Wednesday, December 29, 2010

White Christmas

We don't get many snows at Christmas but this year we were blessed with a few inches to a couple feet, depending on where you were.   I took the week off, which gave me the opportunity to get out and shoot some winter landscape photography this week.

The first day was spent within 3 - 4 miles of the house.   This one was less than a mile away.  That's Fall Creek on the left.   The footprints were there when I got there.  I think this looks pretty good in black and white.

This next one is a little different.  It's a window at the old Washington College Academy near Limestone Tennessee.   The school is closed but it's still a pretty place to photograph.   You can see the reflections of snow in the window.

I did get out and take some traditional landscape shots this week.  June and I drove up past Damascus Virginia to the little town of Taylor's Valley to get to the Virginia Creeper Trail.   There was 4 - 6 inches of fluffy snow on the trail.  No bikers this day, but there were plenty of cross country skier tracks.   I took several photos of the trail and creek.

One of my favorite Christmas presents this year is the Nik Complete Collection of photo editing software.   One of the packages is a new HDR tool that can produce HDR images that don't have the edgy HDR look.   This is one of my first attempts with that software.

This shot would not have been possible without the HDR software.   It is a composite of three images taken at different exposures to get the bright sunset and the front of the house in the shadows.  It's one of my new favorites.

These photos, and others, are available on my website under the Winter gallery.   Many other photos are also available on my website.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Finalist in Outdoor Photographer 3rd Annual Nature's Colors Contest

I don't normally enter these online contests because they get thousands of entries and the odds are about as bad as winning a million dollar lottery.   When I got an email about the latest contest at Outdoor Photographer I decided to try it and entered 5 photos.    Well, there were about 6,300 entries from thousands of talented photographers from all over the world.   I was shocked when I saw one of mine in the 80 finalists.  

Sunset Over San Joaquin

How cool is that?   There are not a lot of awards in this contest.   The judges will pick the Grand Prize and First Place winners around December 17.   There is also a people's choice award based on online votes.   If you like this photo go to and vote.  You have to create an account, but that will also get you on the Outdoor Photographer emailing list, which will get you the online edition for free.   Voting ends January 6.

While you are there you might browse the other finalists.   There's some really good photos out there.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My Photography Library

I've always loved to read.   I can remember reading Tom Swift sci-fi novels around 10 or 11 years old.   I still enjoy reading sci-fi but have expanded my interests a bit.   I also love photography and have combined these two interests by adding several photography books to my library.   Here's my favorites in the order I purchased them.

How to Photograph The Canadian Rockies  by Darwin Wiggett.   I bought this before taking a vacation to the Canadian Rockies with my Compact Canon Point and Shoot.   This is the book that got me started.   Unfortunately, this book is out of print.  You can buy a used copy at Amazon for just a little over $100!  I have a link to Darwin's blog on my blog site.

Creative Nature & Outdoor Photography by Brenda Tharp.  I have the first edition, which is a great book.   This new edition has more information on shooting digital.   I also have a link to Brenda's blog on my blog site.

Composition Photo Workshop by Blue Fier (yes - that's a real person's name).  This is a decent introductory book on composition.  There is a whole series of photography books from but this is the only one I have. 

Mountain Light by Galen Rowell.  This is the classic mountain photography book.  It is a series of essays describing how a photo was taken.   Galen was an adventurer traveling around the world to exotic places most of us will never see.   The photos are fantastic and the accompanying stories engaging and inspiring.

The Digital Photography Book (volumes 1 and 2) by Scott Kelby.   At one time this was the biggest selling digital photography book of all time.   Scott Kelby's writing is almost as good as his photography.  I read his books, watch his podcasts, follow his blog, and hope to take one of his workshops one day.   This little book is the one book that should be in your camera bag.  It's small and is laid out with one topic per page in an easy to understand style.   If you're out shooting and need to know how to ____________ just pull out this book and flip to that page.   The second volume focuses more on portrait photography.   I don't have volume 3.  You can get all three as a package.

The Nature Photographer's Complete Guide to Professional Field Techniques by John Shaw.  I bought this book used when it was recommended as pre-reading for a workshop.  Originally published in 1989 this book does not deal with digital photography at all.   Some of the chapters on equipment are a bit dated but the sections on exposure, composition, close-ups, and working in the field are timeless.  Anything by John Shaw is going to be a great addition to your library.  Too bad John has not been writing much lately.  We really can use a revised edition of this book for digital.

The Photoshop Elements 5 Book for Digital Photographers and The Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 3 Book for Digital Photographers by Scott Kelby.   If you use Photoshop Elements, Photoshop CS, or Adobe Lightroom you need to get the latest edition of Scott Kelby's book for each package.   My copy of the Elements book is old (they are up to version 8 now) but I still pull it out when ever I need to know how to do something in Elements.  These books explain how to use the software is a straight forward and easy to understand fashion.   You will get much more out of the software by having one of these books on your desk. 

Complete Guide to High Dynamic Range Digital Photography by Ferrell McCollough.   I wanted to try my hand at HDR photography and specifically learn how to create HDR photos that looked realistic.  This book covers all the leading HDR software from 2007.   Because the author tries to cover all the packages it does not have enough info on any one package.   I don't get this one out very often.

National Audubon Society Guide To Landscape Phtography by Tim Fitzharris.  This is a nice book for anyone starting out in landscape photography.  It covers everything from equipment to composition, lighting, and recognizing those great scenic shots. 

Creative Close-Ups by Harold Davis.   I got a copy of this book for agreeing to be an early book reviewer. Harold has written a number of books in his creative series but I only have this one.   This book is all about macro photography.   It focuses more on the creative side of macro photography and less on the equipment and technical how to steps.   If you're one of the people who learn by seeing you will get a great deal out of the wonderful example photos in this book. 

The ultimate guide to digital nature photography by the Mountain Trail Photo Team
This book is written by a team of outstanding nature photographers that I follow on  I took a workshop with Bill Lea, know Jerry Greer, and have met Richard Bernabe at a workshop at Grandfather Mountain.  As the title implies, this book covers the waterfront of nature photography with tips, techniques, and advice from the experts.   The photos in the book alone are worth the purchase price.  A great book for anyone starting out in nature photography.

The Digital SLR Expert Landscapes  Labeled as "essential advice from top pros" this is book is written by five landscape photographers, including Darwin Wiggett who wrote the first photography book I bought.  This book covers some areas not covered by my many other books, including creating a panorama, research & planning,  locations, and B&W landscape photography.  There's even a section on HDR.

The Hot Shoe Diaries by Joe McNally.  I've not done much flash photography and what I have done is often not work keeping.  I bought this book to learn how to use my on and off camera flash.  This is not so much of a technical how to book.  Joe, who is one of the best photographers in the world, tells how he approaches flash photography.   Reading this book is like sitting down and talking to one of the masters.

The Photographer's Mind by Michael Freeman.  This is the latest edition to my library.   It is a follow on to the best seller The Photographer's Eye, which I don't have yet.   I got this book to help grow my creative side, which is definitely not one of my stronger skills. I've only just begun to read this book. 

That's quite a list!   I still prefer printed books, but lately I've purchased a few e-books by Ian Plant, David duChemin and Guy Tal.   I'll do a quick review of these e-books in the future.