Old Cars Show in Mornington


Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition
A couple of weeks ago Ira and I visited a collectible cars show at the Mornington’s racecourse. There were lots of beautiful old cars and we had lots of fun.There were also quite a few photographers taking shots of these beauties. But from my photographic perspective, I didn’t want to simply photograph the cars as I am sure there are already many photos of each model that was showcased there.
So instead I tried to look at the event not as “this is a car show, so I am going to photograph cars” but more as “this is a social event featuring nice cars, so there will be people interacting with them, and I want to capture this interaction”. And even when I photographed only the cars I tried to convey how I see them. For example when shooting the b&w Jaguar in the photo above I tried to show the “facial expression” of that car which was kind of “right in your face” 🙂 Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

We spent about one and a half hours at the show, and just when I thought that I’m done photographing, the car owners began starting up their cars and drive away – it was the end of that day. During the show the cars were standing unattended, while their owners were sitting somewhere in the shadow chatting and drinking coffee, so now it was a great opportunity for me to capture the cars together with their owners, and I tried to make the most of it.

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

 Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition


From the technical side the biggest problem was the harsh sunlight, which created deep shadows and sharp transitions from light to shadow, so it was difficult to capture both the car and its surroundings and the driver sitting inside the car in the shadow. My solution to that problem was to shoot in RAW and slightly overexpose my photographs. This way in post processing I could lighten up the shadows and darken the highlights (the RAW format gives you a bit of freedom in correcting your exposure).


Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition


Hope you enjoyed the photos, and as always – you’re welcome to leave your “creative responses in the comment section below” (© Equals Three) 🙂

Mornington Racecourse Old Cars Exhibition

Nepal In Photographs – Part 2 (Portraits)

This is my second post, in which I write about my photographic experience in Nepal. You can read the first part here. While in the first part I showed you Nepali landscapes, now I’d like to show a few portraits of Nepali people.

Interestingly in some cases people would not let me to take their photographs at first. In that case I would nod in agreement (like, hey I won’t take your photo if you don’t want me to) , point my camera at other subjects, and take a few photos here and there. This would get them interested. Then I would approach them and show them the photos I just made on the back screen. Next thing you know they are posing in front of the camera and running back to me to see the picture. I wished I had a portable printer with me so I could print out and give them their photos.

The photo below was taken on Helambu trek. We were passing a settlement in the hills of Kathmandu valley and made a short break in a nice spot overlooking rice terraces. These women were passing by, and seeing us smoke asked for a cigarette. In return we asked to take their photos 🙂

Hardworking Nepali Women

1/200sec at f3.5, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

One of the settlements on Helambu trek is Golphu Banyang. It has only one main “street” and not many tourists are staying there overnight, trying to reach the next village of Khutumsang. But it so happened that we did stay there, and I had the whole evening to photograph local kids. Once I showed them a photo on my camera they wouldn’t stop posing, only downside being late time of the day and, as a result, very dim light.

Kids Are Always Kids

1/500sec at f2.8, 100mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below was also made at Golphu Banyang on the following morning when we were leaving the village. The evening before I saw this old man in the same pose, doing the same thing, but it was too dark to make a good photo. In the morning though, there was this beautiful ray of light, lighting perfectly his face and hand. The result you can see below.

Working Man

1/160sec at  f3.2, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

On our way to Gosainkund Pass we stopped at one of the two lodges in Phedi. The lodge was run by a Sherpa couple. While woman was preparing our dinner, we were chatting to the man. Well at least we tried. Even though he seemed to be speaking English fluently, I realized that we hardly understand each other. In any case the conversation turned out to be very interesting and we learned a lot about local animals… or at least we think we did 🙂

I took the following shot of this man in the lodge’s dining room in very poor light, hence the f1.8 and 1/30sec. This is one of several shots I made trying to get his eyes to be sharp, which was difficult with f1.8 and his constant movement.

Also Maybe Yak?

1/30sec at f1.8, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

Continuing from Phedi up to the Gosainkund Pass we reached a lonely lodge standing in a beautiful view of the surrounding mountains above and the valley below. Ram Sherpa, the owner of the lodge kindly agreed to be photographed. Ram was fixing holes made by some rodents in his rice bags when we reached his lodge. I liked the window lighting on him, which created definitive shadows on his face.

Ram Sherpa

1/200 at  f3.2, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The man below is a Tibetan refugee living now in Nepal, in a village named Melamchi Gyang. He has a Dalai Lama badge on his hat, and he runs a small tourist lodge in the village. He asked me to take his picture and said I should bring him the photo when I come visit again… I wonder if there are any postal services to this village.

Refugee from Tibet

1/100sec at f8, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

In one of our final days in Nepal we went to an ancient city of Bhaktapur. It is about 30 minutes drive from the touristy Thamel, and it well worth a visit! One of my future posts on Nepal will probably consist solely of Bhaktapur’s photos. Bhaktapur is the third largest city in Kathmandu valley, and was once the capital of Nepal during the great Malla Kingdom until the second half of the 15th century. It is also listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO for its rich culture, temples, and wood, metal and stone artwork ((C) Wikipedia).

In addition to all the heritage sites, there are many shops for tourists. Walking around I saw a large Mandala shop and a woman drawing Mandalas for sale right there. If you saw mandalas you know that it is a very laborious task, which requires concentration and devotion. And look, she also holds the canvas by herself!

Nepali Woman Drawing Mandala

1/500 at f4.5, 20mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

All in all I can say that people in Nepal are open and friendly to tourists, which doesn’t deny them to try and make as much money as they can from them.

As always your comments are highly appreciated!



Nepal In Photographs Part 1

As I promised, in the next posts I will write about my photographic experience in Nepal. To get everyone up to date – recently I took a rather long vacation of almost one month and went with my life partner Ira and one good friend to a trekking trip in Nepal. As always my camera was with me, but since we didn’t hire a porter (or a guide) I couldn’t take just any photo equipment that I wanted.

I was facing a hard decision – which lenses can I take with me and not add too much weight to my already heavy backpack? And here’s the list of the photo equipment that I took:

  • Canon 40D body. This wasn’t really a choice since this is the my only DSLR.
  • Canon EF-S 10-22mm
  • Canon EF 100mm f2.8 macro
  • Sigma 28mm f1.8
  • 4 Spare batteries, 2 circular polarizers (different diameters), lightweight SLIK tripod

Let me explain my choice of lenses. Even though I have two Canon L-series lenses (70-200 f4 and 24-70 f2.8) I didn’t take them with me for one simple reason – they weigh too much. Instead I decided to go mostly with prime lenses, which are much smaller and lighter but still produce very good quality photographs even though they are not from L-series. Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens is known for its superb quality, and after shooting with Sigma 28mm f1.8 for a while I saw that it is also a very good lens though it has some minor issues with lens flare. In addition I took the Canon EF-S 10-22mm, which is known for its good quality-to-price ratio. In this case I didn’t have much of a choice since it is the only wide angle lens I have, and you can’t go trekking in Himalayas without a wide angle lens, can you?

The only thing I could’ve taken less of were the batteries. I found out that for a nine day trek I only need two batteries. But I must say that I didn’t use the live view, which is known for its ability to drain power quickly.

Our first trek was the famous Annapurna Base Camp (ABC) trek. In order to get to its beginning, we had to fly from Kathmandu to Pokhara (second largest city in Nepal) and then take taxi (~1h drive) to Phedi. Phedi is a small village, in which ABC trek starts with a long climb via stone stairs.

Before setting off to the ABC trek we had a rest day in Pokhara. One of the main attractions of this town is Pokhara Lake. For 300 Nepalese rupees you can take one of the boats below for a 1-hour sail. Add 50 more rupees and you’ll also get a boats-man.

1/60sec at f5.6, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

The next photo happened almost by accident. It was raining all morning that day, and we got completely wet, walking carefully not to slip on wet rocks. The heavy backpacks made it that much harder to keep balance, and we seldom shifted our eyes from the ground. It was a hard climb, and while we were getting near its ending, the skies suddenly cleared, and then we reached this house. I saw the mountain and the dog, which was laying calmly. My hand instinctively reached for the camera, suddenly a man appeared from the house adding final touch to this photo.

1/200sec at f9, 28mm | Click on the photo to enlarge.

On our ABC trek, as a general rule the weather was at its best early in the morning, 5 – 6am, sometimes until 8, then gradually clouds came in and covered everything. And then again weather would improve at about 4 – 5pm. Of course it was only usually like that, and different variations were possible, but our most certain bet would be to get up as early as we could. If we wanted to have clear view of the peaks that is. And as you can imagine – I really, and I mean REALLY wanted to see the peaks!

The next shot was taken early in the morning and the mountain peak that you can see on the right called “Fish Tail”. Locals call it Machapuchare, and revere it as very sacred to the god Shiva. This makes Fish Tail forbidden for climbing.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Unfortunately, good colorful sunsets were rare because at sunset time the skies were usually covered with clouds, and the next photo is one of the very few I made during sunset time. But that particular sunset was marvelous! The orange colors changed hues constantly, and I made a dozen photos trying to capture them. I only wish there would be slightly less clouds so that more of the snowed mountains were visible.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

While two photos above were taken looking up at the mountain peaks, they are not the only attraction in Himalayas. When you are at high altitude, looking down can take your breath away as easily as looking up. The next photo was taken in the morning looking down on the “small” hills of Annapurna National Park. Some of these hills are higher than the highest  mountains in Europe (let alone Australia), but they still look tiny in this vast landscape.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is it for my first post in the Nepali series, and I hope you enjoyed it.

Let me know what you think, and what photographs and information would you like to see in my next posts on Nepal. This is what the comments are for!


Interview With Yan Zhang

I first saw Yan Zhang’s photos on 1x.com and I loved them. Then I followed the link to his own website. Needless to say – I wasn’t disappointed. Yan is a very talented and passionate nature photographer. Luckily for me and you, my readers, he kindly agreed to an interview for Photopathway.

Ladies and gentlemen please welcome Yan Zhang !

Yan Zhang

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. What do you do for a living?

I am a computer scientist, currently working as a professor in University of Western Sydney. I have been in academia in last 16 years.

How did you get involved with photography?

Well, this is an interesting question. I had a manual SLR camera before 2007, but only used it when I travelled. In 2007 I noticed that digital SLR cameras had become more and more popular, and I decided to buy one as well. I just went to a camera shop and asked which camera was good. The shop owner showed me Canon 400D, and said this was the best camera so far. So I bought it :).

Since I had my Canon 400D, I started to shoot around and during traveling. Sometime around 2008, I developed a deep interest in landscape photography, and since then, landscape photography has become my unique focus in photography.

Church of the Good Shepherd

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


Your landscapes are magnificent. How do you choose your locations?

I think locations for landscape photography are not as hard to find as people usually think, except for those extreme places. In fact, some of my landscape photos were taken just around my home or my work place. For instance, the following photo (Reeds) was the first photo I sold since I had my first digital SLR camera in 2007 and it was taken at an unnamed small pond near my home.  The next photo (The Touch) was taken in my university campus this July.

Reeds The Touch

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


In general, I always pay special attention to subjects that have certain characteristics. Once I found something attracting me, I then imagine whether it would look interesting under suitable light and weather conditions. Photograph “The Touch” was made this way: In order to capture the best light and sky, I went to this location more than 30 times within 3 months.

Since I am living in Sydney, I think I am very lucky to have the access to beautiful coast areas near Sydney.  The following images were made on the East Coast of Sydney this year:


Under the Storm Ocean Symphony

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Nevertheless, most landscape photographers believe that travelling to those unique places probably is essential to make original and stunning photographs. In recent years, I have travelled a lot to several places overseas to make photographs. China and New Zealand are the two special countries that I go for my landscape photography, because these two countries have many unique landscape locations and are relatively easy for me to travel to.

