Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Happy Honor


I was happily surprised to be contacted by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) informing me that this black-and-white image of puffins is being showcased on their website this week. Always an honor to have an image selected! Here is the link to their site
http://www.nanpa.org
It is one of several images on the NANPA Home Page, which will cycle through automatically.

You may remember seeing this image on the Blog earlier this year. It was shot on a small island in the Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska near Lake Clark National Park. I was lucky that these Horned Puffins briefly posed themselves in the perfect position to create a beautiful line formed by their white and black feathers.

The original color image had grass in the background which I found distracting. So I replaced the background with a light gray background created in Photoshop. And while the bills were quite colorful, I chose to create this monochromatic version to better showcase the texture and contrast of the entire image.

When making extensive changes like this, you must disclose that when entering any nature and wildlife competition. Generally I do not significantly change an image from its original appearance, but sometimes it is good to exercise your creative muscles and go for something unusual or unexpected.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at 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: "Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretative."  -- Elliott Erwitt

Saturday, May 9, 2020

FREE Live Webinar for Camera Clubs


FREE Live Webinar - Lightroom Unleashed


Because we are still staying at home to remain safe from the coronavirus, I am offering a FREE live Webinar to camera clubs that would like to provide continuing learning opportunities to members. 

My very popular "Lightroom Unleashed" Webinar is an information-packed opportunity to learn how to quickly and easily take your images from Sad to Spectacular. Above you can see the RAW Before and After images, showing post-processing in Lightroom. All changes were done totally in Lightroom. No other software was used. 

The webinar covers many of my secrets for getting great results quickly. You will see a variety of Before and After images, and how the transitions were done. 

You will learn:
- how to use Lightroom most effectively to take your images from blah to boffo,
- a simple, fast, and foolproof Lightroom workflow,
- which tools and sliders are best to use, and how to use them,
- which tools and sliders to AVOID and why,
- why the histogram in Lightroom is so important,
- why the Gradient tool is a better choice than the Vignette tool,
- and more!

If your club is interested in making this Webinar available to members, please email me at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com as soon as possible. We can schedule the Webinar on a day and time that is best for your club. Demand has been high for this opportunity. I hope you can join me online!

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III extender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create."  -- Buddha



Saturday, April 25, 2020

Just Announced - St. Augustine Florida Birds Workshop


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


The birds will be nesting, mating, and raising chicks, and all 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 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 entry fees
- trolley and self-guided 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 June 1. After that 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, and 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 Tuesday, April 6 with an orientation and training session. 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 Sunday, April 11.


FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER

EMAIL
awakethelightphoto@icloud.com

or CALL 757-773-0194

Saturday, April 18, 2020

More Fun At Home - Photo Projects Lesson 3



This is another great technique for keeping your creative juices flowing while you are stuck at home during the pandemic. Sometimes you just want to have fun, and what better time than now! If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements you can create unusual images easily.

Today's image is just one example
ORIGINAL IMAGE
of what you can do with almost any image already in your files. Here is the original image, a flower shot at a botanical gardens. Try this
technique with flowers or birds or scenics or anything else that appeals to you. You won't know which images work best until you experiment with several different ones. And you can crop and do some post-processing on the original image before starting on the technique below.

Here are the easy steps used to create the final version:

1. Make sure to start with an 8-bit image. Only 8-bit images will work with all the Photoshop filters. (Some filters will work with 16-bit images, which is a typical default bit size for most images, but not all filters can be used unless the image is an 8-bit.) It is easy to do the conversion in Photoshop by going to Image > Mode. Then click on "8-bit" if it is not already checked. Now you are ready to work some magic!

2. Go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. Click on the "Polar to Rectangular" button (the lower button) and then click OK.

3. Next flip the image upside down by going to Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Vertical.

4. Again go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. This time click on the "Rectangular to Polar" button (the upper button) and click OK.

5.  Now you have the basic distorted image, similar to the top image in today's Blog. I did not make any additional changes, but you can crop it if you wish, or change the color using Photoshop's color balance options, or make any other changes that you feel enhance the image.

So try this on a variety of different images and enjoy the results!

TECH SPECS
1/160 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Every adversity brings new experiences and new lessons."  -- Lailah Gifty Akita

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Happy Easter - Happy Passover


Happy Easter
Happy Passover


Even though we are all practicing the recommended social distancing and cannot spend time face-to-face with friends and family, we can still feel the warmth of Spring, and keep those personal connections strong. We can connect with those we love via all the great options available to us in our digital age - Skype or FaceTime or Zoom or Facebook or other options that allow us to speak with those far away and see their faces.

