February Theme Challenge – “Winter Scene”

I apologize for posting this months challenge later than hoped, due to recent computer upgrades. For this month, February 2022, the theme challenge is “Winter Scene”. The content here is similar to the Feb 2020 challenge of Snow, Frost, or Ice.

Taking photographs in the cold weather has it’s challenges; keeping yourself warm and comfortable, being careful not to fall, and keeping your gear free from condensation are all important things to consider before going out. See below after the sample images to get tips on equipment cold weather care and proper exposure to get your snow white.

Snow and can create dreamy conditions and it can help remove distractions in the landscape. Go around your area and create some images of the conditions where you live. You can even take a few of the images and create a collage depicting winter life in your community.

With ice it’s a matter of catching the right light and angle to make your images more interesting. The changing conditions cycling through snow, rain, and refreezing as well as the impact the wind has on the final result can create something very interesting.

Taking images at sunset or sunrise when it is cold enough to freeze the ocean can help create interesting images as well.

Create some memories of subjects you see in your community under abnormal conditions such as this fishing boat in the ice. If you know the owner you can always share the photo with them as well.

Equipment care: Taking your camera gear from a warm environment to the outside usually does not cause any issues, however when going from the cold back into a warm environment is where condensation can quickly form on your camera/lens and this is where it can be harmful to your gear eventually causing spots on your external and more seriously the internal lens elements which eventually causes mold. Before going in to a warm environment from the cold, place your camera/lens back inside your camera bag (your bag needs to be padded with zipper closed) this will allow your gear to raise in temperature slowly and therefore condensation will not happen. An additional protection tip is to put your camera/lens in a Ziploc bag, this will allow the condensation to form on the outside of the bag and not on your camera/lens.

Stay Warm: To enjoy your time out in the cold dress in layers with thermal socks for your feet and gloves that allow you to operate your camera and keep your hands warm. If you are in icy conditions use crampons or cleats on your boots, they will keep you from falling so you don’t get hurt or break your gear.

White balance is best set for the weather condition; use sunny, cloudy or custom. If you are not sure use auto but the result may not be as good (depending on your camera) as my previous suggestions.

Exposure: The challenge in taking a photograph in snow, frost or ice conditions is getting the right exposure. If you let your camera automatically pick the exposure you will immediately see that the snow, frost and ice is more gray than white. This is because the camera’s auto exposure is based on 18% gray, which is the amount of light reflected from a 50% gray surface. To solve gray looking snow, frost and ice, set your “exposure compensation” at +2. If you see the “highlight alert” on your display then back off the exposure compensation by -1/3 at a time until you no longer see the “highlight alert”. You will then have the proper exposure for shooting with snow or ice conditions.

The same exposure technique goes for manual mode, set your exposure until your camera meter shows +2. Then take a photo and see if you see any highlight alerts, if you do then back off the exposure by -1/3 increments until you no longer see any highlight alerts.

Your final best exposure for auto or manual exposure is usually closer to +2 than +1.

You can review the blog articles on exposure compensation and highlight alert if you need help.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are a number of YouTube video links to help with some hints and ideas.

Snow, Frost or Ice Photography instructional aids:
How to take amazing photos in the snow: by Gavin Hoey (3min 53sec)
Landscape Photography Tips & Techniques, Winter Freeze: by Thomas Heaton (15min 55sec)
Snow Landscape Photography Tips: by Micael Widell (10min 17sec)
Landscape Photography in the Snow, Winter in North Yorkshire by: First Man Photography (11min 5sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

January Theme Challenge – “Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch”

The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch in Nova Scotia is held each year during the last weekend of January and the first weekend of February. You can visit during the week on your own when there are less visitors. 80% of the Poultry farmers are in this area for Nova Scotia and supply the Eagles with dead chickens each day. The Eagles are typically fed around 9:00-9:30am. There can be hundreds of Eagles at this location during the winter months. Many photographers and viewers come to see the Eagles every year. The Sheffield Mills Eagle Watch Viewing site is located at 1770 Middle Dyke Rd, Centreville, NS B0P 1J0 (45.15342713667335, -64.49383798667183).

This is an opportunity to see the majestic Bald Eagle, although this event has received criticism in recent years it is still very amazing to see and provides photographers with the ability to get fairly close to capture amazing images.

