Friday, December 8, 2017

Wanna Be Here?

Wanna be here? I sure do. It is a close-up view of the mountain named Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley). In the 7 years I have been taking groups to Denali National Park, we have been lucky enough to see "The Mountain" every trip. And what a treat it is, since so many visitors never get to see it.

Why is our luck so good? In large part because I always go in the autumn when the weather conditions are generally better for viewing. Plus, at that time of year the wildlife has coats in beautiful condition after a summer of great feeding and bulking up.

In addition to spectacular mountain views, we usually see brown bear, moose, caribou, and occasionally wolf. We are out exploring every day in our own large vehicle, driven by an expert naturalist. We can stop for as long as we please when the shooting is good, and can move on whenever we choose to.

We stay deep inside the park, where few others can go. We are one of only two photo tour companies worldwide allowed to do this sort of trip. 

At the end of each day we return to our lodge for a wonderful chef-prepared dinner, an image critique, and conversations with new friends. We then retire to our double-occupancy, well-appointed rooms for the night.

Limited to 10 photographers, there are only 4 spaces left. For more information or to register, email me at  or call me at 757-773-0194.

Click on this link for details    

1/800 sec. at f/10, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm. Handheld.

"Seeing Denali with Mollie was an experience beyond comparison. Mollie provided expert guidance without being obtrusive."  -- J. P., participant Denali 2017

"Wonderful instruction. Unbelievable photo ops."  -- B. L., participant Denali 2017 

Friday, December 1, 2017

RESERVE NOW - Denali National Park, August 2018

Join me for my 7th trip to spectacular Denali National Park, August 25 - 31, 2018. I love this place and look forward to returning each year.

Today's images showcase just a few of the many incredible things we typically see. From caribou to moose, from Denali ("The Mountain," the highest peak in North America at over 20,300 feet) to tiny flowers, from the world's largest swans to reflections and wonder, from grizzly bear to sweeping expanses of tundra blanketed in spectacular fall colors,  Denali National Park is filled with superlatives. And it is a photographer's paradise.

We stay deep inside the park where few others can go. We stay in relative luxury in a lovely lodge (double occupancy) with chef-prepared meals, and our personal naturalist driver and guide. It doesn't get any better than that!

This trip is limited to only 10 participants, and there are only 4 spaces left. If you have always wanted to see the Last Frontier, if Alaska has been calling to you, this is the trip for you.

Click here to see details on our website. Call me or email for more information. I hope you can join me!

"To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."  --John Muir

"The idea of wilderness needs no defense, it only needs defenders."  --Edward Abbey

Monday, November 27, 2017

Informative FREE Newsletter Available Today

Check out the latest AWAKE THE LIGHT newsletter, just out today. If you are not already a subscriber, you can subscribe for free just by sending me an email with "Yes" in the subject line. That's all there is to it!

This issue highlights several exciting things, including our most popular photo tour to Denali National Park in Alaska, August 25 - 31, 2018.  This trip is limited to only 10 photographers, and there are only 5 spaces left. More details in the newsletter.

To view the newsletter, just click this link

This month also is the start of a new feature Lightroom Lights. Each article is filled with important information on how to use Lightroom more easily and more effectively. Even if you feel you know all there is to know about Lightroom, you will probably find some interesting information, or easier ways of doing things, in each issue.

And check out Gear Corner, an every-so-often article about gear that I use and love, or great sales out there. There are some super Cyber Monday specials from Hunt's Photo and Video in this issue.

Each issue of the newsletter is different, and each one is designed to provide information, education, and some creative ideas.

1/320 sec., f/6.3, ISO 12,800  (that is not a typo, it really was 12,800 because it was pre-dawn and very dark). Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer."  --anonymous

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

The leaves turn from green to red and gold, and we pause to give thanks for all that we have - family, friends, health, and the joys of photography. 

Wishing you a warm and happy Thanksgiving 

filled with laughter and love. 



"We tend to forget that happiness doesn't come from getting something we don't have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have."  --Frederick Koenig

"Nothing is more honorable than a grateful heart."  --Seneca

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  --John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A Great TV Series for Photographers

If you subscribe to the Netflix streaming service, there is a superb photography program that I highly recommend. It is "Tales By Light," and is a beautifully filmed and narrated series of episodes about nature, wildlife, and culture photography. Each episode highlights a different photographer who talks about their work and what motivates them. It combines superb video and stills, and is highly motivational. Each episode is unique and each covers a different aspect of photography.

Some of the photographers are famous, like Art Wolfe, and others are not household names, but in each case their work is world-class and eye-opening. Each episode is only about 20 minutes long so it is easy to watch when you have a few spare minutes.

And no, I am not one of the featured photographers!

FYI, I shot this image of an Atlantic Puffin in Iceland at the end of the breeding season in August. These speedy little bullets are beautiful to watch and hard to get in flight. They live at sea for most of the year, and come on land only for about 6 weeks each summer to breed and raise their young. Their breeding season is generally from mid June to early August, but that seems to be changing somewhat with the warming climate.

1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all."  --Aristotle

Friday, November 17, 2017

The Votes Are In....

The votes are in, and the winner is........................

the color version.

If you recall, last week I asked you to vote on whether you liked the color or the black-and-white version of this flower best. An overwhelming majority voted for the color version.

While many of you liked the black-and-white version, most felt that it did not have enough contrast and was not as interesting as the color version. If you do not remember the black-and-white version, you can see it here

Thanks to everyone for your vote and your input.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder."  --attributed to Margaret Wolfe Hungerford

Monday, November 13, 2017

Awake The Light, literally!

Now that we are off Daylight Savings Time it gets dark early and quickly. I ran a private workshop here at the Outer Banks of North Carolina last week, and we set out in the late afternoon in search of good sunset images. This lighthouse was a good subject.

The sun was setting to our right, but the best color in the sky was in the east to our left. That can often happen, so when out shooting sunset (or sunrise) always keep an eye on the opposite direction for good colors and drama. You just never know.

While I like the look of the near darkness and the bright warm tones near the horizon, something was lacking. Below is the image before any work was done.

So I checked the web for information on how to add light rays to this image. Normally I prefer to be more of a "purist" and do not add elements to landscapes or wildlife images. But in this case it needed a little punch. The lighthouse light was on, but at such close range, and not in full darkness, the light did not appear bright enough. So two things were needed - brighten the actual light, AND add light rays.

Brightening the light itself was easy. In Photoshop I copied and pasted the original light (just the light itself at the top of the lighthouse) so that it was on its own layer. Then using Image > Adjustments > Levels I made the light brighter by sliding the middle slider to the left (toward the small black triangle). This created a glow which was the look I was hoping for. 

Then it was time to add the actual light rays. After trying several different approaches found on different tutorials and YouTube videos, I came across the technique that worked best with this image. As with all things Photoshop (or Elements), there are several ways to create any look you want. The trick is to find the one that is, first and foremost, easiest and then that works well with your particular image. Some of the info I came across created an artificial look which I was not happy with, so take your time when deciding which approach to use. Even with the tutorial I chose ( I had to make some personal modifications to achieve a result I liked. So use what you find as a starting point, and adapt from there to fit your own personal vision. 

A final important note  -  always, always, ALWAYS let subtlety and good taste be your guides. Try not to overdo any added elements if you want your image to look as real as possible.

1/160 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800. Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Realism is in the work when idealism is in the soul."  -- Henri Bergson

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Vote For Your Favorite

Same rose, two different interpretations. One is color, the other is black and white. One is cropped more tightly. One has the central swirl in the center, the other is off-center.

Vote for your favorite version on our Facebook page and give a brief reason or two for your choice. I will publish the results in a future post. Please take just a moment of your time to vote. And thanks!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is simply the rose; it is perfect in every moment of its existence."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Iceland Church and Turf

Turf structures were developed in areas with cold climates and not enough trees to use for home construction. These old turf buildings are in Iceland, and have withstood centuries of cold and wind.

I had never seen this type of thing before and was utterly captivated with its design. That is one of the things I love about traveling. You see new and different things, meet wonderful people, and broaden your horizons.

This shot was made on a chilly and cloudy day. The dark sky caused the red steeple and roof on the modern church to stand out and be a nice counterpoint to the earth tones and rounded shapes of the turf houses. The overcast conditions made the exposure easy. Even in these conditions, however, it is important to check your histogram at the start of each new series of shots. Anytime you change your position or the direction in which you aim your camera, the direction of light can change and so will your exposure.

1/800 sec., f/13, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 33mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you do not see, do not hear, do not experience, you will never really know."  --Native Alaskan saying

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Get Your "Artsy" On!

Sometimes you just have to get artsy. Things do not always need to be sharp and crisp. There are times when softness and a bit of a creative blur is a good thing. And sometimes it happens when you least expect it.

These sandhill cranes at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge were flying in at sunset. The light level was dropping quickly and I did not keep a watchful eye on the shutter speed. It had dropped to 1/30th sec., much too slow to keep wing beats sharp. But I got lucky.

I was panning the birds as they flew past me, keeping the pan speed pretty much the same as the birds' speed, which created a nice blur on the background. When I downloaded the images later in the day, and realized that this was shot at a relatively slow shutter speed, I thought it would end up being deleted because very little of the image is sharp. But when I gave myself time to "live with" the shot, and looked at it with fresh eyes, I realized that it was an impression of birds in flight rather than a scientifically accurate version.

The lesson for me was that sometimes you have to let go of what you expect an image to be, or what is an "acceptable" image, and allow yourself to view it from a different perspective.

1/30 sec. at f/13, ISO 400. Canon 35-350mm f/3.5-5.6L lens (an oldie that I no longer own) on a Canon 40D body (also retired). Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence."  -- Robert Lynd