Sunday, June 21, 2020

Snuggled In For Safety


This Black-necked Swan signet was snuggled under its mother's wing. It looks so at peace, secure and protected. I thought it was a perfect antidote for the still tense times we are living in. 

While officially things have begun opening up across the country, we are being told to stay at home as much as possible for our own safety. So I have chosen to listen to that advice and am working online in our virtual world at this time. I hope you are staying close to home and are not putting yourself or others at risk. Patience and tolerance are the watchwords of these surreal times. 

This shot was taken at a bird breeding facility in North Carolina. Because the facility has large ponds with a variety of birds that are not too far away, and walkways surrounding them, it is relatively easy to get close-up images. 

This black-and-white conversion was done in Lightroom, my post-processing software of choice. After converting it to black-and-white, I moved the Clarity slider to the left to reduce mid-tone contrast which gave the image a soft, dreamy look. When working on images of soft subjects,  flowers, or misty scenes, I find that reducing Clarity adds just a touch of softness that enhances the overall look and feel of the image.  Be careful not to go too far, however, since the image can quickly become too mushy and lose detail. For this look I usually move the Clarity slider to approximately minus 15 to 25, but this image could handle more softness, so I moved Clarity to minus 50. 

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with Canon 1.4X extender for an effective focal length of 280mm, on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A healthy tomorrow, for yourself and all those you care about, is the reward for practicing safe behavior today."  -- Mollie Isaacs   



Thursday, June 11, 2020

Fond Thoughts of the Open Road


Ahhhh........  The open road. How I look forward to getting back out there with you on a photo workshop! For now we still are better off not putting ourselves, or others, at risk so I am playing it safe by staying close to home and not running any workshops or photo tours at this time. But rest assured that big plans are in the works for 2021.

In the meantime I am offering webinars and online training in an effort to keep you focused on photography, and building more of your skills and confidence.

This image was taken last year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I was on a narrow, tree-lined road off the beaten path. This is a single exposure made with a slow shutter speed to give a feeling of movement and softness. The end result is a somewhat impressionistic look of the scene.

Not all nature images need to convey a realistic version of the scene. Sometimes it is good to create images that impart a feeling rather than just a record shot of where it was taken.

This is a simple technique made from a moving vehicle. I call it a "drive-thru."  Here is how it was done:

1. First find a tree-lined, narrow gravel or dirt road, or an old paved road with no painted lines. You want it to be a road with no traffic so that you are not interfering with any traffic flow. This is very important since the car will be moving forward at only about 5 miles per hour. This works best when the trees are large enough to keep much of the sky from showing.

2. Since for now it is still important to maintain social distancing and not ride with someone who might be asymptomatic, it is best to have someone who is living with you in your home drive the vehicle. You are in the passenger seat. Please do NOT do this while you are driving since it will put you at risk. When we return to more normal times, this works well when the driver is another photographer so that each of you can trade off periodically, giving each of you a chance to get some shots.

3. When you are shooting, keep your seat belt on, and lean as far forward in your seat as possible. That will put your lens fairly close to the windshield to avoid possible reflections on the windshield from the car's dashboard or your clothing.

4. Wear medium-toned clothing to also avoid adding unwanted reflections in the windshield. Avoid wearing white, red, or other strong or bright colors.

5. Lens - use a lens with approximately a 100mm focal length. It can be either a zoom or a fixed focal length lens. Avoid wide angle lenses since that will often bring too much overhead sky into the image, and can also include unwanted portions of the car's dashboard or sides.

6. Camera settings - This is easiest with your camera set on Shutter Priority. Set your camera to ISO 100, with a shutter speed of 1/2 sec. The f/stop will set itself, and it does not matter much what the f/stop is.

7. Lean forward in your seat and focus on a tree trunk approximately 20 feet away from the car. You will not need to refocus again. This works best when your camera is set up with back-button focus so that your camera is not refocusing each time you press the shutter button.  If you are unfamiliar with back-button focus, you can read about it here

8. Now the driver can begin driving down the road at approximately 5 mph. Aim your camera straight out the windshield and start shooting. Take many shots since you never know exactly what you will get.

9. Tips - 1) look for slight curves or bends in the road since that will add leading lines;  2) for some shots, move your camera slightly up and down during the exposure to add more of a sense of movement;  3) feel free to experiment with different camera movements and different shutter speeds; 4) just let yourself go and try a variety of different things since you never know exactly what you will get. The goal is to have fun and end up with some unique and wonderful images.

10. Since each and every shot is an experiment, expect to get many bad shots that do not make you happy. That is perfectly normal. Often I will get only one or two shots I like out of dozens and dozens of attempts.

So get out there and have some fun with a friend! You might end up with real prize winners!

TECH SPECS
1/2 sec. at f/14, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 100mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body, handheld.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

A Happy Honor


I was happily surprised to be contacted by the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) informing me that this black-and-white image of puffins is being showcased on their website this week. Always an honor to have an image selected! Here is the link to their site
http://www.nanpa.org
It is one of several images on the NANPA Home Page, which will cycle through automatically.

You may remember seeing this image on the Blog earlier this year. It was shot on a small island in the Cook Inlet off the coast of Alaska near Lake Clark National Park. I was lucky that these Horned Puffins briefly posed themselves in the perfect position to create a beautiful line formed by their white and black feathers.

The original color image had grass in the background which I found distracting. So I replaced the background with a light gray background created in Photoshop. And while the bills were quite colorful, I chose to create this monochromatic version to better showcase the texture and contrast of the entire image.

When making extensive changes like this, you must disclose that when entering any nature and wildlife competition. Generally I do not significantly change an image from its original appearance, but sometimes it is good to exercise your creative muscles and go for something unusual or unexpected.

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec. at f/8, 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: "Color is descriptive. Black and white is interpretative."  -- Elliott Erwitt

Saturday, May 9, 2020

FREE Live Webinar for Camera Clubs


FREE Live Webinar - Lightroom Unleashed


Because we are still staying at home to remain safe from the coronavirus, I am offering a FREE live Webinar to camera clubs that would like to provide continuing learning opportunities to members. 

My very popular "Lightroom Unleashed" Webinar is an information-packed opportunity to learn how to quickly and easily take your images from Sad to Spectacular. Above you can see the RAW Before and After images, showing post-processing in Lightroom. All changes were done totally in Lightroom. No other software was used. 

The webinar covers many of my secrets for getting great results quickly. You will see a variety of Before and After images, and how the transitions were done. 

You will learn:
- how to use Lightroom most effectively to take your images from blah to boffo,
- a simple, fast, and foolproof Lightroom workflow,
- which tools and sliders are best to use, and how to use them,
- which tools and sliders to AVOID and why,
- why the histogram in Lightroom is so important,
- why the Gradient tool is a better choice than the Vignette tool,
- and more!

If your club is interested in making this Webinar available to members, please email me at awakethelightphoto@icloud.com as soon as possible. We can schedule the Webinar on a day and time that is best for your club. Demand has been high for this opportunity. I hope you can join me online!

TECH SPECS
1/640 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III extender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create."  -- Buddha



Saturday, April 25, 2020

Just Announced - St. Augustine Florida Birds Workshop


Join me next April in St. Augustine, Florida 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, Snowy Egrets, 
and several species of 
Herons arrive in 
their 
breeding plumage.


The birds will be nesting, mating, and raising chicks, and all this will be happening close to us 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 us with the best chances of getting close-up shots, and no long lenses are needed. 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 walk into and around the rookery. Super bird photography does not 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.

This unique workshop includes:
- early entry and private time photographing birds in the rookery
- personalized instruction to make your bird photography the best it can be
- all rookery entry fees
- trolley and self-guided walking tour of historic St. Augustine
- image critiques
- Lightroom and Photoshop tips

Workshop is limited to 12 photographers

FEE: Early sign-up fee is $1995 if you register no later than June 1. After that the regular rate of $2495 applies. Fee includes all entry fees into the rookery, trolley tour of historic St. Augustine, extensive personalized instruction, image critiques, both in-the-field and classroom training, and Lightroom and Photoshop tips. (Not included are lodging, meals, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special hotel rates have been arranged.)

DEPOSIT: A $500 deposit will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: Workshop begins in the late afternoon on Tuesday, April 6 with an orientation and training session. Specific time and location will be provided when you register. Each day of the workshop will be a varied combination of bird photography, historic architecture, training, and image critiques. The workshop officially ends after a morning rookery visit on Sunday, April 11.


FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER

EMAIL
awakethelightphoto@icloud.com

or CALL 757-773-0194

Saturday, April 18, 2020

More Fun At Home - Photo Projects Lesson 3



This is another great technique for keeping your creative juices flowing while you are stuck at home during the pandemic. Sometimes you just want to have fun, and what better time than now! If you have Photoshop or Photoshop Elements you can create unusual images easily.

Today's image is just one example
ORIGINAL IMAGE
of what you can do with almost any image already in your files. Here is the original image, a flower shot at a botanical gardens. Try this
technique with flowers or birds or scenics or anything else that appeals to you. You won't know which images work best until you experiment with several different ones. And you can crop and do some post-processing on the original image before starting on the technique below.

Here are the easy steps used to create the final version:

1. Make sure to start with an 8-bit image. Only 8-bit images will work with all the Photoshop filters. (Some filters will work with 16-bit images, which is a typical default bit size for most images, but not all filters can be used unless the image is an 8-bit.) It is easy to do the conversion in Photoshop by going to Image > Mode. Then click on "8-bit" if it is not already checked. Now you are ready to work some magic!

2. Go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. Click on the "Polar to Rectangular" button (the lower button) and then click OK.

3. Next flip the image upside down by going to Image > Image Rotation > Flip Canvas Vertical.

4. Again go to Filter > Distort > Polar Coordinates. This time click on the "Rectangular to Polar" button (the upper button) and click OK.

5.  Now you have the basic distorted image, similar to the top image in today's Blog. I did not make any additional changes, but you can crop it if you wish, or change the color using Photoshop's color balance options, or make any other changes that you feel enhance the image.

