right rock images: Blog http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog en-us (C) right rock images rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) Sun, 16 Oct 2016 21:40:00 GMT Sun, 16 Oct 2016 21:40:00 GMT http://www.rightrockimages.com/img/s/v-5/u269014664-o276877344-50.jpg right rock images: Blog http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog 120 80 Photography Tip: Shooting Through http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/10/photography-method-shooting-through

“What is man without the beasts? For if all the beasts were gone, man would die of a great loneliness of the spirit.”

~ Chief Seattle (1786 – 1866), Chief of Suquamish and Duwamish Tribes

Everyone loves animal photos, but few people have the time and resources to shoot wildlife in their natural habitat.  I recently made a trip to my local zoo, where I used a technique called “shooting through” to photograph the magnificent leopard you see above.

In a zoo, sometimes it is possible to view and photograph animals with no barriers between you and them.  In other cases, you must deal with a metal fence or other obstructions.  In the case of this leopard, there was metal grid fence between my camera and this beautiful animal.  Using the “shooting through” method I aimed my lens at him right through the fence, ignoring the fence completely, as if it were not there.  I did not attempt to shoot through one of the spaces between the fence wires.  I simply focused on the leopard, which I was able to do with autofocus, but if it had been necessary, I could have used manual focus.  With the focus on the leopard, the wires simply disappear.  They are closer to the camera, not on the same focal plane as the leopard, so the camera does not focus on them. Since the fence wires were relatively thin and dark, you do not see them in the image with normal viewing.   If you magnify the image to 200% or so, you can see some faint rippling of the image where the wires would be, but they are not detectable in normal viewing.

In some situations, you may shoot through something which ends up blurry, but still visible in your image.  This is not necessarily a bad thing, and in fact may be a deliberate artistic choice.  An example would be shooting in a field of flowers.  You may choose to shoot through foreground flowers, focusing on more distant flowers beyond them.  The foreground flowers will be indistinct patches of color, which could be quite effective in making viewers feel like they are right there among the flowers, enhancing the viewer experience.

The shooting through method works best if 1) there’s a fair amount of distance separating the foreground object you’re shooting through and your main subject, or 2) you use a shallow depth of field (large aperture) if the foreground object and your main subject are closer together.  The idea is to either have actual separation (by physical placement) or to create separation (by using the large aperture) so the camera can focus on the main subject and not on the foreground object you’re shooting through.  For the leopard photo above, I used a 100 mm lens at f/4.5.  The lens was very close to the fence, and the leopard was about 8 feet beyond the fence.  In this case there was actual physical separation, so I probably could have used a smaller aperture, but the light was a bit low, so I used the larger aperture, along with ISO 400, in order to get more light, while still keeping a fairly fast shutter speed.  The larger aperture was sufficient to get the leopard’s face, upper body, and front paws in focus, while blurring the surrounding rocks and his back legs. (Since the intention was a portrait, I don’t mind his back legs being slightly blurred, though some may disagree.)

All in all, I accomplished the goal of shooting a nice animal portrait without an expensive trip, while using the shooting through method to eliminate the fence barrier.  I hope you’ve found this tip helpful.  I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment below.  As always, I wish you happy shooting, and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) animal beast leopard photography portrait shooting through zoo http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/10/photography-method-shooting-through Mon, 03 Oct 2016 02:18:03 GMT
Sky Abstractions http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/8/sky-abstractions

Readers, my recently embraced sky awareness (see my May 2016 blog post) has become a budding infatuation.  It’s become my habit, when time and conditions permit, to grab my camera and go check out the sky.  There’s usually something interesting to see, and since the sky is always above, no travel is required!

Artistically, I enjoy the sweeping beauty of a full-sky cloudscape, but I also like to zoom in and frame an abstract image from a smaller piece of the scene.  A colorful sunset sky can be stunning, but a simple blue sky with white clouds can also be quite lovely, and the endless variety is fascinating.  Today I have a couple of blue sky abstract images for you.

For the image above, what struck my eye was the pattern of the wispy white clouds, and the added “bonus” of the jet contrail across the scene.   My image processing included basic adjustments, such as brightness and contrast.  I also applied the Topaz ReStyle “Pastel Flight” filter, which softened and enhanced the overall look and feel of the image, without significantly altering it.

Below is an image I captured on a bright day with a very blue sky full of small clouds that almost looked like they could be floating in water.  I chose a vertical orientation because, to my eye, it adds to the buoyant look of the clouds.  Image processing was very minimal: minor sharpening, vibrance, and brightness/contrast.

