Friday Photo Tip: Composition

Separation. Balance. A sense of ease.

I never set out to find it, but every now and then it reveals itself. I’ll walk around for hours, just watching; being an observer. Shooting a little here and there. Feeling things out.

If I find an interesting scene I’ll stop and take a look through the view finder. I don’t start shooting right away, either. Patience, I tell myself. Let the scene sink in. Try to grasp what’s there; what belongs, what doesn’t. If I shift myself or the camera a few inches an OK composition can morph into a good composition.

And you don’t so much see it as you do feel it. When everything falls into place there is a great sense of relief. Even exhilaration. That’s when you shoot.

Be patient. Look at the scene. Really  look at it. There’s a good composition in there somewhere.



Will your images last 300 million Years?

The debate over which storage medium will keep your data the longest seems on its way to being moot. CDs? DVDs? Hard drives? Magnetic tape? Nope.

How about a two millimeter thick piece of quartz glass? Calling it “semi-perpetual” Hitachi claims that your data would survive for nearly 300 million years.

Far out, eh?

(Check out the article at Scientific American.)

photo of DVD

Old-School Storage?

Goodbye to Instagram.

After considering Instagram’s reconsideration I’ve decided to move on. I have downloaded my images from their server and deleted my account. All done. Good luck to them (like they need it) and to all who are sticking with them.

And truthfully, I just can’t shake the obnoxious notion that someone at Instagram proposed the idea that they start using other people’s images as if they were their own. “Hey, we’ve been providing this ‘free’ service to these moochers, they owe us!” “Sure, tell the simpletons they still own their images, but we can use them how and when we want!” — how does this kind of thinking become policy? How is that person not laughed out of the room?

I also can’t figure the “oh well — it’s not that big a deal” type of thinking prevalent among too many photographers. “What did you expect?” “It’s a free service, you’re the product.” “What’s the likelihood they’ll use your image, anyway?” — mocking those who are appalled by these attempts at a rights grab rather than the grabbers/thieves themselves is disturbing, to say the least.

And lastly, I’ve been feeling a little thinly spread these days. So this might be a good time to rethink my web presence. Do I need to be EVERYWHERE? Not really. One less place to check or to update might do the psyche good. Maybe two less places. Facebook certainly has its issues, (and they do, after all, own Instagram). Maybe the new year will bring changes in that arena as well. We’ll see.



My photos. Back home where they belong.


Friday Photo Tip: Inclement Weather

The forecast calls for rain? Very good. Now go out there and shoot.

An atmosphere of gloom. A sense of sullenness… but in a good way! This is what comes with lousy weather. No matter if it’s sleet, rain, snow or fog. There are shots to be made, moods to capture.

Yes, keep your camera as clean and dry as you can — that shower cap from the hotel’s bathroom makes an excellent rain coat for the camera… or maybe shoot from under an awning or from the car window — but do get out there and make some photographs. They’re everywhere.

A foggy morning on Mount Tamalpais.

A foggy morning on Mount Tamalpais in northern California.

Stinson Beach in The Rain

A couple takes a walk on the beach in the rain. Stinson Beach, California.


Instagram Rights Grab

Looks like Instagram intends to update its TOS (terms of service) after the new year. Among the changes is the second entry under the “Rights” section, which in its current form states:

“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”

The shorthand is this… They can sell your images for advertising. Sell it to whomever they want, for whatever price, without your consent and no compensation to you. Nice, eh?

Now, the backlash has been pretty swift and it’s been harsh. Everybody from the everyday take-a-photo-of-my-dinner user to some of the biggest names in the photography business have come down hard on Facebook (who recently bought Instagram). The overwhelming majority think it is an idiotic move on Instagram/Facebook’s part. Time magazine weighed in, as well.

Because of all this, I hold out hope they will rethink their position. I like playing around with Instagram. I enjoy the community I’ve fallen into there. But come January 16, 2013, if they allow the new TOS to go into effect with no changes, I will remove all my photos and delete my account.


Update from Instagram.

A friend in the legal business is still not thoroughly convinced. I will be watching and will reserve judgment a bit longer.

Photo made with Instagram.

Photo made with Instagram.

Friday Photo Tip: “Keep the Sun Over Your Shoulder.”

This is a wonderful, timeless lesson. That high school photography teacher (who also happened to be the basketball coach) really knew his stuff.

I mean, really, think about it. With the sun behind you everything in front of you is so fully and flatly lit. You can see it all. No annoying shadows adding drama or depth. No highlights in the model’s hair. And with family portraits you get the added benefit of squinting eyes! What’s not to love?

And don’t even get me started on silhouettes or soft window light!

little girl with window light.

Window light #1

woman drinking water at national airport, whashington DC

Window light #2

The Hunter

I followed the hunter around all morning. It was cold and wet. We’d walk for a short distance, stop, and then listen.  Hear nothing and start over. This went on. Walk. Stop. Listen. Walk. Stop. Listen.

Coming over a low rise the hunter held up his hand. I froze. He slowly and gracefully knelt. He rested his left elbow on his knee and raised the rifle’s scope to his eye. A brief moment. I could feel my heart beating.

The blast from the gun reverberated throughout my body. I’d never felt such a force in my life. It’s funny, I don’t remember the sound. Only how the shock wave felt.

We walked down the hill to where the deer lay. My hands trembled as I worked the camera. I laughed that nervous laugh you have after a major adrenaline rush. As he began field-dressing the deer, the hunter laughed, too. I could tell he was proud.

It took him about fifteen minutes to finish the job. All that was left was to get the carcass up the hill and back to the truck.

The long, damp morning was a success … for the hunter. Not so much the deer.

A hunter drags a white tail deer through the woods.

The hunter and his trophy.

Potomac River Gorge. The Book is Here!

I’m very proud to present, after many years of documentation and exploration, the Potomac River Gorge book. A real, actual, physical book to sit comfortably on your couch with while gently paging through the imagery of one of the gems of our National Park Service.

You can click on the link below to see a preview. Then click on the second link to go to the Blurb Bookstore and pick one up for yourself… or for someone you love. Or both!

Many thanks and have a happy holiday season!


Click Refresh

Nothing like a rejuvenating week on the northern California coast. After a long, crazy, stressful year, a little refresh was critical.

Weather was typical. Rain, wind, fog, sun, dry, wet, warm, chilly… pretty much the works. Photographically, every day… hell, every hour  a new, more dramatic scene was unveiled. Couldn’t ask for more.

Ready for 2013. Let’s go!


Stinson Beach surfer dude. Misty fog in the mountains.

Surfer dude, Stinson Beach, CA.





Friday Photo Tip: Watch the Feet!

Here’s a quick and simple (yet, no less important!) tip: Don’t cut off their feet!

Nothing ruins an otherwise fine portrait more than cropped out feet. Everything else about it can be stellar. Lighting, composition, outfit, perfect smile… doesn’t matter. It is all ruined if they look like they’re standing on two peg legs. And really, it takes no time to just scan around the edges of your viewfinder and make sure everything is in there.

Cropping people halfway or three-quarters is fine. But if you’re going for a full portrait, go full  portrait. Don’t forget the feet.


Portrait of a model.

Cropped feet. Ugh!


Portrait of a model.

Un-cropped feet. Nice!