Sunday, November 30, 2014

Last Chance For Great Discounts

December 3, this Tuesday, is the deadline for taking advantage of some great discounts on 2015 photo tours and workshops. After December 3, the discounts will no longer be available, so now’s the time to sign up.

Check out what’s coming up and how much you can save by clicking here

The popular Alaska trip to Glacier Bay is nearly full. Only 4 spaces left. Trip includes all lodging and meals at a lovely lodge for our 5 days at Glacier Bay, plus 3 spectacular boat trips to photograph whales, puffins, sea otters, seals, and of course glaciers. Airfare from Juneau to Glacier Bay is also included. Just get yourself to Juneau and we’ll take care of the rest! Information here

Also note that we are offering a brand new photo tour to Charleston, South Carolina in May. We will have plenty of time to photograph in the historic district, plus we will visit some lovely plantations, see the famous Angel Tree, take a custom nostalgic carriage ride in the heart of historic Charleston, and much more. You will also learn some creative techniques to improve your photography and your image optimization skills. Limited to only 10 photographers. Details here

TECHNICAL DATA:  Shutter Speed 1/800 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY’S QUOTE: “Opportunity knocks at the strangest times. It’s not the time that matters, but how you answer the door.”  --Steve Gray

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving

This beautiful aspen forest in the Canadian Rockies is an appropriate scene to remind us that as the holidays approach, we should slow down and be thankful for all that we have. It is too easy to speed through our lives, not stopping to appreciate the beauty that is all around us, the love of family and friends, and the joy of life.

So take time this holiday week to enjoy everything around you. If the snow keeps you indoors, revel in the coziness of being safe, warm, and dry. If the weather is good where you are, go outside, smell the autumn air, take a walk.

May the holiday week bring you much joy, laughter, and love. I wish each of you a peaceful holiday with good times and good food.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Shutter Speed 1/160 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 154mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Be thankful for what you have.... If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough."  --Oprah Winfrey

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Lucky Break

The Chincoteague Challenge Photo Workshop just ended and what a wonderful workshop it was. All participants stepped up to the challenge and produced some fantastic images. It was a fun and easy-going group, and we had a great time in spite of the unseasonably cold temperatures and high winds.

I stayed for an extra day in order to get some more shooting in before heading home. It was a bright sunny day, and this bittern, who had been completely camouflaged by the grasses before he stepped out into the water, became a very obliging subject. What a stroke of luck that he happened to come out to fish just as I drove by. And it was also lucky that the winds died down, leaving the water smooth as glass.

I took many shots and chose this one as the best of the day. Why? Several reasons. I like his stretched out body position, an indication that he was hunting for fish in the water.  I also like his raised foot and the water dripping off it. I used rapid burst and took many shots of his feet in different positions. Setting your shutter for rapid burst when shooting wildlife helps to improve your chances of capturing that perfect position.

Reminder: when shooting rapid burst, don't shoot more than 3 or 4 images in a row. Your camera will function more efficiently if you do not over-tax it by taking too many shots at a time. If you take too many, your camera will need time to process all the images shot in that burst, and it will not allow you to shoot again until it has processed them all. That might cause you to miss a good shot while you are waiting for your camera to catch up. So take it easy on the shutter button and only take a few shots at a time.

The other thing that ties this image together is the clear reflection in the water. It is a perfect mirror image of the bird and the grasses.

The frontal light on the entire scene made it an easy exposure. The camera's meter read the scene perfectly and provided a good exposure for both the highlights and the shadows.

This is a simple shot that did not require great thought. It did require patience - the patience to watch, to wait, and to be ready when the action became interesting. 

Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm with external 2X extender for an effective focal length of 800mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All human wisdom is summed up in two words - wait and hope."  -- Alexandre Dumas 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Passion For Puffins

Puffins. Gotta love 'em. They are unusual with brightly colored bills, cute faces, small bodies, and a bit of a comical appeal. They are sleek in the water, masterful fishermen, and consummate divers. But they are not easy to photograph.

