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The Outdoor Photography Experience

Lesson 14 of 29

Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips

Chris Burkard

The Outdoor Photography Experience

Chris Burkard

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Lesson Info

14. Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips

Lesson Info

Pismo Beach - Composition & Tips

this is a really cool spot we're out there 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 through the back of the wave well it really contrast with the blue ocean right we have all the sudden the green and the blue mixed together so that is already providing some depth some contrast right we were elevated up here we have clouds we have city cityscape kind of beach and we have ocean right that's kind of stacking up our image to give us some kind of foreground background elements um another thing one thing that's really hard right is when you get onto the sand or you get on to the beach on do you lose this kind of elevated perspective everything starts to kind of fall in the same line right so when you get there what are some things you can do to help give your image a little more depth because that I find that it's easier when you're elevated you know to kind of let th...

ings fall away 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 lowers great but but in addition to getting lower kind of what are you looking for you know adding the foreground like me I would be wanting that like sand leading out maybe totally that's exactly it that's perfect so um like like I talked about before you know we scour the speech you're looking at every perspective right the pier's great cause you have all these different angles you work with but when you get out of the sand it starts to not feel this 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 your swing set is kind of in your four grand maybe going over by these lifeguard 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 kind of right above it so we can shoot a little wider and you guys just you know rule of thumb anytime you're shooting wider it feels more three dimensional because you have you have stuff like right next to you know it feels like to 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 could do to elevate our work elliot are photography and and to make it more lifelike more real I mean I don't care if it's you know in wedding photography for example what is one of the number one things that we do to make our images feel three dimensional and this is a camera setting it has nothing to do with like all these settings but it's just it's a you know you guys use it probably every day just background exactly right shallow word off the field right it's like one of the easiest ways to cool I'm going to set my object my subject against the background I'm gonna make them stand out I'm going to get you know rab 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 mouthful of cake and stuff right so you shoot like a fifty and you shoot you know f one four you should eighty five one two and that lens by itself it creates that field right so what is one of the coolest things to do when you're shooting like weddings reports you're right you have evening time maybe you have some twinkly lights right it's really nice and cool on blue outside you have those lights they're out of focus there all warm that contrast sets them apart right so anytime that we can set our subject against ah warm subject because the cool background or cool subject against the warm background we're gonna create three dimension three dimensional look just from that just from the quality and texture of light that were doing right 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 right when we just go to kind of the safety angle okay it's great and it works and I shot a thousand times and I always think it's good to get that angle especially to make the client happy to kind of get that safety shot but how much more unique to kind of work with this contrast of light worth a little harsher but you have the ability to kind of set things apart right you have you have stronger detail you have stronger kind of contrast between your subject those air really great things to look for in any location we go to you can shoot a road in so many different ways right could stand in the middle of the road you can have these little space lines they're kind of your anchor and theyjust it leads your lead your eye away right of a foggy day roads are amazing because those lions kind of fade off right there vanishing points you know or you put one of those lines in the corner and that's sort of leading your eye from the corner maybe to something more important in the side I've shot a lot of automotive stuff and that's one of the things we really work with whom we're shooting a car or a truck or an suv is is the road right the quality of the road and not necessarily meaning like how bumpy it is but like is it a black top like asphalt really like to find beautiful or is it is it a dirt road what's the curve of it you know what's it doing for your eye where you putting that road in correlation to the car her vehicle and I only use example because it applies to everything right you're shooting cyclists on the road if you're shooting if you shoot 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 so um exactly so here even to you guys we walked in 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 with the tide right where it was the beach and the tide and there was a point where it's almost a line that it draws what kind of leads off now if I was you know landscape photo like an evening time sunset that maybe one of the spots that I would go to write with those two points meat because it's an interesting section it's kind of a by section of these two water and land that's like a cool and warm surface right on dso thinking of things like that like locations like that and I want to take you guys in the bottom the pier because I want to go work with some reflection and looking kind of how we can sort of look in a totally different perspective the same object right how am I inviting people in this frame you I said this word before attainable I really aim to shoot images that feel attainable and I mean it could be like standing on the top of everest or it could be you know jumping off the pier but you want to feel like your subject can 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 to create that field is by shooting images that are timeless ok how do we shoot timeless images well and you're seventy we're gonna address that quite a bit but while we're here uh what are some things well take for example uh surfer general appeared right if that person if I take that image I process it right um and this is kind of getting onto another bigger broader subject but I'm glad I'm glad you brought it up but I think it's worth addressing is it's a really important subject to address so why did I choose to shoot him where he's jumping intothe son why did I choose not to shoot him where I could just I could see him super clearly I could see his board I could see his wet suit I could see everything picture perfect do you guys have any thoughts or ideas I have a feeling that you have taken that shot before you won something I have I have absolutely that's a really good way to put it to you but also 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 logo's by any advertisements by things that he's wearing because I'm using a really contrast situation with this super intense light it could feel like nineteen sixty three or two thousand fifteen doesn't matter because there's nothing to identify that he is here now and that is that is a quality that I want to bring any image I shoot anything why it's good for commercial sales it's because it lasts forever one it's good for I mean that's just like thinking you know in terms of like you know as a business side of things it's good for engagement with with people and prince and all these things because somebody comes to my gallery for example they look at a photograph they're not going to do that's such a cool photo but he's got these big hurley logo's their logo's all over and 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 you know with a wet suit on totally incognito going into a frame or a surfer going down the line and you know you can't really make them out they can easier 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 mohr engagement via social media more engagement via print sales more engagement via like people just liking the image right and we're not here to shoot photos