Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's Not The Camera

We photographers can often get caught up in The Gear Wars. Constantly chasing after more pixels, faster and better glass, newer and sexier cameras. I'm about to let go a big secret, so get ready.

Say this out loud, right now: "It's not the camera." Say it five times, ten times.

Instead of chasing the latest and greatest, many pros, and passionate amateurs looking to improve, will do themselves better by taking a class on composition, studying the works of others, going on a photography workshop and learning new techniques - anything along these lines, instead of buying the latest and greatest. I have a recent experience to prove this. A few weeks ago, I got an email from a gentleman who was asking about a few photos on my site, and could he purchase them? I moved our conversation to the telephone, and quickly found out he lived quite near me. He was interested in Metal Prints, that I have done at Bay Photo - could he come over and see some in person? Duh, sure! 30 minutes later, he's in my studio, looking at some of the giant Metal Prints I have hanging on my walls (8' wide, 6'x4', and the like). He loved them! That same day, he ordered thousands of dollars of prints from me. Here are some examples:

Several photos in the order were taken with an infrared-modified point-and-shoot camera, these were hand-held stitched panoramas, that printed up really well (and big!). One photo was printed at 24"x36" and was taken with an 8 megapixel Canon 20D years ago.
It's not the camera - it's how you use it, and how you print. Shameless plug for Bay Photo, who never disappoints in the quality department - and if you've not tried printing on Metal Prints, you really should.

Enjoy (it's not the camera) photography,

- Andy

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Fall Colors Photography Tips

Everyone loves to go shoot the fall colors - and why not? Rich reds and yellows of the leaves, paired with the evergreens and the blue skies, make for dramatic colors in these types of images. It's not too soon to start planning and thinking about what you'll be doing this fall.

Here are some of my best tips:

  1. Use a polarizing filter.  This will enrich your photos dramatically.  Be sure to have one for your main go-to lenses - you may need a step-up ring, so plan ahead!  I have one that fits my largest lens openings, and when I need to use it on a smaller lens, I use the step-up ring - available most anywhere and they cost about $10.
  2. As with everything we do as photographers, composition matters! Shooting just the colors of the leaves without creating a careful composition doesn't cut it.  Try to find a scene that provides genuine interest to the viewer - a good example is the first shot above, we've got blue sky, clouds, evergreens, beautiful yellows, and then the stream.   Lots going on, keeping the viewer engaged.
  3. Incorporate water!  I use very few filters, but I love my neutral-density filters, so that I can force longer exposures during the day, thus slowing down the water and giving the impression of movement.
  4. Add people in your big landscapes for scale.  A child, for example, tossing a rock into that lake that you're photographing that has amazing fall foliage all around it.
  5. Don't forget about reflections and abstracts! In this photo, I was doing a commercial shoot for a golf course, but looked down and saw the beautiful reflection of the colorful leaves. I tossed a small stone in the pond to get the ripples and voila! 
  6. Plan ahead.  You probably know some great spots right around where you live - cool!  Now take the extra step of going there soon, so you can make some real notes on where to shoot from, where the sun will be rising or setting, what the moon might be doing. There are many apps for your smartphone for this, one I love very much is The Photographer's Ephemeris.

Enjoy (shooting the fall colors) photography,


Friday, August 10, 2012

Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone

We all have our "comfort zone" - that place where we go, the shooting we do, that we know we can nail. When I do my workshops, I am always trying to get my students out of that comfort zone, to try something new, something different, and learn new things. I'm really excited about my newest workshop - California Ranch Experience - where you will have the opportunity to get out of your comfort zone and try something new! We'll shoot herds of horses at sunrise, photograph our own private rodeo, work on lighting techniques in the barn, shoot portraits of horses, cowboys and cowgirls, and more. 4 days and 3 nights of intensive photography instruction from sunrise to sunset and beyond (we do crits and workflow instruction every evening). I'm very fortunate to be assisted on this workshop by the amazing Equine Pro Lynne Glazer (her shot is featured here). We'll have exclusive use of the V6 Ranch, conveniently located about midway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, an easy drive from either area.

So what about you equine pros that are "comfortable" in this environment? Don't worry, we have ways to push that envelope :) Join us!

Enjoy (getting uncomfortable) photography,


PS: We have some surprises in store for our guests - we're exclusively sponsored by Nik Software and Bay Photo for this workshop, so "stay tuned" for some cool news :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Workshop! Shenandoah National Park, October 2012

Hot off the presses, a new workshop! Join me in Shenandoah National Park, October 2012 for a great workshop in one of America's best national parks - during the peak fall colors.

