Down To The Ground

As with most things in life, changing your perspective can make all the difference. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the proverbial advice suggests, broadens our understanding of the world around us. In photography, changing perspective is a powerful tool we can rely on to strengthen our artistic muscles.

After years of shooting pictures and art making, I still sometimes find myself walking around expecting pictures to make their way into my lens at my convenient, eye level, legs straight, non-tripod mounted,  lazy way of shooting pictures. Many times, simply pointing and shooting will suffice. Often times, you have no choice in the matter. You have to shoot when something presents itself. What I am referring to are those moments when the subject matter is fantastic, but for some reason you can not capture it’s essence. Those spectacular round river rock are white flecked, the water is hitting them midway, and you know it’s a lovely sight, but your pictures are dull and uninspiring. Or, there’s is a wonderful repetition in the way some boulders are placed in a pond, but for some reason the pictures you take are boring. My advice? Get down low.

Shooting from a lower perspective adds overlap , an important visual cue, to more elements in your photograph that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It also gives your images drama by placing more objects in the foreground, strengthening the depth of the image. It also allows for more compositional possibilities, and for me this really gets my creative juices flowing. Suddenly, I tiny leaf becomes a focal point and a major compositional anchor. A tiny piece of root directs the eye towards the focal point. A leafy twig springs up in the foreground providing a strong sense of space in your photograph.

Here are some examples of how I positioned my camera real low, sometimes a few inches, to the ground in order to capture the essence of my environment. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!

SpookyTree

 

peeka BooWeb

 

It’s All A Fog

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.

mistysquare_by_starbirdsky-d6j5z04

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..

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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.

silver_spirit_by_starbirdsky-d6mhty6

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!”

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)

 

Some Words On Thirds…and a few birds. (the revised, less wordy version)

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.

Catch A BreezeWeb

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.

heronheron_by_starbirdsky-d75oefo

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.

knot_head_by_starbirdsky-d76cfbh

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!

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)

Finding A Path

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.

fear_by_starbirdsky-d77x6cs

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.

introrockweb_by_starbirdsky-d6hqj6d

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.

winter_2_by_starbirdsky-d77x4ht

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.

Happy Shooting,

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)

 

 

Go Ahead, Get Your Feet Wet

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.

River:

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.

upstream_by_starbirdsky-d6jvs6w

Upstream:

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.

going_away_by_starbirdsky-d6k0nfq

Waterfalls:

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.

august_at_whatcom_falls_by_starbirdsky-d6jvp6t

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.

Happy Shooting,

Shawn Pagels