The Doug Plus Rox Photography Blog
Welcome to the blog of Doug and Roxanne, two photographers who are head-over-heels in love. In this blog you’ll find our musings about photography, camera equipment, image editing programs and more. Roxanne is a talented photographer who enjoys wildlife and landscape photography. Doug is a published author and photographer. We’re both Canon shooters. Between us we have a bushel full of lenses, and lots of enthusiasm. Currently we’re exploring the area near our home with Lensbaby Composers. Stay tuned for news about our photo shoots and lots of photos. The following image is one of Doug’s Lensbaby captures. He tweaked the image in Photoshop using images of textures on layers with different blend modes.
It’s important to have a reason for taking a photograph. If the subject matter intrigues you, or is something you’re interested in, you’ll create a good image. If you force yourself to take pictures of things that are not of interest to you, your heart won’t be in it. You can create technically perfect images of anything, but if your heart is not in it, they won’t be images that move the soul, tell a story or convey a message.
You can convey a mood with every photograph you take. When you see subject matter that piques your curiosity, something you want to take a picture of, look and find the core of what caused you to stop. The simple act of keenly observing the subject matter will tell you what message you want to convey with your image. Perhaps your goal is to create a picture that portrays the beauty of a breathtaking landscape or perhaps you want to portray a somber mood if the weather is stormy or overcast. Another mood you can convey is power when photographing a bird of prey or a thundering waterfall. Images captured during “Golden Hour” (the hour after sunrise and the hour before sunset) portray a calm peaceful feeling. Photograph an area on a cloudy day and you can create images that portray a somber beauty.
There are a number of ways you can portray a mood when you create a photograph. The most obvious way is with light and shadow. A bright image conveys a bright positive mood whereas an image with a lot of dark colors can portray a serene or somber mode. The mood you portray also depends on how you assemble the elements in the frame to tell your story.
This is a follow-up to an earlier post about creating better images. Here are more ways to create compelling images:
1. Create images to seduce the viewers’ mind and eye.
2. Create images that puzzle and intrigue viewers.
2.5 Know the story you intend to tell before you take the picture.
How to Become a Better Photographer
The goal of every serious photographer is to create the most compelling image possible; an image that viewers give more than just a casual glance. Here are 10.5 ways to achieve this goal:
1. Pick the low hanging fruit first: When you see a scene or object worth photographing, take the first picture that comes to your mind. Then slow down and analyze what you’ve got. Move around until you see the composition that best captures your vision and take another picture. Repeat as needed.
2. Simplify: Some photographers try to include too much information in a photograph. When you compose a photograph, see what’s in the viewfinder. If what you see is confusing, zoom in to remove some of the elements, or walk closer to your subject if using a prime lens.\. Cut to the chase and simplify the image. Less is more.
3. Wait for the light: Sometimes you’re in the right place at the wrong time. If the light is harsh (also known as “Sucky Light”), wait a few minutes for clouds to diffuse the sunlight, or come back when the light is better.
4. Do something different: Einstein’s definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. When you see an object or scene that you want to photograph, don’t photograph it in the same way you usually do. If you normally use a wide-angle lens for this type of subject, switch to a telephoto lens or switch to a different vantage point. Break out of your rut and stretch the envelope.
5. Photograph a shape: Many photographers photograph objects like trees, buildings or cars. Instead of photographing a tree, look for an interesting shape that just happens to be a tree. You don’t have to photograph the entire object. Sometimes you find an interesting shape within an object. You can find interesting shapes everywhere.
6. Look for patterns: Instead of photographing a forest or a group of flowers, look for an interesting pattern, or look for a break in a pattern.
7. Notice what’s at the edge of the frame: When you look through the viewfinder, notice any elements at the edge of the frame that might distract your viewers’ attention such as bright objects or bright spectral highlights. Bright areas give your viewers an escape route from your picture. When you see them, change the composition or zoom in until they disappear, walk closer to your subject if using a prime lens, or switch to a different vantage point.
