Five things photographers see, that you and I don’t

Just after dawn last Sunday morning, I cruised down Highway 57, idly chatting, when my brother in-law Chip said, “Stop! Can you turn the car around?”

I looked around the empty streets, made a legal U-turn and obliged.

We parked the car and jumped out. I saw an empty field. The same field I’d driven past one thousand times before.

Chip saw a photo.

It turned out to be lesson No. 1 on Laura and Chip’s Photo Walk 2, the winter version.

You may recall that my brother in-law is a photographer who kindly gave me a few tips on a gorgeous morning shoot last year in Florida.

I borrowed him again for a lesson in Wisconsin landscapes and he gamely braved frostbite to accommodate me.

As I watched him work it occurred to me that professional photographers, and I am lucky enough to know several ridiculously talented ones (Lori Waselchuck, Dan Kramer, Steve Apps, etc.), see the world a little differently than you and I.

Here are five things they see:

1) Lines. We see basic horizons. Photographers see lines in cloud formations, tree branches, wave patterns, traffic, light. The lines they see coax your eye to the heart of the picture.

2) Perspective. This is what elevates a snapshot to a photograph. It adds dimension and interest. My favorite photos are those that change my perspective and make me think.

3) Stories. Gifted photographers tell stories without words. As I shivered in the frigid wind, adjusting my exposure and trying to figure out what f-stop I needed to set, I struggled to answer Chip’s consistent and reasonable question, “What story are you trying to tell?”

4) Framing. Gifted photographers develop an eye for framing photos to maximize their effect. Anyone can crop a photo in post-production, but it takes a real photographer to know how.

5) Color. We all have access to the most sophisticated camera equipment and software on the market, but only skilled photographers know how to use it. Color temperature and saturation can elevate a picture, or make it look ridiculous.

I enjoy taking pictures and I hope to learn a little more with every snap. Toward that end, I really like looking at the photographs of the artists I mentioned and taking a moment or two to look at the world through their eyes.

I’m going to share a few photos both during and after my morning lesson with Chip. But, for a real treat, check out the photographers I mentioned above. Their pictures are genuinely beautiful.

This is me shadowing Chip on a very cold Sunday morning.
I would not have seen the way this tree line drew my eyes to the center of this field as the sun rose on a frigid Sunday morning without my sensei Chip.
I don’t know what to say about this one except I froze my fingers off trying to get it right and it’s not quite there. I do like the burst of sun and the tree shadows that lead your eye to it.


Self Portrait
So, the next Sunday I went off on my own. This is me on a gritty, sunless Sunday morning.
I was going for the competing lines here.
Lonely picnic table
I thought this picnic table looked lonely.
I think an actual photographer might have captured the creepiness of the mannequin, and the head laying next to her, in this abandon store window. I had the story, just had trouble framing the shot.
Stop sign reflection
I liked the reflection of the stop sign on the street.
Sunset on the water
And I really liked the reflection of this setting sun on the river. I liked the texture of the water.
This old house
It was a pretty dreary day and I liked the competing cheery colors of this house. Also, who paints their house on a bitterly cold day in February? This is a snapshot, though, not the photograph I’d hoped to create.
Moon on the crest
Shot the light over the crested snow last night.


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