After posting a photo of the B-26, I received an email from a reader. It told telling me about his father, a WWII vet and B-26 pilot who really liked the photo I had blogged. I sent the dad two prints of the aircraft, a small gesture of thanks for his service. …this is why we must share our photography!
I wanted to let you know my father received the prints you mailed him. They are absolutely gorgeous and he was so excited and happy to see them. He pours over every detail and keeps telling me what a good airplane that was. I asked him what he liked best about flying. He got very still and quite for a long minute, then smiled and said “cloud hopping, the sense of speed”. For a moment he was back in 1942, young and strong and confident, a 21 year old Citadel cadet, flying the most advanced aircraft in the world with all of life still ahead of him. He wasn’t just remembering his youth he was reliving it, feeling what he felt over 70 years ago. What is such a moment worth when you are 92, nearing the end and in constant pain from arthritis and cancer? Everything.
Do you know why they paint drunk tanks pink? Do you understand what it is about red the can change your life? If you’re a photographer, you must read Drunk Tank Pink NOW and find out these and many other answers that will directly impact your photography!No, Adam does not talk about f/stops of camera brand. What he talks about are some of the most useful tools you can have and use as a photographer and, they are all free! Have your doubts because of the title of the book, listen to this interview on NPR and thank me in the morning!
When it comes to learning a new location, walking works great. Ya, takes more time and you don’t cover as much ground but personally I tend to see more and think of more potential photographs that way. So when up in Spokane a week ago, it was a brisk morning, perfect for a walk downtown. Now Spokane is all new to me, driving through and stopping only for gas once doesn’t count as a visit. So with my girl by my side and D600 / 24f1.4AFS on my shoulder, off we strolled. I was totally blown away by the first thing we came across, Spokane Falls! This place is cool! We walked completely around its parameter and spent some time on the bridge that crosses the Spokane River. I had no idea this really great falls existed. And the power house, is that a sweet structure or what? The 24f1.4 was the wrong lens, not for the focal length but aperture since it doesn’t close down much. Even shooting in L1 didn’t get me a slow enough shutter speed to do much with the water. I’ll be back to work this falls again!
Just a block away from the falls is the spectacular Review Building built in 1890. I love photographing architecture, wish I could have made money at it as the Review Building really makes me wanna pursue it. The photograph didn’t take much to make happen. I moved laterally to get the sun reflection off the window you see shooting with the lens totally closed down for the sunburst. While working on that, I worked on getting the reflected light on the street in the foreground. Then simply lined up the lines the best I could and went click. The finished photo was a simple Silver Efex Pro conversion. There’s a lot more to discover in Spokane, good thing Brent has a spare room
“My kids just started back to school so my next few weeks and weekends, I’m stuck at home. What do I shoot?” Just received an email with this question and man, is it all too real! I remember that time when my boys started at school and I wanted to stay home the first few weeks to be there for all that new, school stuff. Taking off for a weekend to shoot just wasn’t possible and being the end of August, there just wasn’t a lot out my window to photograph. It’s times like this I go outside my comfort zone, if for just two weeks out of the year with my photography. It’s now I raid my local florist and find a posse to photograph. It’s no secret I hate photographing wildflowers. I just don’t like sticking my ass in the air as I bend over to wait for a flower to stop moving to take its photo (I have the utmost respect for those who do it well). So I buy a flower and bring it home and set up a studio to take it’s portrait. And I light it with a minimum of two flashes, making it a real challenge. The idea is real simple, with total control, make the uncommon out of the common. You could easily sum it up with Jay Maisel’s mantra, Light, Gesture, Color. In the case of this rose, there are 3 flashes being used, 2 SB-R200 & 1 SB-900 (with a 70-180 lens). The SB-R200 have DIY light modifiers and they are the main light on the right and left of the rose and the SB-900 has a snoot for the leaves. No, I didn’t place the rose and go click the first time and get the shot, it took a half an hour to fine tune it but what you see here is the photo right out of the camera. And doing this once a year I can handle so now, I’m good until next August. If you’ve not put yourself through this
hell challenge, it might be the time to give it a go!
our photography is real simple…..
I am sure that you receive hundreds if not thousands of emails from people all around the world asking you for things. This is not one of those emails. I am not sure that given your busy schedule you may not even have an opportunity to read mine, but I wanted to send this to you to say thanks. For what you are probably asking. Simply put Moose, your willingness to share your knowledge, your work and skill with those of us that enjoy America’s wild heritage and vast landscapes. It is inspiring to the next generation of us who love the outdoors. I don’t have the means to travel to all the locations that I would like to photograph, but I really do feel a connection to your work and it makes me feel as if I have visited the place or that I have seen it with my own eyes even though in reality I have not. I have read your books and I visit your blog for insights on various techniques and even though I have not had the privilege of meeting you personally Moose, your writings and videos are crafted in such a fun and carefree way that makes all I think who watch, feel as if they know you.
