THE MOST DIFFICULT AND ELUSIVE KIND OF PHOTOGRAPHY.

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That quickly being said… the most challenging form of photography is … to me… also the most rewarding. Capturing the most elusive… is more challenging… and rare. Some photographers spend their lives trying to capture this “highest” of photography…. and end up with only a handful of truly magnificent photographs of the genre. And of course this is my own opinion… so no fire and pitchforks please. Now… this post is not dismissing the difficulty and rarity of capturing a glint of morning sun kissing the tops of the Tetons during a thunderstorm. Nope… but that kind of photographs only requires massive amounts of luck and patience. Nor is it the amazing ability of strobe lights to capture a droplet of water glistening on the side of a tall glass of Bud.

No… I believe the most difficult and elusive kind of photography is one that involves mood or emotion or both at the same instant. True… the Teton photo can be emotional but on the big scale of things… personally I think it ranks lower than… pure human emotion. Now… I am not talking about a basket full of kittens here… nope. I am talking about mood that you can cut with a knife… or emotion that just leaps off the page. I have been a student of photography for a long time and I admit readily that there is not a “how to” on the subject. And I have taken many many thousands of photographs but only a handful comes even close to being really good examples of what I am talking about. That is why you will not see “20 of my best”… because they just don’t exist. Having said all of that… here are a few that I would place in the “almost qualifies” group. Mind you… decades of shooting and these are only close. But as I said on the onset… they can be the most rewarding.

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“Are you kidding Gene?” Nope… I like this because it is an unintended statement against smoking. Think of all of the emotional entanglements that smoking has had in today’s society. Imagine all of the lives that have been cut short by this “harmless pastime”. And here on the side of a building was a statement against it.It is not about lighting… instead it is all about the message. Strong stuff.

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Elation! You just can’t stop yourself from putting an exclamation point after the word…”elation”. Happiness is one thing but to experience something so instantly fulfilling… now that is an emotion that is hard to capture. Kind of like seeing the faces of two cheerleaders on opposite sides of the field at the end of a high school football game that is won/lost in the last second of the game. I don’t have those photos… but I wished I had.

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Kindness. What a simple emotion… unfortunately it doesn’t happen all of the time…and rarely in front of a camera. You can thank a 200mm for this one.

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I have shown this before. It is one of my favorites of the 75,000 I have taken. Raw. Simple. A lifetime of not having an address on Easy Street. Deep emotions carved by decades of treading water in the dust of Oklahoma.

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Hate. It is a raw emotion that is usually reserved for riots and marches and injustice. In this case… privacy rights.

So… when you happen to have the planets align and an emotion appears before you instead of a basket of kittens… give it your best shot.

Happy trails.

 

THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF FINE ARCHITECTURAL PHOTOGRAPHY.

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More than a few of my friends have asked this same question… ” How do I make my photos of architecture be more than just a picture of a building?” And this is what I tell them… well… first you have to ask yourself “Why am I looking at this piece of architecture?” Is it because it is old and I love the textures? Is it modern and I love the forms the architect used to make it dramatic? It’s a wonderful play of light and I want to capture it. They’re as many reasons a photographer would find a piece of architecture interesting as they’re pieces of architecture. The subjects are varied beyond imagination. And to further expand the situation… architecture actually encompasses almost anything man-made that’s larger than a bread box! Skyscrapers… bridges… homes (inside and out) … windmills… power plants… grain elevators…. and then there is architecture that flies ( airplanes)… and rolls (automobiles) and swims (boats) … gosh my fingers are getting tired just typing out a few possibilities… and those are just the tip of the iceberg! I do not intend to share an example of every kind of architecture out there… heavens no… and I am sure I will miss some photographer’s reason for shooting something large… but heh… here goes!

Let’s start where I start… wide. Let’s dispense with “so wide” that it is actually part of a large landscape. Wide shots… or almost complete subjects are usually… just not me. Meaning… I rarely shoot an entire building… or bridge… or whatever. I do this because I believe the human brain will fill in some of the repetitive parts and even more important to me… the more you include… the smaller the subject will be in the frame. I like to have subjects dominate the scene. You may not and that is just fine and dandy. But here are a few shots that are pretty darn wide.

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I told you that architecture can be varied! Those shots are pretty darn wide… and that is OK with me… but normally I like to be tighter. Now here comes the fun part… the part that separates the photographers from the snapshoters! Drama! And where class do we get drama? Correct! Usually from the heavens! Meaning… time of day! Time your photography so that you can get the most drama possible. Sometimes that is in the morning… sometimes in the late afternoon… sometimes that means in the evening. Here are a few shots to illustrate that time of day is the easiest way to make your photos more dramatic.

