Have fun everybody.
|Different View Photography by Sean Purcell||
Sometimes it's nice to just sit back and take it easy. On this particular day I had a chance to go on a photo-walk with a group of Phoenix based photographers in Tempe. It's always fun to see how everybody else works and what they see. These folks had everything from point and shoot cameras to $5,000 DSLR. I had walked under this train bridge of a few times and I kept finding myself drawn back to the simple lines and contrasting light. No hiking mile after mile or risking electrocution to get that lightning shot. Shorts and sandals was the extent of my gear for this one. Simple. So as we celebrate another Monday (because it's one day closer to Friday), remember to take it easy and notice the simple things.
Have fun everybody.
Someone once told me "If you want to hear God laugh, make a plan." So on this particular trip, I was in London for three days. During the flight over I made a shot list and planned out how I was going to make it to the different locations and still make it to work. I was ready for crowd shots at Trafalgar Square, black and white long exposure shots at Fulham Broadway and some killer sunrise shots on the Thames. I'm telling you, in my head, it was going to be epic. Instead I was greeted by 45 degree high temperatures and horizontal rain. Hmm...well that didn't turn out as I planned. I was pretty sure I could hear a faint chuckle from above, but such is life. What it did do was force me to take a second look at the things around me. I found these two flowers in a window sill in a house that was built shortly after World War II. In color the the detail of the petals was lost to the overcast skies outside, but when I took it over to black and white using Silver Efex Pro2, the back lit petals came alive! It's hard not to love the options this software package brings to the table. At the end of the trip, I may not have captured what I was planning but by opening my eyes to other possibilities I was able to see one of the smaller views that was right in front of me.
f/7.1, 1/200, ISO400, 35mm
See you next time.
Somewhere between Reno and Las Vegas, Nevada is a stretch of road that reaches from horizon to horizon. It's the type of road that you realize whoever invented cruise control on your car probably didn't receive a large enough bonus that year. On this particular day, I was 31 hours and 1,100 miles into an epic photography road trip. I had been lucky enough to be able to shoot with Huong Forest with Design by Huong, on her home turf, in Reno, Nevada. Regardless of how much fun I had, time wasn't on my side and I had to turn the car around almost as soon as the shoot was over. So after a long night, I found myself the only person on this straight length of road. Actually, I couldn't remember the last time I had even seen another vehicle. Well... I suppose I had seen a farmer on a dusty tractor but I'm not sure he counts for this purpose of this blog. The sand man was quickly catching me and loud music and energy drinks just weren't cutting it. So I pulled over to stretch my legs for a while. For some reason I really hadn't noticed just how empty of a place I was in, but I certainly was noticing it now. With the rising sun to my right and empty rolling desert hills to my left, I broke out the camera and tripod. Sitting in the middle of an empty Nevada highway, along came one of those moments of reflection when you get a chance to just sit and think. Recently I've been contemplating some major changes in life and all the chaos that was probably going to bring. As it turns out, an empty desert highway is a perfect place to sit and think about where I was going and how long it was going to take me to get there. The great thing is that just like the road, as long as I kept moving forward I would get there sooner or later. How about that? A revelation sitting there in the middle of the road? Perhaps it was just a lack of sleep and a realization that I probably should get out of the road before my luck ran out?
It never ceases to amaze me how the best views of the world around us are usually those you didn't set out to find. It sure worked out that way on this morning. How about you? What caught your eye when you weren't expecting it? Comments and shared photos are always welcome.
Thanks everybody, see you next time on Different View Photography.
This June, we had the great honor of supporting Mandy K and her crew in the 2012 Relay For Life in Port Huron, Mi. Mandy's crew walked in support of the American Cancer Society's Relay for Life campaign and totally rocked it out. Before the event, Mandy and her crew held an auction to raise funds for their team and let me tell you, we were over the moon that they auctioned THREE Different View Photography gift certificates as part of their fundraising! Whoo hoo!
I was once told, "do right because it's right." Nobody ever said it was easy, comfortable or that it's always going to feel good, but I can promise you this time it feels amazing! A very sincere thank you to Mandy and her crew for letting us be part of the effort to help find better treatments and maybe someday a cure for a disease that touches so many of us.
One advantage I have is traveling to some very cool corners of the world. One of the disadvantages of those travels is I can’t always head out for a stroll as often as I might like. While I’m home these days I try to always find time to get away from the crowds, throw on the pack and go for a hike. On this particular afternoon I only had time for a late afternoon hike in one of my favorite shoot locations.
