Bold colors, soft overcast light, and fun subjects always make an intriguing combination. This sure applied to my recent trip to Tennessee, where off-and-on rain provided ideal conditions for capturing a hot pink bicycle and eye-catching barn art.
Along with the right light and fine color, composition was an important ingredient too, especially the balancing of key elements in the scene. If you're going for a really tight composition - i.e., filling your picture frame with a subject - then such a balancing act may not come into play. But when you wish to shoot a "bigger" scene with multiple elements, balance is crucial for a successful composition. For example, in both of the accompanying images, I placed a subject on one side and a second subject on the other.
For Bike & Trees, the bicycle definitely attracted my attention first, due to its amazing color and interesting form. However, the trees really stand out, and in fact, they might even catch the viewer's eye first. I composed the image so that the bike and the group of trees balance off each other. Also, I used a wide aperture to isolate the sharp foreground subjects against a blurred background.
For Barn Art, the main focal points are clearly the cow paintings, which I carefully placed on the left. But the dark window on the white wall is important too in terms of overall balance.
- Each photo was shot with the surprisingly versatile 50mm 1.8 Nikkor. It's a fixed focal-length, so you must "zoom" the old-fashioned way - with your feet :-) ... This Tennessee adventure was a quick trip, and the 50mm is one of my go-to lenses for traveling fast and light.
- Since both scenes were stationary, I used my lightweight go-anywhere travel tripod (Manfrotto 3001BD legs with Really Right Stuff BH-25 mini-ballhead and quick-release plate) in order to ensure optimal picture quality but also to help fine-tune the composition.
Note: Learn more about taking better digital pictures in Kerry Drager's online photography workshop - Creative Light and Composition - which covers natural light, photo design and other topics. In addition, BetterPhoto.com's photography school offers extensive online photography training.