Story Behind the Shot: Rio Serrano BW

Black and white landscape photo of Rio Serrano and Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia by Adam Barker Photography

Black and white landscape photo of Rio Serrano and Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia by Adam Barker Photography

I captured this image on the 10th day of a nearly 3-week run and gun mission through the wilds of Chilean Patagonia. The impetus for the trip was really fly fishing, but I knew I would be served numerous opportunities to shoot scenic imagery as well, especially in the famed Torres del Paine National Park.

By day number ten of waking up before the sun, motivation comes more in the form of a slow, sad drip than a flood of excitement and energy. I was tired (aren’t we all???), and as I set my alarm clock for yet another mind-numbing hour, I wondered if I was really going to rise and shine, or even rise at all. Throw in the fact that skies were socked in and the likelihood of morning light was minimal, and I was darn near comatose by the time my head hit the pillow.

4:30 am came way too early, and as I peered out my window, my fears (hopes???) were confirmed as the weather still looked to be less than ideal for a sunrise shoot. I was a mixed bag of fatigue-induced emotions, equal parts stoked to justify a few more hours of sleep as well as disappointed that my hopes for an epic sunrise were dashed. I lay back down–restless. Minutes ticked by…I couldn’t do it. I had to get up. No matter how I tried to justify, I could not…not shoot. Here I was in one of the most wildly beautiful places on earth, and damn it all if a few clouds and half-closed eyelids were going to hold me back…

I frantically threw on my clothes, grabbed my pack, turned on my headlamp and out the door I went.

As part of a larger group during the entirety of this trip, I did not have my own car, so I was relegated to shooting locations that were relatively easy to get to from where we were staying. As I walked hurriedly up the dirt road, the clouds began to clear a bit, and the ambient light began to grow brighter.

Let’s clarify something real quick here–dawn is a fantastic time to shoot landscape imagery. The light is soft and inviting. It is one of my favorite types of light to shoot. Dawn, however, is incredibly fleeting. It does not occur right before sunrise. Typically, dawn happens about 8-15 minutes before sunrise. These were the thoughts that were going through my head as I watched dawn grow closer…and closer. I quickly realized that I had myself in quite a conundrum…I was still a decent ways away from my pre-selected shooting spot.

So I did what any photographer would do when suffering from the immediate effects of FOMI (Fear Of Missing It–closely related to FOMIA [fear of missing it ALL]).I STARTED RUNNING. I’m not talking casual fast-paced walk here. I’m talking Usaine Bolt arm-pumping, foaming at the mouth, heart coming through my throat sprint with a fully loaded camera pack. My lungs felt like the inside of a crematorium–I promise you I was closer to respiratory failure than Joan Rivers is to her next facial procedure…

With no time to spare, I arrived at “the spot”. I threw my pack on the ground, wrestled my camera onto the tripod, inserted the cable release, grabbed a grad filter and clicked away like the crazed photographer that I was/am. Sunrise was a bit of a bust, but dawn was worth every minute on the pain train. Moral of the story? Don’t set your alarm if you don’t plan on getting up. And if you do plan on getting up, don’t go back to bed for 10 min before putting yourself through hell to capture the goods. Oh, and the real moral of the story??? Don’t give yourself a choice. ALWAYS get up and go. I’ve never regretted getting skunked behind the lens, but I certainly wouldn’t mind taking back all the times I buried my head in the pillow…

Behind the Shot: Mountain Khakis Early Spring Catalog Cover

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Can it really already be considered “early Spring”??? I guess the good folks at Mountain Khakis think so, as has been made known by the arrival of their early Spring catalog, featuring a cover and a load of other images from our catalog shoot last summer in Oregon and along the Salmon River.

I was fired up to see they chose an especially fun shot for the cover, one that took some quick thinking on both the technical and creative end of things. The short of it is that this image nearly never happened. We had about 30 min before we were supposed to head out and prep for a sunset shoot along Lake Wallowa and we decided to make use of an old Willy’s Jeep (in immaculate condition) that had been loaned to us by a kind local.

