What is my photographic specialty?

By Jon Vemo

To quote a photographer I’ve followed for some years, Rick Sammon, “I specialize in not specializing.” Why limit yourself, why focus only on one or two particular photographic genres, when there is so much that life offers? Sure there may be things that you are more interested in or passionate about – and that’s OK. But when it comes to creating images, I, like Rick, prefer to be open to whatever I find of interest.

Like so many people that carry a DLSR or one of the new mirrorless, when out with my camera, I am often asked about what I do and what my specialty is. I’ve tried to answer this in many different ways, but I have recently landed on, “I photograph life around me” – meaning what I see or whatever is happening around me that I find interesting. I enjoy a beautiful landscape, I am intrigued by unique people I see on the street, an object with unique lines or appearance, or any other activity that I find interesting.

The colors, the smells, the people of a vibrant public market…    

Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA

Several years ago while visiting the tulip fields in Washington’s Skagit Valley, I came across a tulip growing from a highly unlikely spot…

Skagit Valley, WA

I do not really consider myself a bird follower, however when presented opportunities to make an image of natures more majestic winged creatures, I am quick to reach for my camera…

   

Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson, AZ

I am also often intrigued by lines, leading and otherwise, and applying different techniques to create that unique image;

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ

Boyce Thompson Arboretum, Superior, AZ

And especially the beauty of the Pacific Northwest coast;

Oregon Coast, Oregon

So my advise to those starting out in their photographic journey (as well established photographers seeking inspiration), is not to limit yourself to a particular form of photography. Go after the images that interest you, what excites you. After all, it’s about following a passion and what interests us, and we shouldn’t limit ourselves on the images that we create.

Jon Vemo is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Less is Better with Age

By Rick Jacobi

I was fortunate to be a trip leader this last May on a workshop in Tuscany for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. I have been on a lot of workshops and have done some extensive traveling. Mirrorless cameras have become more popular over the last couple of years because they are so much lighter. I am still seeing though; a lot of people traveling long distances and more than one airport change carrying a heavy bag of photo equipment. I used to be one of those people with the big 40lb black bag.

I now carry one camera body {Sony] and two lens. Lens 24-70and 70-200. In addition, a small back up camera body just in case. It can fit all in a small camera bag weighting less then 15lbs which is a lot easier to carry than the 40lb or so bag. Do I miss some shots by not having a wider-angle lens a macro or a 100-400? The answer is yes. But the question is how many, and I figure less than five photos that I would keep on a week-long workshop or trip. To me I’d rather feel comfortable walking through airports or the streets of a city enjoying myself rather than carrying all that weight and having a sore back the next day. Those shots I might miss don’t make up for the discomfort of a large camera bag. I am not saying to sell your equipment and buy a mirrorless camera. Just take what you think you need and then take less.

If you are driving that is a different story. I am talking about traveling by air and connecting flights. If it is one flight or a car then take the kitchen sink but again take only what you think you will need. As we get older less is better and you will still get great shots. Just give it a try.

Rick Jacobi is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

By Megan Galope

Like it or not, it’s approaching that time of the year again. The time when you try to figure out what to get the person who has everything, or the person who can’t come up with a single item for their wish list. How about a personalized photo gift? There are so many more options for photo gifts now than just books and calendars. How about something useful, such as a mug or a pillow? You can get anything from keychains to blankets, ornaments and luggage tags to playing cards and phone cases. I’ve even seen personalized wrapping paper with photos on it! This can also be a good time to practice your photography. If you don’t already have some useful photos, schedule a photo shoot with the intended recipient. Or perhaps you’d rather take photos of their kids or pets for the gifts.

There are many places out there that offer photo gifts. A few of the more popular online sites are Shutterfly, SnapfishMpix, Smugmug, and Vistaprint. You can also purchase photo gifts from stores such as Costco, Walgreens, and CVS by either ordering online or going into the store.

And best of all, if you get your ordering done early then maybe you can actually sit back, relax, and enjoy the most wonderful time of the year!

Twitter = @megangalope

mapphotography.smugmug.com

Megan Galope is a trip leader with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.

Finding and Photographing the Wild Horses on the Lower Salt River

By Sara Goodnick

Wild horses are beautiful and challenging to photograph, and there are several locations in Arizona where they may be found. By far, the easiest access to them is on the Lower Salt River NE of Phoenix.

To get there, from Hwy 87 going north towards Saguaro Lake, take the Bush Hwy exit and follow the signs. From Apache Junction, take Usery Pass to Bush Highway, and from Mesa it can be reached via Power Road.

