Monday, December 21, 2015

Season's Greetings


As 2015 draws to a close, I want to thank you for your support, 
your friendship, and your good wishes throughout the year. 

I wish you a joyous and peaceful holiday season, 
and a new year filled with happiness and adventure. 

Hoping you will join me on an Awake The Light 
photo tour or workshop in the coming year!


Sunday, December 20, 2015

Northern Exposure

Properly exposing a snowy scene can be a bit tricky, but once you understand the basics it will become easier. Essentially you want snow to appear white in an image. You do not want it to be too gray or dark, or too light so that there is no detail or texture in the snow.

The trick is to first evaluate the scene you are looking at, and the kind of lighting conditions that exist. Exposing for snow in sunlight will be different from the exposure needed on an overcast day. This image was made on a very overcast day at the Grand Canyon with low, even light. In addition, the scene has a mix of dark and light tones. In this kind of situation, the basic meter reading your camera gives you will most likely be close to accurate.

But on a sunny day, OR when most of the scene is snow-covered with very little if any darker tones, the basic meter reading will result in an underexposure most of the time.  Why? Because all camera meters are designed to provide a reading for middle gray tones. Aim your camera at an all-white scene, OR an all-black scene, and the camera's meter will provide a reading of middle gray in both cases. An all white scene will be underexposed and appear middle gray, and an all black scene will be overexposed and appear middle gray.

So what do you do? When shooting a snowy scene on a sunny day, or a scene that is mostly snow, use your exposure compensation dial and set it for a one-stop overexposure. Take the shot and look at the histogram. If you do not have any blinkies, and / or if the histogram is not too far to the left (the dark side), then your exposure is good. If you have blinkies in large areas, go back to zero on the exposure compensation dial. If the histogram is too far to the left, increase exposure compensation to 2 stops. 

The more you understand your camera and how light meters work, the easier it will be to know how to set your camera in a variety of shooting situations.

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 200.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 25mm.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Snowflakes are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together."  --Vista M. Kelly

Monday, December 14, 2015

Beauty On Ice

These gulls and kittiwakes were cooling their heels on a small floating iceberg in Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska. This is an amazing place with its many glaciers, icebergs, and incredibly blue-green water. Were it not for the icebergs and rugged mountain scenery, you might think you were looking at water in the Caribbean.

The glacial water is just one of Alaska's many charms. It provides opportunities to photograph some of the most enticing sea animals like humpback whales, sea otters, and puffins still in breeding plumage, plus those spectacular mountain scenes.

We will be among one of the greatest concentrations of glaciers left on our planet, while comfortably lodged at the edge of one of the last wilderness areas.

This was an incredible sold-out trip last August. And it is being repeated in August  2016. Glacier Bay is a wonderland of whales, sea lions, puffins, sea otters, mist-draped mountains, and a huge variety of wildlife. We will have 3 day trips on the water on boats chartered just for us in search of whales and all manner of sea life. Our naturalist captain knows where the action is and will do his best to get us there. The waters are generally calm and we can easily shoot from the boat.

For more details about this trip, email us at, or call 757-773-0194. Only 5 spaces left.

Shutter Speed  1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 255mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

The Gift That Keeps On Giving


Family and friends asking for gift suggestions this holiday season? Here's the perfect solution  -  a Gift Card good on any of our Photography Workshops and Tours!

Use Gift Cards toward any of our offerings 
coming up in 2016 or 2017!

Getting a Gift Card is an easy two-step process:

1. Either treat yourself or your photo buddies, or forward this information to family and friends. (Subtle, huh?)
2. The giver can either email or phone us, select an amount, 
and we'll take it from there.

That's it! Simple.

We will email the personalized Gift Card to the recipient in time for holiday giving.

Holiday shopping is done, and the recipient will be on the way toward improved photographic skills, greater creativity, and a super time.

Gift Cards are available in $100 increments up to $5000.

Questions? Contact us at, or 757-773-0194.

Shutter Speed 1/15 sec.  Aperture f/22.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "I have found that among its other benefits, giving liberates the soul of the giver."  -Maya Angelou

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Call Of The Wild

Hearing the bugle of an elk in the wilderness is a primal experience not to be missed. This male in Yellowstone National Park was in prime condition and was announcing his presence to any rivals who might be tempted to invade his harem. He had begun gathering females for the fall breeding season, and was determined to keep them all for himself.

Even though there is no sound coming from this image, his lowered stance, curved neck, and open mouth convey the moment of his echoing call.

When shooting wildlife we  have no control over where the animal is in the landscape, but we can still do our best to create a strong composition by changing our camera position and its height (if there is time and the animal is not moving). I was sitting on a low log for this shot which helped to line up his antlers perfectly, as well as provide separation between his belly and his shadow. In addition, a bit of cropping (in post-production) helped to make this image stronger.

As you can see in the uncropped version here, a scruffy hillside at the top of the image was cropped out, as well as some excess grass at the bottom and along the sides. Those decisions were based on the need to eliminate extraneous elements and use what was there to enhance the composition.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: If you interested in getting out into the wild for birds, check out this photo workshop coming up in January in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. It is being run by Hunt's Photo and Video. My travel schedule prevents me from attending, but I have found this location to be great for photographing thousands of Snow Geese and Sandhill Cranes.  Info here

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/13.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The idea of wilderness needs no defense. It only needs more defenders."  -Edward Abbey

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Ready For Takeoff

Ready for takeoff? When photographing birds and waterfowl, it is important to always be ready for the subject to take flight. This scaup on a small pond in Denali National Park in Alaska was calmly sitting on the surface when suddenly he decided it was time to go. With very little warning he cut a path through the water and was up, up, and away.

Be ready and set your camera for a fast shutter speed of at least 1/1250 sec. Slower than that and it will be difficult to freeze most of the wing motion. You don't have to completely freeze the action, since a bit of wing blur helps convey a feeling of speed. But you want the head and body to be relatively sharp.

If you do not receive our free monthly newsletter, subscribe today. Just email us at with "YES" in the subject line, and your free subscription will begin in December. You can view the November issue here  
Be assured that we never share or sell your email information.

