5 Tips on…. “Exploring your Hidden Talent”: A UPA Gallery workshop

5 Tips on…. “Exploring your Hidden Talent”: A UPA Gallery workshop

1: You need a clear direction. Before you embark on taking photographs randomly, waiting on the chance factor, one needs a clear plan of action when it comes to subject matter. Unless you are a photojournalist or street portraitist, visual opportunities will not come to you; instead you must seek a particular subject matter and plan for capturing precise images.

2: Do not look at your images on the camera’s display. The display on your camera is lying to you and in addition you are creating a false mental image of what the images should look like according to your visual experience, one far removed from what the camera captures. Use the camera display to only show you the histogram, in other words to display the technical exposure for your images, only.

3: Wait to preview your images. Just like a fine wine images have to be viewed several days after you create them. Initially, you are biased by the knowledge of where, when and how you took these images; this mental bias will inhibit you from examining the images in an impartial and free manner, often dismissing the deep and potentially important aspects of a particular photograph.

4: Take fewer images. The prevailing thinking in photography resides in taking more images and getting better by doing so. WRONG; by applying yourself in the viewfinder and carefully thinking about what and how you are capturing a photograph you will follow the intellectual and emotional aspects of what the medium is all about, namely conveying a statement to your viewer, emotional or aesthetic.

5: Less technology, more thinking. Think about the cost of every image, around $1.00 per capture considering the costs of DSLR’s lenses, software and computers, all with a limited lifespan. The digital photo world is wonderful, but no less expensive than the analog realm. You do not need to take every piece of equipment you own on very photo excursion, just the right items according to your pre-planning. Go lighter,  your body will thank you.

5 Reasons To Give Long Exposure Photography a Try:

5 Reasons To Give Long Exposure Photography a Try:

From a guest blog by our friend Andrew Vernon

Hello! This is Andrew Vernon with a guest post for the United Photographic Artists blog. I am a Tampa-based portrait and landscape photographer who specializes in florida seascape and long exposure photography. I wanted to put together a post on some of the reasons a photographer might consider long exposure when creating a new image. That being said, if you’re interested in seeing more Florida landscape or long exposure photography feel free to visit my website.


 Using long exposure photography to capture an image is nothing new. In fact, for many photographers, its one of the first things theyre excited to try out because of how it allows for results that are so different than anything most other cameras on the market can offer. All sorts of photographers jump at the first opportunity to paint with light, photograph the stars or get a ghosted photo of water plummeting over a waterfall. And, theres less of an instant-gratification to it. The photographer knows the probable outcome, but the results are still less uniform which can sometimes mean more exciting! But, there are more reasons than these popular cliches for slowing down your shutter speed. In fact, Id like to offer 5 reasons you might not have considered for long exposure as a technique in your photography

Andrew Vernon: Evening Mist Andrew Vernon: Evening Mist

1 – Long Exposure introduces Time into your photography:

            A photograph is typically a look into a particular moment in time. It’s an opportunity for a photographer to convey to their viewer a scene or an instance as it was when the shutter was released. But, this can be limiting! Ever tried to photograph a river or creek only to realize that is just doesn’t feel the same as actually standing there? Or perhaps photographed mist moving through a beautiful mountain range only to realize that an instant image somehow stole some of the life from the living and moving mist in front of you? Sometimes, there is a faint something lost when time isn’t able to affect the scene you’re photographing. But, long exposure allows for time to affect the scene and breath some life into moments that otherwise wouldn’t have carried the same power frozen into a single moment. Suddenly, a single photograph can better demonstrate the wave-like way that the mist was crawling through the valley…

Andrew Vernon: The Pier at Sandy Point Andrew Vernon: The Pier at Sandy Point

2 – Long Exposure Simplifies:

            Sometimes the simplest images are also the strongest. Long exposure allows for anything moving inside the frame to blur and anything holding still to remain sharp. This means a simple dock on a windy evening photographed without long exposure could reveal a busy scene with capped waves, boats, animals etc. The same image photographed using a longer exposure could reveal a dock that stands out in the photo because the water appears silky smooth as a result of the motion. Longer exposures can mean animals, people and other moving objects don’t pose any issues either as they simply may not hold still long enough to be seen in the final image. Need to simplify your image or point more clearly to a particular subject? Long Exposure could make that happen. 

Andrew Vernon: Withstand Andrew Vernon: Withstand

3 – Long Exposure Introduces Drama:


            Much like how Long Exposure can simplify an image, it can also introduce drama in a dynamic way. Imagine a beach with waves crashing into shore. A freeze frame steals the drama of the scene… There could be something lost when the wave is frozen instead of it’s power being demonstrated in the blur and movement from the moment it crashes. It’s all in your choice of shutter speed. Typically, all it takes is 1/4 of a second to convey movement. And sometimes, the movement is everything. 

Andrew Vernon: Guardian Andrew Vernon: Guardian

4 – Long Exposure stands out:


            Using long exposure provides an opportunity to be different. It allows for photography that is different in feeling, story or motion than most of what the mobile or point and shoot photography market can or could produce. It’s important to note however that long exposure doesn’t necessarily make an image better. It’s a tool. And like other tools, it has certain uses that it lends itself to. Used well as a technique to achieve the artistic goal of the photographer, long exposure works to strengthen the final product. But, the contrary is true as well. Used poorly, long exposure can be a distracting or cliche technique that undermines the power of an image. 

Andrew Vernon: Show of Power Andrew Vernon: Show of Power

5 – Long Exposure gives control:


            This reason stems from the previous ones; But, it’s valuable to mention that learning a technique such as long exposure puts more power in the hands of the artist. The more methods you have at your disposal when creating an image, the better the chance of being able to accurately portray your final piece exactly as you’d visualized it. It’s a tool that allows opportunity to build drama, demonstrate motion or simplify a scene. And it’s definitely a tool that, when used in the right context, can allow an image to stand out.


Hopefully this was a helpful look at some of the ways you might consider using long exposure to strengthen your photography! While this wasn’t, a tutorial by any means on how to actually create a long exposure image, it’s always beneficial to understand the why before blindly using a technique for no reason. To see more Florida landscape and long exposure photography, please visit my website at www.AndrewVernonPhotography.com



By the way, here’s some of the ways you can keep up with me online:

Website – http://www.AndrewVernonPhotography.com

Facebook – http://www.Facebook.com/AndrewVernonPhotography

Twitter – @Andrew_Vernon


I am Matthew Smith and I am a participant of ISSP 2014, Latvia

I am Matthew Smith and I am a participant of ISSP 2014, Latvia

Acccepted: Matt Smith

““Only 73 photographers get accepted into this program to study from and work among the elite.”

I was nervous about checking the Participants List, sitting in my dimly lit office/bedroom/parent’s basement at 3am. The International Summer School of Photography webpage was up on my screen, the mouse hovering over the “Participants” menu. Only 73 photographers get accepted into this program to study from and work among the elite. Timidly, I clicked through and scrolled down to the workshop taught by internationally renown photographer Yurie Nagashima – Photography as a Subversive Tactic: Being the Other. A list of 12 accepted photographers followed.

Among them: Matthew Smith, United States.

Double-take, triple-take. “Wait, what?” No, there must be some sort of mistake. “What? No. Are you serious?”     ….Matthew Smith.

Yurie Nagashima, This Time Yurie Nagashima, This Time (c) Yurie Nagashima, The Onion, 2005 (c) Yurie Nagashima, The Onion, 2005

The International Summer School of Photography in Kuldiga, Latvia is designed for professional photographers, students of photography and art, artists working with photography, focusing on concept rather than technique. The aim is to broaden the artistic and personal vision of participants and to encourage international exchange of ideas in photography.

The program offers 6 workshops taught by renown photography masters. This year’s classes will be hosted by Mark Steinmetz, Yurie Nagashima, Antonin Kratochvil, Simon Norfolk, Adrien Kelterborn, Rafal Milach and Ania Nalecka. 

I am Matthew Smith and I am a participant of ISSP 2014.

When I learned about the program in August 2013, I was set on applying for the next year’s Summer School. Once applications were open, I got right to it. I poured over my college projects, looking for something of worth to submit for my portfolio. After two weeks of painstaking image review, bio writing and rewriting and rewriting, I pulled together 9 strong photographs to compliment my 1500 character essay on why I should be a part of such an intensive program.

