On the Road Again…. / Photographing the Unusual

Storm over Mt. Whitney
Greeting from the Southwest. I’ll be heading up to the four corners  area of Arizona & Utah in a f ew days. I’ll be running workshops starting next  Wednesday night through the following weekend. I’ll be trying to post as many images of the area and the group as possible here and on my Facebook location.

I can be contacted at   jack@jackgrahamphoto.com

WEBSITE: www.jackgrahamphoto.com

WORKSHOP INFORMATION: www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops   look for information on 2012 events as well!!

PODCAST: www.18percentgraymatter.com  (available on iTunes as well)


 “Anything that excites me for any reason, I will photograph; not searching for unusual subject matter, but making the commonplace unusual”.
Edward Weston

 Last week I had a conversation with Alain Briot. I was telling him about how much fun I was having photographing these old 1939 Chevy’s in this junkyard I came upon a few weeks ago. He told me that he loves photographing cars and that he considers that his “hobby”. I thought his analysis, as it always is, was spot on. I realized that though my main focus is photographing nature, leading workshops, selling fine art prints and doing a bit of writing, getting lost in a junkyard or really anywhere can be a time to let myself go, experiment and photograph unusual subjects that  most folks don’t think of me photographing.

 I first experimented with this kind of photography many years ago the first time I drove across California and Arizona on the old Route 66. Photographing through the broken glass windows of the old abandoned gas stations and restaurants was really interesting. Seeing history, left to decay and attempting to capture it on film really interested me. Now, much like Alain, (his term “hobby” is so spot on!) I consider this kind of photography my hobby as well.

 After spending time conduction a workshop, or just out in the field shooting a landscape or close up nature, I might stop when come upon an old car, building etc. Try it, you just might enjoy it.

 One of the advantages of looking for the unusual is that quite often it’s wherever you may be. Unlike planning for a trip to an exotic location, lots of unusual images can be found in the very area you live or might just be. Working around weather is not always as critical as nature photography and if you learn to control light, you are good to go.

As we know, in photography, the subject really does not matter. I’ve discussed seeing subjects and techniques in some recent articles and podcasts. www.18percentgraymatter.com . The art of photography lies in being able to photograph all subjects creatively. If you, the photographer have the ability to capture a subject in an interesting manner no matter how simple the subject may  you’re end results could prove to be quite interesting. Incorporating the element of surprise of in this type of photography is important. You was the viewer to look at and your photograph, react, and think “How creative, I would have never thought of photographing that” When you’re out, stop and look for interesting but unusual subjects, and work them in different ways to portray the usual, in an interesting and perhaps different manner.

Over time, certainly not in the beginning, I developed the ability to (most of the time) recognize unusual subjects. Finding these subjects is at times quite easy. Learning to experiment with different angles, light, texture and patterns is a bit more challenging.

Using different techniques available to us is something I also encourage. Today we have HDR, lots of artistic filters in Photoshop and in programs like Color Efex2 from NIK Software to add interest to already unusual subjects. Sometimes adding some blur, or over done sharpening can bring out things that can create interest in your photograph. Always experiment with Black & White (I rather prefer the tem “Monochrome”.

Experiment with different lenses and angles, Look to add subject matter to tell more of the story. In other words, get creative.

Photography is an art. Presenting real life subjects with a difference should be a goal. Presenting a familiar subject in a unique and unusual way can be fun as an alternative to what you either are known for, or where you spend more of your photographic time.

Lastly, one thing I like to do when photographing the unusual is to play around with the aperture settings. The  primary application of aperture is to portray depth of field. You can use the aperture settings creatively for blurring out the background, or just the opposite, portray lots of depth of field. .

So next time you’re out in the field look for the unusual, let yourself go, get creative and add another weapon to your photographic arsenal. Unusual subjects are all around us. Make the most of them, let yourself go!


PHOTO TIP: When you just don’t find a photograph / Photographers vs. Shooters

WEBSITE: www.jackgrahamphoto.com

WORKSHOPS www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops

PODCAST: www.18percentgraymatter.com   (NOW  ON  iTUNES )

With the recent disaster in Japan in mind, please note that there may be shortages and certainly delays in photographic equiptment coming in the next few months. If you are thinking about purchasing something you might think about speeding up the process. Check out these great specials from my friends at Hunt’s http://wbhunt.com/specials/ 


©Jack Graham Photography 

“A lot of people think that when you have grand scenery, such as you have in Yosemite, that photography must be easy. “… Galen Rowell

Olympic National Park, Wa.

 How many time have you woke up in the dark, grabbed your coffee and headed out the door to capture that previsualized sunrise and guess what, it didn’t happen? All the great images we seen in books are most likely the result of being at the right place in the right time and knowing how to handle the conditions and subject matter. More often than not, the reality is that the potential doesn’t materialize. We often react with “There’s nothing here to photograph” and head elsewhere, or at worse, back home.