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Another way to add drama is to be more dramatic. Now that was silly wasn’t it? What I meant to type was… use strong powerful compositions! Like these.

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Another way to make your architectural photos more dramatic is to introduce another surprising element alongside the subject. Like this…

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But above all…. never forget that the good old standbys of juxtaposition, leading lines and framing will enhance any photograph… especially the ones of architecture. Here are a few photos that hopefully illustrate that point.

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Now… all that being said… let’s not forget that interior spaces are also architecture. Here are a couple recent ones.

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And … because I have shots thousands of buildings and bridges and this and that… here are a few of my favorites.

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That last one is sure interesting. Not because of lighting… or really the time of day… it is interesting because it is a record of what happens when a painter meets an old tired nondescript building… crazy magic!

So…. actually it turns out that architectural subjects are not any different from most other subjects. Strong compositions… and a keen sense of  what Mr. Sun may bring to the party are the building blocks of memorable photos… whether they are bigger than a bread box or not.

Happy trails!

Gene

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The White Stuff.

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This little post is for those people who first… own a camera… and second… have access to a camera that allows you to adjust the exposure… and thirdly… this post is for people who love photography! so… there you have it… this post has something for everyone! And the subject is … shooting white stuff. Any scene that is predominately white is difficult to expose correctly. The exposure should normally be one that doesn’t “blow out” the white stuff. Over-exposing the scene will create a photo with a lot of its recognizable texture and nuance… completely totally gonzo! Exposing properly will … in a lot of cases… make anything that is dark… even darker! So… let’s take a peek at a few “white” scenes.

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See? Blown out as can be! But is that bad? Heck no! I did this on purpose… slightly over-exposing the white snow turned the branches in this orchard black. I did this because the pattern interested me more than revealing the texture in the snow and the cherry trees. Here’s another one… this time… nothing is blown out.

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See? This time I wanted to see all of the texture in the horse’s coat. I love this shot. He was so calm and majestic.

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What can I say? Pure white to black… with a splash of red. Remember… composition is king! So… no matter what the subject is… pay attention to your composition… make it dramatic … use those leading lines and if you are new to this game… utilize “The Rule of Thirds” to help you with your compositions. Now… scroll back to the horse…. now compare the life-preserver photo with it… they are almost identical in their composition. Amazing how that works isn’t it?

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Now for something different. I play at golf. And to me… every golf glove tells a story. So… I gathered a few of these gloves from a couple golfing buddies and shot this “white stuff” photo. They thought I was nuts when I asked for their old worn out gloves… but they all asked for large prints after it was done. Again… the exposure was key… blow out the background while retaining the texture in the gloves themselves. Now… let’s go outside and focus on some architecture. I love white structures. They always present a challenge. The first is an ancient church just south of Tucson, Arizona.

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Sometimes… make that always… I shoot wide and then tight. It often helps me extract the essence from a structure. So… here is a tip… do what an instructor told me to do long ago … “do the 360”. In more lengthly terms… walk around the subject if time permits… look at it in total… and then and only then do you start moving in … getting closer and closer. Of course the closer one gets the more one loses the entirety. But having done so… shooting the subject several times will give you a range of photos from which to choose from. This photo was pretty early in the morning around 10 ish. The sun was a killer… so I positioned it behind a piece of the church… throwing most of the building into “open shadow”. White? Yes. But not blown out.

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Here above is a similar photo… white to grey. Borderline pure white. Remarkable building in Granada, Spain. A fun study in lines and exposure.

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I know… I know… you have seen this before… but hey… what would a discussion about white stuff be without having at least one up north barn scene with a bunch of Michigan snow in it? Shot on a grey overcast day… which by the way made it so so much easier to expose correctly. If the glaring sun had been lighting up the scene, the barn would gone almost black. But hey… lucky again!

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A couple more. Take a peek at the above shot. Wowzer it was bright that day! This was taken at the Crazy Horse mountain sculpture … just south of Mt. Rushmore. I chose to expose for the white so I wouldn’t “blow it out”… therefore showing the textures of the model. In the background is the real thing… notice it hasn’t changed in 15 years… mainly because it is far more profitable…not finish it… to the tune of 20 million bucks a year in the pockets of somebody. But I digress. OK… one more photo…

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I can hear it now… “Gosh Gene what on earth is that?” Well… it is a teaching aid. Remember… beauty is in the eye of the beholder. I love the pattern/texture of the white tarp… and others may think it sucks. Others will appreciate its subtlety of exposure and will fully appreciate that exposing something that is predominately white is inherently a challenge. Said another way…someone’s masterpiece is someone else’s pixel disaster. The way you choose to expose a photo is entirely personal… and really… that is what photography is all about. Personal expression. Keep shooting what you love to shoot… the way you want to shoot it. Happy trails.

