The Tuesday Composition: New Perspectives

Aphid and Desert Sunflower. A ground up, rather than eye-level, perspective, was an essential part of making this image pop. © Joe Decker

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.

The week before last we talked about moving: about what a difference moving a foot to the left or right, forward or back can make in a composition. Today we’ll continue along that theme, talking about what a difference moving higher or lower can make.

We often photograph from “eye-level.” It’s a fairly natural tendency, if we make photographs after seeing things that move us, we’ll typically end up finding compositions at eye level. This is a good choice for point of view, photographing from “eye level” often produces images that read very naturally to the viewer.

But “eye level” isn’t always your best choice. (more…)

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Shooting Furniture

(and other large products)

At one point in my life I considered being a furniture maker. I had the woodworking bug. I read books and magazines on the subject. I built really, really bad tables with drawers that didn’t work quite right — all of the things we do when we first start a new endeavor, we screw up. After a close call between my finger and a table saw I rethought things. I’m fine with that. But I still really like good furniture. Having tried to do this myself, I have a great respect for those who do it well. Over the years I’ve had several furniture clients, some of whom make great stuff, others not so much. The clients who make great furniture are still around. (more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Case Study: Petroglyphs

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.

Over the past few months I’ve noted a couple dozen compositional “ideas”, not so much rules as tools that you can use to make more effective photographs. But this leaves a question hanging: How do I actually use all these ideas in practice?

Petroglyphs
Petroglyphs. © Joe Decker

I wish I had a pithy answer for that, but I don’t think there is one. In practice, the right way to approach a new situation comes from intuition and experience, learned by example after example after example. Some of the next few posts in this series, including this one, will take a single image and try and dissect my process, my thinking, when I was creating the image.

I’ll start with a petroglyph image I made in the Eastern Sierra during a visit last month for workshop scouting.

First, let me set the scene: The petroglyph panel in the foreground of this image is nearly horizontal and quite large, with well over one hundred glyphs. It is not well-protected. As such, the ways in which I’m willing to work this panel are strongly constrained by the desire to protect the panel-from vandalism, from damage that might occur if someone were to walk on the panel (scuffing, etc.), and from the damage that even skin oils can do to the “varnish” the glyphs are carved into. This limited my vantage points to places I could get to without damaging the panel, and views that don’t “give away” precisely where the panel is located.

While this is an extreme example, as photographers we are often constrained (by fences, physics, law or ethics) in what compositions we can make. Those constraints are often part of the dance of composition.

Trying to not show a lot of detail (save for distant mountains) beyond the panel meant shooting low, close to the panel. I did want to include the snow-covered mountains, which forced the choice of a particular side of the panel to work from. “Shooting low” suggested a near-far composition, which meant selecting a couple of particularly interesting glyphs (concentric circles, and the square grid) to serve as foreground anchors.

In short, the constraints on taking the photograph suggested a style of composition, and that style led me by the hand to keep in mind a particular guideline (interesting foregrounds are a must for near-far compositions.) (more…)

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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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What metering mode to use when photographing a wedding

Trying to decide which metering mode to use when photographing a wedding is a bit of a pain. It doesn’t help that there are four different modes to choose from, each with an icon that you need a Rosetta Stone to decipher. Last night I took some photographs that will hopefully shed a little light on the modes I use most: Evaluative (Matrix) and Center Weighted Average.

Evaluative meter mode is the most sophisticated meter mode in the camera. The meter reads the entire scene and then, get this, tries to figure out what you’re taking a picture of. The software has thousands of sample readings from different scenarios in its memory. It compares the readings from your image against the database. So, if the software “sees” all dark on the bottom and all light on the top it thinks, “Must be a landscape!” and alters the exposure a little. Dark in the middle and light all around the outside “Portrait!” Adjust, adjust, adjust …

Here’s another cool thing about Evaluative metering: It’s the only mode that takes into account what the camera is actually focusing on. The meter reads the entire scene but pays special attention to the focus points when determining exposure. This is way cool. If you are taking a portrait and you put the focusing point on the subjects face, the camera will give added consideration to the face when determining exposure. Perfect!

(more…)

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Shooting Sports 2 – Courts – Volleyball and Basketball

In my first article, I talked about some general considerations in shooting sports – the gear, the camera settings, etc. If you haven’t taken a look at that article yet, you should read it before this one.

In this article, we’ll discuss some of the considerations specific to shooting court sports — volleyball, and basketball. These are usually indoors, but the same principles apply when they are played outside.

(more…)

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The Tuesday Composition: Live from Iceland!

Godafoss Detail
Godafoss Detail

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.

I’m about five days into a trip through parts of Iceland (yes, in January and February), and thought I would share couple of short thoughts that have come up this week as I’ve been working, along with a few unfinished images from the trip.

First, yes, it is in fact cold here. Most of the areas I’ve been working in are relatively coastal (save for the Myvatn area), and so temperatures aren’t quite as cold as you might think: The coldest temperatures I’ve worked in this trip have been about -13C (or 9 degrees F). I’ve worked at lower temperatures in Mono Lake. Still, it is noticeably brisk. One thing that’s been on my mind, as a result, is thinking about how to communicate the sense of that cold in an image.

In most of my images on this trip, communicating “cold” has come down to one of two ideas (or both)–color, and the presence of ice or snow.
(more…)

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Full Disclosure

One must be willing to declare the process of making their images; it is an act of essential self-awareness. I firmly believe that not revealing the process leads to darkness whether or not the truth is eventually exposed.

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The Tuesday Composition: Patterns

#3
Desert Rhythms III

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.

I can’t say that they’re best sellers for me, but I really enjoy pattern shots. Nature often offers us regular and irregular patterns of exciting, dizzying complexity. I just can’t get enough of ’em.

There are several thing to keep in mind when working to create a great pattern shot.

The simplest is to remember that, in making a pattern shot, you’re often working to maximize abstraction. The simplicity and repeititon of a pattern shot makes it easy for the viewer’s eye to notice imperfections and intrusions, so eliminating unwanted details from a pattern shot is even more criticial than it would be in a more conventional landscape image.

If you’ve got a location that has some great looking patterns, first identify areas where the pattern is strongest. Then use don’t just zoom into the pattern to eliminate distractions, explore the scene by both moving your camera position and zooming in to find the cleanest perspective. Your feet are two of your most valuable photographic assets. (more…)

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Best of Wedding Photography

Quite a bit late now, we're happy to announce the launch of best of wedding photography. This is a new, invitation-only membership site for top wedding photographers. It was launched…

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