Emotion in Motion

I am an emotional person therefore, I am an emotional photographer.  Whenever I am in the field, I do my best to photograph with purpose.  How can I not?  What happens in the world has a profound effect on me. Making images of my world has a lasting, meaningful effect on me.  What I see today stays with me through many, many tomorrows.   When creating an image, to me, it is my composition that defines my story and my set shutter speed that adds drama.  However, it is my emotion that dictates both.

The world is in constant motion.  Time and light never stand still.  As photographers we can stop action in an instant but, it is just that – one fleeting moment.  No sooner has the image appeared on our LCD screen than time carries on.  However, not everything needs to appear  frozen in time.  Shutter speeds allow us to capture many types of scenes; varying our shutter speeds allows us great creativity.  Being a photographer makes me very happy but, it is the process of making images that fulfills the greatest part of me.  The process goes well beyond just pushing some buttons.  The process means being involved, physically and mentally, in why you pushed the buttons.  This is the difference between taking a snapshot and creating an image.  I want to look back at my image and remember the feeling of THAT moment, not simply view a photo.

Just like time and light, emotion is in constant motion as well.  Your emotions can be a great tool if you use them in your creative process.  When I say “Photograph What You Feel”, I mean just that.  A slow shutter speed can render your scene with different feeling.  A slow shutter speed transforms moving water into smooth wisps of white that can look like cotton candy.   I love that.  A slow shutter speed blurs action and conveys a feeling of increased action. This is very dramatic.  Panning is when you purposefully move your camera during your exposure.  This technique has long been used for blurring out a background while keeping your main subject sharp as you track them in motion (such as a running horses, or kids playing soccer, or a race car).   I like to pan my camera during exposures to “paint” a scene and give it a more creative, abstract feeling.  Most often, I do this with trees and the colorful coast as my subject.  There is no right or wrong way to do it;  there is no better technique than another.  You simply set a longer shutter speed and move your camera, either horizontally or vertically, during the exposure.  The images you “keep” are all based on how you felt about what was before you.  Connect to your scene and be creative.  Do more than just push buttons on your camera.  Visualize the moment and create what you feel.

During a recent workshop we were at Annisquam Light for sunset.  The bold, bright colors in the sky created beautiful reflections on Ipswich Bay.  I composed my scene to capture the colors of the sunset in the sky and water but, also have some part of land mass visible for scale and contrast.  I clicked and clicked and clicked but, nothing resonated with me as a “keeper”.   As the light began to fade I became more anxious, more hurried, to capture an image that shared the beauty of this sunset.  I felt like I was going to lose the moment since I could not freeze the scene with a press of my shutter.  Staring out over the bay I could literally see time and light moving and, with it, my opportunity was fading away.  Wait!  I could SEE time and light moving!  That was it!  I quickly changed my perspective, set my exposure, loosened the lateral movement of my Kirk ballhead, and panned with the moving light.   I did not want to freeze the action;  I wanted to capture the feeling of a beautiful sunset moving over the bay.  In a moment I felt my image and created it.

Occasionally, it is best to slow everything down and move with time.

 

Photograph What You Feel

Don Toothaker

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The Versatility of You

Digital Photography is incredible.  Never before has our potential as photographers been so unlimited.  Today’s cameras are loaded with technology and capable of producing a broad range of results.  All they need is our creativity to make them shine!  We all should strive to be the best photographers we can be; not just the best portrait photographer or sports photographer or wedding photographer.  Your camera is loaded with versatility and you should be as well.

For me, one of the greatest aspects of digital photography is the opportunities it offers.  Pour yourself a cup of coffee, or something a bit stronger if desired, and spend some time studying your camera.   Look it over and learn its buttons and menus.  Understand what YOU need to do to make adjustments in the field.  How do you change your ISO?  Where is your histogram?  Does your camera have bracketing for HDR shooting?  Can you view your images in Black and White?  How do you set focus tracking?  Where do you set file size?   Contemplate what the camera and its technology is capable of.  Then, think about what it can do when combined with your creativity.  It is critical to know your gear but, it is even more essential to realize your aspirations  as a photographer.  The camera is just a tool and, ultimately, it is only as good as you are.  How good do you want to be?   Be aware, be creative, and be versatile.

