Photography On Location

My Ebooks are here!

February 9th, 2016

comp
Between workshops, assignments and speaking engagements, I’ve been busy working on ebooks the last year. And I’m happy to announce they are here! My first two ebooks are on topics I teach regularly on workshops, composition and lighting. These books are PDF format with terrific layout thanks to my friend Amber Jai Nowell.

As anyone knows who has gone on one of my workshops, my composition class has evolved based on feedback from my students. I’ve learned through the years what helps photographers spark their creativity, and what exercises and techniques can elevate creativity to a new level. I wrote this book as a reflection of the hundreds of students I have had the chance to be with in the field, and what has worked with improving their composition. As photographers know, creativity is never really mastered, we only find ways to further explore our own vision of the world, and try to interpret what we see. 30 Lessons in Composition examines 30 images I culled from 300,000 images shot over a 30 year period. I discuss my creative process in each image, what worked, and what might have been done better. I also lay out loads of camera technique to create the images; often creative vision can only be realized by mastering technique. You can purchase the book here.

flash
Lighting has been a cornerstone of my career, and I am continually amazed at the transformational qualities of light. The Practical Lighting Handbook is aimed at beginning and intermediate photographers who want to learn lighting. The title sums up this book; I don’t go into mindless equations and specs on every lighting system on the market. Instead, I talk about how to create great travel portraits using one speedlight. Or how about creating ‘sunlight’ in a landscape image. Interested in macro flash, this book has it covered. I also look at multiple light portrait setups and high speed flash. This book will teach you how light a subject, not just illuminate it. Get this book here.

I will have my ebooks (for sale) listed on my workshop page shortly, but for now use the links above. More titles are on the way this year, stay tuned. I hope you enjoy the ebooks, and learn some new technique and creative approaches while reading them!

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Stabilizing GoPro shots; Lanparte HHG-01 gimbal

February 5th, 2016

lanparte
One of the most rewarding, and frustrating, video clips to shoot is the moving shot. If you shoot 35mm or larger cameras like the Red, stabilizing a moving shot will require a large gimbal or steadycam rig. These are expensive, heavy, and take awhile to master. But the reward is getting incredible footage using 35mm DSLR cameras. If you don’t want to make that big of an investment, but still want to shoot video while chasing your subject down a trail, take a look at the Lanparte HHG-01 gimbal. This rig has a 3 axis gimbal and can stabilize both phones and GoPro cameras. Here is the best part. Once you have your GoPro attached, you just press the button on the bottom of the handle and your camera is perfectly balanced and stabilized. I was shooting steady moving video after 5 minutes of setting the gimbal up. Since you are using a GoPro, your arm won’t get tired walking around with this rig. If you want to see sample footage, just search the web for in-depth reviews on this gimbal. I also bought the Lanparte monitor and bracket. With this attached, I can see exactly what I am filming as I follow my subject. The gimbal runs around $320, and the monitor goes for $159, bracket for $79. If you want to add some dynamic moving shots to your next video, and you have a GoPro, take a look at this system.

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Attachments for the GoPro

February 2nd, 2016

dogcam
You can put a GoPro everywhere…literally. GoPro has a variety of harnesses, brackets, clamps and tripod attachments that give you incredible creativity in using the GoPro, which is a big reason to own one. One of my favorites is the dog harness. It is pretty entertaining to see the world from a dog’s perspective. We have short-haired pointer, and all Violet wants to do is run and play. So with the big snowstorm we just had, I attached my GoPro to Violet and let her run wild…click here to see the video of a day in Violet’s life.

carmount
The three other attachment devices I use with my GoPro is the standard tripod mount, the suction cup and the helmet attachment. For standard shooting, I attach my GoPro to my tripod using one of their plates attached to a Really Right Stuff plate to attach to my tripod. If I am skiing, mountain biking or ice climbing, I attach my GoPro to my helmet to get an amazing POV shot (use superwide mode). And finally, one of my favorites, the suction mount is great for attaching my GoPro to my car, kayak or canoe. When you first attach the suction/camera to the side door of your car, it looks a little sketchy. But mine hasn’t fallen off yet!

