Using Obstacles to Create Dynamic Images

A good photographer can most times turn ashes into beauty. With different angles, lighting or lack thereof, compositions, poses, emotional expressions whether a person, a sacred landscape, or a momentous event, with minor or major processing, a photographer can create something beautiful and amazing from what appears to be nothing.



Many times, as photographers, we are surrounded by elements that would apparently make for terrible photographs. Some venues have nothing great about them. I have brides who tear up or feel overwhelmed because a storm moved in and ruined their day. I have seen photographers pass up opportunities or areas where there was plenty to photograph, but they missed it because they didn’t see anything. The sun rises to high noon everyday, moving photographers to only schedule in the later afternoon. Sometimes outfits don’t do subjects any justice. (I encourage my high school seniors to bring all their clothes, even their ugly outfits. Sometimes what people see as ugly actually looks good.) Excuses seem to abound, but I really believe we’re in the business of turning lemons into lemonade (Lemons, meaning the possibility of having bad photographs or none at all).

A good example is weather. As a professional photographer, you should be able to shoot in any weather, and not just shoot in it, but also embrace it. Then sell it to your clients. Give them your vision. Photographers and couples panic when it comes to the weather. Snow, rain, fog, darker skies, brighter skies, blue skies, cloudy flat skies, cloudy layered skies, etc. are great atmospheric conditions in which to photograph. Even Texas-sized hail. All you have to do is ask the question, “what would happen if…?”






Many of my April, May, and June weddings received much rain. For some of my brides, an anxiety attack wasn’t far off. For me as a photographer, it was an opportunity. In May, I photographed a wedding in Colorado. They had planned their ceremony on the venue’s golf club overlooking the vast course with promises of blue sky. The next day it stormed (typical in Colorado), putting everyone inside. I passionately let them know about my vision with the rain. The bride resisted and even started some tears. She was tired, cold, hungry, and wasn’t about to stand in the rain for photographs. Her husband helped in convincing her. I’m not an insensitive person, however, I do know that brides will forget the suffering and remember their wedding memories for life through our photographs. I work with all kinds of couples and know when it’s time to stop.


This image above is taken without flash and within a minute. The bride’s dress pops against the background. It was raining and very cold, so I applaud the bride for working hard to get these images. For being allowed to photograph with little time, it didn’t turn out that bad.



The image above is from another wedding in Napa, California this June 2011, with kind of the same set up, except for this time, I used my flash, among other changes.


The above shot is what it looks like without a flash. They didn’t stand out from the background, and the sky is plain and boring. The trees dominate the image. This image had no emotional impact. So, I brought my assistant over there next to the couple to hold the flash (580ex2), so I could underexpose the sky and the background as seen below.


Now I can see the clouds in the sky, no longer boring and flat. I can definitely see the bride and groom popping out of the image more than the trees. My eyes are drawn once again the white dress. Now, I can take the assistant and second photographer out of the scene, adjust the lighting, and deliver the image to the client. However, this is one of those images that I wanted to put a little more time into that would require extra time.


So, in the finishing image, I dodged and burned mostly, along with other items such as levels, curves, color preferences, clarity, and exploring PS layer options. I wanted the trees to pop out a little more, and not be hidden by purely dark tones. So, I decided to paint light onto select areas of the trees to add a dimension of light.   I also wanted to reveal the dramatic clouds. Flash really helps in bringing out the skies.

I hope this encourages you to embrace any obstacle in your journey to photograph. I mostly talked about weather, but you can use your creative mind to figure out how to turn a possibly bad photograph into a stunning one.

My history and journey with BPSOP

My name is Charleton Churchill and I live in northern California in the mountains with my wife of twelve years, and my three daughters. I jumped into photography in 2006 when I purchased a Nikon DSLR in my preparation to climb Mt. McKinley (Denali), Alaska, tallest mountain the U.S. I was eager to learn how to use the camera before I attempted the three-week expedition in 2007, and later 2008. What started with landscape photography (which I still love), turned into requests to photograph weddings and seniors, which I hadn’t planned. Later, after some major decisions in April of 2009, I purchased my business license and went full steam ahead. To this day, my business has been explosive, booking nearly forty weddings for 2011 (my maximum), with travel throughout the United States. I have been in the top 5 best photographers in northern California Sacramento by the KCRA A-list in the last few years, #1 best 2010 Sacramento Photographer. My work is being published in magazines for my fashion and wedding photography.

I thank God for people he has placed in my life. I owe many thanks to the mentors who have poured into me. Mike Larson, Johnathan Esper, Travis Hoehne, Robert Evans, David Beckstead, BPSOP, and especially Kevin Focht from BPSOP, who has taken me under his wing. Starting in 2009, I took a total of six photography courses with BPSOP, most of them with Kevin Focht. I took only one course to try it out before I started taking more, realizing these classes were teaching me exactly what I needed to know. In 2009, I asked Kevin, my instructor at the time, if I could fly up to Portland on my dime to assist him for a wedding. And after that weekend, he was no longer just my instructor, but a good friend. And to this day, I consider him a good friend. I thank Chris Hurtt from BPSOP for asking me to share this information I also thank Bryan Peterson co-founder of BPSOP for making all this possible. I have nothing but the best ratings for BPSOP!

