BrickHouse Photo School

Tips, Tricks and Reviews for Photo Hobbyists

Posts Tagged ‘black-and-white

Urban Forest Photographer Offers Arbor Day Giveaway

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I will often publish media releases related to photography on this blog in order to help keep you informed. These media releases are created by the respective companies. I edit the releases for space as needed.

During the month of April, in celebration of Arbor Day (April 24), award-winning photographer David Paul Bayles offers an Arbor Day Giveaway of a $1200 signed, framed limited edition photograph from his book, Urban Forest, Images of Trees in a Human Landscape.  Anyone who purchases the book before May 1 is entered into a drawing to win the photograph. A portion of all proceeds will be donated to the non-profit organization TreeLink to plant trees and support urban forests.
Urban Forest, published by Sierra Club in 2003, was acclaimed by numerous respected publications including Los Angeles Times, Sierra, Nature Conservancy and Audubon Magazine. Christian Science Monitor selected it as one of the top seven photography books of 2003.

David Paul Bayles, environmentalist and former logger, has been a professional photographer for 25 years, with photographs in exhibits and collections in the U.S. and Europe. His photographs explore the relationship between people and nature, particularly our connection to trees. In the preface to Urban Forest, he emphasizes the importance of trees in our towns and cities. “Tree-lined streets and garden spaces have been woven into a living fabric that shades and soothes our souls. In a real biological sense, trees are our home. That is the deeper meaning of the urban forest.”

Bayles is donating a portion of the sales of Urban Forest and the Arbor Day Giveaway to TreeLink, a non-profit organization dedicated to urban forests across the United States and Canada. TreeLink serves tree professionals such as arborists and urban planners and helps community groups raise funds for their own tree planting projects through TreeLink’s funding branch, TreeBank, supporting education and grass roots efforts to restore, plant and care for urban forests.

To be entered in the drawing to win the photograph for the Arbor Day Giveaway, a signed copy of Urban Forest or a signed copy of Urban Forest paired with a special edition print from the book, may be purchased by midnight April 30, 2009. Read more about the book and the Arbor Day special, view selected photographs and place an order at http//

Photographers You Should Know: Dorothea Lange

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'Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson.' (Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, via U.S. National Archives)

'Migrant Mother, Florence Owens Thompson.' (Photo Credit: Dorothea Lange, via U.S. National Archives)

Information for this article came from the Oakland Museum of California.

Photographer Dorothea Lange was a major influence in the development of modern documentary photography. Her touching and poignant photographs of people during the American Great Depression for the Farm Security Administration shaped the way people viewed the hardships and struggles of American farmers and migrant workers.

Lange’s photographs showed her compassion for her subjects and her ability to capture the essence of the subject.

Lange began in the 1920s as a commercial portrait photographer in San Francisco. Some of her earliest documentary work was of Native Americans made on her trips to the American Southwest with her first husband, painter Maynard Dixon.

Lange’s Great Depression photos show the struggles of migrant workers who were leaving the American Midwest Dust Bowl, and moving to California to find work and start a new life.

During World War II, Lange began documenting Japanese Americans who were sent to internment camps, and women and minorities working in wartime industries.

Photo Critique 6: ‘Untitled,’ by Renier DP.

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I love critiquing photos. It’s the best way to learn and get new ideas for photo shoots. Today, we’re going to critique an image made by Renier, a former student of mine in Miami, Florida.

'Untitled,' by Renier of Miami, Florida

'Untitled,' by Renier of Miami, Florida

General Overview:
Renier, I really enjoy this image because of its simplicity and homage to documentary photography. It looks like an old photo from the days of Hunter S. Thompson and Jack Kerouac. I think your image finds great depth and beauty in an otherwise simple setting. I know a lot of your images follow in the documentary vein, as you document the lives of your friends. My one suggestion in this regards is this: start looking for a message or idea you want to express. Try some storytelling and see how that works.

Whether intentional or not, I like the contrast between the typewriter your subject is using and the computer in the background. By all accounts, the subject looks very modern: A flatscreen television, computer, etc. But here his, in his pearl-button shirt and typewriter working away. It makes us, the viewer, want to know more. Good job.