Part of being a photographer is creating images on assignment whether you are hired by someone or you have your own idea for an image that you have wanted to create by setting a goal for yourself to make it happen (self assignment). This month I encourage you to travel to Sheffield Mills to see the Bald Eagles in action. Create an image or a short video of the bald eagles. For tips on taking images of wildlife refer to the September 2020 theme challenge on backyard wildlife. Do some preparation by looking up the location on google maps (see above embedded map), check the weather forecast, make sure you are dressed for the cool temperatures and pack the camera gear you will need. Spend the time, the eagles don’t always come close right away, be patient and you will be rewarded with not only great images but you’ll also have an exciting experience. Don’t be intimidated by other photographers with expensive gear, use what you have and concentrate on getting the best images possible and don’t forget to enjoy the experience. Weather you have a kit 55-250mm lens or an iPhone you’ll be able to capture some images. Consider using your phone to take a video.

Here is an example video of a Bald Eagle eating in a tree. The video was taken with a Canon 7D and a telephoto lens.

If you do not live close enough to be able to visit Sheffield Mills you can still create an image for this months theme challenge by taking images of local wildlife.

Important note about looking after your camera gear in cold weather; Usually when you bring your camera gear from the cold into a warmer area such as a vehicle or building moisture will appear on your camera and lens which is not desirable. It is important to put your camera and lens into your insulated camera bag or tightly wrapped in an insulated blanket or jacket before getting into a vehicle or building. You can also use large ziplock bags (make sure the bag is properly sealed) while outside for your camera and lens so the moisture will accumulate on the bag and not your gear.

For some history of the Sheffield Mills Eagle watch check out my photo essay below. Also consider creating your own photo essay.

Below are a few sample images taken in 2020 and 2021.

f/8, 1/2000, ISO 640, @516mm
f/8, 1/2000, ISO 1600, @600mm

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints and ideas.
Birds of Prey Photography and iPhone Video instructional aids:
How to Photograph Eagles and Birds of Prey: by Tim Boyer Photography (15min 22sec)
10 AMAZING iPhone Videography Tips: by Think Media (11min 41sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

November Theme Challenge – Blue

f/8, 1/200, ISO 100, @100mm

We had some computer problems this month limiting the time to put this challenge together, good thing we have OS mirrored backups using Macrium Reflect free version which allowed us to recover the “C:” drive and get one of our systems up and working again. (This is not a sponsored add but just wanted to say it’s a great product).

We are going to keep the challenge simple this month as we will be making photos of subjects that are the colour “Blue”. It might still be a bit of a challenge finding “Blue” subjects with all the autumn colour still left, but I am sure you’ll be able to find appropriate subjects.

With this challenge you can either stay inside and do some still life photography or head outdoors and seek out some subjects to photograph.

Below are examples to spark some ideas.

Still Life; The “Blue” mailman toy above was shot using flash and a snoot, however you can accomplish the same thing with a table lamp and a piece of white paper to roll into a cone to create a DIY snoot (just remember to use an LED bulb in the lamp to keep the temperature down because we don’t want the paper to burn). You’ll have to photograph your image at night and use a tripod or something to put your camera on to keep it stable and use the 2 second self timer mode as your shutter speeds will be low. The concept was to light the mailman as if he were lit with lights on a stage. Because the light will be harsh position the toy to minimize the shadows on the face and body to make any remaining shadows pleasing. I hope you have as much fun as I did creating a similar image.

Vehicles; There are many vehicles out there that are blue, but find something unique and take your time with the composition including thinking about the focal length that best suits the situation. With the old blue trunk on the left it was shot using a zoom lens at 50mm which meant being a bit closer to the truck to exclude a lot of the background. With the car it was shot from across the street with a zoom lens at 180mm so the composition would include the street light, tree(s), sidewalk and house to enhance the image. Focal length does make a difference so think about it when composing your image to maximize the story/impact.

Boats; In the image below there was a blue boat tied off the wharf just begging to be photographed. Embracing the orange and red colours of the trees and the building it helps make the blue boat stand out in the image.