You can find Charleton’s web site at

Charleton Churchill / Instructor for Wedding Photography @BPSOP


-Taught by USA Today Sports Photographer Russ Isabella-

We live in a very sports minded world and there is not a day that goes by where something was not worth reporting in the world of sports. Not surprising, there is not a day that goes by where something was not worth photographing in the world of sports either!

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Whether it be our own kids, or the neighborhood kids at the local high school or the nearby college or images of your own professional sports team, most of us love watching sports and many of us would love to capture images of our kids, friends or ‘idols’ playing their favorite sports but most of us don’t have a clue how to succeed at it.

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That is all going to change immediately after signing up for this photography course taught by one of the USA’s top Sports Photographers, Russ Isabella. You have seen his work in USA Today, but as is often the case, you were so blown away by the image, you didn’t notice his name! Well now you have a chance to not only learn from Russ but also get feedback from Russ from the four weekly assignments which he will challenge you with.

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Following the conclusion of this four week course, all four of the very insightful lessons will have you shooting like an expert on the subject of sports photography i.e. knowing where to focus, which focus system to use, what ISO are bests, lens choice, valuable inside tips on exposure, and some very strong compositional advice too! Whether you wish to shoot sports inside or outside, you will know not only where to point your camera, but what to do so you arrive at the most satisfying outcome!

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We know you have been asking for a sports photography class for a few years and today we are thrilled to announce that we are offering the best sports photography class to be found anywhere on the world wide web! We truly are very lucky to have Russ Isabella offer his expertise, exclusively here at You are going to love this guy and what he has to offer!

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To learn more about this course CLICK HERE

“You Keep Shooting!”

-Bryan F Peterson


Correct Exposure vs. Creatively Correct Exposure

Did you know that most picture taking situations have at least six possible combinations of f/stops and shutters speeds that will ALL result in a correct exposure; not a creatively correct exposure but a correct exposure? But only one, sometimes two, of these combinations of f/stops and shutter speeds is the creatively correct motion-filled exposure.
Every ‘correct’ exposure is nothing more then the quantitative value of an aperture and shutter speed working together within the ‘confines’ of a predetermined ‘ISO’. For the sake of argument we are both out shooting a city skyline at dusk, using a film speed of 100 ISO and an aperture opening of f/5.6 and whether we are shooting in manual mode or aperture priority mode the light meter indicates a correct exposure at 1 second. Are the other combinations of aperture openings (f/stops) and shutter speeds can we use and still record a ‘correct’ exposure? You bet there is! If I suggest we use an aperture of f/8 what would the shutter speed now be? Since we have cut the lens opening in half (f/5.6 to f/8) I will now need to double my shutter speed time to two seconds to record a correct exposure, (1 sec + 1 sec= 2 seconds.) On the other hand, if I suggested that we use an aperture of f/4 what would the shutter speed now be? Since we have just doubled the size of the lens opening (f/5.6 to f/4) I will now need to cut my shutter speed in half (1/2 second) to record the same ‘quantitative value exposure’.

Let’s pretend we’ve invited ten other shooters to join us in shooting this scene and we break into three groups. One third of the group shot this scene at f/11 for four seconds, another third shot the scene at an f/8 for a two seconds while the remaining third shot the scene at f/5.6 for 1 second. You know what? All of us just shot the exact same CORRECT EXPOSURE! Even though each groups f/stops and shutter speeds were different, the end result was the same; the quantitative value of each group’s exposures is the same. I can’t stress the importance of being aware of this ‘quantitative value’ principal. Every picture taking opportunity offers you no less then six possible aperture/shutter speed combinations. And why must you know this? Even though each group has the ‘same’ exposure, the motion-filled opportunity that each group shot may look radically different. Knowing that each motion-filled exposure opportunity offers up six possible combinations is a start but knowing which one or two exposures best conveys or capture the motion before is the key. Once you are armed with this knowledge you can begin to fully explore the truly endless road of creatively correct motion-filled exposures!
The Tower On A Tripod


The Eiffel Tower is arguably the most photographed monument in all of Europe – if not the world. Paris continues to hold the top spot as the world’s number one travel destination and for many that trip to Paris is a once in a lifetime experience so all the more reason to come back with the most compelling exposures and compositions possible! And one sure way to do just that is to embrace the simple law that every scene before you offers up no less than six possible correct exposures! And when shooting dusk scenes in the city or along the ocean where crashing surf smashes against the rocks, the longer the shutter speed, the better, and when I say longer I am talking seconds – FULL seconds, not fractions of seconds – and that also means the need for a tripod.

