Archive for the ‘people’ Tag

Single-image Sunday: Surf Fishing   4 comments

I know it’s a bit lame, but I can’t help but apologize for my recently inconsistent Friday Foto Talk posts.  Blame it on that good old sense of guilt that everyone raised Catholic seems to suffer from.  Believe me I haven’t forgotten about it.  I’m also going to be collecting all of them into one or more e-books.  It surprises me to look back and see how many I’ve amassed over these past several years.  It’s a nice summary of my photography knowledge (which hopefully still has a long way to go)

In the meantime, enjoy this image from the other morning.  I’ve been rising in the pre-dawn every morning for work, but it mostly happens that the people I’m working with abhor starting before the sun is up.  The happy result is that I get to enjoy a peaceful sunrise somewhere.  On this morning I walked over the dunes just as the sun was breaking through and in time to see this fisherman casting into the breakers for snook.  In talking to him I detected an accent that made me think South African but with a small twist.  Turns out he was from east Africa.  Retired now, he walks up to the beach almost every morning for some surf fishing at sunrise.

Thanks for looking and have a great week.

Surf-fishing at sunrise, Atlantic Coast of Florida.  50 mm. Zeiss lens, 1/100 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Surf-fishing at sunrise, Atlantic Coast of Florida. 50 mm. Zeiss lens, 1/100 sec. @ f/13, ISO 200.

Friday Foto Talk: Photographing People ‘in Flow’ ~ Candids & Travel   Leave a comment

While shooting landscape in southern Utah, some hikers "rudely" inserted themselves into my photo. The nerve!

While shooting the landscape of southern Utah, these hikers “rudely” inserted themselves into my photo. The nerve!

If you haven’t been following along, I’ve been doing a little series on the idea of flow in photography.  Flow is that state of hyper-focus that we’ve all experienced, perhaps not enough in the modern era of distractions.  Last week’s Foto Talk looked at people photography in general, but was biased toward portraiture.  This week is a follow-up that focuses on my favorite kind of people photography: serendipitous candid shots done either traveling or while engaged with another subject (landscapes, as above, for example).

Two young Malawian boys who somehow didn’t become members of Madonna’s family.

Serendipity & Candids

Serendipity implies little or no thinking ahead.  But it’s okay to have a general approach.  It’ll vary depending on whether you know ahead of time that you’ll be photographing people.  And whether or not you like shooting without first asking permission.  But serendipity means at the very least that your subject(s) don’t know they’re going to appear in your photos until very close to the time you press the shutter.

  • Why should you do this kind of photography?  Say you’re traveling, whether on a short weekend trip close to home or half-way around the world.  You naturally want pictures, right?  Suppose on this trip you head out on foot to look for interesting stuff to photograph.  You might think you’ll be shooting buildings and “the sights”, but in most places you will come across people as well.  You already know they usually make the best images from a trip, and that’s because people speak to us of the place where they live much more strongly and eloquently than any building or mountain can.
I didn't even think about a shot of this Rasta woodcarver on the shores of Lake Malawi until he took a smoke break. I think he represents well the chill atmosphere of the lakeside part of that country.

I didn’t even think about a shot of this Rasta woodcarver on the shores of Lake Malawi until he took a smoke break. I think he represents well the chill atmosphere of the lakeside part of that country.

 

  • So whether or not your goal on a shoot is to photograph people, be ready anytime you’re out in even a lightly populated area.  I don’t always follow this advice, being somewhat shy most of the time.  But traveling in foreign lands is different; I’m much more outgoing.  I’ve learned that approaching people is easier than it seems.  For one thing they may be just as curious about you as you are of them, and for another many people want to help visitors, and that includes helping them get good photos.
Usually I have trouble approaching girls this pretty, but she and her friends turned out to be full of fun and easy to shoot.

Usually I have trouble approaching girls this pretty, but she and her friends turned out to be full of fun and easy to shoot.

  • The first question photographers who want candid travel shots ask themselves is, “to ask or not to ask first”.  While I do shoot the occasional picture when someone isn’t expecting it, I normally ask first.  But don’t make the mistake I made at first, which is to go right up and ask to shoot their picture.

 

  • Instead of letting your camera get in the way right off the bat, spend a little time with people before asking to shoot.  Minimize the fact you have a camera (I know, easier said than done when you have a big white lens!).  Be curious about them, advice that applies to all photography subjects.  And if you’re not genuinely curious, shoot something else.

 

  • As with all people photography (and in fact all photography), have fun!  When you approach strangers, joking around and even making a bit of a fool of yourself are sure-fire ice breakers.
This cute little Sherpa girl, who was shy at first, had such a big playful personality that I had to force myself to stop and get pictures.

This cute little Sherpa girl, who was shy at first, had such a big playful personality that I had to force myself to stop and get pictures.

