Saturday, November 16, 2019

Lightroom To The Rescue

As I have written many times before, Lightroom is my go-to software for post-processing. It is fast, powerful, easy to use, and if you make any mistakes or misjudgments, you can always go back and change whatever you want to.

This image is a great example of the power of Lightroom. It was shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a very overcast and misty day. Here is the original RAW image, before any Lightroom adjustments.
As you can see, it is a very blah, unexciting image. The mist obliterates most of the color and detail in the image. While the original scene was misty, it did not appear this gray and murky to my eyes. This is the kind of image that, when you first see it on your computer screen after downloading it, you instantly want to delete it as a "loser." But it pays to not be too hasty in that decision. At least take a few minutes to attempt some post-processing to see if there are hidden details that Lightroom can bring out and make better.

Only 5 easy steps were needed in Lightroom to bring out the hidden qualities in this image. Here are the steps used (note that the order of these steps, and the amount of change needed, will vary image by image - there are no hard and fast rules since each image is different and will need various amounts of changes):

1. Moved the Whites slider to +58 to increase the light tones.
2. Moved the Blacks slider to -31 to decrease the dark tones.
3. Moved the Clarity slider to +30 to increase mid-tone contrast.
4. Increase Saturation to +86 to improve color.
5. Dehaze filter to cut through the mist. (note that not all the haze has been removed - since it was a misty day I wanted some of that quality to still show in the image)

So when you first look at your images after downloading and see some that look, well, pretty bad, don't be too hasty to delete them. Take a few minutes to try a few things in Lightroom to see if you can reveal the hidden beauty that is most likely there.

1/800 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."  --Confucius

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Thrill And An Honor

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I am happy and honored to announce that this image was selected as one of the Top 100 images in the recently concluded North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) annual competition. Over 3800 images were submitted. This is a pair of Horned Puffins taken in Alaska.

I entered it in the "Altered Reality" category since it is an artistic rendering of the original color image. I debated for a long time whether to enter a black-and-white version of such colorful subjects. We are used to seeing puffins in full color, so showing them in a monochrome image was a gamble. In this case, the gamble worked!

This breeding pair positioned themselves perfectly on their rocky perch. This rendering (done with Lightroom and Topaz) brings out the texture and contrast more clearly than what our eyes see in a color image.

1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be passionate about your life. Learn to live without the fear of failing. Take a chance, you might just surprise yourself."  -- Nishan Panwar

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Timeless Spiral

Spiral shapes appear throughout nature, and have been adapted by man in a variety of ways. This spiral staircase in a lighthouse is reminiscent of the spiral of a nautilus shell. The beautiful ratio and repetition of shape make spirals fascinating photographic subjects.

This shot was made with my iPhone 10R, a device I rarely use for images. But sometimes it is handy, and very easy to use. And the sharpness is much improved over older iPhones.

This is a straight shot, not changed with some of the wonderful software available. We have so many options open to us, but sometimes a straight shot is a nice treat. I did use Photoshop to improve the color saturation.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping."
Julia Margaret Cameron

Friday, October 18, 2019

Florida Bird Photography Workshop

Join me for some of the best bird photography anywhere.
This is the time of year when some of the most beautiful 
Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, 
Snowy Egrets, 
and several 
species of Herons 
arrive in their breeding plumage. 

The birds will be nest building, mating, and raising chicks, and all of this will be happening close to us at eye level.

We will be in a private rookery that is beautifully designed with walkways that put us at tree-top level with the birds. This provides us with the best chances of getting close-up shots, and no long lenses are needed. All birds are truly wild, but are not bothered by our presence.

We will have special early access to the rookery before it opens to the public. And it is a short, easy walk into and around the rookery. Super bird photography does not get any better, or any easier than this.

In addition to the birds there will be shooting opportunities in the historic areas of St. Augustine, which bills itself as America's Oldest City. It is the home of significant landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, the Lightner Museum, and more.

This unique workshop includes:
- early entry and private time photographing birds in the rookery
- personalized instruction to make your bird photography the best it can be
- all rookery fees
- trolley and walking tour of historic St. Augustine
- image critiques
- Lightroom and Photoshop tips

Workshop is limited to 12 photographers.

