Sunday, June 25, 2017

Dueling Duo

Grizzly bears. In the wild. Up close and personal. It doesn't get much better than this. These two siblings were mock-fighting for over an hour. What a treat and a privilege to see this action. Real and raw.

The Alaska brown bears trip last week in Lake Clark National Park provided my entire group a wide variety of superb photographic opportunities. Being able to see wild animals live their lives as they have for eons is so much different from seeing animals in a zoo or in a TV documentary. Being with them, seeing what they have to do to survive and thrive, and watching the young ones learning how to become healthy adults, ties us all to the web of life. We get so wrapped up in our daily lives in civilized society with our creature comforts,  essentially unconnected with the natural world. Having the opportunity to observe and photograph wildlife in their natural setting is an experience everyone interested in wildlife and nature should experience at least once in their lives. It helps put life on our planet and our own personal lives into a much different perspective. It is a life-changing experience.

The next Alaska brown bears trip has been scheduled for July 13 - 19, 2018. I am still traveling in Alaska, but if you would like more information, or would like to be placed on the "Interested List" please email me at   I will get in touch with you when I return to my office in mid-July.

1/1000 sec., f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 390mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect."  --Chief Seattle

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Puffin Postcard

I am breaking tradition today by showcasing a composite of 3 images for today's blog. While on the brown bears photo tour, we took a side trip to a nearby island to photograph puffins who had just returned for nest building and breeding. Puffins live most of their lives at sea, and only come on land to breed in the summer. They choose isolated rocky locations with few predators and protected nesting burrows in the rocks.

For me, this was a decades-long dream fulfilled. I had wanted to be up close and personal to puffins for years, and I finally got the chance. I can't begin to describe the thrill of being so close to these birds and being able to photograph them while they went about their daily lives. This is what nature and wildlife photography is all about  -  observing nature's creatures continuing along the path of life.

Of course there are frustrations as well. Puffins are very speedy fliers and photographing them in flight was challenging to say the least. A very fast shutter speed is needed, generally a minimum of 1/1250 sec. and higher. And finding these speeding bullets in the frame is a challenge as well. Continuous shooting, and many missed shots was the order of the day. But thankfully there were enough sharp images with good lighting and wings in good positions to make me happy.

1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 300mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you do not see, do not hear, do not experience, you will never really know."  --native Alaskan Anders Apassingok of the St. Lawrence Island Yupik

Monday, June 19, 2017

The Three Bears

The Alaska brown bears trip ended today, and what a week we had! The weather was perfect, the lodge was a wonderful place to stay with lovely rooms, great meals and a superb guide, and the bears were perfection itself. We saw moms and cubs, adult males, dueling teenagers, nursing babies, wildflowers, and puffins. It doesn't get any better than that!

This threesome was curious but not about us. There was an adult male in the area and that usually puts moms on high alert. In this location we are able to get fairly close to the bears safely. Safety is always the main concern, and these bears, although wild, are so used to seeing photographers with cameras, tripods, and ATVs that they barely pay any attention to us. We are always careful to keep our distance, not crowd them, and not block their access to feeding areas or water.

This is my third trip to this part of Alaska, Lake Clark National Park. It is about a one-hour small plane ride from Anchorage. In my opinion it is far and away the best place to view and photograph brown bears safely. I love it so much that I am already planning next summer's trip. It will run from  July 13 - 19. If you are interested, please let me know as soon as possible. This trip typically fills quickly, and it has not been officially advertised yet, so information is not on the website. Email me for details at

1/1000 sec.,  f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing exists for itself alone, but only in relation to other forms of life."  --Charles Darwin

Monday, June 12, 2017

Alaska - The Last Frontier

Flew into Anchorage, Alaska last night and was greeted by this beautiful scene. Craggy mountains peaking out over smooth white clouds. What a feast for the eyes. This was shot with an iPhone6 so the resolution is not the best, but I wanted to share it with you.

Alaska is one of my favorite places. The wildness, the variety of wildlife both on land and in the water, the crisp cool air even in June, the friendly people, and the general feel of the place have mesmerized me and I keep coming back for more.

This time I am here for two different photo tours. The first one, starting on Tuesday, is to photograph grizzly bears in their natural habitat in Lake Clark National Park. While the bears are wild, we live in relative comfort. We stay in a lovely privately-owned lodge along the shores of the Cook Inlet at the border of the national park (about a one-hour flight from Anchorage by small bush plane). The lodge has a wonderful chef to prepare all our meals, and we have our own guide and driver. Our lodge is in the middle of bear country, and the bears often roam through the grounds. The lodge is only a few hundred yards from the water's edge, and we and all our gear are transported by ATV to where the bears are each day. The bears are truly wild, but are acclimated to humans. We practice serious bear safety nevertheless. The bears are in charge and we move as needed to maintain a safe distance from them. When photographing wildlife you always want to remain a safe distance away and do nothing to frighten them, or disturb their feeding or their parenting. Doing so can put you in danger quickly.

The other photo tour, starting toward the end of the month, is an 8-day boat-based trip to photograph whales, sea otters, puffins and other sea life. The entire boat has been chartered for just our group, and it is a beautiful boat. It has teak wood interiors, double occupancy staterooms with private bath, top-of-the-line stabilizers for smooth sailing, and superb creature comforts. It sleeps only 8 passengers, plus a crew of 3. The boat will transport us to where the action is best, and we can shoot as long as the action is good. We will also be going out on Zodiacs and sea kayaks to get closer shots.

