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)     Then email Gary at Hunt’s to find out what their special price is. Gary’s email is
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

Line, Color, Texture, and Light

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
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

Alaska Grizzly Bears July 2019

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

JUST ANNOUNCED - Alaska Photo Trips 2019

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

Drama Queen

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

Welcome The Wind

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

Eagle Eye

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

Memorial Day

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

Shape and Color

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

Where In The World Is This?

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 (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

Happy Mother's Day

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
It was optimized in Lightroom, and then using Layers in Photoshop, I lightened the background but kept the main flower darker so it would stand out.

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

Quick and Easy Digital Mats

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

Glowing From Within

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

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers

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

Nature's Grace

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

Black & White Conversion

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

Deliberate Distortion

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

Give It A Whirl

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,
was just not working for me. I really wanted a striking image of this stairway and after many unsuccessful attempts I thought I would give the Twirl filter in Photoshop a try. After a little trial and error, I finally got the look I was hoping for.

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

Simple Sunset

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

Pano Images Made Easy

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

Too Pretty To Eat - NOT!

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 In The Autumn

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

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

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

Simple Is Super

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

Alaska Abstract

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

Desert Dweller

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.
The ram was deep inside the enclosure, behind a rock wall, with no direct light falling on him. So as always, Lightroom came to the rescue.

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."  --
Albert Einstein

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Ansel Adams Revisited

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

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

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Magical Moonrise

I was fortunate to be at Monument Valley in Arizona for last week's full moonrise. What a treat to see it appear above one of the famous Mitten buttes. No matter how many full moons I have witnessed, each one is exciting and renewing.

The full moon always rises at about the same time as sunset, so there is still some ambient light on the scene which illuminates it to preserve the texture of the landscape. That's the good news.

The bad news is that exposure can be tough. First, you must set the shutter speed no slower than 1/30 sec. Slower than that and the motion of the moon shows in the image resulting in fuzzy edges and\or an oval moon rather than a round one.

Second it can be difficult to keep both the landscape and the moon properly exposed. Often the landscape can be rendered too dark or the moon too light, or both. Play it safe and do one exposure for the landscape and one for the moon. This image employs that technique, and then they were blended using Photoshop.

1/30 sec. at f/4, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 127mm on Canon 5D Mark III. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm."  --Aldous Huxley

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Slot Canyon Beauty

Slot canyons of the Southwest. If you have never been in one, I highly recommend it. They are beautiful and awe-inspiring. Their huge size, the eons of time it took to carve the swirling, sweeping, exquisite shapes, the quiet mood inside them, the Native American stories they inspired, all work together to make for a very special experience.

This one is in northern Arizona and was recently opened to tourists. Virtually all slot canyons require you to have a licensed guide, and this one is no exception. They are often difficult to get to, and require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to the start of the canyon.

The light levels inside are often quite low, and require long exposures in order to maintain good depth of field throughout the image.

I'm enjoying a scouting trip to several areas in Arizona and Utah which may eventually become part of a photo tour in the future. I'm revisiting some of my favorite places. The weather has been exciting, with snow, rain, brilliant sunshine, cool temperatures and clear air.

15 seconds, f/20, ISO 400. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 24mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you're in the desert, you look into infinity. It makes you feel terribly small, and also in a strange way, quite big."  --David Lean

Friday, February 23, 2018

Desert Southwest

I am in Arizona on a series of speaking engagements to camera clubs, and then will be off on a personal trip to some of my favorite places in the Desert Southwest.

Today's presentation was to the Sun City West Camera Club near Phoenix, plus other area clubs that were invited to attend. About 200 photographers were in attendance, and gave me a very warm welcome. It was a wonderful group, and I appreciate how warmly I was treated and how well they responded to a flat-lander from the east.

On Monday I travel to Sedona to speak to the camera club there. Then it's on to Monument Valley, some slot canyons, and Canyon de Chelly. It has been snowing in the high country so I am hoping for unique images of snow on the red rocks. We'll see what Mother Nature throws at us.

