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.

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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.

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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,

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next, the swing,

_MG_0983and finally, the follow through.

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

tennis player shadow

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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

accent on the color

Fall has arrived and for this backyard sister that means cooler nights, girls’ tennis season, butternut squash and pears in the market, colorful leaves, yes, here too,  and our California native fuchsias blooming in the garden. This month we will be investigating some of the many ways to accent colors in your photos and maybe even your life. First, back to the garden and those fuchsias. They are a bright red and attract many hummingbirds and I have spent many minutes sitting by them taking pleasure in their brilliance. I snapped this shot early one morning.

_MG_0256 originalWith this month’s theme in mind, I wanted to highlight the red as much as possible. To achieve this effect or something similar, in photoshop, select a new hue/saturation adjustment layer and take down the saturation of all the colors individually, except red, to -100.

California native fuschiaI then turned to some late season tomatoes sitting on the patio table.

_MG_0928First, I used the same technique of adding the new layer and de-saturating all the colors except red.

_MG_0928 desaturatedAs you can see, there is some red on one of the front tomatoes still, which I like, but to try another method, I decided to use the selection tool and select just one tomato to remain  red.

_MG_0928-2 color accentThis look, although a bit of a cliché, I still find fun to play around with. Frequently in fall, here in southern California, we will have unusually big surf for a couple of days due to storms out in the Pacific. I selected a photo of the Manhattan Beach Pier during a previous fall big surf day to experiment more with color.

IMG_1376 I decided to try highlighting the red in the picture using the hue/ saturation adjustment layer again. This method is not as precise as the selection tool method but works great if you have many areas of color you wish to highlight.

IMG_1376 desaturateNext, I chose to highlight the hues of the water and blues on the pier.

desaturate MB pierTo achieve this effect, I de-saturated all the colors except cyan which I boosted to +40.

A boogie boarder became my next subject. His board with its red outline was a natural.

IMG_9655Notice the seaweed and his skin still retain some of their color using the adjustment layer method but I like that effect. Then he catches a wave.

IMG_9693The last photo I tried manipulating is from the Park Güell in Barcelona.

IMG_4422.JPGThese children caught my attention because of their red attire standing out against the crushed granite. To enhance the effect, first, I used the hue/saturation layer approach.

IMG_4422.JPG desaturatedThis is a subtle effect with this photo. There must be a lot of red tones in the other colors. I decided to select the children, invert the selection, and then add a hue/saturation adjustment layer and slide the master color to -100.

children running color accentAdding color to a black and white photo will highlight the colorful subject and draw the viewer’s eyes immediately to it. Now that fall is here in all its colorful glory, take some time to see the colors in your world.

~ Susan

Accentuate the Positive, by Considering the Negative

Negative space, or the area of a photo which is not the subject, is something to consider when you are composing a photo. A trip to the zoo is a great place to try out some different options. The flamingos are a favorite of mine, for their pink color and curvaceous necks. Add their long legs and black bills and they become the fashion plates of the animal kingdom, if you ask me.

Usually, flamingos can be found standing in a large group around a water source. Sometimes, I prefer to use most of the flock as a subject and include very little negative space.

_MG_4620And other times, I choose to focus on just a few and incorporate more negative space. Here, I included water in the negative space to gain a sense of place in the photo.

_MG_4613Just a couple of them are the focus next.

_MG_4611-2Finally, I choose to highlight a single bird.

IMG_9092I decide to emphasize the curves of the neck by only including part of the body and using more negative space.

When determining how to compose a shot of the zebra, I chose a similar composition.

IMG_9126Using a solid colored or soft focused negative space will emphasize the subject by making it stand out. The gorilla reaching for a leaf is small and a little lost in the space in this composition.

IMG_9104A method of re-composing a shot to bring the subject closer and cut down on too much busy negative space is cropping. The result…

gorilla cropin my opinion, this is more effective at conveying the sweet moment.

