Wednesday, April 14, 2021

 DOORS & WINDOWS


The thought of photographing doors and windows may sound boring and mundane. However, if we pick the right doors and windows, they are anything but boring. Some doors leave messages for us to interpret, some look mysterious, some lead us into their inner soul, and some can be pretty artistic. They're out there--we just need to take the labels off and see  what's left for us to photograph. Let me show you what I mean.   

Here are some examples from my travels in Texas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. What's fun about them is that every viewer will have his/her own interpretation, thoughts, and feelings about these doors. What are yours? 


My first three are from New Mexico, starting with this one. According to Native American-related information I have read, the color blue is supposed to keep away evil spirits. I have seen several in Taos and Santa Fe. I found this one along Canyon Street in the art district of Santa Fe.



I found the following two in Taos, New Mexico. 

I saw these two doors on the exterior walls of a historic hacienda. I loved the adobe texture, the color, and that huge pot in the middle. The left door, slightly ajar, adds mystery--why is it partly open? Is there someone inside? What's inside?




I loved the way the blue door in the Taos Pueblo was partly hidden from view. 




This poor door in Broken Bow, Oklahoma was being consumed, taken over, by the surrounding vegetation. You can hardly see it!




These next two are artistic. Someone decided to create art from something as simple as a door.

I loved the palm tree on the door I found in Texas. The door had a lock, and even what appeared to be a maildrop. 




I found a palm tree door in Texas, and a cowboy door in Marble, Colorado. Creative, and fun.




This haunting window was barely hanging on to an aging building in St. Joe, Arkansas. I visited the place two decades later and the entire building was gone! When I photographed it, a local man told me the building had once been a motel, a retail store, and a place where "they" grew marijuana. Who knows the real truth. Regardless, I'm glad I captured its history before it became history. 




This was once a power plant in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. I loved the surrealism of this scene. After years, perhaps decades, of abandonment, the outside was inside. 




This is a different kind of window-- looking through the window of a 1940s pickup.
With the old wooden wagon in the background, it was like looking at history through history.
 




I was in the middle of 1-on-1 field lesson with a student in Hygiene, Colorado when we both saw a window almost at the same time. Before I had a chance to say anything, she yelled out as she stared at the window, proclaiming that that (the window) was the kind of thing she is attracted to, but just didn't know what to do with it. I told her what we were going to do. 

This is the window we both saw. Not much, huh? She wanted to do something with what she  saw with her eyes. I taught her how to extract the hidden art in the splattered paint on the inside of the window, by seeing, not with our eyes, but our imagination. First, composition. I suggested we close in on the middle window because it had some interesting, art-like, abstract patterns. Then I told her that in order to make those patterns "pop," we were going to severely underexpose the scene---by an unbelievable 2-stops! That's equivalent to saying. that we are going to give the middle window 200% less light than the built-in light meter thinks we need. She wasn't sure it was going to work, but, at the end of the shoot we ended up with almost identical images.




And this is what we ended up with--a total abstract from paint splattered on a window. It looks like a Jackson Pollock painting




My last two examples are both from one single mission: ConcepciĆ³n Mission in San Antonio, Texas. It is part of a trail of historic Spanish missions in the city. 

In order to get the best exposure balance between the light hitting the exterior doors and darkness of the room inside, I had to make some careful left brain calculations. I took a "reading" of the interior room wall, then took a reading of the exterior walls. I then used an exposure setting that was in-between those two extremes, and voila! Here is a hypothetical example to help explain what I mean: Let's say the reading on the interior wall gave me 1/30 of a second and the exterior doors gave me a reading of 1/250 of a second. The middle of that range is roughly 1/90 of a second, which is what I would use, then fine-tune it later. 




This door, or doorway, was inside this same Spanish mission. I loved the way the sunlight highlighted the floor along the hallway. Taking the scene from this perspective gave the scene a sense of extreme depth, which gave a three dimensional feel to the flat surface of a photo. 




So, don't let your mind convince you that doors and windows are just that--doors and windows not worth your attention. You might be missing out on some great photos on your walls! They are souls to the past. Have fun!

