Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Your images in your home?

I once had a photography instructor ask me if I hung my own images in my own home? At that point I had a few hanging in my office for evaluation and maybe a couple smaller ones in table top frames, but no really nice ones on the walls? How about you? At first this might seem a bit egotistical, but there is more to it. It makes you ask yourself, is this image one I would really hang on my wall? This can be a invaluable question when editing down a set of images.

Another benefit is that you get to really contemplate and examine the images over a long period of time. Do they stand up after months of scrutiny? Do you still like them? What could you do better (if anything)? I personally find that too many images don't make it out of their electronic form and on to paper. Creating large prints lets you see your images in a whole new way - it is exciting, refreshing and ofter very encouraging.

Why do I bring this up? I just finished printing, matting and framing two new prints to hang in our home. Color and subject matter were of primary concern in their selection. The room has a European flavor with warm gold paint on the walls. These prints join a growing number of my prints hanging on our walls.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

First Snow

The first snow has finally come. I didn't wait for it to finish but got right out there and starting shooting while it was coming down - it is suppose to melt overnight. I used a rain jacket to minimize the snow getting on the camera, gloves with the finger tips cut off and a polarizer to shield the lens. In addition, I generally had to shoot at a down angle to keep the snow off the lens. I didn't get a lot of great shots, but it was fun anyway. I was also limited to 30min due to an previous appointment. The blog image is my favorite. It best captures the magic of that first snow. One last note, as with most of my work, I shot the images near my home.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Merry HDR Christmas to All

On this Christmas Eve I thought I would share a couple more HDR images I have shot to capture the season. I have been seeking out scenes or objects I associate with Christmas:
a nicely decorated window,

a town center Christmas tree,

a well lit outdoor shopping center.

Happy holidays to all!

Monday, December 21, 2009

HDR Christmas Indoors

In addition to shooting Christmas lights outside in HDR, I have been shooting some HDR images inside the house taking advantage of all the wonderful Christmas vignettes my wife creates. I expect these images will be used for Christmas cards in future years. I have included a couple samples here in the blog. As usual they have not only been processed in Photomatrix, but they have gone through Photoshop adjustments plus some Nik Soft filters.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

From Emotion to Compositional Element

I have been laid up with a cold the past few days. This always gives me time to think and maybe read (when my eyes aren't watering up). Many times I go back to books focused on composition. One thing I have noticed is that almost all the photography books I have on composition talk about compositional elements and then the emotional impact they may have on the viewer. For example, a book will have a section/chapter on lines (or shape, light, color, etc). The author typically goes on to say something like vertical lines create a positive uplifting response where horizontal lines create a more subdued or calming response. What if we reverse this and ask "What if I want to convey the feeling or sense of love, what should I do with respect to the compositional elements?".

I thought I might try to list all the basic human emotions and overtime answer the above question for each. However, deciding what the basic list of emotions is not straight forward. Depending on the theorist, there are 2 (happy/sad) to 11 basic human emotions with many, many more secondary and tertiary emotions.

Here are my thoughts on some elements the photographer might use to communicate the feeling of love:
  1. Get in close to the subject - creating a sense of intimacy. Distance tends toward loneliness, remoteness, etc.

  2. Compression - a telephoto vs a wide angle would better convey a sense of closeness vs. distance and separation.

  3. Warm colors vs cool - red might be very passionate where yellow might be more just warmth. Blue and green (ocean and grass) tend toward a feeling of calm and coolness.

  4. Soft focus or light - accentuate the warm glow one may feel when in love. Sharp detail may feel harsh.

  5. Lines - the type of lines to used to communicate love may depend on the particular aspect of love - say the excitement of new love (straight or diagonal) or the steadiness of long standing love (curved or horizontal lines)

Those are just my initial thoughts. What comes to mind compositionally when you think of "love"?

