Best of Show – Of the 2,252 pictures I took with my FujiFilm X-E1 mirrorless digital camera in Melaka, Malaysia over seven weeks in October and November of 2015, this is my favorite. Other than cropping (it didn’t need cropping because I was patient with this photo, having asked this man for permission to take his portrait) it represents every single concept Ben Weller and I teach in our online Visual Communications course for IPFW. The lighting is soft and from behind me, the photo uses creative (shallow) depth of field, and it follows the “rules” of thirds and threes (more on this later). The ISO was set at 6400, as this was a very dark and unlit other than by a door spice and flour mill; the zoom lens was set at 107mm, the aperture at f/5.6 (for shallow depth of field), and shutter speed with the high ISO went automatically to 1/300th of a second. Following are the rest of my “top 30” photos from this world-class experience.
It’s one thing to sit in front of your MacBook with your iTunes blaring away and writing and thinking about photography. Talking the talk so to speak can be much fun but rather hypnotic, if not downright narcissistic. It’s another thing all together to hit the hot streets of the city to practice a bit of walking the walk among a sea of humanity.
Although I have deeply missed (I am still in Asia as I write this) the cool mountains of North Carolina along with the peaceful chances to depict its rustic and scenic beauty, it has been my thrill of a long lifetime in photojournalism to spend the past seven weeks in Melaka, Malaysia, a real cultural, esthetic and historical jewel among the major cities of the world, possibly second only in my travels to Paris (where my heart this past week has rested with great love and sorrow).
So, as my Visual Communications students back in Indiana prepare for the Portfolio in the coming weeks, I’d like to use some of my new photos to illustrate the concepts they will be putting together for their final assignment.
Rule of Thirds
Rule of Thirds – note the man with the cap (I asked his permission) is in the right third of the pictures,not the middle.
Concept is the same here (I asked his mother for permission), with a little “creative” depth of field thrown in.
This Muslim woman occupies the left third of the picture, leaving the other two third uncluttered and providing a sense of balance and esthetic described by Plato as “the golden ratio.”
Here the Rule of Thirds is working well again with a little creative depth of field thrown in to add a slightly “Impressionistic” feel to the picture. I know that some will say she should be looking into the frame for “balance,” but I like the dynamic tension the unbalanced effect provides.
Rule of Threes
Rule of Threes keeps your photos uncluttered. No more than three main objects or spaces in your viewfinder!!
This could be considered a little “cluttered,” but the point is to be very deliberate and to limit the distractions.
You might say this can’t be rule of threes because there are four people here. Look again. There are two groupings of people – one group faces the water, the other group is coming towards the viewer. The out of focus background counts as the third part of the image. The symmetrical groupings of the people, seeing the backs of two people and the fronts of two people, as well as the bright colors, create and air of simplicity elegance, and motion.
Artistic Depth of Field
This is one of my favorite photos, from the “farmers market” in Melaka’s Little India. All of the background is out of focus, to bring the wizened woman in the foreground into sharp focus. (She had a good laugh, as did everyone else who was watching me – I probably took ten frames before I got this one…)
I like this one because the focal plane is only directly on the woman – both the foreground and background are out of focus. Notice this picture also follows rule ofd threes – count them: background, woman, foreground.
Another of my all-time favorites – the “Impressionistic” out of focus background forces your eyes to the main of the photo. Notice this picture also follows rule of thirds.
This pictures encompasses interesting lighting issues (backlighting), as well as artistic use of depth of field (only the woman is in focus), as well as Rule of Threes (count them – woman and two fully delineated backgrounds) and Rule of Thirds (she is mostly in the left third of the frame).
This is a “happy” photo – plus it has artistic depth of field, follows rule of thirds and rule of threes (woman, background, face on right). I also like the dynamic tension created by the tight framing from my zoom lens.
Once again, only the prime elements of the image to which I want to draw the viewer’s attention are in focus, with the background artistically blurred. Rule of threes and of thirds is also in play here.
This youngster, who was quite anxious to have his picture taken, practically jumps out at the viewer because the blurred background propels him to the foreground. Image carefully encompasses rule of threes and of thirds too.
