Posts Tagged ‘worth’

Mastering Composition – Working the Shot

October 26th, 2012

There’s no doubt that composition is one of the key elements of a successful image.  You can have all the other factors of a great shot – fantastic light, optimum exposure and appropriate sharpness – but with a weak composition you have a weak photograph. 

I know photographers that work slowly enough to work out the strongest composition before they press the shutter.  I admire these people immensely.  But I don’t work that way, especially in an area I’m unfamiliar with.

A short while ago I was driving south through Utah on beautiful highway 89 traveling between Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks after wrapping up a successful photography workshop.  I came upon a stand of cottonwood trees that were in full autumn splendor.  I had to pull over.

I grabbed my point and shoot (Canon G11) and started scouting for photographs.  I like to use the G11 for that, scouting for compositions that are worth the effort of setting up my big Canon.  I found two compositions that were promising.

The second proved to be the most interesting, at least in terms of how the final composition evolved.  Behind the cottonwoods was a meadow with a dilapidated shack.  It was so Utah!  I set up what I thought would be an interesting composition.

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(Click on the images to enlarge them.)

I positioned my camera so that there would be a narrow opening to the meadow and the shack.  It is a tight composition that draws the viewers eye to the shack which is placed in a very strong position within the frame.  It has a feeling of depth with a strong foreground opening up to the shack in the background.

I was feeling good about this composition and then I noticed a glowing cottonwood just outside the frame to the right so I moved the camera a couple of feet to the right and created this image.

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The golden cottonwoods on the left are balanced by the single, smaller cottonwood to the right.  This arrangement has the effect of placing more emphasis on the autumnal trees.  The eye makes three stops, first at the cottonwoods on the left, then to the right and finally works its way back to the shack in the back.

I was pretty  pleased with these two compositions and thought I had something to work with when I got home.  So I disassembled everything and put  it back in my camera bag, collapsed the tripod and started back toward the car.  I hadn’t gone 5 steps when I looked back up toward the shack and saw there was another blaze of cottonwoods right next to it.  So I swung my backpack back down to the ground and set up again for this shot.

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Now there are three sources of golden light for the eye to explore – the cottonwoods to the left, the one a little further back on the right and the ones way in the back by the shack.  (Odd numbers of things are always good.)  The image is well balanced and every element in it contributes to the entire impression.

There’s a story here, a story of living in this beautiful valley during a time that is gone and will probably never return.  It must not have been an easy life but one of honest, hard work and the satisfaction of living in a place of such splendid beauty.  We would do it differently today with more conveniences and comforts.  And maybe, just maybe, miss out on the more intimate connection with Mother Earth that living in such a simple shack must have provided.


I’d be interested to hear which of the three compositions you like the most.  Please leave a comment saying which one you like and why.  It will make for a very interesting dialog.

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To see more of my photographs click here.

WordPress Tags: Composition,Shot,image,exposure,area,Utah,highway,Bryce,Canyon,Zion,National,Parks,photography,workshop,trees,splendor,Canon,worth,effort,Behind,shack,Click,images,viewers,depth,foreground,background,arrangement,emphasis,tripod,steps,backpack,numbers,element,valley,life,satisfaction,conveniences,connection,Mother,Earth,factors,compositions,feet,cottonwood,cottonwoods,camera,three

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How Ansel Adams Did HDR

August 13th, 2012

High dynamic range (or HDR) is a condition frequently encountered by landscape photographers where the digital camera’s sensor cannot handle the dynamic range of the scene.  In other words, the scene has very bright highlights with areas of deep shadow.  The resulting image will have clipped highlights (highlights that are pure white with no detail), clipped shadows (shadows that are pure black with no detail or at best, muddy) or both.

In digital photography we have several options including HDR, the techniques whereby we take multiple shots at varying exposures.  The most underexposed image will capture the highlights and the most overexposed image will capture the shadows.  Then we blend them all together with software like PhotoMatix Pro.  The result is an image with bright highlights that still have detail and dark, crisp shadows, also with detail.

But what do film photographers do when they face this same situation?  After all, film may not be able to capture the dynamic range of the scene any better than digital can.  And with film there is not the option of taking multiple shots at different exposures and blending the negatives together.

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2012 Joshua Tree Annual Fine Art Festival

March 31st, 2012

The 2012 Joshua Tree Fine Art Festival is coming up next weekend.  The dates are Friday, April 6 to Sunday, April 8.  I’m excited to be returning and catching up with old friends.  This is the first art festival I ever did and so returning is like a homecoming.  The festival is at the Oasis Visitor Center in Twentynine Palms, CA.  The hours are 9:00 to 5:00.  Come on out and see some great art.

I’ll be showing some old favorites along with some new photographs I’m very excited about.  As far as the old favorites go I’m planning on showing Virgin River and the Watchman from Zion National Park.

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This has proved to be my most popular photograph and has won awards.  It was captured on Thanksgiving day back in 2008.  I was in Zion with my wife and daughter for the Thanksgiving weekend.  I slipped out for this sunset and caught a beauty.  Beginners luck!  I’ve returned many times but never with light this good.  (By the way, to get a better view of the photographs you can enlarge them by clicking on them.)

To go along with the Watchman is another photograph taken that same weekend along the Riverside Walk to the Gateway to the Narrows.  When my family is with me we always do this walk.  It’s our favorite – for obvious reasons.

Riverside_Walk_2008

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