Editor's note: This is the first in a series about the art of photography.
New photographers tend to concentrate on the technical end of learning photography, which is a very good thing. But new, and for that matter, experienced, photographers also need to develop their vision.
By developing your vision, I don't mean going to the eye doctor and making sure that your eyesight is the best it can be. Obviously good vision is critical for a photographer, but when I talk about "good vision," I mean how we view a scene and make that scene into a great photograph.
For today's column, I have assembled a few tips and tricks plus a fun assignment for you to work on to help you develop your vision and make more interesting images.
One of the great things about photography is that it forces us, or at least it should force us, to look at the world in a different way, a visual way. When we go out for a walk with our camera, we should be looking at our surrounding's in a new way.
For example, let's use a piece of children's playground equipment in a city park. Many of you have probably never thought about going to the park to photograph playground equipment.
More than likely because you consider playground equipment boring and mundane. But if you spend some time really looking at a playground you will start to see all of the shapes, color and details that are present.
A good way to do this is to walk around the apparatus in a 360-degree circle and analyze how the shapes and colors change as you look at the subject from a new vantage point.
Another way to approach a photo subject is to change your elevation. Consider this when I say change your elevation: The average height of the American population is between 5-foot-4 and 5-foot-9, so we are used to seeing the world from that height perspective.
One of the goals in photography is to show the world in a different and unique way. So crawl around that playground on your hands and knees; make some images laying on your back shooting straight up at those monkey bars. Act like a child and climb on the equipment for a bird's-eye view. Photograph close-ups, think abstract, and make your viewer try and figure out what the image is.
Another way to make creative and different images of routine objects is to photograph them at different times of the day.
As the light changes, so will the feel of the scene in front of your camera. The most interesting light happens from sunrise to an hour after sunrise, and an hour before sunset. Photographers call this time the golden hours.
Don't ignore the midday light, either, as shadows from the strong light can make for interesting images too.
I know this will take some time, but then again great photography does take time and commitment. Try and photograph the playground, or whatever subject that you point your camera at, at these three different times of day. You will be amazed at how different the scene will look!
Everybody seems to lead very busy lives, and for many of you it may be difficult to find the time to go out and photograph.
When you do find the time, don't try and make a hundred images.
Slow down and really look at whatever scene you came upon that grabbed your attention, make images from different angles, get dirty, have fun, be childlike.
Photograph that one scene until you are 100 percent sure that you made a great image. Then, and only then, move on to the next subject.
I tell my students that I want to see one great image of one scene, not 100 mediocre pictures of a bunch of random objects.
Here is a fun photo drill for you to work on: Mark off a 10-square-foot area of your choice and make as many interesting images as you can find in that area.
You can photograph from outside of the area, but all of your photos must lie within the area.
Jay Sousa, a former Sun-Star photographer, has his own photography business in Merced, conducts group workshops and teaches photography at Merced College.