They are fast, and take off from the water's surface with little warning. They are relatively small and often fairly far away.

But if you want to see and photograph some of the most beautiful puffins in the world, come with me to Glacier Bay Alaska in August 2015.

The Glacier Bay photo tour will get us up close and personal to these wonderful birds on 3 separate days. We will be on our own private chartered boat with the best captain in the area who knows where to find them and how to safely get close. I will be at your side, helping you to capture some spectacular images.

The trick with puffins is to be ready. Have your camera pre-set with the proper ISO, f-stop, and shutter speed. These birds are fast, and being alert to their behavior pays off. The boat captain and I will help you recognize behavior, and you should get some great shots.

We will have plenty of room on the boat to spread out and not feel crowded. The boat is designed to hold about 30 people, but we will have the entire boat to ourselves for just our group of 10 photographers. The waters are generally calm, and there is plenty of seating if you need a break.

We will also be in the home waters of humpback whales, which will be another primary subject for our boat trips. We will be in their prime feeding grounds and should be able to see many of them at fairly close range.

But that's not all. We will also be close to sea otters, some of the cutest critters in the animal kingdom. We'll watch them roll, dive, lie on their backs to eat and rest, and will most likely see mothers and babies.

Frankly, it doesn't get any better than this. Alaska is a prime destination in anyone's book, and when you add the opportunity to photograph whales, sea otters, and puffins it becomes a pinnacle experience. And don't forget that we will be in Glacier Bay with all its famous glaciers. We will have a day devoted to cruising the length of the Bay to witness glacier calving, feel the coolness coming off the ice, and experience the awe and wonder of it all.

There are only 4 spaces left on this photo tour. See detailed information here

If Alaska is a place you want to see, don't delay. These last 4 spaces will disappear quickly. Email us at, or call 757-773-0194.

Shutter Speed 1/1600 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe  harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover."  --Mark Twain

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Repeating elements, shapes, or colors can be powerful compositional tools. The repetition in this image is plain and simple  -  two blooms of similar size and shape at essentially the same angles. Camera position was important to align them fairly well. Also the shallow depth of field allowed the front flower to take center stage, with the other in a supporting roll.

The dark background helps to make the light flowers pop. This was shot in a hothouse with cultivated plants, so the lighting direction was from above and behind, showcasing the translucent petals. No light was falling on the background, enabling it to go quite dark.

The camera was tipped slightly so that the flowers are at an oblique angle, adding flow to the overall image.

Simple images can have a lot of visual impact. So try to eliminate extraneous elements and concentrate on the main elements that can create a strong image.

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 320.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8. Camera: Canon 40D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Deep in their roots, all flowers keep the light."  --Theodore Roethke

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Bottoms Up

The two recently concluded Outer Banks photo workshops were a huge success. Thanks to all the great participants for making it such a fantastic time. Everyone was pleasant, happy, eager, and produced wonderful images.

You will see examples of what they captured in the Awake The Light newsletters coming out over the next few weeks.

This is one of the few shots I took during the workshops. It was a wall of wine bottles behind a local restaurant. The bottles were held in place between wire "walls." This is a small section of the 8-foot long wall. Choosing how to frame the image was the main decision. The blue bottle was the key element, with the other colors surrounding it being more neutral in tone. I positioned the blue bottle in the lower left of the frame so that it could serve as the focal point of this image.

The image was optimized in Lightroom, and then was opened in Photoshop where I used a low opacity Poster Edges filter, along with the Oil Paint filter.

When using filters, or the options available in Topaz, Fractalius, or other software, a light touch is usually best. Use those techniques to enhance the image, but not to overpower it.

Shutter Speed 1/250 sec.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 106mm.  Camera: Canon 6D.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Appreciate good people. They are hard to come by."  anonymous