When you are planning your trip abroad, to the place you’ve never been before, how do you decide on your photographic locations?

This is a hard task indeed. Usually, I do a lot of research before I go. Looking at other photographers’ works on those candidate locations is very helpful. Traveller’s guide is also another information source. However, sometimes I think it is more important to discover some places that haven’t been considered by other photographers. In that case, it takes me a lot of time to find such interesting places abroad.  However, once I found one, I would come back again and again to make good photographs.


Echo Point

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


Where do you draw your inspiration? What motivates you?

I have a deep passion for the nature, which always motivates me to experience such a pure beauty only existing in the nature’s wilderness. For a very long time, I knew that I was so passionate about the nature, but somehow I did not know how to express that until I started landscape photography in 2007. For me, I think photography probably is the most effective way to get close to the nature.


Do you hike and photograph alone, or you have a partner?

Most of the time, I travel only with my camera and make photographs alone. However, since I’m living relatively close to Blue Mountains area of Sydney, almost every weekend, my wife and I spend one day hiking in the Blue Mountains. Sometimes I take my camera gear with me on our hike.


What photographic equipment do you use?

As I mentioned earlier, I started with Canon 400D, then in 2008 I bought my Canon 5D Mark II full frame digital SLR camera. Now I am still using it. Since I only focus on landscape photography, filters are critical to my photography. I use both Lee and Singh Ray graduated ND  (Neutral Density) reserve and graduated ND filters. I also use CPL (Circular Polarizer) filter sometimes for certain subjects such as waterfalls.

For landscape photography, I think that having a complete filter system and mastering it in practice are very critical to achieve high standard landscape photographs. A stable tripod is also essential.


Gibson's Beach

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


How do you post process your photos? What software do you use, and what are the main adjustments that you perform?

I believe in the principle of “getting it right in camera in the first place” in my photography practice. During the process, I always put great efforts in the field to make proper shots. Nevertheless, post process is an unavoidable procedure in current digital photography. I always shoot in RAW format and process in Photoshop CS 5.

Generally speaking, my approach to photo adjustments in CS 5 is quite standard: first open raw file in Adobe Camera Raw, perform necessary adjustments there, then load it to CS 5 to perform further adjustments, such as using layer masks, curves, contrast, etc., to adjust the photo to meet my vision.

However, from time to time, I apply a specific Photoshop technique to do a certain adjustment. It is called Tony Kuper (TK) Luminosity Mask technique (http://goodlight.us). It is a very powerful technique allowing you to do some very subtle adjustments on certain pixels to increase/decrease their brightness, and so on.



Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


Do you have any specific goals that you want to achieve in or with your photographs?

I said earlier that I started my digital landscape photography in 2007, and I sold my first landscape photo in the same year. Since then, each year I would sell some of my photographs through various art exhibitions in my area. In September 2010, I established my own photography website. Recently I sold several large prints. As an amateur photographer, I feel I am very lucky to be selling photos.

Having said that, I should stress that my photography goal is not just to make my works to be of some commercial value. More importantly, I wish my works to be recognised by the professional photography community. This was the main motivation that brought me to get involved in 1x.com photography website’s activities.


 Morning Mist

Photo by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


This one is a selfish question, but I had to ask it :). In my photographic portfolio, landscapes section, did you see a photo that you particularly liked? And if you did, what did you like about it?

Yes. I like this shot:

because this image presents a nice mood with mist in the forest. The vertical trees in the mist create a good depth of field,  which makes me try to explore this wilderness.


And finally, my traditional question. If you had only two advices to give to a beginning  photographer, what would they be?

My two advices for beginning photographers who are dedicated to landscape photography would be:

(1) Originality – I believe that originality is the key to make photographs that differ yourself from other photographers;

(2) Persistence – to make outstanding photographs you have to be persistent, to stick to the idea you have in mind and then try every effort to fulfil this idea or adjust it in the field.


The Touch The Lone Man

Photos by Yan Zhang. Click on the photo to enlarge.


Yan, thank you very much for this interview, and good luck in your future artistic endeavors!

You can see more of Yan’s beautiful photographs on his website:



How Ideas Come To Life

Thinking of it, maybe I should’ve titled this post “story of an idea” because I will be talking about creation of one particular image. But I eventually I decided on the current title because the way this creation emerged from the depths of my imagination is one of the most common ways.

A few weeks ago I had a photo session with Ira, in which my primary goal was to try some new lighting techniques that I thought of. In that shoot I decided to focus on close up portraits (chest line and up). I experimented with different backgrounds and asked Ira to put on a few different shirts.

At first nothing was working for me. The lighting was bad, and I didn’t get any interesting results… but then again, I didn’t start this shoot with a specific idea in mind – it’s like that phrase from Alice in wonderland:

– In which direction should I go?

– It depends on where do you want to arrive

But I felt inspired that day and just kept on shooting and trying to get some nice shots. At one point Ira suggested adding an accessory – a piece of white semi transparent white fabric that she had, and I agreed to try it – it is a good idea to listen to your model, especially when you are out of ideas 🙂

Trying different variations we came up with this photograph:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I liked it, but quite frankly it lacks an idea behind it. I looked at this photo and thought “nice photo! but what am I trying to tell with it?”. And I couldn’t find an answer. So I forgot about this photo for a while and focused on other tasks.

After a while (a few days have passed since the shoot), when I was watching a Phlearn Pro photoshop tutorial (which by the way was magnificent!), suddenly an idea emerged in my mind. I remembered this photo of a spider’s web that I took:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And it suddenly got layered, in my mind, onto that photo of Ira holding white fabric, as if she was holding the web itself. I rushed into photoshop to try it, to see how it looks in reality. It was nice but still something was missing… what was it? The spider of course. So I searched the net for images of spiders and chose the one I liked the most. Then I brought it as a layer into my working file, and converted the spider to be pure black.

Now I needed to find a meaningful placement for the spider. I tried different variations before I came up with the final result, which you can see below. I call this image “The Way Up” :

The Way Up...

Click on the photo to enlarge.

By describing my creative process on one particular image I wanted to show one of the many ways creative ideas come to life – they are not always pre-conceived, and sometimes, as it was in this case, they develop step by step over time, graduating slowly towards the end result.

What do you think about the final image? Your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are always appreciated!

Sunrise Walk

Lately Ira and I adopted a new habit – we get up early in the morning and go out for a walk in the neighborhood before work. It is winter in Australia so we have late sunrises and early sunsets, therefore we often start our walk before the sunrise, and have the joy of witnessing it to the fullest.

From photographer’s point of view not just any sunrise, as well as sunset, is perfect for landscape photography. Of course it all depends – whether there are too many or too few clouds in the sky, if it was raining at night (if it was, there is a good chance of having crystal clear atmosphere with bright colors), if there is morning mist. It is also depends on your subject obviously, and on how you intend to photograph it – for example what quality of light do you need.

Anyway, I am talking about simple walk here, with no specific intentions. In this case good sunrise colors and interesting cloud formations can help a lot in creating interesting photographs.

Here, see for yourself:


Click on the photo to enlarge.

I liked the sunrise-lit sky very much,  and decided to make it the main subject of the photo above. I only had to find a decent framing for it.

I decided to call the photo below “Absense”… can you think why? If you have an idea please write it in the comments section below.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Next photo shows a location that I’ve photographed many times, but under this light, I think it looks the best. I am bothered a little bit with the foreground, but I still like this photo very much. Many things come together here – as I already mentioned the light is beautiful, the depth is depicted nicely by the three planes – the foreground, the “middleground” with the white houses and the background plane is emphasized by the piece of land sticking out. The winding road takes the viewer’s eye smoothly through the planes, and the lonely car in the middle-left adds to the overall mood of the photograph.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I took the photo below because of two main reasons – one, to show the beautiful cloud shapes and sky colors colors, and two, to emphasize the pure graphic nature of the tree branches, which are very eloquent when depicted as silhouettes. I think that the plain poles in the middle add nice perceptual contrast to the intricate shapes of the trees.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Next photo is simply here for you to enjoy.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I call the next photo “The victory of Light over Darkness”. Again the main interest in it is the sky, but without having interesting shapes of houses on the foreground I wouldn’t take it.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here’s couple more photos from the same walk taken after the sunrise, when the sky wasn’t so interesting anymore and I had to concentrate on other things 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Feel free to leave your thoughts, suggestions, and other comments in the section below.

I’m off to take some photos, be back soon!


Creating Dynamics In The Shot

Yesterday I visited Melbourne’s CBD, and had a chance to take a few photos in Docklands area. Afterwards, when I was going through them on my computer (most of them weren’t anything special 🙂 ) , one photo grabbed my attention.

Here it is:


Click on the photo to enlarge.

When I was making it, I simply thought it would be a good idea to capture the singer on the big screen in an interesting pose so that I would have both, statue and singer ‘posing for the camera’.

But when I was looking at the photo later, on my computer screen, I’ve noticed that it has very ‘dynamic’ feel. I could feel the movement of the statue, as if it was a live person. So I started thinking – why is that happening? Why is the statue, which didn’t look that much ‘alive’ in reality, came to life in my photograph?

And here is my conclusion: it is because I created Interaction between the statue and the singer. It looks like the statue ‘responds’ to the movement of the singer, and since we all have no doubts that the singer is a live person, that feeling also ‘spills’ onto the statue.

It is very interesting effect, which can be used when photographing other situations. Even with this same statue – if instead of singer a real person would be somehow interacting with the statue, it would also make the statue come to life. For example imagine a bunch of kids dancing around it.

As always your thoughts and comments are highly appreciated!

Family Photo Shoot – How I Did It

I think that this is how many photographers start their venture into the realm of professional photography (by “professional” I mean paid jobs): I photographed my friend’s kid, then his friend saw the photos, got excited and offered me the job.

He asked me to make portraits of his one year old son and of the whole family. Needless to say that I agreed. Even though nowadays everyone has a digital camera, and any parent snaps tons of family photos, there are many people who still appreciate good photography, and can tell a great portrait from snapshot. Still, the job of photographer is harder now than ever before – his photos has to stand out of thousands of such snapshots.

So let me share my experience from this family photo shoot.

First of all I talked to the guy and asked him what did he expect from the shoot. This is very important – you have to be absolutely clear in regards to what your client expects from you. Here are some example questions to ask your client:

– How many digital photos (in files, not printed) does he expect to receive?

– Does he want prints, or just the digital files?

– Agree on the time frame for you to deliver the photos

– Does he want any artistic post processing?

– Which portraits exactly does he want – of the whole family only, individual portraits only, both, or maybe he has some kind of special request.

– Ask your client if he can show you (from internet or his friends) examples of photos that he particularly liked.

-If the shoot is to be held at client’s house ask the client about the dimensions of the house, and whether he wants the shots to be studio-like, because in that case you’ll have to bring your own background.



Click on the photo to enlarge.

In my case client already saw my work and he said that he wants something of that kind. What he saw was portrait of a child tightly cropped and processed in sepia tones. In addition he said that he would like similar kind of photo but of the whole family. He also said that he doesn’t need a lot of photos, just a portrait or two that will remain for the years to come.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo above is my favorite from that shoot. I love the kid’s look, and his inviting hand that “takes” the viewer’s hand and leads him into the child’s world…

Sorry, I got distracted… where were we? Ah, the expectations! So after talking to the client I understood his demands, and tried to fulfill them during the shoot.


Preparing for the shoot

I did this shoot at the client’s house, so I’ll describe my preparations for that specific case.

– Most important thing: Lighting. Even if the shoot takes place during daylight, if it is indoors there might not be enough sunlight, so you’ll have to bring your lighting equipment. I had a light stand, two strobes, a white shoot-through umbrella and a soft box.

