Subject Isolation: Finding Innovative Ways to Draw Attention to Subjects

Subject Isolation: Finding Innovative Ways to Draw Attention to Subjects

I have no idea where I first heard this, but it’s extremely true: “the main difference between painting and photography is that the painters need to work hard to put things into their images, whereas photographers have to work hard to take things out of their images.”

Painters start with a blank canvas, and every single thing that ends up in the final piece of art is a result of careful craftsmanship, years of hard-earned skill, and raw intention. The photographer’s canvas, on the other hand, is all of the world’s visual chaos, and he or she must deploy an equivalent amount of craftsmanship, skill, and intention to weed out all the fluff.

This is by far the hardest and most important thing about photography these days. Forget about all of those technical-sounding terms like aperture, shutter speed, and ISO. It seems like everyone I talk to is mostly scared these fancy-sounding terms and their counterintuitive numbering systems, but really, you can learn those things in a day, and get pretty good within a week. It’s not like you have to deal with messy chemicals, narrow temperature ranges, or fumble around in a darkroom. It’s not rocket science, and computers can do a lot of the hard work these days. There’s no shame in relying on them. Your job is only to know enough about the system to take control and make artistic decisions.

Camera settings are just tools for your toolbox, and they are only the first in an endless list of techniques and tricks that you use to do the real, hard work of photography—which is figuring out how to remove or de-emphasize distracting elements in the frame and place emphasis on your subject.

How do we do this? Well for starters, there’s always the nuclear option: you can just blur distractions into oblivion with a really big aperture. There’s nothing wrong with this approach, just be careful not to rely on it too much, and don’t forget that there are so many more options out there. A photographer should always be curious about expanding his or her palette. Here are a few ideas that I’ve been tinkering with lately. I’m sure that there are many more.

Use the Sun

Letting the perfect amount of too much sun into your frame can blow out highlights in distracting areas, and bring attention to your subject.

You should keep the sun behind you or a little off to the side—this is one of those basic rules of thumb that you learn in any introductory photography course, and as is the case with most introductory rules, it is completely correct. Keeping the sun behind you results in the best contrast and color rendition, and it eliminates lens flares. But it is also fun to find reasons to break the rules. Sometimes lens flares are fun, and sometimes I’m even OK with slightly washed out images, reduced contrast, or weak colors. It’s a stylistic choice, and as it turns out, you use the sun to selectively overwhelm unwanted details—if you’re careful.

The trick is to block out only part of the sun’s disk. If you leave the whole thing in there, it’ll completely overexpose even the best digital sensors, and it won’t leave you with very many details to work with. But if you move around and adjust your perspective so that the sun is just barely peeking over the edge of something—say someone’s shoulder or maybe an adjacent building—then the sensor can still preserve color and details despite blowing out the highlights in much of the frame.

You have to be very careful about how much of the sun you let into the frame. Even a millimeter or two difference in your position can drastically change the way the light behaves, and that can be the difference between a worthless, overexposed image, and one that looks interesting. This is also a technique that works best toward the end of the day when the sun is low on the horizon and its light is not quite as intense. The last thing to note is that you should underexpose the subject as much as reasonably possible so that details are preserved in areas that are close to the light source.

If you get it just right, you should be able to completely eliminate details in large swaths of the frame, simplifying the overall composition of the image and giving it a fairly unique, ethereal look. Keep in mind that the precise outcome is highly dependent on the lens that you are using—each is unique, and each is a little unpredictable. But the chaos is half the fun.

Use Motion

Exploit subtle differences between the how your subject does or doesn’t move relative to the background.

Some things remain still while everything else is moving. That may sound somewhat obvious, but I first noticed its usefulness in photography when I was trying to figure out an interesting way to take pictures of people running along a beachside boardwalk. As it turns out, every time a runner takes a step, their shoe is pretty much locked into place for a brief moment while the rest of their body is propelled forward in the stride. If you can get the timing right, you can isolate the foot while everything else is blurred a little.

The trick is to tune the shutter speed so that it lasts exactly as long as the subject remains stationary. It takes a keen eye to even notice instances where this is even useful. So keep your eyes peeled, and pay careful attention to patterns in movement—you’re bound to find things that work.

