Earlier this year, my daughter and I visited the Magic Kingdom. Disney attractions and experiences are being photographed by tens of thousands of visitors each day. The #Disney hashtag alone on Instagram yields more than 13.5 million image posts. What child isn’t wowed by the sight of a castle? And what parent can resist capturing a glimpse of magic and bringing it home? But if everyone is shooting essentially the same view of (insert popular tourist attraction here) and we have endless access to view one another’s photos online in modern-day postcard fashion, I can’t help but ask myself, "Where is the magic?"
As we paused to watch a performance just outside of the castle, I became distracted by the low-flying birds overhead. One. Two. Three. A fourth. I wondered if I could capture one in midflight. I lifted my iPhone and composed a wide frame to retain the context of the environment—the castle and a performer focused on his audience—while leaving a wide-open space for my subject to position itself, in its own time. Standing steady, I tapped the sky to create an area of focus and just waited. After several minutes and a couple of misses, this beautiful bird soared into place and I tapped the shutter button just a moment before its wing aligned with the tip of the castle.
I chose to process the image in black-and-white using the VSCO Cam app to minimize color distractions, tone down a too-vibrant blue sky and to put visual emphasis on the simplicity of the composition and spontaneous alignment of subjects. I chose the B5/BW Moody filter and kept the filter saturation at +12. I then increased the contrast by +1, rotated the image just a bit, reduced highlights to +3 and sharpened the image to +6.
Challenge yourself to reveal a fresh view of a tired scene. Study the environment, and notice when and how unexpected moving elements such as people or birds add a dynamic element of interest. Then give yourself time to anticipate and capture the magic.
Stephanie Calabrese ( www.stephaniecalabrese.com) is an award-winning documentary photographer and author of the best-selling The Art of iPhoneography: A Guide to Mobile Creativity, 2nd Edition and Lens on Life: Documenting Your World Through Photography.