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Photo Tips by Mike Rosen

MAY 2012


Hi <<First Name>>,

A great photograph is one that fully expresses what one feels, in the deepest sense, about what is being photographed.

Photography is more than a medium for factual communication of ideas. It is a creative art.

Lately I've become more appreciative of the awesome images of Ansel Adams. In addition to being arguably the preeminent landscape photographer of the twentieth century, he was also unusually quotable, as the two examples above prove. Since I totally agree with him, I thought I'd elaborate a bit and provide a few examples of my own work that I think illustrate those thoughts.

The first concept I emphasize to my students in the photography class I lead for OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at the University of Minnesota) is shoot with intent. Ask yourself what it is about the scene that induces you to push the shutter button. What is your vision for the image? What are you trying to say with it? Only when you have those answers can you compose and expose your image in ways that will achieve your goal.

This is how I interpret what Ansel Adams meant in the first quote above. It forces you to define in advance your feelings for your subject and how to best convey them to you and your viewers. It means don't just hold up your camera and quickly snap a shot, as I see countless people do so often. Those photos might prove you or your subject were there, but likely won't come close to qualifying as creative art.

Which segues into the second Adams quote. Even news photographs, made to document actual current events, can be creative and artistic. But you need to truly "see" the details around you, notice the light, the patterns, the shadows and highlights, the expressions on peoples's faces, the odd juxtapositions of things, and more in order to start being creative rather than simply recording what's there.

I think I look at the world in a completely different way than in my pre-photography days, always imagining ("pre-visualizing" in Adams-speak) potential creative and artistic images as I'm traveling or simply walking or driving down the street. This has led me to an interest in abstract photos, though I certainly have a lot to learn in this realm.

So here a few sample images that might be relevant to all this admittedly subjective discussion.

Art is where you find it. This view of Parisian rooftops was taken through a window in the Pompidou Museum. I was immediately attracted by the patterns, the lines, the colors, the graffiti, and the quasi-abstract look that to me screamed out, "This is Paris!" 

OK, maybe that's a bit overly dramatic, but the point is I had a vision and shot with intent and ended up with a creative, interesting and compelling image--at least to me.


Here's another Paris museum image, this one taken through the famous clock at the Musee d'Orsay. That's Montmartre in the distance that everyone's looking at so intently. I felt having the people in the image made it much more interesting. Plus it shows a group of young people seriously trying to experience some French culture. It made me feel good and that's why I took the picture. I positioned myself carefully in order to include the iconic Sacre Cours church in the photo.

Portraits should also be shot with vision and intent. Here is an example of a recently made favorite of mine.

Wandering around the Taos Pueblo in Taos, New Mexico (a UNESCO world heritage site) I started up a conversation with this native Pueblo Indian. He told me a lot about the history of these native Americans, including the hardships and sorrow, of their lives. I said I was a photographer and asked if I might take his picture. He readily agreed. My vision was to tell his moving life story in one image, and I feel this one is a fair attempt. I asked him to stand in the partial shade to avoid deep facial shadows, and against a plain adobe wall to be sure there were no disconserting background elements. I also converted the image to black and white (with a bit of sepia tone added back) because it just seemed more appropriate for the story and the mood I wanted to create.

Here's a final example of shooting with intent and trying to see beauty and art in ordinary things I used to ignore. 

The instant I noticed this nook in a Nambe store in Santa Fe, I thought, here is an atistically designed, beautiful and very creative arrangement. It made me want to look closely at the display and see what was around the corner to the right. My goal was to capture these qualities in a very simple, easily overlooked hallway in the back of one of hundreds of Santa Fe galleries.

So, back to the beginning. Ansel Adams not only produced many amazing photographs but also lots of wise comments about the art of photography that I've tried to learn from. I'll probably refer to more of them in future newsletters. That's it for now. I'm sorry I didn't get out an April issue (did you notice?). I'm not certain about June either, because I'll be traveling the first half of the month.

Meanwhile make a lot of great pictures and be healthy.

All the best,




Other Stuff


You can view and purchase any of my photographs at my website (click HERE). Better yet, just email me (click HERE), or feel free to phone me at 612-374-2766.


Anyone who uses Adobe Photoshop, Photoshop Elements, Lightroom or Apple Aperture to edit their work should take a close look at the NIK family of plug-in filters. Each filter is installed on your computer and operates as an integral part of your editing software. Individual filters make tasks like sharpening, noise reduction, black and white conversion and HDR photography a snap. The most fun for me is Color Efex Pro, a series of 55 filters that can create all sorts of creative,  unique, wonderful looks for your images.

Many of these functions can be done with your editing software as well, but not nearly as easily and creatively in my opinion.

Information on NIK filters, including demos, can be accessed  by clicking HERE. You can purchase disks or download them as a group or individually, either for Windows or Mac. The entire collection is around $400 and individual filter prices vary from below $100 to about $160. An academic version (if you qualify) is available at around $200 for the full group. Free 15 day trials are offered.

You owe it to yourself to explore these great tools. I think they'll take your work to a higher level.


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