Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

‘Going Pro’: Is Landscape Photography Your Calling?

Thursday, April 27th, 2017

 

Castles in the Air

Anyone who develops an intense passion for landscape photography is likely to ponder its potential as a career choice. These thoughts may pass quickly for people who have ample time and money to satisfy their photography cravings. Others will feel a nagging desire to make an expensive, time-consuming hobby pay for itself and will at least dabble in options for producing some side income from it. For a smaller percentage of enthusiasts, however, photographing nature develops into something much deeper than a part-time interest; it becomes a calling, a lifestyle, and a basis for self-identity. A person in the latter situation is likely to give some serious consideration to the idea of making landscape photography their full-time profession. If the siren song of life as a landscape photographer is luring you into deeper waters, then the following realities of the profession may help you to decide whether or not to heed the call.

THE LIFESTYLE

Sex, Drugs, and Rock-n-Roll

As often as people jokingly refer to prominent landscape photographers as “rock stars”, the reality is rather sobering. Most professional landscape photographers are self-employed, and like proprietors of any other small businesses, we tend to devote most of our time to our work. Having a strong work ethic and a high tolerance for austerity are crucial to building and sustaining a business, especially in the early years.

Of course it helps that some of this work is a labor of love, but much of it is quite mundane. Depending on the business model that you follow, tedious paperwork may be necessary for insurance purposes, for permits, for exhibition space, for all sorts of contracts, or for certifications, just to name a few of the more common necessities. In the United States, having to establish your business as an LLC or S-Corp means an extra level of complication at tax time each year, and the annual bookkeeping is no party either. Besides the demands of business compliance, a whole plethora of routine tasks requires attention on a regular basis. Email correspondence is particularly never-ending. I have heard more than a few professional landscape photographers refer to themselves as “professional emailers” because keeping up with email and various types of electronic messages is such an ongoing commitment. Similarly, the maintenance of social media accounts can be a career in itself, and website development and maintenance is another area of activity that can easily consume many precious hours.

And what happens after you do get to enjoy some quality time in the field? The actual photography also creates more work down the line. Developing, cataloguing, backing up files, and keywording all have the potential to draw you into a black hole of busy work. Being out in the field regularly also means using your camera gear more often, and heavy professional use tends to necessitate frequent maintenance of that gear and of the peripheral equipment and vehicles associated with outdoor activities.

Indeed, the life of a professional landscape photographer is not nearly as glamorous as the most obvious features of the occupation might suggest. A large array of responsibilities are involved that can cause the profession to feel a lot like a traditional desk job at times. Nonetheless, the actual photography is enjoyable enough to make it all worthwhile for the right kind of person. It is an incredible feeling to stand behind a tripod in a majestic location and to have the thought occur that “This is my job!”

Photography Business Paperwork

A professional landscape photographer has all of the responsibilities of a business owner in any field, and those include a wide range of office tasks.

 

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

Travel is another facet of the career that many aspiring professionals may underestimate and misunderstand. A rare subset of full-time landscape photographers are able to restrict their activities to local areas, but most spend a significant amount of time traveling far and wide. My own travels take me away from home for about 300 days each year, an amount that is probably well above average but that is not highly unusual. Contrary to common assumptions, this travel is not entirely dedicated to creating new photographs for my portfolio. I travel to teach, to give talks, to meet with partners, sponsors, or other business owners, and to attend conferences and expos, among other purposes. Purely personal travel aimed at pursuing my art is something that I crave as much now as I did before I went full-time with my photography. If you think that a career in landscape photography will give you more opportunities to travel freely, then you could be right, but those opportunities may still be fewer than what you would like. I know many amateurs and part-time professionals who are able to devote more time to personal travel than is the case for most full-time landscape photographers.

Regardless of why a photographer might end up traveling, a lot of time away from home complicates many aspects of daily life, especially those involving communication. These complications include being without phone or data signals, dealing with time zone differences, and not receiving mail or packages easily. It can be very difficult to reply to messages, to return calls, or to keep in touch with friends and family. If you are not able to travel with the people who are closest to you, then you may have to accept that communication with them is likely to be very limited.

Of course frequent travel does have its benefits. Life on the move tends to be exciting, especially for anyone who enjoys a frequent change of scenery and is invigorated by cultural variety and by meeting interesting people. If you ‘travel well’ and can tolerate a certain amount of discomfort and inconvenience, then life on the move can be a wonderful existence. Even if it is often exhausting, a life full of travel is a life full of living.

Tent Office

The common romantic notion of the mobile office holds true for about five minutes when you really need to get some work done. It quickly becomes annoying not to have basic conveniences such as electricity and data connections when important projects are involved.

 

Long Exposure

Anyone who takes a keen interest in nature photography probably enjoys being outdoors, but working professionally can require an especially intense level of outdoor activity. For example, on a recent run of five workshops in the desert, I spent 28 nights sleeping in a tent over a six-week period, and the quality of sleep was often quite poor due to extreme temperatures and high winds. While teaching workshops in the mountains I do a lot of hiking and backpacking, so much that I have permanent marks on my hips from the waist belts on my backpacks. My knees have seen happier days, and one of my ankles frequently reminds me of the time that I broke it when I fell into a snowy terrain trap. Frequent exposure to the sun and to the elements means dealing with a whole variety of skin issues, from dry skin to sunspots and the related risk of skin cancer. Alas, spending a large amount of time outdoors does come with some consequences, any one of which could be particularly serious for a person with relevant health issues.

On the other hand, a life lived outdoors also brings some substantial health benefits. It is a great feeling to be very physically fit due to continual outdoor activity, and breathing fresh air on a regular basis is an additional boon to overall good health. Even frequent exposure to sunlight has its advantages, causing positive psychological effects that can improve a person’s mental health quite noticeably.

Erin Babnik Shooting Dunes

Outdoor activity on a very regular basis eventually takes a toll on the body, but it comes with great health benefits as well, including physical fitness and psychological well-being.

 

Shooting Wide Open

If you are the type of person who prefers to maintain a low profile, then a career as a landscape photographer will present some special challenges. As an artist in any medium, your name is inextricably linked to your business, meaning that anonymity will tend to hinder your success. The more willing you are to ‘put yourself out there’, the easier it will be for you to sustain yourself with your art. This openness may mean agreeing to do interviews, to do some public speaking, to network with industry professionals, to cooperate with brands, to make appearances at gallery openings and art shows, to write a blog, to correspond with fans, or to be engaged on social media. If you can embrace the idea of being open to the photography world and its appreciators, then life as a professional will be easier for you.

Erin Babnik Talk

Being open to the photography world and its appreciators means living a more public life than most people do, so it will help a lot if you are not very concerned about maintaining a low profile.

 

THE ART

Balancing creative interests with the need to survive is the classic dilemma of the professional artist. No matter how you bring in your photography income, you will always reach a point where you know that some amount of creative compromise could have the potential to improve your financial results. Even if you maintain the highest level of integrity in privileging your own creative interests, you may still feel uneasy about it, especially if other people depend upon your income to some extent. Moreover, you will sometimes encounter the not uncommon notion that professional artists are ‘in it for the money’ or are otherwise ignoble, an idea rooted in antiquity, when the art forms with the highest status were those that required the least amount of labor. Having the ability to tune out such distractions is essential to staying focused on your art and to enjoying a career as a landscape photographer.

Erin Babnik Framed Print

Being a professional artist does not mean that you have to make compromises with your art in the least, but you can count on the tensions associated with this issue weighing on you at some point—and probably at many points throughout your career.

 

THE MONEY

While there will always be exceptions that prove the rule, in general, a hardworking landscape photographer can expect to make a middle-class income. Many aspiring professionals wonder how to achieve even that level of sustenance, and the best advice that I can offer is to evaluate the full range of options for putting a strong photography portfolio to work for you. The classic idea of photos as commodities that can sell as prints or as licensed images is only one possibility. A compelling body of work can also attract other photographers who would like to learn from you, so photography education can be a good option for anyone who has the inclination and aptitude for teaching the techniques, craft, history, and ideas that can help other photographers to advance their art. Other options include writing books, writing for magazines, creating videos, monetizing social media accounts, or accepting support from sponsors. If you can create a special body of work, then you can probably find a way to make it bring in a reasonable annual income, provided that you are willing to put in the effort and to make the necessary sacrifices that might affect your lifestyle.

Erin Babnik Teaching Workshop

There are many business models that a landscape photographer can follow aside from the traditional ones regarding print sales and image licensing.

 

THE REWARDS

Despite the many drawbacks that I’ve mentioned above, I awake each morning excited to get out of bed (or out of my sleeping bag) and get to work. A lot of what is required can be onerous at times, but it nonetheless results in a special feeling of satisfaction that my efforts are all supporting my art and my greatest ambitions. Just as rewarding is the great pleasure that comes from teaching and sharing my passion with people who are so happy to indulge in it themselves. It is truly wonderful to see the light that seems to switch on inside of a person when they learn something new, when inspiration sets a fire within them, and when saying goodbye, they offer a hand or a hug and their eyes sparkle with sincere gratitude or camaraderie. It is a great privilege to meet so many interesting and inspiring people each year and to feel as though we are jointly contributing in some way to one of humankind’s greatest collaborative projects, the ongoing exchange of ideas that is art.

Of course most of these rewards can come without any amount of professional activity, but a life dedicated to their realization is likely to bring them more often and at higher levels. If you feel fueled by such motivations and are prepared to make the necessary sacrifices, then life as a professional landscape photographer may be the right path for you.

Which features of the profession do you see as the most challenging or rewarding? Do you have any questions about professional landscape photography that I haven’t addressed in this article? Please feel free to comment below!

ErinBabnikWebLogoWhiteText

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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

5 ESSENTIAL TIPS WHEN PREPARING IMAGES FOR PRINT

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017

My favorite way to experience photography is through print.  It’s hard to describe the tremendous satisfaction I get when viewing my own prints, or prints from a photographer I admire.  I’ve always enjoyed printing myself.  I learned to print in the darkroom in my college photography classes and when I moved to digital I taught myself how to make my own prints at home.  As my photography progressed people started to ask if they could buy prints of my images.  Eventually, I started doing art festivals and gallery shows to share my work and make more print sales.  Whether you plan to print yourself, or have prints made by a dedicated print shop it’s essential that you understand a few basic concepts about color management and preparing images for print.

We live in an increasingly screen based culture.  The majority of photography I see is on some sort of screen.  A lot of photographers I meet who are starting photography exist almost exclusively in the digital universe.  Eventually though, you, or someone you know might want a print made of your photos.  Photographic printing can be daunting at first, but it’s very satisfying to see your own images in print, and you will be a better photographer if you understand the fundamentals of color management and print preparation.  In this article, I’ll share five essential tips for getting you and your images ready to print.

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Surrounded by my prints at the Sunriver Art Festival 2016

    1. CALIBRATE YOUR MONITOR:
      It’s hard to stress how important this is.  There is no point spending hours processing your photos for print if you haven’t calibrated your monitor.  It’s the foundation of color management, and brings everyone into a common color standard.  I remember when I got started in photography many years ago, I read on some forums about the importance of calibrating my monitor.  At the time I was more concerned with acquiring more lenses and gear and didn’t see why it was a big deal.  When I started printing I learned a hard and expensive lesson.  The first prints I made were a huge disappointment.  They didn’t look like what I saw on my monitor at all, the colors were off and it came out really dark.  With a little more friendly advise I finally invested in a decent calibrations package.  Once I calibrated my monitor I realized two important things.  One, it’s really helpful when everyone is using the same color standards and profiles, otherwise what may look red on my screen could look orange, or purple on another.  Two, I had my monitor set way too bright.  Reflected light from a print will never look as bright as transmitted light from a screen.  Lowering screen brightness much better reflects how an image will print.  Here is a link to the colormunki screen calibrator I use now.  Very easy to use and profiles really accurately.  All of their products work really well, but I like the customization options with the colormunki display model: http://xritephoto.com/colormunki-display
    2. UNDERSTAND BASIC COLOR MANAGEMENT:
      Whether you are printing yourself, sending your files to a dedicated print shop, or preparing an image for a publisher, you will get much better results if you understand the basics of color management.  There are two basic concepts to understand when managing color on your computer. The first is using the correct color space when exporting from Lightroom, or Adobe Camera Raw and the right color setting in Photoshop.  I always use the Pro Photo RGB color space as it has the widest color gamut, I prefer to start my editing with as many colors as possible especially if I will be printing the image.  The second concept is using the right printing profile.  If you’re having someone else print for you, it’s still important to understand printer profiles.  You can use a printer profile to soft proof your image and get a preview of how it will look when printed with the specific printer and paper they use.  Printer profiles are scripts used by the printer to adhere to color standards, they help the printer produce an image that looks as close to what you see on your screen as possible.  I’ll talk more about soft proofing in the next section.

      Export settings in Lightroom Preferences

    3. SOFT PROOFING AND HARD PROOFING:
      Soft proofing is using software such as Lightroom, or Photoshop to preview a printer profile.  Soft proofing attempts to simulate what the image will look like when printed on a specific print paper with a specific printer.  I think soft proofing is useful to get you in the right ballpark, but I don’t trust soft proofing completely. It is still pretty unreliable when trying preview exactly what a print will look like.  I use soft proofing to get me close and then I order a test print which is called a hard proof.  Once the test print is made, or arrives from a print shop, I can evaluate it and make any adjustments that I think it needs.  This method is what I rely on when making prints for customers, art shows and galleries.  The videos below help explain soft proofing in Lightroom and Photoshop.
      Great video on soft proofing in Lightroom:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8M9B8ABOb9U
      Another video about basic soft proofing in Photoshop: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y47uoKE_dAs
    4. SHARPEN APPROPRIATELY FOR EACH PRINT MEDIUM AND SIZE.
      Each print medium I use requires different levels of sharpening to look it’s best.  For instance, noise from over sharpening shows up easier on metal prints.  Both acrylic and traditional inkjet prints are more forgiving and hide minor noise and digital artifacts better.  Canvas is the most forgiving.  Print size is also something to consider.  What does this mean in practical terms for my workflow?  I’ve adopted a simple and flexible approach to sharpening.  I do normal output sharpening in Lightroom or ACR to correct for softness introduced by camera, lens, and the RAW format.  The amount varies for each image.  I continue with my workflow in photoshop to produce a master file with all layers and adjustments preserved if possible.  If I’m going to make a print, I save a flattened copy of the master file and sharpen it specifically for that print size and medium.  Sometimes it doesn’t need additional sharpening, but if it does it’s usually the last adjustment I make before sending it to print.  As a general guideline, I sharpen more for smaller prints, and less for larger prints.  The is counter intuitive for many people, but I’ve found that smaller prints need more because they lose sharpness when they are scaled down, and large prints tend to show any unwanted effects that might arise from over sharpening.  This is my personal preference and there are other factors to consider including the view distance.
    5. ADJUST LUMINANCE FOR SPECIFIC PRINT MEDIUMS.
      Each print medium has it’s own perceptual brightness and ambient reflectivity.  Like I described in the sharpening section, I save a flattened copy of my master file for each specific size and print medium I print on.  Aluminum prints and lumachrome acrylic prints have high ambient reflectivity and perceptual brightness, therefore they require very little, if any brightness adjustment. Traditional inkjet prints and canvas require a lot more brightness adjustments if you want to replicate the look you see on your screen.

I’ve been printing a long time, and I’ve learned several important lessons from printing over the years.  I’ve noticed that my processing workflow has evolved to accommodate printing.  I now tend to process with printing in mind first, and make specific changes to the file later when posting to the web.  I also have evolved to process in the most editable and non destructive way to preserve the image quality.  I think printing has made me a better photographer and has helped me improve my image quality.

Old video blog about basic printing from Photoshop:  http://www.photocascadia.com/blog/intro-to-photoshop-printing-video/#.WIT_MrGZMUE

Recommended printing companies:  These are the two print companies that I use.  I’ve tried a lot print shops, and these guys both produce incredible, quality prints.  I get my Aluminum prints from: http://www.hdaluminumprints.com and acrylic prints from http://www.nevadaartprinters.com

Communicating With Images

Monday, December 5th, 2016

by Zack Schnepf

Back when I was taking my first photography classes in college, instructors would ask me what I was trying to say with my images.  At the time, I thought this was just something art instructors said.  I came to understand that effective art is often able to communicate something to the viewer.  Sometimes it’s an emotion, a mood, a sense of wonder, or an overall feeling you get when you sit and appreciate a work of art.  I’ve felt disturbed by documentary photos in war torn countries, pure joy viewing a photo of  lion cubs wrestling his brother, I’ve felt the cold in images of mountain climbers summiting massive snowy peaks and I’ve felt awe and wonder viewing photos of majestic moments captured in nature.  I’ve had many profound moments out in the field photographing.  I became a photographer so I could share these profound moments with other people as well as remind myself of some of my favorite moments.  If i’m able to communicate some of what I’m experiencing through my image I consider it a successful image.  In this article I’ll talk about trying to communicate through my images and how it effects how I capture an image in the field and how I process and image in post production.

Red Dragon

In the field:  There are already so many things to think about in the field; changing light, composing multiple elements together, difficult environmental conditions, not to mention all of the technical settings you have to balance as well.  It can be chaotic.  It can be difficult to also think about trying to communicate through your image.  It doesn’t have to always be something profound you are communicating, sometimes it’s simple things.  In this example, I loved the lines of erosion here in White Pocket in Arizona.  I noticed if I composed with my camera about 8 inches off the ground It really accentuated the pattern of erosion and helped tell the story of these petrified sand dunes eroding away over time in the wind and rain.  I also tried to compose to accentuate the natural curve and texture in the rock. To me, this helped communicate the incredible history of erosion that has taken place to create this natural work of art.

Road To Enlightenment

In this example, I was scouting for a workshop when I saw this lone tree out in the middle of these overlapping green hills in the Palouse.  I put on my telephoto lens and shot at about 300mm to focus in on the this one solitary tree surrounded by these hills.  To me, framing this way helped convey a feeling I was having looking at the scene.  This shot was actually captured during the workshop in much more interesting conditions.  A rain storm was clearing as the sun was rising creating this atmosphere that helped convey the emotions I was feeling even more.  Even in the field I was struck with emotion as I looked at this scene.  It seemed to communicate an independent strength and integrity.  The backlight through the falling rain just reinforced this feeling.  I knew when I worked on this in photoshop, I wanted to process this in a way that helped communicate those same feelings.

In post production:  There is a lot you can do in post production to enhance your images, you can also accentuate elements that help the image communicate.  With the lone tree image, I accentuated the backlight on the tree and hills to help the tree feel luminous and help it stand out even more in the scene.  To me this is a very successful image, every time I look at it I still feel some of what I felt in the field.

Glacier Slot Canyon

This was my first time visiting Avalanche Creek in Glacier National Park.  I was with my good friend David Cobb at the time.  I was so enamored with this scene, I really wanted to capture it in a way that helped convey what a unique and special place it is.  This is a very common theme in my photography, I love to share my own awe and wonder when visiting these special places and I try to capture them in a way that expresses that.  It was also very peaceful and I felt a great wave of tranquility as I sat and took in this scene.  I set up in a pretty unusual spot, I had to be very careful not to slip and fall in, but I loved the compositional flow that was created here.  Again, this is a successful image to me, because every time I look at it I feel some of the tranquility, awe and wonder I felt when I was there.  This is also a popular image at art shows, and people tell me they feel peaceful when they look at it.

Force of Creation

This last example was just taken a few weeks ago while I was vacationing and photographing on the Big Island of Hawaii.  My family moved to Hawaii for a few years when I was a kid and I was lucky enough to witness Kilauea erupt in spectacular fashion when I was five years old.  It is an experience that is burned into my memory.  This recent trip was my first opportunity to capture some of that experience in my own photography.  Cj Kale guided me out to the flow on this particular morning and it was quite a show.  It’s so dynamic watching a lava flow, it’s constantly changing, moving and doing unpredictable things.  There was so much going on, the flow was changing, the waves were crashing and wind was blowing the steam all around.  It was such a privilege to watch the creation of a new part of the island right before my eyes.  I really wanted to capture a moment like this with the lava visibly flowing, the waves crashing and the steam catching the light of the lava.  Its was extremely challenging, but rewarding.  Again, to me the is a successful image.  It captures just how dynamic and dramatic it was to watch the lava flowing into the ocean creating new land.  It was a transcendent moment for me, one where I was reminded how small and insignificant we are, it was powerful to witness something that has been shaping our planet for much of it’s four billion year history.

