2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 21: Leading Lines

This week, we’ll focus on a classic composition technique: Leading Lines. Using leading lines is a fantastic way to help highlight the subject of your photo, and help direct the viewer to the areas of the photo that you think are most interesting or important.

launchpad_smjsc2007e050763 – NASA/Bill Ingalls

In the image above, the railroad tracks lead towards a launch pad, used for the International Space Station. What I love most about this photo is that the launch pad comprises a very small portion of the overall picture– it’s just a tiny bit in the background. However, the train tracks pull your eyes into the photo, and lead them directly towards the subject. Without the leading lines, you might not even notice the launch pad.

Leading lines can also add additional interest to a photo:

dock_smLeading Lines – Eadie Minbiole

Just like with the train tracks in the first photo, the railings on the dock help lead you to the subject of the photo. In addition, the leading lines add additional interest to the photo: Had this just been a pic of someone standing in the middle of the frame, it might not have been particularly interesting. However, the leading lines of the railings not only help lead the viewer to the subject, they also provide great framing for the subject. (Remember Week 10!) As such, the leading lines help provide a much more interesting, memorable photo.

Naturally, the leading lines don’t need to be straight lines; They can be curved, wavy, or more abstract.

stairs_smBelleveue Staircase – Eric Minbiole

In the sample above, the curved handrail leads towards the desk in the bottom center. (Perhaps not the best example, as the desk itself isn’t terribly interesting; the photo might have been better had there been someone sitting at the desk.)

manhattan_smLeading to Manhattan – ashokboghani

For this week’s challenge, I want everyone to take a photo that features leading lines. Ideally, your leading lines lead the viewer towards a prominent or interesting part of the photo. As above, the lines can be obvious, subtle, straight, curved, landscape, or macro– it’s all up to you, and what you find interesting. As always, be as creative as you like!

As with all my challenges, I’m happy to help offer any assistance or suggestions– feel free to ask. Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 Photochallenge, week 20: Stack’Em Up – Traffic Pile-up

We’ve all seen startrails, they’re basically a series of semi-long exposures of the stars assembled into one image. The technique used is stacking. By stacking multiple images together, the differences in each image appear as one. For a long time stacking was the work of expensive editing software. I personally call that a composite image although some purists will argue. It’s quite obvious that we aren’t going to be making star trails with a title like “Traffic Pile-up”. However the technique is very similar to our week 52 challenge from December 2016. We’re just going to be presenting it in an incremental video instead of a single image.


The little video above is what I’m talking about, we’re going to be stacking traffic, although I used cars, the stereotypical definition of traffic pile-ups, you have creative freedom over the definition, allowing you to add your own personal touch to this process.

What I did is fairly simple : 

  • I setup my camera (RICOH THETA S) to do interval shooting of one picture every 10 seconds for 10 minutes.
  • I stacked the first six images representing the first minute.
  • I then added 6 more images that represent one additional minute of stacking.
  • I continued adding increments of 6 images until I reached the total shooting time of ten minutes, producing ten images where traffic incrementally piled-up.
  • I put together my ten images in a short video in the style of a time lapse.

I did this quickly in photoshop, but I wanted to bring this to the 2017 PhotChallenge in a way that everyone can participate on a budget whether you’re using state of the art camera gear or your smartphone camera.

I found a little piece of freeware designed for startrails that works on MAC, PC and Linux. It’s called StarStax and it does a wonderful job of stacking JPEG images into a single composite image. Here’s the link : http://www.markus-enzweiler.de/StarStaX/StarStaX.html#download

There’s even a Flickr group to inspire you : https://www.flickr.com/photos/stephaniesaccoccio/31637339573/in/pool-starstax/

 

To complete your challenge:

  • Remember it has to be a TRAFFIC PILE-UP or a reasonable interpretation of…
  • You final submission will be in the form of a time-lapse illustrating the gradual pile-up through composite images.
  • You do not have to follow my timing, however it is an easy formula to follow.

 

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 Photochallenge, week 19: Throwback Challenge

For those of you still working on your panning time lapse you’ll be able to post throughout this week as well.

For this special edition throwback challenge, I’m taking you back to a 2009 Challenge, Day 364: NOODLES

Remember in the old days of the photochallenge, we only had a day to shoot. Since we have an entire week, we have plenty of time to plan our shoot and use all the exposure, framing and other photography techniques we’ve covered so far this year.

Don’t be afraid to play with spherical images, animated GIFs or even a creative noodle time lapse. It’s all about taking this 8-year-old challenge and pushing the limits of creativity.

***

Today is Wednesday, December 30, 2009. Today’s theme for the 2009 Challenge is NOODLES.

Spaghetti by monteregina
“Spaghetti” by monteregina

What kind of noodles do you like? Macaroni and cheese? Spaghetti? Chow mein or chow fun? Or maybe some delicious Vietnamese noodle soup? Let’s see your favorite noodle in your shot for the day!

Fried Egg on Instant Noodles by su-lin
“Fried Egg on Instant Noodles” by su-lin

Once you’re ready to submit your work to Flickr, you’ve got to do two important things. First, make sure you tag your photos correctly; “2009challenge″ and “2009challenge364“. Also, if you haven’t already, join the PhotoChallenge group on Flickr. Then, submit each day’s photo to the group’s pool.

zucchini noodles by massdistraction
“zucchini noodles” by massdistraction

 

***

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 Photochallenge, week 18: Egg Timer Panning Time Lapse

A time lapse can be great, but a smooth pan of the camera throughout your time lapse is just awesome! Personally I wouldn’t invest in an out of this world expensive motorized panning head. They’re just too expensive to justify, although they can be a great deal of fun. One of the best most affordable solutions is the Genie Mini at around $250 USD. You can even interconnect two of them for a complete solution running under $1K with all the bells and whistles.

Personally I opted for the super-budget solution, a solution that I can bring to the 2017 PhotoChallenge for all of us to have fun with. THE IKEA EGG/KITCHEN TIMER! Perfectly built with a flat top and bottom it can be quickly modified to give you a 360-degree rotation in 60 minutes. Naturally weight limits are an issue and there is a slight wobble in the mechanism but it remains surprisingly stable as long as the winds cooperate. For the price (About $6 USD) it’s just as good as many cheap Chinese units found on the internet for up to $50.

With a little creative spirit, you can combine two of them for a vertical pan in addition to your horizontal pan. In vertical mode, camera weight is even more of an issue. You’ll need to use a small bridge, your phone or a tiny GoPro-style camera. A DSLR is just too heavy for this timer. Keeping its horizon level can be a challenge as you have to deal with two units who both have a slight flex in the mechanism.

Here’s an example taken with two IKEA KITCHEN/EGG TIMERS panning on two axes, horizontal and vertical.

You can even transform your panning time lapse into a tiny planet for an out of this world visual effect.

 

WHAT YOU WILL NEED:

Kitchen Timer with Flat top and bottom to facilitate mounting hardware. I chose the IKEA model due to its perfect shape and solid build.

  • A few pieces of 1/4 inch hardware (Bolts, nuts and washers) from your hardware store
  • Drill or adhesive (I used 3M automotive tape) to mount hardware to egg timer
  • A mount for your phone or camera (Dollar store has the cell phone mounts with selfie sticks)

  • A tripod to keep your rig steady
  • A lightweight camera (I used a GoPro clone at $40 USD)

 

TO COMPLETE YOUR CHALLENGE :

One thing I noticed in previous time lapse related challenges was the use of accelerated video. To create a time lapse you must shoot images and not a video. The end result of assembling your images together can be an animated GIF or a video, but you must start with a series of images at a preset interval. (I.E. 1 second) You may want to use a time-lapse app if your phone camera settings don’t support interval shooting or time lapse.

If you have the ability to lock exposure, experiment with that especially under moving cloud conditions

A 1/2 hour of shooting at a 1 second interval should give you around 15 seconds of content panning 180 degrees. This should be sufficient for this week’s PhotoChallenge.

VERY IMPORTANT : Make sure your tripod is level. Not just the camera in one direction. It needs to remain level in all directions to maintain a straight horizon.

