Last Friday, I had a small window of time to get out to one of my favorite lakeside beaches before the sun went completely down. Desperately setting up my tripod and attaching lenses, I managed to get a few shots before the sky became completely dark. Out of a dozen pictures I shot, These two are the strongest, and as I was sharpening them in photoshop, I realized the driftwood in both pictures are the same. When pressured by time and the weather I simply look through my view finder and find the best picture possible and am not concerned with using the same objects in multiple pictures. In fact, this is a great lesson in self editing and honing your objective eye.
Putting It Out There:
If you fall in love with something you are photographing, remember; the subject doesn’t hold the image together. Find a way to make your pictures really work by trying different angles, placement of the object, exposure settings, and all those other tricks you’ve been learning on your photography journey.
Please contact me with questions, and don’t forget to follow me to get more photographic tips and inspiration.
No tutorial today, but please enjoy a few rock photographs!
Use fog and misty conditions to create photos with depth and moodiness. In understanding that objects closer to the camera will be darker, tonality, or darkness and lightness, can be exploited to make highly expressive photographs.
Sea mist aided in the creation of space in this black and white coastal shot.
In this cliff side photograph, the fog helps define the form of the rock walls and directs the eye to the closer, more detailed surfaces..
In this minimalist photograph, the foggy conditions were crucial in separating out the few elements that were in the composition. This was an exercise in the less-is-more approach to picture making.
For the most part, fog and misty conditions are a photographers friend. Remember to take a tripod along for those darker days. Let those hazy conditions prime your imagination!
As always, contact me with questions, pointers, article requests, or just to say ,”You’re awesome!”
Often times you are presented with a subject that has no discerning background or with a landscape that has a clear division between two parts. Understanding the relationship your subject has with the negative spaces and applying a clear use of dominance can mean the difference between your pictures looking okay and looking outstanding.
After adjusting the image with some curves in photoshop to completely whiten the background, I cropped in a little closer to provide interesting shapes in the negative space. This also gave the rock dominance by allowing it to occupy more space than the background.
With two main sections in this image, I had to decide between the two which would dominate. Visually it made more sense to allow the dark water to rule. The flow of the composition moves from left to right smoother and it also places my bird in a pleasing space.
It seems to me that shooting photography down a shoreline always presents opportunity for dominance choices. Should I let the land dominate, or the water? The answer isn’t always clear and many times, both options work. Here, I chose the land. This is a case when both would have worked with a little moving around on my part.
Now, go forth and conquer your next photography quest! As always, feel free to comment, ask questions, or request a subject for a post.
Besides being a great number in a still-life, Three is a good rule-of-thumb number when arranging and composing your photograph. An overly symmetric image can look too static. This, of course, is frequently used for an iconic effect. However, in this post I want to demonstrate how to set up a picture in thirds, creating drama and a dynamic viewing experience. The following are examples on how that can be achieved:
This group of birds forms a band that’s about a third the length of the photograph. The water and other darker landforms help visually to form this division.
The extending tree limb this heron is perched on is roughly one third the way up from the bottom, while the head and highlight on the wing are about a third the way from the right. Normally I avoid directing eyes out of the picture, but the tree limb helps counter an unwanted symmetry that occurs from the whole of the bird visually dividing the image in half.
I’ve included this next example because it covers another rule of three repeated often in the world of landscape painting and photography: Foreground, middle-ground and background. The key elements in this image are the organic shaped form in the foreground, the dark land mass behind it and the tiny dark land mass at the extreme right of the image.
There is a clear left dominance in this image with the form in the foreground clustered with the land mass on the left (not unlike a still-life composition where an apple might be grouped with a glass or bottle.) In an otherwise sparse scene, these uses of thirds, as well as the application of dominant and subordinate themes, can make your pictures become more dynamic and engaging.
I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Please contact me if you would like other tips or just want to say hi!
When other compositional ideas are not working, find a way to direct the eye by including a path in your photograph.
Here is a shot I took on a neighborhood trail. A clear path takes the viewer up through the image and through the natural tunnel. O f course, you will not always have such a clear path to incorporate in your photograph.
Sometimes, you have to really hun for these paths. In the case of this next picture I took on the Oregon coast, I found the water path first and then moved around to direct it somewhere interesting in my image.
Here is a similar example I took on a snowy day. In on otherwise colorless and white-washed photo-shoot, I found a few of these breaks in the snow that created compositional tools in my pictures.
