The Anatomy of a Photograph

The only thing I’d rather do than look at and think about pictures, is first think about pictures and then make them.  Today as is usual, I will do the former rather than the latter.

I think this semi-panoramic composition of White Sands New Mexico, makes for an “ok” image.  Anytime you shoot ripples in the sand, and shoot across them instead of going with the flow, it requires a different sort of composition. This format shortens the distance across those ripples and gives credence to the whole scene rather than just the ripples. The question is, what about that kiss of sky in the upper left hand corner?  Does it disrupt your view and do so without adding anything positive?   Does the small sand dune, in back of the main dune, in the upper right hand corner of the picture, but just below the mountain, provide an effective counterbalance to the sky?Copy of DSC_0177ws

When my intention is to feature those lines in the sand, my composition turns out quite different.  Simple but effective.5DSC_0208

Weary traveler.  One of my favorite parts of my life as a photographer is just how many different sorts of images I have been able to make of Red Foxes.  I often forget I have this shot of a father fox as he wearily headed for some shuteye after a long night and morning of hunting for the family.  I think the blank background is perfect to keep our attention on the fox. Capturing the mood of an image is equally important in both landscape and wildlife photography.HGfox 178

A couple of posts back I shared with you one of the many images I have been able to make of Horned Grebes. Here’s one more. As this bird preens in the morning light, those colors show beautifully.

Normally with this type of image, I prefer to be on eye level with the bird, and I prefer to have the bird fill the picture frame. Maybe even “overfill” the frame.  The possibilities of accomplishing those two things when I made this image were impossible. I never pass up a good image just because I cannot make a great one.HGfox 092

I absolutely love early to mid June in this region of the country.  Female Painted Turtles, Blanding’s Turtles and most of all Common Snapping Turtles, are digging nests and burying their eggs.  They seem not to worry about people seeing where they do this.  I sometimes wonder if that is not because they know with people present, foxes, Coyotes, Raccoons, Skunks, Opossums, various weasels and other such predators, will be far away.Snapper 006

Snapper 007

After two “beauty shots” we see a rear view of this mom as she begins the process of digging her nest.Snapper 020

The pictures above say pretty much what I want them to say.  I have other nesting turtle images where you can actually see the turtle turning the earth to dig the nest, but this is okay for me.

There is nothing like artful birds displaying artful poses for photographers like you and me.  The question is whether the reflective pose is the best, or the closer crop?  Normally I would prefer the mirror image with its mood and space. On this occasion I like the close-up better. It better says what this subject is about. A Great Egret preening.HorE 050

HorE 050b

Living near a lake has given me many opportunities to practice the art of using shorelines in photos.  My preference is long curving shores, but I will certainly use a straight shoreline with a distant curve. Sunrise is as usual, my favorite time.  I like my exposure here as the light only kisses the sand.DSC_7223

Goodbye winter. Sunrise, frozen lake and cattails/reeds.  I love moments like this.  I have photographed sunrises at Wolfe Lake more times than I can remember.  I have done so in every season. At times I use foliage to frame the lake. This is one of only two times I used plant life directly in the center of the image.  It adds some graphics to the picture.BongSrDec Bright037And2more

Other Photographers.

This first image comes from Laurie Rubin.  I love her view of these Giant Redwood Trees.  I have made my share of autumn images using this perspective and it gives you the feeling that those trees are tall and dreamy. Of course these Redwoods are the largest trees in North America.  Using compositions that others have already used can be a good thing. Viewers have long ago decided they love this type of composition, and immediately relate to the picture.1970462_10201589225234392_521192687_n

It’s hard not to like this image by Piper Mackay.  Piper spends a lot of time in Africa and a cute kid with a beautifully painted face is irresistible. I am a big fan of Piper’s sense of composition.  I surmise but do not know, that she composes images instinctively.  Most of the best photographers analyze their compositions when necessary, but compose by feeling (and experience) much of the time.1979596_10201713324219718_60171052_n

It’s always difficult to make different images in heavily photographed places. One thing that makes that possible is changing weather conditions. This Jack Graham Monument Valley picture is excellent.   The clouds begin to obscure the rock forms, so I like the fact that Jack has one of the most iconic forms (one Mitten) closest to the viewers.1148898_10202698258710464_1618043128_n

What’s not to love about this  Susan Cramer Stein photo of two Great-horned Owlets.  A normal observation (from me) would be to suggest it might be better at eye level.  Backing up a little bit or a longer lens would accomplish that. I actually love the fact that they are looking us in the eyes, but looking down on us. They are after all “up” in a tree, and the look down gives them a sense of attitude.5506_679793645396586_533954369_n

I love this shot of a Killdeer doing the “I’ve got a broken wing” trick that they are so famous for.  I like the grassland background and the clarity of the bird.  This picture was made by Judy Baum.1012871_10202918044385850_307230561_n

Anytime we take one picture by one photographer and critique it, we are on dangerous ground.  I can almost guarantee you that the photographers above made many more images of the subjects you see. Probably some identical shots, and some slight varying compositions, and some dramatically different ones.  That is certainly true of my images. The White Sands pictures I have shown today, are among several hundred I have shown over the years.  I do not like the top photo, but I have slightly different comps of that scene that I do like. I have shown them before and today I show you this one.  I like the second photo and I have shown similar photos many times before. Some I like as much or better than this one, and some I find inferior. Except in a couple of cases, I show them one at a time.

Both opinion and fact come into play when we begin to break down the anatomy of a photo.  Knowledge comes from experience and that is an important part of image making. There are still those moments, when the heart is your greatest aid in picture making.

Go out today and use both experience and heart in your picture making.

Thank you,                                                                                                                                        Wayne

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2 Responses to The Anatomy of a Photograph

  1. cminer52 says:

    I don’t comment on every entry you make Wayne but I do try to read each and every one, and this one as always gives me something to think about when trying to make a good image, if only ma nature would let us position the subjects, we make do with what we have and try our best to show what the eye has seen, thanks again for the help you have been over the years.
    Gary

    • Truthfully Gary, if it were not for people like you who keep reading this blog, I probably would have stopped it a long time ago. I very much appreciate it.

      I love writing about composition, light and creative thoughts about images. I do not like writing about the technical side but I occasionally do it because I know some people want it.

      Ah yes, if I could only get those birds to land where I want them to, and that sun to rise over there instead of here. LOL! Like everybody who ever picked up a camera I sometimes got frustrated, but it’s all worth it.

      Thanks Gary!

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