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Many times, we go out with our camera with a specific intention or vision of what we want to photograph. With this idea in mind, we search, we wait, we go back to the same location again and again, and so on. But sometimes, an unexpected photo subject comes to us and almost always when we least expect it. And it offers a surprising opportunity to spark creativity. Are you open to recognizing when that opportunity comes your way? Are you ready to take advantage of nature's exquisite surprises? Read on and find out how I captured an unlikely subject in an unlikely location.
For the past two years, I have wandered around the southeastern, midwestern and now great plains regions of the United States. As I work my way west (little by little!), I begin to see places that look completely opposite of Florida, or at least that is the first impression I get when I see them. A perfect example is the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. The national park's website describes it perfectly as “The Land of Stone and Light”. As a result of spending five days photographing this incredible landscape, I came away with what I consider to be successful images. I would like to share my process of capturing the Badlands. Please, read on!
This blog is short and sweet and begins here with a link to my two recent videos. The first one is titled "Do you have what it takes to shoot the Milky Way?" , all about preparing and setting up for your first Milky Way shot. The second video titled “Getting out to shoot the Milky way” shows you what to do once you are set up in the dark. Meanwhile, read on for a short introduction to the topic.
99.5% of my images are in color and will remain in color. I believe the reason for my lack of black and white images is because when I shoot, I shoot in color and I see in color. I think most photographers can relate to this. But still, there is a place for black and white and in fact, many compelling black and white images, especially those with great impact would never work in color and are great photos because they are black and white. And it is these images that make me wish I could shoot in black and white. Perhaps if we could train the eyes to see in black and white, maybe we could succeed. When I look at those masterful black and white images, I believe it is possible. Did you know that your digital SLR camera has a wonderful way of helping you to see in black and white? Indeed, what if you could see the image in black and white before you take a shot? Is that even possible? It is possible and it is simple. Curious? Read on!
You can check out my YouTube video about shooting the super moon for landscapes here.
Everyone loves a full moon! Especially when it has a name, like Blue, Harvest, Wolf or my favorite, Super. A full moon can be inspiring to nature photographers, enough so that some photographers love to capture a telescopic and detailed view of the moon with its crater-pocked surface. Is that the only way to capture a full moon? How we see the full moon with our naked eyes is nowhere near telescopic, yet we find it beautiful. Is there a way to capture a more “eye-level’ and appealing image of the full moon? Yes! Read on to learn how do it.
My previous two blogs addressed how to use the brush tool for dodging and burning and then at the end of all that, I summed it up with this statement, “I am not too enamored with the brush tool. Whenever I make a mistake with the brush, I need to go back and undo it. This seems clumsy to me. I would much rather make an adjustment using a slide tool.”. To show you how I can do that, I will throw you a curve ball. Intrigued? Read on!
In my previous two blogs, I described the selective but destructive dodge and burn tools. I then described the less destructive dodge and burn method using the brush tool applied to a new layer. Third, I improved the selectivity of the brush tools by introducing a relatively unknown tool called ‘Apply Image’ that creates a layer mask to reveal only areas of the image you want to edit. I also introduced you to blend modes, specifically Soft Light that makes edits more refined and subtle. Are you ready to find new treasures along the path of non-destructive, selective, and subtle editing? Read on!
In the previous blog I introduced you to the selective but destructive dodge and burn tools. As I have always said, edits should be non-destructive, selective and subtle. So, is there a way to selectively brighten and darken areas in an image non-destructively? Yes! Read on!
“Dodging and burning are steps to take care of mistakes God made in establishing tonal relationships.” Ansel Adams
Before I knew anything about photo editing, the words “dodge” and “burn” had only their literal meanings and were unlikely to be used in the same sentence. When I took up photography, I quickly learned that these words were common among photographers and each word has a different meaning from its literal one. Not only that, if one appeared in a sentence, more often the other did too. Back in the film darkroom days, “dodging and burning” was a common photo editing technique. Does it apply to the digital darkroom? Yes, and it is just as important today as it was back then! So, what exactly is dodging and burning and why and how do I use it? Read on!
I always thought underwater photography would be the coolest thing because it’s like photographing on another planet, an entirely new world to discover through the camera. I will probably never do underwater photography because, well I get seasick very easily. But, good news! There’s a whole other world to photograph on land and it’s right under our noses. Curious to know where this other world exists and how you can photograph it? Read on!
Editing is an essential part of image making. For this, nature photographers generally use Adobe Lightroom and/or Photoshop. However, many photographers use only Lightroom and avoid Photoshop because it is intimidating and perceived to be more complex than what is necessary for good editing. I wish this were not the case because I believe Photoshop is far superior from Lightroom. I believe this because Photoshop has improved my editing greatly and has made editing easy. There are a few reasons for this but the first and foremost one is simple – my Photoshop edits are non-destructive. What exactly does this mean? Are you ready to overcome your fear and simplify Photoshop? Read on!
I am drawn to simple nature compositions. But sometimes I am in an environment that is far from simple, like a Florida swamp. There may be lots of trees & flora of various kinds, harsh light contrasting with dark shadows - just a lot of things going on. This makes creating an appealing composition difficult. So how does one capture a chaotic nature scene and make it visually attractive? I have some ideas, so read on! And please check out my latest video for more on this topic.
A while back, I wrote about Live View and how and why I use the Live View histogram to help me get the correct exposure before I take a shot. In this blog, I’ll take this one step further and explain how to interpret histograms. And then after all that, I will boil it down to the one and only reason I use the histogram in Live View. Curious? Read on!
No matter how expensive your digital SLR camera or how meticulous you are cleaning it, it will get invaded by dust. More to the point, dust finds its way to the camera’s sensor, like it does to any other surface. Unfortunately, when a dust speck lands on the sensor, it can show up as an annoying spot on your images. And quite often, dust spots are not noticeable until you print your image. This can be a problem! How can you find these invading dust spots before it’s too late? Read on!
Telephoto lenses are not just for wildlife photography. In fact, I use my telephoto lens mostly for landscape images, including panoramic shots like the one above. It seems counter-intuitive to use a telephoto lens to capture panoramic views, but it works and quite often, it is the best approach. In fact, there are several advantages to a telephoto lens for landscapes. What are those advantages and how did I get that panoramic shot using a telephoto lens? Read on!
Ask a blogger why they blog and most will say "For myself." But truly deep down inside, this blogger and all others want people to take an interest and read their stuff. And this blogger wants you to learn something. Simply put, I blog because I love photography and I love to teach. I want to help you be a better photographer, but its the process of teaching which also makes me a better photographer (so yes, I have selfish reasons!). With that, if you are new to my blog or not, this entry is an "end of the year" summary with links to all my previous entries to point you toward a topic of interest and provide you an overview of the blog content. So please, read on!
Def. Imagine as a future possibility; visualize
Most of the time when I take a photograph, I visualize the scene and have one thought – “how can I capture this scene to achieve my vision?” After I download the image onto the computer, I examine it with one thought – “how can I edit this image to achieve my vision?” And with that, the editing workflow begins. I took the image above from a kayak while paddling Ebenezer Creek in Georgia this summer. It is the unedited image. I attempted to capture it the best way possible as I envisioned the scene. When I examined it on the computer screen, I realized I had some work to do to achieve my vision. Below is the final image. How did I get there? Read on!
If you heed the advice of many photographers to ‘fill the frame’ with your subject, composing an image with a small subject might seem counter productive. Yet, I find these “small” subject images quite compelling. So how do you take a photograph of something insignificant and make it significant? I have some ideas, so read on!
When I photograph a waterscape or landscape, I most often prefer clouds over a blank sky. Clouds can be the main subject of a photograph, but they will more likely accompany some other important elements in the scene, like trees or water. Clouds are so beautiful to look at, but they add much more than that to the scene. Curious to know what that is? Read on!
For this blog, I’m going to be very negative. Wait, don’t go away yet! Fact is, I use a lot of negativity in my images and contrary to how it sounds, it has a positive effect! And if you are willing to be a little negative with your photography, you will experience the positive effect as well. Intrigued yet? If so, read on!
When preparing to take a shot, a photographer must make several adjustments to get the correct exposure or amount of light that hits the sensor. One important adjustment is the aperture which is the opening in the lens that allows light to enter the camera. The aperture setting determines the diameter of that opening and thus, affects the amount of light that comes through it. However, the aperture does more than that and its effects can greatly alter an image. Want to know more? Read on!
One of the most powerful features of modern DSLR cameras is the ability to automatically focus. How amazing it is when you point the camera and it almost instantaneously focuses on something. And you can even lock the focus and recompose the image while maintaining focus. Further, you can track a fast moving subject while the camera keeps the focus on the subject. Because this is such a great thing, a good photographer will rely on auto focus quite often. But NOT always. Sometimes it is necessary to take the camera off auto focus and put it into manual focus. Why would a photographer do such a thing when they have amazing technology at their fingertips? There are several reasons why, so read on and find out why manual focus is sometimes required to get the shot!
Imagine finding a beautiful location when the conditions are perfect for photographing. When traveling, this can be hit or miss, so if you are lucky enough to have a beautiful scene with fantastic light, colorful sky, surreal fog, or something that makes it stand out above the rest, you have to take advantage of the opportunity. When you are in the right place at the right time, that is when you should “work the scene” to get the shot. What exactly does this mean? Read on!
A compelling photograph is one that draws the viewer in and provides some visual context or perhaps a visual road map for the eyes. We want the viewer to stay interested in the image and we don’t want their eyes wandering aimlessly. There must be some order or path to guide the viewer deeper into the scene. This is especially the case in landscape photography when you have foreground and background elements. The background may be nothing more than a horizon, but it can be a compelling image if something draws the viewer into it. How does a photographer do this? It is a very common strategy, so read on to learn how I use it!
When you take a photograph, you frame the scene. Anyone with a camera does this, whether it is from the back panel of an iphone or the viewfinder of a SLR camera. Before you take your shot, you typically line everything up and get the important elements within the frame. Right? But how many times have you taken a shot and then reviewed it later and thought, “It looked so much better in person”? You find the image just doesn’t grab you the way it did when you took the photograph. One reason for the letdown might be that you don’t follow rules very well. Rules? What Rules? Read on!
What is the most photogenic feature of a bird? I would argue that it is the feathers. And when you can capture that beauty in flight, even better! If you follow the advice of the bird photography experts, or simply take a look at their images, they will tell you that bird’s feathers should be photographed in the best light; which is to say, early morning or late afternoon. But there is another piece of advice and one of the best tips I have ever received. Curious to know? Read on!
The sky is a prominent feature in landscape photography. Depending on the time of day and other influences such as weather patterns, humidity and dust, the sky’s colors can be bold and bright or they may appear as subtle pastels. While bold and bright are what we seek out most of the time, subtlety can work as well. And with the correct camera settings in the field, the photographer can bring out those shy colors with a little editing. The two photos above are before and after edits applied in Photoshop. Curious to know how I made those subtle colors more striking? Read on!
There are so many photography genres, like nature photography. And within nature photography there are several specialties such as landscape, wildlife or macro. One area of photography that has eluded me until recently is night sky or more specifically, Milky Way photography. I started casually playing with capturing the Milky Way last summer. But, because the Milky Way is not visible here in south Florida during the winter months, it wasn’t until March when I got back to it. Since then I have learned a few things. Interested? Read on!
Creative photography should always include vertical compositions. However, the camera is designed for horizontal images, which mimic our eyes’ peripheral vision and horizontal point of view. So, how does a photographer go against tradition and create vertical compositions? I have three techniques that I use in the field to make it very easy. Read on to find out what they are!
The advances made in digital photography are incredible, and in many ways make photography easier. For example, cameras have powerful tools that allow us to see what our image is going to look like even before we take the shot. That’s amazing! Sounds easy to get a good shot, right? Just make your adjustments until it looks right and then shoot! But is it really that easy? Not necessarily. Technology may be powerful but if the photographer is to make the best use of it, she must also have the knowledge to use it correctly and understand its limitations so she can work around them. What is this technology I speak of and how do I use it? Read on!
Camera’s these days are very sophisticated and can do many things automatically, including exposure settings. In fact, it is too easy to keep the camera in “automatic” mode and let the camera make the decisions for you. Some of the time that works, but in many instances it does NOT give you the correct exposure. So, if you want full creative control over your photography, you have to take technical control over the camera. This means taking the camera out of automatic mode and putting it into manual mode. Case in point, exposing white bird feathers is not easy and on its own, the camera cannot expose them correctly. Look at the well exposed image above shot in manual mode. Now look at the one below shot in automatic mode. Those white feathers are way too bright!
What a difference that makes! So, why is the camera’s auto exposure so different from manual exposure? It’s quite simple. Read on and I will explain so that you too can get the correct exposure all the time.
Who doesn’t love a reddish orange sunset or those dazzling pink feathers of the roseate spoonbill? Nature is brilliant with color, so it is no surprise that nature photographers try to capitalize on those eye-catching colors. The more saturated the color, the more eye-catching it is. Quite often, the photographer uses the logic that if a color grabs the viewer’s attention, then saturating that color will grab more attention. And they would be correct, which is why so many photographers are enticed into applying saturation to the entire image. Sounds great, doesn’t it? To the contrary! Read if you are curious to know how I choose to apply saturation (or desaturation) to my images.
I am sure you have seen many photos of water in which it looks unnaturally smooth or misty, such as the photo above shot on Biscayne Bay near Miami. These photos are often placed in the category of “fine art” because they don’t look like a normal photograph. These images can be quite compelling and are often appealing for their calming nature and creative use of negative space. Ever wonder how a photographer gets the water to look like that in their photo? Read on and I will show you.
If you spend time on the water in a boat, chances are you wear polarized sunglasses. And for good reason; the polarizing effect cuts the glare on the water dramatically and allows you to see through the water (a great thing for fishermen!). Photographers also take advantage of this effect by using a polarizer filter that can be attached to a lens. The photo below shows a circular polarizer filter and how it affects the sky. The effect on water is quite similar. So it should be no surprise that photography from a canoe relies on the polarizer filter quite often. But sometimes, I prefer the opposite. Sometimes I prefer glare on the water. Read on and learn how I decide on when to attach and when not to attach my polarizer filter.
"If there is magic on the planet, it is contained in water" Loren Eiseley, The Immense Journey
To me, there is nothing more magical than water movement gently disturbing the reflections and creating colorful patterns. So it should be no surprise that I include water movement and reflections in many of my photographs. While water movement is created naturally from wind, tidal currents and even marine animals, I have learned to create water movement and incorporate it into several images. Want to learn how I do that? Read on!
Everyone has seen waterscape images where the water looks silky smooth, many times appearing otherworldly. These can be breathtaking and appealing in so many ways and are dramatically different than the average snapshot that maintains the textures of the water movement. A long exposure shot will set the scene apart from the normal and add an artistic quality, when done well and with thought. So how do I go after those types of shots like the one above? Read on and learn one photographer's technique for capturing long exposure waterscapes.
I love capturing wide open mangrove scenes with a great sky surrounding them. How do I go about capturing a scene like this one? Read on!
Here in south Florida, we have endless wide open spaces to capture great scenes with clouds and sunrises. Beaches, mangrove shorelines, wetland prairies, cypress forests, you name it, Florida's got it. With camera, we go wide and get our shot. And then we go home, right? Wrong! After the sunrise shot, it is a perfect time to get to know your location better. This is when you begin to see more intimate scenes that you might otherwise miss if all you're after is a sunrise. Take the photo below for example. It was shot in the same location as seen in the photo above. So how can I go from shooting a wide angle sunrise to a more intimate scene? Read on!
When photographing wildlife, your position relative to the subject's can make a huge difference in the appearance of the image. Want to learn more? Read on!
While strategies for photographing one animal may differ from another animal, a consideration that seems to be consistent in wildlife photography is background. For this topic, I use butterflies and dragonflies as examples. Why? Well, background almost always involves foliage with these attractive subjects. This can be quite a challenge especially if the foliage is dense with shadows and highlights and various shapes and colors. But maybe, just maybe we can create a pleasing image that takes advantage of the busy background. Read on and learn how!
You couldn't ask for two birds more different from each other than the brown pelican and great white egret. Yet each spring, the two species share a very crowded nesting location in the Everglades. I often paddle my canoe to the rookery, and from one spot, photograph both brown and white birds. Obtaining the correct exposure on those beautiful feathers is always a priority in bird photography. So how do I manage doing this when I have two very different birds? Read on and find out how to capture dark birds and white birds in one sitting.
The Everglades is a winter home to many migrating birds. In the gulf waters, the most obvious one is the very large American white pelican. Most of the time, when you see one, you see several hundred. Rarely will you spot a white pelican gone solo. Almost always the case, when I photograph white pelicans, I am photographing a crowd of them huddled on a sand bar. Up close it is a spectacle of bright white and brilliant orange beaks and legs, which can be very challenging to capture well. So how do I photograph a crowd of large white birds? Read on!