Through the Gadling Lens: the photoblogs of our Gadling photo pool contributors

Never let it be said that we don’t have amazing photographers who contribute to our Gadling Flickr pool. One of my favourite things to do is to just scroll through all the striking images — or better still, do searches within the pool for images of any of my upcoming travel destinations. Every time I do, I always learn something: something about a far-off land or culture, or I pick up a new trick for how to shoot a certain subject. The truth is, the Gadling Flickr pool makes me a better photographer.

As I was going through the pool today, I realized that I had a few favourite photographers — and I wondered to myself if these talented shutterbugs might have photoblogs to which I could subscribe, and follow them in my feed reader. Silly me for even doubting that this wouldn’t be the case. So this week, I thought I’d share with you some of the photoblogs my favourite photographers who contribute to the Gadling pool, so you can have a few new daily reads (and eye candy!) as you sip your morning coffee.
1. Ultraclay!

One of the most prolific contributors to our Flickr pool is the inimitable ultraclay!, whose work has been featured heavily both here on Through the Gadling Lens as well as our Photos of the Day. I’ve always loved ultraclay!’s images, since, in addition to being technically sound, are always provocative, from so many places in the world. So needless to say, I was thrilled to learn that ultraclay! also blogs, at ultraclay dot com, where you can see images from his home in Brooklyn, New York, as well as from his travels. This is one blog that’s definitely going into my feed reader.

2. LadyExpat

LadyExpat hasn’t contributed tons of images to our pool, but my heavens, what she has are positively stunning. According to her online journal, Musings from the Other Side, LadyExpat originally hails from Halifax, in Nova Scotia, Canada, but has been living in Asia since the beginning of this century. One look through her images reveals that she has a true eye for striking faces, stunning scenery, and capturing moments of everyday life. I’m thrilled she blogs, and features a “photo of the day,” as well. Be sure to check her site out.

3. Jon Rawlinson

Not surprisingly, the portrait above of a man from Botswana stopped me cold — what an amazing capture by photographer (and producer, and cameraman, and editor – whew!) Jon Rawlinson, and thank heavens he chooses to share his work in our Flickr pool. A quick look through is photostream will tell you that this photographer has an amazing facility with light, and colour and texture — I could spend weeks just studying each of his photographs. And happily, Jon has a website, Jon Rawlinson Productions, where he also blogs, and shares some more of his very favourite photographs. A definite must-see.

4. Pirano

This beautiful shot, full of texture and colour (not to mention an intimate moment between an unsuspecting couple) was beautifully captured by Pirano, one of our pool contributors. Pirano also blogs at piran café, where he chronicles his daily life in Ljubljana, Slovenia, and his travels abroad. I really enjoy his blog because not only does he post his provocative photographs, but he accompanies his images with insightful thoughts and comments of his home and cities beyond. Really beautiful work.

5. Bryn Tassell

The colours of the sunset, the spray of the surf and the texture of the rocks in the foreground make this shot, shared by Bryn Tassell in our pool, absolutely spectacular. What’s even more stunning? You haven’t seen anything yet — Bryn’s photoblog, Techno-Graph (“a smattering of information technology and photography” — get it?) will positively take your breath away. His landscapes are amazing, and in addition to sharing beautiful work, he occasionally shares tips on how to improve your own photography (see: Tips for Winter Photography, for example). Bryn’s RSS feed has been immediately added to my personal feed reader, and has rocketed to one of my favourite photoblogs of all the ones I follow.

6. A Song Under the Sugar Sugar

I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to come across this image from A Song Under the Sugar Sugar in the Gadling pool photostream — I’ve always been drawn to images that were different from the mainstream. A Song Under the Sugar Sugar’s images have a vintage, antiqued look about them, with a sepia tone that underlies all of the colours. And happily, her photoblog (not surprisingly entitled A Song Under the Sugar Sugar), is a true photoblog, and a feast for the eyes: she uploads an image every few days with very little commentary, so that your experience enjoying her photographs is unmarred by words. A truly beautiful site.

7. PDPhotography

When you look at the image above by PDPhotography, there’s not a question in your mind that this photographer is a master of Photoshop. And you know what? You’d be right: one look through his Flickr photostream will tell you that PDPhotography has taken his post-camera processing skills to an art form. But here’s the great news: PDPhotography photoblogs, as well, at Lit Pixels, and not only does he share more of his images with you, but he gives you his processing tips and tricks to help you create your own pieces of photographic art. Seriously, you gotta love a guy who’s that generous with his skills.

8. Hijodelafortuna

And last but certainly not least, I love the images shared by hijodelafortuna, whose amazing photostream is a perfect example of how creative photoprocessing and radical visual effects can still convey the story of a travel adventure. As it turns out, Hijodelafortuna is actually T.R. Ryan, who blogs at the equally beautiful From the Faraway, Nearby — a blog, he claims, is “a celebration of travel, nature and poetry of place.” His site is a true traveler’s photoblog, with images from 6 different continents, and filled with his impressions of the lands he visits. Definitely work a good long look.

And with that, I’ll leave you to comb through all of the beautiful sites of the very talented photographers you see above. If you know of any other really talented photobloggers, please leave the links to their sites in the comments section, below — I’d love to check them out. And as always, if you have any questions or comments, feel free to send them directly to me at karenDOTwalrondATweblogsincDOTcom, and I’ll be sure to tackle them in upcoming posts!

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks, and read her own photoblog here.
And for more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: Great online resources for photographers

Before I really got into photography, I used to believe that really fabulous photographs only resulted from really expensive camera and processing equipment. While this might have been true twenty years ago, the truth is that great photography can pretty much come from any type of camera, with any sort of post-camera processing. And the beauty of owning a camera in this part of the twenty-first century means that there are all sorts of online resources to maximize what your camera can do. So this week, I thought I’d spend some time pointing out a few resources online that can help result in some of the best travel shots of your life.
1. Sign up for Photojojo. If you haven’t heard of Photojojo yet, run, do not walk, to their site here. This free e-newsletter service (or, if you’d prefer, you can add their feed to your reader) will send you some of the coolest photography tips to be had on the web. The advice can range from the funky (like how to make your own 3D camera for $15 or less), to the fun (how to make your own photographic perpetual calendar) to the positively practical (how to eliminate sensor dust from your camera). And did I mention it’s free?

2. Picnik. I have a real-life friend, Jenny, whose flickr stream I avidly follow. She is the Queen of the post-camera processing. The other day, she was at my house, and I mentioned to her that I couldn’t get over how amazing her processing was.

“Thanks,” she said, quietly.

“Seriously, Jenny, did you take a Photoshop class or something?” I pressed.

“No, I don’t use Photoshop, actually. I use Picnik.”

I almost choked on my mimosa.

“I’m sorry,” I said, once I’d regained my composure. “You’re telling me that you process those photos with free software?”

“Yup, I do it all online. It’s a lot of fun.”

I couldn’t believe it. Until that moment, I had been a complete Photoshop snob, because it never occurred to me that you could get really dazzling photos with anything but. But Jenny’s photos, like this one:

and this one:

and this one:

and, dear God, this one:

…made a true believer out of me.

3. Say you have a burning question about photography: like, you’re thinking of upgrading your camera, and you don’t know which brand to go with. Or, the shutter on your D100 is sticking, and you don’t know what’s causing it. Or you’re just dying to know the definition of “bokeh,” and you don’t know any shutterbugs within shouting distance. Well, look no further than — this community website likely has every answer you could possibly want (and some you probably don’t). There’s a photo gallery to provide tons of inspiration, forums with every type of photography topic you could possibly imagine, and even a way to upload and exhibit your favourite photos to receive critiques from other avid photographers. And again, it’s free!

4. Digital Photography Review. Speaking of being in the market for cameras, once you’ve started to narrow down the brands you’re interested in looking at, do not buy your camera until you’ve stopped by Digital Photography Review. This great independent site does side-by-side comparisons of every camera you can think of, from point-and-shoots to digital SLRs. The site even shows images taken with various cameras so that you can compare quality. While I still maintain that you should never buy a camera (particularly a digital SLR) before actually going to a camera store and taking one for a spin, this is a great site to educate yourself with the kinds of questions you’re going to want to ask the salesperson while you’re there.

5. Blogs, blogs and more blogs. As you can probably imagine, there are tons of blogs out there that can provide inspiration, both in the form of concrete information and/or fantastic imagery. The following are some of my favourites — both for simple how-to’s and merely eye-candy. For those photoblogs which are primarily about imagery, don’t be afraid to e-mail the photoblogger directly for advice: most photobloggers are only too happy to oblige.

  • This blog is a great resource for do-it-yourself projects to help enhance your photography — and while much of it is about studio lighting, there’s a lot on helping create different effects for your camera, and a recent favourite: how to stablize your camera while taking a photograph in a driving car.
  • OnTakingPictures: This is the personal blog of portrait photographer Bill Wadman — full of beautiful portraits, but also his musings on the business photography, as well as some technical advice. A great read.
  • Moodaholic: This beautiful photoblog is strictly imagery, and the images taken of various landscapes are positively breathtaking. The shots are always crisp, but the post-camera processing is what lends to the amazing mood of all images. Click on the comments to see how each image was shot.
  • Mad Media Studios: Another great photoblog, primarily landscapes and portraits. This blog, however, is a great example of the kind of art that can be made with post-camera processing. While extreme photo processing isn’t my style, I can appreciate a photographer who can take it to an artistic level, and this photographer does just that. Beautiful.
  • Modern Day Gilligan: Joshua Yetman is a commercial photographer who lives in the island of Grenada, with the dream job of photographing amazing yachts, beautiful resorts, and breathtaking seriously. His outtakes often appear on his photoblog, and if these images don’t inspire you to hop the next flight to the tropics to test your photographic chops, nothing will.
  • One Day Files: a daily photoblog by Japanese photographer Hitoshi, it is a shining example of how to make the ordinary moment extraordinary. Capturing shots like these while traveling will do wonders for ensuring that the moments and moods that surrounded the time of the shot are remembered. True inspiration here.

And speaking of emailing photographers for advice: if you have any questions or comments, as always, please leave them below, or e-mail me directly at karen DOT walrond AT weblogsinc DOT com. I’ll be happy to address them in upcoming posts. And if you have any favourite online resources that weren’t mentioned in this post, please feel free to mention them in the comments section, below — I’m always looking for more great reads.

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
And for more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.

Through the Gadling Lens: 5 great New Year’s resolutions for amateur travel photographers

Well, ’tis the season for coming up with New Year’s resolutions — and frankly, I think “lose weight” and “be a better person” are just a bit too cliche, don’t you? Still, it’s good to have goals, and since we’re all about travel and photography up here at Through the Gadling Lens, I thought I’d through a little megapixel inspiration your way, with a few suggestions for improving your travel photography for 2009. The following are resolutions I’ve either made in the past, or are seriously considering making for the coming year — and of course, I’m always looking for additional suggestions, so feel free to leave them in the comments section below.

So, without further ado, five great resolutions:

1. Shoot daily
. When I bought my very first single-lens reflex camera back in the mid-nineties, I took a professional photographer-friend with me to make my choice. I remember, after spending $501 on the second-hand Nikon FE-series camera (in my mind, a fortune), I stood there looking at him, the camera in my shaking hands. “Now what?” I said.

“Now, you shoot,” he calmly responded. “And shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot, and shoot.”

“Shouldn’t I take a class first?” I asked.

“You can,” he said, carefully, “but the truth is that the way to become a photographer is to shoot and shoot. And shoot some more. And compare. And contrast. And adjust. You will learn more doing that than from any class you could take.”

Years later, I have to agree: the best way to become a photographer is to be a photographer. So even if you’re not traveling, go ahead and pick up your camera daily, aim it at something, and squeeze the trigger. Take pictures of your breakfast. Your unmade bed. Your partner. Your reflection in a store window. A flower. A blade of grass. Whatever. The point is to train your eye to frame shots naturally, and to hone your own photographic style. Once you do, taking photographs when you are traveling will become a piece of cake.

2. Join a new Flickr Group. Naturally, if you’re a Gadling reader and you take photographs when you travel, you’ve already joined the Gadling Flickr group (you have joined, haven’t you?). But since you’re going to be taking these daily photographs, consider joining other groups for inspiration and encouragement. Want to get better at portraits? There’s a group for that. Landscape photography more your thing? There’s a group for that, too. If you’re planning vacations to the beach for 2009, then maybe this pool will provide some inspiration. The point is, joining a community which challenges you and constructively criticizes your images will only help you enhance your skill. And the best part? It costs you nothing to join.

3. Start a photoblog. Several years ago, I made the “I’m going to take a photograph every day” New Year’s resolution — but knowing that I would be horrible at keeping it, I decided to put a little skin in the game: I started photoblogging. I figured that if I had an audience, then I would be pushed to publish only my really good shots; which, in turn, forced me to be a bit circumspect of the images that I chose to capture daily. Now, obviously, you don’t have to make your photoblog public — you can just as easily make it private and for your eyes only, until you’re brave enough to let the world see your work. Either way, the great upside to doing this is that you will naturally see the progression of your skills over the year, because by sticking to it, you’ll undoubtedly see improvement from the shots you take at the beginning of January 2009 and the ones you take at the end of December 2009. Besides, if you do take your photoblog public and allow people to comment on your images, the encouragement from your audience can be priceless.

If you decide to start a photoblog, here are a couple of tips:

  • There are several blogging platforms out there which will allow you upload your photographs and thus create a photoblog: Blogger is one such platform and Typepad is another; but there are several more (check out WordPress and my personal favourite, Squarespace, to name a few). Some of them have levels which are free, and still others you have to pay a monthly fee (but they often have a free trial period). In general, you don’t have to be a whizbang website developer or coder to use these — if you’re comfortable with using standard word processing software, you should be able to figure out how to use a blogging platform. Just check them out, email some of your favourite bloggers to ask them what they recommend, and just jump in.
  • When it comes to designing your blog, remember, less is more: the point is to focus on your images that you’ll be uploading each day. Therefore, very busy blog designs will compete with your images, and sort of defeat the purpose. A clean design often works best.
  • For inspiration, check out some recent favourite photobloggers from around the globe: Bloom, Grow, Love; Modern Day Gilligan; momster.; One day files.

4. Plan at least one trip specifically for the purpose of practicing your photography. This could be a trip anyplace, anywhere. It could be for three straight weeks, or simply a day trip to a neighbouring town. The point is to force yourself into a change of scenery, and then capture its beauty. It is, of course, more exciting to plan a dream vacation to an exotic locale for an extended period of time, but if you don’t have the time or the money to do so, then by all means, pick a town on a map within a ninety minute drive (or commuter train ride, or whatever), and then research it. Find out what it’s known for, and what makes it special. And then, armed with your research (and keeping in mind the kinds of shots you’d like to take), take off one Saturday, and snap away. It’s great practice for honing your travel photography skills, and who knows — you might create some cool memories while you’re at it.

5. Plan a trip to take an on-location photography workshop. Think of it: you take your long-wished-for trip to the Grand Canyon, in the company of a professional photographer, who not only shows you the best parts of the canyon park to shoot, but also shows you the best light, and how to set your camera to maximize the beauty of the images you take. Or perhaps a photography excursion to the French Wine Country, where you spend your days taking photographs of the amazing countryside under the tutelage of a local photographer, and your evenings sipping the products of the local vineyards.

Photo excursions like these are a mere Google search away, and if you’re willing to spend the cash, they can result in a trip to remember — with the images to prove it. Check out the websites of some of the big-name camera manufacturers to start (right now, this one from Nikon has caught my eye … it’s been way too long since I went scuba diving, man …), and then go from there. The possibilities are too fantastic to contemplate.

So, those suggestions should get you started — no need to do them all, obviously, but if you’d really like to improve your photography skills, considering doing one or two of them. And if you have any other suggestions, please do leave them in the comments section — I’m coming up with my own list as I type.

In the meantime, Happy New Year, everyone. We’ll continue with more travel photography tips and resources in 2009!

Karen is a writer and photographer in Houston, Texas. You can see more of her work at her site, Chookooloonks.
And for more Through the Gadling Lens, click here.