Tips for Framing the Photo – Paradise Falls

One of the most important aspects of photography is the composition of the photo itself. The location a person stands, and the angle at which the photo is taken, can make a huge impact on the impression or impact that the photo makes upon the viewer.

A favorite technique of mine is to make the subject of the photo relatively small, and to make the viewer’s eyes hunt for the subject. Of course, the photographer needs to give some hints to the viewer as to where he or she should be looking. These hints can come in the form of lines, colors, contrast, and perspective.

Lines that lead the viewer’s eye can be considered powerful tools in composition. Similarly, sharp differences in color – something that looks different or unusual – can also give the viewer some hints as to where to look. A change in contrast may also be considered a visual hint, and draw the viewer’s eye towards a particular spot in the picture.

Consider today’s featured photo (which can also be found at my homepage here), which is a view of Paradise Falls in Thousand Oaks, California, located in Wildwood Park. The subject in this photo is undoubtedly the waterfall. However, the waterfall is comparatively small when taken into context of the photo at large. The largest elements here are the pale yellow brush in the foreground and the blue lake in the mid-ground of the photo.

The sticks and grass of the yellow brush create some lines in the foreground of the photo. The brush is large, but leads the viewers eyes up to the blue lake. There’s also some strong contrast between the yellow brush and the blue water, and this creates some separation and interest between the two elements.

The yellow cliff is also contrasted with the blue lake. The yellow brush and cliff tend to surround the lake, creating a feeling of interest towards the center and upper portions of the photo. And there in that center-upper portion lies a nice waterfall, which is the main point of interest.

Lastly, the perspective of the photo plays some role in creating the mood of the picture overall. The photo was taken low to the ground, between the brush leading into the lake. The photo was shot with a 14mm lens, which elongates the yellow brush and extends the lines that the grass bits are creating. It’s almost like the photo was taken from the viewpoint of a creature that was crawling out of the grass and making its way towards the water. It’s not a perspective that a human being would naturally experience. Adding a novel perspective like that can create more novelty and interest in the photo, and make it more memorable.

That’s all for today! The next time you’re out shooting, pay attention to color, contrast, lines, and perspective, and see if you can use them to create some cool photos. Stay tuned, as I’ll have plenty more in the days and weeks to come!


Tips for Shooting Wide Angle – Carnival

One of the most important things you can do in life is to have fun. I try to express this belief in my photography, and one way to to do that is via novel perspectives.

You’ll notice I take extremely wide views in many of my photos, and I do that to add a dimension of playfulness and whimsicality that the viewer might not expect. You must be careful with this technique, since the edges of the frame become “stretched” or distorted with many types of wide angle lenses.

You must also get very, very close to the subject – at 14mm for instance, the photo’s subject will appear further away than it was when you were actually standing there snapping the picture!

You can use this style to exaggerate objects. For instance, the exaggerated perspective fits right into the playfulness of a carnival setting. It serves to stretch out the roller coaster tracks and the carnival rides to aptly fit how a person might remember, and not necessarily into the exact shape that was physically there. The featured photo was taken using at the Santa Monica Beach Pier, using a nikon d750, at f/9, ISO 125, using a AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED.

At some point you’ll be able to purchase prints of these photos over at I’m currently in the process of getting my e-commerce set up! Stay-tuned for now.

Casa Mila La Pedrera Courtyard

Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, is a modernist building in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain. It was the last civil work designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí, built between the years 1906 and 1912.

On an overcast day, the sunlight draining into the courtyard of Casa Mila-La Pedrera highlights the already astonishing architecture.

I just posted this photo to my portfolio gallery. You’ll soon be able to order prints there as well!


More on the Amazing Guitar Duo Seis Cuerdas

If you’re into energetic and powerful music, I highly suggest you check out the guitar-playing duo called Seis Cuerdas. You can find more information about them here! From their Facebook page:

“In 2000, the Etcheverry brothers, originally from Buenos Aires – Argentina, joined their talent, passion and love for music. SEIS CUERDAS was born and from that time on, the guitar duo has been a success wherever they play.”

“Their music is flashy, romantic, unpredictable, rhythmically rich, and fresh. As guitarists, the brothers show an incredible technique, knowing how to mix different sounds, going from flamenco to rock, turning the classic and most pure Spanish music into a new and fresh sound.”

“In 2001, Ezequiel and Martin Etcheverry, moved to Los Angeles, California, where they have been living since then. They have released six CDs, Seis Cuerdas (2001), Vivencias (2003), Solo Guitarras (2006), Volumen IV (2008), Mar Adentro (2010) and Fusion (2012).”

“In all, they have perfectly caught the spirit of their music. Freshness and power, feeling and technique, melody and chops, go hand in hand during the hours and hours of their soulful and inspired music. In fact, SEIS CUERDAS is music from the soul to the soul.”

I’ve seen them perform in Santa Monica on 3rd Street, and they’re good. Their music has an infectious rhythm and powerful beat. They weave melodies in and out of the rhythm with a high level of mastery. If you’re in the area, check them out!

The Tonal Power of Guitar Duo Seis Cuerdas

The raw energy of guitar-playing duo Seis Cuerdas was on full display in Santa Monica, California last Saturday. The brothers will often play along 3rd Street to crowds of eager listeners. These guys are incredibly talented. Look them up at:

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Their music combines hard rock tones and classical themes, often weaving between the two genres multiple times during each song. It is quite an experience to see these guys in action and to hear them play. They have a ton of energy and their emotion is completely contagious. They’re the real deal!

This photo was taken during a trip to 3rd Street. My lovely fiancee went shopping, leaving me to roam the corridor searching for some cool sights to photograph. There’s no shortage of things to see and do there.

I could hear some monster guitar tunes from about a block away, which immediately drew me to the area where they were playing. A small crowd had formed around the duo, captivated by the music they were listening to. There’s already some good photos of these guys on Flickr, but hopefully this shot can do a little bit to promote their music. I totally enjoyed their performance and would go there again (with more cash in hand this time!).

Tips for Shooting Wide Angle – Beach

Wide angle photography can be particularly engaging when it’s used to pull the viewer in.

This works well when shooting in portrait mode, which isn’t typically done with a lens shorter than 24mm. Notice the wave pattern in the sand, and how it directs the viewer’s eyes into the center of the photo, where the subject is, which happens to be a funky-looking chair. Probably a life chair of some sort!

The featured photo was taken using at the Santa Monica Beach, using a nikon d750 and a AF-S Zoom-Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G ED, in portrait mode, at 14mm.

If you’ve got a wide-angle lens, I encourage you to make use of it! Wide-angle photography can be incredibly challenging, because there’s the constant temptation to include too many things in the photo. Like with most things, great photos often shun complexity for simplicity – the clearer the narrative, the more effective photography can be as a communication medium.

Tips for Action Photography

How can one practice his or her action-photography skills? With birds of course! No one will look at you funny, and better yet, birds don’t really care if your photos come out properly or not. So practice as much as you can!

A fast-moving bird is a prime target for some “panning” practice. What’s panning, you say? Panning is a technique where the photographer moves his camera along with the subject at (approximately) the same speed, while utilizing a slower shutter speed (1/20 second to 1/300 sec). When executed successfully, this technique blurs the background slightly, while retaining sharp focus on the subject. Put your camera into continuous autofocus mode, and set the shooting speed to continuous high-speed (highest speed you’re able to select).

The key to this technique is to allow the camera to focus correctly on the subject. Without sharp focus on the subject’s face or eyes, the subject might not appear sharp enough to render a desirable photo.

Another key, when practicing this technique on birds, is to note the effect that lowering the shutter speed has on the difficulty of performing this technique. It’s easier to photograph a bird at 1/300 of a second using a panning technique, than to try it at 1/80 of a second. It may seem impossible at first but if you’re able to match your camera panning speed to the speed of the bird nearly exactly, then you can indeed shoot some great photos at lower shutter speeds

The featured photo uses the panning technique to photograph a duck in mid-flight and landing. Here, the panning technique gives a soft, out-of-focus look to the water, while the duck remains sharp.

You can check out more photos like this at my homepage, here!

Tips for Shooting in Colored Lighting

I recently took a trip with my lovely fiancee to Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank, California. One of the coolest things I saw was the set of the television show “Friends.” Seeing that familiar “Central Perk” sign on the window immediately got those nostalgic juices running.

As I had my camera with me, I decided that I absolutely had to take a picture of the set. The problem was that the set was lit in an incredibly unorthodox way, with neon lighting positioned throughout every wall, ceiling, and open space. Beautiful, yes, but easy to capture with a camera? No!

The difference in light between the shadows and the highlights of the set was vast, which is typically something that most cameras have trouble capturing. The shadows were dark and moody, while the lights were bright and in some areas very harsh.

Here’s how to approach a situation with challenging indoor lighting.