I thought I remembered seeing a hike report mentioning a grove of aspens on a less traveled offshoot of the Aspen Loop trail, just south of Snow Bowl ski area near Flagstaff, Arizona. Following the business trip I was coming off of, it sounded like just what the doctor ordered. After leaving the truck I knew I really needed to step it out a bit if I was going to make it to the edge of the aspen grove for what I hoped would be a view of the setting sun casting its final rays over the foothills of San Francisco peaks. About five miles into the trail I came across an old barbed wire fence line that had seen better days. Most of the fence was buried and broken in several places and this post was only still standing because was leaning against a fallen log. With a comfortable rock to sit on and something interesting to aim the camera at, it was a perfect place to stop and take a break. As often happens to me, once I sat down and stopped looking for something interesting, my eyes and mind began to take in the softly contrasting colors of the fall grass, white aspens and the rust covered post in front of me. With a cool mountain breeze blowing through the tall grass I realized while I might not have made it in time for the sunset I wanted, sitting there in the grass next to an old beat up fence, I had accidentally found the peace and quiet I needed.
Nikon D90 18mm, f/11, 1/60, ISO 200
When it comes to photography I’m really no different than most people. I use my camera to capture snippets of time to share with others and have something to look back on when I’m old and grey. Different View Photography is built on the desire to share my advantage of traveling to various parts of the world and seeing more than what the average tourist “post card tours” have to offer. A fortunate side effect was it helped me to look at the world through a photographer’s eye and see the beauty and uniqueness all around us. It helped me to take the blinders off and see the world as more than just a passing blur of necessary stops between point A and point B. After all, do I really want to only remember that I worked at such and such place and spent too much time on the freeways and airplanes getting there? Not this guy.
Unfortunately mankind developed the blinders for a reason. Sometimes we don’t want to see that the world can be a big, bad, scary place. As children we understood that but we spent most of our adult lives building comfortable homes and blocking out the Boogie Man. By now most of you know that it has been a rough month in Afghanistan. The wave of intolerance and rhetoric spouting is in full flow again. There is no denying this is a much more dangerous place now. So during a time when my body armor is kept close to the bed, shoes with socks at the foot of the bed and a “bug-out” bag with emergency essentials is kept next to the door, it’s important for me to ask is the world any less interesting? The answer, of course, is no but it does change how and when I take photos.
War correspondents and nature photographers, not that I’m claiming to be either, have long understood the danger in losing awareness of their surroundings when looking through the protective shield of the camera’s eyepiece. It’s easy to become detached from the environment and dangers around you, however, hungry animals and gun toting fanatical thugs aren’t very forgiving of mistakes. So when I just can’t break out the tripod it’s important for me to consider alternatives. Instead of standing on top of a building and setting my focus on the crimson of the setting sun reflecting off the snow capped mountains around Kabul, maybe I should be looking for the more intimate moments of the life around me…even if it’s an ugly moment. After all, isn’t that where real life is going to be found? We all have moments when life rightfully demands we put the camera down and focus on not being eaten by the lion, but thankfully those moments are usually fleeting. So I started carrying my small Sony Cyber Shot for those times that I just couldn’t pull out the D90. When I can pull out the D90 I try to give myself a few extra seconds by taking a look at conditions I might see while I’m out and setting the aperture and ISO before walking out the door. I know I want to give myself a good chance at getting the shot in focus so I start with f/11 to allow me about 6’ of depth of field when focusing about 15’ away from the car. I already have my head on a swivel so seeing those brief photo moments are even easier. Sometimes it’s during those unexpected, but well planned for, encounters that we’re able to capture what we are looking for. So the more I can do ahead of time, the less time I have to stand there holding a camera for the world, and the lions, to see.
“Check it twice, do it once.” This was the advice I was given as a young man and funny enough it’s as true today as ever. Recently I was fortunate enough to be in a place to witness the total eclipse of the moon under relatively clear dark skies. Aside from the choking pollution of the Kabul winter I couldn’t have asked for a better night. I had all my gear ready, location picked out to take advantage of a distant ridge line and the local security were given a heads up so they didn’t shoot at me for standing on the roof. I started pushing the shutter button as soon as the full moon came into view.
What a night, right? For someone who’s motivation for Different View Photography was capturing memorable scenes from around the world, what could be better than shooting a lunar eclipse in Afghanistan? Everything was going perfect and that should’ve been my first clue. Well…it seems somewhere during my shutter clicking frenzy I saw fit to reduce the quality of my images from “highest quality” to “basic”. Well, to be more precise, I didn’t exactly choose to but while changing the ISO settings as the available light faded I blindly pushed the wrong button, spun the dial, and reduced the image quality settings of the camera.
