Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Hang In There

ImageI recently received the following from one of my workshop paraticipants, “

Your class was a good summary of what I need to remind myself before photo excursions. Part of my problem is that I don’t practice on a consistent basis.  I typically only take photos on vacations and trips, maybe 6 times a year.  By the time I take photos again, I forget what I “learned” in the past.  I also get in a hurry, don’t often use a tripod, especially when I’m with other people who want me to hurry along.  For example, on my recent trip to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos, I didn’t often check the histogram. I should watch your video/movie before every photo excursion.”

I think this is very common and happens to all of us, sooner or later. Although digital photography is easy, it still requires regular practice. Many years ago I read an article by David Lyman of the Maine Photo Workshops. He asked hundreds of photographers, writers, musicians, etc how long it took them to become proficient. Turns out the answer is 10 years! And even at that, you only have 90% of what you “need”. It takes the rest of your life learning that last 10%.

Don’t be discouraged but do realize any endeavor worth mastering does take time. But have fun with it.

The journey is best part!

The last few weeks I have embarked on a major push to edit my photo library down to aImage more reasonable size. I currently have something over 200,000 images although some of those are from when I shot dual RAW + JPEG and there are a lot of HDR image sets too. But I would guess I have 150,000 unique images! My goal is to get that down to about 15% of the total. So I started at the beginning (2001) and just completed 2004. As I complete a month, I import them into Lightroom and then I tag the very best ones with a “5″. My ultimate desire would be to have a “top 1000″ folder.

I have gotten really good at being ruthless! If it is not wonderful, it gets deleted. It is often said the difference between a pro and an amateur is editing. The pro shows you only the good stuff; the amateur shows you everything, including the junk!

Anyway, the interesting (educational, frustrating, ???) aspect has been seeing how I took photos nearly 10 years ago. I can’t believe all the dumb mistakes I made. And I seemed to make them over and over. Very slow learner!

I think a part of it was coming from film, I had certain rules in mind. For instance, I almost never moved my digital SLR off ISO 100. Even though I was getting blurred photos and the camera was fine at ISO 200 and 400, I stubbornly stuck to 100.

Another disappointing trait was the almost constant underexposure. With slide film, we often did underexpose a bit. And with digital, we were so paranoid of blowing out highlights that we underexposed routinely. Had I not heard of a Histogram? The problem now, of course, is how noisy those images are. If I try to make an enlargement, I often get “banding” artifacts in the sky.

Third was how seldom I shot RAW in those early days. I think the high cost of memory cards was partly to blame but I sure wish I had shot RAW all the time. And PLEASE, don’t ever let me shoot dual RAW + JPEG again. Talk about a mess on my hard drive.

Lastly, my compositions often sucked. I think I was so in love with the new technology that any artistic sense I might have had was Sleepless in Grand Junction.

I am working on 2005 editing now and I am starting to see some improvement. 

Better late than never, I guess!

Where The Action Is

Several items today.

Kochevar Exhibit

First, I just returned a really wonderful print exhibit by our friend Jeff Kochevar. By day, he is Grand Junction’s finest inkjet and giclee printer. But on his own time, he isalso an outstanding photographer.

The exhibit is at the Great Frame Up, next to Albertsons on the Redlands. On display are a variety of large canvas prints, triptychs and even a pentaptych. The exhibit runs thru November. Their phone is 970-242-7672

The Great Frame Up is also a great place to get your treasured art framed. They have done most of my art pieces for my new Blue Pig Gallery display. Also, Jeff is offering some wonderful 8×10 canvas wraps of your photos for just $12. Great holiday presents. He can do your holiday gift card printing as well.

 

Next, I wanted to share a cool action for creating a snow storm on your photo. The action is free and has a soft snow, as well as a blizzard. To check it out, visit this Website and scroll toward the bottom for the Snow Action. There are several others on the page, many of which are free. You will need some version of Photoshop CS to be able to use these actions.

 

I still have some cool photo items for sale:

  • Manfrotto 3021B Tripod with Acra Tech ball head. Very sturdy. The head alone is worth $270. Will sell outfit for $225
  • Lensbaby Composer. New, in box. I have one for Canon and one for Nikon. New are $250. I will sell for $175.
  • Canon 8×25 Image Stabilized Binoculars. These things are magical! Sell for $195
  • Canon 100mm Macro Lens f2.8 USM. Excellent condition. Extremely sharp. $475
  • Canon 50D camera. Excellent condition. 15 mp. 6.3 fps. Live View. Complete with 4 batteries and Really Right Stuff plate. $775

 

Miscellaneous Stuff…

Crystal Lake Infrared

Some pixelated ramblings from Piazza.

