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Peer Mentor Program Theme Rules & Articles

Each month the Peer Mentor Group has a Photo Theme Challenge.  Each peer mentor submits one photo for the monthly theme and the group votes on which photos are the best examples of the theme..   The rules for the theme are that the photos MUST be taken between the time the theme is chosen and the following meeting.  The photo can be taken with any type of camera (including a cell phone) and can be straight out of the camera or edited in LR or Photoshop or any other software.  The photo should follow the guidence of the articles that are shared in this page of the PMP webpage.  For example, if the theme for the month is Negative Space the photo submitted should have negative space as its emphasis.

The photo image (which must be a JPEG) must be send to Randy Isaacson ( by midnight the night before the meeting.  At the beginning of the meeting the group discusses the theme and has a blind-vote for the best photos of the chosen theme.  The members of the peer mentor group expect that every image will follow the PMP Theme Rules  The winner gets to choose the theme for the next month and the top three photos are shown in the PMP Monthly Theme Gallery .

The PMP has been using this approach for more than two years to broaden our understanding of a variety of types of photography and it has really worked.  It has pushed us to explore topics like macro photography or night photography or negative space or photos that emphasize shadows.  To help us explore new horizons, we have a list of on-line articles on the PMP Theme Articles page.  If you have an article you would like to share, remember we are “Advancing Together” so don’t hide that great article that has really helped you 😉.  If you find a great article for one of the topics and would like to share it with the peer mentors and the world, send the link to Randy Isaacson (

2021 January

     The Theme Challenge for our January 27th Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is ICE.  We are leaving the 2020 year behind us (Anyone have a problem with that?  I didn’t think so !) as we hope for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic and get back to meeting together.  We hope to see the vaccine make a huge change in the health of our community/nation/world and give us the chance to meet together as a group of amateur photographer who enjoy being together.

Last month we had a wide variety of images that met our Symmetry Theme and I suspect we will continue that kind of broad variety for the ICE THEME that Louis chose.  Louis has submitted a number of interesting article with many of them focusing on close-up macro photography with interesting suggestions on gear etc.  I decided to see about other articles that focused on ICE but at a distance … just for those of you who don’t have a Macro lens and/or extension tubes.  And there were some good articles in that area also.  So take a look at these articles, and as soon as Santa has gone back to the North Pole (and taken the sub-zero weather with him) get out and get some amazing ICE PHOTOS.

” Ice Photography – A Helpful How-To Guide”   by Marc Schenker in  This is an interesting short article that starts out with a focus on close-up photos (macro lens, tripods, etc) but also explores background lighting and a variety of other approaches to great unique ice photos.

“Photographing Ice Patterns” by Martin Belan.  This is a fairly simple, but unique, view of ice photos that focuses on patterns in ice from streams and puddles in the woods.  Like the previous article, he emphasizes macro lens, extension tubes, tripods, remote shutter releases, and hand warmers :-).  He also takes weather into consideration and suggests shooting on a cloudy day with a list of “How to…” for example being aware of a exposure compensation of +1.0 to 1.5.

“Macro Photography: How to Photograph Frost & Ice”    by Mark Hamblin does an excellent job of giving suggestions on how to photography hoar frost.  Since we get a lot of hoar frost mornings, I’d suggest that when the weather folks tell you it will be clear and really cold over night, get your photo gear ready.  You don’t need your macro gear but it will help.  This article has lots of example and suggestions that go beyond the simple-stuff but without digging too deep.

“9 Tips for Dramatic Ice Photos: Cold weather isn’t preventing you from making great shots, it’s challenging you to get out there and make them.”  in Popular Photography.  This is a really old article (2014) but it has some really good ideas: See into Depth, Forget Color, Find Frozen Nature, Record Movement, Keep it Simple, Demonstrate Scale, Use Reflective Contrast, Light the Background, and … Stay Warm.  This is a good article to start your research.

We are moving into a new year with lots of time until our next Peer Mentor Zoom Meeting.  Get out for a photo shoot on a cloudy day, a sunny day, a cold or warming day … but don’t wait until the week before our January 27th meeting 

2020 November

The Theme Challenge for our November 25th Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Symmetry Photography.  Many of our monthly peer mentor themes have become quite connected to artistic photography and SYMMETRY is a good example.  Annie has chosen a challenging theme; it will not be just take a bunch of photo and find one that meets the theme.  I believe the Symmetry theme is going to challenge each of us to actually go out on a photo shoot looking for symmetry in our images AND that should have an impact on how we see lots of photos in the future.  Here are some very interesting and educational articles about symmetry.  Thanks Arnie for a great start.

“Understanding Balance and Symmetry in Photographic Composition” in B&H Photo Video has a very artistic explanation of balance and symmetry.  This is a very good article to explain the artistic views that can be used in photography. Symmetry is the perfect example of balance and is directly connected to composition.  It has some “fun” examples of balance.

“30 Examples of Symmetry in Photography” in CreativeCan.  This article has a number of interesting symmetrical photos.  There is very little explanation but very good examples although a majority of the photos are architectural.

“How to Use Symmetry in Photography Composition” in Expert Photography shows how symmetry is everywhere, even in your grocery store.  The author (Taya Ivanova) points out how searching for symmetry will help you recognize leading lines and 4 types of symmetry: Vertical, Horizontal, Radial, and Reflective symmetry.  The article ends with a discussion of equipment (e.g., tripod) and why it can be helpful is taking good symmetry photos.

“Symmetry in Photography – 7 Great Tips” in PixPa by Gurpreet Singh (July 2020).  This article connects “rules” from classical art with photography and focuses on 3 types of symmetry: Horizontal Symmetry (top & bottom); Vertical Symmetry (Left & Right), and Radial Symmetry (around a central point, like circular stairs).  This article has lots of explanations of the various approaches with lots of examples and shares some uses of equipment (e.g., LiveView) that can be very helpful.

“Symmetry in Photography: The Ultimate Guide to Using Symmetry in Your Photos”, PhotoWorkOut by Jaymes Dempsey, October 2020.  This article is very good with strong photos, written to-the-point with lot of good ideas.  It introduces another type of symmetry (Diagonal Symmetry) and has a number of Quick Tips for use in the field such as things to avoid.  Thanks Arnie, this is a very good article.

2020 October

The Theme Challenge for our October 28th Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Telephoto Landscape Photography.  This is an interesting theme for October since our landscape typically changes dramatically every October.  We began the month with beautiful color and end the month with snow in the mountains and no leaves on the trees.  I can almost hear someone asking, “How long does the telephoto lens have to be?”  And Beth and I will leave that up to you:  a “telephoto lens” has to be more than 50mm but it can be 500 mm.  We will leave that up to you, but take advantage of these article.

“Using Telephoto Lenses for Landscape Photography”  is an an article from Photography Life by Alex Mody.  Landscape photography often starts with wide angle lenses or super wide angle lenses but the article by Alex shines a new light on how to setup for great landscape photos.  And with the changing color in our landscape, some photos with telephoto lenses will be interesting.  This article offers a real diversity of ways to use a telephoto lens to take very different and unique views of the world.

“Try a Telephoto Lens for Landscapes” is a Outdoor Photographer article by Brian Matiash.  Brian shows how a telephoto lens can be used to take great shots of the mountains, especially when the snow hits.  And since the snow is just starting to collect on the Tetons, Beth’s choice of Telephoto Landscapes could open up an interesting theme for October.

“6 Tips for Landscape Photography with a Telephoto Lens”  is in Photography Talk.  This article talks not only about the type of landscapes to shoot but also a few challenges like using a tripod and the right kind of aperture and well as interesting features and weather.

“What can a Telephoto Lens do for Landscape Photographer” is an interesting admission of a photographer going from a wide angle to a telephoto for his landscape photos.  Josh Cripps explains how using a telephoto lens can help you to see the landscape differently and get some great shots of beautiful landscapes … like Grand Teton NP.  Good article to get you thinking about options.

And here are some things to be aware of when taking telephoto landscape shots, especially when it is windy: “7 Essential Telephoto Lens Tips for Landscape Photography.”

 2020 September

The September Theme Challenge for our September 23rd Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Weather.   In the Quick Tips article below, Nick Rains says “Bad weather = Good images” and since Gigi chose this September Theme  Challenge we have got to remember to wake-up and use bad weather to get  off the couch and take our camera out for some interesting potential.  Here are some articles that can really help you make good choices.  

” Some Quick Tips for Weather Photography” by Nick Rains is one of my favorites.  The article starts out with “Any camera is better than no camera” so use your cell phone if you have to … and that makes sense.  You may be disappointed with the evening weather report but Nick has some ideas that will help you get ready for the sunrise or sunset or lightning storm.  He also shares some very good images of different weather patterns.  This is a good article for extreme weather storms.

“How to take Great Photos when the Weather is Bad” by Mark Hablin takes a very different approach.  Mark’s article is a very good approach to taking photos for bad weather but NOT super-storm weather.  He begins with “Dull weather doesn’t mean dull images” which can lift your spirit on those overcast days when there isn’t any scary storm arising.  His article finishes with a quote that can lift your spirit on one of those September days, “The bottom line is that however dull or ‘bad’ the weather appears to be there are great pictures to be taken.”

