Paul's motivational JUMPSTART into the world of outdoor photography is a unique blend of practical hands-on lecture, ideas for creative inspiration, and Q and A from a live audience who asks the questions you want to know. Count on having a lot of fun learning from Paul's vibrant teaching style, and then get outside on your next adventure taking great photos!
This is an ongoing photography course, and you have lifetime access. New illustrations and assignments will be added to this course as it becomes available or as needed for explanation. If you have something you want to see, please don't hesitate to let me know. I am here to launch you as far as I can into this wonderful world of wilderness photography!
For those of you who don't have 6-weeks to sit in a boring classroom, we'll do it all in ONE DAY!
This course is for beginners who are serious about learning it right and in a tangible way the first time. This is not for casual shooters who just want to take a better snapshot of their family. This is for those who want to really be artists with their camera.
You will need to have your camera out in front of you. Be prepared to practice, practice, practice as the course progresses.
I deliver this time-tested Jumpstart course in three sections; CAMERA CLASS, PHOTOGRAPHY, and PROBLEM SOLVING.
- CAMERA CLASS: You have to learn this gadget before you can create those artistic masterpieces of this wild planet. Look forward to getting off of that pesky green Auto setting forever after this morning session.
- PHOTOGRAPHY: It's all about the Light, baby!
- PROBLEM SOLVING: After this section, “When you're photographing on your own, and there's no one to look over your shoulder and critique, you can basically teach yourself."
This is a one-day intensive course. Although, you can break it into two days to allow more time for everything to digest. Either way, most importantly, TRY everything we cover on YOUR OWN CAMERA as you progress through the course. Don't take tons of notes… JUST TRY IT!
Join Paul in this LIVELY ongoing classroom experience. The flame of passion you currently have for photography will be fanned into a blazing inferno.
We are about to head inside and join into a classroom of 11 other students, but let's remember that the whole goal is to get right back outside!
I provide an overview of where we are headed this morning. You WILL overcome your dependence upon the green auto setting! Do so by diving into Aperture, Shutter Speed, Modes, Exposure Compensation, ISO, and White Balance in a non-intimidating way that actual makes practical sense. I promise.
I place high-priority on deeply understanding the MEANING of photography in relation to ourselves. I hope you enjoy my description of the eye, mind, and heart of the camera. We will use this language the rest of the course. I have discovered and developed these principles over the last 15 years as an obsessed pro wilderness photographer. Bare with me on my drawing skills. You will see why I stick to photography : )
I will take you quickly into a real and intensive understanding of what aperture actually is. You will finally comprehend aperture (also called f-stop). This is the first of two key components in understanding exposure. Enjoy!
Simple in concept, Paul will explain in practical detail what the numbers mean, how to utilize various shutter speeds, and how to recognize the shutter speeds used in other people's photographs. This is the second of two key components in understanding exposure. Enjoy!
Exposure is simply the proper balance between Aperture and Shutter speed. This lecture will pull the prior two lectures together. Learn to create a properly "exposed" image by getting your aperture and shutter speed in sync.
I take the prior three lectures and cement them in your mind forever with this very hands-on and practical illustration. Here we go!
No need to learn about every single mode on your camera. Instead, I will teach you the most important one used by professionals 95% of the time. It's called aperture priority. This is also the primary training tool to get you in shape for shooting in fully manual mode later today, and into the future whenever a situation calls for it.
I describe depth of field as the "range of what is sharp." What you want in focus is the first, and most important decision you make when photographing. It's a personal decision. To have the creative control to pull what you want into focus you must understand depth of field in a comprehensive way. Fasten your seat belt!
I share wildlife and landscape images that were made using SHALLOW depth of field (aperture numbers like f/1.4, f/2.8, f/3.5, etc) and DEEP depth of field (aperture numbers like f/16, f/22, etc).
I can't stress enough how important it is to fully ingrain the power of depth of field. So here are a few more examples of SHALLOW vs. DEEP. Yes, there are times for inbetween (aperture numbers like f/8 and f/11), but we will stick to the extremes for now. I also explain the term "chimping." Haha!
The magnificent +/- button! Used in conjunction with Aperture Priority Mode, you will wish someone had showed you this years ago.
With ISO you have the power to change the sensitivity of the heart of the camera. I explain why this is such a big deal and how changing the ISO affects Exposure (the balance between Aperture and Shutter Speed).
