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“The best way out is always through.”

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Don't Settle for Your First Impression

Finding a potentially interesting photograph is a pretty exciting moment for most photographers since it's the reason that we own cameras and spend our free time picture hunting. Once you've found a subject with promise, however, it's important that you push past the first flush of attraction and take time to "work" the subject a bit. Refining the shot and looking more closely at what attracted you to a subject really helps to simplify and strengthen compositions.

Often what attracts you to a scene is a clash of color, a particularly interesting bit of lighting or perhaps just a interesting shape or texture. In the case of this bright yellow rope that I found on a dock in Camden, Maine, it was pretty much all of those things: the bright yellow rope, the bright but soft late-afternoon lighting, as well as the shape and texture of the coiled nylon rope. The first few shots I took (top photo) were somewhat predictable: I included the entire coil of rope, as well as some of the dock and the water. I actually left the dock after shooting those first few photos and returned a few minutes, nagged by that voice in my head that tells me I haven't looked hard enough yet.

When I returned to the rope, I began refining the composition by finding a more directly overhead view (which meant leaning out somewhat precariously over the dock from the gangplank I was standing on) and by zooming in more tightly with my 18-70mm Nikkor zoom (a great little lens that came with my D70s kit). By extending the zoom almost all the way (93mm in 35mm equivalent) I was able to crop out all of the excess baggage from the left side and lower parts of the frame. Finally I played with the angle of the dock in the viewfinder until it created that nice diagonal line. I still like the first photo a bit, but I feel the second image is much more graphic and dynamic.

Normally I would shoot this type of scene with a tripod, but because I was hanging out in space somewhat I wasn't able to use one. Fortunately there was enough light to shoot at 1/250 second while still using a relatively small aperture (f/11) to get the depth of field that I wanted. By the way, if you look carefully, you'll notice that the shadow of the cleat (upper right) has become substantially longer and more gentle in the second shot--an indicator of how long I spent trying to find the best shot.

Take time to work the subject and you'll give yourself a lot more options in editing and printing and as I say so often, it's free, so what the heck.

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