Sunday, December 2, 2018

Brand New Brown Bears Album posted on Facebook


Check out the new Alaska Brown Bears album posted on Facebook. This spectacular trip for both brown bears AND puffins is already half full, so it is time to register soon.

Limited to only 8 photographers, we will see brown bears every single day!

This adventure takes you to an area with a large concentration of brown bears. We photograph them safely, yet at fairly close range. We are driven from our lodge to where the bears are in an ATV, and all our gear is transported as well. No long marches, no slogging through hip deep water to get to the bears.

We'll see moms and cubs, and a few boars as well. There is always lots of action including play fighting, frolicking in the stream and along the beach, feeding, nursing, and more.

And the comfortable lodge is all ours. We are the only group there, and we have our own guide, our own chef, and everything runs on our schedule. This is by far the best brown bears trip in all of Alaska!

Please call or email me with questions, or to register. 

 

Details and fees are at this link 

http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Serendipity


Early morning. Cranes everywhere in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. Squawking, stretching, flying, dancing, and fighting. It can be hard to know where to point your camera to capture an action shot. Things change very quickly and moments are fleeting.

I was watching this group of sandhill cranes when suddenly the one in the middle decided to do a quick two-step and spread his wings. Sometimes luck is in your favor and a good shot develops right before your eyes.

At those times you have to be ready. You have to know your equipment, you have to have your exposure set, and you have to be quick on the trigger finger. The more you practice with your camera gear, the more comfortable you will be with it, and the faster you can react when rapidly changing action occurs.

So practice, practice, practice. And get out there and have fun!

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec., f/7.1 at ISO 400.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II set at 328mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To be prepared is half the victory."  --Miguel de Cervantes

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Bosque Birds Bonanza


The winter migrating birds at Bosque del Apache, New Mexico always provide a spectacle, and this year has been especially exciting. I am here with a talented and motivated group of 8 photographers, and we have been having a blast.

Our days start early, before dawn, in order to be on-site to get spectacular images of snow geese in flight. After a mid-day critique and a break, we return to the ponds to photograph the sandhill cranes returning for the night.

This shot was taken around sunset. I used a slow shutter speed to create a more artistic look. This technique gives a more impressionistic look to images, and shows the life of the subject rather than just freezing its motion. In addition to a slow shutter speed, I panned the camera to smear the background which adds to the artistic look.

TECH SPECS
1/30 sec at f/11, ISO 100.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The principle of true art is not to portray, but to evoke."  --Jerzy Kosinski

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Flying High


The bird activity at Bosque del Apache wildlife refuge in New Mexico has been superb. This beautiful snow goose was one of many coming in for a landing on their overnight roosting pond. Their wings are beautiful, and this image caught a lovely forward sweep.

Bird photography is a real joy, and really keeps you on your toes. Rapid burst helps, but even so you have to pay close attention to how and where the birds are flying or landing. A fast shutter speed of at least 1/1250 sec. helps freeze the wing motion. I always use Shutter Priority when photographing birds and wildlife. That allows you to keep control over the shutter speed at all times. Of course you also have to pay attention to the Histogram to be sure your exposure is good. As the light levels drop, often you have to raise the ISO in order to keep the shutter speed where it needs to be.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec., f/7.1, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens set at 300mm 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

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Calm After The Storm


I am just finishing up my programs and teaching duties at the Festival of the Cranes at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. It has been a fabulous 4 days with tens of thousands of birds - snow geese, sandhill cranes, a wide variety of ducks, and more.

I'll be here for another week leading a photo tour, so it will have been a real treat to be here for 2 weeks. The birds at Bosque are legendary, and they have certainly lived up to their reputation. The snow geese have put on a superb show each and every morning with raucous lift-off's, and the sandhill cranes have been their usual calm selves, soaring serenely overhead.

This image was taken just after sunset when the geese were settling down for the night in an adjacent pond. I had already put my camera away, but grabbed my iPhone to capture this quickly disappearing moment.

TECH SPECS
1/40th sec. at f.2.2, ISO 32. iPhone 6 camera.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be like a duck. Calm on the surface but always paddling like the dickens underneath."  -- Michael Caine

Monday, November 12, 2018

Flying High With The Birds


I have arrived at Bosque del Apache in New Mexico for the annual Festival of the Cranes week. I was honored to be asked to be one of the speakers presenting programs and workshops through the week.  Thousands of people come for this special event, to view and experience the thousands of snow geese and sandhill cranes who migrate through this area.

The fall migration is massive. The birds are attracted here because of the large ponds and surrounding fields that provide much needed food.

This shot was taken at the dawn liftoff of snow geese. As if responding to a silent signal, they all lift off together at sunrise, creating a cacophony of sounds. The sheer mass of life is awe-inspiring.  The sound of their honking and wing beats surrounds you, envelops you, and the entire show lasts all of 45 seconds before they are gone, flying off to the fields to feed for the day.

It is an amazing show and one that is exciting day after day. It is a treat to be here, both for the Festival and for my private bird photography workshop that starts next week.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec. at f/11, ISO 800. Canon 500mm lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with ball head and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY QUOTE: "Birds are a miracle because they prove to us there is a finer, simpler state of being which we may strive to attain."  --Douglas Coupland

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Brown Bears of Alaska


This world class Alaska brown bears photo trip is one of the very best offered! We photograph bears up close and personal every day. Limited to only 8 photographers, we have an entire classic Alaska lodge to ourselves. We have our own private bear guide who takes us and all our gear on an ATV and gets us very close to where the bears are. No slogging through hip-deep water, no long hikes, no daily flights to get to the bears. We are RIGHT where the bears are each and every day.

The lodge is lovely and has its own chef who prepares all our meals. Each day we have opportunities to photograph moms and cubs, cubs playing and fighting, clamming, nursing, and bears traversing the fields and the streams.

AND we also take half a day to travel by boat to a puffin breeding island. We spend several hours photographing these beautiful and comical birds.

Read details about this exciting trip here  

It doesn't get any better than this - bears AND puffins!

ONLY 4 SPACES LEFT

July 15 - 21, 2019 

Call or email me for more details, or to register. 
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To those devoid of imagination, a blank place on the map is a useless waste; to others, the most valuable part."  --Aldo Leopold


Saturday, November 3, 2018

Daylight Savings Time - Nice While It Lasted


I love the last couple of weeks before Daylight Savings Time ends because it means the sun rises as late as it ever does during the year. I love sunrise, but it just comes too darned early!

