Photo Challenge Entries

In Search of Photo Subjects

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This week in Cee’s Compose Yourself Photo Challenge, the assignment was to show a few examples of photos that have a strong, easily identifiable photo subject. I have plenty of photos that would technically fit this theme, like the pumpkin above and the photo of Smarty below, but I wanted to take new photos for practice.

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I decided to try Martha Lake Park in Lynnwood. I told myself I would open to taking photos of people. But, as usual, that didn’t happen. Not only am I not comfortable taking photos of people, I don’t want to see strangers when I look through my photos! I’m just not a people person. Animals, trees, flowers and leaves are what I love. This has certain advantages but also some disadvantages. Animals and nature can be more photogenic than people (sagging jowls on dogs are cute!) but they also can be a lot less convenient and cooperative.

Take trees, for example. No matter how nicely you ask them, they can’t move to a better spot. I saw a least ten beautifully shaped trees that would look gorgeous in a photo if alone but wouldn’t stand out while surrounded by other trees the way they were. Finally, I happened up on one that stood out just because it wasn’t the same color as the ones surrounding it.

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But imagine how beautiful it would be standing alone against the sky….

Then, there are the birds, which I swear like to taunt photographers (or at least me), by posing somewhere pretty and then flying away the second the camera is ready. The crows had a fun time playing this game with me. They would pose among the red leaves, then fly away as soon as I found them in my lens. Finally, one stayed put long enough…against an ugly background, of course.

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This happens so often that it can’t be coincidence!

After giving up on the crows, I spotted one of my holy grail photo subjects – a Northern Flicker. It played a similar game with me, first posing against ugly backgrounds.

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Finally, it landed on the side of a tree. I chased it round and round the tree until it stopped…in front of a very distracting picnic table. Luckily, I was able to crop out most of the picnic table. Sorry, Northern Flicker! I win this time. 🙂

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Back at home, Scooby posed in front of the yellow birch leaves on the lawn…

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…but would not open his eyes.

Once I stood up and there was something in the background to look ugly and distracting, he opened them to half mast, which is his way.

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I’m not sure which are more frustrating as photo subjects, cats or birds!

As you can see, I took the easy path on this assignment. I got close enough to my subjects to blur the background, or the background was more or less a uniform color. When there’s a lot going on in the background and it will be in focus, I’m usually at a loss. I just haven’t learned enough about composition yet. That’s why I’m so excited about Cee’s new challenge. She’s providing such a great opportunity to learn and to practice. Thank you, Cee!

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20 thoughts on “In Search of Photo Subjects

  1. The colour of the tree leaves are gorgeous and to be honest, I think the green grass and background is a perfect contrast and shows the tree off to its best.

    I think you’ve got excellent backgrounds to all the photos. They all look natural and not at all distracting.

    (BTW I know a certain nature photographer who insists on erasing all his backgrounds and making them black in post processing and I think it’s too stark/dark and spoils them, especially for flowers. He also over sharpens the focus in post processing which makes his subjects look weird – old and wrinkly).

    I get frustrated by birds not facing me too. I get the perfect shot lined up and by the time I’ve changed the camera settings, they’ve flown away or turned around to face the other way.

    In recent months I’ve been leaving the Sony on a relatively high shutter speed (500) and a higher than necessary ISO (500) and shooting on Shutter priority most of the time outdoors in the hope of getting that elusive (for me) bird in flight. I’ve shot landscapes and close-ups using these settings too (as I get fed up with changing the settings for each shot) and have been surprised at the better focus and overall nice Aperture in some of my images. Before with the correct ISO for the amount of light, my images were not so good. I still say I am much quicker and better at using the Canon DSLR. I think its actually the weight which makes me hold the camera more steady. The Sony is so light (which is why I bought it with re my increased back pain) that I think I tend to move when I press the shutter button. Interesting swapping between the DSLR and the mirrorless. They are so very different to use.

    One of these days I’m going to put the camera on either Intelligent Auto or Superior Auto and see what the camera calculates for the exposure of a scene. It’s been about 5 years since I’ve used the Full Auto setting on my DSLRs and I don’t think I’ve ever used the Full Auto on the sony mirrorless.

    1. I should try using a higher ISO and a faster shutter speed to see if that helps with the images/backgrounds I’m having trouble with. I’m sure it would help with taking bird and squirrel photos in my backyard now that it’s so dark on gloomy days. I really wish the Sony had an exterior wheel to switch back and forth between modes with. It’s far too time consuming to switch through the menu when there’s a animal that’s going to move in the next split second. That is my main regret about the Sony.

      I brought out my old Canon PowerShot last week and found that I have the opposite trouble – I move far more with the larger camera body. I do better with the Sony when it has the telephoto lens on so I can support the lens with my left hand. It also helps for me to lean against something. Otherwise, I find that I’m very shaky!

