Monday, April 18, 2016

Zebra Stripes Landscape

I often speak about being an opportunist when out photographing. While you might seek out a location or a subject with something specific in mind, you always have to be open to whatever presents itself.

I have seen this famous scene in Denali National Park several times over the past few years, and it has never looked like this. It had snowed a day or two earlier, and the snow had melted in an almost zebra-like pattern. This was not the shot I had envisioned when we set out that day, but it is what Mother Nature provided and it is a unique and interesting image.

What helps hold this image together is the strong leading line of the road. It takes your eye from the bottom of the image and curves it around into the misty distance. You are led through the scene along the curves and through the white stripes.

So don't let you head or your heart hold you back. Always be ready to shoot whatever presents itself. You never know what wonderful images might result. 

TECHNICAL DATA  Shutter Speed 1/800th sec.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is better to be prepared for an opportunity and not have one than to have an opportunity and not be prepared."  --Whitney M. Young

Friday, April 15, 2016

Macro Mania

Macro can be addictive. Once you start shooting, a variety of different possibilities begin to reveal themselves. It can be a very creative process, and each image you make takes you to another and another and another. That is all part of the creative process - letting one idea or composition take you on an exciting road of invention and creativity.

This image was made with just 3 items - a narrow clear glass vase, and two pieces of colored paper. The green paper essentially becomes the base, and the magenta paper forms the background. In a shot this simple, composition and color are the key elements.

So let's examine the composition. Look at the placement of the colored papers and the vase. They are angled slightly to create a flow from upper left to lower right. The angle was achieved by simply tipping the camera slightly. Also notice the matching triangular shapes at the upper right and lower left. They are about the same size and because of their placement in the corners, they serve to keep the viewer's eye within the frame and not wander out. 

The center of interest is the white curved area, which is near the bottom of the vase. The white is created by the reflection of the light source, a small lightbox set up to the right of the subject, just out of view. This area was placed off-center to provide visual tension in the image. Visual tension is also created by the use of opposing colors, with the warm magenta being a counterpoint to the cool green.

What is visual tension? It is a technique, achieved in a variety of ways, to engage the viewer and to prevent the image from being too static or uninteresting. It is a dynamic approach used by artists and photographers to draw viewers into the image, and to keep their attention. It can employ movement, the use of space, balance or imbalance, opposing colors, and more.

So when composing any image, and especially macro and abstracts, think about all the compositional elements possible. Then experiment with camera position, camera angle, placement of the center of interest, and positioning of the other elements to create the strongest image you can.

To learn more about macro photography, come to the Macro Mania photo workshop at the Outer Banks of North Carolina on May 23 - 26.  Details here     You will learn a variety of creative techniques, AND have time to photograph on the beach as well. It's the best of both worlds. We will work indoors with different subjects, props, and lighting, and then outdoors to work with shells on the beach, wave action, etc. Don't miss this great macro workshop!

Shutter Speed 1/125 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro 2.8. Camera: Canon 5D Mark II. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I found I could say things with color and shapes that I couldn't say any other way - things I had no words for."  --Georgia O'Keeffe

Sunday, April 10, 2016

It's a Small World

Photography can be as exciting and varied as the world around us. It can also help us see new worlds that we never knew existed, right under our noses. That is the world of Macro Photography.

Macro is a continuing adventure to find the small, the insignificant, the unseen. And then to make it visually appealing. Study this image for a moment and come up with some ideas about what it is and how it was created. All will be revealed below.

Tick tock.  Tick tock. Any ideas yet? Write a few down before reading further. In all honesty, I never expected the subject I used to end up looking like this.

OK time's up. It is a macro shot of............... [wait for it]................... a rainbow-colored plastic wind twirler. You know, one of those things you hang from your deck that twist in the wind. It came from a dollar store and measures about 6 inches across.

Here is the set-up. It was very simple, created on my kitchen counter.  
Nothing fancy. But the lighting is key. It was shot at night in a dark room. The only light source was a small LED light made by Promaster and sold by Hunt's Photo and Video 

This little baby is a real powerhouse. It provided enough light for me to be able to handhold the camera. While I use a sturdy tripod when needed, when shooting macro I much prefer to handhold.  That allows me to get in exactly the position I want quickly, and not have to fiddle with moving the tripod, adjusting its leg height, and so on. It is so much easier to be free and be able to handhold the camera.

I also like that it is rechargeable AND has a dimmer switch so you can control the amount of light as needed. For more information on the Promaster LED 120SS light, contact Gary at Hunt's at 781-662-8822. (Mention you heard about it here, and get very special treatment.)

