This is the story of my latest Italian (and French) vacations. This is part 4 of 6:
- Settings and Techniques Part I
- Settings and Techniques Part II
- Composition Part I
- Composition Part II
- Travel Applications and Workflow On The Go
Composition Part I
I think that over the course of this trip, I managed to improve my composition skills. Sure, I do go for the two-thirds rule in order to create some space around the subject. But there are a few others classics that I have improved.
Take for example, the frame within the frame, a technique that I have learned from Michael Freeman’s The Photographer’s Eye. The idea is to find an object that can act as a frame for a subject located further away. This frame becomes the frame within the picture’s physical frame.
A couple of pictures where this effect is at its best are this picture of the church in San Gimignano behind the well in the piazza. I also like this one of the Sienna campanile behind the arches.
San Gimignano church seen from well in piazza.
Another composition technique that I learned from Michael Freeman is the triangle. Unlike the frame within the frame, I had forgotten about this one until, that is, the it literally appeared in my viewfinder like magic, or like a divine revelation as in this picture in Rome Pantheon with its open air dome letting the outside light come in and bathe the side of the church while the light through the door completes the triangle.
An effect that I got good at is shooting into the light source (sun, window) and using your subject in shadow. Unless you use fill flash, you will never get the dynamic range required to have both the lighted background and the dark subject. Since you can’t fight it (my Mom would always tell me to choose my battles), expose for the light.
You will get dramatic effect like with this statue of Jesus or this Tuscany sunset in Voltera.
Another special effect that I have been trying to achieve is a blurred background with a moving subject. This is typical of bicycle or card races scenes. You achieve these by panning your subject with the slowest shutter speed you can get.
The difficulty lies in succeeding to get your subject in focus and not blurred. It is normally recommended to set manual focus on; obviously you need to accurately estimate your subject’s distance to the camera. To do so, take a picture with auto-focus on, note the distance and keep it. With auto focus off, you will be able to take more pictures rapidly. Panning is the second difficulty as you need to pan at the same relative speed of your subject.
Here in Lucca I got lucky. Lucky not only because I did finally achieve a very decent panning picture for the first time, but also, and more importantly so, because Lucca is truly the city of bikes. Inside the walled citadel, car traffic is kept to a strict minimum. Residents prefer biking within the old town. And they have acquired the skill to do so on very crowded semi-pedestrian streets.
The photographer in me was happy since all these bikes would ride so close to me. And I had lots of them to practice on! I enjoy this one with dad and son (or so I guess), where he rides while the other one reflects one his future ahead (ha ha).