The Last Shootout

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Yesterday was the last day of my "In The Footsteps of Ansel Adams" workshop. During the last week we shot in Yosemite, Mono Lake, Bodie State Historical Park and finally in Alabama Hills.

It was a fun, productive and rewarding experience for the group.

Dozens of cowboy movies were made in these hills. So I thought it would be a good idea to hire a real-life cowboy for my workshops participants.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from that shoot. All were enhanced with Nik Color Efex Pro, which I recommend to all my students. You'll find more examples of creative plug-ins on my plug-ins page.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Action shots and portraits are nice, but so are detail shots. They help to tell the story. Moral of the story: Don't forget the details.

Also: When you remove some of the true color from the scene, you remove some of the reality; when you remove some of the reality, your picture can look more creative and artistic.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
I took these photographs with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. See all my gear on my gear page.

If you mostly shoot outdoors in bright light, the 70-200mm f/4 lens is a practical choice. It will save you more than a few bucks over the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens, which is great for indoors, low-light shooting.

Photography by Scott Prokov
Above: Workshop participant  Scott Prokop took this behind-the-scenes shot of me directing the students during our last shoot. Thanks Scott for the fun shot.

I hope to see you on one of my workshops. We photographing running horses at the California Photo Fest and on my Florida Photo Caravan. Shoot me an email to get on my mailing list.

Ride 'em cowboy.

P.S. On our way out of Lone Pine we made a final swing through Alabama Hills.

Photograph by Rick Sammon
Photograph by Susan Sammon
Susan and I took a few fun iPhone shots. I used the wide-angle lens in the iPro Lens System mentioned on my Apps page.

Creating a Sense of Size and Scale

I took the shot above at Navy Beach at Mono Lake today as an example of creating a sense of scale - and size - in a photograph. Without the photo of me below as a reference, these stone structures (the same in both photos) would look gigantic.

Keep in mind that the angle at which you shoot, and the lens you use, effects the scale and apparent size of a subject in a photograph.

Both shots were taken with my Canon 17-40mm lens on my Canon 5D Mark III. All my gear is listed on my gear page.

I hope to see you on one of my workshops. We talk about this kind of stuff.

Explore the light,

Today's Guest Blogger: Matt Hill on Night Photography

Photograph © Matt Hill

Today's awesome guest blogger is Matt Hill. 

Take it away Matt.

Thanks so much for offering to do a writeup, Rick! I'd like to share some tips on night photography and tell your blog readers about a unique experience.

I often get asked during workshops how I choose a lighting scheme for night photography. Here's a loose guide to my digital lighting process.

1) Always shoot your first exposure for available light with no extra light sources. Use the High ISO Test that I first heard about through Gabe and Lance Keimig to find a suitable exposure fast. Make one exposure at your optimum ISO.

2) Study the result and look for opportunities to tell a story. Since you are dilating time, you have a chance to tell a story with light during those seconds or minutes. What areas need more detail? Is the moonlight bright enough? Want to overpower it and make the main light source come from someplace else? I look for opportunities to make the most important feature of the photograph stand out and start working on illuminating this.

3) NEVER light from behind the camera. The flattest and ugliest light comes from you standing behind your camera. Stand far left or right and get low or high to create shadows with your flashlight or flash.

4) Get creative. Put light sources behind objects. Cast shadows towards your lens. Try pointing a light source into your lens to see how the flare looks (can be awesome when done right).

5) Create a sense of time passing. Things that help promote this include star trails (start at 30 second exposures and can go into hours), light writing, soft water, moving trees/bushes in wind (all are in above photograph) and moving clouds.

In the end, the most successful night photographs make the viewer think about how they are looking at compressed time in a frozen moment. Use light to bring out details that tell your story in a single frame. 

Speaking of which, if you want to join Gabriel Biderman and me as we lead you on a night photography tour of one of the oldest and most inspiring locations in all of NY – Bannerman Castle (image above), read on. This turn of the century castle rests upon the small, lonely island of Pollepel about an hour north of NYC in the middle of the Hudson River. Perhaps you’ve seen it on a train ride north or on a boat tour from Beacon; it has mystified generations of people and now you will have the opportunity to photograph it at night.
This will be a rare overnight excursion limited to 6 photographers, so bring a tent if you think you will sleep, last time we shot until 9am! Thom Johnson, co-founder of the trust and author of the book Bannerman Castle (NY) (Images of America), will be on the island for a historical tour before we set up our tripods and focus on creating some truly outstanding images under the full moon.
Gabriel and Matt will go over the basics of night photography and how to successfully meter, capture star trails, paint with light, and hone your “night vision”. The majestic Castle and Residence will be the main focus but there are many little details on the island that will be yours to capture, including the 'Twins,' rising from the water, that guard the south harbor. This will be a very hands-on, one-night workshop that is sure to add some amazing and unique images to your portfolio.
Night Photography Workshops (including the Sept 1 Bannerman workshop):

My latest post on Bannerman Isalnd:

My photography site:

My teaching partner, Gabriel Biderman's night photography site:

My social handles:
Twitter @matthill

Everything else: 

8 Days of HDR: Day 8 - The Music Room

Final HDR image.
This is the last day of my HDR series. I hope you have enjoyed the photographs and the tips. Thank you for following along.

Title: Music Room

Location: Croton-on-Hudson, New York

Exposures: 0, +2. +3, -2, -3, -4 EV

HDR sequence.
Tip: See the light. Look for the brightest and darkest part of the scene, and be sure you capture all those light values. Keep underexposing your images until no areas of the frame are overexposed, indicated by your camera’s overexposure warning.

Also, to create a great sense of depth in an image, place objects at different distances from the camera and shoot at an angle.

You'll find more HDR info in my iHDR iPad app and iHDR for your Mac.

Click here to see the plug-ins I use for HDR.

Explore the light,

8 Days of HDR: Day 7 - Croton Dam in the Mist

Final HDR image.
In this series I'll shaw some of my favorite HDR images. Enjoy.

Title: Croton Dam in the Mist

Location: Croton-on-Hudson, NY

 Exposures:  0, +2, -2 EV

Tip: Use low ISO settings and a neutral density filter outdoors when photographing moving water. That combo will let you shoot at slow shutter speeds to blur the water, creating a soft and silky effect.

HDR sequence.
You'll find more HDR info in my iHDR iPad app and iHDR for your Mac.

Click here to see the plug-ins I use for HDR.

Explore the light,