Saturday , July 20 2024
A journey across the western United States is the occasion for an exploration of light – the way it works, and how it changes – with the goal of learning to create great photographs.

Video Training Review: ‘PHOTOGRAPHICS – A Journey of Light, History, & Art’ by Gavin Seim

Like Exposed, PHOTOGRAPHICS is a journey that takes you across the western United States in order to explore light – the way it works, and how it changes. It took place over the course of more than four months and in excess of 12,000 miles. It covers a number of states including Washington, Oregon, Idaho, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, and California. All of this was done in an effort to show you how to understand light and how it affects your photography in a wide variety of situations.


The goal of PHOTOGRAPHICS is not to show you the steps to create a great photograph, but rather to teach the concepts and techniques of exposure and light so that you can see it and work with it in any situation. The training comes on a DVD or as digital download. It is very easy to use and PHOTOGRAPHICS is presented in high definition video, broken out into 15 chapters that run three hours and 23 minutes in total.

Chapter 1, “Welcome to PHOTOGRAPHICS (7:59),” opens this video journey into what makes a great image. PHOTOGRAPHICS is a journey of exploration not only to some of the most breathtaking areas of the American West, but into the history of photography and of light, as well as an examination of the aspects that go into making a great photo.


Chapter 2, “Simple Foundations (8:12),” points out that as a photographer, you are an image director. In the same way that a master director of a film directs those things that you see on the screen and the way you see them, you as a photographer must do the same with the images that you create. This applies both to developing the concept of your image and to the subsequent implementation of that concept in such a way as to direct the eye of the viewer so as to present the story you are trying to tell. To do this you will learn about space, position, line, and tone.

The title of Chapter 3, “Science Meets Art (14:07),” is justified because photography has its roots in science. The first photographers were scientists and inventors. In fact in the early days, photography was not considered an art form. While as a photographer you are trying to accomplish the same goals as a painter would, the methods you use have to take into account the science of light and exposure. This chapter looks at how the science affects the art of photography.

Chapter 4, “Chasing Light (14:00),” examines how, in order to get a good photograph, you have to visualize what the photograph will look like. Then you need to find the correct light, sometimes waiting for hours, sometimes coming back over many days or weeks until it finally works. Great photographs don’t just fall into your lap, they have to be planned and thought through. Here you will see how this is accomplished.


Chapter 5, “Photographic History (21:50),” starts off with photographer Ken Whitmire of explaining how art history is important in the development of photographic techniques. The chapter continues with the concept that you need understand your craft, and to do that you need to understand where it came from and how we got to where we are now. Here you will learn about photographic technology from the camera obscura, which was developed around 1553 to aid artists in their work, all the way to modern digital technology.

Chapter 6, “Speaking of Tone (12:19),” explains that until you understand what tone does, you are never going to understand light and art. With the proper use of tone you can draw the viewer’s eye and tell the viewer’s mind where to go. It is through tone that you can provide drama in your image. Here you will learn how to think about light, where it is coming from, where it is going, how intense it is, and how best to use it in your image.

Chapter 7, “Light and Motion (14:03),” looks at how motion takes unique objects and stretches them into unique lines. While it does cover blurring and the use of slow shutter speed, it also includes detailed ways to give the impression of motion, like blowing hair, leaves falling from trees, and other things that give a sense of movement. Here you will learn how to use this motion to direct the objects in your image for better impact. You will also learn about how subtle changes in the light in a scene and changing the f-stop just a little can make the light hit a certain level of value and luminosity that can make all the difference in the world to your image.


Chapter 8, “Position and Framing (7:48),” explores how position within the frame can dictate the tone of the image. This is why when taking an image you need to look at where things are located when you are composing a scene. In any given image there are a number of objects to deal with; when composing, you, as the photographer, need to determine how these objects interact and cooperate with each other. Once you learn how to control everything within the scene, you will learn how to master your image.

Chapter 9, “Depths of Composition (18:49),” begins by stating that you are responsible for every square millimeter of the frame. Composition is the arrangement all of the objects in your image. Which objects you have within the frame and how you position those objects leads the eye so that you tell the story the way you want it to be told. Here you will learn about the essence of an image and the four aspects that make up that image: space, position, line, and tone.

Chapter 10, “Space around Us (9:53),” discusses the three-dimensional world that we are trying to create inside a two-dimensional space. The way you arrange the space in an image can dictate the depth and scale of the objects. Here you will look at all of the things that make up the space in your image.


Chapter 11, “The Great Hike (26:01),” takes place at Zion National forest. Here it is the Subway hike at the Left Fork of North Creek (lower canyon). It is a place that challenges both the physical and mental aspects of image-making and can take you to a place of deeper understanding of what you see. Here you will learn how to take something that takes your breath away and bring it to life in an image that other people will understand.

Chapter 12 takes “A Look at Line (17:02),” which is something that you have to deal with everywhere. Sometimes it is subtle, sometimes it is noticeable. A line does not have to be straight. It can be curved, as in the shape of bushes. Many times it is through the use of lines that you are able to direct the eyes of the viewer in the direction that you want. Here you will learn to use lines to refine your images and make an even more impactful photograph.

Chapter 13, “Composition of Color (8:30),” shows that as light can dissolve shadow, color can dissolve light and the two combined can alter the perception of a scene in a wide variety of ways. In this chapter you will see that color can be used to control the composition and control how the viewer travels through the image. You will see that there is a composition to color because it can draw our eyes, and that will guide you on how you plan your image.

Chapter 14, “What Makes a Great Image (17:14),” explains that that a great image has to be one that attracts the eye – that can draw a viewer in all on its own. Once it has drawn the viewer in, it then needs to have the ability to impact the viewer so as to leave a memory, an impression, a feeling to take away. Here you will learn about visualization, about factors that come into play when creating a great image, and how to create an image in the mind’s eye and carry that through to the final product.


Chapter 15, “The Closing (5:38),” finishes up this series with the realization that a great photograph does not just happen. A great photograph can only be created by using the kind of methods that you learned about in this video series. It has to be crafted. It has to be created. The making of a great photograph is a journey of experience, study, craft, and science. When you use all of the pieces highlighted in this video – space, position, tone, and line – and add the science of light and exposure, you have the potential to craft a great photograph.

In his previous, award-winning (PPA Hot One Winner 2013) video series Exposed, Gavin Seim took you into the American West and showed you how to see and craft light. With PHOTOGRAPHICS he takes you back on the road in the super camper for another long journey into the American West. This time it is to show you how to craft a great photograph.

PHOTOGRAPHICS is both entertaining and educational. It is very much a conversational exposé that takes you through all aspects of building a great image. It provides history, example, and fieldwork. It attempts to challenge all you know about constructing a photograph, and then through example and conversations show you how to do it.


PHOTOGRAPHICS comes as direct download for $79 or as a download plus DVD/Blu-ray for $109. It can be found at the Seim Effects website, where you can also watch a video that describes the series. If you want to learn more about what it takes to make a great photograph, if want to challenge all you know about photography, or if you just want to see how another photographer approaches creating great photographs, then I can very highly recommend PHOTOGRAPHICS.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.

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  1. Sounds like a fantastic journey! Thanks for this.

  2. Dr Joseph S Maresca

    Great for photographers!