Sunset Photography Tips: The sun is the background not the subject

Great Sunset Photography – Folks, there is nothing more boring than a sun ball sitting on the horizon on a clouds less evening.  Yet head to any beach on the coast and you’ll see people lined up with their smartphones snapping away as if no one as ever seen such a sight.

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These images become meaningless and boring to anyone except the person who took it.  It’s a great memory from a glorious vacation for the picture taker, for everyone else it is the same boring sunset photo they’ve seen a thousand times.

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The trick to a great sunset photograph is to use the sun for its amazing background color but to find an interesting foreground subject.  The sun ball is not an exciting subject – it is a background.  We’ve all seen a sun since we were still using yellow crayons in kindergarten, show us something new.  Show us the beautiful light glimmering off the water.  Show us a fishing pier lit with oranges, pinks and blue.  Show us people silhouetted by the bright waning daylight.  Anything interesting!

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Study your location, learn where the sun will be at sunset and then look around for an exciting subject for your shot including foreground, middle ground and background. Pray for clouds as empty skies can be rather uninteresting and dull.

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Meter your shot for the sunlight and let the subject go to silhouette (you might have to tweak the results in post processing) and bracket your exposures.  White balance can be set to daylight to keep the amazing warm colors.  Auto white balance will most likely remove the warm cast and turn the whole scene cold and sterile.  Take charge and experiment with your white balance setting and by all means, shoot RAW so you can easily change the white balance later in post processing.

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Another tip is to use a tripod and set up the shot before it gets too dark.  Manually focus on your subject as your autofocus might not work too well in low light.  Also a tripod will allow you to shoot at lower ISOs to prevent grainy shots and smaller apertures to keep more of the scene in focus.

 
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Auto settings on a point and shoot camera will tend to open the lens wide giving you a shallow depth of field and will focus on the closest thing it thinks is a person.  Consider these cameras are designed for selfies and family photos so you will have to take control.  Try the “Sunset” mode if your camera has one but test the results and go to aperture or program mode for more control.

Since you will be dealing with a scene that has intense light in one area, its easy to create an image that is mostly shadows.  Take test shots and use the exposure compensation dial to compensate for the tricking lighting situation.

 

 

Autumn in New Hampshire

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Autumn in New Hampshire – They say here in New Hampshire there are four seasons stick season when the trees have no leaves, mud when you are waiting for the leaves to pop out, green summer and the color explosion of fall.

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Out of 52 weeks in the year, the autumn season comes down to perhaps three weeks when the foliage is peaking in various regions of the state and you have to time your capture time just right. Wait too long and a hurricane or tropical depression like Irene will roar up the coast and strip off the leaves. And perhaps take out a few roads, bridges and houses.

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Many people book trips to the state for the long Columbus day weekend. Usually there are a lot of activities and festivals going on around Columbus day and you’ll see a lot of bus tour activity – but often these tours miss the peak by a whole week.

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Peaks start in the colder areas, up north and in higher elevations. So if you plan your trip with this in mind and start north and meander south, you’ll be able to maximize your views of the incredible display from Mother Nature.

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Crisp fall days in the mountains and valley’s of New Hampshire can be exhilarating and one of the best times of year to go hiking as its not too hot. Wear layers as the shorter days will start out chilly but as you start hiking along or take in a local agricultural fair, the sun will begin to warm the land and you’ll be striping down to a t-shirt. Only to start to get cold a few hours later when the sun begins to dip on the horizon.

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New Hampshire’s climate from NewHampshire.com:

The Granite State is known for its highly changeable climate where the weather can be warm and sunny one minute and cold and snowy the next. Each of the four seasons vary greatly in their daily temperatures and weather patterns. Climate variations are also due to distance from the ocean, mountains, lakes or rivers. Spring arrives mid March and with it the most unpredictable weather patterns of the year. It’s been known to snow well into April when the flowers are just starting to bloom. The wacky weather patterns of Spring are replaced mid-June by the warm, sunny days and cool, clear nights of Summer. Starting in late September to early October, the landscape becomes ablaze with color and the evening temperatures start dipping below freezing. The days, however, are usually fairly sunny and mild. Winter begins in late October with the first dusting of snow and continues through March, with the last snow usually falling in April.

Iceland: Single White Chair In the Middle of a Black Lava Flow

Single White Chair – An Unexpected Treasure in the Middle of Nowhere
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Take a seat and relax, you are in the middle of nowhere in Iceland!

Every great adventure brings unexpected discoveries.  Our 11 day trek around Iceland via the Ring Road in a motor-home was just one such epic adventure full of unexpected discoveries like this single white wooden chair with hearts carved in it in the middle of a vast valley of black lava.

