Elements of Art in Photography

As we learn more about photography, we come to realize that there is a lot more going on then just point and shoot. At some point, we seek out images from professionals to see what we’re doing wrong. And to our shock, we got a lot to learn about line, color, texture, form, space, symmetry, repetition along with composition. Features that has been helping artist communicate their ideas to viewers for centuries. Those features are called the Elements of Art. When properly used, they can help your audience understand what it is you’re trying to show. They are scores of helpful information online as well as plenty of books on the subject. When I’m behind my camera, I’m always conscious of what it is I’m trying to show and what elements I can incorporate into my images. Of all the elements, here are seven that I frequently use.

  • Line – A perceived route guiding your viewers eyes through an image.
  • Color – Red, yellow, blue, green, purple along with every other color.
  • Form – The shape of an object or subject.
  • Symmetry & Asymmetry – Visually the same or different from side to side.
  • Scale – The size of an object in relation to another.
  • Composition – The creative placement of your subject in an image.
  • Quality of light – How intense the light illuminates your subject.

I want to share with you examples of how I’ve managed to incorporate the elements of art listed above into my photos. I like to use line to guide the viewer’s eyes to the intended subject. It could be literally or implied and gives me the opportunity to play with composition. Since most of the western world reads from the left to the right, I want the viewers eyes the travel in the same direction.

Taillight red, Windex blue, strawberry ice cream pink, sunflower yellow or army man green, all colors we know exactly what they look like. Color can change the mood or feeling of an image, it can be vibrant and full of life and can even stir up some emotions. Along with composition, you can emphasize your subjects to make a bold statement.

Living in a 3-D world, everything we see has some form to it. But to find and capture one that is visually appealing, that’s another story. I feel one must have a special attention to detail and a focused sense of aesthetics to properly capture a beautiful form. Like sensual curves of a posing woman or the sharply chiseled body side of a 2020 Corvette.

Symmetry is probably the most used element in photography and is easy to integrate into your photos. Like the use of line, symmetry can be implied. A reflection off water or some other reflective surface can be used to imply symmetry. I find asymmetrical images more appealing than symmetrical ones. And are usually composed more complex and I feel makes for a stronger image. Just composing your subjects asymmetrically, can be just enough imbalance to attract your viewers eyes.

Giving your viewers a sense of scale can clearly capture how small or large things are. It’s a dramatic effect that help establish a presence of an object or person. Like the towering height of an NBA player to an admiring fan or the unimaginable width of a sequoia to a nature lover. And the greater the contrast, the better.

I’ve always felt that having a strong and interesting composition is important in my photography. And I tend to shy away from composing my subjects dead center and lend toward the more appealing Rule of Thirds. Along with if I can see the horizon within the frame, I try not to place it in the center. There’s no one right way to compose a photo. It’s up to you, the photographer, to visualize how to creatively arrange details in your images.

Since we’re talking about photography, I feel it is valuable to add quality of light to this discussion. Just like all the elements of art, it can change the look, the mood as well as the overall presents of your photos. It can be soft and gentle or strong and contrasting. There’s an infinite number of ways to show off light, you just must go out and discover it. Since my love affair with photography began, I still chase the light to this day.

The Elements of Art are not limited to the ones I mentioned here. Nor are they limited to how I use them. Experiment with them for yourself and find ones you like. Use them frequently and nurture your creative eye.

 

Until next time,

Steven

Aesthetics

This is the last part in a series I call “Exploring My Creativity”. An examination of my creativity. Being an inspired individual, this is something I feel I must do to expand my thought process. As long as I can remember, I have been doing creative things. And it seems to grow more complex the older I get. At the start of 2018, I told myself I wanted to embrace the idea of “Concentration and not Validation”. To focus on what drives me to be creative and not seek out the instant gratification of social media. The last part in this series, I want to talk about is my sense of Aesthetics. If you haven’t, be sure to check out parts one and two, Passion along with Inspiration.

What is aesthetics? According to Wikipedia, it’s a branch of philosophy that deals with the nature of art, beauty and taste and with the creation or appreciation of beauty. Here’s my simple definition, why things look good, how to create something appealing as well as how to present it. I know it is far more complicated than that. I have always been a bit of a philocalist, a lover of beauty. From images & artwork, music & movies, the human body, and even moments in time. This will not be a post about me explaining my sense of aesthetics. What I do want to share with you all is how my sense of aesthetics effects my everyday life, how it effects the things I create along with how it effects the way I see the world. Be warned, this will be subjective.

