Snow Storm + Habit #2

Colorado Capitol in Denver, Colorado, Wed., Nov. 12, 2014, as seen thru a snow storm across Civic Center park. (copyrighted photo by Mark T. Osler. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) I forgot I had this photo and wanted to share it with you. For me, this is validation for carrying my camera with me everywhere.

I had to go to the City & County Building in Denver and, as you can see, it was snowing like crazy. I wasn’t going to be there long, and didn’t want my camera to get soaked, so I nearly left my camera in the car. As I was locking up my car, I changed my mind and grabbed it.

As I came out, this is what I saw and felt, “Hey, that’s a nice scene.” So I waited for someone to walk thru it and made this picture.

Now, some of you may be thinking I could have left my camera in the car and just shot this with my iPhone. Wrong, Cellphone Breath! Well, technically, that’s right…I could have captured this same scene, but it wouldn’t have resulted in the same final image. All the fine detail in the trees and the snow speckles against the dark areas, wouldn’t have resolved as clearly. The picture would have lost the texture that’s a big part of making this photo what it is. In other words, it wouldn’t be the same picture, even though it may have been the exact same scene.

I love my iPhone, but there are limitations of cellphone photography. Know those limitations. If you believe you’re making a picture of any possible consequence or that requires certain technical qualities, weigh how you’re going to feel about those limitations if they prevent you from realizing your initial intent when you stopped and decided to make the picture in the first place.

Just another application of Habit #2 from The Seven Habits Of Highly Effective People - Begin with the end in mind.

Photo Workshop Students

Students for Mark Osler's class on photo composition held Nov. 2, 2014 at Union Station in Denver, Colorado. (©Mark T. Osler. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) Taught a fun workshop today for Digital Photo Academy over at Union Station (& vicinity). We spent 3 hours working on composition. Each time I teach that, I'm reminded what a huge topic it is. There's so much I want to share in these classes that it becomes a challenge balancing what I can share and what students can absorb in such a short period of time. This is my #1 favorite topic to teach, though, so I'll keep trying to figure out how to tread that narrow line. Thanks to all my students for working hard and for putting up with my A.D.D. teaching style. Hope you had fun and learned...something!

Colorado Colors

I had an assignment out in Delta, Colorado a week or so ago and was encouraged to take a route back to Denver that brought me over McClure Pass. It seemed a little late for high-country color, but I don't get out to the western slope much so I figured, why not?!

I don't make a lot of smart decisions in my life, but I'm going to count this one among those lonely few. Absolutely breathtaking.

I don't make enough time to just get out an take in the beauty of this state...and there's sooooooo much of it. It's trips like this that I need to remind me to stop being such a lazy knucklehead and GET OUT THERE!

DENVER WEDDING - Karen & Mark (mini-preview)

I photographed Karen & Mark’s wedding this past weekend. Terrific couple. Great fun.

Thought I'd share the few photos I'm sending to the couple before they leave on their honeymoon (have a great time, you two!). Tons more to plow thru. Lots of time. Lots of work. But, their album is going to look AWESOME!!

Even though I only take on a handful of weddings each year, I love and look forward to those opportunities. Weddings are high-stakes events for a photographer. You have to be - and stay - sharp all the time. They make me a better photographer…no question about it.

I don’t mind sharing that I get…not nervous…but, really anxious before a wedding. What if nothing good happens? What if just a few good things happen and I miss them? What if I completely forget how to do what I’ve been doing for the last 25 years?!

Ok…maybe a little psychotic, but it’s stressful. Or, at least it should be. I don’t know how a photographer could care about their craft, care about the couple they’re photographing, and NOT get a little freaked out before it all starts. There’s a lot riding on our success…or failure…as wedding photographers.

