Monday, November 24, 2008


Shooting moving subjects isn't as difficult as you think. You'll need a fast lens - like our Canon 135mm f/2.0. A wide aperture (f/2.0) allows us to capture more light than would be possible with a narrower opening - which means we can use a faster shutter speed to freeze the action. This shot was taken at ISO 100 with a shutter speed of 1/800th of a second, and the aperture set at 2.0.

We were happy to have overcast skies to work with - so you won't see blown highlights or shadows that lack detail in this image. We overexposed the shots in camera just slightly - since we knew the white snow would confuse the light meter. I'd recommend taking a couple of test shots, and checking your histogram now and then as the light changes.

If 1/800 sec isn't fast enough to capture your action shots (a speeding baseball or racecar perhaps) - you can increase your ISO to compensate. Most SLR cameras handle high ISO situations relatively well - though I'd hesitate to go beyond ISO 1600 without a really excellent camera. You'll get more noise the higher you go - just be aware of that. You can check out your camera's ISO capabilities by reading some online reviews or taking a few test shots on your own.

I'm in the process of cleaning up my hard drive. I'm afraid I have entirely too many photographs on this poor machine. :) I'll be busy with that for a good part of the day - and then it will be time to back up the system. I'd like to get all that done before the holiday. Wish me luck!

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Saturday, November 22, 2008


Now that the storms have passed, we're going sledding. :) We don't get much sunshine in winter South of the Great Lakes, so we're taking advantage of the beautiful weather to spend some time out of doors. We've shoveled the driveway four times in the past two days, and we're ready to go have some fun.

I am getting lots of mail congratulating me on my Popular Photography contest win... I want to thank all of you for your well-wishes here. It means a lot to me to hear from you.

I hope you are all enjoying the weekend - wherever you are!

Monday, November 17, 2008


I spent the morning putting the finishing touches on the new articles section of my website. This is the largest section of my website next to the galleries - so it has been a time-consuming process. This change was designed to make accessing the articles much simpler. It is no longer necessary to download bulky PDF documents. You can click on the link to any article and you'll be taken to the special articles section of my site. I tried to make sure it was easy to navigate as well. Please let me know what you think if you have the time. I always look forward to hearing from my readers.

And speaking of my readers - visitors to my blog and website are increasing rapidly. My numbers have increased nearly five-fold from last year. That's a big deal for me. I want to thank all of you for taking time out of your busy day to check out my work. I love your comments and emails, and it means a lot to me to know that so many people are enjoying my work. I'll keep working - and I hope you'll keep stopping by to see what's new.

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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bentonite Hills

These photographs are from the Bentonite Hills near Grand Staircase - Escalante National Monument. The hills are made of modified volcanic ash, and are banded with strange colors throughout - - deep red, purple, soft green, white, brown... even bright yellow in some places.

Larger stones are sometimes black like the ones in the photo on the left, and sometimes lighter... even white. They dot the landscape and provide very interesting counterpoints for a photographer. The second image is an attempt to simplify the setting so you can see the amazing texture without being overwhelmed by the enormity and variety of the place. I would have been happy to spend our entire trip photographing these hills - they were so amazing to me.

For the first photo, I used a Graduated Neutral Density filter to reduce the brightness of the sky so that my camera could handle the dynamic range. An image like this one is difficult to process because I must make sure the image looks natural without losing detail in my highlights and shadows.

The second shot is much easier to deal with. The dynamic range is very narrow, and the camera can handle it easily. Soft, even lighting allows the details and textures to stand out beautifully. I loved the soft curves in the gullies between the hills.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

2008 Expose Your World Competition

I'm pleased to announce that one of my photo essays and and the above photo of Horseshoe Bend in Colorado were chosen as finalists in the 2008 Expose Your World Competition. My Following the Light article was chosen as a finalist for the Environmental Photo Essay section, and Meander was chosen in the Single Shot category. It's always fun to enter one of these competitions - though I don't have as much time for it as I'd like. :) Do any of you enter competitions?

In other news - I've signed on as moderator for the new Anonymous Gallery on The new gallery was suggested by a member of the site a few weeks ago, and the idea was popular. I offered my services as moderator... I think the site is fantastic, and I'm glad to be able to give something back. I've received many excellent critiques of my work there. The anonymous gallery lets you post photos without revealing your name. I love the concept, and will be posting there regularly. The question is - can you guess which shots are mine? :)

I've been processing some photographs from my trip, and I should have some ready to post before long. Give me a couple more days!

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Good Morning

We'll be flying back to Ohio today. We're being a bit slow about getting out of the hotel this morning, but we're already in Salt Lake City, so it will only take a few minutes to get to the airport.

We spent yesterday driving and shooting from roadside locations as a storm front moved across Utah. We were expecting heavily overcast skies, but the storm moved more slowly than we'd expected. We did get some nice shots along the roads - Utah is great for road-side shooting. :)

This has been a very good trip for us. We'll even had some time to work on another technical article - and we have another travel article in the planning stages.

We'll be home early this evening, and we hope to have some time to process some photographs soon.

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Friday, November 7, 2008

Slot Canyons, Rattlesnakes, and Tarantulas!

This morning, we were out of bed by 5:45 or so. We took route 12 from Torrey to Escalante. The views are absolutely spectacular all along the road. We took a couple of shots as the sun rose, and found some locations we'd like to return to at the right time. Autumn color would have been beautiful at higher altitudes along this road, because the way is lined with birch, which turn gold in fall.

After a quick stop for breakfast in Escalante, we took Hole-in-the-Rock Road to the Dry Fork trailhead. It's a bit of a scramble to get down into the canyon, but it's well worth it. We hiked - or rather, squeezed through the Peek-a-boo and Spooky slot canyons. Both canyons are beautiful - and a challenge to shoot. I found it best to ignore gravity as much as possible - forget which way is down, and just compose the photo. The trick is to get your tripod set up in some of the strange curves and corkscrews. I just wedged myself in and let my tripod rest in all kinds of bizarre angles to get the shots I wanted. Sometimes, I couldn't fit my head behind the camera to get the shot, so it was necessary to check all my settings before I put the camera on the tripod and pressed the shutter release. I couldn't see my composition without taking the camera off the tripod (hooray for the quick-release) and looking at my LCD screen. I have some photos I'm very happy with today. I can't wait to process them.

After four hours in the slot canyons, I met my first rattlesnake. He was just a tiny little fellow, but I was impressed nonetheless. He was shaking his tiny little rattle like crazy - though it was so small that I couldn't hear it. Still, he was pretty - covered with little yellow diamonds from head to tail. :) He was moving too much to get a photo - shutter speeds in the canyon were between 6 and 30 seconds.

On the return hike, I met my first Tarantula (in the wild - I've seen them in zoos and nature centers before.) I must admit that I'm glad I ran into the rattler in the slot canyon and not the tarantula. Although the snake was certainly far more dangerous (babies are more dangerous than adults), the spider would have made me very... ahem... shall we say, uncomfortable... in such an enclosed space. Shudder. Did I mention that it was a very BIG spider. Practically the size of a cow. A big cow. Right. I don't mind snakes or rats or mice or toads or beetles or centipedes or... well, most of the other things that people don't like... but I do NOT like spiders. Remind me to tell you about my earliest memory sometime... I think it explains my little issue with arachnids. :)

Anyway - we also saw some lovely little lizards in the slots... and a rafter of wild turkeys in the mountains, along with lots of deer. And cows. Always cows. :)

This is a very long post, so I'm going to sign off. I've downloaded my photographs to my laptop so that I can clear off my memory cards for tomorrow. This has been a very productive trip so far.

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Thursday, November 6, 2008


We were able to spend most of the day scouting near Capitol Reef National Park. We hiked, and climbed, and drove all day. The weather was chilly - but just right for hiking. We did take some nice photos in the canyons - detail shots where soft shade lighting allowed detail and texture to take center stage.

I love off-road driving - our high-clearance 4WD rental car made short work of the rock/sand roads in the back country. Jay was a little nervous about driving across the river, but after talking to the ranger, we decided to give it a try - no problem at all. I drove us out to the Bentonite Hills, and we spent the evening shooting the beautiful landscape there. We would have liked some more sunset color, but we're very happy to have found such a fantastic location. I'll have some photographs to post sometime next week. I drove back in the dark, and we had a quick meal at the only restaurant we could find. :)

Now - I'm going to get some sleep. We'll be up early tomorrow - en route to Grand Staircase - Escalante National Park to shoot some slot canyons!

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1:30am EST

It's 11:30pm here in Utah - I'm tired. :) We're staying in Torrey tonight - near Capitol Reef National Park. I haven't seen this park before. Should be fun.

It's cold out here - as expected - but we'll be out all day tomorrow. Clear skies for the next couple of days, and there should be a front rolling in this weekend. We'll be ready for it. :)

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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Back to Photography

All right - back to photography. Sorry for the momentary lapse. :)

Our flight to Utah leaves later this afternoon. We'll be flying into Salt Lake City, and heading South. We'd like to explore the slot canyons in the Northeastern region of Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. We will also spend a day hiking out to the Subway in Zion National Park. We expect clear skies, so slot canyons are a perfect place to be - no need to worry about spectacular skies. We'll want soft, even lighting in the canyons - no direct sunlight hitting the stone. That will allow us to bring out the shadows and keep highlight areas under control.

I'm looking forward to taking a longer trip with my 50D. So far, I'm really pleased with its performance. I'll update my blog as frequently as possible. As always, our plans will change in accordance with the weather.

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President Elect Barack Obama

Today - I am truly proud to be an American.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2008


We are getting some work done while we keep an eye on election results. Jay voted early this morning, and I took the kids with me a bit later. This is a fascinating race, and I'm not the only one who is waiting with baited breath for something definitive from the news networks... I have live video feeds running onscreen as I write this. :)

Meanwhile, we're getting ready for our trip to Utah. We leave tomorrow afternoon, and we plan to spend about five days shooting slot canyons in Grand Staircase, and the Subway formation. I can't wait to get back on a plane! As always, I'll try to keep my blog up to date as we travel.

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Sunday, November 2, 2008

Building a DSLR

Here's an absolutely fascinating video created by Matthew Farrell, Michelle Pang, and Michael Tom - students at UC Berkley. This was their final project for an Engineering class. The video shows every individual part of the Canon 10D and a 24-85mm f/3.5-4.5 lens - coming together as the camera is "built" onscreen. We've come a long way from the old quarter plate box cameras...
Or the cameras Ansel Adams used...


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