The Blue Hour; Not only finding blue subjects but shooting them during the blue hour can create solid images as well. This image is a bit busy but there is the rule of odds (three blue boats), reflections due to the calm water, and the pink sky providing a contrast in colour to the image.

let’s see what images you create this month and have some fun.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

October Theme Challenge – Resilience

f/16, 1/13, ISO 100, @24mm

This month we will be trying to evoke emotion in our images by seeking out subjects that show “resilience”.

From the Webster Dictionary; resilience – an ability to recover from or adjust easily to misfortune or change”.

Now not every subject would show the ability to recover easily, in many cases it is, could, or would have been hard and/or take a long time to recover from a difficult situation.

Take the plant that is growing on the side of this building, for instance, it’s something you don’t expect to see. You wonder how it grew, how long it took and how it’s able to stay attached to the building. It provides a bit of mystery to the image.

Many things can be thought of as resilient. Although the examples shown below are subjects that can be found easily in our daily environment there can be a deeper meaning to resilience such as; the impact on people, nature, infrastructure and the economy due to climate change, or the impact on people due to a lock down caused by a global pandemic such as Covid-19, and even the impact on people due to terrorism, civil unrest or a war. Images to express this type of resilience would typically be portrayed in a photo journalistic manner and in most cases require a collection of images to convey the story or invoke a call to action. Portraying this type of resilience is beyond the scope of this monthly theme.

Below are just some examples for ideas.

Rocks with Plants/Trees; With plants/trees growing out of rock crevices, how do they get enough nutrients to survive in this situation? How big will they grow and how long will they last? These are just some of the questions or feelings your images could say. There are many opportunities for this type of image, so just go out with your camera and keep an open mind.

Animals; Many animals work all day long gathering enough food to eat to just survive. The Kingfisher shown, for example, captured a field mouse which are in their diet but you typically see them diving for fish, however in the wild they eat when they can and what they can. The seal resting on the rock has a scarred tail, maybe from a boat or from fishing gear, but it is still surviving. The Owl hunts in any kind of weather because it needs to eat to stay alive. The Mother fox still has to get enough nourishment to feed it’s young, it must be difficult to feed so many pups. Go out as often as possible to see what you can find.

Life where you least expect it; How does a tree die and then a new tree start growing out of it? Even an apple tree growing out of the beach rocks, again how is that possible. As you find these types of subjects it will make you even more aware of your surrounding environment and maybe leave you in awe of nature.

Man Made Structures; Up to this point we have discussed living things, however man made structures can last a long time even though they show their wear. The image of the Peggy’s Cove Lighthouse before it was recently painted, shows how these icons of the rugged shoreline have survived for many many years providing a beacon of safety for the ships that passed by. Many old barns still stand even after many years of neglect, it makes you wonder how they were constructed to be so resilient.

Stretch your mind and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

September Theme Challenge – “Water”

f/11, 1/100, ISO 640, @150mm

This month I encourage you to use water in your images. Water can either be the subject or be used to help add more interest to your images, for example the grass and sky reflection in the calm water shown in this photo.

Water can be calm which allows the use of reflections to add more interest to your image, or be turbulent created by water movement, wind or storms. Water can also be in the form of rain or artificial form a water hose as an example.

Just think of all the creative possibilities that water can bring to your images.

Below are only some examples for ideas.

Waterfalls; Now that the rainy season has begun, you now have the opportunity to photograph some water falls. Remember to not only capture the entire waterfall but also to isolate some detail using a longer focal length lens to get capture that dreamy image. It doesn’t matter if the waterfall is big or small there is always an image to be made while at the same time enjoying the sounds of the water and wildlife. Refer to the November 2020 Waterfall Theme Challenge for some additional ideas and techniques.

Waves; Now that the hurricane season has begun there is an opportunity to capture some large wave activity, just keep safety in mind when you are close to the shoreline it can be very dangerous. Just use a longer focal length lens and stay back a safe distance and its a good idea to have someone come along with you. You can also capture some unique images of the waves created by a boat, with the image from the wake of a boat at golden hour you can end up with a timeless photograph. It’s also possible to use slower shutter speeds and use a panning technique following the wave to create something a bit different, a slower shutter speed of around 1/15 sec or slower and place yourself along side the waves instead of in front. Refer to the December 2019 Seascapes Theme Challenge for some additional ideas and techniques.

