Saturday, August 18, 2018
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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!
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
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.
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!
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
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 email@example.com
or call me at 757-773-0194.
Wednesday, August 1, 2018
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/ ]
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! 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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
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|
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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 email@example.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.
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
Wednesday, June 20, 2018
This simple image has appeal, but why? Because it has several elements that speak loudly in spite of the simplicity - the lines of the cactus plant, the monochromatic greens, the texture of the edges, and the light that shows roundness and almost glows.
Often images that have only one or two colors have powerful appeal. There are fewer elements to deal with, and overall there can be a calming effect. And because there are very few elements, it is important that the quality of the light be a beneficial supporting player.
So try this. Set an assignment for yourself. Go in search of subjects that have only one or two colors. Walk around the subject if possible. Look for the best light direction and the best quality of light. I recommend shooting on overcast days since the light will be softer, exposure will be easier, and there will not be hard shadows or bright highlights to become a distraction.
If you get some images you like, email them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I always enjoy seeing what can be created!
1/640 sec. at f/3.2, ISO 400. Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new." --Albert Einstein
Sunday, June 17, 2018
I'm excited that in a few short weeks I'll be back in Alaska, running the grizzly bear photo tour at the most incredible bear location anywhere. I've already reserved the lodge for next year, and the trip will be July 15 -21, 2019. This is the best place to photography grizzlies in the wild. The bears are everywhere, but calm, photogenic, playful, and easy to photograph.
We see mom's and cubs, teenagers mock fighting, and males calmly striding through their domain. We see them in the water, clamming, nursing, fishing, and frolicking in the fields. The variety of behaviors we observe keeps us clicking all day long. And all this with two incredible backdrops - the mountains of Lake Clark National Park on one side, and the rich waters of the Cook Inlet on the other.
About a one-hour flight out of Anchorage, we stay in a lovely pure Alaska lodge that is reserved for just our group. That means that everything moves at our schedule. We have our own guide and ATV vehicle to take us and all our gear each day to where the bear action is best. The lodge has its own superb chef who prepares all our meals. So we are in the wild with bears, yet are able to enjoy the luxury of a comfortable and beautiful lodge, great food, and our own transportation. It doesn't get any better than that!
Plus there is an added bonus! One day we'll take a short boat ride to a nearby puffin breeding island. We'll spend part of a day photographing these beautiful and entertaining birds. It is an experience not to be missed!
Detailed information is on the website here
Email or call for more information, or to register.
For your security, we accept all registrations
and payments by phone at 757-773-0194.
Tuesday, June 12, 2018
The 2019 photo tours and workshops calendar is being rolled out.
The first ones to be announced are two Alaska trips for next summer:
Glacier Bay National Park, June 25 - 30, 2019
Brown Bears Bonanza, July 15 - 21, 2019
Details are in our June newsletter at this link
Each trip is a photographer's dream with great wildlife
and breathtaking scenery.
For more details, questions, or to register,
or call 757-773-0194
Friday, June 8, 2018
Black & White conversions can result in very dramatic images. Once the color is stripped away, we can see the form, shapes, and tones much more clearly.
This image was taken in the Grand Canyon between snow storms. The dark cloudy sky looks much more ominous in black and white than it did in color. I find the best ways to convert images to black and white is to use either Silver Efex Pro or Lightroom.
For dramatic scenes, don't hesitate to go a little over the top to deepen the blacks. But be careful to not block them up totally; you want to maintain a bit of detail in most of the darkest tones.
1/400 sec at f/8, ISO 200. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Drama is very important in life. Everything can have drama if it's done right. Even a pancake." --Julia Child
Tuesday, June 5, 2018
Sometimes the wind is a benefit when photographing flowers. Normally we want sharp images with no sign of motion, but when the wind is blowing it can be a benefit. Use it to your best advantage.
On this very windy day at a botanical gardens I gave up trying to get sharp images. The wind was just too strong. So I took another direction, and made images USING the wind rather than fighting it.
In addition to using a slow shutter speed of 1/3rd of a second, I also moved the camera diagonally during exposure from upper left to lower right.
So when the wind is strong, go with a slow shutter speed and see what you can get!
1/3rd sec. at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 100mm macro f/2.8 lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts his sails." --William Arthur Ward
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Eagles are amazing fliers and fishermen. They swoop down quickly and decisively to nab their dinner. Even though we are very lucky that eagles have made a comeback and are now found in nearly every state nationwide, the largest and most impressive ones are in Alaska.
