Category Archives: News

general posts on photography technique and gear

Did Your Photo Workshop Suck?

Hi Gang,

I’m sure a number of you reading this have a few stories you can tell about photography workshops.  Some good, some not so good, some maybe a little embarrassing (Matt Gibson and Bryan Allen, if you’re reading this don’t say a word).  A few months back a friend and former workshop participant called me while he was returning from another workshop.  He called to tell me that he wanted to take my workshop again and that he appreciated how I did things.  He didn’t appreciate the workshop he just attended, primarily because the instructor was not in a good mood.  Then I recently took a workshop in which the instructor was incredibly nice, talented and accomplished, but lazy and very wasteful of our time, and there was a bit of a mismatch between how the workshop was pitched and my skill level.  Back in October of 2009 I assisted a friend with his workshop and it was clear that all the participants thought it was an amazing experience.

And let’s not put it all on the instructor’s shoulders.  Have you done everything in advance of the workshop to make it a great experience?  Here are 5 issues that I think are very important in considering your next (first??) workshop (and I’m sure there are more you can share in the comments section):

1) Does the instructor have a good reputation as a teacher? If you haven’t heard it before, hear it now.  A very well known and talented photographer does not necessarily translate into a great workshop instructor.  Educating, inspiring, and motivating individuals organized into a group is a special talent.  A GREAT workshop leader will create multiple opportunities for you to learn, practice and reflect on the process, seeing and drawing out into the open your strengths and weaknesses.

2) Does the instructor spend time shooting for him/herself? Not everyone is bothered as much by this behavior as I am, but it really sends a message about the instructor’s intent and concern for your experience.  In a landscape workshop, for example, if I’m shooting for myself then I can’t be giving you any attention, assistance or support.  In a portrait workshop, I may need to shoot to illustrate a teaching point.  In any event, don’t be afraid to ask the instructors if, as a matter of practice, they will shoot for their own portfolio during the workshop and decide for yourself how you feel about it.  You pay a lot for workshops – you deserve a lot in return.

3) Does the instructor’s personal or professional work and vision inspire you? This issue helps you decide if there is something you can learn from the instructor.  Its easy to image that the more advanced you are, the fewer people are out there who can actually teach you something new.  The instructor’s vision and talented will most likely be reflected and shared throughout the workshop experience.  This is far from a deal killer for any particular workshop, but its important to consider on your own workshop journey.

4) Have you considered what you want from a workshop? Here is a laundry list of things you MIGHT want from a workshop:  building/improving upon your eye for the subject matter, new field techniques, basic and creative technical skills in post-processing, building your confidence and inspiration with a new subject, networking, exposure to a new subject (ie. the north shore of Lake Superior or Fashion Photography), or maybe you just want a fun vacation.  The list could go on and not every workshop and workshop leader is going to provide a one-stop experience for you, but at least you can begin thinking about what you want from your experience and set priorities that fit with a workshop.

5) Are you prepared to receive it? This may be as important a factor as the instructor -  and maybe more so.  Its critical to do the following things, if possible:  get plenty of rest ahead of and during a workshop.  The better instructors will push you mentally and physically (within reason I hope) and rest will allow you to absorb the maximum from the experience.  Also, have your equipment ready.  Is your computer and software ready to handle the raw files your new camera produce’s?  Do you know HOW to use your camera or have your owner’s manual close at hand?  Do you have the ability to bring backup camera/computer equipment?  Have you double checked with the instructor about equipment, computer and software requirements of for the workshop?  Things are tight and its tempting to skimp on critical items to save a few bucks.  Budget and save for your next workshop so you can be as prepared for the experience as possible.

No doubt we can add to this list.  Feel free to do so in the comments section of the post.  If you’re looking for a workshop on location portrait photography, then I urge you to consider:

Bryan Allen Photography – a premier educator and amazing photography talent.

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Is Photography Over?

“Is Photography Over?” is the title of an upcoming symposium at the San Fransisco Museum of Art.  Since many of you reading this probably can’t be there, I thought I’d post the symposium description here and see what you think.

“Photography has almost always been in crisis. In the beginning, the terms of this crisis were cast as dichotomies: is photography science or art? Nature or technology? Representation or truth? This questioning has intensified and become more complicated over the intervening years. At times, the issues have required a profound rethinking of what photography is, does, and means. This is one of those times. Given the nature of contemporary art practice, the condition of visual culture, the advent of new technologies, and many other factors, what is at stake today in seeing something as a photograph? What is the value of continuing to speak of photography as a specific practice or discipline? Is photography over?”

I can imagine many perspectives on these questions.  I’d love to hear yours here.

Also posted in Landscapes | 4 Comments

Exhibition Selection and Workshop Announcements


North Shore Landscape Workshop

I’m excited to announce my 2010 North Shore Landscape workshop, August 9 – 12.   This is a popular workshop in a very scenic part of the country, and to maximize your experience I’ve limited the class to 7 participants.   For more details and online registration, please click here.

Studio Lighting Basics Workshop

Also, stay tuned for announcement of Studio Lighting Basics Workshop.  The final details are being worked out and the class will be offered very soon.  This workshop will be limited to 5 participants and I expect it to fill quickly.

The Next Level Beginner Digital Workshop

We are just completing a very, very successful first offering of The Next Level Beginner Digital workshop.  If you’re new to photography and want to improve your technical and creative skills, this is probably for you.  I’ll also be announcing very soon the next offering of this very unique workshop.  Click here for more information regarding this unique workshop.

