Saturday, August 26, 2017


My annual trip to Denali National Park starts next weekend. I am eager to be back there, in our country's last frontier. This is a unique photo trip, and puts us in a place that few others get to experience. While we are literally at the end of the road deep in the heart of Denali, we stay in a lovely lodge with all the amenities, chef-prepared meals, and a private vehicle with an experienced naturalist driver.

It is one of the most popular trips of the year, and always fills quickly. Next year's trip has already been scheduled for August 25 - 31. Limited to only 10 photographers, this surely is the trip of a lifetime. ONLY 5 SPACES LEFT.

We usually see grizzly bear, the sweeping Alaska Range topped by Denali, North America's tallest peak, migrating caribou, moose with huge antlers, and the miles and miles of tundra in spectacular autumn colors.

For more details, go to our website at this link

I hope you can join me in Alaska next year!

TODAY'S QUOTE: "In terms of wilderness preservation, Alaska is the last frontier. This time, given one great final chance, let us strive to do it right. Not in our generation, nor ever again, will we have a land and wildlife opportunity approaching the scope and importance of this one."  --Morris Udall

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Eclipse With A Twist

I was fortunate to be able to watch the solar eclipse from the upper deck of my house. I live on the coast of North Carolina, where we could see the eclipse at about 90%. Even though we could not see "totality," it was a wonderful thing to view.

Initially I was not going to photograph it at all, content to just enjoy the experience. But the photo bug got the better of me and I decided to try photographing it on my iPhone, using the special solar eclipse glasses I was wearing to protect the phone's lens. That did not work since the dark lenses caused the phone's shutter speed to slow down dramatically, preventing me from getting a sharp image.

By then I was motivated to try my "real" camera with a long telephoto lens. This was my first attempt to photograph an eclipse of any sort, solar or lunar, so I did some quick internet research to determine settings and the safety of shooting with no protective filter on the lens. Turns out that when most of the sun is blocked by the moon's shadow, it is safe to shoot with no protective filtration on the lens IF you point the camera at the sun only very briefly, take the shot and then immediately turn the camera away from the sun. Of course you still need to protect your eyes from the sun's glare as well.

I set the lens on manual focus, and set the focus ring to infinity. Then I quickly took about a dozen shots during the minute or so that the sun was mostly blocked by shadow. Because about 10% of the sun was never blocked by the moon's shadow from my vantage point, the light intensity was still great, requiring a short exposure and very small aperture.

When I downloaded the images, I was thrilled to find that some had a starburst effect, somewhat similar to what was described in yesterday's blog. I did not expect to see this effect during a solar eclipse.

Because of the intense light there was no color in the image, so I took creative liberty and used the Split Toning feature in Lightroom to add the yellow color.

The final effect is very different from most eclipse photos you might see. So the lesson for all of us is to never stop playing and experimenting with your photography. You never know what surprises might come your way.

1/1250 sec at f/57, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 490mm on Canon 7D Mark II body.  Handheld.

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

Sunday, August 20, 2017

A Matter Of Perspective

Sometimes elements line up in a serendipitous way. This small church in Iceland was framed by an arched entryway, and when viewed at the right angle, the sun created a starburst along the top.

This starburst effect can be created by using a solid object - a tree, building, or as in this case, the arch - to partially block the sun from your view. A small aperture like f/16, f/22, or smaller enhances the sharpness of the starburst. Using a wide angle lens also enhances the effect.

When incorporating the sun in an image, remember that it will always appear pure white.  Do not attempt to darken it because it can turn gray or muddy looking. So next time you are out shooting, look for the sun position and see what you can create.

1/640 sec at f/13, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens on Canon 5D Mark III. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Turn your face to the sun and the shadows fall behind you."  --Unknown

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Expect The Unexpected

I just returned from Iceland last night. It is one of my favorite places. It was an amazing trip with a wide variety of photo opportunities, including this completely unexpected sighting of an Arctic Fox. It was a young one who appeared on the grounds of one of our rural lodges. He was not concerned by our cameras, and stayed around for a few minutes, allowing us to get some shots.

He posed, he stretched, he yawned, and then curled up for a little snooze. Arctic Foxes are the only land mammal native to Iceland. It numbers have been declining in Iceland since 2010, and the population is now estimated to be about one-third of its former numbers. They are said to be comfortable around humans in areas where they are not hunted, and clearly this one was very comfortable with all the photographic attention he was getting.

Regardless of how tame any form of wildlife appears to be, it is always vitally important to realize that ANY wild animal can be unpredictable and should be approached carefully and treated with respect.

1/320 sec at f/6.3 at ISO 800.  Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 200mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Until he extends the circle of compassion to ALL living things, man will not himself find peace."  --Albert Schweitzer

Friday, August 11, 2017

Postcard From Iceland

Greetings from Incredible Iceland! As you can see from this postcard, this fantastic trip has netted us some amazing photographic opportunities. So far we have been traveling mostly in the northwest, northeast, and central portions of this welcoming island country. We have seen puffins, huge waterfalls, geothermal areas, unique farmhouses, and shown in the lower right, an unexpected appearance by an Arctic Fox. Fairly rare and reclusive, this was a real treat.

It is difficult to convey the range of elements in this small country. The magnitude and variety of its various features is compelling and makes me want to return again and again. The thunderous roar of its waterfalls, the sweeping scenes of stark volcanic formations, the calm coves along the ocean, the ponderous rock formations, the farmhouses tucked into hillsides, the famous Icelandic horses, and of course the very friendly and welcoming Icelanders all combine to make this one of my favorite places.

I am traveling with a wonderful group of photographers, guided by our top-of-the-line Icelandic guide Einar of Focus On Nature. He has gotten us to some of the best areas with friendly reassurance and a ready smile. We are a happy group, and have bonded in this shared experience. A full immersion photo trip, with people sharing the enjoyment of seeing new and exciting things, is the best way to enjoy travel AND to improve your photo skills and jump start your creativity.

We are only a little over halfway through our 10-day trip, and if internet service remains reliable, I hope to post another blog soon.

Puffin - 1/2000 sec. at f/8. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x Canon extender for an effective focal length of 560mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Farmhouse  -  1/1000 sec at f/10.  Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens at 140mm, on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Geothermal Area  -  1/60 sec at f/18. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Waterfall  -  8 seconds at f/22. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens at 32mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.
Turf roof  -  1/800 sec. at f/7.1. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.
Arctic Fox  -  1/320 sec at f/6.3. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens at 200mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "We wander for distraction, but we travel for fulfillment."  -- Hilaire Belloc

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

As Far As The Eye Can See

As far as the eye can see is pretty darned far at 35,000 feet up. This was taken flying over Greenland on my way to Iceland where the photo tour begins in a few days. I always like to arrive a few days before the start of a photo tour to get everything prepared, and also to have time to acclimate to the time difference.

Flying over Greenland is like nothing you have ever seen. With about 75% of the continent covered in a permanent ice sheet, and 10,000 foot mountains peeking above it, it is a winter wonderland or a snow-covered wasteland, depending on your perspective.

Since this image was taken with an iPhone through the aircraft window, it lacks great quality but it is something I wanted to share with you. It was taken around 11PM, and you can see how light it was. We are just at the edge of the arctic circle, and even in early August there are very few hours of semi-darkness. The sun set around midnight, and when I arrived at my hotel around 2AM Iceland time, there was still light in the sky. We are definitely in the land of the midnight sun!

1/2500 sec., f/22, ISO 32. iPhone 6 with 4.15mm lens. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Kindness is like snow. It beautifies everything it covers."  --Kahlil Gibran