Weekly Column: Take Pride in Your Website

There are so many different social media outlets for sharing images. I’ve made my disdain for social media abundantly clear in previous posts, yet I still participate in a limited capacity. When I discover a photographer, whether online, word of mouth, or meeting them in person, I always go straight to their website to see their work. I never consider social media as an outlet to share their vision. I would never go to a flickr page or 500px page to see what someone is all about. Social media has different purposes for different people. If you look at the top images of 500px lately, they have become mostly advertisements. And I think that’s a good thing. It’s a struggle to get the word out on the services you provide, what better way than to make an image go to the front page of 500px and share it there? There’s a formula to get on the front page that involves some serious over the top processing. That may or may not be the artist’s vision, but I would never begrudge a photographer from “gaming the system” to get more exposure in order to advertise their services. And in large part, that’s all social media is to me; a place to advertise one’s work. I met a photographer recently who was anxious to get better and explore the iconic landscapes of the US. He had never heard of me or most of my peers. He then asked if I was on Instragram. I told him I was but rarely ever posted. I then asked him about a few of my friends that are all-stars in the Instagram world and he treated them like celebrities. Again, there are so many different social media outlets that you never truly have an idea how a potential client or fan will find your work.

Which brings me around to my point. Your website is holy. It is your online gallery. Even if you own a gallery somewhere in the world, there will always be a limited number of people who will ever get the chance to visit it. Your online gallery has no limits. The images you share on your gallery should represent who you are as an artist. You don’t have to push the numbers in order to get views. You just have to share yourself as an artist. In my perfect online world that’s all we would have, our own websites representing who we are. Of course, how would you know which sites to check out? And that’s why we have the social media blitz that exists today.

Websites have become incredibly simple and cheap to create. This is all very recent and it’s something you should absolutely take advantage of. When I started my Smugmug site I had to learn bits of CSS, HTML and Javascript. Now it’s just click and drag. Smugmug is a great place to start, as is Squarspace. You can have a site up and running in a day. It’s seriously gotten that easy. If you have the budget and not the time, there are some excellent website developers who will make you a custom site. This is an excellent option if you have the budget, as it increases your opportunity for your site to stand out from the pack.

I’m not saying stop sharing your images on social media. I get the appeal for many. And in some cases, like mine, it makes sense for business. But when someone asks where they can go to see your best work, I hope it’s too your website which is shielded from the noise on the web.

In sports news I am recovering from the Seahawks miracle win on Sunday. I was lucky enough to be there in person and it was an unreal experience. I, unfortunately, won’t have the opportunity to go back to the Super Bowl this year as I will be leading a workshop in Yellowstone, but it was an incredible moment to witness the NFC Championship game. GO HAWKS!

My TV recommendation this week is Justified. It returns this week for its final season. It’s one of the best shows on TV and is consistently solid throughout its first 5 seasons. Let’s hope season 6 finishes strong! I will miss Raylan Givens.

"Reds" - Nova Scotia  Fuji X-T1, XF 55-200mm, ISO 640, f/11, 1/25 sec.

“Reds” – Nova Scotia
Fuji X-T1, XF 55-200mm, ISO 640, f/11, 1/25 sec.

 

 


Showing Scale in Iceland

Iceland is a country full of wonder. Of all the splendid locations in Iceland, my favorite without a doubt is the highlands of Landmannalaugar. Colorful mountains as far as the eye can see. Patches of snow create a pattern amongst the blues, red, greens, and every brown and yellow tone you can imagine. An interesting aspect of the highlands and most of Iceland is the lack of trees. Moss is about the only thing you will find growing on the highlands of Landmannalaugar. This presents us with an interesting opportunity to use people in our landscapes in order to show scale. The mountains are photogenic on their own to be clear, but adding a hiker gives that extra element of scale, turning a pretty scene into a jaw-dropping scene. Let’s take a look at some examples, starting with “The Hiker”.

