“Thoughts on Photography”
Copyright ©2014 Don Mercer, Rustic 41 Creations
Dedicated to Some Great Photographers and Teachers:
Larry Jordan, P.E.
Aura Banda Cruz
John and Barbara Gerlach
Donna Brennan, Editor, “PSA [Photographic Society of America] Journal”
Margaret Sprott, Publications Vice-President, Photographic Society of America
With Special Thanks to:
Donna Krabill, Director of Education and Communications, Norfolk Botanical Garden
Hugh Hopkins, Class of 1969, VMI, Brother Rat, For Editing Comments
Cathy Peyton, 1st Vice President, HRDSC
Christa Dillabaugh, Amazon Rainforest Workshops – Introduction to Project Noah
Carol Snow Milne – Invitation to Join NATURE LOVERS on Facebook
Karen Richard Loughrey – Invitation to Join Project Noah Worldwide on Facebook
Affiliations and areas of photographic instruction are noted below
Background & Aviation
Photography is a great passion;
Has been for many years.
But in recent times, with digital;
Have acquired, a bit more gear.
There are, those bygone days, with film,
Some great fun, then was had!
When flying high, and also low;
Which some thought daring, others bad.
But buzzing was such fun, you see;
With, the low altitude record, to tie;
As the alternatives, were but few;
For no one, wanted to die!
And even when, not nearly touching;
The land that was, just right below;
Too, when flying at, a thousand feet, or more;
With wonderful memories, so aglow.
My time in flight was all quite grand;
To slip those “surly bonds” and ride, on clouds and wisps of air;
To dive and soar, go slow and fast;
At times, a camera, then in hand.
Moving to Today
But on the subject, of photography;
With all the more, to tell today;
Information in abundance, all quite grand;
And with the Internet, much is right, at hand!
And all the gear, that you might acquire;
Gives budgets quite the scare;
But start out small, and grow a bit;
It’s so much, like, climbing stairs.
There are camera bodies, and lenses;
With primes and zooms, and even a loupe;
With special filters, for different effects;
Memory cards, remote cables – all to group.
Then add, the chargers and batteries;
Those spare ones, to be certain;
Along with those supplies, for cleaning;
So shots don’t appear, from behind a curtain.
Take great care, of your equipment;
And it will take care of you;
So all works, as expected;
Your problems will be few!
Makes packing, all the more interesting;
When heading off, to some far-off land;
Trying to have all, as but carry-on gear;
With the most expensive, close at hand.
Three Approaches: Shoot “Green” – Shoot “Scene” – Shoot “Clean”
There are three approaches, to shooting;
From my vantage point, these days:
Shoot “Green,” Shoot “Scene,” or opt for “Clean;”
As if starting from scratch, for better sway.
The more, you control your camera;
The more direction, you impart;
The result will be, better images;
So gear up, for learning, take heart.
Your camera is quite dumb, you see.
It craves the more, some clues;
With “Scenes,” or “Aperture Priority;”
“Shutter Priority,” and “Manual,” to choose.
Shooting “Clean,” translates into taking control;
Of f/stops, EV, and shutter release;
Of ISO, white balance, and more;
Providing clues, with control – Yes, indeed, increase!
Along with technical knowledge;
Combine some artistic techniques.
The melding of, these two affairs;
Will produce images, more in sync.
And, along with these broad thoughts;
Give consideration, to telling a story;
Recording history, personal and other;
To look back, on some wonderful memories.
“Automatic” mode, is the “Jack of all trades;”
But sadly, it’s the “Master of none.”
Even the manufacturers, paint the dial just so;
Go “Green” for starters, but not best, for the long run!
If you want good images, with your camera;
As you learn, choose scene-specific, for fun.
Provides your camera a clue, and more;
To derive better images, some.
“Landscape,” “Portrait,” or “Action;”
If you have those, at your call;
Select the one, that’s best for the shot;
And then fire, and have a ball.
If you want to go for distance;
Then “Landscape,” you should choose.
But if closer up, is your preference,
Then “Portrait” will not lose.
And if it’s “Action,” you desire;
If you have, that great selection;
Then fire away, and “freeze” your shot;
Use the shutter’s fast detection.
