At Creative Photo Academy and Paul's Photo we think there's something special about Black and White photography. There's a romance to it. Non photographers often tell us that B&W looks more artistic. What I think they mean is that it helps them see the world a little differently. And it does. So whether you've just started dabbling in it or you were raised eating breakfast from a cereal box with Ansel Adam's pictures of Yosemite on it, we want to be a resource for you.
Mark Comon, the founder of Creative Photo Academy, has built a weekend long workshop aimed specifically at the Black and White photographer. He'll take you through the entire process from learning to think in black and white, heading out on a shoot together, editing your photographs in the classroom and making a final digital print. If you're the type of person that want's to benefit from his years of experience we think his Black and White Workshop on October 17 & 18, 2015 is going to change the way you think about making pictures. But for those of you that can't make it, I asked Mark to share some tips for getting started:

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For nearly a century photography existed only in black and white. After the advent of color film most casual photographers left black and white photography to the fine art photographers. Today the enthusiast and family photographer has re-discovered the simple beauty of the monochrome* image. Black and white photographs offer the classic power and grace unavailable with color pictures.

To get started in Black & White switch your digital camera to the B&W mode, even in full AUTO.  You’ll find this in the picture style or special effects settings.  It’s that simple to start in Black & White.  Play with the interactions of textures and tones (as opposed to colors).  Look for the way soft shadows play with your subject, notice the creative effects of texture and patterns in the world.  You’ll capture life in 256 shades of gray.  Black and white photography is addicting.  Soon you’ll soon be learning to use your camera in Manual mode!

Black and white photography is a study of light, shadow and form.  To capture the best photos look for gentle light with infinite detail and shades of gray.  The beginner will always gravitate towards the strong shadows of light and dark subjects (like a zebra) but there's more!  John Sexton’s book The Quiet Light illustrates perfectly the beauty of soft, virtually shadow-less light for black & white pictures of simple subjects.  Look for soft shadows and overcast skies for both landscape and portrait shooting.

Simple subjects, soft light and your creative eye will make beautiful black & white pictures.  It’s fun to try new things and make some amazing pictures too.

What tips would you share with a photographer starting out with B&W?
*If you want some real street cred be sure to call your B&W photos "monochrome" it makes photographers weak in the knees.

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Fall means back to school time and the rumblings of activity on the soccer and football fields.  It seems like every mom & dad, grandma & grandpa wants to shoot sports and action!  Here are my thoughts… because I love sports photography.

When shooting sports we find it's best to use a Digital SLR camera with tracking Auto Focus and fast motor-drive. Tracking auto focus allows the camera to follow a moving subject, focus continuously as the subject moves and produces crisp, clear photos even under the most extreme conditions. Fast motor drive means the camera will snap quickly from picture to picture.  Auto exposure and auto advance make the shooting instantly simple…and without thought…which is vital to capturing the action.

Lenses for sports photography can be your “off the shelf” variety or the “pro” quality optics.  If your sport is outdoors under bright sunshine a 70-300mm 4-5.6 may be all that is required.  To get closer you may opt for an 100-400mm lens with image stabilizing technology.  For better picture quality, indoor sports or “under the lights” you will need a pro lens with 2.8 aperture.  The 70-200mm 2.8 is most popular with moms & dads while pros choose a 300mm 2.8 or 400mm 2.8 lens.  Yes, these lenses run into some serious money. Remember that bright lenses allow you to shoot indoors without flash or outdoors under poor conditions. A bright (or fast) lens has an opening of 2.8.

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For shooting football it’s best to stand on the side-lines 10-15 yards on either side of the scrimmage line with your 300 or 400mm lens.  If your focus is on the defensive players, position yourself on the offense side of the ball and if your focus is the offensive team set-up 15 yards into the defense.  This way the “action” always comes towards you!  When shooting football you must be careful not to get run over by an errant pass or player.

The best soccer photos come from the top of the 18 yard box and near the goal line with a 300mm or 400mm lens. Choose a portion of the field and cover it. Wait for the action to come to you. Be mindful to shoot with the sun over your shoulder if possible with a clean background. Football is similar to soccer in that you need a long lens and must wait for the action to come to you.

Sports photography can be very rewarding capturing the action on the field and off!  Coaches and players, coaches and officials, cheerleaders, fans and the color of the event are rich candy for our lens.  Use your creative eye and have fun making fun sports photos this fall.

-Mark Comon

By Kathleen Bullard

Lightroom. Lr. You’ve heard about it because everyone talks about how great it is to organize and edit their photos.  The real heavyweight photographers, of course use Ps, but later for that.

So you get Lr, load it up, and immediately experience frustration, because you of course, are tech-savvy and can get new software programs intuitively without any help. Lr is a great program, but it’s got a few little idiosyncrasies that if you don’t know them, will make you nuts. Here’s a few tips just to get you started.

First, I never ever directly load my images into Lr.  I open Finder (or Explorer) and either add to or create a new folder and then copy my images from the card into there.  Then, I open Lr and go to File>Import Photos and Video, indicate the drive and folder I’m pulling from, and click Import at the bottom right-hand side.  It’s fast, and it’s exactly in the folders I want them to be because I put them there.

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Next, have fun by selecting one photo by double-clicking on it, and choose the Develop tab on top.  Take the sliders on the right back and forth all the way and see what they do. Woo-woo! 60’s psychedelic album covers appear. Compare the aphids shot on hairy balls with the very enhanced version. Try B&W too.  Don’t worry, because Lr is a “non-destructive editor” and your original is always intact.

Last tip. You actually got the image the way you like it, but can’t find the “Save” or “Save As” command.  No floppy disk icon either.  The command is Export.  Once again, I have a file where I want to put these images as .jpgs for use later.  Just follow the screens and you’ll get there.

If this was all there was to Lr, we wouldn’t have classes for you to explore all that this program can do.  So if you want to know more, check out our newly-revamped classes for both Lr and Ps. Happy editing!

My Time in Monterey
by Kenneth Bowen, Sales Associate Paul's Photo and Creative Photo Academy Instructor

The Monterey Photo Adventure trip with the Creative Photo Academy was just amazing! The people, the locations, and the learning experience were unlike anything I had experienced before.

It was great being with people who wanted to capture dramatic photos, share stories, give and receive advice, and visit these unique places. It takes a special kind of person who desires to come here, obtain these images, and take the time to develop them. During the trip we had photography reviews, which I felt were very necessary for learning other people’s techniques and how other people see. It really brought us together closer, and enhanced the learning environment of the trip.

The sights we went to were very different, from the beaches to the missions. My favorite settings were Weston Beach, and Point Lobos State Park, although all the locations challenged me to photograph the big scenes, as well as the details. On a large scale were giant boulders with waves crashing into them and beautiful landscape scenes. Small details included kelp, crabs, and rocks that array in interesting patterns, as shown in the photograph here. I enjoyed being part of the process of truly seeing and capturing them in a photograph.

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Mark stresses that it doesn’t matter what a photographer shoots, and it doesn’t have to obviously reveal where the photographer is, what is important is that it is a good photograph. It was definitely a concept that helped me grow as a photographer. No matter what I am working with, from the most basic lines to an intensely complex landscape, I felt that it was important to keep that in mind, and think about the story and how I wanted to render it. Line, shape, form, and content are some of the elements that a photographer works with to get those great images.

I certainly learned many things. I learned the importance of the photographic print, how essential it is to share your photographs and the steps and process for taking better pictures.  Perhaps most importantly was learning how to push myself to get the images that I envisioned.

A highlight of the trip and favorite of mine was meeting Kim Weston, the grandson of Edward Weston. We saw Edward Weston’s original house with all of his exact belongings including his books, writing, lamps, darkroom and darkroom tools in the same position as when he was alive. Kim Weston showed us four generations of photography, starting with his grandfather, to his Uncle Brett Weston, to him and then his son Zach Weston. Seeing the evolution and choice of original tools, with new ideas being put in place today was cool and fascinating. Kim was an amazing host, and all of our group really loved it and reflected on it as well.

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Good people, good photos, and all the fun dinners and places while making the whole trip a learning experience, gave me more tools to take with me and use on my future photo trips!

 If you're looking to improve your photography and are in need of some direction, we have four unique six-month series that will help get you on the right track.

