Saturday, August 8, 2020

Incredible Iceland

 


Lately my thoughts have turned toward Iceland, one of my favorite places. The scenery, the wonderful people, and the incredible variety of waterfalls, volcanoes, and glaciers provide an ever-changing palette of options. 

While traveling there will not happen in the near future because of the pandemic, I wanted to share this image to give you a brief visual trip away from home! It is the famous Kirkjufell, the most photographed mountain in Iceland. Its volcanic cone shape and the triple waterfall in the foreground combine to make this a thrilling scene. 

I chose to convert this image to Black and White in order to showcase the beautiful shapes and to enhance the contrast between the white waterfalls and the deep black volcanic rock. It adds drama and punch to this image. 

I had seen many shots of this location before actually being there, and I was surprised at how small the waterfalls actually are. They look much larger in photos. 

There are always a lot of tourists in the area, and I confess to having removed some people and cars from this shot. Having done that, I cannot enter this image in a nature competition. But for personal use, I much prefer to see just the natural scene rather than portraying it as a tourist destination. 

TECH SPECS:
1/2 sec. at F/22, ISO 100. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set to 17mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. 

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

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Tree Geometry


Experimenting with creative options can be fun and freeing. This image was done in one exposure in camera. It is quick, easy, and lots of fun. 

The main technique is a slow shutter speed plus moving the camera during exposure. When you do this sort of experimenting, you never know what you will end up with. It helps to do a lot of exposures and hope for the best. You can do these sorts of images from a moving car, or walking around outdoors. 

You just have to be willing to try a variety of exposures and camera movements. And always handhold your camera and leave the tripod in the car. You also have to be willing to accept a lot of loser images. But if you take enough images, you will most likely end up with a few that you like. 

TECH SPECS
1/5 sec. at f/16, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 105mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAT'S QUOTE: "All life its an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, July 31, 2020

Jaunty Little Jokester!


Since it is blazing hot in many parts of the country, I thought a quick trip to the cool climate of Antarctica might be a fun thing to do. My trip there this past December was beyond spectacular,  and I came away with many lifelong memories.

We were so lucky that the trip was right before the Covid-19 virus began sweeping the globe.

This jaunty Gentoo penguin was making its way to the top of a small hill of snow. Penguins are absolutely adorable in so many ways. I could have watched them for hours and never tire of their antics, their beautiful feathers, and their endearingly gawky movements.

So if you are dealing with the summer heat, absorb some of the cool air in this image.

I am working on building an exciting and educational series of workshops for 2021, so stay tuned. As soon as we are past this terrible pandemic, we will begin traveling again! But for now, please be safe and stay healthy.

TECH SPECS
1/4000 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II set at 227mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It's practically impossible to look at a penguin and feel angry."  --Joe Moore

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Was Surprised With Great News!



I was happily shocked to open the box with my copy of this book to find that my image had made the cover! This is the annual hard-cover coffee table book published by the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) that showcases the images selected for their prestigious Loan Collection.  While I knew that the image had been selected for the Loan Collection and would appear in the book, I had no idea that it would appear as the cover photo.

This image, titled "Blowin' In The Wind," was taken in St. Augustine, FL. The great egret was perched in a tree on a very windy morning, and when the wind caused its breeding plumage to go a bit crazy, I was in the right place at the right time to grab a few shots before the moment passed.

I thought long and hard before deciding to enter this image in the competition since it is certainly not a typical "beauty" shot of an egret, and not generally what judges look for in a successful image. But I loved the unique moment, and the the high-key white-on-white look. So I threw caution to the wind and took my chances.

I have been competing in the PPA annual photo competition for over 3 decades, and have been fortunate to have many of my images selected for the Loan Collection during that time and published in the annual book. But never in my wildest dreams did I ever think an image of mine would be selected for the cover.

The reason for that is that the majority of photographers in the PPA are portrait and wedding photographers, and most years it is a portrait or wedding image that makes the cover. There are a few of us wildlife and nature photographers who are members, and often it is an uphill battle to have a wildlife or nature image do well in the annual competition. Nevertheless, we persist in trying year after year!

So in the most recent 2019 competition, I was thrilled to have two of my bird images selected for the Loan Collection. The other bird image is an eagle in flight taken in Alaska (see it in the August 25, 2019 Blog post).

The lesson for all of us is that if you love an image, you should go ahead and enter it in completion. After all, the worst that will happen is that it will not be accepted. So go for it!

TECH SPECS
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.

