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MARCH 2018


Sometimes when I show up at a location I will take my time looking around for potential shots that intrigue me. Most of the time this is done in order to find shots to show participants how my eye works in finding an interesting image. In Alaska we went to a birch forest at Chena Lakes Recreation Area and one of the first things I said was to not look at the clutter of the whole area but to try and isolate small sections and individual trees where character and uniqueness caught their eye.

When taking this approach you have to think of phoptography as a process of elimination - getting rid of everything that does not add to the shot. Too often people do not look around the edges and miss distracting elements that pull the eye away from the main subject. Yes, some of this can be removed by cropping or cloning in the digital darkroom but the more you get accustomed to getting the shot clean and right in the camera the more your eye develops.

Think of the individual images you are preparing to take as part of a story. No two stories are the same. This is especially true when getting a group of photographers together. Every photographer sees things a little bit differently from each other. While I can take a group of people to a spot and point out something I see or bring them there one at a time to point out the subtleties, details or concept invariably I'll end up seeing as many different interpretations as there are people. There is no problem with this as everyone sees things differently and if they like the end result that's all that matters. Sometimes when I look at what they've done, I might change the composition a little bit and show on the camera the difference. Often they like mine better but I point out the tweaks I made so they can try to incorporate it next time. Quite often the change is coming in tighter, which brings out more detail, or repositioning the main subject a little bit.

Besides trying to isolate a single or small group of trees or part of a tree, especially in the snow, coming in on a larger cluster of trees can add perpspective and depth. A shot I like to do, whether it be during fall color or with snow, is to stop down quite a bit and shoot through a group of birch or aspen trunks to give depth to the scene. Both of these create a very graphic feel to the image along with some varying contrasts. More often than not, but not every time, I do a little cropping from the top and bottom to make the shot seem more panoramic than the normal 2X3 ratio. This helps accentuate the vertical feel of the trunks and the depth of the trees through the use of a wider aperture, typically around f/22 when using my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. Once in the digital darkroom the main slider I use is the Blacks to help give some separation between the different levels of contrast. This is the one slider I use more than most any other in Camera Raw or Lightroom.

One thing that's nice with birch trees is that as the outer layer of bark peels away a variety of colors start appearing below. The detail in these colors offer some very complex yet simple shots. The different colors and details pull the viewers eye in and the tighter the shot the more impact it creates. When there is snow on the ground is provides a very clean palatte around the main subject.

When working to try and isolate part of the whole in a setting such as this, first take a look around with your eye but then fine tune it with your camera as this allows you to see the smaller areas rather than the full scene. The more you do this the easier it is to then see the isolated pieces with just your eye.

gentoo penguin jumping out of water
Birch details

rockhopper penguins and crashing waves
Through the trunks


Photography IS art. No where is this exemplified more than with the extreme subtleties and beauty of flower photography. Think outside the box where field instruction emphasizes creative extreme macro, impressionism, multiple-exposure and focus stacking to create some magical views of the subjects and how the light plays with them. This workshop also includes several in-room sessions where some very interesting and different post-capture Photoshop effects demonstrations and hands-on activites make you think differently while shooting. The use of different elements such as light pads and post-processing techniques to turn a photo into a water color or adding a textured background will make your flower images come alive. Handouts will be provided so you have notes to take home with you to make doing these later a bit easier. Many other computer techniques will also be included. Our day shooting will include stops at one of the best botanic gardens in the country - the Denver Botanic Gardens, as well as a nice public rose garden. Your eye will love you for allowing it to see how a subject can be looked at so differently. Come create works of art you never imagined before as we explore an entirely new way of photographing flowers. I like keeping the size of the trip down to three or four people so I can provide as much hands on help to everyone as possible. Find out more about this trip on the Flower Techniques page. The first person to contact me regarding this workshop to mention the newsletter will get a special bonus.

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One of the Photoshop techniques taught during the in-room sessions


It might have been awhile since this trip ended the first couple of days in February but our schedule has been quite hectic. I returned home from my flight on a Monday night and on Friday the movers were at our house loading it up and Saturday we hit the road for a move from Idaho to Southern California (Orange County). It was then trying to get all of our services set up and installed along with moving in. I had a couple of weeks before heading up to Alaska for my northern lights trip. So, all in all it has been a very busy time.

With everything that has been going on, I still haven't gone through all of my images from the Falklands trip but I do know that the group went home with some great experiences as well as some great shots as we did have a bit of time to do some reviewing of images while there.

