Aug 132021
 

Join me and a host of special guests on August 18 from 7-9 pm Eastern Time to celebrate the release of my newest book, the updated 2nd edition of  “Photographing Acadia National Park: The Essential Guide to When, Where, and How.”

I normally host a small book release get-together at my house once the book arrives. It’s always a fun time, but since it’s a local event, I’m not able to get all my friends across the world together…The pandemic has taught me how to use technology (Zoom) to bring people in different places together–and that’s what I want to do to celebrate this book, YOU, and Acadia. So let’s PARTY!

The evening will feature:

PLUS! As a thank you for ALL your support, we’re going to give away over $1000 in amazing “door” prizes, including:

  • $50 gift card for Hunt’s Photo and Video
  • $100 gift card for Singh-Ray filters
  • $500 gift card for a future “Out of Chicago” sponsored conference
  • A $500 gift certificate to CMS Photography/Sheography workshops
  • A Hoodman Hoodloupe (value $90)
  • Books by Colleen and author/photographers Bob Thayer and Guy Tal
  • And more!

But you must be present to win!

So register now and join us on August 18 for an evening of fun, photography, and a celebration of you and our shared love of Acadia National Park. Bubbles will likely be involved…maybe tutus too…

Advanced registration required at: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_SAyCaC4uQcyFPtu4PGYtfA

By the way, feel free to invite your friends and camera clubs–no purchase necessary, so you can attend even if you don’t have a copy of the book. I just want to party with good, fun people!

If you have purchased the book/eBook, though, snap a selfie of yourself with the book (extra points if it’s in Acadia or involves bubbles…) and send the photo my way at cms@cms-photo.com for a chance to be featured in the Virtual Book Release Party. If I can’t see you in person, it’ll be the next best thing!

See ya on the 18th!
Aug 112021
 

Looking for a creative boost for your photography? Super excited for you to hear this brand new podcast interview with Brenda Petrella with the Outdoor Photography Podcast. Have a listen to “Visual Perception and Cultivating Creativity” at www.outdoorphotographyschool.com/episode19.

Here’s what Brenda had to say about our chat:

“Today, I sit down with Arizona-based landscape photographer, avid writer, and educator, Colleen Miniuk, to chat about the value of following your curiosity, letting go of expectations, playing, and being open to experimentation with your photography; Gestalt psychology of visual perception and how to use it to create more meaningful images; the five inventories to take in the field to discover compositions; how to cultivate a creative mindset with conceptual blending, pareidolia, and metaphorical associations; and a ton more!

This was an info-packed episode that will really get your creative wheels turning. Plus, Colleen’s energy and enthusiasm is contagious. I hope you enjoy!”

I also hope you enjoy and gain some new ideas for your work! Keep shooting!

Mar 202020
 

Hi everyone!

I recently had a series of speaking engagements cancelled. Understandable, considering the crazy state of the world right now. (Here’s hoping you and yours are well…and you have plenty of toilet paper…wash your hands!)

But life and learning doesn’t have to come to a complete stop because of self-quarantines and shelter-in-place orders. We just need to approach things differently right now. As is said, “If you can’t change the rules, change the game…”

So in lieu of presenting in person at the local camera clubs, I offered a FREE educational webinar on Thursday, March 19 on a presentation topic I was set to deliver to one club, “Critiquing Your Own Work.”

During this educational talk, I shared:

  • A framework and series of questions to ask more objectively evaluate your photographs
  • Examples of successful and less-than-successful photographs to help attendees evaluate composition, lighting, depth of field, focus, story/visual message, color, motion, and more.
  • The most common pitfalls photographers make (mergers, tilted horizons, etc.) and how to resolve them.

I also hosted a brief Q&A session at the end.

To watch, visit https://youtu.be/ojnO9VBjnZE (the video should appear below in the original blog post):

Because this webinar was so much fun for me (and hopefully for the attendees too!), I plan to expand my online offerings in the coming weeks to include:

  • One-hour webinars on new topics with Q&A
  • Small group interactive critique sessions
  • Photography Basics Bootcamp (a multi-week series with presentations and interactive critiques)

If you’d like to receive notifications about future webinars and other online offerings with me, please join my Newsletter mailing list at http://cms-photo.com/newsletter.html if you aren’t on it already.

