Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Slot Canyon Beauty

Slot canyons of the Southwest. If you have never been in one, I highly recommend it. They are beautiful and awe-inspiring. Their huge size, the eons of time it took to carve the swirling, sweeping, exquisite shapes, the quiet mood inside them, the Native American stories they inspired, all work together to make for a very special experience.

This one is in northern Arizona and was recently opened to tourists. Virtually all slot canyons require you to have a licensed guide, and this one is no exception. They are often difficult to get to, and require a 4-wheel drive vehicle to get to the start of the canyon.

The light levels inside are often quite low, and require long exposures in order to maintain good depth of field throughout the image.

I'm enjoying a scouting trip to several areas in Arizona and Utah which may eventually become part of a photo tour in the future. I'm revisiting some of my favorite places. The weather has been exciting, with snow, rain, brilliant sunshine, cool temperatures and clear air.

15 seconds, f/20, ISO 400. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 24mm on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When you're in the desert, you look into infinity. It makes you feel terribly small, and also in a strange way, quite big."  --David Lean

Friday, February 23, 2018

Desert Southwest

I am in Arizona on a series of speaking engagements to camera clubs, and then will be off on a personal trip to some of my favorite places in the Desert Southwest.

Today's presentation was to the Sun City West Camera Club near Phoenix, plus other area clubs that were invited to attend. About 200 photographers were in attendance, and gave me a very warm welcome. It was a wonderful group, and I appreciate how warmly I was treated and how well they responded to a flat-lander from the east.

On Monday I travel to Sedona to speak to the camera club there. Then it's on to Monument Valley, some slot canyons, and Canyon de Chelly. It has been snowing in the high country so I am hoping for unique images of snow on the red rocks. We'll see what Mother Nature throws at us.

Today's image is from a former trip to Monument Valley. We arrived in the dark, long before sunrise in order to get set up and catch the sun breaking the horizon. If you look carefully you will see a natural starburst. That was created by using a small aperture (f/22) and positioning the camera so that part of the sun was blocked by the rock formation.

1/50 sec., f/22, ISO 200. Canon 17-40mm f/4L lens set at 17mm on Canon 40D camera body (an oldie but a goodie). Gitzo tripod.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote."  --Edward Abbey

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Comin' At Ya

On my last visit to Iceland I took some personal time to visit a glacial lagoon. I was thrilled to see a large number of arctic terns making pass after pass around us. They are speedy and turn on a dime, so getting sharp images means you have to take a lot of shots and be prepared to throw many away. In fact that is often the case with any birds-in-flight photography.

This guy made a sudden hairpin turn and started gliding right toward me. My camera was set on AI (continuous focus), but when the action is coming directly at you, it is not always easy for the autofocus to lock on. In this case I was fortunate to get a sharp shot for two reasons  -   terns have not only a sharp line where their dark feathers meet their white ones, but this tern was directly in front a deep black area of the glacier. Autofocus functions best when there is a hard line with good contrast for the lens to grab onto, and that is exactly the situation here.

This is a color image, but except for the tern's bill, there was no other color in this scene.

For action shots, all you can do is be as prepared as possible, and hope for the best. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, with the right conditions, and had my camera set properly (continuous focus AND rapid burst). Often those once-in-a-lifetime shots come when you least expect it. Knowledge of your camera and its settings are your best friends when seeking action shots.

1/1250 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 on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Luck is a matter of preparation meeting opportunity."  --Oprah Winfrey

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Make a Mat in Photoshop

This brown bear mom and cub were taking a break from feeding on the lush early summer grass in Alaska. She was out in the fields with her 3 cubs, but the other two were off munching nearby. When they struck this pose, I knew I had a great mother-baby portrait.

When photographing wildlife, it is safety first, respect and care for the animals second, and getting the shot third. The shot is never more important than your safety, and the well-being of the animals.

I have found the absolute BEST location in Alaska for getting brown bear images up close and personal, and in safety AND comfort. And without tons of other photographers around. We stay in a lovely lodge along the shores of the Cook Inlet in Lake Clark National Park. The 2018 trip has been filled for quite awhile, but the July 2019 trip is now open for registration. It is not listed on the website yet, so if you are interested please email me and I can send you details.

I prepared this image for an upcoming competition, and felt it needed a mat to enhance the portrait feel. It is quick and easy to make a mat in Photoshop. Once the image is optimized and sized, make a new file in Photoshop that measures 3 to 4 inches larger than your image. For example, an 11x14 image would need a new file measuring about 15x18. That will provide space for a 2-inch mat all around. If that is too much mat for your particular image, you can make it smaller.