So this will be a very exciting time for me and for those participating in each of the trips. Will keep you posted as internet access allows.

1/6400 sec., f/2.2, ISO 32. iPhone6 camera with 4.15mm f/2.2 lens. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We live in a wonderful world full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open."  --Jawaharial Nehru

Friday, June 9, 2017

Catch Me If You Can

Before the Action

Peak of the Action

Bird photography can be very challenging. Most birds are beautiful, like this Skimmer, but often they move like the wind and it can be difficult to get the focus just right AND capture the action.

Skimmers generally make multiple passes over the same section of water, skimming the surface (hence their name) in search of food. Because they will repeat their actions in more or less the same place, after a few passes you can begin to predict their route and can pre-focus to be ready when they move into view.

Originally I was only going to post the Peak of the Action image, but thought that perhaps it would be hard to see and understand exactly what was going on. So the Before the Action image, taken just before the skimmer spotted a fish and tucked his head under to grab it, shows the normal position of the bird as it skims over the water.

To get successful images of birds in flight, it is important to use two techniques  -  rapid burst in order to fire your shutter in rapid succession, AND Continuous (Nikon) or AI Servo (Canon) to allow your camera to continuously focus on the bird as it moves. Employing both those camera settings will help maximize your chances of getting good shots.

1/2000 sec., f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x extender set at 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best."  Henry Van Dyke  

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Bear Facts

Alaska is known to be Bear Country. Grizzly (brown) bear to be exact. This lone female was walking along the shoreline of the Cook Inlet in search of a fish dinner. Brown bears in this area, about an hour's flight from Anchorage by small plane, are unquestionably wild. But they have so much food and are so used to seeing humans that they are not bothered by our presence, as long as we keep our distance and do not interfere with their feeding, and their offspring.

The guides in this area know the individual bears, their habits, and their favorite routes from the shore to the fields to the woods to the nearby mountains. They advise us when to move and how far, so that we do not disturb the bears in any way. In this location I have seen bears walk within 10 to 20 yards of where we are standing. As long as we are positioned off their chosen path, they have no concerns about us and pass by fairly closely.

This bear was considerably farther away than that, and was shot with a 100-400mm lens with a 1.4x extender on a crop sensor body. That is my preferred lens / body combination, and allows me to get good close-ups when the bears are near, and some nice environmental shots, like this one, when the bears are farther away.

When photographing wildlife, be prepared to shoot at all times of day. You will want to be on location when the action is good, regardless of the time of day and the quality of the light. Of course we always want perfect light, but we rarely get it. So you have to work with what you are given. This was shot late in the day in relatively low light. I chose to render the bear as a silhouette for drama. She is so small in the frame that the lack of detail in her body is not a problem. Her body position was perfect to show all four legs and her head in profile. It is unmistakably a brown bear.

I took many images as she walked by me, in hopes of getting this position. With wildlife, I always shoot on rapid burst so that I can capture slight variations of leg and head positions. That allows me to select the one I like best as the final image.

I am looking forward to being back in my favorite part of Alaska's Bear Country in mid-June.

1/1600 sec, f/9, ISO 1600.  Canon 100-400mm lens set at 140mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Bears keep me humble. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves, and for the dreams of our children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended on it, because it does."  --Wayne Lynch

Monday, May 22, 2017

How To Show Emotion

Almost any subject can be portrayed to convey or stir emotion. These two lady slipper buds were tipped toward each other, so I selected a position that accentuated that. Each of the buds was nestled inside an outer protective leaf, and the rear one was placed so that it appeared to be in a protective position. Perhaps it represents a parent and child, or a caring couple.

Of course all images are subject to individual interpretation, and your reaction to this image might be different from mine. And that is fine.

The point is to try to convey emotion in your images. Not every image needs to have emotional appeal, but tapping into emotions can certainly add impact. Images that stimulate feelings of either tenderness, grace, dance-like moves, or other aspects that provoke an emotional response from the viewer will have instantaneous appeal and will stand the test of time.

1/125 sec at f.2.8, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Emotional responses are often regarded as the keystone to experiencing art, and the creation of an emotional experience has been argued as the purpose of artistic expression."  --Wikipedia

Friday, May 19, 2017

Color Harmony

This was a lucky shot. This delicate butterfly happened to be on a large leaf with a soft green background behind it. Using a wide aperture guaranteed that the background would go soft, but it was lucky that the background was the same green as the leaf the butterfly was standing on.

Shallow depth of field is a favorite technique of mine. Using a wide aperture from about f/2.8 to f/5.6 will assure you of a soft background in most cases. This technique, coupled with a fast enough shutter to guarantee a sharp picture when hand-holding the camera, can result in beautiful images.

I generally start with an ISO of 400 and an aperture of f/2.8 or f/4. In most cases that results in a shutter speed of 1/125 sec. or faster which often is fast enough. An even faster shutter speed helps ensure that your images will be sharp (no camera shake), but usually you can get away with a shutter speed as slow as 1/125 sec. and still get sharp images.

1/400 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony ... we see into the life of things."  --William Wordsworth

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Truck Graveyard

I took a couple of personal days to go in search of new and different things to shoot. One of the participants in the Butterflies and Flowers photo workshop told me about a truck graveyard not too far away, so when the workshop ended I went to check it out. Thanks, George!

What a fun and creative thing to do. I had heard about truck graveyards in various parts of the country, but had never been to one. This one was relatively small, but had enough different old trucks in varying stages of decay to make it a great location.

Often when shooting it takes me a little while to "get in the groove." That was the case here. It took about half an hour of wandering around, looking at the different trucks, and exploring interesting areas to concentrate on, before I was ready to dive in.

