Tuesday, December 1, 2015

 Converting Backgrounds Into Backdrops 

This is really part of my concept of "seeing with your imagination." Next time you see something you like, but you notice the background is too busy and ugly, don't keep walking. Look at it again and ask yourself, "What could I make this look like?"

Sometimes it is just simply impossible to eliminate unwanted backgrounds, but the following tips will help you with that frequent dilemma. There are three easy techniques I use to convert backgrounds into backdrops. I mention these in more detail in my book.

1) I use f/stops like f/2.8 and f/4, which give me wide apertures and thus blurred
2) I use my 32" diffuser to eliminate ugly, unappealing backgrounds.
3) I use my "props" to create in-studio looking images when in the field. 

The following are examples of the results I get when I apply these simple techniques. Let's start with the first one--the use of low-number f/stops.

For me, although these are interesting and colorful blooms, the background is just too busy. Two things happen when we take a photo like this. First, psychologically, we really don't notice the background because we are so caught up in the foreground plants. Secondly, when we go home and look at it, we proclaim with disappointment, "They looked much better than this when I was there," right?

Now, with just two simple steps, I converted the above image to this. Instead of f/22, I used f/4 to get a blurred background. Then, I underexposed the scene by a minus one and two-third stops! The combination of those two adjustments subdued the background and made the foreground "pop." It doesn't even look like the same scene, huh?


Now let me illustrate my second tip, the use of my diffuser.

I simply opened and placed my diffuser right up against the flowers in the background in order to soften them. The effect forced them softly into the backgound. They complement the foreground, not compete for attention. 

My third tip involves the use of one of my favorite props-- a large piece of black (non-reflective) velvet material, which I carry with me when I'm shooting nature close-ups. Again, the goal is to eliminate or minimize unwanted backgrounds.

So, here is what this scene looked like to the naked eye. No doubt, they are very nice flowers, but, wow, what a background. It's enough to force most photographers to keep walking.


Now look how dramatically different they look with a studio-like effect, by simply placing a black piece of material behind them--that's all!! The different exposure and background enhance the hues, making the flowers more vibrant .

These are but a few of the many tips, ideas, and techniques I share in my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first). 

If you are nearby, call me for a customized private 1-on-1 lesson. I will walk you slowly through every step necessary to convert pictures to artistic images.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015


This month's tip is about calculating the right exposure, beyond 30 seconds, when shooting in very low light situations, while keeping the ISO at 100....yes, 100.

Here is the scenario

You are inside a darkened church; most of the lights are off. You want to photograph it with a high f/stop (like f/20) and use a low ISO. You are ready to get the shot, but your camera talks back to you. I don't know how your camera talks back to you, bu mine prompts me with 'Lo.' What it's really saying is, "Hey, I'm designed to give you an exposure of up to 30 seconds.You are aiming me at a very dark area, you have me set at f/20, and on top of that you have my ISO at 100. It's going to take more than 30 seconds, but I don't know how much more. You're on your own!" What to do?

Here is the very simple mathematical solution. Rather than sacrifice depth of field coverage (other than f/20) and in order to minimize the chance of noise/grain, I kept my f/stop at f/20 and my ISO at 100. Now, here is the simple left brain calculation.

1) I simply pumped my ISO up to 200. Voila! My camera woke up and gave me a reading of
    20 seconds.   
2) ISO 200 is twice as much as ISO 100, right? Easy math.
3) I simply multiplied the 20 second exposure by 2 (twice as much), which=40 seconds.
4) I simply set my camera to the BULB setting, clicked (using my cable release) and held it for 40 seconds. Voila! I got a spot-on exposure.

If my camera had not given me a reading (a shutter speed) at ISO 200, I would have simply pumped my ISO one more time to 400 and then followed the same math logic. If that had happened, I would have kept my shutter open for 80 seconds (20 seconds X 4).

I took some shots for the purpose of this exercise. I went inside the Unity of Boulder Church Center, with their permission. I intentionally chose the darkest corner of the church for the sake of this exercise.

The following image looks very much the way it looked to the naked eye.


This is the image I got after following the above simple math. I left it untouched for the sake of this lesson. A forty second exposure, f/20, at ISO 100.

This is just one of many tips, creative ideas, and concepts I include in my new book,
RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first). Contact me for your signed copy.

I highly encourage you to try the above easy solution to difficult lighting challenges. So, go to your favorite building, get permission first, and try it. You will amaze yourself. Have fun.

