Thursday, December 1, 2016

Smokies Update


After the previous blog was published, I heard from some of you asking for more information on the status of the park and surroundings in light of the fires. I spoke to my contacts who live near the park, and was told that the recent heavy rains have cleared the air of smoke and the fires are essentially out.

If you have seen the news reports, you have seen some of the devastation around Gatlinburg, and to a lesser extent, Pigeon Forge. To help those who have suffered the loss of their property, the Great Smoky Mountains Association (GSMA), a non-profit organization that supports the preservation of the national park by promoting education and research, has established a Relief Fund to help some of those who have been impacted by the fires. Their website   http://www.smokiesinformation.org/news/relief-fund-established-for-fire-victims   says that through the relief fund "100% of donated funds will be divided among NPS and park partner fire victims to help them rebuild their lives."

Thanks to great friend and great client Cindy M for alerting me to this.

Also, for your peace of mind, none of the areas of the park and surrounding areas that my Smoky Mountains photo tours explore have been damaged at all. The Great Smoky Mountains WILDFLOWERS AND WILDWATER photo tour coming up April 17 - 22 will be just as spectacular as ever. 

Among the many incredible wildflowers we will see are these crested dwarf iris. These beautiful and delicate flowers bloom in profusion during April.

We will also see many species of trillium, lady slippers, a wide variety of violets,  and dozens of other species. We will also have some spectacular sunrises, and with any luck we will see black bear, deer, possibly coyote, and much more.

For more information, see the website here  http://awakethelight.com/wildflowers-wildwater-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/

Don't forget the special $300 Early Bird discount if you register by January 15. If you  have questions, or are ready to register, please email me at awakethelight@charter.net

TECHNICAL DATA
1/640 sec at f/2.8, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens on Canon 5D Mark III camera.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I get by with a little help from my friends."  -- John Lennon, The Beatles

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Smokies In Springtime


Spring is my favorite time of year to be in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hundreds of species of wildflowers are in bloom, and we go to where the best of the best are.

It is also the time of year when the streams are fast-flowing and at their best. The trees sport their fresh spring-green leaves, and the entire park comes to life.

The air is fresh and clean, and you can feel the promise of the earth's renewal.

The upcoming Smokies trip is scheduled for April 17 - 22. Many wildflowers should be at peak including trillium, lady slippers, iris, and so much more. If you love the outdoors in spring, this is the trip for you.

We stay at a fabulous private lodge with great views overlooking the park. It is on the "quiet side" of the Smokies, away from the hubub of nearby towns, and yet only a short drive into the park. It is the perfect location for an exciting and rewarding photo trip.

There is a $300 Early Bird discount if you register before Jan. 15. This trip is limited to only 12 photographers, and only 9 spaces are left. So don't delay - contact me right away with questions or to reserve your space. More details here http://awakethelight.com/wildflowers-wildwater-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/

TECHNICAL DATA
1/2 sec at f/32, ISO 100.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 150mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "...winter will be forced to relent, once again, to the new beginnings of soft greens, longer light, and the sweet air of spring."  --Madeleine M. Kunin 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Shop 'Til You Drop!


Now that Thanksgiving is over, it is time to think about gift giving for the upcoming holidays. While the holidays are about so much more than just buying stuff, it is a nice time of year to remember those who are dear to you, and find a little something you think they will like.

As a special favor to me and Awake The Light, Gary at Hunt's Photo and Video has volunteered to reduce prices on some items that I have recommended in the past. So if you are looking for photo-related gifts for those you know, or if family and friends have been asking you for hints of what you might want to have, check out these specials.

SAVAGE EXTENSION TUBES
Canon mount  -  https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=AETC&mfg=Savage&show=yes&sp=obMQ4

Nikon mount  -  https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=AETN&mfg=Savage&show=yes&sp=xqToP

ALL BLACK FRIDAY / CYBER MONDAY SPECIALS
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/promotions.cfm

All special prices expire at the end of the day Monday. So now's the time to act!

TECHNICAL DATA
1/2000 sec at f/4, ISO 200.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS on Canon 40D body (an oldie but a goodie!).  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The law of giving is very simple: If you want JOY, give joy. If LOVE is what you seek, offer love. If you crave MATERIAL AFFLUENCE, help others become prosperoous."  --Deepak Chopra


Thursday, November 24, 2016

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!


