Seeking out and photographing repeating patterns is a great way to exercise your eye so to speak. It forces you to slow down and really observe your surroundings. It’s amazing what you will find and see when you slow down. Botanical gardens are treasure troves of repeating patterns and one of my favorite places to take photographs with my 70-200mm lens. You can create some very cool imagery by filling the frame with repeating lines, patterns, shapes, etc. Look for things that are pretty much one color. When you do that, it will force you to see through the color and to the actual lines and shapes that define your subject. The agave plant below was a very pretty blue green color of long slender stems that gracefully fanned out and kind of melded together. The dried tips of the stems were so beautiful and colorful. They weren’t very noticeable though, unless you stopped and moved in close. Even without the colorful tips, these stems would fill the frame beautifully. I photographed the agave plant below using a somewhat shallow DOF, but not so shallow that it blurred everything outside my focal point. I wanted to see the lines and formation of the stems throughout the frame and have them slowly fall out of focus. Camera specs: Nikon D3s, Nikon 70-200mm @ 116mm, f/5.6, 1/400s. Exercise: Seek out repeating lines/patterns. Compose your shot in a way that creatively showcases those lines/patterns and fill the entire frame with your subject. And it goes without saying, find and use diffused and beautiful light. It will make all the difference in the world.
For a different look, create a defined foreground and background. A long focal length and wide open aperture will help you create a shallow DOF and also work some magic in the background. In the photo below, the curly ends of the long plant stems reminded me of musical notes. There were several of them in this one area of the Desert Botanical Gardens in Phoenix, AZ. I knew that if I didn’t shoot this with a very shallow DOF, all the curly ends would compete with each other, the composition would be too busy and none of the individual curls would stand out. They were not clustered close together like the agave stems above. I knew my trusty 70-200mm lens would do a great job isolating a few of those curls. I used the longest focal length and widest aperture on this lens, focused on one of the curls closest to the camera and fired off several shots. I took both horizontal and vertical shots. The vertical shots worked better because it allowed me to work the long lines of the stems which equated to the staff of musical notes. I love the blurry, dreamy look of the curls in the background. They compliment but don’t pull the focus away from the ones in the foreground. I titled this photo Music in the Garden. Camera specs: Nikon D3s, Nikon 70-200mm @ 200mm, f/2.8, 1/800s.
Exercise: Seek out repeating patterns/objects. Compose your shot, so the background is filled with the same thing as your subject, then use DOF to isolate your subject. Incorporate color into the background if you can, think outside the box, bring all the elements together creatively and make it sing!
When photographing two or more animals, try to showcase the unique characteristics and relationship of the animals. When I think of flamingos, I think long necks and long legs. Two flamingos standing side by side could make a very cool portrait and easily demonstrate repetition. If they are both the same color, they can look eerily identical. I wasn’t happy with the shots I got of the flamingos standing up, so I sat down and watched them. About 15 minutes later, two flamingos walked up to each other and then decided to graze together. There was my shot! Their long curvy, graceful necks and fascinating faces were framed by four rigid legs. It was perfect. I zoomed in, shot tight and captured just their faces, necks and legs. Camera specs: Nikon D2x, Nikon 70-200mm @ 160mm, f/4.5, 1/320s.
Exercise: Photograph 2 or more animals creatively using repetition. Ask yourself what is it about them that fascinates you, makes you smile, etc. then try to capture that. Spend time with them, watch them and listen to them. When they reveal themselves to you - seize the moment.