My sense of aesthetics is responsible for me having an extremely critical eye. It doesn’t matter what I’m looking at, if it’s an image, a scale model, a surface detail on a vehicle or how light shines on someone’s hair. How is it composed? Are the proportions balanced? Should I Shoot in Landscape or portrait? And that’s just for photography. My eyes and brain are constantly evaluating the aesthetics of things. I’ve learned to put my critical eye to good use. And a good example of this is at work.

I’ve been an automotive clay sculptor for various major companies for the past 20 years. The easiest way to describe my job is, a designer draws an idea, I sculpt that idea out of clay and change it until management is happy with it. First in scale, then full-size making hundreds of changes along the way. As I model, I’m constantly asking myself questions. First, does the model look like the designer’s sketch? Then, if not, what do I have to change to make it look like it? Then I’ll make the necessary changes and ask the same questions again. All the while, being very critical and brutally honest about every surface I create.

Just like my passion, my attention to detail has infiltrated and spread into every part of my life. Over the years, it has become a finely tuned way of seeing the world around me. From how I see images with my photography to sculpting new automotive products at work. It is something I have learn to embrace and use to better my work. Because of it, I know I see things differently than most. I see all the details before I see the whole thing. And if the details are done poorly, I lose interest, move on and don’t see the complete object or picture.

That sharp attention to detail is also a habit that has found its way into my model making. As I build a kit, I treat each part like little models. Putting as much detail into it as possible. I also spend a considerable amount of time addressing how the kit comes together. Hiding the seams and joints to make it appear to be seamless. Even come time to paint, I’ll sometimes spend 30 to 40 minutes masking something off that only takes 2 or 3 minutes to airbrush. All the extra care and attention I put into the build, will make for a more visually appealing model. That ceaseless questioning the aesthetic’s of things along with my attention to details has made me a masterful sculptor and model maker.

Holy Tape Batman

As a photographer, knowing what makes a good image along with being able to see the image before you shoot it heavily influences my sense of aesthetics. When I’m behind my camera, if I’m at an aviation event or on one of my adventures, I’m not looking for subjects to shoot. Instead, I’m searching for some interesting light. “Shoot the light not the subjects” is a fundamental principal of my process to capture images. I feel the light in an image can make or break it. It can set the mood, make it pop, add dimension, and even direct one’s eye.

Fear the BONE

One of my photographic practices I enjoy doing, is to walk through the belle isle conservatory with my camera in hand, but not shooting anything. As I walk from room to room, I’m looking at the light. What is it doing? What direction is it coming from? Is it a reflection? Once I’ve made a complete lap of the conservatory, I then go through again shooting the subjects in the light that stood out to me. I try to keep track of the time of day, weather and sometimes even the season. Maybe the image is an afternoon shot, maybe it would be better on a sunny day or even wait until springtime when everything is in bloom? And yes, I have waited for months to capture a certain image. I have found that I produce better images if I do this walk around first then if I had not. And I did something similar during my trip to Antelope Canyon, by booking two differently timed tours.

We all have a medium of storytelling that we love, mine is cinematic. Some prefer to read; I enjoy watching storytelling. My sense of aesthetics has altered the way I view movies and shows. Some say I’m overly critical when it comes to things I watch. My suspension of disbelief does not tolerate garbage. A poorly conceived story, weak characters, predictable plots, shitty visual and special effects along with crappy cinematography and editing. All contributing to poor storytelling. Which is becoming a dying art form that is increasing due to absurd number of reboots along with the poorly rehashing of established materials.

Even though they are only a few minutes long, there are videos on YouTube that I enjoy far more than those multi-million-dollar Hollywood productions. For example, “Nerdwriter’s” brilliant video essays, to the entertaining maker “This Old Tony”, along with “Sean Tucker’s” personal life-long journey into photography. Regardless of content, they all are clearly passionate about their work. And it’s that noticeable hint of passion I can identify with.