 

  • All this engagement takes more time than if you simply shoot and move on to the next subject.  You may miss a shot or two by focusing on the person first and the pictures second.  And you’ll probably get fewer photos.  But the images you do get will hopefully be better, and most important they will mean more to you.

 

  •  Now it’s time to ask for pictures.  You can simply smile and ask, or you can take more of an indirect approach.  You could point out the aspects of the setting, light, or of your subject that attracted your attention and made you approach in the first place.  Whatever you do, be honest about what you want and respect their decision if they decline.
At first, this beauty in a remote little Zambian village said no. I didn't push, just photographed her friend who had said yes. Luckily she changed her mind.

At first, this beauty in a remote little Zambian village said no. I didn’t push, just photographed her friend who had said yes. Luckily she changed her mind.

 

  • There is one more issue that inevitably comes up when doing this kind of travel photography, and that’s how to express your gratitude if they say yes.  Your subject may request money, especially if you’re a tourist in a foreign country.  If it’s obvious that you are better off financially than they are, it becomes even more of a temptation to pay.  I generally don’t pay for pictures.  But there are a few exceptions, such as when someone has organized a way to direct a little tourist money to local people and I really want the pictures.  But I do believe that paying results in a less desirable relationship between photographer/tourist and subject/local.  I also think there are too many other ways to show gratitude (see below).  But ultimately whether or not you pay for pictures is a personal decision.
While I didn't pay this young Sherpa in a Himalayan teahouse directly, I did tip him well.

While I didn’t pay this young Sherpa in a Himalayan teahouse directly, I did tip him well.

 

  • Showing gratitude and sharing your pictures is about more than just showing the back of your camera.  While traveling I carry a small portable printer (Polaroid Pogo but there are others).  I print a wallet-size picture direct from the camera and it’s always a hit.  If they ask for emailed pictures, always always follow up.  I recommend you use low-resolution versions that are good for computer display.  Another great way to show gratitude if your subject is a vendor is to buy something.
Happy kids aren't hard to find in Cambodia, but I got great reactions from this group along Angkor Wat's moat when I handed out pictures. They are holding them and note my little red printer at lower left.

Happy kids aren’t hard to find in Cambodia, but these “urchins” along Angkor Wat’s moat were quite excited when I handed out pictures (which a couple are holding).  Note my little red printer at lower left.

That wraps up people photography & flow.  I hope you enjoyed the pictures.  Granted, some of the above points are not specific to the idea of flow.  It is good advice whether or not you experience flow while shooting candids.  But all of will help create a comfortable atmosphere, and to help both you and your subjects relax and have a good time.  It doesn’t guarantee experiencing flow but it sure helps.  Thanks for reading and have a grand weekend!

The sun sets on a southern Thailand beach as this fire-dancer practices for the evening performance.

The sun sets on a southern Thailand beach as this fire-dancer practices for the evening performance.

Foto Talk: Flow & Photographing People   4 comments

One of my favorite portraits, from Cambodia.

One of my favorite portraits, from Cambodia.

The series on flow continues.  I’d apologize for not posting this on Friday as usual.  But I have a pretty good excuse.  I was busy running away from a little storm called Hurricane Matthew.  Flow, or “being in the zone”, is that state of hyper-concentration and engagement that we’ve all experienced.  Check out Part I for ideas in flow with photography, and Part II for its connection with meditation.

 The goal of these last few posts is to apply the idea of flow to various common types of photography.  I started with, beginning with Landscape and continued with Travel.  You’ll find useful tips on each genre covered, some of which may not seem to have much to do with flow.  On the other hand, I’m not offering comprehensive tutorials on each type of photography here.   The posts don’t cover many of the basics, for example, concentrating instead on more subtle stuff.  I want people to not only make great pictures but to have great fun doing it; to experience the satisfaction of being able to shoot anything and everything well.

Whew!  I didn’t plan that tangent.  Now let’s look at photographing people.  Shooting any live subject, including pets and wildlife, is in many ways quite similar to people photography.  But for brevity’s sake I will focus on people here.

Candid portrait of a Nicaraguan vaquero.

Candid portrait of a Nicaraguan vaquero.

I believe one not often mentioned reason that novice photographers gravitate toward landscape is they believe it to be simpler than photographing people (which they’ve done a lot in snapshot mode).  It seems to be more straightforward to produce professional looking results when shooting landscapes, with rules that are easier to follow (do this and then that, and you’ll get beautiful pictures).

Of course this is not really true.  With either type of photography your goal should not just be technically good photos.  This is what so many of those people who have gotten into photography in recent years stops with.  I’ve said it more than once in this blog:  an excellent photograph elicits emotion and/or tells a story.  Since your viewers are human, it’s easier to reach into the emotional parts of their brains when you photograph people than any other subject.

This young Mayan girl from the Guatemalan Highlands was easy to approach.

