This is football season and I’ve been shooting a lot of high school football lately. But on Saturday when I was picking up my son, James, from the Naval Academy, we attended the Coppin v. Navy baseball game. I always enjoy trying to capture the action at a game and I had my camera, so why not?
The first game was very close–just a one run game. Navy held on to record the win.
I enjoy shooting at Bishop Stadium in Annapolis, MD. I can go to the top of the stands and get nice, clear backgrounds, like the one above. Backgrounds are critical to a good, quality photograph. A background can make or break a photo. Chain link fences, parked cars, trashcans, and empty stands are all troublesome backgrounds. Yuck!
Shooting a baseball game in the midst of football season was a a good change-up for me. Sorry for the pun, but it was fun! I hope you enjoy these photos from Saturday’s baseball game. More will probably be coming sometime soon. The second game wasn’t as close but it was still a lot of fun to see the athletes in action!
I photographed this decent bull in the last week of September on our Pennsylvania Elk Photography Experience. He is a decent bull, about average for the current elk herd in Pennsylvania. There is a lot of talk in the area that we just don’t see the bigger bulls like we used to see. I tend to agree with this sentiment, but now that we have a hunting season for the elk this makes perfect sense. Both hunters and photographers like to target the bigger bulls!
On this particular evening the sky was dropping down some precipitation, which was the norm for the last week of September this year. The produced the grey sky. I typically like these sky shots, with the bull on the horizon in front of the big sky. A nice blue sky or even an orange setting sun sky is preferred, but you can see how this shot separates the bull from the background and really helps to emphasize the detail of his rack.
The goal of separating an animal from its native background is always the goal of the wildlife photographer. Animals often blend into their backgrounds, which is part of what keeps them safe from predators. Large apertures are helpful in creating a shallow depth of field for the photographer, but there is nothing quite as effective as an animal placed right on the horizon to separate it from its environment. The next time you are out in the wild, try to position yourself below the subject and aim for the sky in the background. I think it works well and makes for some stunning wildlife photographs! What do you think?
I was long overdue for an update on my Baseball Portfolio, so today I spent some time sifting through new photographs, comparing them to old ones, and refining my Baseball Portfolio. The images in this blog entry are just a few of the photographs that made the cut.
I need to be very picky to keep getting better with the wonderful subject of sports photography. Some of my primary goals are clean, clear backgrounds; tack-sharp focus; catching the action (hopefully peak action); and telling the story of a great play with an image. These goals are important to me because they keep pushing me forward. I want to get better so I have to be demanding of myself.
Paying attention to the quantity, quality, and direction of light sometimes keep me on my toes as the sun moves during a game. Keeping a chain-link fence out the background is very difficult at some fields, too. Then there are other times when a base umpire or another player steps right between an exciting play and my camera! Tenacity and a never-give-up-attitude are all very helpful. Another important tip is to never get lazy or give up on a play. Stay behind the viewfinder until you are positive the action of that play is complete. Besides, some of the player’s emotions after a play can make for some real interesting subjects, too. But stick with it because you don’t want to miss any action!
The game of baseball provides hours of enjoyment for the players, coaches, and fans. But I strongly believe the great game of baseball also provides endless hours of enjoyment and even excitement for us sports photographers, too! Time sometimes seems to stand still during a baseball game, but if the photographer gets lured into this false sense of boredom, he or she is sure to miss some of the action! Keep alert and keep shooting!
You can see my new Baseball Portfolio with all the photos that made the cut here.
Photographers often hear the old adage, “move your feet” when the subject of getting closer to the subject emerges. This is not what I’m talking about today. When I say, “move your feet,” I’m talking about working the background of you image and moving left or right to get the best possible background for your photograph.
In this first time, you can see that the subject is clearly the base runner trying to get back to first base from a pick-off attempt by the pitcher. The baseball is in the image, which helps evoke the action of this shot. But there is a problem with the background — it’s distracting with the fans in the background. If I had taken just a few steps to the right, I could have eliminated this distracting background. Moving my feet would have helped to make this photograph better.
In this next image I was in a good position to eliminate the distracting background. It was actually worse — an electrical unit with a fence around it! But I was in a much better position and thereby eliminated the distracting background.
The next time you look through your viewfinder, stop for a moment. Look carefully at the background. Then move your feet to the left or to the right to get rid of any distracting backgrounds. Remember, move your feet!
