Saturday, June 8, 2019

Smokies Sunrise


Sunrise in the Smokies is always a treat. Watching it from on top of Clingman's Dome, the highest point reachable by road, is uplifting and very photogenic. While often sunrise comes much too early for many people, at the Smokies Workshop coming up October 5 - 10, the sun will not rise until about 7:30am. Practically lunch time!

The technique used in this image is a simple one. As soon as the sun begins to peek above the ridge line, there is a brief time when sharp rays appear. They are enhanced when shot with a small aperture like f/16 or f/22. This same technique can be used when shooting the sun peeking around a tree trunk, a building, or anything else that blocks most of the sun, allowing just a small piece of it show.

Try it. Experiment. You will be surprised at what you can create!

Join me in the Smokies, October 5 - 10. We will work on slowing down in order to see and feel the moods of the landscape. Images that convey emotion can be very powerful. We will work on composition to help you create stronger images. We will explore not only the park's soft, misty moods, but also the power conveyed by its rocky streams, its majestic trees, and its thriving wildlife.

We will also have time to work on creative techniques, plus some classroom training sessions on Lightroom and Photoshop. Regardless of your skill level, you will come away with new approaches and a new way of seeing.

WHERE: Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the Tennessee side near Townsend, TN. This gives us the best and easiest access to the park and its main features.) 

WHEN: October 5 - 10

LIMIT: 10 photographers

FEE: $2495, BUT register by June 15 to receive the special discounted rate of $1995

FEE INCLUDES: All breakfasts, snacks, daily instruction, personalized attention, classroom training sessions, creative ideas and approaches, Lightroom Tips and Tricks, Photoshop techniques, image critiques, and a few surprises. [NOT included are lodging, lunches and dinners, and transportation.]

ITINERARY
Saturday, October 5 - workshop begins at 6PM with a Welcome and Training session, followed by dinner at a local restaurant
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday, October 6, 7, 8, 9 - each day will be filled with morning and afternoon shooting sessions; mid-day will be working lunches with classroom training; most evenings will have critique sessions; at least one morning will be a sunrise shoot
Thursday, October 10 - workshop ends at 9AM after a wrap-up and farewell session 

TO REGISTER OR ASK QUESTIONS: Call or email me with questions or to register. For your security, we do not take Registrations or Payments online. You can find phone and email information on the website here  www.awakethelight.com 


TECH SPECS
1/50 sec. at f/22, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Tell me and I forget, teach me and I remember, involve me and I learn."  -- Benjamin Franklin

Friday, May 31, 2019

Simple Close Up


Often the simplest subjects can be the most powerful. This perfect orchid was in bloom in a botanical gardens, and had just been watered by one of the volunteers. Perfect timing! I like to find natural water droplets rather than bringing my own spray bottle, so I never carry one. But if I luck out to be photographing just after a regular watering, I am happy to take advantage of the good timing.

Not only is this a simple subject, but the tones and composition are simple as well. I tipped the camera so that the viewer's eye moves from lower left to upper right. And it is carefully cropped so that, except for the lower left, there is no extraneous background.

TECH SPECS
1/2000 sec. at f/3.2, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication."  -- Leonardo da Vinci

Monday, May 27, 2019

Misty, Moody AUTUMN SMOKIES WORKSHOP Just Announced!


Just Announced! 

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Autumn Workshop

October 5 - 10


In autumn the misty, moody magic of the Smokies comes to life. Cooler temperatures overnight create mist in the valleys that are beautiful to photograph. It is also the time of year when colors are changing and wildlife is more active.

During our time in the Smokies we will work on slowing down in order to see and feel the moods of the landscape. Images that convey emotion can be very powerful. We will work on composition to help you create stronger images. We will explore not only the park's soft, misty moods, but also the power conveyed by its rocky streams, its majestic trees, and its thriving wildlife.

We will also have time to work on creative techniques, plus some classroom training sessions on Lightroom and Photoshop. Regardless of your skill level, you will come away with new approaches and a new way of seeing.

WHERE: Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the Tennessee side near Townsend, TN. This gives us the best and easiest access to the park and its main features.) 

WHEN: October 5 - 10

LIMIT: 10 photographers

FEE: $2495, BUT register by June 15 to receive the special discounted rate of $1995

FEE INCLUDES: All breakfasts, snacks, daily instruction, personalized attention, classroom training sessions, creative ideas and approaches, Lightroom Tips and Tricks, Photoshop techniques, image critiques, and a few surprises. [NOT included are lodging, lunches and dinners, and transportation.]

ITINERARY
Saturday, October 5 - workshop begins at 6PM with a Welcome and Training session, followed by dinner at a local restaurant
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, & Wednesday, October 6, 7, 8, 9 - each day will be filled with morning and afternoon shooting sessions; mid-day will be working lunches with classroom training; most evenings will have critique sessions; at least one morning will be a sunrise shoot
Thursday, October 10 - workshop ends at 9AM after a wrap-up and farewell session 

TO REGISTER OR ASK QUESTIONS: Call or email me with questions or to register. For your security, we do not take Registrations or Payments online. You can find phone and email information on the website here  www.awakethelight.com 

I hope to see you in the Smokies!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The fastest way to become a good photographer is to slow down.'  -- Freeman Patterson



Friday, May 24, 2019

Feeding Time


When photographing wildlife, patience is a requirement. You just cannot rush Mother Nature. A pair of Great Egret parents were taking turns feeding their young. The babies look like the proverbial ugly ducklings with their fuzzy spiked head feathers and scrawny semi-naked necks. And I kept waiting for them to get their heads in a good position, as well as the parent.

