Category Archives Guest Blogger

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A Lifetime in the Making

The old, green, "retired" warden's Bronco stops with a lurch. The door swings open out of my hand, the truck is pointing down the steep grade. "The road is washed out beyond here, gotta walk the rest of the way." I got up at 02:20, drove thirty minutes to meet up with the biologists and then drove another forty minutes to get to this point. The sun is a rumor on the horizon when I grab my camera gear and head off while attempting to keep up with the 24yr old springbuck biologists I'm working with this day. Down we go at an alarming rate and speed in the darkness, alarming because we'd have to hike back up the same grade to get back to the truck.

A mile down the grade, the antenna goes up and the signal is found. Cross-country we go, hurdling sage brush in a marathon race with the sun. First, down a gully and then up a hill, my guides moving like pronghorn and quickly pulling away from me (oh to have young legs). Our route is precarious at best as we zigzag, following the signal. We reach a rise to get another sounding; I look over my shoulder to see the road way below us. Not even catching my breath, we're off again still cross-country, but now following the ridgeline we had climbed to. The biologists come to a quick halt; the signal has exploded, which means the quarry is less than 10 meters away. This routine is familiar, just did it the morning before, so I froze. Spotting the object of our quest, the biologists crouch down, walk very slowly towards the tan colored lump at the base of a sage. Less than a meter away it explodes in the air and down the slope and the biologists freeze. When they stand up and I see their faces, they look like they'd just swallowed a lemon.

"There's none here, must have been predated upon between 17:00 last night when we last checked and this morning." "She's broodless." With that, we head cross-country again, at least at a little less feverish pace and work our way back to the truck. The three mile jaunt netted all of us nothing, the biologists weren't able to collect any data and I not a photograph. Mother Nature still rules the roost and for the moment, the Greater Sage Grouse has five less chicks to booster its falling numbers.

At this point you might be saying to yourself, "Man, you got up mighty early and walked a long way to come back empty handed." As one of my first biological mentors always use to say, "There's data in no data!" For the biologists, the question is now to determine what happened with the five, four day old chicks. For me, the "dry run" provides more insight into the situation and sets my mind to working on how I'd photograph the event next time. And if you're a wise photographer, you make a plus from the negative.

I've been at this wildlife photography gig for thirty years and even with that, each and every day I learn something new about my craft (which joyfully means I don't know everything). This is key if you don't want to fall victim to the Darwin Theory of Photography, "evolve or perish." To get to the point where I could get skunked on the hillside, thirty years had been put into the craft. Practice wasn't needed to get skunked, but rather to learn that being skunked is part of the craft. The learned craft is what you fall back on when you do succeed and the chicks are there and for a moment Mother Nature let's you peek inside her very mysterious world.

It's really quite simple, this mastering of photography. There's only one unspoken secret in this quest. It takes time! You've gotta put in your time and learn from your mistakes as much as your successes and always, always look for the silver lining. There are days you're going to walk those three miles up and down hills only to get skunked. There are going to be those days when you fall out of bed and the image smacks you right in the face. In between is an incredible journey that if you only take a deep breath, smell the roses and every other bad clich© about enjoying life, time will make your photography as meaningful and as powerful as you want it to be.

Two years ago, every time I came up to a landscape photo opp, my mind would race and inside the word HELP would be screamed. "Where's the subject, how do I compose it, folks are watching me for inspiration and the best I can do right now is a joke." HELP! Then, just as it was for me and flash twenty years ago, the switch was turned on so for the last couple of years, making the decent to spectacular landscape photo requires no real thought on my part other than how I want to finish it in post. All the pieces of the puzzle have fallen into place. They just happen, life's experiences have finally taken over.

This, my friends is what's waiting for you and your photography! I know this for a fact. Playing is the heartbeat of passion. If your passion is photography, any kind of photography, play until you're exhausted because with time, and time is the most important ingredient (not f/stop or Photoshop plug-in), you WILL experience the same joys, same rewards, same quality images that get me up at 02:20 and walk three miles only to be skunked. The same love that you'll get up again the next day at the same time to walk the same distance to see if this day, you'll win. Great photography is a lifetime in the making!

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First things first. It’s an honor to be invited to be a guest contributor here on Scott’s blog and to follow terrific guest posts by both Vincent Versace and Joe McNally. Cheers to what I hope will become not only a long happy tradition but also an industry trend. I know I’ll be guest blogging for other industry luminaries. And I’ve invited them to make guest appearances on my blog. My blog? Yes! You heard it here first. Not even my Insights enews members know this yet. My new blog is live! Check it out here. (After you read the great posts on this blog!)