Today's image is from a former trip to Monument Valley. We arrived in the dark, long before sunrise in order to get set up and catch the sun breaking the horizon. If you look carefully you will see a natural starburst. That was created by using a small aperture (f/22) and positioning the camera so that part of the sun was blocked by the rock formation.

1/50 sec., f/22, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 40D camera body (an oldie but a goodie). Gitzo tripod.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote."  --Edward Abbey

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Comin' At Ya

On my last visit to Iceland I took some personal time to visit a glacial lagoon. I was thrilled to see a large number of arctic terns making pass after pass around us. They are speedy and turn on a dime, so getting sharp images means you have to take a lot of shots and be prepared to throw many away. In fact that is often the case with any birds-in-flight photography.

This guy made a sudden hairpin turn and started gliding right toward me. My camera was set on AI (continuous focus), but when the action is coming directly at you, it is not always easy for the autofocus to lock on. In this case I was fortunate to get a sharp shot for two reasons  -   terns have not only a sharp line where their dark feathers meet their white ones, but this tern was directly in front a deep black area of the glacier. Autofocus functions best when there is a hard line with good contrast for the lens to grab onto, and that is exactly the situation here.

This is a color image, but except for the tern's bill, there was no other color in this scene.

For action shots, all you can do is be as prepared as possible, and hope for the best. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, with the right conditions, and had my camera set properly (continuous focus AND rapid burst). Often those once-in-a-lifetime shots come when you least expect it. Knowledge of your camera and its settings are your best friends when seeking action shots.

1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 800. 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. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."  --Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Make a Mat in Photoshop

This brown bear mom and cub were taking a break from feeding on the lush early summer grass in Alaska. She was out in the fields with her 3 cubs, but the other two were off munching nearby. When they struck this pose, I knew I had a great mother-baby portrait.

When photographing wildlife, it is safety first, respect and care for the animals second, and getting the shot third. The shot is never more important than your safety, and the well-being of the animals.

I have found the absolute BEST location in Alaska for getting brown bear images up close and personal, and in safety AND comfort. And without tons of other photographers around. We stay in a lovely lodge along the shores of the Cook Inlet in Lake Clark National Park. The 2018 trip has been filled for quite awhile, but the July 2019 trip is now open for registration. It is not listed on the website yet, so if you are interested please email me and I can send you details.

I prepared this image for an upcoming competition, and felt it needed a mat to enhance the portrait feel. It is quick and easy to make a mat in Photoshop. Once the image is optimized and sized, make a new file in Photoshop that measures 3 to 4 inches larger than your image. For example, an 11x14 image would need a new file measuring about 15x18. That will provide space for a 2-inch mat all around. If that is too much mat for your particular image, you can make it smaller.

Copy and paste the image onto the new file, and center it. Use the Eyedropper tool to choose a mat color that goes well with the predominant tone in your image - in this case it was the dark brown of the fur. Just click the eyedropper on the color in the image you want. Then make a new layer and name it "mat." Go to Edit > Fill, Foreground Color, Normal, 100%, and click OK.

Then choose another color from the image that will serve as a thin border (called a keyline) around the image itself. I chose the green of the grass. Use the Marquis tool to trace around the image. The "marching ants" should be visible along the outside edge of the image. Then go to Edit > Stroke. When the dialog box opens, choose a pixel width that is narrow and not obtrusive. Then click inside the color box to add the color you have chosen. For location, choose "center." Blend mode should be "normal" at 100%.

You can always go back and modify your choices if the colors do not look good to you, or if the keyline is too thin or too wide.

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No matter how carefully you plan your goals, they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto."  --W. Clement Stone

Friday, February 9, 2018

Unexpected Opportunity

Two unexpected openings have come up on the Denali photo trip. This is a very unusual occurrence, so this is your chance to grab these spaces.