This is a very well done image.

There are a few improvements I would like to suggest. First, the light coming from the window above the subject’s left shoulder is causing over-exposure. This is because the light in the room was much less than the light in the window, causing the meter to adjust for the room light and not factoring in the window light. Knowing that you use Adobe Photoshop, I would recommend you dodging the window light a bit in an effort to reduce the overexposure.

Secondly, I would lighten the area on the subject’s face to bring in just a tiny bit more detail. Burn in the face a little more and you’ll have it quite nice.

Finally, I would suggest that you use a larger aperture setting in order to make the depth of field a bit shallower. This is because there’s a going on in the room and it’s easy for the background to distract from the foreground. According to the information recorded in the image’s metadata, you used a shutter speed of 1/13 of a second with an aperture of f/3.5. If you could use f/2.8 or f/1.8, you would get both a faster shutter speed and a shallower depth of field, both of which could help you.

One more tip: Your ISO setting was recorded at ISO 100 equivalency. I would highly recommend using a higher ISO setting for this type of image for two reasons: One is a higher ISO will allow for more grain. More grain would give the image an “old” look by replicating the black-and-white film types used in early documentary photography. Second, a higher ISO would give you the ability to use a faster shutter speed.

Renier, you always do a great job. Keep up the good work and I look forward to seeing some more images from you.

Thanks for the submission, good luck and keep shooting!

If you would like to submit a photo for critique, e-mail us at

Written by jeremyparce

February 27, 2009 at 12:23 am

Photographers You Should Know: Edward S. Curtis

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Information for this article was received from the Smithsonian Institution.

Edward S. Curtis is one of the most widely recognized, and sometimes criticized, photographers of American Native people. For more than three decades, he traveled the American West and Alaska photographing Native Americans.
Born February 16, 1868, in Wisconsin, Curtis took an interest in photography – then an emerging medium – at an early age. He built his first camera when he was a teenager and by the age of 19, he owned part interest in a photography studio in Seattle, where his family had moved.

‘Sioux Chiefs.’ (Photo Credit: Edward S. Curtis via the Smithsonian Institution)

‘Sioux Chiefs.’ (Photo Credit: Edward S. Curtis via the Smithsonian Institution)

In his twenties, Curtis began photographing Native American in the Puget Sound area as they dug for clams and mussels. One of his earliest photographs of Native Americans was of Princess Angeline, the daughter of Sealth, the Suquamish chief after whom Seattle was named.

In 1899, at the age of 31, Curtis became the official photographer of the Harriman Expedition into Alaska. After this, he began his 30-year quest of documenting Native Americans in the United States.

Curtis funded his expeditions personally – acquiring a tremendous amount of debt – and by soliciting funds for his work. Some of his donors included President Theodore Roosevelt and railroad tycoon John Pierpont Morgan.

Curtis documented nearly 80 Native American tribes and made nearly 40,000 photographs and 10,000 recording of Native American speech and music. Like most scholars of his time, Curtis believed the Native American culture would be lost as Native Americans were brought into the mainstream culture. He wanted to create both an artistic and academic volume of work before the cultures “vanished.”

Curtis died in 1952 and the bulk of his work was forgotten. During the 1960s and 1970s, however, his work was “rediscovered” and is now recognized as one of the “most significant records of Native culture ever produced.”

Photographers You Should Know: George W. Ackerman

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Information for this article came from the U.S. Archives
George W. Ackerman was one of the many U.S. government-employed photographers who made images during the Great Depression. Ackerman started with the Bureau of Plant Industry for an annual salary of $900.

Unlike his peers, Ackerman’s photographs often depicted farmers utilizing modern farm machinery and the modern advances that had come to the U.S. agriculture community. He traveled the nation, documenting how farmers labored. Many of his peers during the Depression often focused on the poverty and difficult conditions many rural people faced, yet Ackerman showed hope in his images by focusing on the positive things that were happening in rural America.

'Farm Family Listening to Their Radio.' (Photo Credit: George W. Ackerman, August 15, 1930 National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Extension Service)

'Farm Family Listening to Their Radio.' (Photo Credit: George W. Ackerman, August 15, 1930 National Archives and Records Administration, Records of the Extension Service)

Ackerman said he tried “to paint the rural scene as I saw it, modern and up-to-date in many respects.”

