Friday, October 29, 2010

Shadows and Shapes

Strong direct light will create and project shapes of everyday objects.  I am drawn to scenes which combine two dimensional shapes on three dimensional surfaces.  These types of images command a second look from the viewer as they sort out what it is they are actually seeing.  The first two images illustrate this idea.
This first image was made in Venice, Italy, where I was charmed by the lines of  laundry hanging out to dry.  Yes, I have many images of the actual clothes on the lines, but this one is one of my favorites because of the "suggestion" of hanging shirts on the clothes line.  (Canon EOS 1-D Mark II, Canon 28-105mm EF lens, 1/320 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO 200)
Made over the Namib desert in Namibia, I shot the shape of our helicoptor against the characteristic red sand dunes.  The 2 dimensional shadow became the subject on a 3 dimensional backdrop.  Because of the strong desert sun, the shape of our helicoptor is crisp and contrasts with the background.
(Canon 5D Mark II, 24-105mm lens, 1/1250 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO 500)
These two images are simply about shape.  Strong side light made the shadow of this fork graphic and distorted.  This image was made in my studio on a day I just felt like playing with shadows and shapes. (Canon 1-D Mark II, Canon 50mm lens, 1/125 sec @ f 16, ISO 200)
Finally, I thought I would include this image made at the Salentein winery in Mendoza, Argentina.  I was drawn to the shadow of the wine glass as the wine taster swirled the wine in the glass.  Why, this was a shadow with COLOR!   I took this shot a step further by converting it to black and white to accentuate the shape of the wine glass shadow and then I colorized the ruby red 'shadow.'
(Canon EOS 1-D Mark II, Canon EF 24-105mm, 1/100 sec @ f 4.0, ISO 4000)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Sensor Painting

"What Music Looks Like"
Paint your sensor??? Are you thinking: 'She must be crazy!!' Photography literally means 'writing (graphy) with light' (photo), and so when I refer to sensor painting, I am talking about painting or writing on it with light.

I made these images in the city of Valparaiso, Chile. I had been looking over the hills through binoculars at the dotted lights of the city and noticed the visual patterns 'written' by the lights as I moved the binoculars.

"Light Waves"
So, I asked myself..."What if I... switched to my camera with a telephoto lens and tried to permanently recreate the visual patterns I observed through the binoculars?"

"Flying Ribbons"

After playing for close to an hour, moving my camera in as many creative ways I could think of during exposure, (I am easily amused!!) I created a fun collection of 30+ images made by literally painting my sensor with pinpoints of light.
"Curly Q's"

(All images: Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon EOS EF 70-300mm DO IS lens, 1/5 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 2500)
"Light Swirls"

Friday, October 15, 2010

Freezing Action

 I have written many blogs on how to show motion in a still image...but what about freezing it?  Certain subjects benefit from 'freezing the motion' and capturing a split second in time. In order to freeze the action, a high shutter speed is a must!  Of course, it depends on how fast your subject is moving, but a good starting point for a high shutter speed would be 1/500 second or higher.  A long lens with a shallow depth of field helps to separate your 'frozen' subject from the background.
Two other features on my camera which I activate for this kind of photography are high speed motor drive and AI focus or AI servo auto focus.  These auto focus modes do a great job of tracking your moving subject and keeping it in focus as long as you are 'locked' on it!  Once focus is locked, it's a matter of tracking your subject while depressing the shutter release.  It sounds easier than it looks....

This image was made at the 2010 Indiana State Fair.  The attraction was called "Dock Dogs" and consisted of dogs competing in distance jumping from a 2 foot high platform into a pool of water.  If you have been following my blog for a while, you are aware of my love for dogs, so this attraction was a 'must' for me to photograph!  My goal was to catch dogs in flight, and I really liked this image since you can see the ball in the water and the determination on the lab's face to retrieve it.  The next frame on my CF card was a huge SPLASH, which is anticipated by the viewer when looking at this image!  (Canon EOS 5D Mark II, Canon 70-200 f4 IS lens, 1/1600 second @ f 4.0, ISO 800)

Water is an excellent subject for freezing in the moment since one can see each droplet of a splash if a high enough shutter speed is used.  This image was made in Oregon as a cowboy rode his horse through a shallow stream.  The back lighting of the water makes every droplet shimmer.  Freezing the action on this scene allows the viewer to see the intense concentration on the cowboy's face and the details of the splashing water. (Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 100-400mm IS lens, 1/4000 second @ f 5.6, ISO 400)
And finally, this image of two running springbok helps to understand how they got their name.  In Afrikans, 'Spring' means 'jump' and 'bok' means 'antelope' or 'goat.'  They move very fast and capturing them while they 'spring' is quite challenging!  The use of a long lens and shallow depth of field in this image illustrates the point made about isolating the 'frozen' subject from the background.  (Canon EOS 50D, Canon EF 100-400mm IS lens, 1/2500 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 400)

Friday, October 8, 2010

What Happens When the Photographer is 'On the Move'

OK, so I can't sit still...I am one of those photographers who shoots all day long regardless of the light, experimenting with all kinds of photo techniques.  With camera in hand and whenever I reach a 'dry spell,' I always ask myself "What if I...(insert photo idea here)?"
This week, the featured images illustrate my question: What if I ...photograph while I am on the move?

