Architectural photography is an exacting discipline. Consequently, small mistakes can make a large impact on your body of work. In this article, I cover five common mistakes that I’ve observed in architectural photography.
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Lomography has just announced its new Petzval 55mm f/1.7 Mark II lens for Canon, Nikon, and Sony full-frame mirrorless cameras, a piece of glass that seems made by hipsters for hipsters and could only be less understated if it came encrusted with diamonds.
I grew up on MTV and can remember the excitement surrounding newly premiered videos from bands I liked. Now, the place to see the new videos is YouTube, and the latest video of the hit song “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X featuring Billy Ray Cyrus is a wonderful mix of cinema and culture.
While it seems that Donald Trump is engaged in a war of words with just about everyone at times, from China, to members of congress, to his favorite target, the media, there’s one group he’s heaped a lot of praise upon lately: photographers.
I have three kids and they are all so different, one is quite shy, one is super confident and the third never stops talking – they have all been raised the same so I often wonder about ‘nature or nurture’.
I was recently in the Faroe Islands and had planned to make a video on the rules of photography but ended up discussing the nature vs. nurture argument for photography, which actually produced a more compelling result.
|Evening rays on one of the many amazing fjords in the Faroe Islands.|
Ever since I can remember, I have been fascinated by photos and rich visual communication. At school I had difficulties with English, reading and writing and it was only when I was in my twenties that I found out I was dyslexic. Although reading was a struggle, I loved to look at photo books and would spend hours studying them, pondering over the photos, and trying to work out why they looked so good.
I took up photography at the age of 13 and found it to be a great way to express myself – I was much more comfortable producing a photograph that told a story, rather than the written word. Even though I enjoyed being creative through photography, I didn’t have a natural talent for it and my early results left a lot to be desired!
Jump forward over 30 years and I now consider myself to be a competent landscape photographer. Practice doesn’t make perfect, and there is always something new to learn; but I feel that I can usually find a good composition when I go out shooting; and I now have a portfolio of photographs of which I am proud and which people are willing to buy so that they too can enjoy the images.
|Spring – Printed on Fotospeed NST bright white paper.|
So if I didn’t have a natural talent for photography, have I managed to nurture what little artistic talent I did have to make myself into a better photographer?
Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good photographs. There are just good photographs.”
Although I agree with the sentiment behind this quote, I have actually spent the last few years building my YouTube channel and trying to explain to people what makes a good photo and how they can improve their photography. There are certain rules, or maybe best to call them guidelines, that apply to landscape photography that usually help us to achieve better results.
Ansel Adams once said, “There are no rules for good photographs. There are just good photographs”.
Photography isn’t quite like the art of drawing a cartoon or painting a picture. It is a combination of technical knowhow and artistic interpretation. If you just have one part of the puzzle, you aren’t likely to get the best results. Don’t get me wrong, give an accomplished artist a camera phone and they would likely produce something superior to a less artistic person. But a non-artist can also produce a great photo.
My wife, Ann is a prime example – she can’t even draw a straight line but she is actually great at finding unique and interesting compositions for photographs (probably a result of spending hours out on location with me and listening to me rambling on about composition and getting excited about great light).
When it comes down to it, there are four elements that you need to master in photography and these are subject, light, composition and timing which are discussed in my video on the four elements of landscape photography. It is really only the composition element that is the artistic one – how you go about placing all the elements in the scene in the most pleasing way; or perhaps more importantly, what do you leave out?
|Passing Storm, Faroe Islands.|
So, can you learn this? Is there a set of rules for you to follow to improve your composition? Is there a limit to how good you can get by learning such rules and can you become more artistic?
Take this image for example – can you say what makes it a good photo or what can be improved?
|Essence of the Faroes.|
Try it with a friend. Critically consider ten photos that aren’t yours and explain to each other why they are good or bad, what you like and what you think could be improved – you’ll be surprised how useful an exercise this is.
