Tag Archives: Batanes

storm approaching batanes copyright Aloha Lavina

10 Practical Ways to Improve Visual Problem Solving

When you are on assignment, often even with extensive research, there are variables you cannot prepare for. Challenges you find on assignment include:

  • Light conditions
  • Having to search for vantage points that work
  • People are always moving around
  • Weather

Also even if you studiously pore over maps of the place you will be photographing, you still have the challenge of composing based on what the layout of the area really looks like when you encounter it with the light, weather, people, etc when you get there. You still have to search for vantage points that work for the story you are shooting.

To be a successful travel photographer, you have to become a successful visual problem solver. A visual problem solver takes the existing conditions of where she is shooting, and finds ways to arrange those conditions into a harmonious image.

Like many artistic skills, visual problem solving is actually made up of a complex subset of skills. Here are 10 practical ways to practice your visual problem solving.

 Ways to practice visual problem solving

1. One lens or focal length.

Making images with one focal length is a limitation, but it is a limitation that allows you to free up your creative problem solving skill of composing with a constraint. Constraints like simply using a 50mm for an entire story is something that can help ‘force’ you to compose in creative ways. You have to zoom with your feet with one focal length. You have to move around. What this does is simply get you into the habits that allow for creative visual interpretations of what’s in front of you. If you have a zoom lens on, like your kit lens, don’t worry. Simply tape the lens to the desired focal length you want to work with for the week, and don’t change it!

2. Tell a story using a theme.

Themes can do wonders for your creativity because it is another constraint that you can impose on your image making that will challenge you to discover ways of solving a visual problem. Interpreting the theme you choose can hone your observation skills, composition skills, and all the other discrete skills demanded of a creative shooter. For example, you could shoot the theme ‘blue’ today! There are many ways to interpret this theme. It could be the color blue, the many hues of blue, or it could be the metaphorical blue, interpreted by images that show abandonment, sorrow, etc.

3. Crop in camera.

If you tell yourself that every frame must contain only what’s necessary to tell the story, you are giving yourself an opportunity to become a great visual problem solver.

fallen birch in pond copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

These days with humungous digital RAW files, it’s easy to just snap away and crop your compositions later. But what this does is make for a lazy visual problem solver. If you ever want to be a photographer on assignment, you want to get the compositions right in camera; often your editor will expect the files as they are when it’s time to submit a story. Practicing this composition in-camera skill will enhance your visual problem solving skill and improve your photos dramatically. You might even find that you don’t need to spend hours in post-processing because your straight-from-camera pictures are already breathtaking as they are. Imagine that: less time on the computer, more time to shoot!

4. Look at things in fresh ways.

Take a page from poetry. Wallace Stevens has a great poem called “13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” where he explores how to see in 13 very short stanzas. Looking at things in fresh ways means to move not just your feet, but your mind’s eye—what can you see if you look at a subject in a different way? Given a theme, what would be a list of ways you could look at it? Changing up your point of view not just physically but also mentally can change the way you interpret the subject.

5. Using design principles.

Line, form, color, balance—these are always great themes to shoot. Spending some time composing using graphic design themes can inject freshness into your imagery. These are also elements you can find in every setting, so you will never run out of things to photograph.

6. Photograph the light.

There is no more beautiful way to interpret a place than by recording the way the light falls on it. A tree is a tree is a tree, but a tree in great light is a beautiful photo.

morning mist at Tioga Pass copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

 7. Vary your exposure.

Changing your exposure subjectively is a great way to interpret scenes and give them mood and atmosphere. You can try high-key images, or images that are overexposed to give them a bright, cheerful mood. Or you can underexpose to change the mood and give it a bit of mystery. You can spend a lot of time photographing one scene, and vary the exposures with which you capture it. Then you would have a lot of images to choose from, to tell the story. Making subjective exposures gives you a way to bring emotion into your images.

8. Vary technique.

There are some themes commonly used in travel photography that would work to help you vary the techniques you use to capture a place. Panning, light painting, and slow shutter work are some of the techniques you can use to creatively interpret your vision while on assignment. Practicing these techniques wherever you go can give you a variety of images that might give you more insight into a place.

9. Use color in various ways.

Color is everywhere, so this is a great way to explore a new place. But making color work for your image is a skill that can help you move beyond just making eye candy, into making expressive images.

Seeing how colors complement each other, or how it affects the mood of an image, is a great skill and can help you in visual problem solving. For instance, a spot of blue in an otherwise all-yellow-and-green landscape might make a better photo.

storm approaching batanes copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

You can also influence color in your images by changing up your white balance settings. (You can change white balance in RAW, so if you shoot in RAW the white balance setting is quite irrelevant. But if you need a visual feedback system for the ‘feeling’ color produces in an image, try shooting in a different white balance just to be able to see the effect on your image on the LCD screen.)

