Lessons from above 

Click to enlarge

This photo reminds me that trees are to kids as flowers are to bees. It’s a simple snapshot of my friends’ children, however it does illustrate nine brief but useful points:

The bad points

1) The sky is blown out (overexposed, pure white). However, it’s a snapshot rather than fine art, and this case it doesn’t bother me too much. There wasn’t a lot of time before the girls moved on so it was best to make the most of the opportunity, even if that meant losing the sky: family members will probably just look at the faces and be oblivious to the background.

2) I used fill flash and overall that gave a very nice result. The one thing that a camera’s built-in flash is good for is fill light, but if people are wearing glasses you’ll often get a reflection, as in this case. I have tried cloning out such reflections, with mixed results. In this case grabbing an external flash and extension cord would have meant missing the shot, however that is often the best solution (if you hold the flash away to the right of the camera the reflection coming from the glasses will go off to the left, where the camera can’t see it).

The good points

3) You’ll notice that I’ve placed one foot in a corner of the photo, with a roughly equal amount of space to the left of and below the boot. A diagonal that runs to a point near the corner of the frame usually looks odd, but one that runs to the actual corner will usually look pleasing. In the case it’s almost as if she’s resting her foot on the edge of the photo, and that plus the diagonal running to the corner results in the edges of the frame becoming a contributing part of the image rather than some sort of hanger-on messing up the scene.

4) If the bottom of the photo was bright would tend to pull your eye away from the faces, but instead the area below the main branch is fairly dark and forms a nice solid base.

5) The centreline of the girls’ torsos and faces are roughly aligned with the verticals of a thirds grid (the rule guide of thirds).

6) Fill flash has raised the brightness of the faces to a point that matches the surroundings well, and there are nice catchlights in the eyes.

7) Generally you need to include the ground in order to give a sense of height, but in this case looking up a steep angle towards the girls has the same effect. Adults aren’t used to looking up at kids, and this unusual view of a common subject adds interest to the photo.

8) The diagonal of the branch that the girls are sitting on adds life to the photo. Lines affect the mood of photos.

9) There is a vertical branch between the girls and such an object has the potential to break any sense of relationship. However, they are both holding the branch in such a way that the branch in fact ties them together and makes it clear to us the viewers that these two are friends.

This was a situation where I had a few seconds in which to get a shot. The girls know me well and chose to strike a pose, which thankfully was a nice one: the fact that I didn’t give any direction makes the result look fairly natural and relaxed. With snapshots of family and friends the people are the most important thing, but it’s also good to look for snapshots in places where the environment adds to the image.


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Temporary photographer

How far will you go to get a good photo? Post a comment and share what you’ve done to get a shot.

Hat tip TOP.


Sinking for a photo of Rangitoto

Rangitoto Island

Click to enlarge, then click again

This was one of those occasions where the making of a photo was a memorable experience.

I was out for a walk on Auckland’s North Shore when I came across this spectacular piece of driftwood. The opportunity for a frame-within-a-frame was obvious, so I walked around and had a look at the driftwood from various directions, then concluded that having Rangitoto Island in the background gave the best composition. What I also needed was a focal point – a point of interest that holds the eye – and I could see a yacht approaching. The yacht owner had kindly put up red sails which complemented the greens in the scene nicely.

Having the camera as low as possible was the best option, but I was below the high tide mark and the sand was saturated with camera-killing salt water. When the sand is like this you sink six inches into it in a few minutes. So there I was on my knees and elbows, showing the world my rump steak, waiting for the yacht to come into alignment, trying to keep my camera alive, and sinking for a photo of Rangitoto.


A touch of romance

This photo is posted here for the benefit of people who have a dial up internet connection. If you’re on dial up I’d be grateful if you’d post a comment and tell me if this suits you.

If you have a fast internet connection I recommend going to http://mandenomoments.com/couples/e267e60ac

Swans are monogamous.


Update: Caption Competition 

Earlier I ran a caption competition for the following photo:

David Burge & Garry Schäche 3Jan2010 (frame 6274)

Click on the photo for a larger size, then click again

Chris Kelly has won with

“But now Pinocchio is a real boy!”

Thanks Chris, that’s clever, witty, and original.

Photo Trip: Viaduct Harbour 5-9-09 

On Saturday 5-9-09 I went hunting for street photos at the Viaduct Harbour in downtown Auckland, New Zealand (click here to view a map of this trip).

After getting off the train at Britomart (click here for photos of that most unusual railway station) I went over to the Ferry Building, which is a pile that was done in the Imperial Baroque style and completed in 1912:

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Outside the Ferry Building I caught this lady unawares…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

It’s times like that I’m grateful for a near-silent camera; she had no idea that I’d taken her photo, despite the fact that I was less than an arm’s length away. I’m almost certain that the book is in French. I then found this little girl who thought that dancing backwards was a great lark…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Next stop was the Viaduct Harbour, which is almost entirely enclosed and contains both working and pleasure boats. The main area has a promenade beside the water, a string of bars and restaurants beside the promenade, and above it all apartment buildings.  Who would want to live in an apartment where the businesses below are pumping out music until the wee hours?

People parade on the promenade in unusual ways…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

I’d arrived in the city about two hours before sunset – when the light starts to get good –  and the sun was getting very low by the time I got to the Viaduct Harbour. This guy was at one of the bars, facing directly into the setting sun:

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

The colour of that photo is natural, and you too can get a similar effect in your photos by setting your camera’s white balance to Daylight (usually indicated by a sun symbol). If you were there at the time the scene wouldn’t have looked so strongly coloured because your brain knows what colour things really are and corrects colour casts so that you perceive things as they “should be”. When your camera’s white balance is set to auto it too will try to remove colour casts, so to capture the true colours of sunsets, street lighting, candle lit rooms and so on use the Daylight setting.

This kid enjoyed circling a tree but it would appear that he got his licence out of a cereal packet that very morning:

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

After the paternal tow truck rescued him he went looking for a wife…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

…and the rejection left him feeling rather stunned…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Once the sun went down the photo opportunities dried up, so I went back to the Ferry Building and found these kids doing what kids do and trying to choose their gelato flavour (gelato is a type of icecream)…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

I also spotted these teens doing what teens do and cruising around town in a pack…

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

Click on the photo for a larger view, then click again

That was enough hunting for one day, so I headed back to Britomart and found a train that would take me home…

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