Friday, January 28, 2011

A little bit of Photoshop Lightroom 3 goes a long way.

There is no question that I love Photoshop Lightroom 3. There is just so much that you can do to improve your images. I find that I can come close to matching the image I produce with the image that I envisioned at the time I captured it.  I am not one who believes that you need to improve on nature necessarily but lets face it, no film or digital sensor can record what your mind sees when you look at a scene.  Similarly, any woman looks better with just a little make-up.  (Boy, am I in trouble now.)  In Photography, just like with women, the trick is to apply just enough enhancement that it improves the presentation but doesn't become the subject itself.

My case in point is this image of Cedar Breaks National Monument.  Cedar Breaks has got to be one of the most beautiful  locations in Utah if not the world.   Unfortunately, no film or sensor can accurately record the depth of color or the range in exposure that is available in each scene.  The human eye and brain combine to create and image in the mind that is impossible to record on any medium known to photographers.  However, with the use of computers and software, an image can be manipulated until it mimics what is seen in the minds eye.

below is an image that I captured this fall on a visit to Cedar Breaks.  It is not a bad shot but does not approach the vision that I had in my head.

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Using Photoshop Lightroom 3, I was able to take this same digital capture, apply a graduated neutral density filter (darkening the sky),  turned up the exposure (lightening the rest of the photo), increased the saturation (deepening the colors) and vignette (darken) the corners a little.   The resulting image below is very close to what I saw, in my mind, when I walked up to the edge of the canyon and took in the beauty that was presented before me.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Snow geese are on the move again

Snowgeese spend the winter in Baja and the Gulf of Mexico and then congregate by the hundreds of thousands in the spring to migrate northward, nesting north of the arctic circle. The 6,000 mile journey takes three months or more as the flocks follow the ice melt to the top of the world.

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Along the way they stop in established staging areas to rest and feed. One such staging area is Delta, Utah. Early each spring the white geese gather by the tens of thousands in the agricultural fields around the central Utah town.

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They are attracted by the fresh green shoots that are beginning to emerge in the fields. They feed primarily in the early morning and late evening hours. In the middle of the day they can be found resting on Gunnison Bend reservoir just outside of town. Here they can be viewed and photographed as they rest and digest their morning meal.

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It can be quite spectacular to witness the fly-in that usually occurs around 9 or 9:30 am. Thousands of geese fly in from all directions, dazzling the lucky observer and filling the reservoir with honking, squeaking birds.

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The city of Delta and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources sponsor the Snow goose Festival every year to celebrate this spectacular, spring Phenomenon. Join them this year on February 26th and 27th for the festivities. Check the Millard County web site for details.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Let me introduce you to one of my favorite animals, the northern elephant seal

The Northern Elephant Seal is the largest member of the order Carnivora.  Males can grow to be over 20 feet long and weigh in excess of 10,000 pounds.  They are also the deepest divers of all air-breathing animals.  They have been documented to dive to depths of over 7800 feet below the oceans surface.  In order to accomplish this, they have developed the ability to hold their breath for over 100 minutes.

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Elephant seals have physiological and anatomical adaptations that enable them to store oxygen for these long dives.  They have a much larger quantity of blood than can be stored in their arteries and veins.  This extra blood is oxygenated and stored in sinuses located in the seals abdomen.  When their body is in need of the extra oxygen, the stored blood is released into the blood stream and pumped to the muscles and tissues.

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Elephant seals also have a compound in their muscles called myoglobin that allows the muscle cells to store extra oxygen.

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Twice a year Elephant seals haul their huge bodies out of the ocean and onto the beach in order to breed and shed their old skin.  The skin actually dies as a result of being denied sufficient oxygen during long dives.  During these times the males have no chance to eat. Since most of their water is metabolized from the food they eat, they must conserve all the moisture that they can in their bodies.

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The large trunk on the males actually serves to recycle the moisture from their breath as they exhale.  This moisture is captured in sinuses within the trunk and is reintroduced into the animals body.  All-in-all, a pretty amazing creature.

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The molt is a great time to photograph these huge creatures.  I recommend going to Cambria, California in early June and spending some time on the beach near San Simeon.  There is a large colony there and the action continues all day long.  The angle of the sun is best in the morning as it will be over your shoulder instead of in your face.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

What does the ISO setting on my camera do?

