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"Beauty can be seen in all things, seeing and composing the beauty is what separates the snapshot from the photograph." – Matt Hardy


"I think a photography class should be a requirement in all educational programs because it makes you see the world rather than just look at it."  -  Author Unknown


"A man’s heart away from nature becomes hard; lack of respect for growing, living things soon leads to a lack of respect for humans too."  – Luther Standing Bear


"Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow."Imogen Cunningham


"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter."  - Ansel Adams


"When you follow your bliss….doors will open where you would not have thought there would be doors; and where there wouldn’t be a door for anyone else."  - Joseph Campbell


"You can outdistance that which is running after you, but not what is running inside you." – Rwandan Proverb


"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." – Ralph Waldo Emerson


"Every child is an artist.  The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up."  -  Pablo Picasso


"We have been taught to believe that negative equals realistic and positive equals unrealistic."  -  Susan Jeffers


"Always leave enough time in your life to do something that makes you happy, satisfied, even joyous.  That has more of an effect on economic well-being than any other single factor."  -  Paul Hawken


"Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of happiness in life."  -  Linus Pauling



Big news for Natural Connections Photo Workshops!!  Olympus has announced their new Olympus Workshop Partner program and they are officially supporting our workshops.  We will be bringing you the same quality workshops you've come to expect from us, but there will be some new devolopments too!  Just as always, we are happy to have participants who shoot ANY camera system, but we will have some special options for shooters who shoot Olympus or want to try out an Olympus system.  

To ready the official announcement from Olympus....CLICK HERE!


Lightroom vs. Photoshop - Which is better, or do I need both?

We hear it every day.....what image processing software should I use?  Although there are tons of image processing software products out there, personally, we tend to stick with the industry standard which is a couple of Adobe products - Lightroom and Photoshop.  

And then the next question is inevitable....well, which one should I use?  Well, it depends.  We use both, but both may not be suited to everyone's needs.  I will say however, that I use Lightroom for about 75% of my photo editing needs.  When Lightroom came out it was immediately recognizable as a very different product from the traditional Photoshop. Where Photoshop requires the use of layers and selections and a number of fairly initially confusing tool choices to make said selections, Lightroom employes more of a slider-style type of adjusment.  Basically, it is just more intuitave for the newer user. 

As my work flow process goes....I import my images into Lightroom, add important key descriptive words for sorting and searching purposes.  Then I will use the common sliders for white balance, exposure, contrast, clarity, saturation, sharpening, etc.  Most everything I need can be done with the basic sliders. Now, technically there is a section in Lightroom where you can use a brush to make selctions that just affect a certain portion of the image.  I will use this very lightly, because heavy use seems to introduce artifacts and can look heavy handed. 

If I need to process different parts of the image separately or combine exposures, that's when I generally go into Photoshop. Then I get all creative with selections, layer masks and all of those other words that tend to scare the bejeebees out of new photographers.  Now I will make this disclaimer, I have not switched to CC (aka the Cloud) yet for the newest Lightroom they may have introduced some new features that will reduce your need for Photoshop even more.  Let's just say I've heard rumors.

So our advice?  Definitely start with Lightroom.  It's relatively easy and will get you up and running faster than trying to understand Photoshop.  But don't get me wrong, once you get to a certain level you will want to know the basics of Photoshop too because there are just some things that you can't do in Lightroom.


Advanced Usage of the Rule of Thirds

How do I employ the Rule of Thirds with 'busier' images?  

Simple images make it pretty simple to use the rule of thirds.  Often where to place horizons and other elements in a photo just jump out at you once you understand the concept.  But what about when there is a lot more going on in an image? Although our images should never be so 'busy' that they overwhelm the viewer with trying to figure out the true subject, some images have more involved in them than just a horizon or one subject that obviously should be placed on a power point.  Overall, my response would be 2 fold; pick a strong line in the photo that can be interpreted to extend along the thirds, and learn to look for 'implied' lines. 

In this example to the left, there is no line that extends completely across the image on the thirds.  However there are curves that begin roughly on both the top and bottom third.  These points of origin for the curves could be inferred to extend across the image along each vertical third thus supplying the 'implied' line. 

