Sunday, October 2, 2016

Photo Class Preview: The 12 Elements of Better Image Making

"In the Hands of the Potter," by Paul Wingler.

By Orla Swift
Director of Marketing & Communications

With mobile phones and photo apps making photography as ubiquitous as the written word, it’s easier than ever to capture our lives in pictures. But to do so with artistry, style and assuredness takes more than a tap on a cellphone screen. With the proper skills and techniques, and a keen eye, any photographer—from amateur to professional, using DSLRs or point and shoot cameras—can turn a snapshot opportunity into a memorable artistic statement.
Paul Wingler

Award-winning photographer Paul Wingler loves helping others develop their style and technique in classes such as his forthcoming three-workshop series at Duke Gardens, “The 12 Elements of Better Image Making.”

The series is divided into three sections. The first, on Oct. 15 & 16, will focus on impact, creativity, technical excellence and subject matter. The second, on Nov. 12 & 13, will tackle composition, lines, shapes, framing devices, lighting and style. Update: The November class has been canceled. The third, on Dec. 3 and 4, will zoom in on color, color balance, value, space, center of interest and print presentation.

An Indiana native who lived for 40 years in northern Durham but recently moved to Florida, Paul discussed his photographic philosophy via email in the following Q&A. You can also read his impressive biography and see more of his photos at his website.
By Paul Wingler
Of the “12 elements” you’ll teach in this series, which few do you feel are most undervalued by the average photographer?
"Monet's Pastels," by Paul Wingler.

Probably technical excellence. I believe that there are many who either have not learned how to get proper exposure or they don’t see the importance of it.  Having the correct exposure or a good grasp of the quality of the final print depends on good exposure. The weakness of the exposure or the underexposure causing muddiness greatly takes away the impact of the subject or story, which can confuse the viewers or turn them off.  If the photographer/artist doesn’t make a strong effort to achieve technical excellence, then that photographer will merely be a “picture taker.” The ability to hit a high standard of excellence enhances the level of respect by the viewer/audience.

What has teaching taught you or improved with regard to your own photographic approach?

To be more aware of my surroundings. I would, many times, miss an opportunity to see beyond the obvious. As I tried to instill that in my students, it only made me aware of how I was missing the mark—that I would sometimes have to slow down and take in all that was around me.

Have your professional assignments in culturally varied places such as Asia and Central America made you view North Carolina and other familiar surroundings differently? 

Yes. Unfortunately, I used to take my environment or surroundings for granted.  As I would travel around N.C., I would be looking but not seeing what was around me. I would get too busy doing business, going from point A to point B and missing everything in between. It didn’t mean I didn’t do good work, but I realized I wasn’t seeing beyond the obvious. I would miss the heart and soul of the subject, the ability to see the real story of what I was capturing.

"Crossing the River," by Paul Wingler.
When I went to Honduras, for example, I was taken out of my normal environment, or my comfort zone.  I was forced to see more than a person or a landscape or foods or construction of buildings/homes, etc. It made me take pause and point out to myself that we have people of interest here in N.C.  We have different cultures and foods, styles of homes, and the list goes on. Traveling through and teaching in various parts of the world has given me a better understanding of the similarities we have here and enabled me to see and appreciate what is around us all.

As a former U.S. Marine Corps Band member, do you feel that your affinity for music also serves you as a photographer?
"Tapestry," by Paul Wingler.

Yes, it does. Music, for me, sets a mood or attitude. Listening to various styles of music could put me in a frame of mind to want to be out in a field of flowers or head to the beach to capture the softness or the strength of the crashing waves.  Or it could move me towards the majesty and power of the mountains.  The pastoral feeling of the sunlight kissing an old barn in a field, or sunbeams reaching down from the sky and illuminating a field of flowers…the list goes on as to the way music has influenced my photography and art.

What aspect of photography do you find continually challenging?

One thing is to keep trying to keep a focus and maintain the highest standard of art I am capable of at that time. I also have the constant challenge of knowing there is so much out there to create in so little time.
"Peaceful Resting Place" (the Frances P. Rollins Overlook
at Duke Gardens), by Paul Wingler.

Paul’s weekend workshops will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays and 9:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Sundays. Each class will be limited to 12 students. The cost is $225 per weekend section for the general public, or $175 for Duke Gardens members. For multiple workshops in this series, each section will be $210 for the public, $160 for Gardens members. To register, or for more information, please email or call 919-668-1707.

Duke work-study marketing assistant Annie Yang contributed to this report.

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