Stripped to its Essence: the Beauty of Black and White

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Editor’s Picks, Week 10 Module “Monochrome Madness”

Monochromatic photography is making imagery that has only one hue. Between black and white, the grayscale in between make up the range of frequencies in a monochromatic image. It can be warmer, with a yellow tinge, or cooler, with a bluish hue.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Ker GL 2012.

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Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Maybe the sentimentality of the classic film days and photography greats shooting in black and white makes black and white seem more gritty. Maybe this led to monochrome being a preference of photojournalism in the days before newspapers could print in full color. Or maybe it was the other way around, the newspaper photographs being the inspiration for shooters to use monochrome.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Prima Ongsvises 2012.

But actually, monochrome is the most unrealistic of imagery. Without the color of real life, the monochrome photograph is extremely interpretive, stripping an image to its essentials.

Form

The way in which we seek to see the world, looking for edges to find shape. Like a lens seeking contrast to focus, we are captivated by the forms without the distraction of color. We are able to find harmony in the ways the pieces of the composition fit.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

 

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

Light

If we could see in monochrome only like a motion picture camera, we would strip the image to its muse. The values of light and dark would jump out at our vision, and we choose how to arrange it artfully. Monochrome allows us to focus on only the difference between highlights and shadows. We can make a picture with just a shadow, and a patch of light.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

Contrast

Monochrome allows us to add drama without color. With only the intensity of the difference between the whites and the blacks in the image, we can add a little vision and make a single image a narrative.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

 

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Week 11 Module: Bokeh Baby!

portrait with bokeh copyright Aloha Lavina

Blur has never been more beautiful.

Bokeh is technically the way a lens renders out of focus light. Different lenses produce different bokeh. Sometimes, a lens can produce bokeh that’s so creamy you could spread it on bread.

Hmong woman and bright light, Vietnam copyright Aloha Lavina.

Creamy, spreadable bokeh.

Other times, there’s a texture to the bokeh.

portrait with bokeh copyright Aloha Lavina

Sometimes the lens can produce some texture in the bokeh.

This week, let’s have some fun producing bokeh, baby!

Here’s a video on how to set up a bokeh producing situation at home.

If you’re having too much fun, here’s how you could control the shape of the bokeh your lens produces.

And finally, here’s some inspiration of creative ways to use bokeh in your compositions.

Now go, and make some beautiful blur.

 

Week 10 Module: Monochrome Madness

monochrome using iPhone 4s copyright Aloha Lavina

They evoke the romance of earlier years in photography.

They remind us of iconic photographs by some of photography’s greats—Dorothea Lange, Cartier-Bresson, and of course, Ansel Adams. We’re talking about black and white photographs, of course.

When some of these iconic photographs were made, the photographer had to capture a world of color and see in monochrome.

How can we share in this great photography tradition and participate in some monochrome madness? In this week’s module, let’s find out.

What should you consider when making a monochrome image?

Design elements

Composition in monochrome images is not any different from composing color images. But since there is no color information, the elements of shape, pattern, contrast and lighting are so much more important.

monochrome using iPhone 4s copyright Aloha Lavina

A monochrome I shot using the iPhone 4s and converted using an app called Snapseed.

Shapes and patterns

Shapes and patterns are important in black and white because they are much more prominent without the color to distract from attention to them. Take a look at these samples and see what I mean.

Composing a monochrome photo challenges the photographer to visualize how shapes and patterns would affect the composition more than any thing else in it.

Here is Ansel Adam’s philosophy of capturing something visualized.

 

Contrast

Contrast is important in monochrome because it helps us to delineate the edges of the subject and other elements in the image. Making the edges between the blacks and whites clear helps the image gain a clear composition. There are many ways to achieve contrast in making black and white images.

One is by dodging and burning. Dodging and burning is a technique from the film days that involves changing the brightness of bright parts and darkness of dark parts in the photograph. Dodging makes the bright parts brighter, and burning makes the dark parts darker. You can dodge and burn using Dodge and Burn tools in Photoshop, but this destroys pixels. So it’s better to use a non-destructive technique such as in this tutorial.

Here is another way to create a high contrast image in black and white.

