Jordan Roberts Photography: Blog en-us (C) Jordan Roberts Photography (Jordan Roberts Photography) Sat, 25 Jul 2020 09:43:00 GMT Sat, 25 Jul 2020 09:43:00 GMT Jordan Roberts Photography: Blog 120 80 Emotions in Landscape Photography Emotions in Landscape Photography


     I often get asked what I do to stand out from all the rest of the landscape photographers in the world in order to differentiate myself. Usually the implication behind this is "motivation" and not necessarily "value". The person asking the question is perplexed as to why I don't lose motivation over a long period of time. A simple google search can yield hundreds of thousands of landscape photographs (good or bad) and an equal amount of photographers all competing for fame. I honestly don't even want to know how many photographers exist out there. I estimate in the millions. Photography today is more easily accessible than possibly any other art form in existence, due to social media, marketing, affordability and most importantly, skill-related accessibility (meaning most people can pick up a camera and take a relatively interesting image and call themselves a "photographer" with the least amount of effort involved in relation to other art forms). I guess it's the equivalent of me picking up a paintbrush and spreading some random lines across canvas and calling myself a painter. There really has never been an industry defined standard. And I suppose there never will be. If you take a photograph, you are a photographer. If I spread paint across canvas, I am a painter. I guess that's the beauty of art, or the curse. Do skills or simple actions inherently define the title? I argue that it does not. I argue that emotions do. I argue the "why". Why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you even wasting your time? In this blog we are going to explore some of the reasons why landscape photography lacks such an emotional void (a term you will hear me use many times) and analyze ways we can possibly correct it within the professional community, if you're somebody with a broader viewer base. 

     Let me be very clear. I did not become a photographer because I wanted to be popular. I frankly don't care if people think my photography is cool looking. Photography was an outlet for me for some very dark times in life. It still is just as important of an outlet today. I'll sometimes hold onto images I took from many months ago simply because I'm not emotionally ready to edit them yet. And on the flip side of that, I will often make mistakes if I'm editing and in the wrong mood (i.e. angry, sad), then will have to stop editing and take a break and come back to work on an image. It's for this very reason that I do not understand why the greater landscape photography community as a whole lacks such a massive void of emotions. I know the emotions are there, because I live them myself as a professional photographer, yet I just don't see them in most landscape images.

     It's not until I start delving deeper into the world of social media that I truly begin to understand why a bit better. I follow a couple of professional YouTube photographers who regularly show themselves editing images after a shoot (literally minutes after a shoot) and they finish the entire image within a 20 minute video (sometimes longer) and then post the image online to various social media platforms. I'm continually shocked that they can hold any sense of pride in their work that it took this quick without checking for precision, mistakes or any forethought into the look or style of their image beyond simply taking it in the field. I've sat and stared at one of my images for over an hour because I was torn between two different titles and what I want my viewers to feel. Part of the problem is we don't have time for deep emotions in photography and this is perpetuated through social media. It's all about scrolling through your phone on a 15 minute break on Instagram or Facebook. It's about generating as many images as humanly possible to keep your name at the top of the list so you can consistently farm the "likes", "shares" and "follows". However, as it specifically relates to landscape photography, social media is surprisingly not the root cause of the lack of emotions in our genre. This is a tradition that dates all the way back to the days of origin and we can clearly trace it through the titles of images from various famous photographers who set a long-standing precedence.


     The most underrated aspect of landscape photography and the presentation of your art is your title. This is the very first thing people visually see online; this is the very last thing they think about when they leave your gallery (whether physical, or digital). They think about the words associated with your images. Your title is similar to the first impression associated with your photograph. It's your one chance to leave a feeling or mood associated with your viewer before they take a minute or two to stare at your image. Think of your title as the handshake reaching out to greet your viewer. If you don't even have a title, or you have a predictable title (because I've seen your photograph a million times before from other people), you're not going to leave a lasting impression on them at all. I'm not kidding when I say I've seen images from Lower Antelope Canyon and I've thought to myself before "if this image is named 'Sands of Time' I'm not even giving this photographer a second look" and sure enough, he named his image "Sands of Time." You know it's bad when I can actually predict titles to images without even opening them. Believe me when I say that there are literally hundreds of photographers out there with a similar image named "Sands of Time". Why would I or any avid art collector want to invest our money in that image when we can walk down the street to a more unique gallery with a bit more personality and emotional depth? These may be some harsh words to read, but the reality is the general public thinks this way deep down when they leave your gallery (not me), they just won't ever say it.

     How do I know this? Well, because I'm consistently told this by many of my followers and readers. My title is perhaps my most important part of the publication of an image. I have some very sad images with very real titles. "Affliction", "Tears in Solace", "Let Darkness Consume", "Sorrow and Solace" to name just a few. If I told you these titles, you probably wouldn't associate any of these with "Great American Landscapes". Why would you? Ansel Adams never did. Galen Rowell never did. And many of the biggest names in landscape photography today continually do not present themselves this way. My biggest passion for photography comes from the fact that I get to emotionally impact my viewers in a meaningful way. I do this by not only creating strong compositions, but by naming them uniquely. That combination has a very deep impact on your viewers and you need to take full advantage of it if you want to have any hope of standing out from the hordes these days and going into the future.