I really strive to apply the lessons that you have learned to my own photography and really enjoy the story telling part of photography. The gratifying thing for me Moose is that my daughter, who is 10 is getting the photography bug and I could not be happier. She caught it by watching me and by looking at the pictures posted on your blog. I think it would be easy to sometimes forget how influential one person can be on another. My daughter and I have always been close. She is a real “Daddy’s girl” and loves coming outside to shoot and watch nature. Without babbling to much Moose, I just want to once again say thanks for the gift, and yes you do have gift, of storytelling through you pictures. It has impacted my life in such a positive way and for that I am grateful.
My daughter wanted to attach these pictures I had taken in our backyard. I am still working on the clean background and I am looking to add some fill flash on the pictures as well.
God Bless Moose,
YOU can change the world with your photography…don’t know how…here’s just one way!
It would seem for at least for a few readers, it’s a waste of time reading my posts on the business of photography. They asked I get back to writing about photography so I thought I would. Wildlife photography if you’ve not noticed is an expensive pursuit. The greatest expense is the time required to get that one great shot. When I say great shot, I’m talking about the one that just doesn’t make you and your spouse happy, the one that mom looks at and says, “You should be a professional photographer,” I’m talking about the one that would stop the world and make them look. Getting out in the field and then spending time there to make that shot requires time and when you work a 9-5 job or your self employed, that’s money. And if you’re not out there to make that great shot, then either you’re not a normal photographer or off a little.
Let’s say you get that great photo and I know with time, you all will. Then what? What do you do with that great photo, post it on Flickr or your Facebook wall and say your done? Is that why you spend all that money and all that time, for that one time view on the web? What if, what if you were to take that great photo and were able to reach a greater audience for 30 days or more with your great photo? Couldn’t you with that one great photo make a bigger impact? Could you possibly change the world? Well, to accomplish that and you can, you need to do a little photo business. And that’s what I want you to do with your photography, I want, no need you to make a difference with your wildlife photography! The wildlife needs you to make a difference! So this is in part why I’m talking about this business stuff. You’ve gotta reach a greater audience and it just can’t be the choir on the web. Hopefully for those wondering why I’ve posted some business thoughts, they now have an answer and I didn’t put them to sleep.
My post of yesterday brought in many great comments and questions, it would seem something I wrote connected for some. One recurring question comes from my comment about inventory, what most photographers call their slide files. Looking up the definition of inventory, you can find this: a merchandise or stock on hand, work in progress, raw materials, finished goods on hand, etc., made each year by a business concern. If you think about this definition as it pertains to a photography business, the very definition is a basic business plan. It starts off with the simple premise that you have something to sell when the year begins, photographs already taken, processed and ready to go to a client. It goes on to suggest you need to have raw materials, ideas, camera gear, execution and passion which you in turn create new, fresh finished photographs for clients. The definition concludes that you’ve followed this basic formula all year. And that you start the next year with the same basic formula. The one thing the definition of inventory leaves out though which is essential is, it is only a small portion of a successful business! Any good photography business has a solid inventory and uses it as a mere starting point and not a ending point. This means that in a photography business, the image is where it all starts but is by no means where it all ends. And that my friends is what makes being in the business of photography such a grand pursuit!
If you’re in the portrait business, how you view and deal with the concept of inventory will be totally different from a wildlife photographer. And if you’re into sports, that would be totally different from car photographer. And if you live on the east coast it will be totally different from someone who lives on the west coast. You can easily have a totally different inventory though in the same business. And when you add in the most important variable to any business equation, YOU, then what we simply call inventory can easily be a lifelong pursuit. We are still talking photography, we are still talking business, basic business at that but you quickly can see, it’s really not that basic. But you should also see why I said what some brought into question. I do believe anybody who wants to make photography a business can do so. The biggest variable and the one that counts the most is the one you have the greatest control over. That’s the person behind the camera!
When I read a book, it’s often to be entertained where the storyteller paints a mental picture with words leading my imagination where they want to take it. I think a book is a great read when I get done, the story has peaked my imagination and the writer has taken me on a journey I really enjoyed. In this process, the storyteller doesn’t tell the whole story in the first paragraph. Rather, they take lots of time to tap my imagination and let my imagination ask questions, fill in blanks and at the end, satisfies my imagination by letting it know it was right. There’s nothing like a good book!
