Composition Rule #1

Composition is the most important thing in photography. What is Composition? Simply put it is the Layout or structure of your shot. Have you ever looked at a photograph in a magazine or a painting in a gallery and though to yourself this is an amazing picture. But what makes it amazing? Well the answer is Composition. Artest have studyed what it is that makes an image pleasing to the eye for centuries. You can see the rules of composition in the paintings, architecture, potery, and clothing of our ancestors. Composition is the foundation that your image is built on and without a good foundation you will not have a good photograph. These rules are absolutely fundamental, knowing them and understanding them is what separates an amateur from a pro. There are many rules of composition, I like to focus on 10 rules that are the most important and widely known. Starting with rule #1 the Golden Rule of Photoagraphy, The Rule Of Thirds.

 

This is a very simple rule and when applied you will have great results. When setting up your shot imagine your viewfinder divided up into 3 equal parts vertically and 3 equal parts horizontally. When you do this you will be left with four intersections. These intersections are the main focus points for your eyes, and this is where your main subject of the shot should be located. It does not matter witch point you choose but keep in mind the story and movement of your shot. See the example shots below.

 

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The best way to describe the Rule Of Thirds is to show you what it looks like in real world images. These two shot show the rule in action.  I have divided them up into thirds,  so you can see the four focal points of the photo. 

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From the images you can see the points and how the shot was framed using the rule. But you can also see how I tried to convey a story and movement as well. Take the first shot of the snail. In this shot I wanted to show this snail making his way across the road, with so much out in front of him as he slowly goes along inch by inch. His journey is there in front of him. The next image of the bird in silhouette, I framed this image with the bird leaving the frame, almost escaping the frame. As if I came upon him sitting on the shore and he took flight to get away. He is exiting.  

Using the empty space in the shot as a way to convey movement and story, just another way to use the Rule Of Thirds to take great images.  

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Depth Of Field

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

One thing that separates a DSLR camera from your standard point and shoot is the dramatic range when it comes to Depth of field. 

depth of field (DOF): is the distance between the nearest and farthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

TRY THIS

Put your camera on a tripod, go outside and find a fence. Set up yor camera so the legs of your tripod are touching the bottom of the fence and rotate the camera so it is looking down the fence line. Set your DSLR setting to "A" (Aperture Priority mode) and adjust you the dial on your camera that controls the Aperture setting or the F# on your cameras readout. If you have never adjusted these setting on your camera dust off the manual or search your cameras model number online for info on your specific cameras adjustments. 

Adjust the apriture (F#) to the lowest possible number for you camera, each lense has a different range of apriture so this number will be different depending on you lense. Take a picture down the fence line.  

Now without moving your camera adjust the apriture (F#) setting to the highest possible number. Take a picture down the fence line.

Compare the images.  

 

You will see that they are very different. Let's talk about the first image you took, with the lowest apriture (F#) setting. In this image the section of fence closest to the camera should be blurry and out of focus, as the fence gets farther away it should become clear and in focus and than as the fence goes on it will become out of focus again. This is short or shallow Depth Of Field.

Now in the second image the fence should be almost completely in focus the entire way. This is a long Depth Of Field.  

 

Left apriture F22, Right apriture F3.5

Left apriture F22, Right apriture F3.5

Depth of field is a great tool for telling a story in an image, it places the focal point of your shot front and center. Also the out of focus portion of the image adds mistery to the shot. Play around with your apriture setting and practice useing this setting. It's setting like this that make good images great images. 

Location, Location, Location!

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A very wise man once said "if you want to take more interesting pictures go to more interesting places". Now as a young photographer I remember running around trying to make somthing out of nothing when it came to locations, and some times it worked. But as I have gotten older I now realize that location and timing are everything in photography.

Now that's not to say that sometimes the stars don't align and you get that unbelievable shot that no one could plan for. It is more realistic that you put in the time on scouting and light mapping and timing everything out to give you the best possible chance of getting the shot you are working toward.  

Some important thing to consider when looking at a location for outdoor photography. 

When I find a location I like, I always look at the angle I need to be in for the shot. In the compass app I take a screen cap with my phone (above) so I have the information at hand when I am planing my shoot. From this screen cap I can tell I am shooting west into a setting sun. This is good info to help plan.  

When I find a location I like, I always look at the angle I need to be in for the shot. In the compass app I take a screen cap with my phone (above) so I have the information at hand when I am planing my shoot. From this screen cap I can tell I am shooting west into a setting sun. This is good info to help plan.  