I shot some with a super wide angle lens to accentuate and distort the shapes of the trucks, and others, like this one, with a slight telephoto lens to zoom in on details. This approach allowed me to concentrate on abstract shapes, designs, and colors.

I used Lightroom to punch up the colors and to improve the contrast. For this type of subject matter, those changes greatly improved the look of the image.

The main things to keep in mind when shooting unique or unusual subjects are to allow yourself to slow down, really take your time to look at the options before you, explore different angles, and then begin to select areas to concentrate on. It is great fun, and a wonderful jump start for your creativity.

1/125 sec., f/8, ISO 200.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Abstract art [goes] beyond the tangible. It is the emancipation of the mind. It is an exploration into unknown areas."  --Arshile Gorkey

Friday, May 12, 2017

Butterflies Are Free

The BUTTERFLIES & FLOWERS workshop has just ended, and it was wonderful. Everyone got great images, and we all had a great time. The 1000 butterflies were very cooperative and sat still long enough for each of us to get some super shots.

When photographing butterflies, it is important to get the head sharp. It is nice to also get a great deal of sharpness in the wings as well, but a little bit of softness is acceptable, as in this image.

Since this critter is just black and white, it helps that it was perched on a brightly colored flower which adds a bit of punch.

To improve your chances of getting great shots of butterflies, first approach slowly. Rapid movements can startle them and cause them to fly away. In order to maximize depth of field, another tip is to try to position the camera parallel to the wings. Also, pay close attention to the background. A cluttered background, or one with blotchy lighting, can be very distracting and take attention away from the main subject.

1/125 sec. at f/4, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is nothing that makes its way more directly to the soul than beauty."  --Joseph Addison

Friday, May 5, 2017

Lightroom To The Rescue



If you follow my blog, you know I often write about how great Lightroom is. It can bring an image to life as it did here. This is the same exact image. The top BEFORE image is how the image looked when I initially downloaded it onto my computer. Gray, dead, and lifeless. Hardly any color to speak of.

The AFTER image, after optimization in Lightroom, has much more color and more contrast, making the sky look textured and stormy. The AFTER image has much more drama and visual interest. Which image is an accurate representation of the scene as it looked to my eye? Neither one.

Surprised? I was, too. It was amazing that Lightroom could bring out so much color and texture that my eyes did not see when experiencing this scene. So now it is time for true confessions - this image is a bit over-punched and goes beyond the natural look that I usually strive for. But, as I worked on it in Lightroom, I liked the more intense color, the added drama, the deep blues and the rich warm colors. So I allowed myself to go a bit overboard in order to create a visually interesting image.

Would I enter this in a nature competition? Absolutely not, since it is admittedly "over the top" and goes beyond a realistic representation. But as an art piece, it is much more pleasing than the BEFORE image, or even something that would have fallen in between the two versions.

This was taken on a foggy morning a little after sunrise in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. When we arrived at the site, the fog was so thick that we could not see much beyond the near trees. But a little patience paid off, and as the sun rose higher the fog began to burn off, and we could see more detail in the clouds and some of the hills in the distance.

The controls used in Lightroom that saved this image, in the order they were used, were:
Whites, Blacks, Shadows, Clarity, and Saturation. And then I added more punch by increasing the Saturation of the following individual colors in the HSL / Color / B&W box - Orange, Yellow, Green Aqua, and Blue. The final step was to use the Dehaze slider which cut through some of the mist and fog in the distance.

Lightroom is NOT complicated and it is NOT hard to learn. But I have so many people who attend my Lightroom classes in desperation after they were taught either improperly or in a confusing manner. If you want to hone your Lightroom skills, I would be happy to set up a special class for your camera club or a group of 6 or more. If that interests you, contact me and we can discuss available dates and fees.
1/160 sec, f/8, ISO 400.  Canon 17-40mm lens, set at 20mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Anyone who keep the ability to see beauty never grows old."  -Franz Kafka

Monday, May 1, 2017

Denali, The Great One

Denali is a huge and beautiful mountain, visible from this close angle deep inside Denali National Park in Alaska. With such dramatic clouds and pure white mountains, black and white seemed like a good approach. It accentuates the texture of both the mountains and the sky.

I generally use Lightroom for black and white conversions. There are other software options as well, and many of them are also excellent. When using Lightroom to convert to black and white, first make the necessary modifications with the sliders for Blacks, Whites, Highlights, and Shadows. Then increase Clarity to about 30 points. Once those basic controls have been used, click on B&W in the HSL / Color / B&W box.

At this stage, you can begin experimenting with all the color sliders in the HSL / Color / B&W box. Move each slider all the way to the left and then all the way to the right to see its effect. Even though you have changed the image from color to black and white, Lightroom still sees the image in color, which is why the color sliders still have an effect.

You will be amazed how much impact the color sliders will have on the depth of the blacks and the richness of the whites. Just work the sliders until you are happy with the results. You can go for dramatic, as I did in this image, or you can be more subtle if you prefer.

So go play, and enjoy creating some beautiful black and white images!

1/5000 sec, f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I haven't been everywhere, but it's on my list."  --Susan Sontag

Monday, April 24, 2017

Smokies Wrap-up

The Smoky Mountains WILDFLOWERS & WILDWATER photo tour has ended, and what an incredible week we had. All of the most beautiful spring wildflowers were in bloom, the weather was superb except for one short burst of rain early in the week. Everyone came away with spectacular images. I was thrilled with what the group was able to achieve, and they were happy with their results. They learned a lot, shared a lot, and had a great time. 