The horses tend to be found near water unless it has rained a lot and there is plenty of green grass. The best places to find them are at the Coon Bluff Recreation area, the Phon D. Sutton Recreation Area, the Blue Point Recreation area, which is around the bridge over the river, and the Butcher Jones Recreation area. However, they can sometimes bee seen from the road in other places.

They are not fearful of humans, but do not approach them closely or offer them food! If they get too used to begging it will end badly for them as eventually someone will be kicked or bitten, resulting in their removal or destruction.

Being prey animals, not predators, they will usually run away if frightened. If cornered, those teeth and hooves can be deadly, so please keep a safe distance, and keep your dogs and small children under control. Horses will kill dogs because they are similar to coyotes and wolves, which threaten their young.

They spend a lot of time eating, so take your time to observe them while waiting for some action, or interaction among them. Don’t frighten them or try to get reactions from them-its not ethical. They need their energy and attention for survival.

Best lens to use is a 70-200mm, fast shutter speed of at least 1/800th sec. or faster, and the best ISO and aperture to go with that. Tripods are not needed, but a monopod can be useful.

What to wear: hiking boots, long sleeved shirts, long pants. This is rough country if you leave the roadside. The saying, “Everything out there stings, sticks, or bites”, has truth to it!

Plan ahead. The developed parking areas require a permit that you must purchase outside of the Tonto National Forest Recreation Area. Some of the local stores carry them, so check online. If you are over 62 years of age, you are eligible for a permanent Senior Pass ($80 – new fee as of August 2017) that will get you into all of our National Parks and Monuments, as well as other places.  You just display it on your dashboard when visiting. Theses passes may be purchased online or at certain fish and wildlife offices.

Sara Goodnick is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Concert iPhoneography

By Jeff Insel

I am a very lucky guy, in my semi-retirement I found a job at the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) as a driver for the Theater department (and now also a p/t Artist Coordinator). I am a very lucky guy because I’ve always loved live music – of all kinds. I get to meet and talk with the Artists and get to know them a bit. And, having an interest in photography, I sometimes get to take some photographs of the artists performing with my iPhone.

The biggest challenge is the lack of good light on stage, the second challenge is that the artists are almost always in motion. Most of the artists allow patrons to take photos during the first few songs and always without flash. I usually take photos from the wings at the side of the stage and sometimes from behind the stage if the stage door is open – usually because they’re using a sound monitor there and I have access backstage. It’s almost impossible to get good photos from the very back – 70 feet away – do to the concert lighting, though I often try.

The most rewarding part is often times, after the show, artists will be out front signing CD’s and posing for photos – which anyone can participate in so I often do as it makes for a fun collection, such as with Laurence Juber and Keiko Matsui below.

It’s fun to post the photos on Instagram and sometimes email them to friends and family who are usually envious of my opportunity. Sometimes I make collages and try different filters as with the Blind Boys of Alabama and the Del McCoury Band. Mostly it’s just fun to do and once in a while I get an interesting photo out of it.

Jeff Insel is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Should You Purchase a Lens Right Away

By John Frelich

Think of the times you look at a lens and think of a trip you’re ready to take. If only you had a 100-400mm lens to get some good zoom images.  Then you go to the various Photographic stores and see the price somewhere around $2200 for a camera manufacturer’s product. The prices can range higher or you consider a secondary manufacturer but still look at prices around $1500. Then you explore the grey market but fear something going wrong with the lens and no one will repair it. Finally, you look at refurbished or used lenses but are still apprehensive.

Well why not consider renting a lens for a weekend or longer trip? I just did a weekend workshop and rented a lens from Tempe Camera. Picking it up on a Thursday afternoon and bringing it back on a Monday afternoon cost me $93. The  price for a similar used lens is around $1700 so was it worth it? I tested it out on around 2,000 images and found that the quality of the images was “Good to Very Good.”

Notice I didn’t say “Great.”

When I evaluated the number of times I could rent the lens before I would equal the current value it was greater than 15 times. How many times will I be shooting images requiring this lens? If I hit 15 it will take several years. By that time will Nikon make a 100-400mm lens that will give me what I want? This zoom lens has been made for several years now so the technology that was used is waning.

Also secondary manufacturers like Tamron and Sigma are advancing their products at a fast pace. So if you’re not using a good lens on a regular basis, rental is a great way to get limited uses at a comfortable price. BUT, not all rentals are the same. A good camera store keeps their products in excellent condition. When online you must also consider the shipping and insurance costs both ways. That can be greater than the rental cost of the lens.

