How to Improve Your Photography

Looking through my archives for color photographs that would make a satisfying black and white image made me realize that “seeing in black and white” will make me a better photographer. Any consistently successful photographer will pre-visualize the image before image capture. For starters, one evaluates dynamic range, depth of field, light quality, composition, timing of the action and whether the subject is meaningful.

To choose a good subject for black and white photography there are more factors to evaluate: tonal range and contrast, simplicity, shape, texture, interest. I like my black and white images to be strong. The image has to be eye catching and hold the viewer’s interest without the help of color. I admit, I’m a photographer who loves color, so this challenge is fun for me!

This photograph of a mother Bison and her calf grazing on top of the hillside made the cut for a color to black and white candidate. In my judgement, it has simplicity, large repeating shapes, texture in the fur, wide tonal range and plenty of interest — from the unusual wildlife sighting to the eye contact and tongue in mid-air.

#bison, #motherandcalf, #buffalo, #gtnp, #grandteton, #wyoming, #jacksonhole, #givethemdistance, #safedistance, #wildlifephotography, #wildlife, #photography, #nature, #blackandwhite, #sonyalpha, #nik, #silverefexpro
Mother and calf bison grazing in Grand Teton National Park (shot from a safe distance inside a car with a 600mm lens).

Thinking in Black and White

I’m challenging myself with learning a new discipline in photography. The first step is having a digital mirrorless camera converted to capture infared light, and I’m learning about the techniques for capturing and processing these new types of images. But the camera won’t be back in my hands for a few weeks.

In the meantime, I was daydreaming about the places I would love to photograph with the infared camera — like the Florida Everglades and Joshua Tree National Park in southern California. With the limitations on travel during the pandemic, those excursions will come to pass down the road.

The scenery of Joshua Tree is fresh in my mind, since I visited the park in 2018. I decided to process one of my color photographs in black and white, as a first step in my journey to see in black and white. What do you think?

#joshuatree, #jtnp, #joshuatreenationalpark, #blackandwhite, #silverefexpro, #nik, #nikon, #shapes, #texture, #contrast, #california, #landscape, #photography, #nature, #desert, #adobe
I love the bold silhouettes as well as the textures in the Joshua Trees found in the high desert of California. A monochrome image makes the image more about shapes, textures and contrast, as it subtracts color. Processed in Adobe Camera Raw and Nik’s Silver Efex Pro.

Stripes and Polka Dots

Would you pair a striped blouse with polka dot pants? It’s not really my style. Can you think of a plant or animal that pairs stripes and polka dots together? That’s right: mix a zebra with a leopard!

This orchid has a unique fashion sense, and she reminds me of a spider. What do you think of her bold design?

#orchid, #stripes, #striped, #bold, #diversity, #phipps, #phippsconservatory, #pittsburgh, #thingstodo, #flower, #nature, #photography, #sonyalpha
This unique orchid can be found at the Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh PA. ©Catherine Kelly

Creative Processing

When travel restrictions keep a photographer at home for months at a stretch, it’s a perfect time to exercise one’s creativity with new ways to process images in the archives. On this sunny day in June, I pulled up one of my favorite images of 2020: my daughter and son-in-law on a dog sled in Wyoming with a stunning background.

I was so happy that my dogsled, traveling just behind Courtney’s sled stopped in an opportune spot for me to frame her sled before tall pines, snow-capped mountains and a happy sky, blue with puffy clouds. And for just one second, Courtney and her husband Scott looked up at me and smiled. The triangular composition gives the scene balance and also offsets the white dogs.

#jackson, #jacksonhole, #thingstodo, #winter, #winterfun, #dogsled, #topaz, #adobe, #sonyalpha, #stayathome, #processing, #photography, #family, #creativity
Processed in Photoshop and Topaz Simplify, this photograph gained a painterly effect. I believe that the viewer can more easily place themselves in the scene when the faces are modified. I hope you agree that this image is more than just a family photo now.

Our winter adventures in Jackson Hole will give us some interesting options for holiday cards this year, and maybe a 2021 calendar. I’m sure your photographs from your family trips bring you joy at this time.

Creativity in Isolation

Are you finding ways to exercise your creativity during Isolation? I hope I can inspire you to play a little. Of course, first things come first: we pray, we clean, we prepare meals, we help our neighbors, we work remotely, we stay in touch over the Internet, we catch up on our sleep, we read, we exercise and then we do it all over again.

But for the first time in a long time, the rat race has paused. You can actually be patient when driving a car. You can smile and say hello to strangers you pass outside. You can reflect about life and how to live a better life when normalcy returns. And you now have time to be creative. It’s okay to amuse yourself — draw, write, cook — whatever pursuit suits you.

I have been experimenting with my Lensball, which I ordered in December, but have been too busy doing everything else until now. It is a carefully manufactured and polished spherical prism. When you take a photo of it, the image you see is reflected on the back and then the front of the sphere and it appears upside down. Don’t let this stop you. You can always invert the image in photo editing software if you need to. There are endless creative possibilities. (You just have to be very careful to keep the lens ball out of strong direct sunlight, as it heats up in about 2 seconds and can burn your fingers!) You can guess how I discovered this outdoors in southwest Florida.