But back to the shot. Once I placed the wind twirler on the blue paper, and set the light off to the side as shown, I tried several different camera angles and positions to find something that looked good. The macro lens allowed me to get very close to one of the bars of the twirler, and by using a very shallow Depth of Field the rest of the subject became just a blur. The light reflecting off the shiny plastic created the soft dots of color.

The overall feeling is that you are looking into a distant tunnel, when in fact the entire twirler is only a few inches in size.

So go to a dollar store in your area, or find interesting objects you already own, and start creating your own unique macro images. If you want to participate in a full immersion macro workshop, come to the Outer Banks of North Carolina May 23 - 26 for the popular Macro Mania Workshop. We will shoot macro and beach scenes in the mornings and afternoons, and indoor macro set-ups indoors at mid-day. We'll have fun in the sun at the beach, and you will learn great new and creative macro techniques! There are still a few spaces left. Details at

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/3.2.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS. Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Look at [a] picture as a graphic representation of a mood and not as a representation of objects."  --Wassily Kandinsky

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Be More Creative

It's Spring and the time for renewal. As photographers, we all need a boost now and then. In the springtime there is nothing like flowers to get those creative juices flowing. Go find some flowers either in a botanical gardens or your own backyard and then photograph them in ways you have never tried before.

Try extreme close-ups, or try different angles. Try shooting in open shade and bright sunlight. Use shallow Depth of Field to zero in on an area you want to be sharp, and let everything else go out of focus.

This flower was shot in open shade using very shallow Depth of Field to highlight just the yellow-green center. Everything else has been rendered artfully soft. This is one of several techniques we will work on at the Creative and Impressionist Flowers Workshop at Longwood Gardens coming up June 13 - 16. More information at this link

When photographing flowers, or indeed any subject, think about the direction of the light, the quality of the light, and what moves you about the subject. Think about what is most important to you about the particular subject - is it the color, the shape, the texture, or something else? It could be a combination of factors. Once you determine what moves you the most, you can begin to approach the subject with that in mind, and create images that are truly a representation of you.

For this shot, I chose an angle that made the center of the flower appear protected by the surrounding petals. Shooting it from a different angle would have created a completely different feeling.  So get out there and play. Stimulate your creativity by either photographing on your own, or consider joining me at Longwood Gardens in June for a full immersion workshop to jump start your creativity and to learn new techniques.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 800. 
Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 135mm, with Savage Macro Art variable extension tube [for Canon    or for Nikon  ]  (For more information on this unique new tool, contact Gary at Hunt's Photo and Video at 781-662-8822.) 
Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity is seeing what everyone else has seen, and thinking what no one else has thought."  --Albert Einstein

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Simple Pleasures

No fanfare. No hoopla. Just a beautiful day with sunshine, light breezes, calm waters, and a graceful egret in search of lunch.

Several elements make this image successful. First and foremost is the sharp reflection of the bird who has struck a lovely pose. In addition, the green leaves reflected in the water create a simple and colorful background.

The other major element that helps this image work is the light subject against a darker background. The egret almost pops off the screen. The warm-toned orange bill is a nice counterpoint against the cool greens.

The final touch, just a lucky happenstance, is that the largest black areas in the water frame the overall scene on the left and right. That helps to focus the eye on the bird and prevents us from straying out of the picture.

While we often have no control over the elements in a scenic or wildlife image, we do have some control over composition and where choose to position ourselves. This helps us place elements in the best combinations possible, given the circumstances.

Shutter Speed 1/3200 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with 2x extender for an effective focal length of 800mm. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The real things haven't changed. It is still best to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasures; and have courage when things go wrong."  --Laura Ingalls Wilder

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Flower Fireworks

The famous Blue Poppies of Longwood Gardens are in bloom now. These rare flowers are cultivated by the expert Gardens staff and bloom only once a year. Native to the Himalayas, and the national flower of Bhutan, these gorgeous blooms have a unique color in the flower world.

Because these flowers are rare and on display for only a week or so each year, their arrival attracts a lot of photographers. I'm happy to report that everyone was respectful and careful to not get in each other's way. It is all too common that when a hoard of photographers crowd around a special subject, there are those who refuse to play nice. That always ends up being counterproductive, and gives all photographers a bad name. So I was very happy that everyone was able to get into a good position, with no frustration.

This was shot with an unusual combination of gear. I had been asked by Gary of Hunt's Photo and Video   to test a new extension tube that has a zoom feature, marketed by the Savage Company. Extension tubes have been on the market for years, and are designed to fit between the camera body and most lenses to enable close focusing for macro photography.

But this extension tube has a new twist, literally. You twist the zoom ring to lengthen or shorten the extension tube, allowing you get in closer as needed for a tighter shot. I used it with a 70-200mm lens, rather than a macro lens in order to see if it worked well enough for those who do not own a macro lens. I'm happy to report that it did. So this device turns almost any lens into a macro lens because it allows you to focus much closer to the subject. This image was taken just a few inches away from the flower.

