Moving In

Oftentimes you’ll see a cool scene but you’re unsure how to frame it. Or you’re afraid the subject may move and ruin the moment. I highly recommend starting wide and narrowing down your vision. Try different perspectives, vertical, horizontal. Start wide and move in. Move around the subject or scene and try different angles and backgrounds. Spend some time, don’t grab a quick snap and then run off, you might miss the key shot.

In this sequence I really liked the guy playing guitar. I grabbed a quick shot from a distance, but the guy in the background is quite distracting.

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As I moved in closer he didn’t notice me or wasn’t concerned and kept playing, so I got in closer and did a full frame shot of him playing.

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Then I tried a horizontal shot since that seemed like the natural composition with him squatting down and the guitar is horizontal, but I wasn’t overly fond of the trash can.

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Then I returned to what I liked in the initial image, using the sign in the image.  It provides an anchor for the guitarist and places him in the scene. Notice that I moved in and out and changed the perspective from horizontal to vertical in order to find the composition that I liked best.

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In this second sequence with the fence lizard I was afraid he’d run off. I didn’t want him to see my shadow so I started from a distance away and grabbed a quick shot.

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Then I gradually moved closer. Each time I’d grab a few more shots, never take just one, take a few to make sure you get a sharp one!

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He seemed to be tolerating me well so I got even closer.

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After shooting a bunch more I decided to try changing my angle to him. He was quite cooperative and I got a better angle with the light on his face.

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So if you see something cool, take your time and move in bit by bit, then try various angles to see if one pops out better than the others. You won’t always get lucky, but most of the time your hard work and patience will pay off!

 

Grooming the Scene

Spring is here, time to get shooting!   I love shooting the spring ephemerals. These wildflower gems pack a lot of beauty in a tiny package. However, due to their small size there may be a lot of distractions around them. I like my subject to stand out from the background. This involves choosing a subject that has as clean a background as possible. Despite your best efforts, there are usually distracting elements around your subject. It may be another plant, bright or dark spots, color, pollen, dead leaves, anything that draws the eye of the viewer away from the subject is distracting.

Distracting elements in the image below are sheen on the leaf, the leaf of another plant in the lower left and a dead leaf on the right leaf near the bottom.

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The first problem I addressed was the sheen on the leaf. This was resolved by using a circular polarizer. This removes sheen and lets the color of the subject come through. This is why everything looks better through polarized sun glasses.

The next thing I did was recompose slightly to the right and tuck the offending leaf out of the way. The rule here is ‘Tuck don’t Pluck’. This image was taken on public land, so don’t go messing up the environment and ripping stuff up. I often times gently tuck a leaf or blade of grass out of the way. Finally I removed the dead leaf on the right leaf near the base. I have no qualms rearranging a few dead leaves.

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This image is better but there is another leaf encroaching in the lower right corner. The color of the leaf draws your eye away from the main subject.

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Here, I’ve tucked the lower right leaf out of the way. It’s looking much better, but there is a tall green grass stem sticking up on the right side intersecting the tip of the right leaf and creating a competing line with the main subject. I tucked this out of the way and WaLa!

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The final uncluttered image with no major distracting elements.

Good nature photography takes time and patience. Compose and take a shot. Then review it! Ask yourself what worked and what needs improvement. Do you have distracting elements? If so can you groom them out of the scene without tearing anything up?

Grooming your scene helps the subject to stand out. Never pluck or damage surrounding plants.

Use a tripod! As you see this took several shots to get the final one. Having the camera on a tripod eliminates the need to find the perfect spot again and helps you notice some of the distractions prior to pressing the shutter button.

This series is of a Showy Orchis that I photographed at Ivy Creek Natural Area. Other local Charlottesville areas good for photographing wildflowers are Secluded Farm at Monticello trails and Preddy Creek Natural Area. Happy Shooting!

Finally Blogging

After procrastinating, shooting and dealing with my elderly father’s pneumonia I have finally started my blogging series!

See my welcome page to see what it’s all about.

This past weekend I was fortunate to see Freeman Patterson speak. He is an internationally known nature photographer. Years ago a student of mine mentioned him and I purchased one of his books. He does a wonderful job teaching you how to see. I have been fortunate to have the gift of seeing, but until now I did not know how to explain or quantify this art. It’s hard to teach someone how to see. I feel that regardless of your photographic skills with a camera, being able to see will greatly improve your images. Combining elements and light regardless of the tool used is the key.


Taken this week in southern Albemarle, the image combines great morning light, various lines, shapes and elements. There are 3 color lines, sky-trees, trees-green field and green field to yellow field. This divides the image into 4 rough balanced rectangular areas. There is also another oblique line that divides the lower area into a triangle.  The elements of hay bales, silo and red tree on the left provide interest and keep your eye moving circularly around the image. The hay bales reflect the morning light and pop out with contrast from the field. Morning light gives the image a soft warm feel and enhances the fall colors. It is these concept that make this a beautiful image. Light and elements.

I plan to put together a class teaching these concepts for fall of 2012. Working hands on in a class and having images critiqued  creates a fun learning experience. So keep an eye out! In the meantime take a look at Freeman’s book: Photography and the Art of Seeing.