Photo tours

Do You Suffer From OCD? Don't worry - you're not alone!

Sammon Carmargue horses.jpg

My friends: Do you suffer from OCD - Obsessive Cropping Disorder? If so, you're not along. I have OCD, too.

But for me, it gets worse. When I send my cropped images off to a book or magazine publisher, I attached the accompanying note: Crop my pictures and you're a dead man! :-)

All kidding aside, I stress the importance of not cropping off a single pixel from one of my images.

Sure, I try to get it right in camera, but somethings, especially with action photography, that is just not possible. What's more, I want the largest possible image area with which to work, so I can make the largest possible print with the least amount of noise. When I do get some noise, I reduce it with Topaz DeNoise - my favorite noise-reduction plug-in.

OCD has afflicted me for years, but in going through my Provence Camargue horse images to share with those joining my 2015 Provence Photo Workshop, I realized the seriousness of the situation. I am sharing my favorite images here as a kind of OCD group therapy.

For example, take the opening image for this post. It was cropped from the image below.

carmargue horses

OCD kicked in immediately when I viewed the image on my camera's LCD monitor: the small clusters of horses (with their butts cut off) on the left had to go.

sammon provence 5.jpg

Master photographer Edward Weston said, "Composition is the strongest way of seeing." I agree 100% - which is why I named my KelbyOne class, Composition - the strongest way of seeing.

Cropping, I feel, gives us a second chance at composition. The image of the horses above was cropped from the image below.

Again, when I looked at the image on my camera's LCD monitor, I envisioned a much tighter crop.

Cropping, like composition, is subjective. My original crop was just one idea. Above is another. It's a better crop, I feel, if you are looking for a behind-the-scenes image. It tells a different story, simply by way of a different crop.

Above is yet another crop. The idea: Look for an image within an image.

When I open a photograph in Lightroom or Photoshop (both of which I teach on my workshops), the first thing I do is crop. OCD usually kicks in because I am usually looking for an image with impact. I feel the image above has more impact than the uncropped version below. That said, there is something to be said for negative space.

Another crop might be a tight vertical, as shown below on the right. That would make a perfect bookmark, or a nice print for a narrow space.

Some photographers might think that OCD presents a challenge when it comes to printing an image - because the image will not fit into a standard (8x10, 11x14, etc.) mat or frame. But that's not a big deal. It just requires a bit of added creativity.

rick sammon.jpg

The image above was cropped from the image below.

I had a custom mat and frame made by American Frame for a custom print that I had made by Adorama Pix.

AdoramaPix, in fact, is one of the few labs I have found that will print an image exactly to my specifications. AdoramaPIx does not trim a print. Rather, the image comes printed on a standard size piece of paper with white space surrounding the image area - hence the creative step of making a custom mat. 

So my fellow OCD "suffers," crop away. Think like a painter: only include on your "digital canvas" the elements in a scene that are important to tell a story - your story.

I hope to see you on one of my Creative Visualization Workshops - where we visualize the end result, which often includes cropping - as illustrated in the image above, which is cropped to the movie-screen format.

In a future post I will discuss OSS - Over Sharpening Syndrome. I don't have it, but I have seen many examples of it.

Explore the light,

Day 3: Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips

rick sammon crossing.jpg

Today is day three of Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips here on my blog.

I am running this series in preparation for my 2015 Botswana photo safari.

Shoot me an email for info about this awesome Botswana photography adventure.

Check out my Beauty of Botswana gallery to see my favorite photographs from my two previous trips to this wildlife wonderland.

Also check out my on-line class: Capturing the Wild: Safari Photography. You can use my tips for making great pictures on a photo safari and at a wildlife park.

Today's tip: Strive for animal behavior shots.

rick sammon protectiong.jpg

Sure, portraits of wild animals are nice, and I'll share a few of my favorites tomorrow here on my blog. But behavior shots tell more of a story, such as the photograph above of a small herd of elephants protecting their young.

rick sammon lions.jpg

For good behavior shots, you first need to be lucky, as I was when I took the above photograph of a lion and lioness fighting.

But as lucky as you may be, being prepared to capture the behavior is a must - you must have a good understanding of light and composition, which I cover in my on-line classes.

And, of course, you must have the right lens. I recommend always having two cameras ready: one with a wide-angle zoom, say a 24-105mm, and one with a telephoto zoom, perhaps a 100-400mm lens. That's for starters. After that, you may want longer and shorter lenses in your camera bag. All my gear, including those lenses, is listed on My Gear page.

Planning can also help you get good behavior photographs. I planned one of my Africa photo safari workshops so the group would be there for the annual migration of the zebra and wildebeest. Talk about getting good behavior shots! The opening image of the migration is one of my favorite photo safari photos.

jumping sammon.jpg

In my first post in this series I shared a portrait I took of our guide. Again, portraits are nice, but behavior shots tell more of a story, such as the above photograph that I took of a Masai warrior demonstrating his jumping skills.

rick sammon protection.jpg

Here's something else about behavior shots: they can make you smile, as I do when I look at this photograph of a mommy elephant and her baby.

