Monday, April 24, 2017

Smokies Wrap-up

The Smoky Mountains WILDFLOWERS & WILDWATER photo tour has ended, and what an incredible week we had. All of the most beautiful spring wildflowers were in bloom, the weather was superb except for one short burst of rain early in the week. Everyone came away with spectacular images. I was thrilled with what the group was able to achieve, and they were happy with their results. They learned a lot, shared a lot, and had a great time. 

At the end of the day, that is what a full immersion photo workshop or tour is all about - lots of information, education, inspiration, and great fun.

This Showy Orchis (yes "orchis" is the correct spelling) was one of the most perfect and beautiful I have ever seen. These are not easy flowers to photograph because of the unusual shape of the blooms and their small size. When photographing flowers I always recommend "stalking" the plant. Walk around it and look at it from all angles and heights. Take a lot of shots since often you do not know until you see the images on your computer screen which views you will like the best. Give yourself every opportunity to capture great images by taking your time to shoot it from all angles. 

While this trip has ended, I am looking forward to a full schedule ahead with a Butterflies Workshop in May (FULL), Alaska Brown Bears in June (FULL), a boat-based Alaska whales and wildlife trip also in June (FULL), Iceland in August (STILL SPACE AVAILABLE, with Early Bird discount valid through April 30), and back to Alaska in September to Denali National Park (one space unexpectedly opened up for a female).

If you would like more information on either the Iceland or Denali trips, go to the website here
Or for Iceland, 10 full days on this incredible island, click here

1/500 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 800.  Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Exploration is really the essence of the human spirit."  --Frank Borman

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Smokies Abstract

The Smokies photo tour ends on Saturday, and I will be sorry to see it end. The spring wildflowers have been spectacular. We were lucky to hit it at peak, and have seen dozens of varieties in pristine condition.

And the streams have been beautiful and have provided us with incredible subject matter. Doing long exposures of moving water creates abstract shapes, and everyone has been creating unique and compelling images. It is a great way to improve your creative eye, and enhance your technical skills as well.

This image has a variety of shapes and movement, with minimal colors. It is a study in line and form. Participating in a full immersion photo workshop enables you to dramatically improve your eye and your technique, while providing a fun atmosphere with like-minded people. I strongly recommend that you treat yourself and take a photo workshop or tour this year. You won't regret it!

1/2 sec. at f/32, ISO 100.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."  --Lao Tzu

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Smokies Grace

Graceful subjects can be found everywhere if you look for them. This graceful yellow trillium is blooming in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I am here this week leading a photo tour. I love being here in the springtime since the profusion of wildflowers is some of the best in the world.

This yellow trillium is fully open, even though it might not look that way. Their petals reach skyward in a slight curving motion.

When photographing macro flowers I try to keep the composition simple. Simple backgrounds, simple subjects, and simple soft natural lighting. I use Lightroom to enhance the colors and the overall look. But I try to do as little as possible in an effort to maintain the natural appearance of the flower.

When outdoors photographing, whether it is flowers or scenics, try to look for line, shape and simplicity.

1/320 sec at f/5.6, ISO 800. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If the sight of blue skies fills you with joy, if a blade of grass springing up in the fields has power to move you, if the simple things of nature have a message that you understand, rejoice, for your soul is alive."  --Eleonora Duse

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Easy Art

Creating images of moving water is exciting, easy, and fun. This stream in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was the perfect subject. A nicely flowing stream flanked by ancient boulders has form, shape, texture and color.

A sturdy tripod is your best friend when photographing moving water. You need a stable platform for your camera so that you can use a long exposure to accentuate the feeling of flowing water.

Soft, even light is best for this type of shot. You want to avoid splotchy sunlight that can create extreme contrast of highlights and shadows. So early morning or late afternoon, or a cloudy day work well.

