Monthly Archives: February 2014

The Most Important Piece of Photography Gear You Will Ever Invest In

LE0106

Canon 5D MKII, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 16mm, 2 sec. at f/16, ISO 100

What is the most important piece of photographic equipment you own? I was asked this question while attending an art show last September. I’ve got to say, up until that point, I had never really given it much thought. A list of obvious candidates such as my camera and lenses immediately came to mind, however, I quickly ruled them out as great images can be created with almost any camera and lens combination. Stumped by the question, I tried to re-word it to come up with an answer. What piece of equipment would I not leave home without? The answer immediately popped into my head. My tripod.

TripodSurprised? So was I. Let’s take a look at why. Great images come in all shapes and sizes. Epic light, surreal mood, and once in a lifetime events are all good examples of a great shot. But if they’re not sharp, what’s the point in taking them? Landscape photography often requires shooting in low light and extreme weather conditions. Shooting in these conditions requires the use of a slow shutter speed. Add a filter to the end of your lens, and your shutter speed gets even slower. The only way to keep your images sharp is to shoot from a tripod. Still have doubts? I encourage you to try the following experiment. Take two images of the same subject. Shoot one image hand held, and the other one from a tripod. If you don’t have a tripod, find a subject you can shoot by setting the camera on a sturdy surface and use the self timer to trip the shutter. Try and shoot at a shutter speed around 1/60 sec. Now upload both of the images to your computer and zoom in to 100%. Examine the same area of both images, and note the difference in sharpness. If this doesn’t convince you that shooting from a tripod is worth the effort, I don’t know what will.

Shooting from a tripod offers you other benefits as well, that aren’t as easily recognized. First off, it causes you to slow down and become more methodical in your actions. This allows you to concentrate more on your composition as opposed to trying to keep yourself steady to take the shot. You’re a lot less likely to make amateurish mistakes like a tree limb sticking in from the side of the image, or cutting off a critically important element in the image, when you become more methodical with your actions. If you invest in a sturdy tripod (as you should), it can also be used as a makeshift walking stick to assist you in keeping your balance while climbing a steep slope or crossing a swift moving stream. I have used my tripod in this manner more times than I can count. In fact, the image of the stream at the beginning of this essay, I used my tripod to steady myself crossing the stream barefoot on slick rocks in waist deep water. I know for a fact that I would have gone down, had I not used my tripod to steady myself. The image itself would not have been possible without a tripod, as it was taken in a shaded canyon using a polarizer filter which required a shutter speed of 2 seconds. Two uses of the tripod for one image. I’m sold!

The tripod is quite a versatile piece of equipment. I know they are bulky and hard to carry, however, the improvements to image quality far outweigh the inconveniences of carrying one. Most photo backpack manufactures offer a way to attach your tripod to the pack, making it easier to manage on long hikes. I prefer to carry mine on my shoulder. In fact, when I’m in snake country, I extend one of the legs all the way out and use it to prod the bushes in front of me. I have found numerous snakes this way, that I might not otherwise have seen. Jeez, there’s yet another use for the tripod. If you’re not using one yet, I would strongly encourage you to make it your next investment. You won’t be sorry.

In my next essay in this series, we will jump right into some of the technical aspects of creating great landscape images. Feel free to start up a conversation in the comments section below. I will gladly answer any questions you might have. Until next time, Happy shooting!

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , |

Desert Portraits

LE0121

Canon 5D MKII, EF16-35mm f/2.8L USM at 16mm, 1/10 sec. at f/16, ISO 100

Out shooting local last night. Walking around the desert looking for a composition, I became fascinated by the variety of plant life that exists in such an arid place. This fascination inspired me to start a new series of images I am going to call Desert Portraits. Here you see the infamous Teddy Bear Cholla cactus. I say infamous, as the Teddy Bear Cholla has quite a reputation around the American southwest. Also known as the Jumping Cholla, the Teddy Bear Cholla releases golf ball size clusters of needles at the slightest little touch. You can see several of these balls laying on the ground at the base of this cholla. All of the needles on this cactus have a reverse barb similar to a fish hook at the end, making them extremely difficult and painful to remove if they become embedded in you skin. Trust me, I Know!

The Teddy Bear Cholla makes a great subject to photograph in the desert, however, you need to take an over-abundance of caution when doing so. People have DIED after getting trapped in a group of Teddy Bear Chollas. Keep your distance, and always be aware of your surroundings. Every time I have been stuck by a Teddy Bear Cholla, it has resulted from stepping on a cluster of needles that already fell off the cactus. Watch where you step,be careful, and enjoy your time in the desert.

Jason.

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , |

Coming Soon To A Desert Near You!

OE0003

March, 2008. One of the best Poppy blooms I can remember. Black Mountains of Northwest Arizona.

For many people around the United States, the thought of Spring is nothing more than a dream as winter still has a firm grip on the weather. However, here in the southwest, Spring has already began to show it’s glory with wildflowers starting to bloom in the lower elevations. I spent the day with my family at a Bluegrass Festival in Bullhead City yesterday, and noticed a lot of species of wildflowers were starting to bloom along the highway just outside town. It’s been pretty dry here in Arizona this winter, so I don’t know how extensive the bloom will be. Looking at the wildflower reports, southern Arizona appears to already have some impressive displays popping up.

