Monday, April 24, 2017

Smokies Wrap-up

The Smoky Mountains WILDFLOWERS & WILDWATER photo tour has ended, and what an incredible week we had. All of the most beautiful spring wildflowers were in bloom, the weather was superb except for one short burst of rain early in the week. Everyone came away with spectacular images. I was thrilled with what the group was able to achieve, and they were happy with their results. They learned a lot, shared a lot, and had a great time. 

At the end of the day, that is what a full immersion photo workshop or tour is all about - lots of information, education, inspiration, and great fun.

This Showy Orchis (yes "orchis" is the correct spelling) was one of the most perfect and beautiful I have ever seen. These are not easy flowers to photograph because of the unusual shape of the blooms and their small size. When photographing flowers I always recommend "stalking" the plant. Walk around it and look at it from all angles and heights. Take a lot of shots since often you do not know until you see the images on your computer screen which views you will like the best. Give yourself every opportunity to capture great images by taking your time to shoot it from all angles. 

While this trip has ended, I am looking forward to a full schedule ahead with a Butterflies Workshop in May (FULL), Alaska Brown Bears in June (FULL), a boat-based Alaska whales and wildlife trip also in June (FULL), Iceland in August (STILL SPACE AVAILABLE, with Early Bird discount valid through April 30), and back to Alaska in September to Denali National Park (one space unexpectedly opened up for a female).

If you would like more information on either the Iceland or Denali trips, go to the website here
Or for Iceland, 10 full days on this incredible island, click here

1/500 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit."  --Frank Borman

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smokies Abstract

The Smokies photo tour ends on Saturday, and I will be sorry to see it end. The spring wildflowers have been spectacular. We were lucky to hit it at peak, and have seen dozens of varieties in pristine condition.

And the streams have been beautiful and have provided us with incredible subject matter. Doing long exposures of moving water creates abstract shapes, and everyone has been creating unique and compelling images. It is a great way to improve your creative eye, and enhance your technical skills as well.

This image has a variety of shapes and movement, with minimal colors. It is a study in line and form. Participating in a full immersion photo workshop enables you to dramatically improve your eye and your technique, while providing a fun atmosphere with like-minded people. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself and take a photo workshop or tour this year. You won't regret it!

1/2 sec. at f/32, ISO 100.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."  --Lao Tzu

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Smokies Grace

Graceful subjects can be found everywhere if you look for them. This graceful yellow trillium is blooming in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I am here this week leading a photo tour. I love being here in the springtime since the profusion of wildflowers is some of the best in the world.

This yellow trillium is fully open, even though it might not look that way. Their petals reach skyward in a slight curving motion.

When photographing macro flowers I try to keep the composition simple. Simple backgrounds, simple subjects, and simple soft natural lighting. I use Lightroom to enhance the colors and the overall look. But I try to do as little as possible in an effort to maintain the natural appearance of the flower.

When outdoors photographing, whether it is flowers or scenics, try to look for line, shape and simplicity.

1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If the sight of blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."  --Eleonora Duse

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easy Art

Creating images of moving water is exciting, easy, and fun. This stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the perfect subject. A nicely flowing stream flanked by ancient boulders has form, shape, texture and color.

A sturdy tripod is your best friend when photographing moving water. You need a stable platform for your camera so that you can use a long exposure to accentuate the feeling of flowing water.

Soft, even light is best for this type of shot. You want to avoid splotchy sunlight that can create extreme contrast of highlights and shadows. So early morning or late afternoon, or a cloudy day work well.

With  your camera on Aperture Priority, use a low ISO of 100, and set the aperture to about f/22. That will provide a relatively show shutter speed, which is the secret to creating soft flowing water shots. I am often asked what shutter speed is best, and the answer is "that depends." If the water is flowing slowly, a longer shutter speed of a few seconds might be needed to show the flow. If it is a fast-moving stream, a shorter shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/2 second will work well. It is best to try several different shutter speeds to see what works best. If you cannot get a slow enough shutter speed to achieve the look you want, use a polarizing filter or a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light coming through the lens. A polarizer will cut light transmission by about 2.5 stops.  Neutral density filters come in a variety of strengths from about 3 stops to 10 stops and reduce the amount of light being transmitted even more. 

How soft you want the water to look is a matter of personal taste. Experiment each time you are out photographing water, and take many shots at different shutter speeds to guarantee that you will get the look you want.

