2017 was for the Birds

If you are a regular follower of my work you will know that wildlife has always been a favorite subject of mine to photograph. Birds have always made up a large portion of my wildlife images. But in August of this year, I started a dream job as Production Director at Bird Watcher’s Digest, which has heightened my focus and love of photographing birds. 2017 has been a great year for photographing birds, starting in January when I photographed one of the rarest birds in the world, the California Condor at the Navajo Bridge near Grand Canyon in Arizona.
Here are some (but not all) of my favorite images from 2017:


California Condor sitting on a cliff at the Navajo Bridge. (AZ)


Palm Warbler at Magee Marsh. (OH)


Blackpoll Warbler at Magee Marsh (OH)



Indigo Bunting, Great Smokey Mountains (TN).


Sandhill Cranes, Jasper Pulaski (IN)


Ross’s Geese, near Marietta (OH)


Snowy Owl, Holmes County (OH)

I have photographed over 60 different bird species in 2017. Some of my favorites were the California Condor, Sandhill Cranes and Snowy Owl.

Next year has a tough act to follow.
Keep shooting in 2018!

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Become color Blind

DSC_3082As I stated in my last post, when color is not the primary feature of your image it can distract your eye from seeing the story and can actually keep your eye from seeing the detail of the image.  If only there was a way that we could view our images in black and white to allow us to more clearly see the composition.

Wait, there is a way!

Camera settings:

  • Set your file type to RAW (This is a must!)
  • Set White Balance as you would for capturing a color image.
  • Set your Picture Control (Nikon) or Picture Styles (Canon) to Monochrome
  • Set your exposure with whichever method you normally use
  • Turn on your Live View

The image on the your LCD will be in Black and White, but you camera will still capture all the color imformation as usual. (I have tested this method on Nikon and Canon, I’m not sure about other brands.)23157720_10211258406715171_606213970_o

Use the black and white preview in Live View on your LCD to compose your image, paying special attention to the entire image for forms, lines, shapes and textures.

When you import your RAW files into your image editor (such as Lightroom, which is what I use) it will have all the color information, which is important even if you are going to convert to Black and white.

This method can vary from camera to camera, so it is best to do a test, so you will see how it works on your camera model.

So keep shooting and become color blind.

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Choosing image for Black and White

Before you decide to convert any image to black and white you must first ask this question.DSC_3086-Edit

Is the color in this image an important part of its story?

If your answer is “Yes” then the image may not be a good choice for Black and White.
Look for images that have forms, lines, shapes and textures, converting these to black and white will accent these features.

So a good rule for judging your image is:
Process to black and white when forms, shapes and lines of an image are the primary elements and process to color when the colors, tones and shades are the primary elements that tells the story of the image.

When the colors of an image are not the primary feature of your image they can distract your eye from seeing the story of the image and can actually keep the viewer’s eye from seeing the detail of the image.

So keep shooting, and look for chances to make a great black and white image.

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The Golden Spiral

Im sure you have heard of the “rule of thirds”  when you are composing your images, but


The Golden Spiral composition grid

did you know that there are other composition grids. In Lightroom with the crop tool selected by hitting the letter “O” (not a zero) you can cycle through the other grid layouts. Also by hitting Shift – O you can cycle through rotating the grid.DSC_6785The image above of a woodcock is a great example of the Golden Spiral. Notice how the eye of the bird is placed in the center of the spiral.
Check out some of the other grids in Lightroom, learn the rules of compostion, but don’t be afraid to break the rules.

So pick up that camera and get out there and shoot images and experiment with other rules of composition.

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The Power of Red

The color red has a unique effect over any other color. This is the reason why the color red is the most common color used for things like company logos, stop signs and emergency vehicles. The color grabs our attention. DSC_2042

In this image our eyes are immediately drawn to the red eye if the Night Heron and the red buds of the maple tree act as a natural frame and accent the eye of the bird.

So keep shooting and look for the color red to add some extra pizzazz to your image.