I am excited that in a month I will be back in Alaska photographing eagles, bears, seals, glaciers, and so much more. It is one of my favorite destinations.
When photographing birds in flight, a fast shutter speed is imperative. It helps freeze the wing motion. And since I generally handhold the camera rather than using a tripod, a fast shutter speed also prevents the appearance of camera shake.
1/4000 at f/7.1, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 280mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes." -- E.F. Schumacher
Monday, May 28, 2018
On this Memorial Day, we honor those who have served to protect our freedoms and our democracy. We mourn those who did not return, or returned troubled and broken.
I hope that reason and compromise will soon replace the emotionally charged rhetoric and divisiveness that has become a daily burden we all shoulder. A divided nation is not what our veterans fought and died for.
This flower represents compromise, give and take, and the solidity of the whole. Each petal curves in and around the others, giving room for all to grow, to be independent, and yet to be part of a cohesive whole.
Mother Nature teaches us many life lessons. May we stop, think, listen, and then respect and support each other.
1/500 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 200. Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS lens. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "I hate the fact that people think 'compromise' is a dirty word." --Barbara Bush
Wednesday, May 23, 2018
While our brains know that these are birds, snow geese to be exact, this image is all about shape and color. Because it is a silhouette, there is no detail in the birds. Their shape tells us what they are. And the strong sunset color is the only color in the image.
With birds and wildlife, timing is important. This image caught one goose just lifting off, with water drops coming off its feet. The bird behind it is just getting ready to lift off as well. So the action is a nice counterpoint to the other three geese who are happy just chilling where they are.
Finding the right exposure for silhouettes is fairly easy when there is strong light on everything except the subject. I took a meter reading off the water, which was brilliantly lit by the setting sun. Because the water was so much brighter than the geese, they automatically were rendered as black with no detail.
This image was taken at Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. I am honored to be one of their featured speakers at this year's Festival of the Cranes coming up November 14 - 17. As more details become available, I'll keep you posted.
1/500 sec. at f/10, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "People talk about perfect timing, but I think everything is perfect in its moment; you just want to capture that." --Eddie Huang
Monday, May 14, 2018
Take your best guess as to where in the world this was taken. Look at the shapes of the mountains, the colors, and any other hints you can find.
The answer might surprise you, but I am confident that someone, or maybe many someones, will know where this was.
Be sure to identify both the country AND the location within that country.
Please email your answer to email@example.com (only one entry per person, please). All correct answers will be placed in a drawing for a $50 Gift Card. Only one winner will be selected from this random drawing. Please be sure to include your phone number in your email so that we can call you if you are the winner. Please submit all answers no later than 5PM EDT on Friday, May 18.
Wishing everyone good luck!
1/1000 sec. at f/8, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 163mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "You can't depend on your eyes when your imagination is out of focus." -- Mark Twain
Saturday, May 12, 2018
It is Mother's Day weekend, and I want to wish all the women a very Happy Mother's Day. Regardless of whether you are technically a mom or not, all women have the "mother gene." We seem to be programmed to nurture and to provide care.
So consider this flower image your corsage for the weekend. Enjoy family and friends, and pamper yourself.
And guys, you, too, have the nurture and protector gene. Your day is coming next month, but for now, celebrate with the women in your life!
This image was modified from the original capture using Lightroom and Photoshop. I wanted to create a light and airy feel, more like a pastel drawing rather than a literal representation of the scene. Here is the original RAW image before any cropping or optimization was done.
|Original RAW capture|
The easiest way to do this in Photoshop is to create a new layer of the entire image, and then using Levels, lighten the new layer until it suits your taste. Then create a Layer Mask on the new layer, and use the Brush tool to remove the area of this layer covering the central flower. That allows the darker version of the main flower underneath to show through.
1/1250 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 200. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be the one who nurtures and builds. Be the one who has an understanding and forgiving heart. Look for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them." --Marvin J. Ashton
Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Some people have asked how to do the color mats I have been showing lately. It is easily and quickly done in Photoshop (or Elements). Here's how:
1. Prepare the image you want to mat. In this case, it is a photo of shore birds in flight.
2. Make a new file and size it about 3 inches larger than the image. So for example, if your image is 8x10, size the new file approximately 11x13.
3. Copy the main image and paste it onto the new larger file you just created. Once you have done that, you will see your image with blank areas all around it.
