2013 Year in Review

While my books aren’t quite closed on the year yet, I’d like to take a look back at 2013 with regards to my photography.  I’ve learned so much this year about both photography and the art business.  My photographic style has developed significantly and my vision of the landscape has become more defined.

Let’s take a look at some specific details:

Most exciting moment: Being awarded one of five Awards of Excellence at the Arts Festival Oklahoma 2013 (over 200 artists attending).

Being presented an Award of Excellence at Arts Festival Oklahoma 2013.

Being presented an Award of Excellence at Arts Festival Oklahoma 2013.

Most memorable moment: Standing on the sand dunes at sunset in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. It was just my wife, Abbie, and I out there all alone, with no one else for miles.  It was so quiet and peaceful watching the colors in the sky change and the shadows stretch across the ripples of sand.  As the sun dipped below the horizon, coyotes began to howl up and down the range as the air began to cool.

Blue-Violet and Yellow-Orange, complimentary colors.

Guadalupe Mountains at sunset.

My Personal Favorite Photograph of the Year: Canyon Island.  This pinnacle of rock is impressive now matter how you look at it, but when captured with the right light and finished with a certain vision, the result is a beautiful photograph that is both mysterious and peaceful.

Canyon Island photograph

Canyon Island – Black Canyon of the Gunnison, Colorado

Your Favorite Photographs this year:

#1 with 37 photographs sold – Pumpjacks

Pumpjacks

Pumpjacks – Bolivar Peninsula, Texas

#2 with 18 photographs sold – Longhorn

Longhorn - Crockett, Texas

Longhorn – Crockett, Texas

#3 is a two-way tie at 16 photographs sold – Bodie and Hummingbird in Flight.

Bodie

Bodie – Bodie, California

Hummingbird in Flight - Grove, Oklahoma

Hummingbird in Flight – Grove, Oklahoma

In 2013, I sold a total of 182 photographs, drove 5726 miles to 26 shows in Texas and Oklahoma, opened a shutter roughly 6000 times, and officially released 12 new photographs. I also took a photograph of downtown that made the front page of “The Leader”, the newspaper for the north Houston area, and the front page of its insert “The Guide”.

I am very pleased with what I’ve accomplished this year and am very excited to see my plans for next year realized.  Among those plans is a very ambitious project to create a photographic profile of Texas landscapes and to publish this project as a book.  I begin shooting for this project in just a few weeks.

I want to thank every single one of you who has supported me over the past two years.  I am thrilled to have you following my work and I look forward to creating more stunning, dramatic, beautiful, and mysterious photographs for you in 2014.

 

Essential Camera Equipment for Landscapes

When getting started out in photography, it can be very tempting to just start indiscriminately buying all sorts of gear.  A lot of times you’ll end up with stuff you don’t need, don’t know how to use, or stuff that is low quality.  I get asked often by folks who have just purchased a camera, what they should buy.  Well, I’m tempted to say you should have asked before you bought your camera, but that ship has sailed.  So here are the things that, in my opinion, you must have when you are starting out shooting landscapes.  And I apologize for the lack of images; this is a straight-info post.  Quick and dirty.

1. Camera Body.  Yup, you’re not going to take photographs without it! But what do you really need?  You don’t need the latest tech or the highest resolution.  You do need quality build, ease of use, and a model that has plenty of quality lenses.  Stick with Canon or Nikon.  I recommend “pro-sumer” models like the Canon 7D or 60D, or the 5D series if your budget can allow for it. Nikon has equivalent models. Don’t be afraid to buy used as you can get an excellent deal on a model that is only one or two years old. I love buying used.  Just make sure you bring someone along that knows how to check it out for you.

2.  Lenses.  Again, no photos without a lens.  I recommend two focal ranges.  A wide angle zoom, and a telephoto zoom.  Canon has the 17-40 f/4 which is a great lens, and the 70-200 series, all of which are excellent.  For landscape, you don’t need image stabilization (IS) (a.k.a vibration control (VR), optical stabilization (OS), or vibration reduction (VR), depending on the brand).  You also typically don’t need “fast” lenses like the 70-200 2.8.  However, if you can afford it, these features will be very useful for other types of photography.  The Canon 70-200 f/4 is a fine lens for landscape, and it’s cheaper and lighter than it’s bigger brothers that have the IS and/or 2.8 maximum apertures.

3.  Tripod.  Essentially, you cannot create fine art landscape photographs without a tripod because you will be typically be shooting at slower shutter speeds.  And you don’t want a cheap Wal-Mart brand tripod.  A good, yet affordable brand is Manfrotto.  I recommend the 055CXPRO3.

4.  Head.  The head is the link between the tripod and the camera.  There are two types of heads, ball heads and pan heads. I find the ball heads to be easier and faster to use.  I use the Manfrotto 322RC2.  Like the tripod and 95% of everything else related to photography, you don’t want to get something cheap here or you’ll be wasting your money.

