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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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

Repetition


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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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.

Thanks!

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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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/

TECHNICAL DATA
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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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.

TECHNICAL DATA
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

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reflections Part 1



I have returned from a wonderful month in the Canadian Rockies. While the trip is over, I still have many more images to share with you, complete with educational and creative information.

This is the first in a series on reflections in water. There are few things more calming and pristine than a lovely scene reflected in a crystal clear lake.

When working with reflections, you have several creative choices which will be covered in this series. You can show the entire reflection, as you see here, or you can show portions of reflections. Because the entire scene and its reflections were so perfect, and the clouds were nice, I chose to show the entire scene.

There were several options for vantage points, and I chose this one carefully. I wanted the curving shoreline to lead the eye into the scene, and I wanted more of the mountains to show than the trees.

Often in photos of reflections, the scene takes up about half the space and the reflection occupies the other half. That is not a rule, but sometimes it seems to work well, as in this image. 

Some scenes and landscapes seem to lend themselves to black-and-white, and that is certainly the case in the Canadian Rockies. The dark evergreens, the light snow, and the mirror reflection combine to create a simple but effective palette of whites, blacks, and grays. As I have mentioned in past blogs, Lightroom can be a good tool to use for creating excellent black-and-white images. By using the BW portion of the HSL box, and then using the color sliders to control the lightness or darkness of selected portions of the image, you can create an image with strong shades of gray and can control the range of blacks and whites.

There will be an in-depth, no-holds-barred Lightroom class offered March 16 – 20,  2015 in Richmond, Virginia. This class will be geared both for those new to Lightroom as well as seasoned veterans. Details are not yet posted on the website, but if you received the September newsletter you can read about it there. Or call 757-773-0194 or email awakethelight@charter.net for details.  

TECHNICAL DATA
Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4 set at 27mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The more I see, the less I know for sure.”  --John Lennon

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Golden Glow



We woke up early to be on location shortly after sunrise to photograph a huge male elk and his harem of about a dozen females. We found them right where we had seen them the previous afternoon. We also found a gaggle of photographers with huge lenses and not much sense, walking much too close to the animals and following them into the nearby brush as they grazed. With their long lenses there was no need to be so close, but their egos and their sense of entitlement seemed to overpower their common sense and respect for the animals.

I was glad when a ranger appeared and gave them a serious but polite lesson on safety around large animals. Of course they already knew all that they were told, but apparently did not think the law of the jungle applied to them.

In any case, we shot for about an hour and got some great images of the large male and several females. While the intrepid group of disrespectful photographers followed behind the group of elk as they moved on into thick woods, we decided to venture down the road in search of whatever we could find.

In less than 2 minutes we came upon two young male elk walking in a wide river just off the road. We arrived just as the sun was cresting above the hillside behind the river, creating yellow-orange highlights on the pristine blue water. The animals were silhouetted against the bright water. We were thrilled at the incredible sight, pulled safely off the road, grabbed our cameras and began shooting. One of the elk walked slowly forward, aligning himself with the brightest streak of sunlight on the water.

What a lucky find! It was the shot of a lifetime, one of many we have experienced on this trip. Had we stayed at our previous location, following the herd (of elk AND photographers) we would have missed seeing this beautiful scene.

Pure luck? Yes. But also a small amount of common sense. We knew we had captured good images of the herd at the first location, and did not need to hang around there any longer. We sought greener pastures, and we sure did find them!

Because the river was so brightly lit, I exposed for the water, allowing the elk to be silhouetted. His perfect profile makes clear what he is, and no detail is necessary on his fur or face.

So once again this blog is about good sense around animals, not following the crowd, and making your own luck as much as possible to find great shots when you do not expect them.

TECHNICAL DATA
Shutter Speed 1/3200 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no farther than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.” Unknown (various attributions)