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Quick Photo tip: A Cheap Safari At Your Door

300mm @ F/2.8

300mm @ F/2.8

How many of my fellow photographers that have taken my online class with the PPSOP, or been with me in one of my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet can afford to go photograph wild animals? Probably not that many, and fewer still can get away for that long.

For the ones that can, and I’ve know several friends that have gone to Africa on a Photo Safari, it’s not guaranteed that you’ll even come back with pictures that were worth the cost. You’re in a special truck with lots of other people shooting, and the time of day is not usually the most advantageous for quality light or seeing animals moving around in their natural habitat. I’ve been told that when they went out a lot of the animals were sleeping in the shade of a very hot sun.

Well, here’s a good idea that will dazzle your friends and at the same time give you an idea of what it would be like to photography exotic animals… go to your closest zoo!!!

Yes, I know it sounds dorky, dumb, and a host of similar adjectives too numerous to count, but I can tell you from experience that it can be a lot of fun. One gray day I was kind of bored, so I picked up my camera, my tripod, and my longest lens and headed to the Houston Zoo. I had no idea if it was going to work out or what I would come back with, but before long I was having a great time; I was in Africa. The key for me was to make sure the animals looked like they could have been free and wandering all around me, which meant to not show much of the environment…as in cages or walls with moats around them.

No cages or walls.

No cages or walls.

With my 300mm lens always set on F/2.8, I could knock everything out of focus except for my subject. I wondered around the zoo several times hunting animals. Since I had gone on a weekday morning, I felt as though I was wandering around in the jungle all alone, and it was great. It felt as if the animals sense this and acted as if they were also alone in the jungle. It was a great experience, and one I plan on repeating; now that I know what to expect.

You should give it a try sometime. Your friends just might start calling you Bwana!!

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. I still have a couple of openings for my “Springtime in Portugal” workshop, and my photo trip in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and I’ll create a video critique for you.

JoeB

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Food For Digital Thought: Roaming

Roaming around the frame.

Roaming around the frame.

It’s interesting to note that whenever you hear the word roaming in these days of rapidly changing technology, you immediately think of your ‘Smart Phone’. Well, while that’s true, I conjure up something completely different. I think of the psychology of Gestalt, and how it plays such an important part in keeping the viewer of our photos around as long as possible.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet We work on the different ways to manage how the viewer perceives and processes  when looking at the visual information we lay out to him in the form of a photograph. Since humans rely on the perception of the environment that surrounds him, it’s our objective to present information in such a way as to take control of what he sees.

The more ways we can get the viewer to ‘roam’ around our composition, looking for new things to discover, the longer he’ll stick around. What I try to do is create “layers of interest” in my imagery. What I mean is while I like to have one subject or center of interest, I like having secondary points of interest. Generally that means having pieces of the puzzle sprinkled around the four edges of my frame, and letting the viewer put all these pieces together creating the finished product…A well composed, balanced photo that meets several of the criteria I’ve discussed in my “did it do it” category. a photo that the viewer will remember long after he’s moved on.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com and check out my 2014-15 workshop schedule. I’ve recently added a workshop in Myanmar in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours. next February. Also, check out my next Springtime Workshop next May in Portugal. Come shoot this timeless country with me.

Don’t forget to send mr a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Quick Photo Tips: Plain Old Window Light

One of my early North Light portraits, shot over forty-years ago in my first studio.

One of my early North Light portraits, shot over forty-years ago in my first studio.

When I first started shooting, that is to actually make a living at it without a day job, I had very little equipment and no lighting whatsoever. Even if I could have afforded it, I wouldn’t have known what to do with it at the time. So I’ll always thank the Art Gods for including Art History in my studies.

I studied the light the Old Masters used, and I can safely say that they didn’t own any strobes with big soft-boxes. Some of the greatest paintings in history were produced with North Light coming from a window. They used  North Light because of how cool and controlled it was. What I mean by controlled is that when the windows face the north, you never have to worry about direct sun coming in. North Light gives you greater control over contrast, values, and last but not least…the color. Johannes Vermeer was in my opinion the best at using north Light to create his paintings, and the painting entitled The Kitchen Maid is a great example

My first studio consisted of the first floor in a very old house in Houston, and the front top floor room that faced North. This is where I took my portraits for the first several years. Now, my fellow photographers go out of their way to re-create North Light by using strobes. There are companies ( at least there use to be ) out there that called their equipment North Light Strobes, and you paid dearly for what actually could be had for free.

