Yearly Archives 2011

Hi Gang: As you read this, I’m on my way back home from our annual family vacation to Kennebunkport, Maine (my wife chose Maine a few years back because we live in the scorching Florida heat, and at this time of year Maine is a place that’s easy to get to where it’s nice and cool every day (we actually had to wear sweaters after dusk). So, we came for the weather, and but then fell in love with the people and the place. Maine is awesome).

I’m off tomorrow for my new two tour dates in Canada (Calgary and Vancouver), so I don’t have a lot of time to blog but I thought I’d at least share a few photos from the trip (Including the HDR photo above, taken in the lobby of a boat house where we went for a two-hour harbor tour on the two-masted Schooner The Eleanor. Perfect weather for sailing and the kids absolutely loved it.

The HDR shot was hand-held in low light (I braced myself on a wall, and had to shoot the 5-shot bracketed image four or five times to get one full set fairly in focus). I processed it using Photomatix Pro and Nik Software’s Color Efex Pro 3.0).

What I didn’t want to do
I’ve been coming to Kennebunkport for years now, so I’ve shot every lighthouse to death, along with every little quaint harbor with row boats on glassy water at sunset (if you want to see those shots, click my Portfolio link on the top left, then go to my Travel category), so I was determined not to shoot that stuff, but unfortunately that stuff is everywhere here, so I didn’t take any “Non-family vacation shots” until about 8 days into the trip (more on that in a moment). I did a lot of nothing. Sitting by the lake, reading books, playing with the kids, playing golf, shopping, and hanging out with the 13 family members that were here with us (you’re never alone when there’s 13 of you), and one night we had a dinner to celebrate my birthday (hey, you want to do it up right—30 years old—-that’s a big one). ;-)

(Above: Photo by my wife Kalebra using her iPhone)

“Borrowing” photos from my wife
The photo you see above, was actually taken by my wife Kalebra using her trusty iPhone (I’m continually amazed at what she gets out of her phone’s camera). That’s our daughter Kira, sound asleep on the boat, on the way back in to port. My wife loved the colors, and that just a little sliver of her face was showing, so I asked her if I could share it here with you on the blog, because it’s my favorite photo from the entire trip.

(Above: Photo by my wife Kalebra using her iPhone)

While I was “borrowing” her iPhone photos, I asked if I could share this one (above) of hers, too because I just particularly liked the color and composition. It was taken on the schooner (I guess that’s pretty obvious) while we were out at sea.

Shooting with my buddies Scott & Mark
Each year that I’ve come up here, I wind up hanging out with two of my buddies Scott Eccleston and his photography business partner Mark Hensley (both of whom I met on my first trip up there back in July of 2007). Totally great guys, and this time around my son Jordan came along with this, and while I didn’t get dink, we all laughed our way around about 200 miles of Maine Coast line in search of some place for me to shoot long exposure Black and White images. Ideally, you’d have a old dock with just pilings, or a old shipwreck, or a pier, or something extending out into a fast moving lake or ocean so you can leave the shutter open for like three or four minutes, and turn the water into an almost silky look.

Well, we tried and while we didn’t really come up with an ideal spot (I like to blame Scott & Mark, because as a photographer, our sworn tenet is to blame others for shots we missed), we did have a yummy dinner at Federal Jack’s Brew House, so the night wasn’t a total bust.

While I was there, I did tape a video tip for Scott’s “Weekly Photo Tips” blog (link), and during the tip taping I took the long exposure black and white photo you see above. Nothing great for sure, but at least I got to show the technique, which includes using a 10-step Neutral Density filter (so you can keep the shutter open that long during the day), and a bunch of little camera techniques and tips (like keeping the viewfinder covered during the exposure so ambient light doesn’t sneak in and ruin your exposure). As soon as Scott posts the tip, I’ll be sure to link to it here.

I went searching another night for a perfect subject for long exposure black and whites but came up empty handed again (it was a tide problem. Again, notice the subtle assignment of blame, this time on mother nature). However, while I was there, I turned around and saw this grassy area with a great sky above, and snagged this simple image (shown above) which for some reason I just really like. It’ll probably never be seen by anyone again, but I figured I’d share it here just the same.

