Things we need to know – think we do know – but sometimes forget … A refresher in the Essentials of Basic Composition
(This is an excerpt from the Spring 2014 issue of Insights in Photography)
Not long ago, most of my workshop attendees were lacking many of the skills needed to make an interesting photograph. But in a few short years, with the advent of digital cameras and the computer technology that has come with them, this has really changed. With the current superb camera equipment available at a reasonable cost, many amateurs are today making images that were only possible by professionals a short time ago.
I encounter many people who think buying the latest state-of-the-art camera, lens and other modern equipment will automatically allow them to make an interesting photograph. But it takes a lot more than that in making a good image. I always tell them to keep the technical part of photography as a means to an end, not as the end all, in which you’ll make good images. Having great equipment just gives you the chance to make a great photograph. The technical part of photography is just part of the process. There are no technical discussions in this essay … just a discussion of some of the more overlooked aspects of creating good images.
I would like to take this opportunity to again thank all of my good friends, my workshop attendees, sponsors and supporters for making 2013 a truly memorable year. I spent about 200 nights on the road conducting over 20 workshops plus the 2 we did in Iceland. It looks like 2014 will be even more interesting with new locations and new opportunities.
I was quite amazed to see that I actually made very few images compared to other years. Maybe I’m getting really picky? In 2014 I am going to try and do a bit more photography for myself on the days when I can. My fellow (successful) workshop leaders know all too well that office time is plentiful and gets in the way of being out in the field. One of the myths of being a pro photographer is that you will shoot more images.
What makes me anticipate this year is the pleasure I derive in teaching people to appreciate where they are, slow down and enjoy the journey, as well as make some great images. I am gassed up and ready to get on with another year!
Again, thank you all for your support. There comes a time in everyone’s life where making a living, though important, is secondary to having so many good friends and acquaintances. I have reached that part of my life.
I would especially like to thank my wife Linda for understanding this lifestyle and putting up with the away time. Being gone so much isn’t easy. I could not be gone and do what I love without her support. Quite frequently I’ll bring home other photographers and perhaps a workshop attendee or two to stay the night. There’s always food ready and a comfortable place for me (us) to come home to. Those of you who have been here know. Last Saturday I received a call from a photographer I know who just happened to be in Portland. I asked him if he needed a place to stay and he did. Having heard the phone ring in my office Linda knew something might be up. When I went downstairs, she looked at me and asked “How long do I have?” … Enough said.
WHAT’S AHEAD IN 2014
WE’RE MOVING —- Yes … Jack Graham Photography World Headquarters will be relocating. Sometime in February we’ll be moving a bit north of where we currently are (the Portland, Oregon area) to Puyallup, Washington. Fortunately, we are still in the great Pacific Northwest and will be in a really beautiful location. Stay Tuned!
For many years I have been a loyal Nikon owner and in no way am I saying that Nikon, Canon etc. don’t make great cameras, because they do.
Last spring I began to really enjoy using a Fuji X100S. This is a cool looking, retro camera with a 16mp sensor and a fixed 23mm (35mm in full frame) lens. I was astounded with how this camera performs. –ASTOUNDED!
1)Without a mirror or shutter mechanism, a mirrorless camera body can be smaller than a DSLR.
2)High-end DSLRs use very large sensors called “full frame” sensors that have given them an edge at the high end. The recent offerings by Fuji, Olympus, Sony and Panasonic have closed the quality gap between DSLR & mirrorless, even in some high-performance cameras.
3)DOWNFALL—Power. Mirrorless cameras use a lot more battery power than the average DSLR. I am sure the mirrorless folks will figure that out too.
HERE is an excellent article written by Thom Hogan comparing mirrorless to DSLR. He has NO dog in the hunt and knows his stuff.
After many months of pondering the mirrorless systems, and having the chance to use many of them to compare, I have decided to go that route. I recently began using the new Fuji XE-2 mirrorless camera. It comes with a flat-out tack-sharp 18-55 mm lens (27-84mm in full frame). The 55-200 F 3/5/4.8 is equally sharp and the 14mm F2.8 is one I would compare to any lens in the market for sharpness. There is also a recently announced 10-14mm on the way. There is an adaptor that allows me to use Nikon lenses if I want. My 200mm macro on this camera is just plain amazing.
Digital noise in this camera is almost nonexistent even up to ISO 3200. I made images in the XE2 as well as the X100S at 6400 ISO that show little if no noise at all. Do the homework, you’ll see!
The quality of the Fuji glass has always been well known. The color rendition (Fuji uses a slightly different sensor from what we are used to—but Fuji understands color!) produces amazingly sharp images and has really made me want to get out and take photographs more than ever. My friend Tony Sweet reminded me of a famous Jay Maisel quote in one of his recent blogs. “The more you carry, the less you want to shoot.”
I compared the Fuji to the Olympus new OMD-M1. The Olympus is a really great camera and it’s almost a toss up between it and the Fuji. The Olympus felt really good in my hand and I was pleased with the results. I could not tell the difference between it and my Nikon D700! I (my personal opinion) really think that now the APS-C sensor Fuji offers is better than the 4/3rds sensor on the Olympus. Also, to me, today’s Fuji glass is better and has more offerings in the focal lengths I like with a lot more to come this year. (For years many of the world’s greatest large format photographers have used Fuji lenses. They have a reputation right up there with Zeiss). You can do no wrong going with the Olympus system.
