It’s All a Blur: Photographing Moving Water

One of the questions I’m asked most is how to blur water. It’s really not that hard when you know how to control your exposure variables, and in fact if you’re photographing moving water in the right light, it’s easier to blur the water than it is to freeze it. Here are the essential elements for blurred water: Sturdy tripod: The longer the shutter is…

The first rule of photography: Just show up

A man with a plan It was New Year’s Eve and I was perched on a cliff overlooking Yosemite Valley, two feet from certain death and ten minutes from the rise of the largest full moon of 2018. While the death thing would have only been a problem if I’d have lost my mind, the moon’s appearance was entirely subject to the whims of…

Two sides of the same coin

As a self-employed landscape photographer, I’m governed by far more primitive time measurement constructs than the bustling majority. I work when there’s work to be worked, and (fingers crossed) play when there’s play to be played. The business side of my life sometimes requires a clock and calendar, but the actual photography part of my life is governed by fundamental laws of nature that…

(Another) Grand Canyon Lightning Show

Earlier this month Don Smith and I traveled to the Grand Canyon for our annual Grand Canyon Monsoon photo workshops. I enjoy every workshop, but as a true weather nerd, these monsoon workshops are particular highlights in my year, and in Northern California we just don’t get that much weather—that is, unless you consider homogenous blue (summer) or gray (winter) skies weather. For this…

The lightning show

I’ve always been something of a weather geek, the more dramatic the better. So when I can combine photography with dramatic weather, I’m in heaven. But as a lifelong Californian (where electrical storms are newsworthy), lightning photography usually requires a road trip. So… Each August, Don Smith and I pack our camera gear and Lightning Triggers and travel to the Grand Canyon to photograph the…

Workshop prep: It’s more than just showing up

A couple of years ago a friend joined a New Zealand photo workshop and found that his leaders had never been to New Zealand. In lieu of scouting, these leaders had done a lot of googling, studied some maps, and read a few guides. During the workshop, they were still trying to put things together without firsthand knowledge of drive-times, the length (or difficulty)…

Meeting a celebrity

For those who don’t recognize it, this is the much-photographed willow tree that inhabits Lake Wanaka on New Zealand’s South Island. I’ve seen it described “the most photographed tree in the world,” and while I doubt that’s true, it is at least among the world’s more photographed trees. Seeing a popular subject like this for the first time is a lot like meeting a…

Seeing the whole frame

Photographers are responsible for every square inch of their frame—not just the primary subject, but every other point of visual interest, and the relationships of those points to each other. Nevertheless, there’s a natural tendency give too much attention to the primary subject at the expense of the rest of the scene. The result is moments in nature that felt special in person fall flat in an image. I’m a…

The illusion of depth

It seems too obvious to mention, but I’ll say it anyway: Photography is a futile attempt to render a three-dimensional world in a two-dimensional medium. Unfortunately, that reality doesn’t seem to keep people from putting their eye to their viewfinder and clicking without regard for their camera’s unique view of the world. But here’s a secret: Anyone with a camera can manage the lateral (left-to-right)…

Managing light, depth, and motion in nature

Independent of composition, photographers have three scene variables to play with when setting up a shot: light, depth, and motion. And not so coincidentally, we have three exposure parameters with which to manage those variables: shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO. The exposure parameters have a reciprocal relationship—an increase/decrease in one can be compensated by a corresponding decrease/increase in another—but merely getting the “correct” exposure with a…