I love being able to share moments like this through my photography.  It’s why I became a photographer.  Images like these are some of my favorites, because I feel something when I look at them and other people do as well.  Trying to communicate through my own images has helped me become a better photographer and continues to make photography more rewarding.  You can learn more about me, my images and the workshops and tutorials I offer on my website:  http://www.zschnepf.com

How To Customize Your Photoshop Workspace by Sean Bagshaw

Monday, November 7th, 2016

In the video tutorial below (email subscribers can click the title link to view the video on the web) I take you through a feature of Photoshop that is super helpful and pretty simple, but also something that can be a little confusing for a lot of people…customizing your Photoshop workspace.

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Photoshop is a massive application with powerful tools aimed at different types of uses…photography, digital painting, graphic design, 3D modeling and website development just to name a few. It arranges similar tools, functions and features into panels. You can also add custom panels to Photoshop, such as Tony Kuyper’s TKActions and Infinity Mask panels. Very few of us ever make regular use of every single Photoshop panel. In addition, we all have different workflow preferences and screen space limitations. The ability to create one or more custom workspaces in Photoshop enables you to personalize and evolve your space to best fit how you work and establish optimal efficiency and creative flow.

I hope you find this tutorial helpful. Please post in questions in the comments section and please share any of your own Photoshop workspace tricks and tips.

Sean is a full time photographer and photography educator. You can see more of his images and find out about his video tutorial courses and upcoming workshops, tours and classes on his website at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com.

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A Lexicon of Post-Processing Terms in Landscape Photography Today

Thursday, October 27th, 2016

 

Landscape photographers are increasingly turning toward more interpretive modes of presentation in order to express their own ideas about the scenes that they encounter. New techniques in field work and related digital processing have fueled this development, often enabling photographers to produce images that were nearly impossible to achieve in the film era. These techniques address a plethora of age-old problems in landscape photography, from displaying a vast depth-of-field to escaping the constraints of shutter speeds and fixed angles of view. Whether the goal is to overcome limitations of current photographic equipment or to infuse a photograph with creative subjectivity, digital solutions have opened up a new world of options and have generated a world of terminology to go with them. In response to frequent requests for explanations of certain terms, I offer the following lexicon.

These terms are those that pertain to recent developments, advancements in field work and related post-processing made possible by the digital era. I have intentionally omitted common terms that have direct counterparts in darkroom development, such as dodging, burning, and cropping. This list is hardly exhaustive and is intended to highlight those techniques that have been most significant in landscape photography of the last decade. In addition, I have included terms that describe some newer techniques that I am increasingly asked to explain.

Reunion by Erin Babnik

 

BLENDS

Blends combine separate image files or else different treatments of a single file into a final image. Blending requires the use of layers and masking in editing software such as Adobe Photoshop. A ‘blend’ is generally distinct from a ‘composite’ in its use of source files created during a single photography outing at a particular location.


Exposure Blend:

Possibly the most essential of all blending techniques for landscape photographers is the Exposure Blend, which allows for selective control over tones in an image. A typical use of an exposure blend would be to present sky and land areas of a scene such that they appear to be in balance tonally, as the human eye might see them. Unlike the use of graduated filters, exposure blends allow for targeted tonal changes in any location of the image and at any level of opacity. These blends might combine different exposures produced as separate files or else differently processed iterations of a single raw file. Exposure Blends are typically achieved with freehand masking or with luminosity masking.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Sean Bagshaw) | Example 2 (By Chip Phillips)

Focal Length Blend:

This type of blend combines frames of a single scene that were shot at different focal lengths. The typical use of this kind of blend is to overcome the effects of “pancaking” or diminution of background features caused by the use of a wide-angle lens. By combining a longer focal length for a background with a wider one of a foreground, photographers can restore the prominence and presence of background features that might otherwise appear less impressive than they would in person. Focal Length Blends require manual blending using hard-edged masks.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Erin Babnik) | Example 2 (By Erin Babnik)

Perspective Blend:

One of the most versatile types of blending, the Perspective Blend allows the combination of frames shot using different nodal points. The most common type of Perspective Blend is the so-called “Vertorama”, which is essentially a vertically oriented panorama. Perspective Blends can also combine slightly different camera heights or angles that allow more descriptive or expressive views of certain foreground features without compromising the desired view of the background. Perspective Blends can be achieved with automated stitching software or with manual blending.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Erin Babnik) | Example 2 (By Erin Babnik)

Time Blend:

A Time Blend collapses together different moments of a natural event, allowing for a more extensive narrative or a more descriptive presentation, similar to what a video might accomplish. While an Exposure Blend might combine different moments that are only seconds apart (or less), a Time Blend could include instances that span across minutes or even an hour or more. A typical example would be a scene with fast-moving atmosphere and quickly changing light that showcases the most significant moments of the event. Another common variation on the technique is combining different shutter speeds in a single image, such as having a longer shutter speed to blur moving water and a shorter one to freeze foliage movement. Time Blends typically require freehand masking.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Erin Babnik) | Example 2 (By Enrico Fossati)

Twilight Blend:

This technique was developed to overcome problems of extreme dynamic range during twilight or night. The basic approach is to photograph land portions of a scene with ample ambient light separately from the night sky, keeping the camera in position on a tripod as long as it takes to create good exposures of both the land and the sky (typically about an hour). Twilight Blends can be achieved with freehand masking or with luminosity masking and usually require a substantial shift in white balance for the land portions of the image.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Miles Morgan) | Example 2 (By Michael Shainblum)

Close Encounter by Erin Babnik

 

STYLIZATIONS

These effects accentuate or augment a scene in ways that emphasize a mood and contribute to the style of a photo’s final presentation.


Glow/Light Bleed

When light shines through atmosphere that diffuses it substantially, any shadow areas behind the light lose contrast. The effect is often a pleasing, “glowy” one that emphasizes the light source. This natural phenomenon can be accentuated dramatically or even imitated outright by overlaying pixels that add brightness and diffusion. These pixels might be layers of bright color or selected areas of a blurred and brightened copy of the image file. The opacity of the effect is generally highest closer to the light source, typically requiring freehand application for naturalistic results. Photographer Ryan Dyar is widely regarded as the greatest pioneer of this technique, and his portfolio contains many images that exemplify it.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Ryan Dyar) | Example 2 (By Kevin McNeal)

Light Painting

Light Painting in processing is akin to dodging and burning in that it selectively brightens or darkens areas of an image, often with a change in hue involved as well. A typical application might add brightness and warmth to selected highlight areas and add cooler hues to darker ones in order to emphasize visual hierarchy, to direct eye movement, or to emphasize depth. Light Painting is usually best controlled with a combination of luminosity masks and freehand application, and it may involve the use of numerous layers that build up to a result like glazing techniques in oil painting. (Note that this is a processing technique that should not be confused with in-field “Light Painting”, which involves using artificial light sources and long exposures in low light situations.)