Now the kind folks at Nikon actually anticipated people like me and made an indicator in the viewfinder, as well as the rear display, that both clearly indicate the image quality. Throughout the eclipse I had plenty of time to stop and check the settings and correct my mistake. Now don’t get me wrong, I checked the tripod, horizon line, focus, ISO and aperture almost continuously. I even took a few moments to wipe the smoke and dust from my lens, but I failed to take as much as a passing glance at what should have been step number one…the basic settings. As near as I can figure, in my rush to capture what should’ve been a truly epic event I simply became confused by the definition of “basic”. I mean hey, who couldn’t confuse “basic” with “highest quality”. As obvious as it seems, the truth is I failed to double check myself. I put too much confidence in knowing I had set up the camera settings before ever stepping outside. There’s an old saying to explain some mistakes like this, “Inaccurate conclusions from accurate observations.” My camera didn’t suddenly switch the menu settings, and in that split instant, the meaning of “basic” didn’t change. So my observations were accurate. What did change was my conclusion, or my understanding, of those observations. Hey, we all have moments in our photography that we just can’t get back. It doesn’t matter if you’re shooting a celestial phenomenon or the fleeting moment of innocence in a child’s face during a portrait shoot, life doesn’t have a rewind button. So until we’re perfect, I guess it’s time to remember the old advice to check it twice and shoot it once.
I first dabbled in photography because of work, not that I was a professional photographer by any measure. The camera was a tool in a kit used to freeze a moment in time for later analysis. Even then I learned, thanks to an incredibly patient instructor who has now passed on, how important it was to use aperture, ISO, shutter speed and various forms of lighting to successfully tell a story. Our job was to capture a moment that would never exist again. As Sam would say, “It’s only film. So shoot some more.” Now here I am a few miles down the road, no I’m not going to say how many miles, but it’s a few. I no longer use my camera for the same reasons but I find myself again striving to capture moments that will never happen exactly the same way again. Funny how things work out, huh? I created Different View Photography to share those frozen moments. Now days my camera gives me a reason to stop and look around a little more often. Look up and look low instead of simply looking in front of my feet. I’m learning to not just see a building but instead shapes the shadows are forming. Learning to not just see people but to see how they’re interacting. What about beneath that bush? Maybe there’s something interesting down there? Never know until you look. It’s funny how my former professions and life experiences seem to come together in photography.
So just when I started feeling good about an emerging eye for photography a friend wrote me and absolutely shook me to my core. What she saw in one of my images was not the mountain I had been on or an afternoon spent hiking frozen in data and pixels, but a feeling, a physical and emotional link to a loved one who had passed away. She actual wrote that she could hear his voice in the image. Wow.
Now I’d like to believe I successfully followed many of the photography “rules” and managed to capture a technically sound image but I simply didn’t appreciate how powerful my images could be as a medium for conveying emotion. Without that the image is flat…meaningless. So, duly humbled someone felt such a connection to one of my images I find myself feeling a sense of responsibility to do the very best I can with every single image. Beyond scrolling through the litany of “rules” before I push the shutter button I now find myself asking exactly what emotion do I want a viewer to feel? Will someone actually feel like they were here with me? If not, change something until they will. That leads to another question. How many different emotions can be portrayed in a single image? It seems to me there are as many different ways to interpret an image as there are people doing the interpreting.
While working a portrait shoot, wedding, party, or just out enjoying nature I owe it to the people kind enough to view my work to capture the emotion they want to display to the world. As I mentioned…humbling and a challenge I’m immensely enjoying. As a species we don’t look around us and see pixels and data. Even as children we learn to see emotions, feelings and social interactions. So here’s to capturing our world and the millions of different views around us. (shameless plug intended)
I wouldn’t say I’m on the top of any airline’s frequent flyer list but I do get around. On average I’ll spend between 280 and 300 days away on business trips each year. I’ve never been fortunate enough to go on a trip devoted exclusively to photography so the camera has to compete for room with more business related items, i.e. the computer, brochures and a whole load of other miscellaneous documents electronic gadgets. Over the years I’ve noticed that nearly everywhere I look in airports I see interesting lines, shadows and of course the hustle and bustle of people making those last minute dashes for their flight. So the thought of packing my camera into my checked baggage is out of the question if at all possible.
