Tuesday, June 9, 2009
Ask The Pros!
The Community section of OP on the web is an interactive area for readers, photographers and the OP editors to compare thoughts and ideas on photography, with topics like gear, wildlife, software, great photography spots and more. Recently, we opened a discussion there for our readers to send in their most pressing and unanswered questions, which we then submitted to some of the world’s most famous professional nature photographers. From digital cameras to the best lenses to the aesthetics of nature photography to how these pros got their start in the first place, we received countless amazing submissions, and here we compile some of the best. Be sure to visit the forum to discuss the answers and to submit even more questions for future articles!
Q. I’d like to know how or if there are ways that a great sunrise, sunset, morning fog and other sought-after conditions can be predicted with any degree of accuracy. I’d love to have a list of things to look for in the morning, during the day and in the evening that might be indicators of a good photo opportunity on the horizon.
There’s no foolproof method of predicting when great light will occur, but there are clues if you pay attention. Colorful light at sunrise and sunset occurs when the air is clear and clean. Air molecules scatter the blue light out of the beam of sunlight, leaving the warmer tones to continue straight ahead and illuminate your subject. Haze, humidity and dust scatter all wavelengths equally, reducing or eliminating the selective sorting of wavelengths that leads to great light. One quick test of air clarity is to extend your arm and place your thumb over the sun. If the sky is fairly blue right up to your thumb, the air is clear; if a blazing white patch of sky surrounds the sun, the day is less promising.
Q. As a professional, you’ve built up quite a collection of amazing photographs. What are the most important elements you look for when sorting through images in order to choose your favorites? For instance, how would you select which ones to enter into competition?
I have three words that I always keep in mind when editing images: composition, clarity and light. With composition, I’m looking to create an interesting composure of the scene unfolding before me. I look for anything in the image that doesn’t have importance to the image’s theme. If there’s anything that detracts from the photo, it’s sent to the trash. Clarity has two definitions for me. Is the image as tack-sharp where it should be, usually the subject? And, does the image communicate a clear meaning to the viewer? Will they understand what I wanted to achieve with the image I’m presenting to them? Finally, light isn’t necessarily the drama of the light in an image, but rather if I used the available or artificial light in the photo to best illustrate my subject and give the viewer something more.
As for entering competitions, images need to contain everything I just mentioned, and then they need a little bit more. Anytime that I enter a competition, I look at the winning images of the previous years. Then I pick images that I’ve shot that take it one step further—a more interesting composition, different perspective, super-dramatic color or light, or something that I haven’t ever witnessed.
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