Blog image: I find it hard to think about communicating love outside of human interaction. This image of mother and child says it all to me. Examining this image, it makes use of all of the above items.: tight intimate shot, closeness - 200mm lens, warm sepia tones and soft light. As for lines, there are strong diagonal lines giving this image an uplifting feeling.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Final Autumn Tapestries

This is just a quick post of the final images that have gone into my Autumn Tapestries. Just click on the blog image to be taken to the full body of work on my web site. Feel free to comment (each image is named).

Friday, December 11, 2009

HDR at Fort Columbia

I have been keeping busy with the many activities of the holiday season including getting ready for a busy weekend of Christmas and birthday parties. That is probably the case for many of you. As a result, I haven't been out shooting new images so thought I would share this HDR image taken under one of the gun sites at Fort Columbia in Washington. This is one of those great places for HDR as you can tell. It was very dark in general with bright areas of light wherever there was a door or window. Both of the blog images were processed for a more surrealistic perspective. The second image was also shot with the sun behind the tower and with a wide angle lens to add to the surrealism.

Monday, December 7, 2009

An HDR Christmas

HDR (High Dynamic Range photography) can make for some wonderful Christmas images. It lets you capture more of that magic light and and detail. I have included a couple images here for inspiration. I have gone with double processing in Photomatix to get that illustrative look (or also known as grunge look). This is the case for the first two images. As with all my HDR images, some additional processing is needed using Photoshop and some NikSoft (ColorEfx Pro) tools. In these images, some contrast was added, dodging or burning used to highlight some features and finally some color correction to get the look I wanted.
The Christmas tree lot image is a traditional multiple exposure HDR shot that has been double processed through Photomatix and with similar post processing in Photoshop, etc.

Just another way to capture some of the Christmas magic in your images.
What are some cool techniques you have found for capturing the magic of Christmas?

Friday, December 4, 2009

Christmas Lights

The door on fall closed and the winter Christmas season door opened. Christmas lights have started to appear all around and they present another photographic opportunity. Some of the same techniques I have applied to nature work can be readily applied to Christmas lights and result in unique images. I have included two examples here. The first is a 9 multi-exposure shot (slight shift between each shot) of a nicely lit up house. With the multiple exposures the number of lights is multiplied and their impact enhanced. With many high end Nikon cameras you can do this in-camera. If you are a Canon owner or don't has this mode check out the free Photoshop script at Outback Photo (bottom of page under free scripts). It will . Tony Sweet has a video on using this as well - video.
For the second image I did a slow swipe (1/2 sec) moving top to bottom. It produces yet another look. Note you will probably have to up your ISO to get the right shutter speeds and aperture (f16 for this image).
There will likely be more ideas to come. Have fun!!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

A door closes

Well fall is pretty much out of here and there is very little in the way of leaves on any trees (but a few hang on). At this same time I am wrapping up my work on a Portfolio Development class with William Neill. It has been good and forced me to really focus on shooting for specific themes. Focusing on a theme forces you to think hard about ways to vary and add depth your portfolio:

  1. Different lighting.
  2. Different perspectives or lenses.
  3. Different ways of expanding the theme outside of your initial thinking.
  4. Variation of colors.
  5. Variation of the subject overtime.

While varying all of these there still needs to be a consistent style and vision behind the portfolio - not always easy.

I have included with this blog three more images I have added to my tapestry theme. Believe me at times I couldn't think of any more ways to expand it, but I made myself go out and see what I could find. Sometimes I had to shoot and reshoot the same subject multiple times to get something the fit my vision of the theme. Other times I had to work on the post-processing to get the image I envisioned (the oak leaf image for example). Now and then a new creative perspective would result (like the closing door image at the start of blog).

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Christmas List

As we jump into the holiday season, it comes time for me to give the family ideas for Christmas gifts. I don't know about you, but this is always somewhat difficult for me. In part due to the fact that most photographic equipment is expense or things you may not want others purchasing for you. In the end, most of my Christmas lists end up being a selection of some misc gear that I haven't gotten around to purchasing, new LCD protectors, filters, etc. Sometimes the list may contain a print from a favorite photographer. Finally there is always a list of books of DVDs from photographers whose work I admire.