Much of the imagery we focus on with these catalog shoots is capturing the spontaneous and fun nature of the MK lifestyle. I’m always looking for an emotive image–one that makes people want to be a part of this brand/lifestyle. With that in mind, I wanted to get up close and personal as the talent was epitomizing random summer fun with an old jeep and a longboard.

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I quickly set up a Manfrotto Magic Arm on the front side panel of the jeep. Shooting a Canon 5D MKII with an 8-15mm fisheye lens meant I could capture all of the action from an angle very near the driver. I attached an intervalometer to the camera and set it to take a picture every second until I stopped the sequence. Everything was set…and then the Jeep got a little cranky. We couldn’t get it started and finally resorted to pushing the jeep and compression starting this hearty hunk of metal.

What ensued was several trips up and down the highway, experimenting with different shutter speeds and camera positions, running alongside hooting and hollering and generally having a blast in mid-day light. It also took an exceptionally gifted clutch/gas operator to keep the Jeep running. Nice work Nate Morgan! It seems like the best ideas always face the most hurdles! Don’t give up on that vision!

Check out the vid below for a little BTS vid action from the entire shoot, and a better view of our setup for this image.

 

 

Surround Yourself with Greatness…

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The advent of digital imaging has opened up the world of professional-grade imaging to an audience far greater than most photographers could have ever imagined. Yes–it’s true–it has never been easier to shoot a “pretty good” image, and people are catching on. It is super cool to see so many people fired up about photography, but with that new, sexy appeal comes its own challenges for those that make their living as full-time professional photographers. I’ll stop there…this is not another rant about my cousin’s uncle’s pony’s dog that just stole a great job from under my nose because he charges way less than me or (insert commonplace pro photog rant here). In fact, this post is quite the opposite.

It has always been apparent to me that we will never truly reach our greatest potential if not pushed by some outward influence. Whether that be encouragement from friends/family, discouragement from naysayers, or something somewhere in between, we will never really know what we’re capable of until pushed beyond that which we thought was our previous best.

My answer to this moderately crowded profession??? Embrace the competition. Surround yourself with greatness. Be confident in your own ability to produce something that has your own unique style/brand/stamp/calling card. Most importantly, BE BETTER. Don’t waste your time wondering why you weren’t published here or hired there–figure out who just got whatever you wanted, and what you can do to get it next time.

I was browsing the latest issue of Powder magazine and was blown away at both the number and quality of images put out by photographers that make their home right here in Salt Lake City. I’m proud to call many of them friends, and I’m even more proud to have my work included amidst theirs. If you want to be better than the best, you must surround yourself with the best. Then watch, listen and learn–don’t gripe, covet or make excuses.

These days, with the interwebz in every nook, cranny and nether region of planet Earth, we have the entire world at our finger tips. See your competition for the motivating force that it can be–and then be better.

 

Interview with Shoot to Earn

From tearful frustration to triumphant success, I get up close and personal in the video interview above…it offers unique insight into my career journey thus far…

Background: I had the great fortune of working with talented wedding and lifestyle photographer Aaron Dieppa during a week-long ad shoot for Manfrotto earlier this year. In addition to his great taste in hair-style ;) , he has a very enterprising mind and has recently launched an awesome website that will serve as an inspirational resource to budding photographers and experienced pros for years to come.

Check out www.shoottoearn.com for interviews with established photographers from portrait to landscape to advertising to…you name it.

I’m honored to be one of Aaron’s first interviews. It’s definitely lengthy, but I’d like to think it’s worth a lunch break or long car ride. Enjoy!

 

