Michele McCormick Photography: Blog http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog en-us (C) Michele McCormick Photography michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) Sun, 18 Oct 2015 00:30:00 GMT Sun, 18 Oct 2015 00:30:00 GMT http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/img/s/v-5/u28641865-o127323482-50.jpg Michele McCormick Photography: Blog http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog 80 120 Capturing the Moment http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2015/10/capturing-the-moment It has been a while since I posted a blog - in fact, an embarrassingly long time.  Life intervened, and kept my focus elsewhere.  The photography has been there, but the energy to write about it in an expressive way has been absent.  Now, that energy has returned, and I am capturing it and moving forward, much as one might capture a particular image, and then advance.

The photo illustrating this blog is an example of just such a moment. It was shot in Yolo County, on a ranch opened to artists for one day, as part of Yolo County's marvelous program, Yolo Arts and Ag. To be honest, I didn't see much potential when I arrived at this particular location.  Bales of hay, some paint-faded buildings, a stand of olive trees and a few animals.

But I walked around the corner of a barn - a shed, really - and there stood this horse. His presence caught me completely by surprise. I lifted the camera, took the shot as I saw it at first instant, and then paused to reflect for a moment. Shutter speed, aperture, depth of field, white balance, ISO, composition, best angle of the sun - all these thoughts began running through my head. What were the opportunities presented here? 

As fleeting as those thoughts were, they still took too long.  In that bare scrape of a moment, the horse withdrew back into the shadows, the opportunity was gone, and I had exactly one image.  Would it be anything at all worthwhile?  I would only know when I looked at it back in my digital lab.

Indeed, in my opinion, there is something there.  A zen horse, balanced against theshadows, in a mask that is interpreted in many ways. The simple fact is it is a flymask to protect him from bothersome insects. He can see perfectly well. But viewers see this mask in many ways. Masked HorseMasked Horse

Quiet as he is, this horse speaks volumes to some people. He has been on exhibit a few times, and he evokes reaction. For me, this spells success.  And it is the way of photography that this success, a powerful image, came out of a fleeting capture that was unplanned and almost instinctual. 

Writing about him today was also unplanned, and almost instinctual.  But it feels right, and so I look forward to the next story I will have to tell, and to creating another image which will also speak to those who see it.

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) Yolo Yolo Arts and Ag composition creative vision flymask horse learn michele mccormick photographic vision photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2015/10/capturing-the-moment Sun, 18 Oct 2015 00:29:59 GMT
Photography: Show It! http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/3/photography-show-it      This week has brought a bit of chaos to my life. My desk is littered with experimental prints. Shards of foam core are everywhere, along with random slices of mat board. Three disassembled frames lean up against the stairs. A T-square, chunk of plywood and a variety of knives and tools are spread about. Somewhere there are some pencils, if I could only find even one.

     It was always my plan to do some exhibits in 2013. The idea was a slow ramp up and gradual entry into this arena. I am new to show participation, with little idea of what to expect, what opportunities make most sense for me, how to do all this the smart way. Which is why my thought was to go about it with deliberation. That way, I could profit from each experience as I moved on to the next.

     But plans don't always unfold with such precision.

     It all started just fine. A series of five images was accepted for show at an area Chamber of Commerce later this year.  There's an opportunity to enter two images in an exhibit at an area performing arts center in May. Two images were accepted into a juried exhibit opening in April. All well and good. Then . . .

     An artist unexpectedly dropped out of a nearby event. Artwork is needed for many venues, and will be on display for several weeks. A friend suggested the curator take a look at my work. And suddenly, I have an opportunity to show 20 images, with three weeks notice. Am I really ready for this? I'm not sure. But I do know that an opportunity of this nature may not come again. And so I am busily printing, cutting mats, and generally scrambling to prepare my images. It's a grand learning experience. And good skill development for what is to come. Namely, a studio tour in June, that will require another group of top quality images.

     At the same time, I am feeling the heat of the deadline to submit images for consideration to the California State Fair. And I am eager to submit images for review to a very fine Art in Public Places program.

     Is all this the smartest way to move my photography forward? I don't know. I hope so. I look forward to sharing insights from these experiences. What I do know is that there are many very fine photographers whose work resides primarily on their computers. It remains a personal pleasure to them. But after a thirty year career in public relations, I tend to be a person who is all about sharing and communication. And that instinct has come to apply to my photography as well.

     So there's no doubt that I want to share my work. The greater quandary is in sharing it wisely. How does one know when it's time to begin sharing one's work? How does one know when the quality level is there? And how does one discern the standards of fine art in photography? It seems likely that there is no moment of perfect clarity. Rather, the circumstances just come together, and the thing to do is plunge on in.

     That's the whirlwind that's enveloped me for the moment. Whatever happens next . . . I'll report back.

     In the meantime, if you're interested in seeing more of my work, click here to visit my website.




michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) California state fair bare feet fine art photography learn photography michele mccormick photography participating in photography exhibits photography photography exhibit triathlete http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/3/photography-show-it Mon, 25 Mar 2013 18:44:55 GMT
Dimensions of Photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/3/dimensions-of-photography      Photography is often referred to as a two-dimensional form, but this is a misnomer. At least, it is a misnomer in regards to the dimensions photography occupies in life.

     Talk to any experienced photographer and they will tell you that the moment when the photo is actually taken is only the first sliver of what is involved in making, rather than taking, a photograph.  How many dimensions can we uncover? The deeper you delve into the art, the craft and the technology, the more layers unfold.

     I find photography is much like learning a foreign language. At first, you learn a few basics. You can greet, ask about the weather, understand simple directions. Yes! I am speaking French! But then there comes that moment when someone asks you for an opinion. Or you feel a need to speak in the conditional (if I had known, I would have . . . ). Or you are desperate to explain an issue (I made my reservation last August, but it may be in my sister's name . . . )

     And suddenly you realize that you do not speak French at all. There is much much more to be learned.

     Photography is like that. Only more so.

     First, we learn to operate a digital camera. Even today's "point and shoot" cameras offer options and choices which require some level of understanding. There is that joyful moment - hooray! I can take pictures.

     But "taking" and "making" pictures are not the same. And so there is a hunger to learn a bit more. How to find the best vantage point. How to compose an image with some originality. And gradually . . . what about the lighting? Speedlights or constant fluorescents? How do I balance them? How do I arrange them?

     So now the image is in my camera, I can look at it on my computer or smartphone, I can share it with others. But. It doesn't really look that great. Can it be improved? Of course!

     The world of photo optimization is one which can be easy or a lifelong study. From the beautiful simplicity of Snapseed to the seemingly infinite possibilities of PhotoShop, there is no limit to the learning that can occur, or the time that it can occupy.

     Once the image is ideal, or at least adequately pleasing, there is the question of what to do with it. Exhibit it on a website? Or take it yet another step and learn to print it. That means studying papers, so that you choose the one which best matches the photographic qualities of your image. It also means calibrating your monitor, understanding inks, and discovering the language that links your computer to your printer, so that the image you see on your screen will emerge from your printer exactly so.