#lensball, #beach, #sunset, #upsidedown, #prism, #sphere, #sand, #experiment, #play, #isolation, #creativit, #creative, #skylum, #luminar
I took my Lensball to the beach just before sunset to experiment with some images. I use my iPhone 11 Pro Max, because it is complicated enough to position the lens ball and get down on my knees in the sand, and then get up and wipe the sand off myself and the Lensball!
#Lensball, #palms, #experiment, #shoptwithiphone, #nature, #isolation, #howto, #creative, #creativity, #blueandgreen, #bluesky
While supporting the Lensball with a glass vase, I shot this photo with my iPhone 11 pro max out my bedroom window. You can see the lines of the screen as well as the palm tree and lawn and lake. I think it’s cool that the background is larger and out of focus.

Narcissus: Beauty on the Surface

This Great Egret is no Narcissist. He’s just foraging for fish on a Tuesday morning. But his clear reflection in the lake reminded me of the Greek Myth about Narcissus, the character who fell in love with his reflection. This moment frozen in time in a still image gives the impression that the egret may have stared at his reflection for a few minutes. Of course, this moment passed in an instant.

This morning the colors reflected in the water and the ripples surrounding our Great Egret gave this image a unique ethereal quality. The smooth white egret and its reflection contrast with the color and texture of the water, bringing our eye to rest on the bird and its mirror image.

#egret, #greategret, #mirror, #reflection, #colors, #ripples, #symmetry, #narcissus, #greekmythology, #naplesflorida, #naples, #naturephotography, #morninglight, #texture
Great Egret looks beneath the water for fish, while I quietly capture the reflections and ripples on the surface. Naples, FL 2020.

Cleared for Take-Off

Watching and waiting for this Great White Egret to take off, I was rewarded by this sighting of outstretched white wings. With my Nikon camera shutter set at 1/1000 second, I was prepared to capture this image to share with you.

#egret, #whiteegret, #greatwhite, #greatamericanegret, #wings, #takeoff, #flight, #birdphotography, #naturephotography, #wildlife, #howto, #nikon, #tamron, #outdoorphotography, #morningsun, #sunlit, #llittoralplants, #golfcourse, #contest, #photography,
Early morning sun shines through the white egrets wing feathers, as the egret lifts off from the littoral plants.

Since I also set my Nikon D800 on “continuous-high,” I have two more great frames to share. You can help me decide which one is best. I will submit one or two of these photos to the Royal Poinciana Members’ Photography Contest. The submitted photos have to be shot on the property.

The Sunstar at Naples Pier

We arrived at Naples Pier about 10 minutes before sunset. My friend Marjorie warned me, “It’s going to go fast,” and she was right. We needed to pick a spot for a sunset photo quickly among scores of others who were on the beach for the very same reason, to witness the sunset and preserve the memories with photography.

I realized that the sun was going to slip behind the pavilions at the end of the pier, creating an opportunity to photograph the sun as a sunstar with rays. When the sun or other bright light source is clipped by a foreground object, you can create this type of image by stopping your lens down to f/16. (This assumes you know how to manually set your camera!) If not, no worries. Just enjoy this image of a beautiful end of an equally beautiful day.

#pier, #naplespier, #naplesfl, #sunset, #sunstar, #gulfcoast, #blessing, #peace, #sun,
What a blessing to share this moment of peace and wonder with dozens of other respectful visitors at Naples Pier on the Gulf coast of Florida.

Click on the image to enlarge. Need a print? Please visit my website anytime.

Kauai Revisited

The first time I visited Kauai, I flew in for a memorable photography workshop, and my daughter Erin met me there. The next time I visit Kauai, my daughter Erin will be leading me there to make some epic new memories — at her wedding.

As our family books flights and accommodations and looks forward to the big day, I took a look back at my 2014 photos of Kauai. Here is a waterfall image from the “Garden Isle” of Hawaii.

#kauai, #waterfall, #gardenisle, #lush, #hawaii, #photography, #nature, #wilderness, #wedding
You can see why Kauai is called the garden isle. It is not hard to find lush wilderness here.

Surely, our second visit to Kauai in July will offer many new photo opportunities on this beautiful Hawaiian island.

Finding Reflections in Sedona

If you can find a reflection of your main subject in a landscape photograph, you will create a unique image that will hold the viewer’s attention even longer. Sometimes, you need to be a bit creative to find those reflections as big lakes don’t appear on command. When I noticed a few puddles in the red rock flats of Red Rock Crossing, I lined myself up to see if I could see a reflection. What I found was quite an interesting foreground.

While this puddle only captured a portion of Cathedral Rock, I liked the pattern formed by the red rocks in the foreground as well as the leading line (left to center) that links the red rock plateau with the trees.

A good foreground and middle ground leading to the focal point of the image leads the eye through the image and allows the whole image to work together for a pleasing visual experience. The soft side lighting of sunset also enhances the tranquility of the image.

I hope this scene inspires you to visit Sedona and explore the many trails and viewpoints. Sedona is just 90 minutes’ drive north of the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport. Keep an eye on this online gallery for more of my unique Sedona landscapes. Prints of many different sizes can be ordered online.