Friday, September 23, 2016

He Said, She Said

These two kittiwakes were having a screaming fit over something. Lots of squawking and wing flapping. Kind of comical really. We were on a boat trip in Glacier Bay National Park in search of whales, puffins, sea otters, and sea lions. But when photographing anywhere, it is important to be alert to any subjects that might be interesting to photograph.

Kittiwakes, similar to sea gulls, are fairly common in coastal Alaska. But they are lovely birds with their pure white feathers, and stand out beautifully against the blue-green glacial waters. The fight was the added element that helped to create an interesting image.

This was a bright sunny day, with strong sunlight on the bright white feathers. Lightroom helped to tone down the whites, and also brought up the shadows. An added touch of Saturation improved the color of the water.

1/640 sec., f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Canon 7D Mark II handheld on moving boat.

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

Sunday, September 18, 2016


The Great One, Denali (formerly Mt. McKinley), played peek-a-boo with us for hours. The low-hanging clouds stubbornly clung to the highest points, but the light played beautifully on the fresh snow. The clouds also created deep, dramatic shadows on the lower ridges.

Determining exposure in this situation can be difficult. With the light changing constantly, there are times when you just have to shoot, check the histogram frequently, and hope for the best. Since the dark areas in the foreground did not require much detail, and I wanted the snow-covered ridges to be the main subject, I made sure not to over-expose the whites. In addition, in post-production I used the Highlights slider in Lightroom to tone down the brightest whites so that all the texture in the whites showed up well.

I rely heavily on Lightroom, especially in high-contrast situations like this. I know that Lightroom can effectively tone down the bright areas, and bring out detail in dark areas as needed. I never use HDR, and rarely bracket exposures because I know what Lightroom can do. At the same time, I try to be very careful with the original exposure so that neither the lightest tones nor the darkest tones are too under- or over-exposed. The only way to make certain of that is to keep a careful eye on the histogram.

To help improve your photography and the look of your final images, the best gift you can give yourself is an in-depth Lightroom class. While online tutorials are good and can provide some basic information, and some one-day classes can help you get your feet wet, the best way to learn is to take a multi-day Lightroom workshop. It is the best way to learn the most effective and easiest ways to use Lightroom to catapult your images to a much higher level.

Special 2-day classes can be arranged for your camera club or photo group, and can be scheduled at the convenience of the group. Just get a group of at least 6 photographers (15 is the maximum size for Lightroom classes) and we'll get things scheduled. Email for more information.

1/5000, f/5.6, ISO 1600.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II. Handheld, shot from a moving vehicle.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Strive for continuous improvement, instead of perfection."  --Kim Collins

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Three Bears

We ventured out at dawn in search of whatever we could find on the recently concluded Brown Bears trip to Alaska. We were treated to this great scene of a mother and two cubs along the beach, with the mountains in the background.

The light level was so low that an ISO of 6400 was needed in order to get a good exposure. Because when shooting wildlife things can change in an instant, I chose to handhold the camera rather than use a tripod, in spite of the very low light.

While this image might give the impression that the three-some were not moving, in fact they were constantly changing positions. That is why rapid burst can enable you to capture some great images when events are occurring quickly.

It is not always appealing to get up before dawn in hopes of finding good light or good images, but when it pays off it always feels good.

This year's Alaska trips are over, but I am already looking forward to returning next year. Join me in Denali in September, or in Glacier Bay in July. Alaska is a prime destination for great photography of wildlife and sweeping scenics.

1/320 sec, f/7.1, ISO 6400. Canon 100-400mm lens set at 280mm on Canon 7D Mark II.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Bears keep me humble. They help me to keep the world in perspective and to understand where I fit on the spectrum of life. We need to preserve the wilderness and its monarchs for ourselves and for the dreams of children. We should fight for these things as if our life depended upon it, because it does."  --Wayne Lynch

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Yup, Still In Alaska

What a fabulous few weeks it has been. After Denali National Park I headed to Glacier Bay National Park with another group of excited and motivated photographers. We saw seals, sea otters, whales, kittwakes, and calving glaciers. And puffins. Beautiful puffins. This tufted puffin put on a show with his long and finally successful take-off.

Puffins basically run on the water in order to build up enough forward momentum to lift off. It is comical to watch, and seems to take a very long time for lift-off to finally occur.

In Alaska, much of the water is a spectacular shade of blue-ish green, reminiscent of tropical waters. But these waters are certainly not tropical. The color comes from the glaciers and the silt they carry with them as they move downstream and melt. 

There is so much wild beauty in Alaska. It has unspoiled wilderness areas, varied wildlife, and friendly helpful people. It is a great place to visit and photograph, which is why I return year after year after year.

Next year's trips are filling fast, so if Denali National Park in September, or Glacier Bay in July interests you, let me know soon before all the available spaces are gone.

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "For sheer majestic geography and sublime scale, nothing beats Alaska."  --Sam Abell