One Light Wonder

Photograph © Rick Sammon
My friend, Dutch photographer Frank Doorhof, has a great expression:

When you think you need two lights, use one light. When you think you need three lights, use one light.

I agree with Frank.

I took this this shot (actually before I meet Frank) with with one light (Canon 580EX II) in a Westcott Apollot soft box . . . carefully adjusting my exposure to include some of the background light.

Keep it simple, use one light . . . unless you need 87 speedlites like our friend Joe McNally. :-)

For more people photography tips, check out my book, Face to Face.

Explore the light,

P.S. You'll also find lots of lighting tips in my apps.

Chasing and Capturing the Light

As photographers, we are light chasers and light catchers. After all, a photograph is all about light - the main element in every photograph. That's the topic of my next class on Kelby Training, which I'm recording in July. Stay tuned for the release date.

Often times, we need to chase the light, which means being prepared for the chase. Being prepared means having the gear, knowing how to use that gear, making the right exposure decisions . . . and envisioning the end result.

Speaking of exposure: my #1 tip is this: Exposure for the Highlights! So, keep your camera's highlight alert feature turned on, and check your histogram.

Above is the end-result image I envisioned when I first saw the giraffe in the scene below. The giraffe is hard to see in the frame, but it's there in the center by the horizon line.

To get the shot I envisioned, I worked with the driver of our safari vehicle, saying: "move this way, no that way, now just a bit to the left, now to the right, please back up, inch forward, stop!"

So the next time you look through your viewfinder, keep in mind that you are recording light. And keep these thoughts in mind about shadows:
• Shadows are the soul of the photograph.
• Shadows are your friend.
• Light illuminates, shadows define.

Explore the light,

What I Have Learned From My "Tough Love" Portfolio Reviews - Lots of Talent Out There

About six months ago, I started a new service here on my blog: "Tough Love" Portfolio Reviews. Since then, I have reviewed the work of photographers in Finland, Italy, Vietnam and in the United States. Check out the comments in my original post.

What's interesting to me is that the majority of the photographers are creative - including George Howard, whose images from his shadow series lead off this post. You'll see more of George's work, along with his wife's work, here on my blog in the future. George's wife, Marion, is a talented painter, and this dynamic duo helps each other with their art. What fun meeting these guys on line!

I have found that the photographers, including Adam Allegro, a Navy officer based in Italy, just needed a little reassurance and confidence about their photography. What's more, we may do a workshop together in the future. Adam knows a few very cool shooting locations.

Some of the photographers, including a travel agent, needed business advice on how to better market their work. Others just needed a few Photoshop or Lightroom tips to give their pictures more impact.

Some of the participants just wanted ideas on how to have more fun with their photography.

Of course, there were beginners and student photographers who needed some real "Tough Love." With a few tips, they are on their way to becoming better photographers.

Anyway, I think I am enjoying my "Tough Love" Portfolio Reviews as much as the photographers. I am learning a lot – and learning is health (as the Buddhist say).

Explore the light,

Guest Blogger: Canon Explorer of Light Lewis Kemper

  © Lewis Kemper
My guest blogger this week is fellow Canon Explorer of Light Lewis Kemper. I am sure you'll enjoy Lewis' photographs from Yosemite, as well as his tips on where and when to photograph.

In this post, Lewis specifically talks about where to photograph from sunrise to sunset.

If you plan to photograph inYosemite, Lewis' book, Photographing Yosemite Digital Field Guide, is a must.

If you are participating in my "In the Footsteps of Ansel Adams Photo Caravan," this post is for you.

If you are looking for some gear recos, here's my list.

Take it away Lewis!
Sunrise Locations

My all time favorite sunrise location is Cook’s Meadow (above), just east of Yosemite Lodge. From here the sunrises behind Half Dome, and depending on time of year illuminates Yosemite Falls, Yosemite Point, Sentinel Rock, and Glacier Point. There are many oaks and one elm tree, as well as Cow Parsnip in summer that you can use as foreground elements, in your images. If you cross the footbridge you can get reflections of Yosemite Falls, in the Merced River. I also like the view from the footbridge looking down the valley with Sentinel Rock on the left. From this one area you have a wide variety of photographic options so plan to spend a lot of time here!

 © Lewis Kemper
Another area I like at sunrise is along the Merced River on the south side, opposite from El Capitan. As you walk the river west of the El Capitan Bridge (where you can cross over to the Northside Drive), you get great reflections of El Capitan as morning sun strikes the monolith.

  © Lewis Kemper
And now with HDR, I like going to the areas that are typically thought of as “sunset” locations, which include Gates of the Valley and Tunnel View (above and below).

© Lewis Kemper

Sunset Locations

© Lewis Kemper
Off course no visit to Yosemite is complete without witnessing sunset from the Tunnel View on Highway 41. This is the classic view with El Capitan on left, Clouds Rest Rest and Half Dome in the center, and Cathedral Rocks and Bridalveil Fall on the right.

© Lewis Kemper
Outside the valley I like the views from Glacier Point and Olmsted Point. From Glacier Point you are approximately 4000 feet directly above the valley with Half Dome looming in front of you and a great view up Tenaya Canyon. From Olmsted Point, on the Tioga Road, you have an interesting view of Half Dome from the north side as it catches the last rays of the setting sun.

© Lewis Kemper
Because Yosemite Valley is so deep there really are no “Golden Hours” the sun is high in the sky before it hit anywhere in the valley and sets quickly over the valley walls. The only time you get “golden” light in the valley is if there is a great cloud cover overhead (but not on the horizon) around sunrise or sunset. But if you venture outside of the valley, especially up to Tuolumne Meadows you can find “Golden Light” that last can start about and hour before sunrise and last until about an hour after sunrise.  In the evening the nice light can last about 1½ hours before sunset and last about 45 minutes after sunset. 

Low Light Ideas

© Lewis Kemper

A nice place to visit when the light is low would be the sequoia groves. There are three in the park, two require a hike and one is accessible via a shuttle. Early in the morning or late in the evening the trees are more evenly lit and much easier to photograph.

Midday Ideas

© Lewis Kemper
If you are in the valley mid-day then I suggest you concentrate on details and close ups. There are Cow Parsnip and milkweed in Cooks, Meadow, azaleas near Gates of the Valley, and many interesting lichens and rock patterns around Happy Isles. If you leave the valley mid-day is a fine to photograph some of the high country lakes along the Tioga road.  I like Siesta Lake, and Tenaya Lake.  From Tuolumne Meadows it is a short hike to Dog Lake. Tuolumne Meadows can also be a good mid-day destination with its wildflowers and reflections in the Tuolumne River.

• • • 

Thank you Lewis for an inspiring post.

Explore the light,

Fix Creative Fatigue and Go on Safari

© Rick Sammon
I have two articles in May/June issue of Digital Photo magazine. One on fixing creative fatigue and one on digital wildlife photography. Check 'em out.

One idea to fix creative fatigue: play with plug-ins and awaken the artist within. Above I used the Polaroid Transfer effect in Nik Color Efex Pro to remove some of the true color from the scene.

Click here to get a discount on Nik and some of the other plug-ins I use.

When you remove some of the true color, you remove some of the reality. When you remove some of the reality, your picture can look more creative and artistic.

One idea for wildlife: shoot wide and make a photograph that shows the animal in its environment.

In the shot above I applied the Spicify filter in Toapz Adjust (another favorite plug-in) to the sky.

Explore the light,

P.S. Here's some more thoughts on getting inspired and motivated.