Shoot Better Cityscapes

Cityscape of New York City Skyline at dusk

Cityscape of New York City Skyline at dusk

With the recent explosion of photo-sharing sites on the web, it seems that landscape photography is at an all-time high. I’m consistently blown away by the caliber of imagery I see being captured the world over on a daily basis. Along with this ever-present promotion of far-flung, corner-of-the-world places comes the desire to travel to the ends of the earth to capture the most dramatic image of places few knew existed.

Did you know that over half of the world population lives in urban areas, however? This means that over 3.5 billion of us live in or near cities. Which means it’s time to polish up on those cityscape skills of yours! I enjoy shooting these concrete jungles, and with a little practice, you might find they begin to occupy a gaping hole in your travel portfolio. Read on for a few tips on how to shoot better cityscape images!

1. Shoot at Dawn and/or Dusk
This is the no-brainer, super straight-forward, can’t go wrong tip. Dawn and dusk (just before sunrise and just after sunset) are the periods of day and night when the ambient (existing) light balances with the artificial light from buildings, street lamps, cars, etc. The sky turns a deep, rich blue or indigo, the city lights pop and…VOILA! Instant cityscape! Take note that you will need a sturdy tripod and be practiced up on your long exposure shooting. Many of these images are in the range of 5 – 20 seconds, so you must take special care not to bump the camera, thus rendering the image soft.

Cityscape image of Vancouver, BC

Cityscape image of Vancouver, BC

2. Provide Some Context 
Rather than just shoot frame-filling city, why not include a bit of context in the image. Take this example of Vancouver. With its beautiful walking trails winding through coastal bays, Vancouver is a thriving urban area intertwined with spectacular natural surroundings. Consider different ways to frame and present the city that you’re shooting—these types of images can be especially attractive to magazines and other editorial outlets.

Cityscape image of Seattle with storm clouds at sunset as shot from Alki Beach

Cityscape image of Seattle with storm clouds at sunset as shot from Alki Beach

3. Search Out Dramatic Weather 
While I could put this tip in nearly every one of my blog posts regarding so many different types of shooting, I feel it is especially true with cityscapes. Many times, we find ourselves shooting cityscapes from iconic locations. These locations are popular for a reason, as often times they offer the best views and vantage points. This means it is not entirely uncommon to come away with an image that is quite similar to so many others out there. The one separating factor when shooting from these iconic locations that we can utilize to our advantage is dramatic weather. This image, taken from Alki Beach near Seattle, WA is nothing revolutionary in and of itself. However, I was fortunate to be rewarded with a stormy sunset, which separates it from many of the other images shot from this location.

Cityscape image of San Francisco's Painted Ladies at dusk

Cityscape image of San Francisco’s Painted Ladies at dusk

4. Compress the Scene for Heightened Visual Interest 
Many city overlooks feature impressive foreground and background subject matter. This serves as the perfect opportunity to pull out a telephoto lens and compress the scene. By compressing the scene, we are effectively pulling the background in very tight to our foreground, thus adding depth and dimensionality to our images which gives the viewer a much more three dimensional experience when viewing the image.

Travel image of downtown Partenkirchen, Germany at dusk

Travel image of downtown Partenkirchen, Germany at dusk

5. Use a Tilt-shift Lens for Creative Control 
The tilt-shift look has become increasingly popular of late. Just bring up your Instagram feed and see how many images come up with that snow globe, dream-like feel. It’s likely that most of those images have been given the effect after capture, but if you happen to have a tilt-shift lens in your arsenal, you can capture this type of image upon clicking the shutter button. Without getting overly technical, tilt-shift lenses let you keep a “slice” of the image in focus, thus drawing the viewer’s attention to a particular part of the frame that is different, and (at times) far more effective than just shooting at shallow apertures. Given you use it modestly, this effect can be super fun, and serves as a great alternative to shooting a traditional cityscape image.

Fine art travel image of East Jerusalem, Israel in black and white

Fine art travel image of East Jerusalem, Israel in black and white

6. See in Black and White
As is apparent in this post, it seems most of the cityscape images we see are in color. However, many cities present themselves exceptionally well in monochrome. This hazy late evening image of East Jerusalem is one such example. Next time you come home from shooting cityscapes, try processing a select few in black & white. This might help you to “see” BW cityscapes in the future.

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7. Try Something New
As I say with most every tutorial I write, try shedding the above “rules” of shooting better cityscapes and let your heart and creative vision guide you. Try a new angle, a new time of day or night or a different lens. Look for new and intriguing ways to capture your city. Save up some money and book a helicopter for a completely different view of what’s below. Find something that excites you, and then run with it. Good luck!