The latest line of DSLR’s, both pro and consumer grades, give us more versatility than ever.  Seven years ago I bought my first DSLR – the 6 megapixel Nikon D70s.  It was a great consumer grade camera but, struggled at any ISO higher than 400.  I shot scenic’s at ISO 100 and used ISO 400 for sports/low light shooting.  I never went over ISO 400 unless I had to:   very similar to how we worked with film when you think about it.   My new Nikon D800 is a 36 megapixel powerhouse that will transform 35mm digital photography as we know it.  Right now, it gives me once unimaginable potential and versatility.  I welcome  that.
When I was a film shooter and headed to Maine for a weekend, I would typically bring 10 rolls of Fuji Velvia for pretty scenic’s, 10 rolls of 400 speed Fuji Provia for shooting in lower light, and 5 rolls of Kodak Black and White TMAX 400.  Each film had a job to do that was necessary but, costly and, at times, frustrating.  It would never seem to fail that I had half a roll of Velvia still left in my F5 but, now wanted to shoot a portrait in Black and White.  Instead of wasting film, I wasted opportunities.  Now, I dial a button and blow away anything that those films could ever do.  Think about that.  Think about the amazing versatility of that from a technology standpoint.  Now, think about the versatility of that as a photographer.  In a moments notice you can adapt to any situation and capture it with beautiful results.  That is not only very exciting but, it is highly empowering.
All of us should be very excited at the options available to us through technology.   The increasing resolution of today’s camera’s gives us breathtaking detail.  Being able to produce high quality images at ISO’s of 1600, 3200, and 6400 is mind boggling.   I can be in my garden shooting macro shots at ISO 100 and capture fine detail and rich colors.  A short time later, in order to defeat a frustrating breeze,  I can change my ISO to 800 and create a sharp, abstract image with similarly beautiful results. Then, just a few minutes later, change my ISO to 3200 and catch a GREAT portrait of my cat in poor, indoor light.  The power of versatility.   Wow.  No, seriously, Wow!!  
Technology continues to grow at an amazing pace but, to make it effective you must grow as well.  Having the latest, greatest camera does not make you a photographer.  YOU make yourself a photographer.  Push the limits of technology but, push your imagination just as far.  Nurture your creative energy, embrace the versatility of your camera, and harness the power of “you”.   The LCD screen and histogram give immediate feedback on your successes, your failures, and your necessary adjustments but, the best results all come from within.
How Versatile are You?
Don
“Photograph What You Feel”
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HDR: ENF– USE You’ve got more options!

Don’s mantra of Shoot What you Feel is a great way for you to think about your own photography and what you are trying to do.  My ‘mantra’ is one that complements Don’s: Get The Shot YOU Want.  So, if you’re trying to convey a particular feeling or simply to capture a subject in it’s best ‘light’ then know how to do it and what to look for.  Everyone knows I’m a fan of HDR.  I use HDR techniques more often than not.  I’ll even photograph a scene with 3-5 different exposures and determine at home on my PC if I ned the extra shots.  Sometimes I may only use one of the ‘extra’ images.  Other times I’ll use 3, or 5.  If you’re at location and the light is great don’t just take a shot>>>>get the data while you’re there.

During one of our Boston at Night workshops I took three exposures of the skyline from Fan Pier.  Those that were there know that I heartily encouraged that they do the same>>even if they didn’t have an HDR software program!  The sky was great and the Boston skyline is a great part of why we love New England!  So, get the shot.  The skyline is an easy scene to recognize that HDR will help you get the image you saw.  Our eyes are great at being able to see into both the shadows and the highlights but our cameras can’t match that (yet).  Being able to recognize if a scene should be captured with muliple exposures can be difficult at times but the ‘general’ rule is to use HDR techniques when the scene has a high contrast range within it.

Photomatix & Nik’s HDR Efx pro are two widely used and respected HDR software programs.  I use both depending on the subject. I find that Photomatix is great for scenics with trees & grass, etc whereas I think Nik’s is great for architecture in particular.  There is another choice that is not so widely known: Enfuse (http://www.photographers-toolbox.com/products/lrenfuse.php) which works directly in Lightroom as a plug-in (Very cool!).  It’s reasonably priced and provides a natural looking result. I tried it yesterday and like what I see.  You might too.

