I have been in a photographic funk of late, unable to get into the right frame of mind to shoot. Last week, in the midst of this struggle, I knew that I needed to force myself back into my photography practice. I gave myself an assignment: go out for an afternoon and challenge myself, using one lens at a single focal length.
I use this exercise from time to time, to push me out of my comfort zone and get my mind unstuck. I’m not looking for great photographs; I’m looking to practice the art of seeing. And the great thing about choosing a single focal length — whether using one setting on a zoom or a prime lens — is that it forces me to move around a scene. If I find that I’m receptive to the exercise (it doesn’t always work), it can help me see.
When speaking with students, Ben and I will often talk about the importance of projects as an element in one’s photographic growth. While we tend to talk about this in the context of practicing, projects can take on a life of their own, and can help motivate you, either when you’re out in the field, or simply to get you out shooting. It can also be the type of thing that can fine tune your ultimate photographic vision.
A project can be anything thematic, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be of tangible ‘things,’ although it can be, like Ben’s tree project, which he mentioned in Chapter 9 of Complete Digital Photography (that chapter is available as a free download from the book support page):
One way to make yourself practice, and to breathe new life into familiar locations, is to give yourself an assignment. You can choose a subject—old cars, doorways, local flowers—or maybe a phrase or a word—contentment; no pain, no gain; a penny saved. The subject matter or word doesn’t have to mean anything to anyone else, and you can interpret it any way you want. The idea is simply to give yourself some way to frame your view of your location. Having a specific point of view or photographic goal will often make you see familiar ground in a new way. I like shooting trees, so I keep an ongoing tree project. Often, going out with the idea of shooting trees takes the pressure off; I don’t have to worry about finding subject matter. The world is a big place, and limiting it can make shooting much simpler.
Our good friend—and ace adventure photographer—Hudson Henry has just released his long-awaited Advanced Panorama Course, and is offering it at half-price for a limited time.
Building upon Hudson’s best-selling Panoramas Made Simple ebook (published by CDP Press), this new course contains more than two hours of videos, focusing on all aspects of panorama creation, from choosing gear to field setup, capture, and postproduction.
The Advanced Panorama Course includes everything you need to know to capture both simple panos and complex multi-row and HDR panoramas. Hudson also shows you his process for assembling and editing panoramas in Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop and ON1 Photo RAW. (There are two versions of the course available: one for Lightroom and Photoshop, the other for Photo RAW.)
Included with the course are the raw files Hudson uses in the videos (for you to follow along), as well as a gear list, course notes and cheatsheets.
The Advanced Panorama course is currently on sale for $29.99 directly from Hudson, and will be priced at $59.99 after January 31.
I’ve been heads-down the past few weeks, working hard on the 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography. Last week, I was proofing the section of the book that covered reciprocity and the exposure triangle, and, in a little bit of synchronicity, my good friend Hudson Henry posted this cool video on that very topic. Hudson and his friend Andy Adkins — a true video wizard — did a fantastic job explaining the relationship between ISO, aperture and shutter speed. It’s worth a few minutes, especially if the topic is something that remains a bit confusing to you, or if you want a refresher.
For those of you who have been waiting patiently for the 9th edition, we really are in the final stages. You can find out more — and download a free sample chapter — via this link. I’ll post an update once we get our final proof copy from the printer, which should be later this week.
Ben would really, really like you to buy the upcoming 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography, but he adds that there’s nothing that will help make you a better photographer than to practice. Specifically, to practice the art of seeing.
Get out there and practice, practice, practice!
Sign up today for our email list, and we’ll send you information on the 9th edition as we have it, including sample chapters, discounts and more.
Autumn—one of my favorite times of year—is coming on quickly here in eastern Oregon: The nights are cooler, and each morning, the air has a hint of crispness in it. As a photographer, this change in the weather brings with it the anticipation of fall foliage, and I find myself itching to head out to shoot. I have been scoping out locations, planning my time, looking for the peak windows, and getting my gear ready. I have also been chatting with Ben Long and Hudson Henry about the best approaches for capturing fall color. Among us, we have a few tips for getting the most out of your fall-foliage shots.
Hudson: Let light dictate your scene
Hudson has found himself in some amazing places during autumn, but he also finds inspiration in his home area of Portland, Oregon. Here are a few of his tips for getting the most out of fall color:
When I photograph fall colors, I let the light dictate my subject choice and composition. Overcast days are wonderful to work with fall color. Under clouds or fog I can shoot in deep colorful woods without the pesky highlights and shadows that get in the way on blue sky days. Just be sure to keep that dull grey sky out of the frame.
Puffy white clouds with blue between soften the highlights each time the sun passes behind a cloud, while allowing me to include the blue and white of the sky to offset the other fall colors I am photographing. On bright sunny days, I use a long lens to look for small details in shadows and reflections while avoiding any direct sunlight or sky in the frame.
I rarely leave my polarizer behind, but I always want it for fall colors. Polarizers don’t just add contrast to the sky and help control reflections, they also make fall colors more intense. This is especially true in a misty, wet forest of color. The polarizer cuts through the wet shine on the leaves allowing me to capture more saturation.
Finally, I’m not at all above carrying a particularly lovely leaf specimen to place in just the right spot in the frame. Props have been a part of photography since the dawn of the art, and if it helps me capture the image I’ve envisioned, then I’m all for it.
Last fall, when we released Hudson Henry’s Panoramas Made Simple, it was our intent to offer a companion volume, Advanced Panoramas, designed for photographers who wanted to go beyond the basics and create complex panoramas. In the end, Hudson and I decided that the advanced course made more sense as a video series than an ebook. (There will be extensive written cheatsheets to go along with the videos, however.).
Hudson is working on that course now, and he anticipates that it will be available in the fall of 2018. Here’s what he says about the new course:
The advanced course is for the photographer who wants to create complex, multiple-row and other specialty panoramas; ones that require extreme precision during the capture process. It will cover the equipment necessary for building these advanced panoramic images and how to calibrate your camera and lenses. It will also offer more advanced editing techniques utilizing Photoshop and other powerful software.
If you purchased Panoramas Made Simple, we’ll let you know when Hudson’s course is ready. If you didn’t purchase the book, and have been waiting for the advanced course, the best thing to do is register over on Hudson’s website; he’ll keep you up to date on that course, as well as any other cool things he’s doing.
[If parts of this post look familiar, I apologize. I posted a small bit about this at the end of the item about the upcoming 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography, but it appeared to have gotten lost in the shuffle, hence the repost.]
There is a long-standing myth in photography that focal length has an impact on the depth of field in your scene. This is what I was taught, and it is what I have, in turn, been teaching. In fact, early editions of Complete Digital Photography included this very myth. However, with a simple experiment, you can demonstrate that focal length has no impact on actual depth of field.
However, before you start dreading the need to relearn a bunch of old habits, stop. While the theory that has been taught for the last 150 years or so might have been technically incorrect, the practical upshot has been completely valid. So, this article is not so much about changing your hands-on technique. Rather, it’s simply presented to offer you a more accurate explanation of what actually happens to depth of field when you choose one focal length over another. Your everyday practice—using longer lenses to get apparently shallower depth of field—will still apply, but after reading this article, you might have a different understanding of why the depth of field appears different with different focal lengths.
Very often, good photos are the result of a photographer being able to recognize the potential in a scene, and very often that potential is one based around manipulating tone. Learning to develop an eye for tone will not only allow you to get better shots, it will open up a realm of subject matter that you may not normally recognize. For example, consider this shot: