Friday, February 20, 2009

High-Wire Act

Open Your Mind To Unusual Objects

Photographs copyright: DAVID McMAHON


Last week I had a lot of queries from bloggers who said they try without success to compose skyscapes without the intrusion of wires. Interestingly, I’ve always felt that a pure skyscape is a thing of great beauty, but a skyscape with a silhouette of some sort actually adds a certain value to an image.

The comments and emails came in the wake of two frames on my post D Is For Desolation, both of which included wires stretched across the horizon.

These frames were shot in late 2006. I was walking down a street in an old Melbourne suburb when I realised that if I waited for a few minutes the low cloud would present some great opportunities as the sun sank. But there were three problems – the street was interspersed with power poles, lots of overhead cables and fully mature trees that were twenty metres high.


So I quickly decided to use all three factors to my advantage. Rather than fret about the streetscape intruding into my view of the setting sun, I embraced the chance to include my surroundings. It made for an interesting ratio, because most of the frames included 30-40 per cent of silhouette across their surface area.

Part of the duty of any photographer, amateur or professional, is to faithfully tell the story of the existing landscape. If there are power poles on the horizon, you can always find a way to compose a shot to exclude them. Generally a vertical frame or even a tight horizontal from closer in will solve the problem.

But wires are another matter altogether. The only escape route is to shoot under the wires, because it is almost impossible to shoot above them unless you are looking down on them from a hillside.


Bear in mind, though, that if you are shooting into a rising or setting sun, any object in your viewfinder is going to appear as a silhouette if it is located between you and the sun. Be willing to experiment and be open-minded about including other objects in the frame.

A recent example of this can be seen in a sequence I shot on New Year’s Day and displayed in a post called Who’s Been Painting The Horizon?. Yes, there was a great sky – but I thought the streetcape in silhouette would be an interesting "anchor" across the entire bottom of the frame.

Have a look at the shots on that post and let me know what you think. One of the frames I shot is even deliberately composed around the central silhouette of a street sign, which dominates the centre of the shot.

(Extra, extra, read all about it: I've been interviewed here.)


For other participants in Dot’s concept, go to Sky Watch HQ.

62 comments:

Daisy said...

Beautiful images. Thankyou x

spacedlaw said...

Great interview. You blog does make me smile.

French Fancy said...

Belated congratulations about being a blog of note. It's well-deserved.

We have lots of wire-less free sky space here in the French countryside.

Cheffie-Mom said...

WOW WOW WOW. Your talent is amazing!

Craig Glenn said...

Congrat's David, Again! lol

It's getting hard to keep up with you. I see you just hit 500! Wow that is amazing!

I left a comment on your interview. I enjoyed it a lot.

Craig

skywind said...

Very professional. Very good.

http://eyesinkaleidoscope.blogspot.com/
http://fymtyh.blogspot.com/

The Finely Tuned Woman said...

You're right. The poles and the wires are not intrusive, they are an integral part of the picture. Good job! Liked the interview too. Go to know a bit more about you.

theArthurClan said...

Your stunning photos are what drew me to your site...your fun sense of humor made me want to stick around. :) You have a wonderful place on the 'net!

jinksy said...

The sun is the eye of a golden eagle swooping earthwards in this shot...

jinksy said...

I meant the last one, minus the wires - though they are interesting as they have the shape of a 'Cat's Cradle' children's plaything.

Nessa said...

Your shots are always amazing. I like the thought "Part of the duty of any photographer, amateur or professional, is to faithfully tell the story of the existing landscape." Makes me feel better about the billions of wires in our area. I will look at them differently.

Do you shoot through an actual viewfinder or do you use the digital screen? I read somewhere that it is easier to compose with the screen.

Working mum said...

Truly a different perspective. I do enjoy the stories behind your photographs; I hope to learn from your thought processes and apply similar to my photographs.

The Quintessential Magpie said...

You are a person who, like my late father in law, sees the beauty in the mundane and the glory of the imperfect. It's a gift.

Sheila

Donna Marino said...

Very informative. I recently joined a photography club, and am learning about all this. Although, I've never taken skyscapes with wires. Always thought they were an eye sore.

Moannie said...

Yes, love the idea. Number three picture reminded me of the old game of Cat's Cradle. Could be a fine game for the bats to fly in and out of.

Maggie May said...

I think you are right..... the wires add to the photos. I suppose some people would airbrush them out! But not you, David!

Tessa said...

Your skyscapes are spectacular...and thanks so much for the tips on how to get a good shot.

Great interview, too. I voted...and will do so again!

Jonathan Fudge said...

I love how you explain what you are doing and how it effects the photo. That's great!

Do you happen to have a blog post that would help me take photos of my artwork?

I'm a balloon artist and I would like to take pictures of some of the larger creations I do. Yet, I'm no photographer by trade... I need to learn though...

Suggestions?

Thanks!

Carolina said...

Wires, signs, buildings, they all add interest to a sunset. You are right! Just read the interview, very interesting. You are (becoming) a VIB (Very Important Blogger).
Good for you!
;-)

RuneE said...

Now I know where "the roasting" comes from!! ;-) Very illuminating interview, in more ways than one.

The subject of your post reminds me of the SLR days in the 70s when my brother-in-law had a number of photo safaris under the slogan "Have you brought the chain-saw and the wire-cutters?"

Jazz said...

I know nothing about photography, but I do love your pictures with the wires. And I had absolutely loved the one with the street sign.

squawmama said...

Loved the photos even with the wires... It was a Great interview David. I always enjoy opening your blog to see what is instore each time...

(((HUGS)))
Donna

Nessa said...

Excellent interview. I really enjoyed learning about the blogging you.

word verification: dingle

Gaelyn said...