HAPPY THANKSGIVING

Wishing you a wonderful, warm, holiday filled with love and laughter. 
May it be one of your best ever. 

At this time of giving thanks, I want you to know how much I appreciate your support, your friendship, and your always welcome comments. 
It is a pleasure to forge friendships with people who love 
photography as much as I do. 

I hope that by sharing my knowledge and my passion 
it has helped you to enjoy photography even more. 
And I hope to see you soon at a photo workshop or tour.

With warmest appreciation,

Mollie 

 

TECHNICAL DATA
1/125 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 3200.   Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 98mm, on Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  --John F. Kennedy 

Friday, November 18, 2016

Plan Ahead


As the poet said, "If winter comes, can spring be far behind?" Even though winter is not quite here yet, it is time to think ahead to spring. Spring means flowers, and flowers mean the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Smokies has more species of wildflowers than any other North American park. Over 1500 different species bloom in the Smokies including trillium, lady slippers, dwarf iris, and columbine shown in the image above. It is the most incredible array of wildflowers you can imagine, and a sight not to be missed.

I'm looking forward to once again returning to the Smokies in April with a small group of photographers. We'll photograph the profusion of wildflowers, as well as the beautiful fast-running streams that flow throughout the park. The WILDFLOWERS AND WILDWATER Photo Tour is scheduled for April 17 - 22, 2017.

This is an incredible trip with great photo ops at every turn. Plus, we will have opportunities to photograph the spectacular sunrises that the Smokies is also known for. Limited to only 11 photographers, you will get personalized attention every day. We will stay in a well-appointed private lodge overlooking the mountains, and only a few minutes from the park entrance. We stay on the "quiet side" of the Smokies and avoid all the over-crowded tourist areas.

There is an Early Bird discount available if you register by December 15. The regular price of the tour is $2195, but if you register and pay your $500 deposit by the deadline, your fee is only $1895.

Details here  http://awakethelight.com/wildflowers-wildwater-great-smoky-mountains-national-park/

For more information or to register, email me at  awakethelight@charter.net
I hope you can make it!

TECHNICAL DATA
1/250 sec at f/3.5, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."  --Buddha    

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Here's Lookin' At You, Kid


Icelandic horses. Adorable, calm, friendly, and sturdy steeds. And they are always having a great hair day!

When photographing wildlife of any kind, it is important to look for the right moments. Body position, facial expression (yes, animals DO have expressions), behavior, and interactions are just some of the things to watch for.

You also want to be careful with exposure. Make sure that light tones are not overexposed, and dark tones are not underexposed.

Use rapid burst so that you can take several shots in quick succession to improve your chances of capturing just the right moment. It is amazing how quickly a slight change in position can make or break the shot.

But most of all be sure to enjoy the moment. Enjoy the privilege of being able to capture images of a variety of animals on their own turf.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION
1/125 sec. at f/10, ISO 400.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 124 mm on Canon 5D Mark III, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "One reason why ... horses are happy is because they are not trying to impress other horses."  --Dale Carnegie

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Autumn In Alaska


Autumn in Alaska is the best time to be there for photography. The wildlife is in great shape with full, thick coats of fur, fully developed antlers, and well-fed healthy bodies after a short but productive summer. And the scenery is beyond compare with spectacular fall colors in the trees and on the tundra. The reds, oranges, and yellows surpass even the well-known New England fall colors.

Now's the time to plan for next year's highly popular Denali photo tour. It will be September 2 -8, 2017. We meet in Anchorage and then depart for the great adventure! The fee includes a private guide and private vehicle in Denali just for our group, all meals and lodging (except pre- and post days in Anchorage), all ground transportation in Alaska, individualized instruction, image critiques, and tips. The meals are great, the lodging is lovely and comfortable, the wildlife is everywhere, and the scenery will thrill you. There might even be a chance to see the Aurora Borealis! Note that information is not yet on the website, so now is the time to register before the announcement goes public. For pricing and details, email me at awakethelight@charter.net  Don't miss this trip, limited to only 10 photographers.

