5 Techniques for Becoming a Better, More Thoughtful Photographer

Earnestness, uncapped passion, and curiosity tend to produce incredible photos. The ability to point a lens at a person and capture their soul, or point it at an item and capture its presence is a skill that not everyone has, but it is something that every hopeful photographer can aspire to.

For some, photography is a just method by which they plug self-indulgent images and snapshots into various online networks, and for everyone else, photography is a visual art form. It’s a practice that’s realized through art and science, through the meaningful application of electromagnetic radiation and recorded light.

Photography is the ability to create durable images, and its existence services businesses, recreation, hobbies, communication, and the art, film, and video production industries. There are many ways you can inspire the creative photographer within, including discovering what things excite you and spark your creative juices.

Read a Book

Your first thought may be to pick up a photography book, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, attempt to seek out all types of content. Regard images you read in poetry, fiction, non-fiction and comics, and imagine what that work would look like. Do this while considering some of the techniques you’ve come across when examining the word of the greats.

Please visit brendantaylorfilice.com to read the rest of the blog post, which offers insightful tips on how to be a more inspired and motivated photographer. Click here to read on. 

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Surfing Movies to Inspire You

The Best Surfing Movies …catch a wave

Whether you’re a surfing freak, you tried it once, or you’ve never even been to the beach, surfing movies reveal the fraught power of the ocean and those athletes who challenge it. An epic sport with a fascinating history, surfing has a cult-like film industry for those who want to witness the biggest waves and bravest who go out their to chase them.

The Endless Summer

Endless Summer is the quintessential surfing movie. Release worldwide in 1966), filmmaker/narrator Bruce Brown follows two surfers, Mike Hynson and Robert August, on a surfing trip around the world. His aesthetic style and inspiring story set the standard for the “catch a wave” aesthetic of the decade. In Endless Summer, summer never ends.

Point Break

point-break-surfing-movie

What’s your breaking point? If you’re a cameraman working on a high-budget surfing thriller, hopefully it’s pretty high. The waves of the film were 60 to 70 feet high. In order to get the best shot, there was more than one helicopter involved. Flying helicopters is dangerous enough in a controlled situation, flying as low to the ocean level as they did was risky.

North of the Sun

Norway is not everyone’s first thought when thinking of surfing destinations. Jorn Nyseth Ranum, 25, and Inge Wegge, 28, thought differently. They dreamed of living as self-sufficient hermits on a remote Norwegian beach. In frigid temperatures, join Jorn and Inge in their surfing and snowboarding adventures. It’s also all about survival, as they use only materials washed up on the beach and scavenge for food.

Hawaiian: The Legend of Eddie Aikau

Eddie Aikau is a surfing legend. Eddie Aikau proved himself to be a real hero. And not just as a surfer. With over 10 years in the lifeguard tower at Waimea Bay, her saved over 500 lives. He died paddling against all odds in an attempt to save his Polynesian voyaging canoe Hokulea crewmates. With its rich combination of archival imagery, dramatic reenactments, interviews and meticulous research, this one makes the top of many sport show lists.

View From a Blue Moon

Now these are some beautiful waves. With the world’s most dynamic surfer John Florence and Blake Vincent Kueny, this is the first surf film shot entirely in 4K.  Follow him as he journeys around the globe catching the biggest, prettiest waves. Redefine what is possible in the ocean and how it is represented by the camera.

Castles in the Sky

castle-in-the-sky-surfing-movie-brendan-taylor-filice

Filmed over the course of three years, Castles in the Sky explores the five different locations and the surfers who travel there.  With never-before seen waves and some of the best surfers in the world, experience passion and athleticism or pioneering new coastlines.

For more movie recommendations, follow Brendan Filice on Tumblr and Twitter.

The Basics of Skate Photography

Why skate photography is an art, and why it matters.

There are rules to skateboarding photography.

There’s a great article by Nic Dobija-Nootens in Jenken Mag called, “The Politics of Skate Photography” that rightfully argues that the legacy of skateboarding is pretty much defined by how it’s photographed. Difficult decisions determine how these photographers get their work seen and ensure the proliferation of skateboarding’s legacy.

