Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Different Take on Photographing Fireworks

Are you going out New Year's Eve?  If there will be fireworks you might want to take your camera, tripod, and cable release and try your hand at taking fireworks photos.  There's lots of information on the web on how to take pictures of fireworks so I won't try to tell you what others have already done.  

Here's a technique you may not find on the web.  I saw this earlier this year and tried it out back on Independence Day. Try zooming in or out while taking fireworks shots.  It effect can be very interesting or at least different from the millions of other fireworks photos out there. 

Here's some basic guidelines

  1. Use a tripod.   You'll want it to be fairly stable.  Figure out where the fireworks are exploding, aim your camera at that general areas.
  2. Use a zoom lens wide enough to capture the largest display but able to zoom in to fill the frame with the fireworks.
  3. Set your exposure to around 2 seconds. ISO 400, and about f/11.  
  4. Place one hand on the shutter release and the other on the lens zoom ring.
  5. When the explosion goes off click the shutter and slowly zoom using a smooth and steady motion.  Try to move the camera as little as possible.   
  6. Experiment with zooming in and zooming out.  Try zooming through the entire 2 seconds or just and the end or beginning of the exposure.   Change your setup to get a longer exposure.  Then change to a shorter one.  Experiment and have fun.  There are no hard and fast rules for this.

Try this out and let me know how it comes out.  Have fun.  It's New Year's Eve after all.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Pitfalls of traveling with camera gear

June and I take at least one big trip a year that involves checking luggage with the airlines.   I will put my tripod in one of the suitcases that get checked, along with hiking poles.   This almost always results in the bags getting searched.   This has never been a problem for me since my luggage eventually gets to our destination.   I never check my camera gear.  I don't trust the bag slingers to not break something, or worse in the case of this traveling photographer

Photographer Has $2,000 in Camera Gear Go Missing After a JetBlue Flight

Earlier this year I purchased a second DSLR camera body and now travel with:
  • Canon 5D Mark ii
  • Canon 7D
  • 17-40mm zoom
  • 28-105mm zoom
  • 100mm macro lens
  • 80-400mm (big and heavy) zoom
  • flash, extra camera and flash batteries, filters, memory card pouches, cables, tele-converter,  and a bunch of other odds and ends.
This is too much for my old faithful backpack so this past summer I added a Think Tank Airport Commuter Backpack to my collection.   I can put all that gear in the Think Tank bag.  Best of all, it fits in the overhead bins or under the seat on the airlines!   Even on those little commuter planes that fly out of Tri-Cities Airport.

I highly recommend Think Tank bags.   Many of their bags are designed to fit in airline carry on bins or under seats.   Plus, the build quality is excellent.

As you can see from the list above, my collection of gear has grown over the past few years.   This means I've got a good bit of money tied up in camera gear.   If the something should get broken, lost or stolen on our travels I'd hate to have to replace any one of these pieces of equipment.  In most cases, home owner insurance is not going cover lost or damaged camera gear.  I have now insured my gear through a special policy with my insurance company.    This has given me peace of mind knowing that if I slip and drop a camera or someone breaks in to the car I'm going to be able to get my gear replaced.

So, if you have a reasonable sized investment in your gear and/or travel with your gear, I recommend investing in good quality camera bag and some added insurance.   Don't let the loss of some material things ruin your travels.

Image at right is Rainbow Falls in Jones Gap State Park, South Carolina.   June and I hiked there after a overnight trip to Greenville SC this year.   There are a number of state parks, waterfalls, and great hikes in South Carolina between Greenville and the NC state line.  We plan to go back several more times to explore as much as possible.   And I won't have to worry about losing or breaking camera gear while we are out hiking.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Best 12 of 2012

The year of 2012 is drawing to a close and despite fears in some parts of society, the world did not come to an end last week.   The last couple weeks of the year is time to go through the images I've shot over the past 12 months and pick out my favorites. 

These may not be the best, and may not be the most popular images, but they are the ones I like the best.   I tried to pick a variety of subjects but in the end 10 of the 12 are landscapes.   I enjoy photographing other subjects but I still come back to landscape and nature as my favorite subjects.

