By Joe Kashi, for the Redoubt Reporter
Writing this week’s photography column was easy because the hard work was done by readers who submitted some excellent photos for our fall photography contest.
In addition to the several winning photographs, many other readers submitted excellent photos that nicely illustrate useful creative photographic techniques. We’ll take a look at eight such photographs that I liked and what they can teach us. I initially chose about 15 photos but, sadly, we only had room to print and discuss eight.
All but one of our winning photos and two of the 15 photos I initially chose for discussion here were made with a variety of APS-C and, surprisingly, expensive full-frame digital SLR cameras, mostly Nikon, Pentax and Canon cameras, in that order. That’s an interesting result in itself. It’s evident that serious local photographers are mostly using high-quality dSLR cameras that, in turn, produce technically better images.
Please remember that newsprint is not a high-definition media compared to regular photo printing paper. Tonal range, contrast, fine detail and color quality all decrease when we print photos here, so please don’t judge the actual quality of the well-done image by what we’re able to reproduce in newsprint.
- Our first photo, “Fall Skyline,” was shot on Skyline Trail by Angie Nelson, of Kenai, and shows the use of backlighting to increase the brilliance of fall colors. Backlit foliage, with the sun behind the subject and shining through it to your camera, is almost always more brilliant and intensely colored than foliage that’s illuminated by reflected light. This photo also has a nice layered effect with the bright foreground dominating the distant mountains.
- “Drive-By Colors” was shot on the Sterling Highway near Ninilchik by Sue Biggs, of Soldotna. It nicely illustrates an interesting optical effect that occurs when you quickly zoom a manual dSLR zoom lens while making a relatively long exposure. This photo is evidently cropped to emphasize the most interesting part of the scene.
- Our next photo, “Fall Path,” by Sandra Sterling, of Soldotna, was shot at Centennial Park Campground in Soldotna, and shows the interesting perspective that can occur when you change your point of view from eye level to nearly ground level. This photograph conveys a sense of depth because of the great change in scale from the foreground leaves to the distant trees and the use of a moderately wide-angle lens that emphasized the strong perspective of the railings.
- Sybille Castro, of Nikiski, took “Swan on Tern Lake” early on a foggy morning. I really liked the subtle fading from the foreground’s sharp detail and soft but distinct color to the foggy background that’s without color or any real detail except a vaguely defined horizon. I hope the lovely foreground coloration prints well enough to do the shot justice.
- “Autumn Path” and “Hideout Sunrise” were both taken by Mark Pierson, of Kenai. I’ve included both because they nicely illustrate two very different effects. “Autumn Path” shows the photographer’s feel standing on a leaf-strewn path in the woods in Thompson Park in Kenai. The shot works so well because the Gestalt pattern completion in our brains tell us that this is a photograph of a person walking on an autumn trail even though we can only see two boots and the lower part of two legs. Sometimes, less is more.
- “Hideout Sunrise,” taken near the end of September on Hideout Trail off of Skilak Lake Loop Road, shows that lens flare is not always bad. Here, it’s used creatively to make the sun peeking over the mountain seem even more intense and brilliant. Only an optically excellent lens could capture the sharply defined line that works well here rather than a bunch of blotchy reflections.
- Mike Hancock, of Soldotna, took “Denizen,” using natural light and macro settings in an alpine carpet above Cooper Lake this September. The shot nicely illustrates using very shallow depth of field to totally blur the background, emphasizing the subject by making it stand out in sharp contrast from the background.
- I liked the repetitive arcs of the frosted leaves and stems in “Morning Frost” by Wade Wahrenbrock, of Soldotna. Here again, a blurred background emphasizes the sharp foreground subject while retaining enough detail to reveal the repeating arcs.
While I’m at it, I might mention a few of the more common technical problems that we saw. Foremost was the need to crop images more tightly so that the subject is not lost in a mass of unneeded detail, especially bright, distracting items near the picture’s edge. In the same vein, a number of photos were simply too busy, with too many overlapping and conflicting picture elements and subjects.
Strongly tilted horizons, done intentionally, can have a powerful graphical impact. However, we saw a number of photos in which the horizon was slightly but noticeably tilted, which suggests an accidental lack of attention to detail.
A few photos had “blown” highlights lacking in detail. Generally, these were made with smaller-sensor cameras that lack the dynamic range of modern digital SLR cameras.
All in all the participating photographers made a strong showing, and made this contest difficult to judge.
I’ll be putting on a series of two free Saturday digital photography workshops at the Kenai Fine Arts Center at 816 Cook Ave. near the Oilers Bingo Hall in Kenai, on Nov. 12 and 19. Each workshop lasts two hours and starts at 1:30 p.m. Coffee and dessert will be served.
Local attorney Joe Kashi received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from MIT and his law degree from Georgetown University. He has published many articles about computer technology, law practice and digital photography in national media since 1990. Many of his technology and photography articles can be accessed through his website, http://www.kashilaw.com.