Learning Outside the Box

Posted in Uncategorized on July 22, 2015 by Mitch Baltuch
An early afternoon storm coming in over the mountains at the Forest Canyon Overlook on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain Park.

An early afternoon storm coming in over the mountains at the Forest Canyon Overlook on Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain Park.

I had the great pleasure of spending time over the past three weeks with British landscape photographer Steve Gosling (http://www.stevegoslingphotography.co.uk). He is a wonderful fine art landscape shooter, with a keen eye for composition and very knowlegable about photography.

The interesting thing about Steve is that his shooting style and approach to photography is very different to mine. Where he is methodical and patient, waiting for the light and clouds to be just right, I am anything but. Michael Reichmann talks about photographers being either fishermen, or hunters. Steve is very definitely a fisherman, while I am very much a hunter.

So why talk about this? Well, I discovered something fascinating during my time with Steve. I thought it would be a difficult experience, as we are so different in temperment and approach, but it was completely the opposite. I came away from the time with a new perspective on my photography and some new skills I seriously want to work on. This is not to say that I have suddenly found Prozac and gotten very patient in my dottage, but being exposed to a different way of shooting caused me to think about how I do things and to graft ideas from Steve onto my own approach. I believe, over the long run, that this will make me a better photographer.

We can always learn new tricks, but we usually find workshops and classes that fit our view of the photographic world. What I discovered over the past weeks is that I learned far more when out of my self-defined box and into someone else’s box. What an enlightening experience that can be. I don’t know how much my photography will change over the next weeks and months, but change it will and for the better, I believe.

A bright yellow rock in Fern Creek, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.

A bright yellow rock in Fern Creek, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado.


New Photography Classes Announced

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on July 12, 2015 by Mitch Baltuch

I have added two new photography classes for the Denver/Boulder, CO area:

  • Basic PhotographyThis class covers the basic mechanics of photography.  While emphasis is on digital photography, all elements of the class are equally applicable to film photography.  This is an ideal course for beginners and for anyone wanting a better understanding of the mechanics that form the foundation of taking pictures.

    The course covers:

    • The Mechanics of Photography
    White Balance

    • The Equipment

    • Basic Composition

  • Digital Image Management
    In this era of digital photography, the computer has become the new shoe box of image storage.  Most people struggle with managing their images and many are lost as their computers change and when catastrophic technical failures occur. This class helps you manage all of your digital images, so that you can easily store and retrieve them.  Using Adobe’s Lightroom Library module as the management tool, you will learn how to store, name, keyword, label, retrieve and backup your images.

    Using best of breed tools, you will learn how to manage your images from the time you take them, until they are imported, sorted, edited, cataloged and safely backed up.

    This is a must class for anyone who really cares about the pictures they take and who wants to make sense out of them and safely store them.

Links to signup for either class can be found here:


New Website Up

Posted in Uncategorized on June 27, 2015 by Mitch Baltuch
A regal portrait of a bald eagle.

A regal portrait of a bald eagle.

I decided that it was finally time to update my website and refresh the technology. I have launched a newly redesigned website at http://www.mountainstorm.com. Please visit and enjoy.

There are still elements to add, but the basic site is up and running well.  Stayed tuned for more content additions, including a new photography class schedule for classes starting in September.

Of Trips and Really Bad Weather

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on October 24, 2013 by Mitch Baltuch


Susan and I decided to spend a long weekend in Amsterdam.  It is a city that we were both interested in and seemed to offer a wealth of great photography.  Indeed, it turned out that the city was a wonderful place, with very friendly people and great food.  It had interesting architecture and history and the canals, and the houses along them, made for great image opportunities.

Unfortunately, Amsterdam also has a prodigious amount of rainfall.  200 days a year, so we were told.  I firmly believe that most of it fell during the time we were there.  We experienced three days of rain, out of the four days we were there.  Partially, this was our fault in that we delayed our trip until mid-October, when the weather is less than stellar.  Also, I usually enjoy shooting in not-so-sunny days, as there is better color saturation.  The problem on this trip is simply that the weather was way too bad to do any serious shooting.  The one day we went out of the city to Noord-Holland to shoot windmills and the coastal regions, it was not only raining, but there were gale force winds as well.  It was so wet that even with a storm coat on my camera, I could not get any shots.  By the time I raised the camera, and could compose and shoot, the lens was covered in droplets.  Nice artsy images, but really…

That doesn’t mean that I did not do any photography and while most of what I shot was not anything of a quality that I would care to share, I did get some shots by following a strategy that tends to work well in bad weather.  Shoot detail, avoid the sky and include lots of color.

