You might be overexposing your photos without even knowing it. In this tutorial I’ll show you how I use RAWdigger to evaluate my exposures to see how well I did, and to pick the best file for processing.
Earlier this month, I had the chance to photograph Space Shuttle Atlantis at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The space center had just reopened, and because of the ongoing corona virus epidemic, there were very few visitors that day. At one point while photographing, I looked up, and I was the only person there. Just me and this magnificent machine in a space that is normally flooded with people. It was magical.
Having it virtually to myself made this one of the most enjoyable days of photography I’ve experienced. It was a experience I won’t soon forget.
I was able to work slowly and deliberately, using my Sony A7RII like a miniature view camera to capture the intricate detail and work with the incredibly challenging dynamic range of white tiles in spot light and black tiles in shadows.
This photograph shows the forward reaction control thrusters with streaks from the intense heat of re-entering the earth’s atmosphere at ~17,500mph.
I envisioned these photographs in black and white from the beginning, and the photos I made that day halve already inspired more work. I can’t wait to return.
A tragic story out of Cannon Beach, Oregon this weekend as a father and his two children swept out to sea, with one child dead and the other missing. died, should remind us all that there can be real danger in photographing near the ocean.
There are lots of ways to get yourself in danger from fast rising tides to sneaker waves. Sneaker waves are usually large waves that suddenly appear out of no where, and can put you into life of death situations. They are rare, but they do happen, and it’s scary to see a wave twice the height of the normal sets appear out of nowhere.
The ocean, particularly the rugged Pacific coast, is a very wild area that demand your respect and tests your knowledge. Even with long hours spent observing and learning the conditions, you can still put yourself in danger. I know of several close calls with photographer friends, and the tragedy this weekend is a sobering reminder of what can happen.
High surf days are incredible to behold, and very photogenic, but never turn your back on the ocean. Make sure you gain the knowledge you need to stay safe. No photo is worth your life.
As I walked to my car across the Korean War Veterans Bridge in downtown Nashville, the crazy tire patterns juxtaposed against the orderly parking lines immediately reminded me of the structured disorder of modern artists like Miro and Jackson Pollock, and amused picturing who made these tracks and if the police caught them. I was jealous, because it looked like they had a lot of fun. Through pre-visualization, I knew that I would be able to convert the photo to black and white and bring out the patterns through contrast. It seems like a good fit for my Signs and Wondering series
The fields of cotton near my house have been captivating me. I grew up in Ohio when corn was the dominant crop, so this is a totally new visual experience for me. Besides its visual interest, cotton is an iconic crop, woven into the fabric of the American Experiment. None of us would know who Eli Whitney was without the cotton gin, nor can we forget cotton’s former role in the horrible practice of slavery.
In this present age, it’s planted in neat little rows, with highly bred strains designed for maximum yield and mechanical harvesting. While contemplating the past, I could also be in the present and appreciate the beauty of the plant in the here and now. This photo was taken nearly an hour after sunset, with the light and color provided by the incredible purple volcanic sunsets we’ve been having. I wanted to capture the tranquility of a cloudless Tennessee autumn sky lit by the post-sunset glow and a half moon rising over the fields. The beauty of that night is well conveyed for me in this photograph, and makes me interested in photographing more of the crops of Tennessee.
This photograph was the efforts of nearly 2 hours of working the subject through sunset and changing light. I approached it with my initial preconceptions, but turning 180 degrees from sunset, I saw the beautiful purple sky and moon and raced to a field that would let me show these elements int eh beauty I was seeing. I worked through various angles close to the ground and lenses until finally I settled on this wide view and was able to make three exposures before the color dropped from the sky. I’ve been putting more effort into working the scene when my first attempts aren’t creating the visual impact I want, and this night, the hour I spend on my knees in the dirt were rewarded with a nice frame that captures part of the beauty of Tennessee.
Sony A7RII with Nikon 20mm f/2.8 lens, exposure 30 seconds f/11 iso 640
When someone has a print on the wall, it creates a lasting connection between the viewer and the photographer. A print on display is unique because it exists in the viewers space on a daily basis. It becomes more than just a quick glance on the bottomless social media feed, or even the impulsive “like” that drives the algorithms. A print becomes part of the viewer’s life, and a point of continued dialog between the photographer and the viewer.
Like many photographers, I’ve collected prints over the years from friends and artists I admire. Even after seeing them every day for years, they continue to bring me joy, and I can discover new things within them. But they also bring me back to the moment I connected with the photograph, and the photographer.
That ability to connect is what makes a print so powerful. If an artist or a story moved me enough to put it on my wall, the print serves as a portal to reconnect to that artist and their story over and over again. It’s built a relationship in the way reading a good book does, or a fine conversation with friends. It’s a mile marker, a touchstone. It makes me, as the viewer, somehow more invested in the artist, and every time I view it, renews that investment.
