Landscape photographer Pat Hansen of Yankton learned basics of how to take quality pictures in the rose garden at Grandview Park in Sioux City more than thirty years ago.
Today her digital camera captures images that can be viewed for feedback, a moment after they are taken. But back then, Hansen learned about camera adjustments from systematic trial and error and camera setting records.
“When I got the pictures back a week later, I matched them to the camera settings to see what the settings do for the picture,” Hansen said. She set up a dark room to process film. Later her digital camera and computer software enabled her to improve results without chemicals.
“We bought a computer that had Photoshop elements-it was almost life changing,” she said. “(Now) I find many images could use just a little tweaking such as contrast, that makes the difference between a good photo and great photo.”
Backyard Flower Photo Tips
While many use the automatic setting on a digital point-and-shoot camera to take a rose picture, Hansen said that the ‘flower setting’ on a camera is better.
“Flower setting gets one flower in focus and not everything else. It diminishes other distractions. It makes the main subject stand out because it blurs everything else. When you have a bunch of flowers it’s hard to see any of them,” Hansen said. “The viewer (of the photo) doesn’t know where to look.”
In a mass of flowers, one way to show what stands out is to focus on a single flower subject.
“You make a focal point when you choose the one, two, or three flowers in the foreground. You have other flowers in the background,” she said. But where to place the flower in the field of view is important.
“If you put the flower in the lower third of the picture for example, it’s more pleasing,” she said. She refers to the “Rule of Thirds” in where to place the flower for best results. Usually centering the flower in the photo is not as strong a picture.
“Rules are made to be broken,” Hansen said. She is aware of the rules as she adjusts where she stands and what she includes in the picture.
She has other simple aids to improve photo results.
“White cardboard [held near the flower but outside the shot] can lighten shadows,” she said. “Black backdrop of cardboard or black cloth excludes other plants and adsorbs other colors.” Her water spray bottle can achieve the appearance of raindrops on petals. She uses a tripod for steady shots and doesn’t take photos in windy conditions.
Overcast daylight is a better choice for pictures than artificial light.
“Natural light is softer and more diffuse,” she said. “A flash can be harsh and give highlights or reflections that don’t look natural.” She suggested early morning and late evening as best lighting.
Carefully select the subject matter for a photo. It’s easier to arrange a photo before you take it instead of using computer software to erase unwanted objects later.
“I consider photography as art. If your photo is to show fall conditions, I would not change it (with software),” she said. But as art, she might consider changing the clouds in a photo, for example.
“I take stock photos of clouds just for that reason. I try not to overdo it but I am making art with a camera,” she said. In the backyard photo, you could push two potted plants together for the shot although they normally stand apart.
“If you have a desire to take pictures, take a lot of them,” Hansen said. “The secret of to taking a good picture is to take lots of mediocre ones.”
Hansen is a member of Yankton Area Photography Club. New members are welcome. They meet the first Tuesday of the month at 6:30 p.m. in the conference room at the Chan Gurney Municipal Airport. See their Facebook page for more information.
Hansen’s website has landscape photographs and a few others such as still life. Many of her photos would work well as horizontal or vertical panoramas for websites. Hansen displayed twenty-five photographs in her gallery art show this spring for Yankton Area Arts at the G.A.R. Hall in Yankton. “All Around” was her show theme.
“You might take a picture of your aunt’s gaudy necklace, her red car, and her strawberry pie she brings to every event and have a picture of your aunt without taking a picture of her face. In ‘All Around’ you put all the photos together. You don’t have God’s face, but you have a picture of God, all around Him. We have so much beauty in the ordinary day; in the rainy day, not just in the sunset.”
As with other photographers, she has photos that “got away” as well as what she calls “lucky shots”. She recalled the effort to set up for sunrise shots in the Badlands, but the day began with overcast conditions. One of her lucky shots involved sludge in a photo she named “Milky Way Barn”.
She and other photo club members gathered to photograph the Milky Way galaxy one night. They wanted something in the foreground of the shot.
“Across the road was a confinement facility. Workmen hauled sludge out that night. The trucks had orange lights on top of their trucks. When trucks traveled in one direction, they washed the metal building in orange light. The building almost looks on fire. What a lucky coincidence! I could not have planned it,” she said. This shot is under “Barns” on her website.
Several Yankton Area Photography Club members have photos into the “Mighty Mo Photo Show” for public viewing at G.A.R. Hall on Douglas Ave., sponsored by the Yankton Area Arts Association. Hansen entered four photographs and her “A Tale of Two Bridges” won ‘Best in Show’. Her “Foggy Fishing” received a ‘Promise to Purchase’ from Yankton Dental.
A published author, Hansen has focused her writing to a book of photographs: The Joy of Yankton: A Collection of Local Places with Photography by Pat Hansen, available on her website.
“I’m just getting going,” Hansen said. “I’d love to have photographs on more office or waiting room walls. I like to share photos where people will appreciate them.”