Tag Archives: Photography Essays

Reaction vs. Expectation

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Part of being successful as a landscape photographer is learning to react to conditions, as opposed to expecting things to happen. When we expect things to happen, we naturally get upset when they don’t. Getting upset kills the creative spirit, and we tend to abandon what ever it was that we set out to do. On the contrary, when we learn to react to a situation, we will strive to do our best with whatever conditions are at hand. That is exactly the mindset I had the night I created the two images in this post. Let me explain.

Reaction #1:

I originally set out to photograph the Grand Wash Cliffs area about an hour and a half away from my house. This is one of my favorite locations close to home to shoot, and I’ve been there many, many times. While traveling out Stockton Hill Road, a very long desolate stretch of road, I got “squirreled” by God’s Rays breaking through the clouds to the west. Those of you who liked the movie Up will know exactly what I meant by …. Squirrel. After shooting there for about twenty minutes, we continued on our journey. Upon reaching Pierce Ferry Road, and having about twenty miles left to get to our destination, I realized we weren’t going to make it by sunset. Instead of getting upset, I reacted to the situation, and immediately started searching for an alternate location to shoot. Problem solved, and creative spirit still intact.

Reaction #2:

_KPH0139After finding an alternate location to shoot, I began my normal routine of scouting the area for potential compositions. I always try and find at least two-three different compositions, and one that is fairly open, and uncluttered that I can set up quickly if I need to. The image at the top of this post was my prime composition, and I caught it with the perfect clouds and the last light of the day glancing off the distant Cerbat Mountains. Shortly after I took this shot, the clouds started breaking up and didn’t compliment the scene anymore. I then started shooting some close-up shots, all the while keeping an eye on the sky to see what it was going to do. This close-up of a Joshua tree was one that I kind of liked. All of the sudden, one of the broken clouds in the sky decided to light up like a fire ball.

Remember the open, uncluttered composition I talked about earlier? That was my quick reaction composition for a situation exactly like this. I snatched up my camera and tripod, and ran about _KPH0146-Editthirty yards across the desert to that location, set up and began shooting. The first two frames I shot, I didn’t fully get the cloud into, as they were moving fairly quickly. Since I had a wide open space to work with, recomposing was easy, and the third shot I nailed it. Shortly after, the light faded and the nights shoot was done. In my opinion, that image turned out to be the best one of the night.

So, the moral of the story is quite simple. React, don’t expect. When you can learn to do this, good things are bound to come your way. Mother nature is very unpredictable, yet in her own unique way, always beautiful. React to her nuances, and your images will take a giant leap forward.

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The Home Field Advantage

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Whether you’re an aspiring photographer new to landscapes, or a seasoned professional, we all have our bucket list of locations we want to photograph. But the truth is, a lot of us spend most of our time in our home town dreaming about getting there. Stop dreaming, and get out and do what you love. No matter where you live, there is an abundance of photographic opportunities just waiting to be had. Start taking advantage of your knowledge of your local area. Just as it is in sports, you’ve got the “Home Field Advantage”.

Sometimes it’s hard to get inspired to photograph the things we see day in and day out. They just don’t compare to the epic dreams we have on our bucket lists. You have to find a way to break this cycle. Photography is a perishable skill. If you don’t use it, you lose it. The intent of this article is to give you some ideas to get that creative process going, and get you out in the field creating images.

Human nature gives us a weapon we can use to fight off our procrastination and start being productive. It’s called the competitive spirit. Who says you need a competitor? Challenge yourself! One of the ways you can get yourself out in your local area is to find something you have always wanted to learn, and challenge yourself to do it. Whether it be a new technique, using a lens you don’t normally shoot with, or a different compositional style, set a challenge for yourself. Human nature will kick in, and you will set out to accomplish your goal.

The shot of the sun star at the beginning of this article was accomplished in this manner. Although I have photographed sun stars many times before, it’s not something I always look for when I’m in the field. On this day, I was scouting an area I am planning on using for my local workshops. I challenged myself to find a location I could shoot a great sun star from. Viola! Challenge met, shot bagged. Not bad for being a twenty-five minute drive from my house.

Another technique you can use to start shooting more in your local area is get to know what I call “the green space windows”. Almost every city has little green space areas that are free of the chaos and clutter, and offer a view of the natural world. Get to know these locations and cherish them like gold. Epic light has the tendency to rear its head at the most inopportune times. You’re on your way to the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk around sunset. The sun decides to peek out from behind the storm clouds that have shrouded the city all day, and put on a light show to die for. If you know where your green space windows are, your chances of capturing a great shot just increased tenfold. Otherwise, you’re going to be left sitting in your car, spouting out words I can’t disclose here. Not that I have ever done this myself.