The image above is what the camera thought was correct for the scene. Of course it averaged the bright sky & buildings in shadow to give us that result.  The 3 photos below are the result of different HDR processing techniques.  You might want to compare them to your own work especially if you’re looking for a ‘natural’ looking scene.  I like a color scene to have some ‘extra’ color but also like a scene to look natural as well.  Depends on your mood at the time (!) and what you feel the scene should look like!

So the 3 images below are with Enfuse, Photomatix (using Tone mapping) and Photomatix using (Fusion Auto). On the 2 Photomatix images I used the preset with no adjustments.  My findings are:
– I like the Photomatix with Tone mapping for my ‘extra’ color scenes but has some haloing and noise

Photomatix-Tone-mapping

 

 

 

 

 

– The Photomatix image with Fusion Auto is more realistic but has a very flat almost silvery look to it (can be hard to adjust in LR) with a small amount of noise but sharpens up well

Photomatix-Fusion Auto

 

 

 

 

 

– The Enfuse image is more natural and has very little noise and sharpens up quite well

Enfuse HDR

Which one do I like?  I need to run more tests but the Enfuse version is very good.  I’ve looked at other images of landscapes and found the Enfuse software to provide very good low noise results with a more natural look.
All versions need some work in Lightroom or other editing software to give them more contrast.  In summary, I would suggest you try Enfuse for yourself as you may find the results to help you to get the shot you want!
Bob Ring, June 2012

 

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Only in New England

This past Sunday I was in southern Maine enjoying a fantastic day at the beach. Goose Rocks Beach is a beautiful stretch of white sand and cedar shingled homes just outside of Kennebunkport.  Not far from the beach there is fine dining, shopping, antiquing, and the booming, eclectic city of Portland.  Southern Maine is a worthy destination for a day trip, a weekend getaway, and photography.

 

Early that morning I had set out to shoot sunrise at the quaint seaside village of Cape Porpoise.  The lackluster sunrise yielded very few photos but, as always, I enjoyed watching the little harbor come to life in the early morning light.  Cape Porpoise is a working harbor that features colorful lobster boats, a fishing pier, and a lighthouse.  The area around the harbor was dotted with wild lupine, singing birds, and picturesque scenes.  Like many seaside locations there is always something to see and photograph along the coast of New England.

 

That night I drove three hours north to meet Bob at his family camp on Schoodic Lake.  The lake is a fairly remote area in central Maine that is surrounded by many  thousands of acres of forest.  This is the heart of paper company land, logging roads, wildlife, and farms.  In this part of Maine you are far more likely to see a moose than find any fine dining or eclectic shops.  The people of central Maine are hearty, hard working people that carve out practical lives amid the elements of nature.  Schoodic Lake seems a world away from the comforts of Southern Maine yet, brings its’ own sense of peacefulness with the sound of calling loons and gentle waves.

 

The next morning we were on the road early for Baxter State Park just outside of Millinocket, Maine.  Baxter is true wilderness.  Encompassing over 200,000 acres, the park was created through donations of land by private land owners and one governor, Percival Baxter, with great vision for maintaining a segment of the Great North Woods to be “Forever Wild”.  Within Baxter there are no showers, no flush toilets, no running water, no logging, and no inhabitants other than park officials and wildlife.  Surrounding Baxter is some of the most remote, rugged, wild land in New England.

 

We spent the entire day in and around the park photographing moose, deer, wildflowers, mountains, and the rugged beauty of the Great North Woods.  At one of our last stops I photographed a huge bull moose grazing at the edge of a pond.  He was wild and majestic.  I could not

help but reflect that just a short time before I was photographing lobster boats amid the affluence and comfort of Cape Porpoise and now here I was capturing images of North America’s second largest land mammal in Maine’s remote wilderness.  How lucky I am to live and work in such an amazing, diverse place.

 

Only in New England.

 

DET 2012

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The Inspiration of Water

It is a rainy start to the day here.  I like it.

