Archive for the ‘Photography Business’ Category

A Trip Report From Our Northern Lights Fairbanks, Alaska Photo Tour – Kevin McNeal

Monday, May 4th, 2015
A Warm Winter Cabin-Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

A Warm Winter Cabin-Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

On social media I get asked all sorts of questions but one of the questions a lot of people are curious about is what happens when a photographer takes a photo tour and what can they expect.

So for this blog I am sharing my trip report from my recent travels to Fairbanks Alaska and what we did and some of the places we visited as well as the activities the group did together.

The 2015 Fairbanks Photo Safaris Tour started off with an introduction dinner at Pike’s Restaurant. This gave everyone a chance to know a little about everyone in the group. After dinner with a promising Aurora Borealis forecast for that evening we decided to get an early start and head up to a great hilltop view called Mount Skiland. This 360 view of Fairbanks and the surrounding area gave an excellent place to photograph Northern Lights. We had been blessed earlier in the week with a lot of new fresh snow and this really made for some spectacular winter landscapes. When combined with the Northern Lights we could not have asked for a better setting. The group was given an orientation on where to best to photograph the lights and had a nice hot cup of hot chocolate. It wasn’t long after the orientation that the magic began and the dark sky had now become dancing beams of vivid greens and reds. Our first night had been a success and we all headed back to the hotel exhausted but too excited to sleep.

Historic Winter - Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

Historic Winter – Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

The next morning we awoke to sunny skies and snowy surroundings. Some of the group slept-in while others enjoyed a breakfast. After breakfast the group headed out to watch Dog Mushing at the Alaska Dog Mushers Association. The timing could not have been any better as we got to witness a timed trial race where competitors came from all over the world to race. The race would consist of teams of four and six team dog sled races that would race against the clock and their times would be cumulatively added over the two days. Teams of dog mushers would come rushing down the tracks every two minutes with excitement in the racers eyes and voices. They had a way of communicating with one another that was fascinating to hear. We decided to split the group in half as some wanted to photograph the starting line and others wanted to shoot within the snow capped forest. The event lasted most of the afternoon and everyone came away with some great action shots of the dogs and the dog mushers. With everyone hungry from all the action we headed to a close Italian restaurant named Geraldo’s that served some excellent food that really hit the spot. It was nice as the also had a buffet that people really could dig into and really try different types of food. Later that night after some rest at the hotel we got together for a nice dinner at the Cookie Jar Restaurant. This experience will soon not be forgotten as we had a very funny waitress who was very forthcoming with suggestions and places to eat while in Fairbanks. The group ate well as we had another night of photographing the Northern Lights ahead of us. With full stomachs and dressed warmly we headed back to the same area as the night before. Mount Skiland worked out well as it offered a warm chalet for participants to warm up and eat while waiting. Inside the chalet the TV on the wall were hooked up to the webcams so that everyone could see whether the lights were happening. This was a really nice bonus, as we could all stay warm while we waited anxiously. Within a short period the lights had appeared as promised and we were given another magic show where no of the group left disappointed. With several different areas to shoot everybody got a chance shoot from multiple perspectives in photograph the lights in all directions. Although the temperatures were cold this did not matter to anyone in the group. After hours of dazzling light and excitement the group headed back to the hotel.

A Cold Morning In The Hills Of Alaska

A Cold Morning In The Hills Of Alaska

With are success from the past day of dog mushing we decided to head out and photograph the dog mushers again but try different viewpoints. We also got a chance to see some of the dogs come out of the kennels and hear some background history on the sport. It was a nice chance to see a wide spectrum of dog mushing and all the events that go into a successful event. After dog mushing we headed to the iconic Daddy’s Barb-b-Que for some excellent ribs. At the restaurant we got a chance to take lots of group photos and relive some of your favorite moments thus far. After lunch the group famished from a good meal headed back to the hotel for some rest.

Later that afternoon we all attended the Ice Sculptures and Carving that presented some of the world’s best ice carvers. We decided to head there around sunset so we could photograph the ice sculptures against the backdrop of the sunset, which turned out very nicely. As the sun disappeared and the night set in we then got to shoot the ice sculptures at night when the lights spotlighted the ice carvings.

After a full evening of shooting the ice carvings we went for dinner at the Pikes Landing, which provided some warmth and time to relax. This was well needed as we headed out for another successful night of photographing the aurora borealis after dinner.