If you’re unable to take an HDR photo (if you want to shoot in RAW, for instance), try lowering the shutter speed to about as low as you can hand-hold the camera. If I steady my camera with good posture (see here for some tips on that), you can usually hold the camera and still obtain a sharp photo at 1/30 second. This allows you to use a relatively low ISO setting, which reduces grain / noise in the photo, while still letting enough light into the camera to obtain a usable image. With many Nikon DSLRs, you’ll be able to recover enough of the shadows in post-processing to render a lovely photo with good color accuracy.

The one thing you don’t want to do is blow out the highlights. You can see that I kind-of did that with the light in the upper left corner – that one is simply too bright to recover any kind of detail in the lamp. However, I feel that the sacrifice was necessary in order to bring out more detail and color in the rest of the scene. I felt it is not too distracting overall in the final image, and I’m pretty pleased with the results given the conditions under which the photo was shot.

Today’s featured photo was taken using the techniques described above. Let me know what you think.

On another note, I’m happy that the set of “Friends” exists relatively intact somewhere in the world! Here’s hoping for a “Friends” reunion soon.

Tips for a Great Landscape Photo

I’m often asked for tips on taking a great landscape photo. My response is always one word – lighting! Scenes at sunset or at sunrise typically have a nice golden light to them, which usually helps a photo to look quite beautiful.

Obviously, there’s more to it than that. But, knowing that dramatic lighting can be important, you may be shooting as the sun is coming up, or when the sun is going down.

A strong and sturdy tripod is a must. The tripod will help when the light is low, because it stabilizes the camera at shutter speeds below 1/30 of a second. It’ll also let you take multiple photos at different exposures and shutter speeds, and blend them together using Lightroom (my software of choice) or different software. One word of caution – make sure your tripod is stable and weighted properly to support the camera and lens!

For today’s featured photo I used a Nikon D610 and a Nikon 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 VR lens, at f/8. With camera mounted on tripod, and the sun lowering, I shot with a 1/2 second exposure time. On aperture priority (so as not to modify the sharpness of the image from shot to shot), I took three photos at different exposures as a beautiful pink light was showing on the rock face of El Capitan at Yosemite National Park, and merged them together in Lightroom. The effect of narrowing the aperture a little bit, combined with a longer exposure time, along with the setting sun, helps give the scene a somewhat delicate look.

At a later point in time, this photo can be purchased at my portfolio site here; all transactions will be handled through SmugMug via a convenient shopping cart. I’m currently in the process of figuring out which print sizes and prices make the most sense for a seamless user experience, so stay tuned!


Tips for a Great Wildlife Portrait

I’m often asked to provide some stylistic tips and gear recommendations for taking a great wildlife portrait. To answer that question, let me first address how I apply my own style towards wildlife photography.

I prefer to be as close as (safely) possible to the animal that I’m photographing. Doing so lets the camera apply its maximum resolution to the animal, and allows the animal to fill as much of the frame as possible. Then, I use a telephoto or superzoom lens to fill the remaining distance between me and the subject. I try to focus right in on the animal’s face. It has been said that they eyes are the window to the soul, and I find that a sharp, in-focus eye is one of the keys to a nice wildlife portraiture.

What’s the other key? It might surprise you that the second key to a good wildlife portrait is the background. I always attempt to have a nice bokeh or non-distracting shadows in the background, because isolation of the animal subject from background elements can make all the difference.

As for the right type of gear to use, I can provide recommendations for Nikon as these brands of cameras are what I own and use on a regular basis. A crop-frame can produce some good results since it’ll pull you closer into the scene – A D7000 series would be a great choice for this style of camera as it shares much of the same sensor and auto-focus technology as the full-frame cameras in the Nikon lineup. My personal favorite is either a D610 or D750 for this type of photo, combined with a Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR (amazon has this for just under $500 at the moment). The compression of the background at 200 to 300 mm is quite good, and for the price, the lens simply cannot be beat in terms of durability, focal length, and speed. While it’s not the fastest-focusing lens in the world, it’s more-than-functional if the subject is standing still.

The featured photo was shot with a D610 and Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G ED IF AF-S VR, at roughly 250 mm at f/5.6. Note the soft bokeh and flat aspect to background. You can purchase this image at my website by clicking on the green “Buy Photos” button – SmugMug handles all transaction details with an easy-to-use cart interface.

I encourage you to go out there and try this style of photography -you’ll find it rewarding, and quite relaxing to be out in nature with some beautiful animals. Let me know how it goes, and of course, stay safe!