The Light Without A Photographic Journey Wed, 21 Dec 2011 03:02:14 +0000 en hourly 1 December 2011 wallpaper Wed, 30 Nov 2011 03:40:47 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil Another month has flown by and once again I must apologize for the dearth of blog posts. I have no really good excuse, other than I have been heads down a lot on my next ebook. I’ve been struggling a bit with it for various reasons, and I’ll probably talk a little about them in another blog post soon, but for now, I wanted to get December’s wallpaper up for you.

December 2011 wallpaper

This one is from the commute home after a rather long day at work. It was a cold and wet fall evening, and the wind was blowing away the last leaves on the trees. The road was littered with mostly yellow leaves and the rain really brought out the colors that appeared in my headlights. I had made a similar photograph during my One Camera/One Lens/One Month experiment, so I had an idea of the kind of photograph I might get. I held the camera in front of the steering wheel with one hand and fired off a few shots, using a slow shutter speed to blur the motion from the car. This particular shot was to me the best of the bunch. I hope you like it, too.

December 2011 wallpaper — Desktop (2560 x 1600) December 2011 wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) December 2011 wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960) 

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November 2011 wallpaper Tue, 01 Nov 2011 01:13:18 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil You may have guessed that this would be the November wallpaper if you saw it when I posted it on Flickr, and you would have been right. After I shot and processed it, it was obvious to me that it would make a fine desktop/phone/tablet wallpaper. So… here it is.

November 2011 wallpaper

I shot this at Fort Benjamin Harrison in Indianapolis, about 10 minutes from my office, on my lunch break. It’s the same location I shot for the June 2011 wallpaper, but of course with the blaze of autumn color instead of the cool greens of late spring/early summer. I did bump the color saturation up slightly in post-processing but that’s about it. I hope you like it.

November 2011 wallpaper — Desktop (1920 x 1200) November 2011 wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) November 2011 wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960)

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Thinking about thinking… and not thinking Thu, 20 Oct 2011 01:05:38 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil Angels looking on

How much thinking do you do when you photograph? A lot? A little? Somewhere in between?

I’ve been thinking about thinking in photography since I attended the Artists’ Round Table (ART) in Port Townsend, Washington this past June. During our image reviews, I learned that many times I was overthinking my photographs. I was spending too much time making sure things were exactly the way I wanted them in both subject matter and technique, as opposed to paying attention to what I wanted to say. As a result, many of my photographs were, as Ansel Adams put it, “sharp photographs of a fuzzy concept.”

Not all of my photographs, though. So I began to look closer at the ones that seemed to work better to see if I could discover a pattern or at least a clue about why they did. What I discovered were two things: a) even if I wasn’t consciously thinking about composition and sharpness and depth of field and everything else, I still managed to do those things pretty well, and b) these photographs moved me more than the ones I made where the technique was my focus.

What did this tell me? Well, that some of the things I worried about when making photographs could now be relegated to what you might describe as muscle memory. I could trust myself to do them as needed whenever I made a photograph and concentrate on what I wanted to express with the photograph. And instead of worrying about those things, I was free to really think about how the photograph would feel as opposed to how it looked.

Now, I’m not saying that you need to stop thinking about technique or composition, etc., or that you’re “doing it wrong”. What you know about making photographs is essential to your growth as a photographer and the quality of your photographs. But if you’re like me, you might remain focused on that too long after you’ve mastered it well enough to make good photographs. The most compelling photographs aren’t always the sharpest or have the greatest dynamic range.

Hanging onto this limited vision also does something else. It allows us to avoid thinking deeply about what we’re trying to express with a photograph and what we have to say about a subject. That’s a lot harder to figure out, at least for me, and something I still need to think more about. Many photographers—both amateur and professional—end up here, focused on technique, and then never go past it. We keep repeating the same photographs using a particular technique—which we often mistake for our style or voice—or we do it simply because it sells.

So, how do you do this? How do you avoid dwelling on technique? Well, by throwing it away completely. Try this: set your camera on Auto (gasp!) and take a picture without looking through the viewfinder. Don’t just fire wildly, though. Find something interesting; something you would normally shoot—your kids at play, a street scene, even a sunset. Hold your camera over your head or at your waist. Oh, put the tripod away, too. (Nice try, kid.)

Don’t think about the shutter speed or the aperture, or whether you want to use HDR or a limited depth of field. Give up control for a little while. Shoot when things look interesting to you; when you feel the moment as well as when you see it. Maybe even close your eyes. Use the Force, Luke.

After you’ve done this, take a look at the photographs you made. A lot of them could be throwaways, but some of them might not. Look at each of these closely and see if it conveys the feeling of what you saw. Were you successful in showing that? If so, give yourself credit for it, and remember it when you return to your normal style of shooting.

You might just be a better photographer than you think.

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October 2011 wallpaper Wed, 05 Oct 2011 03:50:10 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil I’m a little late with this one, as my mother once again reminds me, but because I am, you get an image from this past weekend that I photographed while I was at the Close to Home workshop in Port Townsend, Washington.

October 2011 wallpaper

This one is actually from the World Wide PhotoWalk on Sunday, which Ray led and which featured the Kinetic Sculpture Race. Before the race began, however, I was walking around the docks with Brian Matiash, Nicole Young and Jacob Lucas, just seeing what I could see. There was fog rising from the islands across Puget Sound and I was trying to find a landscape shot in there. A gull was floating in the water and I kept thinking that it would soon leave so I could get a clean shot. It did take off, but I suddenly decided to include it in the frame, giving the photograph a little twist to the standard landscape shot.

I hope you enjoy it.

October wallpaper — Desktop (1920 x 1200) October wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) October wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960) 

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Close to Home, Port Townsend Mon, 03 Oct 2011 23:21:24 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil Close to Home group picture

I’ve been struggling a bit over what to say about the Close to Home workshop in Port Townsend this past weekend. As both a learner and a teacher, I’ve always felt that workshops like these are about the students and not the instructor(s), but I’ve had several people ask me how I felt the workshop went, so I thought I’d give you my take on it.

Admittedly, I was nervous. About a lot of things, really. It was, after all, the first Close to Home workshop and the first workshop I’d ever led. As with the book, I was about 80% excited and 20% terrified. Most of all, though, I was worried that it would be flat—an adequate workshop, but without the kind of dynamic interaction that I’ve experienced at the Italy Within the Frame workshop and at the Artists’ Round Table.

To counter this, I wrote little notes to myself, planting some of them in my initial presentation and afterward sending myself electronic reminders—all to say, “Keep focused on the students. It’s their workshop, not yours.” And I think it worked.

Now before you think I’m patting myself on the back, the real credit for making it work belongs to the students themselves. Sure, Ray and I spent a lot of time planning and pulling off this workshop and I don’t discount that, but it would have never happened at all without Dorothy, Franz, Duncan, Don, Mike, Daniel, Cami, Ellie, Sabrina, and Eligis. The greatest reward a teacher can have is to see his students focused on and excited about their work and these folks gave me that in spades—along with some pretty amazing work.

(There’s a Flickr group where I hope they will eventually share their work with you. It’s at if you’d like to take a peek.)

I’d also like to again thank our terrific sponsors: Craft and Vision, ThinkTANK Photo, OnOneSoftware, Luma Labs, and Laura Shoe for their generous support of this initial effort. I hope to work with all of you again in the future.

Also, of course, my sincere gratitude to Ray Ketcham for co-hosting the workshop with me. As our students found out, Ray is a terrific teacher and a special guy to know (and that a clipboard and a hard hat from Walmart might get you access to a few places).

Finally, though she won’t want me to single her out, I’m also especially grateful to Sabrina Henry for doing a lot of the legwork in organizing this workshop and trying her best to keep Ray and I on track, which as anyone who knows us will tell you is a nearly impossible task.

There are things I can do better… and I will. There will be more of these in other places and with a different people. But this one will always hold a special place for me as the one where ten people took a chance on learning something from me. I’m grateful for that.

So keep an eye out here and the rest of the Internets for future versions of the workshop. I hope you’ll consider coming to one sometime when I’m close to your home.

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Why this workshop? Tue, 06 Sep 2011 11:30:13 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil [Photography] is putting one’s head, one’s eye and one’s heart on the same axis. – Henri Cartier-Bresson

I’ve spent a some time here recently telling you about the Close to Home workshop and the great sponsors we’re working with to bring it to you, and I am certainly grateful for their participation and their support. I personally use many of their products on a daily basis and I highly recommend you try them, too.

Day is done

But workshops are not just about the sponsors or the prizes they’ve donated for participants. I think it’s important for you to know what it is you’re getting yourself into so you can decide if a particular workshop is right for you. I always look at workshops and seminars as opportunities to do two things: a) learn from other photographers I respect and b) grow as a photographer by learning something new. Some workshops and seminars are designed to further your off-camera flash skills or post-processing techniques and they are certainly valuable to photographers of all levels. There comes a time, however, when you find yourself dissatisfied with simply learning new “tips and tricks.” There’s that voice in your head that says, “I want to do more. I want my photography to mean something more.” That’s where I’ve found myself recently and that’s where Ray and I plan to take you.

Now, of course I want you to come to the workshop to experience this for yourself, simply because there’s nothing like the kind of energy that a group of photographers focused on the same goal can bring, but I think I can give you enough information to help you decide if this workshop is right for you.

Essentially, the Close to Home workshop is about seeing. Seeing photographs, seeing stories and helping you tie your photography to your life—in both small and big ways. The book, Close to Home: Finding Great Photographs in Your Own Back Yard, is really a smaller discussion of a big idea—that great photography comes from within you, not where you live or travel . Ray and I are going to help you get closer to this idea through a series of discussions and exercises designed to slow you down and help you see the world around you more clearly. Then, once we’ve gotten you used to this approach, we’ll give you an individual assignment for the rest of the workshop so you can put these ideas into practice, and ask you to show the rest of the group your results at the end.

This may seem a bit like navel-gazing Zen meditation—and sometimes it is—but there are definitely practical results that you’ll see. You will understand better why you make photographs and how to make all of the photographic skills and techniques you’ve already acquired better serve your particular kind of seeing. It doesn’t matter if portraits or landscapes or abstracts are your thing, and it doesn’t matter what your skill level is. We want to help you connect your photography with your life.

I hope you’ll join us.

Don’t forget that early registration ends tonight, Sept. 6, at midnight PST, where you can save 10% off of the regular workshop fee of $299. If you register and pay by the deadline, you’ll be eligible for a chance to win one of two copies of Laura Shoe’s Lightroom Fundamentals DVD. Register today!

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September 2011 wallpaper Fri, 02 Sep 2011 00:36:24 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil With all of the activity in getting ready for the Close to Home workshop and announcing the great sponsors we’ve  lined up, I nearly forgot about picking a September wallpaper. Fortunately for me, several of my photographic peers posted theirs today, so it’s like having a built-in reminder system. (Of course, if I let it go too long, my Mom casually reminds me.)

September 2011 Wallpaper

This month’s wallpaper is a result of some of the principles I talk about in the Close to Home book—those same principles that we’ll be discussing in Port Townsend at the end of the month—and that is with the right weather and a little patience, you find some pretty cool photographs right where you live. This photograph was taken from the deck on the back of my house as some summer thunderstorms were heading off to the west after giving us some much-needed rain early in August. As the skies cleared, the rising moon was revealed and the setting sun provided a warm glow to the retreating clouds. A perfect end to a summer evening.

September 2011 wallpaper — Desktop (1920 x 1200) September 2011 wallpaper — iPad (1024 x 1024) September 2011 wallpaper — iPhone (640 x 960) 

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Workshop Sponsor: Laura Shoe Thu, 01 Sep 2011 11:00:05 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil I’m pleased to announce that Laura Shoe has joined our group of fabulous sponsors for the Close to Home workshop. Laura is an an instructor and fine art photographer based in Seattle, Washington, and particularly enjoys sharing her knowledge of Photoshop, Lightroom and other digital imaging topics with other photographers.  She is an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop Lightroom, and in addition to offering independent workshops, she teaches at Photographic Center Northwest in Seattle. She also taught for many years for the Rocky Mountain School of Photography, and is a Lightroom moderator and beta tester for Adobe.

Laura Shoe

Laura has put together a comprehensive DVD of Lightroom Fundamentals, including nearly seven hours of the same instruction she provides in her 2-day Lightroom workshops. Two lucky participants will receive a copy of Laura’s Lightroom Fundamentals DVD—but there’s a catch! You must register and pay for the Close to Home workshop before the early registration deadline on this Friday, Sept. 2nd extended to Tuesday, September 6 ! to be eligible. You’ll get a 10% discount for the workshop, too, saving you $30 off the full $299 workshop price.

So if you’ve been putting it off, here’s a little incentive to register early and get a chance at a really great prize. Sign up today!

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Workshop Sponsor: Luma Labs Sun, 28 Aug 2011 18:16:25 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil I’m pleased to announce another great sponsor for the Close to Home workshop in Port Townsend, WA. Luma Labs, the Portland, Oregon-based makers of the Loop and LoopIt camera straps, wants to make sure that your camera is always at the ready to capture the photographs you find all around you. That’s why they’ve taken the popular sling strap for cameras and improved upon it.

Luma Labs Loop Camera Strap

Luma Labs Loop and LoopIt camera straps work simply and simply work. They’ve focused on a minimalist design with quality materials and construction to make sure your camera strap is a natural extension of your shooting style. Your camera hangs comfortably at your side but can be raised to your eye quickly and smoothly, giving you confidence that your camera is ready when you need it.

I’ve been a Luma Loop customer since they were first available in November 2009 and I love the simplicity of its design and its ease of use. I’ve carried a variety of cameras with it, from a bulky Nikon D3s with a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens to the svelte Leica M9, and it’s always been comfortable and reliable. It’s also very durable and long-lasting; I still use the same strap I bought in 2009.

Thanks to Luma Labs, we’ll be giving away two Loop straps at the Close to Home workshop to a couple of attendees, along with the other great prizes from Craft & Vision, ThinkTANK Photo and OnOne Software. But you’ve gotta be there to win, so be sure to get signed up soon! You can save 10% off the regular $299 workshop fee if you sign up by September 2nd—less than a week away.

We’d love to see you there!

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Join me in Chicago Wed, 24 Aug 2011 02:29:12 +0000 Stuart Sipahigil As you might have noticed, I’m partnering with Ray Ketcham to hold a Close to Home workshop in Port Townsend, Washington in late September/early October. It’s shaping up to be a really great experience, with presentations, exercises, photo assignments and more. Plus we’ve gotten some really great sponsors—Craft & Vision, ThinkTANK Photo, and OnOne Software—who have generously donated some pretty cool prizes. I’ll also be hanging around for the Ray Ketcham-led Port Townsend version of the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk on Sunday, October 2. It’s all gonna be a great time and I hope you’ll join us if you can.

Jack & Diane

But that’s not your only chance to spend a little time with me and find out a little more about the methods I teach from the book, Close to Home: Finding Great Photographs in Your Own Back Yard. On September 24, I’ll be a guest speaker at Steve Huff’s photography workshop in Chicago. It’s a short presentation—about a half an hour—but I’ll also be hanging around for most of the shooting part of the workshop, lending Steve and the workshop participants a hand where I can. Chicago is a great city to spend time in, let alone getting to spend time photographing it. We’ll be exploring places like Millenium Park, Navy Pier and more, so there’ll be many opportunities to find some great photographs. It’s certainly one of my favorite cities to visit and photograph.

Details and sign up information for the workshop can be found on Steve’s site, along with workshop agenda. If you sign up before September 1st, you’ll get $50 off of the regular workshop price of $350.

Hope to see you there!

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