Wind scoured snow…

and a hint of sun. Perfect for a winter landscape!

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Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop.

Ansel Adams

I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the last two weeks going through images, updating my website, and having prints made.

If you haven’t done something like that in a while it is really quite interesting.

It can go several ways I suppose. You might look back and think that it’s time to just put the camera on the shelf or start using it as a paper weight OR you might come away feeling energized. Hopefully it will be the latter!

For me it was a two-part process; deciding on prints that I really liked and then seeing how they looked in print. That did not always go in the way that I had expected. There were surprises in both directions. Some required more attention when it came to the edit while others just seemed to lose something on paper. Explore how things look printed on different paper. I tend to favor matte and for images like this one, Somerset Velvet fine art paper made it really special.

I’ve learned a lot more about handling RAW files and feel more comfortable with what needs to happen to them before they are ready to print. I pay a lot more attention to my histogram especially when it comes to shooting things like infrared. There’s no substitute for it especially when you’re out in the bright light and can’t see your screen. If you are not used to using it, bracket some shots and then compare each one to the histogram when you get home. Learn how it needs to look to make the shot that you’re envisioning.

Ultimately though it had the effect of refocusing me. I don’t feel the need to photograph everything but look for those special moments that pop up like today’s image. Moments that won’t ever look quite the same again. I was glad that I had opted to bring my camera and a lens change with me.

Snowboarding through the trees I was aware of the sun occasionally and ever so slightly breaking through the clouds; not staying for long but adding that one special element that I needed for this winter landscape shot.

The snow was windswept. It still clung to the trees from the storm the night before: the direction of the wind was evident. It was much calmer today but the occasional gust sent showers of snowflakes from these trees through the air.

Making a mental note of this spot I looped back around to the chair hoping to be able to get back before conditions changed too much. Racing down on my next run I stopped, mindful of being in a “safe” spot where I could be seen by others should they come downhill following a similar line. Sheltering my camera in my coat I dialed in the settings, removed the lens cap but kept the lens pointed down so that it didn’t get spotted with snow… and I waited.

When the next brief flash of sun came, I took my shot. I think this might become one of my twelve shots for the year and it was the icing on the cake after a good morning of riding.

How’s your crop coming for the year? Does it need watering?

Does your journey stop after taking the picture…

or do you actually edit and print them?

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Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst.

Henri Cartier-Bresson

You know when you’re working on the computer and you might have several things going on at one time concurrently? Well this is an awful lot like that…

Sometimes I think that taking the photograph is the easy part. You work hard at learning your craft, shooting anything and everything. This changes over time as you develop a sense of what really moves you to capture what is really meaningful to you. Then, if you have the opportunity to exhibit your work, you’ll need to edit and print it.

So much of what we view today is on phones, tablets, ipads,and computer screens so it is a rather rude awakening sometimes when it comes to the print.

I tend to not print my own prints. I want to have the best quality available and the widest choice of print options. This does not come without its own set of problems though.

I shoot in raw to give myself the best range of options when it comes to editing. I don’t want the camera to compress the image into a jpeg and throw out information that might be critical to my shot. We do after all make a photo, not just take a photo.

Likewise when sending my image off to print, I don’t want the lab to make choices on how it gets printed.

I have set up an editing environment that has consistent light, I calibrate my dedicated monitor on a regular basis, and I do test prints which I then check against my monitor for accuracy.

All of which is challenging because so much of the general public viewing is done with that wonderful backlighting that has to be then factored in when you send an image to print. That file needs to be adjusted so that the print that comes back or gets drop shipped to a client, looks exactly as it should.

I took the opportunity recently to look back on years of images as I was putting a collection together to print. It was a fascinating experience to look at the evolution of my own journey in photography.

I would highly recommend doing this.

Then take it one step further, don’t just post those images… print those favorites!

Watercolors…

wet on wet, with just  hint of masking.

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The longer you look at an object, the more abstract it becomes, and, ironically, the more real.