In my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops we spend a lot of time on light and how to use simple window light effectively. That’s how important it is to me.

So, the next time your thinking about shooting a portrait, think about putting them next to a window facing North. I guarantee you that you’ll be happy with the results.

Shot for Budweiser in an old gym in San Antonio

Shot for Budweiser in an old gym in San Antonio

:-)

Visit my website at:www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this page. My next Springtime Workshop will be in Portugal next May. I have two spots left for my photo tour in conjunction with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar.Come shoot with me sometime.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question  to: AskJoeB@gmail.com, and receive a video critique.

JoeB

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AskJoeB: What Do You Think?

What do you think?

What do you think?

Canice sent me this photo to ask me what I thought. As usual, I like to show what the person said so that others that might be feeling the same thing, or have gone through similar situations can read what was said. Here’s what Canice had to say:

Hi Joe,
Attached is an image I took the last night we were in Sienna during the workshop. You now know why I was late for the last supper !!!

You will recall the square was packed that night and we had arranged to meet up for our final meal on the last night. I had worked my way around the square and figured that if I went up one of the streets leading off the square I might get a shot of some people leaving the square with the sun back lighting them. I hear a lot of photography experts criticizing photos because they say there is no way any highlights should be blown. This has me confused because in this image I feel that the blown highlights on the hair make the image much stronger, What do you think?”

Canice, If I had a dollar for every time I had a fellow photography taking my online class with the PPSOP, or in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet, tell me that he or she were told by so called “photography experts” to never blow out highlights, I would be sitting by my pool right now, on my island waiting for my French maid to bring me another cocktail. Something blue and frothy with an umbrella hanging perilously from one side.

In my opinion, you should stay as far away from these self appointed experts…why? Because they will lead you down a one-way path…straight down to the burning fires of mediocrity. I’ve talked about this sooooo many times, and have written a post about it: http://joebaraban.com/blog/pearls-of-wisdom-never-clip-the-highlights/

WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE, AND WHY ARE THEY CONSIDERED EXPERTS????? If I were Emma Lazarus, and I were also a photographer, I might have written this on the Statue of Liberty for my fellow photographers, not just for the immigrants coming to America:

“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled photographers yearning to breath free from of all these silly rules. The wretched refuse of your teeming shores. Send these, the narrow thinking photography experts, to me:
I lift my lamp besides the blown out golden door.”

Ok, I digress a tad!!!

I really like your photo!!! I’ll usually go out of my way to backlight something. I’ll also try to blow out the highlights since like you I think it adds a different dimension to it; a dimension filled with Visual Tension and Energy.

Canice, if you remember, some of the ways to generate Visual Tension is the use of light, contrast, and capturing a moment in time and leaving it un-completed. In your photo, you have all three. If i were you I would continue up your dedicated path to glory!!!

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. come shoot with me and Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar next February. I still have two spots left for this once in a lifetime experience. I’ve also written my description for my next “springtime ” workshop, this time in Portugal the end of next May.

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"Seeing past first impressions".

“Seeing past first impressions”.

Before I go any farther, let me define the word Idiom. An idiom is: (1) An expression that cannot be understood from the meanings of its separate words but that has a separate meaning of its own. (2) A form of a language that is spoken in a particular area and that uses some of its own words, grammar, and pronunciations.

Here are some common idioms: “Sunday week” for a week from Sunday. “Give way” for retreat, and “Rock and Roll” is a musical idiom.The one I’ve always thought was especially pertinent to photography, and one I mention in my online class with the PPSOP, and also in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet is. “There’s more to it than meets the eye”

In other words I tell my fellow photographers that there’s two ways to look at a subject: You can look at it with the left side of your brain, the analytical side, or the right side of your brain, the creative side. So many of my students don’t look at things as they could be, only as they are.

Doing that will keep you from taking your photography to what I refer to as…”up a notch”. What I mean is that looking with the left side of your brain will only show you what things are. Looking at those same things with the right side of your brain can show you what they could be. Take the photo above for example.

First, allow me to digress for a moment. I teach photographers how to use the basic elements of Visual Design and composition to create stronger images. A complete description can be read by clicking on the link above.

Ok, so last week I was sitting in my backyard on my deck; it was the end of a beautiful day. Seventy two degrees and sunny, so I had my book in one hand and my Bombay Martini and a bowl of nuts at the ready and close to my other hand. I was trying to filter out all the sounds of a house being built next to us and occasionally looking up at what was going on. The sun was setting behind my house and hitting the house next door. As the sun was setting the light was slowly disappearing from the bottom up, leaving only the top part still in sunlight.

If I had been looking at the house with the left side of my brain, I would have only heard the incessant hammering and then seen the man working at the top of the house that was causing it…that’s what was. Since I’m always looking at things as they could be, I saw more than just a house with a man working on the top floor.

I saw the Texture of the Crape Myrtle’s, branches still bare from the Winter. The square and rectangular Shapes, and the blue Negative Space that defines and creates the Shapes. I’m always looking for ways to create Visual Tension, and placing the man close to the edge of the frame is one of the ways. The way the light is only left at the top of the construction is another, and the contrast between his bright, saturated red shirt against the soft blue sky and clouds is still another.

These elements of Visual Design and composition are all pieces that make up the finished puzzle…another idiom meaning the final photograph.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to watch for upcoming workshops listed at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime, and I’ll show you what could be.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskjoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Workshop Stuff: 2014 Maine Media Workshop

Bill took this at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine

Bill took this at the Lobster Festival in Rockland, Maine

The class having fun on a foggy morning in Belfast, Maine

The class having fun on a foggy morning in Belfast, Maine

One of the posts I look forward to writing is right after one of my workshops. As most of my followers know I recently wrote a post on my last “Springtime” workshop, this time in Paris this last May. It was followed by a second post on the Eiffel Tower competition where everyone went out to capture the famous structure as creatively as they could.

The end of this last July, I conducted my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” class at the Maine Media Workshop, and it was the twenty-sixth year I had done so. The Maine Media Workshop is the granddaddy of them all and it’s where many of the know-famous workshops got their beginning. It was a great time with a great class, and the resulting images they took are among some of the best I’ve seen in all the years I’ve taught there. The lasting friendships and experiences all of us came away with, are indelibly etched in the minds of not only all my fellow photographers who took my class, but mine as well.

As I trek towards my thirtieth year teaching in Maine, next summer I hope I’ll have an opportunity to meet some of you that have followed my blog over the years. FYI, I also teach this same class with the PPSOP, probably the top online school out there.

Meanwhile, enjoy the slideshow created solely by all my recent students.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to watch for my 2015 workshop schedule coming out in a couple of months. Although my workshop, in conjunction with Santa Fe, to Cuba is full, you can still put your name on a waiting list. I still have two spots open for my workshop with Epic Photo Tours to Myanmar next February.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

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Quick Photo tip: Photographing Your Kids

A twenty-five cent photo.

A twenty-five cent photo.

I have four grown kids ranging from twenty-five to thirty-eight and two grand kids ages seven to nine, and have been taking pictures of them most of their lives. Not so much with my three daughters and one son as they all have “flown the coop”, and leading grown up lives!!!

There was a time when I took lots of pictures of them, and my fellow photographers that have taken my online course with the PPSOP, and my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet always are amazed when I show them some of mine in response to some of their submission they always have the same disclaimer…”It’s all they would let me take”, or “After one shot they wanted to quit”, or “This is the only pose thy would give me”, or finally, “They had a complete meltdown when I asked them to smile”.

“What’s yours secret”?, they always ask.

It’s easy, pay them!!!!! I’ve always felt that if you were going to take them away from what they were doing, it seemed only fair to pay them for their time; and it has always worked.

When my kids were just past the walking for the first time stage in their life, I was taking their picture for family personal use as well as using them for some of my jobs. At first they wouldn’t hear of being photographed. Covering their eyes and laying on the ground was their way of saying no. So, I offered to pay them twenty-five cents. It worked like a charm. Then as they got a little older, it went to fifty cents. Around the age of ten, it became a dollar, and that meant they agreed to be photographed for as long as I needed, because it was mostly for my work.

By this time, they were as good looking and better all around models that took direction better than any model their age a client could pick. This held true for all the modeling agencies in Houston.

The dollar became five, then twenty-five, fifty, and finally one hundred dollars by the time they were teenagers to young adults. You ask why? When a client wanted to look at model portfolios, I would always put in whichever of my kids would fit the profile of who they were looking for.  If one of them was picked, I would tell them it was one of my kids and the rate was one-hundred dollars for whatever use they wanted. A price my kids gladly agreed on.

The difference in price between a model registered with an agency and one of my kids could be a quite a lot. One of my kids charged a hundred dollars and the modeling agency would easily charge a thousand dollars or considerably more depending on all the different places the photo would be seen. There was never an issue concerning Nepotism with the advertising agencies. It was always about the money.

So, next time you want to photograph your kids, pay them for their time. A quarter can go a long way, which is exactly what my daughter (photo shown at the top) charged to get on the teeter totter with our dog Lucy.

A fifty cent charge by another daughter.

A fifty cent charge by another daughter.

Visit my website at: www.joeBaraban.com and check out my 2014 workshop schedule. Come shoot with me at the Maine Media Workshop July 27th, or in Paris May 28th, Jerusalem September 17th, or in Cuba November 4th.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com.

JoeB

 

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Having fun with the effects of Proximity.

Having fun with the effects of Proximity.

One of the most diverse, interesting, and sometimes complicated of all the principles of Gestalt that I teach both in my online class with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshop I conduct around the planet is referred to as Proximity. If you’ve ever felt that your composition was a little off and you weren’t sure why, you might have been suffering from a Proximity flaw.

There are several ways Proximity can add or detract from our photography:

The proverbial tree, lamppost, building, or telephone pole that seems to grow out of your subject’s head is one of the not so good ways Proximity can affect our photographs. I’m sure you have either seen it in other images, or have been guilty of it yourself, but have you ever wondered why you didn’t notice it right before you pulled the trigger (that’s a Texas euphemism) for clicking the shutter?

When we taking pictures out in some location, we’re in a three-dimensional reality, so it’s easy to see the relationship between one object and another. The problem comes when you try to convey your image that was taken in a three-dimensional reality, and display it in a two-dimensional representation…as in a photograph. Since the photographer is physically present, he or she can tell that a tree or a pole or some object is in the distance and not growing out of someone’s head. That is if the photographer is paying attention. When a picture is taken that fact is lost; you’ve lost the third dimension, depth.The tree is now in a two-dimensional contact with the person and the viewer will interpret the two as being one since they’re both in focus and appear to be on the same plane.

This is a very good reason why you need to study every part of your frame before taking the picture. for those of you that have taken my workshop or class, I talk about my “Fifteen Point Protection Plan”. It’s the best way to see this effect and rectify it…how you ask?

By simply moving over a step.

There are times when you can use this flaw to your advantage, and have fun with it; as in the photo above taken by a student in my online Gestalt class, and the photo I created of the cop with the fan on his head.

An intentional use of Proximity.

An intentional use of Proximity.

The funniest example of which I don’t have a photo is when I saw a friend of mine’s five year old putting his thumb and index finger out in front of him aimed at his mother’s head and touching them together several times in rapid succession. I asked him what he was doing and he said that he was pinching his mother’s head. Try it sometime; it’s a great stress reliever, and it was Proximity in action!!!

Stay tune for more on the effects of Proximity.

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and be sure to look for my 2015 workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime. I still have a couple of spots left for my workshop (in conjunction with Epic photo tours) to Myanmar next February.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com and receive a video critique.

JoeB

 

Another way Proximity can make your images stronger is by grouping your subjects together so that a relationship or common bond is created. Research suggests that the viewer prefers to see similar objects grouped together, and by placing objects close together you will be offering the viewer an explanation of the message you’re trying to get across.

One example is when you purposely arrange the elements of your composition so that they relate to one another and becomes a visual unit.

 

We all love repeating forms, shapes and colors, and if you can include these in your grouping, it will create a pleasing rhythm and a sense of unity that will keep the viewer around longer. Another good example is watching a flock of Geese fly overhead. I for one find it visually interesting and will usually watch them until they become dots on the distant horizon.

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Moving the viewer around the composition while discovering new things.

Moving the viewer around the composition while discovering new things.

Well my fellow photographers, this is the last in the series of my “did it do it” list for good composition. This is number twelve, and if you study all of them, you’re imagery will most definitely go what I refer to as “up a notch”. As I’ve said all along, these are not rules since rules will hinder your creative thinking. They are guidelines to making strong photos; photos that will be remembered.

Will your composition make people want to give your photograph more than a cursory look? Well first things first. First let’s see what the dictionary says about the cursory:

cursory |ˈkərsərē|
adjective
hasty and therefore not thorough or detailed : a cursory glance at the figures.

In other words, will it make the viewer want to stick around and spend more time looking. In order for the viewer to be more thorough or detailed, you have to provide enough elements for him to be thorough with.

In my online classes with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, I teach my fellow photographers how to use the elements of Visual Design and Composition to create strong photos. A lot of what I teach includes the power of Gestalt. The methods we use to gain attention to our photos will vary, but what’s important is how we manage what the viewer perceives and processes when he/she looks at the visual information we lay out to him in the form of a photograph.

Visual input is a part of our everyday life. As photographer’s it’s up to us to present this information in a way that will control what the viewer sees when looking at our imagery. The more ways we can get the viewer to move around our composition, while at the same time leaving and entering our frame, the longer they will stick around. The more things we can get the viewer to discover ( layers of interest) while moving him around will also keep him around longer. This is how the elements of Visual Design can play an important part in giving our images more than a cursory look.

Isn’t that just what we want?

Here’s a short video that will better explain my thought process when composing this image: http://www.screencast.com/t/Jd0rPYN8

:-)

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule.  I also have two places left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours in Myanmar next February. a fabulous country rich in photo opportunities. Come shoot with me.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to: AskJoeB@gmail.com

JoeB

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Anecdotes: Sal and Judy

Sal and Judy.

Sal and Judy.

Years ago, I was asked to shoot a brochure for a printing company in New Orleans. The theme of the brochure was “something’s cooking at Upton”. The designer had me go to five of the best known restaurants in and around the city; best known not to the tourists, but to the locals. I was to take a portrait of the owners, and had received a free hand to approach the portraits in whatever manner I wanted.

As I tell my online students with the PPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct around the planet, if you want to take your photography what I refer to as “up a notch”, scout your locations ahead of time. Know where the sun is going to be so you’re not somewhere at sunrise when you should have been there at sunset.

The fourth restaurant on my list was Sal & Judy’s Restaurant on the South side of New Orleans. I went there the day before to meet the owners and to determine when the best time to shoot was going to be. I pulled up in front and the pink building hit me in the face. I was ecstatic!!! A pink building…wow!!! That faced West!!!

As I stood there an idea started to form in my mind. It was Pre-Visualization at it’s finest. I tell my fellow photographers that if I can visualize a photo in my mind, given the time I can re-create it on film.

As I stood there I saw in my mind three bands of color spreading across the frame from left to right. I saw a band of blue (the sky), a band of pink (the building), and I needed a third band of color. something that would tie it all together…including the portrait of Sal and Judy…an idea leaped out from my mind.

I introduced myself to Sal and told him I was the one sent to take his and his wife’s portrait. I asked him if he knew anyone that had a green convertible, thinking that the odds were not in my favor. He looked surprised and said, “Well hell yes, I have one”. This was way tooooo good to be true I said to myself.

“What do you own?” I said to Sal. “A 1966 Oldsmobile Cutlass Convertible”, Sal replied. I thought I was hearing things!!! I asked him if he would bring it the next day, and explained my idea. I told Sal what to wear and to have his wife wear something that would go with the green car. When they showed up driving the car, I knew I had struck pay dirt…a portrait for my portfolio.

As I started shooting, one of the waitresses came out to tell Judy something. I immediately saw her black and white striped uniform and knew what I had to do do add a “layer of Interest”.  I had all three women come out with a screwdriver on their trays to add yet another splotch of color.

It was great fun and it reminded me of the days before photography when I was an art major studying painting and design. I was still painting, only I had changed the medium from a paintbrush to a camera.

:-)

Visit my website at: www.joebaraban.com, and check out my 2014 workshop schedule. I also have two places left for my coordinated trip with Epic Photo Tours in Myanmar next February. a fabulous country rich in photo opportunities. Come shoot with me.

Don’t forget to send me a photo and question to:AskJoeB@gmail.com, and receive a video critique of your image.

JoeB

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