Thursday, October 10, 2019

Oh What A Beautiful Morning!

The Misty Moody Smoky Mountains workshop has been an incredible week of great photo opportunities, great people and a great time all the way around.

We headed out at 5AM yesterday morning in hopes of seeing a spectacular sunrise, and Mother Nature did not disappoint. We had the wonderful mist that the Smokies are famous for, and the show lasted for about 45 minutes.

The clouds and the light were constantly changing and we were all happy campers. It is always wise to arrive on site about an hour ahead of official sunrise time. That gives you time to set up and to start shooting as soon as the there is enough light for an exposure. Our starting exposures were about f/22 for 15 seconds, with an ISO of 800. But the light brightened quickly and soon we were able to reduce the ISO to 200 and the shutter speed to 1.5 seconds.

15 seconds at f/22, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 76mm on Canon 5D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Sunrise is always a perfect time of day. If only it did not come so early!"  -- Mollie Isaacs

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Autumn Is On The Way

The Great Smoky Mountains photo workshop begins in just a few days, and everyone is looking forward to some cooler weather and fall color. The Smokies are famous for morning mist in the valleys, and we are hoping to see that, too.

But regardless of what we might see, I am looking forward to showing everyone some spectacular hidden gems inside the national park. I am fortunate to have traveled to the Smokies many times, and know some of the best tucked away places for superb photography. We will explore many of those locations in search of unique and beautiful images.

When photographing the autumn colors anywhere, it is best to go during the week when the area is less crowded. Then look for places where there is some color, but also some foliage that is still green. So often we hear reports on when things are at "peak color," but the best images are often possible days or a week or more before peak so that there is some green to offset the warm yellows, oranges, and reds as in this image. Having some color contrast can provide more punchy and appealing images.

Also, look for foliage that has just burst into color if possible, rather than leaves that are already becoming faded or brown. Colorful leaves floating in streams or ponds can also provide some great images. Let your imagination go, and try to seek out unique views, or different approaches to typical autumn images.

You will be amazed at what you can create when you let yourself go, and allow your creativity to soar!

1/500 sec. at f/16, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "This world is but a canvas to our imagination."  -- Henry David Thoreau

Saturday, September 28, 2019

Once Again The Stars Aligned

I have written many times about how luck or serendipity plays a big part in getting successful images.   You see another example of that here.

On the recent private yacht cruise in Alaska's Inside Passage, we were headed to a quiet cove for the night. The sun was close to setting and the ambient light was falling quickly. We were out on deck  watching a few humpback whales lazily cruising nearby. I never expected this moment to occur, but fortunately I was looking toward the sun's reflection when one of the humpbacks decided to dive in the absolute perfect spot. What an exciting and serendipitous event!

It happened fast, but I managed to fire off a few shots before the tail disappeared below the water's surface.

These moments can happen without warning when photographing wildlife, and do not last long. That is why it always pays to have your camera set for a good exposure, and to be ready to put the camera to your eye and shoot as many images as you can while the action is happening.

I recommend that in order to be ready for these moments, you have your camera set on Rapid Burst, and your lens on Continuous Focus. And remember when using Rapid Burst to set your camera to the highest burst mode it has BUT only fire off 3 or 4 shots at a time. Then stop shooting for a second, giving your camera's buffer time to recover. Then fire off another 3 or 4 shots. If you allow your camera to fire off too many images at one time, the buffer will fill and you will be unable to trigger the shutter again until the camera has processed all the images in the burst. Giving it a second or so to  do some processing will usually assure you that you can continue to shoot while the action is occurring.

1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When opportunities come, be ready."  --Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, September 23, 2019

Galapagos 2020 Trip Announced

Galapagos - just the name conjures up images of exotic birds, 
pristine beaches, beautiful waters, species unique to the 
area, and more. It is a photographer's paradise, and we 
will explore it more intimately than most other groups can. 

We will have 10 glorious days to sail among the islands and view the wildlife of this magical archipelago. 

We will live aboard our own private motor sailing vessel, a beautiful yacht that fits right in with the pristine locations we will be visiting. We will have our own onboard naturalist guide who is reputed to be one of the best guides in the Galapagos. 

We will have opportunities to land on most of the islands and explore the exotic wildlife, birds, and landscapes.

Our home will be a 78-foot steel-hulled motorized sailing yacht with 7 staterooms (double occupancy), each with private bath and air-conditioning. 

