New Zealand!

I’m back from a wonderful trip to the South Island of New Zealand. I’ll cut to the chase, it is one of the most beautiful countries I’ve been to. It takes a long time to get there, but it is worth it!


I’ll start with a personal favorite from one of our first days out with our group. Most were shooting the opposite direction over a lake with mountains behind it. Not me, I was drawn to the soft light on the beautiful grasses in front of the stream and stand of trees.Β 

When I lecture, I often speak about the so called rules and ask why we listen to them? Should we? Or should we do what feels right? Who made the rules anyway? I’m of the mind that we should follow our heart and personal vision. While this image is not cut in half, it is very close. Does it bother you? Did you even notice until I asked? I did not notice until I was reviewing it in Lightroom. I asked my tour partner Dan Sniffin if it bothered him and he said no. In thinking more about this, I find it interesting that I even needed to ask. I knew I loved it when I made the capture and that should have been all that mattered. However, because of the MFA types out there who are eager to point out every broken rule, I’ve been conditioned to be concerned about it. Even if Dan had said that it did bother him, I would have stayed true to my vision and kept it as it is! That has not always been the case though. Approval from others was much more important than it is today. I’m happy to be in a place where my connection to and satisfaction with an image is good enough. If others like it too, icing on the cake!

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  1. Lunalovegood April 23, 2015 at 8:10 am #

    Great sense of place.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Thank you Ms. Luna! πŸ™‚

  2. Rich Lewis April 23, 2015 at 8:25 am #

    It’s never about rules. It’s about composition, beauty and communication. Where the horizon is placed is really irrelevant. You want to communicate a sense of place. Well…. You’ve done that so you’ve got the icing and the cake. Now go shoot some more photos of this beautiful place.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 8:32 am #

      Thank you Rich. Well said.

  3. Eric Drumm April 23, 2015 at 8:46 am #

    When we went to New Zealand, I thought it was often all about the sky so including it as half of an image is just fine… fact, maybe it should even be more! New Zealand is one amazing place to visit, hope to get back there again. Look forward to seeing more of your images, John.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:07 am #

      You’ll see more “sky” images Eric. Thanks for stopping by.

  4. Bruce Sorrell April 23, 2015 at 9:03 am #

    Beautifully seen and composed shot, John ! I normally struggle with vertical landscapes, but not with this one. It’s perfect ! Now please go put on your “We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Rules” T-shirt ! Slainte !

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:07 am #

      Thanks Bruce. Tee shirt on!

      • Bruce Sorrell April 23, 2015 at 9:15 am #

        In the interest of full disclosure, John, I have to confess how the tenor of your comments led me to interpret the “MFA” acronym in a less than traditional way. You get three guesses to come up with what I was thinking.. Hint: it’s not repeatable here in public. : )) Wishing you great light !

        Slainte !

        • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:17 am #

          You know Bruce, I wondered if I should add Masters of Fine Art in case some might not know…. but then I would never have had the laugh you provided! πŸ™‚

  5. Jazz Jaeschke April 23, 2015 at 9:12 am #

    I like it too! Would be a shame to waste that blue scoop of sky at the top just to meet some arbitrary “rule”. Trees and river establish uncentered nicely. I am drawn to the meander of the water and the contrast of textures between grass and clouds – spectacular.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:15 am #

      Thank you Jazz. Your words capture exactly what I saw and felt, thank you.

  6. Mil April 23, 2015 at 9:14 am #

    Hell, there are no rules here–we’re trying to accomplish something.

    -Thomas A. Edison

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:17 am #

      Excellent Mil! Thank you! Need to add that one to my list of great quotes!

  7. Ann Lyssenko April 23, 2015 at 9:27 am #

    Hi John,
    Beautiful image! Actually I see the thirds…strong foreground, middle that leads to the top of the tallest tree, and the gorgeous sky that has a V of color creating motion in the clouds and sending my eyes back around the image. Just beautifully and intuitively created. Thanks for sharing your image and your thoughts. Ann

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 9:36 am #

      Thank you for your feedback Ann. I especially like your intuitively created comment.

  8. Debbie Teague April 23, 2015 at 9:50 am #

    I love it John. I’m always drawn to yellow grasses with some darker background such as the trees, and dark cloudy skies. My set of rules are my eyes. Thanks for sharing.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 11:40 am #

      Good set of rules Debbie.

  9. Bill Edwards April 23, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    Really nice image that makes you want to be there. If the sky had been a stark solid blue I probably would have noticed the half & half closeness, but the interesting clouds make it not matter. I have been faced with the same thoughts when composing a landscape, but decided that the clouds added so much more I didn’t want to leave them out. I guess it’s all about the image at hand & not so much the “rule”.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 11:41 am #

      Well said Bill.

  10. Arnie Prince April 23, 2015 at 11:09 am #

    Outstanding capture.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 11:30 am #

      Hey Arnie, Good to hear from you. Thanks!

  11. Dennis April 23, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    John, Really like the softness and tranquilly of this image but, even more so, the comment of you being in a place where pleasing yourself in creating images is your guide. After making images with art directors and editors for many years, I’ve “finally” arrived at a time too-where the image is important to me and me alone. What freedom and feeling I can’t even describe!!

  12. Janice April 23, 2015 at 12:04 pm #

    John, any photographer who looks at this and thinks RULES should take up another hobby. It’s wonderful!

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 12:08 pm #

      Thank you my friend!

  13. Dave Thompson April 23, 2015 at 12:10 pm #

    I really like this shot. Pleasing composition, good exposure and use of natural light. Well done.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 12:13 pm #

      Hello Dave, thanks for your thoughtful comment.

  14. Bob Towery April 23, 2015 at 12:26 pm #

    To me the star of this image is the gorgeous light. And it is falling on so many lovely elements. Well seen!

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

      You’re right about that Bob, the light was … well…. yummy! πŸ™‚

  15. Memory Roth April 23, 2015 at 12:33 pm #

    I agree John, follow your heart, your instincts will always lead you in the right direction. It’s a beautiful photo, one that caught my eye and caused me to pause. Rules are made for those who need them and a guide for those who trust their own vision.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

      Following you heart is spot on Memory. I agree “rules” are good for beginners to give a solid baseline… but then they need to be put aside as they do not always apply.

  16. Sara Howell April 23, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    There are rules????…… This was the best photo trip EVER!!!! We did not want to leave when was over…..loved every minute of it…..and you and Dano were wonderful as always…..wouldn’t mind going back again……just saying πŸ™‚

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 2:03 pm #

      Always good to be with you Sara! It was a great trip!

  17. barbara k April 23, 2015 at 1:33 pm #

    And, your wonderful clouds! Welcome back!

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

      Clouds are my friend! πŸ™‚

  18. Victoria April 23, 2015 at 3:37 pm #

    Ditto to what Sara said above.. I too am sensitive to the rules.. But I gave them no thought when looking at this gorgeous image. My immediate thought was that you must have shot this before the tour started because I never saw this vista. I must learn to watch where you go in future so I don’t miss such beauty. Marvelous image and yes, it was a fabulous tour. What a gorgeous country.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 5:36 pm #

      You’re lucky to still be there! Yes, this was one of our first stops where we walked from the buss to the lake in the open field.

  19. Nicki April 23, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

    Here, here John, I totally agree. I’ve always believed in following your vision. An image has to come from your heart, that’s what will show thru to the viewers. Then let the chips fall where they may.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

      Thanks Nicki

  20. Meg April 23, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    I didn’t realise you were in our beautiful country, we are the hidden jewel nestled away from the rest of the world. Glad you enjoyed your trip and do hope you get a chance to return. I love breaking the rules and in fact often put the horizon line through the middle.

    • JB April 23, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

      Meg, you have an amazing country! Truly magnificent.

  21. al campoli April 23, 2015 at 6:16 pm #

    Perfect just the way it is. And that icing is pretty tasty!!….;>)

  22. Carla April 23, 2015 at 11:28 pm #

    I love this image John. I love grasses and skies with lots of clouds as well. There is a beautiful softness to the image. As you teach in workshops, look all around the scene.
    Welcome home!

    • JB April 24, 2015 at 12:21 am #

      Thank you Carla!

  23. Stephan Dietrich April 24, 2015 at 2:47 pm #

    “Look and think before opening the shutter. The heart and mind are the true lens of the camera.” ~ Yousuf Karsh

    Welcome back JB! Another awesome image and post. I did notice the close split… but, it works quite well! JBism Rules!

    What more can be said… Rules are our foundation and assist us in development. As we progress, those rules become second nature, but typically are embedded within our thoughts, visions and creative processes. As like recipes, we evolve and add our own flavors and ingredients that fit, intensify or please our tastes.

    As with walking, who mindfully thinks about the efforts of placing one foot in front of the other or all the mechanics that are involved in walking… Yet, when we think about the process or lose the ability to walk, we are reminded of how complexed the simple process such as walking can be.

    When we learn to dance, we count, think of the steps and learn to listen to the music and dance. Ultimately, a dancer does not think of the steps… But, they know and can see or teach others to dance, feel the rhythm and flow…

    From the acts of seeing, taking and to process a photograph… There are many rules, elements and conscientious efforts that we make… Yet, as we become familiar, we do not necessarily think of each and every step or process.

    As like a familiar dance or song, we move with the beat and make our mind, body and soul sing within the rhythm of what we see and feel within a moment. Photography is a tough dance step and difficult song to sing!

    Your image has a lot of rhythm and flow. From the clouds, to the water and blades of grass… it all jumps off the image. Great post!

    • JB April 24, 2015 at 3:41 pm #

      Great thoughts Stephan. Thanks for sharing.

  24. Tim Rourke April 24, 2015 at 4:08 pm #

    New Zealand just moved a few slots up my list of places to get to.

    • JB April 24, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

      Tim, I would go to the South Island in a heartbeat again. It was magnificent.

  25. Roxanne Sahlin April 24, 2015 at 9:59 pm #

    JB, if you put a ruler on it-possibly it half & half. If you put your eyes on it instead then you are lead by the low angle of the beautiful grassy area and stream which appears to stretch out the the spares leading to the sky. You are then presenting by the repeating “V” patterns in the clouds, the mountain tops and between the trees. With all of that movement and beauty, whose got their ruler out? Not me! Gorgeous image.

    • JB April 24, 2015 at 10:12 pm #

      Thanks Roxanne.

  26. Steve L April 25, 2015 at 9:18 pm #

    Here’s the ONLY rule– “Keep photographing what you see and feel.”
    Looking forward to more rule-breakers from NZ and beyond.

    • JB May 1, 2015 at 10:04 am #


      • Carla May 1, 2015 at 10:24 am #

        Great words of wisdom! I am taking them all in!!

        • JB May 1, 2015 at 10:26 am #


  27. Sarah Marino April 30, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi John –

    The almost centered horizon does not bother me a bit and I do not think I would have ever commented on it had you not mentioned it. I am unfortunately still in the caring way too much about what other people think place. It is probably the biggest deterrent to my development as a photographer but I do not quite know how to get past it. Maybe I can make the kind of progress you describe for yourself. Any tips?


    • JB May 1, 2015 at 10:11 am #

      Thanks for your comment Sarah. As for what others thing. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy positive feedback. I have just come to a place where what I feel about my work is what matters most. Thus it is not as important as it once was to get others validation. So, Sarah, I think the key is OLD AGE! πŸ™‚ The older you get the more you don’t care what others think about a lot of things! My weight, bald spot, wrinkles, liver spots, etc, etc… πŸ™‚

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