Overcome Adversity with Instinct

It seems lately that I’ve been assaulted with numerous mini challenges these days on my shoots. Whether it’s bad weather, disappointing locations or camera malfunctions–any seasoned photographer will tell you that coming home with keepers is about overcoming obstacles. Capturing memorable and moving imagery is never easy, which is why proper shooting technique and creative vision need to be second nature.

When the scenic shooting is best, light is fleeting. When the action is best, time is scarce. Seconds can make the difference between a 3-star and 5-star image. If you’re fumbling with equipment or second-guessing your composition, you will miss the shot. It’s that simple. Here are a couple of tips that may help in making your photography second nature.

Sunrise at Three Dollar Bridge over the Madison River, MT

Sunrise at Three Dollar Bridge over the Madison River, MT

1. Shoot often–this is perhaps the most important tip I can think of. Practice does make perfect. This is a proven fact. Know your camera controls, but more importantly–know when to do what. This can only come with repetitive practice. Your camera should be as familiar as your favorite spot on the couch. It should feel natural in your hands, and you should be able to react quickly when pressed. The more you have to guess, the greater chance you have of missing the shot.

Sunset near Gunsight Bay on Lake Powell, UT

Sunset near Gunsight Bay on Lake Powell, UT

2. Read your camera manual–and then read it again. A lot of the features on your camera may not apply to what you shoot, but you never know when you might discover a nugget that will make what you do ten times easier. Take it when you travel. Read it on the plane or sitting at the airport. Have your camera in hand as you read it so you can practice implementing what you read.

Producer Eric Budget shoots a fly fishing video short for Megaplex Theaters

Producer Eric Budget shoots a fly fishing video short for Megaplex Theaters

3. Previsualize your shot–this is a concept I discuss often. The better idea you have in your head of what you’d like to capture, the better you will be able to capture it when the image presents itself. If you’re shooting action, try to picture where you’d like your model/athlete to be in the frame for that perfect shot. If it’s a frame filler, decide exactly what part of the athlete to be in focus (most often the face) and make sure to put your pre-selected focus zone on that spot if you’re using autofocus.

2008 Summer Dew Tour action over the Salt Lake City Temple

2008 Summer Dew Tour action over the Salt Lake City Temple

If you’re shooting scenic, picture where the light needs to be to capture what you want to capture. Will it be backlit/front lit/side lit/not lit??? Are you going for the big picture, or will you be shooting something more intimate. What is required for each particular shot? When you know this, you can be taking a mental inventory as you hike or drive to your location. By the time you arrive at your destination, you will have a good idea of what type of shot will work best with the conditions given you.

4. Understand your histogram–much of the time, if a shot is botched it has to do with either blown focus or incorrect exposure. Understanding what your histogram is telling you about your image will allow you to make quick adjustments to get the right exposure. This can be done quickly with the exposure compensation feature (most all digital SLRs and even point and shoots have this feature).

Backlit Lupine at sunset atop Duchesne Ridge, UT

Backlit Lupine at sunset atop Duchesne Ridge, UT

5. Understand when to use which Grad ND Filters–mostly applicable to scenic shooters, this is also important for action and/or lifestyle shooters looking to separate themselves from the pack. Here’s a quick field guide: the greater the difference between shadow and highlight (or sky and FG most commonly), the stronger Grad ND you’ll need (i.e. 2-stop, 3-stop, etc.). Uneven horizon with trees or mountain peaks poking up? Soft step filter. Even horizon line? Hard step filter. Shooting into the sun at sunset or sunrise? Reverse ND Grad.

Sunset reflections of Devil's Castle at Alta, UT

Sunset reflections of Devil's Castle at Alta, UT

Hopefully this list will help you in being better prepared for those fleeting moments that can make or break you as a photographer. We all miss it sometimes, but the better prepared we are, the greater chance we have of tasting success!

Visual Storytelling: Part II

So there we were…sitting on a ski boat in the middle of Lake Powell under an inviting morning sky, when this random guy asks my sister to marry him. Good thing I just happened to have my camera…

I don’t often shoot this type of imagery, but it was only fitting that I document such an unforgettable moment so close to many people’s hearts. Looking at these images, I am reminded of the great impact photography has on our lives. It matters not whether you shoot film or digital, whether you have a $50 point-and-shoot or a multi-thousand dollar SLR, whether you are a trained professional or a casual hobbyist. When you capture moments like these for all to see and remember, you have momentarily left any status, design or agenda on the table and simply struck gold. To someone, these images are worth more than money can buy.

You can only verbalize so much. Imagery is the great enabler. Congrats Caitlin and Nate.

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Featured Photographer at Pictureline

I’m excited to once again have several of my images on display at Pictureline. Part of Gitzo month at Pictureline, I’ll ┬ábe giving a presentation in partnership with Gitzo tripods as part of their 5 Star Summer Tour event. I’ll have details soon, but please come and join me on July 30 from 6-8 pm for a slideshow presentation and extensive discussion/Q&A on how to take your landscape and active/lifestyle photography to the next level through traditional and alternative photographic techniques. Look for another blog post soon with details, and stop by the store if you get a chance to check out the prints and meet the good people at Pictureline. They will make sure you’re taken care of!

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

AdamBarkerPhotography images on display at Pictureline

The Difference is in the Details

This is so cliche, yet so applicable. I trust you’ve noticed the new blog and new website. Take a moment to delve into the details on the new site–we’re proud of it!

Kevin Wright examines the morning's hatch activity on the Duchesne River, UT

Kevin Wright examines the morning's hatch activity on the Duchesne River, UT


Right now in Utah the fishing is better than good. Hatches of big, nasty dry flies are prolific, and I find it hard to leave the water these days. Glancing through my fly fishing portfolio the other day, I noticed a distinct lack of intimate shots. I have plenty of “big picture/knock your socks off with a crazy cool expansive vista” shots, but I was really lacking in the more soulful, up close and personal images. In particular, I saw hardly any fish shots at all. In general, I get a little turned off to fish shots, just because it seems there are so many out there and it’s a bit harder for me to capture something unique.

Who wants a piece? A head on view of a healthy brown trout caught and released on the Duchesne River, UT

Who wants a piece? A head on view of a healthy brown trout caught and released on the Duchesne River, UT

A brown trout is brought to the net on the Duchesne River, UT

A brown trout is brought to the net on the Duchesne River, UT

Regardless, I set my mind to capture something different for me the other day on a stretch of private water with a friend. I was destined and determined to shoot intimate details. Why? Well, partly because I just need them in my portfolio. But really, much of the time, these intimate images are the ones that speak most deeply to those enthralled with the activity or experience being shot. I love fly fishing for the moment I have cradling the fish in my hand after a hefty fight. I love to coax the fish back to an adequate energy level, and I love feeling him swim away under his own power. I love the color in the fins and the gill plate. I even love scratching my knuckles on their teeth when removing my fly–never hurt us to feel a little pain as well just to keep things real.

A healthy brown trout caught and released on the Duchesne River, UT

A healthy brown trout caught and released on the Duchesne River, UT

And so, my challenge to you as you pick up your camera this week to capture something close to your heart is this: forget what you’ve seen, heard and witnessed from other people. Have a sit down with yourself about why you love what you love, and then do your best to convey that in your imagery. It’s no thoughtless, easy task. But when you nail it, it’s mighty satisfying. Happy shooting.

Brown trout fin in golden light.

Brown trout fin in golden light.

Brown trout fin and scales.

Brown trout fin and scales.