– Lenses. If your client doesn’t have a lot of space in the house, you might not be able to use your favorite telephoto lens for portraits, which is too bad as it creates lovely bokeh :).

For portraits I used two lenses – Canon 24-70mm f2.8L and Canon 100mm f2.8 macro.

– Memory cards, backup batteries, cleaning cloth etc. Though this might seem trivial, but forgetting any of these (well cleaning cloth excepted) can cost you the photo shoot. If you bring strobes, then don’t forget backup batteries for them.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

The Shoot

Don’t be late. This is very importantit shows how seriously you take your job.

As a photographer you will benefit from being an open and communicative person. Talking freely and openly with people you are about to photograph makes them feel more comfortable with you and in front of your camera, and enables you to capture their natural expressions.

Shooting little kids is difficult because you can’t just ask them to be still, sit at one place, smile, or play with their toys. So you have to improvise. It is a good thing to ask parents for help. In my case the kid’s mother played with him and I was able to catch some nice facial expressions and poses.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

When we got to shoot the family portrait, at first parents had difficult time keeping the child still in front of the camera, but then they gave him father’s cellphone, and it was a bingo!


After the Shoot

We agreed that I will deliver the finished photos within a week from the shoot, but I delivered them in tree days, reasons being first of all because I love processing photos and couldn’t wait to see what I can do with the “raw material”, but also because I think it is a good little marketing trick. When people expect to receive a product in certain amount of time, but they receive it earlier than that, provided that the product is good, they feel even better about your services.

The most important thing that I’d like to leave you with is: Don’t be afraid to try! Don’t think that you can’t do it, and the client won’t like your photos. If you love photography, and someone offers you the job – Take It! You can read a thousand articles on the subject (including this one), but they won’t give you the same experience you’ll get from the actual shoot.

Click on the photo to enlarge.


An Evening In June

From time to time I get a chance to catch a nice sunset, and my regular readers are already used to my “sunset” posts, like the one from February 2011. I use the term “sunset photos” loosely as for me these are also photos made some time after the sunset, and sun is not present in the frame.
This is one of such posts but with a twist that this time I started photographing at sunset and the session seamlessly (for me) continued into night photography.
All the photos in this post were taken on the same evening and will be presented chronologically so you can get a faint feel of how the light changed.
It all started, as usual, with our daily evening walk on the beach. It was raining earlier this day, and I know from experience that usually, after rain, the sunset light is beautiful, so I took a tripod with me just in case. No need to mention that my camera comes with me all the time.
I’ve also noticed that the best time to photograph sunset on the beach (at least in my area) is during the low tide – there are these “ponds” of water left by the retreating ocean, the water is calm, and there is more room on the beach to choose location.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the 10 months I live in Australia I already took hundreds of pictures of the Frankston pier. This time I thought to make it a bit more interesting, and having a tripod made the following photo possible. It took us several takes to get it right, as the light was low and thus exposure was long, so we had to be pretty steady. I converted the initial result to black and white and dramatically increased the contrast, to make Ira and me into silhouettes.

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The following photos were made long after the sunset and it was getting darker by the minute, but tiny fraction of light was still remaining to light up the sky just enough.

I liked the reflection of the bridge as if it was completing a circle. It was also a bit unusual point of view as this bridge is usually photographed facing the ocean, while I was looking at it from the opposite direction.

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I like the simplicity of the next photograph as all the interesting details in it are concentrated in the narrow strip located in upper third. The shapes of the clouds are beautiful, and so is the light, which seems to come from the city lights. I think this photo can make for a great wallpaper.

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The last photo was made when there was no sunlight left, making the reflections of the light vividly visible. I liked the straight lines of the pier, the shore, and the light poles in contrast with the slightly distorted reflections in the water.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your experiences with sunset / night photography?

Feel free to post your experiences and links to your photos in the comment section below.

Walk Around Sassafras

Sassafras is a small village located in Dandenong Ranges. The area was named Sassafras Gully, after the trees which grew in the area. Sassafras is a tourist destination with some antique shops, boutiques, and nurseries.
While most of the tourists visit Sassafras on their way driving the Dandenong Tourist Road through to other destinations, Ira and I came here specifically. We wanted to visit the “Tea Leaves” store, which has over 300 teas and herbs. But then again, we are not tourists – we live within 40 minutes drive from here.
As you probably guessed I wouldn’t write this post if I didn’t have some photographs to share along with it. The tea store was really nice, but it was too small and crowded to photograph. After we finished our tea-shopping, we decided to explore the surroundings.
I always liked the Australian Magpies. I think that they are very interesting birds, and I also like their singing – Australian Magpies are considered to be among Australia’s most accomplished songbirds. There were plenty of these birds in Sassafras, so I could take a few photos, and here is one.

Australian Magpie

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Dandenong Ranges is a beautiful place, and Sassafras is surrounded with eucalyptus and fern-tree forests with kilometres of walking trails. Ira and I came across one of the trails and went into the woods. It was such a beautiful walk! I can still feel the cold fresh air filled with smells of nature…

Dandenong Ranges Forest

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The forest was magical. It was around three o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun was already setting (the sunset time is currently around five o’clock) so the light was beautiful. I was fascinated with the rays of light breaking through the foliage.
The biggest problem when photographing forests is to find distinction. What I mean is when you walk in the forest and you simply like what you see and take a picture, most of the chances that the resulting photo won’t be interesting. It will be very cluttered with leaves, tree trunks, and branches. One of the keys here is to find some kind of order in the forest and reflect it in your photograph.
The photo above is a bit too cluttered to my taste, but I still like it – I found an opening in the forest, saw this fern lit by the sun, and decided to make it a main point of interest in the photograph. Rays of light in the background add another dimension to the photo making it… airy?

Wooden Stairs

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Walking down the trail we came across wooden stairs, and saw this “unreal” ray of light shining through. I just couldn’t pass the opportunity ☺. Though I am bothered a little by the wooden rail on the foreground right, overall I like this photo. The stairs lead the eye into the photo, and them being not straight enhances the feel of space, while ray of light helps creating magical forest atmosphere.

Mushrooms Growing On Eucalyptus 1 Mushrooms Growing On Eucalyptus 2

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At one point I saw a huge eucalyptus and just stood there admiring this nature creation, then Ira said – “look! There are lots of tiny mushrooms growing from the trunk of this tree!” And only then I saw them. The tree trunk was so big, and the mushrooms were so tiny that I didn’t notice them even though there were so many. I really liked this “crowd” and spent a good 15 minutes trying to find an interesting angle.


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As in most of my walks in the nature, I couldn’t resist taking a few macro shots. I didn’t have a tripod with me (what a rookie mistake! ), so this photo might not be tack sharp, but it is sharp enough to show all the diversity of the water drops. I really like the tenderness and fragility in this photograph… one careless move and this beauty will disappear.

And finally I’d like to present my best photo from that walk in Dandenong Ranges.

Dandenong Ranges Forest

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I feel that in this photo I succeeded to create order from the forest’s chaos. I found a pattern made by the standing ferns, and a space in between, and the light was just right. I tend to think that in nature photography great photo is created when two factors come together – pure luck (the light, weather conditions) and the photographer’s vision. Sure, if there is no vision, there won’t be any great photos, but when you have the vision you still need the nature to play along with it.

I hope that you enjoyed this journey into the Dandenong ranges, a beautiful place in Australia, and I’ll see you next time right here, on my photo pathway.

As always your comments are most welcome!

Sigma 28mm f1.8 Short Review

Until only very recently I thought I would never use a prime lens on a daily basis. I have great zooms (Canon 24-70 f2.8 L, Canon 70-200 f4 L, Canon 10-22 f3.5-4.5), which are sharp enough for me, and their overall quality is superb. So I saw no need for a more “restricting” piece of glass. But after laying my hands on a prime lens I realized that I was wrong.

The full description of the lens I got is Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro. Since I have a cropped sensor, 28mm on it is almost like 50mm on a full frame sensor.

This is not a gazillion pages technical review (for that go to dpreview.com, though I’m not sure they reviewed this one), but more of my impressions from this lens, its good and bad sides, and my additional prime-lens-related thoughts.

Lets start with why I think prime lens is a great addition to anyone’s lens collection. When I don’t have any specific photographic ideas in mind, I grab only this lens with me and go out for a walk. It is like shooting with an iPhone in a sense that you don’t have to switch lenses, or to zoom in/out to find an optimal composition. All you got is your 28mm (50 on cropped sensor). One may think that it is very limiting, but I found that it took out the “worrying” aspect, and freed my mind. I was free to think about the creative aspects of photography, and didn’t have to think about which lens to choose. If I need to zoom in, I do it by getting closer to the subject. You get the idea.

Now, about this lens in particular: f1.8 has a very shallow depth of field, which is wonderful if used consciously. Combined with amazing macro abilities of this lens it enabled me to get pretty nice shots. The two shots below were made using f1.8 and I also found them to be really sharp. I found some reviews of this lens saying that though it is very sharp, it gets softer at small f-numbers, but I didn’t notice that. Maybe I’m not that picky.

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Note the nice bokeh in the b&w photo. Next photo is of ants on tree stump. It was also taken at f1.8 and shows nicely the shallow depth of field at this aperture.

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I’ve already mentioned the amazing macro of this lens – even though in the manual it says minimum focusing distance is 20cm (7.87 inch), I found that this lens just keeps on focusing no matter how close I am to the subject. I can’t say exactly what is the minimum distance, but it feels like you can bring the lens very close to your subject and still focus.

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This lens is also great for general purpose photography. It is sharp, it focuses pretty fast, and it renders the colors very good.

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I also got to shoot a few landscapes with it, and was really satisfied with the results.

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Having said about the good qualities of this Sigma prime lens, there are a few issues that have to be mentioned.

This lens doesn’t have an ultrasonic motor which means that the focusing is pretty loud. Another thing to consider is when you want to switch from auto focus to manual (and back), you have to do it in two steps – there is a switch from AF to MF just like in canon lenses, and then you have to slide the focus ring a few millimeters. The thing is that when you are in manual focus mode and the focus ring is in the correct position, you will have to turn it to focus (hence the name 🙂 ), but when you switch to auto focus mode and leave the focus ring in the same position, it will turn automatically when the lens will try to focus, and you won’t be able to hold the lens comfortably. So you have to slide the focus ring a few millimeters and it stops moving.

There is one more thing which is a little less obvious, but I’ve noticed that this lens is more sensitive to flare than my Canon lenses. In several cases with front lighting my Canon lenses didn’t have flare but this lens had.

In conclusion I am very satisfied with this lens. I like the quality and the sharpness of the photos it produces. The only thing that bugs me a little is the noisy focus motor.


Everything written here is my opinion and my experience. All the photos in this article were taken with this lens (Sigma 28mm F1.8 EX DG Aspherical Macro) but they were also post processed in Lightroom. Post processing included subtle adjustments such as curves, clarity, and vibrance.  All photos were shot in RAW format, b&w photos were converted from color (all RAW photos are in color) to b&w.

Your opinion matters! The comments section below is for you to share your experiences, and ask questions.

Till the next time, take care!


Autumn Walk

While Spring rules in most parts of the world now, Australia is heading for winter. Driving through my neighborhood towards home from work I felt a kind of Autumn mood in the air. So when I came home I quickly grabbed my camera and went out for a walk. I wanted to capture this mood before it vanished.

This maple tree fascinated me. The autumn colors are revealed here in all their beauty. Warm light of the setting sun gets even warmer filtered through the orange-yellow leaves creating a very cosy atmosphere. The only thing I’m missing in this photo is a lonely person sitting on the stairs…

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In the next photo I focused my attention on the fallen Autumn leaves adding the fence on the left to emphasize the perspective and add a sense of movement to the photograph.

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At first I didn’t realize why I wanted to capture what you see in the next photo, but then I realized that it was the combination of cleanliness of forms, simplicity of the composition, and the background texture. Combined together these three factors formed a complete picture in my mind and I pressed the shutter-release button.

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Walking around I saw these bicycles and immediately the words such as “separation”, “loneliness”, “different” started popping into my  mind. You know kids can be cruel sometimes, and in my mind this was a good visualization of this fact. Even thought there is not much of an Autumn mood in this picture, since I took it on the same walk I decided to present it here.

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And finally going back home, when Sun was getting close to the horizon, I took this photo. I can’t say much about it except the fact that I like it.

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Hope you enjoyed the photos. Feel free to comment on them in the comments section below, I’d be happy to know what you think!

Till the next time, take care!


Portraits and Backgrounds

For quite some time now I wanted to shoot portraits, and finally I found a model to shoot!

Since photography is my hobby I don’t have a studio, so I had to improvise. I converted my living room into a studio for a day, and shot my model on gray muslin background. I bet everybody heard about these famous muslin backgrounds. But what the guys who sell them to you don’t mention is that you receive the muslin in a really crumpled state, and if it is 3 by 6 meters long, there is no way you can iron it by yourself. But I had no other choice than to use what I had.

My solution to this problem was in post processing – I had to “cut” the model from the original background and paste it onto another background in Photoshop. You can see before and after images in the example below.

Muslin Background Photoshop Background

Click on the photos to enlarge.

In order create precise selection of the model in Photoshop I used the pen tool. Many people don’t use this tool because they find it confusing just like I did before I saw this tutorial:

Using Pen Tool In Photoshop

After getting used to the Pen tool, I promise you that you won’t ever go back to lasso or any other selection tool when you need to do a complex selection. After I selected the model using pen tool, I used the option “Refine Edge” to refine the edge of the selection in the areas with model’s hair. It is really important to make the hair look natural on the new background. My last step in the selection process was feathering the whole selection by 2 pixels to add a more seamless transition from the model to background.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you don’t want to cut and paste your model, and still use your crumpled muslin background, here is how you can do that:

If you have enough space, put your model far from the background, and use wide aperture – this will make the background go out of focus and its wrinkles won’t be visible. In addition to that, you can setup your lighting so that no significant light will fall on the background making it dark (you can use gobos for that).


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In all the photos you see here I used pretty much the same lighting setup, only slightly varying the position of my strobes and their strength. Here is my basic lighting setup diagram:


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You probably wonder where I got backgrounds that I use on these photos, and it is no secret. You must have heard about OnOne software. I used one of their products named PhotoFrame. This product can work as a standalone application or as a plug-in for Photoshop and Lightroom. The primary aim of this product is to supply the user with lots of photo-frame templates, so you can choose and add nice framing to your images, but it also has a great collection of backgrounds. I downloaded their trial version here. In the image below you can also see the frame that I created with this plug-in.


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But it is the only frame that I used from PhotoFrame. Other “frames” that you can see in the photos here, are simply a creative use of vignetting feature in Lightroom, which is pretty easy to achieve – you simply reduce the roundness of the vignette somewhere around -90 to -100, set it’s midpoint between 0 and 15, and the amount slider is up to you.


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While most important aspects of portrait photography lie in the artistic sphere rather than technical, still in order to get acceptable  results, all the technical details must be carried out correctly, and this is why I dedicated this article to them. Nevertheless after all the technical aspects are set and done, I forget about them and concentrate on the model and on my artistic perceptions of what I want to achieve from the shoot.


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If you have any questions regarding the issues brought up in this post, feel free to leave them in the comments below, and as always any other comments are highly appreciated.




Flowers Macro Photography Tips

Sometimes I see a photograph, and I wonder how it was done, what tricks or special equipment (if at all) did the photographer use to achieve the result? In most cases there is  no way of asking him, and I have to guess and speculate on how it was done.

A few days ago I did a few flower macro shots, and posted one of them in a couple of forums. In the responses I’ve received I saw some questions as to how I did it, so I decided to write a post about it.

Flower. Macro Photography

  • I used Canon 100 mm f2.8 Macro lens, a light tent, and two flashes – the main one from the right side, and another flash from the left side. I set the second flash to be much weaker, so it would make the back side of the flower just a little brighter.
  • I didn’t want big depth of field so I set my aperture to f5. On the contrary, I wanted to be able to control what exactly will be in focus.
  • The shutter speed was 1/200 of a second, but it is not important in this case because I didn’t use ambient light – only strobes.
  • Since I had total control of my lighting, and I could set it to be as bright as I wanted to, I used ISO of 100, the lowest ISO on my Canon 40D. As you probably know, the lower your ISO setting, the less noise you’ll get in your photo.
  • Of course I used tripod. This is an important point. You might think that shooting at speed of 1/200sec doesn’t require the use of tripod, and under certain circumstances you might be right. For example when using wide angle lens with fairly closed aperture. But in my case I used telephoto lens (100mm) with f5, which means that even the slightest movement will shift the focus from where I want it to be to another random location. So, the conclusion is that in macro shots tripod is almost always an essential piece of equipment.

As you can see on the shot I sprayed the flower with water. Water drops are a very nice touch to many natural subjects, not only flowers. Sometimes photographers photograph the water drops on their subject in such a way that a reflection of something would be visible in the drops, and it makes for great images. In my case I wanted to achieve the exact opposite – I didn’t want any reflections in the water drops in order to focus the attention of the viewer on the flower, and to achieve that I photographed my flower in a white light tent.

And finally, the background. In the shot above and in one of additional examples from that photo-shoot below you will see that my background wasn’t plain white. But what was it? It is easy – I used one of my calendars with colorful photos as the background. When shooting macro, DOF is so tiny that a photograph placed 30 cm behind the subject becomes totally indistinguishable collection of colorful splashes, which makes for a nice background.

Below you can see a few more examples from that shoot

Flower. Macro Photography Flower. Macro Photography

Flower. Macro Photography >Flower. Macro Photography

I hope you learned something from my experience.

As always, feel free to share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.


P.S. For those of you who wonder, the flower’s name is Morning Glory

Night Photography With a Single Flash: Step by Step Guide

Imagine that you need to photograph a large dark space, like a cave, or a church, but you only have a single flash. Is it even possible?

Quite some time ago I saw in a photography magazine photo of a big beautiful cave, perfectly lit, all the beautiful stalactites perfectly visible, and I thought to myself – there is no way photographer could bring powerful studio lighting equipment down there!

Fortunately there was a brief description to this photo – photographer put his camera on tripod and set it to long exposure, then during the exposure time he ran around the cave with small strobe flash and flashed all the areas of the cave. “Simple and Genious” I thought to myself back then.

Genious? Sure. Simple? Well, not really.

Recently I decided to photograph the front of my sister’s house decorated with shiny Christmas lights. Yes they still haven’t took them off, because my three year old nephew likes to turn them on every night before he goes to sleep :).

In order for Christmas lights to be visible, I had to do that after dark, and I only had one flash (not that it matters but it was Canon 430 EX). So I decided to try the technique described above, and it turned out not as simple as I first thought it would.

I’d like to share with you the tips that I learned from this experience, hoping they will make it easier for you should you decide to use this technique. I will do this in the form of step-by-step instructions how to perform this kind of shoot.

Here we go:
1. Set your camera on a tripod and compose your shot.
2. Choose the desired f-stop (here your guide should be only your artistic intentions, and not exposure considerations).
3. Focus your camera where you need to, then switch to manual focus. The reason for switching to manual focus is that in the dark it is hard for automatic focus to work, so each time you’ll press the shutter it may take a long time for camera to focus if at all.
4. Look at the scene and decide which areas need to be lit and which don’t.
5. Set your flash power to about 1/8th of its max power.
6. Press the shutter, and run around the scene with a flash in your hand flashing all the areas that need light. Flash ONCE each area.
7. Take a look at the result, and go over all the areas that needed to be lit. If they are too dark, next time you’ll flash them twice, or increase the flash power. Using low flash power and flashing several times the same area gives you more versatility in case you need different areas to be lit diferently.
8. Repeat the steps 6 and 7 until you are satisfied with the result.

In addition to this process you also need to have in mind the following:

  • When flashing hold the flash pointed outwards from your body, and as far from you as possible so that no light will spill on you (otherwise “ghosts” of you will be visible in the image).
  • Always point the flash away from the camera, so that no direct light from the flash will hit the lens (otherwise you’ll see bright points of light all across the image).
  • Remember that the longer the exposure time, the more noise you’ll have in the photo. Try to complete the shot as quickly as possible, unless you want the noise for artistic purposes.

Here are a few examples of the house that I photographed:

Night Photography With a Single Flash

In the photo above, you can see that I deliberately flashed into the lens a couple of times to create lights in the tree. This is also a good example of what you’ll see in your image if you do it by chance.

And here is another example, this time without the lights, and with better lit right side.

Night Photography With a Single Flash

Feel free to ask questions and share your experiences in the comment section below.

Till the next time, take care!


Symmetry and Abstract

Hello Everybody!

This is another photo-sharing post. Recently I had the time to revive my small home studio, so while I was at it, I took some photos… actually I took a lot of photos, most of which aren’t worthy of sharing.

Here’s the only two I liked:

This photo was taken inside light tent with two flashes (one from each side). I call it “Almost  Symmetrical”. Nothing much to it, just having fun 🙂

Almost Symmetrical

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And I also liked this abstract photo, which is really a closeup of glass filled with cold bubbling mineral water, with yellow light in background.


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As always your comments are highly appreciated.

See you next time!


Monthly share of sunset photography

Those of you who frequently visit my blog  probably know that I like shooting sunsets, so now I want to share some of my recent shots.

This one has strange colors, but I like it anyway.  I was shooting sunset from the pier and suddenly in the far distance I saw this ship. I quickly changed to my telephoto lens, and made a few clicks. But something was missing… the photo was empty. Then a bird appeared in my viewfinder, and I got this shot.

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Here is one pretty simple photo. I like its simplicity, and I also like colors and reflections in this photo.

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I wish the girl on the boat would come closer, but this is the best I could do under the circumstances 🙂

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This shot was also taken with my telephoto lens because I wanted to isolate a small part of the shoreline.

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I call the photo below “classic sea sunset photograph” – setting sun, orange water, two silhouettes…

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This collection wouldn’t be complete without a little humor. I was shooting standing under the pier (you can see photo from that location in this post), when two boys came and sat on it. I quickly turned and had time to take only one photograph. After a few moments one of the boys ran away, and it wasn’t that interesting anymore.

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I hope you liked the photos. Feel free to comment on them!

Till the next time, take care!


Using Flash When Shooting Sunsets

You might think I’m going a little bit crazy here, but hey, don’t make any rushed judgments!

Yes, flash won’t help you to light the landscape but it can help you make your sunset photos a little bit different. Usually when you see sunset photos, the foreground elements of composition are silhouettes due to the high contrast between the backlight from the setting sun and the darkness of the foreground. Sometimes these silhouettes of objects or people look good in the photo, but sometimes adding a little foreground light can improve the final image.

In the following example you can see pretty much the same composition taken with (on the right) and without (on the left) the flash.

Sunset_2 Sunset_3

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While the silhouette in the left photo looks nice, using a little bit of light to show the cool red hair of the standing person adds a nice touch to the photograph. It also reveals a bit more detail in the foreground, though I’m not sure if it is a good thing in this case.