The sunrise colors at this time of year can be spectacular. Magenta, purple, blue, yellow, all combine for a beautiful scene. The oceanfront gazebos silhouetted against the colors add extra visual interest, and the line of dark clouds stretching across the sky provide a finishing touch. The dark foreground creates a powerful base to the entire image.

So enjoy your extra hour of sleep tonight! And please VOTE on Tuesday. Having the privilege of voting is a vital element of democracy, but often we take it for granted and think our vote does not matter. It always matters - make your voice heard.

TECH SPECS
1/120 sec. at f.2.2, ISO 40.   4.15mm lens iPhone 6.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The vote is the most powerful instrument ever devised for breaking down injustice, and destroying the terrible walls which imprison people because they are different from others."  --Lyndon B. Johnson  

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween!


Wishing you a very Happy Halloween!

This autumn image was created in Iceland. The fall color was spectacular, and the moving water traced a lacy design over the rocks. I'm often asked how to show the movement of water, and the answer is "it depends."

It depends on how fast the water is moving, and whether it is moving toward you or across your field of view. The best way to get the look you want is to use a variety of shutter speeds. Then after you have downloaded the images, choose the ones that look the best to you.

Fast moving water can look very silky at a shutter speed as fast as 1/8 sec., while slower moving water might require a shutter speed of several seconds. So experiment with different slow shutter speeds every time you are photographing moving water.

To give yourself the best chance of getting a slow shutter speed, set your camera to 100 ISO, and close your lens down as far as it will go (f/32 or f/22). 

If it is a bright day and you cannot get a slow enough shutter speed, you can use a polarizing filter which will reduce exposure by about two-and-a-half stops. Or you can use a neutral density filter (also called a black filter) which comes in various strengths, generally from 3 to 10 stops. I prefer a 10-stop to get the most effect. There are also variable neutral density filters which include all the various options, but can be costly.

A word of caution on neutral density filters:  do not be tempted to get an inexpensive one. They are quite poor optically, and often result in unacceptable images. Also, some neutral density filters cause a noticeable color shift, again resulting in unacceptable images. Even highly respected manufacturers who claim that their filters have no color shift, do indeed have a negative effect on the colors. I have tested several brands, and have found that the Breakthrough brand  https://breakthrough.photography/  is the best available. There is no color shift, and the optics are excellent. And they offer an excellent guarantee and free shipping, so order directly from the manufacturer.

Photographing moving water in all its forms - waterfalls, flowing streams, the ocean - is a creative and pleasant experience. So go play, and see what you can create.

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I am always doing what I cannot do yet, in order to learn how to do it."  --  Vincent van Gogh

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Magic Macro


The by-invitation-only Women's Creativity Retreat ends tomorrow, and what a blast we have had. Today was devoted to macro and abstracts. I was not planning to shoot since I wanted to be ready to help anyone who needed it. But each person easily got in the zone and began quietly creating exquisite images. They worked for over 2 hours with hardly a word, so I decided to do some playing myself.

This image was created with a beautiful cut glass bowl that one of the participants brought all the way from Minnesota. I placed a small sequined fabric from a dollar store underneath the bowl which provided the colors. It was shot with window light on an overcast day. It was a very simple setup that produced an appealing burst of color, motion, and line.

TECH SPECS
1/60 sec. at f/4, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."  -- Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Skillful Flyer


Eagles are amazing fliers. We were whale-watching aboard a private yacht along the Inside Passage of Alaska, and also attracting eagles. We were treated to some incredible aerial displays like this one. Eagles can swoop and dive, never taking their eyes off their target. They almost defy gravity. We photographed them for hours, treated by all their moves.

Conditions were perfect with dramatic mist and dark moody trees. The action was fast and furious, and we were handholding our long lenses to keep track of their movements. The lenses got a bit heavy after awhile, but the action was so exciting that we barely noticed.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-6.3L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Whoever said money can't buy happiness simply didn't know where to go shopping."  -- Gertrude Stein

SPECIALS FROM HUNT'S PHOTO
If you need to shop for photo gear, here are some specials from Hunt's Photo. They are available only until Monday, October 22. Hunt's is a great resource, will give you good information and good customer service. Tell them I sent you for even better service. Here are the specials, which last only a few days:

-  Trade in any electronic device in any condition to save on the purchase of any new camera.

 -  Purchase a camera with a final price under:
 $250- Save $15
 $500- Save $20
 $750- Save $35
 $1000- Save $50
 $1500- Save $75
 $2000- Save $100
 $3000- Save $150

 -  All Canon 5D IV, 6D II, and 7D II, bodies and kits will come with a $200 Hunts gift card this weekend only! This can be combined with the electronic trade in bonus savings mentioned above.

-  The brand new Canon EOS R kit with 24-105mm lens has a $200 bonus savings. This can be combined with the electronic trade in bonus savings mentioned above.

-  The Canon Pixma Pro-10 printer is on sale $379.99, comes with two free packs of 13x19" paper and has a $250 mail in rebate. Bringing the final price down to $129.99 after mail in rebate.

-  Special prices on the Panasonic G9 and 100-400mm lens.

-  Tamron 100-400mm lens is on sale for $749 and has a bonus mail in rebate of $25. Please contact Gary for savings on other lenses, too.

-  All Freehands gloves are 25% off.
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/searchresult.cfm?sortby=score%20desc&manufacturer=Freehands&criteria=freehand%20gloves&startrow=1&SP=rbUWf

 -  The Magmod Wildlife flash extender is on sale for $59.99
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=MMBEAMW01&mfg=MagMod&show=yes&sp=qgCOj

-  The Promaster LED120SS led light is on sale for $49.99.
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=PRO8289&mfg=Promaster&show=yes&sp=bNyMo

-  Save 20% off all Walkstools.
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/searchresult.cfm?sortby=score%20desc&manufacturer=Walkstool&criteria=walkstool&startrow=1&sp=Z0Pxh

-  See all the specials here  http://specials.huntsphoto.com/2018-annual-hunts-show/

Contact Gary at Hunt's with any questions you may have    gfarber@huntsphoto.com



Monday, October 15, 2018

Separation Anxiety


A basic rule in wildlife photography is to separate subjects as much as possible. Sometimes full separation is best, and at other times just keeping the heads or faces separated works well. That is the case with this image of Snow Geese taken at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.

