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18th June 2015

Ansel Adams – Moonrise

Ansel Adams – Moonrise – 1941

Why?

As well as a beautiful photograph with a broad tonal range, good sharpness and elegant composition, it has a message. At the bottom level, humans worry about death, shown by the graveyard. Death is dwarfed by the enormity of the mountains which are small compared to the clouds. Above the clouds, the stars; and above that, against which this little slice of existence is nothing, is total blackness. It is an expression of the Sublime and man’s tiny part in the universe.

How?

We value scarcity, and things seem more valuable when they are lost or about to be. There’s a great story about how this photo was made; Ansel Adams saw the photo opportunity while driving in New Mexico at sunset and rushed to capture it. Without an exposure meter, he could rely on his knowledge (of the moon’s brightness) and experience to get the shot. Incidentally, exposure settings of 1/200s at f8, ISO100 for the moon, and 1/320s at f8, ISO100 for direct sunlight will often be okay.

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17th June 2015

Rhein II – Andreas Gursky

Rhein II – Andreas Gursky – 1999

Why?

Simplicity of the composition mirrors Germany’s structured industry, illustrating a modern Germany as distinct from the Romantic landscapes of Caspar David Friedrich. It becomes a Platonic idea of a river rather than an actual place. It looks at man’s influence on the natural world by mirroring the large scale 19th Century landscape paintings with a contemporary though similarly imposing viewpoint.

How?

He used one of the best digital medium-format cameras available (a Hasselblad) and stitched several photographs to make a high resolution photograph, which he then simplified further by removing distractions such as buildings in Photoshop. Because of his name, built upon his oeuvre, and that Rhein II was the largest of an edition of six, with four being in major museums, it was sold for $4.33 million to a private German collector, making it the most expensive photo ever at the time.

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17th June 2015

Afghan Girl – Steve McCurry

Afghan Girl – Steve McCurry for National Geographic

Why?

Green eyes, red face and veil, green wall; complementary colours interact well together. Eyes turned to show more of the whites which makes them stand out. Dominant eye on the central vertical line of the picture to make it look like she’s staring at you.

How?

He took enormous personal risks in Pakistan and Afghanistan to document the conflict and its effects. The struggle of the Afghan people was best communicated by Sharbat Gula, a twelve year old refugee whose eyes show both fear and defiance. He photographed everyone in her class so that the social-proof would help her agree to the portrait. Photographed with Kodachrome and a now-cheap 105mm  f2.5 lens for National Geographic magazine.

To find the best information available about this photograph without talking with Steve McCurry himself, check out the article about the Afghan Girl – Best Photography Portrait on Shot.Click

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