Beyond The Campfire was created to encourage readers to explore the great outdoors and to observe it close up. Get out and take a hike, go fishing or canoeing, or simply stretch out on a blanket under a summer sky...and take your camera along. We'll talk about combining outdoor activities with photography. We'll look at everything from improving your understanding of the basics of photography to more advanced techniques including things like how to see photographically and capturing the light. We'll explore the night sky, location shoots, using off camera speedlights along with nature and landscape. Grab your camera...strap on your hiking boots...and join me. I think you will enjoy the adventure.

The Dark Horse Region

The Dark Horse Region
A View into the center of the Milky Way

Friday, March 15, 2013

Maximize the Ordinary

One of the themes I write about consistently is the idea of photographing ordinary things in extraordinary ways, or put another way maximize the ordinary. Sounds simple enough, but putting it into practice takes a bit more of a practiced eye. I’ve never actually been asked how do you do that, but indirectly I have been asked that exact question. The question comes visually from the photographs taken by inexperienced photographers.  So let me take a minute and not only explain what I mean by Maximizing the Ordinary, but some ways to go about doing it.

Maximizing the Ordinary is a term I used to qualify the idea that even ordinary things can become extraordinary if captured in certain ways. It is based on using light in such a way as to enhance the basic uniqueness of an ordinary object. There are several factors that come into play:
1.       Color
2.       Background
3.       Type of Lens
4.       Focal point
5.       Composition
Let’s take a look at each one.

Color blending is critical when trying to photographically maximize the effect of an ordinary object. It’s a matter of using color in such a way that the entire image is affected by the blending of those colors. I tend to look for single color schemes, not necessarily a single color, but a color scheme that carries the same variation of color across the entire spectrum of the image. In many cases, your main subject contrasts with that color scheme. (This is not unlike and is related to Symphonic Melody). What I look for is something in the background that will generate a blanket color effect with enough variation to add interest, but not distract from the purpose of the image.

The use of background is directly related to depth of field. Generally speaking, a narrow depth of field, which is generated by using a long focal length lens and a large aperture, will serve to isolate your main subject against a blurred background. The blurred background is what will contain the color blend in most cases. Background must be selected that enhances your image, not distract from it. There should be nothing there that competes with what you want to show visually, and everything that is there needs to be a part of the visual story, even though it may be blurred. This may require that you change your position, drop lower, climb higher, move left  or right, or face the other way.

Type of Lens:
Although any lens can be used, it depends on the circumstances as to what lens will provide a better perspective. For isolating a subject, a long telephoto lens will do a better job as it serves to bring your subject closer and distort the background. A wider angle lens is best used when a large area is being photographed. Oddly enough, you can isolate your subject even with a wide angle lens, it’s just a matter of perspective and looking for ways to remove all those unnecessary elements that can destroy the effectiveness of a photograph. I tend to rely more on a telephoto lens than wide angle, but remain aware of the intrinsic nature that wide angle lens impart on the scene.

Focal Point:
Focal point is identifying on what to focus. It is critical for the viewer to understand what you want them to see. In many cases again, you may need to change your position to gain an angle that allows you to focus on that aspect of your subject that is most important. The idea here is to observe and locate the one single perspective that best identifies your subject. It becomes the framework around which you construct your image.

Just as focal point serves to build the framework of a photograph, composition serves to build the overall structure of the image. Find your focal point using the correct lens for the job, position your subject against a complementary background, and look for a blend of color that serves to enhance your main subject. Always take into account the position and angle of the light, the quality of the light, and use proper exposure compensation to capture you ordinary subject in an extraordinary way.

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