Their bodies overlap, but their heads are separated, AND they are just above the horizon line of the distant mountain, which separates them from the background.

Shooting birds in flight is done best by setting your camera on Rapid Burst, and using AI or Continuous Focus so that as the bird moves closer or farther away from your camera, you can still maintain reasonably sharp focus.

If you enjoy bird photography, join me at Bosque del Apache November 19 - 23 for a spectacular workshop. Only 2 spaces left. In addition to birds, we will have a full moonrise during our week there. Details here    https://awakethelight.blogspot.com/2018/07/just-announced-bosque-del-apache-new.html?fbclid=IwAR2os9T8-jeAG9SWRZRXHkWDyqX66ZBHIaHGKWBEKloCfw3EnDOq0FHri7M  

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Kick It Up A Notch


You can take a simple subject and kick it up a notch with a few simple creative techniques. These tulips were beautiful, but I wanted something a little different. Using a slow shutter speed AND moving the camera slightly during the exposure created a more stylized look.

Practice with a variety of techniques when you are out shooting. You can zoom the lens during a long exposure, or move the camera up and down during exposure (as in this image), or rotate the camera around a center point.

In addition to moving the camera, I used a ripple filter in Photoshop during post-processing to add a bit of texture.

TECH SPECS
1/4 sec. at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The mystery isn't in the technique, it's in each of us."  --Harry Callahan

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Mighty Macro


I am in Hilton Head, SC to give a presentation on Macro photography to a large camera club. Macro is a much broader category of photography than you might think. In the old days it was very narrowly defined as representing a subject at life-size or larger. Also, the conventional thinking was that every element of the subject had to be razor sharp.

Well, that was your grandmother's macro! Today we have much more freedom in how we create macro images. Macro can be a close-up of the subject, but can be smaller than life size. Also, we can be much more creative with shallow depth of field, rendering parts of the subject soft and moody.

The flip side of that thinking, however, is creating images that are sharper than a lens can create on its own, using multiple images and software to blend them together to make every single part of the subject super sharp. Personally I do not used that technique since I prefer a softer more artistic look. But you should find the route that suits you and the subject the best.

Today's image is a water droplet on melting glacier ice in Alaska. Note that it was NOT taken with a macro lens. You can achieve a macro look with other lenses, from wide angle to telephoto if you are careful. Many of today's lenses allow you to focus fairly closely to the subject. Experiment with your lenses to see how close you can be to the subject and still bring parts of the subject into focus. Wide angle lenses will create a very different look from telephoto lenses. My preference, if I am not using a macro lens, is to use a telephoto lens which enables the background to be rendered out of focus, drawing attention to the main subject.

TECH SPECS 1/500 sec. at f/9, ISO 800. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens, set at 105mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh the thinks you can think up if only you try."  --Dr. Seuss

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Think Outside The Box


Today's Blog encourages you to think outside the box. When photographing nature and wildlife, we generally want crisp, sharp images to show the subject at its best. But sometimes we want to show the LIFE of the subject, its movement, its spark, its place in the world.

So while freezing the motion of a living subject certainly has its place, at times allowing the motion to show in your images is a good approach.

These Sandhill Cranes, taken a few years ago during their migration to Bosque del Apache in New Mexico, were moving at a pretty good speed right in front of me. I took many shots with a fast shutter speed to freeze the motion, but I also took some with a slower shutter speed to show their life and their movement.

My recommendation is that when shooting any subject, whether stationary or moving, take some traditional shots to showcase the subject, but also try some creative approaches to show the subject in a more artistic way. Some techniques to try are slow shutter speeds and panning. You can do each separately, or combine the techniques as I did in this image. This was shot at 1/30 sec AND I panned the camera as the birds flew past. A tripod is necessary for best results.

Panning helps to essentially smear the background while at the same time keeping the birds relatively sharp (as long as you pan the camera at about the same speed as the birds are moving). The slow shutter speed enhances the smeared look of the background, and also provides some blur to the wings. The final result is an artistic background, and a feeling of life and motion in the image.

Want to learn more about bird photography? Join me in Bosque del Apache November 19 - 23 for a week of some of the best bird photography anywhere. Details at this link
http://awakethelight.blogspot.com/2018/07/just-announced-bosque-del-apache-new.html

We'll shoot the world famous dawn lift-off of thousands of snow geese, possibly the most awe-inspiring bird event you can witness  -  in about 45 seconds, the snow geese go from sitting peacefully on the large ponds to flying straight up and speeding off to nearby fields to feed. The sounds and the mass of life are truly amazing, and the spectacle is over in less than a minute.

We will also have many opportunities to photograph the elegant and graceful Sandhill Cranes. This will be a great opportunity to get some artistic and creative images.

Bosque del Apache is known for its spectacular sunrises and sunsets, AND we will also photograph a full moonrise. So we should have some superb shooting opportunities during the week. Limited to 12 photographers and ONLY 2 SPACES LEFT. Feel free to call or email me with questions.

TECH SPECS
1/30 sec. at f/8. ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens on Canon 40D body (old and now retired, but a great camera in its day). Gitzo tripod with ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The aim of every artist is to arrest motion, which is life, by artificial means and hold it fixed so that a hundred years later, when a stranger looks at it, it moves again since it is life."  --William Faulkner

Sunday, September 30, 2018

October Newsletter Just Published


The information-packed October newsletter is now out. If you do not subscribe (it is free) you may view it at this link    https://conta.cc/2NcZmfl

If you would like to start your free subscription, just send me an email with the word YES in the subject line. Send the email to awakethelight@charter.net 

The newsletter has great information on the 2019 Alaska trip to Glacier Bay National Park. It is a super trip, so be sure to read all the details.

There is also an educational article on Lightroom that should be helpful. I hope you enjoy the newsletter.

TECH SPECS
1/500 sec. at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 105mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera."  --Dorothea Lange

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Funky Wall


This weird and whimsical entry point to a house in Juneau, Alaska caught my eye. When I first saw it I did not know exactly what I was looking at. Was it a house made out of skis? On closer inspection I found that it was a free-standing wall made out of water skiis. It was a privacy wall in front of a house and property on the water. Pretty clever!

The image was first processed normally in Lightroom. Then I applied a Topaz Adjust 5 filter to punch the colors. Then in Photoshop I applied the Artistic/Cutout filter for the finishing touch.

