Photo Cascadia Blog
January 26th, 2016
Here is a quick little video on some tips for adding shadow detail to your images in Photoshop.
For more image editing videos, check out the videos page on my website. Enjoy!
January 22nd, 2016
Welcome to 2016 on the Photo Cascadia blog. I have the distinct honor of being chosen to write the first article of the new year. Actually I drew the short straw, but either way I’m excited to be kicking off Photo Cascadia’s sixth year of sharing, learning, exploring and inspiring here on our blog.
Back in October of 2015 I lead a photo tour in the Eastern Sierra through the Cascade Center of Photography with Christian Heeb, one of the most versatile professionals and experienced travel photographers around. The two of us, and our intrepid group of photographers, spent a memorable week exploring the mythical landscapes along Highway 395. The following is a photo journal of the trip. All of these photos were taken by Christian and myself. Christian is the people photographer, so he’s not in many of them.
The Eastern Sierra is a land of legends. Every landscape evokes geologic and volcanic legacy, Native American history, explorers, pioneers, the gold rush, famous mountaineers and one of the birth places of the American national parks and environmental conservation movement. The expanses are big, the mountains are grand and the landscapes are varied. Of course, the Sierra Nevada has inspired some of the most well known American photographers, Ansel Adams and Galen Rowell not the least among them.
The area is so large and parts are so remote that a lifetime of exploring wouldn’t allow you to see it all. Some of the most scenic and photogenic locations are in the high mountain wilderness, deep in canyons or far out in the remote desert and only accessible by those who are especially adventurous and fit. However, it also has many world class photography locations which are accessible by car or with short hikes. This makes the Eastern Sierra a great destination for any photographer and a popular area for photography workshops and tours like this one. There are so many good locations which can be accessed by a group workshop that one week almost wasn’t long enough.
Christian and I planned our tour to be timed with the peak of autumn aspen color. Like anywhere, the fall color quality and timing varies from year to year, but most often it peaks near the third week of October. During our visit some of the highest elevation groves were past peak, but the middle and lower elevation colors near Lee Vining, June Lakes and Bishop Creek were at their height. During the fall season the temperatures are generally very pleasant. Mornings at the higher elevations can be below freezing, but daytime temperatures were quite comfortable at 60-75 F (15-22 C). The busiest time in the Sierra is summer when it is overrun with tourists, backpackers, mountain bikers, climbers and campers. In October, some areas still get quite a few visitors, but nothing close to the crowds of summer, and we were the only people at several of the places we went.
Our trip covered the region between Mono Lake on the north and the town of Lone Pine on the south. The distance between is over 100 miles, so we based out of a few different towns during the trip to minimize driving time to our sunrise and sunset locations. As you can see from the images, we had some spectacular light and weather conditions.
Most important of all is the fun we had. We had a wonderful and diverse group of talented photographers. People came from all over the west and as far as Florida, Maryland and Switzerland. Everyone was enthusiastic, positive and energized. I think everyone learned a lot, made new friends and had lifetime experiences. We also laughed a lot and captured some spectacular photographs. Photo credit for this next collection of workshop images goes to Christian Heeb.
I work with Christian and the Cascade Center of Photography regularly. They are one of few dedicated photography centers in the Western US and a great resource for all types and levels of photographers. Each year they offer a wide selection of classes, workshops and tours. Classes for all levels and genres of photography are held in Bend, Oregon, where the center is located. They also lead tours all over the world. Christian and I will be taking a group to Patagonia and Easter Island in March and they have trips to Cuba, France and Morocco on the calendar, just to name a few.
All of the locations in this article are open to the public, have good access and ample information can be found on them with quick web searches. Following are some additional resources for the Eastern Sierra you may find helpful.
- Michael Frye’s Sierra Blog Articles. Michael is one of the most knowledgeable, experienced and talented photographers currently in the area.
- Photo Trip USA’s Photographing California Volumes 1 and 2 by Garry Crabbe and Jeffrey Sullivan.
- Mono County Eastern Sierra Fall Color Report
- Sierra National Forest
- Inyo National Forest
December 20th, 2015
Yet again another year has flown by which brings time to look back on the past and what might lie ahead for the new year. Going strong for six years with no signs of letting up on the gas. We grew by a whopping 16.6% with Erin Babnik joining our crew. We continue united with our mission “learn, explore, create” as we intended from the beginning. Just like a rock concert I was at last week when the band said they would not be where they are without their fans, a similar statement could be said for all of you. A sincere Thank you to all of our subscribers and viewers to the newsletter, blog, social media and any other rock you lifted up to find us!
