Composition is one of the four pillars of a strong landscape photograph (See Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars). There are many approaches to mastering composition and certainly countless excellent books on the topic. Many books discuss the elements of design and how they relate to composition – line, shape, form, texture, pattern and color. Others go into the various rules of composition – rule of thirds, golden rule, leading lines, near / far, layers, frames, etc.
All of these rules or principles are very analytical and, I think, are necessary and useful building blocks. Often creating a strong composition is very much of a problem-solving endeavor. But in the end I believe the goal of the composition is to support what the artist wants to communicate through the image. And this comes more from compositions that just feel right, not ones that are mechanically created from the rules. That’s not to say that one is not aware of these principles as the composition is being worked out. Rather these principles are like words in a sentence. They are carefully chosen so that the sentence as a whole communicates the author’s message. There are several techniques that lead us to this goal. And one of them is to ask yourself, ‘’”What am I photographing?”
Continue reading “Mastering Composition – What?” »
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Light has several properties that are important to landscape photographers including quality, direction and color.
It is important to understand that different times of day and weather conditions will produce light of different colors. Also, when you add artificial light sources the range of colors expands.
Our brains play tricks on us when it comes to color. During twilight we don’t see that the light is a soft, delicate blue. In fact, we don’t perceive any color cast at all. But the camera is not fooled. It sees what is actually there. Take this image that I call ‘Breakfast’ as an example.
When drastically different light sources are set next to each other than our eyes can clearly see the difference in the colors. In this photograph the interior of our home is illuminated by tungsten lights which give off a very warm color. That’s why our homes feel so warm and cozy at night – because of the warm light emitted by tungsten lights. (That will change as we replace the tungsten lights with CFLs or LED lights.) Outside we have a foggy morning at twilight. The sun is about 10 minutes away from rising. And it’s clear the color of the outside light is blue.
If I was standing outside away from the warm tungsten light, my mind would trick me into thinking the light was not blue, just a neutral gray. But the camera is not fooled.
So then why are we so easily fooled? Because of perception. Our brains receive input from all of our senses including our eyes. And without us even being aware of it, this input is translated into something we are familiar with, concepts and generalizations we have learned from all the accumulated experiences of our lives. And our brain overrides (manipulates if you will) the actual blue color of the outdoor light and we perceive it as neutral.
Our perceptions help us with everyday living. They help to bring order to our lives from the endless bombardment of stimuli. But perception interferes with the photographic process of seeing. As far as day-to-day life is concerned we don’t need to see that the outdoor light is blue. But as photographers, cultivating the ability to see beyond our perceptions opens up the world to us in ways we normally can’t even imagine. And isn’t this what photography is all about?
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Tags: blue, brain, brains, camera, CFL, color, cool, direction, eyes, image, LED, light, neutral, outdoor, perception, photograph, photographers, quality, senses, sight, sources, stimuli, sunrise, tungsten, twilight, warm, weather
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Lightroom is a great tool. It’s quick and easy to use – once you get the hang of it. But sometimes mastering the workflow, the steps you go through to take a raw file to a ‘final’ image, can be a bit daunting.
Let me say up front that Lightroom is an important part of my workflow but it’s not the only part. Every photograph I work on starts in Lightroom but is completed in Photoshop. Nevertheless, Lightroom gets a photograph to about 80% of the final product. I know many people who use Lightroom exclusively and Photoshop only in rare circumstances if at all.
So back to the workflow. Can it really be made easy? Yes it can. There are four major steps (not counting import – see Lightroom Tutorial – Importing Photographs):
- Mechanical adjustments like dust spot removal and cropping
- Tonality adjustments
- Hue adjustments
- Saturation adjustments
Let’s skip the first step and start with the second. The example will be in Lightroom 4.
Continue reading “Lightroom Tutorial – Workflow Made Easy” »
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I’ve been giving a lot of thought recently to what goes in to making a great landscape photograph. It turns out there are four things, four pillars if you will. Four, that’s a good number. There are the four legs of a table or the four wheels of a car. And not to forget the four sacred directions of the Native Americans.
In landscape photography the four pillars are evenly divided between the aesthetics and the technical. So what are they? The two aesthetic pillars are Fantastic Light and Strong Composition. No surprise there. The two technical pillars are Appropriate Sharpness and Optimum Exposure. No surprise there either. If just one of those pillars is missing, well, the table collapses, the image suffers.
Let’s look at them one by one….
(click on the images to enlarge them)
Joshua Tree Spring Sunrise (2011)
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars” »
Tags: Aperture, balance, border patrol, cloudy, color, composition, constrast, cool, f/stop, fine art, focal distance, focal length, focus, golden hour, grad nd filter, graduated neutral density filter, HDR, High Dynamic Range, histogram, hyperfocal distance, light, luminance, mid-day, midday, open shade, overcast, photography, rule of thirds, shadows, sharpness, tonality, twilight, unity, visual tensioin, warm
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