Friday, September 23, 2016

He Said, She Said

These two kittiwakes were having a screaming fit over something. Lots of squawking and wing flapping. Kind of comical really. We were on a boat trip in Glacier Bay National Park in search of whales, puffins, sea otters, and sea lions. But when photographing anywhere, it is important to be alert to any subjects that might be interesting to photograph.

Kittiwakes, similar to sea gulls, are fairly common in coastal Alaska. But they are lovely birds with their pure white feathers, and stand out beautifully against the blue-green glacial waters. The fight was the added element that helped to create an interesting image.

This was a bright sunny day, with strong sunlight on the bright white feathers. Lightroom helped to tone down the whites, and also brought up the shadows. An added touch of Saturation improved the color of the water.

1/640 sec., f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Canon 7D Mark II handheld on moving boat.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain."  --Douglas Coupland

Sunday, September 18, 2016


The Great One, Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), played peek-a-boo with us for hours. The low-hanging clouds stubbornly clung to the highest points, but the light played beautifully on the fresh snow. The clouds also created deep, dramatic shadows on the lower ridges.

Determining exposure in this situation can be difficult. With the light changing constantly, there are times when you just have to shoot, check the histogram frequently, and hope for the best. Since the dark areas in the foreground did not require much detail, and I wanted the snow-covered ridges to be the main subject, I made sure not to over-expose the whites. In addition, in post-production I used the Highlights slider in Lightroom to tone down the brightest whites so that all the texture in the whites showed up well.

I rely heavily on Lightroom, especially in high-contrast situations like this. I know that Lightroom can effectively tone down the bright areas, and bring out detail in dark areas as needed. I never use HDR, and rarely bracket exposures because I know what Lightroom can do. At the same time, I try to be very careful with the original exposure so that neither the lightest tones nor the darkest tones are too under- or over-exposed. The only way to make certain of that is to keep a careful eye on the histogram.

To help improve your photography and the look of your final images, the best gift you can give yourself is an in-depth Lightroom class. While online tutorials are good and can provide some basic information, and some one-day classes can help you get your feet wet, the best way to learn is to take a multi-day Lightroom workshop. It is the best way to learn the most effective and easiest ways to use Lightroom to catapult your images to a much higher level.

Special 2-day classes can be arranged for your camera club or photo group, and can be scheduled at the convenience of the group. Just get a group of at least 6 photographers (15 is the maximum size for Lightroom classes) and we'll get things scheduled. Email for more information.

1/5000, f/5.6, ISO 1600.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld, shot from a moving vehicle.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection."  --Kim Collins

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Three Bears

We ventured out at dawn in search of whatever we could find on the recently concluded Brown Bears trip to Alaska. We were treated to this great scene of a mother and two cubs along the beach, with the mountains in the background.

The light level was so low that an ISO of 6400 was needed in order to get a good exposure. Because when shooting wildlife things can change in an instant, I chose to handhold the camera rather than use a tripod, in spite of the very low light.

While this image might give the impression that the three-some were not moving, in fact they were constantly changing positions. That is why rapid burst can enable you to capture some great images when events are occurring quickly.

It is not always appealing to get up before dawn in hopes of finding good light or good images, but when it pays off it always feels good.

This year's Alaska trips are over, but I am already looking forward to returning next year. Join me in Denali in September, or in Glacier Bay in July. Alaska is a prime destination for great photography of wildlife and sweeping scenics.

1/320 sec, f/7.1, ISO 6400. Canon 100-400mm lens set at 280mm on Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective and to understand where I fit on the spectrum of life. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves and for the dreams of children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended upon it, because it does."  --Wayne Lynch

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yup, Still In Alaska

What a fabulous few weeks it has been. After Denali National Park I headed to Glacier Bay National Park with another group of excited and motivated photographers. We saw seals, sea otters, whales, kittwakes, and calving glaciers. And puffins. Beautiful puffins. This tufted puffin put on a show with his long and finally successful take-off.

Puffins basically run on the water in order to build up enough forward momentum to lift off. It is comical to watch, and seems to take a very long time for lift-off to finally occur.

In Alaska, much of the water is a spectacular shade of blue-ish green, reminiscent of tropical waters. But these waters are certainly not tropical. The color comes from the glaciers and the silt they carry with them as they move downstream and melt. 

There is so much wild beauty in Alaska. It has unspoiled wilderness areas, varied wildlife, and friendly helpful people. It is a great place to visit and photograph, which is why I return year after year after year.

Next year's trips are filling fast, so if Denali National Park in September, or Glacier Bay in July interests you, let me know soon before all the available spaces are gone.

1/1600 sec, f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "For sheer majestic geography and sublime scale, nothing beats Alaska."  --Sam Abell

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Alaska Beauty

Once again Alaska delivered on its superb wildlife. During our spectacular week in Denali National Park we saw many caribou, like this male who was perfectly posed on a tundra-covered hillside, as well as moose, brown bear, and willow ptarmigan.

This is the end of the season, and all the wildlife we saw were in superb condition with healthy coats and strong bodies. This is their last chance to stock up on nutrition for the impending winter season. It is also the mating season for caribou and moose.

The fall colors on the tundra were wonderful as always and created a lovely carpet of color for all the wildlife.

We had a wonderful trip, and now I am moving on to the next leg of my Alaska sojourn with a new group. Tomorrow morning we leave for Glacier Bay National Park for whales, sea otters, puffins, bear, mountain goats and whatever else Mother Nature provides.

1/2000 sec., f/13, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is harmony in autumn, and a lustre in its sky."  --Percy Bysshe Shelley

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Alaska, The Last Frontier

I am back in Alaska for my annual photo tours here, and happy to be here. Flying in yesterday we were greeted by snow-capped mountains and glaciers down below. The cool 60 degree afternoon was a welcome respite from the 90 degree summer heat back home.

