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Foundry Photojournalism Workshop

Monday, February 15, 2010

Are you a budding travel photographer or a documentary photojournalist looking to learn from some of the top photographers in the field? Perhaps you should consider attending the 2010 Foundry Photojournalism Workshop in Istanbul, Turkey. For less than $1000, photographers from novice to expert (as long as they have less than three years of professional experience) can study with working professional photojournalists. There’s no portfolio review required for entry—unless you’d like to apply for a scholarship for partial or even full tuition deferral. The workshop takes place in June, but if you’re applying for a scholarship do hurry; applications are due by March 1. Thanks to Tewfic from The Travel Photographer blog for pointing out this great affordable and low-ego workshop opportunity.


Using Lightroom For Pseudo-HDR

Friday, February 12, 2010

High dynamic range photography, otherwise known as HDR, can elicit some fairly strong reactions. Some photographers love it for the unique and dramatic compositions it can produce; others hate it for those very same reasons. The bottom line is that HDR is no more specific a technique than “photography” and no matter what your opinion of the sometimes surreal effects of what we often consider to be “true” HDR, it can be done in a much more subtle way. That subtle way also creates simply what the name suggests—a higher dynamic range in a photograph.

That higher dynamic range can be a powerful tool for much better photographs, as it translates to less loss of detail in the extremes of an exposure. That means you can pull detail from the darkest shadows, while at the same time keeping detail in the brightest highlights. The combination creates a photograph that is much more compatible with the expanded range of brightness that the human eye can see.

One approach to creating such dynamic range improvements in your images can be achieved without using specialized HDR software, or even without importing an image into Photoshop. This HDR technique can be accomplished completely within Adobe Photoshop Lightroom, and it’s outlined on the Digital Photography School web site. Ultimately this approach is all about making the most of the detail contained in a single RAW exposure, and that’s something useful for every photographer—no matter how they feel about “the look of HDR.”

digital-photography-school.com: correcting and creating hdr images in lightroom

New Cameras, Big And Small

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for camera makers, with lots of new models introduced. I’d like to take a brief look at two opposite ends of the spectrum—the point-and-shoot and the high-end digital medium format system.

First, Nikon’s entry into the pocket camera category is now seven cameras richer thanks to a batch of new Coolpix cameras. The P100, S8000, S6000, S4000, S3000, L110 and L220 create practically an entire point-and-shoot shopping catalog, with a little something for everyone from just over $100 to almost $400. I’ve got a thing for small cameras with cool features, and the P100 fits the bill—mostly thanks to its powerful 26x optical zoom and 10fps maximum speed. It may not be truly “pocket sized,” but the 26-678mm zoom range makes the camera a great option for actual use in the outdoors, especially for fast shooting of distant wildlife. Landscape photographers might find some of the features particularly interesting too—namely, the Night Landscape mode that combines multiple exposures into a single low-noise, high-detail scene. Kind of like HDR, but without the over-the-top drama. Obviously a compact camera isn’t going to replace a D-SLR as the serious outdoor photographer’s companion, but it’s nice to know dedicated shooters have a viable compact backup option and newbies have an affordable introductory camera that’s long on real features.

At the opposite end of the camera spectrum is the medium format digital SLR. Hasselblad has updated its offerings with the new benchmark, the H4D system. Weighing in at a whopping 40 megapixels, it sports a sensor twice the size of a full-frame D-SLR. That translates into the physical real estate to produce low-noise, higher-bit depth and the utmost in professional exclusivity. With a $20,000 price tag, though, such supremacy does not come cheap.



Getting Feedback

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

As I plan for my upcoming trip to Reno next week for the North American Nature Photography Association's (NANPA) Annual Summit, I'm inspired to talk about how we as photographers improve our craft. Books and tutorials are great ways to learn about photography, but to truly excel as photographers we need to get our work out there in front of people and get some feedback. This is why many new photographers, especially nature photographers, have traditionally gravitated to camera clubs and more recently, to photo sharing sites like Flickr and user forums like those on Naturescapes.net. These are great places to have your work critiqued by peers, and you can quickly find out if your skills are up to snuff, or if new ideas you are trying are translating well. Photography classes and workshops that feature critique sessions are a good option as well for those willing to invest a little more effort and money.

