Photography Icons: Still Beautiful

The famous Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park, WY.

The famous Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton National Park, WY.

Icons–love em’ or hate em’, they are there. Impressive, gorgeous, familiar and…overdone??? There’s a general sentiment among photographers that typically frowns upon showing up to “the same old place” and shooting “the same old photo”. There was a time when I subscribed to this school of thought as well to a degree. But I must say I’ve changed my stance in recent months.

Just because it’s been seen countless times before and photographed by countless photographers, does that make it any less special to the one clicking the shutter? I’d certainly argue it doesn’t. Because for every photographer that sees Snake River Overlook for the first time, it still causes wonder and awe and a desire to showcase it in all its beauty.

I have photographed this location many times before, and just happened to have an evening here once again while teaching a workshop this past weekend in GTNP. There are times when I show up to iconic locations and search desperately for a different take on the “same old”. What I realized this time around, is that sometimes the “same old” is simply the best. Has our idea of beauty changed much in the 50 or so years since Ansel Adams shot from this exact location? Absolutely not. Were I to have been the first set of eyes to this location, I’d like to think I would have captured the same view that we all now know from the dramatic image of Adams. Surely it would have looked different than his, with different light, and different skies, and different…vision. That being said, the location for shooting likely would not have varied much, because there is simply no better view offering the complete experience.

On this particular visit, I was hellbent on finding something different. I spent the better part of a half hour walking the rim above the Snake River Valley as my student set up at “the spot”. Inevitably, I wandered back to the place that I, and so many others had photographed from so many times before. It was, without question, the most complete and satisfactory spot from which to shoot this grand vista. So what if it had been done a million times. So what if I had shot it numerous times to date. Had I shot it at this time? In this light? With those clouds? And this lens? And this frame of mind? No. And once again, I was enthused about creating something special.

Nobody has ever discounted a tennis player’s triumph when winning at Wimbledon on the same grass court, nor has any student ever felt less than satisfied after completing the same difficult math problem tackled by so many before. Regardless of the result or destination, we all do things to arrive there just a bit differently. You’d be hard pressed to find a medium that displays this thought process any better than photography.

Subtle nuances make all the difference in whether an image has impact or not. Just the slightest camera movement will remove a distracting object, or include an instrumental element. Place may be uniform, but vision is entirely unique to the creative mind at work. Don’t shy away from these iconic places. You’d be doing yourself a disservice both as a general observer, and even more so as a photographer. They are gorgeous and fulfilling. If you must, use what you have already seen countless times before as more of an influence and less of a template. In the end, the results may be just slightly different, but the most important part is that it is your image. Your capture. Your masterpiece. What are your thoughts on shooting icons???

This image is the newest addition to my Selenium Series. It will be printed in an extremely limited run of just three prints, and sold at a premium to collectors with a taste for the exceptional. Come check it out at either of the arts festivals I’ll be participating at this summer (Park City Aug. 6-8 or Jackson Hole Aug. 20-22).

Shot with a Canon 5D MkII, 16-35 2.8II, Singh Ray 4-stop Reverse ND Grad, Gitzo Tripod

Featured Article: Das Auto Jetta Sportwagon TDI

Very pleased to see the finished product of an editorial shoot for Volkswagen’s Das Auto Magazine this month. We shot this in Tucson in February and it was beautiful down there. Plus–the Jetta Sportwagon TDI is a killer car! Click on the images below for larger versions.

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

Volkswagen Jetta Sportwagon TDI Feature in Das Auto magazine by AdamBarkerPhotography

The Perfect Father’s Day Gift?

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If he’s a flyfisher, I sure think so!

It’s not too late to order one and get it in your hands for Father’s Day. I have four left in my current inventory. Three 5 x 7 prints are double matted and framed in an elegant dark wood molding, making for an intimate gift for the fly fishing dad in your life. Pricing is $265.00. I’m willing to give the next two orders 10% off, saving an additional $20.00. Please send an email to adam(at)adambarkerphotography.com to order.

Published Cover: Outdoor Photographer Magazine

July Cover of Outdoor Photographer magazine. Image by Adam Barker.

July Cover of Outdoor Photographer magazine. Image by Adam Barker.

Super excited to have the cover of Outdoor Photographer this month. It has been a dream for some time to get the cover of OP. Hopefully it’s not the last! Pick up a copy of the mag to get the story on the cover image!

Composition Tip: Fill the Frame

Image of brown trout in Brodin Ghost Net caught and release on a fly in the Weber River, UT

Image of brown trout in Brodin Ghost Net caught and release on a fly in the Weber River, UT

Fill.
The.
Frame.

Too many times our images are left wanting. Sometimes this has to do with including too much, sometimes it has to do with including too little. Sometimes, it has nothing to do not with what we include, but HOW and WHERE we include it.

Fall foliage in Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT

Fall foliage in Big Cottonwood Canyon, UT

In general, study the edge of your frame when you shoot and make sure there is nothing distracting that’s impeding upon either the subject or message (or both) of your image.

I have a rule I try and hold myself to: Make an image as interesting or engaging as possible with as little as possible.

Schooner in Sausalito Bay with San Francisco Skyline in background.

Schooner in Sausalito Bay with San Francisco Skyline in background.

There are, however, two caveats to this.

1. Know how your image will be used. Do you need to leave more negative space than you typically would for logos, copy or other extraneous additions to the image? You may want to shoot several versions of the “same” image; one for you, and one for potential stock/editorial/commercial usage.

Image of Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. Arenal, Costa Rica.

Image of Chestnut-mandibled Toucan. Arenal, Costa Rica.

2. Know when to break the rules. This is a grey caveat. It relies on your creative intuition. There are times when the scene in front of you will be chaotic. The truly skilled photographer will still be able to tame that chaos into an approachable, meaningful image.

Five Tips for Better Underwater Photography

Brown Trout caught and released on fly in northern Utah.

Brown Trout caught and released on fly in northern Utah.

Underwater photography is so fun you could charge me for it and I’d still be all over it. Come to think of it, I have been charged for it, and it’s not cheap…

Regardless–the unpredictable nature of underwater images makes for interesting times both shooting and editing. This is a shot of a hungry brown trout on a nice creek in northern Utah. Even with my limited experience, I have found a couple of things to be helpful in my underwater endeavors. Should you ever take the plunge yourself, hopefully these will be helpful.

1.Fill the frame with your subject. This means that, especially when shooting fish with a wide angle lens on a full frame camera, you need to be super close. That fish should be nearly touching your dome port.

2. Keep your lens’ minimum focusing distance in mind. It is possible to be too close and not be able to focus. If you’re having issues with this (or even if you’re not), I recommend getting a diopter to screw onto the front of your lens. This will lessen your minimum focusing distance and also assist in getting sharper images edge to edge.

3. Shoot lots of images. It’s an entirely different world down there, and just as you have had to shoot a lot of images to get comfortable above water–you’ll have to do the same below water.

4. Shoot at mid-day. This is entirely counter-intuitive for most photographers. The fact is, it’s much darker underwater then it is above water. The more direct light you have illuminating your underwater world, the better.

5. Have fun, and enjoy the happy accidents. It’s all so cool, you’ll be finding frames that you didn’t expect to turn out that you fall in love with.

Shot with a Canon 5D MkII, Aquatech housing, 16-35 2.8II