First, I’ll share my experience with photography around airport security. While most security agencies, certainly the TSA in the US, allow photography in and around nearly all areas within an airport, with the exceptions of the actual monitor screens of the scanners, they do request that you not interfere with the security process. So forget about extending the legs on your tripod while waiting at the checkpoint. Besides, tell me this doesn’t seem like a quick way to attract the anger of your fellow passengers. However, the TSA does add that there may be additional local jurisdiction laws governing photography in certain places. In short, if you really want to take a photo of an area find a Law Enforcement official and ask. I’ve personally never been told no. Border control areas are a whole different story. There are posted regulations forbidding the use of cameras in every country I’ve been to. So the camera just stays safely tucked away throughout immigration process and I don’t find myself talking to security in a little room. As a general rule, if an authority tells me I’m not allowed to photograph something or somewhere I simply put the camera away. After all, it really isn’t worth me missing my flight. So now that we’re past where and when I take photographs, it’s on to what has worked for me in the past.
50mm lens (the nifty fifty) - In airports I find there are two things that are almost certain. First, the light won’t be as bright as I would like and second the action happens fast. Before I even leave home I will put on the trusty Nikon f1.4 50mm lens and bring up the ISO level just a bit. A nice little benefit is that the size of the 50mm lens attracts much less attention than the whopping zoom lens you used last week to shoot landscape shots. So I’m much more likely to catch someone in a spontaneous moment instead of wondering who the weirdo with the camera is.
Monopod - Collapsed it is about 2’ long, stays strapped to the side of my back pack and doesn’t attract much more attention than a cane. Extended, my monopod gives me 5’9” of stability for those longer exposures or lower light levels. With the rubber tip removed, I also used it once to keep from falling on my tail while trying to cross an icy sidewalk during an extended layover in Minneapolis. Now, let me add that I personally have never had a problem with a monopod on a plane. The TSA does not specifically address monopods or tripods but I do know of other people who have had issues. Here is an interesting discussion on it, decide for yourself.
Gallon size freezer bags – Pretty sure whoever invented these was a travel photographer. I personally use the handy zipper type closure type of bag. They work great for those times when you step out of the airport and right into a monsoon. I’ve also found the plastic bag works well to keep the sand and dust out if your bag finds itself strapped in as cargo on a C130 or helicopter. If you’ve ever been to the Middle East you’ll understand the term “moon dust” and the difficulty in keeping it out of your electronics (and everything else for that matter).
Lens cleaning kit – I picked up a Calumet cleaning kit at Heathrow airport a few years back. Among other items it came with a Lenspen with a 1/4” in diameter cleaning pad at one end and a retractable brush on the other…brilliant. Once out of the airport I try to pick up a can of compressed air to just blow the dust off the lens and camera body without having to physically touch it. While we’re on the subject of cleaning, I also throw in a small terry cloth towel that I picked up from an auto parts store. Small and light weight they are great for soaking up water from that monsoon I mentioned earlier without leaving lint all over the camera. They’re cheap enough that I have no concerns about tossing it if it picks up sand or other debris, so there are no worries about scratching the camera if I don’t have time to clean the cloth.
Keychain light – Sometimes the plane’s cabin is so dark that I can’t see the settings on the camera even though there is just enough light to try a photo. I hate being that one guy who turns on the overhead light on a long transatlantic flight so I started carrying a small key chain light that is just bright enough for me to double check my settings. A quick opening of the window shade for the photo and the grumpy passenger next to me is none the wiser. As a side benefit I also use it when I get where I’m going and find myself sitting on a beach before sunrise.
Off camera flash - Now, I know I listed low light as one of the reasons I switch over to the 50mm before I even leave the house, but there are those moments when a flash really comes in handy. For adding a little bit of side lighting if you have time to set up a shot or more frequently when the subject is backlit by huge windows airport designers like to use to create a more enjoyable atmosphere for us. The Nikon SB-700 AF speedlight doesn’t take up much room in my bag and comes in very handy for adding light to an area or face that is being backlit by one of those monster windows.
Business cards – Finally, I never (well almost never) leave home without a couple of business cards. In a perfect world I would be handing them out to potential clients who would immediately spend their hard earned money on my photos but in reality it adds a sense of professionalism. People are much more forgiving of a professional photographer compared to some random person pointing a camera at them. Who knows, they might even schedule a portrait session someday? To put their mind at ease I always offer to email them a high resolution copy of any photos I keep but I’ve yet to have anybody write to take me up on the offer.
So there you have it. That is what I take in my back pack, in addition to the ton of work related items, to make sure that I have my camera and some accessories to hopefully catch those brief moments of happiness while I’m traveling. So what do you take with you in your carry on bag? Have fun and happy shooting.
See you next week.