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The Practicing Photographer
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The Practicing Photographer

with Ben Long

Video: Understanding how to compose with an empty sky

- Landscape shooting requires a lot of planning. You got to find the place you want to go, you got to pick a window of availability, you got to travel a bunch. And it's not like normal vacation planning, because, most of the time when I'm planning on going on a landscape shoot, particularly out into the desert or open wilderness area, I'm really, really hoping for bad weather. I really want storms blowing through, horrible, catastrophic monsoons and things like that, because blue sky is just so boring. There's nothing I can do with it compositionally.
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  1. 4m 54s
    1. Understanding how to compose with an empty sky NEW
      4m 54s
  2. 1m 35s
    1. Introducing The Practicing Photographer
      1m 35s
  3. 7h 49m
    1. Choosing a camera
      5m 27s
    2. Looking at light as a subject
      2m 22s
    3. Using a small reflector to add fill light
      5m 45s
    4. Editing photo metadata with PhotosInfo Pro for iPad
      6m 30s
    5. Let your lens reshape you
      7m 26s
    6. Compositing street photography images with Photoshop
      7m 44s
    7. Expand your filter options with step-up and step-down rings
      3m 56s
    8. Shooting without a memory card
      3m 6s
    9. Give yourself a year-long assignment
      5m 28s
    10. Working with reflections
      1m 26s
    11. Exploring mirrorless cameras
      7m 25s
    12. Batch processing photos with the Adobe Image Processor
      7m 30s
    13. Limiting yourself to a fixed-focal-length lens
      2m 13s
    14. Creating tiny worlds: Shooting technique
      4m 15s
    15. Creating tiny worlds: Post-processing techniques
      11m 41s
    16. Shooting macro shots on an iPhone
      3m 18s
    17. Using a tripod
      3m 33s
    18. Wildlife and staying present
      5m 58s
    19. Batch exposure adjustments on raw files
      6m 52s
    20. Why Shoot Polaroid
      11m 12s
    21. Seizing an opportunity
      4m 4s
    22. Four photographers do a light-as-subject exercise
      12m 24s
    23. Shooting macro bug photos with a reversed lens
      4m 54s
    24. Varnishing a photo for a painterly effect
      13m 36s
    25. Shooting wildlife
      7m 24s
    26. Discussion on how to shoot architecture
      12m 27s
    27. Using a lens hood
      4m 48s
    28. Working with themes
      2m 48s
    29. Setting up an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    30. Processing an HDR time lapse
      7m 55s
    31. Two perspectives on travel photography
      12m 28s
    32. Scanning Photos
      5m 37s
    33. Photo assignment: shooting an egg
      3m 13s
    34. Reviewing the egg shot images
      6m 47s
    35. Shooting in your own backyard
      4m 38s
    36. Jpeg iPad import process
      3m 17s
    37. Shooting a product shot in open shade
      9m 34s
    38. Reviewing the product shot images
      4m 5s
    39. Warming up
      3m 26s
    40. Taking a panning action shot
      10m 17s
    41. Scanning polaroid negatives and processing in Photoshop
      8m 17s
    42. Shooting a silhouette
      3m 9s
    43. Going with an ultra-light gear configuration
      5m 29s
    44. Working with masks and calculations in Photoshop
      12m 38s
    45. Working with flash for macro photography
      4m 55s
    46. Colorizing a black and white photo in Photoshop
      5m 10s
    47. Using duct tape and zip ties in the field
      4m 14s
    48. When the on camera flash is casting a shadow
      3m 4s
    49. Using Lightroom on the road
      6m 28s
    50. Listening to your camera to get good exposure
      2m 20s
    51. Shooting a successful self portrait with a phone
      7m 18s
    52. Switching to Lightroom from another application
      9m 48s
    53. Photographing animals in wildlife refuges
      6m 41s
    54. Shooting level
      2m 42s
    55. Photoshop and Automator
      8m 54s
    56. Shooting when the light is flat
      3m 23s
    57. Discussing the business of stock photography
      9m 48s
    58. Shooting tethered to a monitor
      3m 21s
    59. Making a 360 degree panorama on the iPhone
      4m 45s
    60. Understanding the three flash setup
      3m 34s
    61. Shooting a three flash portrait
      4m 6s
    62. Understanding the differences with third party lenses
      4m 43s
    63. Understanding why files look different on depending on device
      5m 25s
    64. Working with a geotagging app on the iPhone
      4m 43s
    65. Using high speed flash sync to dim ambient light
      7m 29s
    66. Using your iPad as a second monitor
      5m 46s
    67. Understanding exposure with a leaf shutter camera
      3m 28s
    68. Photography practice through mimicry
      8m 8s
    69. Canon wireless flash with built in radio control
      5m 59s
    70. Posing and shooting pairs of people
      5m 35s
    71. Shooting with a shape in mind
      3m 15s
    72. Shooting tethered to a laptop
      4m 40s
    73. Softboxes vs. umbrellas
      2m 55s
    74. Getting your project out into the world
      6m 25s
    75. Exploring how to think about shooting a new environment
      3m 56s
    76. Discussing the book "The Passionate Photographer" with Steve Simon
      6m 4s
    77. Highlighting iOS 8 updates on the iPhone5S
      10m 46s
    78. Exploring manual controls with iOS 8 and ProCamera
      5m 30s

