Snow is Good!!!

Here in New England there is no avoiding winter.  Part of the beauty of the northeast is our four distinctly different seasons and winter, in it’s own unique ways, is as beautiful as any other time of the year.   As photographers we must learn to embrace the characteristics of winter that provide us with opportunity to expand our vision and our creativity.

Maybe it’s just me but, I LOVE a good snowstorm.  While so many rush off to get their obligatory loaves of bread and gallons of milk with a sense of worry, I prepare my gear to capture the power and beauty of Mother Nature.  Safety for yourself, and your equipment, always comes first but, if you are willing to trek out in freshly fallen snow, you WILL be rewarded with magnificent photographic opportunities.  Like so many things, it’s simply a matter of being optimistic and looking at things with a different perspective.

Snow does have a lot of negative aspects to it.  Snow clogs our roads,  impedes our progress, and disrupts our lives.  Snow storms  CAN be dangerous and have treacherous consequences if we do not heed their power.   We tend to lament the discomfort of snow but, for the photographer, snow shapes the landscape in a positive way.

Freshly fallen snow clings to the landscape and adds contrast to every scene.  The resulting blanket of white clings to the features of our landscape and creates a depth that is not found in other seasons.   Our woodlands are often dense with trees and underbrush that prohibit our view but,  freshly fallen snow separates features from each other which allows the viewer, and photographer,  to see much deeper into any scene.    Simple subjects like footpaths and hiking trails take on a whole new look due to the depth created by snow.  Photographers must use this to their advantage when shooting in the field.  I took all three of the attached photos last Monday morning after a night of fresh snowfall.  The landscape with the three small trees is actually a very plain, ordinary hill.  On most days you can’t even see the three small trees since they blend right into the background.  Snow separates them and makes them distinct.  The second photo, honestly, is an ugly access road.  It is a very unattractive dirt road in any other season but, fresh snow clinging to every tree and every branch renders a very quiet, beautiful scene.  The contrast of the white snow allows us to see to the very end of the dirt road when normally it is obstructed by a blend of colors and leaves.  The last photo is on the side of the road around the corner from my house.  That stream is almost invisible except for in winter.  The leaves of overhanging branches and the congestion make it hard to see into the scene and follow the water for more than just a few yards most of the year.  However, fresh fallen snow creates beautiful separation in the scene and allows us to enjoy the lengthy and worthy view.  Snow is good!

March is here:  In like a Lion and out like a Lamb they say.  I am hoping we have one more good snow storm.  The moments that the fresh snow looks its very best are fleeting to say the least.   So, yes, I am anxiously awaiting the arrival of spring in a few more weeks but, right now, I am hoping for one more chance to capture some of winter’s beauty.

“Photograph What You Feel”

Don

 

 

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Be a Better Photographer in 2013

Tomorrow at midnight we welcome a new year.  2012 was an exciting time for New England Photo Workshops.  We held more training classes than ever, we conducted more workshops than ever, and we explored more of New England than ever before.  The year 2013 promises to be just as busy and even more exciting.  Bob and I started this venture 3 years ago and neither of us anticipated “it” ever growing as it has.  We are humbled, we are proud, and we are profoundly thankful to say the least.

Every workshop is designed to offer attendees a variety of subjects at carefully chosen locations throughout New England.  We believe it is essential in your growth as a photographer to be as multi-dimensional as possible.  Being a photographer is much more than just pressing the shutter to take a picture.  Photography is a process that requires attention to detail, knowledge, and commitment.  Technology and modern digital SLR’s open up vast potential for successful image making but, there are a few other things you can do in 2013 to make yourself a better photographer as well.

KNOW YOUR TOOLS:

Your camera is just a tool.  Like any tool, the more you understand how to use it the better your results will be.  Many times in the field, or shooting a job, you HAVE to know how to make adjustments quickly and effectively based on changing conditions.  You invested a lot of money in your camera so invest your time in learning it as well.  Take time and become comfortable with your photographer gear. Review your menus, understand how to make changes in the functions of your camera, and learn where all the buttons are.  Yes, your camera is nothing more than a tool but, if learned and used properly, it can become a powerful extension of you.  The more you know about your camera, and your lenses, the greater potential you have to be a successful photographer.

BE A NATURALIST:

I cannot stress this point enough.  Knowing your subject is critical to success when you are in the field.  This holds true for nature and wildlife photography more than anything else.  You cannot photograph a Lady Slipper if you do not know when and where they bloom.  You cannot consistently photograph wildlife if you do not understand their behavior and their habitat.  Just as it takes time to know your camera, you have to invest time in knowing the environments you photograph in. New England is a very diverse region of the country with many habitats, varied landscapes, and numerous flora and fauna.  The more you understand the many elements of nature the more your library of successful photos will grow. Study your environment and learn.  If nothing else, its fun to know stuff!

