Having been doing fine art photography for over 40-years I’ve come to realize that often TWO camera settings Dominate Creatively in my art images. I provided some examples of this in Part-2 of this series. However, I went beyond the usual “settings” as is known as the Exposure Triangle to include one of our most powerful creative settings—Focal Length—and expanded these settings to become the Creative Quadrangle.
Those creatively dominate pairs of settings are:
Aperture / Focal Length or Shutter Speed / Focal Length
I’m sure many photographers will take issue with that statement so, I will continue with more complex and challenging subjects that test the capabilities of all the settings at our disposal.
SOMETIMES EVERY SETTING IS CRITICAL
f22.0 @ 4.0 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 20mm
The Roman Colosseum is a very challenging subject even in daylight. And, it’s big, but worse, it’s much wider than it is tall, which makes it squat and very static compositionally. I figured it was going to be a night shot to avoid the tourists (I had NO idea!). So, I had purchased two items just for this subject; a compact tripod and a new lens; the Nikkor, f2.8, 20mm prime, which was rated very highly for its sharpness. When we walked to the Colosseum on our first day trip we were shocked by the throngs of tourists already there and bus loads more arriving constantly! I was there to check out my angles on the structure and was struck by how gray and ugly it was in the daylight; and yet how beautiful it was at night when they turned on its lights. We returned close to midnight to a Colosseum aglow, but I did not know how long I would have those lights. A light rain had started, but I was prepared with an umbrella.
The most important setting in this image? FOCAL LENGTH
The Focal Length defined the Composition. In many of my blogs on fine art photography I’ve mentioned my philosophy that “You can often reveal more about a subject by showing less of it.” I do this by using a longer Focal Length and slicing-up my subjects and/or cropping in post; the former is preferable.
Most photographers would use the 20mm lens I bought for this subject, to take pictures of the entire Colosseum, but everybody does that; there are Thousands of images of the entire Colosseum, in landscape mode, on the internet!
With large horizontal subjects I like to take Vertical Slices to create unusual compositions. In close my 20mm lens was ideal for these verticals because I could use the Distortion (extension distortion) it created at the edge of the frame of the bulk of the Colosseum (the part that was closer to me) to create those wide to narrowing openings of each story of the Colosseum.
- To enhance this effect I set-up my tripod close to the building and tilted-up while Kathi held the umbrella over the camera to shield the lens from the rain.
- Next, I did a “Dutch-Tilt” to break-up the static nature of a multi-storied building—creating Diagonals of those lines.
- This also enabled me to include more of that nice wet roadway and the street lights.
- I wanted a Long Shutter Speed to blur the cars and streak their lights
- And I wanted Maximum Depth-of-Field. So, starting at ISO 800 (to avoid as much noise as possible) I settled on 4-seconds at f22.0.
With the planning, preparation, and the pre-visualization this image turned-out just as I imagined it!
By far even more challenging than any static subject is capturing extreme action creatively. Having done most types of action, the most difficult is chaotic action like rodeo; because with animals involved it’s always unpredictable action. It can also be as dangerous to the photographer as it is to the participants.
Case in point….
f5.0 @ 1/2500 sec., ISO 800; Lens @ 200mm
I’ve learned that vantage point is important in rodeo photography for a clean background—that is eliminating the arena fence and crowd. So, I usually find a high angle to be able to “shoot” down on my subjects, which creates a clean background—the dirt of the arena itself. This also takes me OUT of the arena. I learned this lesson, the previous day, when another photographer standing near me in the arena was slammed into the steel arena fence by a spinning bull that had just thrown-off its rider! So, after that near miss, I found a nice perch up on the announcer’s platform on the side of the arena where the release gates were positioned. With that bit of important wisdom said…
Very seldom do I go below 200mm with rodeo work. It’s a big arena and I want to isolate my subjects. In fact I would love to have a zoom lens giving me 200-500mm. In this image they were close to me because this bronc took out its rider just out of the gate! The compression effect of my lens at 200mm did a nice job of bringing the horse and that fleeing gal close together enhancing her peril!
I use 1/2000 to 1/2500 seconds because it works with rodeo action; 1/1000 is not fast enough.
Here I used a fairly wide aperture, 5.0, because I want to isolate my subjects and I’ve found that with a distant subject (eg. 50 yards away) at 200mm I get plenty of Depth-of-Field.
Like I said before I use the ISO I need to use to get me to the f-stop/shutter speed I want. Using my Canon 5D MKII at 800 ISO can produce a file that responds well to noise reduction.
I use my Canon in AI-Servo; it works great. I wish I had this capability back in 1970!
When it comes down to artistic creativity All Settings Matter; that’s why I’m always in Manual Mode and create my images in RAW.
The point of this blog series is that the random use of camera settings, as when you use the Auto or P-Modes you give up creative control of your images. And, using settings given by other photographers for their images will not teach you how to creatively use Apertures, Shutter Speeds, or Focal Lengths that are the best for YOUR subjects. To be an artist you must be the author of your images. This means you must study your subjects and decide what is most important about the subject that you want to highlight visually.
Any Questions….’Til next week.
Author: Jerry W. Venz, PPA Master Photographer, Craftsman
Training site: http://www.LightAtTheEdge.com
Client site: http://www.TheStorytellersUsa.com
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