Normally I do not process images to this extent, but this funky facade needed some extra punch so I resorted to a little extra help. When working on more traditional nature and wildlife images I rarely modify images to this extent. But when going for something more artsy or dramatic, it is OK to go a bit overboard. Just always let good taste be your guide. And have some fun, too!

TECH SPECS
1/200 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II set at 50mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "This world is but a canvas to our imagination."  --Henry David Thoreau

Monday, September 24, 2018

Bears From A Participant's Point Of View


Lake Clark National Park, Alaska, is a wonderful location to visit and an amazing site for photographing Coastal Brown Bears. I have photographed Brown Bears in other prime Alaska locations and this is by far the most pristine, and a place where the bears are most accessible.

The lodge where we stayed is charming, the staff wonderfully accommodating, and meals are sumptuous. Best of all, the bears could care less that photographers are present.

The bears are habituated to having people around, so we do not disrupt their natural behaviors. This image shows a mother calmly nursing her cubs very close to us.

This area presents various habitats for photographing the bears. There are grasslands where they enjoy eating sedge, the mud flats at low tide for clams (a treat to watch them opening the clam shells), and the slough (pronounced "slew") and stream for fishing when the salmon are "running."

For me, this family scene of 2-year-old cubs nursing represents this area of Alaska, and the bears that frequent this location. It shows nature's tranquility and nurturing. Of course there is also the possibility of excitement, drama, and conflict between the bears as well. This just adds to the "call of the wild" from the Alaska wilderness.

About Cindy  -  she is a superb photographer, and always a fun part of the group. She has traveled with me many times, and this was her third trip to this location for bear photography. That says a lot about the unique and incredible nature of this trip. The next trip is scheduled for July 15 - 21, 2019.  Limited to 8 photographers, there are only 5 spaces left. Details at this link  http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/
Thanks, Cindy, for your always pleasant company, your wonderful images, and your charm and grace.  --Mollie

TECH SPECS
1/1600 sec. at f/4, ISO 400. Sony 24-600 f/2.4-4.0 lens on Sony RX10 IV. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you are where the wild bears live, you learn to pay attention to the rhythm of the land and yourself. Bears not only make the habitat rich, they enrich us just by being."  --Linda Jo Hunter



Friday, September 21, 2018

Best Place to Photograph Alaska Grizzly Bears


I love the location I have found for photographing grizzly bears in Alaska. In every respect it is the best for bear photography in so many ways. Here's why:

1. While the bears are completely wild, they are used to seeing humans and are not a threat.
2. Our lodge is very close to where the bears are, and we photograph bears every day.
3. No forced marches - we are transported on an ATV with all our gear to where the bears are.
4. See moms and cubs who are nursing, playing, eating, and close enough for great shots.
5. No super-long lenses needed.
6. Lovely lodge with comfortable rooms, private baths, great food, and charming hosts.
7. It is easy to get to - the lodge is a one-hour small plane flight from Anchorage (included in your tour fee)
8. I book the entire lodge, so everything runs on our schedule for the BEST bear photography.
9. I provide personalized instruction, and daily image reviews.
10. AND we have fun!

What more could you ask for? This is THE perfect trip for photographing bears. AND, weather permitting we will take a short boat ride one day to a breeding island to photograph puffins. This trip is a great combination of superb photography, wonderful surroundings, and Alaska ambience!

LIMITED TO ONLY 8 PHOTOGRAPHERS

July 15 - 21, 2019


Read more details at   

Call or email me with questions or to register


PHONE  757-773-0194 


TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 400.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender set at 560mm (top left), 330mm (top right and bottom). Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We live in a wonderful world that is 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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Eagle Has Landed


I finally arrived home last night, now that Hurricane Florence has moved north. It was quite an adventure, and frankly not one I wish to repeat any time soon. Thankfully the northern Outer Banks of North Carolina was spared the brunt of the storm. Everything is fine and just how it was when I left a week ago.

The storm damage farther south and west is severe, and I feel for those who have suffered great loss. It will take months for those affected to recover. Pleas have been made for aid to those people - food, clothing, and so much more. If you are able, please give what you can to a reliable organization that is trying to help those folks. Many organizations will accept either a money donation, or goods and services.

This image was made this past summer in Alaska. It was a gray, misty day and we were in prime eagle territory. This beauty struck the perfect pose in the perfect place, with soft misty trees in the background.

When shooting birds in flight, a fast shutter speed is your best friend if you want sharp results. A shutter speed of at least 1/1250 sec. works well, and I prefer faster - 1/1600 or 1/2000 - if there is enough light. I prefer to set the ISO no higher than 800 in order to minimize the appearance of noise, but in low light conditions I will use ISO 1600 when necessary.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 318mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes."  -- E.F. Schumacher  


Friday, September 14, 2018

Slowly Working My Way Home


Today's Hurricane Florence update:
I left western North Carolina to avoid the flash flooding predicted for this weekend, and am now safely in Richmond, Virginia at my friend Jane's house. I skirted around the storm to the west, and then to the north to arrive in Richmond.

Along the interstates I traversed today, I saw two large trailers marked "Disaster Unit," apparently ready to travel to the hardest hit areas. I also saw 3 separate convoys of electric company bucket trucks traveling toward the hurricane area. Very sobering sights to say the least. And how wonderful that in a disaster there are those who are ready and willing to pitch in, to put themselves in harm's way, and to leave their homes and families in an effort to help others.

Today's photo is me with my feet up, finally relaxing in complete safety in Richmond.

Miraculously, the northern Outer Banks sustained no damage, my house is intact, and I plan to return home in the next couple of days. But for now, I am so lucky to be in a safe place, comfortable and dry. I cannot begin to imagine how many lives have been terribly disrupted, how many homes have been destroyed, how many people are emotionally shattered as a result of this storm, and how many lives have been and will be lost. Let's do all we can to help those in need, whether it is emotional, financial, or simply with our prayers and healing thoughts.

TECH SPECS
Selfie shot with iPhone 6 camera.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If a natural disaster strikes, reach out to friends, neighbors, and complete strangers. Lend a helping hand."  --Marsha Blackburn

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Fleeing Hurricane Florence


Many heartfelt thanks to everyone who has been contacting me with concern about my welfare in light of Hurricane Florence. I was very touched by the outpouring of concern from so many clients and friends. As many of you know, I make my home at the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and earlier in the week it appeared that we were going to be in the bull's-eye of this terrible storm.

