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How to get good photos?

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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby markskor » Wed Mar 07, 2012 6:57 pm

Coming from another perspective –

What makes a great picture? (BTW, I wish I could take a great shot – not enough years left to get anywhere as accomplished as our own here…sigh.) I draw instead.

Over the years though, I have discovered there are some basic rules to the art. – No matter photography, watercolor, or drawing – same rules, different medium. Just to mention two here - Placement and Value.

Placement:
For example, Mav writes:
maverick wrote:
Learning to put your focal point/subject matter in the upper or lower, left or right
third of your photo is something to keep in mind when composing, and even though this rule does not always apply, it does more often than not. Another mistake made
is putting the subject matter dead center(which you did with the creek) or placing
the horizon, or the far end of a lake in the center of the photo thereby cutting the
photo in half.
.

In drawing classes we are taught this as “the rule of thirds”. Dividing your picture into an imaginary tic-tac-toe grid and placing your “Center of Attention” on any of the four x-points usually works best. As for where to put the horizon – never in the exact middle. The middle forces the viewer to make unconscious choice – one side or the other – top or bottom - essentially driving the eye of the viewer off the picture.

Value is another aspect of art most often overlooked. In my classes, I teach ~25% dark, ~25% light, and 50% middle values but these ratios can be varied ...maybe 50% darkest - etc.
Wandering Daisy wrote:Image

Here is an example of what seems "too busy".

I see this not so much as busy but lacking in that it only shows one limited value throughout the picture. There are no contrasts – no darks – no lights…nothing stands out by itself. In short, there is no Center of Attention. You need the contrast – a dark value next to a light value to make something in the scene “pop”. You get to/must decide on something to center the viewer's attention on! An old art professor once told me that it is the duty of the artist to make something in the scene the star... Placement and Value.

BTW, The Hetch Hetchy trail/ black and white shot works well value-wise, also excellent on rule of thirds too – nice.

Wandering Daisy wrote:
Image

Mountainman who swims with trout



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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby RoguePhotonic » Wed Mar 07, 2012 7:10 pm

That second one at Hetch Hetchy is pretty good by itself with exposure. Such dark on bright is impossible without some fancy HDR work.

That last one not much can be done. You may notice if you have seen photos of mine that very few photos are taken in those sorts of conditions because there is nothing to work with. I would take photos for more documentation purpose then a beautiful scene when I have such over cast.
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:17 am

Rlown wrote:
My compensation is to take tons of pics, varying whatever i know to do.


That's one of the issues right there Rlown. Taking a ton of pictures to compensate
will only enforce sloppy technique and you'll never learn or understand the basic of
composition.
This is one of the digital era's pitfalls, because unlike in the old days when one carried
a large format film camera where you were forced to really think about what you
were going to shoot because of the limited amount of sheets of film, and the time it
took to set up, and take the photo. Many times you only got one chance to get it right!
Now people just shoot away hoping the camera gets it right.
Like when you go fishing, you look for a place that is optimal, based on you
experience, and then use different techniques to try an catch that monster trout.
If someone just bought a pole and walked up to the lake casting away, there
success rate would be much lower a majority of the time (unless for pure luck) because
they lack the experience, the techniques, and the "patience that comes with that
knowledge
".
That patience in photography is to scout, compose, and time the shot perfectly, also
comes from confidence, which in turn also comes from learning good technique and
experience.
The remakes, and explanations that were sent to WD is not going to help you or her
to much because this forum is not the place to learn these techniques. Like explained
to WD, the best place is to take a backcountry photography class where you learn the
basic's in the environment that you wish to photograph, no class room, or book can
come close or replace that.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby rlown » Thu Mar 08, 2012 10:34 am

maverick wrote:
Rlown wrote:
My compensation is to take tons of pics, varying whatever i know to do.


That's one of the issues right there Rlown. Taking a ton of pictures to compensate
will only enforce sloppy technique and you'll never learn or understand the basic of
composition.


Never said I was good at it. Sometimes i do sit there until the light hits right, and then I start playing with the levers my camera allows.

Sometimes, if it's a quick snap of a fish in the water, There's no discussion or even thought. Snap, Snap, Snap. I do try and pick a preconfigured selection on the cam for the conditions before I fish, but sometimes the conditions are right to dunk the cam under the water and do a movie.

maverick wrote:The remakes, and explanations that were sent to WD is not going to help you or her
to much because this forum is not the place to learn these techniques. Like explained
to WD, the best place is to take a backcountry photography class where you learn the
basic's in the environment that you wish to photograph, no class room, or book can
come close or replace that.