Exhibition Selection

Minneapolis Photo Center recently held a call for Landscape Exhibition images and an image of mine from Duluth Harbor (seen above) was selected to be part of the exhibition.  A total of 70 images were chosen from over 2,400 submissions.  The exhibition opening night and reception is April 23rd and the following link provides a pdf of all the exhibitors and their images:  Minneapolis Photo Center’s website.

Also posted in Landscapes | 5 Comments

Honorable Mention from Lensbaby!

nathan1Lensbaby today announced the 12 winners in their recent photo contest.  The 12 winners, selected from over 2000 submissions world-wide, will be published in an upcoming book.  While I didn’t make the final 12, I did receive Honorable Mention for my image of Nathan Pino, a pianist I photographed on Venice Beach exactly a year ago to the day.  You can view the winners, honorable mentions, and all submissions here.

Also posted in People | 8 Comments

Great Comparison of Ring Lights on Strobist

Strobist is running a two part series comparing the Ray Flash v. Orbis v. AB 800 Ring Flash

You can find that series here.

I think there are a couple of important points to draw out:

1) Quality of Light is subjective;

2) The Ray Flash and Orbis are used on a speedlight, but can be mixed with studio strobes on or off camera.  I’ve tested the Ray flash with my Canon 580EX II with excellent results;

3) They are great for both fill and key light applications.

gb1 gb2

These images were test shots mixing my Ray Flash and 580EX II on-camera with AB 400/800 strobes.  I’m very pleased with results and the Ray Flash is a lot of bang for the buck.

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(V) Canon Announces new 1D Mark IV WOW!

Key Features of Mark IV:EOS-1D_Mark_IV_w200_tcm13-686042

for full details click here

1. 1080i HD Video  Holy Cow! Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Vincent Laforet received a prototype of the Mark IV and created the following short film.  Holy Cow!

2. 10 Frames a second

3. 1.3x APS-H Sensor

4. Standard ISO range of 100 – 12,800 expandable to 102,400!  Holy Cow!

5. 3″ LCD with Live View Mode

6. List Price $4,999  See full specs here1d_markiv_586x225

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How a Digital Camera Works: Geeks Only

illgenFallsI’m an enginenerd by training, photographer by choice and am constantly amazed by these digital cameras.  Naturally, I started to wonder how these little camera/computers worked and set about to do some digging.  I thought perhaps a few of you would be interested in what I found.  Here are just a few links from my research:

Inside the Nobel Prize: How a CCD Works

Scientific Curiosity: How does a Digital Camera Work?

For the seriously geeky, these two Wikipedia posts:

Charged-Coupled Device

Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS)

One of the hallmarks of film and digital photography is NOISE, or graininess of the image.  Here are a couple of explanations of image noise in digital cameras:

What Is Noise?

From one of my favorite sites: – Digital Camera Noise Part 1 & 2

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(V)Are You Creative? Hopefully You Answer NO –

krjIf you answered no, you’re probably right.  At least according to Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love.  In this TED episode she discusses the creative process.  She argues that we ARE NOT creative, but rather that we HAVE creativity.  This topic always takes me back to two different stories revealing the exact same human fear.  One involved a student of mine who decided she couldn’t have her own business as a dog kennel owner because it wasn’t creative enough.  Then I had a would-be photography workshop participant back out because she feared having her images critiqued.  I told myself these same “I’m not good enough or creative enough” stories in pursuit of my own career aspirations, including a photography business.  I was proven wrong every time.  This talk is timely because  I feel now, more than I can ever remember, we live in a culture of conformity, false sense of accomplishment and a need to be right all the time.  A culture with little tolerance for mistakes.  A culture that is moving in the direction of stifling creativity, initiative and innovation, not nurturing these qualities.  I sincerely hope I’m wrong, but that’s what I observe.

This is an amazing talk on the process of creativity and will hopefully inspire all of us to take more chances, to experiment with our creativity without fear of rejection or failure.  Please share this post in Facebook or Twitter.

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Print on Demand (POD): Comparison of Services

cocoI’ve been looking at doing a book and many of us have needed this type of service for our wedding and high school senior portrait work.  As a commercial photographer, I’m always looking for more cost effective and unique ways to distribute my portfolio in print.  Therefore, I want to provide you some information I’ve come across in my search for a good publishing process.  It would be great to gather a variety of opinions, so PLEASE SHARE THIS POST in Facebook or Twitter.  THANK YOU.

The first link came to me via my good friend Travis.

I’ve personally used MagCloud, Apple and White House Custom Color, all in the survey.  I’m extremely pleased with both MagCloud and WHCC for quality and turnaround time.  I used Apple 18 months ago and the quality wasn’t nearly good enough to present professional or fine art work.  It may have improved since then.  Be sure to read through the comments as well.  Lots of interesting information there.

Here’s another link that introduces a few additional issues regarding ISBN and Amazon, if you really want to publish a book:

This third link directly compares Adorama, Lulu and Blurb and the author includes some short videos where he reviews the product he received.

If you’ve had a personal experience with any of these companies, PLEASE leave a comment about them for others to read.

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Wedding Photographer: What You Should Look For

wedPostI got out of the wedding photography business, but I still get a lot of questions from folks about who to hire.  I found this great synopsis on the typical styles of wedding photographers and what you should consider in hiring one, Hiring a Wedding Photographer.  One issue not brought up in the article is the photographer’s business model.  Additional questions you should be asking include:

1) How long will the photographer shoot?

2) Do I get all the digital images? Some? None?

3) Who owns the license to the images?

4) Must you buy prints through the photographer?

5) Do you get more than 1 photographer for the price?  Is there an assistant?

Of course, if after the wedding you’re totally dissatisfied with the photographs you can always sue.  There is precedent for this!

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