The other version of this is to track along with something that is moving, while everything else remains still. This one is probably the most difficult techniques to achieve in a street photography setting, and a lot of it just comes down to luck—you could probably control all of the variables in a studio setting and do a much better job.

The way it works is you set the You have to track along with the subject perfectly while maintaining focus. If you get it just right, the object or person that you are tracking will remain sharp while everything else is smudged a little. It’s best to set the shutter speed to about a tenth of a second for this one, as it is nearly impossible to track an object for much longer than that.

Use Light Splashes

Cities at night are full of spotlights that you can use to focus attention on your subjects.

You don’t necessarily need a flash or a camera that can operate in extremely low light conditions in order to do great street photography at night. A city at night has plenty of light to work with. It’s teeming with all sorts of light-splashes that emanate from storefronts, car headlights, lampposts (of course), and so much more. But using this light does require a different approach, and it does open up different possibilities in terms of technique.

These light-splashes work in more or less the same as spotlights, and just like spotlights, you can use the contrast between these illuminated areas and the darkness around it to your advantage. Set your exposure to emphasize the areas illuminated by the light, and everything else will fall away into blackness.

At least with street photography, the trick is to set up next to a light-source that gets regular traffic and wait for your subject to move into the illuminated area. If you’re paying attention, you can also catch fleeting moments that are a little more spontaneous, but in my experience, it usually takes a few tries to get the moment to line up with the light. Finally, don’t forget that there is an endless list of sources available — I’ve had luck with things like cell phone screens and lighters. Keep your eyes peeled for where the light naturally falls, and try to position yourself to take advantage of it.

Use Themes

Use repetition and contrasts between the nature of objects or phenomena in order to bring attention to your subject.

Humans are really good at categorizing things, and not merely based on their physical appearance. All it takes is a glance, and we can sort all manner of items according to complex themes, inherent qualities, and even just based on our individual opinions, biases, or previous experiences with those items. Similarities or differences between persons, places, and things are instantly — often subconsciously — noted, and this tendency can shape the way we interact with a photograph. This is a human tendency that is extremely useful for photographers. When used properly, playing off of these differences can be no different than using actual, physical contrast in your images.

Some of the most iconic images ever taken make good use of this technique. Iconic examples include “The Ultimate Confrontation” by Jan Rose Kasmir, where the beauty of flowers is pitted up against the faceless authority of the riot police. “Earthrise,” taken by astronaut Bill Anders during the Apollo 8 mission gains its power by completely inverting our usual view of the world, and literally putting everything on this planet into perspective. Even that Einstein photo where he is sticking out is tongue builds its power from contrasts.

So take a note from these examples. Play with irony. Play with our preexisting biases. Play with expectations. The possibilities are endless.

Clean Up Your Backgrounds

Even the smallest differences in perspective can have a drastic effect on the end result.

This last bit of advice is extremely versatile, and if you think about it, it is really the fundamental technique that underlies most of the aforementioned examples: you need to be paying very close attention not only to your subject but also to what appears in the background of your photographs.

Although your final image is two-dimensional, the act of framing it is actually an extremely three-dimensional process. Even slight differences in positioning on your part can make for drastic differences in what appears in your background. It is altogether too easy to forget this, and many only try to get the focus right and properly distribute all of the subjects in the photograph according to the rule of thirds; at best, we people might rely on zoom lenses to take care of composition — no need to move around all that much.

But you’re not always in a studio, and you can’t always just pull the perfect backdrop out of a roll that hangs from the ceiling. Most of the time you will have to choose your backdrops by hustling around on your feet. You’ll have to move about in every direction until you background is as simple as you want it to be; until you’ve removed anything that shouldn’t be there. This is how you get the sun in the perfect spot, this is how you emphasize the motion of your subject, this is how you get into the right position to take advantage of light-splashes, and this is how you make sure that only certain themes end up in your frame.

It’s amazing how much your background can change, even if only move even an inch or two. So don’t be lazy about it. Small changes can mean the difference between placing your subject right in the middle of the horizon line, or it can place it in front of something benign and simple. You can also take it a step further place it in relation to something important and related.