Last year one of the gifts that I received was Tony Sweet's "Visual Literacy" DVD set. This DVD set later won a Telly award in the How-to/Instructional category (some 13,000 submissions for that). I have enjoyed this DVD set and viewed many section of it several times. This DVD set gives you an intimate look at the many aspects of a fine art photographer's day to day work. It covers shooting in the field, shooting in the studio (flower work), post-processing the images, printing, how to get started, what equipment Tony uses (and you need), etc. The most valuable part to me are the how-to pointers and tid-bits Tony provides through out the videos - things I always wondered about.

I have added a pointer to this DVD at Amazon on my favorites list in my blog sidebar. It my make a nice addition to your Christmas list.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More Fall Immersions

I haven't been inspired to write a lot this past week, but I did manage to find some late changing maple and oaks trees yesterday which allowed me to add to my Fall Immersion portfolio. Again for the first image I took advantage of morning back lighting to create wonderful colors and "brush strokes" . In the second image I used a slight scallop side movement to create the strokes.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Indoor Photography

I have been sick most of this week and so I haven't been outside to grab the end of the fall season shots I had planned. Instead I have played a little in the office with things I have brought indoors for some close up work in the past weeks. Here are a couple shots of decayed Chinese lanterns taken on sheets of paper using a focused beam flashlight as the source. In the first shot the paper is actually white but taking advantage of the flashlights (and not auto-white balancing) inherent color I ended up with a very warm background. In both images I chose to go with diagonal shadows to create more dynamic images.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Tapestry Mirror

I whipped up a mirror image of one of my tapestries just to see what I thought of it. While I like it, it is a bit different from the other images in my tapestry portfolio. I will most likely put it in a portfolio of mirrors one day. I am starting to get a few of those set aside. Creating mirrors like this is fun and reasonably simple. See Tony Sweet's blog video, click here , for one way to create a mirror.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

More Tapestries

I have been busy the last few days working on new images for my "Fall Tapestries" portfolio. For this project the number of images is restricted to 10 image total. It has been quite difficult trying to edit down to that limit -which images should be added and removed to create more depth while maintaining or increasing the overall quality of the set. I have included some of the candidates here in the blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Symbolism in Composition

Besides the use of lines, perspective, color, etc. to achieve emotional impact in you image, one can use symbolism. For example, one that is commonly used is an empty chair or seat. I find that it can have a different impact depending on the surrounding context. I have included images that illustrate this. The first image from a mausoleum has a couple symbolic elements. For now we will focus on the empty bench. Here the bench helps convey the sense of loss – something/someone missing.

The second and third images present much more pleasant surroundings. I have found these images make the viewer wish they were sitting there and really draws the viewer into the image. Sometimes an empty bench may make the viewer feel loneliness.

Going back to the first image, let us analyze it a bit more:

  1. Empty seat symbolism – loss.
  2. Wilted roses – reinforces the idea of death.
  3. Color – the color in the roses grabs the viewer’s eye. The lack of color in the rest of the image again creates a sense of loss, subdues the mood, etc.
  4. Lines on the granite wall lead you from the roses back to the empty bench.
  5. Light - the brighter light on the bench highlights the empty bench and may five a sense of hope to some.

What are some other strong symbolic elements you have seen used? Note, that some symbols may have emotional ties for you but not others.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Photography Books, etc

In case you have noticed, I added an Amazon widget on my blog. It contains and will only contain books that I own and have read (for the most part - some don't lend themselves to straight reads - more like references). The first book I will point out is "The Photographer's Eye" by Michael Freeman. Its an excellent book on composition and touches on some areas not often discussed - the shape of your image (the frame) for one. Personally I have felt that second to developing an eye for light, is the development of an eye for composition.
Blog image: nice morning shot of Mount Hood on a misty fall morning. Illustrates the compositional technique of layering or repetition.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Fall Immersions

There has continued to be quite a response to my two blogs on photographing for emotional impact. Because of that I will be coming back to that topic soon with discussions on how the different aspects of composition convey emotion - framing, subject placement, focal length, etc. So stay tuned if that is of interest to you.