Great sky images. There are times when I'd rather not have high wires showing. But because I'm lazy and take many sunset shots thru my back window, I live with the wires. Of course, then I also have to live with my own or the camera's reflection sometimes.
Now to check out your interview and posts of the day. Thanks.

Guy D said...

Beautiful golden colors is your skywatch shots, thanks so much for sharing these David.

Have a great weekend!
Guy
Regina In Pictures

Jeremy Weber said...

You truly have a talent my friend...

Merisi said...

Beautiful cross-wirings! ;-)

You used obstacles in a very creative way.

Carver said...

Beautiful shots and an interesting post.

Abe Lincoln said...

You do have a nice set of photos on the post, David.

I thought I would try SkyWatch again. Not sure how far I will get before I tire out but will give it a try.

My Skywatch Post

Sylvia K said...

Gorgeous shots as always! And a great interview and I always come away from your blog with a smile. I added my vote as well! Thanks for sharing and have a great weekend!

Bradley Myers said...

Good post the colors are fantastic and nothing wrong with leaving the wires in the shot.

Hilary said...

It seems to me that it doesn't much matter what's in the shot. You always manage to make it look perfect. These are no exception.

MamaGeek @ Works For Us said...

Oh those were lovely David. So striking.

Ria and Bran said...

Hi there, thanks for the inspiration! I am not professional but i am learning. I absolutely adore photography! ...I have just recently created a Blog with a friend, so we are still very new to all of this. But i enjoyed reading your postings...cheers!

Ria and Bran said...

Hi there, thanks for the inspiration! I am not professional but i am learning. I absolutely adore photography! ...I have just recently created a Blog with a friend so we are still fairly new to all of this...but i enjoyed reading your postings. Cheers!

Ida said...

You are opening the eyes on the rest of us. :)
Thank you for sharing.
You are the expert. I'm just a happy amateur. :)

Reasons to be Cheerful 1,2,3 said...

What great photography advice, even for the novices amoungst us. Enjoyed the interview too - an hour a day is a true commitment and has no doubt brought a great deal of pleasure to many.

Ida said...

I just love the Fall Collection further down here! :)
Great!

Colin Campbell said...

Very nice. I agree. Those pesky wires can add value to a shot. I have some wires in my shot this week.

Word recognition apatio

babbler said...

Congrats on the blog of note, I am here as a result of seeing the list, I am glad I went "surfing" today! You are a fantastic photographer! You should take some pictures of our lighthouses here on the central Oregon Coast! There are not too many wires (or people!) here yet. Mr. and Mrs. Slug say, "Slide on over for a dose of healthful salt air!"

Maalie said...

Intriguing compositions!

Artist Unplugged said...

You have some beautiful images. I dodge the wires usually and there is usually a way to work in between them. Great interview, you seem to have a great personality.

cheshire wife said...

As always amazing photos. The interview was an interesting read. Good to find out a bit more about the man behind the blog.

Emz said...

those are amazing photos! what camera do you use?? I've only ever gotten as far as "rule of thirds" in senior year photography class haha. That was a great class, largely in black and white though.

Cath said...

Just fabulous. As always I am still a sucker for a sunset and these are no different. Now I am off to read your interview - and about time too! Blogger of Note and now this - start looking for a man with a big red book for This is Your Life... ;0)

Helena said...

Yeah, but what about the UFO in the top photo?

:)

kden said...

I will definitely feel better about using wires in my photos from now on. I thought the same one about photo #1, it looks like the trees are playing 'cat's cradle'.

David Parker said...

hey, very interesting your blog! Enjoyed it! Greetings from Brazil!

...all i can share... said...

your stunning photos never let me down... awesome...

citizen of the world said...

I jear what you are saying, but to me the wires are still a jarring intrusion.

Poutalicious said...

I pretty much have to shoot everything from below to avoid wires here. It's very frustrating that every view in Arizona is ruined by electrical wires. You did a great job including these in your photos but it still depresses me that everywhere I look I see electrical wires in my way; and then the only time I see a low shot vantage point, it's on the side of the road and I have to take the chance of being creamed to pull over and get the shot. Oh well, I guess I'll keep on trying.

Rottlady of the Ozarks said...

How interesting, your study of the sky and what we see in it is amazing! Thanks for the education too. Happy SWF!

Brit' Gal Sarah said...

Thank you for discussing this and making me less paranoid. I have some awesome Okie sunsets from my front porch with power lines in them I haven't posted just for that reason. I will now rethink and go with your advice David.

mountain.mama said...

Great pictures, good post and interesting interview. I took a bunch of wire photos on a very gray day but wasn't pleased with the results. I usually try to avoid them....but now maybe not so much!

Teri C said...

Beautiful beautiful skies and interesting comments.

Lew said...

If you can't move it, make it part of the scene! Some of my favorite images from long ago were those of telephone poles beside the road disappearing in the distant horizon.

Anonymous said...
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RJ Flamingo said...

These are awesome. You're right, of course, about using intrusive elements to your advantage. They nearly always add an extra dimension to the image.

I've actually managed to post this week, and I've once again combined my Friday's Feathers with my SkyWatch. I hope you'll visit when you get a chance.

http://flamingofotos.blogspot.com

Linnea W said...

Thanks for all the tips about powerlines and wires. Funny, my SWF post today also involves wires.

Your interview was very refreshing to read and your photos are superb. Hi from sunny Cal!

Carrie and Troy Keiser said...

I've been learning how to enjoy the shots with these types of intrusions, as every shot I can take of the sunset has them. They do add a certain quality to the shot and I come to love it.

Daryl said...

The last shot is so like a painting ... now if I could remember the artist's name it reminds me of ...

NovaS said...

One of a kind sky you have there. you perfectly captured a very nice sky....

SUPERNOVA and SWEETPAIN
ANGELS IN MY LIFE