Week 19 – Center the Subject

The challenge for Week 19 of my 52 week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is to center the subject. Anyone that has read a book or read an article or watched any tutorials on Photography Composition knows that one of the first things ‘rules’ of Photography is to ‘never’ place your subject in the center. One of the first ‘rules’ of composition that you’ll find in any Photography Book is the Rule of Thirds.

The Rule of Thirds have worked extremely well for a very long time. The masters of art have successfully used the Rule of Thirds effectively. And, the Rule of Thirds works wonders in Landscape Photography. But, should the Rule of Thirds be used in every single photo you take? Are there times where you place your subject in the middle of the frame? Of course, there are.

For example, anytime you are taking reflection, where symmetry is key, one of the things you have to do is put the horizon in the middle. Not doing so will actually make the photo look out of whack. The bottom half of the image mirrors the top, creating symmetry which makes the photo pleasing.

We have heard this before. Rules are meant to be broken. However, you need to know the rule well enough to know when to break the rules. Not centering your subject is generally a good idea unless centering your subject will actually enhance the subject, make it easy to convey your key message, and improve the overall composition. Reflection is one perfect example where putting the subject and the horizon in the center makes sense. There are many other. It is up to us a Photographers to decide what makes in a particular situation.

For this week’s challenge, I took this reflection of Walton Lighthouse during Sunrise. I have shot Walton Lighthouse from multiple angles. I have shot reflection of Walton Lighthouse from different angles as well. This particular shot, I purposefully decided to put the Lighthouse and the Horizon in the center of the frame. The reflection naturally called for centering the subject and horizon but I did try multiple comps and this is what appealed to me the most.

Sunrise Serenity!

Location: Lake Cunningham, San Jose
Time: Sunrise
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 1/2s | ISO 100

One of those situations where Escaype predicted high numbers for inland areas. Whenever this happens, I scramble to figure out where to go. There are only few inland options that I have found so far. I definitely need to explore a bit more and find a few options in the San Jose, Morgan Hill, and Gilroy areas. As usual, I was debating whether to go and more importantly, where to go.

After a bit of back & forth, I decided to head to Lake Cunningham as it was within the area of focus provided by Escaype. I thought even if the sky doesn’t light up, I can get a shot that I messed up last time. Basically, there was a reflection of a boat that took but didn’t realize while shooting that I didn’t frame the entire reflection.

When I got there, it was still a bit dark and I was the only person in the park; at least as far as I could tell. I started exploring to see if there’s any unique comps that I can achieve. I tried getting to the pier to get the reflection but the area was close off. I really didn’t feel like jumping the barricade.

While I was walking around, I suddenly see colors popping up. I ran to this location where I knew I could get some reflection. Most of the colors were happening to the right of this frame. Unfortunately, that’s where the parking lot is. I didn’t want to shoot the parking lot.

I tried to include as much color as I could without including any distracting elements. I have shot from this very location before so I tried to create a slightly different comp. I could see pink colors everywhere. It was a very serene and calm scene. I still was the only person in the park. I enjoyed this Sunrise quite a bit. The sky didn’t burn but the subtle colors were superb.

 

Week 15 – Symmetry

The Challenge for Week 15 of my 52 Week Landscape Composition Photo Challenge is Symmetry, which is often considered one of the hardest compositions to pull off. Symmetry, in Photography (and art in general) refers to a line (called the line of symmetry) that splits an image in half, either horizontally or vertically, and if both sides of the image are mirror images of each other, then the image is said to be symmetrical.

Visual balance is a key compositional technique that can bring harmony and stability to an image. An unbalanced image on the other hand can make an image feel dynamic. Not all photos can (or should) be balanced. It i up to the Photographer to decide what he/she is trying to achieve with a photo. The scene also determines whether or an image can even be balanced.

One of the easiest ways to achieve balance in a photo is to shoot a symmetrical scene. Symmetry can be found easily in nature; mirror-like reflections of a landscape on water is a good example. If you read articles on Composition, you’ll see that symmetry is listed as one of those compositional techniques that works extremely well but is not easy to achieve. A slightest misalignment can lead to a distracting image.

For this week’s challenge, I took this shot of the beautiful ‘painted’ hills at Carrizo Plains National Monument reflecting in one of the lakes. The moment I saw this scene, I knew I had to shoot a balanced reflection for the Symmetry challenge. This wasn’t an easy shot to achieve for multiple reasons. One, there were lot of distracting elements in the foreground. Second, the foreground was wet and muddy so standing in one place for more than 15 seconds resulted in wet shoes. Finally, from a composition stand-point, it was difficult to figure out the best way to achieve symmetry.

Well, my shoes got completely wet and muddy but I got a shot that I was able to work with. In my mind, a good example of Symmetry in nature.

 

 

Alviso Glow!

