I’m the son of a rock hound. I grew up with a museum quality collection in my own home that caught my imagination from the very start. Rocks a gazillion years old, fragile ones, hard as rock ones, expensive ones, out of this world as in meteorite ones, fossil ones and even uncut gem ones, (even played with a moon rock). To this day I can still remember going through the drawers of rocks bug-eyed! The one thing that really fascinated me is looking at the collection under different light sources, seeing a whole new world revealed by simply changing the light. Is it any wonder, I shoot rocks?!
While the geology lessons I learned in the process are long forgotten, the light on the rock lessons seems to have stuck. I mean, a rock is a rock is a rock until you light it and then, it can be just about anything your imagination says it is in your photograph! Rocks have a couple of properties I like to exploit in my photographs. There is place, time, shape and texture. These concepts are not unique to just rock photography. But what’s cool about practicing on rocks is they have all the time in the world for you to get it right!
Rocks come in lots of sizes, from those you can place on your desk and light with a flashlight to big ass ones. My favorite Big Ass Rock is Mt McKinley up in AK. We have sat on the slope ten miles away just watching it and the weather it creates for hours at a time. When it comes to photographing it, my favorite lenses are long ones, 600VR or 200-400VR2. Why so long? I want to give that big ass rock place, I want to say in one click without any caption, it’s big! The trick then is not just the lens, but light and atmosphere. If you’ve ever been to Denali Nat’l Park, then you know that just seeing McKinley can be a real trick so you click when you see it because, you can see it. Getting picky might not be an option but that’s just rock photography for you!
On the flip side is a favorite rock of mine I call Split Ass Rock. When I first blogged this photo back in 2001 it got attention more because I was photographed with the brand new, nobody had D1x. Then the laughter about my name for it made it pretty well known. I still get emails asking where is Split Ass Rock in Acadia Nat’l Park on the shore of Jordan Pond? When we took DLWS participants to shoot at the pond, I was asked where the rock was and when I pointed at it, you should have seen the disappointment in folk’s faces. That’s because the rock is so damn small. By getting down in the pond, shooting with a 14-24AFS just a few inches away though, you’d never know it was small. This is just one method of setting place and time in a photo.
One thing I remember so vividly from the drawers of rocks in my mom’s collection was the texture. Each rock / mineral was unique in its texture and weight. When we’d move the black light around, you’d see not only those features but different colors as well. That’s probably why when I’m out rock shooting, I walk around rocks looking. As you walk around, the first thing you’ll notice the pattern of light changes and that either brings our or hides texture and shape (a play of highlights and shadows). A real simple exercise, find a rock and light it with a flashlight and then do a 360 around it. What makes that rock unique will come out at some point and be hidden at another. It’s all a matter of light.
I did a workshop a few years back with my good friend RC. We were at a local lake shooting when I noticed some folks shooting rocks sticking out of the water at edge of the shore. In my typical style, I just made one comment about the photograph. Dry Rocks Suck and walked away. The photographer took their foot and splashed water on the rocks and low and behold, they didn’t suck no more! This is why I often have a bucket with me, to bring life to them rocks when they are in water with water. The colors, shape, texture that pops is better than any Photoshop pluggin can produce!
Now admitting in public I shoot rocks does sound, bad. Teaching folks to shoot rocks, sounds like I’ve lost my marbles (a form of rock humor). But I have seen many a shooter of rocks totally baffled by something that never moves and is older than dirt. I think it is because we are visually trying to bring life to something that doesn’t live. What does move is the light and that’s where the challenge lies. Next comes the fact that rocks aren’t often alone, they tend to keep company with other rocks. Most photographers not wanting to hurt the rocks feelings so they include them all in the photo. But you know what they say about company, too many rocks is a crowd! I mean, how many rocks do you need in a photograph to say, it’s a rock?!
Whether alone or in a pile, rocks talk about our earth probably better than any other element because they are something everyone can relate to. The trick then photographically, is to make the uncommon photograph out of the common subject. Perhaps if you tackle this problem with this one element thinking of place, time, shape and texture using just light to speak of these attributes, you might not only come up with some cool rock photos, but improve your overall photography just by understanding light a little bit better. Don’t feel silly giving this a try either. Just remember who suggested it to you. My name is Moose, I shoot rocks!
In the Bag
Check it out, you might just have found just what your photography needs, now! 05-06 May & 22-23 Sept 2012. 760.924.8632
Just a couple of Love Notes
Hi Moose and Sharon,
I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank both of you for a very well run Photoshop for Shooters class last weekend. Thank you Moose for imparting such great tips and techniques and thank you Sharon for keeping us all hydrated.
I don’t call myself a photographer; I think that should be reserved for those making a living with their cameras. But I do enjoy the creative process and challenges of making clicks both behind the lens and in front of my computer display. And I can already see a difference in my finished images as a result of your presentation.
