Photographer’s Notes Series. This Week “Awaken the Spirit”

August 28th, 2014 26 comments

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Awaken the Spirit
Ocala, Florida

About This Photo
Most people think of Florida as a flat state with little elevation and filled mostly with beaches, golf courses, palm trees and amusement destinations. And in part, that’s true. But Ocala, Florida located in the Northern part of the state is strikingly different with rolling hills covered in lush green grass, white fences, old growth trees and more horses than most of us could ever imagine.

The first Florida horse farm was built here in 1943. Today, Ocala is one of the top thoroughbred horse centers of the world, home to 1,300 horse farms and also one of the largest horse shows in the USA called “Horses in the Sun.”

Awaken the Spirit shows one of those special moments when an animal gradually allows you to become part of their world. This photo was made during a week-long photo assignment for a horse show. Before I began work I stopped at this same horse farm each day before sunrise to admire the animals and was constantly drawn to the beauty and dignity of this particular horse. Although I’d move slowly and talk quietly as I walked along the fence, whenever I’d come within 200′ (61 m) he would quickly turn and gallop away.

On the final day of the assignment, I again arrived before sunrise but this time no horses were visible anywhere in the fields. I setup the cameras however, and waited. Eventually, he appeared out of a heavy fog, walked directly toward me and stood staring and almost close enough to touch. As I talked quietly explaining how I’d like to photograph him, he turned, walked to an adjacent fence and rested his head on the rails. Soon after, the first rays of sunlight appeared and as they highlighted the colors on his tail and mane I pressed the shutter.

[For more information on Ocala, Florida visit the Ocala/Marion County Chamber of Commerce website at clicking here.]

Equipment: Canon 50D and Canon 300mm F/4.0 L lens
Camera Settings: F-Stop: f/6.3, Shutter Speed: 1/15 sec., ISO Speed: 100.

~ Rick Braveheart, Columbus Ohio USA

Photographer’s Notes Series. This Week: “Sweet Light on Sand”

August 21st, 2014 21 comments

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Until October when I begin the next photo destination series for an upcoming assignment with the National Park Service, I’ll be posting one photograph each week along with thoughts about that image, the location and why/how the photo was made. The idea for this series was recently suggested by long time blog reader Pat Bailey. Thank you for this great idea Pat. I hope it provides readers with some ideas, techniques or inspiration they can use in their photography.
travel and photography tips

Sweet Light on Sand
White Sands National Monument, New Mexico

About This Photo
Established in 1936 and setting at an elevation of over 4,000 feet (1,220 m), White Sands National Monument is a vast 10 acre (4 ha) area of sweeping sand dunes located in Southern New Mexico. If you love sand, sand dunes or locations that feel “out of this world” it is a must see destination.

My purpose in photographing at White Sands was to capture an image that conveyed the dramatic colors, beauty in its simplicity, and the highly sensual shapes created by wind and light on the dunes. I know from years of photographing desert landscapes that during the moments near sunrise and sunset, the colors of sand can often turn into stunning shades of red, orange, pink and gray, especially when contrasted against a dark sky.

To photograph these dunes I arrived two hours before sunrise. A two mile drive into the park followed by a 1-mile (1.6 km) hike across isolated dunes guided only by a small flashlight brought me to this location. During that hike I had been searching for a large, gently sweeping sand dune whose highest point (normally the curved center portion) faced directly East toward the upcoming sunrise.

After a 45 minute wait in 20° F (-6.7° C) temperatures a small beam of sunlight edged over the horizon painting this dune in brilliant colors and cast shadows that revealed the textures and shapes in the sand. (Photographers call the soft light which appears around sunrise and sunset “sweet light”). After making only 5 exposures and less than one minute after I began photographing the sun had crested the horizon and the dramatic colors vanished.

[For more information on White Sands National Monument visit the National Park Service website by clicking here.]

Equipment: Nikon D2X DSLR camera and Nikon 50mm f/1.4 lens
Camera Settings: F-Stop: f/18, Shutter Speed: 1/30 sec., ISO Speed: 200.

~ Rick Braveheart, Columbus Ohio USA

Summer Photo Tips #8: Some Final Tips and Thoughts

August 12th, 2014 22 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.
travel and photography tips

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 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.

Summer Photo Tips #7: The Best Camera For You Is …

August 6th, 2014 28 comments

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Most people know that magazines, newspapers and coffee table books are filled with beautiful photos made by photographers using expensive, top-of-the-line DSLR or film cameras. Sadly, this results in many people feeling unmotivated to try making good photos because they lack an expensive camera. If this describes you, I hope to change your thinking.

     As a professional photographer I don’t want to mislead anyone. High-end camera equipment can photograph certain situations that would be impossible to do otherwise. They also produce high quality (resolution) images that are essential for print media like magazines. Using an expensive camera, however, doesn’t guarantee great photos. Good photographs are less about the equipment used and more about the photographers’ skill at capturing a beautiful scene or telling a visual story. In the hands of a person knowing how to use it well good photos can be made with any type of camera. The images below, for example, were made with older and newer model point-and-shoot cameras.

Photos Made with Old & New Point-and-Shoot Cameras
photo tips point and shoot

     Learning to make good photos takes practice. The best way to practice is to take a picture whenever you see something you would like to photograph. While its possible to carry a DSLR or point-and-shoot everywhere, that’s not always feasible. Today, almost everyone DOES carry a camera with them everywhere they go in the form of cell phone.. Most of today’s modern camera phones have the basic features that let you practice and refine your photo skills while capturing fairly good quality images. Here are some examples made with different camera phones.

Photos Made with Android & iPhone Camera Phones

     It IS possible to take good photos with just about any type of camera. Over the years I’ve met people who’ve shown me exceptional photographs made with ten year old digital cameras, camera phones, inexpensive point-and-shoot cameras and even throwaway cameras. If you ever wished you could take better photographs but felt you didn’t own an expensive, “professional camera” that would let you do so, challenge yourself to start now with whatever camera you have available.

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Summer Photo Tips #6: Guiding Viewer’s Eyes in Your Photos

July 30th, 2014 26 comments

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Recently I discussed how Leading Lines can help make some photos more compelling and help move the viewers eye through a scene. Because of the many comments and emails I’ve received about that post want to add some additional information and also introduce the topic of natural frames.

1. More on Leading Lines
To review, a leading line is anything within a photograph that helps lead the eye from one place to another within or out of the image. A few easily found elements that can be used as leading lines include roadways, biking paths, sidewalks or even railroad tracks. They can also be created from fences, social trails (paths worn into the ground by foot traffic) or even a series of telephone poles or mail boxes. Here are four examples.
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Once your eyes become accustomed to finding them, you’ll notice how leading lines are found everywhere on the landscape. The shape of a meandering stream flowing through a field, a row of flowers growing in a straight or curved pattern or even a lengthy tree trunk lying on the ground are some other examples.

Light can also create leading lines. The first rays of daylight illuminating a series of trees or a shaft of sunlight pouring through an opening in the clouds can easily guide a viewers eye through an image. Here are two examples.
photography natural frames leading lines

2. Using Natural Frames in a Photo

     A natural frame is an opening through which you photograph a subject. Some examples of natural frames include an open barn door through which you photograph a horse in its stall or an opening in a rock formation through which you photograph a distant mountain or sunrise. Including at least part of that natural frame in the image helps to set off the main subject and adds a sense of depth to the image. The two photographs below each contain natural frames.

Finding leading lines and natural frames takes practice and experience. Start by including some easily found examples in your photos like a highway or door opening and study the results. Once you gain experience and understand their benefits in different situations your ability to identify to find other examples more easily will grow.

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