This day began as one of the most hellish days we experienced in Iceland.  We knew it was going to be our longest day of driving but we didn’t expect the fog and driving rain was going to wipe out just about all of our planned scenic stops and coastal views.  Or the scary drive over a mountain top, in the pouring rain and fog with a motor-home on a section gravel road over said mountain that pretends to be the main highway of a modern European country.

The one way bridges and one way tunnels and scarce guard rails we could handle but a pot hole, muddy road over a mountain pass with a motor home was a bit much.

Thankfully near the end of the long day of driving we came upon this amazing valley of mountains and black lava fields.  Some one was kind enough to provide this wonderful single white wooden chair as foreground subject.

One can only image hiking across this vast landscape of nothing but sharp, unstable, black lava rock without a tree as far as the eye can see and coming across this bit of humanity.  A single white chair providing a spot to rest.

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Icelandic artist Aðalheiður S. Eysteinsdóttir
….

You can see more fine art prints from my journey around Iceland and the Ring Road here: https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/collections/places+iceland

Also available as t-shirts, greeting cards, prints, canvas, photogaphs, metal, acrylic, framed art and more. – www.edwardfielding.com

Iceland: Turf Sod Roofed Homes and Barns

The Turf Houses of Iceland
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Traditional Icelandic Sod or Turf Houses, Barns and Buildings: If you look hard enough in the country side of Iceland, you might just spot some of the traditional sod roofed barns, farm houses and storage buildings hidden in the hills.

Icelandic turf houses (Icelandic: torfbæir) were the product of a difficult climate, offering superior insulation compared to buildings solely made of wood or stone, and the relative difficulty in obtaining other construction materials in sufficient quantities.

Lack of good timber lead the Norwegian settlers in Iceland to turn to turf house construction using local birch as support beams.

The common Icelandic turf house would have a large foundation made of flat stones; upon this was built a wooden frame which would hold the load of the turf. The turf would then be fitted around the frame in blocks often with a second layer, or in the more fashionable herringbone style. The only external wood would be the doorway which would often be decorative.

Gunman T-shirt

Gunman T-shirt – The rather aggressive “Gunman T-shirt” by Edward M. Fielding started out as a self-portrait.  Playing the role of a mugger or robber thrusting a gun in a victims face, the image started out as an exploration of extreme wide angle lens distortion.

The resulting graphic image of the barrel of a gun looming large started out as a photograph before heavy post-processing and the addition of graphic line effects.

Gunman T-shirt
Gunman T-shirt

By using a ultra-wide angle, manual focus lens on a Canon 6D DSLR camera on a tripod in the studio with a remote trigger and timer, Fielding was able to capture this extreme angle with a bit of trial and error.

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As a t-shirt this image might as well be called “Back Off Sucker” as the barrel of the revolver explodes off the wearers chest aiming directly at the viewer.  Certainly an attention getting t-shirt especially in black fabric and white ink.

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Lenore Senior says about the source image: “This is a fantastic, yet disturbing, look at wherein art melds with statement. I love this very powerful work of art, which says a lot in one stark image.”

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This images of a man with a gun – good guy? bad guy? Detective, undercover police officer, crook, thief, spy? – are part of a portfolio of book cover images for rights managed licensing to the publishing industry available via Arcangel images at – http://www.arcangel.com/C.aspx?VP3=SearchResult&VBID=2U1HZOQLIWK_7&SMLS=1&RW=1280&RH=654

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All of the above photographs of a gunman are available as t-shirts and fine art prints.  Products such as cell phone cases and towels are also available from the portfolio of Edward M. Fielding which includes nearly 5,000 unique designs, artworks, paintings, drawings, graphic design, images and fine art photographs.

All of the gunman or gun man images can be found via Edward M. Fielding’s home page at www.edwardfielding.com

Capturing a sense of place in your photography

A group of barns in Windsor, Vermont.

Vermont – How does one truly capture a sense of place in photograph? That’s a good question with no definitive answer. There are no camera settings or com-positional rules that guarantee one will come back with a photograph that captures the essence of a place. But there is I think an ingredient in the recipe that is universal and that is time.

I’ve visited this old barn compound in Windsor, Vermont on many occasions in all different seasons.  It’s one of my favorite spots to return to and work out the various compositions afforded by this interesting spot that most would simple drive by on their way to the “top ten” tourist spots.

To truly start to understand a place and then transfer that feeling to others in your photography required spending time in a place. When photographers fail to capture a place in their images, with the result being “ho-hum” or dull photos, its typically because they show up at a spot, say on vacation, and start snapping away before even actually seeing.

When the camera is raised to the eye before the brain actually has time to take in what is being scene, the results are typically uninteresting. Too often we photographers have limited time at a certain place and are rushed to cram in as many “hot spots” or Kodak Moment locations in a day, that we fail to return with a single excellent shot.