Intermediate Series

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Intermediate classes cover almost every topic and are an excellent choice for any photographer who has taken our beginner-level classes or Photo Boot Camp. Classes are two hours long and there are four Intermediate classes per month. There are four themed "Tracks" you can choose from -- Intermediate Exposure & Composition Track, Intermediate Portrait Track, Intermediate Landscape Track, and Intermediate Flash Track . You can sign up for any individual session, or a block of 6 classes.

Here is the detailed schedule:

Exposure & Composition
Monday 7-9pm
July 13: Exposure Range.
August 10: Light + Dark.
September 14: Exposure Decisions.
October 12: Effective Composition.
November 9: Subject Placement
December 7: Shapes/Patterns

Portraits
Tuesday 7-9pm
July 21: Portrait Techniques
August 18: Candid People
September 15: Natural Light
October 20: B&W People
November 17: Weddings/Parties
December 8: Studio Lighting

Landscape
Saturday 9-11am
July 18: Landscape Techniques
August 15: Creating Depth
September 19: Details + Macro
October 17: Filters
November 14: B&W Theory
December 12: B&W Practice

Flash
Sunday 10-12noon
July 19: Flash Techniques
August 16: Indoor Flash
September 20: Outdoor Flash
October 18: Advanced Flash
November 15: Off-Camera Flash
December 13: Multiple Flash

Advanced Series: Inspirational Images

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There are two advanced series to choose from -- each meets once a month, and each lasts all year long, culminating in an end of the year presentation and party. The Tuesday evening series, Inspirational Images, will closely follow the work of Ansel Adams and will focus on a different topic each month, with assignments, class critique, discussion, and encouragement.

For the full schedule and description, please click here to be taken to our registration page.

Advanced Series: Sharing Your Vision

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This Thursday evening series will meet once a month, and students will focus on developing a single project throughout the year. Each month we will discuss the progress of our projects and offer critique, feedback, ideas, and encouragement.

For the full schedule and description, please click here to be taken to our registration page.

What’s new in 2015?
In a word... Everything!

We’re going more hands-on. We’re creating chances to get out and take pictures. And we’re developing opportunities for our community to grow deeper creatively.

We’re going more hands-on throughout our classes but there’s nowhere that’s more noticeable than in our intermediate series. We’re splitting the class time between learning and practicing. So there’s the opportunity to experience while you learn. We’ve extended the most loved topics from 4 months to 6 months. And our instructors are fine tuning the classes based on participant feedback. This is a really exciting time to be part of the intermediate community of photographers.

We’re creating more opportunities to get out and take pictures. We were blown away by the response to our Night Photography series that takes place once a month throughout the year. It’s been so fun! And we’re realizing that it really creates the space for people to learn and fall in love with photography. We’ve added Photo Walks during the day once a month so the night owls aren’t the only ones that get to have fun. We’ve also started an Adventure Lite! Series for our photographers who can’t take time off work to go on adventures. They happen over the weekend within driving distance of our home base in the South Bay. Our next Adventure Lite! is heading to Anza Borrego in March.

And, most importantly, we’re looking to help our community grow deeper creatively. We want you to make photography your own. We want you to fall in love. We’ve developed a class called Creative Approach. It throws out the idea that you need to learn all the nuts and bolts. Instead we start with the heart. This class is designed for the beginner and intermediate student to push you to really engage with photography as a tool to share your vision with the world. We’ve also created an Open Critique night for people to have their work talked about by a panel of thoughtful experts (or you can come hear others work talked about). Understanding how your photographs communicate is one of the best ways to grow creatively and that’s the aim of Open Critique. Most importantly we've started First Tuesday, a time to view new work coming from within our community and a time to learn from a professional photographer coming from outside of our community. First Tuesday is a place for curiosity, inspiration and old friends.

First Tuesday is perhaps the most exciting opportunity for Creative Photo Academy since Mark Comon started it over 20 years ago. On the first Tuesday of each month we’re going to be having an opening for all of our exhibits: our group show, our pro gallery and our student of the month. We’re also going to have an inspirational professional photographer come and share how they fell in love with photography or where that love has taken them. We’ve called up the best photographers we know and they’re excited to be part of it. First Tuesday is going to be kicking off on March 3rd with Sports Illustrated Photographer, Peter Read Miller. First Tuesday is a hub for the South Bay community of photographers and it’s meant to be a source of deep and varied inspiration.

We hope you're excited about what's coming up. We are!