I submitted photographs based on the jury, my chosen workshop, and my personal artistic vision.

By Matt Smith By Matt Smith

Working in self-portraiture, portraiture, street photography, and mixed media, I use photography mostly as a means of nonverbal communication and personal enlightenment. I want to challenge my audience, I want to create something provocative, and I want to make a significant difference in the way people view the relationship between themselves, their peers, and the rest of the world. 

Polaroids, By Matt Smith Polaroids, By Matt Smith

In self-portraiture, I break the barrier between the audience and the camera. The audience gets a raw look at the subject without the concept of the photographer (the subject) clouding the atmosphere. This creates an intimate relationship between the subject and audience, stimulating emotional responses. 

I try to focus on the strength my relationships – whether it be with the audience, friends, family, myself, or my imagination. As these relationships are tested by adversity, I document the individual journeys to better understand their tangible nature and to better understand myself.

Photo By Matt Smith Photo By Matt Smith Photo By Matt Smith Photo By Matt Smith

I approach each photograph with the intent to study human behavior, interpersonal relationships, and the unique experience of individual perception. Can we trust what we see? Is it absolute? Why do we do the things we do?

Photo By Matt Smith Photo By Matt Smith

I try to compare a sense of self to a sense of place by creating parallels between myself and my surroundings. Does environment dictate, and justify, behavior?

Photography is my way of keeping a grip on reality and on myself while also challenging my perception of reality.


     Written BY: Matt Smith    

The Use of Natural Low-Light and Neutral Density Filters in Concept-Based Landscape Photography

The Use of Natural Low-Light and Neutral Density Filters in Concept-Based Landscape Photography

The Use of Natural Low-Light and Neutral Density Filters in Concept-Based Landscape Photography

I want to thank UPA Gallery – and Pierre Dutertre in particular – for inviting me to write this guest blog.  I’m grateful for the opportunity to introduce my work to the readers of this unique educational blog and appreciate UPA’s commitment to giving exposure to emerging fine art photographers.   

Stormy Weather  

Monster hurricanes… saturating heat … biblical rains … what’s not to love about summer in Florida?  At least when it comes to photography.  When the skies turn dark and stormy and people seek shelter indoors, I grab my camera gear and go to work outside.

In this blog post I’ll review how I use low-light conditions – especially rainy low-light conditions – and ND filters in my concept-based landscape photography, specifically for lighting aesthetics and water-blur effects.  We’ll take a detailed look at two images from my Florida series, called “Remnants,” to see examples of how I approach low-light conditions with and without ND filters. 

First, it’s important to understand what an ND filter is.  Basically, it’s a lens filter made of dark glass (like sunglasses) that reduces the amount of light reaching a camera’s sensor.  This allows for much slower shutter speeds in order to create motion-blur effects, among other things.  There are different kinds of ND filters – slot-in, screw-on and variable – each with different density ratings that give various f-stop reductions.  There are pros and cons to using each type that’s beyond the scope of this blog post, but a quick Google search using the terms “ND Filter” will pull up many useful articles for further reading. 

Natural Low-Light Effects

My Florida portfolio is called “Remnants”  on www.scottbolendz.com .  It documents small moments of modest natural beauty – what I call the “diminished sublime” – in remnant green spaces along Florida’s heavily developed Gulf Coast.  The images have a delicate, compressed, dream-like quality due to the contingent, often fleeting, nature of the depicted scene.  This project is influenced, in part, by Clyde Butcher’s Florida series and Michael Kenna’s long-exposure work. 

I like shooting in rainy low-light conditions because the camera can transform a relatively mundane landscape into something otherworldly.  Such low-light is often sufficient by itself for longer exposure times, which can be especially useful if groundwater is present (as is often the case in Florida).  One of the challenges of shooting the lush Florida landscape is the visual complexity of the vegetation.  Water reflections often add distracting elements to an image (at least to my eye).  Longer exposure times, however, can soften or even obliterate water reflections and give a smooth, silky, almost dream-like surface plane that can add depth and simplify a composition.  ND filters allow for even longer exposure times when necessary. 

