Workshop Announcement: Introduction to Large Format Photography: April 14-15, 2012

Large Format Photographer in the Alabama Hills

This workshop will take place in California’s renowned Alabama Hills (featured in scores of movies and television commercials), just outside Lone Pine, California, in the rainshadow of Mt. Whitney and the High Sierra). Limited to 5 photographers only.

NO PREVIOUS LARGE FORMAT EXPERIENCE IS REQUIRED! The large format camera offers the ultimate in control over the entire creative image-making process and large format negatives and transparencies that offer extraordinary resolution. The market is flooded with plenty of used and value-priced large format gear, and new high quality yet inexpensive field cameras have made this an excellent time to move up to the format with only a moderate amount of expense. This course is designed for experienced photographers who are ready to take their photography to the next level, and for those who have previously worked with large format but have struggled with it. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, meter, and expose your own large format photographs. Please click here for more information and to register.

I hope you can join us!

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

Upcoming Workshops

Come join me in the Eastern Sierra for two exciting workshops!

October 5-8, 2010 Eastern Sierra Autumn Color Tour
All camera formats and experience levels welcome! Limited to only six photographers. Join me on this incredible and photography intensive three-day tour of California’s Eastern Sierra, Owens Valley, and the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Come enjoy and photograph California’s finest autumn colors in one of the most breathtaking settings on the planet! For more information and registration….

November 6-7, 2010 Introduction to Large Format Photography
Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra (just outside Lone Pine, California). Limited to only 5 photographers. NO previous large format experience required! My teaching methods and techniques are direct and easy to comprehend. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, and expose your own large format photographs! For more information and registration….

I am happy to answer any questions you may have regarding these workshops/tours. Previous workshop participants can enjoy a 10% discount on tuition! Thank you for your interest.

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

Yosemite Valley SNOW!

(L to R) Large Format Photography workshop client David, and Michael

I had yet another private workshop last Saturday, this time in the Happiest Place on Earth: Yosemite Valley. I worked with David Okner on Large Format photography, helping him to gain control over view camera movements and teaching him my easy system of metering and exposure (no more bracketing or failed negatives!). We had a great day together, with David displaying a sense of wonderment (how could it be this easy?) and camera confidence by day’s end.

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow, photo, picture

Yosemite Chapel in fresh snow

The first big winter storm of the season was slated to arrive after midnight on Sunday (and it’s not even yet winter!), so I stayed in The Valley and hoped to awake to snow on Monday. Sure enough, the National Weather Service nailed it. There were two inches of white stuff on the ground when I awoke, and by the time my coffee was ready, it had begun snowing again in earnest. By 4pm Monday – after a full day of non-stop snow – approximately one foot of new snow covered everything. It was absolutely beautiful, and there’s hardly a better place to enjoy a beautiful winter storm like this one.

photo, picture: Merced River, Yosemite Valley, snow, storm

Fresh snow on the Merced River, Yosemite Valley

Right around sunset I made the photograph at left and then decided to try to head home via Hwy 41/Wawona. It was a slow drive out, as it was snowing, foggy, icy – you name it. Driving conditions were challenging and required vigilance. Heading south on Hwy 99, I learned that Caltrans had closed both the Grapevine/I-5 and Hwy 58 to snow, so I did not make it home that night and drove back into the Sierra (southern) to find a place to bivouac and photograph in the morning 🙂

Thanks for a great workshop, David!

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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Workshop Announcement: Introduction to Large Format Photography. Feb 13-14, 2010

Introduction to Large Format Photography Workshop
February 13-14, 2010, Alabama Hills, Eastern Sierra (just outside Lone Pine, California)
Limited to only 5 photographers; $349 per person

4x5 large format view camera in the field

Despite the digital photography boom, large format film photography is witnessing a resurgence of interest and an increase in users. Large format negatives and transparencies offer extraordinary resolution, and view cameras offer extraordinary control over fine focus and perspective. Simply stated, a large format camera offers the ultimate in photographic control over the creative image-making process. Further, a market flooded with used but clean large format gear and a couple of new economical yet quality view camera manufacturers have made this an excellent time to enter the world of large format with only a moderate amount of expense (a good LF kit can cost and weigh less than a professional D-SLR kit).

My teaching methods and techniques are direct and easy to comprehend, and I will successfully put you in full control of your camera. At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to efficiently and confidently compose, focus, and expose your own photographs.

This workshop will take place in the world famous Alabama Hills (featured in scores of movies and television commercials), just outside Lone Pine, California (in the rainshadow of Mt. Whitney and the High Sierra). We’ll be learning in an outstanding location and will have access to the Eastern Sierra’s incredible wintry mountain scenery.

Due to the decrease in available instruction, my Introduction to Large Format Photography workshops have become increasingly sought after. Please do not delay your registration, as I expect this workshop to fill quickly. For more information and to register for this workshop, please see my Workshops page. Thank you for your interest!

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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The Creative Landscape Photography Experience

Canyon BonsaiAnn Torrence attended our recent Creative Landscape Photography workshop in and around Capitol Reef National Park, Utah, and shares her experiences and post-workshop thoughts on her blog.

It’s great to learn when your teaching and photographic philosophies really reach your clients. Guy and I resoundingly believe that the strongest photographs arise as the result of a commitment to and a love for your subjects. A plane ticket or road trip to where every photographer wants to go is merely a distraction – the enlightened creative process is a journey, not a destination. Strong photographs can be made in our backyards, and our creative blocks come only from within, not from a lack of something special to photograph or special places to do it.

I’m really pleased that Ann got it, and that it was our workshop that made a difference. I look forward to seeing your new work, Ann!

