Tag Archives: 3

Have You Ever Considered a Blue Jay Feather?

Have you ever considered a blue jay feather?   It is simply lying on the path when you stumble upon it.  It strikes you that this would make a good photograph. What do you do?   Most people pull out their point and shoot cameras or iPhones and snap an Instagram type shot and hope for the best.


Luckily, you’re not most people.  Your looking for impact.  Better yet, you want to see the scowl on your mother in-laws face because it’s good enough to hang on your wall type impact; and YOU took it.


The challenge in taking this photograph is three-fold:


  • You want to focus.  You want the feather in complete focus while allowing the background to also have a texture.   Texture is important. It adds a character to the picture and lets the viewer identify with it.  In this kind of shot texture is good.  On most DSLR type there is a P setting or a A-Dep.  Use them. Experiment. Most of all, focus on the feather.
  • It was important to maintain the contrast between the various blues of the feather and the blacks and browns of the ground.  You really want the picture to highlight the differences not only in color but also in texture. The lines that you see in the feather just simple straight black lines.  Yet, when you see them in the feather as a whole they are very striking and they give a delightful contrast to the texture of broken nuts and wood underneath it.  Contrast can help bring this out. Remember, texture is good. Contrast is good.
  • The lighting is tricky.  This feather is lying under a large canopy of trees.  It is a partly sunny day and that means that at anytime the sun will breakthrough introducing a slashing bright light across the mid-section of the feather. If you aim the camera into this specific area, the camera will try to compensate for the bright light and It would suddenly darken the shot for the picture and everything is black. If you choose the darker areas, then the shot would be vastly over exposed and the color gets washed out.  You have to try to get your timing just right.  Sure, you can always fix the picture in Photoshop or Lightroom later, but the idea is to try to do as little post-production as possible.


These are but three of the many steps you do when taking this shot of a blue jay feather.  But that’s just part of the story,  Little did you know when it happened, but you would soon be introduced to the previous owner of the feather.  There was a reason he had so recently shed it, That story and a picture on the next post.

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Delphiniums: Reds, Whites, and Blues

When I took this picture I saw several things.  The first was a really cool blue stalk with gorgeous white and blue layered flowers.  The second was that the stalks of flowers  silhouetted against a field of pink and reds.  The color is so vivid and alive.    However, the plant is a mystery to me.

I admit that I’m not much of a gardener.  Living in a rather urban setting, there are few opportunities to practice growing anything more than an odd tulip now and again.  I should say that between tornadoes, hail storms, and the oppressive drought or summer heat from May to October, it is difficult to grow long-term plants that don’t end up looking like they had a 3 round fight with a weed-trimmer.

There was no sign telling me what kind of plant I was looking at.  Therefore, I did what anyone would do.  I Googled it.  This hybrid flower is one of the 300 species of the Delphinium plant.  It is a perennial found in many gardens throughout the world.  Gardeners are fond of the large spires of flowers and the unique color combinations that are found.  I discovered that they are only grown outside of the comfort zone of a cool climate like Alberta and Colorado as annuals.  Otherwise, they remain classified as perennials.   They remain a favorite with butterflies and hummingbirds.  However, it’s best to keep dogs and toddlers away from them as they are quite toxic and can make them very ill.

I’d imagine the Texas heat in July and August would melt them which would explain why I hadn’t seen this type of flower being grown around Dallas before.

I found this website gives good information on the different types of Delphinium available.

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3 Thoughts on Naming Art

I believe that one of the most difficult things to do, as an artist is to name your own work.  Sometimes this takes more effort and creativity than the average viewer can imagine.  I’ve come up with a short list of the thinking process that goes into the naming of a picture.

  1. Meaning- An artist generally wants to name their work with a name that will be meaningful and provide a connection to the artist. In the business world this is marketing.  While the name Img5437.cr2 may make sense as the name the camera and computer gave to the image, to the normal viewer it is just random meaningless numbers.  Img5437.cr2  does not have any descriptive value.  You can’t really know that it is a picture of a buffet table loaded with all sorts of sensual treats with that name.
  2.  Story- Every picture tells a story.  Sometimes the story is dramatic and rather upfront.  Other times there is a hidden story meant to inspire or give an emotional response to the viewer.  A good name will give the viewer a greater connection between the art and the patron.  Artists find the name for a work of art that tells or hints at the story that the art meant to portray.
  3.  Language- You want a name easy to see, easy to spell, and easy to say. We live in the age where people do a great deal of shopping online.  An artist today has a potential for thousands and even millions of people to see their work by placing copies of it online.  Over 48 countries visit this online blog.  I’m happy to say that one of my pictures hangs in a condo in Seoul, South Korea.  So, I want to pick names for my work that is not difficult and identifies what the viewer is seeing regardless of what culture or country they live in.
Feathers Falling
Feathers Falling


As you can see, the naming of a work of art is rather a daunting task.  You want creativity, but not crazy, be pronounceable but not without meaning, and be cross cultural and memorable while still telling it’s story.