Friday, October 23, 2015

                       ON-CAMERA FLASH: LOW TECH SOLUTIONS 

You've heard the country song lyrics, "I've got friends in low places." Well, I've got "friends" in low tech places.

I seldom use flash. I am more of an available light photographer. Sometimes I use diffusers or reflectors to properly light my subjects. Occasionally I do use flash--the flash on my camera. However, that little sucker can be overwhelming. It's got more punch that its size would make you think! What to do?

Yes, you can buy custom-fit diffusers, even for your on-camera flash. I have chosen to create a free and low-tech solution. I simply use my lens cleaning cloth and gently drape it over the flash head--that simple. Sometimes, I even use small pieces of tissue--the kind you get to clean your eye glasses.

 Here are the simple steps I take when using my lens cleaning cloth. I know-- it doesn't seem like the light from a small on-camera flash would "cut" through the cloth, but it does!
Step 1. First, I just drape the cloth over the flash, leaving me room to see through my viewfinder--that's important. :-)
Step 2. Focusing on my subject while in manual focus mode, I adjust my f/stop to cover my subject, but not too much f/stop--I like to blur the backgrounds.

Step 3a. I get my shot.
Step 3b. My camera has a flash exposure compensation feature. If my shot was a little too dark, I overexpose my next shot slightly; if my shot was a little too bright (which seldom happens), I underexpose my next shot slightly. 

Keep in mind that with most images, whether I use flash or not, there is always some slight fine-tuning in photo editing. But, surprisingly, not much. 

Here are three recent examples--butterflies, using my lens cleaning cloth on my on-camera flash. 

Because of my perspective, the background was quite a distance from the butterfly, thus
the black backdrop.   

I like to diversify my shots between clean and simple shots, like the one above, and others with more compositional elements thrown in, to add context.

For this last example, I was sitting on a bench, shooting up at this cooperative model, which allowed me to get a different perspective. The most common butterfly shots are either side views or from the top of the butterly. I was about 3-4 feet away for this one. 

So, go out, explore and experiment with that little flash that sits right on top of your camera. You might surprise yourself.

If you are in the Denver/Boulder area, contact me if you would like a 1-on-1 or small group field lesson.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015


The etymology of the word "photography" leads us back to a Greek word that means "painting with light." That makes sense, since at the time photography was invented in Europe, the closest art form that resembled this new invention was painting on canvas. Canvas artists painted with oils; photographers "painted" with light.

If we take that concept and push it to the Nth degree, only our minds can limit what we can do with photography. One of the most fun and creative techniques I have applied to my photography is just that--"painting with light." I like to select subjects that are commonly photographed in early morning, during the day, or late in the afternoon. I like to photograph them at night or twilight and "paint" them with light.

Let me know if you would like a 1-on-1 lesson. I can help you add something new to your photo collection.

Although I have several images, the first three examples were all created at Garden of The Gods in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

For this one, the exposure was slightly over one minute, with my camera set at BULB. 

I used two simple off-road emergency lamps/flashlights, one with a warm-colored output; the other with a blue/gray output. While my camera was in BULB mode, I just held one flashlight in one hand and the other in my other hand and moved them slowly around the edges of this particular formation. It was approximately 8:40 pm. I prefer to shoot these at 15-20 minutes after sunset. 

I chose a variation of "painting" for this next example. I painted the walkway first as I walked and shined the flashlight on it. When I was done, I walked back next to my camera and then painted the formation on the left. Combined time for the walkway and formation was slightly over two minutes, at approximately 8:00 pm. When it's pitch dark, moving objects, like me walking back to my camera, are not recorded on the film or sensor.

This next image appears on the cover of my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first). Feel free to contact me for your own personal signed copy.

Here are some factors that went into the creation of this image. The distant formations were so far away I knew they would not receive any light from my flashlights and would turn out as silhouettes. Any moving clouds in the sky would be blurred as a result of a long exposure. It was pitch dark, so I had to light the front formation with my flashlight so I could manually focus on it. I then set the BULB feature on my camera, like I did for the other two examples, and proceeded to slowly "paint" with light. Like the first example, I used both flashlights for this one, outlining the formations, then filling in the middle more quickly just to add some "fill light" to the formations. And, voila!! The exposure on this one was just under five minutes! It was around 9:00 pm. 

