Photography by Colby Brown


One Hour Photo Featuring Colby Brown


Lesson Info

Photography by Colby Brown

Well, let's look at some of your reality and pick out some photographs and let's go ahead and jump through these things. Excellent. Maybe you could quickly describe where it is because I'm sure people are like where's that, that's awesome. Sure, absolutely. So this photo was taken in Lower Antelope Canyon in Page, Arizona. Beautiful place, I highly recommend that people check out. I will tell you that it is a little bit of a zoo in terms of the fact that there are so many people that come through these areas, through these slot canyons because they're so popular. But they are gorgeous. Amazing like. Yeah, I've been down through 'em a few times and it's spectacular. Let's just talk for a moment about, you've got some beautiful destinations that we're gonna see. Crowded destinations. Okay, there was a post on one of the blogs that I went to and someone traveled the western United States and they had a photo in there that was, you know, maybe almost as good as this. But you know, ...

they traveled all the iconic locations and of course, one of the commenters comes in and says, I've seen all those places before. And one of the ideas that I have is I don't care if it's been photographed before. You haven't photographed it. Yeah, and so how do you feel about people going to these places even though they've been shot to death. Me and you are on the same page here. I mean, the reality is that if you haven't photographed it, it doesn't really matter. Now, there are caveats in that. Obviously what you may be able to do is something like this that has billions of other photographs with it. How many people might want to purchase this or do something with? But in terms of actual just your own experiences and the experience of being in Lower Antelope Canyon is phenomenal and yes it's a madhouse, yes it's crazy but that's part of the experience and if you don't do it, you don't you don't know. So I highly recommend that you don't listen to other people telling you not to do stuff. Especially when it comes to traveling. Yeah, I think there's something that you can learn from the experience and in some ways I kind of think of it as okay, this is a great book, somebody else read the book. Well, I want to read the book. Exactly. Alright, let's go to the next one here. So this is stunning light, love that. Thank you, thank you. So this is Petra, ancient city of Petra in Jordan. It is a wonderful, wonderful place to visit and incredibly safe place to visit contrary to the fact that it's surrounded by some of the more crazy countries in the Middle East. The people are incredibly friendly, the Bedouin culture is amazing. I look forward to visiting there every time I can but this specific event is called Petra at night and what they do is a few times a week, at least during more of the tourist season, is that they will light up the Siq, which is essentially is the walkway that takes you into Petra. And this all culminates right here at the treasury. Most people might recognize this from like one of the Indiana Jones movies. And essentially, they have this unique experience where they actually have Bedouin musicians playing throughout this candlelight. And so a bunch of photographers that are there, kind of line up on the side and this is just one of the, this is the experience that I was there to photograph. I am well, I'm not surprised that you captured it at the right time but I'm just surprised I don't see a bunch of people taking selfies all in the shot. Can you talk about dealing with the crowds here? Absolutely, well you know, I've been there a number of times and so this time was actually the very tail end of one of their tourism seasons or travel seasons. So it's early into December, so it's starting to get pretty cold, which is unique for this area. Most people travel at different times of the of the year and during those times there's more individuals but this specific event actually I found it to be quite nice compared to most other places in that. There were definitely photographers in the times that I visited when there's more people around but most of them were very respectable. Everyone's kind of on the side and it was kind of asked by the people that are hosting this, to you know, be quiet and to appreciate the silence. It doesn't last or super long. You're not sitting there down there for four hours. It's down there, it lasts for maybe 35 to 40 minutes and so it's just a really quiet serene experience and they asked everyone there to hold taking images that have flash until the very end. Then everyone do it at the same time. So every once in a while of course someone does it and it ruins one of your shots that's like 30 seconds long. And you're like oh no, but for the most part I just haven't run into too many problems there. Some of the times you got to do crowd control but for the most part here this is quite okay. So one of the questions I have is, as I was coming up through photography. I was shooting out in the field, I didn't know if it was a good shot or not. When you're out in the field do you know, are you like okay this is it, I got it. I have a higher propensity of knowing more so now than earlier in my career. With caveats obviously the mistakes can be made but for the most part technology's gotten good enough to essentially allow me to make sure that I know I have the image data that I need, using my histograms to check out after the image has been taken. You can zoom in enough generally to make sure that things are sharp enough. And so those two