Free Perfectly Clear Webinar - and save 10% on this awesome plug-in

Don't miss my free webinar on Perfectly Clear - one of the awesome plug-ins I use to enhance my images.

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Day: September 3, 2015
Time: 6 PM Pacific

It's a two-part webinar: Part I: Travel Photography in Cuba. Part II: Quick tips on using Perfectly Clear.

Hey! You can save 10% on Perfectly Clear upon check out from the site by using this code: Rick10.

If you miss the webinar, it will be archived here.

Explore the light,

Thank You Croton-on-Hudson Photo Walkers!

Croton group.jpg

What fun we had last night on our Croton-on-Hudson, New York photo walk! Photographers came from Woodstock, Newburg, Albany, Scarsdale, Ossining, Long Island and of course from Croton-on-Hudson.

Croton Photo Walkers: You can share your photos on my photo workshop participant's page. I'd love to see your work. If you'd like to join a workshop, see my 2016 Photo Workshops page.

Thank you all again for joining the fun!

Explore the light,

Excerpt #5: Creative Visualization for Photographers

This week on my blog: I am running excerpts from my latest book, Creative Visualization for Photographers.

Excerpt #5

Here is my six-step process for creative visualization (condensed from a longer and more detailed chapter in the book).

Step 1 - Selecting a subject – Never underestimate the importance of a good/interesting subject. My subject here is Fairy Glen in the Conwy Valley, North Wales. Fairy Glen is, indeed, a magical fairytale setting, someplace that reminded me of a scene from the movie, Harry Potter. It was that concept that I visualized during the early morning shoot.

Step 2 - Consider composition – Composition is the strongest way of seeing. When you see a scene you’d like to capture with your camera, think about what you want in the scene, as well as what you don’t want in the scene.

Upon arrival at Fair Glen, my first inclination was to include the sun in the photograph, but then I thought the bright spot in the frame would be too distracting in the end-result photograph, so I eventually cropped it out.

Step 3 - See the light – In the following chapters you will read about seeing the light, as well as HDR (High Dynamic Range) and EDR (Extended Dynamic Range) photography. Once you learn how to see the light, you know if a single exposure is adequate to convey your creative vision, or, for example, HDR is needed, as was the case at Fairly Glen, due to the very high contrast range.

Step 4 – Find your focus – Just because you have an auto focus camera, that does not mean that your camera knows where you want to focus.

In this scene, I wanted everything in focus, from the foreground rocks to the branches in the background. To achieve that goal, I focused 1/3 into the scene and set my aperture to f/22.

Try those setting to achieve maximum depth of field in any landscape (or seascape or cityscape) photograph. When doing so, the wider the lens the more you’ll have in focus. Here I used my Canon 24-105mm IS lens set at 47mm, which is not really a wide-angle setting, but it worked here because of my framing (no rocks or trees close to my lens).

Step 5 – Expertly expose – In the days of film, we used the BLH rule: Bracket Like Hell – and hoped to get one good exposure. Today, it’s much easier to get a good in-camera exposure, thanks to the histogram and highlight alert.

When a scene can’t be captured in one frame, HDR comes to the rescue. Still, you need to take enough pictures to capture that dynamic range. If you don’t you defeat the purpose of HDR.

When setting your exposure, you need to consider the Exposure Triangle: aperture, shutter speed and ISO. Those setting affect how much of the scene is in focus (aperture), if the subject is sharp or blurred (shutter speed) and the amount of noise in your picture (ISO).

Keep in mind that when you change one setting, you affect the other settings. Here I used a low ISO (ISO 100) so I could shoot at a slow shutter speed to blur the moving water.

Try to get it right in camera, and don’t use the S&P technique that some novice digital photographers use. S&P: Spray & Pray.

Step 6 - Process with purpose – Image processing is the final step in conveying your creative vision.

Explore the light,

Think About the Feeling of a Photograph - and Follow Keith Richards' Advice

“I don’t think, I feel.” That’s what Keith Richards said about playing guitar onstage in Shine a Light, the Martin Scorsese film about the Rolling Stones’ performance at the Beacon Theatre in New York City. A "must-see" movie, in my book!

I like that philosophy and have thought about photography the same way for years. I feel that a photographer must know exactly what all the buttons, knobs, dials, and settings do on a camera so that when he or she sees a shot, the process becomes more about feeling than thinking about the technical side of photography (this must become second nature).

