Stars Time Lapse

Here is a time lapse of the stars over the tufa towers at Mono Lake, CA. I set the camera to shoot one 20 second exposure and then pause for 5 seconds before making the next 20 second exposure and continued this process for a little over 2 hours. I used my Canon 1D Mark4 at ISO 6400 and my 17mm TS lens at f/4. Using the TC-80N3 intervalometer timer cable release I was able to program the camera to shoot one 20 second exposure and then pause 5 seconds before making the next 20 second exposure and to keep doing this until I turned off the intervalometer. When doing this I set the camera on Bulb setting because the timer controls the exposure.
All the “meteors” you see going by are actually airplanes! 
I used 306 images to make this time lapse which is being played back at 15 frames a s second. Using Image Processor in Bridge I processed and sized all the raw files while I slept and when I awoke in the morning I used Quicktime Pro to assemble the time lapse. The most difficult part of the process is sitting around in the cold (around 30 degrees) for two hours while the camera continued to shoot. I watched a movie on my iPhone to pass the time!
I also want to remind you I am teaching a Lightroom class on the Develop module at Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento on Sunday. This is a great time to pick up some info that will help you with the processing of your images. For more info click here.

A Good Day (Night) in Paradise!


The men in my workshop were a little reluctant when I asked “Who wants to go out and shoot the stars over the tufas at Mono Lake tonight?” I got responses like, “How late will we be out?” “Do we have to get up for sunrise again tomorrow?” And of course the one real enthusiast in the group responded, “You bet!” But with a little persuasion they all decided to come. I am sure part of the reluctance was they had never taken pictures at night before, let alone hiked down to the tufa towers in the dark! But once I got everybody set up, all the cameras set to manual, the proper ISO and exposure settings, the cameras in focus, and we started making images, they were thrilled!

It was a great night. Here are some of the examples. All taken with the a Canon 1D Mark 4, 17mm f/4 TS lens, mounted on a Feisol 3372 Tripod with a Really Right Stuff BH55 Ball Head. Exposures range from 15-25 seconds, f/4.5 for the stars and f/8 for the moonrise and ISO from 3200-10,000.





New Blog Entry - Tibet 2011 Part 4


Two more images, the last for a few days! These were both taken in Kathmandhu, Nepal. The first is a pano of the Boudha Stupa, the largest stupa in the world, and the second is the stupa at Swayambhunath Temple.
The pano was done in 8 shots hand held with the Canon 1Ds mark 3 and the 24-105 L lens at 24mm, stitched together in Photoshop. The second was done with the Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and a 17mm TS lens at 4 seconds and f/18 at ISO 100.
So many more images to go through, but this week I am busy making new images!
Take care,






Pang La Pre-Sunrise


Just a quick entry today! Two more from the latest trip to Tibet. Both taken at Pang La, a mountain pass. The Himalaya Range is looking south. You can see 4 of the 6 highest peaks in the world - the Makalu (8.462 m), Lhotse (8.516 m), Everest (8.848 m) and Cho Oyu (8.201 m). The pano is made of 9 vertical images taken with my Canon 1Ds Mark 3 and my 100-400mm L lens at 115mm. Exposures were .6 sec at f/14, ISO 100, mounted on Feisol 3372 Tripod and Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. Stitched together in Photoshop.
The second shot is facing north with prayer flags and stars. I lit the prayer flags with my flashlight. Same camera, 24-105mm L lens, exposure was 20 sec at f/6.3 at ISO 1600, same tripod setup.





Tibet 2011 Part 2


What a great morning! I took the group out in the dark, early one morning to get to this vantage point, giving us a different look at one of the most famous icons in Tibet, the Potala Palace. After being in all the “standard” tourist locations crowded with Chinese tourists, it was nice to be the only ones at this location! We had a great morning with wonderful light before sunrise (see previous blog). And once the sun came up we were treated to another magnificent display of light.
This image is a HDR image created from 5 exposures taken at one-stop increments on Aperture Priority at f/14. I used my Canon 1Ds Mark3, a 24-105L lens, a Feisol CT-3372 tripod with LB-7572 Leveling Base, and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Ball Head. The images were processed with Photomatix Pro to create the HDR image.
As you can see the light makes all the difference in the world and fortunately we had great light!  


