Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Photo Reality

Kids tuckered out from day long processions take a break. (Click image to enlarge)
Recent photographs I made in Sevilla, Spain over Easter week drew quite a reaction from folks back home. I'm not surprised. All these people wearing long robes and hoods. At first, the impact of what I was seeing targeted my core as well and revealed my lack of knowledge to Spain's religious celebrations or the origins of the garments. In the U.S., it means something very different.

Observing individual parish members of the processions parading through Sevilla dressed in penitential robes with pointed hoods with eye-holes, can smack American visitors hard. The resemblance of the trademark costumes worn by the U.S. terrorist group Ku Klux Klan is a tough nut to overcome. It raised a lot of questions for me on how to photograph these marvelous celebrations  without the inherited prejudice. After all, images of the KKK in their white robes and hoods are entrenched into generations of Americans as a symbol of hatred and racism. I felt I needed to be extra careful in how I photographed this so not to promote any negative observations.

It was important to educate myself on what the costumes meant. Since the Middle Ages, around 1350, parish members have dressed wearing these capirotes (robes and hoods) so the faithful could repent in anonymity. After a few days of photographing the different parishes marching through the cobblestone streets of Sevilla, watching families walk together in the processions, mothers attending to their kids as they adjusted and tightened robes and hoods, full of hugs and smiles, the joys of celebration rang clear.

Personally, I found my greatest comfort in photographing the kids. The experience was new to them. They were caught up in the pageantry just as I was. It was real, imperfect and genuine. Soon, the intolerance and bias I had been carrying due to the clothing disappeared. Witnessing the passion a culture holds for their faith was a joy to photograph.

Still,  I am amazed how powerful the prejudice of the robe and hoods clings to the visual definitions I had growing up. Photography has more power of influence than most believe. And the comments I had gotten after sharing these back home verified this. I simply tried to find moments that promoted the positive aspects of Spaniards celebrating the Week of Saints.

Many parishes participate in processions for the Week Of The Saints during the Easter week of celebrations in Sevilla. Night and day tens of thousands of people line to streets to watch the events. Each parish has its own style of clothing and wear colors reflecting that of their parish. Its a family event full of festivities and community. Sevilla is the heart of Spain's  massive Easter procession activities. But, cities and villages across the country hold their own procession events.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Defining Your Photographic Style

VW Bus & Surf Board, California's Coastal Hwy
 In a recent email exchange with a friend, he mentioned flipping through a magazine and liked a photo inside. He said he knew instantly it was my photo before noticing the byline. I must say, that was one of the best compliments I've ever gotten.

How does one find their style?

Basketball hoop on rural barn, Minnesota
We've all done it. Seen something through the window while driving down the road, it calls out to you. It has a visual interest. You keep driving. A minute later you tell yourself, "turn around." But, you keep driving until you are too far down the road to go back. A missed opportunity perhaps? There's lots or reasons why you didn't turn around. But, that's not what is really important here.

Something back there grabbed your eye. Both your visual smarts and creative instincts were put on high alert. There had to be a photo there, right? No one else saw it. And, if they did, they didn't react to it the same way you did. Whatever it was, it defined your style. It's your style because you were attracted to it. It defined your vision.

 Don't miss those opportunities to define your style.

Giant Saguaro reaching for the sky, Arizona

While covering an assignment in the Arizona desert at Saguaro National Monument, on the way to the park, I had spotted this giant lone saguaro reaching for the sky amidst the power lines. The mere size of the cactus was stunning. But, the encroachment of modern life enveloping a living example of natural history was a compelling scene for me. I pulled over and made a picture. It made me chuckle knowing I was probably the only crazy photog to stop there and photograph a cactus next to power lines.  Most would have avoided the power lines to the best of their ability.

Brooms drying in Olive Trees, Orvieto, Italy

Spotting these home-made brooms drying in the olive trees was a fun find. The brooms were only hanging in a few of the trees within the orchard. It took some effort to find the right angle, composition, and lens choice. It would be been very easy to just walked past them, enjoy the mental note of the unusual sight and dismiss pulling out the camera. Yet, connecting with those internal instincts and listening drawing the eyes towards the trees and recognizing the value of making a photograph paid off in stylizing my Italian experience. 

The difficult part is recognizing those messages and acting on them.
After that, being a photographer is easy. Your style is defined.