The next morning the group packed up as we had a late lunch and headed out of Fairbanks to the Chena Hot Springs Resort. The resort has always been one of the top destinations in the world to view Northern Lights and has several winter activities to keep everyone busy during the day. Later in the day we got settled into our new rooms and headed back to the restaurant for some tasty food. We got a chance to all eat in a private room and enjoy some of the five star food. We all well knowing we had a exciting night ahead of us photographing the lights. The group assembled together as dark settled in and we had arranged a snow coach to take the group up to the top of the mountain overlooking the resort. The view was second to none and provided and excellent vantage point for shooting the lights. While waiting for the show to start we all enjoyed some hot chocolate inside the warm lit yurt. The group got a chance to listen to a live band while waiting. Shortly there after the sky turned vivid colors of green and the group got another night of shooting under the magic skies of Alaska.

The next morning the group got out together to shoot around the resort as the winter snow had provided some idyllic scenes for photographing. We got to shoot some frozen ponds, hoar frost trees, and the sun rising through the snow capped trees. It wasn’t long after that that our hungry was calling out for lunch while others enjoyed some time in the hot springs which was a highlight for some of the group. With a short rest the group met up again for a private tour of the dog mushing and history of the events. This was a nice chance to get to pet the dogs as well as photograph them. All of the dogs were excited to have company and provided lots of excitement. We met for dinner later in the afternoon and were met with excellent food again.

As the light faded and the night began the group decided to shoot the Northern lights around the resort to shoot different subjects with the lights. There was plenty to shoot as we had igloos, barns, abandoned cabins, rivers, birch trees, and even an airplane to shoot under the stunning sky. We shoot until the early hours of the morning before retiring for the night.

The next morning some of the group got together to explore the outer regions of the resort and find new possibilities for the upcoming evening of Northern Lights. With a stunning rustic atmosphere the settings could not have been better for shooting. The group throughout the day got some time to relax and take another dip in the Hot Springs. With some of the new possibilities the group headed out for another night of lights where the group leader had brought out his yellow tent and made some different options for subjects. The group huddled around the tent as the Alaskan sky had not let us down. The night had lit up and the night could be heard with cheers all night from its audience.

Night after night we had been fortunate enough to see the Aurora Borealis and capture it in some of the most stunning winter conditions. The group had a chance to photograph in a variety of settings and even had a chance to experiment with different settings

The next morning we all conversed about how lucky we had been to see the magic of nature and headed back to Fairbanks for one last goodbye dinner at the famous Pump House Restaurant. Here we relived the experiences and talked about our favorite things we had seen. We even got the opportunity to try some of the local food that was pretty impressive.

On a full stomach we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved rest. The photo tour had come to a rest but we knew the memories would last a lifetime.

Sunset From Mount Skiland-Fairbanks, Alaska

Sunset From Mount Skiland-Fairbanks, Alaska


What You May Not Know About Photo Cascadia Team Members

Monday, March 23rd, 2015

As our newsletter subscribers might know over the last last year we have taken turns pointing the lens on each of us to provide more insight to us personally. Since these were spread out among a half dozen newsletters we thought it would be good to post a recap that includes all of them. Besides we were not always good on following up to mention the myth found from a handful of truths of for the prior newsletter. Now we are rectifying that with all of them here.

If you did not receive the newsletter here is a speedy recap what we did. We published a listing of five things about one PC team member in a newsletter. One of the five is a myth, simply made up. four are true. The goal was to allow newsletter subscribers to guess which is the false one. If a person did respond correctly they would go in a drawing with others that guessed the same for a free 8×12 print of their choice. I don’t have a list of who all won yet I know some were guessed correctly by one or more viewers yet not that was not the case for all team members. Some are easier than others.

Without further rambling here they are for reading pleasure with a photo of each team member in their element… outdoors. Answers are separate at the bottom of the post for those that would like to take a stab at guessing.

 Kevin McNeal

  1. Failed the only photography course he ever took.
  2. Made ski movies when he was younger.
  3. Traveled around the world as a DJ.
  4. He likes to eat vegetables and seafood.
  5. Just out of high school bought a Porsche.














Chip Phillips

  1. Has performed onstage with Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Ben Folds, Brandi Carlile, and Peter Cetera.
  2. One of his cars is a red 1988 VW Cabriolet.
  3. Has never used a traditional film darkroom
  4. Was a child actor and in a commercial for Burger King.
  5. He is not afraid of bees, but is of spiders.











Zack Schnepf

  1. He reads 25-50 books per year on average.
  2. He grew up in the redwoods of northern California, but has never been back to photograph.
  3. In addition to photography, he enjoys surfing, mountain biking, snowboarding, and backcountry exploration.
  4. Has never used a traditional film darkroom.
  5. Owned cameras made by the following manufacturers: Sony, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Apple, and GoPro.















Adrian Klein

  1. Did wedding and portrait photography full time for over a year before deciding to move back to landscape photography.
  2. Almost got blown off a mountain summit with his wife. The tent was sideways and he could not see where he was when he woke up. He ripped open a mesh window to get out.
  3. Has traveled to all the National Parks in the states of Oregon and Washington.
  4. First backpack experience felt a big adventure he embarked on. He now takes his young kids to the same location. It’s only 2 miles and 500 ft of elevation gain.
  5. Grew up at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge playing in a creek on his property catching crawdads and hiking through the woods.

