Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Death Valley Workshop - January 2010

Registration is now open for our Death Valley workshop coming up in January of 2010! Spaces are limited - if you want to join us, you’ll need to register right away!

For detailed information, and to register, use this link: https://www.regonline.com/DVworkshop

Death Valley is a Landscape Photographer's dream-come-true. Beautiful skies, incredible textures, and intense colors provide inspiration wherever you go. This is a land of extremes... it is the driest, the hottest, and the lowest place in the Western Hemisphere. Intense weather conditions and an amazing variety of landscapes characterize the area. From the scorched and windblown sands of the dunes, to the peaceful flow of Darwin Falls - from the bizarre salt formations at Badwater, to the fascinating tracks left by moving stones at the Racetrack - Death Valley is a fascinating place.

Students will face a variety of challenges here - including handling a high dynamic range of light, dealing with extreme temperature changes, and reaching remote locations. One of the most important skills for a landscape photographer is choosing the best possible shooting location based upon weather conditions and other environmental factors. In order to learn this skill, students will be encouraged to participate in the selecting the right location under the direction of the instructors.
  • Dates: Jan 29th - Jan 31
  • We will meet in the evening on Jan 28 (the day before the workshop begins) at Stove Pipe Wells to make sure everyone is ready for our early morning shoot on the 29th.
  • Price: $899
We will stay at Stove Pipe Wells, and students will make their own lodging and travel arrangements. There is a camp ground just a few steps away for those who choose to camp. Students will pay for their own transportation, food, and lodging - these are NOT included in the price of the trip. Reservations for lodging in Death Valley are hard to come by so if you are interested in attending the workshop, we highly recommend that you make reservations at Stovepipe wells as soon as possible.

Hotel: http://www.stovepipewells.com/accommodations-1238.html
Campground: http://www.nps.gov/deva/planyourvisit/camping.htm

Here are some images from Death Valley:

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

Webinar Weekend

We've finished up the first three sessions - one more to go this afternoon. Thanks to all of you who signed up! We always enjoy teaching, and we're really liking the online format.

Don't forget - recorded sessions are available to all registered students - so you can review the session at any time. And refer to the videos and notes we included in your course materials for a quick refresher if you need it.

I hope everyone is enjoying their weekend!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

Check this Out - "Top Ten Doctored Photos"

"Are your photos manipulated?" That's a questions photographers are asked all the time. The digital age has brought an amazing wealth of photographic capabilities - from quick image previews on the back of your camera, to manipulation techniques that allow you to make your photo look like a watercolor painting. Some photographers shun these tools entirely - maintaining that the use of such tools is "cheating" or worse. Professionals and amateurs alike find themselves looking at an image and wondering if it's "real."

But the digital age wasn't the beginning of photo manipulation. This slide show came across my desk this week - and I think some of the more impressive manipulations are actually those that were done long before Adobe's "clone tool" made it's debut.


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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Featured Downloads

Here's another downloadable shot for your collection. :) Our front lawn is now spotted with pretty yellow leaves from the River Birch outside our bedroom window. I love this time of year, not least because I know I'd better enjoy the beautiful weather while it lasts - winter is coming. I took this shot two years ago - right in our back yard. I loved the pattered frost on the red and gold leaves. I hope you enjoy the shot!

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More free wallpaper is available at our Download Site.

These images are provided for personal use as computer wallpaper or backgrounds ONLY. Copyright belongs to the photographer, and photographs cannot be used, redistributed, or recreated in print or on the web or on any other medium without written permission from the photographer.

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Monday, September 21, 2009

Video Tutorial - Using a Mask with an Adjustment Layer

When we make adjustments to a photo in Photoshop, we nearly always use an adjustment layer. But what if you don't want the apply the adjustment to the entire image? In this video, we show you how to create a mask on an adjustment layer using the gradient tool. This is a great technique for handling images with a relatively straight horizon line.

For more articles and tutorials, click here.

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Old photographs...

When I posted about my early work in photography, I received lots of emails and comments asking to see some of those old photos. So, here are a few. I'm afraid most of my earliest images no longer exist.

In the beginning, I was mostly interested in portraiture. My youngest brother was my usual subject - mostly because he was incredibly cute and loved the attention. I took these two shots of him when I was about 14 - with a Pentax K1000 I borrowed from my dad. I don't know my shutter speed or aperture, but the images were processed in the darkroom at the Junior High. :) I was still struggling with exposure - as you can see.

In college, I tried to go a little more artsy at times. My boyfriend bought me roses - and they became the subject of a few images. Once again, my exposure is off - and the cropping leaves something to be desired. :)

My old clunker of a station wagon had enough character to be considered photo-worthy. It was absolutely gigantic, the handle fell off when you tried to roll up the windows, the heater quit working regularly (and started up again if you kicked the fender hard enough), and big rusty patches fell off when you slammed the doors - but it was a GREAT car. Especially since I could see the road speeding by through the holes in the floor. :) It looks almost stately here, though.

And here is one of my very first landscape shots. Over-exposed trees in the background, a lack of contrast overall, and a generally uninteresting composition... but I loved every minute of creating the photo. And that's what it's all about, right?

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Webinar Series - Next Weekend!

Our webinar series is one week away! If you'd like to attend, and you haven't yet signed up, use this link:


For those who find the scheduling inconvenient - we plan to record all seminar sessions, and make them available to students for review. Recorded sessions will be available as streaming video through WebEx for a minimum of 2 weeks after the session has ended. Students will have access to the recordings from all sessions for which they are registered.

We've had quite a few questions about that - and we want to make it clear that students who can not attend real-time can still take the courses. You won't be able to ask questions during class, but you can send us an email afterward and we'll get back to you ASAP.

