Don’t be scared of the big bad black…

An angler makes a spey cast on the Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Chile.

An angler makes a spey cast on the Rio Grande in Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, Chile.

I have always loved contrasty images. When done correctly, they engage the viewer and hold our attention within the frame.

Lately, there seems to be a trend with bringing detail into every part of the image with HDR or other adjustments in post. Honestly, I love the fact that we can express our vision in so many ways through photography. I’m not at all opposed to HDR, or this growing trend–even if I don’t subscribe to it myself.

I do feel strongly, however, that the inclusion of highlights and shadows as a compositional element is all but a lost art. It’s amazing how much Mother Nature does for us if we just let her. Sometimes I have to remind myself of this as well, as I am a huge fan of being able to bring out shadowed foregrounds with the use of Grad ND filters.

Images like this of an angler on the Rio Grande (Tierra del Fuego, Chile) take on an entirely different feel when we give in to the big bad black. It is less about an activity, or even a place, and more about a graphic. It’s an oversimplification, and I truly believe that in many images, less is absolutely more.

So resist that urge to recover the shadows. Study your frame and decide what’s of greatest importance. Try letting go of that perfectly balanced exposure. By giving that up, you just might create an image that’s markedly different and better than what you’ve trained yourself to capture.

ABP MVP: Epson Stylus Pro 3880 Printer

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What: Epson Sylus Pro 3880 Printer

Why: I’m going to do my best to answer this in a fairly succinct package here. Full disclaimer: this is not an in-depth printer review. Why not? Simply put–I’m a photographer, not a master printmaker. There is a stark difference. I, like you, don’t have time to mess around with this, that or the other when it comes to churning out legit prints. Yes, I want it all. No I don’t want to spend hours on end and a bucket of ink trying to dial things in for a stunning, accurate print. Can you relate? I thought so.

Judging from the subconscious nod of agreement, I’m going to assume you aren’t a master printmaker either, which means you’re going to love my quick overview. It answers the basic questions that most of us photographer types want to know and leaves all the uber scientific data/proof/testimonials to the ones that actually know how to decipher that action. You want that goodness? It’s out there for sure. Get on the Google and bury yourself in minute comparisons, data analytics and everything else the printer geek in you could ever want. There’s no question this printer will pass with flying colors. For those wanting a no frills, to-the-point approach, you’ve come to the right place.

The down and dirty is that this printer prints the way you want it to print right out of the box, and it does it all exceptionally well. How do you want it to print? Well, you (and I) want it to print quietly, quickly and, most importantly,  accurately. Right? Right.  The simplest understanding of monitor calibration and printer profiles for the different papers you choose will leave you with wall-worthy, archival (dependent upon paper) prints that will have family, friends and clients smitten with satisfaction.

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Why am I such a fan of this printer? Firstly, it prints juuuust big enough for what I want to be printing myself. I don’t print enough to justify the expense of printer, ink and paper for anything larger than 13 x 19. I do get plenty of orders for larger prints, and I happily pass them along to my local lab, where my buddy Heath does an exceptional job. I use the 3880 for smaller print orders, personal projects, marketing materials and a host of other smaller jobs.

Secondly, this printer offers pro quality prints at a pro-sumer price. At a cost of $1,295.00, it doesn’t break the bank. Depending on how much you spend on camera gear, you’re either pulling your hair out in disgust, or giving me a virtual high five. Trust me when I tell you that $1,300 is peanuts compared against the time you’ll spend trying to get a lesser machine to do what you want it to do, right out of the box. Time is money, and yes–you do get what you pay for. Looks like there’s even a $200 rebate going on through August 31, 2014.

Thirdly–for the space-conscious, this printer won’t require a new addition to your cozy abode. It measures 27″x 15″ x 10″, and it sits on my desk along with my hard drive(s) and computer.

Fourthly–one of the cooler features of this printer is that it will automatically switch between matte or photo black ink depending on the paper profile you choose. I don’t print a whole lot on glossy papers, but it’s a nice option to have, especially knowing I don’t have to switch out the cartridge myself.

Finally, and I’m rehashing a bit here, but I’m amazed at the print quality that this relatively little machine churns out. My favorite papers are thick and meaty (recent favorite is Epson’s Cold Press Bright) , yielding exceptional texture, tonality, color and detail. With past printers, I have struggled with thicker papers, throwing away sheet after sheet of expensive paper due to a botched print for one reason or another. Knock on wood, but after nearly 24 mos. with this printer, I’ve yet to toss a print in the trash. Furthermore, I’ve yet to replace an ink cartridge after many, many prints. CAN I GET AN AMEN!?!?

