I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what steps I’ve taken over the last 11 years to become the world’s most reknowned landscape and adventure photographer. Clearly, I’ve also been daydreaming quite a bit. Seriously though, here are a five things I’ve done that have contributed to making me a better photographer.
1) Be Studious
I’ve looked at a whole bunch of photos. Thousands of them. And I don’t just look at them. I study them. I pick them apart and try to figure out what makes one photo stupendous while another one just sucks. How many times have you seen a photo of Half Dome, Delicate Arch or the Tetons from Snake River Overlook? Of all the images you’ve seen from these iconic locations which ones stand out and why? Was it the light or some nuance of the composition? Next time you’re sitting at home with nothing to do, scoot on down to the local bookstore. Grab a few coffee table photo books by your favorite photographers, sink into one of their comfy chairs and analyze a few of your favorite photos. Do this often enough and you’ll soon find yourself making the same analyses as you compose images in the field.
2) Photograph Often
Spend as much time as you can in the field. In 2000, just over a year after getting serious about photography, I had the opportunity to spend 5 weeks on the road.
Juan has a wonderful workshop on photographing waterfalls in North Carolina. Get more info on this killer workshop here, and get $50 off the workshop price if you mention OPG when you sign up!
Hi folks, this is Juan Pons from the Digital Photo Experience. I’m here in western North Carolina, leading one of my waterfall tours. I wanted to give you a couple of tips on shooting waterfalls.
The name of the game when shooting waterfalls is getting nice, silky water that looks like it’s flowing and it’s moving in energy. The way you accomplish that is by shooting with slow shutter speed, normally between one and a half seconds and four or five seconds. The rule of thumb as far as which speed to use is going to be based on the flow of the water, how fast the water is flowing and the amount of water that’s coming down. So, for example, when you have a lot of water and the water is moving very fast, you want to use something like one and a half seconds. When you don’t have as much flow and the water is moving slowly, you may go up to four seconds or so.
In a situation like this waterfall behind me, I am going at about one and a half second, maybe even one second. The way you accomplish that is by doing a couple different things. First is to use the lowest ISO your camera can handle, for example, ISO 100. Some cameras can do 50, and some cameras can only go down to 200, but that’s okay. There are a couple techniques that you can use to get that slow shutter speed, and I’ll tell you about those in a second. The way you get those slow shutter speeds is by doing a couple of things. First is using a small aperture, and the way you’re going to use that small aperture is to stop down your lens, usually between f8 to f16. You probably don’t want to go down to f22 because that may degrade your image quality.
The other thing that you want to do is use a neutral density filter. You can use a three stop neutral density filter or a six stop neutral
A late winter wildlife project that I like to do is to try and locate fox dens, which I can return to and photograph after the pups are born. This time of year the female fox is in a maternal state of mind. During the course of her daily travels she will often visit her den site to check things out, do some digging, and other spring cleaning type chores. We just need to know where she is going to find this den site. In order to do this we must become one with the fox–we must follow her on her daily rounds. A tall order indeed, but as usual, there is a trick to it.
The trick is to wait until there has been a fresh dusting of snow overnight. Then go out the following morning into some likely habitat and find some fox tracks. Surprisingly this is easier than it sounds. Fox tracks are roundish, about the size of a fifty cent piece, and go in virtually a straight line one foot directly in front of the other. Once you find them follow along. Not only will you get to know a lot about fox and their habits but you will get some great exercise as well. It may also lead to some great photo opportunities too.
Be warned though, pay attention to where you are going. One morning, while following a fox I was pulled deep into an unfamiliar part of some state land. I foolishly assumed I would just retrace my own tracks back to my vehicle. Well, as the day heated up the dusting of snow melted and I was left with no “trail of breadcrumbs” to follow home. Kid of frustrating!
Good luck and good light.
Browse Steve’s images, read his blog, and learn about his workshops at his site www.stevegettle.com
If you follow photography at all on-line, you probably have noticed that Adobe released Lightroom 4. Surprisingly, they’ve lowered the price dramatically from when Lightroom 3 was originally introduced (from $279.00 to $149.00!) The upgrade price is down to $79.00 from $99.00. (By the way, if you’re a member of the North American Nature Photography Association, http://nanpa.org/, you can get a 15% discount on all Adobe products.) If you are already a Lightroom user, you’ll notice two new modules in version 4 – Map (which lets you view GPS encoded images on a map), and Book (which lets you design books using some pre-loaded templates, and then export them to a pdf or publish them as Blurb book.) I can see myself using the Book module more than the Map module. The new feature I am most excited about at this point is the ability to now preview, trim, and color correct video clips in the Library module. This should be a big help to me as I’m shooting more and more video. However, in this post, I want to describe a few of the differences in the Develop module between versions 3 and 4, because anyone making the upgrade from Version 3 is going to notice these changes immediately.
