Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Deep Depth of Field,” creating compositions that rely on focus being sharp from near to far using all the tools of the deep focus kit—wide-angle lenses, closeness of camera to foreground subject, and as narrow an aperture as the lens and light could support. Readers responded with nature, scenic, urban, and abstract images, all made using some or all of the techniques described. There is something that is completely “photographic” about this technique, as the eye cannot “see” this without the aid of photography—it flicks around the real world from point to point quickly enough, of course, but there’s no set moment—except the photographic one—that makes all sharp from the nearest blade of grass to the farthest mountain.
There are a couple of things about telephoto lenses that make them unique. First, and most obvious, is the ability to bring distant objects closer than working with a “normal” lens. Second, and the subject of this month’s Picture This! assignment, is a visual effect known as “stacking,” making subjects that sit at a distance from one another appear closer together, sometimes in an almost surreal way. We asked readers this month to send us examples of this effect, and responses ranged from nature to crowds to perhaps the most popular topic, architecture in urban centers. As you can see, there’s more to working with long teles than at first meets the eye.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was City at Night, and we were seeking images that capture the unique combination of energy, light, and activity that characterize the nocturnal urban scene. Readers responded with images of great monuments lit by blazing lamps and tall buildings soaring through the night sky into the clouds, yet our eyes were also attracted to images that included people, admittedly often dwarfed by the manmade environment around them, but making their way through the streets and byways nonetheless. Images like this challenge us to find the right exposure times and ISO settings under sometimes tough capture conditions.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Silhouette,” using exposure and composition to create an iconic form within the frame. The exposure technique involves choosing a brightly lit background, making a reading of that value and then having the form, or subject, sit between you and the light source. Readers responded with a host of subjects ranging from sculptural figures to wildlife to natural forms. We were excited by the many great images we received and choosing from among them was one of our toughest editing assignments yet.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “At the Flea Market.” The amazing diversity of material found at flea markets and antique malls is grist for a photographer’s mill. Not only are there odd and unusual items aplenty—from castoffs to treasures unknown—there’s also the element of the yet-undiscovered art directors, the dealers and vendors who arrange these items in sometimes random, sometimes ironically intentional ways. When photographers talk about capturing “found art” they needn’t go farther than their local flea market to find all they need.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Things Are Looking Up” and readers responded with a great variety of images with a skyward point of view. Many were architectural studies, and the fascinating compositions we received transformed the spaces in which we work, visit, and live. The abstraction engendered by taking a new point of view was certainly visually rewarding in all the entries we saw. It reminded us that some of the best images we can make are those that are made by looking anywhere but straight ahead, and we think when you look at the images below you’ll agree.
While it might seem odd to have fall colors in late winter, we thought we’d take advantage of the crop of image ops available when the contest began (those luscious fall hues) and to have a bit of color to fight off the winter blahs right now. In any case, readers sent in a host of images from all around the country showcasing the fantastic colors and richness of that very special season. Editing from all the photos received was tough, but we found numerous images that we hope that for you, like for us, was a reminder that seasons do change and that gray and cold (at least here in the Northeast) is not how it always is outside. Please note that while we did not limit the post-processing allowed on these images we tended to choose those where processing enhanced the image and did not overwhelm it.
Fill flash, when applied appropriately, can bring out details, enhance color, and open shadows that might not be accessible if shooting with natural light alone. Our assignment for this month’s Picture This! was to bring a touch of fill to subjects that would benefit from this “taste” of light applied to a subject or scene. In most cases readers responded by using fill to highlight natural subjects, florals, birds, and the smaller creatures that inhabit the planet. Details became vivid, colors popped, and all the delight of nature’s design came to the fore.
There is a school of thought that says that all good human design is derived from patterns in nature, and that we have a natural sympathy for objects that echo what we see around us in the natural world. Indeed, even the most abstract of human creations, be it painting, architecture, or simple tools, all seem to stem from what nature has taught and revealed. The subject of this month’s Picture This! assignment is Patterns in Nature, where we requested readers to go out and find those most pleasing, often intricate, and quite mysterious designs that we discover in the natural world and reveal through composition, lighting, and point of view with our cameras.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was Pen and Ink, in which we asked readers to send us images that emulated a pen and ink drawing, that is, reducing the image content to line, texture, and form. Software makes it easy to convert an image file to just about any type of illustrative format, from oil paint to pastels and more. There are many ways to achieve the effect, but as with all images it’s how the content matches the technique that counts. Readers sent in all types of subject matter and achieved the effect in various ways, all of which show how malleable images are these days and how working with software can open up new ways of seeing and sharing images.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was Handheld Pan, a shooting technique that involves a long shutter speed and some sort of motion while shooting on the part of the photographer. We generally do everything we can to keep the camera steady and make sure there is no photographer-induced motion in a shot, including using image stabilized lenses, often elaborate tripods and heads, and even mirror lockup. The assignment requested just the opposite—adding motion to a shot that might include following a subject in motion across a plane, jiggling the camera to make lights record as lines rather than points, and even moving the camera in a circular motion to completely abstract the color and form.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was Industrial Design. While nothing can beat the variety and beauty of nature, where patterns and designs have their own rhythm and pace, certain objects have a beauty and grace that speak to an aesthetic that is inherently human. Products of handmade origin or the Industrial Age that satisfy the need for function while maintaining a beauty of form are sometimes taken for granted, and sometimes, with a photographer’s keen eye, transformed into sculptural objects that seem to transcend their utility. We can contemplate them less for something we would use as a tool and more as objects of wonder or beauty that appeal to a deeper aesthetic sensibility. That’s what we sought, and found, in this month’s readers’ images.
Composition dictates that we place a frame around the world before us. The lens we use, the depth-of-field effect we choose, and most importantly the elements of the scene we choose to include and exclude make up the final image. There are numerous compositional gambits, including sense of scale, where we include familiar elements in a scene to help establish size, distance, and, metaphorically, our sense of importance, or lack of same, of the object or subject used to establish that sense of scale.
POV—point of view—is what this month’s Picture This! was all about. We asked readers to send in photos made from sometimes dizzying heights to show us all how where you stand and the lens you use can make for some great photo ops. Readers responded with some very exciting images of architecture, nature, and even people made from above. The results might just inspire you to take camera in hand and gain vantage points that make us all see the world in a brand new way.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was Alphabet Soup, and we asked readers to go on a kind of letter treasure hunt and find either actual mixes of letters or naturally occurring forms that made the shape of letters. Some readers responded with literal, if you will, images and others found forms and shapes in nature and architecture and even sculpture that filled the bill. This is what you could call a “frame of mind” assignment, where once you begin to seek a particular form or shape you almost can’t help seeing that form around you.