 

Our new professional series of classes and workshops is here! This is for the photographer who is interested in the business of photography -- everything from building your own basic WordPress site to getting your photos published to photographing corporate events, and more!

We know that it can be difficult to make the jump from hobbyist to professional, and we want to help you along the way. Read on for a summary of what to expect from this exciting new series.

How to Build a Basic WordPress Site -- Coming soon!
Instructor: TBD
Learn to build your own site or blog for displaying your personal or professional photographs. This is for students with little to no experience in the WordPress platform, as we will start with the absolute basics. Learn to build a site that you can easily manage and maintain and later build on as your business continues to grow.

Getting Published in the Photo Industry --  June 14 & 21, 2014
Instructor: Lynne Eodice
Learn how to research different markets for publication, build a successful portfolio, establish a business presence on social media, and more! We will also cover the different types of publications you can pursue, from magazines to greeting cards and beyond. Two-part workshop that includes a helpful in-class critique! More information and registration here on our website.

CPP (Certified Professional Photographer) Prep Class and Exam -- July 19 (prep class) and July 20 (exam)
Instructor: David Bever
Need to differentiate your photography business from others? Want to take your photography skills to the next level? Need to prove to your employer or your clients that you are a true professional and deserve the prices / salary you’ve asked for? Then becoming a Certified Professional Photographer (CPP) may be exactly what you need. More info and registration on our website here.

Creative Business Portraits -- July 16, 2014
Instructor: Robert Vlach
Shooting portraits for a company directory, website, and other corporate types of marketing is a specialized talent. We're going to walk you through the questions you should ask your client before the shoot; typical lighting set-ups for portraits; typical working conditions; post-processing; client relations; and delivery. More info and registration here on our website.

(Photo credit CPA Educator Lynne Eodice)

By Jackie DesForges

I've been asked this question several times lately -- what exactly is the Neon Boneyard? Located in Las Vegas, the Boneyard is part of the larger Neon Museum and features about 150 old neon signs that are no longer in use.

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The signs come from hotels, casinos, famous businesses -- pretty much any place in Las Vegas that once used or still uses neon signs (so, pretty much any business in Las Vegas).

The signs can be seen up close, but only via guided tours. The guides know everything about the history of these signs and of neon sign culture in Vegas in general -- the artists who designed the signs, the evolving design and styles of the signs, and even the history of the buildings that were once decorated by the signs.

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This quirky museum will appeal to anyone with an interest in offbeat attractions, architectural history (particularly any fans of the Googie style of architecture), Vegas history, or wandering junkyards.

It's one of those things that I didn't really think about until I heard of the Neon Boneyard -- oh right,  I realized, I guess I should have wondered whatever happens to those massive neon signs when no one needs them anymore.

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**All photos in this post come from our previous photo adventures to Las Vegas and the Neon Boneyard. Join us for our next trip, March 27-30, 2014. More information and registration by clicking here. 

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Boot Camp students

When I was hired at PAUL'S PHOTO about nine months ago, I was only supposed to fill in and help out for a little while. I knew little to nothing about cameras. I believe I asked what DSLR stood for and received several concerned stares from everyone working here.

I have a background in art, and so the creative process of photography really appealed to me, and it was inspiring to spend each day surrounded by Mark, the sales guys, and the customers who love to talk photography all day, every day. It still is. It's part of the reason I decided to stick around.

For the first couple weeks, I felt like I was picking up on a lot just from listening to everyone talk about photography all the time (and from asking a ton of potentially ridiculous questions), but there were a few technical questions I felt I still needed answered.

Plus, all this talk of cameras was starting to make me want a camera of my own.

I decided I needed to take Photo Boot Camp. It's our most popular series at the Creative Photo Academy, and this is because it takes new photographers from the basics of learning their camera buttons to being able to discuss things like shutter speed, aperture, and depth of field.

The series is six weeks long, one class per week, with homework assignments each time. Each class covers a basic topic in photography: The Camera, Exposure, Light, Flash, Focus, Composition, and Sharing Photos.

Mark created the Boot Camp lessons and has been teaching the class for over 20 years -- actually, I think Boot Camp and I are almost the exact same age -- 25! He's taught it so often and seen so many students pass through the door that he's got it down to an exact science. I could tell, sitting in class, that he could almost predict the exact questions each of us were going to ask him.

