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Session 4 (Oct 1 - 7): The Medium, Part I – Toward a Visual Grammar 

Sessions 4 and 5 will focus on the practical side of image making by introducing some of the key tools that a photographer can use to direct and sculpt a viewer’s interpretation of an image; i.e., the essential elements of a visual grammar. We will discuss the basic elements of composition (e.g., the frame, light, contrast, tone, form, texture, etc.) and how they can be combined for a specific purpose, “seeing” the world in color vs. black-and-white, camera position, focal length, depth of field, and shutter speed. In tune with the insight gained from the “Before I had studied Zen for thirty years…” Zen saying we quoted earlier, we need to first see how “light, contrast, and tone” are not (what we may have previously thought was) “light, contrast, tone” before “light, contrast, and tone” once again becomes “light, contrast, and tone” and as instinctual as breathing. Before simplicity lies a complex path.

Essay (32 pages, pdf/8.3 mb)

Exercises (extract from main essay; 4 pages, pdf/472 kb)


"As Above, so Below" (Luray Caverns portfolio & interview), Lenswork Issue 95

Checker-shadow illusion
Color illusion

Ansel Adams' "Moonrise over Hernandez (YouTube video)

Blog entries on related themes

Photography, Elemental Forms, Narrative, and Music 
Santorini (Greece) = Geometry + Color + Shadow
Toward an Aesthetic Grammar
Nice Shots, but Where's the Color?
Luray Caverns: A Harmony of Contrasts

General References

Perhaps the best single-volume general reference on the art of photography, applicable to both analog and digital photography (Bruce Barnbaum)

Two great references on visual design and composition, and black & white photography (Michael Freeman) 

Black and White Photography (Torsten Andreas Hoffman)

Another wonderful volume on visual perception (Freeman Patternson)

Richard Zakia's masterful Perception & Imaging


Josef Alber's classic Interaction of Color

Color: A Workshop for Artists and Designers (David Hornung)

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