Mountain Dogwood (Cornus nuttallii) above the Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California
In the continuing search to develop our photographic vision it’s often said that trying a new or different approach yields the best results. While we employ many tried and true techniques in our craft that help to define our style, it’s the ongoing challenge to see the world anew that offers the greatest rewards in helping us grow creatively.
If you typically use wide angle lenses, switch to a telephoto and isolate elements from the bigger picture. When shooting under sunny skies is the norm, try the soft diffused light of an overcast day to eliminate shadows and create rich, saturated colors. As I’ve mentioned before, filters can also be an indispensable tool in shaping and controlling light in the field, and are almost always preferable to post processing. One exception is the conversion to monochrome.
With today’s powerful controls in Lightroom and Nik Software’s Silver Efex Pro, it’s now possible to make gorgeous black and white conversions from our color files that express all the subtleties and tonal range once only achievable with film and a darkroom. The challenge here is to seek out images that work well in monochrome. Typically high contrast scenes with defined edges and shadow detail are strong contenders, but there are no hard fast rules and experimentation is the key.
Although I don’t always shoot with black and white in mind, I’ve discovered many images in my files that express my emotional response to the scene much clearer than the color version. Most current DSLRs do have a black and white shooting mode, but it’s always preferable to shoot in RAW and then convert using the full tonal adjustments available in the programs I’ve mentioned. The added benefit is that you always have your original when color is the best option.
So spend some time reviewing your images with a new perspective in mind. You might just find some real gems that were waiting to be discovered in the world of light and shadow.
Here’s hoping all the moms out there have a wonderful weekend.
Take the time to enjoy what you really love doing, and don’t forget to smell the flowers - you’ve earned it!
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The latest release from Craft & Vision is a collection of 46 Lightroom Develop Presets by Dave Delnea that are sure to spark your creative juices. Dave is a commercial advertising photographer who has covered the world producing sports, lifestyle and travel imagery for an impressive list of international clients and these are his favorite LR tools.
In addition, a second Lightroom Develop Preset Package including 36 of David duChemin’s most used presets is also in the offering. Both releases include a detailed PDF guide, which includes a How-to installation process, and complete Before & After photographs of each preset to give you a sense of their application. While they won’t turn mediocre images into gems, Lightroom presets can be extremely helpful in making your workflow more efficient and a great starting point for developing your own unique look.
Each collection is sold separately for $10 or purchase the bundle (82 presets in all) for $18. Even better, use the discount code: PRESET2 before May 5, 2013 and get both packages for just $16. Visit Craft & Vision for all the details.
Happy Earth Day and National Park Week!
It was 40 years ago that the green movement was conceived and since then it has become a driving force in today’s world economy and social consciousness. We’ve come a long way from those early days when even the idea of recycling was a novelty to 2013 where fluorescent light bulbs are in vogue, hybrid cars are everywhere, and small countries like Iceland are run almost entirely on clean energy.
One of the driving forces in my photography is to show the natural world at its best and to remind us all why it’s important to preserve it. I also support organizations like The Nature Conservancy and The Wilderness Society, which do an excellent job of preserving natural spaces, working with land owners, and educating the public about conservation.
Earth Day also kicks off National Park Week (April 20st-28th) and all 401 of the nation’s parks are free this week. So get out and enjoy America’s Best Idea at a park near you or celebrate the day close to home. Take a hike, go for a bike ride, or just marvel at the natural wonders that surround us – and breathe a little easier knowing we’re heading in the right direction.
I’ve been fascinated by history for as long as I can remember. So when I ran across the finish line at the Boston Marathon three years ago it only made sense to clean up, grab the cameras and head out to explore the wealth of history in our nation’s birth place. One of the first stops we made was Minute Man National Historic Park in Concord where, on the old North Bridge, the shot that was “heard around the world” was fired at the start of the Revolutionary War. I got a chill as I looked at the monument and realized that the date was April 19th, the same day I had just run 26 miles across the Massachusetts countryside and stood on that bridge.
While there’s little comparison between resisting an oppressive government and running a marathon, the spirit is the same. The desire to be our best and the resolution to make it happen are the necessary fiber. The tragic events of this year’s marathon have been heavy on my mind, but I find a certain irony in the fact that for the better part of it’s 117 year history, the race has always coincided with Patriot’s Day, a celebration of our country’s founding in the face of adversity.
