BE A PHOTOGRAPHER: Specializing in certain subjects is fine (macro, scenics, architecture…..). But if you want to learn more about what you really like to photograph shoot something different.  Know why?  It’ll help you in your use of your camera and improving your photography in general.

I went out today to photograph the Jumper Classic in NH and photographed horse jumping.  Now is this something I’m really interested in? No, not really!  Did I enjoy it? Absolutely.  Did I learn anything.  Absolutely!  Checking my backgrounds and using AI servo and not using image stabilization.  The photo here is one of my favorites (I got many by the way).   Look at the rider’s concentration and how balanced the horse is going over the jump.  And check out that little red flag.  I was taking my photos in bursts of three images at a time.  My early photos all showed the horse on the way down.  I had to anticipate to allow time for my brain to say “INDEX finger….take the shot NOW”.
All in all a great experience.  I would recommend something like this to all photographers whether you’re into horse jumping or not as it’s a very worthwhile learning experience for all photographers!
Regards, Bob Ring
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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?
“Photograph What You Feel”
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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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Tip of the Day: Get Low and Shoot Your Subject at Eye Level

All winter long we wait for the colors of spring to enhance our photography.  As spring blooms more and more around us, I think its helpful to remind people of a technique that adds instant impact to your images.  Today’s tip is pretty simple: Whenever possible shoot at the same visual level of your subject.

Quite often we employ good technique in the field but, too often we forget to change our perspective.  Using your tripod is critical to ensuring the opportunity for sharper images but, don’t forget that your tripod is very versatile and can change height easily!  Don’t be afraid to get low and shoot at the same level as your subject be it wildlife or nature.

Shooting at eye level brings our viewer into our scene with greater impact.  Looking AT our subject is more appealing than looking down at it or up at it.  If you shoot UP on your subject, there can be great distortion that takes place and alters the shape and lines of our subject. Shooting down tends to compact our subject and, again, we can lose the perspective of shape and lines.  Eye level ensures that the shape and key points of your subject are amplified for visual impact.

Shooting low to the ground will often allow you to shoot THROUGH other objects which can add creative features to your scene.  This will also allow you to use other techniques to create powerful abstract images. One benefit to digital photography is that we have instant feedback in the field.  We have instant access to our successes and our failed images; we can make adjustments in seconds to fine tune our vision.  Be creative!

Change your perspective and get low – you will be rewarded with some very dramatic images this Spring!
“Photograph What You Feel”
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Selective Focus: Less is More

Bob brought up an excellent topic for discussion yesterday on our Facebook page:  Plain and Simple.  Too often we clutter up our photos, and our vision, with elements that detract from our subject, and therefore, our message.  Using Selective Focus is a dramatic compositional method to keep things Plain and Simple.

As photographers we seek light.  Light shapes every photograph but, for me, it is composition that defines the final, compelling image.  We have many tools at our disposal in the field but, none more essential than our emotions.  How can we expect our audience to feel our images if we, ourselves, can’t express them?  Following the fundamental principles of photography will bring good results but, making great images comes from within.  Our job as photographers is to communicate.  Our images are meant to tell a story or invoke an emotion within our audience.  Using selective focus will draw your viewer into your subject.  Using selective focus creates drama, interest, and value in your vision.

Isolating your subject is simply a matter of picking out an element of your scene and capturing it with a narrow depth of field.  I love to do this with longer lenses but, any lens can be used.  Determine the composition for your whole scene, landscape or vertical, and then open your lens up and use large apertures such as f2.8, f4, and f5.6.  The results can be very dramatic and have immediate visual impact.



In this image I found a lone wild lupine growing, alone, in a field.  I composed my shot first to put the Lupine in the right hand third where it appealed to me.  I purposefully got to my subjects “eye level” and shot through the surrounding grasses for a more natural view.  I shot using my Tamron 180 macro lens with an aperture of f4.5 to intentionally pick out the colorful lupine.








In Acadia it is quite easy to focus on making large, sweeping images with great depth of field. However, along the Loop Road I narrowed my vision and used composition to convey a sense of environment and weather in Acadia.  In this shot I used my Nikon 70-200 lens shot at 200 mm and f5.6 to isolate the small pine while also maintaining a background with some detail and story telling interest.  To me the final image  has impact while still giving the viewer a sense of place.






In the shot of Tiger Woods I positioned myself intentionally to ensure a clear background with no distractions.  I used my Nikon 300mm lens with an aperture of f4.5.  Given the collapse of his career in the past few years, I chose a dramatic composition that captured him all alone in the fairway with no crowds, no security, and no fans.


Every photographer should move around, use different lenses, and change your perspective repeatedly.  Be selective:  each frame should be composed with purposeful intent.  This practice will not only reward you with a variety of quality images but, more importantly, a more profound experience in your creative growth.  Keep it plain and simple and in time you will realize you shoot less but come home with more “keepers”.

Less is More.

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