One subject I always look forward to photographing during the summer months is the water lily. Native to the temperate and tropical parts of the world, there are over 50 species of these freshwater plants. However, it isn’t always easy to shoot them creatively. Unless you have access to a natural lake or pond (and are willing to get very wet), you will most likely have to shoot from the sidelines of a reflecting pool in a local park or botanical garden. A long lens will allow you to zoom in for a tight close-up, but you certainly won’t have any options to create those dramatic macro or wide-angle perspectives that are commonly used on other types of more accessible flowers.
About a decade ago the Yellowstone Association Institute offered a series of Master Artist workshops in the park. I was lucky enough to be accepted into a class with one of my favorite wildlife painters, Robert Bateman. Over the course of three days in Mammoth, the renowned artist captivated participants with stories, demonstrations, and instruction on how to better portray the natural world in our chosen medium.
Summer is here, and a great time to get out and photograph. As you are capturing all that summer has to offer, I want to remind you of the impact that fundamental design principles can have on your photography.
Are you photographing a mountain or beach? Where you place your horizon line can help you to create depth and dimension in your photo and also help call attention to the hero in your photograph. Consider referencing design tools like the Golden Ratio, Rule of Thirds or the Fibonacci Spiral when setting up your composition.
I tend to get stuck in my ways for photographing landscapes: sharp and focused. But I’ve started experimenting with another technique that I refer to as ambient light painting.
Ambient light painting may not be what you think. It is not using artificial light sources at night to paint light on a tree, old barn or other subject. Instead, ambient light painting uses both natural light and slow camera movements to create abstract compositions. The results can be something resembling a Monet painting.
When I discovered how much my students embraced this technique, I decided to include it in my workshop resources to help them develop their own vision of nature. Turns out, ambient light painting is fun for them, and that fits right in with my goal to get folks to love nature through their photography.
I’m often amazed at just how much subconscious thought and planning goes into the creation of a “simple” photograph.
A couple of years ago I was in the Thain Family Forest of the New York Botanical Garden. Located in the center of the 250-acre garden, this forest is the last remaining tract of original forest that once covered most of New York City.
I was initially attracted to a rustic log fence at the entrance to one of the forest trails. Seeing it as the perfect foreground element to lead a viewer’s eye into the photo, I positioned my tripod in the center of the trail and leveled it to the height of the fence. This was the best perspective to show the lines converging as they disappeared around the bend in the distance. Continue reading →