Making it All Look Easy

I’m frequently amazed by the way some photographers can make such a difficult shot appear to be simple. When I first saw this behind the scenes video of Joe McNally getting the environmental portrait of a guy changing a light bulb on the top of the TV antenna at the top of the Empire State Building, I thought it was such a simple idea.  It all looks easy but took three attempts on different days and a really novel idea from Joe on how to get the camera above the light.  Plus he is WAY up on top of one of the tallest structures in the world.  The picture was for a story that Joe was working on for National Geographic called the Power of Light.

Judging at North Bethesda Camera Club

Remember the time that you entered what you thought was a “winning image” into a camera club competition, where you have to sit through 100 images from your fellow photographers?  Do you recall the anticipation of waiting to hear the judge’s comments?  Do you remember how crushed you felt as you were told the colors were “flat” and the image was eliminated from the competition?

That will not be me when I judge at North Bethesda Camera Club on April, 3. I strive to have positive comments for every image that I critique and I try very hard not to make statements that are demeaning.  After all, that remark will stick with you long after the award fades away. And I really don’t want that to be the competitors’ take away from my judging.

As far as the choice of images for awards, that would be my personal opinion the night of the competition.  On another night I would certainly make some other choices.  In an exhibit or for my personal collection I would absolutely make different choices.  That is the nature of these competitions, where only about 1 minute per image is allocated for viewing, critiquing and choosing the winners.  Complex images that require time to digest simply do not make the cut.

Creative Ideas

Are you inspired right now, or are you craving that intravenous injection of inspiration that drives you to the next level?

A few weeks ago as I was perusing some blogs, I stumbled across an article about Berndnaut Smilde and knew I was viewing something special.  Berndnaut took a simple physical phenomena and envisioned a surrealistic environment where the inside was the outside.  The very idea of creating a cloud inside a building was simply fantastic.  But to use that technique to create other worldly photographs was the crazy kind of idea that demonstrates Berndnaut’s genius.


Feeling inspired by the images that I was seeing, I found a video where he discusses making the clouds.  The technique is simple, but requires maintaining some pretty specific cooling and moisture requirements that are not realistic to create in just any room of your house.

So what is it that inspires you?

Vision and Perception

Ted Talks has some extremely good discussions that relate to photography.  One of my favorite videos there is by Beau Lotto and has to do with how we, as  humans, perceive color.  We are incapable of visualizing absolute color values, everything that we see is contextual.

Beau demonstrates how our brain compensates for color casts and changes in luminosity to make us see what we expect versus what is actually in front of us.  It can be frightening to see how easily the brain is convinced that we are seeing the same color when they are drastically different hues, or different tones when they are exactly the same.

The video is as fun as it is educational.

Joseph Miller 3rd Annual Abstract Photography Exhibit . . .

is finally closed for entries.  I have been working hard with Joe to make sure that he has everything that he needs to complete the jurying process.  This year the exhibit was even more popular than in previous years.  The vast majority of images were uploaded through the website and paid through Paypal.

I have some breathing room for the short term now that I don’t have to monitor the entry process any longer.  For the next two weeks, it is all on Joe, then I get involved again.  Someone has to build the list of entries and get emails out to everyone who had an image juried into the exhibit.

From my look at the images that were entered, it is really stiff competition.  Joe has his work cut out for him in picking the lucky 125 or so images that will be on display.

For a look at the last two exhibits visit the NVACC website.

Judging at Loudoun Photo Club

You know that feeling you get in your gut when you enter your first photo club competition?  The knot in your stomach hearing the judge describe the out-of-focus foreground and the glaring, blown out hotspot? The frustration as the judge promptly throws your image out of the competition?  Well this month that guy is going to be me at the Loudoun Photo Club in Ashburn, Virginia.

Toward the end of last year I was invited to judge at the Loudoun Photo Club on March 28th for their themed competition Macro and Close-up.  I was pleased to see that they had added “Close-up” to the theme, since too few people have the actual gear to do macro work.

Technically macro means 1:1 to 10:1 in relation of the image on the sensor to the subject size.  To achieve this a lens must be capable of focusing extremely closely, or you can use a wide angle lens and a reversing ring.  Most photographers I know don’t have either in their camera bags.

Anyway, if you want to come hear me critique some images, I should be at The George Washington University Virginia Campus in Ashburn, VA at 7:00 pm on March 28th.