Hi Laura! There probably is some sort of loose formula…but it might not be anything I would recommend. The number one part of my formula is “get out there”. The more time I spend outside, exploring, adventuring and looking the better I do at finding photo opportunities. Reading that back now, it sounds obvious, but it is just true. I research locations to find out where I might want to go, but once I’m there I spend a lot of time scouting and looking for potential photos. I look for the usual stuff…high vistas, interesting foregrounds, leading lines, unique subjects or relationships. My best photos often come after I have visited a place a few times. Once I know the general lay of the land, the next thing I do is follow the light. I watch and wait for light and atmosphere that interests me and that informs where and what I photograph. In talks, I often tell a story, which isn’t true, about being on the rim of Grand Canyon, but turning around and photographing a bush because that’s where the light was interesting. I’ve actually never been to the Grand Canyon…but it illustrates the general idea. In terms of camera settings and equipment, it varies image to image depending on all the factors above.
First, this is great and thanks to you and NPN.
My question is: can you describe your field workflow briefly - what you look for in a composition (form, texture, framing, etc.) and light (sunrise/sunset color, moody clouds) and do you think about the post processing you may do while in the field. I know its a big topic!
Hi Sean, I am going to Croatia and Slovenia in October and I know you’ve been there recently. Apart from the standard locations like Plitvice Lake are there any others that you would classify as must see/photograph? Also the heart road near Maribor how difficult is it to shoot at the vineyard? I have tried to contact them regarding their hours but they have not responded, I’m assuming its a sunset location. Thanks
Sean, as my most important teacher. I wil ask you. Can you give some hints making images in a country so flat as mine ( the netherlands).In your videos and lessons most of the time there are mountains at the horizon. My horizon is almost always a straight line with clouds above.
Thanks for all your videos and your time in this AMA.
Regards Ben van der Sande
Hi Mark. You are welcome! My main focus when I started was selling prints because, having no experience, that’s I’ll I knew that photographers did. I remember that my carefully planned out business plan was to sell 10 $350 prints a month and that would match my salary as a teacher. Of course, that didn’t take into account any business expenses…and I NEVER succeeded in selling 10 $350 prints a month for any extended period of time anyway. Not to say that a person couldn’t…just that I didn’t. So, as you can see, I’m not a savvy business person and probably not someone who should give business advice. What I did have was a lot of energy, enthusiasm and a real passion to completely immerse myself in it. To make up for my lack of print sales I would take any job that involved a camera. I photographed portraits, products, architecture, real estate, pets, magazine assignments and weddings. When not doing jobs I ensconced myself in the photography community, entering competitions, reading everything I could find, submitting article ideas to magazines, sharing photos and participating in discussions online, going to photography conferences, meeting other photographers and eventually sharing photography and developing knowledge. After several years the print sales and image licensing gigs did start to come in, and then after that the teaching/video tutorial piece sort of caught me off guard. I’m really happy with how it has all gone and I’m grateful every day that I get to do what I do. But I doubt I’d be able to re-engineer it from the ground up again. Sigh
Hi Sean, I am happy to see that sometimes our old skills are coming back for the benefit of everyone speaking about your teaching.
Today, there are different schools of thought about landscape photography. I can see in your last videos (Exposure and tonal balance and Light sculpting) that you are openly saying that enhancing what we see is simply translating our feeling of the scene without overpassing the fence between fiction and realty.
Do you think that it’s the way for the landscape photographer to become an art photographer and sticking his or her head over the crowd? Because almost everything has been photographed on planet earth and pushing realty by interpreting it is the new way of making photography.
Greetings Sean, I was just curious if you’ve ever entered your work in photo shows, particularly when you were trying to establish yourself in landscape photography?
Thanks to you and NPN for putting this together…this is really awesome!
Do you have a fitness routine that keeps you in shape, and ready to hike? I hike a lot, but I’m not sure I’m all that “fit”… I’d really like to be a more physically fit hiker. I should probably just lay off the candy bars, but let’s pretend I’m already doing that.