The Hiker

The hiker on the ridge is entering this endless wilderness. The light in the image highlights the subject and we see the journey ahead. Imagine this image without the hiker, void of the story and sense of wonder.

The Legend

In this example, we see a hiker paused to take in the epic view, just as the viewer of the image is doing. A connection is made with the attempt to bring the viewer closer into the scene by putting you, the viewer, on the ridge itself. The title of this image is based on a client and friend of mine who is on that ridge. “The Legend” is his nickname and it seemed a fitting title here.

Almost Home

It can be difficult to view these images small on the web. Imagine being able to view them printed large? In this example, titled “Almost Home”, we see a hiker on the lower right about to make their final descent into camp. They came, they saw, they conquered. The journey is almost done.

Laugavegur Trail

In this final example, “Laugavegur Trail”, we see a hiker on the most famous trail in Iceland. Having experienced the hike myself, this image brings back fond memories. Every time I view this image it puts a smile on my face.

As a landscape photographer I’m not one to photograph people, pretty much ever. I have zero interest in it. But as you can see here, sometimes it can actually improve your landscape imagery, and that is something I’m always striving for. I encourage you to give it a go when the situation arises.


New Lynda.com Course! Landscape Photography: Washington’s Palouse Region

I’m proud to announce the release of my latest lynda.com course, Landscape Photography: Washington’s Palouse Region. We worked extremely hard and produced a course that comes in just a shade under two hours! Loads of content here, including many long lens techniques. Give it a look if you get the chance.

See it here:

Landscape Photography: Washington’s Palouse Region.

Get 10 days of free unlimited access to lynda.com.

Palouse Falls


Weekly Column: Press Print

In this week’s column I would like to explore the final step in the process of creating an image. I go for a walk everyday for a minimum of two miles. I’m a strong believer that walking outside improves mental, emotional and physical health. I use a Fitbit Surge to track steps and record at least 10,000 steps a day. Living in Seattle, I have access to great walking locations. One of my favorites is Fremont, a standout neighborhood filled with cafes and restaurants. There is a retail space available and it would be perfect for a gallery. It’s fun to imagine what my gallery would look like every time I walk by. In the age of digital, and especially in the age of social media, it’s rare these days for image to be printed. But let’s not forget, that the printed image is the final step in the process of creating an image. Posting a small thumbnail on Facebook, Instagram, 500px, Flickr, or any other social media site is not nearly as satisfying, nor is the image able to be experienced by you or the public in its full glory. It’s just a peek of what might be there.

Last March I traveled to London to take part in Light and Land’s “Year of the Print.” As an instructor for Light and Land, I was able to display three framed images in the Mall Galleries in London. The remainder of the images were the work of Light and Land’s clients. I attended the grand opening celebration and was blown away by seeing the joy each and every exhibitor experienced. There is nothing quite like seeing your best work hanging on a wall. I hope to offer the same experience for my clients in the Seattle area one day. I think it would really encourage my clients and friends to print and share their work.

I encourage you to pick your favorite image of 2014 and print it if you haven’t already. There are so many diverse printing options these days, from your standard print to canvas gallery wraps and metal prints. The beauty of canvas and metal prints is the fact that they come ready to hang, there is no need to frame. For your Seattle area photogs, let me know how many of you would be interested in a gallery exhibition.

TV recommendation of the week: The Golden Globes aired on Sunday and Fargo received the acclaim it deserves. It was the best show of the year and is as flawless as it gets. So glad it beat True Detective, an overhyped mediocre show with great performances. Fargo is much watch TV.

Big sports event this weekend, Seattle hosting their second straight NFC Championship Game vs. the Packers. Go Hawks!

Vick Sea Stacks

“Silhouette” A long exposure off the coast of Iceland.

