great blue heron taking flight at sunrise with orange water marshall point lighthouse sunset bald eagle in flight photo colorado fall aspens photo bald eagle in flight photo
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FIRST LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY NEWSLETTER

AUGUST 2019

HELLO AGAIN

For those of you who thought I had fallen off the face of the earth that is not the case. As those of you who have been on my workshops know, I have been dealing with a condition known as Essential Tremors for quite a few years. They have progressed to the point that lots of simple things became difficult to do. One of these is typing. With both hands now being shaky, you can't imagine how difficult typing has been. Every few words has a typo in it adding quite a bit of time to doing any typing. Well, that is about to end as I have two surgeries set to get rid of this malady and to get off of the crazy meds I've been on for too long. The effects of the drugs had gotten to the point it was affecting how I was leading workshops - thus the break from leading them most of this year with only doing my Florida Birds trip. The surgery is a two parter with the first scheduled for August 13 and the second a week later. The programming of the devices that will be implanted in my chest will be three weeks after that and I should have no more shakes and be off my drugs. YES.

A week later it's back to leading trips with my first one being Colorado Fall Color. I currently have four people signed up for this trip with one more hotel room available in case anyone is interested. Check out the detail page for this trip to see if you're interested.

Next up after this is Chilkat Bald Eagles. A recent death has left an open spot for this trip so contact me if you have any interest in this great gathering of eagles. Everything else on the schedule is also available for sign-ups as I need to hit the ground running with getting trips going again. I've just started getting some ads back in Outdoor Photographer so you'll see my presence there as well. Don't look for the sunrise heron image used for years as the photo in print ads as I've decided to change that up a bit.

This will be a bit of of an abbreviated newsletter as I don't have any recent workshop recaps with only leading one in April this year. There were some great shots taken and I found a new spot for a shoot on the St. Petersburg leg at a wood stork rookery tucked on an island on a small lake in a residential neighborhood in Tampa. This trip now features two sessions on the boat for the osprey and that was well received by everyone.

For those who have not been on my website in awhile, check it out as I've made a few changes, noticeably to the galleries. Take a look at the images now on some reconfigured pages.

I took a trip to the California Central Coast in May and hope to get up there again for some more scouting. Once I've done this I'll try and add a Big Sur / San Francisco Bay Area trip to the schedule. Not sure yet if it willl be both areas or just around Big Sur and Monterrey. Let me know if you have any interest in this. Still trying to figure out the best time of year for this so as not to have too much marine layer fog causing any issues along the coast in the mornings.

painted ladies at night san francisco
If the trip included San Francisco we will do the Painted Ladies

 

DIGITAL CORNER - 25 TIPS FOR LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY

INSPIRATION
1. Have a vision or idea of what you want to come away with. Have a picture in your mind and let the lighting and setting bring out the beauty and other shots.

2. Quality over quantity. Unlike a wildlife shoot where lots of images result in numerous shots, take time to set up and get a few great ones.

3. Keep motivated because great landscape photography is not easy. Ansel Adams once said: “Landscape photography is the supreme test of the photographer, and often the supreme disappointment.”

4. The weather, the right location, the best conditions or mood you want to portray takes work. You may be at a great spot but if everything else isn’t just right use the shoot as a practice session and come back when it is right for the perfect shot.

5. Look at other work for inspiration and ideas. This comes from seeing shots at a camera club, in a magazine, contest winners or online. Also look at the work and think of how it was created to learn new techniques, concepts or approaches.

mono lake sunrise tufas
Mono Lake Sunrise - Let the subject guide you to the right composition

 

CHOOSING A LOCATION
6. Be prepared and plan ahead. Consider the direction of the sun and phases of the moon. Research spots to go during a scout trip.

7. Look for a location with leading lines, a strong foreground, a background that works with the foreground, and direction of light for implementing shadows.

8. Stop when you’re attracted to a scene.  Ask yourself what caught your eye.  Was it an unusual formation in nature, a field of flowers or wandering stream? Bring it out.

9. On your scout trip note how long it takes to get there. You don’t want to end up being late for your shoot by not allowing enough time to get there and get set up.

10. Scout for the best vantage point. Knowing where you want to set up when it’s time for the shoot will save time as well as the agony of rushing around.