One of my photos from my homework assignments! Not the greatest photo of roses in the world but definitely 120% better than photos I used to take.
One of my photos from my homework assignments! Not the greatest photo of roses in the world but definitely 120% better than photos I used to take.

And if any of you know Mark, you know how enthusiastic and full of energy he is pretty much all the time. If you think he's in in his element when he's talking to customers behind the counter, you should see him when he's teaching a class.  He knows how to explain the concepts so that "science people" and "artsy people" are on the same page.

This isn't to say that the class isn't sometimes frustrating.  Of course it is -- it's always difficult to learn something that is completely foreign to you. The homework assignments were crucial here -- although they were sometimes frustrating for me to accomplish because I felt like I wasn't doing anything correctly (and several times, I wasn't), the assignments forced me to get out and practice each week.

They also showed me how I was progressing in comparison to my classmates, and looking at their photos taught me more about the types of photos I enjoy looking at and want to take in the future.

Now, when beginning students ask me for a recommendation of a class to take, I tell them about my experience in Photo Boot Camp. It's easy for me to relate to a lot of Beginner level students since I started off knowing even less than a lot of them know or knew before they started, and I hope it's encouraging for students to see that I started off from square one and can now hold my own in conversations about photography or photo shoots in not very much time at all.

Next step: learn to master photo editing programs!

If you'd like to try out Photo Boot Camp, our next session starts off in the beginning of February (your choice of Tuesday morning or Wednesday evening sessions). Click here to view the full schedule and details.

Last week, Creative Photo Academy trip leaders Robert Vlach and Mary Cilva led a group through Yosemite to capture beautiful photos of the fall landscape. Read on for Robert's brief recap of the trip, and if this sounds like fun to you -- you're in luck, he's taking another group to Yosemite to capture beautiful winter scenery in January!

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Our Fall Yosemite trip was a huge success!  We were blessed with mild weather and stunning fall colors.  We photographed several areas – in and around Leidig Meadow, El Capitan Meadow, along the Glacier Point Road – Taft Point and Glacier Point, around Housekeeping Camp and toward the Ahwahnee, as well as Gates of the Valley and the Pohono Bridge.

Yellows, oranges, and reds reflected beautifully off the mirror-like river.  Expansive landscapes greeted us at Taft Point and Glacier Point with dramatic clouds that added excitement to the sky.

About 10 minutes into our first walk of the workshop two deer snuck up on our 2 non-photographer guests Kathleen and Kris.  Kris had her earphones in and couldn’t hear us calling to her to warn her!  They were within 10 feet!  The deer stuck around for a minute or two watching us watching them.  They crossed the river right in front of us.  I got serious respect from the group who I hopefully convinced I’d arranged for that.  And for my next trick…sunset!

On our second day we learned a couple important lessons.  First, we learned Robert’s Rule of a Quarter Mile – pretty much everything in Yosemite is a quarter mile away, even the things that are several miles apart!

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 Second, that it takes educated guesswork to put yourself in the right place at the right time to make stunning photographs.  By knowing your subject, knowing the light, and knowing your equipment, you can be in position to make an amazing photograph.

But the bigger lesson was that even if you do all your homework and do everything right, it still doesn't always turn out the way you hope.  That’s what happened at Glacier Point.  We had spotty clouds with soft red sunlight dancing across the granite walls of the north side of Yosemite Valley.

Maybe, just maybe that light would head south-east and light up the face of Half Dome.  But it was not to be.  The group was ready, willing, and prepared to take advantage of an amazing image, but it just didn’t materialize.  We were right there on the ragged edge of amazing, but it slipped by.  But we were there…and willing…and able.

On our third and final day we were rewarded with beautiful color near Stoneman Bridge.  There was so much color in fact that the challenge was finding and isolating patterns in the chaos.  This was a location where patience and having a careful eye made all the difference.

Lunch at the Ahwahnee was fabulous, and the sunset at Gates of the Valley did not disappoint!  A very fun print party ended the trip on a great note.  I can’t wait to go back again in January!

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If you are interested in attending the Yosemite Winter Workshop, you can read more information about the trip and reserve your spot by clicking here. You can also stop by the store to pick up a flyer with more detailed information. Robert also teaches our Panoramic and HDR classes, which you can read about by clicking here.