Lessons I Didn’t Learn In Photo School
Syl Arena’s LIDLIPS started as blog posts on Pixsylated. They were so popular he’s collected them in a book.Syl delivers common sense wisdom that refreshes, provides a useful perspective, and brings you back to center.
Here’s one.
36. Make photos even when you don’t have a camera
Photography has way more to do with seeing than it does with driving a piece of hardware. Practice your skills as a photographer even when you don’t have a camera. Make mental pictures anywhere at anytime. Study the light around you. Watch the gestures and expressions of people across the restaurant. Look for geometry in the surfaces and shadows around you. Pick a word. Say it to yourself every time you take a mental picture. “Snap”.
Here are 9 more topics.
Don’t confuse distraction with creativity.
Embrace stress as the opposite of apathy.
Making yourself vulnerable is a sign of strength.
Listen for answers to questions you didn’t ask.
Look along the edges to find the in betweens.
If your camera were a pencil or a crayon it would be easy to understand it’s limitations.
Make photos even when you don’t have a camera.
Creativity comes as a breeze before it comes as a gale.
Be prepared for your dreams to come true.
Find all 100 LIDLIPS and the book here.
Find LIDLIPS on Amazon here.
Find my creatvity Lessons here.

Chris Alvanas – Cell Phone Photography

Chris Alvanas, a professional photographer and photo educator in Washington DC, was reluctant to show us his recent cell phone photographs during my Fine Art Digital Printing Advanced portfolio reviews. But we were all very curious, so he did. The images he showed us were spontaneous, fresh, and inventive. We looked at the images first and later asked questions about the equipment, not the other way around. We all realized, perhaps we should be taking more photographs in more places in more ways and that many of them would be useful for our personal growth and worth sharing with others. Chris made us all laugh when he said, “I took this one out of my sunroof while I was driving. Is that wrong?” So, I recommended Chris also share short insights to go with each moment. Here’s what he had to share with us.
Accidental Irony…
Attention to the small details often payoff with large returns.
Simple shape and form.
If you look for it – they will come..
It is an obligation to challenge yourself and others.
My vision – your response.
Find out about Chris Alvanas here.
Find Chris Alvanas’ blog here.
Find Chris Alvanas’ DVDs here.
Find out more about my Fine Art Digital Printing Workshops here.

Spend A Little Extra Time

Whenever you can, spend a little extra time before and/or after a workshop (or any business trip for that matter). You go to great places. You always want more time. You might want to see a location again. Or you might want to see a nearby location that you didn’t get to. Stimulating as groups can be, sometimes you want to work alone and at your own pace. There are so many reasons to spend a little extra time.
On the way back from my White Sands, New Mexico workshop my wife and I visited the Bosque Del Apache bird sanctuary. Every year this marsh is filled with Sand Hill Cranes, Snow Geese and countless other birds. They fill the sky at dawn. The sound of the waking birds is wonderful.
As you can tell, I’m no Arthur Morris (one of the world’s premiere bird photographers). I hear he was at the Bosque at the same time I was.
Find out about my 2010 White Sands Workshop here.
Find out about my Illuminating Creativity field workshops here.

Photography – My Favorite Form of Exercise

Photography is my favorite form of exercise. Sometimes you walk a lot. Sometimes you walk in challenging terrain. I love walking in dunes. It’s great exercise. Low impact. Lots of climbing. You lose your breath by the time you reach the top of a dune. But you’re so excited to make the next photograph, you forget about it. By the time you’re finished making the photograph, you’ve got your breath back. There must be another great picture just over the next dune. So you keep walking further. Just when you think you’re finished, you turn around and realize you get to do it all over again on the way back.
Find out about my field workshops here.

Stay tuned for more 2010 workshop dates.

Walk a Mile – Join the 1% Club

Want to feel like you have a National Park all to yourself? Join the 1% club. Rangers say less than 1% of visitors walk more than a mile. This can make a big difference when you’re photographing. For instance, when you’re photographing sand dunes, near parking lots and trail heads you’ll see more footprints than wave patterns, but one mile out, you won’t see a single footprint. So if you’re seeking solitude and pristine nature, walk a mile.
Find out about my field workshops here.
Find out about my 2010 White Sands Workshop here.