     And finally, now that the glorious image exists in a tactile way, it must be properly displayed. Which brings us to the world of framing, rag mats and foamboard, an ability to cut mats and an understanding of archival principles.

     The final step is exhibition, and that truly is a universe all its own.

     Few people take up photography with all these levels in mind. But for many of us, that first inclination to take camera in hand, with however a casual end in mind, is the first step on a road that is endlessly fascinating. It has taken some time, but I have come to feel that all these elements are keystones in the photographic process. I am simply driven to immerse myself.

     Some days, it feels like the process of achieving comfort with all these dimensions will be endless. And it may well be.

     But so are the rewards.





michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) creative vision elements of photography learn photography passion for photography photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/3/dimensions-of-photography Tue, 12 Mar 2013 22:07:17 GMT
Photography: Playtime http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/photography-playtime      I'm a huge fan of Sacramento photographer Tim Engle. As our mutual friend social media exemplar Thomas Dodson likes to point out, Tim doesn't just talk about it, he actually does it all.

     Whether for his clients or for the photographer-fans he mentors through his Meetup group Click Monkeys, Tim demonstrates a versatility and energy for photography that is exceeded only by his enthusiasm for sharing. And he makes it all look so easy. How does he do that?

     Part of it, of course, gets to years of experience, of having done a lot and made more than a few mistakes along the way. The other part, equally important, is an ongoing excitement about the act of photography, and an interest in experimenting and playing, and just seeing what comes out in the end.

     At this point in his career, Tim has some photo playtime advantages not available to all of us - among them, a fine studio, and a seemingly infinite lineup of beautiful young models who are eager to be photographed by him. It's always fun to see his latest work, the moods and madness his creative brain has conjured up.

     Participating in his workshops is an excellent way to catch the creative spirit. But that doesn't mean any of us must wait for an event to exercise the photographic muscles.

     Personally, I have two studios and a variety of sets. There's the garage, where I can open the main door and turn the whole place into one huge lightbox. Then there's the card table in my office. Enhancing sidelight from a glass door makes it the ideal spot for shooting food. Add a speedlight and I've created a  most satisfactory product display set.

     The fact is it doesn't take much to create interesting photographic venues in a variety of locations, all scant seconds from my desk.

     All that's lacking is a model. I was pondering this challenge earlier this week, when I suddenly realized I have a most interesting model right at hand. It is a circa 1920 Model 1 Remington portable manual typewriter. The first such ever made.

     According to the Wall Street Journal, vintage typewriters are suddenly all the rage. Ergo, the perfect model.

     And so my Remington and I spent a fascinating afternoon together. I cleaned off my oak desk - the perfect vintage background - and shot the old machine with four lenses and a variety of lighting set-ups. I tried to see what I could do with shadows, with a macro lens, with the reflections of keys on the shiny metal typewriter body. Two hours flew by in a nanosecond.

     I had such fun. I learned a few things. Among them, when I viewed the images I learned I had not exhausted all the possibilities, and I hadn't quite captured the machine as I had hoped. So it could be Model 1 and I are in for some more fun times.

     Because I also learned what every child already knows - the best way to learn is to play.


Remington Model 1



michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) antique typewriter casual studio creative photography improve photography learn photography photographic studio at home photography photography as playtime typewriter http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/photography-playtime Thu, 28 Feb 2013 01:43:19 GMT
Photography: Freestyling http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/photography-freestyling      OK, it's time to admit it publicly: I am a huge fan of American Pickers. I am amazed by the volume of junk some collectors accumulate. I am astounded by the way it seems to rule their lives. And I am beyond impressed with Mike and Frank's ability to sift through the detritus and dross, and discover items that will have real value for the right person.

     I especially like it when they have no particular lead to follow, and instead set off to do what they call "freestyling" - cruising the back roads in search of spontaneous opportunities.

     Freestyling is an attitude, and it's definitely one that has a place in my photographic life.

     Most of the time, my photo ops and expeditions are well planned. OK, make that moderately well-planned. By which I mean I am out in pursuit of something I have envisioned in advance. It may be a sunset, a person, a location or an object. I've thought about the tools I'll need in my bag, the circumstances I'm likely to encounter, the challenges that may present.

     It's not unusual for me to shift gears along the way. More than once I've sought sandhill cranes in the dawn light, only to discover that the birds and I have different ideas about ideal roosting locations. So an intended bird shoot may turn into a sunrise photo op, or a great time to find beautiful reflections of weeds in water.

     Those experiences are all about flexibility and opportunism. Freestyling is something else.

     Recently, my husband and I had to make an unanticipated trip to Illinois to help with a family matter. Central Illinois in January means miles of flat, unscenic farmland, ground that is frozen and unlovely, hazy days and minimal outdoor activity. The agricultural area is remote, the scenic opportunities limited at best.

     And so, of course, as I grabbed my suitcase and tossed in a few wintry items, I also made sure the camera bag was ready to go. On this trip, I would most certainly be freestyling.

     What does that look like? It looks like Frank and Mike, with me riding shotgun as my husband drove us to the various places we needed to be. On the road I peered at this and that, and I began to notice things. Barns. An abandoned house. A yard full of rusting farm equipment. A zigzag pattern on a frosty window.

      I wondered what some of those things would look like at sunset or at dawn. I bought chemical hand and foot warmers and persuaded my husband to come out with me in the 16-degree morning at 6 a.m. so we could find out. And as I got a sense of interesting things, I asked some questions. What else would be cool to photograph?

     Well, I was told, there is this covered bridge about ten miles from here, built in the 1800's . . . would that be interesting? Indeed it would.

     And so I took a few pictures, none of which I had in mind as the trip began. They are the opportunities which presented. I am becoming more and more convinced that for the photographer with eyes and awareness, they are there in every situation.

     Freestyling. I like it.

     To see more of my Illinois images, click here.



michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) Illinois agriculture farmland freestyling heartland learning photography michelemccormickphotography.com photo opportunities photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/photography-freestyling Fri, 22 Feb 2013 21:32:18 GMT
The Etiquette of Food Photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/the-etiquette-of-food-photography       What is it with the urge to photograph food? We do it to record a meal, to illustrate a particular food success or failure, to create a beautiful and enticing image, or just to make our friends jealous of the terrific time we are having.     

     But suddenly, food photography is an entirely new arena of controversy. Or so The New York Times reports.

     To be honest, it's a little unclear to me if this is a serious issue, or if it's a matter of a desperate reporter seeking something, anything, to write about. That said, not all elements of this story are in doubt. There's no question that a lot of people do photograph their food. The mock iPhone 5 ad on this subject is one of the funniest videos making the rounds these days. It's also fair to say that reactions to these images range from something beyond boredom to utter disgust. Furthermore, there's no escaping the fact that, when they are taken in restaurants, the process of taking these photos can be highly annoying to chefs, waitstaff, fellow diners and tablemates.

     All that said, I plead guilty guilty guilty. I love to photograph my food. Doesn't matter if it was created and plated by my husband, by my catering friend at Barcellona Bites, or by a current favorite restaurant - in the case of the photo below, Taste. Photographing food is an arena of its own, and one in which I am working to develop a serious expertise.

