Harold Davis is an award-winning photographer whose work has been widely published and collected. Harold is well known for his night photography and experimental ultra-long exposure techniques, use of vibrant, saturated colors in landscape compositions, and beautiful creative floral imagery. Harold writes the popular Photoblog 2.0 at www.photoblog2.com, which receives over 10,000 unique visitors each month. Harold also writes a monthly column on creative photography for Photo.net, which has over 750,000 members.
Books by Harold Davis:
Harold Davis’ Digital Photography Tips
Tip #1: Take advantage of different focal lengths to add interest using visual ambiguity to your compositions
When composing a photo of a landscape, particularly one that is spectacular with vast empty spaces, sometimes it is hard to attract the interest of a viewer—exactly because everything seems so vast. One approach to this visual problem is to intentionally create ambiguity. If someone looking at your photo isn’t entirely sure what they are seeing, you are more likely to keep their interest. Changing the focal length of your lens is probably the easiest way to achieve this kind of creative visual ambiguity. For example, in photographing the vast rock formation in the Southwestern desert, I used a moderate wide-angle focal length to give the illusion that the immense landscape could be seen as a flower.
Tip #2: Use a long exposure to add subject motion to your landscapes
If a landscape with clouds seems mundane, make a conscious choice to use a long exposure to add a motion effect to the image. When you set the shutter speed on your camera, you are actually not setting a speed. This setting controls a duration of time: how long the shutter is open. The impact on composition is to change the way motion is rendered. For example, in this photo of clouds moving in the breeze after sunset, I used a two-minute shutter speed to make the nearest clouds seem soft and dreamlike as they flew by in the brisk wind. You can choose your shutter speed by using shutter-preferred or manual metering. With most cameras, if you want a shutter speed longer than thirty seconds you need to set the camera to manual, and use the Bulb setting along with a remote shutter release to keep the shutter open as long as you’d like. To get a long enough shutter speed to create a motion effect, you need to use as low as ISO settings as possible, and also a very small camera aperture (this means a big f-stop number like f/36 because the bigger the f-number the smaller the opening in the lens). Be sure to use a tripod for this kind of exposure so that you don’t introduce camera shake—the motion you want to capture is subject motion, not camera motion.
Tip #3: Use framing to improve your compositions
In photographic composition, a framing device works to improve a composition by adding layers of interest that are intriguing, and to make it visually apparent what is important in a composition. You should always be looking at your subjects to see if there is a way to add framing to improve the compositional appeal. For example, this monochromatic photo shows Vernal Falls in Yosemite Valley in a snowstorm. I intentionally stepped back and positioned my camera to let the snowy fir trees frame the waterfall. This helps to give the composition visual appeal, and to center the interest on the waterfall.