26 August 2021

All-Time Best Photograph Ever... Period


Yep, that's me meeting Dave Rudin for the first time and showing him my portfolio prints at the Original Pancake House in Las Vegas, NV (before it burned down). 

Okay, I've been meaning to do this post for years. I get asked about it often enough and will mention it a few times, but I've never explained myself. Just to set the stage, there are no quantifiable factors that determine the best photograph or even best photographer. You can assess whether or not a photograph or photographer is good using photographic critique, but even there you can still get stuck in the quagmire of opinion, which can lead to interesting debate hopefully. I think it's a good thing to talk about photography and that is what I will do here. I'm going to talk photo.

In an attempt to begin, we must battle with the concept of "BEST". The notion of GREAT is more easily argued, but BEST? What makes it the best? How do you factor out all the great photos by iconic photographers made from as far back as the first photo ever taken? There are wartime images by Nick Ut or Mathew Brady that are certainly iconic once in a lifetime images. Dorothea Lang showed us the disparity of the Great Depression and the hardships Americans faced and endured. Or maybe we can look to celebrity or sports figures with Neil Leifer's iconic photo of Ali standing over Liston. 

Is Amos Nachoum's "Facing Reality" the best wildlife image ever? Or is it this one by Henley Spiers "Between Two Worlds"? How do you tell? Is it being in the right place at the right time? Is it a matter of creativity? Waiting for your shot like a sniper? It can be any and all of these. But the one that I'm calling the best All-Time was a created shot. It was a deliberate choice of model, location, camera, style of edit... everything.

All-Time Best Photograph Ever made 

And yes. I confess. Dave Rudin is a friend. Is there some bias here? Maybe, but I'm going to say no. I have lots of friends who are photogs and I knew this shot was my fave all-time before I ever met Dave Rudin. And now, I'm going to break it down why:

It is a Nude

I had a photography professor teach me that I should shoot what I love. I decided two things. One is that there is no other thing on earth more beautiful to photograph than the nude form of a woman, (particularly if it's the one you love, I think). There is no sun to rise or set, no flower to bloom, and no puppy cute enough to distract me from God's gift to the world of the nude female. And second, I heard a quote at some point that said something to the effect of... that there is no photo to exist whereby it can't be improved with the addition of a nude.To me that makes the nude like bacon. Add it to anything and it becomes great. I have yet to try that with ice cream, yet, but I can imagine. (Bacon... not the nude). So there you go. That factors out any photo that doesn't have a nude model.

It is Technically Superior

This is the least of my qualifiers just because most people can set their cameras to auto-everything and come out with good sharpness and exposure. Nonetheless, it's still an important one as many photogs still fail at this despite advanced camera features and automatic functions. What happens if your subject is moving? The camera doesn't know that. It will give you a correct exposure for any given light, not the stillness of your subject. What happens if your subject is in two extremes of light and darkness, set in stark shadow, but you also need the surrounding sunlit landscape. 

It is Compositionally Sound

You can use rule of thirds, The Golden Spiral, or Triangles. It simply fits! Composition makes or breaks an image. It naturally defines compelling and composed images that are unconsciously aesthetically pleasing to the eye. You may not realize it, but your eye naturally follows lines and you are more engaged in images with leading lines, good geometry, shape, patterns, and symmetry. This image is anchored by the hole in the rock, which supports the model's weight and forces the her body to shape around it in intriguing and interesting ways.  

Spiral follows curvature of the model and then tightens at the hole in the rock which is the anchor point of the whole shot.

Model is set diagonally across the grid. Head takes upper right quadrant. Torso occupies the middle, and hips/legs take the lower left quadrants. 

The model's shape follows the height leg of each right triangle, intersecting the base at the hand and almost right on the hip.

Diagonals lines parallel the torso and arm while the other two lines dissect the nipples and hips. 