In the photo below I also used flash to light the foreground, and show the beautiful color and texture of the wood. Without flash this photo would have been too dark and much less interesting. Another way of achieving this result would be shooting several frames with different exposures and later combining them into an HDR image, but it would take much more time and possibly look less realistic.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

These are only a few examples of endless possibilities which open up when you start using flash in many situations where it is not normally used, not only during sunset. For example you can use flash when shooting in harsh daylight in order to soften the hard shadows that daylight produces.

Hopefully this post inspired you and gave you a starting point for your own creative ideas when and where to use that flash that has been lying in your photo bag for too long 🙂

If you have any original ideas or examples of unusual use of flash, please share them in the comments.



Elements of Mood

If you think about it, in many landscape photographs there are these often small compositional elements that create the overall mood of the photograph. The whole photograph can show a magnificent landscape, but still what makes all the mood (or sometimes adds the final but vital touch) are these elements. And once you thought about this, you can try and consciously add them to your photographs. Just like I did.

This photo would be nice even without the bird, but it would be empty and lifeless. Having the bird in the photograph adds life, motion, and mood to it. Yes, the bird is not sharp ( due to the rather long exposure), and there are not many details of the bird visible, but it is not important. The most important thing is that it is there.

Grass, Bird, and Sea

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Can you guess what is the “mood” element in the photo below? It is the moon. Without it the photo would still be nice, with the beautiful rays of sun reaching the sky from below the horizon, but moon adds a final touch to the composition. In my opinion photo wouldn’t be complete without it. And also, I think it is important that it is a young moon and not a full moon. It has to do with our stigmas and perceptions – full moon associates with dark night, bright moon light, and in my opinion would be inappropriate in this image, while the young moon associates with evening or morning sky and fairy-tales.

Sunset under the moon

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As you can see in my two examples important mood elements are small in dimensions, compared to other parts of the image, but are very important and vital when composing the shot.

I hope that having this in mind will help you create more striking and meaningful images.

Here’s to your next photo! Go out there, and don’t forget to have fun!


Leading Lines

One of the compositional tools that photographers use to draw the eye of the viewer into the photograph is lines, which lead the viewer through the photograph. And by lines I don’t mean pencil drawn lines or anything like that. These “lines” can be represented by various contours of elements in the image.

Here is an example of leading lines in the image:

Seaford Beach, Seaford, Victoria. Australia.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As you can see there are several such lines in this photo. One of them is the line of the wooden fence. The “line” can be broken and not straight, as is the case here, but nevertheless it still does the job. Another line is formed by tops of the bush, and finally the third imaginary line appears when your eye connects between the three tree tops.

All three lines converge at the lower left part of the photograph leading the eye from right to left. However there is one more line, which “breaks” this pattern. It is the stripe of bright sky protruding through the clouds. While other lines are relatively easy to control because they are stationary , this line could be caught only during a short period.

Lines can be a very strong compositional element when used wisely and in place, for example you can use such lines leading the viewer’s eye to the main subject of your photograph.

What are your examples of leading lines? You can share your photos in the comment section to this post.

Till the next time, take care!



Power Of The Frame

Sometimes photo doesn’t need a frame, it is complete as it is. But then there are photographs that just don’t feel right until you frame them. Frame often adds sense of completeness to the photograph. Photographers often look for compositional elements to naturally frame their subject within the photograph.

It is also important to choose appropriate frame for each particular photo, otherwise it might distract the viewer, or even worse – ruin the whole impression from the photograph.

In our digital age it has become common practice to add frame directly to the photo  during the post processing. This way of adding a frame has one significant advantage – flexibility. There are many different
applications that have collections of various frames, which you can add to your photos, or if you are familiar with programs like Photoshop you can draw your own frame around the photograph.

Since most of the photos that we come across are seen on display (either from our digital cameras or the Internet) adding frame directly to the digital photo adds to the viewing experience, and later photo can be printed and hung on the wall without the additional expense on the “real” frame (actually this point can be argued by many who prefer real frames).

I’d like to present here two examples of photos with digitally added frames.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this photo I added white frame, which in my opinion turns it to a nice postcard, smoothly fading edges of the image and creating dreamy look.

The photo below would be incomplete without a frame, it’s black edges would leave a sense of incompleteness. So I decided to add a frame. The frame’s color is intentionally greenish to match the tone of the photograph.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What do you think about framing your photographs?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment.


Enhancing Photographs in Lightroom

There is so much talk about post processing, and whether it is good or bad. There are people who never post process their photos, and there are also people who always process their photos, and also anything in between.

I do process my images in Lightroom or Photoshop, but not always. Sometimes the weather is perfect, and the air is so clear that nothing needs improvement. But in our busy world, we don’t always have the time to wait for the perfect conditions, and have to settle for whatever weather there is when we have the time for shooting. In such cases post processing can significantly improve the end result, and it is very important to shoot RAW in such cases because it gives you more flexibility in post processing.

In this post I will walk you through my Lightroom post processing steps, using one of the recent photos I took. Below on the left you can see the initial photo of an old fortress that I took on early morning. Unfortunately the sky was covered with clouds so that there was no contrast in the photograph.

Below on the right you can see the final image, after I finished working on it in Lightroom 3.

Initial Image Final result after processing in Lightroom

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So how I achieved this end result? Let me walk you step by step. All the steps below were performed in the Develop module.

First of all the sky bothered me the most in my initial image. It lacked contrast and was completely colorless. So I opened the adjustment brush, set it up and covered the sky area. Below you can see the screen shot of the settings that I used for the adjustment brush. Let’s go through some of them:

Contrast – though in most cases increasing contrast is more useful, in this case with clouds decreasing the contrast revealed more detail in the clouds.

Saturation – I increased the saturation of the adjustment brush because I also changed the Color to a shade of blue (as I’ll show in the next screen shot), and for this addition of color to be seen better I had to increase the saturation.

Clarity – Clarity is always good for clouds :). Really, increasing clarity makes clouds pop.

Color – I decided to add a slight color tint to the clouds so that they won’t be boring gray, but still have a realistic color.

Feather and Flow of the brush are needed for creating smooth gradients between the adjusted and not adjusted areas. The values that you see here are not a must, and you’ll have to play with them to find what suits your taste.


Below you can see the color selection box and the values that I chose. screenshot_2

Now, I painted with the adjustment brush over the sky. There is a slight problem when you want to paint with adjustment brush over large areas, especially when the changes that brush does are subtle – you might miss a few spots in the middle and even more at the edges. I found a pretty easy solution for this: temporarily, in the adjustment brush settings decrease the exposure value to -4 so that in addition to all your essential adjustments, you’ll also significantly darken the image in the painted area. This will make the painted area perfectly visible. Then, after selecting everything that you want, slide the exposure slider back to it’s initial position.

In the image below you can see the clouds painted over with the adjustment brush with exposure set to -4.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And here you can see the result of painting with the adjustment brush after I returned the exposure slider to zero:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

After adjusting the sky I examined the overall look and decided to make a few more adjustments to the whole image. In the screen shot below you can see the initial settings, with which I started.


Let me explain the adjustments that I did.

I decreased Exposure slider to -0.45 in order to reveal even more details in clouds, but this also darkened too much the lower part of the image. To compensate for that I increased the Fill Light slider to 20. After increasing the fill light, I felt lack of contrast in the fortress, so I increased the Contrast to +34. Next I increased the Clarity and Vibrance just a little for a finishing touch. In the screen shot below you can see the final settings.


And this is how the image looked like after performing those changes.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

We’re almost done, but not just yet.

I stared at the image for a few minutes, and it seemed to me that something was missing. Finally I understood what it was – subtle vignetting. Let me explain. The shape of the right column together with the clouds create a sense of movement from the outer frame towards the center of the image, and vignetting would emphasize this sense of movement.

And here is the final image (same one as in the beginning of this post).

Click on the photo to enlarge.

So this is how I do my post processing – by first analyzing the image, deciding what is missing or could be improved, and performing the adjustments. Of course this whole process is not “scientific” at all. It is very intuitive and imaginative, because in order to achieve an end result you have to visualize it first. Sometimes though it is more like “lets move this slider and see what it does to the image”.

Did you find this article helpful? How do you post process your images? Any examples of before and after will be much appreciated, and

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!


Creative Conversion to B&W in Lightroom

From time to time we all encounter black and white (B&W) images that look very dramatic.  Many times I’ve seen B&W images that simply took my breath away, but somehow most of the times when I tried to convert some of my most beautiful images to B&W (which I thought would look great in B&W), I was disappointed. I tried to increase contrast but it didn’t help a lot. And then I discovered (by myself! 🙂 ) the way of manipulating B&W images in Lightroom to significantly improve their visual impact, and I want to share it with you here.

I mostly shoot RAW, so my images are always in color even if I shot them with BW intentions. In order to turn them into B&W in Lightroom I go to the develop module and choose B&W. But only converting to B&W most of the times doesn’t deliver good results, and image often looks dull and uninteresting. Even if you try to adjust the color version of the image (vibrance, contrast, etc.) before converting to B&W, still the B&W version lots of times won’t be satisfying.

Here’s what I do. In the develop module of Lightroom there is the following section:

When your image is in color then the “Color” is highlighted, and if you click on the “B&W” it is automatically converted to black and white, below it appears caption “Black & White Mix” and 8 sliders (from Red to Magenta).

Below you can see an example of colored photograph before I clicked on the B&W, and immediately after. As you can see the B&W image is not that good.

desert landscape in color desert landscape in BW without editing

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now I’ll show you how the black and white version of the above image can be improved.

After I converted the above image to black and white by clicking on “B&W” button,  here is what the Black and White Mix looked like:

Each slider in the mix is responsible for a different color, but since the image is in BW, when you drag the slider, what changes is the brightness of that color in the B&W image. So for example if I want to darken the sky, I drag the blue slider to the left side. In this manner I adjust all the sliders, so that my final image looks just as I envisioned it in the first place.

Back to my example. Here is the final image after adjusting the sliders:

desert landscape in BW creative edit

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And here is how the sliders of the final image are positioned:

Blue slider is moved to the left in order to darken the sky and make the white clouds stand out.  Yellow slider is moved to the right to make the hills brighter. Some other sliders are also adjusted but not all of them. For example I didn’t change the position of the red slider, because there is almost no red tones in the image, so dragging it doesn’t change much.

Of course you can use this technique with any image and not only landscape shots.

Here is another example. I shot these green leaves with intention to later convert them to B&W for a more graphic representation.

green leafs in color

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is what the sliders looked like before I played with them:

And this is the final version of the image just the way I imagined it in the first place. Below it you can see the final positions of the sliders.

green leafs in black and white creative edit

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Converting just to black and white is not the limit. In this final example you can see another shot of the same leaves, but with two versions of creative editing.

one more example of green leafs before bw conversion

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The first is the black and white version, but then I tried to add a sepia tint and vignetting and ended up liking this second version even more than the B&W one, but it only became possible after creating the B&W version using technique that I showed.

one more example of green leafs after creative bw conversion   one more example of green leafs after creativ bw conversion and sepia toning

Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you have your own techniques for converting to B&W you are most welcome to share them here, and
Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Here’s to your creativity!


Creating abstract photographs

This time I would like to talk about creating abstract photographs. There are many ways of doing it, and one of the simplest ones is to take a closeup shot of something with interesting texture making it unclear what it is from one side but creating an interesting combination of forms, colors etc. from the other side.

For example you can find an old wooden door with paint which partially came off and take a closeup of it, or take closeup shots of rusty metal. Another idea would be taking closeup shots of architectural creations including particular parts without revealing the form of the building. There are many more ways of course, and these are only a few examples.

For these series of abstract photographs I decided to photograph waves. I came to the seashore about an hour before the sunset, put down my tripod, mounted my Canon 40D and started shooting.

abstract image abstract image

Photographs by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

As you can see these all tight crops (well all except one) of waves taken with long exposure. Using long exposure in this case is critical because if I would use normal exposure (1/50 sec and faster) then the waves would be easily recognizable even in tight crops.

abstract image abstract image

Photographs by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

After the shoot I came home, opened the photos in Lightroom and started playing with them trying to get the best abstract results I can. And I found something really beautiful, which I would like to share with you.

