Stewart D. Halperin took our first question—it was something about his observation of color in a scene—and ran with it, free-associating as he went. We were smart enough not to get in the way.
“Color is the great palette of possibilities. I’ve spent my life searching out bold colors, and the search does not include the realm of Photoshop. I’ll lighten, darken, maybe add a touch of contrast, but for the most part, my work is done when I push the shutter.”
“Did you ever hear the psychological term, ‘apperceptive mass’? It means that everything in your experience goes into the next moment of your behavior. I believe that when I push the shutter button, that decision is the sum total of all kinds of experiences.”
“In workshops I’ll often have the students cover the LCDs on the backs of their cameras. Why would you risk losing the next moment by looking down to see what you’ve got? Professionals do this as well as amateurs. Sure, review your pictures, but if you’re looking at the results as you shoot, the world is passing you by in those moments…and the nuance of light is changing.”
“I have to react quickly to what grabs my attention, the particular subject that pulls me in. Then I have to decide: is this the moment? I might see something, but it’s flat, one-dimensional, and I need to wait for the light to be right or for a person to enter the scene. Sometimes I have to come back at another time. Most of the time I take a lesson from sports photographers: they don’t have the luxury of watching what’s going on, then raising the camera.”
“I did workshops with Ernst Haas years ago, and he would have a slide projector and we’d look at his pictures and the students’ pictures. He would project a picture, then throw the projector’s lens out of focus and he’d ask, ‘Does the color hold together beyond the literal subject of the picture? Is it pleasing to your eye?’ He was talking about the arrangement of color, about the tones, about the very construct of color.”
“We need to look beyond the subject, to go beyond that original captivation, to be aware that every millimeter of the frame, that canvas, needs to be attended to.”
“But realizing these things isn’t enough. You have to work at them consciously and conscientiously until they become part of what you do. It’s worth the effort because this awareness and learning become part of the apperceptive mass—the sum total of experience.”