Category Archives: Cole Thompson

Nik Software No Longer Supported, Now What?

I’ve been hearing a lot of this lately….  Google has announced they will no longer support the Nik Suite!  What am I going to do?  What software is there that will replace this?  How will I do this or how will I do that?  HOW WILL I SURVIVE WITHOUT NIK SILVER EFEX!!!???

Okay, look,  I too was disappointed with the announcement for a minute. Did it ruin my day? No. Will it affect my photography? No. Will my images suffer? No. If you think the loss of Nik software will affect your images, take a deep breath, breathe….  Maybe, this will force you to finally learn about Luminosity Making and use it! It is awesome! Maybe you’ll find an even better way to convert your b&w images!  Maybe there is an even better tool than Tonal Contrast.  Maybe, you will start to focus more on your vision, composition and image capture than your processing.  And maybe, just maybe, your work will get better without Nik!

 

 

All sarcasm aside, please don’t use the loss of software as an excuse.  Rather, embrace the opportunity to learn something new. Dig out the software package you purchased, but, never really explored because you loved Nik so much. MacPhun has Luminar and just released its beta version for Windows Users.  Topaz has a plethora of tools including their new Studio product.  Alien Skin has Exposure X2 and On1 has Photo Raw.  Each of them have wonderful tools that will help you craft your images. I used to use Silver Efex exclusively for my b&w work. After learning how Chuck Kimmerle and Cole Thompson process their work, I now use Lightroom and then go into Photoshop where I use selections along with dodging and burning techniques.  I like the b&w work I am producing now better than when I was using Silver Efex Pro.  I used to use Tonal Contrast from Nik a lot. It was my goto tool. Now I use Topaz Clarity or Topaz Detail 3 and am totally satisfied with the results I’m getting. Embrace the opportunity!

 

Also posted in Chuck Kimmerle Tagged , , , |

Death Valley #3

Another group of images from Death Valley and The Alabama Hills.  The first image is unique, in that it includes vegetation that normally try to avoid.


The next image, as pointed out by a viewer on Facebook, has a finger in the right side of the sky.  As I was making this image, I was feeling the presence of my friend Cindy who has passed away on this day. Now I see Cindy in this image telling me, all is well. This image is very outside of my comfort zone. I was shooting directly into the sun. But, I had to go with with I was feeling and ended up with a number of images that I like.  This is just one. 

 

The image below has become another favorite.  Love the bright shape at the top right.  Love the hint of light and details to the left of that…

Another with lots of tones which I am very much drawn to.

Also posted in Abstract, B&W, Death Valley Tagged , , , , |

Death Valley #2

Below you will find more images from my recent trip to Death Valley.  Enjoy!  Oh and remember to see the images bigger, click on them

The first image is from The Alabama Hills in Lone Pine CA.  I was drawn to the texture on the background rock in shadow and then the gentle curve of the lighter rock in the foreground.

The next image is a result of the foreground and background being in deep shadow due to the clouds.  The sun was lighting up the middle ground.  This composition screamed to be photographed!

The Image below was made in the Salt Basin in Death Valley.  It is the rain water seeping onto the valley floor.  We could see it growing inch by inch…. very slowly.

 

Also posted in Abstract, B&W, Death Valley, Workshop Tagged , , , , |

Death Valley with Cole Thompson – Gear for Sale

I am just back from co-leading two workshops in Death Valley and The Alabama Hills with the great Cole Thompson. We had two tremendous groups with lots of opportunities to create images that made our hearts sing! To be with Cole was a rare treat as he does not typically shoot with others let alone help on a workshop!  

Below are a few of my favorites so far.  Many more to process, so stay tuned for part 2!

On another subject, I am helping a friend sell some lightly used Nikon and Olympus gear.  See the list below.

One last thing, I have room if you’d like to join me in the Smokies this spring!  Mid April is the perfect time and it is a great way to wipe away the winter blues!  And, I just had a late cancellation for my Charleston SC workshop in a couple of weeks leaving a spot available.

_DSF8930

_DSF7952-Edit

_DSF8541V2

_DSF8697-Edit

_DSF8926-Edit

_DSF8953

 

List of Gear for sale.

