Friends and Photography

You know you’ve become pretty good friends with someone when they’re willing to get their portrait taken on a whim. As an artist and stay-at-home dad for the past seventeen years, it has been absolutely necessary for me to find time to occasionally get out of the house and talk to other sentient beings. (My labradoodles listen pretty well, but they don’t quite offer the same level of intellectual support as my human friends do) This usually means meeting for coffee in the morning with friends. By now, most of them are pretty comfortable having their mugs of caffeine sharing table space with my camera. It helps too that most of my friends are creatives. In exchange for modeling, my friends receive an updated portrait for their website or social media pages. Win win!

Luckily for me, there are also interesting places nearby the coffee and breakfast stops, and I get a bonus session at the seasonal produce stand or the many nearby inter urban trails!

Here are some shots from this mornings coffee time. Enjoy, and see more on my INSTAGRAM : Big_Wide_Lens

Thanks, and happy shooting!


Eric PonderingCinimon rollOnion Pile


Down To The Ground

As with most things in life, changing your perspective can make all the difference. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes, as the proverbial advice suggests, broadens our understanding of the world around us. In photography, changing perspective is a powerful tool we can rely on to strengthen our artistic muscles.

After years of shooting pictures and art making, I still sometimes find myself walking around expecting pictures to make their way into my lens at my convenient, eye level, legs straight, non-tripod mounted,  lazy way of shooting pictures. Many times, simply pointing and shooting will suffice. Often times, you have no choice in the matter. You have to shoot when something presents itself. What I am referring to are those moments when the subject matter is fantastic, but for some reason you can not capture it’s essence. Those spectacular round river rock are white flecked, the water is hitting them midway, and you know it’s a lovely sight, but your pictures are dull and uninspiring. Or, there’s is a wonderful repetition in the way some boulders are placed in a pond, but for some reason the pictures you take are boring. My advice? Get down low.

Shooting from a lower perspective adds overlap , an important visual cue, to more elements in your photograph that you wouldn’t get otherwise. It also gives your images drama by placing more objects in the foreground, strengthening the depth of the image. It also allows for more compositional possibilities, and for me this really gets my creative juices flowing. Suddenly, I tiny leaf becomes a focal point and a major compositional anchor. A tiny piece of root directs the eye towards the focal point. A leafy twig springs up in the foreground providing a strong sense of space in your photograph.

Here are some examples of how I positioned my camera real low, sometimes a few inches, to the ground in order to capture the essence of my environment. Thanks for reading and keep in touch!



peeka BooWeb


Hidden Treasures

I came across this shot I took at Clark’s Point last year. I never published it or had it printed because there was always something I didn’t like about it. Today I made it a square format picture, converted it to black and white, did a little dodge and burning, and I am pleased! I am currently working on an online shop to sell some of my photographs…and I think this one wil be included. Thanks for stopping by, happy shooting! -Shawn Pagels (artSEEguy)

Spooky Rockweb


Time to Rock!

No tutorial today, but please enjoy a few rock photographs!



Left Overs:


Rock Hut:


Sand Castles:


Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels


It’s All A Fog

Use fog and misty conditions to create photos with depth and moodiness. In understanding that objects closer to the camera will be darker, tonality, or darkness and lightness, can be exploited to make highly expressive photographs.

Sea mist aided in the creation of space in this black and white coastal shot.


In this cliff side photograph, the fog helps define the form of the rock walls and directs the eye to the closer, more detailed surfaces..


In this minimalist photograph, the foggy conditions were crucial in separating out the few elements that were in the composition. This was an exercise in the less-is-more approach to picture making.


For the most part, fog and misty conditions are a photographers friend. Remember to take a tripod along for those darker days. Let those hazy conditions prime your imagination!

As always, contact me with questions, pointers, article requests, or just to say ,”You’re awesome!”

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels



Go Ahead, Be a Square

We are all taught in art school or photography classes about portrait and landscape formats and the appropriate uses of them. Today, I want to demonstrate the power of the square! If done right, presenting an image in a square format can make a bold statement. There is something kind of hip about ignoring rules and putting something out there that looks a little different from the rest. With that in mind, there are a few things you want to look out for to avoid making your image look less like a statement and more like a mistake!


