Tag Archives: Perspective

Beach views – ideas for a seaside photoshoot

Beach views are really worth planning out.

• Cornish Afternoon •
The great British beach experience is based on our long history of holidays by the sea. The beach views that come with it are worth pursuing too.
(Click image to view large).

Work up a great coastal vista shot.

Beach views can be magnificent and there is always something worth photographing. Sea makes a magical subject in almost any weather. In the right place the views can be magnificent. Here are a few ideas for you to help you get a great photo from your visit to the seaside.

Beach views :: great vista shots

Photographers should be aware of the opportunities for great vista shots. Here are three tips to help you get the shot and the right light…
1. Spotting a rugged coast: Scout out the maps near your destination. Most good maps will show contours and the coastal shape. If you are looking for interesting coastline check out the height of the land beside the sea. Cliffs and hills indicate harder, more resistant rocks. This helps build up a range of rugged landscapes. Also, the more jagged edges the map shows along the sea/beach line the more likely the coast will have an interesting viewpoint.

If you are looking for a place to try out, Google Maps is useful. The Google maps are not very good at showing contours or heights. But the jaggedness of a coast line is shown. If you convert the map to the Google “Earth” view you can get a satellite view of the coast. From that you can get quite a good idea of the terrain.

Google Earth - the satellite view provides a good idea of the type of coast.

• Whitsand Bay Cornwall •
The photo at the top of the page was taken from the position of the red dot. The view was taken along the rugged coast there. You can see from the Google Satellite view how rugged the coast is along there. It’s ideal for lots of different Beach views.


2. Beach views :: Checking out the light:
There are two times a day when the light is best for landscapes and vista shots. These are the Golden Hour just before sundown and the hour around sunrise. There is great light and low sun position at these times of the day. Why is low-sun position good? Because that causes long shadows to be cast off the rocks. Strong contrasts between the dark and light help define edges, shapes and form of the rocks and features. Shadows provide the defining depth in a picture too. Well defined shadows help the eye to see objects as more three dimensional.
• The Okta • The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps.

• The Okta •
The symbol for cloud cover on good weather maps. A useful symbol to tell you the light conditions when checking for good beach views.
(Attribution: Wikipedia.org Beach views :: Oktas - cloud cover symbols | External link - opens new tab/page)


Of course we are not always able to take our photos at the best times of the day. So how do you check to see what the light will be like when you are there? Of course the starting point is the weather. Most good weather forecast web sites will tell you the amount of cloud cover. You can usually tell how much cloud cover is expected by the number of Oktas (or Octas) shown. The more cloud cover the more diffused the light will be. The actual types of clouds make a difference too – if they are dark and ominous they will make a great backdrop to your beach views. Seascapes really look great with heavy storm clouds. Make sure you have a tripod to hand. Dark clouds mean longer exposures.

3. Sun position: If it is a sunny day you might find the sun position is important. If the sun is up high, cliffs can still be in shadow. It depends exactly where in the sky the sun is at the time you want to take photos. There are websites to help with that too. Check out The Photographers Ephemeris Beach views :: Get the light right with . This really useful website “is a map-centric sun and moon calculator: see how the light will fall on the land, be it day or night, for almost anywhere on earth”. There is a web-based version. But usefully, there are versions for your mobile phone too. You will be able to work out where the sun will be at any time of the day. This will help you work out how to fit your beach view shot into your day.

Putting depth into your beach views shot

The shadows you are able to capture will help your beach views appear to have depth. But a longer distance view, especially in mid-day daylight, will need to have other perspectives. Here are a few ideas for you to introduce a feeling of depth into your shots…