Because of the unpredictability of weather patterns, in spite of all our technological advances in weather forecasting, the storm took an unexpected turn to the south and will deliver just a glancing blow to the Outer Banks. But before the authorities knew that, they issued a mandatory evacuation of all visitors and residents.

So I headed to western North Carolina in hopes of avoiding the worst of the storm's wrath. I revisited the Blue Ridge Parkway, shown in today's image. It is one of our country's most beautiful roadways through the mountains. The weather was great with no hint of the havoc being wrought on eastern North Carolina and South Carolina.

But now in light of the storm's new track, this part of the state will experience flash floods over the weekend. So I am now heading north and east to Richmond, VA which, at least for now, appears to be out of the line of fire. Quite a sojourn. I have chosen to look at it as an adventure, although not one I wish to repeat any time soon!

I think next time evacuations are ordered, I should just go as far away as possible, perhaps Tahiti!

TECH SPECS
1/2000 at f/13, ISO 1600.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 182mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In reality, you don't ever change the hurricane. You just learn how to stay out of its path.  --Jodi Picoult


Sunday, September 9, 2018

Sense of Scale and Space


A female moose and her calf were walking briskly across the tundra in Denali National Park on a misty day. Even though she stands about 6 feet tall at the shoulder and weighs close to 1000 pounds, she looks tiny in this landscape.

Often we want much closer shots of wildlife, but sometimes it is good to show the surroundings to give a sense of scale. Denali is huge and distances are deceiving. The moose were several hundred yards away, and the mountains in the background were 3 to 5 miles away. Take a moment to wrap your head around those distances.

So if you do not have a long lens don't despair. You can still get great shots of wildlife by showing them in their environment, and giving the viewer a sense of scale.

TECH SPECS
1/320 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with Canon1.4x telextender for an effective focal length of 280mm, on Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There are no rules for good photographs. There are only good photographs."  --Ansel Adams

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Beautiful Baby of Denali


This grizzly bear cub in Denali National Park was bulking up along with its mother in preparation for the upcoming winter. The seasons pass quickly in the far north, and autumn had already begun by mid-August. The fall colors had appeared and the temperatures were dropping.

This cub and its mother were working their way along the creek seen in the background, eating all the blueberries and soap berries they could find. Amazingly they came closer and closer to our vehicle and eventually walked right behind us. FYI, in Denali for your personal safety, you want to maintain a minimum distance of at least 300 yards from bears unless you are in a vehicle. And possibly even more distance when there is a mother with cubs.

For that reason, we stayed safely in our vehicle as the bears came closer to us. We were able to shoot through the open windows and everyone got great images. What a thrill to be so close to these iconic animals.

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens with 1.4x telextender for an effective focal length of 280mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Alive, the grizzly is a symbol of freedom and understanding - a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice. "  --Frank Craighead

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Denali, The Great One


I just returned to Anchorage last night from a wonderful week in Denali National Park. Once again luck was with us and we got great views of the tallest mountain in North America, Denali.

The day this was taken started out overcast with sprinkles, but by afternoon the skies cleared beautifully to reveal this superb view of the awe-inspiring mountain.

It was a super group with friendly and excited people, and we all enjoyed our time together. Everyone got amazing images of an array of wildlife including grizzly bear, caribou, moose, a rare fox sighting, and of course breathtaking scenics. 

The tundra was turning to autumn shades of gold, yellow, and red, and the animals were in beautiful condition. As always it was hard to leave this incredible place.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec at f/11, ISO 400.  Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 24-105mm lens set at 70mm.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: " If future generations are to remember us with gratitude rather than contempt, we must leave them something more than the miracles of technology. We must leave them a glimpse of the world as it was in the beginning, not just after we got through with it."  --Lyndon B. Johnson

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!


I got to Alaska a couple of days early to just chill. I wanted to see and do a few things before everyone arrived. I had not been to the tiny town of Talkeetna in over a decade so it was time for a return visit. Three tour participants who had arrived early rode there with me, and we had a fun day of shopping, eating pizza, shopping, having ice cream, shopping, and  -  did I say shopping??

Anyway, I was persuaded to pose for this exquisite portrait in Talkeetna and wanted to share it with you. It was taken by my friend Jane who agreed to part with it for a small fee.

Full disclosure  -  the bear was quite friendly, and I did not catch the fish!

Tonight is our first group meeting at a Welcome and Orientation session. We leave early Sunday morning for Denali National Park. Let the fun begin!

We will be out of internet range until next weekend, so I will not be able to post any images from Denali until then.

TECH SPECS
Unwilling model was photographed with iPhone 6 at close range. Handheld. 

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Back In Alaska!


I'm happy to be back in Alaska, just one month after concluding my July Alaska photo tours. After so many trips here, it feels very comfortable and easy. It is always exciting to be back. This is the view from the plane as we began our descent into the Anchorage airport. Some peaks were snow-capped, and others revealed their rocky tops.

There are still many hours of daylight here, and this was taken a little before 9PM. Sunset was about 9:30, and as we swung around toward our gate we could see an almost full moon above the Chugash Mountains.

The Denali National Park photo tour begins on Saturday evening. I'm looking forward to seeing everyone, and helping them to revel in the joys of this incredible place with its abundant wildlife and sweeping scenery.

TECH SPECS
1/1600 sec. at f/2.2, ISO 32, iPhone6 camera 4.15mm lens.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Photography is a love affair with life."  --Burk Uzzle

Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Beautiful Brown Bears of Alaska


Spending time with the brown bears of coastal Alaska is an experience every photographer who enjoys wildlife should have at least once in their lives. Two words best describe them - beautiful and compelling. These bears are very human-like, and even though they are completely wild, the coastal bears are not concerned by our presence. They are calm and go about their daily routines right before our eyes.

After a short time with these bears, you realize that each one has a different face, and you will begin to recognize each one. And they are more entertaining than a TV sit-com. The cubs romp and play, they chase each other and engage in mock fighting. But when mom utters a barely audible huffing sound, they snap to attention and immediately obey her command.

And there are tender moments as well. Watching cubs nurse is a special experience to observe and photograph. And the strong bond between mothers and cubs is obvious and endearing.

I return to this same location year after year because of the amazing images we can get, and how easy it is to photograph these special animals. We are transported in ATV's with all our gear very close to where the bears are. Our experienced guide gets us in good locations where the light is right and the action is best.

I also return year after year because our lodge is very close to the bear action, and is a very pampering place to return to after a day of shooting. It is a classic Alaska lodge, with great food and nicely decorated rooms. I reserve the entire lodge, so everything is done on our schedule and with only us in mind. 