Now, it’s back to work time
Well, I can’t relax for long, because I’m off to Canada tomorrow (glad I had 10 days with my family first), and I’m looking forward to getting back home after this leg of the tour, hanging out again with my wonderful wife and kids, playing fetch with Maggie the Wonder Dog, and sleeping in my own bed (yay!). Have an awesome Monday everybody (even though I’m fully aware that “awesome Monday” is an oxymoron).

Hey everyone, Matt Kloskowski here again. Thanks once again to Scott, for giving me his blog for the day. I’ve had a topic I’ve been wanting to write about for a while, so here goes: How Photoshop changed my Photography. It’s not what you think though. I’ve heard plenty of stories of how Photoshop is a game changer because of the ways that we can now enhance our photos so quickly. We can make blue skies bluer, green grass greener, remove blemishes, clone out wires, etc… But my photography-life-changing experience is a little different.

I Started with Landscape and Travel Photography
See, I started with landscape and travel photography. That was my favorite. Landscape and travel is what got me excited about taking my camera out of my bag. I sound like a total dork, but I’d have a hard time sleeping the night before I was going someplace cool to shoot. I steadily picked off some must-see places that I had always wanted to photograph. To this day, I still love landscapes. They don’t talk back, I love the peaceful feeling I get when I’m standing in front of a beautiful place like Mesa Arch, Moraine Lake, or Multnomah Falls and soaking it all in.

While teaching in Dubai, I spent some time at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi. Words can’t describe what a beautiful, pristine, quiet and inspiring place this was to photograph.

Switching to Portraits
I slowly started to make the move to portraits. A friend asked if I’d take some photos of his family. Then a friend of his friend asked the same thing when they saw the photos. And it grew. Before long, I found myself shooting a number of family portraits. To this day, I still love to capture family moments.

I also found I really enjoyed it. Especially when kids were involved. The kid in me really liked the challenge of getting them to smile and laugh. And I guess (because of the age that I must act), I really seemed to make a connection with the kids I was photographing :-) That eventually led to me doing some studio and lighting work too. But something was missing for me. Believe it or not, it was the art of post processing. I’m a Photoshop Guy and I’ve chosen this as my career because that’s what I love to do. I realized that the deeper I got into portrait photography (while artistic in it’s own way), the further away I got from being artistic with Photoshop.

Something Changed
A couple of years ago I saw a cool ad for Mountain Dew. It incorporated a skateboarder with motion graphics. I thought it looked so cool so I sat down one night and created this composite. I was hooked.

It hit me like a bag of bricks. Bam! I immediately realized, compositing is what I want to do more of. But that was just the beginning. I knew right away that this would change the Photoshop side of my life. But what I didn’t realize, is how it would change the photography side of my life.

Will You Get to the “How” Already?!
See, as I got more and more into compositing, the entire world became fair game for compositing/photography opportunities. The more Photoshop work I did, the more I realized that sure, I can create smoke in Photoshop, but it never looks as real as the real thing. Not to mention, it’s too time consuming. So I’d rather shoot a photo of smoke and drop it in. Sure, I can create dramatic clouds in Photoshop with brushes and filters and all, but it’s much easier to photograph dramatic clouds. Then I simply make a “Clouds” folder and put those photos in it, so I can find them when I need ’em.

Take Your Camera Everywhere!
I’ve often heard people say this. Honestly though, I was a total light snob. If the light wasn’t great, if I wasn’t in a studio, or if there wasn’t some kick ass scenery right in front of me, I didn’t bring my camera. I was so used to only pulling out my camera for beautiful landscapes or in the studio, that I let everything else pass me by. But now, anything is fair game. Alleys, fences, brick walls, empty parking garages, city skylines on bla hazy overcast days, garage doors, dogs, water fountains (because you never know when you need water coming out of a water gun), you name it.

Heck, I even take photos of cracks in the street because you never know where you’ll use them :)

My artistic side in Photoshop has caused a place for an entirely new world of photography opportunities to open up to me. I’d never put my tripod down in the middle of a tunnel to take a photo. I mean, why? It’s only a tunnel right? And it wasn’t even a good looking one to begin with. But when you add a motorcycle (that was lit in only the way you could light it in the studio) to the tunnel, now we’ve got something.

