Here’s a quick look inside (well, really, outside!) my workshop at the 2011 Telluride Photo Festival. As always, many thanks to my sponsors Mark Miller Subaru, Arc’teryx, Mountain Khakis, Singh Ray Filters, Manfrotto School of Xcellence and Clikelite Backpacks. Many thanks to my assistant Nate Sorensen for putting the video together!
I recently answered several interview questions for a photography student and one of their projects. Thought it might interest some of you readers out there. I’ll post several of these questions/answers in coming weeks. See question #1 here.
2. How long did it take before you were able to fully support yourself through photography? What did you do in the meantime?
I studied PR in college, and worked in PR capacities in the ski industry for about five years after college. During that time, I established my photography business. I obtained a business license and began learning the business side of photography. I worked on my photography business every second I wasn’t working on my PR job. I traveled for my day job to major cities like San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Vancouver and elsewhere. I took my camera with me everywhere—woke up early and stayed out late shooting, while my PR appointments and duties took up the working day hours.
I had my “side business” for about two to three years before finally taking the leap and committing to photography full time for my living. It’s been just under three years, and it’s the best decision I’ve ever made. I love waking up and knowing there’s no limit to what I might accomplish on any given day. It comes with its pitfalls as well, but there’s nothing better than working for yourself.
3. How much time to you spend on marketing and promotion versus shooting?
This really depends on the week/season, but generally, it’s probably 65/35 (marketing/shooting). I’ve always said the hardest part of running a photography business is, in fact, running a photography business. This requires an understanding of when to shoot, and when to sit in your chair and get on the email, social media, phone calls, self promo and everything else that contributes to a successful business. Some photographers kid themselves into thinking that a skilled trigger finger will be their golden ticket to success. Shooting A+ images might make you a skilled photographer, but it won’t necessarily make you a successful business person.
I recently answered several interview questions for a photography student and one of their projects. Thought it might interest some of you readers out there. I’ll post several of these questions/answers in coming weeks.
Q: You cover a variety of fields – how did you get into each, do you feel more passionately about one over the other, does one bring in more work?
A: I found my passion for photography in scenic landscape work. That really made up the majority of my portfolio early on. It was natural for me, and I loved the fact that I didn’t need to rely on anyone else to excel at this type of photography. It was just me and Mother Nature. No athletes, no truckload of extra equipment. No stylist. No creative director. No one—but me. That meant that the entirety of my success or failure could be blamed on or awarded to one individual (myself), and ultimately it made me into the intense self critic and perfectionist that I am today.
Soon enough, I began to shoot more active lifestyle work, but it was much more difficult for me to commit to shooting activities like fly fishing and skiing. I loved DOING them too much to put my photography first. I still have a great time participating in these activities, but I know when to put my photography first. I also know when to put the camera down, and cave to my need for a little “me” time on the mountain or the river.
As I began to look at photography from more of a business standpoint, I realized that a) scenic work was difficult to sell/license and b) active lifestyle work was much easier to sell/license. After that came the epiphany that although there was money to be made in the action sports arena, it wasn’t prolific. Soon, I began looking into commercial architectural work, and in a broader sense, I began to hone in on travel/tourism and destination clients. My ideal commercial client is one that needs superb imagery that conveys a sense of place and experience. They need scenic work, active lifestyle work and architectural work—think destination resorts.
To this day, I still love scenic landscape work most. It’s what first made me fall in love with photography. Active lifestyle is a close second—it gets me out doing what I love, and the more I shoot it, the more opportunity I find to share the experience in unique and different ways. Commercial destination work pays a good part of my bills. I enjoy it for sure, but it’s definitely not first on my list by any means.
It’s been a fantastic first week of our photo tour through Southeast Asia with M&M Photo Tours! Time is always scarce on these jam packed jaunts, so I’ll just throw up a few images and hopefully get a bit more time to delve into the details later. So far, highlights have included seeing the annual lantern festival in Luang Prabang, visiting the crazy markets in Hanoi and wandering the terraced rice fields of Sapa. We take a night train back to Hanoi tonight, and then it’s off to spend an evening on one of the most beautiful areas of shoreline in the world: Ha Long Bay. 84 gb of memory shot so far, many bowls of pho devoured, far less mosquito bites than one would expect, and countless unforgettable experiences. Here’s to another week through Indochina!
I had the recent pleasure of participating in the Telluride Photo Festival. As its namesake implies, this festival is located in one of the premier locations for fall foliage in the Rocky Mountains. Telluride is hopelessly beautiful, rugged and even a bit remote. It’s a classic mountain town, with over the top log homes, deluxe lodges and a bustling main street with an eclectic array of galleries, eateries and boutiques.