While the pandemic has turned many lives upside down, we can still be thankful for what we have, and can feel close to those we love and cherish. Keep those connections strong. The support of family and friends will help all of us cope with the New Normal, and help us be strong and look forward to a time when all this will be behind us. A time when we can hug, laugh together, and enjoy better times.

I am eager to be able to travel again, conduct workshops, and see all my friends and fellow travelers. And we WILL have those times again!

But for now, please follow the guidelines medical and governmental authorities advise, be patient as we wait for the pandemic to end, stay more than 6 feet away from others, enjoy a quieter, less hectic time, and wash wash wash your hands!

Mollie

Saturday, April 4, 2020

More Fun Photo Projects - Photo Projects Lesson 2


Today's lesson will help you turn lemons into lemonade. We all have images we shot some time ago that we want to like but they just do not have the pop or impact we expected. This is a great time to review some of your old images to see if another attempt at improving them in Lightroom can bring them back from the brink of boring.

As you know, Lightroom is my software of choice for nature and wildlife images. It can powerfully bring an image to life without making it look overdone or unrealistic. And that is the key to award-winning nature images - full of impact and beauty but without an artificial look.

The Before and After images above are the same shot. The Before image is the RAW image before processing, and the After is the same image after being processed in Lightroom.

It was a beautiful, pristine dawn in Jasper National Park in Canada, but you would never know that by looking at the Before image. It looks gray, dull, and unexciting. While there were pinks and blues in the sky, and lovely fall colors on the hillsides across the lake, they do not appear in the original RAW image. Why?

In general, regardless of the brand of camera you use, camera sensors are designed to be "dumbed down." What does that mean? It means that digital camera sensors were designed to do their jobs quickly, and in order to do that the sensor will capture an image (this applies to RAW images) with all the detail and color that was there, BUT our eyes will not see all that without using post-processing software to bring out the latent details in the RAW image. While this is an oversimplification, the bottom line is that you will rarely see the degree of contrast and the accuracy of colors in a RAW image as it initially comes out of the camera. Some post-processing is needed on virtually every image in order to bring out what you really saw. Some images need more optimization than others.

Because this image was shot pre-sunrise, it inherently had low contrast and the colors were somewhat muted. Add to that the nature of camera sensors I mentioned, and you have a Before image that is gray and lifeless. I wanted to bring out the colors and contrast that my eye saw when I was there, and that required some help from Lightroom.

The "fix" took about 5 minutes, and brought the image closer to what I actually saw. I admit that I did punch the blues and pinks a bit more than were really there, but they still look natural.

The simple steps in Lightroom to improve this image were:
1. Lightened the shadows with the Shadows Slider.
2. Brightened the whites with the Whites Slider so that the mist on the horizon looked white.
3. Increased Clarity to boost the mid-tone contrast.
4. Increased overall Vibrance.
5. Used the HSL panel to pinpoint increases in the saturation of the pinks, blues, and yellows.

That's it. Just those few easy steps brought this image to life.

So now that we have lots of time at home, a great project is to go back over some of your older images and re-work them in Lightroom to see how much you can improve them. You will be amazed at what you can do, even on old images that you have already processed.

Once you get into this, you can spend many happy days creating "new" and better images from ones already living in your photo files. And remember, for your health and well-being get up and stretch or walk around every 30 minutes or so, even though it is easy to sit for hours and not realize it!

TECH SPECS
2.5 seconds at f/22, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 6D body (an oldie but a goodie!). Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Learn as if you were to live forever."  --Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, March 20, 2020

Stuck At Home? - Fun Photo Projects Lesson 1


The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many lives upside down. It has caused many of us to completely alter our routines, and has impacted nearly all aspects of daily life. The good news is that we are photographers, and we can entertain and enrich ourselves at home even during these trying times.

This is the first in a series of Blogs in which I want to share creative ideas and tips for you to do at home. You may be familiar with some, and others might be new to you. Either way, give them a try. I hope they will help you tap into your creativity, and provide some fun and relaxation while you fill your days at home.

Please feel free to share these Blogs with your camera club colleagues, and other photo friends. Information on how to subscribe to my FREE Blog appears at the bottom.

TODAY'S LESSON - THE TWIRL TECHNIQUE

You can start with any image. It really doesn't matter because the end result is completely different from where you started. You can try this with wildlife, flowers, scenics, buildings, and more. Here is the image I started with. This is Sandhill Cranes taking off at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
BEFORE
You never know how the colors or shapes are going to turn out, and that is part of the fun.This technique is done in Photoshop. It just takes a few steps to create a unique abstract work of art. Here are the basic steps, but feel free to experiment once you have done the basics. Let your imagination and your creativity run wild! Ready? Here's how to do it.



1. Open an image in Photoshop.

2. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint. Make sure the Mode is set to "Medium Lines" and click OK.