Can we do the same thing with our photographs? Can we show just enough to tap our viewers imagination and let their imagination do the job of being the storyteller? I’m not talking about cropping here though it is part of the process, I’m talking about moving beyond the basics of photo capture and moving into that realm many don’t see to consider. And that’s the viewer, their life experiences and how we can tap that to grab their imagination. If I were to have posted just the eyes and crown of the Statue of Liberty, you think there are many folks across the globe who wouldn’t have recognized it? If I just had a black shadow of a bison, think there are many who wouldn’t know it’s a bison? So then in our storytelling, our photographs, how much do we have to show?
I ask this question because of a number of images photographers have asked me to comment on in the past couple of weeks. Now I’m not an eyeball photographer, my subjects tend to be real small in the frame. What you see here are eyeball photographs, what was the “IN” thing when I started out 30yrs ago. I never really got into it because I always felt it never left the viewers imagination much room to look. I picked these iamges as examples because they are my best examples of the eyes tapping into your eyes and you’re asking, “What’s going on behind those eyes?” I also selected them because without showing the entire critter, you can easily figure out what species they are. So then, I not only tap your imagination, I make you ask and answer a question. I get you involved with the subject in the photograph.
I’ve seen images lately that the photographer was happy as hell (until they talked to me) with their photo just because it was in focus. As in, that was it’s only redeeming value. There is no doubt that in the beginning, sharpness, exposure and all those basics when they are in place provide us with a level of satisfaction. But this sorry to say is not enough which everyone figures out sooner or later. But then many look for what it takes to move their photos forward. Making images that tap into the viewers imagination is a real challenge, there is no easy way to do it, there is no formula, no online class you can watch to point the way. You have to tap your own imagination and ask it what makes it tick, what excites it? You then have to look in your viewfinder and find that answer your imagination just told you and put that in your photographs. And what goes hand in hand with your imagination? The all important think called passion. I realize that just grasping f/stops and shutter speeds are a challenge at times and that’s OK. I want to encourage you though to share your images and that greatest statisfaction from sharing comes from when you tap the viewers imagination and at the same time, satisfy it with the answer you provide in the same photograph. Just ask yourself a simple question to get the ball rolling. How much do you have to show?
If you do, then run! Run to find a great foreground and subject to put with them. Clouds have the magic to transform the common into uncommon just by their very being. The key is to place your subject in the clouds but not letting the clouds overcome the subject. You want to use the clouds to give the imagination to roam and then bring the mind’s eye back down to the subject. This requires not only a great shape but also highlights and shadows that move the eye through the frame. In this process, you might have to use a split grad and the point of capture and Curves in post to manipulate those highlights and shadows. But if you have clouds, you have photographic gold!
Our dear friend Monica passed away last night, losing her 3rd round with cancer. I posted this back in Oct ’10, thought it would be good to repost now.
I met Monica, I don’t know 5 or 7yrs ago. If you met Monica, you would never forget her because she just oozes life, seriously, you can’t shut her up or deter her smile or laugh! She signed up to be in my MLP and all she owned was a point and shoot camera. That’s a bit below minimum requirements. But there was something about this lady though, something in her letter that just said, “ACCEPT ME, I’M VERY SPECIAL!” The fact she had fought and beaten breast cancer not once, but twice definitely captured my heart along with her unbridled desire to master photography. Then there is this thing she has for life, it’s infectious. There is no doubt she had her hands full with me and I know there were times she wanted to be Homer with me Bart and just make my eyes pop out. There were also times she cried on my shoulder. She’s a very special lady!
One of the great blessings of photography has been meeting folks like Monica! Over the years we have kept in touch and like these two images, she shares with me her triumphs and she has had many winning many awards, becoming president of her club and best of all, carrying on the greatest tradition in photography, inspiring others with her photographs. All this while she is once again battling stage 4 breast cancer, the bastard came back! Despite having lived through me as a mentor and cancer, she’s never once complained, never given up but always, always carried on with a camera in her hand sharing her passion for life with everyone she meets with the biggest smile on the planet.
