Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Photographic Tip Number 127

click photo to enlarge
There is no shortage of advice available these days for the fledgling photographer. Books aimed at the new- to-digital -photography abound. Internet sites offer guidance, and kind-hearted folks on photography forums will give freely of their time to tell you how to improve your images.

Many of the pearls of wisdom are old chestnuts (mixed metaphor intended), but to the beginner these can be downright baffling. "Shoot with the sun behind you", you're told, and in the next breath you're advised to "be careful not to get your shadow in the shot". Well, you think, the best way to implement the second piece of advice is to ignore the first! As you progress in the hobby you come across more "advanced" thinking and theories. "Remember the rule of thirds and position your subject at an intersection." When you've worked out that this has nothing to do with "street photography", you discover the superiority of asymmetrical composition over all other types. And then there's "blown highlights". Now to the man in the street this suggests fashion photography with blond streaks. But no, you discover that it's all to do with underexposing a shot to prevent the brightest parts becoming pure white - which you discover has no colour!

The problem with all this advice is it never includes any really useful snippets. For example, at no point in my photographic education did anyone tell me that if you saw a lovely, gnarled tree that you could stand under and photograph as a silhouette against the sky, you should first check whether or not it contains birds. Nor was I told that in the game that birds play where points are awarded for "spotting" people and cars, a white car gets a mere 1 point, a red car gets 5 points, a pedestrian is worth 20 points, but a photographer warrants - wait for it - a massive 100 points! If they had I wouldn't have pointed my expensive camera and even more expensive lens upwards at this tree without first checking for avifauna. But that's what I did. And they "spotted" me good!

So, this very ordinary tree silhouette is posted not for its photographic merit, but as an example of the sort of illustration that could accompany "Photographic Tip Number 127 - Always check for birds before pointing your camera up into a tree".
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen