When the Rule of Thirds Helps Me Most

Ranch House Laurie BD-3168-2

Question: Is the photo above this text better than the image below?

Ranch House Laurie BD-3168

I think the photo at the top is far superior to the other, even though the differences seem minor. For me, the “rules” of composition become more important as my frames become simpler, as much about shapes as subjects.

Screen Shot 2015-11-26 at 12.52.40 PM

As you can see in this cropping overlay from Lightroom, the dark center of the flower is precisely aligned with one of the points of interest as understood in the “rule of thirds.” This composition adds space at the bottom and reduces space at the sides. The difference between the two is most visible when they are side-by-side in thumbnail format, which suggests to me that the rule-of-thirds version makes better use of negative space.

In the rule-of-thirds version, I feel like every line is contributing to the composition, keeping the eye moving around the frame and then back to the flower. I don’t always compose by the rule of thirds, but it is ALWAYS my point of departure when shooting and I ALWAYS explore it during post-processing cropping.

A lot of my photographer friends have grown ambivalent toward the rule of thirds – others have developed an enmity: Who wants to be constrained in the act of personal creative expression? I do! I want to learn the language through which I have chosen to express myself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Composition, Uncategorized

Some Photos I can Share!

Funny story: I haven’t been able to blog about photography even though I’ve been shooting almost every day, because it’s work-for-hire and the images are not mine to share. There are some interesting stories I will share one day (the movie star who greeted me with a big smile and reached out to shake my hand, saw the camera, and withdrew his hand in disgust), but in the meantime, I still get the pleasure of photographing Nordhoff High School’s dance performances.

I shot the dance show on two nights; once with the D7100 and once with the D610. Each has its strengths and weaknesses, but each offers image quality absolutely up to the task. I would have used the D7100 exclusively because of its superior focusing system, but the cropped sensor was not a good match for my position at the venue; you won’t usually hear me complain about being too close, but the 70-200 didn’t let me go wide enough for ensemble shots until I switched to the D610.

The music in this video is not from the performance; it’s just an important song about the roles of women and girls in our society, and as the father of a daughter it rattles me every time I hear it. It’s called Ophelia, by Natalie Merchant.

Oh, and I still get to photograph birds in my backyard:

Hummingbird-9678

Looking forward to a lot more shooting and blogging in the coming year, as well as a blog redesign for better organization. I hope you’ll join me.

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Dance and Theater

The Best Compliment Yet

The retouching in this photo of Gloria Steinem and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider is more heavy-handed than the technique I use now. Unfortunately, I cannot yet show you the technique I'm using now, because it's all work-for-hire and not mine to share.

The retouching in this photo of Gloria Steinem and Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider is more heavy-handed than the technique I use now. Unfortunately, I cannot yet show you the technique I’m using now, because it’s all work-for-hire and not mine to share.

I’ve been shooting donor/subscriber receptions for a non-profit arts program. During a break in the action at a recent event, my contact at the organization praised my work, saying that everyone in her office was impressed by my shots. That was a lovely compliment, but it’s not the one I want to brag about here.

No, that came a little later, when in the course of conversation one of her coworkers noted that their patrons look very good in my images. I explained, “I retouch every photo.”

My contact was shocked to hear this. And her surprise is the greatest compliment my work has received.

Leave a comment

Filed under Portraiture, Post Processing

Why I’m Not an Early Adopter

500 test-4725

When I received the Nikon 200-500 f/5.6, I immediately mounted it on a Nikon D7100 body, and I noticed that locking it into the camera mount required more effort than my other lenses.

I took a few pictures and was excited about the possibilities of the lens. Then, last night, I decided to see how it works on the Nikon D610 camera body. But it was hard to remove from the D7100, and when I did, the lens’ mount looked like this.

I would have gladly accepted a replacement, but Amazon offered only a refund, because as expected, the lens sold out almost immediately.

So I guess I’ll let Nikon tech this out for a year or so, and then try again later. Too bad, because I was really looking forward to shooting birds and possibly some concerts with this monster. Oh well.

1 Comment

Filed under Camera Gear

Nikon 200-500 f/5.6 First Day

Top of a telephone pole in midday light. On the D7100, 500mm looks like 750mm.

Top of a telephone pole in midday light. On the D7100, 500mm looks like 750mm.

Marketing-wise, I do not fall into the category known as “early adopter.” I usually get cameras and lenses after they are well-documented by thousands of users. But when Nikon announced the 200-500 f/5.6 a few months ago, I threw caution to the wind because if this is what it appears to be, I’ve been waiting for this lens a very long time. I pre-ordered impulsively, and then completely forgot about it until I got a shipping notification.

There weren't many birds in the backyard during the few minutes I had to try the lens, but there was  a moon.

There weren’t many birds in the backyard during the few minutes I had to try the lens, but there was a moon. Hand-held, wide open at f/5.6.

And what does it appear to be? A relatively inexpensive, Nikon-quality birding lens. Heck, based on my experience photographing Trombone Shorty with a 70-200 and TC17, this might even serve as a stage performance lens in professionally lit venues.

Pretty high up in a eucalyptus tree. I'm concerned about the focusing, but as I say in the text, I need time to use this lens with appropriate shot discipline.

Pretty high up in a eucalyptus tree. I’m concerned about the focusing, which hunted a bit and got stuck occasionally, but as I say in the text, I need time to use this lens with appropriate shot discipline.

What remains to be seen, of course, is whether this is what it appears to be.  So far, I don’t know, because it arrived in the middle of a work day and I’ve only had a few minutes to make these captures, hand held. This weekend I’ll bring some shot discipline to the task, and try the lens on both the D7100 and D610. Stay tuned.

Leave a comment

Filed under Camera Gear, Nature Photography