Home > Photo Techniques, Photography, Thoughts On Photography > Summer Photo Tips #8: Some Final Tips and Thoughts

Summer Photo Tips #8: Some Final Tips and Thoughts

August 12th, 2014 Leave a comment Go to comments

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Earlier in this series we looked at different techniques for helping compose photos to guide the viewer’s eye and to help add interest to photos. In this final installment we’ll look at some ideas to use that can help in planning and making outdoor photographs.
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1. Watch Out For Busy Backgrounds
A distracting background can ruin what might otherwise be a great photograph. We’ve all seen photos where its background included so many elements (trees, flowers, people, etc.) that the main subject was hard figure out. The deer in the photo below for example is even difficult to see because of a busy background filled with trees.photography tips

A similar problem happens with competing background objects—one or more distracting elements that draws the views’ attention away from the main subject. Often, in landscape photography, these competing background distractions are man-made such as power lines running through a forest, a discarded soda can on the ground, or a radio tower soaring into a pristine sky. The image below includes a soda can floating on the water (lower right) which I noticed after making the first photo then retook the shot after stepping a few feet to the left.

After selecting your subject and before pressing the shutter, try remembering to look carefully at the background for possible visual distractions. Often, simply moving the camera to the left/right or closer/farther away can help eliminate or minimize the background problem.

2. Don’t Forget to Look in All Directions

When photographing in nature it’s easy to find a subject that grabs your attention, make a photo of it and then move on in search of the next subject. Over the years I’ve found there are often many subjects to photograph in one location other than the one that initially caught my eye. After making that first photo a good idea is to turn slowly 360 degrees as well as look up and down for other subjects. By doing so you’ll often discover even more interesting subjects, lighting or perspectives than the one which first caught your attention.

Two Photos Made by Turning Around 180º
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     The photos above, made in the same location at Rocky Mountain National Park help demonstrate this tip. The image on the left was made just moments after sunrise while the image on the right was made one minute later after turning 180 degrees in the opposite direction.

photo tips3. Practice the Art of Silence

In landscape photos I try to share not only the beauty of a subject but a sense of its environment as well. And, the sooner I can come to know its environment the sooner I can understand how to include it in the photos. To help do that, whether I’m driving from home or leaving an airport in a rental car, I always travel in silence to a photo shoot. For me this means not playing the radio or listening to CD’s and turning off the cell phone to avoid mental interruptions. I find that the quiet helps to clear my mind so I can pay attention to the changing landscape and begin adjusting to that new environment long before I arrive.

While this usually makes for a longer trip, it’s often more scenic and provides more visual cues to help adjust to the new location. If you’re use to traveling with music playing this “quiet approach” may seem strange at first, and, it may not be for you. But you might also find, as I have, that it can help you to slow down and also begin adjusting your mind to a new landscape long before you arrive at the destination.

  1. August 12th, 2014 at 15:37 | #1

    Excellent tips, Rick. I especially like the silence one. As we are traveling through new areas, it sometimes takes me a few miles to begin to understand the personality of the place and time. I then can begin to know when I need to stop to capture it.

    • Rick
      August 13th, 2014 at 16:53 | #2

      That’s exactly the same way for me too Pat. How great for you AND for all your photo subjects in nature that you can do this. Great to hear from you { } ~Rick

  2. August 12th, 2014 at 15:44 | #3

    I always drive in silence, for that very reason, unless I’m so tired I need to sing to stay awake. The relationship with the land seems much more intimate that way.

    • Rick
      August 13th, 2014 at 17:00 | #4

      From knowing you somewhat from reading your blog Sue, I’m not surprised to hear you drive in silence. I suspect it’s much the same when you walk/hike in nature. And, I agree with you completely that by doing so an intimacy develops which she senses and in return, she shares with us a special glimpse into her light / spirit for us to savor with our eyes/hearts and also with our cameras. Sending you many happy wishes. ~ Rick

  3. August 12th, 2014 at 16:52 | #5

    I sure enjoy your excellent tips. I share you’re preference of silence. It allows me to not only take in my surroundings but be aware as well. I can hear the breaking of a twig or rustling of brush by wildlife which is always exciting :-)

    • Rick
      August 13th, 2014 at 19:55 | #6

      Thanks for the kind words Ingrid. I’m so happy you’re enjoying the tips and I’m pleased as can be that you know and practice silence. It’s amazing how much more Nature will open and reveal to us when we’re quiet isn’t. The breaking twigs, leaves rustling faint howl of critters in the distance all are part of the beauty to be enjoyed and not to be missed. I’m so glad you savor it.

  4. August 12th, 2014 at 20:25 | #7

    Love your tips, Rick. I honestly had trouble finding the deer in the first image. Talk about camouflage! I’ve also been known to walk backwards at times when I’m on the beach. I’ve had several great images happen out of that little habit. As for the silence. I tend to do that quite often, unless I’m on a long trip on the freeway… then I like listening to audiobooks. Something else I’ve noticed that’s similar to this suggestion is that I do much better shooting when I’m alone. :D

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 05:47 | #8

      Greetings Gunta. At times those busy backgrounds can be a challenge for all of us and our cameras can’t they, but they also help us to learn first-hand how great an animals’ built-in camouflage works for protection. I also have to say that I your tip about walking backwards at times and will definitely try that myself. What a great idea. I’m a big fan of doing anything/everything that helps me to see subjects in different ways or see more deeply into nature and I can easily imagine how well that tip could work great. Thank you for sharing it! As for shooting alone, that’s true for me as well. { } ~Rick

  5. August 12th, 2014 at 21:56 | #9

    Rick, these are GREAT tips! I am fairly good at the Art of Silence and Looking In All Directions, but I admit, I get so excited about the subject sometimes that I do not look at the background. I’m so disappointed when I look at the shot later – realizing I only had eyes on the subject. This is something I really need to be cognizant of in all of my photography. Thanks for reminding me!

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 06:06 | #10

      Although we’ve never met in person Lori, I’d guess you to be a master in the Art of Silence when photographing. The ability to embrace silence, be still and, as a result, be peaceful isn’t easy for some people but can dramatically improve their photography. Seeing the many beautiful photos of Daisy (your pet deer) on your blog told me volumes about how well you do that in life because deer are some of the most difficult animals to photograph. As for busy backgrounds they are sometimes hard (and occasionally impossible) to avoid. A trick that works well for me is that just before I make a shot I practice “soft focusing” to let my field of view expand away from the main subject. As you do that your field of view expands and you can often sense a busy background. Great to hear from you. ~ Rick

  6. August 12th, 2014 at 23:30 | #11

    Great tips as usual. I too like to travel in silence and let the landscape pull me in.

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 06:08 | #12

      Practicing silence to let the landscape pull you in is a fabulous way to phrase it Rod. Well said. Thanks. ~ Rick

  7. August 13th, 2014 at 07:08 | #13

    This is so true Rick! Overly busy pictures can be very disturbing to the eye. This is where simplicity really rules I think. Of course, simplicity is far from simple!! I’ll be in touch properly soon. :-)

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 06:12 | #14

      Oh definitely Ruth, simplicity is often far from simple whether it’s in our own lives or in our photographs but when we achieve it that is a powerful, quiet spaciousness it creates. Sending you warm wishes from the States. ~ Rick

  8. August 13th, 2014 at 09:32 | #15

    Rick, I find your photography tips so practical, they seem almost intuitive, yet each one is something I’d never thought about before reading them. Now, I adopt so many of them simply because they are really intuitive and become part of how you shoot. I’m sure many of your readers feel the same way and their photography benefits as mine has. I’m by no means a good photographer, but I can say that your tips have improved the pictures I take considerably. Thanks for sharing your expertise with me and all of your readers. You explain things so easily and clearly, they are a pleasure to read. You are a true mentor.

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 06:35 | #16

      Oh goodness Jim, I’m deeply touched, moved and warmed by your words. Many many thanks. Perhaps because it was hard for me to learn as a kid (no one realized I needed glasses to see until I was in 7th grade) I now love sharing ideas and making learning as fun/easy as possible. Since I started doing this when I taught, and refined it as I wrote books (several dozen of them) it’s now a way of life. But, since it often takes much longer to write short entries clearly and from a somewhat practical perspective, hearing how you relate to it and how it’s helpful means a great deal to me. Thank you so much for taking the time to post this beautiful comment. ~ Rick

  9. August 13th, 2014 at 21:34 | #17

    I also like simple and clean pictures… Thanks for all the input you provide…

    • Rick
      August 14th, 2014 at 06:13 | #18

      And thank you Lor for following along and for all your great comments. Rick

  10. August 14th, 2014 at 19:08 | #19

    I have to voice what so many of your readers have already said…absolutely love your tips Rick. For someone who still considers herself quite a photography novice, I believe my images have improved quite a bit since I began to read your posts. I went back through some photos I had taken just a year before and am pleased with the difference.

    I too prefer the silence. On the road there is so much beauty to soak in and then once out in nature, I listen to the symphony all around me. That is the most excellent music!

    Thanks again for your generous spirit Rick. :)

    Thanks again for all

    • Rick
      August 16th, 2014 at 10:39 | #20

      Oh LuAnn, I am so very deeply touched by your sweet words about how reading the blog has had a positive effect in your photography. That means a great deal to me and many many thanks for taking the time to let me know. Also, while I wasn’t surprised to hear you prefer silence when in Nature as well, I absolutely LOVED your expression about how the sound of Nature is like a symphony and is the most excellent of music. What a beautiful way to express it and one that I will definitely remember when I’m out in nature. { } to you and Terry. ~ Rick

  11. August 20th, 2014 at 17:36 | #21

    Well, we’ve just returned from driving over 2,000 miles to visit with family and to enjoy just being alone with one another. It was a terrific trip! Not much photography along the way, but we feel “renewed”.

    More fantastic tips, Rick! Since my main focus is usually birds, it’s amazing how often looking around discloses more subject matter! If I can see a bird, so can a potential predator. I’m trying to become more cognizant of the environment my subjects frequent and to spend more time finding ways to photograph the settings. You’re gonna make me take landscape images one way or another! :)

    • Rick
      August 20th, 2014 at 19:04 | #22

      Welcome home my friend! Glad you found the tips interesting. Being quiet is one of my favorite methods for getting close to critters in a way that lets them know I’m not a threat. And, after seeing so many of your photos Wally, I suspect you do the same thing as well. As for photographing animals though, I’ll work up a post next week or the week after that I think you’ll enjoy. ~ Rick

  12. September 5th, 2014 at 06:27 | #23

    Great tips, Rick. I usually drive in silence as well. It does help to quiet the mind and gives me time to think and contemplate, plus enjoy Nature along the way. I also do the same at home. So many people have a hard time with silence. If their minds aren’t chattering incessantly, they are listening to senseless lyrics and the deep boom of the bass is killing their ear drums.

    • Rick
      September 5th, 2014 at 09:31 | #24

      You’ve developed a wonderful technique for enjoying Nature and for seeing more deeply into her beauty. So many folks today, whether they want it or not, are inundated with noise (music, traffic, crowds, planes, etc.) so much so that I suspect it feels oddly uncomfortable not to go everywhere, including deep into Nature, without it. Hopefully, sharing your own experiences with silence as you did in this comment will create a sense of wonder strong enough that a few more will give it a try Thanks so much for taking time to visit and write. I hope you’ll stop back from time to time.

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