Tag Archives: HDR

Practice Makes Progress

14 Apr

Vortex (reprocessed) :: CT

Last weekend I spent some time reprocessing some older photos for a write-up on the Outbound.  As I looked through my older shots, I kept asking myself, “What the heck were you thinking??”

The shots themselves were solid compositions (in my opinion) but the edits were….well…not.  They were okay, but they didn’t reflect where I am as an artist today.

Art is funny that way, ya know?  Trends change.  The look that was popular a few years ago is most definitely not what we see now.  A few years ago, many of the landscapes you saw were run through HDR software, so they had very even tones across the board.  The highlights and deep shadows were pulled back, and the lack of dynamic light was over-shadowed by the fantastic colors.


The Vortex :: CT

Older version of the same image is significantly different based on both growing my editing skills and current trends.

Now, you’re seeing a trend for extremely dramatic light…lot of deep shadows during the magic hours.  Think Ryan Dyar or Marc Adamus.

Now, these shots are stunning.  But having watched the HDR revolution come and go, I can definitely see it’s a trend.  I have no idea how long it will last, before the next editing style gets its 15 minutes of fame.

Which brings up a good point, I think….  Your edits really can make or break an image.  It’s important to learn to use your camera in the field, but in today’s world, your edits can hold almost as much weight.  If you put together a well composed photo in good light, but the edit doesn’t highlight the strong points of the image, it will get overlooked in favor of an image with the more popular editing trends.

Now, if you make art for you…then you do what looks best to your eye!  But if you make art for a living…then you need to catch the buyers eye or you can’t put food on the table.

For me personally, I strive for a photo with dynamic, molded light.  I don’t often go so far as to create surreal images, but rather, I’ll try to enhance the light as it falls normally. Molded light is…well…my newest trend. 😉

The shot above was taken at Enders Falls in CT.

For more information about the edit and/or classes, contact me at seespotsphoto at yahoo dot com.

Also, if you’re an iPhone/iPad user, check out my newest article on seeing in Black and White in issue 9 of Light and Landscape magazine.

Can Someone Please Explain…

12 Feb
The House on Grass Island, one of many images featured in my new ebook.  Get it now!

The House on Grass Island, one of many images featured in my new ebook. Get it now!

…what is up with all of the negative attacks on photographers/photography lately?

(Spoiler alert…Devil’s advocate time!)

Right around the time Peter Lik is reported to have sold that expensive slot canyon shot, I also saw at least two articles about how photography isn’t art, and another purporting the term artist isn’t applicable now. We are all “creative entrepreneurs”.

Now, within the last few weeks, I see a rash of photographers attacking the work of their peers.

I guess my question is, “To what end?”

Really, please, explain it to me.

My perspective on photography as a whole is this: it is a medium to express yourself, therefore it is art. The articles I read specifically compared it to painting, suggesting the camera does the work, therefore it is not art.

By that logic, doesn’t the paintbrush do the work?

The tool is just that. A tool to be used in bringing your vision to life. Photo shoots usually require planning, scouting if ‘on location’ and vision. It may not always go to plan, but vision is part of the process.

Most prints require some work – the amount to be determined by the artist. If you stop at simple dodge and burn in a dark room, so be it. If you create a surreal landscape in Photoshop, good for you. Photography is an opportunity to express yourself, your feelings and your perspective. There is nothing wrong with that, as long as you don’t lie to people about your process (such as claiming its straight out of camera). You shouldn’t have to defend your choices.

No matter what level of manipulation or editing or non editing you chose, without a human involved in the process, there is no photo. In my mind, that human element makes it art.

So why are we belittling the medium and the photographers involved in it?

I’m going to lump my thoughts on attacking our peers and label together.

First, the title of “creative entrepreneur” vs artist. The argument made is that the term artist implies struggle and experience with no regard for money.

In response, I’d like to mention The Last Supper, commissioned by Davinci’s patron, Sforza.

The statue of David was a commissioned piece, purchased by the Opera del Duomo from Michelangelo, one of the best paid artists at the time.

