Happy weekend everyone!
Whether abstracts or straight ahead photography, or whatever genre for that matter, we are attracted to lines and shapes. These are powerful compositional elements which, combined with dramatic lighting and stimulating colors, provide interest in images. We don’t search for lines and shapes. For the keen photographer, it is almost second nature to spot such elements, along with textures, patterns, forms, shadows and highlights. The photographer’s “third eye” is always on the look out, it doesn’t turn on and off. It is ingrained in his system to notice and discern what is interesting and what will work out. He may see a subject in its grandiose totality and as a composite whole, but he will also eye the subject’s parts and areas that may carry distinct forms, details and character. Here are samples:
It has been one great week of photographic abstractions. I hope you enjoyed this week’s picture series. Thank you all for the visits, views, likes, comments and follows. Always, we must have fun in our photography and at the same time learn and develop it, maybe not to staggering, earth-shattering, legendary levels (anyway, most of us are not professionals) but simply to a point where we can be satisfied and proud of our work and make it worthy to be shown and shared to our online viewers. Keep on clicking my friends!
Everywhere is something which could be beautiful. You must only learn to see and to know what and how to take off, to crop from the infinity – abstract, fine art, nature, landscape and portrait photography.~Florin Constantinescu
Wishing everyone a lovely weekend!
This article of mine was posted January 28, 2013 and I’d like to repost it in keeping with our understanding and presentation of “Shapes” which is our picture series for this week.
We use the words “form” and “shape” interchangeably. There is however a distinction. This article What Is the Difference Between Shape and Form In Photography provides a basic explanation that distinguishes between the two, and how they correlate to the concept of “space” and how, when combined, creates the element of photographic composition. We’ve been exposed to shapes early on – triangles, rectangles, squares and those with many sides (hexagon, pentagon, etc.). In a photograph, an object comes across as two-dimensional. In the accompanying photo, we know the shape of the ball, in the same manner that we know the shape of a wheel, a plate, saucer, a complete pizza, a coin as examples. When viewed flat, they are all round or circular in shape. When light falls on the subject, like the ball in the picture, it produces dark areas and shadows, highlighting its length, width and depth, and producing a three-dimensional form with the negative space around it. Learning to use this concept of space in combination with the shape and form of central subjects will help in determining the viability and effectiveness of our composition. We know the shape of a tree. When we photograph that tree with the light of a sunset in the horizon, it will cast long shadows and create a dramatic form. Composition comes to fore when we combine our focal point (the tree, already in its interesting form) with other elements in the space around it, say distant mountains in the background or a verdant field surrounding it. The thinking photographer already envisioned the scene, and it is a matter of arranging these elements in the frame to come up with a compositionally pleasing shot.
As in our tips last week on photographing stained glass windows, we tackled on zooming out or backing farther away in order to capture the whole piece. On the other hand, we are advised to zoom in on parts and areas to emphasize details. In my experiences in photographing boats I also follow that process – get it wide to capture the subject whole then zoom in on areas to get some particulars. That way I get as much perspectives and variety in my shots. Details can be a confusing mishmash of objects, colors, lines, shapes and forms such as the picture of a tanker ship below, or it can be a clean image showing the finer points of a fisherman’s gear like the picture above. Why are details important? As in anything else, details comprise the big picture. Let me share a quote from sociologist Howard S. Becker:
“Every part of the photographic image carries some information that contributes to its total statement; the viewer’s responsibility is to see, in the most literal way, everything that is there and respond to it. To put it another way, the statement the image makes – not just what it show you, but the mood, moral evaluation and casual connections it suggest – is built up from those details.”