This last example was at famous Mesa Arch in Canyonlands, Utah. Photographers love to photograph it early in the morning when it glows reddish-orange. But, I wanted to do something I had not seen done before---photograph it after the sun went down, but not at nighttime. 

I went there in December, hoping to get some snow-capped mountains in the background. 
I chose that magical twilight, that time between sunset and nighttime. I only used one lamp/flashlight, my warm-colored one. After I got my composition, I simply "painted" the underside of the arch for about 30 seconds. Doing it is simple; it's thinking about the idea that is more difficult, especially when applying left-brain photography which relies more on proven facts, real examples, and linear thinking. I have been asked if this was "Photoshopped." 

Now that you know how this is done, go out and have fun with it. Experiment. Let loose. Don't be afraid of giving up control. In fact, the more you let go of control, the more control you'll have. Any subject you can shine light on is a good subject. Use your imagination!! 

Again, contact me via my website if you would like some lessons or would like to order a copy of my book.

The mind.....birthplace of limitations. 


Friday, August 21, 2015


I have been fascinated with Impressionism since my college art days. It was no surprise that when I first picked up a camera, some of my images started taking on an impressionistic feel to them. It was a subconscious transfer from artist to photographer.

For this piece I will share two aspects with you: What are some of the characteristics of Impressionism? How do I create my impressionistic images? 

In my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first), you will see several examples of my photographic Impressionism. Contact me if you'd like your own signed copy.

These are some of the characteristics commonly used to describe the effects masters like Monet, Manet, Cezanne, and others created: Sketchy and unfinished. Lack of detail. Colorful. Blurring. A sense of movement. Irregular surface texture.

Given today's obsession with extreme detail, no shadows, deep saturation, and getting a photograph as sharp as possible, I can see why most photographers would hesitate venturing into this artistic arena. As a photographer who considers himself an artist first, I love it! It takes me beyond the level of taking pretty pictures of pretty things.   

Now that you know some of the characteristics, let me share how I create my impressionistic images. I use four different techniques, but my most frequently used is in-camera double exposures. I will focus my explanation on double exposures.

Before I show you some examples, let me walk you through the steps I take. First, not all subjects are conducive for this application. So, I pick and choose. However, I have applied it to different subjects and get different but good results--I like them all for different reasons. 
Although you can take as many exposures as you want, I usually go for just two superimposed images. I've tried more, but they look too "muddy;" too busy.

When I decide that a double exposure might work well, here are my steps.
1) I take the first image slightly out of focus (using a relatively wide f/stop); not too much,  
too little. It's a judgement call. I'm looking for a soft feel, with soft edges. I take a test
    shot to see if I like it, before
engage my double exposure feature. If I don't like it, I'll do
    it over until I like it. Once I like the feel of it, I engage the double exposure feature and
my first shot--the one I just took and like.
2) I look at the result on my screen and make two decisions: a) Do I like it? b) depending on
I want to achieve (what I want it to look like), I carefully look at it and decide
    whether I want to overlap the next one right over the first one or whether I want to 
    recompose for the second one. Again, it's all based on what I'm trying to create.
3) For my second shot, I re-focus (manually) and adjust my f/stop to get lots of detail. 
    I usually, not always, underexpose it by about 2/3 of a stop (again, the bottom lines is: 
    What do I want it to look like?) before I get the shot.
4) If I don't like, I go through the above steps again. It's a form of bracketing. If I think it's
    80%-90% what I want, I know I can fine-tune it slightly afterwards back home.

Okay, now you know what characteristics I'm trying to achieve, Impressionism, and my technique to create my impressionistic images. Here are some examples.

This is a short trail right in Crested Butte, Colorado

It can work with several subjects, not just nature.

 Courtyard. Zurich, Switzerland.

Coincidentally, this pond is called "Monet Pond."

Wildflower hillside near Crested Butte, Colorado.

I get more comments about this image, "Watercolor Willows."

So, as you can see, you can apply this technique to diverse subjects and get different results. Shapes, colors, compositions, and lighting all contribute to the final results.

All images are available as fine art archival prints. Contact me if interested.  

Sunday, July 26, 2015


I teach composition in my classes and workshops. I devote an entire chapter in my RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY book. It is that important. I judged 863 photo entries recently for a national annual photo competition and exhibit. One of the weaknesses I observed was composition. I cover seven (7) key principles of composition in my book. Today, I will only provide a few highlights regarding only one of the principles I apply to my photograpy--Perspective. This principle alone will increase the "wow" factor in your images, add mystery to your images, and might even make people ask you questions like, "What is that?" "How did you get that?"

