Olinda Falls, Victoria, Australia

This weekend I took my family to a nice place in Dandenong Ranges here in Victoria – Olinda Falls. Thinking of it I love everything about the Dandenong Ranges forest, it is just beautiful. Having a creek with a few nice little falls is just a bonus. In short, it is a short trek leading from the car park through the forest to the Olinda creek and its falls.

We arrived there at rather late afternoon,  sun was getting lower in the sky, there was humidity in the air as the creek was nearby. This perfect combination led to the photo below.

Near Olinda Falls, Victoria, Australia

Near Olinda Falls, Victoria, Australia

When you arrive at the creek, you have two options – the obvious one would be to use the stairs to reach either the upper viewing platform or the lower one. The less obvious option is to dump the stairs and come closer to the creek. There is a narrow and steep footpath that you can use to scramble up or down along the creek.

Olinda Falls 1, Victoria, Australia

Olinda Falls 1, Victoria, Australia

The advantage of the second option can be recognized mainly by photographers – scrambling along the creek you can see the various cascades of water up close and get many more interesting viewpoints than if you would just use the stairs and shoot only from the viewing platforms.

Olinda Falls 2, Victoria, Australia

Olinda Falls 2, Victoria, Australia

Guess which option I took :). Actually my wife Ira is more adventurous than I am so she led the way carrying our baby daughter Eva in her backpack-chair!

Olinda Falls 3, Victoria, Australia

Olinda Falls 3, Victoria, Australia

Since having our first baby I rarely take my Canon DSLR on our weekend trips with me because it is big and bulky and gets in the way when I need to help with Eva. I usually take the X100 and put it on a small tripod when necessary, so all the photos you see here were taken with it (and processed in Lightroom).

Olinda Falls 4, Victoria, Australia

Olinda Falls 4, Victoria, Australia

It was too bright for long exposures even with the smallest aperture available f16, but then I remembered one great function that x100 has – you can put a virtual ND filter on it! It is simple – in the menu you choose ND filter on. This allowed me to use slower exposure and significantly smooth out the water.

Olinda Falls 5, Victoria, Australia

Olinda Falls 5, Victoria, Australia

Weekend stroll at Coolart Historic Area

Coolart historic area is located near Somers, a small town approximately 72 km south-east of Melbourne, Victoria, located in the south-eastern corner of the Mornington peninsula. The area includes Coolart historic homestead, nice gardens, and lengthy walks around swamps, inhabited  by various birds species.

Last weekend all three of us took a walk there, and it was a great way to spend time! I won’t go into historic details, I just want to show it to you through my lens.

Walking through the wetlands, depending on time of the day and the year you can see many different bird species. Here is what we saw.

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We also had nice views of the wetlands and surrounding areas.

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The Coolart Mansion looks very interesting. Parks Victoria have done a good job preserving it.

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Both from outside and inside.

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Here are some more interior details. I had a feeling that b&w suits them.

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And finally a view of the mansion from the gardens surrounding it.

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I hope you enjoyed this little virtual trip and will be happy to hear about it in the comments section below 🙂

Have an opinion people!

Going through my photographic journey I’ve slowly started to notice this very negative fact… at first it was a vague thought on the back of my mind, but then slowly I started to see it more and more clearly (I am talking about the world of photography enthusiasts and also professional photogrpahers) – too many people don’t have their own opinion.

Let me explain. I found famous photographers, who also have blogs, in which they showcase their work and write about photography related issues. And then there’s the comments section – and in those comments I almost never see anything other than compliments. “Oh what a great article!”, “Wow, what a nice photograph!”, “You are absolutely right”… but when I read that article or look at that photo I am thinking to myself – well this stuff is worse than average… nice photo but nothing special… but if I write in the comments that this photo is not that good and also why I think that, and I always do it politely, in response I receive replies from other readers that I don’t understand the work, and I don’t see the author’s vision… I am sorry but this is bullshit. Those people don’t have their own opinion and they go with everybody elses judgement, who in turn think that if this photographer is popular then his works MUST be good.People tend not to think by themselves. After a while I stopped writing such comments because I saw that instead of contributing to the discussion I am just stirring the air.

Just recently I was searching for an interesting photography podcast to listen to while driving, and I found a podcast with very promising name “Art of photography”, but after listening to four or five episodes I couldn’t bear it anymore – all the guy talked about was film cameras and related technical stuff – reviewed some old film cameras, explained something about how to project light on a fork and onto light-sensitive paper to get an image of a fork, and even how to make film negative out of digital image (!!!). So this guy probably thinks that “Art of photography” is shooting with film…

Another very popular guy rants about how gear is not important, and how the vision is… and then I look at his photographs that he presents on his blog, which are mostly landscapes and I don’t see the vision… the thing that scares me is that those guys have their following, and people look at their work and want to be like them, while there’s not much to look up to. Yes, I know, in the world of photography everybody knows those guys, and nobody knows me, so they must be right and I must be wrong, but in my defense I have to say that before judging work of others I am thinking, by myself, listening to my inner voice, trying not to be swept by the opinions of others.

There are photographers who I look up to. Surprisingly most of them are not too famous. I visit their websites and blogs and listen to what they have to say and learn from them, but most importantly I am always trying to THINK and FEEL everything by myself. And this is what I wish for everybody who wants to get somewhere in photography – think for yourself, don’t let others do the thinking for you.


P.S. One of the websites that constantly presents great photographs is 1x.com. Just one thing to have in mind – they offer hosting service, and if you pay an annual fee you can have your own gallery on their website, where you can put whatever photos you like. When visiting the website you might accidentally end up in one of such galleries – those photos are not going through their tough selection process and hence their photographic value (the term I thought of myself! 🙂 ) varies.

Birthday Photoshoot

A couple of weeks ago I’ve got another family photoshoot. It was a very nice couple and a cutest little boy Leon who just recently turned 2 so they wanted some photos to remember this age. Parents wanted photos to be taken in the boys’ natural environment – their home and backyard. Therefore for me it was an “on location” photo shoot and I had to bring my lighting equipment.

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When shooting kids in studio you have time to set up all the lighting equipment before the session, but when you come to a family home, chances are you won’t have that luxury. There also might not be enough space for your light stands and stuff, which was exactly the case in this shoot. Lucky for me there was a large window with white curtains that provided a great light source. I also mounted a Canon 430ex speedlight on my camera and used it as additional light source, bouncing the light from the walls and ceiling.

For example, in the photo below I pointed the flash at the ceiling to get Leons’ beautiful long hair to be lit from above.

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With little kids most of the times you have first to earn their trust by playing with them and smiling a lot :), and then you have to react to their movements and catch those brief moments in which they forget about your presence and act naturally. I was also looking to capture various emotions and moods of the child.

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Another good idea is to give a kid something to play with. When Leon saw my large shoot-through umbrella, his eyes lit up with interest and he started to play with it, but it turned out to be too big for him. However his parents found a solution – they gave him a smaller umbrella, which kept him (and me) occupied for a while.

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At some point during the shoot Leon got so comfortable with me and my camera that he started intentionally posing for me. When kids pose for camera it is nothing like when adults do it. Kids are natural, they can’t look “posing for camera” by definition, and I can prove it to you. In the next two photos Leon was intentionally posing for me.

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Could you tell that he was intentionally posing?

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I didn’t think so!

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I enjoyed this photoshoot very much and most importantly – the parents loved my work!

Building Composition

In this post I’d like to talk about composing photographs “after the fact”. Wait, don’t jump to any conclusions just yet, let me explain what I mean.
About a month ago I had to fly to Sydney for work but got stuck at the airport due to bad weather. I spent about two hours sitting in front of the large viewing glass looking at the runways. The weather was indeed stormy, it was dark from all the clouds, and there was nothing to photograph.
But when the weather started to get better, clouds began to clear, and airport started to come back to life, I finally took my camera out and started to stock my prey. I wanted to capture this feeling of the “airport awakening” when the planes begin to approach the runways, and workers move to and fro. Unfortunately no matter how hard I tried or how long I waited, I couldn’t capture the picture I had in mind… at least not in a single frame. Needless to say that I was very disappointed.

Later, when I returned home and went over those photos, my imagination switched gears – I saw details in different photographs, that put together would be able to create that image I had in my mind while shooting. Since I know my way around Photoshop,  I decided to go ahead and try to do that.

I ended up with two images which both have two things in common – both of them I would call “airport awakening”  because they portray the clearing of the storm, and resuming operations of the airport. The second thing is the way in which I created this sense of awakening – with directions. I’ll explain this in more detail by going over the images.

In this first image I have three different “directions”, which go in zig-zag shape leading the viewer’s eye from one element of composition to the next. First is the direction of the two trolleys, which goes from lower right to somewhere in the middle left side of the image, next is the direction of the moving utility vehicle which catches the eye on its way to the left and redirects it towards the upper right corner, and finally the eye reaches the plane and again changes direction to the left ending up on the airplanes in the distance. The floor is still wet from the rain, but the sun starts to shine through, giving the feeling that storm has ended…

Melbourne Airport

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The second image is darker, as if there is still the danger of the storm, but the moving vehicles hint of a hope for good weather. And again, we have the directions theme – from right to left, then from left to right, and finally the plane takes us into the depths of the image.

Melbourne Airport

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The main thing that made the compositing easy was that I shot all the photos from approximately the same location and also I was using the same focal length.

As always your thoughts, suggestions, and critiques are welcome in the comments section below.

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

Blossoming Eucalyptuses

In the summer, here in Australia, Red-flowered gum trees start to blossom. This is a very beautiful sight! The whole tree is covered by marvelous, red-colored flowers. These trees have various hues of red, and when you have the whole street planted with them, the view is stunning!

blossoming eucalyptuses

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But merely this fact wasn’t enough for me to set aside some time on weekend and go photograph them. There was one more thing – early in the morning starting about at 7 o’clock and until about 9 the Rainbow Lorikeets (beautiful little parrots) come to feed on these trees. Most of the chances that you won’t see them later in the day there, but in the morning the blossoming trees are filled with these brightly colored little birds. It is quite simply a celebration of colors!

blossoming eucalyptuses

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I couldn’t miss this event, took my 70-200mm lens, and set out early in the morning to capture the nature at its best :). You can see what came out of that photo session in this post.

blossoming eucalyptuses blossoming eucalyptuses

blossoming eucalyptuses blossoming eucalyptuses

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I needed to have quite a lot of patience as the parrots were restless, kept moving all the time coming out and disappearing in the foliage, but I managed to get a few nice images. Hope you enjoy them!

blossoming eucalyptuses

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Seascapes and other issues

Lately I haven’t made much noteworthy photographs… either that or my understanding of what “good photograph” is has changed. Either way I don’t like almost anything that comes out of my camera. And what’s more important, I don’t know how to improve.

