If you’ve ever studied some of the better macro images out there, you’ll see those nice clean solid color backgrounds that allow a subject to stand out, with no distractions to pull your eye away. This presentation just doesn’t happen by accident, it’s carefully planned, and not all that hard to do. Most people that sign up for my Macro Boot Camps tend to be flower shooters, so we'll use flowers as our subject matter for this post.
In the image below you see a nice patch of Dame’s Rocket flowers. When approaching a patch like this, I see so many photographers that head right to the middle of the patch to find a flower to shoot. With all the congestion of flowers, stems, leaves, this approach will only lead to a distracting background and make it impossible to get that clean shot.
For a clean shot, you'll need to concentrate your attention to the flowers at the perimeter of the patch. By finding those isolated flowers at the edges, and shooting at an angle where the background is the farthest away, you'll be able to get those nice solid color backgrounds.
Cherry Mountain and the distant Presidential Range as seen from Pondicherry National Wildlife Refuge in New Hampshire's White Mountains.
I am currently spending a few days in New Hampshire's White Mountains thanks to a couple of speaking engagements. The White Mountains are the place where I became hooked on nature photography 20 years ago. Marcy and I had just moved to Boston and for some reason we decided to give hiking a try even though it wasn't something either one of us grew up with. I still remember our first two hikes like they were yesterday – an easy valley walk into Zealand Falls followed the next day by an above-treeline adventure on Mount Jefferson. To say these hikes changed our lives is a bit of an understatement. At the time, we lived and worked in the city, Marcy in human resources and me in computer programming. Going to live music clubs and Fenway Park were our usual forms of entertainment, but after glimpsing the vast Pemgiwasset Wilderness and the world of glaical cirques and alpine wildflowers so close to home, we quickly converted to weekend backpackers and peak baggers. Within a year, I met Galen Rowell at a book signing and I suddenly knew I had a new calling in life. It took another decade to hone my skills and shake the chains of the programming cubicle, but it was worth the wait.
Lightroom 3’s Crop Tool makes it easy to change your photo’s orientation from horizontal to vertical or vice-versa. Press the ‘R’ key to activate the Crop Tool, then press ‘X’ to change the orientation of the crop. You can do this in previous versions of Lightroom by dragging a corner, but LR3 makes it easier and quicker.
Learn more about Rob, view his images and check out his workshops at his website.
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Editors note: We are proud to welcome Royce Howland to the OPG blog! Hailing from Calgary, Alberta, Royce is a consultant in the IT industry and is an accomplished wildlife and landscape photographer. Look for more articles from Royce soon in the areas of HDR and the digital darkroom. You can learn more about Royce and view his spectacular images at his website: Vivid Aspect Photography.
A joke about being self-employed goes like this — "Thank God it’s Friday! Only two more working days until Monday." Another one was pointed out to me by a friend — "Being self-employed, you get to work half-days. And you even get to choose which 12 hours you work!" Ha ha, only serious. As somebody with a non-photography day job and doing photography on the side, I don't always get to spend my time the way I would choose. Two serious pursuits to fit into each week, each with challenging and necessary ways to spend a lot of time… well, there are only so many hours. It's easy to get bogged down in the work of it all. But it's also important to preserve some time to focus on creativity.
On a recent weekend, I had a ton of work to accomplish and was busily chipping away at it as one of a series of powerful storm systems blew through Calgary. After taking a break to visit family on Sunday evening, on the drive home my wife and I watched huge cloud formations surrounding the city. I was tired, it was getting late, I still had more work to do, and so I figured I’d lost yet another chance to photograph some incredible stormy weather. But when we got home, I decided to set my work aside and try to do some image making given the opportunity created by the weather.
When I was first getting involved in professional wildlife photography, one of my mentors told me something I’ve made a point of remembering. What he told me should be obvious, but like much of what should be obvious, it isn’t always that obvious until someone points it out to you. And what was this pearl of wisdom and insight that I received? It was simply…
This post started out as just an observation: people all around the world paint their faces. In Brazil (bottom left), the Tarino Indians paint their faces so that when they go into the rain forest, the spirits recognize them and protect them, and help them with their hunt.
My point of that post was going to be that people are basically the same all over the planet – and that experiencing different cultures is a fascinating, rewarding and wonderful learning experience.
In looking at the photographs, however, I remembered that they all had something else in common: catch light in the eyes.
Catch light helps to draw our interest to the eyes. It makes the eyes “sparkle.”
We can add catch light with a reflector or a flash – or by carefully positioning the subject so that sunlight catches the eyes.
Now you know why I never leave home without a reflector or flash.
Explore the light,
See the diffusers, reflectors and other light modification tools in the OPG Store here.