Monday, February 22, 2010

Composition

Composition is the most important element to exceptional landscape photographs, after good focus, that is.  There are some tried and true guidelines that have been stated by far better photographers and artists than I. One of the best recommendations I can offer is look at as many good photographs as you can and decide for yourself what you like. Check out other photographer's websites, stock photography sites, museums, special exhibits and photography books. I was fortunate that, as part of my job when working for Scenic Hudson, a nonprofit that protects Hudson River land and vistas, I had to peruse a lot of stock photography as well as local photographer's sites to try and find great images for use by that organization. It allowed me to see and recognize how certain images were framed, how different elements led me into the image and how some images sparked an emotional response.

One of my favorite landscape photographers, Tom Doyle, recently stated, "Successful composition occurs when the maker arranges the elements in an esthetically pleasing manner."  But how can you rearrange the elements?  You can't – but you can change your perspective. Walk around. Study your palette. What colors are you working with? Are they complementary? What would make a good subject? What elements need to be eliminated from this vision? Work the image and the site by trying different perspectives (try getting down lower or climb up higher), different exposures, different framing, changing lenses or adding filters.

One fundamental tool is to arrange your elements using an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid and place your subject in the upper or lower quadrant of that grid. Make sure your horizon is level and it's best not to be going straight through the middle of the photograph. Got a great sky?  Put 2/3 of that sky into the image. Is it a gray day? Perhaps you don't need the sky or you need very little of it. Make sure you have a distinct background, middle ground and foreground and that there is one element in the photograph that draws your eye more than any other.
 
In this image, the sun is the subject. The gazebo and the log are the supporting elements to give strength to the photo.  

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Blogging

I've been thinking of trying to post more often. Of course, that is where it began and look where it's turned out.  I see I have ONE "follower" (thank you Danielle!). Not even my kids read what I've written. Heavy sigh. Could it be because I have written nothing of worth? Yes. That is it!  What have I offered of value to the general reading public? A blog needs to offer some information (or at least a laugh). The blogs I enjoy most are photography blogs that show me new techniques on lighting or provide inspiration or identification with a shared experience.  Joe McNally talks about being compelled to go back to Starbucks to take a photo of a pair of hands.  I've been there - don't always have the courage to go back and get the shot (hmm- that should probably be rarely have the b____s) but I definitely ID with the feeling. Scott Kelby tells me about new equipment (and now I'm craving the ipad) and David Hobby is the best as he shares all kinds of wonderful lighting techniques.  I especially love when he talks about being in the newspaper industry since that is where my home is.

So, what can I offer? I always love the concept of "giving back." But waht can I share and who will be willing to read it? I can talk about Introductory Photography or How to work in Quark, In Design, Photoshop. How to mother (Get those kids away from the computer and PLAY with them!!!!), How to Diet (I'm a pro at that - losing weight is a whole nuther topic though), how to write a press release that will get noticed..... My problem often is that I FORGET that others don't know what I know. I just ASSUME (making an ass out of u and me) that everyone knows ... well, everything. Even m freelancers write articles telling you how to decorate your house and I am stunned that anyone can state "start with fresh paint."  Duh. Doesn't EVERYONE know that? So I guess I need to dumb myself down and start from scratch (or are there a million other blogs already providing into information?)

I spoke to 2 friends recently who were eager to become better photographers and they made me realize that I DO have something to offer. Perhaps I can get them to read my blog and try speaking to them directly.  I told them to take their camera's off automatic settings (the P setting on Nikon's - for "Program") and try "A" for aperture priority. This is something I learned from Moose Peterson, the god of nature and wildlife photography (another blog I follow regularly). Experiment with different "f" stops.  Know that the lowest numbers allow you the most light and tightest focus on one element, blurring out all else, thus the least depth of field, and the higher numbers offer you the MOST depth of field but least light. I sure wish someone had explained that to me better 10 years ago (hell, 40 years ago!) Thinking back, I did know that...but I rarely put it into practice. With kids growing up and moving fast, I just decided it was easier to park in "P" mode and hope for the best.  No more. Now I want to see what I can make of the scene. How I can dress it up it's best. I work a scene. I take way too many pictures and get it from every angle and try to find a way to show it off that hasn't been done before or will allow my viewer to feel the emotions I felt when I shot it.  So I look for compelling scenes and try my best to capture them in a way that others will say "oooh, ahhh" or, better yet, "Wow."

Here's an example of using shallow depth of field (smaller f stop number/more light) to get the flower sharp but the background blurry.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Addicted to Photography

Hi, my name is Chris and I am an addict.

My addiction is photography.

It runs my life. I own 3 cameras, 6 lenses and untold flashes, filters, bags and doo-dads and still I want more. I work as a graphic artist for a small town daily newspaper (making a pitifully small salary) and I’m elated when they send me out to take a photo of a doctor, new retail store or a product shot for advertising. I spend my weekends doing portraits, weddings, children’s theater and my own personal favorite, landscapes.

I am president of a “professional” camera club and a member of two others (as well as being a member of NAPP and PPA). I have had images selected to be in juried shows and have placed in photo competitions (alas, I haven’t achieved ‘gold’ yet). My ego gets stroked by my compulsive desire to post my images on Facebook. I’ve been told I’m good but I long persistently to be better. I want my obituary to ready “great photographer.” 

I’ve joined support groups but I just can’t break this habit. I got to meet Moose Peterson (the famous landscape and wildlife photographer) and he taught me the value of Aperture priority and I’ve never turned back. I’m having my first solo exhibit in April and am using an image I got thanks to DLWS as my Invite.  I yearn to get more images like this.

As I said, my name is Chris and I am a photographic addict.


(To see some of my images, go to www.chriscina.net)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Missing travel and wondering where to go next

I started this blog to get used to the idea of writing on a daily basis...and it has fallen into a once every couple of months syndrome. Perhaps that's because I'm not traveling enough. I am certainly craving a trip right now. My boss just came back from a wonderful time in Mexico, near Cancun, but in a more off-the-beaten-track, cabin-on-the-beach setting near a tropical preserve and ancient ruins. I'm dying here!  She said she thought of me when they took a trip to an island where all kinds of exotic birds live and they all flew home at sunset, allowing her the heart-stopping exhilaration of hearing them all call to one another in their own comfortable space. I need a vacation!

Andy and I have been contemplating our next trip lately. There's a photographic learning experience available in June at Lake Powell that will also be visiting Antelope Arch and more cool sounding places. I really want to do that. Or there's a cruise in September, leaving from NY and headed up the coast, stopping off in Bar Barbor, Maine and Halifax.  Oooo - I've been dying to see that lighthouse on Peggy's Cove  - and a cruise should allow a great many sightings of cool, New England lighthouses. Judy has reminded me that I haven't seen her new home in South Carolina. Which reminds me, I'd love to check out Charleston and Savannah. And while we're south, why not see the Florida Keys? Oh yeah, and there is that nagging pull to see Glacier National Park, the Grand Tetons, Lake Tahoe or even the finger lakes in good old New York State.

I suppose this is the "good stuff."  The dreaming and coming up with a plan. But all I can think of, is there are so many places to see and so little time or money. And I haven't even allowed the thought of Europe, Iceland or Indonesia to enter my consciousness.  Someone suggested yesterday that I should put all the places I named above into a hat and choose one.  Is that the best way to go? Stay tuned.