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In this course, Pulitzer-nominated photographer Natalie Fobes takes viewers into the studio and on location to explore the many elements that combine to make an effective photo.
The course explores compositional elements that guide a viewer's eye, including the rule of thirds; leading lines, patterns, and curves; and depth of field. Natalie then details the roles of color and light in a photo. She shows how to work with the natural light in a room or outdoor location, and how to enhance it using reflectors, newspapers, a T-shirt, or whatever might be handy. She also shows some simple indoor lighting setups that can replicate the look of natural light.
The course continues with a look at movement and how a photographer can convey a sense of motion by blurring part of the image or freezing a fast-moving subject. Next, Natalie explores the concepts of peak action and the decisive moment—those split seconds that capture the essence or emotion of a subject or scene. The course wraps up with a discussion of the roles of planning and research in creating effective photos.
The success or failure of your photo shoot is affected by the work you do before you leave the house. No matter if you're shooting landscapes, wildlife, or people, you've just got to know what you're getting into and prepare for all possibilities. For me, research is a joy. I love to learn about new places or animals or cultures, and I find out the answers to any questions I might have before I go shoot. For example, when are the fall colors at their peak? What will access be like at the time you want to photograph.
You certainly don't want to show up and find out you can't get there. What are the months when you're most likely to get the great light? I am from the Northwest. We have basically about three months in the summer when we have sunny days. If I want to photograph in the bright sun, then that's the best time to go-- that is the only time to go. If my intention is to create a moody shot of clouds or mist or storms, then I can go any time between November and March.
Scope out your locations before hand, walk the trails looking for the right scenes. If you can, return when you know the light will be better. Check out the official viewpoints from the road. They're always located in a beautiful spot. Before I go, I often talk to the people who live in the area. They're full of great ideas. Or talk to the experts who study the area, like biologists and park rangers. They are great sources of information too.
Do an Internet search to find out what other photographers have shot. Look for postcards and pamphlets of the area. Don't copy the photographs, but use them as a reference for possible locations. I spend all the time researching, because I want to know what's important to the people I photograph; this helps me tell their story. Are there any ceremonies or traditions? Where can I shoot? More importantly, where shouldn't I shoot? I learned this the hard way. During a religious ceremony I offended the local residents when I sat in a place reserved for their Gods.
Fortunately, they forgave my ignorance and allowed me to continue shooting. So before you leave, think about what can go wrong, think about what you want to communicate, and do your research. You'll be glad you did.
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