The first of three photo tours over the next several weeks officially begins tomorrow  -  first Denali National Park, then Glacier Bay National Park for whales and glaciers, and finally Lake Clark National Park for brown bears  -  so today we took a short jaunt outside Anchorage along Turnagain Arm. The dramatic clouds were very punchy against the craggy mountains that flank the waterway. This black-and-white conversion was done in Lightroom to accentuate the contrast and texture.

The overall light level was low because of the heavy cloud cover, throwing the closest mountains into shadow. The brighter areas in the background stand out, and the large dark cloud adds drama to the scene.

Soon we will leave the coastal areas and head deep into the beautiful mountain country of Denali National Park. Stay tuned for photos and stories of adventure over the next few weeks.

1/640 sec., f/18, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is only in adventure that some people succeed in finding themselves."  --Andre Gide

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Bring Out The Beauty

In Lightroom you can go from yucky to yummy in a few easy steps. This gorgeous Lady's Slipper was on display at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania. Lightroom helped to make this a more pleasing image. Compare the image below to the one above. 

Yes it is the same image. But the power of Lightroom helped to bring out the latent beauty and color, and also helped to darken a too-light background. This sort of improvement is easy to do and does not take much time. Usually an image can be optimized in Lightroom in 5 minutes or less. And of course you do not have to optimize each and every image, just the ones you like the best.

The main differences were created using three main aspects of Lightroom:
1. The Shadows and Highlights sliders;
2. Increasing saturation of the flower in the HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) box; and
3. Darkening the green background in the HSL (Hue Saturation Luminance) box.

That's all there was to it. Quick and easy. 

1/125 sec at f/4.  ISO 1600.  Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Strive for continuous improvement instead of perfection."  -- Kim Collins

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

August Newsletter Is Here!

The August newsletter is out and ready for viewing. If you are not a subscriber you can see it here

As always, it has important information on photography and photo tours and workshops. 

Don't miss a single issue. If  you did not receive your free copy via email, send an email to us at, place YES in the subject line, and we will begin your free subscription right away. Easy. We never share or sell your email address, and you can easily unsubscribe at any time.

But we hope you will find it helpful and will enjoy reading it.

This month's image is from Denali National Park in Alaska. I will be heading there in a few days to lead a group of excited photographers. We will see the sweeping Alaska mountain range, caribou, moose, grizzly bear and more. The 2017 trip has been announced and there are only 6 spaces left. Join me September 4 - 9, 2017 for the trip of a lifetime!

1/640 sec at f/13. ISO 400. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 37mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."  --John Muir

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Birds of a Feather

Generally we see egrets standing alone, searching for fish in shallow waters. But occasionally we see groups of them, either roosting in a tree or enjoying the same fishing hole. On this bright sunny July day in Bombay Hook, Delaware, the egrets were everywhere. Lots of Snowy Egrets, the smaller ones with yellow-orange feet, as well as Great Egrets, the largest of the species. All are beautiful long legged birds, graceful both on the ground and in the air.

Because I wanted to capture the feel of this group of birds, but wanted to single out one as the focal point, I waited until the one in front of the grasses was in a good position and not blocked by anything else. As always, I took a lot of images in hopes of getting just the right one. When photographing birds or wildlife, it is important to take a great many images. Even though the main subject might be relatively stationary, subtle changes in head position, eyes open or closed, and other variables happen imperceptibly, and it is better to have a lot of rejects than to miss that perfect moment. Shoot like crazy and delete later.

The best camera settings for birds or wildlife are:
-  set the shutter on High Speed burst, and
-  the autofocus on Continuous (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon).

Use High Speed burst (if your camera gives you options) because the shutter will fire more rapidly, helping to assure that you capture that perfect moment. BUT it is not necessary to fire off more than 3 to 5 shots in a row. Take a small number of shots, and then stop for a few seconds to allow your camera to catch up with you. If you take too many in a row, your camera's buffer will fill and then will not allow you to take more images until it has processed all the shots you just took.

Use Continuous or AI Servo autofocus so that your camera will focus continuously as long as you have the focus button depressed. This is especially important when shooting moving subjects.

TECHNICAL DATA:  1/1250 at f/8.  ISO 400.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for a focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is nothing in which the birds differ more from man than the way in which they can build and yet leave a landscape as it was before."  --Robert Lynd

Monday, July 18, 2016

Now's The Time

Now's the time to decide. Is Denali National Park in Alaska on your bucket list? This is your chance to be there in 2017. Spend your days and nights deep inside the park where very few people ever get to go. Enjoy the unique wilderness of Denali in luxury in a comfortable lodge with chef-prepared meals. And best of all, have photographic opportunities of a lifetime. We have our own vehicle with naturalist driver to take us where the wildlife and the scenery are best. Day after day. It doesn't get any better than this.

The trip runs from September 2 - 8, 2017 when the fall colors of the tundra should be at peak. We meet in Anchorage and then head into Denali. Each day we are transported in our private vehicle to photograph wildlife like caribou, moose, brown bear, willow ptarmigan, pika, and migrating birds. And each day we are surrounded by spectacular scenery. The incredible snow-capped Alaska Range spreads out before us, punctuated by the warm colors of autumn.

Access to all shooting locations is relatively easy. There are no long hikes, and all your gear is transported on our vehicle. Except for the first and last nights in Anchorage, the trip includes all lodging and meals, all ground transportation and guide service, personal photographic instruction, image critiques, and tips. 

This trip is limited to 10 photographers and there are only 6 spaces left. So call or email now for rates and more details. Join me in Alaska next year for one of the best and most spectacular photography trips imaginable.

1/160 sec.,  f/18,  ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III.  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 that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."  --Jawaharlal Nehru