It is built by Dave Rudin

This photograph is made entirely and masterfully by a skilled artist. He selected his model,the  time and location, the specific rock "prop" within that location, his camera/focal length, and finally his edit.All these were deliberate choices made by the photographer. Carlotta Champagne is one of the most prolific models in the business with a million plus followers in IG. Her attitude, shape, and pose lends itself to this composition in a way that helps elevate it to greatness. Another model may not have been able to pull this off. Her head angle and eyes reflect an attitude that Dave may not have asked for, but being a professional model, this is what she brings to the table. Think of your all-time favorite movie. Now imagine Frodo cast with Eric Stolz and Gandalf played by Gene Wilder. See what I mean? @carlottachampagne was perfectly casted.

I don't know, or at least don't recall, if Dave framed her like this in camera or cropped her in post. I have no idea what her feet are doing, but I am not missing them. I don't even care. The crop is perfect. The hole in the rock looks almost like a fulcrum with almost tangent levers in two positions. One can level out across the photo from left to right, whereas the other lays down diagonally and I like it. It reinforces the importance of that hole, because outside of it and the model, there is nothing else. This is a minimalistic composition as almost half the diagonal is empty space (the wall). I can also appreciate not cropping away all of that upper wall depression in the right. Dave photographed what was there instead of trying to make it too perfect. Perfection is reality.

Carlotta Champagne on Model Mayhem

I will also add that this image was shot using film. Dave is a traditionalist when it comes to his artwork. He did this shot a year before we met. He contacted me not long after I started this blog in 2007 and asked me to lunch since he would be in Las Vegas, visiting from Brooklyn. I've always appreciated that. So yes, there may be some bias that I don't see, but I'm telling you... this is the best photograph that I have ever seen. Period. Hands down. Drop the mic. Turn out the lights and go home. This debate is over. Check out my original blog post below

A Morning with Dave Rudin 

16 September 2007

11 August 2021

Use a New Location to Help You Regain the Passion!


Interesting Locations - Art Model, Susan

Sometimes you just have to get off your ass and go. I'm still harping on the "Regaining the Passion" that I started earlier with  "Why You Should Shoot for Yourself More Often". I followed that with an article on Flash and then again with Ambient Light as some easy alternatives to help you blow on those embers that could ignite your photo passions again. LOCATION is what I wanna cover at the moment. Why? Cuz its easy. You simply get your ass up out of the house and go someplace with the explicit and direct intent to photograph something.

Sometimes people will tell you to start in your own backyard. Nah. Not good enough. You are still too comfortable in your own house, yard, or neighborhood. I don't see that as "blowing on any embers". To fan the flame, you have to go beyond, but you still need a place to start. Downtown is okay as a beginning point if you like. I lived 12 years or so in Las Vegas, so downtown is the Las Vegas Strip. Or so you might believe! Actually, downtown is FREMONT STREET! It's a little different but yet similar to the Strip. A different kind of folk walk those streets and a many of characters will present themselves for your photographic pleasure.

But there are still other urban areas in Vegas and you have them where you live too. Well, unless you're living out in the sticks, in which case you might have a further drive than most. Street Photography can be the thing you need to rejuvenate and get a fresh start in photo again. Look up some examples of popular street photo work. Not to necessarily copy or emulate, but rather to just see what the possibilities are. Walk around first before you even pull your camera out. Observe. Listen. Smell. See the potential scenes that lie before you. In the Army, as we'd begin our patrols, we would stop a few hundred meters in, take a knee and become familiar with the sights, sound, and smells, of the environment we were about to immerse ourselves in. We called it SLLS, or sills. It's the same thing here. In this case, it can help you see and anticipate events that might be developing and thus better prepare you to capture that decisive moment. This can make the difference between THAT shot and JUST ANY OLD shot.

You can pick a theme to help you focus and look for something. Shooting the homeless has been very popular, but I find that to be a tough one sometimes, personally. Photography fundamentals and principles still apply. Look for and utilize shadows, repetitious and geometric shapes, reflections (in windows or puddles), or maybe practice a theme of minimalism. You can also change your perspective a little. Everything doesn't have to be done from an eye level! Get down! I mean it. Get low to the ground and see the world how a dog might view it. Or change it up and shoot from above and get a bird's eye view of things. Just do something differently or unexpected, so things don't get predictable or boring. You may do photo for yourself, but you still want others to see it. Show them something fresh.

