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.
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.
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 “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.