Why all the fuss? For most of us, it’s not that big of a deal ... we grab our camera, turn it on, point at our subject and shoot. Pretty simple right? But if modern photography is that simple, and people are really so happy, then why all the photography books, classes, workshops and seminars? Why then, in a world were technological advancements have made capturing an image easier than making a cup of coffee, do we still want more? The answer is simple: pride. We’re missing it ... and we have to get it back.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving ... it's time for you to post.

We're moving to a new address:


Here at this new site you'll be able to become an author and post immediately. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Photo by
Joy Willits

Deep inside of me I know there is an artist just dying to get out. Photography has provided the medium I needed to fulfill that dream. My growth is slow at best, but true nonetheless. I have found that every time I am out photographing something be it the smallest part of a flower or a beautiful landscape, I can get away to a place of peace and tranquility. Rod and Robin have given me the gift of photography as an art, and not just a bunch of photographs that record a vacation or an outing. Not that those are not important, they are. Becoming an artist with my camera is so wonderfully satisfying. I love to revisit some of the photographs to wonder just what more could I have done. Reading Rod's account of getting the perfect shot in Hawaii was an AHA moment for me. Now I know that to get the message I'm looking for takes work, perseverance and love of the art. Thank you, Rod and Robin for your vision!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Of humble beginnings and a salute to those who care

I remember my very first white background, my first black background — what a powerful mind-altering experience. This was way before digital of course, when I was shooting slide film as a Combat Correspondent.

I would go out and actually try to put contrasts together to create a new vision. And just like you it was tough for me. But I was lucky. I was taught by some of the greatest Marine Combat Correspondents of our day — people like Earnie Grafton, Lee Tibbets, Stephen Gude, Steven Castonguay and more. They showed me how (from my first day) to think before I snapped a picture. To visualize what an image could look like. They told me my job was to tell a story with my camera — not just take pictures. My images had best express how I felt about a scene — since I was the one reporting it. They pushed me hard and for good reason — I only had one chance to do it right.

They taught me to disregard what my camera's 'meter' said and to feel for the right light; to make ever-so-slight changes to the aperture and my focal length to dial in my focus — instead to relying so much on the focus ring. The reasoning was blunt: "What do you want to do — try to focus when someone is shooting at you or do you just want to pick your depth?" The answer was pretty obvious.

Mostly they taught me to see the world as a set of graphic tiers ... instead of subjects. That each line, shadow and face was important – no matter where they were in the frame. They showed me a beautifully complex world. They taught me to respect what I was shooting — not the gear I was carrying. As a matter of fact, if I didn't go through a lens or two then I was told I wasn't doing my job. They taught me to take pride in what I did. To be unique. To tell the world my own story of what I saw. Wow, what a powerful time that was for me.

And mostly they built into me a desire to share all that. To communicate it with others.

The best part was (though I didn't think it at the time) they didn't give me a choice. The conversations were simple: "You will do it this way Marine — you don't have a choice." I know it wasn't much of a conversation — but when your a boot Marine you can't expect much more from your Gunny.

And man did I fail. Over and over again — struggling with the basics. But with a firm hand they guided me — rarely told me when I succeeded but let me know quite quickly when I failed.

So I pushed. I pushed my equipment, I pushed myself and my heart.

Today as I look over at many of those very same cameras and lenses ... I smile. I can't imagine my life without my eyes; without knowing the world can look anyway I imagine it.

For all of this I thank them. I thank them not just for all those terrible pictures they made me shoot but for not giving up on me ... and for pushing a young man when he needed it most.

Oh and the flag picture ... it was shot with a small point-n-shoot. No tricks, no special techniques — just the love of a symbol, a symbol that means more to me than just colors and country. It represents that young Marine who stood dead still and silent every morning and saluted — ready for the next picture, ready for the next adventure.

Thanks Jarheads ... I love you all more than you'll ever know.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A floral softness

A simple soft-focus technique can many times bring out the true beauty that drew us to an intent.

There are many ways that you can pull this type of softness out. Everything from simply blowing on the lens, to using multiple exposure (my personal favorite), engaging the moment with slow shutters and about 15 other painting techniques too involved to mention here will give you an effect similar to this. None are right and none are wrong — they are just choices.

Whichever one you use though remember to focus on how the colors, lines, shapes and patterns make you feel. This will prove extraordinarily hard for the beginner. But it can be done.

We call this train of thought: 'giving up the bird'. It's when you purposefully strive to not focus on what others typically would — such as a bird in a tree or a flower in your garden (such as in this photo). When you give up what you think you're supposed to focus on — magical things can happen — this I promise.

Again, As I always say ... turn off your auto focus and open your eyes to what actually drew you to a scene in the first place — then simply use every tool and technique at your disposal to make that vision happen.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Key Points to becoming an In Focus photographer

Knowing the Difference:
There is a fundamental difference between photographer and artist, between taking a photograph and creating a message. The latter requires forethought and purpose, a sense of self and an undeniable need to communicate — taking a picture simply requires a camera. One is an inward journey that explores the human condition, the other rides the wave of technology and offers a quick look at where we were as a species. Both use the same tools but the results are as varied as the people shooting them.

