Getting Your Photography Groove on

Beatles on Ed Sullivan

The Beatles on Ed Sullivan

Watching the 50th anniversary of the Beatles on Ed Sullivan, I couldn’t help but remember all those images that coincide with the soundtrack of my life that was generated by those 4 amazing artists.

Do you remember Joe Holmes telling me the major inspiration for his photography was born out  of the Beatles’ last concert  in San Francisco at Candlestick park?  I must say this really surprised me: I expected him to tell me it was some sort of fairly conservative element. Instead he said it was the sheer raw enthusiasm that was being generated by the Beatles, plus the over the top frenzy of the moment. He said that even he started screaming at the top of his lungs. Beatle-mania propelled him to find that same ignition of creativity in his own art.

You probably know that Ansel Adams was on a career path to be a concert pianist. Then one summer he discovered photography in Yosemite which for him ignited a creative sunburst. He finally had to make the choice between photography and music as his chosen profession, as he put it, you can’t serve two mistresses. He transposed the discipline he had found in his studies of classical music to photography, which is why you see in his work such precision. Over and over he drew from the wellspring of his musical roots—even saying that the negative was the “score” and the print the “performance.”

You find so many photographers whose roots go back to music in some way,  how about Annie Leibovitz for example? Remember she got her start shooting for RollingStone, the first mag centered around modern music. She talks about the importance of music as a key element in her shoots to set the mood she’s looking for or or simply to keep the set in the groove.

I’d love to hear your connection to music and how it’s influenced your work.

Bambi Cantrell is one of the world’s most decorated and sought after professional photographers of our time. She’s been recognized by everyone from Microsoft to American Photo Magazine and was the first woman to be honored with the prestigious “Golden Eye” award from the Russian Federation of Professional Photographers. Clearly she’s got the technical side of her game in order.

But we feel one of the main reasons why she’s shot for The Estee Lauder Family, legendary basketball player Gary Payton, and members of the Royal Family, Dubai, UAE is her ability to really make her subjects comfortable. The ability to connect plays a huge role in getting truly personal shots that make her portraits really resonate.

This interview with Camille Seaman is packed with so much goodness. She talks about using natural lighting in shooting subjects as varied as giant icebergs to TIbetans who don’t use lights indoors at all during the day. More importantly what really struck a chord is how WHO a photographer is plays a central role in their work.

Felix Kunze: Gold Medals and Holy Grails.

Just a beautifully composed shot by Felix Kunze using Nikon's "Holy Grail"


We recently had a chance to catch up with our friend, celebrity portraiture photographer Felix Kunze. This was no small feat as someone who’s highly in demand like Felix is a globetrotter by necessity. He might be found in New York assisting Annie Leibovitz with her work one day and in Europe shooting a fashion campaign for Danish fashion brand Atelier Bogelund-Jensen the next.

Felix recently returned to the UK where he covered the London 2012 Olympics this past summer. Though he was “in the throes of London Fashion week madness”, he was gracious enough to make some time to chat. As always Felix was good for an interesting story (or three.) He told us about some very interesting work he did for the cover story of Nikon Magazine. The two stars of the story were Double Olympic Gold Medalist rower, Pete Reed and Nikon’s 13mm f5.6 lens aka The Holy Grail. Here’s Felix in his own words :

On a cold November morning in 2012, I attempted something that arguably no-one had ever done before.

I was given an assignment to photograph a portraiture session with an extremely wide-angle and rare lens; Nikon’s 13mm f/5.6 rectilinear marvel, often dubbed the ‘Holy Grail of lens design’.In simple terms, this is a wide-angle lens that has almost no distortion, a problem that most wide lenses suffer from. The distortion can cause a kind of warped feeling, as if things in the edge of the image are stretched. This $30,000 behemoth employs some glass to counteract this effect. It is designed for architectural photography and has wide applications in landscape. Proving difficult and expensive to manufacture, only about 350 of them were ever sold. The lens is no longer in production.

It’s unusual to shoot portraiture with a lens such as this, it requires me to be very very close to the subject, not made any easier by my decision to shoot part of the editorial on the rushing river Thames after heavy rain.

We chose to base our shoot in rowing because the long lines of oars, boats and the riverbank would demonstrate the capabilities of the lens.

Double Olympic Gold Medalist Pete Reed (Beijing 2008 & London 2012 in the Coxless Four) was kind enough to undertake this crazy task with us. Pete is a keen photographer himself and was an absolute sport despite the low temperatures and challenging conditions.

