Posts Tagged ‘composition’

IN THE FIELD: Revisiting Familiar Places

May 8, 2013 22 comments


I’ve been there before. There is nothing I haven’t seen. Been there…done that…don’t need to do it again. 

Ever had these thoughts rolling through your mind?

When revisiting a familiar location or even one that has become a favorite, there are several things I like to do to keep it fresh. And to avoid falling into the been there, done that trap.

Sometimes I will limit myself to using only one lens. Or if using a zoom, I will restrict myself to one focal length. Another method is to use my tripod only at a low height. This can get hard on the knees, but a fresh perspective almost always reveals something new. These aren’t hard and fast rules I follow, but guidelines I use to get the creative juices flowing.

One of my favorite places to revisit is the Hopewell Furnace National Historic Site in southeastern Pennsylvania. It is an old iron making furnace that was in operation from 1771 until 1883. And was one of 20 or so furnaces in operation in Pennsylvania during the 1700’s and 1800’s.

I have been there many times, in good weather and in bad. But I always hope each visit will bring a new discovery. Because I understand the light and weather will most likely be different from my last visit.

On this particular spring morning, it was sunny and the temperatures were cool. So I spent a good part of the shoot outside photographing the buildings and old equipment used in the iron making business.

As the morning progressed, the temperatures quickly rose to what felt like summertime. I soon realized I was way over-dressed for the occasion. Knowing it always feels cooler inside the old restored buildings, that’s where I headed.

This is part of the old blast furnace. While I have been inside this building many times, I never witnessed the sunlight pouring down the chimney as it was on that morning. This photo was taken only with the available light in order to capture the golden color. Because of the long exposure needed to capture the light in this situation, the use of a tripod was an absolute necessity.

aperture 7.1

shutter 1/4 second

cloudy WB

ISO 200

IN THE FIELD: Before The Storm 2

October 31, 2012 26 comments

This past weekend I ventured out to capture some autumn color before the hurricane swept through the area.

Before even leaving our property, I stopped to photograph the spirea bushes in one of our garden beds. They always put on a spectacular show of flowers in the spring, and in the fall the leaves turn brilliant orange and red.

Tuesday morning I headed outside and walked the property to asses the damage from the storm. It was still windy and raining, but the majority of the storm had passed. And just as I figured, the wind and torrential rain had stripped the bush of all it’s leaves. I’m glad we were able to enjoy the marvelous color for a week or so this autumn season.

I composed this shot with one of our cherry laurels in the foreground to add some balance in color and contrast.

Photo specs 80mm, 1/30th @ f8


October 22, 2012 19 comments

As you all know, I have this thing for old rusty machinery. In our nearby town is this old semi-trailer that was originally built in the late 1940’s. It’s been undisturbed and parked next to a creek for at least 20 years. I was photographing the play of early morning sunlight on the rusty parts as well as the areas of peeling paint.

The back doors are chained shut and secured with an ancient padlock. I have to wonder why the trailer is locked, and what kind of treasures may be stashed inside.

Photo specs. 35mm lens, ISO 100, f3.5 @ 1/40th handheld

IN THE FIELD: Revisiting Greenhouses

August 1, 2012 35 comments

Most of my photography is done outdoors, but there are a few places I like to shoot indoors. A greenhouse full of plants and flowers is one of them.

There are several reasons I enjoy shooting flowers indoors. Usually there are no breezes to contend with. Except for the fans used to circulate the air. If I do find a prime subject, and the flower is waving in the breeze, I will ask if I can move it to another location. Or for something creative, I may compose the shot to show movement.

Also, the light is evenly diffused in a greenhouse, either from shade cloth or frosted glass. You can even shoot at high noon and not be concerned with harsh shadows.

The humidity inside a greenhouse is something to be aware of. If your camera and lens has been in air-conditioning for an extended period of time, allow it to warm to the temperature inside the greenhouse. Take some time out to scout the location before removing the lens cap. Otherwise the lens will fog instantly, and then you will have a really long wait before you can get any photos.

