How do you land photography jobs? How do you get good enough to become a professional photographer? If you’re starting out in this industry or even if you’ve been in it for a few years but feel like your creative wheels are stuck in the mud, these are the kinds of questions that lodge themselves in the front of your mind. Even if you are well into your career, there’s always a haunting feeling that one day people are going to figure out you’re a fraud, that the majority of the images you take are garbage and sometimes you feel more lucky than talented.
If you are anything like me, you struggle with the gap between your creation and your vision — between the work you do produce and the work you want to produce. In my career there have been times when I wanted to (and at least one time where I actually did) put down the camera and stop creating because I couldn’t stand the images I captured. During those times, everything I made repulsed me. My photographs were cliche, shallow, and uninspired. I felt like a climber who has given his best and just wants to lay down in the snow to rest a while. But just like that climber, giving up would be dangerous. If you want to get better, you have to keep pushing forward. It’s true in life and it’s true in art.
The video in the top of this post is a great reminder that pushing forward and creating new work is the best way to improve your craft. It’s from a longer series of talks by Ira Glass about storytelling which I highly recommend to anyone who does creative work, even if journalism or radio isn’t your thing. There’s some deep stuff in there and great reminders about the work that goes into making something meaningful.
I can’t believe it’s been a year since we moved to Seattle (okay, it’s actually been 13 months since we moved but I’ve been busy and this blog is late). Leaving South America and moving here was supposed to be about settling down a bit, finding some routine in our lives, and taking a moment to breathe. In reality, this year ended up full of the unexpected and not without its share of adventures/misadventures. Continue reading
Summers in Washington, what can I say? Long evenings and pastel sunsets. Warm weather, mountainsides bursting with wildflowers, and miles of once snow-packed trails open for adventure. Sure we have pretty gloomy winters here but — my gosh — summer pretty much makes up for it. In the last couple of weeks I’ve visited all three of Washington’s National Parks (North Cascades, Olympic, and Mount Rainier). Traveling through those parks really illustrates the stunning variety of landscapes this state has to offer. From high lakes, to alpine meadows, and cool rainforest it’s really something like a wonderland up here in the great Northwest. I never wanted to live in a big city like Los Angeles or San Francisco but Seattle is different. I’m in the middle of a world class city and only 30 minutes from mountain trailheads. If there was ever a city for me, this is it. Continue reading
This month’s free wallpaper comes from Mt. Rainier National Park here in Washington. I’m not going to lie, the reason this image is awesome has less to do with myself as an artist and more to do with how flat-out amazing the location was. I’d been to Rainier twice before — once in the fall and once in late winter — but I had no idea how incredible the already stunning vistas became once the wildflowers had taken over the meadows. Rainier in bloom deserves to be near the top of any landscape photographers list of places to visit.
You really need to see this place for yourself, but until you do visit, feel free to download this wallpaper. Clicking on the image will open a high-resolution version in a new tab. From there you can save the image to your computer.
About the image: This photo was taken on a Canon 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens at 35mm. My exposure time was 1/400 with an aperture of f13 and an ISO of 400. Lightroom edits included slight tweaks to the global settings, changes to the curves and color balance, as well as dodging and selective sharpening.
Some people think converting to black and white is an easy way to make their photos look better. It’s true that the simplified color scheme can minimize distractions, but good black and white photography takes work. Most people don’t want to put up with the hassle, and stop after desaturating their images. But stopping there doesn’t take full advantage of your photo’s potential. Today, I’m going to walk you through my processes and hopefully show you how you can take your work a few steps further and make something great. Continue reading
Look at this photo. What do you see? Those are the eyes of a Peruvian boy. If I had to guess I’d say he was around 10 years old. His cheeks are red from the merciless sun and wind of the high Andes. You can’t see it in this cropped photo but he’s wearing a purple sweater with a dirty blue shirt underneath it. His pants show signs of repair and mismatched threads stick out here and there. The photo doesn’t show you his worn rubber sandals that instantly mark him as a “campesino.” It doesn’t show you his rough hands and it doesn’t show you the blade he’s holding in them. Continue reading
Most of you know me as a photographer so it may surprise you to learn that a few of my biggest professional projects to date have been animated motion graphics (including the one you see at the top of this post). A big part of multimedia storytelling is using the right tools for the job. While photography, writing, and video are the core of what I do, animation allows me to tell stories with dense information quickly and in a way that engages an audience differently than other visual media.
