by Ben Willmore | Aug 2, 2015
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by Ben Willmore | Mar 18, 2013
Hi everyone! We just got back from Los Osos, CA where I taught a double-feature workshop on HDR and Lightpainting at the Light Photographic Workshops. This event was very “Ben” as these are my absolute favorite types of photography. I love HDR (high dynamic range) because it allows you to get great results in almost any kind of lighting conditions, and I love lightpainting because the creative possibilities are just endless.
We had a small group, which allowed for a lot of one-on-one, hands-on instruction. It also allowed us to lightpaint in some smaller spaces, a winery for example. Since the workshop was a combination of shooting and Photoshop processing, we would usually start off our day in the classroom, going over merging/editing techniques, and reviewing our images from the previous night’s shoot. During the afternoon shoots, we focused on HDR photography and after dark we would move on to lightpainting.
Here I am with a group of students shooting for HDR at the Mission in San Luis Obispo.
We got to experiment a lot when it came to the lightpainting shoots. On one night, we got access to the inside of a winery and barrel room where we did both “standard” lightpaints with flashlights and unique ones where we experimented a bit with sparklers (swinging them around on the end of a rope).
This orb was created with sparklers and was shot inside a Paso Robles winery/barrel room.
The winery we were shooting was in Paso Robles, and there were also some interesting buildings nearby that we were given access to. On what was probably the clearest night of the week, we shot those old buildings, focusing on getting multi-shot composites as a final result. In the two images below, you can see the results of these lightpaintings. This shoot really gave the students a good idea as to how to think about shooting for a lightpaint composite, and later, how to best merge all the images they shot. Everyone was totally stoked with their results!
A lightpainted composite of a fun little shack in Paso Robles.
This was a fun shot. I lightpainted this old structure while the students took photos. During one of the frames, Karen yelled at me to hold still, and it resulted in my creepy silhouette in the window!
The most fun shoot of the week was the one we did on the beach behind Morro Rock (at Morro Bay). To give you an idea of the fun level, we had to get a permit from the local fire department! We waited until the sun went down, and then we all set up our tripods on the beach. I had on some wading boots, so I walked out into the water, lit some steel wool on fire and then swung it around, creating an amazing scattering of sparks and molten metal chunks flying out in all directions. PLEASE NOTE: This is not the kind of thing you should try if you’re new to this. We take all kinds of precautions, including having a fire extinguisher on hand. And I was the only one handling the burning steel wool. We like sending students home with great images, not burn scars! Below, you can see some of the awesome images we came out with from that night on the beach.
The shots above and below are from the steel wool shoot on the beach. When the waves came in, we got an extra bonus of the reflections in the water.
During the last shoot of the week, Karen set up this little group shot after everyone went out shooting for HDR in The Oaks at Los Osos.
By the end of the workshop, everyone’s brains were completely full, and I think we all have some new memories to take away. Before everyone headed back home, some of the students mentioned to me that not only did they learn a ton, but they loved the workshop so much because they had FUN. I just love hearing that. In fact, it’s always our goal for people to come out and not only improve their skills, but to have FUN doing it. If it’s not fun, then what’s the point, right!? So I was glad to hear that everyone was happy with the experience.
On Saturday, Karen and I flew back to the Pacific Northwest, where the bus was, and I had to do some last minute prep for my new seminar tour. This week, I fly out to present my Photoshop Artistry Seminar in both New York City and Washington DC.
More to come!
Click here to buy “The Fine Art of Painting with Light” e-book, or download the free starter pdf to guide you in creating your first light-painted image.
by Ben Willmore | Jul 10, 2012
Hi gang! After a great workshop in Iceland, we returned to the bus in Colorado and headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. Unfortunately, the weather was extremely stormy/rainy while we were there, but it gave me some time to regroup a little after the trip, get some work done and focus on future events. I wanted to use this post to talk about what’s coming up. I hope you’ll be able to join me at one of these great events/workshops in the future!
Namibia: Sept. 19- Oct. 1, 2013
Join me and Journeys Unforgettable on the photographic adventure of a lifetime. In this two-week journey to Namibia, you’ll be staying at the best camps, working with the best guides and photographing the most amazing sights your lenses have ever focused on! From wildlife, to the iconic sand dunes, to the breathtaking Skeleton Coast, you’ll be seeing it all on this adventure. If you’re looking for THE trip, the one you’ve been waiting your whole life for … this is it. Learn more HERE.
The Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta
Oct. 4-7, 2012
The Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta is a world-renowned attraction and destination for balloon pilots and photographers. For more than three decades, the first week in October brings the smell of roasting chiles and the beautiful, magical moving picture show of hot air balloons sailing silently through the crisp fall air. This will be my third time photographing the Fiesta, and I can promise you that it’s a true feast for the eyes… and the lens!
The colors and textures will boggle your senses and you will come away with some of the most incredible images you have ever taken. We’ll throw in enough HDR training if you want to get a bit crazy with your creativity. Learn more HERE
The California Photo Festival • Oct. 10-14, 2012
The California Photo Festival is five days of digital photography immersion. Intensive workshops, seminars, lectures, shooting, parties, and more with over 15 industry leading photographers and digital industry gurus designed to boost your creativity, spark your passion, and take your photography, art, or business to the next level. Click here for more info
Zion National Park
Thurs., Oct 18 thru Sun., Oct. 21, 2012
Massive canyon walls ascend toward a brilliant blue sky. To experience Zion, you need to walk among the towering cliffs, or challenge your courage in a small narrow canyon. These unique sandstone cliffs range in color from cream, to pink, to red. They could be described as sand castles crowning desert canyons. We will be experiencing the beauty of this tranquil place when the trees are the most colorful. Click here for more info
Mastering High Dynamic Range Photography
Nov. 29-Dec. 2, 2012
At the Light Workshops, in Los Osos, CA
Learn to capture the full brightness range of a scene and present it to your viewer as either a photorealistic image or as an image that more closely resembles a hyper-detailed drawing.
With over two dozen choices of HDR processing software, you’ll learn which software is worth using and which should be ignored. You’ll also see why you should avoid Photoshop’s standard HDR processing and how to use alternative methods in Photoshop and Lightroom to produce far superior results. Click here for more info
New Iceland Event in the works! Special sneak peak!
If you’ve been following this blog in the recent weeks, you’ve read all about my amazing workshop in Iceland. We just wrapped up last week, and I’m still processing all the incredible images I captured there. Iceland is one of my favorite places to visit and photograph… and that’s why we’re already planning two workshops in 2013! We’re still arranging the details, so consider this a special insiders’ heads up to my blog readers. Here’s what we know so far.
Workshop #1: Our plans for the next Discover Iceland event is in the works for the summer of 2013. It should be a week-long workshop where we are out in the field shooting 80% of the time. When we’re not out on location, we’ll be in a classroom setting doing some training and photo-editing sessions. Iceland is a true paradise in the summer… from breathtaking waterfalls, to iceberg-filled lagoons, to vast green mountains, to storybook horses… Iceland has got it all. Stay tuned on the blog for exact dates and more details. We should have those solidified in the next few weeks!
Workshop #2: I’ve been to Iceland several times, but never in the winter. This is something I’ve been eager to experience and we’re finally making it happen. We have room for up to 12 eager photographers on this adventure. Now, you might be asking what there is to photograph in Iceland during the winter, given it’s dark out most of the time. Well, for a night photographer, this is a dream come true! And night photography will be our focus during this trip. We’ll be capturing some long exposure landscapes, we will light paint, explore the eerie and serene ice caves (that you can only enter in winter) and maybe, just maybe, be fortunate enough to photograph the northern lights. Our target time range will be the second half of February 2013. Again, stay tuned as we finalize the arrangements.
by Ben Willmore | Jul 4, 2012
Imagine a landscape of lush rolling fields covered in flowers, pristine waterfalls, never-ending sunsets, beautiful wild horses and green mountains. It sounds like a fairytale, right? Something out of “Lord of the Rings,” perhaps? Believe it or not, this place is very real, and it’s called Iceland. Talk about a photographer’s dream come true! If you’re a photographer (amateur, professional, whatever.), and you visit Iceland, you WILL end up returning over and over again… just like I have. There are few places that I like to visit repeatedly, but Iceland is one of those special places.
We just wrapped up a week-long photography workshop with Focus on Nature called Discover Iceland. During the course of the week, we traveled along the south coast of the country, stopping at over 20 incredible shooting locations. The shooting/exploring was also punctuated by some lecture and critique sessions where I covered techniques for shooting and editing images. The workshop happened during a very interesting time of year. If you’re wondering what this midnight sun thing is all about, here it is: In Iceland, during the summer, it never really gets dark out because the sun sets around midnight and never really gets very far under the horizon before it rises again around 3 am. This makes for some very interesting shooting [and sleeping] scenarios.
Left to right: Ragnar Th Sigurdsson (our excellent local photographer guide), myself, and Einar Erlendsson (The man behind Focus on Nature).
Our group stops to grill dinner in the midst of one of our photo shoots. Here, you can see the rugged vehicle we traveled in during the workshop.
The setup for this workshop was very nice. The group traveled in a very large and incredibly rugged vehicle, maneuvered by Siggy, our awesome driver. Each person had their own row, so it was easy to keep camera gear out and ready. While we were on the road, I would give shooting tips and post-processing techniques (yes, I actually processed images on the move!). There was also my daily session of “How to pimp your 5D Mark II” (most of the workshop attendees shot with this camera.) When we were out shooting, the vehicle would stay open so that we could easily change out gear.
And then, of course, there was Einar. Einar is the man behind Focus on Nature and, while we’re on the road, he drives behind in his truck, aka command central. He is always using some type of device to arrange the details of the workshop. Because the weather and other conditions in Iceland can be so unpredictable, we don’t make many of the arrangements in advance. Instead, we follow the light and make decisions on the fly so that we don’t miss any great opportunities. Einar is constantly toggling weather maps, arranging hotel stays, meals, etc. It’s because he’s there, taking care of all the details, that we can focus on shooting.
But that’s enough about workshop details. Let’s get on to some more images, shall we? The following is a photoloque of the Discover Iceland, 2012 workshop:
Here I am shooting one of Iceland’s many geothermal spots. Iceland is situated in a location where there is a crack in the Earth’s plates and it allows the country to use the resulting heat/steam for energy.
One of Karen’s images from Skogafoss, an incredibly large waterfall on the south coast of Iceland. The group had a great time with this one, because you could actually climb up the hill on the right side of the waterfall to get interesting vantage points.
The two above images were shot in the town of Vik. We stopped here because the place is just so photogenic. There, you’ve got rustic buildings, Icelandic horses, the beach, and of course, that picturesque church on the hillside.
We stopped to shoot at two different locations where a glacier “flows” into a lagoon. Icebergs break off the glacier and float around, sometimes washing up on the land.
This is where one of the glacier/iceberg lagoons flows out into the ocean.
The two photos above were from a pretty comical shoot. As we pulled up to this field by the beach, Ragnar told us that we would be photographing these beautiful birds, and that it was great because, when you walk out there, they try to attack you! At first we were scratching our heads trying to figure out what was so great about this, but eventually, we found that you get some good shooting opportunities as they swoop down at your head! We got some good images, but the birds did get their revenge on some of us. Some people say it’s good luck when a bird poops on you. If that’s the case, we were a very lucky group!
If you know me, you know that I couldn’t let a whole week of shooting go by without doing some lightpainting! The tricky thing with this time of year in Iceland is that it never get’s dark. In order to keep our scenery dark enough, we had to use much shorter shutter speeds. This turned out to be ok because the type of lightpainting we did involved burning steel wool. When I spun the steel wool around it was bright enough to show up well with shutter speeds of 4-5 seconds.
In one of the above captions, I mentioned the iceberg lagoon that flows out into the ocean. Some of the icebergs eventually wash up on the shore and melt there, creating very interesting shapes and textures. Our group spent a while shooting here.
As a last-minute treat, Einar arranged for the group to take a boat ride out in the glacier lagoon.
We stopped to shoot at this charming little grass-roof church. Iceland has a lot of adorable buildings like this.
These pools were full of a funky green algae that almost gave them a glowing appearance. This was definitely one of those “off the beaten path” locations that you can only get to with a pretty rugged vehicle.
There was one day where we spent a bit of time in the vehicle waiting for a rain storm to pass by. (This wasn’t really a bad thing, because we covered some more shooting tips while we were waiting.) When the rain subsided, we were rewarded with this beautiful full rainbow. This is a rather unique group shot, wouldn’t you say?