This is an exclusive workshop open to only 8 photographers. Group size is kept small so that you can receive personalized attention and be in positions to get the best shots. These bears are so mellow that they are do not react to our presence. Often they will walk fairly close to us, allowing some superb close up shots. Huge lenses are NOT needed.

Learn the nuances of nature photography in a truly wild atmosphere. Join me in Alaska July 15 - 21 for a world-class experience.

TECH SPECS
Shutter speeds between 1/1000 and 1/2500 sec. at f/8. ISO 400 to 800. Canon 100-400mm lens with 1.4x extender on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Sometimes you get no second chance, and it's best to accept the gifts the world offers you."  -- Paolo Coelho

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Silk Purse From A Sow's Ear


 Sometimes you know what you want and you just have to keep trying until you get it. I photographed this dwarf dogwood on last month's Alaska trip during a short hike to a lovely pristine lake. The plant was a little past its prime, but the simple shape of the flower and the beautifully veined leaves really appealed to me.

It was along the edge of the trail, with not a great background. These grow very low to the ground so there was no hope of using shallow depth of field to blur the background. Here is the original RAW image.
BEFORE
The first step was to minimize the background by darkening it with the Gradient Filter tool in Lightroom.That helped some, but it was not the look I wanted. After trying a few other approaches that did not work, I decided to try converting it to black-and-white using Nik Silver Efex Pro 2. I went through many of the pre-sets, and finally found the one that really made this plant "pop." The super dark leaves and the bright white flower were just what I was hoping for. The entire background disappeared, and the flower took center stage.


Taking an ordinary image and making it into something more artistic is a great creative exercise. It might take some patience and perseverance to find the look that works for you, but it is well worth the time to find the right approach. Unless you want to really go overboard, try to use a light touch with whatever filters or techniques you choose. While this is a very dramatic, not totally realistic rendition of this plant, it still preserves its beauty, the lines, and the shapes that caught my eye in the first place.

TECH SPECS
1/80 sec. at f/9, ISO 800. Panasonic G9 with Leica 12-60mm f/2.8-4 lens set at 60mm. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Perseverance is failing 19 times and succeeding the 20th."  --Julie Andrews

Saturday, August 11, 2018

To Stay Or Go?


Shortly after we arrived at Lake Clark National Park, the best place to photograph brown bears in Alaska, our guide drove us around to get the best vantage point. As we drove past the mud flats, we saw another group of photographers with this lone bear.

The bear was walking slowly toward the group, and apparently the three people at the back decided it was time to retreat. But the 4-some closer to the bear were content to keep on shooting. FYI, you do always want to keep your distance from any wild animal. But if one approaches you slowly and calmly, generally the animal is just interested in walking by, not attacking. Even so, you do want to back away slowly, giving the animal a wide berth. And of course you never want to run.

We had an incredible week with great bear images of moms and cubs, cubs nursing, cubs sparring, great weather, and a special boat trip to a puffin breeding colony.

If you want to get amazing photographs of brown bears in the wilds of Alaska, join me on next year's trip. It is scheduled for July 15 - 21, 2019. Read complete details at this link  http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/

Please email me with questions. I hope you can join me!

TECH SPECS
1/2500 sec. at f/9, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm lens with 1.4x extender for a focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Alive, the grizzly bear is a symbol of freedom and understanding - a sign that man can learn to conserve what is left of the earth. Extinct, it will be another fading testimony to things man should have learned more about but was too preoccupied with himself to notice."  -- Frank Craighead

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Taking A Creative Break


Since getting back from Alaska, I have been taking some time to edit the over 20,000 images I took. It is a HUGE task, so I decided to take a creative break and experiment with some non-nature and non-wildlife images.

As you recall, I was testing out the Panasonic G9 mirrorless body and several Leica lenses. Panasonic had loaned me the body and several lenses, including the 45mm macro (equivalent to 90mm on a full frame sensor) to test. I find colorful glassware is a great subject for macro and abstracts, and that was the subject for this shot. It is a small glass bowl from a museum gift shop.

Here is the original RAW image uncropped. When I took this shot I was just getting the feel of the macro lens and was not concerned about composition.
BEFORE
I was just firing off shots. But in looking at it on my computer screen, the area I have outlined in black got my attention. I have found that with both my Canon gear and the Panasonic system, extensive cropping can still produce some exciting and usable images (as long as you do not want to make 6-foot wide prints for your living room wall!). So I cropped the image as shown, and optimized it in Lightroom. Nothing extreme was done, but because of the colors and the shapes, an interesting image began to appear.


The steps in Lightroom were simple. Here is what I did, after cropping:
1.  reduced Clarity to minus 60 to create a softer look;
2.  boosted Vibrance to +100 (I rarely go this far with either Vibrance or Saturation, but when creating an artistic image, going a bit overboard is OK);
3.  in the HSL box, increased the Saturation of blue, yellow, and orange;
4.  used the Graduated Filter tool to darken the lower right and entire left side;
5.  used the Luminance slider to reduce noise.

Because of the extreme crop, the reduced Clarity, and the boosted colors, the entire image took on a somewhat surreal look which is the artsy look I was hoping for. No filters or other software was used.

So now I can go back to the tedious task of editing!

TECH SPECS
1/100 sec. at f/2.8, ISO 1600. Panasonic G9 body with Leica 45mm f/2.8 macro lens. Handheld.

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

Monday, August 6, 2018

Alaska's Crown Jewel - Glacier Bay National Park


World famous. Filled with glaciers and wildlife and pristine waters. Join me in the vast wilderness of Glacier Bay National Park next June 25 - 30.

WHALES   -   GLACIERS   -   PUFFINS   -   SEALS

PRIVATE BOAT TRIPS   -   AND MUCH MORE!

Spend a wonderful week in a beautiful lodge with superb chef-prepared meals, surrounded by some of Alaska's most pristine wilderness. This official World Heritage Site is not to be missed.

Our private boat trips will get us into prime whale territory, surrounded by Alaska's famous mountains. The photographic opportunities are endless.

Limited to only 10 photographers, this is the best Glacier Bay photo trip available.

Fee includes round-trip flight from Juneau to Glacier Bay, all lodging and meals in Glacier Bay, ground transportation, personal attention and in-the-field training, all boat trips, guide services, image reviews, and tips.

