Hey, it’s Christmas Card Time

Television and local stores have begun advertising Christmas again. That was fast. Weren’t those same advertisers just pushing camping and barbecue stuff on us? Don’t get me wrong.  I like Christmas and all the festive celebration that comes with it, but it always sneaks up on me just the same.

This is a great time for photographers that want an excuse to give friends and relatives photographs. I always give photographs this time of year. Sure that could mean framed prints and I have some in mind as gifts, but what I am writing about is Christmas cards.

For those satisfied with mass produced generic Christmas cards, there are stacks and stacks being offered at stores, but for photographers, as I just wrote, it’s a perfect excuse to give people photographs. And personally, I want people to see and enjoy my photography. Even if it’s only as a 5X7 card, that’s better than having my pictures left languishing in some hard-drive.

When my wife and I go to some location with the intention of photography we always return with our memory cards loaded. That’s not much different from any other photographer. Then we return home, delete a bunch, work on some and print one or two, and then store everything in folders on backup hard-drives. For many that’s where it stops. Not for us.

I have written before that my wife and I always make a new monthly calendar. Alternating months. I get December this year. I also make cards for all occasions, like birthday’s, Valentine’s, Mother’s day, etc., from those photography trips.

Right now we are going through our many image files from this year’s photographs selecting those we want for Christmas cards. I prefer a vertical format, but sometimes a horizontal picture also works and I choose that also.

I print up lots of different images and place all sorts of greetings on them. It is rare that we give the same picture to more than one person. And not all the cards say Merry Christmas. To me, it doesn’t matter. Happy Holidays, Seasons greetings, Have fun, A good New Year, and anything else I think fits a particular picture. Sometimes I use bits of songs or quotes I have found instead of the words, Merry Christmas.

What matters is the picture and even that might be a manipulation of the original. What is important to me is that those I give a card to get something unique. And I will say that, unlike a framed print, I really don’t care what they do with the card I sent. I really hope people like what I give them, of course. However, if it gets thrown out with the gift-wrap after the holidays it doesn’t matter either, they got to see a photograph taken by my wife, Linda, or myself, and that’s what’s important.

So, to all the photographer’s out there I’ll say make your own cards this year. I print our cards on a sheet of 8×10 photo paper, fold it so we can write inside, and then cut it to fit inside an envelope. However, it’s easy to make a card gluing a photo to card stock or construction paper, or get a print made and write something festive on the back.  This weekend I’m booked to photograph two young female friends and their horses, and I know they will use their photographs for their Christmas greetings.

My point is, stop hiding all those great photographs. Just showing some picture on your iphone isn’t enough. Print it, make a card, put it in an envelope, and send it to friends and relative this year.  And if you realize on Christmas day that you’ve missed someone (or everyone) you can send your Christmas photo card electronically and instantly.

 I appreciate your comments and be sure to click “like”

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Anyone can take a picture with a digital camera

“Anyone can take a picture with a digital camera. There are even people calling themselves professionals who are not much more than point-and-shooters”.

That complaint has become all too common these days and I listened to those words again as they were voiced to me by a grumbling long time photographer last week. As he whined I thought about an article I wrote about a year a go entitled “Anyone Can Take a Picture”.

At that time I discussed a young photographer who worried his photographs would not be of any value in this popular, expanding medium and expressed his frustration saying, “Anyone can take a picture”.  His goal as a photographer was to produce images that are personal, visual statements of how he felt and hoped are more than just a documentary.

The medium of photography has become very accessible for everyone.  The days when a photographer had to be an engineer and chemist are long gone.  With modern technology, today’s supercharged camera, with machine-gun-like shutters, and seemingly speed-of-light focusing, many photographers can survive without any knowledge whatsoever of photography.  At one time photographers actually had to understand the combinations of shutter and aperture for a properly exposed image, and worried about camera shake, and film choice.  Photographers were obliged to carry more than one camera if they wanted the resulting photographs to be in both color, and black and white.

When that photographer continued with his gripe, “all this digital isn’t real photography”, I knew he wouldn’t remember that photography once needed large glass plates, hazardous chemicals, bulky cameras, and wagons to carry everything.

I am not sure that the photographers of the late 1800’s or early 1900’s were interested in photography as a creative medium as much as they were interested in an efficient medium to document reality, whether it was convincing some person to sit as still as possible for long time periods or setting up unwieldy photographic equipment on a cold mountain top to photograph the view and I am sure many photographers that loved the advancements since then would have tried photography if it had remained like that.

Yes, anyone can take a picture nowadays. However, many modern photographers that lack the technical skill make up for it with an intuitive ability to connect with their subjects. That’s a good thing and not something to complain about.  There are lots of excellent photographs being taken and those dedicated to this growing medium should celebrate their successes instead of finding fault with someone that has embraced digital technology and can make it perform.

I look forward to seeing photographs made by that young photographer that mused about “anyone being able to take pictures”. My advice to him was to use all the exciting technological advancements (because photography has always been about technology) he can find as he strives to make his photographs more than just a document.  He will work hard producing images that will be technically perfect visual statements about what he feels or wants to say. There are many photographers, myself included, who are interested in the resulting photos no matter how the image is produced as long as the final photograph has something to say and is visually exciting!

And as far as that complaint about, “people calling themselves professionals who are not much more than point-and-shooters” all I can say is we should leave that up to how their clients feel about their photography.

I welcome your comments. Thanks.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Learning Photography with Digital

Since people first started walking around with their daguerreotype cameras back in the 1840’s photography has been an evolving medium. Photography is a technological medium that constantly changes, both in the way it allows photographers to capture a subject’s image, and how those photographers then can produce that subject’s image for viewing.

