Friday, October 23, 2015

"Better Composition-How to Work a Subject" by Don Bolak

In my upcoming CAPS presentation ‘Better Composition – How to Work A Subject’ my goal is to provide you with an overview of what I consider the essentials of the process of photographic composition and include various tips/tricks along the way.  One of the key topics I will review:  Is Your Subject Photo Worthy?

So what exactly am I talking about here?  Have you ever gone on a photo shoot and been overwhelmed with the number of possibilities?  You search and search and finally find something to get excited about.  You spend some time setting up, get your perfect shot, and go home a happy photographer.  Until you look at your images on the computer monitor and it turns out the shot was not that hot!  And then the regrets set in: What was I thinking!?  What a lost opportunity?  I cannot believe I thought that was great!  Check out these daisy images.  Which image would you rather see on your computer?

Being able to evaluate potential subjects in the field before you setup and start shooting is hugely beneficial and time saving.  You do not always have the leisure of time to take a shot.  Light is changing constantly during the golden hours for photography around sunrise and sunset.  Your animal, bird or insect subject may not wait around for you.  Even the wind may start to pick up and end your day for doing close up images of flowers.

You also need to be able to look at subjects and determine if the subject is really that good.  One of the greater challenges you need to face:  what you see is not what you get in the camera.  The tools you are using to visualize your shot is a small view finder or a low resolution LCD screen.  It’s easy to miss things.  For close up photography -  trying to see flaws and dirt on that flower in a dark view finder at f22 is difficult.  I cannot tell you how much time I have to spend cleaning up images. I literally do not see all that crap in my view finder.  For this Aeonium picture – I did see that it was dirty and tried to clean it up in the field.  Since it was a potentially a great photo, I went ahead and shot it anyway.  I had no idea how dirty until I saw it on the computer monitor.  It took me hours to clean this up in photoshop.  No fun there.

Another way to think of it:  I just attended the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s Open House (if you are not familiar, check it out on-line).  I had 50 or so possible buildings to visit over the course of two days.  No way I was going to come even close to seeing that many buildings.  How to decide what to see?  A casual conversation with another photographer saved me from wasting time.  “Do not go to the XXX Building, the windows are filthy and you cannot get a good shot”.  If you were at that location, would you spend substantial time taking photo’s or would you have noticed the dirty windows and moved on to the next building?  I picked another high rise buiding to go to instead and got the following shot.  My thanks to that anonymous photographer.

Something else to consider: finding a worthy subject can take time.  Wild life photographers know this well and cultivate great patience.  It may take multiple excursions over the course of years to get that perfect mid-flight shot of that eagle.  Let’s look at another example:  for my flower photography, the sequence below took me about 3 months to get.  I thought the flowers had great potential but the plants do not produce a lot of flowers over the course of the summer.  So I had to wait for them to flower; wait for good conditions (lighting, wind, etc.); and finally wait for the perfect flower.  As you can see in the sequence below, I also had to learn from my mistakes - bad background, bad light, bad composition and bad subject (the 4 bads – now that’s BAD).  I improved over time until I finally had success.

Hopefully you are starting to get the idea.  You have to be able to decide what is interesting to you; edit the scene; evaluate the subject quality; AND THEN apply all your photographic tricks/techniques to get the great shot.  Hope to see you Sunday November 22nd at my CAPS presentation.

A serious hobbyist for over 15 years, Don has received numerous awards for his photography, exhibited widely and has been published in newspapers and magazines (most recently Natures Best Magazine).   While he pursues many different types of photography (abstract, landscape, garden, architecture, wildlife), his primary interest is botanical and close-up/macro photography.
He tries to portray the incredible diversity of color, form and subject matter found in the "micro world."

With a day job as a landscape architect, Don’s professional training in design and botany along with his expertise in photography makes him a popular speaker.  He has presented at past Chicago Area Photographic Schools, Lake County Expo, Out of Chicago Conference and other venues.
Website:  Donald Bolak Photography
To go to the CAPS website go to:  Home

Saturday, October 17, 2015

"101 Shades of Gray" presented by John Batdorff

I have great affection for the West which is renewed with every trip I make to Montana.  Even after 20 years of visiting Montana, I'm still caught off guard by it's vastness and endless beauty.  I never truly understood why people referred to Montana as Big Sky country until I saw it with my own eyes for the first time.