Prior to attending Photoshop for Shooters, the only other classes I had attended were Kelby Training sessions when they have come to Hartford; one by Scott and the other given by Ben Wilmore. And while they were very well done, I learned more from you in the first hour.
Like a few others on Google Plus, I’ll throw my 2 cents in for restaurant recommendations in Lake Placid: The View at Mirror Lake Inn and The Brown Dog Cafe and Wine Bar. My wife and I enjoyed both when we were there in 2010. The photo I used as the ‘Stump Moose’ photo was taken just a few feet from The Brown Dog.
Again, thank you and have a great time shooting and teaching this week.
I wanted to take the time and express my appreciation to you and Moose for a great weekend in the Photoshop for Shooters class. It was not only entertaining but very informative. Moose did an excellent job of leading us through his workflow and camera settings as well as looking for the light. I’d highly recommend this class to anyone who is looking for a clear and concise weekend to learn more about Photoshop and shot in an amazing environment. I look forward to taking a workshop taught by Moose in the future. Thanks again for all your hard work!
This is in the top ten of emailed questions, “If you only had one lens, what one would you have?” I’ll get to answering that in a moment. For the last 18 months or so, I have felt I have had too much gear, lenses. I felt this from a personal and well as business perspective. It might be old age, no wanting to carry so much. It might be getting mentally lazy, not wanting as many choices to have to select from. It very well could be from getting older and wiser and knowing better what I need visually (I always hope it’s this one) but whatever it is, I’ve cleaned out a lot of gear I wasn’t using. It’s for this reason, I actually keep track of what lenses I use and what they produce.
For the third year in a row, in 2011 the lens I shot with the most and at the same time, had the most number of images sold was the 200-400VR2. This lens simply gets pounded and looking back at the stats, there wasn’t one shoot in 2011 that it wasn’t at least present if not used. Why? There are a number of reasons with the main one is its performance. It is simply beautifully sharp! It produces 24×30 prints (captured handheld) that blow away my clients in clarity. And this holds true from 200mm to 400mm, f/4 to f/22, I see no weaknesses in my 200-400 in any aspect of the lens. And 94% of the time, the D3x was the body attached to it.
When I head out for big game, the 200-400VR2 is in my hands. When I head out for birds, about 45% of the time now I head out with the 200-400VR2 with the 1.7x attached. When I head out for aviation, the 200-400VR2 always comes along. When I go chasing the light on the landscape, the 200-400VR2 is right there. When you have that kind of optical performance combined with the flexibility of the 200mm to 400mm, creativity and what I like, the optical isolation a long lens brings to a photograph, I’m not surprised just how much I rely on this lens.
Looking at the numbers, the lens I shot with 2nd most in 2011 and had the most images published from was the 24-70AFS. Ever since its introduction with the D3 which seems like a lifetime ago now, this has been my go to lens for nearly just about everything. There are a number of its attributes I depend on. One of the big ones for me is that f/2.8. It’s bright, it’s sharp and when I need it, it gives a narrow band of DOF at 24mm. When that is combined with its optical performance and focal length range, it just works for my style of photography.
And this is really at the heart of this conversation. I mean seriously, how many out there are so anal to know that about their photography, the lens they shoot with the most in a year? I started to keep track long ago when the question came in because I was curious, not that it would change anything. But this trivia only applies to me and my preferences for visual communication. It also has a lot to do with the subjects I chase.
And that “If you only had one lens” question. First, those who want to interview me and ask that question, the interview ends because IMHO, it’s the lamest question on the planet! (I know, I should learn not to keep my feelings penned in). Yes, if you’re just starting out, you will probably just start out with one lens, I understand that. I’m not just starting out though, been at it for three decades. You look at my camera bag, while shrinking a little, I obviously have more than one lens. Why do I have more than one lens? Because I NEED them to do my job. What if you’re just starting out and can only afford one lens, what should you buy? In all sincere honesty, how would I know what you should buy? Since I don’t know you, your style or abilities, how can I honestly provide a valid answer? Can I make a recommendation? Sure. Is it a stab in the dark though? You bet! With that being true, why ask the question of a stranger? (If you don’t know, rent!)
The lens is a tool, a vital tool in our quest to communicate visually the wonders we are so darn fortunate to see! The first lesson I learned in photography is buy the best you possibly can from the start and this holds so true for lenses. Manufactures, bless their little hearts, make a HUGE assortment of lenses for many reasons and if you look at the ones I’ve talked about in my 30yrs, it’s an itty bitty fraction of the possibilities. This means you have a whole lot of options beyond those I talk about you need to look at yourself and find the best one for your photography. Just because I or some other “pro” owns a lens doesn’t mean it’s the best one for you. Will my choice and most “used” lens change in the future? I could receive a phone call right now taking me on a whole new photographic path possibly changing the lens I use the most. In the meantime, I know what works for what’s on my plate right now and that’s a comfortable place to be. The tools in my camera bag provide me the platform I need to tell the stories I want to tell. And for me, those are the best lenses.