I guess I’m just searching now for something… another point of view on the world maybe. This is really confusing for me – to search for something not knowing what it is.

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Nevertheless I keep on shooting and analyzing my work, most of which you will never see here on my blog because I don’t think it is worthy. The photos I included in this post are nice, I like them, but I also think that they are nothing special, just another bunch of seascapes among thousands.

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One of the things that I changed about my photography is that I take much less pictures, and before taking one I stop and think about the composition, about what I want to say with this photograph, what emotions I want my photo to express. And later, when viewing the photo on my computer I try to understand whether I achieved what I wanted or not. Most of the times I don’t.

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Long exposures of the sea and sunsets (just like the one below) simply don’t cut it for me anymore.

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If you have or had similar issues, and have any suggestions, I would be more than happy to hear them.

Post-processing variations

I am not a believer in the “straight out of camera” philosophy. You know, the photographers who don’t do post processing at all and sometimes shoot in plain JPEGs. Anything in addition to that, would be “distorting the reality” they claim. My opinion on this subject is that there is no such thing as objective reality. Everyone sees what he sees through his own eyes and his own perspective. Your previous life experience also alters your perception of everything that you see around you. Even when you simply point your camera at a scene and shoot, the light goes through the lens, hits the sensor, gets transferred into electronic signals, then is processed by your digital camera’s own processor, and undergoes even more transformations until you see the photo on your computer screen. I don’t think I need to go further.

So, when I work on a photo, first I usually perform basic adjustments in Lightroom such as brightness and contrast and then, if I feel that it is not enough, first I try to understand why I feel that way. Is it the composition? If it is the composition then there’s nothing much can be done in post processing, and I will probably discard that photograph. But if the composition feels right then I continue my exploration.  Are the shadows too shallow or too deep? Can the colors be improved?

Next, I open the photo in Photoshop and start playing with it, changing color palette, increasing/decreasing lights and darks, and other adjustments. Usually I come up with several versions of processed image, which look good to me, then I compare them and choose the one that I like the most.

Below I have three versions of the same photo, but the thing is that I can’t choose the one that I like the most. Each version has its own mood, and I have trouble choosing.

The first image below is the original version with only minor brightness adjustments.

Waterfall version I

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The second version received quite a bit of processing, and has a warm autumnal feeling to it. I like the purplish glow and how it contrasts with the white of the water.

Waterfall version II

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In the third version I used the original photo as the base, substantially decreasing color saturation, of all the colors except the yellow of the leaves in the water. I also happen to like this version a lot.

Waterfall version III

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Which version did you like? Please help me choose, but I also need to know the reason for your choice, and this is what the comment section below is for! You can also leave your comments on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/photopathway

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:



Three Photos From Prague

When a person looks at a photo, he (or she) can almost immediately say whether he likes it or not. In rare cases it can take a while, but eventually you can either like the photo, not like it, or stay indifferent to it.

But have you ever tried to ask yourself exactly why do you like or don’t like the photograph? It is much more difficult to pinpoint the reasons for which you feel about the photo the way you do.

In this post I am going to present three photos that I made during one of my visits to Prague, and try to explain why I like them. It will be a good exercise for me, and also a good experience for you, my readers. You might agree with my observations, or might not, but in any case I hope to help you to be more conscious not only when looking at images, but also when creating them.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

I like the photo above for several reasons. Main reason being that it creates a winter-cold feeling, and gets me in the wintery mood. How it does that? Well, first of all the B&W helps – it emphasizes the lack of colors on a typical overcast winter day. The lonely figure also adds to the mood. Imagine for a moment that instead of lonely figure there would be bunch of kids playing with snowballs – would that add to the mood that I’m talking about? Of course not. Considering everything else in the photograph would remain the same, they would create a contradiction by adding playful joy and “bright colors” into pale surroundings. This is why lonely figure is much more appropriate for this photo’s aim. What else? The bare trees and the snow on the ground of course. In addition there is also a three-dimensional feeling to this photo created by the narrow gate at the front leading the eye to the stairs and further on into the photo – different planes create a feeling of space, and the small human figure looks even lonelier in this space.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here is another photo of a snowy winter day, and also with a lonely human figure 🙂 What can I say, these photos were taken in the winter, it was cold and I was in THAT mood. I didn’t convert this photo to black and white because I didn’t feel that it was needed. On the contrary, I wanted the snow on the wall to be distinguishable, and the wall being colored helped that. There are several rhythms in this photo – the rhythm of the street lights, the rhythm of the columns on the wall, and the rhythm of the stairs, all creating a sense of harmony. The human figure has strong visual connection with the statue and the viewer’s eye travels between the two. This connection also prompts us to “humanize” the statue, to think of it as if it was a human figure standing there. These two figures are located in the frame in a way that creates compositional balance. The statue in front “tilts” the balance to the left, but the human figure “counterweights” it by being in the center. The statue is bigger, but because it has snow on it, it is brighter, and bright colored objects are perceived as light by the human eye, while human figure is smaller but it is much darker and thus perceived as “heavier”.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This last photo is my favorite. By the way, it almost didn’t need the conversion to B&W – the colors were missing from the world that day…

The arched walking path and the bare trees standing on its sideways create a sense of swirling motion around the city buildings with St. Vitus  Cathedral rising in the middle and being steady as a rock.  The horizontal lines in the middle background also add to the motion feel. It is almost a scene from fairytale with a mystical castle and enchanted trees.

Actually, besides what I wrote in the paragraph above, I find it hard to explain why this photo has such a strong impact on me, and maybe you can help me out here. How do you feel about the photos presented in this post, and this last photo in particular? And more importantly why do you feel that way?


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!

Melbourne’s Street Life

Recently I had a chance to walk around Melbourne’s CBD, and I got fascinated with the wealth of photographic opportunities! You just have to keep your eyes open. I think such walk with a camera could also be a great exercise for any photographer. I have to admit, I just did it for fun… and I loved it!

Ok, let’s see what I’ve got for you this time:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo above is one of my favorites from that walk. There are several compositional connections in it, and while not all were intentional, nevertheless they all contribute to the composition. The most emphasized being the people sitting on the benches, three of them using their mobile devices and the fourth person might or might not use his device, and this fact creates additional interest. Another connection is between the walking man on the foreground left, and the walking woman on the background – these figures are connected with a virtual diagonal line. Third compositional connection is between two standing figures in the background. There is also an additional connection which I won’t mention here – think for yourself what is it and write your conclusion in the comments below.

Overall, I think, this photo creates a pretty good picture of “urban life”.

I took the next photo in one of the alleys. The restaurant wasn’t open just yet, but in the kitchen it was business as usual as they were preparing for opening. You must see this photo in a bigger size (just click on it). Walking through that alley first I was fascinated by the graffiti on the walls and then I saw the kitchen staff working inside, and immediately noticed the contrast of the inside/outside. I took a position in which the reflections of the graffiti on the opposite wall would be most visible in the windows to give a better idea to the viewer regarding the outside world, and waited for the one of the workers to make any articulate move. The result you can see below.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below… yes, I know, photographing reflections and turning the photo upside down had become a corny trick, but in this case I just couldn’t help myself.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The next photo shows a true moment of interaction between two people (my opinion of course), and this is why I like it so much. Catching  such moments is not as easy as it might seem (people are interacting all the time after all!), and I got lucky with this one.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here is another little urban story… I wonder if all the cups belong to this girl 🙂

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Next photo is an interesting one as there is a compositional conflict of directions… I just made this term up! Here’s what I mean – the group of teenagers are all looking left, also the “one way” arrow points to the left – all making the viewer wonder what’s there, and then you have the man standing in the center of the composition facing straight to the right, and even though I used the word “conflict” in my description of the photo, I still think that it is compositionally balanced because the compositional weight of the group of teenagers and the arrow is balanced by the weight of the man, though he is a single person opposed to the group, but he is in the center and his “sense of direction” is stronger.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I have mixed feelings about the last photo, but I still decided to present it here. What I like about it is that it is a collage without any photoshop, and also a slight surrealistic feel that it communicates. What do you think? I would appreciate any thoughts on this one.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

As always, your comments are appreciated!

Photography As Form Of Art – Free PDF Download

Everyone following my blog must’ve noticed that lately I am getting into more serious study of photography as form of artistic expression. In Photopathway it all started with my post “Wisdom Of Photography” where I wrote about my exploration of an old book about art of photography. Next came the post “About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours”  , in which I tell about wonderful Czech photography magazine “Revue Fotografie” from the 1960s. In that post I also presented my translation of one of the articles I liked the most in that magazine.

In this post I continue in the same direction but with a slightly different approach – I created a photo album (in PDF file) containing most of the photographs from the 3/1961 issue of “Revue Fotografie”, which I would like to share with as many aspiring photographers as possible by making this PDF file available for free download.

In the photo album I also wrote a foreword article outlining my reasons for creating it. Let me share parts of the foreword here, and make sure you download the album by clicking on the banners above or below.

“… I strongly believe that in order to advance in photographic vision and skills, one has to learn from the masters. Not to copy their work, but to understand what actually good photography is. Looking at good photographs one can begin to understand what do the words ‘photographic vision’ mean, and also to learn how to powerfully express thoughts, feelings, and emotions through a photograph.
Nowadays, one of the most serious problems lying on the path of any aspiring photographer, is the enormous amount of mediocre photographs presented everywhere, making it hard, especially for the beginner, to distinguish between real works of art and a ‘nice wrapping without the stuffing’.
So what am I presenting in this photographic album?
To explain that, first I have to tell you about a photographic magazine “revue Photographie” that was published four times a year in Czechoslovakia between 1950s and 1990s in several languages. Don’t  even try to compare it to most of currently published photography magazines, which are filled with advertisement and “shoot like a pro” articles!
In its early years “revue Photographie” was considered one of the (if not THE) best photo magazines in the world. Founder and editor-in-chief of the magazine during 1950s and 1960s was Václav Jírů, a very talented photographer himself, whose photographs are now being displayed in museums and sold on auctions.
Václav Jírů selected and approved most of the photographs, making the magazine a true work of art. In today’s terms it would be comparable to 1x.com. Of course photographs weren’t the only asset of the revue. The articles too were very educational and informative, dealing not only with questions of photographic techniques but also with more important issues such as:
                                                      – Photography as form of art
                                                      – Moral obligations of the photographer
                                                      – Place of photography among other art forms
and many more.
Even during the time it was published, “revue Photographie” was very sought after, and not easy to acquire, not to say about nowadays.
I got very lucky to lay my hands on one of the issues. It is the third issue of the year 1961, published in Russian. I happen to know Russian so I had an enormous pleasure reading it. One of the articles was simply too good to not share it, so I translated it to English and you will find it on the next page. The photographs, on the other hand, don’t require my translation, and are there for everybody to look at, learn, and appreciate.
In this photographic album I arranged most of the photos from the 3/1961 issue of the revue. I hope that many aspiring photographers will get to see this album, enjoy, and learn from the photographs presented in it.
I will continue my search for other issues of “revue Photographie”, translate its best articles, and put up its photos here, on the pages of my blog… “

Feel free to share this album with anyone who you think can benefit from it, and I would appreciate any feedback regarding this album in the comments section below this post or to my email – greg at photopathway dot com.


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!

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

In one of my recent articles titled “Wisdom Of Photography” I shared with you, my readers, some of the interesting thoughts about photography that I found in an old photography book. After finishing that book, I continued my search after interesting old photography related material, and I found a magnificent Czech magazine named “Revue Fotografie”, which was published four times a year in the middle of the 20th century (approximately from 1960s to 1990s). This magazine was widely considered to be one of the best photo magazines in the world at the time. It was also translated from Czech to some other languages including German, and Russian. The specific issue that I found was Russian edition of third magazine in 1961.
I can’t even begin to describe how much I was impressed with the articles and photographs presented in this magazine! But as always, I want to share some of the wisdom I learned from it. I am aware of the fact that my blog becomes more and more serious, but after all – it is my path in photography, and it is what it is.
From the magazine, I particularly liked one article. I translated it to English and sharing it here. While reading it, please have in mind that it was written in Czecho-Slovakia in its “Communism” period. I tried to omit as much as possible the parts which are not relevant to our times, but most of the article is as relevant to photography now as it was back then. Along with the translation I am also including a few of the photographs from the pages of the magazine.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Carel Gibner - 'An Area'

Carel Gibner – ‘An Area’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Written by Tamara Shevchenko, translated by Greg Brave

About the Attitude Toward One’s Own Artistic Endeavours

One of the most gratifying things in our work as editors of the “revue Fotografie” are the letters from our readers, and whole stacks of them! In these letters many photographers share with us their plans and views on photography. Often they write about their lives, and are being very demanding, as only sincere friends can be, towards the work of our magazine. The sincerity and friendliness of our addressees pleases our editorial staff, and countless praises awakens the desire to devote ourselves even more to our work.

Often, however, warm, friendly, and sincere letters are accompanied by poor, indistinctive, similar to hundreds other, photographs. One couldn’t help not to think about it. Why it is so? Why in such a wealth of different destinies, characters, and points of view, people who pick up cameras, try to reproduce overused themes or to emulate the masterpieces instead of revealing their own true selves?

Here we will not touch on the subject of talent and lack of it. In any case I don’t think the question of talent should be only regarded as a “gift of God”.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Secret'

L.Fischer, Austria – “Secret”. Click on the photo to enlarge.

As we all know, Leonardo da Vinci was the first to develop laws of perspective for painting. And since then young artists don’t need to wait for “divine intervention” in order to rediscover these laws as they can all be learned from Leonardo. The cultural heritage of humanity is freely available to everybody. Therefore, looking through hundreds of photos, again and again I wonder if the inexpressiveness, impersonal nature, and similarity of them is in reality a hypocrisy and insincerity of the photographer towards himself?
Such an amateur photographer, having read on the front page of our magazine the words “review of artistic photography” immediately decides: “let’s send them photos of trees, water, sunset, or cloudy skies”… and our editorial office receives hundreds of photos of trees, water, sunsets etc. as if these subjects are the true discovery and revelation to the people.

L.Fischer, Austria 'Curiosity'

L.Fischer, Austria ‘Curiosity’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Art arose from the desire of the artist to tell about himself. After all, even when artist speaks about his surroundings, or events that he witnessed, he in fact tells us about himself, about things seen through his own eyes. And magnificent art, which survived its creators, was created by the artist’s ability to see things so originally and so deeply, as nobody saw ever before him.

If a person does not want to talk about himself, he is silent. But if a person is not silent, if he picks up a camera and tries to use photography as an art form because he feels that its means of expression fit him the most of all other forms of art, such person should not be afraid to create his own artistic statement. It is the right and the privilege of any human being of our modern times – to find and acknowledge the meaning of his own life, express it, and strive to live the life of significance, brightness, and excitement, to find one’s self.

A.Zybin - 'In Art Gallery'

A.Zybin – ‘In Art Gallery’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Of course, one should still photograph trees, waves, and sunsets, but the photographer must be an artist, a person who can see the landscape in his own original way. We are surrounded by a huge variety of things, creatures, and destinies, but we ignore them, hiding behind the undeniable beauty of the generally recognised subjects. In our photographs we avoid expressing the controversial, the unresolved issues within and around us.

We often comfort our self-esteem with the dream of our existence in true art by imitating famous photographs thinking that by doing that we can’t go wrong.

Equally wrong is the way of those who constantly increase the color saturation of their photographs (this can be understood not only directly, but also metaphorically – Greg’s note). This is an evidence to one’s inability to appreciate the beauty of life, to prefer real life’s beauty to the artificial one.

Leopold Fischer - "In a Storm"

Leopold Fischer – ‘In А Storm’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Our editorial office received one curious objection from one of our readers, condemning the photo of patterns created by foam on water, and other such photos in our magazine, which the reader personally didn’t like. From his letter I understood that many years of age separate this person from his childhood, and apparently also from the fresh, lively, and direct perception of the things around him. Childhood memories, though naive, are very profound. In childhood one sees things, so to say, up close (like in macro – Greg’s note). A small blade of grass is visible down to its root, a crack in the pavement is scary because it is deep and unexplored, thick walls of old buildings – what a fertile ground for imagination! These were just a few examples of course.

Yaroslav Parcovsky - 'Time Walks The Earth'

Yaroslav Parcovsky – ‘Time Walks The Earth’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Over time a person learns to evade the puddles, not to climb up on every obstacle on his way, not to drag a stick along the fence. And learning manners is generally a good thing. But how many interesting things start to slip away from our attention as we grow up! In true artists many recognize soul of a child. Maybe this “childishness” actually is a profound understanding of things around us, the ability to see them “up close”.

Miroslav Yodas - 'Construction'

Miroslav Yodas – ‘Construction’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Therefore isn’t it better to be more curious of things surrounding us, which may even sometimes irritate one’s “untrained” perception, and not condemn them unconditionally just because they are perceived as something not usually shown in photographs?

Yuri Gantman - 'In The Morning's Silence'

Yuri Gantman – ‘In The Morning’s Silence’. Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Wisdom Of Photography

My fellow readers, I am glad to meet you here on my blog and in this article in particular! I have to warn you though – the article that you are going to read is by far the most serious and in-depth piece of text I’ve ever written in this blog. So if you don’t feel like going deep into some photography related subjects, feel free to browse my other articles, which are “lighter” and have nice photos to go with the text.

These days I’m reading a book named “The Poetry of Photography”. It is a book by two russian authors Mikhalkovich and Stigneev published in 1989. It talks about different aspects of photography as form of Art, comparing it to pictorial art, and trying to explain various definitions found in photography such as various genres in photography, composition, use and qualities of space in photographs and much much more.
I have to say that I’m really learning so much from it, but it is also very demanding, meaning that I have to think hard about the material presented in the book in order to fully take it in.
While reading, I write down aside the key sentences and concepts offered in the book and continue to think about them. In this article I would like to share some of these concepts. I really tried to translate them from Russian as precise as I could, and I will also provide more explanation for each saying.
Take a deep breath and let’s begin.

1. “Picture is a visual statement. Every statement possesses in itself three kinds of relations. Firstly it relates to the “speaker” (the one who makes the statement), secondly it relates to the depicted subject, and finally it relates to the ones who take it in.”

Basically it means that when you take a photo, first of all it means something to you, since you have a certain idea as to why you took this photo the way it is. Then this photo shows something, a portrait, landscape, still life, as if to say that when you take the photo you see a certain scene (object, person) through your own “filter” of consciousness, but the photo still shows a piece of reality which has a quality of its own. And thirdly this photograph looks “differently” to the viewer because he looks at it through his own “filter”.

To me this is a really profound thought, and having this in mind when photographing helps me to create more meaningful photographs.

2. “The impact of the photograph, the impression of it, lies not within the photograph itself, but within us, the viewers.”

This is a kind of elaboration to a third part of the previous saying. While seeming pretty straight forward, I find it to be deeply profound. You can also look at it this way – the same exact photograph can be very meaningful to one person, while being completely indifferent to another. I think that the best photographs out there are very meaningful to large groups of people.

3. This one is a saying by Siegfried Kracauer (1889-1966, a German-Jewish writer, journalist, sociologist, cultural critic, and film theorist). I tried to translate it as precisely as I could:

“Taking in the material “frozen” and presented by the photograph, the viewer sometimes “hears” the tiny voice of true reality – the “whisper of existence”.”

Here, I think, Kracauer tried to put into words what we feel when we look at a certain photograph and think “This is it! I can feel this! I understand what this photograph is telling me”. Such a photograph can be considered a successful one as it does a good job of depicting a certain piece of reality.

4. Continuing with Kracauer’s sayings:

“And while the reproducing quality of photography has grown to be very accurate, this accuracy itself will not allow the viewer to hear the “whisper of existence”. For this, photograph needs to have figurativeness.”

Basically Kracauer says here that simply snapping a photo of what you see is not enough for the photograph to be expressive, to be “good”. This is still true in our times when photographs are sharp, crisp, with precise colours. You, as a photographer, still have to put in thought and effort when creating a photograph, so it will make an impact on the viewers.

5. “If the subject retains its uniqueness, e.g. the full spectrum of its qualities, when presented in a photograph, then it equals to the real thing.”

This is also a deep thought. I’ll elaborate on it a little. When you take, for example, still life photo. Let’s say a flower in a vase, you have endless possibilities as to how you do it. The lighting, the angle, the background, the vase – everything can be altered. Depending on how you do it you can either create totally “indifferent” photo of just “a flower in a vase”, which won’t reveal any qualities of your subject, and it won’t matter which kind of flower it is, and what vase you used. But you can also create a photo that will vividly present the qualities of this particular flower, which can be accentuated by your choice of lighting (colour, angle etc.), by your choice of vase, and the background. You can add additional elements to the photo to further increase the impact, such as fallen petals. When the viewer looks at such expressive photo, he perceives it as THIS flower, “the real thing”, and not merely an illustration of flower.

I encourage you to think about these sayings and relate them to your photographic experience as it will help you in your PhotoPathway.

As always your thoughts, comments, and suggestions are highly appreciated!

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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!

Portrait Studio Photo Shoot

Recently one of my friend’s friends, Renata, saw these portraits I shot about a  month ago, and liked them. So we decided to do a studio photo shoot with her. When I said “studio”, I meant a tiny studio that I put up in my living room. It consists of a black or white background, one light stand with Canon EX430 flash inside soft box, and one tripod converted to light stand with Yongnuo flash and white shoot-through umbrella.

Shooting in my home studio I am limited by the size of my living room, so I can’t use any focal length I want. The biggest zoom I can use is about 100mm. In that case I have to stand at the far end from the model, and still be able to shoot almost only head-shots.

The following photo was made using Canon 100mm f2.8 macro lens. Even though when shooting studio portraits I usually use my soft box as the main light, in this photo my main light was the Youngnuo flash through white umbrella from the left, and I used my soft box as hair light from the top right and it also acted as a fill in light to soften the shadows.

I placed the lights at such angles so that almost no light would spill on the background as I wanted the background to remain black. It is intentional that the Renata’s dress is also black and looks only slightly lighter than the background – I wanted to make an emphasis on her face.

Canon 100mm f2.8 macro; Shot at f8, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.


Continuing the discussion regarding the photo above – shooting that portrait I looked for Renata’s natural expression. At first she was a bit constrained trying to pose for the camera, but then we started a conversation about all kinds of topics and she got more relaxed. At one point I put the camera down and we continued speaking about a particularly interesting subject for her, and I noticed that she  got completely relaxed. So I grabbed a camera and started shooting.  This is when I got the shot above.

Next photo is posed, of course. It was my idea to shoot Renata with a candle, but after trying everything I had in mind, I couldn’t make a single nice photo. Then I asked my model to do anything she liked with the candle and just watched and shot. After a while I saw her making this pose and thought – “this is what I was looking for!”, so I asked her to remain in that pose and shot several variations. The photo below is the one me and Renata liked the most .

Sigma 28mm f1.8; Shot at f5, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.


In the next photo, I wanted to try a bit more dramatic lighting with stronger shadows. One of my primary concerns was to make her left eye (the one to your right when looking at the photo) free of shadows coming from the nose. I wanted it to be as vivid and visible as the right eye, and still to have strong shadows. This involved moving the main light around the model until I found the desired angle. All my flashes were set to manual mode, so in order to achieve stronger lighting I just increased the power of the flash.


Sigma 28mm f1.8; Shot at f5, 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.


One more aspect to think about is the flash recycle time. I use small strobes (Canon EX 430 and Yongnuo), which are powered by 4 AAA batteries. Using such strobes at full power means waiting two to five seconds between shots, loosing priceless facial expressions and body poses. So I never use my strobes at full power unless I absolutely have no choice. I usually don’t go above 1/4th of the full power and set ISO and f-stop accordingly (taking the DOF into account of course).

After getting a few decent portraits, which were the main goal of the photo shoot, we started to improvise. I particularly liked the shot with the sunglasses. I liked Renata’s expression in that one – it is radiant and tender at the same time. Of course I didn’t get this shot on the first try, but the final result is what counts, right? 🙂

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L; Shot at 24mm f2.8 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.


The following photograph is my favorite. I love the dynamics of it. For this photo I had Renata stand facing the background and then turning swiftly around on my mark. I really wanted to catch that hair movement. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because at each turn hair moves differently, and it doesn’t always look as nice as in the photo below. I probably did about 15 shots before making this one.

Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L; Shot at 42mm f4 1/200 sec | Click on the photo to enlarge.


I really enjoyed this photo shoot and I am pretty satisfied with the results. I find the background a bit boring, therefore thinking of my next photo shoot to be on-location somewhere.


I hope you found this article to be helpful and interesting, or at least one of these 🙂


Your comments / questions / suggestions are always appreciated!





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…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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!


My New Portfolio

I always wanted to create a nice looking portfolio to showcase my photographs, but every time I tried, I didn’t really like the result. Most of the times it was due to lack of sufficient time to work on the design. I had to do everything myself because I couldn’t afford to hire web-designer.

This time I had a little more time, and I also found a partial solution – after a few hours spent in search I bought a premium WordPress theme that I liked, and then tweaked it to look exactly as I want. So most of the design was ready, and I had only to perform minor changes.

You can view my portfolio either by clicking on the link “Portfolio” which is located above the top banner of the blog, or clicking here.

I would really like to know what you think. Any constructive comments would be appreciated!


Till the next time, take care!


Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens

Alfred Nicholas Gardens are located in the Dandenong Ranges, Victoria. The place is pretty well known among Australian photographers for its scenic lake and beautiful trees. Most of the photos that you’ll find on the web usually made in late Autumn (which is April/May in Australia), when the trees turn yellow, red and orange. And it is indeed a really beautiful sight!

But I had the chance to visit the gardens in late Summer, when everything was still green, and I didn’t want to miss an opportunity to take a few photos, which I’d like to share.


There is a tiny waterfall flowing down into the lake, and even though when you look at the whole waterfall, it is not really photogenic, I found a fragment of it that I liked. I also wanted to create the “smooth water” effect. As you may know it is achieved by using long exposure. The loner the exposure, the smoother the water will be. But I had a problem – there was too much light, and I didn’t have any ND filters (Neutral Density) with me. My solution was to use a polarizing filter. In addition to “directing” the light, polarizing filter also reduces the amount of light by about 1.5 stop.

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The whole lake was covered with fallen leafs from the surrounding trees. Even though everything was still green, it was beautiful! I love the way the reflections can still be seen in the gaps between the leafs.

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Eventually I decided to concentrate on fragments, rather than the “global” scenery. These leafs are showing the closeness of the Autumn and I also liked their shapes. The lone red leaf at the back adds a point of focus to this somewhat chaotic composition.

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

Click on the photo to enlarge.

At one point I decided to take a break and settled on this bench. When I got up I noticed how nice my hat looks lying on the bench close to these beautiful flowers. The only touch that I added to the photo was the yellow leaf on the hat. Looking at this photo I would like to change the leaf’s location a little… but what’s done is done 🙂

Alfred Nicholas Gardens

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I really enjoyed this place and I hope you enjoy my photos.

As always any comments are appreciated.




Phillip Island

Phillip Island is located approximately 140km south-southeast from Melbourne. From my home it is about two hours drive. It was named after the first governor of New South Wales, Arthur Phillip. Phillip Island is pretty small: it has 9 kilometers at its widest, and is 26 km long, but it has about 97 kilometers of coastline, which allows for many photographic opportunities.

Recently I took a three day trip to Phillip island. As always I had my camera with me, and I’d like to share my experience with you my dedicated readers! 🙂

One of the first places I visited were “the Nobbies”.  This area has spectacular coastal views, which you can experience from the boardwalks and lookout points set amongst natural sea bird gardens.

The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia Seal Rocks, The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The views were so magnificent that I couldn’t stop photographing. When I later saw my photos on the computer screen, the grass was so vividly green, as if I greatly increased the saturation. I even had to reduce saturation a little so the grass would look more natural! I really wanted to photograph this place on sunset, but the whole area closes before the sunset time due to wildlife activity in the twilight.

The Nobbies, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

My next stop was the Swan Lake, the only permanent freshwater lake on the island. I didn’t see too many birds out there, but there still were a few, and I liked the “layered” view, which you can see in the photo below.

Swan Lake, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

There was a boardwalk leading around the lake with small hideouts along the route for watching birds without disturbing them. The shot below was made from one of the hideouts. I am not sure if swans sleep with their eyes open, or he noticed my presence despite the hideout.

Swan at Swan Lake, Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On my second day on Phillip Island, on late afternoo, I found this beach. It is very close to the bridge that connects the Island with mainland. The photo below was made on this beach, and somehow it reminds me of ancient Greek amphitheaters. I also decided to come back to this beach on the next day’s sunrise…

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

and then I drove to another beach to photograph Sunset… why? you ask me. The answer is pretty simple – the sun was setting on the other side of the island! So the next photo was taken from Surf Beach, which is located on the way to Cape Woolamai.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And we are back again, now at dawn to the same beach with the “amphitheater”.  The land that you see in the distance is the mainland with small town of San Remo on it. Formed as a fishing village, San Remo’s economy nowadays mostly based around tourism.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I think I already mentioned that Phillip Island is connected to the mainland by bridge. It is a 640 meter concrete bridge, which I found to be rather nice looking in sunrise colors.

Bridge to Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Unfortunately I have no idea what is the name of these birds but I find them very beautiful against the sunrise-pink colored water. For the shot below I used my Canon 70-200 f4 L lens and tripod.

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

During the sunrise the clouds were moving pretty quickly so I was lucky enough to catch some pretty darn nice shots :), as you can see below

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And finally I went to San Remo’s jetty to watch pelican feeding. Unfortunately that day feeding didn’t occur but, I snapped the photo below. Look, they are twins!

Phillip Island, Victoria, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

That’s it for my photographic reportage from Phillip Island. I hope you liked my photographs, and

As always your thoughts and comments are welcome!


Till the next time, take care!


Interview With Alexander Petrosyan

Recently I wrote a post about magnificent photographer Alexander Petrosyan. I was very impressed with his work, so I wrote him an email asking for an interview for my blog. And guess what? He kindly agreed!

Everybody, please welcome Alexander Petrosyan.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell us a little about yourself. What is your occupation,  how did you get interested in photography?

My introduction to photography was terribly banal: as well as many of my peers back in those years, I was presented with a camera named “Smena” on my birthday 🙂 Since then I periodically quit and came back to photography many times. Currently I am a full-time photojournalist for publishing house “Commersant”.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

How many of your shots were initially conceived in your mind and then “materialized”?

I don’t have many such shots. Much more often happens the following scenario – I have an idea in my mind, but according to the situation this idea transforms into something else, which in turn on the photograph again looks different, and the viewer sees what he sees.  That’s why the title of my blog is “In reality things are somewhat different than in real life… ”

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What is the story behind your shot titled “Graduates” ?

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

This photo was made in the most ordinary way – I saw this couple, which was very different from the rest of the crowd of graduates, and I just ran in front of them shooting continuously. Technically it wasn’t an easy shot to get using Canon 20D, because its max ISO was 1600 while I had to shoot hand-held, running backwards in front of the girls. I nevertheless managed to get a fairly sharp shot.


