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FIRST LIGHT PHOTOGRAPHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER

JULY 2017

FLOWER TECHNIQUES RECAP

It sure was nice getting back to the Denver area for a week. Besides my flower techniques class I stuck around for several days seeing friends and shooting wildlife (see below) and getting away from the 100 degree weather of the Boise area. And what was nice was when I got back home the 100 degree days disappeared. The weather for the flower trip, based primarily at the Denver Botanic Gardens, was quite nice - almost too nice as we didn't have much for clouds which you sort of want for doing flowers for the diffused light and to help cool it off a little bit.

Since starting this trip a couple of years ago it has been an enjoyable one to lead and from what participants have said an enjoyable one to do. It's a shot trip with mornings devoted to shooting and evenings mostly designed for in-room work on the computer and shooting flower arrangements with different techniques. We do get out for one evening shoot to a rose garden for this year when we showed up there a wedding party was all set up and a ceremony was getting ready to begin. Not sure how pleased they would have been if we had trudged out there with our camera gear and tripods and started photographing the roses. That's the first time I've ever had a session interrupted by a wedding and probably the last.

Several cancellations left us with a small group for the trip but that allowed for more one on one time and allowing the people to dictate how long we spent at each area in the gardens based on what intrigued them instead of trying to spend a certain amount of time at particular areas. One area this was evident was with the very nice lily garden where people said they weren't all that keen about starting out the final morning. I usually like to get people doing some extreme macro here with just getting the stamen in focus with nice soft colors in the background. It was actually a blessing in disguise as we found a couple of areas where there were a few wonderful spider webs covered with water droplets from the watering that was done overnight. I know I could have spent several hours shooting these and not gone anywhere else but there were other things to shoot that final morning as well, especially the rose garden with a large Chihully glasswork in it.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Timing was nice entering the orchid room with light on this air plant

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Water droplets on several spider webs turned out to be a popular subject for a good while the final morning


While shooting is a big part of this trip, along with some of the different techniques taught in the field, the in-room work is a major component of this trip. Some of the techniques shown could be taught in the field but in a controlled setting of a hotel room shooting through water glass (stained glass panels) and using mylar in different configurations is much easier. Another big element is the post-processing techniques shown to add some very different styles to flower photography. Each year more and more techniques are introduced as I explore different things to do on the computer to bring out the beauty of the flowers we shoot in creating abstracts along with doing different things with focus and isolation to bring out the softness and subtleties of flowers.

One thing that was really good this year was the orchid room at the gardens. It was the best I've seen in quite a few years and our timing in going in was wonderful as there was a beautiful bromeliad had wonderful light hitting it but very little on the background making the color and detail jump out. All were able to get shots with this nice lighting before light started hitting the background. Orchids are a great subject to work with depth of field and isolating just a part of the subject because of the extreme beauty and detail in the flowers. Despite some of the confined spaces in this room we were able to work without too much problem with the other people coming and going to look at the flowers.

The water lily pond was again the spot we worked on multiple exposures. These are perfect flowers for doing this in-camera technique and luckily most all cameras today have this feature. I had people doing numerous of each flower with one shot in sharp focus and then one just a little out of focus and a second set with the second a bit more out of focus and a third with the second shot quite a bit out of focus. The results of the three can be quite dramatic and depending on the colors and shapes one effect can be better for one shot and another for another flower.

Even with all of the techniques being taught, bees and butterflies on the Echinaceas (cone flowers) are always a popular subject. One person with a 4/3 camera found this a bit tough but she still took about 100 shots trying to get that one really great shot as this camera is not really designed for focusing on fast moving subjects. Hope she got something.

Considering a change of date for the trip next year but not sure. Right now I have it on the schedule for mid-June but I'm probably leaning more for early August so othe water lily pond is in even better condition. I'm also going to add a Colorado Wildlife trip just before or after this trip but late June would be a better time for it as a couple of the spots might be a little bit better. Decisions, decisions.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
In-room abstract techniques were a big part of the weekend sessions


WILDLIFE FIX

With having a workshop scheduled for back home in the Denver area and there not being a lot of wildlife shooting around Boise I scheduled a longer stay so I could get a decent wildlife fix in after the flower techniques class. Had a good time and saw some nice things and got some good shots both places I went. Started off spending the first night with Bob and Nadine Dean in Boulder and getting up real early with Bob to get out to the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. They have opened a new loop road since I have left and it is really good. This area has a lot of both white tail and mule deer and there is a prairie dog town that still had some burrowing owls hanging out there. You have to stay in your vehicle so a real large lens is needed for the owls along with a little bit of cropping but I did have clear views of them unlike some reports I had heard. What I didn't see was a badger a friend had posted images of.

