8-2-16163235albert_watsonAll images kindly provided by Christopher Michels, who was one of many talented photographers in Albert Watson’s workshop. In the image above, Albert is discussing a lighting setup on the second day of the workshop. 

In August, I took a photography workshop with the legendary Albert Watson at the Santa Fe Photographic Workshops.  If you are a photographer and don’t know of Albert Watson, look him up. You have seen his work before. I guarantee it. He has been called one of the top 20 photographers of all time. That is some pretty rare air. He is also an incredibly personable and genuine person. And, he is one of a handful of photographers I would call a true lighting master. As is evident in his images, he sees light in a way very few photographers do or can. Hence, taking a workshop with Albert was a great honor and a huge learning opportunity.

This was the second photography workshop I have ever taken. It was also the highest level workshop I have ever been a part of. Everyone in the class was either a working pro or an extremely advanced amateur, but most were working pros. Once Albert started showing us his basic lighting techniques, most in the class were completely blown away, myself included. Even my good friend Robert Reck, one of the top architectural photographers on the planet and a fellow participant, was heard muttering, “I can’t believe it” after the first lighting demo. Most of Albert’s lighting is done with one strobe head and a beauty dish, and the light is then bounced off white and black foam core to create a custom lighting setup for each image. What he was able to create with a very affordable amount of foam core and several flags (used to block the light) was absolutely astounding.

I took this class to help push my portrait photography lighting skills to the next level and also to get a creative boost. In the workshop, we talked about a wide range of subjects and Albert also critiqued our work and websites in front of the whole class. While looking at my images for over an hour he loved a few of my portraits and harshly critiqued quite a few of them as well. The constructive criticism was what I was there for and it will help me work harder to create higher-end portraits.


Above, I am in the hot seat. You might notice my nervous, awkward stare. I was sweating a bit more than normal as Albert critiqued my images. It isn’t often that you have a photographer of Albert’s stature and experience critiquing your work. He didn’t was honest and direct, just what I was looking for. I learned more about my portraiture in this one hour than I have in a long, long time.

During the workshop I took over 28-pages of notes. There were also a ton of pretty remarkable quotes that I wrote down. Below are a few of the best quotes from the week:

“If you learn one thing from me it is to analyze your pictures. You have to get into your own picture and really analyze the image as with a microscope. My one eye is a magnifying glass.”

[Sidenote: Albert has been blind in one eye since birth, which allows him to see and analyze images differently than those of us with stereo vision.]

“Good lighting is a matter of you moving the light and using your eyes to adjust the light.”

“The final proof is the image hanging on a wall. Do you love it or not?”

“Spend more time on the creative and on the conceptualization of the shoot than on equipment and gear. “

“Never in your life use one of those nasty silver reflectors. Burn them.”

“There is a great malaise with a lot of photography now. There is not enough homework done before the shoot and not enough thought put into the image.”

“One of the weakest things I see is photographers don’t use flags with their lighting.”

 “Try over the next year to concentrate on the images and the art, not the gear. Instead of looking at gear reviews spend your time looking at art and taking in as much art as possible to influence you.”

“The devil’s in the details.”

“Make memorable images, not postcards.”

“We need to rise above all the millions of cameras and rise above the fray and above the stratosphere.” – Albert speaking about creating memorable images that stand out from the crowd.

This workshop also happened to be the first five-day workshop that the Santa Fe Workshops has ever run where the participants did not shoot at all. This was intentional by design. None of us really needed to shoot anything. We were there to learn about Albert, his work and his methods. Hence, taking time to shoot our own images would have limited how much of his craft we could absorb. We could see how how he worked and replicate that process after the workshop if we wanted to create similar looks. For this workshop and the high level participants not having to deal with shooting images was fantastic.

8-2-16163615albert_watsonAlbert giving direction to one of our models for the afternoon. Unlike most photographers, myself included, Albert gets in close to his subjects and really looks at the way the lighting is falling across their face as his assistant(s) move the light. 

8-4-16164668albsert_watsonA Portrait of Keith Coleman, Albert’s 20-year assistant, who brought with him years and years of knowledge. 