     That means taking pictures of food in a variety of locales and settings. And it means doing so without alienating anyone around me, or interfering with their experience.  At home, I experiment with natural and artificial lighting, I try different table settings, and I fuss a bit with the food, to make sure each element is at its best.

     In restaurants, it's a different story. My rules:

     1. Take a window seat whenever possible, for the greatest likeliehood of a nice scrape of light across the food.

     2. Never use any form of flash.

     3. Shoot with a wide angle lens, to discreetly get the shot close up. Never stand to take a shot.  Avoid moving your chair, if possible.

     4. Don't touch or tinker with the food, yours or anyone else's, though it may be necessary to move items on the table to get them out of the shot.

     5. Positioning a fork or knife is OK.

     6. Take a light reading before the food arrives, so you can shoot quickly when it does come.

     7. Do it all in one minute, two minutes maximum.

     8. If it looks like the circumstances are just a bit too difficult, give it up.

     In other words, protect the privilege of taking these often wonderful images by keeping it as low key and discreet as possible. And . . . . bon appetit!

     To see more images of the food I love, visit my gallery, Delicious.


Pasta Carbonara




michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) Taste Restaurant barcellona bites creative photography etiquette of food photography food photography how to photograph food learning photography michele mccormick photography michelemccormickphotography.com photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/2/the-etiquette-of-food-photography Tue, 05 Feb 2013 18:53:08 GMT
Photography: Chasing the Moon http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-chasing-the-moon      Everyone loves a beautiful sunrise or sunset shot, and why not? These scenes can be extraordinarily beautiful.  And beyond that, they are not that difficult to achieve. After all, the sun rises and sets every single day. There is no end of opportunity to practice.

      The moon is a different story. It takes a very special endeavor to capture those fabulous shots of the full moon rising or setting. The best opportunity occurs just twice in each lunar cycle, on the one morning and the one evening when the sun and moon rise or set at virtually the same time. At the special time, the sun provides just a bit of golden illumination, so that landscape elements can be discerned, while the moon glows with all its character. Any more sunlight, and the moon is washed out. Any less, and the moon is a bright circle in a black sky.

    The lighting is magical at those times when sun and moon rising and setting times coincide.  On other days, the rising and setting times of the moon and sun are so far apart - sometimes by hours - that this kind of opportunity simply isn't available.

     Happily, there are any number of apps that provide these times, as well as reminder apps that send out automatic notifications. So it's easy to learn when the ideal moment will occur and plan ahead.

     But even the best laid plans can go awry if other factors are not considered. I am sorry to say this has happened to me more than once.

     I am fortunate to live in a wonderfully scenic area. I live in Folsom, and an impressive array of scenic lakes and bridges are just minutes from my house. On one recent morning I decided to take advantage of that location and shoot early morning pictures of the moon setting in the west just as the sun was rising in the east. I went down to Folsom State Recreation Area's beautiful Negro Bar, where I have taken some lovely dawn shots in the morning. The river runs to the west at the point, and I had visions of a spectacular scene.

     But I had forgotten a crucial fact. The earth turns on an axis. The moon spins around it at changing angles. And so while it's true that the moon rises in the east and sets in the west, it does so at angles that vary throughout the year.

     While the angle of the sun's rising and setting also changes, the quandary is less difficult. Watch the sun throughout the day, and you have a good sense of where it will set. Watch the sky in the early morning, and the dawn glow reveals its location. And, as we all know, the sun is big and bold every single day. There are lots of opportunities to seek the perfect shot.

     The moon is a bit more subtle. And while I was up early enough to get get a sense of its trajectory before it set, I didn't realize that, from my planned location, the moon would not only _not_ set over the river, it would also be obscured by rising bluffs well in advance of its actual setting time. So as it turned out, my pre-dawn escapade on a Sunday morning turned out to be for naught.

     Or . . . . not. I used the opportunity to get a bit more education. I scouted some other vantage points that might work in the dawn hours. And I came home and Googled up a solution. Yes, there is an app, The Photographer's Ephemeris, which provides detailed tracking of the sky and other information on natural lighting conditions throughout the day. Among key features, it shows the precise trajectory of the sun and moon on maps of locations around the globe. At $8.99, it feels like a potential bargain.

     I have 29 days to get comfortable with it - and I will report back here. In the meantime, there's nothing wrong with continuing to work on those sunset shots as well.


Cosumnes Sunset

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) full moon how to photograph the moon learning photography michele mccormick photography blog shoot the moon http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-chasing-the-moon Sun, 27 Jan 2013 23:11:22 GMT
Photography: Get the Focus http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-get-the-focus      When it comes to photography, there are few experiences more hideously disappointing than loading your images onto your computer, only to discover that your fabulous pix, so beautifully composed and perfectly exposed, are not in focus.

     Tack sharp is the standard of excellence, the holy grail of all photographers. It should be easy to achieve - anyone with a DSLR has auto focus, right? And yet it is all too easy to go wrong.

     But before we get into more detail, let's just say right up front: yes, Photoshop and Lightroom do have sharpening features, yes there are things that can be done in post processing. But those solutions are not perfect. Better to get it right in the field.

     Why is it such a problem, and what are the most common causes of soft focus? There are several.

     One reason the problem occurs is because our LCDs lie to us. Amazing as it is that you can immediately view your image in a format that is three inches square or even larger, that simply is not large enough.  Zooming in helps, but it won't tell you with absolute certainty whether your image meets the tack sharp standard. You will only know that once you've viewed your image on a full screen at a one-to-one ratio.

     And so, it's easy to feel confident that the results are good, and perhaps forego some basic precautions. After all, if you're experienced and you know how to hold your camera solidly, you can certainly shoot handheld at 1/30th of a second or perhaps even a little slower, right? Maybe. Or maybe not so much.

     So what does cause softness?

     Camera shake is number one. The tiniest camera movements are immensely magnified when your images are blown up. The longer your lens, the greater the magnification of the problem. This is an issue that will never go away, but it's also one that is not difficult to correct. There are two solutions.

     One is to simply increase your shutter speed. If you're shooting a full-frame camera handheld, at a minimum your shutter speed should equal your focal length. If you're shooting a cropped frame, make that one-and-a-half times.

     Conditions won't let you shoot that fast? No problem - use a tripod. If fact, whenever in doubt - use a tripod. Make certain it is rock steady. Use a remote or cable release to ensure you don't cause camera motion when you press the shutter button. If you don't have one of those, simply set your camera for timed shutter release.

     But maybe you have a different issue - were you correctly focused to begin with? If your camera offers you a multiple focus point option, you may want to try using just a single focus point.  That way, you know for certain the key element of the photograph will definitely be in focus. If you're shooting wildlife or portraits, for example, that would be the eyes.  In dark situations, it can be difficult to be certain your focus is precise. Carry a small flashlight to ensure you're focusing on the key element of your image.

     Be sure your shutter speed is adequate. If you want to freeze a fast-moving object - say players in a football game, a flying bird or racing horse - you'll need at least a 1/1000th of a second exposure to get a perfectly focused freeze. Know your subject, and experiment with the best shutter speeds to be sure you get the image you want.

