The moment I became a photographer

This is a re-post from BPSOP instructor Brit Hammer’s blog

How it all started

In 2014 my filmmaker husband, Armand Dijcks, and I teamed up with Athena Carey to film a fine art landscape photography tutorial. She’s a brilliant photographer and instructor, and that’s her in my behind-the-scenes photos.

Together we created Africa with Athena, an immersive, travelogue style video tutorial transporting you to several beautiful locations for what feels like your own private photography workshop with Athena.

Our goal was that you feel relaxed by the end, even if you have no intention of photographing long exposure landscape images or creating fine art photos.


Spontaneity is your friend

So how did we get the video to feel so relaxed and authentic?

Normally we’d plan the filming sequence, have a script, and know what will be demonstrated in each location, but we wanted to capture an honest portrayal of Athena’s process creating fine art photographs.

This meant we allowed the shoot to evolve organically. If you are a filmmaker or editor I wouldn’t be surprised if you run screaming for the hills at the thought.

Here’s why we did it this way: creating art cannot be forced.

While shooting organically is risky, what mitigated the risk is that Armand and I have filmed and photographed extensively in these locations — in winter and summer, day and evening, rain and shine.


Keep your eyes on the action

Since we filmed with just one camera (operated by Armand), I was free to shoot behind the scenes (BTS).

Photographing BTS is similar to street photography in that you’re capturing candid moments. It requires you to be quick with your camera because you don’t know what’s going to happen next.

Armand filmed as Athena went about her business. He moved around her, being careful to keep his shadow out of her shot. I then moved around Armand, making sure to stay out of both his and Athena’s shots.

For the BTS shots I used Athena’s Sony RX-100 rather than the camera I had with me. Although it was my first time using this sophisticated compact camera, I found it easy to use (and later bought one for myself).

In the video Athena’s entire process of creating fine art images is shown and explained from start to finish. She created multiple long exposure images shot on several locations.

There was one location Armand and I had not been to prior to this shoot — the dunes. Me, I was afraid I would come away with nothing interesting. After all, what is there to shoot except sand?

Wow, was I wrong!

My favorite images from our 10-day shoot are shown above, taken within a few seconds. If you’ve ever taken a photography class with me you’ll know I got these in-camera. Nothing was staged and no one posed.

The trick for capturing moving action is to watch the action with your eyes, not through the viewfinder or on your LCD. Because if you do, you’ll quickly lose the action happening. Instead, follow the action with your eyes and glance at the LCD to check your framing, adjusting as necessary. Have your finger on the shutter release and be ready to shoot.


Know when NOT to shoot

The hard truth of photography is that you have to take a lot of bad photos before you gain enough experience to know when NOT to press the shutter release.

That’s perhaps the hardest lesson to learn, and it applies to every genre of photography.

Thing is, there’s no short cut to learning. If you were to just start clicking away, the rule of ex nihilo, nihil fit would apply — from nothing comes nothing. Put another way, you get out what you put in.


Shoot, review, adjust. (Repeat)

Each of us has to do the work and invest the time if we’re going to get good at photography.

The reason it takes time is that most of us don’t absorb everything in one go — we learn incrementally.

So review your images after each shoot to see what you did well and what might be improved. Then go out again, using what worked and making changes for what didn’t. While on the shoot review your images and make adjustments as necessary.

Keep at it and eventually you’ll know how to adjust to quickly get the results you’d like. More importantly, you’ll have learned when NOT to press the shutter release and will make the adjustments first.

This will improve your consistency at getting good images — and in-camera.

The bonus is that your workflow will be shortened. Instead of spending hours trawling through hundreds of images to find one good one, you’ll have fewer to go through. It also frees up disk space.

While there’s no short cut to learning, if you invest in yourself you’ll reap the rewards.


Make it an enjoyable experience

No matter what you’re doing — learning a new skill or creating a client project — it makes a big difference when everyone involved is enjoying the process.

Case in point: while we filmed at sunrise, sunset, and in the afternoons on most of the 10-day shoot, we also took time to relax. Because hey, if someone wasn’t having fun it would show in the finished video.

So Armand and I introduced Athena to some of our favorite places in South Africa’s Western Cape, including restaurants and wine estates. Above are some images prior to our wine tasting at Ataraxia wine estate, located in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley near Hermanus.

Oh, and perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Ataraxia is a Greek term meaning a state of serene calmness, and Hemel en Aarde is Afrikaans for Heaven and Earth.

The moment I became a photographer

I had been photographing for many years, so what happened to me and why did I not feel like a photographer prior to that 2014 shoot?

Well, I’d been upset with my shots on the first day, so each successive day I pushed myself to do better than the day before. This brings us back to ex nihilo, nihil fit. Or conversely, you get out what you put in.

After the final shoot on the last day we were hiking out of the dunes when I hung back to stay in the atmosphere a wee bit longer. As I took my final shot I felt something shift within myself.

I realized that over the course of those 10 days I had worked with what was in front of me and captured a series of solid images, no matter the weather, time of day, or how good (or bad) I was feeling. It included shots of the dog who followed us as we filmed in the dunes. (She resides with the reserve’s caretaker.)

So what I now felt was the feeling of confidence and self belief.

I had doubted my abilities but now finally KNEW through experience that I could get the shots. No longer did I feel like a fraud or wannabe because I had finally proven to myself that I could do it!


Get a taste of what we created

The below video trailer gives you an impression of  “Africa with Athena”, a travelogue style tutorial that transports you to several gorgeous locations in South Africa’s Western Cape, including the Cape Agulhas shipwreck and Danger Point Lighthouse.

“It is rare to be thoroughly engulfed and transported into such photographic beauty. I was educated, entertained, and inspired. Not only is Athena truly a gifted photographer, but an educator as well. From scouting locations to final post-processing, Athena takes her viewers through every step in a manner that is not only entertaining, but easy to understand, no matter what your skills are as a photographer. This is a must-see, must-have video adventure.” — Stan Fong






Black and White Fine Art Photography

Athena Carey

Athena Carey is a multi award-winning fine art travel photographer specializing in long exposure and black and white photography.

She is widely recognized for her ability to capture the emotional essence of place and time within her images.

Athena’s work is published in various books, magazines and websites and has been printed and hung around the world in private homes and businesses.

Visit Athena’s website at:

Follow Athena on Instagram

“Not only is Athena truly a gifted photographer, but an educator as well.” — Stan Fong




Finding Beauty

Authentic Photo Stories

Celebrate Your Life in Beautiful Images

Photography Essentials

Amazing Travel Photos Made Easy

** No post processing skills necessary for any of Brit’s courses **


Brit Hammer is an international award-winning photographer, bestselling author, and a celebrated artist whose work is aptly described as fresh and optimistic.

Brit’s students love her intuitive eye, patience, enthusiasm and holistic nurturing because the results are unbelievably incredible and inspiring student growth.

Visit Brit’s website at

Learn more about creative development and one-on-one mentoring with Brit

Follow Brit on Instagram


“There are great photographers and great teachers, but it is rare to find a great photographer who’s also a wonderful instructor; Brit embodies that rare combination.” — Tennessee Rick Elliot



White background in the Flora photography

We love sharing the best work of our PHOTOGRAPHING FLORA students. In this class we talk a lot about the importance of the background and how a bad background can steal the thunder of your main subject in the photo! And while we definitely encourage our students to experiment and explore different backgrounds, we also find ourselves enjoying pictures with the most simple background possible – just pure white color. White is about simplicity, about cleanliness, virginity, purity… But above all – about NOT taking the focus from the main model!

There are several ways to achieve a nice white background.

  • Obviously, the very basic one is to use just a white, well background – for example paper, cloth, or even a shirt… But this might get a little bit tricky when you are photographing with available ambient light as you will need to minimize the presence of shadows
  • You can use your electronic flashes or softboxes. Our favorite way to use the flash is to photograph together with white opaque plexiglass sheets.
  • Another way is to tape your subject onto the window and photograph flora against the strong outdoor light. You would be surprised how a nice and simple white background can be created by playing with the exposure!

All methods above (and so many more!) we are covering in our class and our participants are sharing beautiful images with us. So do not take only our words for it and let us illustrate what we really mean by “Flora on white background”, with several outstanding examples, taken during our previous Flora classes…


And what do our students have to say about Photographing Flora class?