4. The next step is to place a narrow line around the image called a Keyline. It can be either a coordinating color or a contrasting color. For this image I chose the brown color of the birds' feathers.
-- To create the Keyline, first make sure the image layer (not the empty mat layer) is highlighted in the Layers Palette.
-- Then go to Layer > Layer Style > Blending Options. When the new Layer Style box opens, scroll down the left-hand column and click on the word "Stroke." (Do NOT click in the Stroke check-box - be sure to click on the WORD "Stroke.")
-- Then in the large central section of the Layer Style box, find the word "Color" and a rectangular box next to it (the box is probably filled with black at this point). Make sure the Fill Type box just above it says "Color." Click inside the rectangular black box and another new box "Color Picker" will appear.
-- Now place the cursor (which will look like an eyedropper) over your image and click once on the color in your image that you want to use as the Keyline color. This color will instantly be drawn around your image. Click OK and the Color Picker box will disappear.
-- You will now see the color you selected in the "Color" box in the Layers Style box.
-- You can make the Keyline wider or narrower to suit your taste by moving the Size slider near the top of the Layer Style box.
-- I usually choose "Outside" as the position for the Keyline, Blend Mode "Normal," and "Opacity" at 100%. When the Keyline looks good to you, click OK.
5. Now choose the overall mat color.
-- First make sure the empty mat layer (not the image layer) is highlighted in the Layers Palette.
-- Click the letter "i" on your keyboard, or select the eyedropper tool. Place the eyedropper over a color in your image that you want for the mat color, and click on that color. I chose the sky color.
-- Now go to Edit > Fill. When the Fill box opens, make sure that under "Use" it says "Foreground Color", and under "Mode" it says "Normal." Opacity should be 100%. Then click OK.
-- If the mat color appears too light or too dark, go to Image > Adjustments > Levels and move the center slider to the Right to darken, or to the Left to lighten.
That's it. It might sound complicated or time-consuming, but once you have done it a few times it will go quickly and easily. In general, choose colors that frame your image well, and enhance it without overpowering it. Matting and framing any art piece should enhance its beauty and its power, while keeping the attention on the piece and not on the mat or frame.
1/1250 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5/6 IS II + 1.4x III extender for a focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The seed of your next artwork lies embedded in the imperfections of your current piece." --David Bayles
Sunday, May 6, 2018
Flower petals are translucent. When backlit, they seem to glow with a light from within. This flower, a Painted Tongue, is one I had never seen before. While the name is not great for a beautiful flower, it photographs beautifully.
During last week's Creative Flowers Master Class at Longwood Gardens we all fell in love with these flowers. And we waited for the sun angle to be just right for this backlit shot.
They say patience is a virtue, and it certainly helps to be patient when photographing nature and wildlife. When you find a flower or plant that appeals to you, take your time. Look at it from all angles. Look at it from above and below. Take a variety of shots since it is often hard to tell what will appeal to you most until you see the images on your computer screen.
1/1000 sec at f/4.5, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience." --Ralph Waldo Emerson
Thursday, May 3, 2018
Ahhhhh, flowers. Nature's delicate beauties. Longwood Gardens was spectacular this week for the Creative Flowers Master Class. Nearly a quarter of a million tulips were in bloom, along with dozens and dozens of other species in full spring beauty.
This columbine was just one of many choices to shoot. We had all kinds of light to work with - strong sunlight, soft open shade, and backlight. So the opportunities to get creative were all around us.
Each member of the group produced exquisite images, with a lot of variety. And we had a blast throughout the week. So all in all, it was a very successful and wonderful week of photography.
A full immersion photo workshop is a great way to hone your skills, learns lots of new things, and energize your creativity.
1/500 sec at f/4.5, ISO 200. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "If we could see the miracle of a single flower clearly, our whole life would change." --Gautama Buddha
Sunday, April 29, 2018
In nature, the simplest things can become lovely images. This stilt turned itself into an art piece with the gentle curve of the head, and the graceful angle of its legs. Things happen very fast with birds and wildlife, and you have to be ready to shoot with no warning.
I am on my way to the Creative Flowers Master Class at Longwood Gardens in Pennsylvania which begins on Monday. So I made an unscheduled stop at Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware on the way. It was a partly cloudy day with a lot of bird activity. I saw a lot of bald eagles, both mature and immature, but it was the stilts that made the biggest impact on me. These delicate birds seem so fragile, yet are strong and skillful flyers. They move quickly, so shooting with rapid burst enabled me to capture different body and head positions in quick succession.