At the end of the day, that is what a full immersion photo workshop or tour is all about - lots of information, education, inspiration, and great fun.

This Showy Orchis (yes "orchis" is the correct spelling) was one of the most perfect and beautiful I have ever seen. These are not easy flowers to photograph because of the unusual shape of the blooms and their small size. When photographing flowers I always recommend "stalking" the plant. Walk around it and look at it from all angles and heights. Take a lot of shots since often you do not know until you see the images on your computer screen which views you will like the best. Give yourself every opportunity to capture great images by taking your time to shoot it from all angles. 

While this trip has ended, I am looking forward to a full schedule ahead with a Butterflies Workshop in May (FULL), Alaska Brown Bears in June (FULL), a boat-based Alaska whales and wildlife trip also in June (FULL), Iceland in August (STILL SPACE AVAILABLE, with Early Bird discount valid through April 30), and back to Alaska in September to Denali National Park (one space unexpectedly opened up for a female).

If you would like more information on either the Iceland or Denali trips, go to the website here
Or for Iceland, 10 full days on this incredible island, click here

1/500 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit."  --Frank Borman

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smokies Abstract

The Smokies photo tour ends on Saturday, and I will be sorry to see it end. The spring wildflowers have been spectacular. We were lucky to hit it at peak, and have seen dozens of varieties in pristine condition.

And the streams have been beautiful and have provided us with incredible subject matter. Doing long exposures of moving water creates abstract shapes, and everyone has been creating unique and compelling images. It is a great way to improve your creative eye, and enhance your technical skills as well.

This image has a variety of shapes and movement, with minimal colors. It is a study in line and form. Participating in a full immersion photo workshop enables you to dramatically improve your eye and your technique, while providing a fun atmosphere with like-minded people. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself and take a photo workshop or tour this year. You won't regret it!

1/2 sec. at f/32, ISO 100.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."  --Lao Tzu

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Smokies Grace

Graceful subjects can be found everywhere if you look for them. This graceful yellow trillium is blooming in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I am here this week leading a photo tour. I love being here in the springtime since the profusion of wildflowers is some of the best in the world.

This yellow trillium is fully open, even though it might not look that way. Their petals reach skyward in a slight curving motion.

When photographing macro flowers I try to keep the composition simple. Simple backgrounds, simple subjects, and simple soft natural lighting. I use Lightroom to enhance the colors and the overall look. But I try to do as little as possible in an effort to maintain the natural appearance of the flower.

When outdoors photographing, whether it is flowers or scenics, try to look for line, shape and simplicity.

1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If the sight of blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."  --Eleonora Duse

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easy Art

Creating images of moving water is exciting, easy, and fun. This stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the perfect subject. A nicely flowing stream flanked by ancient boulders has form, shape, texture and color.

A sturdy tripod is your best friend when photographing moving water. You need a stable platform for your camera so that you can use a long exposure to accentuate the feeling of flowing water.

Soft, even light is best for this type of shot. You want to avoid splotchy sunlight that can create extreme contrast of highlights and shadows. So early morning or late afternoon, or a cloudy day work well.

With  your camera on Aperture Priority, use a low ISO of 100, and set the aperture to about f/22. That will provide a relatively show shutter speed, which is the secret to creating soft flowing water shots. I am often asked what shutter speed is best, and the answer is "that depends." If the water is flowing slowly, a longer shutter speed of a few seconds might be needed to show the flow. If it is a fast-moving stream, a shorter shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/2 second will work well. It is best to try several different shutter speeds to see what works best. If you cannot get a slow enough shutter speed to achieve the look you want, use a polarizing filter or a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light coming through the lens. A polarizer will cut light transmission by about 2.5 stops.  Neutral density filters come in a variety of strengths from about 3 stops to 10 stops and reduce the amount of light being transmitted even more. 

How soft you want the water to look is a matter of personal taste. Experiment each time you are out photographing water, and take many shots at different shutter speeds to guarantee that you will get the look you want.

When leading groups, I teach a variety of techniques, depending on the situation and the speed of the water. We will be working with these techniques at the upcoming Smokies trip, and the Iceland trip coming up August 4 - 14. Still a couple of spaces left on the Iceland trip, and the Early Bird discount has been extended through April 30.  Details here

2 seconds at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set to 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not by strength but by perseverance."  --H. Jackson Brown

Friday, April 7, 2017

Heading To The Smokies

It is Spring, which means it is time to return to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the magnificent display of wildflowers. At this time of year the flowers are everywhere, including trillium shown here. This is a Painted Trillium which is fairly rare in the park. They are small and delicate, bloom quickly in the spring, and then are gone until the next year.

Observing the flow of the seasons, and seeing the returning species from year to year are some of the many joys of being a nature and wildlife photographer.

Often when photographing flowers it is fun to look for an unusual angle, or try a creative technique. But for this trillium, with its perfect shape and lovely "painted" magenta tones near the center, a straighforward view worked well. Sometimes simple is better.

With flowers, soft even lighting is often my preference. I look for blooms in open shade, and if everything is in full sun I will often position myself to cast my shadow across the flower in order to eliminate any harsh shadows or blown out highlights.

1/400 sec., f/5, ISO 400.  Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers  -  and never succeeding."  --Gian Carlo Menotti

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Abstracts With Impact

Abstracts are a great way to get in touch with your artistic side. You can find abstract images everywhere, from your own backyard to exotic places around the world. Abstracts are all around us. Just look for line, shape, color, or form in the normal things you see everyday.

