Colorado: Life and Light
on the Land
Buy One, Get One Free
Colorado: Life and Light on the Land is collection of images is about life in Colorado and how we live in relation to its expansive landscape. These images are designed to capture the viewer’s imagination then cause them to pause in awe. As much as these images are about an expansive perspective, in juxtaposition, they reveal the most intricate details nature has created.
The book is designed to give viewers an experience of how it feels to be out in the field making photographs—a contemplative one connecting them with nature and the extraordinary found in the ordinary.
STEP ONE: WHO ARE YOU GIFTING YOUR FREE BOOK TO?
Look for the Extraordinary in the Ordinary
—Sam Abel, National Geographic Legend
We’ve all seen image on the covers of Life and National Geographic that defining period of time, place or event—they live on what seems forever. To make extraordinary photos, it starts by slowing down your pace a little, to sniff about, and opening your eyes to the full range of photographic opportunities right in front of you everywhere you happen to be.
Whether it’s your phone or a DSLR (digital single lens reflex) camera, hone your attention through your viewer or eye-piece placing the subject within the frame that defines the moment. Be as methodical or spontaneous as you will. Look for light and color that illuminate the subject. Take risks, and don’t hold back. You never know when the photo you’ve made will go viral on social media or will capture your friend’s and family member’s imagination.
The Five Steps to Making Exceptional Photographs
First: Do your research about your subject and location. Study the available lighting that is natural and artificial. Study the best position or different angles and time of day to be there. Get in rhythm with the place and the activities of the event you are about to engage with. Become a part of the experience and live it.
Second: Set you position. Consider your options for where to photograph from—above, below, to the side or in obscure difficult position to accentuate the subject. Double check it’s the best position possible. Even turn the opposite direction 360○ just incase there is something equally important to see you may have otherwise have missed. Consider lighting challenges and assure which part of the photograph you would prefer to be in the shadows, mid-range of light or fill light and highlights.
Third: Compose your photograph to create interest and focus on the subject. Look through your phone’s, tablet’s or camera’s view-finder examining every detail top to bottom; side to side; and diagonally corner to corner top-to-bottom and bottom-to-top, left and right. Work to place the subject in such a way in the frame that creates depth or dimension to the photograph. Explore where to place the subject whether it be placing in the upper right; lower left; upper left; lower right; or up-and-down the vertical center line, and finally, side-to-side on the horizontal center line of the frame. Make a choice and be ready to move to the next once you begin making photographs.
Fourth: Set the exposure. This may not be required with phones or tablets but most definitely if you are photographing in manual mode with your DSLR. This is when you discern which settings are best to making the photograph of the scene before you. Start with your white balance; move to ISO (measures the light sensitivity of the image sensor developed by the International for Standardization Organization); adjust your aperture setting by opening fully to the lowest value and closing it to the smallest value; and adjust your shutter speed to capture the image. Understand the higher the ISO the greater the chance the image will be grainy instead of tack sharp. Adjust settings to match how to best present the subject to your viewing audience in whatever form for online or print media. The wonder of today’s digital world is all these complex features have been engineered into your phones and tablets making it as simple as pointing and shooting.
Fifth: With a phone or tablet, it’s as easy as using these basic steps while you shoot on the fly wherever you happen to find yourself. Photographing with a DSLR you can do the same in automatic mode or shooting in manual mode it is recommended you set your tripod up or brace your camera to minimize shake to assure a sharp in-focus result. The simply wait for the drama and action to unfold before you. Be selective about the photographs you make to assure they are on the way to being exceptional and extraordinary.
Practice these steps consistently when photographing and your results will improve dramatically. Happy photographing!
What Makes a Photograph Exceptional or Extraordinary?
Here’s a way to cull your photos to begin discerning the difference between a record and an extraordinary image and everything in between. This is subjective to each person as we all see the world through a different perspective, minds-eye and lens. This is what makes photography so powerful- how each of us sees the world differently.
Records are photographs of a place, event, people, nature, flowers, and moment that capture what has transpired without much regard for lighting, composition, exposure or dramatic effect. They are place holders in our gallery of images as memory of something to revisit or experience again.
Photographic studies begin to define subject with some true interest in the quality of light, the composition and drama effecting the scene or moment. They demonstrate we are paying attention
Working or publishable photographs tell a story about a specific subject and capture the essence of what is happening that defines the scene. These are photographs of nature, landscapes, events, scenes, and life that are found published in print publications and online. These images are on the verge of greatness.
Then there are the iconic images that are truly extraordinary and exceptional. These tell a story of a single subject and simple idea that speak volumes. They are indelibly etched into our memories defining life and times. They are found on the covers of magazines, journals and online today. You may have seen the photo on the cover of Life Magazine of the young girl running naked on fire dripping with napam through a Vietnamese Village—it defined the Vietnam war. Or the distraught piercing blue eyed gazed of a young Afghan woman cover with maroon hood who has lived the through the horrors of war there found on the cover of National Geographic. These photos cause us to stop, pause in awe and call out to us to remember.
Today, there are brilliant images being published on line every moment that are publishable and working. Rare though are the ones that define an era, life-style or moment.
Use the scale defining images from records to extraordinary to sort the images in your camera and phone’s gallery. As you make many images of the same scene to distill what is extraordinary and exceptional to you. Soon you will find what you love to photograph and making images that speak volumes. The best part? Its fun to get out and make photographs as you move through life. Enjoy and have fun.
Artistic Nuances of Exceptional Photographs
To consistently, make photographs that are sharp and in focus it is essential to eliminate camera shake. Start by depressing the camera’s or device shutter release by pressing the button with a soft or gentle touch instead of a hard push until it fires whether you are handholding it or it is placed on a tripod. When hand holding always quiet your body by taking a deep breadth and making the photograph when you aren’t moving or brace yourself against a fixed object like a wall, tree or even lying down. Set your camera, tablet or phone on a tripod or brace it a fixed object. In the field you can set you device up so it’s in balance and use the self-timer mode to make without even touch it.
Eliminate clutter and lines of distraction from your photographs. Instead of trying to include every detail of a scene cluttering the field of the frame, hone your focus on the subject. Pay close attention that lines of distraction created by wires, shadows, color bands, movement, or edges of objects or walls that cut through any part of the subject. It only takes a moment when you are composing the photograph eliminate them. Simply, change your angle of approach to the subject by moving above it, dropping low, moving to the side, stepping back or even moving closer.
Use anchors at the base, top or sides of the frame of the composition as a foundation for the subject to stand out and away from. Anchors can be a solid object, color, shadow or highlight discretely positioned to accentuate and isolate the subject. Practice and get creative with your use of anchors. Anchors can run diagonally through the frame of the composition as well. There are no rules as to where to best position them yet once you see how they are placed they will forever influence how you position your subject in relation to them.
Position your subject in the fore, middle or background to develop a sense of depth or flattening of the image. By compressing all three using a long focal length lens or zooming in with a wide-angle lens close to a subject you can flatten the depth of field creating a collage of form and color or none at all. Then again working to position the subject in one of the three can isolate the viewers perspective on the subject or maximize the expansive magnitude relevance of the experience and moment.
It’s exciting to play with these subtle techniques and learning how they fit your style and interest in the variety of subjects you are photographing. And if just for the sake of improving your point-and-shoot skills your perspective about how to make photographs will be change whenever you chose to make them.