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Think Outside the Box | What's "the" Right F Stop?
The Only Judge | What's Your Passion | Finish Rather than Fix

Think Outside the Box

The TOM is rather short, itís rather obvious. Photographers all too often are happy with wherever they set down their tripod. They see some other photographer, they assume that photographer must know something so they set up near them. Photographers all too often get a shot they are happy with and they stop there, they donít go to the next level and push themselves. Photographers see a photograph they like and try to copy it only to wonder why theirs falls short. They miss the subtle details that make the big difference. Photographers all too often, just settle and donít grow! For you and your photography to grow, youíve got to take the next step. Not a giant leap because normally you fall into a deep hole you canít get out of. Rather, take constant small steps so you keep moving forward while avoiding the giant holes. Yeah, this is difficult because there are no road maps, photographers including myself donít write about the howís of accomplishing this but a large part of the learning is thinking for oneís self. Itís real simple, to improve your photography, think outside the box.

Whatís ďtheĒ Right F/stop?

Man, is that a common question! My partner Vincent & I have this whole comedy routine built around this question itís asked so often. Whatís the answer? The answer is, whatever f/stop works best to communicate what YOU want to communicate.

What kind of answer is that you ask? Well, f/stop selection has to do with depth of field and depth of field selection has to do with how much of the subject itself you want sharp, and then how much of the world around the subject you want in focus. And then all of this is determined by the focal length of lens in use and the physical distance the camera is from the lens. So with all of that, how can anyone advise what is ďtheĒ best f/stop.

Now what does the Photo of the Month have to do with f/stop selection? Thereís this thing going around, has been for quite a while, how closing a lens down to its smallest aperture can degrade the image quality. I have read, been emailed and queered so many times on this topic, I decided to put my two cents worth out for public destruction. Itís generally thought that closing a lens down to its smallest aperture causes defraction, bouncing of light off the aperture blade degrading the image quality. This is probably technically very accurate. Who Cares?!

The photo of the month was captured by a 70-200VR closed all the way down to f/22. I wanted the longest possible shutter speed to blur the wazes and a starburst from the lighthouse. F/22 was the way to achieve this. Oh noÖf/22, the image wonít be sharp, defraction is going to get you! Hells bells! Forty folks saw this image the next day after I shot it at our Redwoods DLWS event and they were blown away how sharp the image was, especially knowing it was taken during a rain storm, in the wind. Forget the fact I shot at f/22 for 20sec, you can see the detail in the bricks in the lighthouse!

So many things about photography are written as if they were presented from the heavens. Most of those things besides being boring facts, take the fun and rewards out of photography. Go take photos, throw the rules to the wind and just make images that please you. You will come out ahead without knowing whatís ďtheĒ right f/stop.

The Only Judge

Just back from the Grand Canyon and while the photo gods didnít grace us with the magical clouds we so would have liked, it was grand none the less. Like any gathering of photographers, be it a large group or just a couple of folks like we had last week, conversation always tends to head towards the philosophical side of photography. One of the questions that were raised many times had to do with the image(s) and whether one or others liked this or that image. It raised a very important aspect of our photography I think too many take way too for granted!

When you push the shutter release, as far as Iím concerned, the ONLY person you need to please, make happy, entertain and overwhelm is yourself! Photography is not a team sport. While there is no I in photography, thereís a Y which sounds close enough for me. When weíre at the computer going through our images, who makes the decision to keep this one and delete that one? You do, right? Thatís because they are YOUR images and you keep those you like and delete those you donít. You donít have a paneled jury saying yeah or neah, do you?

Your decision to keep an image can be based on many factors. Since they are YOUR images, you can keep whatever you like for whatever reason. Perhaps the image has a sentimental hold on you, itís a one of a kind, it could be fun or, it simply might be a darn good photograph. Whatever the reason, they are your reasons and they are ALL valid! (I have always said that folks delete way too many photographs!) These are all images that you like and that makes them golden in my eyes.

If thatís the case, why do photographers like to show their images to others? Thatís a complicated question, lots of reasons from good to bad but whatever the case the point to my rant comes down to, what did you want to accomplish with your photograph? Did you want to please yourself or yourself and the world? We all know how difficult it is to please ourselves at times with our images. Itís no easy feat, right? When Iím editing through my dayís takes, I normally donít let anyone else in the room with me because Iím muttering out loud, good, bad, stupid, idiot, right on, excellent and many other things. If itís that hard to please ourselves, than isnít it reasonable to expect that itís that difficult, if not at times, impossible to please the world? Damn right!

On a daily bases, sometimes hourly, Iím asked to make a comment on some oneís photos. Some just down right suck and yes, I say they suck (technically speaking). The majority though are in that no mans land of images where the photographer saw something but because of lack of inexperience, they just didnít quite capture it. And thatís OK because itís a place weíve all been or are at in our photography, itís part of the learning curve. Whether I or someone else says they do or donít like your photo should only be taken with a grain of salt. I know personally, there are tons of my own photographs that I love and the world simply doesnít and thatís OK. There are some that have received general acceptance and when that occurs, itís a darn good feeling. When it comes to your photography, while otherís opinions might mean a lot to you, in the final analyze, their opinion wonít make or break your photograph or your photography. Your opinion will though! Take stock in whatís in your head and in your heart when it comes to your photographs. You are the best judge, you are the only judge!

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Whatís Your Passion?

The masses of birds are gone from the feeders and only a couple woodpeckers come and go now. I walk outside and the only sound is that of the wind, not even the falling snow breaks the stillness. I trudge here and there through the forest looking for that darn rabbit, but it still eludes me. I do have my sonís xc ski races to shoot which gives me a momentary thrill of the shutter ripping at 8fps, but itís only a hundred images at best of high speed shooting each week. Itís about this time each winter I start to go stir crazy, what some might call cabin fever. My passion is all raved up with nowhere to go.

I keep writing about passion in your photography because I feel itís a very important and essential ingredient to success. It can also lead you to great frustration at times. For me right now, my passion to photograph birds is driving me to pace from wall to wall. I know it will all pass, in a couple of weeks the masses of birds will be back but until then, shooting another tree in snow just ainít going to cut it.

Then there is the other side of the problem. A person wrote me lately and flatly stated, they didnít know what was their passion is, they just like to take photos. They found frustration in that while they love to take photos, they werenít just nutzo crazo passionate about photographing just one thing. They wondered if that was a bad thing. What do you think? I donít think so, I think they have a passion they just donít recognize it and I think that is common and thatís OK!

Back in the 90ís, there was this phrase in the business, a specialized generalist. Sounds like an oxymoron doesnít it, but in reality, it describes this person who loves photography but isnít passionate about one particular aspect of photography. I love the smell of a new camera body or lens when you first open the box but Iím not so passionate about it that I buy something new every day so I can enjoy that smell. Canít you enjoy being a photographer without being passionate about one particular aspect? And if you can, the more important question is, can you be successful in your photography with that broad passion?

Passion in photography comes in many, many, many forms. You could label the passion as birds, mammals, landscapes, sports photography or the like but you can also be passionate about the chase as well. Couldnít you label the chase of a new subject, new technique, mastering a new lens or idea as a passion as well? If you get up early to go after a sunrise, isnít that a passionate drive? If you take the time to set up an elaborate studio settings to photograph vase, isnít that a passion? What if you freeze off your bum trying a new technique to capture star trails with digital, isnít that a passionate endeavor as well?

Do you really have to have a passion in photography to be successful? Thatís like asking, do you have to have a Nikon or Canon to be successful? It truly comes down to the person behind the camera. But in this day and age of advance camera technology, what is it the separates the weekend warriors from the photographic artist that say so much with one click of the shutter? I think that just having a passion to click that shutter no matter what the camera is pointed at is where all great images begin. Following your passion will bring frustration just as all great pursuits in life can bring. Following your passion however you label it will also bring the greatest rewards. Those rewards only begin with the satisfaction you feel for yourself and your efforts and end with the enjoyments you bring to others with your efforts.

Go out and shoot, shoot and shoot some moreÖ thereís the passion!

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Finish Rather than Fix

Happy New Year!

Finish rather than fix, thatís the message Iím trying to get out to folks in 2006. Back in 2000, I was the only photographer out there making a living shooting wildlife photography with just a digital camera. Folks back then said I was nuts. Probably true, Iím still nuts, but I was right about digital. Look where weíve evolved to in just six short years!

The one problem I see in manyís digital photography is the lost art of photography. The prevailing attitude is just fix it in Raw processing or in Photoshop. Why try to get it right, right from the start? Then folks wonder about the resulting quality and blame many of their problems on the camera when in reality, itís all pilot error. Itís a FIX mentality. Thatís not what photography is all about.
Photoshop World
So my tip for the New Year is, GO TO Photoshop World. Youíre not heading there to learn how to fix your images, youíre going there to understand the thought process and technical process of FINISHING your images!

The Photo of the Month is a prime example of what Iím referring to. The Before image is one taken as perfect as can be at the time of capture. There are some aspects of photography, be it conventional or digital, that simply cannot capture what we see. Knowing this is essential in Finishing a photograph which you see in the after photo. You NEED to learn this to be a successful visual communicator.

I canít think of a better tip to give folks, at least for the moment. Go out, make great images and learn how to finish them in post so your message is seen, and heard by all

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