Monday, February 2, 2015

My workflow

I often get asked about my workflow and how I go about scouting, composing, capturing, and processing my images. This is something that cannot be learned overnight, but rather over many years of trial and error. The reason you are seeing so many great landscape photographers emerge, is due to the fact that the learning curve is so accelerated due to instant results. In the past, you would have to wait weeks after development to see results of a shoot.


As far as scouting goes, I generally return to a location or area I have visited before, to capture the best light.  So I will return there several times throughout the year. Obviously most places I visit are well known and most that are familiar with the American Southwest know right where they are.

However I try hard to get off the beaten path and find new and exciting locations. This is always a challenge due to the fact you are going into uncharted territory and may put a lot of effort into little gain, but when it pays off the results are gratifying.



Composing a photograph is one of the more difficult things to do when you are just learning photography. I have learned that when you use wide angle lenses, get close to your subject, and add dimension or layers, your images will turn out much better speaking in a general terms.

The most compelling landscape images I have seen, showcase patterns, consistency, or odd weather events. Shooting a different perspective of a popular scene, will give you a unique result.  Try  it!


Capturing the right “data” is critical. I would rather overshoot a scene and ensure that I have the right exposures, compositions, and focus, than to miss out on an opportunity. Often after I finish a shoot like such, I don’t look forward to the hours of processing and sorting.

I always bracket my shots that have a vast dynamic range, meaning a scene that is at sunset or sunrise I will capture several stops of data. If I ever have a doubt, I bracket! There is no worse feeling then getting home to process and you notice that white cloud are blown out or the dark shadow has no detail either.


Processing images is a sensitive subject for some, and for the uninformed the question often asked,  “is that photoshopped?”. My answer is, “it better be!”. Those who are unfamiliar with RAW capture don’t understand the workflow of digital post processing. The best way I can tell someone who is not well informed about it is- A RAW image is much like a film negative, you must process the RAW image on a computer much like you would process a negative in the dark room to get the final product.

Now this topic deserves an entire blog post by itself, and it will in the future. When I think of the term “photoshopped” I think of photo composite, meaning different scenes or locations are blended into the same “photo”. I do not have any images that are photo composited, meaning all of my images have the same sky, mountains, trees, sun, etc. that I saw that day and at the particular time.
I am a true believer in Adobe RAW processing and blending for dynamic range. Meaning yes I will blend images shot at the same time with different exposures to show what I really saw. Modern DSLRs cannot capture what the human eye sees.

In the near future I will be releasing how-to tutorials on post processing images. Cost of the online tutorial will be $39.99 and be about an hour long. In these videos I will discuss the following:

                -Adobe RAW processing
                -How to use Color Efex Pro 4 filters for landscape photography
                -Sizing and preparing your images, the final product!

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

What is photography?


What is photography? A subject surely to arouse much discussion. To me, photography is the study of light and how to capture it. Almost too simple, right? Let me explain. Whenever you are out shooting regardless of portrait, landscape, etc, light should be the first thing that pops into your mind. For example you would rely on flash, natural, or even radiate light in a slot canyon.

 When I find a composition I like, the light of the scene usually plays 90% in my decision to shoot it. Now many will argue and say that composition should account for the vast majority and that you can always correct “light” while post processing an image.

I look at my top images, even my top 25 images and the light is magical in each and every one, or at least played a significant role in shooting that day. Now to address the argument about composition accounting for so little.  I have shot my top images multiple times over many months, years, and seasons. I compare images side by side, those in which the light was magical and those that were not and guess what? The images that had less then desirable light, did nothing for me!

Now of course I speak in these terms because I am primarily speaking of landscape photography. I have delved into portrait and product photography a bit, however my main focus and ideals are around landscape photography.

This is the first of many topics I will be discussing over the next few months to share my philosophy on the art of photography. We will discuss post processing, composition, equipment, and of course location scouting. I hope to produce some video tutorials on how I process my images.
My February photography workshop is full, however I have another workshop planned for Saturday, May 1st.

Monday, January 19, 2015

"The Place"
Coming in at #4, The Place. It took me a few years to find this old cabin and once I did, it instantly became an icon in my mind. I was fortunate enough to sit and visit with the gentleman who spent his summers here. It was a great experience to listen to the wisdom and stories of the “old times”. I really think that is was made it so special to me. Listening to the old stories really put meaning and purpose to my image, we will just say he has this print in his home!
This image was captured on one of my bigger solo Southwest road trips, I know it sounds weird but I enjoy travelling and shooting alone. It allows me to be 100% focused on what I am doing for several days at a time.
I have many people ask where this old cabin is located, but like many of my images of unknown places, I do not disclose that information. With Google, of course anything is possible. Sad as it sounds, I would estimate the life expectancy of this old cabin to be only a few more years before the elements take their toll.
Returning here several times over the last couple of years, I have been unable to match this amazing day I came across this old cabin. Maybe it was the luck of the old man, maybe it was my focus from the trip, but every time I return here I can hear the stories I was told that day.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Eternity, The Subway


My Top Photos of All Time #5 

This section of the Subway is very special to me. I have spent many summer days here waiting and watching as the light dances across the canyon walls.  My first introduction to Zion, was traversing the Subway in the early 1990s.  It was an experience that left a big impression on the rest of my life.