Some of these photos floated to the top of my list because they bring back memories of fun times out shooting with June or with friends.

The best way to view these is to click on the first image.  That should bring up another window where you can page forward and backward through larger versions of the images.  Enjoy!  Oh, and let me know what you think.  I want to hear from you.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Looking Past The Obvious

When June and I are planning a trip I like to get books to help me plan out where to go, where to stay, where to eat and what to make sure we see.  If I can find one, I also get a book on photographing the area.  These books, written by photographers, provide information on where to go and what time to be there to get "the shot".   My first photography book was "Photographing The Canadian Rockies by Darwin Wiggett.  I learned a lot from this little book and found some interesting places to shoot that were not in any of the traditional guide books.   However, I ran into other photographers who also had his book and were looking for the same shots.  

When we were in Glacier National Park earlier this year we stopped and took "The Shot" of Lake St. Mary and Wild Goose Island.  It's a popular shot taken by most people from the same spot.  The day we stopped I had to wait for other photographers to clear out before I could take my shot.  We had pretty nice conditions with blue sky, clouds over the mountains and an unobstructed view of the island in the lake.  I was able to take advantage of those rules (guidelines) to photography - having foreground, middle ground, and background elements to give the photo a sense of depth and the rule of thirds.

The problem with this photo is it's one of hundreds just like it taken that day.   In a year there will be thousands taken from this spot.   Just google wild goose island and you'll see what I mean.  It's just not special.

Not far away in Glacier National Park is McDonald Creek.  You won't find as many images of McDonald Creek.   It's a pretty place and most people will stop at the over look pull offs and check out the creek before jumping back in the car and heading up the road.   We spent part of two days exploring the creek and taking pictures of the various subjects (photos of McDonald Creek and Lake in my gallery).  On one of those days we stopped to sit by the creek and just enjoy the scenery and sounds of the water flowing over the rocks.  The water was low enough that I was able to wade into the creek and discover the creek bed was covered with smooth multicolored stones.   I had an idea - take a picture looking straight down at the stones with a fast shutter speed to capture the ripples in the water.

This is not something that you would find in the guidebooks or photography guides for Glacier NP.  I suspect few people come back from visiting Glacier National Park with a picture of the stones in the creek.   It's not the grand vista or one of "the shots".  Funny thing is it's one of my favorite photos from the trip.  It is one of the photos on my 2013 calendar and when people flip though the pages this is the one they stop on and say "wow!".

Sometimes we need to slow down and look around.  Take all of creation in.  Sometimes the prettiest picture is right under our feet!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Little Dry Spell

Fall is past and we're in the part of winter where it is difficult to make myself get out a shoot.   There are no flowers, little color, and just not a lot growing around here.   I did see some confused blooming Rhododendrons in Kingsport yesterday, but I suspect those buds froze last night.   Winter can be a magical time with many opportunities for photography when it snows, but we're not there yet.  Given the recent weather patterns I don't know if we will see much in the way of snow this year.  As a result, I haven't taken any landscape, nature, or outdoor photos.

Without new materials I've gone back to some photos taken earlier in the year.   This one was taken on July 4, but it really could be any time of year.   What do you think of when you look at this photo?   Wonder where the door goes?  What about that mysterious foggy scene outside the window?  Do you think about how old the weathered wood and hardware seem to be?

Because I was there I know the answers to all these questions, but I think the photo is better not explained.  Sometimes we need a little mystery and don't need to know everything.

"Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man's desire to understand."   Neil Armstrong

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Renewed and Fixed

For a few months now people who used Firefox, Chrome, and some other web browsers had difficulty viewing my blog.  Something happened that caused links within a blog post to no longer work.  After waiting for a fix from blogger, I decided to recreate my blog site design from scratch to see if that would fix the problem.

Cathedral of St. John the Baptist
The links now work but the site looks a little different.  I was not able to make it look exactly the way it did before.  But change can be a good thing, right?

We all need to be renewed from time to time.  Romans 12:2 says "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will."