There were many long twigs to work around, not to mention all the other photographers trying to get good shots as well. But everyone was respectful of each other and of the birds.

Finally everything came into position, but just for a very short time. Then in a heartbeat, the babies heads went lower in the nest and the moment had passed.

That is how it is with wildlife photography. Wait and wait and wait. Then zip into action when the scene comes together with the shutter firing on rapid burst. And as soon as the moment passes you are compelled to hit the playback button on your camera to see if you got what you had been hoping for.

This scene replayed itself several times over the course of the morning, but in all the hundreds of shots I took that day, this is the only one that truly came together as I was hoping. I was lucky and happy to get it.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Longwood Gardens CREATIVE FLOWERS MASTER CLASS



Ready to up your game? Want to elevate your flower photography to a higher level? Then this is the workshop for you.

Each day will be filled with shooting, helpful critiques, lectures, demonstrations, and personal attention. The entire workshop will be educational, inspirational, and fun!

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of creative and new techniques, including how to:
- find appealing subjects
- recognize "good" light and how to work with it
- learn the freedom of working without a tripod
- isolate the subject for an artistic effect
- learn how to see with an entirely new vision
- learn how to use line, shape, and color to your best advantage
- use selective focus
- control the background
- understand how to break the rules effectively
- use post-processing quickly and easily in Lightroom and Photoshop
- add 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.

WHERE: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania


WHEN: September 9 - 13


LIMIT: 12 photographers


FEE: Regularly $2495, BUT register before June 1 for the Special Discount rate of $1995


FEE INCLUDES: Personalized attention, daily instruction, image critiques, creative ideas and approaches, Lightroom Tips and Tricks, Photoshop techniques, and all Garden entry fees. [Not included are lodging, meals, and transportation. Special lodging rates have been arranged.]


ITINERARY: 

Monday, September 9  -  Workshop begins at 7PM on Monday evening, September 9 with a Welcome and Teaching Session.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, September 10, 11, 12  -  each day is filled with shooting time at the Gardens, Lightroom and Photoshop instruction and more, image critiques, discussion of creative techniques, and fun!
Friday, September 13 - workshop ends at 10AM after breakfast and a wrap-up session

TO REGISTER: Call or email Mollie with questions or to register. I hope to see you there!

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Flowers That Fly


The BUTTERFLIES and FLOWERS + Lightroom workshop ended today, and I was blown away by the fabulous images everyone created. Each person created exquisite images each and every day. 

In addition to the great photography, we had lots of laughs and a really good time. For me, that is all part of what photography is all about. Sharing what you love with others, enjoying and celebrating what each person creates, and enjoying each other's company. That is why I love running photo workshops and tours so much.

This image was an up close and personal, eye to eye view. The butterfly was very cooperative, stayed on this plant for quite a while,  and tolerated my getting closer and closer.

I shot this with a macro lens, and was careful to focus on the eyes. When you get in close to your subject, depth of field becomes quite shallow and it is important to decide what should be sharp in the image and then focus on that. Since my intent was to have this shot essentially be a butterfly's view of another butterfly, it was important to be at eye level, and for the eyes to be sharp.

I did some tweaking in Lightroom to darken the corners and to saturate the colors a bit.

TECH SPECS
1/125 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

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

Monday, May 13, 2019

Butterflies Everywhere


The BUTTERFLIES and FLOWERS  + Lightroom workshop begins tomorrow. Each day we will have over 500 butterflies flitting all around us in an enclosed conservatory, plus acres and acres of flowers to photograph.

Photographing butterflies can be challenging since they are often on the move and land only briefly on the flowers of their choice. When they decide to land for a longer time is when to have your camera ready to shoot. Of course you never know exactly when that will happen, so you have to be ready all the time.

Some of the same techniques used to photograph birds in flight can work for butterflies on the move as well.  Using Continuous Focus, also called AI Servo on some cameras, combined with setting the shutter to rapid burst can help track moving butterflies and can increase your chances of getting good wing positions.

Shooting butterflies in an enclosed butterfly house can improve your odds of getting good shots, but you can also capture wonderful images outdoors in a natural garden setting.

TECH SPECS
1/500 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Butterflies ... flowers that fly and all but sing."  --Robert Frost


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Creative Flowers Master Class Just Announced



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, demonstrations, and personal attention. The entire week will be educational, inspirational, and fun!

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of creative and new techniques, including how to:
- find appealing subjects
- recognize "good" light and how to work with it
- learn the freedom of working without a tripod
- isolate the subject for an artistic effect
- learn how to see with an entirely new vision
- learn how to use line, shape, and color to your best advantage
- use selective focus
- control the background
- understand how to break the rules effectively
- use post-processing quickly and easily in Lightroom and Photoshop
- add 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.

WHERE: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania


WHEN: September 9 - 13


LIMIT: 12 photographers


FEE: Regularly $2495, BUT register before June 1 for the Special Discount rate of $1995


FEE INCLUDES: Personalized attention, daily instruction, image critiques, creative ideas and approaches, Lightroom Tips and Tricks, Photoshop techniques, and all Garden entry fees. [Not included are lodging, meals, and transportation. Special lodging rates have been arranged.]