people because he will like them but for me at least I want to create a body of work that's going to 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 backer and here's my elevated perspective okay now that I have that how can I do this and make images that are going to feel and last and really engage in motion and this is what I mean I don't want to engage in motion right how do you engage in motion nobody's gonna be emotionally attached to an image if they can't relate to that image nobody can relate that image if they see somebody else and can't associate with it if there you know if if if that was like some famous person jumping off this thing all they're going to see is like oh that's so and so jumping off this bridge right that's all they're going to think about but if it's someone who's incognito they're going to look at that and be like wow like that could be me I could do that you know that I remember that feeling that warm light you know hitting my skin that fear of jumping off the pier you know that amazing green you know conditions on the on the water surface like that is going to strike some kind of accord internally and and make people kind of relate to so just thinking on a sort of this sort of emotional 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 you know f stops and apertures I know we kind of keep coming back to the same idea and concept and I can't I can't stress the importance enough of this like the psychological value on emotional value of images you know that's that's one thing that is really interesting you know I can look att a body of work of mine and check out images and be like wow you know this images made me you know x amount of money and this image is maybe expand money and you know these photographs have have had so much value and and then you know another whole scale I could look at images back what's the what's been the like you know emotional value of these images like the psychological value what the images people resonated the most with you know in the photographs that you know they see and people are like oh my gosh this photograph was was so amazing you noble oblige but you know I bought it for a massive print in my home you don't hang over my bed because I've been there before I love that place right visited that location right is not a hard thing to do ok like there should be absolutely no no question about whether it is a challenging thing to take a good picture but to shoot an engaging picture one that speaks to people you know not just one that makes them open up their pocketbooks I think one of the things I notice a lot especially with this idea of social media is that you have a lot of folks out there that um our uh on social media and just like they're just kind of regurgitating like the thing that captions and their regurgitating like um you know quotes and things they read you know and like oh my gosh if I hear somebody say the mountains were calling and they must go like I'm gonna punch myself in the face because that's not the place to just caption other people you know like this is the place where you make your own quotes be your own person have opinions you know be a human being right tell a story tell us why this was important tell what it that's what it felt like don't tell us what we see because we can see that you're looking at social media you can see what isthe right so it is so important to be your own person to be a unique individual and I think that that for me is what I found is one of most beneficial things about social media and it's really benefited me and terms of doing a lot of social influence or work because people know that I have my own perspective one that I'm not afraid is not goingto not everybody's not gonna agree with you know because I'm not just like pulling out inspirational quotes sometimes you know it's it's more about what I feel what I think somebody's personal sin is not but that is one of the best things you can do for social media you can be yourself you can tell us why you're you why you shot that if you shot that because you just want to go copy somebody then that's why he shot that if you shot that because it meant something to you you know other than the mountains were calling then please tell me this is the place you make quotes okay not the place that you copy quotes right and that is it's there's so much value in that um yes about the composition going back and focus point and I was saying like how often and how you put yourself out of your comfort zone especially for like always shot always be putting yourself in and I'm like so important yeah like you like you said it's it's really it's really important I think that I think that that's one of the coolest things about this as an art form is that we can use it and to be in uncomfortable situations and those incredible situations are great for taking pictures you know but they're also even better about learning things about ourselves right that's why we do them that's why we're drawn to those uncomfortable situations because after you go through that experience you know he's learned something about yourself you know and who knows maybe it's just the fact that I hate being up high on a rope dangling around you know or I hate being and you know scary freezing cold water right the hate that you know I hate this but but usually you survive and everything's good and you're like wow that was amazing I I realize that you know I could do that or whatever I mean that's that wasn't your eye opener for me realizing that I could be a photographer for a living that I knew I was willing to go and travel and do those things you know um yeah so one teo asked like about composition wise yes you usually do completely put it this way this way and to move you like folk should in the sun or something like this no I mean how often you experiment and it's always always I think it's so important like I said that last little tidbit of that video was you know I was approaching this like I had you know maybe an editorial or commercial simon I'm looking at every perspective like there's my safety angle shooting front lit into the sun everything is perfect I'm going to get every shocks not missing them and then here's you know my other perspectives my other perspectives that you know are a little more dangerous to shoot not like physically but more just like I might miss a couple frames which is okay right in chile for example um one of these great photographs from that trip that I took good on my screen please um I uh you know all of these angles for the most part especially when shooting surfing you know thes air angles or perspectives that you know you you are not like the safest one right like for this one for example like this was a cover of surfer magazine but you know there was a lot of waves where the person was way inside and there wasn't the rocks there but I knew that I wanted to go to the spot where I felt like I could I could get a unique image and although that was a little bit of a risk that was a part of this one for example there was frames where I totally lost the eye because this whitewash was up in front of him right here which was a bummer because I was missing like amazing pictures but I got this one photo right and a lot of times I've realised that it's not about the quantity of work you know maybe if that's your goal on your shooting like you know you should have a contest of some sport like I just want to get like a ton of good images or you're in hawaii just like with the thousands of photographers is firing off photos but for me it's like I'd rather go and get the one good image that really like is going to resonate with the trip it could be the cover could be that whatever and that that's has more value to me you know there's a lot of these things that where there is a ton of you know just that happened chance that I'll get that one moment that I'm risking it right I could have shot you know one hundred yards to the right and just I had no problem but I wanted to shoot in this area where these birds might take off right it might give me a really unique perspective here so that is that is really important I think experimenting out of your comfort zone with with the angles you're shooting with with different perspectives so crucial right can't stress enough the value of that and and that's how you learn what you your personal style and your look you know is by trying different things that's every place I go to you know I'm constantly thinking about um you know what I could do differently what I could do better how I could shoot it better then maybe somebody else I saw or what I