Renewing ourselves is not as easy as renewing a website.  Once something is gone from a website it is gone.  Our old habits are not that way.  They can be ingrained and tend to come back when we're not expecting them.  Renewing is not a one time event but a continual process.   The good news is we have the Holy Spirit to help us in that renewal process.

May your days be full of renewal!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Some Seasons Just Don't Last Long Enough

I'm blessed to be able to live in a part of the country that has four seasons.   Although some of my friends and family in Florida may not think so, even winter is a welcome change from the monotony of tropical living.

My favorite seasons are Spring and Fall.   The freshness of Spring with all the wildflowers blooming all around just makes me feel good.   Walking though the woods surrounded by flower and brilliant new green growth can recharge the deadest personal battery.   With the many different varieties of plants and flowers Spring can last for many weeks.

Fall is a different story.  Once the leaves start to turn it's not long before they go from brilliant to gone.   Often I only get one good weekend to get out and shoot fall colors before the yellows, reds, and oranges are  brown and down.  This fall I had a free day to go out and shoot and I chose to head up to the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and see what I could find.

On the way from Kingsport to the Parkway I got to Lake Watauga at sunrise.  I was the only person out there that morning.   I don't think anyone even drove by while I was there enjoying the peaceful morning on the lake.   The "golden hour" light gave the clouds a nice pink color.

After a stop in Boone NC for a Hardee's biscuit I stopped at the Moses Cone Mansion on the Blue Ridge Parkway.   My favorite shot of that stop was looking out from a walkway tunnel under the parkway.   I went for that shot because of the fall colors and blue sky but was given a bonus when a girl rode by in her equestrian riding outfit.   I should have stayed in the tunnel and took some more shots but I didn't want to spook the horse in the tunnel.   I wish I had that opportunity again.

A little ways up the road was a small pond surrounded by fall colors. There was little to no wind but the skies were starting to cloud up, which made the colors really pop, but was a preview of the rest of my day.

Soon after leaving the pond the clouds rolled in and descended on the Parkway eliminating any chance of the grand vista with blue sky shots.   I stopped and hiked up the Rough Ridge Trail which is a great trail.  The fall colors were still pretty nice but the clouds were still with me.   I made the best of the overcast conditions by taking several pictures under the trees with no sky, including this one that looks like Elves and Hobbits should be walking by, and a great arched bridge where trolls could be hiding.

I did take one shot of the Blue Ridge Mountains from near the top of Rough Ridge.   Nice fall colors but wouldn't it look great with a blue sky and white puffy clouds?

It was the best day for fall color photography I had this year.  Six days later everything was past peak and done for the year.   Now we've had an early winter with more than a foot of snow in the mountains.   This time I was at Hilton Head and missed the whole thing.   My son got great pictures from Roan Mountain, which makes me wish for more snow.  The good thing is winter lasts much longer and I'll have more opportunities to get out and shoot some in the snow before we start over again with spring in 2013.

These photos can be ordered from my website under the Blue Ridge Gallery.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

And the winners are...

The votes are in and the photos for my 2013 calendar have been selected.   Here's the results in order of votes:

  1. Super Moon - Cover Photo
  2. Virginia Creek
  3. Mountain Reflections
  4. Sunrise Roan Mountain Highlands
  5. Sunrise From Sun Point
  6. Sunflower
  7. Sunrise View From Many Glacier Hotel
  8. Rainbow Rocks
You can view all the photos that will be on the calendar here
Note - the blogger software has a bug where the links are not working for some web browsers.   If the above link does not work copy and past this web address into your browser

It was fun to see what you liked and didn't like.  I learned some things
  • A flower may be pretty but few people want to look at them on their calendar for a month.
  • I don't have to travel far to take photos that people like.   You picked three local shots and I picked four so half the photos were taken in our own region.
  • The most popular photo was taken while standing in my back yard.
  • Everybody's taste is different.   Every photo except one was on someone's list of seven.
Thanks to everyone who voted and a big thanks to everyone who ordered calendars.  I'm already within 30 of my goal for this year and the orders are still flowing in at a pretty good pace.   I expect to blow right past that goal and keep going right up to the end of the year.  Don't worry if you have not ordered yet.   Email me your order and I'll make sure you get as many as you want.