I ran into this young girl on a hike in the Guatemalan Highlands.  I think her smile speaks eloquently of the natural playfulness and warmth of Mayan people.

People Photography Tips

  • As with all photography there are really no rules when photographing people.  The only “rules” are those that cover all social interactions, with or without camera.
  • In my opinion there are only three keys to photographing people:  (1) be curious about your potential subjects and what they’re up to; (2) spend a little time with them rather than expecting a quick shot; and (3) relax and have fun with them.  Notice I didn’t mention lighting.  Since light is important in all photography, it goes without saying.
  • Number 3 above is probably the most important thing when photographing people.  For me it’s critical that both photographer and subject have a good time.  That way the posing takes care of itself and is most natural.  Best of all, experiencing flow is easiest when you’re just shooting and playing around with someone.  Sure, shooting a professional head shot is going to be more structured, but even there you can make things relaxed, thus capturing a more natural facial expression.

I met this young Nordic couple at a nature reserve in Nicaragua and we had some fun times together before I asked to shoot their portrait. It made a difference.

  • Next, think about the kinds of images you want.  Do you want a portrait or something more candid and active?  How obvious should the surroundings & background be?  Do you want an image with the frame completely filled, as in the image at top?  Think about that stuff ahead of time and be very familiar with your gear.  That way when it’s time to click the shutter you can concentrate on your subject, not technical matters.  You’ll also have a better chance of experiencing flow while shooting
  • Most photography teachers will tell you to talk to your subjects, that silence is awkward.  While I agree, the nature of your interaction will depend on the situation.  You need to decide when to be interactive and when to slip into the background.  It’s a feel thing.  For example if you’re shooting a group, being a part of the fun and then quickly switching to passive observer role to shoot might get you a great candid.

Moving away and being passive observer is sometimes necessary, in this case to let the horses as well as the girl be themselves.

  • Since some interaction is always necessary, what should you talk about?  Be curious about their lives and keep it light.  Joking around, being self-deprecating, even making a bit of a fool of yourself, all that can help.  It’s fine to talk about the photography & what you’re after.  It can help keep them engaged.  But unless you’re shooting a pro model you can easily overwhelm and even bore your subject.  You don’t want forced and unnatural poses and expressions.  Finally, complimenting your subject will obviously make them feel good, leading to better pictures.  But pouring it on is usually (and correctly) viewed as being false.
Although she's a model, I found talking and joking with her made it easier to move in closer for this shot, necessary since I had a 50 mm. lens.

Although she’s a model, I found talking and joking with her made it easier to move in closer for this shot, necessary since I had a 50 mm. lens.

  • While I believe photographers tend to control posing too much, some direction is called for.  You have to move people around for the best light and background.  But you can do that in a sneakily natural way.  “Hey, that looks like a cool spot to get a few shots.”  Or, “a shot of you in front of that (background) would look good, wouldn’t it?”  They don’t have to know that you’re going to blur it.  Again, the thing is to make your time together come first and the photos second, in order to ‘let it flow’.

I will follow up on Sunday by looking at a distinctive sub-category of people photography: those serendipitous opportunities we often encounter while traveling.  Have a wonderful weekend and happy shooting!

After a fun afternoon with these two Botswanans, they couldn’t help but be relaxed and happy at sunset. Rare for me, I used a flash and balanced its output with the background light.  That usually takes a number of tries to get right, so a slow-paced, relaxed atmosphere was key.

Friday Foto Talk: Flow & Travel Photography   6 comments

Rising pre-dawn to climb Tajamulco, highest peak in Central America, a half-asleep state gave way to flow as the sun rose.

Rising pre-dawn to climb Tajamulco, highest peak in Central America, a half-asleep state gave way to flow as the sun rose.

Flow, or “being in the zone” is all the rage these days.  It’s considered to be how creative people create.  While that’s true, flow is not that uncommon.  We’ve all experienced it.  I heard a radio interview the other day and the guest referred to flow as something experienced by people at the highest level.  I think that’s too narrow a way to think about it.  Any time you get 100% engaged in an activity and lose track of time, you’re in flow.  Flow will help you progress toward expertise, but being very good at something isn’t a prerequisite for flow.

This series, which started with the idea and concept of flow, has moved on to how to foster the state in different types of photography.  Today let’s look at travel photography, which consists of shooting a wide variety of subjects in unfamiliar places.  I call the entire western U.S. my home area and by definition travel takes me to countries outside the U.S.  My travel photos lean heavily toward cultural subjects, including people, but includes landscape and wildlife.  While traveling I photograph far more people (and fewer landscapes) than I normally do.

A bit of a cliche, but prayer flags and the Himalaya are just too big a part of the scene in Nepal to pass up.

A bit of a cliche, but prayer flags and the Himalaya are just too big a part of the scene in Nepal to pass up.

