Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: Flashes of Perspective (Page 1 of 3)

Flashes of Perspective: The Misty Mountain of Alpine, Texas

Mountain_Cloaked-AC4x6Last week I had some surprising photographic fun while driving to and from Alpine, Texas. Normally I prefer photographing the country near Alpine in spring or fall when the vegetation’s color is richer, but I had my camera with me just in case I found a good opportunity. I wasn’t disappointed.

I was heading north through the Davis Mountains after just after a rain storm had moved through the area. There were patches of mist and clouds still shrouding the sky and one of those patches afforded me this spectacular shot!

I took the photo hand held with an ISO speed of 100, f-stop of f/7.1, an exposure time (shutter speed) of 1/500 second, aperture of 4.5, focal length of 140mm and no flash. I believe the mountain is called Mitre Peak. If you are interested in purchasing an art print of this piece or any of my other photography, please go to my dedicated photography website. Thanks!

Until next time, may we each rewrite our world for the better one perspective at a time!


The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the writing desk of Alycia Christine at Purple Thorn Press and Photography with love, art, speculative fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: Shooting Cityscapes

Palacio_del_Rio_Christmas_Colors-AC4x6Over the past two years, I have discussed several different Rules of Photography. From Leading Lines to Color and Contrast, we have covered it all. Now that we have a firm foundation on how to shoot, I want to delve into different scenarios in which artists can use the rules and bend them to suit their needs.

We had already begun bending the rules during my explanation of using and abusing shutter speed to shoot April’s Blood Moon. Now I want to take that train of thought a little further. In this case, let’s talk about cityscape photos and how they differ from landscape shots.

Let’s Get Started

At first glance, a budding photographer might expect that cityscape photos would be shot in the same way most landscape shots are. However, the photographic subjects of cities are very different from those in landscapes and those differences can cause serious frustration for people not used to adapting to them. One of the major reasons why is because landscapes rely heavily on the Rule of Thirds while cityscapes usually rely far more on Leading Lines and Framing.

Dynamic landscape photographs are defined by the relationship between land, water, and sky or some lesser combination thereof. These shots require a specific balance between their different composing elements and the Rule of Thirds because landscapes so often feature strikingly different textures thrown together such as: mountains, water, grass, trees, flowers, sky, hills, sea, and/or more. The Rule of Thirds helps to order the seeming chaos of so many different elements into something structured. It is this order of thirds that helps move the viewer’s eye seamlessly through the photograph without causing distraction and confusion.

In contrast, dynamic cityscape photos are often defined by the relationships between different pieces of architecture. By necessity, architecture is usually created using straight lines, points, and angles. Instead of the softer curves that often dominate natural scenes, cityscapes are dominated by hard lines and sharp angles. Of course, cityscapes can have within them a relationship between sky, land, water, or other more natural elements, but those elements are almost always dominated by elements of architecture. Consequently cityscapes demand a certain amount of softening on the part of the photographer. This is why Leading Lines are often far more important in cityscape photography than in landscape photography. To see my point, let’s compare a few examples of cityscape and landscape shots.

Let’s Break It Down

Cityscape Leading Lines

“Steel Sun”

“Fair Fare”

“Wharf Wheel”

Cityscape Framing

“Needle Arcs”

Cityscape Flanking

“Welcome to Texas”

Landscape Rule of Thirds

“Sunset Twigs”

“Sun Dabbled Dune”

“Lone Tree”

There are, of course, some exceptions to the rule that landscape shots are usually governed by Rule of Thirds and cityscapes are usually photographed using Framing, Flanking, or Leading Lines. I have listed a few examples of these exceptions below for you.

Landscape Framing Exceptions

“Twig Window”

Landscape Leading Lines Exceptions

“Split Sea Falls”

“Ice Streams”

“Dune Trek”

Cityscape Rule of Thirds Exceptions

“Midnight Carnival”


For this assignment, I want you to shoot cityscapes practicing the rules of Leading Lines, Flaming, Flanking and the Rule of Thirds. You must choose based on the photo’s intended subject, which of these four rules will best showcase your photograph’s subject. I want to see a minimum of 20 good photos captured using these techniques. Once you have done that I want to see another five photos in which you find some creative way to bend on of the above-mentioned rules. I highly suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework, although that is not mandatory. Good luck and have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Shooting a Bloody Moon

Blood_Moon_AC4x6Early on the morning of April 15, 2014, people around the world watched as the lunar eclipse produced a blood red moon. Thanks to the help of my awesome husband, I was able to photograph the event while lounging with my injured foot propped up beneath a pile of blankets. That night has been the only time in the last month that I have been physically able to shoot anything so it was a rare treat. Another thing that made that 2AM shoot so special was because it required all of my understanding of shutter speed and ISO to actually successfully capture the moon.

Let’s Get Started

As I discussed in my 2/3/2012 Flashes of Perspective lesson: Illuminating a Camera’s ISO, the ISO setting controls a camera’s sensitivity to environmental light. This in combination with the camera’s aperture and its shutter speed will affect how light or dark a specific photograph develops. If you are unfamiliar with camera ISO, I highly suggest you read the Illuminating a Camera’s ISO lesson before you continue this article, otherwise what I have to say won’t make much sense. Also keep in mind that since the article was written two years ago, the ISO range on professional series cameras has increased quite a bit (50-102400 ISO range on some models instead of the ISO range of 100-6400) even if the general principles remain the same. For now, let us discuss shutter speed.

Shutter speed, also known as exposure rate, is the measure of how quickly a camera takes a photo. It is usually measured in seconds. Let’s say that I want to take a photo of a flower on a sunny day. I already know that I need to set my ISO at 100 or 200 because there is so much light available, but what should I use for a shutter speed? I cannot afford to make my shutter speed too slow, otherwise the photo’s subject will have too much light exposure and look washed out (also known as a blown out photo). Therefore I need to set my shutter speed to something fast like 1/2000 of a second to make sure that the photo isn’t too light or too dark and has a good color balance.

Shooting photos at night are much trickier than shooting photos during the bright day because nighttime shots tend to require a camera’s light sensor to overcompensate for the lack of light. This often creates very grainy photos that have a lot of noise in them. To try to reduce noise in their shots, most people tend to turn on the camera flash and let it flare. Doing this, though, can kill a shot just as easily as sun glare because it means your photo will be blown out even though it was actually taken in darkness. I don’t recommend this. Not only will a flash flare look unprofessional, it also will not work on subjects as far away as the moon.

So how did I successfully shoot the lunar eclipse? Well, I used my knowledge of shutter speed and ISO to cheat the system, so to speak. On a cloudless night, a normal full moon gives off enough light that you can shoot it using 100 ISO (the same ISO used on a bright sunny day). The trick to getting all of those lovely crater details is to manipulate your shutter speed so that your camera shoots just a little slower than it would during daylight (1/1000 or 1/800 will likely work well for this). My experimentation with this technique during the eclipse’s beginning produced some very good shots; however, as I lost more and more valuable light in the end stages of the eclipse, I had become more and more drastic with the ISO settings and shutter speed that I used.

Let’s Break It Down

I shot the photo seen at the beginning of this article at an ISO of 6400 (my personal camera’s highest light sensitivity setting) and a shutter speed exposure of 1/25 of a second. For anyone unfamiliar with 1/25, this is a shutter speed that is slow enough to cause very serious camera shake if you don’t brace the camera. I usually don’t recommend using any shutter speed below 1/125 of a second without having the camera properly braced on a tripod or you’ll likely produce a blurry photograph.

However, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes the Rules of Photography are more like guidelines than actual rules and on the morning of April 15, I was definitely treating them as such. The photo seen below is of the blood moon as shot with an ISO of 6400 and an exposure of 2.5 seconds. I purposely set the shutter speed so low because I wanted to blur the moon and its sidekick star. I started the shot by placing the moon in the upper left corner of the photograph. I held my breath to reduce camera shake and then moved the camera in a swirl to create a pattern with the moon’s afterimage.

Blood_Moon_Dance-AC4x6I love both of these photos, but for different reasons. The first is far more of a standard photography shot documenting a specific event. The second photo is far more whimsical in its style and presentation. Both photos have equal merit, but I would expect to submit the first to a newspaper and the second to an art gallery. This idea of these contrasting images of the same subject brings me to this lesson’s homework.


For this assignment, I want you to shoot four different subjects using different ISO and shutter speed settings to photograph each. Each of these subjects must be photographed in low light. You must photograph them in such a way that you show your understanding of how to use ISO and shutter speed to achieve the best possible photograph in low light conditions. This means that there should be very little noise or camera shake evident within the photo. Once you have achieved at least one photo of each of these subjects that any newspaper would be proud to feature, you can purposely blur the subject in creative ways to show off the wild side of shutter speed. I want to see a minimum of 12 good photos captured of these four subjects. I highly suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework, although that is not manditory. Good luck and have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: A Balloon Story

InWonderACS3x5When artists talk about the different techniques involved in our craft, we sometimes forget that all of the technique in the world cannot replace the creative spark that guides our work. After all, my fondest memories of a particular photograph come not from the techniques I used to capture the shot, but from the beauty that I was able to record with my camera at that particular moment. Consequently I would like to share one of those moments of beauty today and tell you the story of how it came to be.

In 2011, my husband and I were fortunate enough to be able to go on our first vacation together since we have been married. To celebrate our anniversary, we decided to take a road trip from Texas to Colorado to see the sights. We had always wanted to ride in a hot air balloon and during our time in Colorado Springs, we finally had our chance. We bought our tickets well in advance and readied ourselves to wake up at 5 a.m. on the morning of the flight. Instead of waking up at 5 a.m., however, I woke up at 4 o’clock with an upset stomach. By the time my husband was awake, I was thoroughly miserable.

I was far too stubborn to stay in the hotel room and miss the possible fulfillment of a childhood dream, so my husband drove to the launch site outside of Larkspur while I rode in the passenger seat clutching a trashcan to my chest just in case. I stayed near the site’s port-a-potties for most of the morning, but finally felt well enough to fly the blue skies. It took a while for the wind to die down enough to make a hot air balloon ride safe, but once the winds and my stomach finally calmed, the journey skyward was spectacular. There were two huge balloons toting 12 passengers apiece. While Matt and I traveled in one, I was able to photograph the other.

I was proud of all my shots that day, but the photo that I call “In Wonder” remains one of my absolute favorites. I captured this particular photograph while our hot air balloon was traveling up the slope of the hill that is visible in the photo. The winds shifted at just the right moment to carry the other balloon into my camera’s field of vision. I waited until the balloon and the hill aligned just across the horizon from each other at more-or-less Rule of Thirds ratios and snapped the photo.

All too soon, we had to land the balloons and end our floating adventure, but the memories and photos of flying beneath a colorful envelope filled with hot air still bring a smile to my lips.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

More Dental Work and a Dose of Sunset Therapy

Winter_Flower_Silhouettes-AC4x6Ever have one of those weeks in which everything actually goes absolutely right? That, thankfully, was my week last week. To say that I was pleasantly shocked is an understatement. In fact, I still haven’t ceased smiling.

The happiness began on Monday when I was able to do a beautiful sunrise photo shoot for a client. Despite the temperature being about 35 degrees Fahrenheit, I managed to get a batch of 25 good photos of an oil field work camp uploaded for the client’s review. I still have more to do to finish the project, but I’m very happy with my work so far. After I got back to the office and thawed out a bit from the cold, I continued to organize the contents for Musings in preparation for the manuscript’s critique by my editor. I also called the dental specialist that my husband was scheduled to see in late February. When I asked if there was any way to move his appointment up since he was in so much pain, the assistant said that she had just had a cancellation for Wednesday morning and asked if he could come at 8 a.m. My answer was “Absolutely!”

On Tuesday, I successfully wrote and posted my “Angling Your Perspective” Flashes of Perspective photography lesson and then began processing all of the best photos from the shoot on Monday. Tuesday also caught me pondering some of the advice some of my friends had given me the night before during dinner. They had counseled me not allow myself to draw away from others in the midst of my sorrow and that advice really made sense. Sadness often makes me feel like I’m alone in the world and that no one really understands what I’m feeling. In the midst of my grief, I had forgotten how many other people know my pain. No, not everyone in the world knows what it’s like to cope with having a best friend made an invalid by brain trauma, but all of us will experience the death of someone we love sometime in our lifetimes: friends, parents, grandparents, uncles, sisters, spouses, and more. When I’m reminded of the simple fact that everyone knows at least a little of my pain, it helps me straighten out my own jumbled feelings so that I can encourage others as they deal with their own grief. After all, we have to deal with the problems caused by this broken world, so we might as well walk through life together.

Wednesday dawned at 5:30 a.m. as Matt and I woke up, dressed, and drove to Odessa for his dental appointment. When we left the dentist’s office around 10 a.m., my husband was already feeling far better than he had in three weeks. This fact cheered me up more than any other thing. Three hours later we were home with medicine, groceries, and Chinese take-out. I was able to get a little writing done that afternoon before Bible study. After church, the evening included a quiet dinner, TV watching, and book reading.

On Thursday and Friday, I finished processing and uploading Monday’s best photos for my clients and writing over 2000 words on my novel Dreamdrifter. I also completed reading of Lisa Shearin’s highly entertaining book The Grendel Affair: A SPI Files Novel and playing a little Minecraft. I was so proud that I finally found a believable way to get my book’s characters out of the oubliette-style dungeon where they were trapped. To add to my overall excitement, I finally managed to finish weaving a couple of loose plot strands back into the main storyline!

I ended the week with a magnificent sunset shoot of the wild scrub-brush country a few miles south of the tiny town of Toyah, Texas. Sunsets are some of Bekah’s and my favorite things to watch, so photographing Saturday’s fiery sky proved quite therapeutic despite all the hard work it took for me to do the shoot. The photo at the beginning of this post is from that session. I captured the photo while teetering on a boulder halfway down a grassy embankment. Even with the cool breeze, I was sweating by the time I was in the right position for this specific shot. I didn’t mind though. The beauty in quiet moments is always worth the effort needed to achieve them.

Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better!

🙂 Alycia

The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

Flashes of Perspective: Angling Your Perspective

WistfulACS3x5A few months ago, I talked about the rule of Photo Saturation. In that lesson, I talked about the need for a photographer to shoot many photos of the same subject so that he or she can create the best quality image of that specific subject. While multiple shots are good, the trick with making Saturation work well for you is to shoot the subject from as many different angles and vantage points as possible, not just from the same position over and over again. It is this rule of shooting from multiple angles, which is called Viewpoint that makes the rule of Saturation so effective.

Let’s Get Started

Viewpoint allows a photographer to use a camera—any camera—to its fullest purpose. It is also a way for the photographer to directly convey a certain sense of emotion to the viewer. When a camera is placed at a certain angle relative to its subject, it will dramatically affect the way the viewer perceives that subject. Simply put, Viewpoint is a way for a camera’s angle and distance from its subject to maximize the photo’s emotional impact for the viewer.

For example, if a photographer shoots a small subject from a point below it, the subject will appear larger to the viewer. If, however, the photographer shoots the same subject while looking down on it, the subject will appear smaller.

Good photographers will always move around so that they can experiment in shooting the same subject from different physical and emotional angles. Some of these Viewpoint angles are: high-angle shots, bird’s-eye views, eye-level camera angles, low-angle shots, and worm’s-eye views.

Let’s Break It Down

High-Angle Shot

A high-angle shot is a shot in which the camera is physically higher than the subject, so that it is looking down toward the subject. This type of shot can make the subject seem small and therefore weak or vulnerable to the photograph’s viewer. Because I am short (I stand a measly five feet, two inches), I usually have to climb a latter or tree to get this type of shot.

“Forlorn in Black and White”


“Urban Salmon”

Bird’s-Eye View

A bird’s-eye view is an extreme version of the high-angle shot. Photographer’s often shoot this type of shot using a plane, a hot air balloon, a skyscraper, a crane or some other platform that can reach extreme heights.

“Sky Light Line”

“Floating Between Paths”

“Skeletal Terrain”

Eye-Level Shot

When the camera is level or looking at the subject straight on, this is termed an eye-level shot or neutral shot. It has little or no psychological effect on the viewer.

“Sunlit Spines”


“Crowned Glory”

Low-Angle Shot

When a photographer shoots a low-angle shot, he or she takes the photo from below the subject. This type of shot has the ability to make the subject look powerful or threatening to the viewer. Often photographers will use this type of shot when making a portrait of individual politicians or athletes to make each seem quite literally larger-than-life. The easiest way to get this type of shot is to shoot while sitting or kneeling on the ground in front of the subject and shoot up at it.

“First Dance”

“Colorful Launch”

“Dragon’s Gaze”

Worm’s-Eye View

A worm’s-eye view is an extreme version of the low-angle shot. To achieve this type of shot, a photographer usually has to lay flat on his or her belly and crawl on the ground to get the best photo.

“Morning Formation”

“Totems to the Sky”

“Wharf Wheel”


For this assignment, I want you to shoot three different subjects using the five different Viewpoints that I have discussed. Each of the three subjects must be photographed at a high-angle, from a bird’s-eye view, at eye-level, at a low-angle, and from a worm’s-eye view. This means that there should be at least 15 good photos captured of these three subjects. Once again, I suggest using static subjects for this bit of homework. Have fun!

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

How Does an Artwork Sale Lead to a New Year’s Resolution?

Sparked_Sky-4x6ACI can’t believe it is New Year’s Eve! It seems to me that the year of 2013 just pulled a vanishing act. The month of December in particular has flitted past my awareness faster than a white rabbit disappearing inside a magician’s hat.

Speaking of vanishing, I must remind you all that today marks the last day of my Photography Sale. If you have not had the chance to purchase some of my gorgeous artwork, don’t delay any longer. Remember to use the Discount Code YMHLAA in your shopping cart to receive your savings. Okay, I promise I’m finished advertising. Now it’s on to the rest of today’s post!

Ever since I posted my Christmas sale, I’ve been hard at work doing a thorough review of my work accomplishments this year. If that sounds a little boring to you, believe me when I say that it often is for me, too. I mean I do love seeing all of the things I’ve created and improved over the past 12 months, but I also hate discovering all of the things that I failed to do.

There were several things that I did very well this year:

    • Created and scheduled maintenance of
    • Increased of my blog writing from monthly to weekly
    • Maintained my Tuesday posting schedule
    • Updated my photography website with new photos frequently
    • Used new photos to add interest to my weekly blog posts
    • Kept up with my daily and weekly house chores
    • Began and maintained daily Bible readings
    All of these things are wonderful personal accomplishments. However, there were several problems this year that must be addressed and corrected. Chief among these is my fiction writing schedule. While my weekly blog writing was regular, my weekly fiction word count was anything but steady. Most weeks saw one or two days in which I wrote strong word counts, while most other days I wrote little more than a sentence. There were also several weeks in which I didn’t manage to write anything at all. This major lack of consistency led to delays in finishing stories of all lengths and consequently caused me to fall behind on most of my year-end tasks.

    If I am going succeed in writing, then I will have to put it first before all of my other major jobs. With that in mind, I made the following list of Goals for 2014:

      • 300 or more daily word count total for fiction (1500 words minimum per week)
      • SCRAWLS & Flashes of Perspective blogs maintained weekly
      • Fireforger: at least 3 chapters written


      • Find a stock photography outlet for my work
      • Continue to sale new photos to my photography website (at least 1 new photo uploaded per week)


      • Twitter maintained daily
      • Facebook maintained weekly
      • Newsletter maintained monthly
      • Alycia C. Cooke author account made and maintained monthly
      • GoodReads author account maintained monthly
      • Maintain website with regular updates
      • Build an “Opt-In” button for free copy of a short story to build contact list


      • Exercise body at least 20 minutes every weekday (bike rides, karate, weight lifting, etc.)
      • Exercise soul once a day (prayer and Bible-reading time)
      • Exercise mind once a day (learn something new every day; read for fun and information every week)
      • Learn to properly prioritize my jobs
      • Finish what I start (nip procrastination in the bud)

    My plan is to use the small daily word count goals to increase my confidence and then increase them later. I have also simplified my goals in other areas to help improve my writing. If I write only 300 words every workday of 2014, I will have a total of 75,000 words by the end of 2014. This word count will allow me to meet and even surpass my larger book-writing goals for the year as long as I stay focused. I find time management and prioritization very difficult, so I hope the smaller daily goals will help me combat those issues.