So try this on a variety of different images and enjoy the results!

TECH SPECS
1/160 sec at f/2.8, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Every adversity brings new experiences and new lessons."  -- Lailah Gifty Akita

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Happy Easter - Happy Passover


Happy Easter
Happy Passover


Even though we are all practicing the recommended social distancing and cannot spend time face-to-face with friends and family, we can still feel the warmth of Spring, and keep those personal connections strong. We can connect with those we love via all the great options available to us in our digital age - Skype or FaceTime or Zoom or Facebook or other options that allow us to speak with those far away and see their faces.

While the pandemic has turned many lives upside down, we can still be thankful for what we have, and can feel close to those we love and cherish. Keep those connections strong. The support of family and friends will help all of us cope with the New Normal, and help us be strong and look forward to a time when all this will be behind us. A time when we can hug, laugh together, and enjoy better times.

I am eager to be able to travel again, conduct workshops, and see all my friends and fellow travelers. And we WILL have those times again!

But for now, please follow the guidelines medical and governmental authorities advise, be patient as we wait for the pandemic to end, stay more than 6 feet away from others, enjoy a quieter, less hectic time, and wash wash wash your hands!

Mollie

Saturday, April 4, 2020

More Fun Photo Projects - Photo Projects Lesson 2


Today's lesson will help you turn lemons into lemonade. We all have images we shot some time ago that we want to like but they just do not have the pop or impact we expected. This is a great time to review some of your old images to see if another attempt at improving them in Lightroom can bring them back from the brink of boring.

As you know, Lightroom is my software of choice for nature and wildlife images. It can powerfully bring an image to life without making it look overdone or unrealistic. And that is the key to award-winning nature images - full of impact and beauty but without an artificial look.

The Before and After images above are the same shot. The Before image is the RAW image before processing, and the After is the same image after being processed in Lightroom.

It was a beautiful, pristine dawn in Jasper National Park in Canada, but you would never know that by looking at the Before image. It looks gray, dull, and unexciting. While there were pinks and blues in the sky, and lovely fall colors on the hillsides across the lake, they do not appear in the original RAW image. Why?

In general, regardless of the brand of camera you use, camera sensors are designed to be "dumbed down." What does that mean? It means that digital camera sensors were designed to do their jobs quickly, and in order to do that the sensor will capture an image (this applies to RAW images) with all the detail and color that was there, BUT our eyes will not see all that without using post-processing software to bring out the latent details in the RAW image. While this is an oversimplification, the bottom line is that you will rarely see the degree of contrast and the accuracy of colors in a RAW image as it initially comes out of the camera. Some post-processing is needed on virtually every image in order to bring out what you really saw. Some images need more optimization than others.

Because this image was shot pre-sunrise, it inherently had low contrast and the colors were somewhat muted. Add to that the nature of camera sensors I mentioned, and you have a Before image that is gray and lifeless. I wanted to bring out the colors and contrast that my eye saw when I was there, and that required some help from Lightroom.

The "fix" took about 5 minutes, and brought the image closer to what I actually saw. I admit that I did punch the blues and pinks a bit more than were really there, but they still look natural.

The simple steps in Lightroom to improve this image were:
1. Lightened the shadows with the Shadows Slider.
2. Brightened the whites with the Whites Slider so that the mist on the horizon looked white.
3. Increased Clarity to boost the mid-tone contrast.
4. Increased overall Vibrance.
5. Used the HSL panel to pinpoint increases in the saturation of the pinks, blues, and yellows.

That's it. Just those few easy steps brought this image to life.

So now that we have lots of time at home, a great project is to go back over some of your older images and re-work them in Lightroom to see how much you can improve them. You will be amazed at what you can do, even on old images that you have already processed.

Once you get into this, you can spend many happy days creating "new" and better images from ones already living in your photo files. And remember, for your health and well-being get up and stretch or walk around every 30 minutes or so, even though it is easy to sit for hours and not realize it!

TECH SPECS
2.5 seconds at f/22, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 6D body (an oldie but a goodie!). Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Learn as if you were to live forever."  --Mahatma Gandhi

Friday, March 20, 2020

Stuck At Home? - Fun Photo Projects Lesson 1


The COVID-19 pandemic has turned many lives upside down. It has caused many of us to completely alter our routines, and has impacted nearly all aspects of daily life. The good news is that we are photographers, and we can entertain and enrich ourselves at home even during these trying times.

This is the first in a series of Blogs in which I want to share creative ideas and tips for you to do at home. You may be familiar with some, and others might be new to you. Either way, give them a try. I hope they will help you tap into your creativity, and provide some fun and relaxation while you fill your days at home.

Please feel free to share these Blogs with your camera club colleagues, and other photo friends. Information on how to subscribe to my FREE Blog appears at the bottom.

TODAY'S LESSON - THE TWIRL TECHNIQUE

You can start with any image. It really doesn't matter because the end result is completely different from where you started. You can try this with wildlife, flowers, scenics, buildings, and more. Here is the image I started with. This is Sandhill Cranes taking off at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico.
BEFORE
You never know how the colors or shapes are going to turn out, and that is part of the fun.This technique is done in Photoshop. It just takes 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. Let your imagination and your creativity run wild! Ready? Here's how to do it.