BE A CONSERVATIONIST:

We cannot photograph subjects if they are not here.  It is as simple as that.  Take care of the world we live in and yes, your photography will prosper.  Take responsibility for YOUR impact on the world around you.   Clean up after yourself, use common sense, and obey rules laid out to protect our environment.  Support local community organizations that protect our natural resources, our historical locations, and our many parks.  Monies and budgets are constantly slashed from many worthwhile organizations so, your contributions are critical to their continued missions.  Their missions are for the benefit of all of us.  Help them help us.  None of us can afford donating to EVERY organization but, I would suggest you pick one and support it.  The money and effort you invest will be returned in the form of opportunity and knowing you made a difference for generations to come.  Preservation and conservation is a must for everyone, not just photographers.

PRACTICE:

It is difficult for anyone to take their camera out and, in an instant, create a great image if you don’t practice.  No one can expect to create a great image during a once in a lifetime trip if you cannot create a great image in your own backyard.  Practice, practice, and more practice.  Think globally and shoot locally.  Take a ride or walk and explore your neighborhood, your town, or your county.  Not everything you shoot needs to be for a class, a competition, or a purpose other than learning.  Hone your skills by shooting often and practicing the proven fundamentals of photography.

SET PERSONAL GOALS:

In photography, just like life, it is important to know your strengths and your weaknesses.  One significant benefit of the digital era is you have immediate feedback to your success or failure with any image.  We all celebrate our keeper images but, study your mistakes and learn from them as well.  Identify shortcomings in your photography and set goals to improve upon them.  Even the best of photographers still set goals to push themselves and challenge their creative vision.  Combine your goals with the other points on this list and your photography WILL improve.

Photography is, and can be, many things.  As an art form, it is dramatic and powerful.  As a visual form of communication, it is bold and captivating.  Nonetheless, most importantly, photography is a highly personal method of self-expression.  Much of your success will be based upon how much time you are willing to invest in your creative vision and voice.  Achieving success as a photographer, to me, means first investing as much of yourself as possible in the process of photography.  Enjoy all that photography has to offer, practice sound fundamentals, and compelling images will happen.  Above all else, always remember, success is only measured by your own standards.  You have no one to please but yourself.   Everything after that is just a bonus.

Express yourself visually more than ever in 2013, be happy, and be safe.  Happy New Year!.

“Photograph What You Feel”

Don

 

Some of my personal photography goals for 2013:

1)      To be a better leader and instructor

2)      To continue work on my “Haverhillat Night” series

3)      To display more of my personal work

4)      To write more and post more blogs

5)      To become a better portrait photographer

6)      To learn more about location lighting with my Nikon speedlights and light modifiers

7)      To become a better Black and White photographer

8)      To become a very good print maker

9)      To learn more about, and explore, more ofNew England

10)  To be a more patient photographer

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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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CHANGE IT UP

I’m sure we all have a favorite place to visit, vacation, photograph, etc.  Mine is in Maine on Schoodic Lake at the family cottage. Ah,……. I won’t tell you how many years I’ve been going there. My library of Schoodic images includes old 35mm slides and plenty of digital images too.  They all look somewhat similar though. So, this past week I changed it up.  One image is the ‘similar’ one & the other two are new (for me).  The lake is so beautiful and our view is so wide I get clouds.  Boy do we get clouds! So, I find my self going the familar ole….. get those clouds to pop.

If you look at the Black & white images you’ll see I slowed the waves down.  I stacked two neutral density filters on top of each other to get longer exposures and to get that early evening look as well.  I used Nik software to get to my final result after applying some changes & image ‘tuning’ in Lightroom 4.

For the raft I used Color Efx Pro 4 and the glamour glow preset. This was a 25mm, iso100 at f20 with a 30 sec exposure.  The old dock and boat lift was converted to B&W using Nik’s Silver Efx Pro.  Exposure here was 25mm, iso 100, f11 for 30 seconds.

The message here is that one can find themself falling into doing the same ole thing time after time.  Think about your subject & do something diferent.  In some cases you need to start right in-camera.  Don’t depend on post-processing to get to something different.  Look at the subject differently (I never photographed that wharf from anywhere near that angle….always stood on top of it or looked down it towards the lake…..geez).  I’ve never slowed the lake water to get that raft on a nice smooth surface….yikes.

So, change it up on occasion. I’d love to see some of your examples!

Bob Ring

www.nephotoworkshops.com

 

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BE A PHOTOGRAPHER!

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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Using Your Lens Sharply!

Near LaGrange, Maine: Found this spot while on vacation last week in Maine.  Taken with my Nikon D800E, Carl Zeiss 25mm Lens at iso 100, f7.1 @ 1//160 sec on a tripod.  Eveything is sharp from the foreground to the trees in the background even though I only used f7.1.

Most folks would think they needed an aperture of f16 or f22.  Not true when focused properly and using a tripod.  I used my depth of field preview button to look through the viewfinder and manually focused the lens to get all in focus. (having a full frame camera really helps when using depth of field preview). I adjusted the lens aperture to f7.1 and tried to get all in focus and it was just right.  Just about Every lens whether it’s a prime lens (single focal length) or a zoom have their sharpest aperture around f5.6, f6.3 or f7.1.  Think bell-curve from your school days where only so many kids get an A and only so many fail and the rest are in the middle so to speak. So don’t always ‘run’ to f16 of f22 for a sharp photo as you may not get what you want due to lens diffraction at such small apertures! Look up hyper-focal distance to see how you can do this too!

Bob Ring (www.nephotoworkshops.com)

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