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FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Lesson 8 of 13

Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips

Chris Burkard

FAST CLASS: The Outdoor Photography Experience

Chris Burkard

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Lesson Info

8. Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips


  Class Trailer
Now Playing
2 Pismo Beach Walk Gear Duration:14:30
3 Yosemite Trip Gear Duration:08:27
4 Water Housing Photography Duration:33:39
5 Shooting in the Water Duration:08:41
7 Pismo Beach - Focus Point Duration:10:38

Lesson Info

Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips

This is a really cool spot we're at, we're on the pier, right? And you can really look at a lot of these different things and how they apply, well, what happens when we get that really, killer green sunlight coming to the back of the wave? Well it really contrasts with the blue ocean, right? We have all of a sudden, the green and the blue mixed together. So that is already providing some depth, some contrast. We're elevated up here, we have clouds, we have cityscape kind of, we have beach and we have ocean, right? That's kind of stacking up our image to give us some kind of foreground, background elements. Another thing, one thing's that's really hard is when you get onto the sand, or you get onto the beach, and you lose this kind of elevated perspective, everything starts to kind of fall in the same line. So when you get there, what are some things you can do to help give your image a little more depth? 'Cause I find that it's easier when you're elevated to kind of let things fall awa...

y, and give yourself a little more perspective, but when you're on the ground, it becomes a little more tough. Do you guys have any thoughts on how you? Get lower? (man laughs) Get lower is great, but in addition to getting lower, kinda what are you looking for, you know? Adding the foreground like to me, I will be willing to have like the sand leading out maybe? Totally, that's exactly it, that's perfect, so like I talked about before, we scoured this beach, you're looking at every perspective, right? The pier's great 'cause you have all these different angles you can work with, but when you get out onto the sand, it starts to not feel as three-dimensional, so you look for foreground, just like you said. Maybe going down by this swing set over here, shooting behind the swing set so you're swing set is kind of in your foreground. Maybe going over by these life guard towers, having them framed up, right? It forces you to walk a little further away and kind of compress things in, as we're here we're kinda right above it, so we can shoot a little wider, and you guys, just rule of thumb, any time you're shooting wider, it feels more three-dimensional because you have stuff like right next to you. It feels like you could reach out and grab it. It's a lot harder to shoot three-dimensional when you're shooting with a telephoto compressed on a lower perspective, but I think that creating three-dimensional images is probably one of the most important things we can do to elevate our work, elevate our photography and to make it more life-like, more real. I mean, I don't care if it's, in wedding photography for example, what is one of the number one things that we do to make our images feel three-dimensional? And it's just a camera setting, it has nothing to do with like all these settings, but it's just, you guys use it probably everyday. Just de-focus the background maybe? Exactly, right? Shallow of the field, right? It's like one of the easiest ways, "So cool, I'ma gonna set my object, my subject "against the background. "I'm gonna make them stand out. "I'm gonna get rad, twinkly lights all blurred "and really pretty so it frames them, "and they don't feel like they're just sandwiched "in between all these people," you know, it's like shoving their mouth full of cake and stuff, right? So you shoot like in f/1.5, you shoot f/1.4, you shoot 85 f/1.2, and that lens by itself, it creates that feel, right? So what is one of the coolest things to do when you're shooting like weddings or portraits, right? You have evening time. Maybe you have some of those twinkly lights, right? It's really nice and cool and blue outside, you have those lights that are out of focus, they're all warm, that contrast sets them apart, right? So any time that we can set our subject against a warm subject even if it's a cool background, or a cool subject against a warm background, we're gonna create three-dimensional look, just from the quality and texture of light that we're doing. So, that's super important. I think we should always consider that. It's really tough to get that three-dimensional quality when we just go shoot front-lit, or we just go to kind of the safety angle. Okay, it's great and it works, and I've shot a 1000 times and I always think it's good to get that angle, especially to make the client happy, or kind of get that safety shot, but how much more unique to kind of work with this contrast of light, where it's a little harsher, but you have the ability to kind of set things apart, right? You have stronger detail, you have stronger kind of contrast between your subject, those are really great things to look for in any location that we go to. You can shoot a road in so many different ways, right? You can stand in the middle of the road, you can have these little spaced lines that are kind of your anchor and it leads your eye away. Even foggy day, roads are amazing because those lines kind of fade off, they're vanishing points, or you put one of those lines in the corner, and then it's sort of leading your eye from the corner maybe to something more important in the side. I shot a lot of automotive stuff, and that's one of the things we really work with when we're shooting a car or a truck or an SUV, is the road, right? The quality of the road. Not necessarily meaning like how bumpy it is, but is it a blacktop, like asphalt, really like defined, beautiful, or is it a dirt road, what's the curve of it, what's it doing for your eye? Where are you putting that road in correlation to the car or vehicle, and I only use this example because it applies to everything, right? If you're shooting cyclists on a road, if you're shooting your friend walking down a path, we're always kind of looking for those vanishing points, those little tiny, tiny minute details that make it so much more unique. Exactly, so here even too, you guys, we walked and we walked up here, one of the places that we kind of bypass was, we walked to a point where we were directly in line with the tide, right? Where it was the beach and the tide, and there was a point where it's almost aligned and it draws where it kind of leads off. Now, if I was to shoot a landscape photo, like an evening time sunset, that might be one of the spots that I would go to. Right where those two points meet because it's an interesting section. It's kind of a bisection of these two water and land, and that's like a cool and warm surface, right? And so, thinking of things like that like locations like that, now I wanna take you guys to the bottom of the pier 'cause I wanna go work with some reflection, and look at kinda how we can sort of look at a totally different perspective with the same object, right? How am I inviting people into this frame? I said this word before, "attainable." I really aim to shoot images that feel attainable, and I mean, it could be standing on the top of Everest, or it could be jumping off the peer, but you wanna feel like your subject can put themselves in that place, and we'll talk a little bit more about this later, but one of the main things that you can do to create that feel is by shooting images that are timeless. How do we shoot timeless images? Well, in Yosemite we're gonna address that quite a bit, but while we're here, what are some things? Well, take for example the surfer in general of the pier, right? If that person, if I take that image and I process it, right? And this is kind of getting onto another bigger, broader subject, but I'm glad you brought it up 'cause I think it's worth addressing 'cause it's a really important subject to address. So why did I choose to shoot him where he's jumping to the sun, why did I choose not to shoot him where I could see him super clearly, I could see his board, I could see his wetsuit, I could see everything, picture perfect. Do you guys have any thoughts or ideas? I have a feeling that you've taken that shot before and you wanted something different this time. (laughs) I have, I have absolutely, that's a really good way of putting it too, but also more importantly, I've taken that shot before, and I've shot it the same way because I like the look and I like the fact that I know that I'm creating a timeless image because he's not dated by logos, by any advertisements by things that he's wearing because I'm using a really contrast situation with the super intense light, it could feel like 1963 or 2015, it doesn't matter because there's nothing to identify that he is here now. And that is a quality that I wanna bring into any image I shoot. Anything, why? It's good for commercial sales, because it lasts for ever. For one. I mean that's just like thinking in terms of like a business side of things. It's good for engagement with people and prints and all these things because somebody comes to my gallery for example, and they look at a photograph, they're not gonna be like, "Ooh, that's such a cool photo, "but he's got all of these big Hurley logos, "or logos all over him," like that doesn't really do much, people. And most importantly, the very most important thing, people can put themselves into that situation if they don't recognize the subject. If they see a black subject with a wetsuit on, totally incognito, going into a frame or a surfer that's going down the line and you can't really make them out, they can find it easier to put themselves into that frame and relate to that image more, thus creating a lot of things, least important, but probably more engagement via social media, more engagement via print sales, more engagement via like people just liking the image, and we're not here to shoot photos 'cause people like them, but for me at least, I wanna create a body of work that's gonna be around longer than I am. So this is one of the ways to do that. Approaching every scene thinking, "Okay, this is great, here's my safety angle, "here's my foreground, here's my background, "here's my elevated perspective. "Okay, now that I have that, "how can I do this and make images "that are gonna feel and last and really engage emotion." And this is what I mean here, I wanna engage emotion. How do you engage emotion? Nobody's gonna be emotionally attached to an image if they can't relate to that image. Nobody can relate to that image if they see somebody else and can't associate with it. If that was a like some famous person jumping off this thing, all they're gonna see is like, "Oh, that's so and so, jumping off this bridge." That's all they're gonna think about, but if it's someone who's incognito, they're gonna look at that and be like, "Wow, like that can be me, I can do that. "I remember that feeling, that warm light hitting my skin, "that fear of jumping off the pier," you know, that amazing, green condition on the water surface, like that is gonna strike some kind of a chord internally and make people kind of relate to it. So, just thinking on a sort of this emotional and psychological level about photography and how it really relates to us and the picture taking process, this is really I think the most important bit of information I can give you guys, besides F-stops and apertures.

Class Description


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Shooting outdoor photography is a powerful way to commune with nature and experience the fullness of life. Learn how to train your eye on incredible shots and convey the energy of the outdoors in The Outdoor Photography Experience with Chris Burkard.

Chris’s beloved images of life on the world’s coasts are alive with action and emotion. In this class, he’ll share the tools and techniques he uses to capture the photographs he sells to magazines, brands, collectors, and publishers.

You’ll learn about his shooting style and the gear he brings on his global adventures. He’ll also talk about the business of photography and share tips on marketing and selling your work.

If you want insights on how to create rich, dramatic images that let you enjoy more time outdoors, don’t miss your chance to learn from Chris Burkard in The Outdoor Photography Experience.