Thursday, August 5, 2010

Taking a really serious focus on balloons

Each balloon is a different form because of its random point in the inflation cycle. The people walking in the foregrounds catch your eye, and it is a nice contrast to the balloons in the background. (photo by Annis)

This is a simple, uncluttered shot. The puffiness of the clouds, and the degrees of whites  in the clouds contrast the solid shape of the symmetrical balloon. (photo by Annis)

Whether this NYSFB (New York State Festival of Balloons) weekend is your very first, or you are an old pro, Norm Annis, professional photographer, and owner of Colby Classic Photos in Hornell, has some suggestions to make your photos truly memorable.

No one wants to end up with a bunch of pictures of colorful specks in the sky that will be meaningless ten years down the road. Of course, they can be deleted immediately in our digital age, but what’s the sense of that?

Annis stopped to think about that very thought when a friend told him a couple years ago that she didn’t think that she could look at one more balloon picture.  He decided that he would take a different approach.

Now Annis doesn’t look at balloons anymore, but their shapes, intense colors, forms and graphics. He puts those artistic elements together using his camera to search for eye-catching images.

Annis says that anyone can shoot halfway decent pictures, but to really advance your skill level you need to slow down and think about what you are seeing in front of you, not forgetting to look off to both sides, as well. He suggests that you try to get a different view from everyone else by using the natural lighting at hand and arranging the shapes unusually.

“Move away from where the crowd is standing and focus in at a specific angle,” says Annis.

It’s not how expensive you camera is either, but how personally involved you get in planning through your shot. This is where your creativity comes into the picture, which is often referred to as “thinking outside the box”. Perhaps focusing on part of a balloon, the shadows being cast down or the diagonal lines of the graphic with a specific movement of the camera can enhance a photo. Rotating the camera at an angle might be a way to see through the lens. Kneeling down, even lying on the ground, will offer a completely different perspective.

“Dull, cloudy days are a plus for photographers,” states Annis. “The colors aren’t as washed out as they would be on a sunny day.”

The first evening of the balloon festival Annis goes home and analyzes his pictures, because he finds that the second day he always does better. He has a mental list in his mind of how he wants to change things. Professional photographers keep a notebook to remember settings and techniques.

If you learn what your camera is capable of doing by taking lots of pictures all the time, then when you are at a specific event you will handle your camera like a pro. Often a quick impromptu shot of a person’s reaction while a balloon is landing in his own backyard can be very rewarding if you are familiar with your camera.

Going up in a balloon is an opportunity for great close-up pictures. Watching facial expressions from crew, other passengers and those on the ground can be the best shots of the entire weekend.

“If you stay a little off to the side you won’t have people posing either,” says Annis.  He suggests walking around the edges of an activity to see what shots you might have available.

“Be patient. Wait.” states Annis. “ The good shots come in time and can’t be hurried.”

There is a cult following in photography that uses cell phone cameras to push the envelope a bit in picture taking. If you are not planning to blow up your pictures and you can get close to your subject, then a phone camera can work. When you only see the image as a small dot through the lens, remember that the camera is going to see even much less.

“The increasingly popular “Glow” evening is an opportunity to play with colors and get the twilight effect. It gives a broad range of brightness,” says Annis. “It takes some experimentation, but it is a challenge.”

Photographers talk with each other and often share their photos, which become a learning experience. Annis suggests you look at great photos, but do your own thing in the long run.

“Shoot less, study the potential image and you will have more keepers,” says Annis, as his final piece of advice, which should be the ultimate goal for photographers.

When the NYSFB comes to the valley, grab your camera, get ready, set and aim to have some fun!