In the meantime, I have been working on additions to my impressionistic images this fall, in addition to the "Fall Tapestry" images I posted a couple blogs ago. I have tentatively call this portfolio - Fall Immersions. The blog image is one of my favorites. Immerse yourself in the colors of fall and enjoy the images (click on the image to see others in this portfolio).

Saturday, November 7, 2009

More Emotional Impact

It appears my last blog entry on emotional impact in photography struck a cord with many of you out there. So in that same line, I have added two more images taken at the same time as the previous 3 images that take yet different approaches to the subject.

The first image is similar in feel to the third one in my previous blog, but is a bit different. For me it conveys the emotion of being left behind. How about you? Analysing the image:
  1. Not really hi or low key - just average tonal range - maybe a touch on the dark side.
  2. Wide angle lens - gives is that since of distance from the foreground leaf to the curve.
  3. Road line is more straight up and down - less dynamic or exciting than a diagonal. This is in keeping with the more subdued (or negative) emotion.
  4. Foreground object close to front frame edge (not at the classic 1/3 location). This reinforces the left behind or loneliness of the image.
  5. Black and white image - again less vibrant and more subdued.

The second image was shot while zooming and panning using a long shutter exposure. The panning was to keep the end of the road as the zoom focal point. It has been blended in Photoshop with a "watercolor" version generated with Topaz Labs Simplify. What feelings does this rendition of the image illicit?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Photographing for Emotional Impact

Really good photographs not only present a technically fine image to the viewer, but they should have emotional impact. I have included in this blog three images shot within minutes of each other of the same subject, each designed and processed for a different emotional impact.

The first image is designed to covey the joy of a walk down a country road on a fall day. Lets look at some of the factors that create that impact:
  1. Hi key image (somewhat) - highlights are allowed to blow out and the majority of the tones are on the lighter end of the scale. This creates an airy uplifting feeling.
  2. Vertical lines - the vertical lines of the tree have positive impact (as compared to horizontal ones).
  3. Diagonals - diagonal lines create energy and a sense of movement. The trees are at a slight diagonal in this image.
  4. Vertical framing - a vertical frame like any vertical lines in the image reinforces the positive feel.
The second image has a more subdued, moody and mysterious feel. Analysing this image:
  1. Low key image - most of the image is to the dark side - creating moodiness.
  2. Horizontal frame - horizontal lines or framing can make an image more subdued and tranquil.
  3. Post processed to emphasize the fog - fog adds mystery.
  4. Monochromatic - eliminating the bright fall colors again creates a more subdued retrospective image.
  5. Curved road - a path or road that disappears around a bend creates a sense of mystery. "What lies ahead?"

The third image conveys different emotions (shot again at the same time as the others). What do you feel when you look at it?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Fall Tapestries

I just thought I would share with you a set of images I created the past couple of weeks for a portfolio, "Fall Tapestries". Click on the opening image to see the full set of images.
A tapestry is "A heavy cloth woven with rich, often varicolored designs or scenes...". The earliest known Western tapestries were woven in the tranquil seclusion of monasteries by the devout seeking to beautify the house of God. Over time the art of tapestry making became one of the major visual art forms along side painting and sculpting. My tapestries seek to capture that finely woven design of color that permeates nature and reveals the infinitely artistic hand of the creator - from the intricate intermixing of the colors in the forest to the varicolored designs of the leaf.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Money in Fine Art Photography?

As I continue to look at how one can make a living in fine art photography, I have come to some conclusions.

