It's been a couple years since I photographed within Badlands National Park in South Dakota, but I continue to view those photographs as perfect examples of why I love to use my big telephoto lens for landscape photography. Here in flatland south Florida, I use the telephoto lens a lot, but it was the sweeping long distant views of the Badlands where the great focal lengths shined the most. I'd like to show you why and then convince you that a landscape photographer should include a telephoto lens in her bag. Not convinced yet? Read on!
Successful nature photographers grow into their own and discover their unique voice along the way. But to get there a photographer must gather information and ideas, typically from other photographers. We seek out those whose work we are drawn to, then we go out there and try to emulate their work. There is nothing shameful about that – it is simply a part of the process of growing. At what point do we stop looking at others’ work as something we want to achieve in our images? Never! We are always learning from others – and we discover inspiration from many sources. As I reflect on this, I go back to my roots and think about a handful of artists that inspired me from the beginning, and still do. They may inspire you as well, so read on!
By spending time in the wilderness, the nature photographer discovers exquisite things that the casual observer might easily overlook. For example, a spider web becomes a work of art for some photographers, well out of range of the common ‘ick’ factor that many experience. Walking in a wilderness full of spider webs is unappealing to most, but for the nature photographer, the web’s unique beauty transcends our concept of nature’s art. Is it possible to photograph a spider web so that others may also see its art form? Read on and find out for yourself if that is true or not!
To get a shot, photographers sometimes must place the camera in odd positions that make it difficult or impossible to get their face up to the eyepiece to look through the viewfinder. Being able to see the scene through the viewfinder or the LCD back panel is necessary to compose, expose and focus. How can a photographer accomplish those three things with the camera positioned so far away (like in the photo above) without being a circus contortionist? Easy - your digital camera (assuming it is no more than 5-10 yrs old) has three very useful tools and as far as I'm concerned, the best tools ever! Interested in knowing what these are? Read on!
You finally purchased that DSLR or mirrorless camera with a lens. If you are like most beginners, this wonderful new camera is intimidating with all its buttons and dials. You attempt to navigate the camera and quickly learn that it is way more sophisticated than your smartphone camera. The good news is – your new camera IS more sophisticated than your smartphone camera, AND you will learn how to use it to take great photographs! I’ll help you do that with a simple strategy to get you past the initial overwhelming stage so you can get out there and photograph with ease. Read on!
You’ve been enjoying your smartphone camera, taking all kinds of photos, and getting creative. But, you are realizing the limitations of your phone camera and are thinking seriously of upgrading to a ‘real’ camera – meaning you are ready to purchase your first DSLR or mirrorless camera. I have some great tips for you to help you make the best decision before you start spending serious money, especially if you are on a limited budget. Read on!
In my last blog, I introduced Photoshop’s ‘Super Resolution’, a Camera Raw tool that quadruples the resolution of an image file. This is advantageous when cropping (removing pixels) an image such as a wildlife shot when you want to fill the frame with the animal. Additionally, many of Photoshop’s tools have evolved over the years with enhanced artificial intelligence that allow more precise editing. This is especially so with the ability to mask or select specific portions of an image for editing (the image above is an example of a selective mask). Given the advances of selective editing and that my editing skills have improved, I can breathe new life into old images. Interested in doing the same? Read on for some inspiration!
If you’ve been around digital photography for a while, chances are your hard drive is full of images shot years ago from a relatively low-resolution camera. In my case, I have hundreds of images from a 10-Mp camera and a 12-Mp camera. When I began printing my images and wanted to go large, the shortcomings of those cameras became glaringly obvious. Cropping out precious pixels was avoided as much as possible. Consequently, I ended up with dozens of uncropped photographs (mostly of wildlife, like the one above) that never got edited and have sat in hard drive purgatory for years.
Is there any hope for them? And what about you, do you have low resolution images you wish to crop but don’t have enough pixel real estate to comfortably throw away? Do you have a beautiful image taken years ago that you would love to print large and hang on the wall? Guess what! Photoshop has a new and improved method to increase those pixel numbers and enhance the quality of your old or severely cropped images. Read on if you want to learn this easy (almost too easy!) method that can allow good use of those old, low-resolution images.
Cropping is a commonplace and simple edit. The decision to crop an image comes down to one reason – to remove unwanted parts. And the reason for removing unwanted parts is to place greater emphasis on the subject, improve the image’s composition or to change the aspect ratio. Regardless of why we crop, it does come at a cost, which is why many photographers see it as a last resort. So, when is it worthwhile to crop? Read on and learn how cropping can be a powerful and sometimes necessary part of your photography.
For a landscape photographer, a cloudless sky can kill an image. Although a cloudless sky can be considered boring and quite challenging when attempting to compose a compelling image, I sometimes see the blank sky as a gift; that is, during the blue hour. Curious to learn more about my favorite time of day to photograph? Read on!
