Category Archives: Photographer tours

A photo educator’s philosophy- From simply picture taking to image making

What do I mean when I distinguish between simply “taking pictures” and the photographic method of “mage making”?   Image making is a deliberate process for creating original photography that produces predictable and repeatable results. Picture taking is random and sporadically produces good images. Shooting snapshots can be fun and for the average digital photographer and can provide plenty of satisfaction.  For shooters who have higher photographic aspirations a more skillful and deliberate approach is required.

 

Squid fishing boat passing under the setting sun in Ko-Panang , Thailand. Image by photographer Dan Splaine.©2011 Daniel J. Splaine-TEST of TIME PHOTO

Squid fishing boat passing under the setting sun in Ko-Panang , Thailand. This photograph is an example of the “image making” approach to photography that professional photographer and photo educator Dan Splaine teaches in his photo workshops and tours. Careful observation, composition and timing are the factors that add to a photographic result.

I am constantly referring to “image making” in my digital photography workshops and photography tours.  My goal as a photo educator is to help my students build their understanding and skills so they can fulfill their creative intent or more simply to make the photographs they imagine.  The approach I advocate to photography is all about understanding the mechanics of cameras and photographic techniques in order to achieve the greatest amount of creative control.  Photography is a remarkable melding of art and science and digital cameras are extraordinary tools for personal expression.

 

My objective as a photo educator is to enable my photography students to realize their creative intention.  My approach is to build the skills and technical understanding that allows my students to make photographs in any condition with a deliberate creative objective. Learning digital camera controls, developing an understanding of light and the relationship between the two is the core of the image making technique.

Another element of image making is to develop your photographer’s eye, to begin to see the world photographically.  When we are observing a scene an analysis of lighting conditions, optical choices and design considerations should be made before we raise our camera.  Good photographers are careful observers and good photography should be deliberate in conception and execution.

Photography is a wonderful medium for creatively expressing an individual point of view.  How we understand and adapt all of the photographic tools available and apply them to our observations is at the heart of that expression.   Building photographic knowledge and skills provide creative control and ultimately greater satisfaction in the photography produced.   Reconsider your photographic approach and make to move from “picture taker to image maker.”

Photographer Dan Splaine of  Test of Time Photography in Nashua, NH presents a full program of digital photography workshops and photographer tours for adult photographers of all skill levels. Currently we have several photo workshops scheduled for September and October as well as a 10 day photography tour in Ireland in April 2012.  Our fall program includes a photography weekend in the White Mountains of New Hampshire on October 15-16, 2011. Click on the links above for further information about our upcoming program.  For more information or to answer any questions send me an email at info@testoftimephoto.com.

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2011 WHITE MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP announced

I would like to invite you attend my WHITE MOUNTAIN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP on the weekend of October 15 and 16, 2011.  We are presenting this weekend program with the able assistance of our partner NH TOURS.  Join us at the Mountain Club on Loon, a great resort located in the heart of the White Mountains in Lincoln, NH.

Student at the White Mountain Photography Workshop presented by photographer Dan Splaine  ©2010 Daniel J. SplaineJoin us for a weekend of immersing yourself into exploring the White Mountains with your camera.  Our package features many items, including photo instruction, a critique session and accommodations at a very comfortable resort.  This is our second year for this workshop and we expect it to be very popular.  If you have a partner or spouse that is not into photography, you may want to consider bringing them along to enjoy the resort amenities.   They can enjoy the spas and nearby shopping while you are happily tramping around the forest.

To view a video about the workshop with images from last years event go to the following link.

White Mountain Photo Workshop information video

This weekend program is open to adult photographers of all skill levels. It will be a great experience for beginner and advanced photographers alike.  The package includes accommodations (one night), photography instruction and handouts, lunch on Saturday, evening photography critique session, a voucher for the Loon Mountain Gondola and of course plenty of photo opportunities.

For registration,  information and a schedule of the workshop click here

If you have any questions or need further information please contact me at info@testoftimephoto.com.

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Photography HOW-TO: Window Light portraits

WINDOW LIGHT PORTRAITS

 

 

Example of potrait made with window light by photographer Dan Splaine

Portrait of young women made with available window lighting. Photograph©2009 Daniel J. Splaine -TEST of TIME PHOTO

 

One of the most common subjects and one of the most challenging for in-experienced photographers is portraits.  Photographing people requires communication skills and photographic techniques that can be intricate and hard to manage. Lighting for portrait photography can be infinitely complex but I want to suggest a simpler method that can produce fantastic results and make your portraits look great.

Window light is an exceptionally useful lighting source for your portrait photography.  By using available light (the window) you avoid the complexity of using flash – artificial light-and the exposure control issues that it presents. We often over complicate the photographic creation process to the detriment of the results we get.  The mantra “keep it simple stupid” (the KISS rule) should come to mind for your next portrait session.  By simplifying the lighting you will be less stressed and can concentrate on developing a positive connection with your subject.

Ambient window light provides a large, even light source that provides a gradual transition from highlight to shadow. That quality of the lighting is soft and natural and can be very flattering for your portrait subjects. Electronic flash tends to be direct, contrasty and destroys the subtle transition between that highlight and shadow which is unflattering for portraiture.

When I refer to “window lighting” I have some particular features and qualities in mind.  Direct noon time sun glaring through your window is equally harsh and unflattering as direct flash.  What I am describing is the soft, diffuse lighting that you get from a cloudy day.  North facing windows on an overcast day provide the best representation for this light source.  This lighting has been used effectively in traditional painting for portraits and still life studies for centuries and should be a standard in your photographic inventory.

How does this old school (some would say original source of lighting) help in the digital camera era? The ability for film or digital sensors to record a range of lighting intensities in your photographic scene is limited.  The dynamic range of the scene is the ratio between the minimum (shadow) and maximum (highlight) recordable light intensities.  The human eye has an amazing ability to distinguish luminance difference, something in the order of 20 stops (20 EV) of exposure range.  Your digital camera sensor has a recording range of somewhere between 6 to 10 stops of exposure depending on size and quality).

Young monks studying in Buddhist temple -Tawang, Arunachal Pradesh, India

Scene from a Tibetan Buddhist Temple in Tawang, Aruncahel Preadesh, India. The lighting of this dark interior space was provided by a large open door ("window light") behind the photographer position. ©2010 Daniel J. Splaine / TEST of TIME PHOTO- All rights reserved

The diffused light from a window is lower in contrast and easily falls in the dynamic range and recording capability of your camera.  Having a dynamic range of 5 to 7 stops of exposure means that camera is readily able to record detail in all the tones from shadow to highlight.  Your results more closely match the natural range of tone we perceive with our eyes and creating a favorable response from the viewer of your photograph.  Simply said the portraits that you can achieve with window lighting closely match what we can see with the natural eye.

By using window light illumination we reduce contrast, the severity of the tonal transition from highlight to shadow. Having a gradual transition in brightness adds dimension to portraits that is favorable to your subject’s appearance.  How we position the transition zone, the arrangement of our subject to the direction of light, is how we control this effect. Learning how to “read” light and using it to improve your images is a fundamental skill.  Using this source with your people photography is great way to build those abilities.

 

Example of potrait made with window light by photographer Dan splaine

Portrait of young women made with available window lighting. Photograph©2009 Daniel J. Splaine -TEST of TIME PHOTO

Another advantage of window lighting is that is a constant light source.  Studio flash heads have a “modeling” light to provide an approximation of the changes in illumination and position make.   You can observe those changes directly with window light.  As you move your subject closer or further from the light or rotate them you will observe the changes in exposure levels and shadows.  You can have side lighting, backlighting or full frontal lighting depending on the position of the subject and the camera location.  Widow light is a very versatile light source that can be adapted for multiple lighting effects.

 

The ironic thing about all of the studio lighting equipment and modifiers that I have purchased for my inventory of photographic tools is that they are primarily used to replicate the qualities of window light. Granted the inventory gives me absolute control and the ability for creating predictable photographic results on demand. For a photographer building their skills as a portrait photographer I would recommend mastering using this available light source and learning about the qualities of light it produces, before I would recommend investing a dime in any advance lighting equipment.

I often extol my students in my photography workshops and tours about the importance of practice in becoming a better photographer. Giving yourself regular photo assignments to be accomplished is great way to help your performance with your digital camera.  Window light is readily available so why not include it in your next practice session. Go makes some images!

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Why should you attend a photography workshop?

 

Photography is a subject that is worthy of, and to be done well, requires study.  My nearly 35 years behind the camera has been a continuous learning experience.  Not only do I present photography workshops – I often attend them.  Photography workshops provide an opportunity to remove yourself from the distractions of your daily life to spend some dedicated hours or days building your photographic skills. Photography workshops often can inspire and reinvigorate your passion for image making. Digital photography in particular has a significant learning curve and attendance in a photo class can help leapfrog your learning.  Workshops presented by a well qualified instructor provide a forum to explore photographic concepts and creative techniques beyond your current skill level

Photography student during photography workshop hosted by photographer Dan Splaine at the Isle of Shoals in New Hampshire.

