Pro Photographer Andy Porter and the Elements of Coolness SY.com May 15, 2015 PHOTOGRAPHY Andy Porter is a photographer with a gift for shooting astounding nature photos. Based out of Skagit Valley in Washington, he views photography as an outdoor adventure and below he shares his tips for taking seriously cool photos. Last week I was preparing materials for my latest photo class on photo composition. I included basics on subject and theme, Rule of Thirds, selective focus, leading lines, framing, and all the stuff I’d learned over the years by reading “How to…” articles and photo books. Then I started thinking about what I actually do, in real life, when I am out taking pictures. Mount Ranier Milky Way via Andy Porter Images Mount Shuksan via Andy Porter Images And I realized that while I do utilize all these things, what I really do is to focus my attention on adding what I call “elements of coolness.” Looking at pictures taken by other people I am often awestruck at the magnificence they managed to capture. And after a while I began to notice that the images I admired the most had one, or in many cases, more than one really awesome aspect to them. Palouse Falls Milky Way via Andy Porter Images Point of the Arches via Andy Porter Images Generally the more elements of coolness in the image, the more remarkable the image is. Photos with several stay imprinted in my brain. What is an element of coolness? Well, a reflection adds a very cool aspect to a photo. Bright colors do it for me (I am a color junkie). Wide views, wildlife, an awesome sunset, any remote location, people doing crazy stuff, flowers, mountains, stars, the moon, a stormy sky–all of these are elements of coolness. Sedro Woolley Carnival Fireworks via Andy Porter Images Skagit Valley from Samish Overlook via Andy Porter Images So, when I am planning to head out to capture images I have (of course) a plan of what I am going to take pictures of, as in flowers, or mountains, or whatever. Mostly I am considering how I can add cool elements to the shots. I wait for a sunrise or sunset. I watch the skies and look for crazy clouds or weather. Water and reflections are magnets to me. I get out there and scan for lines or patterns. I plan outings based on the moon cycle, flowers blooming, trees changing, sun setting and stars shining. My goal is to add as many elements of coolness as I can to the image. Sometimes it’s luck, like when I visited Palouse Falls this spring and happened to choose a night when some intrepid soul started a camp fire down in the basin at 1am! Skagit Valley Tulips via Andy Porter Images Snow Geese via Andy Porter Images But more often than not, I am able to add coolness elements by going back several times. Once you’re at a place, you get more of a feel for it. When you return you can even bring things with you, like more people, a dog, or a photogenic tent. I went to photograph lookout towers several times and had issues with illuminating the inside. A headlamp just wasn’t cutting it. So, on my latest trip I hauled a special flashlight that opened up and threw out a nice broad, softer light. Next time you see an image that you fancy, count up how many elements of coolness there are. Start a list of your own. Work out learning new techniques for image capture (like Milky Way shooting) so that your list is bigger. And voila, you will soon have cooler images of your own. Spider Meadows and Phelps Creek via Andy Porter Images Thanks, Andy! Check out more of his amazing photography here.