Thursday, September 3, 2009

Fill the frame

This is one of those pictures that breaks all the rules of composition and as a result is worse for it. The rock wallaby is smack bang in the middle of the frame, no part of it is on one of the intersecting thirds and it's not looking at the camera.

In other words it's a snapshot. There's a bit of environment around it but certainly not enough so that I would call it an environmental portrait.

In other words it's a ho-hum record shot of the profile of a Mareeba rock wallaby.

I'm just not close enough for it to be an effective portrait, but at the same time I haven't got enough of the surrounding rocks for it to put the animal in perspective with its surroundings. That's what makes it so wishy-washy. So here are a couple of the alternatives.

Now the first alternative is to fill the frame with the little furry critter. Now we're nice and close and we can actually see how cute these little guys are. The side lighting has brought out the texture in the fur and there's a nice shady background so the wallaby sticks out.

And you'll notice here that the perspective has changed. I'm using a longer telephoto lens to really zoom in on the little guy (or is it a girl?). What that does is really blur the background, giving me a nice narrow depth of field which really helps the wallaby stick out even more.

Going back to our rule of thirds you'll see that the wallaby's eye is pretty much at the junction of the top and right hand third. Sure I've cut off his tail but that doesn't matter too much because the aim was to capture his (her?) face.

But the thing with this image is that we've lost all sense of where the wallaby lives. To understand that we need to fit more in.

There were a couple of ways I could have fit more of the environment in. One of them would have been to get up really, really close with a wide-angle lens. The wallabies weren't too nervous around people so I probably could have gone that way.

The problem with wide-angle lenses though is that they make big things look really small when they're a long way away from the camera. So my (close-up) wallaby would have looked really big and the huge boulders all around me would have looked really small. So I needed to use the telephoto.

Which meant I had to look out for wallabies that were a long way away. Like this little fella sitting on the rocks. But you say, you said to fill the frame but the wallaby's really small. Yes it is but what I have filled the frame with is that giant set of rocks. And one tiny little wallaby which gives a portrait of the environment that the wallaby lives in, while at the same time showing how small they actually are. The big rocks highlights their tiny size even more.

So that's 3 pictures of the same animals all done differently. One pretty ho-hum and a couple which I really like. The first one fills nothing, the second two fill the frame with stuff that contributes to the photo and the viewer's impression of the animal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Leading lines

Firstly let me start by saying that I don't tend to use leading lines a hell of a lot in my own compositions. At least not obvious ones. I find that often they can look a bit too deliberate for my taste.

But when you find ones that are subtle and have the same effect then they're a wonderful tool to lead the viewer's eye to where you want it to go.

A bit of background behind the thought process of this picture. It was taken up on Cape York, which for those of you who don't know is a remote place up the very northern tip of Australia. It really is the middle of nowhere. So I wanted to show that in this composition. So a wide-angle lens to give me a big sky, a lot of beach and make the car look small and insignificant in this vast landscape.

Secondly we were on a beach that stretched off forever. And that's where the leading lines come into it. Can you see them? There's a few. The first one is the line of the beach itself where it meets the water, heading off back down the beach. Then there's the car tracks, which mostly lead back along the beach, again off into the distance. And then just to reinforce the feeling that everything leads back down that long beach you have the streaks of clouds in the sky which point back down the beach. So three sets of subtle leading lines that lead the eye back down the beach behind the car.

Now often we're told that leading lines need to have something at the end of them, or else the viewer feels kind of cheated. 'How dare you have me follow this line and not give me a pot of gold at the end of it!' In this case the lines are actually leading to something - but that something is a great nothingness. Vast open space.

You can see I've kind of stuck to the rule of thirds with the horizon. My car isn't at one of the points of thirds because it is in the MIDDLE of nowhere. I took another shot with the car in the far right hand side of the frame and it had nowhere near the same impact.

Oh and please ignore the wonky horizon - it's another Paul Dymond trademark! :)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Never put the horizon in the middle

Oh why can't I learn to follow the rules? I'm such a law abiding citizen in every other aspect of my life. :)

Actually this is a pretty good rule to follow and I mostly do. It is sort of connected to the rule of thirds. By having your horizon line at either the top or bottom third of the picture you take a lot of the stability out of an image. You don't want stability because it stops the viewer's eye from moving around the frame and looking at everything there.