Everybody plays with Vibrance and Saturation controls (in any photo processing application), but when you work on a “real world” images, not abstract, increasing saturation or vibrance too much makes the image look not real, over-saturated. But in this case my goal was to create a beautiful abstract image, and I saw that when I crank the saturation slider to the maximum, it gives me very nice result making the photos look more like paintings and also emphasizing the warm sunset colors.  But it wasn’t perfect, and I am sure that many of you encountered this – when you increase the saturation to a certain level you start having color artifacts in your image, and you are forced to decrease it to the level where there are no artifacts.

Here is what I found in Lightroom – in order to eliminate these color artifacts you have to increase the Luminance Noise Reduction slider (in the Develop module) until no color artifacts present in the image! I was stunned – because now I could increase saturation as much as I wanted. There is one downside to it though – the image looses some of its sharpness, which wasn’t a problem in my case.

abstract image

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I would be happy to hear what you think of these images. How would you create an abstract photograph?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Have a Great and Creative day!


How Photographic Ideas Can Come to You

This is a very interesting question you know. I am sure that anyone who takes interest in photography at times thinks about it. In my head sometimes these thoughts sound like “I’d really like to make a great photograph… yeah… but what should I shoot?… what should I create?…

If you really want to create something, especially if you are not sure yet what it is, you have to allocate a certain amount of time to thinking about it. I mean that you have to tell yourself – “today between 10:00 and 11:00 I am thinking about creating an interesting (also can be beautiful, romantic, breathtaking, sad… anything you prefer) photograph”.

I want to demonstrate this from my own experience. A few days ago I felt this urge to photograph something at my tiny home studio. I didn’t have any idea what it would be, but I just had this desire to create. So I made myself sit down for about 45 minutes, come up with ideas, and briefly sketch them on piece of paper.

My first problem was that not ANY idea that came to my mind was possible to shoot because I was limited to the objects that I had in my apartment. Having realized that fact, instead of just thinking of any idea for photograph, I started looking around my home at different objects and thinking how can I use them creatively?

While looking I saw my table lamp. Actually it was always standing on my table, but until I made myself to think creatively, I never thought about this lamp as a subject for my photographs. And then, while looking at this lamp I remembered of some TV program I saw as a kid that had these two lamps jumping around like live beings, and I decided to try and create something in that direction.

I still had no idea what would come out of it, and I didn’t have any definite final result. So I just started sketching this lamp standing on the table in different poses and thinking what can be done with that. No, I can’t draw, and it doesn’t matter, because you need sketching only to help your thinking process.

One of the ideas that came to my mind was to photograph this small lamp with it’s light bulb lying beneath it, while the lamp “sadly looking” at the bulb. And so I did as you can see in the image below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this image of lonely lamp looking at its light bulb I used only one flash from the left side with 1/2 CTO gel on it (this gel makes the white flash light to be warmer). I wanted a warm lighting here. Looking at the result I felt that it is not enough for an interesting image… I felt that it doesn’t conveys the “stare” of the lamp at the light bulb.

And then suddenly it hit me – I need another lamp to make this more interesting! And luckily my life partner Ira had one on her table. I took that lamp and started playing with two lamps. Finally great idea came to me – to make the second lamp “look” inside the first lamp as if to see “what happened? why you lost your bulb?” and so you can see my compositional setup in the photo below.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Now, having the final idea of a shot in place I started thinking of little details. I wanted to emphasize the fact that the second lamp did have its bulb. How would I do that? Well, I decided that I would light the whole scene with white light, but I would also have yellow (warm) light coming out of the second lamp towards the first lamp. And you can see in the photo below that the down-looking lamp is warm-lit.

The final photograph below I accomplished using three strobes. Two strobes without any gels from left and right sides (I had to play with their powers to achieve the desired lighting), and the third strobe with 1/2 CTO gel on it I held in my hand and pointed inside the first lamp.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

After getting the final image above, I felt that there is not enough emphasis on the light that comes out of the second lamp. I wanted those rays of light to actually be seen. And here is a point that I am sure not all of you thought about. Rays of light are invisible unless they reflect off of something and hit our eyes. So in order to make these rays of light to be actually visible I had to have them reflect off of something – for example dust, or smoke. So if I would fill up the whole area with smoke then the rays of light would be seen. But then the rays of my two other flashes would also be seen, and the whole image wouldn’t be clear and crisp.

So I decided to take this work to Photoshop, and artificially add the rays of light, using the original light warmth that 1/2 CTO gel gave me (just used eyedropper tool in photoshop to sample that color). To give you an idea how I did it – think of Radial Blur filter in Photoshop. If you have additional questions regarding how I did it feel free to ask me in the comments. And for all the people who are against “Photoshop manipulation” –  in the case of this photograph my goal was not to show reality, but to convey an idea of mine, therefore I am totally cool with using Photoshop here.

Here is the final result, which I am pretty happy to come up with.

thinking lamps

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In conclusion – the main idea of this article is to show that in order to come up with interesting photographs, you have to allocate time for thinking – what you want to do and how you are going to do it. Even if you don’t have any specific idea in mind, just make yourself sit down and think for half an hour or so, and I am sure that you’ll come up with something interesting!

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome.

Do you agree with this article? If you don’t then why? Can you suggest additional steps towards being more creative?

Remember, you only have to enter your name to leave a comment!

Till the next time,



Interview with Michael Lidski

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

Michael Lidski is a professional photographer currently living in New Zealand. He has lived in several places around the world and traveled in many more. Michael kindly agreed to give me this interview, in which he reveals parts of his life story and also shares his professional opinions on photographic equipment that he uses, all this together with many examples of his beautiful photographs.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I am proud to present you – Michael Lidski !

Self portrait by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. Where are you from?

I am from USSR (remember, once upon a time there used to be a USSR?) – and left it when it was still called a USSR, albeit falling to pieces.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I was born and grew up in the city of Kiev – the Mother of Russian cities, today it is the capital of Ukraine, which is trying to be an independent country.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I am Russian by language and culture. It always was a bit of a love-hate relationship, because on one hand Russian culture, especially Russian literature is great and I’m proud of it, but on the other hand, while living in USSR, I always wanted to leave it, because I considered it a totalitarian police state inhabited by a rather barbarian people.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Doctor Zhivago’s self-sacrifice always seemed wrong to me, because the people whom it was supposed to be for were unworthy of it. One of my favorite jokes about Soviet Union is about a young guy who appears in court for killing an old woman in the street at night to rob her.

The judge says:
– Young man, how possibly could you have killed a poor old lady – and for what?! For just one rouble you found in her purse?!
The defendant replies:
– Well, your honour, look at it from my perspective: 5 old ladies buys a bottle of vodka, ey!

Unfortunately, it seems that the only thing that changed over there since then is the price of vodka.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is the miners wives’ strike – their husbands didn’t get paid for several years. Translation of their banner: “Independent Ukraine has everything but God, Truth and Honor”.
Having been forcibly stripped off my Soviet citizenship (and having had to pay for that, too) – no great loss, by the way – I immigrated to Israel when I was 29 and spent the next 15 years there…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…unsuccessfully trying to become part of the great Zionist idea for the first 10 years and then for the next 5 years trying to figure out where to go to have a normal life. I traveled quite a bit in the meantime…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…gaining some ideas about how different can life be in different societies. Maybe, like Bulgakov’s Master, I haven’t earned the Light, but have earned my Rest – New Zealand became my Eternal Refuge, and here I am today…

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…living in a place probably as close to paradise as one can find on Earth, in the city of Christchurch:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The following image has nothing to do with me, it is a humorous portrayal of New Zealand by an artist whom I would like to thank for using his work:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

How did you get involved in photography and how long have you been into photography?

I became interested in photography quite early, my first works were published 25 years ago, when I was studying to become a biologist. By 1990 I became a pro photographer instead, working at the ‘Radyans’ka Ukrayina’ state publishing house (department of artistic postcards, calendars and photo albums).

By now I have more than 3.000 images & 500 articles published in various books, magazines, newspapers, calendars, postcards, etc. Artworks in private collections in Christchurch, London, San-Francisco, Tel-Aviv, Jerusalem and Kiev.

What was your first camera?

I got my first camera as a birthday present when I was 7 years old, it was an ‘Etude’:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

and it was the worst camera ever made as far as I can tell, no way it could take photos!

What projects are you involved in nowadays?

I am currently doing several different things in terms of photography:

1) Private customer orders, like portraits, events, technical photography, etc. Those are mostly rewarding in terms of $$$.

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

here you can see more examples

2) Digital art based on photography:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

My canvases exhibited (and occasionally even sold) in art galleries;  here you can see more examples of my digital art.

3) Nature photography: Critters, Landscapes, Nature, and I love doing it. I also love shooting Cities

4) Last but not least – studio photography (it’s a fairly recent thing for me and I’m enjoying it!):

Photos by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What gives you inspiration in photography and how do you keep creative and improve?

Difficult question. First and foremost I would like to say that my beautiful wife is my inspiration – I couldn’t live without her! Second – I would say that the most important thing in photography for me is not to register the reality, but rather to express myself through portraying it. Like an artist expresses himself in his paintings, like a composer expresses himself in his music, like a poet expresses himself in his poems. Only sometimes I think that ‘inspiration’ is more like a transmission of a divine ‘radio’ signal, for which an artist simply serves as a receiver. I am like a camera obscura, a pinhole through which the divine light passes into this world…

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

…creating images for people to admire. At least I hope I am…

What do you like to shoot the most?

I am always concentrating on what I’m shooting and processing now. My most recent shoots were a young couple double portrait session done in the studio and outdoors, a shoot of rare birds from a boat in the ocean, and a landscape session in a remote location which was difficult to access.

What equipment do you use?

Canon 5D, Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 1Ds Mark III, Canon 15mm fisheye:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 17mm TS-E L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 85mm F1.2 Mark II L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 28-300mm IS L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 200mm F1.8 L:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Canon 2x TC:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Kenko automatic extension tubes:

Photo by Michael Lidski. Click on the photo to enlarge.

My additional equipment includes:

Canon Speedlite 580EX Mark II flash, UNI-LOC tripod MA2300, 3 ancient Broncolor studio lights, ring flash diffuser for macro, a small and a large (14 inch) beauty dishes, flash remote cable, Manfrotto flash bracket, LowePro SuperTrekker back pack.

Now, that’s rather dry – what should I add? From my perspective, there is no ideal camera as of today. We are talking strictly Canon here, and should probably start with why. Wide format gives better image quality, but is rather limited in it’s use due to available focal lengths of lenses and the absence of higher ISO, not to mention the prices and weight/size.

Nikon D3x is not a bad camera, but I would never switch because of the lenses Nikon doesn’t have (2 of which I own and enjoy). Cropped (castrated) sensor cameras have image quality visibly inferior to full frame. Of course, it would be nice to use different formats, cameras and systems for different purposes, like, wide format only in the studio, etc., but that’s just too expensive. So that limits us to the cameras listed, right? Of those I’m not happy with either one, because 5D is ancient (no highlight tone priority, no usable ISO 6400, slow AF), 5D Mark II has issues (noise and banding at base ISO visible in post-processing, red/inky blotch colour issue, slow AF), and 1Ds Mark III is in respects inferior to 5D Mark II (monitor, higher ISO) – so I’m anxiously waiting for Canon 1Ds Mark IV, which I’ll buy as soon as it comes out.

