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…

It ain’t over till it’s over

(How many photography blogs out there quote Yogi Berra? Just sayin’….) During the 1973 baseball season, Yogi Berra was asked about his last place Mets’ chances in the pennant race. His reply, “It ain’t over till it’s over,” was greeted with chuckles, but Yogi got the last laugh when the Mets rallied to make it all the way to the World Series. I couldn’t help…

Dressed for chill

A regrettable reality of my life is that the best conditions for photography are usually the absolute worst conditions to be outside. Fortunately, I’ve been hardened by decades of San Francisco Giants games at Candlestick Park, the coldest place on Earth. As a photographer, I continue to embrace my mantra for warmth at the ‘Stick: Too much is always better than not enough. For me it’s all about…

Sanity check

Are you insane? Albert Einstein defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Hmmm. For some reason this makes me think of the thousands of aspiring landscape photographers with portfolios brimming with beautiful images that they can’t sell. Despite a great eye for composition, all the latest gear, insider knowledge of the best locations, and virtual guru status with Photoshop, somehow they haven’t managed to separate themselves from the large pack…

My 2016

Tonight the calendar clicks over to a new year, ready or not. Most are ready. The general consensus is that 2016 has been a difficult year. Our warming planet lost too many creative souls, and was rubbed raw by contentious elections in every hemisphere. But here we are knocking on the door of 2017. I’m lucky to have photography and the dose of perspective it provides. Whether it’s a…

The nature of time

A few years ago I listened to an NPR show about Time and the arbitrary ways we earthlings measure it. The guest’s thesis was that the hours, days, and years we measure and monitor so closely are an invention established (with increasing precision) by science and technology to serve society’s specific needs. The question posed to listeners was, “What is the most significant measure…

Less sky, more canyon

Don Smith and I just wrapped up 13 days and two workshops at Grand Canyon. Bookending the trip with 12+ hour drives, each day we had 4:30 a.m. wake-ups, lots of waiting for something to happen punctuated by bursts of extremely intense activity, and very late dinners. Both groups enjoyed the full complement of monsoon thrills, including thunder and lightning, rainbows, dramatic clouds, and vivid sunrises and sunsets…