2021 WEEK 15: Focus on the Details

Big things are often just small things that are noticed. – Markus Zusak

Important: This week’s challenge is NOT a macro challenge! Instead, your challenge is to notice a small scene within a larger context and then photograph that. Try to distill a scene or context into the heart of the matter. What is it about a scene that captures the essence of what you see? What is it that catches your attention that might go unnoticed by others?

Hiking the Dunes by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero
It’s difficult to provide a sense of scale to the sand dunes at Great Sand Dunes National Park. When I zoomed in with my 600mm lens, I discovered the people (and dog) climbing up the crest of one of the dunes and they (along with all of the footprints on the dunes behind them) created an image that matches how small I feel when I’m out among the sand dunes.

When you take photos with a clear intent, they will ultimately have a bigger impact on the viewer. The goal of this challenge is to get you to tell just one story with your photo rather than trying to tell “everything” in one shot. A lot of times we happen upon a scene and think, “I just love everything about this!” and we feel like we have to capture it all in one photo because that’s how we see it. But the truth is that the resulting image ends up being confusing for the viewer. If this sounds like something that you tend to do, I encourage you to get specific about what you mean by “everything”. Consider making a list if of the specific things you like about the scene. It could be the way the light hits a particular subject or the way a hand is resting in another or the arrangement of a group of objects, etc. And then choose one of those things to make a photo of. (You are welcome to take additional photos of the other things on your list for your own enjoyment, but choose just one to post for the challenge.)

Old Age Security by Jeff M for Short

A number of years ago I attended a talk by photographer George Lepp. One take away from that talk that I have never forgotten was his suggestion to take the photo that you think you want to take. And then look for the thing in that photo that first grabbed your attention and zoom in to take a photo of that. Repeat the process until it doesn’t make sense to zoom in any more. In the end, choose the photo of that sequence that best captures the essence of the scene for you. For example in the photo below, I was struggling to make a photo that captured my fascination with the snowdrifts along the road when we got snowed in a month ago.

Snowed In! by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero
This is a snapshot from my phone. What I was really drawn to was the line of the snow drift on the left, but it is just one of many elements in this scene and doesn’t stand out the way I had hoped it would

As I worked the scene, the sun came out briefly between the clouds and cast shadows from the brush on the top of the rocky slope on the left. I had just enough time to pull out my telephoto lens and zoom in about halfway down the ridgeline of the snowdrift to capture the photo below. Yes, I turned it B&W and boosted the contrast significantly, but it does a much better job at highlighting the snowdrift and shadows that fascinated me so much.

Peaks and Valleys by Jeanie Sumrall-Ajero

There are of course other techniques that you can use to isolate the important details of a scene: shallow depth-of-field, point-of-view, spot lighting, etc. You may find some additional ideas in these articles:

Backlit Leaves by Eric Minbiole

This week’s challenge summary:

  • Take a photo that captures the essence of the scene, i.e. find a scene within a scene. The choice of subject is up to you.
  • If you are in lockdown due to COVID, perhaps take a look around your home to find a detail that helps tell (part of) the story of lockdown.
  • Post your photo during the week of Sunday, April 11 and Saturday, April 17.
  • Please remember to comment on at least FIVE photo submissions this week by answering the question “why?” in your comments. In other words, “why do I like (or not like) this photo?” or “why did this photo catch my eye?” Thank you!

The friendly community guidelines are pretty simple:

  • Take a new photo for the current weekly theme, not something from your back catalog or someone else’s image.
  • Post your photo each week to our active communities on Facebook or Flickr (or both). Tag the photo: #2021photochallenge #photochallenge #tempusaura
  • Don’t leave home without your camera. Participating in the 2021 Trevor Carpenter Photo Challenge is fun and easy.

About thedigitaljeanie

I’m a self-taught photographer and way back when I used to love taking photos, but I allowed a business that I started in 2004 to take over my life and my photographic repertoire was reduced to quick product shots and how-to tutorials. When I joined the PhotoChallenge in December 2015, I was looking to rekindle my creativity and bring some joy back into my photography. I jumped in with both feet and have not looked back. I believe that photography can change the way we see and interact with the world around us. Some people may think that I hide behind the camera, but I feel that I experience the world in a much more intimate way when I am creating a composition in my viewfinder. In those moments distractions disappear, my mind focuses and I am fully present. It is just me and my camera capturing a moment in time that might otherwise go unnoticed. My background is as varied as the photos that I take. I’ve trained and worked as a software engineer, a massage therapist, an English teacher in Vietnam, a photo restoration artist (which is how I learned Photoshop) and for the past twelve years I have run a small software business with my husband where I have been published in numerous books and magazines, appeared on PBS television, created designs for fabric, quilts and machine embroidery and won awards for some of my quilts. It should come as no surprise that I am intensely curious about life and love to learn new things. I am blessed to live in the beautiful state of Colorado, USA in the Rocky Mountain foothills outside of Fort Collins with my husband and cat. You can find me online at: Photos: flickr.com/photos/the-digital-jeanie/ Day job: KaleidoscopeCollections.com Facebook: facebook.com/jeaniesa