It’s always a good time looking back at the photos each of us from Photo Cascadia captured over the last year. Wherever the road took you in 2015 for your photography we hope you enjoy looking back at what it means to you while giving a chance to reflect on what life is all about and what matters most. Photographing what mother nature has to offer reminds us that we learn as much or more from simply being out and about than anything we could read or watch online. This quote says it best.
“Earth and sky, woods and fields, lakes and rivers, the mountain and the sea, are excellent schoolmasters, and teach some of us more than we can ever learn from books.”
- John Lubbock
As we wrap up the year and take a few weeks off from the blog we invite you to take a few minutes to view a few of our favorites from the team this past year. Slideshow is best viewed in HD. Happy Holidays and New Year!
December 8th, 2015
Originality is the single most celebrated quality of the artist. Craftsmanship may rank a close second, but it is originality that typically draws the most praise and causes an artist to be remembered. Nonetheless, there are several good reasons why the creative photographer may be better off forgetting about originality during the process of making photographs.
1) Personal motivations are more productive.
If we set out to make photographs with the goal of being original, we are focusing on what others have done already. The emphasis becomes a matter of what to avoid rather than what to pursue—a process of moving away instead of moving towards. Therefore, the concept of originality can amount to a terrible distraction for an artist. By concentrating on our own interests and motivations, we can allow the process of creation to run in a more positive direction, one that originates from within instead of merely diverging from external considerations.
2) We all stand on the shoulders of those who came before us.
Photography, like any artistic medium, is one of the world’s great unfinished projects and always will be. Since inspiration plays an incalculable role in the process of art-making, we should recognize that we are all taking part in an ongoing collaborative process. Art’s inherent combination of personal expression and creative exchange is what makes it culturally powerful, and we should embrace opportunities to develop both ends of that spectrum. Therefore, it is helpful to acknowledge the works of other photographers as part of our collective foundation, to realize that we draw upon them, and to think of our own works as responses rather than as departures.
3) Originality is inevitable.
Unless we set out to produce deliberate replicas of existing photographs, we are bound to put something of ourselves into everything that we create. Every photographer, by the virtue of being an individual, has unique ideas that are at least germinating with the creation of every photograph. Finnish photographer Arno Rafael Minkkinen wrote forcefully on this topic when he used the metaphor of a bus transit system to describe the creative process. He explained that all of the buses in his town cover the same route as they depart from the central station, and if you want to reach an area that is unique to a particular bus line, then you have to stay on one of the buses for a while. Such is the case with creativity, he explains. If you practice your art long enough, you’ll reach that unique area eventually, and it will then become apparent that your line was distinct from the others all along. In other words, so long as we allow our own interests and ideas to guide us, we will inevitably produce a body of work that shimmers with originality.
For these reasons, it is probably best to think of originality as a wonderful result but to forget about it as a goal. Concentrating on more constructive concepts, such as interpretation or expression, will help to put the focus where it belongs: on what each of us invariably has to offer as an individual.
Erin divides her time between Cascadia’s Californian southern boundary and Slovenia, traveling and photographing extensively from home bases in both locations. Make sure to bookmark Erin’s site at www.erinbabnik.com. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter and 500px.
November 30th, 2015
Late last year we were out as a Photo Cascadia group along the Oregon Coast when the idea was brought up to head to the Canadian Rockies for fall 2015. I was in! I had not been there while it sat on my list of must see places to visit for too long. Fast forward to the last week of September 2015 and we were off for a one week trip.
After the first 6 hour leg from my house in Portland, Oregon I met up with Chip in Spokane, Washington to finish out the next 6+ hours to our destination and meet up with Sean and Zack who had already been there a day. After a long day we arrived at Lake Louise Campground shortly after sunset. No sunset photos that night. We pulled in. Hung out with Zack and Sean for a bit while eating dinner then off to catch zzz’s for sunrise.
