“Glorious Light” for photographers

One of the most important things I did as a budding landscape photographic artist was to study the work of others, particularly that of the masters. I was able to view their work and ask important questions such as:

  1. Why is this photograph successful (or not)?
  2. What is the light doing? (direction, quality, color, consistency, etc)
  3. How important is the subject matter?
  4. How are the elements arranged in the frame?

As a photographer-in-training asks these sorts of artistic questions, they will find that strong photographs often have many things in common, and weak photographs also tend to have things in common. If said photographer applies the attributes of strong photographs to their own work, their photographs will almost immediately improve and they will have a much clearer understanding of what they need to work on.

If you enjoy my work as a photographic artist and you are an amateur photographer, I encourage you to study the sixty-four photographs in my book Glorious Light. Ask the questions above for each image. While Glorious Light is not an instructional book, you can learn a tremendous amount by studying the photographs and reading some of my first-hand accounts, just as I studied (and continue to study) other photographer artists’ work.

If this interests you or perhaps you have an up-and-coming photographer in your family, you can pre-order my book now for only $39 ($10 off) and you’ll receive a special signed and numbered copy, plus a complimentary 8×10 matted print of your choice.

Click here to read more.

95 pages, Hardcover, 12″ x 9.25, 64 photographs, plus behind-the-scenes photos

 

 

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.