Attention Grabber

In the image below,  “Reflections of the Sycamore” I captured the reflection of  several sycamores in the ruffles of a wind-blown lake. But when viewing the image, the refection appears to run off the bottom of the photo. This causes the viewer’s eye to wander out of the image.


Since the image is basically an abstract, in the image below I simply turned the original photo 180 which creates a base that keeps the viewer’s eye engaged with the image longer. When you are creating abstracts, try to keep objects from leaving the bottom of the image. This simple trick will help you create more pleasing abstract photos.


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Eagle Facts

Many of my photographer friends and I have enjoyed photographing Bald Eagles this winter. I’d like to share a few facts I’ve learned about these majestic birds in a Q & A format.

Q. When do Bald Eagles get their white heads?
A. Bald Eagles do not get their white feathers (head and tail) until they are 4 to 5 years old.

Q. How many eggs do eagles lay each year?
A. Usually 1 to 3, but according to some stats only about 50% will live to fledgling.

Q. How long do eagles live?
A. Eagles have been known to live up to 20 years in the wild and as long as 50 years in captivity.

Q. Why are Bald Eagles called Bald when they obviously have white feathers on their heads and are not bald.

A: The name actually comes from an old English word which meant “white headed” rather than hairless.

Q. How can you tell a female eagle from a male?
A. The easiest way to tell the difference is by size. The female eagle is about 30% larger than the male.

Q. What if you don’t see a nesting pair together?

A. There are a few other more subtle ways to tell the difference:

  •  The feathers on the male eagle’s head are usually very bright white, while the female’s head may some darker feathers mixed in.
  • Female eagles also have gray feathers around their eyes that resembles gray eye shadow. Male eagles have a black liner around their eyes.
  • Females also have a very distinguished brow, with eyes inset deeper than males.
  • Males have brighter orange beaks than the females. 
    Male Bald Eagle

    Male Bald Eagle: Notice the bright white feathers on the head and the black liner around the eyes.


    Female Bald Eagles: Notice the gray eye shadow around the eye and the distinguished brow.


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Let’s Get Creative


This image of an eagle in flight was created using a slower shutter speed as well as panning the camera to match the flight speed of the eagle. Experimentation and practice are keys to success. If done correctly, the head of the eagle will remain sharp while the wings will have motion blur. The main objective is get sharp eyes as the part that is sharp is the first area the viewer focuses on when they look at a photo. Choosing the right shutter speed to freeze the wings of an eagle in flight I like to use a shutter speed of 1/1000 of a second or faster. However, this time I wanted the wings to be blurry to give the image some motion so I chose a shutter speed of 1/60 of a second.

Deciding what shutter speed to use

  • Determine your distance from the bird in flight. The farther away from your subject you are the slower the shutter speed you need to blur motion. If the eagle had been flying closer, a shutter speed of 1/125 of a second would have created the same effect or even better. ·
  • Flying speed and speed of the wing movement are other factors. A duck which has a much faster wing speed will not need as slow of a shutter speed to create motion blur.

Don’t be afraid to experiment with different shutter speeds until you get the hang of it.

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Snow is White, not Gray

snow-exposure2Does the snow appear gray in your snow photography? The reason this happens is that your camera’s light meter automatically tells your camera to expose the snow to 18% gray, but snow is not gray – it’s white! Here are a couple ways to fix this problem. If you are using an automatic exposure, in which case your camera determines the exposure, you need to adjust your camera’s exposure compensation to add 1 to 2 stops of light. (Check your camera manual to find out how to do this for your model.) If you set your exposures manually, simply add 1 or 2 stops of light to the exposure reading of your camera’s light meter. These adjustments will capture the snow whiter in color in your photos, the way you naturally see it. However, be careful not to blow the snow out to pure white, or else you will lose all detail. Most cameras have a white clipping warning or “Blinkies” that will reveal areas of your photo that are pure white.


In this scene adding 2 stops of light give a better exposure of the snow

Check out this tips for yourself, and get rid of the gray snow in your photos!

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The Background Matters

DSC_4335-EditA background or bokeh (a Japanese term meaning the blurred out-of-focus part of an image) can really create a unique element within a photo, and will often make a subject really stand out. Don’t leave your backgrounds to chance, plan them! In my photo of a Chickadee, the rust colored bokeh is created by leaves on an oak tree in the background. By strategically placing an old pine branch near my backyard feeder for the birds to land on before jumping to the seed, (See my earlier post about how I created the feeder.) I was able to plan the background of my shots using the oak tree for a nice bokeh. The oak is far enough away from the pine branch that no detail of the actual tree is visible, just a smooth rust color from the leaves.

So, plan those backgrounds to create stronger images, and get out there and shoot away!

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Adding the Human Element


Father and son at Huntington Beach California

Landscapes always seemed better to me in the past without people in the images. However, I’ve discovered that adding a human element can increase the drama, interest and creative energy of your landscapes. Also, adding people can bring balance, scale or originality which allows you to ultimately create a one of a kind image. One example of balance is in the image below – the couple capturing a selfie is at the rule of thirds position.


“Selfie at the Beach” – I was waiting for this couple to move from the image of the pier at Huntington Beach when one of them pulled out a cell phone I realized that this was just the extra drama needed to complete the image.


Surfer at Huntington Beach CA, which is also known as “Surf City USA”


Boy Scouts at Upper Falls at Old Man’s Cave add an extra element of interest to one of the areas most photographed waterfalls.

So get out there an shoot landscape images and don’t be afraid to add the human element.

Got any ideas about adding the “human element” to landscape images, leave them in the comments below.

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Backyard bird photography

backyard-birdingMany of us put out bird feeders in the winter months to feed the birds, and of course we want to photograph them, too. But photographing birds at a feeder most often means including the bird feeder in the image. When I photograph birds I like to make them look as if they are out in nature, free of the man-made objects.

Here’s how I feed the birds and get those hand-of-man-free images; the trick is to create a bird feeder constructed completely of natural materials. Find an old log that is hollow or can be easily hollowed out. Use this as your feeder, filling the recesses with bird seed. Now find some other small branches and arrange them around your feeder to resemble places a bird would land in nature. Set this up near a window or on a deck where you can view and photograph the birds that land at your feeder. Because your feeder is constructed of all natural materials, the birds will quickly become accustomed to it and give you many opportunities to photograph them. Change out your branches periodically to change the scene. You can add some evergreen to your area to give color to your shots.

Oh, yeah. If you plan to get close enough to get shots like the one above, you will need to sit still so you don’t frighten the birds. Don’t wear bright colors, and try to blend in as much as possible. In this shot, I love the way the lines in the branch accent the lines in the feathers of the nuthatch.

So, feed the birds and take some beautifully natural photos of them this winter.

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