This shot is about as simple as it gets, but a very powerful composition. Just one color, a triangle in the middle, a horizontal line running across the bottom, and a vertical line running through the center of the triangle.

Abstracts speak for themselves, and the viewer does not have to recognize the subject. The image just needs to be visually arresting.

So how do you spot good abstract subjects? Practice, practice, practice! This image was found when looking at old boats in Maine. Here is the scene.
The area of the above final image is marked by a black box. As you can see, it is a small part of the original scene, and I did not notice it right away. I had to stand there for a few minutes, looking at all the components of the scene. Then I began to see shapes and designs and found this area which I zoomed in on.

When out shooting, take your time, look at everything before you, and then narrow your view as you search for small components that could be isolated to become an appealing abstract image.

I would like to thank the members of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Camera Club for inviting me to speak on Abstracts at their 7th Annual Light and Creativity Photo Workshop held this past weekend. It was a wonderful and well-run event. They were a very welcoming and attentive group and it was a great privilege and a pleasure to meet so many people. My thanks to everyone for making it such a special day! 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Early Bird discount on the "Iceland - Endless Light" photo tour ends at midnight on April 3. Just make contact before then via email or phone to lock in your discount. So if you have been thinking about it, now is the time to contact me with questions or for more information. Limit 8, and there are only 4 spaces left. The trip runs August 4 - 14. Details here

1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Photography has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them."  --Elliott Erwitt

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Alaska - The Last Frontier

This is one of the most spectacular views in all of Alaska, and is in Denali National Park. It is Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley) and part of the Alaska Range reflected in the aptly named Reflection Pond. It was taken pre-dawn, before the sun broke the horizon. At over 20,000 feet, it is the tallest mountain in all of North America.

When shooting in pre-dawn conditions, it is best to arrive about an hour early when it is still dark. That gives you time to set up your equipment and be prepared for the show that Mother Nature provides. I always recommend going to the location the day before to get the lay of the land, and to determine the approximate spot where you want to set up your camera and tripod.

Because you arrive in the dark, it helps to have a headlamp to light your way, and to make sure that  you are properly placing the camera on the tripod. To make it easy on yourself, set the ISO,  f/stop and shutter speed the night before when you can see what you are doing, and have one less thing to do when you arrive in the morning. Of course these settings will change quickly as the sky lightens, but at least it will get you in the ballpark at the beginning.

With your camera on Aperture Priority, set the ISO at 400 or 800, and the aperture at around f/8. The shutter speed will set itself. That will give you decent depth of field at the beginning. As the sky lightens, you can go with a smaller f/stop (f/16 and smaller) and/or a faster shutter speed. You want enough depth of field to render the scene as sharp as possible.

Also it is best to use a cable release or remote trigger to minimize camera shake. Yes, even on a tripod you can introduce vibration when pressing the shutter button. If you do not have a separate shutter release, you can set your camera's timer to a 2-second delay. That will give the camera 2 seconds to stop vibrating after you have pressed the shutter button.

If you want to put yourself in this scene, come join me in Denali National Park September 2 - 8. We stay in a lovely lodge only about a mile from this location, and we pass it nearly every day. It doesn't get much better than that! There is only 1 opening left so let me know right away if you are interested. Details are on the website 

In addition to incredible mountain scenery and sweeping vistas, we will see grizzly bear, caribou, and moose. We will be there at the time of peak fall color, and the tundra will be ablaze in reds, golds, and yellows.

We have our own large vehicle with an experienced naturalist driver. Everyone has a window seat and plenty of room to spread out. Only a select few are allowed this deep into the park. Awake The Light is fortunate to be one of only two photo tour companies allowed this type of access. We will have incredible photographic opportunities each and every day.

1/30 sec at f/8, ISO 400.  Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 24mm. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No matter how sophisticated you may be, a large granite mountain cannot be denied. It speaks in silence to the very core of your being."  --Ansel Adams

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Join Me On THE Best Iceland Photo Tour!

Iceland is a photographer's paradise. Waterfalls everywhere, rugged volcanic mountains, craggy coastlines, some of Europe's largest glaciers, famous Icelandic horses, puffins, and so much more.

This is THE best Iceland trip available! 
Best guide.
Best locations.
Best photographic opportunities.

And best of all, EVERYTHING is included except your round-trip airfare to and from Iceland. Only a 5-hour flight from the east coast of the U.S.

The trip is limited to only 8 photographers, 
and there are only 4 spaces left. 


Details on the website here    

and in the Special Announcement here   

For more information, an itinerary, or to register, email us at 

1/2 sec, f/22, ISO 100. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eventually, all things merge into one, and a river runs through it."  --Norman Maclean

Friday, March 17, 2017

A Matter Of Scale

Iceland is a small island, but the sense of scale is huge. With its sweeping landscapes and seemingly endless rocky coastlines, it is a photographer's paradise. I confess I have fallen in love with the place. That's why I'm going back this August 4 - 14. I just can't get enough of its rugged beauty, ancient old world feel, soaring waterfalls everywhere, picturesque villages, sweet horses, and welcoming and charming people. It just doesn't get any better than Iceland for exciting travel and wonderful photographic opportunities.

Today's image is a good example of the sweeping scale of the place. In the middle of this wide angle scene with sun rays, dramatic clouds, and high mountains is a tiny church tucked up against the nearest mountainside. It is barely visible and almost camouflaged by the wide open landscape.