I was at a room in this five-star hotel and sipping coffee in a corner table by the window. At the back of my chair was a tall lampshade and when I looked up, lo and behold – shapes, lines, light! I was looking straight at the inside of the lampshade from below. I guess it’s already instinct as my left hand reached over my belt pouch for the camera. I composed with the circle dead center in the frame and took a shot. I took two other shots, one with the circle on the left and the other on the right side of the frame, all the while with my head tilted on the chair’s head rest (an awkward pain-inducing position for the nape, hence three takes were enough). As always I shot in color, but I was picturing the scene in monochrome. With distinct lines, angles and geometric shapes and light peering through the partially opened curtain, I knew this would be a keeper in black and white. Experience and practice teach us how to spot subjects that would work well in the classic medium. In our head, it’s almost an automated process, a routine thought, a programmed visualization, a photographer’s gift of “seeing.”
Take Shapes into Consideration
Since black and white pictures lack color, they are dependent largely on lines and shapes to create interest. Try to incorporate a variety of shapes that create different types of lines such as curving lines, crooked lines, or slanting lines. Stark straight lines can also have dramatic effects in black and white photos.
Mind Your Perspective
Perspective can create some very interesting effects, especially in black and white photography. Perspective can bring alive a standard subject, it can suggest depth and mystery in everyday objects, and, in fact, you can make a picture tell a story just by using an unusual angle while photographing a scene in black and white.
Take Care of the Background
While taking black and white photos you need to make sure that the subject does not get lost in the background. Often, just by shifting your subject a little to the left or right can help in eliminating unwanted elements in your photograph. Or you could try to take the picture from another angle.
Texture can add interest and definition to black and white photos. For example, a black and white picture of a roughly textured wall will certainly look more interesting than a smooth wall, or a road made of cobblestones will look more dramatic than a smooth one.
~Rita Putatunda from her article Tips for Shooting Black and White Photos
Available light is any damn light that is available! ~W. Eugene Smith
Windows and doors are interesting main subjects. But they can also play a secondary role. Since their geometric shapes are mainly squares and rectangles, they are perfect for framing primary subjects or points of interest. I was at this antique house (over a century old), and I was composing a shot of the old, open window (the white checkered design in the sliding shutters are made of local capiz shells). Then out of the blue from the inside of the house, a photo buddy suddenly appeared and was bent on taking a shot perched on the window. I pressed the shutter. The window was now relegated to an important supporting role – nicely framing the main subject. It is with situations like this that one has to be ready, from shifting composition to changing focal points, with literally “finger on the trigger.”
Doors and windows beg us to be opened. You are supposed to open doors and walk through them. You are supposed to open windows and let the breeze come through. Doors and windows are intriguing and fascinating.
Doors and Windows are there and they are full of patterns, textures and designs. They call us to be photographed. They come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. Some are huge and some are intimidating, some are small and just there. Some doors and windows are famous and some are also art forms. These and more certainly bring the fascination of capturing images of doors and windows.
Capturing an image of a door or a window might seem like an easy task. What can be so difficult about it, they are flat, so nothing to worry about ‘Depth of Field’. They do not move, so nothing to worry about ‘Shutter Speed’. But wait, doors and windows too have their challenges.
~Joaquin Duenas from his article Window and Door Photography Tips
For sure, each one of us has our own set of image collections in our hard drive. I have lots of them neatly tucked in their own folders – flowers, sunsets, landscapes, festivals, macro, portraits and this – windows. It seems I have this penchant for the, well, ordinary. Who would have thought this functional part of a house or building would be such interesting subjects? They can be plain rectangular holes in the side of a structure or they can be elaborate works of art in churches. It’s how you look at them, capture them and present them that they take on a compelling form. This week I share some of these images from my Windows Collection. Have a wonderful week ahead.
The virtue of the camera is not the power it has to transform the photographer into an artist, but the impulse it gives him to keep on looking.~Brooks Atkinson
Still life is the study of an inanimate object…takes you right back to 6th grade art class! However, still life images are not restricted to painting and drawing – many of us take still life photos every day without actually realizing that we are taking a “still life”. When you really think about it, you may realize just how many still life’s you’ve taken over the years. In the traditional sense a still life is often thought of as a bowl of fruit, a vase of flowers, or an arrangement of related (or non-related) objects. But ultimately any type of objects that you set up or create as a scene can be a still life; they don’t necessarily need to be flowers or fruit. The key to creating a good still life is thinking about the object in terms of setting the scene.
