Posts By Brad Moore

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Hey! It’s great to be back on Scott’s blog. Thank you Scott for the invite, and thank you Brad Moore for setting up this extra-long guest blog post.

I’m here with an excerpt from my new (and 37th) book: Evolution Of An Image – A Behind The Scenes Look At The Creative Photographic Process.

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The concept of the book: For each end-result photograph I share my goal, thought process, behind-the-scenes story, original image, outtakes, my Lightroom processing techniques and an unexpected result. I also talk about the photographic conditions. Detailed camera info and my original goal are also included.

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I also demonstrate how plug-ins can help you transform a snapshot into a much more creative image, as illustrated by this giraffe photograph from the Using This Book section.

I have chapters on several different photo specialties: action, scenic, wildlife, people, landscapes and seascapes.

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Here are just two of the opening pages for the more than 30 chapters.

Following is a condensed version of my Wrath of Khan chapter, which is in the Action section. Yes, there are a lot of words in this guest blog post, but there are even more words in the chapter, as well as more images. So as you can imagine, this is a reading/learning book, and not just a book of pretty pictures.

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Location: Mongolia

Goal: Get at least one killer photograph that captures the action and intensity of Mongolian soldiers charging at full speed during the Naadam Festival.

Thought process: Get in the best possible position to make a photograph in which it looks as though the riders are charging toward the camera.

Behind-the-scenes story:
I was about halfway through teaching a private photo workshop in Mongolia. My student, Jack, and I were getting good shots, but neither of us was thrilled with the photographs that we were taking.

Things were about to change, big time. While downloading some files in my hotel room, I noticed a promotional card on the desk. It showed an action photograph of Mongolian warriors on horseback. The tag line: Experience the Naadam Festival – ride with Genghis Khan.

I immediately called our local guide to make arrangements to get us to what looked like an awesome opportunity for action photography. The next day we were at the festival at 8 A.M, an hour before it was scheduled to start.

When we arrived at the festival, I thought I could talk our way onto the field – the best position for realistic photographs. I used all my PR skills, but to no avail. We were told we had to buy tickets and sit in the bleachers.

I ran off to get tickets. I asked a security guard to tell me a little bit about the action on the field, specifically about the direction in which the riders would run onto and across the field. After getting the lowdown on the action, we chose seats in the front row of the bleachers that would give us the best view, the best background and the best light.

The idea here is to ask show organizers and helpers about where action will happen, and then to choose your shoot spot wisely. In festival (and sports) photography, location is very important.

Right on time, at 9 A.M., the festival began with some soldiers – the soldiers you see in the opening image for this chapter – charging across the field. Many elements came together for my favorite photograph of the festival, my favorite photograph from Mongolia – and one of my all-time favorite photographs.

My Favorite Shot – The Making Of A Good Photograph
The elements that make the opening image one of my favorite photographs are the same elements that, I think, make a photograph a good photograph. Listed below are those elements, elements you can consider when deciding on whether one of your photographs is a “keeper” or an “outtake.”

Mood – The mood, emotion or feeling is the most important element in a photograph. The dust, the background and the intense look (gesture) on the face of the lead rider created the captivating mood in the photograph. The body language (another gesture) of the lead rider, and the way he is holding his bow and arrow – while riding at top speed – also add to the impact of the image.

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Good Composition/Cropping – I zoomed in as tightly as possible with my 70-200mm with 1.4x tele-converter set at 200mm (effective focal length 280mm), but the subjects were too small in the frame. Cropping out the boring areas on the top, bottom, left and right of the image helped me to create an image with more impact. Remember: cropping gives us a second chance at composition.

Good Exposure– The flat, and flattering, lighting, created by the overcast sky and dust, made getting a good exposure, with detail in the shadow and highlight areas, easy. The fast shutter speed “froze” the moment in time, and the aperture showed the two main riders in sharp focus, while the surrounding riders were in semi-focus, drawing attention to the two main riders. (Yes, this was luck, but I did have depth-in-field in mind when I was photographing.)

Separation – Notice how in the opening image all the horses and riders are separated from each other. That separation helps to cut the clutter, and makes the photograph more pleasing to view.

