Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Off To The Ends Of The Earth

I leave today for the ends of the earth. I am headed to Patagonia and Antarctica, two places I have never been before. It is an exciting scouting trip for possible group trips in the future. 

These are two locations I have always wanted to see. Will spend about a week in Patagonia photographing the sweeping landscapes, glaciers, and wildlife like puma and guanaco. Then will spend about 5 days in Antarctica photographing icebergs and various penguin species, and possibly whales and other wildlife. Antarctica is one of the last pristine areas left on Earth. It is largely untouched and unpopulated.

Since I have never been in this part of the world before, today's image is a closeup of an iceberg in Alaska. 

I will be in some remote areas with minimal internet service so it might be awhile before I can post another Blog entry. Will try to update you when I can.

1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 300mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If Antarctica were music, it would be Mozart. Art, and it would be Michelangelo. Literature and it would be Shakespeare. And yet it is something even greater; the only place on earth that is still as it should be. May we never tame it."  --Andrew Denton

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving

At the start of the holiday season, 
I wish you joyous and peaceful times

"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow."  --Melody Beattie

"As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

May your Thanksgiving be filled with family and friends, 
love and laughter, and the joy of life. 
And as always, Seize The Day!


Friday, November 22, 2019

More Lightroom Magic

Here is another example of how much Lightroom can improve an image easily and quickly. I was walking along the rocky shoreline in Juneau, Alaska last summer and saw this still life scene. One of the things I love about walking on the beach or along the edge of any body of water is to see what I can find. I don't always find something photogenic, but when I do, it is exciting. I never move or add any elements. If it is there and it looks interesting just as it is, I will photograph it. So when I came across this feather and rock, I was excited.

But the original RAW image was not as punchy as this final version, nor did I get as close to the subject as I should have. Here is the original before anything was done in Lightroom.
It is flat, rather blah, and not cropped in tightly enough. While the scene excited me when I came across it, the RAW image was quite disappointing. Frankly I was ready to delete it, but decided to try some post-processing in Lightroom to see if anything could be done to make it more visually appealing.

The first step was to crop it to eliminate much of the unnecessary background. Then it was time to go to work on bringing out the whites and the blacks that were there, but hidden.

Here are the steps I used to turn this into the final version at the top of the Blog. [Note: While your first instinct might be to use the Contrast slider to create more punch, that is not the best approach. In fact, I almost never use the Contrast slider. I find it is much better to make changes in small, controllable, incremental steps, rather than to make global changes that affect the entire image all at once. By controlling the Blacks, Whites, Shadows, and Highlights individually you will achieve much better results. ]

1. Move the Blacks slider to -100 to create deeper blacks.

2. Move the Clarity slider to +30 to boost mid-tone contrast.

3. Use the Graduated Filter tool to darken all areas around the feather. I brought the tool in from each of the 4 corners so that the rocks and sand were darkened, but not the feather or the rock on top of it.

4. Even though the image was shot in color, all the tones were either gray, white, or black so I converted it to a Black and White image in Lightroom to give it a full monochromatic look.

That's it. Four easy steps that made a big difference to the final image.

1/1000 sec. at f/10, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 105mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Found objects, chance creations.... The commonplace is miraculous if rightly seen."  -- Charles Simic

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Lightroom To The Rescue

As I have written many times before, Lightroom is my go-to software for post-processing. It is fast, powerful, easy to use, and if you make any mistakes or misjudgments, you can always go back and change whatever you want to.

This image is a great example of the power of Lightroom. It was shot in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park on a very overcast and misty day. Here is the original RAW image, before any Lightroom adjustments.
As you can see, it is a very blah, unexciting image. The mist obliterates most of the color and detail in the image. While the original scene was misty, it did not appear this gray and murky to my eyes. This is the kind of image that, when you first see it on your computer screen after downloading it, you instantly want to delete it as a "loser." But it pays to not be too hasty in that decision. At least take a few minutes to attempt some post-processing to see if there are hidden details that Lightroom can bring out and make better.

Only 5 easy steps were needed in Lightroom to bring out the hidden qualities in this image. Here are the steps used (note that the order of these steps, and the amount of change needed, will vary image by image - there are no hard and fast rules since each image is different and will need various amounts of changes):

1. Moved the Whites slider to +58 to increase the light tones.
2. Moved the Blacks slider to -31 to decrease the dark tones.
3. Moved the Clarity slider to +30 to increase mid-tone contrast.
4. Increase Saturation to +86 to improve color.
5. Dehaze filter to cut through the mist. (note that not all the haze has been removed - since it was a misty day I wanted some of that quality to still show in the image)

So when you first look at your images after downloading and see some that look, well, pretty bad, don't be too hasty to delete them. Take a few minutes to try a few things in Lightroom to see if you can reveal the hidden beauty that is most likely there.

