Archive for November, 2010


Posted in Pennsylvania Elk, Photo Lesson, Silhouette, Wildlife Photography on November 20, 2010 by bobshank

Making a photographic silhouette is very easy and fun to do.

The conditions required for this type of shot are back-lighting and a subject on the horizon line. For example, in my photo here, the bull elk is right on the horizon line where there is nothing but sky behind him. This component of a silhouette shot is what makes the subject really stand out.

The procedure to get a shot like this could not be easier. I just shoot my camera in the direction of the brightest part of the sky and take my meter reading from that location. Then I recompose the shot to include the subject right where I want it to be in my viewfinder. On this photo I paid attention to the rule of thirds and kept the subject in the lower-right third of the image.

Give it a try. Making a silhouette is fun and easy. And the results can be stunning!


Contrast is Good

Posted in Contrast, Pennsylvania Elk, Wildlife Photography on November 19, 2010 by bobshank

One of the unique features of the elk I photograph in Pennsylvania is their posteriors, which contrast beautifully with their darker hide and even darker neck and face.

Contrast is good in photography. Our human eyes see contrast immediately and what we see as an obvious contract is not always conveyed in the photographs we take. The problem is that the range of contrast depicted in photographs is not nearly as good as the range we see with our eyes.

Contrast is the difference between black and white and everything in  between on a sliding scale. Contrasting colors make for a much punchier photograph. This is important to consider when composing a photographic subject. What is the background like? Is it similar or dissimilar from the subject? Part of the problem in photographing wildlife is that the subjects often blend in with their background too well. This is how God made them as a form of protection so they can hide from predators, but it makes our job much more difficult when trying to photograph these animals.

Contrast is good.


Posted in Calf, Composition, Pennsylvania Elk, Wildlife Photography, Winslow Hill on November 18, 2010 by bobshank

The layout or composition of a photograph is important.

There are some general guidelines in composition, such as not cutting off subjects at their joints or chopping the top of their head off at the top of the photograph. Two other important compositional guidelines are the rule of thirds and horizon lines.

Let’s start with horizon lines. When photographing a subject make sure the photograph is not cut exactly in half with the horizon line going directly through the middle of the photo. This just doesn’t look good. To show more of the sky and clouds, drop the horizon line to roughly one-third of the way from the bottom of the photo. Alternatively, to show more of the landscape, pop the horizon line to roughly one-third of the way from the top of the photo. Compare photographs that follow this guideline with a photo that cuts the horizon right through the middle of the photo and see what you think.

The rule of thirds is another very helpful compositional guideline. Imagine your photograph has lines that resemble a tic-tac-toe board overlaying your photo. This pattern divides your photo in thirds both horizontally and vertically. Now note where these lines intersect. This guideline suggests you put your subject on one of these intersecting lines rather than dead in the middle of the photo like a bullseye.

The photograph here follows the rule of the thirds. The top of the calf’s head is at the top right of the imaginary intersecting lines. This produces a more pleasing composition. The body of the calf is also not right in the middle of the photograph, so it also follows the horizon guideline correctly.

Work with these two compositional guidelines in your photograph and see if they make a difference. My guess is that you will produce more pleasing and compositionally correct photographs.


Posted in deer, Fall, Light, Photography, Whitetail Deer, Wildlife Photography on November 17, 2010 by bobshank

Photography is literally defined as “writing (“graphy”) with light (“photo”).

So as photographers we need to do everything we can to understand light. Without understanding this basic component of our craft we will be severely limited. This is so important and yet overlooked by so many. It is easy to get all cranked up over a new camera body or lens, but without the right kind of light our photographs will be substandard.

Light has several qualities that we need to pay attention to and learn about. Light has color, direction, and quality.