Long Exposure; To obtain a long exposure we need to lower our shutter speed which can be a challenge if you do not have some of the special equipment required such as a tripod, remote trigger, and ND (Neutral Density) filters. If you do not have ND filters the slower shutter speeds can be more easily obtained when the lighting conditions are low, such as in the early morning or late in the day when the sun is below the horizon which is referred to as civil twilight. This is when the sky can light up and be completely magical. The ISO is typically set to 100, with shutter speeds from 0.5sec to 5sec and an appropriate small aperture f/11 – f/16 to help obtain the right exposure and for the appropriate depth of field. For the streaks as the water is receding you need to pick the right time to press the shutter. If you do not have a remote trigger you can use the 2sec timer function in your camera it just takes a bit of practice to get used to when to push the shutter.

Water Drops; You can take advantage of photographing subjects with water drops on them after a rainfall such as flowers, windows, or flat colorful surfaces. Capturing water drop splashes can also be a lot of fun to try and there are many ways to accomplish these type of photos even with out special equipment. Take the time to watch the videos below about water drop photography which cover a DIY method and with using special equipment. There are many ways to do this with minimal gear but it does take patience so have fun giving it a try.

Stretch your creativity and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below shows YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Water Photography instructional aids:
How to Get Started with Long Exposure Photography by: Mark Denney (15min 26sec)
How To Photograph Water Drops At Home by: Gavin Hoey (6min 53sec)
How to Do Water Drop Photography, Testing the MIOPS Splash Kit by: First Man Photography (18min 21sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

August Theme Challenge – “In Your Community”

f/8, 1/80, ISO 3200, @35mm

This month I encourage you to go out in to your community or any town close to home and see what you can find. This month is an open category which basically means go out and make an image of any subject of something you enjoy or challenge yourself to try something you haven’t photographed before.

Time to practice what you have learned so far; exposure, composition, finding a interesting subject, timing, and making use of the available light. Similar to previous challenges, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will work. Depending on the gear you have it will allow you to take different images.

Below are some examples for some ideas.

Wildlife; This time of year there are lots of animals and birds to photograph. Getting out more often with your camera is the key. With some animals it depends on the time of day and sometimes being in the right place at the right time. Foxes can be found anytime of day usually around feeding time. Beavers are usually around early morning or late in the day when the light is challenging, which may require pushing your ISO higher and lowering the shutter speed which then requires you to push the shutter at just the right time. There are also many birds and butterflies as well, so just get out and you won’t be disappointed. Get down low as close to eye level with the subject, sometimes its not possible but just try to get as low as you can.

Boats; There is a lot of boating activity this time of year and with the right equipment or access you can get some great images of sailing boats and kyaks. It’s typically ok to photograph people when they are in public places as long as the photos are for personal use and not for stock photography. However, if its possible, ask the person(s) first and offer an email with the photo (remember to carry a few introduction cards with your email so they can contact you).

Interesting Subjects; Go out for a stroll and see what you can find in your area, even a town near by. It’s always interesting what you will see. The image of the Blue Cadillac below was taken with a longer focal length across the street to get the right composition. The image of the excavator was taken with a telephoto lens as well with a tripod as it was just prior to sunset. The image of the garage with painted sunflowers was taken with an iPhone when there was dramatic clouds, leave enough room when taking your photo so you can make vertical perspective adjustments during post-processing to straighten out the building removing the lens distortion.

Flowers; There are lots of flowers. Take your time choosing the right aperture and composition to get a clean background. You can also take colored sheets of paper to hold behind the flower to get a nice background as well. Remember to try Intentional Camera Movement (ICM) which also helps with blurring the background. Try not to move the camera too fast, you still want to be able to recognize the subject.

Sunsets or Sunrises; Go out when the sun is rising or setting to get that golden light. Make use of reflections and think about creating a story, such as the image with the tree stump symbolizing the end of a life with the end of day and the reflection reminds us to reflect on a life to remember.

Stretch your creativity and let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Photography In Your Community instructional aids:
Photography Tips: How to find photos when the location’s ‘boring’ by: Mike Browne (11min 50sec)
Making Photography In A Small Town by: Evan Ranft (10min 30sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

July Theme Challenge – “Embrace the Fog”

This month I encourage you to go out in Foggy conditions, which is usually the best early in the morning. Sometimes fog can enhance the rays of light, create an atmosphere, and help isolate subjects from an otherwise chaotic scene.