“Myakka Park Drive 1, Sarasota” by Scott Bolendz      “Myakka Park Drive 1, Sarasota” by Scott Bolendz

My photograph “Myakka Park Drive, Sarasota” was shot immediately after a thunderstorm.  I set my Nikon D600 on a tripod (a definite must for long-exposure work!) and tried to get a long exposure time without using an ND filter.  I was using a Nikkor 24 mm/2.8 prime lens.  I set my camera/lens to manual focus (infinity), aperture priority f/16 and ISO 100 which gave me a shutter speed of 5 seconds.  This was long enough because raindrops were still falling from the wet foliage onto the groundwater surface, creating small disturbances that would help in achieving a nice water-blur effect.  This, in turn, would create a clean background plane to highlight the layers of lush, complex foliage.  And – voila!

ND-Filtered Lighting Effects

“Remnant Mangrove, Tampa Bay” By Scott Bolendz “Remnant Mangrove, Tampa Bay” By Scott Bolendz

My photograph, “Remnant Mangrove, Tampa Bay”, was shot at mid-day using a 64x ND filter during a brief interlude between coastal storms at Emerson Point in Bradenton, Florida.  The clouds and water were both moving slowly, but the light was too bright for longer exposures without the benefit of an ND filter.  Even at f/22 and ISO 100 the shutter speed was 1/20 second (too fast for motion-blur).

I only carry 2 high-quality screw-on ND filters: a 64x (6-stop reduction) and a 1000x (10-stop reduction).  These 2 filters offer a decent range of f-stop reductions for most lighting situations I encounter.  

The workflow for this image is more involved because it’s necessary to compose and meter the scene prior to attaching the ND filter (the viewfinder is too dark when the ND filter is attached):

1. Set the camera on a tripod.

2. Use manual focus (set to infinity) and frame the scene – I used my 24 mm prime lens.  

3. I metered the scene using aperture priority f/22 and ISO 100 for the longest exposure possible prior to adding an ND filter.

4. Next, check the shutter speed.  It was 1/20 for this particular camera setting.

5. Enter the 1/20 shutter speed value into a long exposure calculator (free apps are available on iTunes!) to see what new shutter speed would be required for a similar exposure if a 64x or 1000x ND filter were attached.  The results: 3 seconds (64x) and 51 seconds (1000x).  Based on current conditions, I chose the 64x.

6. Next, put the camera setting on full manual and replicate all the previous settings from aperture priority (f/22, ISO 100, etc…) and select a new shutter speed of 3 seconds (to account for the 64x ND filter).

7. Carefully attach the 64 x ND filter to the prime lens.

8. Use a wireless shutter release or the camera’s timer to take the picture.

I often have to increase or decrease the calculated shutter speed based on what the first captured image actually looks like on the camera’s LCD screen.  The image may be under or over-exposed (I only shoot RAW files so I can tweak the exposure in post-production).  If you decide to re-compose the image, remove the ND filter and start the process all over again. 

Here are a few more examples of my Florida series shot in rainy low-light conditions with ND filters.  Again, notice how the blurred water surface provides a clean plane that nicely highlights a visually complicated subject. 

“Remnant Mangrove, Terra Ceia Bay” By Scott Bolendz “Remnant Mangrove, Terra Ceia Bay” By Scott Bolendz “Myakka Park Drive 2, Sarasota” By Scott Bolendz “Myakka Park Drive 2, Sarasota” By Scott Bolendz

Some final thoughts  

First, since I mainly shoot with a prime lens for my Florida series, the workflow process described in this blog post applies to prime lenses.  Use of an ND-filter on a zoom lens is a somewhat different – and more difficult – workflow which I will review in a future UPA Blog post.  Second, when shooting long exposures for either water or cloud-blurring effects, it’s important to be aware of even slight movements of your subject.  This is less of an issue if the subject is a mountain or city buildings.  But with vegetation and wind movement – like coastal mangroves, for example – you may need to be very patient until the subject is absolutely still.  And if you’re shooting in rainy low-light conditions, patience is a virtue!   

Contributed By: Scott Bolendz  

Scott Bolendz is an emerging fine art photographer.  His landscape work has won several awards at The Florida Museum of Photographic Arts in Tampa.  To see more of his images you can visit his website www.scottbolendz.com or follow him on Facebook at “Scott Bolendz Photography.”  



