Observe the picture above. There are layers of textures there – the powdery sand that has seen its share of hundreds of footsteps (or sandal marks), the white strip of surf crashing on shore, the tips of aqua green waves readying their final trip towards land, those fluffy pieces of clouds on their heavenly sojourn, the rocky outcrop of mountains and islands on the horizon. Does this add clutter and confusion to the picture? No, because texture is not the first thing you’ll notice but the blue banca (outrigger canoe) that sits quietly in contrast to its surrounding. The textures here provide an interesting menagerie of patterns, colors, shadows and highlights. Though texture can be a central subject, they can be effective secondary pieces in support of the point of interest. Look out for texture. Designers and graphic artists use them for backgrounds and to fill spaces. But photographers can use texture as a more powerful element – much like shape, patterns, color and light – for subject or composition.
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!
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!
I photograph things which I want to look at a little longer.~Gunnie Moberg
Go Out & Start Shooting
The human brain wants you to find the perfect idea. By going out and shooting whatever random subject matter is there (no matter how dull) can create inspiration within itself. Go out and shoot that fire hydrant, doors, trees and whatever other random, dull, static objects you may find in your line of vision! It may lead you somewhere unexpected.
Find A Color
Go out and shoot one color. Narrowing your subject matter down to one color will make you see photographs you never would have otherwise. Different colors have different moods too. If you are feeling calm and cool, go shoot blue. Do you feel happy? Shoot yellow or orange. There are many internet resources that you can look into to explore the color wheel and emotional interpretation of color.
~Some Thoughts on Photography by Dr. Dennis Woytek
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
It’s not when you press the shutter, but why you press the shutter.~Mary Ellen Mark
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.
A recent post of mine Inspiration from within contained an excerpt from the article of master photographer Alain Briot titled Finding Inspiration. Before I read that article it was always my belief that we find inspiration from outside – in nature, in places, in the works of the masters and legendary photographers, and in photos of blogger peers. The wonders of the Internet affords us to review and admire the works of noted photographers, without us physically going to the library. This is where I get my inspiration: an interesting situation, a new place or location, and images by other photographers. Half of my time on WordPress is spent going through the sites of photo bloggers. Yes folks, I get ideas and inspiration from your works.
The aforementioned are what Alain Briot calls external inspiration. Then there is also the internal inspiration. Something which I never realized consciously until just recently. This is inspiration derived from our work which, as we accumulate experience and knowledge, is refined and improved. How many times have people noticed your images and said it was great? You post a creative piece of image in your blog and others comment, like and follow you. That is public approbation in the blogosphere. And you get inspired, and vow to do well and capture pictures to top the image that got so much attention. It will be a cycle of giving out your best every time you press the shutter. It is a powerful driving force – the spark of inspiration within.
There are two distinct roads in photography – the utilitarian and the aesthetic, the goal of the one being a record of facts, and the other an expression of beauty.~Charles H. Caffin
Last weekend I was at a bookstore and chanced upon the photography section. I saw Joe McNally’s book LIFE Guide to Digital Photography: Everything You Need to Shoot Like the Pros and it was open (without the plastic cover). I scanned through the pages. It was an eye-opener, filled with techniques and tips based on the experience and expertise of McNally who was a contributor for National Geographic for 20 years, and a staff photographer of LIFE magazine from 1994 to 1998. Of the many quotable quotes from the book was this: “The camera is an engineer, not a poet.”
As I recall, McNally said it in the context of mastering your camera, especially its manual controls. He states that in Program Mode, you let the camera do all the calculations as far as aperture, shutter speed, ISO, white balance and other parameters concerned to get the proper exposure. In Aperture Priority Mode (on a DSLR’s Mode Dial its A for Nikon and AV for Canon), you choose how wide the opening and the camera’s brains sets the corresponding shutter speed. In Shutter Priority Mode (S on Nikon, TV on Canon), you set the exposure time and the camera determines the right aperture. The correct mix between aperture and shutter speed will more or less produce a properly exposed shot. Which is fine and good, but Program Mode is for amateurs and Shutter and Aperture Priority Modes give you partial control. The brains of the camera will not work all the time in all shooting situations. It will always be a measurement, a forecast, a computation – crunching numbers to get the median balance and mix. That in essence makes the camera an engineer.
But you must step up in your photographic journey and go beyond the comforts and convenience of Program Mode. You have to master the Manual Mode (even some point and shoots now have full manual) and all the photographic possibilities it offers right at your fingertips. Though it is so easy to use the dozens of preset scenes and shooting modes in today’s digital cameras, don’t be tempted. Gone are the days of being a slave to whatever the camera tells you. You must be the one who takes charge and tells the camera what to do. Following through your vision as a photographer for every image you take requires you to have full control. You must be driven by your passion and art. You must beat the heart of a poet, crafting and creating, confident in your technical knowledge and convinced in your creative prowess.
The irony is that landscape photography is extremely difficult to do well. You’re relying not only on finding beautiful landscapes to photograph, but being there at the same time the weather and light are working together to create the conditions that you can use to photograph the landscape in a way that fulfills your creative vision. It takes a dedication that most of us don’t have.
When we’re in a landscape, we see it in colour. Black and white photography strips away the colour, leaving the bare bones. The features of the landscape, such as rocks, trees and mountains, become compositional elements made up of light, texture and tonal contrast. Black and white is beautiful. The photo becomes an interpretation, rather than a literal representation, of the landscape. We’re seeing the artist’s personal vision, and emotional response to the landscape, as well as the place itself.
~Andrew Gibson from his article How To Capture Stunning Fine Art Landscape Photographs
Removing color from a photograph can add a lot to it; it can reveal details that would otherwise go unnoticed. Color, in some cases, may obscure the texture and form of the subjects, while black and white emphasizes the structure of the composition.
There are many ways in which the different colors turn into different grays, meaning that you can experience great light and dark richness when using black and white nature photography. While color may emphasize the shape of a subject, its black and white version may add a lot of character and feeling by highlighting its texture.
In black and white photography, the absence of light is as important as its presence. The profound shadows add depth and strength to an image. Photographers know how different colors, and lighting, react, and they use this knowledge to create impacting black and whites that deeply arouse, shock, inspire or relax.
~Byron Jorjorian from his article When Black and White Nature Photography Lights Up a Space
Let’s talk a little bit about pictures and why we love them.
Pictures can be beautiful. They can decorate a home or an office; be published in books, magazines and calendars; they can even win ribbons or prizes in contests. A breathtaking landscape can transport the viewer to another time and place, if only for a moment. A beautiful still life can capture a mood of serenity, warmth, even magic. A great portrait of a person can look into their soul, and let you share their smiles or tears. A great picture communicates. Think about it. There is a huge market out there for photographs because publishers know that the people who buy their materials will be drawn to good photographs that reach out to them. Visual communication is something that we’re all born being able to relate to. The subjects out there to take pictures of are limitless. The only boundaries are within your mind.
But what makes a photograph successful? The answer is a fairly simple one, and you can improve your photography today by learning a few very basic rules.
One caveat, however. As the old saying goes, rules are meant to be broken. Some of my favorite photographs very purposely break a lot of the basic “rules” of photography. But to break the rules in a way that enhances a photograph and effectively turns it into a great photo, you first have to know the rules and have a reason for wanting to break them…
~from the article Composition and Impact
It’s just seeing – at least the photography I care about. You either see or you don’t see. The rest is academic…It’s how you organize what you see into a picture.~Elliott Erwitt