Dissecting My Favorite Photos from 2015 – Part III

In the previous two parts (I & II), I describe the careful planning involved in creating those images. Sometimes, however, with some luck, elements and light come together in several ways, (often unexpectedly), and create lasting, memorable moments. During those moments, it helps to stick to the basics, follow the light, and let your heart do the work. This third installment describes the amazing two hours I had at Sandy Stream Pond in Baxter State Park. I created 3 of my favorite images from last year in that short duration- it was like being a kid in a candy store. Please read on for the description.

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A Study in Vision, Light and Shadows

Three years ago, when I made my first photo tour through the magnificent landscapes of Iceland, I fondly recall an interesting dinner discussion with my fellow photographers. We had just returned to our guest house from a memorable photo shoot. As we shared good wine, food, and laughs, the discussion pleasantly turned to photography. After the seemingly prosaic and obligatory discussion of camera gear, we got around to more interesting topics such as light, travel destinations, and our individual exploits. One pleasant, wise, and well-traveled gentleman from Holland made an interesting comment that has resonated with me ever since. With a blend of delight and amusement, he said, and I paraphrase him:

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Dissecting My Favorite Photos from 2015 – Part II

This is the second part of a series in which I share my favorite photos from 2015 with the Photography Life community. These articles include the preparation that went behind creating each image, the thought process that led to the final composition, post processing technique, etc. Continued from Part I.

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Dissecting My Favorite Photos from 2015 – Part I

Every January, I spend couple of days reviewing the photos I made the past year. My first step is to narrow those down to about 45 – 50 favorite images and then eventually to top 12 (the latter reduction often aided by a Facebook poll). I find this exercise rewarding and a very effective way of improving my photography skills. I thought of sharing these final 10 – 12 photos from 2015 with the Photography Life community including the preparation that went behind creating each image, the thought process that led to the final composition, post processing technique etc. After a quick email back and forth with Nasim, I decided to take a stab at it and here is my first write up of this 12 part series.

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Is The Orton Effect Taking Over Landscape Photography?

Have you heard of the Orton Effect? This post-processing technique has been around since the 1980s, if not earlier, but the trend has exploded tremendously in the past few years. If you haven’t heard of it, you aren’t alone – it only recently began to gain mainstream popularity. And yet, in some ways, the Orton Effect is swallowing the modern world of landscape photography. This is barely an exaggeration; after seeing the Orton Effect in practice, you should be able to spot it in at least a third of the trending 500px landscape photos, as well as many winning photo contest entries. This article covers all the basics of the Orton Effect, including a tutorial on how to implement it in your own images – and a discussion on why you may not want to do so.

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The Importance of Simplicity in Photography

At the heart of photography is the idea that you are conveying a message to your viewers. Perhaps you want to show the beauty of a waterfall or the drama of an incredible sunrise. Or, you may hope to depict the dark intensity of a jagged mountain peak. A photograph with a clear message can be as effective as possible; its composition, colors, subject matter, and lighting all add to the impression that you are trying to convey. And, more than any other element of composition, the concept of simplicity helps you achieve this goal. In this article, I will cover the ways in which simplicity plays a role in successful photography, including how to implement it to improve your own photographs.

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Looking For The Moment

I’ve written before about making the familiar unfamiliar with a view to creating a more original image or a different take on something. An important element of making an image more interesting than a mere capture can be to reveal a story or intrigue within it. In a world awash with random snaps and selfies it can be a challenge to find images that hold our attention.

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Framing Subjects with Natural Elements

You have probably already read some great articles at Photography Life regarding framing of your subjects and all the rules that are applicable while doing so (if you have not, check out the section on composition in the photography tips for beginners page). This time around, I want to draw your attention to framing subjects with natural elements to create compelling images. For me personally, photographing is like narrating a story, so I often find it important to incorporate the surrounding elements of the scene along with my subjects. While you can certainly take fantastic photos isolating your subjects with creamy bokeh, I believe that decorating your shots with creative framing will help you add some substance and a pleasant visual appeal to enhance the story.

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Dissecting a Photograph: The Split Rock

While photographing famous landmarks and photo spots is usually a safe way to obtain a beautiful photograph, being able to scout and find own subject to photograph is a skill that many of us have to acquire at some point. Identifying good light, finding the right angle for proper framing and composition, pre-visualizing the end result and using the right tool for the job in order to create a unique and compelling image takes years of practice in the field. This is the area that many of us, including myself, struggle with the most. Despite the difficulties and the challenges, it is important to keep on advancing the “photographer’s eye”. Sometimes we look at a beautiful image and really like it, but have a hard time understanding exactly what in particular attracts us to it. Is it the beautiful light, the composition or the subject itself? An untrained eye often sees certain elements of an image, while neglecting to see other, equally important elements that make an image successful. Being able to see and visualize all the minute details in order to properly execute a photograph is something we all need to continuously work on, because those details really do matter. Personally, I find great help in “dissecting” a solid photograph, to try to understand what kind of thought process and work went into making it. During this process, I pay close attention to everything from light, framing, composition, colors, subject, area of focus and other details, so that I can apply that knowledge in the field. In this article, I would like to present a landscape image that I recently captured in Joshua Tree National Park and go through the process of unveiling everything that went into making this image.

Please note that the below article is compiled from some of the chapters from our upcoming eBook “Creative Landscape Photography” that Spencer Cox and I are currently working on. This will be our first eBook, specifically written on the subjects of Light, Vision and Composition when photographing landscapes.

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Additional Questions on Ethics in Photography

The questions are as old as the technical advancements that made the mass reproduction of photographs possible in the first place: What are the role and scope of photography? What is it capable of, where do its limits lie? Which contents are acceptable, how does a photographer need to behave with his or her subjects? The relationship between photographers and the people they capture with their cameras has been discussed on numerous occasions, mainly in the context of war or crisis reporting. Social taboos, artistic freedom and the journalistic mission to document are key elements within this ongoing discussion. Objectives, goals and ethical guidelines have to be newly defined over and over again.

Note: Please read the Importance of Ethics in Photography before reading this article.

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