When you’re traveling and shooting there is no shortage of distractions.  So flow is not that easy.  Here are a few tips:

  • Observe & Engage.  Just as it is with other kinds of photography, keen observation and then intense engagement with your subjects is a sure route toward experiencing flow.
  •  Filter & Focus.  Traveling can overwhelm the senses.  It’s one of the great things about it.  But in order to do your best photography focusing on the subjects that you want to shoot is necessary.  The kind of concentration required to capture images with strong subjects can help you experience flow while doing it.  I’m not saying you shouldn’t get a few overview shots that establish context and show the place you’re in (you could also do this with video).  But it’s easier to get into flow and capture good images if you zero in on one subject at a time, filtering out the rest.

With huge views of the Nepali Himalayas outside this teahouse, I shifted focus to smaller things.

  • Quality vs. Quantity.  Let’s be honest.  Travel can be hectic at times.  That’s probably inevitable.  But your whole trip doesn’t have to be this way.  If you plan an overly busy itinerary, you shouldn’t expect to experience flow while shooting.  And you should expect more snapshots than quality images.  You simply can’t have both quality and quantity, and this goes especially for traveling.  As you plan your itinerary, choose one or the other and be happy with the consequences of that decision.

 

  • Slow Down.  I prefer to plan a light itinerary and cover less area in more time.  This way I get to relax and spend some time with subjects.  When I take the camera out in some new place, randomly exploring with no real destination in mind, flow comes much easier than when I’m rushing to move on to the next place.  Leaving real time for deep exploration is a key to successful travel photography (and travel in general).  Of course during the trip there will always be those times when you have to hurry to catch a train or to check out.  Just don’t let that pace infect your entire journey.
Angkor Wat's West Gate is an easy subject to like, but it took patience and time to shoot it with pedaling commuters and the sun in the right position.

Angkor Wat’s West Gate is an easy subject to like, but it took patience and time to shoot it with pedaling commuters and the sun in the right position.

  • Make it About the Journey.  While it’s important to get to your destination in order to spend time exploring and shooting, the journey is at least as important.  Sometimes it’s more so.  You’ll encounter some of your best photographic subjects while you’re traveling from one place to another.  So a second key to travel photography is being ready at all times to capture images.  You may prefer your phone for this, or a small point and shoot camera.  It doesn’t matter, just keep observing and shooting things that are interesting along the way.
I was rushing to a waterhole where the game was supposed to be when I stumbled upon this cheetah stalking the grasslands: Etosha, Namibia.

I was rushing to a waterhole where the game was supposed to be when I stumbled upon this cheetah stalking the grasslands: Etosha, Namibia.

  • Be Flexible.  This is good advice anytime you travel, whether shooting seriously or not.  But consider this:  you can take yourself right out of your game if you get uptight about the inevitable changes and screw-ups that occur during any trip.  Being upset about things that are outside your control means you’re not about to enter flow anytime soon.  I won’t claim to be perfect in this regard.  But isn’t it better to look upon an unforeseen left turn in your trip as an opportunity to photograph something unexpected?  Go with the flow so you can experience flow!

I didn’t plan on attending this rough ‘n ready rodeo on Omotepe, Nicaragua. But I let my hosts drag me there and didn’t let their fun with my flag get in the way of a good time.

  • Be Outgoing.  Some of the best travel images are of people, often showing something of their unique culture.  But unless you play at being a paparazzi, you’ll need to break out of your shell and approach strangers in order to get good people shots.  Luckily, most people around the world (not all) are happy to be approached by tourists.  You may be rejected occasionally.  Don’t let that stop you.  All it takes is one great interaction to make your travel day.  Once you’re with an interesting local talking and laughing, all the time shooting great candids, photo flow can’t be far behind!
This Himba boy in northern Namibia was cute in how serious he was about standing tall and noble.

This Himba boy in northern Namibia was cute in how serious he was about standing tall and noble.

By the way, a future post will go into more depth about photographing people in strange (to you) surroundings.  Thanks so much for reading and have a wonderful weekend!

At Tikal, the ancient Mayan city in Guatemala, rainy weather and the late hour made it feel empty and helped me to experience photo flow.

At Tikal, the ancient Mayan city in Guatemala, rainy weather and the late hour made it feel empty and helped me to experience photo flow.

Wordless Wednesday: Kid Brothers   4 comments

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Two for Tuesday: Waterfall Photos   3 comments

The two-fer today is a little different than previous posts.  It’s something to think about if you get bored with a frequently-shot subject (flowers, rainbows, etc.).  In this case it’s waterfalls, which I shoot a lot of.

It takes a bit of effort to shoot a subject in a way that is authentically different than the usual way.  For me at least it also takes a certain mood, sort of a rebel attitude.  At Bennet Falls, a gorgeous cascade in the southern Appalachian foothills of eastern Tennessee, I decided without thinking about it much to do just that.

