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2 years, 8 months ago 14


The image above is of me flying my ulta-light over the Arizona Desert, what an adventure!!  In life I’ve found a number of things that are thrilling and I enjoy them all, but one of the most wonderful adventures for me is learning.  As a photographer there is one very good way to learn and improve your work, it’s called the critique.  At our workshops we spend a lot of time looking at our attendees images and doing critiques.  I think the most effective critique is to ask several questions; (1) Does the image work, (2) If not what is keeping it from working, (3) and finally how can we improve the image?  If you could ever attend one of our workshops we can do that for you, but you can do it yourself as well.  Let me walk you through how to do self critiques.


Firat an important point, the purpose of a critique is to identify what is holding your images back from being as successful as they could be, not to beat yourself up!  I once did a workshop with a wonderful photographer and friend, Pat O’Hara.  Pat is an incredible photographer and a great guy.  He started a critique session by putting a pretty awful picture on the screen and proceeded to make numerous observations of what was wrong with it.  Everyone in the room cringed knowing somebody was being taken apart by the critique.  After he finished with his multitude of suggestions, he asked whose it was.  No one confessed,then he shocked everyone by saying, it was his from the beginning of his career. Their was an audible sigh of relief.  He went onto explain that everyone starts doing work well below their goals.  It was one of the most effective critique techniques I’ve ever seen, and we use it to this day ourselves.  It’s important to remember that Rome was no t built in a day, and a photographer is not either!!!!  So give yourself permission to be in the process of learning, then you will start to see that mistakes are just opportunities toi know what to not do in the future!


O.K. what things do I look for, and that you should look for, when doing a critique?


(1.) What is the subject?  Is it presented in a clear and concise way?  How many distractions are in the image that draw the eye away from the subject?  How could you have prevented the clutter or distracting elements?  Look at the image below shot in Santa Fe.  It is a perfectly beautiful statue, but the window frame behind it is very distracting, now look at the image below right, see what a difference it makes when we watch out for the background!
















See how much more effective the plain background is?  Another issue with the subject is how much of the frame does it fill?  most often a photogrpah will have more power if the subject is very obvious because it fills the frame.  The two images below illustrate this point.  I was in Colorado photographing an Aspen grove and these are two of my shots, the one below left is o.k., I think the one below right is much stronger, both shot from the same spot with different lenses!
















(2) Is the light working for the subject?  A tip here is that angular light in early morning and late afternoon on sunny days will  be warmer and have more character and also shows texture because of the angle of the light.  It’s worth shooting early and late!



(3)  Fill the Frame with the subject!  Very few photographs have been made worse by move in closer!  Below are to images made of rocks on the beach in Olympic National Park, while both work, I like the tight one!  You may not, but if you shoot them both you have two versions!










Below is another shot, made in Sonoma, California, that I hope you feel illustrates the value of cropping tight in the camera, I think it really works!



(4) Was the shot a vertical composition or a horizontal, you should shoot both, but one will  be the obvious best solution, as illustrated by these two images of Sol Duc Falls in Olympic National Park.



(5)  Is the horizon level?  This is easy, use a camera with a level built in or purchase a bubble level, believe it or not it is really hard to get level horizons, but as little discipline with solve the problem, see how the un-level horizon ruins this otherwise great shot?



When you have a great subject, in great light, with good conditions and you compose it effectively, guess what?  You’re getting there!!



Have a blessed weekend,


the pilgrim


One last image, my daughter Catherine and I with one of our buddies at Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina!  And you thought I was crazy for flying ultralights!!!!



2 years, 8 months ago 10

Yesterday I had a conversation with a close friend and the point of the talk was about how unsure the future seems to be.  We were not talking politics or the economy we were talking about workshops!  Some times you run a workshop and it goes slow, sometimes better.  My friend said what makes you think that next years schedule will be well accepted?    My automatic response was, “I trust God with the workshops and everything else in my life!”     I didn’t give it much thought, it was just how I try to see my life.


Tuesday afternoon I announced the 2013 schedule for His Light Workshops.  Since the first workshop is not until March of next year I didn’t expect a lot to happen this early.  Today by noon less than two days later, we have filled 44 of the entire 80 spots available for all of next year!!!  Wow, I’m simply amazed, by an amazing God!  I believe this is a great indicator that we are on the right track in our effort to serve Him.   I further believe that the scripture that says “Seek first the Kingdom of God  and and all these things will be added unto you.”  And I might add as is said later in Scripture even “the desires of your heart!”   I’m thrilled that we are off to such an incredible start,s but I’m even more thrilled that we can see we are following the path God has set before us.  A month ago Jim and I were talking about what to do next and he said it best, “Do what He has told us to do, and trust in Him….”    I knew Jim was a great photographer, it was news to me that he was some what of a prophet!


Jim was absolutley right, in everything we do, we do it to His glory, and for His Names sake.  The rest is up to Him.  It shouldn’t  be surprising that He is in fact more than capable of doing what ever He desires!  I’m just thanful His will has been to bless us!


Thank you Father for loving us so much!


the pilgrim

2 years, 8 months ago 7


How much would you be willing to pay for complete peace and joy?   Before you answer, think about the question for a few moments.  Let’s examine those two words carefully.


peace |pēs|noun1 freedom from disturbance; quiet and tranquility.  Life can be disturbing, people die unexpectedly, we loose loved ones, we loose employment, we run out of money, we get life threatening diseases.  How on earth could you be at peace when all these and many more come your way?  It seems silly to even make such a statement!  I would never tell someone what I’m about to say if I didn’t know from my own experience, my own life, that it was true, please believe me on this!  Peace that transcends circumstances is not only possible, it can be yours.  When you trust, fully, in God, He will give you the strength and courage to face any thing that comes your way, period, end of sentence!  I beg you to believe me, it is true.  I’ve face everything on the list above, and God got me through everyone of them and supplied the peace!!!


joy |joi|nouna feeling of great pleasure and happiness.  I’m going to add to that defintition and say “no matter what is going on around you.”  What is going on around you is what we call circumstances.  We have no way to prevent circumstances, big or small, they will come and they can ruin your day, week, month, or life. With such a threat as this how on earth could you experience Joy?!   Our joy is centered in our relationship with God, that’s “The God”.  Creator of all you can survey and all you cannot.  Nothing is out of His control, especially your life!  If the God that made the Universe and placed the stars in the sky is on your side, who can stand against you?!


So if I’ve done a good job of selling,  you are ready to buy,  Peace and Joy!  So what is the price?  Can you afford  it?  The great news is that the price has already been paid for you!  Christ paid for your salvation and acceptance into God’s family with His own life.  You are not only forgiven, but he has, through Grace, given you all you need to have perfect peace and perfect joy!!!  All you have to do is say yes.  He is waiting to hear from you.


Filled with joy and peace, I am,


the pilgrim


2 years, 8 months ago 274

I was having an very interesting conversation with a photographer several days ago and something he said has continued to ring in my ears. He said, ” I see so much good work, I just wonder why bother, I will never be that good!”  I know how he feels, but I’ve got and answer to “why bother!”  First let me set the stage by saying that he is certainly right about the wealth of great work today.  I have favorite photographers just like everyone else, let me share the work of some of my “photographic” heroes and then let me continue this train of thought.


You’ve just been exposed to the work of  five photographers whose work I love and try to emulate.  Will I ever be as good as any of them at these kinds of work?  Truthfully, that is not the relevant question.  The relevant question is, “am I enjoying working hard to get better?”  If your hobby or passion makes you miserable, stop doing it, pick a new hobby!  Let me share five ways to get better at photography and enjoy it more in the process!


(1.)  Remember this is a journey, not a destination.  Instead of worrying about how good others are, think about what you can learn from them and how you can work to improve your own images.  Take full advantage of the people, places and conditions you can enjoy.  Soak in the joy of just holding a camera in your hand, and attempting capturing all the beauty God has made!


(2.)  Celebrate the success of others.  It does not make you any better to down grade them or their work..  Nothing kills creativity and vision worse than being blinded by envy for what others have accomplished.  True joy is when you appreciate what others have done, and aspire to do so well yourself!  Be thankful for those that inspire you.  In all honesty, they have probably earned it with hard work, are you following that example?


(3.)  Find your passion and then work it.  If you love flowers, shoot flowers, if you love airplanes, photograph airplanes!  You will never find real photographic succes trying to photograph things that simply do not interest you.  An understanding of your subject will open your eyes to see  much more deeply, and find the most creative ways to capture your subjects. 


(4.)  Don’t be afraid to experiment!  The great advantage to the digital age is we can shoot, look at what we’ve captured, and still have the chance to try it again in a different way, all while standing right in front of the subject!   That’s a luxury we never had with film.  We learn by trying, observing, and trying again. Keep working the scene!  There are no short cuts to experience!


(5.)  Have fun!  I’ve reached and age that if it’s not fun, I’m not all that interested in it!  The love of photography should be a time of great joy for you.  The people and places, the experiences, and the joy of learning should make you happy, if it doesn’t, maybe this is not the hobby for you.


I’m celebrating my 44th year of being a working photographer, and at this point in my life,  I have only one photographic goal; “to be better tomorrow than I am today, and love every minute of the journey!”  If I can do that it won’t matter how many great photographers there are in the world!




the pilgrim


P.S.  Did you notice how many times I used the word “work”,  that might be a tip!