Tips for a Model Shoot at the Great Salt Lake

This is the second of a series of posts about shooting at the various locations that are part of the UTadventure Tours. Today's tip is about shooting at the Great Salt Lake. I will be an instructor on the June 1st-6th tour this summer. Come join me.

The Great Salt Lake

Saltair at the Great Salt Lake in Utah is a great location for both fine art nudes and glamour shots. For me shooting at Great Salt Lake is all about reflections. In the morning the water is still and flat and almost like a mirror. On the beach there are small ponds of water and fingers of sand that jut out into the lake, have the model stand on the opposite side of the water from you and shoot vertically or with a wide angle lens to include both them and their reflection in the water. Having them stand right at the water's edge or actually in the water will enhance the effect.
Floofie in Dress at Great Salt Lake
The Great Salt Lake is very shallow, and the model can be well off shore and the water will only come up to their ankles.

Water Walker - Great Salt Lake

Mix up the poses here, both soft sensual curves and sharp angular poses work well. If there are ripples in the water, the reflected light from the water's surface can create interesting light patterns on the body. I like to position the model to maximize this effect.

Background

You are never sure what kind of background you are going to have at Saltair. Often times it is hazy in the distance which makes for a nice background where you can't quite tell where the water meets the sky. On a clear day there are mountain peaks and islands in the distance and I like to place the model so they are between the peaks and are framed by the distance mountains.

Multiple Models

On the UTadventure Tours there are a lot of opportunities to have multiple models pose in your photo and Great Salt Lake is probably one of the best spots for this on the trip.
I have an accomplished photographer friend who claims he has never seen a good photo with multiple models. That is of course not true, some of my best selling images have multiple models, however it does point out the fact that is can be challenging to make a good photo when there is more than one model. A lot of photographers will try to have all the models do the same pose, which is almost impossible to accomplish, any little variation in position between models is going to stand out and be easily visible to the the viewer and detracts from the image. The easiest way to fix this is to have the models pose in completely different poses, make it obvious that they are not trying to mimic each other.
UTah Great Salt Lake
An important tip when posing multiple models is to have them interacting. This helps in creating a story and makes a more compelling image than just having multiple models independently in the frame.  This interaction can be accomplished by either having them reaching out towards each other, or making physical contact with each other.
Another approach is to stagger their distance from the camera. Having one model in the foreground and another further away in the background can add interest to the image.

Conclusion

As you can see there are great shooting opportunities at the Great Salt Lake. Next stop on our Utah Tour? Looking Glass Arch.


A Good Harvest - My 2016 Photos

A Good Harvest

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop
– Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams

My 2016 Harvest

This past year was a strange one for me photographically. It started with me unsure where I was headed, I had a couple of studio sessions where I flailed around with ideas trying to come up with some new body of work. I did continue my “On the Rocks” series but overall I felt directionless.

Looking back at the year and the photos I produced all of the work was sporadic and produced in March, May, September and December. I had months where I didn’t pick up a camera and had no motivation to, yet in those 4 months were I did pick up the camera I produced more and better images than I ever have in the past.

I took 38097 photos in 2016 which is almost 33% more than I did in 2015 (24,063).

The Breakdown

Non-Model Models Totals
Total 7,810 30,287 38,097
Keepers 137 196 333
Portfolio Worthy 49 134 183
5 Star 11 25 36

Keepers – these are the photos that I actually edited and considered finished.
Portfolio Worthy – There are images that I actually exhibited or showed to others via my web site, social media, etc.
5 Star – These are the photos I consider my best work of the year. These are my “Harvest” or “Crop” for the year

The Images

Analysis

When I was putting together this post I was concerned that I had so many I considered great images and wondered if I was just not being critical enough of my photos. But most have won awards or been published which seems to imply that other people appreciate them as well. Would love to have you feedback on the images.

Mixing It Up

I think it is interesting that the images fit into 3 categories, a continuation of my On the Rocks series, the Utah Adventure trips really helped with this, being able to spend straight 5 days shooting really helped me get into a great photographic mindset and really explore some ideas.

The second group are the studio shots and these predominantly part of the series I call Geometric Progression, and involve using black and white as the main theme in the images. There were was also one from the Blind Religion body of work, and a new one from my as yet untitled Room series. Except for the Room series all of these images were done in the first couple of months of the year when I still felt like I was flailing about.