Getting up this time of year for sunrise feels like a treat after the droopy tired eyes of summer. We made our way to our first photo stop, sunrise at Moraine Lake. I expected busy. It was a little more than I expected. Far and away the most crowded location on this trip photographing with 100+ of my closest friends. Amazing to see yet it loses the appeal a little for me with that many photographers all jockeying for limited space. I kept setting up high in the trees, in the dark, only to find someone else eventually moving around already setup in my shot. One gal was getting aggressive when a photog got too close and he wasn’t moving. I was waiting for a fight but he eventually moved. I left the main viewing area on the top to join my peeps along the shore where I had a great rest of the morning with this splendid view!
This trip would not involve lollygagging around the same campsite for multiple nights. We had breakfast in town, back to camp to pick up Chip’s trailer and then off to the next location, Yoho National Park. A rather short drive away (~ 20 kilometers) we checked in at Kicking Horse Campground which was a good location in the middle of Yoho Park.
We spent the afternoon checking out Takakkaw Falls, walking part of Emerald Lake shoreline and then finishing with sunset at Emerald Lake. It’s only seconds after arriving here to know how it got it’s name. “Hiking” around the lake is more like an extended nature hike. At least the section we did was pretty flat yet very scenic. As we all know not all great scenic photos require long bouts of strenuous activity.
Up plenty before daylight and off to Bow Lake for sunrise. The drive was about 50 kilometers. The wind was whipping pretty good. I was not happy with any of my images from this morning yet we had a fun time regardless. The clouds rolled in and we could tell things would get wet later in the day. Back to Kicking Horse for breakfast at camp, fill up on water and off to the next campsite closer to the Bow Lake area.
Our next stop was Mosquito Creek Campground on Ice Fields Parkway. We filled up on water before arriving as this time of year it’s a dry campground because overnight lows dip below freezing. By the time we arrived the rain had already started dropping. We spent the afternoon chilling in our campers reading, listening to podcasts and napping. Having warm dry shelter was very welcome at that moment.
After getting bored we decided to drive and see if could find a place to have a beer. First stop was Bow Lake restaurant. The lady at the desk was indirectly kind in trying to say the restaurant was for guests only yet suggested we head a ways down the road for a bar. Mind you this is National Park with few places to stop and all tree lined roads. After driving another 40 km in the pouring rain at dusk we arrive at the mildly depressing oasis called Saskatchewan River Crossing. We were happy to have this place pretty much to ourselves sitting on couches drinking a beer and snacking on mediocre wings. Out into the rain and 50 km later we are back at camp. Rain still pouring outside we eat dinner in the camper then hit the hay.
I wake up shortly before dawn. I step outside the camper and can see nothing but endless grey with rain still coming down. Feels like home. We decide to bag sunrise and go back to bed. What seemed like 5 min later, in reality over an hour, I wake up and look out the window to see a huge patch of blue sky. Shorter than the click of a shutter I yell for Chip to wake up and jump out the camper. No courteous knock, I whip open the door to Sean’s camper and say “get up now, we need to leave!” Minutes later we are on the road. It did not take long to see this was going to be a fantastic morning. The snowline went down low overnight but only brought a dusting. With the sun coming over the horizon and quickly clearing skies we had to act fast. After pulling into Peyto Lake we made a short hike to an area with a perfect view and away from the main viewpoint.
While still on a morning high from the scene at Peyto Lake we make our way down to wander around Waterfowl Lakes. After breakfast back at camp we decide very early tomorrow is the time to make it up into Lake O’Hara with the slowly clearing weather pattern.
Midday we head back into Lake Louise Village for supplies. Mainly the $6 dollar bear spray rental since I left mine back home. I know now I can take it across the border next trip. As the kid in the store weighs the bear spray he proceeds to tell me that if I end up using it and the weight is not the same upon return I will have to buy it. My response “if I have to use this I have much bigger concerns than the retail price of a can of bear spray!”
That night we photographed sunset along Waterfowl Lakes. The partly cloudy skies made for a really nice scene. We don’t stick around long as we need to hit the sack early since wake up will be 3:15! No time for s’mores or kumbaya this trip.
My soothing alarm ring goes off at 3:15 am. Surprisingly I slept better than expected and feel pretty good. We eat a quick breakfast, as much as my body wants to eat this early in the morning and out into the morning cold crisp air we head as we start our trek to Lake O’Hara.