Lucian Freud

Staring out from my kitchen window at the rain falling down; waiting for a break in the weather. I was in the mood to shoot something, when my eyes fell upon the orchids sitting on the window ledge.

I thought about the different ways that I could shoot this. Set up my tripod and macro lens? Color or mono? Move them or shoot them in place? With the raindrops clinging to the window screen and the odd ray of sun trying to break through I opted for my 55-300 zoom.

I picked it up and began to play with the composition. Loving the bright bokeh created in part by the drops of rain I wanted to make sure that I had lots of it in the final image and that it was sharper than the orchids.

Playing with the focus I set it to manual and moved around, in and out, backwards and forwards, until I got the look that I wanted.

Post processing programs abound that can, with the aid of filters and other manipulations morph any photo into something completely different from what was originally shot but it is still my personal preference to create the image in the camera and not in photoshop. If I want an infrared look I shoot infrared. If I want a double exposure, I shoot it in the camera. For those times when I want to do a composite, I layer them in the camera taking care to position the elements as I shoot them. An example of this was my eclipse shot from an earlier blog post. While shooting each phase I kept a mental picture of where I wanted the next moon to be knowing that I would combine them into one raw image before exporting it out of my camera. I indicated that this photo was created using the image overlay feature in the Nikon D7000.

Could it have been done in PS? Certainly and more seamlessly no doubt but I enjoyed the challenge of this and it makes me feel more involved in the image.

I frequently see shots that have been manipulated and I think that in those cases it should be noted as HDR, composite, etc. I don’t think that it takes anything away from the image, that is an art form in itself, but I do think it adds to a general feeling of mistrust.

Image manipulation is not new to the digital darkroom. In 2012 the Metropolitan Museum of Art had an exhibit titled Faking It: Manipulated Photography Before Photoshop with images created as early as the 1840’s.

I can only imagine what we might be seeing in photography in as little as 5 or 10 years. It is a medium that is evolving at lightning speed.

I had a passing thought about my love of abstract and soft images. When I was in grade one I was taken to the eye doctor who discovered just how bad my vision was. So bad and deteriorating so rapidly that I had to use drops every night that were intended to slow the progression.

Many years later my eye doctor commented on how I never liked to have my sight corrected to its full capability but preferred to be under corrected.

I wonder if that played a role in developing how I like to shoot?

Or maybe I just don’t like to see the world as it really is…

The next time you pick up your camera spend some time exploring how you could not just take that next photograph but make that next photograph!

You never know…

when that next shot will pop up!!

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Dogs act exactly the way we would act if we had no shame.

Cynthia Heimel

I’d just loaded my groceries into the jeep trying to keep them and myself dry during a soaking spring (I know it’s only March) rain.

Looking to my left and several cars away I spotted this beautiful dog taking advantage of the raindrops on his open window.

Before heading out the door I grab my camera and a spare lens the way most people pick up their car keys and phone. Most often I’ll have the 55-300  lens ready to shoot with because that’s the lens that can capture the widest range of shots on the fly, the ones like this one that might be gone if you have to fiddle with changing a lens.

Dogs in cars…capturing them as they ride along or wait for their owners. They are such characters; some patient, some anxious, some protective.

I’m more comfortable with this form of street art. I feel less like I’m intruding on someone’s privacy especially since we are in an era where everything is fair game to be photographed or filmed.

He (she?) flopped down shortly after this image so I was happy that I had taken advantage of the moment at hand.

It’s all about being ready…

Make sure that you are.

Here comes the sun…

and it made for a fun day of play!

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If you are out there shooting, things will happen for you. If you’re not out there, you’ll only hear about it.

Jay Maisel

It’s been a very overcast winter for the most part here in the Inland Northwest so when it finally cleared up, the night-time temperature dropped, scattering frost over the damp ground and trees.

I like to mix things up, change my lens, change my settings, change my position, and take full advantage of light conditions.

Having a few days of sunshine has made me want to play with lens flare and ghosting; using them intentionally to add a different element to my shots.