Enjoy! And stay tuned!

Be well, be wild, and be safe!
Colleen

Nov 202019
 

Dear Bubbles

I get questions all the time via email, on social media, and during my photography workshops. About anything and everything. I love questions, especially ones that make everyone think.

For whatever reason, the Universe exploded with a greater quantity of inquiries than normal last week. I joked after answering a string of them, “You know, wouldn’t it be hilarious if I started a ‘Dear Bubbles’ advice column?” After I stopped giggling–and I turned off my prefrontal cortex–my next thought was, “Why not?!”

With that, I am excited to introduce my newest endeavor, “Dear Bubbles!” It’ll be an advice column for you, by you. You ask questions about photography, art, and the creative life. Each Wednesday, I’ll shoot out an answer (maybe even a bubbly one!) to a featured question.

For example, Laurie asked, “Why is it the more I learn the worse my photos get?” Awesome question! Have you ever felt this way? I have! You can see my response–the first Dear Bubbles conversation ever!–at www.dearbubbles.com.

So, what’s on your mind? What are you struggling with or curious about? How can I help with your photography? Anything goes! If I can somehow make things a little easier on you, if we can learn and laugh together in this journey, awesome sauce. That’s my hope! The world and outdoor photography industry could use more positive energy, more bubbles, right? Right!

Hit me up with your questions either here in the Comments below or via my email at cms@cms-photo.com. Then keep an eye on www.dearbubbles.com on Wednesdays! You never know what might bubble up…

~Bubbles

Nov 142019
 
Choose Wisely

“Choose Wisely,” Acadia National Park, ME || Prints available! Click on photo to order yours!

If you’ve spent any amount of time in photography, you’ve inevitably heard about the “rules” of composition. Specifically, we hear messages like “Make the most of leading lines,” “Look for balance,” and my favorite, “If you place your primary subject in the center of your frame–outside one of the four intersection points of the Rule of Thirds–you’ll spontaneously combust.” Then, once we understand what those rules are, we’re advised to “Break the Rules.”

The so-called rules of composition were designed to help photographers organize the chaos of nature into a rectangular frame. Although well-intentioned, such simplistic advice has unfortunately misguided many-a-photographer into believing that following the rules will result in an effective photograph. See, the trouble with rules is they only get you so far—at best, a beautiful, technically-perfect image…which may also look formulaic and uninspiring to you and your viewers.

The key to better composition in photography is not adhering to the Rule of Thirds “better.” It’s not “Making the most of leading lines” more often either (To be honest, I have no idea what that even means). The rules tell us what to do, but fail to explain why we should employ such techniques.

The path to better composition starts with developing your own meaning of a subject or scene then deliberately designing your frame such that you convey that meaning through your use of positioning, visual weight, balance, lines, layers, light, and color. If you understand human perception, you can arrange your visual elements to get your viewers to see and feel exactly what you wish. That is, if you pay attention to how humans think and interpret the world, you already know the “rules” of composition.

I call the above photograph, “Choose Wisely.” When I came upon the scene at Little Long Pond in Acadia National Park in Maine this past fall, I was first drawn to the stark contrast between the colorful and vibrant maple tree on the left of the frame and the bare one on the right. I started wondering what could have caused such a disparity between two trees so close together.

I also started visualizing how I could compose my frame to showcase this difference. I had already decided I didn’t need the full set of branches included in my frame, which dictated the use of a telephoto lens to zoom in on my subject. I had already decided I didn’t need the foggy sky in my frame either to convey my message. It was only after I asked myself whether I needed to show the trunks of the trees when I noticed the small conifer beneath these two maples and a new, more powerful message started to surface.

I started making up a story about this evergreen tree, thinking it appeared to have two choices ahead of it as it grew into adulthood: a vibrant and full life (left tree) or a bare one. But it actually had a third: to be its own self in the only way a conifer knows how. This story set the foundation for all my compositional decisions—I wanted to convey this story, or at least one close to it, with my viewers.

