Monday, August 31, 2015

What Gear Should An Aspiring (Urbex) Photographer Buy?

Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a Nokia Lumia 1020.
I get asked pretty often what gear a beginning photographer should buy. What camera should a aspiring photographer purchase? Canon? Nikon? DSLR? Full frame? How many lenses?

I don't like answering this question because gear isn't nearly as important as many think it is. It's the wrong question, really. If someone wants to be a photographer they need to understand what it even means to be a photographer. What is it about photography that attracts you?

You have to know why you photograph in order to know what and how to photograph. There are so many different genres and styles, and in order to be successful you have to create your own style and niche.
Fruit Cup - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a Nikon D3300.
The gear you use doesn't make any difference to understanding the deeper, more important questions. And gear makes very little difference to the outcome of an image. You would be hard-pressed to find a camera that isn't capable of capturing great images.

So to answer the question, get a camera--any camera--and use it. Figure out the deeper questions. Begin to understand vision, creativity and the decisive moment. Then, if you think you need different gear, go out and get what you think you need. But until you've figured out what you need and why, then stick with whatever it is that you already have.

If that's not a good enough answer for you, and you want some specific gear to buy, how about the Nokia Lumia 1020. I paid $100 for mine, and I guarantee that it's the best digital camera you can buy for that price. Or Nikon's entry level DSLR, the D3300, which is very inexpensive and yet is still a quality camera. But, really, any camera will do.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Why I Like Urban Exploration

The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
I was recently asked why I like to enter abandoned buildings with my camera. It seems like the response would be pretty straightforward. Because abandoned buildings are interesting! However, the answer is much longer.

It is true that I find abandoned buildings interesting. The idea that people lived, worked or played inside the now quiet walls is fascinating. These people had hopes, dreams, ideas, love, etc.--and the structures were a big part of their lives--and now it has all been left to decay. If only the walls could talk they would have lots of stories to tell. And sometimes the walls do talk, metaphorically.

I wonder about the stories. Why was the structure built? What was it used for and who used it? Why was it abandoned? Does anyone have memories of the place that they recall from time-to-time?
Broken Souls - Newberry Springs, California
The decay and destruction is also interesting. In our society everything is new, or if it isn't new it has been refurbished. Unless it is in a museum, we don't like old things. It goes against culture. Old things get thrown away. Abandoned buildings are the opposite of what our culture says should be interesting. In a way, exploring and photographing abandoned buildings is my rebellion against society.

You never know what you'll find inside of an old and forgotten place. Relics of generations gone can be found inside some abandoned buildings. I've found everything from old kid toys to an antique travel trailer to everything imaginable in between. You might be surprised at what people don't take with them.

And, perhaps, abandoned buildings are metaphors. Perhaps we all end as empty, forgotten shells. Maybe these places represent what we all will eventually become.

As you can see, the answer to the question of why I explore and photograph abandoned buildings isn't all that simple. The answer just brings more questions, and the feeling that the answer isn't sufficient. Perhaps the best and most simple answer is found in my photographs--maybe they bring an understanding to this whole thing. Or maybe they add to the mystery.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Photographing The Sun (In Urbex Photography)

On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
Photographing the sun can be very challenging. The scene has such a large dynamic range that digital sensors are not capable of capturing all of the highlight and shadow details. There can be lens flare and color fringes that you may not want.

Yet, including the sun in your urban exploration photographs can yield dramatic results. Some of my favorite photographs have the sun included in the frame.

One trick that I like to use is to partially block the sun with an element in the frame, reducing the brightness of the scene. This lowers the dynamic range of the scene slightly.
Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
Since the viewer will be drawn to the sun, you have to be purposeful where you put it in the frame. Make sure that the sun takes the viewer exactly where you want them to look.

Balancing clipped highlights with black shadows can be tricky. Each scene will be different and will have to be judged uniquely. If you are not sure, simply bracket the exposure and decide later which exposure is most appropriate. A little fill flash can go a long ways toward illuminated dark shadows.

In this post you will find examples of my images that include the sun. Some of these have been published. I used several different cameras, such as a Sigma DP2 Merrill, a Nikon D3300, and a Nokia Lumia 1020. It doesn't matter which photographs were captured with which camera because gear isn't important, vision is.
Sunrise Through Old Window Shade - Rosamond, California
Broken Home At Sunrise - Mojave, California
Sunset Through The Broken Glass - Victorville, California
Better Days Behind - Tehachapi, California
Light Through The Rafters - Mojave, California
Hope Through Brokenness - Mojave, California
Sun Disc - Rosamond, California
A Light In The Dark - Tehachapi, California
West - Tehachapi, California
Memories of A Sunny Day - Mojave, California
Look Up - Mojave, California
Bent Nail - Mojave, California

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Don't Photograph When The Sun Is High? Nonsense!

Water Storage - Rosamond, California
Something that I have heard said many times over the (roughly) two decades that I've been capturing images is that you should put your camera away at midday. Good light doesn't exist when the sun is high in the sky.

That, of course, is nonsense. Good lighting exists any time of the day or night if you look hard enough for it. It's just that at midday good light is less prevalent and less obvious. But it does exist. And since good lighting exists when the sun is high, there is no reason to put your camera away at midday.

Some photographers will not capture images outside of the golden hour. When the sun is close to the horizon is when one will find the most obvious and most plentiful quality light for photography. That's an excellent time to be out photographing.
Shadows of Abandonment - Mojave, California
I don't think one should limit himself or herself to just those time periods around sunrise and sunset. I've captured some of my favorite photographs with the sun high in the sky. If I didn't have my camera out at midday I would have missed those opportunities.

Photography is painting with light. Good light is required for good images. You have to seek it out. You have to actively look for it. Don't just assume that it doesn't exist just because of the time of day. If you are not finding it you just need to look a little harder.

Don't put your camera away when the sun is high. If you do than you are giving up the opportunity to capture some good photographs.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Don't Wait! Explore & Photograph That Abandoned Place Today

Abandoned Homestead - Tehachapi, California
I drove by an abandoned house that I've explored a couple of times. It's just outside of Tehachapi, California in the country near some farm fields. The house was completely gone! Nothing was left, except for the tractors that had torn it down.

The lesson here is that if you procrastinate, you may be too late. I've learned this lesson several times before. Your opportunities are limited. Eventually things change. Sometimes abandoned building get demolished.

Photography is about being in the right place at the right time with a camera in your hand and with photographic vision in your head. You have to make sure you to put yourself in place to capture a great photograph. If you wait, you may find yourself waiting too long.

The photographs in this post were all captured at the now gone house. I'm glad that I didn't wait or else these photographs wouldn't exist. I used a Sigma DP2 Merrill and a Nokia Lumia 1020.
Hole In The Wall - Tehachapi, California
Living Room View - Tehachapi, California
Abandoned Mountain Ranch Home - Tehachapi, California
Tree, House - Tehachapi, California
Tire, Abandoned Ranch - Tehachapi, California
Forgotten Utah - Tehachapi, California
East View - Tehachapi, California

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Abandonment: Forgotten Fireplaces

Home Love - Cuddy Valley, California
While I rarely purposefully capture certain subjects within my abandonment photography to fit within a category, sometimes I notice images that go together. There's a common thread.

Recently I noticed that I have a handful of fireplace photographs. These used to keep people warm on cold nights. People would gather around and perhaps tell stories or enjoy hot chocolate. Life surrounded them.

But now the fireplaces are forgotten. No longer do they give warmth. No one gathers around them. They've been abandoned. They've been lost to time.
Remnants of Warmth - Mojave, California
Old Chimney - Loraine, California
Face In The Fireplace - Cuddy Valley, California
Trash Can Optional - Rosamond, California
Forgotten Fireplace - Mojave, California

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Forget Fame

Fame - Mojave, California
Don't get caught up with how many likes, stars or pluses you get on social media. Don't get caught up with how popular you are or are not. It really doesn't matter what other people think. Your photography should be personal to you.

You cannot please everyone and you shouldn't try. When you try to please others through your photography you often "play it safe" or try to copy someone else's work who is popular. Either way, you are stifling your creativeness.