One thing to remember when shooting a bright sky is that the resulting unprocessed images will likely be darker than the sky actually was.  This is because the camera wants to moderate or “gray down” a bright image.  To deal with this, you can set a positive exposure compensation before you shoot.  This tells the camera to expose a bit brighter than it would otherwise, and you’ll get an image that is closer to the actual brightness of the scene.  Alternatively, you can increase the exposure in post processing using Lightroom, Photoshop, or other image editing software.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these images.  Please feel free to leave a comment and as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) abstract blue bouyant cloud clouds cloudscape exposure compensation photography sky wispy http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/8/sky-abstractions Tue, 02 Aug 2016 04:54:03 GMT
Sunset Passage http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/7/sunset-passage

According to photographer Annie Leibovitz, “One doesn’t stop seeing.  One doesn’t stop framing. It doesn’t turn off and on.  It’s on all the time”.  I find this to be true; I am almost always framing images in my mind, including the day I shot the image above.  On that day, I had a few images hanging in a group show in a small gallery, and had strolled outside to take a break from the reception.  The light of the late day sun and the shadows in the corridor caught my eye.  My phone was the only camera I had with me, so I used it to capture the image.  I liked the result, and I thought I would share my musings on why I think it works.

Use of perspective

As it turns out, the phone was appropriate for this image, as the lens is relatively wide angle. (It shows up as 4mm in EXIF data, but considering the crop factor of the small sensor, the effective focal length is moderately wide … not the super-wide that 4mm would indicate).  So what did this lens do for the image?  A wide angle lens, positioned close to a foreground object (in this case, the wall) enhances linear perspective, thus seeming to lengthen the corridor.  (For another discussion of perspective see my August 2014 blog post, “Creative Use of Perspective”.)  The slightly exaggerated linear perspective creates a senses of depth, which tends to draw the viewer into the image.

Lines, visual flow, and graphic tension

The lines of the corridor walls, ceiling, and floor lead us to the opening at the end on the left side of the image.  There we find two elements of interest:  the low sun, with flare, and the tree with its sinuous branches.  The shadows cast on the wall by the tree branches pull our eye back to the right side of the image, completing our visual sweep.  It’s also worth noting that the lines of the tree and its shadow flow in opposite directions, thus creating the graphic element of dynamic tension, which keeps our eye moving as well.

The beholder’s share

Finally, inclusion of a portion of the perpendicular wall on the right side of the image does a couple of things.  First, it gives the viewer a sense of standing near the wall, thus enhancing the feeling of being in the scene. Second, it shows the viewer that there is a space off to the right, and since that space is darker, creates some mystery as to what may be there.  An alcove?  Another person? The viewer’s involvement in the scene and thinking/wondering about it is what art historian Alois Riegl (1858 - 1905) termed “the beholder’s involvement”.  Art historian Ernst Gombrich (1909 - 2001) later elaborated on this and called it “the beholder’s share”.

Readers, I hope you've enjoyed this discussion. I'd love to hear your thoughts as well, so please feel free to leave a comment.  As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) Alois Riegl Annie Liebovitz Ernst Gombrich art beholder's involvement beholder's share corridor dynamic tension leading lines perspective photography shadows wide angle http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/7/sunset-passage Fri, 01 Jul 2016 05:29:15 GMT
The Art of Pattern Shots http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/6/the-art-of-pattern-shots

“Art is the imposing of a pattern on experience, and our aesthetic enjoyment is recognition of the pattern.”

~ Alfred North Whitehead (1861 -1947), English mathematician and philosopher

Science tells us that our human brains are programmed to look for visual patterns in order to make sense of our world.  Even as newborn babies, we respond to tonal contrasts (which help us locate edges and thus identify objects) and the eyes-nose-mouth pattern of human faces (which aids in our socialization).

Patterns continue to attract and intrigue us throughout life … We respond to repetition of colors, shapes, textures, and objects in a positive way.  A photo which includes a repetition of these and/or other elements, often called a “pattern shot”, is pleasing to our eyes and minds.

The button image above includes a variety of colors and textures, with the pattern created by repetition of circular shapes.  It’s important for every part of a pattern shot to be sharp, so for this close-up shot, the camera was positioned with the sensor plane parallel to the field of buttons, and the aperture was set at f/25.  A tripod was used, to ensure no camera movement that could compromise sharpness.  The pattern is emphasized by the fact that it fills the frame, creating the illusion that it goes on indefinitely (or even infinitely) beyond the frame.

In the building image below, the pattern is created by the parallel and intersecting lines, and the resulting rectangles.  The white boarded-up windows and a few reflections create interest by breaking up the pattern of black windows. This image was shot from a distance looking up at the building, so perspective correction was required (in Photoshop).

I hope you've enjoyed these two examples of pattern shots.  Many fine pattern images can be found on the internet (google pattern + photography) and are quite inspiring to browse.  I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment, and as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!


"Art is the triumph over chaos."

~ John Cheever 1941 - 1982), American novelist and short story writer

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art button buttons circle pattern patterns photography rectangle repetition shapes visual http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/6/the-art-of-pattern-shots Thu, 02 Jun 2016 01:32:18 GMT
Photography and Sky Awareness http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/5/may-2016

“More varied than any landscape was the landscape in the sky, with islands of gold and silver, peninsulas of apricot and rose against a background of many shades of turquoise and azure.”

 ~ Cecil Beaton (1904 – 1980), photographer, painter, and designer


Several years ago, I read someone’s opinion that we would all be happier if we took more notice of the sky.  I thought about that briefly and it made sense.  The notion stuck in my memory somewhere, but I soon dismissed it from consciousness, and went about my busy way as most of us do … only taking note of the sky if it threatens to do something inconvenient to my day.

