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TUTORIAL: What’s your time of day? (Part 2) Shooting at Second Light

By tom dinning via Light Stalking

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning who, besides being a professional photographer, teacher and mini-celebrity in the Light Stalking community, has also shared some very popular tutorials in the forums and in other posts.

If you have recovered from my recent post on shooting at first light, you might be ready for something a little more sedate. Enjoy breakfast with your partner, have an extra cup of coffee, even suggest your partner might like to come along (…on second thoughts, tell him/her you’re going to the dentist). Today we are photographing in that lovely light after sunrise.

Second light – Botanic Gardens.

I call this second light because, although I hate getting up too early, my preference is still for the light before sunrise. Still, it’s a great time to be out and about, especially if you’ve pulled a ‘sicky’ from work to join me.

I’m heading for the local Botanic Gardens for no particular reason than it’s there. My kit is made up of the usual suspects: a wide zoom (14 -24mm) and mid (24-70mm) but I’ve added a macro and a long focal length (200mm) for good reason as you will see.

Today is bright and sunny so I make sure I have all my lens hoods and a hat (that’s for my balding head). The tripod is always with me. In my experience, this time of the day can be deceiving. There seems to be heaps of light about but the shadows are quite dark so there could be some moderately long shutter speeds, especially if I want an extended depth of field.

(If you’re a beginner and I’ve just lost you with that stuff about depth of field and shutter speed, ask someone on Light Stalking to explain it to you. They’re really good at that.)

In my part of the world, this time of the day always seems extra saturated with the colours and the tonal contrast is amazing. So, I take full advantage of this. It’s what I call ‘shooting for the conditions’. I can’t change the climate but I can learn to live with it.

My eyes immediately begin to search the landscape for places where this saturation and contrast brings out the best in the frame. Deep green shadows are avoided. Speckled light is hard to expose correctly so I move out into the open.

Botanic Gardens are designed. So it’s worth looking for vista’s, frames within your frame, and nooks that have been purposefully constructed to catch one’s eye.

The low angle of the Sun provides beautiful backlight, rimming the tree trunks and highlighting the foliage. I walk and watch towards the Sun. seeking out long shadows that can be used to lead the eye.

Foreground and background are important but it’s easy to clutter the frame with too much. To avoid this, I take full advantage of my walking shoes and seek the best perspective before shooting; always endeavoring to keep that sun in the background.

‘But shooting into the sun?’ I hear you say. With a bit of maneuvering, the sun can be tucked behind some foliage or a tree trunk. You will need to  watch that histogram for blow-outs (sorry, there’s nothing wrong with the tires on your car). If you’re not sure how to use it, read the Light Stalking article on how to read a histogram.

Go for detail in the shadows if you can and let the sun burn out a bit behind the trees. It gives a nice halo effect and gives the impression of a brilliant sunny day. But don’t overdo it.

Since it’s usually quiet this time of the morning there’s always an opportunity for a self-portrait. Seats are placed strategically among the trees for effect as well as rest, so include them in your shots.

Also look for those special plants, unusual textures, surprising angles and, of course, the obligatory close-up.

One thing I learnt from this trip was to watch where I leave my kit. This is the time when the gardeners are testing their sprinkler system. At least it saves me washing this week.

For some reason, Botanic Gardens are not heavily frequented by wildlife. I have more birds in my back yard. I did find a few grazing geese and a spider, but other than a stray dog and a dead cane toad, I was the only animal in the park – and even my zoological status has been questioned by some.

Now its time to finish up. You’ll have enough time to download this lot before settling on a nice lunch and a glass of Chard. Then prepare yourself for the midday run.

Thanks for joining me.

This is a guest post by Tom Dinning.

via Light Stalking » TUTORIAL: What’s your time of day? (Part 2) Shooting at Second Light.

 

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How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition

By Light Stalking

In a lot of photographic situations, a photographer will often come across a natural object near the scene that can be used to “frame” the main element of the image. It’s a common photographic composition technique and one that can be used to great effect if you can pull it off. Here are a few things to think about when you next have the opportunity to frame your photograph as well as some examples of successful images that use framing.