JKP_00005-4-EditThe image of the Cholla cactus and stormy sunset sky was taken in one of those green space windows in my hometown of Kingman, Arizona. I had just dropped my daughter off for piano lessons when I noticed a little color starting to come through the storm clouds that had been around all day. A quick two or three minute drive put me in a location I could capture this incredible sunset right when the light was at its best. Just outside the frame to the left is a housing development, and to the right is a five lane street filled with retail stores. Straight ahead, Bliss.

Next step. Stop thinking on such a grand scale, and focus on the smaller things nature has to offer. Nature comes in all shapes and sizes. The truth is, we allOE0055 walk past photographic opportunities every day of our lives and never realize it. Why? Because we haven’t trained ourselves to look for the smaller things. As nature photographers, we’re always on the prowl for our next grand landscape. If we took the time to look up, down, and all around, we’d realize there’s five more shots just waiting to be had. This is especially true on your home turf. Conditions may not be right for a grand landscape, but I’ll guarantee you there’s some more intimate shots just waiting to be added to your portfolio if you take the time to look. This shot of a barrel cactus was taken less than 500 feet from the sun star shot at the beginning of this article. Two shots, one location. I’ll take it.

Last of all, return to the same locations under different conditions. Often times we’ll find a composition that we really like, but the conditions just aren’t right to get a great shot. When it’s a location close to home, the cost of returning is next to nil, and you have the latitude to get there quickly if conditions start to set up favorably. When I originally found this composition of a hiking trail outside my hometown, I had nothing but a blue sky to work with. Although I really liked the shot, it just didn’t have the punch I was looking for. A week later, the southwest’s monsoon made one final push into our area, bringing with it my missing ingredient. Clouds. I returned to this location two nights in a row, and on the second I hit pay dirt.

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It’s ok to have dreams of getting to the epic locations on your bucket list. But don’t let it get in the way of your passion for photography. Chances are, you’ve never heard of Kingman, Arizona. It’s not on the short list of locations to photograph before you die. It’s not on the longer list either. However, beauty does exist. I’m sure it’s the same in your hometown. So get out, start shooting, and make the best of your “Home Field Advantage”.

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7 Tips For Outstanding Fall Landscapes

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It’s that time of year again. Summer is starting to wind down, the temperature is cooling off, and my shutter finger is starting to twitch. That’s right, Fall is just around the corner. I decided to takes some time and share with you seven tips to help you get the most out of your fall photo trips this year. Who knows, I may even throw in a bonus tip. So let’s get going.

Tip 1: Your Polarizer Is Your Best Friend

A lot of beginning photographers think of polarizer’s as being used to enhance a blue sky, but their primary purpose is for cutting down reflections and glare on your subject.  Glare robs your image of color, leaving you with hotspots instead of the color that should be there. Using a polarizer with your fall shots cuts down the glare on the leaves, and enhances the overall color of the image. Circular polarizer’s work best, as you have control over how strong the effect is on your image. If you’re including a blue sky in the composition, be wary of the effect the polarizer is having on the sky. At certain angles to the sun, polarizer’s can cause an unnatural shift in the blue color of the sky, from one side of your image to the other. This is particularly true with wide angle lenses, due to the amount of real estate they are taking in.  This color shift can be difficult, if not impossible to correct in post processing.

Tip 2: Shoot On Overcast And Rainy Days

Cloudy overcast days are mother nature’s very own, all natural soft light reflector. The light produced on these days is ideal for photographing fall colors. Everything is evenly lit, and the colors become very saturated. Setting your exposure is a breeze, and most often, doesn’t change much from scene to scene. Unless you have a very dynamic, textured sky, concentrate more on the intimate close up scenes deep in the forest or valleys, and leave the sky out. If it’s raining, or just rained, take advantage of it. Wet foliage increases the color saturation even more. Be sure to follow tip number one and use your polarizer to cut the glare on the wet foliage.

Tip 3: Include Water In Your Shots

Water is always a powerful element to include in your images. It triggers an emotion inside of people, and creates a sense of peace and tranquility. It also adds a strong visual interest and flow to your composition. Coupled with a brilliant display of fall colors, you’ve got a dynamic, visually appealing, stop you in your tracks shot. Water also gives you an added bonus, which leads us to our next tip.

