What Goes Into The Making Of A Single Image?

Michael Levin shares his tips on deciding on photographic locations and making decisions on what to shoot.

| General Photography
Words and image by Michael Levin -
What Goes Into The Making Of A Single Image?: Zebrato

It’s a challenge to look at the obvious and see something more. Not every common object will rise up off the page just because you take its picture. I sometimes think that I have to feel the rhythm of a scene before I think to take the shot. Something sparks me and all of a sudden I can see the place and the photograph together. I see it whole in my mind before I see it in my camera frame. But I’m never sure when and where things will come together, and it happens less often than I might like. I appreciate all the opportunities that I’m allowed in taking photographs. I relish everything that I get to witness, but I’m not out there as a tourist, and I have definite goals in searching for suitable photographic subjects.Maps and tourist brochures rarely help me as they are only useful if you know what you are looking for, and I never do. Most of my favourite photographs come from random places. So I end up logging a lot of miles in my rental car. Even if I spend a few weeks in a country, I often only return with a couple of photographs that I will further develop. When I find a location and I feel a strong connection to the subject, I might stay there for a couple of days with the purpose of getting the right shot. With long-exposure imagery, there are a number of variables that can dramatically alter the negative. Although I prefer to photograph at sunrise, I do shoot throughout the day and often use a variety of neutral-density filters, depending upon the light. Part of the pleasure in photographing with long exposures are the unanticipated outcomes. Although I’m very selective when I shoot and I have a fairly good idea of how I want the final print to look, one of the benefits of long exposures comes from how fleeting and dramatic weather can be. With a long exposure, you get to include all those shifts, all that unexpected possibility that you can’t plan for.

The story behind the image:

Along the Amalfi coast in Italy there are countless narrow turn-offs, narrow roads that trail down to the ocean. I kept thinking that there might be something worthwhile to see at the end one of these twisted roads but every effort was a waste of time. It’s frustrating when that happens but I think of it as an occupational hazard. I remember the light was starting to weaken but I thought I’d give one more of these turn-offs a try. Once I pushed through the narrow path of trees at the bottom, I could see the pier in full. It felt perfectly plain against the evening sky. Simple and blunt. I knew the photograph that I wanted almost immediately and only varied the degree of my position once. For all the others, I set my large-format camera at the head of the pier and then waited for the clouds and the light to do something special. I was also hoping that the groupings of Italian fishermen on the pier would wander away but they stayed put almost until dark. I took several shots anyways and then decided to sleep in my rental car so that I could get up early before any of the fishermen came back. It was like a race and, of course, the Italians won. By the next morning there were even more people out there on the pier which was too much of a crowd for me. Only later, back at home in my studio, did I realise that I was better off with the photograph of the lone ‘pescatore’ keeping faith with his fishing rod.

To take a look at more of Michael's work or to find out about his upcoming UK workshop, take a look at his website -

MPB Start Shopping

Support this site by making a Donation, purchasing Plus Membership, or shopping with one of our affiliates: Amazon UK, Amazon US, Amazon CA, ebay UK, MPB. It doesn't cost you anything extra when you use these links, but it does support the site, helping keep ePHOTOzine free to use, thank you.


Other articles you might find interesting...

16 Awesome Autumn Photography Projects You Must Try
5 Essential Photo Tutorials To Get You Ready For The Autumn Season
John Duder Interviews Photographer Emma Duder
10 Top Lighting Tutorials That Explore Light In All Its Forms
5 Easy Ways To Prevent Camera Shake
8 Top Photography Tutorials To Help Improve Composition
John Duder Wants You To 'Choose Carefully'
How To Make Sure Your Subject Is The Main Point Of Interest

There are no comments here! Be the first!


You must be a member to leave a comment.

ePHOTOzine, the web's friendliest photography community.

Join for free

Upload photos, chat with photographers, win prizes and much more.