Sunday, June 3, 2018

Great Photography Resources in Today's World

Times have changed, and my gratitude for these days is abundant. And about photography especially so.

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. 
               -Melody Beattie

I didn't have the internet as a teen, so I checked books out from the library which had collections by the great photographers. Here are just a few examples:

Henri Cartier-Bresson - used a simple 35mm Leica
rangefinder to capture edgy, journalistic images.
Look for the way he waited for the right moment
to take the photo.

Ansel Adams - Used a view camera to capture
what have become iconic photos of America's
natural beauty. Look for a full ranges of grays
with a solid black, a solid white,
and perfect composition.

Richard Avedon - Portraits of famous people.
If you ever want to take professional
quality pictures of people, friends,
or family, Avedon is the master.

Alfred Steiglitz - Steiglitz is rooted in
city life subjects and portraits and
probably influenced Avedon's work.

The long road to becoming a good photographer began with laying these big "cocktail table" books out on my bedroom floor and taking notes with the hope of learning their secrets -- the magic formula for a great photograph. What I learned was that a great photograph...

  • focuses on an extraordinary object or presents an ordinary object in an extraordinary way. 
  • is balanced visually and just feels right. (I later learned this is called composition.)
  • must capture a moment or tell a story. (Even something as simple as a cloud can tell a story.)
  • has a sense of triumph in it, something that makes it more than just a snapshot. You won't be able to say “Anybody could take that picture.” Sometimes this specialness is intangible.
  • has depth and richness of color.  You marvel at the colors in a National Geographic magazine photo or the incredible blacks and whites of an Ansel Adams and Alfred Steiglitz photo. Why? Because the colors in colored photos are rich, saturated, and go together well with just the right amount of light.  Black and white photos, on the other hand, with their full array of grays, will always include at least one perfect white and one perfect black. 
These observations were made in the early days of my photography journey, and I believe I was on the right track. You can go through this process too by analyzing photos of photographers you admire. Fortunately, we now have internet access to the work of all the great photographers along with the details and explanations of what went into creating their photos. 

How-to Information comes in many forms these days!

There is so much easily-accessible How-To information available through online articles and YouTube videos. The drawback to searching through all that free online content requires you to decide what is low quality versus what is high quality content. Unless you are retired with plenty of time on your hands, you are likely to find this sorting process time consuming and inefficient. 

Time savers online:

I have found reasonably-priced online courses are a time-saver because they present rich high-quality content in an organized way.  It is especially appealing in instances when you can try before you buy. 

Craftsy Unlimited now know as Bluprint gives your free trial access to thousands of hours of videos and classes in many categories including photography.   

Start your FREE Craftsy Unlimited trial at

Signing up gives you full unlimited access to all of the photography courses and more.  I have taken photography courses such as Travel Photography, Food Photography, Nature Photography, Landscape Photography, and Night Photography.  (There are many more courses too, such as Lightroom Essentials, Portraits and Posing, Macro Photos, Family & Baby Photography, even a course on Mobile phone photography.)
What I like about the Bluprint Craftsy platform is that you can ask questions of the instructors, and they will give you personal answers and critiques of your photos (which they encourage you to upload to the site).

I'll share with you one example of an incredible Craftsy course I just took with National Geographic photographer, Jad Davenport, called Travel Photography

Many of the tricks and techniques Jad presents actually build upon the discoveries I glimpsed decades ago but could not at that time put into practice. Jad opened my eyes to new ways to balance being on vacation with getting the great photos.


First, on my drive up to Vermont, I stopped along the way to smell the flowers (and take some pictures). I was at a rest stop which had a garden. I thought, why not try out my new macro lens? I learned how working with the shallow focus range (depth of field) and the out of focus background to create a good composition.

(By the way - if you would like a great FREE primer on flower photography?  Anne McKinnell has a blog post you will really learn from.
While the intention of my trip to Vermont was to capture some great Fall colors, I was open to everything that might be "a gift," as Jad Davenport phrases it in his course. This covered bridge was one such gift.

A covered bridge captures the character of Vermont.
To continue about lessons learned from Jad Davenport's Travel Photography course, he talks about how to approach people and capture a moment. Still in Vermont, searching for Autumn foliage, I went into a diner for lunch, and it was absolutely empty.  I applied what I'd learned from Jad. 

First, I ordered lunch, then I asked the waitress if I could take some photos. I took a shot of the empty diner to catch the classic ambience. Then I used selective focus and a wide f-stop to get the bar stools.

In Vermont, diners and Mom & Pop places rule.

A telephoto compresses the image
and allows selective focus.
After the waitress got used to me shooting while waiting for my lunch to come out of the kitchen, I asked if I could take a photo of her. She said yes, and I got this photo which I think captures a moment. Compare it to the original version above which does not capture a moment. Jad Davenport gives an example of this in his course using his shot of a hummingbird.

Well? Did I manage to get those Fall color pictures in Vermont?  Check out my Vermont blog post here.

As for this post, I'm sharing the idea that finding the right course at a reasonable price can make a huge impact on your skills as a photographer and accelerate your growth. 

If these kinds of classes are of interest to you, please use the below link which supports this website and blog. 

Craftsy Unlimited FREE 7 day trial at

Please post your feedback here, and be sure to attach your photos.

Thanks for reading  my posts!
Mike Shaw

P.S. check out my photo albums on Flickr and my photo-products at Fine Art Photography.

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