Personal Photo Backyard Challenge

I hope this might help some photographers on their own photo journey.

Once in a while, I like to challenge myself.  I believe this helps to keep my own ‘photographer’s eye’ ever growing and changing.  Since photography is my full time job, I need to keep it fun and spark my interests!

This evening I decided it was time for a personal backyard photo challenge!

My rules:
– Choose 1 lens.  Tonight’s choice was my 70-200.
–  No flash.
– I had to find & photograph something on my own property.
– I only allow myself a handful of shots.

Tonight’s goal:  Capture a good photo in camera, from my own backyard, with limited equipment & limited post-production photoshop.

When I was a new photographer back in the film days,  I could only use 24 or 36 exposure slide film or portrait film.    We were limited, and every shot would count!

Now-a-days, anyone can shoot thousands of pics with any smart digital camera.  This has led photographers to tons of editing time.

Where do we draw the line between ‘being a photographer’ or ‘being a graphic artist’?

Let’s look at oil painters.  
An oil painter must visualize what they’ll create on the canvas before the painting is started.   This concept should be a solid foundation for photographer’s too!  Your camera/lens is a paintbrush.  Your computer is another tool, another paintbrush, that can help tweek the final details.
Now its up to you, as an artist,  to decide how you want to create your art.

Do you need to depend on Photoshop?

Visualize  – set up the shot – get your exposure – then press the shutter.

I walked outside this evening, & the sun was already dipping low in the Texas Hill Country.  It didn’t take long for me to see & choose this single sunflower that was on the back side of my property.

Shot #1:
1/250   f5.6   + 2/3 stop     70mm     iso800    auto mode
This is a snapshot of the scene – a BEFORE.   I let the camera choose the exposure on this test shot, so I could adjust and shoot on manual for my next shots.  I often use manual exposure in my landscape photography.

Pros: The yellow/green color combo is pleasing to the eye.
Cons:  The sky is weak  & distracting, the pole is distracting,  weak contrast.  There is no impact, and basically, this is a boring shot… Its a snapshot.

My Rating:  Below average

Sure, I could use photoshop to fix everything, and turn a basic photo into something else completely, but that is not what I’m doing here.

Shot #2
In my next shot I wanted to eliminate  the sky, and I wanted to ‘see the light’ in the image.  I had a good idea of what my exposure should be, so I moved in closer for a tighter shot, in full manual.
1/400   f4    126mm     iso800    manual mode 

Pros: The yellow/green colors are pleasing, soft light, interesting backlight, off-centered composition.
Cons:  The lower left stem is too powerful & distracting.  The viewer’s eye may travel too much looking for the main focus.  Is the focus on the light hitting the stems or the flower’s center?   Does your eye travel up & down the image?
There is a little distracting splash of reddish brown color on the right.
The drop of water on the petal is weak from this angle, and its directly split between the green leaf and grey background behind it.

My Rating:  Average

I wanted to move in even tighter and focus more on just the petals, the heart and soul of my subject…

Shot #3:

1/250    f4     iso 800    200mm    manual mode

Shooting at 1/250 in manual mode, I have a good exposure with details in the blacks, yet I can still get a sharp image at 200mm, hand-held.

Pros:  good colors, tack sharp, good main subject, off-center composition, great patterns in petals & center.  It has a greater impact.
Cons:  the grey/blue backgound at top is a little distracting, it splits the image in two sections, like an horizon.

This image could be printed vertical or flipped into a horizontal print. Its versatile and it would make a nice print – perhaps its a gallery quality print.
But I’ve seen a thousand images like this one.  What is this image saying?
My Rating:   Above average

I limited myself to just 1 more photo.   Just one.   That can be tough for a modern day photographer.

What do I want my last & final shot to be? Hmmm.
I know what exposure settings I’ll use, but how am I going to arrange the composition in camera?

The sun is setting fast!

1/160    f4    iso 800     100mm     manual mode

Overall, I like it.   The colors are strong and lighting is pleasing to the eye.  The adorable little drop of water is barely hanging over the green leaf, as if the leaf is saying ‘I’ll catch you when you fall’.   The two top stems are creating a nice ‘V’, framing the subject & helping to lead the viewer to the flower itself.

For me, this simple image is telling a story.  A story of life.

I will remove the stem on the bottom left, but that’s just minor tweaking in Photoshop.   Most of the work has been done already in camera!
My Rating:  Above average – Good.

Tonight’s personal backyard challenge is done – in just 4 shots!

  Photographers are in charge of documenting life – and when you think about that, it can send chills down your spine!

This sweet little sunflower has a very short lifespan.  Within a few days it’ll be forever gone.   If I had’t gone outside this evening for  my personal photo challenge, this little delicate flower may have gone completely unnoticied in the back of my little Texas Ranch.

I’m thankful for the challenge – thankful that I captured this moment.

I hope tonight’s photo study might help some other photographers out there…


© Hill Country Images
Reproductions prohibited without first getting written permission from the artist.  All Rights Reserved.

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