Cameras are stupid

In a previous life I spent several years doing technical support. For me job-one was convincing people that, despite all error messages to the contrary, they are in fact smarter than their computers. Most errors occur because the computer just didn’t understand: If I misspell a wurd, you still know what I mean (rite?); not so with a computer. A computer can’t anticipate, reason,…

Shoot the moon

Moonlight photography is both simple and rewarding. In my “Shoot the Moon” article that appeared in the April 2010 Outdoor Photographer magazine, I shared my exposure recipe and a few tips to ensure moonlight success. This post summarizes the moonlight material from that article. Equipment for moonlight photography At the very least you need a tripod sturdy enough to support your camera. And while…

Let’s get vertical

Whose bright idea was it to lable horizontal images “landscape,” and vertical images to be “portrait”?  To them, let me just say: “Huh?” As a landscape-only photographer, about half of my images use “portrait” orientation. Sometimes I wonder if this unfounded naming bias explains why so many people default to a horizontal orientation for their landscape images, missing some great opportunities to improve their photography in…

Naturally saturated

Okay, let’s have a show of hands: Who read my previous post? If you did, you no doubt remember my lament that photographing a redwood forest isn’t easy. Problem number one is the bright sky that always seems to find its way through even the most dense forest canopy, scattering small patches of sunlight that simply don’t play well with the prevailing shade. Rain…

Seeing the forest for the trees

Photographing a redwood forest is an exercise in humility. Even on the brightest of days, a mature redwood forest is twilight-dark, not a problem until you realize that its nearly cave-like setting is invariably marred by random spots of daylight that seem designed to taunt your camera’s limited dynamic range. Any attempt to capture the forest’s exquisite shadow detail is peppered with distracting blown…

Shoot now, think later

Magic moments in nature are rarely static, and reacting to them as they happen is rarely productive. But taking the time to do you homework helps you anticipate these special moments well enough to consistently put yourself in position before they happen. Understanding the conditions necessary for a rainbow, anticipating a sky favorable for a colorful sunset, and  plotting the moon’s position above an…

My camera can beat up your camera (and other photography myths)

The difference between a pro and an amateur photographer Want to know how to tell a pro landscape photographer from an amateur? Here are a few telltale indicators: The pro photographer has no emotional attachment to her camera and refuses to invest any energy in the “My camera can beat up your camera” debate The pro photographer is the one with duct tape on…

Bracketing in the digital age

Remember the uneasy days of film, when we never knew whether we had exposed a scene properly until the film was processed? As insurance we’d bracket our exposures, starting with the exposure we believed to be right, then hedge our bets by capturing the same composition at lighter and darker exposure values. Today digital capture gives us instant exposure confirmation, yet the practice of exposure…

Photographing the Grand Canyon: It’s not as easy as it looks

As a photographer weaned on the no less breathtaking but far more finite confines of Yosemite, transitioning to photographing the Grand Canyon shattered a long-established template for success. In Yosemite Valley I’m surrounded by looming walls as familiar as they are spectacular. Attempts to capture Yosemite’s grandeur generally involve isolating or combining specific subjects: El Capitan, Half Dome, Yosemite Falls, and so on. But…

Conveying a three dimensional world in a two dimensional medium

With the (seemingly endless) upward spiral of digital resolution comes a fair amount of hand wringing over the future relevance of still photography as an art form. It’s currently possible to pan a scene with a digital video camera and pluck individual frames for web use. And what, the paranoid landscape photographer laments, will we do when everyone with a high-resolution digital SLR can…