The large, open, mountain fields...

     The sweeping vistas...

There's a ruggedness to the land and the way people lived.  Before "tiny home" became a buzzword, a smaller homestead was a reality born of necessity.

But in the end, what draws me back to Montana is Yellowstone National Park.  It has an illusion of simplicity, but in reality nothing is simple in Yellowstone.  it's a complex ecosystem that pushes and pulls to find its balance.

It's this balance that I envy as it serves as a reminder that my own creativity can only thrive when family, friends, and work are in balance

This is just a little series to show why John likes black and white photography.  Pro-photographer John Batdorff is a respected black and white photographer. Join him to improve your black and white processing skills in Adobe's Lightroom and Silver Efex Pro 2. Starting at conversion and ending with a dynamic black and white photo, John will guide you step-by-step through his processing workflow for black and white images. He'll cover landscapes, street shots, and fine-art images to help you take your grayscale photos to the next level. You will learn how color impacts your black and whites, unique compositional tools for intentional black and white photography, how to use harsh light and shadows to your advantage, and when to choose black and white. Techniques will include using color sliders to selectively adjust tonal ranges, creating dynamic light with the use of radial filters and Nik Control Points, and advanced Tone Curve techniques for improved contrast control. He will also show you how to make your own presets once you've mastered your black and white technique. This will be an in-depth exploration of black and white photography with live, step-by-step processing examples and you'll walk away viewing black and white photography in a new light.

John Batdoff is an award-winning travel and street photographer based in Chicago. He is the author of "Black and White: From Snapshots to Great Shots," "Plug In with Nik: A Photographer’s Guide to Creating Dynamic Images with Nik Software," "Nikon D7100: From Snapshots to Great Shots," and "Street and Travel Photography: From Snapshots to Great Shots," as well as his Learn by Video DVD "Master Lightroom Presets: Enhance Your Creativity and and Increase Efficiency." John leads destination workshops from New York City to Death Valley and more and he mentors other aspiring photographers in his Chicago studio. See his work and read his popular photography blog at  John Batdorff - Chicago Photographer, Author, Instructor

John will be teaching at CAPS-Chicago Area Photographic School on Saturday, November 21st.
To visit the CAPS website go to: Home
To register for CAPS go to:  Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2015 - RegOnline

Sunday, October 11, 2015

"Quick Tips to Photograph the Stars" by Jennifer Wu

Yosemite National Park is just a few hours away from me and I love photographing there both by day and at night.  I especially enjoy shooting at night because people go to sleep and I feel as if I have the park all to myself.  I photographed the image above in Yosemite during the summer of 2010 at f/1.4, 20 seconds, ISO 1600 with a 24 mm lens on the Canon EOS 5D Mark II.  Photographing the stars as points of light without star trails can really create a beautiful image.  our eyes see the Milky Way as a band of light in the sky and the camera picks up the colorful gases and more stars making the sky even more incredible.  The digital camera allows for stars to be photographed at very high ISO with lower noise than with film cameras.  Here are a few of my tips for photographing the stars:

What Lens to Use?
First, use a wide angle lens, such as 14-35 mm actual focal length.  This will allow for less movement of the stars and keep them more as points of light.  The longer the focal length of the lens, the faster the shutter needs to be to stop the action and have the stars as points of light.

What Aperture is Best?
This will vary depending on how much light is in the sky.  Fir a dark night, try a wide-open aperture to get as much light into the camera as possible such as f/2.8 or f/1.4.  If you have moonlight, then you can set your aperture to f/4 or higher.  

What ISO Setting?
If is important to set the ISO high enough to get a good exposure because you don't want to have to lighten the images in post processing which will increase the digital noise.  I put the camera in manual metering mode and set the exposure so that it is on the plus side by one or two stops.  For a very dark night without the moon, try using an ISO of 3200 or 6400 to get you in the ballpark for the exposure.

Where to Focus?
Be sure to focus on the stars.  The easiest way is auto focus on a distant object during the day and tape the lens or focus on the moon at night.  Be sure to turn off the auto focus so it doesn't change while you are shooting.  Using live view is another way.
There is something very special about photographing at night with the beauty of the stars overhead.  For me, it is both calming and peaceful.  I hope by following my "quick tips to photograph the stars" you are able to take some amazing photographs.