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GoPro Hero4 Black

January 29th, 2016

gpro
I was recently working on some time-lapse sequences, and wanted to create one driving in my car at night. I started figuring out rigging to mount a DSLR in my car, and then it dawned on me this would be the perfect GoPro shot. If you are wondering why, take a look at the size of the camera, it fits in the palm of your hand and weighs almost nothing. But can a simple little camera like this really take good pictures? Oh yeah…

Here are some specs on the Go Pro. 12mp still images, burst rates up to 30 frames per second, time-lapse mode, 4k video up to 30fps, 2.7K up 60fps, and 1080 up to 120fps (amazing slow motion footage at the frame rate), built-in wifi, audio and audio support for external mics…and the camera comes in a case that is waterproof down to 131 feet. One concern I’ve heard from other photographers is the GoPro always captures the super wide angle of view shots. This is great when you are doing point of view photography of yourself paddling off a waterfall (not!), but not an advantage if you just want to take normal photographs. Now many of the GoPro models offers wide, medium and narrow angle of views to produce images have more standard angles of view. Perhaps the biggest draw to using a GoPro, and why I used one, is the incredible number of mounting accessories you can use. There is virtually no place you can’t mount a GoPro. To mount mine on my car, I used the handy suction cup mount. If you have a helmet, the GoPro comes standard with a helmet mount included, just stick on the base plate. One of my favorites….the dog mount. Yes, you can attach you GoPro to your dog, and go play fetch to produce some pretty creative and entertaining footage (or images). Image quality, both video and still, is excellent. If you still doubt the quality coming from this camera, if you saw the movie the Martian with Matt Damon, a number of the clips were shot on the Hero4.

Another big concern from photographers concerning the GoPro is the lack of LCD panel to review images. The camera comes with a simple LCD on the front to navigate through the shooting modes, but no playback. GoPro offers a LCD back to fit on the Hero4 to allow image review, but it does suck up a lot of battery use. I’ve found with the wide angle of view I just point the camera in the general direction to get the shot I want. It becomes second nature after using the camera a little while.

Why would a normal DSLR photographer buy a GoPro. I carry one because it is tiny and weighs nothing, is waterproof, and can be a great camera to get a shot or video that might compliment my DSLR. And if I want to shoot a time-lapse in the rain, I just set up the GoPro and walk away. In my next post I’ll show you some examples of how I have used this camera, including the infamous dog mounted GoPro!

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Clouds and city lights at night

January 25th, 2016

Moab Utah. Arches

Moab Utah. Arches


I was in Moab last week working on a shoot which involved a lot of night photography. My timing was pretty good since the moon was just strong enough to add some light to the desert, but not overpower the stars in the sky. The desert in the Moab area is spectacular for night photography, with minimal light pollution. But depending on your angle, you might see some glow from Moab or even Grand Junction. But are city lights and clouds bad for night shots? Not necessarily.

In the image above you can see a warm glow in the bottom of the frame. These are city lights reflected off some clouds in the distance. While this glow might not be pure clean nature, I love the contrast it provides with the blue glow of the night sky. If you search the web, some of the best night images have beautiful reflected city lights in the shot. So even though you may not want this glow in your image, you may like the end result.

I recently was writing a story for one of the photography magazines, and mentioned there are a “thousand reasons not to go” out and shoot. I know I can think of a hundred reasons not to grab my camera and go out and shoot. But you are never going to get ‘the shot’ unless you are out shooting. Don’t let the winter blues slow you down, go out and shoot!

