Archive for the Guest Columnist Category

Being a Photographer Means Training Your Eye

Posted in Artistic Development, Guest Columnist, Workshops and Seminars with tags , , , , , , , on August 28, 2010 by Darwin

Hey all, I wanted you to know about Sam’s online course mostly because I think it is one of the best courses on learning to see (and composition and design) I have seen. I know, I know… I am biased. But judging from the feedback that Sam has received from her students my bias is not far from objective. Most photographers spend their time on the technical aspects of the craft and forget the artistic side of photography. If you want to learn to express yourself in new ways, you’ll need to train your eye. I’ll let Sam take over from here. BTW if you need more information about the course contact Samantha at chrysalizz@yahoo.ca. Happy shooting, Darwin.

Being a Photographer Means Training Your Eye by Samantha Chrysanthou

I teach an online course entitled  Learning to “Speak” the Language of Visual Expression over at Nature Photographers Network. I have received very positive feedback from the students, but one of the most challenging things for my students to wrap their brains around is being able to distinguish between tonal contrast and colour contrast. I think the reason for this is that we humans respond much more readily to colour, or hue, than we do to shades of lightness and darkness. It is easier for us to distinguish between opposite colours than it is to pick out the gradations in tone in the colours themselves. Here is an excerpt from Lesson 3 of the course:

There are two basic elements of design: tone and colour. Tone is the variance in contrast, or the strength or intensity of a particular shade or colour. On an experiential level, colour needs little definition for humans! However, knowing a little of how colour is perceived is important in the study of photography because colour has a powerful impact on the look of an object. The technical definition of colour is that it is the perception of various hues in the refraction of light waves bouncing off an object. White light hits an object and some light waves are absorbed while others are reflected. Humans perceive colour in the reflected wavelengths. In other words, colour does not exist without the interaction between a viewer, an object, and light.

Tone and colour are probably the most important visual elements of design to think about because, in conjunction with light, they create the secondary elements of visual design: line, shape, texture, pattern and perspective. Tone and colour themselves are highly dependent on the direction and quality of light, so you can see how fundamental a good understanding of light is to a photographer.

It’s all interconnected, folks! If you want to astound your friends with your exquisite compositions, then you need to learn how light creates hue and tone and, secondarily, line, shape, texture and pattern. If you want to learn more, there are a few spots left for the next offering of my course – but hurry! Class starts September 1, 2010!

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

©Samantha Chrysanthou

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Guest Columnist – Sept 2009

Posted in Artistic Development, Guest Columnist, Inspirations with tags , , , , on September 3, 2009 by Darwin

 The GO PHOTO Principles for More Self-fulfilling Photography

by Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston 

As an artist I have felt the joys when I click the shutter and know that I have captured something truly beautiful.  I have also felt the dismay when my efforts were futile in capturing the light, composition, or eliciting the emotion that I had envisaged.  Through contemplation of my experiences over the years I have come to find that for me there are 7 main points that when followed have helped lead me to more self-fulfilling photography.  These are the GO PHOTO principles: Goals, Organization, Perseverance, Holism, Observation, Trail and Error, and Optimism.

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

Goals

When successful people are interviewed about their rise, they almost always cite effective goal-setting as a key to that success.  Everyone has dreams and most dreams require years of hard work and dedication.  Often, success isn’t immediate and thus many give up on their dreams.  Successful people, however, set attainable goals in a stepped fashion helps to build to their dreams.  A photographer doesn’t buy a camera one day, take 100 photographs the next, and then publish a book on the third day, there are many, many, interim steps. 

There will be many disappointments and many setbacks, but attaining your goals can give you the lift to take you to the next attainable goal and then the next.  When I first began shooting I set goals that were easy for me to reach, such as capturing a landscape shot of a prairie sunset.  I then moved on to the goal of shooting a bear in the wild, which lead into the goal of capturing 25 intimate nature shots.  All these steps led into the next.  Without writing down my goals and pursuing each one of them vigilantly, it would be difficult to move to the next level.   When you achieve one, go for the next and always have two or three levels of goals planned ahead of time.  There must always be goals, without goals, there is a lack direction and without direction there is a lack of motivation.  Lack of motivation ultimately leads to a failure to produce meaningful images.