There is only one you. There is only one person who can create your photographs. You've got to find your voice and your style. It doesn't make one difference if anyone else appreciates it. Do this photography thing for yourself.

Everyone wants to be liked. Everyone wants to be successful. Everyone wants people to give them tons of compliments. Everyone wants to be rich. But, ultimately, none of that will make you happy. Contentment comes from the inside, not the outside. And if you feel like you need those things, it perhaps indicates that you are not self-content.

There are things that can make you happy. There are things that can bring you joy. There are things that can give you contentment. Fame isn't one of those things. Instead, it feeds into the lie that more is better.

So forget fame! Forget about commercial success. Be true to yourself. Value your individuality. Do not worry about whether or not anyone else "gets" what you are creating. Do it for yourself.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Use What Camera You Already Have

Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
Captured using a cell phone. This photograph was good enough to be published in a magazine.
Here is a truth: a new camera or lens or editing software will not make you a better photographer. It might make it a little easier to achieve what you are trying to do, but it will never make you better.

Camera companies and camera stores want you to believe that you need to "upgrade" to the newest thing on the market. It's faster, smarter, shinier, better. Yes, digital technology changes quickly--if it's newer then it is probably slightly better in some way. But that still won't make you a better photographer.


Because photography is about vision and nothing else.

Gear just isn't all that important. Camera's don't matter. Either you can or you cannot craft great photographs, and the gear you use makes no difference. The best camera is always the one that's in your hand.

Instead of spending time and money on new equipment, spend that time and money learning how to make better photographs. That will improve your photography.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

My Greatest Photography Quotes

Someone asked me if I were to be quoted, what sayings would I wish to have repeated. I had never really thought about this before, as I'm sure Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson and others were not expecting their words to be repeated for decades and decades.

I've gone back through my photography blogs and picked quotes here-and-there that I think are worth repeating (little nuggets of wisdom, if you will). Maybe something will resonate with you. I hope this does not come across as narcissistic, because I do not mean it that way. This is just for fun. I threw in several unrelated photographs just to break up the text.
To The Reader - Rosamond, California