Tip 4: Look For Reflections

LE0094Reflections on the water are a great compositional element to include in your images, especially when they are very vibrant colors such as fall foliage. Early in the morning is probably your best chance of getting a still water mirror image, as the winds are normally very light at that time of day. Reflections on a rippled surface work well too, in a more abstract way. Pay attention to where the reflection is on the waters surface in relation to the objects around it. Nothing is worse than getting home and finding out you cut the top of the mountain or trees off, when you could have got the entire reflection, had you just moved up the hill five feet. Don’t limit yourself to large surface reflections. Look for smaller, more abstract compositions that only include the water’s surface reflecting the colors, such as in this image.

Tip 5: Look Up

LE0111Vanishing point images looking straight up in the trees have become almost cliché. Everyone has one in their portfolio. And why is that? Because they’re cool! Go ahead and give it a whirl, and try and put your own spin on the composition. It’s fun, it’s free, and oh yeah, did I mention they’re cool!

 

Tip 6: Shoot Backlit Scenes
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Backlit subjects is something I always keep an eye out for when I’m in the field. The glowing affect that you get from backlighting gives a very unique feel to your image. Fall foliage works quite well with this type of light. Setting your exposure can be tricky though. I will normally take a spot metered reading off a brightly lit area, then bracket my exposures around that, to ensure I get a proper exposure. Sometimes I will take multiple exposures and then blend them later on in post processing. It just all depends on the scene. The key is to bracket your exposures. You don’t want to blow out your highlights. Another issue you will run into with backlighting is lens flare. If at all possible, try and find a spot to shoot from that is in the shade. This will keep the sun from hitting the front lens element and causing the flare. If not, just move around a little until you get the flare under control. Sometimes moving just a little bit will bring lens flare under control.

Tip 7: Shoot In Raw Format

This almost goes without saying, and applies to all types of landscape photography. Not just fall. If you’re not shooting in the Raw format, you should be. The number one “thief of color” in a digital image, is an improper white balance. The color cast induced by an incorrect white balance setting can be difficult at best to correct in Photoshop, and robs your image of the natural colors you saw. If you’re shooting in JPEG, and your camera doesn’t get the white balance correct, you’re stuck trying to fix it in Photoshop. With a Raw processor like Adobe Lightroom™ or Adobe Camera Raw™, it’s just a few clicks and your done. If you switch over to shooting in Raw for no other reason than to have control over your white balance, it’s worth it. The image below shows the before and after of a Raw conversion, with nothing more than the white balance changed to the shade preset. The difference is astounding.
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Bonus Tip

LE0075Don’t forget the small stuff. Fall is a great time of the year to dust off that macro lens you hardly ever use, and take some close-ups. Shoot close-ups of the leaves, and look for patterns on the ground. I would have completely missed this shot of an acorn laying on the fall leaves had I not taken the time to look down.

 

 

 

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Working a Scene

LE0104When it comes to landscape photography, we’ve all heard the advice “work the scene”. But what exactly does that mean? It’s easy to hand out a generic piece of advice like that, but if you don’t give them something to “work” with, it’s meaningless. In this post, I’m going to give you that “something” to work with.

When you get to your location, the first thing you want to do is scout out the area. Find the optimum place you can shoot from. Next, examine your scene. Look for the elements you want to include in your composition. Now, look for compositions within that composition. Try to find at least three different compositions that you can take with minimal effort. To achieve this, use the equipment you have to its fullest. If you have a 400mm telephoto, use it if it’s appropriate. The image below was taken with a 400mm telephoto from the same location the opening image was taken. The red box in the opening image shows the area that I zoomed in on. Both images where taken from the exact same spot.

LE0103The next thing you want to be aware of when you’re working a scene is the light. Light literally changes every second that you are on location. Shadows form and then disappear. Clouds light up, then fall into shadow. All of these changes play with the dynamic of your image. Shoot multiple images of the same scene, and work with the changing light. Switch to your alternate compositions if the light becomes favorable there. Don’t lock yourself into those pre-chosen compositions though. If something dramatic happens where you didn’t expect it, react to it and shoot it. The most important thing is to stay with your scene throughout the show. Things happen quickly, and sometimes not so quickly. The two images in this post were taken about 40 minutes apart from each other, and have a completely different dynamic. Stay the course. You won’t be disappointed.

I hope this post helps you out the next time you’re in the field. If you are serious about learning the art of landscape photography, consider signing up for one of our workshops. The two images in this post are one of the locations we shoot on our Smoky Mountains workshops. Our workshops are an intense, four day, educational photographic adventure. For more information about the workshops, Click Here.