Ansel Adam’s history included a private gallery, commercial work, books, etc…all of which he made money on.

Three masters of their respective fields, all making money off their art?? Obviously, there are infinite examples of artists getting paid for their work. They should. They have dedicated their time to learning and/or practicing something, and are able to fill a demand for that thing…so why the recent trend to try shaming photographers for making a living with their art?

From a personal standpoint, I don’t care if you label me artist or entrepreneur. Labels and attacks on another’s work only serve to reflect poorly on the people doing the shaming. If its not constructive or thoughtful feedback, it won’t affect my choices with my art.

Now, let’s touch on a recent trend of bashing current photo trends, specifically in landscape photography. Their complaints seem to be that conformity is bad for photography as a whole. Specifically, I’ve seen people up in arms about the uniform look of the front page of 500px (who, by the way, is probably loving all the press on these recent debates) and the superficial nature of social media interactions.

My thoughts on this are sprawling…bear with me here.

In regards to conformity, why are we critical of an artist looking to cater to public response. Be it for personal accolades or for business marketing, the person behind the camera is recognizing the current trends in photography and creating marketable images for the moods of the public. Now, I can only speak for my own work, but I can tell you that while I make my art for me within the limits of editing that I am comfortable with, I also like being able to pay my bills with income from my art.

Trends come and go (HDR, anyone?) and people’s styles will always evolve to match them or they risk being irrelevant. Only a few hold outs to a particular style ever end up thriving long term. I don’t blame people for wanting to continue to be able to put food on their tables.

Besides…the idea of trends isn’t unique to ‘now’ or to photography. The era of Impressionism? Surrealism?  Shall I go on?

In regards to the superficial nature of social media interactions…duh. We have had a huge cultural shift over the last few years. The newer generations are being raised in sensory overloaded, short attention span inducing, technology laden environments. We are also living in an era where any perceived slight could result in a lawsuit. Between those two things (among other factors), it seems obvious that social media is a platform for superficial interaction.

That being said, I do think you get out of it as much as you’re willing to put in. You can get meaningful feedback, but you need to embrace a personal online culture of such. Start feedback swaps. Ask for tips. Etc.  For better or worse, social media is now “part of the job” and viewing it as such does help to keep it in perspective and keep your emotional investment at a reasonable level.

I can absolutely empathize with how frustrating it can be to work a competitive environment, or to see a photo you poured your heart into go unnoticed. It happens to all of us. Self doubt definitely comes into play when you rely on the fickle hearts and minds of the public to make a living. In my opinion, the way to combat this isn’t by attacking others, but rather, by embracing the joy you get from making art in the first place. Don’t do things you feel compromise your integrity.  If you’re unhappy with the current trends, don’t participate in them. If social media is dull, find meaningful interaction elsewhere. Respect other’s opinions and more importantly, recognize that while their art doesn’t speak to you, it is still something they labored over. If you want to work to change the current trends, do it…by creating something the people didn’t know they needed until you provided it.

I’m going to leave you with some perspective about playing nice….

“Don’t hate the player, hate the game.”

You can’t control most things in life, but you can control how you react. Choose wisely.

So…….that’s what I think.  I normally don’t put up things like this knowing they may get people fired up, but I felt it needed to be said.  Negativity begets more negativity, and I’d rather have an environment of understanding, tolerance and mutual goals to improve our craft to reach our personal goals.

 Feel free to put your opinion in the comments.

Endless Summer

14 Aug
SSP Endless Summer :: Massachusetts

SSP Endless Summer :: Massachusetts

Gosh, this year is flying by.  Can you believe it’s already August?  I’m smack in the middle of my busiest season, and I feel like there isn’t a single minute I don’t have something to do.  On the one hand, it’s tough to stay on top of everything, organized all of the time, and find a way to get everything done in just a short 24 hr day!  On the other hand, though, I feel blessed to have so much opportunity, to be able to pursue what makes me happy, and to see the places I’ve seen…most of it in the name of photography.