This waterfall is called Seljalandsfoss and was the perfect spot to wrap up a full day of shooting. The falls are extremely picturesque and you can even walk behind them!
These very generous Icelandic horses allowed us to photograph them from up close in their pasture. They even had some foals with them that were very curious about our cameras.
Here is Karen, shooting at the Blue Lagoon, which is another geothermal location. These pools were probably 85-90 degrees F! If you’ve been to Iceland you know that the Blue Lagoon is actually a geothermal spa where you can go and swim or get treatments. The area you see above is not part of that spa but it’s still part of the same body of water.
As you probably noticed from the images, we had a pretty great experience. The group was wonderful, and everyone got along great from day 1. I hope to see many of them again in the future, either on another workshop, or during the course of our travels in the bus. We were sad to leave Iceland, but look forward to another future visit. We are actually working with Focus on Nature to arrange two more workshop events in 2013. I’ll announce them here on the blog and at DigitalMastery.com as soon as we have details.
More to come!
by Ben Willmore | Jun 18, 2012
We spent the past week parked in Golden, Colorado and we just love it here. The bus is parked right next to a river/creek and is within walking distance of downtown. We’ve got a great view of the mountains and the weather has been beautiful. Not too shabby!
Our time here has been spent on both fun and productivity. One of the things I’ve been wanting to do is completely clear out the storage unit I have in Boulder. I’m happy to say that it’s 90% finished and should be empty within a month! We’ve also been preparing for my upcoming workshop in Iceland. We leave on Thursday and will be in Iceland until July 2!
While sorting through my storage unit, I came across this old billboard I had restored. I don’t know what I’m going to do with it, but I just love it.
I also have great friends in the Boulder area (I used to live there) and it was great to catch up with them. We spent a lot of time this week with our friends Jay Nelson and Lesa Snider. It’s always a treat to be able to spend quality time with them. On Saturday, Karen arranged a birthday dinner for me at the Boulder Brewing Company, where we hung out with a lot of old friends. Afterwards, we finished off the evening at Jay and Lesa’s place, having cocktails and playing a round of “Trailer Park Wars,” a pretty hilarious game Karen got me for my birthday. (It would truly be appreciated by fellow RVers.)
Me, Karen, Jay and Lesa. Karen and Lesa took a painting class in Golden, and we all hung out afterwards.
Sunday was my actual birthday, and I treated myself to a badly-needed massage. Later, Karen and I went out to dinner at one of my favorite restaurants in Boulder, Ras Kassa’s (Ethiopian.)
A grainy iPhone shot of my Ethiopian birthday dinner.
During the course of the week, we also got to hang out with my friend Diane, who currently lives on Maui but just happened to be visiting her parents in Denver. We just love coincidences like that! We spent the day showing her around Golden and took her to Golden’s second largest brewery, which is a fun little place located pretty much in a residential neighborhood. The building is so small that it might seat 12 people max. Then they have a nice little outdoor patio space next to the building. It’s a TINY place, and what makes it kind of funny is that they dub themselves the second largest brewery in town. Golden’s largest brewery, as many of you know, is Coors.
We also got to meet up with my friend Sharon, who I hadn’t seen in years! It was great to catch up. We met at a Denver restaurant called Linger, which was a really interesting place. It was an old mortuary turned into a funky restaurant. You’d think it’d be morbid, but it actually had a really fun vibe. Karen especially liked that the entire bar was made out of Lite Brites.
Here is me, Karen and Sharon at Linger in Denver. It was taken with the fisheye lens attachment Sharon has for her iPhone!
Announcing new training events
In other news, I’d like to announce some training events I’ve got going on later this year. First of all, I’ll be teaching at the California Photo Festival in Los Osos, CA, which is run by the Light Workshops. I’m going to be teaching a variety of classes there, including HDR, light painting, panoramas, and more. You can check out my classes and sign up for the event HERE.
I’m also going to be teaching a 4-day workshop on HDR photography Nov. 29 to Dec. 2. This will also be held in Los Osos, CA, with the Light Workshops. We’re still finalizing the details on this one, so check back at www.DigitalMastery.com for for details soon.
