Keeping Your Composure: Creative Ways to Compose Your Photographs, Part 2

A fence leads viewers’ eyes down the path of a forest trail. © F.M. Kearney
A fence leads viewers’ eyes down the path of a forest trail. © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

Last month in part one of this series, I discussed some of the most commonly used compositional techniques in nature photography. In Part 2 I’ll be highlighting a few more popular methods, but some might not be used that frequently.

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Keeping Your Composure: Creative Ways to Compose Your Photographs, Part 1

Daffodil Hill in the New York Botanical Garden. This is a typical composition of foreground, middle ground and background. © F.M. Kearney
Daffodil Hill in the New York Botanical Garden. This is a typical composition of foreground, middle ground and background. © F.M. Kearney

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Well, 2020 is finally in the rear-view mirror. Assaulted by a non-stop barrage of civil unrest, lifestyle changes, political uncertainty, economic hardships, and devastating heartaches, it was year none of us will soon forget – no matter how hard we may try! It was a struggle just to maintain one’s sanity in the midst of such utter chaos. The toilet paper shortage alone could easily have caused even the calmest of individuals to lose their composure. As a photographer, that got me thinking. Although, at times, certain situations may make it hard for you to properly compose yourself, you always have total control over how you compose your photographs.

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True Affects: Using Special Effects to Realistically Affect Reality

Daylilies with Radial Blur Filter (Spin mMethod) Applied © F. M. Kearney
Daylilies with Radial Blur Filter (Spin mMethod) Applied © F. M. Kearney

By F. M. Kearney

A friend of mine once showed me a movie trailer on YouTube for a foreign-made film called “B-14.” It’s about rival drug gangs, featuring an assassin with superhuman powers. To say that the special effects are ridiculously over-the-top would be an extreme understatement! This movie wasn’t meant to be funny, but I laughed more during this 1-minute trailer than I have during some 2-hour actual comedies. It seemed as though the producers just discovered special effects the night before and were determined to use all of them in this film – no matter how poorly executed, or whether the scene called for them or not. But what about special effects in photos of nature?

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The Fruitful Rewards of Bare Trees: Using Nature to Enhance Urban Winter Photography

Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney
Ominous-Looking Tree Overlooking Manhattan Skyline © F. M. Kearney

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

Aside from the cooler temperatures, which I greatly prefer over the blazingly hot, dog-days of summer, I look forward to winter. There’s something magical about capturing the fleeting beauty of a winter wonderland, festooned with snow-covered fields, sparkling ice crystals and dangling icicles. However, the weather’s been a bit on the mild side here in the Northeast. Some people are still running their AC’s! Indeed, winter can be unpredictable. In some years, you may be inundated with a steady stream of snowstorms, and in other years, there may not be a flake in the forecast for the entire season. But, no matter what, the one thing you can always depend on each winter is the abundance of bare trees. After they shed their fall foliage, most people usually don’t pay too much attention to them in the winter – unless they’re coated with snow and ice. But bare branches can provide excellent framing and/or foreground elements for a number of photography subjects in natural and urban environments as well.

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A Season For All Conditions: Explore the Beauty of Autumn… In Any Type of Light

Photo of autumn foliage along a lake. “Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney
“Bear Mountain State Park Autumn Scene in Direct Sunlight,” © F.M. Kearney

By F.M. Kearney

As nature photographers, we’re always searching for the best light in which to capture our subjects. What looks good in direct sunlight probably won’t look its best in flat light, and vice versa. It’s not often you find a single subject that will shine equally in any type of lighting condition, but that’s precisely the case when it comes to the colors of autumn.

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A Day at a Lake: Exploring the Hidden Gems of a Common Subject

By F.M. Kearney

There was nothing particularly special about it, and it was completely hidden from view. In order to reach it, you had to walk to the rear of the property and go down a short trail leading to a clearing. The only reason I knew about it was because I Googled the location beforehand. It was just a small lake… so small it didn’t even have a name. Nevertheless, I couldn’t wait to explore it.

Several years ago, my wife and I went on a short, weekend getaway to The Poconos. We stayed at a vacation resort in the town of Bushkill, PA. The resort was best known for its golf course, but I was only interested in one thing… the lake.

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Back to the Basics: Flower Photography Tips

Cluster of Darwin hybrid tulips
Cluster of Darwin hybrid tulips

Story and photos by F. M. Kearney

At the time of this writing, every state in the country has now either partially or completely reopened. Although we are far from being out of the woods with the COVID-19 crisis, more and more people are starting to venture out to enjoy what’s left of this summer. After last winter and the extended lockdown, I’m sure some photographers haven’t touched their cameras in months. I had originally planned to run this article at the beginning of spring, but I postponed it due to the lockdowns – and the unlikelihood that many people would be able to enjoy the outdoors. With things slowly beginning to return to a “new-normal,” I figured now would be a much better time for an article about photographing flowers outdoors.

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Blurred Lines: More Creative Projects For the “Involuntary” Homebound

Same image with Gaussian blur combined with Motion blur filter.
Gaussian blur combined with Motion blur filter.

Story & photos by F.M. Kearney

At the time of this writing, most of the country is tentatively beginning to open up. Although more and more people are slowly starting to venture out, things are nowhere near normal. Millions, however, are still living under “stay-at-home” restrictions, and only venturing out for essentials – which does not often include outdoor nature photography. It makes for very long days that seem to blur together. That gave me another idea on how to alter existing images. My past couple of articles have dealt with creative ways to pass the time if you’re unable (or unwilling) to spend too much time outside. Last month, I discussed ways to use texture to enhance your images. In this article, I’ll illustrate how the various blur filters in Photoshop can dramatically alter an image (including texture, as well).

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Creative Homework: Using Texture to Minimize Distractions

Hibiscus with Texture Effect Applied
Hibiscus with Texture

Story & photos by F. M. Kearney

Another month has come and gone, but unfortunately, things haven’t changed that much. Most of the country is now on full or partial lockdown. Each day tends to blend right into the other. There were many things I had planned to shoot this spring which will now, undoubtedly, have to wait until next year. But, that’s a small price to pay compared to the medical superheroes who are fighting on the front lines every day. With field work indefinitely postponed, I thought it best to remove the batteries from all my equipment to prevent corrosion. Nowadays, I spend most of my time working in Photoshop. In my last article, I touched on adding texture effects to old images. Since so many of us are still confined to our homes, I decided to expand on this technique as another way to take advantage of this unprecedented downtime.

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Picture(s)-In-Picture: Creating Multiple Images From a Single Viewpoint

Overall, wide-angle view of The Lake in Central Park at 24mm.
Overall, wide-angle view of The Lake at 24mm.

Story and photos by F.M. Kearney

It’s easy to get caught up in the big picture. Some photographers tend to focus solely on the main scene. They shoot one or two photos, then quickly move on to the next “great thing.” This can be very tempting – especially when you’re shooting in a new area and you have a limited amount of time. But, most likely, you will end up with a bunch of generic-looking images of many different places, but fail to capture the true essence of any single place.

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