Recently I have retired from my “main” career, and can now live at a more leisurely pace.  I can stop and not only smell the roses, but practice a general mindfulness and appreciation for the natural world around me.  Time is no longer a demanding master and constant reminder that my to-do list is not done.  The passage of the day is a more gentle flow, and at the end of many days, I spend some quiet time on my patio reading, or just listening to the birds and gazing at the sky.  I find that sky watching does indeed make me happy … and I’m doubly happy to be able to capture some of those moments with my camera.

The images above and below were shot from my backyard at dusk, on days when the sky was especially beautiful.  In the photo above, the clouds were a mix of light and dark, slow and fast moving, and the sky was alive with an amazing rosy glow.  In the photo below, the sky was a symphony of blues and grays, more subtle, but no less lovely for its monochrome palette.

I hope you enjoy the photos and can find some time to look up and enjoy the sky.  I would love to hear from you, so please feel free to comment.  And as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

"The sky is the daily bread of the eyes."

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 - 1882), essayist, lecturer, and poet


rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art clouds cloudscape dusk light photography sky sunset http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/5/may-2016 Mon, 02 May 2016 03:32:58 GMT
Impressions of Spring http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/4/impressions-of-spring

Here in Texas, we love our state flower, the bluebonnet.  Each spring they cover fields, roadsides, highway esplanades, and sometimes even suburban lawns, with beautiful deep blue flowers.  The internet is teeming with images of children, dogs, sunsets, lone oak trees, and longhorn cattle in bluebonnet fields.  Those photos are gorgeous, but I thought I would do something a little different.  My bluebonnet image above is a high-key, soft-focus, impressionistic homage to spring.  I shot the image with a 50mm f/1.8 lens, wide open and pointed into the sun, to get the abundance of light and the very soft background, and I made sure the main subject focus was quite soft.  Afternoon sun lit up the grass, making the yellowish green of new growth even more yellow, so the photo has a nice complementary color scheme of blue and yellow.

The image below is another impression of spring.  In this one, a small stream of water cutting through a field of new grass and tiny yellow wildflowers creates a striped abstract image.  For this one, I did add a bit of diffusion, using Topaz Lens Effects, to heighten the abstract feel.  Again, a wide aperture pointed into the sun ensured lots of light to create the high-key look.

I hope you enjoy these images and wish you a happy spring.  Please feel free to leave a comment; I would love to hear from you.  As always, I wish you happy shooting, and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) abstract bluebonnet flower grass high-key leaves nature photography spring stream wildflower http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/4/impressions-of-spring Fri, 01 Apr 2016 19:10:33 GMT
Daylight to Dusk Transformation http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/3/daylight-to-dusk-transformation

Recently I went for a walk on a beautiful mild February day (as we have here in the southern U.S.) and shot an image of a line of trees at the edge of a field.  The grass was green, the sky was blue, and there was one tree that stood out as the “star” in the line of fairly uniform trees.  The image was pleasant enough, but not terribly interesting (see the original image below).  I decided I would add a bit of drama by transforming the daylight scene to a dusky scene (the image above).

For the first step, I applied the Topaz ReStyle “Smoke Gray Veil” filter, which, as you might guess from the name, softened and grayed down the image.  Next I added the Photoshop Cooling Filter (80) at 10% opacity to add a blue tint.  I also bumped up the contrast a bit, which made the trees and ground a bit darker, and the sky just above the tree line a bit brighter, as if the sun nearing the horizon were adding a slight glow.  I then added just a tad of reddish tint to the ground and tree line by using the Topaz ReStyle “Scarlet and Schist” filter.  For this filter, I used the soft light blend mode at 32% and limited the filter to the ground and tree line only by using a layer mask.

The next part of the transformation was probably the most fun … adding the dusky sunset clouds to the sky. I love cloudscapes, and anytime I see interesting clouds, I try to capture them.  Some of the cloud images stand on their own, and others I keep in a folder for just this purpose … compositing them into other images.  So, first I inserted a sky photo with the darker wispy clouds, using the multiply blend mode at 85%.  Next, I inserted a sunset sky photo with the pink wispy clouds, using the vivid light blend mode at 66%.

The last item I added was the “Difference Maker” texture from Shadowhouse Creations, using the soft light blend mode at 45%.  This texture is basically a subtle brownish overlay that, well, makes a difference, by just giving the image a richer look.  (If you use textures, I urge you to check out Shadowhouse Creations, by Jerry Jones, at shadowhousecreations.blogspot.com.   Jones is a very talented artist who generously provides textures and actions free of charge.  He does welcome donations to keep his website going.)

Finally, a few brightness and contrast tweaks here and there and voila!  The image was complete.