Figuring out how to control your background is probably one of the most important and overarching skills that you can develop as a photographer. Developing a style that makes good use of it will set you apart from the rest, but you will never become a master of it; there are endless possibilities. So keep tinkering, and don’t forget to have fun.


About the author: Aaron Cederberg is a Middle East-based documentary photographer and founder of Arc Moment Magazine (@arcmoment on Instagram). The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. You can also follow his personal work on Instagram at @arcederberg. This article was also published here.


Source: PetaPixel

Subject Isolation: Finding Innovative Ways to Draw Attention to Subjects

DJI Demands Withdrawal of ‘Misleading’ Drone Strike Video

DJI Demands Withdrawal of ‘Misleading’ Drone Strike Video

Last month, the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) published an article and video showing what happens when a drone collides with an airplane wing at high speeds. The Chinese drone juggernaut DJI wasn’t pleased with the study: it’s demanding that UDRI withdraw the video and article, calling it “misleading.”

Here’s the 43-second test video that was released by UDRI — it shows a DJI Phantom 2 slamming into the wing of a small plane:

In an open letter addressed to lead researcher Kevin Poormon, DJI VP of Policy & Legal Affairs Brendan M. Schulman argues that the simulated drone strike performed was “staged” to “create a scenario inconceivable in real life.”

“Your video assumes a Mooney M20 light aircraft is flying at its maximum possible speed of 200 mph, and encounters a drone apparently flying faster than its maximum possible speed of 33.5 mph,” Schulman writes. “The plane could only achieve such speed at full cruise, typically more than a mile above ground.

“At the altitudes where that plane would conceivably encounter a Phantom drone, it would fly less than half as fast — generating less than one-fourth of the collision energy.”

Schulman also says that the test was widely cited as showing what could happen to a large commercial jet, even though the airplane involved in the study is a tiny 4-seater.

After pointing out his technical gripes about the study, Schulman goes a step further and accuses Poorman and UDRI of conducting and publicizing the study for ulterior motives.

“Your video was not created as part of a legitimate scientific query, with little description of your testing methodology and no disclosure of data generated during the test,” Sculman writes. “Your blog post describes a similar test performed with a simulated bird that caused “more apparent damage,” but your decision not to post or promote that video indicates your bias toward sowing fear.

“Given UDRI’s wide-ranging publicity efforts in print, broadcast and online media, it seems clear that your misleading video and incendiary blog post seem designed to generate paid research work for UDRI at the expense of the reputation of drone technology broadly, and DJI’s products specifically.”

DJI is now demanding that UDRI withdraw the research, remove the video, and issue a correction to the public.


Source: PetaPixel

DJI Demands Withdrawal of ‘Misleading’ Drone Strike Video

This Camera Lens is Made of Iceberg Ice… and It Actually Works

This Camera Lens is Made of Iceberg Ice… and It Actually Works

Photographer Mathieu Stern is a fan of creating strange lenses, but his latest creation is quite unusual, even by his standards. Stern visited Iceland and created a working lens out of ice from an iceberg.

Stern says it all started with the idea: “If glass can focus light, then ice should do it too.”

He then set to work seeing if he could actually make it happen. The first step was 3D printing a custom lens body that’s designed to hold ice within as its main lens element.

Stern also hacked an ice sphere maker to create optical half spheres.

It took Stern 6 months of tweaking to get the right tools and an ice lens of the right shape with the right focus distance.

This summer, Stern took his creation to Iceland in hopes of using the clear ice found in the glaciers and icebergs there. Once on a beach, it took 45 minutes to melt each piece of ice with the ice sphere maker.

After 5 hours of failing to create a working lens — 4 of them broke after being placed in the mold — Stern finally created a working lens.

The lens has a total life span of about 1 minute before it melts and doesn’t work properly anymore. Here are some photos Stern captured with the ice lens:

Stern was amazed by the images he was able to capture through the lens, saying: “Of course [the photos] are not sharp or clean like a modern lens, but they are amazing when you know it’s just a piece of ice that focused light.”

You can find more of Stern’s experiments on his website and YouTube channel.


