Yet another lesson (lessons?) learned

Longs Peak #1. Sugarloaf Mnt, Colorado, 2013

The confluence of various photography factors yesterday morning looked really, really good: A fresh, deep snowfall in the mountains and in Boulder, the possibility of catching the departing storm in its dissipating stage, and a just-past-full Moon scheduled to be maybe 15-20 degrees above the western horizon (Rocky Mountains/Continental Divide) upon the arrival of the scheduled 6:37 a.m. sunrise on the eastern horizon…A wonderfully tempting combination! Click here to find out what happened!

Wednesday Photo Critique #12, 02/27/2013

The Potash Plant. Near Moab, Utah, 2013
The Potash Plant. Near Moab, Utah, 2013

For this week’s image I have chosen a recent color image that I’d classify as a landscape–despite the inclusion of a huge (ugly?) metal structure.

And my standard call before I proceed: If you have been lurking about this web site and you’d like me to use your image for a Wednesday critique, just send me an e-mail (see Contact tab). That way, you can save me from critiquing my own images–which would be a welcome relief! Oh, and no names will be mentioned–it will be an anonymous critique.

OK, back to the photo o’ the week…I have my critic’s hat on and I am pretending this is the first time I’ve ever seen this photograph…here we go…

The metadata: Nikon D90 (1.5x crop factor sensor) with Nikkor 70-300 f/4-5.6 zoom at 125mm, f/8, 1/160, ISO200, handheld, outdoors with clear sky and late afternoon light.

And following my 7-Step Critique GuideClick here for the full critique!

What makes an image a good candidate for B&W conversion?

Norris Cox Drill Truck. Cisco, Utah, 2013
Norris Cox Drill Truck. Cisco, Utah, 2013

I really like black and white images. I like to think that a monochrome image helps focus the viewer on the composition, the story, the subject. Sometimes color can actually distract!

To that end, which of your digital images would be good candidates to convert to black and white? It can be a tough decision. With time, though, your eye will begin to “see” in black and white as you shoot. In the meantime, as you learn how to see the world in monochrome, here are a few things you might look for in a potential color-to-B&W conversion (and I’ll throw out a useful learning technique at the end): Click here to learn more about B&W conversions.

Feb 2013 CNCC Meeting: Lessons Learned (Dan Ballard)

Second Amendment Stove, Cisco, Utah, 2013
Second Amendment Stove, Cisco, Utah, 2013

The pro travel and landscape photographer Dan Ballard was our guest presenter at the Colorado Nature Club Camera Club (CNCC) last night and it was a super learning experience. With his presentation, “Unlocking Your Photographic Potential”, Dan did his best to wipe away that persistent and depressing idea that you need to be genetically gifted to be a great photographer.

The key? It’s NOT the genes, says Dan, it’s more often this formula that makes the successful photographer:

LOTS of practice + EXCELLENT instructor(s) + Goals + Time = Great  Images and Great Photographer

(I suppose I might presume to sprinkle in a bit of my own theory here…that is, with a little talent, your learning curve might possibly be somewhat steeper and shorter, but the basic formula Dan spelled out is still the same for all of us.)

Here, then, are Dan Ballard’s Five Key Points, as outlined in his talk last night–things we should all be working on as we perform the “practice” part of his formula: Click here to read more.

“Relentless Forward Motion!”

Dex Tooke crosses Monument Valley, RAAM 2011.
Dex Tooke crosses Monument Valley, RAAM 2011.

That was Dex Tooke’s motto as a raced against the clock in the 2011 edition of the Race Across America (RAAM), a 3000-mile, non-stop bike race from Oceanside, California to Annapolis, Maryland. He had attempted this Mount Everest of ultracycling the year before, but abandoned just a couple of hundred miles shy of Atlantic ocean saltwater as he was too far behind to make the cut-off time. (Or so he thought–you need to read his book to find out the “rest of the story!”) Dex had this “RFM” motto emblazoned in huge letters on his big team support RV, Bessie, and it was a constant mantra for the 12 1/2 days he was on the road headed east.

In 2011, Dex finished RAAM, becoming one of only four 60+ aged athletes to tame “The Beast” within the allotted time limit. You can read about what this insane bicycle race is all about–the sleep deprivation, the saddle sores, the massive support team required, the highs, the lows, the tears, the humor, etc. in Dex’s book, Unfinished Business, available through Amazon books.

Anyway, back to the motto…Relentless Forward Motion. What does that have to do with photography? Well, I believe that Relentless Forward Motion ought to be our mantra as photographers as well. (And maybe even a good mantra for Life in general!)

To that end, I try to do something every day that will push me forward as a photographer–improve my skills, my art, my knowledge. What follows is a list of suggestions…Try to do something on this list every day, even if it is just for a few minutes: Click here for the list!

More thoughts on personal style

So, do you think your photography reflects a personal style? What is it? Can you define it? What is it you are trying to say with your images?

Dawn in Slickrock Country. Arches NP, Utah, 2013
Dawn in Slickrock Country. Arches NP, Utah, 2013

I like to think my personal style comes out in my higher contrast black and white landscape work, some of which is done with a longer focal length and is more abstract, and some of which is done more traditionally with a wide angle focal length (as in the above image). I am still experimenting with other subjects and genres, so the jury is still out with me.  How about you?

Here are ten things to think about when trying to analyze your personal style in your photography: Click here for more!

A new paradigm for Humankind?

Graffiti Abstract: End of the World Yesterday. Longmont, Colorado, 2013
Graffiti Abstract: End of the World Yesterday. Longmont, Colorado, 2013

So, assuming (optimistically?) that humankind will slowly evolve for the better (very slowly, it seems)…and assuming we, as a species, manage to survive for a good time longer, what might be the next phase in our history? Beyond tribalism, feudalism and monarchies, imperialism, capitalism, socialism, and so on…what might be a possible way forward? What might be the new paradigm of existence for us lowly Human Beans?

How about this…lets have an Age of Giving. The idea would be this: the overwhelming, dominant social norm becomes one in which to always give is seen as the “right thing to do” by society. We give of everything…love…time…work…material things…knowledge…basically everything. Children would grow up learning that the highest moral plane they can aspire to is to give to others and to the world of whatever means or talent they might have.

So, instead of a world in which the moral order is based on individual’s selfish desires and wants, we have a world based on giving to others. I am not talking about a world in which folks are coerced by government or any other authority to give. I am not talking about socialism or any other such “ism”. I’m talking about a completely new social order in which giving is done voluntarily and happily–it is simply what is done, what is accepted as right, and what is expected of you.

I base this on many readings in which the common denominator is this: giving of yourself is what gives meaning to your life.

Pie in the sky ¿Tortilla en el cielo? Probably. Doesn’t hurt to dream about pies and tortillas, though.

P.S. Hmmm…Wasn’t there some guy about 2,000 years ago who talked similar nonsense?

Photographer Spotlight: Louie Schwartzberg

Celebrate Life! Canyonlands NP, Utah, 2013
Celebrate Life! Canyonlands NP, Utah, 2013

Yes, indeed, celebrate life! And for this edition of the Photographer Spotlight I’ve chosen someone who does just that with his incredible nature imagery. Louie Schwartzberg makes Nature move–literally!–in a beautifully sensuous way with his unique approach to time lapse photography. The Ted Talk link below will show you precisely that.

Louie’s TED Talk not only highlights Louie’s superb photography, but it also hits you on a deeper philosophical level…the miracle of each day of our lives…the importance of looking at the sky…the miraculous diversity of this Earth…our essential connection to Nature…the power of the present…the joy of Life…

So, without further ado-do…Enjoy! The next ten minutes will inspire you!