 If the light is harsh, yes, by all means head back home. However sometimes you need to hang in there, look around and really make sure. Often times, you may just not see the forest through the trees.

 Take a look at this design… can you tell what is says? (Answer at the end of this essay—but don’t look until you really study this design)


 The message here is that once you know what the design is, the message is extremely apparent and you’ll say, “Wow its right in front of me”!  Like the design, sometimes images are right in from of you, and you are just not seeing them.

 Perhaps you’ve been to a location and know that you made some good images there previously, and there must be a photograph, but on this day you are just not seeing one, even though the light and conditions are pretty good. So what do you do, before giving up and heading out elsewhere?  Here are a few suggestions:

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

1)    Are you using the right lens? If you have on a long lens, try a wide angle, or the other way around .Don’t be lazy, experiment with different focal lengths or use an old 35mm empty slide in front of your eye to se what the scene would look like with different focal lengths. If you have a wide angle lens fixed in your mind, you may be missing an opportunity to capture an image with a longer lens!

2)    Look vertically as well as horizontally. One angle can convey a totally different aspect than the other.

3)    Walk around with your camera unattached to your tripod. Don’t commit to a spot with your camera on you’re tripod until you’ve explored all possibilities.

4)    If you like photographing close up images, try that. Look for subjects that lend themselves to close up photography. There usually is something if you look hard enough.

5)    If weather is affecting the scene (and possibly you!) take advantage of it. Remember white skies are poison to a photograph. So eliminate the sky, focus in to a certain area around you and work it. If there are harsh shadows, use them, perhaps converting the image to a Black & white shot. Use what you have.

6)    Consider what you can do in post processing. It is important to make these decisions while in the field and not at home in front of your computer. Decide is you want to create an HDR image, or if you want to turn this image into an abstract.

7)    Get down low to the ground, perhaps with a wide angel lens. Or conversely, try getting up higher on a rock or tree limb. You might see a different perspective than you were seeing at your eye level.

8)    Relax, look around. Don’t stress about not “seeing” a photograph. Walk around, enjoy the day. You just might find that when you put less pressure on yourself, the image appears!

 If all of the above fails, then it probably is time to go somewhere else. However, from experience, it’s probably you and not the scene.



 All 5 images were made the same morning as I worked the scene in less than comfortable conditions.(Cold!!)


Brandywine Falls, Ohio



Ice design at Brandywine Falls, Ohio



Brandywine Falls, Ohio


Brandywine Falls, Ohio

Separating a Photographer from a Snap Shot Shooter

 Keeping what we just discussed in mind, let’s briefly address the differences between a photographer and a snap shot shooter. Many people, who think they are really “photographers” don’t realize that they are really snap shot shooters.  I see this lot in the field, and believe me there is a huge difference in results.

 Usually the snapshot shooter has little knowledge of the camera, composition and exposure, even though they think they do. They often walk around aimlessly, shooting frame after frame hoping for one that is acceptable (the blind squirrel theory), usually going home with nothing and hopefully wondering what they are doing wrong while they review their images. They usually become uninterested in an area quickly, give up and leave, as the next spot will always produce more opportunity!  The snapshot shooter, more often than not looks for the scenes in a specific location that have been shot before, by some of the great, well know photographers that they have seen in books. When they get to one of these iconic locations, often the subjects don’t look like they did in their books; but yet, they try to replicate these scenes down to the finest detail. They usually fail miserably.

 The photographer uses the conditions (weather, light etc) to make the image more dramatic. Perhaps the photographer does use an icon in their image, but the photographer usually looks for a different way to present it, perhaps in different light or a different angle.

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

 The photographer is relaxed, slows down and becomes involved with the nature of the area and does not press to capture many images. To the photographer one and maybe two quality images equal a good day.

 The photographer is usually the last one to leave, probably after dark and is anything but bored. He or she easily finds subjects, knows how to make them work within the photograph and goes home with a few quality images.

 Ask yourself… what are you?  Obviously we all want to be photographers. It takes more than owning a decent camera and good lenses!

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

   All 4 images were made the same morning, again at Brandywine Falls, Ohio ( in the rain!)

Brandywine Falls, Ohio

Oh yes… THE ANSWER TO THE 1ST QUESTION….. What is this design??

… It says “fly”. Look between the black objects. The white area spells “fly”. It just jumps out at you now? This is seeing the forest through the trees. Think about this next time you are out in good light, good conditions, and not seeing something to photograph

Brandywine Falls, Ohio


Field Group and One on One Workshop Information:   http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops

WEBSITE: www.jackgrahamphoto.com

PODCAST: www.18percentgraymatter.com ( NOW ON  iTUNES)

Contact me: jack@jackgrahamphoto.com   WEEKLY SPECIALS from Hunt’s Photo & Video



Moon set and Sunrise over Zabriskie Point , Death Valley National Park


Let’s talk about Panorama photography. It’s really very easy once you get the knack of it!

