As we’re wrapping up the week, I figured it might be a good opportunity to look back a couple of years, when I took this photograph. Although I didn’t give it a title right away, I have come to call this image ‘Winter Revisited’; this sprang forth more from going back to this image again and again than anything in the subject matter, other than the obvious.
This shot was taken on February 7, 2014, at Rocky Pond in Boylston, Massachusetts; this is along one of the variants of my commute. I had pulled over, because I wanted to see what could be done with the sun’s warm glare off the ice, juxtaposed against the blue of the morning sky. Nothing really satisfied my desire to create something worthwhile, so I walked a bit along the edge of the pond.
That is when I noticed the frost still on this small brush and how the frost had grown into fractal patterns along the branches and twigs. Looking through the frosty brush toward the sun, the overhanging tree provided a nice bit of framing to the photo. All in all, I felt, and still feel, pretty good about the end result.
You’ll notice that a good percentage of my photography doesn’t adhere to the standard edict of keeping the sun in your back to properly light your subject. There are plenty of times when that is a good idea, but I find that allowing light to come from some more unconventional angles can provide dramatic images. Of course, for portrait photography it is not at all unusual to put the sun behind your subjects and use flash to light them; that provides for pleasing edge lighting (aka hair lighting) and full control of the light you put on their faces.
Using the sun to a similar effect in landscape images provides rather nice results, such as in this image, where the hoar frost gets to stand out rather than disappear.
This photo was taken with an iPhone 5S. With a minor bit of Photoshop work, I was able to enlarge the image for a large print with rather dramatic results. Thus far, I have printed it on 2’x2′ acrylic, which lifts the glow from the sun’s glare off the ice even more.
Hopefully you enjoyed this image, and, thank you for reading my ramblings!
Should we let Thursday go to the dogs? Let me know…
As frequent readers of my posts might be aware, I spent a number of years photographing dog agility competitions (How did you learn photography? (part 2) talked about it a bit). One of the great comments I received included a request to share some more of my dog photography, so here’s a start…
My assumption is that most of you are somewhat familiar with dog agility competitions, where dogs, with the help of their handler, compete against each other over jumps, through tunnels, across see-saws (teeters) and other obstacles to run without mistakes and as fast as possible. These competitions are a lot of fun for the dogs, as most of them love running around and doing challenging things for a reward; just like people, different dogs like different rewards ranging from food to tugging with their handler.
About the Photo
This photo is from about 5 years ago on a beautiful day in early May. Note that this Golden Retriever is jumping rather high; the top bar is set at 24″ (appr. 60 cm) and is being cleared by quite a bit.
As my practice is to set up for shooting the action at certain obstacles, I made sure that for this jump the dog would be backlit to get some nice edge lighting on the ears and hair; it’s not often that this shot opportunity presented itself, which made for a fun shot.
Photo Geek Information
As some of you have asked for shot data and I had it readily available:
– shot with a Canon EOS-1D Mark III using a 70-200mm F2.8 lens and 1.4x extender at 1/1250s/F6.3
Hope you enjoy this, as I am thinking about making this a regular Thursday feature.
Sometimes, the simple things in life reveal the true beauty of the world around us. Such I often find with mushrooms, oft overlooked denizens of the forest floor and other opportunistic locations.
How this photo came to be
Those of you, who read the latest post in my series on how I learned photography, will not be surprised that this was a purely happenstance find, as I was photographing an agility trial that day. In between events, I sauntered through the neighboring woods and chanced upon this beautiful specimen; this is where awareness of one’s surroundings really pays off.
Getting down to its level gave me a beautiful view, particularly with the light coming from the left and the muted, darker tones of the forest floor behind it. A shallow depth of field really separated the mushroom from its surroundings, so it was just a matter of not over-exposing the shot to get it the way I wanted it to look.
One minor confession: I did remove a pine needle or two that were just in the wrong place…
For the inquisitive photographers among you, I will update this post with the EXIF data, when I get back to the source file, but I can tell you that this was shot with a Canon 70-200mm F2.8 lens.
Some of what I have learnt that helped improve my images
Developing an approach
Thus far, we have journeyed through some of my early photography, how my interest got rekindled and blossomed through lots of learning methods and activities. In this final episode, as promised, I’ll go over some of my approaches and methods for getting the images that I do.
The first item I want to clarify is that everything I do to get an enticing image can be learned and practiced until it becomes second nature. There is no denying that some people will learn quicker and develop their abilities faster, which is often referred to as talent. However, talent alone is not enough to produce great results in any field. There is no substitute for making bad photos and learning from your mistakes.
