Wednesday, December 23, 2009

The Rule of Thirds

Photography is art. How can there be rules for art? A friend and fellow photographer says "rules are made to be broken". I'm pretty sure he's talking about photography rules, or at least I hope so.

There are several rules of composition that can help a photographer compose a photograph that is more interesting to the viewer. I have to agree with my friend and think of these as guidelines more than rules.

Perhaps the most useful photographic composition guideline is called The Rule of Thirds. Many photographers compose their shot to put the subject in the center of the photo like in the first photo to the right, which often produces a photo that's more of a snapshot. It has a static documentary feel to it.

The Rule of Thirds involves dividing the photo up into 9 equal parts by drawing two equally spaced vertical and horizontal lines, like a tic-tac-toe board. You want to place the subject or dominant element of your photo near one of the four points where the lines intersect, like in the second photo on the left.
This photo could have been more interesting if I had placed the flower at one of the intersection points on the left instead of the right so that the flower is facing into the photo instead of out of it. This is one of those cases where I wish I could go back and try this shot again.

Sometimes your photo may have more than one main subject, in which case you might want to compose to use more than one intersection.

If your photo has a natural line that divides it you might want to arrange the photo to place that line along one of the horizontal or vertical lines. If you're taking a landscape shot, place the subject you want to emphasize either above the bottom line or below the top line. For example, in the third photo on the right, I composed the shot to place the far lake shore along the top line and emphasize the lake and the rocks in the foreground rather than the sky.
Many of today's camera have the rule of thirds grid displayed in the viewfinder or on the LCD display (some of you are saying to yourself "so that's what that's for!"). You may have to change the camera settings to turn it on.
If we all followed the "rules of photography" all our photos would look the same. Don't be constrained by this rule. Some of the most interesting photos out there break all the rules.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Climate Change and National Park Wildlife. A Survival Guide for a Warming World

One of the organizations we support is the National Parks Conservation Association or NPCA. They have just issued a report on climate change and National Park wildlife. According to Thomas Kiernan, President of NPCA

What's happening in the parks is symptomatic of changes unfolding across the
larger landscapes to which they are inseperably connected, the same landscapes
that contain our communities. Changes that harm wildlife - depriving them
of food, water, or shelter - will ultimately harm us.

The report is available free online at It's 60 pages long, but much of those pages are filled with beautiful wildlife photography. Take a look, read the report, and consider supporting NPCA.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Battle of Zollicoffer

Zollicoffer is what Bluff City TN was called during the Civil War. There is a reenactement held just outside Bluff City each year. This is the second year I've gone and this was even better than the first time. Great weather, lots of action, and plenty of characters around.

Check out a few of the photos from that day at Battle of Zollicoffer

Monday, November 9, 2009

What does a landscape photographer do on a foggy morning?

On an early fall morning I got up way before sunrise to go down to Warriors Path State Park to get some sunrise shots. You never know what you will find after you get up and head out. Sometimes your rewarded with a beautiful sunrise (I've been blessed with several) but sometimes you get clouds or even worse - fog. The hard part of getting up and driving out there is past so I might as well make the best of it.

A foggy morning can result in some erie pictures and some that are very interesting. You wont get a brilliant sky, or beautiful warm colors of the early morning sun, but sometimes you get rewarded with something like the photo here. You can browse to a large image by clicking here.

The soft lighting of overcast days can eliminate unwanted shadows, cut down on nasty glare, and make the colors really pop. Cloudy and rainy days are some of the best times to shoot landscapes. Just avoid the ugly sky and focus on the intimate details. Watch for those opportunites to get that picture that's different from the ones everyone else shoots on the pretty days.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The End of Fall

I've been out on more trips to more places this fall than any other year. I've been blessed with some beautiful fall colors. The leaves are pretty much down now and the color gone here in the Tri-Cities but I did capture some pictures over the past two weeks and posted them at Fall Colors 2009

I hope you enjoy this and the other pictures from this fall.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Dupont State Forest

The Eastman Camera Club took a day trip to Dupont State Forest in Oct. for the fall color and waterfalls. The fall colors were not as bright as we had hoped but the waterfalls were very full! It was overcast all day, which is good for taking waterfall pictures in the middle of the day. The pictures are available in the Dupont State Forest 2009 album.