Desert Southwest Workshop with Adam Barker & Mylo Fowler, Oct. 11-13 2013

Desert SW Teaser

Preliminary Itinerary. (Weather permitting.)
• Location: Page, Arizona and Navajoland of Northern Arizona. Home area of Mylo.
“Mylo will always have the supreme upper hand in photographing this area of Northern Arizona. It’s his home!!! He has access the outside world doesn’t. For that reason and his knowledge of land, light and landscape photography mechanics, one may jeopardize his photographic visit if not with Mylo.” Name Withheld for Intended Purposes
(Photographer and Owner of Multiple Galleries on the Las Vegas strip and other locations).
• Workshop Host Location: Courtyard by Marriott 600 Clubhouse Drive. Page, AZ 86040.
• When: October 11-13th 2013 Three (3) full days. One of the only places where a workshop can use all the available light provided in a day. This isn’t a sunrise/sunset only photographic location. Adequate classroom work and rest will be provided. You won’t burn out.
• Where: 10-12 locations. Colorado River, Slot Canyons, sand dunes, sage and Navajo sandstone formations. How to use clouds to your advantage and how to create stunning images with severe clear –no cloud filled skies. (Weather permitting ☺)
• What: The Field Work. We will cover using an assortment of filters, composition, and artistic emotion in the image, why your best friends name is Histogram, tripod usage and creating panoramic images. A lot of hands on, one on one field work from award winning photographers Adam Barker and Mylo Fowler. They will always be in reach of assistance for help, review and critiques.
• Taking your photography to the next level: 5 to 6 Classroom Sessions: Conference Room setting. We will dive into exposing great images and creating stunning fine art with post processing software. We will cover creating exceptional compositions, controlling all elements of light, sharp as tact depth of field images, color renditions and high quality creativity from your camera. How to create a few supreme images instead of hoarding 5,000 images from a location you will never use.

One of the highlight classroom sessions will be the group critique sessions. Why? This will allow you to see your work from a different perspective. IF you want long lasting friends in the photography world, this is where a lot of the friendships start. Heck, even some marriages! For you single lads and ladies, this isn’t a place to find your future love. Actually, it is. Your love of photography will grow on this workshop! All in all you will get a chance to express your views, speak the same language with fellow photographers that your other friends and family just don’t understand….
• Who is this for? This workshop excursion with Adam and Mylo is for someone who:
➢ …Just bought or was given a digital camera last Christmas and wants to KNOW how to use it and what all the options mean in easy, understandable terms.
➢ …Has less than 5 years of photography experience.
➢ …Is a seasoned amateur or professional looking for the premium guide to the sweet places of Northern Arizona.
➢ …Wants to create 40” prints of stunning desert formations and slot canyon colors.
➢ …Wants to increase their photography IQ.
➢ …Likes hands on teaching. It is for someone who doesn’t want to read the 600 page Owners Manual and for someone who wants to get to the good and juicy elements of creating Award Winning Images.
➢ …Wants to return home knowing more about their camera, equipment and REALLY understanding the camera they bought and had all along.
➢ …Uses film or digital image capture systems. From Cropped sensor, full frame, 35mm, medium and large format film cameras.
➢ …Uses Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Sony and other systems.
➢ …Wants to expand their image design with various filters from Singh Ray and tripod systems.
➢ …Is getting ready to go on another world class trip and wants to know what to do on their trip. Trust me. You won’t believe how many people come on workshops so they know what to do in Italy, Alaska or in Antarctica. You will be better prepared for your next trip!
• Most importantly, you will have a safe and fun few days in the Desert Southwest! You will be able to create stunning images even in the wildest weather conditions.
The Area: The Colorado Plateau provides an array of image capture and composition. From Page, AZ to Mylo’s home which is about a 35 minute drive South of Page, you will climb over 2,000 feet in elevation. There truly is beauty all around. You will be able to photograph the butte’s that surround Lake Powell, Navajo Mountain that peaks at 10,387’ and other desert formations. October could provide some of the most interesting weather patterns. Snow, lightning, rain, puddles, fog, warm afternoons and incredible cloud formations are very likely. These are the ultimate natural elements in creating 5 star images. You will visually get a full access pass to the workflow, image capture and image creation of Adam Barker and Mylo Fowler. Ultimately, you will build upon your unique foundation and take your photography knowledge, presentation and portfolio to the next level.

It’s about having a memorable time and maybe you will have a life changing experience. Both Adam and Mylo have guided and provided similar workshop services for years. Mylo has guided slot canyon excursions and exotic landscape workshops that number into the thousands. He has worked with many camera makes and models, television companies from National Geographic to Weekend Explorer, publications from Outdoor Photographer Magazine to Arizona Highways. He was recently sought out to assist with Phase One (PODAS) and called on by some of the world’s finest Master Landscape photographers.