 

 

 

 

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME TO SHOOT?

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What a goofy question. Really. Well… I get asked that every so often. And of course the answer is… the best time to shoot… is when you have a camera in your hand. Too obvious? OK… here is a better answer. Anytime is a great time… but each time of day is quite different. Let’s forget about the impact of weather at this moment. Of course if you are looking for the classic warmth and softness of the long shadows… then the early morning and the early evening are the times to get out there and shoot. Here are a couple photos to illustrate that look.

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OK… so I threw in a spectacular morning sunrise shot. Of course one would have to move around a little … and wait a few minutes in order to capture those long soft shadows that I mentioned earlier. So… if you wait for another 30 to 60 minutes, you will indeed have the opportunity to capture that golden glow along with those soft shadows. Like this shot below.

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Here is another look at those long shadows.

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Now let’s move the clock a tad… to full sun. Now… here is where you the photographer can begin to have a real impact on the look of the scene. The sun is up… harsh shadows abound. Glare is everywhere. What is a photographer to do? Well… one thing that you shouldn’t do is avoid the strong light… like the plague! You have to embrace what is before you. Stronger compositions with crisp directional light are just waiting for YOU to start designing the scene… making the most out of the shadows and the too hot to stare at it sun ball in the the above! Here are a few photos that I have taken during the harsh realities of hard piercing light.

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Wow it is bright out there! And actually as I look at the photo now… the shadows are almost nonexistent because the Mr. Sun is directly above. So… let’s choose another one to illustrate my point.

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OK… that is easier to understand. Harsh light. Santa Fe. Red hat. It works for me. Here are a few more.

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Both of these photos… the woman in the red hat and this photo of the red motorcycle in Marseille, France are quite similar… as far as a composition and use of light goes. Both use hard directional light to “focus” the viewer’s eye on the subject. Like a laser beam they highlight the central reason to click the shutter…. the woman…. and the motorcycle.

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The photo above is an example of knowing where to stand and having a basic understanding of what the sun does. Especially in a city… if it is sunny on one side of the street then on the opposite side it will be in shadow. Duh. Knowing this little bit of fascinating trivia enabled me to “frame” the subject… in this case the elderly woman gingerly ascending the steps.

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Understanding where the sun is and what it can do and won’t do allowed me to pick this time of day to shoot this tiny street. I love this shot. Sorry… I know I shot it but I really think… personally… that it became more than a tiny street… for me… because of the harsh light… and the shadows… that it became an abstract painting of shapes. And by the way… I also changed it to a black and white just for kicks and it holds up well as a b/w! Love when that happens!

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And here is the last photo I will show to help illustrate the beauty of mid-day shooting. Shot in a Pueblo Banco in Southern Spain… I just love the shadow cast by the building that you don’t see. It broke up that overpowering slab of white plaster that was facing me. Remember… go with the flow… embrace what nature presents you. Manipulate the abstraction of harsh shadows into a dramatic composition. Also remember that if something is not working and the sun is just too too much… the thing to do is …go to a bar and get a drink… no… run for the shade!! There you will find another world to shoot. One without those nasty harsh shadows. And no glare. And less heat. Here are a couple to illustrate what I mean by “run into the shade”.

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Look Mom… no shadows! Well… if they do exist they are so so soft that they might as well not exist. This was shot in Tucson, Arizona. I love Tucson. The colors. The shapes. But… heh… it gets almost as hot and bright as Palm Springs! So… when the sweat was running into my eyes and stinging them… I looked for things to shoot inside the shade. Here is another one.

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And… since time marches on and Mickey’s hands are swiftly changing… it is time to pull out the tripod for some night time shooting. All together different… as far as light goes… but everything else is the same… a simple composition trumps everything! And… as many of you know… 20 minutes after the sun goes down is one of the best times to shoot “at night”. The reason is simple… a long exposure will prove that there is plenty of light left after the sun dips below the horizon. But after about 40 minutes… you will indeed be shooting at night and the beautiful blue of the sky will be gone … until tomorrow. First the 20 minute after… photo.

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What can one say? Long exposure… great reflections… terrific location ( the Desert Riviera Hotel in Palm Springs ). See the blue in the sky? In 20 more minutes it would have been black as all get out. Kinda like the photo below.

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I love anything by the water… I guess because I know that a reflection will probably enhance the photo. In this case… Italy. So… there you have it. There is no “best time” to shoot… there is only your willingness to embrace what the sun or lack of sun gives you. Hope this will encourage you to get out there and shoot more. It is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding things I have ever done in my life. Night or day.

