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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Personally, I think special effects work best when they enhance existing attributes within a photo. If you can discern a distinctive pattern within a subject’s color or shape, or the overall composition of the scene, chances are there’s an effect that will accentuate it.
Winter – nature’s bleakest season. Or is it? It seems so, considering the scarcity of photographers in the field at this time of year. Where you would normally have to fight for the best position, you will undoubtedly now have the entire place all to yourself. In addition, you don’t have to worry too much about anyone wandering into your shot. Yes, winter doesn’t get much love when it comes to photography. Perhaps, it’s the inconvenience of dealing with frigid temperatures, and all the precautions needed to properly protect yourself and your equipment. Or, perhaps it’s the belief that there just isn’t anything worthwhile to shoot. Let’s face it, outside of a majestic, winter wonderland captured at the break of dawn or late in the day, most winter scenes are pretty bland. The fact that winter follows autumn – the most colorful of all seasons – you might feel as though you’re now shooting in black and white. But that doesn’t mean there’s absolutely no color to be found at all. It’s just a matter of knowing where to look and employing a few simple techniques.
Imagine a child’s frustration in trying to see a passing parade while peering through a forest of gargantuan adult legs. I suppose it’s human nature to always want an unobstructed view of whatever it is we’re trying to see. This is especially true of press photographers, and of course… the paparazzi. How many times have you seen them on the evening news jostling and elbowing each other out the way in order to get the “best” shot? In nature, however, the best shot isn’t always necessarily the cleanest shot. If used correctly, certain “distractions” can provide a creative frame or bokeh around your subjects.
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.