There is rain that whispers softly past your window and there is rain that steadily hammers against your roof.  Each have they’re own unique sounds and moods that, if you listen and feel, can brighten your day and inspire you.  This morning’s rain is quiet, gentle, and soothing.   Soon, the rain will saturate all of Spring’s colors and make everything look lush and alive.  The overcast sky serves as a giant softbox which lights the landscape evenly and softly.  There is no better light.  I would love to be out with my camera and a macro lens this morning!   How ironic that rain nourishes and rejuvenates everything that it touches, yet we look at such days as gloomy.  Rain brings us one of our most critical resources and greatest photographic subjects:  water.

Water is beautiful.  The woods of  New England are alive with trickling streams and proud rivers that make for wonderful  subjects.  Streams tend to be lined with moss covered boulders, colored rocks, and waterfalls.  All of these elements create dramatic patterns and shapes that allow for many compositions.   Waterfalls are mesmerizing, beautiful, and very powerful.  It is challenging to capture the feel of their strength in your images but, if successful the results can be dramatic.   Before you start making images, watch and listen to the movement of the water.  FEEL the scene around you and identify what appeals to you about the patterns, shapes, and sounds.  The more you open your senses to the scene in front of you, the more you can utilize the tools in your camera bag, and imagination, to create meaningful images.

 

A Polarizing Filter is almost a necessity when photographing water but, a Neutral Density filter is an option that you use to delve further into your creativity.  The job of a polarizing filter is to eliminate reflections and glare.  By rotating the front element of the filter you can control the shine from reflective rocks, leaves, and water that create distracting highlights within your composition.  Neutral Density filters come in varying strengths and are used to block light.  Less light means longer exposures which result in varying effects to the movement of water.  This is where your emotions take over.  How you connect to your scene will translate to your images.  The longer your exposure, the more smooth and silky the water will appear.  The faster your shutter speed, the more action will be frozen in the scene.  There is NO right or wrong; it is all about how YOU feel about the action and the final message:  YOUR message.  As in all photography, certain tools help you more than others but, nothing has a more dramatic effect than your own creativity.  Photograph what you feel!

Water is unpredictable and yet, consistent.  Be it a river or the sea, water moves with alluring purpose.  I admire that it never fails to find its’ way.  I love its’ varying sounds and sensual movements.  I envy its unwavering tenacity and strength as well as its’ dangerous fierceness.  I cherish its soothing nature.  I need its’ humble nurturing.  I am drawn to everything about water: it’s all so beautiful and necessary.
Water is inspiring.
DET 2012
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Know How to Push Your Own Buttons

Digital photography continues to evolve at an unbelievable pace.  The advances in technology provide photographers of every level with more and more options.  Today’s digital cameras, especially DSLR’s, are loaded with capability but, are you?  To make the most of these exciting advancements in technology we must commit ourselves to growing our vision first..

Current digital cameras are high-powered tools that require a great deal of knowledge to use.    Photographers have to learn such things as white balance, multiple metering settings, bracketing for HDR, the differences between a DX and FX sensors, and other nuances of present day digital photography.  Every manufacturer offers cameras loaded with menu options that give every photographer the ability to make professional quality images with the touch of a button.  In conjunction with the cameras is an even greater, and more powerful, array of software for processing our images.   There are so many products on the market it is often difficult to decide, and digest, what is best for this or that.  Creativity, or so it seems, is just a menu choice away.

Despite all the technology, there is nothing more powerful, or meaningful, as your own imagination.  Camera’s and software are just tools.  These tools are only as good as YOU make them.  Photography is about communication, self-expression, and emotion.  Whether you are in your home thinking about your craft or in the field working at it, KNOW how to push your own buttons first.  The more you know about your “self”, the more of yourself you can invest in your photography.

What good are dozens of menu options if you are not, or cannot, connect to your own “self”?   You need to know how to push your own buttons in order to make the most of  the hardware and software.  At every workshop we urge attendees to bring, and read, their owner’s manuals.  But, we also spend a great deal of time asking attendees why they chose this subject; why they shot their image in such a way, and how they feel about their image.  These answers are found in YOUR owner’s manual.  You gotta know that too!

As photographers we MUST connect to our subjects but, we must first connect with ourselves. Take time to think about, and feel, your subject. Take time to think about what has meaning to you.  Take time to find YOUR inspiration from the world around you.  Push yourself and find your own voice.  Creativity comes from within; not a menu option.

Photograph What You Feel

Don

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