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Ten easy pieces. Ten easy pieces. Ten easy pieces to creative photography. Skeptical? Well, if youre not you should be. First of all, anything as elusive and fleeting as creativity should never be easy. Creativity is not easy and it never should be. The fact that it is so rare is powerful proof as to how difficult it really is. No, this book and this book alone will not make you a creative photographer overnight, so lets just get that out of the way right now. What I do offer here are ten easy pieces that might allow you to make more creative decisions with your camera. Sometimes being a more creative photographer is nothing more that seeing something just a little different than everyone else. These ten pieces are ideas or concepts that can spark a creative revelation that does just that. I do hope you find this short e-book an enjoyable read that helps you become, even in some small way, a better photographer, if not a more creative one. Richard Bernabe October 2013


Complementary colors, in this example blue and yellow, are often used in art and fashion since the effect is visually stimulating and the individual colors appear brighter and more vibrant together than if viewed either solo or used within other color combinations. Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming, USA; Canon 5D MarkIII, 70mm, 1/50 sec. @ f11, ISO 100

When seeking out combinations of color in nature, I am often drawn to scenes with complementary colors. Notice the spelling here complementary not complimentary. Yes, complementary colors are visually pleasing and feel balanced when used together in combination, but they are called complementary (root word complete) not complimentary (root word compliment) because when used in combination, they complete the color spectrum. For example, the image from the previous page contains the complementary colors of blue in the stormy sky and clouds while the stand of aspen trees in the warm morning light are yellow. So why are blue and yellow complementary? When referring to colors of light (also called additive color mode) red, green, and blue are the primary colors and when used in combination, they complete the color spectrum by making the color white. Using our example, blue contains one-third of the color spectrum by being one of the three primary colors. Yellow, on the other hand, contains two-thirds of the remaining color spectrum by including equal amounts of red and green. Therefore, blue and yellow complete the color spectrum and are considered complementary.

The same can be said of the colors red and green, as employed in the image on this page. Although red and green dont meet the precise criteria outlined earlier (in theory red and cyan are complementary), the colors are certainly close enough and the combination of the two colors achieves the same effect. Psychologists and neuroscientists claim that bright, complementary colors situated adjacent to each other can cause a vibrating or pulsing effect in the brain. While Ive never been consciously aware of that phenomenon ever happening to me personally, I know there must be some inkling of truth to this notion, since I do consciously seek out these colors in combination, as the net effect is often overwhelmingly striking. Complementary colors are often used in the worlds of art and fashion since the combination is so visually stimulating and the individual colors appear brighter and more vibrant together than if they were viewed either solo or within other color combinations.

Image this page: Red Howler Monkeys, Tambopata National Reserve, Peru; Canon 7D, 600mm, 1/200 sec. @ f4, ISO 320


Long exposures create the illusion of motion by introducing the element of time to the image. Low light situations or the use of a neutral density filter can render any movement in the scene as elegant blurs or streaks. Just remember your tripod! Arc de Triomphe, Paris, France; Canon 5D MarkII, 21mm, 25 secs. @ f16, ISO 100


Youre crazy if you have been putting your camera away after the sun goes down, as too many photographers too often do. For the next hour or so after the sun disappears (or before it appears in the morning) you might see and experience some of the best light of the entire day. Twilight is cool and blue, moody and eerie, soft and diffused. The lower light levels that accompany the twilight hours usually require much longer exposures than normal which can only add to the surreal nature of the scene at this time of day. Here are two tips to consider when photographing twilight scenes. First, know the area well enough so that you are not putting yourself in any kind of danger. A small flashlight could also help in this regard. Second, turn the auto focus off. The scene or subject will probably be too dark for autofocus to work anyway, so you will need to focus manually.

The Toadstools, Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah, USA; Canon 5D MarkII, 19mm, 30 secs. @ f16, ISO 160


Lousy weather gives the creative photographer the opportunity to turn an ordinary scene into something moody, ethereal, ominous, and special. The infinite varieties of weather offer infinite creative options to those who are observant enough to take advantage. Machu Picchu, Peru; Canon 5D MarkIII, 28mm, 1/125 sec. @ f11, ISO 100

For landscape and nature photographers, foul weather is a double-edged sword. If you get too much of the bad stuff you know, clouds, wind, rain, etc. you can be completely shut out. But then again, too much lousy weather is almost as bad as no weather at all clear, blue, cloudless skies. To be honest, its tough to say which scenario is a better excuse for hitting the snooze button and sleeping in. Still, if I had to choose one set of weather conditions over the other, Id take the clouds and stormy weather every time, especially those dark, moody, threatening skies that can add intense drama and mood to my images. Bad weather often ushers in fog, which is one of my favorite conditions in which to do photography. Foggy weather invites mystery and mystique. What is lurking just behind the veil of fog and mist anyway? If nothing else, fog simplifies the scene by masking out possible distracting elements in the background, forcing the viewer to only focus on what you, the photographer, feel is relevant. If youre lucky enough to have some sun breaking through the fog (as is the case with the image on this page) all the better!