ABP MVP: Epson Stylus Pro 3880 Printer

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What: Epson Sylus Pro 3880 Printer

Why: I’m going to do my best to answer this in a fairly succinct package here. Full disclaimer: this is not an in-depth printer review. Why not? Simply put–I’m a photographer, not a master printmaker. There is a stark difference. I, like you, don’t have time to mess around with this, that or the other when it comes to churning out legit prints. Yes, I want it all. No I don’t want to spend hours on end and a bucket of ink trying to dial things in for a stunning, accurate print. Can you relate? I thought so.

Judging from the subconscious nod of agreement, I’m going to assume you aren’t a master printmaker either, which means you’re going to love my quick overview. It answers the basic questions that most of us photographer types want to know and leaves all the uber scientific data/proof/testimonials to the ones that actually know how to decipher that action. You want that goodness? It’s out there for sure. Get on the Google and bury yourself in minute comparisons, data analytics and everything else the printer geek in you could ever want. There’s no question this printer will pass with flying colors. For those wanting a no frills, to-the-point approach, you’ve come to the right place.

The down and dirty is that this printer prints the way you want it to print right out of the box, and it does it all exceptionally well. How do you want it to print? Well, you (and I) want it to print quietly, quickly and, most importantly,  accurately. Right? Right.  The simplest understanding of monitor calibration and printer profiles for the different papers you choose will leave you with wall-worthy, archival (dependent upon paper) prints that will have family, friends and clients smitten with satisfaction.

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Why am I such a fan of this printer? Firstly, it prints juuuust big enough for what I want to be printing myself. I don’t print enough to justify the expense of printer, ink and paper for anything larger than 13 x 19. I do get plenty of orders for larger prints, and I happily pass them along to my local lab, where my buddy Heath does an exceptional job. I use the 3880 for smaller print orders, personal projects, marketing materials and a host of other smaller jobs.

Secondly, this printer offers pro quality prints at a pro-sumer price. At a cost of $1,295.00, it doesn’t break the bank. Depending on how much you spend on camera gear, you’re either pulling your hair out in disgust, or giving me a virtual high five. Trust me when I tell you that $1,300 is peanuts compared against the time you’ll spend trying to get a lesser machine to do what you want it to do, right out of the box. Time is money, and yes–you do get what you pay for. Looks like there’s even a $200 rebate going on through August 31, 2014.

Thirdly–for the space-conscious, this printer won’t require a new addition to your cozy abode. It measures 27″x 15″ x 10″, and it sits on my desk along with my hard drive(s) and computer.

Fourthly–one of the cooler features of this printer is that it will automatically switch between matte or photo black ink depending on the paper profile you choose. I don’t print a whole lot on glossy papers, but it’s a nice option to have, especially knowing I don’t have to switch out the cartridge myself.

Finally, and I’m rehashing a bit here, but I’m amazed at the print quality that this relatively little machine churns out. My favorite papers are thick and meaty (recent favorite is Epson’s Cold Press Bright) , yielding exceptional texture, tonality, color and detail. With past printers, I have struggled with thicker papers, throwing away sheet after sheet of expensive paper due to a botched print for one reason or another. Knock on wood, but after nearly 24 mos. with this printer, I’ve yet to toss a print in the trash. Furthermore, I’ve yet to replace an ink cartridge after many, many prints. CAN I GET AN AMEN!?!?

So there you have it. The 3880 is a photographer’s printer. It has plug and play ease, all the while producing lab worthy prints from the comfort of your own desktop.

Where: I buy all my gear from Pictureline.com. You should too!

 

Antarctica Photo Tour 2015

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We have officially opened registration for our 2015 Antarctica Photo Tour. This year’s adventure was absolutely jaw-dropping and unforgettable on all accounts! Click the link below for details. Contact us at adam@adambarkerphotography.com or 801-550-9141 to register or with any questions! Space is limited, and will go quickly! Antarctica is the hottest selling trip in the world right now. Don’t miss your opportunity to check this one off the bucket list!

http://www.adambarkerphotography.com/workshops/antarctica-2015/1/

 

“Dear Facebook”…

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Dear Facebook:

I feel like maybe I should be doing this in person, as opposed to a detached, heartless online letter. We have, after all, spent a lot of time with each other over the past several years. You’ve been there for the birth of my children, my travels round the world and the intimate, awkward and even heartbreaking moments with family and friends.

