Monday, September 18, 2017

Stud Muffin Moose

AFTER
We saw many beautiful moose, both male and female, in Denali National Park. All were in beautiful condition, preparing for mating and the winter season. This large bull seemed pleased to pose for us for quite awhile at fairly close range.

In Denali National Park it is important for photographers and visitors to respect the wildlife so as not to interfere with their mating or feeding habits. We always keep our distance, and when wildlife is close to our vehicle, we stay in the vehicle and shoot out the open windows. That was the case here. 

While this moose was beautiful, the original RAW image, shown here, was less that stellar.
BEFORE
It was dull and lacking in color and contrast, as often is the case with RAW images before image optimization. Lightroom brought this image to life. Just a few tweaks made all the difference. All it took was the use of the Blacks and the Whites sliders to expand the contrast a bit, and then the Shadows slider to lighten the moose's coat. The only other thing needed was Saturation to improve the color overall, and then the specific color controls in the Hue/Saturation/BW box to enhance the yellows, reds, and greens. Quick and easy.

So the next time you see a dull image don't despair. Use Lightroom to enhance the image and you will be pleasantly surprised.

Next year's Denali trip is filling fast. It is scheduled for August 25 - 31, 2018. Details here  http://awakethelight.com/denali-national-park/
Limited to only 10 photographers. Just a few spaces left. For more information contact me at   awakethelight@charter.net 

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nature always wears the colors of the spirit."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Friday, September 15, 2017

Denali Million Dollar View

AFTER

This was the Million Dollar view from the front porch of our lodge in Denali National Park, taken just after sunrise. It is the Alaska Range draped by dramatic clouds with fall colors in the foreground. A real feast for the eyes. This is the final version, after some tweaking in Lightroom. Notice how dimensional the clouds look, and the subtle but colorful autumn trees.

Below is the original uncropped RAW image before any work was done in Lightroom. I did minimal cropping on the sides and bottom, but extensive cropping on the top. I previsualized the cropping of the final version before I even clicked the shutter.
BEFORE
I knew I wanted to eliminate the dark clouds at the top in order to create a panoramic image. Even though it was a beautiful fall morning, the original RAW image lacks color, and looks dull and flat. Lightroom is my go-to software to take images from blah to boffo.

The basic steps, after cropping, were to lighten the shadows with the Shadows slider, and add texture to the light clouds with the Highlights slider. Then I increased Clarity 30% to boost mid-tone contrast. I then increased overall Saturation by about 50%, and did noise reduction of 30%. That's it. So in about 5 minutes or less all the latent beauty of this image was revealed.

Often when you first download your images you may be disappointed by the lack of color or contrast, and feel you made mistakes when you took the shot. In fact, it is rarely your fault, but rather the nature of the digital beast. Digital cameras often do not immediately reveal all the beauty and depth of an image, and need image optimization software (like Lightroom) to bring out all the details and color that are really there.

If you would like to experience this Million Dollar view for yourself, plus amazing wildlife every day, join me in Denali National Park next year. The trip is scheduled for August 25 - 31, 2018.  Details are at this link  http://awakethelight.com/denali-national-park/

This trip is limited to only 10 photographers, and there are only 5 spaces left. Send me an email if you would like more details  awakethelight@charter.net

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 75mm on Canon 5D Mark III camera body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The supreme reality of our time is the vulnerability of our planet. [May] future generations know the majesty of the earth as we know it today."  --John F. Kennedy
                                                                                               

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Postcard From Denali National Park


The photo tour to Denali National Park in Alaska has just ended, and what a trip we had! Today's photos are just a very small sampling of what we saw during our time there. 

From top to bottom, we had clear skies nearly every day and saw the huge snow-capped Alaska Range during most of our travels in the park. Fall colors were at their peak and we were treated to brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges. Fall in Denali is always a treat for the eyes and for the soul.

We had a beautiful sunrise morning with delicate shades of pink playing over the mountain tops. And we were treated to a rare sighting of an ermine, a tiny speedy little thing with sparkling eyes and a playful nature.

We also saw several moose at fairly close range, including this male and female relaxing at Wonder Lake at sunrise. It was such a treat to see a male and female together, and to have such a beautiful background for the image.

We watched caribou for quite awhile as they calmly munched on grasses. These two females eventually came closer together making this double portrait possible.