On another note, with the holidays coming, now is the time to make a list of the photo gear you want. Make a list, check it twice, and then give it to all your friends and family members for easy gift-giving! If you are not familiar with Hunt's Photo and Video, or even if you are, I highly recommend them for all your photo gear needs. They have a huge inventory and can get you virtually anything you want. Their prices are competitive, and their customer service is unsurpassed.  I used to use the REALLY big guys (and you know who I mean), but now I use Hunt's because of their fast and personal service, great prices, and free shipping. It is a family-owned company which means they really care about you, and they want to gain your trust and your business.  Here is the link to their weekend specials  https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/promotions.cfm    If you don't see what you want, email the co-owner Gary here and he will do his best to get you the item at the best price.

TECHNICAL INFORMATION
1/640 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 400.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All our dreams can come true if we have the courage to pursue them."  -- Walt Disney

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

From Drab To Dynamite

BEFORE

AFTER

Take a long hard look at these two images. These are exactly the same picture. The top BEFORE image is as it came out of the camera with no tweaking or image optimization. The bottom AFTER image is what Lightroom did to restore the image to what the scene actually looked like.

Every image that you take has lots of color and contrast information that often is not apparent when you initially download your images after a day of shooting. ALL images need optimization, some more than others. While our digital cameras (when shooting RAW) record a wide range of color and contrast information, that information often does not appear when we first download the image. We need Lightroom to coax that information out of it and help us create an image with all the impact of the original scene that we shot.

Look carefully at the background of this image shot in Iceland near sunset. There is a huge glacier coming down to the water line.

The BEFORE image looks gray with very little color and minimal contrast. In the AFTER image, Lightroom brought out the warm color and quality of light that was actually there. The steps used were:
-  Whites and Blacks sliders were moved to expand the contrast (I rarely use the Contrast slider)
-  Clarity was increased to 30 (going beyond 30 is often way too much)
-  Vibrance was increased
-  Orange and Blue Saturation were individually increased in the HSL box
-  Dehaze was used to cut through some of the mist in the background

So after a few simple steps, a gray unexciting image was brought back to life.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set to 98mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What is life? It is the flash of a firefly in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset."  --Crowfoot

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Fire and Ice


Iceland is a unique and magical place for photographers. This is just one example, taken on Ice Beach in the southern part of the country. Iceland's several glaciers deposit icebergs into nearby glacial lagoons. One of the lagoons then tosses up ice chunks, both large and small, onto a nearby black sand beach. This is one of the small ice chunks, reflecting light from the bright blue sky and the warm tones of the rising sun.

What a thrill to see the many different shapes of the ice, and to see some tossed around in the waves crashing on shore. A unique scene to say the least.

When photographing in new and unusual places it helps to first slow down and just enjoy what you are seeing, and then to determine how best to shoot it. Try a variety of camera positions, some close in and some farther away. Use the histogram to make sure your exposures are good. And then use image optimization software to enhance contrast and color.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/125 sec. at f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L set at 40mm, on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The greatness of art is not to find what is common but what is unique."  --Isaac Bashevis Singer


Sunday, October 23, 2016

Moody Iceland


Moody just barely begins to describe this scene. It was a blustery wet day with strong winds and pelting rain. But even so, we were out there taking some wonderfully unique images along the southern coast of Iceland.

When on a photo trip, a little rain, or in this case a lot of rain, does not stop us from shooting. We gear up in our rain jackets and rain pants, plus rain protection for our cameras, and bravely step out of the van.

Everyone had been supplied with microfiber cloths to use periodically to help dry off lens shades and water droplets that kept hitting our lenses. To get this shot, I kneeled down next to a parked car (we were at a public overlook) in hopes of blocking the wind and some of the rain. That worked briefly, long enough to get this shot and several others.

The sky was so overcast and gray that this black-and-white conversion, done in Lightroom, barely looks any different from the original color version. I chose to go with black and white since there was a slight brownish tone in the water that I thought detracted from the image.

I took several shots, trying to get one in which the waves spilling onto the beach were rounded in shape. I felt that would soften the harshness of the sky and the ominous rock in the foreground.

Iceland is an incredible place filled with many dramatic and photogenic subjects. It is a compelling location, and I plan to return there July 21 - 30, 2017 for another exciting photo tour. If you have ever wanted to see this wonderful island nation with its dramatic scenery, or wanted to enjoy its endless beautiful light from morning to night, or photograph its large puffin colonies, then plan to join me. It will be a fantastic trip! Email me for more information.

TECHNICAL DATA
1/320 sec., f/9, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 27mm, on Canon 7D MarkII body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather."  --John Ruskin