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it."  --Confucius

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

A Thrill And An Honor

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I am happy and honored to announce that this image was selected as one of the Top 100 images in the recently concluded North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) annual competition. Over 3800 images were submitted. This is a pair of Horned Puffins taken in Alaska.

I entered it in the "Altered Reality" category since it is an artistic rendering of the original color image. I debated for a long time whether to enter a black-and-white version of such colorful subjects. We are used to seeing puffins in full color, so showing them in a monochrome image was a gamble. In this case, the gamble worked!

This breeding pair positioned themselves perfectly on their rocky perch. This rendering (done with Lightroom and Topaz) brings out the texture and contrast more clearly than what our eyes see in a color image.

1/1250 sec., 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: "Be passionate about your life. Learn to live without the fear of failing. Take a chance, you might just surprise yourself."  -- Nishan Panwar

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Timeless Spiral

Spiral shapes appear throughout nature, and have been adapted by man in a variety of ways. This spiral staircase in a lighthouse is reminiscent of the spiral of a nautilus shell. The beautiful ratio and repetition of shape make spirals fascinating photographic subjects.

This shot was made with my iPhone 10R, a device I rarely use for images. But sometimes it is handy, and very easy to use. And the sharpness is much improved over older iPhones.

This is a straight shot, not changed with some of the wonderful software available. We have so many options open to us, but sometimes a straight shot is a nice treat. I did use Photoshop to improve the color saturation.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Growth is a spiral process, doubling back on itself, reassessing and regrouping."
Julia Margaret Cameron

Friday, October 18, 2019

Florida Bird Photography Workshop

Join me for some of the best bird photography anywhere.
This is the time of year when some of the most beautiful 
Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, 
Snowy Egrets, 
and several 
species of Herons 
arrive in their breeding plumage. 

The birds will be nest building, mating, and raising chicks, and all of this will be happening close to us at eye level.

We will be in a private rookery that is beautifully designed with walkways that put us at tree-top level with the birds. This provides us with the best chances of getting close-up shots, and no long lenses are needed. All birds are truly wild, but are not bothered by our presence.

We will have special early access to the rookery before it opens to the public. And it is a short, easy walk into and around the rookery. Super bird photography does not get any better, or any easier than this.

In addition to the birds there will be shooting opportunities in the historic areas of St. Augustine, which bills itself as America's Oldest City. It is the home of significant landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, the Lightner Museum, and more.

This unique workshop includes:
- early entry and private time photographing birds in the rookery
- personalized instruction to make your bird photography the best it can be
- all rookery fees
- trolley and walking tour of historic St. Augustine
- image critiques
- Lightroom and Photoshop tips

Workshop is limited to 12 photographers.

FEE: Early sign-up fee is $1995 if you register no later than November 20. After that date the regular rate of $2495 applies. Fee includes all entry fees into the rookery, trolley tour of historic St. Augustine, extensive personalized instruction, image critiques, both in-the-field and classroom training, Lightroom and Photoshop tips. (Not included are lodging, meals, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special hotel rates have been arranged.)

DEPOSIT: A $500 deposit will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: Workshop begins in the late afternoon on Monday, March 30. Specific time and location will be provided when you register. Each day of the workshop will be a varied combination of bird photography, historic architecture, training, and image critiques. The workshop officially ends after a morning rookery visit on Saturday, April 4.  



or  CALL 757-773-0194

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Simple Pleasures

As photographers, we enjoy many of life's simple pleasures - a beautiful sunrise, wildlife encounters, or in this case a gently flowing stream. Being by the water is a primal experience for many of us, whether it is at the ocean or along forest streams.

Photographing moving water is relatively easy. To show the movement as in this image, a tripod is needed, as well as a cable release or remote trigger for your shutter. If you do not have either of those, you can still get great shots if you set your shutter on a 2-second delay. If you do not know how to do this, your owner's manual will have directions. The delay allows your camera to stop vibrating after you have pressed the shutter button. Even though you are on a tripod, there is still some vibration when you press the shutter, and allowing you camera the 2 seconds to settle down will result in sharp images.

I am always asked what the best shutter speed is to show the movement of water, and the answer is "it depends."  There is no hard and fast rule for the best shutter speed, since it will vary widely depending on how fast the water is moving AND how much movement you want to show.

For fast-moving water a shutter speed as short as 1/4 sec. can work well. For slower moving water often a shutter of several seconds or longer is needed.

The best thing to do is to start with a shutter speed of 1/4 sec. and then slow down the shutter speed in increments, up to several seconds or longer to determine what look you like the best. That way you have many options to choose from each and every time you do this type of photography.

It is important to remember that as you change the shutter speed, you must also change the f-stop so that the exposure on each shot is a good one. Just slowing down the shutter speed without changing the f-stop will result in over-exposed images. So be sure to check your Histogram on each shot to be sure you are getting good exposures.

3.2 seconds at f/20, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Simple pleasures are the last healthy refuge in a complex world."  -- Oscar Wilde

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