Photography Through the Eyes of Others

Going on a small group photography tour is an exciting way to see a specific location through the eyes of others. Being in the presence of those who have a passion for making images can get our creative juices flowing and inspire us to think about what we’re looking at and how to tell the story of what we see.
I lead a photography tour in Portugal in March with Jose Antunes, an esteemed photographer and writer there. As our photo guru and guide, he helped us hone our photography skills and took us to special places where he loves to photograph. During the week we explored everything from landscapes and seascapes to small villages, city life in Lisbon to 2000 year old archaeological artifacts and geological formations from 72 million years ago.FOTOdigital July cover 2014The summer issue of FOTOdigital is online now. Jose showcased a selection of images that my group took during our week in Portugal in the spring. It’s so interesting to see how unique we are and how we pointed our camera at different things that caught our eye.
When you go out with your camera be sure to look at your surroundings with fresh eyes and see what you can capture.
Enjoy photographs taken by our group from Canada, (Gerry, Kitty, Norah, Judith and myself,)  in FOTOdigital, (pages 14-47 and 50-63,) and share the link with your friends and family.

Check out Jose’s website for more information on day tours, eBooks, and the Lightroom and Photoshop courses he offers.

To see more of my images, please visit my website

© Copyright Marion McCristall, all rights reserved

Inspired by Spring Flowers

Spring is such a remarkable time of year. Although we may have lots of windy days with showers of rain, there is a promise of newness that gives us fresh optimism and joy. The flowers start by peeking out from under the earth and, before we know it, they are standing tall and waiting to be admired and photographed.   Poppy in Bamboo Grove Glades May 2014Jose Antunes, my photography mentor and friend, gives workshops on flower photography. I recently tried one of his techniques that involves using a zoom lens and am pleased with the results. I’ve always been a fan of shallow depth of field with flower images and really like the soft backgrounds I was able to get using my 70-300mm lens. The flowers look like you could reach into the frame and touch them.Flower5 white blossoms May 2014You don’t have to go very far to find flowers to photograph. They could be growing wild on the side of the road, in a nearby park, or in your own backyard. I like to choose a single flower to focus on. I take my time and explore various angles, look for the light touching the petals or leaves, and check to see what is behind the flower to create the most pleasing effect. In this image you can see that I was able to capture the purple salvia against a backdrop of yellow daisies.Glades purple salvia3 May 2014I like the juxtaposition of the purple flower and turquoise and green muted colours in the background of this exquisite yellow poppy. It had just stopped raining and soft light fell on the petals and raindrops.Glades orange poppy1 May 2014If you’d like some photography tips and to learn more about ways Jose creates beautiful flower images with everything from a point and shoot, to a smart phone, to a DSLR with a long lens, check out his newest eBook, The Best Secrets of Flower Photography. It’s only 7.50 Euros which works out to about $10.50. You’ll enjoy his images and be inspired to go out and create your own.

Jose is a professional photographer and writer who offers a variety of photography workshops in Portugal as well as online tutorials.

To see more of my images, please visit my website

© Copyright Marion McCristall, all rights reserved


Summer is a time when our senses come alive with sights and sounds of bustling farmers’ markets, children playing at the beach, kites flying high in deep blue skies, and people filling parks with their blankets and picnic suppers.

When I go out with my camera I see vibrant colours of wildflowers in meadows, lush vegetable gardens, light filtering through cedar groves, and tourists, gelato in hand, stopping to enjoy local attractions.

I am drawn to try to capture it all and create photographs that tell the stories of what I see. When I take my time, I also like to make images that separate an object from the cacophony of summer delights and focus only on it. I call this simplicity.Daisy quote BCLight and shadow are a photographers best friend.This exquisite daisy was growing in a cluster under the shadowy eaves of a barn. It caught my eye with the light falling over the top of the petals. I zoomed in to make this lovely photograph. I added a slight texture and quote using photo editing software.

When you’re out taking pictures, try to capture just the simplest element of what you see.  You may be surprised and delighted at the beauty of it all.

To see more of my images, please visit my website

© Copyright Marion McCristall, all rights reserved

Photography Quick Tip 8 – Light and Shadows

cypress shadows in Tuscany

A really quick way to improve your photographs is to become more aware of light and shadows.  By mixing darks and lights they play off each other and work together to create drama or mood.  The interplay between the contrasts enhance images.