     Don't forget to think carefully about your depth of field. If it's too narrow, key areas of your image may well be out of focus.

     You may ask yourself, if my photo is just a little soft will anyone really notice? The answer is yes, they will.

     All of which is not to say there's no place for blur in outstanding photographs. Of course there is - in panning shots, in mood shots, in shots meant to convey action, along with many other creative approaches.

     The key is to have absolute control over the results of your photography. Tack sharp when it should be, and control over other effects so they'll emerge exactly as you envision.



michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) creative vision elements of a successful photograph how to ensure your photographs are in focus how to focus how to get your pictures in focus learn photography photographic vision photography successful photography tack sharp http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-get-the-focus Tue, 08 Jan 2013 22:55:23 GMT
Photography: Shoot it Now http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-shoot-it-now      The photo below was taken at 7 a.m. one morning when I had everything but photography on my mind.

     I was thinking, instead, about our houseguest with whom I was about to take a morning power walk. I was thinking about the breakfast my husband had planned to make for us, and the fact that we didn't want to be late. I was thinking about the extra care I needed to give my dog, who recently had surgery. I was thinking about the unusual cold snap which had left frost everywhere. And I was thinking I should just quickly run out and grab the newspapers.

     But when I did step outside, I took one look at the sky, and all other thoughts left my mind. Instead, I ran inside to grab my camera and tripod. I told our guest I'd be ready to head out in just a few moments, but first I needed to take a couple of pictures. "Really?" he said. "Now?"

     Yes. Now. Because I have learned from painful experience that the best moment to capture any image is now - the moment I see it.

     It embarrasses me to think about the many times I've seen an opportunity and thought - I'll get that shot another time. But even routine shots are never quite the same the next time. The sun does not rise and set in just the same place each day. The clouds are always different. The laughing child who was so exuberant and photogenic one afternoon is simply not in the mood the next day.

     Many of the best travel photographers say they get their greatest shots because they return to the same place, again and again, in order to be present when those perfect moments occur.

     Not long ago I was driving home from an afternoon of errands when I suddenly noticed the sky was filled with fabulous cloud formations. It seemed to me that they would be even better as the sun set, and so I felt I had plenty of time to head home, grab the camera, and drive to a nearby vantage point.

     But I was utterly wrong. The clouds turned gray as the sun set. The vantage point was polluted with high tension lines. The beauty I had seen was not to be captured that day, at least not by me.

     Of course it isn't possible to capture every opportunity. But my resolution going forward is to recognize the fact that each opportunity is unique, and that it may never again present itself in exactly that way. And so I must consciously make my choice. I can do my best to be prepared, and take full advantage of spontaneous opportunities. Or I can recognize that in certain circumstances, I'm simply not prepared or not able to photograph that day's gift.

     The beauty of the universe around us is that there truly is an infinite array of possibilities. Each is unique, and will never be precisely repeated. That is both the glory and the frustration of photography.Dawn Sky

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) key to capturing unique images learn photography philosophy of photography photography unique image http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2013/1/photography-shoot-it-now Sat, 05 Jan 2013 01:52:38 GMT
Photography: Resolve to Protect Your Images http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/12/photography-resolve-to-protect-your-images      A year ago, I did something very smart. I attended a seminar on copyright information for photographers, put on by California Lawyers for the Arts.  Earlier this month, I did something just as wise - I attended the seminar for a second time, to make sure I had fully absorbed all the information correctly.

     Speaker Amitai Schwartz was excellent. He is both an attorney and an outstanding photographer who understood his audience perfectly.  While his presentation focused on copyright, and model and property releases, it also reinforced my awareness that there are many ways to protect our images - and we should be cognizant of all of them.

     The topic is timely for me personally. Recently, a well-meaning friend shared a photo I had taken of her with a third person. That individual thought the image would be a good illustration for an article she had been assigned, and submitted it to the publication without my knowledge. The happy ending to that story is that the publication recognized my metadata in the photo, contacted me, and we negotiated a one-time use fee.

     So our photos can circulate in many ways. There is no absolute means of ensuring that your photo will never be used without your knowledge or permission. But there are steps you can take to reduce that possibility, and to ensure you have the ability to seek redress if it does occur.

    Here are five key tips.

 1.    Include your metadata on all images. Your processing software allows you to include as much information as you wish to share. At a minimum, include your copyright information and one or more means of contacting you, such as e-mail and phone numbers.  

2.     Share with care.  We all enjoy sharing images on the web and in social media. Upload small files - nice to see online, but not much use for professional purposes. Set them for 72 dpi, which also limits other uses

3.     Always include your watermark.  The question here is one of scale. Do you make it big and obvious, which makes it hard to fully appreciate the image, or do you keep it more subtle. In my own case, I choose subtle. The photo can still be enjoyed, but the message is there - this image is my property

4.     Document your images' permitted uses.  We all shoot under many different scenarios, ranging from contract assignments, to paid photo sessions, time for pix and even practice sessions. If you'll be providing images to your subjects, be sure and document what uses are appropriate. This works both ways, of course - if the work is paid for hire, you may not be allowed to use it, although I always try to seek at least portfolio permission. If you're shooting a friend or model for practice, I make it clear that they may have unlimited personal or personal marketing use of the images, but no third party or commercial use is allowed without my express permission and involvement

5.     Copyright your images.  Finally, and most importantly, if you plan to use your photographs professionally, do go through the process of  formally copyrighting your images.  As I learned from Amitai's terrific presentation, under US law your images are technically copyrighted the moment you press the shutter. Unfortunately, that standard gives you little redress if your photos are used without your knowledge -  you would have to actually prove exactly how much revenue you have lost because of the misuse.

       Copyrighting your images with the US Copyright office gives you far higher levels of protection and redress. There are many myths about what it means to copyright your photos - that you can seal a disk in an envelope and mail it to yourself, for instance.  In fact, the only actual way is to register your images with the Copyright office.

       It isn't a difficult process, though it does take a bit of time. Simply go to the Copyright Office website, and follow the instructions for registering artwork with the Electronic Copyright Office (eCO). You'll fill out a form, establish an account, and pay a fee of $35 to upload and copyright an unlimited number of images. While the system is easy to use, it does require you to enter the name of each image individually - that is the time-consuming part. I typically copyright about 300 to 400 images each time, uploading small files that are 500K or smaller.

       It takes the Copyright Office some weeks or even months to mail you an actual certificate of copyright, but in the meantime your submission is assigned a file number, so you are protected in case any issues arise in the interim

       Depending on the volume of work you produce, in may be reasonable to go through this process once a month, once a quarter, or a couple of times a year. Certainly the peace of mind, and protection you gain make it well worth the effort and modest cost.

       Follow these simple steps to photographic stress reduction, and enjoy a happy New Year!Raindrops





michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) copyright document photo uses how to copyright your photographs how to protect your photographs permitted photo uses photography share your photos safely simple steps to protect your photographs watermark your photographs http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/12/photography-resolve-to-protect-your-images Wed, 19 Dec 2012 18:57:54 GMT
Photography: Selling Dreams http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/12/photography-selling-dreams      I spent Tuesday of this week at a Scott Kelby seminar in Sacramento. For $99, I was one of some 500 photographers who spent the day elbow-to-elbow in a large conference room, watching a presentation on Lightroom 4 by Matt Kloskowski.