And...if you’ll indulge a little tech talk…thank god for the state of photo technology these days. Without a doubt, of all the weddings I’ve photographed, the lighting in this reception venue was the worst I’ve ever experienced. I’ll spare you the discussion about how I could have (or should have) set up lights — because (1) it’s boring, and (2) do you really care? (……I didn’t think so.) But, I do want to…let me re-phrase that…have to…thank the the super-brains out there who’ve figured out how to make a thimble-full of light feel like an ocean of light (or at least a pretty big lake!). It’s nothing short of amazing how well digital cameras these days perform in low light…truly amazing. So, thank you thank you, Big Brains!

I was going to get into a philosophical discussion about hands-on vs. hands-off wedding photography here, but am going to leave that for another post. It’s an interesting topic and one that needs to be discussed more among wedding photographers, and considered more by couples getting married. There are very real benefits to be successfully argued on both sides. Most photographers have already made there minds up about which side of that fence they stand on. Couples, though, need a more thoughtful discussion on this topic because there are very real differences --- and there's only get one chance to make the right (or wrong) choice.

For now, though, hope you enjoy this little taste of this recent wedding. Thanks, Karen & Mark, for trusting me with your big day. More soon………!

Canon 1D-X versus Canon 5D Mark III

1DX-v-5D3-Hi-ISOHaven’t done a “techie” post in a while so here we go.

Recently, I had a chance to use a Canon 1D-X body for a couple of days and was really impressed. I work with Canon 5D Mark III (5D3) bodies for my professional work and was curious what kind of increase in quality another $3,400 dollars would buy me (5D3 sells for $3,400, 1D-X sells for $6,800 at B&H Photo).

First, let me say that the overwhelming criterium in my choice of camera bodies is low-light performance. There are many other legitimate ways to evaluate and critique a camera body, depending on the kind of photography you do most often. Low-light performance just happens to be mine.

Okay, back to it.

So, what do I mean by low-light performance? I’m looking at how well the camera can focus in low-light and the noise structure of the digital file at high-ISO settings.

In my (admittedly non-scientific) comparison, I found the two bodies were impressive and basically equal in their low-light auto-focusing capabilities. In terms of noise structure, the 1D-X had advantages in high-ISO performance on two fronts. First, the 1D-X gives equivalent hi-ISO noise performance at 2/3 to 1-stop higher ISO settings. Second, the 1D-X allows you to make "usable" pictures (for me) up to 102,400, and good-enough-for-most-situations images up to 25,600. Granted, it’s pretty noisy at 102,400, and you'd only go there if absolutely necessary...but, with some post-processing work on a file with a good exposure, you could definitely create a usable image at 102,400 (which is insane!). What’s equally amazing is the minimal amount of banding (which appear as noticeable “lines” across the image) at super-high ISO settings, especially realizing the highest settings are digital extrapolations beyond the sensor's actual light sensitivity limit.

So, on the three practical low-light, high-ISO criteria (i.e., autofocus, noise, banding), the 1D-X has about a one-stop advantage.

Of course there are tons of other factors upon which these two cameras can be compared, the two most practical of which would be weight and the number of frames that can be recorded per second. The 1D-X is at least 2-3 times as fast in continuous, high-speed capture (motor drive) versus the 5D3. For sports shooters, there’d be no question the 1D-X is a better choice. If you don’t need that one feature though, it'd be hard (for me) to justify investing in a 1D-X when I could buy two 5D3 bodies for the same price -- especially given the fact the 1DX is nearly twice as heavy as the 5D3 (3.4 lbs vs. 1.89 lbs). Depending on what you're doing and how you carry your cameras, that extra pound and a half can be a significant (and uncomfortable) difference.

To be clear, though, I’d LOVE to own a 1D-X. It’s an incredible camera and was a complete joy to work with. But, for my purposes - and in my pre-millionaire financial status - I’m going to give the 5D3 might vote for being a better value for the money. If money is no object, though, go for the 1D-X. Better still, if money is no object, buy ME a 1D-X!

Always Look On the White Side Of Life

WP-WhiteOut For the past five Saturdays, I've been making the trip up and back to Winter Park, where my kids have been taking snow boarding lessons.

