Ask Questions

Always ask questions. Never stop.

Questions are the key to growth, to discovery and progression.

How do you freeze action? How do you keep everything sharp in a photo of mountains? How do you tre flip crook a handrail? How do you sellout Madison Square Garden in 10 minutes? How do you calm a scattered mind? How do you live in the present? How do you travel the world for 5 years and not pay rent/sign a lease? How do you love someone more than yourself? How do you be happy?

What excites you, fascinates you?

But most importantly, “What would it be like to travel on a beam of light?”

Don’t just ask questions, ask great ones.

Find people that can help you answer them, and try to help them answer THEIR questions. We’re all just trying to figure this out, so be helpful.

Ask, and then chase the answers.

Have fun.

Composition: Focal Length

Another technical aspect to composition is focal length.

In skateboarding, the staple focal length is somewhere between 8-16mm. Wow that’s really wide, what lens is that?

A fisheye. The lens non-skateboarders and photographers who don’t skate freak out about. “It’s cheesy, it’s too distorted, it’s cliche.”

As long as people have been pushing their skateboards, the filmers and photographers documenting them have used fisheyes.

I think it’s an act of bashing authority. Another symbol from skateboarding that shows it doesn’t care about adhering to the standards of other lifestyles.

The lens makes everything look bigger, radder, sicker, gnarlier, and sketchy-er. Perfect for what photographers and filmers are trying to do with skateboarding.

I’ll go into the use of a fisheye in another post.

Back to overall photography. If 8-16mm is a super wide angle-of-view fisheye, what’s everything from 20-85mm? That would be your moderate wide angles, through standard primes, to moderate telephoto. From 85 up to 500, 600, 47500mm, is a telephoto lens.

What effect do different focal lengths have on your composing of a photograph? With a long lens, objects can be more compressed together, and you tend to have less depth of field than a shorter/wider lens. With a shorter lens, objects are more spread out, and have more depth of field.


With this shot of Leo Martinez popping a tall switch flip off the ledges at Peace Wall, I decided to shoot with a 70-200mm lens, with it set at 200mm, in order to separate Leo from the busy background. The depth of field is very shallow, and the difference in light qualities between him and the background helps too.

I was inside editing when I heard a ruckus outside. There was an iguana chilling out on the windowsill. 200mm at f/4 was sufficient to set him apart in the frame.

In this photo, I was set to a focal length of 17mm. This made the tiles in front of me stretch out, and the mountains in the background look more distant.

I then switched to a focal length of 200mm, and framed just the tiled rooftop and three separate ridges. The longer focal length compressed the distance, making the objects seem closer together.

The next post will be a surprise, stay tuned!

Composition: Contrast and Tone

Quiet. Reverential. Contemplative.

If you are going for a feeling like the above with a photograph, the below characteristics will do well:

Soft light
Gray tones
Pastel colors
Curved lines
Rounded forms
Subdued contrast

Loud. Quick. Excitement. Spontaneity. Punch.

With these feelings, the below characteristics will do you well:

Hard light
Black blacks and white whites
Vibrant colors.
Angled lines.
Edged forms
Unrestrained contrast.

Be careful, as heavy contrast is easily overdone. Be sure to check in and feel the emotion you are trying to conveying in a photograph. Some do better with more contrast, some do better with less.


Up near the Fire Trails in Berkeley, I started on a mission to Orinda BART. I don’t know if I’ve been anywhere quieter in the Bay, so I wanted to show that, along with the fog that was sweeping through. Very low contrast between the tree branches created the quiet, mystical, and simple feeling I was going for.


This tide pool in a pocket of ironshore beach was created by a storm that you can see is leaving. I wanted to show the reflection of the stormy sky, the sharp edges of the rocks, so I increased the contrast for more punch and excitement.




Shooting some photos at Berkeley Park for the first time in a while, Dylan was getting creative with a nollie back 180 melon. The sun was going down, and the sky was darkening to the blue shade you see here. I was using flash to freeze the action and light him properly. There is a lot of contrast between Dylan and the dark sky, and the colors of the sunset, creating the bold image I wanted.



In this photo of the mountains surrounding Ollantaytambo, you can see the three different tones in the photo, the first hill, the peak, and the sky. Not much contrast was added, each layer stood out on it’s own.

The nest post will be about: DOF!

Composition: Shutter Speed

Shutter speed. The make it or break it in a lot of photography. Too slow and it could blur action, too fast and your subject may look unnatural.

Shutter speed is a measurement of time between the mirror flipping down, blacking out your viewfinder for a moment. It can range from hours (though not recommended as it can damage your sensor), to 1/8000 of a second on most high end point and shoots through dSLRs.

This paragraph will address primarily skateboarding photography. Looking at your subject, what are you trying to do? If you want to keep your guy and the whole image sharp, go with a faster shutter speed, 1/800 and above. If you want to show movement, try 1/250 and below, and pan with the action. Your guy will stay sharp, and the background will blur out, effectively separating him from a potentially distracting background. You can use a flash, on camera or off, to further this effect.

In landscape photography, most of your subjects will be still, besides the wind blowing your subject, and flowing water. If you are trying to keep a moving object sharp, just make sure your shutter speed is fast enough.

Water deserves its own paragraph. When I first started shooting photos, I went out after it had rained, and experimented with 1/8000 of a second. I shot the water coming out of the gutters on my house, and got a shot with a super sharp stream of water, separated into blobs. Had I used a slow speed of 1/50 and below, the water would have blurred nicely into a wispy continuous stream.


Shutter speed of 1/800 at least. Another factor of using shutter speed to freeze action is how much of the frame your moving subject takes up. Here it’s not super close, so I could get away with a slower shutter speed.


Here, I was using flashes to freeze the action. I’ll go into this on another post, but no panning was necessary to achieve this shot. The shutter speed was 1/200, but the flash duration was approximately 1/2000, from two Vivitars.


In this shot of Aramis getting a backside carve on the wave, I wanted the water spray tack sharp, so I used a shutter speed of 1/2000, maybe more.

Shooting at Potrero one day, this dude came hauling ass frontside through the air, and I had my Lumedyne out, so I decided to show how fucking fast he was going. Shutter speed of 1/100, I panned with him, the Lumedyne at 1/4000 and a Vivitar at 1/2000.


I actually was running next to Colin, and shot this. Little blurred, but I like it. Had my fill flash on camera to help light his face. Shutter speed was 1/200, Vivitar at 1/2000.


Aramis slashing frontside on the Wave at The Black Pearl Skatepark, I wanted all the spray sharp like in the above surf shot, so my shutter was set to 1/2500.


I took this right after the 2012 Pirates Week fireworks show. I was on the dock, and the water was choppy, so I thought it would be cool to show the chaotic flow of it. The exposure was a few seconds long.


It was late at night, and the stars were magnificent at this state park in Northern California. I didn’t want them sharp, which a shutter speed of 30 seconds (depending on focal length) would be good for, but I wanted them to trail, so I left the shutter open for a couple minutes. Trees stay sharp, stars trail nicely.

P.S. I realize this post was technical, but almost every camera you pick up can control shutter speed, or at least it shows you. On those frustrating automatic point and shoots, just put it on Sports. “Why is my action blurry??!”…”Just put it on Sports…”

The next post: Contrast and Tone…