There's something about a fence, be it close up or in the distance or running along a long and winding road, that makes us want to pull over and photograph it. Sometimes they're wrought iron, sometimes they're wooden, and sometimes they're barbed wire. The problem is, sometimes when we get our camera out and look at it through the lens, it just doesn't seem as enticing as it did a minute ago. The truth is, it probably is still very enticing, you just need to train your eye to see them from different perspectives and angles.
These six ideas will help you take your fence photography to the next level. No more sitting on one!
[ Top image Fence posts by Flickr user Kansas Poetry (Patrick)]
Fence Line by Flickr user dbnunley
1. The Scene Surrounding the Fence
The land, sea, or cityscape that goes along with the fence you want to capture can have a big impact on the type of shot you get. Whether a city street's iron fence or a countryside's wooden one, they're intriguing. While fences are meant to keep you out and others within the domain of the fence, when they go as far as the eye can see, they provide a line with seemingly endless depth or they can disappear into water, fog, snow, or simply off the image.
Don't just look around the fence, look through it, over it, and down it. Change your perspective by getting low down to the ground or up higher if you can.
Fence Flowers by Flickr user Corey Templeton
Wooden fences makes for a great peep hole and are built in frames for many shots. In this shot, the flowers are beautifully framed by the fence. In addition, the fence acts as a sort of block that sets the background in a way that offsets the flowers rather than having more flowers surrounding these few.
Use a fence like this to photograph a person, young or old, on the other side and see how great it works as a frame and to add interest to the subject.
3. Depth of Field
One of the best tricks to photographing fences is to determine an effective use of depth of field. If, by chance, the scenery in the distance is not as intriguing as what's along the fence in front of you, this would be a good opportunity to use a shallow depth of field. The photo by Donnie Nuley above is a great example of this. The flowers in the foreground pop out much more vividly with the shallow depth of field for the remaining fence line.
Alternatively, sometimes a photographer will want the effect of deep depth of field so the fence is sharp throughout.
It's up to your creative license to determine which depth of field you want to go with, but it is certainly a consideration that will make a difference in even the simplest of fence images.
4. Black and White
For some reason, fences look particularly neat in black and white. The essence of black and white is that it tends to make an image more raw, almost as though it exposes only the subject by not including color as a distraction. It can also date an image, giving it a more authentic look or as though a time-period image.
I always recommend shooting in color (RAW is best) and then converting to black and white in your processing. The main reason is that you can change how your black and white shot looks depending on which colors you choose to use. See my article on secrets to black and white photography for more info..
If you come across a fence that you'll have easy access to and that is in an area where it goes through the seasons, it's fun to capture the same scene in all four seasons. In fact, you can create one final image that sports all four together. Should you do this, take detailed notes on location, angle and even exposure to keep each one as similar as possible. The only thing that should change is mother nature itself. Here's an example using a tree in all four seasons.
6. Shadows and Perspective
Lastly, photographing any landscape subject at different times of days will allow for different shadows depending on the sun's angle. You may pass a fence at high noon and note that you want to photograph it, but know that the lighting will be better at sunrise (perhaps with some fog as well) or sunset.
Adding new perspective could mean including a person or a couple or a dog. Don't just look at a fence and see it as a fence. Open your mind to different opportunities to turn an seemingly mundane fence into a beautiful image.
Fences are everywhere, so if you want to build a portfolio of them, keep a log book of ones you pass that you'd like to go back to and photograph during different lighting, seasons, weather patterns, and whatever else comes to mind.
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