Category Archives Photo Shoots

Fireworks

With Independence Day being celebrated here in the U.S. on the Fourth of July, I usually do a quick post on how to photograph Fireworks (which is a traditional part of the 4th of July celebration here). I’m posting the technique that I included on page 175 of my book, “The Digital Photography Book.” Here we go:

This is another one that throws a lot of people (one of my best friends, who didn’t get a single crisp fireworks shot on the Fourth of July, made me including this tip just for him, and the thousands of other digital shooters that share his pain).

For starters, you’ll need to shoot fireworks with your camera on a tripod, because you’re going to need a slow enough shutter speed to capture the falling light trails, which is what you’re really after.

Also, this is where using a cable release really pays off, because you’ll need to see the rocket’s trajectory to know when to push the shutter button—if you’re looking in the viewfinder instead, it will be more of a hit or miss proposition.

Next, use a zoom lens (ideally a 200mm or more) so you can get in tight and capture just the fireworks themselves. If you want fireworks and the background (like fireworks over Cinderella’s Castle at Disney World), then use a wider lens.

Now, I recommend shooting in full Manual mode, because you just set two settings and you’re good to go:

  1. Set the Shutter Speed to 4 seconds
  2. Set the Aperture to f/11. Fire a test shot and look at the LCD monitor on the back of your camera to see if you like the results. If it overexposes, lower the shutter speed to 3 seconds, then take another shot and check the results again.

TIP: If your camera has “Bulb” mode (where the shutter stays open as long as you hold down the shutter release button down), this works great–hold the shutter button down when the rocket bursts, then release when the light trails start to fade. (By the way; most Canon and Nikon digital SLRs have bulb mode). The rest is timing—because now you’ve got the exposure and sharpness covered.

There you have it—-hope you all get some great shots on the fourth! :-)

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I’ve had a number of requests this year to go beyond just sharing my camera settings, and share a little more of the “behind the scenes experience” of shooting a major sporting event. So, two weeks ago when I got an opportunity to shoot a Major League Baseball game (Tampa Bay Rays vs. the Toronto Blue Jays), I kept my iPhone’s camera handy so I could chronicle some of the goings on for you, (though the image above, which I call “Steee-rike!” [notice the ball at his hip] was taken with my D3).

Getting Credentials
As anyone who has tried knows, getting credentials to shoot a major sporting event is hard, and getting harder every day. I shoot for a wire service, and thankfully they take care of the credentials for events I’m assigned to cover, but in other cases (like this one), it came through a “hook up” from someone I knew within the organization, but those are few and far between.

If you’re interested in this subject, check out my buddy Mike Ollivella’s Guest Post here on my blog about getting credentials and breaking into the shooting sports. It was a big hit, and Mike answers a lot of questions that other people hadn’t. (Here’s the link).

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The Bad News About Parking (and why you need to get there early)
The parking situation can be really dicey for photographers, because even though there is often a media parking lot, photo credentials don’t always come with a parking pass to enter this lot, and without that pass, you generally can’t talk your way in (I’d say the amount of parking passes I get is about 1 in 3).

This means that: (a) you’re going to be paying for parking, and (b) you’re going to be parking a decent distance from the stadium, and that means that you’ll be hauling all your gear quite a ways. If you don’t mind paying $20 or more, you can park somewhat nearer the stadium, and if you get there early enough, you’ll get a good spot in the lot. One reason you might want to consider this is that when the game is over (which could be at night), you’ll be walking these streets all alone, after nearly all the spectators have gone home, carrying thousands of dollars worth of camera gear, so I like to make that scary walk as short as possible.

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Getting there Early
I try to get to the stadium (field, court, arena, etc.), at least one hour before game time, if not earlier. I’ve never gotten there so early that I regretted it, because it takes a while to get from your car to where you’ll be shooting (and get through all the things I’m about to mention).

In some cases, they will mail you your credentials in advance, in some cases you can pick them up a day or two before the event in person (depending on the event), and sometimes you just have to pick them up on game day at the Media Center at the stadium. So, you have to get to the stadium, and then find out where the “Media Entrance” is (it’s not always obvious), and it’s been my experience that the media center is always on the opposite side of the stadium from where I parked. Also, rarely do the parking lot attendants know where the media entrance is, so it’s kind of pot luck on this.