Copy and paste the image onto the new file, and center it. Use the Eyedropper tool to choose a mat color that goes well with the predominant tone in your image - in this case it was the dark brown of the fur. Just click the eyedropper on the color in the image you want. Then make a new layer and name it "mat." Go to Edit > Fill, Foreground Color, Normal, 100%, and click OK.

Then choose another color from the image that will serve as a thin border (called a keyline) around the image itself. I chose the green of the grass. Use the Marquis tool to trace around the image. The "marching ants" should be visible along the outside edge of the image. Then go to Edit > Stroke. When the dialog box opens, choose a pixel width that is narrow and not obtrusive. Then click inside the color box to add the color you have chosen. For location, choose "center." Blend mode should be "normal" at 100%.

You can always go back and modify your choices if the colors do not look good to you, or if the keyline is too thin or too wide.

1/1250 sec., f/8, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "No matter how carefully you plan your goals, they will never be more than pipe dreams unless you pursue them with gusto."  --W. Clement Stone

Friday, February 9, 2018

Unexpected Opportunity

Two unexpected openings have come up on the Denali photo trip. This is a very unusual occurrence, so this is your chance to grab these spaces.

We go deeper into Denali National Park than most other photo groups are allowed to go, yet we stay in relative luxury in a lovely lodge with great food and our own driver. In fact Awake The Light is one of only two photo companies worldwide that is allowed this deep inside the park for so many days.

We'll photograph grizzly bear, caribou, moose, and more. The tundra will be in full autumn splendor, and the mountains will be dusted with snow. It is a photographer's paradise.

Details at this link

If you have questions or to register,
email me at
or call me at 757-773-0194

1/1000 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm. Handheld.

TODAY QUOTE: "Study nature, love nature, stay close to nature. It will never fail you."  --Frank Lloyd Wright

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Find Your Creativity

Going, going, almost gone! Only a few spaces left in the 
Creative Flowers MASTER CLASS 
at Longwood Gardens, April 30 - May 4.

Longwood Gardens is a gem among botanical gardens. It is filled with acres and acres of flowers and breath-taking beauty.

This Master Class will show you how to capture beautiful, artistic images of flowers, and will jump start your creativity. You will learn how to shoot, what to shoot, and how to improve your images in post-production with Lightroom, and Photoshop.

It is like two workshops in one. It is an in-depth week to help you hone your flower photography skills, AND it will provide training in easy-to-learn, easy-to-use techniques in Lightroom and Photoshop.

Learn to see things more artistically using line, shape, and color to create your own masterpieces. Each day will be filled with shooting time, personalized training, classroom time, and image critiques. You will come away with new techniques, and a renewed sense of creativity and excitement about your photography. The entire week will be educational, inspirational, and fun!

Throughout the week you will learn a wide variety of things including:
Finding appealing subjects
Recognizing “good” light and how to work with it
Learning the freedom of working without a tripod
Isolating the subject for an artistic effect
Learning how to see with an entirely new vision
Learning how to use line, shape, and color to your best advantage
Using selective focus
Controlling the background
Using Depth of Field creatively
Understanding how to break the rules effectively
Using post-processing quickly and easily in Lightroom
Adding textures and other techniques in Photoshop and other software

More details on the website here

Call or email for more details, or to register. 
I'd love to speak with you about this workshop.
 April 30 - May 4, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

1/100 sec. at f/9, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8 macro IS lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld. 

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers are a proud assertion that a ray of beauty out-values all the utilities of the world."  -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, February 3, 2018

Improve Your Flower Photography AND Boost Your Creativity

From unique and cutting edge....

 .... to soft and traditional ....

You will learn it all and more at this
informative and exciting workshop. 

 April 30 - May 4, Longwood Gardens, Pennsylvania

Spend several days with me in spectacular Longwood Gardens and return home with greater skills, lots of creative ideas, and more confidence in yourself and your photography.

This is like two workshops in one  -  improve your artistic vision and shooting skills, AND learn new and easy ways of working with Lightroom, Photoshop and more.

We will spend each day in the Gardens, and then return to the classroom for teaching sessions, image critiques, and creative ideas. See complete information here

call me at 757-773-0194, or email me at 

Be sure to ask about the early registration discount, 
good until March 10.

Top image  -  1/640 sec. at f/6.3, ISO 400. Sigma 15mm lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld. 
Bottom image  -  1/400 sec at f/4, ISO 400. Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.  

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Flowers always make people better and happier. They are sunshine, food, and medicine for the soul."  -- Luther Burbank