Until next time… happy trails!

 

 

 

 

IMAGINE A WORLD WITHOUT COLOR.

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Or in other words… imagine a world of black and white and everything in between. For about 100 years photography and photographers lived in this world. And then things changed… and I am a little sad that it did change for most people. Color. The sparkling object that draws everyone’s attention. But the most famous and the most loved and the most collected and the most admired… and the “venue” to choose if you want to appear really cool and sophisticated is … drum roll please… black and white photography… hands down winner. I love it. But not all photographs that are black and white are “good photography”. Heavens no! Black and white photography has to live up to a much higher bar than color photography. That is my opinion.. so don’t be rushing on over to the Google in order to check that opinion. Nope.. it is just mine but let me blah blah for a bit and hopefully you will come around to my side of the argument. Black and white photography has to dance. Rarely is it flashy but it has to have rhythm and grace. And of course the subject matter has to be as interesting as a color shot and well composed … but that goes without saying.

When I say it must dance… this is what I mean. There must be a balance of contrasts… and the scene has to be portrayed in a symphony of notes… from pure white… all the way to black as night. And even the pure white shouldn’t be pure pure white.. nope… it should carry an insy  bit of tone. Tough to do. Just stare at a Ansel Adams print and count the number of tones. Amazing. So what is a person to do today when almost everything we photograph is shot in color? Well… if you really are interested in the beauty of black and white … you have to experiment. Very few of us humans can look at a scene and mentally change it to black and white. So… shoot it… and then later experiment with it by processing it into a black and white photograph. And of course… this experiment is applicable to the simple camera photos as well as you 2 billion people out there with an iPhone. As they say… “there is an App for that”. Instead of over analyzing a few of my black and white photographs… I am just going to show a bunch. Take a peek at them and send me a note to say which were more successful as a black and white “print”. Remember… don’t be too swayed by the subject matter.. but look at them as colorful little symphonies of rhythm…. in black and white.

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There you have it. And just in case you were wondering… the answer is no… I rarely can see how nice a color photograph will transfer to black and white. Some have been nice and others have been discarded because they just didn’t meet my criteria. So… you do the same… take a few of your favorite things and turn them into black and white.. and I bet you will see them differently from now on.

Until next time… shoot!!!!

Hope you have enjoyed this little trip into the world without color… and as always… any questions… fire away!

Happy trails!

PS… you learn something everyday… or maybe it is just me… but I accidentally learned that if you click on any of the hundreds of photographs in my posts… they enlarge!!!!

Try it!

 

Vive la France!

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How come I love France and most things French? Oh let me count the ways… let’s see… there is the history… their respect for yesterday… they care more about food than most people… love the colors of their flag…love the art… love the hilltop towns… love the cars… love the smells… the bread…the markets… the friendly people… Spring in Provence… add to that…Winter, Autumn and Summer… Edith Piaf…the photographers and on and on it goes. I don’t like… the paperwork… the tolls… and well… those are the two things I don’t like. Oooppps… the third thing is the way they count… way beyond confusing… but what the heck.

Let me get back on track here. Vive la France! For a photographer… or for anyone interested in life itself… France… and in particular… Southern France is the place. The place for textures and patina and interesting people and structures that were built a couple thousand years ago. Personally, I can not get enough… so sometimes when I get depressed by the news on TV… I just get out my archives of photographs that I have taken in France. And then… I feel better. So… let me take you into a little corner of the world that gets my heart pumping… Provence. And like any good photo essay… let’s start wide and then get tighter. Let’s start with Gordes. Yep… rebuilt and expensive beyond belief… but  beautiful… especially in the morning.

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To get the worm… the bird has to be early… before daybreak. Set up and wait. This photo is not too mysterious to capture… you can do it with a pretty simple camera. A wide angle… and patience. And a solid composition! I wanted to say it was a hilltop town… therefore showing a bit of the valley was important but beyond that it is all about wanting to get the shot so much that getting up early was paramount! Now… let’s get a little closer… how about those little streets with all of that cobblestone and aging brick… love it.

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And how about those shutters????!!!! Love it! Now look at the composition for a few seconds… a nice leading line takes your eye to the steps that take you to the colorful door. Yummy. And how about these for French shutters?

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And speaking of shutters… freshly painted or not… I can’t get enough of them.

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Ahhh… textures and patina… I am all over that like stink on a skunk! Just take a stroll down any old street and there is a photo awaiting your eye. Just be quick!

