Monday, October 20, 2014

Remember This?

Remember this shot?  It was in the Blog several weeks ago with a question. You were asked if you liked this type of severe crop or not. A huge number of readers responded, and the opinions were all over the ballpark. Not surprising. Generally an unusual image results in all sorts of opinions.

The "vote" was about a 50-50 split between those who liked it and those who did not. Some people thought it should have been cropped even more, and others were disturbed by the missing head. Most people liked the wing position and the stream of water coming off the feet.

No question that this is an odd-ball image. Truthfully it is probably not one I would enter in competition or hang in my home. But it does serve to illustrate that, once again, the worth of an image is in the eye of the beholder.

Each of the opinions expressed were heartfelt and valid. I appreciate your input and the time you took to comment.

Comments on any and all images posted on the Blog and on Facebook are welcome. Feel free to weigh in at anytime, and both positive and negative comments are welcome.

Speaking of Facebook, please take a moment now to become a Fan and "Like" our Facebook page. We are getting closer to our target of 500 "Likes" on Facebook, and you can help put us over that goal! Go to our Facebook page here   Then "Like" us.


TODAY'S QUOTE: "Go and make interesting mistakes, make amazing mistakes, make glorious and fantastic mistakes. Break rules. Leave the world more interesting for your being here."  --Neil Gaiman

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Predicting Fog

Fog and mist are superb elements in landscape photographs. But how do you know when and where to look for it?

It is actually easier than you might think. When days are relatively warm but nights are cool, fog generally forms on water and in low lying areas. These conditions often occur in spring and fall. The trick is to arrive on the scene around sunrise, before the temperature rises and the fog dissipates.

This particular morning was chilly and breezy. The fog was blown around by the wind and the scene kept changing, with more or less of the mountains showing in the foggy conditions.    

In changing conditions, shoot as many images as you can since these sorts of scenes are rarely repeated on a different day. Each day is different, and you want to maximize your chances of getting those great shots when you can.

Exposures can be dicey because often fog or mist is brighter than it might appear to your eye. Your camera's meter should do a reasonably good job of nailing an adequate exposure, but be sure to check the histogram every few shots to make sure the whites are not too bright and the darks are not too underexposed.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 98mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Most consequential choices involve shades of gray, and some fog is often useful in getting things done."  -- Timothy Geithner

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Alaska - The Last Frontier

Glacier Bay, tucked up at the northern end of Alaska’s famous Inside Passage, is home to a whole host of wildlife species. Whales, sea otters, puffins, seals, sea lions, and more make this area home until late autumn.

I’m excited to be taking a group to Glacier Bay in August 2015.

Sea otters win the “cute factor” hands down. They seem to appeal to almost everyone. Their innocent faces, sleek skill in the water, boundless energy, and facile flippers make them a favorite.

Because they generally stay in one place for a reasonably long time, and seem so curious about the 2-legged creatures looking at them from the floating craft nearby, they are relatively easy to photograph. Shooting from our private chartered boat, our captain knows these waters inside and out, and can get us close enough to photograph them easily while not intruding on their feeding or social behavior.

Moving slowly in the water, our boat will stay in close proximity for as long as the otters tolerate our presence.

In these same waters are whales, calmly feeding and diving nearby. These magnificent animals seem to move effortlessly in spite of their large size, and will come and go within easy shooting range. We never chase the whales since that stresses them and disturbs their feeding. They generally feel safe around boats and will often come to us if we are quiet, making them easy to photograph.

In addition to amazing wildlife, we will spend a day cruising the length of Glacier Bay to view its massive but rapidly disappearing glaciers, with beautiful mountains as a backdrop. This is a photographer’s paradise, and we will have opportunities to capture images that others only dream about.

There are only 4 spaces left on this trip of a lifetime, so if you are interested, please contact us right away. Complete information is available here

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  --Mark Twain

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Reflections Part 3

Today's Part 3 of the series on reflections shows another beautiful lake scene in the Canadian Rockies, but the composition is very different from the previous blog shots.

At first glance, it is a simple shot with the horizon line in the center. Notice that unlike the earlier posts, no sky is shown in this image. That is because the trees and their reflection are the main subject. But look closer and analyze this image before reading further. Take your time. Look at it carefully.

Do you notice anything different between the real trees and their reflection?

The tops of the trees on the shoreline are essentially straight across. You could draw an almost straight line from left to right along tops of the trees. But now look at the reflection.