Go Shoot the Stars!

I used a fisheye lens to get more of the Milky Way in the image because it has a wide-angle of view.  The night was colorful with some greens and hints of purple colors in the sky.  I could not see the color with my eyes, but the camera could pick them up.  The yellow on the horizon line is light pollution, but I like how it adds a nice color to the image.  Photographed at Bryce Canyon National Park at f/2.8, 25 seconds, ISO 6400, 15 mm fisheye lens, Canon 5D Mark II

During the day I scouted for a location to return to at night.  I was photographing with my friend Chris and when we returned at night, he no loner wanted to shoot!  I walked out into the river to a rock bed to get a close foreground element of the moving water.  Chris said to me, "If you fall in the river, be sure to hold up the camera and I will save it."  I guess he has his priorities!  I didn't include much of the sky because there was so much ambient light from the moon.  Photographed at Zion National Park at f/2.8, 30 seconds, ISO 1600, 16-35 mm lens at 16 mm, Canon 1Ds Mark III.

Look for foreground elements such as rocks, mountain silhouettes or trees.  The bristlecone pine tree is silhouetted against the stars with the Milky Way placed off center to balance the two elements in the scene.  this image was photographed in the White Mountains, California at f/1.4, 20 seconds, ISO 2000, Canon 5D Mark II.

Jennifer Wu, a professional photographer since 1992, is best known for her nature, landscape and night photography.  Jennifer was named by Canon USA to the elite group of photographers, The Explorers of Light.  Jennifer has published a book with James Martin, "Photography, Night Sky" which is a field guide for shooting after dark.

Jennifer will be speaking at CAPS-Chicago Area Photographic School on Sunday, November 22nd. She will be talking about photographing from dusk to dawn.

To see the CAPS webpage go to:  Home

Saturday, October 3, 2015

"Composing Images of the Natural World" by Steve Gettle

Steve's photography has taken him throughout North and South America from the woods of northern Canada to the Cloud forest of Ecuador, from the coast of Maine to the high plateau of the desert southwest.  although he travels extensively, he finds much of his inspiration in the natural areas surrounding his home in Brighton, Michigan.  Steve leads photo workshops and tours all over the world.  As an instructor he has taught for such organizations as:  The North American nature Photography Association, The Rocky Mountain School of Photography, The Adirondack Photography Institute and many more.  He is a great nature photographer and will be teaching a half day class on both Saturday and Sunday, November 21st and 22nds at CAPS- Chicago Area Photographic School. Steve is being sponsored by Hunt's Photo and Video at CAPS.

Saturday- "Photographing Birds and Mammals"
This course will cover how and where to photograph the birds and mammals of our planet. Attendees will not only learn where to find their subjects but also how to use blinds, calls, baits and other advanced techniques to attract wildlife. We will also talk about special compositional guidelines for these types of subjects, and fine tuning your autofocus to capture action and flight shots.

and  "Macro Photography"
Participants will learn how to use basic equipment to make beautiful images of things in the realm of the small, from the size of a butterfly to as small as a tiny snow crystal. We will not only cover the equipment needed for this type of photography but also the specialized techniques used in this challenging genre of nature photography. We will discuss such things as, maximizing depth of field, controlling light, controlling the background, using flash, and much more.

Sunday-  "Composing Images of the Natural World"
The main emphasize of this two part program will be composition. We will focus on the many elements that make up the composition of a beautiful image, using hundreds of examples and practical, real world situations. We will learn the “rules” of composition as well as when and why to break them. Attendees will learn how to find the picture, and how to work a subject to maximize the potential of every situation. In addition, we will cover how to control such things. as lighting, backgrounds, depth of field, and perspective to enhance the composition. The second part of this program will talk about how to more effectively communicate your vision and more importantly, your message with your photography.

Wilderness Images
The Nature Photography of Steve Gettle
8877 River Valley Ct.
Brighton, MI 48116
Studio 810-231-8118
Fax 810-231-8119

To visit the CAPS website go to: Home
To register for CAPS go to:  Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2015 - RegOnline