Project 52: Week 3 - Ask Better Questions

Our second lesson from David DuChemin's book "The Visual Toolbox" is "Ask Better Questions". David writes that beginners are so full of questions...what lens did you use, what camera did you use, what were your settings? He says this isn't bad when you are trying to understand your craft. But he wants the reader to to see photography not as a technical art, but an aesthetic one accomplished through technical means. Using the images we choose as our favorites from lesson 1, our assignment is to ask better questions. 

I'll start with this image of Harley. Last summer I attended an event at a nearby town. As I was walking through town, I saw this church door and noted to myself this would be a perfect backdrop for a photo. When I was planning Harley's session, I asked her owner if she'd be willing to go here. What role does color play?  A big role. In fact, it's the main reason I wanted to photograph Harley at this church. What are the relationships between the elements, and can a shift in my position, or change in my lens, make those relationships stronger? I initially re-visited this location with my husband and asked him to pretend to be a dog. He did a great job, but I won't embarrass him and share those photos! Using a couple of different lenses and angles, I concluded that the look I was going for would require a wide angle lens shot up at the dog from a very low angle on the ground. In fact, when I took this photo, I shot blind because I couldn't get the camera low enough while laying on my back. The result is a very bold image that includes the entire door and shows off just how big Harley is. If I shot this with my telephoto lens from a distance, the image would have a different feel.

Moving on to my image of Milo. What would this scene look like with a wider or tighter lens? For starters, the entire fence wouldn't have been included. The lines of the fence draw the viewer's eye through the photo, to the back and ending up in front again with the subject, the dog. Without those lines, this would have been a completely different image. What is the light doing? I for one, love the light in this image. In fact, it's what drew me to come to this section of the park at this moment. Earlier, the light was strong and harsh. Later, the fence was in complete shadow. Do those lines lead the eye into the frame or out of the frame, and could I change them to better direct the eye? I already answered that, but you can see why I shot this as a horizontal image and not as a vertical. If I had, there wouldn't be any lines to direct the eye through the image.


I won't bore you by going through all of the images I choose for lesson 1 and ask these questions. I did do it for myself as I think this is a great exercise. I mentioned in my last blog post that working on my style is one of my goals for 2016. I've focused so much on the technical aspect of my craft last year, I want to work on the aesthetic side this year. 

I'll finish with a photo of Izzy I took earlier this week. What thought or feeling am I trying to express in this photograph? I struggled with what to photograph for this week's Project 52, keeping in mind one of the points is to take new photos within the week of the assignment. I asked myself why and my answer was because it's January, it's cold, bleak, colorless and basically just blah outside. Then I realized I could convey that at just the right time of day and make an ordinary photo into something extraordinary. Just by photographing her in a rather colorless field as the sun was setting. And what happened? I captured gold tones which works so well with her golden coat. Are my chosen settings (aperture, shutter speed, focal length), going to change the look of certain elements, and do so in a way that helps me tell my story? I initially started shooting with my 70 - 200 mm lens thus cropping tight on Izzy and excluding some of the background. It does work, but I can't get Izzy to sit still long enough when she is that far away from me. So I switched to my 24 - 70 mm lens and included more of the background. When I compared the 2 images, I preferred the wider shot as you can see the little bit of snow we got, you can see the wind blowing Izzy's fur and the backlighting from the setting sun behind the row of trees. Do you agree with me that I captured what January in Pennsylvania looks and feels like?

I hope you enjoyed the commentary and learning how my mind works as I create my art. To see how other photographers asked better questions, be sure to follow the blog ring. Start with DC pet photographer, Shelley Castle Photography. Don't forget to click on all of the links until you get back here!