As a former teacher, I stressed to my students to always make connections. Whether it was math, writing, reading, science, or social studies, I wanted them to take their thinking to higher levels and make connections between subject areas. In that I practice what I preach, I do this with my photography. For instance, I apply the same principles of lighting when I photograph a person, to an image I make of an animal in the wild. Is the face turned the right way? Is the angle of the light flattering? Do the eyes reveal personality? Does the background work? Etc.
I pose the following challenge to you to make connections. Make a mental list of photographic connections between Earth, Water and Sky...Think about it before you read further. Did any of you come up with the concept of color? Did the word "impact" appear on your list? How about the basic concept of "nature?" How about "beauty" or "drama?" There are no right or wrong answers. The idea is to get you to think photographically, to connect the three elements, to create the best possible images of each.
EARTH: The earth has a myriad of colors. From the fall foliage of autumn to the deep greens of the rain- forest, every color in the universe can be found. Subject matter includes rolling prairies, majestic mountains, fields of flowers and everything from sprawling landscapes to close ups of a tulip’s stamens. In the accompanying image of Monument Valley, there are three main colors—the yellow/green hues of the foliage, the warm tones of the rippled sand and the blue sky. Learn how colors play off each other. In that yellow and blue are opposites, combining them nets images with impact. Learn the positions of color on a color wheel to make these connections.
WATER: If you reduce water to its basics, it's colorless. The reason we see color in water is dependent upon what's reflected upon it, what's underneath it and what's in it. In the accompanying image of the cascade made along the Virgin River, the color appears as a result of sunrise light striking the towering walls of Zion National Park. The light was reflected onto the water. I chose a location where I knew the reflection would be coupled with a nice cascade. I used a slow shutter speed to create motion in the cascade, but not so slow where the rest of the water took on the same effect. When photographing water, a strategically-chosen shutter speed is important to its overall look. Fast shutter speeds stop the movement, while slow ones emphasize it. Check your LCD to see the result and make adjustments to attain the effect your desire.
SKY: Sky and dramatic color are a marriage made, forgive the pun, in heaven. When the sky goes electric, it often becomes the focal point of the image. Sunrise and sunset is when this occurs. A clear sunrise or sunset horizon with clouds above it have the greatest potential to create captivating color. Watch for God rays that add impact in these situations. But, the sky can also be dramatic when there's an impending or clearing storm. This is true, especially when the sky in front of the sun opens up, spotlighting the landscape. The rule of thumb is, if the sky has drama, include it in the composition, if the sky is lackluster, crop it out. The final image that accompanies this article connects all three elements of earth, water and sky.