When I first started being serious about photography a few years ago, I would hear speakers and presenters talk about the “rule of thirds”. It was usually when the subject of composition came up. Think of a tick tack toe grid, where the lines intersect is where you want the main focus or subject matter to land. It doesn’t have to be exactly at the intersection. This rule helps with composition/balance. You don’t want your subject to be right smack in the center of the photo. It does not sit right with the eye. You can use this technique for vertical or horizontal photos. Here are a few photos that will help get the idea across.
Waiting for Love-Horizontal or Landscape
One and Done- Horizontal or Landscape
Ready for Take-Off- Vertical or Portrait
Do you always have to use the rule of thirds. No you don’t have to use the rule of thirds but it will help your overall photo if you do. Here is a shot that won a lot of awards and does not follow the rule of thirds.
Pretty Boy- non-conforming
I find it useful and inspiring to page through magazines that have to do with what you like to photograph.
I am sure there are similar state magazines as the California magazine on the right. These types of magazines are idea provokers. If I see an interesting photo I tear it out and put it on my wall next to my computer.
Sometimes, small is mighty. As in macro or close-up photography. First of all, if you are truly a macro shooter then look on your lens and if it says 1:1 then it is a macro lens, if it does not say 1:1 then it is not a true macro lens. It doesn’t mean you can’t shoot macro. Some cameras have a mode for macro such as my Canon G12. I use a Canon 100mm 1:1 lens. It is not an easy life as a 1:1 macro photography. To the average viewer it may look great. But, to the competitive eye it so so tough to get a great shot with a macro lens. So, I use a Canon 24-70 lens for close up and it does a great job at least for me. I guess it depends on what you want to convey to the viewer. For me, I don’t care what lens I use as long as the impact and sharpness is present. A story would help too. Take my advice to the bank, I have been there done that.
This little guy was a great actor. He or she was all over the place. Again, patience and anticipation played a role in this award wining photo.
Yep Hover Fly is the name of this critter. They look a little like a Yellow Jacket. They are harmless and sometimes you see them hovering in the air. This fly is no bigger than a dime. Was it shot with a macro lens or something else. I will never tell. Let me know what you think.
Working the Lilly Pond
This award winning photo is one of my favorites. Just look at the shot. Flower, insect and water that provided the opportunity. I may have mentioned in a previous blog that patience is the key. You just have to wait and see what happens. Of course, knowing the habits and subject matter helps.
Hogwash! Just be patient. Sometimes it takes going to a quiet place, sit down and wait with camera in hand. Or, bring a folding chair and go to a designated place like a pond, lagoon, forest, flowering garden and just wait. The opportunity will come to you if you are patient.
This shot was taken at El Dorado Park near Long Beach, CA. I was sitting on the ground just waiting for the dragon flies to land on a reed. I let the situation come to me rather than roam around trying to find an opportunity. This was a gift shot. Very hard to get this quality of shot.
Working the Lily Pond
I sat down next to a lily pond and just waited. Once, again the situation came to me. I did not pursue the opportunity. You can do the same thing.
Sometimes when you get photographers block, you have to just get out of the house and go, sit and wait and be observant. A side benefit of fresh air and some exercise is a plus.
I know, I know, trust me I live it every day as a photographer. Mistakes happen, settings are wrong, you missed “The Shot”, the sun set too fast, I got up late, etc.. It is a humbling experience and it happens more often than we like to admit. The pro pros most likely don’t have the same frailties as we regular photographers but they too have problems. Now here are two beauties worthy of the damn missed the shot category or, oh well , tomorrow is another day.
Or how about the back end.
So when someone asks me if I got any good shots, my stock answer is I won’t know until I put them in the computer.
Next blog will be on macro or close-up shooting. It will be most informative.
Another Word of Wisdom or WOW tenet.
The eye has to be in focus, especially when photographing birds for competition, or your toast. If the bird’s-eye is not in focus you might as well just trash it, forget it and move on.
One of my favorite shots. The more you look at the wolf’s eyes the more they bore right through you. Keep looking if you don’t see what I mean.
This is a difficult shot because of the depth of field between the end of the nose and the eyes. The nose is closer to the lens than the eyes. What to do? That is another blog down the road.
This photo just seems to have a calming effect. Very simple, it’s a rabbit, but it has done well in competition earning awards and recognition from local, state and international competition. How do you think it would have done if the eye was a little off?
Catch of the Day
Remember competition bird eyes have to be in focus. This photo won Professional Photographers of America International Photographic Competition recognition. It was what is called a Loan Photo. The best of the best and was on loan for display through-out the USA.
In another blog, I will show you the importance of getting the “catch light” in the eye of the subject. Click here for a definition of “catch light”. A photo with animal eyes which includes birds can be considered deficient if they don’t have a catch light.
These two words will help you get THE SHOT. For most it does not come naturally. You have to train your self to anticipate what the subject will do. Plus a little patience helps too. Yes, I always wonder if I had just stayed a little longer could I have made a better shot. Coulda woulda and shoulda are always sitting on my shoulder.