Lighting

Lighting is always important in photography, so it goes without saying that it is also important in monochromatic photography. Dramatic light is something that helps a monochrome image a lot. The contrast between the lights and the darks in the photo happens when there is a full range of tones in the photo, and this full range is achieved when the light is ‘just right.’

To control the light that makes the photograph, pay attention to the exposure. You need to make good decisions about the exposure made by the three settings of aperture, ISO and shutter speed. Too fast of an exposure, and you risk having no details in the shadows, or dark parts. Too slow, and you may risk blowing out the highlights.

Post processing work

Most dSLRs have a Monochrome shooting mode these days. This means the black and white conversion is done in camera. This might be all right, but you will find that camera conversions into monochrome are quite bland and do not have the high contrast drama that you might appreciate in a photo. So the tendency for a shooter to underexpose the image is quite possible. (I know I tend to underexpose a LOT when shooting in monochrome mode.)

Probably a good way to make monochrome images is to shoot in color first, then convert the image to a monochrome. There are several ways to do this. One is the method done in RAW in the video by House of Photoshop, above.

Another, easier way is to use Channels to make the black and white conversion.

Here is yet another way to convert a color photo to black and white, by Joey L.

 

Pick a way that works for you, a way that seems more intuitive. This frees you up to make more artistic decisions about the conversion you are making.

———————
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! We have photography modules weekly with our Imagine That Photography Tribe. Simply Like us on Facebook, and get weekly updates with photography tips and tricks. Talk photography with some cool folks, and enjoy being featured in a weekly Editors Picks and a chance for your photos to star in a seasonal publication for Tribe members.

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Confessions of a Photoshop User
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos

 

 

Editor’s Picks: Week 8 Module Finding Your Balance

Imagine That Photography Tribe

The Tribe has done it again!

Check out this beautiful collection of images from our Week 8 Module, “Finding Your Balance.”

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Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

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Copyright Sarah Darr 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

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Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Mihaela Limberea 2012.

If you would like to participate in weekly modules on all kinds of topics in photography, why not join the Imagine That Photography Tribe? Like us on Facebook, and get updates on weekly lessons, have a chance to discuss photography with cool Tribe members, and get free ebooks with your photos featured!

Week 9 Module: Portrait with Light from One Window

natural light portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

This week, be grateful for your windows.

Rembrandt’s studio had a bank of windows through which streamed one of the most important elements of his paintings: light.

We can take a page from Rembrandt’s book and use his method of lighting to make some portraits.

Rembrandt used a specific quality and direction of light: Northern light coming from the side.

Northern light is considered to be one of the best quality of light because when it streams through the window onto a subject, it is not harsh or too contrasty.

Coming from the side, it produces a side-lighting situation that lights up one side of the subject and leaves the other side in shadow, revealing the three-dimensionality of what it’s illuminating.

 

Side lighting illustrated for Imagine That Photography Tribe

Side lighting from a window.

Rembrandt used Northern side lighting through his studio windows to produce beautiful portraits. We’re going to do the same in this week’s module.

Camera and lens choice

Most people who want (or agree, when you ask) to have their portraits made want to look their best in the photo. Lens or focal length choice is key if you want to create a natural looking portrait. Usually, a ‘normal’ focal length is preferable. A normal focal length, which is 50mm, is the way the human eye sees naturally. If you have a zoom lens, setting your lens to around 50mm is the best way to avoid distortions that happen at shorter focal lengths. This avoids distortions like making the nose too big for the image, or making the face ‘taper’ too much if you should tilt the lens up or down while you’re making images.

Setting up

There are some important things you have to set up before you start shooting the window light portraits to maximize your chances of making effective portraits.

Sit the subject so that their position forms a triangle between your camera and the window, like in the diagram above.

You could also shoot the subject with the lighting directly in front of their face. But this will produce ‘flat lighting’ which doesn’t create the 3D effect and gives the image a flat look.

Here’s some advice from Scott Kelby about natural light and how to position your subject.

Other tips

If the shadows on the side of the face opposite the window are too dark, you can use a ‘fill light’ opposite of the window. This is usually accomplished with a reflector, but if you don’t have one, you can use a white sheet or white cardboard to reflect the window light onto the shadow side of the face, and ‘fill’ the shadows with light.

natural light portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Shallow depth of field gives the portrait some drama.