Friday, January 2, 2015


(Click on image for full size view)

Every New Year's Eve millions of people
make resolutions for the future.
Not a bad idea really.
It's always a good idea to look forward and give yourself challenges. Personally, it's not something I consciously do. I have plans stacked up so high into the future I cannot attach a dateline to it. 

For most professional photographers the end of the year means making those end-of-the-year purchases for tax reasons. Naturally, that plays into our futuristic outlook. I never buy equipment to save on tax expenditures. I purchase gear to enhance my photographic capabilities. Plus, it's so fun having new glass!

That said, I admit each year I look to traveling someplace I haven't visited. Diving into a new culture, an unusual landscape, or vibrant city excites the visual taste buds. You see new things and find fresh  ways to document them. I learn something new in each and every geographical location I visit and usually learn something about myself as well.

For 2015 plans already include Iceland, Greenland (Mentor Series), Cuba, Ireland, Scotland (PhotoZoneTours), and Costa Rica, Belize, Italy and even our 23rd year of a photo dogsledding adventure next month right here in Minnesota.

If I can offer any advice towards your 2015 outlooks for creating photographs, it is take your camera someplace you have never gone. Find a new way to communicate through your lens. Make the images you capture your own. When you make it personal, you develop your style.

So, CHEERS to a booming and fruitful 2015!

layne & gang

Monday, October 6, 2014

Bad Light Can Be Good Light

Superior waves, Artist Point, Grand Marais, Minnesota
 Our workshop group had just finished dinner. A warm delicious meal, a glass of wine (or two) mixed with a comfy indoor atmosphere after a successful day treasure hunting for photographs in iffy weather, the day's canvas painted a nice conclusion to a rewarding day.

Just outside blowing in off Lake Superior in Grand Marais, Minnesota, the weather was getting windy, cold and misty. Many had decided they had enough challenging light for the day and entertaining a "few more" night photos might push them over the top. I had mentioned that when the waves really start kickin up a fuss, shooting just after dusk can offer some wonderful visual opportunities. I averaged about .500 in talking several folks into one more hour of working the bad light and off we went with jackets and tripods in hand.

(Click On Images To Enlarge)

There is a magic time for photographing in the evening hours. It happens just after the sun sets and runs until it's dark. Once it's dark, it's done. 

Well, that is if you want any ambient light to continue to be part of your photograph. In order for your image to have that all important third dimensional look to it, you need to still posses some ambient light to define your foreground and background. Without it, the light in your image just rests in a sea of blackness with a two-dimensional look.

With subject matter like moving water, especially bigger wave action, long exposures can soften those waves into a fog like appearance.  Using your tripod, you can even keep your ISO at lower numbers retaining clarity. However, you will notice an increase in exposure is necessary every few minutes as light rapidly diminishes. So, keep checking your image.

During the exposure in the above photograph, 30 seconds, f/10 at 400 ISO, I did a few exposures without the add'tl kicker light of my headlamp. Then, for a few frames to mix it up, I used a low setting of red light on my headlamp to paint light over the foreground rocks during the 30 seconds to splash in some color. I love the red/blue combo in night images. To obtain the blue, I set my white balance to incandescent to give me that sexy, moody blue light.

Headlamps from approaching vehicle cast a eery glow in the fog along the Gunflint Trail in N.E. Minnesota.
Driving down out of the Superior National Forest in N.E. Minnesota, the Gunflint Trail, a paved road that runs inland about sixty miles from Lake Superior, is gateway to numerous entry points to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Fog blanketed the Trail near the famed "Pines" area and the eery headlamp glow from an approaching vehicle peaked our interest and knew it would make a strong image. 

I explained from a content perspective including the white pines adds valuable  information to the image as it is an iconic location along the 60 miles. This stand of old growth trees is an historic part of the Gunflint Trail and shooting the fog as a vertical provided an image with more than just a pretty photograph. It is a photo with history to it. Don't shoot just the glow, but the sense of place too.

Shot at 1.3/sec. at f/22 at ISO 100. I didn't need f/22 for depth of field. Fog really prohibits any reason for depth. But, my intentions were to offer a variety of options with moving vehicles. What had initially captured my attention was that glow rising up behind the hill. I knew it was a car, but it was the glow I liked so I didn't need to see car itself to identify what was creating it. I kept my fingers crossed that more than one vehicle would drive by so I got my "glow" photo first. Then, with any other passing car I could get streaks of light, as opposed to just a stop-action pair of headlights, thus my reason for shooting at f/22. It allowed me a longer exposure and more length to the streaking lights in the photograph. But, in the end, I stuck with my initial reaction to the glowing light.

Fall colors along Hwy 61, N.E. Minnesota
We've all been out shooting in the Fall wanting to capture the explosion of color. It's amazing how the color changes with the quality of sunlight. And, how it changes with the diffused light of cloudy days. Heck, a bright overcast day usually provides me with more success shooting the fall season than bright sunny days.

But, what do you do on a really f/dark day? One solution is to paint with light. Use a slow shutter speed, hand hold your long lens and move the camera while exposing. Go up and down, side to side, make circles both small and large. You'll be amazed what you can come up and how striking and unique this sort of approach to lousy light can create visual magic. This image was made at 1/5th sec. at f/22 on ISO 200.

And finally, ready for bed, you pull into your lodging location and notice some pretty cool light on the garage and ground in front of you. There's no reason to pull out the gear again and shoot this, right? It's just a parking lot next to your cabin. But, the misty, cloudy light is doing something it doesn't do any other night. So, why not take a few extra minutes and satisfy your curiosity. After all, there's plenty of time to sleep when your dead.

Ok, now go to bed!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


Cameron Davidson's FUSE VISUAL 
interviews photographer
LAYNE KENNEDY this month.

Click on the above link to read:

Monday, July 7, 2014

iPhone Photography-It's The Real Deal

iPhone capture outside Guthrie Theatre, Minneapolis

It's a good bet that you've shot, created and printed a photograph you captured with your smartphone. And, why not? The quality is good, it's instant, the device is small and non-intrusive, and with thousands of app's available to tweak your creative vision, smartphone photography has found its way into assignments, workshops and galleries.

Changing of the Guard, Athens, Greece

Sunset, windmills-Rhodes Island, Greece

I some ways I'm amazed how many people still criticize these devices as flukes, cheap photography, snapshots,  something less than real. This stereotype is diminishing as more and more fantastic images are being published using the variety of smartphones out there.

David City Airport, Nebraska

Certainly, I've been swayed. I adore the simplicity of using my iPhone. I pull it out of my pocket, raise it, fire it quietly and raise no attention to myself whatsoever. Everyone else is doing it so it fits right in. In my mind, I see the end result as if I were shooting to make prints in B/W. With all the app's that I enjoy using, I previsualize many of my iPhone photographs. What is in front of me is only the first step.

I think this is what I like most about iPhone photography, It allows me to experiment with ease, conjure up moods utilizing vintage style app's, layering textures and adding multiple images for making a visual statement or merely to have fun.

Fish & Chips cafe, Fulton, Texas

Rest assured, my iPhone has its limitations. And, I feel those limits deeply at times when I want the compression my 600mm gives me or the wide perspective of the 14mm while aiming my iPhone at a likely image.  

Fear not. I am not going to sell or shelf my Nikon's, Hasselblad, 4x5 or pinhole cameras. I am simply going to choose the instrument needed at the time to make the type photographs I wish to create. It's just another camera in your visual tool bag.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Photographing The Eclipse

With images containing so much blank space,
adding a comment can add balance.

Events like the full lunar eclipse on April 15th, 2014 really draw out a large number of people, all for their own reasons. I had no real reason to step into my backyard in the middle of the night to shoot it. I'm not an astro-photography buff and see no financial gain to spend time doing it. There's a lot of gifted experts supplying that visual stream to the world and I cannot compete with that and
don't want to.

But, taking in a eclipse is an opportunity for several things. One, the photo-op. But, I like the idea of simply taking in the experience. Geez, I had neighbors calling me, "Are you gonna be out, should I bring down some beer?" to folks who set an alarm for 3:00 a.m. so they could get up and take a peek at the total eclipse of the Blood Moon, as it is referred to. Fantastic Everyone! Ya gotta love that enthusiasm for experiencing the living universe.

 Another advantage of being out there is once you've captured the images, there are new photos to use in any experimental photographs you wish to create. These can be used for shows and photo-illustrations. In the below image, I combined three photos to create something other worldly and fun.

Combining images from your files offers visual options

Well, if you missed this one due to weather or warm covers, there are four more this year!
The next one is in October, 2014. 

So, set your alarms, check the weather, grab your tripod and take it in.