The color of light is something we know a little about when we start thinking about the proper white balance in our camera settings. As a test, turn your camera’s white balance to flourescent and take a photo. Now turn the white balance to incandescent and take another photo. Depending on the existing light, you  will see different colors of light in these two photographs. Light can be, for example, blue, green, orange, yellow, and many other colors. The color of light tends to evoke certain emotions and feelings-blue is cool, orange is warm, etc. Paying attention to the color of light is the first step in understanding light better.

Light also has direction. From where is the light coming? Is it side-lit, back-lit, or front-lit? This component of light is also critical to understand and learn about. Front lighting is perhaps the least attractive directional light. Side-lighting creates deep shadows, revealing depth and character in a subject. Back-lighting can create silhouettes as well as interesting halos.

Quality of light is the most difficult component to describe, but when you see great qualities of light you will certainly know it. Quality can range from horrible to average to sensational and even breath-taking. “The golden hour” is one description but it can happen almost anytime and a photographer should always be vigilant and ready for this superior quality of light to appear.

The following photograph is not sensational or even an above average photo. However, the color, direction, and quality of light make it interesting; at least in my humble opinion. When the light is right the photograph will be right!

Depth of Field — Is the Right Thing in Focus?

Posted in Depth of Field, Pennsylvania Elk, Photography, Wildlife Photography on November 16, 2010 by bobshank

Depth of field changes depending on the f-stops we use, the lenses we use, and the distance between us and our subject. Focus is one of the most important elements of a quality photograph so we have to get focus right and understanding depth of field goes a long way towards this goal.

Depth of field charts are helpful and can really help in any situation if we take the time to use the chart. The older lenses that had aperture rings were helpful, too, because they provided a distance range that was helpful as a guide for the photographer. Today’s G-type lenses don’t have these guides.

Probably the most reliable and best used resource for depth of field is experience. With your favorite lens and a subject at 40 feet away what can you expect the depth of field to be at say f/2.8? Do you know? Well you should. Not only is this information helpful but can be critical to have your subject sharply focused. Will the whole animal be in focus or just the eyes and face?

In this photograph you see three objects. The closest subject is a tree stump that is clearly out of focus (how’s that for an oxymoron?). The most distant subject is a spike that is also out of focus. The main subject I was focusing on is in the middle. This calf is clearly focused. The photograph serves as a good example of how shallow depth of field can help bring the viewer’s eye to the main subject. For example, if I had used a smaller f-stop, say f/16, then all three items may have been clearly focused. This would distract the viewer from seeing the intended main subject of the calf. Obviously, eliminating the two distracting elements would make for a stronger photograph here, but I wanted to show and explain depth of field. This important subject needs to not only be mentioned, but should also be studied and then put to good use. Depth of field is important!

Sometimes the Tail Makes the Photo

Posted in Bull, Pennsylvania Elk, Wildlife Photography on November 15, 2010 by bobshank

As I mentioned in my previous posts, this bull was munching on the berries of this bush. I stuck around to watch him eat his supper and got several different poses and angles of this same bull. The background was nice and the red berries make for some nice contrast.

However, in this photo I tend to think the tail makes the photograph. I like all different portraits of these beautiful animals and their hindquarters are certainly unique. Their contrasting posterior makes for some interesting photos to say the least! Here the small tail of the big bull provides a touch of humility and even a little humor to this pose.

The bull was busy eating berries but he never lost sight or forgot what was behind him–his tail and this silly photographer.

Red Berries, Yum!

Posted in Elk County, Pennsylvania Elk, Photo Subjects, Photography, Wildlife Photography on November 15, 2010 by bobshank

This bull elk was content to eat and keep eating the red berries on this bush. We watched him eat his supper for a nice long time!

As you can see in this photo, it was late summer when the velvet was still on his antlers. The soft-looking stuff makes for some beautiful photos! The background helps to tell the story in this photo, and isn’t that what we try to accomplish in our photographs–to tell a story? If there is any truth to the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words,” then we have to make sure our photographs contain the elements we want to tell the story we are trying to convey.

Shouldn’t a photograph stand up on its own without the photographer having to explain it?