Point of View
Alright, so, kinda the first major area in composition is thinking about your point of view. And we saw a little bit of that in the video. And that is, you've chosen a subject, and assuming that you have more than one choice on where to shoot that, and sometimes you are limited, I've been to places where they have a boardwalk and you have to shoot it from here, and there's no other choice. And I hate those locations. I love places where you can wander around the field, or I love the desert, where you can go anywhere you want, doesn't cause a problem, and you have an unlimited number of options on where you can shoot. And so when you have that option of being able to change your point of view, there's a lot of different things to take into consideration. Now, I have a photo to show you, and it's the only photo in the entire talk that's not mine. But I think it really helps hammer home the point about point of view. One of the most important photographs ever taken by a human was one that...
was taken from a really different point of view. And when people saw this it really changed the way a lot of people thought about who we are and what we're doing. And it was that point of view change that really changed it, and so the point of view that you take a photograph can be really, really important. And there's lots of little examples of this that I can show you. I've showed you some photos from down in the Redwoods. Beautiful place to go, have some wonderful walks and hikes that you can go on down there. And great trees. But it's really tough to show the environment sometimes from ground level, and there's just not a lot of options for getting up higher. I mean you could bring a 20 foot stepladder I guess in there, but there's just not that many options. Well, there was one place where there was a log that you could walk up on to get a slightly higher point of view, and so that way you could see the floor of the forest a little bit more easily, and it gives you more of a sense of what's going on in that forest amongst those tall trees, all the other plants growing down there. And so just changing your point of view changes the photograph quite a bit. I spent some time down in San Francisco recently, and I was scouring every pathway, every viewpoint for the Golden Gate Bridge, trying to find areas that were a little bit better than others. And this was one of my favorite, just 'cause there happened to be some flowers blooming at that time of year. I've showed this photo possibly a couple of times in this class, this is Yosemite National Park. And this is from a place called Tunnel View, it's a very, very, very, very common place for people to shoot photographs, because it's right beside the road, there's a large parking lot, Ansel Adams shot some photos here, and pretty much all the buses drop people off to shoot photos. And it's a very nice place to see the entire valley. And I thought, well, you know, I tell people in my own class that you gotta put in some effort. And you're not putting any effort when you go here. And so there's a trail that goes up higher. And I took that trail up higher. And I found another viewpoint, and I took that up higher, and higher, and found another viewpoint, and I took photos up there. And they're just not as good. (class laughing) And so, putting in more effort doesn't guarantee that you're gonna get better results. Sometimes you have to do it. Sometimes you don't. And photography's one of those things that you just don't know until you invest, and this is a really good viewpoint, and it doesn't matter that it's in a parking lot. It really is what I think the best viewpoint for this particular scene. This is not the only scene that you can get in the park of course, but for that scene, yeah, it's kind of got a sweet spot with where all the mountains and the forest lay, it just, it looks really really good in my opinion. One of the things that helps out when you're shooting kids or animals is getting down low, getting down to their eye level. And as I mentioned in the video, it's hard to get taller than you are, unless you have a ladder or something to stand on, but it's very easy to get down lower. And so I do love the cameras that have the flip out screens that allow me to get that camera right down to ground level because then it becomes very easy to shoot over, for me, about a six, six and a half foot range as to where I can hold that camera. And so experiment with what you can do on your camera. One of my favorite streets in Havana is this one street where you get the view of the capitol down there. And so you only get that on one street. And so you can play a little bit around on where you are on that one street, but it's just a really nice street to have that little bit of capitol poking out there at the end. And that once again is just a little bit of mystery that I'm adding in there, you get to see a bit of the capitol, not the whole thing in its majestic nature. And it's that one street that's a great place to be for your point of view. Times Square. It's really hard to get up and a good point of view unless you have access to some of the buildings, and so they have those red steps, for anyone who's been there somewhat recently, and so I'd go down to the red steps at the very top, and then do a panoramic from the top there, just so that I could see the people all along the area on the sidewalks around there a little bit more easily, just getting to that slightly higher vantage point. In Morocco, they have something called the goat tree. And as you're driving down the roads between a couple of major cities, all the buses stop and they let people off and they take basically this photo here, because let's face it, most people who are traveling don't have time, and photography isn't their main purpose there, and they just wanna get a quick shot of things they saw, then they hop back on the bus. Well I was leading a photo tour, and when I'm on a photo tour we wanna give everybody a good chance at getting a photograph, so