If you have ever wondered what ISO means as referred to in relation to your camera, there is a good explanation on the video below. Having some knowledge of the factors that influence exposure will help you take better photographs. I have other instructional videos that I will post over time as well. If you have photographic questions that you are dying to have answered just post the question in the comment area and I will do my best to help. I hope you enjoy this and that it will take a little of the mystery out of photography for you.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Photographed Pine Valley from Sky Mountain golf course's 10th tee

This morning things really came together. I had a great sky and the light was most cooperative. I went to Sky Mountain golf course in Hurricane and made another attempt at photographing the sunrise on Pine Valley Mountain.

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The 10th tee at Sky Mountain offers one of the most spectacular views of Pine Valley with a foreground that is simply breathtaking. The red cliffs along the Virgin river literally beg to be photographed. I again used the “Live View” mode on my Canon 7D with the self-timer set for 2 seconds. I also turned off the auto-focus and the image stabilization function. When shooting from a tripod, these functions are unnecessary and can actually cause blurred images with long exposures.

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Let me know if you like what you see. I would love to hear from any of you. Until next time, may the light always shine for you.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

Sunrise and some technical issues of photographing in lower light

I got up early this morning and decided to go out and try my luck with a Pine Valley Mountain sunrise. It worked out so well that I decided to include a panorama that I put together in Photoshop. There were no clouds in the sky, as was the case last night, so I included this old ruin of a homestead in the photo to add interest in the foreground. I hope you enjoy the pictures.

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I promised to tell about a few of the technical aspects of these photos as well. So, here I go. I try to shoot from a tripod when ever it is possible. Especially when I am creating landscape images. This allows me to stop the lens down in order to increase the depth of field and keep everything sharp. I try to shoot in the middle apertures (f/8, f/11, f/16) because they tend to be the sharpest settings. You can actually loose sharpness on some lenses if you stop them down too far (f/22 and farther). This, of course leaves you with a slower shutter speed. Hence, the need for a tripod.

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I have discovered the advantages of using the “Live View” feature on my Canon 7D. It allows me to do several things. First of all, I can actually adjust the exposure visually. What you see on the screen is very close to what you get on the flash card. In order to do this you have to use the eyepiece cover that is supplied with the camera strap. This little gadget prevents stray light from entering the camera from the eyepiece which can mess up your exposure. The” Live View” function also locks the mirror in the up position so that it doesn't vibrate the camera when the it flops up during the exposure. Mirror flop is not really a problem with faster shutter speeds but can cause blurring, even with wide angle lenses, when you shoot slower than 1/15th of a second. Canon doesn’t tell you this little fact in the manual but it is an added bonus when you use “Live View”. The most important benefit of The “Live View” feature is that it lets me keep my hat on with the bill forward so that I don't look like a geek.

I also use the self timer when I shoot at slower shutter speeds. I set it on a 2 second delay so that I am not actually touching the camera when the shutter opens. This also helps to create sharp photos. Let me know If this information is helpful to you. Tell me what you think of the photos. Just for the record, I don't like the ruin of the building in the center of the panorama either.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Making a sunset photograph work

Last night as I was driving home from St. George on I-15, I looked up at Pine Valley Mountain and couldn't believe how beautiful it was. Unfortunately, I was too late to get into position to shoot a good sunset so I resolved to come back tonight and give it a try. It seems that the situation is seldom as good when you go back and set up your camera. The light was fine but the sky just didn't have the drama that it did last night. No clouds at all but I decided to make the best of it anyway.

The first thing that I had to do was to find an interesting location. There were several requirements. It had to offer a good view of the mountain with interesting shadows showing up at sunset. It also had to have an interesting foreground. Since the sky was somewhat lacking in character, I had to make up for it in foreground. Good scenic photographs must have either a great sky or an interesting foreground. The really great ones have both but a good photographer can make a photo by emphasizing one or the other.

When I found a good spot, I arrived early and experimented by taking photos from different vantage points in order to settle on the one that looked to be the most promising.
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After settling on a place that seemed like it would work, I set up my tripod and fine tuned the composition. I like to try to make sure that all of the elements work together to create harmony in the frame. Now all that was left to do was wait out the light and take several exposures as the sun set and the shadows lengthened.

