“Chess” Photography


This is not a primer on how to take pictures of pawns, castles, bishops, knights and rooks. The second word in the title is the true focus, photography. So what’s the “chess” connection you ask? The tie in between photography and chess is actually quite logical. In chess, in order to be victorious, it’s necessary to plan ahead a few moves in anticipation of what your opponent will do. You need to plan a strategy. You need to study the symmetry of the board. Lastly, it ends with a checkmate.

ANTICIPATION: My two passions in photography are nature and people. I also enjoy photographing my travels, architecture, and action. To get good images of any of these subjects, a commonality that exists is anticipating the shot. Photography is about a captured moment in time. To successfully capture these moments I have to stay a step ahead of what the subject may do, predict how the light will play upon it, and second guess when to press the shutter. You may belong to the school of photography where you lay on the shutter and fill 10GB worth of memory cards for every shoot. Not one to be a slave to editing, I prefer the anticipation method. It does require I research the subject. This allows me to stay a step ahead. If it’s architecture, I’ll know when the light will illuminate the building to show it off. If it’s an animal, I’ll know the signals it gives which allows me to anticipate its next move. If it’s people, I’ll work with them on a personal level which gives me insight about what they may do next. When I lead a wildlife workshop, I put my participants in locations where I reckon the best action will occur. Anticipation – it’s powerful.

PLAN A STRATEGY: As I alluded to above, it’s good to research your subject. A good chess player will study his opponent’s moves before they encounter each other in a match. This is done to give him the upper hand. The same holds true for photographers. Knowing what to expect when you encounter your subjects will allow you to get better images. If you’re shooting locally, visit where you plan to photograph at different times of the year and at different times of the day. Study the light to see how it enhances the subject. To each location I bring people when I teach, I know where to be at sunrise, sunset, if it’s cloudy, etc. in that I’ve visited each many times and have taken meticulous notes. If you have the freedom and ability to do this on your own, eventually you’ll be able to plan a strategy to make your subject look optimal. The point I make here is it takes a lot of homework, study time, time in the field, and perseverance to consistently produce great images. Part of developing a strategy is to know what aperture / shutter speed combo will provide the best result; will B&W be a good alternative to color? What post processing will be added to enhance the image? Based on how you envision the final product, ask yourself as many questions as you can that impact what you do before you press the shutter. Plan a strategy – very powerful.

BOARD SYMMETRY/ CHECKMATE: The board upon which the game of chess is played is symmetrical. The beginning set up of pieces is orderly and arranged. As the game goes on, the symmetry of the board remains, but the arrangement of pieces can get very complex. As a photographer, you need to think about how you can maintain simplicity if the shoot becomes chaotic. How can you alter your position to get the best vantage point? How and where can you move to gain the upper hand? As your photography evolves, punting will come more naturally, but until it does, think about what you can do to take control to prevent chaos. Like anything that has to be learned, you’ll make advancements and grow from them. Soon, these graduations will occur faster and more often. When they do, each time you press the shutter, you’ll be able to say “Checkmate.” Checkmate – very, very powerful.

Visit www.russburdenphotography.com

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