Posts Tagged ‘photography’

Thoughts on Art – What Is It?

July 29th, 2016

 

What is Art?

I want to talk about art.point_lobos_abstract_120809

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.

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Four Types of Photographs

December 12th, 2015

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.

 

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Mastering Night Photography – Focusing

February 15th, 2015

A lot of people are doing nighttime photography these days including yours truly. There are many good sources of information on nighttime photography. I’ve written a few blog posts myself (Exciting Nighttime Photography in 10 Easy Steps). Nighttime photography falls into two categories – star trails and night sky. In this post I want to elaborate on something I’ve discovered recently with regards to night sky photography.

double-arch-joshua-tree-140628Nighttime photography is pretty much like daytime photography. The biggest difference is you can’t see what you’re doing. Let’s run through a quick comparison of camera settings in daytime and nighttime photography.

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Making a Photograph – The Technical and the Creative

January 13th, 2015

There’s no question about it; photography is very technical. There are many technical skills that must be mastered to become a proficient photographer. And they didn’t all just crop up when digital cameras came on the scene. Film cameras required a great deal of technical know-how also.

If you were taking a grand landscape photograph back in the days of film, a composition that had a very interesting foreground and a spectacular background, you had to know how to control your depth of field so that the foreground and the background and everything in between would be in focus. This required a technical knowledge of the three factors that affect sharpness; those being, focal distance (the distance from the camera to the object you’re focusing on), the focal length of the lens and the f-stop.

Exposure in the film era was perhaps even a little more intimidating. Your ISO was determined by your film and you selected that when you purchased it. But you had to set your shutter speed and your f-stop manually. Shutter speed wasn’t too hard to understand. If you decrease the length of time the shutter was open, you decrease the amount of light that passed through the lens by the same amount. A shutter speed of 1/30 of a second let twice as much light through the lens as 1/60 of a second. Pretty simple.

But f-stop didn’t make any sense at all. If your f-stop was f/8 and you wanted to double the amount of light coming through the lens, you set it to f/5.6. The amount of light was doubled but the number was smaller. And it wasn’t what you might intuitively have expected it to be, namely, f/4. It could be a bit baffling. And the only way to get a grasp on it was to memorize these weird numbers. With film you were stuck with manual exposure and there was no getting around it. With digital you can use one of the automatic exposure modes so you can get away without fully understanding this f/stop stuff. But it’s still best if you do.

digital-cameraThe coming of the digital camera introduced a whole new level of complexity. In the film age the camera was a simple mechanical device. You were responsible for doing practically everything – deciding where to focus, the shutter speed to use and the f-stop to use. The only role the camera played was to open the shutter for the precise length of time that you specified when you set the shutter speed.

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Photo Tips – Getting Great Exposures the Easy Way

December 13th, 2014

If you’re a person who’s interested in just taking pictures and don’t want to be bothered with all the technical details, you are probably photographing with your camera set to automatic mode. Often times automatic mode is indicated by a green box. Probably the handiest feature of automatic mode is that the camera makes all the decisions for you. All you have to think about is getting the people you’re photographing in the frame and pressing the shutter. The camera does everything else.

But the problem is that the camera doesn’t always get it right. Often times it will overexpose parts of the image making them look washed out. But there’s a simple way to avoid this without mastering all the complicated technical details of shooting in manual mode. And that is P mode.

Using P Mode

The P and P mode stands for Programmed Automatic. In P mode the camera allows you to make some of the decisions while it makes the rest. You get to choose whether or not to use flash, and set the ISO, exposure compensation and white balance. The camera sets the f-stop and shutter speed.

Let’s take these controls one by one. Let’s start with flash. You can decide whether you want to use flash or not. If you’re shooting in bright daylight or even on a cloudy day you probably don’t need flash. But if it’s a little darker you can always choose to turn the flash on. If you don’t know how to turn your flash on or off you’ll need to consult your camera’s manual.

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Making a Photograph – Personal Style

December 12th, 2014

Personal style. What is it? I like to bring up the topic of personal style in my workshops. I think it’s important to understand that each of us has a personal style whether we know it or not. It comes from the fact that each of us is a unique individual and sees the world in our own personal way. Our skill levels are different. Our life experiences are different. Our interests are different. And that leads to each of us having our own individual world view.

hidden-valley-130119

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Making a Photograph – Two Sides of the Coin

November 23rd, 2014

I recently read an article by William Neill in the September Outdoor Photography magazine titled “Need to Know” that really resonated with me.  His main point is, don’t let the acquisition of gear and techniques interfere with the experience.  There’s so much information out there, so many people offering advice on techniques for composing, exposing and post processing.  But in Neill’s journey he has developed what he calls, ‘… a simple but effective tool set.”

