Technique Tuesday: Back to Basics – Photographing Without Prejudice

It’s Technique Tuesday, and since the last little tip I shared was a very technical tutorial on creating panoramas in Photoshop and Lightroom, I figured we would go back to the basics with a more universal message that I think will help new photographers and those who may be struggling themselves with tunnel vision alike. With a recently added Abstract Astoria workshop happening soon, and my Photography As Art seminar happening in Seattle this fall, these are some basics I will find myself repeating!

The excerpt below kicks off an early chapter of The Art of the Photograph.

Photograph Without Prejudice

What are you seeing as you photograph? How do you perceive the world and what’s important to you? This is something that goes much deeper than thinking about getting the latest camera with the most megapixels. Good shots come from cultivating the eye. Scrutinize every subject without prejudice. A good photo can be found in rusting debris lying in an alley of a big city or out in a pristine environment. Finding images everywhere is how you practice, how you improve your work. It’s about the subject only in how you frame it, and in the message you send with the photo.

Do you shoot any possible subject, whether a rusting can in a gutter, a grand ceremony in a foreign land, or birds on a beach? Or do you define yourself as a “bird photographer” or a “landscape photographer”? Try not to limit your subjects or how you define yourself as a photographer. Photographing without prejudice opens up the world! You can’t even walk into a grocery store without finding a viable subject. And along the way, you gain practice that cultivates your eye.

Practice Matters

You might think that composition comes naturally for professionals like us. Naturally, perhaps, after many years of doing it! There is no question that if you are to succeed as a photographer, you have to take a lot of pictures. This is sometimes frustrating for people who have invested a lot of money in the latest gear and want instant results since you have to take a lot of both good and bad photographs to get better.

There is an old joke about a visitor to New York City trying to get to a concert at Carnegie Hall. After getting a little lost, he saw a man walking down the street with a large cello case. He stopped the musician and asked, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

The musician looked sternly at the visitor and said, “Practice, practice, practice.”

A concert pianist rarely gets up on stage and gives a bad performance, but only because he or she has had years of practice. That isn’t to say that you can’t get good pictures at whatever stage you are in, but it does point out how important it is to get out and take lots of pictures. Practice does matter.

The Subject, or the Photograph?

One thing that can hold photographers back from finding great images is that they focus too hard on finding the “perfect” subject. Whenever possible, try to avoid “trophy hunting” for subjects. That means going out and trying to find the same subjects that photographers like Art Wolfe shot, or going to major locations and photographing only the big, iconic subjects. Think about that. You can buy postcards of those big, iconic subjects that were shot under ideal conditions. When you start looking for subjects simply as trophies to be captured, you stop looking for the photograph.

If you simply look for subject matter, you’ll often be disappointed because the camera is not looking for subject matter. The camera doesn’t care what your subject is! The camera is simply looking at light and shadow and how to translate that into pixels. It is your job as a photographer to work with your camera to find interesting photographs, not simply capture a subject.

Looking at the art world outside of photography can be instructive. Painters have to figure out what the whole image is going to be, not simply the subject. They have to interpret a scene in a certain way on their canvas, rather than simply pointing a camera at a subject and pressing a button. Seeing through that “lens” can help you navigate the challenge of finding original compositions in the world you walk through every day.

In this book there are very few photographs of the big, iconic subjects that so many others shoot. Art looks for and finds subject matter that is going to translate into interesting photographs that appeal to him. He responds to the world around him as a place filled with photographic possibilities because he is not simply looking for an interesting subject. He is always looking for interesting photographs.

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#TechniqueTuesday – Easy Panoramic Creation In Photoshop & Lightroom!

A topic that came up recently was just how easy it is nowadays to quickly create seamless panoramic images from stitched photos using Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom. It’s a simple process in either program, so if it’s something you haven’t tried or are just looking for a refresher on how to merge photos – this post is for you!

The first thing you want to do of course is choose the images you’d like to create a panoramic from. The photos should overlap just a bit, as the colors of the pixels are how the software will determine where to stitch the images together. Make sure you photograph your panoramas in portrait format to get the most amount of pixel real-estate for the highest resolution final image!

Once you’ve made your selection of images, you’ll then need to choose between using Photoshop or Lightroom to merge them together. The base Adobe Creative Cloud subscription includes both, so it’s really a matter of your familiarity with one or the other.

Both processes are simple enough. I’d say if you’re looking for quick and easy results the Lightroom method is a good starting point, but if you want a little more control the Photoshop method offers a little more. Better yet, give both a shot to see what you prefer!


In Lightroom:

1.) Import the images you wish to merge together

2.) From the top menu, choose the “Photo” drop-down and find the “Photo Merge > Panorama” Option

3.) In the Panorama Merge Dialogue box, ensure “Spherical” is selected for the
projection. You can also choose “Auto Crop” to automatically crop away the
transparent edges. Finally, ensure “Auto Settings” is checked.

4.) Click “Merge” and your panorama will be created!


In Photoshop:

1.) From the “File” menu, choose “Automate” and then “Photomerge“.
2.) In the Photomerge dialogue box, ensure “Auto” is checked under “Layout“.
In the “Source Files” box, be sure “Use:” is set to “Files” and hit the
Browse. . .” button.

Choose the files you wish to stitch together. In this case we will use four
PanoTutorial.jpg images in the Pano Tutorial Images folder.

Be sure that “Blend Images Together”, “Vignette Removal”, and “Geometric
Distortion Correction” are all checked.

You can also choose to check “Content Aware Fill Transparent Areas”, but this
will add to processing time and attempt to fill in edges with content sampled from
the image, which may require more advanced Photoshop experience to ensure
there aren’t repeated elements in your image.

3.) Click “Ok” and the Process will begin. Depending on the size of the images being
merged, it could take several minutes to process the images.


4.) Once the image has processed, from the top menu, choose the “Layer” drop down and
choose “Flatten Image“.

5.) Using the crop tool (highlighted in red below) crop the image to get rid of transparent
areas, and also use the rotate ability of the tool to ensure your horizon is straight.


Those are the basics – There are obviously a lot of other options in those dialogue boxes. . . I suggest experimenting to see what different settings do to come up with a process that works for you!

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Friday Workshop Update!

It’s May, and the sun is out here in the Pacific Northwest. Have you thought of what you want to do in July and August? Consider joining me in Alaska’s Katmai National Park to photograph bears. Scary? No. Exhilarating? Indeed! These are the last Katmai trips I am offering until 2021 so if you have been sitting on the fence, it’s time to jump off and sign on. None of us are getting any younger!

Just two spots are left on my Romania tour with native son Gavriel Jecan, and two spots just opened up on the Antarctica Fly/Cruise in February. Sign up today to ensure your spot in these trips before they fill up!

Have a fantastic weekend!

-Art

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Last Chance for Early Bird Pricing on Photography As Art in Seattle!


Happy #WorkshopWednesday! I’ll be presenting my acclaimed full-day seminar Photography As Art here in my home city of Seattle this November, and time is running out to enjoy an early bird special discount. Sign up before May 1st and save!

This seminar is designed to completely change the way you view photography, and my intent is to inspire you to bring unique artistic visions to life using your camera as both brush and canvas. With an emphasis on the abstract, imaginary landscapes, and capturing metaphors the lessons learned here can be applied anywhere and with whatever equipment you have available – no globe-trotting or a plethora of fancy gear required.

Register today to reserve your spot!

 

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#TravelTuesday – Quick Tips for Great Wildlife Photos!

 

 

Recently I collaborated with B&H Photo Video to share a few quick tips on shooting wildlife photos for World Wildlife Day.

Click here to check out the video, and don’t forget to visit my gear page which lists a lot of the equipment I use both in the field and to manage and edit my photos!

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“Photography As Art” is Coming To Boise on March 31st!

In just over a week, I’ll be in Boise, Idaho bringing my popular Photography As Art seminar to the City of Trees!

This seminar is designed to completely change the way you view photography, and my intent is to inspire you to bring unique artistic visions to life using your camera as both brush and canvas. With an emphasis on the abstract, imaginary landscapes, and capturing metaphors the lessons learned here can be applied anywhere and with whatever equipment you have available – no globe-trotting or a plethora of fancy gear required.

Register today to reserve your spot!

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Technique Tuesday – Owls in Snow

I recently took a trip up to Northern Canada to photograph a variety of owls, and came away happy – if not chilled to the bone. It’s cold up above the 51st parallel, no matter the time of day. That didn’t seem to impact the hunting owls of the region, who’s keen senses can detect rodents beneath the snowfall dozens of meters away. They essentially do a graceful face plant into the snow, rummage around, and come away with a snack.

The light sky and the bright white snowy landscape make shooting a challenge. To control the light and capture a quality image, one first has to understand light in terms of it’s relationship to photography. This excerpt from “Chapter 6: Reading the Light” from The New Art of Photographing Nature explains it more succinctly than I might in a blog ramble:

Without light we would have no color. And without light, there would be no photography. In fact, the word photography derives from Greek roots meaning “writing with light.”

Primitive man did not have the benefit of science to explain natural phenomena such as the rainbow. Nor did we, until Sir Isaac Newton’s use of the prism separated white light into its component colors. Light is a form of electromagnetic energy, which, in the whole spectrum of frequencies, is only visible as colors in a very narrow band. Other frequencies, such as infrared, ultraviolet, gamma, and X-ray radiation, are invisible to our eyes.

Yet, despite our basic understanding of light, it is something we are apt to take for granted, like the rising and setting of the sun. But in photography, we can never take light for granted, and must learn to perceive it many nuances. The quality of the light creates a variety of colors and moods. Light also models form, and the direction of light is crucial to how we perceive shape and depth in the landscape.