could bring to the table to give it my own perspective right because I have any more questions on ah on these things on the cameras and setting this stuff like that to what what we're shooting before with like the center spot focused and things of that nature anything out on the web uh I got one more little video here and there we're gonna wrap it up for the day hopefully to it made sense with when I was talking about that you know that the focus dot and keeping it low because with you know when you're shooting you know action sports things are moving really fast you can't just be like framing and then you know are focusing and then moving around you have to kind of track that subject and so to track that subject do you have you really have to put your focus dot where you want them to be you know just just my own personal style when it I like to frame according that I don't really like to you know shoot extremely wide and then just crop into what I want you know because um doesn't quite work the same way so yeah about that I just um I mean I personally I've had you know issue's tracking where you try to track a subject and it goes into focus out of focus yes and it seems like that's kind of what you're fixing but I don't know if I completely understood the concept yeah so that's great uh is going to talk about um you know when you're when you're tracking a subject it all depends on where you want them in the frame right um usually I'm setting my centre my focus dot on the most contrast ing subject in my frame right this is one of the hardest things to shoot is shooting a surfer from the back of a wave the hardest thing to shoot in the world because what's happening is you're this big flat surface right and you have basically someone that you can't really see it's goingto emerge from this thing so I'm in the back of the pier shooting looking back I don't know if I have a picture of this that could um give you a uh give you a vision for it looks like but basically it's really tough on dso what I usually use I'm setting my focus dot on the very lowest point that khun go and I'm leaving that on the back of the wave where there's white whitewash being broken up that's contrast ing so if it's me most these most these cameras that they worked really really well when you're focusing on something that's very contrast e right you're focusing if you're trying to focus just like up here in the middle of the air trying to catch a bird it's never gonna happen you're gonna have a nightmare so if I was focusing here where it's pretty contrast e or if I'm focusing here like there's really good contrast right there um this for example I'm focusing right here there's a lot of contrast if I was trying to focus on somewhere here there really wouldn't work so it's it's really a matter of finding that contrast ing point of the frame and doing it now um typically when somebody when I'm that thing about the behind the wave thing when somebody is moving just lengthwise in front of your screen like this you don't really have to do tracking auto focus you can just do one shot auto focus a couple of times you know like they're surfing there going you're pushing one shot out of focus you're taking your your focus button off right you just locking unlocking focus right so for example would be like locking focus moving with him and maybe they're getting a little bit closer get a little closer okay I'm gonna lock focus again cool moving with them I'm gonna lock focus again because they're not really moving toward you really fast it's not like you are a shooting a car driving towards you which in that case you need to track the entire way correct um and so what I'm usually doing is I'm just constantly you know doing a one shot you know autofocus in the points that I need it and then when that moment happens I'm shooting it right so my image is going to be in focus there if I need to or if I'm getting to a situation where I know that I'm gonna have tio I'm going to have to ah sorry I'm gonna pull it this I would have to track them I'll take it from auto focus single shot out of focus or whatever to auto focus continuous and that way if they're moving towards me you know like my hand for example they're moving towards me they're going to this thing's tracking the entire way right so like that now obviously see this screen my hand is gonna be so easy to track warm on cool right if I'm shooting you know if my if my hand was you know warm on this bag it would be a lot harder cause it's a similar color scheme so you're looking for items in your frame that are going to be very contrast e easy to pick up on so your camera has the least amount of work um now obviously I tend to be like one of people like I just I love you just set my focus and like kind of forget about it you know so the least amount of time you have to do that the better I tend to use always back button auto focus yes marat back but not to focus a bit on the perk of that well back but not a focus is something I adopted to a long time ago and for those of you who don't who don't know it's basically it enables your shutters your trigger or your you know your shutter button and your focus button to be independently operated right so you're focusing here and you're firing with this button right so you're not trying to two in once you're not constantly focusing and then like justin around you khun focus here and you can take all your hands often just fire the button whenever you want one of the best things about that is a lot of cameras have this default setting where if it's not in focus it won't hurt the picture right sometimes I'm shooting a sequence and maybe one frame out of the sequence falls out of focus I don't really care I just want to get the whole thing right and so I love that setting it's also something you need to do for a water housing usually because you have your trigger on top and you have your focus in the back right this trigger you can't you don't have a sensitivity like you do on the camera you know to like feel this little button right so you need to have a need to have that back button there's also no way for your camera to focusing and firing at the same time so that is that is that the way to do that it enables a lot cleaner imagery and I find that it's something that I just I love you like even first near like this like I just focused once right on where I knew this whole scene was going to happen now the wave the wave formed and broke in probably a ten foot space okay so I just auto focused once on where the action was was predetermined was kind of going to happen and then I just took folks I just let the folks go on I just fired frames right that kind of answer that question do we can play with some of these cameras and I can show you like this how I would set things up a swell might be easier it's hard to just like verbally talk about it this yellow dot um any other questions you guys that's kind of a question you're on the case of n s you're shooting with us tony all right sunny sunny land no no that's just the sixteen thirty five minutes before maybe it's the other care o uh this one to twenty four four twenty four million it's not a city lens so much just emmanuel yeah yeah mr manual focus lines so I need and it's ah it's a thing is the reason it's like this is mainly um like I wouldn't really want to use us for city because it's not it's like yeah it's not smooth at all it's just that it's not a native lens for the cameras you need that you need to be able to control your f stop independently of the device but yeah it is it is really smooth and stuff like that the throw is not very long so I don't know if it worked great for city but it might yeah I use this one because it is the only twenty four millimeter that's f one for that they currently offer for the camera with with the native mount the email sony because it's a story that is not like a camera can live yeah it's not there's no adapter to use megaphones no visit I don't use any adapters they're great and on I recommend anybody who wants to get into the system and wants to keep their native lenses reusing adaptor there awesome uh for me I feel like if you know using adaptor on one of these it kind of kills the whole point of having a small lightweight camera right you put a uh you know a big adaptor on a small like right on the lens it's like a larger lens and it's like you know why wouldn't I just get a you know f two eight sixteen that makes it tiny and light you know you kind of killed the the point of that and plus the adaptors going to still add a bit of space between your camera your lens you're actually adding more