Bixby in the Blue

Bixby in the Blue :: CA

It occurred to me the other day, I have been and done so many things in my life (with many many more to go) with a camera in my hand…and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  With that in mind, David Pasillas and I have started up a blog tour project where my fellow bloggers (that’s you!) can contribute it you want.  All you have to do is be willing to give us your thoughts on what having a creative outlet has meant to your life.

If you’re interested in joining the fun, send me an email at seespotsphoto AT yahoo DOT com and I’ll send you the details. 🙂

Also, speaking of projects, the quote project is just about finished.  I picked a quote, and I’m working on the final piece of art now (with the help of my favorite font experts over at Print Therapy)…as soon as that’s finished, I’ll announce the winner!

I Go On Again, Because You Asked Me To :: NH

I Go On Again, Because You Asked Me To :: NH

Also also, I’m planning a hike up Mt Washington this weekend…trying Tuck’s for the first time…wish Sean and I luck!  We’re overnighting so I’m really hoping for good weather and some sweet sunset on top of a mountain shots. 🙂

AND NOW….another picture of summer in CT, because I can!

Beach House

Beach House


What’s Your Thing?

17 Jul


Moments of Light and Dark

Moments of Light and Dark

Finding your photographic style is a major part of developing yourself as an artist, developing your brand and defining your market.  It’s also something that many of us struggle with.  I know I certainly do.

Let’s start with a few examples, shall we?

For those of you who love HDR, I think it would be safe to say that Trey Ratcliff has built a solid HDR brand for himself.  When you see a Trey photo, you generally know it’s a Trey photo.  Bajillions (approximately, give or take) of photographers bracket…but not all HDR is created equal. Trey has an editing style unique to him.

The obvious B&W iconic photographer is Ansel Adams.  Strong landscape compositions and well defined tonal ranges, as well as his involvement in the National Parks systems made him a recognizable figure with a recognizable feel to his images.

When I think of light painting and luminosity masks I think of Ryan Dyar.  I know he didn’t invent the technique, but he ran with it and his images are evocative and emotional because of it.

I recently ran across an Instagram feed of two nomadic lady photographers who have style and branding down to an art.  (You can follow their adventures at www.ourwildabandon.com) Their images scream vintage and fill viewers with nostalgia.  The realities of road life may be difficult, but they market the hell out of the freedom of the open road and the joy of discovery.  They have even gone so far as to have distinctive poses for their images and a great witty yet friendly tone to their banter which makes them very likeable.  As with the others mentioned above, this may not be a unique style, but they wear it well. 🙂

So…now that we’ve had a little breakdown of what style means in a real life setting… its time to ask yourself, “What’s my thing?”

Are you set on saving the whales?  Are you an artist determined to emote through surrealism? Do you love deep shadows and solid highlights?  A clean symmetrical tapestry?  Square canvases? Good will and human spirit stories?

(In answer to your unasked question, yes, I associate all of those categories with a particular artist!  Because you know…it’s what they do and they’re damn good at it.)

It seems to me that while flexibility and the ability to cross photo genres is important for sustainability over the short term, defining who you are as an artist is an important step in long term success in today’s highly over saturated photo market.  To stand out, you need to find your thing and shine at it.

Shine on, my friends. 🙂

Ehhh…see what I did there?  Lighthouse photo?  Shine? Ehh?  Ehh?  The above photo was taken in New Haven.  Edited with luminosity masks, with some artistic license taken to remove some distracting items.  The antennae had to go, ya know??  Anyway…

Feel free to give us all a taste of your thing with a link to your portfolio in the comments and what your focus is!

The Forest of the Ancients

15 Jul
The Forest of the Ancients

The Forest of the Ancients

How big is a Redwood, exactly?  “Really stinkin’ big”, is the answer.  Even these guys, which definitely are not anywhere near the biggest ones we saw that day, were still huge.  And full of texture.  And light was just so beautiful…you other photographers know what I mean here.  I swear I must have stopped every 5 minutes and just stared, mouth open, taking it all in.

Nothing reminds you of how much you’re part of something larger than yourself and your day-to-day worries than standing among the giants.