The picture above is a good example.  Everyone rides bikes in Amsterdam.  I think it is the national mode of transportation.  Bikes are parked everywhere, particularly on the bridges over the canals, where the railings make good places to secure the bikes with heavy chains.  These two bikes were on one such bridge and were also very brightly colored.  I liked the composition (somewhat abstract) and the variations of color.


The canal houses are particularly interesting, but trying to get a picture that properly shows the houses and the canals, without showing a leaden, blown out sky, is really difficult.  So aside from a few memory shots, I tried to find interesting detail in a particular house, where I could focus in such a way as to crop out the elements that I didn’t like.  The image above was one such house along the Singel canal.  I found the contents of the windows to be most interesting.  I have no idea what the business was that occupied the building, but it must have been an interesting one.  I focused to concentrate on the building I was interested in and then did an additional crop (something I rarely do) in post-process.

So, photographically, the trip, while not a complete bust, was far less than I had hoped.  However, the city is wonderful and I hope to return again some day, hopefully when the sun is shining.  Oh yeah, the apple pie in Amsterdam is to die for.

Boreass Pass Road and Fall Colors

Posted in Uncategorized on October 1, 2013 by Mitch Baltuch

Boreass Pass Road and Fall Colors

Fall color around eastern Colorado is not very good this year. Between the drought, then an overabundance of rain and a fairly hot summer, the color has been muted in most places. Even the western slope is not a good as it could be.

Hoping for some good color shots and good leaf viewing, Susan and I headed up into the mountains with the intention of driving over Boreas Pass. The pass road runs from south from Breckenridge, going up to over 11,000 feet and then descending into Como on Route 85. The road is dirt and follows an old mining railroad bed. It is narrow in spots, but pretty well maintained and can be done in a normal passenger car.

The nice thing about the pass is that it goes through a number of nice stands of aspens that are usually brilliant gold this time of year. With a clear, blue sky, the pictures can be outstanding. However, this year the colors are muted and in some places, downright ugly. Then again, with a bright sun in a clear blue sky (think polarizing filter), even marginal color can shine.

This picture is taken on the Breckenridge side of the pass and I believe that is Pacific Peak in the background. I am not completely sure of that. It was about the best shot I got on the drive, but I like it well enough, so the drive was a success for me.

The best part of the drive was afterward when we drove into Georgetown and had brunch at The Happy Cooker. If the pictures aren’t great, make sure the food is.

The Social Media Numbers Game

Posted in Uncategorized on September 27, 2013 by Mitch Baltuch

For a long time, I resisted all forms of social media. Having a background in both photography and computer science, I am acutely aware of privacy and intellectual property issues, most of which have hugely negative impacts within the social media arena. However, for business reasons, I chose to finally jump in. I am now on LinkedIn, Facebook, Google+ and Twitter. Oh the shame of it all.

However, a funny thing has happened. I actually find these sites to be of some use. Aside from the obvious business uses, they are useful for staying in touch with friends, particularly ones who I normally would not interact with on a regular basis. More importantly, in times of natural disasters (the Colorado floods immediately come to mind), severe weather and other important events, social media provides an immediacy of information that is extremely useful, if not downright life saving.

All that being said, I have noticed an interesting phenomenon. I call it the numbers games. On LinkedIn, it is the number of connections a person has. On Facebook, it is the number of friends, or likes (for a fan page). For Google+ it is the number of people that have you in their circles. For Twitter, it is the number of followers you have. I am not sure when all this turned into a contest, but it is fascinating to watch. Also, I find that I am no more immune to the game than anyone else.

For example, on the Nature, Travel and Wildlife Photography group on LinkedIn, a discussion thread was started two years ago. It asked that people post their Facebook business page, so everyone who was part of the group could “like” the page. This raised your like count and, presumably, your reach. Over two years on, the thread is still going strong and people are getting likes in rather large numbers.

The problem with this game is the relevancy of the numbers to what you are trying to achieve. If you have a thousand friends, do you really? If you have a thousand likes on your business page, are they really customers? Aside from the rather shallow pride a person might take from high numbers, are these numbers doing anything else for you?

As a photographer, I want to sell my images. I would also like to get lots of photography assignments. To do this, both myself and my work need to be in front of my existing and potential customers and clients. Other photographers might fall into this category, but likely not. To me, the goal is not high numbers, but having the right people in my circles and following my pages and tweets.

I suspect, and others may not agree, that the real challenge on social media sights is reaching an audience for your work that can provide revenue opportunities and help us grow our business. I think I would rather have 10 likes from current and potential clients, than 1,000 likes from people just looking for more numbers. I believe that if we would all just concentrate on quality, rather than quantity, we would all be better served.

I received a like from my page, in response to a like I gave his page, from a photographer in Amsterdam. He does quite nice work and I enjoy his images. A good reason to follow. At the same time, I am traveling to Amsterdam for the first time next month, so I reached out to him with some questions. He was gracious enough to answer them. I then put a friend request in to him. Much to my surprise, it was denied. He did, however, send me a note that I found quite reasonable. He explained that he reserved friend requests for people he truly knew. How honest and rational. Someone who understands that social media is just that. For connections that mater, not for the garnering of large numbers.

The Creative Muse

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on October 8, 2012 by Mitch Baltuch


I have been hearing a lot lately about the “Creative Muse.”  It seems to be all the rage for creative people these days.  Everyone talks about it, but I don’t believe many know what it is.  Along with all the talk comes many suggestions about connecting with your “Creative Muse,” henceforth to be known as your CM.

Scientifically, it is known that an individual’s creativity happens in their subconscious mind.  It is there that patterns are recognized and solutions realized.  The subconscious, which is really quite child-like, hands its musings off to the conscious mind to provide logic, structure and in general, make the idea useful.  And it is here that, for most people, it all falls apart.  Not that we don’t know what to do with the idea, or we are too stupid to understand it, but rather, we can’t hear the subconscious talking to us.

Understanding this problem is key to solving it.  We live in a world that is increasingly noisy, stressful and demanding.  We are inundated constantly with interruptions that act a a wall of noise.  Against this interference, ideas from our subconscious mind are rather like (to put it crudely) a fart in a whirlwind.  We just don’t hear it.  This is the reason that many creative solutions to problems occur in the shower, at 2 AM in the morning and while sitting on the toilet.  These are the few places where we are not being interrupted (unless you have small kids).  When the interruptions and other interference go away, we can hear what our subconscious is trying to tell us and our CM is back.

There are lots of strategies to helping this process along.  Daily meditation, taking regular breaks and/or walks during the work day, getting out of the office for lunch, etc.  These work and I use all of them, but they are short-term solutions to the problem.

I find that to be creative, which in my case means seeing scenes I want to photograph and hatching art projects that interest me, requires that I be both excited about what I am doing and have the time to think it through and have the necessary creative connection.  For that, a longer term solution is needed.  Thus comes the “Road Trip.”

The best way to quiet the external noise and interruptions is to get away from the environment that causes them in the first place.  Certainly a vacation can do it, but that has to be planned and usually costs a lot of money.  By all means, take vacations.  They are important and generally well earned.  However, for a quicker, cheaper fix, just get away for a long weekend.

For the past several years, Susan and I have, at least once a year, usually more, just gotten in the car and headed off for a 2-3 night trip somewhere.  We know the area we want to go and usually make hotel reservations.  We also have some idea of what we want to see.  Beyond that, we just go where it seems interesting.  We have some basic rules:

  • Unless there is no other way, stay off the interstate highways once we get to the area we want to visit
  • In fact, stay off all major highways of any type when at all possible
  • If a road looks interesting, turn
  • If we see something on a map that seems interesting, go there
  • If someone tells us about a place in the area we didn’t know about, go there
  • If we see a quilt store, we stop (Susan is a quilter and deserves to get something out of this too)

Basically, we just drive, visit, shoot, have fun and eat the best food we can find.  We avoid email for the most part, and the news, and we don’t talk on the phone, other than to check in at home in the evening.

Usually what happens is that the first day, I don’t see a lot of pictures.  By the second day, I am seeing more and by the third day, I have a lot to things to shoot.  I can actually feel myself relaxing more and more as we go.  By the time we get home from the trip, I am recharged and excited about photography again.  Just what I need to get reconnected with my CM.

Give it a try.  You might be quite surprised.

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