If A Tree Falls In The Woods


When working with people especially in a one-on-one environment up close there are so many variables that affect what pictures look like and how they feel it's impossible to describe or identify all of them. It's even more impossible to consciously control all of them. In many cases it's a matter of attempting to subjugate some of those to things you don't have to have at the forefront of your head.



I talked a bit about my desire for a documentary approach before. It's absolutely essential to how I want the project to come together. A related topic is what balance of viewer awareness I want. In a one-on-one setting, especially for the white side of the project where there's less going on for any of my collaborators and less to focus on besides a camera operating there's even a bigger challenge in getting what I want for the project.

I've noticed something that may seem esoteric in any situation like this that happens. In most cases it's a good thing. Let's call it photographer/subject rhythm. It's not something you or whoever is in front of the camera has to focus on too much. It just happens. It's a feedback loop that can be very explicit with what you say, and how you move, and what you do. It can also be implicit via an awareness of when you hit that shutter button. The sound of the camera can produce a shooting rhythm that influences behavior of the person in front of the camera.

Most of the time this is good. I loved the X100 series of cameras because they were so so quiet it circumvented this implicit rhythm to a large degree giving me completely different pictures of people that I've worked with a thousand times before. This is especially true of people you work with over and over again as I will on the black/white project.

Of course there are other signals that aren't quite explicit or even as noticeable as how loud a camera is. For the black/white project I want to minimize this feedback loop to the degree possible. On my part I want to make sure I'm not timing my shots at a certain set pace, I want to get rid of feedback that in anyway makes collaborators of when I choose to grab a frame. I don't want that to influence their behavior, body language, or have them give me what I want.

Enter The XT-1 Interval Timer & Remote App

I decided to run a couple of experiments just to see how much any sort of explicit rhythm affected images for the project. The XT-1 conveniently has two features built-in with no extra parts to buy that helped. First up is the interval timer. Perfect for introducing a fixed rhythm. There's a ton of stuff out on the web as to how to use this. You can probably figure it out yourself in about 30 seconds like I did. In a nutshell you tell the XT-1 how often and how many frames you want to make and just let it go.

For this experiment I set it to go and then left the room for twenty minutes. The camera was set to use the mechanical shutter and less than four feet away. With no real ambient noise level the XT-1 shutter is not loud but certainly audible. On top of that I explicitly told my collaborators that the camera was going to take a picture every five seconds.

Random But Not Random

Next up was using the Fuji camera App for remote shutter release. Talk about shutter lag and viewfinder lag, holy crap. In all it's still useful just a not optimal for anything remotely timing dependent like fleeting expressions and gestures.

For this part of the experiment I used the exact same setup. I didn't touch anything except turn the interval timer off and activate the wifi connection. After a prolonged break Holly and I just repeated the same thing. I left for twenty minutes but this time I told Holly that the camera would be completely random. In reality I grabbed frames that caught my eye. After each frame I waited for a few seconds then as randomly as I could fired a few frames without looking. Some as fast as I could, some after a few words to some people I was hanging out with down the hall.

Measuring The Results.

How does one measure results for something like this? Hmmm, well I didn't look at any of the shots for a few weeks. That helps a little in the objectivity department. I then proceeded to blow through all of them — both interval and remote triggered and used my 1 star I like this picture method of fist impression. How scientific is that?

Before imagining how non-clinical the methodology was here's what I found when I went back and just looked at numbers.

  • The every five seconds interval timer made over twice as many pictures as my random/not-random remote method.

  • I liked three times as many pictures made using the remote even with far fewer selections.

  • Most of the remote triggered frames were just as "un-curated" in terms of me not even looking at what I was triggering.

When I say "liked". I specifically mean that I thought they fit into what I want the ultimate images for the black/white project to look like. Those numbers are so far to the advantage of the no-rhythm end of the spectrum I have to at the very least consider it a factor as I go forward. Just to make sure my non-clinical experiment wasn't a total fluke I ran the same exact experiment with a different collaborator a couple of weeks later.

The images made with Lauren in this experiment turned out about the same in terms of pure numbers. Now the big thing to do is somehow incorporate this into my process when making photographs for the project. More specifically incorporate it so that it's relegated to "it just happens" category of stuff.

End Note

All images made with the Fuji XT-1 and 18-55mm XF zoom. Processing varies but all about the same treatment for proofing the black/white project.

The two landscape oriented images of Holly and Jessica prior to the timer/remote discussion are examples of shooting rhythm from my point of view. The first is prior to that happening. It was the first time I worked with Holly ever. The second one was with Jessica who I've worked with before and this was after she was attuned to the pace and frames I was making that day. She was giving me what I wanted ‐ or so she thought. Typically I circumvent this when I notice it by shooting "in between" which is one way to counteract that as shown but it's not exactly what I want to see for the project.