The line across the tops of the trees in the reflection is not at all a straight line. A line drawn from left to right along the reflection of the tops of the trees would have several dips and curves. Quite different from the real trees.

It is that curving line that adds interest and a little punch to the image. That sort of subtle difference can enhance an otherwise static composition. Keep your eyes open and your wits about you, even when photographing the simplest of subjects. A simple shot can be improved greatly by paying attention to the lines and shapes created by your subjects.

Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you've done something right, no one will know you did anything at all."  --anonymous  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Reflections Part 2

In Part 1 of this series there was a complete scene shown both above and in the reflection. In this image, the complete scene is shown in the reflection, but only a portion of it above. Why the difference?

In this scene, the sky, while nice, was much more appealing in the reflection than in actuality. So I chose to crop out most of the sky above the mountains, but let it show in the reflection. Often colors in the reflection tend to be more intense than in the scene itself, and that was the case here.

Because most of the sky is cropped out at the top, the horizon line is above center. Placement of the horizon line is purely a personal choice, based on the elements of a scene. Art experts say that a horizon line placed in the center provides a sense of calm, while a low or high horizon line creates visual tension. The more off-center the horizon is, the more tension is created by the image.

I included a small rectangular boulder in the lower left to act as an anchor point.

Because of the strong contrast – bright white clouds and very dark green trees – some optimization was needed in Lightroom to bring both extremes under control.

Shutter Speed 1/640 sec.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 98mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “We should be filled with awe and joy at what lies over the horizon. And we should be filled with absolute determination to make the most of it.”  --Bill Clinton

Monday, October 6, 2014

Reflections Part 1

I have returned from a wonderful month in the Canadian Rockies. While the trip is over, I still have many more images to share with you, complete with educational and creative information.

This is the first in a series on reflections in water. There are few things more calming and pristine than a lovely scene reflected in a crystal clear lake.

When working with reflections, you have several creative choices which will be covered in this series. You can show the entire reflection, as you see here, or you can show portions of reflections. Because the entire scene and its reflections were so perfect, and the clouds were nice, I chose to show the entire scene.

There were several options for vantage points, and I chose this one carefully. I wanted the curving shoreline to lead the eye into the scene, and I wanted more of the mountains to show than the trees.

Often in photos of reflections, the scene takes up about half the space and the reflection occupies the other half. That is not a rule, but sometimes it seems to work well, as in this image. 

Some scenes and landscapes seem to lend themselves to black-and-white, and that is certainly the case in the Canadian Rockies. The dark evergreens, the light snow, and the mirror reflection combine to create a simple but effective palette of whites, blacks, and grays. As I have mentioned in past blogs, Lightroom can be a good tool to use for creating excellent black-and-white images. By using the BW portion of the HSL box, and then using the color sliders to control the lightness or darkness of selected portions of the image, you can create an image with strong shades of gray and can control the range of blacks and whites.

There will be an in-depth, no-holds-barred Lightroom class offered March 16 – 20,  2015 in Richmond, Virginia. This class will be geared both for those new to Lightroom as well as seasoned veterans. Details are not yet posted on the website, but if you received the September newsletter you can read about it there. Or call 757-773-0194 or email for details.  

Shutter Speed 1/200 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4 set at 27mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The more I see, the less I know for sure.”  --John Lennon

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Golden Glow

We woke up early to be on location shortly after sunrise to photograph a huge male elk and his harem of about a dozen females. We found them right where we had seen them the previous afternoon. We also found a gaggle of photographers with huge lenses and not much sense, walking much too close to the animals and following them into the nearby brush as they grazed. With their long lenses there was no need to be so close, but their egos and their sense of entitlement seemed to overpower their common sense and respect for the animals.

I was glad when a ranger appeared and gave them a serious but polite lesson on safety around large animals. Of course they already knew all that they were told, but apparently did not think the law of the jungle applied to them.

In any case, we shot for about an hour and got some great images of the large male and several females. While the intrepid group of disrespectful photographers followed behind the group of elk as they moved on into thick woods, we decided to venture down the road in search of whatever we could find.

In less than 2 minutes we came upon two young male elk walking in a wide river just off the road. We arrived just as the sun was cresting above the hillside behind the river, creating yellow-orange highlights on the pristine blue water. The animals were silhouetted against the bright water. We were thrilled at the incredible sight, pulled safely off the road, grabbed our cameras and began shooting. One of the elk walked slowly forward, aligning himself with the brightest streak of sunlight on the water.

