Photographic Literacy

I am a strong believer in fully understanding anything we do in life. If you dedicate yourself to making furniture, you should understand all that you can about the making of furniture.  If your hobby is astrophysics, you should be reading about both physics and the stars.  The same is true of photography.  Photographic literacy is accomplished by attending school.  There is a long list of places you can become schooled about photography, and experience is the best teacher.  If you are a nature photographer, your school consists of the entire outdoors.  Nature is your teacher.

Fall has arrived and our northern forests are no doubt screaming with color.  Despite the screams I am betting they are also calming and tranquil.  The first picture below was made in the Nicolet National Forest and the second on Lake Five in the Chequamegon National ForestEgrets, fall 217


I would rather compose colors, tones or textures than subjects. There is no better time to practice that than in fall.  My preferred method of realizing those compositions is through visual compression. Below we have three examples of compressing colors and tones.DSC_7372DSC_7371DSC_7373

I always enjoy super close-ups of dew covered fall leaves.  The color (no added saturation) is intense in this shot and it is a good picture to share on places like this blog.  It is flawed though. Normally I would just show a photo like this and hope the viewers like it.  I would however have never submitted this image to a publisher.  It also would not be suitable for an art print of any significant size. When I made this picture, I either did not have my camera back perfectly even with the leaf, or the leaf itself was not laying perfectly flat.  If you inspect the leaf in the lower left hand corner you will see it is not tack sharp. It is noticeable because the rest of the leaf is so crisp.  I made this picture with my aperture set at f29. In the past I would have shown this picture and never mentioned that corner, and frankly most viewers would have never noticed. There is much to be careful with when you are making an image.  Photographic literacy is accumulated over timeCranes 112b

When is it acceptable for portions of an image to be out of focus?  This photo of Foxtail Barley Grass actually needs those soft grasses to accent the sharp ones. This picture was all about my own vision, and very little about the grasses.  It is okay to be selfish in nature photography some of the time.  Hopefully for every picture I made that was all about me, I made ten where the subject came first.

This scene could easily lend itself to treatments beyond my straight image.  One example would be to make multiple exposures (if your camera permits), moving your camera position slightly between each click of the shutter.  Take a manual exposure reading and cut that exposure in half for each and every shot you intend to make. Some cameras have auto bracketing features that can be used.  Another technique with this image would be to use HDR software and first make 2 or 3 distinctly different shots, all from a different position or perspective.  Make each additional picture with less exposure.  Combine or sandwich them with your HDR software.

I use to do some multiple exposures in the early 1990s.  I once made a 24 exposure shot of a group of flowers.  I used the above technique of moving the camera slightly between each shot.  HDR and multiple exposure imaging can be fun.  In the late 1990s I said goodbye to techniques like that and decided to use whatever “vision” I may have, along with my knowledge of photography, to abstract scenes naturally… to speak.DSC_6130b

My favorite Autumn flower in this region is the New England Aster.  I have had some flower images published in my life but those pictures were all about the art of the flower.  In other words, I never pursued the field guide “this is a New England Aster” type photos, only the art of the flowers.  When it came to wildlife, historic architecture and even landscapes, I attempted to make both straightforward stock photos, and more interpretive art images.webs 013

I loved looking for graphic designs when I was out making images.  I think if the colors in this scene were as intense as they are in many of my sunrise shots, the basic simplicity of the design would have been lost.  These lighter, wispy colors compliment the design instead of competing with it.SR KEN7

Let’s end today’s post with some wildlife.

Bighorn sheep, Ewes and babies, and autumn grasses.Copy of DSC_0129


Bighorn Sheep.  When I look at the expression on this guy’s face, I wonder what kind of “weed” he is eating. “Like hey maaaan”DSC_3179bbb

Sleepy day or bright sun?  Red Fox kit.yfox 127

I always appreciate your stopping by at Earth Images,                                                                  Wayne

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