We hiked the trail down to the falls.  Since it was down, we arrived at the top before the bottom.  Shooting in front of a waterfall, usually at or near the bottom, is where most of us shoot from.

Despite a disaster that happened last year, I really like photographing from the top of a falls.  So I stopped and let the rest of our small little group proceed to the bottom.  It would’ve been worrisome for them to see me leaning out over the top in order to get a straight-down point of view.

This gave me an abstract that, like any shot from a height looking down gives, very little sense of depth.  Height is flattened when you do this.

Leaning out over the top looking straight down.

Leaning out over the top looking straight down.

Joining the group at bottom I started to go for standard shots of the beautifully tiered falls.  But the mood for something different was already on me, so I got my nephew Michael and his wife Cassie to pose in front.  It was her idea to kiss, and it was a good one!

The challenge was to get the kissing couple to remain as still so as not to be blurred during a long exposure.  But I didn’t go too long, just a half-second.  Why push my luck?  It turned out very nicely and I decided to give it a sepia tone.

A cascading kiss!

A cascading kiss!

I hope you like them.  Have a great week!

Posted March 31, 2015 by MJF Images in People, Photography

Tagged with , , , , ,

Friday Foto Talk: Reflections, Part II   8 comments

A calm wetland in the Montana Rockies greets the morning.

A calm wetland in the Montana Rockies greets the morning.

This is the second of two parts on that particular part of the light we encounter as photographers: reflection.  Reflected light can really enhance your images, but it is also a potential distraction.  There are several ways to control and use reflected light to your advantage during the capture phase.  There are additional things you can do during post-processing, but this post will focus on the capture phase.

By the way, I’ve been not posting this week because I’ve been offline, enjoying Mt. Rainier and Olympic National Parks.  Stay tuned for posts on these destinations. Meanwhile here’s a teaser:

Mount Rainier reflected in Bench Lake.

Mount Rainier reflected in Bench Lake.

Note that the images you see on my blog are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission.  If you do have interest in any of them, just click to go to the main gallery part of my website.  Once you have the large, high-res version of the image you like before you, just click “Purchase Options”.  Thanks for your interest, and please contact me if you have any questions.

The upper Snake River, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, flows across a wildlife-rich and lonely valley.

The upper Snake River, between Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, flows across a wildlife-rich valley.

Here on a frigid night at Yellowstone National Park, the moon is reflected in a hot pool even though the steam obscures it's shape above.

Here on a frigid night at Yellowstone National Park, the moon is reflected in a hot pool even though the steam obscures it’s shape above.

USING REFLECTIONS TO YOUR ADVANTAGE

      • First the bad news:  Reflections can be distracting, unattractive, and rob your scene of color.  The reason why I often use a circular polarizer on a drizzly cloudy day in the Oregon forest (all 8 months of it!) is that the leaves and needles, the rocks, even the soil, all of it is covered with a thin sheen of water.
      • What to do: If you want to bring out the verdant green of those leaves, the subtle hues of that rock standing in the stream, you need to at least partly block that reflection.  That is what a polarizer does for you.  It will also block the reflection from the top of the stream or lake, allowing you to see (if it’s shallow enough) the color of the rocks, gravel or logs beneath.  Be careful though.  Don’t always rotate the polarizer until the maximum reflected light is blocked. You might want some of that reflection in your image if it’s attractive.  Essentially, if a reflection is not adding color or depth to your image, it is usually taking away in some way.
The evergreen trees are turned gold and reflected in a mountain lake just outside Cave Junction in southwestern Oregon.

The evergreen trees are turned gold and reflected in a mountain lake just outside Cave Junction in southwestern Oregon.

Black and white works well for reflections too, as demonstrated here in the morning mist and fog at Mount Rainier National Park.

Black and white works well for reflections too, as demonstrated here in the morning mist and fog at Mount Rainier National Park.

      • A little more bad news:  Reflections, especially strong ones, can fool your light meter.  The light meter in your camera does not like extremes of light or dark. So it can mess up and underexpose your picture.  This is especially true if you place the center of your frame right on the brightest reflection in your composition.  If you use Live View, the little white square (it’s white on Canon cameras at least) that floats around inside your frame will read mostly that part of the scene and adjust exposure accordingly.
A Himba girl in Namibia is perfectly lighted by virtue of standing in the shade of a hut with blazing sunshine being reflected off the light-colored ground and back up into her smiling face.

A Himba girl in Namibia is perfectly lighted by virtue of standing in the shade of a hut with blazing sunshine being reflected off the light-colored ground and back up into her smiling face.

      • What to do:  Be careful where you place that white square when using Live View.  If you use Live View to frame and focus your shot, you can turn it off right before tripping the shutter.  That way you can use your camera’s (normally excellent) evaluative or matrix metering.  Basically, you want to meter off of not the absolute brightest thing in your frame but a peg or two down.

