Wednesday, July 31, 2013


I was telling someone the other day that I sometimes find myself thinking like a camera.  Like "what is my f-stop going to be today?"  Nerdy?  Maybe.  But that's what happens after a while.  
An important aspect of thinking like a camera is thinking in 2 dimensions.  I don't think we realize how much we interpret what we see.  We experience a moment in multiple dimensions, with sounds, smells, temperature, eyes with crazy big depth of focus, minds that interpret all of this and throw it together in a thing we call an experience.  
With photography, we are trying to capture the experience.  But it demands that we simplify it to the essentials.  After all, we lose so much of the whole human experience.  The trick is to bring it back with the image. 
No doubt, a picture is a split moment in time from a single perspective.  So how do we maximize our perspective of the experience to a single image and communicate the experience.

1 - Get down (or up) to the eye level of your subject. 
It's not critical to be dead even with your subject, but as you get closer to the eye level of your subject, the person viewing the image can see more closely what the subject is seeing and experiencing.

2 - Change your angle.  
As we move around our subject/s we can get a completely different feel for what is happening.  What is hidden in one angle can be the center of our attention from a different angle.

3 - Make sure to focus on the action. 
You can use auto focus, manual focus, face detection, 3-D tracking, or any of the other great focus tools that come on cameras now.  The trick is to find out how you and your camera focus on that sweet spot where the action is.

Today's example: this was at a family reunion on the ranch in Wyoming this month.  My son was completely engaged with the cats.  He must have spent hours with them (and there are plenty of them around the ranch).  I wanted to capture the fun he was having.  
In this image, he had found a feather of a magpie and was toying with the cat.  Here's what I saw from one angle as I approached.  I wanted to keep my distance at first as to not diffuse the interaction.

In this first image, I knew what I saw, but there was more to be had.   From this perspective, the interaction was hidden, the background was distracting, and the experience was lacking to say the least. Even the lighting was off.

As I moved around the subjects and kept shooting, I was able to capture the interaction, fill the frame with the experience, and maintain the focus on the subject.  And the even lighting in the shade was a lot more aesthetic. 

No matter what camera you are shooting with, meet your subjects at eye level, move around to get the angle that best captures the action, and make sure you focus on where the action is.

Happy shooting!

Parting shot...

from later that night on the ranch.