Hi Sean - Thank you for sharing your knowledge and experience with the NPN community through this discussion! In what ways do you think being a member of Photo Cascadia has contributed to your professional success in landscape photography? I ask because in my previous profession, I had a really close network of colleagues and that group of people really helped me in all aspects of my career. I haven’t been able to find a similar community in photography (in part because so many photographers seem to see each other as competitors rather than colleagues), so I always look at Photo Cascadia and think you are all really lucky to have found each other.
Leave it to an NPN contributor to be the rule breaker. Haha! All good Matt…it’s just the natural interviewer in you.
- As I remember it, we all submitted a few potential names and then went through voting rounds to narrow it down. David claims his name won in a coin toss, but I think he paid off Adrian, who was keeping score. However it went down, David was sure to take credit for it. He’s like that, you know.
- Whiskey and cigarettes.
- True. I’m pretty sure that if I was starting again today I could give myself 100 years and it wouldn’t be enough. A lot of luck was involved and I doubt lightning would strike me twice…unless it was actual lightning, then it totally would.
- My serious advice would be to do it because you love it, it’s all you want to do and you are going to do it anyway. Don’t quit your day job unless you have your finances in order. If you go for it, completely immerse yourself, have a thick skin, play nice, be humble and kind and enjoy the ride.
Hi Sean! Fellow shower avoider here, who needs em’, right? Thanks for donating your time.
I recently heard a definition of the creative process by James Clear that asserted that the creative process is “the act of making new connections between old ideas” and thus is a “task of recognizing relationships between concepts”. In thinking about creativity in this way, as imaginative connection, what has nourished (or hindered) your ability to continue to lead a creative life?
Welcome Erik! That sounds like it is going to be a dream adventure. Unfortunately, I’m not a Nikon user so I don’t have the long exposure settings memorized in that system. The good news is that there are certainly videos on YouTube that can walk you through it and there are also lots of people here on NPN who can help you out. It may already be a topic in the NPN forums, and if not you could post the question and I’m sure you would get a lot of help.
NPN is also the perfect place to get photo suggestion and feedback from the community. That’s one of the main purposes of this forum. At the top of the page go to Community>Discussions. You can also go to About>FAQ to learn how the forums work.
Hi Derek. Welcome! I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Midwest, so I’m not able to be much help with photo op ideas, I’m afraid. I imagine it could be a little tricky finding landscape opportunities out in the plains. When I first started I was taking photos all the time because I had so much to learn and practice. For a lot of that learning process I wasn’t photographing anything grand…just what I could find in my area. I photographed a lot around town, in the local park and in the hills nearby. I don’t have many keepers from those days, but it really helped me get better and kept me from getting rusty. Now days, I often go a month or more without shooting and it isn’t a problem for me. I get a little rusty, but I eventually got to a place where it was like riding a bike. It takes me a day or so to get back up to speed when I have been on hiatus, but I find the groove soon enough.
I bet a lot of people here on NPN have experience and suggestions for places and ways to shoot in the Midwest to keep it fresh. If you post on the Discussion forums I bet you would get some great advice and meet some cool folks.
When I’m out shooting I usually burn up my buffering on the SD cards pretty fast, especially when shooting wildlife. Granted, using Canon EOS T6 and T3, they are limited. I am wondering what SD cards do you utilize and recommend?
I keep 32 and 64 GB cards in my gear, but the write speed is usually slower than I would like. There are several brands and many mixed reviews.
Hi Joao. My emphasis is on post-processing. I prefer not to have to deal with a lot of extra stuff in the field (filters, holders, flashes, remotes, etc.) if I don’t have to. I generally work with the camera and a couple of lenses. I use polarizers and ND filters for extended exposures and that’s it. This enables me to pay more attention to the light and seeing the “moment”. As long as I can capture all the tonal information then I enjoy working with the raw materials in post to add my personal creative touches.
