Starting tomorrow August 19, 2013, I become part of a U.S.-based advertising agency. The company president invited me to join her team of creative professionals to do work on a full-time basis. The job includes writing online content and designing blogs and websites – things that are right down my alley. I’ll be a remote staff, doing work from home. This post is not about saying goodbye to blogging. Previously I was doing online freelance work so I had more time in my hands, enabling me to do multiple posts a day early on when I started this blog October last year. By tomorrow I may not be able to follow my habit (yes it has become a habit) of daily posting. This blog will continue but not on its frenetic pace, it will slow down a bit. I still have many pictures to share together with experiences, stories and learnings. I thank all of you my blogging peers for making this online activity for the past 10 months very worthwhile, enjoyable and meaningful. But, probably like every one of you, blogging is just one chapter of my life. There are others, and for me a new one starts tomorrow which requires my undivided time and skill. I will have to focus on that. For the meantime this is JJ saying “Take care my friends and keep on clicking!”
Because B&W images do not depend on colors for impact, black and white compositions are often better designed, and so your ability to compose may well improve by working in B&W!~William Neill
Wishing all of you a splendid weekend! Thank you for the visits, likes, follows and comments during our Islands Week. Keep on clicking my friends!
Principles of Visual Dynamics
If you like rules, remember exceptions prove the rules. Being too insistent on the application of hard and fast rules can blind you to many exceptional opportunities. If you don’t like rules, remember that while there are no absolutes there are forces at work that have consistent tendencies. Denying or ignoring universal principles will lead to unpredictable unrepeatable results; you’ll achieve success far less frequently and be far less able to repeat your successes.
Forget rules. Forget absolutes. Forget musts. Instead develop an awareness of visual principles. Look for the unique power each element has to influence a composition. Develop a sensitivity to how elements and combination of elements make the forces at work in a composition stronger or weaker. Instead of composing formulaically, you’ll then be able to improvise. Understanding the principles of visual dynamics will help make your decision making process more informed, it will not make choices for you. Awareness is the key. Better awareness brings better choices bringing better results.
~John Paul Caponigro from his article Photographic Composition: Introduction
It seems positively unnatural to travel without taking a camera along…~Susan Sontag
These are actual island dwellers I’ve encountered during my travels to far-flung provinces. They are fishermen, children, kids – people who live simple lives and enjoy their natural surroundings. They don’t have elegant homes, fashionable clothes, regular work or a lifestyle to speak of. I don’t even think they have cellphones. In the first place there are no signals in these remote places. What do they have? An affinity with nature that we, dwellers of the metropolitan jungle, so obviously lack. And the barest of their needs to live a life are aptly provided for by nature’s resources, right at their doorstep. God bless these island dwellers, these people of the sea.
When you’ve got islands, unless they are rock formations protruding out from the sea, then you’ve got beaches. What do you do? Plunge right into those inviting waters? Shoot First, Swim Later was the title of my post last October 30, 2012. I’m reposting it:
My country, the Philippines, has 7,100 islands. Put all those coastlines together and it will stretch for 23,000 kilometers, the third longest in the world. As a tropical country, it’s literally beach time all year round. Hence the beach, found everywhere, pristine in its natural beauty, is a mainstay subject of mine. Water, sand, sea, tides, shells, corals, sunny skies, palm trees, all these converge to create an inviting, colorful and exotic environ deserving of the pages of a travel magazine. In fact, we have some of the best beach and diving locations in the world. So how exactly do we photograph the beach, coast and shorelines? We know these images as seascapes. Darren Rowse, founder of the online Digital Photography School, jots down 10 Beach Photography Tips which include looking for focal points, watching the horizon, using flash and filters, utilizing black and white and many others. Unless you live there right by the sea, the chance to be at a scenic coastline or beach must not be passed up. You will be guided by your accumulated knowledge of what to shoot, when to shoot and things to look out for to get that postcard-perfect shot. (Photo location: Alubihod Beach, Guimaras Island)
With over 600 posts, all of them with pictures, I have quite a number of island images. Some of those images used in this blog as well as those from my collection are featured in Junsjazz Digital Magazine Issue #3. Now here’s where I curate myself, I went over these previous postings and picked some of the best island pictures (which may be familiar to you if you have followed this blog from early on). In keeping with this week’s picture series I present them again. Here are personal picks. Enjoy!
