Focus on Travel Photography

Photography Composition Rules Close-Ups Simplifying Filling the Frame Choosing a Format Placing the Horizon Line The Rule of Thirds Lines Taking Pictures Through Frames Patterns Textures High and Low Camera Angles Abstract Composition Establishing Size Color
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Look at a close-up photo of a weathered old barn board and you almost wince at the imagined pain of catching a sharp splinter. Our memories of how things feel are so ingrained in our consciousness that the mere sight of them brings a vivid sensation of touch. By exploiting textures you can bring a tactile dimension to your photographs.

Surface textures become most apparent when they are illuminated from an oblique light source. Angled light catches the shape and imperfections of an object's surface and creates a pattern of highlight and shadow to produce visual texture. The quality of the light is also important. Bold and large textures, such as the bark of a tree or the rough surface of the door detail, are best revealed by strong, direct sidelight. Smooth, more finely detailed textures, such as that of satin, would be erased by powerful light and are revealed best by gentler, oblique light.

Framing is important, too, especially when you want to give texture a leading role. By moving in close to an old, weathered face, either physically or with a long lens, you focus the viewer's attention on the wrinkles and crevices. When the texture is part of a broader scene, as in the surfaces of a coarse and barren desert, it's often better to back off and show its expanse. Sometimes you can dramatize texture by comparing different surfaces within a scene: an elderly potter's gnarled hands turning a vessel of wet, silken clay. In revealing such contrasts, it's important to move in close and exclude everything that doesn't enhance the tactile qualities of your image.

Next: "High and Low Camera Angles"