Seconds Can Be a Lifetime
No matter your genre of photography, no matter the subject, the background is everything in a photograph. Whether it is tack sharp or totally out of focus, overexposed, perfectly exposed or totally underexposed, it is what sets the stage for your subject and finishes its story. I’m often asked how do you know the right background for your subject so that when you see it or select it, it’s the right one? This is not even an easy question to answer! That’s because just like every element in the creation of the photo from f/stop to lens, it’s a personal choice based on who you are, your relationship to the subject and the story you want to tell about the subject. And like any moment in photography, when it comes to the perfect background to tell your subject’s story your way, seconds can be a lifetime!
I offer up this simple example to illustrate my point. The time stamp on these two photos are only 3 seconds apart. Shooting out an open cockpit with the D4s / 80-400VR3 in the airstream, I pressed the camera so hard against my face to steady it I left an indentation in my forehead. I had been told that Devil’s Lake was coming up, a large body of water. Warren who is flying the Zero knows history better than I and knows my passion for bringing history to life in my photos. So he dove for the water. We had already talked about how aircraft close to the surface creates the drama and what will appear as an angry ocean, like that in the Pacific. And while in the first photograph you get a sense of that, it’s the second photograph taken just seconds later when you see the shadows telling the mind’s eye that there are clouds, that the illusion is complete. And that is in part why backgrounds are so important, the difference between illusion and reality. So with all the care you give to the photo you are creating, make sure you give the same care to the background you select. You’re telling the story, preserving a moment in time forever when seconds can be a lifetime.