The Hills are Alive











David Cobb

  1. He owned a music distribution company.
  2. He’s an avid guitar player.
  3. He’s held two state swimming records.
  4. He walked across the Yukon and NW Territories.
  5. He played in baseball’s Babe Ruth World Series.











Sean Bagshaw

  1. Pole vaulted in China.
  2. Reached the summit of Mt. McKinley on two separate expeditions.
  3. Lost a $5 bet with Galen Rowell when Galen successfully ran cross country at high altitude in time to capture his famous Rainbow Over the Potala Palace image in Tibet.
  4. Played in a 1990s bagpipe marching band, kilt and all.
  5. Partied with Woody Harrelson and his posse at a U2 concert.












Answers – the following are not true.

Kevin #4 – He likes to eat vegetables and seafood. Kevin does not like either of them. I know first hand from traveling with him.

Chip #5 – He is not afraid of bees, but is of spiders. Chip does not like bee’s at all but doesn’t mind spiders.

Zack #5 – Has never used a traditional film darkroom. Although he became an expert in Photoshop early in the DLSR age Zack has spent time in the darkroom.

Adrian #3 – Has traveled to all the National Parks in the states of Oregon and Washington. He has not been to the North Cascades NP yet.

David #2 – He’s an avid guitar player. David does not play the guitar.

Sean #3 – Lost a $5 bet with Galen Rowell when Galen successfully ran cross country at high altitude in time to capture his famous Rainbow Over the Potala Palace image in Tibet. He wishes he did but it’s not true.



Life in Focus Mini Series

Saturday, December 14th, 2013

By Adrian Klein

Last winter f-stopgear’s videographer (Cam) came out to the Northwest for a couple days of adventure to follow me around in my element as part of the company’s Life in Focus mini-series. They picked a group of their staff pro’s to partake in the project. I feel fortunate to have been included.

Cam did a top-notch job on the video and post production work. The colors and mood really show what it’s like to be hiking around the damp cool forests of the Northwest in winter. Below are some links to check out the video as well as text interview with f-stopgear.

Happy viewing and reading…

Full text interview on Phoblographer.

Here are some images from the video shoot. We were fortunate to have some pretty amazing conditions.

Valley Glow

Valley Glow near Mount Hood National Forest













Final Flames of Fall

Final Flames of Fall in the Columbia River Gorge













Fog Shrouded

Fog Shrouded Forest













Stormy Blues

Stormy Blues in the Columbia River Gorge on a moody sunset

















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The Photoshop Creative Cloud Conundrum: Stick To Your Guns or Bite The Bullet? by Sean Bagshaw

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

If I’m going to spend time writing an article I would much rather be writing about a creative image developing technique or sharing stories and images from a recent photo trip than debating the merits of a software company’s business choices. However, in this case, I’m making an exception because, not including my actual camera equipment, Adobe Photoshop is the single most important tool I use. I know this is the case for many people who follow the PhotoCascadia blog as well. Now was the time to write because the decision to move to Adobe’s Creative Cloud subscription model or stick with Photoshop CS6 is becoming somewhat time sensitive.

Unfortunately, Images like this one are only possible with the use of layer masking techniques in Photoshop.

If you are not already a Photoshop CS user or if you have already subscribed to Adobe’s Creative Cloud, this conversation probably doesn’t impact or interest you much. If you are not aware of the factors involved in making the choice, allow me to bring you up to speed.

For a few years, Adobe has been developing a cloud based, subscription model for most of its professional software, including Photoshop. In the first half of 2013 they announced that while Photoshop CS6 would still be available for purchase and supported (for an undisclosed duration), they would no longer be offering new versions of CS under the old perpetual license model. Owning a perpetual license means that once you pay for the software you are able to use it indefinitely. Instead, anyone who wants to use updated versions of Photohshop must move to Photoshop Creative Cloud (CC), which is only available with a subscription and not a perpetual license. Under Adobe’s current subscription terms, you can only use the software as long as you pay for a subscription.

I’m not opposed to the cloud concept or a subscription model per se. There are many advantages and the actual experience of using Photoshop is effectively unchanged. The Creative Cloud enables Adobe to release updates and new features in real time instead of waiting for the release of a new version. It also gives Photoshop some cloud based functionality and connectivity that many people may find useful. I can also see why it is a good business model for Adobe. Perhaps the most fundamental is that as a program matures it isn’t possible to produce monumental upgrades and improvements as frequently. With fewer people feeling new versions are worth the upgrade price, the subscription model is one way to ensure a continued income stream necessary to stay profitable as a business.

