Talking Points Mark II
When I asked a few friends and fellow photographers to review my earlier blog postings, "An Introduction To My Talking Points" and "Talking Points," a comment came back that I should have made them, and my blog postings in general, shorter. I really didn't think they had gotten out of control. Not being a writer, I didn't think I could have written anything that long...ok, I do ramble at times. So for this posting I hope to write something a bit shorter. The key word there is “hope”.
If the photo is not working, it's not working. Delete it and move on or at least move on. Enough said.
You don't have to keep a photo just because you took it. A good number of mine will end up in the bit bucket. Yet for me the hardest “need” to master is the need to learn what to keep and what to toss. I'm still very bad at it. I know I will always keep more than I should.
There was only one Ansel Adams. There is only one Annie Leibovitz. You are not them and should never be them. Study their work and those of many other photographers. Learn how they created their photos. Take that knowledge and develop yourself.
Don't get into a rut, again enough said. My second hardest “need” to master.
It is a big “must” that you become very organized, very fast with your photos! If not you will get very lost, very fast in the hundreds of photos you can take each day.
Sometimes I like to go out and shoot with some kind of theme or personal assignment. As an example, if I'm going to a car show I might want to use only one lens like my macro or shoot just the hood ornaments. Other times I'll just “shoot and scoot,” shooting whatever strikes my fancy.
Great equipment and great software will not save or create a great photo. Practice, knowledge and experimentation will.
Batteries are your life line! Without them you cannot do anything. So maintain them, keep them warm, keep them safe and keep them charged.
Never look into the sun with your camera! This can very much hurt your eyes and damage the sensor! The lens amplifies the sun! Just remember what happens to an ant when placed under a magnifying glass!
Learn how to shoot in manual mode for complete control. Sure all that “auto” stuff is great but remember that is only a recent development in the history of photography. Most of the memorable and famous photos where taken in the days “auto nothing”.
Protect your gear from the elements! No matter where you roam all this gear needs to be protected from rain, water, sun, snow, SAND, hail, smoke....or just about anything not allowed into a clean room. Cameras can be used just about everywhere; they just need the right protection when it is called for. There are rain covers, under water cases, etc. I travel with a hard case and wander taking photos with a canvas bag.
Cold temperatures and plastic bags. I'm sure right now you asking yourself what does this have to do photography? This falls under protecting your gear. I happen to live where temperatures can get cold during the winter. Because of this fact of life when I'm done shooting outside in temps 40f degrees and below I will place any piece of equipment that was used that contains either glass or electronics into a freezer zip plastic bag. When I say “used” that means anything was taken outside of my home. So even if it never came out of my bag it still will be placed into a plastic bag. Note, I may use a few bags. Then I can bring them back into the warm home temperatures without them fogging up. They will stay zipped up for at least one hour. When this fog dries up it leaves behind residue. Not a problem on a camera body but on the lens glass it is. Because of this the quality of the images will suffer. It could also be left behind on the sensor. Also, I worry about the moisture playing games with all the electronic chips and circuits. The reverse can happen in the summer if you take your gear from a cold A/C environment into very humid weather outside. I have never had that happen but have read about it.
Look for dramatic light. Before and right after a thunderstorm for example. When clouds are clearing or at sunrises and sunsets. Example
There are two times during the day that photographers call “the golden hours”. This is about an hour or so before sunset or an hour or so after sunrise. At these moments the light is soft, warm, yellow and just about perfect for any kind of shooting from scapes to portraits. Example
In addition to the golden hours there is also a time I guess you could the “Blue Time”. About 20 min to 40 min either before sunrise or after sunset if you want to get some great blue skies. Here is a link to Shutterbug for more information. Example
Showing scale. This is an easy concept to understand. Think of a nice long/tall water fall photo and you know this because of a few visual clues, the trees, mist blowing around, large rocks, etc. Still you really have no idea just how tall that waterfall is because trees do not come in a standard size and neither do rocks. We all can relate to and know the size a person. Place a person at the base of the waterfall, for example, and then you will really be able to get the point across just how tall that waterfall really is. Not every shot needs or calls for a person in it, other clues will work. But this is what “showing scale” means. Example
Leading lines and curves. These are elements that are within a photo that draws the viewers “into to it”. Think of a photo looking down a straight, barren highway heading off in to distance mountains taken out west. As you study the highway it moves your eyes along it, leading you into the photo with the highway then seemly fading into the photo ending with your eyes on the mountains. You have been lead right to the mountains. Leading lines can be sidewalks, railroad tracks, and fence lines, anything that can be used to lead the viewer into the photo and to the main subject. Leading curves do the same thing but instead can be rivers, streams or even a rope. Anything that bends and curves in to the photos. The trick is to learn how to compose them into the photo so they can do their job. Example
Foreground. Ok you are standing on a beach near sunset, the sky is filling with colors and a sailboat is passing by. This will be a great shot....you do have your camera, right? You walk down to the water's edge and take a few shots. When reviewing them, they don't seem to have the punch you hoped for. Bummer. Next time, yes there will be one, try doing this. Back up from the waters edge all the way to the tall beach grass. Now go back a bit father, and place some, not a lot, of that tall beach grass between the camera and the scene just beyond. Set your camera to a small f stop, f8 maybe, to get a good “depth of field”. This way the grass can be in focus and so can the sailboat, sun and clouds. Take the shot. The beach grass is foreground. The grass can be a bit blurry or sharp, your style. Or the grass could be sharp and the distance elements a bit blurry. In this case the foreground helps complete the image composure. Foreground elements help frame and fill in the image. Example
Patterns, reflections and shadows are a few elements that can be used to enhance your photos. They intermingle with each other and can be “leading lines or curves”. When the sun is low in the sky great very long shadows occur. Night shots and long shadows go hand in hand. Street lights make very long shadows. A repeating shadow pattern has a very nice look and is a leading line. Patterns can be a leading line of flags or just points of reflected light off the side of a building. Reflections can be sparkling diamonds on a lake or the image on a large pane of glass or silver sculpture. Reflections off dew drops on a bridge cable can enhance the leading curve that is the cable. These elements happen all the time so be on the look out for them.
Remember, this is just photography and all that really means is you are recording light, nothing more, nothing less. Ah, but how that light itself looks, what kind of light it is, how it is composed and presented all do matter. These are the kinds of details that need to be mastered. From what is left in, to what is cropped out. The best angle and lens combination to use. Flash or no flash? Slow shutter speed, short depth of field or not. Add into this mix is learning how to work with a mechanical device and all it's limitations. The photo devil lives for those details.
In closing, it helps to think about how you will/can be capturing the images even if you have no idea what you might be shooting. Such as, the equipment needed, time of day if shooting outside, etc. In addition, think about how you might want the resulting image to look before the shutter in triggered. For me, this can easily change. I may start out wanting one kind of look but when I get the image up on the computer and begin looking it over everything could head off in another direction! But I am always thinking.