5.  Computer with editing software.  If you do not process and edit your photographs, you are shooting yourself in the foot.  I recommend Adobe Photoshop CS6, but earlier versions are fine as well.  Just make sure that your camera model is compatible with the version of Adobe Raw that comes with it.  Photoshop CS6 comes with Bridge, which will view raw files in folders and allows you to rank and view metadata, and Adobe Raw, which is critical.  I assume you want to make the finest images possible, so you will be shooting in raw mode, which means you will be processing the photographs yourself on a computer.  Use the raw processor to make global adjustments, and then use Photoshop to fine tune.

I’m going to assume you are only going to share your photos online.  What you need to print and mat your photographs is a whole new list of expensive things which would double the length of this article, which I don’t want to do.

Realistically, those five things (assuming you have a battery, charger, and memory card) are all you need.  You don’t need prime lenses (fixed focal length), macro lenses, extenders, flashes, remotes, vests, or filters.  You can create great photographs with only the above four things.  However, the next most useful accessory that I think will have the biggest impact on your photographs, would be a high quality circular polarized filter. B+W is a great brand, and I wouldn’t buy anything else.  Match the size to your largest lens, or buy one for each of your lenses.  Or buy lenses with the same filter size.

Of course, this is the gear you need.  Learning how to use this equipment – I leave to you.  If you are considering purchasing something and would like my input, feel free to email me.  tim@herschbachphotography.com

10 questions I ask before I take the shot

There are perhaps hundreds of decisions that I make when creating a photograph. I’d like to share a fraction of them with you so that you can understand my work a little better.  Note that some of these questions are completely artistic in nature, and others are technical. Technical decisions directly contribute to the look of the final photograph and thereby are indirectly artistic.

In no particular order:

1. What is the main subject?

Most photographs contain a main subject.  Sometimes two or three.  Any more and the “story” can become confusing.

Bodie

Bodie – This ’37 Chevy is definitely the main subject.

2.  What feeling am I trying to express?

Drama, mystery, awe, beauty… where will this photograph fit the best? Once I decide, I can often find ways to increase that emotional response.

manzanar_edited

Gateway to Manzanar uses the sweeping curves of the trees and the converging lines of the clouds to create drama.

3.  Is my tripod stable?

I always check to make sure that my tripod is balanced within all three legs or it could fall over.  This can be very difficult to visually judge when I’m on a 30 degree incline so I often will give it a nudge to see how easily it moves.

Using my tripod in a creek.

Using my tripod in a creek. It had better be stable!

4.  Can I imagine a better lighting situation?

If I expect conditions to improve, I wait.  If the light is not right for the shot, I come back later or else I don’t bother.

The red light from the sun is lighting the clouds directly, but not the land. We are in the shadow of the mountain.

Tufa at Sunset – The best light.

5.  What is in the sky?

Clean blue sky and completely flat overcast sky are very difficult to create interesting photographs with if including the sky in the photograph.

Big Sky - This wouldn't work without an interesting cloud arrangement.

Big Sky – This wouldn’t work without an interesting cloud arrangement.

6. Is anything in the frame moving?

If so, shutter speed becomes very important.  Do I want the moving object to blur or not?

Blurred water from a one second shutter speed.

Aspen Reflections – Blurred water from a one second shutter speed.

7. Color or Monochrome?

If I am in a colorful area, then I may look for natural color palettes that work together. Otherwise, I will focus on what I like in monochromatic photographs… high contrast, sharp details, vivid textures, dramatic skies, etc.

Blue-Violet and Yellow-Orange, complimentary colors.

Guadalupe Sunset – Contains Blue-Violet and Yellow-Orange, complimentary colors.

8. Is there a story here?

A story is often told by inferring human characteristics on nature. It’s not easy to tell a story while limiting myself to natural, non-animated objects, nor is it always necessary.  But if I can find one, it can result in a more emotional photograph.

Storm Over Water artwork

Storm Over Water

9.  Mirror Lock-up on?

I always shoot with mirror lock up to minimize camera shake when the shutter releases (I also use either a remote release or the built-in timer so I am not touching the camera when the shutter releases).  This insures the sharpest image possible.

Guadalupe Foothills

Guadalupe Foothills – Excellent Detail

10.  Is this the best?

Once I take a shot, I examine it on the screen (I love digital) and become very critical. Are there distractions? What if I moved a few inches to the right, left, up, or down? Is the exposure perfect?  Focus?  Does my eye flow naturally?  What will it look like printed large?  Small?

Guadalupe Sunrise

Guadalupe Sunrise

These are just a few of the many questions that I ask myself when I am creating a photograph.  With experience, some decisions become subconscious while others are made in a fraction of a second, but they are made nonetheless.