The Friends of Dupont provided shuttle bus rides between the falls and a lake. They also do this for spring wildflowers on Mother's Day Weekend. We're already planning on going back.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Blue Ridge Parkway Fall Colors

June and I spent three days on the parkway in October, one of which was a nice sunny day. The other two were pretty much washouts. We stayed at an excellent B&B in Black Mountain, NC called The Arbor House. The first few pictures are taken from the back of the B&B looking out over Lake Tomahawk with the Blue Ridge Mountains in the background. The rest of the photos were taken between Black Mountain and Blowing Rock.

The fall colors varied from brilliant to just about gone. There had been an unusual amount of rain leading up to that time, which knocked down many of the leaves. You'll see from the photos that there were still a lot left.

The photos are in the Blue Ridge Parkway 2009 album. I hope you enjoy.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Rocky Fork Wilderness

June and I hiked into the Rocky Fork Wilderness on Saturday and loved it. It's a beautiful place that was saved from developers in 2008. Here's some info on the acquisition Rocky Fork Acquisition

We went hoping to catch some early fall color but the leaves have not started to turn yet. We've had a couple cool nights so it won't be long.

Here's some photos from that trip.
Rocky Fork

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pink Ribbon Ride 2009

Each year I help the Tri-Cities Road (Biking) Club by taking pictures for the Mountain Empire Pink Ribbon Ride. This is a fund raiser for Breast Cancer Research. Nature tried her best to dampen this event, but plenty of riders braved the rain to ride 25, 50, 80 and even 100 miles through the mountains.

I have posted my photos under the Sports Album. More photos from the 80 and 100 mile rides are coming.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tips for Fall Photography

Fall is here! The brilliant yellows, reds, greens and clear blue skies are combining to form beautiful scenes that you'll want to capture before they're gone. We live a great area for fall colors, but they won't last much longer. It's impossible to predict, but based on past seasons you can expect the following:

  • October 3-14: Head to the high elevations above 5,000 feet to find the most color this early.

  • October 11-21: Color will increase in elevations above 4,000 feet.

  • October 18-27: Many of our surrounding mountains show plenty of color, especially in the 3,000-4,000 foot elevation range.

  • October 24-November 3: The color in the Tri-Cites should be the brightest this week,

  • October 27-November 7: Most of the leaves may be down and the color faded by this time. You'll need to head south and stay in the lower elevations to find much color this late.

Here's some tips to get the most out of those fall pictures:

  1. Plan to shoot around the golden hours, which are the hours just before and after sunrise and sunset. This is true year round, but when the sun is low it will add a golden hue to those fall reds and yellows.

  2. Use a tripod if you have one. If you're shooting in the golden hours you may end up with a long shutter speed. If you don't have a tripod place your camera on a steady object such as a car, rock, or fence post. Don't let camera shake ruin your shot.

  3. Use a polarizing filter. This will cut any haze and give the leaves a rich saturated color.

  4. Underexpose slightly. This will give your photo dark richer colors. Don't over do it. See the histogram post for more information on adjusting exposure.

  5. Look for contrasting colors such as red/green, blue/yellow. A yellow tree on a blue sky or red leaves on green grass can make a very interesting shot.

  6. Don't be afraid of a little rain. Overcast days are great for bringing out colors, eliminating harsh shadows, and creating some cool effects. Try to avoid including gray skies in your photo. They're not very interesting.

  7. Give nature a boost. You can warm up a photo by slightly increasing the color temperature using Photoshop, Lightroom or other photo editing software. You can get a similar effect by changing the camera white balance to cloudy.

