So How'd You Get That Shot?

So How'd You Get That Shot?

Before The Storm

Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park Wyoming

Often I am asked at shows and gatherings how I got a particular photo. Well the answer is a mix of things. I do quite a bit of planning before going to an area to photograph. Checking with various sources on the internet, I find the sunrise and sunset times for areas, check with other photographers for their experience and information as well as checking with locals whom I have befriended while visiting those locales. I will also check for weather conditions for that time of season, anything that may give me a “leg up” on my ability to at least be in the right place at hopefully the right time. Once on location I will be looking for the right composition but most importantly the right light. Light conditions can make or break a good photograph. Preparation is the key. Conditions, equipment and safety, all play a key role. I have to admit though, with everything listed above in place, serendipity plays a big part. You never really know when that opportunity will present the “finger print shot” as I call them. Thus generating the question, “how did you get that shot?” The photo shown here was taken at Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons National Park. I had done my preparation before the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area and had already gotten some really nice shots. In the afternoon a storm was coming in and I was heading back to Jackson Hole to my hotel when I decided to just stop and “take it all in”. I was the only one there. As I ate the last half of my sandwich and what was left of my coffee, I was listening to the ducks splashing in the water with that muted sound and overall silence as the snow was just moments away from falling. All of a sudden a small pinhole opened in the clouds to the west and a bright, almost flashlight like beam, began shinning on the aspen grove across the pond from me. I grabbed my camera and took ten hand held shots and then it was all over. As fast as it came, the light was gone. Literally 3 minutes worth. I drove back to the hotel in a rather hard snow storm content in just having been to there to see such a wonderful sample of Mother Natures beauty and kindness.

And that’s how I got the shot….

I will be posting more such photos and how they were shot in
future articles. Comments and questions are always welcomed.

…and please don’t forget to check out my workshops

Thanks for visiting!


Two new Workshops and a Camera Walk Scheduled for August

I’ve added a “Free” Camera Walk and two Mini Workshops to my calendar!

On Friday August 3rd from 10 am to 5pm I will host a free of charge Camera Walk at the San Francisco Zoo. We will spend the day photographing the bears, birds, bugs, and whatever comes in front of our lenses.

On Saturday August 11th from 10 am to 9 pm I will host a 1 Day Mini-Workshop at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Highlights will include the wreck of the Pt Reyes, a fishing boat beached in Inverness; the lighthouse at lands end; various beach scenes and dunes, and last but not least we will visit the resident Elk herd out on Pierce Point.

The following weekend, on Saturday August 18th from 3 pm to 10pm I will host another Mini-Workshop, this time in San Francisco’s famed Presidio. We will photograph beautiful old buildings, canons, the Golden Gate Bridge and if crowds permit, Fort Point. We will then work our way to Baker Beach and catch the sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side view. We’ll then take time for dinner and then head over to the Palace of Fine Arts to photograph its stunning beauty at night.

Check the Workshops link on the right column of this page to get more info

I would love to have you join us – please contact me to reserve your spot as space is limited to 6 people for the workshops and 8 for the Camera Walk.

Until then Cheers!


ps And don’t forget, I have another workshop coming October 17-19 “Falls Colors” In the east Sierras

Make your images "different"…

Make your images "different"…

The age of digital photography has allowed for an explosion of images worldwide and the emerging talent is phenomenal. As a landscape photographer I think about how to make my images stand out from all the other similar photographs flooding the world.
I frequently have this discussion with my workshop co-leader, Bill Langton. We in turn bring it up to our participants when leading workshops in the field.When taking our own scouting trips we often find many photographers all lined up in the early dawn waiting to take pretty much the same shots. It’s not uncommon to stand amongst 50+ fellow photographers, many of them pro’s, all of whom will have very similar compositions. Surely there are some individual techniques each are employing but overall the similarity will be there. When you consider how many will try and sell those images, the competition is pretty much self generated and intense.

So what can you do? Quite a bit actually….
It starts with giving some thought to what you want ahead of time. Certainly imagination and an having an “eye” helps, but planning and visualization can go a long way.Before going into the field I often will peruse the internet for photos taken in the area I plan on visiting. My goal is to get ideas and vision from those before me, and yet not to copy them. Second, I use many tools such as Google Earth to pick out locations from where to get a perspective of, as an example, a mountain range to shoot. Next I will use other sources to determine sunrise and sunset and how those times will relate to the chosen location. I consider the weather. An overcast condition, Nature’s great ND filter, can yield saturated colors without harsh lighting. Often bad weather, particularly clearing storms or a even break in a storm can add beautiful light and drama to a scene. An added benefit is that most “fair weather” photographers are heading home and you can have the scene pretty much to yourself. On one trip I found myself in late fall in Glacier National Park for three days and never saw another soul….that’s priceless!
This methodology is not without risk. I’m referring here to safety preparedness. If you are going to be in such areas and at “off” times (anytime really), you must take precautions so as not to become a statistic. I carry enough food, camping, communication and first aid equipment to take care of myself for quite some time.So what else can you do….a lot.
  • Instead of always standing upright and taking your photos, try getting closer to the ground or conversely get higher if you can in order to get a different perspective. Put something interesting in the foreground. Take your time…
  • Go out at an “off” time. The image of the Golden Gate Bridge (the most photographed icon in the world) in this article was taken at 3 am. Just me, all by myself…might be similar images out there but this one is unique!
  • After taking a wide angle shot, put a longer “zoom” lens on your camera and “drill down” into the scene. You’ll be amazed at the compositions within the “big picture”. Alternatively put a macro lens on and really get intimate with your subject. I went crazy one day using a macro on some poppies where I was only concerned with shapes and textures. The result was you didn’t readily know it was a photo of a flower! Check out these examples….
  • Can you visualize the scene in Black & White? You can develop that talent. It opens yet another whole world of photography.
The tactics and techniques are endless, just use your imagination. That’s what art is about isn’t it?
Of course we haven’t even touched on post editing. That’s where you can really go crazy and get
creative. I will write about that in a future post….Lastly, a big consideration would be to take one of the many photography workshops (mine included) that are available. You can choose a workshop to fit your style and budget from the thousands available worldwide.I hope this brief article has peaked your interest in looking at taking your photos in a different way. The possibilities are endless!
Give me a shout if I can be of any help and answer your questions.Cheers!
…you can find out more about John’s Workshop Series here