      So to answer the inquiry of how I don't lose motivation in this day in age where everybody is a photographer, I tell people that I take photos to establish a deep emotional connection with my viewers through my images. It's the one and only way to ensure that I have a photograph nobody else will ever take. Photography for me is not about simply documenting a landscape scene, it's been done before by hundreds of people before me. I'm nothing new. I'm nothing special. What I have to offer people is the ability to make them stop for a moment and look at a beautiful scene (maybe one they've seen before) and see it from a completely different perspective (literally).

     Let me give you an example of what I'm talking about with one of my own images. Some of you may understand what I'm talking about here and others really may not see the value in any of this. But that's alright, we will keep exploring this idea of true emotional depth in photography. Below is an image I took one afternoon where I was very upset. In particular, I had asked a specific girl to be my girlfriend and she said no. It hit me hard because we were progressing fine for many months and I thought everything was ready to move along to the next stage. I grabbed my photo gear this one afternoon and went screeching out to a random spot, no forethought or anything went into the image below. I blasted my ipod, set up a composition and just started taking photos. I wasn't paying attention to the lighting or the exposure settings. The whole time I was standing up yelling at the top of my lungs to the song I was listening to! I was throwing rocks into my composition. Cursing at the sun in my image and at my shoes frozen by the lake under my feet because I had almost no winter clothes on. It's during times like these our best images are created. The ones that really stick with us as photographers and as artists in general.


     I named this image "Set Me On Fire". Now, if I didn't tell you that and instead told you that I had named this image "Sundown Over Banks Lake", this would probably sound like an equally believable construct. I mean after all, that's technically exactly what this image is. Where is the emotion in that though? In fact, if I hadn't told you anything about this image, you would have no idea as a viewer/reader what went into the creation of this photograph. And if I left it at "Sundown Over Banks Lake", you as a viewer would simply look at this image and write it off as just another landscape image you've seen somewhere on the cover of a magazine maybe. If you're a fellow photographer, you might envision the work that goes into this image by imagining me freezing my butt off on the lake huddled over my camera intensely focused on the outcome of my image, but quite the contrary! However, by me naming my image "Set Me On Fire", it's going to prompt and beg the question of why? Remember my question of why? People love to know why. People will buy your prints because of the why.

     I ended up dedicating this image to my wife because she has the ability to draw my raw emotions from me and pour them into a photograph. She still sets my world on fire everyday as much as she did that afternoon. In fact, I still dedicate a lot of my work towards her to this day.

     One last example hopefully to drive the point home and this one did not come from me. My wife and I enjoy going into photography galleries just to see who is out there and what kind of high-quality prints they are producing. We recently went into one gallery in San Diego and my wife was utterly stunned with the lack of emotions in his photography. He was a landscape photographer and she said to me after leaving "A) I feel like I've seen all of these locations before and B) all of his images were boring with names like 'Golden Arches' and 'Sunset at <insert geographical location here>'." Trust me, I did not prompt her to say any of these things. It's bad karma for when I open my own gallery in the future. Although I didn't argue. Because, A) these were all images I've also seen before from a million other photographers and B) they were all titles that I've seen before and predicted myself before even looking at his images. And she was absolutely correct. I was staring at a $10,000 print and at no point was I making an emotional connection with this supposed piece of art in front of me. And the worst part about it all was I knew how much work went into the image personally and it all goes to waste with some viewers/audience members because of such a simple, common and even traditional oversight.

     Ansel Adams once said "There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer.This exact same philosophy needs to be held for emotions in landscape photography. In the vast majority of landscape images, emotions only flow one way. It flows into the viewer. We rarely get to see what the photographer was feeling at the time of the image and that's because of the title. When you have an image named "Sundown Over Banks Lake" for example, it may be a beautiful image and it may stir up some kind of emotions in the viewer, however we have no idea what the photographer was feeling because to the viewer it looks like the photographer was only there to check that location off his "to-do" or "must-document" list. And I can tell you right now that this is the single number one reason why we as landscape photographers are not taken seriously as artists in the art community.

Seriously, Why Aren't We Taken Seriously?