Location: Alviso Marina County Park, San Jose
Time: Golden Hour
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5/6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 2s | ISO 100

After I took some shots with the dead tree stump and the driftwood (see post titled “Golden Ray), I decided to walk back towards the parking lot. I wasn’t ready to head out. I saw a good comp on the way in so wanted to go to that spot to see if I can get some shots.

The sky lit up with beautiful colors and light was changing fast. So, I told Sowmya that I will run to the spot but asked her to take her time and walk slowly. She was on the phone with her mom so she was taking her time slowly walking the trail.

When I got there, the sky was gold and the gold colors reflected beautifully in the water. I went down to the shore so I can get a shot from a low vantage point. I put on my ND filter so I can smooth out the water and maximize the reflection. I was moving quite a bit to get different comps. I didn’t know which one would turn out to be keepers but I knew the potential was there.

Insects were everywhere and I started itching everywhere. So, I decided to head up to where Sowmya was. At this point, she was on video chat with her mom and showing her the beautiful Sunset. I was ready to head home but Sowmya told me to get a couple of shots with wildflowers in the foreground. I tried different ideas but felt that the FG was too dark. I haven’t quite processed those photos so not sure if I’ll post any from that series.

Overall, a good day at Alviso Marina County Park.

Reflection of Yosemite Falls!

Location: Yosemite Falls, Yosemite National Park
Time: Midday
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5/6 IS STM | 13mm | f/8 | 1/50s | ISO 100

This was taken during my visit to Yosemite National Park in February to capture the Natural Firefall. I processed this photo a while back but didn’t publish it as I had several others that I personally liked much better than this one. I probably wouldn’t have published but the two friends I went to Yosemite with both published a photo that is very similar to this one. All 3 of us shot standing right next to each other. They asked that I publish mine as well so all 3 can be compared in terms of how we shot as well as how we processed.

The other two guys shot it (or cropped it) almost identically. They also processed it very similarly. Both are good shots. I like how theirs turned out. I was using my ultra-wide lens so my shot is wider compared to theirs. My processing is also different. I dodged and burned a bit more than they did. For some reason, I dodge & burn my B&W photos but not my color photos. I need to play around to see if I can add dodging & burning to my regular post processing workflow.

In terms of the shot, we were going around Yosemite Valley stopping anywhere we could to get shots during the day. One of the stops was Sentinel Bridge to shoot the Half Dome. We can clearly see Yosemite Falls from the Sentinel Bridge parking lot. We notice a puddle of water in the meadows next to the parking lot. Reflection of Yosemite Falls was pretty clear on the puddle so we decided to try shooting.

As I said, all 3 of us were standing right next to each other. For most of the trip, we were standing shoulder to shoulder. I didn’t know they were going to convert this photo to B&W. I did it because the contrast called for it and honestly, B&W looked better than the color version. Coincidentally, they processed in B&W as well.

Midnight Reflections!

Location: Cambridge,  MA
Time: Midnight
EXIF: Canon EOS 7D | Canon EF-S 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS STM | 10mm | f/16 | 120s | ISO 100

I have shot from this location before. Last November, I was in Cambridge for a couple of days for work and decided to take my camera. I have always thought about taking my camera with me when I travel but never did. When I was in Cambridge last November, I went out to the Charles River, which is literally less than 5 minutes walk from my hotel. I took several shots from this location but nothing turned out well. It was all either blurry or only parts of the photo turned out sharp.

I used a tripod that wasn’t quite sturdy so I attribute a lot of the not so sharp photos to bad equipment. To be honest, I don’t think it was all on the tripod. I don’t think I spent time to focus on the areas I wanted to be tack sharp. I didn’t know how to do focus stacking. I used auto focus and let the camera do it’s thing hoping it would get some sharp photos. Didn’t work out.

This time, I decided to take my go-to tripod. It is a full-sized tripod but folds pretty compactly. I wasn’t sure if I’d have any issues taking it on my carry on. Luckily, I didn’t have any issues. When I got to Cambridge, I was pretty tired. After spending some time at the bar, I debated going to the room to sleep or go out a take a few shots. I decided to go out and take a few shots.

I went to this spot where I knew I can get the skyline as well the boats docked in the Charlesgate Yacht Club. I tried a couple of shots trying to see what shutter speed and aperture would work out well. I was trying to stay within 30 seconds for the first few shots. It didn’t come out well. I then remembered that I had the remote trigger with me. So, I decided to do a 2 minute exposure at f/16. I took several shots manually focusing on key areas – one for the boats up front, one for the buildings on the left, and one for the buildings on the right.

The shots looked good on the camera LCD. But I never trust that as it can be deceiving. I wanted to go for a sunrise shoot but didn’t have time. I took a couple of shots from my window and headed to work.

When I came back home, I blended the shots in PS and the result turned out well. I think some areas can be sharper but overall, I like how this turned out.