And if you are looking for some good Black Friday camera specials, check out the Hunt's Photo and Video offerings here   If you see something of interest, or just have questions, email Alan Samiljan at Hunt's at   or call him at (781) 662-8822. Hunt's is great and they can help you out. Tell them Mollie from Awake The Light sent you, and you will get great service.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 400mm f/5.6L.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before."  --Maya Angelou

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving

At this time of year we should sit back and consider all that is good in our lives. While in each life there are often setbacks, heartache, disappointments, and all manner of other negative things, at the end of the day we all have much to be thankful for.

So take a few minutes to consider all the positives in your life, all the people who care about you, all the things that bring you joy. It will be the best few minutes of your day!

I wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving, and a joyous and peaceful start to the holiday season.


With warm wishes,

Shutter Speed 1.6 sec.  Aperture f/22.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If  you are really thankful, what do you do? You share."  --W. Clement Stone

Monday, November 23, 2015

New Spring Workshops Announced

The November newsletter is out! View it here 

If you do not currently receive the newsletter, you can subscribe for FREE simply by sending an email to and put the word YES in the subject line. That's it. Your subscription will begin right away.

This macro image was shot at mid-day, using backlight to punch the yellow color. Because most flower petals are translucent, when they are backlit they seem to glow from within. 

Learning how to identify the quality of light and its direction is crucial to becoming a better photographer. All Awake The Light workshops and tours incorporate training on lighting, and much more. We always strive to provide individual attention and a huge of amount of information. Education is the hallmark of all our workshops and tours. I hope you can join me on an adventure or workshop soon!

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/2.8.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn."  --Benjamin Franklin

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Balancing Act

Balance. Symmetry. Color harmony. Those are the basic building blocks of this image. The two Sandhill Cranes are virtually parallel - look at the positioning of their necks, their bills, and their legs. Notice that the wings are perfectly balanced - one crane has wings up and the other has wings down.

In addition, the color harmony of the birds and the background ties everything together. It was very early morning and the entire scene was bathed in soft warm light, making the colors of the birds and the background virtually identical.

This is a very simple image, but many factors came together to make it successful. Did I have this shot in mind when I went out to shoot that day? No. I merely hoped for some good opportunities, had my equipment set up and ready, and took many many images. With wildlife, and especially birds in flight, taking a large number of shots is crucial to guarantee that you will end up with at least a few successful ones.

Shutter Speed 1/400 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS set at 330mm.  Camera: Canon 7D.  Gitzo tripod and ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "It is the harmony of the diverse parts, their symmetry, their happy balance. It is all that introduces order, all that gives unity, that permits us to see clearly and to comprehend at once both the ensemble and the details."  -Henri Poincare

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Golden Waters

Moving water can be some of the most pleasing subjects to photograph. The movement of the water, the colors reflected in it, and the calm joy of being next to a pristine stream or waterfall combine to make for a great experience.

Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park brings all these elements together and more. Known not only for its superb displays of wildflowers in April, the Smokies has a multitude of streams which are some of the most beautiful anywhere. And they are at their very best in April. In the springtime the streams and waterfalls come to life and create a waterworld of sorts.

The upcoming photo workshop in the Smokies in April will put us close to superb opportunities to photograph moving water.  Swift-running streams are everywhere and we know the best places to find them within easy access. No back-breaking hikes, no slogging over hill and dale, we know all the back roads and will put you close to steams and not far from our vehicles. There are some lovely, relatively easy hikes for those who might want to venture farther afield, but that will be an optional personal choice.

And in addition to the spring wildflowers and exciting streams, there will be opportunities to photograph lovely landscapes and sweeping vistas. We will seek out sunrises and sunsets, and of course will always be on the lookout for wildlife as well. Black bear, deer, fox, coyote, and wild turkey are some of the animals that frequent the park.

Pro Tips For Photographing Moving Water:
-  use a sturdy tripod
-  ISO 100
-  f/11 or smaller aperture for good depth of field
-  shutter speed 1/2 sec. or longer (experiment with a variety of slow shutter speeds)
-  cable release or remote trigger (if you do not have one, set your camera on 2-second delay to allow it to settle down after pressing the shutter button)
-  try some shots with a wide angle lens, and also do some close-ups with a moderate telephoto lens
-  early morning and late afternoon are best, but using a neutral density filter (8 stops or more) can allow you to get great moving water shots at any time of day

So plan now to come along on the best Smokies photo trip available anywhere! The trip runs from April 22 - 27. Register before January 1 and save $300. Limited to only 10 photographers, it is already half full. So don't delay. Call us at 757-773-0194 or email with questions and for more information.

Shutter Speed 1/2 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not through strength, but through persistence."  --Buddha

Monday, November 9, 2015

Already Thinking of Spring

As the poet Shelley said, if winter comes, can spring be far behind? Well, winter is coming and I'm already thinking ahead toward spring. And my favorite place to be for spring flowers is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

The Smokies has more species of wildflowers than nearly anyplace else on the planet. We will be there in April when the trillium, wild iris, lady slippers, and so many more species carpet the park. This is a visual treat not to be missed.

This easy-going stress free photo workshop takes you close to beautiful flowers with little effort. In addition, we will see some of the wild free-flowing streams that the Smokies is known for.

So join me at the Wildflowers and Wildwater Photo Workshop and learn more about creative macro and much more. And enjoy the unique beauty of the Smokies at the best time of year to be there.

Register before January 1 and save $300!

Come to the Smokies for a great workshop April 22 - 27. Learn a lot, have a blast, and come away with incredible images.

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Listen to the silence of nature and hear your inner voice."  --unknown

Friday, November 6, 2015

Ice Castles

Glaciers. Big, blue, and beautiful. Glacier Bay National Park in Alaska is one of the last strongholds of glaciers in the world. Being in this ice world is a treat not to be missed.

Seeing a glacier is like traveling back through time. Many of them were formed eons ago, but unfortunately many of them are receding or melting or both. Having the chance to see them in person is a rare opportunity. Photographing them is an even greater achievement. Follow your heart, travel when and where you can, and see parts of the world that are changing fast. Once they are gone, they are gone.

