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Common Subjects

Photographing Spiders Webs

Filed in Nature, Tips by on August 9, 2017 0 Comments
Photographing Spiders Webs

Animals, insects, and moving creatures of any kind can be difficult to photograph, for different reasons. But if you are like the 30% of Americans who describe themselves as arachnophobic, spiders can present an especially difficult photographic challenge. Now, I’m not a psychologist nor do I pretend to know much about the treatment of arachnophobia, but if you simply cannot imagine yourself getting close enough to a spider to photograph it, then I have an alternative suggestion for you. Why not photograph a spiders web instead? Read on to find out how.
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Representing invisible subjects: How to photograph music

Filed in Miscellaneous, Tips by on August 2, 2017 0 Comments
Representing invisible subjects: How to photograph music

What? That’s craziness. You can’t photograph music–music is something you hear with your ears, it’s not something you see with your eyes. So how can you photograph sound? Read on to find out.

Music is common to every human culture, just as visual art is. Music soothes us, from infancy to old age. When we are introduced to a new person, one of the questions we often ask that person is, “What kind of music do you like?” Everyone has an answer, whether it’s country, classical, or hip-hop, and everyone who loves music also appreciates photos that represent music, whether they are album covers, photos of our favorite musical stars, or abstract images that feature instruments.

##How to capture the idea of music

Yes, it is true, music is something we hear, it is not something we see. However we do have very strong visual associations with music, for example, we know what sound the piano makes, and when we see an image of a piano we don’t have to be told what kind of music will come out of that instrument. Even instruments from other cultures that we may not be familiar with can still spark the imagination. Musical instruments, even strange ones, are easy to identify as musical instruments, and it’s therefore natural for us to imagine the sounds that they might make. Even if we are wrong, it doesn’t matter—we’re still inspired to think about sound when we see images of those things with our eyes.

Now there are number of ways you can approach music photography – you can photograph the instrument, you can photograph the musician, or you can photograph the people who are experiencing the music. All three approaches can be used to communicate the idea of sound and harmony, but you need to photograph these subjects with those ideas already in your head.

Let’s start by taking a look at some examples.

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/cool-guy-sitting-guitar-on-gray-560464798

In this first image, we see a musician holding his instrument. This is a portrait—it tells us something about the musician but it doesn’t necessarily say “music.” The subject is holding his guitar, so we understand that he is a musician, but the image isn’t really about the music, it’s about the person. Intellectually, we understand what that guitar would sound like if he was playing it, but because he’s not playing it there really isn’t a reason for us to think specifically about sound. Now let’s look at a different example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/this-guitar-sounds-great-handsome-young-145140631

In this image, the musician is strumming the guitar. It’s a nice photo, but even though we can imagine the sound of the guitar being strummed, there’s no emotion in the scene. Music is an emotional experience, which means that we need to see that emotion before we can really make that leap from sound to music. So the expression on the musician’s face can tell us a lot–if there is no emotion in his expression, we can just as easily imagine that he is just tuning up the guitar or strumming a few isolated chords rather than playing an actual song.

##Now let’s take a look at our third example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/portrait-japanese-man-guitarjapanese-musiciana-low-170372363

In this image, the subject is clearly making music. We can see that his instrument is actually being played (he’s clearly not tuning it or just warming up), and there’s an expression on his face that connects the music to an emotional experience. There’s also drama in the image because of the way it is lit. The lighting is low and the image is very low-key, and low-key images tend to come across as being more dramatic. And let’s face it, your favorite songs are probably somewhat dramatic—heartbreak, political outrage, romantic love—these are all dramatic themes that tend to occupy the lyrics of most modern songs. So the light in the scene can help create drama, which will really add to that feeling of actually being able to hear the music that we are only seeing in this photograph.

##Instruments

Here’s another example of a photograph that says “music:”

Strings

Now, why does this image of an instrument on its own seem so musical, while the instrument being held by a musician who is not playing does not? That’s because in the example above, the person is equally as important as the instrument. We automatically assume that the photo is about him, and not about the music that he might create with that instrument, simply because he is not in the process of actually playing. On the other hand, an instrument photographed on its own can only be about one thing–it is about the tool that is used to make music, and hence it is going to feel more like a photograph of the music itself. Again, photographing an instrument with dramatic light will help bring out that those musical qualities in the image itself. We think of music as being a dramatic thing, so dramatic lighting going to make us feel like we are experiencing music as a we look at the tools that are used to create it.