I'm really enjoying putting this calendar together and getting my customers involved.   Best of all, 100% of the profit goes to support Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport.   

Sunday, October 7, 2012

2013 Wall Calendars

Note - The Blogger site is having problems with any links to other websites.  For now the links below will not work on some web browsers.  You may have to copy the http address for each one and past it into your web browser address to go to that site.  Sorry.   I guess that's what I get with free software.

The days are getting shorter, the temps cooler, and the leaves have started to turn red, yellow and gold.   You know what that means?   It’s time to finish up my 2013 photo calendar!   Last year I sold these calendars and donated all the profit to  Hope Haven Ministries (  in Kingsport.   I sold more calendars than I imagined and this year I’m hoping to sell even more.

These are 12 month wall calendars that are 17 inches tall x 11 inches wide when opened.  Each page includes one of my best landscape or nature photographs from the past 12 months plus a relevant scripture or verse.  This year will be similar to the 2012 calendars except that the day of the month will be printed much bigger.

The calendars will be available around Thanksgiving and they make great Christmas gifts.   They are only $15 each.  The best part is the money stays here in Kingsport and goes to Hope Haven Ministries.

You Can Pick The Photos

This year I’m going to let my customers help me pick out the calendar photos.  I have selected 26 candidate photos.  Of those I have picked my favorite 6 plus one for the back cover  ( ).  Anyone who pre-orders a calendar gets to vote on which ones should make up the remaining six plus the cover photo.   Sound like fun? 

Here's how to vote.   Look at all the candidate photos ( ) and send me an email with your favorite seven.  Identify your picks by the caption that shows under the picture.   The best way to view the photos is by clicking the Slideshow button.   The seven that get the most votes will be included.   The one that gets the most will be on the cover.   Voting ends Saturday October 20.

Spread The Word!

I rely on word of mouth for my marketing so please pass the word.  Anyone can pre-order by sending me a note and tell me how many they want.   The more pre-orders I get the better price I can get on the printing and the more money goes to Hope Haven.

Have questions?  You can contact me using the Contact link at the bottom of my website

Sunday, September 23, 2012


In early September I had the privilege to get to spend 13 days on a trip to Glacier National Park in Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta with my wife June.   We were blessed with safe travels and good weather as we checked off one more place on our bucket list.   It was a time of relaxing, refreshing, and recharging.

I've got a lot of images from this trip and it's taking me a while to work through them.   When I finish I'll post my favorites in a new gallery on my website.  For now, I'd like to share one from one evening in the Many Glacier area of Glacier National Park.

This row boat is on the shore of Lake Josephine not far from the Many Glacier Hotel.  We had stopped to photograph it around 9:30 on our way up the Grinnell Glacier Trail.  At that time the sun was behind me and the light was OK, but not very dramatic.  By the time we made it back down to this point it was 5:30 in the afternoon and the light had completely changed.   Instead of a low contrast uninteresting photo I now had fantastic warm afternoon light including God Beams coming out of the clouds and reaching across the frame to the other side.  What a gift!

The name of the boat pretty much sums up that day in Glacier.  We had woken up to a fantastic sunrise right outside our hotel and I was given enough time to set up to take nine shots to stitch together to create this panorama.   After a big breakfast we had one of our best hikes of the trip up to Grinnell Glacier.  The best part was I was able to share it with June.

As joyful as this day was it pales in comparison to the joy of being forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus.   The word joy occurs 217 times in the Bible and this joy is available to all.  What a blessing!  I'll leave you with Paul's words.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. - Romans 15:13

Friday, September 14, 2012

Backing Up Photos On The Road

First day back from 12 days in Glacier National Park and Waterton Lakes National Park in Alberta.  I am in the process of moving all my Glacier NP photos from the laptop that I took with me to the desktop where I do all my editing and keep all my master files.   Lightroom provides a pretty good Export/Import tool for moving images from one PC to another and that's what I was doing this morning.

I exported all 2,383 images from the laptop Lightroom catalog to my portable pocket drive and when I plugged the pocket drive in the desktop computer I got the dreaded "click - click - click" sound from the pocket drive.   After 15 minutes the system gave up on that drive.  Good thing I wasn't depending on that copy.

Keeping multiple copies of images while traveling is always a good idea.  Here's my process:
Fuchsia Fireweed and Bee

  1. I never delete images from a memory card until I am sure they are safe on the desktop PC and have at least one good nightly backup.   I have enough cards to cover a two week trip.
  2. I don't have any cards bigger than 16 GB and most are 8 GB.   If a card gets corrupted then I don't lose too many images.
  3. I have a copy of  Image Rescue 4 that came free with my Lexar cards.   I've had to use it more than once to read files off a corrupted memory card.
  4. I download new images from the cards to the laptop at the end of each day. That gives me two copies.
  5. I copy the RAW image files from the laptop to the external pocket drive (yep - same one that just died).  I don't do this every night but probably should.   This gives me three copies.
  6. The external pocket drive goes in a separate bag from the computer and cameras.
  7. When I get home I export all the images from Lightroom on the laptop and then import them into Lightroom on the desktop PC.   
  8. I don't ease a memory card until I put it in the camera to reuse it.

No process is fool-proof but having some process that gives you multiple copies is critical.   I would hate to get back from a big vacation anticipating going through images from that great trip and find that I don't have them.

I hope you enjoy the Fuchsia Fireweed and Bee image.  It was the end of the season for Fireweed in Glacier but there were still a few blooms on the top of these tall plants. These were growing where the 2003 Roberts fire burned over 57,000 acres of the park.

Thursday, August 23, 2012


June and I get to spend a good deal of time in the woods, on mountain trails, and beside streams.   We are blessed with an abundance of beautiful wild places within a short drive of our home.   Each time we go out to one of these places we discover something new.  Sometimes it's a great view from high on a mountain top, other times is a quiet place beside a stream.   Occasionally, it's just a new trail that we have not hiked before that is full of new beauty to take in.

Back on July 4 we were hiking in the Smokies in an area of the park we had not been to before.   Along the way we were treated to a cool mountain stream, abundant Rosebay Rhododendrons, overlooks and quiet places.   Something we didn't expect to see was Turks Cap Lilies along the trail.  

That's a  beautiful flower with a beautiful verse from the New Testament.   We could stop there and be blessed with the beauty and encouraging words, but there is more in the verses that follow.

28 If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today, and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, how much more will he clothe you—you of little faith! 29 And do not set your heart on what you will eat or drink; do not worry about it. 30 For the pagan world runs after all such things, and your Father knows that you need them. 31 But seek his kingdom, and these things will be given to you as well. 

We're all guilty of worrying about the material world.  How am I going to get that job or raise?  Can I buy that new car?   How big of a flat screen TV can I fit in the den?  For some the worries are even more basic - Where are my children and I going to sleep tonight or when will we get to a decent meal? 

There are people in our area are more concerned with the basic needs such as food, shelter, and safety.   We don't always see them, but the homeless are with us.  There are many more homeless in the Tri-Cities than most people realize.   God is providing for their needs through a number of organizations that provide food, shelter, safety, and the opportunity to get back on their feet.  One of these is Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport.   June and I have supported this organization for many years and right now I'm serving on the Board of Directors.   

These organizations rely on support from the community to provide services to the homeless in our region.  You can give through time and service.  You can also support Hope Haven financially by donating online.   

During September I will donate 100% of my profit from the sale of any of my prints at Star Trails Downtown Gallery to Hope Haven Ministry.  Take some time during September to visit the gallery and pick something out.  You will go home with a beautiful print and be Helping The Homeless Help Themselves.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

We Just Think We Have A Plan

The forecast for this past Saturday was for clearing skies and less humidity.  My friend and photographer buddy Jim Rigsby and I decided we were going to head to the mountains to take pictures of the sunrise.  We made plans to meet at 5 AM and drive up to Beauty Spot in Unicoi County TN.  Beauty Spot is one of the high mountain grassy balds similar to Roan Mountain and Max Patch.  At 4,400 feet above sea level we expected to see a great sunrise with some patchy clouds.  By 5 AM we were on the road and executing our plan.