 



    











 

















 


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

 BARNS


There is something about barns that grabs my attention. They have character, whisper history to us, have varied designs, and are part of our sociological fabric. 

If you're like me, you have your own collection. If you don't, I hope my examples motivate you to take some day trips on those "blue roads" that lead between towns and cities. You'll be surprised what you might find.


Let's start with this old iconic Mormon barn in the shadows of the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. 
I positioned myself and the barn in order to accentuate the context in which this beautiful barn was built. 




This old barn would be disappointed if it knew that it had been converted to living quarters!
It's hard to tell from this photo, but the barn is right in the middle of town now--Eureka Springs, Arkansas.




So, who do you think is winning this battle? This falls under the category of surrealism.




I don't know where I acquired this ability, but I have great peripheral vision, which really comes in handy when (carefully) driving. Such was the case as I drove back home a couple of weeks ago, after an overnight stay at a lodge on the highest mountain in Arkansas--Mount Magazine.

In a matter of seconds, I spotted this barn to my left. I just had to turn around to get a slower and closer view. I loved the huge bail of hay that had been chipped away by horses. The remains looked like some sort of scary creature. The nearby skull hanging outside the barn just added to my composition!  




I saw this giant beauty outside of the small town of Heber City, west of Park City, Utah.




I "painted" this red barn after sunset, shining my off-road emergency flashlight all over the  barn, including the small trailer at the back of the barn. I walked around the side, then along the front of the barn, as I "painted" the surface, spending a little more time shining light inside the barn--that section inside the front of the barn. The BULB setting is required for this type of photography. In this case, it took me about two minutes to finish painting the barn.




Steamboat Springs, Colorado gets the prize for my barn photos. The small town was my canvas for four (4) of my favorite barn images. 

This is one is right in the middle of town. The town just grew around it.




I loved this setting--the cowboy walking his horse back to the barn in the background. The blanket of snow on the barn's roof really adds interest to this scenario.




This is the most iconic barn in the entire state of Colorado. I just happened to photograph it before the historic town (Steamboat Springs) was overtaken with real estate development. Another photographer told me this scene doesn't look like this anymore--there are condominiums now that fill the backdrop. Sad.  
                          


This modest but interesting barn is on the outskirts of town, just south of the city limits.




Here is a caveat when shooting barns, or any subject, in the snow. The bright snow will trick your built-in meter and histogram! To get a good acceptable image, you will need to overexpose your images by 1-2 stops, in order to keep your whites from going too grayish on you!  


You might talk to your local historical society or museum, or your state historical society and ask them if they know of old barns in your county or state. If you are interested in knowing exactly where the barns in my blog are located, please feel free to e-mail me and I will give you directions.
  

  




       




Thursday, February 18, 2021

 PHOTOGRAPHING LAYERS


If we really look, layers are all around us. We can find them in nature, hillsides, in the sky, inanimate objects, etc. They are interesting, unique, artistic, and can at time give us some cool abstracts.

Let me share some of the layers I have found while observing life with my camera.

Let's start with this farm field in eastern Colorado. We usually associate Colorado with mountains and skiing, but the eastern prairies give us a different kind of beauty.




These mountains near Luzern, Switzerland, created some layers in a blue haze. It's not always necessary, nor desirable, to have complete detail in our images. Sometimes the opposite can be more pleasing and effective.




Here are more mountain layers, but from the state of Arkansas. This view is from Petit Jean Mountain in central Arkansas. It's a beautiful area to explore. This scene was at sunset. And, yes, the awesome colors looked just like that. 




I found these layers at Garden of the Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado. The big peak in the background is Pikes Peak, one of Colorado's fifty-six "Fourteeners"-- peaks that are over 14,000' in elevation.




This 1929 staircase in The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas, creates really artistic curved layers.  Like I said, I see layers everywhere.

                   


 Now these are layers! A combination of farm and mountain layers. Couldn't resist! 




I saw this layer of clouds at sunset. I didn't have my camera, so I rushed home, grabbed my camera, and ran to this site before the sun went down! Thank goodness I was only a block away! I hadn't seen anything like this. I haven't seen anything like this since then. In my book, Right Brain Photography, I talk about the concept of impermanence. When we see something as unique as this, we won't get a second chance. 




This is a different look at layers. I saw different layers of nature--water, dunes, and a mountain range, all harmonizing to give me a great composition.




It's easier to see layers if we take the labels off. For example, in the image above, if we see "creek," we will tend to photograph the creek. If we see "sand dunes," we will tend to photograph the dunes, etc. Message: don't get addicted to labels; the labels we were programmed to learn in order to identify things in life. 

Okay, I'll throw one more in just for fun. Can you see layers? Not benches, not rocks, not
trees............layers. Now go challenge yourself and look for them. 





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Monday, January 18, 2021

 PRIMARY COLORS

If we study color theory, we learn about something called The Color Wheel. On the color wheel, we will see the 3 primary colors: Red, Blue, and Yellow. If we mix red with blue we get purple; if we mix blue with yellow we get green; if we mix yellow with red we get orange--the secondary colors. If we keep mixing primary colors with secondary colors we get tertiary colors.

When we see the complete color wheel, we see what looks like a 12-piece pie, with cooler colors on the left and more vibrant, exciting colors on the right.  


 

                

I keep these relationships in mind when I'm out shooting. The combination of colors gives me certain moods, which I often translate to a photograph. The end results, though not for all images of course, are soothing, calming images or exciting, vibrant images. 

My tip, and assignment, for this month is to introduce primary colors into out images. They can be either the primary color in the scene, or they can be part of the image. The key is that they are evident in the image--Red, Blue, or Yellow.

With that introduction, I will now share images where I introduced primary colors, which is my tip of the month. They might not all evoke a feeling of tranquility or excitement, but the gist of my tip this month is to think primary colors. 


This scene, though extremely interesting, had very little color. Most of the color in the scene was bland--grays, browns, deep greens, other dark colors, and then there was this one red umbrella that one of the men was holding. There was a light drizzle that day.

For this image, I converted the image to B&W, except for the red umbrella. The eye can't help but be drawn to it.




It was early morning, so I knew I had to work fast bedore I lost that early morning feel. Additionally, I decided to change my White Balance to Flourescent to see what it would do and I loved it! It gave me the cool blue colors that matched my feelings that morning--soothing, contemplative, and peaceful.


Here's what that same scene looked like under Daylight/Sunlight WB. BIG difference.
The colors in this image are not at all peaceful and tranquil. 

                



In this image, taken at an Asian Dragon Festival, the predominant color is primary red, with primary yellow and the secondary colors of purple and green. Beautiful assortment of color on these umbrellas.




Yellow! It jumps out at you from this sunflower turninig itself toward the sun for health and nutrition. I shot it from behind. When I do that, knowing that the built-in light meter is going to darken the flower, I always override the meter by overexposing the image from what the meter thinks I need. In this case, I overexposed it by a + 2 & 2/3!!! Don't be afraid to override that undependable light meter, even when you're shooting manual exposure. My primary go-to exposure mode is A, or Aperture Priority. 




This surreal image of a pinball machine has lots of primary colors, mainly reds and blues.
I like to photograph subjects that most of us take for granted; subjects that may be considered mundane.  




In this scene, not only did I see the primary colors of red and yellow, but secondary and tertiary colors as well. Red and yellow are the two most arresting colors, even if there are small amounts of them in the image.  




Red. It's hard to miss in this scene in the middle of a great autumn. This image was taken a week after 9-11, thus the American flag. 




There is a lot of blue in this scene--the blues in the background and in the reflections.
Believe it or not, this is under a city car bridge, in Boulder, Colorado. Someone painted a mural on the bridge support. There is a walking/jogging path toward the lower part of the scene. I decided to hop over puddle so I could get to the other side to pick up the relection of the wolf in the puddle. 





There are secondary and tertiary colors in this scene, but they can't compete with primary yellows for attention. I used spot meterinig for this scene in order to make the yellow "pop." I spot metered from the yellow tulip to the right. 






So, go out there and look for those fun primary colors. They are everywhere and any time of the year. Reds and yellows are so vibrant that whatever your subject is, it becomes the center of attention. Have fun!