I don’t know if I have any “lines” when it comes to digital manipulation. I’m a creative, so whatever is needed to create the final piece is part of the artistry. That said, my main interest is is to be there to actually experience and capture exciting light and atmosphere and then try to communicate that experience through the photo, so I generally don’t create anything that wasn’t there, such as sky replacements, other types of composites or extreme warps or transformations. I’m fine when other people do as long as they don’t claim they actually photographed the Milky Way, a sunset and a solar eclipse all at the same time.
Welcome Larry! Yes, a big topic, but fun and important. I think you largely nailed it. I do look for form, texture and framing and photogenic light and atmosphere. The main thing I do is follow the light. I look for light that is colorful, dramatic or just plain visually appealing and then I try to figure out what is interacting with that light that I can photograph. And yes, I do think about how I will develop the image as I’m shooting it and this helps me choose camera settings such as ISO, aperture and shutter speed as well as considerations for exposure bracketing, focus stacking, focal lenth bracketing and such.
Hi Nicole. There are so many must-see spots in those countries! Lucky you. In Slovenia there are beautiful landscapes throughout and around Triglav National Park, along the Socca River, on the coast at Piran and all over the countryside and just about every town. In Croatia I love Rovinj and the hill towns of the Istrian Peninsula. Southern Croatia is also very photogenic but I have not been there yet. My best advice is to get the Snapp Guides app by my friend Luka Esenko who is from Slovenia. They have guides for all regions of both countries. Have a great trip!
Greeting Ben. I agree you have a bit of a challenge when the land is flat, so I would focus on light, weather, atmosphere, ice, snow, shadows, reflections, villages, canals, forests, shorelines and such things which are closer to you and can be the story. I would also suggest researching photographers in your area. I know there are many who do amazing work in your area.
Since questions aren’t hot and heavy can I ask another? If not don’t answer it’s cool.
You mentioned you chase the light more than location. I shot as a professional portrait photographer for many years but been a nature and landscape enthusiast for more years. As a portrait photog I’ve had to shoot environmental photos in all kinds of light and of course even had to make my own light despite those who say they only shoot natural light. I know professional landscape and nature photogs always say to avoid shooting between 10 and 4 on high sunny days but as a portrait photog I’ve shot plenty during those hours. My question is I’ve yet to have anyone define what good light looks like. To me all light is good if you’re shooting the right subject in the right direction at the right exposure. Can you elaborate what characteristics of light you look for as it relates to specific types of scenes or subjects?
Great question Jean. I’m not sure that there is “a way” or if it is helpful to think about it in these terms. I’m a big advocate of doing photography (or any art) in a way that pleases you and helps you create the imagery that you want to create and personally like. If reality is your goal, then go for that. If fiction is appealing to you, then create fiction. My own sensibilities are somewhere in the middle. I try to avoid creating photos for the sole reason of getting noticed. I have found that doing what speaks to me and expressing what I truly want to express in my images is the most rewarding and motivating way to be a photographer. I select the tools and methods I use based on what gets me there. I do enjoy when others appreciate my photographs, but I see it as a bonus. I do know that if I spent my time creating images that I didn’t want to create just so they would get noticed I would quickly lose my interest and love of photography.
Hi Ken! Yes, I have entered many competitions over the years and I have done quite a few exhibitions, both solo and group. I have never sold work at an art fair or art show, but I have many friends who do. It’s never been a way for me to make income and I don’t get wrapped up in competition results (or lack thereof). When I do it, it is because whenever I can I like to be an active participant in the photography community, which I get a lot of joy from.
Thanks Sean for the opportunity to ask a question. What is your favourite location or thing to shoot in the Palouse?
Hi Sean, Thanks for doing this Reddit Style AMA! Hopefully this becomes a regular feature @David_Kingham. My question is this, what do you think the main differences are in both cognition and technical execution between a full time professional photographer and an aspiring hobbyist? And how broad is that gap? BTW - I love your videos, no nonsense and high production! Keep up the great work.
Glad to see all this Q&A!, thanks for doing this!
-What are your favorite photography books (any kind)?
-Do you still have sheep poo on your F-stop backpack for your trip to the Faroes?