Rocky Mountain School of Photography » RMSP Experience Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:48:57 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 8 Fri, 24 Jul 2015 22:29:24 +0000 MurrayRachel_IMG_0593With a fast and furious yet fulfilling experience so far, the students this week – number 8 to be exact – were back in the thick of things. As usual, it involved brand new material and technique to add to their exponentially-growing arsenal of skills.

The week began with a sunset field help session at the National Bison Range located just north of Missoula. With beautiful vistas overlooking the Mission Mountain Range of the Northern Rockies, Doug met the students to help them with the landscaper’s helpful tool, The Photographer’s Ephemeris, to capture the twilight and waxing crescent moon.

In Photo Studies, Doug also helped familiarize the students with another highly technical and powerful photographic tool – the flash unit. Use of the stand-alone flash is a marvelous way to control and manipulate light on a subject, and the students were given a step-by-step introduction and approach to using it effectively. As with the camera, the flash can be controlled either automatically or manually and communicates with the camera’s so-called “brain” to determine correct exposure, so there is a definite learning curve involved in mastering this light source. The studio labs were also open for the students to shoot their own concepts and ideas creatively.

FranklinDani_KU4A6560Their Editing classes involved Forest teaching about HDR compositing and advanced masking selections in Photoshop that are some of the trickiest digital editing processes to crack. The students were asked to create examples of this specific type of work from their own images in their Edit labs that were critiqued in class later in the week.

In Output class, Sarah introduced various outsourcing options using professional print labs along with the process of preparing files for printing. It also provided open print lab time for the students to continue printing their work thus far.

Photo Studies directed the students’ attention toward a whole new area of study; photojournalism. Mike Albans donned a different hat in the course to enlighten and educate the students on this critical subject based on his wealth of experience gained while in NYC during his extensive career there. He discussed topics such as the basics of story-telling, the intersection of art and story-telling, how to develop relationships to help build a story, approaching subjects with respect and integrity, and defining photographers’ rights and legal concerns. He also addressed the ever-changing evolution of journalism with the general public’s use of today’s smartphone technology to capture important stories firsthand and sharing them via the internet.

SI 2015 selfies-3Throw in the mix an inspirational presentation on self-portraiture by Sarah, one of her artistic expression specialties, and this week can be described as quite full, indeed. With no Visual Studies classes, the students are getting into the homestretch with just three weeks to go in SI 2015 and are feverishly working on their all-important final projects and presentations due the very last week. We will keep you posted on their progress!






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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 7 Fri, 17 Jul 2015 23:32:13 +0000 Since the course is past the midpoint, it should be all down hill from here, right? Well, not exactly for the Summer Intensive students in Week 7. Starting on Monday, they dove right into their regular curricular rotations.

IMG_3330-8Output labs this week had the students practicing and producing all of the techniques that have been taught thus far about digitally printing their own work on Epson printers. Printing in general is a fine art form in itself and they began creating works of art in physical form from their original image files. This will all come in handy for the final projects the students were assigned this week in their Visual Studies course. Marcy assigned them to create a photo essay of five to seven prints with one or more of these “framed” or presented in a way that supports the idea of the essay. In addition, they will be asked to produce an artist statement for the final presentation given the last week of SI.

Neil was very busy this week with teaching in the Photo Studies portion of the curriculum. He enlightened the students on stage photography, one his many areas of expertise. This involved technique shooting stage play, dance and musical productions under every varying and tricky lighting conditions, and also working on projects. In addition, Forest and he gave lectures on various camera systems/lenses including medium and large format relating them to appropriate types of shooting. Since film is still a viable artistic medium for many artists and professionals, he also discussed different types of film and their characteristics including black & white.

IMG_3336-10Photo Studies also involved a so-called “field help” session in the classroom focusing, pardon the pun, on the subject of macro photography. Several weeks ago, Tony had lectured on macro technique and gear, and this was the students’ opportunity to bring in unique objects (ie. flowers, jewelry, glass beads, etc.) in order to create unique environments for macro shooting. He was present to assist, inspire and cajole the entire time as only he can do.

SI 2015 BH-Canon Shoot-1And in Lighting, the students were introduced to table top product photography, a whole new aspect to explore in the studio. Students were instructed to bring in any unique objects and backgrounds to create an image message surrounding the idea of a product implying mood and feeling. Mike also instructed about lighting/photographing transparent and highly reflective subjects in the studio which happens to be one of the more challenging and technical subjects in all of photography.

There was a whole-group lecture on Wednesday by professional photographer, Jeff McLain, where he talked about shooting interiors for architectural photography and about his professional career.

IMG_3353-13And lastly on Friday, the students were given the opportunity to share their significant mid-term projects in the all-group slideshow mixer. The results bore out individual creativity, skill and vision unique to each student. It was excellent celebratory way to share their ideas and work with everyone involved in the program.

All in all, new knowledge and experience keeps coming their way on a daily basis, and they’re soaking it all in and applying it to their own work like champs. Another month is ahead of them and we’ll keep you posted on the goings-on each of the next four weeks!

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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 6 Fri, 10 Jul 2015 22:15:18 +0000 WebsterLinda_untitled_shoot-4059Here in Week 6, it’s been a busy post-holiday-weekend week for the Summer Intensive students. Talk about hitting the ground running!

First off, mid-term slideshows were due and each of the students spent time individually with their Photo Studies instructor, Tony Rizzuto, for a comprehensive critique of their project. After receiving this constructive review, they’ll all have the opportunity to revise and share it with everyone in school next week at the “slideshow mixer” event. Congratulations to each of them for completing a major piece of their creative experience here in SI. This definitely challenges each student to apply all of their accumulated knowledge, skill, technique and growing aesthetic toward a single project!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABut wait, that’s not all! Not nearly. Their Visual Studies class this week involved Marcy James teaching them how to objectively critique fellow students’ work, and then they had the opportunity to do so on Friday at the peer-to-peer critique mixer for all groups combined. Imagine a rotating, one-on-one speed-dating scenario for critiquing each other’s work and you’ll get the idea. In Edit class, Forest got them more involved with masks and selections using common Photoshop tools such as the Rectangular Marquee, the Lasso and the Quick Select. Then they applied Photoshop’s applications on their own work in the labs.

Light Studies involved Mike talking about multiple-light configurations, learning more finessed light-modification techniques, and connecting with one’s subject for effective portraiture. In Output, Sarah ran them through quite a few topics such as creating diptychs & triptychs in Photoshop, printing of multiple images on a single page for proofing, blogging technique as a platform for sharing one’s work, and constructive evaluation concepts for critiquing a print.

BakerPaige-2065And in Photo Studies, Doug critiqued the students’ hyper-focal focusing assignment and discussed more landscape photography concepts using tools such as the awesome app, The Photographer’s Ephemeris. He also taught them all about panoramic and HDR photography.

Throw in an optional lecture by Neil called “Shooting the Marathon” which is perfectly timed to coincide with the annual Missoula Marathon taking place this Sunday, and that’s quite a week!

Officially half completed, Summer Intensive seems to be flying by and the students are growing in leaps and bounds as highly trained and highly creative digital imagists. Stay tuned as we’ll continue to share their experience with you.


Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 5 Thu, 02 Jul 2015 20:55:22 +0000 The shortest week during the whole of SI began with an optional excursion for many of the students. Montana’s largest such event, the annual Augusta Rodeo, took place on Sunday. As usual, card-carrying and highly-trained (at this point) RMSP student photographers were in abundance lining the rodeo ring fences, roaming the behind-the-scenes environs, and capturing everything that makes the experience such an interesting subject.

Since starting out in the curriculum at the most basic level just over a month ago, the students have since been subjected to intensive – as advertised – training for forty hours plus per week with the additional activity of constant shooting both during and after class time. Montana is blessed with incredible light this time of year and they’ve been taking full advantage of the amazing sunsets and late evening light. This week is when the curriculum gets dialed down a notch to help them catch their breath a bit.

In Visual Studies, Monday evening involved a so-called Photo History Mixer. At this unusual and inspirational event, each of the students wore a name of a historical photographer unknown to them, but easily seen by the others. They then were asked to approach someone from a different group they may not have known well and describe to each other the other photographer’s “work” using terms of visual language they’ve been learning about in class. With the help of a little bit of online research, the student’s were to guess which photographer they were and review the imagery they created to get a sense of their unique style and impact. Overall, a great exercise in visual expansion and inspiration for each student.

On Tuesday students heard from RMSP graduate and professional photographer and filmmaker Pam Voth about her experiences as a wildlife photographer. Their short week also involved furthering portraiture technique in the studio in Lighting Studies with Michael Albans, the second class of Photoshop CC instruction in basic masks and layers in the Edit portion with instructors Tim Cooper and Forest Chaput de Saintonge. And in Photo Studies, they began the first of landscape photography classes with Doug Johnson. The week included a field help experience to practice foreground-to-infinity shooting technique with Doug in the historic Missoula Cemetery. There were no Output classes on the agenda.

And with that, the students and staff are off for a much needed four-day long break during the Fourth of July holiday weekend. No doubt they’ll be getting caught up on the various tasks of laundry, grocery shopping, reviewing weeks of notes & images, not to mention sleep and R&R! And furiously contemplating, conceptualizing and shooting for their upcoming mid-term slideshow project due in a couple of weeks. We hope you enjoy your holiday…and stayed tuned!

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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 4 Fri, 26 Jun 2015 22:48:25 +0000 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWeek 4 is underway now and is as full of photo goodness as is every other week of SI. This week, the experience started out with an optional lecture by Neil on shooting at rodeos, mainly offered in preparation for an annual group trip to shoot the historic Augusta Rodeo this coming weekend. Additionally, Neil gave the students an optional exposure review lecture. Also, internationally acclaimed sports photographer Peter Read Miller gave a stellar presentation on the University of Montana campus as part of the Canon Explorers of Light program.

Forest teaching how to use slideshow modulein their Edit classes, the students learned all about the Slideshow Module of Lightroom CC that they will be utilizing to create their upcoming mid-term presentations, as well as all about copyrighting standards with an introduction to American Society of Media Professionals organization. Later in the week began their introduction to the infamous Adobe Photoshop CC software to add to their professional skill sets.

KArsnerTheresaStudioFun-2In Lighting Studies, they received their initial studio lighting equipment instruction and began working in our studio spaces for the first time practicing their newly learned portraiture skills. This highly technical and controlled environment will no doubt inspire ideas about where these budding photographers may like to head in their professional futures. Photo Studies involved the introduction of macro photography with all of its creativity and technicality, Visual Studies explored the subject of ideas and content and black & white imaging with more photography history thrown in, and the students continued with print production using the Lightroom Develop and Print Modules in the Output courses. With all of this training, the students are reaching heightened levels of skill and creativity that they never thought possible before … and they’re only a third of the way through SI!

And, as mentioned, the rodeo is this weekend. Watch out Augusta…here comes RMSP! Check in with us next week as things really begin to heat up with the summer experience in Montana.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Sarah's teaching examples of paper types Danny's print Dan's first print! Mary and Tony in print lab Danny in print lab Will and Linda + Anne in print lab Will in Print lab Chandler + April + Will + Linda + Anne in print lab BakerPaige-2060 Forest teaching about copyrighting images Forest teaching how to use slideshow module


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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 3 Fri, 19 Jun 2015 20:37:17 +0000 Processed with VSCOcam with a6 presetSI is rolling right along. By now in Week 3, the groups A, B and C are gelling as tribes, and have been challenged with the production of their mid-term slideshows due in early July. This is their first major project that will incorporate all of the learning and experience they’ve gained thus far in SI. Their formative thoughts are being pursued and captured in these next few weeks and will consume most of their spare time outside of class to complete their slideshows.

The students’ classes this week included intermediate to advanced Develop Module training in Edit, the Creative Process and Elemental Design in Visual Studies, and initial digital printing instruction with Epson printers in Output. Photo Studies taught them more creative camera technique and the Zone System for Digital, and Lighting Studies began their journey into working with professional studio lighting equipment in our studios that will continue until the end.

AbernathyAnne__MG_5578Also, Steven Schwartz with the Gradus Group was in town to introduce students to their bevy of professional photography accessories, along with Ryan Brown from Sigma to educate them on Sigma’s line of quality lenses and products. As you can imagine, photography is a very “gear-heavy” endeavor, so part of the education process involves presenting about these technical tools and options directly from industry experts.

And on Saturday is an optional sunrise in-the-field shoot with instructor Doug Johnson at the beautiful McClay Flats Nature Trail area of Missoula. In this regard, the early bird will definitely be in position to catch the worm…at 5:30 a.m.!

MurrayRachel-8651With another full week on the horizon, the ship continues to sail full steam ahead. Check in for next week’s recap of Week 4!

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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 2 Fri, 12 Jun 2015 18:30:15 +0000 SI 2015 BH-Canon Shoot-2Whew! With Week 1 behind all of our students, instructors, assistants and staff, it’s time to look forward to Week 2 of Summer Intensive 2015. As one might expect, the first week of a program like ours is full of “firsts” and orientation-type activities. As we inch our way through the program however, a routine will emerge and the only constant will be the nonstop flow of information to each student. This week’s instruction builds very quickly on the back of what was learned in Week 1, and this is a repeated pattern with every successive week throughout SI.

SI 2015 BH-Canon Shoot-4Week 2 built on the gear lectures from last week by welcoming our educational partners B&H Photo, Canon USA, and Manfrotto. All students were given the chance to touch, taste, smell and generally play with Manfrotto tripods, and various pieces of equipment from the Gradus Group, brought out by Gabe and Jason from B&H Photo. Much to students’ delight they learned they were eligible for EDU membership with B&H, which will ensure they get special pricing on their photo gear. Calvin Anderson with Canon USA introduced them to Canon Professional Services and ways Canon supports our students. On Wednesday night, Gabe orchestrated a Lensbaby photo walk of sorts, in which our students were able to get their hands on Lensbabies and experience how cool they are. On Wednesday students also enjoyed an all-group barbeque cookout social at a park located a couple blocks from RMSP.

As our curriculum is broken into five main areas of study, students became quickly familiar with how the structure of SI works. These areas of study are Photo Studies, Visual Studies, Light Studies, Image Editing and Output.

SI 2015 BH-Canon Shoot-4In Photo Studies, instructor Tony Rizzuto taught exposure concepts of proper metering, exposure compensation, use of the histogram and full manual exposure. Then an assisted field help session on the campus of the University of Montana to apply what the students had just learned in class. Also in Photo Studies, there was the all-important lecture on lenses by Neil Chaput de Saintonge. Each year we advise our incoming students to wait until they receive the critical information provided in this lecture before making purchases so they can make better-informed decisions. Lenses are the most critical investments any photographer can make.

In Visual Studies, Marcy James began by teaching some history of photography and introduced design and composition as it relates to photography. In Light Studies, Tony began with an overview of light and its specific characteristics including size, direction, color and temperature. Image Editing (aka: Edit) started off with the important computer set up time to make sure everyone had Lightroom installed correctly, external hard drives to work from, and understood how to navigate around Lightroom. Forest Chaput de Saintonge gave them their first assignment that made sure the students could export a group of images according to a specific set of instructions. And Output involved the introduction of digital printing and the process of color manag_MG_7384ement with Sarah Chaput de Saintonge.

That’s quite a week and the fast pace thoroughly cements the students in the routine of their entire immersive experience throughout the course. This week also ingrains the routine of constant shooting and image-making outside of the classroom and labs. With Week 3 right around the corner, stay tuned as we continue with these recaps!

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Summer Intensive 2015 – Week 1 Fri, 05 Jun 2015 19:30:57 +0000 Summer Intensive Has Begun!


KemmisAndy_IMG_1794The first week of Summer Intensive 2015 is in the books! What an incredible rush it was to finally welcome this year’s class of students. Budding photographers from 25 states and one foreign country (New Zealand, via Thailand) packed our lobby area on Monday morning as we kicked off orientation day. Usually this is a time when people seem quiet and a bit hesitant due to being in a new environment. Not this class! The volume was high as they mingled and got to know one another.

After a warm welcome from RMSP founder / owner Neil Chaput de Saintonge, and a lot of “stand-up, sit-down” answers to Neil’s questions, students broke into groups for their various breakout sessions. These included a session on SI logistics, a facilities tour, and a “getting to know your group” session. It’s fascinating to listen to, and find out the stories behind each students’ decision to attend RMSP. As always, their backgrounds are as diverse as the subjects they are interested in. To list a few, we have a retired dentist, a wedding photographer from Los Angeles, CA, a former Air Force pilot, recent high school graduates, stay-at-home mom, a stay-at-home dad, food stylists, cooks, and the list goes on! This broad range of backgrounds will only serve to make the summer that much more interesting and valuable for everyone involved.

KemmisAndy_IMG_1816In the afternoon on orientation day, bear expert Jamie Jonkel spoke the group about how to stay safe while photographing in bear country. Many questions were asked, a few laughs were had, but most importantly, Jamie’s message got through. Admissions Coordinator, and our resident expert on “All Things Missoula” Bob McGowan informed the group about some of Missoula’s unique summertime festivals and community events. Neil gave a talk about where to photograph in Montana, and finally, the day ended with some time for the staff and students to mix and mingle and get to know each other a bit more.

Since the festive vibe to opening day, it’s been all about getting down to business. After Monday, students had a computer set up day, and jumped right into their Lightroom training and completing assignments covering the basics of exposure. This included some of their first so-called “field help” sessions shooting outside with plenty of qualified assistants on hand for the students to rely on if needed.

IMG_2435-2Paul Fishkin from Manfrotto arrived in town, as did Gabe Biderman and Jason Geller to represent B&H Photo Video and the B&H EDU program. We’re lucky to have such great and dedicated educational partners to support our students year after year.

We’re off an running with SI and Career Training 2015! Stayed tuned for weekly updates throughout the summer.


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Sallie Mae – Career Training Smart Option Student Loan Tue, 14 Apr 2015 23:07:27 +0000 EhlenSarah__MG_5720

Do you want to become a professional photographer?

Have you have been “dreaming” about our Career Training Program for years and have never been able to make it work.   Sallie Mae is here to help you make your dreams come true!

RMSP is not a federally accredited school, therefore our students do not qualify for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), but that doesn’t mean that our students don’t have other options available.  Students registered for our Career Training Program can choose to apply for a Career Training Smart Option Student Loan, offered through Sallie Mae.

With the Career Training Smart Option Student Loan®, you can borrow up to the full cost of your education. Designed to help you graduate with less student loan debt and help you pay it off faster, the Career Training Smart Option Student Loan allows you to choose the repayment option that works for you while you are in school- a set payment of just $25 per month or pay only the interest on your loan. A creditworthy cosigner may also help you qualify and/or receive a lower interest rate.

Here are more details about Sallie Mae:

•U.S. citizens attending an eligible school.
•International students are eligible with a creditworthy cosigner (who must be a U.S. citizen or
permanent resident) and appropriate U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service documentation.
•You must meet current credit and other eligibility criteria.

•Easy online application with fast credit decision and electronic signature (“eSign”) available.
•24/7 online account management.
•No prepayment penalty.
•You may be able to deduct the interest you pay on a qualified student loan.

•Pricing that rewards creditworthy borrowers.
•A creditworthy cosigner may help you qualify and/or receive a lower interest rate.
•Apply for a cosigner release after successful completion of your education.
•Choice of interest-only or fixed monthly payments of $25 required while in school and during
the six-month separation period to avoid capitalization of interest and lower the overall cost of
the loan.
•A 0.25 percentage point interest rate reduction is available for automatic debit.

Loan limits
•$1,000 minimum loan amount.
•Borrow as much as you need to pay for your tuition and expenses, up to the cost of
attendance as certified by your school and confirmed by Sallie Mae.

Interest Rate
•Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may help you qualify and/or receive a lower interest
•The Career Training Smart Option Student Loan has interest rates that reward good credit.
Interest rates are variable and are reset monthly based on the one-month LIBOR Index.

• Choice of the Fixed Repayment Option to make monthly payments of $25 while in school and during the six-month
separation period or the Interest Repayment Option to make interest only payments while in school and during the six month separation period.
•Consider making principal and interest payments while in school to lower the amount you must pay back.
•Principal and interest payments begin following the six-month separation period.
•Prepay your loan at any time without penalty.

•Disbursement fee of zero to 5%.
•No repayment fee.

How to Get Started

Fill out an application on our website for the program that you want to attend, a $50 application fee will be required to complete this process.  Once your application is approved by RMSP, you can submit your Sallie Mae loan application. Click here to apply for the Career Training Program.

Fill out an application at  Our lender code is 900905 and school code is 60680200.  Once you are approved by Sallie Mae we will be notified to approve you as a student.  Sallie Mae will contact you regarding your personal loan requirements.


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RMSP Graduate Profile: Ben Reed Mon, 06 Apr 2015 19:47:26 +0000

This is a post by contributing author and RMSP Career Training graduate Charlie Bulla

It’s always exciting to chat and visit with RMSP folks, whether that means staff, instructors, your classmates or other alum. So, does that make hanging out with multiple RMSP’ers in Hawaii extra special? It sure did for me!

