Moon Over Cimarron Mountains: The Story Behind the Photo

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By Jay Gosdin

Cimmaron Mountains at sunset photo by Jay Gosdin

Earlier Photo: This really shows that returning to the same location year after year produces new and exciting pictures and makes you more productive.

Both planning and luck come into play with landscape photos. This picture was one year in planning and shot outside of Ridgway, Colorado.

The previous year at the same exact time, I shot this at a different angle and won a ribbon at the club. (Photo at right)

One year later, I was not expecting the moon to be rising at the exact time of the sunset light on the distant Cimarron Mountains.

Getting the moon like this in camera without using a composite only occurs at rare times, thus, the luck in the picture. But I knew the strange maroon light on the mountains would be the same if shot at the same time of the year and at sunset.

Moon Over Cimarron Mountains by Jay Gosdin (f/11, 1/30, ISO 100, 100mm)

Are you fluent in photography?

By Darren Wiedman

photo of dragon fly

1st Grade – Shot from eye level with a busy background, but at least the bug is in focus. Composition needs some work.

“To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
One clover, and a bee,
And revery.
The revery alone will do,
If bees are few.”
~ Emily Dickenson

We are all too old to remember if it was difficult to learn our mother tongue. But we can all probably agree that mastering a second language is much harder, especially if your mind is no longer as spongy as a two year old’s.

In many ways, learning a new language is a lot like learning a new skill, such as photography. It’s very exciting at first as you master a few essentials, like how to turn the camera on [Hola] and how to press the shutter-release button [Muy bien]. Before long, you can actually take a picture, download it to your computer, crop it, and post it online. [La fotografía es muy fácil.]

Since I just had to look up that sentence on Google Translate, this is where the Spanish ends. But the metaphor still works in English. Spend just a few weeks with a camera, and you’ve got the basics down. Congratulations! You have the vocabulary of a 1st grader. [See Spot run.] But as you learn more, the quality of what you can create grows exponentially.

Photo of a dragon fly

3rd Grade – Perhaps a fresher look at the standard dragonfly shot but maybe too far away. Nice light on the subject.

So, as a photographer, what grade are you in? Do you have a basic understanding of composition, the exposure triangle, histograms, focal length, white balance, and flash? Do you have to consciously think about the rule of thirds, or does the most interesting part of your subject automatically land in the right spot while you shoot? Is your camera always horizontal and at eye-level, or are you letting the subject itself influence the way you capture the image?

A beginner may walk through a field, see a daisy, point the camera, shoot in Auto mode, and move on. [Title: “Flower”]

A more advanced photographer may see the same daisy, hover around it to find a simple background, wait for a butterfly to land, and shoot repeatedly until the wings catch the sunlight just right. [Title: “Monarch dancing on a daisy”].

Photo of dragonfly on grass.

5th Grade – Typical point of view but the clean background helps draw the eye to the subject. More post-processing now being used (to clean up the branches).

The veteran photographer is only in the field because she knows daisies are blooming this time of year and the best light begins at 7:30 p.m. She brought her tripod and a macro lens because she wants to fill the frame with the center of the daisy and the body of a bee. She’s using a small aperture to be sure the flower and bee stay in focus. She knows she has to shoot at 1/500 of a second because she wants the bee sharp but the wings blurred. And she plans on capturing several  hundred shots like this in case she decides to do a composite image of a bouquet of different flowers and insects. And most of this is done intuitively. [Title? See Emily Dickenson poem above.]

orange dragonfly

“Hangin’ Around” by Jeanne Crockett

So how do we become fluent? We go to school (or at least online). We continue to learn. We listen to people who are better than us. We practice. We shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and our photographs gradually evolve from stilted sentences to pleasant poetry that others want to admire again and again.

See ya in class on June 24!

Patience Finally Pays Off: The Story Behind the Photo

By Jeanne Crockett

Patience Finally Pays Off photo by Jeanne Crockett

Patience Finally Pays Off by Jeanne Crockett

My passion for photography grew in my back yard, and the butterflies that come there have been one of my favorite subjects.

For years I have planted things specifically for the butterflies and have been able to photograph caterpillars and chrysalises as well as the adult butterflies. The one thing that eluded me was the moment a butterfly emerged from its chrysalis.

This fall there was a bumper crop of gulf fritillary chrysalises in my yard. At one point I counted 30! I determined that I would be there for the moment one of those butterflies emerged.

I spent several hours for a couple mornings cruising my back yard monitoring the chrysalises I knew about before this one began to emerge right in front of me. I was able to take pictures from the moment the chrysalis began to split until the butterfly flew away.

(f/10, 1/30, ISO 200, 105mm)

Transform Your Landscape Photos

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One Compositional Technique to Transform Your Landscape Photos

By Jim Hamel

Turning the corner from taking snapshots to actually composing photographs is a hard thing to do.