How do you manage to be in the right place at the right time?

It doesn’t happen too often, at least not as often as I would like… in simple cases what helps is the analysis and prediction of the situation. In more complicated situations I just hope to get lucky.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Isaac Newton once said, “If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”. Who are your giants?

The saying, which is actually closer to my perception is “Do not make yourself an idol”. There are not a lot of key figures in photography, and they are known to anyone interested in the subject. But to narrow the circle and take for example my colleagues from St. Petersburg, who I have met in person, I would name an urban photographer Boris Smelov, and photo-essayist Sergei Maximishin.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your thoughts about Cartier-Bresson’s work?

What do I think about Cartier-Bresson? Well, that’s like asking, for example, physicists, what do they think about Newton or Einstein 🙂

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What equipment do you use and why?

I use whatever equipment is available to me. Currently it is a DSLRs from the publishing house where I work with a standard set of glass:16-35, 24-70, 70-200… nothing special, but it is sufficient for most of my work.

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

And last but not least my traditional question: if you could give just one piece of advice to a beginner photographer, what would it be?

My advice for beginners is not original, but it comes from my own experience: look at the works of masters, and shoot as much as you can experimenting a lot… and of course do not be embarrassed by critique or its absence and show your work to lots of different people… But, perhaps the most important thing is to shoot what you really love!

Photo by Alexander Petrosyan. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Thank you Alexander for your time, your knowledge, and your photographs!

If you liked Alexander’s work and want to see more of his great photographs check out the links below:

Here are the only two links to English resources with Alexander’s photos

Link 1 (Alexander is also known as Yan Petros, so don’t be surprised to see this name here)

Link 2

You can also see Alexander’s photos on his LiveJournal stream, where he adds new photos as they come, and also on Nonstop Photos website. These two last resources are in Russian, but everyone understands the visual language of photography.


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).


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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:


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.


Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.




Photographer – Alexander Petrosyan

There are a lot of great photographs and talented photographers out there, but there are a few that stand out. To me at least. And I don’t judge by the publicity of their names, only by the impact their work has on me. You all must know guys like Joe McNally, David Hobby, and David DuChemin – they are all over the place, and don’t understand me wrong, I read their blogs, check out their photographs, and learn from them, but there are photographers out there, who are not nearly as famous as these guys, but whose work is at least at the same level, and even better. Of course it is only my opinion, but then again – it is my blog 🙂

I would like to introduce you to one such photographer. His name is Alexander Petrosyan, and he lives in St. Petersburg, Russia. He is a street photographer mostly photographing in St. Petersburg. I don’t have to say much about his work – his photographs do it perfectly. His work reminds me of the famous Henri Cartier-Bresson. The situations that Alexander freezes in his photos tell their stories so vividly and so impressive.

Unfortunately most of his work displayed on Russian web sites, hence the titles of his photographs are in Russian, and in many cases the title adds an important bit of information to Alexander’s photos.

I don’t have Alexander permission to display his work on my blog, so I am just going to give you links to his work. If you would like to understand more about any specific photograph but struggle with the language barrier :), feel free to ask me in the comments to this post, and I’ll do my best to explain.


Here are the only two links to English resources with Alexander’s photos

Link 1 (Alexander is also known as Yan Petros, so don’t be surprised to see this name here)

Link 2

You can also see Alexander’s photos on his LiveJournal stream, where he adds new photos as they come, and also on Nonstop Photos website. These two last resources are in Russian, but everyone understands the visual language of photography.


As always your comments are appreciated!


Till the next time, take care!




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!


Should Photography Cost Money?

In our digital age, photography became much more accessible to everybody, and it is mostly a good thing. But there are few outcomes, which are not all positive.

I would like to talk about one such aspect in this post – how this technological advance affected professional photographers. In the old times, when people needed to cover an event, make family portraits, or anything else that had to be photographically documented, they would have to use professional photographer’s services, because there was no other choice. Nowadays, however, in order to save money, many prefer just asking a friend who has photography as a hobby, to drop by and take some shots. Of course, I am not talking here about mass media events, but for example small companies do that when they have all kind of social activities for their employees. When I was working at a high tech company, and they knew that photography is my hobby, they used to ask me to cover various company events and meetings… for free of course. A few years back they’d have to hire a professional photographer to do that.

Family portraits – I think the practice of gathering the whole family together and hiring a pro to shoot family portraits is almost extinct because everybody has a digital camera, and snaps tons of photos all the time, so people think there is no need to spend extra money on a pro.

And one of the most important events – weddings. Even though for many people wedding is an event of utmost importance they still try to cut costs by asking their friends-amateur-photographers to cover it. And even when people hire a professional wedding photographer they look for the cheapest prices, thinking that photography can’t cost “this” much, because it is so easy nowadays. And really good professional photographers have to lower their prices, which in turn affects the quality of their work because they still have to make a living, and now it means doing more work for the same money – thus spending less time on each assignment. I’ve turned down some of my friends requests to shoot their wedding because I don’t feel experienced enough, and it is way too much of a responsibility for  me. I only shot one wedding, for my very close friends and only because they couldn’t afford to pay professional photographer. Doing that I realized that shooting weddings is a hard work!

After being involved in photography for a few years, I can say with confidence – a good photograph is still as hard too create as it was 10, 20, and 30 years ago. I am not talking about ‘color representation’ or ‘correct exposure’ or any other technical aspect for that  matter. I am talking about ‘the photograph’ itself, you know, what it tells the viewer, and how it does that. Powerful, beautiful, tender, exciting, creative, breathtaking photographs are still as rare as they were before. It might not seem like that because you can see many beautiful photos on the internet, but that’s only because internet brought billions of people and many talented photographers among them into one place (the internet).

Lets go back to family portraits – a good family portrait made by professional photographer will capture the family, their feelings, the affection between family members the way that no snapshot ever will. Many years later, looking at that portrait you’ll remember what it was like back then, and it will be a pleasure to look at all your life.

Weddings – there can be no substitute for a good professional photographer. You really want you wedding day to be remembered in all its glory, and no inexperienced amateur can do that. And there are all kind of unexpected things that can happen. For example what if your friend’s camera breaks in the middle of the event? Or his batteries die? What then?

People, remember that good photography is hard to create, and it is a full time job, so don’t try to find the cheapest guy out there, which could mean that he won’t spend enough time on your assignment.

European award winning photographer Magnus Bogucki created a video describing how much time it takes to photograph wedding – from preparation, to the wedding day, to post processing and final wedding album. I highly recommend watching it. You will be surprised how much time it really takes, and how many different activities are required for a successful wedding shoot.

Surprised? I bet you are.

You can also visit Magnus’s website at  www.magnusbogucki.com, he is a really good wedding photographer, and to prove that one of his photos won an award for being among the world’s 50 best wedding photos of year 2010 by Junebug!

So, now what do you think, should people pay professional photographers, or anyone can snap good photos with his digital camera?



Wilson Promontory, Australia

Wilson Prom is a peninsula, which is the southernmost point of the Australian mainland. Its coastline is about 130km in length and it is framed by granite headlands, mountains, forests and fern gullies.

During my visit there it was very windy. Winds reached speeds of 65 km/h, which made it pretty difficult to photograph the place, but the ever-changing clouds created a very moody atmosphere.

This photo was taken on the beach. I liked this small water canal and the ripples on it. If you look closely the rock on the left resembles head of a dolphin. Actually I didn’t notice that until my father saw this photo and pointed it out.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The river in the next photos named Tidal River. It is the main river in Wilson Promontory. It runs into Norman Bay and swells with the tide (hence the name). The river has a very interesting color, a purple-yellow. This is due to the large amount of tea trees in the area, which stain the water with tannin giving it a tea-like appearance.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here I wanted to emphasize the texture of the boulders, and I also wanted a minimalist look. Lack of color achieved it in my opinion.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This is the famous whale rock. As you can see it resembles whale’s head.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In about 100 meters from here forward Tidal River meets the ocean. The next photo and the rest of them was made on my second day at Wilson Prom. The winds weakened, and the weather improved a little. As a result you can see people swimming in the river.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below was pretty heavy processed. I shot it into into the sun, which made the lower part very under exposed, and I had to increase fill light to a horrible 87 percent in Lightroom! I must really start thinking of purchasing ND Grads… Nevertheless I really like the composition and feel of this photograph.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I always loved to photograph the ocean. As you can see Tidal River gives its color to the ocean making it look very unusual but also very beautiful to me. Clouds add the final touch, and below you can see the result.

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I’m convinced that photographers don’t give seagulls enough attention, and I’ve decided to fix that. In coastal Australia seagulls are everywhere, and they are not afraid of humans. On the contrary – they are always near, waiting for food. I found a nice location at one of the picnic areas, and took many shots of seagulls with the help of my 3 year old nephew who was throwing them food 🙂

Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And last but not least two photos from the Squeaky Beach. The photo on the right is called “The Elephant Legs”. These rocks looked magnificent, and I want you, the viewers, to concentrate on their shapes and textures, hence the b&w.

Wilson Promontory, Australia Wilson Promontory, Australia

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I used tripod for most of the photos you saw here. Just to give you an idea – I shot about 570 images in total, from them I deleted 520, and the photos you saw here were the chosen ten. If you liked these photos, you can see eight more on my Facebook page:  www.facebook.com/photopathway

As always any comments are appreciated!

Till the next time, take care


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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

Till the next time, take care!


Seeing in Black and White

In one of my previous articles I wrote about shooting with intention for B&W (tip number 6), and not merely looking at your photos and trying to convert them to B&W to see if that looks good. Now I would like to add the concept “seeing in black and white”. It comes to you when you shoot a lot of b&w images – you then gain the ability to look at your composition and in your mind see how it would look in b&w. Sometimes, the weather is such that you don’t need this ability – the colors are simply black (dark gray) and white (light gray), but on other occasions the sky may be blue with white clouds and everything around you so colorful that imagining how it would look in b&w would be difficult. This is when the “seeing in black and white” skill comes handy.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes the scene itself calls for b&w, as it was with this garden statue. This woman was standing in this garden for a long time and her skin turned from pearl white to muddy gray, the same happened to the color of the fence, and in any case the emphasis here is not on the color.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Black and white in photography often helps to convey mood, and emphasize shapes and textures.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here is another example of emphasizing shapes by shooting in black ans white.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Did I mention mood already? I just love it when the sky looks like it is going to rain any minute, and light is dim. These minutes before the rain are great for capturing photos such as this one. I wish there would be a bird sitting on the hanger at the foreground though…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I hope you liked the photographs, and I’ll see you next time!