In this photograph, the group of soldiers in the middle of the frame is separated from the groups of soldiers on the left and right of the frames.

When composing, look for separation between subjects. Separation helps to add a sense of depth to a two-dimensional photograph.

Being There – A photograph that gives the viewer the feeling of “being there,” or “I’d like to be there,” is another quality that makes a good photograph. Here, I think I accomplished that goal by shooting at a low angle, which gives the soldiers a greater sense of power, and by filling the frame with the subjects.

Peak of Action – The horse in the middle of the frame has three of its four hoofs off the ground – almost the peak of action.

The Subject and Story – Never underestimate the importance of a good subject. These subjects were awesome, and the photograph tells a story even without words.

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Image Processing Technique
Because I had a good in-camera exposure of the Mongolian soldiers, I only made the following Lightroom adjustments (after cropping my image):

  • Increased the Contrast – for a stronger image;
  • Opened up the Shadows – for a better view of the soldiers faces;
  • Increased the Blacks – also for a stronger image.

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This particular charge that morning lasted only about two minutes. I took 15 images, and the last image is my favorite.

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Unexpected Shot
While we were leaving the festival, happy that we finally had some good photographs, I saw this monk on this cell phone and this woman, her identity hidden, perhaps trying to sell the monk a phone. I think it makes an interesting and entertaining image – and a good photograph.

This shot is what I call a “being there” photograph. Because I was shooting close to the subjects with a wide-angle lens, and because everything in the scene is in focus, you feel as though you are in the scene. So the tip here is this: the closer you are to the subject, the more intimate the photograph becomes.

Closing Thought
Be your own toughest critic. Consider all the elements that comprise a good photograph. Then, as I mentioned, follow your heart.

Tech Info for Opening Image
Camera: Canon 5D
Lens: Canon 70-200mm with 1.4x converter @ 280mm
Camera settings:

  • AI Servo focus – to track the subjects for a sharp action shot;
  • ISO 200 – fast enough for the aperture/shutter speed combination I need, 1/640th second – needed to stop the action of the charging soldiers, f/8 – needed for good depth-of-field.

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My Sammonisms
The book also features my favorite “Sammonisms” (my quick tips) along with my latest photographs from India and Botswana. Here’s just one.

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Mood matters most. Sure, cameras and camera settings, as well as lenses and accessories, are important. When it comes down to it, however, it’s the mood of the photograph that matters most.

Color, light, brightness and of course the subject all affect the mood of a photograph. The pleasing mood of my photograph of Chinese fishing nets in Cochin, India that opens this preface is created by the warm glow of the sun and the warm colors in the sky. Shadows also create a pleasing mood and add a sense of mystery to a photograph.

Always keep mood in mind, and don’t get too caught up in the technical aspect of making pictures.

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Evolving as a Photographer

The book closes with a chapter on evolving as a photographer. Here’s an excerpt.

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So in closing this chapter and in ending this book, I’ll leave you with a final image (taken at Trout Lake outside of Telluride, CO), a thought and two quotes.

The Thought: Always take time to reflect on your photography and image processing techniques. Ansel Adams felt at though a photograph is never really finished. It keeps evolving, through the eyes of the photographer.

The Quotes:
There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is imitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest. – Confucius

We don’t learn from experience, we learn from reflecting on experience. – Thomas Dewey

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Thanks for reading this guest blog post! I hope you enjoy my new book.

If you have any questions, please contact me through my web site: RickSammon.com.

You can see more of Rick’s work at RickSammon.com, order his brand new book Evolution Of An Image – A Behind The Scenes Look At The Creative Photographic Process, and follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Using Music To Grow Your Sales & Marketing with Roy Ashen
Be a storyteller! Join Roy Ashen from Triple Scoop Music to learn how to super charge your sales and marketing with music. In this class you’ll learn how to use and choose music for videos and slideshows, how to harness the promotional power of behind-the-scenes videos, how to study Hollywood’s approach to promotion, and what tools are available to assist you in creating emotionally charged content. Throughout the class Roy shares various tips and techniques that will help you pull this all together and get it right. Keep an eye out for this class to be published today!

