Posts made in Learning

Jul
10
2013

A Great Workshop with Bill Fortney & Team

The Palouse, Mt. Rainier & The Olympic National Park, WA

(1st of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Shop1I’ve just returned from a photography workshop across much of the state of Washington, led by Bill Fortney, Matt Kloskowski and their team.  It was one of the most interesting and varied workshops I’ve ever taken.

I’ve known of Bill for some years from his Great American Photography Weekend workshops and as an instructor with Kelby Training.  But I had never met him nor taken one of his workshops.  Matt is well known to most every one who follows Photoshop User magazine and Kelby Training, and I’ve been a huge fan of Matt’s years.  So when a few slots in this workshop opened up (they typically fill within days after being announced), I jumped at the opportunity.

Most typical workshops are centered on one region or locale for 3 to 5 days. But one of the most intriguing parts of this ‘shop was that it covered much of Washington’s geography (and even a tad of Idaho’s).  The principal areas were the Palouse, Mt. Rainier National Park, and the Olympic National Park, all over eight days.  I’ve attended dozens of workshops and hosted photography tours, but this is likely to be one of my all-time favorites.  It not only encompassed some truly amazing scenery, but the quality of training, degree of organization and scheduling, and the camaraderie with all of the leaders and fellow attendees was truly outstanding.

There would be no way to cover the entire workshop trip in one post so I’ll keep this one fairly general.  It already shapes up to be too long, so I’ll try to focus on individual areas in later separate posts.  Stay tuned and come back soon for those (assuming I can survive plowing through thousands of frames and still have the energy to write).

Shop-2We started in the Palouse which is a loosely bounded region situated roughly between Spokane and Walla Walla, WA, and stretching eastward into western Idaho.  It is home to the second largest wheat growing region in the world (Ukraine is tops).  Its rolling hillsides and valleys set it apart from so many other agricultural regions, and the earliest growing season in June has become a favorite photography setting.  In many ways it reminds me of Tuscany.

Later in the year at harvest time, all of the green has disappeared, and the entire area truly is one of “Amber Waves of Grain.”  But at this time of year, the rich greens and characteristic farms, silos and barns make this a photographer’s dream.  Early morning and evening sun strikes the rolling hills and valleys to create ever-changing and amazing patterns, shadows and forms.  Each morning and evening, we perched atop Steptoe Butte for what can only be described as a fantastic vantage of an amazing place.  Between those times, we meandered around hundreds of miles of quiet highways and farm roads, shooting barns and the countryside for as much of each day as the reasonable light would allow.

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Jul
10
2013

Waterfall Learning

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop In Mt. Rainier National Park, WA

(4th of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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1x570-LtGreyRainier2On my recent Washington State workshop trip with Bill Fortney, Matt Kloskowski and the His Light team,  we made a one-night stop at Mt. Rainier to break up the long east-west drive across the entire state.

Rainier8Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate very much with drizzle and cloud-cover obscuring Rainier (the mountain) all but a few minutes on the morning we departed the Paradise Inn (our lodging for the night).

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Rainier4But, the drive up and down did give us an opportunity to capture some streams and some wonderful waterfalls.  I haven’t done much in the way of waterfall and flowing water photography other than in abstracts, so this was a great opportunity to use some of the tips that Bill and Matt had given the group on capturing moving water.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

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Jul
10
2013

Olympic National Park & 2nd Beach

A Segment of the Bill Forney Workshop, Olympic Peninsula, WA

(6th of 7 Posts from this Trip)

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Before visiting the Olympic NP on Bill Fortney’s His Light Workshop, I had an impression that the entire peninsula would most likely be shrouded in mist or drizzle much of the time.  That wasn’t the case, and in fact, the sunshine made shooting other than at the day’s extremes a bit challenging.

The one exception was Hurricane Ridge, about 20 miles above Port Angeles.  We made three trips (two sunset, one sunrise) and clouds covered much of the ridges and even the ridge itself during the first evening’s shoot.  So we were forced to alter the plan and instead to try out a few macro and close-ups.

Olympic5The most popular subject of the group that evening was of the misty, young lupine leaves along the trail from the parking lot.  It was really funny to be in a big setting like the Hurricane Ridge overlook and see two dozen photographers all huddled near the ground with cameras only inches off the plants – like scientists over microscopes.  Hilarious!