There have been a host of inaccurate fears and rumors floating around the web that caused the real issues related to Creative Cloud to become a bit obscured. Some are about not being able to use Photoshop CC unless connected to the Internet or only being able to store image files in the cloud and not on your computer. Such concerns aren’t founded. This article does a good job of clearing up many of these erroneous concerns.

TIF or PSD files containing Photoshop layers can't be opened by software from other companies and are not fully supported by Adobe programs like Lightroom of Photohsop Elements.

TIF or PSD files containing Photoshop layers can’t be opened by software from other companies and are not fully supported by Adobe programs like Lightroom or Photohsop Elements.

Initially there was also a big backlash from Photoshop CS users about the price of a Photoshop CC subscription. At $20 a month for a “Single App” subscription, the cost of subscribing to Photoshop is more than double the cost of upgrading a perpetual Photoshop license with every other new version, which has been the requirement.

There is also concern in the Photoshop user community that the terms of the Creative Cloud subscription stipulate that when a subscription is no longer paid that Photoshop CC becomes deactivated. This is perhaps the bigger concern for me. For example,  if I was to stop a subscription to Photoshop CC after 10 years of paying $20 a month, a $2400 expense, I would essentially be left with nothing. True, I would still have all my image files and the freedom to access them with other software. Unfortunately, as someone who uses Photoshop layers as part of a non-destructive workflow (one of the main reasons to use Photoshop in the first place), all of my layered PSD and TIF files would still only be accessible by Photoshop. So really, once I move to CC I am pretty much committed for life and this just doesn’t seem right.

There are a few applications available that are coming close to replacing the functionality of Photoshop, but to date they are not fully compatible with or have all the capability of Photoshop’s layers and layer masks. They might provide a good alternative for people not dependent on Photoshop’s layer system. I will keep an eye on them for future expansion of functionality and compatibility with Photoshop layers. Two that seem particularly promising are GIMP and PhotoLine.

For now it is still possible to go back to CS6 once a subscription to CC is terminated and Adobe has said it will support CS6 with the next version of both Mac and PC operating systems. Whether they will continue support beyond that is not known, but it seems unlikely that CS6 will still function on the operating systems of 2024.

My suggestion to Adobe was to use the model cell phone companies do. Subscribers commit to a two year subscription. At the end of the two years one can choose not to re-up. The software would still work (like your cell phone still works after the contract ends), but will stop receiving updates and support. Renewing the subscription for another two years would keep the updates and support flowing. Needless to say, they haven’t taken me up on my suggestion yet.

So, what’s the conundrum you may ask? It seems pretty cut and dry. Either you do not accept the Creative Cloud subscription terms and you make due with CS6, or you do accept the terms and you get a subscription and move on.

It turns out that in September Adobe made the decision even more challenging. Essentially they bet that some holdouts might give up principles for the right price. Responding to the outcry and lack of subscriptions from photographers they offered a special Photography Package to anyone who already owns Photoshop CS3 or newer, providing an upgrade to Photoshop CC plus Lightroom 5 for $10 a month with a one year contract, seemingly a much more reasonable deal. The hitch is that the offer expires at the end of December, placing pressure on holdouts such as myself to resign to sticking with CS6 forever, giving in and subscribing now or paying $20 a month for Photoshop CC at some point in the future. Well played Adobe. Note: within hours of posting this article I learned that Adobe has now opened it’s $10 per month Photoshop CC + Lightroom 5 subscription to anyone until December 2, 2013. (no previous Photoshop CS purchase required). Read more here.

So what have I decided to do? I bit the bullet and signed up but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should too. For the type of image developing I do, there aren’t really any other options than Photoshop. Since part of my job is as a digital photography educator it is also important that I’m teaching with the most current tools. Without new versions of CS coming I’m pretty sure I would be forced to subscribe to CC eventually. I decided it would be better to try it out at $10 a month now than be forced into it at $20 a month later. After my year is up I will take a look at how, and if, the subscription model has evolved and determine how to proceed from there.

What are you doing or going to do? Feel free to leave a comment with your thoughts on the matter. They may help others decide whether to stick to their guns or bite the bullet.

Protecting and Tracking Your Images Online

Sunday, November 3rd, 2013

By Adrian Klein

I touched on this topic in early 2012 on this blog with the post New Photography Copyright Laws – Where Do You Stand when SOPA and PIPA were the buzz acronyms making their way through the online world. Although that buzz died down the subject of image copyright continues to be a topic that brings many passionate opinions. The vast majority of us share our work online for good or for bad. Frankly I am not sure how you would maximize your photo business starting out today without an online presence including social media.  Meaning we need to be taking proactive measures to protecting  our work even though the reality is if you want 100% assurance it’s never used without your knowledge you simply cannot post it online.