Photograph With Someone Else

Another highlight of my recent South American Cruising Through Life workshop came on the last day. Vincent Versace (his wife Sylvia) and I (and my wife Ardie) spent the weekend in Buenos Aires. Vinnie and I got up early and went to the largest graveyard in the world (resting place of Eva Peron). Vinnie immediately started shooting a detail of a lightpost, ivy, and flowers in dappled light – typical Versace. I never would have selected the shot – typical Caponigro. So I said, “Hey Vinnie! How ’bout we shadow each other for the next hour and shoot each others’ pictures.” We had a great time seeing the same place through entirely different eyes. His tendency was to find the significant detail. My tendency was to get create an establishing shot with significant relationships. We chose different lenses. We moved differently. We moved at different paces. But most importantly, we looked differently. It was really revealing to both of us, about both ourselves and each other and ultimately about photography. We saw through each others’ eyes. Honestly, this is one of the major reasons I got into photography. Two people using the same or similar equipment make such different pictures! How does that happen? Find out! I highly recommend you find a friend to photograph with – and make each others’ pictures. Do it frequently.
Find more creativity tips here.
Find out more about Cruising Through Life here.
Find out more about Vincent Versace here.
Find out more about my upcoming workshops here.
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Limits of Photography

During our South American Cruising Through Life workshop we saw some amazing atmospheric effects: a fabulous smoky red moonrise; a moonbow with parahelia (brighter iridescent flares at the sides); and a star so bright and low on the horizon that it cast a long line of reflection in the ocean. These experiences made a lasting impression on me. I’m sure they’ll make appearances in my work. I made exposures, but none of these phenomena could be captured adequately on a moving boat. The situation and the tools at hand didn’t make finished exposures. But I’ll make finished images from the situation, using a combination of digital photography and rendering. I look forward to the day photography is able to capture images like these in these situations directly. I’m sure this won’t stop me from continuing to render images. But it will present me with new opportunities. Until then a little invention is required.
Find out more about Cruising Through Life here.
Find out more about Vincent Versace here.
Find out more about my Atmospheric FX ebooks here and here.
Find out more about my Atmospheric FX DVD here.
Read what one happy viewer though about my DVD Atmospheric FX here.
Find out more about my upcoming workshops here.
Sign up for Insights for advance notice and discounts on upcoming workshops.

VSE – Visual Search of Extremities

During our South American Cruising Through Life workshop, Vincent Versace asked us all to get into the habit of performing VSEs. What’s a VSE? A Visual Search of Extremities. Vincent has spent a significant amount of time training military photographers so the language he uses is sometimes influenced by those experiences. He recommends performing a VSE every time you encounter a new shooting situation. Check the scene. Check your location. Check your camera settings. This quick process helps reduce mistakes and missed opportunities dramatically. Of course, sometimes you have to move fast and don’t have time to check everything. That’s when good habits come into play. But, too often we move fast when we don’t have to; we shoot first and forget to check, discovering unexpected mistakes or missed opportunities long after the moment has passed. Whenever possible perform a VSE before shooting. It’s a great habit to form.
Plans are brewing for future international Cruise workshops.
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Find out more about Cruising Through Life here.
Find out more about Vincent Versace here.
Find out more about my upcoming workshops here.

Digital Exposure

The histogram on the back of your camera is generated by a processed JPEG version of your Raw files. Your Raw files are unprocessed / uncooked, high resolution, uncompressed, wide-gamut, 12-14 bit, and so have more information in them, particularly in the highlights. This means the histogram can be misleading. What looks good is usually underexposed. Weight your histograms high. How high? At what point do highlights clip? It’s uncertain. Practically, it depends on the scene; higher if the scene doesn’t contain delicate highlight detail; less high if it does. To be safe, bracket, one slightly high and one very high. You can even program your DSLR to do this automatically for you. Here are four histograms.

1   Underexposed
2   A good exposure
3   A better exposure
4   Overexposed
Learn this and other techniques in my workshops.