I find that taking pictures early in the morning or late in the day create some of the most pleasing images.  They appear warmer and have a more ethereal appearance than those taken in harsh light.

early morning light

If the sun is high overhead, or you use a flash on highly reflective or shiny surfaces, you’ll find that some images contain hot spots or blown out areas where there are patches of white with no detail.  By moving around your subject and changing your position you may be able to keep them out of the picture.

notice the blown out area behind the leaves and in the flowers on the left

Sometimes we can’t avoid these especially if noon is the time for the family picnic and there are no trees around for shade.  To prevent lens flare, use a lens hood, your hand, or a baseball cap to shield the front of the lens from the sun shining directly on it.

in the shade

This cat photo was taken on a bright, summer day.  I waited until she finally decided to pose in the shade.

Backlit photos, where the sun is behind the object, are very effective for trees and flowers.

the sunlight is coming from behind this sunflower

Early evening produces beautiful, atmospheric light and longer shadows.

late afternoon light created these beautiful long shadows in the forest

Side lighting provides part of your image with light and part with shadow.  This can be especially effective in portraits.

I used natural light coming through the window for this side lit image

Converting your photos into black and white is another great way to show highlights, low lights, and give them a more dramatic appearance.

I didn’t always notice shadows. In the past I would upload my pictures only to find that some of them had shadows across the subject matter that took away from the overall image.  With practice, I have become better at observing lights and darks before I press the shutter. By being aware of what shows within the frame I tend to feel more satisfied with what I’ve captured.

I waited until the woman walked into the light between the buildings to capture this photograph

Sometimes shadows by themselves create interesting photos. They emphasize basic form rather than detail and provide an added artistic quality.

Take a moment to think about the contrasts and mood you want to create when you go to take your next shot.  You may be surprised at what you’ll see and be delighted with the results.

soft shadows fall over this lovely red maple leaf

More of my images can be seen atArt Prints
If you’re interested in joining Fine Art America, check it out at the link belowArtist Websites

All photographs copyright © Marion McCristall

Photography Quick Tip 7 ~ Patterns and Design

“As I have practiced it, photography produces pleasure by simplicity. I see something special and show it to the camera. A picture is produced. The moment is held until someone sees it. Then it is theirs.”
 Sam Abell

weathered wood on this tobacco shed in France creates a pattern reminiscent of days gone by

Do you see lines, shapes, repeating elements, and patterns when you look around you? They are found everywhere and we rarely notice them and tend to take them for granted. Photographers “see” them and capture them to create photographs that tell a story or bring what they saw into the mind’s eye of the viewer.

the lines and curves and the shapes they formed caught my eye

I find that designs made either by man or mother nature can help us to feel calm, curious, introspective, or inspired.

notice the remarkable patterns within one single flower

Patterns can make exciting subjects. Designs can be made up of lines that are straight or curved and often form a pattern of repeating elements. Abstract shapes also make interesting photographs.

from a door panel on a rusty, old truck

Look at your subject from various perspectives, including high and low angles, and create a pleasing composition.

beauty at a classic car show

Diagonal lines draw the viewer into the picture and help their eyes to wander through the scene. Filling the frame with a pattern creates emphasis and can also lead the viewer to imagine that it goes on and on.

Grandmother's mixing bowls create a simple, but effective design

Symmetrical or asymmetrical images are both appealing to look at and make beautiful wall art.

a stunning image from nature

Sometimes I create still lifes in order to form images that have leading lines and shapes.  Here is one I made with three eggs on a blue plate.

photographed in my kitchen

Look around you and make a mental note of all of the objects that either have designs embedded in them or that form patterns. Just taking a quick look I see my computer keyboard, buttons on the telephone, the coils in my notebooks, the air vents of my printer, woven design in a coaster I brought home from Thailand, rows of books on the shelf, wood grain pattern of my desktop, vertical rows of Chinese writing on a scroll I bought in Beijing, stripes on plant leaves, and so on.

I wonder what patterns and designs you will see and  include in the next photographs that you take.

