Sneak Peek: Through the Eyes

We’ve been busy creating the first of many episodes of AdamBarkerPhotography: Through the Eyes. Check out the teaser for the first below. Special thanks to Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort for the sick location! Huge shout out to Hammers Inc Photography and Nate Balli for the mad film/edit skills.

Through the Eyes Teaser EP1 from HIP VISUAL ARTS on Vimeo.

Breakdown: The Complete Outdoor Image

Carston Oliver samples some deep powder in golden light at Alta Ski Area, UT

With fresh powder, golden light and skilled athletes, the ski shooting earlier this week was…all time. My fingers still hurt from the cold, but when it’s good, there’s no time for hand warmers…
I’ve adopted a credo in my shooting that there must be three elements in an image for it to be considered a “complete” image. …You must have:

1. Superb light
2. Engaging subject matter
3. Dynamic Composition

This image of Carston Oliver at Alta Ski Area is a testament to all three of these elements coming together, and the impact it can have from a visual standpoint.
We waited for nearly 40 minutes at this spot as the sun gave us the ultimate in and out tease. The waiting paid off as the clouds parted for ten minutes of delicious golden light. Like I’ve said before, if I could bottle this light up and sell it, I’d be a rich man!
I composed the image in such a way that placed the skier in the left hand side of the frame, and left the entire remaining 2/3 of the frame open. This gives the viewer context, and lends a satisfactory balance to the entire image. It also gives the image depth, including the setting sun and Little Cottonwood Canyon for the full three-dimensional effect.

Believe it or not, no filters were used on this image. Just careful exposure for the highlights, ensuring that there was still enough mid tone and shadow detail by checking the histogram. Use your histogram! It’s a ridiculously useful tool for digital photography.
Find a way to include the three elements listed above, and you will fin yourself with more complete outdoor images than ever before.

Breakdown: The what, why and how of a successful ski image

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We all know that quality ski images don’t simply fall into one’s lap. They require vision (pun intended!) communication and cooperation. Read on to get an inside look at what went into creating this keeper of athlete Jamey Parks at Snowbird Ski & Summer Resort.

1. Skier Position

I’m referring to two things here—where I’ve placed the skier in the frame, and the actual body position of the skier. The most important part of ski photography really is communicating with the athlete. They need to know what your vision for the image is. They need to know where they should be dialed in. I made it clear to Parks that “the shot” was going to be primarily from his transition between turns and into his right hand turn. This makes all the difference in skier position.

I wanted to capture lot of action/energy in this shot and thus directed him to really push his left hand turn, which would send up a big cloud of snow and make for an engaging background. I manually selected one of my AF points in the mid to lower RH third of my camera viewfinder, and kept it on him through the entire sequence. Why down there? Check #3.

2. Texture/Separating Elements

I purposely set up in a location that had me shooting “through” this chunky snow, lying on my stomach. I asked the skier to flirt with the edge of this chunky snow section, knowing it would add lots of texture to the image. It also serves as a good separator between a secondary FG focus and the main subject in our mid ground.

3. Open Space/Contextual Background

For me, this is the element that makes the image. The image I had in my head before actually clicking the shutter was one of a skier ripping a turn back through a cloud of snow from a previous turn. This does two things: it infuses the images with energy and gives the viewer a great sense of the speed the skier is carrying (context). It also provides me with a clean background. The sharp skier really pops against this soft cloud of snow. As a heavy AF user for shots like this, it was imperative to pre-visualize where the skier needed to be in the frame to make this image work, and select the AF zone accordingly.

Lastly, this cloud of snow really fills the open space in this image with “value added content”. Not only is it giving us space to see where the skier is going (also contributing to the overall balance of the image), it tells us much more about where he’s been and what he is doing (as mentioned above).

4. Tack Sharp Clarity

I wanted definition in every last little chunk, ripple or speck of snow with this image. It’s amazing what the camera can pick up in a fraction of a second that the human eye doesn’t have time to process. To do this, you must shoot at high enough shutter speeds to freeze the action. This image was shot at 1/3200 sec. at f 4.5.

Upgrade your Creativity

With the announcement of the new Canon EOS 7D, I’ve been thinking a bunch about how quickly technology is advancing these days. If you look at what we were shooting digital images with just 5 years ago, the advancements are mind blowing. It would appear, that it’s becoming easier to shoot “good” images and becoming increasingly harder to stand out as a photographer and create imagery that one remembers. In this world of visual distractions (and attractions), only the technically sound and (perhaps more importantly) the creatively innovative will be able to produce imagery that will stand the test of time.

Fall color, perfect for photography in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT

Fall color, perfect for photography in Little Cottonwood Canyon, UT

Here’s a frightening statistc: Online photo sharing site Flickr hosts more than 3.5 billion images. An average of 3 million images are uploaded daily. You read that right. 3 million images are uploaded EVERY DAY. How, in the name of Ansel, are you going to produce something that stands out?

A hiker gazes in wonder at a tree growing through red rock canyons on Wallstreet, Bryce Canyon National Park

A hiker gazes in wonder at a tree growing through red rock canyons on Wallstreet, Bryce Canyon National Park

Here is some food for thought. Instead of upgrading your camera, lens, computer, memory card, huge 30″ monitor, new zoom lens, tripod, filters, cable release, operating system, editing software, backpack, lens cap, camera belt, lens cleaning solution, dust remover or any other piece of the endless list of equipment we all use, try this: UPGRADE YOUR CREATIVITY. Manufacturers produce new cameras nearly every quarter these days, but how often do we upgrade our ability not just to create, but to see better imagery.

Morning storm clouds and mist over the Wasatch Mountains, east of Salt Lake City, UT

Morning storm clouds over the Wasatch Mountains, east of Salt Lake City, UT

Read a good book. Follow an inspiring blog. Give yourself a challenging assignment. Fail. Succeed. And then do it all over again. And here’s the important part–do it with your own style and panache.

Trail running in late evening light through the foothills above Salt Lake City, UT

Trail running in late evening light through the foothills above Salt Lake City, UT

Here’s another idea: Build your own better version of you. How long have you been running on Joe v1.1 or Sarah v1.2. It’s time to upgrade to version 1.5, or better yet, give yourself an entire system upgrade and find Bill v2.0. Sleeker, faster, smoother, more efficient, and a creative animal beyond compare. Hey! I’d buy it!

A few stout sprigs of Indian Paintbrush stand resolutely beneath towering aspen trees in Big Cotonwood Canyon, UT

A few stout sprigs of Indian Paintbrush stand resolutely beneath towering aspen trees in Big Cotonwood Canyon, UT

The longer I am in the business of photography, the harder it gets to challenge myself to be a better version of me. Resist the temptation to become a better Chase Jarvis or Art Wolfe or even (gasp) Adam Barker. Much like looking at a road map, the work of established photographers doesn’t speak so much to the destination as it does to the journey. There are a million ways to arrive at the pinnacle, why follow a path already trodden?

A bent rod and tight line on the Weber River, UT

A bent rod and tight line on the Weber River, UT