She doesn’t know this, but there have been times when feeling sorry for myself for some petty photographic thing not going the way I want it, her email would show up in my email box and I would instantly feel ashamed knowing what this lady has gone through to be a photographer. That’s why I’m sharing Monica’s story with you. I asked her if it was OK and she said yes, that’s just her nature, but she didn’t know what I was going to say. Photographic problems don’t amount to a hill of beans compared to battling for your life. When you meet someone like Monica who while she is battling for her life, she’s battling more to grab your heartstrings with her images, you simply can’t find more inspiration for your photography. We are so fortunate as photographers to be able to pursue our passion that moans and groans really don’t fit. We all could take a play from Monica’s playbook and be better for it. It’s real simple, she just wants to make folks smile with her life and photography. Personally, I know of no greater gift! Thanks Monica…God’s speed!
Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should! This little rant originates from a photographer who insists on sending me really horrible images, I think because he wants to see how many times I can say SUCKS! This photographer insists on shooting everything as HDR, I mean everything (really, a toilet seat?)! What you see here are two of my suckie HDR images to illustrate the point of this rant. Just because you know HDR doesn’t mean it will make a suckie photograph better. Garbage in is still garbage OUT! These two images suck (which means when you see them on G+ you don’t write amazing because you’ll look really silly!) and HDR didn’t make them one bit better!
Whether it’s HDR or flash fill (I see plenty of suckie flash photos too) or Fisheye or any other technique, just because you can apply it successfully doesn’t turn a horrible image into magic, at least not in my book. If I know that, why did I take the two photos you see above? Because I just wanted to shoot and they were available. The light sucked but I didn’t have these two aircraft in my files, in fact a number of the aircraft on the deck of the Intrepid I didn’t have so I shot them all to have a record in my files of them. I shot them all as 5 image HDR because the light sucked and if this photographer had got the message in the 20+ emails that said sucks, you would never see these images. But I need something that sucked and these were fresh in my mind.
More important then they suck is WHY they suck. And that answer is the heart and soul of photography. They suck because the light sucks. Not the number of stops or the direction but the quality of the light. There simply is no LIFE to the light, no drama, no impact, no emotion, no mood, it’s just there and HDR isn’t going to make that better. I wish I had images of the same subjects in good light to show you the difference but in the real world of photography, you don’t have side by side comparisons when you shoot. You just have what’s presented you and from that you make the photographic decision to click or don’t click. I’m trying to encourage you to click only when you see and feel something in the viewfinder.
Now this is NOT an indictment of HDR. Since I just had a double truck published of a P-51C that is a HDR, to say I use it would be an understatement. What I am saying is that just because you own Photomatix Pro doesn’t mean EVERY photograph has to be run through it. This photography thing is not about who owns the most toys but who sees, feels and communicates light. And just because I use HDR as you see in the photo below which is on the “realistic” side and not the “Elvis on Velvet” side, I have no problem with that when it’s done because it was needed. But using a photographing technique just because you can, don’t! You’re a story teller with your photography. Use the techniques that tell your story and you will successful. end of rant
I just got a new project offered to me this past week and I’m really, very excited about it. It’s another of those kinds of projects that I am particularly good at. It’s in a cold place, very little is known biologically about the critter and there are very few photographs of the critter, the Alaskan Hare. When I get projects like this, I go into a favorite mode, research. I just love looking for, uncovering and learning new knowledge especially when I know it will improve my photography. In this particular case, I have no special insider info, no one expert I can query, I have to hit the books and learn it for myself. That’s a pretty typical MO and not just for me but for most of my peers be it wildlife or landscape or portraits or aviation. There just isn’t a road map, we have to create our own.
This little box on my Firefox toolbar should look a whole lot more warn then it does because I pound this thing. I’ve learned some tricks over the years to be fast at finding the trivia I want, but it seems I’m there all the time. It’s in this search for knowledge I find out things like what lens I might need, not that someone says, “You’re going after the Green-spotted Shank use a 18-200 lens,” but rather gathering the pieces so I can do the math that then tells me this. For a long, long time, research has shown that most when they use Google Search never click on Page 2, they never get past Page 1. Understanding how quickly folks want information, I did the silly thing of creating a website so finding information on the particular subject of wildlife photography might be faster. That’s why there’s over 2500 pages of trivia here and over 100 videos, all here created in my quest for knowledge.
But doing our own research, we found that our Search feature gets used so little, I’m thinking about putting a spider web graphic on it. Here’s my beef. Folks not coming to my site to seek knowledge isn’t the problem. My problem is what seems to be a good portion of photographers don’t seek knowledge, period! I teach a lot of workshops and interface with a helluva of a lot of photographers and the percentage who don’t even understand the workings of their cameras, I’m talking just the setting, boggles my mind! And that’s just the start of the quest of knowledge. Why is that? Just paying for the expensive camera doesn’t mean it will take great photos for you. It’s like you buy a car and then expect it to drive you everywhere while you watch the sites. Taking this one step further, I am just blown away when photographers spend a ton of money on gear then on traveling to some great locale arriving not knowing a thing about how their camera works! Really?! This is the time to learn about how that tool works?