You don’t want to always rely on post processing for composing your shots but there are times when it can make an impact.

By being aware of the negative space in your photos, you can avoid having things “growing or sticking out of” your subjects heads and cutting off limbs, feet or hands in the edges.

There is no right or wrong way of utilizing the positive and negative space. This is where you get to be creative!

There are times when the negative space can become the positive space and vice versa; as in Edgar Rubin’s optical illusion painting of the vase and the two faces.

This week, I will be staring at the vase and then the faces, no, wait the faces and then the vase …

~ Susan

 

Composition and Framing the Subject

IMG_2462.JPGWhen composing your photos and thinking about what you are trying to say with your photo or convey to a viewer, you might consider adding a type of framing element. By blocking parts of an image, the viewer’s attention is drawn to whatever subject you choose.

Adding a framing element to your photo can add context and interest.

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Also, a sense of depth and dimension can be imparted by adding foreground components.

IMG_2621.JPGThe addition of a person walking among the redwoods enables a viewer to grasp the enormity of their size while the placement within the opening of the tree adds interest.

IMG_9484Trees, leaves and branches make for colorful natural framing tools.

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Another technique for using leaves to frame a shot is to shoot through leaves using a telephoto lens thus creating a very blurred foreground and isolating your subject.

matilijaWindows are often used as framing devices . . .

IMG_4469even car windows. An architectural element, such as an arch, can be a fun frame as well.

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Using people as a frame works also, shooting through heads or over a shoulder adds an embellishment and silhouetting them adds drama.

IMG_9016 The frame doesn’t have to completely surround your subject either; it can be on one, two or more sides.

When adding framing elements to a photo ask yourself what you are trying to accomplish and will the frame add to that goal. If the answer is yes, go for it! Most of all, have fun looking for ways to add framing to your photos and play around with it. It can make you look at your images in a different light.

This week I will be looking at things with a new frame of mind,

Susan

 

 

Composition and The Rule of Thirds

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Sometimes, I like to venture over to our local marina and imagine I am one of them – a boat owner – the “people of the boats” I like to call them. I envision climbing on board one of the welcoming vessels and heading out to sea navigating to an island paradise. Or, perhaps, cruising down the coast to another town, anchoring in its harbor and spending the day exploring. Each one of those boats possesses  the potential for adventure. What a way to travel! But alas, eventually reality sets in. I am not a person of the boats. I get seasick for one thing and the sight of the boats being scraped of barnacles or painted, varnished and having general upkeep performed on them reminds me of this. It’s still fun to daydream though and recently I slipped in to the harbor with the idea of composition, specifically the rule of thirds, in mind.

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The purpose of the rule is to help with composing  interesting and compelling photos. It involves mentally dividing your viewfinder or photo into a grid with two vertical  and two horizontal lines which are crisscrossed to make a 3X3 grid, like a tic-tac-toe game. The idea is to place the parts of the photo you want to be the points of interest near the intersecting points of the grid.

_MG_0055When photographing a landscape, it is much more compelling, generally, if the horizon is not in the middle of the picture but aligned with one of the lines of thirds.

_MG_0098By placing the horizon line in either the top or bottom third, the emphasis will be on either the sky or the water or land.

Some movement in the water caught my eye and I discovered there were a number of round rays swimming amongst the rocks.

_MG_0065Then, as I was getting ready to leave the harbor, a heron flew across the horizon. It can be difficult to capture moving subjects in one of those grid intersections. Re-composing via cropping can be done in photoshop later. You don’t want to rely on that all the time but it can help occasionally. Also, there is a grid you can use in photoshop in case you are having trouble visualizing the grid in your mind.

Heron in FlightI believe we shouldn’t be too restricted by rules in our creative endeavors, so keep it in mind and experiment with the rule thirds when composing if you haven’t yet, but if you like your horizon lines in the middle of your photos, go for it.

Cheers,

~ Susan