In the Bag
This take my “Joe Blow Tourist” video and blows it away. A real reason to update to CS6!
“Why did you frame it that way?” This question comes up often when I post landscape images. I appreciate the compliments that come from these images but with them often comes frustration from folks. Why can’t they take the same images? Everybody can, it just take a little time and, a little thought and, a little gear and, a ton of passion. These are the two images from our Mono Lake outing that I like the most. Why, and this is the really important, are these my favorites? It has as much to do with capturing the moment as well as the capture!
The vertical is an image I had previsualized and hiked to the location on the slope where I thought I would be able to make the image. From where we parked, the clouds on the left merged too much with the crest. At the same time, Mono Lake was too much of a sliver in bottom of the frame. So by moving up the slope and to the east, I was able to get the frame you see. Yes, I knew when I went click that the final image would be B&W. Quite often when I have clouds like this with that type of blue sky behind them, I know the contrast between the two sings in B&W. I use that knowledge in the framing of the entire image. Using Informal Balance, I use the two banks of clouds to pull the eye down to the saddle (Conway Summit) and then to Mono Lake.
The bottom frame I have to admit, looses something in this smaller thumbnail. The visual depth set up by all the clouds heading all the way down to the eastern horizon is something I waited for the wind to create. Then in the foreground is the sage that has a great pattern in its detail but is lost in the thumbnail. It’s the visual depth in this combination along with the slipping on my ass down the slope to make the click which is why I like it.
And here’s the deal, you might not like them and that’s OK! If I didn’t have a blog, you most likely would never see these two images. They are just a special moment in time when in chasing a storm, I made clicks that bring home that adventure. In this day and age when so many post images on the web looking for reassurance their images don’t suck (and many do but no one has the nerve to say so), look for that reassurance from the inside. And realize that next week that photo you liked today you might not like then. That’s how your photography grows!
We got up to Mono Lake just as the winds picked up and the clouds started to dance across the sky. The front coming through was scattered heading east providing some decent landscape photography. The upper image is looking south, the bottom image is lookin north. South fell apart pretty fast but the north just kept getting better and better. Just had to hang out and keep looking. This is the only color image from the evening, it was a great B&W adventure.
Sometimes, just sometimes I like both ways so I take both because, they both work!
Ya Hooooo! While it might be just a one day wonder, right now I’ll take ANY storm that brings moisture and mood to the Sierra. Sharon, the dogs & I loaded up the truck and headed north in search of some atmosphere.
We didn’t have to go far, just over the ridge to find the clouds coming down into Mono Basin. I pulled over and made the click just in case the wind kicked up and took what clouds we had and either stacked them up so there was no light or, they scattered to the east falling apart. Thankfully, the evening just got better and the chasing more productive. Oh, the star burst, that’s just shooting with the lens closed down all the way. What you see here is what I saw from the highway and what I saw in my mind as the finished image. This is a 5 image, HDR hand held finished in Photomatix Pro, ACR & then Nik’s Silver Efex Pro 2.
When I heard this NPR interview with George Cloony yesterday, a number of things he said resonated with me. I’ve been pondering them for the last day wondering if it was just me. Then a couple of emails came in this morning and I knew it wasn’t just me. The quote that resonates with what I’ve been seeing in some photographers is this….”People are experiencing less and recording more…” Give the interview a listen, some good stuff there for photographers.
My second aviation cover story is out for the year. The story of Super Corsair #74 and the Odegaard Family that brought it back to racing is one dear to me as I was so fortunate to be included in the project near its end. It was an honor to be apart of it and the first to fly air to air with #74. Classic Wings is a great magazine from down under. You can find it on the news stands at bigger bookstores if you don’t have a subscription to it. I hope you enjoy it, I had a blast bringing it to you!
It’s with pride I introduce you to Alicia Earle Renner, our latest finisher of our Master Light Program. Alicia, like MLP participants before her found out that the program and the industry is more challenging then you might think reading the webpage. Alicia brought something new to the program, a photographic presence above and below the water! A Key West resident (and gallery owner), you’ll see Great White Shark photos in her book! Yikes! Enjoy her work here but her best stuff is featured in the upcoming BT Journal soon to go in the mail. Great job Alicia!
but he’s no kid! Jake’s is Scott Kelby’s Guest Blogger today and it’s a great read. Couldn’t be prouder, congrats bud!
