Monday, March 31, 2014

Sunrise Silhouette

This was a crystal clear dawn at Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park in Utah. We had walked a short distance from our cars in the deep pre-dawn darkness, trekking over uneven sand and narrowly missing a sleeping and lethargic (thank goodness) rattlesnake.

This is a magical place at any time of day, but at sunrise it is especially spectacular. In the darkness when we arrived, virtually nothing was visible beyond the range of our flashlights. As the sky slowly lightened, dark shapes began to form all around us, like sleeping giants waking for the day.

Our Navajo Indian guide knew the area well, and skillfully guided us to just the right vantage point for sunrise. We set up our tripods in total darkness, made some preliminary camera settings, and waited.

Sure enough, right on schedule, the sun began to appear on the horizon. At sunrise the sun moves very rapidly and you have to be ready to shoot quickly.  You have just a few minutes before it is completely above the horizon and the light level changes radically.

My preference is to shoot sunrise before the sun even appears, and then again when it is just breaking the horizon. In this shot it had just cleared the horizon, but I was able to position myself so that the sun was partially blocked by the “totem” formation, causing the appearance of a starburst on the rock face itself. 

You can create a natural starburst easily by using a small aperture (f/16 or f/22 or smaller). As long as it is not too hazy and there is something solid between you and the partially visible sun, like a rocky outcrop, a building, or even the horizon, the starburst will appear all by itself.

Exposure at sunrise is relatively easy. I generally want rich color in the sky, and expose for that. It is fine for the foreground, in this case the rocks, to be silhouetted and without detail. As always, be sure to check the histogram every few shots since the light levels rise very quickly at sunrise.

Note that the sun is so bright that it will rarely have any color in the brightest area. As long as the other elements in the scene are interesting and have color, the pure white area of the sun is not a problem.

Focus is the other dicey thing at sunrise. I prefer to use autofocus, and try to find the edge of something dark like a rock or a tree against the slightly lighter sky to focus on. Look for a line between the dark foreground and the lighter sky to aim at. That will help the autofocus mechanism find something to grab on to. Live View is rarely helpful in very low light and I do not use it.

Shutter Speed 1/50 sec.  Aperture f/22.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “…day and night meet fleetingly at twilight and dawn…. Their merging sometimes affords the beholder the most enchanted moments of all the twenty four hours.”  --Mary Balogh, A Summer to Remember

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Panning For Gold (by guest blogger Cindy McCaffrey)

Panning for gold, in photography, is a technique that requires practice. Learning any skill calls for practice if you are to become accomplished in it.

Panning needs an awareness of the activity around you, knowledge of what might happen next by studying behavior, being familiar with your equipment, and a bit of luck… being in the right place and being ready for whatever is coming your way.

This series is an example of all of the above. [Photos appear in the order in which they were taken.] We were on the rocky beach in Homer, Alaska looking the area over. I was photographing an old sea otter, as he was just off shore, and the hills across Kachemak Bay when a flock of Bonaparte’s Gulls (Chroicocephalus philadelphia) started a flurry of active fishing. They noisily caught my attention. I walked over a ways (not easy on the rocks) to have better access to them, and disconnected the camera from tripod rather than take to time to set it up on the rocky, slanting shoreline. With the camera now in good position I captured a few images of the flock activity and then singled out one gull to follow. 

When panning, it is necessary to follow the subject within your lens while moving to keep the subject in focus and in the frame. It is best to use spot focusing and a steady, smooth motion, whether your camera is tripod mounted or being hand held. 

·      Use a long lens 200 mm or longer.
·      Center your subject and fill the frame as much as possible.
·      Move in sync with your subject, moving left to right or right to left, not with the subject coming toward you or moving away from you.
·      Use Shutter Priority (Canon – Tv; Nikon – S)
·      If you have a fast moving subject, you can use a fast shutter speed to freeze motion. For a slower moving subject you can use a slower shutter speed to blur the background to show speed and motion. Adjusting the shutter speed determines how motion is portrayed. When panning, a slower shutter speed of 1/30 sec. or slower will blur the background.
·      Use continuous auto focus (continuous for Nikon and AI Servo for Canon).
·      Center your auto focus point and track the subject all the way while filling the frame to the extent possible. Follow through as if you were swinging a baseball bat by continuing to pan even after you have tripped the shutter.
·      Shoot with your subject directly in front of you.
·      Use short bursts (3 to 5 shots at a time) of continuous drive mode. 

