fruit and plant composition

The unconventional aspect ratio I chose for this photograph was determined by my composition aesthetic.

“Look at the photographs, look at them carefully. Let the composition and the subject matter determine the aspect ratio. That’s the ultimate authority. Not the camera manufacturer. Not the film manufacturer.” —Brooks Jensen

Visual intent

We all have the same bag of visual components to work with in photography but how we place them and how they relate to each other, to a subject and to the visual whole is what makes or breaks a visual piece like a photograph. It takes a deliberate situational awareness on the photographer’s part, a psychological standing back from only seeing the subject such as a tree, a person, a flower or a bridge for example, and then trying to assess how all the visual components are working for or against our intent. When photographing anything, always know why. Only then can we to take some deliberate actions to control the elements and work toward a more effective visual composition. 

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impressionistic photography

The  fuzzy patches of color are created in-camera by shooting through flowers and plant leaves close to the lens. This is a form of abstract impressionistic photography. It is best done with a long lens ( 330 mm in this case) and narrow depth of field ( f-5.3 here). This brings up a point, for those of you who love taking photographs but only use the automatic or program modes because the technical details seem too complex or boring, this and other in-camera impressionistic techniques are just not a practical option. Please learn to take control of the focus point, exposure matrix and the depth of field at the very least. There are lots of free sites on the internet that explain the basic parameters. 


this piece caught my eye because of the backlighting on the leaves just as they begin to change. Keeping the background deep (this is how I would display a B/W) gives it a depth. I do work in monotone a lot before going back to working in the color version so here I included the b/w version, toned in the highlight region slightly. I left the toning in the color image.

toning images

Toning a photographic image is a matter of personal taste. Sometimes I like the effect but other times it detracts. I’m not a purist when it comes to how I present my images. I don’t try to hold to any particular method or style. I simply do what I like. Sometimes I tone, sometimes I don’t.

When I was doing analog b/w darkroom work there were essentially two ways to control the print’s tone.  The first was choosing a particular type of paper that had tonal characteristics I wanted,  described as warm or cool,  and the second was to use a chemical bath that could be added to one of the final print washes. The longer the print was left in the toner bath, the deeper the effect.

In the paper case, the tone was equal everywhere since it was integral to the paper, not the emulsion, but with the chemical method the tone was darker where there was more silver so the shadows were affected more than the highlights thus also increasing the apparent contrast as well. There wasn’t any way to do what we call split toning I knew of.

I now have much greater control and ease of toning using software. I toned this in LightRoom using the standard split-toning sliders. Split toning is where you tone the shadow and highlight regions differently, as opposed to the entire image, and then mix them in some proportion to get the effect I want. This can resemble the chem method if I want but now I can increase the tonal effect in the highlights more than the shadow plus I can use different color for each as well. LR comes with a few presets but I rather build my own custom ones.

I should mention that you can also tone color images. I do this often. I can also spot tone an area using a brush too to give a region a treatment instead of the global gray level ones.

For fun I included an untoned b/w as well as toned and untoned color versions. I didn’t use the same toning settings as the b/w in case you are wondering.

And next is the original raw image before any changes. If you like to try this b/w tone here are my settings. highlights: hue 52, saturation 23/shadows: hue 41, saturation 26/ balance +72


moon rising sun setting

As the sun sets and the moon rises, magic happens. This is the second in the series of shooting in the ambiguous”twilight”. I was sitting on my back porch when this scene happened. The gradient of color and light was amazing. The moon has no detail but is recognizable enough to anchor the atmospheric narrative of the in-between existence of neither earth nor sky.  Existence is a stratification of a continuum from matter to no matter.

hand-held, 1/640 sec., ISO 800, F/4.5, 55mm

twilight hour

the photographer is of course keenly aware of the light but how many would consider a period or state of obscurity, ambiguity, or gradual decline of light we call twilight as something special. Here is a twilight image I made this evening of some trees and a wood fence, hand-held, 1/80 sec. 6400 ASA, f/4.5.