Alycia Christine

Enchanting Tales, Intriguing Art

Tag: presentation

Flashes of Perspective: Get Ready for Your Close Up

VibrantACS3x5
Today I thought that we would discuss the photography rule that is, for some people, way too personal: close-ups. The idea behind the photographic close-up is a simple one. Basically the photographer zooms in on the intended subject so that that subject fills the photographic frame and becomes the largest object within the photo.

Let’s Get Started

Think about the close-up like this: you are standing in the middle of a field of wildflowers and you want to look at just one daisy. So how do you accomplish that? You survey the field for the one flower you really want to study and you walk over, crouch down, and inspect that one daisy up close. The whole act is simple, obvious even. But for some reason, people did not always follow this instinct when they have a camera in their hands. Instead they tend to zoom out and placed their subject in the middle of a very large scene. That is fine if your subject is a mountain, but not so useful if it is a daisy or an insect or even a human.

My suggestion for every budding photographer is, when in doubt, zoom in. So what will zooming in accomplish? Well, first, if the subject is the largest thing in the photo, then it will be easily noticed by the viewer. Having the subject fill the frame in this way works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background. Second, when dealing with multiple subjects in a single photograph, you can make viewers understand which subject is the most important by making it the largest in the picture.

Some photographers take this technique to extremes and focus almost solely on getting close-ups of small subjects. These artists are known as macro photographers. Macro photographers essentially do the exact opposite of landscape photographers. Whereas landscape photographers tend to zoom out with their cameras so that they can capture as much of the scene around them as possible, macro photographers tend to zoom in on a single, small subject to examine every minute detail of that subject with their camera lens. Macro photography often requires the use of special macro lenses to capture all of the details of a subject, which is why I do not have many personal examples of it (since I currently do not own a macro lens). Primary subjects of macro photography include small insects, plants, flowers, and objects. You can also shoot macro photography of parts and pieces from larger subjects, such as the eye of a horse or the bark of a tree.

Let’s Break It Down

Close-ups:

“Thistle Fractures”

“Nectar Cup”

“Two Tone Susan”

“Aqua Dust”

“Vibrant”

“Virgin Beauty”

Macro photography:

“The Pollinator”

“Coiled In Wait”

“Pine Flakes”

“Lacy Anticipation”

Photographer’s Note

Because of its emphasis on detail, pattern, and texture, macro photography can create uniquely beautiful results. However, something to note, whether shooting simple close-ups or the extreme version of close-ups with macro photography, a narrow depth of field (i.e. having only one small area in hard focus) is unavoidable. This actually causes a nice result because the photo’s background will appear totally out of focus while your main subject is in focus. This means you will not have to worry too much about what’s going on behind your subject as long as nothing in the background is too distracting or jarring (i.e. more colorful, heavily textured, etc. than your main subject). If needed, please see my post on “Flashes of Perspective: Selective Focus Meets Depth of Field” to review how to use the rules of selective focus and depth of field in your photos before attempting this assignment.

For more information on macro photography, I suggest reading National Geographic’s
macro photo tips or Macro Photography Tips with Example Photographs and Images by Tanya Puntti

Homework

Shoot 15 images or more with at least five photos being macro shots. You can stage a few shots with found objects if you wish, but please go out and shoot natural elements like the insects, flowers, tree bark, animal eyes, and other things that I have previously mentioned to round out your photography experience. Remember that the way you light your subjects will be even more important than usual because these subjects are so small. You will need more light when working with smaller objects then you will with larger objects. The camera’s ISO will help with increased light sensitivity as will the shutter speed and aperture settings. Also, when trying to shoot subjects like insects, it is best to do so early in the morning when cool temperatures make them a little slower and, therefore, easier to photograph.

I’ll discuss the finer points of how to crop your close-ups in the next post. Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: The Rule of Thirds as a Photographer’s Version of Tic-Tac-Toe (Archive)

PhotoCompositionSquaresThe Rule of Thirds is one of my favorite photography “rules” because it offers such a fun compositional challenge. In my presentation in June 2012, I said that a good photograph should inspire emotion and/or show a story. Powerful photography relies on strong composition to accomplish this end. So what again is composition? Composition is the way in which a photograph presents its main subject (its most important part).

What makes the Rule of Thirds different from many of the other photography rules that I have previously discussed is its unique use of Spatial Relations to present its main subject. In photography, spatial relations refers to where the subject is located in space in relation to other objects. If this seems a little complicated, don’t worry. I’ll unravel the mysteries as we go.