He is highly recommended by the Navajo Nation as a steward of the land and caters to personalize all experiences of high caliber companies, networks and the photographer’s experience.
• BONUS: 1.5 – 2 hour Session: Mylo will cover a “How To Create Fine Art and Do Well” class. He will dive into how to create Fine Art images. From creation to presentation. This is usually one of the highlights of the event. Mylo will share with you hot points, important aspects of fine art and how to create images you will be happy to display in your home or gallery. Especially if you are thinking about creating an extra income doing what you love! Taking photographs. He will share with you how to invest in your work. Roma Mouldings will be a sponsor of this classroom session.

We will have demo gear on hand for workshop attendees from the following sponsors: Singh Ray Filters, Manfrotto/Gitzo Tripods, Arc’teryx Outerwear, Clikelite Backpacks, Suunto Watches and Canon

Questions??? Contact Adam at 801-550-9141 or adam@adambarkerphotography.com.


Desert Southwest Workshop Fee



Rebate: From Capture to Cover/Manfrotto Webinar


Several months ago I did a webinar with the Manfrotto School of Xcellence on getting your work published. If you weren’t able to join me for the live presentation, kick back and check out this archived version. Enjoy!

Joshua Tree Sunrise (Study in Light and DOF)

Intimate sunrise in the Cholla Garden, Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Intimate sunrise in the Cholla Garden, Joshua Tree National Park, CA.

Who’s ready for a quick study in light and DOF???

This intimate sunrise image from the Cholla Garden in Joshua Tree NP is the perfect candidate.

Firstly–light. We all know that superb light is the lifeblood of any meaningful landscape image. Know light. Study it. Understand what it can do for your images. This image illustrates the qualities of having the light source behind your subject. “Backlighting” is perfect for accentuating shape and adding drama to your images. It filters through translucent, or light colored objects, and infuses tehm with life. Notice how each little needle on these cholla cacti are lit up, showcasing both the sheer magnitude and quirky nature of this location.

Secondly–this image is a legit study in depth of field. To help people better understand depth of field, I often compare my photographic frame to a loaf of bread. Think of the image in a three-dimensional way–the foreground is your front slice of bread, the background is your back slice of bread. Depth of field pertains to how many “slices” of bread will appear sharp or in focus within our image.

This image illustrates shallow depth of field. You can see that I’ve utilized a technique called selective focus to steer the viewer to a certain part of my frame, focusing on a certain cholla cactus. So, in reference to the loaf of bread example, I have very few slices of bread in focus. Selective focus (utilizing shallow DOF), is a very useful technique when you have busy compositions that would otherwise leave viewers confused and searching frantically for something to settle on visually.

Try this technique the next time you find yourself amidst a challenging, busy composition–and pay attention to that light source, give a go with backlighting!

The Hardest Part of Running a Photography Business…

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I’ve always said that the hardest part of running a photography business…is running a photography business.

For the most part, I try and remain free of the online armchair quarterbacking that will straight suck the creative life right out of you, but, within all but the most elite levels of photography,  there has long been a misconception in the creative world that artistic prowess is somehow a portal to weakness when it comes down to the nitty gritty of doing business.

There are many veteran photographers in the industry that are incredibly wary of what the future holds. While completely justified in their grim outlook (vs. the glory days), I can say with assurance that I believe the future to be bright, albeit very different. The bottom line has always been “adapt or die”. That’s a tough one for sure–I believe adaptation, in this sense, walks a fine line between relinquishing standards and understanding what is a sustainable new way of doing business. Adapt in a way that benefits both parties involved, understanding that there will need to be compromise from both parties.

My new bottom line? CAN YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT WITH THE DEAL YOU JUST MADE? Is it good for both parties involved? Is it ridiculously lopsided? Look out for numero uno, while keeping the health of the industry a close second.

Head back to adambarkerphotography.com.

 

 

 

We’re Back!

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Skier Parker Cook rallies some classic Alta powder.