    One final note on Musings: my beta readers have asked me to reorganize of the book’s included stories. Specifically they feel that the “Elza and Eliza” short story is not a good fit for the overall book and suggest that I publish it on its own or as part of a different collection. I have to agree with their assessment. The story’s longer length and its particular plot have more in common with the Sylvaeleth worlds discussed in Skinshifter and Dreamdrifter than any of the stories in Musings. Although it saddens me not to include “Elza and Eliza”, I promise that readers will see it sometime in the future.

    Consequently, Musings now includes the following stories:

    • “Banner Prophesies”
    • “Chosen Sacrifice”
    • “City of Twilight”
    • “Of Kelpie Lullabies”
    • “Raven’s Fall”
    • “Star Child and the Golden Seed”
    • “Sumari’s Solitude”
    • “What Tendrils Echo”
    • “Winter’s Charge”

    The final book will include a collection of 10 to 12 short stories, but I am not sure which ones will be added to the current list yet. Please keep watching the Blog and News pages for more updates. Thanks so much for your patience!

    Until our next meeting, have a joyful new year! May we each rewrite our world for the better!

    🙂 Alycia

    The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia C. Cooke and/or Alycia Christine Sears with love, fiction books, and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts about this particular post and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

    Flashes of Perspective: Why My Thanksgiving is Golden

    Alycia Christine Sears (a.k.a. Alycia C. Cooke)

    Alycia Christine Sears (a.k.a. Alycia C. Cooke)

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! This week is such a special week for me because it offers an opportunity for me to thank God very specifically for the many blessings He has given me. Above all of the many material things with which God has blessed my husband and me (a comfortable home, decent health, enough money to provide for our needs, etc.), we are fortunate enough to have each other and a family that loves and supports us. I can’t wait to spend this beautiful holiday with our family members and friends.

    Because I want you to have the same opportunity, there will be no lesson today. Instead I have put together a special FOP blog post with photos of things for which I am thankful. Enjoy.

    I am thankful for:

    The joys of art and creativity:

    A working government:

    Quiet, thoughtful moments:

    My wonderful, creative, frustrating, crazy job:

    The Lone Star State which I call home:

    The people who grow my food and make my clothes, so I don’t have to:

    Moments of entertainment:

    My freedom:

    Those who put their lives on the line to protect me and my freedom (Thank you, Husband, Dad, Uncle, Grandfathers, friends, and blessed strangers):

    A well-build, comfortable home:


    The freedom to believe and worship as I wish:

    The opportunities to witness the magnificence of nature:

    That this guy isn’t still around:

    The beauty, steadfastness, and unity of love:

    The brilliance of color:

    Spending time with family and friends:

    Reliable transportation and the open road:

    Receiving some of the coolest toys:


    The changing seasons:

    That a rainbow always follows the storm:

    What Jesus Christ did for all of us (Read Isaiah 53, Romans 5 and 6, John 3):

    Finally I am thankful for all of you. Thank you for your support and encouragement of me as I continue this crazy quest called self-employment. You truly help make my life golden!

    Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

    [ O*] Alycia

    Flashes of Perspective: The High Life of Highlights

    Glacial_Highlights-AC4x6Hi, everyone! Welcome to the fourth Tuesday of October and this month’s photography lesson. I can’t wait to discuss with you one of my greatest allies in the creation of striking photographs: highlights. There is something truly magical when the sun’s rays illuminate a photograph’s subject at just the right angle. It reminds me of a perfectly pitched high note in a song. Highlights are so important in photography because they allow the photographer to draw the viewer’s eyes to an image’s subject by making that subject appear brighter than its surroundings.