The final group are the underwater images. I tried it on a fluke in August and was pleased with the results I was getting right off the bat so I decided to continue. I will definitely be exploring this more in 2017 as I feel like I’ve just scratched the surface (pun was unintended, but I liked it so I left it in, which I guess then makes it intended).

I believe it is because of doing these three disparate types of shoots that I have such a large number of keepers this year. Any one category would produce less than Ansel’s number of twelve. To further the analogy it’s like planting three different crops and getting a good harvest on each.

How Was Your Crop?

I would love to hear how many 5 star photos you shot this past year. So share with me in the comments below or on my Facebook page.


Three Models Sitting on Salt Flats

Tips for a Model Shoot at the Bonneville Salt Flats

This is the first of a series of posts about shooting at the various locations that are part of the UTadventure Tours. I will be an instructor on the June 1st-6th tour this summer. Come join me. 

Fine Art and Glamour

The Salt Flats lend themselves to a variety of shooting styles, Fine Art Nudes, Fashion, and Glamour.
It is almost always windy on the Salt Flats so for fashion I like long flowing clothes, dresses, scarves, capes, etc that will billow in the wind. For glamour you can add fabric; have the model hold the fabric in their hands, wrap it around their body, etc. The wind will often hold it in place on their body which can make for unique looks. The biggest challenge with the wind is that it is not always coming the direction you might like with respect to the direction of the light. Just experiment with your angles and you should come up with some great shots.
 Salt Flats Dasha 2

Play Around with the Background

One interesting thing about the Salt Flats is there are a lot of different and interesting backgrounds. You can shoot in one direction with mountains in the background, turn 90 degrees and have distant mountains, turn another 90 degrees and have the Salt Flats disappear at the horizon. I like to make use of all of these as well as adjusting my depth of field, shallow depth of field to make the model stand out against the mountains, and a deeper depth of field when shooting towards the flat horizon.

Shoot High, Shoot Low

One thing to watch for when positioning the model is where the background intesects the models body. You don't want the top of the mountains to be in line with the top the model's head, or have just a hand sticking up above the mountain. So play around with your shooting height. Shoot low and place more of the model into the sky/clouds, shoot from a higher position and include more of the salt flats in the background. For every shot I am always concious of how the background elements are interacting with the model.

Using the Sun

As mentioned above the Salt Flats are unique in you can shoot in almost any direction and find a good composition. So this allows you flexibility in the direction you want the sun to light the scene. You can get great shots with the sun coming from behind you, or move the model so the light is coming in more to the side, as the sun sets the model's shadow will get longer and can be an interesting part of the composition. You can also position the model between you and the sun and shoot silhouettes. When shooting directly into the sun I like to have a narrow aperture like f/22 which causes a starburst effect if the sun is in the frame.
Salt Flats Gwen

Use the Tire Tracks

One of the first things I noticed when I walked out on the Salt Flats is that there are tire tracks everywhere going in every direction. I often will spend the time in Photoshop to remove most or all of the tire tracks from the image, but sometimes I embrace the tire tracks, placing the model so there are interacting with them. They make great leading lines. I will also place models at the intersection of lines, or search out curving lines and make use of them. So think about the placement of the tire tracks in your compositions.
Salt Flats Dasha 1

Making the Most of the Terrain

As you can see there a lot of opportunities at the Salt Flats to take a wide range of photos. Mix it up, move around, and explore the space.

Self Portraits #2

Thirty Self Portraits – #2

Self Portraits - #2

This is the second self portrait in my project to shoot 30 self portraits. You can read about the project in my first post.

For this one I wanted to experiment with edge lighting and profiles. I think it turned out OK. I'm going to revisit this one and try some props (I'm thinking a hat work well) and change the angles a little.

 

The Image

Self Portraits #2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighting Diagram

One thing I left out were the camera settings. Although the light is at f/5.6 I had the aperture on my camera set to f/8.0. This helped to darken the side of my face even more.

I also had a question about why the light is at an angle instead of behind me (which would have given more of a rim effect). The reason is so it doesn't appear in the scene as I wanted a black background. It is just out of the frame to the right, I made it as close as I could where it would not show up in the scene.

One other thing to note, I purposely made the light very close to me, the reason was to have a lot of light fall-off from the front of my face to the back. This creates more of a gradient and wider range between the highlights and shadows.

Self Portraits #2 Lighting

 

 

 

 

 


Self Portrait #1

Thirty Self Portraits - #1

Thirty Self Portraits - A New Project

As with all projects the Thirty Self Portraits Project came about as the result of several different influences and directions.

 

Robert Mapplethorpe

The first influence came from watching the HBO documentary on Robert Mapplethorpe (Mapplethorpe: Look at the Pictures). There were several photos that he took where I really liked his lighting and decided to try to emulate them, I also really liked the very last self-portrait he did of himself.

 

Howard Schatz Workshop

A few weeks later I went to the Palm Springs Photo Festival (which I have written about here) and took a class with Howard Schatz. The class was all about experimenting with lighting and trying different techniques. I really enjoyed the play and learned a few tricks that I wanted to try myself. One thing I have learned about taking workshops, if I don't practice what I learned I soon forget it. So I thought taking self-portraits would be a great way to practice what I learned and to continue with the experimentation.

 

I Need More Head Shots

Finally I need more head shots of myself. For a lot of the gallery shows and publications I have been in over the past couple of years they are often asking for a head shot and I don't have that many. This works well with the practice I mentioned above. I need a subject and I need more shots of myself so the self-portrait project was born.

 

Why Thirty?

I just pulled a number out my ass and it happened to be thirty. I don't know if I will actually shoot 30, maybe I'll only do 20, or maybe I'll just keep going and shoot 100. I've put a stake in the ground, but am not absolutely committing to it. I currently have 23 ideas for self portraits, so I figure I will at least get that far.

Also this is not a self portrait a day, or a week, or a month. Every time I've tried a project like that is just kills the joy for me and makes me stop taking photos. So this is just doing it when I feel like it, some weeks I might do 3 or 4, then I might not do another for a month. No pressure, no commitment, just do it when the mood strikes me.

 

The One Downside

My subject in these portraits is an ugly son of a bitch.

 

Self Portrait # 1

Thirty Self Portraits #1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is the lighting setup for this image.

 

Thirty Self Portraits #1 lighting diagram


Aristodeme

Lake Powell Images - Aristodeme

Aristodeme

This is a continuation of my Lake Powell images, there are so many that I'm can't put them all into my portfolio, but there are many worthwhile images, so I decided to show them here as blog posts. Each post will present all of the images for a given model. This week it is Aristodeme.

If you missed it be sure to check out Cwen's images

These were shot at Lake Powell during a week long trip in October of 2015. I talk about the trip in this post about Taking a Workshop

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme

Aristodeme


Selecting My Best Work

How do I select my best work? After my last post, A Good Crop - My 2015 Photos, I had multiple people ask me what was my selection criteria for selecting my best images of 2015. My first thought was that they must be saying "How could he pick that piece of crap as his best photo?" But perhaps  they really wanted to know. Looking at the images as a group there does not seem to be any common theme between them which makes the selection criteria difficult to grasp.

So I'm going to answer both possible questions and explain my selection process and how I went about determining my best images of 2015.

Selection Criteria

Here are the things I look at when evaluating my photos and trying to determine which are my best.

  • Story
  • Graphic Elements
  • Emotion
    • Does it evoke an emotion
    • Do I have an emotional attachment to the image
  • Audience Response
    • Feedback for people who see my images
    • Juried exhibits and shows

 

Story

The strongest photos are always the ones that tell a story. It doesn't have to be an overt story, in fact I try to make the story ambiguous, so the viewer comes to their own conclusion based upon their own life experiences. Many of my best of images this year are on the list because of the story they tell.

Graphic Elements

I think of graphic elements as a combination of composition, and the way the various shapes in the image interact. Abstracts and may of my street images rely on these shapes since there isn't really a story to tell. Strong graphical elements are going to draw the viewer's eye and become the obvious subject of the image.

Emotion

The emotion criteria involves evaluating two types of emotions responses, one good, one not so good.

The Good Emotion

When looking at the photo the question I ask is, "Does the photo evoke an emotional response in the viewer?". A sign of a good photograph is one that gets an emotional response, any response, the type of emotion is unimportant, what IS important is that it makes the viewer feel something.

Emotional Attachment

The other type of emotion that I experience  is that I remember the emotions I felt when I took the photo. These emotions are not necessarily good because they cloud my judgement and prevent me from making an impartial decision about the worth of an image. I typically try to avoid any emotional attachment when selecting photos, but sometimes my feelings are so strong for an image I will include it in my selection. I just like it! Often that emotional attachment is partly influenced by the audience response.

Audience Response

Ideally I am taking photographs for myself and not to please others. To truly be art the image has to come from me, and not be influenced by what I think my audience might like. This is a constant struggle, and I try to not think of my audience when I take a photo, but  often I know it is going to resonate with my audience the moment I click the shutter. More often I will like an image that my audience does not, or I will show people an image I think is just OK and they love it. I initially considered this audience influence as a negative, but have come to realize it is just another piece of the selection process.

Getting Feedback

I am constantly showing my portfolio to people, friends, family, photographers, models, strangers, pretty much everyone I meet. I always look for what images they respond to, which ones to they comment on, which ones do they stare at a little longer than others, which ones do they flip through quickly. This feedback influences my decision on what are my best images. The responses are weighted by who is giving the feedback. If it is my Mentor then it is instantly going into the short list, on the other hand my non-photographer friends have less weight. Audience response alone does not select a best image, but it is just another data point when I'm making my decision.

Exhibits and Shows

I entered photographs into 24 juried exhibitions and contests this past year (a blog post is coming soon about that experience). In 15 of those competitions my images were selected for the show or won a prize in the contest. This tends to make me think more highly of these images and makes it more likely that I will pick it as one of my best. However it mainly affects older images, I only submitted 2015 images in a couple of shows. But it does influence my perception of the value of my images. Several images from past years have won numerous times, so I'm inclined to think more highly of those images. :)

 

Analysis of My Best non-Model Photos

I find it more difficult to determine my best photos from my street and landscape photos. In general they tend towards more abstract images and that is so subjective, I ended up not picking any of my abstract street photos as my best even though I like quite a lot of them.

Shadow Walkers

shadow walkersThis image is all about the strong graphic 'X' created by the shadows crossing the line on the ground. This image as also gotten good audience feedback both from contests and individuals, I have had several  people email me to tell me how much they like the image, that is rare.

 

 

 

A Time to Himself

A Time to HimselfI picked this image because I think it tells a strong story and evokes an emotional response. It is also strong graphically with the huge negative space above the man, helping to strengthen the story and the feeling of isolation.

I submitted this into a critique at my local camera club and the judge suggested cropping the top, there were a dozen people in the audience who yelled "No!". It is very rare for anybody in the audience to do such a thing, but it tells me that my instinct about the graphic element of the negative space was correct. (The judge ended up giving it 3rd place).

 

 

The Pose

I picked this image mainly because of my own emotional attachment to it. It does tell a good story and the gold background and shadows make for a strong graphic element, but this image just barely made the cut.

 

 

 

Feet Above

Feet Above

This image is the most abstract of all the best images. It has strong graphics, it also has a reasonably strong story. Audience feedback is non-verbal, instead people tend to linger on this image. Making people pause on an image is always a good thing.

 

 

 

 

Desert Road

Desert RoadThis image barely made the cut as one of the best images for 2015. The main reason it did was because of audience response, every person who sees this image comments on it, ohhs and ahhs, etc. I think it is because of the colors and the road is certainly a strong graphical element, however I think it is just an average image, but the audience thinks differently.

 

 

Analysis of My Best Model Photos

Reflection and Ripples

Image of Cwen

I believe this is my top image of 2015. This is more from personal emotion than anything else. Both the graphics and the story are strong, but my opinion is more subjective for this image than any other. Whenever I come across this image I just like it. Although I feel like I should know why, I can't articulate it.

What is your reaction?

Nestled

NestledFor the past three years I have been working on a body of work of nudes in the rocks, where I try to make the human body fit into the rock landscape, this image is a great example of that.

Strong graphical elements, with the rock following the curve of her body. The story is told by the lines in the sand coming from her fingers. Without that it would just be a good image, that small element adds emotion and story and brings it into the top of the list.

 

Melissa Jean

Melissa Jean

This image is all about the graphic element of the curve of her body. The negative space also adds to the graphical impact. The shadows add mystery and create a small story element, but it is dwarfed by the graphical elements.

 

 

 

 

 

At the Cross

At the CrossThis is image has a strong story. It is an ambiguous story which is my favorite type to do in my images. It causes the viewer to pause and create their own narrative for the image. I also like the graphic elements, the minimalism, the negative space, the reflections on the floor all add together to make this image make the list.