This particular day I started hiking about 4:30 am to ensure I had plenty of time to watch the light play. The year I shot this, the spring runoff flushed all of the infamous sand out of the canyon leaving pristine conditions. Most years the canyon is plagued with deep sand filling many of the deep pools that turn a nice emerald green when empty.  

Very little foot traffic passes through the upper portions of the Subway, in comparison to the Virgin River narrows. So the peace and solitude is very nice with just an occasional rowdy group passing through.

After I captured this image the hike out began on the 100+ degree day! Those that know me, know that I am very fast hiker. My average time exiting the Subway is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, of course I pack light with only essential gear and equipment. This is also one of the main reasons I hike solo.

I have recently become disappointed with the popularity and the difficulty to enjoy such an amazing place.  It is becoming much like the world famous Wave and many Grand Canyon hiking permits. I guess this is the price we pay to minimize the impact of these places!

Here is information on the Subway permit System:

 Here is a hiking guide for the Subway:

Sunday, January 11, 2015

RJ Hooper Photography Workshop

What are my workshops about:

My workshops are designed for people who are just getting into photography and have a basic understanding of how their camera works. Also those who are looking to expand & step up their potential for capturing great images or learn more about post processing.

I think an experienced amateur photographer will still learn some tips during the workshop. I cater to the crowd, so if everyone feels comfortable with their camera functions we will not focus too much attention on it!


Cost will be $150, after February 1st price goes up to $180.00. Price includes transportation, any entry fees or permits, and of course me! You will be responsible to provide yourself lunch, drinks, and snacks.


Why should you attend a photography workshop from me? If you are reading this, chances are you follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or somehow know about me! You see my style and the locations that I shoot. Do I promise you my portfolio from a 1 day workshop? No, but what I will teach you is my philosophy, my ideas, and how I approach landscape photography.

Photography is NOT about equipment! It is about developing your eye and adjusting your frame of mind while out shooting. So don't think your camera may not be good enough, that is not the case!


When I hold a workshop I like to tailor it around the specific day we are out shooting, i.e. if we have great clouds or rainy weather, we will maximize our shooting potential for such. I have a pre-plan of what we are going to do and photograph, however depending upon conditions we will go where the greatest potential is for great photos!

We will meet in St. George Utah approx. 1 hour prior to sunrise (approx. 6:00am) so that we can get to our first shooting location and be in position to capture the best light. After shooting the first moments of daylight and things slow down, we will recap the important points that we covered and talk a little more about composition, proper exposure, and how to capture dynamic range of light.

Mid to late morning will be spent covering composition, camera settings, and how to take advantage of the lenses that you have. We will cover the advantages of wide angle and telephoto lenses as they relate to landscape photography.

Over lunch we will perform Q&A session followed by an early afternoon post processing lesson. Topics will include basic RAW processing, dynamic range capture, cropping, and preparing your image for printing.

Late afternoon we will be back on location putting all the lessons from earlier in the day to good use! Depending upon conditions and if it looks like the potential for a good sunset is playing out, we will find the best spot to take advantage of that!

 What to bring:

-Camera (preferably a DSLR) with lenses

-Tripod with quick release for camera mount

-Plenty of memory cards! we will be shooting RAW+JPEG images with your camera

-A pack to carry your equipment, preferably a backpack so that your hands will be free

-Water, we will have a cooler with water bottles, however for when we are out hiking it never hurts to have more.

-Dress for the weather! If it is going to be cold, dress for the occasion! I always layer on days that have chilly mornings but then mild afternoons. As it gets closer we will communicate the temperature and weather forecast.

-Optional: laptop computer for post processing portion

What to expect:

-A Good time! I like to have fun and laugh while we are out shooting, bring your sense of humor with you!

-Hiking- we will be doing some hiking, no more than 3 miles at a time, wear good comfortable hiking shoes with good ankle support. We will not be doing any technical climbing or rappelling, so don’t expect any life endangering conditions! Most of our shooting locations will be within ¼ mile of the vehicle.

-Transportation: we will try to fit in one vehicle so that as we drive around we can discuss lessons learned and what to expect. Also any entrance or park fees that are required will be covered by me. The only thing you will have to cover is lunch and snacks if you choose.

How about after the workshop:

-After the workshop when you are putting your learned techniques to good use, but still have questions, feel free to shoot me an email or text! If you are processing an image and are stuck or can’t remember how I showed you, let me know!


My workshops are laid back and fun, however they can get intense if our shooting conditions are incredible (i.e. thunderstorm with lightning and rainbows). I promise I will change the way you think when you go out shooting and how to approach every shot in a systematic way to capture the best image.

The topics you learn in my workshop need to be repeated in different locations, under different conditions, and different seasons to succeed on your own. Success does not come overnight and not without some sweat and hard work!

Here is a link to reserve your spot:

PS only 6 available!