It’s this “viewer investment” that begs us to give more consideration to sharing our work as prints. What photographer doesn’t want a more invested audience in an era of visual saturation?
At its simplest, that investment is in the photographer’s story and vision, whatever that may be. And a photographer’s story and vision can do powerful things.
I’ve seen it save the last un-fished ocean, stop destructive mining, bring attention to threatened species, bring back memories of a long lost family member, and so many other things.
Photography has an ability to connect us to current and historical events, people, places, and things like no other art form. It makes the sharing of that story between photographer and viewer a more personal connection. And it turns that connection into a long term conversation. It’s not gone in three seconds like an Instagram post at crappy resolution, it’s not on a shelf like a book that rarely is viewed. It’s on bold display for all who pass, sharing it’s story over and over again.
That is why the effort to make prints, sell prints, and display prints is worth being part of a photographers endeavors, and why I, as a photographer and printmaker, am so passionate about making well crafted, expressive prints.
I’m pretty excited about the 50th anniversary today of Neil and Buzz taking those first steps on the moon ,so I want to share some of my photos of the space program.
I grew up vacationing in Cocoa Beach, right next to the launch site of Apollo 11. Some of my earliest memories are of visiting Kennedy Space Center and seeing the rockets at the visitors center. It’s always given me a sense of being able to touch history to visit there, and made what I saw in childhood picture books “real.”
That fascination has carried over into adult hood. For about a decade, I’ve been working on a project to capture the rockets and other artifacts of spaceflight with the expressive qualities and clarity that is possible in a fine art photograph.
The anniversary celebrations today seem an opportune time to share some of this work with a little more context. I hope you enjoy it and that it captures some of the wonder of that amazing adventure we started so many years ago.
My landscape photographs are often about light as much as they are about the subject. Light has a mystery, a majesty, and a power all its own that captivates me. When I go out to photograph, more than anything else, I’m looking for light.
I’ve made this short film to express how light inspires me. I hope it also inspires you to look for the beauty found in light!
Sometimes a few minutes is the difference between a 3 hour drive home or a 9-12 hour trek around an entire mountain range. This October night in 2016, I pushed it right to the edge.
Yosemite’s Tioga Pass Road, peaking at 9945 feet elevation, provides access to the stunning Eastern Sierra, but can close suddenly during storms. The Yosemite photographers call this gamble “East Side Roulette”, and it’s a game of “will the storm close the pass before I make it home.”
After an exceedingly windy day exploring aspens with my family, the approaching clouds said it was time to go. I swear I heard the drums from the Braveheart soundtrack driving me to hit the road. If we didn’t stop to eat, it would be three long hours before the next food services. My wife wanted to stop and eat at The Mobile Station, but I convinced her to just get our food to go, the urgency of the storm in my head. I munched down my pizza while driving up the steep drop-offs of Tioga Pass to quickly worsening conditions.
As we reached the top of the pass, the snow was already starting to fall, as you can see in the zoomed in crop. I stopped to make one last picture as the light faded, as I knew some big life changes were coming soon, and I wanted to mark this personally meaningful day at one of my favorite places.
We resumed the drive, and snow started to cover the road, with no lines and only one fading set of tire tracks to follow, and no car lights behind us. I know the road very well, but it was still dicey. The knowledge that we would drop below the snow soon pushed me forward, and I was watching each landmark to measure how far we were from that safe haven. At this point, it was better to continue than go back. And soon we were below the snow, on dark, wet, rainy winter Yosemite roads. On our drive across the pass, we saw no one in front of us or behind us, even after stopping for a few comfort breaks. A few cars passed going the opposite direction, but then all traffic died. We had the road to ourself.
About an hour later, Flashing Ranger lights greeted us at the Crane Flat gate. We weren’t in trouble. It was just a Ranger closing the road. Eastbound traffic had been closed for some time as evidenced by the lack of cars passing us. And the west bound lane was only open for people to exit the Tioga Road. As my wife looked back, she saw the Ranger close the gate behind us. We were the last car across the pass.
Sometimes a storm only closes “The Pass” for a few days, but this was not the case in 2016. Once it started snowing that night, it never stopped. The second biggest winter in recorded history was upon the Sierra, that led to over 700 inches of snow in some locations.
I knew something epic was in the making that night, and the experience of being last car across that night is pretty cool. It was certainly memorable, and yes, I heard those Scottish drums from Braveheart driving me on the whole way.
2016-10-15 17:11:27.088, give or take an hour for DST
Nikon D810, Sigma Art 35mm f1.4, 1/30 sec f/4.0 ISO 800