Of course, students who attend the real-time sessions can review the recorded sessions as well.

You'll need a high-speed internet connection and a computer with speakers. Students can connect via telephone or WebEx's VOIP service as well.

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Glacier National Park

We've been traveling all day - up at 4:30 am, out the door by 5... then from Cleveland to Minneapolis to Spokane. We picked up the rental car and then left Washington, drove through Northern Idaho, and into Montana. We're staying in Whitefish tonight, and headed for Glacier National Park tomorrow morning. We'll spend the day backpacking, and then we'll pitch out tents for the night.
It's a special occasion - my son, Nick's, 13-year trip. He turned 13 last week, and we've been planning his trip for the past year or so. Montana was his destination of choice - Glacier National Park is stunningly beautiful, so we think he chose the perfect spot.All three of these shots are from a previous trip to Glacier... we haven't had a chance to shoot yet. But Nick is ready with his Canon Rebel XS and tripod. He's got shutter speed and aperture figured out, and is reading his histogram like a pro. So, we're looking forward to seeing his finished images.

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Black and White

When I was in 7th grade - maybe 14 years old - I took my first photography class. I loved working with my dad's old Pentax K1000... and I even had the opportunity to process my own photos in the darkroom. What an experience for a kid! All these years later, I still love black and white - though my portfolio has only a few examples of my own monochrome images.
I miss those hours in the darkroom. If I close my eyes, I can still smell the chemicals, and I have no doubt that I could still wind a reel with undeveloped film in the dark if I needed to. There's a certain pleasure in working in the darkroom - but times have changed.
No more film photography for me - Photoshop is my darkroom now. Technology has made it possible for me to save my work at any time without worrying about leaving something sitting in solution for too long. So the kids can be my first priority. But I wouldn't trade those hundreds of hours in the darkroom for anything. I loved every minute of it.Maybe one of these days, I'll dig out some of my old black and white shots and post them here. What do you think? Anyone interested in seeing what I was doing in the darkroom all those years ago? :)

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Learning to See: Midday Light

Once the sun is high in the sky, photographers begin to worry about harsh shadows and blown highlights. But, with a bit of creative thinking, even direct sunlight can produce breathtaking and unique images. After shooting spring flowers in Great Smoky Mountain National park, Jay noticed that bright sunlight was filtering through the trees overhead, and creating fascinating patterns on the ground. He shot this photograph of a Trillium flower lit by direct sunlight. He reduced the exposure to prevent the overexposure of the petals, which made the Trillium seem to glow among the darker leaves nearby.

Another trick for shooting at mid-day is to look for areas that are completely in shade or completely in sun. For this shot, Varina waited until the sun was covered by clouds - once the scene was completely in the shade, she took the shot. The photo was taken around 3:30 pm, but with an interesting foreground and sky - and even lighting - the shot works despite the time of day.

Here are some other examples of shots that were taken at mid-day. This one, from Dry Tortugas National Park in Florida was taken in direct sunlight. It works because the scene is evenly lit.

And this one is from Navajo Falls near Supai, Arizona. The entire scene is in shade - except for the flaring sun coming through the trees behind the falls.

Tips for shooting in Miday

  • Look for unique lighting when you shoot icons. You may have to return to the location several times to get great lighting.
  • Look for areas that are either completely in sun or completely in shade to avoid harsh light.
  • Use openings in between trees and canyon walls to capture a sun star effect.
  • Use opening in the trees to capture a spotlight effect. Make smaller details the focal point in your image.

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Friday, September 4, 2009

Featured Download: Finding Neverland

This week, we've chosen Jay's shot of a tall ship off the coast of Florida. Sometimes, we hike for miles and wait for hours to get the shot. Sometimes, we march through heavy drifts of snow, or wait out sand storms just to capture that spectacular sunset.

And sometimes, you get the shot while you are standing on the deck of your cruise ship with a champagne glass in your free hand. This shot was taken on a "Sunset Cruise" in Key West. The setting sun lit up the sails of the tall ship in the distance - and Jay was able to catch the warm glow against a backdrop of stunning cloud formations.

And I'm jealous. Because the cruise happened before I knew him. So I didn't get to go along.

Click on the link below to download this free wallpaper at the appropriate size for your monitor:

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More free wallpaper are available at on our Download Site.

These images are provided for personal use as computer wallpaper or backgrounds ONLY. Copyright belongs to the photographer, and photographs cannot be used, redistributed, or recreated in print or on the web or on any other medium without written permission from the photographer.

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Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Learning to See: Creative Compositions: Part II

The first post in our Learning to See series explored the topic of Creative Compositions. Remember those tips we mentioned...?
  • Find a new location to shoot that icon
  • Experiment with different zoom lenses
  • Change elevation of your camera
  • Get up close to focus on textures and patterns rather then location
  • Use reflections if available
  • Place a human or wildlife element in the photograph
Here are a few examples to illustrate the point.
For the first photo, Varina shot directly into the sun with a Canon's 135mm f/2.0 L-series lens. You're looking at Everglades National Park. By using a 135mm lens on 1.6x camera, Varina was able to fill the frame with the few low hanging clouds on the horizon. It's not a typical shot from that location - though you'll see those famous back-lit spider webs in the foreground if you look carefully.

In the next two examples, Jay used human or wildlife elements as foreground points of interest.

And for this last shot, Varina used macro lens to capture this tiny leaf against patterned sandstone. The shot was taken near the Hanging Gardens in Page, Arizona - since the light wasn't right for broad landscapes, she focused on details and patterns instead.

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