Control the background. Backgrounds can help or hurt a portrait. If for instance there is something behind the subject that looks like it is sticking out of their head, that’s not a good background. You can drape a sheet behind the subject, or you can move them to another window that gives you a better background.

If you want to eliminate the issue of background, fill the frame with the portrait. A closeup can be a way for you to try to be creative with the simplified elements of the image.

natural light portrait copyright Aloha Lavina

Fill the frame.

Depth of field can also be used to control the background. You can use a shallow depth of field, accomplished by opening the aperture to a wide size, say f/2.8 to around f/5, to give you a considerable difference between the sharpness of the subject and the sharpness of everything else. Shallow depth of field results in beautiful blur around the subject. Here is a great video about a rule photographers follow about depth of field in portraits. You can use the tips, or you can choose to go by how you feel–it’s up to you.

What should the sharpest point be in the portrait? Where should you focus? The eyes are the most important part of the portrait. If the eyes are sharp, the portrait will draw attention from the viewer, no matter if everything else is super blurry.

horizontal portrait in natural light copyright Aloha Lavina

Try horizontal frames, too.

Finally, don’t think that all portraits have to be with a portrait orientation. You can make some interesting portraits using the horizontal frame, too. Don’t forget to experiment with the framing.

Your assignment this week is to shoot some portraits using window light in a side lighting set up. Experiment with contrast in the dark and light sides of the face, and find your preference as to how much drama you like in your portraits.

Then, post a couple of the portraits you made, side by side, discussing why you prefer one over the other in terms of the lighting. This way, we review what we know about lighting.

Have fun, and make me and Rembrandt proud!

If you want to rekindle your photography in 2012 and want to shoot alongside some really cool Tribe people, why not join us? LIKE us on Facebook, the Imagine That Photography Tribe, and you’ll have access to weekly modules, a community that loves to share photography, and be featured in our weekly Editors Picks post! You could even find your photos in our seasonal Module ebook, where we summarize the season’s tips and tricks. Give yourself a great gift this year, and join the Tribe!

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! Even if you don’t like what’s on the blog, leave a comment any way, but please keep it nice. :) To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Confessions of a Photoshop User
Are You Paying Attention?
Finding Good Photos where they Hide
Why You Should Shoot Like Johnny Depp
Sell an Experience, Not Just Photos

 

Photo Essay: A Lens in Little India, Singapore

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Vincent Ng

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Vincent Ng 2012.

Photo Essay: Lunch Break at Uni Texas, Austin

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Cyndi Louden

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Cyndi Louden 2012.

 

Photo Essay: Seeing Cebu

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Einstein Lavina

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Photo Essay: Missoula on My Mind

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Cynthia Swidler

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Missoula hums with energy along its river-front. Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Chasing away the middle school blues and gray days, this seventh grade student enjoys the outdoors by swinging above the mountains to the sky.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

The Bohemian Waxwings flock and feed on Mountain Ash berries, becoming crazily intoxicated and bringing a great spot of color on an otherwise gray, late winter day.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

A brief and glorious moment of sun thawed the morning's snow from my car's sun-roof.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

A brief and glorious moment of sun thawed the morning's snow from my car's sun-roof.

 

Photo Essay: Getting the Car to Go

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

By Schalk Ras

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Photo Essay: Exploring Koh Sark Island in Thailand

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

by Ker Geok Lan

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Imagine That Photography Tribe Module 7 A Sense of Place

Copyright Ker Geok Lan 2012.

Why I Love iPhone Photography

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

I love point and shoot cameras.

They’re light, non-invasive, and they force you to think about the image before you make it.

But a step up is the smart phone with a camera that doubles up as a point and shoot. You can use it to make calls, connect in so many different ways, and if you’re the type who likes stylized photos—well, there’s an app for that.

When my old iPhone 3s died after I dropped it smack on its face, I ordered the iPhone 4s. As a smart phone user, I only ever used the iPhone to keep connected through Twitter and to check email while on the go, take visual notes, that sort of thing. It wasn’t until I read this great article about iPhone photography that I was convinced the iPhone was a great camera, too.

The first weekend I had the 4s, I took it out to an island off the coast of Pattaya on Thailand’s Eastern seaboard. But the phone was kind of a second string camera.

iPhone photo copyright Aloha Lavina 2012

Fish out of water, Koh Sark Thailand

I had a dSLR with me, so I mostly used that. But I did discover that Instagram had these nifty actions that could make images grungy, stylized pictures with a lot of atmosphere.

A week later, I left my dSLR at home as I traveled Northeast, and brought just the iPhone. The audacity of leaving my main camera behind felt funny. I always travel with the camera bag and its kilos of stuff. Now, I had a rectangular thingee in my pocket.

Here are some things I love about photography with the iPhone and the apps I bought last week.

1. It holds on to highlights and shadows really well. Amazingly, I was able to shoot complex, high contrast exposures.

iPhone photo in complex lighting copyright Aloha Lavina

Complex lighting? Piece of cake for the iPhone 4s.

2. I can do multiple exposures using an app called Pro HDR. This app allows you to take two exposures, but you have to hold very, very still while it does that. I was able to take a photo at night, and a man walking across the frame was captured twice.

iPhone photo multiple exposure copyright Aloha Lavina

Multiple exposure using the Pro HDR app.

3. The Pro HDR app also allowed me to take a long exposure of water. Because water was moving while the camera took two exposures, the water had that blur effect of a slow shutter.

iPhone photo slow shutter effect copyright Aloha Lavina

Slow shutter effect using the Pro HDR app.

4. To increase dynamic range, I used Snapseed. Snapseed imports your photo from the Library and has actions that can reveal shadows and highlights in great detail. I love this app for textured subjects.

IPhone photo shadows and highlights with textured subject copyright Aloha Lavina

Using Snapseed to get those shadows and highlights. Seedless. Juicy.

5. Moody images with vignette and grunge happen in Snapseed, too. Using the action for “Grunge” puts a vignette around the photo and adds texture. You can adjust how much of the effect you want.

iPhone photo using Snapseed to add Grunge copyright Aloha Lavina

Grunge using Snapseed.

Like all new toys, I couldn’t put the phone down. Everything became a potential image. The great thing about it was, I was no longer thinking of settings and lens selection. I was just thinking about how to make a good image with what I had.

And that was the most valuable thing I learned. I loved being an image maker again. Not having to worry about the settings and lens selection really freed me up to just think of the composition, color, and light.

macro with iPhone copyright Aloha Lavina

And it works with closeups!

Would I give up the dSLR for just the iPhone? Probably not. But now wherever I am, I’ve got a ready point and shoot ready to use.

And it takes calls, too.

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
Using the Background Effectively in Your Portraits
Be a Photographer, Not a Lens Changer

Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that Make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Week 8 Module: Finding your Balance

Krystal Vee flowers girl with flower copyright Aloha Lavina

Designing an image involves harmony in its elements. One of the important things that promote harmony in an image is balance.

When we think of balance, we think of symmetry—the opposite sides from a center are equal.

abstract photo symmetrical balance copyright Aloha Lavina

Symmetrical Balance.

Balance in an image can be static balance. This happens when two sides of the image from the center form equal visual weight—they are symmetrical. Their sameness produces a static balance, which is very strict in its proportions.

But the brain isn’t very excited with symmetry. An image with static balance is already harmonious, and the mind doesn’t have to do any work to harmonize it. So it kinda gets bored.

What happens when an image is asymmetrical, when the two sides from the center are not of equal visual weight? What happens is, the brain fills in the harmony, making the viewer an active participant in the image. This is what excites the brain.

When making images with asymmetrical balance, we can use a few techniques to achieve balance.

Size and distance from the center

Some images can get away with putting the subject at one extreme side, and balancing the subject with another object at the opposite end. If the objects themselves are not visually ‘equal in weight,’ then the composition could work.

Krystal Vee flowers girl with flower copyright Aloha Lavina

Symmetrical in shape, but with variation.

Sometimes, it is possible to imagine a lever of two different sized objects, but the smaller one is balanced because it is farther from the center.

environmental portrait model urban grunge Singapore copyright Aloha Lavina

Depth can bring balance to an image.

Using depth to create illusion of asymmetry

You can use depth, the illusion of near and far objects, to help you achieve balance in the image.

You can balance a closer object that looks large with something farther away, which looks smaller. It helps if the objects are similar in shape and tone. Darker objects tend to look “heavier” to the eye.

Getty Museum black and white copyright Aloha Lavina

You can use relative size of objects caused by distance from the lens, to achieve balance.

 Using space to balance the subject

You can use empty space or negative space to balance the subject.

 

monk reading by window Myanmar Burma black and white copyright Aloha Lavina

You can balance a subject with a large space, like a temple wall.

Negative space often gives you a graphic look to the image.

abstract lily black and white copyright Aloha Lavina

Balance using negative space.

Using color to ‘split’ the image into two sides

You can use the colors in the image to ‘split’ it into balanced parts. In the first image of the mustard field and sky, the photo is split into almost symmetrical parts by the color. The variation that made it a bit interesting is the man’s silhouette and the top of the tree on the right.

mustard field India Rajasthan copyright Aloha Lavina

An image balanced by 'split' color.

The lighthouse is balanced by the colors of the kayaks in the foreground.

Carlsbad lighthouse copyright Aloha Lavina

Kayaks in the foreground in the same colors as the subject and background.

 Using movement to ‘split’ the image

One of the challenges you might face is how to use movement to balance an image. By movement, we don’t mean actual movement of the subject, but the movement of the eye suggested by the subject.

illustrated tension in a photo copyright Aloha Lavina

The eye is led to two directions, creating tension.

In the image of the balloon man and Hmong children, the children are moving to one side of the image while the man is moving to another. Although they are moving in the same direction, the eye perceives a tension in the photo; it’s tugged in two ways. This tension adds to the dynamic balance of the image.

Hmong children and balloon seller Sapa Vietnam copyright Aloha Lavina

Movement to create dynamic balance.

 

Similarly, the petals of this abstracted lily moves in two different directions. There is one petal moving the eye toward the front left of the photo. Another petal is moving toward the background. This creates the same type of visual tension for the eye, and creates a dynamic balance in the photograph.

lily abstraction copyright Aloha Lavina

Movement can also be suggested by foreground and background.

Balance is one of the basic elements of a good composition. By following these tips, you can decide which type of balance works for your image, and make some dynamic compositions.

Your assignment this week is to try shooting to create different ways to balance elements in your photos. Pick the best of the lot, and post it in the Imagine That Photography Tribe Facebook page. Let’s get creative with composition again with a new twist!

If you want to journey with me as I rekindle my love for all kinds of photography in 2012, and learn lots of things along the way, head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

 

 

 

Editor’s Picks Module 6 Heart Shaped Shadow

Imagine That Photography Tribe

A simple thing can be tremendously creative.

That’s the only thing I can say with last week 6’s module “Heart Shaped Shadow.” The limits of the assignment–fixed lighting, fixed set up–did not deter the Tribe from producing some poetic images of hearts.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Ker GL 2012.

My heart aches when I look at this image. Ker used an unusually shaped ring, producing concentric shadows.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Einstein Lavina 2012.

Einstein wins creative lighting award of the week with his rendering of this assignment. He used a flashlight, itself having a circular light, to make a heart shaped light haloing the shadow heart.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Schalk Ras 2012.

Schalk is beginning to show a signature in his images–he abstracts the background with the undulations of the edge of the book he used, contrasting the lines pages of the diary.

Imagine That Photography Tribe

Copyright Cynthia Swidler 2012.

Finally, Cynthia uses the page of the book to balance her composition.

 If you want to join in making weekly photography projects with some cool people in 2012, (and learn lots of things), head on over to our new Facebook page (and like us!), where you can participate in project modules, get some feedback, talk photography, and have your photography featured in a monthly roundup!

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That!

If you like what’s on the blog, let us know by commenting! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the orange RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage. It would also be cool to be friends with you on Facebook, or connect with you on Twitter.

You might also like:
6 Ways to Start Your Photography Hobby
Easy Way to Dodge and Burn Photos without Destroying Pixels
5 Myths about Creativity a Photographer Should Bust
Does Gear Really Make You a Better Photographer?
10 Small Things that make a Big Difference in Your Photos

Week 7 Module A Sense of Place

environmental portrait girl with offering at a school in Ubud Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

We all want to raise our average of successful shots.