The RMSP family is strong, and part of that family made my amazing trip to the islands possible. It all began with an invite from graduate and former teaching assistant of the Career Training Program, Ben Reed and his girlfriend and my fellow classmate Robin, who are now living on the north shore of Oahu, Hawaii. I was also blown away with the amazing hospitality of another fellow classmate, Jen and her husband Aaron who made an incredible visit to Maui possible for me. Many thanks to all of them for making an amazing trip extra special and for sharing the Aloha spirit!

While visiting with Ben and Robin, just out their front door, I would take daily walks along the beaches of famous surf breaks. Beaches such as Waimea Bay, Sunset Beach and Pipeline. As a young kid learning to surf in North Carolina, I was always stoked to pick up magazines and dream of being right there. Now, I was there! And, I quickly realized that I was witnessing a good friend follow a dream and doing so by taking risk, utilizing an education, maximizing relationships and remaining passionate about the future. This made me think about how Ben’s story and his path could be shared with others who have an adventurous and creative path.

Ben was kind enough to spend some time with me chatting about his photographic path, his decisions, his bag of gear, and the idea of motion from an RMSP graduate’s perspective. Here is the conversation I had with Ben during my incredible trip to Hawaii:


CB: So Ben, how long has photography been a part of your life and how did it all start for you?

My story is both similar and very different from most attendees of RMSP. The road to RMSP was a bit rocky. I had attended college, graduated, and was working in the so-called “real world” selling rebar. I’ve always had the desire to create, but I felt like I was wasting away and not creating anything. Then, several unfortunate events took the lives of half a dozen friends within a two-week period. It was a wake-up call and I needed to make a change. Thus began a year-long self evaluation of what I wanted out of life. I had taken several surf trips to Nicaragua and Costa Rica and having experienced different cultures, I knew I wanted to travel more than anything. I knew there is a lot more to this world than what I was currently experiencing.


I looked into options, which included grad school, marine biology, Coast Guard and the Peace Corps. I was open to just about anything, but nothing really felt right. Photography never played a large part in my life. I didn’t have the experience of having a father or mother handing down their camera when I was a youngster and I’d never really had a desire to pick up a camera. A photographic career was not on my mind. It really boils down to one fateful night. It hit me, suddenly and abruptly. While reading my monthly issue of Surfing Magazine, I thought,

“Someone has to be taking these pictures.
If someone else is doing it, there’s no reason why I can’t be.”

Within a month, I was signed up for Career Training at RMSP. Within three months I was there. I’m pretty sure it was a shock to my parents when I informed them of my plans!

Photography truly started for me on the second day of the 2010 Summer Intensive program at RMSP. That was the first time I’d picked up a camera with true intent. People seem to be pretty baffled when I tell them this. I knew nothing. I’d never even heard of aperture, shutter speed or ISO. I didn’t know the difference between a full-frame and crop sensor. I look back now and laugh at how little I actually knew. I bought my camera five days before attending RMSP. The first pictures I took were with my mother on our cross-country drive to Montana. They were complete crap!


CB: How did you first hear about RMSP and what was your process like in deciding to attend a photography school in Montana? Quite a difference from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, right?

Reed_Ben_Reed_03525You know, I almost missed out on RMSP altogether. Seriously, it was super close to not happening. I had several criteria for what I wanted out of a photography program. I knew I wanted a program that’s focus was solely photography. I didn’t want to go back to a college and have to spend four more years in school. Nor did I have the desire to be in a class that didn’t pertain to photography skills. I was determined and focused on photography and photography only. I was looking at schools from Maine to California. Ultimately, I decided I wanted to go west of the Mississippi, to experience a part of the country I hadn’t spent much time in.

Originally, the winner was The Brooks Institute in California. I had reservations about Brooks though. With Brooks, you took classes three times a week. To me I didn’t feel like that was enough. I wanted to immerse myself in photography, and to me that wasn’t immersion. But, at the time, it was the only real option that I could find. Then, a friend of a friend, Perri Shelat told me about her experience and RMSP. She told me to give them a call before I fully committed to The Brooks Institute. What she didn’t know was that I was already a registered student at The Brooks Institute. Perri had so many good things to say about RMSP. She promised it would change my life. To me that’s a pretty strong statement. I felt like it was deserving of at least a call.

After doing a little research on RMSP and looking at the website, I realized that it offered the same content I was looking for as Brooks, and RMSP solved all my issues I had with Brooks. So, I figured, what the hell, I should give them a call. Within minutes of talking to Bob McGowan, I knew RMSP was where I was going. There wasn’t a school that could compare to the friendliness and knowledge that I received from Bob. I remember it like it was yesterday. After that phone call, I knew I was going to RMSP and I had a gut feeling, it was going to be something special.


CB: After finishing up as a student of RMSP, you returned to become a teaching assistant. Can you share a bit on your experience as an assistant and how it’s helped with your path?

Reed_Ben_Reed_04727-EditHaha, yes, that’s correct. As a student, I actually told my peers and instructors in my final presentation that I was coming back as a teaching assistant the following year. It got quite a few laughs. At that time, it was wishful thinking and more of a joke. However, before I left Missoula, I made sure I went to visit with every faculty member at RMSP and let them know that if there was any chance of coming back as an assistant that I really wanted the opportunity. For me, it really felt like the next step in achieving my goals. It was a long shot. I lobbied the hell out of myself for that spot!

Becoming an assistant helped me in so many different ways. It’s almost like attending RMSP for two more years, but better in some ways. I met so many wonderful people and some of my best friends while assisting. I take yearly trips with Jimmy White and Dan Doran, both RMSP graduates and fellow assistants. I still do a lot of work with fellow assistants, and assisting at RMSP is 100% the reason I am where I am today.

I knew my stuff coming into the assistant position, but I still questioned my abilities. It helped solidify everything I learned as a student. I was receiving the information again and this time I had a foundation to build on. Coming back as an assistant really made me believe that I knew more than what I gave myself credit for. It was a huge building block and confidence builder.

It also allowed me to build relationships with individuals in the photo industry outside of RMSP. This was absolutely vital to my success. Connections are everything in this world. I asked the pros as many questions as possible. I made it my mission to find out how the pros became successful. Every pro told me that they shared their goals with others. It’s so important to openly share what you want out of life and your career. It’s all about how your connections can help you achieve your goal. You can’t expect others to help you in your journey if others don’t know what you’re after. That sounds a bit self-centered and selfish, but it’s true. I ease my conscience by trying to help others as much as possible. Looking at it this way really helps me to justify asking others for help. It’s full circle and you have to keep it turning. I really do owe my surf photography career to assisting at RMSP. I was assisting RMSP graduate, Mike Tittel during the Adventure Photography Pro Studies course when he asked me what I wanted to do after I left RMSP. Little did I know, his question and my answer would change my life. I was open with Mike about wanting to be a surf photographer. He introduced me to his good friend Michael Clark who was teaching a surf photography workshop with Brian Bielmann. Michael told me I needed to attend this workshop and that it could possibly lead to a job working with Brian.

It was the break I needed!


CB: Now you’re living on the north shore of Oahu! Can you share a bit about your decision on moving to Hawaii and your relationship with Brian and the doors that are opening because of your move?

You know, things came so close to not working out that it’s not even funny. I met Brian through the surf photography workshop he and Michael Clark held in February 2013. We hit it off the first day during introductions, when we realized we grew up in the same geographic location. After that, I drifted a bit from the group and Brian. I really had the desire to create images that were a little bit different from the rest of the group. At one point during the workshop, I remember Michael Clark encouraging me to spend more time getting to know Brian. I wasn’t spending enough time building that relationship. It wasn’t until the last night of the workshop that I actually went up to Brian and asked if I could work for him. I remember him chuckling and saying “Sure, why not?” We had a brief conversation about me moving out to Hawaii in October of 2013. That was the extent of the conversation. That was it. I started looking for rentals on the North Shore later that summer. It quickly became apparent that it was ridiculously expensive and there were very few places to rent. I had reached out to Brian multiple times and hadn’t received a response. A couple months went by and still no response. I was getting a bit worried. The winter season was approaching fast and I hadn’t found a place to live or even knew if Brian was serious about me working for him. I had to make a decision soon.

Brian Bielmann is considered one of the greatest surf photographers of all time. At the time he was senior staff photographer for Transworld Surf Magazine and was a staff photographer for Volcom. The surf industry is all about who you know and it can make you or break you. This guy knows everybody. He’s been a surf photographer for 40 years. Very few surf photographers, if any, can claim that. So, I knew I had to go.

Without any response from Brian, I signed a 6-month lease on the North Shore. Within hours of signing that lease and faxing it to the landlord, Transworld Surf announced they were closing their doors effective immediately.

Panic set in.

How am I going to survive in Hawaii if Brian doesn’t have a job and there’s nothing for me do? I remember thinking at that point that it was over and Hawaii wasn’t going to happen. That afternoon I sent Brian an urgent message asking what to do. He finally responded with a short but deliberate note, “Need you now more than ever.” I still had my doubts, but I wasn’t going to let this opportunity pass. I’m glad I decided to go. It’s been one of the best decisions of my life. Brian is one of the most humble and kind human beings out there. Not only has he been a great mentor but he’s become a great friend. I feel incredibly honored and lucky to be in the position I find myself in.

As for doors being opened, I credit a lot of my success to Brian. He has relentlessly advocated for me and my work. Since moving to Hawaii, I’ve worked with him on most of his jobs and on many occasions he’s split his check down the middle with me. What photographer does that? It’s amazing. Jobs that he hasn’t been able to do for various reasons, he’s made sure I got them. I think he advocates more for me than he does himself. As a budding photographer it’s essential to have someone like Brian. I’ve gained so much so quickly because of him. It’s unbelievable. I’ve accomplished a lot in under two years because of my connection with him. I’m eternally thankful for all the opportunity he’s given me. It wasn’t that long ago, I would’ve never been able to imagine my life the way it is now. There was little back then I was excited about and I never imagined I’d be living on the North Shore of Oahu. We recently attended a private Volcom party and I was pinching myself. I was always a Volcom fan. As a kid, I worked in a surf shop and I’d always try to push their clothing on unsuspecting mothers. I never imagined years later I would be invited to a small private function attended by all the top guys at Volcom. It was an honor and I think that’s when it started to sink in. I’m actually making this whole thing happen!


CB: It’s pretty obvious hanging around you nowadays that your focus has switched to motion. What’s the mindset you have for your motion work and have there been certain factors that led you to video?

Reed_Ben_Reed_09095I think for me, one of the important things in life is being able to recognize opportunity when it arises and being able to make adjustments to take advantage of those opportunities. It sounds like such an easy concept, but I think most people struggle with this. Not being afraid to change is essential. Producing photographic work with Brian is an unbelievable experience and in the long run I’d eventually have to break away and focus on my own work.

We travel together and it’s really not a great business model to have two photographers shooting the same subject at the same time. We work so well together that I felt it would be advantageous for both of us to figure out a way to continue the relationship. There had to be an option that would allow me to continue working with Brian and still be successful in the surf industry. Shortly after coming to this realization, I was slapped in the face with an opportunity. It was one of those situations of being in the right place at the right time.

Brian and I were shooting stills for a film John John Florence was working on. Hurley had hired a production company from outside the surf industry to produce the film. There were some issues with the production; the hired company didn’t understand surfing, and it hit me that there was a need for a high-end production company that understands surfing. There are definitely other cinematographers out there doing amazing work and I feel like I can bring something else to the table. I know with bringing Brian on board for large projects we will have a one-two punch that nobody will be able to offer. I think Brian is so unique and my desire to succeed and produce something different will help set us apart.


CB: I see the new gear. Can you tell us about the setup you’re using today and what cool stuff it enables you to do?

Ahh, yes. I invested in a RED Dragon made by Red Digital Cinema. This camera is pretty damn incredible. It has a dynamic range of 16 or 18 stops and can actually shoot video in HDR, giving even more dynamic range. It’s also the first digital video camera that shoots in 6k. I can actually pull still frames from the video that are print quality. There are many magazine covers out there shot with a RED that had a still frame pulled to be included in print. It’s been used for a plethora of major motion pictures including but not limited to The Hunger Games, House of Cards, Jurassic World, Chappie, Marvel Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness — you get the idea. It’s a very powerful tool and we’re very excited about the future. I can easily go from shooting an interview on location, to shooting surf from the beach, to shooting underwater in my CMT waterhousing. It’s impressive. It’s opening a whole new world of possibilities. Now I just have to learn how to use it! Hahaha.


CB: What’s next for Ben Reed? Any new projects or big plans on the horizon?

Haha, that’s such as loaded question. Immediately speaking, I just signed a deal with ISA (International Surfing Association) to shoot their contests for 2015. I’m so pumped because they’re sending Brian and I to Mexico, Nicaragua, California, the Canary Islands, China and Chile.

The entire reason for leaving the 9-5 job was to travel more and it’s really cool that’s starting to happen.



I can’t wait to see what other doors this opens as well. That’s huge in itself. I’m also planning on traveling to Teahupo’o in mid-summer to film surfing and underwater scenes. The water there is incredibly clear. It should be an amazing experience. I’d have to say that I’m most excited about starting our production company. I have a lot of ideas, projects and collaborations that I’d like to shoot. I definitely want to spend some time documenting stories that need to be told. I have a strong desire to share stories with others and I feel like motion gives me more opportunity to tell those stories. I definitely want to start submitting to film festivals, but that’s a couple years off. I’m still learning Adobe Premiere and how to properly use the RED. Ultimately, I want to produce work that’s important to me and hopefully strikes an emotional connection with others. I’d like our work to help motivate people to change their lives if that’s what they wish to do.

I definitely have a vision of where I want to be in the future, but I’m also keeping it really open. I don’t want to be so focused on one thing that I miss an opportunity somewhere else. Again, I think it’s important to be flexible and not be afraid to change. So, who knows what the future holds. I’m just excited about everything. I’m so thankful for what I’ve already been able to accomplish and excited about all the potential of the future.


CB: While spending time around Ben and Brian during my visit in Hawaii, the strength of their relationship stood out. When I asked Brian to share his thoughts about Ben, he had a few things to say …. 

“I’ve got to say one thing about Ben. He is the smartest, coolest, and the most honest guy I have ever had the pleasure to work with and be friends with. That’s more than one, I guess. The point is, I have never wanted to help anyone or see someone succeed as much as I do Ben. He came to Hawaii a couple years ago to assist me and has been the most helpful person in my whole photography career. I don’t think of Ben as an assistant anymore. He is a partner now and some of the stuff we have accomplished because of that partnership has been some of the coolest stuff of my career. Thank you, Ben. Sounds like a man crush, huh? Well, Ben is like Sam from Lord of the Rings. Frodo could not have done it without Sam. Ben is my Sam…”


Thanks for sharing the update with us, Ben.

Keep going after it!

And thank you so much Charlie for helping to share Ben’s story.


You can view a few of Ben’s images in the gallery below or in his portfolio at and on Instagram at @benreedphoto.
Click the image below to check out his video reel on Vimeo.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 4.03.35 PM

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Canon, CES and Pixma Pro Printers … Vegas Style Wed, 11 Feb 2015 18:20:32 +0000 Guest article written by 2012 Career Training graduate Heather Gill.


Gill_CanonHeatherGill-6The call from Canon came at the end of a tough year. I had packed up and moved my business to a new location, and just wasn’t sure if it was going to be revivable in a new city. I had just started reaching out to photo editors of local magazines when the call came from New York, so naturally I thought it was one of them.

The call came at the end of October 2014. It was an ad agency inquiring as to what kind of camera system I used. Without hesitation I said that 95% of the time its Canon and the other 5% was my iPhone. The caller said she was working on behalf of the art team that would make the decision who they wanted to use for City Senses Tour – Sights and Sounds of Las Vegas for the upcoming CES. Quickly, I set about trying to figure out what CES stood for. The voice on the other end of the phone had never called it the “Consumer Electronics Show,” just CES. Their goal was to feature Canon’s Pixma Pro Printers and showcase the quality that one can get from the printer. She said she was sending over a brief in the next few minutes and I needed to respond with a few ideas. Great! Anxiously, I sat by my computer for the next 24 hours until … nothing. I figured they had decided against using me. “Oh well,” I thought.

Two weeks later I get another call from her. She wondered why I hadn’t responded to the brief, but no matter, I made the short list and scheduled a conference call for the following Monday. Naturally, I was eager for this opportunity, so we also scheduled a time to talk with another local photographer and the full creative team. My assignment was to figure out what the sights and sounds of Vegas meant to me. I had only lived in Las Vegas since the summer. So I didn’t have very many contacts to work with at this point.

Gill_CanonHeatherGill-12So the assignment was going to go like this: From the four senses: touch, sound, smell and taste, we would be showing what they mean in the context of Las Vegas. Our first trigger, TOUCH, is the feel or touching of felt, dice and poker chips. The second sense, SOUND, was the sound of a noisy casino. Third sense, SMELL, would be the smell of money. For the fourth sense, TASTE, we would use mocktails. Our fifth sense would be our interpretation of the first four senses and using sight to see the gallery and the other senses. We had to take our cue from the triggers given and interpret them literally and then we could make our own interpretation.


The show was going to be set up like a gallery. Each person that walked through would be taken through the gallery and given the trigger we were given, smell of money, taste of a mocktail, touch of felt, poker chips and dice and the sound of a noisy casino floor. They would be given this trigger before seeing the images so their minds could start to get a picture. The lights would come up and our images would be on the wall and they would move on to the next room for the next trigger. Four rooms in all and the last room had images they had seen in the previous rooms and a few others that had not been shown. All the rooms had black walls, gallery lights and images. They had chosen to make four of our images larger than the Pixma Pro printers could print using a large format printer.

We were given the green light to move ahead with shooting the city the day before Thanksgiving. Everything had to be turned in the following Friday, December 5th. I emailed a few people that I thought would be able to help me get access to shooting in casinos or restaurants or something to get the ball rolling. I only heard back from one and they wanted a hefty fee for photographing and still weren’t sure they wanted to sign a release. Photographing in Las Vegas is not easy. You cannot, by law, walk up to a table and start photographing. Regardless of whether or not you have permission of guests at the table. So I had to work around that detail. I had friends come to town thinking that if I had their permission I could shoot, not possible. So onto the next idea.

In case you thought photographers were shooters most of the time … let me be clear, we are not! We are problem solvers 75% of them time or more. Las Vegas is so different from every other city I’ve ever lived in. I’m used to being able to talk with the owner, get permission to photograph, etc. Not in Las Vegas. You will rarely meet an owner and you won’t be getting permission to shoot until the board meets. I didn’t have that kind of time. So not only did I need to get creative with the interpretation of the assignment, I needed to get creative on how, and what, I could shoot. The subject matter couldn’t be too recognizable or require special permission from a casino. In the end I did a lot of the shots in my own studio: All of the food images, all of the “smell of money” images, and all of the touch images. I found a vintage slots dealer and got the majority of my sound images using vintage machines and roulette wheels.

This had to be the best experience possible to learn about a new city. I have learned so much about my new city and this assignment helped me see Las Vegas in a new and interesting way. I feel I’ve come out of the experience a stronger photographer as I am better at problem solving and coming up with new ideas quickly.

I still don’t know how or why I was chosen to work with Canon. I had started working on a few editorial assignments for Vegas Magazine and Wynn Magazine, but at the time Canon contacted me nothing had been published yet. I can also tell you I’m grateful for every assignment I’m given. I’m usually hired to create images of gorgeous food and this time I got to create images of my new city and show them to the world. We had over 3,000 people come through our gallery space and speak with us. That had to be the most fun part of the experience. I had to get on the Canon stage and speak to many CES attendees. That was not the fun for me, but it got easier each time, and I got to speak on a subject I love: Photography.

This process from start to finish was crazy to say the least. But when I walked through the gallery space before opening and saw the framed images it was worth all the crazy. An image doesn’t end with the capture, and it’s always amazing to see your work printed. As photographers, we need to print our work. It’s part of the process to make them tangible, hang them on your own walls, live with them. It’s a powerful thing, seeing your own work printed and framed.


Gill_CanonHeatherGill-17 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-15 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-14 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-13 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-11 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-10 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-9 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-7 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-8 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-5 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-4 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-2 Gill_CanonHeatherGill-1 Gill_gallery-2 Gill_gallery-3 Gill_gallery-4 Gill_gallery-6 Gill_gallery-7 Gill_gallery-8 Gill_gallery-9 Gill_gallery-10 Gill_gallery-11 Gill_gallery-12


GillHeather-watermarkHeather Gill is a 2012 graduate of the Career Training program.
You can see more of her work at her website,

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In the Spirit of Ansel Adams: Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons in Black and White – Guest Article by Steve Russell Fri, 05 Dec 2014 17:30:40 +0000 IMG_5687At the tail end of Fall I had a chance to join a small group of experienced photographers on a photo expedition to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. Our goals were to “hunt” and “shoot” wild animals, photograph the Milky Way, and capture the grandeur of the Teton mountain range. Of course, this is Ansel Adams country, so in the spirit of his eminence, I processed my images in black and white using Lightroom 5 (exactly as I learned it in the RMSP Lightroom Workshop). What better way to reduce them to their essence.

Our group had the benefit of having a photographer with over 40 Yellowstone/Grand Teton photo shoots under his belt, which made all the difference in terms of finding opportunities. Two of in our group had been to the parks five times without ever having seen a grizzly bear; on this trip, however, we found them twice in five days. Along with the grizzlies we shot bull elk (in the rutting season), pronghorn antelope, black bear, bighorn sheep and bison, but unfortunately, we didn’t see any moose or wolves. Maybe next time. My best, sharpest images were when handholding my Canon 7D with 70-200mm IS lens and 1.4 teleconverter.

R22A1955Our day trip to the Grand Tetons was unsurprisingly spectacular, although we settled for big billowy clouds over the mountains instead of the more iconic snow-covered peaks (which was to occur only two days later). I used my 24-105mm f/4 and 15mm 2.8 lenses on a Canon 5D Mark III for my best results.

Back in Yellowstone the clouds luckily parted on two consecutive, new-moon nights allowing us to shoot the Milky Way (me, for the first time ever) over briefly light-painted geysers we’d scoped out during the day. It took some trial and error (mostly error) but I settled on ISO 3200, wide open at f/2.8, for 25-30 seconds on a tripod using the 15mm fisheye lens on my 5D Mark III. I couldn’t be happier with the results.

R22A1870We barely scratched the surface of wildlife, landscape and night-sky photographic opportunities in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons on our five-day visit. I’m no Ansel Adams but I suspect that I felt just as much of a thrill as he did when witnessing such extraordinary sights.

Steve Russell
IMG_5439 IMG_5542 IMG_5594-Edit IMG_5647-Edit IMG_5687 IMG_5740 IMG_6032 IMG_6038 IMG_6102 IMG_6195-Edit R22A1774 R22A1870 R22A1955 R22A1982
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Refining Masks in Photoshop Thu, 11 Sep 2014 15:04:30 +0000 Refining Selections

The marching ants that represent selections have been around forever. But it doesn’t mean that they are the best tool for the job; it’s just all we have had until recently. Some years back Adobe gave us the Refine Edge tool. In addition to viewing the selection in a different way, it gives you a chance to modify selections as well. Very rarely do you create a perfect selection on the first go around. This new tool gives you ample opportunities to fine-tune the selection before you turn it into a mask.

When you have any selection tool active, such as the Magic Wand or Quick Selection tool, and a selection active (the marching ants are visible on your screen), you will have access to the Refine Edge command in the Option Bar. This command (pictured below) will allow you to modify or refine the edges of your selection.

The advantage of working with your selections using this dialog box is that you are able to see their true edge. With just the marching ants, it is often difficult to tell how well you have selected an area.

The Refine Edge dialog box gives you many ways to preview a selection. By clicking on the View Box (circled in red) you get access to the different ways that you can view the area of the image that is selected.

By placing your cursor over the icon, you receive a description of the view. The first icon is the least useful. It is the Standard view showing marching ants.

One of the most useful is the On White view, which works well in general and for darker objects. You also may find the On Black view useful for lighter objects.



Standard View

On White View

On White View

On Black View

Radius Slider
By increasing this slider, you are increasing the area around the original edge that will be affected by the settings. The increased radius allows the edge to get bigger and become softer. This will be the effect if this is the only slider that you use. If you use further refinements in the bottom of the box, this radius amount is defining the region in which the other options will operate.

Contrast Slider
This slider’s main goal is to remove any fuzzy artifacts that may have become apparent when the radius was enlarged. Radius and contrast work together to tighten the selection or make it more detailed; but don’t turn up radius too much because that’s the job of the Feather slider. Another way to think of the radius is that it is used to create a soft enough edge for the contrast to have something to work with.

Smooth Slider
The Smooth slider does just what you think it may do. It smooths out the rough edges of a selection removing any hard edges.

Feather Slider
The Feather slider is similar to the Radius slider in that it “blurs” the edge of the selection. It differs in that it exerts no control over the region that is being worked on by the other sliders; it is chiefly used for blurring the edge. Use the Feather slider to blend your adjustment from inside the selection to outside the selection. Remember that what is white is selected and what is black is not selected. If it is a shade of gray, it is partially selected. This means that only some of the adjustment will come through.

Shift Edge
The Shift Edge slider will make your current selection edge grow outward (expand) or inward (contract). If your edge is hard, it will stay hard but just grow inward or outward. If it is soft, it retains its soft nature and contracts or expands. To get any noticeable amount of expansion, the Radius slider may need to be increased. Just increasing the Contract/Expand amount without increasing radius may produce very little movement of the edges.  Increasing the Radius slider increases the region or the area around the edge that will be affected by the Contract/Expand slider (or any of the other sliders as well). This slider comes in handy for removing halos. Click OK inside the Refine Edge dialog box to commit to the changes that you made. You will be returned to your image with the new selection still active. Remember that you may not see any visible change to the marching ants. Don’t worry, though—when you create an Adjustment Layer, the resulting mask will look just like the preview!



Refining Masks

Modifying the edges of the selection with the new Refine Edge tool is a pretty neat trick. It does have one drawback, however: visibility. The problem with working on the selection occurs when you are masking out an Adjustment Layer. The Adjustment Layer, of course, will produce a change in the image. This change may or may not be obvious at the edges of the selection. With just modifying the selection before the adjustment is made, you have no idea how each side of the selection edge will look.

If you create a good selection first, then create the Adjustment Layer and turn it into a mask, and then modify your mask, you will have a real-time visual of the effects of your edges. You will be altering your mask as it masks out (or reveals) the underlying layer or new Adjustment Layer. The ability to see the changes as you adjust is very important.

The Masks Mode in the Properties Panel allows the Refine Edge Tool Controls to work on a mask.  Once a Mask is made, click directly on the mask to change the Properties Panel from showing the adjustment to showing the Masks Controls.  It is always a good idea to click on it once (the mask itself, not the Adjustment Layer) to ensure that you are actually on the right layer and on the mask itself. This will get you into a good habit that will be beneficial to you when you begin to work with multiple Adjustment Layers and multiple images in one document.

If you accidentally double-click on the mask rather than single click, it will bring up the Layer Mask Display options box. Just click OK for now. No harm done.

6-Masks View

7-Masks View

8-Masks View

9A-Masks View

Once you click on your mask, you are able to modify it in any way that you would a grayscale image. This means you can lighten, darken, increase contrast, use the Clone Stamp tool, blur, sharpen, or apply any other number of filters to it. At the moment, however, you can’t really see the mask. This doesn’t mean you can’t affect it; you just can’t see what you are doing. There will be many times when you want to affect the mask without looking at it. One example would be when you have created an Adjustment Layer with a mask, and the new adjustment is adversely affecting the surrounding areas. By working on the mask but looking at your image, you can watch how your edits are affecting the mask. Of course, there are those times that you will want to look at the mask directly.

There are two ways you can view a mask:
1.  Press the Option key (Alt for PC), and click on the mask itself. This will overlay the mask in black and white on your image. The images to the left show the Normal view and the image after Option (Alt) clicking on the Mask view. To return to Normal view, just press the Option (Alt) key and click on the mask again.

2.  Press the backslash key on your keyboard. The backslash key is just to the left of the bracket [ ] keys. This will show the mask as a semitransparent red overlay on your image.  The color and the opacity of this overlay can be changed to suit your needs. Double-click on the mask to bring up the Layer Mask Display Options dialog box. Click OK in this box when you have made the desired changes. The mask overlay will display these new settings until you return to this box to change them. Pressing the backslash key again will return your image to Normal view.

It is beneficial to know both of these options, as neither will work 100% of the time. Sometimes, you may need to see through to your image, while other times it will be easier to work in the black-and-white mode. These are the manual techniques for viewing your mask. When you begin working in the Masks Panel, these overlay modes are also available.

Click on the Masks tab to reveal the Masks Panel. When adjusting the sliders in the Masks Panel, you should be looking directly at your image (usually at 100% magnification) rather than at the small icon of the mask in the Adjustment Layer. This allows you to see in real time the changes you are making to the mask.  In the image to the left I have made a mask of the sky and darkened it using Curves.  Notice the artifacts (circled in red) around the edge of the Washington Monument.  This can be easily fixed using the Masks Panel.

The first slider you will see is the Density slider. It is set to 100% by default. This means the mask is at full density. Blacks are black, whites are white. If you reduce this slider, you will be lightening the blacks and grays on the mask. Remember, the blacks of the mask are blocking the change occurring from that Adjustment Layer. The grays are somewhat blocking the change. The whites allow it through fully. If you lower the density of the mask, the blacks and grays are getting lighter, thus allowing more of that change through to your image.

The next slider down is the Feather slider. It works just like the Feather slider in the Refine Edge tool for selections. The Feather slider “blurs” the edge of the mask. This creates a transition zone (from black to gray to white), from the adjustment being fully on to fully off.  The Feather slider will affect smaller resolution images more drastically than larger resolution images. The image to the left shows that by simply adjusting the feather I am creating a Halo around the monument.  I will need to click on Mask Edge to get to the full range of adjustments.

The next section of the Masks Panel is the Refine area. Here you will see the buttons for Mask Edge, Color Range, and Invert. The Mask Edge button brings up the very same control panel that you get with the Refine Edge tool for selections (pictured at left).

Here it works on the mask rather than a selection. As mentioned earlier, we find that it is often easier to refine the mask after the fact instead of trying to refine the selection before hand. The reason is that you are refining the mask with the current adjustment applied, allowing you see your image while you work.

Using the Refine Mask Box

10-Masks View

1. Here I have clicked on the Mask Edge Button and the Refine Mask box pops up.

2. Next I chose the On Layers View (circled in red)







11-Masks View

3. Increase the radius until most of the artifact disappears (here I have set 9.5). Remember this increasing the area around the original edge that will be affected by the sliders below.

4. The problem with this mask is that it is just a bit too big. The curves adjustment is darkening down the sky, and it is edging into the monument.  Shifting the edge of the mask will eliminate the dark halo.  Here I have shifted the edge +7.





12-Masks View

13-Masks View

5. The upper image to the left shows how by increasing the radius and Shifting the edge I have removed the halo from around the monument.

6. By checking the Show Original Box (circled in red) you see the original image before the mask refinement (lower image).

7. When you are satisfied with your refinements, click OK to apply your changes.


You would follow the same steps to apply any of the other commands such as Smooth, or Contrast within this dialog box.




































Sometimes you may find that the whole edge, however, does not benefit from the same amount of Shifting adjustment. This could be fixed manually afterwards, by going in and painting on the mask.

On occasion, you can create a mask that has shades of gray as well as white and black. This is not uncommon when using Select > Color Range. In cases like these, you may want to subtly alter the tones in the mask.

You can adjust a mask with any adjustment (Curves, Levels, and so on) that work on brightness or contrast. Color adjustments will be grayed out when you are on a mask.

To alter the contrast of a mask (remember to click once on your mask first), choose Image > Adjustments > Curves-Do not create another adjustment layer. Here you are working on the mask itself so go up to the menu and choose Image > Adjustments > Curves. You could also use Levels. The adjustment will be reflected on your mask as you adjust. Remember, white allows your adjustment to be visible, and black restricts it. So as you increase the contrast of a mask, you are simultaneously letting more and less of the adjustment through in different areas of the image.

You can also combine the selections with masks. Let’s say that you wanted to blur a section of the mask rather than the entire thing.

With your mask active, draw a rough selection with the Lasso tool.

You need to blur the selection to ensure a good blur on the mask, so click the Refine Edge button in the Options Bar and feather the edge. Click OK.

To blur the mask, you would think you could just use the Feather slider in the Masks Panel. Not so. For some reason, the panel ignores the selection. So we will use a trusted old technique. With the selection active (and your desired mask active), select Filter > Blur > Gaussian Blur, and adjust the radius to suit your needs. Remember to go to Select > Deselect when you are finished!




Want more from Tim Cooper?

Click here to check out 
the courses he will be teaching in 2015!

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2015 COURSE CATALOG IS OUT!! Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:33:18 +0000 2015-CatalogCover-webThat’s right! The 2015 RMSP Course Catalog will begin shipping today! If you are on our list (and request mail from us), your copy should be showing up in the very near future. If you simply can’t wait to hold this beauty in your hands, you can get a jump on planning your 2015 by heading over to our homepage at and downloading a PDF version.

While smaller in its physical size (it’s 6 x 9), the 2015 catalog is livin’ large on other fronts. The cover of our new book features an image taken by our very recent 2014 Summer Intensive graduate Ivy Bencheck (congrats on your first cover Ivy!). The first three spreads feature images of three of our 2014 Summer Intensive students engaging in what we believe are the pillars of our educational philosophy: We believe in an Experiential, Intensive and In-Person learning experience. From these images of Virginia, Barry and Nicole, you will be encouraged to go to our website to watch full video interviews with each of them as they recap their RMSP experience. These three individuals came to Summer Intensive from VERY different backgrounds, but over the course of their individual 11-week journeys, became connected to photography in an incredible way. See what they had to say by clicking the images below.


We hope you like our new catalog and it helps you find a course in 2015 that speaks to you!


















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Summer Intensive 2014 Graduation Day Tue, 05 Aug 2014 14:48:33 +0000 photo(25)On the final day of our annual Summer Intensive (SI) course on Friday, August 15th, we will be celebrating our students’ achievements with Graduation Day activities…and you’re invited! This is always a special day for us here as well as a bittersweet culmination of 75 professionally and intensively trained photographers being launched on their individual creative paths. For those of you who have been through this experience, you know what this meant to you personally, and is why we celebrate the day and results of each students’ efforts.


SI Graduation will be held on the afternoon of the 15th from 2:00pm – 4:00pm at the Music Recital Hall on University of Montana’s campus (click here for map). From RMSP, take Higgins Ave. going south and turn left on S. 6th St. East. Take 6th into the parking lot on campus and turn right on to Maurice Ave. The building is located on Maurice, between Connell and Eddy.

The graduation ceremonies will consist of student and faculty speakers as well as a slide show of student images.  We’re excited to show off their work and happily invite you to attend these special events!

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