##Now let’s look at a fourth example:

https://www.shutterstock.com/image-photo/silhouettes-people-concert-front-scene-bright-572251555?src=WD40bBY9JwmGs1IDgu_DCQ-1-33

In this image we see the complete experience of music. Because we are looking at the people who are affected by the music, we are connecting with them. That connection makes us feel as if we are experiencing the music too, even though we don’t instinctively know what the genre is or even what band is playing. But because the photographer has captured the emotion that is often connected with live music, we are getting a very strong sense of sound in this image.

Have you noticed the common thread between all of the examples we’ve seen so far? Is it the light. The light is dramatic, and music is dramatic, so we can imagine that we are experiencing music just based on the way that the scene is lit.

##Abstractions

Another way that you can capture music in a photograph is by taking an abstract or symbolic approach. A musical note is one very obvious way to represent music in a symbolic manner—everyone knows what a musical note is and what it represents. But I know you can be more creative than that—let’s look at an example so you can see what I mean.

The guitar king

In this image, the photographer used light painting to represent music. It’s an abstract representation because there are no musical notes or other obvious symbols, but the light appears to dance in the way that we perceive music to dance, in the sense that it rises and falls in a rhythmic way. Because it is so visually close to the way that we hear music with our ears, it’s easy to make that mental translation from visual input to auditory input, even though we’re not technically hearing anything. Now, would this depiction work if there wasn’t also a musical instrument in the image? It might work visually, but it probably wouldn’t remind you of music, because we need that literal cue (the instrument) to appear in the frame in order for us to make that leap from the thing we’re seeing to the thing we might actually be able to hear if we were present in that scene.

Regardless of your approach, the key to capturing great music photographs is to try to make that connection between what you’re seeing and what you’re hearing, and then make sure that you are capturing that connection in your photograph. Most of the time, it’s going to be an emotional connection. Music can make people experience joy, grief, love, anger … there really isn’t an emotion that can’t be expressed through music. But the good news is that all of those emotions can be expressed through photography, too. So if you can capture the visual representation of music at the same time as you capture the emotion that exists in the scene, you can be pretty sure you captured the music itself. If you’re not sure, ask someone. Pass your photos around and ask viewers to tell you the first couple of words that come to mind. If “music” or “sound” is one of them, then you’ve done your job.

##Conclusion

You don’t have to be a musician to be able to hear the music in a photograph, you just have to be a human being who is capable of having the profound experience of connecting to music. Really, doesn’t that describe all of us? As long as you keep that music in your head while you are creating your photographs, and you think about the emotions that are experienced by both the people creating the music and the people listening to it, you cannot fail to capture photographs that seem to sing.

##Summary:

1. Photograph a musician playing an instrument
– Make sure to capture emotion
– Use dramatic light
2. Photograph the instrument
– Use dramatic light
3. Photograph the crowd
– Try to capture emotion and drama
4. Create an abstract representation of music
– Musical symbolism
– Painting with light

How to photograph farms, ranches and rural places

Filed in Landscape, Tips by on June 9, 2017 0 Comments
How to photograph farms, ranches and rural places

Even if you live in the city, a visit to a rural place can be cathartic. Rural places are quiet, homey, and down-to-earth. And they have a beauty that is somewhere between the rough beauty of an urban area and the perfect beauty of nature.

The process of photographing a rural setting requires careful attention to detail, because you want to capture a real sense of place as well as a visual interpretation of the place you’re visiting. So it helps to really think about what your goals are and to have them well-mapped out before you embark on your photo shoot. Keep reading for more.
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How to simulate sunshine

Filed in Sun, Tips by on June 9, 2017 0 Comments
How to simulate sunshine

There’s a reason why golden hour photos tend to be more pleasing than photos shot at other times of the day, and it’s not just the soft light and gradual transition between shadows and highlights. People love golden hour photographs because they’re warm. That orange light makes us feel as if we are standing out in the sun ourselves, and the sun is one of those universally appreciated sources of energy. It’s no cliché to say that the sun is life-giving, without it, the world would be a bleak and terrible place indeed. We love the sunlight because it’s the light that nourishes and sustains us, and as such we are drawn to golden hour photographs because no other sort of photograph reproduces the sun in quite the same way.