When I posted the above image at a popular photo sharing site, a viewer commented: “Wow! You captured the whole island!” Well, not really, just one area of the island which happens to be its most visible part. It’s because motorboats and their passengers pass along this sea route on their way to the main island some two hours away. I don’t know if other corners of the island are as gorgeous, but I should say the above area looks the part of a tropical Eden, unspoiled and untouched (unlike the famous Boracay Island which is teeming with people).
Imagine yourself in the island above, lying on the beach, feeling the warm caress of white, powdery sand on your skin as the balmy wind tempers the midday sun and sways the lush palms. Then you arise and dive into those tempting waters, practicing your strokes against the incoming tide. Later you retreat to the natural shade and get your fill of ripe, juicy mangoes, papaya, avocado and of course the coconut fruit…this is gastronomic heaven. Your eyes feel heavy and the cool hut beckons…with the sweet singing of birds above and the soothing sound of the surf below, you get to dreamland…fast. This is back-to-basics living, without your smartphone, tablet, laptop, music player or radio or whatever gadget. I can live with that, but not without my camera!
Another week and another picture series. The Philippines as an archipelago has 7,100 of them jutting out like pearls from the sea. Some are world-renowned destinations but we’ll explore those that don’t have hotels, bars and cabanas on the beach. We’ll go to the untrodden places, quiet, peaceful and free, and where time seemingly stands still. Welcome to Islands Week!
My subject, the boy in his banca (local canoe), is out of focus. That is obvious enough. Well, I was in another banca rocking and swaying in that late afternoon when the waters were rising and the tides were becoming restless when I took this shot. I wasn’t in a stable and steady footing in the first place. When I reviewed this image in my computer I was tempted to delete it. However, I had second thoughts simply because taking the picture as a whole I thought was greater than the sum of its parts. The cloud formation, the colors of a sunset peeking through the horizon, the portion of an island, and the subtle green waters were enough to convince me to keep this. Maybe I exact a high standard for myself when it comes to image making, which is good as I see every photographic opportunity as a challenge. But heck, I don’t work for National Geographic hence my photos need not be perfect. In relation to that, my audience and perennial critic first and foremost is myself. A slightly blurred subject in a most captivating environment is, for me, passable. Why? Because I like it.
I photograph things which I want to look at a little longer.~Gunnie Moberg
Boats in themselves are uninteresting subjects. You may frown in confusion what with a whole series of boat images filling my posts for the whole week. Boats per se are boring. You may notice that with the boat pictures I have posted so far they are always framed with some other elements – people, sunrise, beach, ports, sky, clouds, splash of water, etc. Supporting elements, background and foreground placements and overall composition will provide appeal to an image. Though boats take center stage in this week’s picture series, they may not always be the point of interest. They may take on secondary, supporting roles. The picture above may have the boat as focal point, right smack in the middle of a 16:9 aspect ratio, but what really drives the image are those large brooding clouds that may signal an upcoming thunderstorm. That is a dramatic image that foretells a story – a vessel at sea being chased by a thunderstorm. The photo below may not be high-impact, and this time the fisherman is the main cast. But it also tells a tale – the sun is high and the fisherman decides to “park” his boat in an island and take a rest under the cool shade of coconut trees. Framing elements in a photo may seem to add clutter and distraction from the main subject. But a careful arrangement of these elements simply leads the eye to the point of interest and strengthens the message or story. It’s a technique tested and used time and again. Let me close this piece with something from Annie Leibovitz:
One doesn’t stop seeing. One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and turn on. It’s on all the time.
It will be a week-long images of boats – large and small, fast and slow, empty or with people. The Philippines is an archipelago with 7,100 islands and a combined coastline of 23,000 kilometers. Though airplanes provide fast, convenient means of transport to major cities, it is the boat, from large inter-island ferries that carry a couple of thousand passengers to small dozen seaters, that are preferred by most of the budget-conscious traveling population. Smaller ones are workhorses of the country’s fishermen. And of course, island-hopping with these boats provides a different kind of adventure. All aboard! Have a great week ahead my friends!
