Seeing in a New Light

Aerial photography of smoking lava fields of Hawaii. Photo by Alina Oswald.

Seeing in a new light and from a different angle

Considering Different Vantage Points for Your Photography or

How to photograph familiars subjects in a new way

Lunar Eclipse NYC January 31, 2018
January 31, 2018: full lunar eclipse, blood moon, blue moon, and super moon, seen partially from Jersey City.

Oftentimes we get to photograph very familiar subjects, for example, cars on the road, flowers (I don’t really photograph flowers, but many people do), well-known places, monuments and memorials, and so on. The question is, how do we capture and how do we find ways to capture a familiar subject in a brand new way?

Here are a few ideas:

– scout out the place, if possible; it requires a bit of prep time, planning, studying, and so on, but it’s worth the time and effort

– study images of the subject you’re about to photograph, see how others have captured it, understand why they’ve chosen to capture it that way; consider postcard-like images and more unique angles; think about how you’d capture it in yet another way

– start by photographing the subject from whatever angle possible, and then evaluate shooting from different vantage points or zooming in/out, capturing a detail of the subject, perhaps a detail that stands out or defines the subject in some way, and so on

– when considering how to photograph the subject in a unique way, think about giving viewers a hint, enough information about the subject to get their attention, and then help them figure out what they’re looking at

– that said, don’t keep viewers in suspense for too long; rather, allow them a moment of discovery–and sometimes of self-discovery–a moment (but not more than a moment) to figure out what the image is about

– make it an exciting adventure for them, an intriguing puzzle that they are to solve; use compositional elements to guide viewers’ eyes throughout the image and towards the subject

Here are a few examples:

Below are two close-up images of live lava “faces” captured while visiting Hawaii Volcano National Park, Big Island of Hawaii:

Or something closer to home. I believe that many will recognize the Tribute in Light. To capture the image, on September 11 night I went to Lower Manhattan and as close to the beams as I possibly could.

For the Lady Liberty image above, I visited Liberty Island and photographed it while standing by Miss Liberty’s pedestal.

Sometimes, in order to capture a familiar or known, recognizable subject, one has to go where others don’t really go. Hence, flying in an open-door helicopter is one of my favorite activities while in Hawaii.

While visiting the Big Island, we flew right over the smoking lava fields. The image above, together with two other images from the same series, were part of a SoHo Photo juried show, back in 2015.

Sometimes, Mother Nature in action creates the most interesting subjects, drawing shapes, forms, faces, expressing the most powerful of human feelings:

It also works when photographing people, too. More on that in an upcoming post…but for now, as always, thanks for stopping by!

Alina Oswald

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