Scott Parsons Blog

1. First up is mention of a great blog by my friend Scott Parsons. Scott has been very involved in photography, having seen it from both the retail and dealer side. He is writing a blog which is really quite amazing. His writing has a philosophical bent that is engaging and thought-provoking. Most of the blog photos were shot with an iPhone. You can read more and sign up here: Espyworks

2.  Canon announced a new high-end camera today. At nearly $7000, not many of you will rush out and buy it but it is always interesting to see how far the science is being pushed. Called the 1D-X, it is an amalgam of their 1.3 D series and their DS full frame sensors. It has an 18 mp full frame sensor and can shoot 12 frames a second! For a while at least, it will likely feature the lowest noise of any camera. It would also appear the megapixel race is slowing down, since this new 18 mp body is replacing a 21 mp model! Recently I was visiting with my friend Jack Kingsley who was involved with early digital sensor research; their sensors had something like 256 pixels!  A far cry from 18 million.

What is perhaps more relevant to us is the fact that soon the 1D MK III and IV and 1DS MK III models will appear in larger numbers on eBay at great prices. A year ago, I bought a used 1D Mark III for about $1,900 (new ones were $4,500) and it has become my favorite body. I could never have afforded a new one. Be warned though that once you work with a pro level camera, it is hard to go back! You can read about the new camera here: 1D-X  On the other hand, this is not to say that a nice “point & shoot” isn’t the way to go! Pick the tools for the job. Often “less” camera is better than “more”! For instance, I have my eyes on a new offering from Fuij: the X10 Compact.

3.  Another great blog I subscribe to is by Art Morris. Art is an amazing bird photographer and I am always learning something from him. Yes, the blogs have lots of advertising but you can ignore that.

Moody Sneffels

4.  More Adobe magic. In case you thought the wizards at Adobe had been napping (a reasonable assumption given the underwhelming features in the new Elements 10), fear not. They are working on a technology that will remove the blur from a photo. Read that again. I don’t mean the optical illusion of unsharp masking or “smart sharpen” which just add some edge contrast on the pixels. This is actually analyzing the blur in an image and then rendering a sharp rendition.

The best way to understand this is the watch this 6 minute video: Image Deblurring If your jaw does not drop, then you probably should have gotten a tetanus shot! Will this show up in CS6? Who knows. But it is enough to get your salivary glands pumping. I don’t need no stinkin’ tripod!

5.  I recently came across an online camera simulator. CameraSim teaches you how ISO, shutter, focal length, aperture and other settings affect your photos. It is free and pretty darn cool. Especially great if you are new to all this nonsense of f-stops and such!

Ouray Splendor

6.  Lightroom is an amazing program but to use it effectively, you need to get your photos organized first. This seems to be a big issue with folks. I frequently work with photographers who have their photos scattered all over. Some are on the desktop; some under “my pictures”; some under other folders. This sort of chaos is not conducive to efficient management, to say nothing of making proper backups. I just posted a short article here, Getting Organized, which will point you in the right direction.

7.  Next Lightroom Basics class. I am tentatively planning my next Lightroom class for Friday, Nov. 18. Only six students. Visit my Class Page for more info and to register.

8.  Happy Halloween!

Whose Bag Is That?

A recent event leads to this reminder. We were photographing at Crystal Lake (shown above), south of Ouray. With glowing fall colors, a calm lake and a dramatic sky, we were letting the pixels rip on a magical morning.

Shortly after we arrived, we noticed a camera bag along the water’s edge, apparently left behind. We checked to see if there was any identification such as a luggage tag or business card but nothing was apparent. The bag contained a Canon 5D and some lenses, a not inconsequential investment.

My friend Dick asked around as people came and went but no one claimed the prize. We planned to leave a note at the parking area and take the bag to Ouray. Our friend Lora has a motel there and knows everyone in town. She would call the other motels and also alert the Chamber of Commerce and police. We were confident the bag could be eventually reunited with a forlorn photographer!

We continued to make photographs and at some point, a photo workshop instructor got involved and decided to take charge. He was rather rude and arrogant and announced he would take the bag back to the Fort Collins area, some 300 miles away where he would attempt to track down the owner via the serial number.

We argued for leaving the bag in Ouray, 10 miles away, as a more logical place for the owner to search, but we were told our idea was quite stupid! We were assured by some of the workshop participants that the instructor was a “professional” and thereby best qualified for the highly technical and specialized area of camera bag reunions! The best line was when I opined that the bag might find a permanent home in Fort Collins, to which I was told, “the pro shoots Nikon; why would he want Canon stuff”. So there… I guess.

By now, the “instructor” had glommed onto the bag, like a chicken on a June bug! Dick, (in an act of bravery perhaps, or not!) took a photo of the instructor and also got his business card. We hoped this would keep him “honest”.

After about 90 minutes we were getting ready to leave when lo and behold, a person came along looking for the bag. We pointed him in the right direction and he was one happy camper!

The message here of course, is to make sure you have your contact info in your bag. On my own bag, I have a tag attached to the outside, as well as business cards inside.

The same advice applies to camera bodies, lenses and tripods. Some years ago, I left behind a Gitzo tripod. It did not have my name on it and so I learned a $500 lesson.

On many of my bodies and lenses, I have placed a recovery label from stuffbak.com  There are other similar services such as lostfoundreturned.com and  trackitback.com

If nothing else, get a label maker and put your name and phone on everything! I even put my contact info on my memory cards.