Art Model, Mary 

Out and About in Nature

I can dig some urban, but now we're getting into my scene! The woods! The desert! The mountains! As well as the BEACH! Natural surroundings appeal to me most. Especially spots where I have to get off the beaten path a bit. Over the last three years, my ongoing travels have taken me through Central/South America and now Vietnam. Seeing new things in God's creation can heat up the coldest of passions and make it blaze. I've been to spots that make you want to put down the camera and just keep that vision all to yourself. If you can, bring a friend along whose company you enjoy OR somebody who knows the area and can be a guide of sorts. It's not always fun to get lost ( though sometimes it can be!). I can't tell you how many people I've taken out into the boonies... who have lived nearby all their lives... and yet had never previously seen the beauties that Red Rock has to offer. Or Lake MeadValley of Fire, or either of the hot springs near Hoover Dam at Goldstrike and Arizona. All these areas are within a hour of Las Vegas.

Art Model, Mary

You'll have to find out what appeals to you in these natural settings. For me, I can say a good, unique landscape vista is what I find most captivating. On the other hand, you may be more interested in the wildlife or birds. Photographing big horn sheep will be vastly different than photographing hummingbirds or egrets, mainly in the lens choices. You'll need some telephoto action, but you don't have to have as fast of a lens as you might with hummingbirds. Flowers are highly popular to shoot. Again, lens choices come into play. If you like to shoot a field of wildflowers, a normal zoom or better yet a wide-angle lens would work. However if you're wanting to get close enough to depict the petals and stamen of the Angel Trumpet flower, then a macro lens is your best business. You may also need to be on a tripod in many cases using a remote switch/cable release.

Go Out at Night

Art Model, Anne

Whatever you do when you are out in nature, do it again only this time, after dark! Venture out to the same place and see what adventurous landscape shots you can find. If you have a model, try some unique lighting and poses with the stars in the background. Okay, so it's a bit more work. You'll need a tripod and likely a source of light, but that can be a torch, headlamp, or the moon! An 8-second exposure will give you good illumination on a decent full moon. You'll need longer if all you have are stars. But still... that can equate to some excellent landscape work. Practice your Milky Way shots, or maybe time-lapses. 

Art Model, Covenant

Make sure you consider the area you visit. Safety first! Have a friend with you or at least let someone know where you are going. Try camping in a state or national park near you. I didn't grow up visiting many national parks, but I did explore the woods around my house as well as some much further away. Read up on the area you wish to visit and educate yourself about the fauna and flora that could pose a danger. Be conscious of the weather! Avoid areas and seasons that are prone to flash floods. Carry the appropriate gear, water, and food you need to keep you warm, dry, safe, and comfortable.

Book a Flight

Art Model, Trixie

You're not gonna do photo without spending money. So either come to terms with that notion or take up treasure hunting with a metal detector on the beach. Some people find that very soothing and quite rewarding. Ain't no shame in that. Photo may not be the thing for you. Me...? I just want you to be happy. Get a camera, take some pics. If you find that it's not for you, take up dance lessons. But my purpose is to holla at you about photo, so that's what I'm about. It's all about choices and what you choose to prioritize. You can make getting that new car stereo for $600 your priority if you so choose. You can also get a new wide-angle lens for your crop-sensor camera for even less than that. 

Granted, you have to do this with a pandemic in mind, so do what's best for you. Book at trip to El Salvador for that same $600, and forgo the car stereo. I'm not asking you to go somewhere you can drive to. I want you to book a flight somewhere at that you've never been, preferably out of the country and do it specifically to shoot photos! Get a passport and go! If you can't leave the country, pick a spot within YOUR country that you've never been to that is 100% unlike where you are now. Fly there with the resolved intent of shooting. Whichever will be the more rewarding experience... that's what I want you to go for. Now get to it. You can do this.

Art Model, Emma