In my previous blog, I wrote about the challenges of photographing in difficult lighting while visiting the Lybrook badlands in New Mexico. My exploration of extraordinary rock formations continues as I bring you to Utah's Goblin Valley, a landscape densely populated with hoodoo formations. Among the challenges of photographing was the dust that was constantly blown around. But there were other challenges. For this blog, I'd like to talk about how I approached a strangely beautiful land so unfamiliar as to be both challenging and inspiring. I had one full day in Goblin Valley to come up with some pleasing compositions that would highlight its beauty. What were my strategies to capture Goblin Valley at its best? Read on!
Recently, I visited a strange land in northern New Mexico, the Lybrook Badlands and Georgia O'Keeffe's Black Place. Thanks to my intrepid guide Kialo of Navajo Tours USA (seen above in the photo), I was able to access the area where O'Keeffe painted her famous Black Place scenes. After that, Kialo led me deep into New Mexico's Lybrook Badlands, a world unlike any I have seen. It was several hours before sunset, not a cloud to be seen and the lighting was harsh. Even more challenging was the landscape itself, a canyon populated with strangely shaped hoodoos and rock formations. And it was hot! Nevertheless, it was breathtaking. How did I approach this difficult setting? Read on and see more images from the Lybrook Badlands.
Photo-editing takes on various meanings depending on who you talk to; but for me, editing is about bringing out the best qualities of an image captured in nature. In this context, image editing may include changes to contrast or color with the intention of enhancing the mood or placing greater emphasis on certain aspects of the image. One of my favorite editing processes to achieve this is Photoshop’s Photo Filter accompanied by a gradient mask. Check out the image above and compare it to the image below which illustrates the photo filter effects when applied selectively. The subtlety and smooth transition are not offsetting to the image qualities, and in fact enhances them. Curious to know how I edited this image? It is simpler than you think, so read on!
I always say that photo edits should be selective and non-destructive. In other words, an edit should be reversible and applied only to those areas of the image you want to apply it. Because of these two requirements, I edit in Photoshop using layers and layer masks. I have already introduced you to layers, specifically adjustment layers in a previous blog. If you have not read it yet, please do now. For this blog, I will introduce you to the adjustment layer’s mask (marked in the image below) and one way to apply it. Get your Photoshop up and running, bring in an image and read on!
This image above is one of my favorite bird photographs. It has strong characteristics including lots of bright negative space contrasted against bold silhouettes of various shaped birds. Images that contain an abundance of bright areas are often called ‘high key’, which is how I like to describe the image above and others like it. To create an image like this one, there are three essential ingredients needed. Interested in learning to create high key? Read on!
Recently, I was canoeing in the Gulf of Mexico and came across a large flock of white pelicans in the water. I couldn’t get close to the birds but I managed to capture some images with a lot of water, including the one above. I used a relatively fast shutter speed which froze the action of the birds as well as the water. I wanted to do something with the scene to make it unique, to give it a minimalistic or dreamy quality. With some edits in Photoshop, I blurred the water as you see in the image. Interested in how I did this? Read on!
If you follow my 'Getting the Shot' blog, you may know that I love shooting landscapes with my telephoto lens. And in case you missed it, I wrote a blog and created a video about the technique. Check those out first if you have not yet. In my previous blog, I wrote about the field technique for creating an image from multiple shots. In this blog, I will describe the editing process of combining multiple images to create one, like the image above that was created from three images. Are you ready to take your telephoto lens to another level of photography? Read on!
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 more recently great plains regions of the United States. As I work my way west, 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!
99.5% of my images are in color and will remain in color. Yet, photography holds 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. Did you know that your digital SLR or mirrorless camera has a wonderful way of helping you see in black and white? Even before you take the shot! 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, and 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 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!
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!
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? 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 can greatly alter the look of an image. Want to know more? Read on!
One of the most powerful features of modern DSLR cameras auto focus. How amazing to point the camera and almost instantaneously it focuses on something. You can even lock the focus and recompose the image while maintaining focus. And 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 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. 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 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, sky 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 such as nature photography. And within nature photography there are several specialties including 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. What is this technology I speak of and how do I use it? Read on!
With sophisticated modern cameras, it is too easy to allow the camera to make all the technical decisions for you. Some of the time that works, but in many instances it does NOT. If you want to ensure correct exposure each time, 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 as you can see on the right image. In automatic mode, the white feathers are 'blown out', meaning detail is lost. 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 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. These photos are often placed in the category of “fine art” because they don’t look like a realistic 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 a photo? Read on!
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 on the right 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.
Everyone has seen waterscape images where the water looks as smooth as glass. These images 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.
Here in south Florida, we have endless wide open spaces like beaches and wetland prairies to capture great scenes with a big sky at sunrise. For these scenes, we think big and go wide to get our shot. And then we go home, right? Wrong! After your big sky shoot, stick around and examine your surroundings. Intimate scenes that you might otherwise miss will become evident, and will reveal a beautiful world very different from your wide angle waterscape shot. The two images above are from the same location, but could not differ more. How did I go from shooting a wide angle sunrise to a more intimate scene like the one on the right? 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. This can be quite a challenge if the background and surroundings is dense foliage 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!
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