Had a long travel day yesterday, took 26hrs to get home so I had a bunch of time to think. I thought not of the wonderful bunch of students we had this past week at Lake Placid DLWS but rather my peers, those photographers I have great respect and admiration for. I went back in my memory to our many discussions about our trade and came to a realization that we all have one thing very much in common. We are all always in search of knowledge! We all do a ton of research when heading out for a project. We all do a ton of research on our gear and test before we go out on that project and then once on site, we search and search with our camera in telling the story. This does not guarantee success, there is no such guarantee in photography. But what it will do is guarantee you’ll have fun! That’s the main reward in photography that knowledge brings. The satisfaction of doing the research, connecting the dots and then putting that into play with the camera even with failure is fun and it’s that fun that keeps the passion of photography alive!
Jake and I were just coming off a break and were heading back out to the line. We’d been working the flight line since 07:30, talking with pilots and crews, shooting, drinking coffee and of course, shooting some more. It was an excellent morning and we wanted to get off our feet for a moment. I naturally grabbed the iPad, checked emails and took care of some work. Even though the light had gotten hard, Jake & I know that sitting inside guarantees we’ll make no images. Even in bad light, at least being outside, there is the possibility something good will come along (and it did). We were just heading back out and I saw this photo which so reflected an email I had just read. Basically, a shooter had emailed bemoaning shooting at airshows because they didn’t have unique access to aircraft, the light was hard and there are crowds. So airshows are stupid. There’s no doubt they aren’t for everyone which is why photography is SO amazing, we can all have cameras and point them to so many different things and still enjoy photography together. What I have an issue with is, photography only happens when the lights perfect, the birds sing and music plays in the air. Photos happen where YOU make them happen, period! You wanna go out in the worst light and make great images, YOU can do it! You wanna go out in crowds and make great images, you can do it! The only thing stopping you is you! If shooting in hard light is hard then push yourself and start shooting in it. If you wanna do aviation photography for example, most airshows are during hard light times so if you wanna do aviation, guess what? And until you have those images you can show others that you have talent, you can’t move up the ladder to shooting those better aircraft in better light. It can be a very, long, hard, hot walk walking the line from beginner to professional, from failure to successful but if you don’t start walking now, today, we all know you will never make it to the other end. And if you think you are alone, think again. The only difference in this photography game, some are simply further down the line then the others. But I’ve yet to meet anyone who has made it all the way to the other end!
When it comes to showing off your photography, personally I don’t think there is any better medium then the iPad at this time! There is a very good reason why I’ve bought (and still have) four of them, they make me money! I put an iPad into the hand of a client and allow them to flip through the images and I always get a sale, from a single print to photographing bigger projects to wall decor for an entire lodge (which is why I take so much time perfecting my image presentation with the iPad)! So when it comes to reading periodicals and the news, the iPad rocks! Those who have come to DLWS and been part of my presentation on printing know just how important paper is in making our images look great. Newspaper and magazine paper doesn’t even compare to the presentation power of the iPad. So besides wanting to see digital publishing not only flourish and grow for my own business to continue, I simply love seeing great photography at its best. So what you see here are just some of the digital publishing assets out there right now that have subscribed to. I’ve put down hard earned cash and paid to receive the full editions. I realize that times are tight right now but I also realize being an economics major that if I don’t invest now, when times are better, I won’t be in place to take advantage of those better times. I’m often asked about this business side of photography and while it all starts with the click, there is so much involved to close the circle to find its business rewards.
While we can debate the cause and effect, the bottomline is things are warming up and being on the frontline seeing how this IS effecting our wild heritage, climate change concerns me on a daily basis. Well, trying to get this message out is taking some new forms (I know with this posting the usual emails will come from the usual folks telling me I don’t know what I’m talking about). You can never argue with someone’s logic, but you sure can attack the facts in which they base that logic. Or, better yet, educate. Check this out, might give you something new to think about. And if you wanna make a difference, now, today, simply unplug the power supply to your notebook, iPhone, iPod, iPad whenever you’re not using it. Yeap, making a difference can be that simple!
Not sure how he has such clear insight, I’m just glad he shares it! This is so true for so many but I think it really applies to photographers. You just might wanna give it a read and answer the question for yourself. I might just improve your photography, at least time spent at it.