It’s no secret that soft, diffuse light is often preferred for great photos unless you’re going for a specific style, look, or feel. This quick video shows one reason why soft light is preferable. not only is the location of this village in Mali complex in terms of the many rooftops and structures, the conical rooftops themselves are textured complex pattern. Add in a busy landscape of brush and trees, and there is quite a bit going on.
Shooting this scene in more direct lighting would create a high contrast graphical image that might be interesting, but you would lose the detail that informs the viewer of the context of this location. Most of the materials used to construct this village are from the landscape it’s built upon. Showing the even tones, hues and cohesive nature in which everything blends together helps capture the symbiotic relationship between the people and the land in a way that a high contrast image with dark shadows and bright highlights simply wouldn’t deliver.
Welcome to another technique Tuesday! Today we revisit creating compelling compositions focusing on wildlife that also give context to their environment. Often times just centering up your subject isn’t the most interesting way to present it, even if your focus is on an animal or person. Unless your goal is to inform the viewer about the specific detail of the subject itself, there is often more to be learned about it’s nature by including the world it lives in.
I also give some tips on how you can ‘break the ice’ with wildlife and increase their interest and comfort level, ensuring they stick around until you get that well-composed shot you’re looking for!
Tomorrow I’m heading south to the Washington-Oregon border for my Columbia River Gorge workshop – stay tuned to the blog for new photos!
Even in an environment with an abundance of interesting detail to focus on, like the Pancake Rocks of the South Island of New Zealand, sometimes stepping back with a wide angle lens to give context to those details is the best way to capture them. It can be easy to get caught up in the surreal nature of an unfamiliar landscape and focus too much on the alien details of something you won’t find anywhere else in the world, but it’s that contrast with the more familiar surroundings that can make them feel even more unique.
Here I’ve used a 16mm wide angle lens with, at the time, my Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III. A shutter speed of 1/60th froze the waves in the background while an aperture at ƒ10 ensured the subject of the pancake rocks were captured in full detail. The bright day allowed for a low ISO of 100, so very little noise infiltrates the image.
The ƒ-number you choose for a particular shot is an important element when it comes to framing the story of the particular shot you’re looking to achieve. The ƒ-number can be a bit confusing to novice photographers, as the higher ƒ-number means a smaller aperture and a greater depth of field. In turn, a greater depth of field means more detail in the background of your shot.
In this video, I was on location in Antarctica shooting gentoo penguins. Their environment and community is as important to their story as each individual. Shooting at a high ƒ-number to capture this detail helps inform the audience that the story I chose to tell encompasses that environment as an element as important as each individual penguin.
On a related side note, have you ever wondered how to type the fancy “ƒ” on your keyboard to give your photo comments a little bit of flair? It’s simple really:
Hold down the “alt” key, and using the 10-key pad on the right of your keyboard, type “0-1-3-1”. Let go, and you’ve got your fancy “ƒ”!
A little simpler on a mac – just hold down “Option” and type “f”!
When you visit some of the world’s great landscapes, it can be easy to miss the beautiful details beneath your feet. Using a tripod and a small aperture, capture the details that will make your photographs unique and personal while giving context to the location you’re shooting.
For more tips and techniques, my Photography As Art seminar may be coming to a city near you soon!