In the image to the right, there are actually lines everywhere.  It is up to the photographer to reign all of this in and compose the image where the lines seem to fall along the thirds in a pleasing way.  The vertical tubes of candy all stop at a point that creates an implied line across the top horizontal third.  The crates of candy and the bands along the crates imply a line on the bottom horizontal third.  


In the below image, although it seems to be an almost simplistic image, there is actually a lot going on compositionally. There is a lot of color in the sky, but just as much in the water's reflection, so I actually centered the horizon to maximize the amount of color in the entire image.  The tree also seems somewhat centered in the image because it doesn't run off the edges, but the rule of thirds is definietly used in both horizontal and vertical directions. The trunk falls on the left vertical third and the end of the branches fall on the right creating an implied line on the vertical third.  Another implied part of this is that each branch that spreads up and down gives the illusion from its mass and density that they fall along the top and bottom horizontal thirds....a seemingly simple image, VERY carefully composed. 



When Can I 'Break' the Rule of Thirds?

The idea of the Rule of Thirds is to keep the photographer from 'bullseyeing' the subject in the center of the frame.....keeping the subject along the thirds and power points in the image generally makes for a much stronger composition and is more pleasing to the viewer's eye.  HOWEVER, there are certain times that it is OKAY to break this rule.  

The general answer is:  When the image is strong enough to deserve it.  For example, if you have a very strong and interesting reflection or powerful leading lines or very strong symmetry within the image. Take the below image.....

In this image there was a strong reflection so I centered the image along the horizontal axis because the symmetry in the reflction was a powerful element.  But also notice that the sun which is duplicated in the reflection is along the right vertical third.  A somewhat centered image that still uses the idea of the Rule of Thirds. 

Here the thing that pulled my attention in this lavishly ornate cathedral was the brass plate on the floor.  I wanted to highlight the beauty of this plate while also including the beauty of its surroundings.  So I decided to center it in the frame and not put it on a power point.  HOWEVER, notice that I am still using the idea of 'thirds' because the top of the plate follows the bottom third and the light at the end of the aisle is along the top third.  So even when I 'break' the rule, I still tend to somehow pay attention to where other elements lie within the frame. 

In this next image, I was drawn in by the texture but also by the symmetry of the rear of the car. So in this case I centered the spine of the car in the image for the most impact.  But again, notice that the back windshield is running along the line of the top third and the bright yellow leaf is aligned on the bottom third.  I RARELY every center anything completely, but do branch out from the the Rule of Thirds when the subject allows for it.


#1 Tip for Improving Your Photography - Better Composition / Rule-of-Thirds

The #1 basic composition tip to better photography is to use the 'Rule of Thirds'.  This is a visualization tool for the photographer where we 'see' the image before us in 'sections' a GRID, if you will.  We call this a 'rule', because as a general rule this exercise and learning to see this way will immediately improve your helps you to determine where the most interest is in the scene and where to place that interest in the photograph. Let's take the basic image below:

In this image, there is no one element that is the subject - it is the whole scene that is drawing me in.  So first I have to determine where the most interest is in the scene....and although the grass is nice, the sky is where everything is happening. So, I should use more of the sky in my composition and then I employ the rule of thirds to craft the image.  

So here it is best that I put the horizon on the lower third to 'anchor' my image but let the sky be the star.  Also, notice that I put the lightest cloud on the top third to add balance to the photo.  In fact the lighter, brighter more colorful cloud has a curve that sits at the intersection of where the thirds meet - called a 'Power Point'.  This placement emphasizes the importance of this element and helps keep the viewers' eyes within the photo. 

NOW, let us take an image with a definite subject.  You will need to pay more attention to the idea of 'Power Points', because you will likely want to place your subject on one of 4 power point positions in the photograph.  

Here, the interest in the subject is obviously the star fish clinging to the rock. However, although they are my 'subject', I also want to show them in their environment. So, where is the most interest?  In the bottom part of the frame. So I include the color and evening sky in the top third but let the sea life shine as the subject.  

In this image, I placed the star fish in the bottom right power point and included enough of their environment so the viewer knows what it is like in their world.  Not 'bullseyeing' the subject dead center in the frame allows us the show more of the environment but be close up on the subject as well.