Landscape image of mushrooms and red barn by Jim Hamel

Landscape image by Jim Hamel

It doesn’t come naturally, and it takes experience. There is no one hard and fast rule. You can get caught up in looking for various shapes, patterns, leading lines, and other compositional elements until your head is spinning.

To avoid all of this, I want to share one concrete technique to use when you are out shooting landscape photos. It is one way to go about setting up your shot that will give you a path to successful composition. Of course, it isn’t the only way to set up your shot, and you won’t use this all the time, but it is great for helping when you are stuck.

And the tip is …

… the next time you are out shooting in a scenic location, just put on your widest angle lens and get right behind something on the ground to take the shot. I mean right behind it. That something on the ground can be anything from a flower, to a rock, to a pattern in the sand. It does not matter. What matters is that you are down on your knees with your wide-angle lens right behind it.

Why it works

Landscape image by Jim Hamel

Landscape image by Jim Hamel

The wide-angle lens will give the foreground object an exaggerated sense of proportion, but it will also pick up the background. By getting right behind something, you are adding a subject to your picture. You are creating a center of interest. You are going beyond just showing the general scenery. The background will still be in your picture as well; you just do not need to focus on that.

Another benefit is that it gives the viewer a sense that they can walk into the picture. It is providing a real foreground, that adds depth and interest to your photo.

What typifies a snapshot is standing at eye level, trying to capture the entire scene before you. For many of us when we are just starting with photography, that just intuitively seems like the way to take pictures. We want to capture the whole scene and not have it blocked by something on the ground immediately in front of us. The problem is that there is no foreground, subject, or center of interest to speak of. In addition, you are presenting the world in the exact same way as the viewer is used to seeing it, which is bound to be rather boring to them.

Putting the tip into action

Landscape image by Jim Hamel

Landscape image by Jim Hamel

How you determine what items on the ground will work as your foreground elements? That is the hard part. There is no right answer. You will just have to look. In fact, it will not be obvious even when you are out in the field looking around. There are times when you might have to walk around while looking at the LCD in live-view mode or with the viewfinder to your face to find something on the ground to use as a foreground.

Here are some examples of things you can use as foregrounds in different contexts:

  • When photographing water, use a reflection in the water.
  • When at the beach or desert, find a pattern in the sand.
  • When photographing creeks or coasts, use rocks.
  • At midday, use shadows.
  • In the fall, use leaves.

There are obviously a variety of subjects you can use. Go out and try it next time you are shooting.

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel

Jim Hamel is not just a great photographer, writer, and teacher, he’s also one of our very own TAPC members. Check out his free photography guides and tutorials at Outdoor Photo Academy. You can also see this original unedited article and even more images at Digital Photography School.

Euless Hawk: The Story Behind the Photo

By Mangesh Sangapu

Euless Hawk in tree photo by Mangesh Sangapu

Euless Hawk by Mangesh Sangapu

The first time I saw this hawk, it was on my porch lunching on a gecko. I tried to save the  gecko but the bird flew away with its meal.

I saw this bird a few times since, but it’s been too far away. I solved the distance problem by getting a Sigma 710mm, but I never expected to get such a close-up.

I was bird-watching from our back window and to my amazement, it came out of  nowhere and landed on a tree close to our home. I hastily grabbed my camera and quietly opened the back door. I took this picture just as the hawk became aware of my presence. It flew away moments later.

April Showers Bring May … Awards?

Fair-weather photographers may only get fair, average images. But rainy days offer
opportunities just dripping with potential. Technically, May is the wettest month in
Texas, but April will give you plenty of practice. Here are a few things to consider:

Pack your tripod

Cheetah in the rain

Photo by Frida Bredesen from Unsplash.com

As Captain Obvious will tell you, rain comes from clouds, which also tend to block light. And increasing your depth of field will help capture raindrops but will require a slower shutter speed (or higher ISO). You’ll want a tripod. It can hold your camera while you hold an umbrella.

Cover yourself

Shooting in the rain is a lot more fun if you stay warm and dry. Make use of natural weather barriers like awnings, walls, and cars. Umbrellas are tricky to handle, but they can double as a prop to help tell the story of your image. Try to keep the wind at your back (unless you want a wet lens).

Cover your camera

Rain covers cost as little as $7, a small price to pay to keep moisture out of your camera. And make sure the inside of your bag is dry before you put the camera away.

Light it up

Often rain will not show up in your image unless there is a strong light source in front or back of it, so position yourself accordingly.

Freeze the rain

Crank up your shutter speed to at least 1/250. Try popping a weak flash into the rain, like -2 or -3 stops, to light it up a bit.

Create a curtain

Slow your shutter speed down to about 1/15 or 1/30 and you’ll paint more of a downpour feeling.

After the storm

photo of backlit person standing in the rain

Photo by Steve Halama from Unsplash.com

You don’t have to go out in the rain to get a great shot. Wait till it passes, then go see if you can catch a rainbow. Post-storm puddles create little mirrors that reflect light,  architecture, and people.

Happy shooting! And remember, our July competition theme is “All Wet.”

In the Windmills of Your Mind: The Story Behind the Photo

By Susan Taylor

double exposure of ferris wheel by Susan Taylor

In the Windmills of Your Mind by Susan Taylor

I took this picture as a multiple exposure on my Nikon 5200. I didn’t even know I had this option in my camera until the first day of class at TCC!

That same day we went to the carnival at the stock show, and I started shooting multiple exposures. When I arrived home and looked at my pics, I saw my double exposure of the ferris wheel and a title immediately came to mind: the lyrics from the ’60s era song “In the Windmills of Your Mind.”

I tweaked it a bit, made it black and white, and then looked up the lyrics to make sure of my title.

It was then that I read that the song’s composer, pianist and Oscar winner Michael Legrand, had died only three days earlier!

Shooting in the Breeze

They say March comes in like a lion and leaves like a lamb, which must create a considerable vacuum considering how windy it gets. But it makes for great (and challenging) photo ops.

Everything that blows and flows gets more blowy and flowy: elegant dresses, long hair, flowers, flags, waves, and clouds to name but a few. Here are some things to keep in mind to make the most of it.

Protect your property (and yourself)

If you’re going to be somewhere sandy or watery, be sure to keep your camera in the bag until you’re ready to shoot. Consider using a rain cover. And watch out for flying debris and narrow ledges. We’re all just one gust away from the emergency room.

Adjust your settings

woman with wind blown hair

Photo by Dev Asangbam from Unsplash.com

If you want to freeze the action, increase your shutter speed. Of course, you’ll need to up your ISO or open the aperture a bit to compensate. Or to help communicate the windiness, slow your shutter speed down a bit. Just be sure the things in the shot that are supposed to be stable stay sharp: mountains, buildings, etc.

Stabilize your gear

If your camera has image stabilization, turn it on, even on a tripod. Typically that’s a bad idea, but it can make a positive difference on a windy day. If it’s really windy and your tripod may tip over, steady the legs with something heavy or hang something from the bottom. That’s what the hook is for. But don’t use something that could double as a sail. It may contribute to the problem. And keep your center column unextended. Even lowering the overall height of the tripod can help.

Work the wind

smooth like glass water

Photo by Oldskool Photography from Unsplash.com

Add a neutral density filter to your lens to limit the amount of light entering your camera. This allows for longer shutter speeds in daylight to make water appear smooth and clouds seem extra wispy.

Add a dash of flash

If you want to create a frozen moment but still communicate motion, try using your flash. Just a quick pop of extra light will freeze part of the action, but keep the shutter open long enough.

Old School Lighting: The Story Behind the Photo

By Lana Macko

Photo of tomatoes on scale

Old School Lighting by Lana Macko

I will never forget the moment I spotted these tomatoes in a market in San Miguel, Mexico, and the way the perfect late afternoon light was hitting them.

So when I started to prepare the image for camera club submission, I darkened the shadows, bringing even more emphasis to the tomatoes and parts of the scale to intensify the old-school feel I had felt when viewing this magnificent light in that market.

The photograph did not get a very high score in our contest. Not only did the judge not “get” it (despite the broad hint I had dropped with my title), he shared how HE would have post processed this shot differently, thus creating HIS vision. Of course, that was a very HDR-type look, which I am normally not opposed to, but it was not the artistic vision I had for this shot.

So I felt compelled to write this, especially for our newest members. Don’t be intimidated by a judge’s comments or vision. They won’t always share YOUR vision. Just HAVE a vision, and learn to carry it out to the best of your ability.

A Photography Valentine

Why do we love photography?

Photo of roses by Katya Zyu from Unsplash.com

Photo by Katya Zyu from Unsplash.com

These quotes from famous photographers and artists are not necessarily answers to that question, but they could be.

When I photograph, what I’m really doing is seeking answers to things. – Wynn Bullock

The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do. – Andy Warhol

What makes photography a strange invention is that its primary raw materials are light and time. – John Berger

Light makes photography. Embrace light. Admire it. Love it. But above all, know light. Know it for all you are worth, and you will know the key to photography. – George Eastman

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce. – Karl Lagerfeld

The whole point of taking pictures is so that you don’t have to explain things with words. – Elliott Erwitt

Taking pictures is like tiptoeing into the kitchen late at night and stealing Oreo cookies. – Diane Arbus

Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still. – Dorothea Lange

The camera makes you forget you’re there. It’s not like you are hiding but you forget, you are just looking so much. – Annie Leibovitz

When people look at my pictures I want them to feel the way they do when they want to read the line of a poem twice. – Robert Frank

Essentially what photography is is life lit up. – Sam Abell

Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second. – Marc Riboud

Photography is a way of feeling, of touching, of loving. What you have caught on film is captured forever… It remembers little things, long after you have forgotten everything. – Aaron Siskind

My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport. – Steve McCurry