I show an in-the-field example of the resulting slow shutter speed (as desired) by leaving the ISO on 100 or 200, then toggling the aperture to f/22. As an outdoor enthusiast prone to photographing streams and waterfalls in the landscape, you will use this a lot!
You will not see this anywhere. It may look strange, but actually give this a try; don't just watch me do it. My hope is that this exercise will cement in your mind the natural law of depth of field that results from light bending through a small hole (f/22). Have fun showing all your friends!
Hang in there! White Balance is the final principle in CAMERA CLASS (the morning session). I encourage you to play around with varying color temperatures. Don't delete any of your images. It is very helpful to come back to these practice images later.
I convince you, despite what the camera salesperson taught you, to leave your WB around 5,300K (sunshine setting) ALL the time when you are outside. I give you a few examples from the wilderness to back up this very strong opinion. It's all about seeing the reality of the color of light in our beautiful universe!
I recap what we have learned about this important principle of color. Now, try it out!
I knew someone would have to ask it, so here is my response. This is my brief teaching on the JPEG vs. RAW format. If you are just beginning, but you know you will become pretty serious about this new hobby, then I recommend setting your camera to both JPEG and RAW. Your camera can take both formats simultaneously. Then, you will always have the RAW image to come back to later. But in the meantime, the JPEG file will be much more manageable to work with. Yes, as a full-time pro, I do shoot in the RAW.
This is your first assignment, should you choose to accept it.
Create images of your backyard landscape in Aperture Priority Mode.
After this first unit, you are fully equipped to begin creating artistic images from your backyard. You are to shoot several images of the exact same scene while changing your perspective and toggling your aperture (f/stop number) from f/4 - f/22 and noticing the difference. Be sure that your camera is anchored down solid, ideally on a tripod during those f/22 shots. Otherwise, there could be some image blurriness as a result.
We have now demystified the controls in that fancy black box, and you are off of the green Auto setting. Welcome to the fun part. PHOTOGRAPHY! This afternoon session is all about principles of light. Photography actually means "painting with light." I will begin introducing you to my life-long obsession and unceasing passion for Light.
I discuss two broad categories of light quality. Hard light and soft light.
Actually seeing both the quality and the direction of the light falling upon your subject makes all the difference. Join me for some practice as we look through some wildlife and landscape images. Don't just "take pictures of subjects." Begin to discover where in the environment there is the best light, then photograph what is in it, or place your subject there if the subject is something you can move. Note: I don't recommend moving brown bears.
I share a bit of creative inspiration for seeing the interplay between cool and warm colors in the environment.
Reminder: Please don't use Auto WB when photographing a sunset. For more on that see earlier White Balance lectures from CAMERA CLASS.
I introduce composition with a powerful secret. I call this principle the art of subtraction.
I introduce three fundamental principles of composition: Thirds, Lines, and Movement. I also include graphic design concepts I learned in university. You may want to watch these composition lectures a few times to really lay a solid artistic foundation. Learn these "rules" completely then go break them to pieces with your own radical creativity.
I am taken on a tangent with a question regarding my aperture selection on this early morning image in Yosemite. I include my response here for you as a bit of review.
I share some mountaineering images that teach some principles about the journey our eyes can take through the frame. This stuff takes time and practice before it begins to become second-nature. No, you do not need a rope, a road, or a river to create lines in a scene that carry the eye through the frame. But they sure do make good examples.
Incorporate the principles of composition you just learned.
Now that you have some principle of composition under you belt, begin to craft your backyard compositions while keeping in mind the rule of thirds, leading lines, and movement within the frame. After making an image, ask yourself if there is anything that can be "subtracted" from the frame. Then, move in closer or zoom your lens such that the unnecessary elements are removed.
If you are tired of blurry photos due to image vibration, in this lecture I share how to eliminate the issue completely. There are just a couple of important matters to consider relating to Shutter Speed and ISO. See how it's all coming full circle?
We would all rather be outdoors. But if you are shooting indoors, you will have some challenges with the colors of light. At times you will encounter a mixture of normal daylight coming in through the windows with the gross yellowy tungsten lights within the room. How do you handle it? Here is an info-packed lecture on what to do in a variety of challenging indoor lighting situations.
Sunny days are NOT an outdoor photographers' ideal day in terms of lighting. But let's face it, we don't always get that dreamy high-overcast day that makes shooting a breeze. Here are a couple points of inspiration on how to make the most of it. The next three lectures elaborate on techniques to use when presented with the challenge of a sunny day.
I explain how to take advantage of a bright sunny day by shooting from within the shade toward the light made by the direct sunshine. Take notes on this stuff and try it repeatedly. You will use this a lot!
Sometimes all it takes is just a subtle kiss of light tossed into the scene from your flash. An external flash as I demonstrate here is always best, but a simple pop-up flash will certainly do the job if you are following the instruction I have equipped you with so far.
Few things are more exciting on a sunny day than finding reflected light. If the sun is out in full splendor, and you search long enough, you WILL find something off of which the sunlight is reflecting. Avoid the direct sunshine, but find what is living in that delicate area of reflected light. There's your photograph!
You are not alone if those who view your photographs of that gorgeous sunset don't say, "Ooh" and "Ahh" the way you did when you witnessed it for yourself. Don't worry, in this lecture I teach you several key points to keep in mind next time the heavens open before you in glorious splendor. Listen closely, then get back outside and watch the day start or end with full knowledge of how to receive that sweet light into the heart of your camera, correctly.
It can take years to master flash photography. But here I give you a Jumpstart in this four-minute lecture to begin your journey of understanding flash in a new way. The simple tools you already own are enough to get started.
Nothing can redeem a challenging indoor shoot like tracking down some nice window light (especially when diffused by a sheet or white curtain). Here I share how to make the most of it.
I briefly touch on the joy of macro photography. Try shooting wide-angle macro too. Take whatever wide angle zoom lens you already own (rack the lens to less than 50mm, like 18mm) and place it as close as possible to the subject while still maintaining focus. In the example here, I am just three inches from the dwarf crested iris with a 16mm lens at f/22. This can be lots of fun!
If you currently own just one lens such as the "kit lens" that came with your DSLR (something like an 18-55mm lens), my recommendation for your second lens would be an entry-level telephoto lens like a 70-200mm. This is a wild and wonderful world. Go beyond the obvious (wildlife photography) and explore what a telephoto lens can do to shape your view of the landscape.
Review your work through the lens of this unit. Then re-shoot.
With a solid grasp on the common problems encountered, go back through your images made during the first two units and begin to diagnose what errors you made. You have everything you need in this unit to interpret where your images fell short of excellent and why. Then, launch into your backyard again and continue with the image-making process.
Do not rush this. Take a full week if you need it. Also, don't let the process drag on forever. If two months have passed, you may need to move on to the final step. Too much time passing without actively honing your newly acquired knowledge can dull your skills.
As we conclude our final of three sections (CAMERA CLASS, PHOTOGRAPHY, and PROBLEM SOLVING) I share a simplified review. This is certainly not comprehensive, and you will want to review your own detailed notes at this time, but I do touch on a few basic and fundamental points I like to make sure each of you "go home with" today. This concludes our rapid-fire Jumpstart Course. That was a lot of information fast, so great job today!
This is a good way to test your retention. Good luck
Edit your images down to 10!
Yes, edit your images down to just your 10 best.
If you do not have 200-300 images (at least) to choose from, then continue to make images until you do. Many of you have already made 2,000-3,000 images. It's digital, so it's free. Why not shoot a lot. Hopefully, you have not been erasing any images.
The best rule to keep in mind with selecting your best 10 is this: Does an image evoke an immediate response in you (or a family member looking on). If not, then it is probably a "blah" image. Omit that one from your top 10.
Also, if you have 2 or 3 images in your top 10 that are very similar in lighting or subject matter, narrow that set down to just one. Editing vigorously is king in creating a dynamic and polished portfolio.
Paul has been published in National Parks Magazine, Time-Life, and Nature's Best. He has shot wilderness photography professionally for more than 15 years. For nearly a decade, he has instructed beginner and intermediate photographers on-location in Patagonia, Alaska, Africa and beyond, leading them quickly through the fundamentals of outdoor photography and launching them into the exploration of their own creative vision.
Paul found what makes him tick and organized his life around that calling. He designed his own major at The University of TN: Freelance Photography and Writing for the Natural Environment. That's a mouthful. He's a member of NANPA, SANP, and NSA, but the credentials matter less to him than sharing the profound experience. He points the way to a bigger truth and deeper reality.
Paul is the proud owner of Light Finds, Inc.