Arts & Entertainment

Great photography: The art of ‘seeing’

Ocracoke Harbor, by Douglas Prouty.

By Rita Thiel

The difference between a mediocre shot and a great photograph is the photographer’s eye.

That’s what several folks from around the eastern United States learned when they attended Patrick Keough’s weekend photography workshop in October at Oscar’s House Bead & Breakfast.

Sunsets, bike racks, peeling paint, plant tendrils and boots on Ocracoke became the inspiration for the four workshop participants who came from as far away as Pennsylvania to learn from Keough’s vast experience and hone their skills in “seeing photographically.”  

The diversity of the above subject matter became the palette for “painting” the world as perceived through the lens of a camera.

“You don’t take a photograph, you make it,” Keough, who has held photography workshops on Ocracoke for the past 30 years, says, reiterating Ansel Adams’ famous quote.

A professional photographer, Keough, retired as the distance learning director at Carteret Community College and full-time teaching, stressed that great photos can be taken anywhere.

Ocracoke beach photo by Sobrina Wolf.

“No exotic places are needed,” he told his students. “Once you understand the tool you’re using, be it a digital SLR camera or an iPhone, everything starts looking differently.”

Keough told attentive photographers to “break out of your comfort zones” and “be in tune to the environment with sensitivity to the surroundings; see with a heightened sense of seeing.”

Keough’s enthusiasm was palpable and his experience and knowledge highly evident.

With the advent of smartphones and the “everybody can be a photographer” age, in order to make your photo stand out from the multitude of others, Keough advised to “find your niche, your own style…something that says, “’Wow!’”

To do that, he said, focus on the key visual elements to a worthwhile photograph: lines, texture, colors, values and shapes.

The advancing technology of smartphones lends itself to high quality photographs, giving professional photographers a run for their money.

So, why hire a professional?

“You’re hiring a photographer because they know how to get a high-quality photo,” he said. “It’s not just an iPhone snapshot. The quality of the photo depends on the skill set of the user for the tool being used.”

Sobrina Wolf, one of the participants, said the workshop opened her eyes to the art in photography.

Photo by Sobrina Wolf

“It made me realize I can not do this if I’m in constant ‘snap shot’ mode'” she said in an email. “What I have taken away from this weekend is to SLOW DOWN! Being in the moment is key to making great photos. Really looking takes time, takes patience.”

An online adjunct instructor for the Community College System of N.C., he conducts digital photography and other classes during fall and winter semesters and travels extensively throughout Europe and Central America, keeping not only a photographic record of his experiences, but also written journals.  

A former military photojournalist for seven years in the 1970s, Keough said he always carried two cameras: one for slides and one for black-and-white.

“It can be dangerous, especially if you’re a war photographer,” he said. “You have to have a lot of respect for these men and women who take risks to get that awesome picture.”

He has won numerous awards in local and national exhibitions for his photography and art.

Keough’s website includes workshop notes, iPhone photography tips, journaling tips and more at his KeO Blog website here.

Anyone can take great photos with any kind of camera, says Patrick Keough. The key is ‘really seeing’ your subject. Photo by Rita Thiel