Now here’s a fun fact for you: you don’t have to wait until the golden hour to capture that warm, sunny feeling in your photographs. You can even do it indoors, or on an overcast day. Read on to find out how.
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Shoot Fabulous Photos Even on a Cloudy Day

Shoot Fabulous Photos Even on a Cloudy Day

Depending on who you ask, cloudy days are either an awesome time to take photos, or they are a terrible time to take photos. So which one is it? Read on to find out. Continue Reading »

How to photograph the weather

How to photograph the weather

When you read this article’s title, you probably thought it was just going to be another tutorial about photographing the rain, or the fog, or rainbows or snowstorms. But in this case, I am going to be talking about photographing the weather as an entity – because the weather isn’t just about the temperature or what falls from the sky, it’s also about how those things impact us and the world around us.
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How to Photograph School Plays and Performances

How to Photograph School Plays and Performances

Over the years, I’ve talked to a lot of moms and dads about family photography and some of the common challenges they face. Complaints vary, of course, from getting moody teenagers to smile to capturing sports and other fast action. But one of the events that almost every parent tries to photograph that seems to cause the most frustration is the school play.

Many (if not most) schools have an annual play production, complete with costumes and props and a homegrown script. It’s a big moment for most those pint-sized stars—getting on stage in front of all those parents can be nerve-wracking, but every kid who does it experiences intense pride in what she’s accomplished when it’s all over. For this reason alone, parents attend those stage performances armed with their cameras and determined to capture the best photos possible. But so many of these parents come away from the experience frustrated and disappointed with the results. What can be done to guarantee good results when photographing plays? Read on to find out.
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How to photograph the Great American Eclipse

Filed in Blog, Sun by 0 Comments
How to photograph the Great American Eclipse

If you weren’t planning to do any travelling this summer, you might want to do a little rethinking. Unless, of course, you’re lucky enough to live in a 68 mile-wide band that stretches across the US from Newport, Oregon to Charleston, South Carolina.

On August 21, 2017 the United States will be treated to the first total solar eclipse visible in the country since February of 1979—although the totality itself will only be visible to people living in or visiting that 68 mile wide band. For the rest of the US, only a partial eclipse will be visible—still a photo-worthy event, but not as spectacular as the total eclipse.
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How to Photograph Mischief

How to Photograph Mischief

I know, you hate it when your kids act up. No parent loves to find scribbles on the wall, broken family heirlooms on the floor or the dog wearing a pink tutu (well, maybe that last one wouldn’t be so bad), and no parent loves to have to discipline a child who isn’t behaving the way she’s expected to. But mischief, whether parents like to admit it or not, is a natural part of being a child. So it may surprise you to hear me say that I think you should photograph it.

Now of course, this is a challenging task no matter how you look at it. You know you don’t really want to encourage your children to be naughty, and as soon as you get that camera out to record their naughtiness, you’re sort of endorsing it. So you need to come up with some ways to capture mischief without making it seem like you’re giving permission. That is a challenging task. Read one for some ideas about how to do it.

##The blackmail photo

Every parent should have one of these. You know exactly what I’m talking about—it’s that photo of your child doing something really cute and funny, which will embarrass the heck out of him as he gets older. For example, I have a friend whose extremely macho 11-year-old, who, as a toddler, used to enjoy wearing his mother’s high heels. That is a photo that you absolutely must have, not only because it’s cute and funny but also because you can use it in the future as a viable threat for good behavior. “Make sure you come home by curfew, or your girlfriend is going to see that picture of you in high heels!”

Now, I will say that this is the sort of photo that needs to be kept under wraps—posting it on Facebook or framing it and hanging on the wall would just be plain cruel and I really am (sort of) kidding when I say you should use embarrassing photos as tools for blackmail. But it is the sort of mischief that you really do need to record on camera, not just because it laughably embarrassing, but also because it will remind you of some of the innocence of childhood, especially once your child has left that phase and moved on into the difficult tween or teenage years.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-3273013/stock-photo-mommys-shoes.html?src=fSZW797d9SdUKxcHrQFf1Q-2-44

##The aftermath

Have you ever turned your back just for a moment, just for a split second, and when you turned around again you found yourself viewing the aftermath of an unprecedented disaster? Children have an amazing capacity for destroying things in new and interesting ways, and at dizzying speeds. And if you can get past your initial distress, these are the types of images that you should capture for posterity. Let’s say, for example, that your child has found a box of powdered laundry detergent or a bag of flour, and decided to pretend that he’s playing in the snow. This kind of disaster can happen very quickly—often in just the time it takes for you to step away to the bathroom. No parent is immune, no matter how much you think you might be, unless all of your stuff is locked up or stashed in high places.