Those few minutes before the sun finally dips into the horizon will give you some deep contrast. It’s where the darkness of ensuing night conquers the last remaining light of day. And depending on the weather, cloud formation and where the rays fall, it can give you an exquisite canvas of colors, light, silhouettes and shadows.
I have said before that I’m not a morning guy, hence I have just a few sunrise shots. But I have a whole collection of sunset scenes – reminders of the cyclical nature of life, of the eternal passing of time divided into a 24-hour day. I remember this quote from American photographer Galen Rowell:
“There are only a fixed number of sunrises and sunsets to be enjoyed in a lifetime. The wise photographer will do the math and not waste any of them.”
I would like to think that the wise photographer is the thinking photographer that we should all strive to be. Whether we have reached that level or not yet, it would add to our experience, satisfaction and skill to capture one of the most spectacular displays of nature afforded us on a daily basis. When the opportunity to photograph a great sunset is there, yes, we should not pass it up. We should “do the math.”
One of the easiest ways to change your perspective is to shoot from a higher vantage point. In other words, be prepared to get physical and do a little exercise climbing a mountain, ladder, tree, or just some steps When shooting above and looking down it’s almost as if you have a bird’s eye perspective of what is going on below. From a higher vantage point you can take great shots of parades, crowds, traffic or scenic valley views. The rewards of doing this are that ‘many’ other photographers are simply too lazy to ‘climb’ something. This is a travel photography tip that can’t be underestimated: putting in a bit of grunt work.
~Samuel Jeffery from his article Change Your Vantage Point
I believe in the resonance and staying power of quiet photographs.~William Albert Allard
The picture below was taken at Baluarte, a seaside park in the tourist island province of Bohol in central Philippines. When I reviewed the picture in my computer, it was far from what I saw on that day. My picture was bland and boring. It had to undergo post-processing to highlight the colors and details to more or less approximate the actual scene. How do we go about capturing the realism of a scene when we first saw it?
Kimball Larsen shares some pointers in his article 10 Photography Tips To Better Capture What You See. They are the following:
1. Decide on a clear center of attention
2. Remember that your eye has a better dynamic range than your camera
3. Aperture control for DOF
4. Careful composition to either expand upon or contract the feel of the photo
5. Be ready – moments come and go quickly
6. Understand the exposure triangle
7. P is not for “Professional”
8. Pay attention to your light sources
9. Always check your camera settings
Again I suggest you go over the article and read Larsen’s descriptions on each tip. Giving thoughtful consideration to the above items will greatly improve our picture-taking. It helps elevate us to the level of a thinking photographer, deliberate and confident that our every shot will result in a faithful capture of what we saw. Happy shooting this weekend!
Ok, but there’s more to picking the right spot than just the location. As important as location is, your sunset will almost always be lacking the one essential ingredient that will make it special – a dominant point of interest. And just what might that be? It’s that extra element that gives your sunset an anchor, a sense of scale, a point which will draw the viewer inevitably into the picture.
A photograph of a sunset by itself just doesn’t work. After all, one setting sun is much like any other. Even if you manage to capture the gorgeous color, without a dominant point of interest the image will still end up looking rather boring. Now, having said that I should tell you that, without some forward planning, a dominant point of interest is not an easy thing to include. It might be the silhouette of a sailboat on a glittering, backlit ocean, a barn, a horse, a cow, a tractor, or even a lone tree in the foreground. It could be the silhouette of two lovers walking hand-in-hand down a country lane, a little girl with a small dog on a leash – I’ve used both of those – and I’m sure you can come up with many more ideas of your own.
~Blair Howard fron his article How To Photograph Sunsets
The advent of digital photography and today’s prevalence of affordable digital SLR cameras ensures more people have the capability to capture an inspiring photo. The only question is how to gain the creative skills, aptitude and dedication to make it happen. First we need to understand the basics of what makes a great travel or adventure photo.
