The Tuesday Composition: The S-curve

Hot Stream, Husavik, Iceland
Hot Stream, Husavik, Iceland

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

We’ve talked about how the eye tends to follow along edges–and we’ve also talked a fair bit about the different ways that direction affects how that plays into composition. Today, I’m going to put those two concepts together, and more, as I talk about the venerable S-curve.

An S-curve is simply a curve of some object, line or path in the image that curves back and forth horizontally as you proceed vertically, much like the letter S–in fact, usually exactly like the letter S. (more…)

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Why a Tilt-Shift Lens may be in Your Future.

decker-joe-tse-1
Canon TS-E 24/3.5L (1st generation)

For many years, 35mm camera users have often been able to safely ignore the subject of camera movements. Not so for the large format folks, the relatively large film plane of a 4×5 view camera requires photographers to go to lengths even in the simplest images to get a deep depth-of-field, lengths that often include both camera movements and enormously tiny apertures (e.g., f/64). Our smaller film (or digital sensor) areas come along with a comparatively deeper depth of field. For better or worse, we may not wish to maintain our ignorance much longer.

If, like many photographers, you keep a close eye on gear announcements, you’ll have noticed the trend. While Canon had been selling three tilt-shift lenses for years, more recently they updated the 24mm tilt-shift with the ::amazon(“B001TDL2O0”,”Canon TS-E 24mm f/3.5L II “):: (greatly improving it’s optical quality) and added a ::amazon(“Canon TS-E 17mm f/4L”,”17mm”):: to the lineup. In the same time frame, Nikon announced and began to ship ::amazon(“B0013BEEUW”,”24mm”)::, ::amazon(“B001BTG3NW”,”45mm”):: and ::amazon(“B001BTAZHM”,”85mm”)::. What’s behind this new excitement? (more…)

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Book Review: Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite

One of the larger segments of the photographic book market is the “Photographer’s Guide” segment, numerous authors and publishers have, over the years, covered any number of photographic destinations. Michael Frye’s little  ::amazon(“1930238002″,”Photographer’s Guide to Yosemite”)::  is my favorite of the genre. It’s small, well-produced, and reflects the author’s deep knowledge of Yosemite National Park and surrounding areas. (more…)

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I have Lightroom, do I need Photoshop?

Mist and Snow, Cummings Creek Wilderness.  One of multiple flaws in this image is the convergence of the tree trunks, they're slightly closer together at top than bottom.  This could be easily corrected in Photoshop, not so easily in Lightroom alone.
Mist and Snow, Cummings Creek Wilderness. One of the multiple flaws in this image is the convergence of the tree trunks; they're slightly closer together at top than bottom. This could be easily corrected in Photoshop, not so easily in Lightroom alone.

One of the most common questions I get when teaching my Adobe Lightroom workshops, is whether Lightroom is enough. The answer to that question depends on your needs and goals. But it is worth spending a bit of time reviewing reasons a photographer who has Lightroom 2 might also want to invest in Photoshop:

  • Graphic Design: If you are authoring your own web site or other publications, you may want Photoshop (or other tools) for laying out text over images, and so on.
  • Healing Tool Differences: There are some really nice things Lightroom can do that Photoshop can’t (like synchronizing correction spots on identical compositions), but Lightroom’s spot removal tool works best on small spots. Photoshop’s healing brush seems a more powerful option for larger scale healing, such as removing linear defects like branches or cracks in scanned images. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: A Few More Quick thoughts on Direction

Curves and Lines, Swanton Road.  Reading direction, in additition to other factors, influence most Western viewers to "read" the curvy tree first, the straight trees second.
Curves and Lines, Swanton Road. Reading direction, in additition to other factors, influences most Western viewers to "read" the curvy tree first, the straight trees second.

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

Last week, we talked about direction in composition and how it relates to movement. There are several other themes that occasionally play into direction in composition, today we’ll briefly talk about a couple of them in no particular order. None of them are relevant to most images, but each of them seems to occasionally come into play when I think about how I’d like to compose an image. Perhaps a few of these ideas will be helpful to you as well.

While I’ve had trouble finding a good reference to the history of the idea, it has been understood for some time that reading direction has a cultural influence on how we look at images. In much of Western culture, we’re more likely to parse images from left to right. If there is an implied horizontal sequence in an image, we’ll probably read the leftmost object as coming first–or at least read it as the more primary object. This is far from an absolute. And in nature photography we’ll rarely have the opportunity to invert the world (at least outside of the digital darkroom), but occasionally I’ve given that idea consideration in composing an image. It’s interesting to take an image and look at how different it feels when flipped horizontally, I recommend trying it on a few of your own images.