If you’re the sort who loves to feel the calm that comes along with walking through a bright forest, I recommend finding a way to see the redwoods.  If you’re the sort who appreciates the power and beauty of Mama Earth, I recommend finding a way to see the redwoods.

If you’re the sort who hasn’t yet discovered the peace, the calm, the awe and the majesty of those things…I highly recommend you find a way to see the redwoods.  It is a unique and powerful experience.  The only thing I can equate it to is the way I feel looking at a truly dark sky, where you can really see how many stars look down on us at night.  We are tiny fish in a gigantic universe of a pond.  Not at all insignificant, just part of a much bigger picture than most people think about on a daily basis.

Oh…and lastly, if you’re the sort of person who likes to go places and take selfies….well…you should probably find yourself some redwoods. 😉

Redwoods Papparazzi-Selfie courtesy of David Pasillas Photography

Redwoods Papparazzi-Selfie courtesy of David Pasillas Photography

For my FB friends…and those of you who are about to become my Facebook friends (eh? eh? Nudge nudge? Wink Wink?), here is a gift for you! 🙂  I took this image with a FB banner in mind, thinking it would be cool to feature these giants as a header to my page.  I often shoot with purpose when I see a scene that intrigues me.  For a little more info about that, go here…it’s just another item on the mental checklist for those of you looking to make use of your images after they’re processed.

The Ancients Banner

The Ancients Banner

We Are One

10 Jul
We Are One

We Are One

I’ve always thought there was something intimate about the way the ocean caresses the shore.  There is an interconnectedness.  A reminder that what affects one affects us all.  We are one world, one international community, one people and it benefits us all to embrace the ideas of love, tolerance, understanding and respect. ❤

This image was from the workshop I took with Toby Harriman, David Gaiz and Michael Shainblum.  Such a pleasure working with and chatting with those guys…and I got the added bonus of spending some time with my good friend David Pasillas, as well as making a few new photo-friends along the way.  Overall, it well worth the time and effort to fly to Cali! 🙂

On the whole, this photo is a blend of HDR and luminosity masks, with some minor color and light tweaks here and there.

Swept Away

11 Jun
Swept Away

Swept Away

 She was impetuous and changeable, unpredictable and dangerous, and more beautiful than an ocean sunset on a summer day.

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop hosted by three well respected photographers / time-lapsers whose work is inspiring and emotive – David Gaiz, Toby Harriman and Michael Shainblum. They assured me they will be hosting more clinics in the future, mostly on the west coast, so if you’re out that way and you have the opportunity, I highly recommend taking a class with them.

Without giving away too much, their workshop focused mainly on seascapes, and went through everything from the technical aspects of camera settings and filter use, to the creative process and using the environment to your advantage…the shapes of the changeable water, allowing the water to wash away footprints in the sand (or not, depending on what you’re looking to accomplish with your image), etc.

The three guys were very open and generous with their time.  I really enjoyed hanging out with them, a few of their photographer friends from TX and my good friend David Pasillas for the weekend. A gal can’t ask for a better trip. 🙂

Now, as for the images we created – we spent the afternoon and evening on Marshall Beach near the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, watching the fog roll over the area and dash our hopes for a sunset. Haha  But, a little challenge never hurt nobody.  The fog added texture to the sky (which I happen to like) and mood to the scene.  There were plenty of interesting rocks, a bridge and of course, the water with which to compose a scene and tell a story.  It was also a prime opportunity to play with filters, long exposures, etc.

Overall, this workshop (and the weekend as a whole) was just a great opportunity to get creative, meet other artists and feel inspired.  As I told David Gaiz after I sat got back to the east coast and sorted my shots, I can think of at least 3 blog posts, lessons and personal projects all stemming from my time in California.  Furthermore, it was an opportunity for me to talk to the guys about the ins and outs of running a workshop because (spoiler alert) that’s on my future to-do list. 🙂

Keep your eyeballs peeled for future workshops with these three, and in the meantime, do yourself a favor and check out their photography and time lapse pages.  You won’t be disappointed!

