Communication

It has been said a “Picture worth a thousand words.” how can I get my photos to be that chatty? Communicating should be intentional, direct, tactful, transparent, considerate and kind. How is this possible in photography? Well, let us take a look at some examples.

I was recently watching a movie based on a historic event and during the movie I was amazed to see the detail and clarity with which the director communicated the points of history as the events occurred. It drew me in and kept showing one key issue, leaving the others minor. To draw out a point in the same way it is important to ask questions and answer them with observable facts.

Here is an example of what I mean by “communication”: How does a film director communicate the difference between the camera’s view and a cast member’s point of view? This is not a question I want to answer for you, but more of a question for you to ponder, to answer and add to your skill set. I have rolled this question around in my mind for some time and I have concluded that I can find new methods to experiment with as I see other techniques used.

How can I take these principles and add them to my still photography? After the shot type is selected, planning the scene is important. Is the person looking through the camera’s field of view watching someone through a window? Is this person hiding from someone? Could there be a hand, arm or feet seen in the shot from whose perspective the camera captures the scene?

This is a wise open realm to be explored. Not every attempt has to be perfect and you can certainly learn from your own photographs as well as you can from another’s, so enjoy and get some experience!

Reflection – Part 4

Reflections are not always  a display of  the room and what is in it. Sometimes reflections are not as much reflection as projection. A projection is a whole new world to explore and will give you a riddle for a challenge.

Remember the glass trophy I wrote of in “Reflection – Part 3” as a story on myself? That trophy was actually giving a projection not reflecting. While it really happened to me, it is a great illustration of what I am writing about.

Blocking reflections should follow the same pattern as other forms of troubleshooting. Work from the basic to the most advanced issue.

Friends of mine who work in the IT field can tell me story after story of how they worked on a problem for hours only to find out something as simple as a power outage was caused by an unplugged power cable.

I find myself often embarrassed by asking for help only for the person coming to my aid, see my difficulty to be a basic one. This is not to say that you should never ask for help. The most productive people I know choose to ask multiple times a day for help! I have found the best time to ask is after covering the basics.

Projection is one of those difficulties that we discover is not reflection after we have eliminated all possible reflections. There was something in the glass trophy I thought was a reflection but it would not go away no matter where I put a fill card! That was when I began asking the question “What is this glass trophy showing me?” instead of “Where is this reflection coming from!”

My answer came after I stopped assuming it was a reflection. Unfortunately this glass trophy was a solid piece so I could not open it and stop the projection shown in the edges of the trophy, but I did learn more about what I should watch for next photo shoot.

Asking a question that matches the right answer is very helpful! Keep asking questions!

Camera Troubles – Part 6

What can I see that my camera does not?

There is not an easy way to answer this question, although I will say to say that our visual capability can not be directly and equally compared to the output of film or digital cameras.

Our sight is taken in motion whereas photographs are still images possibly showing movement by blur or subtle indications of motion. So while we may remember a certain pose, facial expression or scenery of a person or place we appreciate as if the memory were a still photograph does not mean our Eye and Brain receives these memories in just such a way.

Video recorders are truly much like cameras in this way that they capture motion or movement in 72 still frames a second or more. A video recorder more closely resembles our vision in that it records motion in so many frames.

Beyond multiple frames to give the illusion of complete motion, our vision is affected by the ability to change so quickly between seeing detail in the shadows from previously inspecting the details lit by broad daylight.

From observing myself and questioning what I see and how I see it, I believe now to better understand the difference of what I see and how I can operate my camera to photograph a scene as I see it.

I see: the bright sunlight streaming through the ceiling of tree leaves, illuminating the grass and garden floor in a brilliant array of color. As I continue to observe and breathe in the wonder of the contrast and illuminated detail, I begin to notice more detail which remained hidden until I had gotten close enough to notice for the first time.

This is done in photography in several ways. Let me begin with the best and quickest being the first.

  1. Simplicity – Photography studios will set-up the portrait studio with solid color backdrop and lighting to evenly light the subject while still allowing some shadow to remain but lighting enough to see detail in both shadowed and lit areas. This is the effect of many additional flashes.
  2. Specific detail – Scenery which cannot be reproduced or moved in-studio must be shot as is. This requires additional flashes or shooting 3 or more photos  from the same place and position of varying shutter lengths and putting them together in HDR format. (For more on HDR, please see our blog posts “High Dynamic Range” and “The Make-up Of An HDR Photo“.)

So it is not that our cameras cannot reproduce something similar to what we see, but that we have some understanding of how we can enable it to see. There are no quick and simple steps to follow for every camera to shoot fantastic photos. I wish there were! Though if this were the case I believe we would have lost some of the adventure in photography.

It can be this simple though, to know that the camera does not as quickly adjust its Lens Diaphragm and Sensor to see detail in shadow and light as do our Iris and Retina. Thus we seek to separate detail we want captured per photo by the varying amounts of light in its surroundings.

Photography truly is an amazing art. The amazement is not intrinsic to itself, but because it is base off of our visual ability which we are blessed to have received from the kind Providence who created us and the world we love to photograph.

Thank you for reading! I pray you have learned and enjoyed reading as much as I have in writing!

Cloudy skies, with a chance…

“The weather forecast for today is cloudy skies, with a 97% chance of distracted photographers…” Have you ever had that feeling of someone watching as you set-up a shot with the thought in the back of your mind, “I am so distracted with everything else but my shot that I will miss it!”

Shooting under cloudy skies can pose quite a challenge, but do not let the challenges get you down! This is only an opportunity to learn more about the equipment you have and how to use it with the utmost efficiency.

Most camera manufacturers have come to realize the difficulty of the outdoor photographer. With such an understanding they have built-in some wonderful features in the White Balance settings that allow for these difficulties.

Thin clouds present the most different obstacle because prevailing winds in the higher atmosphere is either your best friend or worst enemy. By that I mean, if the wind is strong enough to keep the cloud layer moving you will have an even lighting providing that the cloud layer is constant in thickness. However, if the wind gusts or is too slow, the thin cloud layer will be easily burnt through (typical of southern climates) and thus give times of harsh and direct sunlight.

Spotty clouds are always changing amounts of light and seem to be playing the “peek-a-boo” game for that perfect shot. Frustrating? That would be a kind way of speaking about this problem!

Thick clouds project a cold or harsh look on and around the subject, whereas with every subject I have photographed warmer colors are always more inviting. Yes the cloudy setting will eliminate most if not all of the gloom emitted by the clouds, but in all of these scenarios there is the problem of constant change in amounts of light and then the unexpected objects that reflect the sunlight when the sun is unveiled.

What is the answer? In my experience when shooting with ever-changing lighting, I will use the “Shade” White Balance setting. This will lighten the shadows so as to compensate for the sharp contrast in lighting and still avoid most of the over exposure on the surfaces that are given direct lighting!

When I began shooting in these conditions, I came to my senses about halfway through the photo-op. It was easy to have a moment which I call a “professional hissy-fit”, but when you are with a client, it is best to remain cool, calm and collected. As I reviewed the shots, I realized that we had last shot in shade and all of the photos after still turned out very well, with detail I did not expect in the shadows.

Times like this one are great opportunities to learn how your camera functions and understanding precisely how each setting will help or hinder you in achieving your goal.

So the next time you are out and about with a camera in your hand, take the opportunity to master an obstacle and become that better photographer!

*NOTE: These mentioned White Balance settings are not “industry standard”, so their names and usage may vary according to manufacturer specifications.