     I have spent a lot of time debating this question myself. I can only trace it back to one culprit, lack of true emotional depth. Real emotional depth. Sure, times are changing and we are getting new players on the block. However, it's been more than 100 years of photography and we are just getting to a stage where landscape photography is being contemplated as an actual art form rather than a documentation platform. And I can tell you that the reason for this is not from what I've been discussing in my blog here. It's because of the creative techniques from famous photographers such as Marc Adamus who have revolutionized the industry to create images that don't entirely match the definition of what some people consider a "real photograph". We are in a digital renaissance era of photography, if you will. However, I argue that this will eventually not be enough. As technology gets better and image styles become more realistic looking, the idea of "documentation platform" will slowly creep back into people's minds and there will still be a real emotional void in the landscape photography world, just as there always has been. I hope things like this blog and consistently publishing images with true emotional depth will slowly change the way we think and look at landscape imaging. However, I alone can't change that. Every time I see an image published by somebody without a title it just diminishes the seriousness of our art within the greater art community. It proves to the rest of the world we don't really have any emotional depth within our art and instead it's purely a science. It falls upon us professional photographers to start changing that perception, especially if you consider yourself an artist and don't understand why some people don't consider you one.

Other Reasons

     Let's briefly touch upon some other possible reasons for why there might be a lack of real emotional depth in landscape photography:

1) Copy-cat syndrome: There are thousands, nay, tens of thousands, of photographers out there who live to go from location to location simply taking photographs that have been taken before just to prove to themselves (I guess) that they can do it. They don't really put much thought into it, they just show up and look for the exact composition that they saw online and try to copy the photograph as best as they can. Then they name the photo something simple based upon what first strikes them about the image (again, no real emotional depth here) and move along to the next image/location. The image may be a great image visually and they may even be a great photographer technically speaking, but are lacking as an artist. This is a very common theme nowadays with the invention of social media. They name the image something different from the original photographer because they believe that's what's important, however miss the point entirely (from my explanation above) because there's a serious emotional void to the photograph in general, so a title is rendered pointless.

2) Let's be real here when I say that landscape photography is a male-dominated "sport". And when I say male-dominated, I mean I can't even begin to name to you any single female world-class famous landscape photographer (at the time of this writing). Now, there ARE female landscape photographers out there who are up-and-coming, but go visit their galleries and you will see that even they do not have any real emotional depth to their photographs based upon my criteria here. Now it is what it is, it's not a big deal. If anything, it just goes to show you how deeply rooted this tradition is of naming and documenting a location is based upon photographers of old, which needs to change. I can't even blame this on the fact that landscape photography is male-dominated, because ladies, you're disappointing me too. Maybe photography puts us all in a coma and we turn into zombies when we take photographs.

3) Photography can be a bit overwhelming when you're out in the elements and you have a lot to focus on other than your emotions, look I get it. It's unique to other arts in that regard. Especially when it's -25F out and 4AM and all you can think about is how much snow-melt is inside your boots. Frustration is really the only emotion you're feeling at that time. But that's not to say you have an entire editing process at home later to think about a certain look/style of your image. Photography is not just about taking photographs, it's also about editing the image and what you take away from that. Not every session will also be unbearable conditions either, so learn to enjoy it when it's warm and sunny out and stick with it when it sucks. Photography is very rewarding when it's at it's worst and that's usually when your best emotional work comes through, even if your current emotional state isn't at it's best. I'm at a certain point with my photography however where I don't even think about taking my images, I just take them in the field without worrying about my settings. It's a certain freedom that comes with experience and it allows me to focus more on enjoying the moment and my art, rather than my anxiety of losing the photograph. So I understand that this point may be a legitimate concern for photographers with less experience who really focus in the field on their image taking and less on their emotional state.


So What Can We Do About All Of This?

     I suppose if there was a TL;DR, this would be it. However, I highly encourage you to actually read the entire blog especially if you're a photographer. The most imperative thing we can do as photographers to help outsiders take our art-form more seriously is by taking our own art-form more seriously and treating our art-form as an actual art-form, not simply a documentation/scientific platform. This starts by shedding the traditional ways of naming our images such as "Sundown at <insert geographical location here>". This doesn't do anything for your viewer other than tell them something technical. It doesn't transmit any emotional necessities to them as an artist. It's about as sterile as that last sentence. At least give your images a title to begin with (you know who you are).

     I understand that blogs like this can be difficult to read, especially pertaining to art. We live in a society that doesn't like to openly critique art, because well, it's art. However, if you've ever been denied access to an art show or other various activities because your photography is not considered "art" under their guidelines and you've been left scratching your head, maybe it's time we as a professional photography community need to start having these conversations. And frankly, I have to agree with these standards. Frankly, I'm inclined to understand why the outside art community does not view our art as an "art".

     The conveyance of emotions in photography are imperative. It's how we operate as artists, I get that on a personal level. Your viewers want to see the artist behind the lens, they want to see the journey behind every photo. They don't want to just be sold a location they've probably seen a dozen times by other photographers who are equally as skilled as you. It's a hard pill to swallow, but I suppose it's also a liberating pill to swallow at the same time. Because when you realize that your skill isn't what's going to set you apart these days in photography it forces you to focus on other avenues to venture down. I've always said since the beginning of my photography days; "set me up next to any photographer on the same night with the same exact conditions and I can create a very very similar photograph as them, what will be different is how my viewers interpret the image". And let me tell you, that can make the world of a difference to someone who came to view art.