TYPES of panoramic images

Single Image Pan – uses only one image as apposed to 2+ images. This involves cropping unneeded sky and foreground.

Multi Image pan:  Typically uses 2-5 images, made side by side that are taken and “stitched” together to form a single image.  It is recommended to overlap each image by about 25%-30%

180-360 Degree panorama – Whether you’re surrounded by a range of mountains, a forest of trees or the fence in your own backyard, stitching in 180-360(D) puts you right in the middle of it all.

Vertical Panoramas- greatfor creating a full picture of soaring skyscrapers, towering trees, and cascading waterfalls

Latourell Falls, OR… almost a 180 degree pan
Multnomah Falls, Oregon Vertical Pan

So, what do you need to create a quality panoramic image?

If you really want a quality pan, invest in a Fuji 617 camera. The Fuji 617 is a big, heavy camera with a 5×7″ view camera lens, and used 120/220 film (yes, film!) in back. The angle of view from the 105mm f/8 lens is about the same as a 24mm lens on a DSLR and is spread across a huge 6×17 cm (2.25 x 6.5″) of film.

Current market value on these cameras is about $3200.00USD, and with that 105 lens just under $4000.00. However, the results are awesome.

You can create quality panoramic images using your DSLR and for financial reasons this probably may make the most sense.  Can you use a point and shoot? Probably not as the need to keep things level and the use of a tripod is mandatory as we’ll discuss.(Unless you use something like a Canon GSeries or other quality point and shoots that can be mounted on a tripod!)


I have made quality images using focal lengths between 24 & 200mm. I favor focal lengths over 24 mm and usually 28mm and up due to the lack of bowing effect and the resolution of the sky (which I’ll get to in a minute).


Here’s is what can make or break a panoramic image.  To create a quality panorama, two factors are primary. They are:  leveling and eliminating parallax.

Keeping the camera level is mandatory. Parallax occurs when objects don’t line up when the images overlap. You have to try and place the optical center (not the camera) over the point of rotation.

Images using the most commonly technique, that is horizontal panoramas are, as we discussed overlapping images, typically taken from left to right, overlapping about 30%. You MUST keep the camera perfectly level at all times to make the stitching process exact and easy. I recommend a good quality ball head. I use the Really Right Stuff BH55 head.  No it isn’t the least expensive you can buy, but it probably will be you’re last.   www.reallyrightstuff.com


Tripods and tripod use has been written and talked about forever. If you haven’t, invested in a good tripod do yourself a favor and do so. This is the least expensive component of photography you can make to improve your images Want to read a great article by Thom Hogan about buying quality equipment first.? http://bythom.com/support.htm . I am using the Gitzo3541LS. This tripod uses  6X ALR tubing and can easily support lenses up to 600mm. It’s also tall enough so my back doesn’t’t bother me from bending over all day when out in the field.


Use the Panorama heads and accessories from NODAL NINJA www.nodalninja.com. Simply put they are the highest quality and solve a myriad of problems. I use the M1 system.

Nodal Ninja’s systems ( there are quite a few!) are specially designed panoramic tripod heads to meet specific needs of the panoramic photographer. With 4 basic series combined with a broader choice of base rotators they are able to configure pano heads that are just right for any need.

If you are looking to seamlessly stitch panoramas free of parallax while simplifying your workflow then you’ve come to the right place. Our award winning lightweight panoramic tripod heads are precision built to do just that. And being universal they will work with just about any camera and lens. We offer exceptional value without compromising quality that’s backed by industry leading support.

 Why do you need a special head for top quality panorama images?   Once a camera is properly mounted on a pano head the photographer is able to take multiple images, horizontally and/or vertically, without any subsequent parallax error. Parallax, simply put, is the apparent shifting of objects in the foreground to  the background. There is a point inside every lens called the No Parallax Point (NPP). The proper technical term is “entrance pupil” but many refer the NPP as the  nodal point, hence Nodal Ninja.

Eliminating parallax is key when needing to “seamlessly” stitch adjoining images together  to form a single composite. From as little as 2 shots across the horizon, to dozens or hundreds of multi image shots, photographers are able to produce stunning mosaics and full 360 x 180 degree interactive panoramas. Nodal Ninja is a valuable tool for any photographer’s camera bag. Learn more about panoramic photography.

Another way to make Panorama images, but a bit less precise.


LEVELING BASE or PANNING CLAMP ?… make life simple!  Level your camera in one easy step

Instead of leveling the 3 tripod legs, which can be time-consuming, especially when you have only 2-3 minutes of good light, I use the GS5121LVL Gitzo Leveling Base. You simply rremove the top plate from the 3541 tripod, and replace it with this robust leveling base. Twist the handle to lock & unlock the base. Fluid motion allows smooth and fast leveling, no matter the load. At only 10.5 ounces, this is the lightest leveling available

below is the PCL-1 mounted on the BH55

If you don’t want to invest in the Gitzo leveling base, and you have a ball head from the Really Right Stuff folks ( or any other arca-swiss mount head), you can easily use the  PCL-1 panning clamp, from the Really Right Stuff . It is truly a “system” (You can buy the BH55 along with the PCL-1 as a package and same quite a bit of money). The benefit is, just like with the Gitzo leveling base, you DO NOT need to level your tripod legs. This is a precision product with laser engraved, 2.5 degree increments, from 0 -360 degrees. There is a built in bulls eye level.

