Category Archives: Images

Go Back

In recent posts, I have stressed the importance of making a photograph when you first encounter an interesting scene or subject. If you don’t shoot it right then, you may never have another opportunity. You might not ever make it back there, or the scene might change significantly. Of course, if you do go back, conditions will inevitably be different. You just hope they’ll be even better.

Trying to get a better version of the photograph you first envisioned is a good reason to go back. But further exploration of the area is an even better reason.

Many photographers seem to have a mental checklist of locations, or even of specific shots, that they want to capture. Once they go to that place or get that photo, they can check it off their list, then go on to the next scene, never to return. Continue reading

Shoot It Now, Revisited

In the first Shoot It Now post, I described how a scene can unexpectedly change at almost any time when part of the subject is removed. Scenes can also be irrevocably altered when potential subjects are torn down, uprooted, broken, burned, or collapse.

Even though I am primarily a landscape photographer, I also love shooting dilapidated buildings, cars, machines, etc. There’s just something about the textures and patina of those fading relics I enjoy capturing.

During the Spring and Fall workshops at the Great Smoky Mountains Institute at Tremont (, we always take participants to photograph details of the old, deteriorating homes in Elkmont. It’s one of our most popular shooting locations. A few of those homes are being saved and renovated by the National Park Service, but most are collapsing, and will eventually be torn down and removed.

As an aside, because many of those houses are crumbling, the National Park Service prohibits anyone from going in them. They will ticket you if they catch you inside. This makes a lot of sense, since the floors, walls, and roofs could (and do) give way without warning. If you’re planning to photograph old structures anywhere, please be very careful about exploring inside them. Continue reading

Shoot It Now

Old Chevrolet at Wil's Garage, Chama, NM

Old Chevrolet at Wil’s Garage, Chama, NM

Have you ever been out shooting and, for some reason or other, decide that even though the scene is worth working, you’ll just come back and do it later? I’ve found that rarely works out as hoped.

In September 2014, I saw this old Chevrolet parked in front of this old garage in northern New Mexico. It looked like a scene that had been frozen in time—possibly for decades. What an opportunity!

But…it was raining fairly hard on and off. And even during the rain, the overcast sky was pretty bright. Then every once in a while, the sun would peak through the broken clouds for a minute or so. This would cause the scene to be strongly backlit, losing all detail. But the image didn’t work from any other angle. Maybe I should just come back in better conditions.

To add to my hesitations, I was supposed to be meeting my buddy Wes from Mesa, AZ, who was driving over for a week of photographing Fall color.

It sure was tempting to just try to shoot it later. Continue reading

Digital Camera Sensor Resolution and Print Sizes

After a presentation to the 4th annual Western North Carolina Foto Fest in Montreat, NC, in September 2013, a couple participants asked me to post my two slides showing the resolutions of digital camera sensors, and effect of resolution on print sizes.

The first slide is reproduced here:

Typical Image Sizes in Pixels

Typical Image Sizes in Pixels

As you can see, a 1.0 megapixel (mp) camera has more resolution than the old NTSC television and more than most PC displays used to have. You might be surprised that a 3.0 mp sensor has more resolution than HDTV! Even more shocking, perhaps, is that the incredible iPad with Retina display has a resolution of 2048×1536 pixels—-exactly what you could capture with a 3.0 mp camera.

So what in the world do we need a 12 mp or 24 mp, or goodness knows, a 36 mp sensor for? That’s where the second slide comes in:

Print Sizes at 240 dpi

Print Sizes at 240 dpi

This chart shows the native print sizes you can make at 240 dpi from the various digital camera sensor resolutions. (Note: I’m not suggesting that you always print at 240 dpi, but that resolution was chosen as a constant to make a comparison. Selecting the appropriate print resolution is a topic unto itself.) Continue reading

Photograph Where You Live

As you know, it is essential to travel long distances, preferably to exotic locations, if you want to make interesting images.

Wait, maybe that isn’t really so.

No matter where you live, there are incredible shooting opportunities all around you. Continual shooting is one of the best ways for you to develop your photographic eye. (Reading photography resources and studying photographs and paintings by masters are two other important aides.)

Roswell Road Bridge. Click on image to enlarge.

This image was made less than two miles from my house. I had driven over this bridge thousands of times before without ever noticing anything special about it.

One day, a friend and I decided to go out shooting, so we grabbed our cameras and tripods, and walked along a paved trail along the river. The path led under this all-too-familiar bridge. It was late afternoon, and the sun was starting to go down to the right in the image.

Our intention was to go past the bridge to another spot along the river edge. We never made it. We spent the next hour or so shooting various compositions, including horizontal (landscape) and vertical (portrait) orientations.

Then I turned around, and saw a totally different view. Sun was pouring through the drainage slot on the bridge, and illuminating a pile of rocks below. When I saw that light beam, I knew I was going to process it as a black & white image later.

Roswell Bridge B&W. Click on image to enlarge.

So in an hour, two miles from my house, under a bridge I had crossed thousands of times, I made two images that I liked. Funny thing is when I show them to people, and ask them to guess where there were made, I usually get somewhere in Spain or France as the reply. Of course, I always tell them they guessed right!

Not really. To me, the real story is even more surprising.

As examples of local things to shoot, my Five Mile Radius gallery has a number of images I’ve made within a five mile radius (as you might have guessed) of my house. I hope those images encourage you to get out with your camera and tripod, and explore where you live. Sort of like a traveling photographer who thinks your location is an exotic trip might do…

Opposite Opinions, Same Image

When you see an image, you know if you like it or not, and will probably be able to describe why it affects you the way it does. Many of you have also likely had your images critiqued by a judge for a competition or by a pro during a workshop. Hopefully, any feedback you got was helpful, and allowed you to see any strengths or deficiencies in your image in a new way. But is it the “right” way?

White Sands, NM. (Click on image to enlarge.)

On two different occasions, I had two pros critique the White Sands image above, and got polar opposite responses. At a camera club competition, pro Craig Tanner said he loved how the story of the dune field was told in a single image, and how the different series of curves in the dunes, in the dune tracks, and in the clouds made a dynamic composition. It kept your eye moving around the image taking in all the elements of the scene. He gave it Second place in the Color Print category.

When my friend and mentor British landscape master Charlie Waite critiqued this image during one of his Master Classes, I had to double-check to make sure he wasn’t talking about another image. He wasn’t.

Charlie said it was a jumbled mess, with three unrelated stories mashed into a single frame. There were the graceful ripples and curves of the dunes at the lower left clashing with the discolored, harder-edged dune tracks with scrub bushes scattered about on the right. And that sky! Just too many unrelated shapes and textures to make a cohesive image.

Not only were they commenting on the same image, it was on the identical print, so there was no variation there, either. So, who’s right?

They both are, of course. Each viewed the image from his own unique perspective. Each had, and had clearly expressed, very valid points about the image.

If we’re smart as photographers, we will consider all constructive criticism when evaluating our own images. We might then see ways to improve our images that we missed on our own. But we won’t make changes just to please the critics. As this example shows, we can’t please them all anyway, even if we tried.

The moral: Ask as many friends and pros as you can to critique your images, but take their comments as suggestions, not gospel. There are no absolutes in photography. As Ansel Adams said, “There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” And what constitutes a good photograph is in the eye of the beholder.