Compare the two photos above, both the same exposure in terms of their quantitative value yet notice the obvious and very strong visual difference between the two compositions. The traffic flow in the first image (above, left) is ‘abrupt’, cut short by a ‘fast’ exposure of f/5.6 at a ½ second shutter speed. Compare this to the second image (above, right) where an exposure of f/22 at 8 seconds took place-both are correct exposures in their quantitative value, but radically different in their visual presentation. You be the judge, but I would be very surprised IF you were more fond of the first image with the somewhat abrupt traffic flow. The lesson to be learned here is a simple one; how much motion you record in a given scene is 100% dependent on the which of the six possible correct exposures you choose to use-in this case, the longest possible exposure time seemed to be the better choice! Trial and error are an important and vital part of photographic excellence, so don’t be afraid to experiment with various combinations of apertures and shutter speeds. (Don’t confuse this exercise with ‘bracketing’. Bracketing refers to shooting several additional exposures that are over and/or under exposures of what the meter suggests is correct. ) The above exercise is merely about exploring six possible ‘same’ exposures and their various visual effects.

Check out the video below!

You Keep Shooting!
Bryan F. Peterson/Founder BPSOP

Tips and tricks of travel photography

By William Yu


Larong Tibetan Buddhist Institute, Sichuan, China

Summer is the peak season for vacation and traveling. As a travel photographer and photo tour leader, It’s my pleasure to share some tips from my experience and answer some frequently asked questions about travel photography.

1. Set up a system to backup your images every day, and stick to the scheme like clockwork.

Loss of images or accidental reformat of SD/CF cards is one of the devastating mishaps during a photo trip, a good backup system is absolutely necessary to avoid such tragedy. I always carry two small 1TB portable hard drives on the trip for redundancy; one is always with me in the camera bag, the other in my checked-in luggage. Always make copies of images to both drives at the end of each day, then reformat the SD cards in camera for next day’s shoot. This is the ironclad system I never deviate from, no matter how tired or exhausted I am. With this system in place, I assure that the past-day images are always backed up and no chance to confuse myself as which sd card is used or not. You may have your own favorite daily backup system, the key is to follow through daily, no exceptions.


Kirkjufellsfoss, Iceland

2. Do your due diligence in advance and make sure bringing the right equipment.

Not every photo location is “walk in the park”, some sites may need special equipment to get the best shot. It is crucial to do your research and get the right equipment in advance/before the trip. I led an Iceland photo tour in late June this year, one of the most unique photo site is the black sand beach at the mouth of Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon, where big chunks of ices(sometimes big icebergs) from the lagoon wash up on the beach by waves and currents. In order to shoot those ices close-in with 1-2 second exposure to record the streaks of the waves, the photographer have to stand and hold the tripod in the sea water. To do so, water-tight overshoes is a must, without soaking the shoes and feet in ice cold water. Before the trip, I made sure that every member of my group brings the overshoes, so nobody will “hang dry” on this wonderful and unique photo location. Study where you go, and know what to bring.


Shooting ice on the beach,  Iceland 


Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon,  Iceland 

3. Getting your image correctly composed and exposed in the first place, but don’t stop there, the post processing is also full of fun.

Coming back from an exciting photo trip, it’s time to process your images(assuming you’re shooting RAW). I like to have my mind going wild, trying different effects/presets in Lightroom, applying certain software filters, etc, depending on my feel of the image. Creativity and intuition have no boundaries, feel free to play with your images. It’s part of the fun of photography. Take a look of following 2 images of downtown Reykjavik, Iceland, shot from the top of the landmark church overlooking the entire city. The first one is straight out of camera, and I applied Tilt shift effect to the second one via Niksoftware’s Analog Efex Pro, buildings look like miniature models, much more interesting.



Downtown Reykjavik, Iceland

4. Avoid the crowd/tourists by getting really close to the subject and/or from a low angle.

“If Your Pictures Aren’t Good Enough, You’re Not Close Enough”. The frequently quoted photography teaching by Robert Capa is very true for travel photos. To isolate the subject(s) from the crowd/tourists nearby, it is crucial to physically get closer and fill the frame with subject(s), sometimes it can be easily achieved from lower angle instead of eye level.

This image is shot at Larong Buddhist Institute during Tibet photo tour earlier this year, I picked a busy intersection at the entrance of the institute, sitting down on the sidewalk, with my small low profile 35mm fixed lens Fuji X100T pointing up with silent shutter on, capturing two nons passing-by with natural expressions on their faces. They’re merely 2 feet from me. By shooting up, I intentionally excluded other nearby people in the frame, making the subjects predominant in the photo.


Nons at Larong Buddhist Institute, Sichuan, China


A Tibetan Woman, Sichuan, China

Till next time… Happy Shooting,

William Yu



Use A Single Lens Creatively




2016 South China Traditional Culture Photo Tour





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    Mark Gardner BPSOP Student
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