On any note, it’s time to get that macro lens dusted off, and gear up for photographing the upcoming wildflower extravaganza the southwest is so notorious for. For more information, and to see where the bloom is in full swing, check out the website link below.

Desert Wildflower Report – Desert USA 

Enjoy!

Jason

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , |

Essay: Inspiration

LE0006

Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 24mm, 1/80 sec. at f/11, ISO 100

Inspire: verb \in-ˈspī(-ə)r\ :to make (someone) want to do something: to give (someone) an idea about what to do or create: to cause (something) to happen or be created: to cause someone to have (a feeling or emotion) Merriam Webster Online

Ask almost any artist why they created one of their pieces of art, and they will tell you they were “inspired” to do it. Something touched them emotionally, and gave them the desire to create a piece of art that represented the emotion they experienced. Photography is no different. In fact, photography is an art, no different from any other visual art form. To be successful at it, you have to be inspired. You’ve got to have a desire to learn everything you can about the art of photography and be deeply inspired by your subject matter to truly take your skills to the next level. Without it, you’re simply carrying out a task, no different than doing chores around the house. Inspiration is the essential ingredient to improving the quality of your images.

For me, my inspiration is good ole’ Mother Nature and a passion for the photographic arts. Yes, it is a broad subject matter, but so is my portfolio when you look at it. I love nature. Everything from the wide, sweeping landscapes of the American southwest, to the individual grains of pollen on the most delicate wildflowers. I love nature. I also have a deep desire to learn everything I can about the photographic arts. I have since I was a little kid. I can still remember as early as eight years old, staring at the images in Arizona Highways magazine. I loved the images and the country they represented, and I wanted both. I wanted to be in the wide-open country of the American southwest and to create my own images of it. That dream became a reality two years later when my family pulled up stakes in Ohio and moved to Arizona. I haven’t looked back since.

What I didn’t realize at eight years old is I was conducting my first studies into the photographic arts. I was studying how the images were composed, what elements were included in the scene, how they were arranged, and what types of subjects the photographers chose to shoot. When I got my first camera at age eleven, I started trying to duplicate the images that inspired me to want to shoot in the first place. I was quite successful for such a young age. And it was all directly related to being inspired by nature and creating images of it through the art of photography.

So, for you, the first step you need to take is to examine your life, and the things that inspire you the most. What kind of things brings a sense of peace and joy in your life? What activities do you look forward to doing the most? Make the answers to these questions the subject matter of your photographic endeavors. If need be, narrow the results down even further. The point is to find the things in your life that inspire you the most. This will make the entire photographic process all that much more enjoyable, and cause you to want to put that extra effort into creating the best images you possibly can.

Next, start studying the photographic arts. In particular the styles and niches that inspire you the most. Start studying the works of photographers you admire. Look at what subjects they choose to shoot, how they compose their shots, and what type of light they prefer. Then, start trying to duplicate their style. Don’t worry about the feeling you will get that you are copying their work. You’re not. You’re learning! Eventually you will try numerous different styles and techniques, perfect them, combine them, and your own individual style will start to emerge. It’s a process almost every artist goes through, and it’s not going to happen overnight. Learn from your mistakes, enjoy your successes, and be patient. It’s a learning experience that never ends.

Finally, you have to be willing to learn the technical aspects of photography. If you have an inspiration to want to create images of the things in your life you’re passionate about, that will to learn how to do it is there. Photography is a very technical field, especially now in the digital age. It is imperative that you learn the technical skills necessary to unleash your creative process, and start creating images your audience will be inspired by too. That is the intent of this series of essays. To give you the basic, essential skills you need to take your photography to the next level, and start inspiring others.

In the next chapter, we’ll jump right in and talk about the single most important tool you’ll ever invest in for Landscape Photography. This series of essays will be based around the art of Landscape Photography, however, don’t be discouraged if this isn’t your niche. The concepts, techniques, and principals apply across the board.

We’ll see you next week in Chapter 2.

Jason

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , , , , |

New Website Complete

Collage_M
I haven’t been on any of my social connections, or here lately, as I have been buried in my computer rebuilding my website and blog. I’m glad to report, my website overhaul is now complete. You can now access my website and blog from the same site! In fact, if you are reading this now, your probably here. Feel free to take a look around, as the look and feel have completely changed. I did all of this in preparation for some exciting expansions in my business, and I needed a site that I had complete control over. This required switching hosting services, transferring URL’s, and a whole lot of other things I’m sure you’re not interested in. It’s been a grueling process, but it’s finally complete.

Also, I’ve recently started writing a series of essays that I will be sharing here called “The Art Of Landscape Photography: A Beginners Guide”. The series will consist of nine essays focusing on teaching the beginner digital SLR user how to maximize the potential of their digital cameras, and take their Landscape photography to the next level. I’ll be posting the first essay titled “Inspiration” in the next couple of days. Once the series is complete, I’ll be compiling all of the essays into a free downloadable ebook which will be made available to you on my website.

Until my next update, enjoy the new website. Feel free to start up a conversation in the comments section below.

Gotta get to the Superbowl now! Go Denver!

Jason

Posted in Uncategorized Tagged , |