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Tag: photography

Can You See What’s Right in Front of You?

This close-up of our cute feline beast is one example of focusing on the few inches in front of your camera.

Life often teaches us to focus on the big picture. But it’s also a good idea to sometimes pay more attention to what’s right in front of you. I explored a photographic exercise to look more closely at my immediate surroundings and uncovered some cool imagery in the smaller spaces. Here’s what I found.

From the Lester Garden
This is the tomato we will eat tonight.

Aging Beach Fence Post
The rings of time are locked in by thick paint to help battle against the elements.

My Garage Door Light’s Motion Sensor
This sentry covered in cobwebs looks onto my driveway. The red LED indicates it has spotted its moving target.

HP Tango Printer’s Cylon Glow
The always-on light moves horizontally and changes color to communicate with me. My printer’s designers are clearly fans of “Battlestar Galactica.”

My Shirt Collar
They say it’s the little things. I am happy when my collar stays straight throughout my work day.

The Key to Control
Why isn’t this the alpha key on every keyboard?

88 Keys
Our piano demonstrates the art of collaboration to our son.

Bird on the Beach
This seagull walked up behind me to beg for food on Calf Pasture Beach in Norwalk, CT. Its piercing stare had the power of a Jedi mind trick.

Looking More Closely at my Life
Snapping these photos helped me to see more of what’s in plain sight during my day-to-day activities.

I highly recommend you try it!

How to Create a Great Photo from a Video Freeze Frame

This image is from a timelapse video I recorded of the Mount Greylock Veterans War Memorial Tower. Here’s how I extracted the frame on my Mac.

Picture this: You’ve missed out on capturing a great photo moment. But don’t despair. Sometimes, that image could still exist, buried in a freeze frame of a video clip that you shot instead. And you wouldn’t know it till later when you review your clip.

If you recorded your video at 4K, the visual quality of any frame will likely be excellent. That said, the one variable that could prevent your video freeze from doubling as a photo is motion blur in the shot. But if you shot your video at a high enough frame rate (60 fps), the action should be sharply frozen.

Vacation Memories
Have you just returned from vacation and reviewed your photos? I recommend that you also take a look through the videos you shot with the goal of extracting a few frames. It’s a best practice that should help to fill in any gaps in your vacation photo collection.

Here are a couple video frames from my family’s recent vacation to the Berkshires:

Biking on the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail

Ziplining at Berkshire East Mountain Resort

How to Take a Screenshot of a QuickTime Frame
There are any number of ways to extract a video frame. If you’re on a Mac, an especially easy solution is to take a screenshot of the frame in QuickTime Player.

Here’s the keyboard shortcut to do that:

  • Press Command+Shift+4 and then press the Space bar to change the pointer to a camera icon.
  • Click on your video freeze in the QuickTime window to record the screenshot.
    (Hold the Option key while you click on the window to exclude the window’s shadow.)
  • This will create a PNG file, which you can easily convert to a JPEG, TIFF or PDF.

You can also simply press Command+Shift+4 to generate a cross hair to drag over the video frame, but that takes more work to get the entire image. This capture technique is better used If you’re looking to extract only a portion of your video frame.

The Joy of Pulling Out Video Freeze Frames
It can be fun to mine your videos for freeze frames that double as photos. The process can generate some unexpected gems.

One last note: If you add your video frames to an existing collection of photos from an event, and you organize your pictures chronologically, don’t forget to adjust the capture times for your newly created images.

That will restore order to the visual storytelling of your photo collection.

And for me, order = joy.

Why Cropping into your Photos can Save your Shots

When editing your camera’s photos, you might need to look for the shot within the shot. Here are some examples.

After you snap a photo, you may have a good sense whether you’ve captured the image you want. Instant digital review certainly is a wonderful thing. But I would recommend not immediately deleting a photo that didn’t catch the moment or missed its intended focus point. Perhaps there’s a different element in the shot you’re not aware of that is in focus.

If you take a little time to study these photos, it’s amazing what you might find hidden in plain sight. And thanks to those many millions of pixels that are crammed into photos, you can usually crop deep into the image to pull out a detail with clarity.

No, it’s not quite like that scene from “Blade Runner” where Harrison Ford’s Deckard closely examines a digital photo and tells the computer to “move in and enhance.” But it’s amazingly close. You may not be able to print a large poster of your super-cropped photo, but it’ll likely still look great on your smartphone or computer screen.

Follow the Focus
I enjoy snapping flower shots with my Panasonic Lumix LX10. I prefer using manual focus in the attempt to make the flower pop out of its blurred background (bokeh).

But since the area of focus is especially narrow, it’s easy to miss the mark.

Instead of discarding these three pics that missed their focus targets, I followed the camera’s focus and then cropped in to save the shots.
(I use Adobe Lightroom.)
Yes, I missed the center of this flower, but the crisp edge of the petal is still interesting.

Much of this alien-like plant looked blurry, except for the tip of the back blooming stem. So, I zoomed in super tight to center on those crazy red sprouts.

Most of these fallen tree blossoms on my driveway ended up out of focus, but I cropped in tight enough to locate a few that weren’t caught in the blur.

Find your Needle in the Haystack
Even if focus isn’t a problem, you may still want to crop into a portion of a photo to give it some punch. If the entire shot isn’t that special, perhaps there’s a strong section to highlight.

I’ve been doing a lot of hiking with family and friends over the past year, and I’ve discovered that stunning views in nature don’t always translate into a quickly snapped photo. That usually happens to me when I try to take shots of a bubbly stream in a forest. It’s difficult to capture that sparkly view. So, when editing those pics, I sometimes explore the motion in the water.
In this cropped image I snapped with my iPhone, I was drawn to the linear patterns in the water created by the stream’s rush over rocks.

Show a Piece of the Puzzle
Beyond using this photo-cropping technique as a fix, you may find ongoing enjoyment in intentionally creating cropped shots that represent a piece of a larger story. (I certainly have.)

Sometimes a taste is all you need to fill in the rest.

I’ll give you a hint: My 5th grader’s science experiment using salt, hot water and a piece of string

If you’re still left with a mystery, is that so bad?

Less is More
I often like to say that “less is more” in visual storytelling. This perspective comes from my professional experience in video content creation and has certainly held up throughout my personal photography work.

Enjoy your own exploration of all of those smaller spaces in your photos.

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