Creative Sunblocks

Shots into the sun can be a challenge, particularly with the more recent iPhones and their sapphire lens covers, which cause a lot of flare with shots incorporating a bright light source. Using sunblocks is one solution. When an object is available that can be used to block, or at least partially block, the sun, the resulting image can have better contrast and detail, as well as reduced artifacting. A convenient tree is the most common choice, and classic, especially with a palm tree. But using foliage at a corner of the image can get good results in a less obvious manner, as can other image elements. Even sunset shots can benefit from sunblocking, as the last of these images shows. So remember your sunblock!






C. David Tobie

Conflicting Color Palettes

Color palettes are groups of related colors, such as primaries, or pastels. There are palettes associated with certain holidays, or seasons. Conflicting palettes can create striking images that grab the eye, and demand further consideration. This can be valuable in locations where images compete for the eye. The image below includes two classic color palettes: the hot summer colors of the sailboat, and the more natural fall foliage colors of the trees. The challenging relationship between these two palettes creates a memorable, and eye-catching, image.Sailboat-1

C. David Tobie

The View, Denied

Its easy to offer your viewer a broad panorama. But with the loss of the third dimension in photographs, such a view often, so to speak, falls flat. Layering foreground elements into the composition is the simplest technique for adding depth to an image. But a variation on that technique is to deny the viewer the bigger view, to force them to peer, in a sense, through the keyhole to see it. While this may seem a contrary technique, the result can be quite compelling. Below, one of the Porcupine Islands off the Coast of Maine is viewed through the gap between the gunwales and the boom of the sail. Yet the result has more flavor for the compression of the scene, and the addition of the other elements.

C. David Tobie

Telephoto Lenses to Compress a Scene

It had been a longtime goal to shoot the fields of sunflowers in Tuscany. But trips there in June were too early, and trips in August were too late. Then, one summer, on a drive to Cortona a field of perfect sunflowers appeared, at a time when all the others were far past prime. Apparently the farmer had been late sowing that plot. The field was in a flat area, efficient for farming, but without the hilly beauty typical of Tuscany. So: how to take advantage of this opportunity, when the “hillside of flowers” archetype was not possible?

The first images shot were with a standard length lens, and results, as shown at the bottom below, were unimpressive. However, switching to a long telephoto lens, and using the car as a shooting platform for height, produced the top image below, a simple field image, with no sky, no horizon, no foreground, or any of the other typical landscape elements. And yet this image is one that is so evocative for people that it remains in the portfolio year after year.


200mm lens shot of the sunflower field, compressing the scene from above.Sunflowers40mm-1

40mm lens shot, up close, producing much more emphasis on the flowers in the foreground.

C. David Tobie

The Search for the Perfect Olive

Its always useful to have one or more photographic searches going on as you shoot. For a landscape photographer this is often in the form of the perfect light or the perfect clouds for a given shot. In the case of the image below, it was the search for the perfect olive tree. Olive trees have a gnarly, bonsai quality about them that make them an ideal subject for shots that could almost be thought of as portraits. However, they travel in packs, and it can be quite difficult to isolate your picturesque olive against a clean background, instead of a snarl of other olive branches.

After a few years of searching for just the right subject, the olive tree below finally presented itself, within sight of the hotel often used during the search. The first image below is the envisioned shot. Full sun, full color, high detail, right down to the individual olives, most suited for a print about two meters high.


However, its always a good idea to study your subject from all angles. The shot below is the same tree, from the opposite side. It offers a different perspective of the tree, a different feel to the image, and a vignette of the hills, valley, and village of Pienza in the distance, rather like the background in the Mona Lisa. While it is not the intended image, it may well be more salable than the full color shot above.


C. David Tobie

Serendipity in Photography

No matter how well planned your shoot, no matter how well organized your equipment, the moment comes when the unexpected presents itself. It may come in the form of unexpected weather, conditions far hotter or cooler then anticipated, or photo subjects that were not planned. In landscape photography a large number of the better photos are serendipitous, with cloud patterns or lighting that could not possibly be anticipated, but can be captured if the timing and equipment is right. In the photo below, serendipity occurred in the form of wine barrels that had been moved outside from the cantina on their way to recycling, but which, while they were there, provided a wonderful photo op.


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.


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.


C. David Tobie