Smoky Mountains

Last week we held our Smoky Mountains Photography Workshop.  David and I arrived on Wednesday to get a little early shooting in.  We had plans to go to Roaring Fork on Thursday morning...promptly after a sop at The Log Cabin Pancake House, of course.  When we got to Roaring Fork, we realized we were in trouble.  I was getting out of the car every few hundred feet to move limbs and branches.  One time we came across a tree that was big enough we both had to get out and move it.  Then we started seeing the trees bend in half, it seemed.  The winds were howling.  We finally came to a tree blocking the road that was too big to move, so we had to turn around and go out the wrong way.  Once we got out, we notified the park service and by the time we had gotten to the Sugarlands Visitor Center, almost everything within the park was closed due to downed trees.  Our workshop started on Friday morning.  Everything was still closed in the park until late Friday afternoon, and then the only thing opened was Cades Cove and a small portion of the road to Tremont.  We photographed at Tremont Friday evening, then spent the next day and a half in the cove.  Our group was super, though!  They all had a wonderful time, despite our limitations and, from what I've seen, they all got some amazing images!

The landscape of Cades Cove did change a bit.  There were several downed trees and limbs.  The iconic image of Sparks Lane will never be the same.  One of the trees had some massive branches that came down and virtually looks like it's half of what it used to be.

I guess because of having to deal with all of those issues (either that or as my late birthday present), mother nature rewarded us Sunday Morning with a morning full of beautiful foggy scenes.  The fog seemed to last forever and we were able to capture several different subjects in it.  One of my favorite scenes from the fog was this fence line, that I'm certain I've never noticed before.  We were parked along Sparks Lane looking for different shots, since "the shot" was not very appealing anymore, and we found this fence line off the road...and it just looked great in the fog.

Aperture-priority, 0.5 sec, f/16, ISO 100, 31mm

When I composed this scene, I knew I wanted to have a solid anchor for the foreground.  I also knew I wanted to use a fence post for that.  I picked out a nice one, placed it in the scene where I wanted and let the fence line and fog do the rest.

Image made with my Canon 5D Mk IV and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.  I stabilized my gear with a Sirui W-2204 Tripod and Sirui K-20X Ballhead.

Texas Wildflower Sunset

I spent last week in Texas.  While I was there, I wanted to make sure I tried my best to find a good field of the Texas state flower, the bluebonnet.  These flowers could be found most everywhere along the roadside, especially so the farther you drive away from a city, however for the area I was in finding a really large field full of flowers proved to be a challenge.  After doing a little research, I was able to locate one field that was the best of any I found in the short time I was out there.  

The only problem was it was not too far from the main highway, so when I got there, 40 of my closet friends were there already.  Many of them there to take children's portraits in the flowers, or family portraits in the photographer had a couple pull their truck out in the field of flowers to pose with the truck for engagement photos.  So I spent a lot of time waiting on these people to move or working around them.

Now, I think a field of bluebonnets is a pretty awesome sight, but when making a photo I like to add something in the foreground as a bit of an anchor.  It doesn't have to be anything really special.  In this case I used the only handful of Indian Paintbrush Wildflowers that were in this field.  I thought the contrast of the red flowers helped to anchor the foreground a bit and also adds a bit of a leading line to the rest of the field of blue.

It was very windy during this particular sunset, so I had to bump my ISO up to get a high enough shutter speed to "freeze" the flowers, so I bumped it up to ISO 1600.  I shot this scene in aperture priority at F/16 in order to get the nice starburst.  That yielded me a shutter speed of 1/30th.  While that isn't a "fast" shutter speed, if I waited until the wind slowed a bit, it was fast enough. 

This image was made using my Sony A7R II, Metabones lens adapter and Tamron 15-30mm Lens.  I also used my Sirui W-2204 Tripod and K-20 Ballhead.  I took this tripod because it is super stable and small enough to fold up in my carry on luggage.  It worked out great!

I also processed this image using Lightroom and On1 Effects.  

Warning:  More flower images coming soon.




Smoky Mountain Spring Workshop

I am getting super excited about our workshop coming up in The Great Smoky Mountains this spring.  I'm looking forward to shooting the full rivers and streams, as well as the landscapes or Cades Cove and Clingman's Dome.

I'm hoping the group can capture some images like this at Sparks Lane in Cades Cove.

ISO 100, 53mm, F/16 @ 1/4 second

Hover over the image to see camera settings used.  Click image to view it larger.

We've recently had a cancellation, so if you would be interested in joining us check out the info at this link:

This image was made with my Sony A7R, LA-EA3 Adapter and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

Pilgrim Creek

I am putting together some final touches for our Grand Teton Photography Workshop and I am getting super excited about it!  I am getting the opportunity to visit a few cool locations several days prior to the start of this workshop. 

Here's a scene I hope we get fortunate enough to see again this year.  This is Pilgrim Creek.  The lupine in the foreground and reflections in the water made this scene incredible.

ISO 100, 61mm, F/16 @ 10 images stitched to create pano 

Hover over the image to view camera settings used.  Click the image to view it larger.

This is a panoramic shot I took before sunrise.  I took ten images and stitched them together in Photoshop.  This image was made with my Sony A7R and Tamron 24-70mm Lens.

To learn more about this workshop you can click here:

Nature In Focus Photography Workshops is an authorized permittee of The National Park Service.

