Photographers are always concerned that their pictures turn out as sharp as possible. Photography has a seemingly endless number of challenges, but sharpness is number one. No matter how incredible your photo opportunity is, if the images are not sharp, nothing else matters. The pictures will be worthless. Too often images are almost sharp, and this is particularly vexing because if only you had paid attention to one tiny detail or two, they would be perfect.
We don’t normally speak of soft drinks and flowers in the same sentence, but there is a very cool technique that brings these two unlikely subjects together. Actually, you can use any kind of seltzer water or flavored water that is carbonated. Put the carbonated clear liquid in a glass or plastic container with clear and flat sides, and when you submerge the flowers in the liquid the bubbles cling to the petals. This is a unique subject matter for macro work, and with dramatic lighting the results can be quite beautiful.
I’m sure you have been intrigued by the rainbow colors you can see in CDs and DVDs. As a visual person, it’s hard not to be attracted to these intense, supersaturated colors. I’ve tried to photograph them but was never happy with the results until I experimented with placing drops of water on the surface of the disc. That changed everything. The colors of the CD combined with the defined shapes of the drops in amazing ways, and this was even more captivating than just seeing color in the disc.
I photograph natural subjects without manipulation when possible, but there are many instances when it is necessary to control a situation to show a subject in an artistic and beautiful light. Indeed, many times it is necessary to manage a subject specifically to make it look natural in the photo. Technical and practical issues are often present that make it virtually impossible to take the kinds of pictures we really want to take and that we can see with our eyes.
Photographing small birds is extremely difficult because we can’t get close enough to them to fill a significant part of the frame and they are often so fast that it’s impossible to focus quickly enough. Autofocus is a great tool, and the AI Servo feature works sometimes, but neither can keep up with fast-flying birds.
If your primary goal on a trip is to photograph animals, say on a safari or “eco-tour,” this changes your approach to photography quite a bit. You have to think about many things that don’t apply to other types of travel work.
A word that is often associated with wide angle lenses is “distortion.” It is true that wide angles distort what we see, but that’s not necessarily bad. In fact, it can work to our advantage. Photographers who like to capture what they see—or as close to it as possible—shy away from wide angle lens particularly those that are extreme—say wider than 20mm. This is especially true for portraiture, where exaggerated and distorted faces and bodies may not go over very well with the subject. However, as an artist you should have all the tools and techniques at your disposal to create dynamic images, and I would like to suggest that if you have not explored the creative potential for shooting people with wide angle lenses, it’s time you try it.
Below is a list of my ten favorite places to photograph in the world. There are still many places that I haven’t been, and even though I’ve been to 83 countries, as of the spring of 2010, I feel like I have hardly scratched the surface. There are so many wonderful places to shoot that in ten life times a photographer would still feel he or she needed more time. All of the places on this list offer such rich photographic experiences that you could return again and again and produce a different body of work each time. They never get old.
Monochromatic color themes have been around since the inception of photography. Toning black and white prints with a sepia toner was begun at a time when photographers could only dream of color. The noxious fumes made the darkroom work memorable, to say the least. With digital technology, we can get the same look of a toned print. When I first started learning Photoshop, I translated my knowledge of the darkroom into the digital world. In other words, I learned how to create in the computer the same effects that I had been creating in the darkroom.
Shooting in a studio intimidates a lot of photographers, but the truth is it’s not hard at all. There are a few basic lighting configurations to learn, and with the immediate feedback from the LCD monitor on the back of the camera, you can see immediately if you have the lighting, the pose, and the expression you want. In addition, you don’t need a huge space and it’s not necessary to spend thousands of dollars on lighting equipment. You can even set up a mini-studio with a $10 photoflood and a background with a white wall or a piece of black fabric.