I hope to see you on a photo safari or on any of my workshops. I'm there to help you make great pictures and process your images.

If you like stuff like this, you can subscribe to my blog here.

Explore the light,

Day 1: Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips

rick sammon kenya.jpg

Today is the start of a series here on my blog: Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips.

I am running this series in preparation for my 2015 Botswana digital photography workshop with Tim Vollmer.

Shoot me an email for info about this awesome Botswana photography adventure.

Check out my Beauty of Botswana gallery to see my favorite photographs from my two previous trips to this wildlife wonderland. 

Also check out my on-line class: Capturing the Wild: Safari Photography. You can use my tips for making great pictures on a photo safari and at a wildlife park.

Today's tip: Go on a foot safari.

Photographing from a vehicle is awesome, but a foot safari can't be beat. Here are some photos from my previous foot safaris in Kenya and South Africa, along with some tips. Enjoy.

Not all camps offer foot safaris – where you actually walk on, rather than ride over, the African plains. But if the camp does offer this experience, go for it. It can't be beat for the thrill of being one with nature.

sammon on foot.jpg

Above: That's me on my previous Kenya trip with our Masai Mara foot safari guide, Jackson, and our security guard, Francis.

Is a foot safari dangerous? Not really. After all, your guides are not going to take chances. That means not getting super close the animals, but you'll be doing that anyway on your driving safaris. 


Camera gear is important, but before we get to that, dressing properly is also very important:
A) you want to wear clothes that blend in with the surroundings;
B) you want to wear good hiking boots.

Dressing in "lion hungry" pink and wearing sneakers, through which a thorn can easily penetrate, is not the way to go. See the shot above that I took on a foot safari in South Africa directly above. Ouch!

Speaking of dressing for success, check out Outdoor Photo Gear for great prices on Bug Shirts, Gloves, NEOS over shoes, gloves and more.

sammon montage.jpg

Here are my camera gear recommendations for a foot safari.
- Two camera bodies. I use Canon 5D Mark III cameras.
- Wide-angle to medium telephoto lens on one body. I recommend a 24-105mm.
- Telephoto zoom on the other body. I recommend a 70-200mm f/4 (relatively light).
- Black Rapid duo strap, for easy access to both cameras.
- Domke photo vest - to carry spare batteries, cards and water.

sammon 1.jpg

The key of course to a good foot safari is a good guide – with an eagle eye. A good guide will spot animals, even if they are well hidden. I never would have seen this lion resting in the shade had my guide not pointed him out. Good thing our guide kept us at a safe distance!

rick a.jpg

While you are out and about, take the opportunity to make portraits of your guides. They will be much closer than the lions . . . which you actually don't want to see up close while on foot! I took the lion shot above while safely seated in a safari vehicle.

Explore the light,

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It's "Hey Rick! What's Your F-stop?" Wednesday #1

I am starting a new series here on my blog: It's "Hey Rick! What's Your F-Stop?" Wednesday. The series was prompted by the question I get asked most on my workshops.

Hey Rick #1

Photograph: Mandarin Ducks.

Location: San Diego Zoo, San Diego, California.

Camera: Canon 10D (I now use the Canon 5D Mark III) .

Lens: Canon 100-400mm IS lens @ 260mm.

Exposure: ISO 400. f/5.6 @ 1/180th sec. Exposure compensation: -1. Set at -1 to preserve highlights.

Reasoning: Use a fast enough shutter speed to stop the action – and these guys were moving kinda fast. After focusing on the eyes, use a wide aperture to set the background slightly out of focus, which will make your subject stand out in your image.

Concept: Shoot tight to capture the all beauty in details.

I hope to see you on one of my workshops.

Like stuff like this? Subscribe to my blog.

Explore the light,

P.S. My forthcoming Focal Press book, Creative Visualization for Photographers, has an entire chapter – with different photographs – on this topic.

Going on a Photo Safari? Check out these books and my class

Going on an East Africa photo safari? Research and preparation are important. Very!

Don't leave home without these two books by my friends Jonathan and Angela Scott:
Safari Guide to East African Birds
Safari Guide to East African Animals.

Susan and I are heading over to Kenya in August for a shoot with Jonathan and Angela (above).

Stay tuned for images, videos, podcasts, tweets, posts and more . . .

. . . from the beautiful Maasia Mara, which is a nice place to have breakfast.


At home, check out my latest KelbyOne class: Capturing the Wild: Safari Photography.

I also have KelbyOne classes on composition and lighting. Check 'em out.

As you can see from the photographs above, and below, we are like-minded photographers.


Before I go, here's a quick video we shot on our past photo safari.

Explore the light,

P.S. Here is a link to a previous post I did on recommended camera gear.