|Winter Forest, Yosemite National Park, California|
What I enjoy most about being a nature photographer is being in nature. Outside. Fresh air. Beautiful light. Peace and quiet. No matter how obvious that sounds, it’s a good reminder, especially since I spend most of my time in my studio in front of this computer monitor. It’s hard work and hardly glamorous. My work day includes dealing with the daily chores of running a business, critiquing student work in my BetterPhoto classes, processing and mastering new images, making prints, filling orders, answering e-mails, updating my blog, writing this column, developing new projects like designing new e-books or sending out promotional materials. Thankfully, I love making images and the challenge of running my business. Plus, I have the good fortune of living in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, where many inspiring subjects are near at hand. I count my blessings daily!
There’s another task I have to deal with in this digital age—keeping up on the latest imaging techniques and software. This isn’t my favorite chore, but as a teacher and a writer, I need to stay informed. As a photographer, I’m always striving to improve on my ability to resolve my vision through better technique. However, I often feel like I’m falling behind on all the rapidly changing digital tools. Fortunately, there are many great resources for staying current, such as podcasts, blogs, DVDs, e-books and tutorials for download or in PDF form on CD.
In a past column (July 2007), I wrote about podcasts that I’ve found educational. For this column, I’d like to list several instructional resources that have been valuable to me.
Michael Reichmann, who runs The Luminous Landscape website, offers a useful selection of tutorials, including a thorough study of Lightroom 2 and a “From Camera To Print—Fine-Art Printing” tutorial. The QuickTime movies are purchased and downloaded online, which I find very convenient. There are also many free learning resources here, especially the Understanding Series.
John Paul Caponigro has produced a series of DVDs that give excellent tips that can expand your ability (and mine!) to refine your images creatively in postprocessing. I greatly appreciate that he focuses on artistic vision, that is, focusing on the use of technique as it applies to the creative process.
Lewis Kemper has created excellent DVDs on using Photoshop called The Photographer’s Toolbox for Photoshop. Lewis has a down-to-earth, practical and easy-to-understand teaching style, which makes his lessons valuable for photographers at all levels.
Tony Sweet has recently brought out a DVD that allows us to see him at work, both in the field and at the computer—Tony Sweet’s Visual Literacy. He also has a new book coming out, The Artistic Eye and the Digital Edge.
John Shaw has written a very useful e-book: John Shaw’s Photoshop CS3 Guide. Available on CD, it focuses on postprocessing your digital images, whether from digital capture or from scanned film. The e-book doesn’t cover information on digital cameras or the process of digital capture. Rather, John focuses on sharing the techniques he uses to optimize his images. The basic information included will apply to both past and future updates.
Another valuable source on image optimization is Arthur Morris’ Digital Basics File. Available as a PDF download, it’s designed to get you quickly up to speed on image postprocessing.
Speaking of keeping up with photo technology, Adobe recently updated Photoshop again—just when I’m feeling comfortable with CS3! Seriously, CS4 has some valuable new advances that affect its power and its ease of use. One of the features I’m especially enjoying is the new interface for making layer masks. PhotoshopCAFE is a useful website that offers online videos about new CS4 features.
Lastly, I want to let you know about a new book, The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes, for which I wrote a chapter on “Composition.” Other authors contributing chapters are well-known landscape photographers Tom Mackie, David Noton, Darwin Wiggett and Tony Worobiec. In my chapter, I discuss using the frame, creating order out of chaos, adding depth to a scene, concepts of cropping and how to work a scene thoroughly to maximize your results from any location. This book is beautifully illustrated and is a comprehensive study of how to improve your landscape images.
I hope these resources prove useful to you. As you work to improve your technical skills, try not to let the overload of information overwhelm your creative instincts. Great photographs originate within the heart of the artist.
The holiday season is nearly here. ’Tis the season to be learning.
To learn about William Neill’s new e-books, Impressions of Light and Landscapes of the Spirit, Digital Edition, check out his PhotoBlog or sign up for newsletter updates on his courses with BetterPhoto.com, visit www.williamneill.com.
The Outdoor Photographer website is a valuable tool with links to educational resources, including live links for the resources seen in this column. Here are the links to websites that I find particularly useful for photographers.
Arthur Morris’ Digital Basics File
Lewis Kemper’s The Photographer’s Toolbox for Photoshop
The Digital SLR Expert: Landscapes
The Luminous Landscape
Tony Sweet’s Visual Literacy