Other accessories to make things even easier and extremely precise are available from the Really Right Stuff. I suggest you read their website www.reallyrightstuff.com  and catalog to understand all the other products available. At the very least, to make a good quality Pan, you must have a good tripod, a quality ball head and something to make you’re leveling easy

Cuyahoga National Park, Ohio


All of this is worthless unless you follow 5 important steps when it comes to exposure:

1)      Set the exposure to MANUAL. You may want to pan over the scene you are going to shoot in APERTURE PRIORITY and see what the average exposure is, but reset your exposure dial to the manual mode and then make sure your aperture & shutter speed  are set to the average you have determined.

2)      I also recommend resetting your white balance manually, not in the auto-white balance mode. If  it’s sunny, use sunny, cloudy, use cloudy and so on.

3)      Try and not shoot over F11 if possible. This aperture at F11, or even F8 should give you the amount of depth of field so that everything stays in focus in every frame.

4)      Never use a filter on your camera when making panoramas…. None!

5)      Never use a flash


There is lots of panorama (stitching) software on the market and most are pretty good. PHOTO MERGE in Adobe PhotoshopCS5 and beyond and Elements 8 and newer has really improved over the years and should do everything you need.

However the top of the line stitching software available as far as I am concerned is PTgui…..which stands  for Panorama Tools GraphicalUser Interface www.ptgui.com

Process (merge) you images into one file and then work on them in your post processing software. Do NOT process your images before merging them.

Check out this website. There is lots of information about panoramic photography here.


FIELD TIP: When I shoot pans, (or even for HDR images) I put my hand inform the lens and press the shutter before and after I make the sequence of shots. This way I know where the sequence begins and ends.

Have fun… Pans can be great ways to make images stand out!

Aspens in Winter


Photography CONTEST Photography PhotographyPhotography CONTEST CONTEST CONTEST

Jack Graham Photography Workshops:http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops


Portland Japanese Garden © Jack Graham Photography

CONTEST ANNOUNCEMENT  ( contest ends midnight March 30… prize(s) delivered  no later than May 1)

One of the ways I grow in photography is studying other photographers work. The folks whose work I like to view and learn from ranges from some of my local photographer friends here in the Pacific Northwest to the world famous photographers that we all know and enjoy.

 One such photographer is Peter Lik, www.peterlik.com a world famous Australian Photographer, now residing in the United States.

 The Weather Channel is launching a new reality TV show, “From the Edge” with Peter Lik, focusing on scenic outdoor photography.

 The show will follow Peter, as he travels to places where weather continues to have a unique impact on the landscape. Every week, Peter will attempt to capture the essence of Mother Nature through his lens with his unique perspective, style, and skill.

 Throughout the thirteen episodes, Peter will photograph stunning landscapes across Hawaii, Alaska, Death Valley, Utah and other hidden gems off the map. We¹ll see all his photographs and techniques along the way as he overcomes weather-related obstacles to find “the perfect shot.”

 Now for some fun………………….

 I have been given a copy of  Peters latest book, “The spirit of America” http://books.peterlik.com/products/spirit-of-america     to give away to a lucky winner of my contest.

 The contest is open to ANYONE who is reading this note via  Facebook,  Twitter, my blog, or on an email blast… anywhere!  Please pass this opportunity along to your friends as well! This new book is one of the best coffee table photography books I’ve ever seen

 All you need to do is send me an email to Jack@jackgrahamphoto.com …AND PICK a NUMBER BETWEEN 1 AND 100.  In the event of a tie, the email I receive 1st will be the winner. If no one picks the number, the closest to it will win. In case of a tie, you’ll receive a FREE year’s subscription (or a year’s renewal) to the Robert Hitchman’s PHOTOGRAPH AMERICA’S NEWSLETTER. If you don’t know about this valuable tool for your photography, please check the out. www.photographamerica.com . The information on where, when , and how to get to great photographic locations is invaluable!

So just click here  jack@jackgrahamphoto.com   and send me your lucky number & above all DON’T MISS THIS SHOW,  no matter weather you are a pro photographer, a serious amateur  new to photography,or a travel enthusiast.

By the way——I have already picked the number using http://www.random.org/

 Good luck!…………….Jack

PHOTO TIP: 7 Steps to a Make Great Photograph

Workshop Information: http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops

Web Site : www.jackgrahamphoto.com



Beat the Drum © Jack Graham Photography


7 Steps to Make a Great Photograph                                                                            

© Jack Graham Photography

Of course knowing how to technically photograph a scene is important and assuming one can competently perform that task, there are other important aspects that one muse consider  when making interesting and pleasing photographs. Of course, ones definition of interesting can vary. These 7 components are, in my opinion essential in creating images that viewers will react to, and enjoy.




