Portraits in Nature with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops in Eagar, AZ

Author: Ivan Martinez

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Early in August, I had the fortune to escape the Phoenix heat and go to the town of Eagar in Northern Arizona to help in a 4 day workshop conducted by nature photographer Bruce Taubert.  Living in Arizona, gives me the luxury of being able to find cooler areas that are just a half day driving from where I live .  The town of Eagar is a 4 hours drive from Phoenix and 40 degrees cooler in the summer.  The area is popular for wild life and outdoor activities. We were there to photograph hummingbirds.  The workshop was conducted at the Sipe Wild Life Area which  is at the foot of Escudilla Mountain.  Although it is few hundred miles from Phoenix, it seems you are in a completely different world.  The air was cool and crisp. We had few showers and lost of overcast days. It was a nice time to be away  from the sweltering summer heat of Phoenix.  The workshop participants had a good time and went home with hundreds of great images. Bruce did an outstanding job in setting up the photography stations and worked very closely which each one of the participants.  Rick Sprain and I assisted Bruce during the workshop. Being a Volunteer Trip Leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops have been a wonderful experience and it has granted me the opportunity to learn new photography techniques and visit amazing places in Arizona and the USA.  Here are few images fro the the workshop.

Ivan Martinez is a commercial photographer and a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

RECHARGE YOUR (CREATIVE) BATTERIES

Author: David Huffman
Photography can be a solitary experience or a group one. I often enjoy my time alone, on the trail or in the studio, where I can think, visualize and execute a picture from my mind’s eye.
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But, after 30 year’s experience, I find it invigorating to be together with other photographers discussing and practicing our craft.  In fact, I need this interaction to drive me to new explore new ideas and images.  I find it particularly interesting and

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useful to be with other photographers, now that we’ve entered the digital age of photography, where so many of the tools and techniques are in the hands of the photographer, and not in the lab.  And digital imaging has opened up a vast cornucopia of new techniques for managing the image in the camera and afterwards on the computer.

One exciting way to recharge your creative batteries is to attend a workshop, or even better an event about photography.  This year, Arizona Highways Photo Workshops celebrates 30 years in the business of providing education, inspiration and creativity to students of photography.

November 7-8, 2015 in the Phoenix metro area we will host the first “Capture Your Moment Symposium.”  This action-packed event, over two days, will feature some of the best-known photographers in the area teaching and sharing their knowledge.  Our special guest speakers include Guy Tal, Alan Ross, Jack Dykinga and Joel Grimes, among others.  You’ll be able to choose among 26 learning sessions.  Come join us at the Photography Event of the Year and check out our fantastic lineup of workshops for 2016!
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For more information on Arizona Highways Photo Workshops visit us at www.ahpw.org.
David is a AHPW Volunteer Trip Leader, visit him at www.HuffmanPhotoArt.com

Practice, Practice, Practice To Make Better Photographs

Author: Vern West

It rained last night here in the White Mountains so when we arose this morning there were several new mushrooms that had sprouted overnight. I decided to try some macro or close ups of a new fungi. Macro really means 1:1 image so if the subject is larger than your sensor, as this mushroom was, what you are doing is making a close up photograph.

The sky was sunny with a frequent clouds so the light was constantly changing from soft light when a cloud was in front of the sun or rather harsh directional light when the sun was out. I have a small set of diffuser/reflectors that I take when traveling so I knew I would need them.

The mushroom that I was photographing is only three inches tall so I also knew that I would have to be lying on the ground to photograph it. I have bad knees and tender elbows so I got out several foam pads to lie on. I started off putting my camera on a beanbag figuring that would be high enough but it gave me too much detail in the back ground. I needed to have my camera a couple of inches higher. I then went to plan B and got out my tripod and adjusted it to put my camera in the vertical format about 4-5 inches off the ground. Below is what my setup looked like.

