Sunday, November 3, 2013

Working with negative space

I've experimented for several years with images that include lots of negative space surrounding the birds. I started this on Biscayne Bay when the sponge farm sticks were planted in the water (they are gone now) and gulls, terns and cormorants would roost on them. I had lots of fun photographing the scenes on a calm day when the water and sky appeared as one big white space and the birds and sticks became silhouettes.

Now, I look for these opportunities more often. On Florida Bay near Snake Bight is a large flat where hundreds of birds spread out over the open water. In the morning, it is very difficult to paddle into a position where the bird are front lit. So sometimes, I do the opposite and paddle on the west side of the mud flat so that I am facing the sun. With this scene, all the wading birds are silhouetted. With lots of birds spread out, I adjust the aperture so that I get a long depth of field, f16-f22. Then, I increase the ISO and/or reduce the shutter speed to brighten up the water as much as possible without blowing out the dark birds.

For post-processing, I adjust the water and sky to become completely white, and adjust the dark birds so they are completely black.  Then, I add or reduce the space around the birds to get the composition I want.

There is something very appealing about images that have lots of negative space and are monochromatic. For me, it is the simplicity that is very calming and doesn't challenge me so much. I get enough stress and challenges throughout my workday, so this type of image just makes life simpler, that's all. On top of all that, I love the form of a bird and I like it's interactions with the water. Sometimes, these simple images become dynamic, but soothing at the same time.

Whatever it is, it works for me, hope it does for you too.

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