Wednesday, September 28, 2016

No Debate About It - Only three more days to vote!

Time is running out on voting for the favorite photos on my 2017 calendar.  The deadline is midnight, Friday, September 30.

So far 39 people have voted.  Here are some hints on how things are coming out.
Will this photo make the cut?

  • The first and second place photos have been within one vote of each other for a while.  
  • There are several ties, which means your vote really counts!
    • Three in fourth place
    • Three in seventh
    • Two in eleventh
    • Two in fourteenth
    • plus several others
  • I was hoping that America! ( Navy Seal Parachutist) would be in the top 14 so I can use it for July.   No problem there as that one is currently in fourth place.
  • There are no flowers in the top 14.  The closest is in 22nd place.  If you want to see flowers on the 2017 calendar, better get your votes in.
In case you missed it, here's how to vote -

I will be starting the process of putting the calendar together this weekend.  Once that starts, it will be too late to vote, but not too late to order.  Remember, ordering is easy -- just send me an email at and let me know how many you want.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Early Voting Results

It's only been two days and I've already received about half as many ballots as I did last year.  We're
well on the way to selecting the photos for the 2017 calendar!  Just as the media will do on November 8, I'm going to give you early reports on how the voting is progressing.

Voting Has Started

  • There are 37 candidate photos.
  • I've received ballots from 23 people so far.
  • Every photo has received a vote, but the last place photo has only received 2! It's not looking good for number 37.
  • The first place photo was voted for by 70% of the people voting so far.
  • June and I only had one big trip this year and that was to Iceland.  Three out of six photos from Iceland are in the running, including the first place photo.
  • Ten of the top 13 photos were taken within 100 miles from home.   One was taken in my own backyard.  Last year, two winners were taken from my backyard.   Just goes to show you don't have to travel far to make nice photographs.

Want to know which photo is in the lead right now?   Click here to find out.

Voting will continue one more week until Friday, September 30.   We sure to get your vote in so you can help pick the photos for the 2017 calendar.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

It's Time For You To Vote!

It's Time For You To Vote!

No, it's not November 8th just yet.   However, it is time for you to help pick the photos to go on my 2017 wall calendar.  Each year I invite anyone who has bought one of my calendars in the past or intends to buy one this year to help select the 14 photos to be included in the next year's calendar.  It's time for you to start the voting for the 2017 calendar photos.

Will one of these photos make the 2017 edition?
Appalachian Trail
Northern Lights
Crabtree Falls
The fun part is you get to help pick the 14 photos (12 months, plus the front and back covers).  In the past, I have picked some of my favorites before letting you vote on the rest.  This year I'm leaving it wide open and you get to vote on all of them.

The candidate photos are available online at

These were all taken in the past 12 months and include photos from Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Michigan and Iceland.  The best way to browse through the photos is to click on the first small thumbnail to zoom in on that photo.  You can then use the left and right arrow keys on the keyboard to flip through the full-size versions.  
How To Vote
Each photo has a title, such as Appalachian Trail, that displays at the bottom of the photo.

Send the names of your 14 picks (the order doesn't matter) to me at by midnight Friday, September 30 .  I will total up the votes and announce the winners on Saturday, October 1.

Cost and Ordering
The calendars are still only $15 each and all the profit goes to support Hope Haven Ministries in Kingsport.

To order send an email to Richard Siggins at  Calendars will be available for pickup or delivery in Kingsport starting in the second week of November.   They can be mailed to you for $3.
Please help by forwarding this to your friends and family or sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

When Nature Doesn't Provide, Get Creative

As an outdoor / landscape photographer, I'm at the mercy of nature.   The wind, light, clouds and other conditions, can make really nice photographs.   More often than not, the conditions are not all that conducive to making good photographs.  Such was the case this morning at Warriors Path State Park.