Source: PetaPixel

This Camera Lens is Made of Iceberg Ice… and It Actually Works

Normani Checks a Few Things Off Of Her “Checklist” or The New Norm(ani)

Normani Checks a Few Things Off Of Her “Checklist” or The New Norm(ani)
Normani is checking a few things off of her “Checklist” starting with the release of her two-track project with powerhouse producer Calvin Harris. The former Fifth Harmony member previously tested the waters as a solo artist with hit song “Love Lies” feat. Khalid, but this time around, Normani dives in head first, making a splash with two new songs “Checklist” & “Slow Down”.

The first track “Checklist” illustrates Kordei’s range as an artist. Offering fans a new sound, K…

Keep on reading: Normani Checks a Few Things Off Of Her “Checklist” or The New Norm(ani)
Source: V Magazine

Normani Checks a Few Things Off Of Her “Checklist” or The New Norm(ani)

Rock Star Jack White Launches Photo Lab and Studio

Rock Star Jack White Launches Photo Lab and Studio

Rock star Jack White, best known as the singer and guitarist of The White Stripes, has launched a new photo lab and studio in Nashville, Tennessee. Called Third Man Photo Studio, the lab is now accepting film from photographers worldwide.

White’s music label Third Man Records has physical retail locations in Nashville and Detroit. While the latter has its own vinyl pressing plant, the Nashville location has now gotten its own photo studio.

The lab’s photo chemists hand-process C-41 color negative, black-and-white, and E-6 slide films. They also use traditional photo enlargement techniques to create one-of-a-kind archival prints.

What’s more, the lab is also offering the conversion of digital photos into physical negatives that can be used in enlargers to make fine art prints.

Processing a 35mm, 110, 120, or 220 roll of film in C-41, B&W, E6, and Cross Processing costs $7, $10, $13, and $10, respectively. A full price list for all the services offered can be found on the lab’s website.

Here’s a short 1-minute video introducing the new lab:

The famous Blue Room music space in the facility will also be available for renting as a photo studio. The space — which is the only venue in the world that does direct-to-acetate music recording — is a fully-equipped photo studio that includes a cyclorama wall.

If you’re interested in booking the space, you can contact the new business directly via email. You can also follow along with the studio’s “dark arts” on Instagram.


Image credits: Header photo of Jack White by Scott Penner and licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0


Source: PetaPixel

Rock Star Jack White Launches Photo Lab and Studio

10 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

10 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

In keeping myself motivated as a photographer I love to look for inspiration from all across the creative spectrum. I like to take the advice of my favorite photographer Ernst Haas in this when he recommended to: “refine your senses through the great masters of music, painting, and poetry. In short, try indirect inspirations, and everything will come by itself.” I recently visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and felt really energized by the work.

Not only do I love Van Gogh’s paintings, but I love how he talks about being an artist. I feel he expresses that desire to see the world in a new way so uniquely.

I liked too how he wrote very simply of the life-giving qualities of being creative.

Today I wanted to indulge in his brilliance and see what we can draw from his life to help us with our photography.

1. Kill self-doubt with action

This connects to my last post about how we all need creative pursuits in our lives. I love this quote:

If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced. Vincent van Gogh

Self-doubt is the enemy of creativity, and it’s one we all face. But self-doubt only controls us if we let it. If we plow on regardless, self-doubt is eradicated by taking action.

2. The night is rich with photographic possibility

I often think that the night is more alive and more richly coloured than the day. Vincent van Gogh

I love to photograph dawn. But many of my photographs are taking before dawn, in the magical blue hour, when the world is emerging from the deep darkness.

My explorations in Spain have taken me further into the night and I have been waking at odd times at night to photograph full moons over the ocean, the stars in the night sky and rich colors of the night sky – blacks, greys, blues, silvery light – many surprising colors.

Night and the edges of the day are fascinating. Of course, it requires some technical skill to capture interesting photographs at night, but once you have basic skills it’s fascinating to explore the colors, textures, and ambiance you can find at night.

3. The strange magic of creation

What is drawing? How does one get there? It’s working one’s way through an invisible iron wall that seems to stand between what one feels and what one can do. How can one get through that wall? — since hammering on it doesn’t help at all. In my view, one must undermine the wall and grind through it slowly and patiently. Vincent van Gogh

I love this quote. It shows some of that strange magic that is involved in the act of creativity, but also the grind of just doing the work.