"I think beauty is all around us and we experience it every day--whether we notice it or not is another story. I attempt to take notice and document it in photographs." --Ritchie Roesch 
"If you are a good photographer you can use any camera and make good photographs. If you are not a good photographer you can use even the most expensive camera and still not make good photographs." --Ritchie Roesch
"The camera does not make a photograph great, the photographer does." --Ritchie Roesch
"The photographer's capability is far more important than the camera's." --Ritchie Roesch
"In the hands of a skilled photographer, any camera is capable of creating amazing works of art." --Ritchie Roesch
On A Brighter Day - Tehachapi, California
 "Great photographs are elusive things. You have to hunt them out." --Ritchie Roesch
"Worry less about what equipment you own, and worry more about how to make better photographs." --Ritchie Roesch
"Don't get caught up in thinking you need this or that to make successful photographs. Instead of spending money and time looking for new equipment, learn how to become a better photographer." --Ritchie Roesch
"Keep your photographs as simple as possible to communicate as clearly as possible." --Ritchie Roesch
"The quality of the camera matters much less than the photographer's ability to create something compelling with it." --Ritchie Roesch 
Keep Out The Sun - Tehachapi, California
"You want to be original. You want your own voice heard through your images. You want your photographs to reflect your unique perspective." --Ritchie Roesch
"Art is not science. Art has no rules. It's creative, messy, sometimes illogical. Art must provoke some kind of emotional response." --Ritchie Roesch
"Great art rarely happens when one is comfortable." --Ritchie Roesch
"People worry far too much about the minor and insignificant details of equipment and far too little about the major and significant details that make up great photographs." --Ritchie Roesch
"There is a lesson to be learned with each image, so the more I photograph, the better of a photographer I become." --Ritchie Roesch 
The Lost Chair - Mojave, California
"A few seconds of extra effort before opening the shutter can save a few minutes in front of a computer later." --Ritchie Roesch
"Photography is painting with light. Without light there is no photograph. Without great light there is no great photograph." --Ritchie Roesch
"Don't worry about what camera you own or don't own. Use what you have the best you can, and you'll be surprised at what you can create." --Ritchie Roesch
"When people look at your photographs, they don't care what camera and lens was used to capture it. They don't care about f-stop, shutter speed, ISO, focal length, or white balance. They don't care what size the sensor is or how many megapixels it contains. They only care about the image in front of them and what it speaks to them." --Ritchie Roesch
"Creativity is far more important than equipment. Vision is most important." --Ritchie Roesch
Boss Hog - Tehachapi, California
"Photography is about vision and nothing else." --Ritchie Roesch
"Photography is biased." --Ritchie Roesch
"When you open the camera's shutter, you are making your own unique interpretation of that scene. You are telling a story in your own words and from your own unique perspective. You are conveying thoughts and emotions. Photography is a form of nonverbal communication." --Ritchie Roesch
"You must consider what thoughts and emotions you have about the scene, and figure out how to best communicate those through your photographs." --Ritchie Roesch
"Remove everything from your composition that doesn't convey what you are trying to communicate." --Ritchie Roesch
The Sound of Silence - Mojave, California
"It is not the scene that you should be attempting to capture, but what you think and feel about that scene." --Ritchie Roesch
"Photography is interpreting. When you put a piece of yourself into the photograph, that's when you are creating art." --Ritchie Roesch
"There are photographic opportunities each day just waiting to be discovered." --Ritchie Roesch
"Photography is a form of nonverbal communication. In order to be successful, one must communicate as clearly and deliberately as possible." --Ritchie Roesch
"Great photographs are orchestrated. Like a conductor leading a symphony, the photographer provides clarity to the scene." --Ritchie Roesch 
From The Past - Mojave, California
"Often good stories are lost to poor storytelling. Ensure that only what is important to the story is included in the frame." --Ritchie Roesch
"Photography rules are meant to ensure consistently good photographs, but rarely allow for great photographs. Great images often happen when the rules are thrown out the window." --Ritchie Roesch
"Learning how to make something meaningful with a camera is not easy." --Ritchie Roesch
"There is a misconception that a photograph is truthful. Certainly you have heard of 'photographic evidence' and that 'pictures never lie.' But every picture lies, or at least isn't completely truthful. The photographer is biased, choosing how to compose the image (what to include and exclude) and what settings the camera should have. The camera and lens (and film, if applicable) are biased, too, with regard to color, contrast, hue, dynamic range, sharpness, etc., etc." --Ritchie Roesch
"A photograph is a tiny moment in time that is taken out of context." --Ritchie Roesch 
Web of Neglect - Mojave, California
"The knowledge that photographs are not reality, but glimpses of obscured reality, is enlightening. Since you cannot capture reality, you have the freedom to make an image whatever you want it to be. You can create your own reality." --Ritchie Roesch
"Don't worry about what camera you do or don't own. Use what camera you have! With photographic vision, you can use any equipment to create your art. It doesn't matter what camera you use. It doesn't matter how expensive or inexpensive that camera is." --Ritchie Roesch
"Anyone can snap pictures, but it takes an artist to create something meaningful with an exposure." --Ritchie Roesch  

Friday, August 7, 2015

Photographs of Abandoned Bathrooms

Abandoned Bathroom - Rosamond, California
Sometimes I notice a theme within my photographs. Recently while going through my urban exploration images I noticed that I had lots of pictures of abandoned bathrooms.

I'm not really sure why I'm drawn to bathrooms when I photograph abandoned buildings. Bathrooms can be disgusting in general, but multiply that by 10 when dealing with these locations.

All of these images were captured using a Sigma DP2 Merrill, a Nikon D3300 and a Nokia Lumia 1020. I doubt you can tell which are from which. That's because your camera doesn't mattervision does
Broken John - Boron, California
Broken Toilet - Boron, California
Dark Restroom - Boron, California
Please Do Not Use - Boron, California
The Broken John - Victorville, California
Crumbling Commode - Cuddy Valley, California
Abandoned Interior View - Cuddy Valley, California
Messy Bathroom - Mojave, California
Shower Curtains - Mojave, California
Abandoned Outhouse - Mojave, California
Bathroom Essentials - Mojave, California
Foresaken Sink - Tehachapi, California
Bathroom Pictures - Tehachapi, California