Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: My Favorite Photos- California Beach Sea Anemone

Recently, I wrote about the best photos of 2006, in particular highlighting National Geographic’s portraits of wildlife.

I spent a day on one of my favorite sunny California beaches last year trying to photograph sea life in all its forms.

I came up with a lot of shots that I liked. I didn’t realize how much I liked this photo until I uploaded it to my notebook.

There are several reasons why this is one of my favorite photos:

  1. The texture. California beach photos often look flat, but they can also take on a life of their own. This photo captures the grainy texture of the surrounding rock and sand. It also aptly catches the spikes of the anemone, making them appear like toothpicks, when in fact they’re very flexible.

  2. The color. The pinks work well with the browns, “popping” in a way I wouldn’t have expected. I think the contrast is great and unexpected too.

  3. There’s an aspect of freshness around the sea anemone; the brown terrain looks aged next to it. This is probably the best part of the photo, because it shows that the anemone is a living thing, constantly cleaning itself by its natural movement, while emphasizing the stillness of the background.

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Be cautious when deleting photos from your digital camera. You may have better shots than you know, but won’t realize their brilliance until you upload them to your PC.

If the uploaded photos are not similar to how you viewed them with your naked eye, go to your favorite photo editing application and use Hue/Saturation as well as Brightness/Contrast tools to accentuate the natural colors and contrast inherent in the subject and surrounding environment.

I do not view editing tools in a negative light as long as they’re not used to deceive the viewer. For instance, a few more notches to the left or right on the Hue/Saturation bar and the image would not have been properly represented. It is every photographer’s choice to create surreal effects as long as the viewer is notified. But rest assured. The colors in this photograph are the colors I saw while viewing this beautiful creature with my naked eye.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: My Favorite Photos

This photo was taken at a marina in Santa Barbara, California at dusk. I’m just an amateur photographer, so I don’t have the formal training you find with professional photography online. But this photo turned out really well. Here’s what makes this one of my favorite photos:

  1. The colors. I love the shading and the contrasts provided by the falling light. Within minutes of taking this shot, the sun set. I almost missed the cobalt blue of the boat covers and the shock of yellow provided by the boats, too. The yellow and blue colors typify sailing and nautical color themes in general, so I’m pleased that they turned out so well.

  2. The reflection of the clouds on the water is something I often see in online professional photography portfolios, but am rarely able to duplicate. The clouds in the water give the photo depth and some mystery, too.

  3. The geometry of the sailboat masts provided an added interest that I didn’t foresee when I snapped the shot. The poles, which support the sails, stand rigidly upright, making my favorite photo seem very still and silent. The masts remind me of a small city, and help provide a better idea of the number of boats moored in the harbor.

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: If you’re not a professional online photographer, you can still take amazing photos. When you “see” a photo that you want to take, try shooting it from as many angles as possible, at different times of day. You may end up with several photos for the trash bin, but chances are, you’ll find your photo. Bring a notebook and record what you did differently with each frame you shoot, and you’ll start to learn what works well for you as an amateur photographer.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: Will You Take Better Photos After Taking Photography Classes?

There are a number of opportunities to study photography online or in the classroom today. But do you need to take photography classes to take a better photo?

Photography is a popular hobby, and many enthusiasts dream of doing it professionally. Some people just want to learn more about how to take better photos. Whatever your reason, weigh your decision to take photography classes carefully.

When you study photography, there are a lot of different classes you can join to take a better photo.
  • Study photography composition, placing subjects and creating scenes, to help you take better photos. You can learn a lot from taking a composition class. But some traditional composition photography classes focus so much on structure that they seem to forget that some of the best photos are less formal in their arrangement.
  • Study photography online by subject, like landscape, glamour or portraits, to help you take better photos. Mostly, these photography classes provide a range of ideas that help open your eyes to new ways of taking photos. You can learn about lighting, stage layout and posing, but on-time inspiration is often your best guide.
  • You can study photography online, focusing on the tools of the trade. Taking a class in how to get the most out of your digital camera can benefit anyone. With every new digital camera I break in, I find a whole new group of options for taking better photos. Look for classes on your camera manufacturer’s Web site, to get the most out of your digital camera.