When I say “meter off of” I mean being in manual mode and pointing the center of your frame at what you wish to meter, setting aperture & shutter speed, then re-framing to get the image you want.  Or you could, if you prefer to be in another mode (say aperture priority), simply point the center of the frame at what you’re metering and press the exposure lock button.  Then while keeping it pressed, re-frame and take the picture.  Whatever you do, it is safest to review your picture on the LCD (including the histogram) right after capture, so you can re-shoot then and there if necessary.

A frog in a high mountain lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington is reflected in waters near the shore.

A frog in a high mountain lake at Mount Rainier National Park, Washington is reflected in waters near the shore.

      • Yay, the good news!  Reflections can really add to any image.  The better your sky looks, the more opportunity you’ll have to make y our foreground look better by using reflections.  Let’s take an example.  You are shooting a mountain lake with a beautiful sky where the sun has just set behind the hills.  The light from the sky bounces off the water and gives that part of your photo a lot of interest with the shadows of colorful cloud and azure sky being accentuated in the water.  Instead of getting too excited about that and framing your picture with only water down to the bottom, find an interesting part of the near shore (mud ripples, round rocks, etc.) to include.  If you position yourself right (often you’ll need to get pretty low), the light reflecting off the water can help to light up that extra foreground.  It might just provide rim light around the edges of the rocks.  All this adds depth and texture to your image.
Mount Rainier is reflected in a subalpine pond lined with avalanche lilies.

Mount Rainier is reflected in a subalpine pond lined with avalanche lilies.

A building in downtown Portland reflects the golden light of the setting sun.

A building in downtown Portland reflects the golden light of the setting sun.

      • More good news:  Reflections give you so many more options.  They are really a good friend if you’re into abstracts.  The way sunlit water behaves in streams or in the wind provides fascinating compositions.  In cities you can much more easily shoot into the sun when there are abundant reflective surfaces.  You can put away the flash when you’re photographing someone under a tree or the eave of a building if there is an adjacent marble patio or walk.  You can play around with mirror effects, using store or car windows to put figures & faces in very compelling spots within your compositions.
An example of an abstract composition using reflections: water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

An example of an abstract composition using reflections: water from springs collects in Snow Canyon, Utah.

Reflections are all around you.  They make up, after all, approximately one half of the natural light you use as a photographer.  Use them to your advantage, be aware of their ability to intrude on your images, and above all, have fun with them.

An empty beach along the lower Columbia River in Oregon glows with a colorful summer sunset.

An empty beach along the lower Columbia River in Oregon glows with a colorful summer sunset.

Wordless Wednesday: Big Smile   Leave a comment

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Friday Foto Talk: Travel Photography, Part III   9 comments

An empty beach invites exploration on Costa Rica's remote Osa Peninsula.

An empty beach invites exploration on Costa Rica’s remote Osa Peninsula.

This is the third and final installment in this series on travel photography tips.  I hope you’ve enjoyed and gotten something out of them.  Check out Part I and Part II if you haven’t already.  If you are interested in any of the pictures just click on them and you will see options for purchase of the high-resolution versions.  Please contact me if you have any questions.

      • What to Photograph:  You should have done some research on what to seek out and photograph while on your trip.  But if you didn’t do much, so what?  Just hit up a gift shop when you arrive and check out the postcards.  They will tell you what is often photographed in that place.  You might not want to take most of those pictures, but it is only a good thing to know what they are.  Don’t be shy, ask questions about the subjects in the pictures.  Hit up the proprietor or buy the card(s) and approach locals on the street with questions about what’s pictured.  This can yield much more than how to get to the particular spot.  Think of postcards as springboards for further exploration.

A boy in a village in northern India gazes with a peculiar intensity.

      • Roaming & People Pics:  I mentioned wandering above, but I want to stress that there is one good reason that a plan is not really necessary.  That reason is people.  There are almost certainly going to be people anywhere you go, and they are endlessly fascinating subjects for your pictures.  While I am normally quite reserved around home, I open up on the road.  Especially in different countries, I’m willing to sort of make a fool of myself.  I approach people readily, perhaps make a joke, and ask to take some photographs.  Most say yes.  Sometimes I even take their picture first then go up and explain why I just took their picture.  My reason is usually flattering.  As you might know, flattery will get you everywhere.

Two young Sherpa friends haul equipment on the trail to Namche Bazaar in Nepal.

      • Children:  I hate seeing tourists with cameras converge on kids and you see the kids aren’t into it.  It’s one thing if a group of laughing children approach you and ham it up.  But you should always ask about and look for their parents.  Ask the parents if it’s okay first.  Just don’t be one of those doofuses in the Himalayan village cornering a couple young friends just being themselves and feeling slightly threatened by all the pasty tourists pressing in with their cameras.

