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This Blog Is Moving

June 8, 2010

UPDATE: The new blog is live! I fixed the incorrect links below and all should work properly now. All new content will be posted to themes blog site. Thank you for your continued support!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog and one day soon find this link inactive it’s because I’m moving the blog. The new Bret Edge Photography Blog will be online within 10 days. Bookmark it at All of the current content will be imported to the new blog…or so they say.

On another note – epic conditions in the Tetons this morning. Been shooting for 2.5 hours non-stop. Can’t wait to share some images with y’all.

Have a great week!

Give the Bird to the Rule of Thirds

June 7, 2010

If you’ve ever read a photography “how to” book you are no doubt familiar with the rule of thirds.  If not, here’s a brief explanation.  Imagine two horizontal and two vertical lines running through your viewfinder, dividing it into equal sections.  Where those lines intersect are the sacred “sweet spots”.  If you were to compose an image using the rule of thirds you would place your main subject at one of those intersections.  Simple enough, right?

Back when I was a newbie photographer I obsessed over the rule of thirds.  Never would I compose an image with the main subject smack dab in the middle of the frame.  Blasphemy!  But here’s the thing: the rule of thirds is a guideline, a suggestion.  It is not an absolute. 

I’ll be the first to admit that more often than not using the rule of thirds as a compositional aid will result in the most dynamic photo.  I no longer obsess over it but I’ve been at this photography thing for 11 years now and building compositions is a lot like breathing – it’s just automatic.  I arrange the elements within my images such that main subjects are right there in the “sweet spot”, even though I didn’t make a conscious decision to put them there.  Every once in a while though, I get a little rebellious.  Every now and then, I’ll center my main subject.

When is the right time to give the rule of thirds the bird and create a centered composition?  I don’t really know.  The best answer I can offer is to say, “When it just feels right.”  Yeah, I know – how very new age of me.  The reality is that photography is not a science.  It is an art.  Even in today’s high tech digital world, where cameras are nothing more than small handheld computers, what comes out of them is art.  By it’s very nature, art is subjective.  We all see the world through different eyes and what I think is a masterpiece, you may consider a master piece of crap.

I think the best way to learn when the time is right for a little breaking of the rules is to experiment.  When you’re working a composition try using the rule of thirds.  Then break the rules and place your subject in the center.  Most of us use digital cameras and it doesn’t cost a single penny to click the shutter.  Be liberal with that sucker!  The more you photograph, and the more you experiment, the more adept you will become at recognizing when a centered composition is the right choice.

Take a look at the two images in this post.  What do you think of the compositions?  Was centering them the right choice?  If so, why?  If not, why?  What would you have done different?  Let’s get a lively discussion going.  Maybe it’ll give a newbie the inspiration to offer a middle finger salute to “the rules” and start experimenting with centered compositions?

Jackson Hole, Here I Come!

June 4, 2010

Hey folks,

In a few hours I’m headed out to Jackson Hole for two weeks of photography, hiking, camping and fun at our workshop June 10 – 13.  I won’t be active on the ol’ blog while away but I do have a post scheduled to go live next week.  Be sure to check back as it’s a good one.  Well, I think it’s a good one.  Guess I should leave it to you, my readers, to ultimately make that decision.

I’ll most likely post a short trip report here when I get home and have a chance to dig through all my images.

Until I return, may the sweet light be with you!

Sneak Peek – iFotoGuide: Grand Canyon

June 2, 2010

Dan and I are almost finished building iFotoGuide: Grand Canyon!  We were fortunate to partner with tremendously talented photographer, former Artist-in-Residence at the Grand Canyon, and all around nice guy Adam Schallau to produce this guide.  Adam’s intimate knowledge of the Canyon’s many moods and locations combined with his breathtaking photos have allowed us to create a photography guide that virtually guarantees you’ll make amazing images on your next trip to the Grand Canyon.

We expect iFotoGuide: Grand Canyon to be available for download for $4.99 in the Apple iTunes App Store in late June.  This price includes lifetime updates that will include new locations, discounts on photo gear and services from some of the biggest names in the industry, and more.  All iFotoGuide apps function on the iPhone and iPod Touch.  You can learn more about iFotoGuide here.

Currently available in the Apple iTunes App Store are iFotoGuide: Arches (on sale for $2.99) and iFotoGuide: Yosemite ($4.99).

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’ve been up to over the last few weeks.