Nikon  PRICE
D700 with Grip & RRS L Plate 800
D700 with Grip 800
D800 with Grip & RRS L Bracket 1499
85mm 1.4D 700
16-35 f4 800
18-200 3.5-5.6 mssing hood. 450
24-70 2.8 1300
SB-900 Flash 200
Tamron 180 Macro 550
Lensababy Composer Pro 200
Olympus
OM-D E-M1 700
Pen Lite E-PL5 with 14-42 EZ 300
Lumix 35-100 HD 2.8 Polwer OIS 700
Lumix 7-14 f/4 Vario 600
Lumix 100-300 4-5.6 400
Olympus 40-150 2.8 1000
Olympus 1.4x Teleconverter 250
Olympus 14-42 3.5-5.6 EZ 200
Olympus 14-42 3.5-5,6IIR 200
Olympus 12 2.0 Silver 500
Lumix 45mm 2.8 Leica 550
Lensabay Velvet 56mm for Olympus 400
Really Right Stuff Tripod TVC 24l with BH-40 Ball Head 950
Metabones adaptor for Nikon F to Olympus 4/3 335
Tiffin 72mm Polorizer 25
Nikon 77mm Polorizer 50
Hoya 77mm Polorizer 25
Tiffin 77mm Polorizer 25
Hoodman Loupe 25
Tiffin 58mm Vari ND 50
Singh Ray ND 3G SS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 2G-SS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 2G-HS Galen Rowel 50
Singh Ray ND 3G-HS Galen Rowell 50
Also posted in B&W, Death Valley, Workshop Tagged , , , , |

More Thoughts on Art and Competition

 

_DSF9412matted

The positive response to my previous post tells me people are interested in the topic of art, photography and competition. I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

First, for anyone who might think otherwise, make no mistake, I believe camera clubs offer great value, especially to beginning to intermediate photographers. My friend Chuck Robinson feels the same way. This is what he had to say about his club experience. “I joined our camera club when I first got started into photography.  I wanted to meet people with similar interests and learn more about photography.  I ended up befriending some great people who are awesome photographers and I did learn a great deal through these friendships.  I enjoyed the competitions at first because I thought it was a way for me to gauge the growth of my photography compared to others that have been shooting way longer than I.  I felt that it also pushed me to become better.  As a novice photographer at the time, I felt that it was beneficial to my growth”  I agree with Chuck, his feelings mirror many others I’ve spoken to about their club experience.

Chuck goes on to say, “Nine years later my feelings have changed. Today, my personal view is much different. A little over a year ago, I was becoming frustrated in my photography.  Although I did very well in the competitions, I felt that the comments from the judges from month to month were all over the map. Now I can take constructive criticism, in fact, I look forward to it.  But some of the comments were just ridiculous. More importantly, I felt like I was creating images just to win competitions and I was becoming very frustrated and lost sight of why I wanted to create images in the first place. I was losing my desire in photography. I was chasing what I thought someone else would think was a winner.  I had to stop and regroup and distance myself from the club. I feel so much  better now that I’ve done that”  This too, is common feedback and emphasizes my concern with competition. 

I am currently traveling with my tour partner Dan Sniffin. We have been conversing about the value of camera clubs and the feedback to my last post. We even called Cole Thompson as someone shared with him a Facebook link with some of my comments regarding this subject. We all arrived at the same conclusion. Getting people to think about what and why they are creating images is important and healthy.

Second, In no way am I advocating that everyone who owns a camera or is part of a camera club should ascribe to my way of thinking. There are some who enjoy competing, winning points, pins, ribbons and plaques. If this is what brings you joy, who am I to say otherwise? For instance, I have a friend Gunther Riehle who is one of the highest ranking PSA nature photographers in the world. His work is stunning, yet follows a different vision and the guidelines of PSA. I am simply suggesting that following your heart or your vision could bring a different level of joy or satisfaction. Or as my friend Dewitt Jones says, another right answer. Let me share a two stories that might illustrate what I’m trying to say.

I was on the first day of a fall weekend photography workshop. The colors were astounding, the conditions could not have been better. A participant came up to me and said, “I am going to go home.” I asked if I had said something that offended her, had I done something wrong?  She said, “No, its just I am not finding what I came for.” She then shared that she had a competition at her camera club and her expectation was to find a particular image that she could win with. Rather than find another right answer, a different and maybe better answer, she went home. Isn’t that sad?

Contrast that experience to this story. Dan (tour partner) and I were scouting for our spring Smoky Mountain Tour last year. When we arrived, he said to me, “John, don’t worry if I don’t shoot much. I’ve been to the Smokies a number of times, I’ve got all the images I need. I’m going to just relax. I have no expectations for this trip. I’ll just shoot when something moves me.”  Normally Dan would go on a trip and have a “shot list.”  Not this time, he was going to be open to what moved him, spoke to him and inspired him. Guess what? He produced the best work he has ever produced from the Smokies. His success was so good, he did the same thing in the Palouse a couple of months later with the same results.

These stories capture the essence of what I was hoping to express in this and my previous post. I am simply suggesting an alternative approach.  A more contemplative approach, where you are open to whatever turns your head and will create based on what makes your heart sing.

Also posted in Inspiration Tagged , , , |

More on Photo Celibacy

_DSC9138-Edit-2matted

Recently I featured a terrific post written by my tour partner Dan Sniffin about his ideas with regard to photo celibacy which Cole Thompson tries to live by.  Dan’s article was written before we spent the week with Cole and the group.  The tour started with a wonderful lecture by Cole titled “Why B&W.”  In it he spoke not only about B&W but also more about his ideas on photo celibacy.  But what happened after the talk was quite powerful. I asked the group to respond to Cole’s ideas specifically about celibacy. What did they think? It was one of the most stimulating discussions I’ve been part of.  Some agreed, others challenged Cole with good honest questions. Some spoke about the need for a basic understanding of technique. We spoke about technique versus vision.  We spoke about the value of others opinions.  We spoke about rules and guidelines and much more. It was a stimulating hour of discussion!  I’m not sure we resolved anything but we carried the spirit of the discussion with us throughout the week. In fact, I am still pondering on the matter and would like to continue the discussion here.  

I am reading a book suggested by Chuck Kimmerle titled “Why People Photograph” by Robert Adams.  These quotes resonated in lieu of our discussion.

“I really didn’t have much to teach. I didn’t even believe in it. I felt so strongly that everybody had to find their own way. And nobody can teach you your own way…. in terms of art, the only real answer that I know of is to do it.  If you don’t’ do it you don’t know what might happen”  Harry Callahan,1991

“Can photography be taught?  If this mean the history and techniques of the medium, I think it can….. If, however, teaching photography means bringing students to find their own individual photographic visions, I think it is impossible. We would be pretending to offer the students, in Wililam Stafford’s phrase, “a wilderness with a map.”  We can give beginners directions about how to use a compass, we can tell them stories about our exploration of different but possibly analogous geographies, and we can bless them with our caring, but we cannot know the unknown and thus make sure a path to real discovery.” Robert Adams
 
“Even now I don’t like to discuss work that isn’t finished, because until it is revised over the span of a year or several years there are crucial parts that are present only in my minds eye, pieces intended but not yet realized……  “Art is made by the alone for the alone.”” Robert Adams with inserted quote by Luis Barragan.
 
“I knew I didn’t want to study at length contemporaries’ pictures, fearing that their work might come close to mine and blur my vision.”  Robert Adams
What do you think?  Are vision and technique connected?  Can you achieve your vision without some guidelines about good composition?  Can vision be taught?  Does looking at others work influence yours?  

With regard to the blog image from the Alabama Hills. Yes, the recent tour was focused on B&W and my folder of images is 99% B&W, however, that did not stop me from processing this one in color!  Why color versus B&W?  I wish I had a good answer, sometimes color just makes more sense and I run with my gut feeling.  In the dunes, I can’t imagine anything but B&W yet I’ve seen some wonderful images that are color.  So color or B&W becomes a creative choice, there is no right or wrong.  

[Tweet “More on Photo Celibacy”]

Also posted in Chuck Kimmerle, Color, Creative, Inspiration Tagged , , , , |

The Power of the “S” Curve

_DSC8840-Editframedweb

The “S” curve in nature is a very powerful graphic element.  I was thrilled to find this one in the dunes.

During our recent tour with Cole Thompson, he was kind enough to show us some of his post processing techniques.  Learning how he uses the Dodge and Burn tool was an eye opener for me.  I used these tools and new ideas to lighten and darken key areas in this image.  The key when using these tools is to work on all three tonal ranges, shadow, mid-tone and highlights. There is a drop down dialogue box that shows all three on the tool properties bar at the top.  Before, I would use just one and that approach does not work nearly as well. It is also important to use a brush at just 2 or 3% opacity. Even though you don’t feel like you’re doing much when lightening a dark area when working on the highlights, trust me, there are pixels that are indeed being affected.  The same holds true when darkening a light area. There are shadow and mid-tone pixels there.