ITINERARY: 

Monday, September 9  -  Workshop begins at 7PM on Monday evening, September 9 with a Welcome and Teaching Session.
Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, September 10, 11, 12  -  each day is filled with shooting time at the Gardens, Lightroom and Photoshop instruction and more, image critiques, discussion of creative techniques, and fun!
Friday, September 13 - workshop ends at 10AM after breakfast and a wrap-up session

TO REGISTER: Call or email Mollie with questions or to register. I hope to see you there!




Thursday, May 2, 2019

Jumpin' Jack Flash



Seeing a Jack-In-The-Pulpit in the spring is a real treat. They tend to grow in out of the way places, often blending in with the green foliage of other plants nearby.  But once you have found one, it will most likely reappear in the same spot year after year.

I had been searching for one in an area where I had seen them before, but no luck. But a friend I was traveling with (thank you Dee!) spotted this one growing in the deep shade next to a rock.

The light was very soft, with most of the light coming from behind the plant, but it is hard to tell in this original RAW file.
Original RAW File
You can see a few bright areas behind the plant, which is the only hint of the light direction. Everything looks flat and gray. With a little help from the Brush tool in Lightroom, I was able to lighten the Jack to make it pop, as you can see in the main image above.  I also used the Brush tool to darken the rock and the light areas in the background. You can see how a few small changes in Lightroom made a huge difference in this image. One of many helpful attributes of Lightroom is that when using a tool like the Brush or the Gradient Filter, feathering is built in so it is easy for your changes to blend nicely with other areas. Never be afraid to experiment with Lightroom, since none of your changes ever permanently change or destroy anything in the original image. Your original image ALWAYS remains intact, and your modifications can be changed at any time.

TECH SPECS
1/125 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Find beauty not only in the thing itself, but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides."  -- Junichiro Tanizaki


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Golden Glow


Moving water is great fun to photograph. The changing shapes of the water as it courses downstream over rocks can provide an infinite variety of abstract shapes and interesting colors.

This was a beautiful sunny day with blue sky and sunlit trees reflecting in the stream. A slow shutter speed helps to enhance the flow of the water and smears the colors a bit.

HINT: When photographing moving water, try a variety of shutter speeds since you never know what will work best. Better to cover your bases rather than to get home and be disappointed that the shutter speed was either not slow enough to create the look you wanted, or so slow that the scene looks too mushy for your taste. Start at about 1/4 second and then slow the shutter down from there.

This image has been modified in Lightroom to bring out the latent colors. Here is the original RAW image.
BEFORE
Notice that it looks very gray with low contrast. This is a typical look for RAW images before they have been modified in Lightroom or other software. ALL images need some sort of tweaking in post-production in order to bring out the colors and contrast. If you look carefully you can see the blue and gold colors, but they are quite muted. It almost looks like a gray film was placed over the image. Again, this is the typical appearance of a RAW image in its original state.


The image was modified in Lightroom to create the final version. Admittedly, the final version was significantly boosted to punch the colors and to improve the contrast. BUT the contrast slider was NOT used. I suggest never using the Contrast slider in Lightroom since it can cause more harm than good. It is better to use the Whites and Blacks sliders to improve contrast since that allows you to control each one independently.

This image required only 9 quick and easy steps to bring out its latent beauty.
1. Highlights slider moved to -38 brought out more detail in the whites at the top of the image.
2. Whites slider moved to +34 increased the brightness of the whites.
3. Clarity slider moved to +30  improved the mid-tone contrast.
4. Saturation slider moved to +68 improved the richness of the colors.
5. Luminance slider moved to +30 (in the Details section) was used for noise reduction.
6. Yellow Luminance slider moved to +91 (in the HSL section) brightened the yellows.
7. Blue Luminance slider moved to +8 (in the HSL section) brightened the blues.
8. Yellow Saturation slider moved to +57 (in the HSL section) to richen the yellow tones.
9. Blue Saturation slider moved to +28 (in the HSL section) to richen the blue tones.

The numbers listed are specific to this image, and always vary on an image by image basis. It is best to experiment with the sliders on your own images to see what changes work best for each different image.

TECH SPECS
1/2 sec. at f/22, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff bullhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up."  -- Garry Winogrand

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Reflecting Warm Morning Light



Warm light and reflections help to create a feeling of calm in this image of a Great Egret. These graceful birds are exciting to photograph, and the perfect reflection makes it twice as nice.

Early morning light and late afternoon light are warmer than mid-day light, and can add a nice touch to some images. It is very subtle in this shot, with just a bit of warm light in the background and a tiny touch of it along the left side in the water. The tone of the warm areas matches perfectly with the color of the egret's bill, so everything ties in well together. And the cool white of the bird is a nice counterpoint to the warmth in the background.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. ar f/5.0. ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 263mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it." -- Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bluebell Pink


Bluebells are early spring bloomers and do not last long. That is why seeing them is such a treat. There is a small patch of them that grows in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I go in search of them whenever I am there in the early spring.

When fully bloomed they are the classic blue color, but the small buds are a beautiful pink until they mature.

When photographing flowers I always look for a line or compositional element to make the image stronger. I tipped the camera slightly when making this image in order to introduce a diagonal line to add interest and create a flow from upper right to lower left.

It is also crucially important to keep an eye on the background. A clean background that falls somewhat out of focus helps to direct the eye to the flowers and eliminates any distractions that might be in the background. I prefer shallow depth of field when photographing flowers, and most often use an f/stop of around 2.8 or 4.0. If I am working very close to small flowers I might go as high as f/5.6 but rarely higher than that since that will begin to show the background in sharper focus.