~Still Life Photography Tips from The Beginners Lens
What happens when the colored photo on your computer screen suddenly goes black and white? The vivid colors suddenly draining away transforming the image into a greyscale of calm, still, peaceful shades. To me black and white photography can say much more than just a peaceful image or a pleasant, clean contrast. Beneath the facade of colorless, cleanliness lies the beauty of the image’s stillness, the chaos of its texture, meaning, and intention. Things captured in all pictures but brought out all at once in black and white images. From the simplest photograph to a capture disarrayed with an infinitesimal amount of texture, from a photo so intensely macro to a photo large and encompassing; black and white photography communicates to us this eerie stillness…It is in the silence of black and white that viewers are freed from the noise of color and are all at once brought into the photograph, into a dialogue of meaning and interpretation.
~Chris So from his article Black & White Photography: A Moving Stillness
Black and white helps to learn the basics without getting too distracted; this is one reason why it is so popular among teachers. Black and white focuses the attention on form, shading, pattern, and other graphic concepts, to give them an unusual quality with tone and hue.
With a clear view toward graphics, composition, and design, the photographer can concentrate on:
- How contrast creates lines and how lines lead the eye or psychologically affect the viewer by curving, lying flat, diagonal, or vertical.
- How shapes or lines make a pattern and how shape with texture gives an object form.
- How highlights compete for attention and dark tones create an important negative space.
Many artists prefer black and white because it causes the photographer and the viewer to see the world in a way that cannot be seen with the naked eye.
Seeing the reoccurring pattern, line, or shape is easier with black and white, which does such a good job of emphasizing it. This is especially the case when a black and white photo shows good contrast – when the blacks are black, the highlights are bright, when you can still see some detail in both the highlights and the shadows.
~The Merits of B&W from BetterPhoto.com
Perspective is the way you look at the things around you. Yes, a cable wire may just be that – a cable wire. But the fact that it is ordinary, doesn’t mean it isn’t worthy as a subject for your photograph. This is where having a photographer’s perspective comes in handy!
The key to producing photos with unique perspective is to be open about your point of view. What are the techniques you can use to do this? Here’s a few:
- Take a moment to imagine your subject from different points of view and angles.
- Get low or move above your subject to see it from another angle making it seem big or small.
- Move away from the subject, or nearer to the subject to create a new perspective or to give the subject a bit of space.
- Stroll around your subject. There may be an unusual or interesting viewpoint you haven’t seen from where you’re standing.
- Work with the light source. Lighting can help you present your subject in ways you hadn’t thought of before.
The photo below is a toy of my niece. It’s a multi-colored plastic springy thing shaped like a star. I looked through it and saw, well, a star-shaped tunnel. Immediately I took my camera and tried to poke the lens through the toy to get a shot. I struggled to get a shot and tried to bend here and there the springy, elastic toy. My niece was amused at what I was doing. I was like a child again, not playing with the toy, but trying to muster a decent shot.
We photographers are the curious, inquisitive type. Upon seeing a potential photographic subject, we stare and take a look, and often fuss about it. We become a child again, wide-eyed, all the while thinking of how to tackle the subject – the angles, perspective, framing and composition. Which is a good thing because it opens our eyes to observe carefully and “see” things in a whole new light.
Martin Lee Leddy has this to say from his article Using Your Inner Child’s Eye:
“Let your eye wander to the normally unnoticed things, and go photograph them. Morning light is a wonderful source of inspiration for taking macro photos of insects, flowers, dripping water, dew covered spider webs and other things we haven’t looked for since childhood. Use wide angle lenses for photos of scenery, and search for opportunities to take other photos of things that later in the day carry no mystique. Look for dew drops, coiled hoses, shadows on the buildings and photograph them all. Enjoy seeing the wonder through the eyes of your inner child. Remember, Look for the details!”