Perhaps more importantly, you’ve connected me with countless individuals and entities that share in my passion for photography and photo education. You were kind—almost too kind. At times, showering me with (sometimes less than deserved) praise on a daily basis, relaying the energetic and enthusiastic words of our mutual friends, and even providing insight and critique on occasion.

We grew together—you more than me (HELLO!!!), but hey, you always had more friends anyway. I’m happy for you—really, I am. Ecstatic? Hardly. Jealous? Not even. Hurt? Maybe (sigh…)

I wish I could say it’s not you, it’s me. I mean—that always worked in the past. But this time FB (is it cool if I still call you FB despite this minor quibble?), it’s most definitely you. We used to hang out all the time. BIZ BUDDIES! Right?!? We were so good together. I’d post fancy pants pictures, you’d show all our friends and we’d all party for a couple of hours—ya know—high fives, lots of online love, a like here–a share there. We were unbeatable you and me. But suddenly, you’ve grown incredibly distant (gulp…).  FB, you’ve…changed.

I know you hate hearing this, but I feel like this relationship has grown incredibly lopsided. I mean, I come to hang out and you don’t even respond. Are you seeing somebody else? Are you even attracted to me anymore?!? Is it because I said your sister was hot? Was it my application vid for The Bachlelorette? Is it because I’m a Mormon (that’s right, I said it). Is it my teeth? DAMNIT!!! IT’S MY TEETH!!! I knew I should’ve gotten braces. Thanks for nothing, Mom.

Really though, it’s like…it’s like you hoard my posts for you and you alone. WHY YOU GOTTA BE SO CONTROLLING LIKE THAT YO!?! (Oops, sorry. Excuse the white rapper talk. Sometimes I get a little worked up…) I’m starting to question why I even come around anymore. I mean, I’ve spent so much time on us—it’s hard to just turn my back and leave, but I really feel like you’re forcing my hand here. I have…(dare I say it???) other interests. You’re not the only one in my life either you know! Is that a what?!? A threat? Yes!!! Grrrrr. Kind of. Err…sort of. Um…well, not really. I guess threats don’t work if you don’t really care. It’s more of a last ditch effort for just a little bit of attention.

As much as I don’t want to admit it, I still need you. But you’ve grown incredibly demanding. And your taste is effing expensive. I know, I know—you have your needs. Well geez FB, what about my needs?!? Did you ever happen to think that little Mr. Small Business over here in  Salt Lake City can’t afford your needs!?!

Ok sorry. It’s not your fault. Or maybe it is, but in the interest of keeping this (one-sided) conversation civil, I’ll try and wrap this up. It is, after all, your place. You’ve been so kind in letting me hang out rent-free for all these years, but I simply can’t justify the cost to “hang with the big boys”.

So…(wipes tear), where do we go from here? Ultimatum time?!? I wish. I just need you to know I still care. I want to be biz buddies again. You’ve introduced me to so many wonderful people, but we never see each other anymore. You’ve given me quantifiable return, and I appreciate that. But the gate master (yes, I’m looking at you), seems to have tossed the key, and no amount of love or attention will bring it back, sans an unfeasible amount of my hard-earned casheesh.

I’ll miss you FB. Really, I will. You might see me, though my attention will be a little (err…a lot) less devout. I hope we can work this out.

I’ll (mostly) always love you,

ABP

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UPPA: Unsolicited Professional Photographer Advice

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What’s that??? You didn’t ask for advice?! Well, here you are. You’ll read this and you’ll like. Whether you like it or not. ;)

I am frequently consulted by young, eager individuals wondering what they can do to secure a career as a professional photographer. My advice varies depending on the day, but today, it is this:

Success doesn’t pay the bills. MONEY pays the bills. Learn to monetize your successes.

One might naturally think that success begets riches, but that is far from true, especially in a world where “success” or that warm fuzzy feeling inside is just a couple of “likes” away…

Remember this: monetization is not selling out. Charging a premium for your hard-earned and well-developed skill set does not make you less of an artist or a creator. Feel-goods are all good and well, but you can’t pay the mortgage with social media likes, you won’t feed your kids with life experience, and the bank doesn’t recognize a 1st place ribbon as a form of currency.

Arguably, all of these things (and so much more) can make you a rather successful photographer, but unless you learn how to turn that success into dollar signs, you’re going to be researching applications on the interwebz for that next day job.

Being a “professional photographer” certainly is about much more than cold hard cash in the bank. But making a living as a photographer, at its very root, relies upon zeroes and decimal points, just like any other business.

On a positive parting note: this is all entirely possible. I know it. I believe it. I live it. And you can too. Just don’t forget the important schtuff.

