This month’s Picture This! assignment was Color Play, where we asked readers to include as many colors as possible within the frame. Interestingly, the large majority of images we received were of subjects of man-made origin, perhaps showing that as humans we are so taken with color that we see it as an essential element in all the things we make. All in all, this assignment was a colorful one indeed.
This month’s Picture This! assignment was Shadow Play, the role played by shadows in a photograph’s composition and, often, meaning. Shadows define form and shape, but they also can add an aura of mystery and intrigue, one where the recognizable subjects are altered by their presence. They can also be the subject of the image, and dominate the frame to create an abstract view of the world. Readers sent in images that accomplish all the above, with photos of people, places, and things that are enhanced by the sense of depth and space created by these light-formed elements.
Our Picture This! assignment this month dealt with the entirely photographic and visually arresting technique built around the idea that foreground/background sharpness differentials can create both a painterly effect and a more prominent foreground subject, thereby adding a sense of dimensionality in what is essentially a 2D medium. This approach considers more than just what is sharp and unsharp, but also has a profound effect on compositional decisions, where the placement of the unsharp portion of the image can be used to juxtapose or, more likely, reinforce the color and design of the subject that sits at the main point of sharpness. Readers sent in a wide variety of images, with the preponderance being natural subjects, which for many seemed to be a perfect way to express this technique.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Construction Compositions” and we requested images that incorporated the color, design, and abstractions that building and industrial sites offer. Readers sent in images that showed the complexity of potential for rich images these places afford through the use of an intermix of angles and textures, the hubbub of human activity that goes into building, and in some cases ironic images that show the effect of all that effort on nature and within the cities we live. We also received photos that were almost lyrical in nature, with plays of light and color that an abstract painter could admire.
Our assignment this month was Urban Art, and I am happy to report, based on the wide range of images we received, that the art form is alive and well. Photos ranged from the wildly colorful to the nostalgic, with a good seasoning of irony and surrealism thrown in for good measure. A number of areas seemed to inspire photographs based on the artfulness and placement of work, which helped us create a list of places we’d love to visit someday with camera in hand. In all, we hope you enjoy the diversity of art and points of view as much as we did when viewing the work.
Our Picture This! assignment was multiple exposures, combining two or more images either in camera or later in software. Multi’s take planning and exposure execution, and readers sent in images that show both that previsualization and the final work that was applied. Images ranged from bursting fireworks to imaginative constructions to tricks for the eye and mind. Some show careful alignment; others count on the seemingly random layering of effects and images that can always reveal a visual surprise.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was Patterns, a subject near and dear to every photographer’s heart and eye. The challenge is to frame the scene so that the flow of the pattern is reinforced, or at times interrupted, in a visually surprising way. A pattern can be repetitive in terms of subject and rhythm, or it can be composed of diverse textures and forms that, through composition, become unified. Color, shadow and highlight, and creative use of depth of field all work together to create an effective image. Readers sent in images that covered nature, architecture, landscape, manufactured goods, and a wide variety of structures from all around the world. This was one of our most popular topics in terms of the number of submissions we received, so it was tough to narrow them down to the photos you see here.
While it’s true that photography is “writing with light,” shadows often play an equal and important role. They define form and space, create dimensionality, and concentrate the viewer’s eye on the main subject of the scene. Our Picture This! assignment this month was “negative space,” and we asked readers to send us images that use this important tool of the craft to good effect. We received portraits, landscapes, still life and abstract images, all of which display a thoughtful use of the “dark side” of aspects of the image. Exposure plays a key role in creating this effect, as does a strong scene contrast that allows the photographer to “read the highlights and let the shadows fall where they may.” All this stems from the old days when photographers were often forced by their use of slide film to create deep areas in their images in order to keep the highlights from burning up. Now that we have HDR and other contrast-fighting exposure tools it is a conscious exposure decision made to add so much to an image’s effect.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Water Reflections,” and readers sent in a wide variety of images ranging from abstract to actual, with every shot showing the magical quality that happens when water and light interact. Often, images of reflections display the border between the real and the fanciful, and as the wind blows those borders become even less defined. In all, the images are a celebration of light and the fluid nature of perception. (Note: You have the option to view this page upside down as well, as many of the shots take on a whole other meaning when viewed that way.)
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “In the Forest,” and judging by the number of images we received it’s clear that readers love to spend time and photograph in the forest as much as we do. As you’ll see, the photos ranged from mystical to magnificent, with patterns, color, and light and shadow play all playing a part.
This month’s assignment for Picture This! was “Made in the Shade,” photographs made solely in the shadow thrown by tree canopy or roof or even under overcast sky. While light levels might be lower, there’s nothing quite like the soft, diffuse light of shade to bring out every nuance of color and detail in a subject or scene. Using appropriate white balance and exposure settings, shade cast shots can look as if they were made using a large diffusion tent, all using natural light. And while HDR can help with excessive contrast, shade shots have the advantage in that they work entirely with one exposure and the most natural sense of light. Readers sent in a wide range of images covering nature, urban, and portraiture, all of which have a quality of light that bright, contrasty sunlit shots could never display.
Our Picture This! assignment this month was “Panoramics,” and we asked readers to send us a wide view unattainable by using a single lens, or to crop a wide shot so it had an aspect ratio that mimicked the format. The eye cannot possibly see all that a panoramic photo offers in one glimpse, whether it be in looking at the print or especially in the field.
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.