IMG_7401_mrbear

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

Organization

Disorganization can be downfall of many great artists.  If settings are not tracked, techniques are not noted, and if work is not labeled properly, sorted well, and filed in an easy to use system, how can any of it be referenced when needed?  If you are experimenting with filters wanted to know if the image that used the 3-Stop Reverse Grad was better than the one that used the 2-Stop Hard Grad, would you know which shot was which?  If you need to find a specific piece and there are no methods by which the item can be searched, how would you identify it?  Any additional time spent looking for settings or images becomes tedious and unproductive.  By keeping things labeled, noted, and documented, the extra time that would be used to identify these properties will be minimized.  Additionally, that organization can extend to your portfolio which you can periodically reference to evaluate your progression.  With an accessible portfolio, successes and failures become easy to track. 

Perseverance

On our artistic paths we often find barriers that arise preventing our vision from becoming reality.  Sometimes we’re missing inspiration or perhaps we feel a lack of creativity.  When learning a new method, a new technique, or a new piece of equipment, it is quite often not the first time that we get it right.  It is probably not the second time either.  Giving up when something is not easy will not bring growth or success.   The best photographers have dedicated years to the craft and have suffered similar tribulations and ultimately prevailed.  I know that when I have endured problems and persevered it has made me a stronger photographer and a stronger person.  There will be many blocks ahead, but by overcoming them it will constantly increase your momentum to take on the next challenge.

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

Holism

Holism is the philosophical concept that an individual is greater than the sum of his or her parts.  Each part of the person is important and those parts all join in force for the greater good.  If one of those parts is not in synch, the whole suffers as a result.  I firmly believe that if there are negative controllable factors in your life that are preventing you from achieving the goals that you have set, you must address these issues.  Frankly, this is good advice for almost any situation.  Ignoring issues rarely cause them to disappear.  Anything negative in your life that you can prevent or address and don’t ultimately becomes a distraction to your artistic vision.  Once everything is working in unison, the resulting force is commanding and powerful.

Observation

Without understanding the nuances of light, the strength of composition, and the elegance of form, we are lost.  For years scholars have sought understanding as to what constitutes pleasing aesthetics.  They polled the populous, studied the mathematics, and built upon what previous predecessors had discovered.  Above all, they learned that observation requires more attention than simply seeing.  It is an unending journey of discovery and one that requires an adjusted view.  Strong photography requires strong observation.  Strong observation requires a strong imagination that can build the scene in the mind’s eye.  Learn the art of observation by gazing upon your world, studying your surroundings, and by searching for beauty in chaos.

Trial and Error

We all have our successes that we want to build on.  The important thing is that those successes do not root us to the same type of photography or image all the time.  By trying new things we expand our experience of our art and we can move in directions that previously may have seemed daunting.  Error may be found more frequently than success in the beginning, but it is from learning from those errors that we can become more compelling artists.  This may be as simple as trying a new filter to something more complex such as capturing portraits when your primary experience is macro photography.  If you see a new technique by an artist, try it!  If it worked for them, it may work for you and subsequently you can expand and grow upon what you have learned.  Digital photography is great in that we can try and try and try and we don’t have to pay to process anymore.  Unless what you want to try is film and then go for it!

Optimism

Optimism is key in life as well in photography.  We have all felt despair at one time or another, it’s part of the human experience.  Sometimes it can be easy to lift ourselves out of that feeling and move on.  Most times, it’s not.  For example, I often chase light on the prairies of Nebraska for grand landscapes (yes, in Nebraska!).  I would look at the weather reports, gauge cloud cover, and then scoot on out to where I predicted the show would happen.  Guess what?  I’m only right some of the time.  I used to get frustrated and dismayed and return home empty-handed. 

Once I became a father I was reminded as to my primary purpose of being out there.  As my daughter looks with wonder at all the scenery and creatures and with excitement yells “turtle!” or “froggie!” I too feel that excitement.  Simply being outside with nature and breathing in the fresh air is a reward in itself.  Once I had that reminder, I began witnessing other things that I may have dismissed before – the graceful blue heron taking flight, the symphony of frogs at dusk, and shimmering dew drops on blades of grass.  I have found that by having a positive outlook on life, most negative thoughts will fade away and I can immerse myself in my work. 