  • Overlaps: When you are looking down a long beach you often find features of the beach itself will overlap in your sight. Mounds of beach stones; sand dunes; different rock layers at beach level; cliff top undulations; variations in the cliff face itself and even local vegetation all help. The ways that these features relate to one-another in the scene give you clues to depth in the photo.
  • Contrasts in colour: The colour of the beach stones, rock, sand and even vegetation can often be used to show variation. As you shoot down the length of the beach these can help to show depth to the eye.
  • Texture variation: The cliffs, dunes, rocks and any seaweed revealed by a low tide provide great variations in texture. Look for ways to bring all these into the shot. Textures often come out by slightly underexposing the shot. That may make the scene look darker than it actually is, but it will bring out the light and dark aspects effectively.
  • Lines of perspective: Strong lines are not often associated with beach views. However there are some strong ones that people often miss. The sea line itself is a strong line. You can look down the length of the beach and use the surf or water line where it meets the beach. Looking down on the beach from cliffs you can use wave lines (see below). If you are on the beach itself you beach views are often enhanced by cliff top lines. Although they often undulate they perspective is still distinct against the sky. On the beach itself, fences and other man-made features (groynes, buildings, paths, roads, beach walls etc.) provide lots of points of perspective you can use.
  • Distant points: If you have something in the distance that your viewer knows to be large they have a distance perspective. In the picture at the top of the page you can see a cloud line. These tiny clouds in the distance give a perspective for the viewer. Other things can be large shops towns on the coast, and even buildings.
• Cornish beach view •

• Cornish beach view •
This view of the beach shown at the top of the page loses some perspective because the distances are reduced. The wave lines in the sea and the rock protruding from the cliffs gives back some of the perspective. The nearness of the grass close-up and smallness of the person and buildings also give depth to the shot.
(Click image to view large).

Check out other pictures of the location for your beach view

The most effective way to plan for your picture is to look up your destination and look for pictures done by other photographers. Try putting your intended location into Google Images. You will be able to pick out features in advance to help you give depth and perspective. You will also be able to see some good places to take shots. Here is the page for the bay where my pictures above were taken. You can see my shots are quite different from the others shown there. There is lots of scope to help you pick out some ideas.
Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall Google Images: Beach views Whitsands Bay Cornwall | External link - opens new tab/page.

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Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photographer and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Autumn photography – 50 things to think about

Autumn Cherry Leaves

• Autumn Cherry Leaves •
As Fall is upon us. Think of new ways to pull in the eye of the viewer.
Autumn Cherry Leaves by Netkonnexion on Flickr

Autumn is a great time of year.

There is so much to see and photograph. Being out in the open air and lovely locations is part of the attraction. Here are some other important and photographic things to consider.

Locations
  • Don’t always go to the same spot. Find somewhere new every Autumn.
  • Fall colours depend on the species, which may not be shown on maps.
  • Check with park information centres to see if the colours are right.
  • Information centres are great at giving directions to the best locations.
  • Watch weather forecasts to see when the best light is likely to show up.
  • Check websites for the area near the location for useful information.
Colours

What makes Autumn particularly exciting is the lovely russet and golden colours. Making those come out is not always easy. Think about these points…

  • Even slight greyness in the sky can dampen the colours.
  • Bright colour can be lost against a bright sky, exaggerate colour contrast.
  • Shoot yellows against a darker background so they don’t get lost.
  • Golden colours are best with a red dusk. Aim for times in the Golden Hour.
  • Don’t use a pop-up flash. It will flatten the colour and depth.
  • Use off-camera flash from the side to make leaves translucent and bright.
  • Use side light as much as possible to emphasis shadows and define shapes.
  • Use any greens you can as a back-drop for golden colours.
  • Low sunlight peeping under clouds often brings out yellows.
  • Take pictures after rain – the wetness often revitalises colours.
  • Consider a filter on your camera to exaggerate natural colours.
  • Try shots with as many mixed colours as possible.
  • Try shots with lots of similar colours across the picture.
Equipment

Every shoot demands its own approach. But here are some ideas to help the Autumn shots work for you…

  • A tripod is essential. A fuzzy shot of a great scene is horrible!
  • Most people forget the wide angle shots.
  • Remember that zoom lenses flatten perspective – consider prime lenses.
  • Consider using white boards and gold reflectors to help bring up colours.
  • You can’t make great images if you are cold/wet. Wear proper clothing.
  • Beware of changing lenses in damp air!
The shots