Stay tuned for information on a 2016 Glacier Bay trip.

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/20.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 140mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Future generations are going to ask what you did about it, when you knew the glaciers were melting."  -Martin Sheen

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Do More Than Skim The Surface

Skimmers are some of my favorite water birds. They are sleek, speedy fliers with incredible skill. They barely skim the water with their lower beak, which are longer than the upper beak, scooping up small morsels. They ply the same stretch of water over and over again, which makes it easy for photographers. Once you spot one it is a safe bet that you can set up your tripod and be ready for a show for at least several minutes.

Patience is the keyword when photographing skimmers. They move quite quickly, so if you miss getting good shots on one pass, just wait and chances are they will come by again. That makes it relatively easy to pre-focus in the general area they have passed before. Then it is a simple matter for your autofocus to grab on when they come by again.

This image has been optimized in Lightroom, the image optimization software I use most. The water has been darkened a bit and its color has been enhanced with the Vibrance slider. Fortunately this was shot on an overcast day so the bright whites and deep blacks held their detail and did not need any help. The bright orange area on the beak is an excellent point of color contrast against the deep blue water. And the naturally occurring reflection adds nice punch to the overall composition.

If you look carefully, you can see the water dripping off the beak. You can trace his forward progress by the thin line traced in the water as he skimmed for food.

Shutter Speed 1/8000 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with built-in 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We skim over the surface thoughtlessly. But we must acknowledge that thinking well is a time-consuming process. Take the time to contemplate...."   -M. Scott Peck

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Halloween Smoke and Mirrors

Happy Halloween! This has become a fun holiday for old and young alike, so enjoy the fun and embrace the creepiness. Try your hand at creating some otherworldly images today to stimulate your creativity.

This image was created using black light, a light source that responds to florescent colors. But you can create similar looks without blacklight by using reflective items like glass bottles, or items made out of shiny black plastic which will reflect any bright colors that are placed in front of them or behind them.

You can use either a non-reflective black background like a piece of fabric (felt or fleece or suede), or as in this case, a sheet of dark reflective mylar. Place the main subjects in front of the background, leaving a space of 1 to 3 feet between them and the background.

What you see in this image is just the reflection of 3 clear glass bottles reflected in the mylar, not the bottles themselves. The slight natural waviness of the mylar causes the bottles to appear distorted and unreal. Rolled up sheets of brightly colored paper were placed in front of the bottles so that they reflected into them, creating an array of colorful designs.

The trick is to set this up after dark in an unlit room, and place 2 or 3 lights off to the sides of the scene. Make sure the lights shine on the colored papers so that they are lit and will reflect well into the bottles or plastic.

The lights can be light boxes (the things we used to place slides on in the old days to view them for editing) or the less expensive and more readily available LED work lights sold at:



Hunt's Photo and Video

These lights come in a variety of sizes and in varying price ranges. I suggest starting with the least expensive ones you can find to see how you like it. I have not used any of the exact lights in the links above, and am not endorsing any particular light, but it will give you a start in exploring what is available out there.

By the way, these small LED lights are also great for macro photography of flowers and other subjects indoors in a darkened room.

A tripod will be needed since the exposures will most likely be quite long. Also, use a moderate telephoto lens which will provide more flexibility for where you set the lights and the colored papers. 

A small aperture of f/16 or more is best for good depth of field which will keep everything relatively sharp.

Experiment with the positioning of the lights for best effect. Have a buddy with you to reposition the lights and the colored papers so that you can view the scene through the viewfinder and create exactly what looks best to you. Happy shooting and Happy Halloween!

Shutter Speed 15 seconds.  Aperture f/18.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 155mm. Camera: Canon 40D (an oldie but a goodie).  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and The Great Pumpkin."  -- Charles Schultz via Linus from "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Bear Facts

Brown bear are beautiful and amazing creatures. They look relatively benign, and appear playful and amusing. But in fact they are skillful hunters, and at all times when photographing them it is important to afford them the highest level of respect. In other words, keep your distance.

When photographing coastal bears, as distinguished from mountain bears who are less mellow, as long as you give them plenty of space AND providing there are plenty of salmon and clams for them to catch easily, they barely seem to care that there are humans close by. The sound of cameras going off does not bother them. The sound of ATVs motoring around does not bother them.

However, they are wary and will change their desired route if people or vehicles block their way. So it is vitally important to keep an eye on the direction they want to head and to clear a path for them.

At all times in this environment we travel with an experienced naturalist who is knowledgeable about bear behavior. Make no mistake that a cute cuddly bear is tame and will tolerate any interference. It is neither tame nor tolerant, and should always be given a wide berth.

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/6.3.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 140mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty."  -Albert Einstein

Monday, October 26, 2015

April In Paradise

Just Announced  -  The Wildflowers and Wildwater photo tour in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park has been scheduled! Join me April 22 - 27 in this spectacular park with over 1000 wildflower species, swiftly running streams, and beautiful mountain scenery.

Read all about it in our FREE monthly newsletter here  

Speaking of the newsletter, if you would like to begin receiving it free each month, simply send us an email at   with the word YES in the subject line and we'll get you started. Each month it provides information, education, and motivation as well. So join the thousands of others who enjoy reading it every month.  

For more information on the Smokies photo tour, please email us or call 757-773-0194.

Shutter Speed 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 100.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 70mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Gitzo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE:: "Each new day is a gift to be opened as sunrise slowly unties its ribbon of hope."  --anonymous

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Attention To Details

Regardless of the subject, paying attention to details can make all the difference. This is a beautiful scene in Alaska that would look good with almost any composition. But it is made even better by paying attention to small details that enhance and strengthen the composition.

Look at the position of the large rock on the right. It is partially framed by the water, rather than touching the shoreline on the other side of the lake. I knew I wanted the rock to be a pivotal point in the image and that would not have happened if it did not stand out.

Now look at the curve of the shoreline. It is important that the curve shows, and leads the eye into the image and around the lake.

By carefully looking through the viewfinder you can determine the placement of each important element relative to the other elements. Take your time, move around, see if a higher or lower camera position can improve the composition. 

Shutter Speed 1/640 sec.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 70mm. Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Excellence is in the details. Give attention to the details and excellence will come."  -Perry Paxton

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Unexpected

On a recent whale-watching trip in Alaska this totally unexpected abstract appeared. The water was smooth and crystal clear. And the way the light played on the surface of the water created these oval shapes all around us. It was such a treat to see these unusual shapes.

So today's lesson is to ALWAYS keep your wits about you and look for photographic opportunities, no matter what your main goal is that day. All too often we see only what we seek, and overlook the unexpected that is just waiting to be photographed.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II with 1.4 extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Don't wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great."  -Orison Marden 

Thursday, October 15, 2015

As Cute As It Gets

Sea otters are some of nature's most adorable creatures. They have such alert faces, and always seem to be interested in the 2-legged creatures on boats nearby. This one stared at us for a long time and seemed curious enough to watch our every move.

Focusing on anything from a moving boat can be challenging. Your distance from the subject is always changing, and the boat is continually being tossed on the waves and currents. So accurate auto focus and a fast shutter speed are necessary.

Because conditions are always changing, it is helpful to take a lot of images. Don't limit yourself to taking just a few. You never know when the body position or the wave action or other factors will be just right. In this image, the small waves and the sea otter's expression and position combined to make an interesting picture.

This was taken aboard a chartered boat in Glacier Bay Alaska. Our boat trips on most Awake The Light photo tours are private charters so that we have complete control over where we go and how long we stay in one area.

This year's Glacier Bay trip was very popular, and a similar trip is being planned for summer 2016. Stay tuned for details!

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II with 1.4x extender for an effective focal of 560mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."  -Jacques Yves Cousteau

Friday, October 9, 2015

Making Perfect Scenics

Sweeping landscapes can make beautiful images. But how do you make them the best they can be?

Here are several tips to help you make better landscape images:

1. Look for a center of interest. In this image it is the mountain which is large and fairly centrally positioned.

2. Use complementary colors. The blue-whites in the mountains complement the warm yellows and oranges of the trees and ground cover. Cool against warm colors can make for strong images.

3. Compose the image so that it has a base. In this image the base is the ground cover.

4. Use a medium to small aperture to maximize depth of field. In traditional scenics it is best to keep all elements relatively sharp.

5. Use an ISO of 400 or 200 whenever possible. Higher ISO's create noise, especially in the dark areas.

6. Choose the best time of day with the best light whenever possible. Early morning and late afternoon are generally best.

7. Take your time. Consider camera angles and camera height. Look for the different and the eye-catching.

If you keep these few things in mind, your landscape work will improve quickly. Try to find your own vision and chart your own path. It is OK to use other images as inspiration, but try to create unique images of your own.

Shutter Speed 1/800 sec.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, of the huge waves of the sea, at the circular motion of the stars; but they pass by themselves without wondering. "  -St. Augustine

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Glacier Bay Puffin

Glacier Bay Alaska is filled with nature's abundance. It is an indescribable experience to view the variety of wildlife in this amazing wilderness.

This beautiful tufted puffin was strutting his stuff as our boat passed nearby. He flapped at the perfect time for us to get this great behavioral image. Puffins are beautiful birds, and look a bit comical with their large bills. They are much smaller than they appear in photos, and when you see your first puffin you will be amazed at their diminutive size.

When photographing any animal with black feathers or fur, it is important to expose for the blacks so they are not underexposed. Underexposed areas show more noise. Often it helps to use the Exposure Compensation feature on your camera to increase exposure by about one stop to make sure that the blacks have adequate exposure.

Stay tuned for information on a return trip to Glacier Bay National Park in 2016. It is an area teeming with wildlife including whales, sea otters, sea lions, puffins, mountain goats, brown bears, and so much more. We had a spectacular trip there this past August, and are making plans for a return visit next summer.

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5/6L IS II with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In order to see birds, it is necessary to become a part of the silence."  - Robert Lynd

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Magic Macro

Macro photography is indeed a magical thing. It enables us to see beauty that we would normally miss.

As many of you know, I love the freedom of shooting macro with no tripod. It seems to jump start my creativity, and is far less frustrating than messing with the tripod to get it at the right height and in the right position. 

I'm looking forward to doing a presentation at the upcoming Macro Conference in Massachusetts next weekend. While the Conference is full, I am offering two Macro Workshops in 2016. These workshops have just been announced! If you love macro, or want to learn how to set yourself free and REALLY enjoy photography, consider joining me at either or both of these places!

April 2016
Spring in the Smokies is a spectacular time to be there, when the flowers are at their peak. In addition, the streams run full and wild. Join me for the best wildflower photography in the world!

June 2016
This is one of our most popular workshops, and it generally fills very quickly. Learn a variety of creative macro techniques that will take your flower photography to a whole new level. Join me and let your creativity soar!

For more information, email us at

Shutter Speed: 1/100 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm macro f/2.8L IS.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "A flower's appeal is in its contradictions  -  so delicate in form yet strong in fragrance, so small in size yet big in beauty, so short in life yet long on effect."  -Terri Guillemets

Thursday, September 24, 2015


One of my hoped-for images in Alaska has always been a caribou at the top of a hillside. Each year when I go to Alaska, I look for this type of shot. Each year it has not happened. The animals have always been either on a flat plain or lower down on a hillside. But this year, success! Everyone in my group got a healthy dose of my excitement over this opportunity, and thankfully most of them got similar shots.

These kinds of moments in wildlife photography are fleeting and never controllable. The animals are where the animals are, and no amount of hoping or wishing can change that. But when all the elements line up in your favor, it is best to be prepared and be ready to shoot a lot of images when the opportunity presents itself.