On this topic a few weeks back I decided to do a little searching with tools at my disposal. Most links took me to social media sites where people marked my work as a favorite or shared it with their friends or otherwise benign uses. Whether you agree with me or not I am not going to get wrapped up in every little usage like some folks do, it’s simply not worth my time. I am primarily concerned with businesses that would be using it in way that can help with their profit or cause (using on website, in publication, etc). That said it did not take too much time to uncover uses of my work that I did not agree with and was unaware of.

Searching Online

GoogleImages and TinEye

Looking for my images online I used the two most common solutions, Google Images and  TinEye. They seem to do pretty well and comparing the two I found more links with my work on Google Images than TinEye . Likely you already know of these yet if have not used them before and you have images posted online it’s worth some time to see if what they come back with your images. I do question the relevance of Google’s “Visually Similar Images” search returns. Often it was similar in colors but nothing more.

I then reached out to the offenders found during my searches and infringing uses were removed promptly. In one case I had good dialogue with a office manager that seemed to genuinely lack an understanding on which images are okay or not okay to use online. Regardless if the company is playing ignorant or not, they are paying my invoice for what I feel is a small sum for illegal use of my image by a business.

Register Images

Regardless of what I talk about in the below sections one step is register your work with the US Copyright Office (for those of you reading this in the United States). This is the legal way to show you as the copyright owner of the photographs/images. Yes I know the moment an image is captured by a photographer it’s copyright is owned by that person yet legally that is not enough for most lawyers to take a case.  There is always the chance images can be used illegally before you submit if you post through social media,blogs or websites frequently and submit infrequently to the copyright office. However the cost is cheap ($35) plus it’s easy to do, and it could help you down the road. I admit to falling behind on this and the images I had issues with were more recent and I had not registered them. Updated submission is complete and in the mail.

Digital Watermarking


Another solution is applying a digital watermark to an image, in essence a fingerprint. Then a system crawls the web like a spider to return where your image is found (sounds like someone talking late 90’s world wide web speak). There are a number of solutions out there for putting “invisibile” watermarks on images yet for this post I will cover Digimarc for Images (DFI) by Digimarc. I put invisible in quotes since it’s not completely invisible in all cases which I get into detail below. I went with Digimarc for a number of reasons including how long they have been a leader in this space.

As a Photoshop user (most reading this are) you will already see Digmarc as an option under Filters. The thing is that unless you subscribe to the service the tracking data associated to the watermark cannot be modified and you cannot access their search database online. Both pretty important pieces. In order to get full functionality and access to their search database you need to signup.

For the majority of us posting quality looking web sized images online is important. If it’s too soft or too sharp or too pixaleted or other image degradation issues it’s not very inviting to potential viewers. That is why it’s important to pay close attention when applying the watermark.

Digmarc has videos and FAQs to help but here my steps to add:

1)    Complete all your normal processing to the point you are ready to save for web (the digital watermark should be your last step).
2)    In Photoshop go to Filter –> Digimarc –> Embed Watermark
3)    Here choose what settings you want (if any) besides your Digimarc ID and the strength of the watermark. I normally choose strength 3 (default)
4)    Click okay and the watermark is applied to the image

Here is where you need to decide whether to make additional changes to the file before saving it. Personally there places on certain images where it’s too noticeable for my liking (I wish they could truly make it invisible).  The problem areas I notice most is clear skies and dark portions of an image. I don’t like seeing it, I paint out the watermark in these spots and leave it on the rest. After doing this I do the following to test the strength of the watermark.

1)    Go to Filter –> Digimarc –> Read Watermark
2)    Ideally it does not erase very much leaving strength in medium to high range. If the strength moves to low then you need to decide what is more important, the watermark strength or presentation.

Here are examples of images where you can clearly see the difference with and without watermark and other images where is almost no difference to the eye.

AlvordDesert-092713_0234-PC Blog

AlvordDesert-092713_0191-PC Blog

So how is Digimarc panning out for me? That is a good question I can answer down the road. I just started using the service and they say it takes at least a month before a user can potentially start seeing results through their online reporting tool. Additionally most of my work does not have DFI watermarking, meaning images already out there won’t found. I figure if they can report even a small number of unknown uses that other free tools are not picking up it’s worth the reasonable subscription price.

Use Discount Code = Cascadia20 to get 20% off a Digimarc subscription. If you have questions once you are signed up their customer service is great. I have had several questions and all were answered in significant detail within a couple business days.

Beyond using digital watermarking there are two other things I feel everyone should continue to do. Although neither of these will stop anyone from using your image they help keep honest people honest. It’s like locking the doors to your car.