In Case You Missed It
Get a behind the scenes look at what it takes to shoot a music video! Join Adam Rohrmann as he walks you through every step in the process of creating a music video. From coming up with an initial concept to editing the final piece, you’ll be see how Adam worked with the band, collaborated with his crew, chose his gear, captured footage of the band playing, shot story elements on green screen, and completed his post-production workflow to create the music video. Even if you aren’t interested in shooting a music video this class will teach you the importance of timing, how to pull emotion from a viewer with both visuals and sound, and overall how to be creative with your DSLR.

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Photo by Nathan Rocky

Group Shots: A-List Country Artists for People Magazine

The Job
I was recently asked to shoot a group portrait for People Magazine showcasing the performers, presenters and executives of the ACM Honors broadcast at Ryman Auditorium. When I got the list of talent we’d be photographing I got quite excited; several artists I had worked with in the past, and it would be great seeing them again! But overall, just an A-List group of country music talent together in one room would be a thrill for any Nashvillian!

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Bottom Row (L to R): Miranda Lambert, Cam, Chris Young, Dierks Bentley, Cole Swindell, Luke Bryan, Dan + Shay Top Row: Thomas Rhett, The Band Perry, Keith Urban, Kelsea Ballerini, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town

We would have 2.5hrs to pre-light and 30minutes to shoot. We had 3 phases of the groupings to get through, the Performers, the Performers and Presenters, and finally the Performers, Presenters and the ACM executives. A lofty task right out the gates, but I oddly enjoy shoots that have a time challenge aspect to them, it’s a bit of a rush.

I would be working with set designer Britt Johnson, who I had worked with on prior photo shoots, to start planning on how we would stage so many people. The room we were given to shoot in was a great size for just about anything you want to shoot, outside of a 40 person group shot! We spent a lot of time working out that specific issue over coffee and emails.

The Shoot
Doing a photo shoot alongside a television production means that things can be a bit chaotic. It isn’t normally anyones fault, more that there are multiple companies (venue, magazine, network, production company, etc..) all working their own agendas that at the end of the day end in the same place, but communication can get mixed up and difficult fairly easily.

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That being said, we were about a half hour late getting the grip truck unloaded and multiple loads of gear up the elevator. A great thing to keep in mind when working alongside productions like these is that you need to make bumper time for delays. It’s almost inevitable, and if you don’t consider them a possibility while scheduling your shoots setup, you may easily find yourself running behind.

I had my A-Team on set that day so the delays were no problem. To add to that, the talent was going to be late getting to set (supposed to be 6:15pm, ended up being 6:35pm).

Because we were the last stop before they went in for the show, we were on a VERY strict time frame and from first shot to last, we had talent and shot all 3 groups in 8min. Quiet the rush!

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The Set
As I said before, I was working with rockstar set designer and decorator Britt Johnson on this shoot, and the room we were working with was a bit smaller than we would have preferred. So, how do we give each of these large personalities the proper amount of space when space is one of our main issues? We decided to go the layering route with 2 different heights of risers from our rental house and chairs from the prop house.

We knew the main image People Mag was going to run would be the 1st grouping, 28 people, but that by the end of the shoot we would have about 40 people, so the set had to be a bit versatile. Can’t feel empty with 28, but needs to fit 40.

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The Lighting
I personally love the challenges that come with lighting people and groups. I can inch light stands around all day long till it’s perfect if you let me!

Large groups can be tricky when you’re trying to do a lot of light shaping in-camera. We had four key lights for this shot, and we viewed it as lighting in quarters. The difficult part is that every time you move a single key light, it affects the sections to the left and right to some degree. So we might have the first 2 sections lit well, but when we move the light for the 3rd section you’ll now have to got back to section 2 for tweaks. Quite a bit of small changes in light direction, a lot of back and forth.

For me, the important part was getting a good highlight on the face with a nice shadow to help shape facial features.
We did this by using medium Photek umbrellas as the key lights positioned well above the talent, up to the ceiling. We went with Photek because the ceiling height was an issue and, when horizontal, the umbrellas are fairly shallow. Once we started to position lights we gave most a strong angle and it still worked with the ceiling height.