Sony has recently brought out a few great mirrorless (and full framed as well) cameras … great cameras. The menu system in the Sony was, to me, somewhat confusing .. maybe because I was used to the Fuji X100S. Nonetheless, it’s a great camera. Once they get their lens offerings up to snuff, look out.
Honestly I did not play with the Panasonic at all. However, I have seen results from that system from some workshop attendees and it’s impressive.
What about the Nikon DF? I love the body, features and retro look. It’s a lot heavier and probably will, like most DSLRs, take more abuse than the average mirrorless cameras will. It has a D4 sensor in it—absolutely fantastic. However at $3000 it’s a bit pricey. (However the D4 sensor is amazing!) Also, you still have to use your heavy Nikon lenses. It kind of defeats the purpose of having the mirrorless system … doesn’t it? If I had some extra bucks laying around I probably wouldn’t mind having one just to play with.
Canon … I honestly did see them and looked into them. Canon is just not there yet with mirrorless. My view is both Nikon and Canon better get with the program and realize the technology of mirrorless (and other aspects that Fuji, Olympus, Panasonic and Sony) are developing or else they will be in deeper trouble than they are now. Read THIS if you think I’m kidding.
Not only that …The Really Right Stuff makes “L brackets for these cameras! How good is that?
I see so many folks in workshops get caught up in gear, thinking if they have all the gear they will make better images … wrong! It ain’t the camera … It’s the photographer. Having a good camera gives you the CHANCE to make a good photograph.
Listen, there are still needs for Nikon D800’s, Canon 5DMKIII etc. — don’t get me wrong. And for some events and locations, I’ll still shoot my Nikon. But the Fuji XE-2 mirrorless will (for me) be more than I need for about 80% of my work … and now my camera bag is almost the same weight as my tripod and ball head!
2013 has been a rather interesting year. I put in about 50,000 miles on the road and over 200 nights. I was lucky enough to travel from the desert southwest to Iceland (twice!). It was a very good year!
I was so fortunate to make many new friends and reconnect with many more. I finally retired my old trusty Ford Explorer for a new Toyota Tacoma TRD that will no doubt get me through the next few years.
One of the highlights of my photographic year was finally working with my dear friend and world class photographer Bill Fortney again. Bill and I always stayed in touch and told each other when he retired from Nikon we would do some workshops together. We did one in Death Valley and one in NE Ohio … both memorable. We will be doing four in 2014!
Another highlight was again working with master photographer and writer Guy Tal in the Eastern Sierras of California. 2014 will be my 20th year conducting a workshop in the Eastern Sierra. Again, Guy and I will co-lead this workshop. In addition, we are offering a comprehensive Master Class right after the regular workshop ends.
You can check my 2014 schedule out HERE. New locations this year include Acadia National Park in Maine, Ireland, China and the ghost towns and red rocks of Nevada. I’ll be doing a workshop on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound for the Pacific Northwest Art School, in Ireland with Strabo Tours and in China (September).
Though I have not retired my trusty Nikons, I am using my new Fuji XE-2 more and more these days. I’ll get more into this in a few days.
The biggest news is that my wife Linda, and Duke and Roscoe (our 2 dogs) are moving up to the Seattle area in February after I return from my 2 weeks in Iceland. We are looking forward to our new home between Seattle and Mt. Rainier National Park.
Below are a few of the images that were meaningful to me taken in 2013. You can see more images from 2013 HERE
It’s always good to reflect on the past, but always growing and embracing what’s ahead. Past every turn is another adventure and opportunity.
The new issue of my quarterly magazine, Insights in Photography, is now available. In this Winter edition, I discuss the photographic challenges encountered in wide open spaces, such as in Death Valley and the Palouse region of eastern Washington. There are also articles on preparing for nature photography in cold weather, and a review of the Puffin Pad Pro. Enjoy!
Please consider coming with us to beautiful Southwestern China in September 2014 for a truly once-in-a-lifetime, 15 day photographic experience. Enjoy unbelievable subject matter in settings of colorful farmlands, pictorial waterways, ancient villages and amazing landscapes while receiving expert photography instruction. Limiting this inspirational workshop to 10 attendees guarantees great results!
I will be assisted by Su Zhou, a wonderful photographer and expert Chinese guide. She will be showing us many locations to view and photograph, such as: the Stone Forest, Li Jiang, Blue Moon Valley, Red Land, Li River, Xingping, Shanghai … and more. We recommend this workshop for intermediate and advanced photographers – having the proper equipment and skills are important for this type of photography workshop.
Trip highlights include:
• Scenic limestone formations known as the Stone Forest in the Kunming area of southwestern China
• Small ancient villages, local people, markets and landscapes in and around Li Jiang
• The colorful farmland near Dongchuan
• Traditional cormorant fisherman on the Li River
• Shanghai during the day and night
• Culturally rich villages with old architecture and local artisans The pricing for the 2014 China Adventure (at $5,490 for double occupancy) includes 13 nights in four and five star hotels, three meals a day, and all transportation within China during the workshop. (Air fare to and from China is not included.)
For a more detailed trip itinerary and other information, visit the 2014 China Adventure Workshop page. Workshop referrals and workshop FAQ’s can be found at WWW.JACKGRAHAMPHOTO.COM. Or you can contact me at Jack@jackgrahamphoto.com if you have questions.
I hope you will join me for what is sure to be … a spectacular China Adventure!