Our boat has motor launches to get us ashore to photograph and explore. And wetsuits and snorkeling gear will be provided, too, for some great underwater photography opportunities. 

Our knowledgeable guides will provide us with information on wildlife, geology, history, local color, and safety.

As with all my trips, you will have exceptional photographic opportunities, receive personalized attention, participate in image critiques, be treated royally, and have a great time! 

For a complete itinerary, pricing, and more details 
and I will be glad to send it to you.

Please note: the email address above appears this way to avoid spam. When you enter the email address, please use the standard "at" symbol.

Have questions? Call me at 757-773-0194 
and I will be happy to answer them!

This is a rare opportunity to experience the Galapagos on board a beautiful private yacht with limitless photographic opportunities. 
I hope you can join me!  


FYI the September newsletter came out today. If you did not receive it, please email me with YES in the subject line and your free subscription will start right away. You can read the newsletter at this link

Thursday, September 19, 2019

The Lowly Dandelion

When you are looking for something interesting to photograph, don't overlook the simplest of subjects. This common dandelion was turned into an interesting image with just a few easy steps in Photoshop.

You can read about the technique at this link  

Dandelions actually make very interesting subjects if you take the time to get close and look at all the repeating shapes and textures. In fact many simple things which might not seem appealing take on new life when you take the time to examine them closely.

So stretch yourself. Go in search of simple, everyday things and think about what you can do to make them more interesting.

1/2000 sec at f/8, ISO 800, Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things. "  --Robert Brault

Monday, September 16, 2019

The Power Of Black-and-White

Puffins are some of my favorite bird species. They are beautiful, somewhat comical, adorable, and they fly like the wind. And while their feathers are a simple blend of black and white, their large bills are brightly colored, especially during breeding season.

So why did I choose to do this image in Black and White? Because a Black and White image has the power to show graphic elements and textures more strongly than most color images.

With Black and White, you see the form, the line, and the shape much more clearly. Look at the graphic shape of the bills, the wonderful curve leading to the eyes, and the rounded textured chests. Those elements do not stand out when viewing a color image.

Sure, not all images lend themselves well to Black and White, and I admit that I wondered if this one would lose its visual strength without the bright colors of the bills. On the contrary, for me it gained more power than it had in color.

1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To see in color is a delight for the eye, but to see in black and white is a delight for the soul."  --Andri Cauldwell

Friday, September 13, 2019

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet

Do you know what this is? The color pattern might make you think it is an Orca, a so-called killer whale. In fact this is a Dall's Porpoise, a beautiful little creature found off the West coast of the US as far north as Alaska. We were lucky to see a small pod of these little guys off the coast of Alaska. They are about the size of a typical porpoise, but incredibly fast. By the time you see them, they are gone before you can get a shot off. They can reach speeds of 34 mph in short bursts, and surface only briefly.

So what do you do? The best approach is to take your best guess as to where one might surface, and as crazy as this might sound, start shooting BEFORE you see one. Sure, you will get a lot of images of empty water, but once in awhile you will luck out and actually catch one, or part of one, breaking the water's surface.

While this image does not show the entire body, it did capture part of the black and white color pattern, the small dorsal fin, and a beautiful arc of water spraying off the fin.

For me, what makes this shot appealing is a combination of the color of the water, the water spray, and the beautiful warm light of early evening giving a golden glow to the fin and the white area under the water.

It is another example of how important it is to be prepared and do your best to anticipate action when photographing wildlife and birds.

1/1250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 147mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Luck is preparation meeting opportunity. If you hadn't been prepared when the opportunity came along, you wouldn't have been lucky."  -- Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Abstracts Here, There and Everywhere

Abstract images are all around us. The potential is limitless. All it takes is a little time, a little patience, and an awareness of what is around you.

This shot was taken on a brown bears trip in Alaska. We were walking across the mud flats to get a little closer to the bears when the parallel lines of the mud raised slightly above the shallow water caught my eye. It was a clear day, and the blue sky reflected in the smooth water. In all honesty, however, the water was not this blue. I saturated the color in Lightroom to make it richer.

Because this is an abstract and essentially an art piece, I had no reluctance to oversaturate the blue. But for more traditional nature and wildlife images, I would never go this far. In those cases you want to preserve the realism of the scene as much as possible.

This is a cropped version of the original. I did some cropping in order to make the triangle of blue in the upper right about the same size as the similar triangle of blue in the lower left. While that is a small thing, attention to those sorts of details can elevate an image to a higher level, giving it more visual appeal.