Click for more: Example 1 (By Erin Babnik) | Example 2 (By Ted Gore)

Orton Effect

This effect does have a direct counterpart in darkroom development, but I decided to include it in this lexicon because it has been widely adopted and adapted in the digital era. Photographer Michael Orton originated the technique using slide film in the mid-1980’s as a means of emulating the “Pen and Ink and Watercolor” technique of painting that produced a dreamy effect through its combination of media with different qualities. To create a similar effect with photography, Orton sandwiched together two slides that he took of a single scene, one slide with high detail and little color, along with a second slide that was out of focus and very colorful. Digital applications of this idea are numerous, ranging from subtle treatments that simply offset the effects of web sharpening, to more emphatic treatments that lend a painterly, glowing quality to an image. Numerous software filters, plug-ins, and scripts exist for automated applications of the effect, and of course manual applications are possible using layers in Photoshop.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Zack Schnepf) | Example 2 (By Chip Phillips)

Ruby Tuesday by Erin Babnik

 

FUNDAMENTAL TECHNIQUES

The following techniques are among those that have been foundational in the more progressive strands of landscape photography in the digital era. They have opened up new options for composition, subject matter, conditions, locations, and timing to the extent that they lie at the heart of a distinct zeitgeist that has become evident in the last decade.


Focus Stacking

Focus stacking combines files shot with different focus points in order achieve a greater depth of field than would be possible in a single file. With this technique it is possible to have sharp focus on features at the very closest focusing distance of a lens while also having the same level of sharpness for everything else in a scene, all the way out to infinity focus. There are numerous standalone software programs that can automate the process of focus stacking, and Photoshop has stock features for focus stacking as well. Focus stacking can also be achieved manually via blending with layers and masks, although a manual blend is easiest to achieve with images that do not require  the combination of many focus points.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Erin Babnik) | Example 2 (By Justin Grimm)

HDR

The acronym for “High Dynamic Range”, this term describes any process that combines different exposures for the purpose of increasing the range of tones in an image beyond what is achievable in a single exposure. Many photographers reserve this term to distinguish automated processes that effect image tonality globally in a photograph, as distinct from manual blending techniques that allow highly selective control over tones in an image (see Exposure Blending above).

Luminosity Masking

A luminosity mask is a blending tool that allows precise targeting of tones in an image. The most common uses of a luminosity mask are exposure blending, dodging, and burning, but these masks are useful for a huge variety of editing tasks, including color work, light painting, adding light bleed, and creating custom Orton effects, among others. A luminosity mask is a type of “found mask”, which is any mask created from one of the eleven standard channels available in different image modes within Photoshop. The channel that all luminosity masks derive from is the Gray channel, which contains only the luminance values for a given image. Channels that contain color values, such as the Red or Blue channels, can also be very useful and work in the same way that luminosity masks do. Because found masks use gradations of tones or colors that exist as pixels in a photograph, they are much more precise for blending tasks than freehand masking is, and they are less likely to produce unwanted ‘halos’ and artifacts, as can happen easily with simple applications of hard-edged masks (that is, those created with selection tools such as the Lasso Tool). There are numerous Photoshop action sets available to create luminosity masks quickly and easily, the most popular being those available from Tony Kuyper.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Sean Bagshaw) | Example 2 (By Adrian Klein)

Hard Mask vs. Luminosity Mask

Stitching

Stitching refers to the process of seamlessly combining frames shot by panning a camera horizontally, vertically, or both. There are numerous standalone software programs for creating stitched images, and some are very sophisticated, allowing photographers to stitch together frames from very wide focal lengths and from different nodal points. Photoshop also has features that enable automated stitching, and of course manual solutions exist as well.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Marc Adamus) | Example 2 (By David Thompson)

Warping

Warping is a selective distortion of an image that has countless uses. Common examples include altering the relative proportions of certain parts of a scene, pulling unwanted edge details out of the frame, shifting regions of an image within the frame, correcting leaning features, and adding curvature to straight elements. Warping can be accomplished with the very edge of an ultra-wide-angle lens or with software tools, but blending with another layer of image data that contains normal proportions for the rest of the scene is usually necessary in either case. Although numerous software programs have warping features, Photoshop includes the most variety of them and offers the greatest amount of control, especially given the option to use masking for more targeted effects.

Click for more: Example 1 (By Ted Gore) | Example 2 (By David Thompson)

Backdraft by Erin Babnik

 

WHEN, WHY,  AND HOW MUCH?

My own preference is to use processing solutions creatively but conservatively, always striving for a high level of naturalism and subtlety and without creating images that have no basis in my own experiences. Nonetheless, those limitations are merely my preferences for my own output, and I enjoy seeing compelling photographs that push beyond the limits that I might set for myself. Perhaps the most important consideration for any type of processing is the rationale for choosing a particular technique. Like any decisions in art, those that work in the service of a creative goal are more likely to produce satisfying results. Anything done with intention tends to register with more viewers, allowing them to discover points where craft and ideas come together in powerful, meaningful displays of creative choice.

**Special thanks to the artists whose images are linked in this article and who collaborated with me on the selection of them!


Can you guess which of these techniques went into the photographs displayed in this article? Do you have any questions about any of these terms? Would you like to suggest terms for inclusion in future versions of this lexicon? If so, please feel free to chime in below.

 

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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 FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

Accessing Large Document PSB Files In Lightroom And Bridge

Monday, September 19th, 2016
First light on the Smoking Mountain, Fitz Roy.

First light on the Smoking Mountain, Fitz Roy.

The video tutorial below shows how to save image files that exceed the TIFF file size limit as PSB files and also how to access them in Lightroom and Bridge. This is a challenge that is becoming more common as digital camera resolution increases and as stitching multiple images to make super high resolution photos becomes more popular. I hope you find it helpful. If you have any questions or tips for working with large image files that you have found helpful make sure to share them in the comments section below.

As digital camera resolution continues to increase, with 30 to 50 MP cameras becoming the norm, and as photographers employ more advanced PS techniques with lots of layers, smart objects and luminosity masks, it is common to bump up against image file size limitations. PSD files have a maximum file size limit of 2GB. TIFF files have a 4GB size limit. Unfortunately Photoshop doesn’t do a good job of predicting final saved file size when there are a lot of layers, masks and smart objects involved. So even when the file size indicator shows a file size of less than 4GB you will often get an error message when trying to save. I find that many of my images indicate a file size of less than 3GB but actually exceed the 4GB size limit.

I frequently get questions from photographers wondering what to do when their images exceed the size limit. When an image exceeds the 4GB tiff limit the solution is to save it as a PSB file, where “B” stands for big. PSB files have a size limit of 4 exabytes! I had never heard of an exabyte before, but apparently it is a million terabytes, so the PSB format should do the trick for just about any image considering that my computer only has a measly 8 terabytes of hard drive space anyway.

PSB files are a the solution, but they don’t come without their own issues. You can see them in Bridge, but they don’t generate a thumbnail, so you can’t tell what the image is just by looking at it.

