Photo Cascadia Blog
Posts Tagged ‘Zack Schnepf’
IN THE FIELD COMPOSITION WORKFLOW (PART 1 – SIMPLIFICATION)
by Zack Schnepf
Recently, on the Photo Cascadia blog; Erin Babnik posted a really excellent article about compositional patterns to look for in nature, I thought it was one of the best articles on the PC blog in a while. Here is a link to her article: http://www.photocascadia.com/blog/five-compositional-patterns-worth-finding-in-nature/#.VWzBB2CRl0c
I wanted to continue with the theme of composition. In part one I’ll talk about how I simplify my field technique to allow me to focus on composition in the field. In part two I’ll talk about what I look for in the field to build strong compositions, and the tips and tricks I use to help me build compelling compositions in nature. Composition is the most challenging part of photography for me, it’s also one of the most important aspects of a compelling image. It’s so easy to get distracted in the field and get bogged down in settings. Organizing a nature scene into a compelling composition is always a struggle and takes a tremendous amount of focus and it’s made much harder if you are trying to juggle ten things at once. To help me focus on composition, I try to remove distractions and simplify other aspects of working in the field. There are several tips and tricks I use to help simplify my workflow and allow me to focus more on composition.
Master the technical functions of your camera. This is the first step to being able to truly focus on composition in the field. This goes for your lenses, tripod and other equipment as well. When you can operate your equipment without having to think much, you can start to focus on composition. This takes some commitment and you have to be really consistent, otherwise you forget how some functions work and have to spend time in the field trying to figure it out all over again. This is obviously more for someone who really wants to take their photography to the next level and is willing to put in the time and effort, but once you have mastered the technical side of photography you are free to focus on the artistic side.
Shoot using the manual settings on your camera. This seems counter intuitive for many people and it is until you’ve gotten comfortable shooting manually. For me, when I shoot manual it simplifies my field workflow and gives me much greater control. It also allows me to use the following tricks to keep things simple in the field.
Shoot manual focus and use the focus markings on your lenses. This takes some practice, but once you master this technique it takes aperture out of the equation in a lot situations. On the top of most high end lenses is a set of focus markings that gives you approximate distances for focus. For landscape photography I typically like to have everything in focus, unless I have a specific reason to use selective focus. This actually makes it really easy to generalize focus and take it out of the equation. For instance, my general rule of thumb for a typical scenic landscape shot using a wide angle lens without a close foreground is f/13-f/18. In this situation I can keep things very simple, set my aperture to f/16 and set my focus meter to the inside of the infinity line. If I have a subject that is closer to the camera and I want everything in focus I generally set my aperture to f/22 and set the focus to the general distance of the foreground element using the focus meter on the lens. This is very effective until you have a subject that is 3 feet or closer to you. At this point you will have to abandon this technique and start problem solving, either using multiple focal point blending, or another technique. On my current camera system the Sony A7r, the Sony lenses don’t have this on the top of the lens. Instead there is a digital read out on the LCD that shows up when I try to manually focus a lens. I still use the digital version to help approximate focus distance.
Shoot raw and don’t worry about white balance. This is a really easy one. If you’re shooting in the RAW format you don’t have worry about white balance, save that decision for when you are working in post production. This is just one less thing to have to have to think about in the field.
All of these techniques help remove small distractions in the field, leaving you with less things to mentally juggle. This allows my mind to focus on the artistic side of photography. In part two of this series, I’ll talk about my own artistic techniques I use in the field and how I use them to build compelling images.
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.
- Failed the only photography course he ever took.
- Made ski movies when he was younger.
- Traveled around the world as a DJ.
- He likes to eat vegetables and seafood.
- Just out of high school bought a Porsche.
- Has performed onstage with Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, Ben Folds, Brandi Carlile, and Peter Cetera.
- One of his cars is a red 1988 VW Cabriolet.
- Has never used a traditional film darkroom
- Was a child actor and in a commercial for Burger King.
- He is not afraid of bees, but is of spiders.
- He reads 25-50 books per year on average.
- He grew up in the redwoods of northern California, but has never been back to photograph.