You may not tend to want to go out and take photographs when it’s foggy, but if you give it a try I think you will come back with images different than you typically take. Go out and experience the quiet and cool of the fog, see what happens to the light as the fog starts to lift as it creates amazing effects, and take advantage of the opportunity to isolate your subject.

Similar to previous challenges, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will work. Depending on the gear you have it will allow you to take different images.

Let’s take a look at some image examples.

Boats and Wildlife; With boats you do not always have the perfect location from the shore view to isolate the subject. The fog also provides a dreamy feel to the final image. Wildlife set in the early morning fog also provides a minimalistic image.

Enhance the Light; As the morning sun breaks through the fog you can see the rays of light which is enhanced due to the sun back lighting the fog. It’s important in the photo below to place the sun partially behind an object to help reduce the extreme bright light of the sun. The Star burst of the light can also be enhanced by choosing a smaller aperture, this allows the light to bounce around the aperture rings in the lens creating or enhancing the star burst effect while the fog helps spread the light into rays.

Isolate your Subject; With the images below, typically without the fog the backgrounds are too chaotic, but with the fog it’s much easier to isolate the subject. The fog provides the means to remove distractions from your composition. Take a series of images in this situation because the amount of fog can change with each photo, you can then choose which image you like the best from the images you have taken.

Let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Photographing in Foggy Conditions instructional aids:
How I Photograph Foggy Landscape Photography by: Michael Shainblum (13min 30sec)
How to Take THE BEST FOG Photos! Photo shoot training, editing suggestions by: Tony & Chelsea Northrup (4min 46sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

June Theme Challenge – “At The Beach”

This month I encourage you to go out to your local beach and see what kind of images you can create. With the current pandemic restrictions you are still able to go out in your own area, by keeping proper social distancing in mind. Keep last months challenge, observation, in mind for this months challenge. Hopefully you will see a lot of image opportunities.

Similar to previous challenges, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will work. Depending on the gear you have it will allow you to take different images. Better yet if you have a DSLR or dedicated camera compare the images you were are able to create with both your DSLR and your camera phone. In summary try different cameras, focal lengths and perspectives.

Caution: Taking your camera to the beach can be hazardous to your equipment, so its best when it’s damp or NOT windy because you do not want the sand to penetrate your equipment. Do not set your equipment down in the sand. Keep sand off your hands as the sand will transfer quickly to your gear. You can use a plastic bag and some elastic bands to help keep the sand out or an OP/TECH USA Rainsleeve (amazon) that you would normally use for rain, also do not change out any lenses while on the beach. These techniques will minimize sand getting on or into your equipment. When you get home use a clean, never been used before, paint brush to clean your equipment.

Let’s take a look at some image examples:

Waves; Depending on the weather conditions you may be in luck to capture some wave action. Below shows an overcast windy day with a pretty good surf. In the image below the wind was coming offshore so as the wave was ready to crash the wind was creating spray blowing back from the top of the wave.

Portraits; If you have your child or pet with you, this is a great opportunity to capture some memorable moments. Remember with a portrait to get down to the same eye level as your subject. The images are even more memorable when you capture that special moment. Many times there are people with their pets at the beach, you can always ask them if it’s ok to take pictures of their pet, get their email so you can send them some complementary images. Remember your mask and social distancing.

Landscapes; Depending on the light you may be able to capture some great landscape images. Below you’ll see an image that has great sunset color with a slow exposure to make the water look milky, an image of waves crashing with light peeking through the clouds, and an image that is an ICM (intentional camera movement) slow shutter speed pan of the ocean and distant islands. Create an image that suits the conditions.

Details; Take some intimate images of things that you see such as; rocks, inuksuks, seaweed, and the salt water bubbles. These type of images are best suited for days when there is harsh light, embrace the harsh shadows by adjusting your composition accordingly.

Anything that interests you; Below the left image is the grass along the road by the beach with the water blurred out which creates a clean background for the grass. Many times people are flying kites on the beach which also make interesting subjects.

