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I'm a Cairns, far north Queensland, Australia professional photographer specialising in travel, editorial and environmental portraiture.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Look at what's coming

Now here's another example of the ol' rule of thirds. In this particular case my wife's head is pretty much at the intersection of the top left hand intersection point.

But this post is about something else. Where the subjects of your photo should be looking. As a general rule, if the person (or animal) in your picture isn't looking directly at the camera then they should be looking into the frame.

In other words they should be looking towards the centre of the picture, not outside the frame. There's a couple of reasons for this. The first one is that when the person is looking into the frame the natural inclination of the viewer of the picture is to look at what the person in the pic is looking at.

Try it with the picture above. Your eye first of all goes to my wife's face and then follows her gaze out, and thus you look at the rest of the picture. It's more subliminal than product placement in movies!

The second reason is that when you have a person looking out of the frame, in other words they're placed in the edge of the picture and their face is looking towards the edge of the picture with lots of space behind them, they look very isolated.

No matter what the expression on their face they look separate from everything else happening in the picture. Disconnected. Isolated. Lonely. You often see that technique used in news photos. Think of a picture you've seen where somebody has lost a house or something like that. They will always be in the edge of the picture looking out of the frame with their house behind them. It makes them look sadder than if they had been photographed looking into the frame at their house.

In the case of animals it's pretty hard to make them look sad but it does make it look like you missed the moment. That you took too long to press the shutter and the animal has nearly moved out of the frame on you.

Have an experiment with this one. Take a couple of portraits of somebody you know with the same expression on their face. Try a smile to make the experiment really effective. Take the first shot with them in the left hand side of the frame facing right (ie into the picture). Now leave them where they are and move the framing of the camera so they are still facing in the same direction but now the wide open space is behind them and they are facing out of the frame.

I guarantee you the result will be completely different. When you've had a go at it try posting them to the Flickr Group and I will be happy to give you some advice.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Go to your corner

Here's another example of putting the subject in one of the corners of the frame. This is what is known in the biz as an environmental portrait.

It's called that because it shows the person who is the subject of your photograph in the environment in which they find themselves. Often it refers to local people at their place of work but it can also refer to travellers on holiday. All you need is something surrounding them to show where they are.

This image is of my wife Chiharu halfway up a little hill called Gokyo Ri high up in the Himalayas of Tibet. It's not very big - only 400m or so above the village below - but at over 5000 metres above sea level there's not a lot of oxygen up there and it's slow, hard work.

This is another example of remembering to look back over your shoulder at what's behind you because there just might be a photo in it. Of course I told my wife I was looking back to make sure she was alright - we'll just keep the real reason a secret between us shall we!

Anyway in framing this shot I obviously wanted to show where we were. So I needed to put Chiharu in one of the corners of the frame to fill the rest of it with supporting information. Firstly I wanted to have the village below in the frame because it showed where we had walked from. I also wanted to show those big towering mountains in the background as well. And of course the lake was a major consideration.

I deliberately chose a wide-angle lens to open up the perspective and placed the elements so as to give myself a foreground (Chiharu in that stunning yellow rain suit!), middle ground (the village of Gokyo) and background (the mountains beyond). That gives us our three dimensionality.

So there are a number of compositional elements here. We've got our rule of thirds, use of a wide-angle lens and the placing of the elements for a three dimensional effect. Now you know why it took us four hours to get to the top of the hill! I had a lot to think about. :)

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Sticking to the edges

One thing I realise I don't talk to you all about nearly enough is composition. In this day of auto-everything cameras that will give you the right focus, the right exposure and just about make the right cup of tea for you, composition is the element that can lift your photography from the mundane to the exceptional.

First let me say that any of the rules of composition that I talk about from here on in are more guidelines than rules. You don't need to follow them but you need to understand them to know when you can break them for a special effect.

One of the first rules of photography states that you should never put the subject of your photo right smack bang in the middle of the frame. They call it target shooting and the reason why you should avoid it is because it's a very static way of looking at a picture. Your eye tends to fall on the thing in the middle and not look anywhere else.

So the first really important thing I want you to keep in mind is to keep your subject out of the middle of the frame. So where do you put it? A very popular compositional tool is the rule of thirds. Imagine your viewfinder divided up like a noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) board. Two lines down and two lines across. Where those lines intersect is where you should put your subject. At least that's how the rule goes.

I tend to stick things all the way to edge of the frame, in corners. With the elephant and mahout I wanted to give a sense of them being quite small in this huge landscape of Corbett National Park in India. So I put them all the way in the bottom left hand corner of the frame and left the rest of the frame blank - filled only with endless grass.

I've touched on this before but I like to leave lots of negative space in an image to give a sense of wide open spaces. By having the landscape run out of the frame it leaves you wondering just how far that nothingness goes on for.

By having the elephant and mahout quite small in the frame it really makes them look insignificant, which is ironic because we all know how big elephants really are.

So if you live in an area with lots of wide open spaces try taking a photographic subject and putting them towards the edge of the frame and have them surrounded by nothing to really emphasise the space.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Photographic Exhibition

For those of you who live here in far north Queensland I wanted to give you a heads up about a new photographic exhibition being launched on Friday night in Innisfail. The Cassowary Coast Camera Club had me down to give some of their members a two-day travel photography workshop before sending them all out to capture some 'Northern Light".

They then sent me through the images for me to choose the final selects and on Friday night I will be popping down to make a little speech and see the final prints for myself. So if you've got no plans on Friday night pop on down to say hello. Here's the official release:

Thirty images depicting the landscapes of the Cassowary Coast have been selected to exhibit in Innisfail’s Central Gallery.

The Cassowary Coast is blessed with both outstanding natural beauty and a wealth of emerging photographic talent. This exhibition blends these aspects to produce an exciting exhibition entitled ‘Northern Light’.

The photographers completed a two day course with renowned international travel photographer Mr Paul Dymond, whose work has appeared in publications such as the National Geographic, Lonely Planet guides and TIME magazine. The course covered all aspects of travel photography with a particular emphasis on the subject of ‘light’ and creating a variety of effects, moods and colours through its use. Participants also explored the relationships which exist between the lighting, the subject and composition of the image and the technical understanding necessary to control these elements.

Artists were then invited to submit work that made an original statement about life in the Cassowary Coast way and also interpreted the use of light in some form.

Join the photographers for the official exhibition launch being held at 5:30pm on Friday the 10 October, with an official opening by Cassowary Coast Regional Council Mayor Cr Bill Shannon and guest speaker Mr Paul Dymond.

The exhibition has been made possible through a grant from the Regional Arts Development Fund, a partnership between Arts Queensland and the Cassowary Coast Regional Council. The exhibition will be open from 9th to the 20th October and will coincide with the Innisfail Karnivale.

This is a great opportunity to explore the work and developing style of several emerging photographers in our community. The Cassowary Coast Camera Club meets once a month and welcomes new members. The club has formal meetings, workshops and exhibitions as well as photographic walks around the Tropical North. People of all ages and abilities are welcome.