- In addition to photography, he enjoys surfing, mountain biking, snowboarding, and backcountry exploration.
- Has never used a traditional film darkroom.
- Owned cameras made by the following manufacturers: Sony, Canon, Nikon, Minolta, Apple, and GoPro.
- Did wedding and portrait photography full time for over a year before deciding to move back to landscape photography.
- 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.
- Has traveled to all the National Parks in the states of Oregon and Washington.
- 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.
- Grew up at the mouth of the Columbia River Gorge playing in a creek on his property catching crawdads and hiking through the woods.
- He owned a music distribution company.
- He’s an avid guitar player.
- He’s held two state swimming records.
- He walked across the Yukon and NW Territories.
- He played in baseball’s Babe Ruth World Series.
- Pole vaulted in China.
- Reached the summit of Mt. McKinley on two separate expeditions.
- 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.
- Played in a 1990s bagpipe marching band, kilt and all.
- 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.
By Adrian Klein
Here are we about to exit another year in life and usher in a new one. Always a time to reflect on where we have been and where we want to go. We want to take this time to thank the many viewers and readers of our blog. When we embarked on the Photo Cascadia path a significant part of the goal was to follow our slogan “Learn, Explore, Create”… helping others learn more about photography, explore areas for your next adventure and discover what it takes to create photos that fit your vision. Based on what we have heard in the hundreds of emails over the last couple years we seem to be doing just that. We enjoy the discussions and dialogue so keep it coming.
Without further rambling here is a quick blurb from each of the PC team members about their year in photography and anything else they felt like sharing. Plus a three minute slideshow with image favorites of 2011. Along with this post comes a two to three week winter break before we start bringing you new blog content in 2012. Thank you again!
It’s been a fantastic and busy year for me. I was able to get out and capture some fantastic images across the country. I was lucky enough to lead some great workshops this year. I was also privileged to get together with my fellow Photocascadia members and got to take a photo trip to the Desert Southwest with Sean Bagshaw. I’m now in the editing stage of my Multiple Exposure, and Tonality Control Photoshop video and hope to be done very soon. I’m also still teaching lots of online Photoshop Workshops, they’ve been a fantastic success this year. And to cap it all off, I’m expecting my second child, a baby boy due in March.
Life is good, and I feel my photography continues to grow. I hope to get out even more next year and continue my series of Photoshop video tutorials. Hope to see you all out in the field and online.
Well as 2011 rounds out and again I find myself asking where time went. So many journeys and things discovered in the past year with both challenges and rewards. This past year I have been lucky enough to travel to the Canadian Rockies, Colorado Rockies, Southwest, Southwestern BC, Oregon, and California. But my favorite part was I finally got to see Iceland after all these years of lusting to get there anyway I could. It did not disappoint, I also got to spend some good times with photography friends as well as well as my Photo Cascadia Group. It has been busy but another great year of photography. I have been so blessed to live out my passion and that I will always be grateful for.
2011 was all about experiencing new things for me. I winter camped at Mount Rainier for the first time, I explored the Broken Top area in Oregon’s Cascades, I backpacked to Spray Park for the first time, and my wife and I took an epic 3 week trip to explore the Southwest of England. I was also able to visit Glacier National Park during fall color and snow, and explore new remote regions of the Oregon Coast. I taught many successful workshops and made many new friends. I’m excited about my new collaboration with Amana Images in Tokyo, Japan. I bought a new large format printer, which is really inspiring my creativity as far as printing goes. I’ve been experimenting with putting prints on stretched canvas, and having images printed on sheets of metal for a really dynamic effect. All this plus another exciting year playing principal clarinet with the Spokane Symphony.
The year 2011 was a busy year of shooting for me. I got into the backcountry a bit, but most of the year was spent photographing Japanese gardens across North America for an upcoming book. I’ve included two of those garden images here. I hope you enjoy what I’ve picked as my favorites for the year, and I look forward to what lies in store for 2012.
Looking back each December on the year gone by is always fun. I’m a sucker for year end reviews: best photos, movies, books, songs, you name it. 2011 has been a year with some great events, memories and milestones for me personally; perhaps right up there with some of the top years in my life. I could write several different year end reviews for 2011. These are some memorable times I had photographing the landscape this year.
