Challenging Yourself to Improve

I believe it was Cartier-Bresson who said that your first 10,000 photographs are your worst. For many hobbyist photographers, myself included, it may be much more than that, as improving our craft means constantly shooting, experimenting, reassessing, and continually culling our very best from our best.

London #1

See more photos from the series here.

Many photographers will subscribe to online challenges of capturing a particular subject each week or month, and yet they largely fall into a trap of capturing a subject simply because it is there and then uploading it to the benefit of the site that set the challenge. Rather than improve their own skills, they have merely added to the inventory of someone else’s site. It has been said that a good photographer captures, while a great photographer reveals. However, it is only a few that truly reveal something original or creative.

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How to Focus Stack Images

For most people who just want to have some fun with their photography and have another ‘trick up their sleeve’ focus stacking can be an interesting technique to explore. To put this article in proper context, I’ve never used focus stacking for any of my client work, and I don’t profess to be an expert at the technique…but I have experimented with it. The following image is a quick focus stacking example I put together for this article. It was composed from 11 separate exposures. It’s far from perfect, but it does represent a typical result that most hobbyists can easily achieve.

Image Stack

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How to Photograph a Rainbow

Rainbows are rare in nature, because a number of events have to happen at the same time. First, there has to be moisture in the sky, so a rainy day or a quick rainstorm is the first pre-requisite. Second, the sun must be positioned on the horizon at a low angle, around 42 degrees relative to the viewer. Third, the part of the sky where the sun is must be clear from clouds and obstructions, while the part of the sky where the rainbow will appear must have continuous rain / moisture. When all of these conditions are met, the sun rays will refract and reflect off the water droplets in the sky, creating the optical illusion that we refer to as “rainbow”. When you see a rainbow, it is only natural to want to capture it on your camera. Who wouldn’t want to capture such beauty that contains the full color spectrum visible to our eyes? And if you happen to be at the right place, rainbows could make an ordinary subject appear truly extraordinary. Even a boring scene could be turned into something completely different with a full arc of a rainbow.

Full Rainbow

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How to Photograph Clouds

Nature often rewards us with incredible opportunities for photographing sunrises, sunsets and sun rays piercing through the clouds, creating stunning views. As a landscape photographer, I tend to wait for partly cloudy and stormy days, because clouds make photographs appear much more dramatic and vivid. Without clouds, sunrises and sunsets often look boring, forcing us to cut out the sky and focus on foreground elements instead. In contrast, if you get to witness a sunrise or a sunset with puffy, stormy clouds that are lit up from underneath with colorful sun rays, creating a fiery view, including the clouds in your photographs would make the scene appear much more colorful and alive. In fact, clouds can be so beautiful, that they could become the main element of composition in your photographs. In this article, I will not only talk about the process of photographing clouds, but also will focus on making clouds appear much more dynamic and dramatic in your photographs.

Mt Rainier Lenticular Cloud

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Shooting Flowers and Foliage with Telephoto Lenses

My wife is an avid gardener and for more years than I can remember, I have accompanied her on a wide range of garden tours and other such outings. While gardening is of little interest to me per se, I do find some enjoyment in capturing images of flowers and foliage. And, on the odd occasion I have shot videos of private and public gardens.

Thomas Stirr Flower Photography (1)

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How to Photograph the Milky Way

Many travel and landscape photographers, including myself, try to avoid shooting scenery with a clear blue sky. As much as we like seeing puffy or stormy clouds to spice up our photographs, we have no control over what the nature provides each day. Sometimes we get lucky and capture beautiful sunrises and sunsets with blood red skies, and other times we are stuck with a clear, boring sky. When I find myself in such a situation and I know that the next morning will be clear, I sometimes explore opportunities to photograph the stars and the Milky Way at night. I am sure you have been in situations where you got out at night in a remote location and saw an incredibly beautiful night sky with millions of stars shining right at you, with patches of stars in a “cloudy” formation that are a part of the Milky Way. If you do not know how to photograph the night sky and the Milky Way, this guide might help you in understanding the basics.

Milky Way

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Wildlife Photography Tips Part One

I hope the idea I have in my head for this wildlife photography series of articles turns out on paper the way I imagined it and you find some useful tips that will help you on your photographic journeys. This first part comprised of a number of tips will briefly touch on light, weather and lens \ focal length selection. Like in my other articles, I will start with a simple disclaimer: what I present here is what works for me and you have to find your own way to what ultimately makes you happy.

Small bull moose in snow

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Recommended Nikon D800 / D800E Settings

After I published the article on the recommended settings for the Nikon D600 / D610, I received plenty of requests from our readers that asked me to write a similar article for the Nikon D800 and D800E cameras. Since I own and use both frequently, I decided to expand the series to other cameras (and I do have plans to publish similar articles for Canon DSLRs as well). In this article, I want to provide some information on what settings I use and shortly explain what some of the important settings do. Please do keep in mind that while these work for me, it does not mean that everyone else should be shooting with exactly the same settings. The below information is provided as a guide for those that struggle and just want to get started with a basic understanding of menu settings.

Nikon D800

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Shooting with Natural Light

People often ask me about my post-processing when they look over my photography. To be honest, the post-process I’ve developed has been a combination of small tutorials I’ve taken over the years from artists I respect. I’ve since developed my own style from these tools, but the most important part of post-processing is having an image that will take it on well. In this article, I will be talking less about the post-process and more about how to utilize natural light. In order for proper digital development, the shot has to be versatile for the final result.

Do you want something dark and soft? Do you want something bright and warm? These are just a few questions to ask yourself when setting up a portrait session.

The greatest joy for me, as a photographer, is utilizing light to produce a moving image. This can come in any number of forms, from the smallest single strand of light against a face or a subject in a field mid-afternoon. It’s imperative to train the eye to the spectrum of natural light. The only way to do so is to shoot constantly.

Screenshot

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How to Organize Photos in Lightroom

Lightroom has become a very essential part of the workflow process for many photographers, including myself. I cannot imagine managing my photo catalog without Lightroom and I use it every day for my photography needs. In fact, 95-98% of my post-processing work is done in Lightroom and I only occasionally use Photoshop for advanced photo editing / retouching, which not only simplifies my workflow, but also decreases the amount of time I spend on post-processing. Over the past few years of using Lightroom extensively, I have come up with efficient ways to store, organize and access photos on my computer, so I wanted to share a few tips with our readers on how I do it for both personal and professional work. Although there are many ways to organize images, this particular method has been working great for me (and many others that have been reading our site for the past few years). If you are looking for a generic guide on doing this without any third party photo software like Lightroom, then please read my older article on “how to properly organize pictures“.

1) Where do you store your pictures and how?

The first question is, where and how do you currently store your pictures? I used to store all of my photographs in various subfolders of my hard drive (commonly in “My Pictures” or “My Documents”), but after I got into photography, I decided that it was best to keep all of my photographs in the root folder of my PC’s hard drive that I use solely for storing photos and small family videos. Hard drives are really cheap nowadays, so creating a properly organized and redundant storage for your photography needs does not have to cost an arm and a leg.

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