When leading groups, I teach a variety of techniques, depending on the situation and the speed of the water. We will be working with these techniques at the upcoming Smokies trip, and the Iceland trip coming up August 4 - 14. Still a couple of spaces left on the Iceland trip, and the Early Bird discount has been extended through April 30.  Details here

2 seconds at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set to 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not by strength but by perseverance."  --H. Jackson Brown

Friday, April 7, 2017

Heading To The Smokies

It is Spring, which means it is time to return to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the magnificent display of wildflowers. At this time of year the flowers are everywhere, including trillium shown here. This is a Painted Trillium which is fairly rare in the park. They are small and delicate, bloom quickly in the spring, and then are gone until the next year.

Observing the flow of the seasons, and seeing the returning species from year to year are some of the many joys of being a nature and wildlife photographer.

Often when photographing flowers it is fun to look for an unusual angle, or try a creative technique. But for this trillium, with its perfect shape and lovely "painted" magenta tones near the center, a straighforward view worked well. Sometimes simple is better.

With flowers, soft even lighting is often my preference. I look for blooms in open shade, and if everything is in full sun I will often position myself to cast my shadow across the flower in order to eliminate any harsh shadows or blown out highlights.

1/400 sec., f/5, ISO 400.  Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers  -  and never succeeding."  --Gian Carlo Menotti

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Abstracts With Impact

Abstracts are a great way to get in touch with your artistic side. You can find abstract images everywhere, from your own backyard to exotic places around the world. Abstracts are all around us. Just look for line, shape, color, or form in the normal things you see everyday.

This shot is about as simple as it gets, but a very powerful composition. Just one color, a triangle in the middle, a horizontal line running across the bottom, and a vertical line running through the center of the triangle.

Abstracts speak for themselves, and the viewer does not have to recognize the subject. The image just needs to be visually arresting.

So how do you spot good abstract subjects? Practice, practice, practice! This image was found when looking at old boats in Maine. Here is the scene.
The area of the above final image is marked by a black box. As you can see, it is a small part of the original scene, and I did not notice it right away. I had to stand there for a few minutes, looking at all the components of the scene. Then I began to see shapes and designs and found this area which I zoomed in on.

When out shooting, take your time, look at everything before you, and then narrow your view as you search for small components that could be isolated to become an appealing abstract image.

I would like to thank the members of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Camera Club for inviting me to speak on Abstracts at their 7th Annual Light and Creativity Photo Workshop held this past weekend. It was a wonderful and well-run event. They were a very welcoming and attentive group and it was a great privilege and a pleasure to meet so many people. My thanks to everyone for making it such a special day! 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Early Bird discount on the "Iceland - Endless Light" photo tour ends at midnight on April 3. Just make contact before then via email or phone to lock in your discount. So if you have been thinking about it, now is the time to contact me with questions or for more information. Limit 8, and there are only 4 spaces left. The trip runs August 4 - 14. Details here

1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Photography has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them."  --Elliott Erwitt

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alaska - The Last Frontier

This is one of the most spectacular views in all of Alaska, and is in Denali National Park. It is Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) and part of the Alaska Range reflected in the aptly named Reflection Pond. It was taken pre-dawn, before the sun broke the horizon. At over 20,000 feet, it is the tallest mountain in all of North America.

When shooting in pre-dawn conditions, it is best to arrive about an hour early when it is still dark. That gives you time to set up your equipment and be prepared for the show that Mother Nature provides. I always recommend going to the location the day before to get the lay of the land, and to determine the approximate spot where you want to set up your camera and tripod.

Because you arrive in the dark, it helps to have a headlamp to light your way, and to make sure that  you are properly placing the camera on the tripod. To make it easy on yourself, set the ISO,  f/stop and shutter speed the night before when you can see what you are doing, and have one less thing to do when you arrive in the morning. Of course these settings will change quickly as the sky lightens, but at least it will get you in the ballpark at the beginning.

With your camera on Aperture Priority, set the ISO at 400 or 800, and the aperture at around f/8. The shutter speed will set itself. That will give you decent depth of field at the beginning. As the sky lightens, you can go with a smaller f/stop (f/16 and smaller) and/or a faster shutter speed. You want enough depth of field to render the scene as sharp as possible.

Also it is best to use a cable release or remote trigger to minimize camera shake. Yes, even on a tripod you can introduce vibration when pressing the shutter button. If you do not have a separate shutter release, you can set your camera's timer to a 2-second delay. That will give the camera 2 seconds to stop vibrating after you have pressed the shutter button.