Found a great place to rejoice in colour and texture? Now you need to think about composition and ideas for your shots…

  • Check out our resources on composition.
  • Before going spend two hours looking at images by others (Google)  External link - opens new tab/page.
  • Work out a list of, say, 25 shots you would like to try out.
  • Concentrate your efforts on a few ideas.
  • Use your trip to try at least one type of shot new to you.
  • Practice your chosen shots before you go.
  • Remember to work the scene at the location.
  • Remember The fifteen second landscape appraisal.
  • Have a go at this old sailors trick to improve landscapes.
  • People often look up when in trees. Look down, there is plenty there.
  • Get really low.
  • Get really close.
  • Experiment with Depth of Field:.
  • Light leaves from behind. Translucent leaves are wonderful.
  • Consider backlighting to bring out shapes.
  • Hold up something interesting and photograph it with your hand.
  • Dogs look great in leaves! Capture your pet having fun!
  • Take a macro lens or macro tubes. Get really close.
  • Look for golden, yellows and reds in reflections… they look great!
Try going to manual (M) settings…

There is nothing more exciting. Get great images knowing they came out the way you intended. Avoid ‘auto’ shots programmed by a boffin at the camera factory.

Autumn and you…

Don’t be so intense that its not fun! Love your trip, enjoy the moment and if possible share it with a friend. Make some great images along the way.

Have a great Autumn.

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Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is managing editor of Photokonnexion.com with professional experience in photography, writing, image libraries, and computing. He is also an experienced, webmaster and a trained teacher. Damon runs regular training for digital photographers who are just starting out.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’
By Damon Guy :: Profile on Google+

Seeing the subject… refining your vision

Beat it up!

• Beat it up! •
Click image to view large
Beat it up! By Netkonnexion on Flickr Photographers eye :: Seeing the subject… refining your vision | External link - opens new tab/page
To really look at a subject you have to see it as you have never seen it before.

Cultivating the photographers eye…

What the “eye” really means is difficult to define. One thing’s sure. As “photographers eye” develops you see things differently. Refining your vision to see differently is how you develop your version of the ‘eye’.

Looking at the scene

In Working the scene I described how to walk through the scene, understand the angles and ideas that relate to the scene and ways to find “the” shot. At first it is not a simple process. You are developing a habit. Doing things that you would not do naturally.

Standing up and using the camera from your normal eye position makes your subject look like you always see it. Surprisingly, it is also the same way most others see it too. Where is the novelty, interest and insight in that? Photographers eye, Seeing the subject in a different way requires refining your vision.

Well, you can change it all by studying your subject from new angles, new light and with new perspectives.

What if the scene is a close up subject?

A wonderful thing about photography is the ability to isolate a subject, get in close to it and examine it in a way we normally do not try to do with our eyes.

The challenge is to do things differently so we can see things differently. In this blog I often urge people to get in close – fill the frame. That is one way to see a subject anew. There are others. Below, there are some ideas to get you to see your subject differently.

Photographers eye – Getting in close:

Really close means a macro lens. If you don’t have one then you can get some macro extension tubes. These are an inexpensive way to do macro photography. However, the way to see things differently is to try and see the subject in ways that are different to the everyday perspective. Using a macro lens, tubes, or even very close with an ordinary lens you need to be versatile. Get around your subject, see it from at least ten different positions. Try to make every shot different. Take every shot as if you are seeing the subject as a new object. Don’t just look at the whole subject, get right into the tiny detail, all of the tiny details. (See Amazon search results for macro extension tubes External link - opens new tab/page).

Photographers eye – Getting the Angles

Developing your vision is not just about details, even if there are lots of them. Try taking each detail from a whole range of angles, under, over and from the back too. Angles on a subject help to start you looking at the aesthetics of an object. Look for curves, pleasing intersections, great lines, diagonals… Anything that helps you to see the beauty in a subject and shows it in a new way.