Spots in and around Lake O’Hara are amazingly scenic like out of Lord of the Rings or where you truly might find that pot of gold with a leprechaun. This is the reason it’s not easy to get there. For most normal people there are two options; camping or the lodge. Both options book up months in advance. Our plan would be to hike the 11 km gravel road in the dark to make it by sunrise. You can see why I rented bear spray. Although we were a group of four it’s prime bear country. With our head lamps moving around like the light in a lighthouse and plenty of “hey bear” shout outs we arrive at Lake O’Hara shortly before sunrise. I would not necessarily recommend this approach yet it worked for us.
We quickly find out the hiking is not over. We have at least a few more kilometers of all steep terrain to make it where we want to go. I am on a high and power through the next part. The sky starts getting lighter to slowly reveal this magical landscape. We spend a couple hours hiking around and taking photos. Honestly it’s a place you could stay all day with the perfect conditions we had yet we needed to ensure we could get a bus out. We leave it behind taking our photos as constant reminders for years to come.
We decide our next stop is Kananaskis. Kananskis Country is known for large photogenic groves of aspens. After the 160 km drive (about 2 hrs) we were pretty wiped considering the early morning wakeup call and long hike. We pull into a campground in Kananaskis area and take a long nap.
We decided on Wedge Pond for sunset, a short jaunt from camp. The golden aspens line the pond and do not disappoint. Not only did we have a beautiful view yet on the other side of the pond were what appeared to be two female yoga instructors doing poses in a wildly colorful yoga pants while a male photographer taking the shots was cheering them on. They were the only people there besides us.
Up the next morning and fortunately another not too far away drive which allowed for a more normal wake up time. It was a nice little marshy pond area not far from the road with a perfect view of Mount Kidd. A thin layer of ice continued growing on the small ponds as we photographed which was all we needed to tell us the temperature outside.
After that we spent the next few hours chasing around different aspen groves before the light got too harsh. Daytime photos are beautiful with golden aspens mixed with blue skies yet we had other plans in mind given it was our last day.
A late breakfast and on the road to the town Banff we go. There is a campground just outside of town where we setup camp. After “roughing” it for the week we decide an evening on the town is in order to finish this phenomenal trip. I highly recommend a soak in Banff Hot Springs and grabbing a beer with dinner at Banff Brewing Company. The next morning before dawn we head home.
If you have not been it’s a must add to your bucket list. In my home state of Oregon I feel lucky to live near mountains to play and photograph yet in all honesty they feel less dramatic in scale and size when comparing the endless large mountains around every turn in the Canadian Rockies.
Timing: The first part of any fall color foliage trip is timing. We all had it Sharpied in our calendars many months in advance and while peak fall colors certainly change every year none of us had much wiggle room. Fortunately our timing could not have been better. Normal peak for this area is middle to late September. As a side note you can easily spend a couple weeks in the Canadian Rockies and still feel like you are only scratching the surface.
Transportation: Living in the Pacific Northwest we are in reasonable driving distance. I only lug all my camping or backpacking equipment at 30,000 feet when necessary. The drive was about 12 hours, pushing the envelope to do it one day. Flying you will likely need to come through Calgary, the closest International airport at 120 kilometers from Banff.
Weather: This time of year you need everything from t-shirts to thick down jackets. We experienced snow, rain, wind and bright blue sky mild days. Be prepared for it all. Our coldest morning was about -3 degrees and our sunny warmest day about 15 degrees Celsius.
Lodging: There are plenty of options from budget camping to deluxe pampering hotels. We would be camping the whole time which made it very cost effective. Campgrounds we stayed at in Yoho and Banff ranged from $18 to $27 Canadian a night with additional $8 if you want to have a campfire. Beautiful Lake O’Hara I mentioned, lodging is a mere $600 to $900 CA a night for two.
Locations: Overall there many different parks and places that are part of Canadian Rockies yet we had no problem filling the days with our focus on three of them…Kananaskis, Banff and Yoho National Parks.
Physical Activity Level: You can make it as adventurous as you want from photographing out the window of your resort room to backpacking deep into the mountains. If money is no object then the best of both by staying at mountain lodges in the back country. Given we had only a week most of our locations were short hikes to nature walks with one long strenuous hike.