Sometimes, many times in fact, the background of a photograph can make it or break it. Baseball season will soon be here and when I am photographing a ballgame, I try to eliminate as much of the background as possible. This helps draw attention to the main subject–the baseball player in this case. The same is often true in wildlife photographs. Animals blend into their habitat very well, which is partly what keeps them safe from predators.
A photographer can use a large f-stop to blur the background out of focus as one tool to eradicate a busy background. But one simple way is to position yourself so the background is not busy to begin with. This, of course, is not always possible but it is something I try my best to pay attention to when photographing a subject.
Then, every once in a while, I capture a background in a photograph that I really like! This is rare for me, but just today I was looking through some photos I captured on my recent trip to Chincoteague. I was scrolling through a number of photos I took in sequence. Many of them looked all alike, until I got to a few where the water was a neat blue color. I stopped scrolling and examined these photos more closely. What was it about this photo that made me stop? Yes, the background! The deeper blue water in the background of this photograph left an impression on me. It caused me to stop and pay much more attention.
Pay attention to the backgrounds in your photographs. They are an important part of the way a photograph is seen and interpreted. Backgrounds are important so they do demand our attention. Blur them out, eliminate them, and then sometimes, every once in a while, choose to highlight the background. You just might be surprised how it contributes to your subject!
The elk rut each fall is a time of anticipation and excitement!
This year was no exception. In fact, this year turned out to be one of the best fall ruts I ever photographed! There is just something special about the fall season — the cooler air, the rich aromas, and the colorful sights all contribute to this unique time of year. The goldenrod is in full bloom at this time of year and it provides a wonderful background for photographs of elk. I just love the bright yellow colors!
Backgrounds are critical in photography. A bad background can ruin an otherwise excellent photograph. A good background can enhance even a mediocre photo. Backgrounds are critical, so learn to pay attention to the background when making photographs.
This background is nothing fancy. In fact, that’s why it works. The white clouds in the background help to eliminate any distractions and help the subject of the bull elk stand out in this photo. I do wish the blue sky was brighter, but otherwise I think this photo works. What do you think?
Yesterday I shared the story of how my son, James, and I encounter a cow elk and were able to photograph it close up.
Today I am posting three more photos of this cow. Yesterday’s photos included much of the vegetation that the cow was actually eating. These photos today try to focus on the cow and highlight her without much distraction. Wildlife photography is difficult for many reasons: long, fast glass is needed and it’s expensive, animals are difficult to find and often don’t stay still very long, the best times for wildlife photography is at sunrise and sunset when light is low, and it is often hard to separate the subject from its camouflaged background. This last difficulty is my subject today.
How does the wildlife photographer separate the wild subject from its background? What tools in our camera can we use to assist in this endeavor?
Wide open f-stops are probably one of my most favorite tools to help accomplish this goal. Shooting wide open blurs the background and allows the viewer’s eye to focus completely on the subject. Large f-stops like f/2.8 are extremely helpful. Yes, they are expensive, but I find them irreplaceable in my wildlife photography. Another tool is the placement of the subject. We all know that backgrounds can literally ruin a photograph. So working with a clean background is very helpful. Setting the subject against a clear blue sky is golden! Or how about using the contrast of goldenrod or queen anne’s lace in a field to place your subject? Of course we do not literally place our subjects, but paying attention to the background can make a subject stand out loud and proud!
What tools do you use to separate your wildlife subjects from their habitat?
This past weekend I photographed a Christmas musical that my daughter had a role in as Holly Moss. I find stage light to be difficult and un-user friendly much of the time. The problem is that many different colored lights create all kinds of light casts on the actors and have a way of tinting skin and hair to amazingly unhuman qualities. It can get quite funky!
I choose to go without flash for two reasons: first, most of the time flash is not allowed in these situations, and second, I want to portray the lighting as we see it in the actual performance. These seem like pretty good reasons to me.
I have found that dark, black backgrounds are the best in these conditions. Other backgrounds not only can get busy looking, but they can reflect a lot of different colors that come from the stage lights. Black is predictable more so than any other background and it seems to swallow up some of the ambient light colors that reek havoc on skin tones.
The next time you are out on a photo shoot think more about the backgrounds and try a black one if possible. It works beautifully at times when nothing else seems to work at all.