Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

This beautiful aspen forest in the Canadian Rockies is an appropriate scene to remind us that as the holidays approach, we should slow down and be thankful for all that we have. It is too easy to speed through our lives, not stopping to appreciate the beauty that is all around us, the love of family and friends, and the joy of life.

So take time this holiday week to enjoy everything around you. If the snow keeps you indoors, revel in the coziness of being safe, warm, and dry. If the weather is good where you are, go outside, smell the autumn air, take a walk.

May the holiday week bring you much joy, laughter, and love. I wish each of you a peaceful holiday with good times and good food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shutter Speed 1/160 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 154mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be thankful for what you have.... If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."  --Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucky Break

The Chincoteague Challenge Photo Workshop just ended and what a wonderful workshop it was. All participants stepped up to the challenge and produced some fantastic images. It was a fun and easy-going group, and we had a great time in spite of the unseasonably cold temperatures and high winds.

I stayed for an extra day in order to get some more shooting in before heading home. It was a bright sunny day, and this bittern, who had been completely camouflaged by the grasses before he stepped out into the water, became a very obliging subject. What a stroke of luck that he happened to come out to fish just as I drove by. And it was also lucky that the winds died down, leaving the water smooth as glass.

I took many shots and chose this one as the best of the day. Why? Several reasons. I like his stretched out body position, an indication that he was hunting for fish in the water.  I also like his raised foot and the water dripping off it. I used rapid burst and took many shots of his feet in different positions. Setting your shutter for rapid burst when shooting wildlife helps to improve your chances of capturing that perfect position.

Reminder: when shooting rapid burst, don't shoot more than 3 or 4 images in a row. Your camera will function more efficiently if you do not over-tax it by taking too many shots at a time. If you take too many, your camera will need time to process all the images shot in that burst, and it will not allow you to shoot again until it has processed them all. That might cause you to miss a good shot while you are waiting for your camera to catch up. So take it easy on the shutter button and only take a few shots at a time.

The other thing that ties this image together is the clear reflection in the water. It is a perfect mirror image of the bird and the grasses.

The frontal light on the entire scene made it an easy exposure. The camera's meter read the scene perfectly and provided a good exposure for both the highlights and the shadows.

This is a simple shot that did not require great thought. It did require patience - the patience to watch, to wait, and to be ready when the action became interesting. 

Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm with external 2X extender for an effective focal length of 800mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope."  -- Alexandre Dumas 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Passion For Puffins

Puffins. Gotta love 'em. They are unusual with brightly colored bills, cute faces, small bodies, and a bit of a comical appeal. They are sleek in the water, masterful fishermen, and consummate divers. But they are not easy to photograph.

They are fast, and take off from the water's surface with little warning. They are relatively small and often fairly far away.

But if you want to see and photograph some of the most beautiful puffins in the world, come with me to Glacier Bay Alaska in August 2015.

The Glacier Bay photo tour will get us up close and personal to these wonderful birds on 3 separate days. We will be on our own private chartered boat with the best captain in the area who knows where to find them and how to safely get close. I will be at your side, helping you to capture some spectacular images.

The trick with puffins is to be ready. Have your camera pre-set with the proper ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed. These birds are fast, and being alert to their behavior pays off. The boat captain and I will help you recognize behavior, and you should get some great shots.

We will have plenty of room on the boat to spread out and not feel crowded. The boat is designed to hold about 30 people, but we will have the entire boat to ourselves for just our group of 10 photographers. The waters are generally calm, and there is plenty of seating if you need a break.

We will also be in the home waters of humpback whales, which will be another primary subject for our boat trips. We will be in their prime feeding grounds and should be able to see many of them at fairly close range.

But that's not all. We will also be close to sea otters, some of the cutest critters in the animal kingdom. We'll watch them roll, dive, lie on their backs to eat and rest, and will most likely see mothers and babies.

Frankly, it doesn't get any better than this. Alaska is a prime destination in anyone's book, and when you add the opportunity to photograph whales, sea otters, and puffins it becomes a pinnacle experience. And don't forget that we will be in Glacier Bay with all its famous glaciers. We will have a day devoted to cruising the length of the Bay to witness glacier calving, feel the coolness coming off the ice, and experience the awe and wonder of it all.