Red Wing Black Bird- Cape May, NJ
I watched the red wings flying and landing on the cattails. It was a clear windy day. The birds would not stay long on the cattails in addition to the cattails swaying in the steady breeze. I had no time constraints so all I had to do was anticipate the movement of the bird and the sway of the cattail and be patient. One trick that I used is to set my camera up on a particular cattail that seemed to be a favorite of one of the red wings. When the bird is just approaching as well sitting start firing away. You have a good chance of getting a winner shot. Caveat- get your settings set before the action starts. I also used a tripod with a gimbal head for ease of movement.
Dinner on the Run- Marina del Rey, California
I watched the squirrel and the young inexperienced hawk play cat and mouse. The squirrel knew just how far he was to his tree escape. The hawk would swoop/glide down from a distant tree when it thought the squirrel was far enough away from the tree. The trick was to catch the two in action. Hence, anticipation of what is to come and waiting long enough for the event to happen-patience.
Triple Threat- Columbia, NJ
These three wolves were playing in the water. They love the water. I watched them for awhile and noticed a pattern of behavior. They would run up and down the rocks, run into the water and then back up on the rocks. I told myself that if I waited long enough they might just line up. That is exactly what happen. This is the fourth of four shots. It never happened like this again. It took- Anticipation and Patience
Keep on clicking and remember when shooting wildlife- Anticipate and be Patient
One of my Words of Wisdom (WOW) tenets is to look behind you when out in nature. I know it is hard to remember or it just never occurs to you that the really good shot could be behind you. It is a simple tenet but I can’t tell you how many times I have taken a potentially great shot just by turning around. Here are a few shots I took when I turned around. These are not competition ready but there is potential in each shot.
Sea Gull– I was done for the day and headed back to the car. I am always doing 360 degree turns to see what I am missing. I just caught this sea gull on the fly for some easy food. In another blog, I will talk about anticipation and patience. If I had stayed and watched for awhile I would not have had to turn around. I could have just waited for the action to happen. Note the color of the foreground rock. By the way, I am red, brown and green color blind so we all have our handicaps. Foreground is another blog topic.
Spotted Towhee-I was sitting at the waters edge waiting for one of my best of shows to turn up. Fat chance right. I happened to turn around and who should be right behind me about 10 feet away was this curious Towhee sitting up in a tree on a branch. I was positioned in the wrong direction and had to move ever so slooowly in order not to spook this little guy.
Crab– Another on my way to the car shots. The sun is hitting me head on. I am looking down with brim hat to protect my eyes and head. When I turned around, what do I see but this little fellow sunning himself and watching me intently. I drop to one knee and started shooting.
Before I leave, just a thought. I always name my photos. I have a knack for it. We will talk about this in another blog too. If you have photographers block then try having a name for your photos before you go out and shoot. For example, come up with a name like “Handsome Dude” and then try to get photos that fit your title for your outing.
It must be from my old Eagle Scout days that I always prepared ahead of time. By continuously preening, these Pelicans are Fire House Ready. With that thought in mind here is a list of tips before you go out and shoot:
- Gas the car up the day before
- Have your cloths laid out ready to go along with broad brim hat and sturdy shoes/boots
- Pick your camera(s) – I usually bring two cameras
- Pick your tripod(s) – I have two depending on the size of the lens
- Clean your lens
- Put fully charged batteries in your camera(s) and turn the camera(s) off
- Put water in your car- lots of it
- Have your destination in your GPS if your not familiar with the place your going to
- Pack your backpack or satchel if you are going to use one. You can put water, extra memory cards, hoodman loupe, lens cleaner, first aid kit and various other lenses, tools and gadgets you may frequently use in your bag in your car or someplace near the car.
- If you park your car in the garage that has a secure door then stow everything in the car. If you don’t have a secure parking place then stow your equipment in one place so you can put it quickly in the car.
Be Fire House Ready and save yourself a lot of time and stress.
Welcome to Jim Akers’s Photography Blog. It seems that I am taking more photos of birds than anything else over the past few years. I think this is because they are more available. It doesn’t mean it is easy just more available. Plus I live on the West Coast along the coast so it makes the availability easier. I shoot exclusively with Canon equipment. The other day I got up early as in 4 AM to go to Bolsa Chica State Park. It is one of the premier birding preserves on the West Coast. When I am bird shooting I use a Canon 500 mm f/ 4l IS lens or the 70-200 f/2.8 with an extender. Here is one of the shots I took at Bolsa Chica. I watched the pelicans diving into the water but from the distance I was at I could not see if they caught anything. I did not know the pelican had the fish in its mouth until I got home and loaded the shots into my computer. The 7:30am golden sun was to my back. My Canon 1DX settings were 1/1000, f/8.0 and the ISO was 800. My Canon 500mm was sitting on an Induro 314 tripod with an
Induro GBH2 Gimbel Head. I was ready, I had the right equipment and I anticipated the movement of the pelican. Now all I had to do is be patient.
As I continue to blog, I will share my secrets and wisdom of how to get good shots, particularly bird shots. In fact, I have a WOW list that is 4 pages long and still growing. WOW stands for Words of Wisdom. The WOW tenant for this blog segment is:
The gift shot or lucky shot is sometimes neither. Your preparedness and anticipation increases your odds of a good shot. Sometimes it is called Preparation meeting Opportunity.
Click here to see more bird pictures.