Are you one of those photographers that dump all your photos into one “My Photos” folder on your computer without any organizing structure? If so, make getting your photos organized so you can find them one of your New Year’s resolutions for 2016.
Students in my photo workshops often ask me how I’m able to find all of the photos in my library. I’m a believer in having multiple levels of organization, from the physical way images are stored to detailed captions and keywords. This month I’ll address the bottom layer — physical organization — for digital files. There’s more than one way to address the problem, so figure out what’s going to work best for you in actual practice. The best system in the world is useless if you don’t use it. Continue reading →
Now that December is here we can no longer pretend it’s autumn. Winter has arrived, even though the calendar says the official start isn’t until December 21. The mountains are buried under snow, days are short, the sun stays low in the sky, it’s cold, and the color palette in our lowlands has turned to muted shades of brown, gray, and dull green. Time to put your camera away, or turn to strictly indoor scenes? Not at all. Here are seven tips to help you create winning winter landscapes. Continue reading →
Patterns are everywhere in the world around us. Our eyes and our brains are optimized for seeing and recognizing patterns, but turning them into photographs takes a little thought. We can find interesting visual patterns both in the natural world and in the built environment.
Patterns can be abstract or geometric, repetitive or unique. They may be revealed through color, texture, line, or brightness. We can find patterns at any scale from the microscopic to the vastness of interstellar space. With the right tools you can photograph them all. Continue reading →
One of the challenges in two-dimensional art, including photography, is creating the illusion of depth on a flat piece of paper or computer screen. Layering the elements in your composition is one way to do it.
Layering is a variation on having a foreground, middle ground, and background in your image. You can place your main subject in any of those positions, although layering is most effective when your subject is in the middle layer. The technique works for many subjects, whether you’re photographing your family, your car, or a favorite landscape. Continue reading →
One of the strengths of compact cameras, and even cell phone cameras, is their ability to shoot wide-angle close-ups. These little cameras focus closest at their widest zoom setting. That seems counter-intuitive but it’s the way they work. So take advantage of this by going close to your subject, but leaving some space around it to show a hint of the environment, too. It’s a great technique for wildflowers, garden flowers, and other nature-type subjects, but not so good for people because the exaggerated effect that can make your sweetie’s face look fat and her nose like Pinocchio. Continue reading →
One of the most powerful creative tools photographers have at their disposal is choosing which parts of a photo should be sharp and which parts should be soft. This sharp/soft contrast is a very good way to set a subject apart from the background. We call this depth of field because we’re controlling apparent sharpness from close to the lens to the far distance.
In the pair of landscape photos above, one was made at the relatively wide aperture of f/5 (left side of the slider)and the other stopped down to f/16 (right side). Notice the difference in sharpness in the foreground flowers. My focus point was on distant Mount Baker in both versions. These images were made with my lens at 70mm, a short telephoto. Continue reading →
Last week I was photographing Southern Oregon forests under a brilliant clear blue sky. The fresh green foliage sparkled, reflecting the bright sunshine. These are the conditions that call for a polarizing filter. It’s one of the few filters I use with my digital camera, and there’s no good way to simulate its effect in post-processing software like Photoshop or Lightroom. Continue reading →
Have you ever come back from a photo excursion, looked at one of your pictures and wondered, “What was I seeing when I snapped that photo?” My mother even saved some of my early “what’s that?” pictures, like the one above. I must have seen something interesting in that early spring messy corner of my dad’s garden but it sure didn’t come across in the picture. I don’t know why she didn’t toss those clunkers, because that’s what she should have done and what I do today. (I was 7 when I took that picture in 1961.)
Sometimes it’s downright hard to find the photograph in a chaotic scene. I’ll feel there’s something interesting in there somewhere, but it’s not always obvious how to convey what I’m seeing or feeling in the frame. Slowing down and really looking for the story is a good first step.
A few days ago I took a walk through our woods with my camera. Spring growth was fresh and green, the early morning light was soft, and I felt engaged with the forest. I wanted to capture how the woods looked and felt to me. Continue reading →
One of the exercises I give to all of my photo class students is to find a subject and photograph it from different viewpoints. The idea is to expand creativity and explore new ways of seeing a subject. You can apply this concept to almost anything you’re photographing.
Last month Natalie and I spent a week vacationing on the wet side of the Big Island of Hawaii. The weather was mostly overcast, with periods of heavy rain, not the brilliant sun most people think of for Hawaii. We spent a lot of our time exploring for plants and birds, including a couple of days at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. Almost all the plants we saw were new to us. A lot of them blended together — mid-sized broadleaf evergreen shrubs and small trees that didn’t have showy flowers. But a few stood out and I made several photos of them with my pocket camera. Continue reading →
Little details matter when you want to set your pictures apart from the masses. You don’t want anything to intrude into the frame that shouldn’t be there. Your viewer’s attention should go to whatever it is you’re photographing, without distracting stuff getting in the way. I call it “cleaning up the frame.” Here are five ways to clean up your photos before you press the shutter button.
What’s that growing out of your head?
Watch for objects like telephone poles, trees, or lampshades growing out of people’s heads. It’s usually pretty easy to move over a little, or ask your subject to move, to fix the problem. I have a snapshot of myself and some climbing buddies commemorating our climb to the top of Devil’s Tower in Wyoming many years ago. I handed my camera to another climber and our party posed around the post marking the summit. I failed to realize that when I sat with my back to the post the spike came out of the top of my head. It would have been a better photo if we’d grouped ourselves with the post between two of us. Continue reading →