Let’s Get Started

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board. Picture the two vertical (up and down) lines cutting it into three columns and the two horizontal (sideways) lines cutting it into three rows.

I nickname the Rule of Thirds the Tic-tac-toe rule because this rule requires the photographer to divide a photo into nine sections like the sections of a tic-tac-toe board. The photo’s subject is then aligned at an intersection (axis point) between two of the invisible tic-tac-toe lines or it can be aligned in a section or one entire third of the photo.

Let’s Break It Down

The subject can be aligned on an axis point of the photo:

1) At the upper left axis such as the pink bloom in the photo:
“Blooming Through”

2) At the lower left axis such as the butterfly in the photo:
“Butterfly Geometry”

3) At the upper right axis such as the hot air balloon in the photo:
“In Wonder”

4) At the lower right axis such as the red circle in the photo:
“Nylon Sun Rays”

The subject can be contained in a single section of the photo:

1) At the upper left section of the photo.

2) At the middle left section such as the train car in the photo:
“Simmon’s Vision”

3) At the lower left section such as the butterfly in the photo:
“Butterfly Geometry”

4) At the upper middle section such as the lady bug in the photo:
“Little Lady”

5) At the middle middle section (the center) such as the Thistle in the photo:
“Thorn Star”
(Please see my previous post on centering/bull’s-eye photography for more information on this specific technique.)

6) At the lower middle section such as the bird in the photo:
“Sunrise Wader”

7) At the upper right section of the photo.

8) At the middle right section such as the smallest diamond in the photo:
“Industrial Diamonds”

9) At the lower right section such as the tree in the photo:
“Heavenly Highlights, No. 1”

The photo’s subject can be aligned in an entire third of the photo:

1) In the left third of the photo such as the fence post in the photo:
“Barbs, Spines and Petals”

2) In the middle third of the photo such as the cluster of flowers in the photo:
“Demure”

3) In the right third of the photo such as the yucca seed hull in the photo:
“Sand Hull”

4) In the upper third of the photo.

5) In the middle third of the photo such as the flower in the photo:
“Two Tone Susan”

6) In the lower third of the photo such as the water ripple in the photo:
“Blue Undulations”

Photographer’s Note

In looking over these photo examples, you probably have noticed that not every subject is exactly centered on its respective axis. This is my personal style coming through. Some people are very picky when it comes to positioning their photo subjects. My philosophy is that if some main part of the subject touches the axis or is within the bounds of a section or one third of the photo, then that is all that is needed to follow the Rule of Thirds principle. Feel free to experiment with this and decide your personal comfort level when placing subjects in a Rule of Thirds photo.

One other thing I should mention is that sometimes subjects are too large to fit in one section even a third of the photo such as the balloon in the photo “Two of a Kind” This is perfectly fine! It is your job as an artist to adapt your shooting style to each subject so that you can always shoot it in the best possible way. So, as I have stressed before, use this photography rule as more of a guideline and have some fun bending it.

Homework

Shoot at least 20 images with Rule of Thirds subjects and try to shoot one photo for each position described above. This photography “rule” works best with a single subject or a set of closely clustered subjects. The Rule of Thirds is also the go-to principle for shooting landscape photography. Some good items to shoot for axis and section shooting include: flowers, insects, and small objects. Try shooting mountains, skylines or other large landscape/cityscape subjects for when you want to take up a third or two thirds of the photo. For landscapes, please keep in mind: one third sky/background, one third horizon/middle ground, and one third foreground (refer back to my June 12, 2012 post for a reminder about fore, middle, and backgrounds). Don’t worry, I will post a more thorough lesson on landscape shots soon.

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

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: In a Bull’s-Eye

TheLordGodLovesThemAllACS4x6The idea of Centering is one of the simplest of all the photography “rules.” The reason for this is because centering essentially means that your subject should be the center of your photo just as a bull’s-eye is the center of a target. However, while centering is one of the simplest photography rules, it is not always the easiest.

Let’s Get Started

Think of the center of a target. Why is your eye drawn to the middle of that bull’s-eye? Is it just because the bull’s-eye is in the center of a target or is it something more?

For me, the bull’s-eye of a target draws my eye to it for several reasons:
1) The bull’s-eye is the center of the target.
2) The bull’s-eye is framed by the concentric circles surrounding it.
3) The bull’s-eye is usually colored somewhat differently than the surrounding elements.
4) The bull’s-eye is a single, solitary, unique object compared to the many rings around it.