Once the lens was snugly fit inside the other end of the springy toy, I smiled at my niece and beckoned her to look at the camera’s viewfinder and she let out a loud “wow!” upon seeing the image (which is the above photo).
Keeping things simple has two components…You do not have to wait until there is a special occasion or you have an amazing subject to snap a picture. If you look closely at the world around you, you will find many simple subjects that would make terrific photographs. The curve of a table leg, the basket that holds some magazines, or the curve of a leaf are all simple subjects that can make dramatic photos. Keeping things simple opens the world around you to many new photographs that you might otherwise overlook.
The second component of keeping it simple is the background of your photo. While our eyes can see depth and easily pick out the subject, cameras flatten the image and it is important to make sure there are no distractions in your final image. Once you know what you would like your subject to be, look through your camera and make sure that there is nothing distracting from your subject. Is there a very bright color in the background, something that is bigger and towers over your subject, or something that is such a similar color that your subject blends into its background?
Simple images can be just as dramatic as complex images. Your camera angle, lighting, and composition are the elements that make a photograph spectacular. Pick any subject, pay attention to the background, and experiment. You might be surprised at the image you capture.
~Connie McGouldrick from her article Keeping Digital Images Simple – Digital Photography Tips
Have a great weekend my friends! Keep on clicking!
The basic material of photographs is not intrinsically beautiful. It’s not like ivory or tapestry or bronze or oil on canvas. You’re not supposed to look at the thing, you’re supposed to look through it. It’s a window.~John Szarkowski
The advantage for us – amateurs, hobbyists and enthusiasts – over those who engage in photography as a means of income is that we can afford to take random pictures which do not need to be professional-looking. Okay, though we strive to capture and create pictures worthy to be printed in top quality photographic paper, framed and displayed on a wall for all the world to see, that is not a primary consideration. For most of us, sharing a picture online for the viewing pleasure of our friends and peers is enough. We need not produce visual masterpieces all the time; we are not compelled to.
The above picture is of the atrium of the Mall of Asia in Metro Manila. As the name suggests, it is said to be the biggest commercial complex this side of the world and yesterday was the first time for me to go inside this cavernous structure. As it was a Sunday, the place was filled with people enjoying their weekend time. It was around early afternoon when I went down an escalator and looked up to see this massive ceiling of glass and steel. In the rush of people and the 10 seconds it took to ride the escalator I pulled out my point and shoot cam and took a couple of random shots, no time for thinking and composing and how the shot will come out. At that moment I was dependent on Auto Mode which, if you have read many of my previous posts, is an option I do not totally count on. But Auto Mode is an ally you can turn to in certain situations where you can not properly set up gear or go around to find certain angles or perspectives. I have done many random shots and some of them are keepers, such as the above. Most, however, go straight to the trash bin. The photo may not be the most satisfying of my captures but I can live with that, rather than leave the place with no capture at all. Have a great week ahead my friends!
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!
There’s something about a serene, romantic setting. It sets you in the mood. It puts you at ease. It is a feeling of rest and relaxation, of slowing down from a hectic, fast-paced life. Al you want to do in a scene such as the picture below, is to get a table, order the best meal for you and your date, and enjoy the quiet, relaxing seaside view.
We have known that images can create mood and character. Now mood is triggered by how we feel about a particular image. If your intention is to shock and startle, then you take shocking pictures. Which is not my forte. I go for the pleasant, feel good and inspiring images. It is beautiful, appealing and interesting images that reach out and relate to majority of viewers. This is the mood that is produced with subtle combinations of subject, composition, setting and lighting. They should all work out to make the viewer comfortable, calm, homey and breezy. In a day, people have had enough of unpleasantness and burdens in their work and daily dealings with life. Don’t add to their heavy heart with pictures that create emotional overload. You do great service with images that lighten feelings and energize the soul. You can be powerful in your art, but always be considerate in how you present your image and its message.