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Now that I had the composition that I wanted I used Live View to focus. I use back button focus so my lens is always in manual focus. You may have to switch the lens to manual focus to be able to use live view and have the focus remain as you set it. You don’t want the camera to readjust the focus when you depress the shutter button. If you are unsure about how to focus using live view I’ll explain it in a future  blog post. When the sun was out I used a loupe to help focus. This process can be rather slow and is best accomplished with a little “trial and error” to achieve the best focus.

I set my camera to Aperture Priority because of the light changing so frequently. This assured that the F/16 I set would remain under the varying light conditions thus giving maximum depth of field. I would probably use manual exposure under more constant light. I then set the timer to two seconds so that my touching the camera would not affect the sharpness of the image plus 2 seconds would give me time to use the reflector and diffuser myself. I could have used a remote shutter release to aid in sharpness but that would have required someone else to hold the reflector and diffuser.

So here are three images that reflect several lighting conditions.

  • The first is when a cloud moved in front of the sun. You can see that the light is pretty uniform.
  • The second is with the sun out but a diffuser over the mushroom to soften the light. Notice the stalk is shadowed.
  • On the third image I used not only a diffuser to soften the light but I also used a silver reflector to add some light to the stalk of the mushroom.

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Now as to which version is best? Art and beauty is in the eye of the beholder, as they say “your mileage may vary”. I rather prefer the soft uniform light but in other cases a I have used reflectors and diffusers to achieve what my vision said was right.  So  try some practice, practice, practice and make your vision translate into better photographs.

Vern West is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Ask yourself: “Am I in a groove…or a rut!?”

Author: Suzanne Mathia

Here are some suggestions (a friendly kick in the rear) to get you out of a photographic rut. Bad habits creep up on us all. Just like exercise you cant do the same thing every day and expect different, better results. You have to switch it up, kick it up a notch, get out of the routine, learn something new.

Here’s some suggestions:

Take a great workshop (we have a few suggestions!) Workshops are a great place to sort out problems, learn new techniques, experiment, get exposure to new ideas, practice new methods and get out of your comfort zone for a while under the expert guidance of a dedicated teacher and enthusiastic participants.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable!  Sometimes stretching yourself, both physically and mentally, hurts (so good!).  Get on the ground to get a better perspective.  Hike a few miles to get that great vantage point.  Get outside your comfort zone.  If you’re a landscape shooter, work on some portraits.  If you shoot wildlife, play with macros and abstracts.  Shoot for a whole day with the lens you use the least. Borrow a tilt/shift lens or a macro and learn the possibilities. Find objects around the house and create unusual images. Stretch your creative muscles by cross training!

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Learn your camera, every option, every setting.  Leave your camera manual in your bathroom and READ IT (RYFM! google it!).  The more you really know your equipment, the easier you’ll create what you want and the quicker you can react when the conditions change!

Don’t leave a great shot behind.  Don’t “get it on the way back” or think it’s too much trouble. Stop, do the work!

Don’t be lazy. Anyone who’s been on one of my workshops has this ringing in their ears!  Change lenses if the shot calls for it.  Get out your Graduated Neutral Density Filters.  Take off the polarizer if it’s not needed. USE THAT TRIPOD!

Expand your post processing skills with Lightroom and Photoshop, then shoot your images as if neither one of them existed.

Get your files, folders, & drives organized well, and, if you haven’t already, begin the process of easy, productive catalogue and image management using Lightroom.

Review, refine and test your backup strategy: have at least TWO back ups of all your work. I would suggest that one of those be a cloud backup such as BackBlaze or CrashPlan.

Make yourself a project for the year.  Create a collection of work on a single theme.

Create a web gallery for your images.  There are many inexpensive, easy-to-build sites; at the very least post your images on Facebook or Flickr.

Go out and shoot with a small memory card or vow to only take 6 images.  This will slow you down and make you more deliberate in your choices.  Really work the scene and create an image instead of Spray and Pray.