     There is no doubt about it: the presentation was excellent. And well it should be - Kloskowski has given the seminar dozens of times. He is a terrific and entertaining presenter, fine photographer and fully knowledgeable about Lightroom. And yet, something about the day made me uneasy.

     Let's put it like this: while Scott Kelby's books were among the first I bought when I got serious about photography, and I've watched many of his online tutorials, the seminar was the first time it dawned on me that the affable Mr. Kelby is more than a helpful photographer. He is the head of an immensely successful enterprise which offers books, DVDs, seminars, conferences, services, the works.  His surrogates offer highly-attended seminars on a variety of photographic topics all around the nation.

     At this seminar, along with the instruction on Lightroom, there was an ongoing undercurrent of sell - for $99, join his organization, NAPP, for ongoing access to seminars, tutorials and insider info. Buy the latest books and DVDs. Become, in short, a member of the Kelby universe and stay on top of everything you need to know to be a fine photographer.

     I do not mean this as a criticism of Kelby. I am a capitalist! He is the most successful in this realm, but he is not alone. Photographers have become a lucrative target for a mega industry of seminars, software, equipment and travel.

    Today's top professional photographers have recognized there is real revenue to be made from - and let's not mince words here - people like me who are, at least for now, photographer wannabes.

     I've been a part of this for a couple of years now, but something about this seminar, perhaps its scale and slickness, stopped me in my tracks.  I suddenly realized I was there in two capacities. As a student, and as meat for the machine.

     There is no question that excellence in photography requires on-going learning. We need to understand the artistic elements, such as composition and subject, and technical subjects, including the operation of complex cameras, editing software and printing. There's a lot to know, and there is ongoing change.

     But what has struck me is that there is a  mega industry out there with the hidden agenda of convincing us all that the learning never ends, that there is a depth of knowledge we can never achieve. And so we must go on photographer-led trips, buy new software, take classes to learn how to use it, and seek feedback on further improvement. Not to do so is to risk failure.

     All of this is true to a degree, but each of us must step back and ask to what degree it is true for us as unique individuals.

     Take the software. There's Photomatix, Topaz, Nik and many more, all offering amazing enhancement opportunities. There is an implication that any good photographer is capable in all of these, but I am growing less certain about that. Ultra-enhanced images appear in marketing presentations, online "wow-me" galleries, and photography club competitions. Where else? I am not sure. But I'm suddenly aware that this is an important question.

     I certainly have a lot of learning ahead of me. I do it best in smaller seminars offered by groups like Sacramento's Viewpoint Gallery or through photographers like Terry Nathan whose work and teaching style I admire.  I am thinking more carefully about my own goals. Is it to be part of a group? To share images with friends or online? To do fine art? Editorial work? Stock?

     My own clear understanding of these questions will help me interact effectively with the big machine out there whose business is to foster a society of photographers who yearn to learn. That machine can definitely offer value, but for those who wish to become something more than photographic acolytes, it must be managed with care.

     I left the seminar to take rainy night photos of one of the area's most-holiday-decorated homes. Back behind the lens of my camera, I felt more at ease than I had all day.


Toy Shop

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) Matt Koslowski Photographers Scott Kelby business of photography cult of photography learn photography lightroom lightroom 4 marketing to photographers photography seminars http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/12/photography-selling-dreams Wed, 05 Dec 2012 19:32:02 GMT
Photography: Picture the Child http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-picture-the-child      Olivia Benz is only five years old, but she is a model and actress with an active portfolio including a recent booking in a national TV commercial. It was a great pleasure to have the opportunity to spend an afternoon photographing Olivia along with her mother, actress Jessica Benz

     But consummate professional that she may be, there is still no forgetting a key factor when it came to shooting Olivia: she is five years old. So her Mom and I did some special planning in advance to help ensure our time together would be fun for Olivia and rewarding photographically as well.

     We started with the shared philosophy that the day must be all about Olivia. It was important to be sure that she was having fun, and that the whole experience of being photographed remain enjoyable fun for her in all regards. So we talked about things she might like to do - in her case, she likes to color, to dance and to eat cookies!

     Throughout the afternoon, we gave Olivia a full voice, in fact a guiding voice, in what we would be doing next. We started with some easy ideas, to get comfortable together. Olivia likes to smile and happy headshots were a good launch. We were so mobile that I didn't use a tripod, but I'd definitely recommend a tripod and cable or remote release whenever possible - to get the photographer out from behind the camera and into as much interaction and dialog with the child as possible.

     We made up little games to make posing more fun. We played hide-and-seek behind a tree. I asked Olivia to close her eyes and bow her head and then see if she could surprise me when she looked up quickly. I showed her the pictures as I took them.

     We moved fairly rapidly between activities. When she declared "Let's do something more fun!" that's exactly what we did. And so we played in the front yard, she rocked wildly with her mother, and she whispered special secrets into her mother's ear. She cuddled her beloved dog, danced in her beautiful tutu, and at the end of the day came the special treat - fresh baked chocolate cookies made with her mother. Along the way, Olivia took the occasional break to change clothes, to watch me photograph Jess or set up my lights in a new way.

     Olivia kept me on my toes - and on my knees and flat on my stomach on her family room floor. Along with ideas for activities to ensure she was happy and engaged, I tried to keep in mind that cuteness alone doesn't make terrific images. A creative approach, and creative angles would go a long way to making Olivia's photo session a successful one.

     When Olivia showed signs of flagging we ended the session promptly. And not a moment too soon, as Jess and I agreed it had been a whirlwind afternoon.

     This level of activity might not be right for every child. And there are certainly many who would run out of patience and of steam long before the three-hour session that Olivia worked through. But a few key points will work for any child. Most important is to ensure that the session truly is based on what's fun for the child. Remember that this child is a person, and engage them as fully as possible - that photographer/subject rapport will always shine through. And finally, keep the creative approach in mind. The child's inherent cuteness is only a starting point.

     Did all this work for us? You be the judge.

     To see more images of Olivia, click here.




michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) child photography elements of a successful photography how to photograph a child learning photography photography working with photography models http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-picture-the-child Wed, 28 Nov 2012 23:05:11 GMT
Photography: Protecting Your Work http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-protecting-your-work      I've just spent a lovely afternoon doing what photographers most love to do: typing.

     On to the truth - the typing I was doing is, in fact, not at all what photographers love to do. But it is what we must do if we care about our work.

     The typing I refer to was a long list of file names. The bottom line is that if you care about your photographic work, you protect it by registering it with the US Copyright office. It costs $35 to register a virtually unlimited number of images, through a fairly simple process. Fill out a form, pay the money, and upload the images. The only catch is that each image must be individually named. Therefore, there is a bit of typing involved. But if you want to talk about value, this is it.

     Last year I was fortunate enough to attend a seminar on copyright and model release issues presented by attorney/photographer Amitai Schwartz through California Lawyers for the Arts.