February: I spent a couple days skiing and camping in the frigid high desert environs of Hart Mountain with one of my oldest friends, Chuck (RokChuk) Porter.
March: I aborted a trip to Yosemite due to storms and instead had a great time photographing in Death Valley with Big Wave Larry Carpenter.
April: A canceled flight saw me stranded in SoCal for a few days, so Big Wave Larry and I headed to Joshua Tree and marveled at the daily morning light show in the cholla garden.
May: David Cobb and I had a tick nightmare while exploring the canyons of Oregon’s Owyhee country.
June: Between back to back workshops with Christian Heeb and David Cobb in Bend, Oregon, I made a cannonball run down to the California redwoods and back. Thanks to a tip from Big Wave Larry, it was best rhododendron bloom I’ve seen there.
September: Solo trip to the Tetons. The valley was full of smoke and hundreds of other photographers, but a 10 mile hike into the back country put me in clear air and beyond the crowds. I gave myself my semi annual dose of the willies by hiking in the dark in bear country. No bears spotted however.
October: Zack Schnepf and I had a surreal four days camping, cracking wise, photographing and breaking wind at White Pocket. When Zack headed home I met up with the sandstone Jedi, Tony Kuyper, and the desert adventure continued.
November: David Cobb and I taught a photography workshop on the Oregon coast. The photography and classroom sessions were great, but the best memory was having dinner at the Rogue Brewery and using iPhone camera tricks to make David appear four times in our “Last Supper” photo.
December: Kevin McNeal kept all of us bent over laughing at the annual Photo Cascadia gathering in Bandon, while clouds kept us from seeing the lunar eclipse.
All in all, some amazing times with the best people in the world. The photos I took are just the icing. Here’s looking to 2012!
2011 is yet another year in life that I had the health and ability to be in the outdoors which I am always thankful for, and oh yeah and I took a few photos while I was out. This year I stayed in the Northwest for most outdoor excursions which to be honest can fulfill me for years to come, it seems there are always new places to explore here despite being a home grown Oregonian. I explored more of SE Oregon including the peaceful Lake Abert. I made it back to Opal Creek Wilderness which was long over due. I did some new hikes from the coast to Mount Hood National Forest.
In the mix of all that was more successful group and private workshops as time allowed. I always enjoy seeing others learn and grow with their photography, something I try to do personally as well. I surely cannot forget taking my 5 year old daughter on her first backpack trip (As long as I can find pink outdoor gear I can likely get her to keep going). As the year started to wind down I was fortunate to spend a couple weeks in Kauai with my family, and yes more photography. Shortly after coming home from that trip was a few days in December with fellow Photo Cascadia members (it’s nice to see each other face-to-face after the hundreds of emails and phone calls throughout the year). I am fortunate to have a fine family and super friends. I hope you have the same and were able to enjoy the great outdoors with or without photography in 2011.
By the Photo Cascadia team
Before the Photo Cascadia group takes a short break for the holiday season, we’d like to share a few photos of our favorite waterfalls from around this region called Cascadia.
Zack: Wahclella Falls has been a favorite of mine since I was a teenager. It’s not nearly as crowded as some of the more popular trails, and it’s one of the most beautiful falls in the Columbia River Gorge. I particularly like the view from up high, but there are a couple other good vantage points as well.
Zack: My favorite waterfall in the Gorge is Fairy Falls. It’s also my favorite teaching spot in the Gorge. It’s the best example of how slow-shutter speed affects the look of an image—and you can zoom in for many abstract compositions of the falls. It’s a steep (but relatively short) hike up Wahkeena Creek, but definitely worth the effort.
Chip: “Palouse Falls Sunset” is my title for this dramatic sunset sky over Palouse Falls in eastern Washington State.
Chip: “Mossy Elowah” is the title for this misty capture of one of my favorite waterfalls in the Columbia River Gorge in Oregon.