In this video I consider a number of photographs and explain why I think one of the keys to becoming a great photographer is to study accomplished images and try to work out what makes them so good.
|The first shot I took: great composition, great subject, but poor light and poor timing.||Ten minutes later: great composition, great subject, great light, great timing.|
Even if you have all the elements in the same place, you also need to have patience (a quality that I wasn’t born with, but which I have learned to master) in order to wait for the best conditions and get the timing right. Light can make an enormous difference to a shot. Take a look at the two images above. The only difference is time. The light has changed significantly and the photographer moved, but it was just a case of waiting for the right moment.
I explore ‘nature or nurture’ a bit more in the video below, where I also discuss light and simplicity in more detail. What are your thoughts on nature vs. nurture? Let me know in the comments!
Creatives are, well, creative. I think it’s more than just a cliche that creatives can be a bit disorganized. Ideas can come and then go with such frequency and speed that keeping track of them can be difficult. Do you have a way of keeping track of your ideas? Of making sure your ideas make it onto the screen?
It has been long argued through decades that a film is not a mere visual representation of a story, it is more than that. A film encompasses several traits in its favor, which any other form of art can’t ever reciprocate because of their linearity.
A motion picture often uses the long and intellectual process of combining the arts of cinematography, editing, sound mixing, mise-en-scene, and color theory in the single runtime of the finished product to fully immerse the audience in the experience.
An experienced writer can only guide its reader to the mental and physical conditions of its characters through the fine detailing of words, but a motion picture is much more real than that. The hand and facial gestures, the color of the costumes, the hair and makeup of the protagonist immediately gives the viewer the idea of the surrounding without a single utterance.
In the same way, a picture or painting freezes the time in accordance with the artist’s preference, but neither offer necessary depth for the spectator to explore. In cinema, a viewer is much more free to get an unguided tour in the film’s spatial zone through the use of deep focus.
Though film boasts supremacy over the other art forms, it often steals conceptions from them to build upon the already prevailing ideas as a film is an excellent amalgamation of all other art forms. The tradition of expressing thoughts through written words is one of the oldest methods of mankind, kick-started by the innovations of the Gutenberg age and still prevails as one of the most intimate.
Films often borrow the help of great literary classics to adapt them to the screen to project the ideas to a larger audience. It is a long tradition; the man whom Akira Kurosawa regarded as the sun of the cinematic universe, the great Satyajit Ray, often made his cinema adapting literary classics. Even his breakthrough film “Pather Panchali” was a film adaption of the novel of the same name.
So, if one has to live in this world, they have to embrace the warmth of the sun and believe in the truth of film adaptations. Jokes aside, this tradition of adapting novels for the screen often becomes a double-edged sword. It can be because of the lack of the vision of the director, or sometimes the subtle intricacies of the written words were never meant to be ever translated onto the screen.
The example is many when a film severely butchered an excellent source material. Lost in translation: they are some of the worst films made from great books. Here are the 10 worst films made from great books.
1. The Great Gatsby (2013)
F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote a satiric and tragic consequence of the American Dream in his most intimate work, “The Great Gatsby.” Revolving around the tragic life of bootlegger millionaire Jay Gatsby, who fell in love with the shallow socialite Daisy Fay Buchanan and wasted his whole life trying to prove himself to her, it critiqued the flapper culture of the roaring ‘20s.
It also raises a voice against the objectification of the women, which is evident throughout the novel. Jay Gatsby loves Daisy with all his heart, but to him, Daisy is nothing but a familiar stereotype of the good-natured wife; she is an asset to be possessed for the man, and in return, the women also expect security from the men.
The man in the foreground, cleverly disguised as another personification of the impossible dream is Nick Carraway – a relative of Daisy and neighbor of Gatsby who will first-hand witness the destruction caused by the dream world.
The film adaptation by Baz Luhrmann misses all these small details. It glamorizes the party culture of the time without critiquing it; the production design is a spectacle, but it is where most of the film’s weakness lies, exemplified by the unnecessary inclusion of contemporary rap in a period piece.
Jay Gatsby is toned down as a tragic possessed lover without highlighting the small character traits that made the man, and the same can be said about Daisy, who is portrayed as a shallow and selfish girl without underlining the social and psychological security she desired.
