Photography Tips

Poking through

Texture, lines, contrast are all elements of visual design that can be used to build your images around. You can use them separately or jointly. You may use them as such or to convey motion or emotion. Whatever you choose to do, do so with intent, but always allow some room for play and experimentation…

Palau del Artes, Palace of Arts

Calatrava's designs are always a feast for the eyes – Click for a larger view

Rules are meant to be broken

My apologies for my absence last week, but there are simply way too many things happening at the moment, which makes it a bit hard to get on with everything I want to do…I promise though, there are some big changes and some great stuff coming soon. Also, stay tuned at, where we will be posting some awesome projects we’ve been working on lately.

Anyway, on with today’s post. You know how there are some things you are just not supposed to do? Like center your subject or photograph in the harsh sun of midday? Well, while those are great guidelines, most of the time, they are not to be followed blindly. Sometimes, there are scenes and images that simply beg to be taken regardless of time and conditions.

The following series is part of the series I posted in the last few weeks (a few feet, a world apart, here and here). Again, these photos are taken only minutes and a few meters away from the previous two series, yet we have a completely different look. In addition, these images were taken pretty much around noon (to be fair, this is winter, so the light isn’t as harsh as in the summer, but definitely harsh by my standards) as the sun finally peaked behind the clouds.

Again, this is just a reminder that 1) you should always try and explore your scene to the fullest extent as there are countless opportunities waiting to be had, and 2) there are no hard and fast rules, when an image is there, it is there…don’t deprive yourself of opportunities simply because a book or somebody told you it wasn’t the right time to make an image…

trees and shadows in a snowy forest
trees and shadows in a snowy forest
trees and shadows in a snowy forest

trees and shadows in a snowy forest

A few feet apart, a world apart

Last week, I posted a few images from our favorite snow-covered forest. The image spoke of calm, peace and serenity (and of implied nudity, if you, like me, have a crooked mind). This week, I am posting an image made a few seconds after the ones posted last week, literally two or three feet away from where that last image was taken. Yet…

snow covered tree trunks in a forestA subtle change in light (with wind causing the fresh snow drifts to scatter across the scene) and a change in exposure (I intentionally underexposed here), we have a completely different take on what is essentially the same scene…

There are a few take home messages here:

1- Life is not as it seem: people have this thought engrained into them that photography somehow represents reality. Here, without any photoshop, we have two different feels to the same scene? Which one is real? Is either of them real? Is either of them not real?

2- Always be ready: a big part of photography is the ability to read and react to your environment. Being aware of your surroundings and the changes therein gives you the ability to create more striking and dramatic images.

3- Work your scene: I’ve said this often on this blog and will repeat it again. There are multiple images to be made in a given scene, don’t constrain yourself to one or two. Try something different: look in a different direction, change lenses, change exposure…

Come back next week for more images from the same place and again a whole other world. I promise. In the meantime, if you have some time to spare, go over to our doublespacephoto blog to enjoy some our latest interior design photography.

Dream or Reality – The reveal

Last week I posted the image below and asked you to deconstruct it and tell me how it was done. Among others, I asked you if it was composited or one frame, what you thought was done in terms of lighting choices, post-processing and so on. At the end of, the person who got the closest would get a 12×18″ of their choice.

Click on the image to see it larger

The answers pretty much covered the entire gamut with some really intricate responses and some more straightforward. So how did Amanda and I make this image?

Well believe it or not, this is a single frame. No trees or snow or model were added.

Let’s start: it was snowing very heavily that day, with big, fluffy snowflakes falling at an impressing rate. By choosing a slightly long focal length, we knew that was going to make the background look foggy. The key to this image is two fold. First, Amanda is standing under the shade of the tree, thus creating a strong contrast with the background which is much brighter. Second, the choice of lighting had a strong influence on the final look. Instead of going for the colourless and drab conditions that prevailed at the time, we thought we’d rather go with a cooler atmosphere and convey the cold feeling that reigned at the time. For this we chose a low WB temperature (4700K), to compensate for that and maintaining the warm tones of the came and Amanda’s skin tones, we gelled two flashes with full CTO gels, slapped them on an umbrella at camera left at a 45 degree angle to Amanda. And that was that.

In post-processing, we simply added a tiny bit of contrast, brought in some highlights then cloned out all of the footsteps to keep a clean look.

And tadaa!

Congratulations to Duffy Knox for coming the closest to the actual explanation. You had it down to a tee! I will be in touch shortly.

One scene, three photos

While driving from Merzouga (the sand dunes) to Marrakech during my last Morocco Photo tour, we happened upon some pretty light near Ouarzazate, prompting me to bring the minibus to a screeching halt. (This was pretty much at noon by the way, so you just never know). As soon as we got out, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. The colours in the landscape just begged for it. The layers of clay, limestone and whatever the heck else it was, combining with the great cloud looming over the mountain and the great light screamed compression. A simple, graphic image, closing in on the layers of colour was what it was going to be. The Sigma 70-200 f/2.8 OS was obviously called into action.

Now what remained to be seen was how to make the most of the scene. (Click on the images to see them at full size).

How about starting with a vertical comp?

Taking a vertical composition allowed me to include the entire gamut of apparent layers (6 if I count 2 in the cloud). The almost identical size of each layer creates a nice rhythm in the composition that keeps you going from one layer to the other. The layers being stacked vertically, the vertical composition forces your eye upwards, thus strengthening the message I am trying to convey. The colours aren’t too shabby either.

How about some horizontal action? (Justin, this is for you)

While the vertical composition works as I explained above, I felt that the orientation was a bit constraining and cramped. We “read” images much the same way we read text, from left to right (well, Westerners do, being arabophone, I am not sure that statement fully applies to me ;) ). By switching the camera on its side, I provide the viewer with a bit more space to “read” along each layer, giving a bit more space to explore it. I do sacrifice one layer (compared to the vertical), but I feel this version allows one to spend more time on the image, without sacrificing much.

Let's shake things a bit

At this point, I could have easily packed my gear and called it a day, but I felt there was a bit more to eke out of this place. If it is the layers of colours I was attracted to and wanted to portray, why not simplify my composition even more? To do that, I stopped my lens down to f/22 to slow the shutter speed sufficiently to allow for some lateral panning. In this way, I was able to mute all traces of texture and turn this image into an abstract.

In the end, I am not sure that either image is stronger or better than the others. They are simply three different ways to look at the same scene, yet convey different messages. The take-home message here is that the next time you decide to photograph a place, explore your options, don’t stop at the first image you come upon.

If you have managed to read this far you also get to find out that I have a new “Recent work” gallery up featuring fresh images from Morocco and Spain.