November 23rd, 2015
“Most men pursue pleasure with such breathless haste that they hurry past it.” –Soren Kierkegaard
Guy Tal is not most men; his photography is deliberate and so is his writing. In his new book More Than a Rock: Essays on Art, Creativity, Photography, Nature, and Life (2015 Rocky Nook Inc.), Tal conveys his thoughts of being an artist through a series of essays. If you’re familiar with his blog you’ll find Tal’s signature style of writing here; if you’re not familiar then get ready for your creative mind to expand. Tal is a deep thinker, intellectual, artist, and critic with the logic of a lawyer. Citing influences such as Alfred Stieglitz and Minor White, (perhaps he is photography’s new Minor White or art’s new John Ruskin) with some of his “artist as critic” themes. More Than a Rock isn’t a “how-to” book on photography with a list of tips and tricks – far from it. This is a book on photography learned through reading, thinking, creating, or osmosis.
His essays are broken into four parts: Art, Craft, Experiences, and Meditations–with the section on Art being the most interesting and well thought out. In his essay “Contemporary Oligarchy,” Tal sometimes takes on the Sisyphean task of dragging one-by-one (not pushing) those in the “landscape photography is not art” camp into the “landscape photography is art camp.” He writes that art’s elite is “placing too much power in the hands of the few, and so I believe the time is nigh for another (peaceful, intellectual, and creative) revolution.” I’m not sure what that revolution might entail, but it did inspire me to pick up Tom Wolfe’s The Painted Word and give that scathing satire of art a read.
Along the way, Tal refers to familiar master writers of the desert southwest such as Wallace Stegner, Joseph Wood Krutch, John Wesley Powell, Edward Abbey, and Charles Bowden. Tal lives in Utah’s Colorado Plateau, and like writers Wendell Berry or Rick Bass, his writing provides the reader with a lay of the land, a sense of place-home. He alludes to and quotes from some of the deep thinkers of the last two-centuries too, from Friedrich Nietzsche to Thomas Merton. Not something you encounter in most books about photography out there today. He’s also not a fan of the derivative, the trophy hunters, or those out to “get the shot.” In his essay “Finding the Needle,” Tal believes that next level of self-expression is much more complex than that. And whether you agree with him or not, you’ll admire his conviction.
During the reading of this well-written and beautifully photographed book, I thought more deliberately about what my photography, art, life, and purpose in this world means. I also thought more about my sense of place living in the Columbia River Gorge of Oregon, in that transitional land between the Pacific’s wetter clime and that of the high desert of the Great Basin. My photography takes me to a lot of different places, but I’m looking anew at that region I call “home.”
November 19th, 2015
Looking out at the turquoise waters of the Caribbean from the cruise ship, I think of all the advantages one has when vacationing on a cruise ship. I began my enthusiasm for photography while working on a cruise ship and have seen some unforgettable places. A different day in a different port; this was the life aboard a cruise ship. It wasn’t long before all I could think about was my photography and capturing the beauty of the next exotic location. I was hooked and photography had me.
I quickly realized that this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Fast forward to present day and I am fortunate enough to be living out my dream. Even though I do not work on the cruise ship anymore, I still like to take cruise ship vacations with my family. There are many advantages to photographing on a cruise ship rather than a vacation where you remain on land. In this article I’d like to explain why your next vacation should be a cruise vacation.
Firstly, cruising allows me to see several places in a short period of time. When it comes to photography there’s just never enough time to see all the places you want. I often find myself wanting to see more destinations than time can allow. Cruising gets me closer to this goal. It allows me the opportunity to see a new port or city every day. I realize that cruising is not for everybody as many photographers and people really like to explore a place and get to know it intimately. On the other hand, there are photographers like myself who enjoy seeing as many places as possible. Each place or city offers its own unique perspective. Capturing the essence of each place and telling its story is what first got me excited about photography.
And this is what I try to convey in my pictures. In preparation for each place, I take notes, read books, and gather all the information I can. There are many travel books, travel forums, and sites that can assist you in getting familiar with each place. Also, I often will look at Lonely Planet books, Trip Advisor forums, and cruise ship excursion feedback to get all the information I need. Once I’ve gathered all this information, I choose a guide to privately show me the island, or an excursion set up by the ship to get me to all the places I need in the quickest time. Using a private guide helps me find the best places that often tourists don’t find in terms of hidden gems of the island. At the end of each day, I make a summary of where I went, what I like, and what I would do differently.