Kevin: This foggy-day photo was taken in autumn at Silver Falls State Park in Oregon. I had seen this waterfall before and it can be difficult to shoot in terms of composition. Positioning myself at the vantage point seen here in this photo was somewhat dangerous, but it was worth it. I was also lucky to be there just as the sun was breaking through.
Kevin: Myrtle Falls is an iconic waterfall located in Washington’s Mount Rainier National Park in the Paradise area. I like this waterfall because it shows the majesty of Mount Rainier and its surroundings. To get this photo I had to stitch two images vertically to better capture depth and sharpness.
Adrian: “Enchanted” is the title for this image of Metlako Falls in the Columbia River Gorge on a chilly still winter morning as sunlight pierces its way through the thick fog. I have photographed this scene many times with only fog, but this was the first time I was able to include sunbeams. It’s one of my favorite Gorge photos.
Adrian: “Forest Rain” is the title to this Columbia River Gorge shot of Gorton Creek in the cold spring rain. For me, it’s not only the flow of the image that works (pun intended), but also the falling rain. It adds additional mood and feeling to the scene that would not be there otherwise.
David: I loved photographing Outlet falls along the Klickitat River of southern Washington, because it is so dramatic and remote. There is no “official” parking area for this falls and no directional sign. A steep descent gets you to the bottom of the canyon, and some added fall color brings out the best in these falls.
David: Salt Creek Falls is another favorite of mine, located in southern Oregon in the midst of the Cascade Range. There are a few view points for this waterfall, but I prefer a bushwhack to the bottom for this front-on view.
Sean: Since I’m based out of Ashland, Oregon that means I don’t have the quick access to the well-known waterfalls of Silver Falls State Park and the Columbia Gorge that the guys from the north do. While the waterfalls of the southern rivers, the Rogue, and the Umpqua aren’t as numerous or as grand, there are still some very beautiful cascades. Best of all, there aren’t the crowds of people that you get in the upper part of the state.
Near Union Creek on Hwy 62, the Rogue River spills into the narrows of the Rouge Gorge in a series of rapids and short drops, with one final big plunge. I love photographing at this Gorge because there is a lot to see in a condensed area. Over time, the river has carved a deep channel in the volcanic basalt and connected a series of lava tubes to create the gorge. The resulting eroded rock formations make excellent foreground elements. At the top of the gorge, the river fans out over the basalt and spills into the narrow chute in multiple locations. There are many different compositions that can be made from various spots along the rock shelf next to the river.
Light at the Rogue Gorge can be challenging, and I waited several years to get my chance to be there during this spectacular sunrise. The bright red and orange sky shed a warm glow across the entire scene and completely transformed it. Using a polarizer helped cut reflections and saturate the color on the rocks. I don’t know if I’ll ever get another chance to photograph the Rogue Gorge with light like that, but that one experience is etched in my memory.
Sean: Another favorite waterfall of mine is Triple Falls in Montana’s Glacier National Park. I first became aware of this falls from Galen Rowell’s iconic image of it. In a high alpine bowl, several small creeks converge and drop over the edges of a narrow canyon carved out of the red stone commonly found in Glacier. With sheer Rocky Mountain peaks as a backdrop, it is a uniquely beautiful natural formation. The falls isn’t located on a trail, nor is it marked on any maps that I have seen. In order to reach it by sunrise requires a cross-country hike through grizzly country in the dark. The day we photographed it, David Cobb and I walked cautiously through the pre-dawn gloom. We stuck to patches of snow and exposed rock so as not to walk on the delicate alpine foliage. We were sure that every boulder and bush along the way was a bear. We arrived just before sunrise and prepared for the light to come. Earlier in the summer when the snow is melting, there are three distinct waterfalls that plunge into the canyon. When I photographed it in the autumn, one of the falls was nothing more than a trickle so my image is titled “Double Falls.” The stormy sky that morning added shadowy dramatic light to the scene. At that time of day, the sky was so much brighter than the depths of the canyon that two exposures needed to be blended in order to contain the wide dynamic range.
There you have it, a few of our favorite waterfalls from Cascadia. We’ll be back with more blogs and information in the New Year, so until then have a happy Holiday season, from all of us at Photo Cascadia.