Very, very few fine art photographers make their living primarily off of selling prints. One photographer in the NW indicated he only knew of 3-4 in the entire NW region who were able to do that. So in general I would say as a fine art photographer you need to look at generating multiple streams of income – books, teaching (online, DVDs and/or direct), lectures, etc.

It takes a long time to build up a following and income stream. Have you ever noticed how often it takes an artist in most any genera 10+ years to be recognized? The key here is to just keep plugging along and making the most of opportunities as they come along, getting your name out there.

One thing that does mark some of those that succeed is a specialization in a technique, subject or skill that isn't easily replicated by the mass of other photographers out there. In business terms they have established a significant barrier to entry to their particular markets. The current turmoil in the photographic market place is in my mind due to the lowering of the barrier to entry that existed before the age of digital photography and the digital age. The digital age has allowed a much greater number of people to create good images and distribute them in a prolific manner. One result of this proliferation has been that to stand out as a photographer you must figure out how to rise above the masses. While the Internet has created the opportunity for visibility around the world - standing out in all this "noise" is difficult (think about searching on the web - how many hits do you get if you sea ch on "photographer").

Stock photography as a major source of income is pretty much dead. While I hear rumors of a photographer now an then who still makes a living off stock, the professional fine art photographers I know would say not to waste your time there now. So far I have not had any success in the more direct sales approach to calendar companies and publishers either. This could be due to the economy, my lack of experience in selling to them or my images may not match their needs (though I try to do my research here). Time will tell.

So am I throwing in the towel. No. I am just sharing my observations along the way. Being persistent definitely seems to be a key to success.

Feel free to share your thoughts and experiences in making money in fine art photography.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

More on Fall Photography

I decided to add on a couple more hints on fall photography and how to ratchet things up a bit more.
  1. When shooting images of fall trees, look for patterns in the color. Patterns give your image more structure and our brains like patterns. You will be surprised how many times there will be horizontal line or layers of color. I have included a couple of examples here - first two images.
  2. Look for back lit leaves and trees when the sun is out. The glow from back light can be quite spectacular and make a tree standout from the background. See next image.
A couple more advanced techniques useful in fall photography:

  1. Use of double exposures to add more "glow". This can be done in camera, using for instance Nikon's overlay function, or in Photoshop post processing by stacking layers. To create the glow you see in the blog image I used an in camera overlay where the first image was in sharp focus and the 2nd one out of focus and overexposed 1-stop. I then blended them to taste using the in camera gain controls.
  2. Use camera pans or swipes to blend colors and create great fall abstracts. Here you slow down your shutter speed to 1/5-1/8 second and move your camera while taking the picture (it is fun to break rules!). Try it several times until you get an image you like. It is generally best (but not a rule) to move your camera along the primary lines in the image - typically up and down for trees. The last blog image is an example of this. For more on this see
Have fun with fall shooting.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Fall Photography

It is that beautiful time of year known as fall. One of those times when the world becomes a candy store for a photographer. There are images waiting to be captured everywhere it seems. But how many times have you gotten your fall photographs back and they just don't capture the magic. Well here are a few tips I have learned over the years:

  1. Use a polarizer to bring out those colors and remove that washed out glare from the sky (even on a cloudy day). This is one filter effect you can't recreate afterwards in Photoshop. If you want fall colors with deep blue skies you need this filter. All of the blog images where shot with a poloarizer.
  2. Shoot on a cloudy day right after the rain - the colors are very saturated under these conditions, but again make sure you use a polarizer to get the glare off those wet leaves. See above image.

  3. Underexpose a little in some cases (1/3 - 1 stop) - underexposure saturates colors.

  4. Look for a splash of one color surrounded by another to create impact. See first blog image.

  5. Look for structure to hang your fall colors on. See next image.

  6. Windy day - experiment with long exposures. The next image was shot at 1.6 sec to allow the wind to create the fall "fire".

As always have fun!