FEE: Early sign-up fee is $1995 if you register no later than November 20. After that date the regular rate of $2495 applies. Fee includes all entry fees into the rookery, trolley tour of historic St. Augustine, extensive personalized instruction, image critiques, both in-the-field and classroom training, Lightroom and Photoshop tips. (Not included are lodging, meals, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special hotel rates have been arranged.)

DEPOSIT: A $500 deposit will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: Workshop begins in the late afternoon on Monday, March 30. Specific time and location will be provided when you register. Each day of the workshop will be a varied combination of bird photography, historic architecture, training, and image critiques. The workshop officially ends after a morning rookery visit on Saturday, April 4.  



or  CALL 757-773-0194

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Simple Pleasures

As photographers, we enjoy many of life's simple pleasures - a beautiful sunrise, wildlife encounters, or in this case a gently flowing stream. Being by the water is a primal experience for many of us, whether it is at the ocean or along forest streams.

Photographing moving water is relatively easy. To show the movement as in this image, a tripod is needed, as well as a cable release or remote trigger for your shutter. If you do not have either of those, you can still get great shots if you set your shutter on a 2-second delay. If you do not know how to do this, your owner's manual will have directions. The delay allows your camera to stop vibrating after you have pressed the shutter button. Even though you are on a tripod, there is still some vibration when you press the shutter, and allowing you camera the 2 seconds to settle down will result in sharp images.

I am always asked what the best shutter speed is to show the movement of water, and the answer is "it depends."  There is no hard and fast rule for the best shutter speed, since it will vary widely depending on how fast the water is moving AND how much movement you want to show.

For fast-moving water a shutter speed as short as 1/4 sec. can work well. For slower moving water often a shutter of several seconds or longer is needed.

The best thing to do is to start with a shutter speed of 1/4 sec. and then slow down the shutter speed in increments, up to several seconds or longer to determine what look you like the best. That way you have many options to choose from each and every time you do this type of photography.

It is important to remember that as you change the shutter speed, you must also change the f-stop so that the exposure on each shot is a good one. Just slowing down the shutter speed without changing the f-stop will result in over-exposed images. So be sure to check your Histogram on each shot to be sure you are getting good exposures.

3.2 seconds at f/20, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Simple pleasures are the last healthy refuge in a complex world."  -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Oh What A Beautiful Morning!

The Misty Moody Smoky Mountains workshop has been an incredible week of great photo opportunities, great people and a great time all the way around.

We headed out at 5AM yesterday morning in hopes of seeing a spectacular sunrise, and Mother Nature did not disappoint. We had the wonderful mist that the Smokies are famous for, and the show lasted for about 45 minutes.

The clouds and the light were constantly changing and we were all happy campers. It is always wise to arrive on site about an hour ahead of official sunrise time. That gives you time to set up and to start shooting as soon as the there is enough light for an exposure. Our starting exposures were about f/22 for 15 seconds, with an ISO of 800. But the light brightened quickly and soon we were able to reduce the ISO to 200 and the shutter speed to 1.5 seconds.

15 seconds at f/22, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 76mm on Canon 5D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Sunrise is always a perfect time of day. If only it did not come so early!"  -- Mollie Isaacs

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Autumn Is On The Way

The Great Smoky Mountains photo workshop begins in just a few days, and everyone is looking forward to some cooler weather and fall color. The Smokies are famous for morning mist in the valleys, and we are hoping to see that, too.

But regardless of what we might see, I am looking forward to showing everyone some spectacular hidden gems inside the national park. I am fortunate to have traveled to the Smokies many times, and know some of the best tucked away places for superb photography. We will explore many of those locations in search of unique and beautiful images.

When photographing the autumn colors anywhere, it is best to go during the week when the area is less crowded. Then look for places where there is some color, but also some foliage that is still green. So often we hear reports on when things are at "peak color," but the best images are often possible days or a week or more before peak so that there is some green to offset the warm yellows, oranges, and reds as in this image. Having some color contrast can provide more punchy and appealing images.