The key to success is if you live in a metro area like Phoenix and can find a local store that in essence let’s you try a product (rental) it gives you the best way to limit expenditures.

P.S. I have the first model of this lens and it serves as a paperweight because of its slow focusing and “soft” results. If you’re rich please ignore this advice. You won’t need it.

John Frelich is a Volunteer with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops

Traveling and Photographing in Japan

By Meng Tay

Photographers are always looking for new subjects or scenes.  If you are tired of the same old, same old, why not consider traveling to Japan?  First, let me give you the reasons why you want to travel to Japan.  Next, I will give you some ideas on what to photograph.

  1. It’s very safe – guns are illegal here and the crime rate is very low.  Never once was I threatened or scolded in any way, even when I accidentally bump someone.  Such a contrast to the US when anything can cause a confrontation.  As a matter of fact, most Asian countries are very safe, contrary to what most Americans think.
  2. It’s very clean – the Japanese are fastidious about their cleanliness.  Every restroom I went to was clean (and free).  This includes public restrooms in busy tourist areas, shopping centers, etc.  The streets, parks, buildings are all clean.  I even had a hard time finding trash cans.
  3. Japanese are helpful and polite – I’ve heard stories of Japanese actually walking a tourist to his or her destination instead of just pointing and giving directions on how to get to a place.  Most of the signs have an English version but Japan’s twisty streets are sometimes hard to navigate.  Unless you ask someone local, sometimes it’s almost impossible to find it on your own, but ask.
  4. At today’s exchange rate (US$1 = ¥112) it’s a bargain to travel in Japan.  Yes, hotels and certain things are still expensive but it’s less expensive than some of the European countries like Norway, Iceland or Switzerland.
  5. Public transportation is very convenient and easily accessible.  Ironically, one of the biggest car manufacturing countries also has one of the best train networks.  Learn how the train system works and you will love riding the shinkansens (bullet trains).  If you have a big group, perhaps 4 or more, maybe it’s better for you to rent a car but trains can get you almost anywhere in Japan.
  6. Japan has a long history.  If you want to understand how it went from a sheltered country to an international economic powerhouse, an Oriental culture to an International culture, this is the place to learn.  The blending of east and west is everywhere.
  7. Food – you will love the food.  Be open-minded about sushi.  The Japanese eat a lot of things raw.  They have been doing this for centuries.  It’s healthy and after you’ve acquired a taste for it, you will love it.  You will never want to eat sushi or sashimi anywhere else.

What would discourage you from traveling to Japan?  Language may be the biggest challenge.  Very few Japanese speak English.  But this is no different than some European countries.  With today’s travel aids like Phrase Books, Google Translate, etc, this should not be a big hurdle.  I find that most Japanese studied English in school but because they are shy, they don’t get to practice it a lot.  Speak slowly and with a little bit of gesture, you should have no trouble getting around.

If you don’t feel comfortable traveling on your own, why not join a tour?  Tours will get you to many places where you have excellent photo opportunities but may not offer you the freedom of going where you want to go and for longer than you want.

What are some subjects that you may want to photograph in Japan?

Temples:  Because of its long history with Buddhism, temples are everywhere.  You find them in villages or big cities.  They are intriguing because their architecture is so different from churches or cathedrals in Europe.  The predominantly red color of Japanese temples make them stand out.  Here are some examples:

Food:  Food is the essence of a culture.  If you look at what they eat and how they eat, you can tell a lot about a culture.  That’s why I love going to markets when I am in a foreign country.  Japanese food is a contrast to American food.  That’s why it’s always an interesting subject matter for photography.

Landscape:  There is more to Japan than Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto or other big cities.  What is not known to most tourists is that Japan has a beautiful countryside.  Hokkaido is arguably, most beautiful of all rural areas..  Go there in the fall, when the leaves are changing color.  If you are lucky enough to go during the cherry blossom season (sakura in Japanese), they will be everywhere.  They start in late March to the middle of April, depending on which part of Japan you go to.

Other topics of interest may be people, traditional buildings, castles, etc.  Japanese ladies in kimonos is a good topic.  If you happen on a geisha (very rare nowadays), that’d be the ultimate photo shoot.  Towering castles that were built during the shogun days are also good subjects.

If you want to read more about my travels in Japan, here is my blog:

http://mengineurope.blogspot.com

It’s in reverse chronological order.  Click on the year 2017 on the right.  It will drop down a menu of months.  Click on March, April or May.  You will see my posts on different places in Japan that I traveled to.

You can find out more about travel in Japan at the following sites:

https://www.jnto.go.jp/eng/

http://www.japanvisitor.com

Meng Tay is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.