Tag Archives: Photography

Leaving tomorrow for snowy Colorado

6 Oct

Tomorrow marks the start of my second annual visit to Colorado for autumn foliage. Last year, we visited the week earlier, stayed in lovely town of  Telluride,  and the timing was perfect for color. The weather was generally cooperative with a few minor afternoon storms and some overnight snows coating the high peaks of the San Juan Mountains.

This year appears a totally different story.  As I write this, a massive storm is pounding much of the state with up to a foot of snow.  It’s effects can be felt all the way to Phoenix, where temperatures have significantly dropped and the winds have picked up big time. Originally, the plan was to camp most nights and stay in a hotel to get a good night’s rest and get cleaned up before we return home, that’s now changed.

This year, we designated Ouray as our base camp. For those of you not familiar with the area, Ouray is the northern most town located on the San Juan Scenic Loop and is about an hour drive from Telluride and probably closer to two hours from Durango.  Getting there could be the biggest problem as the mountain passes are snowy, wet, and treacherous. By the time we reach the area tomorrow the worst of the storm should have passed, but forecasts are calling for lingering snow showers possibly as late as Sunday.

Driving the region’s back country roads can sometimes be a daunting task, but when wet and muddy obviously it can get extremely dangerous. There’s also the possibility the high winds would eradicate what’s left of the region’s foliage, which could significantly decrease photo opportunities.  The storm also brings plenty of promise as well. The mountains will look incredible and snow-covered foliage is a wonderous sight.  The weather should improve over our last couple of days in the region and conditions could be optimum for landscape photography.  It’s hard to tell what this trip will bring, my primary goal is to make it home safely, hopefully will a handful of really good photographs to share with you.

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Find Your Creative Vision Part 4 – Abstract Images

10 Jun

This week’s blog is on how to to craft successful abstract images in landscape photography. We will talk about what to look for, how to express yourself, and also discuss technical tips in the field. I also want to give you a brief professional update as a lot is going on. We recently returned from a wonderful eight day trip to Oregon. More on that in a later blog. Next week we are preparing for our first trip to San Diego to participate in the renowned La Jolla Festival of Fine Arts.

Today our focus is on abstracts. Abstracts offer a lot of opportunity for a number of reasons and make a fine addition to any landscape photographer’s portfolio. To begin, abstract images are less contingent upon spectacular light. In many cases soft, diffused light works best. This is usually true for abstracts involving plants and trees. Depending on the size of your subject and the photographer, wily shooters can use their bodies, jackets, reflectors or anything else capable of casting a shadow on their subject matter. So sometimes you don’t even have to wait for the light!

In other instances, photographers use the reflected glow of the sun to help add drama and color to their images. This works best while shooting in slot canyons or while shooting intimate scenes of water that capture the varied colors of reflected light. Below is a demonstration of how different kinds of direct light can affect the color quality of abstract images.

Taken in the morning

Taken in the afternoon

Taken in the afternoon

Abstract photos normally normally rely on repetition or pattern. This can be expressed in colors, lines, shapes and accentuated by depth. This type of image best allows the photographer a means to express him or herself creatively in ways that will set them apart from others in the field.

I used a high contrast interpretation of this mescal agave plant to accentuate its dominant features and colors.

Another critical consideration is the photographer’s technical execution in the field. This can be the make or break difference in determining the dramatic impact of the image. Considerations such as what aperture to use to showcase depth of field, what kind of exposure works best to capture the subject matter and it colors, will using a filter, like a polarizer, help improve the scene? These are all personal choices left up to each photographer. The best advice I can give is just to experiment with local subject matter. My best abstracts have all been local. There is something about familiarity when it comes to abstracts that has really helped me find my style. It difficult to put into words, I guess it is more of an instinct than it is a tangible quality.

For instance, I live in the desert. So when I am out and about I am looking at desert landscaping and watching the plants for patterns or shapes that interest me. I might find one that I like and maybe the scene doesn’t work or I don’t have my camera gear, but it gives me an idea of something that interests me that I continue to look for in the future. That’s my suggestion to you. When you are around mundane subject matter, pay attention to the little things – even if you don’t get shots it can inspire you for the future.

Saguaro Bulbs

Speaking of which, I hope you find this article inspiring. Please let me know if you do!