1/1600 sec., f/8, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II with Canon 1.4x III telextender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "I photograph to find out what something would look like photographed."
-- Gary Winogrand
Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sometimes black and white is a better choice than color. Once the color is removed, we can see the depth, designs, contours, and overall structure of a subject, unencumbered by the colors that could be distracting.
This interesting cactus was shot in a botanical gardens in Phoenix. It has interesting swirls that barely show up in the color version.
There are several ways to convert an image to black and white. It is relatively easy with either Photoshop or Elements, or Lightroom, or other software options like Silver Efex Pro (now available at no charge from DxO Optics, along with other formerly Nik software).
For this image I used Silver Efex Pro. I started with one of their pre-sets, and then did some tweaking of contrast in Photoshop. This was shot with an iPhone 6, and it is amazing how much detail the phone can capture when the subject is relatively large in the frame.
1/40 sec., at f/2.2, ISO 32. iPhone 6 with 4.15mm f/2.2 lens.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretive." --Elliott Erwitt
Sunday, April 22, 2018
Generally, when shooting architectural subjects, it is best to avoid distortion of vertical lines. But sometimes doing just the opposite can create a more dynamic image. It can give the impression of great height and creates a more powerful composition.
On a recent trip to the desert Southwest I visited the Mission San Xavier del Bac in Tucson, AZ. Built in the late 1700's, it is considered to be one of the finest examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States. In its day it was a huge building, but by today's standards, while still imposing, it is not overpoweringly large.
But because of its history and its beauty, I wanted to make it look towering which was easy to do with a wide angle lens. Wide angle lenses, because of their optics, generally distort horizontal and/or vertical lines due to the extreme curvature of the lens. If you do not want distortion, keep the camera parallel to the building and do not point the camera upwards. But to increase distortion, stand close to the building and DO point the camera upwards. You will immediately see the effect in the viewfinder.
For this type of image, your point of view can make or break the shot.
1/200 sec., f/25, ISO 400. Canon 10-18mm f/4.5-5.6 IS lens, set at 13mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "The photographer [unlike the artist] must take what he or she sees just as it is, [but] the liberty is in the selection of the point of view." -- H. J. Morton
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Sometimes a girl's just gotta have fun. While generally most of us create images that are of recognizable things, there are times when creating something a little different is in order.
This image is of a spiral staircase that I wanted to look more like a nautilus shell. The original image, shown here,
To access the Twirl filter, first you have to make your image an 8-bit rather than a 16-bit that many cameras normally create. To do this, use Photoshop. Go to Image > Mode. When the drop down box appears, click on 8 bits/channel. Now you can access all filters in Photoshop.
Next go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. Experiment with moving the slider until the amount of twirl suits your vision.
It is easy to overdue the use of filters, so I recommend using them only as an artistic tool that suits the image and the look you want. Using them on the wrong images can result in images that look unusual but not especially visually pleasing. But as with all things, ultimately beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and it is YOUR eye that counts the most.
1.3 seconds, f/20, ISO 800. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity is piercing the mundane to find the marvelous." --Bill Moyers
Friday, April 13, 2018
Sometimes a very simple image can be powerful. Sunsets, although commonplace in our daily lives, almost always elicit an emotional response.
Placing the setting sun behind tall grasses makes a simple scene a little more interesting. It adds contrast, texture, and vertical elements.
The mix of warm and cool tones creates color contrast and more visual interest. So don't shy away from simple images of scenes that many people see every day. YOUR view of it, and YOUR interpretation can create an interesting image that has emotional impact and visual appeal.
1/500 sec., at f/20, ISO 800. Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 33mm. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Some days you have to create your own sunshine." --anonymous
Friday, April 6, 2018
Wide panoramic images are fun to shoot and easy to create. This one is of the famous Mittens in Monument Valley Tribal Park in Arizona.
I arrived at the area later in the day than I had intended so I had very little time to grab my gear out of the car and run over to the nearest vantage point. The light was changing quickly since the sun had just set. The Mittens are iconic and photographed quite often. But I wanted something a little different so I decided to shoot for a panoramic image to be created later with Lightroom.