This two week trip had us bouncing around a bunch of islands as we hit all of the popular spots plus one other island I hadn't been to before just because that's how the schedule worked out. Again one of the more popular shoots was at Bleaker Island catching the gentoo penguins soaring out of the water as they were coming in from their time feeding so as to feed the young ones in the colony. Another very fun sight here was seeing an adult trying to get the juveniles into the water for the first time. The adult would lead the young on a chase for feeding them and then go out into the water to make them follow. Time after time the young ones would slam on the brakes at the edge of the water as if to ask 'you want me to go where?' Most just stood at the edge of the water but some would follow the adult in as the adult stood there ready to feed them and the young wanting fed. This was the first time I had experienced this on any island and it was quite the sight to see.

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A young gentoo getting into the water for the first time

Light for the trip was exceptionally rare with sunny days being the norm rather than what you would expect of cloudy conditions with a bit of rain. What this sun did was cause bit of exposure issues with these black and white birds. I really worked with people at the beginning to make sure they understood exposing to get details in the whites and not over-exposing them, The key was to use exposure compensation to get the histogram highlights just in and a little across the far right section but clipping. This was especially true when they were just coming out of the water and the whites were really white.

Another always popular spot is The Neck on Saunders Island. There are no car rides to some of the shooting spots like on some islands rather justt short walkes to the different colonies. Within walking distance of where we stay are gentoo, rockhopper, Magellanic and king penguins as well as cormorants and black browed albatross. The stars of the area are the rockhoppers as they are coming out of the water up onto the rocks. A time or two there was enough wave activity that you could get shots of them getting out of the water with some nasty waves crashing around them. It made the task of getting out of the water a bit tough as numerous times they would make it onto the rocks only to have a wave crash over them and send them back into the water to do it once again.

Throughout the trip we were also able to see both southern elephant seals and sea lions along with a bariety of other birds. On our boat ride to West Point Island we also had a group of dolphins jumping and surfing alongside the boat and numerous whales spounting off from time to time. West Point is home to a massive albatross colony. It's starting to be overrun with rockhoppers but there are still lots of albatross photo ops. What was surprising the day we were there was that there was little to no wind. This meant the adults were not doing a lot of soaring above the colony. When the wind finally did pick up, the clouds also arrived making for some tough lighting conditions. What got peoples attention was the fact that if you were sitting on a clump of tussack grass an albatross wanted to use as a launch site for taking flight, it just hopped up on the one next to you and stared you down until you moved. One time I slid down to the ground below it and using a 24-105 at 24mm was almost hit by its wing as it took flight. The same thing happened to another person as well, showing how little fear of people the birds have.

For those taking this trip for the first time, they are surprised at how close the penguins let them get. If you take your time and go easy, you can sit down right next to a colony and at times have some walk right up to you so close you could pet them. People who say they typically don't take very many pictures on a trip found themselves with thousands of shots to go through once they got home. The editing process for a trip like this can be arduous. I typically go through a two or three step process to cull my images down to a manageable number. With having been here multiple times in the past, I try to limit my shooting but once the action gets going the shot numbers beging to rise.

Some of the islands in the Falklands are filling up a lot quicker than they used to. Previously I would work to get things set up for my next trip two years later but a couple of the islands only had a night here and a night there so this time I have to book the trip for three years out. This means the next Penguins of the Falkland Islands workshop will not be until January 2021. I do have dates and most of the pricing set so look for this on my website in the next month as everything gets finalized. The last several trips have filled up and I know it's a long way off but if you have any interest in this trip think about booking for way ahead to save yourself a spot and don't put it off until it's too late. You can send me an email now to let me know and when it goes live online I'll let you know.

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The albatross have no fear of people - this one walked very close to a participant to take flight



This years northern lights trip was a bit of a tough one. Yes, we did get a good night of aurora (on the last night) but lots of things conspired to make this a tough trip. First, there was no local sled dog race to take the group to which is always a fun event to see and photograph. Then, when we went to the Santa Claus House in North Pole it was closed for remodeling. Can't wait to see it doubled in size next year but it's closed during construction from Jan 1 to Apr 30. I have found another spot outside of North Pole to do some shooting on Sunday morning at a park where there are lots of birch trees in the snow. This creates a good exercise of using your eye to find some interesting compositions. We also saw a moose bedded down but it never stood up while we were there for some good shots.

Once we got to our northern stay the weather messed with us and didn't allow for the schedule I usually like to do. With always watching the aurora forecast and weather throughout the season, I knew it was going to be a tough one before the trip started. There had been quite a few strong auroras this season but the weather was a bit tough with lots of snow around Wiseman and even rain in Fairbanks this winter. Clouds settled in over us on the Dalton and we could only do what it allowed. Typically I usually only do one run to the north over Atigun Pass and one run south, but for some reason I opted to do a second run north and I'm glad I did as the weather broke and we had nice skies so the tops of the mountains in the Brooks Range could be seen. There's nothing tough than doing landscape work of mountains where the tops just blend into a bland sky.

