Zen and the Art of Photography

There is a time when it comes to mind that the scene I'm looking at is looking back at me.  There is a communication of some sort that says the experience is what is important.  Cherish it.  Honor it.  Close your eyes and feel it.  More important than the capturing of it with a special camera, aperture, shutter-speed, etc...  

It reminds me of my cross-country bicycling experience.  I read, talked, studied bike gears, cogs, derailleurs, brands, on my own and with my buddies.  We could tell you every gear combination and the importance of cadence for training, racing or cross-country touring.  I new my bike(s) so well... I won races at the University, two year Champion of the State, and rode miles and miles (6,000) in my first University years.  Then something dawned on me during a California to Washington, DC. ride with a friend.  Staring up at the sky as we fell asleep in the desert, we talked about how small we were.  Tiny specks from a small farm town in the middle of the country, in the middle of one Galaxy, in the middle of who knows what....
More important than the knowledge of our special bikes and gear ratios, we're just plain fortunate to have the ability, and the wherewithal to see, feel and ride through other towns...  the experiences could and should be treasured more than the equipment...w0w,  epiphany.

Everyday, I find it is easy to wait, look, feel and appreciate what is around me.  With or without a camera.  How fortunate I am to see, feel, be here...  When I do use the camera I have in mind to make an image that honors something about the scene's personality... a Zen like experience some might say. I think it's gratitude really.  I'm honored to be here. You might catch me smiling to myself, when I feel the scene say; "Hello there,"  looking back at me. 


return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              

for more information drop me a line

"Keep Looking UP"



Long exposures, a form of meditation

My family has a favorite Thanksgiving story of me hiking six miles in the morning to meet Dad who went fishing at a farm pond. I was seven. When asked how I could be so brave in the dark, my answer was easy; "I was safe. The big dipper was with me the whole time." 

It never fails to give comfort when I'm out at night
to give a nod to the Big Dipper... 

Childhood memories, dreams and imagination 
come flowing back when I make the time to look up
and gaze. 

I encourage my fellow 'dusketeers' to find a similar experience when they're out there.  
Stare deeply and soak it in.  Allow the Night Sky to envelop you.  

Let the 30 seconds add-up...and evolve into minutes,
an hour, or two...A form of meditation, I suppose, 
long exposures.

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"Keep Looking UP"


Photography as a means to connect

Above all, I consider photography as a way to connect. More than the pleasure of connecting with the scene on my own,
I enjoy sharing the experience with others...to connect with people.  

It is a little tougher to find partners who will brave the cold and late hours of high altitude Night Photography.  So, it is extremely gratifying when an occasion comes to attract interested people and everything clicks.  It's very similar to my guesthouse days when I'd walk into the common-room and start conversations with guests from a variety of nationalities or from other parts of the US.  

I feel like the catalyst of 'understanding' that begins to grow.  Tentative voices begin to speak up, eyes meet, smiles and stories are exchanged. Connections are made between the guests, understandings and friendships begin to grow.  

And others, become catalysts...

19 crazy souls braved 19ยบ F temperature to photographed the heavens, just after midnight. It was the start of the annual Scott Kelby WorldWide PhotoWalk. Hosted by Bozeman’s F11 Photo. I began with a few Night Sky Landscape tips and everyone set-up to photograph an Orb and at least a dozen elusive LuminBeings™.   

I could feel the smiles in the darkness, and hear the giggles and AhHas! when images appeared on the camera-backs.  Voila! our cameras settings were ready for the stars. 

I was especially pleased to see so many Night Sky first-timers give it a go and have success so quickly.
There were beeeautiful Night Sky images with tree silhouettes and light-painted snow covered pines. A really fun time shivering and shooting together.   

Connections with the Night Sky and new friends, too..

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"Keep Looking UP"


Sharing that Inner Spirit

Showing things in a new way...is not difficult...

The real challenge is showing what I'm hearing and feeling out there.  An inner spirit is heard.  Something on a higher plane is felt.  There is a reawakening of the wonder of our small planet.  Now, to share the essence of those experiences via two-dimensional photographic images... 

return to:  Robert Howell Photography.com              
for more information drop me a line
"Keep Looking Up"


Got "ice tea?" I - C - T

Here is a simple acronym to keep in mind when you create or evaluate an image.
I – C - T   "ice tea"

IMPACT  ----------------- How do you react to the image? Does it Grab Attention & hold it? 
COMPOSITION   -------- Does the image have a sense of order or balance? Is there an 'eye path' to the subject?
TECHNIQUE ------------- A deliberate, quality focus, exposure and more?  

