A Perfect Ten (again)

I have ten fine guest photographers for you today. Some of their images are mainly about the subject, and some the photography itself, although both factors figure in each photo.

The Adonis Blue Butterfly by Max Thompson. A cool name for a cool butterfly.Adonis blue (1) Max Thompson

This beautiful Coconut Crab was photographed by Jacek Nalepa.Coconut Crab, Jacek Nalepa

It seems like very similar and straight forward techniques were used for both of the excellent images above. Sometimes there is nothing better than great photography, with a great subject, that has been photographed perfectly with a pleasing composition.

Fred Canter photographed this Puerto Rican Flycatcher and he caught it perfectly. His use of depth of field got the bird’s face and head tack sharp, but that DOF fell away and kept the background beautiful and soft. He sacrificed sharpness on the parts of the bird that did not matter, in his effort to keep the background unobtrusive. If I wouldn’t have pointed out to you the out of focus parts of the bird, would you have even noticed?Fred Canter Puerto Rican Flycatcher

In my world of photography, there will always be room for elegant, simple wildlife portraits like those you see above.

A powerful photo for a powerful beast. Thomas Szajner did a great job of making us feel, the weather and the power of the bison. His exposure is spot on in what many might think a difficult set of circumstances. Bison in winter in Yellowstone N.P. is hardly a new idea, but I truly enjoy this image. That thigh deep snow that our friend is wading through, is one reason.FSDThomas Szajner, Yellowstone J or G

Veiled, moving water is one of my favorite photographic subjects. Like most subjects, composition is not only important, but it will make (or break?) the picture. Stacking up the rocks, so to speak, to our right, while the veil of water washes from that direction to our lower left, has taken a good image and made it great. Our eyes follow the logical course, as we viewers simply take for granted that nature gave us this composition. You don’t think about the fact that what we see, and how it affects us, is due to the choices that were made by the photographer. This lovely image is by Gary Crabbe.Gary Crabbe

Gerard Blacklock shows us a very different sort of waterfall, but once again a very logical type of composition leads to an artful image. Photography is almost always about “what to leave in, and what to leave out”. Who knows what is just outside the picture frame here. The truth is, we really don’t care and that’s how it should be. We are viewing Gerard’s opinion of what he saw that day.Gerard Blacklock, Somersby Falls

I will admit that this is my favorite shot of the day, narrowly winning that honor over the bison photo. For those of you who read this blog, it should be no surprise that Guy Tal is the photographer/artist. There is little else that needs to be said.Guy Tal

This is definitely close to being at the top as well. I love pictures like this which is evidenced by how many similar pictures I have made in my life. I am sure none were as good as this “essence of spring” (my words not his), made by top-notch shooter Michael Frye.Redbud along the Merced River, Merced River Canyon, near Briceberg, CA, USA

Wow, this has been one cold winter. That is Niagara Falls and this Paula Cheese created image, is the only night scene of the Niagara freeze that I have seen this year. There are many ways of setting yourself apart from the crowd, and Paula shows us one right here.Niagra Falls, Paula Cheese

This dreamy picture was made in Australia and its creator was William Patino. I’ve seen my share of images made in this style (long exposure, multiple exposure, so on) in recent months and this is one of my favorites. I love that there is almost no break from the blue and white. Whitecaps, white clouds and blue water. The exceptions are one rock and a very small (wide-angle shot) sun. Love it!William Patino Australia

Lessons Learned

Years ago when I first began teaching group photo workshops, I would set up a simple exercise that was meant to teach a little about lens choice, more about how our attention to detail affects the finished image, and a little about life.

The very first time I did this is perhaps the best example. I had 16 students that day, made up of mostly new photographers, although there was a few with moderate levels of experience, and at least one who professed to have been a nature photographer for around 15 years.

We were back by the garden, which lived in an opening in the woods. There stood one lone flower, escaped from the garden, but in the open and still out of the woodland. In the background there was a grass yard, some distant leaves and tree trunks, and some sky showing through some of the leaves, and eventually there was some actually sky at the very top. I set up a tripod with a camera and 50mm lens on it. I could have used a zoom lens for this exercise but I decided that three separate prime lenses would be more dramatic. I set that lone flower up in my viewfinder. Just a nice shot of one flower. I let everybody, all sixteen of them, look through the viewfinder. One at a time of course.  Some looked and seemed to say, what’s the big deal, others commented on how pretty it was. I then replaced the 50mm lens with my 100mm. I moved the tripod back until the flower appeared exactly the same in the viewfinder as it did with the 50mm lens.  The same size, the same composition, etc. Once again each of the 16 participants took a look. I was not yet done. One more time I changed the lens, this time to a 200mm, and moved the tripod back until the flower looked the same size, with same comp. Everybody got their chance to look. The lesson was not over, it really had just begun.

I picked on several students (my choice) one at a time, and asked what they thought the difference would be in the three resulting (film) pictures. What the actual differences would be, I of course already knew, by both experience, and by “really” looking through that viewfinder.

The 50mm version showed a flower, some grass, a lot of green leaves, several almost in focus tree trunks, some sunshine shining through the leaves, and one tiny bit of blank blue sky. The 100mm version showed a flower, a tiny bit of grass near the woodland, a lot of leaves, and one lone dark tree trunk. The 200mm shot showed the flower, some softly out of focus greens….and that’s it.

Some students insisted that there was some sort of optical trick I was employing in order to make a point. Several said they could see no differences at all. I was careful not to ask the question of those who I felt sure, knew the answer. One student said the flower was prettier in the third shot, but she did not know why.

I repeated the whole exercise again, this time pointing out the changes in background and light. I wound up repeating the lesson several times so that several students could “really” look, over and over.

There are lessons, and then there are lessons. We spent the remainder of the workshop talking about what we learned. The lesson was about far more than how lens selection, could help you to narrow down (or open up) the background and make a better composition. It brought attention to details and mood. How a small change can make a big difference. It helped to show how spending a moment to look, could teach you to really “see”.  It helped show just how much, we really miss by not taking our time.  As photography goes, so goes life. It showed how different we all are. As photography goes, so goes life. While the results of changing those lenses, was obvious to me, and would have been to each of you, and became obvious to most of the students, the exercise still tells us that beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I could have gone on to teach more about photography from that same exercise. Those comps remained “almost” the same, only because I also readjusted the tripod just a little. When you change focal lengths, it changes your view enough you need to adjust up and down as well. I could have talked about the change in exposure, and depth of field. I decided to accept success, for once in my life, instead of continuing to add-on and make the lesson too big for both the students and the teacher.

Lesson learned.

The Two Bs

Everything that happens in our lives, can make us either bitter or better. The choice is ours. Whether we are female or male, black or white, or whom so ever we are, we can pass through life as a victim, or a willing participant. It is always up to us.

God Bless, and come back soon,                                                                                                 Wayne

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