1)    Metadata: Ensure you have correct copyright and contact info in the metadata of your file. I have my name, website and copyright along with title, description and keywords.
2)    Visible Watermark: Although the watermark was Photoshopped or cropped in cases I discovered that led me to this blog post, I still believe a relatively non-intrusive watermark of your name or company is beneficial.

Do you agree we should proactively take steps to protect or track our images before posting online? Have you cancelled your social media accounts over fears of illegal usage? What are your experiences and thoughts on this subject?

Photography Contests – Worth it or Worthless?

Friday, August 9th, 2013

By Adrian Klein

I recently thought about the fact that I have entered very few photography contests these days as my email seems to be filled with more and more contests to enter. I rarely go a week without at least a handful it seems. I remember looking for every opportunity to submit work to photo contests a number of years back. Now days I care less which is the result of a number of factors ranging from not seeing the overall value and many contests being about amassing their own stock photography collection.

Don’t get me wrong it can be rewarding to do well whether it’s local or international and I still occasionally enter them. I have been fortunate to do well a few times in the past yet I feel that has less to do with my photography and more to do with timing of the right judge(s). Photography is very subjective and what makes one judge say “WOW” does not mean another will think the same. Even though in Photo Cascadia we have very similar tastes I guarantee there would be differences with all of us sitting on a judging panel together.

Assuming you are interested in entering photo contests here are some areas to consider to ensure it’s worth your time and finances.

Reasons to Enter…

Prizes: Many contests provide prizes albeit you pretty much need to get first or grand prize in most large contests to walk away with more than a small reward of cash or prizes. Then you have to see if the prizes really are of interest to you. Getting another camera bag may be of little value if you have half a dozen already. One prize I won a while back was a several hundred dollar rugged portable hard drive. I actually still use it today; that contest turned out worthwhile for me.

Prizes can be trophies or awards too. I have a few that I have kept from photography. The satisfaction of having your name engraved on something tangible does not stop after finishing that youth season of snoopy soccer league while getting handed a trophy at the local restaurant end-of-season celebration.

Fame: By fame I really mean recognition. This is likely the biggest reason the majority of photographers will enter a contest. We all want our 10 minutes of fame. Doing well in a contest and getting a pat on the back by your peers is never a bad thing, it certainly can feel good and can give a barometer on how you are doing amongst other photographers. Additionally if it’s a juried gallery show you might get additional exposure.

I think this is where the expectations should stop for the fame reasoning. Photographers that believe winning a contest will also translate into selling more prints or stock of their work should think again. I am not saying there won’t be any residual affect yet the orders are not likely to come pouring in.

Supporting a Cause: Entering a contest because a significant portion of the money goes to a cause that you believe in is a good thing. I would say these are few but they are certainly out there. Many might give a very small portion to an organization or cause yet it likely won’t be a healthy percentage.

There are a couple I have entered that fall into this category, more like cash donations because the majority of the entrance fee goes to support the cause.

The Fine Print: Although not really a reason to enter it’s something that should be paid close attention to. Most of us won’t take the time to read 15 pages of terms and conditions when installing the latest version of Photoshop on our computer yet there some sections for photo contests you should always read

  • Categories and Costs: Should you do well you want to make sure you are submitting under the correct category and paying accordingly. The price can range quite a bit from student to professional submissions. Most common categories; student, amateur/hobbyist, professional. Some contests may state that making any money in photography you are consider a professional even if you do not consider yourself as one, read the fine print.
  • Usage Rights: This is a big one and I feel is the reason a lot of professionals I know are very selective about the contests they enter. For many contests simply entering your photos gives the company(s) running the contest licensing rights to them and their affiliates or subsidiaries. If it’s just using the image to promote the contest that is not giving up much yet if it’s giving it up in many other ways and for many years to come it should cause you to pause and decide if it’s worth it.

Contests to Enter: These are merely some suggestions that I have entered at one point or another that I feel are worthwhile. There are certainly others too.

What is your take on photography contests with the number of amazing photos out there today and the plethora of contests, are they worth it or not so much?

Photography Website Options

Monday, July 1st, 2013

By Adrian Klein

Recently I put together a new photography website. I have had a number of people ask about it. Did I build it? Did I use a template service? Is it custom? Today there many options available that makes the process fairly painless for a pretty robust site. Building and maintaining my own site from scratch, is something I stopped doing about seven years ago when I was just starting to turn photography into a business. Here is the homepage to that site.

My Old Homepage

My Old Homepage

Although I had fun coding, using Dreamweaver WYSIWYG and designing the interactive pieces like roll-over images the website functionally was rapidly changing and it was more than I wanted to do on my own.

This was around 2007 and although there were template website services available they greatly lacked personalization with limited configuration. It was not hard to go to a photography website and know exactly which template program it was built with. I went down this road out of convenience.  The first solution I had (which will remain nameless since I am not out slam any company) was one of the worst I have done business with ever. It gave me a bad taste and I almost went back to creating my own. Fast forward to 2013 and I have used several options bringing me to what I use at this moment.

