Blue Hour Photo Workshops

Photography is a constant travel to new places

Archive for Photography

Students Facing Their Fears

© Nina Ramberg

© Kari Anne Kvam

© Jan-Morten Bjørnbakk

© Jan Holm

© Berit Roald

© Anders Øystein Gimse

We are always amazed by the work students come back with during any of my photo workshop. During this year’s Cuba workshop we had participants with quite different photographic skills and knowledge, but not matter their background they were all able to produce some outstanding photos.

Personally for us, that is one of the most rewarding aspects of teaching a workshop. We believe we always learn just as much as the participants from their different perspectives and their different ways of shooting that they bring into a workshop. Yes, we as workshop teachers push them to grow and expand, but they all come with their own photographic voice, whether refined or still in the making.

Likewise for the participants, we think being push from teachers with a different perspective than themselves is what makes attending a workshop so worthwhile. When participants let them be move into new ways of seeing and are willing to go outside their usual box, that’s when they will experience tremendous growth and development during a workshop.

During this year’s Cuba workshop, all the participants did exactly that. Yes, some of them felt vulnerable when we pushed hard, which is something we experience in all workshops we teach, but they also came out on the other side with a new photographic confidence and a stronger sense of their photographic voice.

Shooting on the street is difficult for anyone who is not used to it. Particularly approaching strangers on the street with the intention of capturing photos of them can be challenging. It takes a lot of practice to be at ease when walking over to a complete stranger—even for a seasoned photographer used to shooting on the street. Even more so, for participants who have never done anything like this before. But again, the participants of this year’s photo workshop ended up getting into any situation by the end of the workshop, yes, they equally easily entered houses of strangers and kept shooting inside their homes.

I think this willingness to face up to the task was what made their work so outstanding. This post gives a little sample of photos by the participants.

Subdued Simplicity

Over the eight weeks that Phil Vaughn attended the online photo workshop «Finding Your Photographic Voice», I noticed a significant development in his photography. By the end of the workshop, Phil was both clearer in his approach and were able to express his vision with more strength.

I think this is quite evident in the personal photo project he worked on during the last four weeks of the workshop. The theme for the project was something so everyday-like as a park, but the photos has a personal touch and transcend the peacefulness and quiet that many parks represents for its urban users.

Phil photographed the airy Engler Park, Farmington, Missouri with a subdued sensibility. The photos radiate this tranquil approach in both composition and the photos’ colour palette. The colours are a strange combination of being muted as well as subtle. There is a simplicity over his work that strengthens the expression and underlines the serene feeling of the park.

During the four weeks, Phil worked on the project he returned to the park during all times of the day. He photographed the visitors of the park, their activity as well as the more deserted areas of the park. The photo project comes together as a visual essay that tells the story of life and environment in a pleasant park.

Later in the spring I will start up another round of the online workshop, more specifically May 22nd. If you are interested, you will find more information about «Finding Your Photographic Voice» on the web site of Blue Hour Photo Workshops.

The Magic Pond

© Lee Cleland

© Lee Cleland

© Lee Cleland

© Lee Cleland

© Lee Cleland

Over the next couple of weeks, Blue Hour Photo Workshops will present the work of participants of last year’s online photo workshop «Finding Your Photographic Voice». First out is Lee Cleland. During the last four weeks of the workshop each participants work on their own personal project, and Lee chose to photograph a small and elusive pond, surrounded by an open cluster of trees. The pond is situated in a large and lush landscape, and provided Lee with amble opportunities to convey its magic trough a gentle and distinct vision.

Lee approached the project from a variety of angles, capturing the open landscape, details in and around the pond, the small animals living of the pond, its plants and the different ambiences that occurred over time. Her photos have a quiet aesthetics, using a subtle and secluded colour palette. They clearly show she has a refined eye which radiates through her sensitive and unique voice.

What I really like about Lee’s work is that she constantly tried out new approaches over the four weeks she was working on her personal project. In the beginning, she came back with some beautiful landscape pictures, one that can be seen in this little selection above, and she also quickly started to shoot the small inhabitants of the pond. Soon she started to experiment with various techniques, such as using flash, using long handheld exposure time, and using different aperture.

The final product is a beautiful series of quiet landscape and nature photos. They convey the magic of the intriguing pond—they are magic in and of themselves. For more of her photography, please look up Lee’s blog Beyond Purgatory ~ A Photographer’s Paradise.

Later in the spring Blue Hour Photo Workshops will start up another round of the online workshop, more specifically May 22nd. If you are interested, you will find more information about «Finding Your Photographic Voice» on the web site of Blue Hour Photo Workshops. Furthermore, if you sign up before the end of April you will get the workshop for a discounted price.

See Beyond the Subject

Many people’s reaction to a rainy day sounds something like this: «Oh, it’s a nasty day; everything is going to get wet on my way to work.» But to a child, a rainy day means puddles to jump in, raindrops to catch, and the possibility of rainbows. And to a photographer, those puddles, raindrops and stormy skies with rainbows can mean great photographs, if you are looking at things for their positive potential.

If you believe there is beauty and interesting stuff around you, you will see it, more and more, as you open yourself up. You just need a willingness to explore and find what’s extraordinary in the ordinary things around you. It doesn’t matter what the subject is: A flower blossom, an abalone shell, a lichen-covered tree. Your goal is to get past what the thing is, and look at it for any visual delight it might offer.

It’s human nature to want to define what something is—a flower, a piece of granite, a type of tree. But more important for you as a photographer, you need to get beyond what it is and see it more deeply. Ask yourself things like, «what does bark look like up close?» or «what are the colours in this piece of rock and what would it look like wet?»

You can train yourself to see beyond the subject by asking how you feel about what you are seeing. What does it express to you? Are you drawn to the subject for its texture? Its shape? Is the light expressing a certain mood? Is the scene funny, or sad? When you get in touch with what you feel, you draw from a deeper well of vision and will find ways to photograph your subject that express this. If you don’t have any feelings about your subject, this, too, will be reflected in your pictures. They may end up being static, lacking expression and possibly lacking a focal point.

The inside of your house may not be interesting to photograph, but it’s a great place to begin learning to see more deeply. Go into your kitchen and notice the chrome reflections and design of kitchen items, their colours and shapes. If you want to make picture, great. If not, use the exercise as a way to begin seeing the things around you. Or, take a walk outside and look at a tree. Notice the texture, the pattern, and the shape of the tree. Walk around it and notice how the light changes its attributes, bringing out texture, form and shape. Or visit your garden or a neighbour’s yard and look at the variety of design in plants and flowers.

The only rule when doing an exercise like this is to leave you assumptions and expectations behind, opening yourself up to seeing what’s really there. Go beyond you left brain, which tells you, «it’s only a rusty old engine and listen instead to the right brain, which says, «look at all those wonderful patterns in rusty texture. The more you move into the right side of your brain, the more you’ll see.

There are so many wonderful pictures to be made when you look at the world with curiosity. Just imagine now how many photographic opportunities there are waiting for you within close range of your home. The potential is endless.

A Low Hanging Sun

Learning to understand and use light is one of the key elements to make your photographs stand out. But it’s also a challenging skill to master. Light can come in so many forms and have so many qualities. If you want to handle light, the best way is to practice one kind at a time. Here is a one that almost never fails to produce captivating photos.

Light helps tell the story of the photograph. The right light can transform an otherwise ordinary scene into something extraordinary. It can set the mood in a photograph. Light can help isolate an image. It can also reveal form and texture. It can create a feeling of depth. Light has so many qualities; an endless array of ways it can strike and bring out a subject that books have been written about it.

If we limit ourselves to natural light, more specifically sunlight, in particular one kind always makes an experienced photographer’s heart beat a little quicker. Have you noticed how beautiful the light from a low hanging sun is? I am not talking about sunset, although that is indeed beautiful. No, I am rather thinking about sunshine either a little earlier than sunset, like late afternoon or equally beautiful; some time after sunrise in the late morning.