In this blog post, I’ll share a few of my favorite philosophies about feelings and photography that I’ve gathered over the years. So sit back and don’t think about RAW versus JPEG, white balance, ISO settings, etc. Instead, think about the feeling of a photograph.

The camera looks both ways

When it comes to photographing people, the most important photo tip I can share with you is this: “The camera looks both ways — in picturing the subject, we’re also picturing a part of ourselves.” “Every picture is a self-portrait” is another way of conveying that point. Let me explain:

When you’re looking through your camera’s viewfinder, viewing and framing a subject, if you realize that the feeling, emotion, attitude, and energy you project will be reflected in your subject’s face—and eyes—you’ll get a higher percentage of pictures that you like. That’s because, by your actions, you’re subconsciously directing the subject to mirror the way you feel.

I don’t have to tell you how I was feeling at the moment when I snapped the photo of the Buddhist monk that opens this post. Well, even though I don’t have to tell you, it was a feeling a great respect.

Make pictures, don’t just take pictures

Rather than simply taking pictures—pointing you camera, composing the scene, setting the exposure, and focusing—take your time and make pictures.

Making pictures is not only fun, it’s part of the creative photography process. When you take control, you become the director of the shoot, just as a movie director takes control of the scenes he or she shoots.

In this cowboy portrait, look closely and you’ll notice the reflection of a horse in the cowboy’s sunglasses. That, of course, was no accident. The horse and the cowboy were carefully placed in such a way as to capture the horse’s reflection. The relatively plain background was also no accident. I selected the side of the red barn so that the subject stood out prominently in the scene.

Be aware of body language

Sometimes we get so caught up in the technical aspects of photographing people and their facial expressions that we forget how body language affects how we feel about the subject. Compare these two photographs of a woman I photographed in Marrow Bone Springs, Texas.

In the dressed-down photograph, the woman is gripping the post with “man hands.”

In the other photograph she’s holding the pole in a feminine manner. By the way, the woman is a model, and is actually the person who taught me about man hands.

Portrait vs. environmental portrait

Basically, when you take pictures of a person, you have two choices: You can choose to take a portrait (head or head-and-shoulders shot) or an environmental portrait (a picture that shows the subject in his or her environment). Both types of portraits can be effective, and I often photograph a subject both ways.

The first picture of Taraino women, taken in Amazonas, Brazil, is my favorite environmental portrait from my brief photo session in the village, which lasted only about an hour. Looking at the photograph, you can see the surrounding rainforest, and you also get an idea of the women’s clothing and body painting. Those elements help tell the viewer something about them, where they live, and what it might feel like to live in the location.

Check out this shot. It’s a nice portrait of the woman on the right in the first photograph; however, because we can’t see the environment, we don’t feel as though we’re “on location,” so to speak, with the photographer.

Be there and be aware

Most of the photographers I know agree with this expression: The hardest place to take pictures is in your own backyard. That’s why we travel to different locations around the country and the globe: to get inspired—to feel an affinity with the subject.

I took this picture in Kingdom of Bhutan, which sits on the right shoulder of India. How can you not get inspired and be driven to taking the best possible pictures when experiencing a scene like this one?

So being there in a new, interesting, and inspiring location is important for many photographers. If you can’t get to places like Bhutan, go someplace that’s new to you where something interesting is happening—something that will motivate you to take pictures.

Being aware of everything that’s going on around you is important, too. You must have your radar activated, not only looking for interesting subjects but for interesting scenes. What’s more, you need to anticipate what might happen.

This photograph of the Buddhist monks was the result of my anticipating what might happen. Moments before I took this picture, all the monks were praying inside the temple. I was observing quietly. A bell rang and they all jumped up quite quickly and put on their sandals. I anticipated that they would be outside in a flash, so I dashed outside and grabbed this shot. Being there and being aware will help you get good pictures.

Be yourself—enjoy the moment

I’m sure you’ve heard the expression, “Stop and smell the roses.” When it comes to photography, we need to keep that expression in mind. We need to totally enjoy the moment; however, that usually comes when we have a total and complete understanding of our cameras, so we don’t have to think about the technical side of the creative process (as I mentioned and as Keith Richards suggests). 

This picture of school children in Lombok, Indonesia, helps convey that point, which is basically to have fun and to enjoy the moment.

Explore the light,

What's New?

My 36th book: Creative Visualization for Photographers. The story of my Girl with Pear Earring photograph is in the book, as well as tons of tips and processing ideas for shooting indoors and out.

My 2016 photo workshops, where I encourage my workshop participants to visualize the end result.