FINE ART ATELIER: 16 | Quoin Bay Squarial

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Aerials are very popular, especially photos that concentrate on the abstract patterns found when pointing the camera directly downwards. However, part of the art of this genre of landscape photography is hidden away in post-production. We need to use contrast and saturation to bring out the patterns and shapes.

In this movie, you'll see the steps involved in transforming a rather lack-lustre image into the colour rendition you see here - and one that has sold very well in the market.


FINE ART ATELIER: 16 | Clinging Tree, Dales Gorge, Karijini

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In this MasterClass, I'm using Photoshop Lightroom to process my files. Lightroom is a sensible option for photographers who don't want to use Photoshop, but still want some control over the way their images look. If you don't want to use Photoshop, then Lightroom (or Capture One) are essential tools as no file leaves the camera in perfect condition. 

What you are seeing in this movie is a series of steps from the basic capture to the final rendering. The steps are not necessarily the quickest way to create the image, rather they follow the thought process of discovering the image through colour, contrast and exposure. Two quite separate processes are involved: that of pre-visualising the image, and that of rendering it in Photoshop.


KNOWLEDGE: 16 | Composition - Part IV

In this photo, the horizon is in the middle, giving equal emphasis to the sky and the foreground. What does the photographer want you to look at?  
Most of us tend to think of the horizon as a line sitting in the middle of the sky and the land. Standing out on a wide open plain, there's no doubt this is the case as the horizon will nicely bisect our vista.
However, when you look at a photo with the horizon bang smack in the middle, it can be a little boring. In fact, when you're starting out, it's a good idea to make sure your horizon is not in the middle. (Just don't forget that you're expected to break all these rules from time to time!)
As with other aspects of composition, placing objects in the centre of an image creates a staid, static feeling which provides little excitement or stimulation for the viewer. It can be far better to place the horizon either towards the top of the frame or down the bottom, positioning it so there's no doubt your placement was intentional. (In other words, don't move the horizon line just a fraction off the centre axis because it will still look like you've put it in the middle, but couldn't get it quite right!)

What Is The Horizon?

Before looking at the reasons for placing the horizon either above or below the centre, what exactly is the horizon? And when you're in the mountains with peaks towering all around, where is the horizon?
There's no need to look for a dictionary definition of 'horizon' because no matter what or where it is, the horizon is really just a compositional 'line'.
Compositional lines can be real or implied. For instance, a river snaking through a valley creates a curved compositional line. The sides of a building are vertical lines, while the roof might have a number of diagonal lines.
The horizon is typically a horizontal line, but in the case of a mountain vista, it might be a jagged, irregular line consisting of a number of peaks and troughs.
Other compositional lines are implied. They usually represent the direction the eye will travel between two points of interest in a composition. For instance, a photo of two trees standing in a field will have four main lines. Two thick, short vertical lines are created by the trees and a third by the horizon. The fourth is a shorter horizontal line which is 'implied' by joining the two trees together. You can't see a line, but it's there every time your eye moves from one tree to the other.
Real and implied lines are strong compositional tools. Vertical and horizontal lines are relatively static, while diagonal lines are considered to be dynamic.
A horizon line can be either. For instance, back in the mountains, the horizon could be a strong diagonal line, produced by a ridge or the side of a peak. In the desert, the horizon is probably a strong horizontal line.
However, unlike shorter lines, horizons travel from one side of the frame to the other and are very powerful. In fact, they dominate the composition and everything else is above the horizon, below the horizon, or crossing the horizon.
With the horizon placed low in the frame (tilting the camera up), the sky has more space and so is emphasised.

Placement For Emphasis

If the horizon is the main compositional line in an image, its placement sets the scene because it determines which part of the image is more important.
For instance, if the horizon is placed in the lower half of the image, there will be more sky than land and so the sky is said to be dominant. You would use this horizon position if the main subject was a brilliant sky or some thunderous clouds.
If the horizon is in the upper part of the image, then the landscape is the dominant area. The mountains, valleys, and trees are of more interest than the sky and this horizon placement concentrates the viewer's attention accordingly.
Were the horizon in the middle of the image, neither landscape nor sky are dominant and the message sent to the viewer is that the photographer doesn't really know what's more important. In fact, the photographer could appear relatively disinterested.
By placing the horizon up towards the top of the frame (point the camera downwards), the foreground and landscape is given emphasis over the sky.
Of course, there are times when the horizon can happily sit in the middle of the image. You might have a reflection, for instance, and want to create a symmetrical image. More likely, however, your subject is dominant in the frame and the horizon becomes a secondary element, possibly out of focus.
If the horizon line is important in your composition, you need to select its best position.