 

RESOURCES :

  1. DIY IKEA TIMER TIME LAPSE
  2. EGG TIMER TIME LAPSE
  3. HOW TO TIME LAPSE

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 Photochallenge, week 17: Storytelling – Capturing emotion

Yes, a photograph can be technically perfect, and have a great composition. That’s already hard enough to achieve sometimes! But for me, a photograph really stands out if it touches me. If it conveys a feeling, or stirs an emotion within. A really great image is one that evokes a mood and pulls the viewer into the scene.

That’s what this week’s challenge is about: capturing emotion and feeling. Before I explain more about how to achieve this, here are some practical guidelines to start with:

  • take one photo
  • either color or black and white
  • the subject is completely up to you
  • your picture should convey a feeling or emotion. Some examples to start up your ideas: happiness, sadness, anger, joy, fear, grief, awe, loss, love, irritation, confusion, madness, stillness, annoyance, satisfaction, indifference…the list can go on and on.

In the remainder of this post, we’ll look into five different approaches:

  • Your own mood as a filter for photography
  • Capturing other peoples’ emotions
  • Copying great works of art
  • Nature and inanimate objects
  • Abstraction and color

Feel free to use any of the approaches, or combine them. As long as you make us feel, and you make it yours!

So…how do I create emotion in my images?

Of course, your own mood plays a very important role in how you perceive the world around you. It’s probably the most used filter in the world 🙂

Some years ago, one of my best friends suddenly passed away. And when I look back to the pictures I took in that period, I do notice that they all have a sadder, darker undertone than the images that I usually shoot. I deliberately worked with those feelings of sadness, anger and loss in my photography. It gave a voice to what I felt, and was very beneficial for my healing process.

Mourning
Loss – Maaike Groenewege

But of course, emotion does not always have to  be this heavy. Imagine the happiness of walking around town on a sunny afternoon, with no particular plan, and you suddenly feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, the laughter of children chasing soap bubbles in the sky, the roses in bloom in the park…

zeepbel.jpg
Wonder – Maaike Groenewege

Capturing other peoples’ emotions

Portraits can be a great way of capturing other people’s emotions. It’s not the easiest way though: feelings are hard to summon at will, and in a portrait setting, there’s very little distance between you and your model. You both should feel comfortable enough to get close and build enough trust for those true feelings to show.

pensive
When I grow up – Maaike Groenewege

A way to avoid this, is to shoot candid portraits or street scenes. Here, you don’t have to get very close to you subject (although I personally do make sure that I establish eye contact before I take a picture…there’s nothing more spooky than a photographer hiding in the shadows). Just observing people as they go about in their daily lives, enjoying themselves at a concert or pondering life on their daily commute: these are all great opportunities!

 

 

loneliness2
Commute – Maaike Groenewege

I took this image by not pointing my phone directly at the subject, but shooting the image that was reflected on the train window. Of course, afterwards, I asked this gentleman whether he was OK with me taking and using this picture.

Copying the great masters

There are so many artistic masterpieces around us! One of my hobbies is to go to a museum or a park, and photograph great works of art. Sometimes I just make a copy that I can study at home, but especially with sculptures, you as a photographer can reinforce the emotions that are already present in the original work.

worry
Detail of the Burghers of Calais – Charles Auguste Rodin

For instance, this is a part of a sculpture by Rodin, ‘Burghers of Calais’, situated in Westminster, London. It’s part of a bigger group of sculpted people. I isolated this single person, took a low viewpoint, and focussed on his troubled face and wrought hands. This way, I tried to bring out the worry and despair that I sensed, but was easily lost in the original.

When it comes to fear, this statue in a monastery in Cluny, France, is my personal association with that feeling. She actually turned up in a nightmare or two, shortly after my visit, and I still get this sense of creepiness when I watch her. In the picture, I used a very close cropping to bring out those spooky eyes and severe look.

fearfullady
Lady of late – Maaike Groenewege

 

Nature and inanimate objects

When people and statues are not really your cup of tea, there’s of course always nature to explore. Sunlight especially adds emotion to everyday scenes, and dramatic views from mountaintops evoke a sense of awe.

dales
Yorkshire Dales – Maaike Groenewege

Use small and isolated objects to bring out feelings of isolation, disconnection and perhaps even goodbye or loss.

loneliness
Final crossing – Maaike Groenewege

And don’t forget the small wonders and miracles of the macro world that might right at your feet!