I hope you enjoy the image as much as I enjoyed transforming it.  I would love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave a comment.  As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) Photoshop Topaz ReStyle art blend mode clouds dusk filters light photo photography transform http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/3/daylight-to-dusk-transformation Wed, 02 Mar 2016 05:24:49 GMT
Chiaroscuro ... Descent into Darkness? http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/2/chiaroscuro-descent-into-darkness A very important element in photography is contrast.  In a broad sense, contrast can mean a noticeable difference in many qualities:  texture (smooth/rough), number (many/few), size (large/small), sound (loud/soft), taste (sweet/salty), frequency (often/seldom), etc.  In art, cinematography, and photography, contrast most often refers to tonal contrast, that is, the difference between light and dark.  Chiaroscuro (from the Italian words for light and dark) refers to the use of strong contrast between light and dark which shapes composition and/or models an object by use of the light/dark contrasts. Chiaroscuro has a long history, certainly dating back to the Renaissance, and perhaps to the ancient Greeks and Romans.  While there are several technical definitions of the term and many artistic interpretations, we most often think if it as a predominantly dark composition punctuated by areas of light.  The light/dark interplay defines the composition and mood.

The image above, of a group of red candles, was shot in a darkened room, with the only light provided by the candles.  The image was exposed for the candles, with the rest of the composition allowed to go dark.  The darkness, contrast, and color create a moody and dramatic ambience. 

The image below, of a portion of a single candlestick, was also shot in a darkened room.  The only light is from a small flashlight behind and to the right of the candlestick at about a forty-five degree angle.  The light defines the edge of the candlestick and candle; it “models” the subject with light. (By the way, stopping down to f/22 created the small starbursts. Of course, using f/22 meant a long exposure, and therefore a tripod was a necessity.)

To my eye, the darkness, drama, and mystery of chiaroscuro are very appealing.  What are your thoughts?

Please feel free to leave me a message … I’d love to hear from you!  And as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art candle candlestick chiaroscuro contrast dark light photography http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/2/chiaroscuro-descent-into-darkness Mon, 01 Feb 2016 19:49:25 GMT
Deliberate Photography http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/1/deliberate-photography

Happy New Year, readers!

As the new year dawns, I have much to contemplate.  I have recently retired from my nine-to-five career, and I am taking some time to just “be”, something I have never really done in my entire life.  I have been “cocooning”, being quiet with and in myself in order to know what should come next.  Life’s daily rhythm is no longer prescribed by a job; it is completely up to me to shape as I will.  Before I left my job, I longed for and daydreamed about having time for the things that really matter to me:  home, family, friends, photography, etc.  Now I have that time, and I feel a responsibility to use it well.

A few years ago I decided that the typical action-specific New Year’s resolutions are not for me.  I prefer instead to choose a word or two, a theme if you will, to guide me in a positive direction in all my endeavors.  This year, a word that comes to mind is deliberate, and it applies to my photographic journey as well as other areas of my life.

What does deliberate mean where photography is concerned?  To me it means more care in choosing what to shoot, how to shoot it, how to process images, and what images to share, a sort of photographic mindfulness.  Importantly, I want to make and share images that are meaningful to me … that I find especially interesting, beautiful, or evocative, or that document or express something about my life, musings, and feelings.

And that sort of begs the question that I ponder often … Will images that resonate with me appeal to and resonate with others?  I’ve come to the conclusion that the purpose of my images has to be my own artistic expression, and if my images also appeal to others, that will be wonderful.

So that brings us to the photo above.  Before I retired, I commuted the same route to and from downtown Houston for many (many!) years.  Leaving downtown, I was inevitably caught by the light at a certain intersection every day.  On many occasions, as I sat at the light, I picked up my phone and shot the boxy brown building on the corner. That image came to represent the drab end of the day in a seemingly endless string of working days.  The composition is not the typical, pat, rule-of-thirds composition, and the image is deliberately processed to dull the blue of the sky a bit and to bring in some gritty texture.  If it feels a bit “off”, desolate, and imperfect, even jarring, it’s meant to.

The photo below has a similar intent.  This one, also shot from my car while at a light, portrays a late day cloudy sky over an adjacent overpass.  It is processed to gray and darken the sky, and cropped to portray a sort of latent futility.

These two images are by no means technically perfect, and that is part of the point.  They are captures of real life moments, with real life imperfections.  They are however, deliberately processed, and deliberately chosen for sharing because they are meaningful to me.  I hope that you will find something in them that appeals to you or stimulates thought.

Please feel free to leave a message.  I would love to hear your thoughts, feedback, etc.  And as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art building commute deliberate photography http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2016/1/deliberate-photography Fri, 01 Jan 2016 16:13:27 GMT
Happy Holidays http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/11/happy-holidays

Hello readers!  I’ve been absent for a couple of months, but I am back, and wishing you a wonderful holiday season! 

This image is a pine cone that I shot in my studio (aka my kitchen), converted to black and white in Photoshop CC.  I’ve added a bokeh texture and a grunge border, both from Shadowhouse Creations.  (Check out the goodies on the Shadowhouse blog, by the talented and generous Jerry Jones, at http://shadowhousecreations.blogspot.com/).  I slipped a layer of solid color behind the image to create the red border.  I then added a subtle drop shadow to the image layer to create a bit of depth.  Finally, I added the text in the Papyrus Regular font to wish you Happy Holidays!

The blog will be active again in the New Year, so please join me then!  In the meantime, please feel free to leave a comment about your photography, your art, or whatever is on your mind … I would love to hear from you.

