Monday, October 15, 2018
A basic rule in wildlife photography is to separate subjects as much as possible. Sometimes full separation is best, and at other times just keeping the heads or faces separated works well. That is the case with this image of Snow Geese taken at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
Their bodies overlap, but their heads are separated, AND they are just above the horizon line of the distant mountain, which separates them from the background.
Shooting birds in flight is done best by setting your camera on Rapid Burst, and using AI or Continuous Focus so that as the bird moves closer or farther away from your camera, you can still maintain reasonably sharp focus.
If you enjoy bird photography, join me at Bosque del Apache November 19 - 23 for a spectacular workshop. Only 2 spaces left. In addition to birds, we will have a full moonrise during our week there. Details here https://awakethelight.blogspot.com/2018/07/just-announced-bosque-del-apache-new.html?fbclid=IwAR2os9T8-jeAG9SWRZRXHkWDyqX66ZBHIaHGKWBEKloCfw3EnDOq0FHri7M
Thursday, October 11, 2018
You can take a simple subject and kick it up a notch with a few simple creative techniques. These tulips were beautiful, but I wanted something a little different. Using a slow shutter speed AND moving the camera slightly during the exposure created a more stylized look.
Practice with a variety of techniques when you are out shooting. You can zoom the lens during a long exposure, or move the camera up and down during exposure (as in this image), or rotate the camera around a center point.
In addition to moving the camera, I used a ripple filter in Photoshop during post-processing to add a bit of texture.
1/4 sec. at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The mystery isn't in the technique, it's in each of us." --Harry Callahan
Sunday, October 7, 2018
I am in Hilton Head, SC to give a presentation on Macro photography to a large camera club. Macro is a much broader category of photography than you might think. In the old days it was very narrowly defined as representing a subject at life-size or larger. Also, the conventional thinking was that every element of the subject had to be razor sharp.
Well, that was your grandmother's macro! Today we have much more freedom in how we create macro images. Macro can be a close-up of the subject, but can be smaller than life size. Also, we can be much more creative with shallow depth of field, rendering parts of the subject soft and moody.
The flip side of that thinking, however, is creating images that are sharper than a lens can create on its own, using multiple images and software to blend them together to make every single part of the subject super sharp. Personally I do not used that technique since I prefer a softer more artistic look. But you should find the route that suits you and the subject the best.
Today's image is a water droplet on melting glacier ice in Alaska. Note that it was NOT taken with a macro lens. You can achieve a macro look with other lenses, from wide angle to telephoto if you are careful. Many of today's lenses allow you to focus fairly closely to the subject. Experiment with your lenses to see how close you can be to the subject and still bring parts of the subject into focus. Wide angle lenses will create a very different look from telephoto lenses. My preference, if I am not using a macro lens, is to use a telephoto lens which enables the background to be rendered out of focus, drawing attention to the main subject.
TECH SPECS 1/500 sec. at f/9, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens, set at 105mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try." --Dr. Seuss
Thursday, October 4, 2018
Today's Blog encourages you to think outside the box. When photographing nature and wildlife, we generally want crisp, sharp images to show the subject at its best. But sometimes we want to show the LIFE of the subject, its movement, its spark, its place in the world.
So while freezing the motion of a living subject certainly has its place, at times allowing the motion to show in your images is a good approach.
These Sandhill Cranes, taken a few years ago during their migration to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, were moving at a pretty good speed right in front of me. I took many shots with a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, but I also took some with a slower shutter speed to show their life and their movement.
My recommendation is that when shooting any subject, whether stationary or moving, take some traditional shots to showcase the subject, but also try some creative approaches to show the subject in a more artistic way. Some techniques to try are slow shutter speeds and panning. You can do each separately, or combine the techniques as I did in this image. This was shot at 1/30 sec AND I panned the camera as the birds flew past. A tripod is necessary for best results.
Panning helps to essentially smear the background while at the same time keeping the birds relatively sharp (as long as you pan the camera at about the same speed as the birds are moving). The slow shutter speed enhances the smeared look of the background, and also provides some blur to the wings. The final result is an artistic background, and a feeling of life and motion in the image.
