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Immortalize your hobby, Part 2 (06/12/2005)
By Tom Hirsch

Last time we emphasized the importance of the background in hobby photography. This is a biggy, but there are other factors that should also be kept in mind.

When photographing hobby objects, select the shooting angle carefully. In most cases, shoot horizontally, at the level of the center of interest. Too high or too low an angle will shift the emphasis away from the intended focal point.

Another consideration is the lighting effect. If the lighting is soft, such as that found on an overcast day, you'll get detail in all parts of the scene. But with bright sunlight or any strong illumination, there could be a loss of detail in the shadow areas. You'll see shadow detail as you look at the scene, but contrast will be increased in the pictures, and detail in the shadows will be reduced.

With strong, directional lighting, you can increase shadow detail by placing a piece of white or silver reflecting material so that it reflects light back into the shaded areas.

There are, of course, professional devices for filling in shadows. Some involve lights, and others are elaborate, expensive reflectors. You can make a reflecting device with a large sheet of white tag board, or better yet, aluminum foil. Get the widest and thickest aluminum foil you can find. If you're working with small objects, just tear off a fairly large piece and mold it so that it will stand up. Curve it slightly, and place it opposite the light source so the reflected light falls where needed. Better yet, enlist another person to hold the reflecting material; they can aim it in the desired direction. In either case, make sure that the reflector is out of the camera's line of sight.

If the area needing a reflector is fairly extensive, you can glue, tape or staple two or more strips of aluminum foil to a large piece of cardboard.

Some hobbies easily lend themselves to photography. With others, it's a struggle to come up with ideas, but there are always possibilities. For example, if you're a golfer you might try to get out to the last hole of a golf course early in the morning before anyone would have reached that point. With invisible fishing line, fasten a few clubs to the flag pole. Place some balls on the green for emphasis. If you're a tennis player, you could use this idea with the net as a backdrop.

Here's an idea for a humorous shot; it also illustrates the concept of contrast. In the dead of winter, place your golf cart, loaded with golf bag and clubs, in a snow bank at the golf course. Shoot from a low angle, and be sure to include something in the picture that identifies the setting as a golf course.

As a variation of the above idea, set up the golf cart in the snow, but place skis and poles in it instead of clubs. Other ideas might evolve from this concept.

You might have enough items in your hobby to create some interesting photographs, but you want your pictures to be more than just a collection of objects. There are probably related things that could be used for emphasis, contrast, or as supplementary props. Scour rummage sales for objects that might be used to enhance your photos and give them that extra punch. 


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