Rainy weather doesnt have to be completely avoided if you follow a few common sense guidelines. For example, heavy rain should be avoided since it can damage your camera gear and it doesnt usually result in very good images anyway. Light rain is shoot-able if you can manage to keep the raindrops off the front element of your lens. Using a lens hood helps with that. For sheer drama, both light and storm clouds are what we want in our images and you can often find these situations immediately after a storm blows through. A clearing storm always seems to have a defining moment when the clouds break and something magical happens. It doesnt always happen, of course, but I certainly want to be in a good place with my camera, ready to go, if and when it does.

Image this page: Clingmans Dome with approaching storm, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, North Carolina and Tennessee; Canon 5D MarkII, 47mm, 1/640 sec. @ f11, ISO 200.


In order to truly master composition, the photographer needs to learn how to let go of the literal and embrace the abstract elements buried deep within the scene. Cypress Gardens, South Carolina, USA, Canon 5D MarkIII, 16mm, 0.4 sec. @ f18, ISO 100

One of the best pieces of advice I can give to a beginning photographer to help he or she see and create better compositions an aspect of photography with which most beginning photographers say they struggle is to let go of the literal elements of a scene and embrace the underlying abstract qualities buried beneath it all. That doesnt mean you should start making abstract images, although thats not necessarily a bad idea either for its own sake, but instead try to see the scene abstractly. So for example, instead of seeing a scene for its mountains, trees, rocks, clouds and a river, you would look for interconnecting shapes, lines, balance and how they relate to each other and the surrounding image frame. Look at the image on the preceding page and you will probably see all the literal elements contained within it. There are reeds, reflections of trees, lily pads, and bright, vibrant green colors. Its a pretty scene that appeals to our human sense of aesthetics. Now look at the image on this page. Its the same except you dont readily notice the reeds, reflection of trees, or lily pads. Now you mostly see a poorly drawn half oval shape and some radiating lines. The literal elements are gone and all thats left is the abstract. I could ask myself, Is this an interesting ab-

stract design that holds my attention? If not, I would move on to something else. Pretty scenes are a dime a dozen. If yes, then I know I have something here to work with. When working with students in the field, I might ask them to squint their eyes a little so the literal is mostly blurred out and all they can faintly see is the skeletal structure of the scene. This is very good practice if youve never tried it before. The literal just fleshes the image out later when the image is captured. When photographing in a beautiful location, its all too easy to be seduced by the scenes literal beauty and overlook what really makes a strong composition. The way I see it, there is always time to sit back and appreciate the beauty of nature. In fact, I have to force myself to step away from the camera from time to time to just sit back and soak it all in and just enjoy. Thats important for many different reasons. But when its time to get to work, Im looking much deeper into the scene for the abstract qualities that are going to take it beyond just a pretty picture and into the realm of true artistic interpretation. That means just letting go of the literal.


Visual economy, or minimalism, is becoming ever more popular today in art and design. Counterpoised to the cluttered, busy, and frazzled realities of modern life, many weary souls are seeking refuge in simplicity wherever it can be found. From art and fashion to the relief of our computers and automobiles, clean and simple design is winning the day and the marketplace is keeping score. The most effective design is often the result of the least design. A Zen master might surely offer a nod to that sentiment. Or he wouldnt just to have it achieve even greater effect. This is the apparent paradox that most photographers, artists, and designers come to understand in due time. More is usually less just as less is quite often more. The true nature of a subjects character is only revealed after all non-essential elements and details, which dont contribute to the essence of the overall composition, are eliminated.