The difference between the West and the East symbolizing the relations of money and social status is extremely thick and shallow in the film. In return, “The Great Gatsby” as a film adaptation is an extremely poor and wicked try.
2. The Golden Compass (2007)
The best thing that can be said about the 2007 film adaptation of the young adult novel “The Golden Compass” is that it boasts amazing CGI effects, which are rare in Hollywood.
It is great news that this helped the film to win the Best Visual Effects award at the Oscars, but heartbreaking as it was the only redeeming quality of the film. Young audiences and the mature ones alike would like to have a friend like the armed polar bear in real life because it looked so real in the film, but the soul of the book is ripped apart in the film in lieu of great visual effects and a star-studded cast. But does the star casting work for the film?
Absolutely not. Apart from the memorable performance from the child actor, almost every real character in the film is a terrible example of miscasting, including Nicole Kidman in the role of Mrs. Coulter and Daniel Craig as Lord Asriel.
The soul of the film was concerned in contrasting the vicious activities of the theological institute with the innocent exploration of the child Lyra. Here, the religious implications have been toned down to please the members of the Catholic Church. Ripping apart the philosophical subtexts, the audiences instead were presented with a fast-paced young adult fantasy thriller where the immediacy of building a universe is painfully evident.
As a result, about three minutes into the film, the audiences were presented with galore of complex information, which is even an annoyance to the readers of the novel, let alone for the uninitiated.
Whereas the book “The Golden Compass” was one of the greatest young fantasy novels ever, the film adaptation falls flat because of the one-dimensional characterizations, bad directorial decisions, and sloppy storytelling regardless of the fast pace. Pathetic!
3. Fahrenheit 451 (2018)
To associate the consequences of a dystopian society, authors throughout history have often created an authoritarian mind-controlling government. Ray Bradbury in his chef-d’œvre “Fahrenheit 451” had created a government that does not necessarily alter the minds of its citizens, but is dangerously unaware of the self-destructive world they have become.
This was one of the prophetic works of the 20th century that described upcoming technologies like flat panel televisions, earbud headphones, and 24-hour bank machines. It also raises questions of man’s dependence on technology, around which the plot of the novel grew.
The book chronicled the life and conscience of Guy Montag, a fireman employed by the government to burn outlawed books, since most of the inhabitants of the world believe that the awful practical words are responsible for their impedance of the world and the only solution to it is to embrace hedonism in their culture.
But upon watching the dangerous sacrifices of the intellectual rebels of that time, Montag ponders about the direction their country is taking and joins the underground rebels.
The film also mentions the inevitability of the certain doom in the way of the “Phoenix” myth, but also ends on a positive note concluding humans are not Phoenix as they know to rectify past mistakes.
The 2018 film version by BBC, starring Michael B. Jordan and Michael Shannon, came at a crucial time when the prophetic writings of Bradbury are more real than ever. But to simplify and contemporize the plot, the screenwriters made some horrible decisions.
They created a time when reading is not totally abandoned but is solely dependent on the internet, to which the question arises: is the fetishization of a certain medium so important when you can gain the same knowledge albeit in a different way? Montag’s motivation to kill his colleague is also convoluted, and the final nail in the coffin is that a DNA of a bird, a silly pseudo-scientific-trope is used to close the resolution.
Other than the performances in the film, the adaptation missed the crucial ideas even after deviating and making some of its own ones, and ultimately became reminiscent of a high school exercise.
4. The Wiz (1978)
“The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” was a staple reading material for American children, and its first talkie adaptation in 1939 gained even more mass attention. Following the footsteps of the 1974 Broadway adaptation, “The Wiz” took a completely different route than the original novel or popular technicolor talkie.
It was only concerned in becoming a canonical entry to the 1970 blaxploitation movement, by casting Michael Jackson in the role of the Scarecrow, and Diana Rose as 24-year-old shy Dorothy. What worked like dream in the Broadway adaptation happened to be a disaster in the film, as they are very different mediums.
The original novel was not concerned with the political or social emphasis, and the talkie musical cleverly balanced its social subtext with the fantastical elements of the novel.