The Beckoning Desert

May 31, 2010

Over the last few days I’ve spent hour after hour sitting at my desk staring at the computer while processing images for my redesigned website.  My new gallery structure consists of four portfolios: New Images, Adventure, Desert and Mountains.  As I worked through hundreds of images one thing became abundantly clear: I am a desert rat.

I was born in Los Angeles, where I lived for the first six years of my life.  After that we moved to Phoenix for a year, then Atlanta for six years, then back to Phoenix.  The day after high school graduation my Mom and brother moved back to Georgia.  I stayed in the desert.  I spent eighteen years in Phoenix, and I still consider it home.  In 2002 I decided it was time for a change and I moved to Denver.  Rocky Mountains, here I come!  No more oppressive heat, thorns in my mountain bike tires or rattlesnakes at my feet.  That lasted three years.

What happened next was kind of a whirlwind.  I got laid off from a job I’d held for 13 years, got married, took a 4 month road trip throughout the West and finally settled in Moab.  Another desert.  A high desert, but a desert just the same.  We’ve been here four years this month.

Clearly, I’m drawn to the desert.  Wide open spaces, hundred mile views, deep blue skies, cactus and canyons and coyotes – they’re all here.  Not to mention monumental sunsets, wildflowers eking out a brief but glorious existence from the scorched earth, sand in my ears, sun on my back and those moments of pure serendipity when I stumble upon a ruin left behind by the ODR’s – Original Desert Rats.

I suspect I’ll always run to the mountains when I can no longer bear the summer heat.  Chances are I’ll even move away from the desert, most likely back into the Rockies.  There I’ll dream of the desert while napping next to an alpine lake.  Mid-winter, when the snow is flying and the temperatures are diving, I’ll escape to warmer climes.  Back to the cactus.  Back to the sunsets.  Back to the desert.

Please Make A Donation To Benefit Slain Officer Travis Murphy’s Children

May 28, 2010

In Valor There Is Hope

On Wednesday, May 26 Officer Travis Murphy with the Phoenix Police Department responded to a suspicious vehicle report.  Upon arrival to the area he and his partner split up to search for the suspect.  Officer Murphy located the suspect, shots were fired and Officer Murphy was struck several times.  He was rushed to a local hospital in a police vehicle where he was pronounced dead.  Officer Murphy was 29 years old.  He is survived by his wife, a 2 year old daughter and a 2 week old son.

An account has been established in his name at Wells Fargo for the benefit of his children.  Donations are accepted at any branch, whether in or out of the state of Arizona.  Please consider making a donation, no matter how small, to honor Officer Murphy’s dedication to duty, community and courage, and to thank him and all other law enforcement officers for the sacrifices they make on a daily basis.  I am making a small donation for my son, Jackson.

EOW: May 26, 2010  RIP, Brother.

Tripods on the Edge

May 28, 2010

I seem to be on a tripod kick lately.  I’ll continue that theme with what I hope will be a fun exercise with lots of involvement from you, my loyal blog readers.  The other night, while my tripod and I were perched in a precarious position about 40′ off the deck and literally on the edge of a cliff, I got to thinking about all the crazy places my poor old Gitzo has been set up.  I took a photo of it living la vida loca and am including it here for your amusement.  I’m also including the photo I made while teetering on the brink.  Was it worth the risk?  You betcha!

Here’s where the real fun begins.  Let’s see a photo of you and/or your tripod in a hairy situation.  Maybe it’s the edge of a cliff or waist deep in pounding surf.  Whatever, wherever – let’s see it!  You’ll have to post a link to the photo somewhere since you can’t upload photos directly in the response fields.  That would be cool, though.  Be sure to give us a little description, too!

Quick Tip: Explore Your Options

May 26, 2010

As nature photographers, we need tripods.  Shutter speeds during those few minutes of sweet light at sunrise and sunset are just too long to hand hold a bulky D-SLR camera and expect sharp results.  So, we’ve become accustomed to arriving at a location, setting up our tripod, mounting the camera to it and then getting to work.  But why must we be so confined?

When I arrive at a new location I’ll leave the tripod packed away and walk around for a few minutes exploring all the compositional opportunities through my camera’s viewfinder.  I’ll get down low to the ground, stand tall, move two steps to the right and one step back.  Maybe I’ll try using a foreground element or maybe I won’t.  Perhaps a vertical works better than a horizontal?  I find that leaving the camera off the tripod for a spell is very freeing.  I can wander around unencumbered.  Locking my camera on to the tripod feels sort of permanent.  Once I find the composition that best fits my vision for the scene I’ll bust out the tripod, secure my camera to my Acratech Ultimate Ballhead and get to work fine tuning a composition.

I made the image above earlier this week.  I liked the cracked rocks and knew I wanted to use them in the foreground but it wasn’t immediately apparent how best to place them.  I removed my camera from it’s home in my chest pack and walked around exploring my options before I finally settled on this.  I had to perch somewhat precariously on a rock just above and behind the foreground to achieve this composition.  Once I found what I wanted, I went to work figuring out how to best set up the tripod on the small pedestal.  Had I not wandered around without the tripod I likely wouldn’t have given this composition a chance due to the difficulty involved in setting up the tripod here.  Good thing I took my own advice!

Give it a try next time you head out for some photography.  I think you’ll like being free!

What do you think of this tip?  How do you go about finding the ultimate composition when you arrive at a location?  Let’s hear your routine!

Ask An Expert: Death and Your Intellectual Property

May 25, 2010

I received a question for the experts that I’m handling a little bit differently.  Instead of posing the question to them, I’m throwing it out to all of you.  Maybe there’s an attorney amongst my readership who can offer some solid advice?  If not, I think it would be interesting and useful to hear from a few of you how your intellectual property will be handled when you are no longer around to manage it.

The Question:

I have a question for your experts.  I think inevitably the answer will be “Consult an attorney.”  Nevertheless, there may be things we should be aware of or consider when consulting an attorney.  I was just wondering what some of these experts have done for use of their intellectual property once they die.  I believe it’s something important thing to consider.

The Answer:

Leave a comment!  If you’re an attorney who deals with intellectual property regularly, PLEASE leave a comment.  I and my readers sincerely appreciate all responses.

Safety Tips for Outdoor Photographers

May 24, 2010

Most nature photographers enjoy escaping the hustle and bustle of city life by wandering through the wilderness with camera in hand. We peer through viewfinders, absorbed in perfecting a composition and often unaware of what is happening around us. We haul around hundreds or even thousands of dollars of valuable photography equipment. Our vehicles sit unattended at remote trailheads for hours on end.  We are, unfortunately, prime targets for opportunistic criminals.  In this article I’ll share several tips to help you stay safe while enjoying your photographic exploits in the great outdoors.

The first step to a safe wilderness experience is an easy, but often overlooked one.  Always tell someone where you are going and when you will return. Do a little research to determine what law enforcement agency has jurisdiction in the area you will be exploring and provide their contact information to friends, family or your significant other.  Fairly new on the scene are personal locator beacons (PLB) and SPOT personal satellite messengers.  These devices use satellite GPS signals to pinpoint your exact location and when triggered, automatically notify rescue authorities.

Statistics have shown that criminals more often prey upon people who are traveling alone. Though we often go alone into the wilderness to escape being surrounded by people, it also makes us more vulnerable. Take a friend into the backcountry and your odds for survival in the event of an accident increase dramatically.  And, by traveling with a friend, criminals automatically rank you a lower priority target.

Trailheads are notorious for vehicle burglaries due to their often remote location and the lengthy period of time your car sits unattended while you’re off hiking. Though there is no way to prevent a break-in there are things you can do to lessen the odds of it happening to you. Never leave valuables in plain sight. Stow your iPod in the glove box, carry your camera gear with you or leave what you don’t need at home, and hide cd’s, GPS devices and other valuable items out of sight. Even pocket change visible in a cupholder is enough to entice a hard-up criminal. Another option is to consider installing a lockable system like those produced by Truck Vault.

A popular ploy used by thieves is to hang out at the trailhead, act like another hiker and chat with you about your itinerary for the hike. In telling them your plans you are also disclosing how long you will be away from your vehicle. Watch for anything out of the ordinary as you pull into the trailhead, be it a suspicious person or a window that has been smashed out of another vehicle. Always lock your car, regardless of whether you will be photographing a few feet or a few miles from the parking lot.

Statistically speaking, cops who are fit, maintain a neat uniform and project confidence are less likely to be assaulted in the line of duty. The same theory applies to you.  In law enforcement it’s called “officer presence”.  In civilian terms, it’s “I’m not a target so don’t even think about it, punk.”