POST PRODUCTION: 16 | Dropping In Skies

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As landscape photographers, it's not always possible to be in the right place at the right time, meaning that some of our wonderful landscapes are presented with less than wonderful skies. The solution? Drop in a different sky using Photoshop. In this movie, we'll look at the 'traditional' way of dropping in a sky so you know how. However, if you want to know the easy way, that's in the next movie!



POST PRODUCTION: 16 | Dropping In Skies - Easily

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The people producing software really are remarkable. Huge advances have been made in artificial intelligence and being able to recognise the subject in a photo - and I guess this is the basis for both Luminar and Photoshop's sky replacement features. All you need to do is open your landscape image, select the sky replacement feature, choose a new sky and all the work is done for you. Is it really this easy?



LOCATION SURVEY: 16 | Reaching Your Destination

This photo of the Devils Marbles was taken on my first photographic tour with Doug and Ruby Spowart. The original was captured on a 4x5" film camera and probably deserves a re-scanning to reduce the contrast.
How do you get to some of the most amazing landscapes in the world? Access to many of them is as easy as jumping on a bus or a plane, others require a little more planning. Of course, this ignores what the light can do to the landscape outside your front door.
However, there are many ways you can travel: on your own, with your family, with another photographer (or two), on a tour and on a specially designed photography tour.
Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Travelling on your own means you have few restrictions in terms of where you go and what time you start. For a landscape photographer, this is very important. You need to optimise your photography opportunities by ensuring you pick good locations at the right time of the day. Assuming you know where to go and you like your own company, travelling on your own is great for landscape photography.
Travelling with your family may limit the number of opportunities you have, assuming you wish to still have a family by the end of the trip! For a photography-only adventure, it might be fairer on your family to travel with another photographer and choose a second destination where you can spend more time with the spouse and kids. Then again, getting up early for sunrise may still allow you to be sitting at the breakfast table with the family, and have a few great landscapes on your memory card.
Certainly touring with another photographer is a good way to shoot landscapes. You can share expenses to make it more economical and it’s amazing what you discover by sharing ideas and viewpoints along the road. I have taken many great photographs travelling with friends – David Oliver, Tony Hewitt, Phil Kuruvita, Christian Fletcher, Les Walkling, Nick Rains, Mike Langford and Jackie Ranken. And while you might think everyone takes the same photograph, we never interpret it the same way and our photos are always different.
Late afternoon light at Bega, NSW. This was photographed while working on a job - alone. I was able to hang around until the light was just right.
Of course, it’s not always possible to travel with a photographer friend, so another option is to join a tour. A general tour is, generally, not a good idea for a landscape photographer. While general tours are less expensive and may have excellent itineraries, they never seem to give you enough time at each location to take good photographs and chances are they don’t arrive when the light is best. These aspects can be incredibly frustrating, especially when you view an amazing sight out the back window of a departing bus.
In comparison, a photography tour can be as good as travelling with another photographer and sometimes better. If you get a group of people who get on with one another, and you have a guide who understands photography and has good local knowledge, you can find yourself in locations and situations you’d simply drive past on a larger tour or on your own.
So what’s it like travelling with other people? I confess I thought I would never do it, but I quickly changed my mind. My first photography tour was with Doug and Ruby Spowart to Central Australia for a month. It was fantastic and everyone got on well. Since then I have been on dozens of trips and many of the places I ended up I doubt I would have found on my own. 
However, photography tours can be a little more expensive – guides and drivers need to be up earlier and home later if the photographers are to get the best light, and this adds to the cost.
One little gem I’ve learned as I travel around the world searching for great landscapes is to take life as it comes. If I have a plan to visit a destination and it doesn’t work out, I find that I usually end up somewhere else which is just as interesting, sometimes more so. Having this attitude certainly helps relieve the stress involved in travelling to distant destinations, but might not be suitable for a professional assignment. No point turning up in Tanzania if you were really meant to be photographing in Tasmania!
Do people really get Tasmania and Tanzania mixed up?


PHOTO ADVICE: 16 | Critique Session

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During the production of the Landscape Photography MasterClass, some of our early subscribers kindly provided some images for critique and review. This has turned into a very popular part of each MasterClass and we have received many complimentary comments about how useful the Critique Session is.

Of course, there are no absolutes in photography and so what you view in this movie is really just one photographer's opinion about another photographer's work. However, hopefully the advice and observations can be helpful in improving your own photography.


BUSINESS ACUMEN: 16 | Do You Need A Business Plan?

Planning somewhere significant, or just an everyday trip?

Why Plan?

Let me ask you a question: What will you achieve in your life next year?

