top of page
  • Sammy Levin

What I did: This was my first post in quarantine, so the setting has changed quite vastly compared to my previous posts. During walks or bike rides over the week I stopped every now and then when I came across interesting scenes to take photos. Being my usual self, I love capturing minimalism and simple geometry in nature (or between nature and man).

What worked: I was pleasantly surprised with the kind of images I could capture within close range of my house. Particularly, the reflection on the overpass and the perched house stood out to me. The former has some great contrast between light and dark, and there's a certain piercing geometry of the overpass that conflicts with the nature below it. The perched house to me just felt like its own little micro world. Seeing a set like that reminds me of Wes Anderson's set design (particularly Moonrise Kingdom) and I can think of stories in my head of what kind of people might live on that little isolated suburban house.

What didn't work: I prefer not to carry too much when I bike, so I just used my phone for these photos. The results were pretty decent but I didn't have the same degree of control that I would have using my mirrorless camera. Namely, I couldn't decrease the aperture size to turn bright lights into "sunstars" and the framing was restricted by the prime lens of the phone. I couldn't zoom in or out to recompose without sacrificing resolution.

General thoughts: This time around, I took these images more for fun than for any particular reason. I think doing so helped me enjoy it a lot more and some of the results turned out pretty decently. I'd love to revisit some of these sites with a camera and rethink how I would compose and capture these images.

  • Sammy Levin

1) Wes Anderson

Wes Anderson is an American filmmaker whose style is distinctly whimsical and precise. Anderson's compositions are usually very 2D, and he restricts his camera motions to a small selection of pans, zooms, and trucks. His films including the Grand Budapest Hotel, Moonrise Kingdom, and Isle of Dogs all demonstrate this virtuosic approach to set design and cinematography.

One scene of his that stands out to me is the sushi-making stop motion animation from Isle of Dogs. Although this sequence lasts under a minute, it took approximately 32 days to shoot. Challenging subjects including a wriggling octopus tentacle and a flopping fish are carefully animated with motions that lie somewhere between reality and something like a cartoon. The top down shot choice and consistent use of right angles and gridded placement are akin to Anderson's hallmark visual precision.

2) Stanley Kubrick

Much like Wes Anderson, Kubrick was known to pay obsessive attention to detail regarding anything that was in front of his lens. This micromanagement allowed him to pack so much visual symbolism and narrative into his films, a lot of it continues to be debated to this day. Some of his most acclaimed works include 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, and The Shining.

One scene of his from The Shining demonstrates how his obsessive control impacted not only the visual nature of his film, but also the acting. Kubrick's insistence on repeating a take until all aspects are perfect led this one scene between Jack and Wendy to be reshot tens to hundreds of times, driving the actors to exhaustion and insanity. By the final shot, they were so worn out and mentally detached from their work, their performance provided an incredibly convincing glimpse into the fear and horror evoked by the characters.

3) Quentin Tarantino

Quentin Tarantino is the master of creating edge-of-your-seat stories with larger than life characters. His focus on iconic dialog and memorable acting have made his movies some of the most widely watched in the world. His films include Inglorious Basterds, Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, and the Hateful Eight.

The opening scene of Inglorious Basterds demonstrates Tarantino's masterful use of scriptwriting to manipulate the audience's suspense, trust, and anticipation to craft a gripping dialog between two men just sitting in a house drinking milk. The Nazi general's cheery, yet insidious tone conveys his emotional coldness and determination to catch the Jews. The father hides his disdain for the general and cooperates through the conversation, but subtly conveys an innate terror in fear that the general discovers that he is harboring Jews below the floorboards. Tarantino also leverages a switch between languages to both enrich the narrative and alter the trust that the audience has for the general.

  • Sammy Levin

What I did: This week I put a focus on architecture, using my iPhone to shoot occasionally through the weekend. I ended up having one interior photo I was happy with and the rest showing building exteriors.

What worked: I'm quite satisfied with my interior shot of the Met Museum because of the way that the elements are composed to show that the roof "completes" the missing part of the face. Additionally, the minimalist shot of the shaded building and a single bird is quite visually pleasing because of its symmetry and visual purity.

What didn't work: The shot of the turquoise cranes is kind of awkwardly composed with some elements obscuring others in a way that doesn't add to the composition of the image. Additionally, shooting from a bottom up perspective of tall buildings can yield nice results sometimes, but it's a cliche habit that I'd like to try to get out of.

General thoughts: I enjoyed having the opportunity to shoot casually now and then of things I encountered during the weekend. There were definitely images within these few that I was happy with composition wise. For future architecture shots, I might bring my camera back out and use settings to carefully achieve certain effects on the image.

bottom of page