May 17, 2011

Location: Arches & Canyonlands

I know I just had a Moab/Arches post, but I was lucky enough to go again and just couldn't help posting some of my favorite shots.  Last time I did what I could with the time I had.  Again, I had little time, but a better plan for my photography.  It's all about planning.

The Delicate Arch is such a fun arch to photograph.  I love coming around that corner after the mile and a half hike and seeing such an iconic symbol of Utah, and a natural wonder.  I had plenty of time before sunset to explore every angle.  The wind was blowing like crazy, but the shots were flowing in.  I love this shot because it's unique, yet it is still identifiable.  I was getting pummeled with sand and wind and I wanted to show that in the photo somehow.  So I used my ND filter and slowed down the shutter a bit and waited for the bush in the foreground to dance.

There is so much texture in the rocks in Southern Utah and I wanted to capture that in this fine art photo. 

At camp I set up a long exposure to capture some star trails and really liked how they turned out.  I love setting up long exposures because you never really know how it’s going to turn out.  This exposure lasted about 24 minutes.  I knew I wanted the silhouette of the mountain, to show something grounded.  The moon had just gone behind the peak and I knew it was my chance.  The glow from the moon makes the mountain really pop, and pointing toward the North Star makes the trails expand even more into space.

This image breaks all sorts of rules in photography.  Pointing toward the sun, in harsh light, horizon in the middle of the frame, but I think it all works somehow.  I definitely needed my Singh-Ray Warming Polarizer and Reverse Graduated ND filter, to bring back the colors and the sky.  I kind of like how the sun bleeds into the image, kind of washing it out, but not completely.  There was still enough of an angle on the sun to show some of the layers in the canyon walls, and I think that helps the image a lot.  I don’t know why I liked this composition with the horizon in the middle of the frame, but it just seemed to work for me.  

And I couldn’t go to Canyonlands without getting the classic Mesa Arch shot.  It’s a bit too late in the day, and I would have loved to have caught it at sunrise, but it wasn’t in the plans.  Maybe next time. 

May 16, 2011

Experimental Photography

I have always been interested in what a camera can do.  How it can capture light and how it shapes it with different exposure techniques.  My interest grew when I started playing with light and long exposures at night, and ever since then I've been finding new ways to capture a photograph. 

On the road awhile back I did some photographing out of a moving car.  Realistically and photographically this is usually a bad idea.  Nothing ever really comes of it except perhaps a reminder to come back to a certain area and stop for a real picture.  So, I took on a challenge.  I wanted to see what I could get from a moving car and how unique I could be in my approach.  In this case it was more of an accident than purposeful experimentation.  We drove through a wooded canyon with snow dusted trees with the morning sun coming though the clouds.  I rolled down the window to see if I could get some of the beauty when I shot this picture.  I had accidentally used a slow shutter speed making the photo come out nearly completely blown out.  In Adobe Lightroom I brought back the detail and turned it black and white and this is how it ended up.  Not sure what I think about it, but it's kind of cool looking.

Another experimental shot taken with a Holga toy camera using double exposure.  When composing this shot I knew I wanted to do a double exposure to really get the corners dark to focus on the subject and to put two simple images together to make a more complex one.  It makes an ordinary shot of empty beer bottles on asphalt a little more interesting. 
I like experimenting with film, because sometimes you don't know how the picture is going to turn out until it's developed.  With this picture I was getting adjusted to my dad's old Minolta camera.  A few of the photos had a white stripe going through them.  I'm not sure what happened to the film, but on some of them the effect was kind of cool looking.  

I love trying new things with a camera.  If you want to get better at photography get out and experiment with different effects. 

May 03, 2011

World Press Freedom Day

Photo courtesy of Magnum Photos

Today is World Press Freedom Day, and in honor of the journalists and photojournalists who risk their lives to tell amazing stories from war zones and dangerous places, Slate Magazine has put together a slideshow you can see here.

May 01, 2011

Beginner Tips: Quick Tips

Photography is a great hobby, passion or even profession.  If you’re thinking about getting more involved in taking pictures there is no better time than the present.  Digital has made photography easy and affordable.  Many may consider themselves photographers because they have the equipment, but nothing can make up for the learned or natural ability to take a photograph.  There is so much more than I ever thought to creating a good photograph.  There is much more art, thought and consideration into a photograph than just pointing a camera in a general direction and clicking the shutter.  So, if you want to take your photographing skills to the next level I have put together a few beginner tips and will continue to include beginner tips entries.  To start out, I put together some quick tips.  
  1. Get your camera off Auto Mode.  If you set your camera to Priority Mode (P) you have control over settings without needing to know how to set aperture or shutter speed.  As you learn how to control aperture and shutter speed I would suggest shooting in Aperture Priority Mode (Av for Canon, A for Nikon).  That way you can control the aperture and benefit from being able to control depth of field without worrying about shutter speed.  
  2. Composition.  Whether you’re a novice or a pro, your composition can make or break a photo.  It doesn’t matter what kind of gear you have, your composition and subject can be the most important factor in your photography.  For some people it comes natural.  For others not so much.  Look at how other great photographers place their subject in the frame.  How does your eye travel through the photo.  Are you distracted by something in the background?  Decide what needs to be included and what should be left out.  Some rules to keep in mind:
    1. Rule of thirds:  Break the frame into thirds and put your subject(s) at those intersections.  
    2. Fill the frame:  To repeat the great Robert Capa, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.”*
    3. Decrease distractions: That lady in the muumuu in the foreground of your amazing picture of the Pyramids of Giza may be a little distracting.  Unless, of course, ladies in muumuu’s in the foregrounds of majestic monuments is your style. 
    4. Lead the runner:  Usually, you don’t want the person looking off the edge of the frame, or the car driving out of the frame.  Give your subject room to go wherever they’re headed. 
  3. Light:  Lighting is probably the most important aspect of photography.  The best light is early morning and late afternoon.  Middle of the day is flat and boring.  Light at the beginning or end of the day has deep shadows, rich color, and overall dramatic lighting. However, don't miss an opportunity just because the clock says noon, other factors can contribute to dramatic light.  For example, some of the best light can come before or after a storm.  Be aware of how light is hitting your subject and search out the best light.
  4. Know how the flash works, then turn it off.  It’s amazing how an on-camera flash can ruin a photo.  If you use flash a lot consider investing in an external flash, but first try without by speeding up the shutter speed, cranking up the ISO, and/or start with a low aperture.  
  5. Be experimental.  Try night photography, find a different angle, break the rules. When you try new things you figure out how to slow the shutter speed or make a starburst.  
*I actually believe this quote may mean figuratively rather than literally, but either way, it's a great photography quote.