Tibet 2011 Part 1


I just got back from 2 weeks traveling in Tibet and Nepal. I saw many great things and took lots of wonderful pictures that I will be sharing in the weeks to come. From The Potala Palace to the dancers of the Cham Festival and the Tibetan Opera at the Tashilhunpo Monastery to the sunrise on the Himalayas from Pang La to the brilliant sunset on Mt. Everest from Base Camp it was a great trip! Now I am a bit jet lagged, I woke up at 2 AM wide awake and came to the office for 3 hours before crashing again at 5 AM! I just finished placing all my images into Lightroom and now need to edit and keyword them.
It is good to be home again and one of the best things about being home is appreciating the freedom we have in this country to express ourselves in forums such as this blog and on social network sites like Facebook, Google+ and Twitter all of which are banned in China. So when you browse the Internet and visit your favorite sites just be thankful for all your personal freedoms and think about those in the world that are not as fortunate as you and send your prayers or best wishes hoping that someday they too will be able to enjoy true freedom! Free Tibet!
Enjoy the photos,







Are you going to frame that histogram?


I’ll never forget when I was teaching a workshop in the Smoky Mountains and we were on a mountain ridge photographing a beautiful sunrise and a student came up to me and said “Look at that!” as he showed me the histogram on the back of the camera. I looked with a puzzled expression and asked, “What’s the matter? He replied “Look at its shape, it doesn’t look good.” I asked to see his image, which looked fine, and I pointed out the image looked fine but he said “But what about the histogram, the shape isn’t right? And I replied, “Who are you going to show the histogram to?
I constantly hear from photographers worried about their histograms. Personally I call people like that “histogram anal.” You have to remember a histogram is just a graph of the brightness range of the pixels in your image. There is no right or wrong histogram. People are always worried about losing detail and having a histogram with that hits the right edge and shows a lot of pixels on the right wall of the histogram. Something like this:
Most people would be appalled their histogram had such a spike on the right edge and would change the exposure of their image. This is the histogram from this image, and I am not changing my exposure!













Here is another histogram that I think most photographers would say requires an exposure adjustment.












 But that goes with this image:











I wanted it this way! 
All I am saying is don’t get too wrapped up in your histograms, be more concerned about how your images look! Use the histogram as a guide to answer questions about whether or not you have lost detail in an image and then use your head to decide if that is critical to the particular image you are trying to create. Remember you are in control of your image, not your camera!
But if you really are in love with your histogram you can always frame one and hang it on your wall!













There are times when I look at a scene and I see it as a finished print and not as the scene before me. Ansel Adams called this “previsualization” but just the act of visualizing is foreseeing the outcome so the “pre” seems a bit redundant, but what ever you call it, having the foresight to realize the potential of what you are seeing is the key. When Ansel would use this term, it was to describe how he could foresee how he was going to interpret the scene before him into the tonalities of black and white. When I visualize something, I am usually seeing how I am going to bring out the colors and the light in the scene before me.
For example, on my last trip to Alaska to photograph the bears (see previous blog entry), I booked a window seat (I am usually an aisle guy) because I knew I would see some amazing scenery. I booked a window on the right side of the plane knowing as we flew up the Alaskan coast I would see some great mountains, glaciers and tidal flats. I carried my Canon S95 point and shoot camera in my pocket so I could easily take pictures out the window. This is a great little camera as it fits in my pocket, has a large sensor for point and shoot standards, and is capable of shooting raw.
As we were coming into Anchorage there was a fairly low tide and the plane banked several times out over the Cook Inlet. Looking out the window I could see all these great patterns in tidal zone. Unfortunately through the airplane window the colors were not that vivid, but nonetheless I liked the patterns and as I flew over and looked down. I visualized the scenes before me with great light and bold color. I shot several images as we came in for our landing.
When I got back home and finished looking at the bear pictures, I turned my attention to these aerial images. I really liked the patterns I was seeing but was disappointed that the images looked so flat and dull, because my memory was of how I visualized the images, not of what I actually saw! Fortunately I know a bit of Photoshop, so I knew that I would be able fulfill my vision. While some of you “purists” may call this cheating, I am not going to get sucked into that debate. I come to photography from a fine art background, not a journalistic background, so for me clicking the shutter is harvesting the raw material and postproduction an extension of the creative process.
All of the finished products are in my album Alaska and you can see them larger here. But here is one of the originals to give you an idea of what I mean. I hope you enjoy the images. I plan to print them as large canvas prints and feature them at an upcoming show I am having in January. 