Each Saturday has been a transportation challenge. For the past four Saturdays, it's been the amount of traffic. Today, it was the amount of snow. I can't really complain, though, since my brother-in-law has been doing the driving (thank you, Lou!).

Things started off fine this morning, but really took a turn after we left the highway and headed up over Berthoud Pass. Snow & wind big time.

This photo was made as we came off the pass and were on final approach to Winter Park - about the only upside of today's drive up.

It's been snowing all day here and were just preparing to make the return trip. Wish us luck!

Ummmm......Just Because

Copyrighted photo by Mark T. Osler. Photo at Winter Park, Colorado. January 2014. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. I really want to have a really good reason for posting this photo. Unfortunately,………..

This photo was not carefully composed. It doesn’t have an incredible moment. The light is average, at best. Graphically, it’s…uhhmmm….

OK. Here’s the deal. I’d borrowed a 1-DX body from Canon and was looking for any excuse to run some frames thru it (an a-freaking-mazing camera, by the by). I was picking up my kids from their snow boarding lessons at Winter Park when I saw “No Pain, No Pain” written into the rear window of a dirty, dusty SUV across the parking lot, just as we were backing out to leave. My brother-in-law Lou was driving. I was in the passenger seat. I picked up the camera, and shot two frames thru our own slightly-less-dirty windshield. This is one of them.

I guess the value of this (aside from padding my blog!) is to simply say that it’s okay to like a picture for no particular reason other than you just do. There are times when I get so serious about my work and limit myself creatively by buying into the ridiculous premise that if a picture’s not great, it’s not worth making. As I said…ridiculous!

So, join me in loosening up occasionally and simply enjoy the process of making a photograph - whether or not it stands the photographic world on its collective head or bursts thru any new creative frontiers.

I’m not giving you permission to be lazy or to not try to make as good a picture as you can when you decide to make a photograph. Do your best always but, if you’re grabbing a fleeting shot, and shooting thru the windshield of a car, it’s okay to cut yourself some slack and just enjoy the results for what they are.

Of course, it is generally preferable to be able to explain why you like a photograph - the light, the moment, the composition, etc. But, from time to time, it’s also completely fine to like a picture…just because.

Crazy Frog and the Jittery Photographer

Poison Dart Frog plays a game of chicken with a remarkably tolerant snake. Actually, this Denver Zoo exhibit dramatizes how much protection these tiny frogs enjoy from the poison they possess. Still... (copyrighted photo by Mark T. Osler. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.) Hope everyone had a Happy Thanksgiving…and survived Black Friday!

Life was good at the Osler Ranch. Had my dad in to town and my kids and I took him for a quick stroll thru the Denver Zoo before heading to the airport today.

I love the zoo. Such a fun place to make pictures. And, even though I certainly could have held my camera a little steadier on this shot, I thought you all might enjoy it, just for it’s surprise value. When I came up on the Poison Dart Frog display and saw this, I couldn’t believe it. I hurried and captured this photo just before the frog hopped along it’s merry, care-free way.

While this does seem like one amazing dare-devil of a frog, turns out the point of having the snake in the display was to dramatize that fact that the poison carried by these frogs is sensed my many would-be predators - like this snake - and they just let the frogs be…even if they seemingly push their luck, as this one did.

I’m sure it’ll take me hours of sitting in front of this display, and multiple visits, before I get another opportunity like this one. And, if I don’t, at least I’ll have this photo, and the lesson it teaches…reminding me - even if I’m in a hurry - to relax while I’m shooting and nail the fundamentals (such as bracing the camera properly!).

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend, all!

Self-Portrait from Orvieto

Orvieto-Selfie I made my first visit to Orvieto in 1981. I made my second visit just this summer. Orvieto is a beautiful, mountaintop town a couple of hours north of Rome.