As always, I wish you happy shooting, and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) Christmas Photoshop black and white bokeh border drop shadow greeting happy holidays holiday layers monochrome photography pine pine cone red http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/11/happy-holidays Tue, 01 Dec 2015 04:00:00 GMT
Coming Soon - October 2015 Blog http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/10/coming-soon---october-2015-blog

Please check back soon!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/10/coming-soon---october-2015-blog Fri, 02 Oct 2015 03:52:31 GMT
A Chance Encounter, or I’d Rather Be Lucky Than Good http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/9/a-chance-encounter-or-i-d-rather-be-lucky-than-good

It was New York Yankees Hall of Fame pitcher Vernon Louis “Lefty” Gomez (1908 – 1989) who once said, “I’d rather be lucky than good.”  Lefty, also nicknamed “El Goofo” and “Goofy Gomez”, was known for his baseball diamond antics and his quick wit. And while he was likely joking about preferring to be lucky (and by the way, he was also very very good), I’m sure that he, and most people, wouldn’t turn down a little luck if it came their way ...  I know I wouldn’t!  In fact, luck paid me a visit yesterday …

If you’ve read my blog a few times, you may have picked up on the fact that I have a non-photography-related “day job” and I usually have very little time for shooting (ugh).  Mostly, I have to shoot in small windows of opportunity, which necessarily limits the type of shooting I can do.  Many times I have mused about, and envied, photographers who are able to spend as long as it takes to get a shot that they want.  I imagine dedicated photogs standing/sitting/crouching/hanging for hours, waiting for that (insert name of desired subject) to saunter/run/fly/swim/slither into view and miraculously pause just long enough for the coveted shot.  Sounds glamorous, no?

Anyway, back to my luck yesterday … I was on my patio shooting some wrinkled up cardboard (maybe a story for another time), when a dragonfly landed on a planter right next to me and just sat there.  I approached him with camera in hand, thinking he would just flit away, but to my surprise, he didn’t.  He just sat there.  I shot a few frames from a safe distance, then fully expecting him to fly at any second, I inched closer.  Still he didn’t move.  I went into the house and got my macro lens, expecting him to be gone when I returned, but no, still there.  I shot a bit more then went in the house and got the tripod.  Still he stayed, and let me get much closer to him than I thought possible.  A few times he flitted away momentarily, but returned.  This went on for about fifteen minutes or so, a relative eternity for a dragonfly, since their lives as flying adults only last a few days or weeks.  So just like that, due to a chance encounter, I got my first shots of a dragonfly really up close and personal.  No way I could have planned it … it was just a stroke of luck.  And I’ll take that, any day of the week.

When has luck smiled on you as a photographer?  I’d love to hear about it, so feel free to drop me a line.

As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!


rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art dragonfly luck. photography serendipity http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/9/a-chance-encounter-or-i-d-rather-be-lucky-than-good Tue, 01 Sep 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Pretty Pictures http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/7/coming-soon-august-bog-post-please-check-back-shortly

Dear Readers,

If you've visited my August blog (thank you!), you've probably noticed that, well, it wasn't there in August.  Unfortunately, despite my good intentions, life got in the way of the August blog.  So September has rolled around and the September blog post is up.

So for August, I thought I'd just offer a pretty picture.  I was surprised by these tiny flowers (and I do mean tiny ... they are about the size of my pinky fingernail) on one of my succulent plants.  In addition to the usual processing, I added the Topaz Impression watercolor filter and a bit of texture from Kim Klassen.

Thanks for visiting, hope you enjoy!  And as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art flowers photography pink plant pretty succulent watercolor http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/7/coming-soon-august-bog-post-please-check-back-shortly Sat, 01 Aug 2015 06:00:00 GMT
What Photos Do People Want to See? http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/7/coming-soon-july-2015-blog-post

Today I ask the question … When it comes to photography, what do people want to see?  What do they like to look at?  I actually ponder this question fairly often.  I have been told that I look at and think about the world in a somewhat different way from most people.  As might be expected, that finds its way into my photographic viewpoint.  I shoot what catches my eye, curiosity, and general interest.  Many times I find that my images do not capture the eye, curiosity, and general interest of others!

So I did an oh-so-unscientific analysis of the reaction to my images on a certain website where I have posted a few images.  My analysis is unscientific for a few reasons …  it includes a small number of images (less than thirty), the images have been posted for a short time (less than three months), and the images were posted to be entered in contests (so they are selected for others’ approval,  not solely for mine).  I looked at three statistics for each image:  number of views, number of likes, and number of peer awards.  For each image, I divided these numbers into the number of days the image has been available for viewing, to get the number of views, likes, and awards per day.  I then looked at the top five images in each of the three statistics.

The “winning” image for all three statistics was the image above, a close up of an orange Gerbera daisy.  Why?  Well, in the countless hours I spend admiring other photographers’ images, perusing photography magazines, reading about photography, and looking at photo contest results, I’ve come to a few conclusions.  First, regarding subject matter, people LOVE landscapes and animals.  Everyone seems to enjoy these subjects the most.  People are quite popular subjects as well. Viewers also seem to like flowers, especially if they are presented in an artistic and impactful way.  Regarding graphic elements, people seem especially fond of bold vivid color, more so than, for example, pattern.

