Eyeku? That's right. Recently, photographers are making more haiku photographs, or eyekus. There are many dedicated haiku photo websites as well. What is going on here? Perhaps it is the harmony between the two arts, as Abe Museki, the originator of the photo-haiku genre, noted. Musaki observed: “photo-haiku has succeeded in the Internet world because photography matches haiku so well." There are about 6 easy steps to creating a photo haiku in a photo editor. First, though, we'll see how haiku is about nature and awareness.
Words and pictures together are more potent than either alone. Haiku photography combines an image with a short poem to link the essence of nature with human life. The idea is not to describe, but to allow readers to enjoy a similar experiential feeling that the artist had.
Traditional haiku has a kigo, or a reference to the seasons. There is Hawaiian haiku, even insect haiku. Nature photographers in particular are drawn to haiku to capture singular moments.
Not by giving answers to riddles, but rather by opening doors of consciousness, haiku invites us to observe the immediate moment with our full attention. This is in harmony with the essence of contemplative photography.
Haiku Past: a wordless poem
Traditionally, haiku poets wrote about nature and our oneness with its winds, seas and sensations. Sometimes serious, often comic – haiku began with scholars in China, and spread widely in Japan. Visually, it was usually a single vertical line of text on the page. It did not rhyme. The theme often referenced a season of the year.
Haiku went far beyond scholarly writing. Long called the “wordless poem,” haiku was a way of life, often linked to spiritual practice. Poets and common folk alike wrote haiku to praise nature, and to open the mind and heart. Matsuo Basho (1644-1694), the best known haiku poet, was a Japanese samurai who devoted his spiritual life to writing masterful haiku poetry.
Haiku Present : wit and human nature
Since Basho’s time, Western writers have more recently altered haiku’s structure and content. Jack Kerouac wrote haiku. Richard Wright, African-American author of Native Son, also wrote a series of haiku. Haiku appeals to a spectrum of people with its differing forms. There is haiga, tanka, renga, choka and many other forms.
Not all haiku is serious, and today it may not follow a set number of syllables. As an example of modern haiku, George Swede's haiku sparkles with wit:
Thick fog lifts
unfortunately, I am where
I thought I was
Making Your Haiku Photograph
How do you make a haiku photograph? Begin by observing a passing moment, like a lightning bolt or a moment of human relations. You can also begin with a memory or association. Then make a camera image. To make decent haiku photos, make one each day.
Think about what you perceived, heard, or sensed during your experience. Your short poem can be about what happened. It can capture what you imagined might have happened. Use simple language when writing your haiku. Let the words give your viewers a new point of view on your image. The best haiku photography does not give answers, it just opens a door. . .
A Soulful Poem
Some Western haiku translators may have misunderstood the Japanese meaning. For instance, in Japanese, " sound-symbol" was translated to mean "syllable" when Japanese haiku was translated to English. However, sound symbols are not equal to English syllables, and 10 to 14 English syllables, not 17, more closely matches the length of the haiku poem (Cor Van Den Heuvel, 1999).
Modern haiku can be one, two or three lines; what counts in understanding haiku photography is keen insight into a significant moment. Creating haiku photography means taking the viewer into the full import of an experience, not writing fancy poetry. Haiku should enter one's soul unobtrusively.
The Way We've Never Seen Before
One question to ask when writing haiku: "Does the poem let me see the photo in a way I’ve never seen it before?" Another inquiry to consider when making a haiku photo is "Can I sense a meaningful presence in this haiku photo moment?"
How to Create a Haiku Photograph in Photoshop: 6 Easy Steps
Step 1 START) Open your photograph using File > Open.
2) Add your text. Click IMAGE > Canvas Size. Change width to 300 pixels wide. If your picture was 800 pixels, make the width 1200 pixels.
3) Likewise, add 400 pixels to the height. Note that you can customize the canvas color by clicking Canvas extension color: drop-down menu at the bottom of the Canvas Size dialog box.
