New Photography Ideas

I firmly believe that photographers need to always be looking for new ideas and inspiration. Photography is an art form that require this. Becoming stale is the fear of many artists. Success is met with both elation and some amount of trepidation. The feelings of elation are pretty much self-explanatory, but with every success comes the worry of where the next new idea will come from and will it be better than the last?

So where do you get new ideas?

We have a lot of resources available today to find inspiration and new photographic ideas. Other photographers, magazines, the internet, and podcasts are all places we can find inspiration and cultivate new ideas to enhance our photography. These are all places I frequent often to get new ideas. My iPod allows me to take podcasts with me so I can listen to them wherever I go. I gain plenty of new insights this way. Photographer’s websites and photo galleries are another place to receive inspiration.

Where do you go for new ideas?

Shadows

Shadows help to provide a sense of dimension in a photograph. The long shadows at the end of the day or the shadows created by side-lighting can create a stunning photograph. Try to add some side lighting to your photographs and see what you think.

Rembrandt used shadows when he was painting his masterpieces. In fact, studio photographers still use “Rembrandt lighting” today. The distinguishing feature of Rembrandt light is that the shadow of the subject’s nose connects with the shadow cast on the side of the face. The master artist knew that lighting was crucial to a scene or subject and he is remembered for how he painted specific shadows into his portraits.

Shadows are like vegetables—they are an important part of our diet, but not everyone likes them. Shadows can create a breath-taking photograph that otherwise would be flat. Photographs are only two-dimensional so utilizing anything that will help create the sense of depth can be useful.

Shadows obviously change with the time of day and the direction of the sunlight. This is why fill light is so important, even on bright sunny days. Harsh shadows from a hat brim can be nasty and distracting to a photograph. Fill light can help brighten the shadows.

There was an old saying years ago, “Only the shadow knows.” Well, maybe, but as a photographer you better begin to understand at least a little bit about shadows and when they can be useful. Sometimes a photograph can be made spectacular with the creative use of a shadow. Give it a try!

Headshots

I am learning more and more about photography and just this week I learned about headshots. These portrait shots are used mainly for actors who are auditioning for a play or musical. Typically they are printed in black and white and are 8” x 10” photographs.

Just today I shot my first headshot. It was fun to spend time with the family, who gave me a couple sample headshots that were taken in previous years. This gave me a starting point and I already had thought about some setup details prior to my arrival for this shoot.

I used my Nikon SB-900 off camera on a small tripod and used the diffuser dome to help spread the light out evenly and softly. The pop-up flash on my D300 served as the commander unit and it worked beautifully. I setup everything at home first to make sure it was working correctly. Then I loaded my two tripods and camera bag into my truck, followed the directions, and arrived at the shoot.

We used a white sheet as a backdrop and a stool. That was it. My SB-900 Speedlight provided the light, and my D300 captured the shots with ease. I did move the flash around a little bit and noticed that I could eliminate some shadows just by moving the flash. I spent about 45 minutes with the family and enjoyed this opportunity very much.

Once back home, I uploaded the RAW images to my laptop, sorted through them to find the proofs I wanted to share with the family, and created a webpage to show the proofs. An email message was sent out to the family and now they can view the proofs and pick out the image they want to be used for the headshot.

I have a lot more to learn about the SB-900 and plan to do a lot of research on this. This flash sure is powerful and versatile! I just began to touch the surface of what this unit can do and I already am very happy I purchased this flash. In fact, I am planning on buying another one in the near future because I would like to add either a fill light or a backlight to some portraits.

Photography Podcasts

The technology we have at our fingertips these days is nothing short of amazing. PDAs, laptops, Blackberries, and iPods are all tools to keep us on the cutting edge. Do you have an iPod or MP3 player?

I have an iPod that I use almost on a daily basis. I download photography podcasts to my iTunes software, hook up my iPod to upload the podcasts, and leave with any number of shows and discussions just waiting to be heard by me at my convenience. Amazing!

