Relating Organic and Geometric Forms

Vineyards offer an excellent opportunity to think abstractly about the organic forms of the landscape, and the geometric forms of the vine rows layered on top of that landscape. The patterns that result from this contract can produce very satisfying photographs. The first image below uses the organic landscape forms as big, powerful curves at the skyline. Below them the geometry of the vines takes over, creating patterns within patterns form the rows and the individual vine locations. Free-standing California Zinfindel vines are excellent for this type of image, as they do not have the heavy hardware involved in trellising most vines in America.

OldVineZin-1

The following image includes more factors, making the organic/geometric relationship less obvious. Here there is the symmetry of the hill behind, and the tree trees just in front of it. Yet the straight lines of the rows of vines and the pattens the tiller has left in the open ground still add relationships and texture to the overall image. The less hardware-intensive methods used to trellis vines in Tuscany make this image cleaner and less distracted than a similar image would be in California.

VineyardGeometry-1

C. David Tobie

Death as a Photo Theme

Death has been an artistic theme for millennia. A stroll through an old cemetery will produce a number of death-related themes, including that odd mix of a skull and angel wings called a death head, weeping willow trees, more symbolic of mourning than death itself, and the occasional “cut down in his prime” gravestone carved in the form of a tree stump with its branches cut off.

While such themes are not appropriate for condolence cards, they do have a powerful psychological value that makes such images useful for illustrating death-related themes and articles. The orchard of white stumps in the image below can have a ghastly effect on some viewers, with its references to death and even to the battlefield. But it also has notes of life in the yellow mustard blooming between the rows, and the shoots attempting to grow on the stumps.

OrchardStumps-1

The next image, below, is a less ambiguous image of death. The less-majestic-than-usual Tuscan field adds a lyric backdrop without detracting from the main theme, and even the colors are less dramatic then typically seen in Tuscany.

DeadTree-1

But perhaps its possible to take the image theme a level further. Below is the same image converted to black and white. No brilliant blue sky, no greens below. While this version reduces the impact of the tree’s actual shades of gray, it does create an even more sober result. You decide which mood you prefer: death amidst color, or death in black and white.

DeadTreeB&W-1

C. David Tobie

Tide Pool Macros

Tidal pools are a wonderful source of material for shooting macro photos. They offer life, texture, color, and mystery. Such shots can occur above, or below, the waterline. Often it is possible to shoot underwater images without an underwater camera or housing in tide pools, since they are very shallow, with a smooth surface. In other cases, the distortions of the water movement can add interesting effects to the images. The first image below is all about detail and color, with the amazing pearl-strand-like details on the purple and orange starfish. The second image has a smoother, dreamier quality, created by the surface of the water, which is relatively flat above the anemone, but more distorted in other areas of the image.

CanonStars-1 TidePoolAnenome-1

C. David Tobie

Tool Marks, as a Bridge to the Past

Photography is often used to tell the story of the past, through the documentation of artifacts. Often, the objects involved are known to the viewer, so searching for other facets to make a more vital link through time is important. Tool marks, in this sense meaning the handcrafted textures left on wood, stone, and metal as it is crafted, can be such a link. Here, the fronts of these ancient grave markers are not shown, to instead tell the story of the making of these markers, including the very unique saw and chisel marks on the roughhewn back of one of the stones. The flags, the maple tree, the late summer flowers, and the deep summer sky all add to the story, but the texture of the stones is the unique detail that makes the image memorable.

Hand hewn stones-1

C. David Tobie

Local Color as an Emotional Key

Color is something the human eye reads in many ways. One of those ways is as memory colors, the color of our childhood holidays, of the sky in our favorite location, or other emotionally linked memories. When a color stands out, consider its memory color value to your audience. Anyone who has experienced the vivid cranberry color of blueberry barrens or cranberry bogs in the fall will instantly recognize that tone in a landscape. Similarly, the unique orange tone of the seashore lichen shown below will tell viewers in England, New England, and the other coastal locations where it grows, that this is a shot from near the ocean, be it on a gravestone, or a natural outcropping.

Designers looking to trigger these local memory colors will be happy to find your images including them, if they are tagged in a way that makes them visible when making location-oriented searches.

Orange Lichen-1

C. David Tobie

The Challenge of Flag Closeups

Shooting images containing flags is a thankless task; a dozen good compositions may all be rejected because the flag is not in a photogenic pose. Shooting flags by themselves presents other challenges: everyone knows what the subject matter is, and finding a unique way of framing it is important. Macros of just a portion of a flag will produce interesting images with all the needed content, without all the usual real estate. Adding further elements such as motion blur and selective focus can function to abstract the image, while still leaving the colors and forms clearly visible. One such example is shown below, offering a more poetic, less literal flag image, which would be a good seller for stock image use.

Flag Closeup-1

C. David Tobie

Heroic Shots of Small Subjects

Sometimes the hero shot is the right answer, even when it does not seem to be the likely question. In this instance, a clean, simple image, without background elements, (as tempting as ocean backgrounds can be) produces a more focussed image, with a clearer composition. The low angle of the shot, taken crouched and kneeling, cleans up the background, but also produces the classic heroic image. While dune grass surviving the winter and a short section of dune fencing may not be a monumental subject matter, treating it as one gets the viewer to look at it in a new way.

Popham Stillife-1

C. David Tobie