Come out, come out, wherever you are!

By Susan Greene
Finding your artistic voice, what does that mean? Is it anything like locating your misplaced keys or the missing sock in a pair? Maybe, a little bit, in the sense that it is there and just needs to be discovered. There is much written on the subject and even courses offered to assist people with finding their photographic voices. This month’s literary term of exploration is voice/sound.

breaking waveMost know what a wave sounds like and maybe seeing a photo of one conjures up the sound of it crashing in your mind. Some are gentler and quieter.

susnet wheelie rider on shore Others are big and powerful,

large breaking wave, redondo beach CAcrashing,

breaking wave, surfer and photographers, redondo beach CA with a loud boom.

large crashing wave, redondo beach CA Can a photo convey sound?  This month try to imagine what a scene sounded like when you contemplate photos. As for finding that artistic voice, it might be quieter and gentler thus requiring some introspection. Artistic voice is your unique story to tell how you wish, no matter the medium, you choose the style.  For a photographic voice, look to the photographers that inspire you and the things you are inspired to photograph.

I’ll be looking at the beach!

~ Susan

Food Photography and Depth of Field

Photographing food and sharing meals and recipes through pictures has taken off over the last few years. Depth of field, is something to consider when composing your food shots. Do you want a whole plate of food and surrounding dishes in focus or just one item on the plate, or a bite? The answer will be your guide to choosing the aperture value.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/16

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/3.2

When the food is on the same focal plane the choice isn’t as critical, as is exhibited in the two examples above. But change your angle of view a bit, creating more distance between you and the items being photographed, and there is a marked difference.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/16

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/3.2

As you can see, the second photo taken at a wider aperture has a smaller area of focus, the pineapple, and the other fruit is out of focus. Using the wider aperture puts the emphasis on the pineapple rather than the entire grouping of fruit.

Use a wider aperture when the goal is focusing on a specific area in a photo.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/2.2

At f/2.2 the orange can be singled out for highlighting or the apple.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/2.2

To achieve focus throughout, a smaller aperture is best.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/16

The greater distance between the items being photographed, the more exaggerated the effect will be.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/11

At f/11, most of the food is in focus whereas at f/2.8, the pineapple surface is the focal point and the rest of the fruit fades out of focus.

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon

F/2.8

   Taking an overhead shot puts the food on an even field,

pineapple, orange, apple and persimmon


F/13

except when the food is differing heights, as with these pieces of fruit. If achieving focus throughout is your desire, use a smaller aperture. With an aperture of f/13 most of the food is in focus as well as the pineapple top, the tallest item.

In photography, the settings you choose will help you realize your artistic vision; with food photography, there’s nothing like a little playing with your food for honing that vision.

Lots of good food for playing with at this time of year!

~ Susan

How Shallow is your Field?

angel tree topperThe halls are being decked, the tannenbaum’s lovely branches are becoming adorned with lights, beads and ornaments and the spicy aroma of molasses crinkles cookies baking in the oven is filling the house. The perfect time to grab the camera and capture some of the details. This week we are exploring shallow depth of field.  A shallow depth of field will be achieved by using a large aperture which is represented by the smaller f-stop numbers. Using an 85mm f/1.8 lens and opening the aperture to its widest or almost widest, is my method of focusing on a specific area or item in a scene.

_MG_2653With the aperture open to f/2.8 I can focus solely on the mug and blur the books or…

_MG_2655focus on a portion of the books only and everything else will blur. If you want to isolate your subject from the other elements in the photo this is an excellent method. Shutting down the aperture to f/8 will allow you to achieve focus in most of your scene.

_MG_2659At f/1.8, the focus is on the top book and cider inside the mug;_MG_2662 at f/7.1, all the items on the tabletop are in focus.

_MG_2661  A shallower depth of field can be used to isolate ornaments on the tree.

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_MG_2668Also, using a large aperture enables focusing on one item in a group.

_MG_2671Which depth of field is used is based on what you are trying to communicate in your photo. With people gathering to celebrate at this time of year, there are many opportunities for experimenting.

~ Susan

Searching the Depths

“I can’t believe it’s December! Where has the year gone?” These phrases are uttered often at this time of year.  Personally, I can’t believe we have arrived at our last month of focusing on a photographic term. It seems like only last week we were compiling the list, challenging ourselves to concentrate on one subject a month. Wrapping up this photographic term-of-the-month year will be a closer look into depth of field.

Depth of field refers to the range of distance in an image where objects appear acceptably sharp. Sometimes, a photographer chooses to keep most of an image sharp which is known as deep depth of field. Other times, just a small part of the photo is kept sharp, thus emphasizing the subject by separating it from the background and foreground by making them blurry or indistinct, this is known as shallow depth of field.

DSC_0244One of the main methods of controlling the depth of field is the aperture. The aperture is the opening in the lens which lets light in and can be adjusted, becoming larger or smaller. The larger the aperture, represented by a smaller f-stop number, the shallower the depth of field. This week I am contemplating deeply. Deep depth of field is achieved by using a smaller aperture, a larger f-stop number. The f-stop for the photo above of Griffith Park Observatory on the hill was f/8. In the next photo, the f-stop was 13.