Class Description

Short on time? This class is available HERE as a Fast Class, exclusively for Creator Pass subscribers.

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.



I've been staying up all night to watch the live broadcast. As somebody else here mentioned (latsok), it's emphasizes on the non-technical aspects (emotion, engagement, colour and composition) rather than the technical stuff like shutter speeds, iso and f-stop. Although I can use some help in both, the technical aspects are not only camera specific but fairly objective as well. The non-technical aspects however are something much harder to grasp. Getting help in this by no-one less than Chris Burkard is just amazing. I bought this class so I can re-watch certain parts of the broadcast again whenever I need it. But also to show my appreciation for Chris Burkard and Creative Live for providing this great online course!

Matt Redfern

This class was packed full of amazing knowledge. I really enjoyed the topics covered and have found it super helpful for my work. I have had so many takeaways ranging anywhere from how to put myself out there, finding my style that stands out, practical applications, etc. I would highly recommend this class to everyone interested in photography! Big thanks to Chris and CreativeLive for putting this together.


This was a phenomenal class. I highly recommend it to anyone. Chris is not only a sensational photographer, he is a wonderful teacher. He provides such detailed information and freely gives same to his students. He is really really available and eager to answer questions and so easy to understand. I learned so much and I was thrilled. I am very very grateful I found this particular class.