Now I get to put my passion for photography, my desire to create something, and my passion for Photoshop together. Not just sharpening and color correction. But really sitting down and being artistic, as I put a composite together. The light sources, the shadows, special effects, all that stuff. Things that we need to know about in photography I can now work with in Photoshop too. I love it!

So, have I stopped shooting landscapes?
Absolutely not! I still love shooting travel and landscape photos. In fact, if you walk through my house, that’s what I have on my walls. Personally, no matter what composites I create, no matter what portraits I’ve taken and no matter how much I may like the lighting on on one of my subjects, I’d have a hard time putting a photo of a person (who’s not closely related to me) on my walls at home. That’s just me though. But if it’s on my wall, it is either a spectacular place I’ve visited or a photo of my family. So landscapes will always hold a close place in my photography portfolio. But now, because of Photoshop, my camera gets used so much more.

Thanks again to Scott and everyone here for giving me a few minutes of your time today. I’m so passionate about this stuff that I actually just wrote a book called Photoshop Compositing Secrets (Amazon (link) | Barnes & Noble (link) | Kelby Training (link)). If any of this stuff sounds interesting to you, I hope you’ll check it out. Have a great weekend! :)

The Vincent Versace Award for Digital Photographic Excellence (often referred to as “The Vinnie”), is a special award within the photo category of the Photoshop World Guru Awards (the Gurus competition is sponsored by B&H Photo, and is open to all Photoshop World full conference attendees, and entry to the Guru Award competition is free for registered attendees).

The idea behind “The Vinny” prize package is that it provides the winner with all these incredible tools (provided by the Vinny sponsors) as a way to remove as many of the barriers of creativity as technology can, so there are no obstacles standing in the way of the artist. The award winner is chosen by Vincent himself from all the entries in the Photography category.

Here’s the prize list (to be awarded during the Photoshop World opening keynote September 7th in Las Vegas):

– Signed 24×30 print from Vincent Versace (shown above)
– An Epson R3000 printer
– Adobe Photoshop CS5
– Wacom Intous tablet
– All the plug-ins
– All the OnOne Software plug-ins
– Westcott 5 in 1 reflector
– A Lowe Pro Slingshot camera bag
– Lexar Compact Flash Cards
– Tuition to the Maine Media Workshops workshop (not including transportation, food & housing)
– A Hoodman Loupe
– An Enduro Tripod
– X-Rite i1Display Pro and ColorChecker Passport
– 13×19 Pina Zangaro portfolio
– A signed copy of Vincent’s new book “Welcome to Oz 2.0”
– One year subscription to KelbyTraining Online
– All of Acme Educational’s DVD tutorials
– All the lint in Vincent’s pocket
– Some cash (not much)
– Some Vegemite (too much)

If you’re going to Photoshop World in Vegas, here’s where you go for more details or to enter your work in the competition. Our thanks to Vincent for arranging such an amazing list of tools for the award winner.

Hey gang, Brad here with this week’s edition of Pimpy Thursday!


It’s “Christmas in July” at Kelby Training Books!
Ok, we know… that whole “Christmas in July” thing always feels a little silly. I mean, who likes singing carols when it’s 95 degrees outside? However, there’s one thing that’s never silly, and that’s PRESENTS! So from now until July 31, when you buy any regularly priced book, DVD, or special bundle from Kelby Training, we’ll throw in 3 free DVDs!

No codes and no special links necessary. Just make a purchase and poof! “Christmas in July!” Well, ok, there’s a couple catches. We get to choose the DVDs, and they will be from our sale-priced DVDs. We can pretty much guarantee that one of them will be the Best of Photoshop User – The 12th Year DVD, and no returns, trade-ins, special requests or whining is allowed :) But hey! That’s still a whole lot of extra training. Plus, if you already own one of the DVDs you get, you now have an instant re-gift!

Wallpaper of the Week
Be sure to check out the Wallpaper of the Week on the members home page. Each week an image from a NAPP member will be featured as the wallpaper of the week, so if you see something you like for your desktop, iPad, iPhone or other device – grab it!

