When you get up early and leave at 4:30 in the morning for a sunrise shoot there are no guarantees. You pick a location that has potential and, by getting out so early, you up the potential for great light. It might, and then it might not happen. But you’re out there anyway.
When you arrive, the desert is still dark. You stand by your car, talking quietly with friends, sipping hot coffee and watching the emerging light on the eastern horizon. There is a sense of eagerness balanced with patience. Often, however, just being there is its own reward and coming home with a keeper is icing on the cake.
The earth brightens quickly this time of day and soon you grab your gear and head out into the desert. For me, just wandering and not looking for anything in particular is the best approach.
I prefer to let images come to me rather than hunting them down. When something I see stops me in my tracks, these turn out to be the best photographs. It’s not because I’m searching for leading lines or applying the rule of thirds or any other of the many ‘rules’ of composition. I don’t like to think when I’m photographing; I prefer to become quiet and simply experience. And when I’m in that state of mind I stop in my tracks because it just feels right. And the stop is usually followed closely by an utterance of surprise and joy – “Oh Wow!”.
Such was the case with “Sheep Pass Morning.” The morning shoot was winding down, meaning the sunrise had come and gone and the wonderful golden hour light was quickly fading. I wandered aimlessly and “Boom,” there it was. I was excited. This just felt right. And yes, I did say, “Oh wow!”
I set up my camera and composed the shot. I was conscious of the cluster of rocks in the lower right corner and their relationship with the Joshua trees on the right edge. I was conscious of outcrop of rocks on the left, the mountain range in the background (Queen Mountain) and the clouds. All these elements were in my mind but mostly I was seeking balance and harmony. During that time, distant Queen mountain into shadow so I waited for the light to came back, cheering it along. Then the moment came and I tripped the shutter.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – Sheep Pass Morning (2016)” »
Tags: balance, golden hour, harmony, Joshua Tree National Park, Lightroom, Nik, PhotoShop, Queen Valley, sheep pass, Silver Efex Pro, sunrise
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I thought it might be interesting to share with you the gear I use to make my photographs. In other words, to give you a guided tour through my camera bag. But before we start the tour I’d like to share with you the approach I’ve followed in bringing together my gear.
There are a lot of photographers who take a great deal of satisfaction in keeping up with the latest technology and it certainly does progress very rapidly. Many of these photographers make really great photographs as well. I prefer a different approach.
For me, my photography gear is a means to an end., the end being to follow my creative vision. If my gear supports my creative vision, I’m quite satisfied with it. If it doesn’t, then I need to consider an upgrade. Here’s an example.
Continue reading “Photographic Gear – A Tour of a Photographer’s Camera Bag” »
Tags: camera bag, photography gear
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It was pitch black when we arrived. Not a single star was visible in the heavens. It was overcast and the prospects of a spectacular sunset or even a good one were not very high. It all depended on whether the clouds extended beyond the horizon, all the way to the Colorado River, 110 miles to the east. One can always hope. Dawn photographers are always filled with hope.
Then there was a gentle tap on my cheek. I must be imagining things. And then a phantom spot materialized on my glasses. “Hey guys, it’s starting to rain. Cover up your gear,” I called. But there was no way a little rain was going to deter us. So we started wandering around in the gathering light, looking for compositions still keeping a watchful eye on the eastern horizon.
Soon it was clear that the sun was about to peep over the distant mountains and there was a thin strip of open sky that would make the sun visible for a brief minute or two. “Get ready; here it comes!” And come it did! A gossamer veil of gold filled the stormy sky, exceeding our wildest expectations. What a thrill it was to be a part of this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle.
Tags: dawn, Joshua Tree, National Park, Rain, sunrise
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What is Art?
I want to talk about art.
Mind you, I don’t claim to be an expert. I’ve done some reading and talked to a lot of people about art and there are a lot of ideas out there on what art really is.
Some say art is a work that is displayed in a gallery or performed on a stage. I can see that (pun not intended; well, actually it was) although I’m not there – yet.
Others say that art is a work commissioned by a patron. Alas, not there yet either.
Still others say a work is art if the artist says its art. That’s fine as long as the artist can get others to agree.
But none of these definitions help me to grow as an artist. They don’t provide any indication of a path I can take to become an artist (other than perhaps bribing someone to hang one of my photographs in a gallery, at least for a day or two).
I’m looking for a definition of art that will provide some guidance in my quest to become an artist – to grow as an artist.
Continue reading “Thoughts on Art – What Is It?” »
Tags: art, communication, interpretation, photography
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Even high up on the mountainside the parking lot is shrouded in the utter quite of the fog. I am alone. I set out, relishing the solitude. The crowns of the towering giants fade away into the mist. The fog condenses on the leaves and drops to the forest floor with barely perceptible random taps.
I continue along the trail, breathing in the moist air, breathing in the quite, breathing in the majesty that surrounds me. It is enough. And yet, there’s more.
The clouds begin to part, granting beams of sunlight passage into the cool, shadowed grove. My heart fills with joy, my eyes with wonder. And I have the presence of mind to bring it home to share.
Tags: California, coastal redwoods, fog, god rays, lady bird Johnson grove, National Park, northern California, prairie creek state park, quite, redwoods, solitude, State Park, trail
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Dust spots. How annoying. They can give a blue sky chickenpox.
Dust spots on your sensor can mean hours of laborious effort removing them one by one in the digital darkroom. But, because they are on the sensor, that most sensitive component of our digital cameras, we are sometimes terrified to attempt removing them. So we either put up with them or we send our cameras out to a repair guy and pay good money to have him remove them.
Oh yeah, our cameras do the dust removal shake thing every time you turn them on and off. But some cameras work better than others. And there are conditions where the camera can shake the sensor as much as it wants but it won’t get rid of all the dust.
As frightening as it seems, removing dust from your sensor doesn’t have to be all that dangerous. As it turns out, there are three levels of dust removal – which are performed in that order. Any one of us can do the first level. And most of us would have enough confidence to do the second. The most stouthearted of us will even attempt the third but that’s not a level that needs to be resorted to very often. So what are these levels? Let’s take a look at them one by one.
Level 1 – Blowing
When the camera is turned on there’s a small static charge on the sensor that can attract particles of dust. They are held to the sensor by the static electricity and typically the attraction is fairly weak. So the first level involves blowing the dust particles off the sensor with a gentle stream of air. The trick is to use the right source for the gentle stream of air. One thing you absolutely do not want to use is canned air. The aerosols contain propellants which can squirt out solvents along with the air. And that’s not very good because the solvents will get on your sensor and create an even worse problem. But there are blowers that are specifically designed just for this purpose. The Giotto Rocket is one excellent example. The thing that makes the Giotto and others like it so special is that it draws the air in from the back and blows it out the front. That way it doesn’t inadvertently pull in a particle of dust that it just dislodged, only to shoot it right back out at the sensor – and at high velocity. Smart.
To blow the dust off your sensor, check your camera’s manual and find the menu option for manual sensor cleaning. Remove the lens from your camera body and activate the option. When you do this, the mirror will flip out of the way and expose the sensor. Hold the camera body so the lens opening is facing down and gently (with emphasis on the word ‘gently’) blow a stream of air against the sensor. I like to direct the air not only to the center of the sensor but the edges and the corners. When you’re done turn off the camera and the mirror will drop back in place. (Of course, if you have a mirrorless camera there is no mirror to flip out of the way. When you take the lens off the sensor is already exposed.) Many digital SLRs will not allow you to do a manual cleaning if the battery does not have enough charge. I think that is so that the camera will not run out of juice before the mirror is put back in its place. This process is pretty easy isn’t it. Nothing touches the sensor but air. Continue reading “Dust, Darn Dust” »
Tags: arctic butterfly, digital SLR, dust, dust spot, giotto, rocket, sensor, visible dust
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Last year I started a series of articles under the general theme of Images with Impact. In it we are discussing things you can do with your images in Lightroom and Photoshop to enhance their impact. When I got to the topic of contrast I came to an abrupt halt. The more I thought about contrast, the more I wanted to begin that discussion with some real examples from nature. But to do that, I needed some photographs that illustrated what I wanted to share with you. And in Southern California, the types of photographs I wanted are only possible in winter. But it’s winter now. And I’ve been able to capture the photographs that I want, so now we’re picking up the series again.
What distinguishes a photograph created by the serious student of photography from one taken by a casual photographer? Many things to be sure. But one thing that stands out is a sense of clarity, a clear quality. The casual photographers’ photographs are just what the camera captures and are often like looking through a bit of haze and I don’t mean that they are out of focus. It’s the light. The effect may be subtle but it is very real. A more accomplished photographers’ photographs have a special quality to them, a quality that engages us, that draws us in and holds our attention. You might describe it as a crisp quality. (You can click on the photographs to enlarge them.)
(My daughter some years ago as we hiked out of a late spring backpacking trip in the local mountains.)
The serious student of photography skillfully applies contrast in the digital darkroom to achieve this look. But before getting in to how this is done, let’s step back and take a look at how we respond to contrast not only in photographs but also in nature.
In the following discussion I will use examples from nature to illustrate the affect contrast has on us. The idea is to understand how it works so that we can more effectively apply this knowledge to our photographs.
Continue reading “Images with Impact – Contrast in Nature” »
Tags: atmosphere, contrast, depth, golden hour, haze, Mount Baldy, San Gabriel Mountains, Santa Catalina Island, Southern California, tonal values
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Sleeklens is a company with a concept that is not new in the Adobe Lightroom world – providing presets to help us in processing our photographs. I’ve always shied away from using presets, just like I rarely if ever use the Auto tone adjustment built into Lightroom. I’ve always felt that I prefer making all the decisions myself rather than letting the computer make them in the case of Lightroom Auto tone or a designer make them in the case of presets.
But I recently received an evaluation copy of one of the Sleeklens presets workflows and have been using them on several photographs I’m working on. Sleeklens has a variety of presets for different purposes. The collection I received is titled ‘Through the Woods Workflow.’
Through the Woods Workflow consists of forty-seven presets and twenty-nine brushes.
The Presets are global adjustments, affecting the entire image. Once installed they are in their own folder in the Presets area of the Development module screen. The presets are applied just like any other preset – namely, clicking on them.
The presets are organized into seven groups – All in One, Base, Exposure, Color Correction, Tone/Tint, Polish and Vignette. The All in One presets can affect the Basic, Tone Curve, HSL and Split Toning adjustment groups. Base mostly affects the Basic adjustments and occasionally the Tone Curve. One Base preset affects HSL and Split Toning. Exposure sets either Basic or Tone Curve. Color Correction adjustments are applied to HSL. Tone/Tint plays with Vibrance and Split Toning. Polish mostly adjusts Basic. And Vignette sets Post-Crop Vignetting in Effects. One thing that is missing is settings that utilize the new Dehaze adjustment in Effects.
The brushes are used with the Adjustment Brush, Graduated Filter or Radial Filter. There are five groups – Basics, Color, Effects, Haze and Light. The brushes are applied by selecting the effect and painting with the Adjustment Brush or creating the Graduated or Radial Filter. Continue reading “Sleeklens Lightroom Workflow Review” »
Tags: adjustment brush, brushes, graduated filter, landscape photography, Lightroom, presets, radial filter, Sleeklens, Through the Woods Workflow
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Something hit me the other day on the way into work. That happens quite often. I mean I didn’t get hit by a car or anything. I got hit by an idea. And the idea this time is that there are four types of photographs. In this blog post I want to illustrate what I have in mind by showing you the same raw file rendered four different ways.
Continue reading “Four Types of Photographs” »
Tags: art, believable, capture, creativity, document, interpretation, personal style, photography, realistic
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For some time now I’ve been using and teaching a process of working on photographs in Lightroom. It consists of basically four steps: manual adjustments, tonality adjustments, hue adjustments and finally saturation adjustments. Quite some time ago I had the brilliant idea of converting the image to black and white before doing the tonality adjustments. The technique I used was the B & W tab in Lightroom’s HSL group. Once the tonality adjustments were done, the image would be converted back to color and the process continue.
It didn’t work out because when I converted the image back to color, the colors were so oversaturated and unnatural that the image looked horrible. It was just easier to do the tonality adjustments on the color image. So I quickly gave up on that technique. But the other day I was reading an article in Popular Photography magazine that rekindled this idea. It took a different approach. It turned the image to black and white by setting the Saturation adjustment to -100. Now the author did this in the middle of the process but I thought that if I applied this to my process and did that at the start it just might work. So I was eager to give it a try. Let’s try it with this image of the Watchman in Zion National Park.
This is the original raw file. I haven’t done anything to it yet. It doesn’t need any mechanical adjustments. These consist of removing spots, straightening the image, maybe some noise reduction and the final crop. But since none of these are required we can move on to the tonality adjustments.
Continue reading “Making a Photograph – A New Approach to Tonality Adjustments” »
Tags: black, black and white, color, contrast, exposure, graduated filter, highlight, HSL, hue, Lightroom, luminosity, saturation, shadow, spot removal tool, tonality, vignette, white
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