First, check out these basics of skate photography to familiarize yourself with the lingo.

19 Radical Skateboard Photography Tips

Skateboard photography is very much amount the critical moments of the trick, the landing, the style of the boarder and the style of the board and skate park. Set the scene and define the energy. Photographers are known to shoot in clever perspectives, getting down on the ground and capturing boarders flying over their head.  Close-ups are  a classic method to capturing brief moments during an execution of a trick. Show speed, shadows, and learn your angles.

What is a “make” photo?

A make photo is when a skateboarder finally makes an epic trick.

dan zaslavsky photo
Dan Zaslavsky

Nic Dobija-Nootens asked well-known photographers whether they always use these images in magazines. Dan Zaslavsky is the photographer at Thrasher, who replied,
“That’s a question that’s been asked since the inception of skateboarding magazines.
I don’t consider that a problem. I consider that a success. If he didn’t land it that try, but the photo looks rad, who gives a fuck? I will try my best to get a photo and get out of the way before the dude’s ever landed it.” When asked if he would publish a photo before the trick was properly landed, Zaslavsky says, “If I decide to let that photo slip by without them actually landing it yet, I feel I have done an injustice to skateboarding as a whole.”

Skateboarding is where art and journalism collide . If the image fails to represent the truth, even though it presents the potential (of a faithful execution of the trick), then the photographer is perpetuating a lie. It would be wonderful to look through a skate magazine with people launching off of immeasurable heights, imagining amazing feats of tricks as the land; but it would just be a false perception.

 

Please find these great articles on JenkemMag.com and BeyondPhotoTips.com. Dan Zaslavsky’s work can be found on his website, DanZaslavskyphoto.com.

Here’s my own amateur skate video! Feel free to comment with your own. Follow me at @BrendanFilice on twitter.

 

 

How To Get Big On Tumblr

Brendan Filice wants you to get big on Tumblr. What’s your niche?

No matter how much time I spend online, I will always keep coming back to my favorite site; Tumblr. When I first started using it, I realized Tumblr was more than a collection of blogs; it’s an intricate network of users who have developed their own language and many of us are still in our teens. Tumblr is an outlet to express and share and connect. It’s like one big digital art gallery; changing constantly as its users grow and more join.

But despite the collective energy that fuels Tumblr, there’s still a bit of a popularity contest that haunts it. Everyone wants to be a little popular online!

How can you achieve this elusive Tumblr fame?

To become Tumblr famous, you have to know your followers. Craft a clever username. Consider an aesthetic theme when designing your layout. Looks are important. Are you interested in a portfolio page to show off your personal work, a fandom blog, a fashion blog, or a writing-focused social justice blog? If you’re blog is focused on personal thoughts and quips, that’s fine – but remember that you’ll have to develop a following off of your own brand.  Micro niche blogs like cate memes, Justin Bieber, and foodie blogs will get serious views and will continually get loads of followers for time to come.

You also have to post regularly. Post good content and post often.  Tumblr has a great option where you can create drafts and then queue your posts. So, queue 300-500 images and post around fifty of them images every day.

This will make your blog really active and you’ll start to attract about 200 to 300 followers each day. But remember, you have to use the appropriate tags on these images or they won’t get noticed. If you’re just starting out, start with less images so your blog is not as “spammy.” Be consistent. It might take a few months to hang onto your followers, so remember to keep it up. Don’t stop posting!

Ok, but what exactly should I post?

Refer back your username, your blog’s title, and theme of your blog. Where do you fit in?What can you offer to your readers? Your posts should be concise yet eye-catching.  This might only require a couple of lines.  But those few words should be accurate and provide necessary background. Always give credit to the original source of the photograph because people on Tumblr are sticklers about credit. Also, don’t fear a little personal insight. People like to know there’s a personality to your blog.

Here are some general rules of thumb:

  • Maybe because Tumblr followers scan their dashboards so quickly, videos and audio posts rarely rack up as many ‘likes’ and ‘reblogs’ as images.
  • Additionally, long articles don’t attract as much attention as shorter, snappier entries. (This isn’t always the case, personal essays frequently go viral)
  • Multiple images tell a story better than one image.
  • Weekend posts tend to attract less traffic than those posted during the work week.
  • Animated GIFs attract a lot of attention.

Most of all, have fun with it. Don’t get too hung up on your stats. You should use Tumblr because of a desire to connect with the online community.  With authentic content, an active community will follow.

Why not follow Brendan Filice on Tumblr and Twitter? Read more from Brendan Filice on BrendanTaylorFilice.com.

Go On A Photography Adventure

Explore the world through photography with Brendan Filice’s tips.

photography brendan filice

We take pictures to show the places where we’ve gone. We look at photography to explore our innermost dreams; the luxurious hotels we want to stay in one day, the mountains we want to climb, the creatures around the world we hope to see with our own eyes.

I encourage everyone to go on an adventure, inspired by photography itself. Your camera will be your guide. Your camera will be your compass. Prepare your gear, pick a destination (short term or long term) and commit to dedicated exploration of your subject through your lens.

1. Prepare

You’ll want to be diligent in choosing your gear.  It may be difficult to choose which camera gear to travel with. No one wants to miss out on that perfect shot because didn’t pack the right lens, but you definitely don’t want to overpack.  When you are trekking across a the dewy field, every additional ounce will way you down and start to distract you when you’re trying to shoot. So when preparing gear, keep size and weight to the lightest possible. Remember, lightweight doesn’t mean poor quality. You can get cameras that can still focus and shoot great photos.

Just as important as choosing your camera and is choosing the location. If you’re lucky to have a lot of time to take for a vacation, and can go internationally, you can start exploring options by searching photography destinations on Flickr and 500px.  Check out the map features that display pictures at popular destinations.  Narrow down the spots you want to travel to, analyze the captions of the images, and connect with users to get more tips on the place. My best advice is get to know as much as you can before jetting off. Guide books and travel blogs are good to get a reference of the area, but I recommend reaching out to bloggers and even photographers who have taken the same trip. These people are your best resources.

photography adventure brendan filice.jpeg

2. Pack light, pack smart

We’ve all had that moment where we run out of batteries or lose charge. Pack light but remember essential accessories such as batteries and tripods. Carry equipment in a camera-specific bag with padded inserts. A waterproof cover is also smart to keep on hand. It’s fun to take long exposure shots when you’re traveling in the open wilderness, but you’ll need a tripod to hold your camera in place. There’s a lot of work going into new mirrorless cameras recently. These cameras are gaining in popularity because they provide dSLR-like performance in a lighter and more compact package. They literally ditch the “mirror” and images are recorded directly onto the digital sensor; cameras tend to be loaded with new technology, such as WiFi uploads and mobile phone connectivity.

risky photograph.jpeg

3. Say “Yes”

Vacation is for sleeping in, but it’s also ideal for beautiful early morning light. The magic hour is a special way to photograph your new destination.  Don’t miss the golden light and long shadows at twilight.Take advantage of the night (if the weather’s right) by setting up your tripod and slowing your shutter speed in order to capture mountainous or desert landscapes lit by the blue moon. One special destination is in the northern hemisphere, Iceland for example, where you just may catch a glimpse of the aurora borealis. It’s worth the wait.

 

Brendan Filice is the author of The Defining Images of Photojournalism. Follow him on Twitter and Quora.

The Enigma of the Sun

Every day the faraway, blisteringly hot, mysterious ball of gas that is the sun, dips below the horizon. For a few hours, we simply cannot see it. from our sight. This is the source of spiritualism and myth, science, fear; and nearly everything we depend on; energy, food, electricity, and so on; in the strange moment that it “fall asleep,” artists awake.

It’s the role of the photographer to frame this moment. There is a communal hum we make as humans when the sun vanishes; thinking perhaps, where did it go? Who can see it now? Photographers can capture the raw beauty emitted by the eternal beast of the sun.

Penelope Umbrico is a New York artist who has developed several works on the subject.

She believes the lure of sunset photography is not quite an complex as one may think.

Umbrico’s work questions the sun’s power to enhance collectivity.  For her project, she curated sunset photos from Flickr. Then, she cropped them to remove the surrounding context, whether it be the beach or a smiling portrait, leaving only the suns themselves. The resulting work is a vibrant collage that stands as a testament to our desire to preserve these “liminal moments as a social experience” as stated by Jonny Weeks in the Guardian.

Umbrico says “The sun is this incredibly powerful object, and there’s only one of them in our world,” she says. “The sun can kill us or give us health. It’s the symbol of enlightenment, it makes us happy – it’s phenomenal.”

See the rest of Brendan’s images on Flickr.

Five Questions to Ask Yourself When Buying a New Camera

Do you bring your camera everywhere?

Even if don’t count yourself amongst the pros,  you do bring a powerful tool with you most places if you carry a smartphone. This is actually a great way to start getting the hang of composition and timing as a novice. But to take serious photos, you’ll need to develop an understanding of the sometimes daunting specs such as ISO and f-numbers.

Once you gain at least a peripheral understanding of what these descriptors mean, you’re better equipped to manage the array of choices as your venture to buy a new toy.

Let’s dive into details.

1. How much are you willing to spend?

This should be the first question you answer before you make a responsible decision about your camera.  Are you an amateur photographer? Do you just want to snap pictures of friends when you’re hanging out? Then there are great cameras under $300; in fact consider learning how to use your phone as camera if you’re not ready to invest in a new professional camera.

brendan filice photography iphone

 

The best cameras, DSLRs (digital single lens reflex), will set you back a few thousand dollars, but are a smart investment if you’re planning to get into photography professionally.

2. Do you need all these megapixels?

A megapixel is composed of the millions of tiny squares of colors (pixels) that line your image, horizontally and vertically (think of square footage), that compute to give you the square pixelage of the picture. Up to a certain point, megapixels do matter. But only to a certain extent. The highest megapixels only matter if you plan to blow up your photo to huge proportions and need to maintain the quality of the original shot.

 3. What are you willing to carry with you?

Some high-end cameras are bulky and require complicated set-up; such as tripods. However, this gear often gets you images with great quality. The camera really has to fit your style and your lifestyle. If you aren’t going to be proud showing off that camera every time you pull it out of the bag, then chances are you won’t use it as often as you’d like.

4. Do you hate asking, “Can I charge this here?”

Most cameras have rechargeable batteries and you’ll want to know how often you’ll have to glue yourself to an outlet.

5. Which features are essential?

brendan filice settings photo camera

Cameras nowadays have tons of figures; some have dozens of specific details that will alter the outcome of your shot. Image stabilization, fast focus, easy manual override and even wifi and printer connectivity are just several options. If you’re trying to shoot action photos, you’ll need features for fast focus and stabilization. Are you freelancing and need to print often? Consider portable wifi and printer models.

These are just a snapshot of the questions to ask yourself when buying a new camera. Make the right investment for your lifestyle! Check out my Twitter @brendan_filice for the latest.

Easy Riding

Just a typical lazy afternoon in California; skating with some friends. More to come. Follow on Twitter for the latest!

 

Even if you’re not a skater, you can appreciate the skills from some of the best skaters. It’s an impressive sport. Check out some awesome skateboarding legacies:

Jay Adams

Gonz

Tony Hawk

P-Rod

Eric Koston

The Defining Images of Photojournalism

Photography defines how we remember critical historical events. Whether its the tragedy of war or famous portraits of leaders, photography has become the ultimate form of news since its creation in the mid-19th century.

However, photography is changing. We now are filming ourselves nonstop, with Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope, and other apps that keep us vigilantly connected to friends and family.

