you to learn!
I’ve tried to see just what it is about Larry Dale Gordon’s pictures that
appeal so much to me and I’ve come up with two basic concepts. Simplicity
Simplicity makes any photograph more readily understandable. Your photos
should also have a strong, dominant color to attract the eye to the photo.
So look at the photo I have chosen here. A sunset, which can be deduced by
the orange color, and a kangaroo on the beach which places the photo in
Australia. This is a classic genre which can be duplicated by anyone with a
camera. So saying, all you have to do is nip down to the nearest beach late
afternoon with your pet ‘roo’, or if you want to make it Thailand, with your
But let’s not make slavish copies! But instead, let’s look at how we can
accomplish the effect of a monochromatic picture and silhouette. This can
actually be done any time of day, but to make it easier for you, pick your
favorite beach or riverside at a time when the sun can be behind your
subject - be that people or things. Now you need a tricky filter, called a
“tobacco” filter. On that bright sunny day, with the light behind your
subject(s) hold this brown/orange filter over the lens and pop the shutter.
Stick it on Auto if you will, the camera will do the rest. Even experiment
with different colors to get strangely wonderful or weirdly dreadful
The only point to really remember is to get the light behind the subject.
You will be able to get this “pseudo sunset” look any time after three in
the afternoon. Try it and amaze your friends with a classic silhouette! But
go easy on the kangaroos and elephants!
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