One of my mantras is “Never Stop Learning.” If I ever did stop pushing to learn new techniques or expand my skill set I feel that my career would be in steep decline soon thereafter. Improving my portraiture, and my lighting skills, has been a decade-long endeavor so far and will likely continue for many more years to come. One of the big take aways from this workshop was not a photographic technique or any lighting setup per se, but the urging by Albert to think more artistically when creating images. Albert noted that we as photographers get so wrapped up in the technique that we often loose sight of the creative side. Going forward, I really want to push the envelope creatively more than I ever have. What that exactly means is something I am still figuring out. This, my 20th year as a professional photographer, has been quite busy but I have also taken the time to seek out and find inspiration.

This was Albert’s second time teaching a 5-day workshop. The last one was eighteen years ago and also at the Santa Fe Workshops. He has taught a one-day seminar in Europe but besides that he hasn’t taught any other workshops or seminars. My thanks to Albert Watson for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to inspire and challenge us all. Also, my thanks to Reid Callanan, the director of the Santa Fe Workshops for bringing Albert back to Santa Fe.


  • Sean - Oh man, that’s awesome. What a great experience to learn from one of the masters. Totally jealous. Keep wanting to come down and take one of their workshops. Hopefully soon.


To get the ball rolling for the fall holiday season, I am happy to announce a 25% off sale on all of my fine art prints until December 31st, 2016. How this works is very simple, just take 25% off my standard fine art print pricing, which can be found here, and contact me to order the print.

All of my images are available as Fine Art Prints. You can see which of my images are in the Limited Edition category on my website. Any images that are not shown on the Limited Edition page are considered Open Edition prints. Please note that these prices do not include shipping. If you have any questions about print sizes or available images please don’t hesitate to contact me. I will work with you to make sure the final print is the best it can possibly be and will look great mounted on your wall.

These archival prints are painstakingly created by yours truly on some of the finest papers available. I do not outsource printing to a third party printer because I want to have tight control over the quality of the final print, and I have not found a third party printer that can achieve the same level of quality that I can produce here in my office. The prints are made on Epson printers using a variety of papers including both fine art matte papers and baryta photographic papers. The printer and paper combination is chosen specifically for each image so that image will be rendered with the highest possible resolution and the widest color gamut. Our main papers are Ilford Gold Fibre Silk, Ilford Gold Cotton Textured and Ilford Fine Art Smooth papers.

Below are a few sample prints that I have made in the last few months to give you an idea of just how stunning these turn out when framed up.





framed-print-003-mediumformatPlease contact me with any questions or if you would like to look at a wider range of images than are featured on my website.


summer-2016-cover_smThe Summer 2016 issue of the Michael Clark Photography Newsletter is now available for download. If you’d like to sign up for the Newsletter just drop me an email and I’ll add you to the mailing list.

This issue includes an editorial about my recent assignments and non-stop travel, a review of the Nikon D5, an article detailing a recent with Red Bull at the Red Bull Summer Solstice Photo Challenge, an editorial entitled “The Next Level,” and much more.

The Michael Clark Photography Newsletter goes out to over 8,000 thousand photo editors, photographers and photo enthusiasts around the world. You can download the Summer 2016 issue on my website at:


If you’d like to check out back issues of the newsletter they are available here.

Please note that the newsletter is best viewed in the latest Adobe Acrobat reader which is available for free at www.adobe.com.

nikon-D5A few months ago I received a call from Eric Becker at We Are Shouting, a production company that works with Digital Photography Review (dpreview.com). They were working on a full fledged review of the Nikon D5 and wanted to do a Field Test video review of the camera with a pro photographer to go along with their in-depth report. For these Field test video reviews, DPReview sends out one of their top editors to shoot alongside a pro photographer and discuss various features of the camera. Rishi Sanyal is the deputy editor and technical editor at DPreview.com and is the most knowledgable person I have ever met when it comes to digital camera technology. He and the video crew came down to Santa Fe, New Mexico and we worked side-by-side for three days shooting a variety of fast-paced adventure sports including BMX, whitewater kayaking and motocross. These are three of the toughest sports to shoot as far as autofocus and keeping up with the action, so they were an extreme test for the Nikon D5. The in-depth Nikon D5 review went live several weeks ago. The Field test video featuring Rishi and I went live just a few days ago. Check out the Field test video right here below. Afterwards, come back and read my thoughts on the camera in the rest of this blog post.