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

©Derrald Farnsworth-Livingston

By embracing these philosophies, I believe that I have grown, not just as an artist, but an individual as well.  My vision is more certain, my techniques continue to expand and grow, and the feelings I have regarding my photography have gone from black and white to Velvia color.   When I pick up my camera I feel that whatever I choose to capture will be more self-fulfilling and meaningful and shouldn’t that be the most important personal elements for any artist? 

Journey Of Light Photography

web: http://www.journeyoflight.com

blog: http://blog.journeyoflight.com

email: drfl@journeyoflight.com

Guest Columnist – Jay Goodrich

Posted in Artistic Development, Controversy, Ethics, Guest Columnist, Image Processing and Software, Rants with tags , , , , on August 5, 2009 by Darwin

Nature Photography and Photoshop – How Far is Too Far?

by Jay Goodrich

 

There are two schools of thought here. One is that limiting the use of Photoshop in nature photography restricts our creativity as photographers. The other is that the over-use of Photoshop compromises the integrity of nature photography. So who’s right?

 

When someone looks at an astounding photograph, the first question they often ask is, “Is this real?” What is this need we feel to label an image real or not real, true or not true, fabrication or reality? It’s one thing if the purpose of the image is documentation. Reality is important in photojournalism, for example, or to portray the shrinking of a glacier. But what if the purpose of the image is simply to capture beauty, or to startle the viewer? What then does it matter if the artist altered the original photo? Does it look less beautiful hanging on the wall, or less striking on the cover of the magazine?

 

For some reason, we as viewers often feel “cheated” if we find that a photo has been altered, as if the photographer somehow is lying to us. But if we look at nature photography as simply another art form, then isn’t post-processing photos in Photoshop simply another medium in that art? How do we determine how much alteration is acceptable, and when the artist has gone too far?

 

How do we draw the line between creative license and misrepresentation? There are so many people out there imposing “the rules” of image making, that drawing the line can become convoluted and quite frankly impossible. Who are these rule makers and what gives them the right to create ideals such as “no HDR”, “no over-saturation”, “it needs to happen in camera”, “no merging of two or more separate subjects”? People have been making rules since the dawn of photography. In the film era, the discussions were regarding exposure, composition, film type, and the like. These rules existed because if you did not expose correctly, there weren’t any images to view. In present day it seems as if people are rule making as a way to control creativity. And why would we want to limit ourselves in that way?

 

There isn’t a photographer, painter, architect, musician, or otherwise successful creative out there who hasn’t bent or flat-out broken the rules in his or her career. Have you ever taken a flat, colorless sunset image and pushed your white balance to 9000 degrees Kelvin to yield a perfect orange glow from nothing? Or taken a backlit, rim-lit shot and pushed the sliders to the far right with a Levels Adjustment Layer in Photoshop? Think these processes go beyond the standard accepted rules of how far is too far? Miguel Lasa of Spain went beyond when he used the aforementioned Levels technique to take the prize in the Creative Visions division of the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition for 2008.

 

We are in an ever-changing photographic world now. Digital cameras become more powerful with each new generation, and the same holds true of our software. Imagine what Photoshop CS10 will be able to do. So how far is truly too far? That is the question. Guy Tal said it best in one of his recent blog postings:

Certainly any freedom can be abused, but this is no reason to demonize the technology that enables it. This is especially true for creative tools. To put it simply, those who use the tools for the sake of using them will always produce gimmicks and clichés. This is true of any art at any period in time. Those who see such gimmicks and blame the tools are not much better, though. Ultimately the artist is responsible for the art. If the result fails – the artist failed; not the tools. 

 

I believe that it is up to you to decide how far is too far. Your failures will be your own, as will be your successes. Create to discover your vision, and utilize “the rules” as guidelines, but also as a springboard to take your work beyond the rules. Bend them and break them every time you click the shutter and post process those images in Photoshop. Throughout history, success has always been achieved by those who listened to everybody else, and then said, “What the hell, I’m doing it my way.”

