Archive for August, 2012

Where Should You Place the Horizon in Landscape Photographs?

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012
Clouds and reflections, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

(A) Clouds and reflections, Tenaya Lake, Yosemite

At Tenaya Lake last week my workshop student and I watched and photographed a spectacular, constantly-changing cloud display for over two hours. I made many images, including the one at the top of this post (you can see two more here and here). With the lake in the foreground every composition included a prominent horizon line, so I was often thinking about where to place the horizon in the frame.

It’s not always an easy decision. If you’ve ever read any books on composition you probably learned about the rule of thirds. And when applied to horizons this means you should place the horizon a third of the way from the top or bottom of the photograph. And you probably also read that you should, at all costs, avoid putting the horizon in the center of the frame.

As many of you already know, I’m not a big fan of the rule of thirds. It’s too restrictive, too limiting when applied to the infinite number of possible subjects and situations a photographer can encounter. It’s useful sometimes, but shouldn’t be taken as dogma.

I think this applies to horizons as well. Sometimes putting the horizon a third of the way from the top or bottom works. Sometimes it’s better to ignore the rule and put the horizon right in the middle, or near the top or bottom of the frame.


Embracing Uncertainty

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Reeds and Cloud Reflections no. 1


The future is uncertain, so we try to control it by planning. We think that if we do A and B the result will be C. But sometimes there are too many variables that we can’t account for, so the result might not be C—it could be D, or E, or even Z.

Photographers often try to plan. We imagine that if we go to a certain location at a certain time we’ll capture a certain photograph. Sometimes this works, but frequently the weather doesn’t cooperate or conditions aren’t right.

I’ve been trying to embrace uncertainty lately, both in my day-to-day life and in my photography. Rather than attempting to control everything, I’m opening my mind to the possibility that unexpected events could be good—that on any day, or any moment, something surprising but wonderful could happen.

A few afternoons ago Claudia and I were in the Yosemite high country near Tuolumne Meadows. We had planned to meet up with a friend, but somehow we missed finding her, so we found ourselves in this beautiful area with no particular plans. And a thunderstorm rolled through. Interesting weather always makes my photographic antennae perk up.

We ended up following the storm, hoping to see a rainbow, and eventually we did. But if a rainbow can be unexciting, this one was. Or at least my photographs of it were. This spur-of-the-moment plan actually worked—I found a rainbow. But the resulting photograph didn’t work.


2013 Ansel Adams Gallery Workshops Announced!

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012
A January moonrise from Valley View, Yosemite

A January moonrise from Valley View, Yosemite

The Ansel Adams Gallery recently announced their 2013 workshops. I’m pleased to be teaching four Yosemite photography workshops for the Gallery next year—Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom: Mastering Lightroom (January); Spring Yosemite Digital Camera Workshop (April); Hidden Yosemite (July); and The Digital Landscape: Autumn in Yosemite (October).

As many of you know, I’m a big fan of Lightroom because it’s simple, yet powerful—easy to use, but sophisticated enough to get great results with almost any image. Last January was the first time I taught a workshop specifically focused on this tool: Landscapes in the Digital Darkroom: Mastering Lightroom. This class was popular, and a lot of fun, so we’ll be doing it again next January. Of course it’s not all computer work—the workshop includes field sessions to photograph snowy January landscapes, the rising full moon, and, if we’re lucky, clearing storms. I’m really looking forward to it!

The other three workshops—Spring Yosemite Digital Camera Workshop, Hidden Yosemite, and The Digital Landscape—have been very popular in the past, and sometimes fill quickly, so be sure to reserve space early.

And stay tuned… I’ll be announcing more workshops within the next month.


Photo Critique Series: Space and Separation in a Mt. Shasta Photograph

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012
Mt. Shasta and Lake Siskiyou by Kyle Jones

Mt. Shasta and Lake Siskiyou by Kyle Jones

I know it’s been awhile since the last critique; it’s been hard to find the time lately. But many of you have told me how much you like the critiques, and I really appreciate that, and I’m happy to have the opportunity to do another one. I’m writing this critique, rather than doing it by video, because, well, it’s just easier. But I may still do video critiques again in the future.

The subject of this critique is a photo by Kyle Jones called “Mount Shasta and Lake Siskiyou,” from the far northern reaches of California. I think this image has some interesting things to teach us about space and separation in a composition, and shutter speeds for water.