When you are struggling to come up with a pleasant composition, try making a path in your picture. Lead the eye to just about anything and your pictures will come alive. I believe a great photograph can make the mundane, magnificent.
Water is one of my favorite things to photograph, but like all things, to do it well you have to be willing to get a little uncomfortable. That means getting in! Being mindful of tides and the swiftness and depth of a river are real things you have to consider before jumping in. Keeping your camera secured around your neck is important too. Since my tripod is aluminum, I am not concerned with it rusting. The following are different examples of how I got wet to get my shot.
Unless there are several places for your eye to bounce along, photographing a river from the the side on a bank or beach places a static band across your page and can create a boring image. There are exceptions, but in general this kind of side to side composition doesn’t intrigue the viewer. When facing this very problem down at one of my favorite parks, I decided to step in. I found a great big mossy rock in the middle of this stream and set up my camera on a tripod with my 11-16 Tokina wide angle lens.
Never mistake good subject matter for a good photograph. With this next image, I struggled trying to get all the logs, foliage and flowing water to look as interesting as the idea of all these elements. I was shooting from a comfortable place along a bank and I was trying every angle I could, high, low, close and wide, but failed to capture an image that was worth keeping. Like my river shot, I decided to get in the water and try shooting from an angle that captured this scene downstream. The results were worth the extra five minutes removing my socks I think.
This one you want to be extra cautious with. Waterfall areas will often have barriers and restricted areas that you want to stick to for your safety. The next image is from a very popular and heavily photographed waterfall in my city. There is a bridge spanning the outflow of this falls and good places to take a photograph. I wanted to try placing more water in the foreground of my image. I found a path that went under the bridge that brought my angle closer to what I wanted. I tried a few shots along the pebble beach but I wasn’t quite getting what I wanted. The water was shallow enough that day and I was able to step in and get just the right angle that included water and a few rocks in my final photograph.
As always, make sure if you’re shooting wide not to let a leg of your tripod or remote cable get in the shot. Wear waterproof boots or go barefoot if you are certain it is safe to do so. Consider your angle and composition and try several exposures. Getting your feet wet can lead to some outstanding shots you wouldn’t achieve standing safely on dry land. With a little planning and caution, these small comfort risks will help your portfolio grow and shine.
We are all taught in art school or photography classes about portrait and landscape formats and the appropriate uses of them. Today, I want to demonstrate the power of the square! If done right, presenting an image in a square format can make a bold statement. There is something kind of hip about ignoring rules and putting something out there that looks a little different from the rest. With that in mind, there are a few things you want to look out for to avoid making your image look less like a statement and more like a mistake!
As in other formats, you want to remember some basic rules of good composition. Think thirds and avoid dividing the picture in half will keep the image dynamic(if this is your intent). Try not to pull the eye out of the picture by cropping lines or high contrast objects out of the frame.
In this example, there are lines leading away from the subject matter, but they are minimized by the use of value. The brightest and highest contrast is on the Slug shaped fallen tree.
Another great way to use this format is by creating an abstract image. Use pattern, shape and rhythm to make images that resemble abstract paintings.
I titled this one “Rothko Day” after the famous painter. There are three major bands going across this picture with enough detail to retain a natural element, but remain abstract.
Keep It Moving:
To counter the stagnant nature of the square, choose a photograph that conveys motion.
The lively nature of this small waterfall keeps the square format lively and visually compelling!
Thanks for reading. Please follow my blog for further articles with examples. Contact me with any questions or comments.
With all the latest and greatest camera gizmos and technology being waved under our noses, it’s easy to be lead astray from the basics in photography that make great pictures great. Good technique and smart planning are far more valuable than keeping up with the hot new cameras. In this photo, I used my trusty Nikon d7000, an old tripod and some inexpensive nd filters and polarizer to achieve this moody shot at San Juan Island, Wa. The exposure was 1.4, and I had my aperture down at about 19.
With the benefit of digital, I was able to check to make sure the subject was in acceptable focus so that I could also keep the foreground in focus. As a landscape photographer I had to come to terms with the need for a wide angle lens. After researching my options, I found a Tokina 11-16, F2.8. This lens is amazing, which I will cover in another blog. Sharp and fast. Have never had a bad shot with this one! Thanks for reading my first photography blog! -Shawn Pagels