Archive | August, 2010

Heading out to the Grand Canyon

26 Aug

I am taking a quick trip to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon with a buddy of mine. We are leaving tomorrow morning and coming back on Sunday. I am hoping for some serious monsoon action and lots of drama in the skies. Hopefully I’ll have some fantastic images to share with you all. Well, I am know we are blessed regardless of how the trip and weather turns out. Please look out for another blog post next week. I’ll be unavailable  until then. Thanks so much for checking and have an awesome weekend. God Bless!

Michael

A Sure Fire Way to Improve Your Landscape Photography….

21 Aug

I am feeling compelled to share this tip with you before the weekend and my hope is that you’ll find this advice solid, useful, and rewarding. Before we start, I’ll admit I am guilty of skipping around on my blog posts and this one is no exception. As a result, I will continue my last series about sharing your photographs online next week.  Allow me to briefly provide you some context  for this post and where the inspiration came from. Lately, I have returned to many images already in the archives or previously posted to reprocess in hopes of a better result.  So far, I am very pleased with the results.  This has been a season of less travel for me, and  I haven’t taken what I consider to be a major trip (more than a week in the wilderness) pretty much all year. 

Being grounded in society like this really helps provide perspective on my time outdoors;  it is something that I cherish, relish, and value very much. Sometimes, when you out there so long (at least for me) one can get a little desensitized to the special meaning of their surroundings. While reworking some of these older images and through feedback from posting them online, I’ve seen once again how incredibly spectacular some of the places are that I’ve been fortunate enough to visit. 

That brings me to the topic of this post:  Want to be a better landscape photographer? Well, besides enrolling in a photography workshop (another post at a later time, improve your research skills.  It dawned on me that I rarely just show up and luck into a great photograph. For me, it is much more than that - it takes time and efficient planning.  For your convenience, I am including a list on the steps I go through when planning a trip, and the questions that cross my mind and that I need to answer in order to move forward. (Not all steps will be applicable to everyone) 

1. Dates: When are you going to go? How much time can you spend on this trip?  This is pretty much my first step in planning a trip. I’ve got to decide when and for how long. We all have extenuating circumstances that help dictate or shape the dates of our trip – so I normally don’t precede any farther until I can confidently answer both these questions. 

2. Location:  For me, the location is always determined by the date and the amount of time I can spend on the trip.  Most of the time, I drive. For instance,  if the trip is less than three days, I won’t go out of state. If it is for a week, I’ll drive further to parts of a neighboring state like California, Utah, Nevada, or Colorado. If it is two or more weeks, I’ll consider driving somewhere like Northern California or Wyoming. The second part of this equation is the time of year: Obviously, we aren’t taking any backpacking trips in the Sonoran Desert in July and I am not planning on driving to Wyoming in January either. I generally try to maximize the season. That means go where the going is best….     

3.  Specifics:  The first two steps are pretty obvious. This step is where the rubber meets the road. It’s good to get a little dirty here.  I start with maps. Normally, AAA state road maps work best as the wilderness areas are well-marked in green. For instance, if I am going to Yosemite, I might look also at the areas around Yosemite to see if there is any interesting worth checking out. For some parks, like Yosemite, a lot of your options are decided by which way you’ll be driving so I like to determine that first so it gives me a clearer path of direction. (Excuse the pun) 

Along with all my maps my hiking book collection is an indisposable resource for my photography. This is just part of the collection...

 

 

So now you now where you want to go, when you want to go, for how long you are going, and which way you are going to be driving. Now the hard part; what are you going to do when you get there? For the sake of time, here’s a list of recommendations, advice and questions to think when planning this important leg of your journey. 

1. What are my physical limitations and what do I feel comfortable doing? 

2. If backpacking, do I need a permit and should I reserve one? Where do I get the permits? What are the best campsites?  What are the camping restrictions? 

3. What dangers do I need to be aware of and educated on?  (Wild animals,  flash floods, creek or river fording, unmaintained trails,  precarious climbs) 

3.  Which camera equipment should I bring?   

4. Where are the best places to stay should I need a hotel? 

5.  What is the elevation gain/loss of the hike? How many miles will I be traveling? 

1. Buy and study the guide books – the more research you do the better. 

2. Don’t bite off more than you can chew – don’t be too ambitious in your planning, allow for layover days and for days just to explore the area (just make sure you have the right area) 

3. Monitor the weather reports 

4. Spending time learning the topography of the land and learn or read about when are the best times to shoot. 

5. Get there early and stay late if possible. 

6. Schedule layover days for scouting expeditions 

7. Make safety a priority & have fun!!

The Big Three: A Landscape Photographers Guide to Sharing Their Photographs On-Line

13 Aug

 Today we’ll begin a discussion and in-depth look into the three primary places I share my images online:  Flickr, Nature Photographer’s Network, and Photo.net. There are a plethora of other websites designed to share photography, but these are the three primary ones I use and the ones I’ll be focusing on in this series of blog posts.