Alcatraz - Exercise Yard Exit Door "Sailing Away"
Photograph by David Paul Omer

Keep in the back of your mind the common objects that can be used to frame an image naturally. The most common are trees and branches for landscapes, windows and doorways and tunnels and cave-openings. Of course, that is by no means an exhaustive list, but remembering these common objects gets you into the habit of considering less common things to frame an image.

I get the window seat!
Photograph by Ed Siasoco

Remember to use the frame to convey depth in your image. There are basically two main ways to do that. Colour and depth of field. The most common (though not only) way to use colour to convey depth is to have the frame in silhouette (or at least much darker than the main object of the image) such as the forest image below. That means that you need to expose for the background or main object of the image.

As the frame is a foreground, you also have the opportunity to either have it in focus with a narrow aperture or out of focus with a tighter aperture. The choice will very much depend on the situation, but remember to consider the options before taking your shot.

Our love is like the misty rain that falls softly, but floods the river...
Photograph by ManojVasanth

Potato Island

Photograph by Wolfgang Staudt

Don’t think that the frame needs to cover every side of the image either. Many of the most successfully framed images only have one or two sides framed (such as with a tree trunk and branch). On the other hand a fully framed image through a window or door can also be very effective. Use your own judgment.

Employ framing only when it suits the image. Don’t use a frame for every shot. It is easy to overdo framing, especially in a collection of shots from the same shoot. Use it sparingly and only when the opportunity for a good shot is there. Framing can look a little forced at times, so don’t fall into that trap, but don’t be afraid of it either. Again, this is one of the things in photography where every situation is different and you are best advised to use your own judgment.

no need for a frame
Photograph by Izarbeltza

Using a frame in your shots gives you an opportunity to draw the eye of your audience to the main element of the image that you want them to look at. By remembering a few basic pointers as well as always looking out for unique ways to frame images, you give yourself a much better chance of capturing a great photograph.

two Sides
Photograph by Robb North

via Light Stalking » How to Use Natural Frames to Enhance Photographic Composition.

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2011 in Featured, General, Landscape, Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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Using content to increase the visual impact of your travel photos

{Post removed at request of Lonely Planet Images due to copyright issues}
Richard I’Anson talks about photographing iconic images.Lonely Planet images discusses what camera gear to bring on the road.

Read these insightful tips on editing images in Lightroom.

Get all the great hints and tips on travel photography from Richard I’Anson’s latest book.

via Using content to increase the visual impact of your travel photos « Lonely Planet Images Blog.

 
4 Comments

Posted by on May 18, 2011 in Worth a Look

 

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How Seeing in 3D Can Improve Your Photography

By alohal at LightStalking

When I first started carrying my camera around every day, I saw pictures in two dimensions. My photos were like line drawings on paper—so many inches wide and so many inches long, but flat. Later, I started to see differently. I learned to see in multiple planes, like an architect would when drawing perspective sketches of a building. When I learned to see multiple planes in a scene, I saw a change in my photos. They didn’t look like flat recordings of things I’d seen. Instead, the multiple planes in the photos created depth, so the images looked three-dimensional.

One of a photographer’s challenges is to see multiple planes, and make photos that look like the scene itself—with volume, with mass, alive in all its dimensions.

Here are a couple of things I’ve tried that you might like, to give depth to your compositions.

Use foreground framing

Foreground elements can frame a shot and add depth to it. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

This photo of a child hanging laundry has the danger of becoming flat. If I had framed her with less of the bamboo fence, I would have gotten a flatter composition. But using the bamboo as a frame and allowing a lot of the ground behind the girl adds depth to the scene.

Tilting the camera is a way to achieve depth. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

Similarly, this photo of a man repairing wooden structures at the temple uses the same technique, but with the additional help of camera tilt. If I had stood closer to the man, and parallel to the scaffolding, I would have gotten a flatter composition, like in the diagram below. What I did to achieve some more dynamism in the composition was to stand a little diagonally to the man; this added a tilt to my wide-angle lens, and that gave the composition a bit more interest.