This helps me in the process of narrowing the places that I would like to re visit. From this, I choose one or two places I would like to spend more time exploring and do a vacation on land by way of a hotel. For example, I was able to visit Turks and Caicos by cruise ship and was enthralled with it. The color of the water, the friendliness of the people, and the variety of landscapes were absolutely amazing. I recently was able to revisit Turks and Caicos, but this time I stayed at a resort. This afforded me the opportunity to stay longer and really explore.
Secondly, an advantage to a cruise vacation for photography is the vantage points and perspective it will capture. To be more specific, the ship sails into port from sea and gives a perspective of the city at sea level. The ship’s height gives you the vantage point of shooting elements from high elevations. The high elevation of the ship gives the image an aerial look. Cruise ships come early in the morning to the ports, take advantage of this opportunity. Find a position high up on deck and capture first light. The combination of the early morning light and higher vantage point makes for outstanding photography. The other advantage in terms of perspective, is the port is usually located in the central part of town and gives you a good overview of what you can expect. To be more specific, it gives me a good lay of the land and gets me right in the middle of the action.I’m able to photograph the heart of a city in great light and from unusual perspectives.
The next advantage that I find while cruising is that it forces me to slow down. Often when I am on a land-based vacation, I am always going from place to place trying to get to as many destinations as possible. I find that I am so rushed that I don’t take the time to really tell my story. Photographing while you’re cruising give you an allotted time to photograph and then you are back on the ship and you can relax. This gives me time to reflect on what I photographed and really embrace the experience. It gives me the time to prepare for the next port and spend time with my family. I think many photographers feel a rush to capture everything and, as a result, don’t take the time to really enjoy the moment. The ship sets the hours I can photograph and allows me to relax when back on board.
Lastly, the advantage of cruising while on a photography trip is the people you meet. I meet people from all over the world who are curious to know what I’m doing and I like to share my experiences. Mutually, we learn so many things about each other as well as new places to photograph.
Cruising is not for everybody, but it does hold a special place in my heart. It offers me the chance to see several places in a short period of time, photograph places from rare perspectives in great light, and meet people from all over the world.
November 11th, 2015
I am happy to announce the release of the first video in my “Start-to-Finish” series: Image Editing: Start-to-Finish#1 “Grand Teton Winter”.
With winter on its way, I thought it fitting to start the series with a winter image. In this video I take you through the entire editing process of my image “Grand Teton Winter” from beginning to final product. This video will give you a pretty good idea of the process behind my approach, and the steps involved in editing an entire photo from start to finish. The techniques that I use are fairly advanced, so a good understanding of layers and masking in Photoshop is recommended. Some of the techniques I use in this video include:
-Raw adjustments in Lightroom
-perspective adjustments using the Warp tools in Photoshop,
-tonality adjustments using Tony Kuyper’s new “Infinity Masks” (these are custom luminosity masks for any tonal value built in real time by simply adjusting a few sliders)
-adjustments with the Camera Raw filter in Photoshop
-adjustments using Nik Color Efex
-dodging with color
-Orton and soft focus
-some fast and easy methods for web and print sharpening
In this video I use Tony Kuypers 16-bit Action Panel V4 and highly recommend having it in your arenal of tools. It is available from his website: Goodlight.us Included in this video download is the original Raw file for practice purposes, and my own “Orton Protect Darks” action. Run time is 1hr 26min. Total size of the MP4 dowload is 931mb.
I have some clips available to view below. If you end up checking it out, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for the support! Chip
November 5th, 2015
by Zack Schnepf
As I’ve mentioned before, composition is the most challenging part of photography for me. It’s also one of the most rewarding aspects of photography. Bringing together different elements into a compelling composition is a wonderful creative process. It can be a very “zen” experience as well. When I photograph on my own, it’s a kind of meditation for me. I’ve never been someone who get’s too preoccupied with following compositional rules, but there are a lot of very useful composition ideas that I try to keep in mind while composing in the field. In this article I’ll discuss some of the different composition models I look for when composing a landscape image. There are a lot of composition models that have been used throughout art history. I’ll be focusing on just a few, otherwise we might be here all day. The following are some examples of my favorite composition archetypes I look for in the field.