Yellowstone NP ©Jack Graham Photography


 You have heard this many times. The components of the image must fall into place and transmit the message of the image to the viewer. The image must be impactive, and one that creates interest in the viewers brain. Often the main subject stands on its own allowing the detail in the image to act like an orchestra, accompanying a soloist.





OneontaPhotography Simplicity Gorge, Oregon ©Jack Graham Photography


Elements of Surprise

Great photographs show the viewer something unexpected. As storm over the desert, old subject matter rather than new, fast flowing water in a stream that is normally peaceful, beauty in a subject that is normally considered harsh are just a few examples.

Storm over My Whitney, Ca © Jack Graham Photography

Bleeding Heart, Oregon © Jack Graham Photography


This component is maybe the most important. Simple photographs just work. Areas of confusion in a photograph sometimes referred to as clutter, draws ones eye away from the primary subject.

Lone Gull ©Jack Graham Photography

 Next time you are our making photographs, weather you are doing landscape, macro, wildlife etc, and before you press the shutter, say to yourself “ OK, now how can I simplify the scene just a bit better” Keep simplicity in mind at all times.

 Strong reaction 

One might this reaction is the same as the element of surprise. It is not. Reactions are felt  in many ways. A photograph of an old building might bring back memories of a time past. A photograph of an ocean scene my evoke memories of visiting or photographing a similar area.

Reactions to an image results from the unexpected. We have all see images of a nice pond, in good light. However add in a rainbow, and you have a totally different image. You’ll react to that one!

Rainbow over Pond, Columbia RiverPhotography StrongPhotography MakePhotography OtherPhotography The Gorge, OR © Jack Graham Photography

Aspens in the Sky © Jack Graham Photography

Strong subject

If there is no subject, there is no image. Subjects need not be objects or people. Subjects can be color, patterns or both. The topic of strong subject matter has been discussed and written about for thousands of years. Subjects are not just subjects. They must have components within themselves. Tonality, texture, shape and size go into making a subject.

 Placing the subject to work within the composition is essential. Shadows and juxtaposition can also aid in formation of strong subject formation.  Now you have a strong, subject, a strong composition, though simple. What is left? You must now make sure that the subject fits in the scene in the proper area. Yes, the rule of thirds is often quoted when discussing how subjects fit into a scene but that’s just part of it.

Dahlia © Jack Graham Photography

Blooming saguaro ©Jack Graham Photo.com





Now you have a strong subject and a strong composition, and one that is relatively simple. What’s Left? You must now make sure that your subject fits into the scene, in the proper area. Yes, the rule of thirds is often quoted when discussing this topic, but thats just part of it. Other considerations regarding the subject must be part of your thinking. Tonality, and color are both important. Working with the available patterns must be considered. In other words, allow the subject to work in a positive way with the scene.

Old Man, Paris © Jack Graham Photography


The image must hold your interest

Above all, an image must attain interest from the viewer. I sometimes refer this as my 5 second rule. If an image does not gain my full attention, and make me want to study the image and derive all that it is about in 5 seconds, I move on. Sometimes great images can be of everyday things. We do not need El Capitan, in great light to make a great image that holds your interest.  Images should send messages to our brains, allowing us admire and enjoy them.

I love this image. The “Old Man” leaning left, with his cane, the buildings and cars just make this image work so well. It’s not just the grad landscape of interesting macro shot. Scenes like this can hold interest just as well.







PHOTO TIP: Choosing the Right Workshop—it’s a “Jungle out there”


First, let me state … “Is this an article written to promote my business? You bet it is!. I am quite proud of what I do and what I provide to my participants, giving them the best “bang for the buck”.  I pride myself on my return rate of attendees every year and seeing how many of my attendees are now producing sell able, quality work, not just form attending my workshops, but studying, getting out photographing and self critiquing their work really hard. If I can be a small part of their development, I am a happy camper.

The nature photography business is competitive and increasingly more demanding every year. You must be able to professionally market yourself, and all that goes into running your business successfully. Add in the economical climate and find that succeeding in the business of nature photography is filled with land mines.

Oregon Coast Workshop 2009

Making a living as a nature photographer is ever changing. Stock, though not what it was, can still be viable. Selling prints, doing art fairs, are other ways to gain income,

I am always scanning the internet  studying other photographer’s blogs and websites. I see some really great work as well as lots of mediocre photographers writing blogs and peddling their work. I see many photographers, but few artists. It is almost to say that all you need is a camera and a website and you can call yourself a pro. Unfortunately it isn’t that easy. ( a great list of wonderful websites are located here on this blog—on the right side. Although long, I probably have left out many more.. these are just  a few.  You could spend a year looking at these folks work, Everyone listed here are some of the photographers work I admire and study.