Whenever possible, I find a subject that has a natural background of leaves or other existing foliage. Since I want all my images to be natural in appearance, I never use any "added" backgrounds like dark cloths or colored papers. Once you put your mind to it and practice a bit, you can almost always adjust your position so that a naturally existing background is all you see behind the subject.

I also prefer to work in open shade, or areas with little or no direct sunlight. I like a soft look and try to avoid harsh shadows or bright sunlight.

This is the perfect time of year to find beautiful flowers blooming in parks, gardens and maybe even your own backyard. So get outside and see what beautiful images you can create!

TECH SPECS
1/320 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 5D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive and smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises."  --Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Water World


We live on a planet that is 70% water. But photographing water can be a difficult subject. How do you shoot it, how do you expose for it, how do you portray the water as a moving, living thing?

There are no hard and fast answers to any of those questions. As with beauty, a successful water shot is in the eye of the beholder. But there are some tips that I want to pass along to you.

First, if you want to show the motion of the water you will need a slow shutter speed. How slow is always the next question, and the answer is "it depends." Generally a MINIMUM shutter speed of about 1/4 sec is required, and often a much longer shutter speed of a few seconds is needed to show the flow and movement. Always keep in mind that the slower the water moves, the slower your shutter speed needs to be if you want to show its motion. Fast moving water, especially when it is moving across your field of view, requires a shorter shutter speed than slow moving water that is moving either toward you or away from you.

Second, my preference for time of day is either early morning or late afternoon / evening. The light is generally softer and warmer than in the middle of the day, and that gives a more dramatic or romantic look to the image. This image was made about half an hour before the sun set behind the hillsides near the back end of this view. It was a clear day, so both the blue sky and the greenish-yellow leaves reflect nicely in the water.

Third, to maximize your chances of getting a slow enough shutter speed, it helps to set the ISO at 100. In very bright lighting situations you can use a neutral density filter to help you slow down the shutter speed when needed, but when shooting in the early morning or late afternoon you can generally get a slow enough shutter speed without resorting to any filters.

Fourth is lens choice. I generally use a wide angle zoom lens for moving water in streams and waterfalls. But you can use a telephoto zoom for closer shots of water moving around rocks or other details that you want to concentrate on.

So with these basic ideas you can go out and start creating some beautiful water-based images, or improve on the skills you already have.

TECH SPECS
0.3 sec (3/10s of a second) at f/22, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II on Canon 5D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When life places stones in your path, be the water. A persistent drop of water will wear away even the hardest stone."  --Autumn Morning Star

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Macro - Or Is It?


Macro of flowers allows you to create beautiful close-up images. But sometimes you might not have a macro lens with you, or might not even own one. Or perhaps a flower is too far away and you just can't get any closer. What do you do?

Easy - use a telephoto lens to bring the flower in close, as I did with this trillium. It might look like it was taken very close to the flower, but in fact it was more than 10 feet away from me and was shot with a 100-400mm lens set at 400mm.

It is always fun and educational to experiment with lenses that are not "supposed" to be used for a particular purpose. Generally a long telephoto zoom lens is used for wildlife, and a macro lens is used for close ups of flowers, insects and other small subjects. But be bold and experiment with your lenses to see what they can for you. You might just surprise yourself!

TECH SPECS
1/400 sec. at f/7.1, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

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

Monday, April 8, 2019

An Unexpected Honor



You've seen this image before. I've posted it a couple of times since I was honored that it was selected for several different awards this year. And just this morning I received notification from the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) that it is showcased on the Home Page of their website. You can see it at this link  http://www.nanpa.org

It was a great honor to have it selected as one of NANPA's Top 100 images in its recent competition, and now again to be highlighted on its Home Page.

This image was shot aboard a small boat in the Inside Passage of Alaska on a moody, misty day. The action was fast and furious as the eagles zoomed in to catch fish. My entire group was mesmerized by the aerial acrobatics these imposing birds can achieve. I shot thousands of images over the course of the afternoon, and of all of those, this is my favorite.

The eagle is in sharp relief against the mist and dark trees. Its sharpness against the soft background really makes it pop.

You can read more about this image at this link
http://awakethelight.blogspot.com/2019/02/bragging-rights.html

I have been a NANPA member for quite awhile and find it to be a very worthwhile organization. It does many good things for its members, including offering free Webinars, plus workshops, scholarships, and more. If you are not familiar with NANPA, check it out.

TECH SPECS
1/1000 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140 mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails..."  -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from "The Hobbit."




Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Great Hair Day!


Funky. Punky. Shake it. Don't break it. This is a fun, unique, and maybe even artistic shot depending on your point of view.

This Great Egret in St. Augustine was sporting long, flowing breeding plumage when a light breeze came up and created this unusual "hair-do." I was lucky to be there at just the right time. It was also a stroke of luck that he was perched on a high branch with the clean, overcast sky as a backdrop.

When I took the shot I did not realize that it would become a favorite of mine from the trip. The high key look, with a white subject against a white sky, and the only touch of color being the slight tonality in the feathers plus the orange bill all combined to create a simple yet unique image with nice flow of the feathers.

You never know what will present itself when you go out shooting, so it is best to always be ready for whatever comes your way. It is best to be as comfortable as possible with your gear so that when the unexpected happens before your eyes, you can quickly lift the camera and get the shot.

The St. Augustine birds trip held a couple of weeks ago was so popular that I will be repeating it in March 2020. Dates are not firm yet, but it will be sometime during the last week in March. In addition there will be an extension available to photograph more birds in the Tampa Bay Area in early April. No commitment or payment is needed at this time, but if you are interested and want to get on the list, please email me as soon as possible. Once dates are firm I will contact you and you can register at that time.  For details on the recent trip, click on this link http://awakethelight.blogspot.com/2019/01/new-workshop-just-announced-floridas.html

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens set at 400mm. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair."  --Khalil Gibran

Friday, March 29, 2019

More Fun With LensBaby Sol


It has been fun playing some more with the new LensBaby Sol 45. It is virtually weightless, so when shooting with it, your camera feels very light in your hands.

Generally I leave the sharp sweet spot in the center, but you can also move it around to place the sharpest area of your image higher, lower, left or right.

This image of orchids in a botanical gardens is sharp in the center of the main bloom, and the focus falls off beautifully toward the edges. The look of softness with the LensBaby is different from typical shallow depth of field. Because of the lens design, the sharp area is relatively small, so even portions of the image on the same plane of focus as the main focus point begin to soften and reduce sharpness.

I used the Gradient Filter in Lightroom to darken the corners so that more attention is focused on the main central bloom. I also boosted the saturation slightly to enhance the lavender color.

This LensBaby is great fun, and can stimulate creativity. I have enjoyed using it with a variety of subjects. It is so easy to use, and easy to get used to. It is also relatively inexpensive and is available at a great discounted price for my clients at this link to Hunt's Photo and Video
 https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/searchresult.cfm?sortby=score%20desc&manufacturer=Lensbaby&criteria=sol%2045&startrow=1&sp=YgsZg 

TECH SPECS
1/125 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 100. LensBaby Sol 45 f/3.5 lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."  --Maya Angelou

Sunday, March 24, 2019

First Look - LensBaby SOL 45


I was happy to have the opportunity to test the new LensBaby Sol 45 lens. It (plus the similar Sol 22 for mirrorless bodies) is the newest model in the LensBaby lineup. I had seen some images that a friend made with the Sol 22 and was very impressed, so I wanted to check out the Sol 45 (on my DSLR) for myself. I brought it along on my recent Florida travels, and had an opportunity to put it through it paces.

Because it is simpler to use than other LensBaby options, and is priced lower, I did not have high expectations. Boy was I wrong. I was very pleasantly surprised to see how wonderful a lens it is.

Like other LensBaby options, it has a sharp area (that you can move around as you wish), and softens all the other areas outside of the sharp "sweet spot." That provides an artistic look that I really like.

The three examples above show you how well it works with a variety of subjects. Initially I thought it would be best for flowers, but in using it I found it was great with other subjects as well.

The top image was shot at the entrance to Flagler College in St. Augustine, FL. It did a super job of rendering the central architectural details razor sharp. In fact the sharpness of this lens is much better than I expected, which made me very happy. There was no mushiness or loss of detail in the sharp sweet spot.

The middle image was shot of an iris planted along a public walkway. The light background is the sidewalk, and I love the way the lens retained the beauty of the flower, while allowing everything around it to be rendered progressively softer.

The bottom image was of a mock-up of a 17th century rifle, and once again the sharp sweet shot is beautifully clear while the surrounding areas are much softer, giving an old world feel.

So three very different subjects, all portrayed beautifully with a bit of an artistic flair by the LensBaby Sol 45.

As I mentioned, the Sol 45 is for DSLR bodies, and the Sol 22 is for mirrorless bodies. Each has a fixed aperture of f/3.5, and the lens must be focused manually, but focus is quick and easy.

Gary Farber, at Hunt's Photo and Video is running a special discount on both the Sol 45 and the Sol 22 for my clients. If this type of lens appeals to you, click on this link for special pricing  https://www.huntsphotoandvideo.com/searchresult.cfm?sortby=score%20desc&manufacturer=Lensbaby&criteria=sol%2045&startrow=1&sp=YgsZg

As always, Hunt's offers Free Shipping and an easy-going staff of helpful people.

TECH SPECS
Building - 1/1250 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 400 on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Flower - 1/2000 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 200 on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Rifle - 1/1600 sec. at f/3.5, ISO 200 on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life inevitably throws us curve balls that remind us to expect the unexpected."  --Carre Otis

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Peek-a-Boo



The St. Augustine, Florida birds workshop has just ended, and what a trip! The variety of shooting options was huge, given the relatively small area that the rookery occupies. Birds certainly maximize their use of space.

By special arrangement, photographers are able to enter the area an hour before the place opens to the public, and can stay after it closes until sunset. That provides greater opportunities for shooting and more freedom of movement with no crowds to deal with.

This Great Egret was sporting its bright green mating eye-patch and was showing off its huge wings. These are beautiful birds who strike lovely poses as they fly or land gently in the trees. I happened to catch this view of a forward wing sweep, which covered a portion of the eye and created a feeling of shyness.

This image is cropped from the original since I wanted all attention to be on the wings and the eye. When photographing birds, you need a quick response time to capture movement since things change radically from one moment to the next. Rapid Burst mode on the shutter, and Continuous Focus (also called AI Servo) for autofocus helps to capture unique moments.

Using the Highlights slider in Lightroom, my favorite software for refining images, helped to bring out the detail in the bright whites of the wings.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/5, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 227mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

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

Saturday, March 16, 2019

Aerial Ballet


The Florida Birds workshop in St. Augustine is well underway, and has been going wonderfully well. A great group of highly motivated and excellent photographers is here with me, and we have been having a blast. The bird activity has been beyond spectacular, with breeding pairs of Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, and Wood Storks all around us. The action has been fast and furious, and everyone has come away with superb images.