So I quickly took 10 shots of this landscape, starting on the left and overlapping each shot about 30% to 40%. Overlapping is important when using software so that it can merge the images as cleanly as possible.
You do not have to use a tripod for successful panos. This one was created by hand-holding the camera, being careful to keep the horizon pretty much level and in the same place in each shot.
To create a pano in Lightroom, simply select all the images in the series, then click on Photo > Photo Merge > Panorama and then just wait for the software to do its work. One word of caution - the resulting file will be quite large and it will take some time for the pano to be created. This image was originally 80 inches wide. An image that size is slow to form, and is storage hungry. So I recommend that once Lightroom has created the pano, you reduce the size to something more manageable like 15 to 20 inches wide.
1/100 sec., f/7.1, ISO 400. Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 70-200mm lens set at 70mm. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life is like a landscape. You live in the midst of it but can describe it only from the vantage point of distance. " --Charles Lindbergh
Tuesday, April 3, 2018
On a personal trip to Switzerland with friends, we stopped for dinner at a basic restaurant in Geneva. A mid-level restaurant, certainly nice but not terribly high-end. But the food presentation was exquisite, worthy of a 5-star restaurant anywhere in the world. And worthy of an art award. The composition of the elements in this simple dessert and the attention to detail were beautiful and impressive.
The basic elements - a small round of chocolate cake, a scoop of vanilla ice cream, 2 sliced strawberries, and a cylindrical cookie - were beautifully arranged on the "canvas" of the plate, and tied together perfectly with a few diagonal lines of chocolate sauce. We have all had similar ingredients in our hometown restaurants where usually the ice cream is on top of the cake, the chocolate sauce is drizzled over the top, and a couple of strawberries are placed beside it. Certainly tasty but not an art piece as this presentation was. This chef took pride in his work, not only the taste but the appearance as well.
It was certainly photo-worthy, so I snapped this with an iPhone 6. It was so striking that I debated whether to eat the art piece or not. Well, honestly I did not think about it for very long, and quickly devoured the whole thing!
They say art is where you find it, but I never expected to find it in this unassuming restaurant in Geneva.
1/35 sec., f/2.2, ISO 160. iPhone 6 with 4.15mm f/2.2 lens.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Art is not a thing, it is a way." --Elbert Hubbard
Friday, March 30, 2018
Denali National Park. One of my favorite places,
especially in the autumn.
By fall, the animals have bulked up
and sport beautiful coats and antlers.
The mountains are dusted with snow.
The weather is perfect, the skies are clear.
Denali (formerly Mr. McKinley) is visible nearly every day.
We stay deep in the wilderness of Denali National Park in a beautiful lodge with chef-prepared meals. We have our own large vehicle and naturalist driver and can go where the action and scenery are best.
If this appeals to you, come with me to Denali this fall. There are only 2 spaces left. Complete details at this link http://awakethelight.com/denali-national-park/
Nearly everything is included in the price. Just get yourself to Anchorage, and we will take care of the rest!
If you have questions, call me at 757-773-0194, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you do not see, do not hear, do not experience, you will never really know." --Native Alaskan saying
Sunday, March 25, 2018
This church in Iceland has a beautiful altar and spectacular organ pipes. But when I looked up at the ceiling it was the simple white-on-white design that caught my eye.
Simplicity can be a powerful compositional tool. Strip away any distractions and look for the essence of the subject.
The net result of this image is essentially an abstract using very simple tones, lines, and shapes. For this type of shot it is important to keep things symmetrical. Make sure that the sides match as much as possible, and that the center of the image is centered in the frame. And that any verticals are truly vertical and not tipped slightly in one direction or another.
While I wish I had shot this with my "real" camera, all I had with me was my iPhone and it did a pretty good job. Overall the image is sharp and the whites are clean with no digital artifacts or color "noise."
This is not at all the shot I expected to capture in this church. But as I have pointed out before, it is important to keep all your options open, look around and examine all that is before you. Get the basic shots or the iconic shots, but then search for other views or angles that appeal to you and might even represent the essence of the scene better than the iconic images you were seeking.
1/35 sec. at f/2.2, ISO 50. iPhone 6 with 4.15mm f/2.2 lens. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on." --Albert Einstein
Monday, March 19, 2018
Sometimes interesting shots appear when you least expect it. On a low-level small plane flight from my favorite Alaska grizzly bears location back to Anchorage, we flew over fascinating shapes and colors. Our altitude varied between 1000 and 1500 feet.