Magnolia Plantation and Gardens' Bridge

One of the stops on my recent trip to Charleston, SC was to Magnolia Plantation and Gardens.  

This was a place I had initially kinda put on the back burner in order to get to other places.  Well, after getting to Charleston and seeing some brochures and other images of it, it quickly moved up the list and I'm certainly glad it did!  It was absolutely gorgeous when we were there!  

ISO 100, 33mm, F/11 @ 1/20th second

Above is an image of a bridge that crosses one of the water areas on the plantation grounds.  I choose to shoot it from this angle to include as much color from the azaleas as I could.  The water was a bit choppy, so the reflection could have been better, but the trade off of the azaleas was worth it.

I shot this with my Sony A7R, Metabones adapter and Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD Lens.  All mounted on my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod.

Snowy Egret Showing Out

Here's one of the images I was able to capture at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm.  This is a Snowy Egret.  These smaller egrets were just starting to build their nests, so many were still looking for their soul mate.  This guy (I assume he's a dude) is working hard at it.  He's showing the other birds all he has to offer, for sure.

ISO 200, 600mm, F/6.3 @ 1/250th second

I shot this using my Sony A77ii and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 DI USD Lens.  If you notice, this was shot at a shutter speed slower than I normally prefer.  However, since the Sony A77ii has image stabilization built into the body, I was able to pull this off.

I recently did a presentation and I mentioned to them that this lens is the absolute best buy in photography right now.  I truly believe that, too.  The first thing I always get asked about the lens is "How sharp is it at 600mm?".  It's fun to watch their eyes light up when I show them images taken at 600mm.  They are always shocked at the sharpness.  For $1069 retail, it's a tough deal to beat.

Spring in The Tetons

There is still some spots available for our Spring in The Tetons Workshop.  If you've ever thought about going, this is an excellent time to be there!

There is still plenty of snow on the mountains and wildflowers blooming in the foreground for your wide, vista, landscape shots.  Wildlife is starting to shake the cold off, get out and around and babies start showing up for interesting wildlife photo ops.  

If you are interested in learning more about the workshop, click the link here.

Here is one of the amazing opportunities we had out there last year.  We got to spend several minutes photographing this Great Grey Owl.  It was liked he posed just for us!  He sat on this branch for several minutes...some of us even stopped shooting  and took time to enjoy the moment.

ISO 400, 309mm, F/8 @ 1/200th second

I was able to capture this image of the owl with my Canon 7D and Tamron SP 150-600mm F/5-6.3 Di VC USD Lens.  I was also able to shoot at a slower shutter speed than normal by have a sturdy base.  This time I choose my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod and BBH-200 Ballhead.

Smoky Mountains in The Spring

Now that we've put the wraps on the first 2015 Nature In Focus Workshop, I am shifting gears and thinking about the next one on the books, Spring in The Smoky Mountains.  Spring is my favorite time of year in the Smokies!  Things are starting to wake up from a long winter and everything comes back to life.

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 2 seconds

ISO 100, 24mm, F/16 @ 2 seconds

Since I love to photograph waterfalls and cascades, I love the Smokies in the Spring!  The rivers are flowing with all the winter rain and the rocks offer a nice contrast of green, too.

ISO 100, 53mm, F/16 @ 1/4 second

ISO 100, 53mm, F/16 @ 1/4 second

The dogwoods start to come alive, too!  I can't wait to get back there and start creating images again!


There are a few spots left for the workshop.  If you are interested in joining, click here for registration information.




Church in Texas

So, today I was thumbing through the Feb 2015 Outdoor Photographer Magazine and noticed a photo that looked awful familiar.  Hey, that's mine.  And that's one of my photo partners, Vanguard Photo USA.  It was nice to see my image in an ad of theirs.

The image they used was an image I made in late spring of some bluebonnets in Texas.  Seeing the image got me to thinking back to that day.  I remember coming across this little church at the end of the dirt road I was driving down on a bluebonnet hunt.  I actually made this image of the church on Easter Sunday, too.  It was pretty desolate when I came across it late that afternoon.  I'm not even sure if anyone still uses it, but I thought it made for a cool shot!

24mm, F/16, ISO 100 @ 1/4 second

24mm, F/16, ISO 100 @ 1/4 second

This image was made with my Sony A7R and Tamron Lenses 24-70mm Lens.  That combo was mounted on my Vanguard Abeo Plus 323CT Tripod.

I processed the image in Adobe Lightroom.  One thing I did to bring a little color out of the sky was to bring down the luminous in the blue channel.  This really made the no nothing sky pop with blue.

Pilgrim Creek Sunrise Time-Lapse

What happens on a photography workshop?

We get up extremely early and do this.

On this workshop, I took a GoPro video camera and attached it to my tripod while shooting at sunrise and sunset.  I set the GoPro to take a still image every 5 seconds for the duration of sunrise and/or sunset, which was usually a few hours.

This is the time-lapse I made at Pilgrim Creek, the place yesterday's image was made.  I made it last about a minute long, so you've got a few hours worth of images in just over a minute.  It's pretty neat to have this as a memory and share with you as well.

At about the 20 second mark, those clouds start to light up pink and that sure made for something nice to watch and capture.  The sun just started to crest the horizon in the East at about the 40 second mark.  You can tell from this video how fast the light changes.