Monday, November 14, 2011

Less Can Be More

Sometimes less is more...

Photographers are often advised to move closer to their subjects in order to fill the image frame because too much negative space around a subject will lesson the photo’s impact. This rule works well when what you are trying to say is expressed primarily through your point of interest. But it doesn’t work if what you are trying to say is expressed by a relationship between your subject and the surrounding space. 

For example, if you are shooting an animal, you may want to back up and show habitat, or the environment of a particular flower, or it's relationship to other flowers. You may want to use a small subject with a large surrounding area to show scale and help to define that subject. When shooting a portrait, you might want to show the person’s environment too. So, the size of your subject in the frame should be determined by what you are trying to say, the story you want to tell, not by any rule! If in doubt, shoot your subject both ways, work it! 

 Here are some examples of photos I've made where I didn't choose to fill the frame. Try this the next time you are out shooting. Be sure that your subject is strong enough visually for this type of composition, and that the environment you are including adds to the scene.

Happy Shooting!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Photographing Autumn Color

    It's late September, and here on the coast of Maine I have already seen a few trees starting to show their autumn colors. Fall is my favorite season, I love shooting this time of year. Here are a few things to keep in mind while you are photographing fall foliage.

Check on-line foliage reports to find the best autumn colors in the area you'll be shooting. 

Shoot early in the morning and late in the day for warm light, avoiding contrasty mid-day lighting. If the day is overcast, you can shoot all day! Blue skies are beautiful, but cloudy days will saturate those gorgeous colors. Just don't include that white sky in your composition, fill the frame with color. 

I like early morning shooting best, morning mist can add wonderful mood and dew on the leaves is great for macro work.  Bring your polarizer along to eliminate any glare on the leaves and boost color. 

As with all of your photos, watch for distractions that do not add to the scene. Look carefully around the frame before you click that shutter. As my students frequently hear me say, "If it doesn't add, it needs to go."  Eliminate anything that doesn't add to the story you want to tell with your photo.

Shoot from wide to macro, work your subjects!

Look up for backlit leaves....

 Look down for reflected colors in streams, ponds, puddles and on any reflective surface. 

I shot this one on the hood of a car!

Don't be afraid to make your own scenes. Adding that one perfect autumn leaf to a composition can add a wonderful focal point.

If it's windy, embrace that wind and shoot with a long shutter for a more abstract look.

Moving water with a long shutter speed creates an interesting look as well.

If it's not windy, you can play with camera movement instead. Pan, zoom, swirl and twirl, move that camera with a long shutter, it's fun!

Happy shooting!


Sunday, September 18, 2011

2012 Workshop Schedule

Just a quick note to tell you all that my 2012 Workshop Schedule has been posted, you can see it here:

2012 Field Workshops

Happy Shooting!


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Bad Art

I found this sign lying on the floor inside an old building I was shooting and it made me smile! A simple message, but really something to think about. Sometimes we photographers get so caught up in making the perfect photo, we don't take time to play, time to experiment, and time to grow.

I am currently reading a book that speaks to this issue, Art & Fear, by David Bayles and Ted Orland. Here is a favorite quote from the book:

Fears about artmaking fall into two families: fears about yourself, and fears about your reception by others. In a general way, fears about yourself prevent you from doing your best work, while fears about your reception from others prevent you from doing your own work.

So, I encourage you to play, have fun with your work, and don't be afraid to fail now and then, and to make a little bad Art. When it comes right down to it, the only person your Art needs to please is YOU! :) Photograph the people, places and things that have meaning to you. Enjoy the process for how it makes you feel, and the photos for what they say to you. Your vision of the world is unique, explore it, enjoy it!

Happy Shooting,

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Heartsongs Revisited

This blog post started writing itself at 4 AM this morning while I was trying to sleep... I had all of these ideas dancing about in my head and just had to get up and start writing them down. It's probably partly because I stayed up late last night to participate in David DuChemin's first Twitter hang out, a fun and frenzied online meet up of photographers sharing their thoughts in 140 characters or less.