The truth: A good artist can easily be a photographer but being a good photographer doesn’t necessarily make you an artist.

Examining Motivations.
We either record or we create; there are no other reasons to pick up a camera. When we react to stimuli and document we try to be faithful to what’s in front of us. As we create a message or explore a vision we try to be faithful to our ideas and concepts. An understanding of your true motivation can lend reason to the techniques chosen and options employed. Know what you want to shoot and why — before you raise your camera.

Moving away from auto
A camera can’t auto-focus on an idea, an emotion or a feeling. And it certainly can’t pick the correct color, contrast or saturation setting either. Begin your journey to artistic freedom by turning off some faithful standbys — which have done nothing up until now but get in your way.

Auto focus (turn it off). How can a machine know what you want to say? Every time you use auto-focus, you are mistakenly reminded that photography is about subjects and THAT'S JUST NOT TRUE! It's about creating a message, sharing a thought.

An artist chooses a depth-of-field that best illustrates his intent. He chooses his aperture based on a desired outcome — it's not a random thing. Don't you see, this is why no one understands the basics. If you use auto focus then you'll never focus on what's truly important — learning depth of field. There are reasons we choose apertures and shutter speeds. This stuff is important. Being in auto focus stops you from worrying about it — which means you won't care about it. WHICH MEANS YOU WONT LEARN IT!

Please, stop falling for the hype. Manual focus isn't hard — learning how to control depth-of-field isn't difficult and image stabilization isn't needed. Long before auto-anything our images were clear, our messages spoke loudly. Just because something is easy — doesn't make it right. You are hurting yourself.

They've already stripped your lenses of important DOF information, Nikon has even worked up the nerve to remove the depth-of-field preview buttons from some of their smaller camera's — please don't lose track of depth-of-field. It's one of the most important choices we as artists can make.

Auto White Balance(turn it off). How can a machine know what color you want in your message. Isn't this part of what makes your message unique — what makes it yours? Of course it is. Choose your own white balance. Learn how to adjust the color temperature in your camera and simply make up your mind ... do you want more blue or do you want more red.

Auto Contrast/Saturation (turn it off). Take some responsibility for how your image feels. These settings are what gives your image its underlying feeling. Choose your own for goodness sake and do it when you're most in touch with those emotions ... not days later sitting in front of a computer, drinking a soda and worrying about what filter you should use next in Photoshop.

Take the time to learn about what your camera offers — you'll be shocked in what you and it can do.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Walk in the Woods

Images by
Mark Wade

There is a walk that IFLC photographers enjoy.
The walk is sure in direction, but has less to do with what we see, and more to do with the affects our surroundings have on us inwardly.
A walk in the woods becomes the wind on our face in the heat of the day. The mysteries that lay beyond shadow and reality, become the palette for the spirit of the moment.
Movement and sound and stillness. These speak to our sensibilities when it comes time to create.
How do you become the cloud and meadow? You close your eyes for a few moments...the warm air fills nostril and lung. The peck of bird, scurry of lizard and rustle of squirrel. All elements join to become the essence of time, and the relation between human and environmental influence.
Only when we are one with time and moment, then camera settings are established...raised to the eye and creation begins. This is not always a gentle venture. Sometimes, we appear ludicrous. Somewhat with flail and jerk we spend our energy blending the elements to tell the unified story of a precise moment's essence.
There is a spirit in each moment.
That is what an IFLC photographer seeks.

A new view

When my wife and I went to Paris on our honeymoon, what stuck out in our mind about the Parisians is that they seemed to always be in such a hurry. They walked fast, they drove fast, they talked fast, and seemed to live fast. Paris seemed to be on fast forward to us, perhaps that is because that we were on vacation and not in a hurry to do anything and they were moving at the pace of their real lives. Anyhow, this picture captured what we observed and our impression of Paris. I call it "Life at the Speed of Paris". This was taken before I had ever heard or IFLC, Rod, or Robin, but after your class I realized why this has always been one of my favorite pictures that I have taken. I now look forward to going back there again some day knowing what I know now.

Hi Rod,

Thought that you may also want to hear from one of your newer students. I have had a life long love affair with art and photography. I have painted, drawn, sculpted, and done pottery. I have also been taking pictures since I was a kid. As a professional adult with a hectic schedule, I found that photography provided me with the best outlet for my creativity. But I never imagined that I could combine my desire to be an artist with photography until I found you and IFLC, thanks to the Poway Adult education program. From that lecture class and the slideshow that you provided I was hooked and could not wait until I could learn these techniques. I then realized how much more I have to learn and how a picture does not have a look a certain way and I can express myself any way that I like. So it has opened up a whole new world to me to explore. I have thoroughly enjoyed IF1&2 and looking forward to learning and doing more painting with the lens!

Warm Regards,

Images by
Bob Doustdar