I truly enjoyed this course. It got me outside to shoot and to think about flora. The lessons were fabulous. The class photos were beautiful I would recommend this course to anyone interested in flowers and  flora. Thank you, Patrik and Monika
Martha Rumley 

Thank you for a wonderful and inspiring class. With your encouragement I have been able to play and experiment and be creative with my flower photography. I truly appreciate the lessons and the excellent critiques.
Pam Corckran

This has been an eye-opening class.  Watching critiques has been invaluable, with his kind encouragement and clear guidance for improvement.  I hear Patrik’s voice in my head sometimes now when I take photos now! I also learned a lot and gained inspiration from my classmates. I will probably take it again.
Mika Geiger

Thank you, Monika and Patrik. Your style of teaching is so much fun and enjoyable. There are lots of things to learn but not enough time to do it! I wish you can change it to 6 weeks! Your video critiques are most helpful. I learned quite a few techniques from your suggestions by listening to your critiques from my classmate’s works.


PHOTOGRAPHING FLORA class begins September 4th, please join us here and learn how to photograph Flora too.

We are looking forward to meeting you in class!

Patrik and Monika Banas


© Alyda Gilmore


© Maureen Rogers


© Tomas Feller


© Beverly Burke


© Maria Sevecova


© Kveta Trckova


© Maureen Rogers


© Beverly Burke



© Francine Sreca


© Jacqui Nye



How to Start Organizing Your Images in Lightroom Classic

Lightroom Online Class

One of the reasons why I am such a Lightroom Classic fan is the organizational options. It can be a monumental task of managing a large collection of photos. I know this because I have over 70,000 images now in my Lightroom catalog. You may wonder how I keep track of all of them, and with Lightroom, it’s pretty easy!

Folder Organization

The first part of Lightroom organization is actually your folder hierarchy on your computer. You need to pick a consistent way to name your folders, preferably NOT by date.

You need to think about what kind of photographs you like to shoot. Do you shoot events? Do you like travel photography? Do you shoot pictures of your kids? For example, if you shoot a lot of travel photography, I would create a folder like this: Yosemite 2018_04. This folder will reflect the images you took in Yosemite, April of 2018. Maybe you were shooting your kids at a birthday party. It could be Megan’s Bday 2018_04. However you decide to organize it, make it consistent. For example, that Yosemite folder could be 2018 Half Dome Climb or Mom’s Bday in Yosemite. Do you see that all of these could reflect the vacation you had in Yosemite, but could be hard to find if you don’t have a consistent way of naming your images?

Yosemite Folders

Why You Shouldn’t Organize By Date

There’s a couple of reasons why I wouldn’t organize by date. The first reason is personal, I can’t remember where I was last week, let alone April of 2016! But I do remember that I was in Yosemite sometime in the spring of 2016, so my name of Yosemite 2016_04 would be easy for me to find. As you can see, I have a main folder heading in my Folders of Yosemite. Then you can see all the different trips I have made to Yosemite broken down by date. That is really the first step of the organization of your images.

When you first import images into Lightroom, it will default to organizing by date. Just be sure you change the settings so the destination reflects that you want your images organized into one folder.

Screen Shot 2017-11-15 at 2.02.02 PM

Star Ratings

The other important addition to your Lightroom organization is to use star ratings. Star ratings can be confusing unless you use the top ratings sparingly. When I first import my images into Lightroom, I will quickly cull through my images. During this first round, I will mark with one star the images that I like and x to the images I want to throw away. (The x key will tell Lightroom that you are rejecting an image. After you have gone through your images, you can delete all of your rejected images at once.) Go to the Photo menu and choose “Delete Rejected Photos”. You can delete all the rejects at once simply and easily.
Star ratings

Lightroom will ask you if you want to delete it from the hard drive or just remove it from the Lightroom library. Delete them from the hard drive instead of just removing them from Lightroom, that way they will be gone forever.

After I have used the one-star rating, I will go through those images and give a 2-star rating to the ones I want to do further editing. Once I have my editing to those images, I will go back and consider a 3-star rating. This rating would only be for those images that I would want in my portfolio and the 4-star rating would only be given to the best of the best.


My other favorite way of organizing images in Lightroom in using Collections. I would use a collection to store my favorite pictures from a certain shoot. It makes it a fast and easy way to find the best pictures from a shoot especially if you are doing a slide show or want to sync those images to Lightroom mobile. I would use the same naming convention as mentioned above in folders and even create subsets of images from the same location. But you can organize it a little differently in collections.

For example, suppose you took a trip to California. Your folder would be named California 2018_02, but in your California collection, you should only put the best of the best from that trip. Then, you can create subsets of your California folder and name those subsets San Francisco, Yosemite, and Big Sur.