On the way we noticed you could not see any stars in the sky.  A little while later it started to sprinkle, then rain, then we saw lightning ahead.   By the time we hit Johnson City it was raining hard and when we got to Unicoi it was still raining, maybe even harder.   Being outdoor photographers with nothing else to do at 5:30 AM on a Saturday we kept going.  When we started up Unaka Mountain Road it had gotten so foggy it was difficult to see to drive up the single lane dirt road to Beauty Spot.  We arrived to find several people camping and a few others sitting in their cars.  Obviously we weren't the only nuts on a quest for a sunrise this foggy wet Saturday.

We hung out there for a while waiting and wondering what we were going to do.  I had been through there the day before with another photography buddy Harold Ross and knew there was a second bald a little ways up the road called Deep Gap.  I remembered lots of wildflowers along the road and some interesting looking trees in the grassy field.  We decided that we weren't going to see the sun come up and we might be able to find something to shoot up there.

By the time we got to Deep Gap it was light enough to walk around without a flashlight.  It was still very foggy and raining off and on.   These turned out to be the best conditions for photography we could have had!  I think we spent two hours wandering around the bald and along the road taking pictures of trees and flowers in the fog.  The fog gives everything a soft even light with no harsh shadows to deal with.  The color of flowers and green leaves viewed close up were vibrant when compared to the muted colors that faded to white in the distance.

There were Black-Eyed Susans, Pale Touch-Me-Nots, Spiderwort, Tall Ironweed, Goldenrod, and lots of ferns.  It was a pleasant surprise to find so many wildflowers this late in the season.  Harold and I had seen many others along the road the day before.  We decided it was all the rain we have been having for the past 5 weeks that resulted in a bumper crop of summer wildflowers.

At one point the sun broke through the clouds and for the first time we saw that there was a high ridge above us.  With visibility at about 100 yards we had no idea it was there.  We were hoping for some sunbeams shining through fog in the woods but these clearing skies only lasted a few minutes then we were socked in again.

After a couple hours we went on down the Unaka Mountain Road to Red Fork Falls.  We stopped at this great little cascade along the way before getting to the falls.

Foggy overcast days are the best conditions for taking pictures of waterfalls.  Unfortunately, it also results in wet slippery rocks.   We made our way down to Red Fork Falls and then on down a ways further to a couple smaller falls.   The really tall falls are exciting to see but it's the smaller ones that make better photographs.

It took a while to climb down and back out and we were muddy, sweaty, tired and very hungry by the time we got back to the car.  It was time to call it quits and head to Unicoi for burgers.

Saturday didn't work out the way we planned.  We didn't see the sun at all, let alone the sunrise.  What we got was even better than we had planned.  Perhaps God was saying, don't let the rain discourage you.  Go on up the mountain and see what I have in store.  It will be beyond your plans!  That's the way life is.  We think we're in control but in reality we're not.  All it takes is a little rain to derail our best plans.  Sometimes it's something much bigger, discouraging, and more than we can handle on our own.  But, God has a plan and all we have to do is trust and keep heading up the mountain to see what he has in store for us.

Here's a shot of Red Fork Falls from Friday afternoon with Harold. 

I want to thank Harold Ross for taking me up to Red Fork Falls and across Unaka Mountain on Friday and Jim Rigsby for going with me on Saturday.  I had two of my best days in less than 24 hours.

All of these photos are available for purchase in my Unaka Mountain Gallery.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The New Old Stuff

I continue to go back and pick out photos from past years to see how they might look different with new editing tools. It's kind of fun to compare the old versions to the new versions. Here's some old and new comparisions of an old photo of old stuff.
First - this is how the photo came out of the camera with no processing at all. I shoot in RAW format, which means the camera does no processing of the image. By default digital cameras adjust the contrast, color, sharpness and other things before you ever see the image. This image suffered from being shot through dirty window glass which cut down the contrast and details.
Second this is the result of my editing a little over two years ago. Now when I look at this I think BLAH!
Finally, here's what I came up with tonight. I used Nik Color Efex 4 to pull some of the details out and bump up the contrast. I then used Nik Silver Efex 2 to create this black & white with the color of the rusty parts showing through and add a boarder. I'm not a big fan of selective colorization in B&W, but in this case it seemed to work OK. What do you think? Which do you prefer? If you click on one of the images you will be able to flip back and forth to compare. The second image is probably more realistic but the third seems to be more interesting.

"Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus. You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness." - Ephesians 4:21-24 We are called to be made new and put on a new self. This is an inner throwing off of old ways and becoming more Christ like. Our old bodies may be dressed up to look new or at least more interesting like this old bottle, but it's the inner self that is important. Let's work on the inside.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Welcome to my friends across the pond in Morriston.

While checking the stats on my website I noticed some people have come to my site from The Morriston Camera Club in the UK. Curious I went to their club website and found The Siggins Photography is the website of the month for August 2011! How cool is that! Not sure how they found me but I'm sure glad they like my site and photography.

Morriston is on the west coast of of the UK about 200 miles west of my birthplace in Arrington, Cambridgeshire. Browsing through their member galleries I see that they have some talented members in their club. They live in a great and I'd love to join them to go shooting one day.

So in honor of the Morriston Camera Club here's a photo I've been working on.

This is a HDR photo of Echo Lake on the north side of Franconia Notch in New Hampshire just north of the town of Lincoln taken last fall (thanks to Miles Smith who's memory is better than mine). It was taken before the sun was high enough to light up this lake or the hills around it but the warm sunlight was reflecting off clouds and giving everything a nice warm color. Because the hills were already yellow, orange, and red with fall color it made for a very warm image. I took a lot of shots similar to this one and never liked any of them. I just could not get the image to look natural or anything like what it really looked like.

I recently upgraded my HDR Efex Pro software from Nik Software to version 2. It is a much more powerful tool than version 1 and can create a more natural finished image. I decided to try it out on one of my problem photos from the past and this was the one I picked to try.

I am much happier with this version than any other I was able to come up with last year.

I am a big fan of all the Nik software and really like the new HDR Efex Pro 2. I encourage you to check it out.

I have uploaded this photo to my website and it is available for purchase. Just click here.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

What do you do when you have too much camera gear?


You buy a bigger bag of course!


When I've traveled with my camera on the airlines in the past I carried my camera backpack with one camera body and three lenses.   My big 100-400 zoom had to go in the suitcase because it wouldn't all fit.  Now I have two bodies to take with me and I was afraid I was only going to be able to take one change of clothes because my suitcase was going to be filled up.   In addition to the camera backpack I was also carrying a laptop backpack on these trips.

I now have a thinkTANK Commuter backpack that is big enough to carry all my camera gear plus my laptop!  The cool thing is this bag is designed to fit in the airplane overhead bins or under a seat so I can keep it with me even on those little planes that fly in and out of our local airport.

You can see I have my 5D, 7D, 17-40, 24-105, 100, and 80-400 in there, plus my flash, a collection of filters, and a bunch of misc. accessories.  The blue thing in the middle is a rain fly for the bag.  My other Tamrac bag claimed to be weather proof but I learned this past spring that it's not 100%.

When I put all this stuff in one bag and then strap the tripod on the side I have to get a crane to lift it on my back.  My plan is to keep my old smaller bag and use it for hiking where I take only what I need.

This bag is extremely well built and looks like it will last forever, or until I outgrow it again.  It came highly recommended and rated online.  Everyone I know that has a thinkTank bag was really happy.  I'll let you know how the bag works out after we get back from Glacier.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

One Fruit of The Spirit & Shooting Birds

Click on any photo in the blog for a larger view.

No, I haven't taken up bird hunting.  In this case I was shooting perching birds in the backyard with my 400mm zoom.   These little guys are a challenge to shoot because they fly so fast and are so small it hard to catch them in the frame and in focus.   Those big egrets are a breeze compared to these little speed demons. 

Today's bird blind was the kitchen. We have a bird feeder on a post in the backyard.  I opened the kitchen window and shot from the inside out towards the feeder.   My old Sigma 80-400 does not focus near fast enough for these birds and there is no way I could follow them in the view finder.  I set up on a tripod and pointed the camera at a point just to the left or right of the feeder where I could catch them in their flight path.   I guessed at the focus using the feeder as my reference. 

