Posts Tagged ‘assignment’

INSPIRATION: Defining Architecture

November 30, 2011 44 comments

Our old friend Webster defines architecture as the art or science of building; specifically: the art or practice of designing and building structures and especially habitable ones.

I like to keep this bit of information in the back of my mind as I am scouting for local buildings to shoot for my next project. But every now and again, I come across a structure that pushes the limits of this definition. Especially the “habitable” part.

This old railroad shack is a classic example. It captured my attention from the moment I saw it. The bright rusty hinges add a spark of color against the weathered wooden boards. I like the way the door was built with the boards assembled in a herringbone pattern, as if someone wanted to add a bit of style to a utilitarian shed. Even the iron bars propped against the sides appear to be positioned as if to help hold up the shed.

Architecture comes in many shapes, sizes and styles in my neck of the woods. And sometimes, coming across a structure that pushes the limit can turn out to be just the shot I was hoping to discover.

INSPIRATION: Vignettes of Color

November 14, 2011 40 comments

Not far from where I live is a collection of old relics that someone has gathered on an abandoned railroad spur, sitting along the edge of an overgrown field. There are locomotives, passenger cars, cabooses, cranes and various parts and machines associated with railroads. All of the items are long past their prime, but I am hoping they are waiting to be restored some day.

This image is part of the engine cowling on an old diesel locomotive. The paint and steel have endured the heat from the engine and decades of exposure to the weather. This image is exactly how it looked on the overcast day when I took the photo, and has not been altered in any way.

What captured my attention was not only the unusual coloration, but the patterns within the metal finish and the shapes of the louvers. Once again, I have found yet another hidden treasure in my own backyard.

INSPIRATION: Assignment; Abundance Of Color

November 4, 2011 34 comments

My latest self assignment was to photograph something with an abundance of color, yet not a classic fall scene. One option I had was to head over to an exotic plant store/garden center located in the next county. I had been there many times before and been fortunate finding interesting subjects to photograph, so I thought this would be a good choice.

Inside the two story conservatory is a man-made tropical mountain at least 20 feet tall covered in exotic plants from all over the world. It even has a waterfall and a pond with small fish. The greenhouses are always filled to the brim with many varieties of flowering houseplants. Displayed outside of the greenhouses are outdoor seasonal plants of all colors.

All of these displays were suitable subjects, but I was looking for something a little different. I headed back inside and as I turned to walk down another aisle in the largest greenhouse, I came across these ornamental pepper plants.

There was the abundance of color I was looking for…red, yellow, orange, purple and green.


HOW TO: Pleasing Backgrounds

August 31, 2011 2 comments


Some photographic subjects just love to be the center of attention. Single flowers are known for this. Especially if the background is not competing with the flower for recognition.

Some backgrounds can be just too distracting if you are trying to emphasize a particular object. The good news is you can alter the appearance of your subject’s surroundings in several ways

One of which is to use a fast lens (i.e. apertures of 1.2 or 1.8 etc) with the aperture close to wide open. A fast lens will tend to blur the background better, so your subject will be more prominent.

Another method is to use a telephoto lens with the aperture close to wide open. If you are at a reasonable distance from your subject, the short depth of field that these lenses offer can be utilized to blur the background.

If the conditions warrant, meaning it won’t be in the way of passers-by, a tripod should be used along with a cable release, remote, or self timer to avoid camera shake, especially if slower shutter speeds are involved. It will also aid in composition.

Composition can also be a major factor in making your subject more prominent. Use the rule of thirds. Rather than have the main subject right smack dab in the middle of your frame, adjust the composition so it is a little to the left of center or a little to the right. Or even adjusting a little towards the bottom or the top of the frame can alter a composition to make it more appealing.

Experiment…you’ll be pleased with the results.



INSPIRATIONS & ASSIGNMENTS: Abstracts-The Kitchen Table

August 25, 2011 6 comments

Last week I was sitting at the kitchen table reformatting a bunch of data cards in the camera.

Cards all cleaned up…cool, now it’s time to play.

It was far too hot and humid to go outside and way cooler and easier to play inside.I sat there looking around for something to photograph. Right in front of me was a hand-blown pale green vase with a milky white and red candle inside.

Most of the light on the vase and candle was from an overhead incandescent light. And natural sidelight was coming in through the double sliding glass doors. With these two light sources, the bubbles in the glass were clearly visible.