This personal journey of exploring my creativity has been a healthy personal struggle. And through struggles, we grow. It started with a question and took me along an unexpected path that taught me something about myself. And what have I learned? That my creativity is divided into three unique elements. Passion is my fire; Inspiration is my fuel and Aesthetics is my vision. That all three needs to be nurtured and managed with care. My creativity is only one of my numerous fragments that makes me who I am.

Thanks for coming along,

Steven

On a side note, my distaste for social media has slowly eroded with my return to Instagram along with the start of a Flickr account. I’m using Instagram as a creative writing exercise. Sharing a brief story with each image. And Flickr is going to be the place where I show my images. Due to the rapid spread of the COVID-19 virus, my March and April adventures had been put on hold until we get through this. Stay safe everybody.

EAA AIRVENTURE OSHKOSH

Show 4, Post 2, Part 3: Saturday and Sunday

Day 4 at EAA Oshkosh

Saturday morning in the kitchen, Vincent and Chuck were eating breakfast and talking about Vincent’s P-51 Mustang Ride he got the day before. After a while the rest of the house had awoken and made their way into the kitchen. We all figured out what we were going to do for the daily events. It being Saturday, means there is a night show after the daily show. Vincent and Peter were planning on staying for the night show, so they drove over together. Bonnie, Scott and I were planning to meet up with Craig, Gary and Gary in warbird alley. There we were to try to find some re-enactors to pose for the group around warbirds. Larry was going drop Scott and I off in warbird alley and we were going to meet back with him later.

Down in warbird alley, we found Ryan and Steven, two great guys willing to pose for us. After Ryan was all suited up, we made our way over to Eric Hollingsworth’s P-40 Warhawk. It quickly became clear that this was not the first time Ryan, Steven and Gary Daniel has done a photo shoot like this. Ryan and Steven both were great, patient, took suggestions as well as suggested ideas. Gary Daniels too was just as great, he did a wonderful job with Ryan and Steven fine tuning their positions as well as asking the group how we felt. Everybody was very respectful of each other and our surrounding, we played very well with each other. After we felt we had enough of the P-40, we moved on to Jack Larson’s P-51 Sierra Sue II. There we continue the same routine of position, shoot, experiment, reshoot, all the while being mindful of others and we were starting to draw a crowd! For me, that shoot was the most memorable experience during my 2017 trip to Oshkosh.

After that charged shooting session, Gary Daniel, Scott Slingsby and I, slowed down and get a bite to eat. From there Scott and I made our way over the vintage area to see one of the award-winning aircraft.

We met up with Larry at the media center, where he got Scott and I a better shooting location in the VIP area. Which was far less crowded than the rest of the show line.

Saturday’s airshow was a special for aviation enthusiasts. We got to see all the iconic WWII bombers we all love. Flying in formations that has not been seen in well over 60 years, with Fifi and Doc, the last two flying B-29s. This was Doc’s first time at Airventure after a meticulous 16-year restoration. Which was followed by a parade of bombers with 2 B-29 Superfortresses, 4 B-25 Mitchells and a B-17s.

Then the USAF brought all 3 of its heavy hitters together in a rare formation. Leading the pack was the sleek B-2. On one side was the aging B-52 soldiering on with over 50 years of service. And on the other, was the B-1. Also known as the Bone (B-one), looks like it feared the B-2 by how far out of the formation he was. But oh well….

Each of the bombers performed various passes. It was refreshing to see the B-2 do a photo pass. Here’s a little fact about the B-52 that performed at AirVenture, B-52 number 61-0007 was brought back into service after sitting in the Bone yard for 7 years.

2017 marks the first time the USN Blue Angels flight demonstrate team perform at AirVenture. I have seen the Blues many time and there are always entertaining as well as very photogenic in the afternoon light at Oshkosh.

The finale of the show was again the USAF Heritage flight. The F-35 lead two P-51 Mustangs on its wings and an A-10 Thunderbolt II in the slot position.

OSH17_pt3_7431

Making our way to the media center, I realized just how many people were here. During the week, the crowd was not so big, which is understandable. But come the weekend, everywhere you looked there was a sea of bodies. With the number of people there and how traffic was going to be after the night show along with there were no jets flying in the night show, we decided to head back to the house.