So.. When do your classes start? :D

I liked these two I took out of Evelyn Lk in Sept 2006.

HPIM0399.JPG

HPIM0400.JPG


It wasn't about the set up, so much.. As I don't sell them, these were opportunistic pictures that look really nice on my screen saver. In that first pic there's a lil' ball floating there. It wasn't in the next pic only 1 min later.. What the heck is that? It's not on the lens.

Russ
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby maverick » Thu Mar 08, 2012 12:10 pm

Rlown wrote:
In that first pic there's a lil' ball floating there. It wasn't in the next pic only 1 min
later.. What the heck is that? It's not on the lens.


That looks like flare to me Russ, sometimes shooting into the sun can cause it.
Some lenses are more prone than others at having flare. A lens hood helps, or
you can use your hand to block the it out, just be sure not to include your hand
in the photo which can happen with a wide angle lens.
Using something in the scene to block it out is another alternative, if possible.

So.. When do your classes start?


Funny you should say that the Rlown.
Working on putting together classes now in which there will be a 4 day (3 night)
course called "Photography for Backpackers" which will cover all the basics. :unibrow:
This will be for folks just like you Rlown & WD, and anyone else wanting to get a
better understanding and knowledge about backcountry photography. There is no
better classroom than the Sierra!
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 08, 2012 8:34 pm

The high Sierra is a great place for "good" photos. I would say about 80% of my photos are admired by others, simply because the average Joe has not seen such views. But I find the high Sierra difficult to get "great" photos. Once in a while, probably 1 out of 50 shots I get something that could become a "great photo". On the other hand I find that the coast and oak woodlands much more forgiving. My random photos taken in these environment have more hits than misses. I am also beginning to understand why Yosemite Valley is such a photographers paradise. A lot of my best photos are taken there. The high Sierra is has very difficult to work with lighting and too much contrast, lots of texture, rocks, and often lack of color, harsh light, infrequent storms to product that wonderful after-storm lighting. More of my Wind River Mountain photos are better than usual, simply because it storms nearly every afternoon. You have nearly daily opportunity to get that after-storm lighting.

Something other than the great view has to be added to get a great picture. Composition is a basic. Knowing your camera helps. For both of these, I need to do LOTS more work! Lighting is a big help and that simply requires photography to be your primary objective. Right now I am having a hard time putting photography on the top of my list. That does not mean I do not want to learn how to get better photos! And on top of all that, for me, the end result has to really hit me emotionally. If everything miracuolously falls together, the actual subject has to be somewhere that I have had a unique experience - the photo has to be a small keepsake of a much larger experience. This last summer, alpenglow at Big Brewer Lake was one of those moments that lasted nearly 2 hours. I took tons of photos, none which really was good enough to be great. I would just like to get good enough technically to capture more of those moments.

I agree that simply taking tons of photos does not improve your photos. All you do is get lucky once in a while. One thing I have done lately, is that when I see something I feel is worth a photo, I TAKE OFF MY PACK. This slows me down but it does get better photos. I think my next step is to take a tripod. Call me Ms Shakey! Man, I cannot quit jiggling the camera around.

Unfortunately, I am committed to summer in Wyoming so will probably not be here for the photo class. Hope you have it again next year.
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Thu Mar 08, 2012 9:09 pm

Here is one of the full daylight Sierra photos that I like, although it is far from "great". I think the movement that you get in looking "down the tunnel" of Crabtree Lakes makes the flat lighting work better.

Image

And here is a totally tourist shot in Yosemite from top of Vernal Falls. Goes to show Yosemite is really a great place for photos. Again, not great but I do like this one. But again, it is a "single subject" shot. To me, these are easier to work with than an expansive High Sierra scene.

Image
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Mar 09, 2012 3:32 pm

A couple of personal comments/expansions on Maverick’s, Copeg’s, and Markskor’s excellent posts.

The biggest lesson I needed to learn was how to see like the camera. What we see with our naked eyes isn’t the same as what the camera results will be. To quote from Bruce Barnbaums The Art of Photography, “There is a real difference between 'seeing' and 'photographic seeing.' An individual may recognize and appreciate an interesting scene, but may not be able to organize it into an effective photograph. Only those individuals who can create a worthwhile image out of a scene can be said to 'see photographically.' Understanding composition and applying it separates the artists from the snapshooters.” In other words, how our human eye views a spectacular landscape is not necessarily what the camera and lens will ultimately show. The photographer needs to compose a photo that epitomizes in a small rectangle the depth of feeling evoked by the scene.

I noticed no one has recommended any photography how-to books. There are lots of them out there and most of them are not particularly helpful. However, two I would recommend are Barnbaum’s and Brenda Tharp’s Creative Nature and Outdoor Photography. Barnbaum’s chapter on Color is something I wished I’d read years ago and would have saved me from having to go through the process of analyzing my photos and trying to figure out why the technically perfect shot failed because the colors weren’t composed right. Tharp’s is my favorite outdoor how-to book and was recently updated for digital photography.

Maverick’s mention of looking at and analyzing other photographers is a great suggestion. Two not mentioned on his list who are personal favorites are Eliot Porter and Philip Hyde. Both began in the classic black-and-white era and became great artists when they made the transition to color. Porter was especially masterful at creating dynamic photos on overcast days when the normal contrast of light shadow is absent.
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Fri Mar 09, 2012 4:06 pm

So how do you think the trend nowadays towards touch screen display vs. view finder changes the way you "see" the photo before taking it? You see exactly what the camera will produce. My biggest problem is that the display does not show up well in direct daylight. My personal experience is that I really do not get a good feel about the photo until I get it home and put it up on a large computer screen. However, I do find the small thumbnails are easier to see composition because I am not distracted by details. I guess what you are saying is that it is a lot like looking at stereo pairs of air photos. Each in itself is flat but put them together in the special glasses and you get 3-d (actually highly exaggerated) representation. Since we are only taking one shot we have to use some other thing to show depth- shadows, size, leading the eye into the photo. So knowing all this stuff, do you actually think about it or does it come second nature intuitively after a while? It makes my head hurt to think I have to do all that thinking just to take a photo!

Another question I have is about lense distortion. I get the trees in the center to stand straight up and then the horizon on the sides looks tilited. If I crop the photo later, it often looks like I tilted the camera. You can rotate the image slightly, but one part or another is going to look tilited. I am not aware of any post-processing that actually takes out the lense distortion. I am always in a quandry about what to have tilited and what horizontal or vertical.
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby maverick » Fri Mar 09, 2012 5:44 pm

WD wrote:
Another question I have is about lens distortion


See if any of these help you WD:
http://tv.adobe.com/watch/photoshop-cs5 ... orrection/
http://www.digital-photography-school.c ... -photoshop
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby LMBSGV » Fri Mar 09, 2012 9:43 pm

I'm not the person to ask about anything to do with digital since I still shoot film. As a Leica user, switching to digital for me is prohibitively expensive due to the cost of an M9. Also, as a photography Luddite, I find using anything but a viewfinder annoying - even with my wife's point and shoot Canon Powershot, I use the viewfinder.

Actually, I only use a viewfinder to fine tune the composition. I've figured out the composition before I've set up the tripod and look through the viewfinder. It's just a matter of getting the tripod in the right place and framing the photo to go with the composition I envisioned. I've already decided on depth of field so it's just checking the light meter as to what shutter speed to go with the depth of field while figuring on the specific light conditions as to exactly where to set the shutter speed. One of the things I love about using a Leica is I tell the camera what I want versus the camera telling me. If the photo stinks, it's my fault, not the camera's.

As to your 1 in 50 ratio for a great photo, I know real professionals (earn their living from their photos) who are happy with 1 in a 100. And two of them still primarily shoot film.
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Re: How to get good photos?

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Mar 10, 2012 11:57 am

Being an ametuer, my criteria for a "great" photo are much looser than a professional photogapher! 1 in 50 of my shots are good enough for me to placed in my "best" folder. I do not have to please anyone but myself. I probably do not have a single photo that, from a professional standpoint, can be called truely "great". However, one of my biggest problems is sometimes recognizing IF a photo is "good" or "bad". Lots of time I have just wait a few months and look at them again. Right after a trip I have too much emoitonal involvement in each scene to really analyze it. It is even worse with the photos of the grandkids. I will have this really aweful photo that the little one has this just adorable look on his little face, and I cannot bear to thorw out the photo.

Mav- thanks for the references on lense distortion. I also know from working with LANDSAT images that you can get what is called "radiometric" distortions and atmospheric distortions that are pretty specific to the digital sensors. I have no idea if these are also present in a digital camera image. I guess I need to read some stuff to understand how my camera sensor works.
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