So there you have it. The 3880 is a photographer’s printer. It has plug and play ease, all the while producing lab worthy prints from the comfort of your own desktop.

Where: I buy all my gear from Pictureline.com. You should too!

 

Letting go…

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This image represents a milestone for me and my photography. Not because it is life-altering. Not because it is innovative. Not because it is exotic. Not because it is cutting edge. Not because it was shot with the latest and greatest equipment that cost more than my house (it was shot on my iPhone). Obviously, it is exceedingly NOT any of the above. This image changed the way I view the world and my photography for one simple reason: IT IS REAL. It is a real moment that translates to real emotion. It is a real spring evening with gorgeous, natural light. It is a real moment of friendly competition and wanderlust between my sons Ashton and Blake. And it is really great as an artist to be able to accept something that simply speaks to my heart and soul, regardless of its marketability or what it immediately says about my brand. Yes, I’ve certainly captured REAL before, but I think the real that you’ve seen has always gone through some sort of “ABP Quality Control”, making sure that the viewing public would approve in relation to what falls in line with what they’ve come to expect from a “professional”.

Just now, nearly six years into my career as a full time professional, I am finally, finally learning how to let go. I am finally embracing imperfection. I am finally not concerned about the box I’ve put myself in as a photographer. Don’t get me wrong–I like the box. I’m proud of the box. I worked hard as hell to build that box. That box is my brand, and I will always occupy that space, but finally I am not afraid to get outside of that comfortable, perfectly-within-my-control space.

I am ok if an image is not tack sharp. I’m ok if an image doesn’t cause one’s jaw to drop out of wonder and amazement. I’m ok if I’ve got blown highlights. I’m ok if it doesn’t adhere perfectly to all of the photographic rules by which I’ve abided for so long. And I can tell you that it feels fantastic. Not that I was ever burdened by my brand, but there’s a huge part of me now that feels lighter and more expressive.

For the first time ever I’ve put up a personal gallery on my website. Some of this imagery looks like me. Some of it is pretty and falls precisely in line with what you know me to be as a photographer. Some of it is slightly commercially cliche. Some of it feels like it would be more at home in a family photo album. Some of it looks completely random. Some of it has nothing do to with anything, and I’m totally ok with it. All of it, however,  holds weight with me in some way, shape or form, and finally, I’m not afraid to represent it simply due to that weight alone.

As many of you no doubt do, I have terrabytes of images that have yet to see the light of day simply because they have not fallen within that mold of the brand that I have created. There’s probably some of you reading this post right now with a fair amount of apathy. And really–that’s ok. I don’t expect you to feel the weight of this moment, because it likely seems somewhat insignificant and trivial if you’ve never been here. And I can understand how, from the outside, it’s just another blog post from another photographer that thinks the creative world revolves around him. But really, that’s not it at all. This is as much a journal entry as a blog post, and if you’re here, I appreciate you sharing in this moment!

Don’t worry. I’m still here. I still love sunrise and sunset and storm light and three-dimensional compositions and bold color and the rule of thirds and…you get the point. I’m not entering some strange mid-life hipster stage (though you’d better believe I’d grow me a waxable mustache if I could), nor am I abandoning all of that upon which I’ve built my brand to this point. But finally, I’m not afraid to appear less than perfect. And no, I’m not that delusional–I know what I’ve put out there to this point has been far from perfect, but that was aways my goal. No longer am I concerned with that–I simply want to be more than trying to be perfect. And I’ve finally figured out how…

 

 

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.

 

Manfrotto BeFree Ad Campaign

Great to see the ads rolling out from our work earlier this year for Manfrotto and the BeFree tripod. This was such a stellar shoot, with an incredible crew of people involved. Check out the full BeFree site for more imagery and videos from this shoot.

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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!

Video: We Speak as One…


So pleased to share my favorite video produced from a shoot for the new Manfrotto BeFree tripod. We spent a week traveling to some of the most iconic photography locations in California–it was a dream job, with unbelievable locations and even better teammates. This video was produced by The Bui Bros–mad skills! Check out the full BeFree campaign here, and stay tuned for an in-depth blog post on the entire experience.

 

BTS Video: Mountain Khakis Catalog Shoot


I had the pleasure of working with lifestyle apparel brand Mountain Khakis this past summer, capturing a slew of imagery featuring their 2013 Spring/Summer product line. We had a jam-packed two days of shooting in several different locations in northern Utah, including Park City, Uinta National Forest and the rural farming paradise of Oakley. It was an absolute blast, and we ended up producing some killer images. Check out the case study on adambarkerphotography.com for imagery from the shoot

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.