    Let’s Get Started

    Highlights work a bit like the Photography Rule of Contrast. If you will recall, I explained in my lesson on Contrast that the color of a subject can make it stand out more than anything else in the image as long as that color directly contrasts the colors used elsewhere in the photograph. A classic example of this is a bright yellow subject against a dark purple background. Instead of contrasting colors; however, the rule of Highlights contrasts amounts of light within an image. A subject that is highlighted will always be more brightly lit than anything else in the image (except the source of the highlight itself).

    There are three main types of highlights: spotlights, leading highlights, and backlights. Spotlights are the most common and simplest type of highlights. Spotlights specifically illuminate the whole front or the top of a subject to make it stand out from its surroundings. Leading lights are a bit more complicated. These highlights are shown as a literal line of light which begins at one point in the photo and ends at the photo’s main subject. The most common leading light is a ray of sunlight coming out of a break in the clouds to highlight a subject below the cloud break. Our eyes follow the line of light from its start to its end to see the subject it illuminates. Finally backlights light up a subject from behind rather than in front like spotlights. Backlights can be used to create a sort of halo-lit subject or they can be used to make a full silhouette of a subject.

    Let’s Break It Down

    Front Spotlights

    “Gilded Autumn”

    “Japanese Red”

    “Stone Straws”

    Top Spotlights

    “Metallic Pinwheels”

    “Pasta Illumination”

    “Sun Dabbled Dune”

    Leading Light

    “Glacial Highlights”

    “Heavenly Highlights, No. 1”

    Backlight Halos

    “Crowned Glory”

    “Sunlit Spines”

    Backlight Silhouettes

    “Hammering the Sun”

    “Sunrise Florets”

    Photographer’s Note

    Try to shoot your photos during times of day like early morning or late evening when the sun is low in the sky and therefore gives you a better chance of using long rays of light to highlight specific subjects. Some of the best natural light happens during the 30 minutes after sunrise and during the 30 minutes before sunset on a sunny day. You can also use man-made light for this assignment. Look for narrow beams of light that illuminate only one particular subject. Also be careful not to overexpose your photos. Otherwise your subjects will look blown out or washed out because of too much light centered on them. Play with your camera’s ISO and shutter speed to help fix any over-lighting problems. Also keep in mind that good highlights can appear and vanish quickly so plan your shots so that you can work rapidly and efficiently.


    For this assignment, I want you to shoot 12 or more photos using the various highlighting techniques that I have discussed. Make sure that at least two photos demonstrate each type of highlight: spotlights, leading lights, backlit halos, and backlit silhouettes. I suggest using static subjects for this round of homework. Have fun!

    Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

    [ O*] Alycia

    SCRAWLS: Musings Edits, Alaska Aftermath, Book Reviews, and Other Updates

    Ask_the_Owl-4x6ACThis morning found me sitting in my office chair with the sun streaming through the curtains of my window and the air outside registering a crisp 56 degrees Fahrenheit. Talk about a stark contrast from the high 90s of last week! Today would have been a perfect day to curl up under the covers and sleep late, but I think talking to all of you is far more fun.

    As I have not posted an update about my general activities since July, I thought I really should do that today. As many of you know, I have been up to my eyeballs in Alaska vacation photos and Musingsshort story collection edits. And while much of my time has been spent on these two major projects, there is a lot more that goes on around the Cooke-Sears household than these. So here is the rundown of the many tasks that I have accomplished and the few chores still left on my agenda for October.