(Jordan Roberts Photography) emotions in Jordan JordanRobertsPhotography landscape photography professional Roberts Sun, 20 Aug 2017 06:13:23 GMT
Iceland 2013 Trip Report Iceland November - 2013 Trip Report


So we decided to travel Iceland in November for a multitude of reasons, however the biggest was so we could avoid the crowds. Iceland is known for its summer crowds when the landscape is greener and temperature more... "temperate". We stayed a full week in the beginning of November and I was joined by two very close friends. Overall the trip was a success from both an enjoyment and photography perspective.


We landed in Reykjavik at 7am after almost an 8 hour overnight flight. I don't sleep on planes so after all was said and done, I was awake for about 25-27 hours after landing. On top of that, since Iceland is a very religious nation, most stores and breakfast cafes were closed since we landed early on a Sunday morning. Therefore, I never ate in those hours leaving me with a massive headache throughout the entire first day. We hit the road, took a quick drive through Reykjavik, and headed towards our first photo sites immediately; photography doesn't wait! I ended up eating a gas station tuna sandwich on the go. Here are some images from that time period:



This image was on our way to our first hotel later in the morning in southern Iceland. As you can see, the mountains dominate the landscape and buildings near them.



The first day was very nice weather and a bit warmer. However, that was soon to change. We arrived at our bed & breakfast in southern Iceland and went to sleep for the rest of the evening after stopping at our destinations for the first day.

Everyday we awoke before the crack of dawn (which isn't too early in winter), however I needed to be awake every morning for sunrise shots as we didn't have much time during daylight hours. Actually the brilliant part of traveling in Iceland during winter for photography is the lighting conditions all day feel as though it's late evening, so you can pretty much take photos all day long, given you actually have sunny conditions. Sunrise was roughly 9 am and sunset was roughly 4 pm and it was only getting shorter. The sun pattern during winter doesn't streak across the sky. Instead the sun rises to about a 3pm summer position and comes straight back down for sunset, so the mood is always as if the day is ending, even at 10am, as you can see in the photo here:

This may look like sunset but it's actually about 10am, shortly after sunrise. Sunrise and sunset both happened in the southwest.




On our second day I was up and positioned for sunrise, which didn't happen. Our first destination was Skogafoss, the famous massive waterfall in southern Iceland. The weather forecast for the day was overcast with precipitation. I tried my best to plan waterfall shoots around cloudy days because of the look I go for, so this worked out perfectly. By the end of it we were drenched and freezing (roughly -1 to 0 C) and my camera looked as if I held it under water. Luckily nobody else was around. I decided to make our next destination a downed U.S. Navy aircraft I could only find on google maps so we spent a few hours attempting to locate it.

We were walking a beautiful open beach for a few hours attempting to locate the aircraft.



Once found it's in a pretty cool and remote area. It's been used in some commercials as well:

These were pretty much the conditions for the first 4 days of our trip.


During the entire trip, we were monitoring Aurora Borealis as we were getting closer to being in the "greenbelt". However, it wouldn't have mattered if the Aurora was showing itself as long as the cloud layer kept up the way it was, so our hopes for seeing it weren't high.


Over the next couple of days we continued to tour around southern Iceland and every morning I was up with the perfect composition to no avail. We were rained out of a few locations and the wind was intense. It made it nearly impossible to shoot standing up with a tripod. One of those mornings we woke up to the dumpsters being blown over:


On our last day spent in southern Iceland we decided to visit Svartifoss waterfall and Jokulsarlon beach which was about a 3-4 hour drive east. During the drive we encountered what surprised me to be massive coulees along the road:

It still doesn't compare to the Grand Coulee in eastern Washington, but it was still a taste of home!



We arrived at Vatnajökull National park which is a massive glacier, one of the largest in Europe. Svartifoss was a short hike into the park. The waterfall feels more like an ampitheater more than anything else, which is composed of high rising basalt pillars. It started snowing while we were there, luckily, because I always hope that weather keeps other people away from the area. It was pretty thick after a while and started interfering with my lens.


After some time spent at Svartifoss we decided to head further east to Jokulsarlon beach, a massive iceberg lagoon, which sends them out to sea where they get chopped up and dispersed along the beach for miles. The drive to Jokulsarlon was beautiful, the weather cleared and rainbows began to appear after a rain storm. I was tempted to shoot sunset somewhere off the road however Jokulsarlon had been a long-term destination for me and if we were to ever reach it, it would be now.


Stopped to enjoy some near-sunset lighting conditions. It was tempting to stop and shoot, but I'm so glad I didn't.