As always your comments, thoughts, and experiences are highly appreciated.


Interview With Ursula Abresch

Ursula has very unique photographic style, and a lot of talent. I first saw her work on 1x.com and then followed to her own web site. I find it very fascinating how through abstract forms and colors Ursula manages to convey various moods, feelings, and emotions. I was very happy when Ursula agreed to this interview because I had so many questions to ask her!

Everybody please meet Ursula

Ursula Abresch

Tell a little about yourself. Are you a full time photographer?

I was born in the north-eastern part of Argentina, not too far from Iguazu Falls.  I grew up in both Argentina and Chile.  I moved to the USA to attend university, and eventually moved permanently to Canada.  I now am Canadian, living in the interior of beautiful British Columbia.  British Columbia is a beautiful province.  It’s a mountainous area, with lots of trees, lakes and rivers, waterfalls, rocks, and wildlife.  For me, it’s a great place to live.

I am married.  My husband and I have five children.  I have a degree in Education with a major in Art and History. Currently I dedicate most of my time to photography.

Do you have other hobbies?

I don’t have any hobbies at this time, although I love beadwork, hiking, and reading mysteries.

Can you describe the “mental” process of creating a photograph? What I mean is how do you decide to take a photo? Do you see something that catches your attention and photograph it, or first the idea of a certain photo comes to you and then you execute it?

It’s a variety of things.
At times I set out very deliberately to make a certain kind of image.  For example, “bounce” is such an image.  I participate at DPChallenge occasionally.  One of the challenges last year was “Point of Color”, where the assignment was to capture an image where a point of color is the main subject.


Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

I decided to photograph a group of paper strips taped together at one end for this challenge.  I entered a different photo into the challenge, but “bounce” was the result of this assignment.  The composition, the setup, everything was quite deliberate.  “Coastal dawn” is a similar story.  I had been experimenting with waterscapes, closeups of reflections on water in a pan, and I deliberately set out to create a sunset/sunrise impression.  Most of my studio work is quite deliberate.

I prefer to work outdoors though, in natural light.  When working outdoors I usually have a theme for the day.  For example, “an autumn song” and “late fall” are both made on days when I set out to capture the mood and the spirit of Autumn.  One was made in October, the other in November of last year.

An Autumn Song Late Fall

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes I set out to work on a particular technique.  In those cases I am not so interested in the subject, but more in the potential of the subject for a particular technique.  Two examples are “bittersweet” and “burn”. The objective was to make photos that would be good for HDR processing techniques.  I think they worked well for that exercise.

Bittersweet Burn

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Same with “needles”: the idea here was to practice using the Lensbaby.  The subject/final photo wasn’t planned, what was planned was the method.  I am happy with the result nevertheless.


Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Sometimes a photo just happens.  “Hunter” is such a photo.  I was driving home to Canyon Village in Yellowstone National Park on a rainy evening, and this scene happened.  I am glad it did.


Photo by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Finally there are the photos that are conceived over time and carried out mainly in Photoshop.  “Revelation” and “my BC” are like that.  “My BC” uses 2 pictures, one made in April of last year, the other in August.  They are combined in Photoshop for the final image.  The base photo for “revelation” was made in the Fall of 2009, the idea for the final image didn’t come to me until a year later, when I was experimenting with adding texture files to images to create more visual interest and intensify the story.  I think the process worked well in both instances.

Revelation My BC

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What are your sources of inspiration?

The place where I live, British Columbia, has become an important source of inspiration in my photography.  It is a subject for some of my more representational images, and also for many of my more abstract images, where I try to reflect the essence of a subject, or where I use a subject to express emotion.  For example, many of my closeup images of the Columbia river are an attempt to reflect my own thoughts and feelings in pictures.

Painters from Canada, in particular Western Canada also influence my work.  We live in the same world, so I like to see if I can see what they saw the way they saw it.  The works of Emily Carr, especially her fantastic studies and paintings of trees, are a constant source of inspiration for my photos.  For a while, and even now, I was quite inspired by the works of Takao Tanabe, a more recent painter than Emily Carr, especially his waterscapes.  Lately I’ve been looking at works by the Group of Seven, in particular Lawren Harris and A.Y. Jackson – I find their work very inspiring!

Last, I’ve been trying to familiarize myself with at least some of the printmaking by First Nations people in British Columbia, trying to find ways to apply some of their concepts to my photography.

Do you try to learn from other photographers?

Yes.  I look at the work of other photographers all the time, and try to learn from them.  Some names that come to mind are Freeman Patterson, Dorothea Lange, Alfred Stieglitz, John Shaw, Galen Rowell, Tim Fitzharris, Irving Penn (especially his still-life work).

But as mentioned in the last question, more so than from photographers I learn from painters.

What makes great photograph to stand out from other good photographs?

Good technical skills are essential.  But photograph that stands out is a creative visual composition with one or more of the following: excellent light, captivating mood, compelling story, irresistible graphic appeal.  Not all are present in all great photographs, but some always are.  Some pictures draw you in because they tell such a good story.  Others because you can strongly feel the mood when you look at it.  Yet others simply overwhelm you with the beauty of their design.  In my view, the more characteristics combined into one photo, the stronger the overall appeal.

You have beautiful abstract photos, such as “Femininity”, “Firewater”, “Coastal Dawn”, “Drifting”. How do you create them? Is this made in camera or there is Photoshop involved?

There is Photoshop involved in all of my photos.  For me, and for any digital photographer, it wouldn’t be possible to make a final print without using Photoshop or some other photo-editing software at some stage.  Making the final print is the goal, and in the digital world you can’t do that without software.

Femininity Firewater

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

The four photos you mentioned are all done in studio.  Three (“firewater”, “coastal dawn” and “drifting”) are closeups of reflections in a pan of water.  “Femininity” is also a closeup of a reflection in a pan of water but with a glass vase partially submerged into the water as the point of focus.  Imagine being by a calm lake in Autumn, sun behind you shining on the beautiful trees at the other side of the lake.  What do you see on the surface of the lake?  A beautiful reflection of the Autumn colors.  That is essentially what I am doing here, using a pan of water and reflective materials on the far side to make closeups of these reflections on the surface of the water.  For added interest, the water in the pan is not still but moved around.  The setup is quite simple, and the results are somewhat predictable but not entirely, at least not yet, for me.  The variable is the water movement.

Coastal Dawn Drifting

Photos by Ursula Abresch. Click on the photo to enlarge.

In “coastal dawn” I deliberately put a red dot on the blue reflective material with the intention of simulating a sunset or sunrise.  I think it worked.  In “femininity” I put the vase in the water and moved water over it while photographing because I wanted an interaction between the very hard edge of the glass and the soft movement of the water.  The other two, “firewater” and “drifting” are simply closeups of the colorful reflections on the surface of the moving water.
I have to add- this method is not my invention.  I learned to make this kind of pictures from Willy Marthinussen at 1x.com.

How did you learn to use Photoshop?

I started out editing my images in Paint Shop Pro.  I switched to Photoshop in 2007.  I learned mainly by trial and error, but also by asking questions of other photographers on the net at sites such as DPChallenge. I have worked my way through a few online tutorials, and that also was helpful.

I can’t help it, but I have to know technical details. What equipment do you use?

I started out with Nikon digital because I liked the name “Nikon” better than “Canon”.  I also liked the intuitive menus, the way the Nikon fit in my hands, and the slightly less creamy look of the photos.

Camera bodies:
Nikon D200 and Nikon D7000

Nikon AF Nikkor 50mm f/1.8
Nikon MF Nikkor 200mm f/4 AIS
Nikon MF Zoom-Nikkor 75-150mm f/3.5 E
Lensbaby 2.0
Sigma 150mm f/2.8 EX APO Macro EX DG HSM
Sigma 70-300mm f/4-5.6 APO DG Macro
Tokina AF 12-24mm f/4.0 AT-X Pro DX

Manfrotto 055PROB tripod with Manfrotto 486RC2 ball head

PSCS4 and Photomatix on a MacBook Pro connected to a Cinema Screen
HP B9180 Photosmart Pro printer

Do you use  flashes and light modifiers ?

I use available light most of the time.  I do have a Nikon SB600 flash that I use occasionally, for example in the creation of waterscapes such as the four images you mentioned in your question about my abstracts.

And finally, my traditional question: If you had only one advice to give to beginner photographer, what would it be?

Always remember that technical skills are essential, but it is artistic perception that finally makes the photo.

Thank you Ursula for taking time to answer my questions and for your beautiful and inspiring work!

If you liked Ursula’s work and want to see more you can visit her page at 1x.com or her own website at www.ursulasphotos.com/

Artistic Interpretation

In this post I’d like to talk about photographer’s artistic interpretation of the observed scene.

When I decide to take a photograph of a location, it is usually because I feel some sort of impulse. This impulse comes as a result of the surroundings communicating a certain mood, or association to me. You can say that I am photographing more of a mental image of the scene that I have in my mind at that moment than the actual scene. And consequentially, later when I see the photograph on my computer, it is quite different from my mind’s picture.

I call bringing the two images together “Artistic Interpretation”, and use post processing to achieve that. I constantly feel the need to improve my post processing skills to be able better present my photographic intentions.

In the following two examples, you can see the photographs before and after my artistic interpretation (left photo is before and right photo is after).

It was  evening time, about 40 minutes after the sunset. The darkness came quickly and the sky was cloudy, it  was going to rain any minute. I felt the “pressure” of the coming rain in the air taking this photograph. When I saw the resulting photograph, I felt that this feeling of a close rain and late evening was gone and I had to bring it back. I increased contrast and reduced saturation. I feel that I succeeded in bringing that mood back, but I’ll leave it for you to decide.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 1 after.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

On another occasion I was again walking along the beach. It was a shortly after the sunset, and because it was cloudy, I could barely see the faint remnants of sunlight. The clouds were really beautiful and I couldn’t resist taking a photo. In post processing I increased contrast and added a bit of saturation to the yellow. I also added slight vignetting to concentrate the viewer’s attention on the horizon.

Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 before. Seaford Beach, Victoria, Australia. Photo 2 after

Click on the photo to enlarge.

What do you feel looking at these images? Can you bring your own examples of your artistic interpretation?

As always any comments, suggestions, ideas and anything else you’d like to say are welcome.

Till the next time, take care!


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!



Old photos, new post processing

About a week ago I found a wonderful photo website of a great photographer Tony Kuyper. In addition to sharing beautiful photographs on his website, Tony also writes Photoshop tutorials on photography post processing. And what a great tutorials they are! You need to know your way around Photoshop in order to fully benefit from them though.
For me these tutorials revealed a whole new world, and I have been playing with my photos, implementing stuff I learned from Tony’s tutorials this whole week.