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Once you find the media entrance, you go in, find the media registration table (shown above in iPhone photo), and pick up your credentials. Some venues have a lanyard so you can hang your pass around your neck, and some don’t, so make sure you bring a lanyard in your camera bag.

Also, for some sporting events, you’ll be issued a Photo Vest you have to wear while shooting, so security can easily identify photographers. You have to sign these vests out—they are registered to your name, and you must turn these in when you leave or they totally freak out on you.

Be Prepared to Have Your Gear Searched
They always have a security guard or police officer search your camera bag as you enter the stadium, so be prepared to hoist your gear up on a table, and open the bag for inspection. Once they peek around a bit (they are usually pretty quick about it), they put a colored tag on the bag to show that its been inspected.

The Media Center
Your first stop after you have your credentials and clear security, is usually the press room, or photographers room. These range from very nicely appointed, carpeted, air-conditioned comfortable lounges to bare bones solid concrete rooms with no windows, concrete floors, fold up tables, and bare fluorescent bulbs.

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Luckily, the Rays really treat the media right, and they had a really nice media center, with 50″ flat panel HDTVs all around, fully carpeted, lots of Air Conditioning, and plenty of room to relax and have a meal, but I can tell you—that’s not usually the case—it just depends on the venue.

Most have tables with power plugs, because a lot of us have to upload images while the event is either still underway, or we have to upload them immediately after the game. There is almost always free wireless, and the network name and password is usually posted right on the wall. The Rays had a nice Press Box upstairs as well for working Media.

Photographer Briefings
Depending on the sport, you may have to attend a mandatory photographer’s meeting. When I shoot motorsports, this has always been the case, and during these meetings they give you a safety briefing, let you know where you can and can’t shoot, go over the course rules, and they remind you in no uncertain terms that if you break the rules, they pull your credentials and escort you from the premises, so you don’t want to mess up and break a rule, even by accident, because they take safety very seriously.

The Situation on Food
Most of the venues I’ve been to do feed the photographers, which his another reason to get there early, because once the game starts, it’s hard to find time to grab a bite (and you run the risk of seeing the food run out, which I’ve seen happen by half time more than once).

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Above: They had a really nice Mexican buffet, which just shows what a great sense of humor they have, because essentially what they’re doing is filling you up with Mexican food, and then 15 minutes later they’re putting you all in very close quarters for three hours. What a gas!

Again, the amount and quality of the food ranges widely from venue to venue, but again, the Rays did it right (and certainly better than most). They had a Mexican buffet (shown above), then “make your own custom sandwich” bar (shown below—iPhone photo), and a full salad bar—plus all sorts of beverages—all free for the media. The food was quite good, and they had all the fixin’s and plenty of tables, but again, this isn’t always the case. Usually, the bigger and newer the venue, the nicer the media room (and the spread). I can’t imagine what the new Cowboy’s stadium media room is like.

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Above: Make your own sandwich bar, right next to a fully decked out salad bar. This is sports photographer food heaven, but they’re not all like this—trust me.

You will find some venues that actually have a grill, and they cook up everything from hamburgers, hot dogs, to pasta and Ruebens all on request, and all for free, so again, it just depends on the venue, but the good news is; they almost always provide some food for photographers on the house.

Storing Your Gear
At some point, you’re going to be out shooting, and your camera bag, and back-up gear is going to be somewhere else. Generally speaking, there is always some staff in the photographer’s room, so you don’t have to worry about a stranger wandering in and grabbing all your gear, but that’s not to say another photographer couldn’t slide a lens out of your bag. I haven’t heard of this happening, but I’d rather err on the side of safety, so I lock my bag, and then I use the built-in locking cable on my Think Tank bag to tether my camera bag to a table or steel bar, or something that can’t easily be moved.

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Above: That’s some of my gear on the floor of the Photo Pit. Everyone stacked their gear up at the back of the pit, but there was a security guy right there in the pit, so I didn’t sweat it too much.

At this game, you bring your camera bag right into the photo pits where we shoot, so you just drag it on in, get out your gear (as seen above—iPhone photo), and then zip it right up. It’s pretty much out in the open, but there’s a security guard in each pit, so I didn’t worry about tethering and locking my gear, and I had no problems whatsoever. Of course, you have to access each situation and then decide how much you need to protect your gear so you’ll feel comfortable (there’s nothing I hate worse than shooting in one location and worry about my other gear in another, so I usually keep things locked up).

This is What I Was Talking About….
….when I said to get there early, because it takes a long time to get from your car, to the stadium gate, through the media checkpoint, through security, over to grab a quick bite, to the photo bit, and then get all your gear out and ready to shoot.

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Above: Before game time, you’d better stake out your shooting space quick, or you’ll be fighting for air.

Where you can shoot
Because of the number of photographers shooting major sporting events, and for the safety of the photographers, they have to control where you’re allowed to shoot from. For American Style football games, there is a dotted line that surrounds the field (you probably haven’t even notice it before), but that is our “do not cross line!” Television crews can cross the line, but not photographers.

At NBA basketball games, there are sections at each end of the courts for photographers, and in some cases, on the sides as well. There’s a line in each section that you’re not allowed to cross (again, for your, and the player’s safety). For the Rays Game I was shooting, we had five places we could shoot from:

  1. A photo pit behind and to the left of home plate (one is seen above)
  2. A photo pit to the right of it
  3. At the end of the first-base dugout (sharing this spot with television cameras)
  4. At the end of the third-base dugout (TV cameras here, too)
  5. From up in the stands

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Above: Your home when you’re shooting from the crowded 1st base dugout. That’s my friend and ace sports photographer Andy Gregory “chimping” in the back left. He was desperately trying to get at least one shot in focus (totally kidding—Andy’s an awesome sport shooter, and he shared some tips with me during the game, as this is his “home field”).

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Above: Here’s a better shot of Andy. He’s smiling because one of the other photographers left his camera bag unlocked, and right before this photo was taken Andy shoved something in his front pocket. It looked like a 50mm f/1.4 but I’m not 100% certain. By the way, I’m totally kidding. It was a 10.5mm fisheye. Again, I kid. Andy didn’t steal anything but my shots (Come on, I’m on a roll, here!).

You’re allowed to change positions between innings and between half-innings only, because you actually have to walk on the playing field to get to the other photo pit locations. You’re sharing these photo pits with other photographers and often TV cameras, and in sports, television cameras are the priority, so you have to stay out of their way (just watch what happens if you don’t duck down and walk in front of a TV camera in the end zone during an NFL game).

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Above: Ahhhh, the glamor of shooting Big League sports. This is your home when you shoot from the 3rd base dugout. You do you best not to cream your head into that camera mounted above you, or on the cameraman to your left.

Because you’re sharing this space, there are three things to keep in mind here:

  1. Get there early so you can stake out a good vantage point. The best spots get staked our early, and at the very least the photographer marks his spot with a camera, gear bag, or seat (if they allow it).
  2. Be friendly and courteous to the other photographers in the pit. You’re in close quarters, and everybody is trying to get the shot for their employer, so keeping a calm, friendly attitude is important.
  3. Be especially kind and friendly to the security in the photo pits. They can either cut you some slack, or throw the book at you if you mess up, or bump heads with another photographer. They’re usually pretty good guys, so let them know you’re a good guy, and that you’re going to play by the rules, and if they do wind up having to correct you, they’ll do it in a nice way. I’ve seen security and even police threaten to toss a troublesome or pushy photographer from a game more than once. Also, just stay out of the way of TV cameras, and be nice to the camera men. They can make your life tough if you don’t give them a wide berth (plus, they are friends with the security crew).

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Above: Uploading from right within the photo pit. On more than one occasion I saw these guys playing World of Warcraft during the game (totally kidding—just a joke. It was Tetris). ;-)

Uploading Images
At this game, they allowed a few photographers to have their laptops right in the photo pit for uploading, but that’s not always the case. Normally, at halftime, or between innings, etc., you have to head to the photographer’s room to do your uploading. Same thing at the end of the game, when everybody is uploading from their laptops. Usually, this room is pretty near the field, but when you’re heading there, chances are you’re not alone, so be prepared for a very crowded room (I’ve been in these rooms where there are no tables, or no seats to be had—-you’re sitting on the floor with your laptop in your lap).

