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…

Is it spring yet?

March 3, 2011 With all the recent snow posts, it’s kind of hard to believe that spring has arrived in California. We’re still getting rain here in the Central Valley (and snow in the Sierra), but Northern California skies are more blue than gray, and colorful blossoms are popping up everywhere. While the soon-to-be-ubiquitous foothill poppies haven’t quite kicked in, I know by the…

Are you insane?: A control freak’s prescription for photographic success*

  * This message isn’t for everybody. If your photographic pleasure derives from simply breathing fresh air and admiring the view, or if your camera is just an accessory that helps you share and relive those outdoor experiences later, you’re already a successful photographer. But if you aren’t achieving the results you long for, either in the quality of your images or the attention…

Simple

Yesterday NPR and Jazz24.org released their Jazz 100, “the 100 quintessential jazz songs of all time.” Topping the list was one of my jazz favorites, the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s “Take Five.” Listening to “Take Five” this morning I was particularly struck by the simplicity of its sound, and it occurred to me that simplicity is an essential and often overlooked element in photography. Spend a…

Don’t mess with the Tripod Police

The Tripod Police You’re wandering the banks of the Merced River in Yosemite near sunset when, without warning, El Capitan emerges from a swirl of clouds; at your feet a mirror reflection of the scene mingles with smooth granite rocks. Bringing your camera to your eye, you find the composition that works best is a 30mm vertical frame. But keeping El Capitan and the…

Make the world your own

Pretend you’re a musician who wants to make music your career. Let’s say Eric Clapton is your favorite artist, and “Layla” is your favorite song. Do you think your quickest path to fame and fortune would be to record a song that perfectly replicates “Layla”? (Especially given the difficulty you’d have resurrecting Duane Allman.) So why is it that so many nature photographers with…