The Art of seeing

Member Articles

Notes from Lyle:

There are some things to learn about techniques that engage a viewer’s imagination in order to perceive a photograph as a three dimensional object.

As an example, providing a sense of scale is one of those things a photographer can do to exploit a characteristic of human vision and memory. We’ve all seen examples of scale that brings a three-dimensional realism to a two-dimensional photograph. The presence of a tiny human figure, or animal, on a vast landscape provides the necessary bit of intelligence that enables the brain to combine visual information and memories, allowing it to accept a two- dimensional picture on a piece of paper as a pleasing reflection of reality. Such a picture may be recalled years later, and remembered quite often as a life experience.

Sharpness in a landscape is also a goal worthy of considerable thought and preparation. Beyond the normal practice of using a tripod, small apertures, and either fine grain film or low ISO’s in a digital camera, there are other techniques that assure the eye and memory that critical sharpness is present in the image. High definition in a foreground object, emphasized by yellow to red colors of long wavelengths, which appear sharper than blue and green colors of short wavelengths, prompts the eye to accept the notion that the entire picture is sharp. The combination of a good foreground, followed by a high impact subject with a pleasing background provides the ingredients for leading the viewer’s eye into the scene, once again allowing the imagination to create the illusion of three dimensions on a piece of paper.

Another technique inherited from fine art recognizes that color and light values are the means of communicating reality to the viewer. The right spot of color in the right place is all that’s needed for the viewer’s imagination to fill in the blanks and imagine the content of the painting. Many impressionist artists only provide detail about the subject and very loosely let splashes of color represent the rest of the painting. They squint their eyes and search the scene for the areas of color and light that will capture the viewer’s attention. Photographers can use the same method to define light, dark, warm and cool areas. Good balance is necessary for good composition.

Try to capture the vision that attracted you to the scene, and tune it with a “squint.” When looking closely at pictures, notice if there’s color in the shadows, and remember this rule: “Reflected light belongs to the shadows, highlights belong to the light.” This is what makes the shady side of a subject take on a color cast from an object in proximity to it. It’s another form of catch-me-if-you-can “magic light.” Powerful photographs communicate the photographer’s passion to capture the vision and emotions present when the image was recorded, and it’s that element that makes a photograph get chosen, or invites the viewer to visit the scene where it was created.




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