In the next month, I'll be posting more photos from my trip to Italy this summer, including more from Orvieto. For now, though, just this one of me as I was headed back to my car. I don't think to take self-portraits when I'm working, and can't explain why I stopped for this one, but I'm glad I did.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Photographing Lightning

Skyline-Lightning-w I used to marvel at pretty much anyone who could get a photograph of lightning. The reality is it's not nearly as hard as I originally believed.

When I was picture editor at the Rocky Mountain News (R.I.P.), we'd occasionally need a photograph to illustrate severe weather. Most newspaper photographers dread the "weather art" assignment, but I was amazingly fortunate at the Rocky to have a staff that would put their best into pretty much anything…regardless of how they may have felt.

Because I always struggled when it came to photographing lightning, I was always impressed when a photographer could, on command, go out and create a nice lightning photo. I shared this once with one of our photographers and asked how he did it. I imagined his answer was going to have to do with using a tripod & a selection of other tricks.

"Actually, I just wait for the lightning & then shoot it," he said nonchalantly.

"What? That's impossible," I thought…and said.

What he told me is that, oftentimes, lightning strikes comes in combinations. So, by choosing a composition, and being a little patient, you actually can just wait for the lightning & then shoot it.

That's exactly how this picture was created. I'd gone over to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science on my way to pick up my son from his karate practice. It was that time of day when the lights downtown and the ambient light balanced just right for an evening skyline photo. I was just there for fun, but noticed there was some lightning hitting the foothills. So, I chose a composition, steadied my camera on a stairway railing and waited.

I saw two lightning strikes in the five minutes I was there. I missed the first one because it was a single, isolated burst. The second strike was a quick succession of two strikes…I caught the second one.

There are a lot of good, even great photographs, that owe their success to happy accidents…like this one. You've got to be out there making lots of pictures, though, if you're going to be on the receiving end of a happy accident. I had no intention of making a lightning photo when I set out. I'd just decided to go out an make a picture with the few minutes of free time I found myself with one night…and got this…but I digress.

QUICK LESSON: So, if you'd like to add some lightning shots to your collection of photographs, here are two approaches. First, try the "wait & shoot" approach. You'll need to steady your camera on something (preferably a tripod), then set your shutter speed to something slow - below 1/8 of a second. The longer shutter speed is an important part of the equation - the longer your shutter is open, the better your chances. If you can add a cable release, or any other hands-off approach to releasing the shutter, even better. This photo had the following settings: 1/5 sec; f/7.1; ISO 320; 70mm. Take some test shots, once you're set up, to make sure you have a good exposure. I always shoot lightning in Manual mode, so the lightning (or anything else) doesn't affect the overall exposure. Now just wait and react. Expect this to take a little practice, but you'll be surprised how many lightning shots you can get in a reasonably active lightning storm. If you'd like to really improve your odds, try this second approach. Put your camera on a tripod & arrange the composition you want. Set your camera to an exposure of 2 seconds or more and put the release setting on "motor drive" - continuous release. Now, just press and hold the shutter release and wait for the lightning. It's not a guaranteed approach, but it's unlikely you'll not get something if it's an active storm and you spend 15-20 minutes shooting. I'd also recommend setting your camera to capture in JPEG mode, not RAW. The reason is that RAW captures are so large, your camera's buffer may fill up with this approach and prevent your camera from firing when you need it to. Most cameras should be able to handle this approach if you're capturing in JPEG. The final tip is to get a feel for the timing between strikes. Start shooting when you feel like the lightning will be coming soon. Once you've seen a strike (especially if it's a big one), it's highly unlikely you'll see another strike any sooner then 20-30 seconds later, even in the most active storms. So, it's just wasting space on your disk to fire immediately after a strike.

TECHNICAL NOTE: Because of this long shutter speed, this second approach requires that you either photograph at late dusk or evening (most storms are in the afternoon & evening), or that you add a 3x neutral density filter. It's unlikely that you'll be able to get the slow shutter speed you need during daytime hours, even at your lowest ISO and smallest aperture opening (e.g., f/22, f/32, f/45, etc.). If absolutely have to photograph lightning during the day with this approach, you'll probably have to stack a couple of 3x neutral density filters together. If you do this, be aware you may get some vignetting with wide-angle shots.