If you are a Lightroom user then you currently can’t even import PSB files into your Lightroom catalog at all. This is a problem for me because I do use LR extensively for cataloging and locating my images. If I don’t see an image in LR I quickly forget it even exists. It also means that I can’t include the image in Lightroom slide shows, collections or print it from Lightroom. Even if I do remember that I have a particular PSB image it is a hassle trying to hunt down where it is so I can open it in PS. It would really be nice if Adobe would add PSB support to Lightroom, but I’m not the first person to say this and so far they haven’t.

Until then, here is a solution that will enable you to see PSB images in Lightroom and Bridge. It’s less than perfect, but better than nothing. I’ll also mention that I didn’t figure this out. As with most of what I know about photography, I learned it through the kindness of others who are smarter than I am and I’m just paying the knowledge forward. Check out the video to see how to save PSB files and how to access them in Lightroom.

 

Sean is a full time photographer and photography educator. You can see more of his images and find out about his video tutorial courses and upcoming workshops, tours and classes on his website at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com.

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The Histogram – One of the Most Useful Tools in Photography

Wednesday, September 14th, 2016

by Zack Schnepf

I think the histogram is one of the most important and useful tools in all of photography.  It’s a tool I rely on throughout my entire workflow, but I notice it’s a concept that many students have a hard time fully understanding. It can be confusing at first, but once you understand your histogram, you can master your exposures. In this article I’ll share how I use the histogram and why I find it so usefulI.   I’ll discuss how I use it the field and in post production.

What is a histogram, how do you read it, and what information does it gives you?  Basically, a histogram is a graphical representation of the tonality of an image.  It shows what tones and colors exist in an image and the concentration of these tones.  Here is the basic anatomy of a histogram.  This histogram is from the image below of First Snow on Gothic Peak.  The left edge of the graph represents pure black, any tones beyond the left edge have no detail in them.  Conversely, the right edge represents pure white,  any tones beyond the right edge have no highlight detail, they are just pure white.  The middle of the graph represents the mid tones of the image.  So, left to right is the luminosity scale, or how bright or dark the tones are.  In this histogram you can see overlapping graphs of the three color channels RGB(red, green, blue) The height of the graphs indicates the concentration of tones of color and luminosity tones.  For instance, in the histogram you can see I have a spike in the blue channel toward the left side, that tells me I have a lot of dark blue tones in this image.  There is also a spike in the red channel right in the middle which tells me I have a large concentration of red midtones which you can see in the red foliage of the image.  The Height of the peaks is not important for judging exposure, so don’t worry how high the peaks are.  One of the most important things I look for in the field and in post processing is information that might be getting lost in either the shadows, or highlights.  In this histogram you can see that all of the information is being contained.  I can tell, because none of the color channel graphs are bumping into either edge.  I’ll elaborate on this further in the sections below.

HIstogram-Gothic3 _DSC4752-12x18

In the field, I rely on my histogram as a guide to give me an accurate assessment of each exposure I capture.  One of the biggest mistakes I see when teaching photo workshops is a student judging an exposure using the LCD on their camera.  I’ve been burned by this too many times to count.  I’ll be shooting in a low ambient light situation, take a quick look at the image on the LCD and think it looks great, but when I get home and view it on my computer I realize it’s way underexposed.  The low ambient light makes the image on the LCD seem really bright.  The only way to truly judge an exposure in the field is to check the histogram.   Below are 2 bracketed exposures of the same scene.  One exposed to capture the tones in the bright sky and the other exposed to capture the tones in the foreground area.  In the field, the darker exposure looked good on the LCD, you could even see detail in the foreground grasses, but one look at the histogram told me those foreground tones were way too dark.  You can see on the histogram for the darker exposure, the highlight detail is being captured well, there is no information being lost in the highlight, but there is a large spike next to the left edge of the histogram.  This indicates a high concentration of dark tones that contain very little detail.  I wanted to take another exposure to capture detail in the shadows.

Example4

 

This lighter exposure has plenty of detail in the shadows.  You can see in the histogram, the detail that was being lost in the shadows is being captured well.  There is now plenty of detail in the foreground grasses and stream.  On the other hand, the highlight tones are blowing out.  You can see there is a huge spike on the right edge of the histogram and it goes right up to the edge and beyond.  Anything beyond the edge has no detail in it.  This is what is known as a high dynamic range scene.  You could try to compromise and get an exposure in between and use Lightroom and Photoshop to recover the tones that are being lost, or you can bracket exposures and try to combine multiple exposures that contain a lot more information.  Either way, the histogram is the tool that will tell you if you have captured the information you need, or not.

Example3

In post production the histogram helps me determine which tonality adjustments to make.  Below is an image captured while teaching a workshop in the Palouse this spring.  You can see on the histogram, most of the color and luminance tones are concentrated in the middle and left side of the image.  This indicates that it is a low contrast, dark exposure.  This is important information to determine what post processing this image needs.  I would like to add contrast, but also brighten the image.

Example1

This is after one contrast adjustment.  I was able to increase contrast, brighten the image, and control some highlights that were getting too bright.  You can see the tones in the histogram are more spread out, but the highlights and shadows have plenty of detail information in them.  From here I can decide if want to add more contrast.  I can also lighten, or darken the overall exposure.  Either way, the histogram will help guide me to the finished image.

Example2

You can learn more about Zack and his instructional videos on his website

Outside the Box: Advice for Making Risky Creative Decisions

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

 

“The moment that you feel that, just possibly, you’re walking down the street naked, exposing too much of your heart and your mind and what exists on the inside, showing too much of yourself. That’s the moment you may be starting to get it right.”Neil Gaiman

Exhibiting any creative work entails some amount of risk. Anyone who has a reason to show their work to others has a reason to care about how well it is received. No creative photographer is ever entirely immune to fretting over that simple question that begs for consideration before the release of a new photograph: “Will they like it?” Even if all that is at stake is a feeling of accomplishment, the risk is real, especially for those photographs that we hold dearest.

The higher levels of risk involve decisions that take us outside our norms, whether they are departures from the conventions of a genre as a whole or simply from those of one’s own oeuvre. A risky decision might entail working in a certain type of light, featuring an obscure location, composing in an unconventional fashion, employing a new post-processing treatment, or any number of other decisions that might place us outside our comfort zones. The further we step out on a limb, the more unnerving it can be, so having a strong will is important for taking those steps. What follows is advice for making risky creative decisions with confidence, some thoughts to keep in mind when you feel as though you may be flying without a net.

Onward and Upward

Risk is essential to creative work. Taking risks is how we make progress, how we manage to put something of our own selves into our photographs, and how we can get that special taste of satisfaction for having done so. It is all too easy to fall into habits that seem to work well and that feel safe, and sometimes those habits can become limiting. Of course, there is a lot to be said for reaching a point of some consistency as an artist. Establishing what we like is crucial to self-expression, so consistency in a portfolio usually indicates a certain level of creative maturity. Nonetheless, if consistency drifts into habitual repetition, it ceases to be self-expression; at that point, it’s just rehashing. When you find yourself at a crossroads wondering if you should play it safe or take a risk on something, just remember that the latter option is likely to be more rewarding in the long run. Even if you deem it a failure at first, your decision may be a first step towards a development that you never could have imagined at the outset.