The awe and wonder we feel at beauty often makes us trigger happy with the camera. We shoot and shoot and shoot. Especially with dSLRs and the ability to fill a memory card without having to worry about the cost of developing the images later, we can happily shoot thousands of photos in a day without caring. We know that later when we edit and go through our ‘film,’ we can just pick the few best shots and call it a day.

Wait, really?

As a shooter making composition decisions, though, you might come to a point where you want every shot to count. After all, you are on a journey to improvement in your hobby, and what better indicator of success than the frequency you produce a good shot?

So how do we raise the percentage of good shots out of the many we shoot on any given day?

Many teachers say, “Shoot a lot.” It’s true that practice is out of the question one of the most important things you can do to increase your proficiency at making pictures.

But while shooting a lot, how you practice often makes the difference in the rate of improvement and the ability to call on skill at will, to make a good shot.

That’s why for the next week, we are going to learn how to capture a “sense of place,” essentially what travel photographers do.

Do you have to travel to do this two-week module? No. You can capture the sense of place right where you are, your hometown (or city). You can even be a camera toting tourist right in your own home! Imagine that.

How this module works is up to you, but I do suggest you focus on big ideas first, to get a sense of your shooting goals. Then, zoom in to specific shots you need to achieve. You have more than 7 days to shoot this assignment, so you can use the if-then planning strategy to schedule your goals in advance, and then go out and get those images.

What is travel photography?

Nigel Barker in this video below tells us about the topics in travel photography. Photographing portraits, action, and places are three general ways you can get a sense of place.

The goal in getting a sense of place is to collect in your images the small stories that make up a larger story, the story of your experience itself. What are the smaller stories? Let’s zoom into these topics and take a look.

Portraits

Travel portraits are some of the most telling images of a place. People make a place how it is in the ways they have adapted and created their lifestyle. Lifestyle and culture shots often work best when we see people in action in those shots.

Peter McBride, a photographer at National Geographic tells us in this video that when taking portraits, it’s important to be polite. Imagine if you were just going about your daily life and someone with a wide angle lens stuck their lens in your face to take a close-up shot. That would be annoying, right? It’s important for a travel photographer to be courteous and not treat their subjects as zoo exhibits, ignoring the protocol of personal space.

For closeup shots, it might work to use a telephoto lens. Keeping a polite distance from the subject and shooting with a zoom lens actually has its own benefit. You get a shallow depth of field, effectively blurring the background and making your subject pop in the portrait.

You can change up your portraits using a few techniques.

People in motion

Using the technique of panning we learned in Module 5, you can add interest and story to a portrait by capturing people in action.

man in Bali panning technique copyright Aloha Lavina.

Panning technique in travel photography.

This man at an early morning market in Bali was an amazing subject. For this shot, I used a 24-70mm lens at around 55mm, shooting at shutter speed priority mode and dialing in a shutter speed of 1/30s. ISO was low to keep the shutter slow and help the panning technique.

Abstracting people

Sometimes, body language can be a great subject. These faceless portraits, one of my lifelong projects, can tell us about the people even if the face is absent in the shot.

onion peelers workers Bali abstract portrait faceless portrait project copyright Aloha Lavina

Abstraction can highlight a reality in a place.

In this shot of workers peeling onions, I focused on the workers’ feet semi-buried in onions and onion peel, to get a sense of their reality.

Interactions

Being patient pays off a lot in travel photography. So does bringing your camera with you everywhere. Nigel Barker mentions in his video that often, amazing shots happen  when you least expect them. It’s good to patiently wait for those shots and capture those moments that tell the story of a relationship, or of emotions.

Emotions are the currency of human interactions, so if you spot more than one subject, wait a while and you might get rewarded with a shot telling their story through emotion.

father and son Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Capturing interactions requires patience and quick reflexes.

Environmental portraits

Environmental portraits are portraits that give context to the subject. Including a bit of the surroundings helps to establish the place where the portrait belongs.

environmental portrait girl with offering at a school in Ubud Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Including the environment gives the image context.

Composition is key in these environmental portraits. In this shot of a schoolgirl about to make an offering of flowers at her school, the background gives us some detail of where she is. It’s a room with two doorways, and this gives the shot depth. It also shows that there is more than this one girl at the scene. The silhouettes in the far doorway gives the shot both story and balance.

