I remember when I would flip excitedly through magazines to see the next “new,” undiscovered land. Now my Facebook feed is filled with more amazing images in ten minutes than I would see in a lifetime during the film days. Every day I flip through hundreds of Instagram images—dozens of which are magazine worthy.
We are living in the next evolution of photography, when creativity is more important than pure documentation. We are no longer viewing the “never seen before” but instead “never seen before this way.” It truly is a time that rewards the creative storyteller—and that makes capturing unforgettable images that much harder.
It would be easy to argue that equipment plays a big part in the creativity of modern-day photography, but there are skills that I’ve seen the best photographers develop over time that are independent of the equipment and can quite frankly transfer to any type of modern-day photography device (yes, even iPhones!).
There are four techniques that I use on a regular basis to try and capture a memorable, creative frame that are equipment independent:
• Use the foreground to draw the viewer’s eye into the picture. I like to call it a third layer–with the subject and background being the other two. The foreground draws in the viewer, the subject captures their attention, and the background tells a story about the place. It’s a pretty reliable formula (if there is such a thing for photography) and can be used with any equipment.
• Use light to focus the attention where you want. Whether it’s in print or on the web, the human eye is drawn to the brightest part of the frame. So I use light (usually the sun) to focus the attention on the subject. See my previous blog about shooting “backlit” for more information.
• Look for unique perspectives. Nothing says fresh like a new perspective on the “seen before.” I look for fresh angles–from above, below, in the dark, in the rain and more every time I photograph.
• Tell a story with your photograph. It’s one thing to capture an image of a beautiful sunset, a portrait of a street vendor in India, or an action shot of an athlete mid-stride. But what story does that tell? How can the viewer relate? What does your photograph say about the people AND the environment?
Getting this Shot
Thórsmörk literaaly means ‘Thors’ Woods,” named after the Norse god Thor. After spending countless hours on bumpy unmaintained dirt roads, it’s easy to see why this tough but unbelievably beautiful zone in the southern part of Iceland was named after such a mythical figure. Each time we drove back into the depths of the mountains we would pass by gigantic egg-shaped boulders but because of rain, darkness, or hunger we never had the chance to see if it was possible to climb on them–until our last day.
In this photo Blake Hendrix is establishing a new problem on one of the boulders we found while traveling in Iceland. While the climbing is impressive and his muscles are huge (yes he paid me to say this) it was important for me to not just capture a tight image of climbing. I did not want to lose the magic of the place. Instead I wanted to show the whole story–the landscape, the mountains, the boulders, AND the climbing.
Knowing that I wanted to capture Blake, the boulders, and the mountains I climbed atop a smaller boulder and framed up my shot so that the eye of the viewer was drawn to the climbing first, but then examined the rest of the image. When the sun popped out of the clouds I positioned myself so that Blake was backlit and the camera was capturing just the top of a boulder right in front of the camera. The idea being that this out-of-focus element helps draw the eye into the climber. The shot was captured at 1/800 of a second at F3.5 with an Olympus Tough camera.