10. Use contrast to add interest to an image.

I’ve discussed some techniques for using contrast in images over at LightStalking. Spotting contrast is another way to add interest to your images. Practicing seeing contrast—in content, color, values, size, lines, texture—hones your observation skills and gives you a whole new way of seeing.

With some patience and perseverance, you can train yourself to be an effective visual problem solver. Practice will make these skills part of your natural workflow, so start on them today!

Which of these 10 have you tried? What have you done to produce an image you loved?

_________________
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.

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one in 365 he said copyright Aloha Lavina

Finding Good Photos where they Hide

We already learned that super saturated color is not going to save a boring photo.

But how do we bury boring and evoke expressiveness? How do we give our imagery a chance to speak instead of mutter?

Where do those good photographs hide?

If we look at paintings that are considered pieces of mastery, we find that the subject of the work isn’t really all that sensational. I mean, look at Van Gogh’s works we admire. A starry night and silhouetted skyline. A vase of sunflowers. A flock of blackbirds wheeling over a wheat field. From the painting masters we can see that subject selection might not be the crux of an effective image. Many beautiful images have been made with content that was everyday and ordinary.

Every day we are surrounded by the ordinary. We rarely have the option of jetting off to an exotic location to photograph exciting subjects that somehow arrange themselves in pleasing harmonies when we point our lenses in their direction. How do we coax good photos from an ordinary life?

1. Change the vantage point.

from the lighthouse copyright Aloha Lavina

I climbed the lighthouse and liked the compo better.

When you’re shooting, move around. Looking at something in a new way begins with a physical reference point, which is probably tied into the way you perceived things. If you moved from the vantage point that felt immediately comfortable, you’ll also be challenging the way you see. Sometimes the best discoveries are made when you take a risk by looking at something in a whole new way.

2. Wait for the right moment.

one in 365 he said copyright Aloha Lavina

My guide said only 10 out of 365 days have great sunsets in that place.

Maybe today isn’t the right day for that shot you wanted. Rarely does a photographer have total control over a situation. Cultivate flexibility. This enables you to set aside your expectations and engage creatively with the subject. You can find beauty even when things don’t go the way you expected them to.

3. Look for shape, value, patterns, design.

You don’t have to walk around with your camera looking for the meaning of life. There are so many more things to love in an image. The way patterns form and repeat, the way light and dark blend and contrast, and the geometry of objects are just a few of the things that could become images.

forgotten

Stuck at someone's house without a car, I found these forgotten old bottles in the backyard.

4. Use another technique.

Reinterpret the world in a way you haven’t tried. If you’ve never taken slow shutter images before, set up a session with a tripod and the camera on timer mode, and make some images you have never tried to make. The novelty and the learning you experience might spark some inspiration.

Convict Creek copyright Aloha Lavina

I don't do landscapes. But I did. It was a lot of fun.

 

5. Don’t leave until the magic happens.

It’s easy to give up when the photos don’t seem to hold any luster.

Stick with what you’re trying to do. Focus on composition, technique, perspective, time of day–change it up until the magic begins to happen.

last light huntington beach copyright Aloha Lavina

The beach was cold, windy, crowded. But the sunset made it worth waiting.

There are no shortcuts to good photographs. There is only hard work, patience, perseverance, and commitment. And you can’t just Photoshop those things in.

_________________
Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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early morning light in Batanes copyright Aloha Lavina.

Three Simple Tips for Sharper Handheld Photography

I was on a mountaintop last week, trying to take these shots without a tripod. The strong winds in the Batanes archipelago, in the Northernmost tip of the Philippine Islands, just knock tripods down, so I didn’t have much of a choice.

In situations where you have to take shots handheld, there are a few techniques you can practice to make your shots as sharp as possible.

1. Watch how you breathe.

Breathing can cause slight camera shake. But you can apply a rhythm in the way you breathe while you’re shooting that helps you keep your cam steady. It’s always best to finish exhaling before pressing the shutter. Practicing this breathing technique can seem distracting at first, but mastering it will help you get those handheld shots sharper.

batanes storm coming copyright Aloha Lavina

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

2. Watch how you hold your camera.

Combined with your new breathing technique, you can stabilize your camera using your body. Digital Photography School has an excellent illustrated roundup about various positions you can adopt to hold your camera steady with your whole body, instead of just your hands. The bottom line is, use your body to steady the camera, and the closer you hold the camera to the core of your body, the more stable it becomes for you to take that sharp shot.

early morning light in Batanes copyright Aloha Lavina.

Copyright Aloha Lavina.

3. Watch how your eyes move.

This is a tip I learned from golf. Even after you have picked a focal point and locked on it, you need to keep your eyes on that focal point while you are taking the shot. Moving your eyes to a new focal point on the viewfinder means your hands will move.  Keeping your eyes locked on target will make sure your shot is sharp.

What are your techniques for handheld photography?

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Welcome back and thanks for reading Imagine That! To keep updated with new posts, subscribe to Imagine That! by clicking on the RSS Feed button on the upper right of the Homepage.

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