A related idea comes from the world of graphic design, when you’re putting together something that mixes images and text, the piece will feel more harmonious if any motion in the image moves in the same direction as the text. (more…)

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Where’d my Saturation Go? The Secret Life of Sharpening

Redwoods and Rhododendrons, default sharpening settings.
Redwoods and Rhododendrons. Default sharpening settings.

A couple days back Tronam made a perceptive comment on my JPEG export saturation loss post, noting that he’d noticed saturation loss being caused by sharpening, but wasn’t quite sure why that was happening. I immediately smacked my forehead, because I’d known about the ways sharpening could sap saturation, but hadn’t thought about it when writing that previous article. So, today, we’ll dive into it.

There are three key points. First, sharpening can (but won’t always) have an effect on saturation. Second, that loss isn’t always avoidable. Finally, if you’re working with images in Lightroom, it’s possible (although unlikely) that you won’t notice that saturation loss until you actually export the image. (more…)

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Sizing for Alamy

One of the best stock agencies I deal with, the UK outfit Alamy, is well-known for their meticulous standards, and I totally respect that meticulousness. Still, there is one particular part of the Alamy submission process that’s error-prone and resistant to automation, and that is the seemingly trivial matter of image sizing. Due to the amount of misinformation out there on the subject, I thought I’d take a crack on explaining what it is they want, and how you can reliably make sure you meet those specs. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Space to Move Into, Space to Look Into

Casual Climber, Buttermilks.
Casual Climbing, Buttermilks.

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

We’ve talked a fair bit about symmetry and asymmetry, it’s time now to talk about direction-various meanings and feelings that come along with where in absolute terms we place subjects in an image. There are several concepts “in play” when we talk about direction, so I’ll be devoting two, perhaps three columns of the Tuesday Composition to the topic.

The connection between direction and movement is a significant part of deciding where to best place objects in an image. When we have a moving subject in a scene, we often find it more natural when there’s more room “in front of” the moving object than behind it. That additional space we give the object to “move into” seems to suggest more movement from the object and can be part of telling a story about where the object is going to.

In  Casual Climbing, providing the rock climber more space to ‘climb into” contributed to a sense of movement and also provided, along with other cues, a sense of danger and excitement.  We’re left with no doubt that the climber is heading up. (more…)

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Using Neutral Density Gradient filters

Mt. Oberlin Alpenglow, Glacier National Park.  I used 2 ND grads, a 2-stop soft, and a 3-stop soft, to capture the enormous dynamic range of this image in-camera.
Mt. Oberlin Alpenglow, Glacier National Park. I used 2 ND grads, a 2-stop soft, and a 3-stop soft, to capture the enormous dynamic range of this image in-camera.

One of the great things about the advent of digital photography is that it has greatly reduced the number of filters I need to carry. Many of the functions we used to carry out with filters (warming/cooling, color filtering for B&W, soft-focus effects) are now much more easily and more accurately controlled in post-processing. But a few filters are still impossible for me to replace, particularly my polarizers and my set of neutral density gradient filters (ND grads).

ND grads were designed to address one of the fundamental challenges of photography, the challenge that light has too much dynamic range. We see the world with image sensors of seeing detail in a range  of 13-14 stops in the same scene, our cameras tend to top out (even if we nail our exposures perfectly, which we don’t always do) at a few usable stops fewer than that. This means that we often see scenes in the world where we can make out detail and color in the shadows and in the highlights, scenes that our cameras cannot capture entirely. Because we often have the situation where the highlights are on on side of an image (e.g., the sky) and the shadows are on the other (e.g., the land), ND grads are an attempt to address this by darkening the lighter part of the image to bring it closer in exposure to the darker part. They’re grey (neutral) on one side, clear on the other, and there’s usually some sort of transition zone between the transparent grey area and the clear area to possibly make the effect less overt. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Visual Echoes

Backlit Foliage, North Falls
Backlit Foliage. North Falls

If you like this article, you can now get the book! Joe has expanded the “Tuesday Composition” series into an inspiring new ebook on composition, especially for nature photography. Check it out: The Tuesday Composition.

As we discussed last week, centered compositions often describe or emphasize a relationship between one half of an image and another. “What’s similar between these two?”  “What’s different?”  These compositions succeed because the image itself provides the answer to this questions. Reflections are a simple example of this,  answering  “it’s all the same”, making the relationship between the reflection and the reflected object a subject of the photograph.

But simple reflections and symmetries aren’t the only place (by far) where images take on life because of visual relationships we create between parts of an image. I refer to these visual relationships “echoes.”  These visual echoes, like reflections, invite us to compare and contrast. But they can take on others forms as well, based on correspondences between line, form, texture and/or color. (more…)

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