Just like the center of a target, a photograph’s centered subject will prove most visually interesting to a viewer if it includes some combination of the reasons I mentioned above. A centered object with framing or flanking around it is often more interesting and dynamic than a centered subject with nothing surrounding it. The same can be said of a centered subject with unusual color or lines leading the viewer’s eye to it.

Let’s Break It Down

For examples of Centering see the following links:

“Hope Blooms in the Desert”
The bee is centered in the photograph and framed by the petals of the prickly pear cactus flower to give him extra interest.

“Lone Agave”
The blue agave is centered among dying yellow yucca plants on a rocky mountainside, proof of its stubborn resilience in a drought-stricken environment.

“The Lord God Loves Them All”
The brightly-colored butterfly is centered in the photograph as it perches on two hands, a symbol of friendship and harmony.

“Pinkie”
A single pink water lily floats gently on the surface of a pond as its underwater stem leads the viewer’s eye straight to it.

“Seed Swirl”
A swirl of sand surrounds this central seed hull.

“Supernova”
A center shaft of sparkling light pierces the gloom of black glass in this photo.

“Thorn Star”
Variations of color and shadow add interest to this centered thistle.

Homework

Shoot at least 10 images with centered subjects. Try to find subjects that are interesting because of their uniqueness, shape, or color and add even more interest to these subjects by centering them in the photograph. Some good items to try shooting are: flowers, insects, and small objects.

Personal Note

I suggest reviewing my posts about “Leading Lines” and “Framing/Flanking” to see how these two photography rules often work in conjunction with the rule of Centering.

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

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Selective Focus Meets Depth of Field

BuddingSerenityACS4x6Happy Independence Day, America!

Today’s blog will be a bit of a double post as I continue the “Rules of Photography” miniseries. The reason for this is that, like the rules of Framing and Flanking, Selective Focus and Depth of Field are too closely related and interdependent to be explained in separate posts. Your just cannot do one without understanding the other, so let’s get started.

Selective Focus or the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule

To deal with the photography “rule” of Depth of Field, photographers must first understand the concept of Selective Focus. Selective Focus refers to the subject in a photo being in sharp focus while everything around it is blurred out and fuzzy. I call Selective Focus the “No Fuzz, No Fuss” rule because this photo technique can only work if the photo’s subject is not blurry. To accomplish this, most photographers can simply center their camera’s viewfinder on their intended subject and press the camera’s photo-taking button halfway down. As long as the camera’s automatic focus is on, pushing the photo-taking button halfway down will make your camera focus on the object in the center of its view screen and blur everything else. Once that is accomplished, press the button down the full way to shoot the photo. As always read your camera’s manual to understand all of its functions.

Once you understand Selective Focus, we need to discuss how to use it in the different layers of a photograph. Although a photograph is a two-dimensional medium (i.e. it has height and length but not depth), a good photograph makes the viewer feel like they are viewing a three-dimensional scene rather than a flat image. To achieve a feeling of depth, photographs rely on three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background. As their names imply, the foreground is the front layer, the background is the back layer, and the middle ground is the layer in between these other two. A subject can be located in any of these layers as long as it is in sharp focus.

For examples of Selective Focus as used in different layers, please view the following links:

Photo with in-focus foreground subject:
“Yellow Quartet”

Photo with in-focus middle ground subject:
“Allure”

Photo with in-focus background subject:
“Pumpjack, No. 122”

Depth of Field or the Tunnel Vision rule

Once Selective Focus is achieved, photographers can explore the photography technique and rule of Depth of Field. Depth of Field draws the viewer’s eye into the photo’s scene by placing the subject in the middle or background layers of the scene. Just as it is in Selective Focus, the photo’s subject must be in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they do not distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject. I call Depth of Field the Tunnel Vision rule because good use of Depth of Field should really pull the viewer through each layer of the scene much like a commuter views a tunnel while traveling through it. For examples of Depth of Field view the middle ground or background links above or see these examples below.

More middle ground Depth of Field photos:

“Budding Serenity”

“Asteraceae, Gilded”

More background Depth of Field photos:

“Through The Hoops”

“A Cleft With A View”

Homework

Shoot at least 14 images with either Selective Focus or Depth of Field. Good items to try shooting: a colorful object surrounded by foliage, or an animal as seen through tall grass. Please be sure to keep your camera’s focus on the subject not the other elements and keep your backgrounds simple.

Personal Note

Almost all photos use Selective Focus no matter what other rules they employ, so make sure you really understand this one.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Rules of Photography Presentation (Archive)

ArchingEleganceforMomACS3x5Howdy, all!