I make my living selling fine art prints and conducting photography workshops. I would like to address the latter in this essay.

The photography workshop “business” has become a very crowded arena in the past few years. Every month I scan the back pages of photography magazines and find new names that I don’t know.  I know what these ads cost and at times question their value. I sometimes ask myself “Do these folks just want to see their name in print, or what?” I am sure that some workshop leaders find this kind of advertising cost effective and others don’t.

A One on One workshop with my Navajo Guides in Monument Valley

The nature photography workshop business is, like other businesses, is a small world. Though we may have never run into each other, we workshop leaders kind of all know who’s doing what, where and for what cost… (And if you don’t fellow workshop leader… you better!).

At the Palouse

I know some workshop leaders have (or had) the attitude that “Wow, how hard can it be taking a group of folks to a great location and telling to shoot , shoot , shoot? Believe me it is NOT that easy. It takes time to develop your skills as a teacher, communicator and above all a caring instructor that is there to work with each person, find out their weakness and strengths and move them up to the next level in their growth as a photographer, by the time the workshop ends. Getting a few decent images is just the icing on the cake. Successful leaders have paid their dues. Some don’t think that dues are necessary. They are mistaken.

I have been teaching photography workshops for almost 20 years as well as participated in many workshops. Nature photography workshops can take place in exotic places, or right around the corner and range from a day to a week+. . Prices range from under 100.00 to thousands of dollars. There are workshops that specialize in landscape, macro photography or other areas of nature photography. In other words, there’s a myriad of choices out there for you to pick from.

I am a full time photographer and workshop leader. I am not a “weekend warrior” workshop leader, with a full time job somewhere else, that discovered there’s a few bucks to be made doing photography workshops. I love to teach. Heck, I’ve also counseled a few other photographers (who are now my competitors) on running workshops….its OK I have a 15 year head start on them!).

We get into some great places, like Lower Antelope Canyon, AZ

I am more than willing to share tips and techniques assuring your success in the field. I can guarantee that your workshop will be pleasant and productive whether you are a beginning photographer or a professional. You can travel with me on my workshops with the confidence that you’ll be well taken care of, learn lots and get some great images along the way.

My workshop itineraries are often copied (yes VERY OFTEN!!). I take this as a compliment, as it tells me that other workshop leaders know a good thing when they see one. Other workshop leaders sometimes offer workshops and itineraries to locations that I do as well, and some for lower prices, but the answer to this is simple because I have done my homework, and know the areas backward and forward before we get here. I use top notch guides when necessary and top notch booking agencies as well.

Simply, my references (available upon request) bear out that you get your monies worth by taking a Jack Graham Photography Workshop!  Simply put, I am a photographer that caters to photographers, no matter what your level.

Before considering a workshop, ask your leader these questions.

1)       Is this your job? Are you a professional photographer and for how long? Ask for his or her’s business license

2)       How long have you been conducting workshops?

3)       Do you carry insurance?

Yes, thats 4 million in Liability!

4)       Do you file the proper paperwork with the National Park, Forest Service, BLM etc if necessary (yes, by law it is required).

These few questions will effectively weed out the “wannabees” from us professional nature photography workshop leaders.

The vast majorities of folks conducting workshops are adhering to the business practices and do a great job. I’ve actually recommended other leaders to my customers, so they can get a different view of the world that I’ll provide. This is how you grow and learn something that we are all still striving for every day. I learn something from every workshop I complete.


My buddies the IRS!









Equally as important as the location is the instructor. There are some great workshop leaders and lots of mediocre leaders.



* Locations are usually well known, and participants get the “icon”shots

*       Usually lots of time spent shooting with less one on one contact with leaders.

*       Leaders usually shoot a lot

*       Not much time to review work either via laptop or “critique”sessions either when the light is bad, or in the evenings.

*       Groups usually larger than the true “workshop” events.

*       Once the “tour” is over. That’s it!

An attendee capturing the images in Charleston Harbor, Oregon


 *       Well know locations, “icon” shots as well as selected areas that may be not as photographed or as well known

*      Usually lots of shooting time in the field with much one on one instruction. Tours typically have a much greater 10 attendees to 1 instructor ratio that workshops.

*       Leaders shoot a bit, but usually as instruction for participants. For example, it is not uncommon to get to a location and work with participants to explain what the leader may do, think and act to make a pleasing image. We all have different ways of trying to obtain the same result. It doesn’t mean my way is the best way, it means my way is the best for me, but by understanding what I do, in addition to other photographers, you should be able to find what works best for you.

Also, I have found that participants like to see how the workshop leader shoots the same scene, thou maybe a bit different and perhaps pick up some ideas to use in future shoots. As an example, I just finished going through my images from my workshop in the Eastern Sierra last October (I do that workshop every October-this will be my 16th year there at that time). I shot a total of 60 frames in 4 days.