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, July 16, 2020

Soft Yet Fire-y Sunrise


This dramatic sunrise was taken in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. It was quite unusual to see both soft pinks with a backdrop of fire-y orange and yellow tones.

Admittedly I have enhanced the colors quite a bit in Lightroom. Generally I do not go quite so far in making modifications in post-processing, but I felt this image needed some punching in order to convey the sense of drama I felt when viewing the scene. I would not enter this in any nature-based photo competitions since the modifications take this image well beyond the actual look of the scene. But for artistic purposes, in order to convey the feel of the place, I was OK going a bit overboard with artistic license.

When using software to improve the look of images, it is all too easy to go too far. Over-sharpening and over-saturating are common pitfalls, especially when entering images into competition. Normally all you want to do is to bring the RAW image close to what the scene actually looked like. But there are times, as in this case, when your personal decision is to add drama and mood to an image.

Since photography is essentially a communication device, there are times when communicating YOUR take on the image outweighs the general rule to preserve the actual look of the scene. It is best to choose your battles, and not add extreme drama to all your images. But for those images that can be made more powerful in order to communicate your message, you should feel comfortable going farther than normal.

TECH SPECS
1.3 seconds at f/22, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 76mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive - to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love."  --Marcus Aurelius

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Missing Alaska


I am SO missing Alaska this summer. The pandemic has certainly had a major impact on travel near and far. So today I want to share this breaching whale image. To me, it shows the exuberance all of us will feel once this terrible pandemic is over and we can freely and safely be with friends and family. AND be able to travel again!

So for now, we can travel vicariously by reviewing our images from past trips. Often when reviewing older images I find some hidden gems that I had overlooked before. So I highly recommend taking a walk down memory lane with some of your travel photos from past years and see what you can find.

For now, stay safe and healthy. And watch for news of 2021 trips and workshops!

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 214mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "And let us remember too that life, in its exuberance, always succeeds in overflowing the narrow limits within which man thinks he can confine it."  -- Jacques Yves Cousteau

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Snuggled In For Safety


This Black-necked Swan signet was snuggled under its mother's wing. It looks so at peace, secure and protected. I thought it was a perfect antidote for the still tense times we are living in. 

While officially things have begun opening up across the country, we are being told to stay at home as much as possible for our own safety. So I have chosen to listen to that advice and am working online in our virtual world at this time. I hope you are staying close to home and are not putting yourself or others at risk. Patience and tolerance are the watchwords of these surreal times. 

This shot was taken at a bird breeding facility in North Carolina. Because the facility has large ponds with a variety of birds that are not too far away, and walkways surrounding them, it is relatively easy to get close-up images. 

This black-and-white conversion was done in Lightroom, my post-processing software of choice. After converting it to black-and-white, I moved the Clarity slider to the left to reduce mid-tone contrast which gave the image a soft, dreamy look. When working on images of soft subjects,  flowers, or misty scenes, I find that reducing Clarity adds just a touch of softness that enhances the overall look and feel of the image.  Be careful not to go too far, however, since the image can quickly become too mushy and lose detail. For this look I usually move the Clarity slider to approximately minus 15 to 25, but this image could handle more softness, so I moved Clarity to minus 50. 

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with Canon 1.4X extender for an effective focal length of 280mm, on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A healthy tomorrow, for yourself and all those you care about, is the reward for practicing safe behavior today."  -- Mollie Isaacs   



Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fond Thoughts of the Open Road


Ahhhh........  The open road. How I look forward to getting back out there with you on a photo workshop! For now we still are better off not putting ourselves, or others, at risk so I am playing it safe by staying close to home and not running any workshops or photo tours at this time. But rest assured that big plans are in the works for 2021.

In the meantime I am offering webinars and online training in an effort to keep you focused on photography, and building more of your skills and confidence.

This image was taken last year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was on a narrow, tree-lined road off the beaten path. This is a single exposure made with a slow shutter speed to give a feeling of movement and softness. The end result is a somewhat impressionistic look of the scene.

Not all nature images need to convey a realistic version of the scene. Sometimes it is good to create images that impart a feeling rather than just a record shot of where it was taken.

This is a simple technique made from a moving vehicle. I call it a "drive-thru."  Here is how it was done:

1. First find a tree-lined, narrow gravel or dirt road, or an old paved road with no painted lines. You want it to be a road with no traffic so that you are not interfering with any traffic flow. This is very important since the car will be moving forward at only about 5 miles per hour. This works best when the trees are large enough to keep much of the sky from showing.