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Further down the path, in almost any open space, the national game of the senior citizen… boules… will probably break out. I have shot several matches and have always been invited to take a few photos. But when doing so… just stay out of the way of the flying steel balls.

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And ooppsss I forgot… when you are walking around… remember that a terrific photo may be above you… or below you. So keep an eye out for a simple shot that tells a simple story. Like this rooftop scene.

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And remember… shoot signs! They help a lot to tell a story. You don’t need some ultra specialized lens or camera to capture most of the things I talk about.. just an earnest respect and interest for what is around you.

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And don’t be shy about the weather. For heaven’s sake… the camera doesn’t know you are freezing your tutu off!

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I love shooting in weather that is “not normal”. The reason is simple…. most people avoid “bad” weather like the plague. But if you want your photos to be out of the ordinary… shoot when others are curled up in their warm blankets. They might get an hour or so more sleep… but you will have your photographs! Here are a couple more… one taken in the cold of night and the other… in the early morning fog. Love them both.

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But of course I shoot in great weather also… and when you do… look for interesting angles… various framing devices and terrific patterns. But above all… make it simple and have it tell a simple story.

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And here are two of my favorite photos from Provence. They are a couple of my friends. They have completely different occupations. One is a shepherd. The other is a hat maker. Crazy but true. Both invited me into their lives without reservation. Both are extroverted… funny… and professional. They love what they do.

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And heh… how many friends of yours are sheep herders or hat makers? You just gotta love France! And below is one more photo. Tripod of course… exposure about 30 seconds. But again… only include enough in your photo to tell the story. Any more is just confusing. As they say… whether it is France or the good ole U…S of A… Keep It Simple Stupid. I didn’t like typing that last word but heh…it is what people say. And here is the tripod shot… Annecy, France… and yes… that is a prison in the middle of the river.

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Until next time… happy trails.

 

 

 

BEWARE OF THE LURE OF RED!

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Ahhh… foreboding stuff. And no, I am not talking about anyone named Scarlett. She’s OK. Let me back up just a tad. There is a reason that many things in our lives are painted the color “red”. Since our brain and eyeballs are instantly drawn toward the color “red”, many things are naturally woven from red cloth or are painted a bright red. Now think of it for a second… Little Mauve Riding Hood just doesn’t have the same zing to it… most fire hydrants are red… most lipsticks are reddish … stop signs are universally red… fire extinguishers are red… the most popular color for a hot sports car?… red! I could go on but I am sure you get the idea. Red draws attention. Which sometimes makes it a difficult thing to deal with in a photograph. I used to make television commercials… and one thing I always tried to avoid was… a “video vampire”. Something in the scene that would draw your attention away from what I wanted the audience to focus on. The same goes for the color red. Here is an example of that.

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The action that I wanted to show is the pointed finger and eyes and the silver balls. Well… unfortunately… most people’s eyes go for the red sweater instead. Oh well. Now of course you can’t rush in and change things so it is what it is.

Let’s look at a few photos where the subject is in red… now you have two things going for you… if you compose correctly. I say composed “correctly” meaning… let’s go with the classic composition… The Rule of Thirds… so if you have placed your subject 1/3rd up or down and 1/3rd left or right of the center… bodda boom bodda bing… and the subject just happens to be red… well… you just can’t go wrong!!! Here are a few examples.

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And here are a couple more I thought you might enjoy.

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And of course sometimes when the entire scene is red… well… it is either overwhelming or tasty… you be the judge.

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Now I know you couldn’t tell… but the strawberries were shot in Provence, France in a really freaky weather day at one of their wonderful outdoor markets. And below is a little composition saluting the colors of the French flag. Tasty!

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Here are a couple more from France… I don’t know why but there seems to be a bunch of red=colored photos from France in my archives.

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And here is the last one before the New Year. I love this. And what they are attached to.

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Happy New Year!!!! And happy trails.

 

 

 

The Rain in Spain Falls Mainly in the Plains

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Well… I don’t know if that is really true… but what I do know is that it is darn sunny in Spain… and I love that! In fact, the sun is piercing… especially in the South. So Gene… get on with it… what is this all about? Well…this blog is mostly about the sun and since I have oodles of photos from sunny Spain, I thought I would revisit them and hopefully pass on some photo instruction at the same time. I had a student once and one question he asked after we returned “stateside” was this… “I live outside of Phoenix and it is a blazing sun ball most of the time… what do I do?” Quite simply, I told him to roll with it. Make lemonade out of the lemons you have been given. But really… no matter what time of day it is… from the warm glow in the morning… through the scorching harsh shadows of mid-day to the wonderful softness of late afternoon to the long exposure in the evening… just roll with it. There is beauty in every second of every day… no matter what the weather is. But let’s go over a few shots … taken in Spain… during the mid-day. What the sun gives you are shadows. Use them as an art form. As shapes. Here are a few examples. And hey you iPhoners and simple camera people… you need to read this because Mr. Sunball doesn’t know or care what kind of camera you have. This post is all about learning to embrace what is in front of you.