Back at the house, it was time to dump cards, find something to eat and prepare for the morning like we did all week long. But Saturday night was a little different, it was the end of the weekly grind. Most of the members in the house was leaving tomorrow and heading home. Scott packed up, said his goodbyes to everybody and was off to Milwaukee to catch his flight home in the morning. I think everybody went to bed early, but Peter and Vincent stayed for the night show and returned late.

Sunday, Last day at Oshkosh

Time to put the House the way we got it. Making beds, cleaning dishes as well as packing up our clothes and gear. We all said our goodbyes and exchanged information. With everybody’s car packed and the house locked up, we took a quick group selfie and we all parted ways. On the drive home, I reflected on my experiences from the past week and begin to process the whole trip. My takeaway from EAA AirVenture is that it’s a photo grind. I mean that in a good way. The repetition of each day but still looking to do things differently from the day before. Trying to contain the feeling of being overwhelmed by enormous amount of aviation stuff and yet stay focused on my task. AirVenture is something I know my photography cannot do if justice. It is something every aviation and photography nerd must experience at least once.

Feel free to share in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog.

Until next time,

Steven

Photography and Me

In 2004, my love affair with photography began and since then it has become something that I cherish. For the longest time I really didn’t think about what it meant to me. But at the start of the year, I started to challenge myself and question the things I love doing to have a better understanding of my creativity. After putting together my “Passion” piece, I started looking into why I love Photography so much. I think, it’s being able to tell a story with my images is a big factor. All last year, I pushed myself to try to capture images that said something or told a part of a larger story. From Planes of Fame out in California to Wings over Houston down in Texas. If it was the frustration of Goshen, the marathon shooting of Oshkosh or the joy of shooting at Waukegan. I wanted my images to show and say whatever it was I was trying to express.

Photography to me is sharing how I see the world and a way for me to visually show a story or a part of my life. A photographer I greatly admire, Sean Tucker. In his channel trailer, he speaks about having vision. And it is that vision he talks about that I want to focus on and develop my own vision. To Experiment, Fail, Learn, Repeat. Photography without vision, in my mind is an oxymoron and I do not want my photography to fall into that category.

At the beginning of this year while surfing the web, I came across a bunch of “My Best images from 2017” posted on various forums. There was one in particular that caught my eye. Its >>>HERE<<<. There is a lot of things I really like about this set of images. Composition, light, color but mainly the variety of subjects. And looking back on my favorite images of 2017, Its all aviation. Yes, there is a variety of aircraft types, but it is still all aviation. Yeah, I went to Belle Isle a few times, but all my photo trips were aviation related. And that lack of subject diversity bothers me now. It’s not like I can’t go and see other things, it’s that I made no effort to. I want to change that in 2018.

I been toying with the idea of doing some landscape photography this year. Thinking about visiting the Pacific northwest. There is Redwood National Park and Crater Lake that I have always wanted to see. I feel a switch up like this will get me out of my comfort zone for quite some time. It will require me to learning a different set of photographic disciplines. It doesn’t mean I’m going to stop shooting aircraft, it’s just I’m going to mix it up a bit. I just want to see and do something different.

Gear wise, I soon will be getting Canons 5DSR along with a 50mm F/1.2L. Ever since I started with my photography endeavors, I love showing clarity of my subjects. It comes from my love of Ansel Adams and his work. I rented the 5DSR many times last year and love the result of shooting full frame and the very large image size shows the smallest of detail. But these are just tools and will not better my photography, only by continuing to develop and focus my vision as Sean calls it will my photography grow.

There is a photographer with amazing and skillful eye for photography, Joshi Daniel. He has a bunch of brilliant and powerful images that I find always inspire me. Joshi has a wonderful project on his site, it is his 28mm Portraits Project. I want to challenge myself along the same lines but with a 50mm and not shooting portraits. I don’t know what my subject matter will be but I’m sure I’ll find something to shoot. I like to idea of using a limited focal length on a particular subject, along with doing something that gets you out of your comfort zone. It will be a good long term project to help nurture my eye.

Here’s a set of images from my archive that I shot from over the years. With a variety of different subjects that come the beginning of 2019 I would like to have in my “Best of 2018” post.

How do you feel about “Your Photography”? Do you feel that you have an “Eye “for images? Feel free to share in the comments below as well as if you like my content, click the “Like” button or even start to follow my blog.

 

Until next post,

Steven

 

 

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