This was also the same day it stayed clear than night and the aurora came out and put on a good shot for the participants. We did get a little bit of aurora through the clouds one other night but with as many clouds as there were the color we saw was just wisps peeking through here and there. It was enough for them to get used to using their camera in the dark and knowing what to do with the settings, making the one good night easier. I'm glad I was able to get that first night in with the participants as I was unable to go out with them the one good night as I ended up as sick as I have ever been with a hard case of the 24 hour flu and having to be as close to the bathroom as possible all night. I hated not being out there to help them but from what they said they were able to get some really good shots looking at the LCD screens from what we had discussed throughout the week. Luckily the streak continues. For my March trips, I have yet to have a week where we have not had at least one decent night of aurora activity and next year marks my 15th year of northern lights trips and my 33rd total week. Yes, I have a little experience with this. Could not believe this when I counted it up.

Next year I only have one week scheduled at this point for the second week of March. If it fills up early enough I will see about adding a second week. As typical, this trip does fill up so the sooner you sign up the better.

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Remember that my aurora book is available on


With our move to Orange County, I now have a new mailing address. Please send all correspondence to P.O. Box 325; Lake Forest, CA 92609. Mail sent to the Idaho address will be forwarded for awhile but using this address will speed things up and ensure I get it.


With needing to get the lodge paid in full in the very near future, now is the last chance to sign up for this go round of my Kodiak Bear Workshop scheduled for July 14-20. Full payment will be due with your registration. I do have six people signed up for this trip but because of flight space around the island I can get one or two more people fit in. On my last Kodiak Bear trip where I had two sessions, I had nine people the second week and it worked out fine so taking one or two more this time will not be an issue. Contact me as soon as possible if you have any interest at all in this trip.

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Sony is offering a BONUS TRADE IN discount off the purchase price of the following cameras:
Sony A9, $500 Bonus
Sony A7R III, $300 Bonus
Sony A7RII, $200 Bonus
Sony A7S II, $200 Bonus
Trade in any working digital interchangeable-lens camera or lens and receive the value of the trade PLUS the BONUS! Don't have anything to trade? Call me, maybe I can help! This offer runs through March 31, 2018. Call me at 781-462-2383.
Sony also just announced the A7III, $1,999.99 (body). The first full frame camera with 5-axis image stabilization in the body!

Not to be left behind, Olympus is also running a super special through March 31, 2018. The acclaimed Olympus E-M1 Mark II is now $1,699.99, that's $300 off! Purchase at the same time either the 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, 12-100mm f/4 PRO, 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO or 300mm f/4 PRO and save an additional $200-$300 off the lens! There are also stand alone lens deals. Save $200 off the purchase of the 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO, 8mm Fisheye PRO, 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO, 25mm f/1.2 PRO or 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO, no camera purchase required! Ask me about more special deals from Olympus!

Canon has continued their printer rebate program. Now through March 31, 2018 or until supplies run out, we are offering the Canon Pixma PRO 10 printer at $379.99 before rebate (Canon sells it on their website for $699.99). We are including with it TWO packages of Canon 13x19" Luster paper, 50 sheets each, a $100 value! Canon is offering a $250 mail in rebate on this package, so your final cost is $129.99! This printer includes a FULL set of ten pigment ink cartridges and is always reviewed very well.

Hunt's and Canon are also offering an incredible special on the Canon Image PROGRAF Pro-1000 17" Printer. Purchase the printer for $1,299.99, and receive an assortment worth $699.94 of 17x22" and 13x19" Canon paper! You can then send in your $300 mail-in rebate.

And for something no other dealer will offer; Purchase a Nikon D610, D500, D750, D810, D850 or D5, Sony A9, A7R III, A7R II, A7S II or A99 II, Panasonic G9 or GH5, or Fuji GFX 50S with the Pro-1000 and receive a $350 rebate! ($400 rebate available if purchased at the same time as select Canon DSLRs). Your final cost is $899-$999.99 for the printer and $699.94 worth of paper. Supplies definitely limited on this one. Call me now to reserve yours. Rebate runs through March 31, 2018!

Please call me, Alan Samiljan, at (781) 462-2383 or send an email including your name and phone number to and I'll call you.

black skimmer fishing
I had a shot in mind of wanting to get a bunch of cormorants flying in to land with a bunch standing around. Lots of
depth of field was used so the ISO was bumped up. ISO 1600, f/18, 1/2000th sec, 24-105mm at 105mm