East Africa-based adventure writer and photographer Nathan Ward reveals travel photography is about finding the image within its natural setting. “Find big scenery and local colour. Ideally something without a westerner in it! The world isn’t about a photo of some blonde person in their new Patagonia gear standing next to Tsaatan reindeer herders. The story is about the reindeer herders. Show the world and all its magic,” he says.
Finding the image within its natural setting is individual and we all differ in our visual perspective, however when it comes to releasing the shutter, the basic ingredients to attention-grabbing pictures has remained the same since the inception of photography; thoughtful composition, creative lighting and an interesting subject.
~Mark Watson from his article Sharp Shooters: Photography Tips
Here are a few places to consider when heading out to start your photography adventure.
Water: It doesn’t matter where you live or where you go, you are sure to find lakes, rivers and streams with beautiful landscapes surrounding them. On the coasts, you can get amazing shots of oceans as well. When looking at these locations, determine what makes them unique. Is it a fast moving river or a lazy, slow stream? Figure this out and then decide if you want it to be the focal point of your composition or just a device to use to focus on something beside or in it. You can also find amazing reflections in the water, which will enhance your photographs even more.
Forests: Forests present a photographer with numerous opportunities. Look around and decide if the forest is open and welcome or enclosed and gloomy. When you find the “personality” of the forest, decide what objects in the forest will allow that attitude to come to life in your photographs. It can be a tree, a winding path or a colorful break in the greenery. Find what makes the forest come to life and capture it in your photographs.
Plains: The wide open spaces, especially in the Midwest, can seem dreary and boring but, with the right eye, this can also become the scenic photographers dream. The most important thing to find here is something to focus on. Find an old road sign, a barbed wire fence or an old gravel road and then use these items to show the vastness of the open space beyond it. The plains are also a great place to get amazing shots of the sky as it morphs and changes colors throughout the year.
Mountains: Remember, you are not just shooting mountains, you are shooting something with the mountains in the background. Sure, there can be some amazing pictures displaying the curves of the mountains but those photographs can get boring after awhile. Instead, find something close to the camera, such as a tree or a person admiring the mountain. Using this subject, the mountains will look vast and immense in comparison.
~Shawn Lealos from his article Scenic Photography: Getting the Most out of Your Outdoor Shoot
When I use the camera, I often feel like I know part of the people or places I come in contact with.~Christophe Agou
Besides artistic portraits and street photography, there is another area that captures humans and its called documentary-style people photography. It is about photographing people in relation to issues, situations, places and the environment they are in. It involves documenting their stories as they go about their everyday lives, such as the girl and her little brother in the photo.
They live in a small coastal community in Guimaras Island in central Philippines. The main livelihood of families in the community are fishing but they get a bigger income by ferrying tourists to nearby small islands that boast of pristine beaches, undeveloped and undisturbed patches of nature. The primary means of transportation from one island to another is the banca, a local outrigger canoe that can carry two to three passengers. It is propelled by the sheer effort of paddling, by the girl in this case, with her little brother playing the role of lookout and assistant. The girl has just ferried me and my photo buddy to this small island and I took this picture as they were about to set off to transport more of my fellow photographers waiting in the main island some 300 meters away. I guess we are all chroniclers when we have our cameras and arrive at a new country, city or place. Knowingly or unknowingly, we capture images of people as they go through the daily grind and struggles in life. In the picture above, it is a poignant story of siblings helping their family to make ends meet; their parents are out at sea fishing. The camera is there not only to capture beautiful sceneries but also slices of life, no matter how humbling, as we encounter them.
I don’t know how you imagine an Eden on earth should look like, but if you ask me it should be something like the above.~JJ
Whether you’re photographing wildlife, plants or a wondrous sunset, be aware of your surroundings. Follow these tips to capture the best opportunities for nature photos:
- Be aware of all of your senses: your ear may hear something that your eyes have missed.
- Maintain perspective: when changing locations, check out where you have just been so you know where to travel next to get another amazing shot.
- Pay attention to your surroundings: look up and down, as well as side to side.
- Study your subject’s habits: know how to anticipate an upcoming photo opportunity or when to flee.