Workshop at the Ranch

Dave Black has a wonderful website. One of his monthly features is called Workshop at the Ranch. There he gives insightful tips on how to use off-camera flash in creative ways. Although anyone using wireless flash units can benefit from Dave's experience, his series is of particular interest to Nikon shooters using SB-800s and the Nikon Creative Lighting System.

I make it a point to check back each month to learn more from this master of Nikon flash. I particularly like his method of using warm gels with SB-800 Speedlights to create warm subject lighting and a cool blue background. I think it works particularly well for sports portraits, but I've used it for a variety of subjects.

Alicia with Basketball

This is an example using Dave's technique for a Senior Portrait.

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Mastering a Subject

daisy showerDo you take the same types of pictures over and over again? You know what I mean—hundreds of flower images (or cars or cats or whatever) fill your photo albums, but no portraits, buildings, action shots, or street scenes. One school of thought urges you to push yourself to shoot what does not come naturally. However, I have another suggestions: stick with what you love, but work to perfect that subject.

There is a vast difference between lacking the imagination to try new subjects and deliberately working on one subject to develop skills. The first is a type of laziness; the second is a path to mastery. I like to think that I’m following the second path, but I’m too close to tell, so I’m going to use another example, flickr photographer Steve Wall.

Now, I’ve never met Steve; I know nothing about his life; he isn’t even an online correspondent, or at least he wasn't until I asked permission to use his photos. But I have been following his photography on flickr for a few years because I saw some pictures of his that I liked and marked him as a contact. As such, I see a thumbnail of his latest image whenever I sign on.

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Negative Space Can Have a Positive Effect

Many elements work together to create a pleasing photograph. One such elements is negative space. Negative space is all the space inside the picture that is not the subject. The edges of any picture form a frame for that picture. Within that frame, the subject is considered the positive area; the rest is called negative space.

The word negative is used descriptively; it is not a value judgment. Negative space is not something to be avoided. However, it is something to be considered, because it is an important part of a picture’s composition. It is a design element in your image.

A stencil can help you recognize this importance. Here the subject is the brass object, but the negative space that forms the letter is equally if not more important.

stencil

Negative space has several functions. It helps define a subject. In many cases, it also provides a vital element in the design of your image. Since a photo is two-dimensional, the space around a subject appears on the same plane as the subject. Negative and positive spaces are side by side. The balance between them should be pleasing. Read more...

Getting the exposure right

One of the most common problems people have when taking photos is that part of the photo (usually the part that they want to see) is too dark or too bright. For example, when taking a photograph of a friend in front of the sunset, the sunset will show perfectly but the friend is a dark, unrecognizable blob. The problem is that the range of brightness in the scene is too much for your camera to record. So it has to "decide" which parts of the photo it wants to keep (the sunset, in this case) and which parts aren't as important. And it often gets it wrong.

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Playtime!

Some days are rushed, but others present a perfect opportunity to play with your camera. Last week, a friend gave me a bouquet of daffodils. They looked so bright and springlike, that I decided to shoot some pictures of them.

The hour was early, and light came in only one window. First, I stood by the window to shoot the flowers, which jumped out against the darkness of the room behind. Later, though, I tried other positions, such as standing in the room and shooting toward the window. Then I wondered how the flowers would look in my upstairs room with the skylight, so I dragged the bouquet up there to shoot some more.

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