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JUNE 2016


No May newsletter, no worries. This was stopped being called a monthly several years ago due to long travel schedules and other life events. I wish this miss was due to long travels on the road but it was the latter with life and office work getting in the way. Selling a large house and packing it up took up a lot of time as did getting images together to send to the publisher for my aurora book. Then, after selling the house ahead of a move due to Rhonda's work situation it was a vacation to Hawaii. Something we both needed. Workshops are a little slow right now so it's time to get caught up on office work, which is a never-ending process. Room is left on lots of trips this year as well as those special trips in 2017 and 2018 so take a look at the schedule to see what interests you and sign up.


Vacation is a word I have not known for quite some time. All of my travels are usually for workshops or purely as a scouting trip for a future workshop. This quickly put together to the Big Island of Hawaii was a bit different though. It was more of a vacation but with the thoughts of getting some good shooting in from time to time and see if this might work out as a workshop next year and beyond.

The week-long trip was split between the two sides of the island, part on the Kona Coast and part on the Hilo side. One thing I quickly learned based on a bit of research looking for places to either visit, photograph or just enjoy, the Kona side is not much of a photography destination. Yes, there are things to see and shoot on the west (sunset) side but it's the east side (Hilo) that holds the most promise for photography.

The resort we stayed at on the Kona side in Waikoloa Beach made for some great relaxation but it also provided for one nice sunset and a fun luau. I did some shooting at the luau the night we went and eded up with some nice stock photography but the dinner and entertainment were enjoyable even if I didn't have a camera with me. The first part of the entertainment show had me doing something people rarely see me doing - hand-holding a camera. The ISO was bumped way up to 5000 in order to get fast enough shutter speeds of the dancers in low light conditions. A couple of White Balance tests showed AWB worked best, even with the colored lights they used from time to time.

hawaii sunset and palm trees
Hawaii Sunset and Palm Trees

By far the most fun part of the program was when the fire dancer performed at the end of the night. Some of the stuff he did was beyond amazing and the images I was able to get made him look like he was on fire. By the time he came out I was on a tripod because it was dark out and his act was done without any other lights. I wanted to make sure I had some sharp images so I was very glad I brought the tripod.

The west side of the island is referred to as the lava side and this is pretty much what is seen just about everywhere you go. There are no great beaches to enjoy and no waterfalls. There was one time when we (my wife and I) came across some wild goats. They are actually feral as they were release here by Captain Cook many years ago along with some mules. They have thrived despite the mostly dry conditions and live mostly on and around the lava. The horns on the goats are quite unique and the contrast of them on the lava made for a fun but brief shoot.

After traversing to the east side of the island, the rain forest side, the beauty of the area showed itself. The lush green combined with lots of waterfalls kept us busy the whole there. We even took a boat ride to see a bunch of waterfalls the can onlly be seen this way with them falling into the ocean. While the waterfalls were nice, the time spent with about 100 dolphin around the boat jumping, flipping and having a good time was the best part.

hawaii luau firebreather
Luau Firebreather

The most beautiful outing on the east side was to the Hawaii Tropical Botanical Gardens. I could have spent the better part of a day here but with my wife not being a photographer we spent a couple of hours here taking in the extreme beauty of the flowers, a waterfall and the quaintness of a bay along one part of the park. There's even an orchid garden with lots of wonderful flowers to see and photograph. If I do put together a workshop to the island rest assured a good bit of time will be scheduled for here.

While our visit to the island was around a full moon, I'm trying to figure out if a workshop would be better with or without a moon to maybe do some night shooting. A moon for a post sunset shoot at the black beach could be interesting but the chance of doing the Milky Way somewhere could be intriguing. The only nice shots of the Milky Way from here were taken at the observatory on Mauna Kea but there could be some nice ones taken from a beach somewhere.

A few other spots I found quite interesting were an orchid garden, the surf crashing at the Black Sand Beach (Punalu’u beach), a few of the waterfalls and a stand of bamboo along a trail to one of the waterfalls.

Let me know if a trip to here would interest you and I can see about putting something together. From what I've seen from other workshops offered here, it would only be for four or five days allowing people to do more on their own at a resort or on another island.

