Posts Tagged ‘photography workshop’

The Best of the 2014 Redwoods Photographs

April 26th, 2015

Well, you have done it. You have spoken and selected the best of my Redwoods photographs from 2014. I chose my eight favorite photographs from trips to the magnificent redwood groves of Northern California and offered them to you for your consideration.

It was exciting to watch the results come in. At one point there was a tie for 1st and 2nd, another tie for 3rd and 4th and, believe it or not, a tie for 5th and 6th, all at the same time. But eventually, with your help, it all got sorted out.

So here are the results.

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Death Valley Photography Workshop 2015

March 1st, 2015

The Death Valley Photography Workshop of 2015 is ‘in the can.’ We had a great time and were treated to some very special weather, something photographers always seek and are thrilled when it happens. And, unlike vacationers, very special weather is not clear skies and balmy temperatures. We started the workshop with rain and snow above 5000’. It was beautiful and the desert smelled so good. Combined with the great weather was an eager, enthusiastic and motivated group. We had a great time and you can’t ask for more than that.

I want to share a few highlights of the workshop with you.

Day 1 – Sunday

The storm Sunday night and into Monday created exciting skies. We drove up to Ubehebe Crater Sunday afternoon for ‘sunset,’ although the sun was hidden behind the clouds. My favorite photograph is an abstract of the crater bottom that was rendered best in black and white.


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Making a Photograph – Personal Style

December 12th, 2014

Personal style. What is it? I like to bring up the topic of personal style in my workshops. I think it’s important to understand that each of us has a personal style whether we know it or not. It comes from the fact that each of us is a unique individual and sees the world in our own personal way. Our skill levels are different. Our life experiences are different. Our interests are different. And that leads to each of us having our own individual world view.


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How to Photograph the Coastal Redwoods

June 22nd, 2014

California is blessed with two species of redwoods, the Giant Sequoia (Sequoia giganteum) of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia semperverins) along the California coast from the Oregon border to 150 miles south of San Francisco.  These awe-inspiring trees are both a joy and a challenge to photograph.  I recently spent a week in Crescent City in Northern California photographing the Coastal Redwoods and leading a photography workshop there.  I’d like to pass along some of the techniques we employed to capture photographs that do these majestic trees justice in breathtaking but often very difficult light.

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Mastering Composition – Balance

December 22nd, 2013

There are many rules of composition.  I know people don’t like to use the term rules and for good reason.  If you treat these rules as if they are hard and fast you can end up with compositions that are mechanical.  So I prefer to call them ‘principles of composition.’  Now I’ve said before that composition is a problem solving endeavor.  That is, you have been inspired by what lies before you, you have connected with it and you have an idea of what you want to say.  And one of the key elements in communicating your message is the composition you choose.  There is generally a point where this becomes very much of a problem solving effort, meaning it can get very analytical.  And while the analysis may be important if not essential, it can cloud aesthetic considerations.  Take for example this photograph of dawn in the Little Lakes Basin up Rock Creek in the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California.


I was drawn to this Lodgepole Pine growing from a cleft in the granite above the lake.  I gave a lot of thought to this composition and compositional principles came very much into play.  The way I saw it, the two key elements were the tree and the lake.  I didn’t think of the peaks in the distance as being a key element although I knew they were important.  And I was aware of the lake as a leading line the drew the eye to them. I placed the tree on the right 1/3 line so that it wouldn’t block the lake.  And I enjoyed the wonderful alpenglow as I captured a few images through the final minutes of civil twilight.  Then I wandered off looking for other photographs.  But later, after the sun came up I was drawn back to this tree and saw it completely differently.

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Why I Love Big Sur

September 9th, 2012

There are some places you have to see to believe, experience to begin to understand – Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls,…  Photographs don’t begin to capture the feelings you have.  Big Sur is such a place.

Big Sur is a 100 mile stretch of the California coast that has no competition for sheer grandeur anywhere on the West Coast.  Henry Miller claimed it was the way the Creator intended the world to be.


The first thing that comes to most people’s minds are the towering Santa Lucia mountains that plunge headlong into the blue Pacific Ocean.  And there’s no doubt, this is what characterizes Big Sur.  The mountains in some places are a mile high and drop to the sea in only two miles.  Statistics – interesting but they don’t begin to convey the feeling you have in your stomach when driving the Cabrillo Highway, the two lane road that clings to the cliffs, snaking its way from San Simeon in the south to Carmel-by-the-Sea in the north.

Wherever you have such a precipitous coastline you’ll find plenty of cliffs into which the surf endlessly crashes.  You can experience calm seas like the photograph above.  After all it is the Pacific.  Or you can get a little more action.



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Twelve Tips for Buying Your Next Lens

July 14th, 2012

A student of mine asked me for help in selecting a telephoto lens – what to look for and what to avoid.  I put down a few ideas for him and thought that maybe you might also find this topic interesting.

Sooner or later we all buy a lens or two or five or six.  I currently have four lenses in my camera bag – a wide angle zoom (17-40 mm, f/4), a mid range zoom (24-70 f/2.8), my workhorse lens (24-105 mm, f/4) and a telephoto zoom (70-200mm, f 2.8).