There are only 4 spaces left on this photo tour. See detailed information here  http://awakethelight.com/glacier-bay-national-park/

If Alaska is a place you want to see, don't delay. These last 4 spaces will disappear quickly. Email us at awakethelight@charter.net, or call 757-773-0194.

Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe  harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."  --Mark Twain

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Repeating elements, shapes, or colors can be powerful compositional tools. The repetition in this image is plain and simple  -  two blooms of similar size and shape at essentially the same angles. Camera position was important to align them fairly well. Also the shallow depth of field allowed the front flower to take center stage, with the other in a supporting roll.

The dark background helps to make the light flowers pop. This was shot in a hothouse with cultivated plants, so the lighting direction was from above and behind, showcasing the translucent petals. No light was falling on the background, enabling it to go quite dark.

The camera was tipped slightly so that the flowers are at an oblique angle, adding flow to the overall image.

Simple images can have a lot of visual impact. So try to eliminate extraneous elements and concentrate on the main elements that can create a strong image.

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 320.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8. Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."  --Theodore Roethke

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bottoms Up

The two recently concluded Outer Banks photo workshops were a huge success. Thanks to all the great participants for making it such a fantastic time. Everyone was pleasant, happy, eager, and produced wonderful images.

You will see examples of what they captured in the Awake The Light newsletters coming out over the next few weeks.

This is one of the few shots I took during the workshops. It was a wall of wine bottles behind a local restaurant. The bottles were held in place between wire "walls." This is a small section of the 8-foot long wall. Choosing how to frame the image was the main decision. The blue bottle was the key element, with the other colors surrounding it being more neutral in tone. I positioned the blue bottle in the lower left of the frame so that it could serve as the focal point of this image.

The image was optimized in Lightroom, and then was opened in Photoshop where I used a low opacity Poster Edges filter, along with the Oil Paint filter.

When using filters, or the options available in Topaz, Fractalius, or other software, a light touch is usually best. Use those techniques to enhance the image, but not to overpower it.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 106mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Appreciate good people. They are hard to come by."  anonymous

Monday, October 20, 2014

Remember This?

Remember this shot?  It was in the Blog several weeks ago with a question. You were asked if you liked this type of severe crop or not. A huge number of readers responded, and the opinions were all over the ballpark. Not surprising. Generally an unusual image results in all sorts of opinions.

The "vote" was about a 50-50 split between those who liked it and those who did not. Some people thought it should have been cropped even more, and others were disturbed by the missing head. Most people liked the wing position and the stream of water coming off the feet.

No question that this is an odd-ball image. Truthfully it is probably not one I would enter in competition or hang in my home. But it does serve to illustrate that, once again, the worth of an image is in the eye of the beholder.

Each of the opinions expressed were heartfelt and valid. I appreciate your input and the time you took to comment.

Comments on any and all images posted on the Blog and on Facebook are welcome. Feel free to weigh in at anytime, and both positive and negative comments are welcome.

Speaking of Facebook, please take a moment now to become a Fan and "Like" our Facebook page. We are getting closer to our target of 500 "Likes" on Facebook, and you can help put us over that goal! Go to our Facebook page here  https://www.facebook.com/pages/Awake-The-Light/123508281034128   Then "Like" us.


TODAY'S QUOTE: "Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here."  --Neil Gaiman

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Predicting Fog

Fog and mist are superb elements in landscape photographs. But how do you know when and where to look for it?

It is actually easier than you might think. When days are relatively warm but nights are cool, fog generally forms on water and in low lying areas. These conditions often occur in spring and fall. The trick is to arrive on the scene around sunrise, before the temperature rises and the fog dissipates.

This particular morning was chilly and breezy. The fog was blown around by the wind and the scene kept changing, with more or less of the mountains showing in the foggy conditions.    

In changing conditions, shoot as many images as you can since these sorts of scenes are rarely repeated on a different day. Each day is different, and you want to maximize your chances of getting those great shots when you can.

Exposures can be dicey because often fog or mist is brighter than it might appear to your eye. Your camera's meter should do a reasonably good job of nailing an adequate exposure, but be sure to check the histogram every few shots to make sure the whites are not too bright and the darks are not too underexposed.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 98mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Most consequential choices involve shades of gray, and some fog is often useful in getting things done."  -- Timothy Geithner

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alaska - The Last Frontier

Glacier Bay, tucked up at the northern end of Alaska’s famous Inside Passage, is home to a whole host of wildlife species. Whales, sea otters, puffins, seals, sea lions, and more make this area home until late autumn.

I’m excited to be taking a group to Glacier Bay in August 2015.

Sea otters win the “cute factor” hands down. They seem to appeal to almost everyone. Their innocent faces, sleek skill in the water, boundless energy, and facile flippers make them a favorite.

Because they generally stay in one place for a reasonably long time, and seem so curious about the 2-legged creatures looking at them from the floating craft nearby, they are relatively easy to photograph. Shooting from our private chartered boat, our captain knows these waters inside and out, and can get us close enough to photograph them easily while not intruding on their feeding or social behavior.

Moving slowly in the water, our boat will stay in close proximity for as long as the otters tolerate our presence.

In these same waters are whales, calmly feeding and diving nearby. These magnificent animals seem to move effortlessly in spite of their large size, and will come and go within easy shooting range. We never chase the whales since that stresses them and disturbs their feeding. They generally feel safe around boats and will often come to us if we are quiet, making them easy to photograph.

In addition to amazing wildlife, we will spend a day cruising the length of Glacier Bay to view its massive but rapidly disappearing glaciers, with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. This is a photographer’s paradise, and we will have opportunities to capture images that others only dream about.

There are only 4 spaces left on this trip of a lifetime, so if you are interested, please contact us right away. Complete information is available here http://awakethelight.com/glacier-bay-national-park/

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  --Mark Twain

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reflections Part 3

Today's Part 3 of the series on reflections shows another beautiful lake scene in the Canadian Rockies, but the composition is very different from the previous blog shots.

At first glance, it is a simple shot with the horizon line in the center. Notice that unlike the earlier posts, no sky is shown in this image. That is because the trees and their reflection are the main subject. But look closer and analyze this image before reading further. Take your time. Look at it carefully.

Do you notice anything different between the real trees and their reflection?

The tops of the trees on the shoreline are essentially straight across. You could draw an almost straight line from left to right along tops of the trees. But now look at the reflection.

The line across the tops of the trees in the reflection is not at all a straight line. A line drawn from left to right along the reflection of the tops of the trees would have several dips and curves. Quite different from the real trees.

It is that curving line that adds interest and a little punch to the image. That sort of subtle difference can enhance an otherwise static composition. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, even when photographing the simplest of subjects. A simple shot can be improved greatly by paying attention to the lines and shapes created by your subjects.

Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you've done something right, no one will know you did anything at all."  --anonymous  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reflections Part 2

In Part 1 of this series there was a complete scene shown both above and in the reflection. In this image, the complete scene is shown in the reflection, but only a portion of it above. Why the difference?

In this scene, the sky, while nice, was much more appealing in the reflection than in actuality. So I chose to crop out most of the sky above the mountains, but let it show in the reflection. Often colors in the reflection tend to be more intense than in the scene itself, and that was the case here.

Because most of the sky is cropped out at the top, the horizon line is above center. Placement of the horizon line is purely a personal choice, based on the elements of a scene. Art experts say that a horizon line placed in the center provides a sense of calm, while a low or high horizon line creates visual tension. The more off-center the horizon is, the more tension is created by the image.

I included a small rectangular boulder in the lower left to act as an anchor point.

Because of the strong contrast – bright white clouds and very dark green trees – some optimization was needed in Lightroom to bring both extremes under control.

Shutter Speed 1/640 sec.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 98mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “We should be filled with awe and joy at what lies over the horizon. And we should be filled with absolute determination to make the most of it.”  --Bill Clinton