Announcing Visionary Photography Workshops

Guy Tal and I first met each other about ten years ago shortly after he’d left California for Utah. During the ensuing decade, we shared together many wonderful photography expeditions to extraordinary places and discussed at length our goals, philosophies, and hopes for nature and landscape photography as fine art. Despite our differences, we shared many commonalities and philosophies and began to plan our first workshop. In 2004, we hand-picked a select group of photographers for a free Grand Staircase-Escalante NM (Utah) workshop where we could test and vet our curriculum. It was a wonderful start with a great group of photographers, and we’ve since spent the last eight years teaching, guiding, and inspiring scores of photographers at all levels while continuously refining our philosophies and teaching methods. In 2011 we began hatching a refined Visionary concept, and in February 2012 offered our first (sold out) Visionary Photography Workshop in Death Valley National Park. It was a tremendous success, and it prompted us to consider additional offerings in new locations.
The success (or failure) of a photography workshops hinges on its leadership and planning. After eight years of teaching and guiding, we had heard the horror stories from our participants about bad workshops and bad leadership, and desired to never have our names associated with similar stories. Meticulous planning is part of every Visionary workshop. There is no “figuring it out” as we go along, no details are left uncoordinated, and we don’t use our workshops to build our own portfolios. We take great pride in the Visionary program we’ve put together, and we hope you’ll join us for a Visionary Photography Workshop in 2013.
You are visiting the blog of fine art landscape photographer Michael E. Gordon. For additional photos and information, please visit his official website.

Book Review: Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How

For those who like no-fuss product reviews and a quick cut to the chase: Paul Gill and Colleen Miniuk-Sperry’s Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How is an excellent guide that belongs on your shelf if you plan to chase fickle wildflowers in Arizona.

Although most are climbing and hiking guides, I own quite a few guidebooks. And once one owns and uses enough of them, one comes to a determination about what they most like about them and what they’d do away with. Although I haven’t written any field guides, Gill and Miniuk-Sperry’s highly logical approach to content, layout, and design is the one I would follow. This guide is designed in a fashion that works perfectly for me: Detailed (but not too much; you still need to bring your creativity to the shoots); indexing by location, flower color, AND bloom calendar; a section on AZ’s wildflowers and how to predict them; and filled with inspirational photos and detailed technical info (including 17 different photography tip sections). This guide is a robust 224 pages and features over 280 color photographs and describes 60 locations with detailed maps & driving directions. Further, guidebooks that get handled a lot tend to fall apart quickly. Wild in Arizona has a 6″ x 9″ laminated glossy soft cover that I believe will hold up to a lot of leafing and thumbing.

This book is not just for photographers: Leaf peeping is everyone’s business, and the painter, naturalist, and hiker will find plenty about this book to enjoy. Gill and Miniuk-Sperry have also established a blog to share “eyes-on” reports about what’s currently happening in the [Arizona] field. They’ve been posting fall color reports recently, but come spring they’ll shift back to wildflower reports. What I really like about the book is that alongside the detailed location specifics, they’ve included a legend/key that indicates where you can expect to find specific flowers (right).

An honest review of a product should explain its shortcomings or at least recommend ways to improve it. Quite honestly, I’m at a loss to recommend decisive improvements for this guide. One minor point for me: I’m not a fan of unnatural-looking HDR photography as Gill appears to be (as evidenced by a number of his photographs within), but HDR-style photographs have no bearing on this book’s effectiveness or its quality as a guidebook. The captions are detailed and include HDR notes (and aperture/shutter speed/ISO), should novice photographers with limited technical abilities question why their photographs do not look like Gill’s.

Wild in Arizona: Photographing Arizona’s Wildflowers – A Guide to When, Where, & How will help you discover new places to experience and enjoy within Arizona while saving you an enormous amount of scouting time. At only $24.95, I’d call it a great value. Order online and you get an autographed copy!

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

Three Inspiring Books for Photographers

Lightroom. Photoshop CS5. Digital Photography. HDR. Tone-mapping. HD-DSLR. Killer Tips and Techniques….You’ve probably noticed that when it comes to instructional photography books, the market is heavily biased towards those that teach techniques and tips for crafting technically excellent images. Terribly under-represented are those books which inspire and inform the “thinking” end of crafting photographs. You might read every available technical book and subsequently be able to create technically exacting photographs, but chances are that if there’s little thought process behind your photographs, they might very well be lacking emotive qualities and meaning. Despite what the photo-book marketplace proffers, flawless execution is not the end-all be-all of photography; it is but one mere component to crafting compelling and engaging images.

I would like to herein bring your attention to three excellent inspirational photography books. While only one is technically “new” to the market, all are timeless resources which should aid in your pursuit of creating thoughtful images; images that inform, enlighten, and create a sense of wonder.

The Practice of Contemplative Photography

The Practice of Contemplative Photography: Seeing the World with Fresh Eyes.

“It is not what you shoot but how you shoot it. If you rely on direct perception and nonconceptual intelligence, it will be contemplative photography. On the other hand, if you shoot color or texture from a conceptual perspective, it won’t be contemplative photography at all.”

My workshop client, Nikko, is the President of Shambhala Publications, and was kind enough to send me this wonderful book by Andy Karr and Michael Wood. I became familiar with Wood’s work a few yeas back when I stumbled upon the Miksang Institute website. Miksang, or Contemplative Photography, is “concerned with uncovering the truth of pure perception. We see something vivid and penetrating, and in that moment we can express our perception without making anything up—nothing added, nothing missing. Totally honest about what we see—straight shooting.” It’s a fascinating and liberating concept, but one that will be most challenging to execute for those who visualize all or most of their photographs before actually releasing the shutter. Contemplative Photography is based on “Flashes of Perception“. These are defined as visual glimpses of something/anything that can cause an unexpected break in the flow of our thoughts or activities; our perception is immediately and quickly aimed at other than what we were just doing/seeing. The resulting photographs are unfettered by conceptual ideas and often reflect simple and uncontrived views of form, color, space, and energy. The goal of Contemplative Photography is to not interrupt these flashes of perception with our own preconceptions and compositional ideas of what the photograph should look like. This is Zen Photography, if you will – clear seeing in the present. Buy this book and liberate your mind.

Exposures - Guy Tal

Exposures: Views from Both Sides of the Camera – Guy Tal.

“…seeing is about creating meaning from a continuous stream of visual information, where any given instance is meaningless. Conversely, photography is about creating meaning from one fleeting instance, where all events preceding and following it are irrelevant.

I should first state that Guy and I have been good friends for a number of years. We’ve taught together, shot together, and have photo-philosophized
more times than I can recall. Even if we weren’t friends, I’d rank Guy at the top of current inspirational photographer/writers. Guy’s ebooks have sold well and garnered strong reviews, yet I suspect that Exposures has been largely overlooked due to its cover price (an unfortunate and necessary side-effect of Publishing On Demand). This book includes scores of Guy’s inspirational photographs, and fifteen insightful essays on Wilderness; intimate landscape photography; creativity; art; and the stories behind the creation of specific images and the experiences that led up to them. Guy’s writing style excites my imagination and simply makes me want to be out there exploring and shooting. The only other writers who impact me this way do not even write about photography! His words are powerful, precise, and articulate and should motivate anyone to better their art. Is it an inexpensive book? It is, in fact, the most expensive of the three, but how do you dollar-value this kind of inspiration?

Landscape Within - David Ward

Landscape Within: Insight and Inspirations for Photographers – David Ward

This book was first published in 2004. As David Ward is one of those “across the pond” UK landscape photographers, many here in the States are unfamiliar with his work and this book. This book is broken down into six distinct sections and includes what many books in this genre overlook: the history of photography as art, and a look at its pioneers and their practices and achievements. It is difficult to stand on the shoulders of giants if you don’t know who are the giants and are not aware of the paths they’ve paved for us. Like Tal, Ward is a convincing and powerful writer on creativity and philosophy, and similar to Tal’s book, I appreciate the complete absence of mind-numbing technical minutiae. As with Tal’s Exposures, this is a good book to sit down with in a big easy chair and wrap your mind around its words and images.

Bored of your work? Creativity at a standstill? Photographer’s block? Refresh your philosophies and renew your passion with these outstanding publications. Have you already read them? Please feel free to share your comments here.

