To follow up from a post a few Fridays ago, I’m posting here more black and white photos I made specifically for the Facebook Black and White Challenge. Being that these were made over the holidays, we spent a lot of time with our family. The familiar surroundings sometimes makes it difficult to make new photos. The scenes are too familiar, and nuances that make for compelling images seem difficult to pick out. Sometimes, you just need to change your angle. Get higher, or get lower. That is usually my first go-to move! Here Dani, a little dachshund becomes much larger in the photo. I put my head and camera right on the ground. I took a series of photos as she sniffed around the grass. In a stroke of luck, she licked making her look like a lioness!
In these other photos, the mood was really helped by a thick fog rolling in from the river. It was an unusually warm air day, but the water was still cold creating the foggy scene. You could almost feel the low ceiling when you were standing by the edge of the water. Not too much noise was cutting through their either – only lapping water and shore birds. This image of the tree branches cutting through the negative space of the cloudy background made me think of canvas paintings of a coastline. This is almost exactly how the photo was captured in camera:
The last took a little more work in Photoshop. I placed a neutral density (ND) filter in front of my wide angle lens. This filter does not change the color tone of the scene, it only makes it darker – like sunglasses for your camera! Putting the camera on a tripod, the ND filter allows you to lower the shutter speed which makes the moving water smooth into a blurry sheet at the bottom of the photo. To simplify the photo even more, I removed some string running across the pylons, and other piers that jutted into the left and right sides of the frame. It makes for a more minimalistic presentation that my eye likes much more than the original. Have a great weekend, readers!
I am a medium sports fan. Overall, there are teams that I follow closely, and some sports that I follow as they get into their playoffs or get ready to crown their new champions. On the sporting-related channels, there is no shortage of behind the scenes shows that tell the story of the athletes and coaches away from the playing field. They detail their preparation, work, and practice that they do long before the games.
Practice is what separates the professionals from the enthusiasts. The same is true in photography. The value of the equipment can only be fully realized by those that have taken the time to experiment. Emphatically, you need to test, and repetitively work the action until it becomes natural. In looking through my portfolio, it is easy to see how you progress as you work.
This also applies to when you do the practice. Doing this on a paying job is not recommended! You need to practice this before you are in front of a client. You can really test the limits of your equipment, and see what is possible with different setups. If you are at a wedding, or you have a corporate client waiting for you to make an exposure, you need to have all the technical details worked out. They do not have the time, nor are they interested in waiting for you to test when they have guests to see, or work that needs their attention.
Any opportunity that you have your camera can be a time to test. You do not have to have a personal project in mind, but have a piece of equipment, or a specific technique in mind. This will make your effort to “take your camera with your wherever you go” more productive. You already have the basic, automatic settings down after a few shoots with your gear, so push yourself to try something different. It has made me better prepared when faced with different shooting situations.
The rules of composition for photography mirror the rules of composition for writing. If you think back to writing class, the best stories are ones where the subject is clear. All of the distracting elements of extraneous words, or descriptions that do not directly contribute to the narration. The same is true in photography. In an image, you have a subject, and the surrounding foreground and background. When composing images, simplifying your background will make your subject stand out, and will generally make for a stronger photograph.
When I am working a scene, I am always conscious of the background when placing the subject in the frame. If there is an easy way to position myself so that I can anticipate where the action will pass through an area with a non-distracting background that is where I will position the camera. In the seagull on the pier photos, the distant shoreline is far enough away that it is out of focus. It helps that the bird is tilting his head in a funny way!
To further simplify the image, I moved in closer to the bird, and zoomed in as far as it would go. This removed the dark green line of the shoreline, and makes the background only two colors – the water and the pier planks.
In another scene this dachshund was walking on a sunny driveway. With lots of cars, trash cans, toys, and other distracting things in the area, I waited until she moved to a clear area before making the exposure.
At the recent fashion show, having a nice clean “step and repeat” background covers up the storefronts, and other people in the area. You can help separate the subject by waiting until the model is at the end of the runway which is as far away from the back as possible, and opening the aperture as far as it will go before releasing the shutter. Now, the clothes will easily draw the viewer’s eye due to the brightness and sharpness of the subject.