Anthurium at Botanicc Gardens


It was a bit of work but my shooting the aurora book is now at the publishers for them to edit, format and send to the printers. With the original being in eBook format, I had all of the images set for lower resolution so I had to go back through and redo everything to a much higher res for printing. I also had to change a lot of images from landscape to portrait mode as the print edition will be laid out this way. With adding a bunch of new options for images, I ended up formatting and sending off 162 images. They probably won't use all of them but rest assured there will be a lot of photos, examples and more in the finished product.

As soon as I get a link from them, Amherst Media, I'll pass that on so people can make pre-orders through Amazon. Not sure when this will be but I'll get word out on my social media pages, website and next newsletter announcing the availability. My goal is to have 100 pre-order sales before the book goes to print.

I'm back working on my Bird Photography Unlocked book so keep and eye out for news and updates on that as well. Several others are also in the thought process.

glacier on Lago Grey
Potential new cover photo


Now that summer is here, it's time to start thinking about fall and the many wondrous locales for planning a trip to capture the beauty of this season with colors blanketing the hillsides, lakes and streams in different parts of the country. First Light has a series of falll color workshops this year covering lots of territory - Wyoming, Colorado, Wisconsin and Maine. Visit the workshops page today to register and reserve your spot. Topics covered on all trips include multiple forms of abstract photography with trees; using various filters to their advantage - split and variable ND, polarizers; importance of waiting beyond the golden hour, fine tuning your eye to look for details and more.


Want to try something completely different with your night photography in the Tetons? A check of the lunar calendar shows we have a full moon just before the trip starts so that means the first night or two has a fairly large moon coming up after dark. This can allow up to 30 seconds or more of exposure at the right locations having the moon illuminate a cabin or the mountains. Talk about some different images from here to show off to your friends or camera club. This plus some other great techniques and hidden locations will offer you a whole new perspective on one of the jewels of our national park system.


I'm in the process of building and implementing a Frequently Asked Questions page to the website. The current set of questions deal with deposits, what's included and start times. If you have any question you pose to workshop leaders prior to a trip please send these to me and I'll get them added to the page. This will help others when visiting my website and searching for a workshop.


Three sign-ups so far so make sure you get your spot reserved. Come capture the essence of France from two very different perspectives for a trip you will remember for years to come. The Paris and Nice trip is now set up and ready for people to sign up. I had been waiting for the Monet Gardens to open in April to connect with them about extended hours and this will be included one day while in Paris. This 10-day trip will feature four nights in Nice and five nights in Paris. The train ride between the two is included in the price. The trip is packed with lots of great spots in both areas. Visit to read all about this trip. Contact if you have any questions.


It might seem a bit early, but my January 2018 Penguins of the Falkland Island trip is fully set up and ready for sign ups. It took a bit more work getting all of the islands set up but it's pretty much a repeat of the 2016 trip that everyone enjoyed quite a bit. the only slight change is one extra day in Stanley at the end of the trip, something people brough up as thinking would be a good idea as there's a bit around town to shoot and previously there wasn't quite enough time. Would like to have five people for the trip but can take up to seven depending on the mix of males and females for bed space on one of the islands.


“A good photograph is knowing where to stand.”  ~ Ansel Adams


Here are our July specials. These specials will be offered through July 30, 2016 unless otherwise stated. Please note that several are based on limited quantities and I cannot issue rain checks. As always, UPS Ground shipping is FREE in the Lower 48 and there is no sales tax except for orders shipped to MA, RI or ME. If you'd like to place an order for any of these specials, or any other items not listed here, please call me, Alan Samiljan, at 781-662-8822 or send me an email including your phone number to and I'll call you. My hours are usually 8:30-5:45pm, Monday, Tuesday, Friday & Saturday.

Rumor has it that Canon will announce the 5D Mark IV this Fall. Email Alan Samiljan your phone number if you want to be notified when it's announced!

They did it again! Canon has continued their printer rebate program. Now through July 30, 2016 or until supplies run out, Hunt's is offering the Canon Pixma PRO 10 printer at $379.99 before rebate (Canon sells it on their website for $699.99). If you purchase the printer plus a package of 13x19x50 sheets of Canon Semi-Gloss or Luster paper, $50, Canon will send you a $250 mail in rebate! This is a pigment based printer and is always reviewed very well. Your final cost is $129.99 plus the paper! You can't buy a decent document printer for this price, let alone an exhibition quality photo printer! If you purchase a qualifying Canon camera at the same time, Canon will increase the rebate to $350, your final cost $29.99 plus the paper! Call for details.