we'll stop for 20 or 30 minutes to let people kind of explore the area. And so, I took this shot, 'cause I didn't know, maybe this was gonna be the best shot I was gonna get. But then I explored the area a little bit, and I found that it was a much more effective shot getting down more onto the dirt over here, and so now I had blue completely behind the goats, and you can really see they're above the blue sky there, so you can tell that they're up in the air. The other thing I like is that you can really see the angle of the tree and that nice sharp angle just adds a little bit to the photograph, makes it a bit more dynamic. And we compare that with the original photograph, taken from where I got off the bus, and you can see there's a more interesting place to shoot that photograph. So there's a lot of different reasons why you might be motivated to move from your original idea of, okay, this is a good thing to shoot. And I know what happens is that sometimes you're just walking along, and then you suddenly see something that perks your interest. Now the fact that you saw it there meant something. That's the point of recognition. And it may be the best place to be to shoot that photograph. Don't know. You won't know until you explore. And I think I have a really good imagination, but it's not so good I can tell what something's gonna look like from the other side over here. And so I often have to really physically walk around and just, what looks like, and sometimes things come about that I never would've known, and sometimes it's kind of a fruitless, well, it still looks bad over here, and no, this was the spot. I just walked into the perfect spot. But it's pretty rare that that actually happens. So one of the things that will influence where you shoot the photograph, is where the light is coming from and where it's striking your subject. And so in this case there's a big barn, and there's a big opening to the door, so I don't wanna be standing in the opening and blocking the door, but I'm gonna move off to the side and let light come in to illuminate that subject. Walking around the streets of Havana, there was a small store and they have a scale positioned on the window sill. But I'm outside, looking in, and so all that light is kinda just streaming over my shoulder, which is a really great place for having that light come in, 'cause it is just illuminated with this nice open window light there. Up in Montana, at Glacier National Park. This is a scene that you're gonna get in the morning, and you won't get in the evening, because this is a West facing scene, and you want this mountain illuminated by the rising sun in the East. And so this is something that I wouldn't bother going on at sunset unless I was trying for a different type of shot, it could very well be a fantastic shot at sunset, but it's just a different type of shot. If you want that sun on the mountain, you're only gonna get that influenced by where the sun's coming up and which direction you're at. I was on a cruise boat, and so I would get up in the morning just not knowing if there was gonna be anything to shoot, and there was nothing but water and sun and light to shoot. But the direction of sun is gonna influence me as to which direction I'm pointing the camera. Back in Havana. There's this dance school that has an open air floor, and the lighting is quite nice in certain portions of the floor. And so when a dancer is resting off onto the side of the floor, there's this nice side light coming in that's very even, and so that's a great place, and so I'm choosing which subjects I'm gonna shoot by where they are positioned in the light. Sometimes it's a focusing desire that you have that's gonna influence where you're gonna position yourself. Once again, back in Cuba, there was a parade, and there was all these schoolchildren lined up. And I immediately thought, there's basically two ways I can shoot this. I can shoot it straight on, so that everyone's in focus, or I can get right over next to them and shoot down the line of them, to try to get just one or two of them in focus. And so I went down a long the line of them so that I could create a large pattern with a bunch of them out of focus, but at least one of them in focus. And so I was trying to get that shallow depth of field so that forced me into a new perspective to shoot that photo. When you're shooting something that is flat, you have to be perpendicular to it. And so the leaf on the left, it's not that I misfocused, it's not that there was an error in the camera, it's that I wasn't lined up properly above it. And so if I'm photographing something on this table right here, I wanna have my camera looking straight down, I don't wanna be off to the side here where part of the table is closer and something is further away. And so you may have to adjust yourself if you're pointing straight down, is just make sure that you're lined up, perpendicular to that subject. Because that film plane is very flat out in front of you. And so there was no change in aperture between these photos here, there was no change in focusing, I just lined myself up a little bit more properly. One of the things we talked about in the depth of field sections of this class was, you're gonna get shallower depth of field the closer you get up to your subject. And so I'm getting up fairly close to my subject, partly to fill the frame, but I also know that if I get up closer what's left in the background is gonna be blurred to oblivion. And so it doesn't matter in this photograph. And so getting little bit closer to my subject. Another example of getting perpendicular to my subject. If I'm gonna shoot something straight on, I'm gonna try to shoot it as straight on as I can get, I'm not gonna be just a little bit angled off. 