Archive for the ‘creative’ Tag

Rule of Curved Thirds

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Most everyone has heard about the “rule of thirds” – but let’s try something a little more flexible – how about “curving” the thirds for more creative control?

The standard Rule of Thirds divides the image into segments as seen below.  The theory is to place the element of focus (head, eye, branch, horizon, etc) so that it lands on one of the intersection points.  This provides very good guidance in many cases, but sometimes it just doesn’t work very well.

Fourth Grid

Consider the image below.  The Rule of Thirds might suggest that you place the goose’s head in the upper right quadrant, also giving the goose “room” to look into.

Domestic Goose

Since I wanted a tight crop and less “river” I placed the goose right in the middle of the frame, not only breaking the rule but doing what some would consider a “rookie” mistake by placing my subject right in the center of the frame.

Domestic Goose thirds box

There was a method behind the madness though, I placed the goose along curved lines.  Take a look at the illustration below, the curved red line was the point of emphasis that I was aiming for.  Borrowing from the Rule of Thirds, I identified a curved shape in my subject (from the left wing, down to the breast and back up to the right wing) and allowed the curve (not a particular point of the subject) to interact with the Rule of Thirds and the intersection points. In addition, one of the traditional points of focus, the goose’s eye, is NOT in the center of the frame, it actually falls along the top grid line.

Domestic Goose curved line

Here’s another example below.  The natural focus of this Snow Goose would be the head and eye.  Strictly following the rules would have you place the goose’s head in the upper left or upper right intersections.  Neither would have worked very well in this case so I used a curve running along the goose’s wings and upper legs.  The curve then becomes the item that intersects with the Rule of Thirds – it works for me!

Single snow goose curved

The samples below give a few examples of a curved shape interacting with the grid,  give it a try on some of your photos and see what you think.

3rds Grid top curve

3rds Grid

Rules are good, but purposely breaking them can take the shackles off and open up your creativity.  Don’t restrict yourself, let your eye naturally find the curves in your subjects – use those curves as your creative element.

Got an opinion on this or have other ideas, leave me a comment or shoot me an email – I’d love to hear what you think!

Stay in focus,

Mark T


Don’t Ignore the Mundane

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There is beauty and great images to be found in everything – don’t overlook the obvious just because “it’s always there”.

We can’t all live where the fantastic shots are everyday occurrences – but we certainly can get creative with what we do have to work with.  Find what is regular and common in your particular area (for me it’s gulls, Canada Geese and squirrels) and work on different concepts and techniques.  Work on identifying and photographing your common subjects on the “perfect” background.  Spend some time with these commoners and look for interesting behavior or quirky composition.

It’ll help put the fun back in your photography – and that’s the primary idea anyway, right?  Good photography is what you’re able to find interesting in a subject – not the interesting stuff that just lays around for everyone to capture.

Who knows, the local squirrel may even give you the “thumbs up” for not overlooking him!

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Stay in focus,


Display Your Craft

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In this day of digital and the web, printing is obsolete – right?

Well, it isn’t – or at least it shouldn’t be.  The ability to store and view your images on an iPad or share via the web is awesome, but it doesn’t have to replace the printed art form – it should compliment it.  It may take a few minutes of time and some money (although it doesn’t have to be expensive) but to see and share your work in large format and bright color is fantastic – and will be a constant source of satisfaction and pride.

Here are a couple ideas to display your craft and have fun doing it – without spending an arm and a leg.  It doesn’t have to cost you upwards of $60 to $150 per framed print, just be a little creative!

  • Homemade Craft(my wife’s great idea)
    • Take a Sunday drive into the country and keep your eye out for antique and yard sales – find a piece of scrap barn wood or some other type of weathered wood.  The piece of barn wood below cost $20.
    • Pick three or four images that go together or tell a similar story.  Print them out in 8×10 format (on regular 8.5×11 photo paper)  Cost of ink and paper is at most a couple dollars.
    • Clear, frameless clip frames.  We got the ones below from Hobby Lobby or you can get them from Amazon for around $5 each.
    • The sample below cost less than $38 dollars and looks great in the family room!