I have two ground rules for buying lenses that I have shared with many people.

1.  There must be a demonstrated need.  In other words, if you can’t realize your vision because you’re missing a particular lens then it’s time to consider adding one.  Students, friends and colleagues ask me if I think they should buy a hot new lens.  I always ask them, “What would this lens permit you to do that you can’t do with your current lenses?”  Often, the answer is that it does nothing new for them, they just think it’s a cool lens.

2.  Purchase the best glass you can afford.  You will go through several camera bodies in your career but you’ll never outgrow a high quality lens.

So those are the ground rules but what else is there?


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The Same Ol’ Question

June 18th, 2012

Every time I do a show I get asked multiple times if my photographs are manipulated.  My answer is always, ‘Yes, of course.’  The hidden expectation is that photographs are supposed to be accurate depictions of the scene that is photographed.  This expectation is not new.  And any photographer that seeks to make art rather than documentation must face this question.

Take Ansel Adams for instance….


The above iconic Ansel Adams photograph is titled Winter Sunrise.  It is of Mt Whitney and Lone Pine Peak above the Alabama Hills with Adams’ characteristic dramatic lighting.

There’s an interesting excerpt regarding this photograph from his book, “Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs.”

“The enterprising youth of the Lone Pine High School had climbed the rocky slopes of the Alabama Hills and whitewashed a huge white L P for the world to see.  It is a hideous and insulting scar on one of the great vista of our land, and shows in every photograph made of the area.  I ruthlessly removed what I could of the L P from the negative (in the left-hand hill), and have always spotted out any remaining trace in the print.  I have been criticized by some for doing this, but I am not enough of a purist to perpetuate the scar and thereby destroy – for me, at least – the extraordinary beauty and perfection of this scene.”

It seems the debate raged in Adams’ day and continues today.  I guess you know where I stand.  Oh, and for those ‘purists’ that revere Adams, if they only knew.

Winking smile

Go ahead.  Express yourself in your photographs.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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Lightroom Tutorial – When You Get Home

June 17th, 2012

I recently returned from seven fantastic days of an exciting photography workshop in the Eastern Sierra (any day or night in the Eastern Sierra is fantastic).  I organized all of my photographs in Lightroom.  And I thought it would be a good idea to share the steps I go through in case you might find it useful.



I try to keep up with importing the photographs from the day’s shoots into the copy of Lightroom running on my laptop.  I’m not going to go into the specifics of the import process but you can read about it here.

Lightroom Tutorial – Importing Photographs

I’ve set up Lightroom to apply certain adjustments to the files as they are imported.  For example, Lightroom applies adjustments in the following Developer areas – Basic, Tone Curve, Detail (capture sharpening), Lens Correction (lens make and model) and Camera Calibration (Process and Profile).  The details are spelled out in this post.

Lightroom Tutorial – Camera Specific Presets


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Eastern Sierra Workshop: Leg 3 (Part 2)–Bodie

June 15th, 2011

Well, the third leg was so exciting and so filled with beautiful locations that its account had to be divided into two parts.  So we pick up after sunrise at Mono Lake and continue on with the wonderful ghost town of Bodie, California.

If you missed the first thee posts here they are.

Eastern Sierra Workshop: Leg 1 – Lone Pine

Eastern Sierra Workshop: Leg 2 – Bishop

Eastern Sierra Workshop: Leg 3 – Lee Vining

Bodie is a fascinating place on several levels.  It is one of the best preserved examples of a boom town, supported in grandeur between 1877 and 1880 by the gold that was extracted from its mines.  Many of the buildings are still standing although considering that at its heyday there were around 2000 buildings that housed a rip roaring population of about 5000 to 7000, the several score of buildings that are left is rather small.

And yet, walking along its streets it’s easy to let your imagination run wild and guess what it might have been like to live there.

This was a wonderful day to visit Bodie.  The parking lot was surprisingly empty except for two big yellow school busses up from Mammoth.  The 4th graders were having a field trip as part of their studies of California history.  And boy, what a field trip that must have been.

I’ve never had so much fun photographing Bodie as on this day.  So I think I’ll just let the  photographs speak from themselves and present them without further comment.


eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6255 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6254 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6257 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6263 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6269 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6278 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6282 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6284 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6287 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6288 eastern_sierra_110609__A1P6292

And finally as we retraced our steps back down Cottonwood Canyon a farewell party met us to send us safely on our way.


So that’s it.  Not long after this last photograph was captured I found myself unwinding the week that had just passed as I returned down highway 395 towards home.  As I left Lee Vining and passed through Mammoth, Bishop, Big Pine, Independence and finally Lone Pine wonderful memories came over me like passing through a dreamy fog.  I felt a sense of both gratitude sadness, gratitude that we had been so fortunate to have such wonderful light and sad that it must come to an end.

But my family was waiting for me 300 miles away and I was ready and eager to see them again, share my experiences with them and catch up on what I had missed while I was away.

If you know of someone who might enjoy this account please feel free to pass this post along.  There is a Share button at the top of the post for that purpose.

Join me on an upcoming workshop.  Click here for more details.

To see more of my photographs click here.


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