Well known photographer David duChemin is currently traveling in New Zealand. Inspired by the photos he is sharing on his blog I felt the urge to go over my own photos that I took while traveling in New Zealand a few years ago.

Using the knowledge from Tony Kuyper’s tutorials I was able to significantly improve some of my New Zealand’s photos. Here, judge for yourselves.

Sandy Bay, Lake Waikareiti. North Island of New Zealand

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the photo above, the sand on the foreground and the greenery at the background were too dark. I was able to seamlessly lighten them and also to slightly increase the green’s saturation without affecting other parts of the image.

Rotorua, Thermal Wonder. North Island of New Zealand

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In this image I was able to selectively increase the color saturation only where I needed to, without affecting the saturation of other parts of the image, and, what is the most important here – I could do that seamlessly. And by seamlessly I mean that you can’t see any “borders” between the parts with different saturation levels.

I hope I intrigued some of you with Tony’s tutorials. I loved them and therefore recommend them to you unless you are ideologically against post processing.

You are welcome to share your thoughts and processed photos, and

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


Poor Mickey

I found a nice place in Frankston named McClelland Sculpture park. It is a pretty large outdoor area with grass and trees and even a little lake. All through this area many sculptures from different artists are placed. Some of them I liked more, some of them less, but there was one sculpture that puzzled me the most:

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I don’t know what exactly artist who made it wanted to express, but in me it evoked a feeling of horror because there were two things that don’t go together – children and torture. Mickey Mouse represents happiness, happy childhood, great toys and movies, and seeing him on this “electric” torture pedestal creates disharmony in your perceptions.

I think artist wanted to warn everybody that the happy childhood of our future generations is in danger. I am not arts expert, so it is only my opinion here, but while this sculpture may represent a “wake up call” for the adults, I certainly would not show it to children,  because seeing their beloved character like that may cause them nightmares or other negative reactions.

And now I’ll switch to a completely different topic – photographing this work of art. You can, of course, take a documentary photo of it, which is just presenting it as it is without any additional concerns, but when I photographed it, I tried to convey the impression that I’ve got from it through my photographs. My tools were composition, which is the angle of the shot and decision what details have to be included in the shot (or left out), and post processing.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I am presenting here two photos with different composition. I can’t decide which conveys my impression the best, because each of these two photos contributes to it.

In the post processing I converted the photos to black and white, enhancing the ominous feel, which reminds me of the horrible photos from concentration camps of WWII, and added vignetting to further “darken” the look and concentrate the viewer on the subject.
I’d really like to hear what do you have to say about this work of art, and how I captured it, and which photo do you like more. Your opinion is highly appreciated, and

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

Till the next time,



Simple Things

Lately I was thinking about minimalism in photography. For me it is conveying a message (mood, idea, emotion, etc.) to the viewer through minimum of visual details or subjects. When you see a successful example of minimalistic photography, it seems that it is very easy to accomplish, because there are not many details in the composition that you have to think about.

But that is not true. While trying to create photographs with minimum details, I found it to be pretty difficult to come up with a good one. It is due to scarcity of detail that each detail has to be absolutely necessary and located in the right place.

After numerous unsuccessful attempts I came up with this photo, which I like because it creates a certain mood.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Initially I wanted to make this photo with the bird sitting on the antenna, so I was waiting with the camera aimed at the scene for the bird to sit in “photogenic” pose (which would be such that its whole silhouette would be visible), but instead the bird flew away, and then I caught it changing my composition intentions on the fly. I was lucky to catch the bird with open wings as I made only one shot.

Now when I look at this photo, I think that I could have waited more for this or another bird to appear and sit on the roof, and it would make another interesting composition. Then I’d compare the photos to decide which I like best. But these are merely afterthoughts, and this image is the only one I have.

I would be happy to hear your opinions on this photo – what would you change in it and why? And any other thoughts that you’d like to share on the subject of minimalism in photography.

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

Till the next time,


Here and There

As I promised, here are some more photos from where I live now, which is Australia if you haven’t followed me until now.

There are so many beautiful flowers and trees here, that I can’t resist photographing them and in the last month I gathered quite a collection of flowers and trees photos. Everything blooming now, it is Spring here. Take this tree for example. Imagine how it would be to look out of your living room window and see this beautiful tree!

Click on the photo to enlarge.

In the next photo I couldn’t resist doing some Photoshop editing, and added a texture to the flower in addition to converting it to black and white (with dual toning). If you’d like to know how I did the conversion, you can read my post “Creative Conversion to B&W in Lightroom”. Thinking of it, I probably will also write a post about how to add textures to your photos.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The photo below was taken at Frankston’s Sculpture Park. This sculpture of a lady standing there created a mystic mood, and I tried to capture it. Whether I succeeded or not is for you to decide.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

These are Pelicans that live on the small beach in Hastings (small town). They are waiting for the lady from fish shop, which is located nearby, to come out and give them some fish leftovers.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This photo is from the same location.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I am fascinated by the shapes of the gum trees that are so common in Australia. Here is one example, but there are so many different and magnificent tree shapes that I might just create a collection of them.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

This photo was taken in Sydney in the outdoor art exhibition “Art and About”. I liked how these two guys were looking at the huge photo.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

It was a pretty short post, but I hope you liked the photos.

Any comments are always welcome and,

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


Henri Cartier-Bresson’s Sayings

Lately I came across something I didn’t realize existed – collection of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s quotes, and they fascinated me! I learned from them so much about Bresson’s vision of photography, and I also could understand better his photographs. I have also enriched my understanding and feeling of photography from Bresson’s quotes, and I think any evolving photographer would benefit greatly from reading them.

One thing to remember though is that Henri Cartier-Bresson was a photojournalist (he is actually considered a father of modern photojournalism), and many of his sayings result from this type of photography.

In this article I am going to present you my favorite Bresson’s sayings “bundled” with his photographs for better impact on you 🙂

” To photograph is to hold one’s breath, when all faculties converge to capture fleeting reality. It’s at that precise moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy. “

The photograph below is a great visualization of this idea. The captured moment was there only for a brief moment with no chance of repeating itself.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To take photographs means to recognize – simultaneously and within a fraction of a second – both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis.”

Again, the photo below illustrates this saying perfectly. All the elements in it had to be there to get final result. There is nothing redundant in it, all the elements contribute to it creating the final impression.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“The most difficult thing for me is a portrait. You have to try and put your camera between the skin of a person and his shirt.”

The photo below is a portrait of Henri Matisse shot by Cartier-Bresson, in which you can see two of his (Matisse’s) greatest passions – painting and pigeons. Actually I found an article about Henri Matisse in Wikipedia, but there wasn’t a word about Matisse’s pigeons. Nevertheless I was sure that they must play an important role in his life if Bresson included them in the photograph. So I kept looking for a more elaborate biography of Matisse just to make sure that these pigeons weren’t just a one-time subject of Matisse’s painting. And guess what, I found it – Marguette Bouvier in interview said about Matisse: “Henri-Matisse has a passion for birds. He considers a bird cage as indispensable as a bed in a bedroom…”. In the Matisse’s portrait there are also three bird cages, and now you know why they are there. As you can see there is no meaningless objects in Bresson’s photos.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Photography is nothing – it’s life that interests me.”

It is also something to be thought of. Photography by itself is nothing really, you don’t photograph just for photography’s sake (at least I don’t). You photograph to express yourself, to show something that caught your attention…

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“You are asking me what makes a good picture. For me, it is the harmony between subject and form that leads each one of those elements to its maximum of expression and vigor.”

I don’t know about you, but for me this photo is powerful, and it is such not only due to the look and posture of man on the foreground but also because of the second figure behind him on the right. There is a certain similarity in the way how they look at the camera. One of the thoughts that went through my mind when looking at this photo is that maybe the person behind is the father. Or even in general looking at these two men made me think that when you are young, you are strong, and with age your body looses it’s toughness but your gaze stays the same…

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“This recognition, in real life, of a rhythm of surfaces, lines, and values is for me the essence of photography; composition should be a constant of preoccupation, being a simultaneous coalition – an organic coordination of visual elements.”

If you didn’t understand the “rhythm of surfaces, lines … ” part, take a look at the rhythm of trees in the photo below.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“You are asking me what makes a good picture. For me, it is the harmony between subject and form that leads each one of those elements to its maximum of expression and vigor.”

Take a minute to look at the photo below, not just flick through it, and you will see many interesting little details (the gaze of the man standing behind, the little handbag…).

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“To me, photography is the simultaneous recognition, in a fraction of a second, of the significance of an event.”

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“I believe that, through the act of living, the discovery of oneself is made concurrently with the discovery of the world around us.”

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“Thinking should be done before and after, not during photographing. Success depends on the extent of one’s general culture. one’s set of values, one’s clarity of mind one’s vivacity. The thing to be feared most is the artificially contrived, the contrary to life.”

This is a powerful thought. In photojournalism and street photography you have to learn to anticipate how the situation will evolve in order to be in the right place at the right time.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

“We photographers deal in things which are continually vanishing, and when they have vanished there is no contrivance on earth can make them come back again. We cannot develop and print a memory.”

Here is another wonderful example of a fleeting moment caught just at the right fraction of a second.

Photograph by Henri Cartier-Bresson

And here is the last quote.

“Photography appears to be an easy activity; in fact it is a varied and ambiguous process in which the only common denominator among its practitioners is in the instrument.”

The more I photograph, go over my photos, and think about photography, the more I understand how difficult good photography really is.

I hope you learned something from Henry Cartier-Bresson’s sayings, and enjoyed the photos I chose to present here.

Any comments as always are much appreciated and,

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

Till the next time, take care!


Interview With Scott Hotaling

Scott Hotaling loves nature and outdoor activities and photography was a natural extension of his passions. Scott’s love and appreciation for nature can be clearly seen in his beautiful photographs. I was lucky to get an interview with him, and without further adieu please welcome Scott Hotaling!

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Tell a little about yourself. What do you do for a living? How did you get involved with photography?

I’m a North Carolina native and I’ve spent a majority of my life exploring the southern Appalachian mountains. Despite a good bit of travel across North America and stints living elsewhere I still consider western North Carolina my home. Currently, I’m spending several months focusing solely on my landscape photography work but in January, I’ll be starting a doctoral graduate program in Lexington, Kentucky. So, for the time being, I’m working solely as a photographer for the first time in my career. As for getting started, it was simple cause-and-effect for me. I loved exploring new places but never managed to shoot photographs that translated the beauty I found to those around me. Most of the time I’m still trying to figure it out but every once in a while I luck into something good.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

How do you pick your spots for taking pictures?