Good luck!

Lessons from Steve Jobs - 7 Secrets

Whether you love him, hate him or couldn't care less about him, there's content worth considering in this 6-minute video, reflecting on what made Steve Jobs...well, Steve Jobs. Enjoy.

New Take on an Old Tree

Green-tree-pods We have this really awesome tree in our backyard. Everybody comments on it, but no one has been able to pinpoint what kind of tree it is exactly. I often walk out in our backyard and look for pictures I've never seen before. I've shot many, many pictures of our centerpiece tree, but this was a slightly new take on it.

TIP: I find it's a helpful creative exercise to find things that are infinitely familiar and challenge yourself to do something new with it. I'm not always successful, but am happy with how this one turned out. Give it a might be surprised with what you come up with!

'Tis the Season - HS Senior Session | Brooke | Golden & Denver

Brooke-Collage Kicked off the post-summer-break high school senior photography session with Brooke and couldn't have gotten luckier. She was open to everything, kept on top of her outfit changes, and really worked with me to make the session everything it could be.

We started in Golden and made it thru some brief rain showers to start the session. The next stop I'd planned to make was Red Rocks, but that idea got a cold reception because so many people go there for senior pictures. So, I reluctantly agreed to pass on Red Rocks, and we headed off to downtown Denver.

As we drove out of Golden, though, the clouds gave way to beautiful late-day light. HOLD THE PHONE! I called Brooke, in the car ahead of me, and asked if she'd indulge me with a brief detour to Red Rocks. Cooperative as always, she agreed and we spent about 20 minutes in a couple of locations and then got back on the road to Denver (with a few awesome photos to show for our brief detour).

Our wires got crossed in Denver and my end-of-session plan had to be abandoned and replaced with a few "Hmmmm…let's try….THIS" ideas. All that matters, in the end, is we ended up with a great selection of pictures Brooke (and I) love.

Oh, and I need to thank Brooke's mom and grandma for coming along and making life easier all the way around! Thanks!

This is a great time of year. Light is great, colors are great, weather is great. If you need senior pictures, family pictures or any other kind of picture -- and want to do them outside -- this is the time to go and git 'er done.

Engagement Session | Debora + Mario | Rome, Italy

DM-Roma-17July2013-COLLAGE Had a few GREAT travel jobs this summer. One huge highlight was a wedding I was commissioned to do in Italy.

I had the great fortune to meet Debora & Mario while I was on a travel assignment a couple of years ago. We met at a birthday party in Viterbo and they liked the work I did of their town & surrounding area. So, when they got engaged, they asked if I'd photograph their wedding. Lucky me!

I spent just over a week in Italy doing some travel photography and scouting locations for the work I did with Debora & Mario. A few days before the wedding the three of us went in to Rome for a couples photo session. You'll see from the photos that we covered a lot of ground. With the exception of Debora's sore feet (a story for another time), it was just a flat-out fantastic, fantastic day.

Italy is one of my absolute favorite places in the world - the people, the history, the language, the beauty…it's just intoxicating. It's especially engaging for a visual person because there's an appreciation of beauty-for-beauty's-sake that seems such an integral part of the culture.

I love the pictures we made and can't wait to get back. Keep on the lookout for a post coming soon with photos from Debora & Mario's wedding, held at the amazing Castello Orsini-Odescalchi in Bracciano (where Tom Cruise & Katie Holmes were married in 2011).

Céad Míle Fáilte!

As far as I'm concerned, St. Patrick's Day is the next best thing to New Year's Eve. Everyone's in a good mood. There's a great sense of community, and fun is the only thing that really matters. Just have fun. What a great holiday!

We spent a fun few hours out listening and dancing to Irish music in downtown Denver and capped the day off with an awesome corned beef & cabbage dinner. By the way, why is it we only eat corned beef & cabbage one day a year?Just not right!

