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.

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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.

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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

2017 PhotoChallenge week 14 – Take a walk on the Wild Side – URBAN NATURE

Here’s our true (NOT APRIL FOOLS) Challenge for Week 14 of the 2017 PhotoChallenge.

Since we’re multiple contributors and many of the challenges focus on different techniques, I think it’s time we apply what we learned to bring out some urban nature photography. Being urban nature, they can include man-made objects as long as the main subject is nature related within an urban / semi-urban or rural area…OUTDOORS.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PhotoChallenge &emdash; Ice flowing on the St-Lawrence River

The above animated GIF (App 36 images) was taken handheld with an Android Phone. You don’t need to be equipped with the fanciest gear and software to complete a PhotoChallenge, you just need imagination and a little inspiration… Going back on all the techniques we’ve encountered this year, you can now apply them to this challenge.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Ice floating away on the St-Lawrence River

I wasn’t there to make an animated GIF, I was there to capture an Infrared Image with a Fisheye Lens to get a unique point of view on the early spring melting of the ice as it flows down the St-Lawrence River. We’ve covered infrared in past challenges and a quick search on our site will provide you with all the helpful tools to accomplish this Challenge in IR, if that is what you want…

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Une petite percée de soleil / Sun peeking through

Nature Parks in Metropolitan areas can offer a unique perspective on Urban Nature. Take advantage of the sun, clouds and other elements to add some drama to your images.
Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Ospreys in Nest / Balbuzards au nid

At times we create man-made objects to attract and nurture nature in an urban area. Platforms to invite Ospreys to nest are more and more common in Urban Nature settings. You’ll need some far-reaching lens as these platforms are often nestled out of reach to assure a successful nesting season.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Eastern Gray Squirrel Drinking a Fresh Cup of Tim Hortons Coffee!

Squirrels are probably one of the most common encounters of wildlife in our urban areas, they are also very opportunistic feeders making our litter a golden find.

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Man Overboard!

Sometimes Nature can swallow up City Folks in one gulp, be ready for the action shot…

Steve Troletti Editorial, Nature and Wildlife Photographer: PICTURE OF THE DAY / PHOTO DU JOUR &emdash; Tiny Planet - Carved Living Room - Salle de séjour extérieure sculptée

We’ve even covered 360 PhotoSpheres and Tinyplanets. These are a great way to show off your findings in an urban nature area.

 

I’ve given you plenty of examples and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what can be accomplished. It’s important to think through and properly plan what you want to accomplish, or you’ll only be taking a snapshot. A local search on google maps can reveal interesting locations with pictures to document the environment you will find yourself in.

Anything but a VIDEO will be accepted.

Bring what you will need to stabilize your camera I.E. a tripod

Filters to enhance contrast, change light colors, IR, Polariser or ND to slow down your exposures.

If wildlife is what you are after, please be respectful. Successful wildlife photography is only part photography. Observing and understanding the animal you want to photograph is the key. You will need to be patient.

Understanding and educating yourself on both local fauna and flora will keep you and your subject safe. Touching plants as much as wild animals can be unsafe. Never feed wild animals for the purpose of taking a picture.

Your final image should document nature in a world affected by man. Our interactions with nature a much as its interactions with us, where humans live.

 

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.

 

 

 

2017 PhotoChallenge week 14 – Self Portrait – Blurred Nude

DUE TO LEGAL CONCERNS YOU MUST BE 18 YEARS OF AGE OR OLDER TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CHALLENGE

It’s time to get into the artistic side of Photography with Self Portrait’s in the Nude. Don’t worry, as the title says, they need to be blurred, so we’ll be working with movement, long exposures, soft focus and other hide the essentials techniques.
Essence.