I am a big fan of portfolio review events where you pay a fee (usually $50.00 and up) to meet with a picture professional for 20 or 30 minutes. These can be magazine photo editors, photo reps, fine art gallery owners, stock agents, etc. - the top professionals in the world of photography. Most events let you choose who you meet with ahead of time, so you can tailor your portfolio to your reviewer. That way, if you are looking for gallery representation, you can create a portfolio of maybe twenty large fine art prints. On the other hand, if you are looking for stock representation, you might bring a laptop with 100 or so of your best low-res files with stock potential. The NANPA Summit has a great portfolio review event that I have participated in for years, learning many lessons and meeting editors that are now friends and clients. Even though I have been a full-time photographer for about 10 years now, I still go to at least one portfolio review event every year. The feedback is invaluable and the cost is minimal compared to how much money I spend on other marketing efforts.

Of course, asking for feedback means you might hear some things you don't want to hear. That's o.k. if you go in with a non-defensive attitude and the desire to learn. Most reviewers find nice things to say to everybody. As an artist, those words feel good, but may be less important than the criticism you hear. I once had a reviewer tell me my images were as strong as Art Wolfe's (not sure what was in that reviewer's coffee that day!), which gave me a big ego for a day or two, but in the end did less to further my career than the reviewers who made suggestions that helped me edit my work more tightly, or present it in ways that were more professional.

Here's a listing of some of the best portfolio review events in the U.S.:
NANPA Annual Summit, February 16 -19, 2010 in Reno, NV: napa.org

FotoFest 2010, March 12 - April 1 in Houston, Texas: fotofest.org: biennial 2010

FOTOWEEK DC, usually in the fall: fotoweekdc.org

Center's Review LA, January: visitcenter.org: programs.cfm LA

Center's Review Santa Fe, June 3-6, 2010: visitcenter.org: programs

Palm Springs Photo Festival, March 28 - April 2, 2010: 2010.palmspringsphotofestival.com

Griffin Museum of Photography, May 7 and 8, 2010: griffinmuseum.org

Photo Nola, New Orleans, LA, usually in December: photonola.org

If you know of additional events with portfolio reviews, please list them in the comments. Thanks!

The Online Legacy Of Philip Hyde

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

A year ago during a conversation with photographer Carr Clifton he mentioned his friend David Leland Hyde, son of landscape photography great Philip Hyde. Carr said that David was really working to honor his father’s legacy as a true pioneer of fine art landscape photography. It wasn’t the first time Philip Hyde’s name had come up in a photography interview; he’s often cited as inspiration by many professional landscape photographers. Perhaps lesser known in popular culture, he is held in esteem on par with icons such as Ansel Adams and Eliot Porter.

Well now David has made it easier to keep up with his ongoing work and the work of his late father thanks to a new landscape photography blog. Filled with interesting and informative posts more akin to in-depth magazine features than disposable blog posts, the site is dedicated to fans of the classic landscape works of Philip Hyde and his contemporaries, as well as general information for “art and nature lovers, wilderness wanderers, collectors, photographers, environmentalists, art dealers, monkeywrenchers, and peaceful revolutionaries.”

For an entry point, I recommend checking out the blog’s post about the NANPA Philip Hyde photography grant—both the winner for 2010 as well as how to apply for consideration in next year’s competition.


