Backlight as a Modeling Technique

Backlighting is the method that deprives the objects being shot the light they need to be clearly seen. And yet, in some instances, it can create a compelling result. Here the backlight rakes the rear and surface, providing a textured backdrop. And enough light is bounced from the arch above and to the right to provide a modest amount of sidelight, defining the teapots that form the subject.

The familiarity of these pots mean that less lighting is actually more, modeling them dramatically, and making them an interesting study, instead of the obvious objects they would be with more typical lighting. This is the very type of lighting that artists sometimes use to light subjects for still  life studies in charcoal or ink. The result is a photograph echoing a hand-drawn black and white still life. A touch of warmth in the image color, mostly to the upper right, and a cooler “light leak” mostly on the lower left add a color range to the otherwise monochrome image.

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C. David Tobie

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The Mirror of Your Soul

…or at least your artistic intent. Mirrors provide a creative opportunity for photographers to make a statement, by allowing them a choice of what secondary subject matter is added to an image. Here the line of Harleys created a nice repeating pattern, but, by capturing the flag in not one, but all three mirrors, it ties in with the red and chrome blue tones of the bikes, as well as making a clear patriotic statement. ReflectedGlory-1

C. David Tobie

Enriching Sunset Photography with Clouds

The shots below are both taken from the same vantage point, several months apart.  The first is a typical sunset shot, which gains most of its interest from the Cypress trees silhouetted in the foreground. A few wisps of cloud help add a bit of character to the sky. Satisfying, but very simple.

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The second shot below shows the same grove of trees, but with a very different mood, from the cloud cover. There is still a sense of sunset from the salmon tones near the horizon, but much more drama from the summer storm clouds moving down the valley. So don’t skip the sunset photo shoot on days with clouds or threatening weather, the results may be even more useful than sunset shots from blue-sky days.

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C. David Tobie

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.

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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.

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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.

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C. David Tobie

Dark Floral Photography

Floral photography is typically about light and brilliant color. But thats not how it has to be. It makes for striking floral images to shoot in dimmer locations with lower key colors. Here all that was required was to stoop under an overhanging tree, and shoot in the deep shade to achieve a notably different type of floral image, pleasing, but with a very different key and palette.

DarkFloral-1C. David Tobie

All About That Bass

Music Festivals offer photographers an increased level of access to shoot musicians. However, it is often in less than ideal locations, with cluttered stages and backgrounds. One solution to this is to use a long lens, focus on closeups of one or two musicians at a time, and to use a shallow depth of focus; all of which will assist in reducing the impact of the clutter. Another option is to shoot up, from just in front to the stage, to avoid much of the stage gear.

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This bass player, at the American Folk Festival, was grooving to his own beat. Isolating him from the band focused on that beat, and shooting from below offered a unique angle as well as clutter reduction. The Prada sunglasses were a fringe benefit.

C. David Tobie