Changing vantage points changes a shot.

Play peek-a-boo

Planes can present ‘layers’ of information in a photo. In environmental portraits, one of the things I find that work is to play peekaboo with the subject. What I mean is to use foreground elements to hide some part of the subject, to give it context. Usually the foreground elements are related to the subject and generally add more to the story.

Partially revealing a subject draws attention to it. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

In the photo of the child, the fact that he is hiding behind his mother’s skirt gives us a big part of the story: he’s shy when he notices a stranger with a dSLR smiling at him. The man who walks past while I took this shot gives another part of the story away: we’re in a crowded place full of strangers but here is a glimpse of someone’s personal space.

Layers of foreground and background can help tell a story. Copyright Aloha Lavina 2011.

The woman at the market is also another peekaboo shot: I catch her framed by what she does. The scale, the colorful plastic cover of her market stall table, the vegetables, and the echo of color behind her all suggest the explosion of colors and life at this market in Vietnam.

Learning how to use multiple planes in your compositions gives your images an added depth. When you change the way you see, you will see the change in your photos.

via Light Stalking » How Seeing in 3D Can Improve Your Photography.

 
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Posted by on May 13, 2011 in Composition, Featured, General, Inspiration, Worth a Look

 

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Creating Classy Compositions

Creating Classy Compositions

(via MadPhotographer)

10 Top Photography Composition Rules

It may sound clichéd, but the only rule in photography is that there are no rules. However, there are a number of established composition guidelines which can be applied in almost any situation, to enhance the impact of a scene.

These guidelines will help you take more compelling photographs, lending them a natural balance, drawing attention to the important parts of the scene, or leading the viewer’s eye through the image.

Once you are familiar with these composition tips, you’ll be surprised at just how universal most of them are. You’ll spot them everywhere, and you’ll find it easy to see why some photos “work” while others feel like simple snapshots.

Rule of Thirds

Imagine that your image is divided into nine equal segments by two vertical and two horizontal lines. Try to position the most important elements in your scene along these lines, or at the points where they intersect. Doing so will add balance and interest to your photo. Some cameras even offer an option to superimpose a rule of thirds grid over the LCD screen, making it even easier to use.

lighthouse with rule of thirds grid on it.

Notice how the building and horizon are aligned along rule-of-thirds lines. Image by Trey Ratcliff.

Balancing Elements

Placing your main subject off-centre, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can leave a void in the scene which can make it feel empty. You should balance the ‘weight’ of your subject by including another object of lesser importance to fill the space.

Road sign with building behind

Here, the visual weight of the road sign is balanced by the building on the other side of the shot. Image by Shannon Kokoska.

Leading Lines

When we look at a photo our eye is naturally drawn along lines. By thinking about how you place lines in your composition, you can affect the way we view the image, pulling us into the picture, towards the subject, or on a journey ‘through’ the scene. There are many different types of line – straight, diagonal, curvy, zigzag, radial etc – and each can be used to enhance our photo’s composition.

Road winding through mountains

The road in this photo draws your eye through the scene. Image by Pierre Metivier.

Symmetry and Patterns

We are surrounded by symmetry and patterns, both natural and man-made., They can make for very eye-catching compositions, particularly in situations where they are not expected. Another great way to use them is to break the symmetry or pattern in some way, introducing tension and a focal point to the scene.

Chapel entrance

The symmetry of this chapel is broken by the bucket in the bottom right corner. Image by Fabio Montalto.

Viewpoint

Before photographing your subject, take time to think about where you will shoot it from. Our viewpoint has a massive impact on the composition of our photo, and as a result it can greatly affect the message that the shot conveys. Rather than just shooting from eye level, consider photographing from high above, down at ground level, from the side, from the back, from a long way away, from very close up, and so on.

