As a photographer, always be aware of what the light is doing – the direction, quality, characteristics, how it falls on the subject, what it reveals, what it hides, surface textures created, shapes formed from shadows, color temperature, etc.. The same subject or location will be totally transformed under different light.
Tourists and visitors may have time constraints or limited to a single visit of a location, but if you’re a local or have a flexible schedule, visit a location and view it under different light (time of day and season) –you will be rewarded!
After several visits to the Münster church in Basel, I learned where the light would be in order to illuminate the stained glass windows on a particular side and create a warm glow. I’ve taken many photos of the church interior, at times showing cold stone and lifeless windows from indirect sunlight, but what I particularly love about the above photo is the scene bathed in inviting warm light, the beam of light striking the pews, the radiant stained glass behind the organ pipes, and the colorful stained glass projected onto the opposite wall (center-right). The entire scene was transformed and brought to life.
Other parts of the church were darkened. For example, the windows below were photographed in the summer with the sun overhead, equally illuminating all the windows, something not possible when the above image was taken late afternoon in December. [Hindsight, I should have taken several bracketed shots to avoid the over-exposed windows on either side.]Don’t become so focused on a subject/location that you forget to stop, observe and think about the light. When possible, return to familiar places and rediscover them – transformed in a different light.
We had an early morning errand today. This was the amazing view waiting us on the mountain as we descended back into the valley. You can barely see an outline of the Swiss alps on the horizon. The fog was literally rolling and flowing like ocean waves.
This is one time when “hazy” isn’t so bad.
Have your camera on hand … whatever the weather.
Much of November is spent living in constant fog… but it’s not so bad if you can get above the murky soup!
This is the view (NE) arriving at work this morning at 8am. Kilchzimmer is a 600m walk down the Mt. behind where I’m standing. It’s no surprise this ridge is a popular spot for photographers to congregate in the early morning when the weather conditions are right.
I’m always ready with the tripod stored in the car (except today!). The tripod would have allowed me to capture long exposures of the cloud flow over the mt.. …next time. The odd cloud on the right is from a nearby nuclear plant.
[Tech notes: Final images were created from three bracketed photos – over and under exposed images merged together to capture the wide dynamic range of the sky/clouds with dark foreground. Fuji X-T1, edited in LR]
Enjoyed a Saturday afternoon attending the Worldwide Photowalk in Zürich, Switzerland.
Unfortunately, I arrived late due to terrible traffic but I knew their general route through the city so spent part of the day tracking down anyone with a camera. I eventually found time to get a few photos in.
It’s only February and we’re already planning ahead for Kilchzimmer’s next Christmas card because when the time comes to print the card (Oct.) we don’t usually have snow at Kilchzimmer.
There are challenges to getting a photo of Kilchzimmer in great light (morning or late afternoon), fresh snow on the ground, clear skies, and being available.
When we first moved to Switzerland, a Swiss told me that if I didn’t like the weather, wait five minutes – it’ll change! Weather here is hard to predict. So it’s no wonder that this morning was my third attempt at getting a good winter photo of Kilchzimmer from either the high vantage point of “Ankenballen”, or from the pasture on the opposite hillside. The Ankenballen hike was treacherous with deep snow and a steep icy climb up rocks, so I didn’t want to risk slipping off the cliff again.
Today I went for the view from the hillside pasture with the advantage of having a path blazed through the drifts from my last photo excursion. All this was a last minute decision, arriving at the office this morning dressed for sitting in a cozy building.
The fog hadn’t lifted but you could see the blue sky through the haze. That gave me an hour to hike and get in position. The hoarfrost falls off the trees as soon as the sun cuts through the fog.
I had my gear set up and only had to wait a few more minutes for the dramatic shot – when the fog line would drop below Kilchzimmer.
Suddenly waves of fog rolled in again. My perseverance turned to stubbornness as I stood there for two hours waiting for the fog to drop into the valley.
I needed to take my mind off of freezing toes, so I occupied myself – even resorted to taking my very first “Selfie”!
I finally returned to the office with no winter photo of Kilchzimmer. At least I got some much needed exercise, a few scenic photos, and a selfie!
Time to get psyched up for attempt #4 at a Kilchzimmer Christmas card photo – as soon as we get fresh snow, clear skies, and great light.
This past weekend I enjoyed a slice of my wife’s homemade apple pie, caramel sauce and homemade ice-cream with fresh cream from the local farmer. One of my all-time favorite combos!
