Ask Better Questions

Lesson 2 of David Duchemin’s The Visual Toolbox (yes, I’m only on Lesson 2.  But, remember, Lesson 3…okay, I skipped ahead…sue me…was to read the camera manual and that took a while) instructed me to Ask Better Questions.

What does he mean by that?  Well, in Lesson 1 he had me choose some of my favorite photos to start figuring out my vision.  Because, as he concluded, “The images that will always captivate others, and mean the most to you, are the ones made in that tension of learning to express your vision.”

No pressure there.

Lesson 2 told me to look at some of the same photos from Lesson 1 and to ask myself a whole slew of questions because, “I [David Duchemin] want to encourage you to see photography not as a technical craft but as an aesthetic one accomplished through technical means.”

I kind of dig that.  I’ve LaNae’d it to this:  photography should grab both your heart and your eye, but you need to know the technical crap so people can figure out what you’re trying to tell their eye and their heart.  Or something like that.

I pulled up a couple of my favorites and did the exercise.  I was then prepared to cross it off the list and move on.  Right?  Lesson 2….done!


No.  Not by a long shot.

Therefore, my immediate goal is to pull up a favorite every day or evening for at least the next week and go through the list of….twelve…questions.  And answer them.  Honestly.


Okay.  Let’s go through a couple of my favorites.

Ask Better Questions,

I actually had this one printed along with the others that I told you about here.  I love it. It’s not perfect.  But, I love it, anyways.

Let’s go through the questions:

What thought or feeling am I trying to express in this photograph?

Frigid cold, but with the promise of warmth captured by the morning sun coming from the right and shining on the underside of the grass.

What role does color play?

Huge!  The photo would have a very different feel if it had been an overcast morning.  Then it would have just felt cold.  It’s that soft glow of sun that does it for me.

What would this scene look like with a wider or tighter lens?

I was using my 70-200mm because that’s what I usually take out to the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge, where this was shot.  I’m happy with the result, though the photo would have been easier to take if I’d had my 50mm.  And, I think I could have been more solid in the depth of field…it’s a bit shallow.

What is it about this specific moment that made me choose it instead of waiting a moment or two longer, or making the photograph a moment sooner?

Oh, this one is all about the light.  A moment sooner and it wasn’t there.  A moment later it was gone.

Are my chosen settings going to change the look of certain elements, and do so in a way that helps me tell my story?

This goes back to depth of field.  If I had brought the aperture up just a couple of stops the tip of the blade of grass would have likely been in focus.  I like the blur of the lower off-shoot, but I wish the primary blade was entirely in focus.

What devices can I use to exclude the unnecessary without diminishing the necessary?

I think I excluded about all I could.  🙂

What are the relationships between the elements, and can a shift in my position, or change in my lens, make those relationships stronger?

I like the view, though if I could do it again I would try to changes in composition to see what the result would have been.  First:  I would bring the stem more to the right corner to allow for more open space on the left.  Click. Second:  I would shift so that, instead of looking at the blade from the side, I was looking at it more straight on…so that my eye directly followed the stem.  I might have lost the curve of the blade that way, but I’d still like to see what it looks like.  Click.

Where are the lines in this photograph and what would a change in framing (vertical or horizontal), aspect ratio, or lens make them stronger or weaker?

I’ve pretty much already discussed this.

Do those lines lead the eye into the frame or out of the frame, and could I change them to better direct the eye?

Ditto.  Goes back to composition.  Start of blade in corner…more “blank” space to the left. I tried cropping it a few minutes ago and can get the blade in the corner, but I can’t create space to the left that ain’t there to begin with.

What is the light doing?

Oh, the light is beautiful!  Bee-you-tee-full!

Is there depth in my image?  Could there be more?  Would it benefit from less?

If I’m understanding depth correctly there isn’t a lot of it here because of the isolation of the blade of grass.  But, I like it.  I took a few other photos that included more grass, less bokeh and….meh.

Are there repeated elements in the scene that provide a visual echo or rhythm to the photograph? Could I pull out a little and include more of them, or tighten up a little and include fewer?

See above.

Wow.  All of that for just one photo.  This education thing is….thought-provoking.

Wait.  I said that we’d do a couple.  I did do another one…verbally.  But, I’m tired of typin’, so consider this lesson done.  For you.  Not for me.

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