And if it’s really, up so close;
Then “Macro” is your game.
Choose the “Tulip” with abandon;
So you’ll have nothing, thus to blame.
But most important so, you know;
Is keeping all, so clean;
The lens, viewfinder, body;
So you’ll more enjoy, those scenes.
There are none, that clean themselves;
Of that, I’m crystal clear.
Only some, whose camera sensors;
Do clean themselves, with cheer.
EV, HDR, Camera Manual, Focus, Tripod
And “Exposure Valuation,” EV is its name;
To “bracket,” with more brightness;
Or with less, exposed, but under;
So you’ll have, among the finest.
And with bracketing, while on this subject;
Consider merging, two or more;
Using “High Dynamic Range” – HDR, it’s called:
For some images, to soar.
Brings out, much greater contrast;
With some painterly options, too;
While some artists, do not like it;
But gives them issues, on which to chew.
And more, but not so least;
Note, that a manual was included;
When you bought a camera, to have fun;
Don’t let it, be excluded.
As for focus, crisp, and sharp;
Stability is the clue;
For sharpness, like a tack;
You’ll have blurred, only but a few.
Consider using a tripod;
A bench, or something stable;
To rest your camera, for your shoot;
For best images, to enable.
Composition: Rule of Thirds, Center Power Frame, Perspective, and Horizon
Next up, is composition;
How best to capture all;
So viewers, as your jury;
Will never, cast a pall.
The Rule of Thirds is foremost;
Those “Power Points” prevail.
Placement of your salient features;
Important all, with such details.
And when animals, at times confronting;
Consider, what I call: “Center Power Frame.”
Put the creature’s face, front, and center;
And keep steady, then take aim!
This is, indeed, a deviation;
From the most accepted, Rule of Thirds;
With difference, as the consequence;
However, some may view, as “for the birds.”
Perspective is yet, another view;
Shoot high, low, or from a different point;
Makes wondrous, unique images;
But with age, at times, it hurts your joints.
Horizon, keep it level!
So most, may keep their wits;
‘Cause when it’s not quite level;
Gives many quite a fit.
But then, when choosing bold;
And pix, with purposed slant;
Then do so, with intent;
As if you had a grant.
So when, at times departing;
These rules of imagery;
Do so, with much purpose;
So artistic, you may be.
Composition: Balance, Symmetry, Lines, Patterns, Framing, Travel Space, and Bokeh
Use balance, like the Greeks of old;
And symmetry, better yet;
So all your images will look, quite nice;
And you, nor viewers, fret.
Attempt to use some lines:
Curved, straight, or winding so;
Patterns, and some zigzags;
Running here, and there, and fro.
So the viewer’s eyes are drawn;
To the features, that most appeal;
And your purpose, in composition;
Is yet subtle, but yields more real.
At times, when you’re composing;
Consider framing, too;
To have a composition;
As in a window, through.
And with objects having motion;
Leave some “travel space” for show;
So that animals and subjects;
May have a place, to go.
Now Bokeh, is subjective;
Not all, so much agree;
When blurring some, in background;
For the foreground, to decree:
That this area, is more the object;
The thrust of imagery;
So that focus, is pronounced;
In the foreground, the best to see.
Composition: Foreground, Middle Ground, Background, and Scale
And when beginning, to advance your skills;
With your imagery, consider;
Determine, on which best to focus:
Foreground; back; or middle: for a winner.
When you’re shooting scenes immense;
Consider including scale:
A person, or an object small;
So the scene, just so, prevails.
Wildlife: “Eyes, Eyes, Eyes … and the rest will follow!”
With animals, it’s “Eyes! Eyes! Eyes!”
And legs, plus a tail, to boot;
So that all, will be included;
And focused sharply, when you shoot.
Because when focusing, on those eyes;
“The rest will follow” suit.
Your shot will be quite pleasing;
You will have yourself, a beaut.
Composition: Colors, Moods, and Black & White, Reflections
Today, when shooting color;
Brings moods, into your scene;
Brightens, and lends contrast;
Makes many pix, so keen.
Some color, times will pop;
Makes the image, very nice.
Use complimentary colors;
And, contrasting – good advice.
