The Tuesday Composition: Areas of High Contrast

Morning by the Merced, Yosemite
Morning by the Merced. Notice how your eye is more attracted to the tree leaves than the canyon walls.

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.

In a previous column we’ve talked about how the eye is attracted to and tends to follow along edges in a scene, and that similarly, the eye tends not to spend much time wandering in the center of silhouetted areas, tending to explore the edges of those areas instead. Both of these ideas are related to the fact that as one looks at an image over time, the eye will spend more time looking at areas of high contrast than areas of lower contrast. If your image is half-solid without texture, and half a simple textured pattern, the viewers’ eyes will tend (depending, of course, on the dozens of other factors that go into human perception) to spend more time wandering around the patterns.

This autumn image from Yosemite Valley demonstrates the principle. As we look at the image over time, our eye spends a lot of time wandering around the tree branches and leaves compared to the shadowed valley walls or the thin strip of foreground grasses. If we were just trying to understand why our eye spends more time on the tree than the valley wall we might think it was just a matter of the tree leaves being highlights that our eyes are attracted to. But here, while our eyes might very well be first attracted to the brightest part of the image (the grasses at the base of the image), the the eye will eventually spend more time wandering the more interesting and complex patterns of the branches. And the large contrast in the tree leaves (both color contrast and tonal contrast) is a primary reason why. (more…)

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I recently twittered (we’ve got a Photocrati twitter feed here, check it out and give us a follow!)  comparing noise between modern digital SLRs and drum-scanned Velvia. I was fairly gobsmacked by going back and looking at some five-to-eight year old drum scans I’d had done of my early 35mm landscape work, most particularly by just how spoiled we’ve all gotten about low noise images.

What I said was “OMG, my old, clean, crisp drum scans of 50-speed film, remembered fondly, have more noise than ISO 1600 DSLR files. Progress!!!!” (more…)

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July Thank You Post

Every once in a while, we like to say thanks to those who've supported or helped us in some way. In that spirit, we'd like to say thanks to the…

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Lessons Learned… Again. I hope.

Having had this happen once before you would think I would have learned my lesson.

A few years back, one of my external hard drives decided to take a sabbatical and never come back. Unfortunately it took a lot of information with it. Was the information vital to my business? Not really; but still it was part of the cyber attic pile of crap I decided to keep and never part with, it was so important that today, I have no clue what was on the drive and really don’t care. After that, I got into the regular routine of backing up, and backing up often. After a shoot, I usually pull the images off my card, put them on my HD, and then burn them to disc, and then and only after they were safely on disc, view them. Well let’s just say I got out of my routine…


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High-Speed Sync

What is it? High-speed sync is your flash and camera working in perfect harmony at shutter speeds above 1/250 sec (for most cameras). I’ve heard of high-speed sync but never saw it in action until I met Joe McNally. Watching him give a demonstration really opened my eyes to the potential. If you are interested in the technical aspects of how it works, I would recommend the numerous articles that explain all the technical jargon. In doing my research for this article I came across a lot of great information explaining how a flash works and why it’s supposed to sync with a camera at 1/250 and flash duration and why the planets are aligned the way they are and why the earth is warming, you get the idea.

I’m not a technical guy; so I won’t try to bore you with technical speak. But to put it in my simplistic numnuts terminology it works like this. (more…)

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Wedding Photography and the Zoom Lens

If you get a bunch of wedding photographers together in a room (like AA), talk will eventually come around to lenses. A bunch of photographers talking about lenses makes watching paint dry seem glamorous. Everyone has a favorite lens and everyone has a particular style and it can be tough to decide on what your style and lens choices will be. It’s really just trial and error. Eventually, you will find yourself reaching for the same lens again and again and suddenly, before you know it, you have a style!

So, let’s talk about the almighty zoom lens.


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Reflections on Weak Sunsets

Sunrise Reflections, Old Marina, Mono Lake
Sunrise Reflections. Old Marina, Mono Lake

The power and beauty of an exceptional sunrise or sunset is incredible. As nature photographers, it is understandable that we gravitate towards the most direct expressions of these incredible moments. Those sunrises and sunsets often offer not only incredible color in the skies, but also on the landscape itself–color that shows texture and contrast by raking across our subjects. Trying to pull in the whole picture, capturing all of this, is a wonderful goal.

Sadly, all too often, the skies don’t light up the way we expect. Or other factors get in the way of these hopes. In remaining attached to our vision of the grand scene, it is all too easy to give up and to forget what powerful alternatives can remain. Often, I find those alternatives include reflections. (more…)

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Scams: The Seamy Underbelly of Photo Biz 101

I recently came across this article, on art scams, and while it’s worth reading in its own right, I have some additional experiences and tips to add to the bargain. While I haven’t yet been successfully scammed as a photographer, I’ve certainly had a number of attempts aimed at me. And in some cases, in hindsight they seem laughably bad, but not scams all are so obvious. (more…)

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The Car Blind

BigHorn Sheep, Bandlands
Big Horn Sheep, Badlands

Wildlife photography presents the nature photographer with many challenges. One of the foremost is getting close enough to the animal to create an effective image, while not disturbing the animal, affecting it’s behavior, or putting oneself in danger. Because wildlife is often most sensitive to the presence of things that look like humans or other large mammals, when possible many wildlife photographers will make use of a blind–a general term for any sort of structure, tent, or what have you, that renders the photographer less visible. Numerous styles of blinds exist, some are as simple as camouflaged tarps that disguise the form of the photographer, while some are elaborate structures. While dedicated blinds have their place, I’ve often had good success photographing using my car as a blind. (more…)

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Alien Skin Software’s Photoshop Plug-ins

A wide range of add-ons to help you create sometimes startling, sometimes pretentious images.

Original. I made this f/4.5 exposure of these columbine blossoms with a Nikon D300 and Nikon 10-24mm lens (at 24mm), by available light. Breezy conditions dictated a fast shutter speed (1/500) and the shade mandated a high ISO (1600). Follow this image through its various iterations brought about though the use of Alien Skin Software's plug-ins. Photo  ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.
Original. I made this f/4.5 exposure of these columbine blossoms with a Nikon D300 and Nikon 10-24mm lens (at 24mm), by available light. Breezy conditions dictated a fast shutter speed (1/500) and the shade mandated a high ISO (1600). Follow this image through its various iterations brought about though the use of Alien Skin Software's plug-ins. Photo ©2009 Jack Neubart. All rights reserved.

I’ve worked with Alien Skin Software plug-ins for years. As with other plug-ins, I at times became so enchanted by them that I lost sight of the original image or my purpose in using the plug-in. And once I realized that I was allowing myself to be swept up in this mania of adding effects just for the sake of doing so, without rhyme or reason, I pulled back and placed some restraints on myself– actually, it’s an ongoing process. (more…)

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