Tips

The most active of shapes

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Magazine Excerpt:

Shapes
The most active of shapes use diagonal lines – the triangle is an eye-catching building block for your picture. Its three sides also introduce odd numbers into the photographic vocabulary. As well as triangular-shaped subjects, think about the structure of your photograph – are there three elements you could join together with imaginary lines to form a triangle?

Four sided shapes such as squares and rectangles mirror the four sides of the picture frame – there’s no conflict there, so the viewing experience isn’t as absorbing. However, they can be used alongside diagonals and triangles to produce a more exciting image.
~Digital Camera Magazine: Master Composition

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To HDR or not

JJWP677 Loboc Church, Bohol Province

Capturing High Dynamic Range (HDR) photos and processing them is one of my photographic enjoyments. Shooting a scene in its normal exposure sometimes doesn’t cut it, especially if your light is on the side or back of your subject. In that case, your subject is dark and becomes just a silhouette. Using your camera’s bracketing feature (to take three different exposure shots) or shooting in RAW format allows you to create HDR images, and post processing them later. I usually go for the former or if ever I capture in RAW I convert the image first to jpeg or tiff (to minimize noise) then process. We will not do an HDR tutorial here, but I will share my viewpoint on why I do HDR on certain subjects and scenes. First let me point you to some great links:

What is HDR Photography? by Rhommel Bernardino from PictureCorrect
How to Create High Dynamic Range Photographs from wikiHow 
Photo Gallery: How to Take HDR Pictures from National Geographic

HDR allows you to present an image with all the nuances of light and the subtleties of color.
Hence HDR images are quite colorful (though this isn’t always so) with deep contrasts. When done right, you can produce images that pop right out. I am fond of HDR but only on certain subjects such as landscapes and, you guessed it right, churches. The key phrase here is “when done right.” In HDR we have the tendency to amp it up to get that “ah” and “omph” and likening it to too much salt, it spoils the broth. The standard for HDR is realism. It must look natural, but enough to bring out the details.  Note the cracks, exposed bricks and signs of age on the walls of the church pictured above, or the deep yet fading (or I should say peeling) colors of the church below. In a non-HDR image, you will just see a relatively smooth wall with a few jagged lines representing cracks. So much more are exposed – light, details and information using the HDR technique.  Here is an excerpt from Rhommel Bernardino in his article What is HDR Photography? (it’s the first link above):

With HDR technology, photographers can compile different photographs taken at variable exposures. Not only that but also this technique allows photographers create images with an excellent light detail, which is not possible in single shot taken by ordinary cameras. By using HDR cameras, photographers can capture excellent still photographs, in overexposed as well as underexposed settings. Though photographers have the freedom of adding several effects to the photographs, it is always recommended to keep the image as realistic as possible.

JJWP678Dauis-Panglao Church, Bohol Province


Framing elements

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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.

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Details, details

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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.”

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Shapes, perspective, background and texture in B&W

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Article Excerpt:

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.

Add Texture
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


Stained glass windows: zoom in and zoom out

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Article Excerpt:

Framing
Windows in churches are often quite large. Sometimes they are too big to fit completely into your frame. Experiment with framing to get around this.

Many people tend to hold their camera horizontally to take pictures, but you can also hold your camera vertically. Most windows will fit better in the frame when your camera is held in this position.

Sometimes including bits of the wall around window will naturally add interest to your picture by framing the window. Sometimes you may only want to include the window in your picture with none of the wall around it.

Look for details in the window that will look good in a picture. Sometimes taking a picture of an entire window doesn’t give you the best results. You can zoom into individual images in the glass and get a more interesting and detailed picture.

You can also deal with windows that are too big by taking separate pictures of different sections of the window and then combining them in an image editing software program.

Try a bunch of different framing options to see what looks best.

Distortion
When you take a picture of a window you’re usually looking up at it. That will distort the look of the window by making the top of it appear narrower than the bottom. You can avoid this by standing back from the window and using your zoom lens to get a closer picture.
~Stained Glass Window Photography from Digital Photography Advisor

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On the hunt

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Article Excerpt:
Always have your camera with you and always keep your eyes open. Serendipity plays an enormously important role in travel photography. You never know what you are going to run into, and you have to be ready. Many times you will see what could be a good photograph but decide that the light is not right, or there are no people around, or too many—something that means you will have to come back later. But sometimes you get lucky. You happen to stumble upon a scene at just the right moment. If you forgot your camera, are out of film, or your digital card is full, if you have to fumble around getting the right lens on, the moment may be gone before you can recover. This is true whether you are doing street photography or visiting a natural or man-made site. Mountains, trees, monuments, and other static subjects are, of course, not going to go anywhere, but the ray of sunshine, the soaring eagle, or the embracing couple that add the needed element to your photograph are unlikely to hang around. Think of it as hunting—whenever you leave the confines of your camp, you should be ready and able to capture whatever pops up.
~Robert Caputo from his article Travel Photography Tips