Purebred or Mongrel?

A  little bit of everything photographic is on today’s menu. Sort of like the bloodline of a mongrel dog. 

Contrast is one of photography’s greatest issues. Contrast being when light and dark, or opposite colors lay side by side. Many photographers hate contrast, I love it. At least, I love it when I don’t hate it. It is a visual tool. It can also be a curse.

Below we have two images which began their life on film. Slide film. Slide film was inherently contrasty. It made flat images pop, but it could make scenes of high natural contrast almost burn your eyes because of the contrast in the film.  Of course the images below have been changed into digital jpegs, which allows for alterations including lowering contrast. I chose not to do that. I liked the contrast when I created them (in 1810 I think), and wanted that to carry over into the image.

This first image is that of a Sunflower field with an impending storm above. The contrast levels are not only livable, I think for most photographers and viewers, but it adds to the drama and remains inside of the limits of acceptable contrast.

The more important part of this image (my opinion) is our viewpoint. We are at the level of the flowers and I think that takes us into the scene. The question is, will we get wet when the storm hits?

This next scene of El Capitan mountain in west Texas, was noticeable contrasty when I was there making the pictures. With my bare eyes. I wondered how my Velvia film would handle those levels. I like it. I will however admit, that in the original 6x7cm transparency, the sky appeared almost black. When I edited this as a digital image I lightened up the sky to a deep blue, rather than the “blackish” appearance it had. I did not add any blue.

If this photo would have been published in a book or magazine back in the day, they would have been able to do the exact same thing as far back as the late 1970s.

As an aside, take note of a tiny white streak to middle/left of the peak. That is a contrail from a jet. I of course could have cloned it out (as a digital) in a few seconds. I find it kind of interesting and it is a part of the story of this place in what was then the 20th Century.

Contrast is a beautiful thing. As a photographer use it, but just know when enough is enough.

These next two are digital originals created 23 years ago in 2008. They say a little about my personal preferences in composition when making wildlife images.

This Double-crested Cormorant was photographed In Missouri. It was sunbathing on chilly spring day in a marsh, I almost instinctively balance a photo like this by leaving room in the direction the subject is looking.

Contrast can be an issue with black birds. Just a bit of light on the face, and/or the body as we see here, makes all the difference in having an acceptable picture.

Getting tighter on a subject does not remove the necessity to compose. With this turtle I again used the same principal of composition.

I will say, one has to be careful with rules. Even or especially with those that work. You can get locked into a format and begin to see everything the same way.

Every day and every subject is new.

Let’s move on to the other major discipline of nature photography, close-ups, better known as macros.

We began with wildlife in the above section let’s begin the macro section with “little wildlife”.

There are times when the use of flash in macro wildlife photography can be a blessing. It not only allows you to arrest motion as the duration of the flash can be briefer than any shutter speed,  it can provide light in a dark forest.

This Swallowtail Butterfly was fluttering from flower to flower in a forest setting. I was able to point, compose and pull the trigger, and I actually did so handheld rather than while using a tripod.

This Monarch Butterfly caterpillar was slower and easier to photograph, but this area of forest was almost like night. I did use a tripod and simply used a pop up flash that this camera came with. Yes, even some pretty good pro level cameras can have a built in dedicated flash unit.

Notice I do my best to compose my images no matter how much I am on the move, and of course some images like these are cropped from the original file.

This “seedy” plant shot is not a flash image. The shutter speed was 1/25th sec. (not 1/125th) and the conditions were as I remember, pretty windless. My aperture was f14 which was plenty of depth of field because only the first layer of stems needed to be sharp. Does it bother you that the areas in the back are out of focus? Did you even notice it until I told you?

The basic principle with this snow and ice image is similar as to the above photo.

Compositionally I isolated a section of icicles with a 300mm lens. The shutter speed was 1/8 sec., so a sturdy tripod was used. An aperture of f18 was plenty to keep the icicles sharp. Also compositionally, I angled myself so the ice would run at a downhill angle to our right. Visually I thought it made the image a bit more interesting. The ice appears “blue-ish” because this was made in the shade with an otherwise sunny day. The blue sky reflects back into the shadows.

Nature did her job with this one and provided me with one single water drop to our left, and two clustered together. It as already visually stimulating, I only needed to recognize it and snap the picture.

Okay, we all know this is one of my favorite subjects. I love dark, black shadows in back of my dew covered webs. With that said, I do not want all of them to appear that way. I am not sure (faulty memory) whether those are fallen leaves or what in back of this orb web. I actually enjoy the “unevenness” of light and shadow back there.

Nobody wants to make the same shot over and over forever. Thankfully, the good Lord provides photographers with lots and lots of variety.

When I was out in nature making pictures, I always liked being in places that were bigger and grander than I was, or that were smaller and more delicate than I was.

After all these years, and counting other blogs, my old website and writing for others, we are speaking of a lot of places over a lot of years, I still love doing these this and that, or Heinz 57 style photo articles.

God Bless,
Wayne

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