When time allows and doesn’t disrupt family meal time, an interesting plate of food can provide an opportunity to experiment with the camera. I thought I’d have plenty of time to experiment with different lighting options but I soon discovered that food isn’t the most patient of subjects as it’s quick to melt, juices begin to run, etc.. I need to plan everything out ahead of time with composition, camera settings, lights and reflectors all in place.
With food, I usually bounce the flash off a white card/wall, use natural window light or use a shoot-through umbrella/soft box to give the effect of natural light from a window. For the pie and ice-cream I decided to try something different by using a reflective umbrella for comparison. When looking at the final images, I immediately noticed the detailed reflection of the umbrella’s metal frame in the caramel sauce. Not good. Actually taking the time to experiment with different qualities of light and lighting setups on the same subject is a valuable learning experience that sticks with you more than just reading it from a book or website. Sometimes it’s ok to play with your food.
[Fuji X-T1, 18-55mm, manual flash in large reflective umbrella – positioned just off frame, above and behind subject]
Several days ago I saw these wonderful ripe red tomatoes in the kitchen. They looked sooo good! Unfortunately, my stomach doesn’t appreciate fresh cut tomatoes, so the best I could do was have fun photographing them. With the tomatoes I had plenty of time to work the lights and try different angles. I then poured carbonated water in the glass. The glass was placed on a piece of A3 sized white paper curved up in the back to create a seamless BG – no cost, nothing fancy. With placement of the light to the subject and controlling light spill, you can make the BG as white or black as you need.
I hung out the attic window to photograph our first snowfall of winter at the CEF office – Kilchzimmer (Langenbruck, Switzerland).
One of those times I fought the urge to stretch the black/white values in the histogram and decided to keep a narrow range of values. Using a telephoto lens compressed the depth and layers of falling snow to give a natural grain to the image. The scene already appeared monochromatic so it wasn’t a big step to convert to B/W. I added a slight coolness to the B/W image by adding a split tone.
[Fujifilm X-T1, XF 55-200mm, LR5]
For some “creative stretching” I’ve been taking the occasional square photo. Square photos are not just for uploading to Instagram.
A beautiful field of Dahlias during one of our last warm days of the year – Liestal, Switzerland.
[Fujifilm X-T1, LR5]
This was the view from Kilchzimmer at 8:00am this morning after an overnight rain. It makes for an encouraging start to the day when we can get above those dreary clouds in the valley. If we get caught in early morning work traffic, that really means we got behind a tractor or the cows were crossing the road after milking.
[Fuji X-T1, 18-55mm, LR]
I learned a few lessons while photographing Sandpipers at the beach in Stone Harbor, NJ.
#1– Sandpipers are hyper birds that never stand still.
#2– Don’t forget to wear sunscreen.
The Fujifilm X-T1 was up to the challenge of catching the fast moving birds within the 55-200’s shallow DOF.
I had the camera along in downtown Lancaster, PA and walked through the Central Market – the oldest operating farmers’ market in America.
A photographer friend and I had a free afternoon and did a short photo walk for some creative inspiration. Contrary to the popular view that creativity thrives best without limitations, sometimes the best exercise to get the creative juices flowing is to work within strict limitations. For example, choosing to only shoot with a single fixed focal length (35mm, 50mm, etc.) or just shoot b/w.
All images taken with Fuji X-T1 camera and edited in Adobe Lightroom.
We had a great weekend in Maine with meetings at a church near Rockport. We were able to fit in two days to explore the nearby towns and coastline. A beautiful area to visit and photograph – rain or shine!
[All photos taken with the Fuji X-T1, 18-55mm, 55-200mm. Edited in Adobe LR.]
I remember when Richard M. Nixon County Park (York Co., PA) was created in the mid 70s but never got around to visiting it …probably because it was so close to home! Funny how that works.
I’m not a big fan of stuffed animal displays and I figured the trails would be pert’ near the same as what I saw behind our house growing up. Actually, we were pleasantly surprised! – and just a few miles away.
Got some good practice using the Fujifilm X-T1 and Fuji’s amazing manual focus peaking. I also took a lot of photos of the stuffed animals in case I ever needed reference photos for future illustrations.
We drove past this scene the other day and I just had to turn around for a photo! Another reason to always have camera at hand. The white shirts against the red barn and all those “fun” primary colours almost made barn painting look enjoyable.