It is a common habit, for both beginners and professionals, to shoot from mostly one perspective: eye level, whether they are 5'6" or 6'5" tall. I urge you to break the habit and vary your perspective. 
Even if you have a hard time getting down on your knees, you can still vary your perspective--don't let that stop you.

Now let me show you how I vary my perspectives. Sometimes it isn't obvious to the viewer, and I like that. The most important reason for varying my perspective is to give my images obvious or subtle different looks; a different feel to them, whether the viewer is aware of it or not.

I will now show you some images, then explain what I did to create them.

For this image, I got very close to the cobble stones, about two feet from the ground, with the camera on my tripod. If you look closely, you're looking upward toward the young woman and her black umbrella in the foreground. It's subtle, but makes an effective difference. 

Two types of perspective are at play here. I was about two feet from the wooden walkway to give it more emphasis, and more power to the facade of this old building. Secondly, I got close to the building, about 2-3 feet and aimed my camera down the walkway. Doing so gives a two-dimensional object, my image, a three-dimensional feel---a feeling that this boardwalk goes a long way back there. The perspective lines of the boardwalk, combined with the tops of the buildings lead the eye to infinity.

This is the inside of a long-abandoned 1800s house near Victor, Colorado. For this image, I got as close to the bottom of the staircase as I could. It wasn't easy, as I aimed my camera up toward the top of the stairs from a low angle. This extreme perspective gave me the illusion that the staircase spirals to the second floor. It also makes the next level of the house seem much higher than it really was. It helps to have wide angle lenses for situations like this. 

This is a very tall structure. It occurred to me to place my camera right below the cross and aim it straight up toward Jesus. The camera was away from my body at arm's length. I was standing up. I could not see what I was doing, but I estimated where I had to aim my camera to get this perspective. The flair from the midday sun added to the spiritual feel of the image. It took a couple of tries to get this.

This is inside a historic 1800s farm house, in South Park, Colorado. I liked the elements in this scene---the coffee cups, sugar bowl, the old kerosene lamp, the table cloth, and the gold mine era curtains with all the folds. However, I wasn't satisfied with just taking a good snapshot of the scene at eye level. It would look too common for me. What to do? I did just the opposite of what I did with the cross and Jesus structure above. I held my camera at arm's length, slightly higher than my head, and aimed it straight down at the table. I used my wide angle lens and assumed that it would cover the curtains as well---it did. 

I think you've got the idea now. So, go out there and think outside the box. We have programmed ourselves to keep our cameras close to our eyes and bodies as we stand there and "take pictures" with very expensive equipment. Alter your thinking and you will alter your perspectives and give the world a new way of seeing life.

Feel free to ask me any questions or if you need some 1-on-1 lessons to help you "connect the dots."       www.elivega.net

Monday, June 22, 2015


There is more than one way to photograph fireworks, and I have seen some awesome images in my lifetime. Here are some factors that can contribute to the quality of fireworks images:
1) The locale itself. Sometimes, firework displays are in great settings, like cityscapes, water reflections, or mountains as backdrops.
2) The contractor's quality of firework displays alone can be a contributing factor.
3) Weather---rain, wind, fog, etc.

Regardless of various, mostly uncontrollable, factors, they are worth the effort. Now, here are a few controllable factors and how I use them to increase the chances of getting some great firework images. Not all images will be "keepers," but these tips will increase your chances of getting some great fireworks---they've worked for me for many years.

First, I try to find out where the fireworks will be--from what location will the contractor be shooting off the fireworks? I like to get there several minutes before the fireworks begin, to find a good spot, make some test shots, decide on what focal length might work best, etc. 
During the display, I will alter my shots during the evening between vertical and horizontal shots. After just a few minutes, I know which of the two will work best for me during that particular evening. 