More details at  www.awakethelight.com

For more information or to register, 
please email me at awakethelight@charter.net 
or call me at 757-773-0194.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet (Almost)



I had the fabulous privilege of spending a morning on Duck Island, a tiny rocky outpost in the Cook Inlet, southeast of Anchorage, Alaska, during Mollie’s (Awake The Light) Brown Bear Bonanza Tour. We observed and photographed beautiful and entertaining puffins. We saw both horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata) and tufted puffins (Fratercula cirrhata), with the horned puffins being much more prevalent.

These interesting birds look like little clowns in tuxedos.  They have large colorful beaks, stocky bodies, short wings and colorful orange feet with dark black feathers above while their breast feathers are a pristine white.  They come to land only during the summer to breed and raise their young, spending most of their lives at sea.  We enjoyed watching them run across the surface of the water as they took to the air and careened around the hills and rocks of the island as they flew out to gather fish, and then returned to the nest. 

It is a formidable challenge to capture these speedy birds in flight as they are incredibly fast and change direction frequently and just as quickly.  They fly at speeds up to 55 mph with up to 400 wingbeats per minute!  Waiting for them to roost on a sunny rock makes photographing the little critters a much easier task!  At times the birds swooped just over our heads or passed between us on the sandy beach.  Hundreds of birds flying in every direction made it difficult to decide which way to point the camera. 

I found that observing the birds for awhile and determining their flight patterns made it easier to follow them.  I checked the best sun angle, then tracked them and waited for them to cross a patch of blue sky before pressing the shutter in high speed burst mode.  The results were some amazing sharply focused birds, with some puffins carrying twigs or fish back to the nest. To be honest, there were also a number of images with fuzzy puffins, puffin body parts or clear blue sky, but those are easily deleted in favor of the prize catches.  If you like a challenge, shooting puffins in flight is definitely a demanding test and tons of fun!

[Editor’s Note: Dee is one of the best bird photographers I have ever seen. She understands their habits, and pays attention to wind direction, and the direction of the light as well. And she can instantly lift the camera to her eye, focus, pan, and zero in on awesome shots in a heartbeat. Next year’s exciting Brown Bears and Puffins trip is already scheduled for July 15 – 21, 2019. Get all the details at this link  http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/  ]

TECH SPECS
Shutter speeds ranging from 1/3200 to 1/8000 sec at f/8, ISO 2000. Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 IS II lens, set from 135mm to 400mm. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience."  --Eleanor Roosevelt 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

JUST ANNOUNCED - Bosque del Apache, New Mexico, November 2018


Just announced! Photo workshop at
Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, November 19 - 23, 2018

Join me at one of the best bird photography locations anywhere. We will be there at the height of the fall migration of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes. Thousands and thousands of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes come to Bosque del Apache each year.

Each morning we will witness one of Mother Nature's most amazing shows - thousands of Snow Geese lifting off in unison to forage for the day. At about sunrise, the entire mass of Snow Geese lifts off from the ponds in an overwhelming display of sights and sounds. It is something you have to witness for yourself.

We will photograph these elegant birds in early morning and late evening light. Mid-day there will be Lightroom instruction and image critiques. It will be an incredible week with fantastic photo opportunities.

Fly into Albuquerque, New Mexico. It is about an hour's drive from the airport to our workshop location.

WHERE: Bosque del Apache, New Mexico

WHEN: November 19 - 23, 2018

LIMIT: 10 photographers

FEE: $1895.00

FEE INCLUDES: Personalized attention, daily instruction, guide service, image critiques, creative ideas and approaches, Lightroom tips and tricks, and more. [NOT included - lodging, meals, transportation, Wildlife Refuge entry fees.]

FLEXIBLE ITINERARY (subject to change): Workshop begins on the afternoon of Monday, November 19, and ends after the morning shoot on Friday, November 23. 
Each additional day, November 20, 21, and 22, we will have both early morning and late afternoon shoots. This will provide the best light, and the best sunrise and sunset colors.  Mid-day times will include teaching sessions and critiques.

TO REGISTER: Call Mollie at 757-773-0194 with questions or to register. 


Friday, July 20, 2018

Puffins and Bear Cubs and Moms, oh my!


The always incredible Alaska Brown Bears and Puffins trip ended yesterday, and wow did everyone get superb images! I was blown away by the variety and great quality of what they captured.

We take over the entire lodge in Lake Clark National Park for some of the best bear viewing anywhere. Because it is just us at the lodge, the timing of exploring for bears and photographing them is entirely under our control. Our guide is there only for us, plus mealtimes are on our schedule. Perfect bear photography in all respects.

Finding the bears is easy. They are pretty much everywhere, and we are transported by our guide aboard our ATV to their locations. 

Add to that our special half-day boat trip to the nearby Puffin Island, and you have the best of both worlds.

Next year's trip is already scheduled - July 15 - 21, 2019. Complete details at this link  http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/

Please email me with questions.

TECH SPECS
All images shot with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens IS II on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Photography is a love affair with life."  -- Burk Uzzle

Friday, July 13, 2018

Experience Of A Lifetime


I just returned today from an 8-day chartered yacht trip in Alaska's Inside Passage. What a trip it was! This is the second year I have done this trip with a group of photographers, and it just keeps getting better and better.

We were lucky and found a group of humpback whales engaging in bubble net feeding behavior. This was something I had always wanted to witness, so this was a real thrill.

We watched and photographed this action for over 2 hours. The whales would locate a large school of herring, and then form a group underwater to corral the fish into a small circular "net" created by bubbles that the whales would blow. Once the fish were trapped in the net of bubbles, the whales would lunge upward out of the water as a group and devour large amounts of herring in each gulp.

We had hydrophones and could hear the whale calls underwater, and our guide identified the distinctive high pitched sound made right before the group would lunge upward to gulp the fish in large numbers.

Circling seagulls overhead helped us pinpoint the approximate location of each lunge.

Scientists believe that this behavior indicates a high level of intelligence, and sophisticated communication among groups of whales. It certainly was awe-inspiring and very exciting to witness and to photograph.

TECH SPECS
1/800 sec. at f/9, ISO 800.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is often said that play is the greatest expression of intelligence, and whales and dolphins are among the most playful in the animal kingdom."  -- U.S Whales.com

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Always Surprises


Many times when I am traveling, I come across subjects that I never expected to see. This trip to Alaska is no different. I am here with two different photo groups for whale-watching and brown bear photography. We are not in this incredible place for flowers. And yet, with long sunny days, the flowers burst forth in profusion, and are healthy and large.