It comes in either a Canon mount   or a Nikon mount

For more information contact Gary at Hunt's   or call 781-662-8822. Tell him I sent you and get special treatment!

Shutter Speed 1/320 sec.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 200mm, plus Savage Macro Art Variable Auto-Extension Tube.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It's nice to be important, but it's even more important to be nice."  -unknown     

Monday, March 14, 2016

Starburst Effect

Natural starburst effects are easy to do, and do not require special software or equipment. This was shot at the top of a mountain in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park at sunrise.

Here's how to achieve this effect:

1. The sun should be partially blocked by a solid area, in this case a heavy layer of clouds. It can also be blocked by a large tree trunk, building, or any other solid area.

2. A small aperture of f/16 or smaller is best. That is what causes the best streaks.

3. The type of camera or lens does not matter.

Here are some important safety pointers to be aware of:

1. Don't look directly at the sun for more than a fraction of a second. Doing so could damage the retina of your eye. The impact on your retina is enhanced when looking through the viewfinder, so be quick and careful.

2. In general, anytime the sun is part of the composition, do not aim the camera at the sun for more than a few seconds. It is all too easy, especially when the camera is on a tripod, to leave it aimed at the sun when you are not shooting. Doing so can cause damage to the camera's shutter mechanism, even when you are not actually shooting. So always move the camera away from the sun between shots. The other option, if you do not wish to move the camera between shots, is to put the lens cap on after each shot.

So go out and play, now that we are back on Daylight Savings Time (except you folks in Arizona and Hawaii) and spring is on the way!

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/25.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 90mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "You need to spend time crawling alone through the shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun."  --Shaun Hicks

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Jump Start Your Creative Juices

We all need a kick start once in awhile. If you feel your creativity is lagging, or your excitement with your photography has waned, it might be time for a full-immersion photo workshop.

The Creative And Impressionist Flowers workshop in Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania is just the ticket! Coming up June 13 - 16, this workshop will give you unique and creative insights into improving your photography. Details are here   

You will learn new things about composition, lighting, hand-holding your camera, and much more. All our workshops provide a great deal of personal attention, image critiques, lots of education, and a bit of fun!

This image was taken in their famous orchid room which has lovely natural light. It was optimized in Lightroom to bring out the beauty and drama of this bloom. Come and learn some great techniques, and move your photography in new and exciting directions.

Shutter Speed 1/640 sec.  Aperture f/3.2.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul."  --Luther Burbank  

Monday, March 7, 2016

How To Choose The Best Photo Workshops

You've told yourself many times that "someday" you will take a high-quality photo workshop or photo trip. You have put it off for much too long. Now is the time for you to act. Time is marching on and it is time for you to take the plunge.

There are many photographers who run photo trips. How do you choose? Ask these questions to help decide who is right for you.

-  Will the leader actually teach and work with you, or will they spend most of the time shooting their own images and ignore the group?

-  Will you receive individual attention and receive helpful critiques?

-  Will the leader help you be more creative and understand lighting?

-  Is your personal comfort & enjoyment an important part of the trip?

There are still a few spaces left in our workshops and trips coming up this year. Don't miss the opportunity to jump start your creativity and your photographic skills. You'll be glad you did! 

Here is a listing of what is happening

Today's image is an example of just one of the many options coming up in the MACRO MANIA workshop at the Outer Banks of North Carolina in May. The subject is a rainbow colored plastic slinky.

The March newsletter is out! If you did not receive your free copy you can read it here

Start your free newsletter subscription by sending us an email with the word YES in the subject line. That's all there is to it! Quick and easy. Email

Shutter Speed 1/160 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY QUOTE: "Art is making something out of nothing...."  --Frank Zappa

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Get More Creative With Flowers

Want to photograph some of the world's most beautiful flowers? Want to improve your creativity and your success rate? Then join me at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania in June for the best flower photo workshop around.

We'll spend 3 educational and inspirational days photographing flowers in unique and beautiful ways. Learn new skills, jump start your creativity, and discover some of the easiest and most foolproof ways to create exciting macro and impressionist flower images.

This image is all about color and line. It was created with NO tripod and all natural light. Flowers reflect and transmit light in beautiful ways. Once you understand how to see the light, and how to use it to your best advantage, your images will be elevated to a much higher level.

Once you have "seen the light" you can concentrate on composition and the use of color. Have fun and learn a lot at this unique workshop. Details here

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture F/3.5.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100 mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers are the music of the ground from earth's lips spoken without sound."  --Edwin Curran