Today's featured image is a roseate spoonbill in flight. They are not the most beautiful birds when stationary, but when flying, their wings create some lovely ballet-like moves.

When shooting birds in flight, it is important to do four things:
- set your camera to Shutter Priority,
- use a shutter speed of no slower than 1/1250 sec.
- use Continuous Focus (also called AI Servo on some cameras),
- and set your shutter to Rapid Burst.

Mastering those things will quickly move your bird photography to a much higher level.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec at f/5, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." --Helen Keller

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Swirling Twirling Fun


Today's image is a fun technique. It has been around for awhile, but I have recently started playing with it, and it is really fun and easy.

You can start with any image. It really doesn't matter because the end result is COMPLETELY different from where you started. Here is the image I started with.
BEFORE
You never know how the colors or shapes are going to turn out, and that is part of the fun. This technique works best in Photoshop. It takes just a few steps to create a unique abstract work of art. Here are the basic steps, but feel free to experiment once you have done the basics.
Ready? Here is all you do.




1.  Open an image in Photoshop

2. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint. Make sure the Mode is set to "Medium Lines." Click OK.

3. Now go to Filter > Blur > Radial Blur. Amount 100, Blur Method "zoom," Quality "best." Click OK.

4. Repeat the Radial Blur step above as many times as you like. I have been doing it 3 times.

5. Now, make a duplicate layer of the Background Layer. The keyboard shortcut on a Mac is to press and hold the Command key and then press the letter "J." On a PC press and hold the Control key and then press the letter "J." This duplicate layer will most likely be automatically named "Layer 1."

6. Now that you have 2 identical layers, click on the original Background layer in your Layers Palette. Go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a positive number anywhere between about 80 to 200. You can also set the number by sliding the pointer to the right to obtain the positive number of your choosing. Click OK. (You will not see the effect of what you have just done unless you turn off the "eyeball" in the Layers Palette of the duplicate layer above this layer.)

7. Now click on the duplicate layer (Layer 1) that you made a few moments ago. Go to  Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a negative number similar to the positive number you entered for the Background layer. You can also set the number by sliding the pointer to the left to obtain the negative number of your choosing. Click OK.

8. With the duplicate layer still selected, you will now change the Blending Mode. This is a very powerful tool and you will be excited to see the results. To activate Blending Mode. look for the word "Normal" in the Layers Palette a little above your duplicate layer (Layer1). Click on the tiny arrow next to "Normal" and a drop down box will appear. Click on each option in the drop down box one at a time and watch the magic happen! Choose the Blending Mode that appeals to you most. One Blending Mode might be best for the image you are working on now, but another one might better for other images in the future. Be creative and choose the one that you like best with each particular image.

9. When you have found and selected the Blending Mode you like best, you can either flatten the image and be done, OR you can continue to experiment and play by rotating one layer or the other to see what effects occur. You can also experiment with flipping one layer or the other and using Blending Mode again to see what happens.

10. For finishing touches, you can saturate the colors more, crop, convert to black and white, or whatever you feel each image needs.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The true method of knowledge is experiment."  --William Blake

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Thursday, February 21, 2019

Bragging Rights


I was thrilled and honored to have been named one of the Top 10 Professional Photographers Of The Year in the state of Virginia for 2019. In addition, the top image above was chosen as the Best Animal Image of 2019 at the annual professional photographers of Virginia competition.

The bald eagle image was shot from a private boat in the Inside Passage of Alaska last summer. It was a foggy gray day, with mist hanging in the valleys. We watched eagles for hours, fascinated by their aerial acrobatics as they took aim and grabbed fish in the clear, cold waters.

This kind of shooting requires a large supply of memory cards, and using Rapid Burst to capture a wide variety of images in a short period of time. The wing and body positions change constantly, so shooting with Rapid Burst gives you a much better chance of capturing a compelling shot. It is amazing how quickly these skillful hunters swoop and dive.

The other images shown are the other ones accepted into this competition. Under the eagle image, from left to right, are two Sandhill Cranes shot with a slow shutter speed for an artistic effect, a feather found on an Alaska beach (shot as I found it - I did not move the feather or add the rock), photographers photographing a brown bear in Alaska, and a water droplet on an Alaska iceberg.

All images were optimized in Lightroom, and no special effects or filters or other software was used.

As you may already know, the eagle image, titled "Eyes On The Prize," was also selected as one of the Top 100 images of the year by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA).

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Success comes from hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice, and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do."  -- Pele



Monday, February 18, 2019

Exuberance


Animal behavior is a wonderful thing to watch. While animals cannot communicate via speech that we humans easily understand, we could say that their actions speak louder than words.

This breaching whale in Alaska is a prime example. Experts have no clear explanation why whales breach, but when they do it certainly appears to be with gusto, and unrelated to feeding, mating, or dominance behavior. They seem to do it for the sheer joy of it.

Most breaching whales are teenagers, full of energy. Often when you see a whale breach, it will do it several times in a row. That helps us photographers have a ghost of a chance of getting the shot. The first breach generally comes with no warning. But when you find a breaching whale it is best to keep an eye on it and hold your position in hopes that it will happen a few more times.