I have been working with the pro Nikon digital camera bodies since the D2x came out over a decade ago. My main workhorse action camera these days is the Nikon D4, which is no slouch. The D5 is the culmination of everything that Nikon has learned since they introduced the Nikon D1 way back in 1999. The D5 is not the highest resolution camera they offer, nor is it the lightest or most ideal camera for shooting in the studio. This is a camera designed for photojournalists, sports and action photographers, and photographers who need a super-reliable do-anything camera. For portraits, I would reach for my Nikon D810 over the D5. But when it comes to action sports, especially when it is happening in less than ideal lighting, the D5 is the camera I would reach for. Here in this review, I am not going to pixel peep and get deep into the technical aspects of the camera; The folks at DPReview have done an excellent job discussing the nitty gritty details already. Here, I am going to give the pro perspective on this new camera body and how I feel it stacks up against the Nikon D4 and D4s.


Daniel Coriz motocross riding at the Santa Fe MX track in northern New Mexico.


Let’s just get one thing out of the way right off the bat: The autofocus built into the Nikon D5 is by far the most incredible autofocus I have ever seen in any camera bar none. It blew both Rishi and I away. With all of my Nikons, I have either used single point AF in AF-S mode or Dynamic AF in AF-C (Continuous mode) and have found those to be super reliable. With the D5, Nikon has taken 3D AF tracking to a whole other level where it nearly completely frees you up from focus points and will follow the action from edge-to-edge in spectacular fashion. With 3D tracking, you have to initiate the AF on your subject and then from that point on it will track the subject anywhere in the frame. The image above is an excellent example of this, where I followed the rider into the frame then selected my composition and let the 3D tracking stay with the BMX rider, Daniel Coriz. There were very few situations where the 3D Tracking AF missed focus. Rishi and I also tried out Auto AF in AF-C mode, which is an autofocus mode I generally would never trust with previous Nikon models, but it was ridiculously accurate for quite a wide variety of scenarios allowing us to focus on composition. To sum it up, I don’t know how autofocus could ever get any better than this. The autofocus in this camera alone is reason enough to upgrade or add a D5 to your camera bag if you shoot action.

Daniel Coriz motocross riding at the Santa Fe MX track in northern New Mexico.

As further proof of the autofocus accuracy, the above shot of Daniel Coriz riding motocross shows just how good the D5’s AF is. For this shot, Daniel was moving so quickly relative to the camera position that we had to shoot at 1/8,000 second or he would be soft due to motion blur. This image was shot wide open at f/1.8 with the Nikkor 24mm f/1.8 lens and it is tack sharp where we want it to be right on his face. I don’t think my Nikon D4 could have kept up anywhere near as well with this sort of scenario. This was also quite a dangerous spot to shoot from; Rishi had a sizable rock that shot out at him from under the tire of the bike like a bullet. Luckily it hit the camera and not his head. The camera was fine. The Nikkor 24mm f/1.8 was getting a bit beat up with all do the dirt flying straight at the lens.

mclark_nmdp_0416_1327v347The only time I saw the autofocus fail was with a few very specific scenarios while shooting whitewater kayaking. I consider whitewater kayaking to be the ultimate test of autofocus. There are splashes of water popping up all over the place between the camera and the subject, and very few cameras stick with the subject if a splash of water pops up in the frame. With more time, I think I could have tweaked the “Lock On” custom settings in the D5 to overcome this scenario and have it stick with the subject regardless of the water splashes. Other than in this very specific situation, the camera did phenomenally well. It did better than my D4 or any previous Nikon camera could in this scenario.

Nikon offers the D5 with either two CompactFlash memory card slots or two XQD memory card slots. Since the Nikon D5 is built for action, if you are buying a D5, I have no idea why anyone would get one with CompactFlash card slots instead to the XQD. The XQD cards make this camera lightening fast. In our testing, Rishi and I found out that having the latest, fastest XQD cards was important. My older XQD cards, that I purchased with my Nikon D4 four years ago, were so slow when used with the D5 that it took several seconds for the images to be written to the cards whereas the latest XQD cards that Rishi was using never skipped a beat or slowed him down at all. In fact, even after shooting a ridiculous 100+ images at 11 fps the images were written to the card by the time he took his eye away from the viewfinder and looked down at the back of the camera. My recommendation is if you are getting this camera, get the XQD version and buy new cards.

There has been a lot of hype out there that this camera doesn’t have the dynamic range of some of it’s predecessors, and that may be the case in the laboratory, but I didn’t notice it to be an issue in real world usage. Granted, I wasn’t shooting landscapes with the D5. For landscapes, I would be shooting with a D810 anyway. With my D4, I tend to shoot at ISO 400 and above about 75% of the time, and am often shooting at ISO 800 and above. The D5 is optimized to be used at higher ISOs. So, at least for me and the way I shoot with the pro body cameras, the dynamic range is not an issue.

I don’t want to make this a long-winded review because DPReview has already posted the most extensive review of the D5 you are likely to find and you can check it out on their website. Will I upgrade? That is the question. I still have another camera purchase to pay off before I buy any new cameras but at some point I will definitely be adding a new action camera to the bag and this will most likely it. [I am still excited to test out the Nikon D500 as well since it is a nice, lightweight camera that incorporates many of the same features found in the Nikon D5 including the new blazing fast autofocus module.]

My thanks to DPReview and We Are Shouting for pulling me in to do the Field Test with the Nikon D5. Not only was it a great chance to test out this new rig, but we also managed to get some pretty cool images in the process. Also, thanks to the athletes who worked with us: Daniel Coriz (BMX and Motocross), John Fullbright and Aren Rane (whitewater kayaking). Without their hard work these images wouldn’t exist and the video would be a lot less interesting. To find more info on the Nikon D5 visit www.nikon.com.



Last month I had the pleasure of shooting for New Balance with Dominic and Katie Grossman, two elite ultra trail runners. While I was shooting for New balance, we were also shooting images to promote the Ultra Santa Fe trail race, which is sponsored by New Balance and is coming up quickly on September 10th, 2016 in the Sangre De Christo mountains above Santa Fe, New Mexico. As you can see in these images Dominic and Katie are amazing trail runners. I have never seen runners so enthusiastic about running. I have also never seen runners fly through the terrain as these two seem to do at every opportunity. Both Dominic and Katie were like gazelles bounding through rolling terrain. They were literally flying on some trails with their feet spending less time on the ground than in the air.

This assignment started early, as is usual for most of my assignments, before sunrise. We drove up to the top of Ski Santa Fe, the local ski area, and shot at sunrise in the high alpine terrain at over 10,000 feet overlooking the valley below. Along with Dominic and Katie, we had a whole crew of runners including Peter Olson and Taylor Pardue, who are putting on the Ultra Santa Fe race. Over the following twelve hours we worked at a half dozen different locations showcasing the varying terrain of the race.





At the end of the day we ended up on a single track trail up high in the Aspens as seen in the image above. This is one of the most amazing Aspens groves in the state of New Mexico and both Dominic and Katie were keen to shoot here even after a long day running back and forth for the camera. What impressed me most was just how fast they moved through terrain, even as ultra trail runners who average 50 to 100 miles in a race. Overall, this was one of the funnest assignments I have had in quite a while. It was an great, easy-going crew who were keen on running and we got some amazing images at just about every location.



My thanks to Steve Hyde from New Balance, the Ultra Santa Fe race organizers and of course Dominic and Katie for making this happen. Dominic and Katie are coming back to run the race here next week. If you are interested in signing up for the 50 mile, 50 Km, 13 mile or uphill mile race visit the Ultra Santa Fe website for more details and to register. To see a wider selection of images from this assignment visit the New Balance page on my website under the new Commercial heading.

2016-website-revamp-1Over the last few months I have been working on a slight revamp to my website. It has been three years since I have really gone in and changed up the website and I had a lot of new images that haven’t been added to the mix so I decided to overhaul all of the image galleries and take a hard look at everything on the website. To help me decide what should stay and what should go, as well as help me edit my own work, I reached out to my good friend Peter Dennen of Pedro + Jackie. Peter gave me a fresh set of eyes to dig up both old and new images that needed to be seen.

Of course, editing your own work and figuring out how to display it is always tricky. This time around, I went with a popular method of displaying a large number of images in a masonry grid, not dissimilar to Instagram. This seems to be the hip new layout that art buyers and photo editors love because it helps them find what they are looking for that much faster. Of course, you can still click on an image and click through images individually as well.