Man sitting on beach photographed from above

The unusual viewpoint chosen here creates an intriguing and slightly abstract photo. Image by ronsho.

Background

How many times have you taken what you thought would be a great shot, only to find that the final image lacks impact because the subject blends into a busy background? The human eye is excellent at distinguishing between different elements in a scene, whereas a camera has a tendency to flatten the foreground and background, and this can often ruin an otherwise great photo. Thankfully this problem is usually easy to overcome at the time of shooting – look around for a plain and unobtrusive background and compose your shot so that it doesn’t distract or detract from the subject.

Female violinist

The plain background in this composition ensures nothing distracts from the subject. Image by Philipp Naderer.

Depth

Because photography is a two-dimensional medium, we have to choose our composition carefully to conveys the sense of depth that was present in the actual scene. You can create depth in a photo by including objects in the foreground, middle ground and background. Another useful composition technique is overlapping, where you deliberately partially obscure one object with another. The human eye naturally recognises these layers and mentally separates them out, creating an image with more depth.

Sheep in field will misty hills in the background

Emphasise your scenes depth by including interesting subjects at varying distances from the camera. Image by Jule Berlin.

Framing

The world is full of objects which make perfect natural frames, such as trees, archways and holes. By placing these around the edge of the composition you help to isolate the main subject from the outside world. The result is a more focussed image which draws your eye naturally to the main point of interest.

Lake framed by hills either side

Here, the surrounding hills form a natural frame, and the piece of wood provides a focal point. Image by Sally Crossthwaite.

Cropping

Often a photo will lack impact because the main subject is so small it becomes lost among the clutter of its surroundings. By cropping tight around the subject you eliminate the background ‘noise’, ensuring the subject gets the viewer’s undivided attention.

Ceramic ornaments of characters hugging

Cut out all unnecessary details to keep keep the viewers attention focused on the subject. Image by Hien Nguyen.

Experimentation

With the dawn of the digital age in photography we no longer have to worry about film processing costs or running out of shots. As a result, experimenting with our photos’ composition has become a real possibility; we can fire off tons of shots and delete the unwanted ones later at absolutely no extra cost. Take advantage of this fact and experiment with your composition – you never know whether an idea will work until you try it.

Lone tree in field illuminated with golden light

Digital photography allows us to experiment with different compositions until we find the perfect one. Image by Jule Berlin.

Composition in photography is far from a science, and as a result all of the ‘rules’ above should be taken with a pinch of salt. If they don’t work in your scene, ignore them; if you find a great composition that contradicts them, then go ahead and shoot it anyway. But they can often prove to be spot on, and are worth at least considering whenever you are out and about with your camera.

(via MadPhotographer)

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 18, 2011 in Composition, Featured, Worth a Look

 

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Golden Crop for Photoshop

No doubt you’ve heard of the Rule of Thirds, but cropping your images to match this ideal can sometimes be problematic because of limitations inside Photoshop. I think I’ve found the solution!

(via Golden Crop)

What is the Golden Crop script?

Golden Crop script designed as an aid for cropping images according to the division rules. The script generates visual guidelines for the Rule of Thirds, Golden Rule both Diagonal Golden Rules and four Golden Spirals. Some people think, that aligning vital elements with this guidelines creates special visual impact, making the image more interesting. You can see this guidelines on a picture below:

Golden Spirals

[…]

Who can use it?

Anyone who wants… and have Adobe® Photoshop® CS2, CS3, CS4 or CS5 installed. This script should work both on Windows and Mac version of the software. Adobe® Photoshop® versions earlier than CS2 will not be supported due to lack of scripting possibilities.

Is it free?

Yes, it is! Free as in beer and free as in speech 🙂 This software uses GNU General Public License. But if you run a business or just like the script consider making a donation.

How to run/install/uninstall the Golden Crop script?

Visit the download page to grab the script via Golden Crop for Photoshop – FAQ. It’s worth a look!

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2011 in Technique, Tutes & Tips, Worth a Look

 

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