What a lucky find! It was the shot of a lifetime, one of many we have experienced on this trip. Had we stayed at our previous location, following the herd (of elk AND photographers) we would have missed seeing this beautiful scene.

Pure luck? Yes. But also a small amount of common sense. We knew we had captured good images of the herd at the first location, and did not need to hang around there any longer. We sought greener pastures, and we sure did find them!

Because the river was so brightly lit, I exposed for the water, allowing the elk to be silhouetted. His perfect profile makes clear what he is, and no detail is necessary on his fur or face.

So once again this blog is about good sense around animals, not following the crowd, and making your own luck as much as possible to find great shots when you do not expect them.

Shutter Speed 1/3200 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “The one who follows the crowd will usually go no farther than the crowd. Those who walk alone are likely to find themselves in places no one has ever been before.” Unknown (various attributions)

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Mellow Yellow

It was late morning and we had completed our search for wildlife in the early morning light. It was time to move on to look for scenics and water reflections. Or so we thought.

We stopped at one of the many exquisite mountain lakes in the Canadian Rockies where we knew some yellow-leaved aspens lined part of the shoreline. We took a few shots and then noticed some movement in the water. Through the binoculars we could see that there were several male and female loons. They were far away, so we got out our longest lenses, set up the tripods and began to shoot.

As the loons moved around the lake, diving for fish and swimming on the surface, they eventually swam toward an area where the yellow aspens were reflected in the water. This was a shot of a lifetime! In this large lake there were many evergreens reflected in the water, but just a small area where the aspens, in peak fall color, were reflected. How lucky that the loons swam into that area, just when we happened to be there.

The yellow was a good backdrop for the loon’s neutral color and gave great punch to this image.

When we arrived at the lake we thought we were done with wildlife for the day, but clearly Mother Nature had other plans. Being flexible and open to all opportunities is a good philosophy to follow when photographing in any natural environment. You just never know what will present itself around the next bend.

Shutter Speed 1/3200 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with external 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: “I feel that luck is preparation meeting opportunity."  --Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sunset Surprise

When deciding to photograph sunset, you never know how it is going to go. Sure, you can check the timing and choose a location, and you can make an educated guess regarding color (or lack thereof) based on clouds and weather conditions. But in truth, Mother Nature has an infinite bag of tricks and you never know which one she will spring on you at the last minute.

This sunset is a great example of the unexpected. We had hoped for great color and classic cloud shapes. What we got was subtle color, unusual clouds, and an odd, long, low-hanging cloud that reflected the peachy-pink sunset.

Use of a wide-angle lens enhanced this sunset immensely. The extreme wide-angle view brings your eye into the picture from the top and sides, and directs you to the long, low line of the colorful cloud, the strongest warm tone in the image.

The line of mountains acts as a base. While often mountains are the main attraction in an image, in this case, they just support the very brief drama played out in the sky above.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/11.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L set at 23mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE:  "There's nothing like a beautiful sunset to end a healthy day."  --Rachel Boston

Sunday, September 21, 2014


Sometimes it is fun to attribute human characteristics to animals or flowers. That is what happened when I saw this group of four flowers blooming outside a hotel in the Canadian Rockies. The three on the right seemed to have turned their backs to the one on the left, hence the title “Snubbed.”

Once I saw the lineup of flowers, it was necessary to position the camera to isolate them from the rest of the nearby blooms, and then to control the background. Because part of the background was in sunlight and part was in shadow, I had three choices  -  either shoot from a low position so that the sunlit area filled the background, shoot from a higher position so that the shadowed area filled the background, or split the difference and make the background partly sunlit and partly shaded. I shot from all three angles and then chose my favorite after I downloaded and could look at them on the computer screen.

As you can see, I chose the view with a partly sunlit and partly shadowed background. In all cases I used a shallow depth of field in order to blur the background.

I find I have the most success when I shoot from a variety of angles and vantage points. Sometimes it is easier to see which view is better once you see the images on your computer screen, and it is nice to have choices after a day of shooting. So don’t lock yourself in to just one option. Take your time, shoot a lot of images, and make final decisions later.

Shutter Speed 1/125 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Nobody sees a flower - really - it is so small it takes time. We haven't time, and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time."  --Georgia O'Keeffe