4) Click the Text Tool in Photoshop’s toolbox. Select your font style from the upper toolbar. Type in the text of your poem. If you want to move down a line, hit the "enter" key on your keyboard. Click Photoshop's check mark to commit your edits (the check mark is at the top of Photoshop's display, in the middle of the Options bar that runs horizontally across the top of the screen). To view your text layer, open the Layers palette by clicking WINDOW > Layers ( F7 ).
5) Position your text poem by using the move tool in the toolbox.
Step 6 FINISH) With your poem text and your picture on two separate layers, save your Photoshop file as a .PSD file so you can edit it later. For example, later on you might want to change the colors, or the poem and these changes are easy to do with Photoshop's non-destructive .psd files.
Haiku photography is a thriving art form in the information age. The rapid growth of digital imaging will support new forms of haiku with fresh possibilities. As a throng of young artists publish their diverse work on the web, haiku photography will continue to grow.
1. For excellent haiku with accompanying images, find Shoji and other poets at Haiku Poets Hut: haikupoetshut.com/haikuphotndx.html
2. Michael Rehling’s work is true to the spirit of haiku: http://www.haikuhut.com/Photo%20Haiku%20-%20Michael%20Rehling.htm
3. Enjoy the diverse art of Mark Brooks, Roderick Stewart and Ray Rasmussen at Rays Web: http://raysweb.net/fall-haiku/
4. Ron Rosenstock’s excellent large format black and white imagery is joined with Gabriel Rosenstock’s haiku at: http://www.worldhaikureview.org/3-2/rosenstock-photohaiku/pages/01.html.
5. The Heart of Haiku by Jane Hirshfield. A Kindle single, get it for .99 cents and the best part is you do not need a kindle to read her sublime short book.
Rethinking SQUARE: How Framing Creates Intimacy
What is a square? There are two kinds. Understand the second kind, and you can powerfully command a viewer to look, and make portraits more appealing by rethinking how we understand the square.
Example One: Bride with Mother
At left, the picture of the bride and her Mother has the proportion of a traditional square, 12 " by 12". These 12" by 12" dimensions are the proportions the camera recorded.
For the Optical Square photo at right, I did not change the crop, but changed the proportions of the image in post processing. This change added a half inch of height while keeping the exact same width (12" by 12.5"). The Optical square reinvents the concept as well as the dimensions of the square.
From my experience with clients for wedding photography, I know that most brides, not all, prefer the Optical square presentation over the boring traditional square. Why is this so?
True squares can appear wide and broad, due to the visual weight of their top and sides. Perceptually, ourbrains respond to verticals more than to horizontals.
Like trees, their shape gives them living dynamic qualities. We perceive that they have a living quality. Also, our perceptions influence what we expect. Visually, we expect that parallel lines will be vertical. Then there is the concept of visual weight. The elements in a photograph have a visual, perceptual weight. Add to this the presence of gravity, or the visual weight of the top and sides of a square, and our perceptions makes us feel that traditional squares feel dumpy and heavy. These are not feelings a client wants to have for their intimate portrait.
The optical square keep our clients smiling, and I believe it makes our portraits even more intimate.
One of these views seems more intimate. Why?
The topmost of the two is more intimate for two reasons. The framing commands a viewer to look. The crop spacing places the eyes asymmetrically, in the upper left of the frame. This gives a viewer's gaze a chance to scan and briefly return to rest there.
Also, the crop brings the viewer closer, so we sense a greater intimacy, while the frame edge keeps the eye within the frame as it simultaneously cuts out the large white area of his hat. These two changes bring the viewer emotionally closer to the portrait.
Like views of NYC?
Check out this award-winning video of night sailing under the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and Queensboro bridges ( a Jimages Film production).
Photographing famous cities challenges our vision. We need: planning, flexibility, timing, persistence and a sense of humor. Here’s a count down of 10 tips, to inspire your next urban adventure:
Tip #10: Allow Extra Time, Plan Ahead
Allowing enough time is always a concern when traveling. The success of your trip depends on it. So, before you visit a new city, carve out blocks of unstructured time to explore its vistas. Keep your sense of humor and be open to surprises.
