The Simple Basics

It is amazing how often in life we do alright for ourselves (and others) when we stick to the basics.

Photography, whether our resulting images are simple or complex, requires knowledge and a willingness to practice the basics. Complicated images, and unique and artistic images, still begin with the basics.

In one of my most recent posts, I shared with you a profile image I made of a wild American Badger years ago. I like that image but there is nothing more powerful (and basic) than a wild animal staring the photographer and future viewers right in the eyes. A basic compositional theme, and a meaningful image. I feel a part of the image below, whereas I feel like I am “sneaking a peak” in the profile photo. In other words, like I am a spectator.

The falling waters you see below have three similar yet different treatments.

The first photo has the “cotton candy” effect of a slow shutter speed (1/3rd sec) and fast water. The second image in which water is tumbling more downhill, I upped the shutter speed (1/10th sec) just a bit. The final image was another slow shutter speed (1/6 sec) but notice the water is part in shade and part in sun. A compromise exposure allowed for the sunny and shaded areas to balance out pretty nicely.

Knowing how to blend sunlit and shaded areas takes experience and becomes a part of the basics after a while.

Contrast of light and dark as well as cool and warm help make photos pop. They add life. That’s a basic truism as they separate and add dimension.

The autumn fern below is warm with the color of fall. The darker and cooler background, makes the fern pop, and seem even more colorful than it might be.

Birds are fun, and birds are art.

The American Bittern is a “blender” if you will. It stands motionless, and blends in. I know we can all see bird below but it is shocking, just how hard it can be to spot them when they are in those fields.

The basics here are that we have a tall skinny bird, and some tall skinny plants, and the bird is stretching out towards the sky vertically. What better format to use than you guessed it, the vertical format. I’m just saying, that is a compositional basic.

White birds, especially big ones, are ripe for exposure failure. Make sure if possible, to exclude them from your exposure. Create an exposure from something mid toned, or if necessary, use the bird for your exposure and then open up your lens, or slow down your shutter two full stops, as your meter will have attempted to render your subject neutral gray instead of white. That’s basic exposure 101.

This Trumpeter Swan is a bit stained but still white. The arch in the long neck is normal and also a basic of vertical format photography.

More white birds.

These Great Egrets amount to a couple of a big patches of white. An even bigger aspect of this image, is we have two birds and they are not side by side, but one is in front of another. Even though my close proximity to the birds allowed me to use a short 105mm lens, and I was able to shoot the image with a depth of field providing f stop of f/22, it still fell short of having enough depth of field to get both birds sharp . Photography 101, or the basics if I may, says get the bird closest to our eyes, tack sharp. Let the other guy fall where it may.

White birds however, need not be white. This egret, was out looking for frogs, fish and other such critters. That warm, beautiful color is from the sunrise and is quite natural. White birds turn warm colors at sunrise and sunset. That is natural, as in nature. To me, a basic is keeping the beauty of nature in my photos, not to ban it from them because a bird normally appears white. At that moment on the morning, that bird was a warm golden sort of color.

A basic!

Any wildlife photographer will tell you that when you get an animal in your viewfinder, get an many “poses” as possible. Multiple poses? A basic.

Now these poses are different but they have some things in common. The same bird, is standing vertically on a post. Basic sense says get vertical images first. If this bird was not stretched out vertically, and was hunkered down, I would have at first made horizontal compositions. It pays to do both, but common sense and simple basics says begin with comps that flatter the subject. Then get everything you can.

Some day maybe I will end a post with a sunset instead of a sunrise. That would be fitting. Not today though.

Valley of The Gods State Park in Utah is a powerfully beautiful place. That means lots of textural and color based details.

Well, not always.

This was my initiation to that park. Not much detail but it was a great way to begin the day.

Horizontal, with a fair balance between that rock formation and the rising sun, seemed like a pretty common sense and basic composition.

Never stop experimenting and developing an “art sense”. Just the same, it is knowledge of the basics that will get you going on the road to more creative imagery.

In all of life, it helps to know the fundamentals on order to reach the next level.

God Bless,
Wayne

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