The best photo images are not taken anyway, they are “made,” and I have always thought that learning photo composition is not that much more different than learning anything else. Some people just catch on faster than others, but eventually with practice most people can do it. How long that will take mostly depends on how you go about it. The only real way to practice composing an image is by recording them on film, or digitally, so that you can see what you did right, and what you did wrong? It is actually all of your mistakes that teach you how to do it right the next time. However, just slapping a lens on your camera and shooting away is not the answer either. As the saying goes, “There has to be a method to the madness.”~by Paul W. Faust from his article The Art of Seeing: An Exercise in Photo Composition
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!”
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!
The decisions that the photographer must make are decisions that are made on the basis of feelings and emotions. Decisions that are aimed at expressing our emotional response to a scene, our perception of the subject we desire to photograph, and our personal artistic approach. All of these represent individual choices, choices that we are usually unaware of until we find ourselves in the act of capturing a specific subject with a lens and a camera. As such, this process prevents camera designers and software engineers to program either the hardware or the software to automatically express our response to the subject. They cannot program it any more than we can program it because both of us ignore what this response will be.
So what am I getting at in this explanation? I am getting at the fact that no matter how advanced and automaticized the equipment and the software we use becomes, there cannot be a substitute for individual input and expression.
What I am also getting at is the fact that the field of endeavor where this individual input is best expressed is the field of composition. Why? First, because composition is about personal choices: very few, if any, aspects of composition can be automaticized. Second, because composition is a field of endeavor composed of multiple facets and not just a set of rules. If it was just a set of rules it would be possible, theoretically, to think that these rules may be embedded in camera or computer software and that such software may have the ability to “compose” photographs on the basis of these rules, or the ability to give us directions aimed at helping us compose images in a specific way.
Wishing everyone an enjoyable weekend!
We all know that sunsets are the best time to create silhouette shots. So how do we go about this? Keep an eye out for distinct shapes, forms and outlines, or you can use silhouettes to frame an image. If you can’t nail it in manual, use the “sunset” mode (one of your camera’s preset shooting modes) that way your camera does all the analyzing to get the right white balance, exposure and other optimal settings for sunset situations.
Sunsets are panoramic-friendly. How best to capture that sweeping vista of colorful sky and horizon than through a panoramic shot. Here are sunset images at 16:9 aspect ratio.
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
Wishing you all a refreshing weekend!
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.
Piers and ports are not the most picturesque of subjects and locations. These places are usually a tangle of cargo, industrial materials and whatever can be transported on large ships. Then there are people. Unlike airports which are built as symbols of architectural beauty, ports are just that – transport hubs that play important roles in a country’s trade and commerce. We photographers, however, don’t always go for the picturesque, we go for the “photographable” whether it is a thing of beauty or not. There will always be a photo-reporter in us, capturing the essence and mood of a place. We like to document reality – the “how it is” as oppose to “how it should be” – simply because there are times we do not have a choice on our subject and situation. In other words, what we see is what we get. A wise photographer will visualize and compose his shot then seize the scene, be it a visually inspiring airport or a description-defying port.
However much a man might love beautiful scenery, his love for it would be greatly enhanced if he looked at it with the eye of an artist, and knew why it was beautiful. A new world is open to him who has learnt to distinguish and feel the effect of the beautiful and subtle harmonies that nature presents in all her varied aspects. Men usually see little of what is before their eyes unless they are trained to use them in a special manner.~Henry Peach Robinson
Boat photography is a bit trickier than shooting on land, but becomes more natural with practice…Framing and tracking a subject through the lens while on a boat takes some practice, as even the slightest waves can make the job very difficult, especially at higher magnifications, so start on calm water with shorter lenses, allowing a bit extra room around your subject, and progress to rougher water and longer lenses, with more tightly framed compositions. In general, you will always want to photograph from smaller boats when there is little wind, as the wind will not only kick up spray and make the water choppy, but it will move your boat around, making it difficult to photograph.
On larger boats, give yourself some time to feel how the boat moves, and see where spray is coming from, before beginning to photograph. On some big boats, you can lose your balance pretty easily while others are very smooth, so you want to know that before you take out your gear. Once you get a feel for the boat, shoot away, keeping an eye out for spray and changing weather conditions.
Photographing from a boat can add a new dimension to your photography and open up the possibility of photographing new subjects or older subjects in a new way. So the next time you venture out on a boat, consider bringing your camera gear along and seeing what you can capture.
~Kari Post from her article Have Boat, Will Photograph
Black and white photography can seem dull next to the burst of colours emitted by colour photography, which creates a feeling of optimism and joy. Today, however, people are rediscovering the purity, beauty and power of black and white photography, which strips the image of the interpretive colours and has the ability to portray the timelessness, deep human emotions of pain, loss or despair.
Although the subject you are photographing is an important element of the picture, there are some other important factors to consider when shooting black and white photography. Basically, black and white photography is all about light and shadow. If you want to create stunning images, you need to learn to use these elements to compose your photos effectively and correctly. Experiment with the quality and intensity of light and try to take pictures of a subject at different times of the day and notice how light and shadow can affect the mood of the photo. For example, take a picture of a subject on a cloudy day, and then photograph the same subject on a bright day.
~The Art of Black and White Photography from fotoLARKO.com
Last weekend I was again, my second time, at the Mall of Asia in Metro Manila. My previous post about this Mall was titled The Random Shot wherein I was at an escalator inside and randomly took a picture of a geometrically interesting glass and steel ceiling. No thought and preparation came into that shot. This time around I was outside the Mall complex but within its grounds was this gigantic Ferris Wheel towering probably some ten stories high. I had an hour to spare and I wasn’t going to pass up this one without thinking of my shots and approaches. This was my first time to shoot a Ferris Wheel, and just how does one photograph something that is sure to strain the neck? Let me count the ways…Seriously, I had lots of angles and perspectives to choose from. It was high noon with thin linings of clouds; I was shooting against the light. That backdrop of sun and sky became key elements in the composition. Here is a short but spot-on tip on how to tackle the subject of Ferris Wheels:
“Ferris Wheels are a great spectacle to photograph…Going beyond the standard tourist photographs of minimal distortion (good, but not the most original) and taken at a distance away from the Ferris Wheel, try to position yourself close-up and photograph with a wide-angle lens. If the Wheel is illuminated – experiment with a slow shutter speed and capture the circular motion, creating a blur of colour and light, and remember to fill the frame – wasting no space in your composition!”
~Ferris Wheel Photography from Scott Photographics Inspiration
If I had stayed till sunset I could have captured more colorful and subdued photographs and could have experimented with long exposure. Anyway, do visit the link above which also showcases lots of Ferris Wheel images to give you an idea on the various ways to photograph this interesting subject. Here are but two of the many images I took last weekend.
I stood in awe from the vantage point of an elevated field. I was at the border of two provinces and the vastness of the scene was overwhelming. A giant cloud cast its shadows at the mountain range in the horizon, leaving dark blotches on the ground. The valley below was all lit up by the midday sun, exposing its verdant flourish. It was nature blooming in vegetation, silent and invigorated by a glorious day. Photographers have been taught to take pictures in the golden hours of sunset and sunrise to take advantage of colorful skies and soft, dreamy light. But who can resist this scene, though harsh and bright, in the middle of the day? The sun may be unrelenting at this hour yet the natural environment revels in it, and it is incumbent upon the photographer to capture life and nature as he sees it whatever time of day.
What’s really important is to simplify. The work of most photographers would be improved immensely if they could do one thing: get rid of the extraneous.~William Albert Allard
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.”
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
Wishing everyone a lovely and inspiring weekend! Keep on clicking my friends!