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I love this. It is not quite Mondrian… but heh.. it is close. I love the shadows of the harsh light in direct juxtaposition to the color squares. Do you need a tripod for this? Heavens no. Do you need a special lens? Nope. All you need is a keen eye and a love for composition in order to balance the squares and shadows.

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Does this one need a special lens… no sir ree bob! This is a classic Spanish scene in one of the many Pueblos Blancos in Southern Spain. With the sun so bright it is sometimes a good idea to run for the shade just to see what might be of interest. Even there the sun still illuminates the white walls and the worn street stones. Introduce some “leading lines” and a dramatic composition is achieved. Click. Check out the thickness of the walls! Wowzer.

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And what would a trip to Spain be without a visit to the windmills? Great stuff. But often you can use the painted white stone to be a canvas for the interesting shadows cast by the blazing sun. Walk around a bit in order to discover an interesting composition and …. click. This time I used the” arms” and body of one of the windmills to “frame” a couple others. You can do this with any camera… if you just spend a few minutes walking around and viewing the subject from various angles. Don’t worry… be in no rush… they haven’t moved in hundreds of years.

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When I was in Spain a few years ago, I saw from the motorway a group of strange looking white structures not too far out of this tiny village. I circled around and made my way back. And I am so so so glad I did. The group of low white structures turned out to be a cemetery. I was there for about 20 minutes shooting angle after angle after angle. It was simply stunning. After I was finished I dropped a few Euros into a donation pot… said a tiny prayer of thanks and left. The shapes were amazing. The crosses were almost primitive. The sun was so bright. It was honestly difficult to shoot a “bad” composition. Moral of the story? Stop and explore. And shoot a lot with an eye for dramatic composition.

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I am a sucker for curved shapes and “framed shots”. Throw in the contrast of light versus dark and voila… I am one happy camper. When you are out… and you don’t have to be Spain… Hoboken will suffice… look around and find angles that most people don’t see. You will be rewarded for your efforts. Believe me.

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And when you find some interesting colors or shapes… just wait… something or in this case… someone will come along and turn your interesting wall into a dramatic photo. Find. Compose. Wait.

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And of course… look up! The sun didn’t help make this photo dramatic… the architect did that hundreds of years ago. I just picked the right time of day to have the sculpture in silhouette against the light-covered interior of the church. Amazing stuff.

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Of course… any where… any place… any time… a great face is a great face. I waited for the gentlemen to turn his head just so. And when it was placed against the dark background… I squeezed the button. It is not the best profile of a man I have ever seen… but it is indicative of a Spanish gentlemen sitting in the park on a sunny day. And what is wrong with that?

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And if and when you are in Bilbao… in Northern Spain.. you have to visit the Guggenheim Art Museum. It is stunning of course with its titanium reflective skin. Great in the early evening as Mr. Sun hits it with its golden rays. A long lens is best if you are after shapes. I was. 200 mm.

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The modern museum sits in great contrast to the architecture of yesterday. Yesterday… meaning about a thousand years ago. I shot this in color… but in the end I changed it to black and white because I wanted to visually show the dark arches against the lighter ones without the terra-cotta color grabbing too much attention. Spain is such a wonderful country to photograph. The contrasts are everywhere. Ancient versus super modern. Light against dark. Perfect. OK… here is one more before I go:

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In the town of Mijas, the burro is king. They are everywhere. In parades. In fields. And in my photographs!

Happy trails.

 

 

CHERRY JERRY CAN MAKE YOUR PHOTOS BETTER!

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OK… so I have not been posting for a bit. I be busy! And I have been thinking. Thinking about you…the reader. And I have come to the conclusion… well… not by myself… I have had help from a few “photo friends” that say… ” Hey Gene… I only have an iPhone” or I “don’t have one of those highfalutin cameras with a couple hundred knobs and levers but I still want to learn.” Well… readers… you are right… one can take some wonderful photos with a simple camera. You won’t have nearly as much control over the results but you can still do it. My lovely and talented wife has a phone camera… or is it a camera phone… that she has taken many really nice photos. What is her secret? Well… there is no secret… only a “terrific eye”. Meaning… she knows how to compose a photo for the most drama and she knows where to stand for the best light… and she is not afraid of walking around the subject to see what perspective will again… deliver the most drama to her photo.

So this year I will be keeping “you iPhone and simple camera people” in mind as I blah blah on about how to get the most out of what you have. So… let’s get back to the basics. And here to visually help me is a plastic cup I have been traveling with for a few months. Yep… a plastic cup with Cherry Jerry emblazoned on its side. He has been around since 1922… as the official mascot of the world-famous Cherry Hut in Beulah, Michigan! It will be my teaching subject. And after I say something truly remarkable I will give a real world example of what Cherry Jerry just showed us.

First… almost every basic camera has a “zoom” lens… or if not… you can just get closer to the subject which will create a “wide angle” look.

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Above you see our subject… Mr. Cup. Handsome guy and helpful. Obviously the extreme wide angle distorts the view. This was shot with a 24mm lens… almost as wide as an iPhone… if you like this look and if you believe it helps the composition and story… go for it! In a real life photo it might look like this:

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But… that may be too wide for your taste. Back off and it will look more like this with a 200 mm long lens.

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And in real life a long lens will give you this look. It compresses the layers of the photo… the longer the lens… the more compression of the subject.

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There is no right or wrong because you are the judge and jury. So use the lens that helps tell the story the best!

OK… let’s move on to another way to make your photos better and more interesting and much more engaging… the classic use of “leading lines”. You don’t need a fancy pants camera to do this but you do need to use your noggin by looking for a visual assist in the scene that will drive your viewer’s eyes quickly and directly to your subject.

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Notice how I so cleverly positioned both the plain white cups and the lines in the picnic table to “lead” right to Cherry Jerry! Then I chose a position that would make it easier for the small cups and the lines to corral your eye and lead you directly to the subject. In real life the same technique might look this way.

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Great lines… and no that is not snow… I took this in Great White Sands National Park. Now onto a lesson in perspective. Or said more clearly… look up… look down… look all around. Only then will you have truly investigated the scene in order to get the most out of it. And here is Mr. Cup again to help show us the way.

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OK… the above photo isn’t as low as I wanted to go… but it is almost worm’s eye. So crouch down and look low and by all means… look up! Like this.

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Yes… it is indeed straight up! Had to go to Atlanta a while back and I spotted this street lamp. Now… sometimes this exercise turns out to be nothing… or in some cases… you have totally lost the subject. Being too high will do that. Hence the Mr. Cup shot below. Where in the world did Cherry Jerry go?

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But then… it could be something magical and quite dramatic. The photo below was shot in the south of Spain in one of their many “Pueblos Blancos”.

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OK… so far Cherry Jerry has been pretty down helpful in getting back to the basics for simple cameras. Now there are two more categories that the boy can help me explain. Lighting and composition. Most things just look better when the light is either coming from one side or the other. Of course… if the subject is in the shadows… then positioning yourself to have the light come from the side… or come directly from behind your camera… or totally from behind the subject… doesn’t matter. So first… from the side. Help us out here Mr. Cup.

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Ahhh… there you go … from the side. Having the light come from the side will show more “volume”… and quite frankly will just be better looking. Ain’t that so Cherry Jerry? Here’s how that might look in a real life situation.

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Now… how about the light coming from behind the camera straight into the subject?

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Sometimes this works out but usually with a person… it is not very attractive. I don’t have a “human example” of this to show you because… well… I avoid it like the plague. But sometimes when architecture is the subject, it can be very dramatic… like the photo below.

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And backlit can also be dramatic but one has to “over expose” the scene to “see into the darkness” caused by the lack of frontal or side lights. Here’s Jerry to help  explain.

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Much like I had to do with the photo below. Backlit. Over exposed. Background “blown out”. It is one of my personal favorites.

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OK… let’s quickly move onto Composition!!! You don’t need a high-end camera to produce stunning photographs… just compose it correctly. Here’s Jerry.

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Notice that Cherry Jerry is positioned in one of the classic “Rule of Thirds” segments of the photo. The Rule of Thirds states… or indicates that a wonderful composition… pleasing to the eye… is best achieved when the subject is positioned slightly left or right of center and slightly north or south of the center. For people just getting their feet wet in photography… this is a good “rule” to follow. Of course breaking that rule later on is so much fun! Now here is a classic composition…. shot in Las Vegas!

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And here is another! Shot on the Oregon Coast.

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Now don’t get out a ruler to adhere 100% to this suggested rule… close enough will give your photos an honest to goodness professional look. One other way of thinking about composition is… NEVER PUT YOU SUBJECT RIGHT SMACK DAB IN THE MIDDLE!!!