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3 Ways Space Appears in Your Art

The power of space makes it the last frontier of the art elements. Space is a vital element of any art. It simply is there.  This element is both existent and non-existent at the same time.

There are several varieties of space each having an exact opposite.  Space in fine art is rather mathematical in form.  As with any formula, what you give to one side of the equation you must take from the other.    If you take away the positive or open space you get more negative or closed and vice versa.

The kinds of space are:

  1. Positive and Negative- Sometimes determined by white for positive and black for negative, it is generally the area occupied by an object or the empty are around the object.
  2. Open and Closed- the area inside a circle refers to closed space while the outside of the circle is open.
  3. 2 Dimensional or 3 Dimensional – this is a study in perspective.  Since all pictures are actually flat.  Any 3 dimensional drawing is therefore an illusion.

I’ve always liked the linear example illusion of 3 dimensional space. If you look at a railway or a road in a picture you’ll see that the two edges of the road will appear as parallel lines that begin to converge on a single point in the distance.  This creates illusions of depth in the photograph.

Rush Hour in Chama

In photography, space is one of the most important of the elements.  The artist regularly uses positive and negative space to highlight an object while making another object seem unimportant.  The use of depth of field allows the subject of the photograph to appear crystal clear and the center of attention while another object appears blurred in the background giving an open space that defines the intended subject.

Another example  in photography is the white or black backdrop found in a typical photographers portrait studio. The person having their picture taken is clear and in focus while the background is out of focus and provides a clear distinction between what is important, the model, and what is not, the background.

Whether a piece of fine art is a photograph, sculpture, or painting, space is where the action is or isn’t.   Space is a vital transmitter of  emotion and feeling in any piece of art.  It is the last frontier of elements in world of fine art photography.

Are You Out of Shape? Photographic Art Elements

We are always being reminded how easy it is to get “out of shape”   or how we need to “get in shape.”  Sometimes we are even told to “shape up”.  I’ve often wondered at the reasoning behind this.  It is this misuse of the word shape that brings us to our next topic.  The next element of art is the simple shape.  What is a shape?  To have a shape you must manipulate a pair of lines.

1.  Two or more lines that start in the same space and travel different directions.

2.  Somewhere in their travels the lines will twist or turn, curve or careen in directions that inevitably end up with them meting again at a different place then when they started.

3.  Overly thick lines will result in a filled shape, while lines along a border will result in an empty one.


That’s it.  If you draw a line  curving in angles from 0° to 180°  and another line from 180° to 360°  you create a circle.  If you draw 4 lines that change at 90° angels to where they connect with one another you have a square.  These are simple shapes. 


Shapes in photography are very important for the same reason they are in painting or design work.  They communicate emotions to the viewer.

Keyboard photograph
CC By katerha

Geometric shapes with sharp angles like squares and triangles will give a cold or very strong emotion to the item in the picture. Think of a row of building blocks.  They represent order and power.

Photograph of Sushi http://www.flickr.com/photos/jmv/15900918/sizes/m/in/photostream/
CCSA by jmv

Circles and blobs are a biomorphic shape.  They have a much more fluid and a natural emotion attached to them.  The line of a circle can curve gradually towards it’s meeting with the other part of the line.  Circles are not in a hurry.   Think of an arch,  or the edge of a flower.  The circle of a flower petals distribute the color of the flower by spreading it out, much like the weight distributed in an arch.  The color of the flower or physical weight of a doorway flows through the circle of an arch.


So, shapes can represent order, chaos, power and grace.  The way you manipulate them in a picture will draw an emotional response from the viewer.  Shapes are either solid or open.  Remember that too shapes can influence a picture by making it confusing, while not enough shapes in your art will make it bland and lifeless.

Thus, I’m happy to say that I’m not “out of shape”.  I have a shape. In fact, I am a shape and, thankfully, the shape that I represent is uniquely mine.

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