Use reds, for passion and energy;
Generate feelings, and emotions, too;
Greens are soothing and cheerful;
Yellows, bright and warm, some clues.
Purple connotes, royalty and wealth;
But does not appear much, in nature.
Pinks for calming, love and romance;
Magenta and cyan, for added pleasure.
And don’t forget the blues, quite nice;
To round out, all the hues.
Keeping in mind, the “Color Wheel;”
Those colors, warm and cool, to use.
Not a bad idea to study artists:
From Ansel Adams, to van Gogh;
To jump start, your photography;
With colors and moods, just so.
But black and white is pretty;
For details, textures, contrast, too;
But it, may also, be obtained,
When, post-editing your view.
And, while on composition;
Reflections are quite nice!
Using many different surfaces;
With two such: water; and clear ice.
Using all reflective surfaces:
Mirrors, even, concrete polished;
Can make an image, a work of art;
Giving it a look, which is, quite burnished!
Panorama, Editing, Cropping, “Practice! Practice! Practice!”
And forget not, panorama;
A wide or tall shot, quite impressive;
Just overlap, those images;
So to be yet, more expressive.
Too, when working back at home,
Or in the field at night;
Consider, edits and cropping;
To get the job done, right.
You may want to shoot an image, larger;
So you have some room, to crop.
To best position, your composition,
Moving subjects a bit, to swap:
A salient feature on a “Power Point;”
A face dead on, and in the center,
Or perhaps, along a “Power Line;”
Improving, for a contest, so, to enter.
But with cropping, consider file size;
As you cut, some pixels hit the floor.
But then carefully, when editing,
You might improve, your image’s score.
But “Practice! Practice! Practice!”
Is the best advice, to take;
For improving, your photography;
While hoping to gain, at times, “the cake.”
Mistakes are overcome;
As your fingers become, familiar;
With all those dials and buttons;
And the menu, saves from failure.
Light – Hard, Soft, Flat, Flash, Shade
Then light is most the judge,
When your jury is those viewers;
Soft, harsh, some flash, or otherwise;
To keep, your images, from skewers.
Use light, as best you can;
Work around it, if you may;
But use soft light, more oft, than not;
So your work, will save the day.
Avoid direct, hard sunlight;
With shadows, not so soft;
Makes features, dull and lifeless;
Much, as flat light, shade does oft.
Take the Shot! – Use the Light!
But with animals, in particular;
Take the shot, just when you can!
Because you have, no good idea;
When you’ll be back, that way again.
But even shoot, when in the shade;
Especially, animals, when they appear;
The chance, may not repeat itself;
To shoot, some of those, when near.
Use soft shadows, for nice highlights;
For contrast, details, too;
Such light, that casts much beauty;
Makes images, so true.
When in the forest, or the jungle;
Use light, as best you can.
Some passing, through the branches;
Might serve, just like a fan.
And, when early, in the morning;
Before the sun, appears a bit;
And, just after, it goes down some;
The Blue Hour, may permit:
To shoot a beauty, with such hues:
Oranges, yellows, bright those pinks;
And all so pure, the blues;
So dullness, will be shed.
And, then there is, the flash;
To soften, and remove those shadows;
From someone’s nose, or other features;
So the shade, does not appear, as arrows.
“Do Not Disturb!”
When shooting wildlife most;
Use flash, with some great care;
So, not to perturb, your subject;
Which, might give you, quite a scare.
And when photographing wildlife,
The mantra used by most:
“Do Not Disturb!” – such great advice;
Especially, when trying to get close!
ISO, Aperture, Shutter Speed, Light
Then, with a few more words, tonight;
One variable is, the ISO;
To vary, sensitivity to light;
To close in, on the pros.
When all is said and done;
Four primary, at your beck and call;
Light, ISO, and aperture;
With shutter speed, to round out all.
The trick, is then, to master these;
For better images, to view;
Than to only have, some shots;
On which, to brag, but then a few.
And give some thought, to focal planes;
With aperture – each setting, when best to use;
To highlight, sharpness in your images;
Combining technical, with artistry, the better, so to fuse.
Makes the subject appear, all the sharper;
By selecting focal planes;
On which the sharpest features;
Appear, for so much gained.