More of my images can be seen at

If you’re interested in joining Fine Art America, check it out at the link belowArtist Websites

All photographs copyright © Marion McCristall

Photography Quick Tip 6 ~ Crop Distracting Elements

Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph. – Matt Hardy


this photograph was cropped to show only the reflections

What’s your vision or in your mind’s eye when you get ready to take a photograph?


When I go out with my camera, I may have an idea of what kinds of images I’d like to come home with.  More often than not, there are delightful or unexpected shapes, patterns, lights or shadows that catch my eye.  It’s almost as though they call out to me to pay attention and capture their essence so that I can revisit the memory of them at another time and in another place. 

up close and personal with a cappucino

It’s always a good idea to take the photograph you plan to create by filling the frame in the view finder of your camera.  Before you press the shutter, walk around the subject, get as close or as far away as you like, look at various perspectives, and decide what to include. Remember to look at the corners and edges of the frame.

Sometimes I can’t always get exactly what I want in my view finder. I resort to cropping with photo editing software as a helpful way to remove distracting elements.  I use it in two main ways.  One is to take out parts of a picture, (usually from one or more edges,) that I do not want in the final picture. The other is to re-size an image for printing, matting, and framing.


Once an image is cropped, it is very important that you save it with a different name so that you leave your original picture file intact, i.e. just the way it came from your camera.  I usually save my pictures at 300 dpi (dots per inch) so that they are a suitable resolution for printing.

In this image of Mendenhall Glacier in Alaska, it was necessary to stay within certain boundaries in the park.  I walked on the trails and tried different angles but the zoom lens I had on my camera at the time simply would not let me get the shot I wanted.  Although the original photograph is scenic, shows the grandeur of the glacier, and the zig zag lines draw the viewer into the picture, it wasn’t what I wanted to print for a photo greeting card. I took the picture knowing that I could crop out the distracting elements such as the little water fall and people on the right, the pale sky on the top, and the shoreline on the bottom.

this is the final cropped image I planned

In the photo below, I wanted to create a close-up of this scrumptious dessert. It was the perfect ending to a delicious three course lunch with wine pairing at Gray Monk Estate Winery in Kelowna.  It was a busy day in the restaurant and I didn’t want to bother other diners by doing a photo shoot while they were eating.  I got up and took a quick shot standing by my table and planned to crop it on my computer when I got home.

there are unwanted elements in this picture

with cropping, I was able to get just the dessert in the picture

Cropping can make a difference in editing your photos.  However, it’s a good idea to try to get the picture you want when you press the shutter.

If you would like to see more of my photographs, check out my Fine Art America website.

Art Prints

If you are interested in joining Fine Art America, click on the link below.

Artist Websites

Photography Quick Tip 4 ~ Give Your Subject Room to Move

You don’t take a photograph, you make it.  ~ Ansel Adams

Do you ever feel as though the photographs you take are too jam packed and almost like you can’t breathe looking at them?

There’s a reason for that.  Subjects with eyes such as people and animals need room to gaze or look around them.  For example, when a person is facing the camera and looking to the photographers left, place them on the right of the frame. In the photograph above, the couple was looking off into the distance so I gave them plenty of room to look left, right, and straight ahead. Objects that move such as bicycles, cars, and trains, need space to move forward or in to.

Take a look at this swan picture.  You can see that it’s crammed into the frame and creates a negative tension within the viewer.  Without even knowing it, you feel as though the swan is stuck and has nowhere to go.

The photograph below is much better as the swan has room to move forward or even paddle around.  I like to think of this as “active space”.  (If you read my previous post on the Rule of Thirds, you will also see that the composition is such that the swan is placed at the point where the vertical and horizontal lines meet in the bottom, right third of the frame.)

This photograph is more pleasing to the eye as the swan has space to move in to

Here are some more examples of giving subjects space resulting in images that are more pleasing to the eye.

Remember to think about “active space” as well as the background and what is behind your subject as you plan your images. Keeping this in mind when you set up your composition helps to create more depth and balance in your photographs.

Before you press the shutter, think about the composition and give your objects plenty of room to move.

Composition guidelines are helpful to photographers as they go about the process of picture making. The basic tips I’ve posted can be useful as starting points and to stimulate our thinking. We are free to create and express our vision in ways that move and inspire us.

“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” ~ Elliott Erwitt

If you would like to see more of my photographs, check out my website on Fine Art America.
Art Prints