Photographer/Writer Ben Long joins the show this week to explain his ideas on how to grow as a photographer, as outlined in his new book, The Practicing Photographer. In the interview, I ask him how practice can be fun. He tells me I have it all wrong. And off we go! I’m pretty sure this is a half hour that you’re going to enjoy.
We’ve been friends with Derrick for decades; he’s a great photographer, podcaster and educator in his own right, and his questions about the book are insightful and fun.
I’m excited to announce that Ben’s next book, The Practicing Photographer, is currently in the final stages of production, and will be on sale here and on Amazon by mid-summer this year.
This book grew out of discussions that Ben and I had about his primary teaching message through the years: if you want to become a better photographer, you have to think about practice. Musicians, dancers, actors and other artists incorporate practice into their work, yet photographers talk more about camera settings and gear than they do about their practice. But when we talk about the concept of practice with workshop students, a light bulb often goes off, and it felt to us that a book about the topic just made sense.
The Practicing Photographer is a slim book (roughly 120 pages), comprised of more than 50 short essays designed to help you develop your own photography practice. While some of the essays are directly derived from Ben’s longtime video series of the same name on LinkedIn Learning (née Lynda.com), the majority have been specifically written for this book.
We’re excited about the result. It is quite different from the standard ‘how to’ photography book. It lacks a single photograph between its covers, and there is no mention of a camera company, a camera type, or any other type of gear. It really has been written to help you think about practicing your photography in a more holistic way, from field to print, and in between.
While we’re still finalizing the book’s content, we do know that it will be priced under $15 for the print version, and around $10 for the ebook. We’ll send out a note once we’ve ordered our first run, but if you’d like a sneak peek, we have posted the first essay in the book, “Why Practice?” for you to read. (The table of contents for the book is also available here on the site as well.)
If you’d like to be notified when the book is available for ordering, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Your email will only be used once, to let you know that the book has been released. (If you’re already on our mailing list, we’ll send a note to you via our email newsletter.)
Ben was recently a guest on the PhotoActive photography podcast, hosted by Kirk McElhearn and Jeff Carlson. Ben spoke a little bit about the release of the new book; things to think about when learning composition; photographers he likes (and why that changes over time); and why instructing beginners to start with their camera’s Auto mode is one of the best teaching tools out there. At a mere 36 minutes, it’s a great listen.
(I was on the podcast in November, discussing the state of photo printing; as I noted at the time, Kirk and Jeff have created a well-focused, engaging show with a wide-ranging pool of guests. It’s worth subscribing to if you’ve got a interest in photography and want a podcast that spends less time on gear, and more on thoughtful topics of interest. They also keep the segments short, which is a big plus for me.)
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.
Ben remains hard at work on the 9th edition of Complete Digital Photography (“chained to his desk,” says Rick.) And yet, he still found time to send us a short video about how the creative process of publishing — i.e. the “slog” — informs his photographic work, even when he can’t get out and shoot.
It’s all about looking at your photography with a fresh eye.
Setting your work aside
Ben’s observation, that we could see our work in a different way by setting it aside for a while, is a good exercise. It can separate you from the moment you took the shot, giving you an alternative process for analyzing your photos. (Mixing things up from time to time is also a great way to give you a fresh perspective on your photography.)
While we were working on this post, we learned, sadly, that one of photography’s great practitioners of the “set your work aside” school, Henry Wessel, had passed away recently. Wessel was one of the more interesting photographers of the past 50 years, obsessed with the light — and the sense of place — of the West in all its forms. Part of the infamous “New Topographics” movement of the mid-1970s, Wessel was well-known for developing a roll of film, printing a contact sheet, and sticking it in a drawer for a year. We loved this quote from the New York Times obituary:
“If you let some time go by before considering work that you have done, you move toward a more objective position in judging it,” he said. “The pleasure of the subjective, physical experience in the world is a more distant memory and less influential.”
Give it a try. And, while you’re at it, don’t forget to sign up today for updates to Complete Digital Photography. Get sample chapters, discounts, free ebooks 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.
UPDATE (December 2018): The ninth edition of Ben’s Complete Digital Photography is now available. You can find out more on our CDP9 book page, or, you can order the book directly from Amazon.
We’ve had a few requests recently for information on the status of the 9th edition of Ben Long’s Complete Digital Photography, so it seemed to be the right time for an update.
While I really do wish that the new edition was finished and ready for sale, I can tell you that the book’s production is well underway. Ben has been diligently working on the book for a while now, and I’ve started on the editing and the design side. The biggest challenge for Ben has been the change in the postproduction landscape since the 8th edition, which has meant that most of those chapters need to be rewritten from scratch.
Ben Long has been producing the weekly Practicing Photographer video series on Lynda.com (now LinkedIn Learning) for five years. To celebrate, LinkedIn is making the series available free to all viewers through May 28:
In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each one concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.
The series includes more 450 videos, with most of them well under 10 minutes in length. (You’ll need a full day—and then some—if you want to watch them all.) There is a list of topics on the Practicing Photographer home page.