Unlike many of the other creative mediums, camera technology has certainly evolved since the first amateur photographers were taking pictures of life around them, and is now at a place where anyone interested enough to take time with the today’s high powered cameras can produce very good photographs.

I have been involved with photography both as a working photographer and as a photography teacher for many years. I taught college level photography for 19 years, and I will say that I believe photographers are getting much better at their craft faster than when I was teaching students in what was then a film environment.

Film was less forgiving and learners had to wait to find out if they were successful. Students of photography had to do their assignments and sometimes wait lengthy delays for access to the school photo laboratory. Those that were very serious set up cramped little photo labs in bathrooms in order to make prints the same day.  As I think back I am not surprised at how slow progress was from the basics to a reasonable understanding of the craft and art of photography.

Today it is easy to examine the composition and exposure just by looking at the camera’s LCD and checking the histogram. Educating oneself is just that easy. Select the subject, think about the light and shadow, compose, and release the shutter. Review the LCD and if it’s wrong then try again until the image looks good.  Also, there is always the period of postproduction for balancing the overall tonal range if the image is lacking, or has too much contrast. That instant reinforcement is proof that digital is much better for the learning process of photography than ever before.

All someone who is serious about this medium needs to do is to take the time to learn the basics of photography, and how their camera works. All so very easy compared to when I was teaching so many years ago in what a friend described once described as “the days of click and pray”.

The immediate review we now have with the LCD is excellent for the learning process and I think it is mainly that feature, rather than a modern camera’s programmed ability to make a pretty good exposure, that allows beginner photographers to achieve good photographs these days.  It also allows me to regularly come in contact with excellent photographers that have become proficient without years of experience.

Photography has become so accessible and, in my opinion, a perfect creative medium for those that are comfortable with an artistic technology that is continually transforming itself. I recall when those of us that wanted to look at inspiring photographs were limited to purchasing or borrowing expensive books published by a few professional photographers. Now it is so easy to find images equal to anything ever produced by just browsing the internet. There are photographer forums, online magazines, websites, blogs and even Facebook, where spectacular photography can be viewed and used as inspiration by photographers.

I have been practicing photography and following photographic trends for well over thirty years and have never been happier to be involved in photography than right now.  A week doesn’t go by without some photographer stopping by my shop to show me their photographs and most are excellent and worth taking the time to view.

I’ll finish this with a motivational quote by fashion and fine art photographer Richard Avedon who said, “If a day goes by without my doing something related to photography, it’s as though I’ve neglected something essential to my existence, as though I had forgotten to wake up.

I appreciate your comments.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com

Photography on a Foggy Day



I like taking pictures on foggy days. I suppose I could have stayed inside and watched TV or read a book. I know that many photographers would have done just that as they complained about the damp, flat, lifeless-looking fog, but I like foggy, windy, snowy, and even rainy days. Inclement weather makes for unusual and interesting photographs, so when I woke on a morning with thick fog I knew I was going to have a fun day. Fog can conjure up feelings of mystery and awe, and of the many different conditions we encounter in landscape photography fog is one of my favorites.

Yes, the light was low, but October fields here in the British Columbia interior are mostly shades of gold, so there really is lots of colour. All a photographer has to do is select a subject angle carefully. I began by wandering through the wooded area across the road from my house, but I didn’t really get very far, the fog was so thick in the pines that there wasn’t much that I liked. I jumped in my car and I made the short, five-minute trip down to the Thompson River, and was happy to be just a bit under the fog, and that made for lots of great opportunities.

I really didn’t have any particular subject in mind. I had hoped the bridge that crossed the river would be embraced in fog, but there was a strong, wet, breeze in the river valley that had pushed the clouds and the fog away. I wanted fog or at least low clouds, so I lingered higher up, along the valley rim, searching out and photographing fences, stacks of hay, and abandoned buildings. And I even took a few pictures of cows and horses, as they looked for food in the damp foggy conditions.

I always meter for the mid tone in my composition. The foggy flat light can easily trick the meter and I prefer manual exposure where I personally can determine my aperture and shutter speed. I had remembered to bring my tripod, so even when the light was low and required a slow shutter speed I could still keep an acceptable depth of field using an aperture of f8 or smaller.

Outdoor photographs taken in fog often look flat and dull. The fog and the low light decreases image contrast and colour saturation significantly. However, for modern photographers this isn’t much of a problem since the contrast and saturation of a digital photo can easily be adjusted.  Fortunately, we can turn the problem into an advantage because an image with low contrast is easier to manipulate than an image taken in harsh light with strong shadows and highlights.

With most digital cameras the contrast can be adjusted before the photo is taken. But in my opinion, it is better to do a rough adjustment during post-production in the RAW converter, and a fine adjustment in Photoshop. In-camera adjustment is not always the best since we don’t know in advance what the right amount is, and clipping of shadows/highlights can occur.

Modern technology gives us a hand up on the flat, contrast less light even if some elements in a picture are improperly exposed they are easily corrected during post-production, and increasing the contrast on important subjects in flat light is easy.

I have always liked my photographs to be about my personal vision of a scene and not to be limited by what a particular film or camera sensor can record.  Even Ansel Adams said, “You don’t take a photograph, you make it.”

Fog forms when a humid, cool air mass moves under a warm air mass and those conditions seem to be recurring for a second day. I know that might cause problems for drivers, but I am hoping to see some in Kamloops when I go to my shop today. And if so, I will be out on the street with my camera.

I enjoy your comments, Thanks.

My website is at www.enmanscamera.com