My focus throughout the week was threefold: teaching a three-day workshop on capturing the complete outdoor image, attendee portfolio reviews, and a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. All told, it was a busy week full of beautiful imagery, lots of laughs and new relationships forged with wonderful people. I was joined by my trusty assistant/sidekick, Nate Sorensen and we had a blast driving countless dirt roads through a winding maze of foliage, underbrush and cattle guards in search of inspiring locations for my workshop. The Mark Miller Subaru Outback was a rally machine! Minor note, however: the road tires that came with Suby are not meant for some of Colorado’s finer dirt road shred sessions.
Located at the head of a deep box canyon, Telluride (elev. 8,750 ft.) is already a significant hop, skip and jump above sea level. That should give some indication as to how tall the surrounding peaks are. The San Juan mountain range makes up a healthy portion of those surrounding peaks, and they’ve long been a fall photography destination at the top of my list. They did not disappoint.
Huge, sprawling stands of aspen were peppered with yellow, orange and green splotches of color, only to stand in stark contrast against sky scraping peaks like Wilson Peak and Mt. Sneffels. Spending the whole week in the area, it was interesting to see nature’s subtle nuances as colors ebbed and flowed each day. It’s amazing how much an area can change overnight, and we were certainly witness to this in many of the classic drives in the area.
There are countless sunrise/sunset photo locations in the area, and we were fortunate to have gorgeous dawn skies at both the Dallas Divide and West Dallas Creek Road. Especially with clear skies and uninteresting weather, dawn/dusk are some of the best times to capture saturated, even colors with deep skies. The lack of direct light, and the glow emanating from the far horizon make for fantastically detailed landscapes that have a rich, subtle glow to them. It wasn’t uncommon to see most people show up to similar locations 20 minutes or so after we’d begun shooting. By that time, skies were pale, and we were preparing for first light.
We were blessed with ominous clouds and killer color at Lizard Head Pass one evening for sunset. Low light and intermittent overcast skies made for fantastic directional lighting as well as soft, diffused indirect light. The greatest thing about fall is the way the landscape and color changes with different types of light. The workshop was a huge success, and my group of students was fantastic–always eager to learn and practice some of the new technique they’d learned with their Singh Ray Filters.
Towards the end of the week, five straight days of 5 am wakeup calls had caught up to us. I took a breather from sunrise shoots and focused my efforts on portfolio reviews. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of work. It’s always an inspiration to see work from other photographers (whether aspiring or veteran) and it never fails to give me a new outlook on the world in which we live.
I wrapped up the week with a seminar on environmental active lifestyle imagery. Many thanks to my sponsors Arc’teryx, Clikelite Backpacks and Mountain Khakis for providing some schwag to share with the crowd. I can honestly say there are few places as majestic as Telluride. The photographic opportunities are endless, the people are kind-hearted and the Telluride Photo Festival proved a perfect forum for learning and photographic enrichment from some huge names in the business (Tim Kemple, Rob Haggart, Kristen Fortier (Men’s Journal), Mark Lesh (Skiing mag), Julia Vandenoever (Backpacker Mag) Tom Till and many, many more. Keep an eye out for next year’s lineup–should be a doozy!
Photographers (myself included) talk a lot about visual storytelling. Like it or not, with a camera in your hand, you are an author. The question is, what story are you telling?
Personal projects make for fantastic opportunities to work on any number of things from a photographic standpoint. I recently joined some friends at a private lake for a little slalom course action. Being an avid skier myself, I’ve had countless waterski shots floating around in my head for years. All I needed was some water to myself and a couple of skiers skilled enough to leave with me with juuuust enough confidence to shadow a buoy with them screaming by just feet from my head at 34 mph.
Ideally, your visual story will connect with those both familiar and unfamiliar with the subject matter. Those familiar might connect with it on an emotional level, and those unfamiliar with it might connect on a photographic level. The sign of a well told visual story is when one entirely unfamiliar with the subject matter walks away with a FEELING of familiarity. You give them all the pieces to the puzzle, and they put it together. If that doesn’t make sense, read it again. If it still doesn’t make sense, I’m either that brilliant, or that ignorant (very possible the latter!)
Does this smattering of images move you in any way? Is it because you love water skiing, or do you connect with it for some other reason? Or…do you not connect with it at all? Would love to hear from the collective.
Happy Tuesday! Perfect day for an image breakdown if I do say so myself. This image was shot during a commissioned shoot for Deer Valley Resort several weeks ago and serves as a pretty good template for a standard action/active lifestyle image designed for client promotional/collateral use. Sit back and have a read…
1. Focus! Focus in an image like this should always be on the eyes of the athlete. Tack sharp is key here in order give proper separation from the background. On this shot, I pre-selected my focus zone in camera and began tracking the athlete about 2 seconds before actually clicking the first frame, thus allowing my camera to grab proper focus before the athlete hit the sweet spot.
