I often write about the challenges of finding nature subjects in an urban environment. Of course, even the largest concrete jungles aren’t all concrete. There’s always a local park or a botanical garden somewhere nearby. Places like these are perfect locations to capture unique compositions of natural and man-made subjects.
In last month’s Photography 101 article, I discussed what I consider to be one of the most fundamental basics of photography: apertures and shutter speeds. Following closely behind in terms of importance are focal lengths. Simply put, the focal length describes the angle of view of a lens, as compared to natural eyesight. It’s a measurement (expressed in millimeters) of how much of a scene it captures. A long focal length lens, such as a 200mm lens, captures a narrow angle of view, or an enlarged view of the subject. These types of lenses are known as telephoto lenses. A short focal length lens, such as a 28mm lens, captures a much wider angle of view, making the subject appear smaller. As their angle of view implies, these types of lenses are known as wide angle lenses. Lenses that encompass multiple focal lengths are known as zoom lenses. They are easily identifiable with ranges such as 12-24mm, 24-70mm or 100-300mm. A variety of focal lengths can be achieved simply turning or sliding a ring on the lens.
Perhaps you were intrigued by the photos you saw in magazines. Maybe you wondered why your own photos never came close to matching them, or even the scene you just photographed. It might simply be that you’re just curious about the purpose of all those strange-looking buttons and dials on your new camera or lens. Whatever the reason, you’ve decided to get a little more serious about photography and you’re interested in elevating your skills to another level. If that’s the case, then this article was written just for you.
Besides photography, one of my other passions is cooking and baking. To satisfy my sweet tooth, I’m always baking some type of cookies or cakes. I use baker’s tools like piping bags and scrapers to make them look like they were purchased from a bakery. People often tell me I should bake professionally, but I have little interest in doing that. I don’t think I would enjoy it as much if I knew I had to do it. I also have an extensive collection of cookbooks and a filing cabinet full of recipes, categorized with folders devoted to specific meats, vegetables, and of course, sweets. However, I would never consider myself a chef. A cook, perhaps, but never a chef. Unless I’m intimately familiar with a dish, I have to follow a recipe. True chefs don’t “cook by numbers.” They instinctively know how to combine obscure ingredients to produce the most spectacular dishes. I love watching cooking competition shows on the Food Network. I always marvel at how chefs are able to take an odd-ball collection of ingredients like a banana, a pork chop and a cup of cashews, and combine them into award-winning, gourmet masterpieces.
I started to wonder how I could apply that same concept to photography. It’s really not that difficult to create an amazing photo of a great subject in the perfect light. But, what if your subject is less than stellar and your lighting is awful? As a personal challenge, I set out to find the most unremarkable subject and to shoot it in the worst possible light.
In this third and final installment of my series on compositions (see Part 1 and Part 2), I will discuss methods that are occasionally used, as well as some of the most unusual and obscure techniques. That being said, it’s highly likely that you’ve used at least some of these techniques without even realizing it.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.