 

The two images that I have included here are near copies. One has star trails and the other does not. I know what you are already thinking, “Which one is the original?” Did I pull the stars out of the original image with the Spot Healing Brush Tool to create the second image? Or did I adjust my light levels giving the star trail image the alpenglow of an amazing sunset? Good question. My question to you is, does it really matter?

 

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

 

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

Guest Columnist – Anil Sud

Posted in Artistic Development, Guest Columnist with tags , , , , , on June 10, 2009 by Darwin

Photographing The Mundane

By Anil Sud 

By its nature, the mundane exists all around us in our everyday world.  As photographers, we try to visually decipher elements that bombard our brains and filter out that which lacks visual appeal.  Elements that stimulate us may go on to be recorded in our cameras and the rest gets discarded as visual noise.  

That which is mundane or devoid of photographic potential at first glance, may be deemed not worthy of our time and effort to capture as we hurry on to the next ‘photographic high’.  I would like to present some photographs which may convince the reader to consider otherwise. 

Mundane subjects, by necessity, are going to require extra effort on the part of the photographer, to create a visually appealing image and therefore, can provide useful training grounds in refining one’s visual skills.  By seeking out ordinary subjects in our daily world, and striving to capture them in a special way, we can hone our photographic prowess so that when we are presented with wonderful subject matter in spectacular light our vision is already refined allowing us to shoot instinctively.  

Developing an awareness of our immediate surroundings is the first step to overcoming the mundane barrier.  What better place to start than your own home.  Slow down and take a quick look around in your room – challenge yourself to take 10 interesting pictures before you move on.  You are probably very comfortable in your setting and therefore, not likely to see much photographic potential at a cursory glance because it is filled with a plethora of the mundane.  Try to break your space down into collections of shapes, contrasts, colours, and spatial relationships in making your images. 

You need to be open to the possibilities that a mundane subject can yield.  Take a single subject in your home and look at it from all angles.  Try to photograph it using your shortest wide and also your longest telephoto. Bring it under various lighting conditions and repeat the same.  Try hand-holding a long exposure of your subject or intentionally moving your camera.  Play with your camera – it doesn’t cost you anything!  I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results and may help you to re-evaluate seeing the obvious in a different light.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

A plain old grain silo in sidelight was relatively uninteresting.  I used an ultra-wide to enhance the perspective of diverging lines from the center of the frame.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Caught in the pouring rain, I ducked into a parkade to seek shelter.  Despite the horrible lighting, I used the opportunity to search for subject matter while I waited out the storm.  All I came up with was a direction marker on the asphalt.  Having taken the time to explore various compositions, I ended up with this photograph and it subsequently turned out to be one of my favorite images from that trip.  Serendipity!

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Taken in the Palouse area of Washington state, I entered this outhouse when nature called.  Looking up at the ceiling, I knew that this mundane setting would yield great potential later in the day.  I was rewarded when I returned at sunset and captured a beautiful mix of warm and cool tones in the interior.  Having an awareness of this subject and being open to the possibilities paid off in this circumstance.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

I ventured underneath this stairwell and played with various combinations of shoppers coming and going down the stairs.  The glass panels were uninteresting in themselves but knowing that the right placement and combination of foot-steps would create a keeper.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

During some down time in our hotel room while on vacation, I borrowed the tripod head from my travel companion. A close-up image of the knurled knob on the tripod head made for an interesting design.  Nothing extraordinary about this subject matter!

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

All I had to work with in this circumstance was a yellow divider line down the middle of the highway.  By panning vertically, I created implied motion to make this static subject dynamic.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Having lunch in a greasy spoon restaurant with some other photographers, I felt compelled to photograph the red vinyl adorning our restaurant stools.  Swallowing my pride, I knew that photographing this mundane subject matter would invite the disdainful glare from the other restaurant patrons.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Shot across my neighbour’s fence, photographing this drain pipe served as a useful exercise in breaking down the mundane barrier.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

A light fixture illuminating the side of this building was easily overlooked on cursory glance.  Here, I explored what my mundane subject could yield using some creative cropping.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Thousands and thousands of cars would pass this graffiti every day as people would head to work, yet not once did I spot a photographer working this subject matter.  Perhaps it was too mundane.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

During mid-day, this buoy had little visual appeal.  I guessed that late evening light would make this plain subject come alive.  Being aware that the buoy existed as a potential subject, and then knowing that a possibility for strengthening my subject in different lighting conditions was the key.