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The Practicing Photographer
7h 56m Appropriate for all May 16, 2013 Updated Oct 16, 2014

Viewers: in countries Watching now:

In The Practicing Photographer, photographer and teacher Ben Long shares a weekly serving of photographic instruction and inspiration. Each installment focuses on a photographic shooting scenario, a piece of gear, or a software technique. Each installment concludes with a call to action designed to inspire you to pick up your camera (or your mouse or smartphone) to try the technique for yourself.

Subject:
Photography
Author:
Ben Long

Understanding how to compose with an empty sky

- Landscape shooting requires a lot of planning. You got to find the place you want to go, you got to pick a window of availability, you got to travel a bunch. And it's not like normal vacation planning, because, most of the time when I'm planning on going on a landscape shoot, particularly out into the desert or open wilderness area, I'm really, really hoping for bad weather. I really want storms blowing through, horrible, catastrophic monsoons and things like that, because blue sky is just so boring. There's nothing I can do with it compositionally.

And most of the time, you come out to the desert and this is what you get. It's just searing sun and an emptyless sky. So what do you do with it? Well, for a while, blue sky can actually be kind of interesting, and there are times, of course, when shooting with this sky is fine, particularly at sunset when it's changing colors very dramatically. But here, the light has turned in my favor but the sky is still pretty boring. I got this lovely rock formation up here, and if I start playing with it, just with the sky, I don't ... there's nothing in that top half of the frame.

It's just not interesting. So what can I do in this situation, because there's not a cloud in the sky. There's some on the horizon way over there, and they're laughing at me. It's not going to change. So I've got to work with what I've got here. First thing I can do is, just consider cropping the sky. I got up a little higher earlier and took a broader shot, with the idea that I'll crop it down to something long and skinny and just simply try to eliminate the sky. That can work for some shots. But I think there's a more interesting way to work, which is not fight the empty sky, just think about what else you have to work with.

In this case, what I have to work with is the ground. So I'm going to compose in the other direction. Rather than packing the frame with lots of sky, I'm going to pack the frame with lots of ground. This makes that big rock feature more of a background item than a great subject of an image, but I get a couple of things. I get a well-composed shot here. Here, I'm balancing these rocks in the foreground off the big rock in the background, and I like this, whatever you call this thing here, this long stretch of rock over here.

So I can play with that kind of stuff. Though I have lost that huge rock as the subject of my image, what I am doing is creating an image that is really evocative of this place. This is what I experience when I walk around. I'm spending a lot of time looking in these dry washes and things, so actually, this has led me to more of an authentic representation of the scene, rather than I just pick up the hero formations and shoot those. Now, for doing this kind of stuff, my first recommendation is, go to a wide lens. I'm shooting on a crop sensor Cannon with a 10 to 22-millimeter lens.

That's the equivalent of a 16 to 35 on a full frame camera. And what that lets me do is really exaggerate all this stuff on the ground. And because the light has gotten low and contrasty, I'm picking up lots of texture. And that's giving me a lot of extra geometry to play with, a lot of graphic lines to play with. I am being careful about depth of field, so I'm shooting with small apertures and I'm paying a lot of attention to where I'm focusing. I'm focusing about 1/3 of the way into the shot. In other words, I'm making sure that the front of the frame is in focus because I know that my depth of field is going to go a long way back.

And if it doesn't go all the way back, that's probably okay because the things in the distance are going to be too far away for me to really discern in sharp focus. So here, again, I'm just balancing this foreground thing against the big rock in the background. I'm trying to be careful about using up a shot before I walk into it, because the sand is collapsing underneath me. To play up the ground even further, I'm going to do another thing, which is get down on my knees and really put a lot of ground in the foreground. And that starts getting me lines that I hadn't even noticed before.

Oh, there's a footprint. So changing vantage point is cool. It also puts that red thing on the horizon ... oh, it just changes my relationship to it. And now, going all the way down here is probably too far because what I'm at now is so highlighting this thing that is makes the viewer go, "Well, I guess he really wants me to look at that thing." And then you look at it and you go, "That ain't much of a thing." So I need to be careful not to overplay the foreground. I want it to guide the viewer's eye.

I want to use the lines in the foreground to lead the viewer through the image, just as you should in any good composition. Most of them are leading ultimately back to that rock. So I feel like these compositions are working. So when you're facing that dull, boring, empty blue sky, although this one's full of helicopters all of a sudden, but other than that, it's completely empty. When you're facing that empty blue sky, don't just think, "Well, I've got to have blue sky." Don't think, "I'll replace the sky later "with something else." Think about the ground. The ground can be really interesting. It's what we walk on. We're used to seeing it.

We have a relationship with it. This is a chance to feature it in your images.

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