With  your camera on Aperture Priority, use a low ISO of 100, and set the aperture to about f/22. That will provide a relatively show shutter speed, which is the secret to creating soft flowing water shots. I am often asked what shutter speed is best, and the answer is "that depends." If the water is flowing slowly, a longer shutter speed of a few seconds might be needed to show the flow. If it is a fast-moving stream, a shorter shutter speed of 1/4 to 1/2 second will work well. It is best to try several different shutter speeds to see what works best. If you cannot get a slow enough shutter speed to achieve the look you want, use a polarizing filter or a neutral density filter to reduce the amount of light coming through the lens. A polarizer will cut light transmission by about 2.5 stops.  Neutral density filters come in a variety of strengths from about 3 stops to 10 stops and reduce the amount of light being transmitted even more. 

How soft you want the water to look is a matter of personal taste. Experiment each time you are out photographing water, and take many shots at different shutter speeds to guarantee that you will get the look you want.

When leading groups, I teach a variety of techniques, depending on the situation and the speed of the water. We will be working with these techniques at the upcoming Smokies trip, and the Iceland trip coming up August 4 - 14. Still a couple of spaces left on the Iceland trip, and the Early Bird discount has been extended through April 30.  Details here

2 seconds at f/32, ISO 100. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set to 70mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In the confrontation between the stream and the rock, the stream always wins. Not by strength but by perseverance."  --H. Jackson Brown

Friday, April 7, 2017

Heading To The Smokies

It is Spring, which means it is time to return to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park for the magnificent display of wildflowers. At this time of year the flowers are everywhere, including trillium shown here. This is a Painted Trillium which is fairly rare in the park. They are small and delicate, bloom quickly in the spring, and then are gone until the next year.

Observing the flow of the seasons, and seeing the returning species from year to year are some of the many joys of being a nature and wildlife photographer.

Often when photographing flowers it is fun to look for an unusual angle, or try a creative technique. But for this trillium, with its perfect shape and lovely "painted" magenta tones near the center, a straighforward view worked well. Sometimes simple is better.

With flowers, soft even lighting is often my preference. I look for blooms in open shade, and if everything is in full sun I will often position myself to cast my shadow across the flower in order to eliminate any harsh shadows or blown out highlights.

1/400 sec., f/5, ISO 400.  Canon 5D Mark III body with Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro lens.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers  -  and never succeeding."  --Gian Carlo Menotti

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Abstracts With Impact

Abstracts are a great way to get in touch with your artistic side. You can find abstract images everywhere, from your own backyard to exotic places around the world. Abstracts are all around us. Just look for line, shape, color, or form in the normal things you see everyday.

This shot is about as simple as it gets, but a very powerful composition. Just one color, a triangle in the middle, a horizontal line running across the bottom, and a vertical line running through the center of the triangle.

Abstracts speak for themselves, and the viewer does not have to recognize the subject. The image just needs to be visually arresting.

So how do you spot good abstract subjects? Practice, practice, practice! This image was found when looking at old boats in Maine. Here is the scene.
The area of the above final image is marked by a black box. As you can see, it is a small part of the original scene, and I did not notice it right away. I had to stand there for a few minutes, looking at all the components of the scene. Then I began to see shapes and designs and found this area which I zoomed in on.

When out shooting, take your time, look at everything before you, and then narrow your view as you search for small components that could be isolated to become an appealing abstract image.

I would like to thank the members of the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania Camera Club for inviting me to speak on Abstracts at their 7th Annual Light and Creativity Photo Workshop held this past weekend. It was a wonderful and well-run event. They were a very welcoming and attentive group and it was a great privilege and a pleasure to meet so many people. My thanks to everyone for making it such a special day! 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Early Bird discount on the "Iceland - Endless Light" photo tour ends at midnight on April 3. Just make contact before then via email or phone to lock in your discount. So if you have been thinking about it, now is the time to contact me with questions or for more information. Limit 8, and there are only 4 spaces left. The trip runs August 4 - 14. Details here

1/250 sec, f/8, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body.  Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Photography has little to do with the things you see, and everything to do with the way you see them."  --Elliott Erwitt