It was definitely an unusual shoot – Felix’s full thoughts are expressed in the full article found in the latest issue of Nikon Owner Magazine. Below is the behind the scenes video you can click to watch:

Behind the scenes with Felix Kunze shooting for Nikon Magazine

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone.  With love in the air we’re bringing you an interview with San Francisco based wedding photographer Anna Kuperberg. Anna’s work has been featured on the cover of Photo Magazine and Professional Photographer. This year she was voted one of the 10 best wedding photographers by American Photo magazine.

Pic of the day:

This picture was taken by the Associated Press’ chief photographer in Pakistan, Muhammed Muheisen. Apparently theres a brouhaha in Pakistan between conservatives boycotting Valentines day and Romantics who are striking back with pink teddy bears and flowers. Story here

How am I celebrating the day with my special lady? By taking her on a group date: Me, her and Bruce Willis in “A Good Day to Die Hard” .

Why be cliche and go with candles when you can really turn up the romance with HUGE EXPLOSIONS ? Apparently CNN agrees with me.

Michael Burnett: How to Shoot Skaters

This video from Tony Hawk’s RIDE youtube channel featuring Michael Burnett is all about composition when shooting skateboarders. One of the most important things to make sure of is that you get both the takeoff and the landing so that the viewers can see a story of how the skater got in the air.

Ian Ruhter is a photographer who decided to take his life savings and create his own wet plate camera which he calls the “Time Machine” It’s happens to be one of the world’s largest cameras because he converted his UPS sized van into a moving camera. In the video he discusses his style, technique and his motivation for it all. Most importantly he talks about how he keeps on going even after failing. It’s an incredible documentary and is extremely inspirational.

Chairs at Peninsula School by Marc Silber Chairs at Peninsula School

I was going through some old negatives, rescanning them and came across this one. What a difference an angle can make. Have a look at how this shot started out, when I took it way back,  of my 7th grade classroom at the Peninsula School in Menlo Park.

Chairs Peninsula school

Angles can make quite a point in telling your story. Remember to try shooting from different angles and heights. Then when you go back and edit the images you may be surprised at what pops.

Which do you prefer and why?

Carl Kleiner Makes Ikea Beautiful

Ikea products have never looked so good. Carl Kleiner teamed up with stylist Evelina Bratell to photography Ikea kitchenware for Ikea’s first cookbook. The products are very well arangged and photographed beautifully. Supposedly this cook book will be filled with beautiful photos of ingredents and kitchenware.

(via Co.Design)

Photograph by Jeff Johnson

You remember those photographs that remain etched in your mind and leave you wondering how can you create such an image?

The usual thought is, what you need to add to your work, what fancy tricks do you need to learn?

Look through your favorite photographer’s work and you’ll find the power is in what they didn’t put in the frame or image. Yes, it’s what you don’t see thats is often the secret sauce.

Here’s something I ran across yesterday in The Five C’s of CINEMATOGRAPHY,  a classic book by Joseph V. Mascelli (it’s loaded with great tips for still photographers too, I recommend that you add it to your library.)

“The secret of good composition can be explained in one word: simplicity. A complicated or cluttered composition, even though it obeys all rules of good composition, will not be as effective as a simple one. Simplicity does not imply starkness. A simple composition is economical in use of line, form, mass and movement; includes only one center of interest; has unified style which harmoniously integrates camera angles lighting, tonal and color values.

“The test of good composition is whether anything can can be removed from the picture without destroying its effectiveness. Any element in the frame not required for story-telling purpose, attracts unwarranted audience attention. Such distracting pictorial elements may steal the scene from principal subject matter. A simple composition is immediately recognizable and readily assimilated by the audience. The viewer should not have to search the framed area to discover the shot’s meaning. This is most important in motion pictures, which are series of individual scenes. A person may study a still photograph until he is satisfied that he comprehends it. A movie scene appears for a limited time, and is then removed. Confusing or puzzling compositions irritate the viewer, and may cause him to lose interest.

“Simplicity does not depend on the number of scenic elements; or the area included in the picture. A table-top shot depicting half a dozen objects may present a cluttered composition; while an extreme long shot of an advancing army may convey a unity of force and power immediately recognizable, because of its simplicity. If a vast number of compositional elements must be photographed, they should be harmoniously grouped.”

I’d love to see examples of how you have or can apply this to your photography, and how you’ve been able to make it work for you, put your image in our Photo critique group and let us have a look.

Support Our Show


Advancing Your Photography Club

Our AYP Club™ brings together like-minded photographers, exclusive video tips from top-photographers & photography instruction in a fun group setting, all designed to make you a better photographer. And have fun while doing it.


Favorite Videos