Also, look for foliage that has just burst into color if possible, rather than leaves that are already becoming faded or brown. Colorful leaves floating in streams or ponds can also provide some great images. Let your imagination go, and try to seek out unique views, or different approaches to typical autumn images.

You will be amazed at what you can create when you let yourself go, and allow your creativity to soar!

1/500 sec. at f/16, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "This world is but a canvas to our imagination."  -- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Once Again The Stars Aligned

I have written many times about how luck or serendipity plays a big part in getting successful images.   You see another example of that here.

On the recent private yacht cruise in Alaska's Inside Passage, we were headed to a quiet cove for the night. The sun was close to setting and the ambient light was falling quickly. We were out on deck  watching a few humpback whales lazily cruising nearby. I never expected this moment to occur, but fortunately I was looking toward the sun's reflection when one of the humpbacks decided to dive in the absolute perfect spot. What an exciting and serendipitous event!

It happened fast, but I managed to fire off a few shots before the tail disappeared below the water's surface.

These moments can happen without warning when photographing wildlife, and do not last long. That is why it always pays to have your camera set for a good exposure, and to be ready to put the camera to your eye and shoot as many images as you can while the action is happening.

I recommend that in order to be ready for these moments, you have your camera set on Rapid Burst, and your lens on Continuous Focus. And remember when using Rapid Burst to set your camera to the highest burst mode it has BUT only fire off 3 or 4 shots at a time. Then stop shooting for a second, giving your camera's buffer time to recover. Then fire off another 3 or 4 shots. If you allow your camera to fire off too many images at one time, the buffer will fill and you will be unable to trigger the shutter again until the camera has processed all the images in the burst. Giving it a second or so to  do some processing will usually assure you that you can continue to shoot while the action is occurring.

1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When opportunities come, be ready."  --Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 23, 2019

Galapagos 2020 Trip Announced

Galapagos - just the name conjures up images of exotic birds, 
pristine beaches, beautiful waters, species unique to the 
area, and more. It is a photographer's paradise, and we 
will explore it more intimately than most other groups can. 

We will have 10 glorious days to sail among the islands and view the wildlife of this magical archipelago. 

We will live aboard our own private motor sailing vessel, a beautiful yacht that fits right in with the pristine locations we will be visiting. We will have our own onboard naturalist guide who is reputed to be one of the best guides in the Galapagos. 

We will have opportunities to land on most of the islands and explore the exotic wildlife, birds, and landscapes.

Our home will be a 78-foot steel-hulled motorized sailing yacht with 7 staterooms (double occupancy), each with private bath and air-conditioning. 

Our boat has motor launches to get us ashore to photograph and explore. And wetsuits and snorkeling gear will be provided, too, for some great underwater photography opportunities. 

Our knowledgeable guides will provide us with information on wildlife, geology, history, local color, and safety.

As with all my trips, you will have exceptional photographic opportunities, receive personalized attention, participate in image critiques, be treated royally, and have a great time! 

For a complete itinerary, pricing, and more details 
and I will be glad to send it to you.

Please note: the email address above appears this way to avoid spam. When you enter the email address, please use the standard "at" symbol.

Have questions? Call me at 757-773-0194 
and I will be happy to answer them!

This is a rare opportunity to experience the Galapagos on board a beautiful private yacht with limitless photographic opportunities. 
I hope you can join me!  


FYI the September newsletter came out today. If you did not receive it, please email me with YES in the subject line and your free subscription will start right away. You can read the newsletter at this link

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Lowly Dandelion

When you are looking for something interesting to photograph, don't overlook the simplest of subjects. This common dandelion was turned into an interesting image with just a few easy steps in Photoshop.

You can read about the technique at this link  

Dandelions actually make very interesting subjects if you take the time to get close and look at all the repeating shapes and textures. In fact many simple things which might not seem appealing take on new life when you take the time to examine them closely.

So stretch yourself. Go in search of simple, everyday things and think about what you can do to make them more interesting.

1/2000 sec at f/8, ISO 800, Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. "  --Robert Brault