Archives For California
All right. It’s not another planet. It’s tiny spots of lichen growing on rocks on a beach in California. I loved the brilliant color and the repeating pattern of spots. I have to admit that lichen always draws my eye. So very tiny – and usually unnoticed – and yet there’s a whole little world here on the rocks by the sea. This is some prime real estate, and they have a heck of a view!
Here is a photograph I took accidentally – I fired the shutter by mistake. I cleaned it up, gave it a fancy title – Impressionism - and posted it as an “artistic” shot.
I like it – but is it a work of art? Or is it still a mistake?
While setting up a composition, I accidentally hit the shutter release and had to wait a few moments until I could see through the viewfinder again. Rather than waiting for the exposure to finish, I picked up the camera and went to help a student. The result was a ghostly impression in the foreground, and a streak of moon in the sky. I cloned out the blurry streak of the moon, and replaced it with the one you see here.
Tips for making a single element stand out in your photographs. ;)
When you shoot, do you take a moment to consider the most important element in your photograph? For this shot, I wanted to get in really close – and show off the beautiful, reflective droplets clinging to the leaf. I also wanted a very clear point of interest. So, I started looking for a single element that would work well for me. This little droplet was perfect. It stands out because it is much larger than the other droplets, and because it breaks the line that runs through the lower third of the image – between the leaf and the background.
1. You can blur the background to allow sharply focus foreground objects stand out. Blurring the background will also help obscure potentially distracting elements, which can pull the eye away from your point of interest.
2. Look for contrast. In this case I’m using contrast of size. The large drop stands out because it is so much larger than all those little ones. You can also use contrast of shape, color, tone, and so on.
3. Break the pattern. All those tiny little droplets make a pattern in this photograph – but I’ve broken that pattern. Twice. First, I positioned the leaf so that it’s edge cuts through the lower third of the photo. That brings your eye to the lower area right away. And then, just to be sure I have you where I want you, I’ve broken the pattern again by including the large droplet in the frame.
What techniques do you use to help isolate a single element within the frame? There are thousands of ways to do this. I always enjoy the challenge.
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When I decide to convert an image to monotone, it’s usually because I want to change what the image is about. What does that mean exactly? Well, take a look at this example.
Here’s a photograph of a wave off the coast of California. The color is pretty intense, and it helps to define the photograph. But what happens when I take those colors away?
Below is a monochrome version of the same photograph. I used Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert the image to black and white, adjust the contrast and add a smooth blue tone. The image is no longer defined by its color… at least not in the same way the first one is. Instead, this image is about texture, form, and contrast. All those elements are present in the first image, but the color is so intense that it really grabs your attention.
So, if I want my viewer to notice the beautiful textures in my photograph, converting to monotone removes color as a distracting element. What do you think?
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I took this photograph while shooting with some friends a few years ago just north of the Pigeon Point Light House in California. I was showing a group of students how to use GND filters when I took this photograph.
I used a hard Edge GND filter to balance out the light between the sky and the ground. The filter edge was aligned just below the rocks (accounting for the darkening of the rock at the very top). I chose this composition in order to fill the lower part of the frame with green moss.
You can see light reflecting from the pool as well as the rocks beneath the surface.
This is a shot from Bean Hollow State Park in California. It’s not one of my favorite shots – and it won’t make it to my portfolio or my website. So why am I posting it here? Well – I believe that we can learn as much from images that don’t appeal to us as we can from those that do.
In this case, there are a few things that make this image unappealing to me. The first is that there is no clear point of interest. Where do I want your eye to go? Which element is the most important? Is it the sky? The foreground? Who knows!
The second problem is that the image feels very busy and cluttered. There’s a lot going on here. A variety of colors, tons of textures and details… too much, in my opinion.
And finally, do you see the leading line in the shot? The ridges in the rock seem to form a line – but where does it take you? It certainly doesn’t lead your eye toward any particularly interesting element. Nope. It points you directly towards a rather nondescript, smooth stone in the mid-ground. I just doesn’t work.
The next step is to think about what you might have done differently – and to compare the images you don’t like from a location to the ones that really appeal to you. In this case, I could have gotten down nice and low with my tripod. That simple adjustment would have helped this photo a lot. A lower perspective provides a “foreshortening” effect, which would help eliminate some of the uninteresting mid-ground. It would also help to hide that pointless leading line. Additionally, getting down low would bring my lens closer to the details in the foreground. They would appear larger in the frame, and that would help them stand out as a point of interest.
I believe that critiquing images you don’t like can have enormous benefits. Understanding what you don’t like can help you avoid it in the future, and thinking about how you could improve your own work is a great way to grow as a photographer.
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My photography career started in the late 90′s – in Yosemite with a point- and-shoot Nikon 990. Other photographers made fun of my digital point-and-shoot and suggested I get a “real camera” – and by “real”, they meant “film”. Five years later, when I returned to take this shot, almost everyone was taking photographs with a digital SLR.
The key to capturing photographs like this one, is to recognize that weather and seasons impact the light at a location. We traveled to Yosemite in Winter right after a snowstorm. Our efforts were rewarded with this magnificent sight… and as an added bonus, the park was almost deserted!
The day we arrived in Death Valley, it started to rain. The rain turned into a downpour, and over the course of the next 24 hours, 1 inch of rain fell. That’s more than half of the total average rainfall for the entire year in Death Valley – the driest place in North America! All the roads were closed and water was running across the road everywhere. But when the storm started to break the next day, we got some fantastic light.
I chose this composition to highlight the fantastic textures in the foreground. I placed the horizon according to the Rule of the Thirds. This is a single exposure photograph – no blending was necessary, and I didn’t need any filters. Sometime the conditions are such that there is no need for any fancy processing or equipment.
On the first day of our 2009 workshop in Death Valley (California), it rained hard… and then it rained some more… and a bit more after that. Total Rainfall in 24 hours: 1 inch. That’s a lot for the driest place in North America. All the roads were closed, and some were damaged – but with big storms come great light. The next day, the storm started to clear. Over the course of the next 24 hours, we got some spectacular light conditions and some very unique photos of flooding in Death Valley National Park.
This is a manual blend of 3 images using our iHDR technique. I used a low perspective to capture the flowing streams of water. I focused at my hyperfocal distance to ensure that the entire image was sharply in focus. I chose to keep the image dark in post processing, because of the heavy storm clouds hanging overhead.
As always, these images are provided for personal use as computer wallpaper or backgrounds ONLY. Copyright belongs to the photographer,and photographs cannot be used, redistributed, or recreated in print, on the web, or in any other medium without written permission from the photographer.