I’m in the midst of going through all my photos from several recent workshops – all back to back, so my editing time has been limited! I did pull a few of my favorite shots from Oregon’s Lost Lake, looking out to Mt. Hood – the tallest mountain in the state, and also a dormant stratovolcano.
I often talk about the many ways to shoot a subject, and even from essentially the same vantage point you can find ways to make even a giant mountain feel different, and tell a different story.
For starters, the environmental portrait! This is a great way to open when sharing your photos, giving context to the scene. Here the calm lake is prominent, framed by the iconic evergreens of the pacific northwest. We get a good sense of place for the looming mountain.
Here we have the same elements – the lake is still present as well as the trees, but the mountain has become front and center. The lower sun is casting warmer hues on the mountain, separating it from the background. We still get a sense of place, but the mountain has become the star!
Here, the mountain is definitely the star feature. The lakes and trees still inform a bit of the environment, but the great mountain is free of the framing branches that kept it from feeling quite as prominent.
And finally – a vertical that takes us back to the sense of place – standing under the shady limbs of the evergreens. From all these shots, you can see from the forms and patterns on it’s surface that my angle on the mountain hasn’t changed – just taken a few steps one direction or another, gotten down lower to the ground, or tried a different focal length. Small differences can completely change the results of your shot!
While I’m always adding new workshop location destinations to my list, it’s inevitable that I end up photographing in many of the same locations time and time again. Part of the draw of an Art Wolfe workshop – especially here in the Pacific Northwest – is the expertise we have on these locations. So how do you find new ways to challenge yourself while coming away with new images from a location that you’re already familiar with?
Aside from the obvious, try to find new conditions and lighting. A night shoot can completely change a composition as the light sky darkens and the scene becomes a study of star and moonlight. Go outside your comfort zone and toss a lens on your camera that you hadn’t really considered, like a wide angle or fish-eye trying different points of view and perspectives.
Most importantly – move! Depending on the lens you are using, moving a few feed can make a huge difference. Move around, turn your body – get low to the ground. Abstract your subject into studies of color, shape, and form. The ideas are endless! Just a small example – I spend so much of my time at home working in my garden, yet it’s always surprising even to myself when the inspiration takes me. I can grab my camera and spend hours seeing it from a new perspective.
In the good old days of film ISO 100 was considered fast and on the margins of the day with every increasing exposure times you had no choice but to pan with your subjects as they moved. Today we’re getting spoiled with digital cameras that yield acceptable images at exceptionally high ISOs.
So this is a reminder to dial back to good old ISO 100, even put on a polarizer to lose another stop or more and put some emotion and action back in your shots. It takes practice – try this technique with the wind blowing a field of flowers, a crowded market, street scenes… it’s not just for animals.
When using a tripod the contrast of tack sharp architecture and blurred people can be very effective. Share your results if you have some as well!
As you likely know by now I love to create abstract, painterly images. I often find some of my favorite captures in locations that most people might not even notice. This video was filmed on location in Eastern Idaho, however if you’ve attended any of my abstract workshops – you know what I’m looking for! A background in Fine Art and Art History serves me well in these instances, where I can draw on abstract expressionists to see the shapes and colors and contours as something more than a rusty old truck – metaphors and imaginary landscapes abound.
While some abstract captures such as this have gone on to be prints, parts of calendars and more – it’s really the activity of training your eye to see and capture them that is the real value here. Training one’s eye to see the metaphors, colors, and potential of a given shot will only expand your visual vocabulary, and serve as valuable tools in any photo work you do.
If you caught the recent episode of Tequila Time, I shared images from our recent Olympic Workshop and also discussed just a few of the many lessons we teach in this beautiful location. Sure, there are the typical scenic shots to capture- but anyone can set up a tripod and take the same old shot. This doesn’t help us grow our visual vocabulary, however. Fine if all you want are the token travel photos!
A keen eye that’s trained to find the beauty in the less-obvious is going to come away with the more interesting and unique shots. While each one may not be a masterpiece unto itself, every shot in which you are mindfully seeking compositions that hold the viewers eye in the frame represents a cognitive effort to improve your artistic eye.
Much like a truly invested fine artist will more often than not have dozens of sketch books of incomplete works, never intending to see the light of day, it’s through this practice of finding a shot where others don’t see one that will translate to taking ALL of your photos to the next level.
In the video above are just a few examples of learning to see beauty and something worth capturing in scenes that others might quite literally walk right by. While you may want the big picture of the old-growth forest, it’s really the misshapen lumps of knotted limbs saturated in moss that show the verdant and wild nature of this location. What appear to be simple shots of limbs and trees are intentionally composed to frame the leading lines to keep the viewer’s eye engaged.
Again, not every shot you take needs to be in consideration to sell as a fine art print. On the contrary, most of your shots, much like the sketches of master fine artists are simple tools to train your eye over time.
Hard to believe it’s been over a year now since we all buckled down to distance in an effort to curb the pandemic! When this whole thing began my staff and I put together this post of some tools that might be useful to help you continue to be productive and creative at home.
Since we aren’t quite out of the woods yet, I figured we could re-heat this post and also solicit YOUR comments below about the tools and processes you’ve been using to stay busy and continue to enhance your photography tool kit – and I can pass your tips along in a future blog post!
Ten Tech Tools of the Trade (In No Particular Order):
AW: Lets get the most obvious tool out of the way first as I’m sure most people are familiar with Adobe’s tools. I spend most of my time in Lightroom, where I use it as both an organizational tool, and to add some post processing to my photos. Most of the tools you’ll find here keep photography at the forefront, simulating many traditional practices in a much more simplified and speedy manner.
AW Staff Note: Art rarely uses Photoshop, however when I’m preparing his photos in final edit for a book project or print, it pays to have more control over the fine details. There are lots of tips out there for things like enhancing sharpness, reducing noise, and much more.
2021 Update: Check out Petapixel’s article on Adobe’s new “Super Resolution” tool for their Camera RAW app – create images 4x the resolution with virtually no loss in quality!
AW: This is a tool I’ve just recently started using. In the past, most de-noise tools operated roughly the same, or at least to my eye seemed to have similar results. This app from Topaz uses a new process to remove nose, and so far it works great.
AW Staff Note: It does take some time to process however, so make sure you have the time to spend getting everything just right, and pack your patience! Not that Art is ever impatient. . .
AW Staff Note: These are tools we use to edit audio and video. It’s not a huge part of what we do, but as they can come packaged with the other adobe tools we use it doesn’t hurt to have them. Premier is used primarily for cutting and editing video clips; AfterEffects is kinda like photoshop for video, and Audition is for editing sound clips to remove things like echo, mic popping, etc. . . they are complicated programs but just simple enough that most things you might need to do, you can find a tutorial online to get you through it.
AW Staff Note: Yep. Art doesn’t use this one himself either, but when we are working with video files, they are often for the web and therefore require slightly less fidelity than if we were say, creating an HD TV show with all the Audio/Video bells and whistles. But you also want to start with the best possible quality. That means huge video files. Handbrake is a great (and free) tool for taking huge video files and turning them into smaller video files that still look and sound great, with a lot of tuning available to get the result you want.
AW: Ah! Now we are speaking my language again. Currently I’m living in Keynote working on Pathways to Creativity, a new series of seminars that will be divided into chapters and made available for download, aiming for this fall! These programs are simple enough. I create all of my presentations in Keynote, whether it’s for an epic stage or a slide show at home. Lightroom does have a built-in slide-show feature as well, but Keynote gives me more control.
AW Staff Note: Powerpoint and Keynote are similar so if you’re on a windows-based computer, PP might be your option. They mostly play nice together, but aren’t without some small issues if you’re going back and forth.
AW: I don’t personally use Photoshelter often, but I have their plug-in installed in Lightroom. When I export my photos it can be pre-set to upload automatically to Photoshelter assuming I have an internet connection, so staff back home can see my latest photos.
AW Staff: Photoshelter is a great way to store, organize, and share your photos online. We use it to drive our stock site and host innumerable images. We’ve had very few if any service interruptions or down time in my experience with it. There are a lot of options for sharing your work, and also protecting it with watermarking and small file downloads.
AW: This one goes without saying – if you’re taking photos, share them! And follow me – maybe you’ll get a follow back – in fact, if you leave your handle in the comments below, I’ll be sure to do so.