Worried that I'd regret missing this great lighting opportunity, we continued on to Jokulsarlon straight into a storm. The road was freezing over and we were slowly losing it under snow. We arrived at Jokulsarlon and crossed the bridge about an hour later, right at sunset (perhaps just after). The temperature dropped drastically so we decided to head over to the beach access and walk west along the sand. At first I was confused as to where previous photographers had taken their shots of ice-chips being alone in solitude but we quickly figured out that if you walk further up the beach for about a mile or two the ice chips will start to spread out, which is better for compositions.

This location was perhaps the most beautiful and surreal place I've ever been to. As I walked with the black sand contrasted against the waves and ice chips, I couldn't believe that this was the Atlantic ocean. I was actually very glad it was overcast. Too often I see photographs from here during sunset, which I've always believed detracted from the main subject..... the ice chips. "Vibrant sunsets should be saved for tropical environments" I thought to myself. I wanted to capture an image that conveyed a sense of loneliness and cold along the ocean, a theme that contrasts with what one tends to think of about the ocean and beaches. Jokulsarlon beach is perhaps the ultimate contradiction in photography.

This is right at beach access, you need to walk about a mile or two out and you will start to find better compositions.


The best feeling for me during a shoot is when you look at the image on your camera and already know it's a keeper, without even having to edit the image. As night ensued, it started raining on the beach, which by the time we returned to the car, we were soaked through multiple layers and the temperature read -5C. As we were driving through Vik our tire popped, so we had to use the spare and replace it.


The next morning we awoke excited to hit the road for northwestern Iceland and Kirkjufell. I planned on us getting up there with enough time to shoot sunset. Well, I have a new theory in photography. "For every good photo comes a price", whether financially or through some action. We found out a second tire on our car deflated overnight; and without a spare, we weren't able to drive anywhere to have it fixed. We decided to chance it and drive on the deflated tire for about 30km into town. After a frustrating conversation, we ended up at an abandoned airport stranded and with limited cell service.

We were stuck at this airport for hours waiting around for what we thought was a tow-truck.



Long story short, we spent about 6 hours dealing with tire issues, partly because there was no tow-truck and partly because they had to ship our tires in from Reykjavik, because they were out. At this point I was beyond frustrated. We missed out on sunset shots (which ended up being a great sunset) and essentially lossed an entire day of traveling filled with productivity. I didn't eat a thing all day, we were tired, wet, cold and frustrated beyond all belief. And this was after a string of unsuccessful days of shooting due to inclement weather.


The rest of the drive was silent listening to our favorite radio station "Sudurland FM", which eventually was lost because we weren't in the south anymore. During the entire trip I was never quite able to keep dry, no matter how many times I changed. My feet during the drive were wet and starting to fold over, similar to trench foot. So I continued to slosh around in my boots. My boots seemed to constantly freeze over and melt causing my socks never to truly dry. As a photographer though, you learn to be uncomfortable while traveling so it never really bothered me.


After a few hours of driving, we started to notice the clouds weren't around anymore and there were "green streaks" across the sky, ever so faint. The northern lights were nothing new to me so I didn't pay much attention, my true prize was Borealis. However, I didn't plan on seeing it during this trip so I kind of wrote it off in my mind. We arrived at our next stay in Grundarfjordur, a coastal fishing town in northwest Iceland known for it's proximity to Kirkjufell peak. We got situated and one of my friends stated that this night was the highest probability for seeing the aurora and if we were to see it, it would have to be now (approximately 11pm when we arrived). I said "Sure, we can try, but it won't matter as long as there's clouds". I quickly looked up a dirt road that lead around the backside of Kirkjufell to avoid the city lights and we took off.

After some encounters with black ice, we found the dirt road and drove down it, unsure of where we were, mountains were all around us and still no sign of the aurora. It was absolutely freezing out, my second layer of gloves I use to shoot photos weren't working. I had set up a makeshift composition using flashlights and luck, prepared for the aurora should it show itself. After about 15 minutes of waiting and slowly freezing, the clouds dispersed and Aurora Borealis appeared. It opened up with a slow dance across the peak, disappearing and reappearing. It flowed as if apart of a vast ocean overhead. It was literally alive. I started taking exposures at random, capturing everything I could at all different settings. I simply planned on blending what I could. I was far too amazed at watching the show. And like a snap of the finger all of our worries from the day dissipated.

I wasn't cold anymore, I hardly noticed the icing-over water in my boots. A light show appeared just for us, in the middle of nowhere....... and it was the loudest "silent" show I've ever seen. All you could hear was the howling wind in the valley and everything around us illuminated green. I realized in that moment that most people spend their whole lives unable to see the aurora, it was such a novelty.


Celestial ExplosionCelestial ExplosionAurora Borealis over Kirkjufell peak in Northwestern Iceland.


In the landscape photography world seeing Borealis isn't that big of a deal. For some professionals, it's a monthly occurrence. However, in the real world, it's not common to meet many people who have seen anything beyond the Northern Lights. It completely changed my outlook on nature and the brilliance that is out of our control. It's one of those moments in life that completely takes you out of your body and current experience. It truly makes you feel a sense of adventure and accomplishment.


With massive smiles on our faces and lots of laughing, we made our way back to the hotel after a very very long day of frustration.


The following day we woke up before the break of dawn once again and returned to Kirkjufell to attempt sunrise shots........ but it just wasn't going to happen this trip. The one morning during the entire trip where the clouds broke, there literally were no clouds, making for uneventful sunrise images. So instead, we explored the local area including Grundarfjordur.


Kirkjufell peak dominates the view of the town.

Kirkjufell peak dominates the view of the town of Grundarfjordur.


I didn't even bother attempting to get sunset photos because this is what the sky looked like during sunset. It was a pretty day, but not the right kind of pretty. So instead we went to dinner and spent the day catching up on some much needed sleep! Let's just say that Grundarfjordur is a small enough town where you can hear your neighbor couple in the hotel room "having fun" ;) and then 15 minutes later you wind up eating dinner next to them at the local restaurant. Good times.


The following day in Iceland our goal was to eventually make our way back to Reykjavik and spend our last and final day exploring the capitol and doing more "tourist" things. We woke up for sunrise photos yet again, but to no avail we gave up and spent half the morning attempting to find a specific horse ranch so we could ride some horses. After some snow covered dirt roads and mountain passes, we finally located the ranch and enjoyed a really nice ride in snow along the beach! It was definitely my first time experiencing the beach with snow, and it was definitely my first time riding horses on the beach in snow............ lots of firsts!


Just before horseback riding taking some photos along a cliff.


The rest of the day was spent driving back to Reykjavik and getting to our final hotel. We ate at a really nice fish & chips place for dinner and happily caught up on sleep. Our last day in Iceland was spent exploring the city, shopping and doing very "touristy" things such as visiting the Blue Lagoon (which was un-surprisingly very cold).


Overall the trip was great. We learned a lot, explored a lot and experienced even more. I spent time travelling with two of my best friends, Annmarie and Chris. Chris and I have travelled extensively together and I like to refer to him as my assistant or sherpa. And it was Annmarie's first time travelling with us, but it definitely is the first of many exciting trips planned for the future.


If you'd like to know how to properly plan for a trip like this don't hesitate to ask! Also, don't forget to inquire about any photos or prints you'd be interested to purchase for your home or office. I appreciate you taking the time to read this trip report, I hope it gave you some laughs and inspired you to get out there and experience the vast world we live amongst!



Travelling is good for the soul,


(Jordan Roberts Photography) Jordan JordanRobertsPhotography Photography Roberts Sun, 14 Sep 2014 09:55:10 GMT
Let's start with the basics  

The basics in photography really revolve around three key features on any camera that effect eachother almost in a triangle. Changing one will affect the other two in a way that alters the photo, sometimes quite negatively. These three camera performances are known as ISO, shutter speed and aperture or "f/stops". I will go into more detail what each mean and what they actually do. I do want to mention however that no matter how well you balance each of these you simply cannot take a photo without light. And this is where I will mention the oftentimes overlooked and equally important feature known as your light meter, which all cameras possess including the most basic point-and-shoots.

Before going into camera functions I would like to take a moment to talk about megapixels, a feature often used to sell people on buying more expensive cameras than necessary. Megapixels do not directly effect the quality of a photo in its digital form. You will almost never notice a difference between a picture on facebook taken with a camera that has 10 megapixels and one that has 21 megapixels. You WILL notice a difference when the image is professionally edited to enhance sharpness. Stores often use megapixels as a selling point that one camera is better than the other because it has more. Megapixels are used simply to create better prints. I'm not referring to 8x10s for your wedding album, I'm talking about a photo that is 3 ft x 4 ft or much larger. In other words, the more megapixels you have the more you can afford to blow up an image on your wall. This is why professional cameras have at least 21 megapixels, newer ones reaching even 36.


ISO is a relatively important function to know, and when I say that I mean it's relative to the situation you are in. The digital world today sort of aged out what ISO really means and what it used to do on film cameras of old and it plays a less important role now. ISO simply refers to the sensativity of light on your sensor. The higher the ISO number the brighter the image will be.... with a cost. ISO also generates heat on your sensor called NOISE. Noise is the visual representation of heat and it's often referred to as that "static" in a poorly constructed image. Image noise can destroy individual pixels beyond repair and can essentially ruin parts of images. Almost every single one of my images on my website is taken with an ISO of 100, the starting level. In fact I change ISO so rarely it's the one button on my camera I can't find blindfolded. So why worry about ISO at all then? Well photographers who need to "up the anty" change ISO because they are shooting star trails or indoor nighttime photography. Because it increases the sensativity of light, these dimly lit subjects will now become more visible and it will allow you to have a smaller shutter speed or narrower aperture, something vital for star trails. See how this is already altering shutter speed and aperture? Most photographers shouldn't worry about ISO if they are doing anything with sunlight or studio lighting, there are other more effective ways of letting light onto your sensor without gathering image noise. ISO on film cameras refers to the speed of the individual film strips. These are often referred to as ISO 100, 200, 300 etc. It essentially does the same thing, however played a more vital role on film cameras.