Sweet Emotion by Erin Babnik

Making a risky decision can feel like standing on the edge of a chasm, contemplating a jump. When I chose to use a fast shutter speed for this photo of a waterfall in the Graian Alps, I actually felt a considerable amount of anxiety about it, since smoothed out water is the norm for such subjects, even in my own output. I also took a risk in choosing a location that I had never seen photographed before, although I am more comfortable with that sort of risk because it is not unusual for me. Nonetheless, I thoroughly enjoyed shooting and processing this photo; despite the challenges involved, it was one of those rare images that seemed to pour right out of me with the greatest of ease, and that gave me the confidence to release it.

Move Towards, Not Away

Probably the strongest reason to make any unusual creative decision is because of a compulsion to do it. If we are genuinely drawn to an idea or are at least curious to see the results, then we are responding to an inner urge, following our own instincts. The opposite situation would be to make a decision to do something unusual for the mere sake of novelty, fixating on what we want to avoid instead of on what we find interesting. Creativity is the pursuit of ideas and the application of them, not a simple rejection of what came before. If a risky decision holds distinct appeal, then at least you know that you’re following your own nose when you carry it out, and that is usually reason enough to do it.

Goodwater by Erin Babnik

So-called “quiet” photos are inherently risky, since it is typically the more dramatic scenes that tend to draw the greatest responses. A small encrustation of salt makes a humble subject, but I had my own firm reasons for producing this photo of one.

Be in it for the Long Haul

When a photograph departs from some kind of norm, a portion of your audience may not ‘get’ it. Accept that familiarity is appealing to most people, and that not everyone who typically enjoys your photographs will cheer you on enthusiastically down whatever trail you may blaze. Even if your experiments do not result in immediate encouragement, there could be momentum building, and if that is the case, then you will only ever realize it if you stay the course. Regardless, doing something unconventional is gutsy, and that point in itself should provide a certain degree of satisfaction and motivation. Knowing that you are being true to yourself is a source of real power that can continue to propel you forward.

Moondance by Erin Babnik

I have photographed this particular Joshua tree on many occasions and have led numerous workshop participants to it so that they could enjoy it too. My go-to vantage point is from a different angle, from which the tree looks like a native American dreamcatcher, and my typical compositional scheme is utterly different, featuring long shadows as leading lines and a more traditional division of space. A bout of insomnia caused me to approach this tree at an unusual time and to have different ideas about it, producing a photo that is one of my all-time personal favorites.

Be Honest with Yourself

It is possible to convince ourselves that our accidents are happy ones, especially if we put a lot of effort into a photograph that ultimately missed a mark in some regard. If a photograph has some quality that is unusual simply because misfortune struck, then it should undergo special scrutiny. Sometimes the results of happenstance will be genuinely appealing and will inspire further experimentation along the same lines, but otherwise we need to let go. We should never allow a rescue mentality to convince us that an unsatisfactory photo is a bold act of creativity.

Thick Skin by Erin Babnik

Abstract photos are the least likely of any type of nature photo to generate a lot of interest. Ironically, this one turned out to be one of my most popular images, but I expected just the opposite before releasing it. My reasons for sharing it were many, but the expectation of success was not one of them.

Tomorrow is Another Day

Keeping perspective is important. No matter what you produce today, even if it amounts to the biggest feather in your cap, the next blank canvas awaits you. What ultimately matters most is the process of creation, which for a nature photographer means experiencing the outdoors, having responses to those experiences, and expressing those responses through the medium of photography. Everything that follows is peripheral and should not be allowed to derail the process. As the saying goes, just keep on keeping on—and above all, remember to have fun.

How do you handle risky decisions? Is there anything that you like to keep in mind to make them any easier? Please feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

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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 FacebookTwitter and 500px.

45 Things I Have Learned From Photography

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

Over the last couple years I have been taking notes on my phone of various thoughts on what I feel have learned from my time in photography. Hard to believe it’s been a decade now since I started to take it seriously. Along with these random thoughts I referenced some of my past presentation slides and some were created as I typed this post out. Those that know me should not be surprised. I like lists and that is really all this is! I am sure I will get the question… why 45? It’s simply because that is what I ended up with. It’s not some magic number that represents anything special.

Ground Rainbow
1.    New or expensive gear can be nice yet does not make you a better photographer. It’s good to follow what is coming out and changing without pulling out that credit card for every announcement.
2.    The rat race of social media is not worth fretting over counting likes, comments and shares. Sometimes you are ahead, sometimes you are behind.
3.    A sense of camaraderie and making friends in photography is very important. Don’t always fly solo.
4.    A good outdoor trip with few to no keepers is still better than being indoors. It’s the experience that helps shape who we are.
5.    In my early years I thought my work was awesome but it really stunk like a skunk and I am fine with that. Everyone starts somewhere. I can never stop growing and learning.
6.    Don’t under value your own work. Always selling your work for peanuts does not help you or the industry. It’s okay to say no to some requests.
7.    Be open to feedback, whether it’s praise or constructive critique. Simply being open to listening to others opinions does not mean you have to change your work. On the flip side be respectful when you provide feedback.
8.    No matter the accomplishments (or failures) it’s still a photo and I am still the same person. Don’t pat yourself on the back too much nor give yourself too hard of a time.
9.    Placing well or winning a well-known photography competition will not bring you fame or fortune.
10.    If you send a photo out to a client with a known flaw they will find it. I learned to always spend the money to reprint when needed.

Rock On!
11.    The one photo you post on your website that you can’t print large for whatever reason, is the one someone will request large.
12.    My horizon will be off by 2 degrees no matter what tools I use in the field. Horizon correction software was made for people like me.
13.    Abstract photos often get little love online (or in general) but I post them anyway because I love them. Even when photography is a business there needs to times when it’s be purely for you.
14.    Everyone has at least one piece of equipment they will regret going the ultra-cheap route. Mine was remotes going through 6 in about a year before learning my lesson.
15.    Although I love to travel I won’t be able to visit every place on the planet that I see in other photographers photos. I am fine with this. Be happy where you can get to and just enjoy getting out.
16.    In nature photography there’s much more than photographing colorful sunrises and sunsets day in and day out. Don’t forget to look down and all around at all times of the day and in all weather.
17.    Trying to ‘fix’ a photo in post processing that was shot poorly is usually like trying to salvage a half sunken ship. Get it right from the beginning.
18.    The most amazing sky an hour or two before sunset will often end up being the biggest dud by the time the golden hour comes.
19.    Sometimes you need to leave the camera behind (or stop chasing new scenes) and focus on family. Trying to do both all the time won’t make you or the family happy.
20.    Taking an amazing photo, whatever that means at the time for me, does bring a sense of elation and high that likely only other photographers understand.

