Wednesday, February 27, 2019


When it comes to photography, the eyes see too much. The tendency is to photograph what the eyes see, like the entire scene, the whole giraffe, the entire car, the dog from nose to tail. There's nothing wrong with that. However, sometimes the most powerful, most demanding, most captivating images are those that include only parts of the whole. Additionally, when we get up close, we can also sometimes take the subject totally out of context.   

In this month's tip of the month, I will show what I do with my close up photography, which is not the same as micro/macro photography. I create my close ups in basically two ways: get as close as my lens will allow me to get, or get as close as I can, then crop it further for more intensity.

Let me show some examples, as I share the "behind the lens" stories. 

I saw this large leaf at a butterfly pavilion. Those who follow me know that I don't photograph subjects. I see them; I look at them, but what I look for is shapes, form, color, light, moods, design, or texture. On this leaf, and the way it was back lit, I saw light, color, design and shape. However, I saw all that with my imagination. My eyes just saw a leaf.

I got up close so that I could only see about three fourths of the leaf. When I noticed the contrast between the back light hitting just the center of the leaf and not the edges or the background, I knew it would be more dramatic if I spot-metered the central part of it. It worked! It really made it "pop." It's not just a leaf anymore. The spot metered exposure was roughly equivalent to underexposing the scene by a - 2 1/3 stops! The eyes see too much.

Do you see three aspens in this next image? Look closely.

If you look closely, there is one aspen tree in the foreground, slightly toward the left of center. Behind it, there is another aspen in the background, to the left of it. There is yet another aspen, also in the background, to the right of it--it has a large black gash on it. When I saw them, I knew that if I got farther away from them then zoomed into them with my telephoto lens, I would create the illusion of compression--making them closer to each other than they really were. The key here is using a telephoto lens, to create that illusion of compression--that characteristic is inherent in telephoto lenses. 

What do you see in this image? What is it?

If you guessed cowgirl boots, you're right! I was in Telluride, Colorado, just walking around downtown when I came across these surrealistic cowgirl boots in a window display. Getting a photo of the boots themselves wasn't as exciting or inviting for me as getting up close to them and taking them out of context. 

What about if we're just enjoying a good morning cup of coffee at a local coffee shop?

This might not be your "cup of tea," so to speak. As i looked down at my cup I saw all these
neat little different-sized bubbles in my cup that morning. So I thought, why not? I had never seen so many bubbles in one single cup of coffee! Okay, you might be thinking, "Eli, get a life." Maybe I have a bit of Salvador Dalí in me. 😂

So, this subject is more obvious than the cowgirl boots, but where are they?

As I walked by a coffee shop in downtown Boulder, Colorado, I saw these huge light bulbs hanging from the ceiling, suspended by thick red-orange wires. I just had to go inside and ask permission to photograph them. But, yeah, you guessed it, I just had to get a "tight' shot of them. By closing in really tight on them, it focused more on their design, shapes, color. It also hides what we're programmed to label them--light bulbs. Lesson? Go beyond the label.

What is she looking at? Why the decorative hat with a big flower-like ornament on it?
Where is she? 

I had just finished photographing a nighttime Mardi Gras parade in downtown Eureka Springs, Arkansas when I saw this window display, showcasing elegant women's hats. The lighting was low and I didn't want to use flash on it, so, for a creative effect, I pumped up my ISO to 6400. I zoomed in to get only a hint of the hat, aiming more for the interesting colors, shapes, and design of the hat and its decorations, and the face contours. 

Again, I'm not photographing subjects. I'm photographing.....I think you can now fill in the blanks. I talk about this in more detail in my book, now available on Amazon.

A guitar with neon lights attached to it? What?

This real guitar was actually part of the decor inside a 1950's style cafe in Broomfield, Colorado. Somebody had creatively found a way to light up the guitar with neon lighting. So, once again, I created a tight shot of the guitar for emphasis. Even though we don't see the neck, our brain fills in the blanks and tells us what the label is--a guitar.

Are you ready for one more? For this last example, I will show how I sometimes close in as much as possible to the subject and then, for further emphasis, crop the final result.

 I was at an art fair in Colorado when I saw this beautiful, huge, furry, white dog--with blue eyes! They were blue, like human blue! I asked the owners what his name was and if I could photograph him. The politely allowed me to photograph Crew. I got several photos of Crew, including a very tight shot of his huge white/beige face. When I got home, I decided to crop my original close-up, again, for more emphasis. I was still not satisfied. Crew was beautiful, but I wanted those blue eyes to really "pop." So, I converted everything in the image, except his untouched blue eyes, to black and white. That gave me what I wanted. Say hi to Crew.

In summary, after you take that instinctive photo of the whole subject, don't hesitate to get one or two more shots, but this time, tighten up, get real close to that subject and see what you can do with it. You might surprise yourself. Enjoy.

If you're in the area, don't hesitate to e-mail me for a private 1-on-1 or small group lesson.

Cheers! Ciao! AdĂ­os!  

Friday, February 15, 2019


I was exposed to surrealism during my art days in college. It was there that I was introduced to the likes of Salvador DalĂ­ and other surrealists

As a photographer, I don't interpret surrealism as bizarre or even as creative as the original surrealists. However, I do like to look for certain characteristics common to this great art movement, like the juxtaposition of the unlikely, objects or themes we don't usually associate with each other, the unexpected, and those visuals that slap us in the face and  make us say, "What the ***?" Most of the time I find surrealistic scenes; sometimes I create them in my imagination, then create them in camera.

I'll start my examples with this totally unexpected scene. As I walked into a restroom in a coffee shop in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, I was immediately stopped in my tracks when I saw this. I had my camera, so I quickly locked the door and starting shooting!

This giant sculpture of the iconic painting American Gothic was so surreal against the backdrop of giant skyscrapers in Chicago.

This is one of those times when I created surrealism in my mind, then created it in camera.
Garden of the Gods, in Colorado Springs, as I "painted" some of the scene with flashlights.

I was at the Denver aquarium when I saw this surreal juxtaposition of fish and tiger.

Blue trees? I had never seen blue trees until I visited Seattle, Washington and saw this  downtown display. I'm always on the lookout for the bizarre; for the unexpected.


Most of us know what to expect when we think of the term "portrait." We usually associate the concept with a person; an individual portrait. But have you ever associated a portrait with a rooster? 

An acquaintance told me he had a pet rooster. I thought, "What?" I don't know about you, but I associate pets with dogs, cats, or maybe parrots or parakeets.....but roosters? I just had to ask if I could come back with my camera at a later date. 

I imagined what this would look like if I photographed mostly reflections, knowing that I would show the imag "upside down." I imagined what this would look if I photographed mostly reflections, knowing that I would show the image "upside down." I like to do that with reflections sometimes. In this case, the "floating" rocks in the sky seemed very much like a DalĂ­ painting.

Certainly surrealism is not for everyone. But if this unique art movement resonates with you, go out and get creative---think outside the box that's outside the box and have fun with it.