While the white, intense blue, red and green caught my eye initially, I’m still drawn to the b/w version as it cuts out the distraction of colour to reveal a bit more of the shapes and symmetry between the left and right sides.
B/W or colour? Sometimes I prefer both.
[York New Salem, PA]
I spotted this elderly man taking a rest from the summer heat and noticed how his exhaustion was expressed on his face and perhaps even more through the slouched body (I like how it repeats the curve of the stone structure). For illustrations, I’m interested in how body language can be used in expressing the emotions of the characters.
I also love the look of a weathered, well-used classic leather bag! 😉
While Sue and I are in the States this summer for deputation meetings, opportunities arise for me to fit in some street photography and photowalks.
This past saturday was a perfect day for a photo stroll in downtown York, PA.
My goal was to shoot all b/w photos but couldn’t resist the splashes of colour! I stopped to chat with people along the way. I tend to be adventurous but not (too) foolish – always aware of my surroundings while walking alone with a camera in high violent crime areas.
All-in-all a pleasant afternoon. Ready to go again!
I was pleased to discover the ‘red chair/blue porch’ photo was selected for inclusion in the “InspiredEye” photography magazine –August/’14. Light and shadows are temporary, and can make a commonplace object “special”, where the light/shadows take on a shape and life of their own. That’s what I’m drawn to.
[Fuji X-T1, 18-55mm, software: LR5]
During Christmas break, I’ve had some time to catch up with the looong list of blogs I am subscribed to. Most of the blogs relate to illustration (art) or photography.
Here are some of my favorite blogs that have been most useful to me in the work.
Gurney Journey – James Gurney is a well-known illustrator whose blog is rich in fundamental (time-tested) techniques illustrators should be aware of – colour theory, composition, story-telling through illustration, etc.. Even though my workflow has shifted over the years to being entirely digital, it still needs to first be grounded on these foundational skills. There are no computer shortcuts, quick fixes, or instant “art filter plugins” to get around it! The computer is just another tool for the artist (like a brush). Unfortunately many young artists today allow their computer and the software developers to control them and their creative decision making process.
There is so much info here that the blog’s content has been conveniently edited into a book, “Imaginative Realism: How to Paint What Doesn’t Exist”. For my work, “what doesn’t exist” can also refer to recreating through illustrations past historical (Bible) events.
Bible Illustration Blog – Excellent resource for accurately illustrating historical Biblical events and communicating the truths of God’s Word visually. Graham Kennedy is one of the few Bible illustrators who invests many hours of detailed research to make sure every part of his illustrations are historically accurate to the Biblical accounts and clearly communicate the Truths of Scriptures. I highly recommend this blog to anyone involved in creating or even just using Bible illustrations in their ministry.
One nice surprise I discovered on an art blog last week was the complete “Famous Artist Course” 24 part series (1960 edition) available for free download online [update: download link has been removed from website]. This course was created around 50 years ago by a group of top illustrators from America’s Golden Age of illustration (Norman Rockwell, etc.) and is considered a classic by artists today. It’s been out of print for many years but you can find old copies on eBay for around $250, so you can imagine the joy of seeing it available for free online.
Photography plays a role in ministry and is a vital part of my illustration workflow. Here are several Photography blogs that I follow.
Strobist – One of the most popular photography blogs on the Internet, focusing on off-camera flash (strobe) photography. Photography is more about the use of “light” than the type of camera you use. For first time visitors I recommend beginning with the Lighting 101 section of the blog.
Pixelated Image – David duChemin is a humanitarian photographer and a best selling-author. His blog can be summed up in the phrase, “Gear is good, Vision is better”.
He has several eBooks I can recommend and has written several excellent print books.
The book, Within the Frame: The Journey of Photographic Vision is the best photography book I’ve ever read. I didn’t need to bookmark my pages – I just picked up reading where the highlighter marks and underlining stopped! This is a must-read for anyone interacting photographically with other cultures or using photography in your ministry. Doesn’t matter if you are using a point-n-shoot or cell-phone camera. This is practical “how-to” and touches on the real issues that make a powerful photograph and communicates your initial vision – one of the few things that todays high tech cameras can’t do for you. 😉
There are many other blogs such as smashingmagazine.com (graphic & web design), Scott Kelby (the Photoshop guy), etc. These are just a sampling of the 50+ blogs from my list.