Many take the view that pictures should be seen and not heard. I did. After being called to comment on my work time and time again, I realized that learning to comment on my work not only made my work more effective but it also helped me understand my work better and solve certain creative challenges. In fact, I realized that there are many types of writing and many uses for writing. Writing is now an integral part of my creative process from start to finish. Making the Visual Verbal is a useful skill that can benefit everyone, including you. You don't think you can write? Anyone can finish a sentence. Finishing it well just takes practice. And some kinds of writing don't need finished sentences. While it's true there's only one Shakespeare, we can all write. After all, think of all the great writing (fiction and nonfiction) that's been written since Shakespeare. Personally, I don't want to receive love letters written by Shakespeare. I want love letters written to me by my wife.

How have I been called to talk about images? Here are 5 ways.

  • You can read Interviews I’ve given here.
  • You can read conversations I’ve had with other great artists here.
  • You can read statements I’ve written here.
  • You can see related images here.
  • You can find my workshops here.
  • You can find my DVDs here.
  • You can find my tutorials at Kelby Training here.

Making the Visual Verbal

“Pictures should be seen and not heard.” “If we could communicate what we want to communicate with words, then we’d be writers not artists.” The words had rained down on me so many times that my mind had been saturated with the idea. While it reflects some truth, chiefly that a text (written or verbal) can never be a substitute for an image, it can also be misleading. Pictures have always been, continue to be, and will always be talked about-particularly by artists.

Growing up in an artistic family, the parade of visitors and people we visited included many types of artists from musicians to sculptors and most frequently photographers. The topics of conversation were far-reaching and colorful. Often there would be complaints about what had been written about their own work, sometimes about what had been written about each other’s work, or … (more…)

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I’m officially nervous. Guest blog for Scott Kelby? Hmmmm. Okay, why be nervous? I’ll just go ahead and pretend I’m writing for my blog. No problem, just type away. But here’s the deal. Scott’s blog is Broadway, man; lights, limos, red carpet, strobes flashing, throngs of swells mingling by the thousands!

My blog is community theater in Piscataway. (Apologies to theater goers in Piscataway… I probably couldn’t open there, either.)

Scott’s is also a very forward looking blog. Thoughts, notions, products, gear, philosophy, approach… so much of it is about what is happening now, or about to happen, in our industry. It’s pretty cool, and it’s a must read way station for all those trying to stay afloat in the fast moving digital rapids. Scott, in short, is on top of it all.

So this is quite an honor, to be sure. It got me to thinking, here in my cave, Mac firmly gripped in my paws, looking for the “on” button, about what got me here. The simple answer is that I’ve been a photographer for 30 years. Lots of jobs, peaks, valleys, nicks, cuts and bruises, bad pictures, some good ones, crazy jobs, lousy hotels, bumpy flights, missed connections, and, like a battered suitcase, I tumbled off the baggage belt, here.

A career in photography is a journey without a destination. No idea where the road goes. But I have a notion about where it started, and from the panoramic future gazing promontory known as Photoshop Insider, I thought I’d look, like, backwards. (Threw the “like” in there. I’ve got a teenage daughter.)

Back to the work that has gone before. Not that I’m disinterested in current work. There’s a ton of great work being done, from the battlefield shooters of Iraq to the Hollywood gang filling the glossy pages of Vanity Fair. But for now, I’m talking about work that… (more…)

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Before I begin my blog I would like to deeply thank Scott for the opportunity to be the first guest blogger. I am honored in a way that words seem lacking to express the depth of how I feel. I would also like to set the tone of "Guest Blog Wednesday" which is to not explore just the "how to" of doing something but the "why to" of doing something. Let every Wednesday be an exploration of the creative spirit that moves in us and compels us to create the images we make. That saidâ¦

Believing is Seeing: Being Taken by Pictures

The most frequently asked question I get is, "How do I take better pictures?" The answer is a simple one; stop taking pictures. Instead, consider what the photographer Ernst Haas suggests; be taken by your pictures.

So what does it mean to be "taken by your pictures?" Being taken by a photograph is very much like the moment you first fell in love. The person you fell in love with took you, and if you were lucky enough, they were taken by you. Imagine if you could have that happen with every one of your photographs. You were so taken by the events you saw through the lens that you made a photograph, and when someone views that image they will be taken to same place you were.

Okay, that's a great metaphor, the moment you fall in love thing, but the pressing question is, Do I have pictures to show the difference between taking and being taken? Yes I do; I have four. I was recently in Morocco… (more…)

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