All the details, here at Muench Workshops.

Enjoy (fall color) photography,


Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Andy Williams is Leaving SmugMug

This is a hard post for me to write. Many of you know me as "SmugMug" and that's not a surprise, I've been with SmugMug since I started Dgrin back in December 2003, and then going full-time in September 2005. I became COO, and worked with thousands of you over the years. When I started, I was the 10th employee, and now there are over 110 employees at SmugMug, all amazing, (I should know, I hired most of them)! Many are now doing the work I was doing, and couple that with the fact that I'm in New York and SmugMug is in Silicon Valley, it's natural now that SmugMug is 10 years old that it would be time for me to move on.

And that's what I'm doing.

I'm looking forward to more Muench Workshops with my good friend and partner, Marc Muench, more instruction, more photography, more passion, full-time!

I can't wait!

Thanks to you all, photographers and customers alike. Helping you over these many years has truly been my pleasure, and I'm a better person and photographer because of it. Thanks for being a huge part of my life and I hope that I can continue to help, that we will always be friends, shoot together, learn from each other, and maybe even work together.

Enjoy (full-time) photography,


PS: For the curious, why this photo? It's dawn, the time of new beginnings; the reflections make me think about what's happened and what can happen; the pointed mountains show me the way to the future. I took this photo many years ago, near where I live on the Hudson River in New York.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Why Don't We Do it in The Road?

Whew, six weeks after my South African Safari to Singita Sabi Sands, and I'm still not done processing all the photos.  I will now work sequentially through the trip, sharing photos and tips and technique along the way.  Our first afternoon's game drive set the standard for the 8 days to follow!  After seeing elephant, rhino, giraffe, many kinds of antelopes and more, it was nearly sunset time.  We then heard over the radio that others in our group had spotted a leopard - so we headed straight to it.  Now I've always said we get close, but we were seriously close!  I'm talking 70-200mm close.

A beautiful male leopard sitting in the road. And then the female approaches! Keep in mind that by this time it is about 20-25 minutes past sunset, getting dark and what remaining light was very red, so we're all scrambling with fast glass and high ISOs. I shot all of these with the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 f/2.8L IS II at ISO 6400. As I posted before, I went "bi-cameral" on this safari, shooting both Canon 5D III and Nikon D800. It's a fascinating scene to watch unfold, the female presents herself to the male in a way that he can't mistake that she's "ready".

And they proceed. This is not something out of a romance novel, it's raw, fierce, intense and over before you know it.

The male proceeds to give her a little love-bite... just after letting out the loudest growl I've ever heard.

And at this point, she's had enough and tells him how she really feels. The time elapsed from when she presented, to when she says "get off" was 11 seconds. Oh and we saw this scene repeat 5 times!

Just before leaving the scene for the evening, the male leopard struck a contented pose. I processed this one in black and white, it seemed fitting for the subject and mood.

Some key takeaways: Be ready for anything! You have to have long glass and short glass ready in an instant. Be able to keep your shutter speed up! Even at 1/400th of a second, I was wishing for more - but I really wanted to stay at ISO 6400. The animals are moving and the shots are hand-held, speed matters.

We have room for you on our next African Safari, in February 2013!

Enjoy (doing it in the road) photography,


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Never Give Up

So you're in an amazing place for quite some time. As soon as you're 'in the moment' you start shooting, guns ablazing! We've all been there, and done that. It's cool. Very soon, you get accustomed to the surroundings, the environment, the wildlife, and the scenery. And you start making a list of "Shots I Must Get". Well, fine, do that! But my message to you today, is Never Give Up! I recently had 8 days at the amazing Singita Sabi Sand in South Africa. Sure, we had 16 game drives, and I got shots starting with the first drive..... but it struck me, late in the trip, on my last day: I don't have good, intimate shots of Zebras. And so, I directed our guides on that last night, "let's find a dazzle of Zebras and walk amongst them!" Sure enough our guide delivered, and we hung out with these guys and many more of their brethren for a couple hours. It was wonderful to watch them cuddle and huddle in the late, sweet light.

I have a ton of "good" shots from this Safari trip - but, believe it or not, this one is my favorite and I think, the best of the trip. And I got it on the very last night, by planning for it, thinking about it, and asking for it! For the curious: yeah, I have dozens of shots of this parent and child - why choose this one? Eye contact with me, lighting on their fur from behind, the intimacy, and their tails are in sync!

Never give up!

Enjoy (safari) photography,


PS: Marc Muench and I are running another Safari in Africa, February 2013. There are just a couple spots left so hurry!