Composition. . .Man & Nature


Composition is one of those subjective topics. It varies from person to person and artist to photographer. . .or, is there really a difference between artists and photographers? At it’s core, composition is simply about the arrangement of the visual image.

From an artist’s perspective, it is broken down into lines, shapes, forms, color, etc. All these concepts span all the art forms. The combinations of these concepts help a viewer “see” the intent of the artist.

In the photograph above, the design of the man-made arch incorporates mirrors to reflect the natural environment surrounding it. The shapes of the clouds are similar to the circles on the arch. The composition brings both of these elements into focus.


The photographer adds a few other “rules” to the idea of composition. The rule of thirds is one of the best known. It brings the focus away from the center point of the photograph, offering another perspective.

The photography above uses columns to move the viewer’s eye through the photography. It is the perspective that allows that to happen. The columns are framed by natural elements. . .the trees and clouds.

The use of perspective as a composition element is valuable to a photographer. It gives a “feeling” to the viewer about the subject. The art of the photographic images is how the photographer chooses to compose the photograph.

In the last photograph, the surrounding scene is reflected in the lens of the lighthouse. It’s all about the creative point-of-view.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke


Bird Photography Interview

Create ~ Visualize ~ Evoke

Backgrounds & Choices


The combination of background and available light affects the outcome of a photograph. Birds are adept at camouflage, and our cameras are great at hiding the subject. The photo above is a corn field and 7 sandhill cranes. The coloration of the cranes allows them to blend into the remaining brown corn stalks, and almost disappear.

The late afternoon lighting leaves long shadows for these cranes to blend into the field.


In this photo of the trumpeter swans, the dark background helps the swans stand-out as the subject of the image. The swans are in shade (similar to the crane photo above), and their coloring allows them to be easily differentiated from the trees in the background.

Both of these images are taken with a 600 mm lens, yet the ease of see the subject is dependent on the background and exposure. Both are shot at F8. The difference is the location of the birds with the background. The cranes are in the field. The swans are flying past the trees.


This last photo has the simplest background. The solid blue sky offers a background to easily see the subject, 2 sandhill cranes in flight.

Background choices can help or hinder the success of a photograph. Ultimately, it is dependent on opportunity, exposure, and choices made by the photographer.

Tip – Use backgrounds for your subjects that help convey the vision of the photograph.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

Choices, Exposure & Composition


The experience included hundreds of sandhill cranes flying overhead, with some landing in the field below. Their sounds waft in the air, like a light trill. Unlike ducks and geese, the cranes seem to fly without formation, and their flight is affected by wind gusts.

At a distance, it becomes easy to place hundreds of these amazing birds into a single frame. The photo above is taken with a 600 mm lens. The challenge becomes “how are the birds placed in the frame?”


One thing to remember is that these birds are not small. There size ranges from 3 to 5 feet tall (depending on sub-species and male/female), and their wing span ranges from 5 to 7 feet across.

The photo above is a grouping of 3 birds against the sky. Light is important in all photography, and especially important when photographing birds. The light in this image is late afternoon sun, and it casts a warm glow in these cranes. It is important to light up the head (or face) of the bird.


In this photo, the light brings the cranes out from the blue background. Without the sunlight, the birds would blend into the background, and be more difficult to see. As for where to focus. it is good to select an area with a large concentration of birds. It is easier for the camera’s auto-focus to actually focus on the subject.

As for exposure, expose for the birds. The background isn’t as important as the cranes, and it’s okay for it to go light or dark. The shutter speed needs to be fast enough (1/250 sec or faster) to keep the cranes from blurring. At a distance, an aperture of F8 should offer enough depth of field to keep most of the birds is focus.

Tip – Use the available light. Set the shutter speed to stop the action, and the aperture to keep most of the flock in focus.

Visualize ~ Create ~ Evoke

Othello Sandhill Crane Festival


This is one of the best birding festivals! It is located in the heart of eastern Washington, the programming is amazing, and it is during the height of the Sandhill Crane migration through the area.

Celebrate Birds Through Photography

March 24th, 2018 at 9 am

Othello, WA

Hope to see you there. . .

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Familiar Subjects – New Perspective


The migratory trumpeter and tundra swans are a familiar subject to me and my camera. Often, they stay at a distance to areas that they can be photographed from. The limitations become equipment and the cost of these longer lenses.

Today, I tested out my new lens. It’s a Tamron 150-600mm 5-6.3 lens, and it is amazing! The photographs in this post are taken today with this new lens. It allowed me to fill the frame with more bird and less environment. I was happy with the image stabilization of the lens. These images are taken hand-held.


I think this one is my favorite of these two photos. This is un-cropped and a full-frame sensor camera body. The lens is at 600 mm. With my previous lens (Canon 100-400), the swan would be much smaller in the frame, and the environment would be a stronger element.

Sometimes, it takes new equipment to bring a fresh perspective to a familiar subject. I cannot wait to find the next flock of birds to photograph!

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Thank You!

I wanted to say “Thank you” to all the people who attended my lecture and participated in the photo field trip! You were all amazing people, and it was great to meet you.

Pictures from the festival are coming soon. . .

Tribute to Snow Geese. . .

Port Susan Snow Goose Festival 2018


I’ll be speaking and guiding a photography tour at the Port Susan Snow Goose Festival. Also, I will be there with my books, and other items in the vendor area (both Saturday & Sunday).

The Art of Photographing Birds

February 25th, 2018

11 am to 12:30 pm

Go here for more information.

Happy Shooting. . .Karen

Skagit Eagle Festival 2018

copyright Karen Ulvestad

It’s this weekend! I’ll be speaking Saturday, January 27th at 11 am in Concrete, WA.

“Creating Magical Moments With Bird Photography”

at the

Concrete Historical Theater


Happy Shooting. . .Karen

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