As the sun goes down the light takes on an ever-increasing warmth that really enhances the red rock that we have here in southern Utah. In fact it can almost get to be a little overwhelming at times as seen in this photo.
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I like to continue shooting even after the sunlight no longer illuminates the foreground. In this particular shoot, my favorite frame was exposed with the sunshine just brushing the mountain in the background.
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With a little help from Lightroom, I came up with a shot that will probably spend some time on my wall.
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I'll go into some of the technical requirements of this shoot on tomorrow's post. Meanwhile let me know what you think.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Vermilion Flycatcher

The Vermilion Flycatcher is one of the most saught after birds in the area for bird watchers. You can see why. It is elusive and beautiful. They are only found in the area in the winter time and even then there are only a hand full here. Right now you have a chance of seeing one in St. George along Riverside drive on the south side of town.
These photos were taken from the window of my car while sitting in a parking lot. With a little luck and my trusty ipod, I was able to get it to come close enough for a reasonable photograph.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Photo contest dislay

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When you get a chance go to the Red Cliffs mall and see the display for the bird photography contest. It is located at center court and looks great.  Thanks to all that sent in photos.  They look wonderful. Congratulations to the winners.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Mule deer feeding

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I was watching deer near my home this evening and was thrilled to see more than 50 head feeding in this field. It was fun to watch them come down from the hillside and mill around.
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I saw a few small bucks and then this one stepped out from the brush. He is probably a three or four year old and has a lot of growing yet to do but he should be a dandy one day.
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He followed the rest of thee deer around the field just feeding and chasing the younger bucks. This time of year, deer are only concerned with surviving the winter. They don't have much to eat and rely on fat stored under their skin to get them through.
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In southern Utah they tend to congregate near the roads and highways in the early evening. The light is great and the deer remain undisturbed if you will just stay in your vehicle. Soon after these photos were taken a couple stopped to look and got out to get closer. Needless to say the deer left, wasting precious energy reserves and were not able to spend the time feeding. By all means stop and look. Just stay in your car and let the deer feed in peace.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bird Photography contest

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The St. George Winter Bird Festival
is hosting a
Bird Photography Contest

This is the forth year for the Bird Photography Contest. This year we will be changing things a little bit. All photos will be submitted digitally by email attachment at There will be no entry fee and only two catagories; Junior – under 18 years of age as of January 31st 2011 and Senior – 18 years and older after January 31st 2011. All entries must be received no later than January 10, 2011. No entries will be accepted after that date. Judging will take place before January 14, 2011. All entries will be displayed digitally in the Red Cliffs Mall at 1770 Red Cliffs Drive, St. George, Utah during business hours from January 13th through January 30th. Sears retail store, located in the mall, is furnishing the HD televisions for the display. We are grateful to the Red Cliffs Mall and Sears for helping sponsor this contest.

We are happy to welcome Clik Elite camera packs as a full sponsor this year. They will be furnishing prizes for our winning images as follows

Grand prize - Clik Elite, Pro Elite camera pack + Clikstand ($425.00 value)

1st Prize 1 in each category - Clik Elite Pro Express camera pack ($225.00 value)

2nd Prize, 1 in each category - Clik Elite Trekker Waistpack ($90.00 value)

Honorable mention, 3 in each category - Clik Elite small Accessory Pouch ($20.00 value)

Entering is easy and free. Simply email your best bird photos, as full resolution j peg attachments, to

You may enter up to 4 images in the contest.
All images must be “single capture” images only (no montages or composite images).
In the subject line indicate your age category.
In the body of the email please include your name, mailing address and the title of the photo or photos.

You will be informed by return email if you are one of the winners. Prizes will be awarded at the banquet on Saturday evening January 29th. If you are a winner and unable to attend the banquet, your prize will be mailed to you the following week.

I have used these bags and they are exceptional.  The quality is great and the design is the best I have found.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Spring flowers in the desert


I took these photos a few years ago in Organ Pipe National Monument in Arizona. With the wet winter that we are having we could see these kind of blooms this spring also. I'll keep you posted.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Triple-d Game Farms in Utah

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These are just a few examples of what can be produced at the wildlife shoot in Southern Utah in April. DDD Game Farms will be coming down from Montana for most of April. They bring with them some of the most beautiful and best cared for animals that I have ever seen. What a chance to photograph these creatures with the the incredible red rock scenery that we have to offer here. I have 4 places still available for anyone who would like to take advantage of this opportunity.

The dates will be April 18 - 20, 2011, and the cost is $1650 for all eight sessions (species). A $200.00 non-refundable, deposit is required asap in order to reserve a spot. Email me as soon as you can and let me know if you are interested. Click here to email me.
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There will also be a chance to photograph either birds of prey of horses on April 21st for $350 with a $100.00 non-refundable, deposit due asap.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Bald Eagle

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Driving through Zion National Park today I saw this Bald eagle on an old dead ponderosa pine tree. I was able to take this photo right out of the truck window with my trusty Canon 100 - 400 mm IS L zoom. My Canon 7D with 18+ megapixels allowed me to crop just a litte bit to further help the image.

By the way, there are three deer carcasses in the area and the eagles are eating well. California condors have also been seen on the dead deer. It is located just 200 yards to the east of the east entrance station but still inside of the park.