'Cause either you do something right on or you do something notably different, otherwise it looks like you didn't really think and take much care in what you were actually doing. You know, it's become a very common practice all over the world, putting their love locks on bridges and everything else, and I don't know, maybe he broke up with his girlfriend and he's taking it off here. He's part of the cleaning crew and they gotta clean this off, but I wanted to show what he was doing, and I wanted to blur the background out. And so I got in line so that the background behind him was a long ways away so that I could focus on him and the background would become very very blurry then. When I'm looking for subjects, one of the most important things is thinking about a clean background. If you remember my opening statement, my headmaster statement to the class, I said that anyone can recognize the remarkable. It's finding kind of the ordinary, and this falls into that category. You know, most people will see something interesting and they'll pull out their camera, their phone, and they'll take a photo. But it's the photographer who goes, that's interesting, but that's an ugly background. Let's go over here and get a better angle of this. And so thinking about backgrounds, even before you find subjects sometimes, and so, you see a beautiful blue wall, yeah, that could make for a nice background. Or when you have somebody who just happens to have a really clean background, that's a nice opportunity for you. One of my favorite photos from Havana, and this is pointing the camera nearly straight up, just using the blue of the sky as a background. Using a blurred background, there's a place that I love to take people panning in Cuba, because there's these beautiful colored buildings back there and you add a little bit of blur, and it just makes for a really really nice background. Bird down in the Falkland Islands. And I could've shot this from many many different angles, and it was partly the light but also partly the background that made for I think a better shot in this case. Just doing some street photography. Often times, I'm going from point to point where I'm thinking like, okay, that's a nice background, I'm walking someplace, I'm not just waiting there, and as I'm walking around, I'm kinda waiting for something to happen in that area, and then once that one passes, I'm gonna find, okay, here's another place that might be a nice place to shoot a car driving down the street, or a person walking. And then just kind of each grabbing, okay, this'll be a good one, and then that would be a good one, and then that would be a good one. Just always be thinking one step ahead, so that if something does happen, you can use that as your background. Now, one picture that I will occasionally, I will admit to this, I feel very proud about something I did, every once in a while. And I was shooting these taxi cabs in Havana, and the problem was that there was this park across the street, and it was just, it was in focus because I was using a fair bit of depth of field 'cause I wanted the taxi sign to be in focus and I wanted the whole car to be in focus. But I didn't really want the park in the background to be in focus. But when you set F16, F22, everything's in focus. And there just wasn't a way to compose the photograph without that part being in the background. And as I sat there, and I was taking some photos and just wasn't working out exactly as I had hoped, there was a gigantic blue bus that went by. And I thought, oh, boy, what if I used a slow shutter speed and blurred the blue bus right as it went by, it would totally clean up the background. And it's like, that is a perfect solution for cleaning up the background, it's just a temporary moment in time and so it was really the best moment to just clean up the background in that case. So that one I feel proud about. General philosophy is that lights are gonna be more attractive and kinda appear to be in front, and darker things will tend to be in the background. So one of the things that's really common, and we kind of expect, and works well, is having a dark background. And so if you have a subject that you really want to stand out, look for a dark background. Because that light subject will be very very visible in front of a dark background. And so, you know, there's no doubt you're gonna see what that subject is when that background is very very dark. Now one of these secret locations that you can go to shoot these photos, is this really hard place to get, it's called doorways. 'Cause doorways that have outside on one and inside in the other side are gonna be darker on the inside most likely, and when you shoot from the outside, there's gonna be this just slightly darker light on the inside, and it is really nice where a person will really stand out in that case. And so different types of doorways, where you're looking kind of in as somebody's in front of that doorway is gonna provide you with a nice dark background. Alright, so the photo on the left, that was an interesting place because there was a lot of buildings around, and there was bright sun, and there were shadows. And what we did is we went over to one of the shadowed areas, and so I'm shooting into the shadows, and we kinda just backed up, or at least I backed up, until she had just a little bit of highlight in her hairs from the sun coming in, but everything behind her was in shadows, and she was also in shadows because she's basically back lit. And so what happens is that in front of her, and we did a little diagram in the lighting section, where there's all this light hitting cement, which is a really nice reflector, and that was bouncing back, and it wasn't overly bright, so it's not that uncomfortable for her, it's not like looking into bright sunlight. And so it's nice, even light on the front of her, which is good, and then I get nice kind of dark backgrounds so the subject really stands out. And on the right we have another doorway. Perfect situation where we can have just a little bit of texture and color on the inside. And so when you have those dark openings, looking into a house or someplace like that, that's a great place for photographing people. Black sky will work as a nice dark background in this case. Subjects will really stand out against that darker background. Now these are a little bit more casual snapshots. The one on the left is a a little bit more significant, and it was one of these things, okay, John, hop in the car, we gotta take you to your hotel, and it's like, well I just wanna get a quick shot of you, and I didn't have anything else to use, but I saw the dark windows of our Land Rover, and I'm like, let me just get you lined up in front of that so that we have a little dark bit of a window around you for getting your shot. Now we can also do the reverse, and we'll talk about this a lot in photography, where if you did one thing, well, the other can work as well. There's a lot of opposites that work really well. And it's interesting how the human eye uses dark backgrounds and light backgrounds and how colors work against these different backgrounds. And this is not going to be an official pop quiz, but this is a way, I am going to be testing all of you and I'm gonna be asking you to volunteer answers here. Now the thing is, is that a number of these colors are the same, and a number of them are different. So let's start at the top, with the purple. Raise your hand if you think that they are exactly the same color. Anybody raising your hand, anybody believe that they are exactly the same color? We have one hand going up? Okay, let me do a double check here. Who believes they are different? Okay, so we have most hands going up here. And they are indeed different. Now, let's try the yellow. Who believes the yellow is different, raise your hand. Okay, we have a few hands going up. And the yellow is different. Okay, now the cyan. Who thinks the cyan is different? A few, I think I'm having less people trust me here. So the cyan is different. Now, before we do the last one, let me just mention one thing, now some of you might be going, well he did it all one way and then he's gonna do it the other because it has to be one and he said a number of 'em are one and a number of 'em are the other, but let me do remind you that zero is a number, okay? (class laughing) So, who thinks the gray is exactly the same? One? Of our students, I'm not letting Kenna play, she might have seen this before. So we have one, we have two students now who are thinking that the gray is the same, and it is indeed the same. And the things that's happening is that the way that you view colors will be influenced by the surrounding tonality and colors that you see. And so colors are gonna look different depending on whether you have a black or a white background. Now, a white background. Well, black background works really well, 'cause your subjects stand out in front of it. But think of the way that most artists work, as far as painters. Do they start out with black paper or white paper? They start out with white paper. And so in some ways, you can kind of think of photographs as paintings, and if you start out with white as your background, what is your subject on that background? And it can be totally fine, I don't know that this photo would be any better with a black background, and so having a white, detail-less, cloudless, or you know, cloud-filled sky can be perfectly fine for many different types of photos. Having that white clean background is really nice, it's not cluttered, it's better than having clutter in there, that's for sure. And so there's a lot of options. Okay, granted, here in Seattle we have a bit of an advantage for shooting with white backgrounds, 'cause we have a lot of cloudy days. But it really helps your subject stand out because it becomes a silhouette in some ways, becomes a bit of a shape, and that's kind of where we're going with the next topic here, with silhouettes. So now you can just add a colored background, as long as you have a subject that has a distinctive shape to it. And so we talked a little bit about this in the lighting section, so good time to be doing this is out in the twilight time. And so, 30 minutes, 60 minutes before sunrise or after sunset is gonna be a great time to go out there, and it's perfectly fine that I don't show you any details in these trees. This adds a little bit of mystery to the photograph. And remember mystery can be a really good thing to have in a photograph. I'd gone on this long hike up at Mount Rainier to get a great sunset photo, and I got something okay, and I packed up the bags and I was walking back in the dark to my car, and you've gotta keep looking because you never know when you're gonna be struck with a nice view, and so having a little bit of that gradient color in the sky, something that's nice, along of course with a bit of that moon in there is always good. And so, looking for distinctive shapes with a nice colored background is gonna be a good recipe for many many photos. One of my favorite silhouettes comes down from Las Vegas. And the Bellagio hotel, I'm sure there's been a number of people who have been down there. And for about the first hour, I spent most of my time, you see this little post right here, this cement block right there? That's where I spent my first hour photographing. And I was just shooting the water, and the building in the background, and just wasn't getting what I thought I liked, and then I basically went back and I saw the lamp posts and the people standing there, and it was just like, wow, that's it right there. And so, gotta keep shooting and trying different things. And so sometimes getting back behind people, you know, I oftentimes don't want the people in my shot, they're cluttering the shot up, but sometimes, you know, there's a lot to be said, you can see a lot of different things going on in here even though you can't really see the people, but you can tell some things that are going on in there. One of the fun things to do with cameras is to get them in unique perspectives. Unique point of views. We're so used to seeing the view from the standing up view of the world that getting down lower, higher, moving the camera someplace that's a