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

TAKEN: LaCie Electron Blue III 19′ CRT

TAKEN! FREE to good home! Local pickup only; sorry, no shipping. One LaCie Electron Blue III 19′ aperture grill CRT display, in excellent working condition. Includes power cord and viewing hood, as pictured at left. This has been an excellent display for me for many years. It was calibrated with an i1 Pro weekly, and it always maintained stable color and luminance between calibrations. You can see all the technical specs on this LaCie data sheet (note that this is the Electron Blue IV data sheet). Because it is a CRT, it is a big and heavy beast, weighing in at about fifty pounds. This display is FREE to anyone willing to come pick it up in Long Beach, California (greater Los Angeles area). If you’d like it, please contact me through my website. First come, first served (beverage donation welcomed)!

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

Save a Desert Tortoise – Buy this Book

Tortoises Through the Lens – it’s not just a photography class, but a movement to change the continuous struggle that tortoises must go through because of human interference. Rachel Wilson, TTTL Student

Until you’ve met and made the acquaintance of a Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), you’ll never know just how incredible are these creatures. I met this tortoise (at left) on April 3 in Joshua Tree National Park, and as I sat beside and talked to him/her – all the while snapping photographs – I felt the same joy I feel each time I am lucky to have one of these chance encounters. Here before me is a distinct and unusual species that has roamed North America for 50 million years or longer, and has existed in its current form – before the Mojave was a Desert – for roughly 18 million years. Beyond humility and respect, I can think of few other ways to behave and honor the presence of this incredible creature. To see these fellows succeeding and feasting on greens warms my heart. Yet their lives are far from without challenges….

Icons of the Mojave Desert, they were once ubiquitous, and many southern Californian’s unwittingly diminished their numbers by taking them home and keeping them as pets. I had one during the earliest years of my life, and it troubles me to think that my family (and the family from whom we adopted the tortoise) helped to possibly push this species towards the danger zone. Urban/suburban sprawl pushed development and housing directly into their Mojave and Colorado desert habitats, and by 1990 landed them on the Threatened list of the Endangered Species Act. Unfortunately, without human intervention and corrective actions, Gopherus agassizii will eventually land on the Endangered Species List and their lives will hang in the balance.

Enter my good friend David Lamfrom, the California Desert Program Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association. In 2008, David created a wonderful program entitled Tortoises Through the Lens; “a community-based action project created to provide thirteen California high school students with an opportunity to explore and experience the Mojave Desert.” For two years, David and his long-time partner (and great wildlife photographer) Rana Knighten, led these thirteen teenagers on trips into the Mojave. They would not only be given cameras and learn how to photograph under David’s tutelage, but they’d also learn how to commune with nature and tortoises and would document their encounters through their photographs. In late 2010, the results were published in a beautiful book entitled Tortoises Through the Lens – an important collection of images and words. This 50-page book details their natural history; the serious threats they face; and what the future has in store for them. Beautifully designed and printed by Sunbelt Publications – and only a mere $14.95 – this book should be added to your collection. Most importantly, proceeds go directly towards tortoise conservation. David Lamfrom is one of those true desert tortoise heroes; I ask that you please support the tortoises and his work with your purchase. Thank you!

Please purchase directly from Sunbelt Publications.

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

Special Discount Offers in 2011

Despite being several years deep into our economic recession, the end does not appear near, and many are still without work long after having lost their jobs. We’re still deeply entrenched in a time where folks must weigh food for their families over photographs for their walls.

On a relative track, I recently received an email from James from Pennsylvania, who now owns two of my 8″ Mini-Prints. He had this to say:

Thank you for offering the lower priced open edition prints. I’m an amateur photographer and a lover of photography and with a young family, mortgage, etc. There isn’t a ton of money for purchasing original work from photographers, but it’s folks like you, Brooks Jensen, and Mike Johnston over at The Online Photographer with his print offers that make it possible for a lot of us who normally wouldn’t have access to good photography to amass small collections and enjoy the work as a daily part of out lives.”

After reading James’s message, I realized that I could go even further towards helping others own and collect my work. I will not be raising my prices in 2011 (nor did I in 2010), and effective January 1, 2011, all Mini-Print purchases can now be applied as a discount toward the future purchase of any Limited Edition print (maximum discount per Limited Edition print is $39). Similarly, if you buy one of my high quality posters for $25, I’ll also apply that $25 towards the future purchase of any Limited Edition print (maximum discount per Limited Edition print for poster purchases is $25). To take advantage of this offer, you’ll first need to buy a Mini-Print or Poster!

Not only can you now own more of my work for less dollars, it’s also a great way to “test drive” the quality of my photographs, prints, and finishing prior to committing a greater number of dollars to a larger purchase. Thanks for looking and shopping!

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.