The Tuesday Composition: Just Move!

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.

Keep moving!

Skägafoss Detail
Skägafoss Detail

One of the best things about giving “shoot and critique” workshops is that I get the opportunity to see what participants can make out of a given situation. It’s great to see how different and interesting their visions are-I constantly learn things from my students by observing their photographic vision. But it’s also a great environment for me to be able to give knowledgeable feedback. Over the years, one of the most common themes I’ve seen in my feedback, particularly to beginning photographers, is suggesting that the image might have improved if the photographer had moved a little-whether left, right, forward, back, up or down.

Every movement of the camera and photographer changes the “choreography” of the images, some subjects get bigger, some smaller, and the position of the elements involved changes as well. Perhaps some appear – or disappear – around other objects. The positioning of the objects in the frame changes as well, movement is a powerful photographic tool. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Repetition

Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley
Salt Polygons at Sunrise, Death Valley

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.

A while back we talked about visual echoes–and we primarily focused on repetitions of two similar or contrasting objects. Today I’m going to revisit that topic with a greater emphasis on repetition generally, whether two, eleven or a million similar image elements.  If you didn’t get a chance to read the echoes post, I suggest going back and and reading it now, many of the ideas in today’s post will relate to and reflect on the ideas I presented there.

Repetition is a powerful and amazingly versatile tool.

One of my favorite uses of repetition in composition is in simplifying an image. In general, images with many kinds of disparate elements can be harder for the viewer to make sense of–put enough elements together and you take away an easy sense of what elements of the image are important, dominant.

Repeating patterns in an image can help organize all of those elements into a pattern that’s easier for the viewer to understand. Salt Polygons at Sunrise has hundreds of elements, but our eye quickly integrates the underlying pattern of the salt polygons and makes sense of what’s going on in the image. A random collection of that many disparate elements in an image would feel much more chaotic. (Of course, that might be what you want, but more often, my own work tends towards less chaotic.) (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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Photographing Cacti and Desert Succulents

Saguaro Silhouette.   Nce idea, but this particular shot failed because of wind movement.
Saguaro Silhouette. Nice idea, but this particular shot wasn't a "keeper" because of wind movement. Pity!

(In my three-part introduction to photographing Death Valley (part 2, part 3), I noted that I wanted to spend some time talking about techniques for photographing cactus, my apologies for the delay in getting that finished for you.  I hope it was worth the wait!)

Cacti astonish me. The desert air can be dessicating, a sponge pulling every drop of water out of everything around it, and yet many of these plants have evolved to survive and even thrive in these harsh environments.

For the photographer, cacti offer interesting forms, patterns and texture from their spines, and color from the occasional desert bloom. (more…)

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Fun with Sunstars

Sunstar Detail
Sunstar Detail

One of the stranger and more interesting artifacts you’re likely to come across in photographing nature is the sunstar. You’ve probably seen the effect, or one like it, where bright points of light. While many of these effects are the result of ::amazon(“B00004ZCDV”, “specialized star filters”)::, effects like this are, in some situations, easy to create without a filter due to a strange quirk in the physics of light, the phenomena of diffraction. Fortunately, you don’t need a degree in physics to get sunstars in your own photos, just a few simple tips. (more…)

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Review: The Lightning Trigger

Lightning across the Painted Desert.   © Joe Decker, created during an artist residency at Petrified Forest National Park
Lightning across the Painted Desert. © Joe Decker, created during an artist residency at Petrified Forest National Park

In my last installment, I discussed some of the joys and challenges of photographing lightning. One of the tools I use to capture images of lightning is Stepping Stone Products’ Lightning Trigger which is particularly valuable for daylight lightning captures. (more…)

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Lightning on the Landscape

Lightning across the Lithodendron Wash.   © Joe Decker, created during an artist residency at Petrified Forest National Park
Lightning across the Lithodendron Wash. © Joe Decker, created during an artist residency at Petrified Forest National Park

As I’ve said before, I’m an enormous fan of photographing in bad weather, stormy weather often creates dramatic conditions, and lightning can be an incredible element in such scenes-if you can capture it-lightning is incredibly difficult to capture, even more so to capture well. (more…)

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Working with Rainbows

Rainbow WhirlwindRainbows are one of the most magical of sky effects, elusive, mysterious and colorful. They’re a natural subject for the nature photographer, so much so that they do run the risk of cliche, but they can also can put the final “shazam” on what would already be an interesting image. With a few simple hints and techniques, you’ll gain a better understanding of how to capture and convey their magic.

The first challenge in finding a rainbow is finding one to photograph in the first place. Any rainbow requires two elements, light and water droplets. The light needs to be from small source and very bright, so it’ll usually need to be direct sunlight (although it is possible to find and photograph “moonbows”) they’re very hard to see and even harder to capture well. The need for both sunlight and rain or mist means you’ll usually need to look for rainbows in mixed weather (rainy conditions without complete overcast) or in other places where mists form in broad sunlight (waterfalls, such as my Iceland image above, geysers, and the like.) (more…)

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