     Schwarz did a great job of making a few things very clear. First, it is true that when you click the shutter on your camera, under US law you officially hold the copyright of that photo. Unfortunately, when it comes to the practical matter of protecting your work, that means very little.

     The same is true of posting a copyright notice on your images. While that serves as an alert, it provides you with very little protection. Should someone use your images without your protection, your only recourse would be to show how much they have profited from that use.

     Other myths on copyright abound. I once attended a class in which the instructor informed us that photographers can protect themselves by mailing a DVD of images to themselves, and keeping it sealed. There are also services which claim if you mail them your images, they will keep them sealed and provide copyright protection.

     Schwarz made it clear that none of this is true. The one true method of assuring copyright protection, and of having the opportunity to successfully seek some level of compensation for copyright violation, is to actually register your images with the US Copyright office.

     The truth is, it isn't difficult to do, it's just tedious. Today, I spent a bit more than two hours, and $35, registering about 400 images.

     Do I copyright every image I create? No. But I rank the ones I think may have the potential for future use or value, and once a quarter I make a submission. To date I have copyrighted about 1,000 images, and my intention is to make this a regular element of my photographic routine.

     Last month, while in Italy, I had a lot of fun shooting photographs of streetcars gliding by in the rain. An example is below. You might like it, or you might not. But however one feels about it, be aware that it is mine, registered and protected. In an era when it is all too easy to scoop images up from a variety of online sources . . . that makes me feel just a little bit better about sharing the images I love.


Streetcar in Milan

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) copyright copyright protection learn photography photographic copyright photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-protecting-your-work Sat, 17 Nov 2012 02:26:06 GMT
Photography: Taking It on the Road http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-taking-it-on-the-road      It seems that life should be so easy for the travel photographer. You visit wonderful places, you snap great pictures of amazing sights, you head home with a flashcard full of wondrous images. If only.

     In fact, the travel photographer - or the traveling photographer - is bedeviled with an ongoing onslaught of challenges. Some are predictable, and others just spring out of nowhere. On a recent trip to Italy I faced circumstances that ranged from a change in operating hours, making it impossible to visit a key site, to a steady four days of rain, to the fact that major portions of an impressive cathedral are currently under repair and covered in scaffolding.

     When you're planning a significant journey, with arrangements that must be made weeks or months in advance, there is simply no way to be prepared for every eventuality. Not to mention the fact that, no matter how industrious one may be, it is impossible to be at every key location during the most magical hours at dawn and dusk.

     Which is why, when you ask many travel photographers how they happened to capture a particularly extraordinary shot, the answer is likely to be some version of, "I went there again and again over a period of years."

     All that said, one cannot toss away all the opportunities of an important trip just because of a little rain, or scaffolding or a cranky portiere. Instead, we rethink, come up with a different approach, and come away with images that are every bit as satisfying, if not more so for their unexpectedness.

     And of course, on top of employing personal creativity to the max, we also make like Boy Scouts and go prepared.

     To that degree, I give my equipment a lot of thought. It's one thing to pile it all into a car and head for the mountains near home. It's another to get on a plane to places far more distant. When I went to Europe, here's what I took:

     A roomy camera bag that is 30 years old, doesn't look much like a camera bag, and definitely doesn't look as if it contains anything of value.

     Two lenses. A 28-300 zoom, and 16-35mm wide angle. Between the two of them, there is little I can't capture.

     A tripod. While I have a terrific RRS tripod, at 7 pounds it doesn't travel well. For hiking and trips, I have a Benro Travel Angel with built-in ballhead. 2.9 pounds, folds down to 16 inches, and comes with a very practical carry bag.

     A Wolverine for on-the-road backup. I don't reformat flashcards until the images are on the big computer at home - but the Wolverine gives me immediate backup. It gets packed in the suitcase, the flashcards go with me on the plane. I might lose one or the other, but am most unlikely to lose both.

     Several cheap spare showercaps that I've picked up in various hotels. Perfect for those rainy days.

     Extra pairs of cheap readers - I always have a pair of these glasses on a leash around my neck.

     Two flashcard holders. A black one for flashcards that are ready to use. A red one (stop!) for those that hold current images.

     And that's about it. With this equipment, I came home from Italy with plenty of fine images, despite the hurdles that major trips always seem to include.  Those images include the rainy day HDR shot of the Ponte di Alpini in Bassano del Grappa you see below - a shot that was only possible because I had my tripod with me at all times. 1210_Bridge_581

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) elements of a successful photograph learn photography michele mccormick photography photography travel photography travel photography equipment http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/11/photography-taking-it-on-the-road Wed, 07 Nov 2012 21:39:21 GMT
This Photographer's Journey http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/this-photographers-journey      Nearly two years into the adventure seems like a good point to stop and assess how it's going.

     First a little background: the journey actually began in 1960, when I was handed my first Brownie camera. OK, let's bump that up to 1968, when I studied Radio,TV and Film at Northwestern University. That course of study included still photography work, and I thoroughly immersed myself. A few years after college I spent some time as a freelance writer, accumulating a portfolio of more than a thousand articles published in a wide variety of magazines and newspapers. Many of them were illustrated with photographs shot with a Nikon I still own today.

     Then there was a hiatus of about 30 years, until one day in 2010, going through clutter in the garage, I came across a box of images I created in 1970. And I was hooked all over again.

     But the world has changed a lot since then, and I have had - and still have - much to learn. Looking back over the past two years I can see, with much relief, that there has been progress.

     I started with classes at the local recreation center to learn how to use the Nikon D5000 my husband gave me as a hint that I should retire from the business I had worked in for decades and spend my time following my own desires. I've also taken numerous classes from Sacramento's outstanding Viewpoint Photographic Gallery, which attracts outstanding instructors.

     For two years, I've attended the California Photo Festival, an absolute cornucopia of photographic learning. All of these experiences have taught me that there are specific instructors I admire, and whose workshops and seminars I will specifically seek out going forward. They include Hal Schmitt, Reed Hoffman, Terry Nathan and Rick Sammon, among others. Each of these is not only an outstanding photographer, but a passionate instructor. As I learn more, it is ever more important to me to think carefully about who my teachers are.

     I've also been active with the Sierra Camera Club, submitting images to their monthly competitions in nature, travel and general categories, which are all critiqued by an ongoing series of invited judges. I don't always agree with their comments, but I do always gain some new level of insight.

     I believe that these activities, along with participation in a variety of photographic meetup groups, have all been immensely helpful. The problem, as with any serious endeavor, is that the more I learn the more there is to learn.

     So, at this point, where am I?

     I am growing. Two years ago, my photographic journey had no clear direction. Today I can say that I am interested in editorial photography for publications, in stock photography and in fine art. Those are three broad areas, but they give me more focus than when I began.

     I am entrepreneurial by nature, so making photography at least a small enterprise is part of the journey. To that end, I launched a website and a Facebook artist page. I have done some portrait work, had images appear on business websites, a calendar, a university periodical and a city magazine. I have signed a RM contract with age fotostock - that last being a significant milestone for me.

     So there is a slow liftoff. But there is much more to come.