Some cameras have a higher burst rate than others. Set your camera for the highest rate you have and practice. Remember the shutter speed determines how motion will be portrayed. See what you prefer in different situations.

[Editor’s Note: Notice that even though these images were taken in quick succession, Cindy chose to crop them slightly differently in post-production. It is best to crop each image for maximum impact, as Cindy did, and not lock yourself into the same cropping ratio unless necessary to fit a particular layout.)  

Cindy McCaffrey bio:
Cindy received a Brownie box camera for Christmas at about the age of 10. She photographed family, friends and vacations in NC and used various equipment through the years as technology evolved.  Five years ago, she and husband Bob attended the Wilmington International Exhibition of Photography (WIEP) and decided to visit the club sponsoring the exhibition. Delaware Photographic Society was welcoming and willing to assist new/intermediate photographers improve their skills. I have learned more of the technical and artistic techniques in photography from these generous, skilled photographers, and from photo tours and workshops with Awake the Light and others.

Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec. (last shot 1/5000 sec.).  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 1000.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6 L IS USM, set at 400mm.   Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld

TODAY’S QUOTE: “More gold has been mined from the thoughts of men than has been taken from the earth."  -- Napoleon Hill

Friday, March 28, 2014

Six Degrees of Separation

Well, maybe not six, but certainly separation helps to make this image successful. This composition was carefully controlled, deliberately leaving a noticeable space between the rocky point on the left side of the slot canyon and the facing wall on its right.

Paying attention to the separation of elements can enhance many different types of photographs. Separation can help define shapes, relationships between elements, and can provide the viewer a better grasp of the scene or the subject. Some examples of subjects where separation is helpful are a group of birds in flight where there is no overlap of wings, heads, or bodies; a group of animals where each one is distinct from the other with no merging of heads, legs, etc.; or scenics or flowers where important elements do not block one another.

Slot canyons in the desert southwest are beautiful, and the light plays across the canyon walls providing texture and form. They are magical places and sacred to the Native Americans who call this area home.

Composition and exposure can be dicey in slot canyons. A tripod is necessary since exposures can be as long as 30 seconds in these dark areas.  In some slot canyons the ground is uneven or the space is very narrow, making setting up and positioning the tripod more difficult than it would normally be.

That was the case for this shot. Finding the best spot to place the tripod in order to get this view took a few minutes. I needed a low angle in order to shoot upwards, and I could not block the path of others in the canyon. Other photographers in slot canyons is a fact of life, and many have no clue that they have just stepped into your shot. Being patient and polite is usually the best way to get the shots you want.

Shutter Speed  1/80 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Six degrees of separation is the theory that everyone is six or fewer steps away, by way of introduction, from any other person in the world. 'Friend of a friend' statements can be made to connect any two people in a maximum of six steps.”  [theorized by Frigyes Karinthy and popularized by playwright John Guare]  --Wikipedia

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Odds Or Evens

Generally we are told that an odd number of elements in an art piece is more appealing than an even number. While often that is true, when photographing this group of four dwarf irises, they seemed to form a pleasing composition. So even it was.

As you have read many times in this blog, rules are fine but often they are meant to be broken. This composition forms a gentle curve beginning at the lower left, moving up and over the top, and then sloping down again toward the lower right. Had the iris on the right been cropped out, leaving an odd number of elements, the resulting image would not have been as pleasing in my opinion.

In addition to cropping to create a panoramic look, Lightroom was used to darken the ground and the green leaves in the background. That allowed the flowers to “pop” and look more dimensional.

Shutter Speed 1/320.  Aperture f/3.2.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “I didn’t discover curves; I only uncovered them.”  --Mae West

Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting Tipsy

Adding an oblique line or a diagonal flow to your composition can enhance the overall appeal of an image. Often flowers or plants grow pretty much straight up and down, but you can create an oblique line by simply tipping your camera.

Just because a subject is lined up vertically in your frame does not mean that you cannot take artistic license and tip your camera to improve the composition and visual flow.

Try to use the space available in the frame to line up the subject. As you tip your camera, keep a careful eye on the background to make sure an unexpected distraction does not appear.

With any subject, you can always make artistic decisions that may depart slightly from reality but that improve the overall appearance of an image. You do not have to stick with a realistic representation, if a little creativity improves an image.

Try tipping the camera in both directions and then determine the angle you like best. The bottom line is what appeals to YOU.

Shutter Speed 1/320 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “[Artistic license is] the freedom to create an artwork … based on the artist’s interpretation and mainly for effect.”

Friday, March 21, 2014

Subjective Subject

What is the subject of this image? Is it the duck (a scaup photographed in Alaska), or is it the reflection of fall colors in the pond? The answer is entirely up to you. Both form part of the overall scene. You could decide that the duck is just an element of added interest to the basic subject of water reflections. Or you could decide that the reflections form a pleasing backdrop for the main subject of the duck.

Send your answer to    I will let you know what the majority decides in a future blog. There is no right or wrong answer, but it will be interesting to know what you think. All entries will be entered into a drawing for a $25 Gift Certificate from Hunt's Photo and Video. Deadline for responding and being entered in the drawing is noon Eastern Daylight Time on Monday, March 31. All entrants have an equal chance of winning.

To determine exposure for a scene like this, it is generally best to take a meter reading of the water when you first arrive so that you can set the basic exposure. If you are handholding your camera, set the shutter speed fast enough to avoid camera shake, generally a number similar to the focal length of your lens, for example 1/200 sec. if you using a 200mm lens.

The duck is a small part of the scene and therefore will not affect exposure significantly. As you start photographing it is important to check your histogram every few shots to make certain that the dark areas of the duck are not underexposed, and that the light areas are not overexposed. Also if the light is changing, for example if it is a partly cloudy day and the sun comes and goes behind the clouds, it is especially important to keep a careful eye on the histogram.

In this case the duck was swimming slowly across the pond and there was plenty of time to check the histogram periodically. When the action is fast and furious, which is the case when birds are taking off or flying in for a landing, it is especially important to have the basic exposure set because there will not be time to check the histogram between shots. In those cases, a good basic exposure will assure you of good detail in most areas, and if it turns out that there are small areas of over- or underexposure, Lightroom (or other image optimization software) will enable you to recover detail in the shadows or highlights as necessary.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 17-40 f/4L set at 35mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Fortune favors the prepared mind."  --Louis Pasteur 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Shape, Line, and Luck

You never know when everything will come together and present you with just the right shot. This group of Snow Geese could not have arranged themselves more perfectly in the sky than they did here.

I had been watching several bands of geese fly over and hoped that something interesting would take shape. This moment lasted only briefly and I was thrilled to snag the shot.

Being prepared is the best way to get those special shots that come and go quickly. You have to be familiar with your equipment, have the right shutter speed and f/stop pre-set, and be ready to fire off shots with little warning. 

One trick that works well is to take a test shot in advance. Since I had hoped to get a shot of geese flying over, I took a test shot of the sky to make sure the exposure was accurate. Because the geese, even though they are white and brightly lit, take up a very small portion of the image, the basic exposure for the sky was good for the final shot as well. I did use the Highlights slider in Lightroom to reduce the brightest highlights on the birds.

So take a test shot, check the Histogram, and then make any adjustments that are needed. Once you are set, sit back, relax, and wait for something exciting to unfold before you.

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Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 100.  Handheld.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 40mm.  Camera: Canon 7D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “My life is one long curve, full of turning points.”  --Pierre Trudeau

Friday, March 14, 2014

New Life

Spring is just around the corner, and new life is popping up everywhere. This black-necked swan cygnet was born less than a week ago and is already looking eager and ready for the future.

During the first couple of weeks of life, they often ride on a parent’s back, as well as swim on their own, and appear to live the good life.

These are captive birds and live in a breeding facility in North Carolina, so they are fed and are protected from predators. Even so, life is not easy. The nest had 5 eggs, but only 2 hatched and only this one survived.

I started out the day hoping to get some shots like this, but nature’s creatures are unpredictable and you never know exactly what will happen or when. After waiting for an hour for them to come within range of even a long 200-400mm lens, it was another long wait for the little one to hop on for a ride. It almost immediately snuggled itself well under it’s mother’s wing, making it nearly invisible. Then another long wait for it to perk up and sit atop her back. I had arrived at the location around 9AM, and it was not until around 3PM that I was able to get this shot.

It was a long wait, but very well worth it. There were other birds to photograph in the meantime. And I knew when I arrived that it could be a long wait and I was prepared to tough it out.

One of the basic rules of nature photography is to be prepared to wait. And wait. And wait. Patience is a virtue in these situations, but it can be tough. 

The other tough issue was exposure. The black feathers were very dark, and on this bright sunny day the white feathers were very brightly lit. HDR is generally not successful with wildlife because they are in constant motion, so I had to find an exposure that would cover all bases from black to white. The blacks were a little underexposed and the white feathers overexposed. But by carefully watching the Histogram I could find an exposure that would minimize the over- and underexposures, and allow me to use Lightroom later to extract the details in both the blacks and the whites.

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200 mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “He that can have patience can have what he will.”  --Benjamin Franklin

Wednesday, March 12, 2014


This simple image of a Mimosa branch was an unexpected find. I was strolling though a botanical gardens looking for flowers to photograph when I turned and saw the blooms on this tree. It certainly was not what I was looking for, but since it was right there in front of me, I thought I should take some shots.

I was able to position myself so that the smooth water of a canal became the background. The diffused sunlight cast a yellow tone on the water which works well against the green leaves. The pink flowers add just a touch of color to spice it up a bit.

Since this is a tree of Asian origin, the overall composition was designed to have the feel of a Japanese drawing. Simple colors, simple shapes, no distractions.

Notice that this composition violates many standard rules. The flowers are placed in an extreme position, very close to the top of the frame. The leaves go in several directions, with no specific flow. But overall it still seems to capture the eye, and conveys a Zen-like mood of calm and peace.

It is all too easy to get wrapped up in rules and expectations regarding photography. There should be times when you can let yourself go, concentrate on what moves you, and not be bound by the confines of others. 

Once you begin to do that, you can get more in touch with your own creativity. You can find the things that move YOU, and you will be able to create unique and more satisfying images. 

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 400. Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8. Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change.”  --Buddha

Monday, March 10, 2014

By Dawn's Early Light

Sunrise. So lovely, but so darned early! Nevertheless as photographers we haul ourselves out of bed in eager anticipation of a bold and beautiful morning. On this morning a 3AM departure was needed in order to drive to the vantage point, 2  hours away, in time for sunrise at the top of Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

This sunrise did not disappoint. There was a clear sky above, with thick mist in the valleys and hollows below. As the sun rose above the far ridges it cast a warm glow on the higher mist and left the other misty areas in shadow. This created a lovely combination of warm tones against cool.

In addition, the shape of the misty areas, based partly on camera position and cropping, created triangles throughout the image, enhancing the overall composition. Notice the dark triangle of trees in the lower left, upper left, and the triangular shape of the warm-toned mist.

All elements in any photograph should be evaluated and considered when tripping the shutter. The more you can incorporate graphic shapes, complementary colors, and different textures, the more interesting your images will be.

Shutter Speed 1/3 sec.  Aperture f/32.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200 F4L IS, set as 176mm.  Camera: Canon 40D. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “ We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness.”   --Unknown

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Unexpected Abstract

Leaves and flowers make wonderful photographic subjects, and many of us love to shoot them. Often we see and photograph what appears before us, and we do our best to create lovely images of some of Mother Nature’s finest creations.

A fun change of pace is to look for the hidden, the unexpected, the unique. This shot is of the edge of a green leaf (yes, a GREEN leaf), with other green leaves forming the background.

It is exciting to go stalking possible subjects (plants, not people!) at botanical gardens. Usually there are many species of plants that provide a wide variety of opportunities for unusual subjects or unusual views.