If you want to put yourself in this scene, come join me in Denali National Park September 2 - 8. We stay in a lovely lodge only about a mile from this location, and we pass it nearly every day. It doesn't get much better than that! There is only 1 opening left so let me know right away if you are interested. Details are on the website 

In addition to incredible mountain scenery and sweeping vistas, we will see grizzly bear, caribou, and moose. We will be there at the time of peak fall color, and the tundra will be ablaze in reds, golds, and yellows.

We have our own large vehicle with an experienced naturalist driver. Everyone has a window seat and plenty of room to spread out. Only a select few are allowed this deep into the park. Awake The Light is fortunate to be one of only two photo tour companies allowed this type of access. We will have incredible photographic opportunities each and every day.

1/30 sec at f/8, ISO 400.  Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 24mm. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied. It speaks in silence to the very core of your being."  --Ansel Adams

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Join Me On THE Best Iceland Photo Tour!

Iceland is a photographer's paradise. Waterfalls everywhere, rugged volcanic mountains, craggy coastlines, some of Europe's largest glaciers, famous Icelandic horses, puffins, and so much more.

This is THE best Iceland trip available! 
Best guide.
Best locations.
Best photographic opportunities.

And best of all, EVERYTHING is included except your round-trip airfare to and from Iceland. Only a 5-hour flight from the east coast of the U.S.

The trip is limited to only 8 photographers, 
and there are only 4 spaces left. 


Details on the website here    

and in the Special Announcement here   

For more information, an itinerary, or to register, email us at 

1/2 sec, f/22, ISO 100. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."  --Norman Maclean

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Matter Of Scale

Iceland is a small island, but the sense of scale is huge. With its sweeping landscapes and seemingly endless rocky coastlines, it is a photographer's paradise. I confess I have fallen in love with the place. That's why I'm going back this August 4 - 14. I just can't get enough of its rugged beauty, ancient old world feel, soaring waterfalls everywhere, picturesque villages, sweet horses, and welcoming and charming people. It just doesn't get any better than Iceland for exciting travel and wonderful photographic opportunities.

Today's image is a good example of the sweeping scale of the place. In the middle of this wide angle scene with sun rays, dramatic clouds, and high mountains is a tiny church tucked up against the nearest mountainside. It is barely visible and almost camouflaged by the wide open landscape.

Part of the excitement of being in Iceland is the limitless skies and the limitless photographs that appear around almost every curve in the road. And at almost every turn is a gorgeous waterfall or geothermal activity or a huge glacier. This is a very magical place, and there are so many scenes that feel like you are in the middle of a Lord of the Rings movie. Beauty is everywhere.

So join me in Iceland in August. Dubbed the "Endless Light" photo tour, we will have about 18 hours of daylight, and because of its far north position near the Arctic Circle we will have great sweet light for much of the day. The tour is all-inclusive, except for your round-trip airfare. Just get yourself to Iceland and the rest will be taken care of!

More details and more photos are on the website here

AND the Early Bird discount is in effect until April 3. So call me at 757-773-0194 or email me at with questions or to register. Just a few spaces left!

1/1250 at f/16, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40 f/4L lens set at 40mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry."  --Jack Kerouac

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brand New Workshop Just Announced!

Best butterfly location anywhere on the east coast! The BUTTERFLIES & FLOWERS Photo Workshop is coming May 10 and 11.  Housed in the world class Lewis Ginter Botancial Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, this Butterfly House is a fabulous place to get spectacular images of these lovely creatures. The butterflies are indoors, in a climate-controlled special section of the European-styled Conservatory.

You will see many species, and have plenty of room to spread out.

Because this is one of the Top Four botanical gardens in North America, you will also have opportunities to stroll the grounds for extensive flower and macro photography.

If you love butterflies, and love flowers, this is the workshop for you! Spend two full days in beautiful surroundings with superb photographic opportunities. Plus there will be a Bonus Teaching Session the evening before the workshop begins to help get you primed with the finer points of butterfly and flower photography.

Detailed information is on the website here

Limited to only 10 photographers, the workshop includes personalized instruction, critiques, a few Lightroom tips, all garden entry fees and parking.

Call me at 757-773-0194, or email me at for more information or to register.

1/200 sec, f/5, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  --Nathaniel Hawthorne