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Photographing Antelope Canyons

Photography Tips for Antelope Canyonsdsc_4696-edit

If you are interested in taking quality images in the slotted canyons at Page, Arizona, there are two things you must do: First, schedule photography tours. Though these will cost more, but they’re totally worth the investment. Secondly, visit the area in the off-season. During the summer so many people visit these locations it’s impossible to experience the freedom necessary to shoot the vastness of the canyons. You should note that on the photography tours, you will be required to have a sturdy tripod and a DSLR camera, no point-and-shoots.


  • DSLR camera
  • Tripod: You will need a very stable tripod, as it very dark in most areas of these canyons. Exposures ranging from 2 seconds to as many as 20 seconds are needed to capture the beautiful colors.
  • Wide angle lens: These canyons are very narrow, so the use of a wide angle lens is a must; for example, a 14mm on a cropped sensor. I was shooting with the Nikon D750 full frame at 24mm, but in many places it would have been preferable to go wider.
  • Remote shutter release: Because it is necessary to shoot with very slow shutter speeds, triggering with a remote will help avoid any camera movement. If you don’t have a remote, use your camera’s timer to release the shutter hands-free.dsc_4676

Camera settings

Shooting in the canyons is very fast paced, so be very familiar with all your camera settings.

  1.  I highly recommend shooting in RAW. It’s not a must, but you will need all the dynamic range you can get for post.
  2. Shoot in manual mode. The lighting in these canyons can be very tricky and deceiving… Don’t trust your camera to choose the right exposure. More about exposures is covered below.
  3. Aperture: In very low lighting, your first instinct might be to shoot wide open, but in the long, narrow canyon passage ways you will want all the depth of field you can get. Try somewhere between f/8 and f/10.
  4.  ISO: Shoot at your lower ISOs, such as ISO 100, as these will help keep your images from becoming grainy while shooting in extremely low light. And, believe me, you are going to be surprised how dark it gets in these slotted canyons!
  5. White balance: I tried two different settings here, daylight and cloudy, but if you are shooting in RAW this can be adjusted in post.

Determining Exposure

Setting up your exposure options is the tricky part. Two things I recommend:

  1. Use your histogram: if you are not familiar with using your camera’s histogram, practice using it before you go out on a canyon shoot. And as you are shooting, check the histogram. The key here is to avoid clipping either end, but most importantly in the highlight (the right side) some areas of the canyons can be very contrasting.
  2. Bracket your exposures: After getting your exposure as close as you can by looking at the histogram, bracket your exposures to make sure you have an exposure that will bring out the most detail and color. The more contrast in the scene, the more exposures you’ll want to bracket for. This may come in handy later in case you want to try using HDR in post to improve the dynamic range of your image.

The canyons are very narrow in many places, so I recommend leaving your backpack in the car and just carry in your camera, tripod and a cleaning cloth for your lens. Don’t take any extra lenses, because the canyons are so dusty there is no way you should even try to switch out your lens there. Most of the guides in the canyons are very knowledgeable about camera gear, so if you have problems, they might be able to help you. dsc_4707-hdr-edit

So if you ever find yourself anywhere close to Page, Arizona, take the opportunity to photograph Antelope Canyons.

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Add Impact by Finding a New Perspectives

When approaching a scene it is so easy just to stand there and put your camera to your eye and snap a shot. But often the most impact can be made from a different angle. When looking to photograph a scene, look for a new angle that can completely change your image and make a common scene into a image with impact.

Try an angle such as worm’s eye view, shoot straight up, shoot from the hip, shoot from a high vantage point or with a tilt to give your image impact.

Shooting from different angles can also often help you reduce distracting objects in the background.


Image captured standing: The image has some nice lines, but there is too much empty space on the left side of the image and some distracting objects on the right side.


Image captured about knee high from the ground: By lowing the camera the fence fills the empty area on the left and the objects on the right are completely gone. The fence now creates a leading line to draw the viewers eye into the image.

So get out there and shoot, looking for new perspective to make an impact.

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