1. Open an image in Photoshop.

2. Go to Filter > Pixelate > Mezzotint. Make sure the Mode is set to "Medium Lines" and 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 generally do the Radial Blur step 3 times.  

5.  Now, make a duplicate copy of the Background Layer (the main image layer you have been working on so far). The keyboard shortcut to create the duplicate layer on a Mac is to press and hold the Command key and then press the letter "J."  If you are working 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 two identical layers, click on the original Background Layer in the Layers Palette to highlight it. Then go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a positive number anywhere between about 80 to 200. Make a note of this number. (You can also set the number by sliding the pointer to the right to obtain the positive number of your choosing). Click OK. Note that 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 the Background Layer.

7. Now click on the duplicate layer (Layer 1) that you made a few moments ago to highlight it. Go to Filter > Distort > Twirl. In the Angle number box, enter a negative number than is the same as the positive number you used 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 highlighted, you will now change the Blending Mode. This is a very powerful tool, and you will be excited when you see the results. To activate the Blending Mode, look for the word "Normal" in the Layers Palette, a little above the duplicate layer (Layer 1). 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. There is no right or wrong choice. One Blending Mode might work best for the image you are working on now, but another one might work better for other images in the future. Be creative and choose the one you like best for each particular image.

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

10. For finishing touches, you can saturate the colors for more punch if needed, or crop the image for better composition, or convert to black-and-white, or use any other options that you feel works with the image.

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

TO SUBSCRIBE TO THIS BLOG ;
Find the small white rectangular box above, to the right of the main photo.  You will see the words "Follow by Email" above that box. Simply enter your email address in the box and follow any prompts. That's it! And you can easily Unsubscribe if you change your mind. But I hope you will enjoy the Blog and get some good information in each one.

    

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Congratulations Bernie Lewis!


This spectacular image of a Bald Eagle was captured by Bernie Lewis on an Awake The Light trip to Alaska last summer.  There was a great group of photographers traveling with me for a week aboard a private chartered yacht on the Inside Passage. We had several opportunities to photograph eagles from our boat, and Bernie nailed this shot perfectly.

This superb image titled "Got It" has garnered many awards for Bernie. It won a First Place for Best Bird at the 2019 annual New England Camera Clubs Council competition, was a semi-finalist in the annual 2020 North American Nature Photography Association competition, Image of the Year Honorable Mention in the 2019 Delaware Photographic Society competition, First Place Two Rivers Photography Club end-of-year 2019 competition, and Acceptance in the 2019 Merrimack International competition. Quite a list!

Congratulations, Bernie!

TECH SPECS
1/2000 sec at f/6.3, ISO 1000. Canon 100-400mm f.4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 180mm on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Winning doesn't always mean being first. Winning means you're doing better than you've ever done before."  --Bonnie Blair

Friday, March 6, 2020

Sunrise Sunday


If you love sunrise but miss too many of them because it comes too darned early, this Sunday is your chance! We go back on Daylight Savings Time which means that sunrise will be an hour later than it has been. And Sunday will be the latest sunrise time until next winter. So seize the day, set your alarm, and get out there on Sunday!

This dramatic scene was shot in Acadia National Park in Maine. The sun broke through heavy mist just briefly to create this fiery sunrise.

Some sunrise shooting tips:

- Pick a location ahead of time so you know where you want to be on Sunday morning.

- Arrive on location at least an hour before official sunrise time. Why? Because the sky will already be getting light, and some of the best shots are possible long before the sun actually breaks the horizon. The colors are better, and the contrast is not as intense as it will be once the sun appears.

- Shoot on a tripod. Long exposures are fine before the sun breaks the horizon. Plus you can stop your lens down to f/16 or better for great Depth of Field in the low light. Use either a cable shutter release, or a remote trigger, or set your camera to a 2-second delay if you do not have either of them. That will reduce any camera shake when you press the shutter for long exposures.

- In the predawn light, start with an ISO of 800. As the sky begins to lighten, you can reduce the ISO to 400 or 200. Pay close attention to the light intensity as official sunrise time approaches, since the amount of light will increase quickly. Be prepared to change the shutter speed and f/stop as the skies lighten to be sure of getting a good exposure.

- Set your camera on Aperture Priority

- Set your f/stop to f/16 or f/22 for good Depth of Field

- The shutter speed will set itself, and as long as you are on a tripod, any shutter speed will be fine.

- Autofocus works well as long as you are careful. Find an area of the scene that A) you want sharp, and B) has some contrast so that the autofocus can grab onto that subject. A hard edge is also helpful, like the edge of a tree trunk or a line of mountain ridges. There MUST be some contrast in the area of the image you are focusing on for autofocus to work. Live View is not very effective in low light since it has trouble grabbing onto anything to focus on.

- Check the Histogram every few shots to make sure exposures are good. Remember, the light will be constantly increasing.

- Lens choice is yours, depending on the scene you are shooting. A wide angle lens will include more of the scene but the sun (when it finally appears) will be small. A moderate telephoto lens (70-200mm) will include less of the scene but the sun will appear larger. And a long telephoto (300 or 400mm) will make the sun look huge but will eliminate most of the scene. Bring 'em all to get a variety of views and interpretations. But keep in mind that when the sun does appear, it will move VERY quickly so having two camera bodies, each with a different lens, will help you get more shots in the short time you will have.

- Once the sun appears, it will most likely appear bright white in your images, and you will get the "blinkies" indicating overexposure. But that is OK since the brightness of the sun will be many times brighter than the rest of the scene. If you change exposure to reduce the brightness of the sun, the rest of the scene will be rendered too dark and underexposed, resulting in too much noise in your images.

- Take lots of shots. You can't take too many. Then, after you download them onto your computer, you can select the ones that work best for you.

So get out there and shoot. And have fun!

TECH SPECS
1/4 sec at f/11, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 7D. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness."  --Sapna Reddy



Wednesday, March 4, 2020

MACHU PICCHU, Peru - August 28 - September 4



FANTASTIC PHOTO TOUR OF MACHU PICCHU, 

PLUS THE SACRED VALLEY!!!


This 15th Century Inca enclave is famous 
the world over for its ancient ruins. 
It existed virtually untouched from the mid-1500's 
until it was re-discovered by an American 
historian in the early 1900's. 

Incredible photo opportunities 
and a glimpse into an exquisite culture 
await us at this UNESCO World Heritage Site. 


This legendary and revered ancient land will be an incredible photo trip in all respects. And every step of the way we will travel in comfort and style.  See the splendor of Machu Picchu, plus travel back in time to the nearby Sacred Valley with even more ancient temples, citadels, artifacts, and exciting landscapes. We will also photograph the lively handicraft market.

Our days will be filled with a vast array of photo opportunities, and our nights will be in lovely hotels with wonderful meals. We will travel in style aboard scenic expedition trains and comfortable buses.

Here is a peek at our hotels:






And here is a look at our expedition trains:


TRIP DETAILS:
WHEN: Friday, August 28 - Friday, September 4

WHERE: The trip begins and ends in Lima, Peru

FEE: $4990 per person, double occupancy (single supplement $590).  Fee includes 7 hotel nights, most meals, ground transportation, photo instruction / personal coaching / technical pointers / informal image critiques, guide service, baggage handling, airport transfers, most gratuities, and detailed Destination & Travel Packet. (NOT included are airfare to / from Lima, and to / from Cusco, alcoholic beverages, drinks, Trip & Travel Insurance, personal expenses and incidentals, a few meals.)

DEPOSIT: A deposit of $750 will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: (complete Itinerary sent on request)
Friday, August 28 - arrive Lima from home (hotel night and the next morning's breakfast included)
Saturday, August 29 - fly to Cusco in the Peruvian Andes, and drive to the Sacred Valley (hotel night and BLD included)
Sunday, August 30 - explore the Sacred Valley with our guide for scenics and archeological sites (hotel night and BLD included)
Monday, August 31 - more in-depth exploration in the Sacred Valley with its citadel, ancient temples plazas, and a visit to the handicraft market (hotel night and BLD included)
Tuesday, September 1 - scenic expedition train to Machu Picchu for a day of exploring the Incan Citadel and archeological site (hotel night and BL included)
Wednesday, September 2 - sunrise shooting at Machu Picchu, and much of the day to explore more of the area (hotel night and B included)
Thursday, September 3 - sightseeing and photographing in and around Cusco including The Temple of the Sun, main cathedral, nearby valleys with a working camelid farm (llamas, alpacas, and vicunas), and weaving demonstrations (hotel night and BD included)
Friday, September 4 - fly back to Lima and home (breakfast included)

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER,
EMAIL
awakethelightphoto@icloud.com 

or  CALL 757-773-0194  


Friday, February 28, 2020

Reflecting On Success


Reflections can help make an image pop. The strong greens in this image make the white egret feathers stand out well. To get good reflections in relatively still water is easy. Just be sure the sun is shining on the trees along the shoreline. That gives them good strong color that reflects well in the water. If the shoreline is in shadow, the reflection will not be nearly as strong and vibrant.

So with that simple rule, you can almost always get great reflections.

The behavior in this image helps to tie everything together. It provides visual interest, and captures a moment of movement and action.

TECH SPECS
1/4000 sec. at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 784mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "As water reflects the face, so one's life reflects the heart."  Proverb


Friday, February 21, 2020

Adding Life To Your Images


Life. That is what wildLIFE photography is all about. Whether the image shows an animal or a bird, we want the image to feel alive with the vibrance of life. One way to show that is by using a slow shutter speed and panning the camera to show motion in the subject.

This Sandhill Crane was captured during the winter migration at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico. That is the time of year when thousands of cranes spend a few winter months there, generally from mid-November through January. That is the best time of year for the greatest opportunities to hone your bird photography skills. And just to enjoy the huge numbers of migrating Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes that winter-over at this location.

