Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Award Winner: 2015 PX3 Award

Proud to announce that my image, Wildwood 2 from my Aerial Arboretum portfolio won a 2015 PX3 Award, Honorable Mention in the Nature category.  It's quite an honor to be among such celebrated photographers on a global stage.

The "Prix de la Photographie, Paris" (Px3) strives to promote the appreciation of photography, to discover emerging talent, and introduce photographers from around the world to the artistic community of Paris. Selection of work from this competition are displayed in Paris and published in Px3 Annual Book.  Juried by leading editors, publishers, curators, gallery owners, consultants, creative directors, and art directors, Px3 brings the best of photography from across the globe to Paris.

Wildwood 2
@2014, Joanne Scherf

The following link will take you to the four images I entered, and featuring my winning image of Wildwood 2.  http://www.px3.fr/winners/zoom2.php?eid=1-52400-15&uid=3247465&cat=

Monday, June 22, 2015

Professional Development: MacDowell Colony Residency

Always on the lookout for professional development opportunities, I discovered this artist residency called the MacDowell Colony  located in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire, Peterborough to be exact.

The MacDowell Colony is the nation's first artist residency program established in 1907, with fellows the likes of James Baldwin, Leonard Bernstein, Aaron Copland, Alice Walker, and Thornton Wilder to name just a few.  The Colony provides fellowships for over 250 creative artists each year.  This community of artists working in a variety of disciplines (literary and visual), and aside from the lunch picnic basket lunch deliveries at your studio, one receives uninterrupted time dedicated to their art, plus private studios, living accommodations, and meals for up to a two month period.

Check out this video http://www.macdowellcolony.org/about-Video.html  for a visual description of their artist residency at MacDowell Colony.  The website http://www.macdowellcolony.org provides all the details.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Black & White OR Color

Ultimately it's a personal decision that is complex and subjective.  Overall, it circles back to your original intent and pre-visualization of the image well before you click the shutter.  During the film era a photographer had to clearly decide beforehand since it required a mechanical insertion of either B&W or color film.  But today, you take the original digital capture in color that can easily be converted into B&W in post-processing.  So the benefit of digital is that you can have both a B&W and color image without much fuss at all.  Unfortunately this luxury of having it both ways, presents a challenge to some because you now may have to literally decide which is it going to be...B&W or color OR both?  Some photographers have a strong specialization (either B&W or color) and if you're lucky the image decides for you.  Regardless of your situation, the best approach is perhaps a simple question of "what am I trying to say with this image?"

  • Is there an emotional connection I want the viewer to experience?  Which emotion?
  • Can I use color as a compositional element that adds value to the image?
  • Does the juxtaposition of color add to the composition and balance of the image?
  • Which provides the best visual impact and narrative?
  • Do I want to keep it simple, classic, and/or one with drama?

In addition to personal intent, there are probably some basics that one should consider when confronted with the decision of Color vs B&W.

  • You can use the hues, tones, and shades of color to tell a visual story
  • Provides a strong point of visual interest
  • Grabs your attention with a richer dynamic range
  • Allows you to direct the viewer's focus by highlighting elements in an image by smart use of color wheel theories and juxtaposition of colors


  • Traditionally conveys emotion better; especially mood, grit, danger or subjects that are bleak, nostalgic, or vintage in nature
  • Encourages your mind to really focus and experience a deeper level of seeing without the distraction of color
  • Offers reduced complexity that emphasizes subject matter
  • Best with compositional elements of form, shape, line, shadows and highlights
  • Popular axiom..."when you photograph people in color you photograph their clothes, but when you photograph people in B&W you "photograph their souls"

Final thought....if you can't decide make two versions; one B&W and one color.  Display them side-by-side on your monitor or as actual prints.  Take a moment (better yet several days of looking at them), to digest the image, then let your gut make the decision.  You'll feel it in your bones, even in your soul.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Image of the Month: June 2015

This image was taken on the beach at Half Moon Bay, California as I watched a surfer leave the ocean and return to his normal schedule.  The simple lesson with this image I would like to share are the basic composition elements of thirds, center of interest, and eye movement.  Rather than just talk about the final image I thought it would be helpful to provide the same image with my notations on them to clearly present each item.

Note:  For each image, to obtain a larger view, just click on the image itself

Image of the Month: June 2015
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Rule of Thirds....with a Twist
The rule of thirds is all about placement of your subject matter within the frame and refers to dividing your image into thirds both horizontally and vertically.  This imaginary exercise results in a grid-like pattern of nine equal spaces.   However with my variation of the rule of thirds, if you look closely you can see three distinct triangles running on the horizontal plane.  

The three triangles would be #1, the top which encompasses the ocean, #2 the sandy beach, and #3 the sedum plants on the cliffside overlooking the beach.  What's also interesting is that each triangle is very clean and contains only that one subject matter throughout.  So for example in the #2 triangle, it's only sandy beach.  Typically when looking at grids of thirds there most often is a mix of subject matter in each grid, or in this case each triangle.

Composition Element: Rule of Thirds w/Twist
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Center of Interest
The center of interest refers to the most significant element of an image, or in other words, the center or most important point of interest.  Good composition typically locates the central point of interest off-center which is more pleasing to the eye.  Notice in this image your eye is drawn to the center triangle (#2) because of the lighter color (compared with above ocean or below plant material) and surfer figure walking across the beach provides an additional focal point.  

Composition Element: Center of Interest
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Composition Element: Eye Movement
Although photographs are static in nature, a dynamic element and movement can be attained merely through composition.  In essence the artist has control of the viewer's eye movement through clever placement of objects, framing, and overall composition techniques.  Studies have even shown that geometric shapes are more visually appealing and can influence eye movement.  

There are two very obvious directional clues in this image.  First is the trail of footprints gently positioned in the sandy beach leading away from the ocean. Secondly, the actual movement of the surfer leads the viewer off the image entirely.  Since this image was captured with an iPhone I had absolutely no control of normal camera functions such as shutter speed, f-stop and exposure.  Ultimately, although the surfer was moving I kept the camera in a steady, static position, thus the second and transparent figure of the surfer.  However, I think this evolving transparent trail of the surfer literally appears as if he's walking out of the frame; a huge visual leading line to follow him off the image and beyond the frame.  In fact, the further the surfer walks away from the ocean, the more transparent he becomes.  Again, this happened because of limited functionality of the "camera" I had with me at the time of capture, but I love the result.  It's almost metaphorical in a sense. 

Composition Element:  Eye Movement
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Image of the Month: June 2015
© 2014, Joanne Scherf

Hopefully this month's image demonstrates how pre-visualization of composition is so important.  The basic composition elements of Rule of Thirds, Center of Interest, and Eye Movement are key to capturing and creating fantastic images. For patrons I hope this insight helps you to read photographs better and improve your visual literacy.  As for professionals who invariably have an innate visual competency and sense of composition, it's just a gentle reminder how critical the basics really are.