The article “Brighten up with our 8 Tips for Mastering Cloudy Day Photography” by Kelly Acs is focused on portrait photography but has some good ideas for any photos.

Improve Photography – “13 Tips for Weather Photography” – If you are interested in thinking about storm-chasing this is a good article to get you ready.  It has some good advice for weather photography of any kind with a clear focus on how to locate storms and follow them.

And here is an article from Outdoor Photography (“Shooting in Tempestuous Weather“) that makes some good simple suggestions for a variety of different weather situations.  You don’t have to take photos of intimidating clouds 🙂

2020 August

The August Theme Challenge for our August 26th Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Lens Flare/Starburst/Sunburst.   There are a number terms used to describe this approach to taking photos but one very important caution to anyone taking photos that focus to some extent on the sun – Be Careful NOT to harm your eyes or your camera sensor !  We will only accept images that have been “generated naturally” meaning that the lens flare was primarily created in the field not with LR or photoshop.

Lens Flare is an interesting photo theme since “lens flare” was typically a serious photo problem.  But when controlled by the photographer, lens flare can create very interesting images including starbursts and sunbursts.  Here are some articles that can help you solve the lens flare problem and also integrate a sunburst into your image.  Whatever direction you take, please be careful of your eyes and your camera sensor.

This article from (“Understanding Lens Flare in Landscape Photography”) briefly explains what is happening inside your camera and then describes how you can use lens flares to create interesting images of all types.  Read the entire article 🙂 since it offers some great solutions (view in live view, use a tripod and why, clean the lens, f16&f22) to lens flare problems at the end of the article.  Thanks to Barney for these 2 articles.

Ian Plant is one of my favorite photography “teachers” and this article is a typical Ian guide.  “How to Create a Starburst Effect” in the Outdoor Photography Guide focuses on how to create a starburst rather than how to eliminate lens flare.  The examples are all landscape photos with a very different view.

The has many straight forward articles about the PMP Themes and the “Introduction to Sun Flare and Starbursts” is a good example.  This is a relatively short article without a lot of deep explanations with clear-cut suggestions and some good examples.  If you want to read (and study?) only one article, this may be a good place for you to go.

If you would prefer to learn about sunbursts and starbursts from a video, this article and video will be very helpful.  “Shoot Stunning Sunflare Photography” allows you to read the article and view the explantion on a video.

2020 July

The July Theme for our next Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Vanishing Point.  Our July Peer Mentor Meeting will be another Virtual Meeting on Wednesday July 22nd at 7:00 and the Theme Challenge is Vanishing Point.  Vanishing Point is a classic artistic addition to your photo which  highlights the the depth of image by showing parallel lines that get smaller and smaller as the eye of the viewer looks into the depth of the image … until they vanish.  The classic example is railroad tracks or a highway that gets smaller and smaller.  Since getting the viewer to “look into” your photo, a vanishing point is a very good addition to your composition which can be used in all kinds of photos.   Here are some good articles:

  The online site Contrastly has a good article that gives a clear-cut definition of Vanishing Point and some ideas about how to use it in the article “Getting a Killer Vanishing Point in your Photography.”  This article is a very good place to start.

The online site is another good article with some diverse photo example of Vanishing Point.  The “Using a Vanishing Point in Your Photography” is certainly worth reading and getting ideas from their photos.  This is a particularly interesting article because it shares some history.  Check it out and be a little surprised 🙂

And if you like a more academic article you should take a look at this article in, “How to Use Vanishing Point in Your Photography.” or this article in Light& “Photo Composition: Vanishing Point” 

Vanishing Point can be an interesting addition to your compositional thoughts.   We often try to inviting the viewer of our photos to travel into the message we are trying to send and vanishing point is a good “trick” to get them to take the steps.

2020 June

The June Theme for our next Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting is Natural Frames.  Our June Peer Mentor Meeting will be a Virtual Meeting on Wednesday June 24th and the Theme Challenge is Natural Frames.  This does NOT mean that the frame that highlights the image has to be “nature,” although it certainly acceptable that the “frame” is a tree, rocks, even cloud formations.  But it is also acceptable that the frame is an old door, window, or a group of people.  These articles should help you loosen-up and get creative … like you usually are for our themes.  See ‘ya June 24th or before.

Here is a good place to start the idea that Natural Framing is creating a photograph within a photograph.  This article is Expert Photography and the title is “How to use Natural Frames for Better Photo Composition”  

Since Tim won the May Shadow Challenge, he was the person to choose the Natural Framing theme and here are some good articles that he recommends:

From Digital Photography School:

“Tips for using Natural Framing to Improve your Composition” is written by Anthony Epes and does a great job of explaining  how to use this for composition: Natural framing is when you use an element within your image to frame the subject. This draws the eye into the photo and highlights the actual subject.”  This article is a very good place to start.