In my HDR workshop, we’ll go over both shooting and post-processing techniques for achieving images like this one, which was shot in Lower Antelope Canyon.
by Ben Willmore | Jun 4, 2012
My last post left off in Santa Fe, where we spent about four days exploring and shooting. After exploring the town there, we took a drive to Pecos National Historic Park, which is about 40 minutes from the city. The highlight of the park is an ancient pueblo, with some ruins and kivas surrounding it. We spent a good amount of time shooting in one of the kivas, which are circular, underground rooms that used to be used for religious rituals. We did find a little problem with the first kiva, however. I started to go down the ladder, and just as my head went underground, I found myself face to face with a small, but very irritated, rattlesnake. We decided to move on to the next kiva, but not before I tried to photograph the snake!
My shot from inside a kiva.
Instead of high-tailing it out of the snake area, I decided to try to photograph the little sucker.
The resulting snake photograph. I was using a fisheye, which made him look a little farther away.
After leaving Santa Fe, we moved on to the mountain town of Taos, a place I’ve been wanting to visit for a while. On our way there, we passed an amazing place that I just had to stop and photograph. It’s called the Classic Gas Museum, and is basically one man’s collection of vintage gas pumps, cars, signs, you name it. The place was full of old stuff… the kind of stuff I just love to shoot. The owner, Johnnie, was great and had no problem with us photographing there. He even let us return two nights later to do some lightpainting. Karen and I spent a good 2-3 hours shooting there after dark, and I was really happy with the results.
Karen’s iPhone montage from the Classic Gas Museum.
I was excited about this composition at the Classic Gas Museum. I just loved the old gas pumps surrounding this old race car.
This is the main building/shop at the Classic Gas Museum.
While in Taos, we explored the historic downtown area and then drove the famous High Road to Taos. You’re “supposed” to drive it from Santa Fe to Taos, but we did it the other way around because it wasn’t the most convenient road to take a 40-foot motorhome down, so we waited to drive it in the Mini. We mainly stopped to photograph old churches on the road, as they had a lot of character and history to them. The high road ended in the town of Espanola, where we stopped for dinner. I’ve got to mention the place we ate at because it was just excellent. It’s called El Paragua (The Parasol) and they specialize in Mexican cuisine (a standard in Espanola). The atmosphere in the place was charming, and the food was just delicious. Karen and I both ate more than we should have because it was just so darn hard to stop! We’ve been to a lot of Mexican places, and many of them are extremely similar as far as the menu and flavors go. This place definitely stood above the rest.
While in Taos, I also started experimenting with camera gear. I’m a Canon shooter, but I was curious as to how I would like Nikon’s D800E. I love to be able to make huge prints, and the D800’s 36 megapixels was taunting me a bit. Overall, the files that I’ve been getting from it are excellent, but I think I’m still going to stick with Canon. I’ll do a longer post on this later.
Karen and I both really enjoyed Taos, and we stayed there for four nights. Then, we were Colorado bound. We made a short stop at Great Sand Dunes National Park and we would have stayed longer had the weather been in our favor. It’s definitely on the list to visit again. Our first stop in Colorado is near Canon City, and we came here because of the unique aspects of the RV park. It’s called the Starlite Classic Campground and they feature a whole bunch of restored vintage trailers that are in beautiful shape and they’re all styled to perfectly to the era in which they were “born.” The couple who runs the place is just great and they were gracious enough to let me lightpaint some of the trailers. In fact, the first night’s lightpainting turned out so well that we extended our stay so I could shoot some more of them! We spent most of today arranging setups for the trailer shoots, and I’m going to be heading out to shoot some more as soon as this blog post is finished!
Here is my first lightpainting from The Starlite Classic Campground.
My new lightpainting e-book is now available!
Finally, I have some exciting news to share! This week, I released my new e-book, “The Fine Art of Painting with Light.” If you are interested in lightpainting, whether you’re experienced or not, definitely check it out. The book is a comprehensive guide, starting with your very first lightpainting and moving through to advanced techniques and post-processing in Photoshop. It includes a guide to the tools required, examples of different lightpainting styles and how to achieve them and 28 real-world examples where I demonstrate how I created specific images. The e-book is separated into two distinct sections. The first teaches the process of lightpainting and the Photoshop post-processing skills, and the second breaks down specific images and shows how they were made. The best part of it is that it’s only $9.97! You can read more about it, and order it HERE.
That’s all for now!