Thursday, September 24, 2020

Time For Another Virtual Trip

 


Today our virtual trip is to brown bear territory in Alaska. This young mother was very wary of the males in her territory. Males (called "boars") can be very aggressive toward small cubs so the mothers have to maintain a high level of alertness most of the time. She only ventured out with her cubs from their protected haven in the deep woods at the end of the day, and for a very brief time. She had 3 cubs, and the other two were frolicking under her watchful eye just out of camera range when I made this shot. This cub was the smallest of the three, and clearly had less confidence than the others, staying close to its mother all the time.

When the coast was clear she would bring the cubs out for a foray into the fields just beside the woods. Our guide knew her habits and we would stand for hours waiting for them to make an appearance. When they did appear, it was exciting and hundreds of shots were frantically taken in the brief time she and the cubs came into view.  

Normally I end each Blog with a quote, but today I'm instead sharing this cute analysis of bears that just came in via email. It has been around for awhile, but even if you have seen it before, it is still a fun thing to read:

"In this life I'm a woman. In my next life, I'd like to come back as a female bear. You get to hibernate and do nothing but sleep for 6 months. I could deal with that. Before you hibernate, you eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that, too. You birth your children (who are born the size of walnuts) while you're sleeping, and by the time you wake up they are partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that. As a momma bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that. If you're a bear, your mate expects you to wake up growling, AND expects you to have hairy legs and excess body fat. Yup, wanna be a bear!"

TECH SPECS  1/500 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for a focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.  


Saturday, September 19, 2020

In Memoriam

 


Today's Blog is posted in memory of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I had the honor of meeting her and photographing her back in the 1990's when I had my photo studio in metropolitan Washington, DC. Even though I did not spend much time with her, I was immediately struck by her humility and down-to-earth nature. 

In those days I had the honor of photographing many notables, including her good friend Justice Antonin Scalia. Even though they were polar opposites in terms of their political leanings, they and their families had been firm friends for many years. It struck me then, and even more so now, that it is possible for people whose beliefs do not match to still have respect for one another, and to feel the warmth of honest friendship. They viewed each other as colleagues and friends, not political enemies.

Today, when it seems that divisiveness, polarization, and sometimes outright hatred invade our daily lives, I have been reflecting on that deep friendship between the Ginsburg and Scalia families. I am hopeful that one day soon we can return to a greater sense of respect for each other, and help our country pull together as we once did.

I chose this photo today since it illustrates how separate rivulets of water can flow independently but ultimately end up coming together to form one mighty river. They coalesce and form a powerful union. That is my hope for the future.

While this Blog is not intended to make any political statement, I encourage you to vote in the November elections, regardless of your political leanings. Voting is one of the greatest privileges of living in a democracy, and we should never take that privilege for granted.

TECH SPECS   2 seconds at f/45, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you."  -- Ruth Bader Ginsburg



Tuesday, September 15, 2020

From Blah to Boffo

 


You have heard me sing the praises of Lightroom before, and this is one more example. Compare the Before image below to the main image above. They are the exact same RAW image, just improved greatly in Lightroom.

This was shot indoors at Longwood Gardens, so the lighting was soft and even. The beauty of these orchids was incredible, but the original RAW image here was really not exciting.


The bright spot in the background draws your attention away from the flowers. In addition, the background, even though very soft, is still distracting. So how was this image improved? It was pretty simple with just a few steps in Lightroom. The first step was cropping to eliminate the background issues. Then just a little tweaking of the Whites and Blacks, followed by a small reduction in Clarity (minus 22) to soften the flowers a bit more. I increased Vibrance a bit to punch the colors, and then used the Graduated Filter to darken the edges which added some drama. So in only 6 basic steps this image was transformed. 

The magic of Lightroom never ceases to amaze me. And it is quick and easy.

TECH SPECS  1/320 sec at ISO 800. LensBaby Sol 3.5 lens, 45mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A flower blooming in the desert proves to the world that adversity, no matter how great, can be overcome."  -- Matshona Dhliwayo   

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Just For Fun

 


Way back in January, when we were babes in the woods and did not realize how hard we were going to be hit with the pandemic, I made a brief trip to Longwood Gardens. Of course I did not know that this would be my last trip there, or anywhere else, for a loooooooong time to come. 