Finding Your Creative Edge in Landscape Photography Pt.1 – The Grand Scenic

27 Apr

What is the difference between a good landscape photographer and a great one? What separates the top photographers in this genre from the many others trying to emulate them? Is it luck, time in the field, or maybe they have more technical and even physical skills? It couldn’t possibly be their camera equipment could it? Well, what is it?

Today we are starting a new series that I hope will answer these questions and more. My goal is to provide you with a more fundamental understanding of landscape photography and to inspire you to think outside the box to find your own creative advantages.

After several years of regularly studying landscape photographs from an artist’s perspective, I’ve begun to see more clearly the creative nuances many of the top pros use to hone their craft. Before we dive into the creative aspects of the genre, it is important to have a fundamental grasp of the different types of images that are common in this field. I call these sub-genres and we’ll briefly discuss each as it relates to overall understanding of landscape photography. We’ll start with just about everyone’s favorite type of the image – the grand scenic.

If you follow my work at all then you’ve probably seen this image before. Entitled Celestial Alignment, this is probably my favorite grand scenic in my current gallery of images. What exactly is a grand scenic?

Well, I’ll take the definition out of one of my all time favorite photography books entitled “Photographing the Landscape, the Art of Seeing” by John Fielder. This is how Fielder describes this type of image…. "Grand scenics often contain all....(the) photographic toppings, and they employ their use in ways that heighten their impact. Colors are usually complementary, forms are unique and pleasing, the moment clearly transitory, the perspective implies great depth, and the view takes in what is only necessary to make a great composition."

To paraphrase, he is saying a grand scenic normally means a scene with a wide and deep view. This usually includes some type of dramatic sky or at least soft, warm light that compliments and/or accentuates the subject matter. The composition also needs to be precise and well balanced, with strong continuity from side to side and front to back.

Let’s take a look at the image above and examine the foreground elements. There is a definite near to far perspective, with the strongest hoodoos placed in a position that looks out and diagonally across the scene to the sun rising over the horizon. This creates a fluid perspective leading the viewer through the scene, starting in the foreground.

In my opinion, this is also an example of a balanced scene. If you cover up half (any way) of the photograph you’ll see what I mean. No one half is any stronger than the other. If you look at the placement of the sun within the picture, it is classically approximately 1/3rd of the way in from the right and 1/3rd of the way down from the top. In the mid ground, the forest of trees in the canyon breaks up the monotony of the shades of deep oranges and reds produced by the brilliant light reflecting off the natural color of the rocks. Additionally, look at the sides of the image. All the elements are clean, thoughtfully arranged, and cohesive.

Finally, the sky is brilliant and clearly transitory. Anyone who has spent time in the field during the magic hours can surely see this is not a “normal” sunrise. It was highly unusual with the moment lasting approximately three to four minutes.

Capturing a grand scenic is one of the most rewarding experiences in landscape photography because of the rarity of the event. In another sense, the images require a less than average amount of artistic creativity to get them right.

Certainly, in most cases, they require a high level of technical competence having to deal with the high dynamic range of light while executing in the field and in the digital dark room. However, outside of that aspect and the ability to see a strong composition, most of the creative work gets overshadowed by the spectacle of natural phenomena captured.

Well, I’ll wrap this up today and by Thursday we’ll discuss another type of image.

Learning about Hard Drives the Hard Way

8 Mar

Last week I spent several hours investigating the pros and cons of the myriad of online backup solutions on the Internet. In case you didn’t know, I recently experienced another hard drive crash.  Although I try to double back-up all my data on external hard drives, sometimes life gets in the way and an important document falls through the cracks.

This is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when I lost some valuable information including my business plan and brainstorming notes, as well as the master file for my trifold brochure. With that being said, I’ve decided to move forward with an investment in an online solution that automatically backs up certain folders.  This plan is in addition to double backing up data on my external hard drives.

Before moving further, let’s discuss what I recently learned about hard drives and why it is critical to use an online provider in addition to doing it yourself.

#1) Hard drive failure is commonplace nowadays. Please don’t think it that it can’t happen to you. Data recovery expert Tom Buhnerkempe, proprietor of Chandler Data Professionals, is seeing a lot more drives fail nowadays. He says companies are not making hard drives the way they used to make them. One of the biggest culprits is the size of the hard drive. The larger hard drives with more space have higher rates of failure.