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Capturing truly excellent images usually requires more intent and planning then what is afforded say on a bus tour through a national park. The most memorable photographs are taken when the light is at its best rather than when you happen to arrive at the location.

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And I’ve found that visiting a site over time and through out the year is the best way to truly start to understand what it is you are seeing and trying to capture.  Some tips for capturing the essence of a place:

  • Leave the camera at home on your first trip to a place.  (I know this one is tough).  Walk around, study all the angles, thing about where the sun is and what type of lighting will look best.
  • Return to a spot throughout the year.
  • Return to a spot at different times of the day.
  • Go on sunny days, go on overcast days.
  • Don’t set up a tripod right away.  Walk around and look.  See the image in your mind before selecting a lens and angle.
  • Bring a step ladder and view the spot from up high, bring a towel and lay down on the ground for a low angle.
  • Look beyond the obvious, over done shots.   When the crowd looks one way, turn around and see what they are missing.

 

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Selling Photography, Is it really that easy?

How to create the perfect photograph

Today it is rather easy to offer your photography for sale but are you ready to actually sell your work?

Selling Photography – These days it is so easy to set up an account with a POD such as Fine Art America or Pixels that I have to wonder if camera manufacturers will be begin trying to market cameras as a cash machine.

So many camera owners (notice I didn’t say photographers) seem to think all it takes to sell their photography is pointing their camera at something, uploading the images and voila! people will buy.

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Most of them find it not so easy to sell their snapshots.  Sure maybe once in a while they get lucky and someone buys one of their garden flower photos or their “Look! I saw a duck!” type images but I’d say the serious art buyer is looking for more depth than a camera operator.  They want some proof that they are buying from a serious artist.

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What’s missing from the typical amateur cameraman goes beyond quality.  Professional quality is that base line standard as you are competing on a world market with professional photographers.  Beyond basic quality standards, buyers are also looking for :

  • Authenticity
  • Intent
  • Passion
  • A unique vision
  • A body of work

    Quality buyers see right through a facade of someone simply trying to cash in with their latest camera purchase.  By looking at an artist’s work you can tell if this person is a weekend warrior who dusts off his camera a few times a year when off to the next national park or cruise trip vs. a working artist.

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    Art comes down to authenticity.  Is the photography a result of an intended, well-thought out, pre-visualized idea?  Or is it just a lucky shot?  Is the photographer authentic,  do they know their subjects, have they spent years learning about their subjects?  Does their passion for the subject show through their images or are they simple recording their travels not really seeing the essence of what they are photographing?

Look at their body of work.  Is it a bunch of random images toss together or do you see a reoccurring pattern of ideas and concepts?  Do you see a unique vision or simply a collection of random snapshots?

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Personally I can’t stand gallery shows that have a single image from a number of artists as it is not until you see a series of images from the same artist or photographer that you can understand their vision.  The amateur photographs portfolio will be all over the place while in the profession or more serious artist, you’ll see a unique pattern as they display their vision of the world.

I think buyers pick up on this intuitively.  They prize images from serious artists pursuing their own unique vision over the random snapshot.

Would be photography sellers would be advised to work on their own personal vision before attempting to sell their work.  Develop a body of work with a distinctive style before expecting someone to pay for it.

 

Greeting Cards

Greeting Cards – I just moved into a planned community and at the activity center there were two turnstiles of handmade, photo greeting cards from a couple of the community residents.  Beautiful images from the area – lakes, loons, moose, barns etc.    But I nearly choked when I saw the prices – $2.50 a card!

Why so cheap?  With a typical Chinese-made greeting card from Hallmark selling in the $5 – $7 range why would someone offer their unique, artist handmade cards for so little?  It boggles the mind and makes one understand the concept of the starving artist.  Surely at the low volume of selling to random condo renters at the activity center, these people can’t be making any money on these greeting cards.

Sample Greeting Card – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/products/i-forgot-your-birthday-edward-fielding-greeting-card.html

I regularly sell greeting cards on Pixels and Fine Art America with $3 artist profit built in for me the creator.  The prices and profit margin drop significantly if you buy a box of 10 or 25 to encourage a larger overall sale.  But they don’t approach $2.50 retail price unless you are going to buy several cards.

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Artists have to consider how many of a certain item they are going to sell when they price them.  Sitting at the kitchen counter making up hundreds of cards and thinking about how much you will make when they sell is one thing but if they take five or ten years to sell through the batch, then what?  How long are you going to wait before you make back your time, materials and squeak out a decent profit?

Certainly consider pricing and your competition which is a mass produced card from the supermarket or Hallmark which can be a few dollars at the low end but up to $10 on the high end.  And you are selling in reality small versions of your artwork.  Hard to sell a nice big print for hundreds of dollars when you are basically giving away the small sizes.  And yes, people do frame greeting cards so price accordingly, they are art, not mass produced throwaways.