1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shimBut the star of this location is clearly the distant snow-tipped mountains in setting sun.  This isn’t a great example, but was as good as it got for me on those shoots.Hurricane1

Olympic8About halfway down on the drive back down to town, I dropped below the ceiling of clouds that had covered the ridgeline.  An amazing sky, clouds and even a rainbow popped out.  By the time I found a pull-out, most of the rainbow had dissipated, but he scenes from there were worth shooting nevertheless.1-px-x-560-px-background-line-shim

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Jul
08
2013

On Being More Than Just a Photographer

On a recent trip, I had a situation that caused me to remember that this whole world of photography, especially for me, is not just about cameras, lenses and ISOs.  It’s really about what I do for the sheer enjoyment and enrichment of life that photography brings to my world.  I don’t do this for a living, nor do I do it for much more recognition than I hope to gain from my family or a few friends.

On one particular day when I was out shooting with a group of fellow photographers, I was having some personal problems from back in my real-world, and it was generally not a very good day.

A fellow photographer, who not incidentally is way, way, beyond my skill level and pay grade, went out of his way to catch me on the path to our beach shoot and ask if I was OK.  He said he’d noticed that my mood had changed and said he was worried about me.  Now, this is a guy who has every right to keep his distance and to stay uninvolved with the students of a workshop.  But instead, he stepped out of his zone.

I’ll never even come close to his accomplishments, nor will I likely be a guest blogger, nor will I be featured as a notable photographer, nor a teacher of his stature.  But, I do know human kindness when I see it.

I was reminded that photography, for me, will not be a career and I don’t depend on it for making a living.  Instead, it is a way for me to enjoy the world around me, to capture (either by lens or by memory) images of interesting and beautiful things I am lucky enough to experience.  So, to have someone check their understandable and deserved ego at the door and reach out to someone he barely knew was a big deal to me.

Maybe the value of my photography passion has a side that isn’t technical, isn’t critical, but is human.

So for me, I could’ve ended the trip with that moment on the beach having come away with much more than some award-winning photo.  I came away realizing that even a big-time photographer can have sensitivity.

I’ve had several friends (not too many) in my photo world who fit that category.  It seems that others are too insecure or threatened by even a non-professional’s encroachment into their territory.  Not this guy or the others I’m alluding to.  I won’t use names, but you know who you are.

So thank you for your compassion and effort.  And of course, the very same to those few others (JLD, RH, BF) for your friendship, mentoring and thoughtfulness.

From the heart,

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Mar
23
2013

“Window Seat” Inspiration

Several weeks ago, I treated myself to a copy of Julieanne Kost’s fantastic book, “Window Seat: The Art of Digital Photography & Creative Thinking“.  It is a great mixture of some fantastic photography, shooting tips, and philosophy that goes well beyond the camera to life itself.

Julieanne is the Principal Digital Imaging Evangelist for Adobe Systems (gotta love Adobe for creating job titles like that!).  But more to the point of this posting, she is a very, very skilled and creative photographer and terrific teacher.  I had the pleasure of meeting her last year at a conference and have been a fan ever since.  You can find her bio and her many tips and tutorials via the Adobe website (http://www.adobe.com) or from her personal website (http://www.jkost.net/).  Or you can check out the book at O’Reilly Media (http://shop.oreilly.com/) .

Window Seat” (don’t want to violate her publisher’s copyright, so won’t post a cover image here) is a photo documentary of Julieanne’s many business trips with all of the images taken from the window seat of the airplane.  In the book, she shares her thoughts, a few fears, some of her triumphs, all in the context of her passion for photography. This book isn’t a how-to on digital photography as might be assumed from the title, but rather, in my opinion, it is a brilliant composite of images and thoughts, all from the window seat of an airplane.

So why am I writing about this?  Because, in addition to all the gushing above, I found it to be a very inspirational basis for my trying to do some shooting from my “window seats”.  Julieanne writes about the physical challenges of attempting through-window photography, but I fully underestimated just how hard doing that is.

On a recent trip to Alaska, I re-booked all my seats to the window variety.  Unfortunately, none were forward of the engine and wing (one of her main tips), but I had to take what I could get.WindowSeat_Sky

Armed with my Nikon D800 and a 28-300 lens (very nice lens, but probalby not the one I should have used), I started shooting some abstracts, clouds and skies.  Not a single one comes close to what I had expected even for my first attempt.  But I’ve included some of those first attempts here.WindowSeat_Clouds

None have that abstract quality that are in her book, but hey, I couldn’t ask the pilot to move a few hundred miles to the left!WindowSeat_Wing

I even tried while on a small plane out to the Iditarod trail.  Now those windows were really bad.  If you think grey clouds render the light flat while on the ground, you should see it from the air.  And, unfortunately, sharpness with the specific gear I had failed pretty miserably.  But the atempt was another good learning experience.  So, it was time to try some interpretive stylization!WindowSeat_Trail

I will now go back and re-read (for the already half-dozenth time) “Window Seat” and try some more on the next trips.  Sure wish I’d had it back in the day when I flew too many times each month over what would have been wonderful possible subjects.WindowSeat_Mtn

Anyway, thanks for the inspiration, Julieanne.

