After I had been taking pictures seriously for two or three years, I realized that photography taught me to see things I had never noticed before I picked up a camera. I had been fairly oblivious to contrast, the shapes of shadows, details, texture, light, color, and graphic design. The camera helped me finally pay attention to all of these things. It is truly remarkable how much you can miss. For example, BP (Before Photography) I would have walked right past the overturned cart in a rural area of Missouri and not given it a second thought. It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this had any artistry or beauty. Similarly, BP I would have missed the bold graphic design, warm color, and rich texture in the detail of a cathedral door in Strasbourg, France.
Multicolored neon lights turning and spinning at night are irresistible to a photographer. Even though I have photographed amusement parks at night for years, it’s still exciting to do it again because the pictures I take are never the same. The colors are always dazzling, and the abstracts are captivating. Sometimes I am happy with these images as I shoot them, like (#1 and #2), and other times I use them as composites as in (#3, #4 and #5). When I took the latter image I immediately thought of a black hole, so I added “stars” to complete the concept. The star field is actually a picture of glitter sprinkled on black velvet.
Underwater photography is a specialty that most of us don’t delve into, but I think it’s fair to say that most nature photographers are intrigued with the creatures seen in public and private aquariums. They are beautiful, bizarre, mysterious and often ethereal. Photographing them can be challenging because there are technical issues to deal with in order to get the best possible images.
I have always found tree bark intriguing. It comes in myriad colors, patterns, designs and textures, and it reminds me of photographing abstract art. I am always looking at tree trunks and branches when I travel, and at home when I visit a botanical garden I know there will be a lot of photographic material. The abstract images you can photograph run the gamut from brilliant and saturated “works of art” to those that are much more subtle. The two images (#1 and #2) illustrate the tremendous range of subject matter available to you.
Studio photographers have used black acrylic glass to create subtle reflections in product shots and portraits for many years. It’s a wonder prop because it adds an elegant quality to the photographs of many different types of subjects, from people to glassware to flowers.
You have several Exposure mode choices on the camera, and they affect the exposures you get when using flash. They even have a bearing on the color balance in your pictures. For example, notice in the picture of my wife and Rexie, our great Pyrenees, that the color of the light in the background is yellowish while the lighting in the foreground is white without any apparent color shift. I was able to do this because I used Aperture Priority to choose a narrower aperture which, in turn, forced the shutter speed to be slower. Av helps to give you a correct exposure not just for the light emanating from the flash, but it helps make the ambient light in the room expose correctly as well. In so doing, it picks up the color of the room lights. In this case, since I was using a daylight white balance (which is the same WB as for flash—it correctly balances light that is 5500k degrees Kelvin) the tungsten lights in the room turned out yellowish.
Backgrounds are virtually as important as subjects in making a picture work. If they are messy and there is a lot going on, they tug at our eyes and pull our attention away from your subject. Just as you carefully consider your subjects, at the same time you need to carefully consider the background. For example, is it too light? Too messy? Too attention-grabbing? Does it have distracting lines or colors? Is it too sharp or too defined?
There are many fun and creative images you can create with flash if you allow yourself to think outside the box. In the past when we all shot film, we had to wait until the film came back from the lab to see the results. If the pictures weren’t what we wanted, we’d have to start over and figure out how to improve the images on the next roll of film.
Macro photography is endlessly fascinating. It opens your eyes to a world that most people never notice. Taking photographs of small, intriguing subjects, especially in nature, can be a life-long pursuit. It’s endlessly captivating as you can see in (#1), the foot of a poison dart frog, and (#2), a close encounter with a caterpillar. Macro photography is very technical, though, and it must be approached correctly or you won’t be happy with the results.
Digital cameras allow photographers to stretch the boundaries of what we can capture like never before. Using extremely high ISO settings like 25000, in-camera noise reduction algorithms, and expanded dynamic range capability, we can now photograph in low light situations and expect to use shutter speeds fast enough to take sharp pictures. This is truly revolutionary. However, there is a price to be paid, and that price is image quality. You just can’t expect a picture taken at ISO 25000 to be as sharp and to show fine detail with tack sharp clarity like a picture taken at ISO 200. There are limits to what advanced technology can deliver.