This shot was made in the morning, when the cranes leave the ponds where they spent the night and fly to nearby fields to feed. There is wave after wave of birds flying by, so you get many chances to try different approaches.

To get this type of shot, all you need is a tripod, a slow shutter speed, and be able to pan smoothly to follow the bird as it wings past. I'm always asked what is the best shutter speed to use, and the answer is "it depends." It depends on how fast the bird is flying. I have found that shutter speeds ranging from 1/30 second to 1/2 second work best in most situations. The slower the shutter speed, the more motion shows in the image.

So when you are trying to achieve a more artistic representation of a bird in flight, compared to an image where the bird is tack sharp, it is advisable to try different shutter speeds to see what works best for the look you want to achieve.

And remember that regardless of which shutter speed you use, be sure to keep your camera focused on the bird's head, and try to pace the camera's panning motion with the forward movement of the bird. Doing that helps assure that the head is sharp while the wings show motion, and the background becomes a smooth sweep of tones.

Plus, always be prepared for a lot of images that do not work. Take many images so that you increase the chances of getting ones where all the elements come together to give you the images you seek.

I'll be returning to Bosque del Apache December 1 - 5. 
Only 4 spaces left. 
See complete details HERE   
I hope you can join me!


TECH SPECS
1/15 sec at f/36, ISO 100. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS lens set at 400mm on Canon 40D camera body (yes, this is a shot from several years ago!). Gitzo tripod with ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

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

Saturday, February 15, 2020

NEW WORKSHOPS - Bosque del Apache, NM & White Sands, NM, December 2020


TWO EXCITING NEW WORKSHOPS JUST ANNOUNCED! 


Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico, 

famous for its tens of thousands of Snow Geese 

and Sandhill Cranes, incredible sunrises and 

sunsets, and unique photo opportunities. 


And White Sands National Park,  New Mexico, 

known for its pristine white sand dunes, 

undulating abstracts, and wild beauty. 


At Bosque del Apache, one of my favorite places for bird photography, you will have numerous opportunities to witness and photograph the famous awe-inspiring lift-off at dawn of thousands of Snow Geese, plus the graceful flights of the beautiful Sandhill Cranes. Improve your bird photography skills, learn tips and tricks to get the best shoots, and learn artistic creative techniques that result in images that go beyond the ordinary. We will shoot lift-offs and flight images in the mornings and late afternoons / evenings. Mid-day hours will be filled with classroom sessions for Lightroom and Photoshop techniques, plus image critiques.

At White Sands, a beautiful and surreal location with dramatic photo opportunities in every direction, we will photograph in the mornings and afternoons / evenings in order to capture the best directional and most beautiful light for sand dunes, and spectacular sunsets. Mid-day hours will be filled with classroom sessions for Lightroom and Photoshop techniques, plus image critiques.

These two workshops run back-to-back. Take either one, or both. The Bosque workshop runs from December 1 - 5, followed by the White Sands workshop December 6 - 9.


BOSQUE DEL APACHE Wildlife Refuge details:

WHEN: Tuesday, December 1 through Saturday, December 5, 2020

WHERE: Our base will be Socorro, New Mexico, about a 20 minute drive from the Refuge

LIMIT: maximum of 12 photographers

FEE: Early sign-up fee of $1995 if you register by March 20. After that date the regular workshop fee of $2495 will apply. Special Combo rate of $1695 for each workshop if you take both workshops. Must register for both workshops by March 20. Fee includes all entry fees to the Refuge, in-depth training and coaching for bird photography, breakfasts (at the hotel), personalized attention, creative techniques, guide service, and image reviews and critiques. [Not included are lodging, lunches, dinners, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special hotel rates are being arranged.]

DEPOSIT:
A $500 deposit will reserve your space.

ITINERARY (subject to change):
Tuesday, December 1 - Workshop begins with a Welcome and Teaching session at 7PM in our hotel.
Wednesday, December 2 - early morning start so we can be on location before sunrise to catch the famous Snow Geese lift-off. Return to the hotel between 9AM and 10AM for breakfast, optional nap, download and edit images. Lunch on your own around noon. Afternoon classroom teaching session will run from 1:15PM until approximately 3PM. Return to the Refuge by 3:30PM for late afternoon / sunset shoot.
Thursday, December 3 - same as above
Friday, December 4 - same as above
Saturday, December 5 - early morning shoot at the Refuge, then return to the hotel for breakfast and a  final workshop wrap-up session. Workshop will end by 11AM.


WHITE SANDS National Park details

WHEN: Sunday, December 6 through Wednesday, December 9, 2020

WHERE: Our base will be Alamagordo, New Mexico, about a 20 minute drive from the park

LIMIT: maximum of 12 photographers

FEE: Early sign-up fee of $1995 if you register by March 20. After that date the regular workshop fee of $2495 will apply. Special Combo rate of $1695 for each workshop if you take both workshops. Must register for both workshops by March 20. Fee includes all entry fees to the National Park, in-depth training and coaching, breakfasts (at the hotel), personalized attention, creative techniques, guide service, and image reviews and critiques. [Not included are lodging, meals, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special hotel rates are being arranged.]