Of course the most important thing is to get out and shoot, shoot, shoot. The leaves won't wait.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Histograms - Possibly The Most Useful Tool in Digital Photography

We all have one on our digital cameras, but not everyone knows what they mean and how to use them to take better photos. I've written a short article for the Eastman Camera Club on histograms and made it available on

It's a brief introduction to histograms and some suggestions on how to use them. The article is available here.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Bear Lake Takes First Place

My Bear Lake photo took first place for Proficient Nature in the Downtown Kingsport Photography Contest. All the photos will be on display Sept 4 through 29 at the Downtown Kingsport Assn. Offices 140 West Main Street, Kingsport. Unfortunetly, the offices are only open Tuesday - Thursday.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Excellent Photography Community in the Tri-Cities

Anyone living near the Tri-Cities area (Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City) with an interest in photography should check out the PhotoTriCities online forum.

This is a free forum with lots of friendly photographers interested in sharing photos, questions, suggestions, and generally anything to do with photography. You'll learn about local photography events, outings, software, techniques and any number of other valuable tidbits. Plus you'll meet some great people. I highly recommend it.

The website is

You can browse without signing up, but you get much more out of the community if you sign up and participate. Remember, it's free and you won't get spammed!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Finally -- Photos from Grand Tetons and Yellowstone

After June and I vacationed in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks I decided to try something new and created a video slide show of my photos from that trip. It was fun and so far they have been viewed over 150 times. But, that's not for everyone. Some people (myself included) prefer to pick and choose which pictures to look at. Well to accomodate you, I have created a new online photo album for those photos - and

I hope you enjoy these. Of course, they are all for sale. I just have to get them over to the gallery.

Monday, August 17, 2009

The Battle of Saltville

Several area photographers went to a Civil War Reenactment in Saltville Virginia on Saturday August 15. This commemorates the 145th anniversary of the Battle of Saltville. Saltville had the only salt mine in the south, which made it critical to the war effort.

I've posted several photos from the reenactment here  I've tried something new with several photos - making them look antique. I'd love to hear what you think.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

You can now get emails automatically

If you sign up on this blog site you can automatically get emails when a new blog entry is posted. Just enter your email in the box to the right and click subscribe. It's that simple.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

My first gallery exhibit - Ten Points of View

I have joined with 9 other local photographers in an exhibit of recent works at the DKA Main Art Center, 140 West Main Street, Kingsport,TN, during the month of August. This is a first for me. I've shown and sold my photos in local contests, but the exhibit thing is new and exciting.

Exhibitors are
  • B. J. Baker
  • Bruce Cole
  • Diana Johnson-Martin
  • Fred Martin
  • Anjie Perry
  • Frank Renault
  • Myra Renault
  • Richard Siggins
  • Jeffrey Stoner
  • Cindy Williams

Each photographer’s own unique view of the world can be seen in the multiple images they contributed. Photos of Egyptian ruins, eagles on the lookout, grizzly bears at rest, Alaskan sunsets, North Carolina sunrises and sites along the Blue Ridge Parkway are just some of the images on display.

If you're in the Kingsport area, please stop by and visit the exhibit at The Main Art Center . The gallery is only open from 8 to 5 Tuesday - Wednesday. Admision is free.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Third Place in Virginia Highlands Festival Photo Contest

I took third place in the Proficient Color class of Virginia Highlands Photography Contest this year. The photo was Bear Lake Sunset. It will be on display at the Abingdon United Methodist Church until August 9.

Next up - The Kingsport Railgrass Photography Contest. This has been a great contest the past two years and I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Slideshows from Grand Tetons and Yellowstone

Slide Shows From Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks
We spent almost 9 days in the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks. I'm trying something new this time - video slide shows from the trip. There are two videos available:

Grand Tetons Length 6:11
Yellowstone - Length 9:50

These are hosted on YouTube, which may be blocked for some people.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Springtime in Tennessee!

It's springtime here and the wildflowers are up and the birds are everywhere. Enjoy the latest additions to the gallery.