As you likely know the options available today is like an endless sea. I know there are many other solutions than I list here yet I cannot cover them all. Additionally the solutions of today are quite robust with a wide range of configuration options to keep it from looking identical to every other website.

The first step is to figure out what options and features are most important to you. I made a list of must haves, some I was not getting with my past website company.

  • Mobile and tablet friendly
  • Ability for users to search images based on keywords
  • Easy to use administration site
  • Not Flash
  • No transaction fee for using shopping cart system
  • Good customer service when I have questions

Here are options I recently explored or have had in the past and my thoughts on them.

Livebooks: This is the solution I recently left after a couple years.
What I liked…

  • Excellent customer service
  • Easy to use site administration
  • Very clean cut looking templates

What I am not a big fan of…

  • Flash website (although they did have built in iPhone and iPad websites included)
  • $39 a month. That amount is not expensive yet I feel it was for what I was getting
  • Not a very good shopping cart system for buying prints
  • Tried to move to their new platform and had trouble getting images to show in a size I wanted.

PhotoShelter: This is one I researched and there seems to be a lot of options especially for the photographer that has many many images to sell as stock. I could see possibly using them in the future.

What I liked…

  • Their built in search functionality looks very robust with the ability to select only verticals or horizontals as one example.
  • Nice built in shopping cart system for either licensing images or selling prints
  • Many different template options to choose from
  • Reasonable pricing options

What I am not a big fan of…

  • The biggest thing that stopped me in my tracks was the percentage fee of each print or license I would sell through the site. I am glad to pay $30 or $40 a month for a solution but with that I want the option to self-fulfill orders and not pay a fee.

Jimdo: I currently use this one for the workshop Northwest Photo Tours website. It’s a good option especially for those that are not very tech savvy.

Northwest Photo Tours Homepage

Northwest Photo Tours Homepage

What I liked…

  • One of the most user friendly site administration back-end I have come across.
  • Pricing from free to business plans

What I am not a big fan of…

  • The mobile site has the same look and feel for all customers with very few options to configure
  • The shopping cart system did not look like it would work as well for selling photos if you want the user to browse on place (e.g. separate galleries from online store)

SmugMug: I admit I did not check them out this time around but I had a few years back and their site configuration was anything but intuitive. I understand talking with a few others at the time that people having built their own site prior to using SmugMug were finding their admin layout confusing as well.

Maybe they have changed this and if so I will check them out again down the road. They certainly have a great following which includes several Photo Cascadia members using them as well; Zack Schnepf, Kevin McNeal and Chip Phillips.

Zenfolio: This brings me to the final site solution I will talk about. This was the company I ultimately picked for my latest photography website incarnation.

Adrian Klein Photography Homepage

Adrian Klein Photography Homepage

What I liked…

  • Well pretty much everything. It met all my requirements. I have been quite happy with the usability of administering the site, the quick responses on questions and more.

What I am not a big fan of…

  • After reading many reviews it was only after I built most of my site did I come across a number of comments listing Zenfolio lower in the SEO category than say its competitor SmugMug. I will give it chance though and see how it pans out.


I guess this one option to mention which does cover the site you are on right now. Photo Cascadia is a custom solution from Dot Com Jungle as well as Sean Bagshaw’s site. David Cobb also has  If you are willing to spend $5,000+ then you can certainly get a good custom solution built for you. I half way thought about this. If it was 2006 and we had less than stellar template sites then I would do it. Since there are a lot of other good options out there it’s hard to pass up $20 to $30 a month of a pretty robust template solution site.

What solution do you use and why?

David Cobb Interview on the “Back Page”

Monday, June 24th, 2013


David Cobb Interview on the “Back Page”

By David Cobb


Last March I sat down with Jody Seay for an interview on “The Back Page,” to talk about my images in the book Quiet Beauty: Japanese Gardens of North America.” Her show is distributed to various PBS affiliates around the nation, and the following video is the result.

The Back Page

video platform video management video solutionsvideo player

Photography and our Environment

Monday, May 13th, 2013

By Adrian Klein

Each day I think about my impact on this earth. It’s not always a pretty one I must admit. I’d like to say that by adventuring out and capturing pretty pictures I help show why we should conserve this or protect that. I think many of us taking nature photos hope for this in one way or another whether it’s a business or a hobby. The reality these days is that we tend to inspire others with a camera to get out and capture their own version of a particular location, whether standing curb side or lost in a dense jungle.  I am in that boat as well, which adds to the traffic on both road and trail. I see locations online, in books or magazines and it inspires me to go there, or go somewhere if not there, which is more about me having a great adventure and bringing home photographic memories. I certainly think about my environmental impact, yet let’s be honest; an urban, bike riding, vegetarian eating, hipster who rarely drives is likely having a more positive impact on the environment than I am.