     Overall, what is most wonderful and amazing is the incredibly talented company I have on this journey. It is humbling. One of my resolutions going forward is to spend much more time examining and appreciating the work, not only of the greats - from Henri Cartier-Bresson to Annie Liebowitz - but of the people I meet in classes and on outings. I am continually awed by the images they make.

     Going forward, of course, I will continue to share experiences through this blog, and images through my website. Thank you for taking the time to take a look.

     And for a last look backward, the image below is from my college portfolio, war protest, spring of 1970.Smoker

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) 1970 war protest best photographers california photo festival hal schmitt learning photography michele mccormick photography photography journey photography teachers reed hoffman rick sammon terry nathan http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/this-photographers-journey Sun, 21 Oct 2012 16:58:30 GMT
Photography: A Model Experience http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-a-model-experience      Scientific studies on eye movement have shown that there are two elements of any photograph which will immediately draw a viewer's interest - the written word, or a human face or form. No matter the intent of your photo, or what its major, compelling elements may be, if there is a sign in the background, or a tiny human figure to the side of your glorious landscape, that is where the eye will go.

     Which makes it all the more important to understand how best to photograph those items when they are the objects of primary interest. That said, as fun as it may be to shoot written words (and I have a pile of highly entertaining signs from a trip to China), most of us have a greater interest in photographing people.

     And that takes us to the next level of consideration. Namely, which people? Most of us are fully capable of shooting a well-realized business portrait, but it's boring. For practice, fun, or remuneration, we shoot environmental portraits, which are more interesting. We take street shots, event shots, and images of family and friends. And, if you're like me, at some point you recognize that if you really want to learn to shoot people, and to be as creative as possible, it's important to learn to work with professional models.

     Why? Because they will give you their time and attention, either for money or for trade of time-for-photos. And because professional models understand the nuances of posing, the relationship between photographer and model, and the unselfconscious professional approach that is key to success in any photographic session.

     This past week I was fortunate enough to attend the California Photo Festival put on each year by LightWorkshops in Los Ossos. There, in the space of a few days I had the opportunity to work with models in a variety of situations, ranging from classic portraiture, to a Playboy-style shoot, to fine art nude photography.

     A few key tips:

     1. Understand how to keep the session fully respectful and professional. If you must touch your model, whether to slightly adjust hair or fix a turn-up collar, ask the model's permission first.

     2. Do your best to make sure the model is comfortable. Adjust the room temperature if this is feasible with your shoot. Provide water and snacks. Modeling is harder work than it may appear - let your model know you're open to taking breaks as needed.

     3. Study posing in advance. You can Google up a wealth of posing suggestions, whether for males, females, couples or families. Have some ideas in mind before the model arrives. Don't hesitate to ask your model for thoughts as well . . . but remember that it is your role to art direct the shoot to success.

     4. Have your lighting configured in advance of the model's arrival. Test it out by shooting a friend, family member, or time-delayed shot of yourself. Even if you're shooting outdoors or in natural light, take test shots in advance.

     5. Be sure to give the model instructions on how to dress, and what particular look you are going for. It's fine to ask him or her to bring several different outfit selections.

     6.  Show the model how the images are turning out throughout the shoot, and share the excitement of your positive results.

     7.  Keep the energy level up with lots of positive feedback - the model cannot read your mind. If things are going well, share your thoughts. If something different is needed, express it in a positive way.

     8.  Be effusive in your thanks and appreciation, and share photos promptly if you have promised to do so. A top notch model is a treasure, and strong, positive relationships between models and photographers are highly beneficial to both, no matter what your current career levels may be.

     Above all - have fun!

     And to see more of the fun I had this past week, visit my Food to Nude gallery, for images with models and more.



michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) fashion guide how learning model models photography posing professional to with work http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-a-model-experience Thu, 18 Oct 2012 18:49:00 GMT
Photography: When the Light is Right http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-when-the-light-is-right      Photography is all about the light. And not just any light. We all know that the key to the most wonderful outdoor photography is to shoot at those perfect times of day: the hour right around dawn, and the gorgeous pre and post sunset moments.

     The light at those times is at its most soft and beautiful, there are no harsh shadows. Whether you're shooting a landscape, a person, or a bug - it's sure to look its best.

     This weekend I took a workshop from the terrific photographer and UC Davis professor Terry Nathan, and we had a good discussion on just this subject. His view is that there are opportunities at every time of day, and I am coming around to his perspective. It is true that noontime photography offers its own challenges. But I like to think that for most challenges there is a solution, and perhaps even a creative opportunity.

     I'm a shadow fan, for instance. The hours when terrific shadows can be found extend far deeper into the day than the golden hours of dusk and dawn. And as noon approaches, it might be time to think macro, or to find some light-evening shade.

     On the other side of the clock, we all know that darkness can also be a photographer's friend. Few things are cooler than the images that emerge from longer exposures taken in so-called "utter darkness".

     Terry's workshop took place in the high Sierra, just as the fall colors were beginning to gain drama. It took place from 9 a.m. to 1:30. We walked around a barren, rock-strewn area, and shot interesting, granite-punctuated landscapes. We walked up a hillside and shot colorful aspens, their leaves backlit by the high sun. And we experimented with macro shots of barbed wire and nails in the boards of a crumbling old corral.

     We talked a lot about composition, and the diversity of photo opportunities within a very short range. But we had no complaints about the light we were dealing with. It was easy to find things to photograph wonderfully.

     The bottom line is pretty obvious. You are where you are, when you are there. You cannot be everywhere at dawn or dusk. Certainly there are images that are most wonderfully captured in that light, and in an ideal world, you can plan to be at the right spot with the best possible lighting condition. But wherever you are, and whatever the light, there is almost surely an image that can be ideally captured for that place and time.

     I would like to see the aspen colors at dawn or dusk, but this weekend I saw those brilliant yellow trees throughout the day. I shot the picture below at about 2 in the afternoon. Would it have been better at another time of day? It would certainly have been different.

     Like so many of life's activities, photography has rules. And as is always the case, breaking the rules can lead to a good result. Photography is all about the light, and exploring ways to make it work for you, at any time of day, is a big part of the creative joy of this captivating pursuit.






michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) creative vision elements of a succesful photograph golden hour learning photography photographic composition photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-when-the-light-is-right Tue, 09 Oct 2012 13:56:34 GMT
Photography: Keywords to Success http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-keywords-to-success      A few weeks ago, I responded to a request for photos from Image Brief. Image Brief is a service that puts photographers together with clients who are seeking very specific photographs on very short notice. The idea is that somewhere in the world, there must be a photographer who has that photograph of a red-haired woman standing on a Tahitian beach with a starfish in her hand, while wearing an Indian sarong. Or something along those lines.

     This particular request was a bit more mundane - the client was seeking an image of a man in his sixties, pensively looking off into the distance. I had a few photographs I thought came close to this description, and I sent them off. Alas, none was selected.

     But this week, as I was doing some portfolio clean-up, I came across the photo below. Good grief. It came far closer to meeting the requested brief than anything I had sent - why hadn't I upped my chances by including it?

