I remember one of my photography trips that lasted multiple days and I had spent thousands of dollars for this trip…. I didn’t have the greatest clouds or light or anything to be excited about.
Obviously, I’ve always appreciate not taking a photograph. It may sound weird but those moments that are so powerful, sometimes are not worth photographing because those mere seconds or minutes of ‘setting up‘ could distract from an epic moment or experience.
And while in that epic moment, I think of my process which helps me improve my approach to photography…. I would think IF I had my camera:
I would use this lens….
Set up over there….
With the exposure values, use this shutter speed….
Use this aperture and then process the image like this….
(Those pictureless, Severe Clear, no-clouds photography trips and moments have probably taught me more about exposure, composition and artistic approach than anything else.)
Well on this trip which I had about 12 years ago, I had zero clouds for about 5.5 of the 6 days. It was bad and the conditions started to get me frustrated. Fortunately, I knew I really couldn’t do much about it but only try to make the best it.
And that is what I wanted to share with you today. Sometimes, even “the pro’s” have bad days but knowing what to do with “Severe Clear” skies can make all the difference.
I’m somewhat helping a local photographer with words of advice, recommendations and he also uses some of my equipment for outdoor art shows.
We recently had dinner to review a few of his images and occasionally, I would see a great image and an opportunity to make it even better with just a few minor adjustments.
Tip #1: One of the first things I do when thinking about processing a digital image or printing from film is take a tour around the edges. Scan the boarder of your entire image and see if there is something that you should exclude because it distracts from the main subject.
Tip #2: I immediately look at the other subjects in the composition that may assist or bring out the main subject. For example – in the image below, I wanted to use the vast grasslands to mold the wild mustangs into a scene different than the rugged and desert West they are often portrayed to live in.
Using the additional subjects allowed me to feature the wild mustangs in a pretty place rather than the usual dust, mud and only-the-strong-survive Western landscape.
As we were strolling through a few of his images at Texas Roadhouse, I recommended he make some adjustments and we certainly had a conversation about printing.
We talked about the tips above and ultimately, I showed him what I meant as far as a great image and making it better.
Below is his original file and I had his permission to use his image, make the adjustments and share this with you as an example.
His original Severe Clear image at Mt. Hood:
#1) I noticed there was quite a bit of DEAD and empty space which occupies nearly half of the entire image – which would also yield quite a bit of unusable pixels for printing. (IF not, the dead space would be good for a business card or a place to put some kind of text. This was not his goal since he had a photography show coming up…..)
The first thing I recommended was getting rid of all that dead space. (IF there were stars, then this would be a whole different image review.)
#2) There is certainly a man vs. nature comparison going on here. I’ve seen Mt. Hood many times and also photographed it a few times. It is one huge mountain! And showing that scale of how puny man is compared to the vast landscape, is always a good idea – if a person is a part of your composition.
3) The fog certainly makes for an introduction to the man being in a mysterious environment.
Noticing these 3 things right off the bat, we need to do some adjustments and highlight Mt Hood, the guy in the boat and the awesome fog!
Had Prajit focused on these from the get go of image creation, the resolution, (putting pixels to work) and detail in the given area would be greater for presentation! He could have “zoomed in” to use as much resolution of Mt Hood, the guy in the boat and the fog. But he didn’t.
Here is adjustment #1 still having the elements of Mt. Hood, the guy rowing his boat and the mysterious fog.
Here is adjustment #2:
Here is option #3:
And adjustment #4 removing Mt. Hood entirely out of the composition and Prajit could possibly tell a story of how man, in a dark and mysterious place, was drawn to the light and started heading towards the lit channel of tree’s.
Though these are minor and easy adjustments of cropping, sometimes that is all it takes to turn a great image into a greater one!
Quite frankly, Prajit and I had a great time discussing his images and I recommended he print a few and some he shouldn’t.
Through this process, he entered an art show and did pretty well. Actually, he got best of show.
Good luck in your image creation and go back and look at a few of your images – especially the Sever Clear one’s and see if you can turn lemon’s into lemonade.
*PS: IF you do show’s or some kind of competition, my greatest recommendation is to NOT get bogged down or upset that your work didn’t receive an award or any kind of recognition. Judges come in all shapes and sizes, photography background and experience.
Though I’ve won a lot of awards, I’ve always gone in knowing my result is my result and that if an award is given, it is based upon their feelings which I have no control over.
The unfortunate thing for me is a few judges have never used film camera’s so quite bluntly, don’t know much about what I do. So THAT is usually a main reason I don’t get to hung up on judging.
The most important thing is to feel the best about your work – more than anyone else could. You’ve always got to feel the happiest about your work.
About 8 years ago, I helped a young kid and at the time, I believe he was 12. He was definitely not older than 15 for sure! I helped him with a few things about composition inside the slot canyon and he was blown away and just loved every exposure.
Seeing his excitement only brought me great joy because he caught the fire which I call the $25,000 bug! (buying gear….)
Long story short, he submitted a few of his images to Arizona Highways and knocked it out of the park and won a contest. I think a lot of his firepower came from how excited he was about the result that the judges noticed.
Click here to see Prajit’s image that just won Best of Show last week. By this, you’ll really see what I mean that some “judges” appreciate certain images and subject matter more than others.
Congrats again Prajit! Way to go…. Now bring back my clips that held up your images. LOL!
*PSS: If you got here on your own, welcome to my blog! Every month, I travel over 3,000 miles and am always on the go photographing a few things… If you would like to subscribe to my blog, simply fill in the info below. As a “thank you“, I’ll send you my “17 Page Digital Blueprint about the Top 7 Elements of Photography” via email.
As always, I appreciate your kind words.