The Art of Seeing Blog

New Image Naming Contest

Okay, we’re doing it again. Come up with the winning name for this untitled new release and win a matted 12X18 print of this image. You can see the winning entries for previous contests in the posts below. Click the photo to see a larger version on my website or go to and select Galleries>Nature/FineArt>New Releases. Select the thumbnail and click Zoom to see an enlarged version. To enter, click here or go to my website and select Name This Image Contest. Deadline is March 10. Good luck!

Photo Tip: Look at Small Images to See the Big Picture

I recently got a new camera that has a beautiful large high resolution LCD screen for previewing images. I can see much more detail in this new display than the one in my old camera, but in some ways I miss the “postage stamp” size screen of my previous system. That’s because looking at a very small image often helps you better see the overall composition of a photograph. Since you can’t see much detail, what you are left with is the overall ‘shape’ of the picture. What I mean is that the pattern of highlights & shadows, dominant colors, and shapes becomes much more obvious when you look at smaller versions of images. You can use this fact to fine tune your compositions in the field. Simply shoot one frame and bring up the image on your camera’s screen (this works best when using a tripod). Now try to evaluate the composition from a global perspective. Trust your first impressions. Does the composition feel balanced? Is there a clear subject or does it get lost in the background? Are there any unintentionally distracting bright areas in the frame? If you are having a hard time seeing the overall composition, try stepping back from the screen or bring up the histogram display which will further shrink the size of your image on screen.

Looking at small images is also particularly useful when you are trying to select your best images from a photoshoot. When I was shooting film, I would scan the slide pages on a lightbox before breaking out the loupe. Now that most of us have gone digital, I suggest using your software to view your images as ‘thumbnails’ during the initial edits.

Lightroom Thumbnails

"Thumbnails" can help you see the big picture

The pictures that jump out at you at this size will almost always be your strongest compositions. You can also use a variation of this technique when you are working on individual images. It’s easy to lose the forest for the trees after spending some time burning, dodging, color correcting and making contrast adjustments. To regain perspective, try shrinking the image on screen and stepping away from the monitor. Better yet, take a break and leave the room. When you return, quickly glance at the screen. Your initial impression will give you a good idea if you are on the right path or if you took a wrong turn somewhere.

My ‘Aha’ Moment

drawing-right-side“To look at a thing is very different from seeing it” – Oscar Wilde

Maybe the best way to start off this discussion is to relate how I  came to see the light, so to speak. I was in my last year of photography school and a bit annoyed that the instructor of this  particular class (Advanced Illustration Photography as I recall) had included “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain” by Betty Edwards in the syllabus. After all, we were there to learn photography, not how to draw. (more…)

Best of Nature

Humphrey's Basin at DuskTwo of my images, “Winter Fenceline” and “Humphrey’s Basin at Dusk” were chosen to be included in the Best of Nature exhibition at the San Diego Natural History Museum. A total of 72 images were selected from over 2300 entries for this exhibit. The exhibit will be on display at the museum from June 27th thru Sept 13 this year. Click here for more information.Winter Fenceline

New Image Naming Contest

Name This Image

Name This Image

Our last contest was so successful, we are doing it again. Simply come up with a title for this new release and if your entry is selected you will win a matted limited edition print of this image. Click the photo to see a larger version on my website or go to and select Galleries>Nature/FineArt>New Releases. Select the thumbnail and click Zoom to see an enlarged version. Use the form on the Contact page to send in your entry or just send us an email with your title. Deadline is May 15. Good luck!

1st Image Naming Contest winner selected

forever-together-master_webgalleryCongratulations to Jim Lawler of Worthington, OH for submitting the winning entry in our first Image Naming Contest. Jim’s title, “Forever Together”, really made me see this image in a new light.


Photo Tip: Less is More – Move in, Zoom in for Stronger Compositions

Everyone has experienced the disappointment of photos that just don’t do justice to the beauty and drama of the scene they remember. Usually, this gets blamed on not having a good enough camera. More times than not, however, the culprit is a composition that lacks focus. Not blurry/sharp focus, but focus in terms of having a clear subject.

Faced with photographing a beautiful scene, most people automatically try to “get it all in” one picture. This usually means physically backing up or zooming out with the lens. And when they run out of room, people lean back to try to get that extra tree, mountain, river, whatever in the shot. Unfortunately, in most cases, this is exactly the opposite of what you should be doing. The next time you you find yourself backing up, ask yourself, “what is the subject of this picture?” “What is the really interesting thing about this scene and what can I leave out?” Keep moving forward or zooming in, eliminating (cropping out) everything that is not essential to your composition. Then check all the edges and corners of your frame and see if you can crop out anything else. If you can’t resist, shoot one frame with a ‘loose’ composition and another with the tighter composition. I’ll bet you’ll agree that the tighter composition almost always makes the stronger image.

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