Laundry detergent all over the floor is going to be a huge mess, for sure, but it’s great fodder for photography in the meantime. Those flour/soap covered hands and faces are going to be adorable all by themselves, but a photo of your chubby little angel sitting there with the powdered destruction all around her is going to be something that will make you smile for years to come. Maybe not during the next hour while you’re cleaning it all up, but trust me, someday.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-420723289/stock-photo-cute-baby-girl-covering-her-messy-painted-face-with-her-dirty-hands.html?src=DprwtMaRHGt_QrBlauVJNQ-1-4

When you’re photographing this scene, make sure that you include both child and disaster. Get down to your child’s level, and try to make the disaster look even bigger than it actually is. One way to do this is by placing your focal point on a pile of flour or detergent and letting your child fall out of focus in the background. Likewise, if the disaster had anything to do with a black sharpie and/or a white wall, you can stand at somewhat of an angle to the new mural, select a narrow aperture to give you broad depth of field, and fill the frame in such a way that the graffiti appears to go on forever. Include your child in that shot too, of course, and although I’m not sure of the wisdom of asking him to wield the tools of his trade, I think you need to include the black sharpie as well.

Now again, you need to do this with some discretion. You don’t want your child to think, “Mom loves it when I make it snow in the house!” or “Mom loves it when I decorate the walls!” You can take these photos while still conveying a sense of displeasure, for example, “I am texting this picture to your father so he can see what you’ve done!” will give you both an honest and valid reason for photographing the mess without also condoning it.

Children also like to turn those markers on themselves, so if your child decided to paint himself red so he could become a baby dragon, or brown like a werewolf, that will be a pretty awesome picture too. And take it one step further—get some shots of him in the tub while you are trying to scrub all those bright colors off. Or have fun with it and have him act the part—a brown werewolf or a red baby dragon chasing little sister or the dog around the house is going to be a pretty hilarious photo.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-188997893/stock-photo-little-dirty-child-having-a-bath.html?src=ZjL9Em1Np0nt1560rEDuCQ-1-13

Sometimes it’s just a matter of letting go of your own personal hang ups—sure, your child wasted an entire tube of paint and sure, it’s going to be a pain to clean it off of him but there’s something to be said for giving his creativity free reign. Let him role-play a little and see what happens.

##Innocent mischief

There is such a thing as innocent mischief. How do you know when it’s innocent mischief? Because it’s mischief that bugs you, but in a very harmless sort of way. For example, your child may like to flip mindlessly through the channels on the TV set. That’s enough to drive anyone bonkers, but if it’s a habit of his, or he thinks it’s particularly hilarious, get your camera out. You might actually be surprised to discover that your camera can be used a little bit like reverse psychology. If you suggest to your child that you might be endorsing his behavior by taking a picture of it, you may find that he actually doesn’t think the behavior is so much fun anymore.

Whatever the end result may be, try to get a picture that lets the viewer know exactly what’s happening in the scene. Your child wielding the remote control and laughing hysterically is going to get that message across pretty well. Now, there may be some differences in interpretations—if your viewer doesn’t know your child, for example, she may think he’s just laughing at his favorite cartoon. That doesn’t really matter so much, as long as your images are well composed, and do a good job at conveying the silliness of the moment and your child’s personality.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-45876175/stock-photo-smiling-little-boy-holding-a-remote-lying-on-the-floor-in-the-living-room.html?src=mIXr47YWhYHRJqCGq4btFQ-1-9

You should also strive to capture a moment that you will be able to identify later on down the road—so make sure that you capture that moment as honestly as you can. That may mean taking a series of images—one of your child wielding the remote, and a couple of them over his shoulder with vastly different television shows on the set. On a similar note, mischief is nearly always accompanied by giggles (maybe not your giggles, but almost certainly the giggles of your child). Make sure that you are able to capture the spirit of the mischief as well as the mischief itself.

##Naughty mischief

Let’s say you catch your child in the act of some seriously naughty mischief, like throwing the cat in the swimming pool or drawing a star on the side of your car with a rock. Now, no one is going to argue that you should hide out in the bushes and take a picture of this while it’s happening, oh no, you need to save the cat first (or save your paint job). But you can photograph some of what happens after the event, and those photos can serve some very important functions. First, I promise you that one day it will seem funny when you think of that poor, dripping wet cat or your child’s beautiful but all too expensive art work. And as far as the family history book goes, it’s still going to be an important event because it represents a learning moment for your child, and maybe for you, too. And it may also serve as a stark reminder for your child of the importance of good behavior.