Lens. Depending on where I am standing, I will decide on my focal length. Usually, my 24mm-70mm lens will be my starting point. For those tight shots of just the fireworks, I will resort to 200mm-300mm--again, based on my distance to the fireworks display. Depending on how high the fireworks go, I might also use 17mm-20mm.
F/stop. Depending on the situation, I usually set my f/stop between f/8 & f/11. I have found that anything wider gives me over-exposed images.
Shutter Speed. I use the BULB setting. That, in essence, becomes my shutter speed.
ISO. I have used 100 for years with great success. Again, BULB is my shutter speed, therefore a higher ISO is a moot subject.
Shutter Release. I use my cable release for more control and so I won't touch the camera during the firework displays. A remote release would work, but I prefer my cable release.
File Type. I've heard all the reasons why RAW is the only way to go. I've tried both RAW and JPEG and have found that JPEG Fine (lowest compression; larger file) works just fine for me. It's a personal choice, so shoot with whatever you are used to or prefer.
Focus. Definitely manual focus! The movement from all the displays will confuse your auto- focus system and you will get some out of focus shots. The fireworks will be so far away from you that f/8 should cover enough depth of field to get sharp enough images. Additionally, I don't want to freeze every single burst perfectly---I want to include those streams of color at the end of the big bursts. If, for some reason, you choose to shoot on auto focus, disengage the VR feature, unless you want blurred images.
Single or Multiple Shooting? This is where shooting in BULB comes in. Read below for an explanation of my technique; my approach.

(always with a tripod)  

1) I aim my lens and set my focal length to where I think most of the fireworks will be that evening. I will fine-tune that after the fireworks begin.
2) I focus on any object which I think is roughly the same distance as the fireworks will be. 
Again, I will fine-tune that after the fireworks begin, manually focusing. I start with f/8 and adjust from there as the evening progresses.
3) This is the most important part of my technique.
A) I use any 5"x7" or slightly larger but opaque piece of material to cover and uncover my lens during the fireworks show. This can be anything: a gray card, light note book, CD cover, or just a folded 8.5"x11" piece of heavy paper. It serves as my "lens cap" AND, most importantly, my shutter!
B) When the fireworks begin, I will re-adjust my aim, focal length, and f/stop (if necessary) 
until I think most bursts will be covered with those adjustments. Then I tighten up my tripod head. Again, re-adjusting during the evening as needed.
C) I usually start with photographing 2-3 bursts in the same "frame." Here's how I do it. I remove my "lens cap" when I see a great display, and hit my cable release at the same time. I quickly cover my lens after I think I've photographed the first burst, but keep my finger on the cable release. When the next burst comes up, I remove my "lens cap" and photograph a second burst, then quickly cover my lens again. I now release the cable release. Voila! I have just photographed two bursts on a single "frame"-- in essence, a double exposure! I follow the same exact steps during the evening. Sometimes I repeat the process three times in a row to get 3 bursts in one image! Then I go back to just one burst. Then back to two, etc. I simply experiment back and forth all night, switching focal length, f/stop (if necessary), my aim, verticals and horizontals, and 1, 2, and 3 shots in one image.

I have gone home with some awesome fireworks images over the years using this simple, non high tech technique. Here are some examples.

Breckenridge, CO

Grand Lake, CO

Estes Park, CO

So, go somewhere this Fourth of July, experiment, loosen up, and have fun with it. Feel free to share your keepers with me at vegaphotoart@gmail.com

If you haven't read my new book yet, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY, e-mail me for your signed copy. You can get a glimpse of my book on this YouTube trailer.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015


This is only one of many premises and techniques I share in my book. It is not a new concept for me; I have been doing this since the '80s. Some of the characteristics of Impressionism include: blurring, colorful, minimized detail, sketchy/unfinished, sense of movement, and others.

I apply four different double exposure techniques to my photography to create my impressionistic images. Today I will only showcase one of them. Unfortunately, most digital cameras today do not have a double exposure feature. At the onset of the digital age, digital camera manufacturers did away with double exposure features! Both Canon and Nikon had them in the 80s and 90s. I have my theory as to why they omitted that feature from their designs, but I'll leave that for another discussion. Fortunately for me, Nikon re-introduced my beloved feature around 2007/2008. Now other brands have followed suit.

who love the results as much as I do, often ask me, "What do I do if 
I don't have that feature (and I don't want to spend hours in photo editing software)?" Here is one simple answer for you. It won't look exactly the same, but you can still get those impressionistic-looking images: change your settings until you get both a good exposure and a slow shutter speed--like 1-2 seconds, while hand-holding your camera. Some people are more steady than others, so experiment until you find that right shutter speed "zone" that works for you. Some of my students have tried this and love the results!

Okay, now back to my approach to this. I do use my tripod, in order to keep the same identical perspective and composition. Let me walk you through the steps, then I'll show you some images. Note: I always do this on manual focus--I want total control.