2. Blurred foreground serves two purposes– a) takes the viewer directly to the subject with the soft/sharp contrast and b) provides usable negative space for the client for copy, logos, etc.
3. More negative space for the client to work with. When shooting imagery for marketing collateral, it’s important to think beyond simple image dynamics. You have to keep client needs in mind. This is a frame filling image without filling every part of the frame.
4. Direction. The athlete is moving IN to the frame, keeping the viewer IN the frame. Were the athlete moving out of the frame, it would, in fact, take the viewer out of the frame. That’s the kind of tension we don’t want. We want people hanging out at our party. Keep them in the frame.
5. Blurred background. This helps to further draw the eye to the subject of the image and give that separation between subject and background (refer back to #1). This is achieved by shooting at a moderate focal length, coupled with a large aperture of f3.5. Additionally, note that we’ve given adequate space above the subject for logos, masthead or anything else the client sees fit to throw up there.
6. Fill light. It’s important to see faces in these images. Fill light can be achieved with flash or reflectors. I’m not much of flash guy, especially when moving light and fast. Given the light source (behind and to the right of the athlete), fill was crucial to capturing a complete image. This was accomplished with my assistant holding a reflector and following the athlete as he came around the banked corner. Requires a skilled assistant (thanks Nate!)
This is an excerpt from the February 2009 ABP In Focus Newsletter
It seems “change” is the word of the day. Every day. Whether it’s the historical inauguration of an African American president, or an anticipated drop in the mercury, change seems to be on people’s minds.
My mind, although quite stubborn and cluttered, has not been spared by this wave of change either. I have noticed a great change in the way fellow photographers speak of this industry that many of us fight for from the inside, or appreciate from the outside.
Put bluntly, photography is changing. Whereas skilled photographers used to be veritable needles in a creative haystack, they are now found at every family reunion, weekend wedding, and sporting event. The advent of digital imaging has made it easier than ever before to achieve levels of photography previously reserved for the studied and scholarly.
I welcome this change, and this influx of imagery with open arms. There are certainly pros and cons to the current state of the photography industry, but as a glass-half-full type of guy, I feel that creative boundaries, work ethic and marketing prowess are being pushed as never before. Competition breeds excellence, and true excellence is all that will stand out and survive.
I tip my hat to the photographers that have inspired me with their words and imagery. May the strong survive, and the weak get day jobs.
I had a blast at the recent PDN Outdoor Photo Expo here in Salt Lake City. It was fantastic to attend seminars by many other talented photographers, and I had a great turnout to my presentation as well. For all those who couldn’t make it, I’ve included my feature slideshow below. The focus of my seminar was on the fusion of scenic landscape and active lifestyle imagery. Hint: Get the HD uploading, take a lunch/snooze/whatever break, and enjoy the show when you get back!
As skinny as it comes!
And I’m not talking about the fish here. In saltwater flyfishing, shallow water is commonly referred to as “skinny” water. Let’s just say this stretch of water at Abaco Lodge, Bahamas was on a tidal diet on this particular morning.
Underwater photography is unpredictable and challenging, but that all contributes to an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction when it all works out.
Over/under shots like this are heavily dependent on the right equipment, knowledge and always a bit of luck. It’s key to have a legit housing with a dome port. If you don’t have a dome port, you can still pull these types of shots off, but it’s much more difficult. I always spit on the dome glass and rub it around before getting it wet–this keeps the water from beading up on the part of the glass that remains above water.
Ideally–you will set your exposure just before shooting the sequence (on manual mode, of course). It’s always an approximate guess on lining up all the elements and shooting away. Here, I am kneeling down in the water, holding the housing at waist level or so. Obviously, there’s no looking through the viewfinder, so you need to understand very well what your chosen lens will include depending on where you hold the camera. Pointing and shifting the housing slightly up or down can drastically affect where the dividing water/air line will be in your frame. Experiment each and every time until you start to get a better idea of where that line will fall.
Note that even if you’ve put that line right in the middle of the dome port, it may not be dividing your image in half. Water moves up and down very quickly, and you’re much less steady than you think when holding the housing.
Two last tips! Get a diopter to place on the front element of your lens (before it goes in the housing). This will help mitigate the softness on the corners that is a constant issue when shooting through domes and it will also decrease your minimum focusing distance for your lens–which is key when trying to fill the frame when shooting.
Annnnd, shots like this benefit from front and/or sidelight to properly expose the image both above and underwater. Obviously, the brighter the ocean/river bottom is, the better it will balance with the sky.
UW housings are pricey, but they’re worth every penny. Rent one for a day from manufacturers like AquaTech and see if it might be a good fit for you. Have fun!