We go deeper into Denali National Park than most other photo groups are allowed to go, yet we stay in relative luxury in a lovely lodge with great food and our own driver. In fact Awake The Light is one of only two photo companies worldwide that is allowed this deep inside the park for so many days.

We'll photograph grizzly bear, caribou, moose, and more. The tundra will be in full autumn splendor, and the mountains will be dusted with snow. It is a photographer's paradise.

Details at this link

If you have questions or to register,
email me at
or call me at 757-773-0194

1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Handheld.

TODAY QUOTE: "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."  --Frank Lloyd Wright

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Find Your Creativity

Going, going, almost gone! Only a few spaces left in the 
Creative Flowers MASTER CLASS 
at Longwood Gardens, April 30 - May 4.

Longwood Gardens is a gem among botanical gardens. It is filled with acres and acres of flowers and breath-taking beauty.

This Master Class will show you how to capture beautiful, artistic images of flowers, and will jump start your creativity. You will learn how to shoot, what to shoot, and how to improve your images in post-production with Lightroom, and Photoshop.

It is like two workshops in one. It is an in-depth week to help you hone your flower photography skills, AND it will provide training in easy-to-learn, easy-to-use techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Learn to see things more artistically using line, shape, and color to create your own masterpieces. Each day will be filled with shooting time, personalized training, classroom time, and image critiques. You will come away with new techniques, and a renewed sense of creativity and excitement about your photography. The entire week will be educational, inspirational, and fun!

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of things including:
Finding appealing subjects
Recognizing “good” light and how to work with it
Learning the freedom of working without a tripod
Isolating the subject for an artistic effect
Learning how to see with an entirely new vision
Learning how to use line, shape, and color to your best advantage
Using selective focus
Controlling the background
Using Depth of Field creatively
Understanding how to break the rules effectively
Using post-processing quickly and easily in Lightroom
Adding textures and other techniques in Photoshop and other software

More details on the website here

Call or email for more details, or to register. 
I'd love to speak with you about this workshop.
 April 30 - May 4, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

1/100 sec. at f/9, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Improve Your Flower Photography AND Boost Your Creativity

From unique and cutting edge....

 .... to soft and traditional ....

You will learn it all and more at this
informative and exciting workshop. 

 April 30 - May 4, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

Spend several days with me in spectacular Longwood Gardens and return home with greater skills, lots of creative ideas, and more confidence in yourself and your photography.

This is like two workshops in one  -  improve your artistic vision and shooting skills, AND learn new and easy ways of working with Lightroom, Photoshop and more.

We will spend each day in the Gardens, and then return to the classroom for teaching sessions, image critiques, and creative ideas. See complete information here

call me at 757-773-0194, or email me at 

Be sure to ask about the early registration discount, 
good until March 10.

Top image  -  1/640 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400. Sigma 15mm lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 
Bottom image  -  1/400 sec at f/4, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.  

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers always make people better and happier. They are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul."  -- Luther Burbank

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Art Is Where You Find It

Always keep your eyes open to find interesting subjects. Cars, trucks, and motorcycles can be great subjects for artistic images. This image is a tight shot of an old truck retired to a "truck graveyard" near Richmond, Virginia. Look for small areas of interest and zero in on that. Take lots of images from a variety of angles.

Then free your mind, get out of the box, and try many different approaches with Lightroom or Topaz or Photoshop. Allow yourself to play with a variety of options, filters, and techniques.

This image was optimized and saturated in Lightroom, and then enhanced a bit with the Watercolor filter in Photoshop. Tip: In order to access all filters in Photoshop, be sure to change the image from 16-bit to  8-bit. It is easy. Just go to Image > Mode > and click on 8 bit/channel. Then you can go to Filter > Filter Gallery and start playing with all the filter options to see what looks good with your particular image.

Filters will look different on different images, so don't expect the Watercolor filter to look great on every image. You just have to try them all and find the one or ones that work best with each image.

So get your "artsy" on and go play!

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A work of art is above all an adventure of the mind."  --Eugene Ionesco 

Sunday, January 28, 2018

Honored To Be Asked

I was honored to be asked to be one of a small number of photographers showcased by Hunt's Photo and Video. This is part of an article I wrote for them that appears in a special section of their website. Check out the entire article here

The photographic community thrives when we all help each other. That is a big part of why I love running workshops and tours. I am able to share knowledge and ideas, inspire creativity and enthusiasm, and learn from you as well.

So when a company like Hunt's seeks to help photographers learn more and improve, not just sell products, we all win. For that we owe them a hearty "thank you."

I have purchased many products from Hunt's, and find their knowledge, willingness to help, and customer service second to none. And be assured that when I recommend a company or a particular product, it is based on personal experience. My endorsements are not for sale. I do not get paid for recommending products or companies.

I always deal with Alan Samiljan at Hunt's. If you mention me and Awake The Light, he will bend over backwards to get you what you need as quickly and easily as possible. Email him at or OR call him at 781-462-2383.

At the end of the day, my goal is to help you learn all you can about photography, art, and creativity, and to motivate you to always strive for improvement. Aim for the stars!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement."  -- Helmut Schmidt    

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Selling Out Fast - Creative Flowers Master Class

Only 4 spaces left. Learn how to create more artistic flower images at one of the world's great gardens. Longwood Gardens is over 1000 acres of one photo opportunity after another.

Increase your knowledge, your skills, and your creativity in this full immersion workshop. In addition to learning new ways to photograph flowers, you will also learn techniques in Lightroom, Photoshop, and other software that will enhance the artistic beauty of your images.

This is two workshops in one - photography AND easy, creative image optimization techniques. See details here

To reserve your space, or if you have questions, email Mollie at
Grab your spot before they are all gone. 

1/100 sec., f/5.6, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The future belongs to those who learn more skills and combine them in creative ways."  -- Robert Greene

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Creative Flowers Workshop - Master Class at Longwood Gardens

Immerse yourself in a creative and educational experience. If you love photographing flowers, and want to create more artistic and compelling images, this workshop is for you! It will open your eyes to new and exciting techniques, and you will receive a great deal of personal attention.

The workshop begins with an evening Welcome Session followed by a teaching session to get you primed for the first day of shooting. Then each day will be filled with shooting, helpful critiques, lectures and demonstrations, and personal attention each day. The entire week will be educational, inspirational, and fun!

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of things including:
Finding appealing subjects
Recognizing “good” light and how to work with it
Learning the freedom of working without a tripod
Isolating the subject for an artistic effect
Learning how to see with an entirely new vision
Learning how to use line, shape, and color to your best advantage
Using selective focus
Controlling the background
Using Depth of Field creatively
Understanding how to break the rules effectively
Using post-processing quickly and easily in Lightroom
Adding textures and other techniques in Photoshop and other software

This is like two workshops in one –  improve your artistic vision and your shooting skills, AND learn new and easy ways of working with Lightroom, Photoshop, and more to jumpstart your creativity and the look of your images.

More details on the website here

1/640 sec.  at f/6.3, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. BW conversion in Lightroom. Personally created textures and color added in Photoshop.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity is contagious. Pass it on."  --Albert Einstein

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Want Your Opinion

Seeking your opinion on this image. The original image was taken in Alaska on a small rocky island filled with breeding puffins. The image originally had a green grassy background. But I wanted to create a more artistic representation of these two puffins, who were positioned perfectly.

So I used Photoshop to drop out the background and replaced it with an off-white tone.

So the question for you to answer is this:
Does this image look interesting and artsy, or does it look odd because it is clearly not a realistic representation of nature?

It is important to note that this type of image should NEVER be submitted in a nature or wildlife photo competition, and should NEVER be used in a textbook on birds or nature. It is only intended as an art piece, an interpretation of nature, not a realistic representation of nature.

So what do you think? I want to hear from you so please be honest and direct.

1/2500 sec., f/13, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x extender set at 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep."  --Scott Adams