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Basics of Exposure

Exposure has to be one of the hardest concepts to understand in photography. It is also one of the most important.  In this lesson, I am going to break down exposure into two categories. Technical and artistic. To start off, I will cover the technical aspect of exposure as it is absolutely essential to understand how your camera records your images. I will then cover the artistic end of things, and show you how to use your exposure settings creatively in your shots. So, let’s get started.

Exposure is the process of controlling how much light enters your camera and exposes the image sensor. There are three settings on your camera that deal with exposure. Shutter speed, aperture (or f-stop), and ISO. The shutter speed and aperture control how much light your camera is letting in to expose the image sensor. The ISO controls how sensitive the image sensor is to the light the shutter speed and aperture combination let in. They all three work together to produce a properly exposed image. If you shoot in one of the auto modes, the camera automatically makes these settings for you based on comparing your scene to a preloaded data base of images, and selecting the one that is closest to your scene. Most often, it does a pretty good job. But if you want to take complete control over how your images look, you need to learn to control these settings yourself.

The shutter is located inside of your camera. Basically it is a curtain that seals off the image sensor compartment, making it light tight. When you press the shutter release button on your camera, the curtain slides all the way open and then closed, exposing the image sensor to light. The shutter speed setting on your camera controls how long the curtain stays open, and in turn, how much light gets exposed to the image sensor. A fast shutter speed such as 1/1000 of a second lets very little light in, whereas a long shutter speed like 1/2 of a second lets quite a bit of light in.

The aperture is located in the lens of the camera. It is a variable size opening through which light travels. It functions much like the iris of the human eye, by varying its size to regulate how much light it lets in. On most cameras, the aperture is represented by a series of f-stop numbers to change the size from a large opening to a smaller one. Depending on the lens that is being used, these numbers will typically range from about f/1.8 to f/22. Now this is where it get a little confusing for most beginning photographers. One would think that the smaller the f-stop number, the smaller the aperture opening. In reality it’s the exact opposite. The smaller the f-stop number, the larger the aperture opening. So, an aperture of  f/1.8 is a very large opening, and lets a lot of light through the lens and ultimately to the image sensor. An aperture of f/22 is a very small opening, and lets very little light through. Used in combination with the shutter speed, this is how we control how much light is exposed to the image sensor. But we need some way to determine how much light we should let in to properly expose our image. In comes the light meter.

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The light meter is your cameras tool to help you determine how much light to expose the image sensor to, and reproduce your scene in a digital format the way you see it. It works by evaluating the brightness levels (or luminosity levels) of your scene, and determines how much  light is necessary to record it. The light meter is found by looking through your view finder. Some cameras also allow you to view your light meter on the LCD Exposure300pxscreen on the back of your camera. Typically, it looks like the image at the beginning of this paragraph. To use it, you need to select an f-stop and shutter speed combination that moves the indicator at the bottom of the graph to the zero position. This is the proper exposure. There are many different combinations that you can use for any given light source that give the same amount of exposure. You can see this by looking at the chart to the left. Sounds easy don’t it? Not so fast. In comes the artistic considerations of selecting f-stops and shutter speeds, and some limiting factors for both.

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Your choice of shutter speed can add artistic quality to your images when you understand what is happening to your image at different speeds. A fast shutter speed such as 1/250 sec or faster will freeze any motion within your image such as running water, leaves blowing in the wind, or a animal walking through your scene. A slow shutter speed of 1/30 sec or slower will allow any motion in your scene to blur in the final image. These effects can be used quite creatively in your compositions. A fast shutter speed used photographing waves crashing on a rocky shoreline will freeze the motion of the water, giving a feel of action and force. A slow shutter speed used while photographing a flowing stream will give you a peaceful, almost surreal feeling such as in the image above. The choice is yours. Be creative.

OE0006F-stops ultimately control how much depth of field (area of your image that is in focus) you have in your image. The larger the number (ex. f16, f22) the more depth of field you will have in your image. The smaller the number (ex. f2.8, f4) you will have less depth of field, and areas of your image will fall out of focus. Choosing the right f-stop is a critical decision you make when taking a nature photograph. It is also one that is directly related to your artistic composition. Choose a high number like f16 or f22 if you are taking a grand landscape image, and you want everything from your foreground to infinity to be in focus. Select a smaller number like f2.8 or f4 when taking close up photographs of flowers. This will allow the background to go out of focus creating a bokeh effect, which is isolating your subject against a soft out of focus background. This image of a Lupine Bloom demonstrates this effect quite well.

