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Life Before Photoshop: Hawaii

Look ma, no Photoshop  I teach a four week online class with the PPSOP, and I also  conduct my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops around the planet. What’s the single thread that connects all my fellow photographers to one another? It’s the fact that the vast majority began their love for this creative institution after the advent of the digital camera. Virtually every month , I  try to educate these students of mine that you don’t need Lightroom  or Photoshop to make good photos. I’m not saying there not great tools, just that you don’t need them to make a good photo.

I recently had a student ask me if I bracketed my photos and combined them in HDR to get the “correct exposure”. This is a clear sign that validates my thinking. First of all, she had been told that there was a correct exposure….What????? First of all there’s no such thing as a correct exposure. every picture I’ve ever taken had a different “correct exposure”. How can there be a universal correct exposure? Beat’s the hell out of me. I guess it’s just another one of those things that lie just above my pay grade.

My exposures are based on what I’m feeling at the point of creation. It has solely to do with the message I want to send to the viewer. Bright and sunny, or dark and dramatic…it just all depends…doesn’t it????

Second, I’ve been shooting for forty-four years and most of that was when you bracketed and choose the best exposure. There was no other way to do it; at least when I was shooting color. HDR was the initials of a girl I went out with!!!


In the above photo, I was shooting a project for United Airlines. One of the toughest assignments I’ve ever had. Five weeks in Hawaii shooting pretty much whatever I wanted..oh the horror!!!

We were invited to take some photos of a popular Luau at the hotel we were staying at. My assistant was standing right next to me giving me readings from my Minolta One-Degree spot meter. Yes, it actually reads just one degree of reflected light at a time. I want to know everything about the light and when it changes. It’s why I never use the meter in my Mark III after crossing over to the digital world. It’s just not as accurate as I want it.

A new reading every few seconds.

A new reading every few seconds.

I wanted to maintain the aperture, so my assistant kept yelling out the changes in shutter speeds., until it was too dark to show the fire-eater and the environment around him, and too slow to stop the action. I was able to achieve this on one piece of film, and one exposure.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. I have two openings left in my next “springtime” workshop in Portugal.Next July 26th I’ll be back at the Maine Media Workshop for my 27th year. a fantastic place full of energy and lot of photographers on the campus to share your experience with. I always pick this same week as it’s the week of the Lobster Festival down the road in Rockland. A different set of photo opts: people watching and portraiture, color, light, and design.

I have one spot left for my “Autumn in Provence” workshop to be next October 21st. We’ll be shooting during the Fall foliage. In April of 2016, in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours, I’ll be leading a group to the coastal cities of North and Central Viet Nam. You’ll see and take pictures of subject matter you would only see in magazines like National Geographic.

Keep those photos and questions coming in to: AskJoeB@gmail.com


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    { 12 comments… add one }
    • Valeriano January 28, 2015, 9:28 am

      Well for sure you don’t need HDR when shooting people, especially it it’s a portrait.
      I’m interested in understanding why with a shot like this you’d prioritised aperture choice over shutter speed.

      • Joe January 28, 2015, 10:39 am


        For the simple reason that I didn’t want anything else in focus, and I wanted to be up close and personal…In those days I was shooting Kodachrome 25.


    • Valeriano January 28, 2015, 2:52 pm

      I understand.
      Thus you were still shooting at a relative slow shutter speed despite having had used a wide aperture to isolate the subject because of the 25 ISO. Why haven’t you used a faster film? As a Velvia 50?

      • Joe January 28, 2015, 3:14 pm


        At the time of this photo, I don’t think Velvia had a firm hold in the industry. When it became tougher to process Kodachrome, I started using Fuji Film. I tried Fuji 50 (as it was called), but the color was un-realistic…too cartoony for me. Besides the fact that it was a terrible film to use on people because it rendered flesh tones too red.

        Btw, at ASA 50, it was only one stop faster than Kodachrome.

        My favorite film was Velvia and I started using it exclusively.


        • Valeriano January 29, 2015, 9:24 am

          Very interesting! Thanks for sharing. One more question: if you were to shot this exact same image nowadays, with your digital camera, how would you do it?

          • Joe January 29, 2015, 11:08 am


            I would do it the exact same way…I think it’s a strong image the way it is so as I always say…if it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.

            That said, the only thing I would do different is to not bracket in 1/2 stops. Since I tweak just about everything I shoot nowadays, I could get away with bracketing in full stops. Perhaps not even bracketing at all. I would still probably bracket because I like the challenge of getting the correct exposure (or very close to it) in the camera. It’s tough habit to break.


            • Valeriano January 29, 2015, 2:15 pm

              Interesting. Despite you were on a complete different medium you’d apply the same framework as for Kodachrome 25?

              Aside for composition, light, and bracketing: why not also trying cranking up a lot the ISO and get a real fast shutter speed as in 1/1000s or even faster?

            • Joe January 29, 2015, 2:33 pm

              Because I want complete control, and it doesn’t matter how much you crank it up, if you’re hand holding you don’t have as much control…let me tell you something…I’m as fast on a tripod as you are hand holding your camera…and you can take that to the bank. I’m perfectly comfortable with an ISO of 200.


    • Valeriano January 29, 2015, 4:53 pm

      The idea of cranking up the ISO to get a faster shutter speed was for the effect on the fire motion, not to shoot hand held.
      That’s for creativity reasons and nothing else. I am sure you know what I am talking about.

      • Joe January 30, 2015, 9:05 am

        Actually Valeriano I don’t know what you’re talking about. That fire was as sharp as the man about to swallow it…just look at the sharp outside edges. Because of the type of flame, it would look the same at any shutter speed but would have a bad effect on the man.


    • Joe February 2, 2015, 8:40 am

      Thanks as always for taking a look!!!


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