Apparently, the larger hard drives are essentially the same size as the smaller hard driver, but they are being used to store much more information on them. In turn, this puts extra stress on the machine and also degrades the overall quality of the product. Another reason for the high rate failures is the quality of workmanship. Hard drives are simply not being built as well. The lower prices are driving down the overall quality of the products and the parts within those machines are failing more often.

#2) There are two types of hard drive failure:  mechanical failure and software failure. Mechanical failure is the much more serious of the two because it involves having to replace specific parts of the machine to try to get the drive to function properly again in order to access the data. This process isn’t nearly as simple as getting a new car battery where different brands and types will universally work.  The drive has to be the same, and hard drive manufacturers do not make spare parts. 

Once the problem is determined, a similar version of the drive must be purchased and certified, and then taken apart one piece at a time. If these parts are internal, this usually results in a very costly procedure. It requires specific skills sets and as well as highly specialized machines. Tom likened it to the rebuilding of a car engine. Further, repairs are very time consuming. Costs can easily exceed $1000 and take several months. There are only a number of companies in the United States that can successfully complete these repairs For the unfortunate owner in this situation, you are either out a considerable amount of  money or lots of data, whichever is worth more to you.

If your hard  drive fails due to software corruption, meaning there is enough corrupted information saved in system causing it to malfunction, the remedy is a bit  simpler. Repairs typically can be done locally, if you live in a metropolitan area, although it still can be costly. The key is the drive stills mechanically operates correctly.

One more thing that is worth mentioning is some people like to link or daisy chain up their hard drives to one another so you are saving information on more than one drive.  That way if one drive fails, you still have one or two others that are working. The problem is if the hard drive is damaged because of the mechanical failure of another mechanism within the computer, like the power supply or motherboard, it could conceivably damage all the hard drives at once, ruining everything.

This is where the online system of  backing up your data comes in handy.  I’ll share with you some time saving links, the company I chose, and what factors were in important in making my decision. I hope you enjoyed this post and found it informational. If so, drop me a line with your comments.

Tucson Road Trip…#3 Wild Moments Preview, and the Super Bowl

20 Jan

I am leaving tomorrow for a four-day road trip to Tucson aka, “The Old Pueblo”. We have a full itinerary planned starting with an afternoon stop at Saguaro National Park West, where I’ll hopefully shoot sunset.

It is supposed to be clear all weekend, keeping that in mind, I have some ideas to expand my portfolio.  These include photographing some of the city’s old buildings, structures, and churches as well as possible stop at the Biosphere 2. Tucson is full of activities and there is no shortage of other places to visit as well (Sabino Canyon, Chiracuhua National Monument, Bisbee to name a few) Saturday afternoon we plan on returning to Saguaro National Park East – The Rincon Mountain district to shoot sunset. It will be only my second time in that district of the park, and my first since a solo 3 day/2 night backpacking trip there in December of 2004.

It was that trip which inspired Wild Moment #3 entitled “Lost in the Desert”.  Together we’ll revisit the highlights and lowlights on that adventure sometime next week, probably around Wednesday or Thursday!

On Sunday, we have mostly an open itinerary and we want to get back to our hotel room sometime in the afternoon to watch the NFL Championship games. And since this is my blog,  I am going to talk about the games a bit. Both should be excellent. I am going against conventional wisdom and picking the Bears vs Steelers in the Super Bowl.  Personally, I think the Bears are getting a bit disrespected as a 3.5 point home dog, although I can’t say that I trust Jay Cutler to win a big game.  Not only that, but Aaron Rodgers looks practically unstoppable. He is an amazing quarterback.  Somehow, with a slightly better running game, more team playoff experience,  and home field advantage I think the Bears pull this one out by a field goal 23 – 20.

In the AFC, I think the Jets have been running their mouths too much and I expect a bit of a let down from the Patriots game last week.  Both teams played one another about 6 weeks ago and it was the best game I saw all season. The Jets pulled it out as time expired on the Steelers and I just can’t see that happening again. I think the Steelers pull through at home and beat the Jets 19 – 14.