Part of the excitement of being in Iceland is the limitless skies and the limitless photographs that appear around almost every curve in the road. And at almost every turn is a gorgeous waterfall or geothermal activity or a huge glacier. This is a very magical place, and there are so many scenes that feel like you are in the middle of a Lord of the Rings movie. Beauty is everywhere.

So join me in Iceland in August. Dubbed the "Endless Light" photo tour, we will have about 18 hours of daylight, and because of its far north position near the Arctic Circle we will have great sweet light for much of the day. The tour is all-inclusive, except for your round-trip airfare. Just get yourself to Iceland and the rest will be taken care of!

More details and more photos are on the website here

AND the Early Bird discount is in effect until April 3. So call me at 757-773-0194 or email me at with questions or to register. Just a few spaces left!

1/1250 at f/16, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40 f/4L lens set at 40mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Live, travel, adventure, bless, and don't be sorry."  --Jack Kerouac

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Brand New Workshop Just Announced!

Best butterfly location anywhere on the east coast! The BUTTERFLIES & FLOWERS Photo Workshop is coming May 10 and 11.  Housed in the world class Lewis Ginter Botancial Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, this Butterfly House is a fabulous place to get spectacular images of these lovely creatures. The butterflies are indoors, in a climate-controlled special section of the European-styled Conservatory.

You will see many species, and have plenty of room to spread out.

Because this is one of the Top Four botanical gardens in North America, you will also have opportunities to stroll the grounds for extensive flower and macro photography.

If you love butterflies, and love flowers, this is the workshop for you! Spend two full days in beautiful surroundings with superb photographic opportunities. Plus there will be a Bonus Teaching Session the evening before the workshop begins to help get you primed with the finer points of butterfly and flower photography.

Detailed information is on the website here

Limited to only 10 photographers, the workshop includes personalized instruction, critiques, a few Lightroom tips, all garden entry fees and parking.

Call me at 757-773-0194, or email me at for more information or to register.

1/200 sec, f/5, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you."  --Nathaniel Hawthorne

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Just For Fun



Sometimes you just wanna have fun. If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements you can create unusual images easily. Today's image is just one example of what you can do. I learned this technique from a superb photographer and good friend DL (am using just her initials to keep her ego in check!).

Here are the basic steps used to create this image:

1. Select an image. The original image is a close-up of a sea scene taken in Iceland. Flowers work well, and many other subjects, too. Make sure it is an 8-bit file by going to Image > Mode. Click on 8-bit if it is not already checked. The original BEFORE image is above.

2. Select the entire canvas. The go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. Click the Polar To Rectangular button, and click OK.

3. Then flip the image by going to Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Vertical.

4. Again, go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. This time click the Rectangular To Polar button and click OK.

5. Now you have the basic distorted image. You can crop it if you wish, and change the color as I did, using Photoshop's color balance options, in the AFTER image above.

This is just one of many fun things you can do with image software. When it's rainy, snowy, or you are just plain bored, try something different to invigorate your creativity.

0.8 sec at f/45, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 98mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Never, ever underestimate the importance of having fun."  -- Randy Pausch


Thursday, February 23, 2017

Lightroom - The Magic Elixir



Lightroom is truly amazing software. It is far and away my favorite way to optimize images. These BEFORE and AFTER images are good examples of what Lightroom can do.

It can enhance contrast, color, and so much more. And it is very fast. You do not have to spend half your life being chained to your computer in order to improve the look of your images. Most of us would rather be out shooting and not have to spend hours sitting at the computer, and for me this is definitely the way to go.

The BEFORE image, a close-up of ice formations on a beach in Iceland, shows very little color. The AFTER image shows all the color that is really there. Nothing has been artificially added. The colors you see in the AFTER image were there, but were not apparent before optimization in Lightroom.

In addition to bringing out the colors, Lightroom also was able to punch up the contrast, and bring out detail in the highlights, resulting in a much more pleasing image.

No matter where or what you photograph, every image needs image optimization of some sort. Some need more, and some need less, but there is no question that image optimization makes each and every image much more beautiful.

And speaking of travel, I am excited to be heading back to Iceland August 4 -14. The trip is limited to only 8 participants, and there are are still a few spaces left. This will be one of the best Iceland trips available. We will spend 10 full days there and will travel to some of its most iconic locations. We will photograph incredible waterfalls, spectacular rocky coastlines, lots of puffins and other birds, huge glaciers, beautiful horses, quaint villages, charming churches, and more. We will have our own large state-of-the-art vehicle with a charming native Icelandic guide, and will have lots of fun and great images. The trip is all-inclusive (except your airfare to and from Iceland). Just get yourself there and the rest will be taken care of! 

Call 757-773-0194 or email me at and 
I can give you all the details.

And see images of Iceland on the website at

1/125 sec. at f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L set at 40mm on Canon 5D MarkII. 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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Balancing Act

One aspect of making a successful image is balance. Balancing the elements is not difficult but it can take a little thought. Balance is not necessarily symmetry. An asymmetrical image, like this one, can have good balance depending on the composition.

All the details in the window and the surrounding stonework are balanced by the large off-white blank wall. I deliberately off-set the window far to the right so that the blank wall would balance all the details.

Also notice that the empty space at the top is about the same size as the area of stones below the window. 

There were several different ways to compose this image, including centering the window. But that would have been a less exciting image in my opinion.

1/100 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 98mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What I dream of is an art of balance."  --Henri Matisse

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Why THIS Iceland Trip?

If you have been following my Blog, you know that Iceland has become one of my favorite places to go. Its incredible waterfalls, sweeping scenery, huge glaciers, beautiful horses, and charming villages have captivated me. That is why I am going back August 4 - 14.

