Category Archives: photo tips

Taking a Low Point of View


So here I was, driving through the Willamette valley in September, on my eventual way home, looking for an apple stand, when I saw this huge dust cloud from a distance. I could see the tractor at one point, and I decided I had to get there somehow to photograph this ag scene, as the cloud of dust was pretty amazing. Continue reading »

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Yosemite: Mirrorless and Moonlight



Cabin fever got the better of me this past weekend, and I took off for a very quick trip up into the Merced River canyon and Yosemite. I was in search of redbud, having heard they were popping into bloom with the warm weather. I found various stages from full bloom with leaves showing, to just barely beginning to bloom. But the idea I had for a redbud image was not to be this year – with water levels at record lows due to the drought, the branches had river rocks behind them instead of the flowing water I had wanted. Still, it was all so pretty to see things beginning to bloom! With the warm temperatures of this past weekend and early days this week, I’m sure that the peak will happening very soon. I will defer to Michael Frye, however, who always has a reliable and up to date report on seasonal events happening near and in Yosemite.

I photographed some redbud, and then headed up into the valley to eat while waiting for complete darkness. I wanted to test out my Fuji XT-1 at high ISOs required for star points of light (3200 and 6400) and also test out my new Fujinon 23mm 1.4 lens. The results were really amazing. I was so impressed by the way the camera handled the noise of 3200 and 6400 ISO. The 23mm f1.4 was a superb light-gathering lens, as well. But I discovered one ‘down side’ of such light-gathering. You see so many stars that the constellations themselves can get lost in all of that. I could see a strong definition of Orion in the sky, with my eye. But at f1.4 I saw so many stars that he disappeared in the picture. If I exposed at f2.8, I saw him better because I gathered in only the light of stronger stars. At least I know know that when I get the chance to photograph the milky way on a moonless night with this lens it will be awesome.

I then moved up the valley, to get a photograph of Yosemite falls and the cliffs under moonlight. Being a few days past full moon, I had to wait until about 11 PM for the cliffs to be bathed in moonlight. But heh, the best entertainment in the valley is being out under the billions of stars at night so I didn’t mind. I made a 6 minute exposure, at 400 ISO, for the blog image above. I love how at this time of the moon cycle you can get moonlit landscape and star trails. It makes for an unusual effect.

Some might be wondering how I could do this with a mirrorless system that uses an electronic viewfinder, and I’m here to say it was a challenge! To say they are noisy is an understatement. Even the best EVF’s will be challenging if not impossible to compose at night. You’ll have to get there early to compose while you can see, or use the point and hope method of composition that I used that night! With a few quick test shots, I got my composition, and was ready for the moon when it came. It rose later, as it was a few days after full moon, but by 11 PM it was bathing the cliffs in beautiful moonlight. I was glad there was enough water flowing over the falls to at least have that as a feature to work with, and I got a little ‘bonus’ of prismatic hues in the wispy falls – the beginnings of a moon bow, but not strong enough with the low water flow.

All in all it was worth the trip and I am looking forward to doing more night and star photography with my mirrorless system, now that I know it’s feasible.

Thanks for visiting,



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Flying Puffin_MG_5563


My photo tour group  in Lake Clark National Park this past July was such fun, and they were all really good photographers. We were there mostly for the bears, so the horned puffins (Fratercula corniculata) were an added bonus – if the weather cooperated. It did and we got to take the boat ride to the island. When we arrived it was quite foggy, but the closer to the cliffs we got the more puffins we saw. Soon, the weather cleared a little, but still gave us mostly bright, diffused light – perfect for bird portraits. They would zip past us in flight and we tried to get them in action, but that was clearly a challenge – we were too close in most instances! A few of us managed to get them in flight, but several of us decided to focus on the ones on the rock and watch their behavior. Like other birds, they would often poop just before they were going to take off – which is pretty funny but it’s true. We could see the body language and after a while could tell when they were about to pop off the rock. I managed just one good image this, and a whole bunch of great portraits of them interacting and sitting around on the rocks. What fun we had!

I made this picture with a Canon EOS 500mm f4 IS lens, on a tripod with a Really Right Stuff Pro 55 Ball head and a Wimberly Side-kick. It helps to have the right gear for a photo like this, but ironically we could have done some of our pictures (and did) with a 100-400mm or 200-400mm lens, just as easily, as in many situations we were able to get pretty close.


Enjoy and thanks for visiting,



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Photography by the light of midday

 Trinidad, Cuba

Morning or late afternoon light can be a great thing to photograph in villages and cities, when the light streams down the cobblestoned streets, skimming the surface of stones and walls, bringing out the texture, and creating long shadows. As photographers, we ‘live’ for that kind of light. But I learned a long time ago that there were other kinds or qualities of light that I could use in the middle of the day, and that opened up the possibilities for more photographs of the places I visited. This is a case in point: It was still morning, but the dramatic morning light was past, and the larger scenes of the streets were harshly lit. But what a great bounce light the beige dirt of the street created for this portrait of a proud fruit vendor in Trinidad, Cuba. He was in the shade of his storefront, and the light off the street created a warm glowing quality, illuminating his dark skin and his face under the straw hat. When I showed this type of light to some of the Cuba trip participants, I could see the ‘lightbulb’ go on inside them. Perhaps they hadn’t really looked closely before at different types of light, or light’s effect, because they just assumed the light wasn’t good for most things in the middle of the morning or day. But from then on, they began to really look at the light that was bouncing off everything – walls, doors, streets – you name it! And that opened up the possibilities for them, too.

So what happens if you have a dark street outside the shop? Well, you can create a similar effect with a reflector – I’ve done it many times, where someone holds the reflector out in the sunlight and bounces the light into the person’s face/body. It won’t be a large enough area to cover the entire shop like the street bounce light does above, but it still allows you to make some good portraits now and then, provided you can get someone to hold your reflector for you!


P.S. The January 2014 Cuba trip has grown to 9 people  registered, and we’ll take only 12. If you want to participate, please visit the Cuba page and click on the register now button. You’ll be asked to fill out a trip application form, and then taken to a payment page – which you can just ignore for the moment, as we are finalizing details and pricing and Strabo tours will ultimately be handling that part of the tour.

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