8. Look around: Sometimes photographers get in too much of a hurry. They snap one picture and then move on. Take the picture that caused you to stop and then look around. Look up, down and behind you, and you’ll probably find something else that piques your interest. Take a picture of that and then look closer. Sometimes there’s a picture within a picture.
9. Tell a story: Something made you stop to take a picture. Perhaps it was beauty, the color of the object, or the light. Take a picture that conveys that story to people who view your image.
10. Move it: If you stop to photograph a scene or object that captures your attention, but don’t like what you see on your LCD monitor, move to a different vantage point.
10.5. Go with your heart and soul: Ignore the rules of composition. They’re guidelines. A photographer’s vision overrides the rule of thirds every time.
Go Commando with Lensbaby
Too many photographers carry everything and the kitchen sink with them when they go on a photo shoot. Lately I’ve been going Commando with just one or two lenses. And lately when I go Commando the lens of choice is the Lensbaby Composer Pro II with a couple of optics. Going Commando does a couple of things for you. First and foremost, you really get a chance to learn the lens you’re shooting with. Second, it enhances your problem solving skills. When you travel with one lens, and you see a subject you’d generally photograph with another lens, you figure out how to get the shot with what you have in your camera bag. Third, it helps you become more creative. When you focus on using what you have in your camera bag, you’re not a slave to technology. You’re seeing with what you have instead of thinking that this is a job for a different lens. You also react faster. Instead of fumbling around in your camera bag for a different lens and losing the shot, you compose and shoot. You accept the limitations of what’s in your kit and focus solely on getting great pictures.
Set aside a couple of hours this week and go Commando. Take your least used lens with no preconceived notions other than you’re out to have a good time and get some great images. Go Commando. You’ll learn more about your equipment and become a better photographer. Here are some images from a few of my Commando photo shoots.
To grow as a photographer, you need to create more interesting images. After you master the technical aspects of using your camera, becoming a better photographer means shooting with a more critical eye to create more compelling photographs. A great way way to improve your skills is to critique your work. Look at the best images in your portfolio objectively and ask the following questions:
- What do you like best about the photos?
- Does each image have a strong center of interest?
- Are the objects in each image unified, or are there objects in the frame that don’t belong?
- Does the composition draw the viewer’s eye to the most important parts of the image?
- What rules of composition do you use when creating your images?
- Does each image convey a message, mood or tell a story?
After you complete this exercise, you’ll know the strong and weak points of your photography. Make a list of your weak points and each time you go on a photo shoot, consciously focus on one point you need to improve upon. After you’ve improved one area of your photography, work on the next item on your list. Do this exercise every six months to continue refining your skills as a photographer.
After you critique your work, you’ll have some valuable information you can use to improve your photography. For example, if your critique revealed some problems with your flower photographs, create a self assignment to photograph flowers for an hour or two. When you go on a self-assignment with the goal of improving your photography, review your work immediately and compare it to your previous images to see how you’re progressing. When you schedule time to consciously focus on a specific area of photography, you get better. When you go on a self assignment, consciously focus on making the best pictures you can. To that I would add not to stray from the task at hand.
Shooting in the Fog with My Lensbaby Sweet 35
I absolutely love to shoot in the fog. The mist muffles the noise of civilization and enables me to see the beauty of nature. When shooting landscapes, my favorite Lensbaby optic is the Sweet 35. This optic gives me a wide perspective, and also enables me to move the sweet spot of focus to what I consider the focal point of the scene I’m photographing.
Fog Photography Tip
When you photograph in foggy conditions your camera’s metering system can be fooled because the ambient light is so bright. Always review the first image you shoot in the fog on your camera LCD monitor. If the image is not as bright as the scene before you, dial in some positive exposure compensation. Typically I’ll add 1/3 EV to correctly expose a scene I photograph in the fog.
Early Morning Meditation