Selecting a Tripod: Legsets for Nature Photography

One of the most common questions I get from students who are just starting to get serious about their photography is “what sort of tripod should I buy?” This quickly breaks down into two questions, “which tripod legsets?” and “which tripod head?”. In this article, I’ll talk about how to select a good legset for your needs, in part two, I’ll cover tripod heads and quick-release systems. (more…)

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“Canon or Nikon?”

Backlit Aspen, Bishop Creek
Backlit Aspen, Bishop Creek (Photo © Joe Decker, All Rights Reserved.)

So, my friend J.D. and I are up photographing along the South Fork of Bishop Creek in the Eastern Sierra. It’s autumn, there’s excellent color in the aspens in the valley, and we’ve scouted the area the previous day to estimate when last light will fall on the aspens. We arrive ten or fifteen minutes before, set up our tripods, find our compositions, and casually embrace the “If it looks good, shoot it….” rule, shooting as we chat and watch the shadow of the valley wall creep towards the edge of our compositions.

That last moment approaches, and just then…. (more…)

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Ten Travel Photography Commandments


Photo ©Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

I’m soon to travel on a photo-expedition to the south of India with the intention of documenting the unusual ritualistic dances called Theyyam. The dances take place in remote villages principally in the state of Kerala, in a region known for its several thousand-year-old traditions, rituals and customs.

I thought I’d start my inaugural post by sharing my ten travel photography commandments, distilling what I’ve learned over the course of the past years as to what helps make better travel and environmental (on-location) portraits…or at least, what works for me. (more…)

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If it Looks Good, Shoot it…

Into the Future
The Grigory Mikheev travels through sea ice and sunrise in the arctic North Atlantic.

If it looks good, shoot it. If it looks better later, shoot it again. –Galen Rowell

So goes one of the best pieces of photographic wisdom I’ve received. It’s more than just a simple strategy, it also reflects something important about nature photography: many of the best nature photographs feature ephemeral light. Whether dramatic (like sunsets or rainbows), or subtle (like the play of light and shadow across the landscape on a partly-cloudy day), the best light is often short-lived and unpredictable. (more…)

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Ignoring the obvious

I sometimes tend to ignore the obvious, the obvious being that which the ancient Greeks referred to as Helios, the Sun. How could I be so distracted by radio slaves, studio flashes and softboxes – not to see that ball of fire 92,960,000 miles from my house. How could I completely forget what I first learned about photography and natural light? Easy, I ignored the obvious. (more…)

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How a typical food shoot comes together

Our clients range from the creative director who’s been doing this for 256 years to the marketing assistant who’s in their first job out of college. Sometimes the clients are from the creative industries (graphic design, advertising, marketing) other times the clients come directly from the food industry. In any case, everyone wants to know how we work. This narrative is based on a typical advertising or corporate shoot. Editorial(magazine) shoots work a bit differently. (more…)

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Bad Weather makes for Great Photographs

Little Butano Creek, Butano State Park
Little Butano Creek, Butano State Park

I recently gave a photographic workshop along the San Mateo county coast (about 45 minutes south of San Francisco), and there were a few last minute cancellations. I suspect they’d checked the weather report, temperatures were expected to be in the high 40s with clouds and drizzle. It’s a pity these folks didn’t talk to me before cancelling, they missed out on some phenomenal photographic conditions. I knew better. Many of my favorite photographic images were taken under or at the edges of clouds, mists, fog or rain. While blue skies sell postcards, interesting photographs often require interesting light, and it’s emphasizing that lesson that’s the topic of this post.


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