David always seems to be able to put into words what I feel about the photographic process, but he says it far more eloquently than I could even begin to. His books are packed with insight and advice to help photographers find and recognize their own vision, and to express that vision in their photographs. That's something I try and teach my students, especially those looking for the "Secret Recipe" to great photos. That recipe is inside you, the secret is to slow down, to really see, and to make the work your own. Put aside rules and self doubts, get out there and shoot and shoot and shoot, until the song in your heart is visible in your photos. This isn't a quick process, and failure is part of it, but you'll learn as much from your failures as you will from your successes.

Digital photography is a three part process. First, there is vision. No one sees the world just as you do, your vision is unique and is shaped by your life experiences. The second part of the process is capturing the image, how you compose, the equipment you use, and how you handle the light. The third component is your post-processing, how will you take that digital file, fine tune it and make it reflect your vision? All three of these elements come into play each and every time you make a photo. Think of this as your Rule of Thirds, instead of that other Rule of Thirds (don't get me started on compositional rules, lol).

I shot the photo at the top of this post last week on a shoot at the Olson House in Cushing. It's a place I have visited many times, I find it inspiring and I feel a strong connection to the house. I have made some images I liked there, but this photograph finally tells the story I wanted to tell. This is the image I had in my head, my vision. The light was softly diffused by early morning fog, and I used my 24-70mm lens to get the composition I wanted. I used my Nik filters in post-processing to take the image exactly where I wanted it. Each part of the process contributed to this final image, this heartsong.

So, grab your camera, get out there and make your own heartsongs. Send me a link to your photos, I'd love to see what you come up with.

Happy shooting!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Working it!

If you have taken one of my online photography classes or done any shooting with me, you know that I always advise photographers to work their subjects. By this I mean really looking at a subject, photographing it from different angles, using a variety of focal lengths and lenses, with different techniques, etc. I took my own advice while shooting a couple of lupine fields last week.

Lupine is a June flowering plant here in Maine, it grows wild along our roadsides and highways, as well as filling yards and gardens in many locations. My friend Zoe and I spent some time in a patch overlooking the sea here in Harpswell just before sunset. The warm light was beautiful and very flattering to the flowers.

 Another field I visited was on the side of the road in Cushing. This field had an amazing variety of colors, and the foggy overcast day was perfect for making flower photos. I started with a plain view of part of the field, nice but a little boring. So, I started playing with camera movement, and had lots of fun!

 Lupine is also a great subject for the Shooting Through technique. All you need to do is choose a long lens (I used my 70-200mm), set at the largest aperture your lens has. Position yourself so that you have plant material right up close to the end of the lens, and shoot through it, focusing on a flower in the distance. I love this technique.

I even photographed my friend Alan with this method!

So, get out there and work your subjects, and don't forget to have some fun while you are shooting! :)


Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Panning Practice

I love to play with motion with my camera. It's fun to set a long shutter speed and deliberately move the camera, or to shoot a moving subject with a long exposure. One of the most challenging techniques for playing around with motion is panning. A good pan has a relatively sharp subject, with a motion blurred colorful background. Panning can really adds a feeling of movement and speed to your photos.

When you pan, you move your camera parallel to the subject, following it at the same speed and direction.Your motion needs to be smooth with no stops or hesitation. It's easiest if the subject is moving straight across in front of you, either left to right, or right to left. I usually do my pans at 1/30 sec- 1/60 sec and I don't use a tripod. It often takes some experimenting to get just the right speed, depending on the speed of your subject.  I've used panning to shoot car races, traffic, planes, snowmobiles and 4 wheelers. It does takes lots and lots of practice (and many deleted photos!), but when it works, the images are very cool. It's also lots of fun, and isn't that what photography should be?

I shot a barrel race competition last weekend, and knew as soon as the action started that it would be the perfect situation to practice my pans. The first few shots were pretty bad, but I soon got the right speed for the action in front of me, and I happily panned the competition for several hours. Here are a few of my favorite photos from the event.

I also shot some portraits of the riders, all in all a very fun day!

I hope you have some challenging fun with your camera today!

Happy shooting!