Armed Forces Discount
As a way of saying “thanks” to our armed forces, NAPP would like to extend a $20 discount to every new or renewed NAPP member actively serving in our armed forces. Visit this page for complete details, and please feel free to share this via your referral program. If you know of an active duty serviceman or woman who is into Photoshop, a digital membership will put Photoshop User magazine right on their laptops, iPhones and iPads no matter where in the world they are.
Corey Barker is back with his latest class, Photoshop CS5 In-Depth: Interface and Preferences. He’ll show you how to save workspaces and customize Photoshop so you can optimize the time you spend working for maximum productivity.

Kelby Training Live
In addition to Scott Kelby’s Light It. Shoot It. Retouch It. LIVE! Tour, you can also catch Fay Sirkis on the road with The Art of Photo Painting with Photoshop CS5 Tour! She’ll be in Washington, DC on July 29, and in Los Angeles, CA on August 3. You can get all the details over at

Special Deal for Nik Software and OnOne Software from Acme Educational
Speaking of Vincent Versace, he and the team at Acme Educational have teamed up with Nik Software and OnOne Software to offer you a 10% discount on their products! Just use the coupon code ACME when you’re making your purchase.

The discount doesn’t apply to Nik Software’s third party products or specials (like the current $100 off Color Efex Pro 3.0 Complete or $60 off HDR Efex Pro), but everything else is fair game!

$100 Off Design Services for Photographers at
Through the end of July, the team over at is offering $100 off graphic designs for photographers! If you’re not familiar with them, they let you upload your photos to one of their design templates for brochures, business cards, newsletters, and display banners, then print and deliver them to you. Then you turn around and use those items to wow your clients, and increase sales!

Blog Collage from Fundy Software
Fundy Software, Inc. has just released its latest product, Blog Collage – ­the fastest way to create stunning collages for a blog or Facebook marketing needs. Features include designing for any blog/web width easy branding with logos using color or transparent backgrounds creating dynamic layouts with easy design and unlimited module combinations, and auto-saving for the web. You can see Blog Collage in action over at

That’s it for this week. Have a great Thursday!

It’s funny how much can happen in a year. I’m still in some disbelief that I’m writing for Scott’s guest blog series. With that said, I would like to thank Scott and Brad for this opportunity. I’ve been a longtime fan of this series and it’s a real honor to now be a part of it myself.

Often times when I write about a topic related to Photography, the difficult task is not determining what my point is but rather how to most effectively communicate it. How do you even opine over something so subjective without instantly alienating at least a portion of your audience? I think the best start is to propose certain axioms that I try to live by with my photography:

  1. Unless being commissioned by a client, engaging in Photography is totally self-motivated. You frame, compose, shoot, and process for yourself and to your own taste.
  2. Growth of one’s ‘vision’ is not academically taught so much as it is shaped and evolved by experience, failure, success and repetition.
  3. The gift of a photo being ‘done’ according to the photographer is that it can, and should, be shared with the rest of the world.

Now, because I can only accurately talk about my own personal journey, let me share how I came to establishing these three statements for myself.

From One To A Million

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say that my growth as a photographer took many years (I started in 1997) and involved a lot of money spent developing images that were oh-so technically flawed. The first steps were relatively straightforward: learn and appreciate the holy trinity of Photography (aperture, shutter speed, and ISO), start practicing different methods of framing and composing a shot, and stop shooting in the ‘tourist’ position.

Growth was slow and it was very solitary. Shoot the film until empty, develop it, and study it. The Internet was around back then but Social Media and blogging were far from reaching that spark of critical mass. I had never enrolled in any photography classes, so feedback was really limited to the handful of college photographer friends with whom I felt comfortable enough sharing my work, and myself. But, I did grow from it. It was slow and frustrating but I did gain meaningful experience from it in terms of what my style was. I was the one determining what worked and didn’t work within my ‘vision’.

Flash-forward to ‘Today’ – we live in a time where the barrier to entry for an unprecedented amount of self-exposure is virtually non-existent. An Internet-connected device, a blogging platform & a few social media accounts and you are ready to broadcast yourself to millions of people. What’s more is that there are millions of other people also jockeying to broadcast themselves to millions of people. Blog posts, Twitter streams, and Facebook walls are riddled with everyone vying for everyone else’s attention.