Also posted in Abstract, B&W, Death Valley, Essence Tagged , , , , , |

Connecting

The other day Tony Sweet emailed a picture of his Mom. He made the image with his iPhone while taking his iMom to the eye doctor or iDoc as he calls her.  

iMom

Tony made a blog post about his thoughts on his image here.

These are my thoughts. Great photography creates an emotional response. This is a classic photograph that underscores the idea that it is not about the camera but rather about connection. Connection to subject, be it a person or a sand dune for that matter. This image is full of connection. Full of joy, silliness and fun. And that is clearly felt by the photographer and now by me, the viewer. Thus, Tony has created a very successful image, no matter the camera, because of the connection. I love this picture and can’t stop looking at it.  Tony emailed me this morning and simply said, “I’m still giggling”.  Me too!

To further cement my thoughts.  Our special guest instructor for the Eastern Sierra tour last week was the amazing Cole Thompson.  One of his most successful images is  “The Angel Gabriel”  Cole has given me permission to use it and his words below. Yes, the image is special but read the story and tell me that connection was not part of its success.

2006-5-20 The Angel Gabriel - Final 10-15-2007 750

The Angel Gabriel – Newport Beach, CA – 2006

This is the Angel Gabriel.  I met him on the Newport Beach pier as he was eating French Fries out of a trash can. 
He was homeless and hungry.  I asked him if he would help me with a photograph and in return, I would buy him lunch.
 
The pier was very crowded and I wanted to take a 30 second exposure so that everyone would disappear except Gabriel. 
We tried a few shots and then Gabriel wanted to hold his bible.  The image worked and the only
people you can see besides Gabriel are those “ghosts” who lingered long enough for the camera. 
 
Gabriel and I then went into a restaurant to share a meal; he ordered steak with mushrooms and onions.  When it came,
he ate it with his hands.  I discovered he was Romanian and so am I, so we talked about Romania.  He was simple,
kind and a pleasure to talk with.  I asked Gabriel how I might contact him, in case I sold some of the photographs and
wanted to share the money with him.  He said I should give the money to someone who could really use it; that he had
everything that he needed. 
 
Then the Angel Gabriel walked away, content and carrying his only two possessions: a Bible and a bed roll.

 

 

Now, with the idea of connection clearly in mind, pay attention to how you feel and respond to the images below. 

DSCF1768

DSCF4259-Edit

photo-12web

20120119_Cuba_1470v3

Fern7x11WEB

_DSC0535

_MG_8723

Eastern Sierra_2014Feb01_0104-Edit

Jan112014_Cuba_1185

_O0E0038_1

This is a favorite image of Nancy Rotenberg.  My regular blog readers will know who she is and what she meant to me.  Now that you know who she is, does it affect your reaction?

The more you connect with your subject, the more those who view your image will too.

If you’re finding value in this site, might I ask that you share with your social communities?  Thank you!

[Tweet “Connecting – A post about Photography”]

 

Also posted in Creative, Inspiration, Nancy Rotenberg Tagged , , , , |

Panamint Dunes

During our scouting time, we decided to see how close we could get to the Panamint Dunes. Unfortunately, not very close. It appears to be about a 2 mile walk after a rough 6 mile drive. We did not make the walk this time, but did get out a long lens to capture just a few long distance images. As luck would have it, a few clouds rolled in just for me and a blast of light lit up the dunes.

Eastern Sierra_2014Jan31_0271

In Cole’s presentation, he spoke a lot about vision, a topic near and dear to his heart. He spoke about creating images that he saw in his minds eye and not what the camera captures. I think my image would be a good example. When I made this capture, I knew exactly what I would do in post to create the look I had in mind.

Cole and I agree on this topic. I have no interest in making images that look like what I saw, I am more interested in creating images that convey what I felt or saw in my imagination. I don’t want to be restrained by what others think I should do but rather create what will make my heart sing.

Also posted in B&W, Death Valley Tagged , , , |

Death Valley with Cole Thompson

Eastern Sierra_2014Feb01_0146v2

Today we started our tour with special guest Cole Thompson.  It has been a joy to spend time with Cole whose work I have admired for quite some time.  Cole gave a presentation today that was tremendous and very inspiring!

Our tour is focused on B&W photography, so I thought I’d post an image created during our scouting trip last week. This one pays homage to another favorite B&W photographer, Chuck Kimmerle.

Also posted in Abstract, B&W, Chuck Kimmerle, Death Valley Tagged , , , , , , , , , |