Photograph by Wilfried Niedermayr, My Shot
Shooting over/under photos is a fun alternative to just shooting underwater. The use of the over/under water camera for this shot is perfect—it highlights the tension inherent in any shot of a shark in the water. Seeing this view of both the water’s placid surface and the creatures lurking below makes me feel like a swimmer at the surface with my legs dangling below. The closeness of one of the sharks, and its size, adds to the drama. The contrast is also emphasized by the beautiful turquoise sea and puffy white clouds. It’s not easy to get these over/under shots, and one needs to shoot many frames and be well positioned close to the fish.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: Consider over/under photos as alternatives to underwater shots. The key is to have strong subject matter in the water.
Swimmers, Lake Superior, Minnesota
Photograph by Nick Otto, My Shot
I love all the empty space around the swimming platform. It shows how the lake is both huge and peaceful. The figures of the people become very small, and what makes the shot is the person jumping from the platform and appearing especially tiny surrounded by all that water.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: Don’t be afraid to have a lot of open space in your photos. Wide open space is as much an element as the objects and subjects in your photos.
Cenotes, Chichén-Itzá, Mexico
Photograph by Jack Paulus, My Shot
Caves can be very hard to shoot. Challenges include locating the spot with the most interesting elements and the need to return to a certain place over and over.
In this shot, the combination of the warmly lit stalagtites and stalagmites, the intense turquoise of the water, and the curious stone "jetty" create a dynamic and intriguing setting. (You don’t always have to bring along flashes, as caves open to the public are often lit to highlight the most dramatic rock formations.)
As with most successful photographs, there’s a single element that makes this one captivating: the shaft of light coming down from the roof of the cave. Sometimes you have to go back again and again to capture that remarkable detail that makes the shot sing. It’s the light beam and the circle of light on the water that gives this image an almost religious quality.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: You may have to return again and again to a certain spot to capture that special quality of light that transforms a photograph from ordinary to enchanting.
White Lions, South Africa
Photograph by Dave Elliott, My Shot
Wildlife photography is often about capturing animals in action or in their natural habitat. But shooting portraits of animals—capturing them in much the same way as you would people—can also be an interesting approach. This portrait of the two lions has an almost artificial quality, emphasized by the somewhat shallow depth of field, short focal lens, and fairly flat lighting, as well as by the immediacy of the gaze. Both lions are looking directly into the camera, but it’s the sharp focus of the lion on the right that arrests the viewer. Clearly, the photographer has commanded its attention.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: Think about approaching wildlife photography as portraiture: Use shallow depth of field, a medium focal length lens, and available portrait lighting—and command the direct gaze of the subject.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Photograph by Claire Wroe, My Shot
The tilt shift lens, often used in architectural photography, is fun to use for rendering actual settings into scale-model worlds in which people look like toy figures. Because you’re altering the planes of focus and drawing the eye to a narrow area of the photograph, a specific point of interest must be included. In this image, the two small figures walking through the "maze" are essential elements. I love that one of the people is wearing something red, providing the only bright color in the entire image.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: When using the tilt shift lens to show a scene as a world in miniature, be sure to have a clear point of focus, such as a person or people within the scene.
Desert Crossing, Rajasthan, India
Photograph by Shivji Joshi, My Shot
This simple image is all about symmetry and, I would bet, persistence. I doubt the photographer just happened to be standing in the desert when these five women walked by. To get this kind of photograph, you need to spend time with people and follow along with them. In this shot, each woman is stepping forward with her left foot, and this creates a lovely harmony of movement as each sari is also billowing out to the left. Also, each woman is evenly separated one from the other, which adds to the sense of harmony. To get this kind of symmetry and harmony, you may have to walk or run alongside the women for as long as it takes to get this shot.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: You may have to spend quite a while with your subjects, following alongside them, to get that perfect shot.
Hot Air Balloons, Cappadocia
Photograph by Kani Polat, My Shot
The success of a photograph almost always comes from planning, and luck definitely favors the prepared. In this shot of hot air balloons over ancient rock formations in Turkey, the photographer no doubt planned ahead to make sure he was in the right place at the right time. First, the cone-shaped rock formations complement the similarly shaped balloons. I especially love that one larger formation is included on the left. Not only is it a bold shape to have close to the camera, but it also has a curious, cave-like element and speaks to the geological history of the setting, giving the image that all-important sense of place. Second, the early-morning light raking in from the right is perfectly lovely, as are the soft clouds, which were a lucky element. Finally, the balloons are beautifully placed across the sky, but the red balloon in the upper left of the frame is the final, key element to the success of the image.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: Planning ahead is essential to getting successful photographs: Be in the right place at the right time, and be ready for a lucky moment.
Climbing Wall, Singapore
Photograph by Poh Siang Seah, My Shot
There are many different ways to shoot sports. This image is so boldly graphic that if we didn’t know they were climbers, we might think we were looking down on them as "crawlers." That the photographer chose to shoot it absolutely straight on, keeping the lines perfectly straight and parallel, only emphasizes the quirky shapes of the climbers themselves. I love that he places the three climbers to the far right, which also adds to the sense of humor of the image.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: Sports photography doesn’t always have to be wildly dramatic; try using bold graphic elements where possible.
Holi Celebration, India
Photograph by Anurag Kumar, My Shot
What makes this shot work is the dramatic burst of blue spurting into the crowd. No matter how frenetic and energy-filled the scene is, there still needs to be a moment among the frenzy. The blue hand also gives us one sharp point of focus in a sea of turbaned heads. Importantly, the vibrant blue contrasts so well with the yellows and the reds, making the whole scene alive with vitality.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: When shooting a bustling crowd scene, it’s especially important that you capture a moment, a specific something happening amid the chaos.
Nove Mlyny, Czech Republic
Photograph by Petr Cunderlik, My Shot
When shooting landscapes, good light is absolutely essential, which is why photographers often rise before dawn. This photograph is all about the exquisite first light of day, which gives it a magical quality. Also, the still water serves as a mirror for the tree, and its reflection is what makes the photograph sing. Light changes very fast—you may only have ten minutes before this would be a very different shot.—Catherine Karnow
Photo Tip: For landscape shots, it’s essential to be on location for the first light of the day.
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