Learn about Focus and Hyperfocal distance.  This one technique, once you understand it and put it into practice, will take your photography to a whole other level.  Check for critical focus on your LCD at 10X magnification with DoF preview while you’re in the field.

Find your Histogram and USE it! The histogram is the most useful but often most misunderstood and ignored tool that your camera provides to help you get the best exposure on your images.

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Go back and re-edit some of your old images.  Do some “archive diving”. With your new skills and improved tools, like you will be amazed at the diamonds in the rough you’ll find.

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Find someone to give you an honest critique of your work.  Find a professional who will be firm but fair.  All the kudos from your Facebook friends & relatives won’t make you a better photographer.  Someone who will point out the flaws and help you develop a well-edited body of work will.  Warning: it can be painful but it’s an incredible learning process!

Study the work of great photographers, present and past.  Go to the museum, buy the books, browse online.

Go to a Symposium!!!

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Don’t give away your work unless it’s for a good cause.  Value your work and the work of others….but remember to…

Give back – Find a non- profit or charity that you can contribute your work or time to.

Have fun (that’s what it’s all about, yes?)!!

Suzanne Mathia is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways and other great publications.

Black & White Photography: Top 10 Tips & Techniques

Author: Joel Wolfson

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I just finished conducting an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop entitled See The World In Black and White. We had a great group with a lot of talent and a broad range of styles. We covered a lot of information and did a lot of shooting and processing but below is a condensed version of the top ten tips and techniques. Try these and if you want to explore it further join us next year.

1.    Shoot raw  Except for compact point and shoot cameras, most digital cameras allow you to capture raw images.  This gives you the widest range of tones and colors possible.  It also requires some post processing but if you want the best image possible, use raw capture.  When you shoot in raw you will also be shooting in color (see tip #3).  This may not immediately make sense but most software uses the original color information while you’re optimizing your black and white image.  For example, if I’m using Topaz B&W Effects, I can lower the blue values (Color Sensitivity sliders) in a black and white landscape which has the effect of darkening the grays of the sky.  Likewise I can brighten the gray tone of leaves on a tree by increasing the green values.
•    If your camera isn’t capable of being set for RAW, shoot in color for the reasons just cited.
2.    Shoot with the intention of creating black and white images.  The best black and white images are generally those intended to be that way from the beginning.  If you’re not an old hand at black and white photography then it’s important to train yourself to think and visualize in black in white and shoot specifically with that in mind.  Of course you can discover an image that looks great as a monochrome after the fact but your rate of successful black and white images will be much higher with that intention behind them.
3.    Set the LCD screen on the back of your camera for Monochrome.  Most cameras will allow you to shoot raw and also be able to view the images on the LCD in black and white/monochrome.  This helps you to visualize in black and white as you’re shooting.  Canon calls it “Picture Style” and Nikon calls it “Picture Control”.  You’ll want to set your camera to shoot RAW + JPEG- meaning it will shoot both of these at the same time and what you will be viewing on the LCD is the black and white JPEG. You want the raw image too for optimum conversion to black and white later.
•    A word of caution here.  The LCD on the back of your camera is NOT very accurate whether you view in color or black and white.  If you treat it as a general guideline it can be helpful but don’t try to judge nuances from the LCD.
4.    Compose without color.  This is a mental challenge.  When you’re looking at or thinking about a scene, subject, or moment to capture, ask yourself: Will this image tell the the story best in black and white?  This means trying to think about the lighting, subject, and tonal values over any influence from color.  Look for images you can create that are compelling without color.
5.    Shoot on overcast or rainy days.  For color photography many photographers will avoid shooting on overcast or rainy days.  I think such weather is great for black and white (I could make the same argument for color but we’re talking monochrome here.)  There are all kinds of subtle tones that might otherwise be lost on a sunny day with harsh shadows. It’s also great light for portraits and photos of people.
6.    Think about the non-color visual design elements of your image.  Without color the components of visual design become that much more important.  Look at the lines in the image.  Are they horizontal? Vertical? Diagonal? Do they form a pattern?  Rhythm or repeating elements in a photo are interesting, with a break in the repetition being even more interesting.  Also look at the texture, shapes, and forms in the image.  Concentrating on these will take your mind off the color and enhance your ability to “see” and think in monochrome.