If you ever need some 1-on-1 instruction, we can do it safely through ZOOM. Please feel free to e-mail me and we'll schedule one soon! 



 






 




 



 











 




Wednesday, December 16, 2020

WINTER PHOTOGRAPHY 


Winter photography can be fun, tricky, and, yes, cold. It's fun because I love the outdoors and love to exercise. It's tricky because bright reflective snow can cause the built-in light meter to mistakenly give me exposures I don't want--it is not engineered to give me white snow.

Aside from the technical or artistic aspects, the first thing I take care of is my comfort. If I'm cold, get my socks wet, freeze my fingers, or don't have my head covered, it will be extremely difficult to focus on my photography. During my winter workshops, I have had students either walk back to their cars and wait for us or take very few photos because they were either tired or uncomfortable in the cold.

So, my overall advice is to dress appropriately, make sure you are in average-to-good shape, and know how to handle difficult camera challenges. The most difficult camera challenge is that, whether you have a $400 or $4000 camera, the built-in light meter is designed to give us "gray" snow. Not good. My rule of thumb is this: If the scene in your viewfinder has roughly 70% to 80% snow, take those shots at a +1 to a +2 overexposure. You might need to take some test shots to get what looks right to you. 

So, with that introduction, lete me share some examples from my winter walks and hikes.


Sprague Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park is one of my favorite lakes in the park. For one, it has a great backdrop, including the middle peak, Hallett Peak, at 12,713 feet.

There was a fairly equal distribution of bright, dark, and mid-tone areas in the scene, so not much need to go a +1 or +2. This was shot at -1/3 stop.




This beautiful old barn also had a great backdrop, in the middle of Steamboat Springs, Colorado. I don't have the metadata on this one, but I estimate a +1 overexposure.




No exposure compensation needed for this scene. There was an even distribution of midtone and light areas. This is beautiful Lake Isabelle in the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado.




I closed in on these large aluminum flower decorations in Santa Fe, New Mexico to get more of an abstract, as opposed to the whole flower. I overexposed the scene to a  +2/3. 




This is also in Santa Fe--San Miguel Mission. I went with a +1 stop overexposure on this one. The building to left of the church is considered to be the oldest house in the U.S. 




Balanced Rock in Arches National Park in Utah is a great subject anytime of year. However, it takes on a different look in winter. I took a more artistic composition that day, rather than simply photograph Balanced Rock. This composition gives a sense of its context within the park. I went with a +2/3 on this one.




In Taos, New Mexico I found this composition. I included this one because, unlike the others, for which I overexposed the shot, on this one I underexposed the scene by a -1 1/3. Why? Just because it's winter doesn't automatically mean we will need to overexpose all scenes. It's a matter of the percentage of dark areas, medium-lit areas, and brightly lit areas in the scene.

In this scene, there is a big chunk of building, in the shade. When the built-in light meter sees this, it thinks it needs to overexpose the scene. One more time: it thinks it needs to overexpose the scene--that's what it's designed to do! And it applies whether you're shooting Aperture Priority or Manual. So, technically, I didn't underexpose the scene per se, but I underexposed from the point that the meter took me. It thought all that medium lit area needed to be overexposed. Does that make sense?




I left this one for last to show that shooting in winter is not just a matter of thinking with the left brain, i.e., it's not about only thinking of the technical know-how side of the brain. Sometimes it's fun to apply some right brain, or the creative aesthetics side of photography. The best photography, as I mention in my book, Right Brain Photography, is found where technical know-how and creative aesthetics meet. 

For this shot, a 25-second image, I chose December to photograph southern Utah's Mesa Arch at twilight, after the sun went down. I wanted the La Sal Mountains in the background snow-capped. Once I got my composition, I "painted" the underside of the arch with a large off-road emergency light. 




I hope I've given you enough to spark your interest, and motivation to bundle up and just go out there on a cold and not so cozy day and see what you can come back with.....

Have fun out there. And remember, never, never, put your brain on Auto Pilot--you will be disappointed when you see your images on your screen.

Let me know if you'd like a 1-on-1 one ZOOM lesson. They're only $35/hr.