1. Location, ( literally GPS or address) I always grab a quick GPS location on my iPhone. I do this so it is easy to go back to this place in the future or if I am working with others I can send them the location in google maps so they can easily find it. I also meet a lot of other nature photographers out on trails and it's nice to be able to help them find new exciting locations. 

2. Light, look around for issues regarding light. Will a setting sun be to bright to shot in the direction you will be set up? You might need to try sun rise. Are you in thick tree canopy and need the sun to be overhead to give you the best chance for proper exposure? Again a smartphone compass is a great tool that almost everyone has on them at all times. 

3. Climate, here in FL we deal with bad rain storms almost daily. I know that between 2pm and 5pm during the summer I need to make sure I have a plan in place to deal with storms. Or that in the winter months our high water table causes thick fog in the early morning hours. Researching things like this will also help in determining the direction you want to take in telling the story with your shot. 

4. Terrain, when scouting a location take carful note of the terrain you will be shooting in and anything along the trail you will be traveling to get there. When planing  a shoot the gear you bring will be drastically different if you need to hall it 18 miles up mountains and across rivers, And being prepared when you get there is a must. Tripods, filters, lens, cards, remote shutter, rain gear, water... This stuff gets heavy don't overload with stuff you will not use, plan the shoot and shoot the plan!   

All of these factors will come in to play when out on the trail. I don't plan out every photo, sometimes they come by chance. But when you find a great location and really want to make that capture special. Take the time to plan and give you image the best chance of being the one you have in your mind.

 

Photography Basics : The Rule Of Thirds

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The rule of thirds is a very basic rule that is so simple but goes so far when it comes to its application in nature photography. 

Rule Of Thirds ; dividing an image in three equal parts vertically and three equal parts horizontally. The intersections made by these lines are the focal points of an image.    

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If you look at these images you will see that I have divided them as per the rule of thirds. When I set up these shots I purposely placed the subjects that I wanted to highlight into the intersections. By doing this I made these subjects the first thing you look at when you see the photo. Your eyes will go to these focal points first automatically without you even  knowing it is happening. 

Why? It is a natural thing that you do. Survival as a human depends on it! You have been doing it your entire life. Every day you use this skill without thinking twice about it. You first learned it as a baby. When you where a baby and could not communicate with your mom and dad you looked at there faces to get your information. More importantly you looked at there eyes and mouth. If they were smiling you knew everything was ok and you where safe, there eyes bright and wide and the corners of there mouth upturned. If they where scared  you also knew to stay close to mom and dad. If you have kids you know how this works. It is the reason a baby smiles when you smile it makes them feel safe. 

 

"Controlling Light" Part 4

This is the last video in a four part series called "Controlling Light". A photography basics video that will help you better understand the Manual (M) settings on your camera. Knowing what these settings are and how they affect your camera will help you understand how to use them

 

Phototogrphy Quick Tip!

Photo by William Gillette

Photo by William Gillette

 Here is a Photography Quick Tip. Straight lines are pleasing to the eye in photographs because they give your eye a path to follow through the shot. Your eye will automatically go to the end of this bridge first, because that is where all of the lines lead. In Landscape photography this is used often with images of roads, paths, fences, even rows of bushes or pines on a hillside can give you great lines. Practice useing straight lines like this to help your images tell a story to the viewer. When I framed up this shot I wanted to show the viewer how long and narrow this bridge over the gorge was. I chose this high angle with my focal path directly down the center of the image. I tried to give my viewer the same feeling and focal point I had when I first came up to this bridge. Only AFTER I located my destination point on the bridge did I look around at all of the beautiful view, and that is the way I wanted my viewer to see it as well.

Keep in mind the story you are telling may not only be visual but also mental. If I shot this image at eye level, you would have seen the bridge I wanted you to see, but by elevating the camera 12 feet above the walkway of the bridge I tried to capture the feeling you get when stepping out onto a suspension bridge 100 feet over a river. 

Practice is the only way to become a good story teller in photography. It may take 200 shots from 30 angles to get the look and feel you want. Keep try, keep thinking outside the box "pixels are free" every photographer in the world has 100 times more bad shots than good. After you get that shot that tells the story you want to tell, you will always remember the technique you used to get it for next time. And working through a shot like that is what makes good photographers great photographers! 

Now Get Out There!  

"Controlling Light" Part 3

 

  This is the third video in a four part series called "Controlling Light". A photography basics video that will help you better understand the Manual (M) settings on your camera. Knowing what these settings are and how they affect your camera will help you understand how to use them

Source: http://

"Controlling Light" Part 2

This is the second video in a four part series called "Controlling Light". A photography basics video that will help you better understand the Manual (M) settings on your camera. Knowing what these settings are and how they affect your camera will help you understand how to use them