Digital House℞ Call℠

I have been doing my “Digital House℞ Calls” for about a month now and I have given lessons to people in Washington, Florida, New York, Ohio, and Texas to name a few of the locations I have “gone” without ever leaving my house! I have covered topics as diverse as “creating composite using layer masking in Photoshop” to “ the Adjustment Brush” in Lightroom, and “getting realistic looking HDR images with PhotomatixPro". And the best part of all every one of my students has exclaimed how much the lessons have helped them solve a problem! Do you have something you need help with? If so click here.
I am giving a free lecture sponsored by Canon in San Francisco October 12 for more info click here
I am giving a series of Lightroom and Photoshop classes at Viewpoint Gallery in Sacramento in October for more info click here



Bears, Bears and Bears, Oh My!

 I have done many amazing things in my life. I have swam with the wild dolphins in Hawaii, watched a volcano emit lava, seen Mt. Everest, photographed beluga whales in the artic and humpback whales in Alaska and Hawaii, and spent countless hours in some of the most beautiful places on earth, but walking among and photographing wild Alaskan Brown Bears in Lake Clark National Park, has to be one of the most exciting things I have ever done. I have seen a lot of bears before, in Alaska, Montana, and Wyoming but never before have I been so close and yet so “comfortable” around wild bears. In the past when I have viewed and photographed bears I have been in awe but always a little fearful as well. While I was cautious and ever wary of the wildness of the bears at Lake Clark, I never really had fearful feeling. These bears really could not have cared that I was present and they went about their daily life of surviving in the wild without any concern for my presence allowing me to get the most awesome bear photographs I have ever taken!

I went up there with 3 lenses. The 800mm f/5.6 L, the 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L, and my 24-105 f/4 L. I was so close with the 800mm I had to back up several times and there were times I had to put it down and grab the 100-400 because I could not fit the whole animal in the frame! It was the first test of my Feisol 3372 tripod with the 800mm lens and my 1D Mark 4, and as you can see from the pictures it did a great job! I did take off the leveling base and just used the straight base because I was afraid the weight would torque the base and I may end up with smashed fingers! I wasn’t afraid of the leveling base, for shooting stability, but I sling the camera and tripod over my shoulder a lot and I was afraid I wouldn’t tighten it down at some point and it would smash into me. Better safe than sorry!
I didn’t want to carry a camera bag into the field with me since there was only wet beach (in some places I was standing in inch or two of water) or wet grass to put a bag down. Instead I wore a photo vest for all the small stuff, teleconvertors, extension tubes, cable releases and even the 24-105 lens and I wore a Cotton Carrier with the 100-400 lens on my 1Ds Mark 3 placed on my chest the 24-105 in the vest. This was also the first trip using the Cotton Carrier Steady Shot, which fit nicely in the back pocket of the photo vest. When the 800mm got to be too much I would take off the camera with the 100-400 and mount that on the Steady Shot and be ready to go! In the past I had just hand held the 100-400 when doing this kind of work, but the advantage of the Steady Shot was I could always have the camera at the ready without every having my arms get tired. This was a real blessing when I did a two hour boat tour in Homer after the bears.
I must say it was a great trip and I really look forward to going back to the area again. I am working on putting together a trip there for next summer so keep your eyes open and make sure you are signed up for my newsletter so you hear about it first. There will only be room for 6!
I posted 20+ images to the Mammals album on my website – look on page 2 or for the images taken at Lake Clark National Park.
Take care,



New Kid on the Block

What an exciting time to be a photographer! There is another entry into the Black and White conversion software mix with the introduction of Topaz B&W Effects.  (for coupon codes on Topaz and Nik software click here). I know there are already some really good conversion packages available particularly Silver Effects Pro from Nik, but I think the new entry from Topaz is well worth the look! BTW it won't be released until Aug 30 or so.

Here are some of the unique features in the Topaz software:
True Grain Filter & Grain Creation - Choose from your favorite films or create your own grain.
Adaptive Exposure -  The power of Topaz Adjust is infused with B&W Effects to help create dynamic detail and exposure.
Quad Tone - Allows for 4 different tones to be selected and applied to different tonal regions within an image.
Creative Effects -  Includes popular Topaz effects to creatively enhance images.
Finishing Touches - Includes effects to give your image the perfect final touch.
I played with it for about 1½ hours yesterday and here are some of the images I came up with. All the effects were done within the program, including tinting, vignettes, diffusion and more.
Click on any image to go to a page of larger examples.



Click on an image to see page of bigger images and more examples


Original                                                                    Converted and diffused to give "Lens Baby" look



Original                                                                     Converted, tinted and diffused




Original                                                                     Fairly straight conversion



Original                                                                      Converted, vignette and allowed some of original color to show

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