Stephen Bay's Photography Blog

My Photography Goals for 2020

Creative Goals

I’m going to move away from stamp collecting. In the past, I treated landscape (and travel) photography like stamp collecting. I had a list of locations and I wanted to make sure I had at least one photo from each spot. Once I got my shot, I moved on to the next one in my list. When I first moved to San Diego, this served me well as I had no images and didn’t know the area very well. But the time for this strategy has passed.

Instead, I’m going to focus on making images where I have an internal narrative in my mind for why I made the picture and what it represents. I’ve already been doing this to some extent with my work, but will push on this even more. Undoubtably this means I will spend more time on each image in order to careful craft the scene.

As a result of the above, I’m probably going to produce fewer shots. In the past few years I’ve shared a little more than 1 image a week. This upcoming year, I think I will be happy if I share one new image a month. I won’t necessarily be photographing less but I will be more selective in deciding when my work is ready. Knowing some of the pictures I have in mind, I will likely have to return to the location multiple times in order to get everything just right.

Educational Goals

I also have several educational goals. First, I want to master blend-if in Photoshop as an alternative to luminosity masks. As with luminosity masks, blend-if lets one target pixels by their brightness levels and can be used for restricting adjustments in the image and for exposure blending. I have a few reasons for wanting to pursue this:

  1. With blend-if, you specify the targeted luminosity levels directly. In contrast, with luminosity masks there is often a bit of trial and error as you have to browse different masks to find the one that covers the appropriate brightness range. There’s no need for this with blend-if as you directly set the luminance levels of affected pixels as well as the falloff.
  2. Blend-if is more efficient than generating luminosity masks which take up both processing power to calculate and, more importantly, considerable memory to store. I’m constantly running into the 4GB file size limit for tifs. Using the PSB large file format is problematic because they are not currently supported in Lightroom (I find it ridiculous that Adobe doesn’t support their own file format in LR).
  3. Blend-if is adaptive. If the underlying image data changes you don’t need to recompute anything (whereas with luminosity masks you’d need to regenerate the mask). I’ll often want to apply the same PS adjustments to different base images (or edit a layer near the bottom of my stack) so being able to apply the same processing steps without any recomputation is incredibly helpful.

Second, I’m going to purchase a graphics tablet and dedicate the time to master it. Everything I’ve read suggests that with a graphics tablet there is a steep learning curve and you have to give it a few weeks before you become fully comfortable with it for editing. I don’t know if I’ll ultimately adopt this approach for editing, but I will give it a serious effort.

Finally, I want to learn about retouching techniques used in commercial and portrait photography (probably by taking a video course). Even though I focus on landscapes, I’ve often found it helpful to learn from those working in other genres of photography.

Looking back at my goals for 2019

Going into 2019, I had two explicit goals for my photography. First, I wanted to increase the number of horizontal images I make as I had been falling into the habit of making vertical images often with a near-far composition. Second, I often relied on a super colorful sunrise/sunset burn and I wanted to use a more diverse color palette.

Below is a screenshot of some recent images I uploaded to my website. With the exception of Big Blowhole these were all photographed and processed in 2019. Big Blowhole was shot in 2017 but I ignored it at first (because it didn’t have that colorful sunset burn) and I didn’t come back to finish it until now.

Recent images made in 2019

I’m still working on processing my images from 2019, so this isn’t a complete set. But I’m happy with how my photography has progressed.