Rule of thirds
This is one of the oldest compositional rules and is one of the first compositional rules many of us learn about. The ancient greeks used the rule of thirds in their architecture and it was probably used even before that. The human brain seems to like compositions balanced by thirds. We also naturally look toward the power points where rule of thirds lines intersect. Compositions that utilize this theory tend to feel balanced and are more compelling.
Frame within a frame and natural framing
I love finding elements that naturally frame a scene. Using elements that also tell a story about that particular place are even more compelling. This first example is a composition I found my very first year photographing. I didn’t capture the light I was hoping for so I came back years later and captured the same scene with better light. I love the way the tree frames the scene and helps tell the story of Crater Lake. This next example is Teardrop Arch in Utah. A beautiful scene framed in this tear drop shaped arch in Monument Valley
S and C curves
S curves and C curves help viewers travel through an image and add an interesting visual flow. I love incorporating curves in my compositions. In this example the C curve of the petrified sand dunes in white pocket draw your eye in and through the scene creating visual flow. This image also uses a type of symmetry that I’ll talk about later.
Puzzle piece compositions have elements that visually fit together like a jigsaw puzzle. These can make for very interesting compositions if constructed well. In this example, David Cobb deliberately composed this image with the shape off the ice berg mirrored in the reflection above it.
When most people think of symmetry, they think of mirror symmetry, but there are several more types of symmetry I look for when composing as well. This image of death valley is a good example of rotation semmetry, or inversion symmetry. The curve of the dune is mirrored and opposite that of the blue in the sky. This is one of my favorite kinds of symmetry to find while composing. It’s not always possible, but when things line up, this is something I have my eye out for. To learn more about basic types of symmetry you can follow this link: http://mathforum.org/sum95/suzanne/symsusan.html
These are just some of the composition models I look for when composing. There are a lot more and I encourage everyone to try find different composition types when you’re in the field. You can learn about many different styles of composition by simply viewing art. Whether it’s looking through a book of artwork, viewing an exhibit at an art museum, or just looking through images on 500px. Studying the work of artists you admire is a great way to learn about composition and influences how you look at a scene. This is one of the best ways to improve your photography and progress as an artist. I studied art and art history in college and it has had an enormous influence on how I perceive the world and try to capture it. There is so much to learn from the masters of different eras, artistic movements, and styles? It’s a humbling and incredibly enriching experience.
In part four of this series I’ll talk about the elements that I try use to build compositions.
November 3rd, 2015
If you are a TKActions user, luminosity mask enthusiast or just like to keep up to date with the most current tools and techniques available for high end image developing, then this article will interest you. If you aren’t versed in what luminosity masks are then you might want to check out these articles first and then come back.
Right now I won’t ramble on the benefits of using luminosity masks as part of a finely controlled Photoshop workflow or the backstory of how Tony Kuyper introduced these techniques to the world of nature and landscape photography a decade ago. Those topics have been well covered before.
The main story here is that Tony consistently innovates and improves the way his custom Photoshop actions panel generates luminosity masks. In June he released the current iteration of the TKActions Panel, Version 4, which introduced a completely new interface, added a ton of features and increased the overall efficiency. Despite that, he has already added new features and tools to the V4 panel that I wasn’t able to include in the Video Guide to TKActions or Complete Guide to Luminosity Masks, 2nd Edition tutorials.
The two main new tools in the latest update are Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker and they both offer significantly different and intuitive methods of generating very specific luminosity selections and masks. If you currently own the TKActions V4 panel then you already have these features, although you many not have realized it yet. If you purchased the V4 panel through the Adobe Add-Ons website then you may need to update the panel through your Adobe My Add-Ons account and the CC Desktop App for the new tools to show up.
In addition to Infinity Masks and the Zone Picker, other updates include transparent dodge and burn layers, layer bookmarking, View Button support in Lab mode and the ability to toggle between red and blue view modes. Tony recently published an article on his blog that explains the new tools and features in detail.
In an effort to help everyone stay informed and get full use of the features, I produced the following tutorial. In addition to watching the video here online you can use the link I include below to download it to your computer for free and add it to your library. The video is now also included as a bonus chapter in the Video Guide to TKActions series. I hope you find it to be helpful and that you are able to put the new tools to use in your image developing. If you have any questions be sure to leave a comment below or contact me.