Hasselblad has announced the X1D, Mirrorless Medium Format camera. Call if nterested?

Lightning Bug with FREE CABLE $159.99 ($20 less than online!)
Take 10% off Ilford Ink Jet Paper
Take 15% off all Tamrac Bags
Take 10% off all Mefoto Tripods and Monopods
Take 10% off the Phottix Aion Wireless Remote (Canon, Nikon, Sony, Olympus)
Take 10% off all Metz Flashes
Take 15% off all Benro and Induro Gimbal heads
Promaster LED120SS Super Slim Rechargeable LED $59.99

Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 DG HSM OS Contemporary, Canon or Nikon, special price $899
Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 DG HSM OS Sport, Canon or Nikon, special price $1,699

Refurbished Nikon Binoculars (supplies limited):
Monarch 7 10x42 reg. $499.95, refurb $399.95
Monarch 7 10x30 reg. $399.95, refurb $279.95
Monarch 7 8x30 reg. $379.95, refurb $269.95
Monarch 5 12x42 reg. $349.95, refurb $259.95
Monarch 3 10xx42 reg. $249.95, refurb $199.95
Monarch 3 8x42 reg. $229.95, refurb $189.95

Used Specials, subject to prior sale:
Canon 500mm f/4L IS $3,999
Canon 300mm f/2.8 II VR $5,099 MINT (used twice!)
Canon 14mm f/2.8L II $1,499
Canon 90mm f/2.8 TS-E (tilt shift) $799
Nikon 500mm f/4 G VR II $4,799
Nikon 400mm f.2,8 FL ED VR $9,599 MINT
Nikon 300mm f/2.8 VR II $4,099
Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 Sony E $969
Fuji XF 23mm f/21.4R $499
Fuji XF 35mm f/1.4R $299

In order to receive correct workshop special pricing, please be sure to ask for Alan Samiljan, at 781-662-8822. His hours are usually 8:30-5:45pm, Monday, Tuesday, Friday & Saturday. If you leave a message or send an email, he'll get right back to you.


emporer penguins


Vision in and of itself is one of the most important aspects of photography, but creative vision is a subject that has be be developed, quite often over time. A photograph without creative vision is just a photo. But, with creative vision almost any photo can be taken beyond the everyday, run of the mill image and become an inspired image, one with meaning where the viewer can read one of many feelings into it.

What is Creative Vision?

Everyone has seen images that have moved them in one way or another, whether by composition, lighting, impact or a combination of these or any of the different design elements. These are the images that leave you asking “how did they get that shot?” or saying “I wish I had a shot like that.

While some may say that perfect conditions (light, subject, composition) or great equipment are responsible for the top images out there, there's more to it than that. What these photos have in common is one primary element - creative vision. This is the one thing captivating images have in common. Vision is the thought behind the shot, where a concept or idea is taken from the mind to a visual actuality. Being able to clearly transfer this from one to the other determines how others grasp your vision.

Quite often, creative vision is being in the field and when you come upon a setting you know what shot needs to be taken to bring out the essence of the scene. Sometimes, tough, it takes a minute or two to really find the shot amongst the large canvas laid out in front of your eyes. Sometimes it obvious and sometimes it's hidden and needs to be searched for.

This vision is the ability to visualize the final image, often called previsualization, before the shutter button is tripped. It's when you're out shooting and something jumps out at you screaming it want's a photo taken of it. As soon as you see it, you know it.

Develop the Vision to Create Powerful Images

How is creative vision developed? How are photos taken that are moving and powerful? Some may have creative vision intuitively but others have to learn or develop it over time. You don't just wake up one day and creative vision is there. The vision you have today can also change as the more time is put into developing it and forging ahead with new ideas, inspiration and techniques.

What are some of the different ways to sharpen or create a personal vision and use it to produce inspired photographs.