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Nikon D5 and D500 announced

January 6th, 2016

kayaksparksm
I know many photographers who have long awaited the release of the next DX body to replace the D300s, and it is here, the D500. Announced along with the new flagship camera, the D5, Nikon has really produced two new amazing SLR cameras. But I know what is going to get the attention of many of my readers, the D500. Why? For any DX camera users, this is a no brainer. This camera is loaded with new technology and features; it is a big jump from any current DX camera. For a full frame shooter (FX format), this might make you pause. All my current lenses and bodies are full frame, but I still going to buy a D500. Take a look at these features:

-20.9 MP DX sensor; 20MP is just right for most of my shooting, and great for travel when I don’t need huge files.
-10fps, with a huge buffer; your are not going to miss action waiting for the buffer to clear
-new autofocus module 153/99 points that works in even lower light; the same one in the D5; with the DX sensor size, virtually the entire viewfinder will have autofocus points.
-excellent ISO performance at 6400 and 12,800. Yes this camera can go to ISO 1,640,00, but I rarely shoot more than 6400.
-built on the same rugged body type as the D810; but without a popup flash, even more durable.
-wifi and bluetooth compatible; this camera will always be connected to your phone even when it is turned off. You can easily upload photos for those Instagram posts.
-4k video; and lots of other video improvements including in camera 4k time-lapse video creation.
-touch sensitive tilting LCD screen; great for shooting at odd angles like macro.
-the same 10 pin port; all my cable releases and other accessories with attach without new adapters.

I am getting a D500 for 10FPS a second in a nice small body, the sweet spot of 20mp, and the wifi/bluetooth abilities. The DX 1.5x sensor, with its smaller size, will turn my 300mm into a 450mm equivalent with the narrower angle of view. For telephoto shooting (wildlife, sports), this will be a great camera, and one I won’t think twice about taking since it is light and compact. The D5 may be in my future, but for now I signing up for a D500.

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2015 in review…

January 1st, 2016

Arizona; sonora desert

Arizona; sonora desert


2015 was a great year loaded with fantastic photography. Memorable assignments and workshops combined to make it a year to remember. I love the variety of images I get to work on each year, everything from ‘super models’ in the Caribbean to ‘super dart frog models’ in the jungle. Photography continues to be my burning passion as much as it did when I started in journalism school 30 years ago. Here are a few outtakes from shoots this year.

Assignments. My assignments ranged from editorial and advertising shoots from snowy Alaska to sunny St. Thomas. Sometimes I can’t believe my luck in getting assignments. Tom, would you shoot our new underwater camera with models in the Caribbean for a week. Uhhh…yes! Tom, do you mind flying into remote Alaska to photograph this lodge? Oh yeah, sign me up! Tom, how about using our new lights and photographing a wedding…on a cliffside? Hmm, now this sounds really wild!

Lander Wyoming. rock climbingLander Wyoming. rock climbing

Lander Wyoming. rock climbingLander Wyoming. rock climbing


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Fort Collins, CO.  photo shoot

Fort Collins, CO. photo shoot


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Fort Collins, CO. portrait

Fort Collins, CO. portrait

Workshops. I love to teach, and truly enjoy spending time with workshop participants. I am constantly impressed at the quality of work from the participants! I traveled to some spectacular locations this year, and plan to return to some of the same locations in 2016. Here are a few images from trips this year.

acadia national park

acadia national park

Iceland

Iceland


df4
dance2

Super excited for 2016! Many of my workshops are already full, thanks to all those who continue to travel with me. I’m looking forward to another great year!

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Fort Collins Magazine

December 18th, 2015

tents
I hope everyone is finishing up the holiday shopping. If you still need some gift ideas, take a look at KelbyOne. They have been offering deals all week, and any photographer will enjoy learning from the hundreds of training videos online.

I have been shooting glowing tent shots for over 30 years. I spent months living in tents as an outdoor guide, so turning on a headlamp in the tent to create a warm glow was one of the first outdoor images I was creating. And today they are still popular as stock images. Fort Collins Magazine currently has one of my winter tent images on their cover. Check out this great magazine here.

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Shooting in a blizzard; ELB 400s

December 15th, 2015

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My morning started looking out the window and seeing 10 inches of fresh snow, with more falling and the wind blowing. In other words, a blizzard day in Colorado. I always look at heavy snowfall as a great reason to get out and play and shoot…kayaking, fly fishing, running, snowshoeing…snow is just an excuse to go play! With that in mind I loaded up the truck with my new Elinchromn ELB400s and the new EL-Skyport Plus HS and headed out into the snow.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.