DEPOSIT:
A $500 deposit will reserve your space.

ITINERARY: (subject to change)
Sunday, December 6 - Workshop begins with a Welcome and Teaching session at 6PM at our hotel.
Monday, December 7 - leave the hotel early enough to reach the Park when it opens at 7AM. Shoot until the light is no longer good, return to the hotel for breakfast, optional nap, download and edit images. Lunch on your own around noon. Afternoon classroom teaching session will run from 1:15PM until approximately 3PM. Return to the Park by 3:30PM for late afternoon / sunset shoot.
Tuesday, December 8 - same as above
Wednesday, December 9 - early morning shoot at the Park, then return to the hotel for breakfast and a  final workshop wrap-up session. Workshop will end by 11AM.

FOR MORE INFORMATION OR TO REGISTER,

EMAIL

or  CALL 757-773-0194


Monday, February 10, 2020

Happy Surprise



I was happily surprised to start the day with a notice from the North American Nature Photography Association  (NANPA) that this image is being showcased on their homepage this week. Here is the link http://www.nanpa.org

When you get to the homepage, several images will cycle through so you may have to wait a few seconds for this one to come up.

I was thrilled that this image was selected as one of the Top 100 Images Of The Year.

Here is the caption that goes with the image:
"This pair of Horned Puffins posed themselves beautifully on their rocky perch during breeding season. While their colorful bills were beautiful, and their black and white feathers in lovely contrast to one another, this monochrome artistic rendering brings out the texture and contrast more clearly than what our eyes see in a color image., Bird Island, Cook Inlet, Alaska"

TECH SPECS
1/1250 sec at f/8, 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 photo competitions are a gamble. You never know how your images will do. It is best to accept the wins with humility, and the losses with grace."  --Mollie Isaacs 

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Small Touches Make a Difference


I am still enthralled with all the sights and sounds of my December trip to Antarctica, and penguins top the list of appealing subjects. They are gawky and comical on land, but sleek and elegant in the water.

This Gentoo penguin had been fishing and was just returning to the nesting area. While this is a simple, basic shot, several things help elevate it to a higher level.

First, the composition. The penguin is nicely separated from the background. The color of the water, along with the horizontal ripples, are a nice counterpoint to the smooth black and white body. And the slant of the rock creates an oblique angle which is an added element of visual interest. Also, the hint of a reflection adds a sense of depth.

Next, there are several small details that help this image. There is a sense of motion created by his foot being raised, ready to step on the rock. And because he was just exiting the water you can see water droplets on his head and bill if you look closely.

Finally, the color contrast between the cool tones of the water and the warm tones of his bill and foot are the finishing touches.

So the big question is - did I have any control over these elements? Clearly the answer is "no." BUT we always have a choice regarding which images stand out above the rest. If you look for small details in each image that sets it apart from others, and determine whether the composition is appealing, you will be able to find the images that stand out from all the hundreds or thousands you shoot. And to maximize your options, it is best to shoot a lot of images of each subject from different angles.

TECH SPECS
1/1600 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 100mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No photographer, no matter how talented or trained, has a 100% success rate. If you take 1000 images that result in 50 good ones, consider that a great success."  --Mollie Isaacs

Friday, January 24, 2020

Abstracts Are Awesome


Abstracts can be incredibly creative. Any subject will do - wildlife, scenics, buildings, flowers, you name it and then create it!

There are no rules or restrictions when creating abstract images. Just go with your gut and see what you can find that will work well as an abstract.

This is an early morning scene at the shore. The sun was not yet above the horizon, so the lighting was soft and even, and the colors were beautiful. A long exposure allowed the movement of the breaking waves to appear somewhat mushy and almost cloud-like.

Next time you are out shooting, look for things that might work as abstracts. Look at the entire scene or entire subject, and then "zoom" in with your eyes to find an abstract shape, or a series of lines, or colors that merge well.

The best approach is to shoot a lot of different subjects, each time allowing your eyes to view small details of the whole, and then put the camera to your eye to see how best to frame the shot. Not all your attempts will be winners. But you will end up with some amazing images if you allow yourself to just let go, and look deeper into the subject or scene for an image within the image.

TECH SPECS
1/2 sec. at f/11, ISO 800. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To get into your Creative Zone, view your subject quietly, and slow down. If you do that, the image will almost create itself." -- Mollie Isaacs




Sunday, January 19, 2020

JUST ANNOUNCED - Creative Flowers Master Class


If you love flowers and want to catapult your creativity to the next level, this Master Class is for you. Don't let the name intimidate you. You do not have to be a "master' to take this workshop, but you will be well on your way to that level by the end of the week.

This is a full-immersion experience where you will discover how to tap into your creative core like never before. Soar past the mundane and the traditional, and begin to see things in a whole new light. You will see the world with fresh eyes, and will learn how to break the rules effectively.

And you will gain the experience and freedom of shooting without a tripod.