Aperture literally means the opening in your lens hole that affects the angle of light hitting your sensor. Aperture is commonly referenced as "f/stops" on lenses. You've probably seen this as f/4 or f/2.5. That number is talking about the speed of your lens focusing but it also refers to the lowest f/stop (or largest hole) available on that lens. So if I took an image with an aperture of f/16 I'm talking about the size of the opening in the lens to let light in. This is where it gets confusing for some people. Try to follow...... the higher the "f/stop" number, the smaller (or narrower) the hole. The smaller the "f/stop" number, the larger the opening in the lens will be. So if you have a lens that is an f/4 lens and you take an image with an aperture of f/4 then you opened the hole in your lens to its maximum size to let the most amount of light in. However, this also doesn't come without consequence. The larger the hole in your lens (or smaller the f/stop), the less depth of field you will have. That is how those wedding photographers get very shallow photos where only maybe the bride and groom are in focus and the background is a blur. Inversely, the smaller the hole in your lens (or larger the f/stop), the more depth of field you will have in your image. This is where landscape photographers thrive. We set our f/stop to its maximum, for instance on my lens it is f/22, which is a very tiny hole. It keeps the photo evenly in focus. Aperture is mainly used and altered by wedding or portrait photographers. This is their creative setting allowing them to achieve different results while maintaining a quick shutter speed and low ISO. Seeing the trend already?


Shutter Speed

Shutter speed is by far my favorite setting to alter, and for good reason. This is the camera function that landscape photographers use as their creative setting. By changing this it allows us to achieve slow milky rivers, streams or clouds. It also allows us to capture quickly falling leaves or wildlife. Shutter speed is referring to how long you leave the shutter mirror open to reveal your sensor to light. If you've ever looked inside a camera you know that your sensor is protected by a mirror or "shutter" door which is what is reflected into your viewfinder. When you take the photo this door swings up (making that distinctive noise) revealing your sensor to whatever lighting conditions you set. This speed is what dictates how long that door is opened. You've probably seen shutter speed referred to as "1/500" or "1/125". This simply means 1/500th of a second or 1/125th of a second. While it may not seem like a significant difference between that little amount of time the amount of light that can hit your sensor can be a lot. Your camera's sensor is so ultra-sensative to light (it's the reason your cameras are so expensive!) that almost ANY change in time can affect an image quite drastically. These faster shutter speeds (such as 1/1000) are what wildlife photographers or sports photographers use to achieve literally "frozen in time" moments. Landscape photographers use the reverse of these settings most often. We like to play in the "5/1" or "0.5/1", however in photography it's not referred as this. It's simply labeled as "2"5s" or "5"s" meaning it was a 2 and a half second exposure or 5 second exposure. Most cameras will allow you to take 30 second exposures without having to hold down the shutter button. However if you want to do anything over you need to switch over to your camera's bulb mode. The longest exposure I've taken was my image "City of Black and White" which was a 5 minute exposure. Star trails were even forming at the top through the city lights. Shutter speed is usually the easiest concept to grasp however it also doesn't come without consequence. Image noise is often it's common adversary. Light = heat and because the sensor is taking on enormous amounts of light it is building up all that heat causing noise. This is why having the lowest possible ISO will help to negate some of that heat. I think by now you can understand the triangular effect ISO, shutter speed and aperture all have on eachother.

An image I took over 4 years ago while still learning the effects an open shutter has on moving subjects. These are the stairs at the Salk Institute of UCSD.



Light Meter

This leads me into the fourth element of a photo ---> light. Light is the fundamental principle of all images. Without any kind of light you simply don't have an image. While you may not need a whole lot of light to take a great image on today's sensors, throwing your camera in a closet and turning off all the lights at night doesn't exactly help your cause. The light meter is a common tool overlooked by even a lot of advanced photographers. I myself didn't fully grasp the concept of the light meter until the last couple of years. The light meter is the basis for a lot of my editing techniques in photoshop and it's the tool that let's me know what kind of image I'll be able to take and what I can do with it. All cameras use a light-meter to judge how evenly exposed the image is. So even if the only button you know on your camera is the on/off you still use a light meter. When your camera beeps at you that it's in focus it also just took a reading of the light to tell you it's an evenly exposed image.