AW Staff: One thing you’ll notice about Art’s Instagram page is that we try to avoid the square crop when possible and aim to preserve Art’s preferred aspect ratio for his images. We accomplish this in a simple manner – a square background slightly off white (RGB all set to 251), and then size the image to fit within the square.
AW Staff: YouTube gets more traction, but I find Vimeo to be more user friendly. The best solution is to use both if you’re using these tools for promotion. Don’t forget about the Handbrake tip – you don’t want to spend hours uploading a huge video that is going to soak up your storage space!
AW: Having a place to dump or receive files on the road or while travelling is incredibly useful. Both DropBox and Google Drive are good options and easy to use. Photoshelter is limited to just photographs, so having another way to store and transfer other file types online is necessary.
AW Staff: Another shout out to wetransfer.com as well, a free service (with some paid options) where you can send files to people to download via emailed link.
AW Staff: Last but not least with everyone working from home these days, we use GoToMyPC.com to connect to the office. We’ve never had any issues using it, and after the initial setup it’s very easy to use. There’s also a file-sharing option to make transferring files between computers easy and painless.
AW: Well, that rounds out today’s list, though there are plenty of other tech tools out there. Comment below if you have any additions or suggestions for things we should be taking a look at while we have the time to do so.
If you happened to catch last night’s episode of Tequila Time, you may have heard about the slate of upcoming COVID-compliant workshops we have available. Now that spring is here, you might be anxious to get out and shoot, and we have two workshops happening this month with a few openings yet available for those able to get tested and get to the Pacific Northwest!
In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be leading my signature Olympic Peninsula workshop. Last night on Tequila Time, I shared some of the photos I took this past weekend while scouting the area to refresh myself and find some new places to explore. Check out the video at the bottom of this post to see the photos and hear me talk about what I look for in this beautiful old-growth forest and all of the features it encompasses and it’s surroundings.
Abstract Astoria still has a few spots left, although I anticipate we will fill these quickly! I still continue to mine this location for all it has to offer, both in terms of a top-notch place to simply spend a weekend, as well as a time-worn historic beacon of the West Coast that provides so many subjects and themes to photograph.
If March is too soon, check out the full slate of 2021 workshops, and I hope to see you in the field for a safe and inspired year of getting back to doing the things we love!
I’ve recently wrapped up the final episodes of season 2 of Pathways to Creativity – both seasons are now available in their entirety on my Vimeo on demand page! Far beyond tutorials or simple how-tos, Pathways is the culmination of five decades of learning and teaching photography, studying Art history, and traveling the globe. Through hundreds of images and stories from my travels abroad to my own back yard, I cover it all.
Enjoy the free preview above for just a small taste of the many hours of content included in Pathways to Creativity, and when you’re ready to put aside the banal “bucket list” of photos and truly find your own creative vision give the series a watch!
If you’re currently a Pathways to Creativity Season 2 subscriber, a new episode is up! This one discusses all kinds of light as it pertains to photographing wildlife. If wildlife is your jam, then these last few episodes have been for you! From the rare instances where harsh side lighting can end up working for you to how to simplify a complex scene by using the proper light to capture it.
Hopefully everyone who has purchased Season 2 is enjoying the lessons so far. More are on the way! If you’re looking for a last minute gift for that special someone and/or just want to treat yourself, I literally just decided to do a little flash sale here because why not? Use code PTCHOLIDAYFLASH when you check out and save 15%.
For those of you missing your LIVE ART fix, I’ll see you in a week for a special Holiday Tequila time – next Tuesday the 29th at 5:30 PST on Facebook Live & Instagram!
Happy Technique Tuesday! Great news if you’re looking for a productive and inspiring way to spend your time – the second season of Pathways to Creativity is now live, with two new episodes and more on the way!
The feedback I received for Season 1 was incredible, so I’m hoping everyone who subscribes to the series comes away from Season 2 with equally positive vibes. If you’re looking for an easy gift idea for the photographer, artist, and/or nature enthusiast in your life I am here to help – give the gift of insight and education!
Each season consists of twelve roughly 1-hour episodes, with a 13th bonus episode for full-season subscribers. That’s over 12 hours per season exploring a lifetime of my work, sharing the stories but most importantly the thought process behind capturing everything from my most iconic work to obscure favorites I’ve captured that may not be in any book.