When talking about light, it is important to distinguish between quality and quantity. Quality of light can, for the outdoor photographer, mean the time of day, the angle of the light striking your subject or whether it creates high-contrast or low-contrast conditions. It can also be measured as color temperature (in degrees Kelvin) with daylight on a sunny day being around 5500 degrees Kelvin. While color film required filtration to correct for changes in color temperature, digital cameras have a built-in white balance function that can adjust the camera to virtually any lighting condition, indoors or out.

Quantity of light refers simply to the amount of light reaching the camera’s sensor and recording an image. It is by controlling this light, through changes in aperture and shutter speed, that we arrive at a proper exposure.

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#WorkshopWednesday – Upcoming Workshops in the Pacific Northwest & More!

I absolutely love this time of year, the days are getting longer and spring is right around the corner! After many cold weather trips this winter I am ready for the new palate of color that spring bestows upon us.

Of special note I have several opportunities coming up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest this year: the Olympic Peninsula in April when the mosses are rich and green and the rivers are clear; Mount Rainier in August when the wildflowers are at their peak; Lake Quinault in September for a restorative retreat in the ancient temperate rainforest; and a renewed Photography as Art seminar in November.

These workshops only have a few spaces left so sign up today before they are all sold out!

Best of Light!

-Art

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#TechniqueTuesday – Receding Lines & Shapes

It’s Technique Tuesday! This excerpt is from my how-to book, The New Art of Photographing Nature”.

Karst mountains, Guilin, China. 80-200mm lens (in 200mm range), f/11 @ 1/60 sec, Fujichrome 50

THE ELEMENTS OF DESIGN: RECEDING LINES AND SHAPES

In the shot of the karst mountains in Guilin, China, I wanted to emphasize their repeating pattern and unusual shapes: individual humps instead of long ridges. I used my 80-200mm lens to zero in on an area that I felt made the strongest statement.

The second shot was taken a few minutes from my home in Seattle. I grew up in this neighborhood, and as a boy, I loved this path especially, with its graceful madrona trees.  I went back to photograph it forty years later.

Madrona trees in mist, Washington. 45mm lens, f/22 @ 4 sec, Fujichrome Velvia 50

Spatially, light objects stand forward of dark in our normal experience of perception. When we have atmosphere such as fog, however, it is the reverse; dark objects are closer to us than light ones, as in the mountain scene. We understand this perceptually because atmospheric haze intervenes and makes the far mountains paler and less distinct. This is sometimes referred to as “atmospheric perspective.”

We also understand crisp outlines as close and fuzzy ones as distant, as with the trees in the fog, which is contrary to normal perception, where we can see distant objects in focus as well. The sense of space in both these images is definitely enhanced by the fog. Forms are more noticeable without competition from intricate detail. The tree trunks stand out more without the busy clutter of foliage.  Because it shrouds things from view, fog, more than any other atmospheric condition, creates mood and a sense of mystery.

For more how-to lessons, purchase The New Art of Photographing Nature in my online store!

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#WorkshopWednesday – 10 Reasons To Join the Carmel-by-the-Sea Retreat!

This May, I’ll be making a return trip to California’s Monterey Coast originating in stunning Carmel-by-the-Sea with an exclusive opportunity to join limited to just six participants. Assisted by my associate Gavriel Jecan, decades of experience will be available to support you in capturing the beauty synonymous with this location. However, the picturesque landscapes of the coastline are only the beginning, as we will delve into the abstract and many of the themes prevalent in my Abstract workshops and my Photography As Art seminar.

A retreat in a paradise, an exclusive small-group setting, two instructors, and the many lessons and themes of my popular abstract workshops and seminars – What more do you need? Well, fortunately, I have answers here!

Without further ado, here are the Top 10 Reasons to Attend the Carmel-by-the-Sea Retreat in May!

1. A retreat in paradise – a gorgeous location on California’s fabled Monterey Bay!

2. At only six maximum participants and two instructors, you’ll get plenty of one-on-one time with us to answer any and all of your questions and provide direction to ensure you get the absolute most out of your time.

3. Go kayaking and photograph otters with the world’s premier nature photographer; if you’ve never kayaked before, rest assured we will have trained guides so you can focus on your photos!

4. Great food! This is a region famous for it’s cuisine – join myself and Gavriel every evening to discuss the day’s shooting.

5. Explore the region that inspired the likes of Ansel Adams and Edward Weston.

6. Get your photography portfolio reviewed! Gavriel Jecan and myself will look at everyone’s work and provide constructive feedback that you’ll be able to carry with you onto future trips.

7. Receive a copy of my limited edition book HUMAN CANVAS.

8. Experiential learning at its best. It’s my hope that the lessons you learn on this retreat will be referenced on your travel and photography adventures moving forward.

9. Through lectures, critiques, and instruction in the field, we’ll cover many aspects of my Photography As Art workshop – now is your chance to go all out and put the topics discussed into action!

10. New friends with alike interests – many a friendship has been forged thanks to the balance of levity and learning on our workshops. Here is an opportunity to meet fellow travel and photography enthusiasts!

Spaces on this retreat are extremely limited, and some are already spoken for – sign up today to ensure your spot!

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