Photographing Nature

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

In his new book, Photographing Nature, Brooks Institute of Photography instructor Ralph Clevenger takes readers along on a workshop in book form. Based on the course Mr. Clevenger has been teaching at Brooks for 20 years, the book showcases his spectacular photos along with the technical details of shooting and processing the image, the pitfalls associated with photographing particular subjects and situations, and even Q&A sessions from actual Brooks classes and assignments. It’s available as both a printed publication and in downloadable eBook form. For a preview of what’s inside the book and to see more of Mr. Clevenger’s exceptional images, visit his web site too.

peachpit.com: store/product


A Detailed Camera Comparison Tool

Monday, February 8, 2010

Let’s assume you’re in the market for a new camera. Perhaps you’re 90 percent of the way through making a decision, having narrowed the choice to two competing models—whether the cameras are from the same manufacturer or not. Now comes Snapsort, a handy online camera comparison tool to help you make your buying decision. Laid out in a straightforward manner, the site outlines key similarities and differences between the models—including video functionality, ISO sensitivity, resolution and more. Then it even declares a “winner” in the camera comparison based on starred reviews—although it can be a bit tricky to determine exactly how those reviews are weighted. With a clear comparison of each camera’s specifications, though, judging your own winner is a snap.


Improving Exposure With Histograms

Friday, February 5, 2010

Ever vigilant for improved methods for wrapping my mind around histograms, I'm always impressed by new and meaningful ways to understand the myriad data that can be gleaned from these cryptic little graphs. Here's a good guide, courtesy of Brian Auer and the Epic Edits photo blog. His post about reading image histograms via the camera’s LCD explains in easy-to-comprehend detail exactly how brightness and contrast levels translate into histogram shapes, and vice versa. Once you’ve got a solid understanding of reading histograms, or perhaps you consider yourself a little too “advanced” for this basic graphical explanation of exposure information, consider Mr. Auer’s subsequent post about what you can actually do with this histogram information when it comes time to edit and manipulate your images in the computer. Backed up with solid illustrations and graphical representations, the posts provide a comprehensive tutorial for making the most of the extensive information histograms offer.

blog.epicedits.com: 2010/01/13/how-to-read-image-histograms

blog.epicedits.com: 2010/01/19/photo-editing-with-histograms-6-basic-settings

Utilize picture styles for sharper wildlife photos

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Making sharp photos is not something that can be accomplished solely via post-production; if the exposure itself isn’t sharp, no amount of digital fixing will make it so. That’s why photographers utilize sensible rules of thumb such as a shutter speeds no slower than the focal length of the lens (a 500th of a second with a 500mm telephoto, for instance), technical support from accessories such as monopods and shoulder mounts, and the general good sense to utilize the fastest shutter speeds possible to capture moving wildlife in its natural habitat. Photographer Steve Berardi of Photo Naturalist offers another great example of how to maximize sharpness when photographing wildlife, this one sort of a hybrid of post production and in-camera controls—the picture style settings on your D-SLR can be adjusted to maximize sharpness. As he explains, it’s most useful for photographers who shoot JPEGs to maximize the burst rate of their cameras, because RAW shooters can make picture style adjustments during RAW conversions. And the sharper picture styles don’t work miracles by turning fuzzy photos into sharp ones. But what they do accomplish is to make sharp photos appear even sharper—and that’s a great way to make wildlife images appear even more detailed and true to life.

photonaturalist.net: quick-tip-for-getting-sharper-wildlife-photos

National Geographic Photography Grant

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

There’s good news for documentary photographers looking to get a leg up—a financially significant leg up—on an ongoing project courtesy of National Geographic. The organization’s annual documentary grant is back, this year offering $30,000 with the explicit goal of inspiring people to care about the planet—much the same way as the magazine itself does. Unfortunately the grant amount is also the bad news; in previous years the grant offered $50,000, but the flagging economy has had a tremendous effect on all areas of the economy, including photography and publishing world. Indeed, it’s quite nice that the grant still exists at all in a significant form. So if you’re a documentary photographer with project goals that align with the Geographic’s agenda, be sure to submit your proposal prior to the March 1 deadline.

ngm.nationalgeographic.com: photo-grant/grant

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