Every photographer knows—or soon learns—the "tree growing out of the head" phenomenon. You have to be mindful of your backgrounds, because things can look connected that aren't. (I play with it from time to time...although I can't find it right now, I have a picture of my Uncle with a fish balanced on his head, and one in which a museumgoer appears to be wearing an American Indian headdress.)
Juan Buhler has a picture (although I can't find that either) in which a child's eye is just barely visible past her parent's sleeve, and the weird juxtaposition makes the picture. [UPDATE: here it is, although I misremembered it—it's his hand, not his sleeve. Hey, it's been a year since I last saw it! Thanks to Juan. —Mike]
The Washington Post published a fabulous example by John McDonnell the other day—a baseball player with three arms! That weird, diminutive, slightly fuzzy third arm seems magically to be filling out the back of right fielder Jayson Werth's shirt.
You couldn't make that happen if you wanted to. Funny.
We seldom talk about it, but sometimes what "makes" a picture is just the result of happenstance. How do you make these fortuitous happenings happen? Just get out with the camera and see what happens. You never know.
(Thanks to Bob Burnett)
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Featured Comments from:
Dennis: "I always liked Michael Reichman's happy accident."
Mike replies: That's amazing! What a wonderful example of ghosting flare.
William Schneider: "I can put my fingers on my most cringe-worthy accidental background...
"I had just been hired to teach basic photography by the man in the photo. He had been a picture editor at National Geographic before entering academia. His Pulitzer-prize-winning wife, also a photography professor here, was hugging a friend in the picture.
"I cringed at the irony of being newly selected as faculty in a photography school, and then making the basic beginner's mistake of not watching the background.
"Thankfully my embarassment has subsided over the 18 years that have passed by."
Tom Kwas: "...I actually went through about a ten-year period in the '90s where I tried to get as many weird things with foreground and background compression as I could. People balancing Union 76 Balls on their head, people holding up their hand with someone standing on it, the Trans-America building in SFO looking like a witches hat on someone in a office nearby...amused myself doing this with my 'snaps,' but you'd be surprised how concentrating on this stuff for a few months, all of a sudden you're making far less mistakes with compression, and paying much more attention to detail!"
Marek Fogiel: "I like this one of mine."
Mike replies: Made me laugh.