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Research schools in your area, classes at local colleges and community center classes, too. Go back to school on the Web, and you can choose from paid (in depth) classes and free (less comprehensive but still worthwhile) classes.

HP is my favorite site overall for classes on taking better pictures and online classes in digital photography.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: Books to Read- Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited.

In Craig J. Barber’s Ghosts in the Landscape: Vietnam Revisited, Barber, a Vietnam vet, returns to Vietnam almost 30 years later to document the country through black and white photos. Barber gets old fashioned photos in a very old fashioned way- with a pinhole camera.

Barber’s photos show how Vietnam has changed since the war, and how the war changed Vietnam. His old fashioned photos show shell casings as fence posts and shell craters turned into fish ponds. There’s a great sense of the beauty and change happening in the county shown throughout Barber’s photos.

I remember my fascination with trying to make a pinhole camera to take black and white photos as a kid.

You can make a pinhole camera with something as simple as a coffee can or an empty box from the pantry. It’s a fun way to recycle and reuse household materials. Here’s a quick overview of the steps to make your camera:

  • Use black paint, tape or paper to cover the inside and outside of a can or box to eliminate light. Punch a small hole in one end of your camera, to reflect light. A shutter is fashioned out of a piece of sturdy dark paper and hides your film. Set up a dark room, and insert photographic paper into your camera. Then carefully take your camera to your desired location. Lift the shutter, count to ten, and you’ll have your photo. Then it’s back to the darkroom to develop and print your shot!

  • Old fashioned photos taken with a pinhole camera have a distinct look. Taking black and white photos this way takes time, as you sit very still and wait for the photo to expose properly.

  • Your homemade camera can provide high quality black and white photos. Experiment with your camera, and take notes to find out what worked best for you. Did you wait ten or twenty seconds when taking the shot? Were you in full sunlight or was it a cloudy day? It takes some trial and error. When done correctly, the results can be beautiful. And it’s fun!

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Kodak has kindly provided instructions on how to make a pinhole camera. It’s a fun project to share with a young family member and a great way to get some grainy, inspired shots!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: Photo of The Week

In one of my earlier blogs, Best Online Photo Albums and Photo Sharing Options, I talked about my favorite photo sharing site, Flickr. I found the photo of the week, by James Jordan, on his Flickr photostream. Jordan takes beautiful shots year round of Lake Michigan and Door County, Wisconsin.

Jordan uses the mystery that the fog offers yet amplifies it, with light from what appears to be mid-morning sun, judging by the angle that the sun hits the house and the length of the shadow cast by the glacier-type formation in the forefront.

The varying degrees of blue and gray in the lake's water offer a mysterious and cold feeling - look long enough and the ripples make you believe that something is stirring underneath. The house and pier seem to be elevated above the waterline, and the clouds offer an abstract look and fill in the background nicely. Jordan’s photo also shows a good use of geometry as the two glaciers and the pier jut out and guide the eye from the left to the center of the photo.

Jordan, an amateur photographer, comments “Icy winds create a mist over the water of Lake Michigan near Kewaunee Wisconsin. Arctic winds passing over the warmer lake waters picked up the moisture and dumped it on Michigan on the other side of the lake as a blinding snowstorm - you can see the clouds forming in the distance.”

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Icicles and close-ups of frozen tree branches make some of the best nature photos. Icicles reflect light, so depending upon how you set up the shot you can show several varying aspects of these frozen sculptures. Frozen tree branches have a sense of peace that when captured, provides a photo detailing a sense of isolation, even when the tree’s located in a busy downtown district.

If you’re an amateur photographer looking forward to yet another winter snowstorm, get out and get your photo of the week!

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: Navigating Stock Photography Sites

Finding high-quality stock photography on-line is easy to do. It’s more difficult to find good stock photo images that are available to use.

What you need to know before you visit a Web site to find free stock photos.