little unexpected is gonna be good, because when people are looking at photographs, they're looking for something new and something interesting, and something different, in the way that most people see the world. And so as photographers, you kind of are supposed to see the world a little bit differently, so just getting down a little bit lower, focusing a little bit closer. Once again, a little bit of mystery here, 'cause we're just showing a bit of the details. In this case, my driver was a little bit concerned about me because I was sitting out in the middle of the road and I was trying to get down as low as possible 'cause I wanted to show the undercarriage of the vehicle coming towards me, cause I'm right about the same height as the license plate there. Now, granted, this is a long lens and I was in no danger at all, but I was trying to get my camera down very low to the ground to get a slightly different perspective, because people who may not know photography don't know that it looks that different, but they know it looks different than an average shot, there's something that just feels a little bit different. And so getting down low is one of the easiest things that you can do, 'cause you can introduce a slightly different perspective to things. I was down at the World Trade Center, and right next to the museum I thought there was an interesting perspective 'cause you can look through the window at a photograph of the old World Trade Center while seeing a reflection of the new Trade Center. And so playing around with those sorts of perspectives is a fun thing to do in photography of course. And so anytime you can play around with reflections there's always gonna be some fun games that you can play in that case. One of my favorite shots from Cuba is of one of the street dogs there. And you'll see that around his neck he's got a photo ID, their dogs are supposed to have photo IDs, and I love it 'cause his face, he has exactly the same expression, if you'll notice. (class laughing) And then you know, just adding that one little element of a person walking by helps give it context for where it is. And so getting down low is something I encourage you to do. And that's why those flip out screens are really nice for those of you with poor knees, you can still get down low without too much trouble. And so, when you get down low, the angles that you see, for instance on this boardwalk right here, are gonna change depending on how low you get to the ground. And the more angled lines the better in some cases. We'll talk more about lines and angle in another section. But having those really strong angles coming in at 45 degrees can be a very strong element to have just to add to the photograph. Now, you can get down too low. Alright? There is the possibility of getting down too low, and so you need to kinda find that happy medium on where it works for you. Another great place to be to shoot photos is any place up high that you wouldn't normally be able to see. I know drones have become very popular, we're not gonna get into any sort of drone photography here, but just, if you have the opportunity to shoot off of a balcony, or out of a window, it's just a perspective that people don't get to see on a daily basis. And so, showing these different perspectives just gives us a different view on what's going on. And so anytime I have the opportunity to get to a higher place, I'm gonna want to shoot it. I was in Cuba, and we got invited in to watch these gentlemen play, or I mean, argue, yeah, they were playing dominoes. And I wanted to show a little bit more of what's going on, 'cause they had that yellow board there and I didn't have any place to get, but I was standing on top of a chair, using my camera's viewfinder, my LCD tilted back so that I could shoot down, trying to exclude as much of me as I could. So, shooting straight down is a great way to simplify subjects, oftentimes because you're just shooting against the ground, or whatever's there, so you don't have a distracting background in many cases. And this is some hides being tanned in Morocco, shooting from a second floor balcony. You can reverse that and shoot upwards. And so any place that you have really tall subjects, so down at the Redwoods. Finding a good place to shoot. For me, the key here was finding the two trees that were the closest together, because then they become really dominant in the frame, I don't wanna go to the big open environment because everything is really small, very far away, I wanna find the densest number of trees, I wanna find the biggest trees as close together as possible. Or in Hawaii, bamboo forest, looking straight up. Finding buildings that are really really close to each other. And getting right under the middle. Little bit of symmetry, which is another concept we'll talk about in an upcoming section. And so, having that flip viewfinder makes these a whole lot easier to shoot with than trying to point the camera straight up over your head. And so, in Turkey I was shooting a lot of the mosques like this, and then in Rome there's just some amazing ceilings in there, and the way that I shot ceilings I think was different than most people because most people would kind of, they'd walk in and they'd look up, and they'd just take a shot. And I realized, well, we're not perpendicular to the middle of the ceiling. And so when I was gonna take a picture up, I would walk around looking down. Because usually there's like intersections, and there's like a mark almost like an X marks the spot, like this is exactly the middle of the church, and so right here, yep, that's perfect, right there, and so that's the magic spot. And so if I'm gonna line something up, I'm gonna get right there in the middle of it. And it's super easy because there's usually a marble tiled floor and it's very easy to find that spot. And hardly anyone is ever standing there, 'cause they're just kinda like, oh, this is good enough right here. And that's not good enough for me, and it shouldn't be good enough for you.