If you have a macro lens, it is perfect for this type of shooting. But even if you don’t, you can still find many subjects that will work well for up close and personal views. 

Either wide angle or telephoto lenses will work, and will result in very different images. With a wide angle lens, get as close to the subject as your lens will allow you to focus. Pay very careful attention to the background since the wide lens will encompass much of that. With a telephoto lens, also get as close as your lens will allow to focus. The background will be rendered blurrier than with a wide angle lens, but even so it is important to pay careful attention to the background elements and make sure they are not distracting.

Take your time, look at everything from the top, side, bottom, front and back. Look at the light direction  -  backlight can be especially appealing, but sidelight and front light can also work well.

Look for lines or shapes. Look for pleasing color combinations. Be especially careful with the backgrounds, since a distracting background can ruin an otherwise lovely image. The best way to diminish background issues is to use shallow depth of field. I often shoot flowers and leaves with the lens set at a very large aperture like f/2.8 or f/4. That assures that what I have focused on is sharp, like the edge of this leaf, and allows everything else to go soft.

Try many different views, different angles, and different f/stops. Try hand-holding instead of using a tripod. Doing so will enable you to more easily and quickly compose your shots. Keep in mind, though, that if you use Live View for checking focus (which I rarely do), your camera will have to be on a tripod.

Go out for the day with no preconceived ideas of what you want to shoot. Be open to whatever moves you, and take your time to enjoy your surroundings. By doing so, you will most likely return home with lovely and unexpected images that expand your creativity and provide good feelings of a day well spent.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “If you do not expect the unexpected you will not find it, for it is not to be reached by search or trail.”  --Heraclitus

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Silhouettes can create an eye-catching, graphic photograph. Typically it involves a very dark main subject against a brightly lit background. One example would be someone standing just inside the open doorway of a darkened room with a bright sky outside behind him.

While capturing a silhouette in the situation shown above is a bit unusual, it was easy to create. It took the right lighting conditions and the right clothing to make it happen.

I was photographing expansive desert southwest scenery when I stopped for a moment to look around and just enjoy and appreciate the red rock surrounding me. That’s when I noticed a photographer on a rocky outcropping. His body position was perfect with his legs, tripod and camera clearly outlined against the cloudy blue sky. It was early morning and the sun had not risen enough to light the area where he was standing, but the sky was already fairly light behind him.

The net effect was that he was mostly in shadow against the much lighter sky. His dark clothing enhanced the silhouette effect. When I snapped the shutter I did not know how dark he would actually appear in the image. There was no time to think about exposure. I just shot and hoped for the best. Since the light sky behind him occupies the vast majority of the image, the camera exposed for that, resulting in  him and the rocks being rendered quite dark.

After downloading the image and optimizing it in Lightroom, I reduced the Shadows slightly to enhance the silhouette effect.

This was one of those serendipitous moments that do not happen often. He was in this position for only a few moments. I was able to fire off four quick shots before he lifted his tripod and moved on. It was simply good fortune that I just happened to look away from what I had come there to photograph and noticed him and this shot.

This was an important lesson. Always take a short break from whatever you are photographing to survey everything that is around you.  You never know when something completely unexpected and wonderful will present itself.   

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 400. Lens: Canon 17-40mm, set at 40mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Serendipity always rewards the prepared.”  --Katori Hall

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Go With The Flow

Photographing moving water is fun and unpredictable. Fast-moving streams with a few rocks here and there are a favorite of mine. The rocks are the sharp anchor points, and the moving water and reflected colors create interesting designs.

Waterfalls are also great subjects for moving water shots, but often we have to go farther afield to find them. Most of us have more opportunities to find photogenic streams closer to home.

Here are my Dirty Dozen tips for getting successful moving water shots:

1. Use a sturdy tripod. It is crucial to use a tripod that is rock steady, no pun intended. A flimsy tripod may move slightly or might be shaken by a strong wind.

2. Find a relatively flat and solid place to stand. The area around streams and waterfalls can often be wet and slick, especially if there are wet leaves underfoot. You don’t want your gear or yourself to end up in the drink.