2016-website-revamp-2The website is still a work in progress. I will keep updating it over the next few months when I am allowed to show new assignment images currently under embargo. Check it out at www.michaelclarkphoto.com. Drop me a note or leave a comment here and let me know what you think.

  • Eagle - WowZA.
    Love the website…looks really great !
    Did you do the design work yourself?

    I looking at designing my own site and moving away from zenfolio.

    I see you used the ProPhoto framework, are you happy with who it worked for you?
    Also i love your menu – best looking wordpress menu I’ve seen! Is the menu part of the ProPhoto suite/tools or is it a special plugin…

    Okay sorry for so many questions, main point being – Your site looks great.
    I’ve been a follower of your work for years. Killer photos and appreciate you abiity to communicate your passion and experience to those whom you inspire.


  • Michael Clark - Eagle – I worked with a graphic designer and then tweaked the website a bit to my taste. I used an AphotoFolio.com template for the main website and a ProPhoto template for the WordPress blog. Both have worked very well for me. The menu on the main website is not work press but the aphotofolio template. The menu on the blog is wordpress. Thanks for the note!

mclark_H5D_0616_004After six months or so of using the Hasselblad H5D 50c WiFi medium format digital camera, I thought I would add a blog post here summing up the experience so far. To start with, I am still completely excited by this camera and do not regret purchasing it at all. The H5D still inspires me every time I pick it up and pushes me to create new and exciting images. I have taken this kit with me on quite a few assignments this year and have learned a lot about shooting with medium format in general and where it excels.

Over 45 days this spring, I created a pretty amazing array of images with the H5D. I myself was surprised by the quality of the images I was able to create. I have shot everything from landscapes to portraits and plenty of high-octane action including BMX and rock climbing. What has really impressed me is how the huge viewfinder allows me and forces me to really look critically at the entire frame when crafting the image. This slows you down but really helps when it comes to the quality of the images.


Of course, Hasselblad has not been sitting still the last six months. They have announced and released not just one but three new cameras: the H6D-50c, H6D-100c and the X1D. When the H6D was announced I was quite jealous of the new specs but I have to say as time has gone by since that announcement, and having used the H5D on quite a variety of shoots, the only spec that I really wish the H5D had was the 1/2000th second flash sync. With the announcement of the X1D, Hasselblad has me drooling yet again. One of the biggest issues for me with the H5D is just getting it to the location when flying. For most of my assignments, and to this point on all of them, I have to take at least a rudimentary 35mm DSLR kit along with the Hasselblad. For adventure sports assignments I often take a fairly large DSLR kit as that is my main working kit for fast moving sports. Getting on a plane with even a basic DSLR kit and a basic two-to-three lens Hasselblad kit plus a laptop is quite an organizational undertaking. I generally have the DSLR kit in my Lowepro Whistler 450 AW backpack, with a laptop stuffed into the front pocket of that backpack, and my Hasselblad kit in a Pelican 1450 hard case. Hence, because of this, the idea of traveling with a smaller medium format rig like the X1D, which (hopefully) has the same image quality as my H5D, is quite appealing.


Regardless, I still love the H5D. The size and weight of the H5D is significant but the handling and image quality is hard to beat. I will say that the big differences in image quality between the H5D and my Nikon DSLRs, especially the D810, are difficult to see on a monitor. Sure, the H5D has more pixels, but the tonal transitions and the micro-contrast created with the H5D is really only visible in prints. And it is when you print the images out of the H5D that you really start to see why this camera is so special. I have made quite a few prints of images shot with the H5D and they are breathtaking. Portraits especially show tonal transitions that are much more subtle and smoother than anything I have shot with my DSLRs. The images look more film-like than anything I have worked with since I stopped shooting medium format film over ten years ago.

A portrait of Robert Reck, and his Ducati motorcycle.When testing out the Phase One XF, the rep said that shooting with medium format cameras makes you a better photographer. I thought at the time that was some serious salesperson hype, but now that I have shot with the H5D for several months there might be something to that statement. The large viewfinder and the largess of the camera system itself forces you to think more and plan out the shot in a way that I don’t find with my DSLRs. I am still not sure I’d say the work I have created with the H5D is better than that shot with my DSLRs but being forced to overcome the limitations of the autofocus and the camera does make you work harder and differently, which leads to different types of images than I get with my DSLRs.