“How to Use Framing for More Effective Composition” by Jeremy Schatz

From Photography Life:

Framing Subjects with Natural Elements” is written by a photographer who does primarily weddings and portraits but Lola Elise has some very good suggestions on how to use nature and doorways, windows, arches, etc.

From SleekLens:

“Using Natural Framing to Guide the Viewers Eye” by Jennifer Berube has some interesting ideas and ways to evaluate your Natural Framing, “Done right, it will make the photograph much more interesting and invite different reactions from the viewers.”

Digital Photo Mentor:

“Creating Strong Photographic Composition Using Framing” by Darlene Hildebrandt has a number of ideas to consider including tips for using framing, geometric shapes, natural frames, and thinking outside the box.

2020 May

The May Theme for our next Virtual Peer Mentor Meeting  is Shadows.   Due to a change in the “rules” of our monthly theme, the decision about the rules of the Shadows Theme will be explained in a later post.  For now here are a number of on-line articles to help every peer mentor explore some ideas and key approaches to creating great photographs with a Shadow theme.

“Five Tips for Using Shadows to Create Dramatic Images” in Digital Photo Mentor.

Some Examples of Photos emphasizing Shadows

Digital Photography School has really good short articles on all kinds of photo topics.  Here are two  articles on shadows that might help you get started:

“Shadows in Photography – How Seeing the Shadows Help you Understand the Light”

“Five Tips for Mastering Shadows in Photography”

And if you would like to just look at dozens (it seems like hundreds) of very creative examples of Shadow Photography on PInterest (Yes, Pinterest !) check this out; it will give you some great ideas of where to start.

“Shadow Photography Project Ideas”

Light Stalking has a wide variety of good ideas for photo themes and I found the article below to be very good with about 10 uses of shadows and even begins with a clear difference between shadows and silhouette.  Check this out:

“How to get Amazing Images from Shadows (15 Awesome Examples)”

2020 April

The April Peer Mentor  Meeting occurred during a difficult time for our country and our local environment due to the pandemic covid-19.  The Social Distancing, the closing of the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Park, and the closing of the venues for the  peer mentor programs led us to decide to have a virtual meeting.  The first decision was to have the “In My House” theme, but then a number of peer mentors asked if they could summit photos from outside their house.  Randy OK’ed this extension, which may have been a mis-managed decision since it led to misunderstandings for the voting on the themes.  It was clear that not everyone had read all of the e-mail that explained the extension of “In My House” and some peer mentors felt a significant number of submitted images were not consistent with the theme.

Randy would like to apologize to all the peer mentors for the problems this seems to have created for the voting in our first virtual meeting.  But Randy would like to take this challenge as a step to show the way to avoid future problems; we need to have basic, but clear, “rule” for our monthly peer mentor theme.  We need to work together on a one or two sentence rule for the peer mentor theme AND we need peer mentors to check this TPC PMP Theme Articles webpage for the details of the theme..  WE will work together to develop OUR Theme Rules.    

2020 March

The 4th Wed PM Group Theme is Night Photography – Rachael chose Night Photography and included The Blue Hour.  So to get ready for our March 25th peer mentor meeting take some time to read about how to take good images in the blue hour (before or after the complete darkness) or wait for the chilly time in a pitch-black sky.  You can take shots of the Milky Way over the Tetons or get creative with a variety of other types of images.  Here are some articles that might help you set the exposure and other key ingredients: always has some good on-line articles to help us and this “Tips for Getting Proper Exposure for Night Photography” is a good place to start.

And here is an article about the Blue Hour – “How to photograph the blue hour with amazing results.”


The 2nd Wed PM Group Theme is Foreground Interest – Randy choose a March topic at the 2nd Wed group but when I thought about the winter challenge of the topic I decided to change the March Theme to Foreground Interest.  After surfing the photo webs I found that Foreground Interest would be a good theme for winter since we may want to focus our attention on foreground rather reflections.  So here are a number of good on-line articles: is a really good website for all types photography themes as well as reviews of cameras and lens and just about anything to do with photography.  I found both of these articles helpful in emphasizing foreground.

“Using the Foreground Elements to Create Added Depth”

“Leading the Eye” is a good website for suggestions for where/when and composition for photography.  I found this article to be very helpful.

