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The Summer Workshop

Lesson 5 of 8

The Ruins: Light, Lenses and Composition

Alex Strohl

The Summer Workshop

Alex Strohl

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Lesson Info

5. The Ruins: Light, Lenses and Composition

Lesson Info

The Ruins: Light, Lenses and Composition

(camera click) In this chapter, I show you how I shoot this 14 hundred year old mine ruins in the jungle of Mexico. Coming back to the basics, here, I am going for sunset because it will give me this nice, soft light. I'm sharing framing tips. Like making the most of natural lens distortion. Using foreground in your photos. Giving scale using non-professional models. Like your travel buddies. And number four, creating a photo set that tells the story of your experience there. But before all that, let's talk about expectations. It's a huge thing in photography and it begins with being aware of them. I looked up photos of this ruins and they looked huge. And they were but not as big as I expected. Then I saw amazing aerial photos and when I got there, there were signs of "no drone" everywhere. So I kept my cool and tried to make the most of the situation. (adventurous free spirit music) It is the end of the day in Mexico, we drove an hour and a half out of Tulum. I'm at the Coba ruin...

s. There's actually a temple just behind me. So we picked these ruins for the variety they have. This is a bunch of temples in the jungle. And actually they are for access for sunset. You pay a little more and you can get in and stay after sunset to shoot the soft light so make your research. Today I have my day bag. I left the big bag at home. This is my light bag. I have one camera, two lenses and just water. The main entrance is just behind and first I wanna scout to see what makes this place unique. You know, besides the fact that it's 14 hundred years old, Mayan temples. So let's just do it. (whistling) (stepping on rock) (camera clicking) I've been walking around here and I'm just being open. I'm letting kind of a mind be free and don't have any preconceived notions. I mean this is new territory for me so I want to be innocent and just shoot whatever I think is interesting because I think my photo set will build itself like that. One thing that I like to do when I shoot buildings is that instead of framing them kind of centered or higher like some people do like this. I actually like to have them lower. So my lower third is down here and I can use the lens distortion to my advantage. It makes the temple look a little bigger, like this. (soft music) How is it up here? Jungle. Jungle in the cell towers. We've been walking around this place for an hour looking for interesting angles and winning out the light. But I'm realizing that this is a tricky place to shoot. So it's time to resort to plan B. Now this is not what we expected. This is a classic scenario of, you see photos of something not exactly like that. We'll try to make do. I think we can get a couple shots. I'm going to shoot some photos of two people going down. It's pretty cool, the effect. So that's one. Then I was gonna shoot some zoom lens but I was hoping for the temples to stick out but they don't. I tried. I know. Let's do the first shot. (free-spirit music) (camera clicking) Making images that feel natural is a big deal for me. So I have to give a few instructions for my subject prior. And let them behave after with minimum feedback and interaction from me. Give the a task that requires their focus and whole attention and shoot while they do that. For this shot where there's like a subject in the landscape behind. I think they give a lot of scale. Even having Andrea having her camera in hand accessory or backpack. Just something to fill the frame just besides one person standing. Just shoot better. She's doing something. She's not just... She's (mumbles) backpack, she's got her camera. It looks more natural. (mumbles) When the horizon line is not very interesting. It's just flat. I like to get in the trees. You see up here. So I can kind of fill out this empty sky. The line of the tree here can leads to the subject down there who's hitting the light. And there's on tree here. Another tree closer. So it kind od leads your eye into your subject. Si Will and I just swapped lenses. Actually, Will is the guy filming. When I already swapped lenses, it made me think of something that I do. I just turned off my camera because the sensor has electricity in it, attracts dust. So now that it's off, I can just be chill. Saves dust spots. (camera clicking) Now that the sun is setting it's time to shoot the water images. I'm using the steep stairs as a leading line into my subjects. And into the jungle below. so we cam back to this one because it's my favorite. I think it's way better preserved than the other one. I tired to get a couple of shots before leaving. The settings are 1/60th of the second, f/4 at iso 125. (camera clicking) There's a photo to be had here. It is the Mayan igloo. This is the Mayan (mumbles). It's like the Alphen but in Mexico. It's the Mayan-glo. Mexican-glo. Alright this side isn't working. Change sides. Coming Will-man? Will. Can I use you for a photo? Yeah. Just put it on the log.(mumbleS) Can you grab your bike, please? Yeah. Left to right. Biking left to right, please. So I got to change my settings here so I can get Will sharp cause he's gonna be moving and there's not much lighting here so it's 1/320, 1/320, f/4, 400 iso. There you go. Was it a successful trip to the ruins? I think so. Just for the experience alone. But did the photos tell the story of that experience? I have to check. And I want to show you this because a lot of the process of taking photos is not being sure you got the right photos, things not living up to the expectations. You just not sure. There's a lot of uncertainty. This how we works. This the real deal. Like, you may not always get the photos you want. Or you're not always sure. You may walk back home with photos you're not entirely satisfied until you sit down and start editing and looking and then you're happy. But there's a lot of uncertainty so just come to expect it so you don't feel disheartened. That's it for shooting the ruins. I had to go with the flow to make things happen in this chapter. So hopefully, you'll think that these points I'm going to give you the next time you go shooting. Do your research. Find out opening and closing hours. Look at photos online, offline. Ask the locals and make sure you know which side the sun is setting based on what you're gonna shoot. But still keep in mind that the spot might not be as photogenic as you expected. That happens. Stay there and work with it. In the next chapter, I go shooting this insane blue whole of fresh water in the ground called a cenote. (free-spirit music)

Class Description

Summer is the most active time of the year. Everything is more accessible, it’s nice outside, the perfect time to go shoot new work and have fun. Alex Strohl is bringing his course to CreativeLive to get you ready to confidently make the most of your summer.

You’ll learn:

  • Camera gear, tech gear and accessories to pack
  • Setting yourself up for the iconic sunrise and sunset pictures
  • Light, Lenses and Composition
  • Utilizing a drone
  • Underwater techniques
  • Editing techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop

This summer set yourself to have fun, explore creatively and expand your photography portfolio. 

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