1) I get my composition just the way I want it and do not move from there. Check.
2) Set a wide f/stop, take my subject slightly out of focus, and take a "test" shot. I check
for the right (not "correct") exposure and the degree of blur. I don't want too much blur;
just enough to blur the edges. I'll re-do the shot if necessary. Check.
3) I engage my double exposure feature and set it for 2, i.e., two images. I don't mess with
the bracketing option. I prefer to do that myself.
4) Get the shot (from Step 2). Check my camera screen. If I like it, check. I'm ready for my
second shot.
5) Depending on the subject and what effects I want, I will either not adjust my exposure at
all for my second shot, or adjust it with my exposure compensation dial. If I decide to under-
expose (never overexpose) my second image, it will usually be a -2/3 to a -1. The reason for the underexposure is to ensure that I don't get a washed out, or overexposed final image, which can happen with two exposures on the same "frame."
6) Regardless of what I do at Step 5, if I like what I got, check! If not, I decide what it is I
not like. If the exposure is good, but I don't like the degree of overlap between the two
images, I go back and start at Step 2 and do it again. If I like the results of Step 2, but it
looks a little overexposed, I still go back to Step 2, but only make a change at Step 5 and
maybe under expose the second shot a little more.

To me photography is more art than science. So, like an artist, add a little more "paint" here or there; use a different "brush" if need be, etc.

Are you ready to see what I create when I follow my own guideline? Let's start by looking at what the eyes see.

A beautiful specimen, but man, what an ugly background. It's so ugly that most photographers wouldn't even bother. Herein lies one of my numerous right brain concepts: Don't see with your eyes; see with your imagination. My imagination took me to two different levels. For my first level, I had to seriously alter that ugly background so I could get this.

Nice. Very nice. I was very satisfied with my "studio" shot. To achieve this look, I placed a large piece of flat black (not reflective) material behind these flowers. Yes, I carry around several "props." 

Even though I was very pleased with my second image, I still wanted to create yet a different rendition--an impressionistic rendition, following steps 1-6 above. And so I did.

I shared more than one right brain lesson here: 1) Be an artist first, 2) See with your imagination, 3) Learn to see something before you see it, 4) Make the common uncommon, and 5) Create Impressionism through photography.

Experiment. Don't rely on formulas, histograms, or other "must-do" rules and dogmas. Loosen up. Have fun. Enjoy.

Friday, April 24, 2015


The concept of "scanning" is only a small part of one of my three photography models/ paradigms. I spend several pages on the entire model in my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first).

Scanning allows me to see the unseen; see what others miss; extract a smaller picture from the big picture. When I scan, I literally scan the entire scene before me, left to right; up and down. By doing so, I can find something that, though not obvious or in-your-face at first, gives me a glimpse of a photo opportunity. I then get closer and explore it further, using my imagination to help me "see" what I can create. This scanning process helps me to see something even before I see it---sounds strange, right? Here are some Before & After images to show you what I mean.

This is a typical scene at our nearby Butterfly Pavilion. As I say in my book, don't see with your eyes; see with your imagination. This is what the eyes see. If we listen to our eyes, as in this example, we are likely to keep walking because we see nothing worthy of a photograph. Do you see anything worthy of a photograph? 

Here's where scanning comes in. If I scan, coupled with seeing with my imagination, I see two small portions of this mundane scene worthy of consideration. Do you see those small tiny flowers on the lower left? They are light white/pinkish colored. Do you see the lady bug decorations on the upper right? I don't see lady bug decorations--I see a nice red back- ground for those light white/pinkish flowers. I then change positions, move over closer to those little flowers, lower myself to where I can only see the red part of the lady bug in the background, get my composition, determine my f/stop for the effects I want, and voila!! This is right brain photography; seeing like an artist.

If I had not scanned, I would have gone home without this image. Why? Because I was looking (with my eyes) for the obvious--for something to hit me between the eyes. Sometimes it's not what the eyes see, but what they don't see that holds those hidden photo treasures; those hidden gems.  

Next time you're out shooting, don't look for the obvious--that's too easy. Scan. Scan. Scan. You will surprise yourself when your right brain shakes hands with your left brain and says, "Wait. I see something!" Have fun scanning.

Sunday, April 5, 2015


RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first) is now available, after 18 months in the making. I took a different approach to a how-to photography book. First let me share how this book is different, then I will share some comments from photographers who've read it.

What's different
> I introduce my three self-designed photography models/paradigms.
> I sprinkle humor throughout, to make it fun to read.
> I wrote it in a story-telling style, to make it more interesting and enjoyable.
> I made it interactive--you'll see what I mean when you read it.
> To encourage you to try some of my techniques and concepts, I showcase the works
   of eight of my former students.

What you will learn
Among the many concepts, principles, and techniques included in my book, you will learn how to:

>Be an artist first, using your camera and its features as your paint brushes.
>See with your imagination, not your eyes.
>See something before you see it.
>Make the common uncommon; the mundane insane.

What photographers have said after reading my book
"I was amazed to discover such a different approach to an often very technical field."
"I admire how Eli can 'scan' his surroundings and see something."
"Throughout the book, Eli challenges the reader with exercises related to each 
  technique."     Cindy
"Eli's book will give you a new perspective on how to create a unique piece of art and
 make your photos really stand out."     Theresa
"The book is written in a charming way which holds you to read an entire chapter with no
  stops."     Mahmood

There are over 130 images in the book. Enjoy, and contact me to order your signed copy: www.elivega.net or e-mail me at vegaphotoart@gmail.com            
Retail price: $29.95 (+ applicable taxes & $5.00 S/H)

And here just a few examples of what I will show you how to create. You will learn how to apply Impressionism and Surrealism, and much more. 

You will not see the world around you the same; you will not see photography the same; you will see something before you see it.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015


Here's a theory: Could it be that the advent of photo editing software (no names mentioned) served as a "red herring" to throw photographers off their in-camera creative tracks? Another way of stating this is maybe, just maybe, some photographers learned photo editing software tools without having first learned their camera tools?

Regardless of where you stand on the question, let me take you back to an in-camera tool that can give us some great creative results. I consider myself an artist first--I devoted my new book, RIGHT BRAIN PHOTOGRAPHY (Be an artist first) to this concept. 

Now, let's zero in on what is called "spot metering." First, let me explain it. The built-in light meter in our cameras will give us what it thinks is the "correct" exposure. Most of us shoot in Matrix Metering mode, Evaluative Metering mode, or something similar. We do this because we want to get the best overall good exposure of the scene we want to photograph. We want everything in our viewfinder to be as well exposed as possible. We don't want an over-exposed or under-exposed photograph. Enter spot metering, a tool that allows us to create extremely creative images and disregards "correct exposure."

Spot metering helps me create an artistic, and more dramatic "look" to my images. As the term implies, when I set my metering mode to "spot," I am in essence telling my built-in meter to give me an exposure reading only on a very small part of the scene, anywhere from 1 percent to 10 percent of the scene, depending on the camera used. 

High contrast scenes are the most conducive for spot metering, especially if a particular part of the scene is the one I want to "stand out." The reason for this is that when my main subject is receiving a lot of light, and the background is subdued in dark shade or shadows, I can spot meter on my subject and make it "pop"--it will really stand out from the rest of the scene. I am, in actuality, being an artist--I am recreating what my eyes see; I am giving what my eyes see a different interpretation. I guess you could say I am translating the scene into my own language--the language of art.

Here are a few examples of what I have created with spot metering.     

The overall scene did not look at all like this. The contrast between the foreground leaves and the ones in the background was not this extreme. I made it appear this way by spot metering, or placing my metering spot on the brightest part of the leaf in the foreground. 
I prefer creating this type of dramatic effect with scenes like this, as opposed to ending up with the often "illustration" look of HDR where the scene has little to no contrast.

For this scene, I spot metered on the yellow tulip in the foreground, then set my exposure compensation dial to a +1/3 to add a little more light to the yellow tulips and the background. What adjustments I make, and to what degree, depends simply on what I want the scene to look like. There is no correct exposure; just the right exposure.

I was teaching one of my students spot metering when we saw this scene at a bar. It was a perfect setting to experiment with spot metering--the foreground was receiving a lot more light than the background. Based on the different levels of lighting between the foreground and background, I knew it would work nicely and that we would get a very dramatic effect. 

This spot-metered rendition has more mystery, intrigue, and is also more artistic than what the naked eyes saw.

So, if you have not experimented with this technique, read your camera manual to learn what you have to do to apply spot metering. Have fun with it. You will be like a child in a candy store-- you will want more, and more, and.....

Contact me if you have any questions or if you would like some 1-on-1 field lessons. I'll pick the spot. :-)                      www.elivega.net