things when I'm out in the field usually give me a good enough indicator to know. And oftentimes once I've shot it, like a specific scene that just kind of was wow. I generally know I'm good. Now, what is more surprising to me is like the ones that are, that I think are good, I know I'm gonna keep, that surprised me like a year or two later. I go back and I'm like wow, I completely like missed this gem. To me that is the most surprising thing compared to you know, taking a truly epic moment and then just kind of realizing that you have it and you're like you're good. I think that is something that's important for people to do is to go back to their work two, three, four years ago, because you might discover some gems that you didn't have the vision to see at that time. Absolutely. But now you realize oh, okay. And maybe you've learned some Photoshop techniques and like okay, if I do this to it, I can save this image and it fits in. Absolutely, no, I 100% agree. I mean like I said, every time I go back and I'm surprised, this is another reason. I mean, we're all shooting digital. It's not necessarily free, hard drives obviously cost money but the reality is is that if I'm shooting something or I'm keeping every image that I shoot that isn't out of focus or that if I know I don't already have another like sister shot of that same subject that is better. So most of the things I will keep on that off chance that I'm gonna come back a few years later just feeling creatively differently and all of a sudden I'm like oh wow, I can do something with this now. Nice. Alright, so let's talk about this one. Alright so this is a Buddhist monk taken in Myanmar and Bagan, ancient temple city. Lots of stupas and pagodas and all sorts of wonderful things out there. Myanmar's a place that I had always wanted to go and had found myself out there for the first time in 2013. Yeah, it's it's probably number one in my list right here. I highly recommend it. It looks spectacular. As you know the doors are open now and people are kind of flooding in but it's starting to build up the infrastructure, becoming more easy to travel to get to. They're still just so, the people are so friendly and they're so beautiful. And you know unlike a lot of other places in Southeast Asia they haven't been jaded by so many years on the travel circuit. So you can still get unique experiences there. So I know some people at home are probably gonna be asking, did you get permission from this guy? Did he sign a model release? Can you tell us a little bit about that. Absolutely. So with with this monk, I actually worked with a local monastery and got permission from the head of the monastery to do this. I do have a model release so that I could use this. I've actually licensed this image. This is image was taken like right now I'm sponsored by Sony but it was taken by a Canon camera that was licensed to Canon in the Asian territories for a number of years. But yeah I make sure I get model releases anytime it's a visible identifiable subject when I'm doing this stuff. And yes I generally ask permission every time I'm out there doing things. A lot of times the work that I'm doing, I have fixers or translators or people with me and I'll make sure that some of this is correlated. There are times of course when you're getting candid shots. In those situations sometimes I'll try to capture the moment and then afterwards I'll follow up. Just so that I could get a model release so that I can do more with the photos. Makes sense. Alright, next up. This is actually Myanmar again. I include this in there. This is I can't remember the actual name, I think it's-- Lake Inle? It's not Lake Inle. It is in Mandalay, it's the U Bein Bridge. B-I-E-N, I believe. And it's a wonderful, it's right there in the main lake in Mandalay. And essentially what happens is that sunset obviously, a little haze that is common in Southeast Asia around sunset, it's near a local monastery. And so what happens a lot of these monks and a lot of these people cross the bridge, across each side and so you pay one of the boat guys essentially to take you out there. I'm like okay this is the spot, stop here, and then I'll wait and essentially-- So you were on land to get the shot or were you in a boat? I was in a boat. 'Cause you had a boat, okay. So looks like you were getting fairly close down to the water. Yeah, I mean, the boats are, it's just paddle boats or the rowboat so I'm kind of hanging off the front edges. I'm kind of directing my little boat rower and you know, don't row, don't move. Trying to get the shot, low ISO, come on. Yeah, working from a boat can be really challenging. Absolutely. So this is the city of Banff up in Alberta. Banff National Park and it's the beautiful mountain town. One of the most beautiful places in North America in my personal opinion. And yeah, I went up and did some projects for Canadian government up there and this is one of the images that I kind of envisioned when I was doing research for it and happened to find a good spot and it snowed. It's been snowing up there before I got there so it all kind of worked out. And you know, I would imagine there's a number of people who look at an image like this and go yeah, that's a nice image I'd probably take that same image but... notice it's not the middle of the day folks. Okay, this is either, I don't know if it's sunset or sunrise but you were out there in the dark. I don't know if this is on a parking lot or did you have to ski up there? It was it was switchbacks, like Devil's switchbacks, car switchbacks where people drive. But it was after sunset. So this is during blue hour. So the temperature at this time because this was actually around a polar vortex so it was actually around negative 20 degrees and we were hanging outside for a good 20, 30 minutes. Kind of waiting for the light to be just right and this specific exposure, I believe, I can't remember offhand but I believe is a couple minutes. So it's actually pretty dark. I'm getting the very tail end of the blue hour as that kind of blue hue fills the opposite side of the sky, depending on from when the sun is. Yeah, great time of day to be out there shooting but it's a little inconvenient. A little inconvenient And so yeah. Alrighty. This is Koluglijufur waterfall in Northern Iceland. There are some auroras happening above. So this is taken during winter. I believe it was February or March last year or the year before. And I just one of those epic nights up in that part of the world. It's close to the Arctic Circle so you know that you generally get more aurora activity or at least you can see stuff that's more visible. And yeah, I mean Iceland's a place that we were talking about before, I've visited more times than any other country. I'll be back there in two weeks for teaching another workshop and it's my 23rd trip to Iceland. Which is a little bit ridiculous. And so if this was in, you said February? Yes this, you know what, actually now that I think about it, this was actually taken in November. Okay, it's pretty much dark all the time there 'cause it is right next to the-- Yeah, we're getting close to the winter equinox and so, or winter solstice. Were you shooting primarily nighttime stuff on this whole trip or was it-- For most of it. This was actually a private workshop. Some individual had hired me to come out there and take them all around Iceland. And so we were focusing mostly on auroras and of course the beautiful waterfalls out there. And so we had a camper van so we can kind of chase the light wherever we need to go and it just kind of really worked out well with the good timing. You know, I think for most people traveling to Iceland that wouldn't be the time that they normally go but it actually works out really well for photography because folks if you haven't noticed through the images that we've shown so far not a lot of them are taken at noontime. In bright sun, okay. We've had a lot of nighttime stuff and end of the day stuff. Alright, diving deep. This is back into Iceland of course, You'll probably see a few more Iceland maybe. So this is inside an ice cave. So ice cave, photographing ice caves is one of the things that I love to do. I am a cold weather guy. I'm a cold weather mountain guy. So like my happy place is actually in negative 20 degrees on a glacier in the middle of some place, that's where I like to be. And so this was taken literally looking up at one of the almost like a cenote or reverse cenote of a a water drip from the top of the glacier. So I'm inside a cave looking almost straight vertical. Oh really, this is looking up? This is looking straight up. 'Cause it seemed like that was something that you would walk, that was the entrance but that's a chimney. Exactly and all the water had dripped and essentially come down and this is one of the years that I took this essentially there had been too much extra rain that had come earlier in the winter season and a lot of the cave had been destroyed because of rock and sediment had come through and so you had a handful of these little things that had popped up, these little chimneys because of that water melt. We should mention, we don't have any disclaimer on this class but there's safety issues when you do this. We had we've had ice caves up here in the northwest that have collapsed and killed people. Absolutely. And so any thoughts or words of warning? For sure. I mean, if you're going into any of these things, I highly you hire a guy that knows what they're doing. Generally they're gonna be supplying safety equipment and also they know when you can go in there. So in specific to Iceland, the ice cave season is generally around November 15th through the end of March because otherwise it's getting too too warm. And when it's too warm you don't want to go in an ice cave. You want to go in when it's cold as possible. People don't realize how heavy ice is, where one of those big things lands on you and it's pretty much, there's nothing after that. Over very quickly, yeah. Alright. So another waterfall. This is actually again in Iceland. This is Bruarfoss. This is a popular waterfall in Iceland but from a different angle. Most people see it from the bridge where you're kind of looking straight up and I certainly a photograph that probably a hundred times that way. But it's fun being back and going going there in the winter time which is my favorite time to photograph some of these specific waterfalls because I put the blue hue with the contrast of the snow. And really kind of get into the waterfall. So I'm sitting there and I'll bring little micro spikes to kind of get me onto the rocks and I have Gators on so I can get a little bit wet and essentially try to have a more intimate moment. You're not just leaning out the car window? No, no. This is 50 minute hike which isn't too bad but then I'm literally built crawling or climbing on ice rocks to get to this place. Like the water there is not only freezing but it's also probably 10, 15 feet deep and you know it's not something again, you recommend for everyone but having been so many times and wanting something that was unique, sometimes you can put forth the effort. And so technically getting this shot, I'm guessing a