Let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Beach Photos instructional aids:
Photography at beach | Creative mobile photography ideas by: Pixel Street (3min 34sec)
Landscape Photography Tips & Techniques: Seascapes by: Thomas Heaton (10min 8sec)
6 Tips For Killer Seascape Photography by: Joshua Cripps Photography (11min 44sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

May Theme Challenge – “Observation”

Observation is an important technique to improve your composition skills. The key to observation is to just slow down and spend time looking at every detail in your surroundings to really see what is around you. I emphasize around you because it’s important to not just look at what is in front of you but also what is around you as the image you decide to create may be in another direction. By slowing down and taking the time to “observe” you will not only see better but you’ll also feel and as a result you will be able to create more compelling images. Improving your observation skills helps you to identify a subject which helps your compositions by being able to feel or see the story and identify what belongs in the frame to support the feeling, subject, or story.

This month I encourage you to slow down and really try to see what is around you to create some interesting images of the new things that you are seeing that you may not have seen before. Even with the current pandemic restrictions you are still able to go out in your own area, keeping proper social distancing in mind, to practice observing. The more you try this exercise the more you will improve your ability to see.

This month we will take an exercise approach to improve our observation skills by looking for shapes, building on last moths texture challenge, by seeking out shapes within textures. You can also look for shapes within a composition or identify an abstract shape of a subject.

As with our texture challenge, it doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will help you improve your ability to improve your photography through observation. This months challenge is more about helping you learn to see better.

Let’s take a look at some image examples:

A shape within a texture; below within the original rock surface image on the left you may not initially notice the person on the bottom right of the image. Once you take the time to look more closely you see a profile image of a person, possibly even resembling a cartoonish character. The final image shown on the right was post-processed a bit to darken around the subject to help it stand out so the viewer can see it more easily.

Finding something out of Chaos; looking at the image on the left below its hard to imagine what your brain is seeing, but it’s telling you that there is something there because you’ll find yourself still looking at it. After a while you slowly begin to see an upright cartoon rabbit running down a hill, as shown in the image on the right, again slightly post-processed, by darkening and de-saturating the leaves surrounding the subject.

Waiting for the decisive moment; I was out for a walk and noticed the clouds, shown below, what I felt looked like a dragon and also noticed the moon. I wondered as the clouds and the moon were moving if the moon would end up in a position to be the eye of the dragon. Even though this was just plain luck, I took a number of images leading up to the final image on the right to capture the moments as they were happening. This is a great example of identifying what you are seeing, using a bit of creativity, and anticipating a story that you are hoping will unfold in front of you.

Abstract interpretations of a subject; The image below is from the “Valley of Fire” state park in Nevada taken back in 2011. The lava rock in this park has so many incredible rock formations. This image appears to me as a person kneeling down which is abstract form what it really is, a rock formation. If you look closely at some of your past images, there may be many that contain abstract subjects.

Abstracts within a Landscape; The image below was taken from a helicopter while taking a flight into the Grand Canyon in 2011. I noticed the different colors in the sand and how it looked like two aliens were about to kiss.

Let’s see what images you create this month.

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Observation instructional aids:
How to take Better Photos through Observation by: Nigel Danson (19min 2sec)
How to become a better photographer through ‘visual exercise’ by: Sean Tucker (6min 40sec)
Looking Around and Observation in Photography #78 by: Clive Talbutt (9min 38sec)
3 Photography Skills You Should Learn (and will pay off forever) by: Nigel Danson (19min 59sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.

April Theme Challenge – “Textures”

When talking about texture we think of details within the surface of subjects or objects, such as with cement, bricks, cracked paint on a wall, sand, leaves, bark on tree trunks etc… Texture is possible due to the light and dark areas on a subject caused by the way the light hits the surface creating highlights and shadows. The lower the angle of light the more pronounced the texture will be. These surfaces can be interesting as an image on their own, or when combined with other images can create images considered to be fine-art.

This month I encourage you to seek out possible subjects or objects to create your own texture images to not only use them on their own but also to combine with other images that you may already have to create something different than just with a single image, especially if the image on it’s own is missing that little extra something that you can’t put your finger on.

The key to a successful texture image is to choose something that has a pattern in combination with color that is pleasing or interesting. Think about getting close while at the same time considering a composition that fills the frame. Remember to consider the minimum focus distance because if you’re too close you will not be able to obtain focus, you can always back off slightly and crop your image if necessary later.

Once you start looking for textures you will start to see they are everywhere, just slow down, look around and use your imagination. It doesn’t matter what camera you have, even the camera in your phone will allow you to capture great textures; just fill the frame, hold the camera steady, adjust your exposure for the mood, and make sure you have attained focus.

Because you will be getting close to the object or subject consider the depth of field to obtain a sharp image. Depending on your camera and lens combination, I would suggest starting with an aperture range between f/5.6 and f/8. If you are using a camera phone that has a fixed aperture try using the best lens choice or stay back from your subject a bit while still filling the frame. Always check your captured image to make sure its sharp. It’s ideal to have all of the texture in focus, so find that spot that still allows you to fill the frame, get the composition you want while still obtaining a sharp image.

Let’s take a look at some texture image examples:

We will now show some examples of using these above images as textures to combine with some sample images to create something different. For the examples shown below, we will be using a free program called Photoscape X, however you can also do the same with Photoshop Elements or Photoshop with even better results because you can mask out some of the texture from your main subject.

Example 1: Even though an image of clouds would not typically be considered a texture we can still use it as such to help enhance our images. The following video shows, for example 1, how I used Photoscape X to create the “after” image. You can use the same technique with the procedures provided below on your own images.

For each image I have provided the Photoscape X settings used when placing the textures on top of an image to create the “after” images.

Insert -> image -> cloud img5709: opacity (50%), blend mode (multiply)
Color: lighten shadows (60), contrast (15), brightness (10), apply
Save -> save as -> _texture suffix

Example 2: This image was taken at a local zoo and even though I was close to the wire mesh of the cage you can still see it in the background. By using a texture we can help improve the image. Choosing the right texture for an image is important, because you just can’t take any texture and put it with any image they need to complement each other. Here is the procedure I used in Photoscape X to create the “after” image.

Insert -> image -> rock img1783: opacity (35%), blend mode (overlay)
Color: clarity (2), lighten shadows (20), contrast (5), brightness (5), apply
Save -> save as -> (save the photos including objects outside [No]), _texture suffix

Example 3: The image of the Willet has a nice clean background which is nice but maybe with a texture it could look better. You never know until you try this technique to see the outcome. I used the following procedure in Photoscape X.

Insert -> image -> rock img8505: opacity (25%), blend mode (hard light)
Color: clarity (5), lighten shadows (25), contrast (10), blacks (-20), whites (20), apply
Save -> save as -> _texture suffix

Example 4: Taking the time to get a clean background with flowers takes time and good composition, but adding a texture can also provide that something extra as long as it complements the image. Here is the Photoscape X procedure used.

Insert -> image -> rock img8481: angle (90), opacity (25%), blend mode (overlay)
Color: clarity (5), darken highlights (35), contrast (10), cyan/red (5), apply
Save -> save as -> (save the photos including objects outside [No]), _texture suffix

Example 5: The following image of a Blue Heron can have a different look if we combine it with the beach foam image. The Photoscape X procedure used is as follows.

Insert -> image -> water image [texture_48A1525]: opacity (35%), blend mode (hard light)
Color: clarity (5), contrast (10), brightness (30), apply
Save -> save as -> (save the photos including objects outside [No]), _texture suffix

Students are encouraged to develop their ability to tell a story or invoke an emotion, as well as how to plan and troubleshoot while creating their images. As such it’s important to not only create the image but to also include a “title”, and write a short paragraph about; how they came up with the idea, any interesting back ground that compelled them to make the image, and describe any techniques on how they overcame any obstacles.

As always with our monthly theme challenges we try to seek out an instructional resource, below are some YouTube video links to help with some important tips, hints, ideas, or just something to think about.
Textures instructional aids:
Texture Photography – Create your own ANYWHERE! by: Peter McKinnon (8min 32sec)
Textures Ep 113: Take & Make Great Photography with Gavin Hoey by: Adorama TV (10min 28sec)
Texture Art Photography by: Dale Kincaid (4min 46sec)

An important part of improving your photography is practice, which is one aspect of the monthly theme challenge, in addition you have an opportunity to learn about different genres, techniques and tips.