The big attraction on our two times around the one-way road was a doe with two fawns. The first time it was more or less just seeing them before they scampered into the trees but the second time we were able to get some adequate shots. Nothing that's going to make the cover of a magazine but still a nice shot or two of the mother and babies. This fall during the rut there's going to be some really good shooting as there were several good sized bucks in velvet that should put on a great show for those in the area. Who knows, I might even make a run back down there as this should make for some really good shooting for a few days.

What was surprising was that we didn't see any coyote. This is usually a staple at the Arsenal but there were none to be seen this time around. We didn't do the inner loop road as we concentrated on the new outer loop and that could have been it but with what I have been seeing come out for the new route this is the road to take. With the routes good for only one or two loops before the animals heading for cover in the morning, except for the bison, you have to make your call and pick which loop road you're going to take and go with that one. The old inner loop is a two way road and you can go back and forth but once you start on the new, and longer, outer loop that's the one you're on. But with the number of deer on it that one seems to be the better choice for now.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Mother - baby nose touch, a shot you always hope for up on Mount Evans

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Doe and two fawn mule deer crossing the field after crossing the road in front of us


After that first night it was then up to stay with Doug and Betty Holling for a couple of nights to go up Mount Evans for mountain goats and to speak at the Evergreen Camera Club on Wednesday night. I've spoken at probably 10 or more camera clubs along the Colorado Front Range but always enjoy this one as judging their images is always tough as there are some really good images presented.

What was great about heading up to Mount Evans, besides the baby goats, was the very cool mornings. The 37 degree temperatures were a welcome relief from the 100 degree days I left behind in Boise. But the baby goats were the main attraction. They put on a good show and I did get one of the desired shots of a nose touch between a baby and its mom. We saw the goats only one of the two days we went up there. Should have stayed at the house the second morning as a group of elk came and hung out in their back yard for a couple of hours with the young playing around a bit. Oh well, that's wildlife photography for you.

A couple of things that are always present on Mount Evans are pika and marmot. These are always fun to watch scurry around on the rocks and try to get a great shot of with a mouth full of grass or positions with back mountain ranges in the background. We did stop and get some good shots of a very still pond near Summit Lake shortly after sunrise on the way up our second day. Always a beautiful scene, as were some storm clouds over some distant peaks.

It seems you never appreciate the place you live until you move away. I always took these great shooting locations for granted while I lived in the Denver area for more than 25 years and now I really miss them with not having them in my back yard. Take advantage of what you have near you because you never know when you might have to leave where you live.

JAPAN IN WINTER SET FOR FEBRUARY 2018

LAST CHANCE TO SIGN UP. It's here and set up. But, we have to act fast. I have pushed out our deadline as long as possible but we need to get deposits in by the middle to the end of July. Dates of the trip would be leaving the U.S. on Feb. 11 and leaving Japan on the 21st. Included would be the first night in Tokyo, three nights in Kushiro, 2 nights in Akan, 2 nights in Yudanaka and 1 night at the end in Tokyo. Cost of the trip would be $8,145 and I would need a $1,200 deposit as soon as possible. This first trip would be limited to five people and I also would need to have five people as this is what the trip is priced at through the agency for all of the parts involved including a driver/guide. This price also includes a flight from Tokyo to Kushiro to cut down on a 12 hour train ride.

The main emphasis of the trip will be visits to photograph the snow monkeys which will be done at the end of the trip. We will also have opportunities for whopper swans and some beautiful winter landscapes at several national parks as well as Otowo Bridge. Most dinners are not included in the price but we will eat together as a group.

The full itinerary for this trip can be found on the workshop page for this trip. If interested please get back to me as soon as possible as I have to get deposits to them very soon to make this trip a go.

HEADING OVER TO MONO LAKE AND EASTERN SIERRAS

At the end of August I'm heading over to California to do Highway 395 through the Eastern Sierras with Clyde Elmore, who a lot of you know from a bunch of my trips as both a participant and a second helper. We're going exploring for a week and I plan to get a workshop out of this that will include stops at Mono Lake and hopefully as far south as the Bristlecone Pine Forest and the Alabama Hills. We'll see how far we make it. Once I get back from there I'll have info in the subsequent newsletter about a workshop to that area in 2018 so keep an eye out. If interested in visiting this area send me a note and I'll keep you up to date as soon as I get something put together for 2018. Not sure when it will be scheduled for but I'll do some research to see when the best time of year will be.