 


Weekly Column

Blogging consistently is hard. For those that do it well I tip my cap to you. I have an idea for 2015 that I would like to try… and that’s a weekly column. There is a constant stream of ideas and thoughts I would like to blog about, so would if I jotted them down and shared them once a week? Sometimes it might be one topic, other times multiple mini topics. I’m a huge sports fan and a follower of Bill Simmons on Grantland and ESPN. He’s been doing a weekly column for many years and that’s where the idea came from. Let’s give it a shot!

Speaking of sports, I’m flying in to San Francisco tomorrow to see the Warriors vs. Cavs game on Friday night. I know it’s a long shot but I hope Seattle can pull off a winning bid for the Atlanta Hawks and bring them to the Pacific Northwest. It’s not everyday you have the opportunity to bid on a team currently in 1st place.

Back to photography… CES is this week and there are a few announcements worth discussing. Nikon announced their newest beginner level DSLR, the D5500. My gear book, which came out last month, has the D5300 as the current model, so this changes things a bit. The 24 megapixel sensor is fantastic and the 3.2″ LCD of the D5500 is a huge bonus. If you are in the market for a beginner level DSLR, the D5500 is an excellent option.

We saw a new lens from Fuji for the X system (although we knew it was coming), the 16-55mm f/2.8. The also recently released the 50-140mm f/2.8. I had a chance to hold the 50-140mm lens and it’s bulky. That’s the problem with a fast lens like a f/2.8, you pay for it with weight. The thing I love about these lenses are the build quality and weather-sealing. But considering landscape photographers won’t be able to take advantage of the fast aperture, I have trouble recommending either, especially the 50-140mm f/2.8. The beauty of the mirror-less X system that Fuji has created is the incredible weight savings over a DSLR setup. My goal is to keep that going and that’s why I would stick with the Fuji 55-200mm f/3.5-4.8 lens as your telephoto option. Before I make any judgments on the 16-55mm f/2.8 I would like the opportunity to test it out with my Fuji X-T1.

I just downloaded and used an app on my iPhone 6 called StayFocused. It does focal blending for the iPhone. How on earth does a modern-day DSLR not do this in camera? Manufacturers need to get their head on straight and either write useful software for the camera or open source it. It’s ridiculous all the things you can do on your iPhone that you can’t do with a DSLR. There’s just no excuse. Sony had the right idea by allowing apps on their phone… but then didn’t open it up to third parties so the whole idea failed. If you are not going to write the software, let someone else do it and take a percentage of the profits.

I recently picked up two new lenses for my Canon setup. I purchased the Canon 100-400mm Mark II and the Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS. The 100-400mm was a tough decision, but the extra reach when compared with my 70-300mm, along with the fantastic early reviews, convinced me to go in that direction. With some wildlife trips coming up – Yellowstone in winter and the bears of Katmai, the 400mm will come in handy. I had high hopes that when used with the Canon 1.4X extender I would be able to shoot at 560mm, but the quality degrades quickly. It’s nothing like the Canon 200-400mm with built-in 1.4X extender, the best lens I have ever used. The 16-35mm f/4L IS was a direct swap with my 16-35mm f/2.8L II. It’s just a sharper lens and a no brainer.

That’s it for camera related news this week. I would like to finish with a TV recommendation. If I had the time, I would start a dedicated TV blog. Let me provide a little background here. My original career path began as a screenwriter and my degree is in Cinema Studies. I have always loved film and envisioned a career in the industry. I’m fortunate where I ended up, and I couldn’t be happier as a professional photographer, but I still love to watch and study film. Except for the fact that the film industry has virtually collapsed while the TV industry has flourished. The amount of quality writing and acting on TV currently is astounding. Show runners are given more freedom than in film and have as long as they want to tell their story. It’s easier to build characters over 5 seasons than say a 2 hour film. Every network wants to have a stake in the game. Network TV is sorely lacking, but with a constant stream of content on a surplus of cable channels, there is more quality content that is being produced than can be consumed. This is great news! Speaking of channels I wouldn’t expect to have dramatic fictional television, my recommendation this week is for The Vikings on the History Channel. There are two season available for viewing and season 3 arrives next month. It has everything you could want in a show, compelling characters, great story arc, quality writing and is a great representation of the historical genre. If you like Game of Thrones or Rome, I think you will enjoy The Vikings.

