Explore a subject

Another "staycation" photography idea!

Let's do something that's environmentally friendly: Photograph a tree—and learn an object lesson about taking time to study the subject.

So I’m walking down the street during my petroleum-free vacation. I see before me a beautiful red maple tree. “That’s a mighty fine-lookin' tree,” I said to myself and, since I had my camera with me, I took a quick snapshot of it. I took about five steps when I started to scold myself. “You’re a photographer, dagnabit, not a snapshooter. Get back there and work the subject!”

I went back, and studied the tree. “Where’s the subject here?," I asked myself. "Is there more than one?”

Nice tree--but this is just a snapshot. Where’s the photograph here? (Shot with a Canon 40D and Sigma 55-200mm f/4-5.6 OS HSM lens at 55mm setting)

It was time to explore a subject—in this case, a tree—in depth. Its an exercise you should try, because one of the differences between a snapshooter and a photographer is that a photographer is an explorer. Whether it’s the African veldt, the Alaskan tundra, or the tree on the lawn of that corner house at the end of the street, a photographer doesn’t just take just one shot.

I zoomed in to 200mm, and got closer. By positioning myself under the tree, I am able to take advantage of the richer colors caused by the solar backlighting. This shot’s cluttered and disorganized, but I’m starting to see the leaves more clearly.

This shot’s more organized and layered, with in-focus foreground leaves and an out-of-focus background leafy cluster. I darkened the edges and dialed up the saturation in Photoshop Elements to give this a more dramatic, almost painterly feel.

Already zoomed to the max kept moving closer to the tree, moving around and exploring. Here, I focused on this detail.

I’m glad I walked around the tree, because I started to notice little details, like this unusual pink samara!

I hope you have a photographically interesting vacation, even if you don't actually go anywhere. And remember...if (hopefully) the price of gas does come down to something more affordable, you can still apply these ideas to your photos!


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