New York Times columnist James Estrin speaks to social media’s affect on photography. There are two notable changes. One, it is creating a vast new audience that can appreciate photography (consider Instagram). Two, it is changing what we share; the majority of pictures circulated is about ourselves, our friends, and families (consider selfies).

Teju Cole’s “On Photography” column in the NY Times has addressed the influence of photojournalism throughout history. Images that may seem simple now; for example, the dancing legs of three African boys gracing the sand as the ocean splashes their feet, inspired artistic masters to go out and capture the “eternity through the moment.”

Without photographers to help us define our world, where would be? How would we understand our vast history — in moments dark and bright?

“Photographs are a way of imprisoning reality…One can’t possess reality, one can possess images — one can’t possess the present but one can possess the past.”

– Susan Sontag, On Photography (1977)

Let’s take a moment to look back at some of the most influential photographers and their iconic images.

Roger Fenton

Valley of the Shadow of Death (1855)

Fenton was one earliest to capture the war’s effects on film to be brought to the public. He traveled from Britain in 1853 to the document the war on Crimean peninsula, where England, France, and Turkey were embattled in a territorial fight against Russia. This photo is famously free from any dead or wounded bodies. This avoided offending Victorian sensibilities, but the natural landscape littered with cannonballs evokes the wasted tragedy of the war.

Mathew Brady

Confederate Dead Gathered for Burial at Antietam (1862)

 

Matthew Brady and team didn’t actually have quite the technical ability to photograph the the civil war battles in action, but his haunting visions of the aftermath of major battles like Antietam and Gettysburg perhaps forever defined the public’s relationship with warfare; and journalism.

Sergey Prokudin-Gorsky

Mohammed Alim Khan (1880-1944)

Prokudin-Gorsky’s talent as a chemist helped him pioneer some of earliest color photographs of the diverse culture and history of the Russian empire.

Jacob Riis

Bayard St. Tenement, NYC, 1889

Jacob Riis was a Danish-American social reformer who believed that goodhearted citizens would help the poor when they saw for themselves “how the other half” lived. His work was turned into a groundbreaking book in the muckraking movement.

Dorothea Lange

Florence Owens Thompson (1936)

In one of the most iconic images of the twentieth century, Dorotea Lange captured the muted fear of a migrant mother during the Great Depression in the American West.

Robert Frank

The Americans (1958-1960)

As a Swiss Jew venturing across the US at the height of the Cold War, Frank captured a subtle honesty in his portrayal of the American people ;  black and white, poor, middle, and upper class , in the  cities and countryside. The Americans is arguably the best visual critique of modern society from an outsider’s perspective produced in the twentieth century.

Nick Ut

Napalm Girl (1972)

Nick Ut captured what would become a Pulitzer Prize winning photo for the Associated Press. It showcases the utter terror of war, as children run from a Napalm bombing during the Vietnam War, ripping their clothes of from the extreme heat. If we consider the earlier photos listed here, it’s evident that we still live with a culture of violence; and we rely on these photographs to come to a better understanding of these moments.

Find more from Brendan Filice on Medium and Twitter.

The World’s Most Picturesque Mountains

Sunrise_on_Mount_Shasta
Mount Shasta, CA: Sunrise

 

What places are you dying to see in your life? What are the destinations you think would inspire you beyond belief?

I’ve compiled a list of fifteen amazing mountains that not only are a favorite for photographers around the world, but have been sacred relics for people for thousands of years.

What do you think are the world’s most amazing mountains?

 

Brendan’s list:

 

Mount Fuji, Japan
Mount Elbrus, Russia
Tabletop Mountain, South Africa
Mount Shasta, California
Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil
Mount Ararat, Turkey/Armenia
Matterhorn, Switzerland/Italy
Nevado Sajama, Bolivia
Galdhopiggen, Norway
Ama Dablan, Nepal
Mt. Kailiash, Tibet/China
Mount of the Holy Cross, Colorado
Harney Peak, South Dakota
Kirkjufell, Iceland
Patagonia Fitz Roy, Chile/Argentina