Exposures can be difficult in this kind of situation. Anytime there is a dark subject against a light background, it is typical for the camera to underexpose the subject. This happens because the background  is so bright that it fools the light meter into providing an exposure that is accurate for the background but not for the subject. Even when you look at the histogram, the exposure might look correct. But there are many times when you have to consult your head as well as the histogram. In this case, you should automatically increase Exposure Compensation to +1 or +1.5. Doing so might show an overexposure on the histogram, possibly with "blinkies" on the sky area. But that is not a problem in these situations. Why? Because in most cases an overexposed light sky can be brought back down to normal levels after you download onto your computer by using Lightroom or other image optimization software. Most importantly, by increasing exposure you assure yourself that all the detail in the animal's fur will be recorded.

If you do not increase Exposure Compensation, you might still get a usable image, but the fur will be underexposed. When you try to increase the brightness of the dark fur using image optimization software, it WILL get lighter BUT it will show more noise (a grainy look) than had the dark fur been properly exposed in the first place. This is especially true when using high ISO's above 800.

Note that underexposed dark areas always show more noise than light areas.

So our tools are great, but we can't always rely on them completely. We have think and use our heads, as well as our tools, in many shooting situations. And we have to be prepared at all times for whatever Mother Nature might provide.

Shutter Speed 1/1000.  Aperture f/7.1.  ISO 1600.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 150mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Serendipity always rewards the prepared."  -Katori Hall

Monday, September 21, 2015


Fogbow. What the heck is a "fogbow?" Who knew they even existed?

This fogbow was a curved white arc caused by sunlight striking fog, similar to a rainbow caused by sunlight striking moisture at just the right angle. We saw this unique phenomenon on a whale-watching trip in Glacier Bay Alaska. It lasted only a few minutes, as the sun was breaking through a thick fog bank over the water. What a piece of luck, and all of us were excited to see this unique effect.

What helps make this shot even more dramatic are the two curved lines at the bottom of the image. They were created by the wake from the boat. The use of a wide angle lens enabled me to incorporate the wake, which was very close, and the fogbow which was relatively far away. In addition, a small aperture kept all of it in focus.

We started out the day in search of whales, and we did find some. We never expected to see an usual phenomenon as well, which turned out to be one of the high spots of our photographic foray.

It proves once again that being prepared is the best approach. Know your equipment, choose lenses carefully, and know how to set your aperture and shutter speed to achieve the look you want.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/10.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm lens, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Before anything else, preparation is the key to success."  --Alexander Graham Bell

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Moose Mania

This was a banner year for moose in Denali National Park in Alaska. We saw more moose, and bigger healthier moose than in the past. This guy was huge. One of the members of the group compared his antlers to satellite dishes, and she was not far off.

His dark fur is set off beautifully against the fall tundra. We were lucky to hit peak fall color this year. Fall is always a moving target in Alaska, and you never know exactly when the colors will pop. And once they start to turn, the change occurs quickly in this far northern latitude. Within 5 days the entire show could be over.

Moose are elusive creatures in Denali and often are hidden in deep foliage, or stay very far away from even the longest of lenses. We were lucky to have seen several within range, but even so, this image is cropped a good deal.

Moose are also dangerous animals, even though they look slow and benign. They can charge at 40 or more miles per hour, and can cover a lot of ground quickly so keeping your distance is always imperative, especially during the fall mating season. Bulls are very protective of their females and will attack if they feel threatened.

In Denali we always travel with an experienced guide / driver who knows where to look for moose and how close we can approach safely.

It was a thrill to see so much wildlife during our time in there.

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/8.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 400mm with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Alaska ... is just like anyplace else, except with mountains and moose."  -Tom Bodett

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Two Swans A'swimming

We all hope to be in the right place at the right time. That is exactly what happened during our shooting session at Wonder Lake in Denali National Park last week. The clouds, the lighting, the fall colors, and the serendipitous appearance of two swans in the perfect position all combined to make a striking scenic.

The swans and the calm water reflections provide a sense of serenity against the backdrop of craggy, formidable mountains.

I often see a pair of swans each time I visit this area, and I assume it is the same pair each year. Rarely, though, have I seen them arrange themselves in such a perfect position for a portrait in their summer home.

When photographing landscapes, it is best to use a small aperture in order to achieve deep depth of field. In this case, f/14 provided good sharpness for the swans in the foreground all the way back to the mountains many miles away.

It is a rare treat to spend time in this huge wilderness where Mother Nature is in charge. We humans are mere specks in the landscape and mere blips in the eons of time that have formed this wild paradise.

Shutter Speed 1/320 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 138mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We must go out into the untrodden depths of the wilderness, and travel and explore and tell the world the glories of our journey."  -John Hope Franklin

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Oh You Beautiful Dall (Sheep, That Is!)


The next few blogs will cover more of the incredible things we saw in Alaska over the past several weeks. What a trip! The scenery, the wildlife, the experiences, and most importantly the people who traveled with me, were fantastic in all respects. Two separate groups accompanied me first to Glacier Bay National Park, and then to Denali National Park.

I returned to the east coast late last night, a bit tired but energized by all the pristine beauty and animals we saw.

The photos above are actually the same photo, cropped differently. The Before image shows the entire shot, taken with a Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set to 200mm. The After image is cropped down to showcase the Dall Sheep more clearly. Today's high quality lenses have improved sharpness and images hold up well to serious cropping after the fact.

Why did I not use my longer Canon 100-400mm lens for this shot? Because this image was shot from the bus taking us to our lodge deep inside Denali National Park, and I had to choose one all-purpose lens to have with me for that leg of the trip. All my other gear was packed in my camera case for transport, and was inaccessible for this part of the journey. 

So which version do you prefer? Do you like the wider view showing the entire scene with the sheep being a tiny part of this huge expanse? Or do you prefer the closer crop which showcases the sheep? I'm eager to hear your comments. You can comment here on this blog, or on our Facebook page  or via email at 

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS, set at 200mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "To the lover of wilderness, Alaska is one of the most wonderful countries in the world."  -John Muir

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Catch Me If You Can

Lake Clark National Park in Alaska is a very special place for brown bear. The bears are treated with the utmost respect, most individuals are recognized by their distinctive appearance, and the few people who live there feel a strong sense of responsibility for the bears' health and safety.