11. Find multiple locations and angles to shoot at a particular spot. I’ve seen photographers shooting during sunset from the same spot with the same composition with just letting the quality of light be the only difference. Move around, change your direction, change your focal length, and shoot different photos.

12. When shooting seascapes, take a look at the tide tables before your visit. Some places are better shot at high tide, some during low tide. An incoming tide can help with water coming in over and through the rocks on long exposure shots.

13. Scout trips are all day ventures. The light will be bad for several hours but you can find the spots you want to get to at other times of the day for when you return.

rainbow hay shed palouse
By knowing the area, I knew right where to go when a rainbow appeared

 

 

BEST TIME TO SHOOT
14. I prefer to take my photos at high noon – just kidding. You can’t get the best results without losing a bit of sleep. I try to get to a prime location around an hour before sunrise or sunset. For the Milky Way and star trails, a sunset shoot at the first location allows for some interesting shooting. A photo trip can be very tiring as the days can be very long and sleep will be less than you’re used to at home.

THE SHOOT
15. Before clicking the shutter button, use a checklist.  Where do your eyes immediately go? Where do you want the eyes to go? If you’re trying to direct the viewers’ attention to a certain part of the photo, but the first thing you look at is something else, then the shot needs a different composition. Too often when setting up a shot you see the main subject but never look at everything else in the frame to see how they work together. What drew you to want to take the picture? Whatever it was, do everything possible to accentuate it.

16. Once you decide on the focal point of the image, look to see what else is included in the shot.  Utilize other elements in the foreground, middle ground or background that will make the subject more important. Use them to balance the composition.

17. Watch your horizon lines.  Unless you are purposely being creative, water doesn’t slant downhill and sloppy horizon lines can be distracting to the viewer.  While this can be fixed in post-production, getting it right in the camera is a good habit to practice.

18. Watch your backgrounds.  Showing too much backdrop or sky can overpower the image by taking the viewers eye away from the main subject.  Let tree branches or other elements block out something that isn’t of interest.  If near water, look for reflections.  Even a boring sky can look wonderful when reflected in water. 

19. Look within the overall scene for the pieces and parts that might also make interesting images.  Not everything has to be the large landscape.

20. Look around the edges of the frame to make sure there are no distracting elements sneaking in that could take the viewers eye from your intent. Also look for hot spots as these can pull the viewers eye away from the subject. Whatever isn’t adding to the photo is taking away from the photo. Photography is more a process of elimination than anything else. My guide is if an element doesn’t add to it being a great shot, then do whatever possible to eliminate it the frame.

21. Don’t rush. Take time to “see” the scene and form your shots. Soaking in the beauty translates into your inhale while the exhale is the taking of the photo.

mount rainier reflection lakes flowers
Don't Rush - This image took about 10 minutes or so to set up the way I wanted the composition

 

GEAR AND EQUIPMENT
22. Get a tripod. I see many photographers with expensive gear but with a flimsy or no tripod. It is so important to have a stable tripod and head system. It’s very hard to shoot some of the longer exposures needed for certain landscape photography without the camera being stable. My gear is from Really Right Stuff.

23. Get the best camera and lenses you can afford. Quality lenses are sharper and handle lighting better. My main body is a Canon 5D Mark III and a Canon 1D Mark II is my second body. All lenses are Canon L series. My go-to lens for most landscape work is a Canon 70-200 f/2.8 but when I need to go wide it’s a Canon 16-35 f/2.8. My passion with landscape photography is in bringing out the intimate details, so I use the Canon 70-200 f/2.8 lens most of the time. I’ve been called a dentist before because I like to extract details and parts out of the whole scene in front of me.

24. At night, I shoot with the Canon 16-35 f/2.8 lens as it’s primarily for the northern lights or Milky Way and I want as much sky as I can get. This lens is also preferred when doing hyperfocal distance shooting with a batch of flowers in the foreground and mountains in the background.

25. Some people are filter junkies. I don’t rely on much more gear other than my camera and lens. I use a circular polarizer for certain scenes to help pop a blue sky, bring out fall colors or to cut down haze and maybe a neutral density to add exposure time to moving water, but not much else. Split neutral density filters can be helpful for balancing out the dynamic range between the foreground and background but this can also be handled with HDR post processing techniques. I also have a Variable ND to allow for slowing down the movement of water.

