LIGHT WORK

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These pic­to­rial fea­tures are de­signed to help you bet­ter ap­pre­ci­ate how work­ing pho­tog­ra­phers deal with sub­jects and sit­u­a­tions, in­clud­ing some help­ful tricks of the trade. In this is­sue, Cam­era edi­tor Paul Bur­rows is get­ting off the tourist trail in Tus­cany.

The Pic­ture

The villa at the end of this cy­press-lined drive­way is one of the most pho­tographed sub­jects in ru­ral south­ern Tus­cany. Tourists con­tin­u­ously ar­rive at the en­trance by coach or car, quickly snap the view down the drive­way and leave.

The Pho­tog­ra­pher

Cam­era edi­tor Paul Bur­rows has a par­tic­u­lar af­fec­tion for Italy and, in par­tic­u­lar, Tus­cany, where the chal­lenge is to find dif­fer­ent ways of pho­tograph­ing scenes and sub­jects that have been pho­tographed many times be­fore.

The Equip­ment

Nikon D3S with AF-S Nikkor 24-120mm f4.0 ED VR zoom used at 70mm. A Cokin Neu­tral Grey G2 Soft grad­u­ated neu­tral den­sity (ND8) fil­ter was fit­ted to the lens. Sen­si­tiv­ity was set to ISO 200 with shut­ter-pri­or­ity auto ex­po­sure con­trol at 1/160 sec­ond with f5.0 and -0.7 EV ex­po­sure com­pen­sa­tion. The cam­era was mounted on a light­weight travel tri­pod.

The Tech­nique

This im­age was all about find­ing a dif­fer­ent an­gle from which to cap­ture this popular lo­ca­tion. This means putting in a bit more ef­fort than sim­ply park­ing the car and snap­ping away. For­tu­nately the villa is sur­round­ing by fields – this is a ma­jor wheat grow­ing area for pasta – which in early au­tumn were full of golden stub­ble wait­ing to be ploughed in for the win­ter plant­ing. There was a fairly deep gully to ne­go­ti­ate, but then it was sim­ply a case of walk­ing up the field to find the best van­tage point for a side-on view of cy­presses. Find­ing great land­scape shots in­evitably in­volves a bit of a leg work as the eas­i­est views are rarely the best ones.

How It Was Done

The idea was al­ways to cre­ate a panorama, so the im­age was framed with the line of trees ex­actly in the cen­tre of the im­age, al­low­ing max­i­mum scope for crop­ping later. Mother Na­ture obliged with the cloud for­ma­tion, and the grad­u­ated ND fil­ter helped boost the con­trast, not just with the clouds, but also the wheat stub­ble which was brightly lit by di­rect sun. How­ever, the grad was po­si­tioned a lit­tle higher than usual so that the dark­est part of the sky was only at the very top of the frame. The lines in the stub­ble cre­ated by the har­vester con­ve­niently lead the eye right up the cy­presses. At the last minute, I de­cided to leave the villa out of the shot, as it not only makes for a bet­ter bal­ance com­po­si­tion­ally, but also makes the im­age less ob­vi­ous.

Tricks Of The Trade

The skill of land­scape photo-

gra­phy is all in the cam­era work. Com­po­si­tion and fram­ing are ev­ery­thing and, quite of­ten, it can be as much about what is left out as what’s in­cluded in the frame. Look care­fully and you’ll note that there’s a tele­graph pole in among the cy­presses. I’ve been asked nu­mer­ous times why I didn’t clone it out of the pic­ture. But why would I? It was there – so it’s a le­git­i­mate part of the scene – and view­ers ac­tu­ally en­joy find­ing it so I think it adds to the im­age rather than de­tract­ing from it. Re­mem­ber, no land­scape is ever per­fect.

De­gree Of Dif­fi­culty (Out of 10)

I’d vis­ited this lo­ca­tion on many oc­ca­sions, work­ing out a way of do­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent. Both the sea­son and the time of day were im­por­tant. When the field is full of crops you ob­vi­ously can’t walk across it, so that ba­si­cally dic­tated the time of year, and late af­ter­noon sun added just a nice touch of ex­tra warmth. So this im­age is as much about the plan­ning as it is about the ex­e­cu­tion. A clas­sic Fiat 500 parked some­where would have added a nice fin­ish­ing touch, but oth­er­wise achiev­ing ex­actly the en­vis­aged end re­sult prob­a­bly war­rants a nine.

Can You Try This At Home?

Ab­so­lutely. Just start ex­plor­ing dif­fer­ent ways to pho­to­graph fa­mil­iar sub­jects or scenes. Ex­per­i­ment with dif­fer­ent lens fo­cal lengths, cam­era an­gles, el­e­va­tions and points of view. Also watch how things change with the sea­sons, the weather and the time of day. Pho­tograph­ing the same scene un­der dif­fer­ent con­di­tions is a sim­ple but en­ter­tain­ing project that could yield an in­ter­est­ing port­fo­lio of pic­tures… or just one great shot that you could have oth­er­wise missed.

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