I saw all of this firsthand last week during a wonderful 4-day stay in the park. Each day was filled with fantastic photographic opportunities along a beautiful stretch of the Cook Inlet. Our guide drove a 4-wheel drive ATV with a cart attached that seated 4 photographers and their gear. With his experience and skill, plus a powerful pair of binoculars, he spotted bear and took us to their locations. In addition to being a top-notch guide, he knew how to get us into position for the best lighting angles to best show off the bears in their environment.

At this time of year, we saw mothers and cubs, plus lone females. The males have already retreated back into the mountains in search of food and a place to hibernate for the rapidly approaching winter. The females will head into the hills in a few weeks to hibernate with their young.

This lone female was chasing the abundant silver salmon along the tidal pools and water's edge. She caught this beauty and seemed pleased to show it off to all of the onlookers.

We always kept a respectful distance from the bears, but they did not seem concerned about our presence and often walked toward us with no malice or fear. As they approached, we would retreat so they could pursue the path of their choice.

Shutter Speed 1/1000 sec.  Aperture f/9.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm set to 247mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Bears are made of the same dust we are, breathe the same winds, and drink the same waters. A bear's days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours and was poured from the same fountain."  --John Muir

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Just Another Sleepless Night In Paradise

Conditions were right for a Northern Lights display during the Glacier Bay photo tour, and most of the group was game for getting up at 1am to venture forth. We stepped outside our lodge and were greeted by an incredible display. A variety of swirling, undulating, and flashing lights in shades of green and reddish-purple chased all across the sky.

I had seen this spectacular phenomenon only once before, and that was fleetingly from a jetliner crossing the wilds of northern Canada in the middle of the night. No way to photograph it, so I was thrilled to be able to see AND photograph it this time.

The display lasted about 2 hours and all we could say was WOW!! over and over again. What a thrill for all of us.

I was surprised that the colors looked more intense on my camera's view screen than to my eyes. Apparently this is not unusual.

Exposure was easy. See details below. While most of us have limited opportunities to see the Northern Lights, if you ever travel to places where they are viewable, I highly recommend it. It is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Shutter Speed 15 seconds.  Aperture f/4.  ISO 400. Set lens to manual focus and then focus on infinity. Set camera to Manual and preset shutter speed, f/stop, and ISO before heading out. Check histogram after a few test shots. Often Exposure Compensation of +1 or +2 is needed.
Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4 set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Northern Lights wall earth with fire."  -R.P.T Coffin

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Whale Of A Welcome

Glacier Bay Alaska is a waterworld of epic proportions. Majestic mountains, cold deep blue waters, wildlife in pristine locations, and views everywhere.

We have seen exciting whale action on two separate whale-watch cruises. Our first was on a blustery rainy day when the whales enjoyed the rough waters much more than we did. The second trip was much calmer, with diving whales and beautifully backlit spouts from their blowholes. One of our trips took us close to their escape route from Alaskan waters to the open warmer waters of the Pacific Ocean and their wintering grounds in Hawaii. They sure know how to live - summers in Alaska and winters in Hawaii.

Our captain was a skillful navigator and an expert on whale behavior. He brought us close enough on many occasions for great shots and the thrill of being close, but not too close, to these huge but gentle mammals.

When shooting wildlife, especially from a boat, a fast shutter speed is imperative. It helps freeze the motion of both the animal and the boat. 1/1250 of a second is generally the slowest speed I recommend for these situations. ISO 800 or less works well unless it is a very dark day, or early or late in the day. At those times it is OK to go up to ISO 1600, or even 3200 if that is the only way to get the shot. But I do not like the noise that results from a high ISO. Generally Lightroom does a good job of reducing the appearance of noise, but results diminish at ISO 3200 and higher. 

After shooting each day we returned to our lovely lodge to enjoy time in front of the big fireplace, gourmet dinners, and evening critiques and lively conversation. We have been enjoying a quintessential Alaska experience in all respects.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/13.  ISO 800.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II set at 140mm.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The essence of life is not in the great victories and grand failures, but in the simple joys. "  -Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Friday, August 28, 2015

Lightroom Unleashed - Boston, MA October 13, 14, 15



The popular "Lightroom Unleashed" workshop is coming to Boston! Presented by experienced Lightroom instructor Mollie Isaacs of Awake The Light Photo Workshops and Tours, this 3-day workshop is scheduled for Tuesday & Wednesday, October 13 & 14, plus an extra optional day on Thursday, October 15. It will be held in Melrose, Massachusetts, just outside Boston.

This in-depth workshop will be filled with instruction and hands-on training. It is a carefully designed, customized workshop for photographers who are interested in taking their image optimization skills to a higher level. This class will help you jump start your skills, regardless of whether you are new to Lightroom or a seasoned veteran. You will learn how to use this software easily and simply. The class takes you step-by-step through all the controls available, the proper order in which to use them, and what each one does.  It also includes some creative options that will allow you to create more artistic images.

Class size is kept small so that each participant can receive personalized attention. While you will learn a great deal, the atmosphere will be light and easy-going.

In addition to working on images along with Mollie, you will also work on your own images as part of the training, and will come away with a fresh, polished portfolio. The goal is to build confidence in your ability to use Lightroom to enhance your images long after the workshop is over. You will learn the best and most foolproof ways to improve your images beautifully and quickly. You will also learn unique ways of working not taught anywhere else.

The fee is $975, and the Optional Extra Day is $150 additional. Because of the popularity of this workshop, you must pre-register and pay in advance. The fee is payable by either credit card or check. To guarantee your personal security, payments are not made online. Please email, or call them at 757-773-0194 to register and to arrange payment.

This is one of the most beneficial Lightroom courses available anywhere. Here is what others have said:

"I can't say enough good things about this workshop. I went to the class feeling that Lightroom would be impossible for this non-techie to use. But Mollie is an outstanding instructor. She broke things into small pieces, going over each piece a few times in different ways, demonstrating how it works, and then having us try it on our own computers. Then she went around the room making sure each of us really "got" it, and we did. She also makes the class fun with lots of laughing. I recommend this workshop without reservation!"   D. E.

"Thanks, Mollie, for your excellent teaching style and your ability to make learning fun for all of us. Your grasp of the finer points of Lightroom, as well as your step-by-step approach to teaching the class were very impressive."  J. C.

"The Lightroom workshop was absolutely wonderful. Mollie is such a great teacher. She not only took the time to help anyone who needed help with Lightroom, but she also helped people with their computer problems. The class followed a logical workflow which made learning easy. The hours went by quickly, and the hands-on approach was so helpful. I highly recommend Mollie's Lightroom workshop." R. S.

"I've always admired the fine quality of Mollie's images and wondered how they were achieved. In this workshop she shared her techniques by guiding us through the wealth of Lightroom tools while making sure that each individual understood how to apply them. By the end of her workshop I had gained a solid understanding of using a smooth workflow to bring my images to a new level."  H. E.


Thursday, August 20, 2015

Touchdown Alaska

Ahhhhhhhhh.......  Alaska. We have arrived to begin an epic 3-week journey in Alaska. This view is from 20,000 feet as our jet was making its final approach into Anchorage, courtesy of fellow traveler Jane Clements, made with an iPhone 6.

Fresh snow was on the high peaks, and the view was serene and pristine. What a wonderful welcome to this incredible place.  The crisp white snow and clouds, offset against the brilliant blue of a clear sky made for a very striking image.

Part One of this journey begins Friday and takes us to Glacier Bay National Park, a waterworld which is home to humpback whales, puffins, sea otters, and many species of seabirds. Part Two, with a different group, takes us to the home of brown bears fishing for salmon and enjoying the last few days of summer. Part Three will bring us north of the Arctic Circle in hopes of chasing the Northern Lights. And Part Four, with yet another group, brings us deep inside Denali National Park, a section of the park where few have the privilege of going.

Throughout this journey internet access with be sporadic, but I will post blogs as often as the digital world and time allows.

Alaska is one of my favorite places. The light is different, the air is different, the feel is different from anyplace else in our country. And the variety of photographic opportunities is unsurpassed.

iPhone 6 auto settings  -  Shutter Speed 1/4000 sec.  Aperture f/2.2 (yes, 2 point 2).  ISO 32.  iPhone standard camera lens 4.15mm (yes, 4 point one five).

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The Eskimos had fifty-two names for snow because it was important to them."  --Margaret Atwood

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Simpler The Better

Regardless of subject, sometimes the simplest approach is the best. It is often said that the difference between a painter and a photographer is that the painter starts with an empty palette and adds, while the photographer starts with a full palette and has to decide what to eliminate.

Deciding what to eliminate can be daunting. How much is too much? Is what you are eliminating a benefit to the image? How do you decide what to do?

The simple answer is trial and error. Try many different views, and look for a line or a shape or a color combination that pleases you. After surveying the subject from a variety of angles, take many images and then decide later what works best for you. Often it is easier to determine the best shots only after you have downloaded them onto your computer and can review them at your leisure.

In this image, notice how the elements are arranged. The red center of the hibiscus becomes the center of interest, and is placed far to the right and low in the frame for impact. The gentle curves lead the eye toward the center of interest, and add an overall flow.

Also notice that this is a minimalist image  -  only 2 colors, a few curves of the petals, and a semi-circular "starburst" of red. Less is more, and when composed effectively, a small handful of elements can make for nice images.

Shutter Speed 1/640 sec.  Aperture: f/3.5.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro.  Camera: Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Simplicity is the glory of expression."  - Walt Whitman

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Small Fish, Big Mouth

Egrets are beautiful birds, and skillful fishermen. They can easily spot fish, both big and small, in all kinds of water and in all sorts of lighting conditions. This one, and several of his buddies, found good fishing in shallow waters.

Look carefully to see the fish in his mouth. You can see the image larger by clicking on it.

While this is a very simple image, it has a few characteristics that help give it interest and punch. First, notice the contrast between the dark blue water and the bright white feathers. Then see how the  orange bill provides a pop of color, and is similar in tone to the remnants of breeding plumage near his tail feathers. Also, the reflection is subtle but adds some brightness to the water. And finally, the square-ish crop eliminates extraneous background and focuses attention on the action.

So when shooting any subject, always pay attention to the little things that can help make an average image more visually appealing.

Shutter Speed 1/1250 sec.  Aperture f/14.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 200-400mm f/4L IS with 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: "The little things are infinitely the most important."  --Arthur Conan Doyle

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Go With Your Gut

As I have said so many times when speaking to groups and individual photographers, when deciding which images to enter into competition, use your best judgment based on the judges and the venue, but ultimately enter the images that move YOU the most.

I don't always follow my own advice, but thankfully I did in this case. Every year I enter images in the Professional Photographers of America worldwide annual competition. The competition is going on now, and I just received word today that this image did well.

This is one of my favorite places, Antelope Canyon in Arizona. It is a special and magical place, sacred to Native Americans, with beautiful light and an unending array of rock formations. I have visited there several times at different times of year, and each time the canyon provides compelling images with lovely colors and sweeping lines.

I was not going to enter this image because often in this type of competition, scenics of places that the judges have seen many times before do not stand out enough to get their attention. But because I love this place, and love this image, I decided to go ahead and enter it anyway. I fully expected it to be rejected, so I was thrilled when I heard that it had done well.

As many of us who have entered photo competitions have experienced, it can be a blow when a favorite image gets slammed by the judges. It can leave us feeling inadequate and makes us question our photographic worth. But regardless of what the judges say, we should not allow the results to make us doubt our skills. Just because a judge does not respond well to one of your images, YOUR love of the image is still important and should not be jeopardized by the judge's opinion.

To boost the chances of an image doing well in competition, here are some tips to enhance its impact:
1. Make sure there are leading lines or other strong compositional elements.
2. For color images, complementary colors or warm against cool can provide more impact.
3. For black-and-white images, good contrast with strong blacks and bright whites do best.
4. Do not over-sharpen or over-saturate.
5. Use images that have been properly exposed and well-focused.
6. Select images that create a mood, or have emotional impact.