Photographers eye – Using different lenses

If you have them, explore the subject using a range of lenses. Get wide. Go long. Try fish-eye. Work with a prime. Go with whatever lenses you’ve got. The idea is to show the subject in a variety of different ways. Every lens has its peculiar characteristics and distortions. Training your eye to see a subject in different ways by using different lenses is one way to become sensitive to photographic perspectives. You will begin to see how a camera sees. If you only ever use one lens you will begin to see everything in a plain way. If you can see things in a variety of different ways you will begin to start looking at things differently.

Photographers eye – seeing different light, different exposures

Light is the essence of everything we do in photography. While you are working with small subjects (like in my picture above) you can make changes to the light. You can use ambient light, window light, natural light, reflected light and domestic lights. Then there are coloured lights, soft light, hard light, and even laser light. Then, you also have dozens of different ways to use artificial photographic lights too. Added to these different illuminations you can also develop a whole range of exposures. You can explore your subject as under-exposed, over-exposed, dark or bright. You can use shadows, different light angles, different light heights. There are literally thousands of ways to light and expose any one subject. Explore as many of them as possible.

Other variables:

Try different backgrounds, different colours and different textures on your subject. Vary through monochrome, colour, colour intensity… try it against black or against white. Use different depths of field, more bokeh, less bokeh. Blur, movement… Try everything. Just make it you mission to look for the different way of doing it.

Refining your vision – developing photographers eye

Developing your vision as a photographer is about understanding the way you can shoot things differently to other people. You are trying to deliver to your viewer a different view of the world. To find what you are good at, what your unique perspective is, you must explore a universe of different approaches. Work with new angles, light variations, colours… well everything discussed above and more.

When you see a new subject get into it, explore it, by trying everything you can to see it anew and in a new light (literally). After a while, with practice, you will develop the photographers eye. To do that you must learn to see new ways that you can take a shot without actually needing to take it. Then you will be envisioning the shot in advance. You will also be developing your eye – your unique eye. You will have learned to see differently and to have put your particular style into your shots.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

Ten simple ideas to improve your photography (and a fun quiz)

Ten Tips

Ten Tips and 12 fun quiz questions.

Simple things help you…

We should all take a step back and think about the basics sometimes. It helps us remember essential techniques and keeps us on our toes. Here are the basics with some fun quiz questions too.

The simplest techniques in photography are often the most important ones. In this post we make sure we don’t forget them…

