Saturday, March 23, 2013

Consider Before You Snap

In an uncontrolled photographic situation, which would include most spontaneous picture taking, there are some things that can improve your photographs before you even lift the camera to take a picture. When I say "uncontrolled," I mean situations where you have no control over the lighting, which would include almost every type of photography other than studio lighting.

The first consideration I make in nature photography is to evaluate the type of light available, but it is also a rule that should be employed in almost any photographic situation. I cannot control the type of light, but by being there early or late in the day, I up the chances of getting the type of light I am looking for. If the light is too harsh as would probably be true of a picnic gathering in the middle of the day, it can be moderated by photographing in the shade of a tree, for example.

In the first photo, I am simply illustrating the type of lighting available on this particular morning when my brother and I were on the Patuxent River shortly after dawn. Of course, the light - especially at this time of day - is almost constantly changing, so it is something that has to be reconsidered every few minutes.

Look for a complementary background.  Nothing can spoil a photograph faster than a distracting background. Up your chance of success by considering the background before hand. If you have time, notice what is around the edges of the frame before you press the shutter. Something like a small branch sticking into the frame can be very distracting and spoil an otherwise nice image.

In this image of an osprey resting on a light pole, I knew the light would fall on only the dock shortly after sunrise, but I also knew the pine tree makes a nice silhouette at that time of morning.

I'll ask myself things like, "What am I trying to communicate in this situation? What am I hoping will happen?" "How can I capture some aspect of the personality of the subject?" 

In this image, the early morning light was wonderful and the background undistracting. I waited until both Snowy Egrets had one foot up to show how it doesn't bother them to slog through mud, but also shows their alertness as they look for fish. 

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