      1. Ehrrr……my Sony a6000 has got an exterior wheel on the back. But depending on what order you press buttons and the wheel, it does different adjustments to the settings. I have to be honest and say it drives me crazy. There is just no logic to the Sony a6000. (and no, I haven’t got Brain Fog today 😀 ).

        In the end this afternoon, I put the Sony on ‘intelligent auto’ and got superb focus, light & colour in the undergrowth by the river.

        I think I’m going to take the Sony into the camera store repair department and get them to look at it. It definitely doesn’t autofocus properly and its getting worse. It seems to be mainly Shutter Priority when I’ve got the focus mode on ‘continuous AF’ which is what you use for fast moving birds etc. I think that fall 4 months ago when the lens split off the camera body and crashed into the marble slab has broken something. It is so hard to get the camera to autofocus on that Dove on my balcony in recent days.

        1. I hope it can be easily and inexpensively fixed. Auto focus is so important with “mature” eyes as I’m finding out! My eyes just can’t be trusted to use manual focus. Even with auto focus every batch of photos I transfer to my computer has several out of focus photos that looked in perfect focus to me on the small screen. I so miss having sharp eyesight.

          I will hold positive thoughts for your camera!

          1. So even you have some blurred shots with the Sony, Trisha. If you exclude camera shake, I wonder if we’re doing something wrong?

            Anyway, I took a few shots with the Superior Auto mode (as opposed to Manual Exposure, Aperture Priority or Shutter Priority which are the 3 modes I have used). This won’t get shots of birds in thick foliage though. Maybe I should just give up bird photography in this bush land setting and keep the Sony for street photography in the city.
            The full auto gives superb images so far.

            1. I still haven’t experimented much with the focus settings, like choosing which area to focus on. I probably should experiment with that more.

              The only thing I didn’t like about Superior Auto is that white balance is also on auto and I like the richer colors I get with white balance set to cloudy. I should experiment with that more too though. Superior Auto would be useful for photo walks where birds might suddenly appear and won’t sit still while I fiddle with the menus that I can’t even see in bright light!

  2. These are gorgeous photographs. I really like the one of the Northern Flicker on the tree. You got some fabulous detail. I say you nailed the topic wonderfully. Birds are hard to get. As for trees here in the PacNW, I have the same problems you have. Too many trees at different part of autumn, that none of them look good when they are all together. Individually (without power lines) would be gorgeous though. 😀

    1. That’s so true about the trees and the way they change color at all different times. Some haven’t started changing and others are completely bare already.

  3. Trisha, I was chuckling as I read your entire post because I could relate to all of it, especially those dratted birds! Your close-up of the flicker was worth all the effort though. Great pic!

    Cee, I was just talking with my mom a few days ago after going out for some leaf photos and mentioned that same exact thing to her. Our PNW trees all turn color at different times, so we never get a chance at the breathtaking fall photos like you see from New England. Some trees in my neighborhood are almost completely bare of leaves now, and others are just starting to get good color.

    1. Yes, those dratted birds just don’t make it easy on us! That Northern Flicker really made me work for that shot. Plus, I’ve been trying to capture a photo of one since I got my first camera with a telephoto lens, back in 2010. Then there’s the eagle that flew over…while I was driving, of course!

      1. This year was the first time I ever got a photo of a bald eagle. I’ve always been on a highway in the past with no spot to pull over. The first time this year the eagle was so high up it’s barely recognizable in my photo. The second time the eagle was close enough for a great shot, but it came out of nowhere and took me by surprise, so the photo is blurry. (sigh) Some day though!

  4. The pumpkin photo is a strong one, I love almost everything about the image, the colours, the overall orange tone of the pumpkin and the background tones. Also the bokeh is lovely. Perfect example why photos of simple subjects can extremely beautiful as well.

    As a fan of animals, I love the bird images too, very well shot photos. I also like the dog of course, but for some reason I prefer other angles or perspectives, although I shot similar photos with my cat… but your cat photos are a great example of what I prefer, when you go down to the ground, to take a photo at the same level of the pet, you get an impression how pets see each other… it’s visually pleasing 🙂

    Well done Trisha 🙂

  5. About two weeks ago, the trees in my backyard provided the perfect background for capturing images on my deck. Sadly, the leaves have thinned out too much now. Makes me wish I had taken more photos before the leaves started falling.

    I know what you mean about the dog photo. It’s not my favorite angle either. Animals can look kind of awkward when viewed from up above, like this photo where Smarty’s leg appears to be sticking out of the side of his face! I couldn’t resist those big, brown eyes though. 🙂

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