In my previous post, I showed that reflections were a way yo add interest to a photograph when the light isn’t at its best. And while I strive to only shoot in good light, as a working photographer in Scotland, this is not always possible. So I train myself by going out to shoot in ‘bad’ light.
When the light is harsher than the soft light of the golden hour (near sunrise or sunset), i look for graphical elements such as lines and shapes. The shadows produced by the subjects can also add interest to the composition.
This door handle and it’s shadow on Leith Walk immediately caught my attention, in no small part because of the bright red colour of the door
Colours can be washed out in the sunlight, but not always, as the example of the door handle above and pedestrian on Leith Walk below demonstrate. In that case colour is a good subject to photograph.
Always on the lookout for bright colours, the two cars on the other side of Leith Walk caught my attention. I waited a little while for a pedestrian to walk by to add some interest to the scene
On a cloudy day, I look for colours, because colours tend to be more saturated on an overcast day. Leith Walk in Edinburgh is full of small shops with colourful fronts. They make good subjects to photograph, particularly on a Sunday when they are closed.
This shop front doesn’t really look glamorous to me, but the lines and colours made me want to photograph it.
I was attracted to photograph this shop front by one of my favourite element of design, lines.
Ideally, one would only shoot outdoors when the light is good, which is typically one hour before sunrise until one hour after sunrise and one hour before sunset until one hour after sunset on a clear day. At this time of year in Scotland, the light can be good all day long, because the sun, when it is not blocked by clouds, stays lows on the horizon. Shooting in good light is not always possible because of time and or budget constraints. As a working photographer, one must learn to cope with less than ideal light.
Reflections are a way to add interest to the photograph in the absence of good light. Part of the attraction of shooting reflections is that the reflecting surface acts as an artistic filter. It can shift the colours or distort the subject to the point of creating an abstraction. And if you look carefully, in an urban setting reflections are everywhere: cars, windows, etc.
Reflection of an apartment building in the Water of Leith river.
In Edinburgh, the Water of Leith offers abundant opportunities to capture interesting reflections. The river goes through both natural and urban settings, for a wide variety of reflected subjects.
Reflection of pedestrians walking bu a colourful building on the other side of the Water of Leith river.
In a previous post, “Impressionist Photography”, I talked about a couple of camera techniques one can use to create photographs with an impressionist look. The effect is achieved at the moment of capture and I find it most fulfilling as a photographer when I can create the image in camera rather than later in Photoshop.
However, there are certain effects that are simply not achievable in camera and must be done on the computer. The two camera techniques I discussed in my previous post, multiple exposures and panning, create an impressionist look by eliminating the fine details in the image.
And once the details are gone, it is impossible to bring them back later on the computer. A creative technique I learned while taking an online Fine Art Nature Photography class with Kathleen Clemons consists in keeping the details in your subject but not elsewhere in the photograph by applying a Photoshop filter to simulate panning and create an impressionist background. The image looks very different than one with a sharp subject in front of an out of focus background, and definitely has a surreal feeling to it.
The background is blurred with a photoshop filter while the subject, a tree with fall leaves in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh, is kept sharp.
Another example of a Blackford Hill, Edinburgh forest scene treated with the same technique.
The name impressionism comes from the title of a Claude Monet painting, “Impression, sunrise”. It depicts the harbour of “Le Havre”, France. To create his masterpiece, Monet used loose brush strokes. As he put it later, “landscape is nothing but an impression”. His painting conveys the feeling of what it was like to be there, but doesn’t contain much fine detail.
In many ways, the impressionists’ way to look at the world went against the rules of academic painting. It took some time for their work to become accepted by the public and the art establishment.
Photography is a medium of supreme realism. Therefore the title of this blog post, impressionist photography, may sound like an oxymoron. But sometimes the exquisite detail produced by today’s cameras can be a distraction. The frame is too busy and the image doesn’t really convey the essence of the scene as the photographer experienced it. It is possible to eliminate the fine details in the photographs by means of several techniques. One of them is the use of multiple exposures and the other involves using camera movement to blur the details out. These are illustrated in the two photographs below, taken on Blackford Hill, Edinburgh. Note the painterly feel of these images of the autumn forest.
The multiple exposures effectively eliminate the fine details of this forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh and one is just left with an impression of the landscape.
The up-down panning movement of the camera effectively blurs out the details of this autumn forest scene in Blackford Hill, Edinburgh.
A while back I had the opportunity to take some wonderful online classes “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” by world class commercial photographer Joe Baraban.
These classes made a strong impression on me. All of the photographs Joe Baraban takes for his clients are carefully crafted, using what Joe calls “The Artist Palette”. That palette includes, among other things, all of the elements of visual design: point, line, form, shape, space, movement, colour, pattern and texture. We spent quite some time learning to see these elements and how to incorporate as many of them as possible in our pictures.
Line is a very important element in that it appears in forms, shapes, space and in some cases pattern and texture. Line also communicates different emotions and feelings depending on its shape and direction. Horizontal lines suggest a feeling of rest, stability, tranquility. Vertical lines on the other hand evoke an emotion of authority, loftiness. Diagonal lines are more dynamic and suggest the feeling of movement or direction. Finally, soft curves suggest comfort, safety.
Autumn leaves provide one with some wonderful designs, full of lines and colour.
Red autumn leaf.
Yellow autumn leaf.
Thie autumn leaf fell to the ground before it took on the full fall colours.