Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Stop and Smell the Roses

"Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” - Yousuf Karsh

Two posts ago in Back To Basics I suggested that we work on getting Sharp, Well Exposed and properly Color Balanced images as part of the getting “Back to Basics.” Not forgotten and just as equally important to your images is the composition or rather the artistic aspects of the image itself. There are also some simple things we as photographers can do and some simple in-expensive tools we can use.

When we start out in photography we usually just head out and start snapping away. After learning the Basics we then often work on the composition and artistic aspects of our photography. We learn to slow down our process, look at all the corners, all the edges, look behind our subject matter, compose and re-compose until we get it right. Somewhere along the way we also learn to use all our pixels. Zoom in or walk closer to the subject if you have to or perhaps change the lens. This is all usually done using our tripods, right? Well it should be.

Going back to the basics is a great time to re-think, re-learn or re-introduce all these concepts back into our photography process. Just like we forget to do the basics we often forget to slow down and to do the artistic process properly. Remember, it’s about the photography, not about the post processing!

The photography process also includes the walking, getting fresh air, smelling the roses (literally), looking at your subject matter and studying it. Look at the light. Can you move the subject matter to increase the quality of the light or the shapes or forms of shadows to increase the strength of the image? If not, can you move or change your vantage point to change the light and shadows? Should you lie down, kneel or step up onto a base of some type? Should you make a note of the location and return to it when the lighting is better or perhaps when the weather conditions have changed completely, perhaps even covered in snow?

What about your lens, is it the right one to use in this specific situation? Do we want to capture a lot of the background and use a wide angle lens or do we want to narrow our focus onto the subject and separate the subject from the background using a shallow Depth-Of-Field (DOF) afforded to a long telephoto lens?

Now that you have the right lens, and the composition is perfect, what about a filter? Will a filter of some type help? Even in this world of Digital Photography, yes a filter will often help. Think Polarizer for blue skies and white fluffy clouds or to handle reflection off of water or water drops or just the reflection off of plants, specifically shinny leaves. Digital post processing does not work well in either of these situations, difficult in the first situation and impossible in the second.

How about a Neutral Density Graduated Filter for slight overcast days? I was just at an outing in the Pacific Northwest a few months ago with many members of the Delta Photo Club. It was an overcast day at the beach and I was using a Neutral Density Filter. Later that evening we were looking at projected images. Someone commented, “Where were you? I didn’t see those colors in my images.” referring to some slight blue and other colors in the sky. The filter ended up properly exposing the sky, not bleaching out the colors caused by over exposure.

Fixing this digitally would have required multiple exposures and then combining them using HDR software. All I used was a single filter that should be in every photographer’s bag. How easy.

I also used a non-graduated Neutral Density Filter, a fairly dark one, to allow me to use fairly long exposures. This allowed me to soften the ocean and to create a surreal artistic image. This image has not been properly processed for final print but it should give you the idea. Again, an in-expensive simple tool that should be in your bag that creates and image that would be rather hard to re-create on the computer.

So, go back to your photography roots. Think about why you do photography and what you want to accomplish. When on location, spend some time with your surroundings and “smell the roses”. Be creative and get the most out of your photography!

I will be covering Digital Filters soon and will be doing a workshop "Filters for Digital Photography" in spring of 2012.

© 2011 François Cléroux

(Version 1.10  - August 2011)

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I value thoughtful comments and suggestions. If you like or dislike this post, please let me know. If you have any ideas or suggestion, comments or corrections (I do make mistakes) please also let me know. Thanks.

- Francois Cleroux