I hope I won’t have to wait much longer. Well, bodies come and go but lenses stay, as they say, so about the lenses: my fisheye is a very sharp lens, but not an L lens due to inferior build quality (went to warranty repair and back recently), disgusting chromatic aberration and – oh, I wouldn’t mind if it could focus closer, but there is no alternative. Of course, there is a comparable Sigma, but it is not better than Canon…

17mm TS-E is an awesome lens, very sharp, easily usable handheld with liveview in spite of no AF, the one and only wideangle.

28-300 is surprisingly good optically for its zoom range and very versatile.

85/1.2 is bloody awesome, same as the 200/1.8 – unique bokeh, creamy, beautiful – and razor-sharp where the focus is:

In this thread on dpreview forum you can read (and see examples) about my Holy Grail – Canon 200/f1.8 L series lens

And finally, if you had only two tips to give to a beginner photographer what would they be?

A) Choose a different profession which would guarantee you a well-paid, reliable regular job and let photography be your hobby.
B) Have fun while you are young!

Thank you Michael for this wonderful interview. Personally I enjoyed it very much, and I am sure that all my readers will!

Good luck to you in your present and future projects!



Smoke and Bubbles

In every photographer’s evolution process comes a time when he tries to photograph smoke. As a result you can see many photos of smoke on the internet. Now my time has come!

As always I wanted to do something different with smoke, so that my photos will differ from most of what can be seen online. Common practice with photographing smoke is to photograph it with plain white flash and then add color to it in photoshop. But I decided to do it a little bit different – I used flashes with colored gels on them, so I received the colored smoke “in-camera”. That was not enough for me and I tried to use two flashes with different color gels pointing at different parts of smoke, and here you can see what came out of it:

Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The red flash had a gobo so that the light wouldn’t spill on the top blue part, and it was also stronger than blue flash so it would overpower the blue light spilling from above. Of course I didn’t get the result that you see in the photo above right away. It took me couple dozens of shots to achieve it.

My next move was the following one – I thought that most of the beautiful smoke I saw online wasn’t “attached” to anything, so I tried to add a “source” to the smoke as you can see in the photo below.

 Smoking ceramic man

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this photo I faced a technical issue – the flash power that I needed to properly light the smoke was too much for the “smoker” and resulted in overexposed lower part of the photo. I solved this issue by using again two flashes. The flash that was lighting the smoke was placed behind and to the right of the “smoker” and set to “high” power. Then I used a second flash to light the smoker, and placed it in front of the smoker and a little bit to the left. This flash was set to a much lower power and was directed in such a way that the light from it wouldn’t spill on the background (because I wanted a black background).

Here is another attempt of adding a source to the smoke.

Colored Smoke with pipe

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

For this shot I also used two flashes – one with dark-green and another with red gel on it. The red flash was placed from the left and pointed high up to light the upper part of the smoke, while the green flash was placed to the right of the composition and pointed to the lower part. In this photo I had a glossy background and you can see the greenish reflection of the flash in it. I tried to shoot this scene also with matte background but I liked this version more because it adds nice color touch to the overall dark image.

Continuing my experiments I placed two smoke sources and tried to blow on the smoke to create different shapes while I am taking shots of it. I got many interesting photos this way, and this is the one photo I chose to present here:

Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Strangely it reminds me of two opposite sex persons having a conversation. In this shot and two of the following shots I used two flashes with blue and red gels on them, placed from the sides of the frame pointed up at the smoke and away from the background.

This is pretty important – if you want your background to remain dark, you have to point your flashes towards the camera and away from the background. When I say “towards the camera” it doesn’t mean that flashes have to point straight into the lens, they just need to be pointed in the direction of the camera and, again, away from the background. This way, since the light travels in straight lines it won’t hit the background (unless it reflects off something, so make sure it doesn’t) leaving it black.

During the time that I was experimenting with smoke I was constantly thinking what more can I do to make my photos stand out. And one day, at work, my friend brought this childish toy to make soap bubbles. We had so much fun playing with it and remembering the days that we were kids… and then it hit me – I can combine smoke with bubbles to create beautiful images. At this point I started to visualize what can be done with smoke and bubbles, and the idea that I liked the most was to create image of a soap bubble resting on top of smoke pillar.

This was not an easy task to do, as I didn’t have anyone to help me shoot this. So here is what I did: I placed my camera on a tripod, and pointed it exactly at the area where I intended to “place” a bubble on top of the smoke pillar. I focused the lens on the plane of the smoke and changed to manual focus. Then I connected a remote shutter release cable so that I could stand away from the camera. Then I just made a soap bubble and tried to place it where I wanted, shooting in continuous mode during this whole process. Then bubble would pop, and after checking the LCD and seeing that I didn’t get any satisfactory results I would repeat the process.

Eventually, after way too many failures 🙂 here is what I’ve got:

Soap bubble on top of Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is pretty much what I had in mind. But in the process I also got the following image, and I like it much more than the image above. It looks like a planet in deep space…

Soap bubble and Colored Smoke

Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

One more tip if you decide to try this yourself – bubbles reflect everything, and I mean EVERYTHING around them. So after seeing myself being reflected in the bubbles, I had to wear black sweater and a black hat to eliminate my reflection as much as possible. I also turned off any additional lights in the room.

In the next, and last photo I tried a little different approach – I used only one flash but I shot it through umbrella in order to make my light source bigger. In the result below you can see that umbrella can be recognized in the reflection, but I still like this photo. I call it “Aliens!” 🙂


Photo by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I hope that you learned something new from my experience with smoke and bubbles and it inspired you to try this yourself.

Comments, suggestions and critiques are welcome as always, and if you have any questions, technical or other, you can leave a comment or drop me an email to greg at photopathway dot com

Shooting Panoramas with iPhone

At first this thought might sound crazy to you as it sure sounded to me, but then I thought that I could at least try to do that. Since my iPhone is always with me and my camera isn’t (due to circumstances beyond my control of course! ) it had already been more than a few occasions on which I really wanted to make a panoramic image but couldn’t.

So I decided to see if there are any apps for iPhone that can help me create panoramas. During my research I found several applications that  were created for this purpose. But after trying to use them I found out that most applications don’t do a good enough job – either the whole process was too time-consuming and difficult or the result wasn’t satisfying. And then I found application named AutoStitch.

First of all I want to say that I am not affiliated with makers of this application in anyway, and I don’t receive any benefits if you decide to buy this application after reading this article. I am writing this only because I loved this app and want more people to enjoy it.

AutoStitch really did the job so well that I was truly amazed at the results! And the process is also very simple. All you need to do is to take photos for panorama with your usual iPhone camera application. Just make sure that each photo overlaps with the next one at about 30 percent. Then you open the AutoStitch application, simply choose the photos that you want to create panorama from, and let the application to do all the work.

After AutoStitch finished, you will see the final image and also will be able to crop it as you wish. Then you can save it to your photos. There are several great things about AutoStitch that I liked very much:

1. The panorama creation process is pretty fast and simple.

2. The result is very impressive – photos are stitched perfectly together, and if you made each shot correctly, the final result is just great!

3. The final panorama can be saved at the maximal resolution of the iPhone, what I mean is take for example 5 photos with your iPhone, stitch them together in AutoStitch, and the final resolution that you’ll get will be 5 times bigger than single photo resolution.

4.You don’t have to use tripod or to be extreeemely careful! Just try to maintain the initial angle of shooting, and make sure that your photos overlap with each other. AutoStitch will do the rest.

I’d like to show you two of the panoramas that I created using AutoStitch. Please note that I reduced the resolution of these images in order to fit them here.

High Tech District in Tel Aviv

High Tech District in Tel Aviv. Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Alonei Itzhak Nature Reserve

Alonei Itzhak Nature Reserve. Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

And now here is what welcome screen of AutoStitch looks like, when you open the app in the iPhone:

AutoStitch Welcome Screen

In conclusion – AutoStitch is a great application for creating panoramas in your iPhone. It is cheap, simple to use, and delivers great results.

If this article was helpful to you, or you have additional thoughts on creating panoramic photos in iPhone, you are welcome to leave comments to this article or drop me an email to greg at photopathway dot com.


Still Life first Attempts

Recently I was learning a lot about lighting and together with that I am now slowly making my way into the still life photography. I made me my own little studio. Well not really a studio, but a table and some accessories so that I can try and photograph still life. For one of my sessions I decided to shoot a glass with liquid in it. It turned out to be not a simple task as glass reflects absolutely everything! So that particular session wasn’t successful at all, but I didn’t give up, and after working on it for a few weeks, I finally got my lighting straight and about a week ago I made the following image:

Simply Red

Photograph by Greg Brave. Click on the photo to enlarge.

It looked pretty darn good to me, so I posted it on PhotoSig to try and get some critiques. To tell you the truth I was hoping to receive more compliments than critiques. I actually received some compliments, but there were two critiques that simply opened my eyes to still life photography, and I would like to present here several tips from those critiques. But first take a good look at the photo above and try to see what is wrong with it.
… ok, now, when you have your own opinion on my photo lets see what improvements I could have made to that shot.

  • The highlight on the glass seems stronger than the highlight on the pepper, and therefore takes away more attention – reduce the highlight on the glass.
  • The pepper that was chosen is not flawless, but it is also not an old one so that little imperfections that it has don’t emphasize its age, and only disturb the eye of the viewer.
  • Pepper has a darker are due to my lighting imperfection. I should have put a reflector near the pepper to light better that area.
  • There is a reddish area at the foreground that should be fixed.
  • The definition of the foreground (the contrast) could also be better.
  • The glass is poorly separated from the background. In order to better separate it, two black cards can be placed at two sides of the image (outside the composition). They would throw a black reflections on the glass contours, making it better separated from the background.
  • The background darkens towards the top of the photo. A reflector or soft box could be placed on the top to fix that.

Now I also received additional and very useful tips that I sure will use in my still life photography (when appropriate of course!). Here are some of them:

  • Always dilute the liquid to make it less dark
  • When possible slightly crumple some foil small enough that it can’t be seen and place it behind the drink, so that it will add sparkle to the liquid.
  • If you want to add bubbles to the liquid, then add glycerin and use straw to make a bubble.

Thank you Steve Chong and Randy for your helpful critiques!

I hope that these tips will help you too, and if you find them useful or have  something to add, please comment!

Interview With Scott Stulberg – Part III

This Part III of my interview with freelance stock photographer Scott Stulberg. If you didn’t, please read Part I and Part II.

To read the whole interview in one piece click here.

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

Let’s talk about your beautiful panoramic photographs. I understand that choosing a composition and waiting for the right moment are deeply personal skills, but there is also a technical side to it. Which lenses are you using for panoramic photography and how many frames do you stitch together for your final image? What software do you use for that?

Panos? Well… I do love shooting them. They take some skill and a lot of patience. When the right moment and location hits you, it is time to lock and load. A good tripod is a necessity. So is a good ballhead. Making sure yo are perfectly level is crucial. I swing my camera from side to side, even if the level says I am level. You need to make sure that the horizon is at the exact same level on the right edge of your frame as on the left side side. You need a good ballhead to let you pan nice and smooth. A cheaper ball head that does not let you pan smoothly will never work. Always remember this!

Indian Girl

Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

As far as lenses – I use a nice wide angle or even a closer to normal lens, but usually on the wider side. I guess my favorite lens to use is my 16-35 2.8 L lens. Usually at a pretty high f/stop too.

I span the entire width a few times and decide how many shots I want to stitch together. You can shoot vertically and stitch more, or shoot horizontally. I usually like to shoot horizontally and not go too crazy… Maybe 4 to seven images total, and you have to make sure that you are in Manual mode. Anything else and you will mess up your exposure, as camera will try and vary your exposure automatically. So manual is a must. Tripod can’t move even a millimeter, which makes a good tripod also a must… not a cheapo, nothing too light or flimsy. A cable release is also a must.


Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

And then starting from the left, you shoot one frame and then move across to the right, overlapping the image about 20 percent or so each time till you get to the right side. There you have it… easy as pie.

Then I use Photomerge in Photoshop. Works like a charm. Love shooting Panoramas. My shot of Santorini, Greece that I did in the rain years ago, is hanging up 72 inches wide in the new UCLA Medial Center here in LA. I love how powerful panos look and it is the best feeling to nail a good one! The one in Santorini was one of the most memorable times shooting in my life. When the rain started out of the blue, all of the people went back inside, giving me just what I wanted – an uncluttered view of the spectacular town of Santorini. And instead of a beautiful sunset, I got intense clouds and a very moody feeling that gave me something that most people do not get. What a moment for me!

Santorini Panorama

Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What your advice for a beginner photographer would be ?

Read …read…… and then read some more. Everything you can. And also use the best tool in the world, the one I did not have growing up. The Internet. Wow… at the touch of a finger, you can see and read about every photographer in the world. This is a gold mine. You can learn from all the pros this way. Look at their style, learn their secrets, and understand so much anytime you want.

The computer has changed our lives in so many ways, but as far as a learning tool, there really is nothing better. But also, nothing beats having a camera with you at all times. The best camera to own is the one that you have with you. Make sure you remember that. Sometimes moments pop up out of the blue and you will be pretty bummed without that camera nearby.

Study and shoot all the time. Schools are fantastic, any classes will be the most helpful. Being around other students is so motivating too!! Nothing beats that!!

Eiffel Tower

Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Thank you Scott for this informational and interesting interview! I learned a lot from it and I am sure that many of my readers will benefit from it too.

If you liked Scott’s photographs and want to see more of his work, visit him at:


Scott also has a blog where he writes about some of the stuff he shoots and gives Photoshop tips:

Scott’s Blog

You can also purchase the book that Scott mentioned in the interview on Amazon:

Interview With Scott Stulberg – Part II

This is Part II of my interview with freelance stock photographer Scott Stulberg. Part I can be found here.

To read the whole interview in one piece click here.

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

Now let’s get to a more technical stuff.

Could you give any tips on shooting stock photography?

You have to be great at shooting people. You need to get rid of any inadequacies of being able to approach someone and ask them if you can shoot them for stock. So much of Stock photography has people in the shot, and the biggest tip I can give is to focus on capturing people in your images, no matter what the subject is. Look at ads all over the place, even on TV they include peole in every aspect of life and their daily routines, from drinking beer to working on a laptop.
You also should either focus on one subject , and get great at it…or be pretty diverse, and that’s what I like. I don’t want to just focus on shooting food, like some people do. I want to try and do many things. But travel shots are my favorite.

Burma 1 Burma 2 Burma 3

Photographs by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photos to enlarge.

Please describe your typical work flow after you click on the shutter release button.

Hmmmm. This interview is getting longer by the minute I see. My workflow? Well, I make sure that I back up my memory cards that night, whether at home or at the hotel. Open up my images in Photoshop, which is still my program of choice. After using a program for so many years like I have, and in my case, I have been using Photoshop since version 2, it is hard to change. I do like Lightroom and also Aperture, but I prefer to use the original and it works for me perfectly.
I work in Raw of course, and in Bridge, I flag my favorite files pretty quickly and save them into a “best raw folder”. Then I go over them again, giving a higher rating on my second pass. Then I open up my favs in camera raw and go to town on them. Feels good to be fast in Photoshop and so often I know exactly what a certain image needs.

What photographic equipment do you primarily use?

I have been a Canon shooter pretty much since the late 80’s when Canon switched over to the EOS system. That changed the whole ball game and I left Nikon and have not looked back since. Although, Nikon has finally come back with a vengeance and some of their stuff blows away Canon now, and finally we have some good competition that will help us all out.
Have a ton of lenses from super wide, my 15mm Fiisheye all the way to my super telephoto 500mm f4. Carbon fiber tripods, Lowe Pro camera bags and backpacks, and of course I work on a Mac. There really is no substitute there.

Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

On your site I saw beautiful photographs from the Joshua Tree workshop. How these workshops are conducted? How to choose a workshop to suit your skill level and needs ? Could you recommend certain workshops?

Workshops? Well… There are so many ways to go on a workshop. Many schools have them available all over or you can just look in the back of photo magazines. They are usually in the back pages. You can also go online and scout them out. Workshops are possibly the best way to become a better photographer in a matter of days. You go out with other folks that want to learn too…and you pick the workshop that suits you the best.

The Joshua Tree Photo Safari I did was such a cool time for everyone, including the models. I invited 2 beautiful girls, had them bring plenty of nice clothes, and we all learned how to shoot them in the beautiful early morning and late afternoon light. People learned how to pose them, compose the whole feeling and how to understand the lighting in many situations. I showed them how to use reflectors and diffusers, flash the right way and even how to dress them with the right clothes for the right feeling. I even posed them for some stock ideas.

I brought up a piece of old luggage and put Kristin, the taller model in old jeans and a cool red sweater and then we bought a cool cowboy hat. I had her pose on the side of the road at sunrise, hitchhiking. Tried her in different poses, walking towards me and away from me, standing with her thumb out, sitting on her luggage, acting kind of bummed… and it was a super cool time. I even let everyone use my 500 telephoto to see the compression effect from using a long lens. Was a great stock shot that I loved getting. Knew I wanted to get it before I got to Joshua Tree and walked away with several different variations. The students loved trying it too.

Workshops are a great way to practice and learn a ton of new things. I like the Julia Dean workshops. My friend Paul Renner, also does some here in California and Africa. I have led some with him in both places. His site is rennerimages.com. My friend Art Wolfe also does some, out of Seattle. I teach up in Art’s Photography Center in Seattle and he is such an inspiration to me too. We both love the same things to shoot pretty much. He has been one great mentor to me.

Are you doing any kind of post-processing on your photographs? If yes, could you tell a little bit about it?
I try and get my images just how I want in camera for the most part. But I do have to make them as perfect for a magazine as possible in Photoshop too. I make sure the color balance is right on first. Clean up any distractions next. Could be dust on the sensor, a cigarette butt on the floor, or even a person who doesn’t belong. I do what the magazines need and what I tell all of my stock students is: “Photoshop is a photographers best friend!” If you want to make money from your images, you need to get good in Photoshop.


Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

One thing that I use a lot also are Photoshop Plug-in filters. These are filters that you can buy and install into Photoshop to give you an amazing variety of effects and other options to make your images really shine. I recently co-wrote a book called the Digital Photographers New Guide to Photoshop Plug-ins. I show some of the best plug-ins out and how they work with many examples. They really do help a lot and the looks you can get with some of these super cool filters are amazing, and all in a matter of seconds. You don’t have to be a top Photoshop user to benefit from these things!

This is the end of Part II of the interview. Click here to read part III.

If you liked Scott’s photographs and want to see more of his work, visit him at:


Scott also has a blog where he writes about some of the stuff he shoots and gives Photoshop tips:

Scott’s Blog

You can also purchase the book that Scott mentioned in the interview on Amazon:

Interview With Scott Stulberg – Part I

Before reading this interview I suggest reading my Introduction to Interviews with Photographers.

To read the whole interview in one piece click here.

Scott Stulberg is a professional photographer who travels the world and mostly shoots stock. But this is very dull description of him. I know him mainly through his photographs, and I can say that his photography is very much… alive! Just by seeing few of his photographs I could tell that this is a person who loves to take pictures. For example Scott’s photos of horses are among the best I have ever seen. In them Scott succeeded to show both the dynamics of the herd, the interaction between horses, and the tenderness of this beautiful animal.

Camargue Horses

Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I am honored to interview Scott on the pages of Photopathway, and without further ado, please welcome Scott Stulberg!

Scott Stulberg

First of all a little about you.

When did you start getting involved in photography? Was there any kind of special event that triggered your interest?

I started to love photography at around 10 years old when my dad bought me a little point and shoot.  It was a plastic camera with roll film that you just dropped in. So easy….but that was the beginning of a very long love affair. My mom and grandfather had been photographers and I guess I had it in my blood.

Why do you like to take photographs and which subjects are your favorite?

It’s pretty easy to love to shoot photos. Having a camera with me is just instinctual.  It is just so natural, almost like putting on my clothes.  It feels like part of me and I love the ability to capture any little slice of life at any particular moment. And not just a piece of life, but getting it from my point of view. Putting my little twist on it, with my thought process.  It is very much like when a painter has a blank canvas in front of them.  They decide what it will be……what their take on this piece of art will be.  After all, photography has it’s roots from painting.  So, to me it is very similar.

Eyes Fashion

Photographs by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photos to enlarge.

When did you decide to go pro and why ?

Not sure how many years ago, but it was while I was still a Landscape Designer.  I went to school for Landscape Architecture, and designed gardens for people’s homes for many, many years with my mother, who was a great Landscape Designer.  We both had a ton of fun working with plants and trees, flowers and everything else you can do in a garden. But I was always shooting back then. At night and on the weekends.  I used our huge guest house as a studio and just practiced my shooting skills every day. We had a swimming pool also and I joined the Los Angeles Underwater Photography Society and learned how to shoot underwater.  That was a whole new world for me and I fell totally in love with doing that too.

Is there photographers that you look up to? Who ?

So many.  So many of the early pioneers from the photo journalists like Robert Capa, whose images still knock me out, to Ansel Adams, whose work sort of guided me in so many ways… His methods also helped me tremendously in the darkroom, where I could be found almost every night till the wee hours.

Modern day, I am lucky to know so many professionals and learn from them and also shoot with them.  One of my mentors is one of the best fashion photographers of all time, Melvin Sokolsky, and his work is incredibly iconic.  His vision, methods and imagination is off the scale. Being around him is like if you were in love with painting and you could hang out with Michelangelo.  I have been pretty fortunate with knowing him.  Yesterday, I helped him shoot Anthony Hopkins and Andy Garcia for German Voque Magazine.  Was such a mellow time, in the Chateau Marmont Hotel here in Los Angeles, in a bungalow much the same as where John Belushi died of a drug overdose. Was pretty wild being in the same place as that tragic event.  But whether you are shooting famous actors or shooting architecture at night, it just feels right to know that you are capturing some special memories in your trusty little camera.

Why did you choose to shoot stock photography ?

Many years ago, I had a lot of friends that were shooting stock. What I loved was the versatility of it all. That one image could be of a herd of horses and the next of the Coliseum in Rome. It was fascinating to me. And then another shot could be something you manipulated in Photoshop and was your own creation. You could make money over and over, year after year, with the same images. I knew this was what I wanted to do. I knew back then, that I loved shooting many things and that I didn’t just want to shoot weddings, or just sports or any one field. Many people specialize in one thing, but I knew that after time, I would be bored.  Then photography would be more like a job.


Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I wanted it to be exciting and I knew shooting stock would be incredibly diverse. Plus let’s not forget about what really got me hooked. Travel stock. Going all over the world to capture images that would be used in magazines, greetings cards and so many other things. It is pretty awesome to pick up a magazine and see your images. It’s a great feeling that I love to this day. I just had a computer company in Africa ask me to use an image I did in Kenya of 4 Samburu tribes people, posing in the jungle with my laptop. They wanted to illustrate how they can bring technical awareness to even the remotest of places on this planet. It’s a nice feeling every time someone wants to use your images.


Photograph by Scott Stulberg. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is the end of Part I of the interview. Click here to read Part II

If you liked Scott’s photographs and want to see more of his work, visit him at:


Scott also has a blog where he writes about some of the stuff he shoots and gives Photoshop tips:

Scott’s Blog

You can also purchase the book that Scott mentioned in the interview on Amazon: