Get Shallow : Having fun with focus

I’m not sure there is another occupation or area of interest where the advice “get shallow” will ever be given. In photography, however, focus plays a large roll in describing mood and isolating the main subject. Using a shallow depth of field can add depth to your photograph and aid in establishing a focal point. Typically used in portraiture, opening your lens up increases the blur in the out of focus areas. Artistically, this can also be used for very creative shots that might otherwise be, well…boring.

Below is an image of some clothes pins I had sitting around. Now, the repetition in form can be an interesting element in a photograph. However, narrowing the depth of field in this image really enhanced it and gave it a little something extra.

How can I achieve this effect? Read On!

3 pins

There are two ways to achieve blur in your photographs.

  1. Open your lens as wide as it will go. Another reason to buy a prime lens. The aperture on many primes, like a 35mm or 50mm, go to at least to 1.8. For extra creamy blur, splurge a little more and go for a good portrait or macro lens. The blur quality (bokeh) is usually nicer on the more high end lenses, but there are exceptions..do the research!
  2. Distance from subject. If your lens will let you get close enough, even at f4 you can achieve a nice blurred background. The image below was taken at f4 with a zoom lens mounted on my Nikon. I was able to get close enough to create a decent quality blur.

Notice the Yellow flower in sharp focus, while the rest of the cast gradually blurs out. This can be such a powerful tool for expression. Desert Bloom

Thanks for stopping by and please let me know what I can share with you to help you with your artistic journey. I will add a couple more photos that utilize a very shallow depth of field to show and extreme example of this technique.

Be sure to join me on instagram: Big_Wide_Lens

Happy Shooting,

Shawn

macro dropsallign

Hidden Treasures

I came across this shot I took at Clark’s Point last year. I never published it or had it printed because there was always something I didn’t like about it. Today I made it a square format picture, converted it to black and white, did a little dodge and burning, and I am pleased! I am currently working on an online shop to sell some of my photographs…and I think this one wil be included. Thanks for stopping by, happy shooting! -Shawn Pagels (artSEEguy)

Spooky Rockweb

 

Time to Rock!

No tutorial today, but please enjoy a few rock photographs!

CRACK!:

crack__by_starbirdsky-d6j6v90

Left Overs:

left_overs_by_starbirdsky-d76cfos

Rock Hut:

rock_hut_by_starbirdsky-d6ifz62

Sand Castles:

sand_castles_by_starbirdsky-d6j6wih

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

(artSEEguy)

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..

around_clark_s_point_by_starbirdsky-d6lscqb

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)

 

Divide and Conquer

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.

Figure Ground:

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.

earth_and_sky_by_starbirdsky-d7w1ban

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.

lookingbacksm_by_starbirdsky-d7w1b4s

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.

same_as_before_by_starbirdsky-d789bbr

Now, go forth and conquer your next photography quest! As always, feel free to comment, ask questions, or request a subject for a post.

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, Be a Square

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!

Composition: 

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.

Sluggish

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.

Abstract:

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.

Rothko Day

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.

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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.

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

Adapting to all weather conditions

Like many other photographers, I often get that “itch” to head outside and capture something amazing. Many of us have family and other responsibilities, so often we can’t just rush out as soon as the light is just right or other atmospheric conditions that would make an absolutely AMAZING picture. I get out and shoot when I can, and when I do, I often take with me those ideas I had worked out from the previous day when I conceived the perfect shot. The only problem is, it’s cloudy and windy and it was perfectly sunny yesterday! There are niche photographers that focus on this or that and that is great, but for the rest of us who are always seeking to improve the craft of photography, being adaptive is crucial to exercising our creative minds and being productive. Here are a few “non-ideal” weather conditions and a few things you can do with them:

Cloudy and Overcast: 

Color! That’s right, color radiates in these conditions because there isn’t a harsh light source bouncing brightness around.

It’s anti-intuitive in a way, but bright sunlight washes color out of a lot of scenes. Longer exposures with a tripod is more effective in these conditions too!

devilInBlueLakeparadiseTrail

Bright Mid-day Sun:

Painters and photographers alike have always praised the early morning and evening light for the color and the wonderful drama it can create. But, what if you can’t get out at this time and when you do get out, the sun is beating down creating hard shadows everywhere?

Black and White! While these conditions might not be best suited for lush and colorful landscapes, they can be perfect for creating striking black and white images with lots of rhythm
and contrast.

mostThingsDon'tLastWebRemnants4

Windy, Rainy, Yucky:

Now might be a time to consider setting up a still life and doing an interior shot. There are many artists you can research online that have made careers out of doing incredible still lifes that are profoundly beautiful. Select items that either convey a theme with the objects themselves or share a color relationship. If you had your heart on going outside and facing the nasty weather anyway, make sure you have your camera protected and be mindful about all the things blowing around out there. Landscapes might be out of the question because trees, grass and other foliage will be moving around too much. This of course might also be a nice effect if there were a stationary object of interest nearby. City-scapes and architecture can be lovely in these conditions. Again, black and white photography could be a good choice for capturing moody street scenes. Try a faster exposure time to freeze a drop or two!

DSC_3519Complete(a painting I did recently, sorry couldn’t find a photoraphic still-life…but, you get the idea;))
Now, be adaptive and shoot!
-Shawn Pagels