Hunting Island, South Carolina, USA; Canon 5D MarkII, 105mm, 30 secs. @ f18, ISO 100

The addition of the human form in a landscape not only introduces a sense of scale, but it also invites the viewer to live vicariously through the image. Hey, that could be me! That should be me! Its much easier now for the viewer to forge a strong emotional connection with the scene. Namib-Naukluft National Park, Namibia; Canon 5D MarkIII, 22mm, 1/40 sec. @ f11, ISO 320



If you have been taught that the sun should always be at your back when doing photography, you are the victim of a grave injustice. Back lighting, shooting into the direction of the sun, offers some of the most dramatic lighting conditions you will encounter. Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, USA; Canon 7D, 400mm, 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 640

Most photographers opt for shooting with the sun directly behind them. Point your shadow at the subject is their mantra since they can be sure that in this way, the subject will be evenly illuminated. In other words, its easy. Now Im not saying that shooting with the sun at your back is always a bad idea (especially since I do it all the time) but limiting yourself to only this lighting option certainly is a bad habit. With the sun at your back, a lighting option we call front lighting, there is a downside to all the even illumination I referred to earlier. With front lighting, the subject and scene will appear flat and two dimensional. And lets be honest, its also boring and predictable. If we want to be creative photographers, we need to move beyond the boring and predictable, right? Instead, you can express your subject or scene much more creatively by shooting into the sun for instant drama. In the example from the previous page, the direction of the sun produced brilliant rim light around the bear, which is a lot more interesting and dramatic than the conventional front-lit angle that we see in guidebooks and photo magazines all the time. Again, theres nothing wrong with those interpretations, but theres no denying that back lighting produces a result that is

far more powerful and eye catching. If your subject has any translucent materials such as fur, hair, feathers, or leaves, the back lit sun will give these subjects a vivid glowing effect, as is the case with the bears fur. This is the rim light I was referring to earlier. With fog, you can get even more dramatic results. The image on this page illustrates how fog or mist can capture and hold the light when back lit. As interesting as this forest scene was front-lit after turning around in the other direction, it pales in comparison to the back lit version you see here. The radiating beams of light in the fog, due to the strong back lighting, are what transforms this good scene into a truly captivating one. While shooting directly into the sun can result in dramatic results, you need to be aware of that nasty flare and ghosting if direct light grazes off the front element of the lens. A lens hood rarely helps in these instances so you might have to use your hand or hat to help shield the lens from the sun.

Image this page: Del Norte Redwoods, California, USA; Canon 5D MarkIII, 24mm, 1/30 sec. @ f13, ISO 500.


The use of leading lines is powerful and effective compositional tool that helps the photographer lead the viewers eye through the image. Lines and S curves also help give an image structure and establish flow and direction, preventing it from becoming visually static. Leading and curved lines control and manipulate the visual experience by bringing the viewer along a dynamic journey through the scene in a very specific way that the photographer intends; near to far, up or down, from corner to corner. All the while, the viewers eye is moving, stopping only when it reaches the photographers pre-designed, intended resting place. The lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, literal or merely implied. As long as they are purposeful and meet the intentions of the photographer, they can be useful in giving the image dynamic flow..

Bahia Tunnel at Lago Viedma, Patagonian Argentina; Canon 5D MarkII, 18mm, 1.3 secs. @ f18, ISO 100



To quote the great Henri Cartier-Bresson, To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event as well as of a precise organization of forms which give that event its proper expression. Saint Augustine, Florida, USA; Canon 7D, 275mm, 1/1600 sec. @ f5.6, ISO 800


Richard Bernabe is a an internationally renowned landscape, wildlife, and travel photographer and author from the United States. His passion for adventure has been the driving force behind his lifes quest to capture the moods and character of the worlds most amazing places, from Africa to the Amazon to the Arctic and countless places in between. His editorial clients include The National Geographic Society, Audubon, The Sierra Club, National Parks, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, and many others. Corporate clients include Canon, Patagonia, Orvis, REI, Apple, Microsoft, American Express, and more. Richard is a highly sought-after teacher and public speaker who accepts many invitations from around the world each year in order to help educate others on matters of photography, adventure travel, and our natural world. To learn more about Richards work, visit his website at (click the link, its interactive).

For more information and books about photography, you can visit the Earth and Light Digital Media website for additional resources and information. If you currently have Internet access, you can click on the following link to take you to Earth and Lights website: (click the link, its interactive).

Essential Composition: A Guide For The Perplexed by Richard Bernabe $7.95 The essential composition guide for both beginning and advanced photographers. This eBook covers the basics on light, color, balance, lines, shapes, perspective, patterns, common mistakes, and more. ORDER HERE

Essential Light: Photographys Lifeblood by Richard Bernabe $7.95 Light really is the lifebloods of photography. Essential Light will teach you all you ever wanted to know about natural light: its moods and characteristics, intensity, direction, color and how it influences the quality and aesthetics of your images. ORDER HERE