10 essential things to know; 12 fun quiz questions
  1. Not knowing your camera: This is really bad news. If you are hoping to improve your photography make sure you learn what every lump, bump, dial, screen, lens and twiddly bit does. Read your manual regularly. Practice with each function until you have got it right. Then practice it in the dark so you can do a night shoot.
    Quiz Question 1: How many lenses are there on a camera? Answers at the end!
  2. Poor stance: Most people when starting photography don’t realise that the way they stand and hold the camera creates all sorts of problems and poor performance. If you are a keen photographer a good stance can contribute to improved sharpness (hand-held shots), better focus, more steady hand and better shot timing. Learn to stand properly right at the start and you will save yourself lots of re-training time later.
    Quiz Question 2: At what point in the breath cycle is it best to take your shot?
  3. Not using a tripod: classic mistake. Tripods save you lots of time and give you pin sharp photographs. They give you an opportunity to set your camera up properly and ensures that your are ready for your shot.
    Quiz Question 3: A monopod has one leg, a tripod has three legs. What is, and how might you use, a bipod?
  4. Not giving the camera time to focus: When you press the shutter button halfway down it causes the auto-focus to cut in which focuses the camera. But if you punch straight through that to the shot the focus has not had time to do the full focus. This normally happens on the first focus attempt when the focus is right off. After that the lens in nearly focused and will adjust more quickly. So don’t make your first focus attempt too close to the shot or it will be blurred.
    Quiz Question 4: Why do you have two rings on a modern auto-focus/zooming photographic lens? What do you call each of them?
  5. Taking pictures against a bright light? Cameras don’t like very bright lights. Especially if there are also very dark spots nearby. Shooting indoors while looking at a window out to a bright sky will cause a strong white spot. This is very distracting and draws the eye away from the subject. Not good. There are Light and Lighting resource pages on Photokonnexion for you to learn more.
    Quiz Question 5: How many stops of light can healthy human eyes see (20:20 vision)? How many can the camera (rough generalisation) cope with?
  6. Relying on flash (especially pop-up flash): Pop up light has a very small concentrated source. It discolours faces, washes out colours, creates harsh, sharp-lined shadows and is badly placed (too close to the optical axis) creating nasty highlights on faces. Try to use natural light more. It is much more forgiving and does not produce such harsh shadows most of the time.
    Quiz Question 6: What is often the result of using pop-up flash with respect to two parts of the face?
  7. Dead centre subject: If you put the subject of your picture in the centre it will usually be boring. If you off-set your subject the eye will be looking to see why the symmetry is broken. That keeps the eye hunting around the screen. Learn about the “Rule of thirds” and other Composition principles. That will help you make the shot more compelling to the eye.
    Quiz Question 7: What type of compositional perspective would you be working with if you want to promote a three dimensional feel to your picture composition?
  8. Horizon control: Make sure your horizon is level, especially if it is a seascape. If you leave it on an angle the picture will be ruined because it will look like the sea is sliding off the page! Horizons also induce mid-picture viewer-stupor. Make a decision. Either shoot for the sky in which case place the horizon in the bottom third of the picture. Or, shoot for the ground in which case the horizon goes in the top third of the picture. An off-set horizon is more dynamic and keeps the viewers eye moving.
    Quiz Question 8: If your main choice is to shoot for the sky, where would you take your exposure from? (Where would you point your viewfinder focus point?) a. The sky? b. The ground?
    Quiz Question 9: Describe autofocus hunting and why it happens?
  9. Simplify, simplify, simplify: The most effective way to show a subject to your viewer is to de-clutter the picture. Take out of your composition everything that is nothing to do with the subject. The more you make the viewers eye go to the subject the more effective your shot will be.
    Did I mention that you should simplify your shot?
    Quiz Question 10: What is it called when you paint out something from your picture in post processing to simplify a shot?
    By the way, did I mention that you should work really hard to simplify your shots?
  10. Go manual: Auto-modes on your camera are really best guesses about what the manufacturer thinks will be suitable for the average shots most snappers will take. Buy you are a keen photographer. To get the camera to do exactly what you want, and to make discerning choices about your images you should work on improving your manual control. Your understanding of photographic principles will improve, your skill at exposure will improve and you will find yourself making informed choices about how you want your picture to come out. You will turn from a snapper into a photographer.
    Quiz Question 11: What does the ISO control do? a. Adjust the sensitivity of the digital image sensor or b. Change the aperture size?
    Quiz Question 12: Does ‘shutter speed’ or ‘aperture’ control movement blur?
Answers to quiz questions
  • Quiz Question Answer 1: I am talking about any camera that has a lens, not just DSLRs. the number of lenses is a matter of variation. If you are discussing photographic lenses then only that one will count (but read on). Some people think of each glass element in the photographic lens as an independent lens. Technically that is not true. They are optical lenses or glass elements, not photographic lenses. However, if the photographic lens (and elements if you included those) were all you counted you would be wrong. Here is a short list of Possible lenses on a camera of any sort…

    There may be others.

