Wandering through a photo collection

Today, Saturday, I am finally taking a day off from work, mostly, and doing a few things I like, like wandering through iPhoto. My son is getting into photography, and wants me to teach him via the internet.

The first thing I told him is that photo+graphy = light+writing, or writing with light. After I told him this, he took a lovely photo of literally writing with light. So look at the light, first. My favorite is window lighting. Here’s a sample:
Tomatoes by Window Light
Tomatoes by Window Light
This same image, had it been shot with flash, would have been harsh, flat, and with stark shadows, rather than soft and inviting.

Here is another example where the light is the key factor in turning a boring shot into a more interesting one:
The Leaf, the Moss, and the Light
The leaf, the moss, and the Light
With this one, I was driving in the back country, and the spot of isolated lighting caught my eye. I cannot say about other photographers, but it is always the light first, for me.

The second thing is shapes – the shapes of the objects and how they interact with each other and their surroundings. Sometimes, it helps to isolate the shapes, as in the examples below. But, again, with both these samples, lighting is first.
Roman Soldier
Roman Soldier. Here, the lighting off to the left helps emphasize the bas-relief of the statute.
Here, the shape IS the lighting, at the MGM Grand.

The third aspect is composition. The rule of thirds helps keep shots much more interesting than always just centering the image. Imagine a tick-tac-toe grid. Nine squares. Three rows of three. Try placing your subject at one of the intersections. As in this one:
Sunset, blurred
You will see that the main subject — the setting sun — is at the intersection of the upper left quadrant. I also used the Orton Effect, which used to be accomplished in the camera, but is now done with photo editing software. Another subject, for another time.

Another “trick” in composition, is that the eye leads in from the lower left hand corner, and travels across and up. Try a “leading” edge, so-to-speak, leading back to the subject. Here is an extreme example:
As I said, this is an extreme example. It would have been better if the subject in the back were stronger. As it is, which is actually fine, the hibiscus hedge becomes the subject.

Another aspect of composition is point of view (POV). Changing the point of view from the usual perspective can yield some fascinating photographs. Get down on the ground and shoot up. Get above your subject and shoot down. Get alongside your subject and shoot its length. There are no end of possibilities. Also, wide-angle lenses provide depth otherwise not obtained. I’ll look for examples of this later today.
Looking up, at architectural detail.

Again, looking up from the side of the road at the camel. This was luck, but I recognized a good shot when I came upon it. I am too old to crawl up on a wild camel with my belly on the ground, which would have been an even better shot, IF I’d been able to get closer, which I doubt!

And then there is focus. Focus deserves a whole post all its own, and perhaps I will do that. There is crystal clear, sharp focus, there is blurred and fuzzy focus, there is narrow focus, and bokeh, and wide focus (all related to aperature.)

With only these few areas, even a point and shoot can provide amazing results. But with a DSLR, what is possible is truly unlimited. Of course, there are the technical aspects, such as speed, aperature, ISO, etc. And, if shooting in color, white balance, saturation, etc. Using B&W is a great tool to assist in getting the basic aspects of photography down, as then one is not “distracted” by color. I’ll find one of my B&Ws to illustrate how light, shape, and composition come together, and post it later.