Or maybe, I should say…I’M back. Funny how so many of us photographer/entrepreneurial types throw that plural form around like it’s half-cooked noodle–just waiting to see if it sticks. “We” like to make you think that there’s a huge entourage of bustling interns working themselves to the bone each and every day while this well-oiled machine of a photography brand is in cruise control, taking the world by storm while I field calls from clients that want to overpay me for work that is far easier than it looks.

The truth is, the “we” that I throw around so often is basically me, my wife and my three boys. There. I said it. SURPRISE!!! The other truths?

1. I could never work this hard for anyone else but myself.

2. I’m not rich.

3. But I make a fine and decent living.

4. I have a quality of life that far exceeds anything I could have ever imagined in my wildest dreams.

5. I have a creative appetite that must be fed whether it’s being paid for or not.

6. This means I love what I do, and I do what I love.

7. I drink way too much Coke.

8. I abhor mediocrity.

Every day I wake up and think that I must be one of the most fortunate people on this planet. I wonder, for a moment, what my life would be like were I not to have taken that enormous leap of faith and chosen to follow my heart and pursue a career that would make me happy for the rest of my life.

I have been pushed to the brink of sanity and then welcomed back with a nugget of success. I have progressed at alarming rates, only to then face the same simple challenges I did as a rookie. I have achieved and I have failed. I have been buoyed up and I have been incredibly let down. And through it all, I continue to believe that the path of photography as a career is viable, noble, engaging, feasible, crazy and super cool.

So why the introspective diary entry of a blog post??? Why the hell not? As in so many other cases, I do it because I can. And on this Tuesday morning, it felt right. I have many, many of you to thank. You really do know who you are. I have many that have inspired me, and in turn, I hope to have been a source of inspiration and aspiration to many of you at some point in time.

Whatever pursuit it is in which you are engaged at this moment. If it is worthy, don’t ever stop. Go till you can’t manage another labored breath, and then pick yourself up, and go some more. It is all worth it.

Photography: Vision & Problem Solving

The Osguthorpe Barn near Park City, UT. Captured by Adam Barker Photography.

For those of you who live in or near Park City, UT, you will quickly recognize this barn. It is certainly one of the more photographed structures in northern UT. And rightly so! The Osguthorpe Barn (or McPolin Barn depending on who you talk to) has greeted visitors and locals alike traveling in to Park City since 1921. Simply put, it is a classic.

I have photographed here many times before, I’ll

do so many times in the future. It is the utmost in Americana, and I enjoy the challenge in finding new ways to capture the barn and its surroundings.

I arrived at this location later in the morning, and low fog was just beginning to thin out. I was excited to be at this spot with conditions I’d never seen before! I worked through several compositions, but none of them really worked as a whole.

Finally, I settled on a wider angle image, utilizing cattails as my FG subject. I’ve shot from this exact location before in the winter, but this time the grouping of cattails seemed more elongated towards the barn, and a vertical composition seemed more appropriate.

I actually began composing this image with my 16-35mm lens. I wanted to incorporate a more complete wide angle foreground, but I still wanted to maintain emphasis and hold the viewer’s attention on the barn itself. With the 16-35mm stopped down for maximum DOF, the scene felt busy, and my eye simply wouldn’t settle on the barn as I’d like it to.

Finally, I chose to pull out my 24mm tilt shift lens. By both tilting my plane of focus and shooting at a wide open aperture of f4.5, I was able to have my cake and eat it too.

The cattails are selectively blurred, giving context and providing the FG filler that I was looking for. Yet the sharp contrast in sharp vs. blurred takes the eye directly to the barn. Why didn’t I just shoot my 16-35mm wide open? Being a super wide angle f2.8 lens, it wasn’t giving me quite the separation that I needed from a DOF standpoint. Why didn’t I throw on a longer lens and utilize a shallow aperture to achieve that separation? Throwing on a longer lens would have effectively flattened this scene. I would have gotten that separation, but I would not have achieved the depth I get from a wide angle composition–I would not have that immediate, engaging FG element grab the viewer in the same way it does from a wider angle approach.

Much of photography is about simple problem solving. It all begins, however, with a clear vision of what you hope to capture. Know what you want out of a location. Know what type of image you hope to come away with. This will serve as your mental blueprint as you work through the small problems to achieve your final photographic goal.