St. Johns River by Heather Hummel

St. Johns River by Heather Hummel
St. Johns River by Heather Hummel Photography

Friday, August 21, 2015

Barren Optimism: How My Photography Is Influenced by Andrew Wyeth's Paintings

"Barren Optimism" Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

I captured this self-portrait, titled "Wading Through," at King Family Vineyards in rural Crozet, Virginia. When I asked the owner, James King, about the field's status, he indicated that it had peaked two weeks earlier, on July 12th. He could not have known that was also my 50th birthday.

The next day, I ventured out to the field anyway. I passed a polo match, carrying my camera, lenses, filters, and tripod, and headed to the way-back corner of the property. When I turned the corner past the long fences, I liked what I saw. The sunflowers were mostly died off with just enough still hanging in there. The metaphor was strong. It set a different tone than the typical field of flowers--one that began a photo shoot that was inspired by my love for Andrew Wyeth's work.

The sunflower scene brought the words "barren optimism" to mind, Andrew Wyeth's "Christina's World" being my inspiration.

Having studied Wyeth's work some years ago, I knew that he and I shared a lot of commonalities beyond our mutual respect for hillsides and nature. We share the same birthday, July 12th (his 1917, mine 1965); he is one of five children, I am one of six; he had a medically challenged childhood that kept him home schooled, I was home most of my 3rd grade year due to a congenital heart defect that lead to my first open heart surgery in 1974; and one of his many muses was his dog who looked just like my own dog, Stephan.
It was Wyeth's work "Master Bedroom" that became my favorite even before Stephan came into my life.

"Stephan" Photo Credit: Heather Hummel Photography

Wyeth spent his years between his home in Pennsylvania and his summer home in Maine. I grew up in New England, but have traveled across the United States several times. We are both inspired by nature, and I find that his work rather barren with a hint of optimism, hence my term barren optimism.

As can happen with a muse or inspiration, I hadn't realized how much Wyeth's work had influenced my photography until I captured the sunflower field self-portrait. Wyeth remains a favorite, and during my future photo shoots, I will certainly have him in the back of my mind as I analyze the scene before me, the light, and the opportunity for barren optimism.

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

iPhoneography Pro: A Q&A With Commercial Photographer Robert Morrissey

"The one quick thing iPhone users need to understand is that the minute you switch over to camera mode your iPhone is no longer a phone but a camera. If you want to take good photos you need to understand photography."
- Robert Morrissey, Commercial Photographer

iPhone photography, termed iPhoneography, has been credited with some amazing photographs to the point where many photographers are putting away their DSLR cameras and lenses while grabbing their iPhone when heading out the door for a photo shoot. Add to it that amateurs are crossing the professional barriers with a touch of the iPhone screen, and there is little argument that iPhoneography is here to stay. Those who have the iPhone 6 are experiencing a new sensor with faster focus speeds and better low light images. The screen on the iPhone 6 is 4.7 inches with a 326ppi resolution, which Android users have enjoyed for a while now.
So, what is the next level for iPhoneography? That is exactly what is addressed in commercial photographer Robert Morrissey's iPhoneography Pro: Techniques For Taking Your iPhone Photography To The Next Level (Amherst Media, August 2015). I reached out to Morrissey, who took a break from his busy work as a commercial photographer to answer some questions about his book and the topic of iPhoneography.

HH: What gave credence to writing a Pro book on iPhoneography?

RM: When I was asked to write this book I honestly wasn't too sure about doing it. I had previously written two books on lighting for commercial photographers, so I knew I could write a book. But taking a professional approach to the iPhone was a little nerve-racking at first. However, once I ran several tests on the iPhone, I knew I could create a great book, with strong images and solid lessons without harming my professional reputation.

HH: Who is the audience for iPhoneography Pro?

RM: Truly this book is for everyone with an iPhone, especially anyone that has read other iPhone photo books and wants to take their work further. This book guides the reader well beyond many other iPhone books out there. The fact is that the iPhone has become the new portable camera that everyone seems to have on them at all times.

In the book I go over several photography techniques that apply to all cameras, but after that, I push the iPhone to its limits. The one quick thing iPhone users need to understand is that the minute you switch over to camera mode your iPhone is no longer a phone but a camera. If you want to take good photos you need to understand photography.

HH: Did you learn anything new and exciting about the iPhone camera during the writing phase?

RM: Oh yeah. I learned that a skilled photographer can create an amazing collection of images, generate income and compete professionally with their iPhone. Add in the ability to use Photoshop and you have a professional grade camera that can compete with many pros sitting on expensive cameras.

HH: What is one specific thing you want photographers to know about iPhoneography?

RM: The one thing Id like people to know about the iPhone camera is that this is a serious piece of equipment when used properly and in the right hands. I would like to have Sports Illustrated Swimsuit or Pirelli or Vouge give me a chance to show off the iPhones capability shooting their calendars or some covers. I believe my team could get amazing shots that no one, and I mean no one, would be able to tell they were shot with an iPhone camera. I am 100% serious about this.

HH: If you could only photograph oceans or mountains for the rest of your years, which one would you pick?

RM: I thought about this question a lot. Truthfully if all I could do was take photos of one thing I would shoot myself. As a human wired to be a photographer basically from birth I wouldnt enjoy photographing only one thing. The world is my canvas and I have to paint with my camera. There are way too many things to take photos of and I believe that I still haven't taken my best photo yet.

Robert Morrissey is a commercial photographer who also does speaking engagements for camera clubs and other related events. To learn more, visit his website at:

This post originally appeared on the Huffington Post.  

Want to learn how to master low light photography and to capture your own low-light photos? My book MASTER LOW LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY is available on Amazon.