Composition: Contrast and Tone

Quiet. Reverential. Contemplative.

If you are going for a feeling like the above with a photograph, the below characteristics will do well:

Soft light
Gray tones
Pastel colors
Curved lines
Rounded forms
Subdued contrast

Loud. Quick. Excitement. Spontaneity. Punch.

With these feelings, the below characteristics will do you well:

Hard light
Black blacks and white whites
Vibrant colors.
Angled lines.
Edged forms
Unrestrained contrast.

Be careful, as heavy contrast is easily overdone. Be sure to check in and feel the emotion you are trying to conveying in a photograph. Some do better with more contrast, some do better with less.


Up near the Fire Trails in Berkeley, I started on a mission to Orinda BART. I don’t know if I’ve been anywhere quieter in the Bay, so I wanted to show that, along with the fog that was sweeping through. Very low contrast between the tree branches created the quiet, mystical, and simple feeling I was going for.


This tide pool in a pocket of ironshore beach was created by a storm that you can see is leaving. I wanted to show the reflection of the stormy sky, the sharp edges of the rocks, so I increased the contrast for more punch and excitement.




Shooting some photos at Berkeley Park for the first time in a while, Dylan was getting creative with a nollie back 180 melon. The sun was going down, and the sky was darkening to the blue shade you see here. I was using flash to freeze the action and light him properly. There is a lot of contrast between Dylan and the dark sky, and the colors of the sunset, creating the bold image I wanted.



In this photo of the mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo, you can see the three different tones in the photo, the first hill, the peak, and the sky. Not much contrast was added, each layer stood out on it’s own.

The nest post will be about: DOF!

Composition: Shutter Speed

Shutter speed. The make it or break it in a lot of photography. Too slow and it could blur action, too fast and your subject may look unnatural.

Shutter speed is a measurement of time between the mirror flipping down, blacking out your viewfinder for a moment. It can range from hours (though not recommended as it can damage your sensor), to 1/8000 of a second on most high end point and shoots through dSLRs.

This paragraph will address primarily skateboarding photography. Looking at your subject, what are you trying to do? If you want to keep your guy and the whole image sharp, go with a faster shutter speed, 1/800 and above. If you want to show movement, try 1/250 and below, and pan with the action. Your guy will stay sharp, and the background will blur out, effectively separating him from a potentially distracting background. You can use a flash, on camera or off, to further this effect.

In landscape photography, most of your subjects will be still, besides the wind blowing your subject, and flowing water. If you are trying to keep a moving object sharp, just make sure your shutter speed is fast enough.

Water deserves its own paragraph. When I first started shooting photos, I went out after it had rained, and experimented with 1/8000 of a second. I shot the water coming out of the gutters on my house, and got a shot with a super sharp stream of water, separated into blobs. Had I used a slow speed of 1/50 and below, the water would have blurred nicely into a wispy continuous stream.


Shutter speed of 1/800 at least. Another factor of using shutter speed to freeze action is how much of the frame your moving subject takes up. Here it’s not super close, so I could get away with a slower shutter speed.


Here, I was using flashes to freeze the action. I’ll go into this on another post, but no panning was necessary to achieve this shot. The shutter speed was 1/200, but the flash duration was approximately 1/2000, from two Vivitars.


In this shot of Aramis getting a backside carve on the wave, I wanted the water spray tack sharp, so I used a shutter speed of 1/2000, maybe more.

Shooting at Potrero one day, this dude came hauling ass frontside through the air, and I had my Lumedyne out, so I decided to show how fucking fast he was going. Shutter speed of 1/100, I panned with him, the Lumedyne at 1/4000 and a Vivitar at 1/2000.


I actually was running next to Colin, and shot this. Little blurred, but I like it. Had my fill flash on camera to help light his face. Shutter speed was 1/200, Vivitar at 1/2000.


Aramis slashing frontside on the Wave at The Black Pearl Skatepark, I wanted all the spray sharp like in the above surf shot, so my shutter was set to 1/2500.


I took this right after the 2012 Pirates Week fireworks show. I was on the dock, and the water was choppy, so I thought it would be cool to show the chaotic flow of it. The exposure was a few seconds long.


It was late at night, and the stars were magnificent at this state park in Northern California. I didn’t want them sharp, which a shutter speed of 30 seconds (depending on focal length) would be good for, but I wanted them to trail, so I left the shutter open for a couple minutes. Trees stay sharp, stars trail nicely.

P.S. I realize this post was technical, but almost every camera you pick up can control shutter speed, or at least it shows you. On those frustrating automatic point and shoots, just put it on Sports. “Why is my action blurry??!”…”Just put it on Sports…”

The next post: Contrast and Tone…

Composition: Balance



A majority of the photography world likes to fixate on the gear and equipment aspects of photography, but for some reason composition isn’t talked about as much.

People are led to think that a certain lens, or certain camera, or certain softbox will make them a better photographer.

This is frustrating, because if everybody understood basic composition rules, Instagram might not be filled with so many shitty photos.

I used to think about the technical/equipment side of photography a good deal, because I worked at a camera store.


So I figured I’d write a number of posts about composition, and relate it to my work, Skateboards and Landscapes.


In this post, I’ll be covering the rule of Balance.




In this photo of the bench overlooking Downtown Oakland, I placed the bench in the left side of the shot, and used the trail leading to the bench to balance it out.



In this shot, the bulldozer causes an imbalance because of it’s size and importance in relation to the trees in the background.





At the top of a hike near Ollantaytambo, Templo de Luna, a large cloud came over part of this hill that was across the valley, creating imbalance between the hill and the plateau. This dark shadow makes the hill look much more ominous and challenging to ascend.


On the path down from Machu Picchu heading up to Huaynapicchu, a potentially dangerous fall was on the right side. Having a higher perspective and placing the fellow hikers on the bottom left causes imbalance, making the viewer uneasy about the drop.




In this landscape photo, the rock on the left side is balanced by the clouds in the the top right.




Here Connor half-cabs over this chain into this rough bank. With the little girl standing next to the tree, this photo becomes more balanced, than if she wasn’t there.


My next post will be about another rule: Shutter Speed.