Tag Archives: Backyard Photography

The Beauty of the Abstract | Hidden Landscapes for Nature Photography

One of the many ways that nature photography serves as such wonderful creative outlet is the fact that photographic opportunities abound with each new outing into the woods and out to the field. More important than knowing where and when to look is learning how to see as an artist. Discovering the beauty of hidden abstracts, in both macro close-ups as well as isolated scenes, is an activity that I find myself constantly doing, whether I have my camera with me or not. I see visually attractive abstracts everywhere I look. Even when I’m out jogging or riding my bike. An interesting pattern of textures and shapes seems to always catch my eye. It could be a series of leaves against a chain link fence or how the rough bark of a palmetto tree is arranged in geometrical shapes.

Oftentimes these scenes catch my eye due to how they are presented in the unique light of that particular moment. Sometimes I’ll stop and move around the scene, playing with a unique angle of approach or two and see how the scene changes to something that has more photographic potential. I almost instinctively go through the photographer’s decision making process. Which lens would best isolate the scene ? How shallow of a depth of field would be necessary to emphasize the section of the scene that first caught my eye ? How could I “throw” just a big more light so as to provide some more contrast and depth ? What’s going on in the background ? Is there a better time of day when the light will be more appealing for this subject ? The mental process of selection and elimination becomes the trained muscle in the artistic mind of the experienced photographer. If it’s not used it’s lost.

What are some of the visual elements that make for a visually attractive abstract ? For me there should be interesting interplay of shape and form but nothing too complex. A contrast in textures also catches the eye – hard edges (which should serve as a point of focus) against a soft background. And then there’s color where once again contrast plays a key role. Opposites compliment, such as red and green, and help natural patterns to become more obvious.

What’s appealing about photographing natural abstracts is that oftentimes some very interesting images can be discovered and captured just by going on a short walk through backyard or garden. My suggestion is to take your time and try looking at your potential subject from alternate angle and in different light. Do a walk-through without your camera, mentally noting a potential subject here and there. Sometimes photographers try to “force” an image that ultimately doesn’t work simply because they have their cameras in hand. They put so much pressure on themselves to “get something” that they move themselves completely out of their own creative zone that’s necessary for subject to arrive.

An expensive set-up of DSLR camera, macro lens and detachable lights is not required. I’ve seen some amazing photographs of natural abstracts captured with nothing more than inexpensive digital point-n-shoot cameras. However the one requirement I do recommend is a camera where you can manually set your exposure. Managing depth of field and distance relationship between subject and background is essential. Oh, and one other requirement – just have fun. Play, experiment, move around, revisit. Soon enough you’ll be amazed and excited with all the possibilities for abstract nature photography that are just right outside your door.

Catch the Morning Light

Summer means sunrises directly off of my back porch. This is one of the reasons why I grow so many flowers (all from seed), starting in late April and lasting all the way through October. This is nature photography at it’s easiest. No need to get in the car for a long trip. No need to pack gear and put on hiking boots. So much natural beauty just outside my door. The trick is to know the light and how to make it work with the smallest of natural details.

A Tale of Two Mornings

From the back deck of my home I have a wonderful vantage point of the eastern horizon, perfect for capturing sunrises during the summer. Still my all-time, personal favorite location for dawn and sunrise photography is the hilltop behind the Inn at Cedar Falls in Hocking Hills. My back deck in Centerville is a good subsitute when I’m not there at the Inn in what I and others like to refer to as a “sacred place.”

Sunrise for landscape photography is a pure pleasure that I relish in. The peaceful beauty can not be matched. It’s God’s way of saying to us “here, another blessing of a new day, to start again, to renew.”

The following two images were captured in the cool stillness of dawn on the early morning of Monday, August 3d, 2009. I was well up before the light began in the eastern sky. I was greeted with the sight of Sirius (the brightest star in the sky) following my old friend of winter – Orion. The first harbinger of the cooler, golden days of autumn has arrived.

Photographer Jim Crotty captures the pre-dawn sky
Photographer Jim Crotty captures the pre-dawn sky
Sunflower Photograph by Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty
Sunflower Photograph by Dayton Photographer Jim Crotty

And then again what a difference a day makes. Pre-dawn this morning, August 4, 2009 and I’m awakened by the most spectacular show of lightening and sound of thunder seen yet this year. From the covered safety of my kitchen window I set-up my Canon 1D Mark III with a Canon 28-70mm f.2.8 lens on the tripod and fired 30-second exposure after 30-second exposure, hoping to capture just the right lightening strike. The following image came closest to what I had in mind –

Lightening Photograph by Dayton Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty on August 4 2009
Lightening Photograph by Dayton Ohio Photographer Jim Crotty on August 4 2009

Here again I’m reinforced with the belief that the artist captures best that which is closest to home, and oftentimes the most striking of nature and landscape photographs result from the subtle and oftentimes overlooked beauty that lies just out the front or back doors. This coming Saturday, August 8th, I will be presenting more images and talking about how the best photographs can be obtained just outside in one’s backyard at Dayton’s Wegerzyn Gardens. This is a one and half hour program on the basics of nature photography, being offered free to the public through Five Rivers MetroParks. It’s also a follow-up to the same program I presented to about 40 people at Wegerzyn on July 11th. The problem is that since then an article ran in the Dayton Daily News (with the headline error of “Local Artist to Present Free Workshops” – Five Rivers does; Jim Crotty does not), along with the fact that my number was given to register versus that of the Park office, my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’m estimating the turn-out to be twice that of July 11th. There’s only going to be so much I can cover in such a short amount of time to such a large group, but I will do my best.

My own, full-day workshop on nature and landscape photography is set for September 26 at Cox Arboretum. The fee is $89 per person and the group is limited to 20 people. That particular program filled within two weeks of announcing the details and I now have a waiting list 10 people deep. The good news is that I will be working on the details on another, similar full-day program at Cox, possibly on nature  and landscape photography in the winter. I’m thinking about a Saturday in January or February, 2010. The best way for people to receive an early notice and get signed-up is by registering for my e-mail newsletter.