Next week I am giving a presentation about the rules of photography. I thought I would share the material from the full presentation with you for your edification and enjoyment. Work on the photo book First Fruits: 31 Flashes of Biblical Perspective is almost complete, so my online presences should improve later this month. I’ll pick up the in-depth Photography Rules series in July, but I hope you enjoy its overview now.

Until we meet again, I wish all of you brilliant flashes of perspective!
[O*] Alycia

——————————————

Photography as a Form of Art

Alycia Christine Sears ~ http://alyciachristine.artistwebsites.com ~ 979-324-3458

A good photograph should inspire emotion and/or show a story.

Powerful photography relies on a strong composition to accomplish that end.

Composition is the way in which a photograph presents its main subject.

A subject is the most important part of the photograph. Just as a noun is the subject of a sentence, a noun is usually the subject of a photo. A photo’s subject is usually a person, animal, plant, place, or object.

Just as a musical score is composed of different notes, a photograph is composed of three different layers: the foreground, the middle ground, and the background.

Foreground: The “front” layer of the photo’s scene.

Middle Ground: The “middle” layer of the photo’s scene.

Background: The “back” layer of the photo’s scene.

A subject must be located in any of these layers, as long as it is in focus.

______________________________________________________________________________

There are several RULES to help create beautifully composed photos:

Focus (No Fuzz Allowed!): A subject must be in sharp focus (not fuzzy or blurry) to help indicate to the viewer that it is the most important part of the photo.

Depth of Field (Tunnel Vision): The photo’s subject is in sharp focus while the other layers of the photo are blurred out. Most of the time, this also means that the other layers of the photo need to be simple and uncluttered so they don’t distract the viewer from the photo’s true subject.

Centering (In a Bull’s Eye): The subject can be centered within the photo like a bulls-eye is the center of a target.

Rule of Thirds (Think Tic-tac-toe): Sometimes the photographer will divide a photo into thirds like the sections of a tic-tac-toe board. The  photo’s subject is then aligned in one third of the photo or at an intersection between two of the invisible tic-tac-toes lines.

Balance (Watch the See-Saw): Placing the subject off-center, as with the rule of thirds, creates a more interesting photo, but it can make the rest of the photo feel empty. To correct this, a photographer can add another object of lesser importance to help fill the space and add “weight” to the photo. Balance and leading lines can help establish relationships in a photo.

Leading Lines (Roads and Rivers): Lines in the photo draw the viewer’s eye to the subject. Leading lines often help link different elements in the photo to each other and usually start at the corner of the photo.

Framing and Flanking (We’re Surrounded, Sir!): Lines in the photo seem to frame (completely surround) or flank (border on only two sides) the subject. Frames can be any shape, but flanking must have two parallel lines running along either side of a subject.

Color and Contrast (Make it Pop!): The color of a subject will help distinguish it from the rest of the photo. In this case, the subject is the extreme in color compared to everything else — either the brightest color or the darkest color of the photo.

Close Ups (Way Too Personal): By being the largest thing in the photo, the subject is easily noticed by the viewer. This works especially well to help minimize distraction from a busy and cluttered background.

Patterns and Symmetry (The Oddball Rule): Sometimes an interesting pattern can make a great photo subject. When this occurs, it is important for the photographer to break up the symmetry or pattern in some way. Doing so will introduce tension and add a focal point (a mini-subject) into the scene.

______________________________________________________________________________

Other things to consider when shooting photos:

Saturation (Please Overdo it!): Saturation or saturated shooting refers to taking multiple photos of the same subject. This technique allows the photographer to experiment with the different photography rules to find the most dynamic and interesting shot.

Vertical or horizontal photos (Tall or Long?): All photography rules can usually work whether a photograph is vertical or horizontal, so feel free to experiment.

Viewpoint (It’s all about Perspective!): Shoot photographs from different angles and viewpoints. Instead of shooting everything from a standing position, try taking a photo of the subject from a kneeling or prone position. Also try shooting something from above the subject. The change of angle and perspective can add can add lots of interest to each image.

Cropping (You Cut off My What!): When shooting people and animals especially, photographers must pay attention to where they crop their subjects. The last thing that you want to do is make your subject look amputated! Crop where there are no natural breaks in the body such as midway up the thighs or just below the shoulders.