During his tenure in federal service, Ackerman made an estimated 50,000 photographs during his 40-year career with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, many of which appeared in private and government agriculture publications. Often, those images were not credited to him.

Photographers You Should Know: Hans Namuth

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Information for this article was received from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution.

German-born photographer Hans Namuth specialized in making portraits of famous artists, writers, architects and other creative types. His is most noted for his portraits of painter Jackson Pollock.
Namuth began his photographic career while serving as an assistant to fellow German Georg Reisner, whom Namuth met while living in Paris, France. Paris was booming with German expatriate community in Paris and Namuth was well-known among the expats.

Jackson Pollok. (Photo Credit: Hans Namuth from the National Portrait Gallery)

Jackson Pollock. (Photo Credit: Hans Namuth from the National Portrait Gallery)

Namuth traveled with Reisner in 1935 to the Spanish island of Mojorca where Reisner had a photography studio. After returning to Paris in the autumn, Namuth and Reisner maintained a studio and supported themselves by working as photojournalists. In 1936, Namuth and Reisner received an assignment to photograph the Spanish Civil War.

In 1941, Namuth traveled to the United States and joined the U.S. military. After the war, his main priorities were to raise a family and enjoy photography as a hobby. He met a teacher, Alexey Brodovitch who inspired Namuth to pursue photography as a career.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he photographed such people as Oscar Hammerstein, Richard Rodgers, Frank Lloyd Wright, Allen Tate and, of course, Jackson Pollock.

Namuth died October 30, 1990 due to injuries sustained in an automobile accident.

Links to some of his images can be found at the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution


Photo Tips: The Two-Minute Portrait

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The words, “smile and say cheese!” usually does not mark the beginning of a great portrait. As a beginning/novice photographer, you probably want to make portraits that “look professional” but lack the information on how to do so.
It’s simple if you follow some very basic steps. Here are some tips that will have you making great portraits in less time than you would think.

Step 1: Get the right background

If you want to highlight the subject, don’t allow the background to compete with the subject for the viewer’s attention. Busy, noisy and loud backgrounds distract from the subject unless you’re very experienced and have a great lighting setup and even then it’s a crapshoot.
Keep the background simple. Backgrounds with solid, neutral colors work best. A white wall is ideal but any solid color works.

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

A simple background and good natural lighting will help you make great portraits. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Step 2: Get Good Lighting
Unless you’re using a shoe-mounted flash or other pro-quality lighting, find a strong source of natural light. A portrait near a window where there is a good quantity of light is ideal or go outside where natural light is plentiful.
Remember, the sun should be to the side of your subject. If the subject is looking directly into the sun his/her eyes will squint and if the sun is behind the subject, you’ll get an underexposure.
The popup flash on your camera will probably ruin a good portrait with cast shadows so try to avoid using the popup flash.
If you are using a shoe-mounted flash, then try bouncing the flash instead of shooting with the flash pointed directly at the subject.

Step 3: Get Vertical
Horizontally aligned portraits don’t really allow you to utilize your frame the best. Shoot vertical instead so you get more up-and-down room. Even better, shoot the portrait both horizontally and vertically and see for yourself which photo looks better.

Step 4: Get the Right Emotion
Portrait subjects don’t always have to smile. Believe it or not, that’s a tough habit to break for some photographers. Don’t get me wrong, smiling is OK but try to make it less forced. A nice, natural smile will outshine a “Say Cheese!” photo anytime.

Step 5: Get Close
Try to fill the frame with your subject. Try getting close and then work you way back.

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Don't be afraid to get close to your subject. Try different distances for different looks. (Photo Credit: Jeremy W. Schneider)

Bonus Tip:
Don’t forget to try the images in both color AND black and white. B&W will help really well if you want to focus more on the subject than the color of clothing or background colors. Plus, B&W gives an image a nice, “classy” feel.

Good luck and keep shooting!

Written by jeremyparce

February 20, 2009 at 3:15 am