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“It’s The Composition, Stupid!” Improving Our Photography By Examining 17th Century Paintings at the National Gallery of Art.

Photography, like painting, is all about composition!

Quick Details


You cook a wonderful meal and your friends say: “WOW! That was GREAT! Delicious! What kind of OVEN did you use? You must have a great OVEN!” You would be miffed, right? Because you know it’s not the oven, it’s the COOK who prepares a great meal.

Great soufflés were prepared by Julia Childs, not by her pots and pans. And the same is true in photography: it’s not the camera, it’s the photographer who makes the image. Here at Washington Photo Safari, we firmly believe you can take a good or bad picture with ANY camera!

Photography, like painting, is all about composition: the symmetry, the balance, the leading lines, the framing, the perspective, the points of interest in the image that draw the viewer’s eye. So this safari is all about training you to see and capture good composition in your own photographs.

One of the great blessings of living in the Washington DC area is the National Gallery of Art and the priceless treasures it often brings to the public, free of charge which can teach us a lot about visual art composition! Their latest gift to us is a spectacular exhibit of 17th century Dutch and Flemish paintings entitled “Clouds, Ice, and Bounty: The Lee and Juliet Folger Fund Collection of Seventeenth-Century Dutch and Flemish Paintings”.

The exhibit opens on October 17, 2021, and it only runs until February 22, 2022. Best of all, photography is allowed!

Depicting a rich cross section of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish life and culture, this exhibition brings together 27 paintings acquired through the generosity of the Lee and Juliet Folger Fund over the past two decades, supplemented by one painting from Lee and Juliet Folger’s personal collection.

Assembled with care and passion, the collection includes landscapes by Jacob van Ruisdael and Salomon van Ruysdael, winter scenes by Jan van Goyen and Adam van Breen, genre paintings by Dirck Hals and Caspar Netscher, seascapes by Reinier Nooms and Simon de Vlieger, still lifes by Clara Peeters and Frans Snyders, and portraits by Thomas de Keyser and Jan Miense Molenaer. Seen together, this collection offers a unique opportunity to enjoy some of the finest productions of Dutch and Flemish artists of the 17th century. Here is a link to the collection

Our photo safari begins in the entrance to the National Gallery of Art’s West Building, at 6th and Constitution Ave NW with an orientation by Paris-trained Washington Photo Safari director E. David Luria on artistic composition and on how to photograph famous works of art in a museum without flash or tripod with a late-model smartphone or adjustable camera.

We then proceed up to the exhibit area where Mr. Luria will work with each client individually on achieving correct color and exposure on each painting so that clients can bring these paintings right into their homes, their computers and social media.

We then end the safari with a special treat, descending into the wonderful underground light tunnel display entitled “Multiverse” that links the West Building with the East Building, punctuated by hundreds of LED lights in a $3 million display designed by artist Leo Villareal, and ending up to photograph the splendid atrium of I.M. Pei’s East Building

Equipment recommended for this safari are late-model smartphones with adjustable ISO and white balance settings, or adjustable DSLR/ mirrorless cameras with fast lenses like a 50 mm F.1.4 or f1.8 lens, or a 35 mm F1.8 lens for faster shutter speeds in dark galleries. Mr. Luria will demonstrate how to set Kelvin temperatures , ISO and proper exposure on any of these devices so that clients may come away with the most accurate images of the works of art.

No tripods, no flash, no backpacks!