  • Royalty free stock photo images aren’t free, but you only have to pay once to use these stock photos again and again. Avoid stock photography Web sites that charge royalties- they’re difficult to navigate and you’re responsible for making sure the stock photos are used properly.
  • Verify that there are no licensing issues with the stock photography you want to use. Sometimes there are rules to follow, including attribution and limited usage in addition to a fee to pay for online stock photos.
  • Buy the high-resolution and low resolution stock photo images if you can. That way, if you need to use the online stock photos for print, you already have them on hand.
  • At royalty free stock photo sites like stock xchg, you’re asked to leave a comment explaining where the stock photo images are used. Make sure you do- the photographers’ comments indicate they use this information for their portfolios. When you use the photo, credit the photographer and the source Web site as appropriate.

Find the best personal use and royalty free stock photos Web sites.

Check out sites like Getty Images, Corbis, Comstock Images and Stock XCHNG for some of my favorite online stock photos.

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Be careful to avoid overused stock photo images- you don’t want a photo on your site that’s used everywhere else, too. You might just want to take your own.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: The Best Online Digital Photos of 2006

2006 was another great year for viewing the world through the lens of a photographer.

Check out some of my favorite 2006 collections from several online digital photo sites:

From border jumpers to the burning of Baghdad, Time magazine shares the Best Photos of the Year 2006. Take a moment to check out the year’s best online digital photos according to Time magazine.

Arrow photos by Charles Pfeil demonstrate how an online digital photo can look just like a painting. Capturing the moonlight in all its beauty makes taking a great online digital photo a challenge; Pfeil’s digital photography makes it look easy.

Some of the most fun 2006 digital photography can be found at the National Geographic “Best Wildlife Photos of 2006.” The underwater digital photography in particular makes you take a step back, and re-evaluate your views of nature.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Anthony Pierpont, The Everyday Photographer: Best Online Photo Albums and Photo Sharing Options

One of the best things about taking photos is sharing them with your friends and family. There are a number of free online photo album and digital photo sharing choices on the Web today.

And with online photo sharing more popular than ever, it’s really easy to share your photos with your loved ones.

Some of the best online photo albums for you to try today include:

  • Snapfish lets you order prints of your online photo albums, and the first 20 prints are free. Snapfish has group rooms, one of the best picture sharing options online today. Your friends, family and coworkers can all help create online photo albums. You can buy personalized photo gifts on Snapfish, turning your online photo albums into calendars, t-shirts, mugs and posters. I like how easy it is to upload your cell phone photos, and using the Snapfish editing tools to clean them up for your online photo albums is a snap!
  • With Shutterfly, you can create online photo albums, photo cards and gifts and DVD photo slideshows. The editing tools are easy to use and you can also rate and organize your free online photo album. It’s easy to start the Shutterfly digital photo sharing process, just select your free online photo album and e-mail it to your friends and family. Once you download the online photo albums software, you can share your albums for free and order prints of your online photo albums for a small fee.

Some of the best picture sharing options available online includes:

  • Flickr has to be the best online photo sharing web site out there. Flickr lets you post photos and view other site member’s photos too. This picture sharing site lets you comment on your photos, comment on member photos and receive comments from other members too, which can be really helpful. When you participate in online photo sharing at Flickr, you’re really joining a community of amateur and professional photography buffs. Online picture sharing profiles tell you a little more about the photographer. Check out the work of one of my favorite online photographers, Tom Stone.
  • When you think of Myspace, you’re probably not thinking about online photo albums or digital photo sharing. Myspace is generally thought of as the meet-and-greet for twenty-somethings. But Myspace gives you a really easy way to create online photo albums, with one of the best picture sharing options available today. You can’t edit your photos, turn them into picture mugs or do anything too fancy. But you can let others rate your best online photo albums, and you can easily point friends and family (especially the younger ones!) to your online photography site.

Everyday Photographer Tip of the Day: Go find a construction site and take some color photos of the workers and the site. Try different angles to find your best shot.