A lot of photographers pick their spot in this room early, put up their laptops, and then leave and go shoot the game. When I do this, I tether my laptop to the table itself with a Kensington steel cable lock designed to work with my MacBook Pro, so when I come back to that room at halftime or the end of the game, my MacBook Pro is actually still there. I am amazed at how few photographers do this, but I sure do.

In the media room (photographer’s room, etc.), they usually pass out stats from the game, with rosters, and lots of additional information that can be helpful with captioning (though I prepare my roster stuff before the game).

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Above: the view from the third base dugout, before game time.

Packing Up and Heading Out
Once you’re finished uploading, you’ll need to turn in your photo vest (if you were issued one. Make sure you DO NOT leave with that photo vest. It was checked out in your name, and they get mighty cranked if you leave with it, and won’t issue you another credential—you get kind of blacklisted, so be sure to turn it in before you leave).

Here’s where the bad parking space catches up with you. After shooting a three hour event, and running all over the place, rushing every single moment, you’re beat—especially if it’s an outdoor game (luckily for me, this Rays game was in a domed stadium). Now you have to pack up all your gear, and often you have to haul it up at least one or more flights of stairs (because of the way stadiums are designed), and then haul it all to your car and load it up. This is where parking up close really pays off, and at that moment, you’d pay that $20 close parking fee twice just not to have to walk four more blocks to your car.

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Above: Not an iPhone photo (for a change). By the way: the Rays trounced the Jays!

Behind the Scenes
Hope you guys enjoyed this behind-the-scenes look at shooting a major sporting event. I’ll try and answer any questions that I didn’t cover, so post any questions relating to this behind the scenes stuff and I’ll answer as many as I can as the day goes on.

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Above: I made this poster for the Rays organization, commemorating the shut-out. The image is of Carlos Pena heading to the dugout after hitting a Grand Slam!!! I usually don’t throw effects on Sports photos, but the excited looks on the fans faces made me give it a try, and I liked how it came out, so I left it there. There’s a great view of the Photo Pit there, too!

Moab

I only do one landscape workshop a year, and I only do it with my good friend, and world famous landscape photographer Bill Fortney, and we only have 15 spots open, and I’m hoping you snag one of those, because I promise you—-you are going to learn a ton, laugh a lot, and come away with some amazing photos and new techniques.

This time we’re headed out to the Moab, Utah area (Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park), and if you’re comin’ along, plan on gettin’ up early for some amazing sunrise shooting, then later we’re back in the classroom for Lightroom, Photoshop, and Photography, and afterward we’re back out for a sunset shoot in some of the most scenic landscape locales in the country.

Joining Bill and I are photographers Wayne Bennett (who was with us last year in Savannah) and Richard Small, so we’ve got a great crew on board once again.

The workshop runs Wednesday, October 6th thru Sunday October 10th, 2010. The cost is $895 per participant, and once those 15 slots are gone, they’re gone, so if you want to go, reserve your seat right away (there will be 30 participants total, plus leaders; the other 15 slots went to participants from our workshop last year in Savannah).

To reserve your seat, call (606)-528-6119 or (606)-344-0455. Hope to see you out West with Bill and the gang. It’s gonna be a total blast!

P.S. you can read my report from last year’s Savannah workshop with Bill, right here.

Jay

I am just thrilled to announce that our online training class called “A Day With Jay Maisel” is now live at Kelby Training Online (link).

This class chronicles my “Day with Jay” as this living legend of photography walks the streets of New York City, shooting as he goes, and sharing some of the most amazing, insightful, thought provoking, and just plain brilliant ideas for taking your photography to the next level, that you’ll find anywhere. It truly is absolutely fascinating.

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In this video, I’m the student, and Jay does all the training. You’re there as we start out at Jay’s studio, then head out to the streets of Manhattan, shooting everywhere from the Subway to Times Square to a quaint Italian restaurant in Jay’s neighborhood. It’s an experience like no other, and the feedback we’ve been getting from Jay’s class is literally just out of this world. Photographers are blogging about it, raving about it, and learning from it around the world (There is only one Jay Maisel!).