This gorgeous patch of columbine was growing in a cultivated bed near Juneau. And these blooms were huge!

So while I was hoping to see eagles swooping overhead, they did not. But these flowers filled the bill for a wonderful photographic opportunity. I shot these with the long telephoto lens (100-400mm) that was on the camera in anticipation of eagles. But it is relatively easy to get great flower images with a long lens, if you back up a bit so the lens will be able to focus on closer subjects. One advantage of shooting flowers with a telephoto lens is that the background goes nicely soft as long as you use a relatively large aperture.

This image has been optimized in Lightroom to bring out the one bloom that is sharp. Below is the Before RAW image, before cropping or optimization. Compare the After image above to the Before image here.
BEFORE
 Lightroom made quite a difference. In the After image above, I toned down the background and the entire right side of the image, and lightened the sharp bloom to make it stand it out more.

So the point of today's Blog is that no matter where you go, no matter what you expect to be shooting, always be open to other opportunities. You never know what wonderful images might happen.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400. Panasonic 100-400mm Leica f/4-6.3 lens set at 400mm on Panasonic G9 body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "One thing is for sure: no matter how organized we are, or how well we plan, we can always expect the unexpected."  --Brandon Jenner

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Ahhhhhh... Alaska



Summer in Alaska. A special time. A rapid growing season with so many hours of daylight. Time for wildlife to bulk up for the upcoming rough winter.

Alaska is one of my favorite places. I am here for two separate photo tours  -  a boat-based whale-watching week in the Inside Passage, followed by a grizzly bears trip to Lake Clark National Park. What a wildlife bonanza we will have.

I am in Juneau for a few preliminary days before the tours begin. These grasses line the shore with remnants of snowy peaks behind. This is pure Alaska - beautiful, uncomplicated, nature at its finest.

I always love coming back to Alaska each year. Next year's trips are already scheduled  -  Glacier Bay National Park, June 25 - 30, 2019;  and Alaska Brown Bears Bonanza, July 15 - 21, 2019. Complete details are on the website here http://awakethelight.com/glacier-bay-national-park/   AND here  http://awakethelight.com/brown-bears/

If you have questions, email or call me and we can discuss all the details. Join me in Alaska for some great photo trips.

TECH SPECS
1/500 sec. at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS II lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter."  -- Henry David Thoreau

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Circle In The Square


This is a technique I have talked about before. It is done in Photoshop using the Polar Coordinates filter. It works better with some images than others, and you just have to experiment to determine which images work best for you.

This is a sunflower blooming outside a local restaurant. The technique is fairly simple. Once you have chosen an image, open it in Photoshop. Here are the steps to use:

1. Convert the image to an 8-bit image in Photoshop by going to Image > Mode > 8 bits/channel.
2. Click on Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. Click the circle next to Polar to Rectangular and click OK.
3. Then click on Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Vertical.
4. Go back to Filter > Distort >Polar Coordinates. Click the circle next to Rectangular to Polar and click OK.

So go experiment and have fun!

TECH SPECS
1/200 sec. at f/22, ISO 400. Panasonic 100-400mm Leica f/4-6.3 set at 400mm on Panasonic G9 body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Experimentation is an active science."  -- Claude Bernard


Saturday, June 23, 2018

Never Say Never



When digital cameras were first introduced, I said I would NEVER go down that road. I was a film purist and liked it that way! But a few years later I got a digital camera “just for fun” and was immediately hooked.

Then when the mirrorless revolution began, I said the same thing. (I guess I never learn!) I had concerns about such small sensors, and the early entries in the mirrorless market had their share of technical and image quality issues.  But now that mirrorless cameras have been around for awhile, and many of the bugs and shortcomings have been resolved, I was invited to try it.

Thanks to Panasonic for loaning me a G9 body and several Leica lenses to test while I am in Alaska. And thanks to Gary at Hunts Photo and Video for introducing me to Panasonic and helping to make this happen.

Before continuing, you should know that I NEVER recommend equipment or software that I have not used myself AND that I like. And I do not receive any sort of compensation for making recommendations. I always try to give honest, unbiased information that you can then use to make the decisions that are best for you.

So with that said, here are my early impressions. So far I have done only one quick test, but frankly I was blown away. In all honesty, I was not expecting such great quality, ease of use, and such a quick learning curve. I will be doing much more testing once I get to Alaska next week, but if early results are any indication, the Panasonic G9 far exceeds my expectations.

The image above was shot with the Leica 100-400mm lens, set at 400mm (equivalent to 200-800mm on a full frame body). It is razor sharp, AND this image is significantly cropped. Here is the uncropped, unoptimized version.
RAW uncropped and unoptimized image
So at essentially 800mm and cropped significantly, the final image above is still sharp with very little noise.

The camera feels much like a normal  DSLR in your hands, but is somewhat smaller and much lighter. It is not a tiny mirrorless body like some others out there, but I like that because the controls on the top and the back are not so jammed together that you accidentally hit a button and change something unintentionally.

The menu is one of the easiest to navigate, and is much more intuitive than others I have seen. Adjustments are easy to make.

So far I have not found any shortcomings with the G9. I still need to test it on birds in flight, wildlife, and scenics, plus I want to give the 45mm Leica macro lens a spin around the block. So stay tuned for more info over the next few weeks.

If you have read other reviews online (and I have yet to find a bad review of the G9), and are ready to get one, Hunt’s Photo and Video is offering a special price to my clients. Click on this link (which shows the list price)  
https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/detail_page.cfm?productid=DCG9KBODY&mfg=Panasonic&show=yes     Then email Gary at Hunt’s to find out what their special price is. Gary’s email is   digitalguygary@wbhunt.com
Be sure to mention you are a client of mine and he will provide you with the special price.    

FYI, there are many photo retailers to choose from, and I have tried many of them. They all sell pretty much the same things at similar prices. What sets Hunt’s apart is that they take a personal interest in their clients. They are small enough to provide individual attention, yet big enough to have access to nearly everything you might want.  Their prices are competitive, they offer free shipping, and they usually have most things in stock.

TECH SPECS
1/2500 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400. Panasonic Leica 100-400mm f/4-6.3 set at 400mm on Panasonic G9 body. Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Never say never. Never is a long, undependable time, and life is too full of rich possibilities to have restrictions placed upon it.”  --Gloria Swanson