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  • Frameless clusters
    • Build a wall collage of images on 13×19 paper (or 8.5 by 11 if that’s all you have available).  You can be creative with your crops and just trim the excess – it really enhances the collage.
    • Now –  this is cheap, creative and fun way to display your image art.  (though I admit might not be for everyone’s taste)   The image below and the one at the beginning of this post are collages I put up in my office.  And I’m not done – I’m planning for the larger one to take up the whole wall!
    • The Epson Matter 13×19 paper worked out astonishing well (and very cost effective) so you don’t need to use the more expensive photo paper.
    • Each 13×19 image cost me less than 50 cents each (printing myself) so the total large collage was a whopping $6!  (and if I don’t like it or want to start over, it’s no big deal)

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Have fun, get a little creative and hang some of your work for all to see.  I love the satisfaction and enjoyment I feel every time I look up from my desk and see some of my favorite images – give it a try!!

See the light!


Don’t Sharpen That Image!

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Sharpening is a normal part of the editing process, but keep your eye out for the right image to “mix it up” a bit.

We all know the best process to follow – always sharpen last . . . right?  That’s the way I do it (usually selective sharpening in Nik Define) – that is, until I stopped “always sharpening”.  Depending on the subject, maybe sharpening would ruin a budding image.  Consider the mood and feeling of each shot to determine how best to complete it – let it “talk to you”.

  • In the opening image, I purposely softened the shot, along with “richening” up and warming the tones in Nik Color Efex Pro 4.
  • The second image is a sharpened version with a little more contrast in the tones.  It’s not a bad image (at least I don’t think so) – it’s just different.  Given the warm glow of the cloudy sunrise – I just liked the moody (unsharpened version) better.

Just something to think about!

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Stay in Focus!


Qwik-Tip: Starburst Effects

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This week’s Qwik-Tip focuses on specularity (or the starburst effect) in photographs.  This tip can work with just about any light source (direct or reflected) to get that wonderful effect you see in the opening image.

Qwik Tip List:

  • Shoot on Aperture Priority – or manual mode
    • Select a very small aperture (20 or greater)
  • Use a tripod.
    • With such a small aperture, you’ll be using a relatively slow shutter speed.
  • When shooting sunlight, try and “pinch” the sun between two items
    • Use branches, in between leaves – anything that constricts the light flow will help clean-up the effect on an object as bright as the sun.

Some Lenses will work better than others.  The number of blades in the shutter will have an impact as well – the more the better.  It’s not really something you can always choose – just something to consider!

Stay in Focus!


Nothing to Shoot Here!


How many times have you thought the same thing – “nothing to shoot here” Really?  Are you sure?  Because there is beauty to be found everywhere and in everything – if you know HOW to look at it.

For the past few weeks, “attractive” subjects have been a little harder to come by (it’s just that time of the year, right before some of the more interesting migrations begin) and the only plentiful targets have been Ring Billed Gulls and Canada Geese.  So, what else was there to do but focus on gull and geese!

Why bother, you may wonder – a question thats been asked by  more than one passer by recently, “they’re just trash birds and poopers” a older gentleman recently asked me.  Well, if you don’t know how to look at them – maybe that’s all they are.

The “right” way to look at these creatures is with an open mind.  Study a gull for a period of time, they’re quite accomplished fishermen!  The search patterns they run, identifying a target, followed by sometimes very aggressive dives straight into the water are amazing!  More than not, they’ll come up with the fish in tow.  Also the interaction and behavior of these gulls, interesting and amusing at the same time, as they fight for freshly caught fish and landing spots.

Gull 2

The same thing goes for geese in my book, fascinating behavior and social interactions.  Watch a male put his head to the ground and “growl” and he waddles to an interloper is a blast to watch.  And if you catch them in the right light, they’re actually very nice looking birds, just like the gulls in the photos above.


These types of subjects are also very challenging targets, depending on the light.  You can really learn a lot by nailing down the exposure of these two – a white bird in an overcast sky is a different shooter’s blueprint from a white bird with a dark background.  And give it your best shot on a Canada Goose in bright morning light – try not to blow out the white patch between the black neck and head, it’s tough!

So find the beauty (and the challenge) in everything, it’s out there – if you know how to look for it!  Plentiful subjects that can be attractive and offer a nice photographic challenge – sounds good to me!

Stay Focused!