Photo workshop student shooting on Star Island

 

How often do you actually pick up your camera and dedicate time to specifically making photographs?

No doubt those occasions are rare.  A dedicated period of time concentrating solely of photography is the best way to rapidly advance your photo skills.  Even a few hours provide an opportunity to focus on your creative approach to photography subjects. In my experience continuous photography during multi day and weeks long travels are really productive.

Workshops about a particular digital photographic topic or technique provide you the opportunity to explore new methods. Selecting a photo workshop that provides access to a unique location or specialized tools gives you a chance to test drive those techniques.  I often host classes about studio lighting which allow new photographers to use lighting equipment and work with models they normally do not have access to. My photography tours bring photographers to locations that have been scouted and selected for their photographic potential. Workshops that feature a particular photo editing software help inform your purchasing decisions.

The social component of photography workshops adds important value.  Spending a day with other people who share your interest in photography is another benefit of photo classes.  In my opinion photography is a highly individualized form of personal expression.  It is definitely not a team sport.  That being said, the social exchange of ideas and the insights you can gain from a group of photographers can only build your understanding.  In group critique sessions I find the peer-to-peer commentary and conversation well-informed and inspirational.  Other perspectives on your photography and techniques are great learning tools. (To attend one of my photography review sessions click here).

Photographic ability and skills can be learned and have to be practiced.  Attending a photography workshop will build your skills, confidence and inspiration.  The investment of money and time can be justified by the value you receive, by how your creative ability to make photographs will increase.

I offer a program of digital photography workshops and photography tours (over 400 people attend in the last 18 months!) for adults.  Some of the workshops are single photo topic sessions held at my studio or conducted in the field at nearby locations.  Others are daylong sessions (like our Isle of Shoals Workshop held 7/23/11) or weekend packages   (like our March 2011 weekend in Quebec, Canada).  In addition to photo classes my schedule for the fall of 2011 includes a Photographers Weekend in the White Mountains (October 15-16). In April of 2012 I am leading a ten-day photography and cultural exploration in Ireland for STRABO tours.  For more information and to receive notices of all my photography workshop contact me at info@testoftimephoto.com.

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ISLE of SHOALS Photographers Workshop – July 23rd, 2011

Still time to Register (Deadline is July 1!)

View of Portsmouth harbor by NH photograher Dan Splaine

Photographer Dan Splaine and TEST of TIME PHOTOGRAPHY with the able assistance of NH TOURS is presenting a one day workshop for photographers on Saturday July 23rd at the ISLE of SHOALS.

This day long excursion to the scenic and historic chain of islands and ledges off the coast of NH and Maine is a photographer’s dream event.  The workshop includes round trip passage on the M?V Thomas Laighton, a four-hour stop over on Star Island, photo instruction and box lunch.

I was able to preview the location last week and I am excited about the photo potential of this location.  I only had a half hour to shoot and was happy with the photography I was able to create. Watch the attached video to examine some of the shots I made.

Shoals_slideshow

This trip is being offered to adult digital photographers of all skill levels.  This is a remarkably beautiful location to visit, with an amazing selection of photography subjects.  If you have never been to the Shoals or you want a chance to photograph a truly unique location I would encourage your to attend this workshop.

For complete information and to register click here.

After July 1 there may be more seats available but they are subject to confirmation by the boat company.  Sign up today to confirm your place.

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VisitNH.gov adds photographer itenerary

Attention photographers who are seeking inspiration! If you are looking for nearby destinations that get your creative energy flowing  I have great new guide for you.

The State  of New Hampshire has added a new itinerary for photographers to their collection cultural tours of the Granite state.  The New Hampshire photographer tour guide is posted on the VISITNH.gov website along with food,historical,adventure itineraries for visitors. Great ideas to inspire your travels in New Hampshire!

The New Hampshire photography tour breaks the state into seven distinct tourism regions and gives photographic tips for each area.  The guide has been illustrated with images from NH photographer including yours truly.  My image of a lobster boat on the Piscataqua river in Portsmouth graces the first page of the downloadable PDF.

The seacoast of New Hampshire is an endless source of inspiration for my photography. Maritime environments are dynamic and visually compelling and our little slice of coast in NH is a rich subject.  If you want to explore the coats of NH photographically you should consider joining me for my ISLE of SHOALS photography workshop on July 23rd, 2011.  To get more information about all of my digital photography workshops and tours go to the  TEST of TIME PHOTO website.

 

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