My most recent project was a graduation video for the University of Washington’s College of Arts and Sciences. Animation projects are time-consuming beasts and require a lot of thought to execute well. My team spent hours making sure we had the right information, brainstorming ways to present that information, and then creating the foundational graphic before animation ever began. It’s been great to work on a big collaborative project like this. While your own artistic vision can take you a long way, bringing in other viewpoints and skill sets opens doors you didn’t even know existed. It also helps you catch mistakes and that’s important when every export of your video takes several hours to render, and fixing one typo can mean almost a full day of work — trust me, I know.
There were a lot of technical challenges to overcome and many lessons learned. I now know that all those fancy cores your processor has won’t live up to their potential if there isn’t enough RAM backing them up — Adobe recommends 2GB per core. I learned that even when you have enough RAM you’re not going to get the fastest render speeds until you enable multiprocessing. Seriously, if you’re doing any video/animation work you need to learn about this. There were lessons about hard drive configurations and about optimizing Illustrator files for After Effects (better to use a lot of small files than one big one that takes 30 minutes to conform every time you make an edit). Probably the most valuable thing I learned was to set keyframe interpolation to linear before you draw a massive animation path. Leaving it on the default “Auto Bezier” is a sure way to make your animated paths look like bouncy boomerangs.
This project took about two weeks of solid work but I had a blast seeing it through. I feel like one or two of these a year is an ideal number for me. Enough to keep my skills from getting rusty but not so many that I spend more time hunched over my monitor than I spend behind a real-life lens.
I’ve really been slacking off on uploading desktop wallpapers but now I’m back. This month’s image is a waterfall in Moran State Park on Orcas Island here in Washington. If you ever get a chance to visit Moran, the waterfall hike is a must-see. A short trail takes you past four serene cascades that are all worth photographing.
Click on the image to open a high-resolution version which you can save to your desktop.
About the image: This photo was taken on a Canon 5D Mark III with a 16-35mm lens at 24mm. My exposure time was 4 seconds with an aperture of f22 and an ISO of 100. Lightroom edits included dodging and burning as well as global adjustments and curve enhancements.
Summer is here in the Pacific Northwest. The sun sets after 9 p.m., the snow melt is filling rivers to the brink with opaque green torrents, and wildflowers are making their brief but spectacular arrival across our mountains. As a photographer, the majesty and grandeur of it all is almost intimidating. Everywhere I look there are opportunities for amazing photographs, but sometimes capturing the awe you feel standing at the base of a mountain can be a real challenge. Continue reading
Usually when I write these postcard posts, I end up writing way more than you’d find on the back of a 3X5 piece of paper. This time, I’ll make it quick. Last week my wife and I headed up to the sunny San Juan Islands for a little camping. We found a nice spot by a lake on Orcas Island and settled in for a couple of days of hiking, reading, and getting sun burned. This trip marks a shift for me personally and professionally (more on that in a future post) and it was a wonderful opportunity to breathe some fresh air. Life is moving quickly and I’m having trouble finding the words to sum it all up so I’ll end here and leave you with a couple more photos to enjoy. Cheers!
Last week was National Park Week and that meant free admission to some of the most beautiful and photogenic natural wonders around. I decided to celebrate my National Park Week by heading out to Mt. Rainier National Park here in Washington. Continue reading
Scroll down for the full-rez version.
Even if you’ve never heard of Seattle’s Kerry Park, there’s a good chance you’ve seen a photo taken there. The park gives visitors a sweeping view of the city’s skyline flanked by the glaciated summit of Mt. Rainier in the background. After months of clouds and sunsets too early to catch, I finally had the chance to shoot the iconic vista — something I’ve wanted to do since I arrived in Seattle.
The panorama below (of which the first image is just a small part) was created by stitching together 27 vertical photos taken at 200mm. The final image is nearly 45,000 pixels long or 12.5 feet at 300ppi and would take a 158 megapixel sensor to capture all at once. Use the controls to zoom in and explore Seattle or, If you’d rather accesses the full resolution image, click here (be careful, it’s huge!).
For those of you who like scavenger hunts, here’s a small list of things waiting to be discovered in the panorama:
- At least 4 jumbo jets
- At least 2 radio stations
- A guy in bright red pants
- The club house at a golf course all the way over in Newcastle!
- The dome of First Convenant Church, the steeple of Seattle First Baptist Church, the steeple of Swedish Medical Center’s James Tower, and the twin towers of Immaculate Conception Church.
- At least 18 construction cranes (not counting the cargo cranes used to unload ships)
This is by far the biggest most detailed panorama I’ve ever taken. I hope you enjoy it and let me know if you find any fun or quirky details as you comb it over.