Most experience photographers know that the light in the morning or in the afternoon is gorgeous, particularly when used as side light, that is light that falls on the subject from one side. Generally, side light is a very modulating light, it is a key light to bring out dimensions and textures, and it makes object appear three-dimensional by the distinct shadows it creates. Side light is usually regarded as very attractive and appealing and more so side light from an early or late sun.

Depending on the time, light from a low hanging sun may cast a warm tint on the subject, but what I really want to emphasize is the modulating quality of a low sun. The light sweeps across the scene, creating a pattern of striking highlights and shadows as it comes in from a low sky.

Position yourself so that the light from the sun comes in from one side relative to yourself. Almost anything you photograph in such light will turn into a pleasing photograph. You can hardly spoil it. What about sun from an open sky, is that not suppose to be harsh and rather unforgiving, you may ask. Yes, when the sun is high on the sky that is so, but when it gets closer to the horizon the sun rays moves through the atmosphere at an angle and thus have a longer way to pass before it hits the ground. That forces the sun rays to scatter into the atmosphere, more than at midday, which makes the sky into a light source of its own and wraps the sunlight around any object lit by the sun.

The sunlight in the morning or in the afternoon creates an extraordinarily beautiful light. Try it out yourself and I am sure you will be convinced—if you haven’t already given it a try.

Natural Light Indoor

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Nothing beats natural light. It’s versatile, so beautiful and always changing like a facet, thus always surprising. Even in places, you recon you would need to use artificial light; you may take advantage of natural light. Think indoor. Your first thought may be to turn on the flash, but instead of its harsh and contrasting result, here is a different approach.

Light from a window or an open doorway brings the beauty of natural light indoor. What more is, it’s a soft and diffused light that wraps around the subject you photograph—as long as you don’t let direct sunlight through the window or doorway.

Furthermore, window light is a natural light that we are all familiar with in our day to day lives. It is easy on the eye and easy for us to decode in a photograph because we are so familiar with the way light rattles around in a room. A large window is essentially a huge softbox that will diffuse light into the room and around the subject you place in front of it. Window light can be wonderful for photographing portraits or still-life subjects.

As mentioned, it’s diffused but still directional so that it brings out the forms of whatever you photograph. One could call it «quiet light» because it has a peaceful quality to it. It reduces contrasts, which makes it easier for the camera to record details in both the deeper shadows and the brighter highlights, which in turn makes it possible to see more details in the final picture.

By using light from the window almost anyone with a good camera and lens can take exceptional indoor images. The soft nature of window light makes it very flattering; the shadows that appear on the face are very natural and don’t accentuate any features.

You can use light from a window in many ways, lighting the subject from behind or affront. However, probably the most beautiful light from a window or doorway is when you use it to cast a sideways light on the subject. Side-lighting will really bring out the forms and details in the subject.

The photo above was lit from an open doorway only. The light brings out the characters of the elderly couple and brings out the weathered faces sculptured from a long life on a farm in Cuba.

What about giving this approach a try? I am sure you will find window light both easy to handler and resulting beautiful images.

Cuba Colours

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Cuba is a country of colour and sensual heat. It moves differently than any other country in the world. Maybe it’s due to the fusion of stiff Eastern European communism with Caribbean salsa. And maybe it’s exactly the contrast that makes Cubans more alive and outward going than even other cultures you will find in the Caribbean. Of course, it has not the least to do with the rich cultural heritage of the Cubans. Cuba is after all where the music son were born and spread to the rest of the world as its offshoot salsa.

During Blue Hour Photo Workshop’s «Street photography in Cuba» you will get ample opportunity to both experience and photograph the Cuban colour and heat. That is really what makes the country and it’s people so attractive for photographer from near and far. The workshop takes place from April 29th to May 6th this year.

For more information about the workshop you can sign up by clicking the link:

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