So how can you capture these moments without capturing the mischief in-progress? We’ve already talked about shooting the aftermath—the dripping wet cat (or the process of toweling him off) can be one way to record the event. But you want to record the lesson, too, so a photo of your child in time-out or looking longingly at his siblings while they play video games and he doesn’t will also serve the purpose.

http://www.shutterstock.com/pic-182845139/stock-photo-wet-cat-after-a-bath-wrapped-in-a-towel.html?src=iW6OYfM5lghJO4JCNOJlkA-1-0

##Conclusion

Again, don’t think that taking a picture means you’re telling your child it’s OK to misbehave. A good scolding afterwards is always helpful. And if they ask you why you took a picture if it was something they weren’t supposed to be doing—be creative. Tell them you want to make sure they remember how much trouble they got in on that day, and the best way to do that is with a photo. Whatever you do, don’t avoid taking the picture, and if you do have to hide in the bushes with your 400mm lens, well, I’m not going to say anything. What’s important is that you’re capturing a broad slice of family life with your camera, and that includes anything worth remembering, whether it’s good or bad, naughty or nice.

##Summary:

1. The blackmail photo
2. The aftermath
– Get down to the level of the destruction
– Make the destruction look bigger than it is
3. Innocent mischief
– Make sure the moment is identifiable (at least to you)
– Capture the spirit of mischief (facial expressions, etc.)
4. Naughty mischief
– Photograph it, don’t condone it

What is focus stacking?

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What is focus stacking?

At some point, just about every photographer turns his attention away from those more obvious subjects, and points his camera at the things that we don’t often see—those tiny, thumbnail-sized things that we pass by every day but rarely stop to appreciate. Macro photography is a very attractive genre for many photographers, and it’s becoming more accessible as camera technology improves, and the cost of dedicated macro lenses goes down.

But if you started shooting macro without a whole lot of formal instruction, you may have noticed that your macro shots don’t look like a lot of those beautiful macros that you’ve admired on Flickr, or in magazines like National Geographic. To understand what I mean, keep reading.
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Representing Invisible Subjects: Electricity

Representing Invisible Subjects: Electricity

Personally, I think invisible subjects have some of the best creative potential. Clearly, photographing something invisible is a challenge. Wait, how can you photograph something invisible at all? Read on to find out.
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How to photograph starbursts and lens flare

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How to photograph starbursts and lens flare

There was once a time when lens flare was considered a bad thing. No, really. It was an anomaly, something to be avoided. Today, lens flare is something we like. We use it for artistic and creative purposes. And only on a few occasions does it show up when it isn’t wanted. So how can you use lens flare creatively and effectively in your photos? Read on to find out.
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Ask David: why are my sunsets so boring?

Ask David: why are my sunsets so boring?

There are a few experiences that are common to pretty much every photographer. One of those experiences is photographing sunsets. Now, depending on where you are on the learning curve, you may find photographing sunsets to be intensely rewarding, or you may find it to be hugely frustrating. Just about every beginning photographer has had the experience of standing in front of the most beautiful sunset ever, taking a photo, and then being completely underwhelmed by the results.

It seems like it really should be the easiest thing in the world to point a camera at a beautiful sunset and get a fabulous picture. But it doesn’t work that way. Read on to find out why. Continue Reading »

How to photograph a solar eclipse

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How to photograph a solar eclipse

There was a time when a solar eclipse was considered a bad thing. The ancient Greeks believed that solar eclipses only happened when the gods were angry, and that natural disasters and general destruction were not far behind. The Vikings believed that when an eclipse happened, it was because hungry wolves were eating the sun. And in many cultures, a solar eclipse was said to portend death—King Louis the Pious died shortly after witnessing a solar eclipse, believing that it was a sign of God’s displeasure.

Today, of course, solar eclipses are just cool photography subjects. And they’re easy to photograph, too, provided you have the right equipment and a little bit of know-how. Keep reading to learn more.
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How to Photograph Kids (who don’t want to be photographed)

How to Photograph Kids (who don’t want to be photographed)

We all know about moody teenagers, right? In fact it’s almost a cliché—mom takes camera to event, mom points camera at moody teenager, moody teenager ducks behind another person or object in order to avoid being photographed. It’s maddening. And if you are the parent of that reluctant photographic subject, even more so. Continue Reading »