Landscape Mastery on Fine Art Photography Weekly

Fine Art Photography Weekly

Fine Art Photography Weekly

As mentioned on my January 19 blog post, I was invited on January 18 to join the incredible nature/landscape photographer Darwin Wiggett and host Peter Urban LIVE on SmibsTV Fine Art Photography Weekly. Although it’s been nearly two months since our broadcast, our episode is now in the SmibsTV archives and can be watched anytime at your leisure. I had a great time walking with Peter and Darwin, and hope to join Fine Art Photography Weekly for another future broadcast. Download our episode (#26) here. Enjoy!

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Camera-less Seeing and the Art of Cropping

The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera“. Dorothea Lange

1:1 crop from 1:1.25 original

I don’t need an Xpan to make panoramics, and I don’t need a 501CM to make squares. For me the real beauty of using a large format view camera is that the image is conceived in my mind and not restrained by film size; by viewfinder shape or coverage; or by the format’s aspect ratio. Unlike medium and small format cameras (including D-SLR’s), it is nearly impossible to hoist a view camera to the eye to frame an image. Further, because the large format image is rendered upside down and laterally reversed on the ground glass (the image is as ones eyes perceive it before the complex brain corrects it), the ground glass view is difficult to reconcile for all but the most experienced users. This very nature of the format requires the photographer to learn how to see and frame exclusive of the viewfinder. For some this is a serious challenge and shortcoming of the format; for others, like myself, it is pure liberation. My photographs are bound only by the limits of my imagination and never by any constraints imposed upon me by a camera or tradition.

approximate 1:1.5 crop from 1:1.25 original

During any given week, I view a great number of photographs that I believe would be strengthened by a simple crop. Although most photographers shoot with the 1:1.5 aspect ratio of D-SLR’s, this does not mean that one is required to visualize or process/print the full 1:1.5 frame. Even more, too many photographers are caught up with the issue of pre-cut mats being available only in this size and pre-made frames being available only in that size – stop it! Aren’t your photographs considerably more important than their finishing? If your photograph is stronger by cropping it square, crop it square! It may cost more to finish the print by doing so, but aren’t your photographs worth it?

approximate 1:1.75 crop from 1:1.25 original

You’ll find in this article three of my photographs. All originated from 1:1.25 negatives (or 4×5), but take note that none were finished with that aspect ratio. All three images and their framing were visualized without a viewfinder, and I deliberately framed the three important edges and in post-production cropped away the remaining unwanted edge (regardless of the final print’s inability to fit off-the-shelf mats or frames).

If you’re not already seeing and framing your images without the assistance of your camera, here’s a challenge for you: Next time you think you’ve got a photograph, resist the immediate urge to set up and start firing. Consider this pre-exposure editing. Set your camera off to the side and become one with your subject. Study it carefully and quietly, and determine your framing and edges before grabbing your camera. Take as much time as you need; rarely are great photographs made in haste. Once you’ve gotten this figured out, then get out your camera and capture the image that you’ve already created in your mind (and crop at will).

Free your mind and your camera will follow.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Review: Guy Tal’s Creative Landscape Photography eBook

Guy Tal is a longtime friend and co-leader of our infrequent joint workshops (disclaimer made!). He’s also a gifted photographer and writer, and his internationally-acclaimed images and articles have been featured in such publications as Outdoor Photographer Magazine (US), PhotoLife (Canada), Digital Photographer (UK), as well as his own beautiful coffee table book, Exposures. In the current genre of landscape photography writing, I place Guy’s writing at the very top. I’ll be honest; most of what gets passed off as the best publications of our medium do little more than regurgitate what has already been regurgitated ad nauseam. Most of them are obsessively focused on gear and gear-based techniques, with few ever tackling more spiritual (if you will) and emotional approaches to landscape photography.

Designed as a companion to Guy’s Creative Landscape Photography workshop, this process-based instructional text is aimed at intermediate and advanced photographers who want to unlock their creative potential and evolve their craft. There’s also plenty of gear-based content for those who are still struggling with fundamentals. The book is well organized and features sections on the creative process; concept; visualization; composition; capture; processing; and presentation. It’s also filled with a number of Guy’s stunning images and accompanying text that explains his thought process and motives behind these particular photographs (no useless EXIF and aperture/shutter speed info!). There are also numerous exercises intended to aid in the evolution of your imagery (yes, “homework”!).

Taken a step further, creative photography is about the expression of subjective ideas, emotions, and sensibilities through the unique beauty of natural elements and using the medium of photography. A creative photograph is the result of venturing beyond the mere act of recording scenes and objects with a camera. Rather than thinking about what you want your viewers to see when looking at your work, think instead about how you want them to feel.

The eBook contains a whopping 86 pages, and at only $9.95, it may very well be one of the best valued eBooks I’ve seen. And at only $9.95, you can’t afford not having this eBook in your collection. Get ready to move to your photography to the next level…

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

It’s All About the Light…

Wherever there is light, one can photograph. Alfred Stieglitz

Striped Butte

Striped Butte. Death Valley National Park.

Last night I gave a presentation to the Santa Clarita Valley Photographers Association (SCVPA) (a great group of people, and a more organized and attended-to camera club than I would have ever imagined). The most ironic thing about teaching and presenting is that I always learn as much as the audience. No matter how often I may speak about my work and my philosophies, I learn something about my photographs and beliefs every time.

As I moved through and talked about the 96 photographs I shared with the SCVPA, I was alerted to my use of any and all light. It’s not a new discovery, and other photographers often comment on my use of whatever light. The fact is, I have a photograph(s) in my collection to represent virtually every hour of daylight. The notions that there are only “golden hours” or “sweet light” under which to practice photography have been perpetuated for far too long amongst the nature and landscape photography community. It’s enforced by books, workshops, online photo forums, and far too many photo instructors. It’s time to change this line of thinking, for believing that photography can only be practiced for a few sweet hours of each day and then setting out to capture only specific images that capitalize on that sweet light is akin to photographing with dark blinders on. Any light is available light, and how you choose to see it and whether you choose to photograph under it determines the diversity of your abilities, your vision, and your work. I’d venture that photographers are missing a lot of beautiful photographic opportunities when they’re locked into a singular and exclusive method of photographing.

All light is available light. Sweet light is any light you choose to photograph under. The Golden Hours extend from sunrise to sunset. With few exceptions, failure to create photographs under any light is not a failing of the light; it’s a failure of vision. Take off the blinders and be free.

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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Business & Marketing Books for Photographers and Artists

A number of guidebooks for photographers and artists have proved helpful in developing my art, my business, and my marketing skills. The following books grace my shelves, and having read them all cover to cover, I can attest that all contain pearls of wisdom that will help to enhance your career and help you through the common hurdles that all artists face. You’ll notice that my selections don’t deal with contracts, pricing, or negotiation. They instead focus on career and longevity: marketing; self-promotion; adversity; creativity; work ethic; and so forth.

Although listed in random order, I recommend that you begin by reading Bayles’s and Orland’s Art & Fear. Enjoy!

    David Bayles and Ted Orland: Art & Fear: Observations On the Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking

    Brooks Jensen: Letting Go of the Camera: Essays on Photography and the Creative Life

    Paul Dorrell: Living the Artist’s Life

    Maria Piscopo: The Photographer’s Guide to Marketing and Self-Promotion

    Alyson B. Stanfield: I’d Rather Be in the Studio!

    Elyse Weissberg: Successful Self-Promotion for Photographers

    Cay Lang: Taking the Leap: Building a Career as a Visual Artist

    Mary Virginia Swanson: THE BUSINESS OF PHOTOGRAPHY: PRINCIPLES AND PRACTICES

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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On Assignment: T-Mobile

T-MobileAs a professional photographer I have photographed people, events, products, and places, but until a few weeks ago I had not yet done any professional architectural work. Coincidentally, my name landed on T-Mobile’s desk as a referral, they contacted me, and we began to discuss how I could help them with their needs. T-Mobile needed expansive and eye-catching interior and exterior photographs from two of their flagship Los Angeles-area stores for their real estate/development ventures, and I was happy to help. And then they asked for my architectural portfolio. Gulp. They were acquainted with my personal fine art work, and I had the nerve to assume that this would be good enough to land me the job. Despite the lack of an architectural portfolio, I have a strong visual aesthetic and a love for great architectural photography, so there was no doubt in my mind that I could deliver what they needed. So when they asked for my architectural portfolio, I offered the unspeakable: they would only have to pay me if they were happy with the work I produced. They accepted, and in a long one-day shoot, I produced and delivered more than double the number of images they had requested. I hired my good friend, Rob, as my lighting expert and assistant, and we enjoyed a challenging and invigorating day at two of their stores. The T-Mobile team was very happy with my work, and I was paid in record time. I couldn’t have asked for a better outcome.

The photographer’s moral to this story? Don’t undersell yourself. Deliver more than expected. Be creative with your negotiations. Don’t be afraid to hang yourself out there and take risks. Be amazing with your customer service. Be flawlessly professional.

Note: Only the left and center photographs are mine in the attached T-Mobile advertisement .

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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Photography Podcasts

TransitionI do a lot of driving each year. Shortly after receiving an iPod, I found out about these wonderful things called podcasts. Photography-based podcasts for me have now largely replaced music while traveling, especially when I am traveling on photography business. These podcasts help to inspire, inform, and place me in a photographic frame of mind, ready to start seeing and photographing when I step out of the car. What follows is a short listing of my favorite photography-based podcasts. They’re intelligent, inspiring, and often uplifting. Give them a try:

History of Photography, by Jeff Curto. These are recorded from Jeff’s class lectures and should be considered required listening. You cannot stand on the shoulders of giants if you don’t know from where they came.

Camera Position, by Jeff Curto. NOT Jeff’s class lectures, but rather his own personal musings on a wide variety of important photography topics.

LensWork – Photography and the Creative Process. If you know the publication LensWork and Brooks Jensen’s writing, you can expect more of the same intelligent discussion and thoughts from his podcast. One of my favorites.

Thought on Photography, with Paul Giguere. Paul creates a great podcast, with excellent interviews, thoughtful questions, and intelligent insight.

The Candid Frame, by Ibarionex Perello. Ibarionex has smooth voice and is an engaging interviewer.

You’ll notice that absent from my list are any gear- or technique-based podcasts. The reason for this is simple: they’re not very interesting to me and they won’t make me a better photographer. With limited available time for podcasts, I choose to listen to those that inspire and inform me, and ultimately those that make me want to keep coming back for more.

What other good and creative podcasts can you recommend?

You are visiting the blog of fine art photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

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