©Anil Sud

©Anil Sud

Nothing special about this subject – just a plain direction sign against the wall of a building.  Here I struggled to create something visually interesting but was rewarded in the end. 

I too, am guilty of searching for those ‘peak light’ experiences in places other than my immediate vicinity and have to continually remind myself that what exists right here, right now, is just as valuable in my photographic journey. 

Guest Column – Jay Goodrich

Posted in Artistic Development, Guest Columnist with tags , , , , , on June 2, 2009 by Darwin

Jay Goodrich emailed me with a wonderful idea. He suggested we both write an essay on Where does Your Creativity Come From?  Below is Jay’s Essay. My essay appears on Jay’s Blog

Where Does Your Creativity Come From?

by Jay Goodrich

Well you see when a mommy and daddy are very much in love…Oh wait, that is where I came from, not where creativity comes from. 

It comes from Don Julio 1942 Tequila. Kidding, well sometimes it does. 

Down deep inside of me there is a flutter and when that flutter is there, creativity is…. 

Actually, I have been thinking about this self-imposed article idea for about a week now, ever since Darwin and I agreed to trade blog posts written about the same subject. Our topic suggestion as written in my email to him was “Where Our Creativity Comes From”. The problem I am having is, well, how to be creative with this article. I don’t know why.  I have been on this creative rampage for years now, with very few lulls in the action. I have come up with so many ideas that I have had to create a document that contains them all. That document is up to 20 pages in length, single-spaced, with 8 point font now. So why can’t this guy, who jots down at least one idea every day, come up with the answer to his own question?

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

I sit here slamming the keys of my keyboard only to put something on an imaginary piece of paper on a monitor that displays something that only exists as coded zeros or ones in a place called cyberspace. Here are my pretty pictures, I hope you like them. See you next time. Well maybe I just need to think about this…

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

What have I done in the past when my photos have been horrible and nothing has seemed to come together? Why have I not had problems lately? Ah, therein lies the answer. Jackpot, Lotto, complete winner!

I was a bonafide city slicker growing up only 35 miles west of New York City. My only take on nature was venturing out into the “woods” in our backyard, which was bordered by blacktop on almost every side. I picked up my first camera as an adult about 17 years ago. I was fresh out of college, just moved to Colorado to escape the city and discover salsa that was real. I was shocked by the unbelievable, unspoiled beauty of my surroundings. I was visiting all of these really cool places and I decided that it would be a great idea to buy a camera to document everywhere that I had been. One camera, one lens, and a wobbly tripod that my dad leant me. The photos didn’t suck, some of them are in my portfolio to this day. Looking back, I often wonder how I achieved what I did with very little knowledge of photography and sub-standard gear. The answer was simple; my creativity was being driven by my inspiration of my surroundings, so it was really easy to put my knowledge of design (my degree was in architecture) into my compositions. That inspiration fueled that flutter deep down inside of me and I took to photography like steel to a magnet. It was so cool to chase the light. I am not saying that all of my images were great, by in large they were trash, but I had the inspiration to continue to persevere.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

Then about ten years into my passion, something happened. For lack of a better description, I hit my “blue period”. I think it was because I hated my job at the time – working for an architecture firm that focused not on design like architecture should, but on making money from cookie cutter drawings. There wasn’t an ounce of creativity in the job that payed the bills. I had been published a bunch of times, so I thought I was “The Man”, and I was basically bored and broke most of the time. I still shot, but knew enough to throw away what didn’t work, which was basically everything. I was making money with photography, but not a lot, and I was pretty much lost. This lasted for about two years. That is long time to suck as a photographer – career ending.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

Then I was given a the break of a lifetime; my employer had to lay me off. At first, I was pretty broken-hearted (only because I was about to become really poor), but all of that emotion made me do something that I never thought possible – I jumped from the ship and started to swim on my own. Don’t get me wrong, I swallowed a ton of water in the process, and still do. But it’s less and less, and I have learned to breathe a bit more while under water. Most importantly, my life is mine.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