This question can be asked of someone going into business – such as a landscape photography business – or of someone wanting to achieve personal goals, such as taking great landscape photographs in Iceland!

So, there are many answers. Some of you may have a record year, others may close their doors. Statistics say the majority of readers, whether in business or not, will simply continue on much as last year - a little better or a little worse, depending on the economy and their personal drive. Statistics also say the reason most people don't do brilliantly better from one year to the next is because they don't plan.


If you have a car and you want to go somewhere, you need a road map to get there. There are some trips you do every day for which you don't need a road map - you know where to go and how to get there. For other trips, you need a GPS system and from this you plan how to get to your destination.

The problem most people have is they only do everyday trips. They go to work or sit down at the computer - we don't really need to think twice because we do it all the time. However, if you want to achieve something, you need to set goals.

Planning Basics

Let’s look at someone who wants to set up a small but successful landscape photography business. It's hard to emphasise just how important planning is. Without planning, no direction is set. You're just caught up with day to day operations which, while successful in themselves, don't take you any further.

Planning starts with having a goal. The goal will be different depending on where you are in your life cycle and your business cycle.

Photographers just beginning their studio may have a goal of establishing a successful business. Established photographers may have a goal of earning enough to buy a new family home. And older photographers might be looking at winding down the business or retiring.

These goals are the foundation of a plan. The goal is what you want. The plan is how you get there.

What is your goal for next year?

It's amazing how many of the most successful photographers have goals and spend time planning. When talking with successful photographers, the conversation invariably centres around photography and image making, but if you dig a little deeper you'll find that they not only have clear goals, but also a plan to obtain them.

Over the next few weeks, you should spend a little time deciding what your goals are. Don't be afraid to dream a little - this life is not a dress rehearsal. When you're in the old folks home sitting on the back verandah in your rocking chair, do you want to be telling the person next to you how you dreamed about taking photos in Iceland, or how you gave it a go? Even if you only got half way, at least you tried. It is much better to have tried and failed, than to have failed to even try!

A friend of mine attended a seminar where he was encouraged to write down a list of all his dreams. Included in this friend's dreams were to take his mother to Europe for a month and to travel in space. After that seminar, the speaker told them to make sure they crossed off at least two points on the list every year. It's amazing how quickly life can slip by and although writing down your dreams might seem to be a waste of time, the very action of committing these ideas to paper has an incredibly powerful effect.

By the way, this friend has already taken his mother to Europe and his plans for space travel are looking more likely every year. We all need dreams.

The Written Plan

Most people have dreams. Very few write them down. Writing down your dreams and goals commits you in some ways, but the commitment is only to yourself and your family. You can also write down new or changed dreams and goals any time you wish - yet so many people are actually scared to write down their goals and make a plan. Why?

Some experts say it's because we're afraid to fail. What happens if we don't reach our goal? Well, if your goal were to earn $100,000 from landscape photography and you only made it to $80,000, that's still a big improvement on the $50,000 you're earning now. Even if you don't get all the way, some of the way is an achievement in itself.

Experts also say that if you aim for $100,000 you might only reach $80,000, but if you had aimed for $200,000, you might well have reached $150,000! We shouldn't limit our goals just because they look impossible to reach now. To have a goal of saving a million dollars in one year is unrealistic, but in twenty years quite plausible. There can be a fine line between realism and fantasy, but more often than not there's more realism if we want it.

Now don't ask me why or how, but the act of writing down your goals and a plan to reach them does something. The human mind is a powerful and little understood organ, but there's evidence to show that if you write down your plans, you're more likely to achieve something. Perhaps it's the process of writing it down that embeds the thoughts in our subconscious. More likely, when we simply think about a goal of saving a million dollars, it remains that - just a thought. However, when we sit down and write out a plan on how to actually save a million dollars, how long it will take, how much we need to save each year, what return on our savings we need, how income tax will affect our target - all these aspects to a plan remain unknown in a dream. The plan turns into concrete what has to be done and, when the task is broken down into small enough steps, even the largest goals can become obtainable.

Plan Contents

A good plan will mix both personal and business goals. In many ways, your business plan is the key to achieving your personal goals, because if the business plan is successful, it will provide you with the money, the time or the resources to achieve your personal goals.

For instance, you may wish to work four days a week and earn $100,000 a year. To do so is possible if you set up your business the right way. However, you might have to reach this goal in steps if you are currently earning $50,000 and working six days a week - but this is par for the course. Few people are overnight successes. Most work very hard.

So, what does a plan look like? It can be as simple as a single sheet of paper with your goals listed up the top and ideas and directions for reaching them written down below.

The rest is up to you. Failing to plan is planning to fail.