Self Assignment: Photographing Places You Love

Today’s Post by Joe Farace

One of the best ways to improve your photography is the self-assignment. Mine used to be taking pictures of barns, the older the better and in today’s Colorado landscape this has proven more difficult since I started the project. Here’s my personal guidelines when photographing my little corner of the world but please consider them as a place to begin your own explorations. This has never been a “my way or the highway” blog and I’m not going to start now…

How I made this shot: This image was made part of an area that was condemned via Eminent Domain. I was able to get into the area before the county fenced it off and highway construction began. It was made with my old Canon EOS 30D converted for infrared capture and Zenitar 16mm f/2.8 lens with an exposure of 1/400 sec at f/16 and ISO 400. Converted to color using the Blue Sky Technique shown here.

# 1:  Don’t walk onto someone’s land as if you own it. Always ask permission. I keep some examples of my photography on an old iPad to show people what I’ve done, hoping once they see my photos they’ll be accommodating. Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn’t. I was looking for one image where the people weren’t interested so I made the photograph outside their property looking in. Sorry I couldn’t find it but when I do I’ll update this post and let you know via Instagram. Follow me at @joefarace.

# 2: Remember the old press photographer’s adage of “f/8 and be there.” Keep a camera handy.

# 3: To get all the important details in clear focus, I shoot at the smallest possible apertures, preferring f/16 or smaller. When composing, don’t forget the total area of sharp focus is one-third in front of the object and two-thirds behind. See my rules/suggestions for photographing landscapes for some ideas that might help.

# 4: Most DSLRs and mirrorless cameras offer a monochrome option also let you apply digital filters to the image so for black and white shots I’ll typically add a Red filter in to produce dramatic skies and snappy, contrasty images.

# 5: Use the lowest possible ISO setting. This may result in slow shutter speeds, which is why I  keep a tripod in my car. Right now my green Manfrotto tripod is residing in the trunk of Mary’s Beetle. Using a tripod slows the pace of photography and spending extra time makes sure the composition is exactly the way I want it to look. Tip: Avoid surprises, look at the four corners of the frame before clicking the shutter.


My next book, subtitled A Life In Photography, will be self-published because no book publisher is interested in the concept. It will be a combination of autobiography and beginner’s guide to the business of photography. In short it’s about about learning to be successful by avoiding all of my mistakes that I made. It is scheduled to be published real soon now.