The vast majority of that time is spent talking and doing my job as a leader with my participants. If I want to shoot for myself, I will come in a day early or stay a day later. I actually tell my participants, they are encouraged to “hang out” on those days and shoot with me if they want, but to understand, this is “my time”.

*       Depending on the conditions and the time of the year (some days are longer than others—shooting time that it!) the review and critique of work

back at the truck after a morning in Death Valley

In a classroom setting can be limited.  This is why I have developed what I call my “Classroom in the Field “Photography workshops. Though I always include some classroom and critique time, I am NOT going take an inordinate amount of field time in good light from sitting inside and talking about things when I can do the same thing in the field. We always make some time to do some critiques though as I have found over the years participants want to know what the leaders think of their work and how, if anything  can be done to improve the participants results.

*       I use a formula of 7-8 participants to one gets larger I bring in another extremely competent workshop assistant at my expense. However this has only happened about 3-4 times in the past few years. I enjoy the small group settings and find they really make the workshop fun and memorable for he participants.

*       I received an image last week from one of my participants from a workshop from 2007. He had a question for me regarding the composition. This happens a lot and I encourage it. Though we all leave for home after the workshop, you can always send me email or call me. I amways happy to hear from you if you have something I can help you out with. My office here in Oregon is filled with images from many of my past attendees. I encourage my

I tell my attendees that I am here for as much or as little help and instruction that you want”.

Location:  Other than the obvious, where you would like to photograph, find out if the instructor has been there before and knows the ins and outs of the area. I often will change itineraries due to weather and light. I know the areas I go to and can instantly decide to go somewhere else in order to get better light etc. Make sure they know the accommodations and environment.

Cost :  Determine your available funds. It always strikes me as interesting to see people going out and spending tens of thousands of dollars on equipment and not factoring in any money for education. Believe me; spending some of your investment into a workshop will be worth its weight in gold.

I always council folks to take workshops with leaders like me. I am not the “big name photographer”; (I’ll not use names here for obvious reasons) who charges lots of money for their workshops. I am not saying they are not worth it, but I can guarantee that there are leaders out there, like me and others who can teach, guide and conduct workshops equally as well, at much less cost, that will provide you with more one on one time and basically work harder that the “big name photographers” will.  I often hear of someone going on a workshop with the big name guy and hear that once in the field they disappear and are out shooting for themselves, on your dollars!  Last year at North Lake, in the Eastern Sierra, a well know leader brought his group out later than me for a sunrise session. (These not a lot of room there to get the best image). He said to the group..  “Cram in next all these people to get your shot; I’ve already got this shot, so I am going over to the other side of the lake”. True story.

Instructor:  Do you’re homework. Look at his or hers blog’s, website, writings and workshop reviews. As for more references if necessary. Ask yourself if like the type of photographs the instructor takes. Ask about the instructor’s reputation as a teacher from past attendees.. Often, great photographers are poor teachers, and some good teachers are poor photographers. You want to find a workshop leader that is competent in both facets.  

Workshop Size:

A small group of 4-9 photographers is ideal.  I like to keep the instructor to student ratio below 1:7. If the group becomes larger then it becomes more difficult to give each attendee the individual attention they paid for…

My workshops include a 60+ page PDF file, emailed after the workshop is over including notes, images and step by step instruction on everything we discuss in the field (i.e. Depth of field, use of filters, etc.


My Navajo friend and guide Tom Phillips helping a customer get the shot (Tear Drop Window) Az

One on One workshops:


I also offer One on One workshops. Some folks prefer one-on-one instruction. Attendees are assured of learning what they want in a private environment.  For some attendees this is the fastest and most effective way to learn photography.

So……………….. Consider a workshop, and know what you are getting into before sending in that deposit. Buyers beware… it’s a jungle of photography workshops out there these days.



NEW PODCAST UP—Weather for Photographers( Check out the PODCAST notes as well!) www.18percentgraymatter.com


Just a few spots left in the Eastern Sierra & Fall in NE Ohio workshops in October— check out www.jackgrahamphoto.com/photo-workshops

NEW WORKSHOP ADDED   NOV 2011–DEATH VALLEY II  http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/death-valley-national-park

Special Fall Color workshop here in the Oregon Wine country, Columbia River Gorge and Hood River Valley in late October with Dr. Bill Campbell and me……………..  do NOT miss this one..http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/columbia-river-gorge-mountains-and-wine-country-oregon-sw-washington-jack-graham-dr-bill-campbell-co

ICELAND 2012 is filling up nicely—if you are thinking about it:  http://www.jackgrahamphoto.com/ultimate-iceland

“Hidden China” 2012–come with us to an area that few photographers have been (Optional week in Tibet too!)



Glacier NP © Jack Graham

The battle continues.. RAW vs JPEG . Well here’s my $0.02…. frag out the dead horse.. let’s beat it one more time!