Sometimes I don’t know where my images come from. I just know my role is to show up, push through discomfort when it arises and keep going.

4. Achievement of any kind is just a lot of small tasks

Great things are not done by impulse, but by a series of small things brought together. Vincent van Gogh

This says to me – don’t let yourself be intimidated! Let us not think of the big things we need to do or want to achieve. But gently and quietly work on little things, that eventually make up the vast whole of our work, our days and our lives.

5. Paying attention to your subject changes what it is

It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning. Vincent van Gogh

When you look deeply at a subject it starts to transform into other things.

Perhaps it becomes intertwined with your imagination, your memories, and thoughts. Your imagination transforming it from one thing to another.

Perhaps it changes because as you look, really look at something, you notice its many facets, its individual details, its many elements. It becomes less a part of a whole, and more a whole world in itself.

6. We all need to be courageous

What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything? Vincent van Gogh

I need this stapled to my forehead sometimes. I feel that my life requires a lot of courage, often. I’ve chosen a different path to others, so I see what this would be. When I overcome fear and feel courageous, wow, it’s an amazing feeling. When I succumb to fear and am not courageous, then, yes, it doesn’t feel great. But the mere act of attempting courageous acts induces a lot of creative energy within me.

The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Vincent van Gogh

7. Taking photos is the most important thing I can do

I wonder if it’s my age, but my desire to create photographs feels in some ways more urgent than when I was younger. Maybe urgent is the wrong word. It feels more essential than it ever has.

When I was younger taking photos was a deep pleasure, it was fun, it was adventurous! I have loved all of my work and projects and learning. But there is something about getting older when you see with starker and starker clarity what is essential to your life and what is unnecessary filler.

I want to only fill my life now with things that are essential to my being. That makes me proud, that push me to be a better person, that help me grow and learn and help me experience the world in beautiful new dimensions.

8. It doesn’t matter what is on the outside, we are all deeply creative on the inside

Does what goes on inside show on the outside? Someone has a great fire in his soul and nobody ever comes to warm themselves at it, and passers-by see nothing but a little smoke at the top of the chimney. Vincent van Gogh

I have met too many people who say they aren’t creative types or arty types. And yet they have a huge desire to create, to be people who make things.

That desire is enough. That fire within is enough to take you to where you need to go with your photography.

9. Photography and my family are all I need

…and then, I have nature and art and poetry, and if that is not enough, what is enough? Vincent van Gogh

I often think I want lots of things – a big flashy house, vast wealth – but really what I want is the freedom to be myself, to enjoy what makes me happy, and to live without restriction.

But if I were to choose what is essential to my happiness, it is this – nature and photography, family and sunshine – that for me is more than enough to keep me fulfilled.

10. When we are seeking to do what we love, life is complete

I am seeking, I am striving, I am in it with all my heart. Vincent van Gogh

This is the true test for me of a good life – are we in it with all of our hearts? I like to think I am in mine, and like family, photography is a natural conduit to living in a wholehearted, connected way.

So I hope these are some nice thoughts for you, giving you some inspiration for your photo practice.

I’d like to leave with one last quote from the great man — one that’s always a good reminder for me:

I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it. Vincent van Gogh

So there is no reason not to do things. The time to do things is now, regardless of where you are and what you don’t know (yet.)


About the author: Anthony Epes is a photographer whose work has been featured internationally; including on BBC, French Photo Magazine, Atlas Obscura and CNN. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. Epes is also a teacher – writing in-depth free articles on his website. Receive his free ebook on the two essential skills that will instantly improve your photos, and sign up to his weekly newsletter providing inspiration, ideas and pro-photo techniques. This article was also published on Cities at Dawn.


Source: PetaPixel

10 Things Van Gogh Can Teach Us About Photography

Tricks for Shooting Better Outdoor Macro Photos

Tricks for Shooting Better Outdoor Macro Photos

Want to improve your macro photography game? Here’s a great 12-minute DPReview TV episode in which master macro shooter Don Komarechka demonstrates some simple techniques and setups you can use to capture better outdoor shots.