So what are the not-so-magical steps to my process for getting the images that I want? No surprise, but they are pretty straightforward:
Find something that is interesting to photograph
Have an idea of how you want to portray what you have found
Decide what steps in execution get you that result
Like I said: it’s pretty simple, when you break it down this way. So let’s take a look at them in a bit more detail.
It is pretty self-evident that without finding something interesting to photograph, there is no photo. While this may be obvious, how often do you drive or walk by some place without noticing that there is a photo there? Of course, all of us know how to recognize lots of photogenic subjects, such as El Capitan, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Great Pyramid, or the leaning tower of Pisa and the list goes on and on. However, most of us don’t live right by these locations or have the budget to go travel to these places on a whim; so what to do?
A significant amount of my landscape photography is done during my commute to and from work. As I look to vary my route, so that I don’t get into the same rut day upon day, there are a number of spots along the drive that have become some of my favorites to photograph. The key to finding those special locations is awareness of your surroundings. Don’t be afraid to stop on your way and check things out!
Another key item in finding that interesting shot is that sometimes your best shot is behind you rather than in front; such was the case for Blue Pond, which you see to the right. I stopped to photograph the marsh and passing train, which didn’t really impress me, so I turned around and noticed how I could get the sky to play off the pond; a much more pleasing shot!
The skill needed to find images everywhere can be developed through exercises that challenge your vision to explore scenes in new ways. Always look for more!
Now that you have found that really cool subject that you can’t help, but photograph, it is time to decide how you want to show it to your audience. It is all too easy to shoot a beautiful subject in a way that detracts from its brilliance; I’m sure you have seen snapshots from friends of that amazing waterfall that is so poorly composed that it’s lost its power.
So how do you go about ensuring that your shot doesn’t suffer the same fate? The first step is to frame a picture in your mind that brings out the exact sense of beauty that you feel from what you see. Look through your lens to see what it shows you; if it is a zoom lens, see what zooming in or out presents to you. Change your perspective by moving around or lowering your vantage point (this can be particularly effective when looking at a reflection).
The image of Bath Harbor Light demonstrates this principle. If you have ever been to Acadia in Maine, you may have vistied this sight and you’ll see lots of photos of this particular lighthouse. Most of these photos do not show it from this angle, but rather from a vantage point that eliminates the trees. The rocks were filled with photographers looking for exactly that angle (it’s a ways to the left and lower, if you ever want to find it). As the light was not ideal on this day, I decided that framing the lighthouse between the trees provided context and more visual interest.
Again, this is a skill that can be gained through ample practice!
Naturally, all your work to this point should not be allowed to go to waste with a poorly exposed image. Therefore, the final step is to decide how you want your camera to read the light (assuming you’re not going 100% manual), the depth of field that gives the right feel, what shutter speed might work best.
Even if you use a 100% automatic, such as an iPhone, which I often do, there are still ways to control exposure; good material for future posts, maybe.
In your visualization, you may have given thought to what parts of the image should be sharp, while other parts should blur somewhat. Think about what F-stop will give you what you’re looking to portray.
If your camera is even in partially automatic mode, you will want to make sure that your exposure reading is not fooled by bright white or very dark colors. Learn to adapt for that by using pre-exposure compensation (DSLRs will have this, but not all point-and-shoots do).
When this all comes together, you get to express your vision and amaze your friends (no guarantee of that!).
Where to go next
Development and continuous improvement are a never-ending mantra for anything, about which you are truly passionate; once the bug bites you, you’ll spend countless hours improving.
There are two things that you should never stop doing in your photography:
Study, not just books, but learn from every photo that you like by determining what you like about it and why it works.
Stay inspired, both by what others do and what you do!
This is the last in this series, but I think there may be some follow-on posts from this. Of course, I love to find out what you like to read more about.
P.S. yes, I left out post-processing… I will do some posts on how I like to tackle that.
I was pleasantly surprised when Angel nominated me for the “LIEBSTER AWARD”. Thank you so much for considering my blog worth this award. As I am just finishing up the Blogging101 course, I am truly honored and excited!
Thank you very much, Angel! Please check out her blog, where she has lots of uplifting posts and interesting posts, as she tries to make things of the hard things in life!
Now, for those who have not heard about the award, here are the rules:
Thank your nominator
Show the award on your blog
Answer 10 questions asked to you
Ask 10 questions to 10 new nominees (who have less than 200 followers)
Thank you once again, Angel, as I can’t thank you enough for this nomination!
What was your first thought when you read about your nomination? I was simply overjoyed, as it came completely out of the blue.
What is your favourite thing about blogging? The ability to interact with other bloggers, and get their feedback on what I post.
Would you take more classes like Blogging101? Why? Blogging101 was a tremendous kickstart to finally get my blog out of the doldrums; I’m looking for additional classes to continue this drive forward.
Is there a specific thing you would like to blog about but have not yet? There are some drafts building up right now, so stay tuned for some completely new material.
What will your blog look like in five years? Hopefully, it will continue to evolve and become ever more inspiring to my fellow bloggers. As my graphic design skills improve, the look and feel of my blog should grow with these skills.
What inspires you? A unique view into the world around me. A moment of perfect stillness. Completing a tricky task. Inspiring someone else to stretch their abilities.
What drives you nuts? Mindless people, by and large…
If you were reborn – who would you be? I’d come back as an artistic scientist…
From today’s perspective: If you could change an event that happened in your life would you do it? There are lots of things that I might do differently with hindsight, but it’s not too useful to dwell on the past.
What is your inner child’s favourite activity? Musing over things, challenging myself.
The following bloggers are my nominees for the “Liebster” award, and I hope they accept it:
Broncos will be busted with some Patriot missiles!!
The work week is coming to an end once again, or at least slowing down a bit, as there will be some testing that I’ll continue over the weekend.
Of course, like most of you, I have plans for the weekend, but most of them will be rather pleasant and relaxing, as I’m not overdoing it after fighting off this nasty stomach bug! So here it goes…
Guitar lesson on Saturday! Yes, this will be an hour of fun, as my guitar teacher makes it enjoyable and ensures that at the end of an hour’s playing, I always feel better about my ability than I should realistically.
The basement project shall continue…I’ll at least spend a couple of hours to further progress. Baby steps!!
Hang with the dogs! Did I ever mention that Cardigans are a blast to hang around with?
Hopefully not clear too much snow…the forecasters are saying that most will stay south of us, but you never know!
And watch the all-important game this weekend, as the Patriots exact revenge on the Broncos to complete their next step in the Farewell Goodell Tour! Sorry Peyton (not really), but this is not your time, as Brady has his weapons of choice and will not be denied!
Enough trash talk for the moment! What are your plans for the weekend? Whatever they are, have a great one!!
Photographing agility competitions allowed me to hone my camera skills
Building more skills
Photographing agility competitions allowed me to hone my camera skills, exposure and scene understanding and quick decision making to get just about any shot in an instant. Add to that an understanding of just about any breed of dog and how they jump, so that I could just about guarantee that I’d catch them in their best look, and I was in demand for dog sport photography.
The one missing element was the personal satisfaction that I was stretching myself creatively to a level that I felt I could. I had joined a camera club and enjoyed the interaction with other photographers, and this did help me determine to some degree what I wanted to do as a next step.
My true desire was to be able to produce images of the quality that one would expect from a professional photographer; the kind of image that you see in a magazine or in advertising or in a gallery.
So I made a list of the skills that I needed:
Lighting a subject under various circumstances
A well-developed artistic eye
Ability to pose subjects for a pleasing result
Knowledge of tools to produce the final image
A pretty basic list, which can take thousands of hours to master. Time to get serious about learning!
In addition to the books that I already gathered, I started taking some workshops and seminars and participating in group shoots. Each of these approaches had their merits and helped me learn in different ways.
On-line courses were great in terms of fitting into a hectic work week, and getting a lot of well-prepared technical or artistic information in written form for later reference; each course required me to submit assignment shots by a certain time, which were then critiqued by the instructor(s). I took classes ranging from flash skills, conceptual photography (Solitude) and food photography (Macaroni and Cheese). Food is definitely one area of commercial photography that I enjoy; after all, who doesn’t like food?
Workshops were fantastic opportunities to learn skills within a day or two and often get lots of hands-on work. I worked with some great instructors, who are truly inspiring. Rick Friedman’s workshops on Location Lighting taught me how to use Speedlights to light just about any situation creatively and for the effect that you want. Bobbi Lane’s Portrait Photography workshops added a lot of portrait lighting for effect skill to my bag of tricks, as well as posing models.
Working with models was also crucial to my development as a photographer; even though most of my artistic work is landscape and abstract, working with models taught me to recognize the importance of managing lines in any shot.
What have I learnt?
Clearly, I have developed as a photographer over the past 10-12 years, and I have received recognition for a number of my images. During that time, I have learned a lot of technical skills and unlocked some of my artistic ability, but more than anything I have achieved a level of confidence that allows me to take on just about any situation and come up with a solution for getting the shot that I want.
In the next part, I’ll go over some of the strategies that I use to get these images and what I see as the continuing journey of acquiring knowledge, skill and enjoyment from photography.