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7.    Use a calibrated monitor and neutral viewing environment.  A properly profiled monitor is essential to making any judgements about, or adjustments to, your images.  This may be even more important for black and white where the subtleties of tone are critical.  Also best to keep your viewing environment as neutral as possible.  White walls are better than bright red and even subdued neutral clothing helps because your clothing will be reflected back into the monitor. I usually wear a gray or black shirt or sweatshirt when I’m adjusting images.
8.    Train your brain for black and white by comparing the same images in both black and white and color.  Most photo software lets you go back and forth between images or look at them side-by-side.  A good way to teach yourself how to visualize in black and white is to look at the same image both ways.  Do this with as many images as you can.  I would include images that you initially intended to be black and white as well as those that were not intended that way.  Sometimes you will discover great black and white images that weren’t shot with that purpose.  More importantly it will ultimately help you be able to look at a color scene in the world and visualize it as a black and white image.

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9.    Crop your image before doing adjustments to it.  If you’re looking at a lot of extraneous information that will be cropped out eventually anyway, you don’t want it to influence your adjustments to the image (which it will if you leave it there). Our eyes and brains look at things relative to what’s around it- so don’t let irrelevant information get in the way of fine tuning your image.
10.    Before converting your color image to black and white make it a bit gaudy.  By this I mean make your image more contrasty and saturated than you would if the final image were to be in color.  Monochrome images are about the contrasts of tones and I’ve found that by exaggerating the contrast in color you end up with a better starting point when you convert to black and white.  This may mean using both contrast and saturation related controls in your software.

Successful black and white photography is a combination of both technical and artistic elements. Good camera equipment and software is only a starting point.  I hope that these tips will help those starting out and serve as reminders for those that are more experienced.  Most of all, have fun!

Joel Wolfson is a photographer/instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops
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See it, Feel it, Take the Shot

Author: Rick Jacobi

When doing street photography you cannot go looking for a photo, it has to come to you. You have to see it and feel it in a split second. That means your camera has to be ready at all times.  I don’t always  know when a photo opportunity  is going to happen, it just happens.
I was sitting at a bar and all of sudden three glasses appeared. I was not looking for three glasses to shoot. They came to me. My camera was ready and was able to get the shot.
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In this next  image, I was admiring the beauty of the bar, but wasn’t compelled to take the shot until the bartender showed up in the middle of the bar. The scene came to me, not me to the scene.  My camera was ready and I got the shot.   With most street photography, I saw it, felt it and took the shot.
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Rick Jacobi is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Sunday Stroll

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Author: Amy Horn

Are you looking for an opportunity to take more photos? Then grab your camera or iPhone and take a walk. That’s what I did. Not long ago, I took to the streets of Flagstaff on a bright Sunday morning for a stroll to our weekly Farmer’s Market. Shopping for locally grown vegetables was my main focus, but I grabbed my iPhone for the trip as well. Whenever I use my iPhone I try to give myself a goal.

Photo effect applied using Snapseed Application on the iPhone.

Photo effect applied using Snapseed Application on the iPhone.

Today’s goal was to create images using the Hipstamatic app. I love the coloration Hipstamatic adds to photos mimicking analog cameras. Since I was shooting in full sun, this would be the best application to create interesting photos. And, if you get distracted with shopping and forget to use the Hipstamatic app; the free Snapseed app is a great substitution.

Nothing beats a Farmer’s Market when looking for something to photograph. The fresh vegetables, the flowers, even the local pets made the morning a fun photoshoot. And, I even came home with dinner. Just remember, you don’t need a grand trip to practice photography, just a Sunday stroll.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.