I know some people on photography sites are territorial and take pride in thinking their site of choice is the best one. I try to respect the opinions of others, and am not here to undermine or discredit any of these fine sites – just to provide you the reader with my personal insights and experiences when sharing my images. In an effort of full disclosure, please note the opinions expressed here are based on personal experiences and may very well be completely different for someone else. Furthermore, these opinions are general summations and there are exceptions to every one.  So please don’t take anything personal…

The opportunities available on all these sites are far too many to list here; I am only going to discuss the ones I find personally relevant.  I will not get into the technical aspects of navigating through the sites, but will simply touch upon some perceived advantages and shortcomings of using each of them. We’ll do this in three segments – starting today with Flickr. (You can view my Flickr page on the link below)

Flickr:  

Cost:  $24.95/yr for a pro account

What is it:  The world’s largest online photo sharing website.

Brief Overview

Flickr offers something for everyone interested in photography, from folks posting personal pictures of friends and family, to tenured pro’s in business for quite some time. You’ll find it all here. This site is about photographs – period. You can save, store, show off, and shop for images while perusing Flickr.

In terms of landscape photographers, you’ll find some of the best contemporary work around. However, it can be a little hard to find if you don’t know how to search for it.

The Community

The community is extremely friendly and very supportive, and even more importantly – objective. This is the site where I consistently get the most positive feedback on my work. If I am looking to test the popularity of a certain image, I will most likely post it on Flickr first. Abstract landscape images don’t seem to do as well on Flickr. If it is an image where I am struggling with the processing, I’ll look for help elsewhere and post the finished product on Flickr.  

Because Flickr has the largest community of people, you are sure to find plenty who are interested in seeing your work. It’s finding those people that takes time. The easiest way to do it  is by joining themed groups – where people display images of a certain genre or related theme.  The groups on Flickr have their own pros and cons, but are an almost necessary way of finding others on the site. As with all the sites, networking is very important here and it takes a consistent approach of spending time on the site everyday. Nonetheless, it is an achievable goal. Generally speaking, the better your work is the easier it is to do it. Overall, it is a joy to be part of the Flickr community and the uplifting spirit it presents.

Features

There are lots of fun and interesting ways to customize your account. One of my personal favorites is to sort your images based on the order of “interestingness,” a secret algorithm indigenous to Flickr. I like to see which of my images rank the highest using their formula. Sometimes it just doesn’t make any sense, but its like a Top 25 countdown and its fun!

For me, a very important feature of Flickr is that my images can show up on high on Google searches if properly tagged. This is a critical advantage of using this site.

In terms of educational resources, Flickr comes up short in comparison to its counterparts. You can search for answers to specific questions, but if you are looking to post a question and get specific feedback to that question this is not best site to do so. This is especially true of questions regarding processing, printing, and marketing. There are other, more useful forms for that particular subject matter. Your best bet for obtaining information or getting answers to your specific questions is to email the person directly through the site. The vast majority of people are very cordial and will respond when contacted.

However, there is one aspect of research that I do on Flickr that I find particularly useful and almost indispensible. Because it involves looking at pictures and not reading technical information – it also provides some of the most fun I have while doing research. I do find the photographic database tremendously useful. It easy to search using key words and  I specifically use it to locate images of places I am thinking about visiting. Before I invest a lot time and effort into driving ten hours and then hiking 20 miles to take pictures, I want to see what others have captured from the location to gauge the aesthetics and whether it is the best place for me to spend my time.

The tools on Flickr are very easy to use in organizing and structuring your portfolio.  Uploading is a piece of cake, there is no limit on size, and from there it’s pretty much a drag and drop system which works extremely well. Further, the automatically generated slide show is a great future and fun to use.

What I love:  the community, Flickr statistics, web-based search engine optimization, huge, easy to search database, excellent online portfolio display and organizational tools

 What I dislike:  pornography is allowed and can sometime show up in unrelated searches, the graphics of the group awards can be obnoxious and some of the groups are pretentious

 Educational Resources:  B           

Ease of Use:  B + 

Benefits:  A -

Fun Factor:  A

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