One of my biggest challenges as an photographer is recognizing a good photo opportunity when I see it. Sometimes I feel like I need to go to some exotic or remote place to shoot great photography. However, I have found that there is beauty in all of creation.
There really isn’t anything exotic or remote about this photo. It was composed in my sister-in-law’s backyard just before sunset. There is no near-extinct species or interesting culture featured here; it’s just grass and sun.
The best way to get that amazing shot is just to find a great light and click the shutter button. It’s a lesson that I am still learning.
Recently I found myself in downtown Indianapolis with my camera and I decided to brush up my architectural photography portfolio. In the center of downtown, the soldiers and sailors monument honors Hoosiers who were veterans of the Civil War, Revolutionary War, and various other wars. If you enter the monument from the Southside, you can climb up the steps to the observation deck. If you don’t think you can handle the 330 steps, you can pay a small fee to ride the small elevator.
Looking North toward the Indiana War Memorial
Looking East on Market Street
Once at the top, the views are pretty spectacular.
It is amazing how you can compose a photo, check the exposure, get all the settings right, level the composition, double check the settings and then miss seeing a really cool effect that you have no control over. I didn’t notice the reflection in the J.W. Mariott Building until I was processing these photos. Notice how the reflection of the horizon is almost perfectly in line with the the horizon beyond the building in the above photo.
Speaking of reflections, I took this photo of the windows on the Chase Building. It looks like several photos in one because of all the different reflections. You can also see several different textures; people, water, trees, statuary.
I wandered around town and eventually found myself in the Arts Garden. The Arts Garden is a atrium that sits above the intersection of Washington and Illinois Streets. It is accessible from the Circle Center Mall and various hotels. This photo is looking East on Washington Street.
Later I found myself on the West side of the Indiana Statehouse. There is a mall area in between all of the government buildings know as Bicentennial Plaza. Technically, this photo is of the back of the Statehouse, but photos from this side are easier since a similar photo taken from the other side would put the photographer in the middle of Market Street.
West side of the Indiana Statehouse
Indiana Statehouse and flags
Flowers on the Bicentennial Plaza behind the Indiana Statehouse
I snapped a few more photos. On this early summer day, the bright sunlight made the shadows a challenge. In order to compensate, in processing, I used the shadows slider in Lightroom to take out some of the contrast. I still think some of these would look better if they were shot in the evening or on a cloudy day.
Often, I find that my favorite images are taken at the end of my excursion. I was on my way back to my parking space walking by the Depew Memorial Fountain at the corner of Meridian and New York, when I spotted these Ginkgo Biloba trees. The above photo is looking north toward the Indiana War Memorial.
I love the unique leaf shapes on these huge stately trees. I also like the contrast between the natural leaf shapes and the very deliberate man made building shapes in the background.
Downtown Indy is rich in culture and rife with sights and sounds. You can have a pretty nice time just with a camera and a couple of hours to spare.
When I was younger, and starting to dabble in photography, a mentor told me that every photo should tell a story. I have always remembered that advice and I have tried to compose all my work with that in mind. At a recent picnic, I found myself shooting a “cornhole” tournament.
I decided that I could tell a story by leaving scene to the imagination. In that way, I give the viewer a starting point, and let them create their own story. In the above photo, the players were lined Continue reading “Tell a Story!”
Bougainvillea is a flowering bush that grows in subtropical climates. They can have many different colors of blooms including pink, white, orange, purple or yellow. Sometimes the leaves are variegated, as seen in this photo.
They are beautiful to look at, but don’t get too close. Each branch has many large thorns on it. Sometimes, the thorns can be hard to see because of all the flowers on the branch.
Bougainvillea are native to South America but can be found throughout the Caribbean, Florida and other places as well. This photo was taken in St. Kitts at the Romney Manor Gardens.
Butterweed has been all over Indiana this year. I found a huge spray of them on a back country road a couple of weeks ago and had to snap a few pictures. The sun was setting and the light just kept getting better and better.
The first few I took still had the sun setting in the background. This made the light a little harsh, but added a nice contre-jour effect.
The lane led up a little hill, so I used the shadow of the hill to my advantage. There were so many flowers along this stretch, that I could walk up and down the hill and chose the right kind of light. In this image, I tried to capture the road to add to the interest and tell part of the story.
My goal was to contrast the sharp barbed wire with the soft flowers. I hoped the two distinct thoughts would spur and emotion in the viewer and (as always) start to tell a story.
My favorite images were taken after the sun had sunk well below the horizon. The light was perfect and my patience had paid off. At this point I had been shooting for about 40 minutes, but I was glad that I waited.
All photos have a subject. Many photos incorporate the human element to draw the viewer’s eye. If there is not human in the photo, the viewer will find a different subject. It may be a landscape feature such as a mountain, or even a color or a shape.
When composing an image for a photo, there are several different ways to feature people in the photo. Compositions that incorporate the human element can more interesting because they tell a story about life. They also tend to elicit more emotion from the viewer. Here are a few different ways that the human element can show up in a photo.