ABP MVP: Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody

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What: Arc’teryx Thorium AR Hoody

 

Why: Ooookeydokey–let’s be honest: there are more outwear brands on this planet than there are kitten pics on the interwebz. At very least, deciding on where to buy a new coat for this season’s colder exploits might involve a quizzical post on FB, and some prayerful consideration over a cup of whatever the hipsters happen to be drinking at the local coffee house.

Here. I’ll save you the time. Arc’teryx crushes it. They make the most bomber outwear known to human existence, and they continue to innovate each and every year. Arc’teryx released their new line of down jackets this year and, as expected, they do not disappoint.

They’ve managed to make a down jacket that includes everything you need, and excludes everything you don’t. Remember the last down coat you owned that left you feeling like a giant fluorescent marshmallow??? Mmmm…yeah–say adios to the billowy body brace…

My fave??? The Thorium AR Hoody. This jacket actually has a more fitted feel, and the wizards at Arc’teryx have actually placed synthetic insulation in areas prone to moisture (think along the hem, collar, sleeves and underarms). This means that the jacket still maintains its insulating properties, despite a bit of wetness here and there.

If you’ve never owned a down jacket, it’s time you did yer bad self a favor and picked this up. If you already have a million fluorescent marshmallows hanging in the closet, it’s time to get your Craig’s List on and step into the new millenium of downy goodness.

Wherehttp://www.arcteryx.com/product.aspx?language=EN&gender=mens&category=Jackets&subcat=Insulated_Shell&model=Thorium-AR-Hoody

Manfrotto BeFree Ad Campaign

Great to see the ads rolling out from our work earlier this year for Manfrotto and the BeFree tripod. This was such a stellar shoot, with an incredible crew of people involved. Check out the full BeFree site for more imagery and videos from this shoot.

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ABP MVP: Howler Bros. Harkers Flannel

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We all have our MVP’s (most valuable products). Some are big, some small. Most bring simple pleasures at home, or bring the comforts of home to the road. All of them simply make life better. This is the first installment of my own MVP’s. Saddle up for many, many more…

What: Howler Bros. Harkers Flannel

Why: Psshhh…really??? Have you never worn a flannel shirt? It’s like wearing a bubble bath–it’s that comfy when done right. Only it’s not fru-fru, and you don’t have to wear it late at night when nobody will ever know. Think of it this way: fall without flannels would be like breakfast without bacon. Need I say more??? Howler Bros. nailed it with this one, and they are a smaller, grass roots brand founded by real people that care about their customers. We all need more bacon, and yes, every man could use more flannels. These are two truths that are extremely tough to argue…

Where: http://howlerbros.com/products/harkers-flannel-f2013

Interview with Shoot to Earn

From tearful frustration to triumphant success, I get up close and personal in the video interview above…it offers unique insight into my career journey thus far…

Background: I had the great fortune of working with talented wedding and lifestyle photographer Aaron Dieppa during a week-long ad shoot for Manfrotto earlier this year. In addition to his great taste in hair-style ;), he has a very enterprising mind and has recently launched an awesome website that will serve as an inspirational resource to budding photographers and experienced pros for years to come.He discusses about his career and offers tips plus he is part of family photographers adelaide

Check out www.shoottoearn.com for interviews with established photographers from portrait to landscape to advertising to…you name it.

I’m honored to be one of Aaron’s first interviews. It’s definitely lengthy, but I’d like to think it’s worth a lunch break or long car ride. Enjoy!

 

Desert Southwest Workshop with Adam Barker & Mylo Fowler, Oct. 11-13 2013

Desert SW Teaser

Preliminary Itinerary. (Weather permitting.)
• Location: Page, Arizona and Navajoland of Northern Arizona. Home area of Mylo.
“Mylo will always have the supreme upper hand in photographing this area of Northern Arizona. It’s his home!!! He has access the outside world doesn’t. For that reason and his knowledge of land, light and landscape photography mechanics, one may jeopardize his photographic visit if not with Mylo.” Name Withheld for Intended Purposes
(Photographer and Owner of Multiple Galleries on the Las Vegas strip and other locations).
• Workshop Host Location: Courtyard by Marriott 600 Clubhouse Drive. Page, AZ 86040.
• When: October 11-13th 2013 Three (3) full days. One of the only places where a workshop can use all the available light provided in a day. This isn’t a sunrise/sunset only photographic location. Adequate classroom work and rest will be provided. You won’t burn out.
• Where: 10-12 locations. Colorado River, Slot Canyons, sand dunes, sage and Navajo sandstone formations. How to use clouds to your advantage and how to create stunning images with severe clear –no cloud filled skies. (Weather permitting ☺)
• What: The Field Work. We will cover using an assortment of filters, composition, and artistic emotion in the image, why your best friends name is Histogram, tripod usage and creating panoramic images. A lot of hands on, one on one field work from award winning photographers Adam Barker and Mylo Fowler. They will always be in reach of assistance for help, review and critiques.
• Taking your photography to the next level: 5 to 6 Classroom Sessions: Conference Room setting. We will dive into exposing great images and creating stunning fine art with post processing software. We will cover creating exceptional compositions, controlling all elements of light, sharp as tact depth of field images, color renditions and high quality creativity from your camera. How to create a few supreme images instead of hoarding 5,000 images from a location you will never use.