3. Now go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Amount 100, Blur Method "zoom," Quality "best." Click OK.

4. Repeat the Radial Blur step above as many times as you like. I generally do the Radial Blur step 3 times.  

5.  Now, make a duplicate copy of the Background Layer (the main image layer you have been working on so far). The keyboard shortcut to create the duplicate layer on a Mac is to press and hold the Command key and then press the letter "J."  If you are working on a PC, press and hold the Control key and then press the letter "J."  This duplicate layer will most likely be automatically named "Layer 1."

6. Now that you have two identical layers, click on the original Background Layer in the Layers Palette to highlight it. Then go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a positive number anywhere between about 80 to 200. Make a note of this number. (You can also set the number by sliding the pointer to the right to obtain the positive number of your choosing). Click OK. Note that you will not see the effect of what you have just done unless you turn off the "eyeball" in the Layers Palette of the duplicate layer above the Background Layer.

7. Now click on the duplicate layer (Layer 1) that you made a few moments ago to highlight it. Go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a negative number than is the same as the positive number you used for the Background Layer. (You can also set the number by sliding the pointer to the left to obtain the negative number of your choosing). Click OK.

8. With the duplicate layer still highlighted, you will now change the Blending Mode. This is a very powerful tool, and you will be excited when you see the results. To activate the Blending Mode, look for the word "Normal" in the Layers Palette, a little above the duplicate layer (Layer 1). Click on the tiny arrow next to "Normal" and a drop-down box will appear. Click on each option in the drop-down box one at a time and watch the magic happen! Choose the Blending Mode that appeals to you most. There is no right or wrong choice. One Blending Mode might work best for the image you are working on now, but another one might work better for other images in the future. Be creative and choose the one you like best for each particular image.

9. When you have found and selected the Blending Mode you like best, you can either flatten the image, save it and be done, OR you can continue to experiment and play by rotating one layer or the other to see what effects are possible.  You can also experiment by flipping one layer or the other, and use Blending Mode again to see what happens.

10. For finishing touches, you can saturate the colors for more punch if needed, or crop the image for better composition, or convert to black-and-white, or use any other options that you feel works with the image.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The true method of knowledge is experiment."  -- William Blake

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG ;
Find the small white rectangular box above, to the right of the main photo.  You will see the words "Follow by Email" above that box. Simply enter your email address in the box and follow any prompts. That's it! And you can easily Unsubscribe if you change your mind. But I hope you will enjoy the Blog and get some good information in each one.

    

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Congratulations Bernie Lewis!


This spectacular image of a Bald Eagle was captured by Bernie Lewis on an Awake The Light trip to Alaska last summer.  There was a great group of photographers traveling with me for a week aboard a private chartered yacht on the Inside Passage. We had several opportunities to photograph eagles from our boat, and Bernie nailed this shot perfectly.

This superb image titled "Got It" has garnered many awards for Bernie. It won a First Place for Best Bird at the 2019 annual New England Camera Clubs Council competition, was a semi-finalist in the annual 2020 North American Nature Photography Association competition, Image of the Year Honorable Mention in the 2019 Delaware Photographic Society competition, First Place Two Rivers Photography Club end-of-year 2019 competition, and Acceptance in the 2019 Merrimack International competition. Quite a list!

Congratulations, Bernie!

TECH SPECS
1/2000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 1000. Canon 100-400mm f.4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 180mm on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Winning doesn't always mean being first. Winning means you're doing better than you've ever done before."  --Bonnie Blair

Friday, March 6, 2020

Sunrise Sunday


If you love sunrise but miss too many of them because it comes too darned early, this Sunday is your chance! We go back on Daylight Savings Time which means that sunrise will be an hour later than it has been. And Sunday will be the latest sunrise time until next winter. So seize the day, set your alarm, and get out there on Sunday!

This dramatic scene was shot in Acadia National Park in Maine. The sun broke through heavy mist just briefly to create this fiery sunrise.

Some sunrise shooting tips:

- Pick a location ahead of time so you know where you want to be on Sunday morning.

- Arrive on location at least an hour before official sunrise time. Why? Because the sky will already be getting light, and some of the best shots are possible long before the sun actually breaks the horizon. The colors are better, and the contrast is not as intense as it will be once the sun appears.

- Shoot on a tripod. Long exposures are fine before the sun breaks the horizon. Plus you can stop your lens down to f/16 or better for great Depth of Field in the low light. Use either a cable shutter release, or a remote trigger, or set your camera to a 2-second delay if you do not have either of them. That will reduce any camera shake when you press the shutter for long exposures.