Does this result surprise me?  I find it interesting, maybe useful, but I can’t say that I am really surprised.  Will it change my photographic habits?  Not really.  I will still shoot what interests and pleases me.  I don’t expect that my favorites of my own images will necessarily be favorites among viewers (in fact, I have fairly consistently found that they are not).  And that’s the beauty of art … It’s a personal experience for both the creator and the viewer, with expression, enrichment, and learning opportunities for all.

What are your thoughts about your art and others’ perception of your art?  I would love to hear your comments/musings/experiences, so please feel free to leave me a message.

As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art color flower matter photography subject http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/7/coming-soon-july-2015-blog-post Sat, 04 Jul 2015 19:09:59 GMT
In Praise of Photography Contests http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/6/in-praise-of-photography-contests


I like photography contests!  Yes, art is highly subjective, and some folks don’t like the idea of art as a competition, but in my opinion, contests serve some valuable purposes.  In this post, I’ll discuss some benefits we can reap from contests (and note that you don’t even have to enter to gain some of these benefits).  Read on …

Inspiration – I love to feast my eyes on the work of award winning photographers.  I find it both relaxing and inspiring to browse winning photos and just soak in the beauty (drama, emotion, message, etc.) that can be produced with vision and a camera.  When I am feeling frustrated or blocked, it gives me renewed energy to refocus and continue my efforts to improve my own work.

Awareness/Improvement – Putting our work out there in a contest can help us gauge our own work.  How is it perceived by others?  Are we improving?  Granted, contest judging varies widely, making contests sometimes feel pretty much like a crapshoot, but if you enter them consistently over time, you will begin to get a feel for how your images stack up against others.  I have found it quite instructive to study winning images, try to analyze what made them winning images, and consider how they differ from my images.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not trying to copy or replicate another photographer’s images (I gotta be me!), but that analysis and resulting knowledge becomes another tool for improvement.

Feedback – Contests can be a way to get professional, or at least knowledgeable, feedback on your own and other images.  The International Garden Photographer of the Year (www.igpoty.com) contest offers personal feedback on your images upon request (which takes a while to get, but free feedback from professionals … I’ll take it).  When Imaging Resource (www.imaging-resource.com) announces the monthly winners of their Photo of the Day contest, they publish an article on their website detailing why they chose the winning images.  Other contests do the same, and reading the critiques can be quite instructive.  In contests that include voting (for example, if there is a “people’s choice” award), the voting reveals, well, what people like.  Good to know!

Exposure – Let’s not forget exposure and promotion.  Winning a contest can lead to extremely valuable exposure in the form of features on popular websites, publication in photography magazines, and hanging in photography exhibits.  But just participating can get you exposure too, particularly in online contests, where all the entrants may be displayed.

Prizes – Of course no discussion of contests would be complete without mentioning the prizes!  In addition to exposure, winners can get cash, gift cards, photography equipment, and more!  What’s not to like about that?

Enjoyment – Lastly, I find contests fun.  I enjoy working on and choosing my images to submit, and I enjoy the anticipation of the results.  Of course, if I do well, I enjoy that even more!  And if I don’t do well, that’s okay too, because I’ve learned from the process.


The image above has been entered in a few contests.  It has been a winner in one (Imaging Resource, May 2014), and has gone absolutely nowhere in others.  Definitely a learning experience, and food for thought!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about contests, art, photography, whatever!  Feel free to drop me a line, and as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art contest echeveria exposure feedback inspiration photography photography contests http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/6/in-praise-of-photography-contests Mon, 01 Jun 2015 06:00:00 GMT
The Power of Persistence http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/5/the-power-of-perseverence "Metered" by Peggy Jones Pfister


This month I have good news to share.  There is a particular monthly online photography contest that I have entered every month for the last four years.  This contest, at BetterPhoto.com, has several categories, and some of my images have placed second in their category, but never first.  Today I am excited to say that the image above won first place in its category.  That’s right … forty-eight straight months of entering, and on my forty-ninth try(!) my image was a first place winner in the “Man-Made” category.  Woo-hoo!!!  (Here’s a link to the contest winners page if you’d like to take a peek:  http://www.betterphoto.com/contest/winners/1503.asp )

Consider this quote from celebrated science fiction author Octavia E. Butler (1947 – 2006):  “You don’t start out writing good stuff.  You start out writing crap and thinking it’s good stuff, and then gradually you get better at it.  That’s why I say one of the most valuable traits is persistence.”

Isn’t the same true of photography?  Don’t we all start out shooting crap and thinking it’s good stuff and then gradually get better at it?  Of course the improvement doesn’t happen with the passage of time alone; hours of study and practice must be devoted to the goal of becoming a better photographer (or a better anything, for that matter).  Most importantly, we must persist.  We may go through periods of being very dissatisfied with our work, getting discouraged, and wanting to give up.  I say that dissatisfaction is a good thing … it just means that our eye and our vision are developing, perhaps more quickly than our technique, and if we press on, our technique will catch up and we will ultimately be better photographers and artists.