To do so, I intentionally positioned the evergreen an equal distance from either maple tree to show a “stuck-in-the-middle” pull between the two “choices,” the two trees, which I gave equal space to in the frame to create a balance of power between the two—a classic “good vs. evil” conflict. By including a substantial amount of the height in the deciduous trees relative to the smaller conifer in my frame, I established an authoritative relationship (e.g., an adult-child relationship). I experimented in raising and lowering my tripod to give the evergreen just enough space to imply upward growth. (I definitely didn’t want any of its branches touching either of the other trees.) I chose a vertical composition over a more peaceful horizontal orientation to increase tension and drama. In processing, I darkened the background to allow the little evergreen, which was catching a touch of light from the sky on the side facing me, to stand out more.

Did I make the most of leading lines? No.

Did I place my subject in the intersection points of the Rule of Thirds? Again no. (And guess what? I haven’t spontaneously combusted…yet…).

Did I pay attention to balance? You bet I did, but not in the way I’ve been told to do.

Did I do so to follow rules of composition? Honestly, I couldn’t care less.

Did I deliver the story in the way I wanted to? Absolutely. This is what I wanted to say about my experience with these trees in Acadia that afternoon.

As Robert Henri said, “Making lines run into each other is not composition. There must be motive for the connection. Get the art of controlling the observer – that is composition.”

So when it comes to composition for your own photographs, rules or human perception? Choose wisely.

Aug 142019
 
Walk the Line

“Walk the Line” in Death Valley, CA || Prints available–click on photo to order yours!

The question “Does every photograph have to have meaning?” came up in one of my Death Valley photography workshops earlier this year. In the flurry of excitement in the workshop’s final hours, I didn’t get the chance to clarify the context of the question with the inquirer, but I assumed there was a flavor of “Why can’t I make an image just because I think it’s beautiful?” behind it. I’ve been noodling on the notion ever since–so much so that I decided to pen an article about it summarizing my thoughts.

If you’d like to hear some of my musings about this topic, check out my latest article with On Landscape, titled “Meaning: You Get to Decide.”

A reasonable subscription (which helps On Landscape pay a fair wage to contributors for their work and keeps their site free of advertising) is required to read the full article. You’ll get access to not only this piece, though, but also additional fabulous insights from talented photographers like Guy Tal, Rafael Rojas, Tim Parkin, Alister Benn, and many others. I routinely find inspirational ideas to improve my work through this online publication.

So what do you think? Does every photograph have to have meaning? Do all of your photographs carry specific meaning? I’d love to hear your answers, so leave a comment below!

Nov 172018
 
Where There is Light

“Where There is Light,” from the Above LCR (Little Colorado River) camp near the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers in the Grand Canyon National Park || Prints available–click on photo to order yours!

While standing on a sandy beach along the Colorado River one morning during my recent Grand Canyon Rafting Photography Retreat, I posed a philosophical question for my fellow trip mates, mostly photographers, to ponder throughout the day as we floated along: “If no one ever saw your photographs, would you photograph differently?”

The conversation that ensued that evening over dinner, plus my ongoing fascination with Vivian Maier story, inspired me to write an article about it. On Landscape just published it: “If No One Saw Your Photographs.” In it, I explore my own reasons for not only photographing, but sharing my results with the outside world.

You’ll need a subscription to read the full article (which helps On Landscape pay a fair wage to contributors for their work and keeps their site free of advertising). The inspirational content of this eMagazine by photographic artists like Guy Tal, Rafael Rojas, Tim Parkin, and Alister Benn is well worth the price. Learn more on their Subscription page at https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/subscribe

So I turn the question to you: if no one ever saw your photographs, would you photograph differently? I’d love to hear your answers!

May 162018
 

Photo courtesy of Guy Tal

Recently, I had a blast chatting about landscape photography, creativity, and more with photographer Matt Payne on his F-Stop Collaborate and Listen podcast. (Anyone else dancing to “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice right now? Oh, 90s music was so awesome…)

To read the introduction to our conversation, visit www.mattpaynephotography.com/blog/2018/5/conversation-with-colleen-miniuk-sperry-on-f-stop-collaborate-and-listen.

To jump straight into the podcast, have a listen at:

I hope you gain some inspiration and new ideas for your photographic journey through our exchange!

Many thanks Matt for the opportunity to talk with you. Keep up the great work inspiring the landscape photography world through your podcasts.

Mar 282018
 
Fogged in Obscurities

“Fogged in Obscurities” || Prints available from my website at www.cms-photo.com

Someone recently asked me if I used the app that forecasts when Mother Nature will produce “epic light” to make sure I get the “perfect shot.” Apparently, it helps you decide whether you should photograph at sunrise or sunset. I laughed, “I don’t need an app to help me decide if I should sit on the couch or go outside. I don’t care what the weather is doing–or what time it is–I’m going outside! And I’m taking my camera!”

Don’t get me wrong, I like me some pretty color at sunrise and sunset. But if the only time you photograph the landscape is during fiery light at dawn and dusk, you are selling yourself short in your photography. Way short. Does your creativity work only during those times? Do you only have something to “say” during those hours? No, of course not!

A meaningful visual expression comes from within. It originates from our knowledge, perceptions, and emotions and extends from our ability to interpret the landscapes we see in any and all conditions we experience. It incorporates, but does not depend, on external factors such as light, weather, topography, etc.

Light and weather just “is.” It’s not inherently good or bad. Those are judgments we assign based on our expectations, which are often unreasonable and detrimental to our photography pursuits. Each variation of light we might encounter carries different perceptions and meaning. For example, direct light carries more energy, creates contrast, and grabs attention. Diffused light creates the appearance of more saturated colors and can evoke subdued, stormy, and ethereal moods. It’s up to us as photographers to understand these nuances of light and make the most of the hand Mother Nature deals us every time we go outside with a camera—regardless of what’s happening in the sky.

As Alfred Steiglitz said, “Wherever there is light, one can photograph.” I made the above photograph, which I titled “Fogged in Obscurities“  at 10:23 a. m. EST.

While wandering along Ocean Path in Acadia National Park, Maine, this past February, a heavy blanket of fog hugged the shoreline. (For those who know the joke, this was definitely a “wet fog,” not a “dry fog”… :D ). Waves roared into the granite cliffs. I sat down to wonder.

As I watched the scene unfold, I contemplated the story of that rock sitting on top of the ledge some 30-feet above the ocean. How did it get there? Erosion, wind, waves, or otherwise? What has that pair of intertwined evergreen trees “seen” over the course of their lives? How does it feel to be that boulder in the water getting pounded by the storm waves every few seconds? Each of these objects had a piece of the story to tell about this scene–but none were giving away their secrets.

I knew while visualizing my composition that I wanted to show the relationship between these three key elements, the unknowable story, but importance of each to complete the narrative (at least, the one in my head). The fog only enhanced the mystery…something a bright, cheery sunrise or sunset with pinks, reds, oranges, and purples in the sky could not deliver.

————————–

If you’re interested in learning more about the value and uses of natural light, pick up a copy of my 76-page “Seeing the Light in Outdoor Photography” instructional eBook at www.thepocketinstructor.com.

Mar 232018
 
Face to Face

“Face to Face” || Prints available from my website at www.cms-photo.com.

When you were a child, did you look up at the clouds and see shapes, objects, and maybe even faces? “It looks just like a dragon!” or “Whoa! There’s Snoopy!” Maybe you still do this? I do!

If you wish to be more expressive with your photography, I’d encourage you to see EVERYTHING—not just clouds, but trees, water, rocks, flowers—through this imaginative lens. When you spot something photogenic—landscape, macro, or something in between—ask yourself, “What else is it?”

Let your mind wander with free associations without judging them. You answers will bring your knowledge and perceptions to the forefront and will help you establish an individual meaningful connection with the natural elements that excite you. You’ll transform the ordinary into the extraordinary.

“A rock pile ceases to be a rock pile the moment a single man contemplates it, bearing within him the image of a cathedral.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery