We are getting close to spring photography, which invariably brings rainy, miserable weather, one of my favorite times to go out and shoot. Unfortunately, rain, wind and fog may not work best for some wide landscapes, but I’m here to tell you that really doesn’t matter. In fact, miserable weather - or less than ideal scenes - is a great time to practice Extraction Photography.
What Is Extraction Photography?
Extraction photography is when you isolate one tight aspect of a broader scene. I find that for me, and my clients, focusing on extraction photography is a terrific way to enhance ones skills by developing our eye for compositional elements.
Take the lead image above as an example. I was shooting in a state park near my home on a cold, windy, overcast day. I tried to shoot a small stand of trees, but couldn’t get the angle I wanted as recent rains and freezing temps made the area a quagmire. But, when I left my tripod and camera alone for a while and looked down, I found an extraction shot that “floored” me.
The leaves on the forest floor were decomposing and the gases released formed bubbles that were frozen in place. I grabbed my tripod, put on a 70–200 lens and extracted that scene from the larger one. I like the painterly effect formed by the bubbles, leaves and ice.
Other Extraction Categories
Extractions also work with wildlife. In South Africa few years ago, I was photographing a herd of zebras when I realized that there were extraction possibilities there, too.
In the same vein (not to make a pun), you can extract powerful images from people photography. In Peru two years ago, I a few of my clients were busily photographing an indigenous woman when I zeroed in on her expressive hands.
Obviously, extraction images are popular in architectural photography, when we are taken with patterns, flow, angles, texture and contrast. In Singapore, I liked the curves, shadows and light and extracted the scene from the larger building.
If you are a nature/landscape photographer, you already know that nature affords us myriad opportunities for great images. But it is when weather or extraneous factors do not cooperate that it is up to us to ferret out nature’s hidden gifts.
I was hiking in Zhangjiajie, China in some really bad weather. It was raining, windy, cold and overcast. The fog was so thick you could not see across the valley only a hundred yards away. Yet even conditions like that offer up great compositions.
The fog allowed me to isolate this tree branch, creating a Zen-like image that spoke to me. In fact, I even used this image as the cover for my annual New Year greeting cards.
So next time you are out in less than ideal conditions, try your hand at extraction photography and deepen your skill set.