  • Quiz Question Answer 2: You should take a shot at the full inhale point or full exhale point before inhaling or exhaling in the next part of the cycle. You can choose which is best for you. All you do is delay the next part of the cycle while you take a shot. This is the point in the breath cycle when there is least movement of the shoulders/chest. Read more about it in Simple tips for a good stance
  • Quiz Question Answer 3: A bipod is photographically uncommon. Understandably, it has two legs. Find out more here… Definition: Bipod
  • Quiz Question Answer 4: The two rings on an auto-focussing photographic lens allow one ring to focus the image – the focus ring. The other ring is for zooming the lens. The latter changes the focal length and is called the focal length ring.
  • Quiz Question Answer 5: Human eyes can see about 18 to 20 stops of light when healthy. However, by contrast the best commercially available cameras have to operate with a dynamic range of 8 to 12 stops of light. Research is pushing the boundaries but there is still a big gap to meet the dynamic range of the human eye (in 2013).
  • Quiz Question Answer 6: Pop-up flash is very likely to cause red-eye.
  • Quiz Question Answer 7: To make things look three dimensional in your image you should be working with three point perspective. Look for lines in your image that promote cube-like structures. For example buildings, walls and other objects with lines and shapes that have a solid feel in real life. This will trick the eye into believing that there is a solid object in the picture. Read: Simple ideas about perspective in photography and: Definition: Perspective
  • Quiz Question Answer 8: If you shoot for the sky you will need to be taking your exposure from the sky as that is the brightest point. This will leave the ground darker in your exposure than you would see it with your eye. You can use one of a number of techniques to correct that later.
  • Quiz Question 9: Auto-focus hunting is when the auto-focus in the lens cannot focus and will keep going up and down the focus range trying to get a focus. This is a common problem at night, in darker conditions, low contrast conditions and clear or totally grey skies. You can read more about it in: Auto-focus ‘Hunting’ Definition: Hunting, Auto-focus

  • Quiz Question 10: when you paint out something from your picture in post processing to simplify a shot? You normally use a cloning tool. You can find out more in: Definition: Cloning; To Clone; Cloned; Clone Tool.
  • Quiz Question 11: What does the ISO control do? It adjusts the sensitivity of the digital image sensor allowing you to work in bright light (low ISO setting) or low light (high ISO setting). There is an article on ISO here: ISO.

  • Quiz Question 12: Shutter speed controls movement blur. Aperture controls blur (bokeh) created by the loss of sharpness outside the zone of acceptable sharpness. This is traditionally known as the depth of field. More reading on: Definition: Exposure and related to aperture: Definition: f number.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

A hidden compositional element to pull the eye into your images

• Honiston Pass in the English Lake District •

• Honiston Pass in the English Lake District •
Overlapping elements in the picture promote a strong sense of distance.
Click image to view large
• Honiston Pass in the English Lake District • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

Add depth to your images.

Look at the scene and find ways to show depth. If you want a scene to be convincing you should consider all the compositional angles. In particular the depth. A flat image is not convincing. One of the ways to achieve depth is to incorporate overlap in the scene elements.

What is overlap?

In composition overlap is where one element of the scene is partially obscures another. It is a simple concept and one that creates a marker for the eye. If we see something that is obscured by another thing we have learned from experience that there is a distance between them. The relative sizes of the objects help us to guess what distance separates them.

We cannot immediately tell the relationship between far away or small objects if objects don’t overlap. We don’t have a reference point between them. We can project some sort of guessed perspective and under some circumstances we can guess by the effect of atmospherics (like haze, fog or dust in the air). However, in most cases that takes thinking and time to do. When a viewer is looking into an image they will not take the time to do that sort of guesswork. We need to make the depth immediately obvious, or we will lose the viewer.

The picture above is an example. There are several overlaps. The foreground road and grass verge slightly overlaps the large foreground rock. The latter forms a strong overlap with the wall. The mountain pass disappears into the distance around three spurs that inter-space with one another giving a strong sense of overlap right to the horizon.

Overlap is the key to the immediate recognition of depth in a lot of situations. Landscapes, and often in strange environments like tiny-scale close-ups, are good examples. When you are looking to help the viewer understand the image try and find ways to provide some overlaps so that the image clearly shows relative distance between objects throughout the distance into the shot.

Overlap the villain

Overlap is not always the good guy in an image. There are occasions when it is a source of confusion. For example the image below…

• Overlapping - the deer problem •

• Overlapping – the deer problem •


The picture shows three deer. You might need to take a second look. I did, and I took the picture. You see? Overlap has killed the image.

The most difficult overlaps you will find are the ones where there is little distance between the overlapping elements. In the case of the deer above the merge effect is almost absolute and the resolution of the second deer is spoiled. Its outline merges with the third one at the back. The legs are completely visually entangled. This is a clear confusion for the viewer.

The general rule with overlaps that do not work is clear…
         Avoid overlapping objects that are similar and close.

Unfortunately that often includes people. When they overlap there is frequently confusion. This is especially the case when the clothing is similar (say, all black suits). Another example of problematic overlaps is with silhouettes. The outlines have to be very clear to carry a true sense of character. Otherwise, you cannot tell where one person ends and another begins.

Judgement call

As with so many good things there is a bad side. While overlap is a great help in establishing distance for the eye it can also be the villain. The trick is in understanding how much the eye interprets the similarity of the overlapping element and how much distance lies between them. Your judgement call, as a photographer, is to look at your composition and ask yourself if the viewer will interpret the overlap as help or confusion.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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This one peculiar idea can transform your photography

Compositional elements :: Look at a large number of photographs every day

Everything you see in a photograph is a composition. Looking at lots of photos every day, particularly good ones, helps you appreciate good images. The article shows you how to identify simple Compositional elements.

Involve yourself to improve

Every day, expose yourself to great images. The mind soaks up the goodness. But to make it effective you should also be seeing into the image. It is surprising, but the the good things about a photograph are seen with the first glances. Compositional elements in a photo jump out at you, even if you can’t tell me about them. I am going to show you how to find them with a simple exercise.

What is in an image? Compositional elements

When we look at an image it is often difficult to see what is good about it. Obviously our personal taste plays a part. Often however, other people who do not share our taste, also like it. The common appeal comes from the compositional elements of the image. Often these elements are very simple structural lines or edges. They help the eye through the image or lead the eye to the key subject. Composition is all about helping the eye to appreciate the main point of the image.

How do we pick out the compositional elements?

Knowing about composition is important. The “Rule of Thirds” and other simple rules help you to analyse a scene. You can use them to understand ways the eye uses compositional elements in a scene. Find out more about composition from our page: “Composition resources on Photokonnexion”. There are lots of posts there to help you with composition.

You can already spot basic compositional elements

The main compositional elements can be picked out by eye. Anyone can do it. This is what you do…

  1. Take a small piece of paper – postcard size is ideal.
  2. You are going to draw on the small piece of paper…
  3. Pick out a photo – any picture.
  4. Study it for five seconds.
  5. Put the picture out of sight.
  6. Using simple curved and straight lines make a skeleton sketch of the picture. Do it from memory take no more than thirty seconds.

That’s it. You have simply isolated the elements of the compositional structure.

Here is an example. Click this link and follow the short procedure above. to create the skeleton sketch.
Test Picture

Here is a good example of what you should see when you have finished your sketch: Test Picture Compositional Skeleton. It was done by my wife who is not a photog or artist. Despite that she has successfully isolated the major compositional elements in the picture. It shows how effectively this exercise can work

More after this…

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Analysis

The test image is of Honister Pass in the English Lake District. All the lines lead the viewer to one point. The exit in the hills in the distance is dynamically off-centre. That keeps your search for symmetry. You feel like you know where the road is going. It draws the eye into the picture. Your eye does not exit upward – the clouds hold the eye into the valley. You are drawn along the road into the image, giving it depth. The picture has a 3d structure and a strong mood.

The strong lines and balance of this picture make it simple to pick out compositional elements. With practice this procedure will help you analyse complex examples. With a few practice examples you will be able to pick out compositional elements by eye. If you do this in your head you’re on the way to doing compositional analysis through the viewfinder.

As you learn new compositional ideas you will pick out more compositional elements. Use them as tools of analysis. They will help you understand and compose in the frame while taking a shot. Soon you will compose to draw the viewer into the picture.

Rules don’t make things beautiful

Rules of composition are limited in many ways. They are more guidelines than rules really. So do not fear to break them. Instead, know the things that work well for the eye. Develop harmony and balance, learn to appreciate beauty. Look at as many great images you can every day. Knowing a little about why they are attractive will help you to create more beautiful and effective images of your own.

By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.

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A quick look at ruins and countryside

• Lonely Bodmin Chimney •

• Lonely Bodmin Chimney •
Click image to view large
• Lonely Bodmin Chimney • By Netkonnexion on Flickr External link - opens new tab/page

The influence of man on the countryside is worth photographing.