Ever since I was a kid I have loved driving through the country and watching the rhythmic patterns of crop rows as the car sped past agricultural fields. Watching the scene below, I asked myself:  "What if I... photograph them from the back seat while the car is in motion?" 
This image was made in the wine country in Chile. A slow shutter speed captured the blurred rows of grape vines as I moved past the vineyard, and a smaller f-stop captured the static scenery in the background, just as your eye sees it in 'real time.' (Canon5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS, 1/4 sec. @ f 8.0, ISO200)
Another time, I was a passenger in the front seat.  We were driving in the rain through The Grotto in Zion National Park in autumn.  Everyone else had their cameras in their bags except for me.  ('Bad light,' I was told) But I asked myself: "What if I...shot through the rain streaked windshield as we drive through the tunnel of trees?"  The results can be seen here.  I like how the image resembles an impressionistic painting.(Canon 1D Mark II, Canon 28-105mm IS lens, 1/6 sec. @ f 5.6, ISO 800)

Back in Indiana, I had the oppportunity to ride along side the harness racers in the motorized starting gate.  So, this time, both my subject and I were in motion!  Hmmmm..."What if I...stop down to f 22 (so the grandstand in the back ground is sharp) and let the horse and rider blur to show motion?"  I am really pleased with the resulting image.  (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 1/25 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100)

This image was made from the back of a Harley while traveling across country.  I made it my mission to document the sights from the back seat. (I mean...What else can you do riding for days for hours at a stretch?) Timing and pre-visualization are key to this type of photography since there is only 1 chance to get the shot.  After days of observing oncoming traffic as it passed us, I asked, "What if I...try to capture the ominous blur of an oncoming semi-truck?"  The challenge here is that subject and photographer were traveling in OPPOSITE directions, increasing the concept of speed.  After many unsuccessful attempts to capture what I had pre-visualized, I finally achieved my goal with this shot.  I find it interesting how the front of the truck is blurred, yet the back end is static and sharp- most likely a physics concept, but to me, it's visual magic!  (Canon 10D, 28-105mm lens, 1/50 sec. @ f 22, ISO100)
So, the next time you find yourself in a shooting 'dry spell,' ask yourself "What if I..." and then try it.  You might be pleasantly surprised with the results.
(To see more images of my self assignment of photographing sights from the back of a motorcyle, check out my gallery: "Harley Trip- Las Vegas to Indianapolis" )

Friday, October 1, 2010

Panning Static Subjects

One of the first 'rules' of photography we all learned was to always hold your camera steady.  Well, some rules were made to be broken!  Vertical pans of static subjects definitely breaks this rule because the camera is deliberately moved during exposure.
This is a fun technique to try in the harsh light of mid-day.  Why?  Because the contrast between light and shadow is too harsh to make striking images. Panning static objects in harsh light causes the contrast to decrease and the colors to blend across your sensor often producing pleasing abstract images of lines and color.
(Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 0.6 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100) 
The image above was made on a spring afternoon in the Smoky Mountains when the trees were green with new growth.

In contrast, the image on the right was made during autumn in New Brunswick.  The oranges and yellows of the leaves blended nicely during the pan and the white tree trunks added lines of interest.  This vertical pan suggests the original subject in an abstract way.  (Canon 1D, Canon 70-300 IS DO, 1/15 sec. @ f 25, ISO 100) 

Another purely abstract image is shown on the left.  I made this image in a stand of birch trees.  My friend was wearing a red jacket that day and I asked him to stand between two of the trees in my scene.  I panned the scene vertically, but at the same time wiggled the camera back and forth during the 0.5 second exposure.  I really like the results of this experiment with the red splash adding visual  interest.  (Canon EOS 50D, Canon 24-105mm IS lens, 0.5 sec. @ f 22, ISO 100)

The technique of panning static subjects is worth exploring.  It's fun to do and the results are often pleasantly surprising.  However, don't limit yourself to just stands of trees as I have featured this week.  Try panning any colorful scene and see what wonderful abstracts you can create.