Komarechka’s tricks include examples of setting up backdrops and lighting for shooting things like ice, water drops, flowers, and rocks.

Previous articles Komarechka has written here on PetaPixel include shooting high-res photos of snowflakes:

A snowflake photo that took 2,500 hours to create:

Using UV light to make nature fluoresce:

And capturing vibrant colors inside snowflakes:

You can find more of Komarechka’s amazing macro photos on his website.


Source: PetaPixel

Tricks for Shooting Better Outdoor Macro Photos

Photographer Searching for Couple in His Epic Yosemite Engagement Photo

Photographer Searching for Couple in His Epic Yosemite Engagement Photo

Michigan freelance photographer Matthew Dippel was in Yosemite National Park in California recently when he spotted a man walk out to the edge of a cliff with his girlfriend and drop to one knee. Dippel captured a breathtaking photo of the proposal from his vantage point, and now he’s searching for the mystery couple in his photo.

CNN reports that Dippel was at Taft Point waiting to photograph his friend Josh when he noticed the proposal going down. He’s the photo he made:

While the wide-angle photo makes the couple look extremely far away, they were located only about a two-minute walk across the ridge. Dippel hurried over to the spot after snapping the photo, but the 20 or 25 people he asked didn’t know anything about the proposal.

After returning home to Michigan, Dippel posted a message on Facebook asking for the public’s help in identifying the pair.

“Alright Internet I need your help,” he writes. “Help me find these two. This was taken at Taft Point, in Yosemite National Park on October 6th, 2018. I took this photo and would love for them to find it. My Instagram is @gorgeouscornchip.”

The post has received thousands of likes, hundreds of comments, and over ten thousand shares, but no one has been able to point to the right couple yet.

Dippel says that if he does find the couple, he’d like to make them a large print of the photo to commemorate their special moment.


Image credits: Photograph by Matthew Dippel and used with permission


Source: PetaPixel

Photographer Searching for Couple in His Epic Yosemite Engagement Photo

Pixii is a Digital Rangefinder with an M Mount, Global Shutter, and Phone Link

Pixii is a Digital Rangefinder with an M Mount, Global Shutter, and Phone Link

A French startup called PIXII has unveiled its new Pixii camera. It’s an unusual digital rangefinder camera (with a real rangefinder, not just rangefinder looks) that represents the company’s “radical take on what a modern camera should be.”

“The digital camera hasn’t changed much since the 90s,” says PIXII founder David Barth. “But now the new generation is learning photography with a smartphone: who understands why a camera still needs to bother with a screen or an SD card?”

The Pixii camera is designed to be paired closely with your smartphone. Instead of having an LCD screen on the back of the camera, all your photos are viewed through your phone.

Inside the machined aluminum camera is a CMOS sensor — the size of which has yet to be announced — with a global electronic shutter, a 12-bit sampling rate, large pixels, and a high dynamic range (60-90dB). The native gain is ISO 200, and the range goes from ISO 100 to 6400.

On the front of the camera is a Leica M mount, but the camera is also compatible with M39 and LTM lenses using an adapter. Focusing and aperture control are manual. Shutter speed can be both automatically and manually controlled.

The optical viewfinder of the camera has a magnification of 0.67x and contains LED backlit frame lines (40/50mm and 28/35mm) and exposure indicators. There’s also auto LED brightness adjustment and automatic parallax correction.

The top of the camera features an OLED control screen through which photographers can select ISO, white balance, and other supplementary settings.

In addition to foregoing an LCD screen, the camera also completely lacks memory card slots. Instead, you get 8 or 32 gigabytes of internal storage and the ability to share data with smartphones.

Other features and specs include an ISO accessory shoe, a tripod mount, a two-stage shutter button (AE lock and shutter release), Wi-Fi/Bluetooth connectivity, a 1000mAh Li-ion battery, and an integrated USB charger.

No word yet on pricing or availability. PIXII says those details will be announced in the coming weeks.


Source: PetaPixel

Pixii is a Digital Rangefinder with an M Mount, Global Shutter, and Phone Link