_MG_9157The kite surfers are at varying distances from me yet they are all reasonably sharp.

_MG_8802An f-stop of 16 enables the water’s surface to be sharp in the photo above.

It can be beneficial to occasionally sit back, entertain deep thoughts about what you are trying to communicate with your photos and whether the use of a deep or shallow depth of field could be one of the methods of accomplishing your goal.

This week will find me out in the field,

~ Susan

Hey There, Man in the Moon!

Wrapping up this month’s shadow exploration prompted me to turn my camera towards the moon. I have always had a fascination with the moon, maybe it comes from growing up during the Apollo space program and watching the astronauts bouncing around on its surface or liking the idea of a “man in the moon” watching over us and keeping us safe at night. Whatever it was, I have been admiring and photographing it for years.  _MG_2264

The moon is continuously lit by the sun on one side. We see changes in the size of the illuminated part due to our location in relation to the moon at different times during the month. The lit portion is most easily observable, the rest remains shadowed. However, the shadowy bit is often faintly visible – not when it makes a daytime appearance though.

_MG_2486During a full moon, is the optimal time for examining the shadows of the surface and searching for the face of the “man.”

_MG_2447Occasionally, the moon,earth and sun line up in such a way that the moon passes into the earth’s shadow creating an eclipse. On February 20, 2008, there was a total lunar eclipse. Seeing the earth’s shadow slowly makes its way across the moon thrills me.

IMG_1910

IMG_1928Photographing the moon can be tricky, since it is a very bright object against a very dark background. First of all, a tripod is highly recommended along with a remote release, or using the self-timer on your camera will work if you don’t have a remote. A low ISO, 100 or 200, and smaller aperture, f16 or greater, are recommended for capturing the details of the surface. The shutter speed is what you will adjust for a proper exposure, a slower shutter speed will inevitably be necessary, explaining the need for the tripod. It helps to use a long telephoto lens. The moon is relatively small in the big sky and using a telephoto lens will bring it closer to fill your frame, 300mm lens or longer is recommended. Use the spot meter on your camera to obtain the correct exposure for the moon. Sometimes, you may have to improvise. Recently while riding in a car I spotted a moon shot I wanted to take but with no tripod I adjusted the ISO higher and aperture wider.

_MG_2265

Adding elements to your image along with the moon can add interest and a sense of place.

Looking to the sky and hoping to see the man in the moon.

~ Susan

Shadow Play

This month, we are turning to the dark side, shadows that is. We will explore shadows’ effect on your photography; either as a subject or using them to create mystery, add texture and highlight forms. Using a shadow as a subject, can add interest and mix things up a bit in your photography. Tennis season is winding down and I have been photographing the girls in action quite a bit. I noticed the position of the late afternoon sun during the matches causing long shadows to be cast from the players.

_MG_2075-2It creates something different from the usual tennis action shot. Here is study of a serve in shadows. First the toss,

_MG_0986

next, the swing,

_MG_0983and finally, the follow through.

_MG_0984Part of the original subject can be included in your photo,

tennis player shadow

_MG_1202

or both the original subject and the shadow.

_MG_1206The shadow selfie is one unique way to capture a special time.

shadows on beachAll month, I will be singing “Me and My Shadow”, the children’s version. In case you haven’t heard it before, you can click here.

Keeping an eye on the shadows,

~ Susan

the close-up color

_MG_1953Inspired by a photo accompanying a book excerpt in Shutterbug magazine, I looked at a collection of mine differently. This spurred the realization of the potential for color exploration and abstraction. Pastels and earth tones are the most prevalent colors of my array.

_MG_1993I have gathered these from both near and far.

_MG_1964I am looking at this collection in a whole new light.

_MG_1986The interplay of the shapes and colors is something I am just discovering about my array.

_MG_1966I like this mystery game.

_MG_2045I am especially drawn to the pastel pink and flesh tones in the one above, as well as the vibrant hues of this one.

_MG_2037Whereas, the earth tones of this one are not to be downplayed.

_MG_1968If you haven’t guessed yet, these next few photos will probably give away the items in my collection.

_MG_1955Did you guess yet?

_MG_2024Last chance.

_MG_1937You probably got it by now . . . sea shells!

I confess to being a long time beachcomber. My collection adorns many of the window sills in my home. Gazing upon them transports me to the various shores where, while strolling, they were spotted, picked up and lovingly chosen for various reasons – their flawlessness, uniqueness or color. I will always remember once, many years ago, coming home and sharing the day’s treasures of the sea with my mom by placing them in her hand, and the shriek she let out when one of them began moving across her palm – I had inadvertently collected a crab’s home – sorry mom and crab: I did return it to the sea.

I have gotten more careful and choosy over the the years but still enjoy a long afternoon strolling the sand with an eye out for a new addition to my collection. Now, I have another criteria for selection – as the possible subject of a color, abstract photo.

The book excerpted in Shutterbug magazine is The New Art of Photographing Nature: An Updated Guide to Composing Stunning Images of Animals, Nature and Landscapes by Art Wolfe and Martha Hill with Tim Grey. Judging from the pictures accompanying the article, I would like to see what these three have to say.

This week either gazing at my window sill or out looking for new treasures.

~ Susan