Saturday, October 20, 2012


Peyton Manning was interviewed recently after a stunning come-from-behind win. His team had won a game, but it wasn't easy. He said something to the interviewer that relates, surprisingly, to photography. He said they (the other team) had taken away part of his game plan, so "I had to take what they gave me."

A couple of weeks ago, I got up before 5:00 am to leave for Rocky Mountain National Park. What was my game plan? I was hoping for snow on the mountains (I had heard 30% chance), yellow aspens, and nice reflections in the lakes. I got none of that. Nature took away my "game plan"-- I could see that as I passed Estes Park. But, I told my friend, who had come along that day, "What I'm looking for isn't coming together for me. But, as you know, I'll find something." My friend, who has witnessed my approach to photography and my techniques many times, quickly replied, "Yep."

So, I took what nature gave me, but I had to look for it. Enjoy.
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Friday, October 5, 2012


A True Idiom in Photography

The scene was Rocky Mountain National Park, in the summer of 2012. I was In the middle of my 3-day “Finding Fine Art In Nature” photo workshop, sponsored by Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

During my workshops, we walk around a lot, talking and looking for “that shot.” I kept telling one of my students, I’ll call her Sue, “I hope we see some mushrooms.” They are hard to photograph because they grow small and don’t like crowds. Sue told me she would be on the lookout for them.

After several hours of instruction, we started walking around popular Bear Lake. All of a sudden, I saw a dark, wet area in the shadows among a grove of trees.
I told Sue that it might be a likely spot for mushrooms. She walked ahead of me and yelled out, “Eli, I think I see one!” Sure enough, there were actually two little modest orange mushrooms just enjoying the coolness of the shade and nearby stream. I immediately told Sue that she should go first---she should try to photograph it first before I captured it.

I began telling Sue about the challenges she was up against. Composition, depth of field, and exposure were going to be the key elements to consider. I walked Sue through every step of the way, beginning with the most difficult part—composition. She was definitely the dedicated and committed student type—she had her tripod. I watched her spend several minutes adjusting her tripod legs, as well as her own, to get low enough to photograph the small colorful mushrooms.

I could tell she was really struggling to get down that low to find the right angle. It was extremely wet in the area, so I looked around and found a large piece of wood and took it to Sue for her to sit on. She did, and continued to twist and shout, as she committed her body to do the virtually impossible. After several minutes of watching her inch her body left, then right, then a little higher, then a little lower, I told her, “You look like a contortionist Sue.”  “I feel like one,” she jokingly responded.

When she got her shots, she asked me to look at them on her camera monitor. I complimented her on her images, and for doing what it took to get that one shot. She definitely paid for what she got.

I asked Sue to summarize that one particular lesson. She was quick with her answer, which I’ll paraphrase. “This made me realize how important it is to do whatever you have to do to get it right.” She thanked me for walking her through each required photographic step, and for being patient with her.

Sue learned that, in photography, you have to work to get what you want, but that you do get what you pay for. And she paid for it. I, on the other hand, learned that truly dedicated, committed students of photography understand that they have to go beyond just “point and shoot”. And that is what separates the “wilbes” from the “wannabes.”

Oh, and this is what I paid for that afternoon in that marsh-like spot with Sue.