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The class went live last Friday, and one of my readers, Sebastien Dalahaye posted this on my blog about the class:

“…Don’t know if that’s something related to what you learn from Jay Maisel in NYC, but I just watch the class on Kelby Training and whoah, amazing stuff. Class itself is worth the annual subscription.”

The class is produced kind of like a documentary, kind of like a reality show (because it’s pretty live and uncut, complete with Jay’s own “colorful” New York language), and kind of like a roving class, where whatever Jay sees, he shoots, and then he teaches. Seriously an amazing experience, and I hope you get to catch it. Here’s the link.

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Hi everybody—I’m back from my break, which turned out to be 16-days in China of nothing but rest and relaxation (with some travel photography throw in as we slowly made our way from Hong Kong to Shanghai by ship and eventually to Beijing for a few days before heading back home).

My wife surprised me with the trip as my Christmas present (I was totally blown away—-and still am), and what was cool was it was just us two—we left the kids at home this time (well, it was us and two other couples who are good friends of ours). Another cool thing is that my wife speaks Chinese (Mandarin), so that made everything much easier (even though they primarily speak Cantonese in Hong Kong, and “Shanghainese”[dialect] in Shanghai, they still understood enough Mandarin to help us get around and get everything we needed).

I’ll have a few more details tomorrow but China was absolutely incredible and loads of fun. I had been to Beijing 11 years ago and I can’t believe how much it has evolved since then. Just simply amazing.

Just like I did for my Tuscany trip last summer (link) I put together an Apple iPhoto book of some of my favorite shots from my trip, and I’ve included some of those pages below (click on them for a much larger view). I did take lots of regular vacation photos as well but those are going into a separate iPhoto book for the family and our friends that were with us.

About the Photos
Although China has all these amazing landscapes, and stunning mountain ranges, our trip was all to major cities and ports, so all the photos are from big cities we stopped at along the way.

The shots below are all taken during group sightseeing bus tours or guided city tours, so I could pretty much only snap shots during those times (though in Beijing we did take a taxi to shoot the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium at sunset, which was a blast). So, if you’re wondering where all those “fisherman in a small both in the mist with jagged mountain behind him” shots are—I’ll have to try and find those on another visit (I’d love to go back on a dedicated photo trip).

Camera Specs:
For the first few days in Hong Kong, I shot with a Nikon D300s with an 18-200mm f/3.5 – f/5.6 VR lens. Having just one lens that does it all was incredibly convenient, but then when I got to Shanghai I switched to my D3 using either my 14-24mm f/2.8 or a 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens. I have no idea why I switched. I guess I thought the quality would be better, but lugging all that heavy gear around for 10 hours a day really turned out to be a huge pain in the $@#. When will I ever learn.

Before we get to the photos; a big thanks to everyone who covered for me here on the blog while I was slacking off. They did an absolutely fantastic job (and how about Alex’s awesome guest blog, eh?).

Anyway, here’s some shots from the trip (click on them for larger views).  There’s no HDR here, but I did shoot a few HDR shots during the trip, one of which I actually like, but it’s not in this batch. I’ll run it separately here tomorrow if I can:

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I recently co-taught a Landscape/Adventure Sports workshop out in Moab, Utah with famous adventure photographer Tom Bol (and just all around nice guy). The class was great, the weather was great and we had a blast. But on the way back I started thinking about some lessons I’ve learned along these trips so I figured I’d share them with you today.

NOTE: Click on the photos to see them larger

Lesson 1 – Get up earlier than you think
The formula is simple. Get there 1 hour before sunrise. Plain and simple. You never know what snags you’ll hit (road blocks, detours, equipment). What happens if you’re on your way and you realize you forgot a lens or your tripod. If you have to turn around you’re screwed – you’ve missed sunrise because you left no extra time. But there’s another big reason to leave earlier than you think. If you happen to be going to a popular shooting location you’d better bet everyone else will have left early. Imagine walking up to a great sunrise shoot and seeing this.

Getting there early could be the difference between getting this shot of Mesa Arch (in Canyonlands National Park)

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…or this shot

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When I took the first photo, we were there about an hour before sunrise – the first ones at the spot. The second one was taken on another trip and several of the good spots were already gone. It’s not horrible but certainly not the shot we go there for. This next photo was taken at another sunrise shoot. What you can’t see are the 10 people standing on the ledge next to me and the guy’s foot (from a ledge above) I had to clone out on the far left side. Had we got there any later, there wouldn’t have been any places left to shoot from.