Well… I hope you iPhoners got a little something out of those examples. And now we will move onto something for the advanced cameras. Shutter Speed. Most simple cameras just don’t let you adjust the shutter speed. The camera does it… you just push click. Bummer… because the world opens up when you can control the amount of time that the shutter is letting in the light. Here is what I mean… and here is Cherry Jerry to help.

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Well Gene what in the world is that above ? That is me dropping Mr. Cup into the scene. Notice the “smear”? Well… that is caused by having a very slow shutter speed. The action is not frozen… this becomes essential when you are shooting moving water and you want that silky milky look to the water. Like this:

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On the other hand… if you want to freeze the action … like a soccer game or someone running or jumping… then that calls for a much faster shutter speed. In the photo below… I dropped Mr. Cup one more time… but this time I had the shutter speed set to 1/500th of a second. Voila!

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Now I don’t have any soccer games to show you but I think this gentleman walking briskly next to the Louvre in Paris will suffice.

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OK… here is another one… again not a real dramatic freezing of movement… but heh… I like it…. and it was cold.

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So… there you go. This year I will be keeping in mind the “simple camera” readers who have voiced their need/want of tips and instruction on things that relate more to them and their particular equipment. But don’t fret if you are lucky enough to have invested in a “high-end” digital camera… there will be plenty for you!

Until next time… Viva La France.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YEAR ONE. PART FOUR.

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The wonderful thing about going through the photos from our first year is that we get to “relive” the experience all over again! When looking at the hundreds of shots, the words spoken more often than any others is “hey do you remember how…… (fill in the blank with) how quiet it was… or how surreal it was… or gosh I don’t want to leave… or… it rained  a couple inches that night”. Photos have that power to jog our memory and to underline what we felt. So… here it is… Part Four… the end of the wrap-up of our first year on the road with Lewis and Clark. Enjoy.

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This of course is way out of order but remember I said there isn’t an order. This was in Alton, Illinois. A little “industrial” town with a few blocks of really great shops and restaurants. I was enchanted by the juxtaposition of it all.

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Cougar, Washington. And it is true… the early bird does get the shot.

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Just north of the last shot by a few miles is a series of waterfalls. Yummy. Long lens. Two second exposure. F-22. Not a lot of water to fall over the rocks because of the historic drought… so I cropped tight.

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Mount. St. Helens in the background. Since I don’t walk on water… I hired a “guide” to take me out in his kayak to get this view. Worth every penny.

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In Portland, Oregon they have several lovely parks. This one had several statues… and one of them was this man I would choose to have dinner with… if I could choose anyone in history to break bread with. Photographically… if one can find a “framing device” to surround the subject… do it! Your photo will have more impact and will be better composed.

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Outside of a cafe in Cougar, Washington. Long lens. Hand held. Selective focus. Here is a tip… you do not have to include every tiny bit of your subject… because the human brain will fill in the rest. Guaranteed.

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I am not a fan of caves. Namely because they are usually dark and filled with things that crawl… just ask Indiana Jones. Lucky for me, this cave entrance  in Washington is well lit. And with a tripod and the help of a couple new friends… voila … a photo of a place worth remembering. Ahhh… the name? Bat Caves. Another reason not to go deeper than I did.

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I shoot a lot of patterns and textures and I especially liked these buoys hanging on a garage on the Oregon coast.

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A baby seal in Astoria, Oregon. You could hear all of the barking from the herd a block away. I just waited until this little guy got into a position that I liked. Tip… waiting is an art form that every photographer should master.

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Cold front moving in. Or is that a marine layer? Somebody must know. I just knew that it was pretty dramatic looking! Oregon coast. Loved it!!!!!

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And those bridges built in the late 30’s! My my… Oregon is terrific. And no… I am not this tall… I stood on top of the railing. Gotta do whatcha gotta do to get a slightly better view. I wanted to see the bridge… the stream and the ocean. Higher was the answer.

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Heceta Lighthouse, Oregon. Well… not exactly… this was the caretaker’s house a short distance from the beautiful lighthouse. Love the clouds. The white building. The subtle reflections. Not the most dramatic photo of the year but it tells me exactly where I was… and what I saw… and felt. One more photo before I leave y’all.

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The movement of water over sand. The ripples are like snowflakes. None the same. Always changing. Lovely patterns are everywhere if one looks up and down and around. Slow down. Breath deep. And pinch yourself… you have a camera in your hands and hopefully you are getting more proficient at capturing images that make you happy. Images that are dramatic. Photos that will make others say… “Did you shoot that? And your proud answer will be… “Yes, I shot that!”.

Happy trails. Year two is now upon us and we find ourselves in the South. Can’t wait to get to Charlston and Savannah… and Hilton Head and….