(photos courtesy of Nikon)
Understandably, the emails are arriving asking the question which body to buy. Rather then just putting up the link for the post from the last time I answered this question (D3 or D3x?) because the way to the answer hasn’t changed, I thought I would just write a little something here. First and foremost, it is quite possible the best body for you is the one you own right now! No one feels the pressure of having a new body like me as the emails arrive asking questions I don’t have answers to until I have that body in my hands. Then there is that, “It’s new and I’ve gotta have it” feeling. Seriously, there is nothing better then the smell of new gear and the thrill of taking it out for the first time. But that new body doesn’t guarantee you better photographs, it just don’t work that way. My recent piece pretty much spells out my belief that photography is a marriage of photographer AND gear. Now if you’ve settled on buying a new body (and LOTS of your have which is so cool for so many reasons) which one of these should you buy?
The only way I can help is trying to explain how I go about it. I ask myself, “What problems do I have with my current gear that the new gear might solve?” And since I am a business, that solution must include not only the photograph but also making money on the investment. The D4 vs. the D3s to me is a pretty much a slam dunk between the faster FPS, better High ISO and 1080p, the D4 solves a problem I’ll have in about 35days I know the D3s won’t. I know because last year, the D3s didn’t get the photo. Now what about the D4 vs. the D800/800E? In this one scenario, the D4 still wins out but what if we change things up a little, lets say D3x vs. D800/D800E? Now you have my attention because the D800E (which honestly, like the D3x is only right for about 10% of the shooters out there) produces bigger files more then twice as fast at less than half the price. Just like I rely on the D3x / D3s right now (and BTW, they still produce gorgeous images even with the introduction of the D4/D800), I can see the D4 / D800E serving the same roll in the future.
Here’s the hardest part of making this work for you as I see it. You’ve gotta have the experience to know the problems and the imagination to think of how those specs on a page can solve them. To be honest with you, most of you know the specs for the D4 & D800 better then I and that’s cool. The advantage I have though is even without knowing all those specs, shooting everyday I run into more problems I need solutions to. When I watched Scott Kelby’s Google+ presentation with the NPS guys, I heard enough then to order the D4. I remember all to well when the F5 came out and we didn’t have the web to share all of this information wondering how a camera body with a faster FPS was worth the investment. If you’ve never shot with a D3x, how would you know if the D800 is worth the extra pixels? Many don’t even know they are shooting using an anti-aliasing filter to know if shooting without one would be a benefit (without, you do run into the real possiblity of moire issues).
I am incredibly encouraged to hear all who have pre-ordered either body. Not only is it a sign that things are getting a little bit better out there, it also means photographers are still willing to push their photography further. None of these bodies by themselves will make you a better photographer. Sticking with the camera body you have now until you “learn” it won’t necessarily make you a better photographer either. It is the combination of photographer and gear that pushes the photographic envelope. Give yourself the time and you will see the rewards no matter which way you go. You gotta remember above all else, photography has to be fun! And on that note, take a look at this…now we’re talking fun!
“Why buy a camera missing a filter and pay more for it”? That’s the $64 million question in my inbox right now. Understand, I don’t have a D800, not seen one even, all I know if what you might know reading the material now available from Nikon. I do understand the theory behind removing the anti-aliasing filter and I know the quality hoops Nikon goes through with their products. So if I were going to buy a D800, it would be the D800E to go for ALL the quality that sensor can deliver. I’ve been pounded about the 4FPS…you have to understand that’s radically faster then the D3x 1.8FPS in a smaller and less expensive package. To me, that’s a huge leap forward. This is not a D700 upgrade, this is a whole new camera in a totally different league. Is this the camera for you? There are two reasons why I would say the D800E isn’t for 90% of folks(to repeat, this camera is not for everyone!), it captures too much information and it’s too slow. It’s like what I said about the D3x, it’s a lot of camera for the vast majority of shooters. Being a “D800″ might be confusing, it’s not in the same category as a D700. With that being said, lots of folks will own this bad boy and when you have problems, I’ll be here to help you!
Nikon has announced the D800. As per the announcement: D800, built for today’s multimedia photographer includes a groundbreaking 36.3MP FX-format CMOS sensor, Full HD 1080p video at 30/25/24p with stereo sound, class leading ISO range of 100-6400, expandable to 25,600, 4 fps burst rate and Advanced Scene Recognition System with 91,000-pixel RGB sensor. I’ve not seen the camera, not seen any delivery date yet but here’s the USA Official Page announcing it. Here’s the Japan page with the D800 / D800E announcement. The specs sound darn impressive and should make a great addition. Here’s the D800 Brochuree you can download. When I know more worth posting, I’ll do so.
Here’s a D800 Video…pretty sweet!
We are being flooded today with calls and emails asking about new, rumored Nikon gear. Sorry, but I find out about it the same to as you. I’ve not been part of a new product announcement since 1997 and even then, it’s Nikon to announce and not Moose. I’m using this format for saying this because it’s fast. I know what you know, in 2012, Nikon has announced amongst other things, these cameras:
But I’m sorry, I have no new gear announcements to make.