These effects occur when a bright light source hits the front element of  lens creating haze and artifacts due to internal reflections within the lens.

Days like this one, shooting in a very specific way, are always highly interesting to me. I learn so much about the possibilities and have a really good time just playing with my gear.

It reminds me to continue exploring each and every piece of gear in my bag and to think about how I can present something differently from the person standing next to me. Granted, different is NOT always better but these times of exploration are invaluable and often lead to something new.

This technique reminds me of spattering watercolor paint from a brush onto a painting except with a lens you have more control. Although I prefer this image in mono I left it in color because the artifacts show up more clearly.

Take advantage of each day and whatever it offers and don’t for one minute leave your camera at home because you think that there will be nothing to shoot…

Explore…

other artists and at the same time, challenge yourself!

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Chaos in nature is immediately challenging and forces a good artist to impose some type of order on his or her perception of a site.

Wolf Kahn

I was taking a pastel class and our teacher, for the week’s homework, sent us out to paint…of all things…landscapes!

I was horrified and almost got queasy at the thought of attempting a landscape. “You don’t like landscapes,” that inner voice whispered in my ear. “You will most definitely fail at this assignment.”

Dreading the onslaught of things that would soon be bombarding my senses I decided to do a little research and see if I could find anything that resonated with me before heading outside with paper and pastels.

I discovered Wolf Kahn and immediately fell in love with his view of the landscape. This was something that I could relate to. The colors were bold and the subject matter was just abstract enough to make me believe that I too could choose to see things differently.

It was a turning point in the way that I began to use my camera; more as a paint brush that could move and meld images into the way that I would love to see them. Not always as they were but as they could be!

I am eternally grateful to that teacher and mentor, that talented artist who was able to see that pastels were not where I needed to be and that it was okay for me to spend my time in class repeating my work with my camera.

Those pastel classes freed me to accept my love for the camera and to commit to following that medium wherever it would take me.

This is a landscape. These are birch trees. They calm me and at the same time send my imagination soaring.

Don’t be held back by preconceived limitations and be willing to step out of your comfort zone and explore other mediums. You might be surprised at where it leads you and the friendships that you might build with other artists.

I envision some day doing a show with a group of artists all looking at the same “scene” and then interpreting it in their own medium and own style. I think it would be fascinating.

And for those who take the time to teach and encourage what they see in others artistically, I am incredibly grateful.

Thank you, Nan…

Words to live by…

after one of those weeks.

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Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma-which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your own heart and intuition.

Steve Jobs

It’s a challenge when one lives, eats, and breathes the image. Where every flash of natural light draws the eye and the mind continually frames and crops what is put before it.

I struggled with geometry in school yet the numbers of the sacred triangle for exposure flow easily through my mind balancing iso to aperture to shutter speed.

As with any artwork I think that the best work comes when you have a connection to the subject matter but I don’t feel that is a requirement for producing excellent work.

Like any instrument if you know how it works and you use it every day, you can make it do whatever you need it to do.

I learned a lot of my technical skills during many years of photographing kiln formed glass for entry into exhibits. Shooting glass is very challenging. Too much glare destroys the image but you do need some well placed highlights to show that it is glass. Remove them all and it looks like plastic. Add to that those unwanted reflections popping up when you least want them and you could have a very unusable image!

There was no room for fanciful imagery or interpretation in this, it had to show the piece in the best light possible, with as much detail as possible; after all, if the piece was accepted on the basis of this photograph and arrived for the show looking different from the image it stood a good chance of being returned. I’m grateful to have had that learning experience, it was also when I learned the full value of shooting in raw.

I welcome the opportunities to shoot things that I wouldn’t necessarily gravitate to. It keeps my skills sharp and I almost always come away from one of these adventures with new information.

I also appreciate those photographers who shoot in the arenas that I don’t who are open to having a discussion about them without getting all furtive and protective. That to me is the hallmark of a confident professional.

It’s been an interesting week…