With that, I’m off to persist in my quest for improvement!  I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to drop me a line.  As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) art persistence photography photography contests power of persistence http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/5/the-power-of-perseverence Fri, 01 May 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Five Quick Tips to Improve Your Photography Today http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/3/five-quick-tips-to-improve-your-photography-today SunnyFor the image above, I employed Quick Tips 2 (uncluttered background), 3 (shot in morning light), 4 (off-center placement), and 5 (getting in close).


Today I thought I'd share five quick tips that will improve your photography immediately.  These are things you can do right now, as you are shooting, that will produce better photos right out of the camera.  Beginners, you will find these tips very helpful, and for you not-so-beginners, it never hurts to remind ourselves of some basics.

Quick Tip 1:  Maybe you've heard this many times before, but if there is a horizon in your photo, you must get it straight (level).  This awareness may be all you need, and you may be able to "eyeball" it and get your horizon straight.  But if you need a little more help, use your camera's grid lines on the display or through the viewfinder.  You should be able to turn them on in one of your menu settings.  (Even my 15-year-old point-and-shoot camera has grid lines, so your current camera probably has them too.)  Your camera may also have a level icon you can see through the lens, or you can even get a bubble level to physically mount on the camera.  (If all else fails, you can always straighten your photo with your editing software, but today's tip are about trying to get it right as you shoot.)

Quick Tip 2:  Watch out for background distractions.  I think most of us know to avoid trees or light poles growing out of our subject's head, but there are other, more subtle distractions to be avoided.  These are easy to miss, and include stray objects in the frame, out of focus objects in the foreground, bright spots in otherwise dark areas (such as foliage), etc.  Train yourself to look critically at the scene and be sure to check every area in the frame, including the edges and corners, before you snap.

Quick Tip 3:  Pay attention to light.  The bright harsh light of midday will make people squint, will wash out colors, and cast hard, unattractive shadows.  If you must shoot in midday light, try to place your subjects in shadow, for example, you may have your human subjects stand in the shade of a tree or under a building overhang.  For smaller subjects such as flowers, you may be able to cast your own shadow on them.  For "good" light, try shooting in the indirect rosy light of morning or the blueish light near sunset.  You may be surprised at how much difference you will see in your images.

Quick Tip 4:  Resist the tendency to place the main subject dead center in the frame.  You may have heard of the "rule of thirds" where you imagine intersecting lines that divide the frame into thirds horizontally and vertically.  Placing your main subject at or near one of the intersections will make your photo more visually dynamic.  When you set your grid lines (see Quick Tip 1), your camera may give you the option to set a rule of thirds grid.

Quick Tip 5:  Get closer.  For more visual impact, get in closer to your subject.  It's a common tendency to leave too much empty space in the frame, making the main subject seem less important.  You will need some '"breathing" room around the edges for most subjects, but for some, you can even fill the frame completely.

For the image above, I employed Quick Tips 2 (uncluttered background), 3 (soft morning light), 4 (off-center placement), and 5 (getting in close).

Of course these tips are guidelines, and every rule is meant to be broken.  But if you are a beginner, or are having trouble with an image, give these tips a try, and I think you will be happy with the improvement you see.

Please feel free to leave comments, and as always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) improve your photography photography quick photography tips http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/3/five-quick-tips-to-improve-your-photography-today Wed, 01 Apr 2015 06:00:00 GMT
Monochrome : Not Just Black & White http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/2/monochrome-not-just-black-white


When we think of monochrome, probably most people think of black and white.  But monochrome also means … in fact, it literally means … one color (from the Greek monokhromatos: mono, meaning one + khromatos or khroma, meaning color).

I love black and white, and I love presenting plants in black and white (shameless self-promotion alert … see my July 2014 blog post, Unexpected Beauty:  Flowers and Plants in Black & White).  Recently, though, I’ve been experimenting with monochrome in the “one color” sense.

To get a monochromatic image, you could try to stage a scene to shoot in one color, for example, a blue object against a blue background.  This would be tricky, though, because light has color.  Perhaps it could be done under the right conditions, with the right equipment, lighting, and definitely a very skilled and determined photographer.  Maybe an experiment for another day …

I used two simple methods to produce the images above and below.  Both started out with color photos, which I first converted to black and white.  By the way, you should always shoot color even when your goal is a black and white or monochromatic photo, as the color data allows you to process your image to get different looks in black and white … sounds like a good topic for a future post, no?

Anyway, I converted my images to black and white, then, for the echeveria image above, I used a powder blue photo tint, in the overlay blend mode at 100%.  I warmed up the hue of the tint just a bit, and made my usual photo adjustments (contrast, etc.).  The photo tint is from Shadowhouse Creations, and if you’re not familiar with Shadowhouse Creations, you really must check it out. The creator, Jerry Jones, is extremely talented, and extremely generous, as Shadowhouse is a free resource.

For the grass image below, again, I converted it to black and white, but this time, I inserted a solid color layer, using the color burn blend mode at 55%.  So while a purple image of grass in sidewalk cracks may not be for everyone, you get the idea, right?