And on our last night we were treated to a dancing display of the Northern Lights, creating constantly changing swirls overhead.

Next year's Denali trip is already scheduled, and applications are now being accepted. The dates are August 25 - 31. If you are interested in this incredible trip, please email me and we can begin the application process. Details on the trip are at this link http://awakethelight.com/denali-national-park/ 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Wilderness is not a luxury, but a necessity of the human spirit."  --Edward Abbey

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Amazing Alaska


As many times as I have been to Alaska, it is always exciting to be here. Bringing photo groups here is an honor and a privilege year after year. The mountains, the wildlife, the waters, the glaciers, the scenery all work their magic no matter where in Alaska you go.

This is my sixth trip to Denali National Park, and each time it is different. It has never looked the same twice. While we almost always see snow-capped mountains and amazing wildlife like moose, caribou, grizzly bear, and the occasional wolf, we never know from day to day what Mother Nature will provide.

This year, as in all years, there is a full complement of 10 photographers traveling with me. We have a private naturalist guide and our own vehicle, and can move easily from place to place in search of photo ops.

I'll be out of internet range for the next week, but I hope to have some exciting images to share with you when I return.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Mother Nature is always speaking. She speaks in a language understood within the peaceful mind of the sincere observer."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Ahhh-laska


My annual trip to Denali National Park starts next weekend. I am eager to be back there, in our country's last frontier. This is a unique photo trip, and puts us in a place that few others get to experience. While we are literally at the end of the road deep in the heart of Denali, we stay in a lovely lodge with all the amenities, chef-prepared meals, and a private vehicle with an experienced naturalist driver.

It is one of the most popular trips of the year, and always fills quickly. Next year's trip has already been scheduled for August 25 - 31. Limited to only 10 photographers, this surely is the trip of a lifetime. ONLY 5 SPACES LEFT.

We usually see grizzly bear, the sweeping Alaska Range topped by Denali, North America's tallest peak, migrating caribou, moose with huge antlers, and the miles and miles of tundra in spectacular autumn colors.

For more details, go to our website at this link   http://awakethelight.com/denali-national-park/

I hope you can join me in Alaska next year!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In terms of wilderness preservation, Alaska is the last frontier. This time, given one great final chance, let us strive to do it right. Not in our generation, nor ever again, will we have a land and wildlife opportunity approaching the scope and importance of this one."  --Morris Udall

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse With A Twist


I was fortunate to be able to watch the solar eclipse from the upper deck of my house. I live on the coast of North Carolina, where we could see the eclipse at about 90%. Even though we could not see "totality," it was a wonderful thing to view.

Initially I was not going to photograph it at all, content to just enjoy the experience. But the photo bug got the better of me and I decided to try photographing it on my iPhone, using the special solar eclipse glasses I was wearing to protect the phone's lens. That did not work since the dark lenses caused the phone's shutter speed to slow down dramatically, preventing me from getting a sharp image.

By then I was motivated to try my "real" camera with a long telephoto lens. This was my first attempt to photograph an eclipse of any sort, solar or lunar, so I did some quick internet research to determine settings and the safety of shooting with no protective filter on the lens. Turns out that when most of the sun is blocked by the moon's shadow, it is safe to shoot with no protective filtration on the lens IF you point the camera at the sun only very briefly, take the shot and then immediately turn the camera away from the sun. Of course you still need to protect your eyes from the sun's glare as well.

I set the lens on manual focus, and set the focus ring to infinity. Then I quickly took about a dozen shots during the minute or so that the sun was mostly blocked by shadow. Because about 10% of the sun was never blocked by the moon's shadow from my vantage point, the light intensity was still great, requiring a short exposure and very small aperture.

When I downloaded the images, I was thrilled to find that some had a starburst effect, somewhat similar to what was described in yesterday's blog. I did not expect to see this effect during a solar eclipse.

Because of the intense light there was no color in the image, so I took creative liberty and used the Split Toning feature in Lightroom to add the yellow color.

The final effect is very different from most eclipse photos you might see. So the lesson for all of us is to never stop playing and experimenting with your photography. You never know what surprises might come your way.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec at f/57, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 490mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Matter Of Perspective


Sometimes elements line up in a serendipitous way. This small church in Iceland was framed by an arched entryway, and when viewed at the right angle, the sun created a starburst along the top.