Sizes (Is Bigger Always Better?): Different photo sizes can change the photography rules. A standard photo has a ratio of 2:3 like that shown in a 4×6 inch photograph. Prints come in standard sizes of 4×6, 5×7, 8×10, 8×12, 11×14, and larger. If you are worried about how the image size will affect rules like Leading Lines, Rule of Thirds, or Framing, stick with 4×6 or 8×12 prints and corresponding frames to minimize the damage done to photo composition.

Lighting (Get out Your Highlighters!): Lighting is THE most important part of photography composition! You cannot shoot a photo without light. Be careful to make sure that no part of any photo looks “bleached out” or “way too dark.” Balanced lighting or its lack will make or break any composition. Using light to “highlight” a subject will help it stand out against the rest of the photo.

_____________________________________________________________________________

Finally, the RULES are more like GUIDELINES anyway!

Feel free to experiment and have fun!

Flashes of Perspective: Presenting Lovely Leading Lines (Archive)

Welcome to the photography “rule” of leading lines. As I mentioned in the December 6th blog, photography presentation rules like leading lines are more like guidelines than actual rules. And, yes, I did mean to include the terrible pun.  That being said, the leading lines idea is one of my favorite rules to use because they add so much depth to an image.

Let’s Get Started

Leading lines are lines used within an image to draw the viewer’s eye to a certain point (focal point), or occasionally, out of the image. Well-done leading lines make an image dynamic and powerful. They can add flow, structure, and/or visual interest to any photo’s subject. They can also be the subject of the photo. Fences, bridges, railing, even a shoreline can be a leading line. Anything can lead the eye with a definite line.

Let’s Break It Down

For examples of leading lines see the following links:

“Wed in Red”
In “Wed in Red” the curving line of the bride’s dress leads the viewer’s eye up to the image’s subject: the kissing couple.

“Wistful”
The subtle line of rock and wave leads the viewer’s eye to the image’s focal point of the tapir’s soft face.

“Spike Curls”
The odd pattern made by the curling lines of this cactus is the image’s subject.

“Bleeding Purity”
The angled sides of the steeple lead the viewer’s eye to the subject of the white cross.

“Damsel Daintiness”
The wavy line of the flower petal leads the viewer’s eye to the damsel fly clinging to its tip.

“Four in a Row”
The invisible line formed between the hovering balloons adds interest to this photo and highlights the similarity between the balloons, which is the image’s subject.

Homework

Shoot at least 10 images with leading lines. Try to turn the camera so that the lines make the image really interesting. Good items to try shooting: railroad tracks leading off into the distance or to a train, the shoreline of a lake or sea, roads, fence lines, rivers and streams, skyscraper lines, landscapes like lines of hills leading to distant mountains, tree branches, an arched bridge or other architectural piece.

Personal Note

I find that photographing leading lines so that they seem to grow out of the corners of the photo helps make the image more dynamic.

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

[ O*] Alycia

Flashes of Perspective: Got Skills? Introduction of Light and Presentation (Archive)

On this brisk sixth day of December, I am keeping my promise to begin my blog series dedicated to helping readers become better photographers. Whether you use advanced SLR systems with interchangeable lenses or a simple point-and-shoot, this series is designed to help spur your creativity and refine your techniques.

Let’s Get Started

The two most important and essential ingredients of a powerful photograph are light and presentation. Without these driving the interest to a photograph’s subject, your image is useless. So what do I mean when I say subject? A subject is the main focus of a particular image. It might be a person, an animal, an object, or even a pattern. Think of a subject as the main entrée at a meal. You don’t order the steakhouse special just to eat the potatoes, do you? Your subject is the main reason for the photo’s existence just as a rib-eye is the main reason for a steak plate’s existence.

To make sure viewers pay attention to the steak and not the side dishes, photographers use a variety of lighting techniques and presentation rules. The right combination of these elements is the essence of great shots. Keep in mind that these rules and techniques are — to paraphrase a quote from “Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl” — more like guidelines than actual rules. They exist to help you understand why a photo looks great or falls flat and how you can improve your skills. They also exist so that you understand how to bend or break them to get unusual shots.

Homework

We will talk about each of these rules in depth later, but, for now, I ask that you do a little homework before the next lesson. I can hear the groans now, but, trust me, this is really important.

I want you to dig through your files until you find your camera’s instruction manual. Read it, memorize it, and keep it and your camera handy anytime you read this blog. I am a good photographer partly because I understand the strengths and limits of my equipment. While I may know my own camera system, I will not necessarily understand yours. Every camera is a little different, so the more you understand about your own gear, the easier you’ll find each lesson.

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

[ O*] Alycia

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