30. June 2015 · Comments Off on Composition – Framing – no not the wood around the photo · Categories: Composition, Practice · Tags: , , , ,

“Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern. “

Alfred North Whitehead

Dancing Trees

There are several composition topics in photography that are most easily learned through examples rather than prose.  I thought I would write a series of articles on several of these with a few photos in each to help illustrate the point.

I’m starting with framing because it was one of the easier ones to start with, not because it is more or less important, but just easier for me to write about.

One way to look at framing is that the subject around the edge draws your attention to the main focus point.  I would encourage you to log onto 500px.com and see what you can identify as successfully framed photos.

Laurie in Little Wild Horse slot canyon

It could be reasonably argued that the above photo is really about lines, but notice how we have both lines and color framing my wife.

The photo below is an example of classical framing.CRW_0598You probably recognize this type of framing from travel post cards.

For the opening photo, notice how the branches frame the moon.   This would not have been as effective if the branch split the moon.  This also illustrates that not all framing needs to symmetrical in position or content.

Early morning light catching the spray from a waterfall

This photo illustrates a classic concept involved with framing; that is that the borders or the frame is darker than the central point of focus.  Eyes are typically drawn to the bright parts of the photo.

_MG_0629_30_31-2

In this example, the bright trees frame the waterfall which is itself framed by the dark rock.  This photo illustrates again that framing does not need to be symmetrical, nor even conventional with bright being the framing of the waterfall.

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This photo is again asymmetrical framing, this time of El Capitan framed with trees.

The challenge to you is to experiment with framing in your photos and decide what works and does not work for your photos.

“If you see a whole thing – it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives… But up close a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern.”   Ursula K. Le Guin

Check out other images for framing or the lack there of… on my website

27. June 2015 · Comments Off on When I get to the pearly gates, St. Peter … · Categories: Philosophy, Photography, Practice, Preparation · Tags: ,
At the end of the chess match, the black pieces and white pieces go into the same box- Russian Proverb
Shooting the photographer

Lower Antelope Canyon. Slot canyons are a great opportunity to practice composition and see what you learn

Dragon in the town of Joseph

Dragon in the town of Joseph

St. Peter will not ask ‘Did I shoot with Nikon, or Canon?’   My friends were teasing me and said, no he will ask ‘if you shot with Hasselblad?’, or Leica.  Or will he ask, ‘Have you been the best photographer you could be?’

There have been times in my life when I have been badly infected with ‘lens lust’; that is the belief that the next lens, gadget, techno wizzy thing will help me have the perfect photo !  It will won’t it?

And on the flip side is;

No photographer is as good as the simplest camera.- Edward Steichen
I suspect that Steichen was correct, that at best we might get 80% out of our camera.  I remember my sister-in-law getting incredible shots with her instamatic camera.  And yet it is naïve to say that technology doesn’t enable us to take photos we couldn’t have taken otherwise.

As much as I love new toys and new gizzies, I know in my heart that quality, stunning photos come from the photographer, not from the camera.  There is a What the Duck cartoon with a person saying to the photographer, ‘Wow your camera really takes nice pictures’ and the Photographer responds with ‘and your lips make nice noises’. This Link is to a humorous article that covers this affliction in detail. And we learn from humor as well…

So, how do I continue my learning to become an ever better photographer?  I read, and I practice.  As I practice, I have to continually review and see what works and what does not work and figure out why that is so.  Here are some of the areas that I practice and learn  in:

  • Camera setup and manipulation; for each of the lens what is the ‘best’ way to change the lens, how do I set the camera up for a time delay shot, how do I choose focus points, how do I do things in the dark?   I was at Bryce Canyon standing on top of a soon to be hoodoo spire of rock that was barely big enough for the tripod legs and trying to change lens. The lens was attached to the tripod (third hand) and in one hand was the new lens, and the other the body when the tripod blew over, lens hits camera & cracks the back, and I nearly go over the edge… a learning opportunity…
  • How do I compose a shot? do I check my corners?  What exposure do I really want? did I get it?  The pic below is an early pic.  It could have been much stronger if the branch were on a diagonal and the pine cone in the bottom right. The white sky background doesn’t really do much for me either.  So, what can I learn? Pay more attention to diagonals, don’t use the sky as a background.  And the start of composition is built, as guidance rather than hard fast rules.
    Pine Cone

    Pine Cone

  • What works for work flow, what better ways could I do something
  • Do I like the feeling in the photograph?  If not, what don’t I like and why?  The pic below has both the rear and the head of the buck, it would have been a better photo head on without the rear.  Additionally the pic is too contrasty for my tastes.
    Butt Head

    Butt Head

  • As I learn new techniques, how would I use them, where would I use them?

There are always opportunities to continue to improve, and yes, some may involve a new toy or gizzy, but the real photographer is me.  Similarly, how do I approach my life, am I learning, or do I hope that the next something out there will magically strike me wonderful?

To see more of my photos visit .

 

20. June 2015 · Comments Off on Eagles · Categories: Photography · Tags:

Decades ago, I worked on Don Henley’s house, the founder of the Eagles.  This is not about that, but rather about the bird, the American icon, the trash scrounger, and pretty bird; the bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), the white headed sea hawk see Wikipedia on eagles.  

Although eagles are found in all of the continental states, they are not always near where we might live unless you have to live in Seattle.  Eagles are fishers, needing open bodies of water with plentiful fish, they are also scavengers and thieves trying to steal fish and offal from others.

Eagles fighting over over food

Eagles fighting over over food

To photograph eagles it helps to have a long lens or be extremely lucky.  For the most part, eagles tend to be skittish of people getting to close. I use a 100-400, or if I have time the 500mm lens. If you you have a crop factor camera, so much the better for extending your reach. Usually even with a long lens there is quite a bit of cropping required (see original of the photo below).  This means that there have to be enough pixels to crop, and it means that the image quality needs to be pretty good; in focus, no motion blur (usually).  You can’t do it with a cell phone or a point and shoot, unless you have that over abundance of luck.

The other thing it takes is patience, something that I do not have an over abundance of.   Unlike the Lord of the Rings, the eagles do not appear on cue.   So,  it means carrying around the right equipment (which is heavy), having it ready for the possibility of an eagle.

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

This photo is one such.  We were driving along a river in Wallowa-Whitman when I spotted the bright white head across the river.  I hollered at my cousin to pull over, but startled him instead, and by the time I got the words out of my mouth we were past the eagle.  It was three miles before we could turn around and come back, and the eagle was still there.

The opening photo from Homer, Alaska I had to stand still for 20 minutes waiting for the eagle to take off to get that shot. Hunched over a tripod watching of the right second (is is less than a second) is an exercise for the back muscles and the patience.

Often you will see the eagles flying, and will have to pan to get a decent shot.

Soaring Eagle

Soaring Eagle

This shot highlights (bad pun) another problem when trying to get birds in flight; the high contrast between the bird and the sky.  If you have the opportunity, using a better beamer on a flash will help to bring out some of the shadow detail that is lost.  This is a non eagle….

Blue bird with Better Beamer flash fill

Blue bird with Better Beamer flash fill

Note the eyes, without the flash the eyes would not have shown up like this.

To see more eagle photos see my gallery.

13. June 2015 · Comments Off on Color Calibration · Categories: patience, Taking care, Workflow · Tags: ,
Blue Bird

Blue Bird

This is really about Calibrating monitors, but first some background.  I have built a new computer system, and on reflecting back, I have several observations that I would like to pass along.  This is also learning from someone else’s hard knocks (LoL).  So I was needing to upgrade my computer system at home; I built in 2007 and at the time it was a hot system, today it is an under powered system.  Not  enough memory (was 16GB, now 64GB), CPU speed of 750 MHz which is very slow by today’s standard, and the disks on the OS  were slow compared to an SSD.  I ported over the Raid 5 of 16TB that has the photos.  It was definitely an exercise in patience.

One of the last things I did was to color calibrate the 2 monitors that I have. One monitor is a Dell wide gamut, the other a run of the mill LCD monitor.  I have, over the years used different products to calibrate my monitors, this timeit was an i1 device.  If you have not color calibrated your monitor, I hope that you don’t do anything to change the color.  This time I was using an i1 display pro for the color calibration.  The way it works is you put the i1Display against the screen and run the software which runs the screen through a series of colors that the i1Display measures against what it is supposed to be, and computes a color profile to bring the monitor in line with the desired.  Very straight forward, except that I found that on the same monitor I could have a huge amount of variation depending on how square the i1Display was to the screen.  The directions call for not pressing it against the screen, and just letting it hang.  The issue is that letting it hang leaves a gap at the bottom, as it is not square against the screen and the ambient light makes a big difference in the final result.

When the color profile is off, it is nearly impossible to produce a reasonable looking print, and web usage of the photo isn’t much better as your monitor is unlikely to match anyone else’s.

Consider the photo below, the background is green, not yellow, and the fence is white.  Avoiding this is the goal of color calibration

Bad Color Calibration That is a white fence rail

Bad Color Calibration
That is a white fence rail

Good color calibration

Good color calibration

Consider the two images, which would you prefer?

07. June 2015 · Comments Off on Wallowa – Whitman · Categories: Travel · Tags: , ,

This is a travelogue for Wallowa – Whitman.   The first time I was here was in the late 1970s.  My favorite uncle talked my  wife and I into backpacking in this place that no one had ever heard of in North East Oregon, Wallowa – Whitman.   I fell in love with the place, it reminds of the pictures of the Alps and the movies Heidi, and Sound of Music.  The second time, I took my sons backpacking there, during the late 1990s.   This last time was car camping as I only had Memorial day weekend, and once again, I see why I love the place.

The mountains rise dramatically above the surrounding wheat fields.

Wallowa-Whitman Mountains above wheat

Wallowa-Whitman Mountains above wheat

This year, we were early, and the back country is not yet open as can be seen in the photos with all the snow.  I traveled with my cousin Julie and her husband Pete (seen below).  He is a willing model as he practices on his mandolin, and so photogenic !

Cousin Pete while camping at Wallowa-Whitman

Cousin Pete while camping at Wallowa-Whitman

Wallowa-Whitman has more to offer than spectacular mountains and camping in good company! Even this early in the year, there are wild flowers.

Wild Camus

Wild Camus

Wild Camus

Wild Camus

But the quaint old towns along the way have a special nostalgic feel to them.

Old General Store

Old General Store

Union Market

Union Market

Old Canisters

Old Canisters

There are also some fun and funky places for coffee and other things.

Dragon in the town of Joseph

Dragon in the town of Joseph

Oregon is a place for active people, and they are proud of it as seen in the photo in front of a micro brewery.

Bicycle Oregon

Bicycle Oregon

The set of photos though, that I am most proud of are this eagle who was kind enough to pose for quite a while as I shot these out the van window. The eagle was across the river.

Cooperative Eagle

Cooperative Eagle

See more photos on my website