When I am out walking I focus on the two purposes of Camera Walking: 1) getting a good workout, and 2) capturing great photos. Setting aside time, planning my route, walking up and down hills, and taking the longest route possible usually results in a good workout. Capturing great photos depends upon my route, the weather, and what skills I want to advance that day.
Since taking photos is what helps me get out the door walking, honing my skills and learning more about photography is a priority. This past weekend I attended a six-hour workshop led by Dan Ballard, sponsored by Black Rapid, on advanced composition and creative editing in Lightroom. Although he focused on landscape photography, I found many of the ideas transferrable to Camera Walking.
Light: Light is first and foremost. In fact it is more important than the subject in your photo, so look around you. The light might be behind you, or just a few feet away, so walk around your subject to find the best light.
As we head into winter, remember that bad weather results in better shots, as there is something happening in the sky, so don’t let that stop you from getting out Camera Walking.
Good subject: Choosing a good subject matters. If it is a boring shot no one will spend any time on it, so when looking at a scene ask yourself what is the strongest element. If you are shooting an image with the strongest element in the background, look for foreground elements to help move the eye forwards.
Simplicity: Compelling photos are those that are simple, clean, and convey your goal or reason for taking the photo. Ask yourself why you are taking the image. Even while walking around your neighborhood this applies. Consider whether or not the viewer is going to understand why you took the image. According to Dan, if you cannot describe an image in 1-2 words, it is probably a failed image. Something to think about.
Composition: We have written about composition numerous times, however Dan had an interesting perspective that I thought I would share. He said that we need to be less focused on the technical aspects of the shoot (f stop, ISO settings, etc.), and think more about art. Become focused first on design (lines, shapes, color, values), and then, using our sense of design, compose a good image (pulling these elements together to create impact).
To enhance your artistic abilities, start thinking of the world in terms of design. Look for great shapes, lines, and colors as you walk. Once we start seeing the patterns it is much easier to compose a good image. Composition is all about arranging the design elements in our photos to create flow, rhythm, and harmony to keep people’s attention. That is our goal isn’t it, holding the viewer’s attention?
Take a peak at this video featuring Dan Ballard to get some of his thoughts on exploring the light and design.
Certainly there are many more aspects to composition, including contrast, balance, and negative space, among others, that will advance your artistic skills. A good start, however, is to remember the three elements of a good photo: seeking the light, finding a good subject, and embracing simplicity while out Camera Walking.