As in other formats, you want to remember some basic rules of good composition. Think thirds and avoid dividing the picture in half will keep the image dynamic(if this is your intent). Try not to pull the eye out of the picture by cropping lines or high contrast objects out of the frame.


In this example, there are lines leading away from the subject matter, but they are minimized by the use of value. The brightest and highest contrast is on the Slug shaped fallen tree.


Another great way to use this format is by creating an abstract image. Use pattern, shape and rhythm to make images that resemble abstract paintings.

Rothko Day

I titled this one “Rothko Day” after the famous painter. There are three major bands going across this picture with enough detail to retain a natural element, but remain abstract.

Keep It Moving:

To counter the stagnant nature of the square, choose a photograph that conveys motion.


The lively nature of this small waterfall keeps the square format lively and visually compelling!

Thanks for reading. Please follow my blog for further articles with examples. Contact me with any questions or comments.

Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

Create Stunning Black and White Images

As some of you may know, I LOVE black and white photography. I am going to show you a few steps that combine some old school techniques with some of the best ways you can use photoshop to make amazing looking photographs. First of all, for optimal control of your image, Always shoot in color. I know cameras now have settings that are really cool like sepia mode and panorama, but to get top quality black and whites when shooting digital we can use all that color information to our advantage:

Original Image: 



Bland, greyscale mode switch or desaturation:

When I first started exploring black and white photography with my digital camera, I would often just switch the color mode to greyscale or simply desaturate the color.


The images were left looking flat and I would try to compensate by adjusting the contrast or the brightness levels.

Black and White Conversion:

For better results, make a duplicate of the original image and do a black and white conversion. In photoshop, select image, then adjustment, then black and white.


Once you select this, you will see a color adjustment slider window.



This is where your eyes are your real tools. Different scenery will benefit from different settings. In this example, I achieved more detail and some interesting tonal variation in the background rocks by sliding the reds to the left (making them darker) and the yellows to the right(making them lighter) Some other adjustments were made across the spectrum to give the image more sparkle.


As you can see, we are already seeing more detail and greater tonal variation across the whole image. Now to apply an old school technique.

Dodge and Burn: 

(well in this case, only dodging). Ansel Adams used this technique for darkening and lightening areas of his work in the dark room, If he did it, so can we! In the tool bar, select the dodge tool and adjust the brush size to lighten some small areas. Make sure the setting is for highlights.


In the rock in the foreground, I selected some areas to lighten, including the bit of water underneath the rock.

dodge application



This next step can make or break a good photograph. Sharpening an image can take it to a higher level. Too much sharpening can create unwanted halos and strange artifacts. To avoid a large halo effect where the sky and cliffs meet, I duplicated the layer and created a graduated mask starting from top to bottom. When I apply sharpening, It will only be seen on the bottom two-thirds of the photograph and will not create an unwanted halo effect along the skyline.



Finally, I apply an adjustment layer with curves. Curve adjustments are a better choice than simple brightness, contrast adjustments offering you much more control. It also doesnt degrade your image quality near as much as simply adjusting the brightness and contrast.

curvenotice the slight “S” shape created by inserting points along the lights and darks, this is a good starting point for making effective adjustments.


Here is a sample of a simple greyscale mode change versus a Black and White Conversion, followed by a large image of the final result:




I hope you found this helpful. Happy Shooting!

Shawn Pagels

Keep Something Upfront-tips for shooting wide


When shooting wide angle landscapes or waterscapes, take advantage of the focal range by placing something of interest in the foreground. Even if the foreground has an interesting texture, it will lend to the composition and increase the sense of depth in your photograph. The light was very nice the day I took this shot. Since I shot in early spring, color wasn’t giving me much to work with, so I stuck a nd 4 and a polarizing filter on my Tokina 11-16 to allow for darker skies and a longer exposure to smooth the water a bit. Happy shooting!