Want to learn more about bird photography? Join me in Bosque del Apache November 19 - 23 for a week of some of the best bird photography anywhere. Details at this link
We'll shoot the world famous dawn lift-off of thousands of snow geese, possibly the most awe-inspiring bird event you can witness - in about 45 seconds, the snow geese go from sitting peacefully on the large ponds to flying straight up and speeding off to nearby fields to feed. The sounds and the mass of life are truly amazing, and the spectacle is over in less than a minute.
We will also have many opportunities to photograph the elegant and graceful Sandhill Cranes. This will be a great opportunity to get some artistic and creative images.
Bosque del Apache is known for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, AND we will also photograph a full moonrise. So we should have some superb shooting opportunities during the week. Limited to 12 photographers and ONLY 2 SPACES LEFT. Feel free to call or email me with questions.
1/30 sec. at f/8. ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens on Canon 40D body (old and now retired, but a great camera in its day). Gitzo tripod with ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life." --William Faulkner
Sunday, September 30, 2018
The information-packed October newsletter is now out. If you do not subscribe (it is free) you may view it at this link https://conta.cc/2NcZmfl
If you would like to start your free subscription, just send me an email with the word YES in the subject line. Send the email to firstname.lastname@example.org
The newsletter has great information on the 2019 Alaska trip to Glacier Bay National Park. It is a super trip, so be sure to read all the details.
There is also an educational article on Lightroom that should be helpful. I hope you enjoy the newsletter.
1/500 sec. at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 105mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera." --Dorothea Lange
Thursday, September 27, 2018
This weird and whimsical entry point to a house in Juneau, Alaska caught my eye. When I first saw it I did not know exactly what I was looking at. Was it a house made out of skis? On closer inspection I found that it was a free-standing wall made out of water skiis. It was a privacy wall in front of a house and property on the water. Pretty clever!
The image was first processed normally in Lightroom. Then I applied a Topaz Adjust 5 filter to punch the colors. Then in Photoshop I applied the Artistic/Cutout filter for the finishing touch.
Normally I do not process images to this extent, but this funky facade needed some extra punch so I resorted to a little extra help. When working on more traditional nature and wildlife images I rarely modify images to this extent. But when going for something more artsy or dramatic, it is OK to go a bit overboard. Just always let good taste be your guide. And have some fun, too!
1/200 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II set at 50mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "This world is but a canvas to our imagination." --Henry David Thoreau
Monday, September 24, 2018
Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, is a wonderful location to visit and an amazing site for photographing Coastal Brown Bears. I have photographed Brown Bears in other prime Alaska locations and this is by far the most pristine, and a place where the bears are most accessible.
The lodge where we stayed is charming, the staff wonderfully accommodating, and meals are sumptuous. Best of all, the bears could care less that photographers are present.
The bears are habituated to having people around, so we do not disrupt their natural behaviors. This image shows a mother calmly nursing her cubs very close to us.
This area presents various habitats for photographing the bears. There are grasslands where they enjoy eating sedge, the mud flats at low tide for clams (a treat to watch them opening the clam shells), and the slough (pronounced "slew") and stream for fishing when the salmon are "running."
For me, this family scene of 2-year-old cubs nursing represents this area of Alaska, and the bears that frequent this location. It shows nature's tranquility and nurturing. Of course there is also the possibility of excitement, drama, and conflict between the bears as well. This just adds to the "call of the wild" from the Alaska wilderness.