Some of my favorite photography podcasts are:
The Image Doctors
D-Town TV
Adobe Photoshop Lightroom Killer Tips
This Week in Photography
Camera Dojo

I learn so much about photography just from listening to these podcasts. It truly is amazing how much information is right at our fingertips.

Are you utilizing the technology of our modern day to learn more about photography?

The Case for Authentic Photography

Photography, as a medium today, is often second-guessed and criticized. Does that photograph really depict an authentic scene or has it been altered? With software available today, like Photoshop, photographs can be altered in tremendous and disheartening ways. It is one thing to remove a distracting utility pole or cluttered background, but it is something entirely different to add an element or subject to a photograph that was not present when the photograph was captured.

What are your thoughts and feelings about altered photographs?

I cut my teeth in the film days where dodging and burning were acceptable practices. Even occasional double images were acceptable at times. But now things have changed dramatically.

I heard someone say recently, “Photoshop is not a verb.” I could not agree more. I use Lightroom and Photoshop myself, but I have placed some self-imposed parameters to what I do and what I believe is acceptable. I am not out to deceive anyone. If I share a photograph with others, I do not want them questioning my integrity or standards. A reputation takes far too long to establish to even consider putting it at risk with such practices as completely changing or adding to a photograph.

Society will eventually determine what is acceptable and what is out of bounds. In the meantime, why not use authentic photography as you preference? I know I will.

Photography Dreams

What are your photography dreams?

Do you have a special place you dream about photographing? Is there an event or sporting activity that is your goal to shoot someday? Do you dream of capturing a photo of some famous person? What are your photography dreams?

My one dream (and, yeah, I have many dreams) is to be in the photographer’s pit at a professional baseball game. I would like nothing more than to capture the action of a major league game and also literally rub elbows with other sports photographers in that kind of venue.

The problem with many of us is that dreams just remain dreams and rarely ever become a reality. We dream big but that’s all we do—dream.

No matter your dream, whether it is photography based or any other kind, you have to take steps to make it a reality. You cannot just dream of something. Rather, you have to see it in your mind’s eye, visualize it, and then determine how you can progress step by step to live the dream.

My favorite movie of all time is Field of Dreams. Ray has a strange dream that everyone else thinks is ridiculous and silly. I find it similar in many ways to what Noah must have gone through as he was building an ark on dry land. This just doesn’t make sense! But the dream drives Ray to plow under his corn crop and build a baseball diamond in the middle of his fields. It takes determination and time, step by step planning, and patience; but Ray’s dream is finally realized in a big way. It turns out that he slightly misinterpreted the dream. He thought that “build it and he will come,” meant that if he built the field then Shoeless Joe Jackson would come to play on it. This did happen, but what the dream really meant was that if he built the field, then his dad would come to play on it and give Ray a unique opportunity to have a catch with his dad.

Not all of our dreams are going to come true. Usually, however, these dreams don’t come true because we never move beyond the dreaming stage. Action is required.

What are you doing to make your dreams come true?

Bears Baseball

Pleasant Valley hosted the Mounties of Stroudsburg today. This is a long-time rivalry and both teams are doing well this year. The playoffs are next week, so this game was being watched by everyone who could be there. PV started on top with a 2-run homer by Pat Kregeloh, who also was the pitcher for the Bears. He hit a second  home run later in the game, but Stroudsburg stole home in the top of the 7th inning to tie the game at 5. Derrick Walling reached first when he was hit by a pitch in the bottom of the 7th. Travis Raseley put down a very nice sacrifice bunt to put the winning run on 2B. Tim Shea came to the plate and stroked a single into right field for the winning RBI. What a game!

There were many great moments to photograph during this game! The problem was where to focus my attention at times, wondering where the action might take place next. It was an action-packed game and one that I will remember for a long, long time. Anticipating where the next play is going to take place helps in being ready to capture the action on the field. I always have scenarios in my mind as I try to anticipate what might happen next. Selecting an area and pre-focusing on that area is often a good approach. There are times, of course, when the action takes place quickly and in places you never expected. This is why always being ready is imperative.

I cannot for the life of me figure out how some people think that baseball is boring. To me it is the best game in the world and I will keep putting myself in places where I can try to capture the action. I will be ready for the next game, will you?

Lightroom

I cut my teeth on film photography. Time spent in the darkroom was enjoyable for me. It just seemed like magic as a sheet of paper was placed into a tray of developer and the image slowly appeared. I enjoyed the entire process. I even created a makeshift darkroom in my apartment where I could develop my film and therefore save some time in the darkroom at Temple University. That was then, and now we enjoy digital photography.

The darkroom has been replaced with Lightroom. For those of you who don’t know, Lightroom is an Adobe software package that allows us to catalog, edit, print, create slideshows and web galleries. Yes, it is all done in the light! No longer do we need a darkroom to process our photographs.

I was introduced to Lightroom by my good friend and colleague, Dick McCreight. At first, I wasn’t too keen on purchasing another software package. But when I saw Dick moving around so easily and quickly in Lightroom, I sat up straighter to take a closer look. Then, when Dick showed me all the powerful features of Lightroom I was sold. I decided to download the free 30-day trial and the rest is history.

I now use Lightroom after every event I photograph. Web galleries are created for my website in Lightroom and the process is quick and easy. Just like in the old darkroom, I can crop, dodge, and burn an image. I also catalog my photographs in Lightroom, keeping track of my best photos and creating a variety of collections to use for slideshows or print orders. Lightroom has become my favorite photo software!

If you haven’t tried Lightroom yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try.

Wildlife Wednesday

All the rain we’ve been having lately makes me think, “I’m glad I’m not an animal!” We are spoiled I suppose. We can wear thermal underwear, pile  jackets, and GoreTex parkas. This combination of layers not only keeps the rain off of our skin, but we stay warm at the same time! Whenever I pause to consider what the Indians and early settlers wore back in their day, I realize how hardy they had to be to survive. Yes, we are spoiled in so many ways.

Photographing wildlife requires dealing with inclement weather. If you are only going to work on sunny, clear days then you will be limiting yourself tremendously. Besides, the light for photography is actually better with an overcast sky. Yesterday I was photographing a baseball game and the sky was gray and overcast. Immediately I could see that the uniform colors were brilliant and bold in this type of light. Part of the trouble in wildlife photography is trying to separate the subject from its environment. God made these animals with built-in camouflage so they can blend into their natural habitat and be hidden from predators. I’ve written an article about the advantage of wearing camouflage when photographing wildlife. It certainly works for animals and it can work for us photographers as well. The problem is that the wildlife blends in so well with nature. Our task is to draw out the animal from its elusive background so the viewer can actually see it. Light definitely helps with this. Side light, in particular, helps to reveal texture and other details of a subject.

Pay close attention to the light because it changes not only by the time of day, but even, at times, moment by moment. This will enhance your wildlife photography immensely and help to draw your subjects out of the background. Oh, yeah, and don’t be afraid to brave the elements and photograph wildife in inclement weather.

More Baseball!

Today I photographed part of the Lehighton vs. Pleasant Valley baseball game. They were rained out yesterday and today they had to start by finishing a suspended game from two weeks ago due to rain. April showers have turned into May showers and it was cold today.

The Bears beat the Indians in the first game by a score of 12 to 3. Travis Raseley launched a grandslam over the left field fence to add four more insurance runs in the top of the 7th inning. The second game was tied 2 to 2 when I had to leave in the middle of the third inning.

Photographing a baseball game is enjoyable. I love to anticipate where the action will take place and each time the ball is put into play there are any number of things that can happen. A base runner might steal second. A hitter might hit a homerun. A pitcher might strike out the side. Captuing these moments with my camera is one of my most favorite pasttimes.

Today, when Raseley hit his grand salami, I tracked him with my camera as he approached and then rounded third base and made his way to the plate. The smile on his face told the whole story! You can view the photos here to see what I am talking about.