That’s it for now. Thanks for sticking it out with my column. I will give it a shot and look to post every Wednesday. Signing off with an image and while it’s still football season, GO HAWKS!

Paint decaying from the Ghost Town of Kolmanskop, Namibia.

“Yellow” – Paint decaying from the Ghost Town of Kolmanskop, Namibia.


My Top 14 Panoramic Images of 2014

Creating panoramas was a major theme for me this year. I absolutely love the format, especially for printing and presenting. I have been embracing 60 to 90 inch long metal panos and displaying them at art shows. It was a goal of mine in 2014 to expand my panorama portfolio and I am pleased with the images I made this past year. I wanted to share with you my 14 favorites from 2014. I hope you enjoy them. If you are interested in ordering any of these images as a metal print or canvas gallery wrap please let me know. I specialize in printing on both mediums.

Let’s start off with vertical panoramas. These are extremely rare in the landscape photography genre and they don’t display particularly well online. But in person, they are amazing. And if you look around your own home, it’s surprising how much wall space caters towards vertical panoramas. This was taken in Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. Being in confined spaces makes it difficult to create panoramas. I used a Canon 24mm tilt shift lens, an incredibly useful and simple tool for creating panoramas in tight spaces, to make this image. One of the benefits of making panoramas in difficult environments is originality. You can make images in iconic locations that have never been made before.

Antelope Canyon Panorama

Next up is a vertical panorama of Bryce Canyon National Park. I have been incorporating people in my nature photography lately to show scale. I waited for the perfect subject, in this case a young girl with a bright hat, to walk the path of hoodoos.

A Walk Amongst Giants

I’ve struggled for years to photograph this iconic rock in Coyote Buttes South in a compelling way. It’s a fantastic subject but I’ve never seen it nor could I compose it in an interesting way. In the end it was the confined 2×3 format that was the obstacle. By creating a vertical panorama I was able to make an image that pleases me. In addition, I’ve grown somewhat tiresome of fiery sunrise and sunset skies and more interested in other forms of light. Mid-day light with interesting clouds I find incredibly appealing, especially when you execute the scene without any harsh light. In addition, I love the blue against the colors of sandstone. The clouds lined up perfectly here, creating a volcanic like explosion from the top of the sandstone formation.

Striped Rock Panorama

Moving on to the more standard horizontal panoramas, we definitely see more subjects in nature work for this format. I was fortunate to experience an incredible 10 mile hike through Landmannalaugar (the Highlands in Iceland) with fantastic conditions. This panorama illustrates the multi-colored mountains and patches of snow that make the region so photogenic.

Landmannalaugar Panorama

I didn’t have the most productive trip to Moravia in the Czech Republic this year, but I did manage to create a few images that appealed to me including this panorama of multi-colored crops, rolling hills and trees during sunrise.

Moravia

The Palouse is panorama heaven. This is one of my all time favorites from the region. I love the flowing brown ribbons through the rolling green hills. This was made with a telephoto lens, the easiest lens to use for making panoramas.

Palouse Ribbons Panorama

This image of the UNESCO World Heritage site of Telč was the most difficult panorama I made all year. Because the town square was so confined, I couldn’t get far enough back to make a pano without extreme distortion. To make this pano, I shot with a mid-range lens and walked across the whole scene, shooting along the way. Stitching was incredibly difficult, but I was able to make it work using the powerful program, PTGUI. Take a look online at other panoramas of Telč and you will see the extreme distortion that is commonplace. I’m very proud of this image.

Telc Panorama

Namibia is a landscape photographer’s dream location. It truly is. I recommend every one make the journey one day if it’s at all a possibility. This was taken in the NamibRand Nature Reserve and it’s unlike anything I had seen before.