If you have a really interesting sky you would put the horizon on the bottom third line, if you have a more interesting foreground then you would put the horizon at the top third.

But as you can see here I've got it right in the middle of the picture. Because with reflections it actually looks best to put the horizon in the middle of the picture - that way you can't tell which way is up!

Of course there's not much of a reflection here. This was taken in the Okavango Delta in Botswana from a sitting position in a wooden mokoro (dugout canoe). The reason I put the horizon in the middle was that I wanted to show that this part of the world is half water half blue sky. So when you know why a rule exists you can also think about when it needs to be broken. I promise not to tell the photo police if you don't.

Monday, August 31, 2009

The rule of thirds, or fourths, or fifths even!

Whenever my wife sees a picture like this of mine she always has some comment to make. Usually it's something along the lines of "That is such a typical you composition".

Up until a couple of years ago I used to run photography tours at a lovely luxury resort up in Port Douglas called Thala Beach Lodge.

One day I had a gentleman from the US on tour who was very disconcerted that I never seemed to use the rule of thirds but always what he called the rule of fifths.

In other words I tend to stick things way off at the edge of the frame.

You see the rule of thirds says that when we compose our pictures we should mentally divide our frame up like a noughts and crosses (or tick tack toe depending on where you live) board. Where the vertical and horizontal lines intersect is supposed to be the most interesting part of the frame, and that's where you should stick something of interest.

Only somewhere along the lines (no pun intended!) I must have got confused about how to divide up the viewfinder. Because I always seem to be sticking things way off towards the far edge of the frame - much farther than is recommended in the rule book. :)

I guess if there's something to take away from this it is that by keeping your subject out of the middle of the frame you encourage the eye to look around the rest of the frame, so it's often a good idea to keep your subject out of the middle of the picture.

Which is why this picture should be a big no-no. I have the subject right smack bang in the middle of the picture.

And yet, for some inexplicable reason, your eye still looks around the rest of the frame. Because of the contrast of the red in the middle of all that yellow your eye goes straight there. But then because we crave that contrast we look around the rest of the picture to see if there's any more red.

So as a rule I tend to leave things out of the middle of the frame but every so often I stick it there when I think the image calls for it. The first image was taken in the Okavango Delta in Botswana, the second image was taken in the little town of Tokachigawa in Hokkaido, Japan.

Have Camera Will Travel as a photography resource

Hi there everybody,

One of the things I've been meaning to get around to is editing down the list of keywords attached to posts. I want you all to be able to go back to previous posts and use the site as a resource for tips on travel photography, as opposed to just reading new posts every day. So blogger introduced this new facility to have the keywords as a Cloud. If you scroll down you can find it on the right hand side just under the Subscription buttons. There's still a few more to whittle down into a more comprehensive list but I would love it if you could go and take a look and just click on a few links to keywords that tickle your fancy. There's tips of professional travel photography, telephoto lenses, wide-angle lenses, people photography. Have a look around and I'm sure you'll come up with some long-forgotten gem. And if you want to post any comments or questions on any of them I'd be happy to answer.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Monday's Photography Links

Kirk Tuck has a great blog post on photographers' needs to constantly upgrade to the latest and greatest without any real thought for whether they need it or not. Every so often I get a call to shoot some medium format print film for a magazine that I sometimes do work for. And I remember what a joy it is to hear the whir of the film winding on to the next frame. And the mechanical clunk of the shutter. And the fact that what I'm seeing through the viewfinder is so much more important than the camera I'm using.

In the same vein, David duChemin has a new ebook for sale called 10: Ten Ways to Improve Your Craft. None of Them Involve Buying Gear. What a great title and if David's book Within the Frame is any indication this will be a fantastic resource for both budding and more advanced travel photographers.

So by the look of these link you can guess that I'm not going to post anything about gear this week. :) After last week's exploratory post I'm going to try and post some images that highlight different styles (rules? guidelines?) of composition. At least the way I tend to compose pictures anyway.

Stay tuned.