Breaking a few photographic rules…

6 10 2012

I was inspired by National Geographic photographer Jim Richardson’s essay titled, “Let There Be Light,” where he discusses breaking photographic rules, in this case the one about overexposing highlights in a photograph. In breaking the “read the histogram to correct the blown-out highlights” rule, he captures an image that is ethereal and far more evocative than he would have created had he just followed the rules.

My photo of a gull ready to take flight breaks some other rules that I traditionally follow when photographing. I photographed this bird for several minutes before I got this shot and I considered it a throwaway when I viewed it on my screen. Later, I reconsidered saving it. The image has at least two things that immediately put it into the “not up to par” category: 1) you can’t see much of the bird’s head (just a tiny portion of the top of his head)—so much for focusing on the eyes to make them tack sharp, which is a top rule in bird photography, and 2) the motion isn’t stopped with a higher shutter speed, so the wings are extremely blurry. In the “plus category,” what’s good about this image is the composition (nice, off-center positioning gives it a dynamic that I must admit was not planned at the time), and the anticipation and tension of lift-off with the wings blurred in mid-air next to the tack sharp wood grain in the dock pylon. The gull is grounded yet I’ve serendipitously captured a split second before it will no longer be. It’s graphic with lots of negative space and there is ample contrast.

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