goodbye
Time to fly! – Maaike Groenewege

 

Color and abstraction

One final approach that I’d like to suggest (and which I really like myself), is to let go of ‘image’, and explore the world of lines, shapes a colors. I considered this image of a line of trees as a write-off (I was simply clicking away while sitting in the passenger’s seat of our car). But after looking at it for a while, I felt desoriented and confused, which I further reinforced by desaturizing the colors and increasing the contrast.

confusion
Lost – Maaike

Color can be a great way to bring out feelings like anger and excitement. This was actually one of the tiny world experiments I did for last year’s challenge: it’s a sunset with beautiful reds and pinks. By rolling up the landscape, it almost becomes a Tolkien-like evil eye.

anger
Evil eye – Maaike

With so many different possibilities, this should first and foremost be a fun and exciting challenge for everyone! So go grab your camera and enjoy!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

 

 

 

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 16: Simple, Clean Backgrounds

This week, we’ll focus on one of my favorite techniques: creating a Simple, Clean Background. I absolutely love this technique as it can help turn an otherwise boring subject into a more memorable, professional looking image. Let’s look at some examples:

dice_1a_smDice – Eric Minbiole

The image above was taken by placing a few dice on a piece of white plastic. Notice how beautifully the dice stand out against the minimal background. (The subtle reflection is a nice bonus, too.) In contrast, imagine that the same dice were placed on a wooden table– the photo wouldn’t have nearly the same impact. It’s not the dice that are interesting (they’re not!) but it’s the fact that the dice are shown against a beautiful, clean background that really makes for a memorable, professional looking image.

Choosing a Clean Background

In many cases (especially in still life or macro shots), you have complete control over your arrangement. In that case, you have lots of great choices for background: A piece of dark cloth, a sheet of bright white paper, a piece of acrylic plastic, a clear blue sky, etc. I’ve even had great luck using a bathtub. The main goal is to find something plain and simple that won’t distract from the actual subject.

Let’s start with an example:

HummelBackground

Both images above were taken with the same camera, the same settings, and similar processing. The image on the left was taken on a kitchen counter. The background is messy and distracting, making for a rather poor photograph– your eye spends more time looking at the crumbs on the counter then at the figurine. In contrast, the image on the right is much more pleasing, and allows you to focus on the subject. The setup is incredibly simple: A piece of white poster board, sitting on a chair, lit with sunlight:

setup_sm

Using a Narrow Depth of Field

The background doesn’t have to be perfectly white or black to be clean and simple. Another option is to use a narrow depth of field so that your subject is in crisp focus, while the background is blurred. This technique is especially useful in portraits or street photography, where you don’t necessarily have control over the background itself. As before, let’s look at an example:

HummelDoF

The two photographs above were taken with the exact same setup, just seconds apart. The only difference is that the top image uses a wide depth of field (small aperture), where most everything is in focus– including the background. Notice how distracting the trees and bushes are. In contrast, the bottom image uses a narrow depth of field (wider aperture) to help blur the background, and help the figurines stand out better.

To best blur the background, you want to keep the background as far away as possible– the farther away, the more blurred it will be. In addition, you should use a wide aperture, which helps to further blur the foreground and/or background. (Above, I used a rather basic, inexpensive lens that could only go to f/5.6; If you have a “faster” lens, perhaps f/4 or f/2.8, you can get even better results.)

dutch_3_smDutch Masters – Eric Minbiole

For this week’s challenge, I want everyone to try to capture an image with a clean, non-distracting background. You have lots of options: You can use a plain backdrop, such as a piece of paper, cloth, or plastic. Alternatively, if you want to use a more natural or real-world background, you can use a narrow depth of field to keep your subject in focus, but blur everything else. As always, be as creative as you like!

Optional Twist: For this week’s optional twist, try taking a second shot where you intentionally break the rules, and create a messy background. (Ideally, use the same subject as your main image.) Have fun with this– show people what not to do. This will allow everyone to compare your clean and messy images, and see why a clean background is so important. As always, the twist is completely optional. If you do choose to participate, your “good” image should be your main submission, and your “messy” image should be in the comments.

As with all my challenges, I’m happy to help offer any assistance or suggestions– feel free to ask. Get your camera, and have fun!

