#instacamp prompt, week 2: the great outdoors!

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It's time for our second prompt for #instacamp, my friends!  You all did such an amazing job of interpreting sunshine last week, but I know that for some of you who live in areas where rain was front and centre, trying to capture the sunshine, real or represented, was a bit of a challenge.  So this week, we're going to have a prompt that I think will be a bit easier to shoot to.  This week, it's all about:

the great outdoors!

Summertime is clearly a season when we focus on outdoor life (except, perhaps, for those of us who live in Texas, where we tend to escape the heat from about mid-May, all the way through to early October.  The heat here is brutal, man).  Still, no matter how uncomfortable the weather might be, there's no denying the fact that these are the days when vegetation is greenest, daylight is longest, and, let's face it, outdoor play is most tempting.  And even though we may not actually have time off of work this week, I think our little virtual summer camp should require us to get out and take notice of the great outdoors, even if it means just stepping outside of our office buildings at lunchtime to snap a photo.

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So this week, let's get outside and capture some images showing how awesome the outdoors is.  Snap pictures of beautiful foliage.  Of your friends playing team sports.  Of your backyard barbeque.  Of the pretty town squares and main streets, and long languid beaches.  Of green forests and trails.  Show us all where you are and what your city, town, or summer getaway looks like.  And have a great time with it.

And again, before I send you off to shoot some outdoor awesome, a few tips and tricks:

1.  Pick a subject.  Here's the truth:  I find scenery shots extremely difficult to photograph.  Marcus is way better at it than I am:  we could stand next to each other in the same spot, and photograph the same scene, and invariably, his shots are much better than mine.  After becoming increasingly frustrated with the way my images were coming out, I realized that one of the things I was doing wrong was failing to pick a subject.  Because I'm so used to photographing faces and doing macro shots, types of photography where finding a focal point is necessary, I failed to realize that finding a focal point in a larger shot is necessary as well.  As soon as I decided what it was I was trying to focus on in my scenery shots, I was a lot happier with the results.

So, for example, in this shot that I wanted to take of wild sunflowers under a blue sky ...

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... I made sure that one flower was the focal point, and framed it as such.

Similarly, on this road trip scene ...

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... even though I knew I wanted to convey the sense of the open road, I decided the best way to communicate this was to make my focal point the bank of clouds ahead.  So I framed my shot accordingly.

Make sense?

2.  Consider framing.  Sometimes the items in your picture lend themselves to actually frame the shot you're trying to take.  For example, in the shot of the Houston skyscrapers three images above, I could've taken the photograph so that a single skyscraper was the only thing you would see; however, I thought it would be more interesting to have two skyscrapers actually go up the sides of the frame.  Similarly, in this photograph ... 

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... while I could've taken the image so that the rural lane went up the middle of the shot, I thought the old trees would make an interesting frame to the photograph.

3.  Consider negative space.  This is actually something that my friend Susannah taught me on one of my trips to England:  sometimes, instead of actually looking at the object you're trying to photograph, look at the negative space -- the spaces between and around the object, and the shapes they make.  Sort of like this:

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When framing this shot, I didn't just focus on the design of the silhouetted branches, but I also examined what the spaces between the branches looked like -- the pattern that the sky made as a result of the branches.  And I considered whether those shapes were appealing to me as well.

It's sort of a weird, abstract concept, but it's something to consider when deciding to take the shot.

4.  Consider odd angles.  Because taking photographs at unusual, unexpected angles always makes a shot just a little more interesting.

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And with that, let's get out there and shoot the great outdoors.  Have an amazing week, everyone.

SongWhat a wonderful world by Louis Armstrong