We’ll be watching the games, but if sunset looks good I am skipping out and heading back to the park for another photography session. I sure hope that is the case. Please check back early next week as I should have some new images up on the website and my next blog post “Lost in the Desert” by the end of next week. Have a wonderful weekend and God Bless.

A Print Makers Thoughts….

16 Dec

Today we are going to talk about printing and how to harvest the full power of your photograph. I chose this particular topic now as I just went through a period of prolific print making for our winter art festival season. 

There are few thoughts I’d like to share that I think will really help you in making your own photographs stand out. The print is really the culminating piece in any photographers arsenal.  How your print looks really defines your work. (Currently, I outsource all my printing to a local company in Scottsdale. so these tips may not be completely applicable for someone who does their own fine art printing).

1) Consider your lighting – How is your print going to be displayed? You may not know this, but keep it in mind. Here are some other relevant questions to think about. Will the print have direct lighting or natural lighting? These are important considerations in determining how bright you want your print. Keep in mind, if it is placed in a dark room, the shadows will look almost completely black, and darkness will dilute and dull the colors of your print. If you are concerned it is not going to show up well because of the lighting, you should enhance your colors a little bit to compensate.

2) Test prints – Don’t learn the hard way like I did, paying good money for prints only to discover weeks later that you really don’t like the finished product. I’ve learned to run each image through a rigorous set of test printing. I am not concerned about the cost, my prints are a reflection of my work and they must look right.

3) Paper – Are your printing on glossy or matte? Perhaps you print on canvas. Each individual printing surface has a slightly different color and each also showcases the colors differently. The sharpness of an image is affected by the kind of paper you are using. Some papers have a yellow tinge that must be accounted for in your editing. Other papers can enhance or slightly dull your colors. Your sharpening levels will be different depending on the size and kind of paper you use to print on as well.

4) Brightness – This is an extension of number one. Make sure you closely monitor the blacks in your shadows. Some printers block up shadows, rendering a darker black with less shadow detail. This is a subtlety that an artist can initially overlook caught up in the moment of enjoying his or her print. Make sure you compare the shadow detail of your physical print to that on your finished electronic file.

5) Clipping – Clipping is the loss of information due to overexposure resulting in a concentrated area of pure white in your photograph.  However, clipping can occur during the editing process as well, which is what I describe here. If your print comes out slighty dark and you lighten it, you must be aware very small sections of that image that could potentially clip during this time. This is a process where you must physically scroll over every inch of your photograph to ensure its quality. Be aware that lighter colors tend to clip quicker than darker ones, so if you have an image with snow, water or even light grey rocks, these are parts of the image that can be readily affected.

Well, I am wrapping up for now. Hopefully you’ve got something from this and if there is more information that comes to mind I’ll make another post on this subject. For now, I leave you with my best selling prints from this month’s art festivals.

Window of Opportunity

Celestial Alignment

The Magic Place

The Magic Place

Vision of Excellence

Vision of Excellence

Call in the Relief

10 Nov

Michael returned from his trip to Bryce Canyon and Zion National Parks a bit weary and road worn, but with some tremendous new images. While fall colors were somewhat shy of their peak, weather and lighting conditions were quite favorable, allowing him to capture new Narrows images as well as images from the Subway and Kolob Canyon. He and his traveling buddy spent a good deal of time hiking, scouting new locations, and of course, stopping to catch up on the latest sports activities. They also had the good fortune of spending some time with a photographers Michael met through Flickr. It was a personally rewarding trip with a great time had by all.   

 While he was away, Induro, the manufacturer of the tripod Michael uses in his work, had him as the featured artist on their blog. The profile, Michael Greene on Nature’s Trail, provides a brief biography, some details about his photographic style and outlines how he prepares for field work. The blog also showcases several of his best images. It is a great piece, so please check it out.

 Lastly, you may wonder why this blog was not written by Michael. I have the same thought as I wrap it up. We are extremely busy preparing for the Tempe Festival of the Arts. It is one of the largest art festivals held in Arizona and we will have a booth there December 2-4. Stop by if you happen to be in the area! As you can imagine, there is a great deal of work involved in getting ready for a show. We are editing new images, re-editing, having images printed, matted and framed, as well as a myriad of other duties. My “to do” list included updating the blog, so although I am not as gifted an author as Michael, I do hope you enjoy it.

 Joyce

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