There is no need to wait for a rainy day to get shots of plants and flowers with water droplets on them if you are there when folks are doing their watering. Plus you won’t get wet from the weather…you’re inside.

In my opinion, one of the greatest reasons to go on a photo shoot in a greenhouse is the variety you will be exposed to. Find a local greenhouse and ask the folks there if you can photograph their plant material. You’ll be rewarded with a wonderful time and super photographs.

This photo was shot using a tripod. Zoom lens set at 135mm, ISO 200, sunny white balance, f7.1 @ 1/125.

INSPIRATION: Adding The Human Element

February 10, 2012 33 comments

Portraiture is not my usual venue for photography since I primarily shoot outdoors and nature. Although I do include people in my compositions occasionally, to enhance the overall mood in a scene or if I want to provide a sense of scale.

I have shown this photo to quite a few people to gauge their reaction. The responses have been varied, with many folks saying it is peaceful, while some have described it as moody, and others feel is it contemplative. Relaxed, saddened, and exhausted have been other responses. Everyone seems to interpret the mood of this image in their own way, which is what I expected.

Adding the human element can change the entire dynamics of an image. However, there are times when we are out shooting solo and there is no one else around to be our model. In these situations, a self-portrait can be the answer.

It’s really easy to accomplish a self-portrait without a lot of expensive equipment. Set up the camera on a tripod, rock or some other stationary object. Compose the shot, and determine where you would like to be in the scene. Set the self-timer for length of time you need to get into position and look natural. Press the shutter release, move to your pre-determined spot then relax. The shutter will click, and there you have a photo with a person in it.

When most folks view photos or paintings which include the human element, they often imagine themselves or someone they know being in that scene. This added feature can make for a more successful image. Worth a shot or two.


HOW TO: Balancing Compositions

October 24, 2011 18 comments

I know…I know…I know…another fall scenic. However, I felt it would be a good illustration on the topic of balancing composition.

In this scene, I wanted to emphasize the stunning maple tree in the foreground against the vibrant green grass, while maintaining balance within the composition. By positioning the two feature orange maple trees on either side of the frame, balance is created.

I used a zoom lens at various focal lengths to adjust the framing and to compress the foreground and background elements of the scene.

By composing the photograph in such a way, the viewer’s eyes are led through the scene to discover the horses under the tree in the background, making the image more engaging.

BACK TO BASICS: Composition

September 21, 2011 14 comments

Composition and Trusting Your Instincts

The windows are centered horizontally and the grasses in the lower left add interest.

Good photos have good composition. There are several guidelines for achieving a good composition, but these are not hard and fast rules. Oftentimes what looks right to you is the best composition. In other words, trust your instincts too.

Try keeping it simple. Reduce the scene to only what is needed to tell your story. This eliminates visual confusion and draws attention to your subject. Your eye won’t have to wander around the entire image trying to find what to focus on.

There is a basic formula for composition called the Rule of Thirds. Divide your frame into three equal sections, either vertically or horizontally. Place objects of interest off center, either closer to the top third or to the bottom third of the frame. Or on the left or right side. Using this rule can make for a more interesting composition, rather than placing your horizon line smack dab in the middle.

Changing the orientation of the camera from horizontal to vertical can completely change the look of an image. Trees and tall buildings can often look better in a vertical format.

Lines that lead your eye into the scene such as a winding road fading off into the horizon, or the ripples made by swimming ducks in a pond, add interest to your image. Looking up at tall buildings could lead your eyes to dramatic skies. Change your position if you need to, and find that leading line for your scene.

You can also use foreground objects such as doorways, buildings or trees to frame your subject, so it becomes the center of interest.

The combination of a few simple rules and trusting your instincts are solid guidelines to follow. Basically, it looks good to you and feels right…take the shot.