Today's image is the famous Kirkjufellsfoss triple waterfall with Kirkjufell Mountain behind.  

There is a lot of interest in photographing in Iceland, and I field many questions. Along with other questions, I am asked why the trip is priced as it is. There are several reasons, and today's blog has answers to this and other questions.

Q  -  Why is this Iceland trip more expensive than others I see offered?
A  -  There are several reasons.
            1. All lodging is included, and each person will have their own room with private bath. No one will have to share a room with a roommate (except couples traveling together of course).
            2. All meals are included, and all snacks. Food is amazingly expensive in Iceland, and many other trips offered do not include all meals. Read each trip offering carefully. Food generally costs at least 2 to 3 times more than anything comparable in the US.

            3. All tips are included. It has been a hallmark of Awake The Light photo tours to set fees that are all inclusive. There will never be any hidden fees. Since I hate to be "nickled and dimed" regarding any purchases or when traveling, I do not ever want to do that to anyone else either.

            4. All ground transportation is included.

            5. All guide services are included. We travel with a highly knowledgeable native Icelander who  knows every inch of the country. He also has many contacts all over Iceland who keep us informed on weather conditions, and lighting conditions. We can make spur of the moment decisions and be in the right places at the right times. This is an invaluable element of any photo trip.

Q  -  Are there any pricing specials?
A  -  Yes, there is an Early Bird special price if you register by March 1.  Pricing information is on the website HERE

Q  -  Why is the trip planned for August?
A  -  Summer is when the puffins and other bird life are still nesting there, and the weather is generally more benign. And August is just after the busiest tourist season, so the crowds will be a bit smaller. In addition, we will have nearly 18 hours of daylight, so there will be that beautiful "sweet light" for much of the day.

Q  -  Where will we go?
A  -  Our 10-day adventure begins in Reykjavik. We then travel to many parts of the country including the southern, western, and northern areas. We will also have forays into the central heart of the country. In our travels we will see many iconic waterfalls, impressive glaciers, puffins, famous Icelandic horses, rocky coastlines, quaint villages and farms, and much more.

Q  -  Why do you love Iceland so much?
A  -  Iceland is a captivating and mesmerizing place. The rugged scenery, the welcoming and charming people, the extreme cleanliness of the entire country, and its European charm combine to create a wonderful place to experience. And you will return home with impressive world-class images that you will cherish forever.

You can view images from Iceland and get more details HERE  

Only 5 spaces left, 
so call 757-773-0194 
or email me with questions. 

1/2 sec., f/22, ISO 100.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead. Black-and-white conversion done in Lightroom.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In Iceland you can see the contours of the mountains wherever you go, and the swell of the hills. And always beyond that, the horizon."  --Hannah Kent

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

A Horse Of A Different Color

Icelandic horses are world renown. They have lived on the protected island of Iceland for centuries. They are beautiful, friendly, and enjoy the attention of photographers. And they are extremely photogenic.

Their manes blow artfully in the breezes. Their color combinations are unique and fascinating. And they are very graceful in their movements.

We will have several opportunities to photograph these lovely creatures on the ICELAND - ENDLESS LIGHT photo tour coming up August 4 - 14. We will also visit many of Iceland's spectacular waterfalls, its rugged coastline, and its huge summer puffin population.

If the magic of Iceland appeals to you, this is the trip to do this year. You can read more details here

There is an attractive Early Bird special if you register by March 1. So give me a call at 757-773-0194, or drop me an email for more information. 

1/250 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with Canon 1.4x extender for a focal length of 241mm on Canon 7D Mark II camera.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Horses are the dolphins of the plains, the spirits of the wind...."  -- Lauren Salerno 

Monday, January 30, 2017


Successful wildlife images require a healthy dose of timing and luck. Plus a bit of knowledge and experience. This image of two sparring male moose, taken in DENALI NATIONAL PARK, was a combination of both. When photographing in Denali, it helps to know prime wildlife locations, and the best time of day to find animals where you hope they will be.

Moose, caribou, and other mammals engage in dominance battles each fall in order to claim breeding rights. While these battles sometimes are fierce, more often they are like a slow dance of butting antlers and careful footwork. It is exciting to watch this behavior in action. We were fortunate that this particular battle took place close to the road and was relatively easy to photograph. 

On my annual photo tour to Denali, we always travel with an experienced naturalist driver. Naturalists know the area like their own backyards, and have extensive knowledge of where animals are likely to be and when. I trust them to help us find the best shots possible, and most of the time that pays off with great images. It was our naturalist who helped get us in position to capture this dominance display.

It is best to travel to Denali in the autumn when the animals look their best, and the fall colors are at peak. The great colors provide strong backgrounds for wildlife photography.

So I am excited to be taking a group once again to DENALI NATIONAL PARK this fall. The trip is September 2 - 8, and has 2 spaces left. Group size is kept to 10 so that everyone can get individual attention and personalized guidance.

On this trip you will learn how to best photograph wildlife, sweeping scenery, macro, and more. We are out everyday from morning 'til evening shooting, sharing, and learning. And after a full day of capturing exciting images, we return to our comfortable lodge for a chef-prepared dinner, image reviews, Q and A sessions, and great conversation.