     The simple and embarrassing answer is that I hadn't found it because it wasn't properly keyworded. In fact, the only keyword on the file until yesterday was "Mendocino". I had thought of this as a family photo, and really hadn't considered that it might be right for any other use. Silly me.

     I've talked before about the vital importance of editing photos - by which I mean rigorously deleting images you know are not top quality, or potentially usable in some way.

     But the second step in this workflow is even more important, and that is keywording your photographs. Keywording is the first, and perhaps most essential step in ensuring you can quickly access photos that meet a specific need or criteria.

     Read my lips on this: you can't make use of your images if you can't find them.

     No matter how rigorously you edit, it's amazing how quickly a catalog builds up into the many thousands of images. And no matter how memorable a shooting session may be, in a few weeks, or a few months, or a couple of years from now, other memories will crowd it out.

     And, of course, you are not the only one who will use your keywords to find your photos. If you've got a Search Engine Optimization strategy, or you're selling to stock agencies, or you have your own website - you'll want others to easily be able to locate images of interest. And they are most likely to do that with a keyword search.

     Proper keywording is an art that I admit I am still developing. And yes, there are keywording software programs, but these are a bit controversial. Many can insert keywords that are not precise. Your clients may well be quite annoyed to search for "wine bottle" and come up with a photo that only shows broken glass.

     But while keywording should be accurate, remember that it can also refer to the mood or impact of the photo, its shape, and such elements as predominant colors.  How many keywords should each photo be assigned? Many professionals consider ten a minimum number, others think of twenty as the ground floor, and it's not uncommon to find images with dozens of keywords.

     How did I ultimately keyword the photo below? Here's my starting list:

     Don, watching, older man, seated man, binoculars, thoughtful, pensive, watching, Mendocino, wooden stairs, senior, birdwatching, concern, California, deck, steps, jeans, casual, vertical

     I'm still thinking on additional words to add. If you have ideas - let me know!


Don Watches

michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) keyword keywording photographs manage your photographs organize your photographs photography photography workflow http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/10/photography-keywords-to-success Wed, 03 Oct 2012 17:21:53 GMT
Photographing the Erotic Fruit http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/9/photographing-the-erotic-fruit      You don't have to read D.H. Lawrence' poem, Figs, to know that figs are the most erotic fruit - although it certainly helps.

     Figs are also among the most visually interesting fruits. Pale and somber on the outside, fleshy, colorful and multi-textured on the inside. How best to capture all that in a mere two-dimensional photograph? I had to give it a try.

     Two things inspired my effort. First, I've recently acquired a 200mm macro lens. It's an interesting beast, which renders detail wonderfully while offering serious depth of field challenges. Common wisdom has it that wider lenses, in the 10mm to 24mm range work best for food. So I decided to try it both ways.

     And I was also inspired by the season. Fresh figs are available in my area of California for only a few short weeks each year, and then they are utterly and completely gone. As the famous poet makes clear, fresh figs cannot be preserved. So if I was to take on the challenge, now would definitely be the time.

    Luckily for me, our farmer's market provided a box of good-looking purple figs, which I set up in my home studio. That studio consists of a card table. I topped it with some scraps of foam core, and used bits of pvc pipe, a hanger, a white trash bag and a flashlight to fashion a light box.

     Next was the matter of composition. I tried a single fig. Boring. I tried cutting a fig in quarters as Lawrence suggests, but that just looked strange. I balanced the figs together in groups, I layered slices, I tried single slices, figs half cut, and a variety of combinations. In short, I found fig composition to be a bit more of a challenge than I had anticipated.

     The wide angle compositions never quite spoke to me, but the long lens was a recipe for fig beauty. I shot at an ISO of 200, with a f-stop of 32 to maximize the depth of field. The exposure was three full seconds.

     I also played with the flashlight, creating variations in the shadows and brightness on the fruit.

     After some three hours of experimenting and shooting, I had a few images I liked, and a delicious feast of figs. The photo below is one of my favorites. Have I captured the essence, appeal and mystery of this wonderful fruit? Tell me what you think.

     As for me, if this weekend's farmer's market yields another basket of figs, I may well try further. Eroticism is in the eye of each individual, but for me, there is no doubt that fig fascination is ongoing.



michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) composition cuisine fig fig photography food photography fruit gourmet photography photograph fruit photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/9/photographing-the-erotic-fruit Wed, 26 Sep 2012 01:30:30 GMT
Photography: In the Night http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/9/photography-in-the-night      There is little that is more fun than night photography. Given a little extra time, the camera sees images and settings in far different ways than the eye - which is, after all, nearly blind in the dark.  Colors, textures, dimensions emerge. They may be far different from what one has imagined or planned for. The experience of capturing such images can be an inspiring solitude, or raucously social. However it is undertaken, it is always revelatory and satisfying.

     I recently had a chance to do some night sky photography at Lassen Volcanic national park. For three nights in a row, I stationed myself in the middle of a vast open field, with the lights of Drakesbad a dim presence several hundred yards away, and no other illumination for miles in any direction.

     It was the new moon, so the Milky Way was clearly visible to the naked eye, though not so clearly or colorfully as it would emerge in photos. And in trying to capture this sky at its most wonderful, I learned a few things.

     First, have the right equipment. Obviously, a tripod, for long exposures. A headlamp is a useful light, since it leaves the hands free. I complemented it with a tiny spotlight to adjust camera settings. A good quality flashlight would be useful for light painting. And I used a wide angle lens - 16mm for almost every shot.

     Second, know the rules. Or at least, one key rule - the rule of 600. The focal length of your lens, divided into 600, yields the maximum number of exposure seconds before the stars begin to move and blur. It is one thing if you are hoping for star trails and planning on very long exposures. If you want a crisp shot of the sky, the rule of 600 . . . . rules.

     Third, take lots of test shots. In the dark, it can be very difficult to compose your shot. Plan on taking lots of test shots of shorter duration, simply to see what is in the picture. My 16mm focal length meant that branches I'd thought were plenty far away had a habit of wandering into the edges of my image.

     Fourth, be aware: infinity may not be as absolute a setting on your camera as you would wish. I started with my lens set in the dead center of that lazy eight, but made slight adjustments and then magnified to see what kind of crispness I was really getting. Don't take infinity for granted - I am here to testify that many shots that seem as crisp as could be in that little LCD on the back of the camera are disappointingly fuzzy on the big computer screen. Experiment to find the sweet spot for you.

     Fifth and finally, be sure to recheck all your camera settings before you go out again. There are the obvious changes. Your 4000 ISO for night shooting may not work so well in the daytime. Your lens and camera, set to manual for the night, may need to be returned to auto for daytime shooting. But the biggest issue is the changes you may have made unawares. In the deep darkness, it is easy to change settings you never intended to touch.

     Did I get some terrific sky images? You tell me - click here to see my night sky and other images from Lassen. All I can say is - I was enthralled with this new moon night shooting experience, and I can't wait to do it again.




michele@mgroup1.com (Michele McCormick Photography) learn photography learning photography night photography photography sky photography http://www.michelemccormickphotography.com/blog/2012/9/photography-in-the-night Tue, 18 Sep 2012 03:33:20 GMT