Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Thank you - whoever you are...

I once left my expensive, Gitzo tripod and Acratech ball head near a pretty little lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado. 30 minutes later, I realized my mistake, ran down the mountain as fast as I could... and found my tripod right where I'd left it. Fifty people must have seen it there during that time, but nobody took it. I was incredibly relieved to find it there. :)

Today, we left behind a wide-angle lens in a case. Just left it on the side of a trail. Dumb thing to do. We didn't realize our mistake until nearly two hours later... and by then we were miles away. It took us another two hours to get back to the park, and the lens was gone. But - someone had taken it to the visitor center and left it with the rangers. I could kiss that person. :) Thank you - whoever you are. You have reminded me that most people really are honest and kind. I think that's something we tend to forget.

We're heading home tomorrow - it's always hard to leave, but I am looking forward to processing some photos!

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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Rainforest --> Third Beach

We decided to take a detour this morning - rather than going to Ho, we drove through the Quinalt Rain Forest instead. We got a few nice shots - and saw quite a few caribou. Everything is very green right now. Just beautiful.

Afterward, we hiked down to Third Beach. The light was too harsh to shoot, but we wanted to explore the beach and see how close we could get to the base of the waterfall at low tide. We stayed long enough to let the tide run out quite a bit - I think we'll need to come back when the tides are at their lowest... maybe we can get closer then. Waiting on the beach is hardly a chore. :) We both fell asleep for a short time in the sun. What a treat!

We'd like to go out to Second Beach this evening, but we're not likely to get the cloud cover we want. We'll decide in a little while.

Thanks to all of you who left comments on my photo at Fred Miranda. I appreciate your responses!


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Good Morning

We slept in Elma last night, and we're headed for Olympic NP this morning. Heavy cloud cover expected this morning, so we'll head for the Ho Rain Forest. Maybe we'll get some nice mist.

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Cleveland --> Pittsburg --> Houston --> Seattle --> and beyond!

And, we're off. We're sitting in the Pittsburg airport waiting for our flight. I love airports with free WiFi. I get so much work done without any distractions. I am definitely ready for a few days in the wilderness. One of the things I love about Olympic is the diversity of the park. Mountains, rainforests, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, flowers, the Pacific Ocean... We're keeping an eye on weather patterns so we'll know where to be when the light is right - and it's rhododendron season... maybe we'll find some blooming. We'll be watching tide chards, cloud cover, and humidity levels on this trip, too. The better to put ourselves in the right place at the right time.

Is anyone else traveling this weekend?

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Why I Love Dragon Flies...

This little guy was sitting on our house when I drove in this morning - and he flew over to the garden as I got out my camera. He waited patiently while I went inside to get a sheet of tissue paper to soften the harsh light. I was able to get nice and close and take my time with him. He didn't fly away until I'd spent a good ten minutes fine-tuning my shot.

Most tiny creatures aren't too interested in sitting still while you dig out your camera, make adjustments, and stick a fat macro lens into their living space. But dragon flies are fantastic. He's beautiful, isn't he?
So - what's your opinion? Do you prefer the color version or the black and white? Click on the photo for a larger view.


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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Q and A: Should I own a printer?

Here's a selection from an email that arrived a few days ago...

Brian Walker said: "I am looking to possibly start selling my work at art shows... I have been getting my 16 by 20 inch prints fulfilled at Sam's Club on their Epson Printer for $6 a print. Do you think I should buy my own Epson 3800 so I can print on higher quality "fine art" papers?"

Check out Brian's website at: www.WildWorldPhotos.com. He has some beautiful images - especially his underwater photos!

And here's part of my response to him...

I think you have an excellent collection of work that will sell well – especially in Florida. We find that local shots sell best locally – so art shows should provide a good source of income if you are able to put some effort into preparation.

As far as printing, I do recommend purchasing your own printer – we own the Epson 3800 and use Ilford Smooth Pearl paper. We also use an Epson 9800 printer for our larger canvas prints. Although you can certainly continue to have your prints made at Sam’s, making your own gives you intimate control over color management, and lets you select the best paper for your project. Epson printers are excellent – we’ve been very pleased with ours. Check reviews for the Epson 3800 before you buy - though I think you'll be very happy with the printer. You should also take a look at the available papers to decide which you prefer for your images.

Do keep in mind that printing can be complicated. You’ll need to understand printer profiles and have a carefully calibrated monitor, so that your colors look the same on-screen and on paper. Make sure you know what printer settings to use.

Also – keep in mind that you will have to swallow the cost of printing errors. A print can be ruined in any number of ways – and you’ll need to build that cost into the price of your product. Just as you would incorporate your costs for matting and framing, printer ink and, of course, your time - make sure you are covering the cost of errors in printing. Jay and I sometimes make mistakes even after years of printing our own images. ;)

I want to thank all of you who have sent us emails in the past few months - your support and kind words mean a lot to us! I hope that posting some of these questions and answers here on our blog is helpful. And please do feel free to drop us a line - either here on our blog or in the form of an email. We love hearing from you!

- Varina

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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Studio Lighting

I have to admit, I really like my Canon speedlights. Studio photography is (in most cases) much easier than landscape photography - no steep mountains to climb, no difficult weather conditions, no trekking heavy gear through miles of wilderness. And no bears... usually. Still, there are many challenges, and studio photography is anything but boring.

Perfect studio lighting may seem to be as simple as the flick of a switch - but it's actually much more complicated than you think. The mood of the image depends upon the lighting as much as subject and composition. I've seen so many fantastic images that just don't have the impact they could because the light isn't right. We use reflected or diffused light more often then not - but there are situations that call for direct lighting as well. I have an article in the works that shows our basic studio lighting setup... that will help explain the basics for those who aren't sure where to start.

Our equipment is relatively simple - three flash units with stands, three umbrellas, a white paper backdrop, heavy black curtains, white reflective flooring, a couple of reflectors, and assorted clamps, stands, and backdrops for more creative shots. We've hung our white paper from the ceiling, so it can be rolled up and put away when not in use. Our black curtains hang from hooks in the ceiling, and they can be taken down as well. The reflective flooring is actually two large panels - which can be taken up and stored against a wall. All our lights and stands fit neatly into a small trunk that also serves as a coffee table. So our studio becomes our living room when we're done with it. It's a great set-up for a house full of kids!
More on studio lighting in future posts...


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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Q and A: How to handle color balance?

Jay and I get lots of emails from other photographers - and we try to respond to all of them (though that's not always easy... and it's getting harder every month). Today, I answered an interesting question - and I thought some of you might also be interested in the answer... so here it is.

S asked: "In several landscape photos - most of which are taken during sunrise and in coastal areas - I see that the foreground water has a cool blue tone, and the sunrise has a strong warm tone. When I try this for myself, I either get one of the cool or warm tones, or get a mix of both. How this blend of cool and warm tones is achieved?"

My response: In wide-angle nature photography, it is very common to have an image that requires different white balance in different regions. In order to handle situations like these, I shoot RAW and process a single images at least twice – once using warmer tones, and then again using cooler tones. I open both versions of the image in Photoshop, and use layers and masks to combine them - creating a final image that is as close to my visual reality as I can bring it.

In the real world, it is rare to find a scene with even light balance overall. Shady areas have a different light temperature than sunny areas, reflected light is different from diffused light, and so on. It is up to the photographer to determine the nearest reasonable color balance for the best possible result. I try to create a final image that is as close as possible to reality as I saw it. It’s not always easy – and my images aren’t always perfect – but I do try. :)


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Thursday, May 14, 2009

Going Home

We're headed for Olympic National Park next week. The Pacific Northwest feels like home to me - and I look forward to trips like this one more than any others. Don't get me wrong - put me in the wilderness just about anywhere, and I'll be happy... but air that smells like pines makes me feel completely at peace. The Rocky Mountains are where I belong. And we'll go to great lengths to get there this time...

We're driving from Cleveland to Pittsburg... stopping in Houston before flying to Seattle... and then driving to the park. We won't be there long, but we'll make the most of our time. Can't wait!


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Monday, May 11, 2009

Busy as heck...

I'm afraid I haven't had much time to update my blog this past week - I'm sorry for that. We want to be sure our material is ready for our San Jose and Cleveland seminars. I've also been teaching private classes quite a bit more than usual. I'd like to get some images from Tennessee processed, but we've decided to wait on those until we feel that our presentations are perfectly tuned. So, hang in there - I will continue to post as often as I can.

Last week, I taught a private class on hyperfocal distance. If you are interested, take a look at the article Jay and I wrote recently. Many of you have seen it before, but for those who haven't, hyperfocal distance is not as complicated as it seems. Good stuff! This photo shows a Michigan lighthouse... and provides an example of what hyperfocal distance can do for your photographs. You can see individual grains of sand in perfect focus in the foreground - and the lighthouse is tack-sharp as well.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Trillium and a busy week...

Boy, it's been a busy week! I managed to finish a run yesterday - after a few weeks of short runs on a painful knee. Much better at last. It's nice to be able to run outdoors again, too. :) We also did an upper body workout - and we'll be back at the gym tonight... biking and lower body. Boy oh boy! ;)

Last week's presentation at the Akron Camera Club went very well. Thanks very much to those of you who signed up for our seminar afterwards! We're looking forward to seeing you again! We've also been busy preparing for our June seminar in California, and our August seminar in Ohio. We've had many requests for online classes, so we're working on putting that together as well. We expect to be able to offer our first "Webinar" sometime later this year. We'll keep you posted.

I did manage to get my website updated. My latest travel information is now online, along with workshop information, news, and the like.

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