 

 

 

Nude in the Rocks 4

I picked this image because of the strong graphical content, the model fits into the curves of the rock, her horizontal position ties into the horizontal lines of the rocks. This image also gets a very strong audience response, partly because of the composition, but also because of the color palette, people seem to respond well to it.

 

 

 

Acroyoga on the Shore

Acroyoga on the ShoreThis image has a reasonably strong story but the compositional elements are the star. The shapes of the bodies are interesting, the curve of the female's body mimics the curves in the rock across the water. I deliberately framed the image so the model's hand just touched the curve in the rock.

 

 

 

Tasia in the Rocks

Tasia in the RocksI choose this image because of the scale of the landscape vs the model. I like to call my "Find Waldo" photo. This is more of a personally emotional image. It is another one where I just like it even though it doesn't resonate with most of my audience.

 

 

 

 

 

All Heart

All HeartThis is another image where I like the scale of the image, the heart shape depression they are resting in is a fairly strong graphical element, their interaction is part of the story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lost

Slot Canyon NudeThis image is about story and emotion. The canyon walls make for an interesting composition and frame the model nicely, but that is secondary to the model's pose and isolation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summary

So there is my thought process for why I selected these 14 images as my best of 2015. As you can see some are a little arbitrary and a month from now they could be replaced by other marginal images, that didn't quite make the cut.

Let me know your thoughts, which ones do you think shouldn't have made the cut?


Acroyoga on the Shore

A Good Crop - My 2015 Photos

 

Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop

- Ansel Adams

 

 

My Crop

I don't feel like I produced my best work this year, so I decided to do an analysis of my productivity for the year. I took 24,063 photos this past year for my own personal work (meaning that this excludes family photos and commissioned work, I actually clicked the shutter 31,537 times this year).

The Breakdown

I shoot several genres of photography and this year I primarily focused on two, street photography and models, so when I did my counts I separated the data for the two. Non-Model includes street photography, landscapes, abstracts, etc.

Non-Model Models Totals
Total 10,500 13,563 24,063
Keepers 502 114 616
Portfolio Worthy 36 42 78
5 Star 5 9 14

Keepers - these are the photos that I actually edited and considered finished.
Portfolio Worthy - There are images that I actually exhibited or showed to others via my web site, social media, etc.
5 Star - These are the photos I consider my best work of the year. These are my "Crop"

Analysis

I felt like I struggled this year with my photography, I had finished up several bodies of work and didn't know where to go next. I did a couple of model shots in the first half of the year (accounting for 7 of Portfolio Worthy images) and then I was travelling a lot and focused instead on my street photography. If it weren't for the Lake Powell workshop I took in October I would have only had 1 Five Star image from my model photography for the year.

Another interesting observation is that although I took similar number of Non-Model photographs to the Model photographs, I had a five times the keepers but fewer 5-star images. That is partly because there are a lot more varied photographic opportunities when doing street photography rather than with a model, but in the end fewer of them are as good. Some might argue that is because of lack of skill, perhaps. However many are abstracts and I think it is more of a selection process. What makes a 5-star abstract?

Conclusion

The final crop of 14 images is a good haul for the year although I am not entirely happy. If it weren't for the last minute trip to Lake Powell my production for the year would have been much less and not as strong.

I feel like this year was not an improvement but more of staying with the status quo. I plan to step up my photography game for 2016.

 

My 2015 Crop

lakepowell-9970-edit lakepowell-1529-edit Melissa Jean At the Cross
 Acroyoga on the Shore All Heart Slot Canyon Nude Tasia in the Rocks

How About You?

How was your crop this year?

 

UPDATE: I had a lot of questions about my selection critiera so I wrote another post that details why I picked each of the above photos. http://craigcolvinphotography.com/selecting-my-best-work


Image of Cwen

Lake Powell Images - Cwen

Cwen

I have had people ask to see more of my Lake Powell images, there are so many that I'm can't put them all into my portfolio, but there are many worthwhile images, so I decided to show them here as blog posts. Each post will present all of the images for a given model. This week it is Cwen.

These were shot at Lake Powell during a week long trip in October of 2015. I talk about the trip in this post about Taking a Workshop

Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen

Lake Powell - CwenLake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - CwenLake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen Lake Powell - Cwen