SAWTOOTH FALL COLOR EXPLORING

I've opted to cancel my Colorado Fall Color trip this year and have decided to do a detour drive back from the Tetons via the Sawtooth Range in eastern Idaho. In looking at some images from that area there are some pretty nice areas that present the potential for a pretty nice trip that could fit in nicely for a workshop before or after my Tetons trip in 2018. Be on the lookout for this trip being added to the schedule as I try to get more acclimated to my new home grounds of Idaho.

KODIAK BEARS JULY 2018

The mention of Kodiak Bears has any bear photographer drooling as these are the kings of the brown bears. Now's your chance to see these majestic animals as I have a great trip lined up for July 2018. I'm finalizing all of the details but it will probably be July 14-20 and cost $6,595. The cost is well worth it as we will do fly-outs to some very unique spots where the bears are located on four days and do a boat trip on a fifth day for shore bears, whales, otters, sea lions, seals, puffins, deer and fox. This year some of the action includes one spot with a sow and three babies, a sow and two babies and a third sow with two babies and one area has what every bear photographer going to Kodiak dreams of, a 10 foot male coming in to feed on the river chasing every other bear out until he has his fill before they return. One spot has been having up to 17 bear a day on a regular basis. I do like to change my bear trip locations up from time to time as I have some people who like to go on each bear trip because of the diversity and I do some good research to find good spots. As everyone who has been on one of my bear trips knows, great shots are going to be taken and I believe this one is going to be the best yet. Make your plans early as this is sure to fill up as my last bear trip has 15 people over two sessions. I can take a maximum of seven people on this trip but have to have six, which I am sure will happen as most of my bear trips do fill up as I do them only every few years. Several people have been asking so here's your chance.

fall color abstract

FALL COLOR WORKSHOPS 2017

Still have a few spots left in my Tetons and Maine Coast trips if anyone is interested. First there is Tetons in Fall scheduled for September 17-22 followed by Colorado Fall Color September 24-28 and finishing up with Acadia - Coastal Maine Fall from October 8-14. One each of these trips there will be plenty of opportunities for lots of trees sporting their beautiful colors along with a variety of beautiful landscape shots, especially in the Tetons and in Maine. In Colorado we will have several old cabins and mining buildings we will explore. Of course, in all three spots I will teach a variety of fall color abstracts techniques that will add another dimension to your fall color photography. Learn to see beyond the trees to pull out perspectives you did not think were possible.

DIGITAL CORNER - POLAR COORDINATES

One of the computer techniques I taught during the Flower Techniques workshop is one called polar coordinated. It can be done with lots of different images beyond flowers to create some very interesting results giving a globe or orb like effect and like most every other filter in Photoshop, the more you experiment with it the more interesting results you can come up with. There are a couple of ways to use this effect with flowers and you have to test things out to see which way works best for the desired result or even if the technique is right for you as some people may not like this at all. Although I haven't tried it with a landscape shot, the results I have seen with it are quite interesting. Only certain images work with, especially with flowers, so you have to experiment to find what works for you. I have found individual flowers that pop from the background seem to work best.

Primarily, the two different ways to do this is to use just one layer of the original image or to use two layers and rotate one of the layers and reduce the Opacity of the second layer. Below are two original images from which I stated the process. With the columbine I made a copy of the layer and rotated it and with the second flower it was done with just one layer. Following the two images is the step by step process which you use to create the end result and then a copy of the final images. The globe / orb effect shows up more on the second shot as the background on the columbine was in the shadows making for a black background whereas the green of the second images created the orb effect.

cattle egret gatorland

cattle egret gatorland

 

Duplicate your layer – Cmd or Ctrl J
Make a Quick Selection of your flower or subject
Duplicate that selection by hitting Cmd or Ctrl J
Then Cmd or Ctrl T for the Transform tool
With the Transform tool select Rotate the move the selection so the petals fit nicely
Reduce the opacity a bit
Use a later mask to clean up edges, etc…
Flatten and duplicate
Use the Polar Coordinate Filter – go to Filter>Distort>Polar Coordinates then choose Rectangular to Polar
Clone and use the brush to clean up anything in the image that is distracting
Flatten and duplicate
Select a New Layer and use the Gradient filter and reduce opacity to 80%
Add a layer mask to top layer and mask out flower or subject
Finishing touches include Auto Contrast – reduce opacity, Transform the shape if needed and sharpen if needed

cattle egret gatorland

cattle egret gatorland