Images developed in Lightroom 3 will need to be converted to Lightroom 4′s process version before new develop features can be applied.
First, when you try to open a catalog originally created in Lightroom 3, you will be asked if you want to upgrade to version 4. Say yes! Now, anytime you go to work on an image in Develop and it was previously edited in Lightroom 3, you will see an explanation point in the lower right of the image preview (see above.) You’ll also notice in the above screen shot, that the Basic sliders are the same as in Lightroom 3. By clicking on the explanation point, you will be asked if you want to upgrade this image to Process Version 4. Click Yes and it will convert the image. There is also an option in the upgrade dialog to upgrade all of the images in the filmstrip in one fell swoop. There may be changes in the image’s appearance after the conversion, but if you can’t get it back
This past weekend’s warm weather made for some great night photography. I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly 15 years (on/off) and it’s a very rare evening that you can see the stars, given all the light pollution, but this past weekend was spectacular.
I decided to focus on taking a few long exposures to capture the energy and beauty of the city. The great thing about a long exposure is there’s very little that can go wrong once you have the setup nailed. The key of course is having a sturdy tripod, cable release, and lot of patience. There’s a lot of math that you can do to help achieve the right exposure, but I’m a simple kind of guy (that means math dumb) so I prefer to set my camera on B (bulb exposure), select a higher f-stop and start taking test shots. I usually start at around a minute and work my exposure time up or down depending on available light.
City of Lights
City of Lights(ISO 100, 268 secs, f/16, 20mm focal range on Canon 16-35) — This image took a significant amount of time to expose properly, tipping the scales at nearly 5 minutes. Now, I could have stopped the exposure at around 3 minutes, but I wanted an image that almost appeared overexposed, because it’s much easier to add black back into an image like this versus bumping up the lights (highlights). Later I finished this image off in Color Efex Pro 4 using several filters to bring my vision into focus. In terms of composition, I decided to leave the airplane lights in the image because I felt it added to the overall “big city” feel and energy.
Hello there OPG folks! This article is the first in a series called UX for #togs. What is UX? Well, it stands for User Experience. UX focuses on research and the design of easy to use software (or websites). Aside from my photography, I also work as a User Experience Engineer. My love for UX and photography is what lead to this series.
Many photographers either currently have a website, are thinking of/or are designing a website, or have some sort of web presence. The question becomes, who are you creating (and designing) this web presence for?
Here’s a hint, it’s not for you…
In UX, we focus on user-centered design. At a high level, the needs and wants of the end user are at the root of every decision made when creating a user interface (in this case, a website). User-centered design approaches apply to elements such as the labels for your menus, your color scheme, typography, and task flows (for example, purchasing a print).
To have your users at the heart of your decisions, you must really get to know your users. Although helpful, this extends far beyond a target demographic. You must watch people interact with your design (and then your website). This will help you identify issues.
You would be amazed at the information you can get. Recruit about 5 clients (not photographers), have them meet you at a coffee shop (one on one), buy them a cup o’ joe, and watch them use your website. It is helpful to give your users a task (filling out a form, searching for a print to buy, etc.). This is called a task scenario.
As they try to complete the scenario, you want to encourage them to think out-loud. You can get tremendous insight by hearing your user’s inner monologue.
If your users struggle, do not immediately bail them out. The goal here is to see them struggle. The struggle indicates areas where your site needs to be improved from a UX standpoint.
Perhaps you think people really want to see all of the EXIF data for a photo. But, in displaying this EXIF data,
I processed this image entirely in Lightroom 4, and I’m really loving the new tonal controls and soft-proffing. I’m working on a video tutorial of my workflow, and some of the features I like best about this new version. If you use Lightroom, this update is well worth it.
Check out Robert’s website for images, workshops, webinars and more: LINK
Follow Jim Caldwell and Fred Rogers as they make a two day dash through the Everglades, with Chris from OPG tagging along! You won’t want to miss the footage Jim took from his remote control quad copter.
Jim is leading a workshop to Costa Rica this May for an unbeatable price! Check out the details here: Creatures of Costa Rica
I had some fun the other tonight painting the New Croton Dam with light. A bright moon and cloudy sky were bonus elements.
Some basic tips: - Use a tripod - Use your camera’s self-timer or a cable release - Set the ISO to 800 - Set the ISO to f/5.6 - Set the shutter speed to 30 seconds - Use a powerful spotlight - Paint away and experiment - Have fun.
Info: Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40mm lens.
Explore the light, Rick
P.S. My next class on Kelby Training is all about light. My current class in on composition.