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The Key lights were on mega booms which we launched from the fill lights. We needed to keep all stands and grip as far back from the set as possible:

1) Because when the talent poured in, the room was about 150 people deep and we needed room
2) With the angle and focal length we were working with, we had about 2 inches on either side of the frame of negative space before we saw grip. It was a very tight set so having those mega booms to keep stands away from the set was absolutely crucial.

In addition to our key lights we had three 74-inch Elinchrom Octas for fill light, positioned to the right and left of camera. I love a good fill light, really helps with large groups to pull out a lot of otherwise missed details.

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The Camera
Possibly my favorite part of this shoot, well at least for the inner detail nerd in me, was using the new Phase One XF 100MP system!

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The beefy files this bad boy puts out are truly amazing and fun to work on. For a shoot where head swapping in post was almost inevitable, being able to work with that type of resolution is a dream for compositing. We shot at 1/800s at f/12, ISO 200. That aperture gave us the ability to focus toward the center row of artists and have the ones in front and behind still fall into focus. Shooting at 1/800s made sure all those wiggling artists were nice and frozen in the frame.

If you aren’t familiar with medium format systems you might be asking how we can flash sync at 1/800th of a sec when your DSLR can only sync at 1/160-1/250. The Phase One cameras are made with leaf shutters that allow them to sync at speeds up to 1/1600th of a second. A lot of medium format cameras can’t shoot at high shutter speeds like 1/8000th the way DSLRs can, but for what I shoot I’d take that sync speed over shutter speed any day!

What makes the final image even more exciting is that it is made up of 2 separate images. A left frame and a right frame. All artists were present at the time of the shoot, but we would pan left and right to fit everyone in. The decision to shoot two frames goes back to dealing with the size of our room. We could have used a 24mm lens, but didn’t feel that it would give us the look we wanted. A 120mm lens would have been great, but I would have needed another 20ft of space to backup and shoot from, just not possible. So we shot at 80mm and doubled the image, which makes for some incredible detail when you stitch together two 100mp images into one.

Below is an example of the resolution power of the XF 100MP! Notice Charles Kelley’s face on the left side of the screen grab from Capture One; that’s at 100%. And at 100% there is every bit of detail you’d want to find and work with!
Bravo Phase One! This is one fantastic system!

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As wild as this shoot was, the controlled chaos of it all is why I love working with big names in high pressure situations. It puts you in a place where you have minutes, or sometimes less, to perform and get the job done or fail. It’s both a rush and a unique time of being extra focused and a grade A problem solver.

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One thing I feel like I relearn every time I have a shoot like this, and something you should always remember, is that when chaos is in the air and you have 100 people asking questions, keep your cool. As the photographer, it’s your set, you’re the captain and everyone is looking to you for direction. As long as in the chaos, or at least perceived chaos that those not in the know of things may see, you remain calm and un-flustered, giving strong direction (and maybe even with a smile), people will calm down, talent will trust you and a successful shoot will follow.

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You can see more of Robby’s work at RobbyKlein.com, and follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr.

Fine Art Photography: Marketing Your Work with Steve Hansen
In the conclusion of this two-part series Steve Hansen returns to give you a solid understanding of pricing and marketing your fine art photography. You may think of yourself as a photographer, but to be successful in selling your prints you need to be a marketer and sales person before anything else. It’s rewarding to have people enjoying your work through buying your prints, and in this class Steve teaches you the importance of knowing your subject and setting yourself apart, how to use existing events and competitions as marketing tools, how to price your images, how to make a name for your self, and most importantly, how to close the deal and sell your work.

In Case You Missed It
Make your fine art prints stand out from the pack! Join Steve Hansen for an in-depth look at all of the steps involved in creating a large format fine art print. In this class you’ll learn what makes a print a fine art print, how Steve takes a photo from capture to post production to print, the importance of a test print, and how to decide what type of paper, ink, and printer is best for your type of photographs. Throughout the class Steve shares tips, tricks, and techniques for working in Lightroom, Photoshop, and with all of the materials used in creating the final print. Creating a fine art print is all about bringing your vision to life in a print, and by exploring a variety of finishing options that fit your style you can add value to your work and make it stand out from all of the rest.