For me to do my best work I have to be physically drawn to a place. It’s not uncommon for me to visit a location ten or more times under a variety of seasons/conditions before I get the photo I’m after. The process can take years but it’s one I respect and enjoy. But despite frustrations and bumps along the way, at the core of it all, is a deep appreciation for a specific place and the desire to showcase it under optimal conditions. I carefully construct what the perfect conditions would be for a location in my head then do my best to capture them. In most cases, the right conditions include a certain season, landscape condition (fall color, fresh snow, etc.), time of day, cloud cover, and more.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What inspires you to take photos?

The natural world and the infinite combinations of light, dark, rock, plant, water, etc. that make every photograph different from the next. From a microscopic to global scale we live in an incredible place and I want to see as much of it as humanly possible, my camera simply comes along for the ride.

But, specifically, I’m particularly drawn to places with dramatic views – mountain summits, ridges, cliffs, etc. And, particularly those that aren’t easily accessed or less widely known. For example, a winter sunrise from a remote mountain summit is the best case photographic scenario I can envision.

Do you hike and photograph alone, with someone, or in a company?

Usually alone. More by necessity than choice, my schedule and plans dictate my hiking company more than my personal preference. But, I’ve been lucky to have a wide variety of wonderful people join me for adventures and that’s always much more fun.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What photographic equipment do you use and for which tasks?

I like my kit to be simple. I don’t need nor want a bunch of stuff to lug around. My workhorse camera is the Canon 5D. I don’t subscribe to manufacturer debates over which system is better – it’s all the same to me. My 5D has gained my respect over the years because I can’t seem to break it. It falls on icy glaciers, gets soaked in the rain, sees temperatures below 0° F regularly in the winter and despite plenty of other daily torment, it never misses a beat. When it does finally die, that’ll be fine, I’ll just get another one.

From a lens perspective, people are often surprised to find out that I only have two – a Canon 17-40 f/4 L and 70-200 f/4 L. Much like my camera bodies, my lenses take a good deal of abuse and don’t seem to mind.

The often unheralded piece of gear in my bag that truly does the dirty work are my HiTech neutral density filters. I carry five, four graduated and one non-graduated, and use them nearly every time I’m out. My sunrise and sunset photos would be impossible to capture in one exposure (I don’t use any HDR or similar techniques) if it weren’t for those filters. I highly recommend any beginning landscape photographer look into purchasing a set.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

What is the average weight of your hiking backpack?

Average weight is a tricky subject. If I’m backpacking, my pack is probably in the 20-35 pound range depending on season and trip length. I try to stay as light as possible, despite carrying a tripod. If I’m only day hiking, I would venture a guess of 5-15 pounds.

I have this issue with tripods – I can’t find the perfect tripod for me. Which tripods do you use and why?

I’ve been using the same tripod for years. Many photographers would consider it too small, or too heavy, or too cheap but it works great for me. Both head and legs are made by Manfrotto – the head is a 466RC2 and the legs are model 3001BPRO.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

Recently I wrote an article about using UV filters to protect lenses. What is your opinion on that issue? Do you use UV filters?

I don’t use UV filters at any time. The only use I see for one is protecting a lens when photographing in a place that has unavoidable, major hazards to the lens glass present. From a purely photographic standpoint, it doesn’t serve any purpose in my opinion.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

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

I post-process all of my photos using Adobe Bridge for RAW conversions and Adobe Photoshop CS3 (or maybe 4?) for the rest. I avoid major processing work as much as possible – the tools I stick to are, in no particular order, spot removal, levels, contrast, color balance adjustments, and localized color tweaking. Dodging and burning is a major part of my processing as well and adds depth to the finished image.

Scott Hotaling. Landscape and Nature Photographer.

Photo by Scott Hotaling. Click on the photo to enlarge.

If you had only two advices to give to a beginning landscape photographer, what would they be?

Get off the beaten path and shoot what you love.

Thank you Scott for this great interview. I hope to see more photos from you in the future.

If you liked Scott’s photographs, you can visit his website at


First Impressions

I didn’t write here for over a month now and I have good reason for that. Me and my life partner Ira moved from Israel to Australia, and now we are living in Melbourne. It is a big change for us, and this month we were all busy with the move, and only recently had some time to explore our new surroundings.

Here are some of my first impressions of Australia (actually it is not my first time in Australia, but last time was three years ago).

I liked this house because of its unusual colours… it looked to me as if it was taken from some fairytale, especially under this beautiful blue sky with white clouds.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

I saw many pictures of piers from all over the world, and here is my contribution to the world’s collection. I am sure that it is not the last one from me. I will also go back to this pier to photograph it under different lighting and weather conditions.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

Here is a very common sight in Australia – gum trees and parrots. I especially liked this photo because of the curved tree on the foreground and the fact that parrot’s posture slightly resembles that tree.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The following photo is a view from the boardwalk on the Mornington Peninsula. The water colours are beautiful…

Click on the photo to enlarge.

A few days ago we went to the tulips festival and I couldn’t resist shooting some flower photographs, here are the ones that I liked the most.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The following two are obviously post processed. The reason for post processing was that I wanted the viewer to concentrate on the form of the flowers in the left photo and not being distracted by their bright and vivid colours, and in the right photo I wanted to create a mood “appropriate” for the broken flower.
By the way, I did not break that flower! It was already like that when I saw it.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

The sunsets here in Australia are magnificent, especially if they come at the time when sky clears a bit after rain. Here is a sunset that I photographed from my back yard.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

And last but not least a series of three photographs I took at sunset from that same pier that you saw before. In two of the photos you can see Ira posing for me.

Click on the photo to enlarge.

That’s it for my first impressions of Melbourne. I hope I will be able to write and photograph more from now on and also I hope that you liked my photos.

Your comments are always highly appreciated, and

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

Till the next time,
Take care!


Using UV Filters For Protection – Right or Wrong?

For those of you who don’t know what the hell I am talking about, I’ll briefly explain the issue.

When you buy an expensive lens, you want to protect it’s front glass element from scratches or other accidents. So most likely the photo dealer will suggest you to buy a UV (ultraviolet) protection filter to screw on your lens. But the question is – will shooting with UV filter degrade the image quality?

Lately I found myself bothered with this question a lot. It started when I bought my Canon 24-70mm f2.8 L lens. I bought it second hand, and the guy who I bought if from told me that it was with the UV filter all the time since the day he bought it, so it is completely scratches free. Way back I took an advanced course in optics in university, and I know that adding additional optical element to optical system changes system’s overall performance. This is exactly what you are doing to your optical system, i.e. your lens, by adding additional optical element, i.e. UV filter.

So how significant this “change in performance” is? In other words will the final image suffer in quality because of that?

I felt incompetent to perform tests to find an answer myself so I did an extensive web research, and I found a lot of information on this subject. It seems that there is no single conclusion to this matter, but here is my summary on it, which in my opinion includes all the major points, fact,s and conclusions regarding using UV filter on your lens for protection.

  • Putting UV filter on your lens will certainly degrade lens’s performance.
    • Explanation to this is pretty simple. When you screw on the UV filter on your lens, you basically add one more optic component, but not only that you also add a space filled with air between the filter and lens’s front optic element. So when ray of light hits your lens, instead of hitting the lens’s front element and passing to other optical elements inside the lens, it first hits the UV filter, refracts, passes to the space filled with air between the UV filter and the lens, and only then enters the lens. That ray of light can also be reflected several times between the lens and the UV filter (coating on the UV filters tries to prevent that).
  • The extent of the image quality degradation may vary from invisible to the human eye to a severe degradation in contrast and sharpness (and other image qualities), and it depends on the following factors:
    • The quality of the UV filter
      • I found many photographers complaining about Tiffen UV filters (even about the expensive ones). I even saw a test one guy did showing that using a Tiffen UV filter significantly decreases sharpness and contrast. That guy didn’t write the exact model of that filter though.
      • There is general agreement among photographers that expensive UV filters with double coating are the best choice if you must put a UV filter on your lens. Many photographers recommend the high end UV filters from B&W, Nikon, Hoya (Super HMC), Singh-Ray.
    • The subject that you are shooting – or more important the direction of light. For example if you are shooting into the light, then with UV filter there are more chances to have lens flare (partial solution is to use lens hood).
    • The lens. If the lens that you use is not of high quality, it may already produce less than great images, and adding a UV filter won’t make them worse than they already are.
  • There is everlasting debate whether one really needs the UV filter to protect the lens. Here are some pros and cons:
    • Pros:
      • UV filter gets dirty instead of the lens, so you don’t have to clean the lens that often (just clean the UV filter), thus protecting the lens’s coating.
      • When shooting on the beach, or during sand storms, or in any conditions where there are tiny particles in the air, which eventually land on your lens, you are risking scratching your lens when cleaning. Better scratch the UV filter.
        • Lens cleaning tip – when there are tiny particles on your lens don’t wipe them off because that can scratch the lens. Wash the front element first and then wipe it with micro fiber cloth.
      • If you accidentally drop your lens, or bump it into something, the UV filter will take the blow saving the lens.
        • Actually another opinion is that in such situations if UV filter breaks then its glass might easily scratch the lens.
      • The degradation of image quality resulted from UV filter is negligible in most cases.
    • Cons:
      • This one is somewhat philosophic – why put a 100 dollars piece of glass on a $1500 expensive lens? It means that it is very difficult to produce a high quality lens, and this is why it is so expensive, and by putting a relatively cheap (to the lens’s price) UV filter, you must degrade it’s quality.
      • Lens hood does great job protecting the lens so no UV filter is needed in most situations.
      • Don’t over protect your equipment risking loosing in image quality. Be reasonable, and predict when your lens might be in danger and when not.
      • The hard coating on most expensive lenses is very strong and can withstand numerous washes and cleanings (as long as you do it wisely).
      • Buy Lens Warranty instead of UV filter 🙂

Here is a great test of UV filters in action by Ken & Christine

In conclusion, there is no simple right or wrong here. Having all the information above you must decide for yourself whether to use UV filters or not. I decided to use them when shooting on the streets or in dusty conditions, but to remove them when shooting portraits, studio, or landscapes, in other words when there is little risk to damage the lens. I also use lens hoods almost all the time. If I was a millionaire and money wasn’t an issue 🙂 , I probably wouldn’t use the UV filters at all just to be sure that I am getting the maximum quality that my lens can deliver.

If you have additional information regarding this issue, you are welcome to share it here, and

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

Have a great day,