October 6th, 2015
In Iceland last week we saw northern lights on multiple occasions. These magical curtains of light are stunning, and create a great photograph. But how to photograph the lights? Simply put, start with F2.8, 15 seconds and ISO 800. This should put you in the neighborhood of a correct exposure. If the display is really bright, you can reduce your exposure. Have your focus figured out before you go outside. You will be using manual focus, so determine what is the infinity focus mark for your lens. You can use your LCD and live view to help, but better to be prepared. Figure out your focus while there is still light.
I like to ground my images with some kind of land feature like a tree or mountain, but this is a creative choice. Two apps will help you predict the Aurora. Aurora Photo Forecast gives you sample exposure settings based on how bright the display is, and also predicts the strongest northern lights activity. Aurora Forecast predicts the activity levels, and has a cool global map showing you where the strongest displays will be. Can you shoot the Aurora with a bright moon? Yes, moonlight will illuminate your foreground, which can make interesting photographs. If you want to photograph the Aurora, your best chance is way north in places like Alaska and Iceland. Join me next year in Iceland to chase the northern lights!
October 4th, 2015
I just returned from leading an amazing trip to Iceland with Strabo Photo Tours. If you like landscape photography, it doesn’t get much better. This trip was planned for September to hopefully photograph some Northern Lights, and we weren’t disappointed. Our first night out we had a great display of aurora. And the amazing shooting just kept going and going. Massive waterfalls were the norm, including Skogafoss, one of my favorite waterfalls anywhere. If you like animal photography then you will love the shaggy Icelandic horses. These are the most friendly horses you will ever find, they love attention and people. One of my favorite shoots was photographing icebergs in the crashing surf at the glacier lagoon. The silky water and blue icebergs blended into one in the crashing waves on the beach. Lenticular clouds and rays of light hit massive glaciers to create stunning landscape images. This was some of the best landscape shooting I have done in a long time. I am doing the same trip at the same time next year, and it is already getting signups. If you want adventure and stunning landscapes, join me next year!
September 29th, 2015
On a recent trip to Glacier National Park I experienced incredible wind and storms. While the weather made taking pictures difficult, the conditions and light were stunning. Glacier has a lot of big lakes, so with the wind came large waves. And waves make interesting elements in your photographs, as long as you shoot them at the right shutter speed. How do you know what speed to use?
I photograph moving water based on my image concept. Am I trying to capture a calm, tranquil scene or am I trying to show drama and tension. I typically shoot at slower speeds for silky water with tranquil scenes, and shoot at faster speeds to freeze the water for action shots. One morning I was photographing at Two Medicine lake with dramatic light and huge waves. I realized that this landscape image was more about tension and drama, and I needed a shutter speed to show this feeling in the wave action. The trick was getting the waves with some motion, but not completely washed out like cotton. And on the other hand, I didn’t want to freeze the water since that would be too static. After bracketing my shutter speed for numerous frames, I found 1/3 of a second was just right. There is no right or wrong speed for capturing motion. In the end the motion should support your image concept.
September 22nd, 2015
It is always fun to see your images in print. Recently I found out one of my images will be on the Colorado Tourism guide cover for this winter. The publication is titled Alive: A Colorado Winter Travel Magazine and can be found all over Colorado this winter. I shot this image on a beautiful blue sky day snowshoeing in Rocky Mountain National Park. I didn’t plan on shooting a lot on this hike, but since it was such a nice day with fresh snow I had to take a few shots. I always bring a camera with me in the backcountry; you never know what you will find!
September 21st, 2015
I just returned from an incredible workshop in Glacier National Park with American Nature Photography Workshops. We had three incredible morning sunrises, some the of the best I have seen in years. If I get one nice sunrise I’m pretty excited, but three in a row is amazing. The weather was stormy, more like Patagonia than Montana. Extreme winds and storms blew through the area for 5 days straight. The wind required solid tripod use, but the images were amazing.
One item to watch when you get amazing red sunrises is your exposure, especially your red channel. I normally leave my highlight or ‘blinky’ on in my camera settings to quickly show me where my image is overexposed. This will show most highlights. But occasionally your red channel will be clipped (over exposed highlights) and your blinkies and average histogram won’t show this overexposed highlights. You may get an image with overexposed highlights (the blood red sky) that you can’t retrieve them in Lightroom later.
I do two things. First, I turn on my channel histogram so I can see the red channel and know if it is clipped. I make sure to expose the shot with my highlights and red channel on right against the right side of my histogram, but not clipped. And second, I still like to use graduated ND filters in the field. Using on of these filters reduces the highlights in the sky, and allows you to capture more information on the highlight side of your histogram without blowing out the highlights.
What happens if you blow out the highlights in your sunrise or sunset? The colors will block up and looked muddled with no detail, especially if you create an inkjet print. Not good. Watch that red channel the next time the sunrise of the year unfolds in front of you!
September 1st, 2015
I can’t believe it is September, summer has been great, sorry to see it go. But fall is my favorite time for photography, and I hear the aspens are already looking a little ‘pale’ in the high country. In a few weeks Colorado will explode in yellow, and Acadia NP will burst out with reds, yellows, and every shade in-between. I have a few spaces left on my fall workshops including fall color in Colorado (one spot!) and Acadia NP in Maine. Acadia is incredible because of the diversity of shooting; stunning red maples reelected in mirror ponds and crashing surf along rocky sea cliffs create amazing images. And as always we will shoot from Cadillac Mountain for sunrise and sunset.
In November I am teaching a workshop in Tucson with another well known Nikon shooter Tamara Lackey. Tucson is rich with photographic opportunities. We will photograph saguaro cactus that dot the hillsides, raptors in flight at the desert museum, and models using flash at the Pima Air and Space Museum. If you want to learn a wide variety of shooting techniques, this is a good workshop to attend.
August 28th, 2015
I have been getting a lot of questions about when I might be teaching another speedlight class, so here it is. The Popular Photography Mentor Series is running a speedlight workshop in Miami in February, and it will be a great event. I’m thrilled to be working with Dave Tejada, he is a wizard with speedlights and a terrific teacher. Miami is loaded with colorful photography options, and we will explore a wide variety of venues on the trip. If you are looking for a nice sunny few days learning speedlights, come join me in Miami.
August 26th, 2015
I regularly teach composition classes on photography workshops. I have changed my class frequently through the years, trying to create the perfect composition class that gives students tangible creative techniques to try. But one thing has never changed in my presentation; ‘think graphically, not literally.’ Or as Monet said, “In order to see you must forget the name of everything. By labeling, we recognize everything, but on longer see anything.”
This was the case with this Dall Porpoise in Kenai Fjords NP, Alaska. This pod of porpoise surfed in our bow wake for 20 minutes, it was an incredible experience. I started photographing the action with the end goal of getting a porpoise above the water or maybe its dorsal fin. But then I realized just their shapes and the splash patterns were creating amazing, graphic images. I became less focused on photographing the porpoise, and more interesting in capturing the design and shape created by this event. After shooting hundreds of images, I found one image I liked, posted above. The strength of the image is it’s graphical qualities, not what animal is in the photograph.
August 16th, 2015
‘Res up’ or resizing your image is something most photographers will want to do at some point. I shoot a lot of wildlife images with my Nikon D4, a 16MP camera, and if I want to make a large print to hang on my wall, I may need to enlarge the image. Or maybe you run into this scenario. I just returned from photographing bears in Alaska, and one of my favorite shots was a cub resting her head on another cub. The cubs were about 150 feet away, and even with a 400mm and the 36MP D810, the bears just weren’t large enough in the final shot. I cropped down to the bear cubs and was left with a small file. What to do?
Anyone remember Genuine Fractals? This was the method to use to enlarge images, and it has been around a long time. Now this program is included in the onOne Perfect Photo Suite as Perfect Resize 9.5. And honestly, if you are buying Resize, you should look at buying the entire suite. I’ll look at other programs in this bundle later, but they are all really good.
Here is the screenshot of the Resize window. You can see the action chosen is Genuine Fractals, and you have much more control than in early versions. For those who want an instant result, just choose the document size and hit the ‘apply’ button, you will get a terrific enlarged image. You also have numerous other controls including sharpening and grain. If you need a little more file size for that 17×22″ inkjet print, try out Perfect Resize. They offer a free 30 day trial, or buy the entire suite for $99.95.
August 1st, 2015
I was photographing rock climbing yesterday, and by the time we got to the route I wanted to photograph, it was midday. With a cloudless sky and intense sun, this is a time most photographers would kick back and wait for better light. But what if the ‘better light’ is in the middle of a sunny day? ‘No matter what the conditions and lighting, something will photograph well’. Assignment photographers know you don’t have the luxury of putting your camera away in the middle of the day because the sun is strong. You may only have one day to photograph a location. So you seek out subjects and locations that photograph well with the existing light…or add strobe to create your own light.
In this case I was photographing my son on a classic route in Tensleep Wyoming, The Gravy Train. The route ascends the backside arete of a large pinnacle, which is in deep shade in the midday sun. But in the background are bright sunny cliffs creating the perfect silhouette. Sometimes contrast and midday sun work perfect for the shot.