Snowline II
21.    I went through a funk more than once where photography carried little interest or inspiration to me for months. We all go through phases. Let it ride knowing you will come out on the other side.
22.     Collaborate where and when you can. I wouldn’t be writing this blog post for the Photo Cascadia site right now if I wasn’t open to collaborating with others (who in the end have become good friends).
23.    Your equipment will fail you at the most inopportune time if you photograph enough. I have many stories with a full corrupt CF card from a wedding where I was the sole photographer near the top.
24.    Try saying “Woah look at the body!” out loud at work while viewing the latest camera online. Guarantee you will get some interesting looks and responses.
25.    No I won’t license my image for free to use in an article where you will place my website URL while I will wait for the inquiries to purchase my work come pouring in.
26.    It’s okay to compare your work to others as a means of learning and growing with your photography. Doing it thinking others are good and you’re not is self-destructive.
27.    I am merely a single pixel in a very large sensor we call earth and a tiny blimp on the radar of time. I don’t take myself too seriously and neither should you.
28.    Nature photography and loving the outdoors is something my wife and I had in common when we met and still do today. I am always thankful for the support she shows to this endeavor called photography.
29.    I try not criticizing others work solely because it doesn’t align with what I think is great photography. Simply because I don’t think it is great doesn’t mean it’s any less worthy.
30.    I have learned as much (or more) from bad photos as from good photos I have taken. It’s never a complete waste.

Rocky Candy
31.    You can do pretty much anything in post processing except replicating what a good polarizer can do when it comes to removing glare. It’s not a tool to leave behind.
32.    No matter how well you know your equipment there will be a time(s) you make a rookie mistake. When taking photos the day after night photography don’t forget to bring down that ISO or changing back to RAW after photographing your kids soccer game.
33.    Take risks with your photography without risking your life. If you are not around to enjoy taking photos it obviously wasn’t worth it.  Fortunately I am here to write this.
34.    Study. Whether it’s studying how you take photos in the field or studying photography online or many other ways, it’s all important to avoid becoming stagnant. The only constant in life is change.
35.    If you care about your photos read the fine print before submitting to photography contests. You may be giving the rights away without knowing it.
36.    Don’t worry much about ‘comp stomping’ as being original with every photo today is hard even in best of intentions. Your style and creativity will come in time.
37.    It’s not worth the effort and cost to print my own work. I will always use a lab.
38.    Take time to get your work printed even if it’s small prints or books. It’s a shame to leave everything you photograph to online viewing only. Viewing your work printed is seeing it in a different light.
39.    Be leery of projects that require investment of time and or money that give a guaranteed return for someone else but not you. I have been burned a couple times not seeing the warning signals soon enough.
40.    Use your animal instincts and don’t forget to chimp before you leave the scene. Coming home and saying @%#&! because you missed something that would have been an easy correction is painful.

Morning Transitions
41.    If you don’t own a good tripod and ball head, stop reading this article now and go buy one immediately. All the best equipment means little with nature photography if your tripod sucks.
42.    Leading workshops is hard work to do it right. If you don’t care about being a true guide/teacher to others and it’s only for the all mighty dollar or to simply grow your personal photo collection, do everyone a favor and don’t hold workshops.
43.    No matter how much technology advances understanding composition is paramount. The best camera technology isn’t going to set the camera up for you, tell where to place your tripod legs and what to focus on… at least not yet.
44.    Watching your children taking their first photos that are more than snap-shots is a very cool and rewarding feeling. Especially when they are as excited about it as you are.
45.    Less is more. Do what you can to simplify elements in your composition. One of the larger challenges as nature photographers is to take busy and chaotic scenes from Mother Nature to make a compelling photograph.

I am sure I could keep typing with endless thoughts on what I have learned from photography yet this is good stopping point and enough to ponder for those that took the time to get this far in my post. Whether you have been interested in photography for 45 days or 45 years, feel free to share what you have learned from your time behind the camera.

Photogenic Light: Alternatives to Photographing Landscapes at Sunrise or Sunset

Monday, July 18th, 2016

 

The digital era has ushered in an abundance of stunning landscape photographs that represent clouds ablaze with color at sunrise or sunset. Thanks to increasingly capable cameras and software, photographing fiery skies and developing those images has never been easier. The wonderful visual impact of vibrant colors will surely guarantee the appeal of such scenes until the end of time, but there are many other options for creating compelling photographs of grand vistas. Here are some suggestions for types of light that can be very photogenic for large, scenic views.

1 ) Ambient Light

Even when the sun is well below the horizon, particles in the air can reflect its light, casting a soft ambient glow across the land. This type of light can be very subtle and warm, producing pleasing, feathered shadows and allowing colors and textures to appear very distinct. Once an area begins to receive direct light, shadows form hard edges and become strong elements on their own, often cutting across the lines of other forms. In areas where the lines of the land itself are what you want to feature, it is usually best to avoid hard shadows that complicate the scene. Locations that work particularly well with ambient light are those with interesting textures and with varying elevation of the terrain. Soft, warm light of any sort is great for bringing out colors, so colorful land can be particularly photogenic in ambient light as well.

Quiet Riot

2) Dappled Light

Dappled light occurs when the sun is still relatively high and cloud cover is about fifty percent or more. The effect of soft shadows alternating with bright, spotlit areas can be very dramatic. In these sorts of conditions, the light tends to change very quickly, so it’s often a good idea to find a composition and then wait and watch for a while. When your primary point of interest gets picked out by a spot of light, you’re likely to come away with an exciting photograph.

Getting Close

3) Diffused Light

Even overcast conditions can show off the special qualities of certain locations. A solid layer of clouds can act like a giant soft box when the sun is above them, diffusing its light enough to soften shadows. Like ambient light, diffused light works well for locations with a lot of textures.

Curve Appeal

4) Twilight/Night

Twilight is often called the “Blue Hour” by photographers because of the rich blue hues that the sky takes on while the sun is not very low beneath the horizon. This period is a great time to photograph the moon or to feature textures on the ground that appear clearly when reflecting soft light. After the sky goes black, it becomes a somewhat vacant space in an image until it is dark enough for the stars to shine brightly or for the colors of the Milky Way to be visible. I am placing twilight and night in the same category because landscape photographers often combine exposures of both for better handling of dynamic range in night scenes. A so-called “twilight blend” entails shooting the land portion of a scene at twilight and then leaving the camera in place on its tripod until the stars come out and can be captured in a second exposure (or the reverse order in the case of sunrise).

Nowhere

These four types of light are not the only alternatives to photographing scenic views at sunrise or sunset, but they can be especially fruitful. With the right combination of light and location, it is possible to produce compelling, expansive scenes at any time of the day. Creating photographs in different types of light can provide your portfolio with great variety and depth, and it will give you more options for the sheer enjoyment of photographing landscapes.

If you have any questions about these suggestions or would like to add to them, please feel free to leave a comment below!

 

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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 FacebookTwitter and 500px.