Sure my family and I do many things at home that help reduce our carbon footprint. We recycle as much as we can, let the lawn go brown in summer, sometimes walk to the store and my travel mug goes everywhere with me. I rarely buy store bought water, layer up before turning on the heat, pick up litter and the list goes on. Yet when I drive thousands of miles each year in my car, usually solo, to numerous locations I know this has an environmental cost. Despite that cost I still go as the need to get out is always burning inside me.

This is not meant to be a doom and gloom or down in the dumps post. I am merely talking about a subject that I hear few talking about even though many of us make big road trips for our photography. I believe we do have a responsibility to try and take extra steps to compensate for all the car and plane travel each of us, as outdoor travelers, do each year. This is not to imply you should make it your life’s mission to save the planet. I am no planet saving saint by any means. I am saying, take a little extra time to make a difference in whatever way works for you. Even if you believe that our current climate change is part of a natural cycle, it’s still in the best interest of everyone to help do our small part for the betterment of our planet.

Population growth is another factor impacting our environment that I am responsible for helping along. This is why I believe in trying to teach my kids about our impact to this planet, recycling, conserving, etc. As a kid I thought my dad was some weirdo because of his fanatic thirst for recycling way more than the average household. Now I am that dad.  My childhood included him leaving me on the side of the road to walk the remaining distance to our destination for throwing a pop can out the car window. Lesson learned… for life.

Beyond what I noted above I also try to participate in various events like picking up litter on the Oregon coast this spring with my daughter, along with speaking out against development that can negatively impact our planet for generations to come from local changes to large scale projects like Keystone XL Pipeline.

There are no easy answers since the traffic to most outdoor destinations continues to grow as our population realizes the need to connect to the natural world, with or without a serious camera in tow.

What are your thoughts on this topic?

Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but foot prints. Image taken on a hiking trail during a previous backpacking trip.

Take nothing but pictures, Leave nothing but foot prints.
Image taken on a hiking trail during a previous backpacking trip.

How Much Is Too Much When It Comes To Photoshop – Kevin McNeal

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012


Thors Well Sunset - Oregon Coast

Thors Well Sunset – Oregon Coast


Every photographer, at one point, when sharing images on social media sites has been asked if the image is “photoshopped”. With digital cameras and technology advancing at such a fast rate the question of whether it is “digital art”  or a “photographic image” is at the heart of many debates. So how do we determine what is too much when it comes to “photoshopped” images? Many people believe the answer lies within the individual. Each photographer has the creative license to present the images as they choose to. The problem arises when colors look unnatural and over the top. Speaking from my experience, when I process an image my goal is to present the image as I saw it.  Is every image I publish an exact reproduction of the scene. Of course not. However, my images do faithfully represent how I remember the scene and how I felt at the time. I think every image has a story and it is the job of the photographer to get this across to their audience. When it comes to images and acceptability among the photography community there is a wide range of approaches.

For example, some photographers choose to combine multiple exposures together in a process known as HDR. This method captures the whole tonal range of the scene from darkest to light by combining several exposures together. HDR images have become a subject of much controversy over which people have a wide range of opinions.The results vary from beautiful to “over the top”.  Some who lean more toward traditionalism feel that every photographic image should come from a single exposure and that each image should be presented as it was captured by the camera. For me I use a combination of methods that enable me to achieve a final image that tells the story I want to tell. From my perspective there is no right answer to which approach is correct.

For the non professional photographer each is entitled to his own vision and each has the right to present it as he sees fit. What about the professional photographer? Do they have an obligation to present the scene as it is in the camera or are they allowed to have creative freedom when it comes to post processing? These days it is not uncommon for magazines and photo contests to request that images avoid excessive Photoshop and to attach the original image with the final results.

With the advancements of Photoshop, photographers are now creating images that cross the boundaries into “digital art”. In other words the image combines elements from multiple images or doesn’t resemble anything that could be found in nature. The results are often stunning and beautiful, but the image may look more like a painting than a photograph based in realism. Personally speaking, when it relates to selling images the competition is fierce and often publishers will make a decision to choose an image based on a thumbnail. Therefore, the images chosen often look unnatural. You can see evidence of this in magazines, calendars, and even photo contests. There is no arguing that brightly colored and stylized images are popular these days.


If you make a living from photography what are the guidelines when it comes to realism? I don’t have the answers but I know, in an effort to express myself and my artistic vision, that I often push the limits as far as I can. I am grateful to make my living as a photographer. It seems that as photographers become more skilled in the art of digital image developing the debate over the use of new digital image developing techniques versus a more traditional approach to photography will continue.