The rules are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.

2017 PHOTOCHALLENGE, WEEK 15: LOW KEY

Your challenge this week is to capture a low key photo in the camera. “Low key” means that the majority of the tones in the image are in the shadows. “In the camera” means that I don’t want you creating the low key effect in post processing. Low key does not mean low contrast. In fact, the most effective low key images have high contrast. It takes thought and intention to capture a dramatic low key image.

2017WEEK15-lead-photo-1024px
Peruvian Lily by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

Low key photography is all about the lighting. At first you might be tempted to simply capture an underexposed image and call it low key because it is dark, but that produces a low contrast image and is not what this challenge is about. Instead think about lighting only the parts of the subject that you want to include in the photo and letting the rest fall into dark shadow with little or no detail. The shadows dominate the photo but don’t define it.

365.338 - Low-Key Gaj
365.338 – Low-Key Gaj by Al Ibrahim

There are many options for subjects in low key photography. Portraits are particularly popular. They tend to mimic the Chiaroscuro style of painting from the Renaissance and Baroque periods. Chiaroscuro is created by light hitting the subject from a particular direction. It is the reflection of the light on the subject – not the light itself – that is captured. Many modern day photographers create this using a single flash unit, but it is entirely possible to create the effect using either natural light or some other form of directional light: flash light, computer/tablet screen, etc.

Mate en clave baja (Low key)
Mate en clave baja by Dani Vázquez

Macro and still life images can really come alive when captured low key. Have you ever been out on a walk and noticed a single flower being lit by sunlight while the area around it is in the shade? This is the perfect setup for a low key macro shot. Of course you can create that sort of set up in a studio as well. The trick is to shine a directional light only on the subject (not on the background) so that you get a nice dark or even black background behind your subject.

Rockwell Falls on a Rainy Day
Rockwell Falls on a Rainy Day by Eadie Escobar Minbiole

Low key landscape photos can be tougher to find and capture in the camera, but they are very effective when you do. The trick is learning to see how the light plays off the landscape and capturing that instead of capturing the source of the light. This is probably the most difficult subject for the challenge this week because you don’t have control over the light and I don’t want you creating the low key effect in post processing – I want you to capture it in the camera.

So how do you know that you’ve captured your photo correctly in the camera? With the histogram, of course! Let’s take a look at the histograms of the above photos. Notice how they are all heavily weighted to the left? In fact, the ones with black backgrounds are stacked up against the left side. If you remember in the past couple of histogram challenges I’ve encouraged you to avoid stacking up against the left or right sides to avoid losing detail in the shadows or highlights. But in the case of many low key photos with pure black backgrounds, the whole point is that there is no detail in the shadows and that is reflected in the histograms being stacked up against the left side.

histograms

Also notice that all of these histograms extend pretty far to the right. That indicates that the images have high contrast. (The histogram for a low contrast image would not extend much past the middle of the histogram range.) Thus, you can use the histogram on your camera to tell you whether you’ve captured a low key, high contrast image: heavily weighted towards the left but extending almost all the way to the right.

This week’s challenge:

  • Capture a low key photo in the camera.
  • Do NOT simply reduce the exposure compensation of a normal scene and call it low key. This will produce a low contrast image. I want you to capture a high-contrast, low key image in the camera.
  • Do NOT use post-processing to make a normally exposed photo look low key. The goal is to find or create a scene that is already low key and capture it in your camera.
  • You don’t need to post the histogram this week because I figure by now you know how to find it, but if you would like to post it please do as I find it helps everyone to become more familiar with them.

For more information on how to take low key photos, I found the following links particularly helpful while doing research for this challenge:

The Complete Beginner’s Guide to Shooting Low Key
Low-Key Photography for Beginners – Enter the Dark Side
How to Create a Low Key Portrait using Natural Light
Low Key Photography Tips
Macro: How to Take Low-key Close-ups
20 Outstanding Low and High Key Photographs

Our friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Post one original photograph (Your Image) shot each week per theme posted on this blog to Google+Facebook, or Flickr (or all three). Tag the photo #photochallenge and #photochallenge2017
  • The shot should be a new shot you took for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2017 PhotoChallenge is fun and easy.