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By Jim Heid | Thursday, September 26, 2013

In Search of Photo Opportunities

Ben Long on the road

Any time of year is a good time of year for a road trip, especially one without a specific destination. Pack some camera gear, get in the car, and keep your eyes open.

That’s what Ben Long did in this week’s installment of The Practicing Photographer, and he struck gold—or, more accurately, black and white. As he and a lynda.com crew drove down a two-lane road in rural Oklahoma, Ben noticed a small stand of fire-damaged trees whose trunks had dramatic patterns of black and white.

Time to pull over and remove the lens cap.

Tree photo from Ben's road trip

The strong contrast in this scene had Ben thinking in black and white from the beginning. Looking for good black-and-white subject matter is something Ben discusses in Foundations of Photography: Black and White. In that course, he also details various options for using Adobe Photoshop to convert color photos to black and white.

Ben illustrates another technique this week: lowering your camera angle to simplify a composition. By crouching down to shoot the burned trees against the background of the sky, he emphasizes the trees’ lines and strengthens his composition.

In much of the Northern Hemisphere, autumn colors are beginning to appear, and their brash hues against deep blue skies provide great fodder for color and even black-and-white photography. But you don’t need fall colors or even trees. You might find your photo opportunity at a gas station or a diner or a rest stop. Or a block away from your house. A camera-centric road trip, even if it’s just an afternoon, is a great way to exercise your photographic vision.

So hit the road and, as Ben says, “Keep your eyes open for strong lines, strong tonality, and strong colors.” And don’t be afraid to turn around (safely) and return to explore something that caught your eye. As Ben once told me, “One of the most important maneuvers a photographer needs to master is the U-turn.”

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