Drink The Wild Air

28 May
Drink the Wild Air

Drink the Wild Air

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air…” -Ralph Waldo Emerson

Last Saturday, we spent the day hiking around upper Vermont.  Sometimes, you just need to spend some time in nature to recharge the internal batteries, to let go of the stress of our everyday lives and to appreciate something bigger than our daily routines and worries.

If you haven’t made time for Mama Nature lately…well…what are you waiting for?  Get outside!  Trees need love too.

This is a photo from Smuggler’s Notch in Vermont.

13 mm, f/5, 1/50th sec, ISO 100 – edited with a combination of light painting and HDR.


Light Play

20 May
With Bated Breath

With Bated Breath

With the world being flooded with digital images, the edit you put on a photo is just as important as the thought, resources and skill it took to capture the files in the first place.  Your choices, your editing style and methods can totally change the feel of a finished product.

How so, you ask?  (Or if you didn’t, you should have!)

Well, the obvious answer is that art is subjective, our eyes perceive the world differently and when we begin the creative process – the moment when we put our eye to the camera – our idea of how the image should be shaped belongs to us, as the artist alone.

Our choice in edits helps to bring those ideas to fruition.

With Bated Breath :: Light Painting

With Bated Breath :: Light Painting

For example, this is an example of light painting.  The colors and highlights within this image were enhanced with a layer dedicated solely to painting in color and light where it needed a boost.  To me, the details still lack a bit of contrast, but I like the moody feel of the light and the boost given to the lackluster sunrise.

With Bated Breath :: HDR

With Bated Breath :: HDR

Now, this photo is an HDR – more detail, but lacks the depth that comes along with dynamic light.  This particular image, to me, has the feel of a painting.  It is a great re-creation of nature, but it doesn’t feel real.

For this particular image, I chose to mix the two techniques, masking in which parts of each version I enjoyed.  The final version is the photo at the top of the post.

Now, is any one way better than the others?  No.  Not really.  It’s art.  If you love the painterly feel, you’ll probably hang the HDR version.  If you love light bleed, you’ll shoot for the light painting effect.

That’s the thing about art.  It’s 100% in the eye of the beholder.  First and foremost, I work to learn and create images I enjoy.  Once you develop a style, then you will define your market.

An East Wind Coming

13 May

An East Wind Coming

An East Wind Coming

“…There’s an east wind coming all the same, such a wind as never blew on England yet. It will be cold and bitter, Watson, and a good many of us may wither before its blast. But it’s God’s own wind none the less, and a cleaner, better, stronger land will lie in the sunshine when the storm has cleared.”

My photo partner-in-crime (Melissa) and I got up at 1:30am and drove three hours to catch an epic sunrise at Perkins Cove in Maine.

You see the sun rising in this photo, right? haha

Thankfully, Perkins Cove is pretty sweet in all other ways.  It has quaint little shoppes, for those of you with money to spend.  It had restaurants (which aren’t open at 5:30 am) for those of you who like the idea of what breakfast would taste like.  Behind us, there were plenty of rowboats and docks and buoys and such.  You know…Maine type things to photo….

And in front of us…facing the ocean…was more foreground texture than we knew what to do with.  (Also, snails.  So so so many snails.  I had to tip toe between the rocks to keep from crunching their little snail-y homes under my sneakers.)

This was actually my first attempt at a composition, and at the time, I saw it as a bit of a throw away.  When I uploaded the images, it seemed to have a bit more potential than I originally thought, so I sent it through the initial round of editing.  Just now, I asked my boyfriend what he thought because I still felt as though something was missing.

He pointed to the right of the image and said I should PhotoShop a model in.

Friggin’ super genius!  Talk about a missed opportunity on my part.  Imagine, if you will, a stormy sky, to the left a wildly churning sea…to the right, some towering rocks with a person standing triumphant at their summit staring thoughtfully into the distance.  It would have been perfect.  It also would take another 6 hours of driving to accomplish.

Don’t you worry though!  I did the next best thing!  PhotoShop skillz to the rescue!

Perkins Cove Sunrise, The Epic Version

Perkins Cove Sunrise, The Epic Version

Technology is an incredible thing, eh? 😉