About Cindy - she is a superb photographer, and always a fun part of the group. She has traveled with me many times, and this was her third trip to this location for bear photography. That says a lot about the unique and incredible nature of this trip. The next trip is scheduled for July 15 - 21, 2019. Limited to 8 photographers, there are only 5 spaces left. Details at this link http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/
Thanks, Cindy, for your always pleasant company, your wonderful images, and your charm and grace. --Mollie
1/1600 sec. at f/4, ISO 400. Sony 24-600 f/2.4-4.0 lens on Sony RX10 IV. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you are where the wild bears live, you learn to pay attention to the rhythm of the land and yourself. Bears not only make the habitat rich, they enrich us just by being." --Linda Jo Hunter
Friday, September 21, 2018
I love the location I have found for photographing grizzly bears in Alaska. In every respect it is the best for bear photography in so many ways. Here's why:
1. While the bears are completely wild, they are used to seeing humans and are not a threat.
2. Our lodge is very close to where the bears are, and we photograph bears every day.
3. No forced marches - we are transported on an ATV with all our gear to where the bears are.
4. See moms and cubs who are nursing, playing, eating, and close enough for great shots.
5. No super-long lenses needed.
6. Lovely lodge with comfortable rooms, private baths, great food, and charming hosts.
7. It is easy to get to - the lodge is a one-hour small plane flight from Anchorage (included in your tour fee)
8. I book the entire lodge, so everything runs on our schedule for the BEST bear photography.
9. I provide personalized instruction, and daily image reviews.
10. AND we have fun!
What more could you ask for? This is THE perfect trip for photographing bears. AND, weather permitting we will take a short boat ride one day to a breeding island to photograph puffins. This trip is a great combination of superb photography, wonderful surroundings, and Alaska ambience!
LIMITED TO ONLY 8 PHOTOGRAPHERS
July 15 - 21, 2019
Read more details at
Call or email me with questions or to register
1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender set at 560mm (top left), 330mm (top right and bottom). Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open." --Jawaharial Nehru
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
I finally arrived home last night, now that Hurricane Florence has moved north. It was quite an adventure, and frankly not one I wish to repeat any time soon. Thankfully the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina was spared the brunt of the storm. Everything is fine and just how it was when I left a week ago.
The storm damage farther south and west is severe, and I feel for those who have suffered great loss. It will take months for those affected to recover. Pleas have been made for aid to those people - food, clothing, and so much more. If you are able, please give what you can to a reliable organization that is trying to help those folks. Many organizations will accept either a money donation, or goods and services.
This image was made this past summer in Alaska. It was a gray, misty day and we were in prime eagle territory. This beauty struck the perfect pose in the perfect place, with soft misty trees in the background.
When shooting birds in flight, a fast shutter speed is your best friend if you want sharp results. A shutter speed of at least 1/1250 sec. works well, and I prefer faster - 1/1600 or 1/2000 - if there is enough light. I prefer to set the ISO no higher than 800 in order to minimize the appearance of noise, but in low light conditions I will use ISO 1600 when necessary.
1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 318mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes." -- E.F. Schumacher
Friday, September 14, 2018
Today's Hurricane Florence update:
I left western North Carolina to avoid the flash flooding predicted for this weekend, and am now safely in Richmond, Virginia at my friend Jane's house. I skirted around the storm to the west, and then to the north to arrive in Richmond.
Along the interstates I traversed today, I saw two large trailers marked "Disaster Unit," apparently ready to travel to the hardest hit areas. I also saw 3 separate convoys of electric company bucket trucks traveling toward the hurricane area. Very sobering sights to say the least. And how wonderful that in a disaster there are those who are ready and willing to pitch in, to put themselves in harm's way, and to leave their homes and families in an effort to help others.
Today's photo is me with my feet up, finally relaxing in complete safety in Richmond.
Miraculously, the northern Outer Banks sustained no damage, my house is intact, and I plan to return home in the next couple of days. But for now, I am so lucky to be in a safe place, comfortable and dry. I cannot begin to imagine how many lives have been terribly disrupted, how many homes have been destroyed, how many people are emotionally shattered as a result of this storm, and how many lives have been and will be lost. Let's do all we can to help those in need, whether it is emotional, financial, or simply with our prayers and healing thoughts.
Selfie shot with iPhone 6 camera.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "If a natural disaster strikes, reach out to friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. Lend a helping hand." --Marsha Blackburn