Whatever your subject, the monochrome really makes the image all about the structure and texture of the subject, while giving our eyes some color to feast upon as well.  The color chosen can also lend to the mood of the photo: ethereal, soothing, vibrant, jarring, melancholy, etc.

I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please feel free to leave me a message.  As always, I wish you happy shooting, and a satisfying photographic journey!

Trivia p.s. … What three syllable word rhymes with monochrome?


rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) black and white color monochrome photography tint http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/2/monochrome-not-just-black-white Sun, 01 Mar 2015 07:00:00 GMT
Why I'm an Image Hoader http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/2/why-im-an-image-hoader

I love to shoot!  I take many many images, partly because I love to shoot and partly (okay, maybe mostly) because it takes me many images to get the shot the way I want it to look.  So I end up with an ongoing internal struggle between my desire to save every image and my desire to delete delete delete.  My post today is in defense of hoarding those images … even the ones we think we don’t like or can’t use.

Have you ever “gone shopping” in your own closet?  On a day when you have nothing appropriate to wear to some event, or you’re just bored with your “go-to” clothes, do you ever go to your closet and take a fresh look at those things you haven’t worn recently?  I do, and I do the same think with my “old” images that I have never processed, or have edited a bit but could never quite get happy with them.

The passage of time works wonders for the usability of some of my images.  Of course, the images haven’t changed since I shot them, but I have.  Sometimes I’ve gained a new skill or learned a technique that helps me solve a problem with the image.  Sometimes I may have gotten new software that makes the problem solving easier, so that now I can process the image in a few minutes rather than an hour or more. 

But there’s also a more subtle change that time brings … emotional distance.  Many times when I review my images immediately after shooting, I can’t see them objectively because the experience of shooting the image still lingers … memories of the day, the weather, the trip, my companion(s), etc.  Or maybe the image on the SD card doesn’t live up my memory of the “real” scene or subject, or what I hoped to capture, or something else I was trying to accomplish.

For me, often the passage of time will remove whatever the original impediment was, and I can later “go shopping” in my archives and find images that, on later and maybe more objective evaluation, I find usable.  I sometimes even wonder why I passed on the image the first time ... what a pleasant surprise!

The images above and below are ones that I captured quite some time ago, and passed on during my first review.  I always liked the graphic elements of the images, but at the time I was in a “no cropping” mode, concentrating on learning how to frame images properly in camera and not rely on cropping for a good composition.  The images had a few distractions around the edges, and didn’t live up to the memory of the scene in my head, so I rejected them.  Like many rules that we learn and practice, and later give ourselves permission to relax, I’ve now greatly improved them with a bit of judicious cropping.   And time has removed the “perfect” image in my head, so I’ve ended up happy that I didn't delete them.

How do you find balance between keeping and deleting?  Do you “shop” your archives, and are you ever surprised by what you find?  Does time change your view of your images?  I’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to leave a message.

As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) photography http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/2/why-im-an-image-hoader Sun, 01 Feb 2015 06:10:29 GMT
Fun with Bokeh http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/1/fun-with-bokeh

I have to admit that as a photographer, I have several personalities. Part of me wants to document and present the real world as it appears, part of me wants to interpret it in contemplative or dreamy ways, and part of me wants to leave the real world behind entirely and just dabble in graphic fun. Lately I have been particularly interested in capturing light and playing with it in a fun graphic way.

This holiday season I experimented with abstract photos of strings of holiday lights, and you’ll find one of those images at the end of this post.  Today being New Year’s Day, I was inspired to try something new (at least to me) and add another element to my abstract lights.  A while back I had read about creating a DIY bokeh filter out of black card stock, and today I gave it a shot. The bokeh in the photo takes on the shape of the opening of the bokeh filter … stars, hearts, birds, etc. … even words.  You can find lots of instructions for making your own bokeh filters by searching on the term “DIY bokeh” (or something similar) and you’ll also find images shot using various shapes of bokeh filters.

So today I got out my black card stock, made a paper “cap” or filter for my 100 mm macro lens, and cut a little heart-shaped hole in the center of it.  I attached it to my lens with a rubber band (very high tech!), and set out to have some bokeh fun.  Rather than using my filter to shape bokeh in the background of an image, I decided to make the bokeh the star of the image.  I once again shot a string of holiday lights, in a semi-darkened room, on a polished wood floor.  I set the aperture to f/2.8 (a wide aperture is necessary to create the bokeh), and used -1.0 exposure compensation because I wanted the background to be as dark as possible.

The result is the fun image above featuring cheery little hearts and their reflections on the floor below them … admittedly, a bit of photographic of fluff, and maybe even a bit cheesy, but I definitely had fun making it.  And shouldn’t our photographic journey include a healthy dose of fun?  I say yes!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about creative use of bokeh, DIY photography hacks, or whatever is on your mind, so please feel free to leave a comment.  As always, I wish you happy shooting and a satisfying photographic journey!

rightrockimages@gmail.com (right rock images) DIY bokeh colorful colors filter fun graphic light photography http://www.rightrockimages.com/blog/2015/1/fun-with-bokeh Fri, 02 Jan 2015 02:34:26 GMT