tripod? Tripod. Very long shutter speed. Were you using a neutral density filter? I use a circular polarizer because you know in wintertime in Iceland, the light is so low on the horizon that you just don't get harsh contrast like almost any part of the day. That's why I love visiting in Iceland during that time, during wintertime. And so I was able to use a circular polarizer to remove a lot of the reflections from the rocks but I wanted to keep some of, if you can see there in the bottom left-hand corner where I wanted to have a little bit of detail. I didn't want to remove some of that total reflection because otherwise would just be black. And so I kind of dialed it in as what I needed and then because I was shooting at a time of day that there was enough overcast, where I was able to get about a second exposure. Photographing, I think it was around F/ allowing me to elongate that shutter speed a little bit. Nice, very nice. So more Iceland. I guess I have nothing but Iceland. I'm totally fine with Iceland. I'm totally fine with it because they have great stuff there. Well, this is this is Jokulsarlon. This is the ice iceberg beach. The black sand beach on the other side of the Glacier Lagoon. I love going there during sunrise because you get specific scenes like this where you have beautiful crystallized ice and then you have a nice hot warm sun in the background and the kind of contrast between the blues, the cold blues and the warm oranges-- A beautiful mixing. Yeah, it's a good balance between the two. I mean, blue and orange or blue and yellow, they go together, they're meant to be. They vibrate together. And so yeah it worked out well. Again, Gators, I like getting you know, well not be getting my feet wet. I like getting in the water because I want to get closer to my subjects and so I'm just prepared for this type of stuff. Making sure that I can get as close and get the shutter speed that I need using tripods to pull off scenes like this. So was this on a tripod? On a tripod, so what I do is-- That's very tricky because the sand want's to sink in. And so what I do is I minimize the tripod legs so that the sturdiest ones are the only ones that are out there 'cause I'm getting low to the ground and this iceberg is maybe two feet high. Yeah, you're a foot off the ground. Yeah, exactly. And so I'm going up there and what I do generally is, because I'm wearing the Gators, is I'll go in there and I'll kind of clamp the tripod down and then I'll push it down as hard as I can. Usually during a wave that's coming previous so that it can get in there. And then I'll wait and as long as the next wave isn't big enough to knock me over or obviously damage my camera gear, then I can get the shot. On the reverse end, make it a little bit safer, sometimes what I do is I wait for the water to come in and then as it's coming out I'll run out there, put it down why the water is receding, so the sand is soft so I can push it down fast enough and then I can quickly focus and then grab the shot. That's a little bit more tricky though. Yeah, so do you see the difference here? Because on one side we have him acting like a complete clown out on the beach, which any logical person, we look at him and go what is this idiot doing? And then he ends up with a beautiful image and-- There's a method to the madness. Yeah. It's not always acting stupid gets you good photos but sometimes you do have to just do whatever it takes to get those. I can tell you that I've had many times, because I've been to Iceland again so many times. I've had many times with wet boots going to this place because too big a wave came up, came over my Gators or something. So you know, it doesn't always work out ideally. Right, right. But great shot there. Thank you. Patagonia. Alright, down south. Patagonia's one of my favorite places to go in South America. This was specifically taken in Argentina in Los Glaciares National Park, just outside of the town of El Chalten. This is Cerro Torre. One of my favorite mountains in all of the world. It's a unique spire range, it's incredibly difficult to climb, which I've never actually climbed it myself. But has this beautiful kind of Lagoon right there in front of it and if you go at certain times of the year, more of those ice chunks are kind of popping out there. And if you are fortunate to get beautiful weather like this and to have things with no wind to get reflection. Which is really difficult to get. Because that's one of the windiest places on earth. Absolutely. All the shoots, all the storms that come off those mountain and all the glaciers that are there. There's more glaciers there than I think anywhere else on the planet. And what happens is they form these weather patterns and then all this wind and wind comes out and is just brutal. I mean like brutal. I've been there and I've been through 90, 120 mile an hour winds. And obviously in those situations you can't get a shot. You're not getting reflections. Yeah, you're inside. You're huddling in your tent and and hoping that it stops. But it's worth it because sometimes it takes a couple days to wait it out. And you really gotta, it's just like... if you have the right camera and you go out there, it doesn't mean the lights gonna be like that. You'd have to be dedicated to going hey, this might happen sometime in the next week. I'm going out every morning. Absolutely. In a space like Patagonia especially, I've literally known, now I've been fortunate every time I've gone. But I know other photographers that have gone down there and taken three weeks off their work, whether they're doing it full-time or not, And