I had gone there to scope out photography opportunities for a photography class I'm teaching.   My students will meet me there Saturday morning and I want to have some idea if I should take them left or right in search of photographs.  I wandered around for a while not finding much to capture my attention.  At one point I found this branch sticking out of the surface of the lake.  I tried to create something in the minimalist style and came up with this.

Not much there to get excited about.   Then I recalled throwing pebbles into the water to create ripples, making a scene possibly a little more interesting.   Lucky for me the lake shore was littered with round rocks perfect for tossing in the lake.   The results weren't much better.  Then I tossed a bigger rock in the lake and the splash caught my eye.

What if I zoomed in and captured the water splashing up?  The sunlight was coming from the side, making the splash brighter than the reflections in the water and highlighting the texture of the water drops in mid-air without being too bright. It was only me doing the tossing and shooting, but I had plenty of time and rocks.   I would toss a rock, put my camera up to my eye, guess where the rock would hit the surface and try to time the shot just right.  Let's just say I played the law of averages - take enough photos that one or two may work out.   People out for their morning walk at the park probably shook their head and the crazy guy with the camera down on the lake shore.

Here are the results of my creative rock tossing.

Bass jumping with mouth open

Jumping Leaf

Water Fountain

Man Looking Over A Wall

See The Face?

All were taken at 200mm, f/4.5, ISO 400 - 800.   Shutter speeds varied between 1/250 and 1/800.

In the end, I had fun and created some fun scenes to photograph.   Don't let conditions keep you from shooting.   Go out and see what you can find and maybe even create some really cool conditions for photography.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Look Behind

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.
― Bil Keane (The Family Circus)

We know we should always look ahead and not dwell on the past.  It's unhealthy and there is nothing we can do to change the past.

There are times we should literally look behind us, such as stepping back or just before changing lanes on an interstate highway.  It's helpful to remember to look behind when making photos as well.

Recently, I was looking at the beauty of creation in front of me while making these images on a foggy morning in Cades Cove.

Trees In The Fog

Fog can be an opportunity to capture some interesting surreal images.   The sunlight is diffused by the fog creating nice soft light.   Soft light is perfect for close up flower photos.

Yellow Wildflowers
After concentrating on the yellow wildflowers, I happened to turn around and saw this!

Sunbeam Lighting The Way

The sun broke through the fog and created this beautiful beam of sunlight across the road.  I quickly changed lenses and made this photo before the conditions changed and the sunbeam was gone.

When we're photographing outdoors we can get fixated on the subjects that are in front of us and thinking about the next photo opportunity just down the road.  Remember to take the shot in front of you, then stop and look around.  You may find the best photo is behind you.

Friday, September 2, 2016

First try using non-HDR techniques

High Dynamic Range or HDR is a popular technique for handling situations where the difference between the brightest and darkest parts of a photograph is too great for a digital camera to handle.   HDR is so popular that it is built into cameras and even cell phones.  However, HDR can produce images that appear unnatural.   This may be fine for some subjects, but it's not typically a good choice for landscapes.  

Here's a recent example.  I took the following three images
1 1/3 stops under-exposed
Default exposure
1 1/3 stops over-exposed
Using the Google Nik HDR Efex Pro software I created an HDR image from these three.
HDR Image
I used settings in the HDR software to create a result that was as natural as possible.  I then used On1 Effects software to apply some filters to take away some of the harsh look in the image.  As you can see, the HDR image just doesn't look right.

I then tried a new Photoshop technique called Apply Image Masking.  I learned this from a recent article on the Light Stalking website.   In less than one minute in Photoshop, I created what I think is a much more realistic image. I then applied the same On1 Effect filters.  Here is the end result.

Apply Image Masking in Photoshop
Click on one of the images above and you will be able to use arrow keys to flip between the different versions.

I think I have found a new go-to tool for my image editing toolbox that I will use instead of HDR. This will not work for all situations.   If there is movement between the different images, such as a person walking or trees blowing in the wind, defects will be produced that look like ghosts.

I love learning new things and the realm of digital photography is always changing.   I wonder what I will learn today?