As I mentioned before, there are some limiting factors to consider, especially when it comes to your selection of shutter speed. As a slow shutter speed will blur any motion within your scene, it will also blur your image if your camera is moving at the time the shutter is tripped. Trying to hand hold your camera with a slow shutter speed is a recipe for disaster. It is recommended not to try and hand hold your camera if your shutter speed is less than the focal length of your lens. For instance, if you are shooting with a 200mm lens, your shutter speed should be 1/200 of a second or faster to prevent blurring your image. Anything less, and you should be shooting on a tripod. This is, however, only a recommendation. If you are really serious about getting the best quality landscape images you can, you should always be shooting from a tripod. I never leave home without mine!

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The final setting that deals with exposure is your ISO. In the film industry, ISO is a measurement to determine how sensitive the film is to light. A high ISO number such as ISO 800 is very sensitive to light. A low number such as ISO 100 is not very sensitive, and requires more light to properly expose it. The ISO setting on your digital camera works in a very similar way. Your cameras image sensor amplifies its signal to produce the same results as different ISO films. The higher the ISO setting, the more sensitive to light the image sensor becomes. This allows you to shoot at faster shutter speeds in low light conditions, as the image sensor requires less light to properly expose your scene. You have to be careful though. The higher you set your ISO, the more digital noise you’re going to get in your images. Digital noise is a grainy pattern of colored dots that show up in the evenly toned and shadow areas of your image. With most digital SLR’s today, you are pretty safe up to about ISO 600 – 800. The image of the Tule Elk above was captured in very low light. I set my ISO to 600 which allowed me to increase my shutter speed by about three stops to be sure any movement by the elk would be frozen. In landscape photography, it is best to keep your ISO around 100 – 200. Most of the time you will be shooting from a tripod, and a fast shutter speed is not necessary. You want to make sure you get the sharpest images possible, and a low ISO setting will help ensure that happens.

This pretty much covers the basics of understanding exposure, and should get you well on your way to taking control over your images. Obviously, the discussion can get much more involved, as entire books have been written on the subject. And I encourage you to further your studies on exposure. But for now, get out in the field and start putting your newly acquired knowledge to work.

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Essay: Inspiration

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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

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Composition Essentials Essay

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Canon 5D MKII, EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS USM at 150mm, 1/20 sec. at f/11, ISO 100

I am often asked the question, What makes a great photograph? I always answer the question the same way, Composition. However, my view of composition is not the same as the standard text book definition of the word. Composing an image is not just about how you arrange the elements of your scene. It goes much deeper than that. To achieve a great composition, one must consider each of the following:

Click the here to read the full essay

 

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Essay, Tunnel Vision: Avoid it at All Costs

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Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 58mm, 0.5 sec. at f/16, ISO 100

We all have experienced tunnel vision at some point in our lives. We get focused on one task, and everything else around us disappears until we have accomplished our goal. That one thing dictates all of our actions, all of our thoughts, all of our emotions, and until we complete it, we can’t clear our mind for anything else. This is a very detrimental mindset to find yourself in on one of your photographic journeys. I’m writing this essay to make you aware of this problem, and to demonstrate the benefits that you can reap when you keep an open mind out in the field.

Almost every photographic journey begins with preconceived ideas of the type of images you want to create. For me, it is the grand landscape. I love wide open, expansive images that just lure your imagination, and make you wish you were there. Often times though, you find yourself arriving at your destination, and the conditions just aren’t right to capture what you envisioned. It’s at these times tunnel vision creeps in, and you find yourself searching and searching for an image that’s just not meant to be. All the while, passing by great photographic opportunities that your mind can’t see because it is focused somewhere else. This is exactly what happened to me while on a fall shoot in Oak Creek Canyon in central Arizona.

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Canon 5D, EF24-105mm f/4L IS USM at 70mm, 1/30 sec. at f/8, ISO 100

The images in this post were created several years ago while I was on a fall shoot in central Arizona. I had envisioned capturing images of waterfalls cascading out of still pools of water, reflecting the fall colors and majestic red canyon walls. What I found was the water levels were really low, and the pools were cluttered with debris. No matter how far I hiked into the canyon, my vision never seemed to materialize.  At some point I stopped to take a break. At that moment I started to realize that the colors that surrounded me were absolutely stunning. I immediately grabbed my camera from my pack and started shooting. The results are what you see above. I broke through my tunnel vision and walked away with some great images.

So, the next time you find yourself in the field with all kinds of preconceived ideas for images floating in your head, stop, and take a break. Clear your mind and take a look around you. You might just break through your tunnel vision, and capture an image that exceeds your wildest expectations.

This post was published on the Nature Photographers Online Magazine in July, 2012

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