Change the way you see

If you establish a rapport with the people at a place, you can change your lens to shoot wide and change your point of view.

When I intend to take travel photos, I spent a lot of time without taking a single shot and instead focus on making a connection with the locals. If there is someone selling a snack or coffee, for instance, I usually use the very human activities of eating and drinking as a way to break the ice. Often times, people do not mind photographers as long as you don’t get in the way of their daily lives, and they perceive you as friendly. A smile can go a long way.

When you have established trust, you can tell that you are allowed closer to your subjects. (If they frown or shake their heads, thank politely and just go away.)

As you become more accepted as part of the scene by the people you’re photographing, you can do a couple of things to help you to change the way you see the travel portrait.

Stacking planes

When we photograph, we generally have three planes in front of our lens—the foreground, closest to us, the plane where the subject is, in the middle, and the background, farthest from us. Thinking this way allows you to manipulate the composition so that you can use the planes to show depth and to create a natural framing within the frame.

Kusumba stevedore loading boat for Lombok Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Stacking planes and frame within the frame.

Sometimes, depth of field can help you create more than one plane in the image. In the picture of rice field workers, focusing on the grains falling from the basket at a shallow aperture allowed me to create the illusion of depth in the two-dimensional image by blurring the background.

rice field workers DOF vertical Balinese ricefield copyright Aloha Lavina

Using shallow depth of field to create an illusion of depth in the image.

Place

Getting a sense of a place’s beauty can be done with a few simple tips.

Shoot good light

Knowing the quality of light at different times of day can help you decide when to shoot. Shooting at the golden hour of sunset or the first light of sunrise can give your photos of place added impact.

Waking up at 4 am to travel to this side of Bali was a little risky because the scene at the lake was often obscured by clouds. Sure enough that morning, the clouds were in full force, and the sunrise was hidden. But as the sun rose a little higher, it began to bleed its color into the cloud cover, and I was able to make shots of just the light.

sunrise under heavy cloud over lake Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Sometimes, the image is just about light and shadow.

On a different day, I was walking from a village to the vehicle when I spotted this wonderful sky and beautiful light on ferns beside the road. The light itself was reason enough to make some images.

sunset and beautiful light on ferns Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

The beautiful light falling on the ferns caught my eye.

Sometimes, just making photos of good light can make any subject at any place worth the effort of making exposures.

Detail

Shooting details can help you tell the story of a place. Paying attention to details that tell part of the story can hone your observation skills—a useful skill in travel photography. It can also present you with a lot of opportunities to practice your composition skills, skill of making an exposure using exposure compensation, and spotting light on subjects.

detail of offering flower hibiscus and incense smoke Balinese offering Bali copyright Aloha Lavina

Details can help you tell a story of place.

Finally, here is some inspiration from National Geographic to help you visualize what you need to do for the next couple of weeks. (My stuff shouldn’t be your benchmarks for your work; these NatGeo photos should. They are my own benchmarks and source of aspiration/inspiration.)

Tips for Taking Simply Beautiful Photographs
Simply Beautiful Photos : Capturing Moment

The assignment for these modules is to create a sense of place. To address our first goal which is to increase our rate of success, you have to produce 7-10 images that give a sense of one place. The images can include any of the topics discussed in this module:

  • Portrait: close-up, action, interaction, emotion, abstraction, environmental
  • Place: sunrise, sunset, any good light, wide shot, details

Post your shots and title them this way so that we can identify them for the Editor’s Picks discussion: “yourname_place_typeofshot.” For example, “Aloha_Bali_detail” would be the title I would use for the last image shown above of the flower.

And there you have it, our most ambitious modules so far! As your slavedriver guide, I hope the extra challenge of producing more than one shot improves your batting average these next couple of weeks. I also hope that using your skills in composition, knowledge of light, and ability to create subjective compositions, the Imagine That Photography Tribe will produce a series of stories that will share the beauty and awesomeness of places where we live.

Join us, the Imagine That Photography Tribe, as we embark on a year of photography projects designed to improve and practice photography skills! Simply Like us on Facebook, and you will be able to see weekly posts, contributions from Tribe members, and talk photography! Participate and be included in weekly roundup articles published right here on Imagine That! Also get the chance to see your work in seasonal e-publications released by Imagine That.

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