The subject dominates the image and forms the viewer's first impression. The viewer's eyes may move to explore other areas of the image, but the eyes are drawn inevitably back to the subject.
The viewer can immediately identify the subject.

+/-            When you look at the photo, what is the first thing you see?
+/-            What holds your eye the longest?
+/-            Do other elements compete with the subject for attention?
+/-            Is what you see first, what the photographer really had in
                 mind for the center of attention?

There should be a sense of complimentary order.
Composition rules like “Rule of Thirds”,  use of negative or empty space, leading lines, framing-w/in-the-frame, etc., are helpful starting points, but they are useful only as long as they enhance the overall image.

 --- Keep it simple ---   The fewer the elements in a photo, the stronger the statement the image makes because it helps to prevent the viewer's eye from being distracted.
 --- Fill the frame --- Filling the frame helps establish the center of interest and it helps exclude competing background details. You can fill the frame by moving closer to the subject or by using a longer focal length lens or zoom in.
 --- Control the background ---   A non-distracting background helps bring attention to the subject of the photo. You can control the background by moving your own position or moving the subject to avoid background distractions. Or use a wider aperture (smaller f-stop #) to blur the background.  When possible, eliminate or rearrange distracting background elements.
--- Organize the elements ---   If you apply the Rule of Thirds in photography you simply imagine a tick-tac-toe pattern on the viewfinder. Then, when you place the subject of the photo at one of the intersection points, the result is a pleasing sense of order. Using Negative Space by placing your main subjects with large open backgrounds, can make the subjects stand out and create a stronger sense of balance in your photos.  Leading Lines can help the viewers eyes find the main subject/message of the image as can Framing within the Frame and more....

+/-            Is there a sense of order/balance in the image that helps lead the eye through the image?
+/-            Do the elements included strongly contribute or distract from the subject/message? How so?
+/-            Do the depth of field, lens focal length, lighting  and perspective enhance the image?
+/-            Does the crop enhance the composition?

Sharp focus is one of the first things that viewers first notice about an image. The sharpest point of the picture should identify what the photographer sees as the most important aspect of the image.

Remember, so-called rules have exceptions...
The photographer may "break" rules intentionally.  Ie., a subject is intentionally unfocussed to show motion,  created soft for a portrait, or even, placed dead center for a theme, etc..

--- Exposure ---   the photographer’s choice of lens focal length, aperture, shutter speed, and ISO should also enhance the intent
of the image.

+/-            Is the sharpest focus on the center of interest of the image?
+/-            Does the depth of field enhance the subject, mood, or look of the image?  Does it distract?
+/-            Does the focal length enhance the subject and meaning of the image?
+/-            Does the color appear natural and/or does it help set the mood of the image?
+/-            Does the image have good overall contrast for the type image the photographer intended?
+/-            Does the lighting reveal what's important in the image and set the overall tone of the photo.

...a couple thoughts beyond I – C – T…  

When you hear someone say "Tell a story" with your photo what do they mean?  Here's my take; The difference between a photo that is remembered  and one that is quickly forgotten depends on whether the viewer can relate to it.  That means a "connection" is made. Perhaps it's a recognition of a similar "story" from their past ...or something their imagination...or their immediate "gut feeling". You've conveyed a story of the scene or subject the evokes an emotional response.  Good, bad, big or small, that emotional response makes the image memorable.

+/-            Does the photo elicit an emotion? 
+/-            Can you relate to the subject or the situation?
+/-            Does the photo make a statement, convey a story, that you can sum up in a few words?

The best creative images show the subject/message through the photographers' eyes.  A personal perspective.  Revealing the subject, conveying the story in an unique way.  Perhaps stirring the viewers in such a way it keeps them interested in what the image is "about".
It is done in PP (post processing) and / or while-you're-shooting those SOOC (straight out of camera) images.  Ie., converting the photo to Black & White, or sepia tone, processing with HDR, using filters, shooting for bokeh, tweaking the white balance, ISO, shutter speed, "taking a risk" and tossing aside conventional "photo rules"...

+/-            Does this creativity disclose something more about the subject?
+/-            Is this method appealing, fun, thought provoking?
+/-            Does the unique approach help make it a stronger image?