This starburst effect can be created by using a solid object - a tree, building, or as in this case, the arch - to partially block the sun from your view. A small aperture like f/16, f/22, or smaller enhances the sharpness of the starburst. Using a wide angle lens also enhances the effect.

When incorporating the sun in an image, remember that it will always appear pure white.  Do not attempt to darken it because it can turn gray or muddy looking. So next time you are out shooting, look for the sun position and see what you can create.

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec at f/13, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens on Canon 5D Mark III. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."  --Unknown


Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Expect The Unexpected


I just returned from Iceland last night. It is one of my favorite places. It was an amazing trip with a wide variety of photo opportunities, including this completely unexpected sighting of an Arctic Fox. It was a young one who appeared on the grounds of one of our rural lodges. He was not concerned by our cameras, and stayed around for a few minutes, allowing us to get some shots.

He posed, he stretched, he yawned, and then curled up for a little snooze. Arctic Foxes are the only land mammal native to Iceland. It numbers have been declining in Iceland since 2010, and the population is now estimated to be about one-third of its former numbers. They are said to be comfortable around humans in areas where they are not hunted, and clearly this one was very comfortable with all the photographic attention he was getting.

Regardless of how tame any form of wildlife appears to be, it is always vitally important to realize that ANY wild animal can be unpredictable and should be approached carefully and treated with respect.

TECH DATA
1/320 sec at f/6.3 at ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Until he extends the circle of compassion to ALL living things, man will not himself find peace."  --Albert Schweitzer

Friday, August 11, 2017

Postcard From Iceland



Greetings from Incredible Iceland! As you can see from this postcard, this fantastic trip has netted us some amazing photographic opportunities. So far we have been traveling mostly in the northwest, northeast, and central portions of this welcoming island country. We have seen puffins, huge waterfalls, geothermal areas, unique farmhouses, and shown in the lower right, an unexpected appearance by an Arctic Fox. Fairly rare and reclusive, this was a real treat.

It is difficult to convey the range of elements in this small country. The magnitude and variety of its various features is compelling and makes me want to return again and again. The thunderous roar of its waterfalls, the sweeping scenes of stark volcanic formations, the calm coves along the ocean, the ponderous rock formations, the farmhouses tucked into hillsides, the famous Icelandic horses, and of course the very friendly and welcoming Icelanders all combine to make this one of my favorite places.

I am traveling with a wonderful group of photographers, guided by our top-of-the-line Icelandic guide Einar of Focus On Nature. He has gotten us to some of the best areas with friendly reassurance and a ready smile. We are a happy group, and have bonded in this shared experience. A full immersion photo trip, with people sharing the enjoyment of seeing new and exciting things, is the best way to enjoy travel AND to improve your photo skills and jump start your creativity.

We are only a little over halfway through our 10-day trip, and if internet service remains reliable, I hope to post another blog soon.

TECH SPECS
Puffin - 1/2000 sec. at f/8. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x Canon extender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Farmhouse  -  1/1000 sec at f/10.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 140mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Geothermal Area  -  1/60 sec at f/18. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Waterfall  -  8 seconds at f/22. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens at 32mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.
Turf roof  -  1/800 sec. at f/7.1. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Arctic Fox  -  1/320 sec at f/6.3. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment."  -- Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

As Far As The Eye Can See


As far as the eye can see is pretty darned far at 35,000 feet up. This was taken flying over Greenland on my way to Iceland where the photo tour begins in a few days. I always like to arrive a few days before the start of a photo tour to get everything prepared, and also to have time to acclimate to the time difference.

Flying over Greenland is like nothing you have ever seen. With about 75% of the continent covered in a permanent ice sheet, and 10,000 foot mountains peeking above it, it is a winter wonderland or a snow-covered wasteland, depending on your perspective.

Since this image was taken with an iPhone through the aircraft window, it lacks great quality but it is something I wanted to share with you. It was taken around 11PM, and you can see how light it was. We are just at the edge of the arctic circle, and even in early August there are very few hours of semi-darkness. The sun set around midnight, and when I arrived at my hotel around 2AM Iceland time, there was still light in the sky. We are definitely in the land of the midnight sun!

TECH SPECS
1/2500 sec., f/22, ISO 32. iPhone 6 with 4.15mm lens. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers."  --Kahlil Gibran