Can you see how this new way of organization could change your whole way of working with your images? It will take a little time to learn, but it will pay off so you will have more time to shoot and be creative doing the thing you love to do, photography!

Learn other ways to organize and edit your images as we go into more detail in the Lightroom Quick Start Class. Learn to use this great program and create more creative beautiful images!


BPSOP Instructor – Holly Higbee-Jansen

HollyHolly Higbee-Jansen is photographer, trainer, blogger, and workshop leader who enjoys teaching and the creative process. Her passions include teaching photography workshops in beautiful locations in California, Iceland, Costa Rica and the American West with her husband Mark. Holly also teaches online classes on Lightroom, Photoshop and photographic technique. Get Holly’s Free E-Book on “Landscape Photography and the Light and find out about her newest workshops at Jansen Photo

Reach Holly by email at and check out her blog and photography portfolio at:

Holly Teaches:

Lightroom Quickstart


Do you want to learn to create images that show the beauty of the scene you saw when you took the photograph? Do you want to learn the other essential side of digital photography, photo editing and get up to speed quickly?

This course is designed to get you up and running FAST in this incredibly powerful program. In this two week information packed class, you will learn how to import, organize and perform simple and effective editing processes that will let you produce beautiful adjustments to your pictures.

iPhone Photography
In this class, we will introduce you to the magic of iPhone photography using several shooting and editing apps that will give you the ability to make your pictures sing in a fun and easy way.You will learn how to crop, change saturation, brightness and affect the overall look of your pictures with HDR, drama and grunge filters and other techniques. You will be amazed at the simple and effective methods.

Non Human Gesture

I talk to my online classes with the BPSOP, and in my “Stretching Your Frame of Mind” workshops I conduct throughout the world about the importance of a gesture in your imagery; it’s one of the ways to create Visual Tension.

The actual definition of a gesture is “a movement of a part of the body, especially a hand or the head, to express an idea. It’s an action performed to convey one’s feelings.”

Visual Tension is generated when you stop an action, as in a gesture, and leave it uncompleted. I’m always on the lookout for someone using a gesture either while talking or even pointing. That said, I don’t like to take photos of people pointing unless I have positioned them close to the edge of the frame so they’re pointing out. Tha way the viewer doesn’t know what they’re pointing out.

There is another type of gesture that I also like to talk about and especially in a photograph, and that’s a non-human gesture. Non-human gestures can also portray an emotion or communicate an idea.

A list of non-human gestures would include contrast, a recurrence of objects, color, depth, shadows, light, and the element of surprise. Trees, waves in the ocean, flowers, and even rock formations can portray a sense of Gesture. The one idea that connects these objects and is usually necessary to show them in their reality is the use of elegance or grace.

The use of color or light to create a non-human expression is an unwritten language different than the intentional movement created by man or other living creatures. This demonstration of visual expression can be a complex form of communicating ideas and emotions to the viewer. The use of Light to create a non-human gesture can be more difficult since Light is so fleeting that it can come and go in a blink of the eye. When you can anticipate this moment, or quick enough to react, it can imply a sense of movement that will embody the essence of an object.

When you can combine these non-human gestures, with any of the elements of visual design and composition on my Artist Palette I refer to it’s a great way to find that elusive “OMG” photo we all strive to take.

Here are a few examples of non-human gesture:

Visit my website at:, and check out my workshop schedule at the top of this blog. Come shoot with me sometime.

-BPSOP Instructor: Joe Baraban

Joe Teaches:

Stretching Your Frame of Mind I 

Stretching Your Frame of Mind II

The Use of Gestalt in Photography

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  • I have just completed my third course with BPSOP! This year I was fortunate enough to take Authentic Photo Series with Ms. Brit Hammer. I can’t remember when I’ve had this much fun in a class!!! The instruction was absolutely wonderful and I feel as though the course really helped me to stretch my photographic horizons. More than this, however, Ms. Hammer inspired me to expand my boundaries as a person as well. Brit is not just a wonderful photographer in her own right, but she is also a truly outstanding teacher . . . , of many, many things. I’ve often said there are great photographers and there are great teachers, but it’s seldom that you find a great photographer who’s also a great teacher. Brit truly excels at both. Lastly, let me complement you, Mr. Peterson. Great people don’t just come along by accident. You have assembled a genuinely gifted and caring teaching staff. Thanks so much for providing a wonderful service to photographers everywhere! Read More
    Rick Elliott Authentic Photo Series
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