One of the highlight classroom sessions will be the group critique sessions. Why? This will allow you to see your work from a different perspective. IF you want long lasting friends in the photography world, this is where a lot of the friendships start. Heck, even some marriages! For you single lads and ladies, this isn’t a place to find your future love. Actually, it is. Your love of photography will grow on this workshop! All in all you will get a chance to express your views, speak the same language with fellow photographers that your other friends and family just don’t understand….
• Who is this for? This workshop excursion with Adam and Mylo is for someone who:
➢ …Just bought or was given a digital camera last Christmas and wants to KNOW how to use it and what all the options mean in easy, understandable terms.
➢ …Has less than 5 years of photography experience.
➢ …Is a seasoned amateur or professional looking for the premium guide to the sweet places of Northern Arizona.
➢ …Wants to create 40” prints of stunning desert formations and slot canyon colors.
➢ …Wants to increase their photography IQ.
➢ …Likes hands on teaching. It is for someone who doesn’t want to read the 600 page Owners Manual and for someone who wants to get to the good and juicy elements of creating Award Winning Images.
➢ …Wants to return home knowing more about their camera, equipment and REALLY understanding the camera they bought and had all along.
➢ …Uses film or digital image capture systems. From Cropped sensor, full frame, 35mm, medium and large format film cameras.
➢ …Uses Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony and other systems.
➢ …Wants to expand their image design with various filters from Singh Ray and tripod systems.
➢ …Is getting ready to go on another world class trip and wants to know what to do on their trip. Trust me. You won’t believe how many people come on workshops so they know what to do in Italy, Alaska or in Antarctica. You will be better prepared for your next trip!
• Most importantly, you will have a safe and fun few days in the Desert Southwest! You will be able to create stunning images even in the wildest weather conditions.
The Area: The Colorado Plateau provides an array of image capture and composition. From Page, AZ to Mylo’s home which is about a 35 minute drive South of Page, you will climb over 2,000 feet in elevation. There truly is beauty all around. You will be able to photograph the butte’s that surround Lake Powell, Navajo Mountain that peaks at 10,387’ and other desert formations. October could provide some of the most interesting weather patterns. Snow, lightning, rain, puddles, fog, warm afternoons and incredible cloud formations are very likely. These are the ultimate natural elements in creating 5 star images. You will visually get a full access pass to the workflow, image capture and image creation of Adam Barker and Mylo Fowler. Ultimately, you will build upon your unique foundation and take your photography knowledge, presentation and portfolio to the next level.

It’s about having a memorable time and maybe you will have a life changing experience. Both Adam and Mylo have guided and provided similar workshop services for years. Mylo has guided slot canyon excursions and exotic landscape workshops that number into the thousands. He has worked with many camera makes and models, television companies from National Geographic to Weekend Explorer, publications from Outdoor Photographer Magazine to Arizona Highways. He was recently sought out to assist with Phase One (PODAS) and called on by some of the world’s finest Master Landscape photographers.

He is highly recommended by the Navajo Nation as a steward of the land and caters to personalize all experiences of high caliber companies, networks and the photographer’s experience.
• BONUS: 1.5 – 2 hour Session: Mylo will cover a “How To Create Fine Art and Do Well” class. He will dive into how to create Fine Art images. From creation to presentation. This is usually one of the highlights of the event. Mylo will share with you hot points, important aspects of fine art and how to create images you will be happy to display in your home or gallery. Especially if you are thinking about creating an extra income doing what you love! Taking photographs. He will share with you how to invest in your work. Roma Mouldings will be a sponsor of this classroom session.

We will have demo gear on hand for workshop attendees from the following sponsors: Singh Ray Filters, Manfrotto/Gitzo Tripods, Arc’teryx Outerwear, Clikelite Backpacks, Suunto Watches and Canon

Questions??? Contact Adam at 801-550-9141 or adam@adambarkerphotography.com.


Desert Southwest Workshop Fee