This is among the top five pictures of the 100s I’ve taken in Malaysia over the past six weeks. Aside from the brilliant and interesting colors, the background is perfectly blurred to blow the man right out of the image. Yet the background remains very interesting too, wile staying very simple so as not to clutter the pictures as backgrounds often do. Rule of threes (man and two different backgrounds) and Rule of thirds complete the esthetic integrity of the picture.
This picture has just about everything going for it in my mind. The lighting though is what I was trying to set up as I hung out the other day in Melaka’s historical city center, which at all hours of the day and night attracts a ton of tourists from all over the Pacific rim. This is “backlighting,” where the source of light comes mostly from the back of the frame. You can see the light glowing through the fountain as well as through the Malay flag to the left. Back lighting also creates the “halo” effect around the hats and shoulders of the man and woman. And of curse, I’m always thinking of the rule of threes and of thirds. Notice too that the man on the right is quite cut off – you’ve also seen that in the “happy” picture of the Indiana woman above, where her friend is looking in from the right. I like the sense of dynamic tension these snippets of a second person create. That’s the beauty of a zoom lens – you can get as “tight” as you want, creating the shallower the depth of field possible (the longer the lens, the shallower the depth of field). The lens here is set at 230 mm, which is quite long for a hand held digital camera.
I centered this couple because i wanted to get the backlighting on both sides of the fountain. Still follows rule of threes, rule of thirds, and has creative depth of field. Lens is set here at 230mm, ISO 800.
Don’t be afraid to short directly into the light sources: you can get some very interesting and creative photos that way.
This is another of my favorite shots – backlighting, rule of threes, rule of thirds, and artistic use of depth of field. Lens was set at 192 mm, ISO 1600.
This is a simple concept that much like DOF, drives the viewer’s eye towards the main intent of the photo.
This photo has the added impact of being a silhouette.
I love this photo on multiple levels. Notice how the woman in the background is “framed” by the 400 year old Portuguese tombstone.
There are a variety of ways you can “frame” a photograph. Be creative.
I could have zoomed in or cropped this tighter, but I like the framing “devices” on either side of the young Muslim women, to “set the scene” so to speak while still keeping your attention on them.
Classic framing – there is a lot going on in this picture, and I waited patiently for it all to develop.
Another picture I could have cropped or zoomed in on more, but I deliberately wanted the door of the old church to “frame” these teenagers taking selfies. I think framing adds both impact and context to pictures that otherwise might have been a tad pointless or trite (overdone). And of course we have shallow DOF working here too.
Cropping is tricky and can be overdone. The image produced by your smartphone and any digital camera generally conforms to the Greek Golden Rectangle, considered the perfect and most pleasing architectural shape and dimension. The shape is roughly equivalent in proportions to your standard 4 by 6 print. Any cropping that deviates dramatically from these proportions often does not work esthetically. That said, the very famous Hasselblad camera (it was used to photograph the first moon landing) shoots 2″ b y 2″ square negatives, so there are exceptions to this “rule.”
Cropping also requires that your original image be very sharp, as essentially you are enlarging the picture to new dimensions.
Here are a few before and after examples; you be the judge:
This shot I originally liked because of the composition and overall color scheme. Zoom was set on 90mm, so I had plenty of room left to work with.
However, thinking about it later, I really liked the friendliness of these you women and the contrast between the burqa and the hijab. I felt I needed to get “closer” to fully show this new realization. Fortunately, I had been shooting at ISO 800, so the shutter speed had gone to 1/210 which is plenty fast for a hand held image stabilized lens, particularly one set at a relatively short zoom length. Thus the new image is equally as sharp, and quite a bit more interesting I feel.
This was a very random shot which i saw only seconds before I had to snap the shutter. I wasn’t happy with the composition, as the Chinese tourist in the brilliant pink shirt and white shorts on a green bicycle (poetic inspiration from William Carlos Williams) was what caught my eye in the first place (the scooter on the left was just a bonus!).
Now I think more of the focus is on the bicyclist, with some of the extraneous image removed.