Remember, this is all about ART and NOT PORN or full on nudity. B&W is also an essential technique to focus to the artistic endeavor…

 

Before we even get started you need to get in the mood set and comfy in the nude in front of a camera. I suggest you read this article : 

Everything You Need To Know Before Your Naked Photoshoot

http://www.thedatereport.com/dating/photos/everything-you-need-to-know-before-your-naked-photoshoot/

the veined stone

Grunge looks and textures are an other efficient way to up the artistic value of your image. I however suggest you start your process with a slow shutter speed to create the blur effect as you move.
Untitled!

Exaggerated Soft focus also allows you to bring out the mystery with a blur…
The nuclear generation

APRIL FOOLS 🙂

2017 Photochallenge week 13 – Minimalism – Panning Motion

 

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evening ride, by poisson lucas

 

Let me remind you, Minimalism is “design or style in which the simplest and fewest elements are used to create the maximum effect.”

What does that mean? It means deliberately seeking more and more negative space. It means, avoiding detailed images. It means all these things, and more.

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pan, by Alex Matravers

Don’t be afraid to go back and reread my first challenge, where I think I laid out a decent approach to all my Minimalism challenges throughout the whole year.

  • This week’s theme allows you to deliberately cause a decreased amount of detail, by the use of the skill called panning. Panning is actually capturing motion, by moving your camera, along with a moving subject. Now, be careful, you can pan for an image, but not get a minimalistic image. I’m including two goals within this week’s theme, panning, and minimalism. Achieving this week’s theme requires that you do both.
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Panning, by Nisarg Lakhmani

As always, I like to point you to other well written articles that better inform than I can.

As you see in the sample images I’ve included with this post, you’ll see that the photographer chooses their subject that is moving, and moves along with it, to capture it in a frozen state, all the while the background and foreground are blurred out of focus. This introduces us to the simplifying of everything, but the subject…enhancing the minimalist looking photograph.

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Nightspeed, by Daveblog

I’ve mentioned it before…TAKE YOUR CAMERA WITH YOU EVERYWHERE! Try not to plan this shot. Try to see it coming, and be ready for it. Don’t submit the first one you get. Take at least three, to challenge yourself to get the very best image. I don’t want to see the three, that’s for you. You create several images, and choose the very best piece of art, and submit it.

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.
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speed of light, by Jonathan Cohen

2017 THROWBACK CHALLENGE, WEEK 12 : ARCHITECTURE – WINDOWS LOOKING OUT

Normally this would be a guest challenge but I have yet to organize them for the 2017 PhotoChallenge. I decided to try something new this week, sort of a time warp as we go back in the PhotoChallenge Archives. Not too far, the 2015 Challenge, Week 12 : ARCHITECTURE – WINDOWS LOOKING OUT.

For those of you who participated in the PhotoChallenge back in 2015, it’s a chance to improve and compare your work. For the rest of you, there’s plenty we’ve already covered that you can apply to push your limits and create the ultimate image. From HDR to Portraiture ,this is probably one of the most versatile challenges.

Here we go back in time for the Week 12 of the 2017 PhotoChallenge.

We sometimes think of architectural photography as looking at a building from the outside. A great deal of architectural engineering and design is often invested in giving a look from the inside to the outside. Windows and glass paneling connects us with the outside world, illuminating the indoors and often enhancing its appearance.

Coit Tower City View

Not all windows have glass panes. Many older structures in Europe and the Middle East have but openings carved out of the structure and protected by shutters when necessary. I find it connects us better with the world outside our four walls.

NYC Window View (a la Edward Hopper)

Not all windows give us the dream view we’re all contemplating. For some it’s but the hustle and bustle of urban life. This New York City Hotel Room view is the perfect example.

Pier Window

Even this abandoned building on the peer has a dream view through its industrial windows that are the envy of many Malibu homes.

I'm a young one stuck in the thoughts of an old one's head. (205)

You can add portraiture to your architectural image thus enhancing the sense of being and of welfare.

Breakfast with a View
At times Photo-Realistic HDR techniques of two or more images are needed to fully capture the ambiance of a room. The brightly lit outdoor scene needs to be balanced with the poorly lit view of the room.

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.