Most folks want to be honest but without any contact info, there is not much hope of recovery.

Go label your stuff NOW!

A few days ago, Art Morris, the renowned bird photographer, posted on his Blog that digital photography was really easy! Now Art is an amazing photographer and most of us would love to make images like he does so we could perhaps forgive him some hyperbole.

But I have thought about this a lot since I read it and I have come to the same conclusion as he did! There are several factors operating here and please bear with me while I try to make a coherent essay.

At its’ very heart, photography really is not that difficult. The problem of course, is that technology has gotten between ourselves and the creative act of photography. There are only two controls on the camera: aperture and shutter speed. So why does it seem so difficult?

It was actually easier with film. You just made some images and dropped the film off. But with digital, we have all those menus and custom functions and on and on. There are lots more options on a digital camera than we will ever use. But just the presence of those options causes angst. You feel guilty if you don’t understand every bell and whistle. Heck, I teach photo classes for a living and I don’t understand all the options. Nor do I need to.

I think much of the popularity of camera phones and point & shoot cameras is their simplicity. An iPhone for instance, is utter simplicity. There are no controls. It becomes the purest form of photography. All technology is removed; it is just you and your compositional skills.

With a film camera, we had several unknowns. Was the exposure good? Sharp or blurry? Was the background in focus or not? Was the flash filling in the shadows on the faces? We would not know the answer for days.

I think for many of us, especially if we have been at this a while, is that we still have a “film brain”.  We are trying to make every shot count; not waste film.

But use the digital camera for the tool it is. Students are always asking me, “what is the right exposure?”. Will the waterfall looked creatively blurred? How much depth of field will there be? The answer, of course, is JUST TAKE A PICTURE, and look at it. Don’t make this harder than it is. The histogram gives you instant feedback on exposure. Look at the LCD screen; magnify it if needed. How does the image look?

Some students tell me that f-stops and shutter speeds are just too complex; too mathematical. Take a photo at f4. Take another at f16. Look at them. Try 1/15 of a second. Try 1/1000. Which do you like better? This is not rocket science. Learn on the job.

Driving a car down the street is much harder than taking photos. Think of all the decisions you are making while you drive; all the data you are processing (or should be). And you even talk on your cell phone and apply makeup while driving! The key of course, is that you drive your car every day. You have driven every day since you were 16. If you used your camera EVERY day, you would soon master it. The camera needs to become second nature, like driving is. The camera is just a stupid box that lets light in.

Art and I share a common love: Bosque del Apache. I bought my first dSLR in October of 2002. Two months later I visited Bosque for the first time. I never had even tried to be a bird photographer. With film it would have taken me years and lots of dollars and I probably would not have had the patience anyway. That first day at Bosque, I made my first exposure at 4:03 PM. By 6:00 I was back in the motel room, drinking a beer and reviewing about 300 shots. Most of them were horrible. A few were pretty good. I gave myself a class that night. By the time I hit the pillow, I knew what shutter speeds I needed to maintain. I realized

Taken with 8 yr old, 4 mp "point & shoot"

my backgrounds were out of control. I saw my histograms being consistently underexposed. That next morning, I went out full of confidence and made some great images. Digital accelerated the learning process a hundred-fold. I even felt guilty how easy it was.

So let’s stop with the “photography is hard and I am confused” already! Hitting a fastball is hard. Playing a piano is hard. Photoshop is hard! Running a camera is easy.

David Lyman, founder of the Maine Photo Workshops, once wrote an essay in which he said it takes 10 years to get good at something. Really good. With film that was certainly true. With digital, we can compress the technical learning and get down to the business of “making” photographs much sooner. It still may take 10 years but most of that time can be devoted to the art of photography, not the craft.

So here is my challenge to you:

  •             Don’t buy a new camera for at least 2 years.
  •             Make pictures at least every week, without fail.
  •             Understand histograms.
  •             Use a tripod.
  •             Get a Hoodman loupe to study your LCD screen in the field
  •             Shoot Raw.
  •             Learn to use Lightroom.
  •             Check out books by Ansel Adams; John Sexton; Paul Strand, Eugene Weston, Cartier-Bresson & Georgia O’Keefe.
  •             Listen to Dvorak’s 9th Symphony while studying the books.
  •             Drink some red wine. Think about the images. Feel the images.
  •             Go to Bosque del Apache.
  •             Be happy.

Optional: (if you have the guts)… sell all your camera equipment. Buy an iPhone.

Just a Wee Drop…

I spent the last several days in Santa Fe learning to do some amazing photography! My subjects were drops of water.

2 Drops of Water Collide

With a flash duration of 1/30,000 of a second, I was able to freeze the motion of one drop of water colliding onto another drop. The results are magical and evocative. I am teaching a class this fall so you can make your own Lilliputian landscapes.

This might be the coolest class you take this year, so be sure to visit my website for registration info.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 316 other followers

%d bloggers like this: