Tag Archives: Photography

Postcard: Leon, Spain

Posted by on August 15th, 2014


Consider this one of those postcards that you get and then notice rather than being sent from the exotic location pictured on the front, it didn’t get postmarked until about a week after the sender arrived home. I had ambitions of doing an update (or two) from my time in Spain but after the first couple of days of working well into the night and next morning, it was clear that wasn’t going to happen. Continue reading

Don’t stop creating

Posted by on February 1st, 2014

How do you land photography jobs? How do you get good enough to become a professional photographer? If you’re starting out in this industry or even if you’ve been in it for a few years but feel like your creative wheels are stuck in the mud, these are the kinds of questions that lodge themselves in the front of your mind. Even if you are well into your career, there’s always a haunting feeling that one day people are going to figure out you’re a fraud, that the majority of the images you take are garbage and sometimes you feel more lucky than talented.

If you are anything like me, you struggle with the gap between your creation and your vision — between the work you do produce and the work you want to produce. In my career there have been times when I wanted to (and at least one time where I actually did) put down the camera and stop creating because I couldn’t stand the images I captured. During those times, everything I made repulsed me. My photographs were cliche, shallow, and uninspired. I felt like a climber who has given his best and just wants to lay down in the snow to rest a while. But just like that climber, giving up would be dangerous. If you want to get better, you have to keep pushing forward. It’s true in life and it’s true in art.

The video in the top of this post is a great reminder that pushing forward and creating new work is the best way to improve your craft. It’s from a longer series of talks by Ira Glass about storytelling which I highly recommend to anyone who does creative work, even if journalism or radio isn’t your thing. There’s some deep stuff in there and great reminders about the work that goes into making something meaningful.

Creating Stills from Video with the Canon 5D Mark III

Posted by on March 15th, 2013

5d mark III stills from video (1 of 1)

There’s been a lot of buzz about motion image photography specifically surrounding super high resolution cameras like the Canon 1D C. With the advent of cameras that shoot video at resolutions higher than standard HD, it is now possible to pull still images directly from video with surprising results.

I’ve been shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III for about a month now, and I decided to go back and pluck some still shots from my video using the “capture frame” feature in Adobe Lightroom 4. I’ve posted a series of images here showing both edited and unedited stills. All the following images were uploaded in their full resolution to give you a more accurate picture of what to expect. Click on the photos to view them at 100%.  Continue reading

Hello New Friend Goodbye Old Friend

Posted by on August 21st, 2012

First, some very sad news. My B+W circular polarizer has taken a trip to filter heaven. I’d like to tell you it died protecting my lens from a motorcycle crash or falling on jagged rocks during a mountain climb, but the sad truth is that it met its end falling two feet off of my bed. Continue reading

I don't have a photography degree. Clearly I have no idea what I'm doing. Photo by Ben Ayers

Should I Get a Photography Degree?

Posted by on August 18th, 2012

I don’t have a photography degree. Clearly I have no idea what I’m doing. Photo by Ben Ayers

Okay, you are considering a career in photography and want to know if you need a college degree. Before you are up to your eyeballs in art school debt, I hope you will at least consider this advice — go to college but major in something else. And I would give the same advice to anyone considering a degree in journalism. Continue reading

Dirtbiking in the Andes near Cusco (6 of 9)

On Assignment: Posts from a Motorcycle

Posted by on August 16th, 2012

I’m hitting a super busy season here in Peru. As my time in Cusco comes to an end (We are heading for Chile on August 31) I’m wrapping up assignments for four different non-profits/travel companies. Getting everything done is a little stressful but mostly a lot of fun and I’m glad my time in Peru is ending on a high note. Continue reading

Catching up on Peruvian Photos

Posted by on August 10th, 2012

Time is flying down here in Peru. Between making movies and talking to some cool storytellers, I realized I haven’t done a post of my photography since Machu Picchu — that changes now. I’m collecting the best shots from July-August and posting them here.

The photos in the slideshow come from a week of exploring the historic sites around Cusco, a crazy fiesta I shot for a client, and a recent trip to weaving communities with an NGO.

Looking back on these photos it’s amazing to see how many adventures I’ve had recently. I guess when you live overseas, extraordinary things start to seem mundane. I wonder if returning to the States in September will feel like I’m visiting a new country. Honestly I’m kind of excited to see my old haunts with fresh eyes.

Click on a thumbnail to launch the slideshow. 



Photography and the post-scarcity economy

Posted by on August 2nd, 2012

Photographs themselves are not scarce commodities. Style and knowledge are.

Recently, I’ve been watching a lot of videos on 3D printers like the RepRap and Maker Bot. I think the applications for photography and multimedia are huge. Imagine printing follow focuses or even lens adaptors right from home.

We are quickly approaching what some economists and science-fiction writers call the “post-scarcity economy.” A world where manufacturing becomes personal and abundance universal. A world where commerce is not determined by the value of limited goods but by the creativity of individuals.

Some people look forward to this type of economy and others fear it (what happens to gun control when you can print weapons at home?), but photographers are already living in it. In fact, we have been living in it for quite some time.

Two things pushed us into the post-scarcity economy; the first was digitization. In the “old days” you took a photo, developed a negative, and then printed a picture. There were a finite number of your photos in existence. Today, your photos are replicated time and again on your personal computer alone. Put those photos online or send them to a client and the number of copies grows exponentially. Continue reading


Get Cusco Seen Around the World

Posted by on July 31st, 2012

You may remember the above photo as a wallpaper I posted a few months ago. Well now it is in a photo competition and I need your votes to help me win $5000 towards a video project about photographing America’s great landscapes. You can vote for me here. 

Alternatively, if you are an awesome photographer, musician, or film maker, you should submit something. If you do submit, leave a link in the comments and I’ll vote for you.

Update: I was asked by someone interested in this photo to provide the original frames used to create this HDR. You can see them below as they appeared straight out of camera without processing.

sacred valley mountains panorama

Creating Panoramas in Photoshop CS6: Mountains of Peru’s Sacred Valley

Posted by on July 12th, 2012

Yesterday I shot a panorama of two of the glaciers in the Sacred Valley of the Incas outside of Cusco. I would normally import these into Hugin to stich them together but I’m currently testing out Adobe’s new Creative Cloud service and Photoshop CS6.

If you’re interested in panoramas, you might also enjoy my 158 megapixel view of Seattle’s skyline.

I’ve already talked about how much I love creating HDR photos in Photoshop CS6 and I think I now love stitching panoramas almost as much. For one thing, it is super simple.

Once Photoshop is open, click File > Automate > Photomerge. This will open a new window.

This window is where you select your files, choose the style of stitching, and check different option boxes. Once you have your settings straight, click “OK” and watch the magic happen.

From here you can crop your image down and make other adjustments. Personally I am more comfortable with Lightroom so I chose to export my file back there to add a darker gradient in the sky and some vignetting. You can check out my final result below.

The largest mountain in the panorama is Nevado Chicon. Click the photo to enlarge or click here to open it in a new window.

This panorama was created by merging six vertical photos shot on my Canon 40D at 70mm, 1/100 @ f/9.0, ISO 400. I didn’t have time to set up a tripod so I shot hand-held with image stabilization on. All the photos were color corrected in Lightroom 4 before being merged in Photoshop CS6.

Canon 40D, 120mm, 1/250 @ f/4.0, ISO 400

Telling Stories with Photography: Every Photo Tells a Story

Posted by on July 11th, 2012

Welcome to a new series here on Story|Forward that I’m calling “Telling Stories with Photography.” In the next few months I’m going to discuss the basics of telling stories using visual imagery and we are going to talk about how things like focal length, aperture, and composition shape narrative.

Canon 40D, 120mm, 1/250 @ f/4.0, ISO 400

To kick off this series I want to start with one fundamental concept: every photo tells a story.  “Hold on a second,” you might say. “What about abstract or still life photography? Do they really tell stories?”

First of all I’d like to thank you for asking a question that flows so seamlessly into my point and second I’d like to tell you that yes, every photo does tell a story. It might be an incredibly simple story like “look at these shapes and colors,” or it could be something so complex that a single frame talks about light, color, pain, loss, sadness, hope, war, religion, family, and Italian art (In case you’re wondering, I’m thinking about Samuel Aranda’s World Press Photo award-winning image).

Telling stories with photos isn’t always easy and sometimes even experienced photographers (myself included) get so focused on the technical aspects of our work that we can overlook it. Because storytelling in photography is often subtle — capturing a sideways glance or shooting with a slightly warmer white balance — some photographers forget or never learned in the first place how important it is to their craft.

Storytelling in photography is hugely important for two reasons. If you don’t think about the stories your pictures tell, there’s a good chance they will tell stories you and your clients don’t want to hear. Here is an extreme example; say you were tasked with shooting a wedding and didn’t think about how eye-contact can change the meaning of a photo.

In this situation you take a beautiful photo of the bridal party at the altar; the exposure is perfect, the focus is tack sharp, and maybe there is even some amazing soft light streaming in from the stain-glass windows above.  One problem, you caught the single second in the ceremony where the groom looked away from the bride and locked eyes with the maid of honor. He was probably totally innocent, but if you fail to notice this detail and send of a wall size canvas print of this photo to the bride, you (and the groom) could be in for some real trouble.

The second reason stories matter in your photography is, more than anything else, they differentiate you from other photographers. If you are the kind of photographer that makes your living solely on technically perfect photos, I’ve got news for you, robots are coming for your job. With high dynamic range sensors, insane autofocus systems, and increasingly better in-camera processing, DSLR’s are getting closer to shooting technically flawless photos without photographers touching a single setting. And you know what? So are iPhones. The quality of snapshots from point-and-shoot cameras is increasing dramatically. And, with the advent of technologies that allow you to set focus in post production or choose high-quality stills from video, technical perfection for everyone is not far off.

The thing that will keep photographers working is their style. Whatever you call it — your vision, your signature, your voice, or your look — clients want you to offer something unique. In a world where uncle Joe owns a 5D Mark III and Instagram is making everyone a photographer, the stories you tell and the way you tell them is what will set you apart.

Assignment: Find your favorite photo or take a new one and think about the story it tells. Write out that story and post it below in the comments with a link to the image. For example, here is what  I would say about the photo of the Peruvian farmer featured at the beginning of this post: From the man’s clothes and the fruit in his hand I learn he is a farmer. The use of a long focal-length compresses the background and makes me feel like he is surrounded by trees. The expression on his face tells me he likes his job and his eyes appear to be looking at someone else out of frame who he is about to hand the fruit to. There is a lot more I could say but I’ll just leave it at that.