Tree Line Panorama

It doesn’t get much more iconic than the Wave in Coyote Buttes North. But how many up close and personal panoramas are there out there? Most panos of the Wave are taken from further back. By getting in close with a tilt shift lens I was able to isolate the subject and make the image I had envisioned.

Wave Panorama

White Sands National Monument is amazing! White sand dunes as far as the eye can see. I was there shortly after my Namibia trip, and it was quite a contrast to the orange and red dunes of Africa. This image was created by shooting into the sunrise, a favorite technique of mine.

White Sands Panorama

This is my favorite image from Namibia. Dappled light like this can’t be recreated. it’s a singular moment that may never exist quite like this again. Timing is crucial and everything lined up perfectly.

Dappled Light Panorama

This has become my best-selling panorama. It’s a simple yet striking image with incredible color contrast. It’s surreal and yet minimally processed. The Deadvei is like no place on Earth.

Deadvlei Panorama

The sure volume of hoodoos in Bryce Canyon National Park is astounding. Through stitching more than one image together, you can really emphasis the number of hoodoos with incredible resolution. I look forward to printing this large one day!

Bryce Canyon Panorama

White Pocket is an incredibly surreal sandstone formation that feels like another planet. With this panorama, I was able to tell the story of many of its interesting features, including the brain rock and red swirls.

White Pocket Panorama

Thank you for viewing my favorite panoramas of the year. I encourage you to experiment with the format in 2015 and see what you can create. Happy New Year!


Amazon Cloud Drive for Photographers

One of the advantages to being home for the holidays is catching up on all the projects that are too difficult to accomplish on the road. Amazon recently announced for prime users that the Amazon Cloud Drive service would offer unlimited photo storage for no additional fee. At $99 a year for Amazon Prime, you get expedited shipping and access to Amazon Prime Video. It’s a great deal that just got even better. I currently use Backblaze for my cloud backup of EVERYTHING. Terabytes and terabytes of data backing up continuously in the background for $50 a year.  I keep my master files on the hard drive of my main computer (currently a MacBook Pro) and on an external hard drive. You can never have enough backup solutions so I decided to add my master files to the Amazon Cloud Drive. The interface is slow and a bit clunky, so the idea of adding all my images was too daunting. That’s what I have Backblaze for. With Amazon, I created folders for each gallery (similar to what you see on my site) and added the TIFFs. It took about 5 days to get everything backed up and now it’s accessible by logging into my Amazon Cloud Drive account from any computer in the world. In addition, there is an iOS app that allows access. Because they are large TIFFs, this is not a practical solution for downloading your images, but it does a decent job of pulling up previews.

For those curious as to what I mean by master files, let me go into greater detail. When I am done editing an image, I save it as an uncompressed TIFF in Photoshop and give it the official title that you see on each image on my site. That TIFF becomes the crucial base of all iterations of the image. The TIFF can’t be shared because it’s not sharpened for presentation or print. I use Tony Kuyper’s sharpening actions to create web worthy images based on the TIFF. When I have an order for print, I use the TIFF to create a specific file to match the order. Let’s take a look at example file names for this image, titled “Endless Wonder.”

EndlessWonder

The master file will be titled: EndlessWonder.tiff

Here are possible iterations of the title:

For my website: Endless-Wonder-Proxy-Falls-Website.jpg

For my iPhone: EndlessWonderiPhone.jpg

For a 12×18 print on luster paper: EndlessWonder12x18Luster.tiff

For a 32×48 metal print: EndlessWonder32x48Metal.tiff

As you can see, everything is derived from the master file. Losing my master files or not having access to them at all times would be extremely detrimental for my business. Using the Amazon Cloud Drive gives me one more point of backup, and since I was already a happy subscriber to the Amazon Prime service, it was a bonus feature I was thrilled to take advantage of.


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