Police officers are trained to be hyper aware of their surroundings at all times. Doing so helps prevent them from being surprised by an attack and allows them to provide detailed descriptions of suspects. Make a mental note of people you pass on the trail. What are they wearing? What color and length is their hair? How tall are they? Do they appear unusually nervous, fidgety or interested in you or your gear? Do they have anything on or around them that could be used as a weapon? Notice and remember these details in the unlikely event that you might need to act defensively.

While it is normal for non-photographers to be interested in your gear and ask questions about it, you should be cautious about discussing the monetary value of your equipment with strangers. Someone asking odd questions or who appears to be sizing up you and the environment might only be interested in making your camera, their camera. I was photographing mountain goats on Colorado’s Mt. Evans with a 100-400mm lens when a vehicle stopped on the road below me. The driver exited and slowly moved toward me. I assumed he was interested in seeing the goats from my vantage point until he reached my position and immediately began to ask questions about my gear. He said, “I bet that’s an expensive lens.” I shrugged it off, saying “not really, there are lenses that cost 20 times as much!” Something about the guy didn’t sit right with me. I packed up my equipment and walked back to my truck, all the while looking over my shoulder and listening for hurried footsteps behind me.  Was he viewing the goats and simply making small talk with me, or did he have other dubious intentions?  Who knows, but when your sixth sense kicks in and something doesn’t feel right it probably isn’t.  Listen to your inner ninja!

As photographers we often find ourselves peering through viewfinders or with our heads under a dark cloth, completely oblivious to that which is happening around us. To a lion we would surely appear to be the weakest gazelle. Much of the joy I derive from photography comes from working compositions and losing myself in the moment. One need not forego this pleasure by constantly worrying about being attacked. Let your other senses pick up the slack while your eyes are busy. Listen for footsteps, be aware of changing odors and periodically lift your eye from the viewfinder to have a look around. You can quickly get back to the fun stuff once you determine there are no immediate threats.

For example, on a trip to photograph ice in the Colorado River north of Moab I stumbled upon a homeless camp tucked into a thick stand of tamarisk. The camp appeared to be unoccupied but signs of recent activity were present. Patterns along the riverbank and towering cliffs reflecting in a thin layer of ice caught my attention. I set up my tripod and explored the photographic possibilities, all the while listening for any sounds of movement and occasionally lifting my eye from the viewfinder to ensure the safety of my surroundings.  Other situations that demand an increased level of awareness include wandering into an area frequented by drug users or prostitutes.  If you find discarded syringes littering the ground it’s highly likely that you’re right in the middle of a “safe haven” for dopers.  Get out.  As you wander farther into the wilderness your concerns may change from nefarious people to marauding wildlife.  Educate yourself about local wildlife.  Know how to avoid them and what to do if involved in a confrontation with an aggressive animal.

It is doubtful that you will ever find yourself in a situation that calls for physical retaliation against an attacker. However, you should be mentally and physically prepared to defend yourself should such a situation arise. Police academies around the world stress the importance of a “survival attitude” to their recruits.  This consists of “when/then thinking”, or playing through hypothetical situations in your mind and deciding how you will react to them. In every situation it is critical that YOU come out the winner.

Most of us carry a dynamite weapon every time we go out – our tripod! Even a lightweight carbon fiber tripod is capable of inflicting serious injury upon an attacker. Other weapons are readily available in the wilderness, i.e. large stones and fallen tree branches. Be aware of what you have at your disposal so that you are prepared and can act swiftly to combat an attack, regardless of whether the aggressor is a human or an animal. However, you should only resort to physical force to defend yourself or another person from serious bodily harm. Should someone attempt to rob you of property or money your safest course of action is to simply hand it over to them. Gear can be replaced. Photography and outdoor gear is usually covered under renter’s or homeowner’s insurance. Lastly, using physical force to defend property may not be justified in your state.  Any use of force that results in injury to your attacker could result in you being sued civilly and/or criminally charged.  Learn your state law.

Since you located the name and contact information of local law enforcement before beginning your adventure, reporting suspicious activity will be a snap! Cops can’t be everywhere at once. If you don’t bother to report a suspicious incident, they have no way of knowing that a situation exists that requires their attention. You aren’t bothering them and your report just might save someone else from becoming a victim.

Keep these tips in mind next time you head out to burn through some memory cards.  You can confidently wander into the wilderness and lose yourself in the experience knowing that your enhanced awareness makes you a safer and more secure explorer.

Got a safety tip to share?  Please leave a comment!