I came across this image of a Bird of Paradise flower today, and decided to play with it a bit. These are spectacular flowers with bright orange and blue tones. But this one, the best looking bloom that day, was partially blocked by the large leaf in the upper right. I tried a variety of angles, hoping to get a clear shot of the entire bloom, but this was the best that was possible at the time.

When I initially reviewed the images from that day, I was unhappy that I did not get the entire flower in the shot so I did not select it as one of my favorites at that time. But I did not delete it because I loved the colors and the overall look. If you have taken my workshops or trips, you know that I often recommend NOT deleting too many images when you review your shots. I find that I have to let them sit for awhile, and take a break from looking at them for days or weeks, or in this case even months. So when I viewed it today, I found it much more appealing than when I first saw it in January. 

I decided to try some effects in Topaz to give the image a more artistic look. I rarely use that sort of software since often they can introduce a very artificial look if you are not careful. A light touch is always the best approach when adding digital effects to your images, unless you are seeking a powerful or garish look for artistic purposes. 

So I tried Topaz Impression with the Georgia O'Keefe II filter. Initially it introduced the artificial look I try to avoid, but when I layered it over the original image and reduced its opacity to 30%, the effect was toned down significantly, and it added just a light painterly touch. 

It is great fun to play with filters and effects, just to see what works for your artistic eye. We all have different tastes, and you can expand your creativity by experimenting with a variety of options to find the looks that work for you. 

TECH SPECS  LensBaby Sol 45, f/3.5 at 1/640 sec, ISO 800 on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The enemy of photography is the convention, the fixed rules of 'how to do.' The salvation of photography comes from the experiment. " -- Laszlo Moholy-Nagy


Friday, August 28, 2020

Take A Virtual Break To Patagonia

 


It's the weekend so it is time for another virtual trip. This time let's go to Patagonia. I was fortunate to have traveled there last December before the Covid-19 pandemic began circulating around the world. It is an incredible place with huge craggy mountains, thousands of wild guanacos (a relative of the llama), and almost constant high winds. The winds can make photographing challenging at times. Heck, at times it even made standing up challenging! But it is all part of the entire biome that one must embrace when traveling to some of the southernmost parts of the world.

December in the southern hemisphere is summertime, so the grass was green and flowers were blooming. And the guanacos were having babies. On our first day there we saw a few guanacos and got so excited that we were asking our guide to stop at almost every sighting. He kept telling us that we would see so many that eventually it would not be a big deal, but we did not believe him. And of course the wildlife photographers philosophy is to never pass up an opportunity. 

But sure enough, after a couple of days we became much more selective when asking for stops to photograph guanacos. This one's too small, that one's fur is not as nice, too many trees in the background, or not enough trees in the background. It got to be a running joke. 

And almost everywhere we went we had an opportunity to photograph the looming peaks that are the signature skyline of Patagonia.

TECH SPECS  1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 105mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."  -- Oliver Wendell Holmes 





Saturday, August 22, 2020

In The Pink

 



Hard to believe that Labor Day weekend is just a couple of weeks away. In spite of this bizarre and surreal year, the time seems to be flying by. So since we are approaching the end of summer, I thought a flower would be a good subject for today. Even though this azalea is a spring bloom, flowers are a timeless subject throughout the year. And for many of us, just looking at flowers has an uplifting effect. 

This basic, garden variety azalea had beautiful color, but the main bloom got lost amid all the other nearby blooms of the same color. So I used the Gradient Filter tool in Lightroom to lighten all the surrounding flowers, helping the central flower to stand out.

I chose to place the main flower in the center of the frame, but cropped the image to put it slightly below the middle. That added a small amount of visual interest while still providing a very balanced, mostly symmetrical feel. 

Even the simplest subjects can be helped with a bit of a boost in Lightroom.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 200. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change."  -- Buddha 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Bathing Beauty

 


I want to take you on another virtual trip, this time to Alaska. This beautiful Harbour Seal was basking in the soft sunlight along a fjord tucked away just off the Inside Passage. We were on a spectacular week-long photo trip on a private chartered yacht when we spotted each other. 

The seal was utterly unafraid, never moved, and gave us a careful once-over. The beautiful glacial green water and the warm rocks were the perfect counterpoints to this bathing beauty. 

Once we can safely travel again, I look forward to many more trips to Alaska, which is one of my favorite places. 

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III for a focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life is just as dear to a mute creature as it is to man. Just as one wants happiness and fears pain, just as one wants to live and not die, so do other creatures."  --The Dalai Lama

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