I really like spending time with other photographers who don’t do what I do because I always learn something. This is partly because I want to know everything. Yes, everything. So I always learn something, from a technical stand point, from hanging over the shoulder of another visual professional. But more importantly, and fun!, is looking at the way that they think and work. The getting into the head is to me the most interesting and difficult aspect of learning from and about an artist.
This goes along with what I’ve said for along time: you can’t teach someone to be an artist/creative. You can teach the history of the medium, techniques and important works of the masters of the art. You can even give people ways to better tap into their creativity. However you can’t teach someone to be creative about a method of expression that doesn’t resonate with them. If you are a dancer by nature it might be pretty hard for me to help you become an excellent conceptual abstract painter. Ya know?
But put two professional photographers of different disciplines together and the chance is that they both are going to come out of the situation enhanced. So I have sort of a policy that if any of my photo friends need an assistant, I’d love to work for them for a day or so. I mean why wouldn’t you? If you could spend a day or so working under the eye of a fellow professional that you look up to, you should jump at the chance. Really. I can easily think of two dozen photographers who I’d love to assist for a week. The amount of subtle things that I could learn would be amazing.
So when I got the chance to lend a hand to my friend Daniel O’Connor for a few days that I had free I jumped at the chance. Daniel is a seriously good local architectural photog. Although I have done a bit of that sort of thing over the years and it reminds me of a combination of landscape and still life studio photography I am a but serious amateur in that field. Dan is a whole different level. That’s the appeal.
Daniel was shooting a sweet house in Denver that was designed in 1960’s Streamline Moderne which is that neato Art Deco kinda thing that was just finished being built. He was shooting it for the architect for their folio. Anyhoo, it was amazing to move all the furnature around for him. I did a lot of that. I got to find out that yes I like to have a sense of detail and all that “things that only I see” stuff but wow! Dan sees e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g! His attention to detail was enough to make my head spin. He also has an eye for composition that is very finely tuned to a sense of flow that is kind of an almost visual Feng Shui. So I spent a lot of time on a ladder doing minute adjustments to the orientation of bottles two rooms away from his lens. After figuring our his camera placement we for one shot, no joke, spent two and a half hours trying various arrangements of furniture to get the right look. It sounds like I’m making this up or being snarky but the deal is that for all the work and fiddling it really made a difference in the final image. I would have given up long ago but he kept at it until it really really worked.
So Daniel is all about patience within the composition and finding what for him is the visual way that not just the eye but and feel for how a person physically would move about the space in the photo. This I found interesting because I often like to use objects to act as borders or frame an object within the composition. To Daniel that is a bad thing as it cuts off movement. He works at f/13 a lot with his lenses hyperfocal focused and I spend a ton of time @ f/2.8 or wider focused dead on the subject. Different worlds. However he, like me, tries to work with the natural light whenever possible and prefers to shoot tethered to a laptop for critical jobs. Great minds and all that.
So it was a fab time. Learned a bit, thought a lot too. Daniel now wants to assist me sometime and I’d love it. I just hope he doesn’t blink or he’ll miss it all.