The moral of the story is that if you’re going to get up early, then do it right and get up really early. There’s no way around it. You’re gonna be tired whether you get up at 4am or 5am right?

Lesson 2 – Get ready the night before
I can’t stress this one enough. When you wake up at 4am you’re going to be in no condition to start gathering things. Trust me, I’m a morning person and I still don’t have the mental capacity to think that early. So get your stuff ready the night before. Pack your bag, pack your car if possible (as long as the car is in a safe place) and make it so all you have to do is roll out of bed, grab your coffee (or Coke Zero) and head to the shoot. Heck, I even sleep in my clothes, hiking boots, and photography vest so I’m totally ready when I get up. Just remember to take any lens filters out of your pockets so you don’t crush them while you sleep (I’m kidding – those filters are stronger than you think ) ;)

Lesson 3 – Shoot & Move
I’ve been on a lot of sunrise shoots and I’ve seen this happen plenty of times. A photographer sets up their tripod and shoots the sunrise. But they stay in the same exact spot and shoot that sunrise to death. 756 frames later they’ve only got one actual photo to show for it. Instead, when you arrive early (see #1 above), scout a few other locations near your ideal sunrise spot. Shoot the “official” sunrise for 3-4 minutes and move on while the light is still good. Hit another location and shoot there for 2-3 minutes and move on again. You’ll be amazed at how many great “sweet light” shots you can get within the first 10 minutes of the sun coming up or going down. Here’s a photo taken just a 60 second walk from where I set up to shoot sunrise one morning (pssst the official “sunrise” photo I took first that morning never made it to my portfolio but this one did). If I hadn’t moved when I did, I would have never captured this with such nice light on it.

Lesson 4 – Try Photographing People
Photographers taking photos in a dramatic location can be great subjects. You can make a lot of these photos while you’re waiting for the light to get good (or after it gets bad).

There’s also lots of opportunities to take photos of people in cool landscape locations. For example, in my Moab workshop the other week we shot some mountain bikers. Moab is basically home to mountain biking. What better place to shoot awesome riders in some killer locations.

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As I mentioned earlier, I co-taught this workshop with Tom Bol. He brought along his Elinchrom Ranger Quadra battery packs and heads so we were able to do some really fun off-camera flash stuff during the day. Combine the edgy lighting with some post-processing effects it made for some great shots.

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Lesson 5 – It’s all about luck
This is perhaps the most important lesson of all. A good friend of mine, Bill Fortney (one of the greatest landscape photographers I know) has a very cool story to demonstrate this lesson. He was once asked “Bill, how do I get photos like yours?” He told the person that they probably weren’t going to like the answer but it was very simple in nature. He said the way to get photos like his was to go to every one of those landscape monuments and national parks 25 times over the course of their life. At some point, the weather, conditions, clouds, sun, light, etc will all fall into alignment for you to get that great shot. Simply put, great landscape photos involve a lot of luck. And I mean A LOT! If you’re out on a portrait or studio shoot and things aren’t going right, you have a bunch of factors you can change. You can change location, wardrobe, and even lighting if you’re comfortable enough to use flash. But with landscapes, there’s not a darn thing you can do if you get out there and the fog is thicker than pea soup. If you’ve traveled to that location from a far distance it’s even more disappointing. Here’s an example of a photo taken on our Friday night sunset shoot during that same Moab/Arches workshop I’ve been talking about. The light was kinda bla for sunset and the sun died out behind a cloud before creating any of that really nice color.

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As Bill alludes to above, persistence is the key. On my way out of town the following evening I was all set to make the 4-hour drive to Salt Lake City. I saw the makings of a good sunset though so I stopped at the same place we were at the night before. Things turned out much better this time around.

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I love landscape photography. There’s something about bringing back a magnificent scene and showing it to those that just aren’t able to get out there and see it for themselves. Landscapes don’t talk back, they don’t ask for more money or flake out and pull a no-show on you and when they’re “on”, all you have to do is set up your camera and capture the beauty. Thanks for reading everyone. Have a great Tuesday!

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