  1. Seek Inspiration

    Look at the work of other noted photographers who shoot the same type of images you draw ideas from. Study their work to see what can be gleaned from their best shots whether it be their use of light, compositional elements, telling a or or how they evoke emotion. Look for the unseen elements as well, the feelings, meaning and thought process behind their work. Early on when I switched from sports to nature photography one person who inspired my with both his images and words was John Shaw. His work inspired my so I used it as a way to improve how I looked at things.

  2. Look at your own work closely. Compare your best work to those that you are not as proud to show off to others. If there is one area or style that is predominantly better than another this shows what you are passionate about and what inspires you to want to get even better at. Concentrate on this area and watch how much your work will improve with trying new concepts or techniques.

  3. Go Beyond the Technical

  4. They're out there for everyone to see. What? Those technically perfect images where everything is just right but something is missing. They have good composition, nice lighting, good subject material but they are also lacking something to really pull the viewer into the show and want to be there.

  5. They lack the much needed creative vision. Vision goes well beyond the technical aspects to allow the story telling or moodiness of your ideas and concepts to shine. It's all about telling a story. When they say a picture's worth 1,000 words this is where that phrase comes from. If it only tells a few words it's not conveying the message, whther that message is showing off your own unique way of looking at the world around you or letting emotions come out with what's happening in front of your eyes.

  6. Don't just take a picture to show what was there, try to capture and portray the essence of the scene or moment that represents your vision when you were there. I tell people a lot to try and take a shot that shows what got their interest in the first place. Get rid of everything that doesn't add to the story and show what caught your attention. Remember that photography is a process of elimination - getting rid of everything that isn't important so the viewer knows what your intentions are.

    Salto Chico on Pehoe Lake
    Seeing the water coming up over the rocks at the Black Beach in Hawaii I knew right away I wanted a slow shutter shot to capture the mood

  7. Powerful Compositions

    Your aim should not be to take a photo but rather to make or create a photo. After letting your inspiration be seen to allow for the creative vision is brought into the shot, now is the time to let the technical side come into play. Just as a technically sound image with no emotion does not work, the same holds true for good impression with poor techniques or composition. Composition is the bridge that closes the gap between creative vision and the viewer.

  8. Quite a few people have heard me say take time to soak in what's in front of the camera is the inhale process while the shutter click is the exhale. The time between the two is just as important as this is when the composition is set up to bring the two together. Work with the light, the layers laid out in front of you, the colors, the elements available to work with to show there was some thought put in to making the shot rather than blindly firing away at what's there.

    Take risks, though. Try new things, look out for a different angle than what is the norm for a particular shot, explore new techniques. You never know what might work.

  9. Know It When You See It

    There are time you're not even looking or your looking at something differently and it hit's you. We are always surrounded by many photographic possibilities. I tell people from time to time on a trip that I'll find them a shot no matter where we are and what's there. Something as ordinary as a rusted bolt head can result in an exciting image. This is an example of really looking as you move about. One time for me it was a red vine on a tree screaming to have its picture taken. This is why we need an experienced eye and mastery of technique to inspire people when the same subject would otherwise go unnoticed. We need to be sensitive to colors, shapes, textures, and how they can combine or contrast to make an exciting image. Light can't be forgotten as well.

    Salto Chico on Pehoe Lake
    Right away when I saw this I knew it would make a pleasing image


    Don't lose track of what’s important, though. Losing focus on what matters to you can result in photos that lack creative vision. Find ways - hopefully new - to photograph things you're passionate about. Creativity develops by taking new challenge. Push yourself. If you don't try new things your photography will stay the same and you won't grow. By now growing, you're actually losing ground as other photographers around you are out there pushing the envelope with new techniques, styles and visions.

    Think back to when you first started off in photography and what you loved about it. Maybe you were passionate about wildlife photos, or enjoyed the details of flowers or bugs from macro or maybe you got into photography because you wanted to recreate the incredible landscape image that Ansel Adams produces. Whatever it was, look back at your old photos, even it it means pulling out slide files and rekindle what it was that first interested you in outdoor photography.

Remember, photography is about looking for ways to use your own unique eye to capture the beauty of the world around us and share this to others through your work. Just as you grow and have a new vision in life, strive to grow and portray a new vision with your photography.


Salto Chico on Pehoe Lake
Walking across a bridge on a northern lights workshop the details of the colors, textures and patterns caught my eye



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