Metering, White Balance, Focal Points, and the Histogram
There is another thought, metering to address;
Evaluative or matrix, center-weighted, and also, spot.
To zero in on exposure, to the extent, that is thought best;
So the image, that you capture, may be a wonderful shot!
Along with that, is white balance;
To make, colors and whites, appear;
All the closer, to what you actually see;
So your images, will be quite clear.
You have many choices, from which to opt:
Shade, cloudy, daylight, and more;
To make your images, all the prettier;
With whites and colors, all the better to soar!
There are those focal points, for some;
With cameras, having such selections.
More the better, to nail the sharpness;
When making these, important decisions.
And then, there is, the histogram,
A graphical representation;
Of blacks and whites, and colors;
With frequencies, and interval functions.
Taking Control of Your Camera
As discussed before, “Automatic,” is “Master of none;”
“Jack of all trades,” yes, good mostly, for some fun;
But when seeking, to learn about images, more;
It’s wise, looking at options, to, therefore, better the score.
One approach, of “Priority,” is “Aperture,” you see;
Fixing the focal plane, for best focus, to be;
And when doing, thus so, the shutter speed moves;
But with mastery of this, more folks will approve:
Of your images, composition, and focus, as well;
These are, some of the sharp arrows, in your bag;
For “Shutter Priority” is another option, to tell;
When using with action, may help you to brag.
Images better, than when shooting before;
With but “Automatic,” these modes, do yet, even more;
While providing greater control of the camera, in your hands;
So your images may be viewed, as better – some perhaps, even grand!
And when you are ready, to take full control;
Selection of “Manual,” runs the gambit, you see;
Of all the options, which you have in your bowl,
As a photographer, then, the best you may be.
For then at disposal, are all the changes, to make;
To benefit your shooting, for better images, to take;
Once you move to “Manual,” you control it all;
And more oft, than not, your shots, stand quite tall.
But of all the selections, “Aperture” suits me quite well;
For most of the times, unless motion prompts me to dwell;
Then, too, using “Manual,” when settings change, but quite fast:
As with sunrises and sunsets, then, the better to grasp.
DSLRs (Digital Single Lens Reflex), P&S (Point & Shoot), and Mirrorless
Next up, are DSLR bodies, digital, to be sure;
When moving up, from cameras, called: Point and Shoot;
With “Aperture Priority,” and vast options, for the “Shutter;”
And, also, “Manual,” to be yet better, shooting more acute.
But so, more than digital, also, now these days;
There are mirrorless, and other DSLRs;
All, with varied lenses, to shoot even more;
For photographers, improving, to raise, yet, the bar.
What Camera to Buy?
So what is the camera, that is best, then to buy?
Price, size, shape, and weight, all questions you ask.
What scenes and options, to best please the eye?
To best match abilities, with your camera’s task.
“Action” or “Sport,” you may find of interest;
And the size of the sensor, an additional thought;
The quality of “glass,” the lens to be sure;
To quantify and qualify, just what needs, to be bought?
Then optical and digital, consider the zoom;
Optical, like binoculars, magnifies quite true;
But digital zoom, is, like cropping the frame;
Of import for certain, the two are not, just the same.
File Format: JPEG & RAW
Then on to the format, JPEG or RAW?
JPEG works well, for many a print;
But will you enlarge, and seek more, to draw;
Yet more from the image, compression, the hint?
For RAW gives more pixels, far less compression;
When editing more seriously, provides more expression;
But RAW eats into space, on the memory card;
And in that respect, you need give regard.
But, if deciding to shoot, in JPEG alone;
You need to check, the menu again;
To see what size image, you then prefer:
Small, just for email, or larger then.
On many occasions, large JPEGs are fine;
Many edits, may be done with these images, you see;
But the use of RAW files, seeking better, to shine;
Gives you more pixels, I think you’ll agree.
LCD, Video, Seeking Value, and Lenses
And today, we have, our LCDs;
Liquid crystal displays;
Which allow us to engage in chimping;
Catching glimpses of image arrays;
So as to see, just what we shot;
To improve, immediately upon;
If necessary, change EV, or more;
For the best images, when done.
When using, the liquid crystal display;
The size, and ability, to move it around;
Yet another thought, when buying these days;
Does indeed, make the questions, simply compound.