- In the predawn light, start with an ISO of 800. As the sky begins to lighten, you can reduce the ISO to 400 or 200. Pay close attention to the light intensity as official sunrise time approaches, since the amount of light will increase quickly. Be prepared to change the shutter speed and f/stop as the skies lighten to be sure of getting a good exposure.

- Set your camera on Aperture Priority

- Set your f/stop to f/16 or f/22 for good Depth of Field

- The shutter speed will set itself, and as long as you are on a tripod, any shutter speed will be fine.

- Autofocus works well as long as you are careful. Find an area of the scene that A) you want sharp, and B) has some contrast so that the autofocus can grab onto that subject. A hard edge is also helpful, like the edge of a tree trunk or a line of mountain ridges. There MUST be some contrast in the area of the image you are focusing on for autofocus to work. Live View is not very effective in low light since it has trouble grabbing onto anything to focus on.

- Check the Histogram every few shots to make sure exposures are good. Remember, the light will be constantly increasing.

- Lens choice is yours, depending on the scene you are shooting. A wide angle lens will include more of the scene but the sun (when it finally appears) will be small. A moderate telephoto lens (70-200mm) will include less of the scene but the sun will appear larger. And a long telephoto (300 or 400mm) will make the sun look huge but will eliminate most of the scene. Bring 'em all to get a variety of views and interpretations. But keep in mind that when the sun does appear, it will move VERY quickly so having two camera bodies, each with a different lens, will help you get more shots in the short time you will have.

- Once the sun appears, it will most likely appear bright white in your images, and you will get the "blinkies" indicating overexposure. But that is OK since the brightness of the sun will be many times brighter than the rest of the scene. If you change exposure to reduce the brightness of the sun, the rest of the scene will be rendered too dark and underexposed, resulting in too much noise in your images.

- Take lots of shots. You can't take too many. Then, after you download them onto your computer, you can select the ones that work best for you.

So get out there and shoot. And have fun!

TECH SPECS
1/4 sec at f/11, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 7D. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness."  --Sapna Reddy



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

MACHU PICCHU, Peru - August 28 - September 4



FANTASTIC PHOTO TOUR OF MACHU PICCHU, 

PLUS THE SACRED VALLEY!!!


This 15th Century Inca enclave is famous 
the world over for its ancient ruins. 
It existed virtually untouched from the mid-1500's 
until it was re-discovered by an American 
historian in the early 1900's. 

Incredible photo opportunities 
and a glimpse into an exquisite culture 
await us at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


This legendary and revered ancient land will be an incredible photo trip in all respects. And every step of the way we will travel in comfort and style.  See the splendor of Machu Picchu, plus travel back in time to the nearby Sacred Valley with even more ancient temples, citadels, artifacts, and exciting landscapes. We will also photograph the lively handicraft market.

Our days will be filled with a vast array of photo opportunities, and our nights will be in lovely hotels with wonderful meals. We will travel in style aboard scenic expedition trains and comfortable buses.

Here is a peek at our hotels:






And here is a look at our expedition trains:


TRIP DETAILS:
WHEN: Friday, August 28 - Friday, September 4

WHERE: The trip begins and ends in Lima, Peru

FEE: $4990 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $590).  Fee includes 7 hotel nights, most meals, ground transportation, photo instruction / personal coaching / technical pointers / informal image critiques, guide service, baggage handling, airport transfers, most gratuities, and detailed Destination & Travel Packet. (NOT included are airfare to / from Lima, and to / from Cusco, alcoholic beverages, drinks, Trip & Travel Insurance, personal expenses and incidentals, a few meals.)

DEPOSIT: A deposit of $750 will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: (complete Itinerary sent on request)
Friday, August 28 - arrive Lima from home (hotel night and the next morning's breakfast included)
Saturday, August 29 - fly to Cusco in the Peruvian Andes, and drive to the Sacred Valley (hotel night and BLD included)
Sunday, August 30 - explore the Sacred Valley with our guide for scenics and archeological sites (hotel night and BLD included)
Monday, August 31 - more in-depth exploration in the Sacred Valley with its citadel, ancient temples plazas, and a visit to the handicraft market (hotel night and BLD included)
Tuesday, September 1 - scenic expedition train to Machu Picchu for a day of exploring the Incan Citadel and archeological site (hotel night and BL included)
Wednesday, September 2 - sunrise shooting at Machu Picchu, and much of the day to explore more of the area (hotel night and B included)
Thursday, September 3 - sightseeing and photographing in and around Cusco including The Temple of the Sun, main cathedral, nearby valleys with a working camelid farm (llamas, alpacas, and vicunas), and weaving demonstrations (hotel night and BD included)
Friday, September 4 - fly back to Lima and home (breakfast included)

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER,
EMAIL
awakethelightphoto@icloud.com 

or  CALL 757-773-0194