A foundation of gear and technique is important in capturing the experience.  But it is the experience that is what we’re out there for, not histograms or depth of field or leading lines.

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Is That What Your Camera Saw?

July 24th, 2014

Occasionally at art festivals a visitor to my booth will point to one of my photographs and ask, “Is that what your camera saw?”  This question points out a common misunderstanding about the physics and art of photography.

Those of us who are serious about our photography capture our digital images in RAW file format.  That’s a format that does a minimal amount of processing on the image before it saves it to the memory card.  It is more like what the camera sees.

The other format is  JPEG and is not what the camera sees but rather a highly processed image that is controlled to a large extent by the settings the photographer sets in the camera – settings like sharpness, contrast and saturation.  So if the photographer likes saturation he just has to up the saturation setting in the camera.

JPEG is much closer to the photographs that were captured in the wonderful days of film.  Each different type of file had its own unique way of responding to the scene.  Kodachrome film was great for reds while Ektachrome was perfect for blues.  Fujichrome was prized for its treatment of greens and its high contrast.

So what did the film camera see?  The question is really, “What did the film see?”  Was it a faithful documentation of reality?  Not in the least.  The same can be said for JPEG digital files.  They are no more a faithful documentation of reality than film was.

The fact is, RAW files are closer to what the camera saw than film or JPEG files ever were or will be.  And, as one workshop participant put it to me, “I don’t like shooting in RAW because the photographs are so plain and uninteresting.”  There you go.  What the camera sees, exactly what the camera sees, is often plain and uninteresting.

So the physics of digital images captured in RAW format is that the images are the closest to what the camera sees.  But from an artistic point of view, these images generally do not speak to us.  These are documentation but that’s not art; art is interpretation.

Now, a RAW file is the perfect starting point from which to create art.  It is neutral, unbiased and open to the artist to express what she saw, what she experienced that inspired her to set up the camera and compose the image, that led to the decisive moment that the shutter was pressed.

In the days of film we relied on our selection of the type of film that would do the best job of rendering particular situations.  In the digital era we have much more powerful tools that we ever had with film – Lightroom, Photoshop, Photomatix and all the wonderful software that we have access to that allows us to express our vision, our interpretation of reality.

So, are my photographs what the camera saw?  Not at all.  They are what I saw.


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Ten Reasons to Take a Photography Workshop

April 19th, 2014

We all love photography.  Perhaps you are a casual photographer, using your smart phone or point-and-shoot camera to capture the precious moments in life you cherish and want to remember.  Perhaps you admire the work of others and would like to be able to capture scenes or moments like they do.  Or maybe you are skilled and have been passionate about your own photography for quite some time now.

For those that seek to develop themselves as photographers there are a couple of approaches you can take.  You can learn on your own by reading and photographing.  And if you are able to devote the time and energy to this process you will surely be successful.  However, it is more of a trial-and-error approach to learning photography and, let’s face it, we don’t all have the time or energy to adequately feed our passion.

Or, you can learn from someone who has already mastered the challenges you encounter along the way.  And one of the most effective and affordable ways of accomplishing this is through a photography workshop.

So I would like to share with you my top ten reasons for attending a photography workshop.

1.     Inspiration

Photography workshops give you the opportunity to focus just on photography and capturing the beauty that surrounds you.  The complications of your busy life are left at home or at work and for several stimulating days your existence is focused on one thing – capturing the beauty that surrounds you.

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Mastering Sharpness – Depth of Field

March 2nd, 2014

A topic that receives a lot of attention in our workshops is focus.  It’s incredibly important, so important that I consider Appropriate Sharpness to be one of the four pillars of a successful landscape photograph.  (For more, read Making a Photograph – The Four Pillars.)  Most of the questions center around depth of field and hyperfocal distance.  In fact, this is so important that I give a class on Appropriate Sharpness during just about every workshop.  Let’s start the discussion with Depth of Field

Depth of Field

This is the range, if you will, of objects in the view of your camera that are in focus.  Objects in front of this range are out of focus as well as objects behind the range.  A deep depth of field would have the flowers just a few feet from you camera and the distant mounts miles away all in focus.  The depth of field would then extend from a couple of feet to infinity and for all practical purposes would be infinitely deep.  This is often referred to as a ‘near-far composition.’

death_valley_sunrise_2012_rrpm_rc0A shallow depth of field may be just a couple of inches deep with nearer and more distant objects out of focus.  This is referred to as ‘Selective Focus.’

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