See all of my images available as fine art prints on paper, canvas, metal and more as well as products such as towels, phone cases, totes, pillows and yes, greeting cards here – http://www.edwardfielding.com

Article on the greeting card market from The Atlantic:

https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/02/why-are-greeting-cards-so-expensive/273086/

Art Sales – Different Strokes for Different Folks

Art Sales – Selling art is a lot like going fishing.  You never know what sale might come along but there certainly are ways to increase your success rate.  Think about two different Fishermen – Bob and Pablo.

Fisherman Bob  sits on the dock near his house all day using the same bait. He picked the location because he didn’t want to invest in a boat and it’s easy. He catches nothing but minnows but at least he got out of the house for the day.

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Meanwhile, Fisherman Pablo buys a boat and heads out to the deep end of the lake where the big fish live, he tries various lures until he finds what works,  pulls in a boat load of lunkers and invites the neighborhood over for a fish fry.

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Selling art is no different.  It takes more effort, more investment and more experimentation to figure out what will work best for your art business.

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You can sit around for years using the easiest or first sales channel you found waiting for sales to magically appear, perhaps using a bait-less hook or you can study the competitive landscape and various sales channels and figure out which will work best for your art and your promotional efforts.

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Whatever sales channel you choose (or multiple), it still requires work to get noticed.  You need the right bait – great artwork and you need to drop your line where the fish live.  You have to offer different bait or lures for Bass then you would for Trout.  You have to make your bait more attractive than the natural alternatives and often you have to make full fish hungry with offers they can’t refuse.  You also have to make it easy for the fish or art customer to eat or buy your work.  Let’s face it, if you are a fish or a person buying art we all like convenience.

Iceland: Visiting a Plane Wreck on the Beach

Plane Wreck : Becoming one of Iceland’s most popular attractions, especially among photographers and selfie snappers is the wreck of a DC-3 airplane on a remote black sand lava beach in Southern Iceland.

DC 3 Plane Crash in Iceland
DC 3 Plane Crash in Iceland by Edward M. Fielding – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/featured/plane-crash-iceland-edward-fielding.html

On Saturday Nov 24, 1973, a United States Navy Douglas Super DC-3 airplane was forced to land on Sólheimasandur’s black sand beach due to running out of fuel (others say it was after experiencing some severe icing).  Luckily all survived the rough landing on the south coast of Iceland.

 

Today, 44 years later only the main fuselage and part of the wings remain on the beach.  Other parts were hauled away years ago but the skeleton of the plane was left to slowly rot on the volcanic beach.

Years ago you could drive to the wreckage site via a “farm” road through the black ash but increased usage ticked off the land owner because of people constantly getting stuck, lead to the closure of the road.  For a while the land owner was charging people to park in a small parking lot and walk to the wreck.

After researching the location, I was prepared to have to skip this place thinking we would not be able to park our motor home.  But I visited in 2017 and am happy to report that the is a new spacious parking lot complete with room for large vehicles and campers as well as a bike rental place for faster travel to the site.

We visited in July.  The site itself is a long, dull walk down the relatively flat, straight road of crushed lava gravel.  It takes about 40 minutes to an hour of walking to get to the site so be prepared to spend some time.  Forty minutes to, 30 minutes waiting for your change at a shot and 40 minutes back, so bring some water, good shoes and an extra layer in case the weather turns.  The distance is approximately 4 km to the crash site.

Turnoff GPS Coordinates

63.4912391,-19.3632810

Airplane GPS Coordinates

63.459523,-19.364618

Be prepared for lots of people at the site depending on the time of day and time of year.  If you are patient, people come in waves.  If you are lucky to get there when there are only a few people, work fast and play with angles to get shots without people.  If there are a ton of people, relax and wait them out.  While we were there a ATV tour group showed up with orange jumpsuits.  They climbed all over the wreck and even stomped on it.  Makes me wonder if the days of the crashed plane are numbered with this abuse.

Many will say that the site is not worth the walk and one should spend time looking at natural sites.  As a photographer I can tell you it was certainly worthwhile visiting this unique site, I could careless about the effort need to get there.  If anything my eyes were numb with the natural beauty of the country, a bit of mysterious, man-made structure was a breath of fresh air.

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See more Iceland fine art photographs by Edward M. Fielding here – https://edward-fielding.pixels.com/collections/places+iceland

Extra Credit:

Did you know Justin Bieber skateboarded on top of this plane carcass?

Justin Bieber skateboarding a plane in Iceland.
Justin Bieber skateboarding a plane in Iceland.

Bieber’s music video for his surprise track “I’ll Show You” features Iceland and Bieber doing all kinds of dangerous stuff like swimming with icebergs, rolling around in moss, sitting on cliffs and jumping around wet and slippery waterfalls.