Changing the age of the protagonist, the film completely altered its target audience dynamic. It is difficult to believe in the fantastical sequences in between the blunt in your face political commentary.
A film adapted from a children novel that boasts prostitutes as poppy girls, a motorcycle gang as flying monkeys and the Wizard of Oz as a failed political candidate is doomed to fail. It was a disastrous failure fuelled further by bad acting and weird plot.
5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005)
Another instance when a fantastic children’s novel unnecessarily embraced a dark tone. It was a sweet novel about an aloof famous chocolatier who decided to open his mysterious factory for select children to choose his final heir through a lottery process, but the film decided to create dark bitter chocolates for the audiences. Dark chocolate, while a mouth-watering treat for some, is not for everyone and this is the reason the film adaptation initially polarised film fans.
Johnny Depp took the role of the chocolatier Willy Wonka, but he misread the role and made an eccentric caricature of the character, which is repelling for most of the audience. Depp was even criticized by reviewers that he was impersonating Michael Jackson, which he denied.
Tim Burton is a great director with his weird gothic sensibilities, but it is simply not an adaptation of its forte. The film also made violent suggestions regarding the fates of the children who won the lottery to visit the Wonka factory, which is a put-off; although at the finale it is revealed that they are alive. Roald Dahl’s wondrous energy is canceled and the children’s film lost its audience for the dark, weird tone.
Since the earliest days of cinema the science fiction genre has flourished, capturing the imagination and commanding impressive box office receipts along the way. But not all great populist SF has been widely seen, become a large scale franchise, or been a big event film with A-list stars. Some get released and lost in the shuffle or get forgotten about over the passage of years.
Great speculative fiction is often found in small scale indie film attire and art house dress or have been lost as the cult of admirers dwindled or got into something else.
The following list guarantees an adventurous path of imagined futures, possible pasts, artificial intelligence, virtual reality, stinging satire and so much more, and perhaps best of all is that many of these films are relatively obscure and are bound to be new discoveries for many of you. Enjoy!
10. Colossus: The Forbin Project (1970)
Viewed from today’s modern lens there is a fair bit of unintentionally hilarious as well as frankly brutal cold war paranoia and fear-mongering in Joseph Sargent’s Colossus: The Forbin Project. Re-working the premise of D. F. Jones’ 1966 science fiction novel “Colossus”, the plot is pretty straight forward: the USA have wisely (?) placed its nuclear arsenal under the care and control of Colossus, a supercomputer tucked away in a secret location under a mountain in the Rockies.
Shortly after this massive transferral occurs, due largely to the supercomputer’s designer Dr. Charles Forbin (Eric Braeden), Colossus quickly discovers that it has a Soviet counterpart named Guardian; and wouldn’t you know it, the two computers fall in love and cahoots together, taking over the world, imposing their own reign of awesome, cynical logic on a cowering, arguably deserving human race.
Satirical, unpretentious, and very emblematic of late 1960s/early 1970s speculative fiction, Colossus: The Forbin Project is a smart and satisfying genre entry that has captured many a fan and filmmaker’s attention over the years.
While it’s yet to be remade or rebooted, such Hollywood heavyweights as Will Smith and Ron Howard has expressed interest and optioned rights over the years, so who knows? Maybe Colossus and Champion will get another chance at punishing us petty humans!
9. The Incident (2014)
Mexico’s Isaac Ezban (The Similars , Parallel ) made his startlingly assured feature length directorial debut with The Incident, a time-twisting character-driven morality tale/adventure yarn that worships at the altar of Philip K. Dick with equanimity and excitement.
Trapped in a Möbius strip-like stairwell, two brothers, Carlos and Oliver (Humberto Busto and Fernando Álvarez, both excellent), along with strong-arm detective Raúl (Raúl Méndez), gradually begin to realize that they’re in some sort mind-bending time loop.
A similar imbroglio has befallen a family road trip where 10-year-old Roberto (Santiago Mendoza Cortes) could swear his parents keep driving down the same lonely strip of desert road.
Narratively speaking, The Incident takes a run of risks as a psychological sci-fi mystery, and Ezban’s resourcefulness as a writer/director is both arresting and resolute. As perplexing and almost fustian revelations arise, the story doesn’t falter and offers an excellent payoff. PKD’s surrealist 1958 novel “Time Out of Joint” — arguably Dick’s first real masterpiece — is explicitly and repeatedly shown, the relevance of which will not be lost on fans.
This engrossing, good-looking film is quite an achievement, both shrewd and deeply felt. Rarely has the psychological and emotional strains of time travel been this accrued and investigated, making The Incident a small-scale stroke of original genius.
8. The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai (1984)
Director W. D. Richter lavishes much love upon the action-y and sci-fi conventions comprising The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. A perfectly cast Peter Weller as the eponymous hero, Dr. Banzai isn’t only a scientist, a samurai, and a test pilot-driver, he also fronts an awesome 80s rock and roll band, The Hong Kong Cavaliers.
The plot focuses on Dr. Banzai’s efforts to assess the 8th dimension overlap of his dimension spanning prototype automobile which will soon suck into its orbit a mad scientist named Emilion Lizardo (John Lithgow), potential femme fatale Penny Priddy (Ellen Barkin) –– who happens to be a dead ringer for Banzai’s departed wife –– and, amongst other show-stopping incidents and excitations, Jeff Goldblum’s cowboy lovin’ neurosurgeon sidekick New Jersey, and Christopher Lloyd’s scenery-chewin’ turn as –– pronounce it properly, now –– “Bigbooté!” Movies are rarely this much fun. An absolute gem.
7. Liquid Sky (1982)
Directed by Slava Tsukerman, a Russian émigré to New York, this startling and stirring portrayal of 80s new wave and punk culture in the Big Apple offers a powerful, poignant and darkly humorous social commentary. Who knew that Tsukerman’s midnight movie exploration into casual sex, designer drugs, loud music, and sci-fi would go on to heavily influence the club scene of the early 2000s and birth electroclash?
Starring Anne Carlisle, who co-wrote the screenplay, in a dual role as beautiful, bisexual, and cocaine-loving Margaret and her arrogant, always broke, homosexual nemesis, Jimmy. Paula E. Sheppard co-stars as Margaret’s live-in, heroin-dealing girlfriend, and soon the couple find themselves unwittingly spied upon by alien visitors in the form of a tiny UFO that has landed on their swank NYC penthouse pad.
As the film unravels, sexual violence, hedonism, and horrible behaviour take center stage, all of which enlivened by a beautiful production design and a scathingly satirical tone.
Ultimately, Liquid Sky’s campiness and gender fluid protagonists make it something of an update of Andy Warhol’s 1970 film Trash, with a vast array of hallucinatory images. With characters the are largely all loathsome and unlikable, judging the consequences of excess in modern life, and the toll taken upon the individual, it makes for both a terribly bitter pill, and a terribly dark pleasure.
6. Slaughterhouse-Five (1972)
Fans of Kurt Vonnegut’s satirical postmodernist anti-war novel from 1969 have, sadly, never exactly been ecstatic over George Roy Hill’s ambitious cinematic adaptation, which eschews a great number of details –– including the iconic character Kilgore Trout –– but if you can forgive these diversions, Hill has offered up a honey of a film, and one deserving of the Prix du Jury it was awarded at Cannes in 1972.
For what it’s worth, Vonnegut was very enthusiastic with the finished film, fully endorsing the project and even writing about it in the preface to 1972’s “Between Time and Timbuktu”, which was published shortly after the film’s release.
Here Vonnegut writes; “I love George Roy Hill and Universal Pictures, who made a flawless translation of my novel Slaughterhouse-Five to the silver screen […] I drool and cackle every time I watch that film, because it is so harmonious with what I felt when I wrote the book.”
Billy Pilgrim (Michael Sacks) is a WWII soldier who has become “unstuck in time” and director Hill has made certain to pack as much poignant imagery, emotional resonance, and haunting heartache –– immeasurably aided by Glenn Gould’s ivory-tinkling score –– resulting in what’s certainly the best Vonnegut adaptation to date. Not to be missed.