The primary subject
In this photo, our eye will be immediately drawn to the little girl. More specifically, we will probably notice that her lips are in the shape of an “O” like she is blowing something. Within a split second, we see that there is a birthday cake in front of her and we fondly remember other birthday parties when we felt happy and loved.
This technique is commonly used in formal portrait photography. Obviously, the person should be the central focus. However a person as a secondary subject can have a very striking effect and give a more informal feel to a portrait.
The secondary subject
Although I wouldn’t consider this photo a portrait, it does show the human as a secondary subject. This is accomplished by not showing the girl’s face. Notice however, that the cake and the girl’s hand are in focus. In this photo, the pink birthday cake is the primary subject. The emotions we may feel could be associated with the idea of cake sticking to our fingers, or the plates and napkins ready to be used.
A third way to add the human element to a photo is to compose the photo with a human in the background.
In this photo, the birthday cake is the strong primary subject. It may take a couple of seconds to even notice that there is someone in the background. However, once you see the background subject, you immediately want to know the story. Is it her birthday? Did she make the cake? Does she look happy? This is what photography is all about: the story.
Telling a story with photos is impossible without a subject, human or otherwise. Although it can be done without people, the human element makes telling that story easier. Which of these techniques do you think best tells a story? Have you found other creative ways to incorporate people into your photos?
I snapped this photo one morning as I was leaving my house. The bare tree branches in the background are partially obscured by the fog, making it difficult to see how tall they really are. I hung the swing from the big Hackberry Tree not long after we moved in and my kids have enjoyed many happy hours on it since then.
Fort Harrison State Park in Indianapolis is a great place to visit and relax. Even though it is somewhat close to the urbanization of Indianapolis, it offers a relatively quiet reprieve from the bustle of the city streets. I visited there recently to try to capture some of the spring colors as they were emerging.
The park has a centrally located “duck pond” with paved and primitive hiking trails in the vicinity.
Many of the hiking trails have bridges and steps to help navigate wet areas and steep grades.
All the insects were busy pollinating.
The cattails at the edge the pond were busy doing the thing that they do in the spring. Pollinating? Blooming? Shedding? Dying? I’m a photographer, not a botanist. I just like the way the light filters through the “fuzzies.”
This flower has very delicate, thread-like petals. The shallow depth of field (f/5.6) in this photo makes the front of the bloom in focus and the back slightly blurry.
This flower is known as “Butterweed” and this year it is growing all over Indiana. This specimen was growing in the shade at the edge of a wood.
More Butterweed growing along side of a walking trail.
I was on my way back to the car when I spotted these tender Sweet Gum leaves. I pointed the camera directly into the sun to get this shot. The sun is shining through the leaves showing the detail in the “veins.” I set my camera to the fastest shutter speed available (1/4000). I had to take several shots to get one that I was happy with because there was a stiff breeze and it was a challenge to catch the leaves when they were still.
Canon EOS 6D, EF24-105mm f/3.5-5.6 IS STM, 1/640 at f/5.6 ISO 400
I photographed this frog on Easter Sunday near a landscape pond. This image has been cropped to zoom it in and I added some vignetting in Lightroom. I like being able to see the detail in the frog’s eye.
I have always been intrigued with photos of the stars. So I kept an eye on the weather for a few days, found a night that was going to be clear and ventured out to try to capture some myself.
I had to wait until the moon had set, so I decided to get up early before the sunrise. I used the widest angle lens that I have, EF 28mm f/1.8 USM. I wanted to capture as much of the sky as possible. I started out with the shutter set for 30 seconds at f/1.8 and ISO 2500. After about an hour of fiddling with the settings (and waiting on airliners to get out of the frame), I found 15 seconds at f/4.5 and ISO 1600 to be just what I was looking for.
As the sun started to rise, I changed to 13 seconds at f/4 and ISO 3200 and managed to capture the glow of the rising sun and the stars.
My wife and I recently had an opportunity to take a vacation to St. Kitts. We left our cold, cloudy Indiana home and were whisked away to the Caribbean.
The Island of St. Kitts (formally Saint Christopher Island) is part of the sovereign nation of St. Kitts and Nevis located in the West Indies. Both the island of St. Kitts and the island of Nevis are volcanic.
Looking south from the beach at South Frigate Bay, one can see the island of Nevis in the distance.
Sunrise is a great time for capturing pictures of the surf on the rocks!
As expected in tourist areas, lots of roadside vendors are selling souvineirs and food items. This Rastafarian was selling “fresh sugar cane.”
From this vantage point on the island, you can see the Atlantic Ocean (to the left) and the Caribbean Sea (to the right). You can also see the island of Nevis in the distance.
Looking the other way from the same vantage point, you can see the Marriott Resort and South Frigate Bay.
Red Ginger at the Romney Manor Botanical Gardens
Bougainvillea at the Romney Manor Botanical Gardens.