Snow looks great when hit by flash, the only challenge is shooting when the snow is coming down hard and blowing everywhere. I’ve developed a system that works great when shooting with Quadras and ELB400s. First, I put the battery packs in their own small backpack. This keeps the flash packs plenty dry, and they trigger just fine using a Skyport.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.


Next, I put my flash heads onto stands and cover them with a waterproof nylon bag. The pack with the ELB400 is clipped onto the lightstand and stabilizes the stand like a sandbag. With the pack clipped on and the flash head covered, I can go about setting up the shoot without worrying about heavy snow getting anything wet. True be told, I’ve used my ELB 400s in blowing snow before with no cover, and they worked great. These packs are well sealed against the elements. I often leave the waterproof bag tied around the back part of my flash head to cover where the cable connects to the head. This prevents any moisture getting in; be careful not to cover the bulb and reflector. Flash heads get hot and can melt nylon and plastic.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.


I also always bring a foam pad to place my gear on in the snow. Nothing is worse than dropping something into the snow and it disappears in the snowpack. If the snow is really coming down, your pad may get buried quick. Bring a small whisk broom to brush off the snow. And bring a small absorbent cleaning cloth to wipe off the drops on on your lens.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.

Fort Collins, Colorado. snowshoeing in the a blizzard at Horsetooth Reservoir.


I know my Nikon cameras can get really wet and keep on shooting, but what about that new EL-Skyport Plus attached to the top? I’m happy to report this skyport does great in bad weather; my unit was very wet and snow covered after shooting in the storm, but it performed beautifully. The new LCD interface and larger control buttons allow easy control adjustments using bulky wet gloves.

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For this shot I used cross lighting and darkened the ambient light around 1.5 stops. I love using this lighting ration between daylight and flash to add more drama to the intensity of the snowstorm.

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Elinchrom ELB400 shoot; behind the scenes

December 10th, 2015

elinchrom adsh
If you are out shopping for the holidays this month, take a look at the back cover of Shutterbug magazine. Your first reaction might be ‘I didn’t think you shot weddings’, and your reaction would be totally correct. But that was the point of this shoot. What would an adventure guy do if he photographed a wedding?

This concept came about working with the amazingly creative folks at Mac Group (who distribute Elinchrom in the US). I love to light rock climbers on vertical faces using my ‘vertical studio’ cross lighting technique. Why not apply this to a wedding? Of course that meant I needed to find two climbers who could be ‘married’ on the side of a cliff. Our two friends Zach and Korie were up for it. But you have to read the end of this blog to see what really happened!!

Fort Collins, CO.  photo shoot

Fort Collins, CO. photo shoot


It is almost certain every time you plan a shoot, something always goes a little crazy. In this case, we had 30MPH winds during the first part of the shoot. Imagine trying to position a large softbox off a big cliff with people right below…we had to clip carabiners into the soft box so if it blew off the flash head it didn’t land on someone. But luckily as the day progressed, the wind died down.

Fort Collins, CO.  photo shoot

Fort Collins, CO. photo shoot


We spent the entire day, from sunrise to sunset, working on this shoot. I wanted to try a variety of different lighting styles using the amazing ELB 400s. These packs weigh six pounds and are very small. Easy to carry in a backpack, or on my next travel shoot in some distant country. And with the new Skyport, I can shoot at 1/8000 for freezing action and using F1.4 in midday light.

So how did this shoot end? For starters, we got some incredible images. Korie looked absolutely stunning with her elegant dress draped down the cliff. And Zach did multiple ascents to get a fantastic shot of him climbing up to his ‘bride’. With a successful shoot complete, we started to pack up our gear. And then I looked over my shoulder, and saw Zach proposing to Korie for real! Wow…does it get any better than that!? In the end we were really photographing a future wedding, we just didn’t know it.

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