When all is said and done and the competition is over, never let a judge's rejection of your image or thoughtless comment have a negative effect on you. Yes, it can be crushing, especially when you have not entered very many competitions. But ultimately it is your opinion that counts the most.

Shutter Speed 13 seconds.  Aperture f/20.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 29mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Don't lose your perseverance and always trust your gut instinct."  --Paula Abdul 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

New Workshop Announced!!

OCTOBER 13, 14, 15

Brand new! By popular demand, another Lightroom Unleashed workshop has been added to the schedule. This workshop will be held in suburban Boston on October 13, 14, and 15.

This is an in-depth hands-on experience that will catapult your Lightroom skills higher than you ever thought possible. This is not a speed-through-and-leave-you-confused class. This workshop is a carefully organized approach to REALLY teach you how to use Lightroom to your best advantage. Created with you in mind, the entire workshop provides both group and individualized instruction.

At the beginning you will work along with me to learn and understand how Lightroom can turn unexciting images into works of art. As things progress, you will begin to work on your own images which will increase your understanding and skills.

By the end of the workshop you will have a new-found confidence in your use of Lightroom, and will be well on your way toward creating a polished portfolio of superb images.

The approaches are proven and methodical. And we will have fun along the way! Limited to only 12 participants, the class will fill quickly. For more information or to register, email or call 757-773-0194.

"Mollie is an outstanding instructor. She broke things into small pieces, demonstrating how it works, then having us try it on our own computers. She made sure we "got it," and she also made the class fun. I recommend this workshop without reservation!"    --D.E. 

"I've always admired the fine quality of Mollie's images. In this workshop she shared her techniques by guiding us through the wealth of Lightroom tools while making sure that each of us understood how to apply them. The workshop brought my images to a new level."    --H.E.

Shutter Speed 1/800 sec.  Aperture f/5.6.  ISO 400.  Lens: Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS set at 185mm.  Camera: Canon 5D Mark III.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at 20 or 80.  Anyone who keeps learning stays young."  --Henry Ford

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Horizon Decisions

In landscape photography one of the first decisions to make is where to place the horizon line. You can choose to place it high in the frame, or low, or centered as it is here. So how do you decide?

In general, placing the horizon line in the middle creates a serene and balanced composition. Placing it high or low creates more visual tension and sends a different message. Placing it high in the frame makes the ground the central subject. Conversely, placing it low in the frame makes the sky the main character. On days with an unexciting sky, place the horizon high in the image to eliminate what is not interesting. But when you have incredible clouds or a dark stormy sky, place the horizon low.

A central placement for this image works well with the scene - a quiet, calm, misty sunrise. The composition is very symmetrical from top to bottom, but there is some visual interest when you let your eye move through the image from left to right. The dark area on the left is large and imposing, while the right side is softer because of the mist, the delicate colors, and the individual trees.

Cropping decisions were made very deliberately. The right side was cropped to not show the bright sun just rising since it would have overpowered the softly fading darkness in the rest of the scene. And the left side was cropped to show enough of the heavy bank of trees to balance the mist, clouds, trees, and reflections on the right.

Lightroom was used to make sure the colors were saturated. I intentionally did not increase Shadows since showing detail there would have detracted from the overall moody nature of the scene. When working with Lightroom, make your optimization decisions based not only on technical considerations but also on creating or enhancing a mood or feeling in the image.

Shutter Speed 1/30 sec.  Aperture f/22.  ISO 200.  Lens: Canon 17-40mm f/4L, set at 17mm.  Camera: Canon 40D.  Gtizo tripod with ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Only from the heart can you touch the sky."  -Rumi

Friday, July 17, 2015

Pretty As A Peacock



Bad news. Bad light. Good peacock. Good Lightroom.

So how did I manage to create such a poorly exposed image? It was easy. What went wrong? Nothing. How was it fixed? I'm glad you asked.

This captive peacock was strutting his stuff in a very shaded area. There was sunlight on the foliage behind him, but very little light on his face or body. My tripod was in the car, and I was sure that if I returned to get it this moment would be gone, so I would have to handhold my 100-400mm zoom lens. To avoid the appearance of any hint of camera shake I knew I needed a shutter speed of at least 1/500 sec. And I wanted an ISO of no more than 400 in order to avoid too much noise showing in the image.

I quickly set my camera to those settings, which meant that the aperture would HAVE to be wide open at f/5.6. I took a shot and saw that the histogram showed an underexposre of almost 3 stops. And here is why it pays to understand your image optimization software. I knew that Lightroom would save an image underexposed to this extent.

Why did I have to underexpose it so much? Because the only way to get a more accurate exposure would have been to either increase the ISO which would have introduced too much noise, OR to set the shutter much slower which would have potentially shown either camera shake or subject movement, resulting in a less than sharp image. So I hedged my bets and took a chance on the 3-stop  underexposure.

You can see how dark the original exposure was in the Before image above. But here's the real benefit of knowing your software  -  I did NOT use the Exposure slider in Lightroom to lighten the image as shown in the After image. The Exposure slider is the LAST thing you should resort to when dealing with an underexposure. It can introduce more issues than you started with, and is not the best tool to use in most cases.

It is best to use other options in Lightroom, like Shadows, Highlights, Clarity, Saturation, and Luminance. It is important for you to learn your software, and I highly recommend that you take a Lightroom workshop from a knowledgable and competent instructor. Online tutorials are fine as far as they go, but they are generally not suited to providing a real learning experience.

I will be teaching two Lightroom Unleashed workshops this fall. One is in Massachusetts  October 13 -  15, and the other is in Northern Virginia (outside Washington, DC)  November 7 - 9. These are both in-depth and hands-on workshops that will cover everything you need to know to use Lightroom like a pro. For information or to register, email, or call 757-773-0194.

Shutter Speed 1/500 sec.  ISO 400.  Aperture f/5.6.  Lens: Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II, set at 349mm. Camera: Canon 7D Mark II handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Learning is a treasure that will follow its owner everywhere."  -Chinese Proverb