Upon waking very early on only my 3rd morning in Africa, I stepped outside to see this stately female Thornicroft's giraffe in Zambia's South Luangwa National Park.

      • Elderly:  There is a sort of axiom out there about travel photography that kids and old people are what you should focus on.  This might be true as far as the impact of the images, but I don’t generally go along with it.  I think there are all sorts of interesting people out there: young, old and in between.  But kids and the elderly are probably most likely to have the time to give you.  Just don’t treat the elderly like some people treat kids – as if they have no real say in the situation.  Treat everybody the same, with respect for them and their time.

A woman in the Himalaya of Nepal is proud of her vegetable garden, and her grandson.

      • Communication:  A nice smile and willingness to chat is always good.  Sometimes language is a barrier.  But you can just share what pictures you’ve taken with them (via the LCD) and have a laugh.  It’s important to make some kind of connection, and make clear from the beginning that you’re into taking pictures.  Don’t be shy about that.

In Etosha, Namibia, my patience paid off.  After 2+ months in Africa, I had not seen a cheetah.  Then I happened on a mother and these two cuties.

      • Sharing:  It goes without saying, if you promise to send pictures of people that you’ve taken, you need to follow through.  Doing it while on the road is the best option.  But I carry a Polaroid Pogo printer, a pocket-sized printer that uses no ink and connects directly to my DSLR via a mini-USB cable.  It produces wallet-sized prints.  I give out prints for people who cooperate and with whom I’ve spent time.  I don’t go crazy (you can only carry so much paper), but it has greased many a wheel believe me.  I just found out, however, that they have almost quadrupled the price on these.  The new ones have bluetooth, but I paid $45 and they are now about $160!  I can’t really recommend this thing (which produces, after all, rather poor quality prints) at that new price.  But if you can find an older one, go for it.

The spectacular peak of Taboche looms above the trekking route to Everest Base Camp in Nepal.

      • Money:  Should you pay for pictures or not?  If a person is dressed up like his ancestors and is accompanied by a bored animal, you can bet you need to.  But in most cases it’s optional; always has been.  I don’t generally do it.  But since in the case of other countries (where you are more likely to be asked to pay) the people I want to photograph are on the street and thus may likely be selling something, I will simply buy something from them.  Then I’m not some tourist with a camera but a customer.  Or if they ask for money I might offer them a small print (from the Pogo – see above), explaining that it’s not my “thing” to pay for photos.  Like all rules, this rule of mine has exceptions, but I try pretty hard to stick to it.

An attractive couple of locals from the Nicaraguan island of Omotepe take a break from riding their horses in a local parade.

      • Relax:  I think everyone should read Tao de Ching before they travel.  Trust me I’ve tried too hard when traveling, usually only for the first couple days though.  Just take it as it comes.  If it rains, get an umbrella and shoot interesting city stuff.  If it’s hot get out early and late, taking advantage of “pool light” in the mid-day.  Shoot what interests you in the place you’re in and don’t stress about things.  You want to have a good time on your trip, so you should be willing to miss some shots and keep your “let the good times roll” vibe in place.  For one thing, you’ll get better people shots with a fun carefree attitude.  Have fun!

A lone jet skier motors across Lake Powell, Arizona at dusk.

Okay, I’m tired of this subject for now.  There is more, probably much more, to say on this subject.  If you have something to add, or any questions, let it fly!  I’ll probably be posting on this subject in the future, and many of my posts are travel-related anyway.  Thanks for reading!

A relaxing walk on the beach is a great way to take life easy when on the road.  Get a picture while you're at it.

Friday Foto Talk: Travel Photography Tips, Part II   3 comments

A misty view of some of the major temples at Tikal, the huge ancient Mayan city in Guatemala.

A misty view of some of the major temples at Tikal, the huge ancient Mayan city in Guatemala.

This is the second of three parts on travel photography.  Check out Part I, which covered gear & packing issues.  Given the time of year, this subject may be “right in your wheelhouse” , as they say.  So here are tips for when you hit the ground running (or jetlagged?).  Exciting stuff that first day on a long trip!  But how to go about getting your best shots?  Read on…

ON TOUR

      • Be ready:  While traveling, always be on the lookout for interesting photos.  This sounds obvious I realize, but many people seem to think their camera comes out only when they reach their destination.  As it is often said, it’s about the journey, and so should your photos be.  Many people get this of course, and I don’t want to preach.  Just keep your camera handy and ready to shoot from the time you leave home; that is my advice.
A common bird along Africa's waterways, the darter, is also known as the "snake bird" because of its sinuous neck.  I took a boat on the Chobe River to get this shot.

A common bird along Africa’s waterways, the darter, is also known as the “snake bird” because of its sinuous neck. I took a boat on the Chobe River to get this shot.