While it might be difficult to discern what you are looking at, when the subject is abstract, what it IS really doesn't matter. All that matters are the shapes, colors, and movement throughout the image.
But I don't want to keep you in suspense, so I'm spilling the beans - this is an aerial view of winding water courses along a very shallow area at the shoreline of the Cook Inlet.
In a 4-seater small plane I find it easiest to shoot with my iPhone. The space is so tight inside the plane that juggling a full-size camera and lens can be dicey. Plus, the super wide angle lens of the basic iPhone is great for capturing the vast, quickly changing terrain below.
This image has been enhanced in Lightroom. I increased the overall color saturation, the contrast, and then saturated specific colors even more, like the blues at the top of the image. Upon close inspection you will see artifacts and aberrations created by the low-quality iPhone lens, but for an interpretive art piece such as this, those are not issues that concern me.
The sky's the limit, so to speak, when it comes to abstracts. If distortions, aberrations, or other issues enhance the final result, then that is OK. If this were intended to be a more traditional representation of the landscape, I would not be happy with anything less than a realistic view of the scene. But as an artistic representation, the aberrations just add further to the artsy look in my opinion.
1/3200 sec. at f/2.2, ISO 32. iPhone 6 standard camera with built-in 4.15mm f/2.2 lens.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "There is no abstract art. You must always start with something. Afterward you can remove all traces of reality." -- Pablo Picasso
Thursday, March 15, 2018
Bighorn sheep are beautiful subjects. We usually see several different species in the mountains of the American west and Alaska. But there are also Desert Bighorns like this guy.
I usually do not photograph captive animals, and prefer to find them in the wild. But this handsome guy was a resident of the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson, and was too appealing to pass by. The Desert Museum does a good job of creating large and realistic-looking enclosures for large animals. All the rocks you see are man-made, but they look like the real thing.
This image was cropped and optimized in Lightroom. It took less than 5 minutes to tweak the original RAW image, shown here, to create the final version above.
After cropping the image, I used the following Lightroom controls:
1. Move the Whites slider to brighten the horns and fur.
2. Move the Blacks slider to deepen the blacks slightly.
3. Increase Clarity to +30 for more mid-tone contrast.
4. Move Luminance slider to +30 to reduce noise.
5. Use the Graduated Filter to significantly reduce the brightness of the bottom rock.
6. Use the Brush Tool to lighten the eye.
That's it. Quick and easy.
Many people despair when they download their images and see something like the BEFORE image. They think they have done something wrong, and often delete the image. But Lightroom can bring out incredible details in most images with just a little bit of time and thought.
So go back through your old image files and see what you can find to work on in Lightroom (or Photoshop or Elements which work similarly). You will be surprised at how easily you can bring images back to life with just a little digital help!
1/800 sec., f/9, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better." --
Sunday, March 11, 2018
The two most pivotal things that got me started in photography many years ago were the first time I had the opportunity to use an adjustable 35mm camera, owned by my high school friend Marion (with whom I am still friends today), and seeing the work of Ansel Adams. His images of unique and beautiful places in the west were arresting and compelling. So compelling in fact that I went to his home bases of Carmel, California and Yosemite National Park to have two short stints of studying with him. Those were deeply meaningful times in my photographic journey.
When I first saw his photograph of the ancient Native American ruins at Canyon de Chelly in Arizona, I knew that someday I had to go there to see it in person.
I got that opportunity a few years later, and on my recent trip to the desert southwest I made my fourth pilgrimage to this special place. There are ruins scattered throughout Canyon de Chelly and other nearby canyons, and this one, named White House Ruin, is among the most beautiful.
Part of the beauty of this place is not only the ruins themselves, but also the dark streaks marking the cliff faces. Called Desert Varnish, the streaks are caused by mineral deposits formed over thousands of years, left behind by the evaporation of dew and water, and then polished by the winds.
While my image pales in comparison to the photographs Ansel Adams made of this place, I did make an attempt at the black and white conversion below using Lightroom. See Ansel Adams original photographs made of White House Ruin here http://anseladams.com/white-house-ruin/
If you have a preference, let me know if you like the color version or the black and white version better.
1/640 sec. at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 19mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.
TODAY'S QUOTE: "Some photographers take reality and impose the domination of their own thought and spirit. Others come before reality more tenderly and a photograph to them is an instrument of love and revelation." --Ansel Adams