The marathon itself, like any endurance sport, is a challenge that thousands of people, young and old, fast and slow, rise up to meet each year at races around the world. As anyone who runs will tell you, it’s not so much about the physical act, but the sense of accomplishment and collaborative spirit against the odds that fuels the desire. Thousands of volunteers make the race possible, thousands more come as spectators to support family members and strangers alike, and the feeling on the course is always one of encouragement – all of which makes it feel like a giant family reunion.
It is often said that history will teach us nothing, but I think that it has. It’s no coincidence that each time we’re faced with a tragedy, we see that same spirit that founded our country rise up to meet the challenge and squelch the forces that attempt to stifle our way of life. As a photographer, a runner, and an American, I’m grateful for that common thread called freedom that we all share, and which gives each and every one of us the opportunity to be our best by whatever avenue we choose.
Tulips in Claude Monet’s garden, Giverny, France
Spring has arrived and with it our favorite blooms from around the world are emerging from hillsides, in meadows, farms and gardens. From dogwood in the Sierra Nevada to cherry blossoms in Washington and Tokyo, the sweet scent of the season fills our senses, while the profusion of color fills our memory cards with a visual feast.
Perhaps one of the most famous displays in the world is in the small quiet village of Giverny France, not far from the bustling sidewalks of Paris. It was here that Claude Monet spent the final years of his life and designed the magical garden that inspired many of his most famous paintings.
Today, thanks to the Claude Monet Foundation, the gardens adjacent to his home are much as they were a hundred years ago with an amazing variety of plants and flowers. It’s easy to get lost in the endless sea of color while imagining Monet, who was also an excellent gardener, lovingly tending to his muse.
I found the tulips particularly captivating with their vibrant form and patterns. In my own interpretation here, I couldn’t resist applying a bit of impressionism as I felt the master’s presence guiding my lens.
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The great folks at Craft & Vision have just released their latest eBook packed with useful tips on composition and technique. As always, it’s filled with thoughtful ideas for creating stronger images, and illustrated with beautiful photography that will stimulate your creativity.
And best of all, this 45-page PDF eBook is completely free! Click here to download.
Wildflowers above Sand Dollar Beach, Los Padres National Forest, Big Sur, California USA
There are many ways to create stronger compositions in landscape photography, but one of the easiest and most effective techniques is the use of leading lines. Dynamic lighting and great subject matter are the cornerstones of any great composition, but even when these elements are less than exceptional there is still a way to create an emotional connection with your audience. Draw them in and with leading lines.
The wide angle lens (anything from 14mm to 24mm) has numerous benefits for the landscape photographer from incredible depth of field and relatively small size to a viewing angle that really captures the big picture. But all that visual information can be a bit overwhelming and lead to less than spectacular results without some control. Using the rule of thirds and carefully composing to include natural lines such as a shoreline, forest edge, stream, or mountain ridge can lead your viewers into the frame or guide them to a specific part of the image. Diagonal lines in particular create visual tension, which is a sure-fire way to add drama to your images and create an emotional response from your viewers.
Next time you’re out photographing, take a moment before you trip the shutter to make sure the elements within the frame are being used to their best advantage. Think of yourself as a director rather than just a photographer and you’ll start creating stronger, more exciting images.
I’m honored to have the April 2013 cover of Outdoor Photographer Magazine!
As many of you know, Mount Whitney in the eastern Sierra Nevada Mountains of California is a favorite location of mine and a fantastic photographic subject. I’ve climbed the peak several times over the years (both the trail and technical routes), and spent countless hours exploring the fascinating Owen’s Valley beneath it. Situated on the Sierra crest in both Sequoia National Park and the John Muir Wilderness to the east, it’s the highest peak in the United States outside Alaska and the most popular destination in what John Muir called the Range of Light.
On this particular morning all the elements came together. A clearing storm had just left a fresh dusting of snow on the peak, and the dawn light illuminated the warm desert rocks of the Alabama Hills to add a nice framing to this classic alpine scene.
As a landscape photographer I spend a fair amount of time on the road each year often traveling hundreds of miles to remote locations. So it struck a chord when it was recently suggested within the online community of photographers to showcase images of those great scenes that are close to home – essentially in our backyard.
I’m fortunate to have a national park in my backyard and, although it’s 12 miles offshore in the Pacific Ocean and I don’t make it out there as often as I’d like, I do get to see it most every day. Channel Islands National Park is made up of five of the eight Channel Islands with Santa Cruz shown here being the largest. The islands are rich in Native American culture and wildlife and are a divers paradise, but even from afar they make a wonderful setting for a classic Southern California sunset.