Thursday, May 17, 2012

Contrast: Pinion and Pebbles

I've discovered that there are people who always look down when they walk and others, like me, who always look forward or up. I'm not sure why that is, or how people wind up like that, but it's an interesting contrast. My wife is one of those who look down. Consequently, I think that our world looks very different. Even when we walk together over the same piece of ground what we see is never the same.

Feather and Stones; f/3.2, 1/170 sec, ISO 400
The picture in this post is all about contrast. And it's a photo I would have missed had I not taken a lesson from my walks with Kim; for once I was looking down. That's the first contrast. The dissonance between the soft, wispy vanes of the feather on the hard, water-worn stones is the most obvious contrast. The mostly-dark color of the stones beneath the white feather makes for yet another interesting contrast, one made even more stark by my decision to drain nearly all of the color from the picture and to bump up the fine detail contrast in Photoshop Elements. I deepened the shadows for even more of contrast.

The original photo had some good elements to it, and I might revisit it in a future post, but it wasn't until I had a look at it totally desaturated of color that I discovered the incredible detail and the possibility to explore all of the textures and tones. Sometimes color and perfect light can hide the real beauty in a subject. Sometimes the real picture is hidden in the contrast.

I took this picture in 2005 and have always wanted to do something with it. Now I know why I kept it around all these years.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Abuzz Over Bees in the Trees

It's been a strange transition to Spring here in Rochester. There were a couple of 80 degree days in March, then more snow in April, then warmer, then rain and even a few flakes in May. The trees and many other plants bloomed early and when the flowers come out and the birds start singing and the bees are buzzing I want to take pictures!

It happens every year - I can't help it.

Bee In The Maple: f/5.6, 1/200, ISO 200
By mid-March the maple tree in my back yard was in full bloom and lots of bees were attracted to the flowers. I grabbed my camera and was trying to figure out how best to catch one of them. It was a bit cloudy with some great, diffuse light, but my initial shots were coming out a bit dark. I had just finished reading about using aperture and shutter speed to control subject and background exposure when using a flash so I thought I'd try to slightly over-expose the background so that the bee and flowers would stand out.

It took a few tries, but but I managed to get a couple of shots that I think worked out like I wanted. I also shot with a relatively wide open aperture that also helped blur the background - you can just see the reddish blur of other flowers in the background. These add a little interest and keep the shot from looking like it was taken in a studio. The specular highlights on the bee from the flash are pretty cool, especially the hexagonal one on the compound eye.

This shot worked because I read about a technique, remembered it and then used that technique when I ran into a situation where it was applicable. In this case I needed to do something different because the background would have been too cluttered with more tree branches, other insects buzzing about and the rest of the world behind the shot. Now the challenge will be to remember how I did this and to keep using it where it works to simplify a shot and bring real focus to my subject. That seems to be a big challenge for me; I am learning lots of new things as I work to improve my pictures, but I haven't used them enough for them to become second nature for me yet. I guess that means I'll just have to take more pictures!