2. Since for now it is still important to maintain social distancing and not ride with someone who might be asymptomatic, it is best to have someone who is living with you in your home drive the vehicle. You are in the passenger seat. Please do NOT do this while you are driving since it will put you at risk. When we return to more normal times, this works well when the driver is another photographer so that each of you can trade off periodically, giving each of you a chance to get some shots.

3. When you are shooting, keep your seat belt on, and lean as far forward in your seat as possible. That will put your lens fairly close to the windshield to avoid possible reflections on the windshield from the car's dashboard or your clothing.

4. Wear medium-toned clothing to also avoid adding unwanted reflections in the windshield. Avoid wearing white, red, or other strong or bright colors.

5. Lens - use a lens with approximately a 100mm focal length. It can be either a zoom or a fixed focal length lens. Avoid wide angle lenses since that will often bring too much overhead sky into the image, and can also include unwanted portions of the car's dashboard or sides.

6. Camera settings - This is easiest with your camera set on Shutter Priority. Set your camera to ISO 100, with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec. The f/stop will set itself, and it does not matter much what the f/stop is.

7. Lean forward in your seat and focus on a tree trunk approximately 20 feet away from the car. You will not need to refocus again. This works best when your camera is set up with back-button focus so that your camera is not refocusing each time you press the shutter button.  If you are unfamiliar with back-button focus, you can read about it here

8. Now the driver can begin driving down the road at approximately 5 mph. Aim your camera straight out the windshield and start shooting. Take many shots since you never know exactly what you will get.

9. Tips - 1) look for slight curves or bends in the road since that will add leading lines;  2) for some shots, move your camera slightly up and down during the exposure to add more of a sense of movement;  3) feel free to experiment with different camera movements and different shutter speeds; 4) just let yourself go and try a variety of different things since you never know exactly what you will get. The goal is to have fun and end up with some unique and wonderful images.

10. Since each and every shot is an experiment, expect to get many bad shots that do not make you happy. That is perfectly normal. Often I will get only one or two shots I like out of dozens and dozens of attempts.

So get out there and have some fun with a friend! You might end up with real prize winners!

TECH SPECS
1/2 sec. at f/14, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 100mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make, the better."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Happy Honor


I was happily surprised to be contacted by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) informing me that this black-and-white image of puffins is being showcased on their website this week. Always an honor to have an image selected! Here is the link to their site
http://www.nanpa.org
It is one of several images on the NANPA Home Page, which will cycle through automatically.

You may remember seeing this image on the Blog earlier this year. It was shot on a small island in the Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska near Lake Clark National Park. I was lucky that these Horned Puffins briefly posed themselves in the perfect position to create a beautiful line formed by their white and black feathers.

The original color image had grass in the background which I found distracting. So I replaced the background with a light gray background created in Photoshop. And while the bills were quite colorful, I chose to create this monochromatic version to better showcase the texture and contrast of the entire image.

When making extensive changes like this, you must disclose that when entering any nature and wildlife competition. Generally I do not significantly change an image from its original appearance, but sometimes it is good to exercise your creative muscles and go for something unusual or unexpected.

TECH SPECS
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: "Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretative."  -- Elliott Erwitt

Saturday, May 9, 2020

FREE Live Webinar for Camera Clubs


FREE Live Webinar - Lightroom Unleashed


Because we are still staying at home to remain safe from the coronavirus, I am offering a FREE live Webinar to camera clubs that would like to provide continuing learning opportunities to members. 

My very popular "Lightroom Unleashed" Webinar is an information-packed opportunity to learn how to quickly and easily take your images from Sad to Spectacular. Above you can see the RAW Before and After images, showing post-processing in Lightroom. All changes were done totally in Lightroom. No other software was used. 

The webinar covers many of my secrets for getting great results quickly. You will see a variety of Before and After images, and how the transitions were done. 

You will learn:
- how to use Lightroom most effectively to take your images from blah to boffo,
- a simple, fast, and foolproof Lightroom workflow,
- which tools and sliders are best to use, and how to use them,
- which tools and sliders to AVOID and why,
- why the histogram in Lightroom is so important,
- why the Gradient tool is a better choice than the Vignette tool,
- and more!

If your club is interested in making this Webinar available to members, please email me at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com as soon as possible. We can schedule the Webinar on a day and time that is best for your club. Demand has been high for this opportunity. I hope you can join me online!

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III extender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create."  -- Buddha