I decided to use my Nikon 18-135 mm lens and set the camera to manual. The camera and tripod were setup about 18 inches away from the vase, so I could eliminate anything in the background and distort colors and shapes. I used many different combinations of white balance settings, exposure and flash, just to see what would happen.

I played around for about an hour and got some pretty cool shots. One of my favorites is featured in this post.

This photo was taken with the camera white balance set to sunny, ISO set to 400, shutter speed was 1/5 second, aperture at f5.6, the lens was zoomed to 90mm and no flash was used.


August 17, 2011 13 comments

Patterns are all around us. They can be found in colors, shapes, textures and light…a field of wildflowers or clouds or raindrops on a windowpane or shadows…plus a thousand other things I am not mentioning.

And if you change your perspective, by positioning yourself and your camera in a way that is out of the norm, you may find a pattern you did not notice before. Get up close, get down low, look at something from above. Find that different angle.

A low vantage point looking at ripples or movement on the water can create a pattern that is either soft and soothing, or rough and powerful. Looking up at tall buildings may produce interesting patterns with converging lines and reflections. A wide view of a farmer’s field with plowed or planted furrows can result in unusual patterns in any season.

Reflections of trees in a pond or buildings in a puddle mirror the source, creating an abstract visual. Shadows, with their alternating tones of dark and light, can provide a mysterious quality. Long night-time exposures of cars and trucks on busy streets form patterns of light trails that can be addictive.

Have some fun with it and see what patterns you can find.


August 9, 2011 4 comments

Contrast is simply defined as the degree of difference between the lightness and darkness within an image, either in tonal ranges or in colors. Contrasts can be also found in shapes and textures.

Now for the fun stuff…let’s apply this to photography.

A good example of dark versus light, or tonal contrast, would be dark shadows that are cast on a light surface. Like shadows from a building onto a sidewalk. Or a person silhouetted against the evening sky. Or dark-colored sea shells on light-colored sand.

Contrasting shapes could be white eggs on a white square plate. Try photographing it in color. Try it in black and white. Try it with flash. Try it without a flash.

Color contrast can be found in a bouquet of light yellow and dark purple flowers. Or brightly colored fall leaves on a dark forest floor. Or even a single red flower growing in a field of green.

Contrasting textures can be anything from the softness of moving water against the hardness of rocks, to a shiny metal surface against an rough wooden one.

The image featured in this post is a white iris against a dark background. The delicacy of the iris is captured and the background maintains a subtle definition. The contrast provides drama within the image.

Contrasts are everywhere…the more you look the more you will see.

What did you find today? Let us know…we would love to hear.


August 1, 2011 Leave a comment

Textures are one of my favorites to photograph, and provide an endless range of options. I am always on the lookout for them.

Trees and their bark are good options. There are many varieties of trees in the area where I live, and each species has a different surface. Leaves on the forest floor or moss around a tree can develop into an interesting composition as well.

Rocks have fascinating textures, as a single specimen or as a group. You can even photograph a combination of rocks and water, allowing you to capture the hardness of the rocks against the softness of water. Old stone walls with their weathered patina provide great opportunities too.

Or how about old rusty machinery. Or an old barn or fence with cracks and crevices allowing you to play with the highlights, shadows and surface texture. You may come across a fence with old chipped paint or a post covered in lichen that sparks your interest. Sand at the beach, sculpted by wind and water, is another good option.

Or if you typically shoot in color, consider exploring black and white for an entirely different look.

Textures are a great subject. Get out and explore…you never know what you may find.


Do you have the photography blahs? A bad case of the “I dunno what I wanna shoot today?” Need some inspiration?

Here is one idea that I use when I get a bad case of the “I-dunnos”.

Write down five different colors on separate pieces of paper and put them in a box, a paper bag or something that you can’t peek through. Choose one and go out and shoot that color. Fill a data card with photos. After all, we are shooting digital and you can always delete what doesn’t work.

Let’s say you pick the color red. Shoot red flowers, or firetrucks or old barns. Even close-ups of clothing or parts of things that have red in them can make great subjects. Patterns with red can be fun and can take on an abstract feel. Get close up to isolate red things on different color backgrounds. Shoot red things in shadow or bright light. Shoot things that only have a small amount of red or things that are all red. And don’t forget to shoot different shades of red too.

You will be amazed at what you will find…then go try a different color the next day!


The abstract image featured in this post is one I recently shot. It is a close-up the rear fender of a restored classic car I came across in my travels that day. I loved the curves, leading lines and reflections that I was able to capture. Of all the red images I took that day, this is the one I liked the best.