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Photo by Branden Harvey

When There’s More Than Photography
In 2005, I made the cold-turkey switch from graphic designer to photographer. I had no idea what I was doing and didn’t even know what an f-stop was. But I was all-in and had found my identity.

I was off to the races. Within three months, I landed a photography agent in LA. Within four months I was meeting with the biggest TV and movie studios in Hollywood. And within six months I was hanging out on set, photographing the likes of Sting and TV shows like FOX’s Prison Break.

The past 10 years has been a continued blur of album cover shoots, editorial shoots, a few weddings, a couple three month tours (one with Britney Spears), six-figure advertising shoots, three-figure shoots for friends and everything in between. I even became a photo industry leader. I’ve spoken at every major photography conference. I became a KelbyOne instructor. And I’ve built a good following among photographers over the years.

I had found my identity as a “photographer” and was convinced that would forever be my thing.

But something funny happened along the way.

I had other ideas. Ideas for things that didn’t even involve photography. Books, apps, TV shows, education ideas, speaking ideas, invention ideas, the list goes on and on.

What I realized was that if I’m creative as a photographer, then I’m creative period.

And so are you.

We tend to latch on to one identity don’t we? “He’s a photographer.” Or, “She’s a graphic designer.”

But what if we can still be anything we want? I’m almost 40 years old and I’m dreaming bigger and harder than ever.

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Four years ago, I had a dream to build a hotel. What?? Yeah. That was my thought too. It just came out of nowhere and it’s haunted me for the last four years. “But I thought I was just a photographer?”

What I ultimately realized was that photography was a bit self-serving for me. I’m only building my name, my brand and making myself “famous.” Not that there’s anything wrong with becoming famous as a photographer (as far as fame within photography goes). But what if I could build something that was bigger than myself?

I don’t want to be an old man, bragging to my kids that I once photographed the Kardashians. I want to be an old man, telling my kids about the bold risks I took… That I stared fear in the face and overcame it time and time again. I want to tell them about all the times I failed. About all the shoots that sucked. About the ambitious crowd-funding campaign that failed and how we immediately stood back up and tried again. I want them to learn more from my attempts at success more than the success itself, just as I have.

What are you learning as a photographer today?
What have you failed at?
What other dreams are you pursuing?
What have you been too afraid to try?

I love thinking about these things. I simply refer to it as curiosity. I’m always curious. I love walking into the dark and exploring the unknown.

I’ve never been more in the dark than I am right now, pursuing this dream to build a hotel. I mean, I’m in meetings and conference calls right now with people who are using words that I don’t even understand! I’ve never been stretched more than right now, and I’m loving every minute of it.

Are you growing right now? Stretching yourself?

The biggest thing I learned two years ago when I lost my brother is just how short life is.

Good grief it’s short.

Pursue your curiosity today. Those little whispers of ideas you have? Those are your most valuable assets. Listen. Document them. Pursue them. That’s all I’m doing these days.

And while you’re at it, help me navigate the dark today. I can’t do this on my own.

We need your help reaching our “Step 2 Goal” on our Kickstarter campaign for The Purpose Hotel. Here’s the full vision for the hotel:

Let’s do something bigger than ourselves.

P.S. If you want to check out my full life story, see below:

Keep up with Jeremy and The Purpose Hotel at ThePurposeHotel.com and JeremyCowart.com, and follow him on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Vimeo, and YouTube.

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Camera Essentials: Canon 5D Mark IV with Larry Becker
Get up to speed on the Canon 5D Mark IV! Join Larry Becker as he shows you around one of Canon’s newest cameras on the market today. In this class Larry will teach you about all the settings that matter most, the key features and functions, and help you get going quickly with tips and insight about the specifics of using this camera for both stills and video. By the end of the class you’ll be familiar with all of the buttons, dials, and menus you need to know to get the most out of this powerful camera.

In Case You Missed It
Join Rich Harrington, motion graphic artist, author, and trainer, on location at Kelby Studios as he takes you through every step in the process of creating a video product for a client. Learn everything involved in creating a professional quality video with your DSLR, from the initial client meeting to scouting locations, and from all the essential gear to how to conduct engaging interviews. Each step of the way Rich provides expert insights and killer tips to get you well on your way to adding video story telling to your bag of tricks.

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