For centuries we’ve created substantial buildings in open country. Today, these have become an intimate part of the rural scene. For photographers they provide an interesting focus for landscapes. Sometimes quaint, sometimes aesthetically pleasing, these old relics can provide great interest for the eye. They draw the viewer into the scene and provide a starting point for the appreciation of the rest of the image.

Finding ruins and old buildings

In the UK the Ordinance Survey  External link - opens new tab/page sell maps that carry a key which marks out old, derelict and protected buildings. Other countries have similar mapping systems. Surprisingly some online mapping systems are not so good at highlighting these features of our history. Unless, that is, they are part of some sort of commercial or historic leisure opportunity on the site.

I was crossing Bodmin Moor in the West Country, UK, one day and came across the chimney above in a tiny country lane. Well off the beaten track. Bodmin Moor, with many other places in Cornwall and Devon, was once a thriving mining area. The locals extracted tin. Sadly the workings bring little prosperity to either county now. But many of the old mine buildings, and especially the distinctive chimneys, bring many tourists. In the parks and moors these mines are preserved and they provide brilliant photographic opportunities. The ones that are away from the crowds are best. A lonely feature in a landscape is always more attractive than a solitary chimney surrounded by heavily trodden ground, tourists and coaches.

So how do you find these hidden gems? Here are some things you can do…

  • At walkers/backpackers shops ask the staff. They often know local interest spots.
  • Get to know some local people in places you stay.
  • Tourist information offices are found world wide and often know of hidden places.
  • Study maps and aerial views of places you are going to visit.
  • Ask in local camera shops.
  • Contact the local camera club to your destination before your trip.
  • Search out ‘interest’ booklets written by local people for local people – often found in walkers/backpackers shops
  • Contact historical and walkers societies in advance of your trip
How should you photograph ruins?

There are some basics you should think about…

Use perspective to exaggerate depth: Find a long wall or fence, even ancient pathways/hedges to shoot along and use these to create perspectives and lines to draw the eye into the picture and create depth.

Rule of thirds: In the picture above the chimney is on a third. The rule of thirds always helps with a more dynamic placement of solid objects in the landscape.

Foreground, mid-ground, distance: These help create layers in the picture. Picture something close to you as detailed and tail off the detail on the other side of some breakpoint in the image. My little steam in the foreground (above) not only provides detail, but acts to break up the picture into fore and mid-ground too. Nearer the horizon the chimney provides interest drawing in the eye and creating depth.

• Rock backdrop •

• Rock backdrop •
The textures on the sites of ruins are often great for portraits


Detail and texture: Some great things can be found around ruins, derelict buildings, mines and old industrial sites. Think of old spillways, waterways, old machinery, the wonderful textures, rocks, farm animals, heaps of mine spoils, rust, old beams of wood… the list is endless. They all provide great photographic opportunities.

People! ruins and derelict sites make great places for portraits. The textures and variations of the scene both make great backdrops. Look for surfaces that have high contrast. Lots of mid-tone highlights and darks mixed so that the texture stands out. If the light is no good then you can side light with an off-camera flash to exaggerate the texture in the rocks.

Light painting: There are some brilliant opportunities for lighting up these sorts of places fat night with all sorts of exotic lights, colours and fun light painting shots. You can find out more about light painting in this post: Night photography – let the sparks fly!. Be mindful of your safety – some of these places are dangerous and make sure you get any permissions you need before invading a site with bizarre night lights. Someone may object, especially on private ground.

Opportunities

Ruins and the like provide great opportunities for landscapes, portraits, studies in texture and fun shots. Be on the look out for local situations for you to get to know and plan ahead for when you are away.

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By Damon Guy (author and Photokonnexion editor)

Damon Guy - Netkonnexion

Damon Guy (Netkonnexion)

Damon is a writer-photog and editor of this site. He has run some major websites, a computing department and a digital image library. He started out as a trained teacher and now runs training for digital photogs.
See also: Editors ‘Bio’.
By Damon Guy see his profile on Google+.