Your best chance of getting a sharp image is to pre-focus in the area of the previous breach, but be ready to re-focus when the action begins since often the whales will have moved a bit from the last breach. It happens fast, and I have many shots of just the splash that remains after the breach is over.

It is exciting to watch these huge creatures launch themselves almost completely out of the water. Whether they truly feel a sense of exuberance or not, I certainly do when I see this action. It is exciting beyond compare.

We hope to see breaching whales and more on the 
Glacier Bay National Park trip coming up June 25 - 30. 

We stay in a beautiful lodge and will take day boat trips 
on three separate days to see whales and all the 
other wonders Alaska has to offer. 

Only a few spaces left. Complete information here  http://awakethelight.com/glacier-bay-national-park/ 

I hope you can join me! 
Email or call to register, or if you have questions.


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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours, they are more finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not underlings, they are other Nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth."  -- Henry Beston

Friday, February 8, 2019

Lightroom, Butterflies, & Flowers - CORRECTED DATES May 14 - 18


This workshop was announced about a week ago, and today's Blog has additional information. If you are not familiar with the Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens in Richmond, Virginia, you owe it to yourself to get on their website, and get ready to be impressed. It is a superb location with acres and acres of beautiful flowers, plus the gorgeous Conservatory (a smaller version of the Longwood Gardens Conservatory in Pennsylvania).

The Conservatory houses not only a spectacular orchid collection, but many other flower species as well. And the crowning feature is the large indoor area dedicated to a wide variety of exotic butterflies.

The Conservatory has huge windows with beautiful light, perfect for photographing butterflies. There is plenty of room to move around and get wonderful images. It is one of the best butterfly venues available.

And if that is not enough, the workshop will also provide in-depth Lightroom training. Even if you feel you know all about Lightroom, you will be surprised by all the new techniques you will learn. Whether you are a basic Lightroom user, or an experienced veteran, you will learn easier, faster, and more foolproof ways of working with it. It will save you time and aggravation, and you will come away from the workshop knowing how to create much more beautiful images. The images above are just a small example of how powerful Lightroom can be when you know the tricks. The lower image is the original RAW image, right out of the camera. With just a few tweaks, the image at the top was created. Quick, easy, painless.

NOTE that the dates have changed slightly - the workshop will run from May 14 - 18.

Each day will be a mix of flowers and butterflies, plus Lightroom. Learn how to successfully photograph butterflies, and learn creative macro techniques for artistic flower images. Plus an added bonus - time each day will be devoted to improving your working knowledge of Lightroom, with a little Photoshop tossed into the mix.

WORKSHOP INCLUDES

- mastering butterfly photography

- learning creative macro flower techniques

- daily sessions on Lightroom, with a touch of Photoshop

- image critiques

- personalized attention each and every day

- both in-the-field and classroom training


WHERE:  Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

WHEN:  May 14 - 18

LIMIT:  10 photographers

FEE:  Special early registration fee of $1995 if you register by February 15. After that date the fee is $2495.  Fee includes all garden entry fees, personal and classroom training on photographing butterflies and flowers, creative camera and digital techniques, Lightroom training (suitable for all levels from novice to experienced), image critiques, and a fun time! (Not included are meals, lodging, or transportation.)

ITINERARY:  Workshop begins with an extensive evening training session on Tuesday, May 14. Each day will be a combination of shooting butterflies and flowers, learning creative techniques,  Lightroom instruction, image critiques, and much more. The workshop ends after breakfast and a wrap-up session on Saturday morning, May 18.

I am happy to answer your questions and to provide more details. 
Send me an email at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com  
or  call me at 757-773-0194. 

To register,  please email me and a Registration Form 
and lodging options will be emailed to you.

I hope you can join me!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80. Anyone who keeps learning stays young. The greatest thing in life is to keep your mind young."  -- Henry Ford

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Butterflies & Flowers, Plus Lightroom Bonus


Two of nature's most beautiful creations, butterflies and flowers, come together in this exciting workshop. Join me at Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, rated among the Top 4 Most Beautiful Botanical Gardens in the U.S. by Conde Nast, USA Today, The Travel Channel, and the BBC. It is truly a hidden gem, located in Richmond, Virginia.

The butterflies are housed in the beautiful Conservatory with wonderful light. Dozens of species will flit past us in a constantly changing air ballet. Many consider butterflies to be flowers that fly.

In addition to these winged beauties, there are acres and acres of tended gardens all around us. Each day will be a mixture of flowers and butterflies. Learn how to successfully photograph butterflies, and learn creative macro techniques for artistic flower images. Plus an added bonus - time each day will be devoted to improving your working knowledge of Lightroom, with a little Photoshop tossed into the mix.

WORKSHOP INCLUDES

- mastering butterfly photography

- learning creative macro flower techniques

- daily sessions on Lightroom, with a touch of Photoshop

- image critiques

- personalized attention each and every day

- both in-the-field and classroom training


WHERE:  Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond, Virginia

WHEN:  May 13 - 17

LIMIT:  10 photographers

FEE:  Special early registration fee of $1995 if you register by February 15. After that date the fee is $2495.  Fee includes all garden entry fees, personal and classroom training on photographing butterflies and flowers, creative camera and digital techniques, Lightroom training (suitable for all levels from novice to experienced), image critiques, and a fun time! (Not included are meals, lodging, or transportation.)

ITINERARY:  Workshop begins with an extensive evening training session on Monday, May 13. Each day will be a combination of shooting butterflies and flowers, learning creative techniques,  Lightroom instruction, image critiques, and much more. The workshop ends after breakfast and a wrap-up session on Friday morning, May 17.