3. Look for areas with both whitewater and smooth water with reflections. The combination of the two adds visual interest to images.

4. Whenever possible, shoot either early or late in the day. At those times it is more likely that there will be no direct sunlight on the surface of the water. It is better to shoot moving water when the light is soft and even, and the area you are shooting is in the shade. Areas of sunlight can cause the whitewater to be very bright and easily overexposed with no detail. Soft light assures you that the whites will still be white, but with detail as in the shot above.

5. While you want the water to be in the shade, the best reflections occur when the shoreline is sunlit. The sunlit areas are not in your frame, but they provide colorful reflections in the surface of the water. Autumn trees will reflect golden and warm, spring leaves will reflect green and bright. And any blue sky above will reflect as well. This shot was taken in the early morning in autumn when the sun was lighting the trees on the far bank, but the surface of the stream was still in shadow.

6. Set your camera to Aperture Priority (Av on Canon, A on Nikon). 

7. Set your ISO to 100.

8. Set your aperture as small as it will go on your lens (f/22 or f/32 or smaller).

9. Take the first shots at whatever shutter speed your camera has set itself to, often half a second or slower.  For fast moving water this might be slow enough to create the silky look that moving water can provide. For slow moving water, a slower shutter speed might be required. If you cannot slow the shutter speed down enough, place either a polarizing filter over the lens, or use a solid neutral density filter if you have one. The polarizer will cut exposure by about 2 stops, enabling you to get slower shutter speeds. Solid neutral density filters come in different strengths  -  mine is a fixed 10-stop filter, meaning that it cuts exposure a full 10 stops. Depending on conditions, this can allow exposures of 30 seconds or longer.

Try different shutter speeds if possible. Start at half a second, then one second, and so on as far as your camera will allow you to go and still provide good exposures. There is no “magic” shutter speed that will always be best for moving water.

10. Camera height and angle can change the location and appearance of the reflections. Check out different angles to determine which ones give you the best color and reflections.

11. Have a rain cover or plastic bag handy if there is a lot of water spray. Moving water can kick up a good deal of spray and you want to keep your camera and lens high and dry. 

12.  Shoot many different angles and different shutter speeds whenever possible. Once you have found a spot you like, try different views to see which ones you like best. 

So get out there, practice, and play. You will find the possibilities exhilirating.

Shutter Speed ½ second.  Aperture f/20.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 78mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”  --Loren Eisley

Monday, March 3, 2014

Anatomy Of An Image

Rules. Expectations. We all have to follow them in most aspects of our lives, including in our photography. BUT there are times when we have to follow our own path, our own vision. While at times that might fly in the face of what is expected or presumed, it can result in unusual or lovely or compelling images.

This image is a study in shape and color. It is not a traditional representation of a calla lily, but rather an almost abstract rendition. The fact that most of the flower is out of focus may bother some viewers since what is in focus occupies a very small portion of the picture.

But what IS in focus was chosen deliberately. By focusing only on the upper edges of the flower, the viewer can grab onto something that is sharp, and then slowly move around the rest of the image.

The complimentary colors enhance the ability to move through the image as well. The composition flows (from left to right) from green to white to purple to darker areas on the right side and bottom. The green and purple colors balance each other, the white is a bit of eye relief from the strong colors, and the dark areas act as blockers preventing the eye from leaving the image. The design is such that the eye can circle around the shapes and colors, and be kept within the image by the dark tones on the right side.

Also notice how the flower is placed in the frame. It is on a diagonal running from lower left to upper right. Had it been placed on a straight horizontal line, the flow would have been entirely different and not as interesting.

I tried several different views of this flower with different areas in focus and with greater depth of field. Ultimately I liked this one the best since it added a sense of depth, movement, and maybe even a touch of mystery.  

In order to excel in most endeavors, it is necessary to move beyond the normal, the usual, the expected.  Don’t be held back by what you have seen others do. Use that as a starting point and then follow your own vision. Experiment. Not all your attempts will work, but even the unsuccessful ones will help you hone your vision and your style.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 160.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “True originality consists not in a new manner but in a new vision.”  --Edith Wharton