gone down there and had three days of quality light. Three days and it's expensive to get down there and it takes a long time to get there and then you've got to hike out to many of these locations. So it's a frustrating place that rewards you when it's kind and unfortunately you will probably be very angry if it doesn't. Yeah, yeah. You did well in that one. Thank you very much. I think this may be our last one. Excellent, so this is another Patagonia. This is actually in the Chilean side so this is in Torres del Paine National Park. These are the famous Cordillera Paine in the background there. They're known as the Blue Mountains although they look a little bit more brown there but really they hold a lot of blue hue inside them, which is why they're called the Blue Mountains. There's a lot of series of dead trees that happen pretty close to the Salto Grande waterfall. And essentially during this one night of epic sunset, I was photographing the waterfall, got a couple images I was happy with, and I saw these on an earlier scouting expedition the day before and literally like tried to beeline it. The wind was about 60 miles an hour and so I took the shots, ran off. I knew that it was like a 15 minute run, ran over there and luckily there was still a little bit of light and kind of clamped down and got the shot that I wanted. Nice, nice. And I'm sure if somebody asked you what are you running for? There's a really nice looking dead tree over here. It sounds crazy. I have to go find it, the light is good. Beautiful. Well, thanks a lot for sharing those. I hope you're able to pick something out of there. Notice not a lot of noonday shots. You know your light quite well. Oh actually, one more. One more. One more Patagonia, last one hopefully. So this is a Laguna Amarga. Again, Torres del Paine. So this is essentially one of the lakes on the east side of the park. If you look straight in the back there, there's kind of spires in the background. That's Los Torres, it's a very popular mountain in Patagonia and specifically Torres del Paine. And this was again, incredibly fortunate with beautiful light and no wind. So beautiful reflections and so this is actually a pretty massive panorama. I took this with my Sony A7R and so I think it's four or six shots wide in vertical. So it's 160, 200 megapixels. It could be reproduced really large. I can go-- For the hotel lobby. Exactly. One more. One more, okay, last one hopefully. Hopefully. So this is Seljalandsfoss. This is another waterfall in Iceland. Beautiful sunset we had at this place. This is one of the most photographed waterfalls in Iceland but this is taken during the summer when you were photographing typically at like two or three o'clock in the morning. So I believe this shot was actually like 3 a.m. and what happens is the midnight sun. So sunrise and sunset converge because they're so close together and so if you have the right conditions like this because the sun goes so low on the horizon that if you have the right clouds, you could essentially have a sunrise and sunset that combines for like six hours. Just a nice long shooting session. It will spoil you anytime you go photograph anywhere else because you like I have time and then all of a sudden it's gone whereas here you can shoot all night. Yeah, excellent. (laughs) I never checked what was my last one. This is an aerial photograph in the Central Highlands so I hired a plane essentially for the entire day to take me all over places that I love in Iceland. And see it from a different perspective. I love doing aerial work, I have a couple drones but sometimes you want a full frame large 42 megapixel sensor taking these shots and drones just don't cut it for that. Right, right. Puffin, wildlife. Alright so-- I threw a little bit of that in there, good. A little wildlife photography. I like to dabble as we talked about. I like to shoot kind of what I'm feeling. So this was taken in Grimsey Island, an island far north above the Arctic Circle in Iceland and it's just something like to dabble with. Same thing with with tigers. I mean, it's based on opportunity. What country was this in? This was actually in the country of Denver, Colorado. So this is the Wild Animal Sanctuary just outside Denver. They do lots of amazing work out there and I was actually testing a camera for Sony at the time and came away with a very intimate moment where I'm pretty sure this tiger wanted to have me for lunch. Beautiful close-up there. Thank you so much.

Class Description

Click here to ask John Greengo your questions for future One Hour Photos!

Every month, John gives you an hour of expert guidance and immediate feedback with ten student questions and ten critiques in this exciting new series we're calling One Hour Photo. John will also sit down with one guest photographer who will offer insights, advice, industry knowledge, and participate in a photo critique of student images, and this month's guest is Colby Brown.

In this hour, John responds to questions about lens recommendations for different types of cameras and genres of photography, photography tips for how to get great sharp images in low light conditions, the differences and benefits between auto ISO and manual mode, just to list a few.

Colby Brown is a photographer, photo educator and author based out of Eastern Pennsylvania. Specializing in landscape, travel and humanitarian photography, his photographic portfolio spans the four corners of the globe. Throughout his work, one can see that he combines his love of the natural world with his fascination of its diverse cultures. Check out his CreativeLive classes.