I am happy to answer your questions and to provide more details. 
Send me an email at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com  
or  call me at 757-773-0194. 

To register,  please email me and a Registration Form 
and lodging options will be emailed to you.

I hope you can join me!

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Smoky Mountains Wildflowers & Wildwater Workshop


JUST ANNOUNCED!

Wildflowers & Wildwater 

Great Smoky Mountains Workshop

April 15 - 20


The Smoky Mountains in springtime is bursting with beautiful wildflowers and fast-running streams. This is THE time to be in the Smokies. For a short time each spring the mountains are alive with world-famous wildflowers like dwarf iris, columbine, lady slippers, and more.

Learn artistic macro photography of flowers in this amazing place. Close to the flowers are dramatic rocky streams, filled with spring melt waters where you will learn creative techniques. And all around us are the beautiful Smokies.

Each day will be a combination of flower photography, moving water, scenics, Lightroom and Photoshop tips, and image critiques. This will be an inspirational and educational week, with personal attention every step of the way.

This popular workshop includes:

-  mastering macro flower photograpy

-  learning the secrets of photographing moving water

-  Lightroom and Photoshop tips to improve the look of your images

-  learning creative techniques for impressionist and unique images

-  spectacular sunrises

-  personalized attention each and every day

-  image critiques to help you improve each day as the week progresses


WHERE: Great Smoky Mountains National Park (the Tennessee side, the most beautiful side of the Smokies)

WHEN:  April 15 - 20

NUMBER OF PHOTOGRAPHERS: Workshop is limited to 10 photographers

FEE:  Early sign-up fee is $2195, in effect until February 11. After that date the fee is $2695. Fee includes all group and personalized instruction, guide service, image critiques, and snacks. NOT included are meals, lodging and transportation.  

ITINERARY: Workshop begins in the late afternoon on Monday, April 15. Specific time and location will be provided when you register.
Each day will cover a variety of shooting experiences including creative macro of flowers, artistic rendition of moving water, mountain vistas, and possibly bears, deer, coyote, wild turkey, and more. Most evenings will include image critiques.
The workshop ends at approximately 9AM on Saturday, April 20.

I am happy to answer any questions, and provide more details. Please feel free to phone me at 757-773-0194, or email me at  awakethelightphoto@icloud.com 

To register, please email us and a Registration Form will be emailed to you.

I hope you can join me!

Sunday, January 13, 2019

NEW Workshop Just Announced - Florida's Beautiful Birds, St. Augustime Florida


BRAND NEW WORKSHOP JUST ANNOUNCED! 

 

Join me in St. Augustine, Florida, March 13 - 18 for some of the best bird photography anywhere. This is the time of year when some of the most beautiful birds like Roseate Spoonbills, Great Egrets, and several species of Herons, arrive in their breeding plumage. They will be nest building, mating, and laying their eggs, and all of this will be happening close to us and at eye level.


We will be in a private rookery that is beautifully designed with walkways that put us at tree-top level with the birds.  This provides photographers with the best chances of getting close-up shots of adults and perhaps some of the newly hatched babies as well. You will not need a very long lens to get great shots - lenses in the 300mm range will be fine. All birds are truly wild, but are not bothered by our presence.

We will have special early access to the rookery before it opens to the public. And it is a short, easy walk into and around the rookery. Superb bird photography doesn't get any better, or any easier, than this.

In addition to the birds, there will be shooting opportunities in the historic areas of St. Augustine, which bills itself as America's Oldest City. It is the home of significant landmarks like Castillo de San Marcos, Flagler College, the Lightner Museum, and more.

And there will be a half-day special private boat trip to view water birds, dolphins, and the city from a different perspective.

This unique photo workshop includes:
-  Private time photographing birds in the rookery
-  Personalized instruction to make your bird photography the best it can be
-  Private half-day boat trip
-  All rookery entry fees
-  Boat trip fee
-  Independent walking tours of historic St. Augustine
-  Image critiques
-  Lightroom and Photoshop tips                  

WHERE: St. Augustine, Florida

WHEN: March 13 - 18, 2019

NUMBER OF PHOTOGRAPHERS: Workshop is limited to 10 photographers

FEE: Early sign-up fee is $1995, in effect until February 1. After that date the fee is $2495. Fee includes all entry fees into the rookery, boat trip, extensive personalized instruction, image critiques, both in-the-field and classroom training, Lightroom and Photoshop tips. (Not included are lodging, meals, transportation, and personal incidentals.)

DEPOSIT: A $500.00 deposit will reserve your space. The balance of your workshop fee will be due no later than February 15, 2019.

LODGING: Lodging is not included in the workshop fee. Lodging suggestions will be provided when you register.

HOW TO GET THERE: If you are flying, both the Jacksonville, FL and the Daytona Beach, FL airports are about 1 hour from St. Augustine. You may rent a car at either airport.

ITINERARY:
Workshop begins in the late afternoon on Wednesday, March 13. Specific time and location will be provided when you register.
Each day of the workshop will be a varied combination of bird shooting, historic architecture, training, and critiques.
The workshop officially ends after a morning rookery visit on Monday, March 18. If you are flying, it is best to not schedule your departing flight any earlier than mid-afternoon that day.

 I am happy to answer any questions, and provide more details. Please feel free to phone me at 757-773-0194, or email me at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com

To register, either email or call and a Registration Form will be emailed to you. 

I hope you can join me!