Here a little slice of St. Patrick's Day in a card I put together for friends & family. Hope you had a great one!

Sing Us A Song, You're The Piano Man

I took my daughter and her friend for a stroll up the 16th St. Mall here in Denver last night after watching the Rockies deal out a 9-1 thrashing of the SD Padres.

"What are we looking for, daddy?"

"I don't know. Something interesting. They've got pianos all over the mall. Maybe we'll find someone playing somewhere."

...and so we did. Mr. Gordon Von had gathered a small crowd with a rendition of Billy Joel's "Piano Man."

I've always loved street performers - singers, jugglers, comedians, freak shows...whatever. It's a special treat when they're good, which Gordon was, but what I admire the most is the courage of the performers to lay their talent, and their egos, on the line for sometimes appreciative, sometimes critical audiences. This crowd was more the former, overlooking the horribly out of tune piano and offering a few minutes of attention and a few dollars of support.

"So, what did you think?"

Seeing that her dad was impressed by the event, Colleen choked back her urge to tell me she'd rather have spent the time window shopping, or playing in one of the fountains.

"It was cool."

That's my girl!

Dude. Where've You Been?

Yes. I know I've been a bit remiss in my blogging duties recently. Lots of stuff going on and I'll get you all caught up in, really!

Last week we were in NY for the shortest week's vacation EVER. I swear we were headed back to LaGuardia six hours after we landed. In fact, it was six days later but, wow, did the time fly.

I'll have some work-work and some fun-work to post in the next few weeks. For now, though, here's a fun-work shot from our little family get together last week in Long Island.

Stay tuned!!

One Shot Wonder - Transit of Venus

I'm a photojournalist. So, wouldn't you think I'd be out photographing an event that isn't going to happen again for another 117 years?! OF COURSE. In fact, who wouldn't want to see something like that?

The Transit of Venus was that event - literally, a once-in-a-lifetime event. Where was I? Working at my home office. Thankfully, my 12-year-old son, clearly more on the ball than I, called to remind me this was going on. Actually, what he really wanted was a photo, since he wasn't going to be able to come to the Denver Museum of Nature & Science to check it out on their telescopes., with about 15 minutes till sundown, I scooped up my cameras and big-ass lens and got on over to the DMNS. It had been a cloudy day, but as I drove up, I could see the sun was shining...and disappearing fast. I scrambled out, but couldn't find a spot to get a clear shot. The sun was really low and had dipped below the City Park Tree line. Starting to panic, I noticed the sun was shining brightly on the museum wall back in behind the bushes. So, I climbed in thru the bushes and fired off about 5 frames of the same photo. By the time I moved to another vantage point on the other side of the museum, the sun had dropped behind the mountains.

Even though I pulled out a decemt photo from the event - and I'm happy I did - I won't soon let go of the feeling I really dropped the ball on this one. I know these kinds of events may sound nerdy, but they're actually...well, fun! Hundreds of people come and you get to see something truly spectacular.

In any event, if you didn't see the Transit of Venus yourself, enjoy this photo...and let's BOTH make a point to get to the next cool event the heavens send us.

On-location Executive Portrait

Here are a few selects from an executive portrait session I photographed last week. My assignment was to create a selection of portraits of a new attorney joining a prominent Denver law firm. The photos are for the firm's website. The idea was to create professional portraits that will make a professional and welcoming statement to potential new clients.

These photos are, for all intents & purposes, headshots. As such, this offers good fodder for my position that executive headshots do NOT need to be taken in a studio. These classically-lit photos were made out on the balconies at the law firm's offices.

Not only are on-location portraits convenient for the attorneys I've photographed here, but it shows that location portraits can be every bit as professional looking as portraits made in a studio. In fact, it's my position that these unique portraits have an inherent advantage over every other headshot you've ever standing apart from the plethora of other executive headshot.

In today's increasingly competitive business environment, who's not looking for a way to separate themselves from the crowd?!