      • Start Slow:  If you fly a long ways, this is more important.  You will be jetlagged and/or adjusting to a completely different environment.  This is not a good time to be lugging all your photo gear around trying to imitate a crack photojournalist or Nat. Geo. stud.  In fact, this is a good excuse for pocketing your little point and shoot (which I recommend taking if you’re a DSLR person) and just wandering around shooting only when you see something you like.  Colorful murals, sculptures, you know, the easy stuff!  Beware:  that first day or so is by far the most likely time for you to be ripped off, or at least persuaded to buy something way too expensive.  You’re tired, naive and trusting.  It can be a good thing, just be careful.
Colorful murals like this one in Guatemala are an easy target for your camera while traveling.

Colorful murals like this one in Guatemala are an easy target for your camera while traveling.

      • Light is still important:  Get out early and be out late.  I see so many travel photos taken in horribly harsh light, even by people who usually shoot in great light near home.  The rules for good light, good photography, they don’t change because you are on the opposite side of the world.  Just because you are in front of a gorgeous and iconic sight like the Grand Canyon doesn’t mean your photo will turn out great if it is taken in bad light.  That said, when confronted with an amazing subject or event, shoot away, to heck with the light!
A young Mayan lady high up in the Guatemalan highlands, in the village of Todos Santos, one of 3 friends I met & had a barrel of laughs with.

A young Mayan lady high up in the Guatemalan highlands, in the village of Todos Santos, one of 3 friends I met & had a barrel of laughs with.

      • Wander:  There is nothing more exciting about travel than to head out with not much of a plan and an open attitude.  Seems obvious; that’s why you travel, right?  If I’m driving, I head down random side-roads.  In other countries, I will get off the bus if I like what I’m seeing and catch a later one.  Wandering the streets of a new town, especially in the early morning hours, gives you a different take on the place from those tourists who are sleeping in or doing the pool scene at the hotel.
Chili Peppers dry on a windowsill in the Himalayan village of Khumjung, Nepal.

Chili Peppers dry on a windowsill in the Himalayan village of Khumjung, Nepal.

      • Experiment:  You are traveling and in a strange place.  This is the time to take chances with your photography.  Try panning in colorful cities.  Look for unusual and gritty subjects.  Just take care to not exploit the locals, no matter their economic circumstance.  Another way to look at this is experimenting with your point of view.  Try new things!  It will get you into places from which you can take photos from a perspective that will definitely liven up your collection.  You might also meet interesting people you might never have run into had you not stretched your boundaries.
Experimental sunset, shot from a speeding boat in Sian Kaan lagoon in the Yucatan, Mexico.

Experimental sunset, shot from a speeding boat in Sian Kaan lagoon in the Yucatan, Mexico.

I climbed higher than I've ever done before while in Nepal - 6200 meters (20,350 feet).  Seemed like the thing to do.

I climbed higher than I’ve ever done before while in Nepal – 6200 meters (20,350 feet). Seemed like the thing to do.

      • Attend Local Events:  Related to the above point, be on the lookout for special festivals and events.  When the locals party, you can be sure there will be great pictures to be had.  If you have a little lead time, you can even chat up people you meet and offer to take pictures of them during the event.  You can even trade copies of the pictures for model releases.  I did this in Nicaragua for the family I was staying with, and oh boy what a party it was (see image below)!  I even ended up having my photography pay for my lodging and food too.
A wild and wooly Nicaraguan rodeo on the island of Omotepe was a riot of parades, parties and drunken bull-mania!

A wild and wooly Nicaraguan rodeo on the island of Omotepe was a riot of parades, parties and drunken bull-mania!

      • Variety is the spice with travel, so mix it up!  Get up close for detail shots, find expansive viewpoints, seek out very colorful abstracts (street murals are a gimme) and find good subjects for black and white.  Don’t eschew the over-photographed classics, just try to get a different take on them.  The goal is to not have any two or three pictures look very much alike.  Take a lot of pictures, yes, but make sure they aren’t all the same.
When on road trips, take pictures of the road!  But make it an interesting point of view.  This shot I got by climbing up well above this tunnel in Zion National Park, Utah.

When on road trips, take pictures of the road! But make it an interesting point of view. This shot I got by climbing up well above this tunnel in Zion National Park, Utah.

That’s it for now.  Stay tuned next Friday Foto Talk for the final segment, Part III.  If you’re interested in any of these images, just click on them to get pricing options for the high-resolution versions.  They are copyrighted and not available for download without my permission, sorry.  Questions?  Just contact me.  Thanks for reading!

A beautiful summer evening in Cape Town, and an illuminated Table Mountain looms over the city.  View from Signal Hill.

A beautiful summer evening in Cape Town, and an illuminated Table Mountain looms over the city. View from Signal Hill.

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