Each day will be filled with shooting, helpful critiques, personal attention, improving your Lightroom skills, and lots of information you need in order to create more beautiful and compelling flower images. And all of this will take place at one of the world's most beautiful gardens, Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of creative ideas and approaches. You will learn how to recognize "good" light, how to use line, shape, and color, how to control the background, and so much more.

Here is a sneak peek of one of the creative techniques you will learn.
This is the original RAW file of the image at the top of the Blog. Notice the messy background, and the extra stem showing. This was shot at Longwood Gardens in one of their nursery areas, and was the closest I could get to this flower with the lens I had handy. But the orchid was so perfect and beautiful that I had to shoot it in hopes that it could be turned into something creative and worthy of its beauty.

 It is quite a transformation, using simple techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.

In the workshop you will learn easy ways to add new backgrounds or textures, as was done in this image. You will take control of your images in new and exciting ways. And you will begin to find the artist within you by the end of the week. All of this will take place in an easy-going and stress-free environment.

The best news is that this is like two workshops in one - improve your artistic vision AND learn new, easy, and creative ways of working with Lightroom and Photoshop.

WHERE: Longwood Gardens, Kennett Square, Pennsylvania

WHEN: April 27 - 30

LIMIT: 12 photographers

FEE: Regularly $2495, but register before February 29 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, transportation, and personal incidentals. Special lodging rates have been arranged.

ITINERARY: 
Monday, April 27  -  Workshop begins at 7PM with a Welcome and Teaching Session
Tues., Wed., and Thurs.,  April 28, 29, and 30  -  each day is filled with creative shooting time at the Gardens, Lightroom and Photoshop instruction, image critiques, discussion of creative techniques, and fun! Workshop ends at 5PM on Thursday, April 30.

TO REGISTER:  Call or email Mollie with questions or to register. I hope you can join me!


TECH SPECS:
1/640 sec at f/6.3, ISO 400. Sigma 15mm rectangular fisheye lens on Canon 7D Mark II body, handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Creativity doesn't wait for that perfect moment. It fashions its own perfect moments out of ordinary ones."  -- Bruce Garrabrandt

Friday, January 10, 2020

Approaching Antarctica


Actually seeing Antarctica for the first time is about as exciting as it gets. As we approached, we could see the leading edge of its islands. This scene was reminiscent of drawings of the mythical Atlantis. The mountains seemed to rise straight out of the water, almost floating on its surface.

Because our winter is the southern hemisphere's summer, we experienced 24 hours of daylight. The sun never dips below the horizon. This was shot at about 10PM, and you can see just hints of pale sunset color.

The water was incredibly calm, and the reflections added greatly to this image.

Reflections, light quality and light direction can make or break an image. Whenever possible, look for directional or dramatic lighting. When the sun is relatively low in the sky, it enhances the strength and the beauty of whatever you are photographing. Conversely, shooting in the mid-day sun provides flatter, less exciting lighting.

Don't get me wrong. I am not saying to avoid shooting at mid-day. For wildlife photography in particular, we have to shoot when the animals are visible and exhibiting some sort of behavior, no matter the time of day. But when you can, look for beautiful directional light. It will make your images come alive.

TECH SPECS
1/320 sec at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 24mm, on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Success is where preparation and opportunity meet."  --Bobby Unser

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Drama Queen


While I was in Chile I saw some absolutely beautiful flowers. This columbine was blooming in the garden on one of ranches ("estancias", as they are called) where we stayed. The flower was perfect and beautiful, but the surroundings not so much.

So I used the LensBaby Sol 45 to add a creative blur which certainly helped. But as you can see in this Before version, even that was not enough to make the flower the star of the show.
BEFORE
So Lightroom came to the rescue. I wanted the flower to stand out, but I also wanted the tall stem behind it and the mottled background to add to the story.

The strong sunlight caused the leaves in the background to appear almost white, and they needed to be toned down in order to not take attention away from the flower.

And overall, the background competed with the flower and also needed to be toned down.

Here are the tools used in Lightroom to change this image into a more dramatic rendition of the scene. But first a word of caution - this degree of drama changes the look of the actual scene and might not be allowed in certain photo competitions. So if you plan to enter nature competitions, be sure to check the rules and make sure that these sorts of major changes are allowed. Note that nothing in this image was actually changed or eliminated, but even so, it does render the scene completely differently from the original. In this case I was going for a dramatic look, and not a standard shot of the scene itself.

Steps used in Lightroom:
- reduced Whites and Highlights to tone down the bright leaves in the background
- used the Green luminance slider in the HSL box to tone down the greens in the background
- used the Purple luminance slider in the HSL box to brighten the tone of the flower
- used the Graduated Filter tool to tone down the background even more
- used the Brush Tool to darken small areas in the background that the Graduated Filter tool missed
- reduced Noise to 30
- increased Clarity to 30

That's it. It doesn't sound like much, but those few steps in Lightroom helped to turn this image into a much more dramatic scene.

TECH SPECS
1/320 sec., f/3.5 (fixed aperture on LensBaby Sol 45), ISO 400. LensBaby Sol 45 lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

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