“How to use Foreground Elements in Composition” has lots and lots of short articles to help photographers with all kinds of challenges.  It gets right to the point:

“The Importance of an Anchor – Why Foreground Matters”

“Include the Foreground for Dramatic Landscapes”

“Use Layers and Foreground Interest for Better Landscape Photography” 

“How to use Foreground to Create Depth in your Image” 

Hey 2nd Wed Group, don’t forget to be ready for a discussion of what makes a foreground interesting and helpful when we meet on Wednesday March 11th.

2020 February

The 4th Wed PM Group Theme is Panorama and Vertoramas – Terry Jensen and Tim Cully chose the theme for February (Christine was unable to attend the meeting so even though she was the winner she did not choose the theme.)  Panorama photos are wide format photo while Vertoramas photos are tall format photos.  Terry has chosen three on-line article for the February Theme; two are about panorama/vertorama and one for photography in winter.

This article by PhotoLife (“Panoramic Photography Tutorial”) is an outstanding all-around article on all aspect of panoramas.  Mark this one on your computer as it goes to all levels of understanding !

This second article in Digital Photography School (“How to Shoot Verticle Panoramas“) focuses on shooting photos of tall images.

And just in case you need a little help taking photos outdoors in the winter, Terry thought you might want to read this article in Improve Photography (“25 Tips for Winter Landscape Photography“) and here is another one on “20 Wonderful Examples of Winter Photography.”

The 2nd Wed PM Group Theme is Black & White – Barney Koszalka won the January theme contest and has chosen B&W as the theme for February since we will have plenty of white snow and perhaps even some sunshine to give us a challenge.  Barney emphasized that his B&W Theme should also include monochrome.  B&W is always an interesting and challenging topic for our monthly theme with plenty of new opportunities to learn another approach to photography.  I’m sure Barney will find a great article or two about B&W but here is a good place to start:

PhotoLife is always a good place to start and their article “Complete Guide to Black and White Photography” has lots of good ideas.

And if you’d like to see some great B&W examples of our backyard you might want to check out our friend Mike Jackson’s Best of the Tetons.

Here are some of the articles Barney shared:

How to See in Black and White is basic article that focuses on tonal contrast, simplicity and Negative Space  Good article to help you think differently.

B&W Photography Tips: 5 Cornerstones  – This is a fairly detailed advanced in-depth article but if you want to learn some clear techniques this is a place to go to learn Contrast, Tone, Shadows, Shapes, and Texture.  If you have the time, this is an article to learn advanced B&W skills.

6 B&W Photography Tips – This article is a somewhat simplified version of the 5 Cornerstone article with Shoot Raw, Look for Contrast Shape and Texture, Long Exposure and Filters.

And I thought this online article might give you a boost about winter photography and B&W.  This Photo Argus article on 60 Beautiful Winter Photos could be seen as inspiring.

2020 January

Food We are fortunate to have a chef as a member of the Peer Mentor Group (Tim Libassi) and when he won the November 2nd Wed Theme Critique he decided on Food as the January Theme.

If you are like Randy, you could really use some articles about how to take photographs of food since he has never even taken a photo of a hamburger..  Her are some tips from the website “Two Loves Studio” the how-to of food photography,  “99 Food Photography Tips from Photographers that will Blow Your Mind “.

And here are some articles that have been shared by Tim Libassi.  Given how much food Tim has looked at (and photographed?) for these should be good.  Here is n article from Photzy titled “Stages of a Food Photo Shoot”

Here is a page from digital Photography School that has a very detailed article about Food Photography called “The dPS Ultimate Guide to Food Photography”

And another article from digital Photography School.

And an article from Photography Life

And another one from Photography Life 


Fog, Steam, and Smoke 

For our January Theme Tim Cully chose Fog, Steam, and Smoke.  Tim has kindly identified one article to Mist & Fog and I hope that more of you will add interesting articles to our PMP Theme Article pages by sending me the URL.

“How to Photograph in Mist & Fog” in Loaded Landscapes

“How to Capture Photos in Foggy or Misty Conditions” in Digital Photo Secrets

Outstanding Shots of Fog and Mist in Digital Photo Secrets

2019 November

Negative Space Negative space is the area around the main subject in your photo (the main subject is known as the “positive space“).  Photos that are built on Negative Space emphasizes the main subject by drawing your eye to the main subject without any leading lines etc.  Here are a couple of examples of an article about Negative Space:

“Understanding and Using Negative Space in Photography” on the website negative space.

“How to Use Negative Space in Photography for More Powerful Images” on the website


PMP Monthly Theme Gallery

The Peer Mentor Program is open to TPC registered Full Members at no cost. Entry into the program requires a commitment to advancing your personal photography skills and permission of the Program Director.