I learned that the Depth of Field (DOF) of a 400mm lens on a Canon 7D at f/11 focused at 25' is just over 6".   Most of the time it wasn't bright enough to get that large an f-stop and I had to make do with 5.6 - 7.1, which gave me a DOF of 3" - 4".   That means the bird had to fly through a space less than 4" deep and about 2' wide.

Most of the time it was cloudy and when the sun did come out it was behind the birds, making them a dark silhouette against the bright green field behind them.   I got out a large reflector and propped it up to bounce that sunlight back towards where I hoped the birds would fly.  I later discovered the birds used the reflector for target practice.

I found the birds were most active at the feeder when the sun was behind the clouds and it was too dark for a good shot.  When the sun came out the birds were no where to be seen!

I was able to get one decent shot of a Purple Finch (above) and a few of the Pine Siskins. There were also Gold Finches, Towhee, Chickadees, Cardinals, and Tufted Titmice but I didn't get them today.

Watching these graceful little creatures has a calming effect.   It's a good thing because this was an exercise in patience.  There was a lot of time standing and waiting for the birds to fly to the right spot.  When I loaded the results on the computer 90% of them were out of focus, only part of the bird was in the frame, or there was no bird at all.   
The title of this blog hints at one of the key factors in wildlife photography - patience.   "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Against such things there is no law." - Galatians 5:22-23.  You can't rush wildlife photography.  Patience may be the biggest contributing factor to getting decent wildlife photos.

When shooting wildlife it's good to remember this saying by Ralph Waldo Emerson - "Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience. "

Sunday, July 15, 2012


Nothing says summer like a big yellow Sunflower against a blue sky with white puffy clouds!   After a week of rain, the skies were clear on Saturday morning and it was time for a short trip to find something to shoot.   I had heard about a sunflower field in Piney Flats Tennessee, which sounded like fun.  All I knew was the name of the road.   Turns out that road is pretty long and we had no idea where along this long winding road the field was.  We drove from one end to the other and saw no sunflowers.   We turned around and headed back not knowing if it was even still there.   After a few miles we saw it!  It was in a curve and up from the road a bit which made it hard to see coming our first direction.

The owner happened to be out when we got there and with a wave of his hand let us know it was OK to take some photos.  The flowers weren't in the best shape this day.  Maybe it was the hot dry spell we had through all of June, or maybe it was the torrential downpours we had a few days earlier.   Either way it was going to take a little walking around to find the best angles to get the flowers with an interesting background, good light, and no distracting elements in the photo.   It was close to mid-day, which is typically a bad time for taking photos outdoors.  I needed to take a practice shot to check out the lighting.   I walked up to the first good specimen I saw, quickly focused and took the practice shot.  No tripod, no worrying about the f-stop or shutter speed.  Just a quick shot.

After that I wandered around the field with my camera on the tripod (I almost always shoot on a tripod) composing shots with attention to details in each photo.   After a while I had 80 or so shots (every shot yields three images at different exposures) and we headed home for lunch. 

While the photos were still loading, I decided to see what I could do with that first practice shot.   Little did I know it would turn out the be my favorite of the day.  I liked the lighting, the composition and the depth of field.   After a few tweaks on the computer I had this sunflower image.

I worked on the others but I didn't like any of them as much as this first one.

Seems like there were some lessons here:
  • Don't make any assumptions about the quality and value of something (or someone) without taking a close look.  My assumptions may be completely wrong or keep me from seeing the real beauty.
  • The beauty in a photo has less to do with my skills and equipment and more to do with God's creation.   Not only did he create the flower, but he provided the conditions that highlighted the beauty of that creation.
  • The rules of photography, such as don't take photos outdoors at mid-day in bright sun, are not rules but guidelines.  I need to remember that.
I hope you enjoy this Summertime Sunflower.   I'm going to print it and have it available for purchase in the Star Trails Downtown Gallery in Kingsport around July 23rd.