And of video, be definite, sure to include;
If movies you use, to brighten the mood.
Think of what you will plan, all, to shoot;
So that, your new camera, proves the best route.
Scan online comments, and magazine reviews;
Talk to photographers, for their best thoughts;
Seek to obtain, informative news;
The result, good value, will then be, but bought.
And, with those having, an interchangeable lens;
These IL cameras, ILCs, so called by some folks;
Whether to buy a zoom lens, or a new prime;
The lens, which is better, for work or pastime?
Telephoto, wide-angle, and macro, all quite nice;
But what do you plan, in your imaging quest?
Just what lures you the greatest, in your roll of the dice?
What attracts you the most, for your images, best?
And, today, there is more, mirrorless is here;
Yet another advance, with cameras these days;
To investigate many options, more decisions to make;
For the paths and choices, which are needed to steer.
When these questions are answered;
Then, it’s time, to run out and buy;
Seek the best value, for what you desire;
So that your images, might then, but inspire!
Yet Other Considerations and Learning
There are cards: some gray, some with color, to use;
D-lighting, color space, image control – to apprise,
So there are more, than a few options to choose;
Before images, vie for, and seize, any great prize.
But such is the beauty of photography;
There is so much to learn, yet all is much fun;
With such wonderful, new products, today;
Your quest, is, thus, just never quite done.
And when you think, that you, have it all mastered;
There are terms and acronyms, abounding today;
Chromatic aberration, vignetting, to be answered;
Even keystoning and Bokeh, which may hold you at bay;
From learning it all, in but one lifetime;
But it’s fun, all the same, to tackle it more;
For landscapes, macro, and portraits, sublime;
To go outdoors, hear wildlife that roars.
So the nature of “tips” is boundless, you see;
As I could go on, but we all need some rest;
It’s time with my camera, to once again test
The outdoor realm, the great fun, of photography!
So there will always be, more to learn;
All the better, for a lifetime of joy.
To read and shoot, and capture more
When using your camera, as a great toy!
And, this is just, a beginning,
A primer, perhaps, at best;
For so much info, is now at hand;
To assist, in making images, best.
Editing, Macro, HFR, Stacking, HDR
And, then, you have some editing;
Which, I like to do the least;
For if I capture most, of what I want;
Then editing, is decreased!
And back to macro, but once again;
For “stacking” images, may now be done;
Using, what I call HFR,
High Focal Range, for fun.
Taking several images;
On different focal planes;
Then merging, here, called “stacking;”
For optimum focus, throughout, to ascertain.
HDR, is a cousin, to HFR, with neither very strange;
With HDR, several goals, just so, are sought:
Best luminosity, contrast, and tonal range;
Selecting more EV steps, with beauty to be wrought.
But with HFR, sharp focus, is the quest, the goal;
Seeking images having, different focal planes,
And just, as with HDR, the role;
Merging images, much the same.
Another concept, by no means, least;
Is of burst, or shooting fast.
Using, high frames per second;
“FPS,” to capture vast.
Use burst, to shoot fast sequences,
Use it, to capture, quick changes;
To better the chance, for a tack sharp shot;
Firing the shutter, rapidly, as it races.
Cityscapes, Nightscapes, Rainbows
And there is such beauty, all around;
Even in cityscapes, when shooting an array.
But the wonder of, our grand universe;
Is demonstrated, time and again, in the stars and Milky Way.
Then, of course, there are, beautiful rainbows;
Those fleeting belts, of colors bold.
And, it is said, of these phenomena;
At the end, is “a pot of gold.”
But the “gold” may be your image;
Of a rainbow, or its double;
When shooting, all of such beauty;
Your image is the “gold,” for your trouble!
Marine Related Photography
On, in, and under, the water;
With such sunsets, and marine life;
Is to photography, quite an altar;
The beauty, poses nothing rife.
With gondolas, and boats, some ships along the way;
Trying to capture turtles, fishes of all colors;
All sizes, shapes, and attitudes, along with gorgeous bays;
It’s easy with the sea, to be nothing, but a lover!
And now and then, take what is called:
A “selfie,” or a self-portrait.