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Oct
26
2012

On Not Giving Up Too Quickly

Early Snowfall in the Eastern Sierras

Two years ago, I made a Fall Color trip through California’s eastern Sierras, and was rewarded with a fantastic show.  I planned for this year’s return trip hoping for a repeat performance.  I closely watched all of the leaf-peeper reports for several weeks, and most were saying that autumn colors were building throughout the area, from Sonora Pass near Bridgeport to Bishop.

Since peak colors appear on slightly different dates, depending on local conditions and weather, there is no “perfect” date to be there.  I envy people who live nearby and who can make a quick hour’s drive on short notice.  I don’t have that option, so I picked October 20th as the target date again this year.

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Oct
18
2012

Vista House Inspiration

Along the Columbia River, Oregon

I’ve mentioned before how much I gain from Brian Matiash’s weekly OnOne “Perfect Inspiration” series (http://www.ononesoftware.com/inspiration/).  In each episode, Brian uses a shot that may not, all by itself, be jaw-dropping.  But he concentrates on adding an incredibly creative slant to the post-processing and some personal insights to achieve a really “inspirational” result.  Several episodes back, he featured a shot he’d taken of the Vista House at Crown Point along the Columbia River just east of Portland.

It just so happened that I was leaving for a 4-day trip to the Columbia Gorge the very next day after seeing the episode.   So I quickly adjusted the route since I was very taken not only by the setting and subject, but by Brian’s creative “Blending Fantasy with Reality” rendering of it.

For reference, the Vista House is located above the Columbia along the scenic, historic Columbia River Highway (GPS: 45.540067,-122.244294).  Vista House was designed by Samuel Lancaster as an observatory looking up and down the Columbia, and to make the wonders of the gorge accessible to the area’s visitors.  The opening panorama above is the view of the Columbia from the Vista House.

Brian chose his vantage from the nearby Portland Women’s Forum parking lot.  I couldn’t imagine that I’d find a better spot, so I shamelessly put my tripod legs in the same holes (although the one I used is from a slightly different vantage point in the lot).  You should watch his video (http://www.ononesoftware.com/inspiration/episode10/) to get the full impact of how he converted what would otherwise have been an interesting but straightforward HDR series of shots into a very cool final result.

He said that he wanted to, “…infuse [into the shot] a sense of fantasy and otherworldliness.”  If you’ve seen OnOne’s advertisements in many of the photo magazines, it will be familiar to you.  I just loved his final result and wanted to try for my own fantasy version.

So, deciding that I’d try the sincerest form of flattery, I shot a similar set of images at a slightly later sunset and used my image to learn from his tutorial.

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Sep
12
2012

Photoshop World – What a Blast!

I’ve just returned, very tired but very inspired, from Photoshop World 2012 in Las Vegas.  PSW is a semi-annual (Orlando in the Spring, Las Vegas in the Fall) event of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals.  If you don’t know about NAPP and you’re into photography, design, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and video, you definitely should look into NAPP and all its programs, events, training and other benefits ( http://photoshopuser.com/ ).

Anyway, event-central was the Mandalay Bay Resort Hotel.  The Mandalay is a fantastic venue for something like this, although I’d hate to think about how many miles I walked INSIDE the hotel complex during the 4 day event.  The main event was Photoshop World, but actually, the hotel itself offered some interesting details to shoot.

I’ve been to more than my share of professional and trade shows and conferences, and for the most part, I’ve found most to be boring at best, and more often a waste of time and money.  Most are primarily a vendor trade-floor with a few breakout sessions or speakers that might be worth attending.

But NOT THIS ONE!

Classes were packed, 2 or 3 concurrently, starting at 8:00 and going into the evening.  And, although I obviously couldn’t attend more than one for each slot, I might’ve if they were spread over more days and times.

OK, enough PSW and NAPP propaganda already!  What about a few of the more inspirational and instructive highlights, of which there were many.

One of my favorite instructors is Julieanne Kost , actually of Adobe.  She is not only a really terrific instructor with an engaging wit and dozens of voices and sounds to punctuate her sessions, but she is a fantastic photographic artist.  Check out her website (http://www.jkost.com/ ) for a huge collection of tutorials and instructions, all really easy to follow, and FREE.  Don’t miss her Blog and Portfolio tabs.

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