“Throw Away the Tripod” was the title of Tuesday evenings presentation by Bob Ryan ARPS FRSA and Alison Price ARPS FRSA. Bob apologised for the fact that his wife, Alison, was unable to attend as work and home commitments had prevented her from coming. In preamble to his talk he said that on their many travels around the world they found that their tripods were often lugged around without ever getting used.
“Forget the Camera, Let’s talk about the Brain” might have been the sub-text for this fascinating lecture covering the conscious and non-conscious skills and decision making that take place during the photographic process from planning the shot to viewing the finished image.
Bob is an Emeritus Professor who specialises in Analysis which he used during his career as an accountant. He has now transferred those skills to photography where he has developed his thoughts on how non-conscious skills can improve a photographers ability.
Learning to drive, he said, is an example of how non-conscious skills can be developed. When you learn to drive, there are a lot of conscious decisions to be made - when to change gear, how to change gear, when to turn, where the controls are, etc. As you practice and become more experienced you do these things without thinking. He asked how many people had driven to the club and who could remember exactly how they got there. Once skills become non-conscious, the brain is freed to carry out other conscious decision making and the non-conscious processes happen more quickly. Bob said that this non-conscious learning process is accelerated when people are under stress.
We were introduced to what he called the “Structure of Expertise” and its 10 photographic constructs - Technical details; Focus; Exposure; Use of Colour and Tonality; Composition; Use of Light; Depth of Field; Creativity; Narrative; and Impact. Bob postulated that being able to make non-conscious decisions at the moment of opening the shutter will give you a better chance of getting the shot you want.
He credited Alison with an enviable and uncanny ability to make decisions at a non-conscious level on most of these constructs at the point of taking a photograph. These skills were burnt into her brain during her years as a Police Photographer taking images in traumatic situations such as car-crashes. Despite many years away from photography, when she came back to it she found that she still had that ability to make photographic decisions at an intuitive level.
Bob then talked about ways that these intuitive skills can be developed. He suggested the EPF method covering Emotional activation, deep Practice and Feedback. He advised using music to achieve emotional involvement in what you are doing.
Practice detailed techniques (e.g. shooting in different light) over and over again until you do it intuitively. And get someone to honestly tell you what they think of the results.
And then he invited us to take his IMP test to assess how we measure up against others in our intuitive, non-conscious decision making in relation to our photography. This entails assessing a series of images on-line against his 10 constructs and receiving an assessment report.
Bob finished each half of his talk with a couple of audio-visual presentations from his and Alisons travels. At the end of the first half he showed the Great Migration on the Masai Mara and an AV called Struggle for Life following a herd of Zebra crossing the river. One zebra escaped the clutches of a crocodile with an injury leg, only to be caught by a lion. The images included to make this story were fantastic.
At the end of the second half there was an AV from the Living Rainforest of Borneo. As well as some great shots of Proboscis Monkeys, there was a series of emotional images of the maternal responses of a mother Orang Utan to her dying baby which Bob credited to Alison.
This was a fascinating evening taking a different slant on the photographic process. It will have provoked a lot of thought and discussion.
We would like to thank both Rob and Alison for their insights and images.DF