Appropriation: Is it a form of art? A lack of imagination? Or just plain theft?

Appropriation: Is it a form of art? A lack of imagination? Or just plain theft?


Is it a form of art? A lack of imagination? Or just plain theft?

According to the Cambridge dictionary, the word appropriation is described as: “When you take something for your own use, usually without permission”

““When you take something for your own use, usually without permission”

So with this definition in mind, it is natural to think of this topic as a ‘hot button” for many, but particularly for professional photographers, in the commercial as well as the fine art realms. As an active member of the American Society of Media Photographers for many years, I can attest to the fact that this singular topic is akin to opening the pen of domestic animals to a pack of wolves, with the resulting carnage and even occasional self-cannibalism in the process.

First, we must look at the established parameters for all creative materials. Are they copyrighted? Has the copyright term expired? Are they part of the public domain? These factors would initially establish the potential legal use of these materials, the conditions for the usage and the ultimate outcome of the subsequent work created from the materials. These questions are more of a legal approach to the topic, but nevertheless an important starting point. It is crucial to remember that the courts do not make judgments on the artistic merits of any works of art, but rather look at their specific status within the current copyright laws. Having said that, there is a current flurry of activity proposing changes to the copyright laws (not in favor of the creators), as well as a number of class action lawsuits against Google and Getty Images. So far, the courts have often ruled against the appropriator, much to the chagrin of the art elite who proclaims appropriation to be integral posit to post modernist art, freedom and all kinds of elitist dribble. Sadly, the copyright laws are being eroded and more often than not the courts are now swaying in favor of the appropriation culprits.

 Photograph by Mannie Garcia (AP) / Artwork by Shepard Fairey  Photograph by Mannie Garcia (AP) / Artwork by Shepard Fairey

Secondly, the vast proliferation of images in a globally connected world and social medias in all forms will invariably lead to the proliferation of appropriation, often under the incorrect assumption that if it is on the internet it is free to use and fair game. Google is the biggest culprit, gathering millions of images for the purpose of gathering data on the viewer and/or user of said images. Interestingly, Shepard Fairey found the image of Obama on Google. Should you care to check the terms and conditions for most social media platforms, you may be surprised at the dangers of putting your images on these media! Technology has changed the entire premise of copyright laws, eroding these in the process, yet the world moves forward and so we must evolve as fighting Google, Getty Images or the social media platforms is simply futile. The genie, or monster, is out of the bottle.

““Is the person or artist using these as a precursor and inspiration for their own output?”

Last, and perhaps more importantly in my personal opinion, is the intent of the person who appropriates the materials. Is the person or artist using these as a precursor and inspiration for their own output? Are they replicating or duplicating the materials for personal use or commercial gain from the public or private enterprises? Are they using them to produce a new generation of art, one that takes its roots from the originals but departs in a newer creative form? Are the materials used for academic purposes and following the established rules of that usage? So, at the root of this topic are the ethics within the intent of the person or persons who appropriate the art (in its many forms). Appropriation is not new, gaining momentum with the Cubist collages of Picasso and Braque, the readymade urinal presented by Marcel Duchamp in 1915, the 1950’s works of Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg, Pop art and the emergence of post modernism with notable users of appropriation such as Jeff Koons and Sherry Levine. The polemics of what constitutes art cannot be presented in such a limited blog format, suffice to say that appropriation art is a complex topic that can be debated by the art elite in between ritzy gallery openings, museum gatherings and the columns of well read publications that do not address farming or livestock in any fashion.

Photograph by Art Rogers, 1980 / Sculpture by Jeff Koons, 1998 Photograph by Art Rogers, 1980 / Sculpture by Jeff Koons, 1998 Photograph by Walker Evans, 1936 / Re-photographed by Sherry Levine, 1981 Photograph by Walker Evans, 1936 / Re-photographed by Sherry Levine, 1981

Ultimately, and in response to the title of this blog, appropriation can be a form of art, a lack of imagination, or just simply theft. As any good lawyer would say: It depends. In this case I would affirm that it depends on the intentions and ethics of the appropriator, or some ubiquitous discussions on what constitutes art and its ownership.