    Since the last update, I have:

    • Finished all of my personal edits and completed the first round of beta readers’ edits for the novel Skinshifter. Now I am waiting on second-round beta readers to finish their edits so that I can give the book a final polish.
    • Rewrote two chapters of Dreamdrifter. I now have the rough drafts of chapters 1 through 16 completed and about 85,000 words written.
    • Continued editing and organizing the contents my soon-to-be-published Musings anthology. Anyone interested in beta-reading this or future projects should contact me HERE.
    • Read the Self Publishing Attack!: The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books by James Scott Bell. This is an informative and insightful book about the self-publishing movement and what it takes to maintain your professionalism as a self-published author.
    • Read Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maas. This is an incredible book about the craft of writing. I highly recommend it to novices and experts alike.
    • Read One Man’s Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey by Sam Keith and Richard Proenneke. This book is based on the journal of Richard “Dick” Proenneke, a man who decided to leave civilization behind for a year and a half in lieu of building his own log cabin in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness and surviving off the land. It is an interesting read for those wishing to understand what life is like beyond the hum of electricity or the convenience of running water.
    • Read Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School) by Gail Carriger. I am usually not much of a steam-punk fan, but this young adult fantasy book kept me turning the pages with gusto. All that I can say is that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality is anything but a boring place to learn your p’s and q’s. Even though I’m in my 30s, I’d gladly go back to school if I could attend here!
    • Read the Bible during daily devotions. I am so proud of myself for doing this because I have not taken the time to do a daily devotional in recent years. Yay for a new habit turning into a good routine! By the way, if you are a new student of the Bible, I suggest beginning with the book of Romans and then following that by reading the gospel of John. These two books will help you understand the core principles that the Bible teaches. Also, I recommend using either the New International Version or the New King James Version (NKJV) translation. In my experience, these two English translations seem far more accurate than many others. If you prefer using a devotional in lieu of studying scripture chapter by chapter, you might try my First Fruits book.
    • Posted eight SCRAWLS blog posts discussing different writing topics and showcasing excerpts of my fiction work. In case you missed them, here are the links to the story excerpts from “Chosen Sacrifice”, “Raven’s Fall”, and “What Tendrils Echo”.
    • Posted three Flashes of Perspective blog posts teaching various photography techniques and sharing over 30 pieces of my art photography.
    • Finished several commercial photography shoots for private clients.
    • Processed and uploaded about 35 photos to my photography website. Find them all HERE.
    • Reorganized the website. If anyone has any more suggestions to improve the site, contact me please!
    • Went on a seven-day cruise with my husband through Alaska’s magnificent Inside Passage. Read the blog post about the journey HERE.
    • Culled through 2700 vacation photos to find the best photographs from the Alaska trip. I am still in the process of tweaking and uploading the best, so please be patient with me.
    • Learned how to use my camera’s video recording feature. Sometime soon I hope to include a few videos on Alycia
    • My husband and I visited my parents and friends of ours in Lubbock, Texas and visited Matt’s family in Laredo, Texas.
    • Helped my husband prepare and go through his Walk to Emmaus. He loved his walk as much as I loved mine!
    • Helped my husband prepare and leave on a three-week-long business trip. I was so bored without him that I made up chores just to have something to do.
    • Helped cook lunch after the funeral of one of my church’s members. It was a sad, but good gathering.
    • Took on a part-time job to help make ends meet. The government shut down has hit our family hard.

    My goals for the next four weeks are to:

    • Finish all beta reader’s edits for Skinshifter.
    • Continue to pull older photos off of the photography website as I add new photography. I expect to add another 50 photos from vacation and an additional 20 from other photo shoots before I am finished redoing the photography website.
    • Finish the last personal edits of Musings and send it to my editor for final critique.
    • Continue to write the rough draft of Dreamdrifter. I will continue working on the book during NaNoWriMo this year. Since Musings has my main attention right now, I don’t expect to get 50,000 words written on Dreamdrifter. However, I do hope to add 20,000-30,000 words to it by the end of November.

    Wow, remind me not to wait so long between updates! If you made it through all of that, you deserve a cookie! In any event, I am off to write some fiction. Until our next meeting, may we each rewrite our world for the better.

    🙂 Alycia

    The Seared Cookie Report: one Artist/Writer’s Labored Soliloquy (SCRAWLS) is brought to you from the desk of Alycia Christine Sears and/or Alycia C. Cooke with love and virtual baked goods for all. Please let me know your thoughts on this particular topic and, as always, if there is any subject you wish me to discuss, contact me. Thanks!

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