About that same time digital was starting to take off and I purchased a brand new Canon 5D. The day that I received it was the day that life started all over again. I took this photo on the Eagle River right across the street from my house, and something just clicked. This sent everything regarding my photography career into super-manic, never look back, keep working, work hard, push, push, push, forget about breathing mode. Now I was fueled, recharged and ready, but how did I keep that energy from fizzling out? Well, I relied on something I never thought possible – my education as an architect. I knew design, I loved design, I just needed to figure out how it could work together with photography.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

I started reading about everything that inspired me-painters, graphic designers, architects, other photographers, architecture itself, builders, construction, music, movies, even tv shows like Discovery’s Biker Build-off where two designers would create custom choppers with the winner taking home only bragging rights and a cool trophy. All of these disciplines worked into my creative mindset, overflowed my inspiration tank, and had me shooting images like never before. I haven’t taken less than 20,000 images a year for the past five years. I have amassed a portfolio that I could truly be proud of.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

So I have answered my own dilemma – my creativity comes from anything that inspires me. Anything and everything that brings me excitement. In the past year I have become friends with many of my favorite photographers, I have traveled with them, taught with them, eaten and drank with them, and discussed with them. Those friendships have lead to images and ideas even more powerful than I have ever imagined.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

Thom Mayne, the founder of the architecture firm Morphosis, writes in his introduction to their Buildings and Projects 1989-1992 book, “I suppose…that our method somewhat resembles that of Canetti’s Doglike Writer: obsessed with sticking his damp nose into everything, he insatiably turns over the earth only to dig it up once more.” I think that the harder you work your mind, the more you push yourself, the more creative you become. Don’t let yourself turn over the earth just once with your photography –  turn over the earth many times trying everything, and just when you think you have had enough, turn it over again. Eventually, creativity will hit you like it has hit me, and hopefully, when it does it will never stop. And if it does manage to slip from your grasp, pour yourself a two-finger glass of Don Julio 1942 tequila, sit down on your favorite chair or couch and proceed to allow creativity to catch up to you once again.

©Jay Goodrich

©Jay Goodrich

 

 

Guest Column – Andrew McLachlan

Posted in Guest Columnist with tags , on June 2, 2009 by Darwin
Sampson by Andrew McLachlan

Sampson by Andrew McLachlan

GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN 

I would like to begin by extending my condolences to Diane on the passing of Boomer. We develop a special bond with our four-legged photo companions that is second to none. 

I would like to share the story of Sampson, my photo companion for 6 years. 

When my wife and I moved to our rural home, in 1997, on the outskirts of Thornton, a small Ontario town, we had no idea we were about to become adopted by Sampson – a large 7 year old, 110lb German Shepherd that lived about a mile down the road. One day he came by our house to check out the “new folks”, I threw a stick for him to fetch and that was how our story began. After throwing this stick Sam slept at our front door everynight for the next several months, determined to make our home his new home. We walked him back to his house frequently, only to see him return. Eventually his owners said “keep him.” He would even dig holes in the snow under our pine trees and sleep in -20 degree weather waiting for me to return from my day job in Toronto. 

Sampson is best described as a neglected pet that learned to fend for himself. A wild dog, essentially. Often we would see him hunting meadow voles in the abandoned pasture behind our home and when the feral apple tree’s fruit ripened he would pick and eat the apples.  

Now that my wife and I had been successfully adopted, it was time to start taking Sam for his walks. I would ride my bike down the dirt road while Sam ran alongside, When we returned home we would play ball for a while – he liked orange road hockey balls and would often chew on them as if they were bubblegum. He destroyed about a dozen of them a month. 

Since Sampson was trustworthy (or so I thought) off leash I let him accompany me on most trips into the field. At the family cottage near Parry Sound, Ontario we would go off on 5-6 hour walks in the woods while I photographed mushrooms, wildflowers and anything else that caught my eye. On one occasion, I was alerted to some barking deep in the woods, I turned around to realized it was Sampson. Soon the barking was so far into the woods it could no longer be heard. I ventured in to look for him, but nothing. I took note of the fresh moose droppings and came to the conclusion that Sam had found a moose. I figured he was gone, lost deep in unfamiliar woods, however, after 2-3 hours he emerged from the woods no worse for wear. He would now remain on a leash (a 20 foot length of rope) when we went for walks in the wilderness. A decision made just in time as we frequently began seeing black bears on our walks shortly after this episode. I also started to use his new leash on the bike rides (don’t try this at home it is a bad idea, especially if your brakes are in ill repair) until the day he saw another dog way down the road and started to running full speed ahead. Hang on. I left the bike at home and walked after this. 