Creativity – that overused word for such a mysterious process – is often simply the process of learning about ourselves, learning how we have placed limitations on our thinking, and finally, learning that we are our own barrier blocking the creative act“. Brooks Jensen

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

A Heartfelt THANKS….

…to my recent workshop clients!

Balaji, Srikumar, Saravanan, and Michael

Balaji, Srikumar, Saravanan, and Michael

On October 3-4, I helped Balaji, Saravanam, and Srikumar discover wonderful locations up and down the Eastern Sierra and Owens Valley during a private tour, and they received their wish of photographing autumn color during the first snowfall of the season (well, it was the second really, but it was the first significant snowfall). Despite falling rather sick just one day before our meeting, I still managed to hang in there and arise way too early each day for our sunrise shoots. Balaji had this to say:

The pleasure was truly ours in sharing such a wonderful locale with an true nature enthusiast like you. I personally came away with such a respect for your knowledge about the area and your admiration for nature and conservation. Many thanks for your incredible energy in spending so much time in the field in those 2 days, in spite of not being at the best of health.”

Creative Landscape Photography Workshop

Creative Landscape Photography Workshop

And one week later – just last weekend, October 9-12 – Gordon-Tal Workshops conducted its Creative Landscape Photography workshop in and around Capitol Reef NP, Utah. We had a great time with our group of six, toured fantastic locations, and had numerous philosophical and technical discussions. We intend to offer this unique workshop again in the future. Please join our mailing list to be the first to know.

Thank You to my workshop clients! I hope you had as much fun as I did.

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

Thank You for another great Workshop!

Introduction to Large Format Photography Workshop

Introduction to Large Format Photography Workshop

I’d like to offer a heartfelt thank you to my August 1-2 Introduction to Large Format Photography workshop clients. You were a very enjoyable and enthusiastic group who made my work easy! I wish you the very best with your photographic endeavors and hope to see you again. In the photo, from left to right: Don (southern California); my friend and assistant Dan Baumbach; Bob (southern California); Nikko (Bay area, California); David (Houston, TX); and yours truly, pictured amongst the beautiful wildflowers at the Paiute Pass trailhead, Eastern Sierra. THANKS, guys!

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

Workshop Announcement – Introduction to Large Format Photography

Large Format Photographer

Large Format Photographer

This workshop is now FULL!. Please email Michael to be placed on the waiting list.

I will be teaching an Introduction to Large Format Photography class on the weekend of August 1-2, 2009, in the beautiful Eastern Sierra. If you’re curious about the format, or already own the camera but aren’t sure that you’re using it correctly, this workshop is intended for you! At the completion of this intensive two-day workshop, you will be able to competently and efficiently compose, focus, and expose your own photographs with a large format view camera. The cost for this workshop is only $295 per person, but the space is limited to four photographers. Act now to ensure your spot at this workshop.

Click here for more details and registration. Please let me know if you have any questions, and thanks for looking!

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

The Maximum D.O.F. (Depth of Field) Myth of Landscape Photography

There exists amongst many landscape photographers a notion that all landscape photographs must be razor sharp near to far – f64 and be there (not!). Unfortunately, this one-size-fits-all approach to landscape photography quite often increases the visual complexity (busy-ness) of an image and creates visual competition amongst its elements. Most importantly, displaying everything in the frame in brilliant sharpness leaves very little to the viewer’s imagination.

Razor sharpness throughout the entire frame of a landscape/nature photograph often runs counter-effect to the photographer’s intention. When attempting to depict the vastness of the scene before the camera, employing maximum Depth of Field (DOF) ironically often destroys the very depth depth that the photographer seeks to create. This is a particularly egregious habit of view camera users (i.e., users of large format sheet film cameras), many of whom feel that since camera movements afford precise control of focus, the image should employ maximum DOF and be in precise focus throughout.

Let’s take a look at a photograph I made in September 2007 in the Wasatch Mountains of Utah (click to enlarge):
Amongst the Maples, f11
This photograph was made with a 4×5″ view camera with a 120mm lens, and my focus was placed somewhere on the tree limbs. I restricted the aperture to about f11 to focus the viewer’s attention on the elements that grabbed my attention. The radiating form of the tree limbs and mixed splashes of color and light sucked me right in. As Guy Tal and I discuss in all our workshops, the elements that draw you to photograph something are the elements that you should seek to emphasize, while all other elements in the scene should be diminished or absent. This is a basic and solid theory of composition, and it magically works every time. In the brilliant words of Antoine de Saint-Exupery, “a designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

When I first began showing this photograph, non-photographers reacted very favorably towards it, whereas many photographers made comments about the shallow DOF/lack of sharp focus throughout. Naturally, I was humored by the latter comments, as the shallow DOF was intentional – not the result of an unfortunate error!

Now let’s take a look at a second but nearly identical photograph – same everything but aperture. For this exposure the aperture was f32 (or possibly f45) (click to enlarge):
Amongst the Maples, f32
With greater DOF, the background elements become more distracting, and the splash of light in the background becomes more glaring. Not only does greater DOF ruin my impression of the scene, it makes for greater visual clutter. Not something I strive for in a photograph.

When I am attracted to photograph something, I analyze the elements and ask questions: What is it that drew me over here to make this photograph? What are the important elements here? What is it that I want to emphasize? When I have answered these questions, where I place my tripod and camera, where I focus, and what aperture I use are essentially answered for me. I don’t blindly apply maximum DOF rules just because my equipment is capable nor because that’s what is instructed by the how-to guides of landscape and nature photography. In image-making, the primary goal for any photographer should be to do what best serves the subject matter. A one-size-fits-all approach to DOF in landscape photography rarely does that.

What do you think?

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