Who Do You Do The Voodoo That You Do For?

There was a period of about three years when I gauged my personal success as a photographer by analytics, metrics, followers, comment numbers, and unique visitor counts because it seemed like these were the critical measurements to focus on. I had also enveloped myself around learning and trying to master the galvanizing technique of HDR Photography and tone-mapping. Everything I shot, discussed, and wrote about revolved around HDR. I even began a ‘365’-photo project where I posted a new HDR image every day on my blog. I was consumed and for a long while, it was very good to me. Slowly but surely, I was seeing stats go up, my media exposure was increasing, and I was being regarded as a bona-fide resource in this area of Photography. I was making a name for myself.

And then something happened around halfway through 2010. I began having this feeling of stagnation and automation. There was something missing from the equation that had previously always sparked my love of Photography. I had a routine: shoot, tone-map, stylize, blog, tweet, and post on wall.  The blog comments and retweets came in and grew in frequency but even those began feeling automated. It was in this automation and routine that I realized it was stifling the growth and evolution of my photographic vision.

I let all of the exposure I had recently experienced give me a false sense of real growth as a photographer and I convinced myself that perpetually tone-mapping HDR images was the only way I would maintain this exposure. I was shooting and processing to feed that growth and not to feed my vision. At the time, I couldn’t begin to remember what it was like to shoot without bracketing or carrying a tripod and like all addictions, I really couldn’t see beyond it and then the tunnel vision set in.

And like an addict, I needed to find a significant ‘event’ where I could turn my life around. We were nearing the end of 2010 by that point, so I figured New Years Day would be as good a time as any to turn things around.

Evolution By Way Of Regression

For the past several years, my sole goal with my images was to retain every detail from the shadows through the highlights and everything in between. I convinced myself that my images had to be representative of what the human eye would see at the moment of exposure and not be limited by the digital sensor. I also focused exclusively on urban and abandoned areas, almost wholly abandoning any sort of landscape, portrait or nature scene because, hey, it seemed to fit this distorted formula for online success that I had.

So, I figured the easiest way to start growing was to go cold turkey. I began going on personal shoots with a camera, a lens or two, and nothing else. No tripod, no shutter release cable, no bracketing. I began focusing on appreciating and embracing blown out highlights and dark shadows. I was seeing shapes in the lack of tonality, rather than in the presence of it. I began learning more about Black & White Photography and enjoying the use of neutral density filters for Long Exposure Photography. I started embracing and really falling in love with the beauty of nature and landscape scenes, along with the nuances and complexities of portraiture work.

I was returning to the world I had forgotten when I was first starting out.

With HDR Photography, I got to a point where I was no longer experimenting in-camera and rarely made mistakes in terms of processing. I didn’t stumble and, as a result, I stopped learning. I forgot what it felt like to have that ‘Aha!’ moment when you figure something out that you did not previously know.

The Not-So-Trivial Pursuit of Photography

Writing this blog post gave me good reason to take pause and think about what I’ve done as a photographer, reflecting on my failures and accomplishments. When I first started out learning how to use a camera, I didn’t have any delusions about ‘going pro’, appearing as a guest blogger anywhere, or making a dime off of my work. I did it to become a better photographer. I knew that photography was what I was built to do and so, initially, it was all about the experience and gaining that second-nature, knee jerk reaction when working the camera. Ultimately, it was about being able to consistently make photos that I was truly happy with and nothing more.

Photography is very much like the playing piece in the game Trivial Pursuit in that it is comprised of many different ‘wedges’. You get these wedges through experience and knowledge. The key is not to stop when you think you’ve gotten that first wedge and all along the way in this pursuit, keep asking yourself “What is it that I’m trying to do here?” and “Who am I trying to do it for?” It wasn’t until I took a step back and really questioned myself that I realized what it is that I really want to get out of Photography.

Ask yourself these questions often and honestly. The answers may surprise you.
And please believe me when I say, “that is a very good thing.”

You can see more of Brian’s work at, follow him on Twitter, “Like” him on Facebook, and email him at