Sampson and I spent wonderful days in the wilderness while I worked on my photography. After about 4 years he began to walk with a bit of a limp. Arthritis. He was prescribed a medication called “Metacam” that worked wonders for him. We spent another 2 years exploring woodlands together, until the day he lost his appetite. I knew something was wrong. I took him to see the vet. He was diagnosed with a large tumor in his abdomen and prescribe a steroid that would bring back his appetite and maybe give him a couple of more months. When we got home we started out on one of our walks. He walk about twenty feet and stopped and turned around to go back home. I knew that we completed our last walk together. The next night Sampson died in his sleep at the age of 13. He was cremated and his ashes spread at a small lake we used to frequent deep in the woods near Parry Sound, Ontario. I still carry his picture in my camera bag so that he accompanies me on every trip I make into the field. 

Six years with Sampson was not enough. He had a rough life in the beginning, but ended up in a loving family. He was one of a kind – but aren’t they all. Andrew

Photo by Andrew MacLachlan

Photo by Andrew McLachlan

Guest Posting – Younes Bounhar

Posted in Artistic Development, Guest Columnist with tags , , , , , on April 21, 2009 by Darwin

I have always wanted this blog to be about life as we live through the lens. How do we, as a community of photographers, see the world not only through our lenses but through our living? In this spirit, I am happy to host photos from photographers in any genre (hence the LLTL monthly photo contest). As well, I would love to hear your ideas, rants, opinions and musing about our craft. If you have something you want to share on this blog feel free to send me your stuff. Below is a piece from Canadian Photographer, Younes Bounhar.

Stacking the Odds in Your Favor

Landscape photographers seldom get any credit for the amount of work and dedication required for their craft. I often here comments such as “wow he’s so lucky, that sky is incredible!” or “I could have pulled it off had I been there!” The fact is, to consistently produce high-quality images there is no such a thing as luck! The only luck you get is the one you make yourself. So, how do you stack the odds in your favor? 

©Younes Bounhar

©Younes Bounhar

•1-    Get out there and  get out there often.

As much as there are times I wish my camera would just go out there and get me some incredible pictures, it has remained, to this day, an unfulfilled promise. Simply put, the more you are out there, the more you are likely to shoot in awesome conditions. Spectacular light rarely waits for the week-ends (as much I hate it!), so whenever you get a chance, grab your camera bag and head out to your favorite spots (make sure the camera is in the bag though!). 

•2-    Know you gear.

I always like to hammer the fact that it is not the gear, but the photographer that makes the shot. That said, you can’t realize your vision unless you know what your gear can and can’t do, and that you can get it to do what you want it to do. Know your camera inside out, know exactly what each of your lenses can and cannot do. It is not when the light shows up that you should try to figure out how your split density filters work…be ready to seize the moment when it comes and don’t let your gear get in the way. 

•3-    Know your subject.

Whether you are visiting a new location or paying an old friend another visit, if pays to research your subject ahead of time. It’s hard to shoot a moonlit scene on a new moon or tide pools at high tide. Know when and where the sun rises and sets. Check out the moon cycle and the tides to maximize your shooting opportunities. Whenever I go out on a shoot I also make sure I get to my location at least an hour or two ahead of time because it allows me to carefully study the location and plan out potential compositions. 

•4-    Familiarity breeds success.

I really love traveling and photographing new areas with a fresh pair of eyes. The reality, though, is that I can’t travel all year long and as such am bound to shoot areas I am fairly familiar with and I this reality to my advantage. First, because I know I can go back anytime, I don’t have any pressure to get the wide-angle, cliché shot, or any shot for that matter. I can just take the time and experiment to my heart’s content until I get something I am satisfied with. Second, by knowing the area, I can also better predict with greater certainty where the light conditions will be the best on a given day and as such increase my odds for a successful shoot.

©Younes Bounhar

©Younes Bounhar