Think ahead to anticipate what you may need. For instance, imagine a shopping trip. Asking a question in advance like: “Does the market there take credit cards?” might save you time and a long side trip to find an ATM in a novel city, if you were unaware that vendors only took cash.
Tip #9: Go Out on the Water
Great cities often have unique water views. Spend time exploring their rivers, harbors and bays. Board a water taxi, sailboat, or steamship.
Tip #8 Focus your Project
For stronger images, choose a central theme to guide your subject matter. For instance "architectural angles" or "abandoned corners" are potential topics that narrow your range of urban subjects. Staying focused on core themes will strengthen your portfolio. In and around New York City, I photographed a range of subjects, but concentrated on a central theme of “women in the city.”
TIP #7: Pack Light, Go Dark
The meaning of traveling light, granted, is pretty subjective. I try to minimize weight and also choose dark-colored gear. Does this mean leaving the flash, portable Canon printer, and extra lenses behind? Yes, but less is more when traveling far and wide.
Why dark colored gear? Flashy stuff can get stolen. To be less conspicuous, cover up any brand logos up with tape. If you take a DSLR, also bring along a smaller point-and-shoot, because some folks are intimidated by bulky cameras. Before departure, double check you brought along chargers or extra batteries. Leave the carbon fiber tripod behind and grab an even smaller, lighter one.
Tip #6: Keep your Gear Dry
For those who love the water, coastal cities can offer memorable photo experiences. However, out near the ocean and in conditions when rain or sea spray is likely, electronics can suffer. Keep them dry. Instead of wearing your heart on your sleeve, pack your camera and lens in one. Pack rain gear in the easy to access parts of your gear bag so it a) protects your camera from getting wet and b) lets you cover your valuable gear quickly in a downpour. Take an umbrella for shooting in the rain.
Tip # 5: Pano in the City
Try an urban panorama. Many hybrid cameras, micro-4/3rds and cell phones feature auto-stitching to help you create fun panos. As you pan across a scene, remember to put interesting subject matter at the fat left and far right sides of your panorama frame.
Tip # 4: Starry, Starry Nights
When you photograph a famous place, plan to visit it at twilight or at night. If you pass by a good scene in harsh light, make time to return during those special luminous moments. Night photography is great for learning: it makes us slow down, be aware of the light’s intensity and color, and rewards our good shooting techniques by requiring a tripod.
Exposure is the key. Urban night photography helps photographers master proper exposure. At night, we have to balance higher ASA/ISO settings with time exposures that use slow shutter speeds. A tripod will help you get the exposure right, without blur from long time exposures. Pack a Neutral Density filter (unless your camera has one built-in) and a remote cable release.
Tip # 3: Add a Human Touch
Architectural detail is a common theme in urban photography. To add scale, and a personal touch, include a reference to people along with your architecture shots.
Tip #2 Make a Video
Sailing down the East River at night, I set my DSLR on a sturdy tripod, and concentrated on the lights and architecture of four East River bridges as we sailed from New York harbor to Long Island sound. Later, editing the clips, and adding music, the process kept me engaged, and the result, Water Under the Bridges , is the featured video at the beginning of this article.
Tip #1 Print It to Share
Assemble an album of your urban exposures. Ask friends what their favorite images are, then curate them and make prints of special shots. Online printers include Shutterfly, mPix, adoramapix and many others. Fuji and Canon have new small, portable home printers. To cherish your travel, frame and matte your best work. A hard-working store owner naps while his masks keep watch on Manhattan’s lower east side.
Before you visit a new locale, search the web for strong images of the areas you might visit. Learn what that city has to offer, both visually and culturally. For instance, special cultural events take place at certain times, and you can allow extra time to capture them. Get to know the sights and cultures of people who live in its diverse neighborhoods.