FEATURED UPCOMING WORKSHOP - CHILKAT EAGLES (NOVEMBER 16 - 23)

This workshop is designed for all levels of photographers. Whether you are a beginner or intermediate photographer, you will learn something regarding the technical concerns of photographing bald eagles such as exposure, focus and flight photography tips. For the seasoned photographer, this is a great trip for building a very impressive portfolio of bald eagle photos. This instructional-based workshop includes critiques in addition to the daily shoots and as much in the field hands-on help as you desire. First Lights small group size allows for in-depth instruction combined with personal attention that is designed to the needs of the individuals in the group. You will hone your skills on eagles in flight, anticipating interaction, close-up portraits, and wildlife landscapes.

bald eagle flight
Eagle coming in towards another group of eagles on a fish

POPPY FIELD SUPER BLOOM

With all the time I had on my hands this year I did a bit of blackjack playing for awhile for something to do. The drive took me past an area that on a few trips was just a nice hillside alongside I-15 until one time when I saw it being a sea of gold. Because of the very wet conditions, a super bloom of poppies near Lake Elsinore created back-ups on the interstate and masses of people roaming around on the hillside trails for weeks. I made it over for one nice shoot and came away with a nice selection of images with one I like much more than any other.

Glad I made it when I did because a few days later the city parks department created a lot of restrictions on parking and access to the area due to all of the damage being done from people not staying on the trails and issues on the interstate.

While this would make for a great workshop, what I have learned for here and Antelope Valley is you never know if the poppies are going to bloom nicely or not until the time they are supposed to bloom. This is a case of go when they are there type of thing unlike some trips when you know peak flowers or fall color is supposed to be and you can put it on the schedule. If the poppies aren't blooming in great numbers, there's nothing else to photograph in the area.

poppy field super bloom

 

NORTHERN LIGHTS 2020

Unlike years past when this trip would be filled about nine months in advance, registrations are wide open for this amazing spectacle. With having led northern lights workshops longer than anyone else who is now leading them to the Fairbanks area, join the author of Photographing the Aurora Borealis (www.amazon.com/Aurora-Borealis-Andy-Long/dp/1682032086/) as you learn the techniques and dynamics of the northern lights in the best settings possible. Techniques have been fine-tuned with the advancement of camera bodies and you can now come away with shots that were not possible just a few years ago. The first person to sign up mentioning the newsletter gets $100 off the price of the workshop.

ARCHES MILKY WAY NIGHTS

I'm tryinng to figure out a time for an Arches National Park the Milky Way / Star Trails trip for 2020. A phone call to a good friend who llives in Moab cleared up a lot of information about what the park is doing for photo trips into the park, the use of light for illuminating formations and a few other things. And best of all, the small airport north of town now has daily round trip flights from Denver so there is no ride from Grand Junction to get to Moab. The trip is going to only concentrate on Arches for four nights of shooting. Whenever you do a night shoot, you add an extra night to allow for a cloudy night taking away our main subject so this trip is four nights unlike numerous other Arches night trips that are only three nights. There will be some new very eye-opening Milky Way techniques that will amaze you on this trip. The advancements taking place with star photography keeps pushing the envelope and we will incorporate these into our shoots. The price will be a little higher than you might expect for the duration involved but hotel, vehicle rental and permit cost increases can't be avoided.

TRAVEL INSURANCE PROVIDER

photomatix

Whether you need travel insurance for your next First Light workshop or any trip you're planning on taking, make your first and last stop at Yonder Travel Insurance. Use the link on my Sponsors page to take you to your one-stop shop for all your travel insurance needs. Throughout my website I state that travel insurance is recommended. Some people have learned the hard way by not having insurance when they have had to cancel late or something unexpected has come up. Show your support by using Yonder Travel for your next travel insurance needs. Please use the link on my site each time you go shopping for this, even for other trips. What's nice with Yonder is they donate a week's worth of meals to a child in need with every policy sold.

baby egret crazy eyes
Crazy Eyes - Baby egret from Birds of Florida workshop in April