Alaska is truly the Last Frontier, and now is the time to explore it with me and a small group of like-minded photographers. Reserve one of the last remaining spaces while you still can. Call me with questions at 757-773-0194. Details here

1/400 sec at f/5.6, ISO 1600. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set to 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Never stop exploring. With Mother Nature by your side, the possibilities are endless."  --Cheryl Aguiar

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Going, Going, Almost Gone

The Denali photo trip, coming up September 2 - 8, is going fast. Only 2 spaces left. If you have been thinking about an Alaska photo trip, now's the time to snag one of these last 2 spots.

Why do I lead trips to Denali each year? Because it is a stupendous, spectacular, exciting, unique place to be and to photograph. I absolutely LOVE Alaska. I lead three different trips to Alaska each year, and one of those is always to Denali.

This scene is one of my favorites. On calm days Denali (formerly called Mt. McKinley) and the beautiful sweep of the Alaska Range reflect in the appropriately named Reflection Pond. Autumn is the best time to be in Denali, when the colors of the tundra and trees rival those of New England. Rich reds, yellows, oranges, and golds are everywhere across the expansive landscape. It is also the best time to photograph the wildlife since they sport their full winter coats and mature antlers.

This was shot just before sunrise. The cool mist was rising from the water, rich warm fall colors lined the pond, and the cool blues of the snow-capped mountains combined to create a spectacular scene.

This is a scene that very few photographers ever get to experience. Located only a few minutes drive from our lodge deep inside Denali National Park, we will pass this location several times during our stay and will have the unique opportunity to photograph it at different times of day and in different types of light.

Of course we will also have many other photographic opportunities including grizzly bear, caribou, moose, Dall sheep, and much more.

Each day you will capture wonderful images of wildlife, scenery, and macro of tundra and other plants.  So if Alaska interests you, if you have always wanted to go, or even if you have been before, this trip is truly the Trip of a Lifetime. Call or email me with questions. I would be happy to fill you in on the details. Read more about the trip HERE 

1/60 sec at f/5.6, ISO 400.  Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 24mm, on Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The grand show is eternal. It is always sunrise somewhere, the dew is never all dried at once. Eternal sunrise ... each in its turn, as the round earth rolls."  --John Muir

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Expreience The Grandeur and Adventure of Denali National Park

Join me for a rare opportunity to photograph deep inside Denali National Park in autumn. Autumn comes early to Alaska, and we will be there September 2 - 8 to catch the best of the wildlife, the fall colors, and the snow-capped Alaska Range. And of course we will see Denali, the highest mountain in North America.

The tundra spreads out before us for miles in shades of red, gold, and orange, and the wildlife are easy to find. We will have our own vehicle with a naturalist driver and will roam each day in search of moose, caribou, grizzly bear, and Dall sheep like this one resting on the tundra.

We will also photograph the sweeping landscapes and mountains from viewpoints that very few people ever have the opportunity to see.

Each evening we return to our well-appointed lodge for a chef-prepared dinner, photographic education, and image critiques.

We'll be in the best locations in all of Denali National Park, and will be there for several days. It doesn't get any better than this.

Even if you have been to Alaska before, you have never experienced it like this. So take advantage of this rare opportunity to really BE in Denali, truly our last frontier.  More details here

A deposit of $1595 will hold your space. To protect your security, all reservations are taken by phone. So please call 757-773-0194 with questions or to register.

1/1250 sec at f/6.3, ISO 800. Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 400mm f/5.6L lens. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Opportunities are like sunrises. If you wait too long, you miss them."  --William Arthur Ward

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Smokies Sunrise

Springtime in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Spectacular sunrises are made even more photogenic with mist in the valleys. It's what the Smokies were named for - the famous and beautiful "smoky" look of these mountains in the early morning. When conditions are right, with warm days and cool nights, the mist hangs in the valleys and provides us with inspiring images.

These conditions are generally present in the spring and fall, and the upcoming spring trip, April 17 - 22, is timed to take advantage of this opportunity.

In addition, the wildflowers are in bloom everywhere, including rare lady slippers, dwarf crested iris, trillium, and so much more. And the flowing streams give us great opportunities for soft moving water shots.

To sweeten the pot, there is a $300 Early Bird discount if you register before February 1.

So if you love the mountains, wildflowers, fast moving streams, and a fun group to travel with, this is the trip for you! Details here, or contact me for more information.  

1/100 sec. at f/4, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be thankful for every mountain, because it's the mountain top that will give you the best view of the world."  --Gugu Mona

Friday, January 13, 2017

Special Early Bird Discount Extended!!

Join me in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park April 17 - 22 for a spectacular wildflower display. And register NOW to take advantage of the special Early Bird discount which has been extended. Register before February 1 and take $300 off the workshop fee! 

The Wildflowers and Wildwater trip to the Smokies has great opportunities to photograph some of the most beautiful wildflowers anywhere. We'll also photograph the fast-running streams and waterfalls that the Smokies are known for, plus lovely mountain scenery. We'll photograph in some well-known spots, plus several tucked away secret places known only to a few. Top that off with spectacular sunrises and you have the perfect photo trip!

The workshop includes personalized instruction, educational information on macro, moving water, and more, plus creative techniques, image critiques, and some Lightroom instruction. And every day we will have a great deal of fun!

For details, see the Awake The Light website, or call me at 757-773-0194 for more information. I'm happy to answer any questions you might have.

Today's image is of the delicate bluebells that bloom in the Smokies for a short period of time in only a small handful of places. When fully open they are their famous blue color. They are small and require a few special techniques that I will teach you so you can get the best shots. We will also photograph trillium, dwarf iris, and dozens of other flower species that are great for macro.

So take advantage of the $300 discount while there is still time. Contact me soon with questions or to register.

1/320 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 400.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."  --Theodore Roethke