Hold your camera out, with yourself enthralled;
So you don’t, at that moment, an image forfeit!
Then, you also have when editing, the option to “Distort;”
With polar coordinates, and rotation, only to cavort;
I call these “circular panoramas,” just “pano balls,” for short;
“Panoramic balls,” as good a name, in photography, the court.
Panning and Contre-Jour, or Backlit Photography
And there are, many other approaches;
Only some, that are covered here:
Panning, and backlit, contre-jour;
Outlining subjects, all quite clear.
This, then, is needing wrap up,
As my computer keys, are getting tired,
Not to say, anything of my fingers,
And my brain, now slowing, to inspire.
Dad once said, “When you’re green, you grow;”
“And when you’re ripe, you rot,” the end result;
Of sitting back, and seeking, no more to learn;
When no longer a kid, but now, an adult.
So move forward, striving to learn, all the more;
To travel, and shoot, for what, life, has then, in store;
So that photos “pop,” with colors alive;
So your passion for images, only but thrives.
So press on and learn, as life rolls along;
Whether photography, or another, passion of note.
Keep growing, so as not to rot;
In order to learn some, from this quote.
Partake of reading much, enjoy searching the Internet;
But take some time to gather with friends, some old, and of, some new:
In workshops on different subjects, to learn, some more;
To take in, some different, and meaningful views.
Photography is all about sharing;
Some of the images that you take.
With others who appreciate beauty;
And who help you, to gain so, from some mistakes.
And along the way, just one more thought;
Have an image or two, taken of you;
So that you may sit back, and enjoy:
Memories of great times, too!
And have someone, perhaps, a passerby;
Take an image, or a few;
Of some great friends with you;
Some, for me: with, in combat, did come through!
Take some, a few of those bygone times;
Of homes, from long ago;
That once back when, they seemed, so large;
But with time, have shrunk, just so.
And last, but not the least, by far;
Do not forget, at all;
Those who brought you to this party;
That’s called life, with which, I’m so enthralled!
But I come back to that wisdom
On learning, said by my dad, for sure;
“When you are green, you grow” – The more;
But when you are ripe, you rot.” – A poor final score.
And to end this on a high note – Life is much like camera gear;
In order to be the happiest, to be thankful, for all, that you hold dear;
It’s not about how much you want, in life, or with more things;
It’s really of, how little you need, to make your life, and images, sing.
 Hampton Roads Digital Shutterbug Club, Virginia
 Larry Jordan, P.E., Larry Jordan Photography (wildlife, landscapes, HDR, editing, and technical issues – Africa, Grand Tetons, Arizona); Mark Thiessen, Staff Photographer, National Geographic (modes: aperture priority; shutter priority; and manual – street photography, architecture, memorials, portraiture, interior lighting, flash, editing, image selection – National Geographic Society workshop at its Headquarters in Washington, DC); Paul Renner, Renner Safaris (wildlife in Africa and Victoria Falls); Jim Stamates, Low Impact Wildlife Photography, and In the Rhythm™ Adventure Tours Photo Workshops (nature: wildlife and landscapes; use of flash; Nikon cameras – Nikonians workshop in Grand Teton National Park); Winston Hall, Tuner Photography (landscapes & Nikon cameras – Nikonians workshop in Arizona: Monument Valley; and around Page, AZ); Ken Knight, Knightvisions and President, Hampton Roads Digital Shutterbug Club (panorama, black & white, low-light, nightscapes, and Power Point); Ty Brown (macro); Jose Calvo (aboard the National Geographic Sea Lion in Costa Rica and Panama), Aura Banda Cruz and Christian Sea (aboard the National Geographic Islander in the Galapagos Archipelago), John and Barbara Gerlach, Gerlach Nature Photography (nature: wildlife and landscapes; back-button focusing; and referral to Photographic Society of America); Donna Krabill (referral to HRDSC and to Amazon Rainforest Workshops); Hugh Hopkins (sharing images and ideas on photography, editing assistance on prose and poetry); and Cathy Peyton (Power Point presentations and speaking in public). All have imparted a wealth of knowledge on many general, and numerous specific, topics relating to photography. A few have provided comments with respect to my writing and poetry, together with my presenting to a group.