On advanced cameras and DSLR's the light meter is an actual meter in your viewfinder as well as your top screen. This meter is that line which has " -2..-1..0..+1..+2". Right beneath it is a vertical line telling you what number it's on. These numbers are referring to the stops of light over or under exposed the image is BASED ON WHAT YOU ARE POINTING AT. I can't stress this enough. The camera doesn't take a reading of the overall image, it takes a reading of what kind of light you are aiming at. There is a way to do this but I won't go into that. So if my vertical line is underneath the "-2" that means my image is 2 stops under-exposed and I need to do something or alter a setting that will bring it back to 0 or whichever stop of light I desire. After doing this for many years you subconciously know how exposed you want the image to be and it becomes second nature to react to light. However when new you will oftentimes stop and think "oh, I may need to open my aperture by 2 stops to let 2 stops of light in to bring it back to 0" or "hey I need to put a 2-stop filter on my lens to bring my light back down to 0" etc.

Remember how I said the light-meter is the basis for a lot of my editing techniques? Well when taking multiple photos and blending them together I need to know how well each image is exposed to achieve my results. The light meter is the only way to tell. I will eventually create an advanced editing guide on manual blending and the process I go through.

RED: Your light meter BLUE: Your ISO YELLOW: Your Aperture or F/stop (in this image it's F/2) GREEN: Your shutter speed represented by 1/2500, very fast.



Your sensor and how it affects lens zoom

You may be thinking why should I care if my sensor is cropped, let alone the effect it has on the zoom length of my lens? Instead this question has probably never crossed your mind. That's because it's a hidden fact most consumers don't know. If you are a starting photographer or hobbyist chances are you use a cropped sensor. Almost all consumer model DSLR's (Canons, Nikons, Pentax's etc.) use a sensor that is cropped based on a "1.6" multiplier formula. Companies do this to cut the cost on cameras to make them more available to the general public (because sensors are what creates value on your camera). This means that you are not using your actual focal length on your lens, a huge consequence for professionals. **WARNING, MATH AHEAD** Let's say you are using a lens with a focal length of 16-35mm and you have it on a camera with a 1.6 cropped sensor. To find out what focal length you are actually using you simply multiply 16 x 1.6= 25.6 and 35 x 1.6= 56. So in reality you are using a lens with a focal length of 26-56mm, a signifcant difference in image width. However companies assume that people who use these cameras won't mind because they aren't taking images that require perfection, allowing more expensive (yet reasonably priced) cameras to be sold to consumers. THIS, is why professionals spend the money they do on camera bodies alone.

Full-framed sensors, such as the one on my Canon 5D mark ii are very costly, however the results are unachievable with any camera but a full-framed sensor. This I know because I've performed test shots with my old Canon 40D 1.6 cropped sensor against my full-framed sensor and the differences in the amount of light were..... astounding. I also get to use my full lens focal length which is vital for professional images. However because of how detailed full-framed sensors are, they require only the best lens elements to focus light onto it. Another marketing ploy by companies. Camera companies get to sell cheaper lenses on cropped sensors because they don't require higher end elements. Anybody who has used film cameras understands this concept because of the old full-framed cameras, however because it's digital it's more expensive.


I hope this starter tutorial was informative to anyone. These are the basic basics, as down and dirty as it gets. I will slowly build upon each concept from the last and branch off on editing tutorials from these. I will not tell you HOW to take an image, only present you with the information so that you can apply them in your own right. I believe this is the best way to learn.

Ultimately photography takes patience, lots of practice and even more failure. These are the concepts I have taught myself throughout the years and they are by no means THE WAY. In fact some of these "facts" may not hold true from photographer to photographer, they are just the facts that have allowed me to take the photos I take. I build upon my experiences and learn from the past to understand the future. Classrooms cannot teach you photography, they can only teach you cameras, editing and techniques. To truly understand photography it is taught from within you. Thanks again and let me know if you found anything confusing that you would like me to explain further.

(Jordan Roberts Photography) Jordan JordanRobertsPhotography Photography Roberts basic tutorial Thu, 25 Jul 2013 00:48:54 GMT
New Website So this is my first blog post and I'm very excited for my photos to finally have a place to call home on the internet. It also creates a viable way to sell my prints and professionally market myself; a major step needed to be taken right now. I've always been kind of hesitant to create one because I know what follows, but I think I'm ready for it in my life and I'm very excited to discover the possibilities once this site is up and running for a little bit. There isn't much to say about this subject other than I want to welcome you to my site and I appreciate you taking the time to get to know my work.

My goal with this blog is to post about travels I take specifically for photography as well as post tutorials I make on specific topics both in the camera world and editing world. I can't promise a timeline for how many posts I make, whether it will be once a week or multiple times, I'm going to play-by-ear at first to see who is interested and what is requested.

Also, feel free to send me an email anytime with comments or suggestions. I will be creating a page dedicated to print information so that I can convey a better understanding as far as what to expect with the quality of prints or if you have a custom order you are curious about.

(Jordan Roberts Photography) Jordan JordanRobertsPhotography New NewWebsite Photography Roberts Website Thu, 18 Jul 2013 05:51:47 GMT