Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Photography Lessons 1, 2, 3 and 7

Textures, Lines, Color and Frames are elements of photography, and are among the “easiest to learn” and can have “the biggest impact”.  Thus started my most recent photo-adventure.  “Think about some locations where you might be able to put the lessons into action, and actually go and do the assignments”.  My location of choice was the main Hancock campus in Santa Maria, California.
Allan Hancock College is a public community college.  It opened in 1920 as Santa Maria Junior College; now there are four campuses serving 17,000 students, most of them locals (98%).  Like many public spaces in Santa Maria, the architecture and landscaping are uncluttered, bright, striking, colorful and photogenic.  In the warm light of morning, it was a great place to work on my photography assignments.

1: Textures

Texture is everywhere yet it's “the very thing that beginning photographers tend to overlook”.  Don’t obsess over big spectacular vistas; look close instead.  There’s beauty in detail.
When you find texture of interest, make it the only thing in the photo, thereby “isolating the texture from any distracting elements.”  Get close and intimate.  You’ll find wonderful overlooked worlds.
It’s easiest to start by shooting at a 90º angle, aiming for a flat uniform arrangement.  For “very rough textures, often sidelight is the best” as it casts shadows.  They add relief, enhancing the texture.
Holes in yellow.
Bumps (do your eyes play the same tricks as mine?) and leaf in yellow and purple.  See more on complementary colors below.
“Patterns” might be another word for these things -- that’s the term I used before I took the Textures lesson.

2: Lines

Lines affect a viewer’s emotions and reactions in ways I hadn’t considered.  Horizontal lines are the norm for many of us (we generally process information from side to side, especially left to right), and often are calming.  None of the photos I took featured horizontal lines alone.  Maybe their calmness makes it difficult to create interesting compositions.

Vertical lines are more exciting.  They can suggest strength and power -- for example trees or towers  or waterfalls.  Or not, for example a cast iron drainage ditch cover.  But even here vertical strikes me as more attention-getting than horizontal.
Vertical lines were common on campus -- or perhaps they more readily caught my eye.
Diagonal lines have even more impact -- they are especially “energetic”.
Lines in a sidewalk may be mundane, but I find them engrossing.
Mix a bunch together -- vertical, horizontal, diagonal -- and the eye will be either totally captivated by the excitement, or confused.
Intriguing? ... or over-whelming?
Lines also provide paths for the eye to follow.  A line can direct a viewer to an object, in this case a few plants in a concrete ecosystem.

3: Color

The color lesson was more challenging.  I skipped the monochromatic section.  I couldn’t find suitable subjects, but maybe I just need to be more open-minded.  In contrast, complementary colors quickly drew me in.  These are positioned opposite each other on the color wheel:  red and green, yellow and purple, blue and orange.  In combination they’re powerful.   I was surprised to find complementary pairs, and in interesting situations.
Blue Orange 1
Blue Orange 2
Red Green 1
Red Green 2
In Red Green 2, I captured both complementary colors and a warm accent in a cool background -- “one of the best color interactions”.  Cool green leaves fill the photo but the hot red flower grabs the eye.  It’s irresistible.

7: Frames

I found many frames to include within the overall frame of a photo.  A second frame is a bit unexpected, and can “add a new dimension” or “create a story”.
Entrance, and ...
... Exit, with frames and lines to direct the eye.
As always, I became absorbed in abstract compositions of shapes, colors, shadows and light.  They fascinate me for reasons I don’t understand.  But maybe after I read Book 2 ...
Textures, Lines, Colour and Frames are four of the eight chapters in Anne McKinnell’s excellent ebook, The Compelling Photograph Book 1.  I mentioned only a few things here; for each topic there’s much more to learn.  The book is easy to understand, helpful, and motivating too.  You can find it and others (some free) at her website, Anne McKinnell Photography.

I took my photography lessons on the road, to Big Sur:
Vertical line and frame -- power and story.


  1. This book certainly seems a good read - judging by your results. There are some fabulous ones in this post - but I think the one which will last with me the longest will be the third one down (with the fly).

    1. Thank you very much, Lucy. The book works well for me when I do the assignments -- but I'm curious to see if it "carries over" to other projects.

      glad you liked the fly, it was fun to "find" :-)