1/1250 sec. at f/10, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The acknowledgement of a single possibility can change everything."  -- Aberjhani

Sunday, August 25, 2019

Award Winners

I was honored and thrilled to receive word on Friday that two of my images were selected for the prestigious Loan Collection of the Professional Photographers of America.

The top image, titled "Blowin' In The Wind," is a Great Egret with breeding plumage. It was taken in St. Augustine, Florida on a very breezy day. The egret was sitting on a top branch of a nearby tree, and I was happily shooting away when the wind kicked up and blew its long, flowing feathers up and over its head. Shooting on rapid burst, I did not know exactly what I had captured until viewing it later on my laptop screen.

Because it was on a top branch, the smooth overcast sky formed an even-toned backdrop. I liked the white-on-white look, with the only color being the long orange bill. I debated whether to enter it into competition or not, since it does not show the head or the eye, which is often what judges look for in bird and wildlife photography. But I liked the unusual nature of the image, and its touch of whimsy, so I threw caution to the wind and entered it in the annual Professional Photographers of America International competition.

Needless to say, I was overjoyed when I received word that it had been selected for their Loan Collection, what they dub the best of the best.

The bottom image, titled "Eye On The Prize," was also selected for the Loan Collection. You might have seen the image before in this Blog. It was taken in Alaska on a gray misty day. Several eagles were circling our boat to catch fish, and this one was performing some amazing aerial acrobatics. The mist behind the eagle helped separate it from the dark green background. Again, shooting on rapid burst I did not know exactly what I had captured until viewing the results on my laptop. And doing some optimization in Lightroom really made the eagle pop out against the background.

All competitions are a complete unknown, and you never know what the judges will respond to. When deciding which images to enter, it is good to show them to a wide variety of people, and not all of them photographers. Show them to friends and family, as well as camera club buddies and any photo mentors you might have. It is best to get a wide range of opinions, and then weigh that against what your gut tells you is a great image.

Egret - 1/1250 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

Eagle - 1/1000 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All competitions are a crap shoot. Sometimes you get lucky, and sometimes you don't. The trick is to keep going, keep striving, keep improving. And at the end of the day, believe in yourself."  --Mollie Isaacs

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Six-Pack of Composition Tips

Composition can be a tricky thing. A well-composed image attracts the eye and keeps the viewer engaged. But how do you get there? There are a few simple tips that can help make or break an image.

Here is my six-pack of tips to help improve your landscape images:

1. For a landscape image such as this one, creating a feeling of depth is important. This image was taken in Iceland on a promontory overlooking a huge, wild beach. To provide a feeling of depth, I included the distant rocks in the mist, along the horizon near the long cliffs in the background. They are faint, but they are visible and that allows the eye to travel all around the scene.

2. Another important tip is to have a center of interest. In this case it is the large rock in the foreground. Make sure the center of interest is sharp, stands out from the rest of the image, and has enough interest (shape, size, color, or line) to grab the viewer's attention.

3. Shapes are also important in a successful image. This was a very blustery day, and the shapes of the waves rolling onto the shore were constantly changing. I waited until several of them were in a similar U-shaped form before clicking the shutter. The soft rounded shapes of the waves on shore are a counterpoint to the hard, jagged rock that is the center of interest.

4. Contrast in any image adds punch and appeal. Whether black and white or color, contrast helps give the image life. In a black and white image, ideally there will be good whites with detail, strong blacks with detail, and a range of middle gray tones. Even though this was a very overcast and rainy day, there was enough contrast between the white foam in the water and the black rock and black beach to provide just enough punch for eye appeal.

5. Even the best images need a bit of optimization. I use Lightroom most often. It can help add that extra little oomph that most images need. For nature and wildlife images, you want the modifications to be subtle and in keeping with the look of the original scene. Don't overdo the contrast by either making the light tones too light, or the dark tones too dark. For artsy images you can certainly go a little crazy with over-saturating colors or boosting contrast, but for nature and wildlife, let subtlety be your guide. For color images, keep the colors natural. For black and white, maintain the contrast within a range that is in keeping with the existing lighting conditions.

6. And finally, take lots if images of each scene and each subject. Give yourself plenty of options regarding overall composition, camera height, and your position relative to all the elements in a scene.

So get out there and go for the gusto!

1/320 sec. at f/9, ISO 800. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 27mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The more you get set into your own world, the smaller your world becomes."  --  J.R. Rim