Please know before you read this that I a a strong proponent of shooting RAW folks, as is the vast majority of pros, much more well known and established than me…. and there IS a reason for it. Ive tried to list these reasons concisely below.

Note I have seen some excellent results from a few of my photographer friends who shoot jpegs. However, in my humble opinion ( and this writing is just that) I would bet they would be better if they were shot RAW…JG



A RAW file is a proprietary format with uncompressed image data coming directly from the camera’s sensor, not processed , with no color rendering information. The file includes complete (lossless) data from the camera’s sensor. When shooting Raw files, your computer not the camera processes the data. Obviously your computer is far superior to processing files than your camera. Shooting Raw will gives you total control over how your image looks and allows you the possibility for correcting inadequacies in post processing. You’ll need to use software to process RAW files.

All Raw files are proprietary to the camera manufacturer and sometimes the camera model. Raw files must be converted to be used in Photoshop or other programs. RAW has much more exposure latitude. Often blown out highlights ( if they are not to badly blown out) can be reclaimed.

Color balance is also far superior in the final results of your processing when shooting RAW. Large prints made from RAW files are superior to those of JPEG files. RAW is not an abbreviation for anything. Controlling richness, detail (sharpness), color range etc in processing is much greater with a Raw file, even though the Raw files coming out of the camera may look bland

Lundy Canyon, Eastern Sierra © Jack Graham Photography


stands for “Joint Photographic Experts Group”. The JPEG file uses compression which results in a some loss of quality. Artifacts can be introduced in JPEG files each time the file is opened and saved. These are most noticeable in the sky or like toned gradients.

Also JPEG compression can bring out digital noise in the photograph. If you shoot in the JPEG format, I recommend using the highest quality settings, lowest ISO and presets for conditions in your camera ( i.e. cloudy, sunny etc.). When shooting in the JPEG mode your camera’s internal firmware processes the image It will take the information directly off the sensor and quickly process it prior to saving it on your memory card. Some color and resolution is lost.

With some cameras there is slightly more noise in a JPEG than in a comparable Raw version In the JPEG mode, the image blocks (usually 8×8 pixels) determine what can be “safely” discarded. The rule of thumb is that the higher the compression ration the lower the quality of JPEG is provided (more information being discarded). When the image is put back together a row of 24+ pixels that had 24+ different tones could provide less than 6. That valuable information is completely lost.

The quality of a JPEG taken with a DSLR will still be much better than one made with a point and shoot camera. Shooting bursts, as in bird photography allows for more shots using JPEG than Raw. R files, bring larger, take longer to save to the memory card. If you shoot in the JPEG format, I recommend using the highest quality settings, lowest ISO and presets for conditions in your camera ( i.e. cloudy, sunny etc.).

Mt Hood, Oregon © Jack Graham Photography


SO   ?………..Do some professional photographers shoot in the JPEG format? Yes. Can JPEG images be made with enough quality to be published? Yes. The bottom line is this. If you are printing your work, learn to work with RAW and become proficient in your processing , the benefits outweigh shooting in JPEG. If you are shooting small images for the web, not concerned with printing, or publishing larger images (more than 8 x 10’s) the JPEG format offers a quicker processing time.

Why shoot RAW?

1) Ability to change the exposure, saturation, sharpness, curves, etc with less quality loss than you’d experience with JPEG

 2) Maximum control in post-processing

Why shoot JPEG

1) Smaller file size allows you can fit more on a memory card (usually twice as many), and you can download images faster to your computer

2) Ability to shoot significantly more shots in a burst ( good for bird photography )

NOTE: Some cameras can be set to capture images in both RAW and JPEG formats at the same time. There may be times you want to immediate evaluate an image and use the RAW converter later to optimize your final results. ______________________________________________________________________________________________

                                                                RAW                                                                                                                                  JPEG

 RAW JPEG FORMAT              proprietary                                                                                           by camera manufacturer Standard easily readable

BIT RATE                                    at least 8 bits up to 12+                                                                       exactly 8 bits per color

COMPRESSION                         uncompressed                                                                                      compressed

FILE SIZE                                    uncompressed 12MP camera=12mb files                                   small file size (8MP Camera files=1-3mb file)

 DYNAMIC RANGE             Higher dynamic range( better highlights & shadows)              lower in dynamic range

SHARPNESS                              Not as sharp                                                                                               higher in contrast

PRINTING                                Not ready for printing, must be post processed                         immediately ready for printing or web posting

CORRECTION                       Read only some                                                                                        JPEG’S ready for print, web right out of camera

DATA LOSS                           No loss when processed into a TIFF, PSD file                               JPEGS loose data each time an edit is made no matter how minor

 WHEN FILE EXTRACTED FROM CAMERA     must be post processed                                        already processed by the camera

 REFRESHING BUFFER IN CAMERA    slower than JPEG                                                               Faster thanRAW

 RAW POST PROCESSING LOSS None                                                                                                         more than RAW, especially in exposure