David Hessell Photographer


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Get Close(r)!

Yes, that is one of my rules, Number Two, to be exact. You know that.

Well, now you do anyways …

Get Close.

Yes, I love rules. I am a Marine (well, like, you know, a LONG time ago). I am a teacher (well, not that long ago) …

I like, and I have, rules.

Still do.

Hessell Rules.

And Number Two is: Get Closer.


This image of a Musk-Ox, taken up in Canada ten years ago, is an example of this very simple rule.

I got CLOSE.

No, I am not that good. And no, I am not that dumb.

But yes, I am that lucky.

Pure luck.

I had driven up to Alaska the week (or two) before, and just kept going, past The Arctic Circle, and all the way up to Prudhoe Bay.

There, I stopped, took a dip in The Arctic Ocean, turned around, and headed South once again.

Kind of like Forrest Gump, but, you know, in my Element. My Honda Element.

It was great. Loved it.

In fact, I loved it so much, I decided to do it again. Only this time, I would drive into another country, the second largest country in the world: Canada.


It was right next door …

I drove up another gravel road, crossed The Arctic Circle once again, and kept going to the end: Inuvik, Canada, in the Northwest Territories.

Alaska was wild, Inuvik was, well, Wilder. Yes, with a capital "W".


And who, or what, greeted me at the Visitor's Center, when I crossed into The Northwest territories?

This musk-ox. This close!

Well, no, I did have to get out of my Element (#2, the red one), walk into the Visitor Center, and then up to the musk-ox, which was standing by patiently waiting for me …

Talk about an adventure!

There I was, face-to-face with this huge animal … Eye-to-eye. Well, no, I was a bit taller … But close.

Get Closer.

I heard that little voice in my head once again …

I got close.

As close as I could, and still be able to focus, that is.

That close.

No, my heart was not racing as fast as when I had a full-framed grizzly within my viewfinder, like earlier on the trip, but I must admit, it was something …

I kept calm.

I set up my tripod, staying on my knees, just like at Katmai with the grizzlies, I then focused, set the 2-second timer, held my breath (you know, out of habit), and fired away …

Again, and again, and again … Lighter? Darker?  Yes, darker … Minus, minus, minus …

As fast as I could, keeping my heart in check … "Quick but don't hurry". I heard Coach Wooden's (UCLA basketball) little voice in my head, once again … Relax.


Got it.

A Musk-Ox. My very first Musk-Ox. In Canada, like, very Northern Canada.


Then, I put my tripod and camera away, walked around the Visitor's Center, looked at other displays, asked some questions, bought a sticker, or two (I really can't remember, but that is what I normally do), maybe even a drink or something. I'm sure I bought something, and then went out, and headed North once again.

Camped that night in the small village of Inuvik, walked around, took pictures of the cool, dome-shaped, church, and enjoyed talking to a few kids that I ran into around town. Not too many.

The next morning, I got up, packed up the Element, and once again headed South … The nice gravel road I drove up on was now not so nice … Rain.


Miles and miles of mud … Crazy deep mud. Mud, mud, mud ...

To Yellowknife, where I had a Domino's Pizza - Now that, I can remember, then over to Fort Smith, and Wood Buffalo National Park … Ahh, like in the middle of nowhere!

It was a trip to remember …

And this is the image I remember it by …

My Musk-Ox eye. And horn.

Get Close. As close as you can. Either my feet, or by zoom.  In this case, it was by feet.

One little tip I picked up on this adventure: If you ever get this view in your lens, and the animal is this clean … You know you are safe. It is dead, stuffed, and sitting inside The Visitor's Center. Period.

But just in case, make sure the animal is not breathing before getting THIS close!


** Footnote:

When I got home, I cleaned the Element, and drove straight to the Honda dealer. That mud I talked about? It got up into the electrical system, into the brakes, the engine, EVERYWHERE … My windshield had eight cracks in it. The two year old Element was a mess. Period.

I picked up a new, silver, one that very day - Within an hour, or so. That fast. That quick.


And yes, I didn't even notice it didn't have a "moon-roof" until I was back home, and looked down on it from the upstairs window … Hey, it was  four wheel-drive, just like the two I owed before it … And all four-wheel drive Honda Elements had a moon-roof. 

Everyone knows that! 

Until 2010.

Then they didn't.

And after the next year (2011), BAM … No more Honda Elements. Period.

That is why I still have mine eight years later … And yes, with my same old NC Tag I've had since the first one: BAM




Just Playin' ...

I drove down to the Walking Park yesterday to get out of the apartment, do some walking on a nice flat surface, and yes … Take some pictures.

And I didn't even take a camera with me.

No, it was already in the glove compartment, as usual.

Now true, it has been there for about five months (at least) without being used, but I was hoping the battery would get me around the place at least once.

It almost did.

I did manage to get a LOT of pictures and had a great time just playing with vision.

What camera did I use? My tiny Nikon S01. And I mean TINY!

Really, like, one-third the size of my cell phone, that I rarely carry with me.

No, really. I checked. Same width, one-third the height. Crazy.

It is a true, point-n-create, very basic, tiny little camera. I was able to adjust some compensation up or down, use a self-timer if needed, and … Well, that is about it.

I love it.

I also noticed that it made a lot of changes on its own … Go to Macro mode, when it needed to, Auto-ISO changed depending on the lighting conditions, and … Well, like I said, it is a pretty cool little camera.


So, I just walked around and looked for flowers … Ahh, I mean colors. Shapes. Patterns. Lines. Contrast. Repetition. All the design elements that make a good photograph.

I made it all the way around, and was up by the gazebo, with its little pond, when, yeah, the battery pooped-out on me. So I turned it off, and kept on going.

Then I saw something else … And turned it back on again … It worked.

For a shot or two …

I did this a few times … OK, twice. Pretty cool. Over and over … Got a few more images.

Here are three of my favorites … Pretty much right out of the camera.

I had fun, got some exercise, and a few more images of flowers to add to the never-ending collection.

My favorite? The top one … The orange lines, the orange curves, and all the other very simple orange (and a wee-bit of yellow and red) thingies ...

"The Role of the Artist is to Simplify".

I like to simplify.

I like a simple camera that simplifies.

Simply perfect.


Bighorn Light

I was sitting at the computer, around midnight, looking for images to down-load to National Geographic's YOUR SHOT website, when I came across this one.

My favorite wild animal image, in the wildest lighting, I have ever come across.


Studio lighting in the great outdoors … I couldn't have asked for a better situation if I planned for it myself.

I didn't.

I was in Alberta, Canada, driving along the highway, headed for Banff and Jasper National Parks, which, by the way, are one of the greatest places on earth. Period.

I was in the middle of nowhere really … In fact, I can't even remember if I was heading to, or leaving the Parks … Eight years!

But it was Alberta ...

I was driving along, and came across an overpass with some construction going on … We had to actually stop just in front of the overpass.

Under the bridge was a group of Big Horn Sheep just hanging out, like it was a natural thing to do on a sunny day. Maybe they liked the shade … Works for me.

Then, it was like, Holy Crap! Look at that one standing in the light!

I pulled over, got out ... Ahh, my camera was slung over the passenger seat, you know, in case I ran across a herd of Bighorn Sheep, or something, in the middle of nowhere …

I grabbed it, along with my trusty 18-200mm lens, and just walked up along the road until I got, like, you know, really close …

It just stood there looking at me.

In perfect light.

And shade. Don't overlook the shade caused by the overpass.


The shade of the overpass makes this image. Period. But I don't think you need me to tell you that.

I couldn't believe it.


True, just having a large ram standing in front of you is pretty cool, but … That LIGHT.

I giggled, as I tried to control myself, and get the shot!

Now, if you know me, or have read my Blog, you know this is my favorite type of lighting situation ever. No question.

Light with a shadow in the background - Somewhere!

If I expose for the highlights, the shadows go BLACK. Period. The meter can only give you one exposure. Exposure for the highlights. Period.


I knew that before I even got out of my Element. Before I parked. The moment I saw him in that light, under the overpass, staring at me with those golden eyes ...

A no-brainer.

I walked up, filled my frame with nothing but horns and shade … Set my Compensation to minus one, and fired away.

And yes, I took more than one shot. Minus this, minus that, adjust, minus ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot.

I can remember it like it was yesterday.

It wasn't.

Eight years ago.

Yeah, 2010. It was eight years ago.

It was on my trip to Alaska.

And this is the shot I remember the most. Thousands of images …

 This is the one.

Like, what the heck were these animals standing under an overpass along the highway for anyways?

Out in the middle of nowhere … Well, I guess for rams, it wasn't actually nowhere, but you know what I mean. I can't remember a town or city being around … I just remember open plains and mountains ...

Canada, gotta love it.

My favorite wildlife image of all time, this very instant.

Love it.

I've got to get back up that way …

Of course I have no idea where I actually was, but I'll just head for Banff, and go from there.

Close enough.

You know, out in the middle of nowhere in Alberta … Somewhere in Canada. The second largest country in the world. No problem.

What are the odds I will ever come across this situation again?

I just have to get off the couch, away from the computer, and out of this apartment.

I've got to find that overpass …




Colored Petal Patterns

For a photographer who started out working for the military, then travel photography, and motorcycles, and river cruising, and walking tours, and then white water rafting, I shoot a lot of flowers.


ALWAYS. Any place, any time, if I see 'em, I photograph them.


At first I didn't really understand why, but then …

I mean, who wouldn't?

Think about it …

It has gotten to a point where I don't even think of myself photographing flowers …





Design Elements.



And more color! Lines, shapes, patterns, curves, and … Really, it is never ending.

Every Spring. Summer. Fall. And here in North Carolina, even in the Winter.


Everywhere. At home, and every other place I have been in the last thirty years or so …

I blame this obsession on OUR STATE magazine, but I was hooked going way back … To when I worked for base newspapers for the Army, back in the 1980s …

Everyone loves Spring flowers … Even in Black and White!

But yes, OUR STATE really got me going … Every year, they wanted Spring Flowers. Always. Every year.

I was always looking …

And at one time, I had seven of my college photography students that were shooting for OUR STATE as well. I was hooked, and they were hooked. We were ALWAYS looking for flowers every time we got out of the classroom.

Which, for our Saturday class, was every other weekend.

So yes, I photograph flowers.

And I always will.

But to tell you the truth, over the past few years, I have really gotten into wildlife … My "new" passion.

Elk. Sandhill Cranes. Grizzly Bears. Geese. Penguins. Whales. Osprey. Seals. Butterflies. Hawks. Dolphins. Killer Whales. Petrels. Owls. Prairie Dogs …

And I have always enjoyed zoos …

You get the point.

But there has ALWAYS been flowers ...

I have LOTS of lenses, but give me a macro lens, and Lord forbid, my extension tubes, and get the heck out of the way!

Extension Tubes are hollow tubes that take your lens farther away from the sensor which makes the subject BIGGER  on the sensor.

And we all know, BIGGER is Better.

I can spend HOURS in a field of flowers … Like EXIT 113, Valdese!

If you know me, you know I go there every year, like clock-work. No question.

And again, it is not the flowers … I get lost in the design of the flowers. The colors. One design element after another … And the inter-play between them all.

These three images were shot this Spring, just a week or so ago.

And not with one of my special Nikkor macro lens (40mm or 105mm), no … These were shot with my "Special" super-duper macro lens … Or camera.

My new under-water, do-everything camera, the bright yellow, Nikon 300W.

Ahh, my newest favorite "macro camera" of all-time (I have owned four or five versions of them, over the years!).

One millimeter macro.


One millimeter.

Like, that close. Like, inside the flower close! Super close.

And sharp.

Now yes, I LOVE my 40mm macro lens. Light. Small. Sharp.

It is sweet.

And ... The 105mm gives me that extra distance from the subject when needed … Think rattlesnake! I can be twice as far away, but still obtain that magical 1:1 ratio people are looking for.

That means, the size of the subject will be the same size as what is on your camera's sensor. Period.

Or, as we used to say in Japan, "Same Same".

That is true "macro", or what some camera companies refer to as micro.

Micro, Macro … Same Same. Depends on what camera brand you are using at any given time …

However you pronounce it, all I know is that, you want it. Period.


It is perfect for flowers.

And everything else you can think of …

Like, color, lines, shapes, patterns, repetition, texture, and, well, you know, everything else!

Get one and get closer.

And if you don't have one, no worries … Just get as CLOSE as you can and fill the frame with nothing but lines, shapes, patterns, textures, repetition …

I mean, flowers! Those things in nature with all the lines, shapes, patterns … You know what I'm talking about.

Those wonderful little bits of nature that many non-photographers refer to as F-L-O-W-E-R-S. Flowers.

I love 'em!

Like the three images above. Try not to think of them as flowers … Look at all the little details in each image.

Color. They all have color, period. That is what caught my attention, my eye.

That's nice, but look deeper … Get right in there. LOOK. Go beyond the flower itself …

My favorite? Check out the really tiny flowers within the tiny, third flower … Oh, oh … And the colors!

Like a magical, little Dr. Seuss mini-landscape wrapped up in color.

Look for the "art" within … Each flower is different.

I don't know the names (I just call them yellow flowers, pink flowers, etc …), and can care less …

I am looking at the design elements that make each flower special, unique, and becomes my favorite-flower-of-all-time-that very-moment.


Petal Pattern Power.




Photographic Vision

I went to Granite Falls Middle School to … Well, you know, get out of the apartment.


I knew testing was around the corner, so I thought I would check in with the boss. Let me remind you that I've taken a lot of pain pills the past few months, and I wanted to make sure I had the right week.

I didn't, but that turned out to be even better …

Once I got into the office to sign-in, the principal asked if I could step into her office …

Oh no, flashback … You know, to when I was in 6th grade! And 7th, and 8th, and, well, you get the picture …

She wanted to know if I was willing to help a student out by getting him outside with his camera …


Like I said, I'd taken a lot of pills and might not of understood her …

No, I heard her right. A student had gone through some hard times and needed a little help ...


Was she talking about me, or was there really a student that needed my help?

The lines are blurred …

I needed to get outside with a camera, and if that helped a student, so much the better.

I'm in. She didn't have to ask twice.

And all this was the week before testing started, so, PERFECT.

I can take pictures.

Five minutes after talking to her, and the student, I found myself outside with a camera. I ALWAYS have a camera!

Ahh, it was in my glove compartment, of course!

I started out going in to check on testing, and came back outside, testing the student on what he knew about photography. Well, you know, not a real test, but close enough.

He has a small Nikon Point-n-Shoot (just like one of mine), and knew a few things … We went over my Three Rules, and My Three Buttons, and ...


Let the games begin!

The whole week we were outside playing with everything from a 10mm fish-eye lens, to the 300 f2.8 mounted on the large tripod (the kid is TALL), to hand-holding the large 200-500mm zoom lens, as we walked around the campus.


And shooting like crazy.

His camera does not fire off shots at 10 frames per second. I kind of got the idea he likes the sound of tenframespersecond! Yeah.

We even doubled the time, you know, to make sure he understood all the new the information! He enjoyed it. I enjoyed it.

And a few of this fellow classmates even had fun running around in front of the camera … Keeping that 300mm on a moving subject is a trip! We had to work at it!

He fired away. Like, a lot!

These three images are just a few of what we saw as we made our rounds around the grounds … And yes, I did mentioned poetry, although it was more along the lines of visual poetry, than the written word, but poetry is poetry.

I got him looking, thinking … Everywhere he didn't think there were pictures to be made …

I mentioned Composition. Like my college class, I just mentioned DON'T CENTER IT. Period.

Most people always center the main subject … It's easy. There is a little rectangle smack-dab in the middle of the frame and people use that as there Bulls-eye, and fire away.

Take another look at these three images …

Notice the Composition. The Thirds. You might not believe this, but these are just the way I saw them, shot them ... No cropping, nothing.

I mean, look at the wheelbarrow … Yes, the rust tones caught my eye, but when I "filled the frame", notice what shows up at the left 1/3 of the frame …

And the fence with the plant thingy … I mean, come on, the cracks lined right up with the grid-lines I have set-up in my viewfinder. Easy.

That is why I turn on the grid-lines in all my cameras … I mean, following the rules of composition can't get any easier.


Three images, all of them shot following the rules of thirds …

With the Grid-Lines in my viewfinder, I just walk around and look …

Just like walking around the college campus!

My favorite shot of the week is the rusty wheelbarrow. The top image.


I saw the lines, circles, textures, and the muted colors of rusty metal. Perfect.

OK, the student didn't quite see that one ...

Then there was the contrast between the dirty, plastic, white fence, and the green and yellow plant thing poking through the cracks. Classic contrast of colors and texture.

The Rule of Thirds all lined up for me.

He didn't see that one either ...

But, you know, I couldn't, NOT, make an image with that in front of me. It just popped out at me!

Then there was the Golden Eye …

Yes, I watched a few James Bond movies last night, and couldn't help myself.

The "eye" is in the top-third of the frame.

Now he did see that! He pointed out all the "little eyeballs" in the wood. Now we just need to work on that whole Thirds thing ...


I have walked past these railings in our school's "Trailer Park" hundreds of times, over the past 25 years, and … Well, this is my first image of them, lets put it that way.

Contrast. Colors. Texture. Patterns. Repetition. Lines.

It is all there.

Hundreds of them … All over the place.

That was what it was all about.

Helping a student that needed a little help the last week,or so, of school, and a retired teacher that needed a little help the last few weeks (months) of his rehabilitation.

Oh, and then I went and saw my real boss, the Head of our Special Ed. Department, and the person that got me through all those years of paperwork (we both arrived at GFMS in 1994), and figured out that I wasn't needed for proctoring until the following week …


More time to play!

And see.



My Life in X-Rays

I think these images sum up my life right now.

I did get rid of the neck brace …

I hated that with a passion.

Whew … That was NOT fun.

Now I just have to begin the next chapter …

And hope a screw doesn't come loose.



I work hard at keeping my images simple.

That is what artists do. It is what artists should do. It is that simple.

Artists take something, and place them in a space that separates them from where they came from.

Thing about it …

Photographers have a "frame" they must fill with only what they want.

Painters have a "frame" they must add to in order to get what they want.

Sculptors take something and remove parts of it until they get what they want.

That is the key … "Get what they want".

That is what being an artist is all about. YOU are the artist, so … Get what YOU want.

That simple.

I have been taking photographs for over thirty years. I know what I want. Again, I try very hard to get what I want in my viewfinder.

That said … I try very hard to get what I want OUT of my frame!

That little rectangle is mine!

The funny thing about this image is that there was once a time where this type of image was … Well, not very popular. Not the norm.

The GRAND LANDSCAPE was the norm. Foreground. Middle ground. Background.

You know, like in real life. The whole picture, the whole landscape … You know, what the artist sees, what is in front of them.

Then photographers came around with their long lenses … Photographers can ZOOM in, and just see a small part of the scene.

That was a big deal back in the day. No big deal to me. That was before my time …

To me, it was, and is, NORMAL.

I zoom in any, and every, way I can. First, I GET CLOSER. Heck, I even made it one of my rules. I walk in, step in, jump in, whatever it takes … GET CLOSER.

Physically. In your face.

Now, true, sometimes I CAN"T move in closer … You know, a fence, a wall, a rule, a warning, a person, whatever …

I can't do it.

In fact, it seems like there is ALWAYS something that prohibits me from getting as close as I want … Even my macro lenses have a limit sooner or later.

That is what makes it fun … What makes it a challenge. Why I keep trying, why I try to get out there as often as possible.

In this case, it was pretty simple.

I was in my element, camping up in the woods, my favorite place to be. No, really, I was actually sitting inside "My Element". I drove up into the woods. It was foggy and it was raining. Perfect.

I just stayed inside looking … Seeing.

I took pictures.

The fog was nice … Cleaned up the background for me. Simplified things for me.


My job was just to "frame it up" so that the edges were clean and simple.


That's it.

That is how you take a simple image.

Frame it up, check the edges, clean up the junk, and fire away.

That simple.

The fog takes care of everything else.

Well, it did help that I was in My Element, in the woods, in the rain, and in the fog. That was simple.

And I had a camera.

I actually had five with me, but I only needed one.

One camera. One lens. One card. One battery (Well, you know, I actually had two, but I'm on a roll, so, roll with it).

From there, I just sat there, checked my edges, and took several images of "My Woods".


But not THAT simple.



Double Take

Yes, I am spending a lot of time on the couch.

My doctor calls it healing. I call it getting fat, but that is just me.

I'm being the good Marine, and following orders.

I do get out for a walk every day, but that is about it. This neck brace is getting old, but then again, so am I. Truth is, that is why I'm wearing the neck brace in the first place. Eight days and counting before I go back to see the doctor.

 But, anyway, I digress …

This is about looking at my website, and noticing something I didn't notice before about these two birds, these two images …

Two images taken at the same place, and at the same time … Well, you know, within minutes of each other anyways …

The Everglades.

Both were taken at Royal Palm. It is one of the better viewing areas in the Park during the winter months for alligators and birds … It is the deepest pond in the Park and the animals congregate there during the dry, winter months.

I ALWAYS make a point of stopping there any time I am in the Park … Which is always in the winter months.

I might add, right here and now, that the summer months can be rewarding too … Summer storms roll through just about every day, and your chances of capturing beautiful lighting strikes is very, very good …

But, the heat can be a concern.

But anyways …

Two birds, two background colors, and two GREAT eyes!

But … Remember, two different birds, but they are both cormorants, the SAME type of bird.  Same type of bird, same type of eyes ...

Both of these images were taken with a LONG lens … My new Nikkor 200-500mm zoom lens.

By getting close … I mean real close … And shooting "wide-open" at f5.6, both backgrounds are rendered out-of-focus, and give the images a nice smooth background, you know, like a painting.

One BLUE, one GREEN.

One was taken facing up, the other, at eye level … Two different backgrounds.

Sky vs Trees.

Blue vs Green.

Your background is important. Period.

Never overlook that.

In fact, it is paramount.

Same concept, different words. They mean the same thing … Always work on getting the "best" background for any given image.

Think of your background as being your canvas … Then work on adding only what you want to your image.

Work backwards …

Now, true, you can go about it two ways …

Find your subject, then work on finding the right background.

This happens most of the time … I mean, really, I didn't go to The Everglades for two weeks dreaming about the wonderful backgrounds I might encounter …


I went for the wildlife. Period.

But, once I got there, found my subject, that is when I began looking for the "right" background. That is what becoming a photographer is all about. Finding that right, little rectangle (for most of us), for our subject.

And by "right", I mean the background that best suits our subject. There is no one right background, lets make that clear right now.

Not in nature, and not in the studio. Nor in anything in between.


Number two … Find a nice background and then wait …

Wait for the "right" subject to enter your frame and complete the image.

Now, just going to The Everglades is a step in the right direction. That can not be overlooked …

That gave me thousands and thousands of chances to "finding my background" every day, every hour … Whatever.


One time that comes to mind for me, is the time I was in Tunisia, way back in 1987/8. Yes, I was there over New Year's …

I was in Tunis, the capital, and one of the few major cites I visited on the trip … There were subjects everywhere … A city full of color, people, and movement …

I can remember thinking I wanted an image of some young, modern couple within this modern and hectic city …

I came across one of their round, concrete billboard things, covered with posters and ads, and what-have-you … They are located all around the city … Bus-stops, etc …

A "background" for my subjects … My "stage" … My " canvas".

I stopped a young couple, told them who I was, and what I wanted, and, Ta-da! They accepted my offer to pose (something that still amazes me to this day), and I got my image.

I found my background first … Then added my subjects.

Two different ways to obtain the same results … YOUR image, the way YOU want it.

Think about that the next time you are out and about with your camera.


Again, in the case of these two images, the long lens comes into play here. True, more so with the green background, but also with the blue ...

What is that green background? Yes, that is a question.

What about the blue?

The blue is no big deal … I mean, out-of-focus sky is, well, out-of-focus blue … Sky. Period.

No clouds, no nothing. Pretty clean and simple. Out-of-focus blue sky.


Now, what about that green?

Yeah, still pretty "clean" … Pretty simple. But what is it?

Hint: It is NOT the sky.

Trees and bushes … Leaves, green leaves of some type.

A little more complex, yet very simple. I love it when that happens.

The long lens, combined with a small aperture (f5.6), and being very close - Like, as close as I could get, and still be able to focus! That is the key … All three aspects working together to give me the clean backgrounds I'm "always" looking for.


Again, the word "always" is tricky.

Not always blue. Not always green.  But, for the most part, I am always looking for a "CLEAN" background. One that does not distract, or take-away, from my subject. You know what I mean.

Keep that in mind.

Now … For the "Rest of the Story", and what caught my eye this second time around …

The eye is what caught my eye. Or, I should say, the eyes …

One blue, one green.

Take a second look … I'll wait.

Yeah, in each case, the color of the background, matches the color of the eye.

Blue and blue. Green and green.


Did I notice this when I took them? No.

Did I notice this when I up-loaded them onto my website? No.

Now, yes, I have been taking a LOT of pain pills over the past two months or so, but, no … I never noticed it. At least not that I can remember …

See, I always saw them separately. Just like I took both of them separately. Took one, faced the other way, and  took the other. Period. End of story. I do it all the time.

Yes, I liked each image … I wouldn't have included them on my website if I didn't.

But it wasn't until my third, fifth, tenth, whatever time I saw them, that it dawned on me …

Now I know why I like them …

Blue background, blue eye. Green background, green eye.

That simple.

I knew there was a reason I liked them!


Glad I finally took notice.

But, are the eyes really different? Did one bird have green eyes and the other bird have blue eyes?

Or did the background color effect the way we perceive the color of the eye?

The more I think about it, the more I believe that the eyes are both the same color, and the background color tricks us into thinking the eyes are different colors.

I'm no expert on the color of bird's eyes, but … To me, the color of the eye tends to take on the color of the background.


I'll keep that in mind next time I have an eye in my viewfinder.

No, wait …

That will drive me nuts!

What about brown eyes? Hazel?

Does it work with humans as well as animals? Birds?

Oh no … This will drive me insane.

I look forward to it.



Little Camera
Big Image

The sun was out, the flowers are in bloom, the camera was mounted on my new little tripod, and ...

Well, I was ready to go ...

Oops ... Right Church, Wrong Pew.

Oh, what my college professor meant by that clever little line, I stole, is that I had the right subject, the right camera, but ...

The wrong lens.

Right Church, Wrong Pew ...

Caught my attention.

Like, what? Thirty-five years ago!

Anyway ...

So, up the stairs I went, and I actually found the right lens in the first bag I chose ...

I have a LOT of bags. And lenses. And cameras ...

First bag, right where I put it.


I love it when it actually works out that way ...

Anyways ...

Nikkor 40mm macro lens.


Right "pew" to go along with the right "church" ... More perfect than perfect.


I had the older, smaller, model Nikon D60, mounted on the newer, smaller, PrimaPhoto, red, compact, tripod that actually extends right up there to eye level ...


Wait! Did I say D60? What?

Yeah ... An OLD camera.

A toy by today's standards ...

I don't know ... Ten years old? Something like that.


Why a D60? You ask ...

Because I can ...

I own it. It is upstairs, it still works ...

Plus, I like to play ... I like cameras.

I like to play with cameras.

That simple.

Plus, I like the concept of art being about the archer, not the bow ...

Oh wow ...

That takes me back about twenty years ...

I had a student once that came up with that one in class one day and I was like, what?

Archery? Archer? Bow?

Say what?

Yeah, that is where I got it ...

I love it!

Not the camera, but the photographer, the artist ... Get it?


Like I said, perfect.

So ...

Walked five feet (or less) out the door, set the camera and lens up REAL close, and filled the frame ...

With pink.

Little flowers, big image.

Nice light. Perfect backlighting.

I set the self-timer for 2-seconds, and fired away ...

Push one button, push another, over and over again ... Self-timer, shutter release. Self-timer, shutter release.


Move a wee-bit to the right ... Move to the left ... Move closer ...

Even closer ... CLOSER.

I like macro lenses.

And pink flowers.

And those pinkish little dot things ...

And those long curvy line things ...


Long ... Oh Oh, I need some more Depth of Field.

So ... From f16, I just start turning the dial ...

fwhatever ... 

If the camera had it, I wanted it ... More Depth of Field.

Turn that dial!!!

And to be honest, it would be hard to tell the difference, trust me ...

At this distance to the flower, you ain't gettin' much, trust me.

From nothing to next to nothing ...

But hey, its fun, shoot it!

Doesn't hurt anything, really ... And its FUN!

Try it!

OK, OK ... True, there is a "Point of No Return" as far as really getting any more Depth of Field, but what the heck ...

I like spinning dials ... What can I say?

Now, where was I? 

Flower parts ... You know, all that stuff I forgot I learned in middle school ...

Well no, I never actually went to Middle School, per say ...

We didn't call it that up in New York. No ... Not that I can recall anyways ...

In fact, It was a K-12 school. One big building ... Well, you know, a big building for a small town, that is.

Pulaski, New York.

Pulaski Academy and Central School.

I was there from fourth grade to eighth ...

Then, they built "the new school", the High School.

Well, 7-12 anyways, but I digress ... Again.

Anyway ...

Perfect tripod, perfect camera, perfect lens ...

Perfect subject, perfect light, perfect moment.

I took pictures.

Small camera, small lens, small tripod ... BIG images.

Pretty pink little flower things ...

And the darker lower section of the image that really makes the lit parts stick out real nice ...

Love it when that works out.


Ahh, and even more perfect?

Five feet from the front door!

Again ...

More perfect-er than perfect!


And the Winner Is ...

As you might know, I upload 15 images to National Geographic's YOUR SHOT website every,(well, you know, maybe not every week).

But, since I'm home, sitting on the couch "healing", it does seem like EVERY week!

This image of the cormorant, with that beautiful aqua eye, has caught the eye of many of the people that visit the site, and trust me, a lot of people do.

Now true, if one image gets 100 people to stop, look, and "Like" out of MILLIONS of people, it doesn't sound like a big deal ... I mean, come on, MILLIONS and MILLIONS of people ...

One hundred people ... Really?


Think about it ...

Out of all those MILLIONS of images, if you can get just one person to stop and look, to me, that's pretty cool.

To get one hundred? That's even cooler.

And to do it within four days?

Cooler than cool.

The image follows all my rules:


Now, true, you can tell from this ONE image that I shot several, but come on, if you know me ...

You know!

But yes ... LOOK AT THE LIGHT! That is early morning Florida winter light ... Get there early.

I did.

I spent a week in the campground five miles (or less) away from this spot ...

Get up early and be there when the light is nice.

I did. Day after day ... (I'm retired!).


I did.

Yes, I walked around the site with a LONG lens, but I also got as close as the lens would let me ...

Double whammy!

That is the key ... Get closer than close.


I mean, really, who wouldn't?

Look at that eye! A no-brainer. I can't help myself.


As some of you know, I am home "healing" from the very trip I was on when I took this image ...

I used this image on my website, and when I do that, I "Down-Size" each image ... From 300 dpi to 72 dpi.

Why? Good question.

It saves space on my website, and they download faster ... Both being a good thing.

So, I end up with two images ... Kind of like the negative, and the print, you know, back in the day.

So, you probably guessed it ...

I downloaded one image one week to YOUR SHOT, and the other image another week ...

I blame it all on the pills I've been taking for months now, but, like I say, if you know me, you know ...

Pills or not (I'm down from four/five a day, to just two), I goof -up quite a bit.

So really ... Between the two identical shots (you can't tell which is 300 dpi and which is 72 dpi), there have been over 200 people that stopped, looked, and liked this little cutie ...

That's cool.

And as far as I can tell, it is not the bird ...

It is THE EYE.

As a retired college photography instructor, that is one aspect of photography I want to talk about ...

When I got myself, and this big lens, this close, and saw that eye, that is what I wanted to focus the viewer's attention on ... And yes, that is a pun!

It is all about the eye. Period.

Not the bird.

The eye.

The color of that eye ...

The color of the eye against the color of the sky ...

And yes, that counts as a poem, in my book.

In every single image I take, I try to find that one thing ... That one aspect of the subject that catches my eye ...

And take that, and try to make sure it catches the viewer's eye as well ...

Back in the day, in the classroom, I called this concept:


That one little aspect, of any given image, that evokes an emotional response from the viewer.

And here's the kicker that is even harder to explain ... Depending on the viewer, it can be a different response!

That is the beauty of it all ...

Now yes, sometimes it is clear-cut, other times it is not.


We all have different "baggage" that we carry around ... And any given image can strike a chord with any given viewer ...


And that magic is the beauty of photography.

The beauty of ART.

It is the WHY, behind what I do.  What any artist strides to do ... It is what makes my image different from anyone else's image.

It might not be that WHAM, in your face, aspect, but it is there ...

That is where the word, NUANCE, comes into play. 

Something that is, although it might be small, to the viewer, it becomes a powerful connection.

In this case ... COLOR.

And to be honest, because I got so close, and eliminated everything but the basics, it becomes easier for the viewer to see, to connect.


All these different concepts that come together to make an image work together, to make it special.

That is the goal.

That is what helps it stick out among the MILLIONS of images that are out there on the YOUR SHOT website.


And ... Get down to The Everglades, that helps ...



Double Diagonal

I would be done by now if I could spell diagonal ... I was way off! It took me awhile but I finally got close enough for the spell-check to figure out what the heck I was trying to spell ...

Now yes, I could blame it on the pain killers I've been taking for over two months ...

But, that is not the point I'm trying to make here ... If you know me, you already know, pain-killers or not, I can't spell worth a crap.

No, this is about an Old School film technique making its way into the digital age.

This is a double-exposure. Plain and simple. One in focus, one not so much ... Two different images sandwiched into one.

In fact, that was the only way I could do this back in the day ... Before I had a "double exposure button" ... Or, more correctly, a multi-exposure button on my camera.

I took one shot, in focus, then took another shot out of focus ... Two different slides, and then took one out and slipped in into the same slide mount as the other ...

A "real" sandwich. A slide sandwich.


It actually worked.

Now ...

I just push a few buttons, and Wah-Lah ... It appears on my screen. Done. Finished. Complete.

Even more magical than magic.

That simple.

Well, to be honest, it wasn't that simple with my new Nikon D500.

It is set up a little differently ... More options, and really, I was lost the first couple (or more) times I tried it ...

Nikon has offered this option for years (before any other camera maker, I must add) ... I knew how it worked, you know, which buttons to push ...

But the D500 is set-up a little different. Took me a few times before the lightbulb went off ...

Yes. You are right ... I did not use the manual, are you kidding me?

Me? Psst , no way ...

I do what I always do ... I played around until I figured it out. Come on, its just a button here or there ...


One image shot just like I always shoot ... Auto-focus, auto-exposure. I just make sure it looks good as far as exposure goes ... You know, The Compensation Button ... Usually -.7, or what-ever (it varies).

That is how I start off ... "Regular".

Then I push the multi-exposure button ...

Then I set the number of exposures I want ... TWO.

And, here is where the D500 is different ...

Then I pick the SINGLE IMAGE option. Easy enough.

Then, I am set ...

One image in focus.

Turn off auto-focus.

Turn the focus ring so everything is WAY OUT OF FOCUS, and shoot the second image.

The camera does all the math ... Exposure-wise ... You know, the whole, "two half exposures equal one" thing ...

Ta-da. The finished product.

One image ... Two looks blended into one.

A sharp image with little blurred rings around everything ...

Dreamy. Ahhh ... Dare I say, Playful.

It is important to note, that in photography, it is not always what you see, but what you feel, that is important.

The mood ...

Make the image YOURS. Period.


No two images are ever the same ...

And yes ... With the D500 (and others) you can take up to ten different exposures for "one" shot, so, you guessed it, PLAY. Play some more, and shoot, shoot, shoot ...

And don't forget, try it this way, try it another way ... Lighter? Darker? More out of focus? Zoom in, zoom out?

Try it, you might like it ...

Just PLAY.

Don't worry, unlike the Old Days, it doesn't cost you anything when you find out 93.78% if the mages you take are crap ...

No. Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Even if only one turns out great, that is all you need!



750mm Equivalent - Right Out of the Camera


Full Frame - "Cleaned Up the Junk"


Cropped Image - Detail Sharpness

This is a Test

No, not a lens test ... An arm test.

I have been home sitting on the couch, watching ESPN, NCIS and FIXER UPPER for awhile now and ...

Well, I have my Nikon D500mm with the Nikkor 200-500mm lens attached to it, you know, the biggest, heaviest, camera with the longest, heaviest lens I know I can handle (Even with a good arm, the 300mm f2.8 is too heavy!) sitting on the couch with me ...

Ahh, yeah, for the commercials, of course!

Today, the sun was shining, so during a commercial, I went out and photographed one of the dogwood trees in my little court-yard thingy ...

It is all about using my arm.

And getting close (top image), and getting a sharp image (bottom image).

Got it.

Yes, the closest petals are a wee-bit soft, but that is due to the long lens (750mm equivalent), me being close (minimum focusing distance), and shooting wide open (f5.6) ...

Minimum Depth of Field. Period.

Like none.

I can live with that.

Remember, HAND-HELD.

I needed the fastest shutter-speed possible.

Ahh, good point ... I almost forgot.

Yes, I set the ISO to 400.

Good thinking.

Yes, that gave me one more stop of speed ... Always a good thing.

So, there it is ...

A lens test for my arm.

Works for me.

But yes, I still have a way to go ...

I think I'll go take some more photos ...

Physical Photo Therapy, or is it Photo Physical Therapy?

I don't know ...

Doctors are good, but ...

"Walk Outside, and Carry a Big Lens"

Again, works for me.

** Arm/Lens Up-date: You knew I couldn't resist. Yes, I went up-stairs and got out the 300mm f2.8 to see if I could handle that big puppy …

I could.

I was happy as a Pig-Eatin'- Poop.


I kept that combination on the couch for a couple of weeks … I took a lot of images of the trees out front!

Again, just to work on my arm strength. Shoulder strength. Neck strength … You know, the whole "this bone is connected to that bone" thing …

Works for me.


Good News
Bad News

OK, the bad news first.

Today is the day that I should be returning from my "Birthday Wish Trip" down in Peru.

I never made it.

The trip was a fifteen day trip to Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca, two places high up on my list, that was planned so that I was at Machu Picchu on my birthday ...

Yeah, that would have been nice.

Maybe next year.

The good news?

The image you see above this, has made it to 100 "likes" in one day, on my National Geographic Your Shot page.

That's pretty cool.

As most of you know, especially if you were a college student of mine over the past eight years, or so, I upload 15 images to my page every week, you know, just because I can.

That simple.

I have over 3000 images on my page, but the site has MILLIONS of images ... Yes, MILLIONS!

People from all over the world visit the site and it is a great way to see what is going on out there in the world of photography.

It is fun looking at all the images ...

This image was shot at Fort Jefferson, which is part of Dry Tortugas National Park, off the West coast of Florida.

I went there before heading up and over to Everglades National Park, and before the cruise to Mexico and Cuba this winter.

And before I lost the use of my right arm.

It is a cool Fort ... Made up totally of bricks. Lots and lots of bricks.

There is a moat that circles the fort and a walk-way that circles the moat ... Although at the time I was there it was under construction due to hurricane damage.

I could walk almost all the way around ... Just had to go back and walk around the other way until I made it back to the "gap".

Loved the lines ... The curved lines of the bricks.

It caught my eyes ...

It (they) are the reason I stopped and made this image in the first place.

I know, I know ... The colors don't hurt either, but, you know, the lines (curves) were what really caught my eye first as I rounded the curve ... I already knew the colors were unreal from my approach to the island.

Colors and lines, or lines and colors ... Either way, works for me.

And framing ...

Let's talk about that for a second here ...

Most of you are familiar with my Rule #2, right?


The whole jest of that wonderful rule, that I totally made up, is to get me and my students to think about what they are "painting on their canvas" ... What elements we, as artists, want in our frame.

Painters add, photographers subtract.

Ha! I knew my photography had something to do with how I became a middle school Special Education! I knew it, I knew it!

I subtract. Period.

And, yeah, I add too ... But only what I want! Not what the teacher, or book, or the other students want ... No, ONLY what I want.

I'm the artist.

And so are you.

Yes, in this case, I subtracted the whole fort.

The curve caught my eye, so I showed you, the viewer, only what I wanted you to see. I only wanted to show you what caught my eye, what made me take the image in the first place.

My art, my vision.

My vision becomes your vision.

Those of you that know my website, know that I even use this concept as part of the philosophy behind my website ...


And yes, I hope you also realize that the same thing can be said about all of you ... Every photographer in the world (and yes, there are a few).

I'm just glad that 100 (and counting, I hope) other people like my vision.

My simple, no-frills, vision of our complex world.

Which is also mentioned over and over again in this new book I'm reading ... Yeah, I have a lot of free time at the moment ... While at my sister's house, my brother-in-law offered up a few books - He is the reader!

DETACHMENT BRAVO, part of The Rogue Warrior series, by Richard Marcinko, a former Navy SEAL.

I learned it at Boot Camp myself, just around this time 42 years ago, while at the Rifle Range ...

You know it (OK, some of you) ... I wove it into my college curriculum for over twenty years:

The concept of K.I.S.S.

To improve your photography, you simply must, Keep It Simple, Stupid.

OK, OK, that was the Marine Corps translation ...

As a college instructor, I modified it to mean Keep It Simple, Students. 

You know, civilians and all ... The 21st Century, you understand ...

Keep your images SIMPLE.

The size of your sensor is only so big, fill it ONLY with what YOU want in it.

Blue, green, and bricks ... Oh, yeah, and that curve.



I'm done.

** One week later ... TWO HUNDRED. The first hundred in one day, the second in one week ...



The Eye

Yeah, I know ...

I think I have used that title before …

But, as I was uploading images to my Flicker account, I looked at this image and ...

Well, that eye caught my eye.

And the format ...

That took me back to when I took it ... Sometime in January, what? Four months ago ... Something like that, you know, give or take a few days here or there.

The pelican flew low ... Just above the water ... Skimmin' the water ...

I wanted to highlight that fact in my final image.

I cropped this way. And I cropped some more that way ...

I cropped to bring out the eye, and I cropped to bring out how low it was flying.

That is what I saw in my head ...

What I envisioned the image would/should look like.

That is photography.

That is being an artist.

Seeing things in your head.

It's better than it sounds.

Now, remember, I took this image months ago ... You know, back when I could still hold a camera and a long lens  ...

Once I saw it ... I remembered.

I wanted to take the original image, and crop it the way I wanted it in the first place.

See, they don't make a camera with that LONG, SKINNY format, and I don't have a lens that LONG, so I had to do it myself.

I cropped.

I used my computer to make an image. That simple.

Chop, chop.

Or, in this case ...

Crop, crop.




Five days.

I got home from surgery, and my sister's house, in five days.

New right arm (un-blocked the pinched nerve).

New Nikon Coolpix W300.

New metal in my neck.

New beginning, all over again.

I had neck surgery on my birthday. The surgeon fixed me up ... Three "gifted" (his word, not mine) discs, held together with metal plates and screws ...

And one cool (my word, not his), scar on the front of my neck (like, three or four inches long)!

Five days later, with the help of my sister and brother-in-law, and I am now back in my apartment, ready to go!

Went out for a short walk ... Came back, grabbed my newest gift (my word, not the doctor's) ...

A bright, yellow, Nikon Coolpix W300, and went out into my front yard.

The Coolpix W300, is a small, point-and-create, water-proof, do-everything camera, that has a great MACRO setting.

I have talked about them for years ...

I saw these images while on my walk, and just knew I needed to get out there and see if I could hold the camera still enough to get an image, or two, or three ...

My right arm was shaky prior to the surgery ... Not too bad now.

Love it.

True, the Coolpix is small and light, but it is a great start.

This is my, Oh, I don't know, fourth, or fifth, version of the underwater Nikon Coolpix, and I love it ...

Got it for my birthday, you know, before the surgery.

I arrived at the hospital, on my birthday, at 5am ... And didn't leave until the next day, at 3pm. I didn't take any images those two days ...

I had wires and tubes coming out of everything ... Yeah, that too. It was crazy. A drain from my neck. An arm-band thingy for taking my blood pressure, on my right arm. An IV tube in my left arm. That other tube stuck up my you-know-what (whew). And both legs wrapped up with these pressure thingys that helps prevent leg cramps ... They tightens up on one leg ... Five seconds ... Then tightens up on the other ... All night long. Over and over ... Like clock-work.

I didn't sleep ... I counted the seconds, all night long ... Over and over ... And over.

Then my blood-pressure ... Over and over ...

Crazy birthday.

Then, five days later ... I got back to my apartment. Which means, I got back to my cameras ... Or, my one new camera.

My gift.

Took my new camera outside, pressed the little MACRO button, made sure the WHITE BALANCE was set to CLOUDY (it was), and also made sure the ISO was set to AUTO/400 (which picks the lowest ISO for any given light, between ISO 50 and ISO 400). It was.

I went to work.

No worries ...

The camera is great. The MACRO is just crazy (1mm), and I just fired off sets of five or six shots on CONTINOUS FAST ...

Yes, that fast, that easy.

The camera works, my arm works, now I just have to wait for my neck to heal. I have to wear a neck brace, which drives me crazy, but yes, like VR, it helps stabilize my neck!

I'll wear it.

I can take it off to shower ... And, don't tell anyone else, I also take it off to eat ... Shhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Just for a few minutes!

I'm off to a great start.

Great to be home.

Great to get outside.

Great to be able to hold a camera steady again.

Great to get some nice macro shots ...

And yes, it is great to be "gifted" three new discs ... Well, you know, not NEW, but new to me.





Photo Zen

It has been awhile.

I got out of the apartment yesterday, and went to visit a friend ...

Not my mother.

I mean, I really got away from the couch and drove over to ... Well, I really don't know where it was I ended up exactly ...

Except that I ended up at a house with a great view of a lake -- The "Other End" of Lake Hickory.

Jack Daulton is a friend I met during my second college class, back in 1996.

We think ... No, we're sure.

And, when you meet up with another photographer, you know what will happen eventually ...


I actually took my D500 with the 200-500mm lens and handheld a shot ...

No big deal.


That said, I go into surgery on my neck in a few days (my birthday) and will have three discs removed from my neck.

One of them has been pinching a nerve in my right arm, that for two months now, has turned my arm into mush ...

I can't even type this without my fingers trembling ...

Unreal really.

But ... Yes, I took my 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter, and the 200-500mm f5.6 over to Jack's to see what we could come up with.

I even took my little Nikon W300 point-n-create camera with the small tripod mounted on it because I just knew I couldn't hold "the big guns" ...

No worries ... I didn't even take it out of its case.

The above image is a blow-up of one of the shots I took ... Just the center section of the original image.

This is a test! Looking for sharpness, period.

True, I only took about six or eight shots total, but I was pleased with the results ...

Yes, I like the image, but that is not the point.

No, I REALLY like it because I am surprised at how sharp it is ...

Razor Sharp!!

That is a testament to Nikon's VR capabilities ... Period.


Shot at 500mm, which, due to the DX cropped sensor, is equivalent to me hand-holding (with one bum arm) a 750mm lens and getting a sharp image.

For this old, 100 ASA film shooter ... That is just crazy. Unheard of. No way.

I like this lens.

Now, I can't wait until I try this again, in ... Say a month or two, once I recuperate from my surgery ...

That will be the Real Test.

For the lens ...

And, more importantly ... 

For me.

Me, and my right arm.

My neck.

I just wish the doctors' could come up with this whole VR (Vibration Reduction) technology for us Old Photographers!

Maybe they can ...

I'm looking forward to finding out.

It was nice to get off the couch ...

It was nice getting over to Jack's ...

And it was really, really nice to hold a camera again.

Well, you know, a real camera. A camera bigger (and heavier) than my little point-n-create Nikon W300, that is.

I look forward to trying this whole lens test thing again in a month or so ...

And getting off the couch.

And I think Jack was impressed with the lens himself ...

I bet the next time I get over there, he will have one himself!


Jack tested, Jack approved.

What more is there?



Long Teeth
Long Lens

As some of you know, I have had a "pain in the neck" for the past few months ... From the last week of January to today - Mid-March.

A LONG time ...

Doctors, x-rays, an MRI, more doctors, and a lot of pain killers.

Two months ...

I will have surgery on my birthday!

Yeah, that is my life ...

I have three discs that are, well, messed-up. Nothing new.

I didn't get mugged again. I didn't trip on a wire loop a second time ...


I just got, well, you know ... Older.

I can remember nine years ago when I had my rotator-cuff operated on ... My doctor off-handedly mentioned something about a bulging disc ... What?

That was nine years ago.

Well, anyways ...

I sit on the couch a lot now.

And yes, it is a given, I eat a lot now too. But we won't get into that right now ... 

No, we are going to talk about teeth.

A long row of teeth photographed with a long lens.

Why, you ask?

Because I have it set as my screen saver, and during all the commercial breaks, this is the image I see ... I look at.

Every day. Every hour. Every commercial.

That is why.

No, I didn't shoot it in this format.

I cropped it.

A long, skinny format for a long, skinny set of crocodile teeth that I took down in The Everglades National Park earlier this winter.

One of my key concepts that I have stressed over the years is to keep you images simple.

I hope you can see here that I follow my own rules.

Another aspect of this image I want to mention is the whole "negative space" thing going on ...

During a commercial of Fixer-Upper, there I was, sitting in the living room looking at my croc image on my computer monitor ...

The lights were low, the image was glowing on the monitor ...

And it all just popped in my head ...

Black and white.



White triangles of teeth, echoed with black triangles of shadows.

And another thing ... I was intrigued by how the greenish mouth of the crocodile also mirrors the ups and downs of the triangles formed by all the teeth and shadows ...

Graphic shapes and colors found in nature ...

The croc was laying in the sun down by the boat dock. It wasn't going anywhere ...

Either was I.

I got down to croc level (very important) and hand-held my big, heavy, Nikkor 200-500mm lens as steady as I could -- I used my elbows as a "bi-pod", and fired away ... Ten frames per-second.

Let 'er rip!

I zoomed in as close as I could (750mm equivalent). I got as close as I dared ... You know, so I wouldn't bother it. Made sure my aperture was wide-freakin' open (it was, but I just wanted to let you know ...), made sure the background was "clean" (it was), and fired away.

With that long lens, I ALWAYS have it set at wide open when hand-holding it, which, back when I had two good arms, I could.

To be honest, I didn't think I could. Remember, I'm "Old School" and am used to shooting 100 ASA slide film ... You know, back in the day.

Now, 400 ISO, even 800 ISO, doesn't scare me.

I have even shot at 1600 ISO, but not with this lens.

And let's not forget VR ... Vibration Reduction. Very important.

It steadies your shot.  You know, like magic.

Very Important (see, I even capitalized it for you).

New technology lets me play with new ways of shooting.

It took me awhile to trust it, but here is proof.

A big, long, skinny image of big, long, skinny teeth, shot with a big, long, and not-so-skinny, lens.

Commercials, gotta love 'em.


Red, White, and Blue

This winter, I found myself looking for a good Cuban flag image for twenty-four hours ...

Never really found one I liked ...

Downtown Havana, out near Hemingway's house, nowhere ...

I looked. And looked ...

You know, Red, White, and Blue ...

Perfect colors for a flag.

Anything ... A real flag, a sticker, a picture, anything ...

I get zoned in on one thing and it drives me nuts ...


Time was up.

I boarded the ship after my second People to People Tour.

We were leaving the harbor.

Havana, and Cuba, was slowly slipping away ...

I failed.

No flag image, you know, like the one I had in my mind's eye ...


And, just like that, there it was ...

Right where I didn't expect it.

An old dock with a faded Cuban flag painted on it ... I'll take it.

I got my shot.

I got my image of Cuba, in red, white, and blue, just as it was slipping away ...

Never give up.

My image of Cuba.

On the way out of the harbor.


I couldn't have asked for a better farewell.




Seeing Art

We all see differently. Which, if you think about it, is really quite strange.

And then again, it isn't.

I have been around photographers for over thirty years now ...

I taught college photography for over twenty years.

Seeing photographically is the hardest thing to teach as an instructor.

It is also the hardest aspect of photography to learn.

Pretty tricky, really.

If you break things down, there are really just two types of photographers:

1). The technician.

2). The artist.

That's it. Pretty simple.

Some people are real good at knowing how a camera works. You know, shutter-speeds, aperture, and ISO. They know The Three Buttons, and they understand how the three relate to each other.

They have a tripod. They know what to do with it.

They have all the gear -- You know, the cable release, all the filters you can ask for, and a huge backpack that weights way too much ... You know, you see them all the time.

They are the "Gear Heads" ... All the bells and whistles, and no clue as to what to do with them all. They just see other photographers with them, and are lucky enough to be able to buy it.

Sounds good.

Then, there is the second type. The ones that show up to class with a little point-n-shoot camera, no tripod, and have no idea as to what I'm talking about when I tell everyone to set their aperture at f16 ...

Say what?

Yeah, but when it comes time to look at each other's images in class, you guessed it ...


At the beginning of class anyway, it is usually the "artist" that comes up the winner. Period.

Maybe not as sharp (and, Lord forbid, maybe not even in focus!), not as well lit ... Not this, not that, but ...


Now, yes, each type of photographer can, every once in awhile, turn out a winner ...

As they should, because each type  has what it takes to become a good photographer, ahh, I mean, artist.

Truth is, in fact, that is what makes a good photographer; the blending of art and technique.

That is what makes a photographer an artist. You take your tools and your gear, and use them in an artistic way ... Magic.

Turn it around, and you have the same situation in any form of art there is ...

I can go out and buy a paint brush, an easel, a tube or two of paint, but that does not make me a painter, by any means ...

And yes, I might know the words to a song, but that does not make me a singer ...

Think about it ...

Art is a combination of "tools" and expression.

It is getting how we feel, or what we see, into a form that we can share with others ...

Photographs, paintings, songs, books, buildings, cars, quilts, websites, whatever ...

Yes, even Blogs ...

That is art. That is the goal for any artist. Period.

The above image is one I took while walking the streets of Havana, Cuba.

Cuba is an island.

Boats are all over the place. Makes sense.

Boats, like most things in life, need to be taken care of ... This is an image of a boat, up on land, being taken care of.

As you can see, it has been taken care of for a long, long time. Many years ... Many layers ... Many colors.

Many layers of color ...

This was just one, of maybe six or eight, small boats along the street near the port of Havana. I was following our guide as we weaved our way among them while on a walking tour of the city.

I saw this. I stopped for this. I was drawn to this ... Not the whole "boat", no, just this section of the boat. This "Part of the Whole".

The colors, THESE colors ...

Yeah, red, white, and blue. I'm an American. In Cuba.

Go figure.

Cuba is hard to get into, as an American.

It took me 62 years to get there.

For over fifty of those years, an American could not get into Cuba.


Then we could.

Then, just like that, things got a little trickier ... I'm not sure (no one is) what it will be like in a year, or two ... Or even next week.

But I digress ...

This is what I "saw" when walking through this small group boats ...



Oh, and yellow ... That small dab of yellow, slapped down there among all the reds, whites, and blues ...

Lines. Shapes. Patterns. Colors. Repetition.


Not a boat. Not wood. Not a "thing". Not an object ...


We all (well, you know, most of us) can see boats along the street. We made our way through them, no problem. But to actually see "Abstract America" among the boats, well, that is different.

I read somewhere, or heard it, or something ... But one thing that sticks in my mind, as a photographer, is that we must "learn to see like a lens, and think like a camera".

In other words ... We must be able to see art in the first place, and then be able to capture it so that others are able to see what we saw.

Simple, right?


It was getting dark, I had to make sure I had the ISO set to where I needed it. I had to have the right focal length set on my zoom lens, so that I could "Fill the Frame".

Could I hold my camera steady with my bad right arm?

All this became part of the image ... Combining my passion for being out there in the first place, with all the technical aspects that go into capturing this one, single, image of Cuba.

That is why I am still out there. Why I do what I do, and go where I go.

And why I buy another camera, another lens, another tripod, another ticket, another tour ...

I buy them, to turn my passion into art. Period.

Seeing art. Recording art. Capturing art.

And the most important "tool" you'll ever need as a photographer?


I go on, and joke, saying it is about the only thing you can't buy at Adorama ...

That is what this image represents to me.


Passion in paint.

Walking the streets of Havana.




OK, this is the second time I've written this ... As you know, I made it to Cuba, pinched a nerve in my right arm, and have had a crazy time since getting back.

My computer is giving me problems, I "lost" my Cuba images from a bad SDHC card, found them, and now I just want to get this done before I go crazy.

I blame some of it to the pain killers I've been taking for a couple of weeks now ...

Oh, I had an injection in my neck yesterday ... And, yeah, going under the knife is in the near future ...

But anyway ... CUBA!

This image was taken on my last PEOPLE to PEOPLE tour I took in Havana.

See, you have to be on a "official" tour if you want to experience Cuba on the special 24-hour Visa that the ship (Holland America) offers.

Works for me ...

The first day I took a trip to Ernest Hemingway's House, which was nice because it took us outside the city a bit, and was a change of scenery and pace ...

The second morning, I took the Havana Walking Tour. Very nice. Photographed kids having their gym class out in a city plaza ... Very nice for a retired middle school teacher!

Then, they took us to see a musical performed by a local acting group, something that, at first, was not high on my list ... But hey, turned out it gave me one of my favorite images from Cuba! Perfect.

Now, remember, my right arm was useless, I had taken off the battery grip, took one lens ... My "do-everything" 18-200mm 3.5-5.6 zoom lens ... And that was it.


Light. Simple. And slow ...

Yeah, that was a problem inside the little theater thingy we ended up in.

No problem. ISO. I just wound that puppy up to 1600, and went for it.

Dark stage, bright lights.

Another problem ... To the unknowing, that is.

No problem. I had that covered with one of my other buttons ... Yeah, you guessed it, Compensation.



I believe I ended up going with -1.7. No magic. Just set whatever you want, and see how it looks ... Usually, negative something works, if that is a help. Yeah, it's that easy.

I enjoyed the performance, shot like crazy. Relied on my VR magic, as I could barley hold the camera steady ...

Or so it seemed ...

It worked. With high ISO (1600), minus 1.7 compensation, and pure luck, I came away with this image, that I feel gives a little insight into Cuban music and culture ... And history.

Got to love it when something actually works out.

24-Hours in Cuba with one hand, and one image that takes me back to the place I have always wanted to experience.


Picture perfect.


Be Prepared

I went on a little Winter Escape here a month or so ago ...

Down to Florida to visit my brother, place new sunflowers on my sister's grave, photograph in The Everglades, and visit Cuba.

Yeah, Cuba. That one place I could never go ...

That said, what do you pack? You know, camera wise? Wildlife, landscapes, and EVERYTHING in between.

Nothing new.

As a travel photographer for the past thirty something years, I have a pretty good idea on what I want, and how I "see" ...

I have a "style".

What that really means is that I shoot the same thing over and over in the same style.


That's how it works.

My vision.

I packed a lot.

From 10mm to 900mm (with the use of the 2X converter).

That covers a lot of territory.

And space in my Honda Element.

Plus my two Pelican cases for my extra gear, you know, like my GOAL ZERO solar-powered panels and battery ... Good stuff for camping in The Swamp for two weeks.

And one item that I don't really use that much, but when, and where, you need it, it is a must.


Or strobe, if you really want to sound like you know what you're talking about ...

I have the old, trusty, Nikon SB-600 in my bag at all times.

Think of it as Magic.

I needed its magic to capture this image ...

OK, there I was, at Fort Jefferson, in Dry Tortugas National Park , getting my National Park Passport stamped ... My goal is to visit them all ... There are still five or six I need to get to ...

Anyway ... I was in the little bookstore/Ranger Office thing, and there it was ...

A fish tank.

With these cool Lion Fish in there floating around like little angels ... Or, what looked like very graceful lions.


Black and White graphic movement ... Right in front of me.

And yes, I walked back out into the other room, and asked if it was alright to take pictures inside ...

No worries.


See, I would have loved to have gone snorkeling while I was there, but, you know ... January in Florida, is still January in Florida.

I wimped out and grabbed the SB-600.


Underwater photography above the water. I like it.

Slapped on the 40mm macro lens, held the strobe in my left hand up and to the side of the fish tank and ...

Waited for the magic to happen.

Oh, yeah ...

I set the camera to COMMAND MODE, made sure the flash was set up on the same Channel, and fired away to make sure the camera and strobe were both "speaking Nikon".

They were: Same Group (A), same Channel (1).  

Then ... Shoot, look, adjust, repeat.

SEVERAL shots.

One Fish, Two Fish ... White Fish, Black Fish.

Sorry ... Couldn't help myself there ...

I had a riot.

Angle the flash up high, down low, 45 degrees, 90 degrees, whatever degrees ... Shoot, shoot, shoot.

Adjust my shutter-speeds ... Slower to bring up the "background" lights, or faster, to darken the background light ...

As you can see here, I liked the black background better ... The room was full of books, posters, etc ... A bit busy.

Get rid of it!

Or, if you go back and look at my WINTER ESCAPE page, you will see I used a slower shutter-speed to highlight the colorful rocks on the bottom of the tank.

Again, MAGIC. 

Fast shutter-speeds kill the ambient light, and gives you that nice, clean, studio looking background.

And, hey, a black and white fish with a black background ...



That is what the fish, itself is, so why fight it? Black and white on black.

Works for me.


Fast shutter speed ... But, slow enough to give me that slight "Notion of Motion" as it moves its whatever it is you call those "wing" things ...

He came right up to me and gave me this "intimidation look" ... Showing me who was boss. Kind of like puffing up its chest to show its not afraid of some strange little Nikon thing ...

BAM! Got it.

The shot of the day ... Because I was ready. I carried my backpack, I had the flash/strobe, and I had the right lens ... My macro, or what Nikon refers to as Micro, lens.

Small. Light. Powerful.


And there you have it.

Walk Quietly and Carry a Macro Lens. 

Be ready for wildlife images wherever you happen to be, out in the wilds, or inside a Park bookstore.

And yes, once you get the hang of it (I read about the Nikon CLS system on YouTube), it really does make your life easier.

"It does all the math for you". And trust me, as a retired EC Math Teacher, I'll take, and need, all the help I can get.

Black and White on black and white.

Just like this BLOG.




Two Birds with One Lens

You all know I test every lens I get with a walk around Hudson, NC, my Home Town, right?

Why, you ask?

In case I see a Rosette Spoonbill flying overhead when I actually make it out of Hudson, NC.

Of course.

Hand-held, 500mm (ahh, that is equivalent to 750mm back in the old days ...), and following the flight of the bird.

Did I mention hand-held? Yes I did.

Usually, I use a tripod. In fact, I did have the lens mounted on a tripod while photographing an osprey nest ... But, once I see a pink dot in the sky headed my way, I take the camera off the tripod, turn on the VR (Vibration-Reduction), and pan like a mad-man ... Following the bird as it flies across the sky.

Ten frames per second ... Fire at will.

I have my focus locked onto the middle of the frame and just aim and shoot ... Wing flap by wing flap.

The lens is large, but well balanced with the battery grip ... I am pleased with the results.

The bird was well off in the distance, but by zooming out while shooting, and zooming in while re-sizing for the computer, I came up with this image.

Now true, all this technical stuff is fine, if you are a tech-geek, but what I REALLY like about this image is the ...

What do you think?

I mean, it is a pretty simple image, right?

Subject/Background. BAM, you're done.

Can't get much simpler than that, right?


Well, that is pretty simple, but it is not what I really, really like about this image.


Or more specific, the color combination. Pink. Blue.


Warm and cool colors.

Baby Blue, or Baby Pink.

They work together ...

Simple concept for a simple image.

Now, for the second image ...


I turned around, saw the osprey off in the distance, slapped the camera/lens back onto the tripod, and yes, I remembered to turn off the VR ... Whew.

Zoomed back out ...

Wait for it.


Got it.

This is what I was there for ...

A "new" nest that I haven't photographed before ... I counted seven osprey nests within a one-mile radius (or, you know, something like that) of the campground.

Osprey heaven.

Photographer heaven.

BamBamBam, just like that.

I love this tree.

THAT is the image. That MAKES the image.

The tree is my canvas, the osprey is my subject, and the branch, well, that is just what makes me do what I do. It is why I return to The Everglades every chance I get.




Call it what you may, it is why I enjoy looking through a viewfinder.

One camera. One lens. One spot. Two birds. One happy photographer.

Two different types of wildlife images.

Two portraits.

"Regular" and "Environmental" portraits.

It works for animals, just as it does for humans ... And why not?

A portrait is a portrait ... That simple.

Just like both of these "simple" portraits ...

Keep it simple, even if the graphics allow for a wider view. It is something that I am always looking to do while out shooting.

Come on, I mean, I sit out there for hours watching these birds ... I shoot LOTS of images ... I have a LOT of in-your-face close-ups, and I am always looking for a "different" view ...


Use those "graphic elements" to give the viewer a different perspective.

One lens, two perspectives, two subjects.

It is why I bought the lens in the first place ... Range and flexibility.

Glad I took the time to "practice" with the lens before I actually used it for real.

I knew I could hand-hold it, I put in the time ...




I don't think I've ever used this word in a real, you know, official sentence before ...

I like the word.

Even better, I like the meaning of the word.

There I was, sitting in my little camping chair, near an osprey nest at Eco Pond, down in the Everglades.

One of my favorite places to sit, and one of my favorite things to do.

I first photographed birds down there in 1988. Been back several times since.

But, boy has it changed! This last hurricane really hit Flamingo hard. The store is closed, no gas, half of the campground was flooded out, THE OSPREY TREE is gone ... Nothing there but a circle of dirt.

MY Osprey Tree. Are you kidding me?

Nothing. Gone.


That is the bad news ...

The good news is that osprey are pretty good at building new nests ...

Yeah, no problem there.

I counted them, well, you know, the ones I could find, anyways ...

In a one mile radius of Flamingo Campgrounds, I came across seven osprey nests.


Same osprey (I think), different nests. Different trees. They are something else.

Anyway ...

There I was, just enjoying my time with the birds ... 

And this couple stopped, and we started talking about, what else? Osprey. Birds.

And cameras ... Yeah, of course.

He asked me if I've ever photographed the Burrowing Owls up in Coral ...?

What? Owls? In Florida?

Ahhh, no, I didn't even know there were Burrowing Owls in Florida.




Coral Gables? Cape Coral?

Something Coral ...

Crap. I should pay more attention, I just heard "owls" and off I went ... My mind tends to wonder ...

I love owls.

I don't have any images of owls ...

My sister loved owls ...

Something Coral, no worries ...

Remember, I now own a Smart phone ...

Burrowing Owls, Florida.

BAM, there it is ...

Cape Coral.

Near Fort Myers.

Which just so happens to be, close to, or, kind of close to, on the way to, Clewiston, Florida. My "Headquarters in Florida". My Base Camp.

Where my younger sister is buried. The place I always stay when in Florida. They have a nice Wal-Mart ...

Guess where I headed once my two weeks in the Everglades was up?


Off I went ... With a short stop in Big Cypress National Preserve.

What? It's on the way ...

OK, I drove all the way there and ...


Where are the owls? Is there a right way to do this? A place to begin? A park? I drove around ...

OK, a CVS, perfect.

Yes, I asked the girl at the register ... Reminded me of asking an 8th grader to explain slope ...


Yeah, I heard there were some owls around here somewhere ...

Oh yeah, you just drive around and look for them ...

She knew about them ... They are famous.

Ahh, there are more Burrowing Owls in the town than anywhere else in the United States.


Really ...

And ... Yes, you just drive around and look for them in the empty lots.

Are you for real?

She was.

I drove around ...

I did see some little, white, wooden stakes out in empty fields ...  

But no birds. None that I could see anyways ...

And the light was getting good ...

But, I didn't see any owls.

Typed in Clewiston on my fancy, dancy, little GPS thingy on my phone, and off I went.

I'm done.


There, in an empty lot, a couple of white stakes in the ground, and, sitting on top of some man-made little perch thing, an owl.

A cute little Burrowing Owl.


In a field next to a doctor's office. Thirty yards from my Element.

Grabbed my camera with the 70-200mm f2.8 lens, and off I went ...

Shoot. Move closer. Shoot.

Careful ... Don't spook him.

No place to hide.

For either of us.

An empty lot.

Got my shots.

Backed off, went back to the Element.



Oh wait ... My 200-500mm wang-zoomer!!

Why not? The owl is still there, starring at me, the sun is getting lower, better, sweeter ...


I grabbed the 200-500mm lens and off I went ...


Oops! One shot and it hopped down, and then hopped over, to its burrow ...

Ahh, really?

What's more perfect, than perfect?

No "Human Touch" fake perch in my image.

A Burrowing Owl at its burrow.


I couldn't believe my wish came true.

Yes, I really did wish it would hop down and go over to its burrow, but, you know, that never really works out that often in real life ...

But, there it was. Just standing there, staring at me. In nice light, with its big yellow eyes ... Just starring back at me.

Then looking around.

Then back at me ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Are you kidding me?

What? A ten, maybe twelve inch, cute, little owl, with huge yellow eyes, just starring back at me ...

Next to its burrow.

Got it. Zoom in, and shoot ... And yes, at ten-frames per second.


Off I went. Well, after thanking the cute little bugger, that is ...

Back to Clewiston. Back to "my" Wal-Mart Parking Lot.


That is why I do what I do.

Just sitting there, like, for hours, watching osprey come and go ...

Talk about serendipity ... The fact that I would meet a man that knew about owls in Florida, while watching osprey, in The Everglades, and then, showing up at the right "Coral" place, and, actually finding a Burrowing Owl sitting out in an empty field, marked off with white stakes, just sitting on a post ...

No way.

Yes, way.

One image.

One, CUTE, image, that is ...

My owl.


Glad I actually talk to people every once in awhile.

You know, if I have to.


Rockin' Design

I like rocks.

Have for a LONG time. I have no idea how I got into this ...

I have them in my apartment.

I had them in my classroom.

I like 'em.

I collect them.

I photograph them.

I like their design, their shapes, their colors.

While on a three week expedition in one of the wildest places on earth, these are the shots I tend to overlook.

I mean, come on ... South Georgia. Thousands of penguins, thousands of seals ...


Easy images.

The obvious.

Antarctica? The Falkland Islands?

Ice. Birds. Penguins. Seals.


This image is just the opposite. I must have walked over thousands of these images every time we landed; usually twice a day, except when crossing The Drake Passage.

Animals. Wildlife. Birds. Icebergs. Mountains. Glaciers.

That is The Southern Ocean. That is what I went there for.

Not rocks.

I mean, really, I have rocks in Hudson, NC.

That said, this is one of my favorite images from the trip ... My "quiet" image.

And yes, I stole that phrase, that concept ... I will give NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC photographer, Sam Abel, credit for that one. He is the master of it.

I just do my best to tag-along in his wake ...

Art Wolfe.

Jim Brandenberg.

Galen Rowell.

I steal from them all ... I steal their vision. Their style.

That is what we (I) do.

I have watched their DVDs, read their books, watched their TV shows, surfed the internet, you name it ...

Actually walked into their Galleries (well, most of them anyways) ...

I go to museums ...

Like, all over the world. London. Paris. Berlin. Athens. Moscow. Cairo. Copenhagen. Hickory. Lenoir.

I look at art.

Granite Falls Middle School art classes.

No, really.

Looking at art is the key to growing as an artist.

I'm watching a NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC TV show as I'm typing this ... Polar Bears up in Franz Joseph Land.

Set your camera up. Leave it. Hop in a raft, and trigger the camera from a safe distance as the bear comes up and tries to eat it ...


Or, not so simple.

Try something new.

Look up.

Look down.

Capture the obvious, then  begin to really look ...


Slow down.

Look. See.

See the graphic design in whatever it is that is around you ...

The big things are easy.

It is the little things that are hard to find, hard to see ... Hard to photograph.

Again, the key is to S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N ...

Yeah, I know ... Time.

On some of these trips I take, it is, an hour here, two hours there ... Move, move, move ...

A new place every day ...

But ...

Even on a trip like that, I try to shoot like a mad-man, check everything out, then ...


Slow down.

Take a closer look.

If I have an hour ... I go, go, go for forty-five minutes ... Then, slow down.

I know what is around me, what is what, and go from there.

Go back.

Go off on my own ...



This is how this image came about.

We landed, we had an hour, or whatever, I can't remember ... They gave us some time frame, I used every minute of it ...

Go, go, go. Shoot, shoot, shoot.

Then head back, get close to where I needed to be, then S-L-O-W-D-O-W-N ...

And then look down ...

The image I had in my head, was actually at my feet.

Funny how that works out sometimes ...

Now, remember, there are MILLIONS of stones on the beach ... Millions.

Where to begin?



Design elements: Lines, shapes, colors, patterns, repetition, and texture, to name a few ...

Start there.


What caught my eye in this image?

Take a wild guess ...

Yeah, scroll back up and look at it. Or, better yet, can you remember?


The lines. The contrast. The shapes.

But yeah ... The Lines.

I had it. That simple.

Then, I just framed it up, tried to keep the lens parallel to the rocks (for better focus AND better depth-of-field coverage), and fired away.

And yes, I checked my exposure ... Lot of dark rocks, want to make sure my Blacks were black, and my Grays were gray, and my Whites were, well, you know, white.

Check, check, check ...

And with time not on my side, what do you think I did?

Yeah ... Shoot, adjust, shoot, adjust. Bam. Bam. Bam.


Remember ... Shoot first, "chimp" later ... The zodiacs are waiting!

"Be quick, but don't hurry".

Yeah, I actually thing of these things while I'm shooting ... They pop into my head.

I kid you not.

You know, after watching those darn Art Wolfe DVDs all those years, I would be walking along, and BAM, there it was ...

An image in my head. A scene I had seen before ... Deja-Vu all over again ...

Now, true, it was NOT the same place, the SAME subject, the SAME anything, but it was, sort of, kinda ...

The same.

Only different.

I stopped, slowed down, and tried to put the puzzle together in my head, and then in my viewfinder ...

That is how I "see" images.

They start in my head.

They end up in my viewfinder.

BAM. Got it.

Then I try a different angle, a different perspective. An inch here, an inch there ... A DIFFERENT image.

A different image of the same thing.

Think about it.

That is what we do.

The same subject, different views.


Look for it. Hunt for it. Take your time with it. And then move, and start all over again.

But don't miss your ride out of there!

Shoot, shoot, shoot.

Make the most of what you have.

And giggle all the way back to where ever it is you came from.

With your image.

Your art.



Any Questions?

This animal is a seal.

It is a large animal. It has a LOOOONG nose.

Someone, way smarter than I am, named it The Elephant Seal.


It doesn't actually look like an elephant, but I can see where this person came up with the name ...

I saw several of them on my trip to The Southern Ocean. South Georgia and Antarctica ... Can't remember if I saw one on The Falkland Islands, or not.

Thinking ...

Nope, can't remember. I don't think I did. I remember the sand ... Penguins nesting in the sand, the wind, standing among the albatross, holding my camera to within a foot or so of one albatross sitting on its nest ... 

But no Elephant Seals ...

I believe I photographed this one on South Georgia.

And yes, this image is cropped. I did not get this close. You don't want to get this close.


To me, this image shows you all you need to know about an Elephant Seal.

The "trunk", or nose ...

It LOOKS like an elephant's trunk. Period.

The way it is curled up ... That was what I was missing on my first thirty, fifty, whatever the number, of images of an Elephant Seal.

It is a BIG nose, yes, but it never actually looked like a "trunk", until he lifted his head and curled that trunk up like this ...

I think it is a male anyways ...

And the teeth ...

Never really saw them before either. I just knew we were told not to mess with them. Period.

Did I mention that they are quite large?

Although, this one, was actually one of the smaller ones ... A young one, trying to show off, telling me to keep my distance.

I did.

They don't like photographers. Or maybe it is just people in general, I don't know.

As you can tell, I'm no expert.

True, I did sit in on a lecture given by one of the ship's Naturalists that studies them all over the world, but, that was after I took this image ...

But what I do know about them, is all right there in this one image.



Long nose.

Sharp teeth.

And they fight a lot ...

Yes, you can see proof of this in the image ... Those cute little "dots" all over its neck are not spots, or freckles ...

No, they fight. Their teeth are sharp. They bite each other. Those marks are scars ...

They "stand up" (the adults can get their heads up to about eight feet), smash into each other, and bite away at their adversary's neck ...

Sumo style ... Well, except for the whole biting thing ...

And yes, they start their training at a very young age, always trying to 'one up" their siblings, friends, neighbors, etc ...

Strange animals. Strange looking animals ... And their nose does look like an elephant's trunk, if you can get them to lift their heads off the ground and yell at you ...

They are pretty cool, in a special (different) kind of way.

In fact, I hope to drive out to California this winter, and see the North American version of them wintering along the Pacific Coast.

That is, if it ever stops burning out there ... I'll have to wait and see.

But I am now a "big fan" of the Elephant Seal, which, to tell you the truth, even to me, is a bit weird.

I mean ... Of all the animals I photographed on the trip ... The Elephant Seal?


I guess so.


March of the Penguins

I learned to march at Parris Island in March of 1976.

It is hard to explain how it felt when a "herd" of "slimy civilians" learned how to move as a unit ... One platoon, one mind, one command, one move, together, as one ...

I can hear it now ... Forty something years later: "FOR-WARD (pause), HUGUH!!" ... And no, I can't really spell it the way it sounded ... It was NOT "March"!

It's a Marine thing ... I love it.

We knew what it meant ... And no, we didn't ask the Drill Instructor to translate it for us ... We moved as one (after a while) ... Perfect.

You had to be there ...

On the first day of training, Marines always line up by height ... Tallest to shortest. I started out towards the back end. By the second week, I was moved to the front.

I became a Squad Leader. For good, or bad, I was given just enough power to get myself in trouble (I managed to make it all the way to the end -- Three months ... Whew!).

You should see the pictures ... There I am, up front, with three other guys, six-foot something, on each side ... And behind me ... Surrounded by giants ... Marching away (I'm 5'7.5 at best - In my boots!).

It was a trip!

One day, a month later, when we were out at the rifle range, and I had just turned 21, I was ordered to march the platoon (PLT 225) from the range, back to the barracks ...

"Sir, yes sir".

Are you kidding me? I was stoked ...

Oh yeah ... We felt like we were pretty good, at that point in our training, and I had a blast ... I will never forget it ...

We marched in four columns ... But we had just learned this new move ... To go from four columns to two ... It was pretty cool ...

"Column of Dittles, From the Middle" ...

I swear, I didn't come up with the name, but it was cool ...

On command, the two outer columns of recruits (1 and 4) would peel off and circle back behind the two middle columns (2 and 3) and continue on like nothing happened.


We had just learned it, and it was something we didn't practice every day ... But there I was ... Marching the platoon back to the barracks ...

And I came up with this wild command, just as we were headed towards the stairs ...

"Column of Dittles, From the Middle, AARCH! And in we marched ...

Unreal. They curled around and marched right up the stairs ... In perfect step!

Never missed a beat!

I believe the Drill Instructors were even in awe. I knew I was! It was something.

I loved it.

"Oohh-Rahhh". "Get Some".

Anywho ... Forty-one years later ...

Here I was, on South Georgia, getting ready to get back in the zodiac, and head back to the ship ... And right along the beach, here they came ...

The March of the Penguins ...

"LLLEEFT ... LLEFFTT ... LEFFTT RIGHT ... LEFFTT" ... Or whatever penguins say ...

I swear I could hear 'em shouting as they approached us ... They were good.

Marched right up to us ... "EYEES RIGHT" ... They looked at us, paused just a bit, and on they went ...

I felt I was on back on Parris Island, instead of South Georgia Island ...

As I took this photo, I swear, that was what I was thinking about ... In fact, I believe I even counted cadence as they walke-- I mean, MARCHED, right through my lens ...

Funny how that happens ... You see something in your lens, and it takes you back to somewhere, or something, else ...

That is why I do what I do, and go where I go ...

One thing I wanted to bring up here is the fact that I took this image with one of my favorite cameras - EVER.

You know which one ...

The weather-proof, water-proof, do everything camera ... The one I ALWAYS carry with me.

Yeah ... Antarctica, South Georgia, The Falklands.


See, you don't just get up, open the door, and walk out to these places ...

No. No. No.

You have to get into a moving zodiac while carrying your camera gear ...

Did you pick-up on the whole "moving" thing?

Yeah. Up and down ... Like, three, four, feet at times ... Water. Ocean.
Waves. Saltwater. COLD saltwater ... Up and down, up and down ...

While you are trying to step into a moving rubber raft thingy ... Up and down. UP and DOWN. Big time.

I don't think you can come up with a worst-case scenario than that, when dealing with camera gear ...

I packed in all into my Lowe-Pro, with the All-Weather cover wrapped around it, and handed that to the "helpers" that are there to help us ...

Yeah, we needed help, trust me.

One woman found out that it is not always a given ... She slipped. Yes, they "caught" her, but , meanwhile, the raft was rammin' up against her, as the waves came and went ...

Not pretty. Dangerous.

I put my cameras away.

Every time.

That said ... YES! The Nikon AW100 was always within reach ...

For this image, I had just packed up my camera gear ...

And here they come. Crap.

Set the backpack down ... Brought out The Secret Weapon.

Got my image ... Like ... Lefft, Rightt, Lefttt ... That fast.

Bam. Bam. Bam.

OK, not "perfect" ... This camera is not a DSLR; what you see is not what you get ... There is a little "wiggle room" in there, and you sometimes have little odds-n-ins in the final image that you don't want ...

I did.

There was a person way off on the left ... He had just placed his Go-Pro camera on the beach, to record the same little  "Marching Penguins" parade that I saw coming ...

Must have been a Marine as well.

But, even if he was ... CROP! CROP! CROP!

Just "cleaned it up" a bit ...

Yes, if you look closely, you can still see the Go-Pro. I left it in ...

Ahh, you know ... "Reality". Photo reality. Real life.

Plus ... I just might look into a Go-Pro for myself. No. Stop. Stop it ...


But anyways ... I got my image in about two minutes. I grabbed my bag, and was ready to go ... You don't want to hold up the production of getting into the zodiacs ... It is not as bad as it is on the ship ... You actually just walk up, rinse off the boots in the water, and "feet towards the ocean", you swivel on your butt, and get in, and slide down (NO WALKING!) ...

Little camera around my neck!


Now where was I?

Oh yeah, Parris Island.

Forty-one years later ... From one island to another ...

"Column of Dittles, From the Middle" ...

The Power of Photography.

The power of memories ...

Semper Fi


1,000 and Counting ...

Took a few years, but I finally reached over 1,000 "Likes" on National Geographic's YOUR SHOT, with this image of two Northern Gannets taken in Quebec, Canada, way back in the Summer of 2014.

It is my one and only (out of 2,970) image to make it to THE DAILY DOZEN.

Every day, Monday through Friday, a National Geographic photo editor goes through the thousands of images and picks a dozen to post on one page.

If you do not post any of your images on National Geographic's YOUR SHOT, you should.

It is free, and you can upload 15 every week, Sunday to Sunday. Besides being free, it is easy -- Even I manage to do it every week.

People from around the world take part in it, and it is great to see other people's vision.

There is some great work being shown that is worth looking at. That said, no matter what your skill level is, you will get something out of it.

That is the main reason I taught photography all those years ... Being around other photographers, seeing their work, their take on life, made me a better photographer.

I called it SHARED VISION.

Check out YOUR SHOT ... Add some images, you never know what you will come across among the MILLIONS of images on the site.

While I'm at it, I will also mention FLICKR, another site on which I download images. Once I finish downloading my 15 for the week on YOUR SHOT, I turn around and download them to FLICKR.

I like it. It makes me feel good that I'm not the only bad speller in the world ...

That easy, and almost, that quick.

You shoot 'em, you might as well show 'em ...

And yes, I'm sure you can tell me ten other sites that you can download your images to ... I'm sure there are hundreds.

And that is a good thing.

I like YOUR SHOT, and I hope to see your shots on there soon. My last few years at the college, I made it part of curriculum ... 15 images by the end of the 16 week class ...

I know, I know ... Too easy.

But hey, I did see some nice images added to the site, and it showed the college that I actually did give them some work to accomplish during the semester ...

You know, like a real college class.

I was having so much fun, sometimes I forgot about the whole "college thing".

Go to the site and download some images today!

Get your shot, on YOUR SHOT.





When is the Best Time to Shoot a Vertical Image?

As you know, I never really come up with any real good photographic tid-bits on my own ...

No, I steal 'em.

All that I am about to write, I have stolen. Plain and simple (yeah, even the whole "plain and simple" thing).

I can't help myself.

In this case, I actually do know who I stole it from, and want to give him a big Shout-Out!

Bryan Peterson (Oh crap. I don't think that is how he spells Bryan, I'll have to check. And while I'm at it, I'll check the whole Peterson thing too).

He is the "You Keep Shooting" guy from Adorama TV,  that writes books, leads workshops, and posts You-Tube videos from around the world with great tips for becoming a better photographer. Period.

A great teacher.

I came across him years ago, and have been checking up on his videos ever since.

Crazy guy.

Known for his great knowledge, his many photo books, his sense of humor, and his wild hair ... Not necessarily in that order.

Check him out ... "Google Him".

He is the one that taught me this great line, about when is the best time to take a vertical image?

That's right.

Think about it.

How many horizontal images do you have, compared to vertical ones?

See, I know ...

I have shot for years ...

And more importantly, I taught college photography for years ...

I have seen all my images (of course), and I see a lot of my students' images ... From slides and prints, all the way to digital images, both projected on the screen, and made into prints (plus, on computer and phone screens).

Lots of images.

And MOST OF THEM are what? Go ahead, take a guess ...



You're human, it makes sense.

When we look out over a landscape, we see the "horizon" ... 

Left to right. Or, for some, right to left.

That is how most of us hold the camera, again, MOST OF THE TIME.

So, yes, we shoot most of our images in the horizontal format.

It's easy. That's what we do.

So, to answer the question about vertical, again, take a guess ...

When is the best time to take a vertical picture?

Wait for it ...

Wait ...

"Right after the horizontal one".



I love it.

And yes ... I follow my own advise, which I stole, and actually think of that line, and say it, when I am out there shooting ...


Not out loud (most of the time), but, you know, in my head ...

I think it.

"When is the best time to take a vertical shot"?

"Right after the horizontal shot".

I mean, how cool is that? How easy is that?

So, there I was ... Out behind City Hall in Hudson, talking to myself as usual ...

Now, to be honest, I "see" this shot as a horizontal image ... I shot it that way. The way I "saw it in my head". The "right way". The "correct way".

The set of trees, the windmill ... Shoot, shoot, shoot (you know I never just take just one ...).

Then, after asking myself the question, about when is it the best time to take a vertical image? I flipped my camera and took a few vertical images ... You know, just for fun.

Because I could.

Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

Now, yes, I did this a LONG time before I ever even heard of Bryan Peterson ... Let's be honest here.

I worked for newspapers and magazines back in the day ...

To an editor, it was like, the "best image" is the image that best fits the space on the page ... Be it a newspaper, or a magazine.

I was reminded to give the editor several choices so that they could work the image in any where they could.

And of course, the best reason was, yes, you guessed it ... 


If you wanted any chance at all to make the cover of OUR STATE magazine, for example, you better slip a few vertical images in there somewhere ...

The cover needed to be a vertical image.

A "double truck" image on the inside (double page), needed to be horizontal ... It was that simple.

Shoot both, let the editor pick and choose.

Both paid well, but the cover paid more.

Not that I would ever fall into that greedy way of thinking ... No way!

But, I learned fast, that the best time to take a vertical, is right after the horizontal ... More options for the editor.

And to some ... More chances to make more money.

Whatever works on the page.

The Art of the Publication.

Makes sense.

Shoot it both ways, let the editor decide.

So, even though I don't shoot for OUR STATE magazine any more, I still ask myself "THE QUESTION" every time I'm out there shooting ...

"When is the best time to shoot a vertical"?

And now, you too, can talk to yourself every time you are out shooting ...

And thank me later.

You know, after I thank Bryan Peterson, and all the newspaper and magazine editors I stole it from in the first place.

That is photography. That is how to become a better photographer.

Steal advise and shoot like crazy.

Just don't forget to flip that camera up every once in a while. You know, just to give you more options later on ... For whatever reasons.

And if you ever get caught talking out loud with a camera in your hand ... Don't blame me, I stole it from Bryan Peterson.

Blame him!


White Windmill

When it snows in Hudson, North Carolina before Christmas, you know you are in for a treat.

Very rare.

So, when it started snowing on a Friday afternoon, I knew I had to get out there fast, before it all disappeared ... Which it does very quickly.

So, Saturday morning I was out there early ...

Windmill Park.

I have photographed there a lot over the past twenty something years ... Every semester with my college class, and ... Just about every time I obtained a new piece of photographic equipment ...

Which, if you know me, happens way too often.

Like, a lot.

So yes, I have made images in Windmill Park many, many, times ...

After all, it is in the neighborhood ...

Dressed in white ... Now, I must say, I can't remember seeing it like this ... White on white on white.

With the new 200-500mm f5.6 VR lens, I couldn't wait.

And did I mention it snowed?

I walked around out back of the City Hall and knew I had something ... I mean, it doesn't look like this very often. In fact, I can't remember seeing it like this before.

Especially in December.

Yeah. December 8th I think ... EARLY.  I mean, I always joke and say winter doesn't come to Hudson until mid-February ... Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday.

As a former school teacher, it always seemed to come right around our three-day weekend in order to give us a few more days.


But this year ... Early.

I got my image. White on white.

And yes, all I had to think about was ...


Plus. Plus. Plus.

Gray on Gray is not the same as White on White.

Plus One (+1).

Easy. Plus one, and start from there.

I mean, you can't get more white than this ... Well, no ... There is a bit of brown ...

So, what? +0.7? +0.3? 0.0?

Don't worry about it ... Shoot 'em all, ask questions later! Shoot, shoot, shoot ... It's easy.

Compensation and ... Composition.

It is not all rocket-science ... There is that whole aspect of ART we can't forget about.

Two-thirds trees, one-third windmill.

Two-thirds white, one-third sort-of-white.

Where do you place that windmill to make a pleasing composition?

Again, shoot like crazy, mix it up, and answer silly questions later ...

It doesn't happen often ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ... You never know when your next chance will be.

Well, not until the next "snow storm" in Hudson, NC. Three or four inches overnight ...

And gone the next day.


Can't wait until the next time ...



Little Points of Color

I'm not an expert on art history, but I did live near Chicago, went to an "Art School", and walked through The Art Institute many, many, times (It was free on Tuesdays).

Heck, I even taught "ART 261" at the college for over twenty years ...


I'm an artist. My art is photography ... I take pictures.

And I had fun today walking around Hudson, North Carolina in the snow ... More snow than I actually saw falling at any one time in Antarctica.


And you know, at times like this, I sometimes, get into this whole, frame filling, abstract, edge to edge, snow and color thing ...

I knew I had seen this "look" before (Lord knows I have never came up with anything artsy on my own), but I was really clueless as to who I stole it from ...

Then I figured it out ...

A couple of years ago, I bought another (one of many) Art Wolfe book: The Art of the Photograph, and ...


I remembered ...

I ran upstairs and found the book.

George Seurat.

"Little Points of Color" ...

That's what I saw when I was walking down the street in the snow.

A tree covered in snow ... With most of the leaves gone.

But ...

A few just hanging on for dear life ... That's when I knew I was on to something:

"Little points of color"

I knew I had an image in there somewhere ... Once I knew that, I started looking closer, trying to isolate my "canvas" and fill it in with, yeah, you guessed it:

Little Points of Color.

Got it.

And thanks to Art Wolfe, I now know who to give the credit to ...

And, it was just driving me nuts.

That's what it really boiled down to ... I had to find out who I was thinking of.

My new, all-time favorite, abstract image of ...

Little Points of Color




Snow Day!


As simple as that ...

You know you have an early winter in the Foothills of North Carolina, if snow interrupts The Fall Colors.


These Bradford Pear trees are just outside my front door ... I have lived here since 2004. This is the ONLY time I could have ever captured this image (Yeah, the bottom one) ... 8 Dec 2017.


True, many Bradford Pear trees have lost their leaves, or most of them anyways ... There is one up the hill that is just about empty.

I believe (and I'm really going out on a limb here ... Tee-hee) that the trees in my front yard still have 93.748% of their leaves because I live at the bottom of a small hill ...


Maybe. Works for me.

But, just as the Fall Colors are in full swing ... BAM!

All that color covered in white ...


I knew I had an image before I even parked the Element ... I saw the image in my head.

Again ...

And yes, I just happen to have a camera, mounted on a tripod, ten feet from my door as I walk in ...

What? You don't?

And another one on top of my desk where I'm sitting right now ... Like three feet from the first one.

I like to take pictures ... Be prepared. Be ready ...

For when it snows, for example.

You never know ...

True, I had heard it was going to get cold this weekend ... But snow? The first week in December? No way. Not a chance, well, no, maybe up on the mountain ... Maybe.

Yeah, but even that is still early.

And it is still snowing ...

And it is supposed to snow tomorrow as well.


I just got done telling my sister that ...

That's it.

My sister! And my brother-in-law!

For the first time ever, they moved down to North Carolina, from Up-State New York (Richland), for the winter ... "Snow Birds".

The Snow-Belt. Like I told my middle school students for years ... They get REAL SNOW.

It is because of them ... I know it!

Great! I love this new image ...


Lake-Effect Snow (Lake Ontario) in Hudson, NC.

Works for me ... Let it snow.

Makes for some great images, and it will be gone before I can get enough images ...

That's why I live where I live. See, as a kid, I shoveled snow ... Every year. Every year, for five months out of the year ... And no, no snow-blower for me ... We're talking Old School, dinky little, snow shovel.  For like what? Ten years ... 1966 (6th grade) to 1976 (Joined the Marines). Ten years of shoveling snow ... Sometimes three or four feet per shot ... Big time New York Lake Effect snow ...

And I haven't shoveled it since. Oh, wait, yes I have ... GFMS in 1994 ... No, that was more like chopping up the layer of ice on the sidewalks and stairs ... You can still see the marks I made in the cement. Really, I kid you not ...

Where was I?

Oh, yeah ... My newest Bradford Pear Tree image ...

Fall Colors with a touch of snow ...


And more coming tomorrow ...

Even better.

And no, I haven't owned a snow shovel since ... Yeah, 1976.

Snow day tomorrow. And yes, I know it will be a Saturday ...

But I just enjoy saying "Snow Day" ... Brings back those fond memories of teaching ... Being a teacher ... I love it.

Snow Day!

** Snow Day Update

24-Hours later ... The Snow is gone. The trees are, once again, bare ... That is why I live where I live. Period.


Snow Abstract

The first snow of the year ... Not counting Antarctica.

And for Hudson, North Carolina ... Wow! Are you kidding me?

8 Dec 17

No way ...

Snow in December? Crazy. Very weird if you ask me ...

But, yeah ... And of course I had no idea it was coming. I mean, I was even at the middle school today, and the kids were acting ... Well, you know, normal.

For middle school kids.

On a Friday.

I was clueless (nothing new there).

I didn't watch the news.

I don't listen to the radio.

I don't check the weather on my computer.

I don't have a "smart phone" ...

But I did have my cell phone with me (I don't wear a watch, so I never know what time it is when I'm helping the students).

And, so there I was, reading about some wizard, and the phone rings ...

I jumped ... What? Oh, that's my phone.

My phone ringing?

Now that is weird.

My sister called and was the one that told me about the snow in the mountains ... What? Already?

No way.

Yes way. We cancelled our family dinner planned for the night ...

It wasn't snowing ...

Then, later on, I got home, looked out the window ...

Grabbed my camera.

Then grabbed the other one ...

First, the one with the 200-500mm lens (fun), then other with the 18-200mm lens.

This image was taken five feet from my door, with the 18-200mm lens set at 200mm. f5.6. 1/320th of a second. ISO 200. +0.7 compensation (helps keep the whites white).

A dogwood tree wrapped in white ...

White lines. Gray lines. Black spaces. And more lines, lines, lines ...



The art of twisted, white, gray, and black lines, edge to edge ...

The Abstract Art of Snow Lines.

An abstract winter line drawing held within a rectangular frame.

That is the trouble with photography ...

Even if I wanted to, and I do, I can not draw outside the lines ... Outside of that rectangle. Darn.

But, I do what I can ...

And it is all right outside my door, which just so happens to be a rectangle,  which is also the shape of a box, so ...

I did all this by drawing with light, outside my box, but within my lines ...


Something like that ...

Really? Snow?

The 8th of December.

In North Carolina.

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow ... We'll figure it all out later.

It is still snowing ...

More lines, more shapes, more cold, more snow, more ...


Ice cold images.



Kids and Pets ...

There is a saying in photography, and I used to say it to my students in class, that if you want to start a studio business, start with photographing kids and pets ...

"Kids and pets, you can't go wrong". I mean, really, what parent doesn't want images of their kids ... And their pets?

Yeah, I know, a sure bet.

Well, I don't have a studio to worry about (and I don't want one), but I did think of this when I was on South Georgia, and this group of penguin chicks were all lined up in front of me just looking ...

Ahh, looking cute!

That was what I thought of ... My own advise.

"Kids and pets, you can't go wrong".

I started shooting ... Ahh, I mean, taking pictures.

Little brown fur balls that look nothing like what they are going to look like when they grow up. Kind of like me in the second, or third, grade. Or for that matter, sixth or seventh grade ... Or, ninth, ten ... Well, you know, you get the picture (Well, no, I got rid of all of them - I hope).

I taught middle school for over twenty years, and then had a few of them take my college photography class ...

Yeah, some, I had no clue who they were ...

But anyways ...

This image.

Once I got down at their level - which is a good thing to do - And got that first, "regular" shot, I started really looking around ...

True, I could SEE them, ah, they were right in front of me, maybe four, five feet ... But that is only the first step ...

I started looking for shapes, details, something graphic, that would catch my attention, so that I could "hone in" on it, whatever that "it" may be ...

I don't know what it is, until I see it ...

Yes, I know they are penguin chicks, and yes, I know they are photographic, all on their own, and once I get "that shot" (the obvious), that is when I really start looking ... Visual Diggin'.

Not so much what "the subject" is, but what is taking form in my viewfinder ... What shapes, lines, patterns, contrast ... Anything that enhances the main subject of the image.


I saw the shapes ...

The triangles, when the two chicks lined up, sort of back to back ... One looking right, the other facing left ...

That's it ... Triangles. I fired away ...

Shapes. Texture. Light. That was what I photographed ... What I saw in my viewfinder.

Look at the upper right corner ... Remember, it is not always the shape of just the "subject"  ... But what shapes are formed within the rectangle of the viewfinder?

Your "canvas" on which you "paint with light"?

Yes, the subject (penguin) can have shapes as well, such as the triangle formed by its beak, and that is nice, but look at your over-all "canvas" you have to work with ... The rectangular viewfinder.

Look for shapes there as well. They are, after all, part of "The Image" ... The whole photograph. How do they work with the subject, or subjects?

The "Inter-Play" of space within the viewfinder ... That is the key. How do they "play off one another"?  That is the question you, the artist, should be asking yourself before pushing that button ...

The Art of the (Penguin) Chicks.

Seeing these shapes, textures, lines, forms, light, whatever, and how well they work together, is the key ...

Then, capturing "your vision" is the next thing, the technical stuff:

The focal length of the lens.

The aperture.

The distance to the subject.


The shapes within the viewfinder while you are in there, "diggin' around visually" ...

That is what I do, or in this case, did ...

Find my subject ("Kids and pets, you can't go wrong"), find my light (what kind of light? How will it effect my subject?), find my angle of view (What lens? Where do you put that lens?), and find my shapes ... My textures ... My lines, my art ...

That is what I'm really photographing ... Not "just" the cute little fuzz balls that are in the viewfinder ... To become a better photographer, and artist (same thing), you have to take it one step farther ...

How are they placed in that viewfinder?

Work on the composition of "your masterpiece" ...

Look for the design elements within the frame.

I knew I "couldn't go wrong", just because ... Duh? I was there, with my subjects, and my camera in my hands ... And the "right lens", the "right aperture", the "right ISO", the right light (backlighting), at the "right distance", and at the "right height", to get the "right image".

Too easy.

The camera: Nikon D7000.

The lens: Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR, set at 200mm.

The aperture: f2.8.

ISO: 400 (Yeah, I know ... But remember, I was hand-holding this, movin' around ...).

The distance: Close, real close (they walk up to you).

The height: As short, or as tall, as the subject ... In this case, short. Get down there!

The light: PERFECT. Backlighting, to bring out that "rim lighting", or "halo effect", on the fuzzy brown fur.

And speaking of the light ... Notice how important that "rim light" is in giving the two baby chicks "separation" between them. Very important to the overall image.

Simple, right?

Yeah ...

"Penguin chicks and triangles, can't go wrong".


Every Picture Tells a Story ...
Don't it?

Gentoo penguin with a stone in its mouth.


And why only half of him? Or her?

Again, weird.

Kind of a neat picture; snow, bird, stone. Period.

A color image of a black and white (and orange) bird in white snow, with a black stone in its beak ...

I mean, come on, just the fact that it's a penguin is kind of cool ...

Half buried in snow? Again, kind of cool ...

And no, I'm not trying to come up with this cool pun  thing ... Although, that too, would be kind of cool ...

This image tells a story ... One I learned about watching Art Wolfe DVDs in my college photography class at the college (See? Even the instructor learns something at college).

Over and over again ...

Penguins live in Antarctica, among other places, in The Southern Hemisphere. Yes, they are found in at the southern tip of South Africa and South America, even on the South Island of New Zealand, and, believe it or not, as far north as The Galapagos Islands, which, being on the equator, still pretty much places them in the Southern Hemisphere ...

But, if you want to get picky, I'll give you the Northern Hemisphere as well ...

But you know what I mean ... They DO NOT live at the North Pole, Alaska, Canada, Finland, Siberia, etc ... Anywhere north of The Galapagos Islands.

It's a Southern thang ...

But, they do like snow (a Northern thing).

And, if you check out my images, you will see they manage somehow in blowing sand on The Falkland Islands.

Blowing sand? Say what?

Now that is just crazy ...

But I digress ...

This image ... Walking in snow up to its waist ... With a stone in its mouth.

The Rest of the Story:

See, they walk in paths cut into the snow. Same path every day. Up to the chicks, back to the water, up to the chicks, back down to the water ...

Over and over again ...

They cut a path. That is why you only see half a penguin.


And now, what about that stone in it's mouth?

This penguin is a stone thief. Plain and simple. Guilty. No question.

In fact, every penguin on Antarctica is pretty much a stone thief ... They steal stones from other stone thieves ... To build their nests.

Over and over again.

There are no trees.

There are no branches.

There is no grass.

There are stones.

Penguin build their nests out of stones. Period.

And, as you can probably tell from this image, most of those stones, rocks, or pebbles, are under a foot of snow - Or more.

What stones are not covered in snow, are free game ... First come, first serve.

Until it is stolen by the next penguin that walks by ...

It is a game they play ... And not quietly, I must add. No, it can get quite loud actually ... Like crazy loud.

Every penguin stealing from other penguins ... Like, right next door. Next nest, whatever ... One foot away.

Maybe eighteen inches, something like that.

Every day, every hour ... Back and forth ... Back and forth.

I learned about it in college watching TRAVELS TO THE EDGE. I saw it first-hand six years ago on my first trip to Antarctica. And, this time around, when I saw this cute little bird waddling past, half buried in the snow, I knew ...

Stone Thief ... Stone thief ...

And, due to the fact that this time around, I was there in the Spring, before the official nest building season even started ... Every other Gentoo was just hanging around a big brown circle of poop, looking for a mate, I thought this one must be pretty sharp ...

It must of picked its mate already, and have a jump on the others, or it was busy stealing stones at the get-go to impress the opposite sex.

Either way, this bird had it going on ...

Or, it just likes to steal stones ...


I just kind of smiled when I saw it walking past ...

Thought it would make for a cool image. And yes, this time, the pun was intended ...

Now, here is a question for you ...

If you were in this cool place (sorry), and this scene was in your viewfinder, what would be your first thought on getting the right exposure?

You know, after thinking about how cool it was being there, seeing this unfold in front of you ...

Your first thought about exposure ... And, by the way, that SHOULD be your first thought when you see all that snow (hint, hint) ...

Yes, this is a test.

No, you can not "Google It" ...

OK, I know, but not for the first three (two) minutes anyways ...

Come on!

Think of my THREE BUTTONS ...

You'll get it, if you haven't already.

Enjoy ... I know I enjoyed taking it.

And yes, I passed the test! I didn't need no stinkin' Photoshop!


You Never Know

You never know where your next image will pop up.

I had just spend four hours walking around the North Carolina Zoo looking for close-ups of animals with a new lens.

I had several hundred (plus, I deleted over two hundred more) images of the few animals that were out and about.

It was a good day at the zoo.

But, that said, one of my favorite animals to photograph did not make its way in front of my lens ...

You guessed it.


True, I did see a few of them ... Far, far away ... Even for my 750mm (equivalent) lens I had with me that day.

So, I didn't photograph them.

Not even one image.

Then, as I was walking out the zoo towards the parking lot, there it was.

A zebra.

Well, a big BLUE sticker type thing in the window of the store ... A ZEBRA sticker thing.

Good enough.

See, when I said I liked to photograph zebras, I was sort of, kind of, skirting around the truth ...

Well, no, I do like to photograph zebras, but it is really their stripes that I enjoy photographing ...

The lines. The shapes. The CONTRAST.

They are a graphic element, alive and well, in the wild, or at the zoo.

Or not alive and well, but still at the zoo. Or just as you enter or leave the zoo, in this case, I missed this shot on the way in.

Yeah, but it is not really a zebra, so I can't really say I missed it ...

But I did. I mean, yes, I missed the shot on the way in.

And I missed photographing them once I was in the zoo, you know, the real zebras ...

In fact, that is why I took the image of the poster/sticker thing on the way out of the zoo ...

I wanted the graphic shot of a zebra! I missed the real thing, so I took this one just to satisfy my need for a graphic zebra shot that I had in my head the whole way over to the zoo, in the zoo, and on my way out of the zoo ...

Those darn images in my head.

In one regard, they are a bad thing. A pre-determined image that you have before you ever step out of your house, car ... Or airplane. Ship. Whatever ...

But on the other-hand, they are a good thing. A goal. A plan ...

As a retired middle school teacher, I would call it a "rough draft", or an "outline".

And yes, as a student, I never really felt I had to write it down first ... Come on! I have it in my head ...

And to be completely honest, and as you well know, I never write down anything, make an outline, or, really, plan anything when I pick an image to write about here on my Blog thingy ... But we won't go into that.

And as a photographer, I still do the same thing ...

I didn't write down that I needed an elephant's ear, or ostrich feathers, or the lines of a giraffe ... No, but I did have them in the back of my mind.

And flamingo feathers ... Nope. None. Never saw 'em ...

Tiger stripes. Nope.

Oh, I had many images in my head ...

As soon as I knew I was driving to the zoo with a LONG lens ... The images just kept a poppin' in my mind ... Not the animals per say, no ... Just the images of the lines, shapes, patterns, colors, texture, contrast, and design ...

Art first, animals second.

Oh, my middle school, and high school, art teachers would flip if they ever read that ... Or even the head of the art department in Graduate School.

In fact, I almost choked writing it, myself ...

But, that is what I have turned into.

I blame Art Wolfe.

Too many TRAVEL TO THE EDGE videos at the college, the middle school (you would not believe how I could sneak them into the middle school curriculum, you know, here and there), and at home.

His parents were both artists. Ahh, they named him, Art. He went to college to become a painter, an artist.

He did. Well, except for the whole painter thing ...

No, actually, he is a pretty good painter as well ... But you know what I mean.



And, so that is why, when leaving the zoo, I looked, stopped, and took one, just one, mind you, image of a blue zebra sticker in the window.

Hey, it was big and colorful, what can I say?

And then I forgot about it. I mean, it was kind of weird ... I hope nobody actually saw me photographing a store window with this large lens on the way to the parking lot ...

Then I got home ...

Going through the images ...

A blue zebra? Say what?

Then it hit me ... Lines, shapes ... You know, black and white ...


A click of a button ... Another button, I already clicked the shutter button back at the store.

Black and white zebra. Magic.

Yeah, OK, a black and white zebra looking thing, but come on, it's close ...

I got my image I was looking for.

Kinda' sorta' ...

No. Actually, I came away with a BETTER image than what was in my head.

The image in my head was a zebra. A real zebra. A live animal.

I got an unexpected, graphic image of lines ... Contrast. Black and White.

An image I thought I didn't get.

Even better!



This is an image that surprised me. Taken in Antarctica, it is one of many thousand.

As you can see, it is an image of gentoo penguins standing around flirting with other gentoo penguins.

Well, maybe you can't see THAT, but you can see that it is a group of penguins standing around ...

Mingling. And if you look real close, screaming their lungs out.

One group in the foreground, one group in the background.

Layered penguins, if you will.

I used the power of a Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens to achieve this look.

First, I was not close.

This is an early Spring, a pre-nesting site, where the birds hook-up with a mate in order to get busy doing what penguins do  in The Spring ...

There are no nests ... Yet. Guests are not invited. We were back a safe distance ...

There is a lot of noise, a lot of fighting, running around, and, well, a lot of what penguins do when trying to find (impress) a mate.


And that is discounting the smell. The image leaves that minor (major) detail out for you ...

And the noise ...

No, what this image does is gives you layering ...

Shot at 200mm, it draws the background right up to the foreground. Yeah, the optics did all the work ...

Then, the f2.8 throws the background out of focus, especially, when used at the longer, 200mm, focal length.

Sort of like magic, but not.

Remember, shallow depth of field is dictated by:

* Lens choice - Long (200mm)
* Aperture - Small number (f2.8)
   Distance to subject - Get Close   

Two out of three worked for me here ... Of course, I would have liked to have been closer ...

But really, the lens does all the heavy work. I just take credit for being the genius to have the lens mounted to the camera in the first place.

"A simple shot" ...

f2.8 "and be there" ... And, "Carry a big" lens ... To borrow, and butcher, from a couple of famous quotes.

That's my limits of pure genius ...

Oh, and up-loading the image to National Geographic's YOUR SHOT website (as an after-thought) ...

I failed to notice the genius of it all when picking images for my website though...

Yeah, real genius, alright.

Then, within a few days of being on YOUR SHOT, as the numbers ("Likes") kept climbing ...

I took another look.

A wee-bit dark for my taste ... So, with another stroke of genius ... 

Ahh, a stroke of a button. 



Lightened it up ... Perfect!

True, too late for YOUR SHOT, but just in time to add it to my website.

Better late than never.

But, if you are looking at my website for the first time, and are reading this with no prior knowledge of this image ...

Forget this last part, stick with the whole genius thing ...



Cool Warm Tones

The longer I looked at this image, the more I liked it. I didn't really know why ...

Then it hit me ... The color combination.


Yeah, the cool, blue tones of the foreboding sky, and the warm, brown/orange, tones of the ...

Well, how do I put this?

The poop.

There, that was easy.

Art Class 101. Complementary colors. The whole color wheel thing, that I paid no attention to, in middle school (I think) art class.

Of course, when I took this image, in Antarctica a month ago, I did not "see" it ... Ah, it's poop.

I did see the dark clouds, in fact, that was what caught my attention in the first place.

But remember, there were dark, cloudy skies every day of this three week cruise. After awhile, they become just another aspect of the journey (adventure).

I remember seeing the penguins, the snow, and the clouds ... And that, well, that, LIGHT.


I shot away ...

Then, when I got home, I went through all the images, picked out, like, A LOT of them, and got my website all set up.

This image did not crack the Top 40 ... Lost among the masses.

Then, I took a second look ...

A little dark ... You know, the dark clouds and all ...

Pressed a button (Instant Fix) ... Oh yeah, that looks good. Much better.

Wish I would have seen "it" sooner.

Funny how that works ...

Funny how poop makes an image pop!

So now, it is my all-time favorite image from the trip ... Yes, beating out the Red Blood, White Eye Bird, and the Blue Ice images.

True, I didn't see it at first ... Well, yes I did, I am the one that pushed the shutter button ... But you know what I mean ...

Thousands of images, three weeks, three islands ...

And an image of penguin poop and dark storm clouds comes out the winner ...


See, I took this in early Spring, in Antarctica, before the penguins pair up and begin building their nests by stealing pebbles from other nests ...

This is the pre-nesting get together, where the birds begin to pair-up ... The noise and the smell is what I remember from all this.

We had to keep our distance, you know, it is like with your kids at the middle school dance ... "Yes, please come and pick me up, but please don't come inside looking for me before it is all over" type of deal ...

I used my 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens and zoomed up to compress the scene and bring those clouds right up into the scene ... Yes, the lens did all the work.

Zoom out, draw the background in ... That is how it works.

Just a slice of the total scene, but it tells the story of Antarctica, penguins, and "The Dance".

Well, a silent version of it, anyway.

And I cleaned up the smell for you as well ...

But, I did leave the poop ...

I do what I can.


Ice Blue



You really can't talk about Antarctica without mentioning ice. I mean, it is ice, period.

Yes, I know ...

There is land there. It is not like the North Pole. Antarctica is land surrounded by the Southern Ocean.


A continent.

And no, it is not a country. Sorry.

The North Pole, on the other hand, is a frozen ocean, surrounded by land.

The same, only different.

This was my second trip to Antarctica. I hope it is not my last.

But really, if I was going to honest, this trip was about South Georgia.

Yes, The Falkland Islands were very nice. Excellent, really ... I wanted to walk among the Albatross. And yes, I mean among them ... VERY close. Like, unreal close.

That was a highlight of the trip.

Then there was South Georgia.

And yes, I have mentioned the word "wild" before when talking about this place ...

That is South Georgia. A speck of land in the middle of the wildest, roughest ocean in the world ...

So many animals and birds. Thousands. No, really, like, THOUSANDS ...

At your feet.

Nature at its best.

I loved it.

But ... Antarctica.

Antarctica is different.

Not as many animals ...

But the ice makes it an unreal environment.  Surreal. Different.

Antarctica is black and white and blue. Black mountains ... White snow ... And blue ice.

The blue ice is the old ice, compressed by the weight of the snow over hundreds of years ...

The Northern Peninsula, where I've been, and where most tourists visit, is very different than the mainland of Antarctica.

The interior of the island continent, is a desert.

In fact, it is the earth's largest desert. A cold desert, but never the less, a desert.

The peninsula might get twenty feet of snow a year ... But it melts.

The interior of Antarctica gets very little snow, maybe two inches a year.

Yeah, Hudson, NC got more than that last year ...

The difference is that it NEVER melts. Well, until it finally makes its way out to the coast, in the form of a glacier, and moves north to warmer water.

Hundreds of years ... Yes, even in this time of global warming, it takes a LONG time.

Ice and snow from the interior that is.

This trip, I was there in Spring (Late October, early November). There was a lot of ice still floating around ... And we were just playing around the Northern edge ... We did not get as far south as I did last time during their summer (December).

No, the ice was still there ...

And yes, we saw some HUGE icebergs floating around. Much larger than our ship ... Lots of them.

This image is one of my favorite from the trip. Not the largest ...

But perhaps, it was the bluest.

I was drawn to the U-shape section in the middle of the iceberg ... The blue caught my eye.

Bluer than blue.

Like any subject, I found the one aspect that drew me to it, and fired away ... Working my exposure compensation in order to give me several options later on.

Work it.

Shoot fast, and ask questions later ...

Find what you are looking for and shoot it like a mad man (or woman) ... Ahh, the ship is moving and vibrating.

The iceberg is moving.

"Be quick, but don't hurry".

Sound photographic logic, stolen from the late, great, UCLA basketball coach, John Wooden.

Works for me.

Once you find what you are looking for ... Trust me, I saw plenty of icebergs over the three weeks on the ship ... This is the one that captures the essence of the continent, for me.

Shoot fast.

Know what you want, and know how to get it.

If you don't know what you are looking for, and you don't know how to get it, don't worry about it.

You won't know you missed it (Not-so-sound advice from the former track coach at GFMS, David H. Hessell).

For this image, I used my Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8  lens, with the VR on, and set to "Active", due to the fact that, yes, I was on a moving ship, and needed all the help I could get in order to get a sharp image.

My ISO was set at 400, again, to help with keeping my shutter speeds up there, while hand-holding the camera and lens on the deck of a ship.

I worked fast.

The ice did its thing, I did mine.

True, the ice took hundreds of years to be where it was, and be in the shape that it was, but I didn't have that luxury.

Basically, I shot like a madman. A controlled madman.

I knew what I wanted, and went to work.

Simple really.

The hardest part was just being there in the first place. I mean, really ...

It took me sixty-two (and a half) years to be at that spot, and hundreds of years for the iceberg to be there ...

What is an extra 1/500th of a second? Or two? ... Or three? ... Dare I say four?

Or the odds that I ever get back down there again (I said that the first time too)?

Yeah, I shot like a madman.

Works for me.



Two @ the Zoo

Yes, I can take regular pictures too. You know, where you can actually see the animal's face ...

That's the easy part.

I ALWAYS take a "regular" picture and then, once I am happy with that, I begin to look deeper ...

Or not.

Some times I am locked into a TELEPHOTO mode, or a WIDE-ANGLE mode, or an ABSTRACT mode ... or a SINGLE LENS mode ...

You know ... I have a plan on what I am going to photograph before I even get there and take a photograph.

That is a good thing.

Or not.

Sometimes it is just ... Oh, just go and see what is in front of you and react to that.

That works.

Planning works (or so I've heard), and not planning works.

Works for me.

When you turn up to The NC Zoo with one lens, most of my "planning" was done once I put the camera and lens in the car.


Long telephoto lens. Not much wiggle room there.

That was planning the day's shots before I pulled out of the driveway.

Your camera gear dictates how you are going to "see" that day.

True, it is easier if you have lots of lenses ... Even better if you have lots of zoom lenses. One zoom lens can give you many, many different angles of view ... You can try ten shots without moving.

That's a good thing.

Or not.

Try not zooming.

Use a zoom lens but don't zoom. Yeah, it is possible.

Remember, you can zoom with your feet, you know, like back in the old days ...

Have another lens? Good.

Use it.

Have a "prime lens"? Really good.

Use it.

Macro lens? Ha! Even more funner!

Use it.

Shift-lens? OMG!

Use it.

Fish-eye? Ha!

You better use it!

Whatever lens you have ... Yes, use it.

But use it in different ways.

Macro lens? Don't shoot close-up shots.

Zoom lens? Don't zoom.

Telephoto lens? Get closer ... Or just shoot landscapes ...

Wide-angle lens? Photograph wildlife. Use it as a portrait lens.

Have the "regular" 18-55mm lens?

Just zoom it out half way and don't touch it again. Shoot EVERYTHING at whatever focal length you ended up at ... Say ... 31mm.

Why not?

Use whatever lens you have and don't worry about getting a new one until you know what, and what you can not do with whatever lens it is you happen to have.

At the college, students always asked me, "What lens should I get next"?

I don't know.

I always asked them, "what do you want to shoot"?

I can't tell you what you want to shoot.

Yes, there are some "special" lenses that you need if you are going to photograph certain subjects ...

But, that said ... Use whatever lens you have and shoot everything you can think of and see what you can and can not do with that certain lens.

In fact ... And as a teacher (with RULES), I hate to admit it, but the best way to learn is to break every rule any teacher has ever told you ... Ahhh, I talking about photography here ... Slow down.

If I say, GET CLOSER, don't.

If I say the best light is at sunrise and sunset, sleep in ... Shoot at noon.

If I say you need a macro lens to get great close-up shots ... Grab your wide-angle lens and get out there and fire away.

You can't really "prove me wrong", you can only show me another way of doing something that I have always done ...

Know the rules ... Then break 'em.

No worries.

It is your art, do it any way you want.

Come on, it is not like this is math class or anything.




Who says higher ISO noise is a bad thing? It isn't, if that is "THE LOOK" you are going for ...

That is the beauty of photography ... 2+4 does not ALWAYS have to add up to 6.

You don't have to worry about not staying within the lines when "painting with light" ...

Whew ...

I like it.

Yes, know the rules, understand the rules, and actually follow the rules, so that one day you can break all the rules and come up with your own set of "Art Rules".

Your own "style" ...

This helped me achieve this "studio" shot of the elephant.

I knew that the trees behind the elephant would go black in the shadows ... I exposed for the elephant in the bright light. Well, I say that as if I actually did something special ... No, that is what our camera sensors do ...

They "read the light" and try to balance it all out to give you a "medium" tone ... You know, a little of this and a little of that.

I know that.

So, I broke the rule, and set my camera compensation button to MINUS ONE, MINUS ONE AND ONE THIRD, so that the shadows would stay black and the highlights would not be blown out.

I know the rules ... And broke them to make my image look the way I want it to look, not the way the camera manufacturer wanted it to look.

They build the camera, you run the show ... You "make the art". 

And come on ... Really? How can they be "My Rules" if the buttons I use are actually part of the camera to begin with?

I am not the only genius in this world ... It is NOT Rocket Science here people.

There is a button for it.

Use it.

Know the rules (and your camera) and then break those rules (and not your camera) ...

I've been doing it for over thirty years ... True, I actually did break all the rules when in school (and got kicked out of art class many, many times, but shhhh ... Don't tell my middle school students - or my mother - for that matter).

No, I did not "get into art" until YEARS later ... I graduated from high school in 1973, graduated from college with my B.S. Degree (ahh, yeah, I was good at that) in 1983, and got my M.A. Degree in Photography in 1993.

And you thought I wasn't very good at math ... I think I did not plan that out, pretty darn good.

So ... Grab a camera, and a lens, get out there (or stay inside) and shoot something with a plan ... A challenge ... A hope.

And then, once you have that down pat (whatever it is you are doing) ... Forget about it!

At the zoo, I wanted the TIGHT shot, the abstract texture shot of the animal, but, as you see here, I also photographed the animal as an animal ... A portrait of an elephant. The face of a baboon.

Yes, I got close ... Well, my lens got me close, there was a fence ... And I got rid of everything but what I wanted in the image.

The face of the baboon ... Yeah, you can't get the "face of a baboon" if you also have the neck of a baboon, the arms of a baboon, and I'm not even going to mention parts of a baboon that he was showing me ...

Get rid of 'em ... Or it.

Zoom. Crop. Move. Do whatever it takes.

Again ... Do something. 

Your art. Your choice. Your move.

Same for me.

Heck, I've taught the rules since 1984 ... I know THE RULES.

And every time I break them, yes, I giggle.

That's what I do.

Think Tank

Today was a good day ...

First off, I am now "working again". Yeah, I was asked if I could help this 6th grader at GFMS with his reading ... And math. So, three days of the week I pretend to work ...

I can't say no to Nicole, who started working at GFMS the same year I did. We worked together for twenty-four years. She actually knew what she was doing, and I just handed out "Jolly Rogers" and ran around in the woods with the kids ...

She did the paperwork - ALL THE PAPERWORK, that was needed over those twenty-four years. 

Let me say that again ...

And trust me, if you know anything about being a Special Education teacher in America today, you know there is a ridiculous amount of paperwork that MUST be completed on every student, every year in the Exceptional Children's program.

Every school, every child in the program, every year.

She did it all.

Well no, the last few years I pretended to do one part of it, can't even remember which part it was ... Present Level of Achievement, or some such thing. I just wrote how goofy middle school kids are and that was that.

One page out of twenty ... Or so it seemed.

She did all the real stuff.

So, without going on (and on)about what I really think about all this, let me just say, if Nicole asks me to do something, I say yes.


And yes, even after I retired!

I feel bad about me being able to retire, when she still has five more years before she can ... Even though we both started teaching the same year.

See, I'm old, she's not. That simple. Trust me, I would trade in those years any day, any time ...

This getting old thing is a trip!

Lucky her ...

After helping the student today, my next stop was the chiropractor.

Yeah, that tells you where I'm at. 

So, anyway ...

I went in and "worked" for an hour ... A Magic Tree House book and a deck of cards ... Can't get any better than that.

Until I got home, and went through my images from the zoo and Old Salem that I shot yesterday ...

And worked on my BLOG, and some of the new images I shot ...

That was good.

Then I went out and got the mail.

USAA sent me a check for my broken lens. True, it was only for the amount that it would of taken to repair it, but, it is better than nothing.

I bought a new one anyways, got it last week. I'm good. I was thinking of getting a new one anyways ... It was time.

I spent the $200 already anyways ...

In fact, the very same day, the UPS man stopped by and dropped off a new camera bag. My "new" photo backpack. Well, you know me ... My "new" used camera backpack. It was an Adorama "DEMO" bag. Good deal.

And get this ... Another first for me: It is a THINK TANK bag.

I like Lowe Pro bags. I have a BUNCH of them, all different types and sizes ...

And yes, I have a couple other brand name bags as well ... But I've never owned a THINK TANK bag.

Pretty nice bag. Bigger than my other "main" bag, but still made to fit inside the airplane over-head bins. Always a good thing. A must really. I don't check my camera bag at the airport ... No way. It goes where I go.

And it is new. Like really NEW. Little tags on it and everything. Yeah, that new.

So, the check I used to buy the bag with arrived ten minutes after I got the bag.

Funny how that works ...

But that is not the end of the story ... Oh no.

Once I cash the check, there will actually be money left over, to buy something else ...

That is how it really works.

See, I needed a new bag to carry that new, monster of a lens that I now have. Again, that is how it works.

Round and round it goes ... Save money on one deal, spend it on another.

Works for me.

Sounds good anyways ...

I love deals.





Zoom Zoo

I have told you about my new lens ... The Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 VR lens.

It is a beast.

Basically, I am walking around with a 300-750mm f5.6 lens on any DX "cropped sensor" camera I own.

I won't go into how many DX sensor cameras I actually own, but trust me, I have a few.

So, with just about any DSLR camera I have, with this lens I have some REACH.

And yes, you know I like to test out my new stuff ...

I already have. You know, when I took it out in the parking lot and photographed my neighbor's shiny chrome wheels ...


But, you know ... Wheels are nice, but ...

The North Carolina Zoo.

Yeah, I checked the weather report, and it was on ...

Up before 6am (I didn't need to wait for any stinkin' alarm).



I haven't been in years ... Since the old Weekend College days ... I don't know, eight, ten years? Something like that.

Zero dark-thirty. Easy ride ...

Got to the zoo early ...

I believe the lady, who sold me my ticket, mentioned something like I was the fourth, or fifth, person there that morning ... "Had the place to myself" she told me ...

I told her that is why I was there ...

The whole zoo to myself (sort of).

One lens. One camera.

No tripod.

See, that's the game I play ...

750mm f5.6 VR lens, and no tripod.

How good is this lens anyways?

How good am I?

Can I hand-hold a 750mm lens and get sharp images? How good is that VR anyways?

Yes. And good, real good. In that order.

It is a GREAT lens.

I sort of, kind of, knew it was, but I had to put myself through the test. The "Walk Around an Empty Zoo" test, and see what kind of images I could come up with.

True, it is a zoom lens, but yeah, I don't think I bothered zooming anything, or anytime ...

If you have 750mm, use 750mm.

That simple. That easy.

Walk ... And walk ... And learn.

First thing I wanted to know, you know, besides that whole "sharpness" thing, was, how close can I get to my subject?

Again, too easy.

NOT VERY. Not very close at all.

Wow ... It is wild, I had to back up more than I have ever had to back up before ...

Makes sense, I'm just so used to my other lenses, that I found myself WAY TOO CLOSE, most of the time.

It takes me awhile to adapt to all this new, fancy equipment. I have shot with the same gear (Nikon D90 with the 18-200mm lens, or even the old 80-400mm antique lens) for so long, I just know where I should be to get the shot I want.

Not with this little (big) puppy ...


But hey, I was at the zoo ... The animals that were out there, were, well, for the most part, out there!

But everything else ... Cactus. Trees. Leaves ... Anything not behind a fence ... I had to back up.

I had a blast.

And no, I won't mention the whole TEN FRAMES PER SECOND thing ...

I mean, come on, the animals weren't going anywhere, and, anyway, the ones I did photograph, are not the fastest things in the world ... But, man, it is fun ...

What did I shoot (photograph)?

One word: Patterns, textures, lines, shapes, repetition ...

Oh, yeah, I forgot, one word:


How is that?

I shot everything tight. Like I have always wanted to shoot ... Like I always try to shoot.

As tight as I can ... As close as I could ... With the longest focal length lens I could.

All day ... Every animal I saw. Always. 750mm.

Yes, some of the animals were inside, hidden from view ... They think it is winter.

It isn't.

But I'm not a flamingo, so go figure.

And all that those lions, tigers, and bears (oh my!) were doing was ... You guessed it ...


But there were a few animals out and about ...

I bet you have no idea what animals I photographed, do you?

Well, I can't remember them all, but take a wild guess ...

I had a great time, filled my 4GB card up about half way through, deleted over 200 images, and walked around for four hours trying to fill it up again ...


Well, at least I thought it was perfect ...

Then I got home and saw the images ...




But yes, I'll admit it ...

I did crop in even tighter on these images, you know, to "clean 'em up a bit", but man, I was CLOSE. Closer than I ever have been before.

And, like I have said a thousand times before ...

"You can never be too close".

You just buy a longer lens. And continue to crop as much as you can ...




Old School Phun

You know, I used to do some pretty cool abstract stuff before PhotoShop came around ...

You know, double-exposures with slide film ... You would actually take one slide and slip it into a slide mount with another slide already in it.


And reflections ...

Multiple-exposures ...

Fun stuff.

And then there was the whole car reflection thing, with all the curves, and lines ...


And get this ... It was all done in-camera.

Too easy.

You take reality, and twist it, curve it, reflect it, whatever ...

It is all about light.


Drawing, or sketching, with light. You have to love those Greeks ... 

And you have to love shiny cars, out in the sun, in Old Salem. Right there in front of the church ...


Bending light ... Sketching with light.

Photoshop before Photoshop.

Oh, and after Photoshop, too.

What worked ten, twenty, dare I say, thirty years ago, seems to work just as well today ... Funny how that works.

It is all about "Seeing".

It is there.

The cars, trucks, whatever, do all the work. All the bending, all the sketching. All you have to do is stop, look, compose, and shoot.

Of course, seeing it in the first place, is the hardest thing.

It is so common, that we walk right past it. We look at it, but we don't "see" it, as art, or as an image.

The church was behind me ... Yes, I had stopped to photograph the clock earlier, to zoom in, on time.

No, wait ... Yes, the church was behind me, but I'm sure these are reflections of the college, which is right next to the church.

Old Salem College. Big brick building with the large white columns across the front porch ...

See, I was in Old Salem with my new Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 lens to, well, to see Old Salem in a new light.

Well, no ... Same great afternoon light, just with a different view. A new angle of view.

Like, up close! Tight.

Remember, just to remind you, that 500mm "Wang-Zoomer" lens I was luggin' around, has the equivalent focal length of 750mm, when attached to the Nikon D500, which it was, at the time.

The DX sensor.

Seeing Old Salem with a new lens was fun ... Old and New.

Seeing reflections among the curves of the shiny, new car, was way too much fun.

Zoom-in, and see something old, in a new way. Tight. Close. Abstract.


I don't know what the Greek word for perfect is, but I do know what it looks like ...

All I know is, that whatever it is, photographing it was phun.




I forgot about this little gem ...

The Nikon super-duper adaptor thing that lets you connect a LONG (or any lens really) lens to the crazy Nikon 1 V-1 camera.

A small Nikon CX format camera that has a small sensor ...

But ... Slap on the special FT-1 adaptor, and then mount it to my new Nikkor 200-500mm wang-zoomer lens, and HOLD ON! That set-up is crazy ...

And even crazier looking ... I'll have to go out and take a photo of this set-up, it is almost (well, no, it is) comical.

But ... It works.

I took the big tripod, with the big lens, with the dinky little camera outside in the parking lot, pointed it towards the moon, pressed the shutter button down half-way, you know, to get focus ...

And it worked.

I must admit I was a wee-bit surprised, no ... pleased, would be a better word ...

Even a hint of a giggle, if I were to be completely honest ...

Are you kidding me?

OK, and now the good news.

Remember that 2.7X thing?

Do the math ...


Multiplied by, you guessed it, 2.7 ...

And you get ...

Say what?



I kid you not.

So, the image you see at the top of this article, is what I saw on the back of the camera ...

Full-frame, as it comes out of the camera.

Oh, and yes ... Shooting the Moon.

Manual exposure.

Self-timer. At first I was using my standard 2-second timer ... But then, in a flash of pure genius, I went with a safer 5-second timer just so everything settles down more ... That lens is REALLY, REALLY long, with everything magnified big time. Every little vibration ... Magnified, yeah, 2.7X.

I took maybe eight shots, you know, just playing ... Got the exposure where I wanted it ... I changed the aperture once I got the shutter speed up there where I wanted it (250th of a second, or was it 200th?).

If I remember correctly, it was 200th of a second. I can remember thinking, 200th, what is that all about?

Dinky camera ... Go figure.

Auto-focus (I'm still amazed).

BIG tripod. BIG lens.

Big results.

I love it.

Now, with the second image, you will see my cropped version of the original moon shot.


Still sharp.

Now, as I'm typing this, I'm thinkin' ...

I have a 2X converter up-stairs ...

Forget about the 1.4X, too wimpy.

The 1.7X?


Go for it, baby!

2X it is ... I'll try it tonight.

Will it work?

A fixed 5.6 lens. With the 2X, that would jump up to f11.

Ahhhh ... I will HAVE to focus it myself, no biggy.


Easy. Two easy ... Get it? TWO easy? 2X converter ...

Oh, man, that is clever.

I'll see how clever I really am later on tonight ...

And yes, I'll use my calculator to figure out all this 500x2.7x2 = F stuff.

Man, when I retired, I thought I was done with all this math stuff ...


The things I do for photography ...


I told you ... Big lens, small camera.



Yes! It worked. I can't believe it.

Yes, I HAD to manual focus, but hey, no worries ...

I have NEVER had a moon full-frame in any lens, EVER!

Focus was a trip - Just like I thought.

Actually, I had the most trouble keeping the moon in the frame ... It moves FAST! And it jiggles around so much ... It is CRAZY!

So, there I was, out in the driveway, with this BIG tripod, LONG lens, manually focusing, shootin' away - STOP.

I forgot to set the self-timer. Crap. No way will an image be sharp without the self-timer.

Come on, the way my heart was beating ... No way!

5-second timer.


But, I got it.


"Fill the frame".

I had trouble keeping it in the frame, but yeah, it was FULL.

I mean, I don't even crop it that close on the computer ...

It was FULL. Period.

Did I mention 2700mm?

No way.

Yeah. 2700mm.

Crazy. Right out of the camera.

No croppin' this one.

No need.





Yes, I photographed this on South Georgia. No, caribou are not supposed to be on South Georgia.

South Georgia is an island in The Southern Ocean, and is as remote of a place as there is on this planet.

They were brought to this part of the world by sailors that worked their way down south to hunt whales and fur seals.


I guess they got tired of penguins, seals, and whale blubber, or whatever else whalers ate in the early 20th century ...

I have no clue.

So yes, caribou are on South Georgia, although I didn't see any myself.

But ... I would think that they must be pretty thinned out by now. The whalers are gone, the fur seal hunters are gone, no one lives on the islands ...

But, as you can see, they were here, and I did see them on my Art Wolfe DVDs, TRAVELS TO THE EDGE, which were shot about ten years ago.

In fact, that was one thing that struck me while watching them in my college classes over the years ...

Caribou. They were in a couple of the scenes ... Weird.

I mean, come on, Caribou, or reindeer, live at the North Pole, you know, Santa Claus and all that ... Rudolf, Comet, Donner, Vixen, etc ... We all know that.

This is all I found, or saw, of them ...

Green antlers on green grass.

The only proof I saw at any of the landings we made on the island. But hey, that's just me ...

It is a big island (sort of), it was still Spring, maybe I just missed them.

I just liked the way the green played off the green ...


That's all.

I didn't want to eat them.

Just photograph them.

Or what remains of them ...

Caribou Art.

That simple.

Green on green.

And penguin feathers ...



Caribou on South Georgia.

Just what I wasn't looking for, or expecting.



King Penguin Chick(s)

In all its glory ...

How can you not love that face? That hair-do? Those eyes?

I was on South Georgia in Spring, our Fall.

Early for that area ... We were the first GAdventure trip down their this season ...

The chicks were born a few months ago ... And they all group together and wait for their parents to come back and feed them.

It is wild ...

Thousands of brown fur-balls all lined up just standing there waiting ... They all look the same.

Their parents all look the same ...

About the same height, after awhile, but VERY different looking.

The adults are beautiful ... A black tuxedo, white shirt, highlighted with a touch of gold bling.

The chicks? Not so much ...

Brown fuzz balls.

Cute, yes, but only as cute as a brown fuzz-ball can be ...

And fearless ...

They will walk right up to you ... And stare.

Just stand there ...

THOUSANDS of them ...

Just standing there.

How each one can locate their parent's voice, out of the THOUSANDS of parents returning from the sea, is beyond me.

But they do ...

And how "The Ugly Ducklings" turn into the beautiful adult penguins is beyond me too ...

But they do.

That said, I must say the brown little fuzz-balls do have a charm all their own.

Kind of like middle-school kids ...

Now that I think about it.


Antarctic Tern

Cool white bird ... With the black head and red beak.

It sort of floats over the water, up and down, almost in slow motion.

OK, here we were, in Antarctica, in a zodiac, "The Photo Boat" to be exact, with "The Bird Man" as our driver ...

Which, could be a good thing ...

He knows his birds, and he is funny ... In a very British sort of way.

Think Monty Python ... In a rubber raft.

Anyway ...

Paul, the ship's photographer, was in the raft as well, along with ten other photographers ... Remember, we were NOT the "regular" landing groups ... They went straight to land ...

We were not the "Wildlife Boat" ... They went out looking for, you know, wildlife, before heading towards land ... Kind of like the "Photo Boat", but you know, we go back and forth, over and around, this way and that way, to get "THE SHOT" ... We "work it".

The Photo. Period!

So, back to the tern ... The Photo. This photo.

There just so happened to be another family of birds in the area ... Up on the cliff. I can't even remember what they were called ...

Oh boy ... Off we went, you know, Kevin was driving ...

WAY UP on the cliff ... A brown cliff face ...

LITTLE brown birds ...

What? Where?

Ahh, Kevin ... There is this white bird floating right past the zodiac, hunting for food ...


Now, true, I didn't say anything at first ... Either did Paul, or anyone else.

But then I did mention it to him ...

"No, no", he says ... "Look at this rare ... Something or other over here" ...


I turned around and photographed this tern dippin' down into the water catching lunch ...

Naturalists are great, don't get me wrong ... But, come on, an Antarctic Tern, right in front of us, or a brown bird thing nesting on a brown cliff, WAY UP THERE (he had binoculars) ...

"Right church, wrong pew" ...

We were there, in the PHOTO BOAT, and Kevin was off in his own little world, chasing something he was interested in ...

I believe I did take one ... No, I don't think I ever did take a photo of the brown bird thing ...

I was chasing a white bird thing dippin' for food ... MUCH CLOSER to us!

Oh, those crazy bird people ...

Well, you know, crazier that those crazy photographers shooting those crazy little white bird things dippin' down catchin' little fish things ...

What a trip.

Got my shot ... I had my Nikon D7000 with the Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 lens zoomed out ...

That is equal to 300mm f2.8 when mounted on a camera with the smaller DX (cropped) sensor ...

Nice lens to have in this situation ... Equal to 300mm f2.8. Long, and fast ... Perfect.

See ... Nikon has two types of camera sensors ... FX (full-frame), which is equal to the old 35mm film cameras ... If I was using my Nikon D700, and had the same lens, it would have a field-of-view of 70mm to 200mm, just like in the old days.

And, just like what is printed on the lens ... 70-200mm. Perfect. Nice and easy.

But ...

Because the digital sensor in a DX,"cropped" camera, is smaller, it is like taking a photo and then "cropping in" by 1.5 times.

"Blow-up" the image by 1.5 times ... Just take the center part of the image.

Works great for wildlife, sports, whatever ... Far-away stuff.

Now, for wide angle stuff ...

Forget about it!

That is why they had to make 18mm stuff ... For example, my favorite 18-200mm DX lens.

That 18mm is REALLY equal to 27mm - Or as close to what we used to have with a 28mm lens (my favorite).

It is crazy ... You know, math stuff.

Just take half of what is on the lens ... say, 200mm, and add that to the first number.

Half of 200 is 100. Easy.

200 plus 100 equals 300. Done.

1.5 times longer (200x1.5 equals 300). Really. Use your cell phone if you don't believe me ... 

Half of 18 is 9. Add 9 to 18 and you get 27. The 18mm lens comes as close to the old 28mm wide-angle lens as you can get ... 27mm.

So, my trusty 18-200mm DX lens gives me about the same angle-of-view as a 28-300mm lens used to give me (that is, if they actually made one back then) ... Wide-angle to telephoto. Perfect.

And yes, just to confuse you even more ... There is a new Nikkor 28-300mm lens for the FX, full-frame, cameras ...

So, after all that being said ...

I had the right lens for the situation.

Kevin going one way, me, and the tern, going the other ...

Like I said ...

Perfect ride in the Photo Boat.

With Kevin ...

Paul and I laughed about it later ...

And I thought I was the only one that noticed it ...

Crazy me.



Now, as you might have guessed, I did not go to The Southern Ocean to photograph people.

Sorry, that is just how it works.

Penguins (of all types). Whales. Albatross. Seals (of all types). Petrels. Orcas. White bird things ... You know, animals. Wild things.

And landscapes. Icescapes. Seascapes. Cloudscapes (yes, that is a word - I just wrote it). Weather (of all types). Even architecture, ships, reflections, etc ...

You get the point.

I did not go to the far end of the earth to photograph ... People.

But I did.

Not as often as animals and other wild things, but yes, people did make their way into my viewfinder.

This image is a portrait of one of the people that make trips like this possible ... At this particular moment, a zodiac driver.

Bismarck, or Bismark, I'm not sure how he spells his name.

I believe he mentioned that he is from Argentina ... I think.

He was great.

He drove us around several times while we were out on our "Photo Boat".

G Adventures had a photographer on ship - Paul, from Canada, that would get a group together to explore the area in the zodiac first before landing with the rest of the groups ...

Usually, we looked for wildlife and icebergs ... Not necessarily in that order.

Nothing special ... He would go over a few basic concepts, then we drove around looking ... And yes, I signed up for every one they offered.

Who wouldn't?


Getting images of, say, Elephant Seals, from the water (the direction they usually face) is very different than photographing the back end of an Elephant Seal on shore.

That simple.

Worth waiting to be the last ones called to "The Mud Room" (where we got our boots, jackets, gloves, etc ...) to board our zodiacs ...

Hey, speaking of which ...

Getting into a moving, big, black rubber raft can be tricky while boppin' around in the "roughest ocean in the world" ...

The raft would move up and down, often five or six feet per dip, while we were trying to take our seats ... Trust me, I am glad I never had to make a "Beach Landing" , under fire, while in the Marine Corps ...

They had to climb down rope ladders ...

We had metal stairs ...


Plus, we had three people helping us ...

Anyways ...


People photography.

Yes, even in Antarctica, and the "Antarctic Iles", in The Southern Ocean.


Just what I went for ...

That "lucky" pink hat of his (he swore it brought the wild things out of the woodwork ... Or ocean, whatever).

And since I mentioned Paul earlier ... Here he is:

The photographer ...


Another person ...

And yes, like Paul, GAdventures is Canadian ...

That is why all the zodiacs are named after Canadian Providences, you know, in case you were wondering ...



Rule #2

Get Closer.

That's it. You all know that ...

I have rules for a reason.

They work. Period.

That simple. That easy.

Get closer.

And this image is just to remind you.

The Falkland Islands, a British Territory, in The Southern Ocean. I first heard about it back in 1982 (or something like that) when they had a battle over it with Argentina. Now I know why ...

The Black Brow Albatross.

They nest there ... Like, big time. Thousands of them. And get this, you can get close to them.

Without getting yelled at.

Or, better yet, not bothering the birds ... They are not bothered by humans in bright red jackets and long white (or black) lenses stuck in their faces.

Yes, to be sure, there are some sticks set up, forming an "X", that are there to remind people in bright red jackets, that yes, these are wild animals, and they do need their space, but, that said, you can get close.

Real close.

Somebody, somewhere on The Falkland Islands, knows my rules.

I love it.

Now, I was a bit surprised ...

See, I have been on a GAdventure (actually, I think they were still known as GAP Adventures back then, can't remember ...) before to Antarctica, and I can remember quite clearly that THEIR rules are a wee bit different than mine ...

Or, to be fair, that their definition of "close" is very different than mine.

In fact, I can remember being there, respecting the little wooden sticks in the tall grass, even  staying on the "trail" while shooting, and thinking, "Cool, they are allowing us to get close, REAL close".

Closer than even I thought we should be ... I mean, really, we were right on top of them.

Among them ...

Then, when back on the ship and going over the day's activities, they mentioned that we were on a Private Reserve when photographing the birds ...

Ha! I knew something seemed different. Different definitions (and means of measurements) of  Rule #2.

Maybe it is that whole metric thing ... No worries.

Works for me. I got close.

Oh, and so did some other people in red jackets.

By the way, we got to keep those jackets ... Sweet.

Now, I can't wait for the four, or five, hours of "winter" that we get here in Hudson, NC every winter (mid-February) to arrive ...

I'm ready. Let it snow!

Plus, I've been on "Snow Days" since June ... So, again, no worries!



This image sums up what it was like to be on The Southern Ocean for three weeks ...

The name of the ship is Expedition. It lived up to it's name.

And the crew made it very clear that this was NOT a cruise ...

Each day, they had a plan, but the plan was based on the weather. And the weather at the End of the World can be very tricky, to say the least.

It was like ... Plan A, no. Plan B, no. Plan C, OK, looks good, lets check it out ... No. Plan D?


That was how it works ... Sometimes Plan A worked, sometimes it didn't.

This was the first trip if the year ... Remember, Fall here (Northern Hemisphere) is Spring there ... The sun had just returned after about six months of darkness ... Ice was everywhere, things could get tricky real fast.

It was warming up, you know, like 35 degrees or so ... Spring!

The Captains (there were three of them) kind of, sort of, knew where they were going but ...

The weather.

It was all dictated by the weather. And that is tricky.

It was cloudy - ALOT.

It was sunny.

It snowed.

And the wind would kick up (there is a fancy name that I heard about every other day, but, yeah, I can't remember ... Cat-something winds ...) at any time, and yeah, it was unreal.

But, that said, we only missed one landing ... Three weeks, one missed landing. On the first trip of the season.

Those Captains were good.

Sure, there were some places we couldn't get into, but, like I said, they just changed plans and went somewhere else ...

I mean, great is great ... We had no idea what the "real" place was like anyway, so, no big deal. Amazing is still amazing, no matter what letter of the alphabet they gave it ...

Bam. They got us in there ...

Now, as far as this image goes ...

Come on.

This is Antarctica. This is "Getting Out There". This is adventure ...


Black sand beach, snow, snowing, waves, and a beach landing ... Stern (Navy term, means "the back") first.


These zodiac drivers are good ...

Plus (in their spare time) they are Naturalists, Zoologists, with a PhD in this or that, you know, specialists in their field.


And zodiac drivers.

Many of them were on the ship six years ago on my first trip down to this part of the world ...

They know the area, and they know their animals ...

Kevin was "The Bird Man", John was "The Whale Guy", and Brent was "The Elephant Seal Man" ...

Published authors.


And they can get people into places that are simply amazing, in unbelievable conditions ...

Speaking of which, his image was taken with my little Nikon AW100 while sitting in a zodiac waiting our turn of getting on the beach ... The perfect little camera for conditions like this.

Love it.



I know, I know, you have heard me go on, and on, and on, and on, about ...


I have dealt with them for over 25 years ... I've been to the actual store - Twice.

One more quick story for you, on why I go on, and on, and on about Adorama.

I was in South Georgia, getting ready to make the big landing at one of the whaling stations there, you know, the BIG one ...


Yeah, that's how you spell it.

Norwegian whaling station dating back to 1904, or something ... It is all gone now, well no, the WHALES were pretty much wiped out, and the whalers are all gone, but all their junk is still there ... Rusting away.

The whaling industry died out about fifty years ago ...

Oh crap, here I go again ... Sorry.

Just "Goggle It" and you can read all about what is so special about the station, and the one famous man that is buried there ... If you happen to be British, you studied him in school. We Americans, on the other hand, are clueless ...

Well, most of us anyways ... My brother-in-law is the only person I know who has heard of him. Unless, of course, you have taken my college class in the past ten years or so, and have seen the Art Wolfe video, TRAVELS TO THE EDGE, when he photographed there ... And you weren't on your cell phone, checking out Twitter, or some such thing ...

Yeah, I know ...

Anyway ... South Georgia. Unreal place. Wild. Dare I say ... "Out there, like, out there on the edge".

OK ... Back to Adorama.

As I was going up the stairs on the ship, the afternoon before we landed, I stepped through the sliding door, as someone else was coming down the stairs ... We ran into each other.

My camera hit the floor.

I really thought it had survived ... I have the Kirk L-Bracket on it and it acts as a bumper ...

For the camera.

That was fine.

Turned out ... As I tried to zoom out minutes later ... The lens wouldn't move. Wouldn't zoom.

Not good.

My 18-200mm VR lens was dead.


I soon heard little tingling sounds coming from it, as I tried to turn the zoom ring.

My one, do-everything, lens was toast. Done. Finished. Kaput.

This was like, my third or fourth one ... Many, many years ... My favorite lens.

Glad I just happened to have my super-duper, fancy-spancy, Nikkor 70-200mm f2.8 VR lens with me aboard ship.

I would have been sunk without it (get it?). Three weeks on a ship ... What can I say?


Dead lens.

I made it through the rest of the trip with my 12-24mm and my 70-200mm. Oh, and my trusty Nikon Cool-Pix AW 100.

Can't forget that one. I love that camera ...


Great trip.

But what is even greater, is that I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon ...

Ordered a new, and I mean a brand spankin' new one. A new Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens, that very day ...

Wednesday afternoon.

And I was just shooting with it today, Friday afternoon.

I kid you not. Two days.

Maybe it is because, like my good friend is always telling me ... "You're special".

But no ...

Adorama is special!

48 hours.

New York City to Hudson, North Carolina.

UPS. They are special.

And did I mention FREE shipping?

Yeah, talk about special.

Maybe it is because I have bought stuff from them for over, what? Thirty years?

No, probably not.

Maybe it is because I shoot Nikon?


48 hours? Are you kidding me?

Maybe, just maybe, I am special.

Hey, works for me ...

And speaking of special ... I just got off the phone with my USAA insurance guy ...

Yes, I have insurance on some of my camera gear ($10,000 limit). And yes, you guessed it ... The Nikkor 18-200mm VR lens is on the list.

Of course, because it happened out of the country, and we have to do this, talk to this person, e-mail back and forth, etc ...

It will be awhile.

No worries ...

I won't be leaving for Florida until after Christmas and my mother's birthday (the 27th).

The clock is running ...

But hey, I have my new lens ... Plus I got the Kirk replacement foot for the Nikkor 200-500mm lens ... I'm good.

Everglades. Key West. Dry Tortugas National Park. Clewiston. Big Cypress National Preserve. Sanibel Island. St. Petersburg. Cedar Keys NWR. Pensacola. New Orleans. Dallas. Albuquerque. Bosque Del Apache NWR.

That was the plan ...

Then I went to a talk on Elephant Seals while on the ship ...


Got to go ...

Haven't figured out where I'll go just yet, but I know I have to end up near San Simeon, California. That is where the seals are ...

That is the plan ... As of now.

Works for me.

I just might get used to this whole retirement thing after all.

I'm working on it.

Well, you know, not really WORKING, but trying real hard.

Now that is special.




Red and 18% Gray

I'm back ...

Three weeks on the Southern Ocean, in and around, three islands:

The Falkland Islands
South Georgia Island

Three islands, three images ...

These are wild islands. Period.

They are not petting zoos.

It is all about life and death. Raw. In your face.

These are petrels, the "Hyena of the Southern Ocean" (my, non-scientific nick-name) ... They strip  everything down to the bones.

Life and death.


These images were shot on South Georgia, THE place I wanted to go to on my "Retirement Trip".

Freakin' unreal.

Yes, Antarctica was, well, you know ... Antarctica, and The Falkland Island had the Black Brow Albatross, but come on ...

South Georgia.

The Place. 

It did live up to what I thought it would be like ... Wild. The amount of wildlife on the islands was impressive.

I can't say it enough ...


In this case, a fur seal was still-born, and the petrels came in and "took care of the body" ... Fighting for every bite, every piece. It was a free-for-all with several birds trying to get in and get their fill before "The Boss" would come in and demand his (well, sorry, I THINK it was a "he") respect (It  was BIG, and mean).

It was quite a scene.

One death provided life for many. That is how it works.

Life and death. Nature at it's rawest, wildest, bloodiest.

Something new for me, pretty much ...

These are the images that sums up the whole trip for me ... Quite an experience.

The eye.

Framed in red ...

Nature, in your face, in one of the most remote places on the planet.

Three flights, three days of rolling around in the ocean, with three, or four, landings on each of the islands, THOUSANDS (and thousands) of seals and birds (both flying and non-flyers) ...


The noise. The smell.

Raw, in your face ...


Great trip. I just need to get some rest ...

Twenty-six hours from my last hotel to Charlotte. I have now been up for ... Ahh, what? Thirty-nine ... Going on forty hours ...

But I had to get that eye out there ...

Red and Gray (18% gray, in fact).


Oh wait ...

More to come:

Speaking of THOUSANDS of penguins and birds ... I am now going through THOUSANDS of images ...

Twenty-one days at sea.

The Southern Ocean.

Whew ...


Blue and Gray

Ice and sky.

If you want blue ice and gray skies, The Southern Ocean is your place.

Kind of like being from the North and living in the South.

The Southern Ocean is the roughest ocean in the world ... Look at a map, or better yet, a globe, and look at Antarctica. 

OK, you don't have a map handy ... I understand.

Close your eyes ...

Picture the South Pole in your mind ...

No, really, go ahead ...


That big chunk of ice  at "The Bottom" of our planet.

Now, think about it ...

It is a continent surrounded by water ...

And no other continent blocking the winds that rip around the world unimpeded in any way ...

No land to break the wind ... The storms that turn the ocean into a roller coaster.

They supply you with foam wedges to keep you in your bed at night ...

No, really.

It is a wild ride.

That said, The "Dreaded Drake", or what is really The Drake Passage, is considered the roughest crossing of any ocean on the planet.

That said, this trip was a piece of cake.

Going South this time around, I flew into Montevideo, Uruguay,  spent an extra night, then boarded the same ship I took to Antarctica six years ago, and then sailed down the east coast of South America.

Three days.

And yes, the continent of South America blocked the winds and it was great ... But yes, I still took my little Bonine Tablets ... You know, I know what me being on a ship does to me ...

Get this ... Yes, I had to check the spelling, I knew it was spelled weird. Hey, but they work ... And here is why:

Meclizine Hydrochloride. Antiemetic.

Say what?

Anyway ... Did I ever tell you the time, back in 1977, that I spent 45 days on a Navy battleship bopping around The Southern Pacific?

Yeah ... Marine of the Year.

My "reward"?

Sitting in the bow (ah, that's the front of a ship), which just so happens to also be where the brig (ah, that's the jail) is located.

Navy terms ... Don't get me started ...

Yeah, anyways, Marines are on Navy ships to sit in little rooms next to the "jail" and watch over some poor Navy "squid" (Marine vernacular) who got caught with drugs he picked up in Thailand, or some other crazy country in WEST-PAC (that's Western Pacific).

Remember, I mentioned 1977.

Yeah, people got caught with drugs in every port we stopped in.

The bad thing was that their punishment, was the same as my punishment (I was probably the only person on that ship that didn't do drugs) ...

My "reward" was getting caught in a typhoon off the coast of The Philippines for three days and rockin" and a rollin' around in the worst location to be aboard a large ship ... Or any ship, for that matter ... At one end or the other.

The middle of the ship is bad, don't get me wrong, but think about it ...

A See-Saw.

Up and down ... Up and down ...

The ends of the ship move the farthest ... Way up, then way down. Plain and simple. Science at it's worst.

Some reward.

Anywho ... I digress ... It is just so ... You know, the memories ...

Forty years ago ...

And six years ago ... The Drake.

I know sea-sickness.

I chewed those tablets down, Baby ... I was ready.


I rocked in my hammock, back when I actually did have a hammock that is, more than I did on this trip.

Spring time. Remember, it was Spring in the Southern Hemisphere, maybe that helped, I don't know. All I do know is that crossing The Drake on this trip was way too easy.

Even spooky ... I just knew we would get slammed one of those nights ...

Not really. I mean, if I don't get sick on a ship, it ain't happening ...

"Too easy, Drill Instructor, too easy" (I picked up that one at Fort Jackson, while photographing Army Boot Camp, years and years ago. Enough said.).

Which brings us (finally) to this image ... Blue and Gray.  

Ice and clouds.

Nature's tones. Nature's colors.

This was also a very large piece of tones and colors, I might add.

No, not one of the REALLY big chunks you read about, but ... Pretty darn big.


But that was not what drew me to it ... No, it was the blue ice against that gray sky ... Color.

The colors.

Old ice is blue ice.

The pressure of all the snow and ice above it compress it and, ta-da, magic! White snow becomes blue ice.

Yeah, that's all I got.

Science really isn't my thing ...

I just like the results.



Oh yeah, the gray are the clouds ... Lots of clouds. Every day. Every night.

Yes, I did see some blue skies every once in awhile, but ... In three weeks, I never saw the Southern Cross at night, let's put it that way.

Clouds. Every day. Every night. Twenty-one days. And twenty nights ... Something like that.

Blue ice, gray skies ...

Nice color combination.

Did I mention my first Honda Element was Blue and Gray?


OK, I won't ...

But it is a nice color combination. And in The Southern Ocean, it is in-your-face, every day ... Blue ice, gray skies.

The Falkland Islands? Check.

South Georgia? Check.

Antarctica? Oh yeah, check.

And floating around in-between all these islands?

Blue and Gray. Check.

I photographed a LOT of blue and gray.

And white ... But, you know, that's just another shade of gray.

But I won't go there ...



SHARP. Period.

Got it today!

UPS and Adorama teamed up to get my new lens here right on time.

Nikkor 200-500mm f5.6 VR lens.

OK, lets get it out of the box and take it for a test spin ...

I opened up the Kirk replacement foot that I also ordered and tried to actually replace the original.


I goofed ... Again.

Wrong thingy ...

No worries ... I have a generic lens mount upstairs, a piece of cake ...

But, for a good 'ol hand-held image quality test, I don't even need one.

In fact, I am going to hand-hold the lens anyway ... You know, to see if this 5.5 stops of alleged "Vibration Reduction" super-power stuff, actually works ...

You know how these companies are ... Ahh, the lens was actually made in ...

Shh, don't tell anyone ...


A Nikkor lens, for a Nikon camera body, a NIKON camera body, and it is made where?


So, out I walk into my parking lot.

My neighbor's truck is sitting out there ... He is a neat freak, and is ALWAYS polishing his wheels ... Something I want to do, but you know ...

Ahh, pictures to be made and all that ...

So, I walk out there, kneel down, you know, get on the same level as my subject ... And fire away.

Remember, hand-held. And yes, I was breathing ... But I did try to use good lens technique ...

500mm. f5.6. ISO set at 200. 1/800 of a second shutter speed.

B.R.A.S.S. (You know, Marine Corps rifle training skills, from 40, make that 41, years ago, and all that ...)

Nothing fancy. These are the settings, and skills, I would use to shoot wildlife, flowers, or, say, my neighbor's shiny wheels in the parking lot.

Like I would ever think of that ...

This is the first shot.

This is the very first shot with my new lens ... I shot 191 while on my "test run" in my yard.  And yes, I did nothing to it in Photoshop except re-size it for my website.

No SHARPEN (Although I usually do, because I can).

No NOTHING. ZERO compensation. Right out of the camera.


Look at the image. Look at it close. Is it sharp? OK, OK, yes, it is upside down, but come on? Is that baby sharp, or what?

Tires, leaves, trees, clouds ... I shot anything and everything. Tripod, no tripod. Shoot, shoot, shoot. 191 images.

I could have shopped at one.

This first shot tells me all I need to know.

Nice lens. It works. Game on ...

Really, that's it.

I don't need to do anything else. I don't need to calibrate it, or use some fancy lens chart, or, Lord forbid, return it ...

Nope, I'm good. Finished.

Test over. Complete.


Like steak (Hey! I actually ate a steak last night down in Columbia, SC, but, you know, sorry, I digress) ...

Well done.

I'm good to go. No returning this lens. I think I'll keep it.

That simple. That quick.

One shot.

Yes, I could have stopped down the lens to f8, even f16, and shot a few more images ...

Checked them out on the computer screen ...

But no. I got all the information I needed.

The lens is sharp.

And who hand-holds a five pound, 200-500mm lens anyway?

The lens is heavy. I really won't be hand-holding it all that much ... I did mount it to my Kirk side-kick and big Gitzo tripod and took a few more shots ...

I was right.

The lens is a keeper. It is SHARP.

I "wrapped her up" in a nice neoprene LensCoat digital military wrap, attached my 2X converter, and have her mounted on my big tripod sitting here in the living room ...

Time to photograph the moon ...


But before that, math time ... Yes, again ...

Get this: The 500mm f5.6 becomes 750mm f5.6 as soon as I mount it on my camera (1.5 crop factor of the DX sensor). Yes, the aperture isn't affected - It remains f5.6.

That's nice ...

Take that, multiply it by two because of the converter ...

It gets nicer ...

That's right ... 1500mm f11 (there is a two-stop loss of light with the 2X converter).

No problem. I shoot the moon (photographically, that is) at f16 anyways.



Like, my longest focal length ever!


I don't know what phase the moon is in, I don't care what phase the moon is in, I just know I'm ready.

I gotta photograph the moon ...


I want to see if this set-up actually works ...

It should.

It pasted my test.

What else is there?

** Moon Up-Date.

Just my luck ... New Moon. For those of you like me, that means ...

Blah, blah, blah, "can't be seen from earth" ... Start of a new cycle.

I tried ...



My Mind's Eye

Yeah, I see these flowers every time I walk up the hill ...

Or down.

What is this? October? And they are like, in full bloom ... What's up with that?

That just shows you how much I know about flowers ...

Well, except I knew there was an image there ... And that I would get it one of these days ...

It has been about a week now, since I first saw them like this.

Where were they all summer?

I have no clue ... They just "appeared".

Anyway ...

I saw the image, as it would look on my computer screen, before I even had a camera in my hand.


Done. Got it.

My Mind's Eye.

I saw it in my head. My mind. I knew what the image looked like before I was even made it down the hill ...

So, I went upstairs, got out the tripod, grabbed a camera, and that new 70-300mm lens I just bought, what? Two weeks ago? A month?

I lose track, to tell you the truth.

OK, back up the hill ...

Nikon D7000. Nikkor 70-300mm. Gitzo tripod. Kirk BH-2 ball head.


I saw the image as a "wall of flowers" ...

They are out front of a house, like I said, half way up this hill in my neighborhood ... A couple hundred yards ... Maybe.

Placed the tripod on the edge of the road ... I didn't want to go onto the yard, you know ... Private property and all that. That's why I wanted the 300mm reach ...

I knew I could "stack 'em up" with that longer focal length ... I had it all figured out in my head.


I keep my trusty Nikkor 18-200mm VR on the camera all the time. Well, you know, unless  I change lenses.

I did.

Set 'er up, set my self-timer for two-seconds, lined up my "wall of flowers", and fired away ...


Say what?

Tried again (like, what? I thought I didn't do it right the first time, and now it will magically work? No problem).



Now the camera has my attention ...

Auto-focus? Check.

Self-timer? Check.

I even tried manual focus ... Remember that? Yeah ... It took a second to dawn on me ...



The new 70-300mm lens ...

Yeah, got it. I remember ...

The lens has no built-in motor in it ... So ...

It needs a newer model camera body ...

D500. Oh brother ...

Back down the hill ...

Back into the living room ...

The D500 is set-up on my big Gitzo, with the "moon lens set-up", in the living room, ready for, you know ... What else?

The moon.

I am ready.

I switched out cameras, back up the hill ...

Got my shot.

That was the easy part.

D500. Tripod. 300mm @f16. Self-timer.

One-thousand one.

One-thousand two ...

Bam. That easy.

Got it.

But you know me ...

Try this, try that, look at that wall, no, look at this wall ...

When is the best time to shoot a vertical?

You got it. Right after the horizontal ... My Mind's Eye's view, in this case, was horizontal ... You know, "normal" ... A line of flowers, a wall of flowers ... Left to right.

But wait a minute ...

Walls can go up and down too ...

Vertical it is ... Simple enough.

Oh poop.

I don't have an L-Bracket on the D500 ... That is my "long lens expert" and I only use it with the big 300mm f2.8. You know, the "moon lens". The elk lens. The ... 300mm f2.8 lens (with, or without the converters).

No L-bracket. No camera strap.

Nothing. A bare-naked camera body.

I just can't "flip it, and click it" into my Acura-Swiss tripod head.

No worries ... I just had to go back to the last century, and flop the camera over on its side ... Old School.

Are you kidding me?

For one image that I have bouncin' around in my head? All this?

Whew, this is almost like a curse, or something ...


Got it.

Back up the hill ...

Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers. Wall of flowers.


I'm a genius.


Just one more ... Wait a minute ...

Not a wall of flowers image.

Ah, there are more images in front of me ...

I just get so focused on that one shot. That "killer shot". That whole "Mind's Eye" thing ...

Saw it. Got it. Done.


Slow down ...

The lens works at f5.6 too ...

Break down that wall ...

Shallow depth of field.

A "different look" ... Another image all together.

Now true, I am old, and my eyes aren't as good as they used to be, but I don't see like my lens sees. Never have, never will (I hope).

Shallow depth-of-field is a trip.

It takes that "wall", and places it anywhere you want it.

That "wall of focus" ...

At f16 I had a "great wall of focus".

At f5.6, not so much ...

So, I looked for an image that would work to my advantage ...

Now look, if I shot the same image at f5.6, that flat wall would not have changed very much ...

What? The depth of the flowers was only, what? Four inches? Six inches max?

Something like that.

Even at f5.6 (my "smallest number"), that flat wall would have looked in focus ... You know, not that much depth within the image, to really show any big change ... It would still look like a "wall of flowers".

So, I changed my view, looking for a "gap" between the "front" flowers, and the "back" flowers.

Foreground and background.


Well, really, it is distance ... In the "real world" that is. The real, 3D world in which we are a part of.

Except when we use a camera.

Or draw. Or paint.

Which I don't.

So, as a photographer, I looked for distance between the foreground and the background subjects.

And went with my "smallest number" (f5.6 in this case), my longest lens, and got as close as I could ... Without getting in their yard, that is.

300mm. f5.6. And what? Six feet? Seven feet? from the flowers? Something like that.

It all equals up to shallow depth-of-field.


Photographic vision.


The look I was going for on this second image ... The one I didn't see in my head (at first).

Until I knew I had that one image I was looking for ... "The Shot".

Then, all of a sudden, another image popped into my head ...

Funny how that works. Again, magic.

I just let one image lead to another ...

Remember, I read "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie", many, many times over the past twenty-four years ...

Which led to the next image in my head, of course ... The "double-exposure special", one sharp, one out of focus ... That dreamy look I have used for years ...

Perfect. I can see it in my other Mind's Eye ...


The D500 works a little different ...

Or, at least, I haven't figured it out yet ...

It takes one image right after the other ... Like, what is that all about?

I remember trying it once before ... I have to sit down and go over that one ... Or check out a video on YouTube ... Or "Goggle It" ...

Or, as an after thought, read the manual (Duh?).

But until then, I will just have to go back upstairs, and get my trusty D90 ... Or D80. Or D200. Or the D300. Or the D300S. Or the D700 ...

Oh wait ... Or the D7000. 

Yeah, the very camera I had in the first place.

OK, gotta run ...

Back upstairs.

Back up the hill.

And yes, I'm way ahead of you ...

Back to the trusty, reliable, best-lens-ever, the 18-200mm VR.

No, wait ... The 70-200mm f2.8.


Just what I need for that shallow depth-of- field (smaller number), dreamy effect I have in my head.

My Mind's Eye. You know, my third Mind's Eye.

And once I get that, speakin' of dreamy, I could breathe on the lens to fog it up ...

Oh yeah, and that would lead me back upstairs to see if I still have those little panty-hose pieces I used back in the day ... You know, when there was someone in the house that actually wore such things ... 

Nude. White. Blue. Red ...

No, I don't think I still have them ... That was another lifetime ago ... Like, a LONG time ago.

So, that has me ending up at Wal-Mart again ... Looking. Hunting.

Oh brother ... This will never end, will it?


It's All in the Details ...

I set this image as my Screen Saver last week ...

I see it when I am sitting there watching TV ... Nice and large.

I remember taking it ...

I was at the zoo a few years ago. Actually, I can't remember when I was there, but I was at the zoo ... That I know.

A lady was holding this hawk on her gloved hand and was telling us all about it, as she feed it chunks of meat ...

I remember I had my old Nikkor 80-400mm VR lens back then, the one I used for years.

It was a sharp lens. Slow, but, as you can see ... SHARP.

And heavy.

It was an "old school" lens, dating back to the good 'ol film days. Like I said, I had it for years. I liked it.

Sold it to buy a used Nikkor 70-200mm VR f2.8. Ahh, an excellent lens. Very sharp.

And fast.

I like it.

And just to come around full circle, just last week, I ordered the NEW Nikkor 200-500mm VR lens for my trip to South Georgia next week.

Yes, like the old 80-400mm, it is SLOW. Like f5.6 slow ... That is the bad news.

The good news is with the new lens, it is a constant f5.6. At 200mm and ... All the way to 500mm. A constant aperture.

That is a good thing.

And with my new D500 camera, with good, high, ISO noise control, it is a win-win.

I will just raise the ISO to control my shutter speed, and forget about it.

That easy.

That nice.

And for those of you new to the game, think about it ...

DX sensor.

1.5 crop factor.

200-500mm ...

I'll do the math for you ... I taught Special Ed. for 24 years ... I know my multiplication tables.

That 200mm becomes 300mm.


That 500mm becomes 750mm.



And remember ... f5.6.


Constant aperture.

That all sounds good, but the real bad news (for me anyways), is that Adorama is closed for a Jewish Holiday at the moment, and the lens won't ship until Monday.

I leave next Saturday.

I'll get it just in time. I hope.

Oh wait, it is Adorama ...

No worries.

Add the 1.7X converter (you know, because I can), and ... Oh, I don't even want to go there. Not yet.

I won't be able to sleep ...

But here, you do it for me ... Take 750 and multiply it by 1.7. Go ahead, use that cell phone calculator you have in your other hand ...

Oh crap!

I couldn't help myself ... Oh my.

That is CRAZY!

Yes, it is a LARGE lens. A heavy lens. But ...

Think VR.

Remember excellent high ISO results.

If this new 200-500mm 5.6 VR lens is as good as the old 80-400mm f4.5-5.6 VR lens, I know I have a great lens.

I mean, that old lens was SHARP.

This image is all the proof I need. Look at the hairs below the eye. The blood on its beak ... Sharp.

I can see it from the couch. You know, while I sit here and look at this image on my computer screen ...

During the commercials that is.


One, Two, Three

Three is a charm.

I was, you know, checkin' out ADORAMA the other day, and came across ... Oh wait!

It was not Adorama ...


I was actually checkin' out KEH Camera (after Adorama), which is located down in Atlanta ...

The place I sold all my Minolta gear back in 1991, or 1992, when I switched over to Nikon.

Yeah, 1991.

I got on their website and looked for, well, you know, old, used cameras.


The "X" classification. They don't work.

Remember, I haven't shot film in YEARS ... 2005.

These are for my collection.

Three more ...

The Nikon F is a CLASSIC. It was what caught my eye. Old-School at its best. Metal. Like, heavy metal. A big, clunky, beast that started it all ...

Think Korean War ...

No, the camera did not start the Korean War.

No, it started the whole Nikon thing ...

I did my Master's Thesis on combat photography, and David Douglas Duncan. He shot with a Leica rangefinder, like most photojournalists of the time ... Well, you know, those that shot 35mm, that is.

35mm was new.

Many old-school photographers thought of it as a "toy", a fad. It wouldn't stand up to the quality of medium-format film, or the king of them all, the large-format sheets of film.

Come on, size matters.

Or so they thought.

Turns out, quality matters.

They took movie film, cut it in strips, and there you go ... 35mm film.

They had their rangefinders cameras ... Leica, Contax, and ... Well, like I said, they had their 35mm rangefinder cameras.


Actually, it was World War II that opened the idea of using a smaller, lighter, camera in photojournalism. Pretty simple really.

Dare I say, life or death?

David Douglas Duncan was in Japan at the start of the Korean War (he was a Marine photographer during WWII), and came across this little, un-known company, that had some SHARP glass ... It was the lens that caught his attention.

He bought one for his Leica camera, and the rest, well, you know ... The rest is history.


Nikkor glass.

Nikon cameras.

That was the power of LIFE magazine in the 1950s. The power of LIFE photographers.

That is the short story ...

The Nikon F.

And yes, next came the F2, F3, F4, F5, and I believe that the last one was the F6.

F for film.

D for digital.

This is the camera that started it all ...

And speaking of "F" (no, it's not a bad word), I have to mention the "F-mount".

This is classic Nikon ...

I could go upstairs right now, grab one of my new digital cameras ... Like the D500, for example (the newest), and mount this lens on it, and go out and shoot ...

No problem.

Sure, I would have to remember how to focus manually, and all the communication between the body and the lens are gone, but ...

I "could" shoot away, and actually get an image.

Easy enough.

Try that with a Canon. Minolta (Sony). Pentax. Any other camera ...

Not that I would WANT to, but ... You know, if I HAD to, I could.

I have gone over this before with my (one and only) Canon camera.

It doesn't work.

Different mounts.

Nikon baby!

OK, that is the Nikon F.

Next ...

The Zeiss Ikon Ikonta 521/16.

Germany quality in a "point-n-shoot" camera, before they actually made point-n-shoot cameras.

Older than I am. They stopped making them in 1953 (yeah, I "Goggled it"). It is the most expensive camera of the three ...

Oh, I have to mention, that this is the only camera that came with a lens.  It is an old, "one piece" camera, that folds back into itself.

Again, a classic.

Now, for the MOST IMPORTANT new addition.

The KONICA Autoreflex TC.

This was my first "real" camera back in the day.

I bought mine in Japan, in 1978, right before I came back to "The World" ... My first SLR. Period.

The 50mm f1.7 lens was the "kit lens" before they were called a "kit lens". It was just the "normal" lens that was sold with the camera.

Unlike today.

And, if I remember correctly, this was one of the first "automatic" cameras of the day ...


I picked the shutter speed, the camera matched it with the correct aperture. Just the opposite of the way I shoot today!

Which was pretty hi-tech for its time. Which was good, because I was clueless. I knew nothing about cameras, or, for that matter, photography in general. Well, except to point, and shoot, like I had done ever since I picked up a camera (1968). 

1968 - 1978. Ten years ... Wow, I never thought of it like that before.

Anyways ... A "new" camera from 1978, not bad.

And, after I brought out my "magic cleaning" gear ... I had it looking like new. Sweet.

I had one years ago ... Now, I have another one. Even better.

Oh, I sold mine when I worked in a camera store (N&W Camera) in Augusta, GA back in ... Ahh, like, 1984.

That is when I switched to Minolta. I wanted a Nikon, but the store did not sell Nikon (and I couldn't afford it anyways). With my employee's discount, I went with the Minolta X-570 first, and then the X-700.  


I actually worked for camera gear. I would get paid, and turn around and buy more camera gear. They couldn't afford to fire me!

Fun times.

But, it all started with the Konica.

Cameras for the collection.


Zeiss Ikon.


Three cameras.

One ... My collection.

Two ... My passion.

Three ... My obsession.



"The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray" ...


Plan, go, adjust.

This was a trip over to Cataloochie to photograph the elk.

You know, The Rut.

Fall. A little cooler air ...

I was pumped.

And get this, I even tried to check the web to see if the elk were out playing ...

I got nothing.

I went for it.

I got nothing.

Well, no ... I did get some images, just none of elk.

Never saw an elk. I did hear one elk call, but I think he was just teasing me ...

I got nothing.

But ...

I was there, drove all that way, so ... After sitting around, setting up the "big lens" with my, you know, 10 frames per second, Nikon D500 camera, reading my photography magazine (for like, the tenth time)...

Oh, I did photograph a turkey, way out there, you know, making sure the camera still worked ...

But after all that excitement, I packed everything up and drove back down to ... I guess you could say, the old farmstead.

Yes, I ALWAYS stop and take shots of the shadows up in the barn ... The slats in the sides of the barn make great patterns ...

And since I was there, I walked across the little bridge and went into the house ...

Because it was there.

And there it was ...

Just as you walk in, there is a set of stairs going upstairs ... And with the front door open ...


Light hitting the staircase ...

I had to get a few shots ...

Which, of course, leads to more, and more shots ...

Kind of like when you give a mouse a cookie ... But that is from another time and place.

Monochrome chocolate.

That is what I'm going with on this one.


Chocolate wood.

Just add light.

The color was ... You know, unique. The lines ... And then there was light.

And guess what? I took more than one shot. Line 'em up. Line up the lines ... Shoot, shoot, shoot ...

And yes, you are right ...

I "tried a little tenderness" as far as the exposure goes ... How dark, or light, do you want your chocolate?

Milk chocolate is nice, yes, but, why try only one when you can have dark chocolate as well?

And every variation in between?

True, it is all chocolate, but what a difference a little, or less, light makes.

You really can't go wrong ...

Milk Chocolate or Dark Chocolate?

It is all good.

I am just glad I packed a couple more cameras and lenses ... This image was taken with my Canon 6D with the 18-135mm lens.

Yes, you read that right ...


I couldn't have gotten this one with "The Big Gun", that is for sure.

Make your plans, take the gear you need to get the image you are planning to get, and then remember to take the gear for the images you aren't planning to get.

Funny how that works.

Elk? What elk?


Illuminated Color

Yes, this is another flower I met along the interstate ...

And yes, it is another Blog about LIGHT.

And color.

But what this is really about is BACKLIGHT.

Flowers and backlight ...

Color and light ...

Pretty simple really.




OK, I was parked on an Off-Ramp, but come on, I see truckers doing it all the time ...

And, for the most part anyways, I doubt most of them are out there chasing the light ...


Joey Bowman is a former college student of mine, and he's a truck driver ...

You never know.

So, when you see the light, and stop on the off-ramp, you better get close, and shoot a lot of images ... Quick!

Or not ...

Shoot the whole field.

Shoot a close-up of a bug on one of them, shoot, shoot, shoot ...

But then, before you walk away ...

One more. There is always one more ...

Look at the back of the flower ...

"The other side".

That is one of the key aspects of SHOOT LOTS OF IMAGES.

Different angles ...

See how the subject looks from this, or that, angle ...


Study the light ...

The shadows ...

The glow of light passing through the petals ...


The patterns, lines, shapes, texture ... They are all there.

Front, and/or back ...

Take the time to study the art, before shooting it like crazy.

And trust me ... There is more than one image for any one subject.

Get "your killer shot" first, than look for another one.

A better one.

THE shot.

Get the best image possible, and then keep looking ... Hunting. Or should I say ...


Photography and fishing ... Catch one, and then cast for a bigger one.

A better one.

It is always the "next" cast ... The "next" image ...



Oh, and just to make sure I am perfectly clear, I don't just stand in one place and cast for trout over and over again ...

I move.

I cast from here, I cast from there ... I try different angles.

It carries over into my photography ...

Or, did it carry over into my fly-fishing? I don't know ...

Doesn't matter ...

The point is, don't just shoot the same image over and over ... Yes, a few times, no problem.

But then move, look, adjust ...

The best shot will always be your next shot ...




Craters of the Moon

No, I did not go out and buy a new lens.

I promise.

In fact, I don't think there is a lens that could get me this close.

Not that I could afford, anyways.

But ever since I got a "big" lens, and got as close as I could, I always wanted to get closer.

It becomes an obsession.

I do follow my own rules.

Well, no, that is why I have rules to begin with ...


Just for the record (whatever that means), this image was shot with my Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens, mounted on my Nikon D500 (with the 1.5 crop factor), along with the Nikon 2X converter.

All that boils down to me, looking through a 900mm f5.6 lens (35mm equivalent), and seeing little craters of the moon.

Then, due to the fact that my Nikon D500 has around 20MP,  I could go one step further, and crop like I've never cropped before.


I cropped like a madman.

What you see here, is just a wee little bit of the original file ...

Not bad.

Yes, I did "Sharpen" the image (I can click a button with the best of them).

That's it.

Crop. Sharpen.

Then, for my website, I re-sized the image, and finally changed the resolution, from 300 dpi down to 72 dpi.

Computer screens only show 72 "dots-per-inch", so  I make sure my images only have 72 dots-per-inch.

Makes sense.

True, some newer TVs and monitors, do have 96 dpi, but ... You know me.


72 works for me ... Keeps the files small, so that I can use lots and lots of images on my website, plus, they load fast ... I do it for you!

All good stuff.

So, I used every tool I have and came away with an image I have seen in my head for years, but, you know, could never quite get there ...

Now I can.

It's fun.

I have the lens, mounted on the tripod, set-up in the living-room, about four feet from me, as I write this ... I am ready.

In fact, I am sitting here now, listening to 60 Minutes talking about space and the Hubble Telescope ...

Man, what a bummer ...

900mm. Ha. NOTHING.

But ... I am going out right now and shoot (photograph) the moon, one more time ...





My sister's garden.

Well, her and my brother-in-law's.

Like everything else I photograph, I ALWAYS walk around their yard and end up in front of a poppy.

Or two ... Always.

Color, I guess.

Illumination, I guess.

Contrast, I guess.

Habit, I know.

You know the drill ...

Find a subject, move in, and get rid of everything except the subject, have the light work for you ... Know your camera and how it "reads light", and work it ...

Use the photography process to "make an image" ...

When I took this image, there was no BLACK background.

The leaves are green.

Yes, there was some shade, but, to my eyes, they were greenish, you know, dark green.

Darker green that the light green leaves in the light ...

Green, dark green, and red ...

That was what I saw. What I had to work with ... My palate, if you will.

A garden. Flowers ...




But I "saw" black ...

I knew I would have black ...

I used that knowledge to make this image.

I used the basic camera operations, and limitations, to "make an image".

Minus compensation.

Work it ...

Enjoy it.

Turn the meter's limitation into your artistic advantage.

Line the red flower up against the "black" background.

Make a background for the main subject ... The "pop" of red.


Simple as that.

Well, after driving from Hudson, NC to Richland, NY that is ...


The name of the game ... KEEP IT SIMPLE.

Nature is not simple, for the most part.

Make it so.


Your Reality


My Reality

The Rest of the Story ...

I was going through my card looking for my "Color as Subject" image, and came across some I shot earlier this summer while up in New York.

But before we get into that (this is how my mind works), I just thought of something while typing up that last paragraph ...

You know I never really know what I am going to write when I sit down and up-load an image, right?

"Color as Subject".

Like I planned that one ...

I liked the image ... That I did know.

That is what starts it all ... That is what I want to share.

But I swear, I had no idea what I was going to write, or how I would begin ...

This is how it came about ... And trust me, it is not just this one time ... Oh no.

But this time it is fresh on my mind ... Like, I just wrote it about five minutes ago ...


I was clueless until I had the image on my computer and put the white frame around it before writing up whatever it was I was going to write.

That simple. That quick.

That color, framed in white, with that black background ...

The Presentation.

When I saw it, the color "popped", and I had my hook ...

I didn't see it like this, I didn't take the picture against a black background, and, as best as I can remember, there was no white border out there along I-40 in Valdese, NC ... You know, Exit 113, VALDESE!

Sorry ... There used to be a commercial on TV for a local Ford dealer ... You have to be a local to have any idea what the crap I'm talking about ...

But I digress (as usual) ... 

Anywho ...


There it was ... COLOR. Framed in white, against a black background.

I took it from there ...

Which brings me to this image.

Oh crap! I can't remember what image I am writing about ...

No, really.

Oh yeah ...

Two images, actually.

There I was in Pulaski, NY, in June. Well, just outside the village limits. Route 13, right along the Salmon River.

"My Nest".

You know, I have written about it before ...

Many times.

I have hundreds of images ...

The Nest.

But, it was cloudy, dull ... No light.

I sat there. You know the drill, no light, no images ...

Then it dawned on my to shoot a couple of "behind-the-scenes" images to give you, as Paul Harvey used to say, "The Rest of the Story" ...

I hope at least one of you are old enough to have listened to Paul Harvey on the radio ...

Do people still listen to the radio?


Anyway ...

The local power company built this platform just for the osprey pair that has been building a nest here for years ...

Yes, their first nest was on the power lines ...


So, the power company, Niagara Mohawk (back in the day), they changed their name YEARS ago, but us old people still call them Niagara Mohawk ... Something Grid, but I can't remember ... Northern Grid? National Grid? I don't know ...

I moved away in 1983, in case you were wondering ... 

So, not wanting to mess with Mother Nature (with talons), they set up one more pole ...

Like, MUCH taller ... But as close to the original location as possible.

Osprey, like me, are creatures of habit.

Year after year ... The same couple. The same pole. The same nest. Year after year.


I, for one, am very glad "The Power Company" cared enough for these birds to build them a new "home" ... A new platform.

Somehow, the osprey got the message. I don't know if the workers just placed the "old" nest on the new platform, and hoped for the best, or what ... You know what they say ...

"Build it, and they will come".

And they did.

I wasn't around for the big move ...

But, best of all, the new platform is high enough, so I don't have to contend with those stupid (well, you know what I mean) power lines in my images.


I just had to wait for the clouds to leave ... 

Wait for the light ...

And then for the birds to, you know, do something ...

They are pretty good at just sitting there.

So am I.

Hope this gives you some idea as to ... Wait for it ...

Wait ...

"The Rest of the Story" ...

What it really looks like, sitting on my tail-gate, next to a hay field, just off Route 13, in Up-State New York, in the summer ...

Remember, photography is all about what you don't see in your images ...

Thank goodness.


Color as Subject

Yes, there is some kind of bug here, but don't kid yourself, it is not the subject of this image.

And no, it's not the flower either.

Both are nice, but come on, THE subject has to be the color. It shouts out as what is really going on here.


Orange. Yellow.


I stopped for the color. I got close because of the color. And I photographed color.

The rest is just, well, you know, fluff.

Nice fluff, but fluff never-the-less.


Yes, color can be the subject. The main idea. The reason for the image in the first place. The Big Kahuna. The Star of the Show.

Why not?

First off, it is my image, so I can make-up anything I want. Period.

Just like you.

The artist.

I like to believe that I came up with the notion of "Don't let reality, get in the way of your photography".

Same with rules, concepts, "the norm", or whatever else you have heard, read, dreamed up, or whatever ...

That is the beauty of art.

At it's basic core, art is self-expression. Words, music, painting, drawing, singing, you-name-it ...


The "subject" of an image doesn't have to be an actual subject at all; an actual thing, an object, in the traditional sense of the word, anyways.

No, it can be fear. Beauty. Terror. Joy. Love. And yes, even color.

Like in this image.


Take your pick ... Yellow or orange.

Or orange or yellow.

Color, or color.

Flower? Flowers? Field? Green? Bug?


I'm going with color as the main subject.

It's not a rule or anything ... But it could be.

Color as subject.

You know, the subject of the image.

The MAIN subject.

Oh, I know, squint your eyes while looking at the image ...

No, really, go ahead. Try it ...

Scroll up.



Perfect. I love it when I actually begin to believe what I am saying myself. I love it.

Color as subject.

Why not?



Another Look: Twice.

I was going through some images and came across this one ... Or, I mean, two.

I thought they were worth another look.

I taught "Three Rules" since 1984.

I lived "Three Rules" since 1984. That was when I taught my first photography class.

A LONG time ago; another lifetime ago.

Three rules:




Two of those rules you can see in both of these images. I saw the light, and I got close. Period.

Pretty clear. Pretty simple.

And, due to the fact that you see two images here, proves that I actually do follow my own advise.


Then vertical. 

To quote Bryan Peterson, "The best time to take a vertical, is right after the horizontal".

Shoot. Shoot. Shoot.

Can't remember, it's been a few years (2009), but I do remember, clearly, taking SEVERAL images as he worked away ...

To me, the light, was the photograph.

He was sitting inside a little wooden building where he sold his finished products, or I should say, his wife, or some women, sold his rugs, etc ... He had his hands full.

I was walking through, saw the light on the man's face, and knew I had an image.

I knew I had to "make" an image.

The light was excellent, the metering was tricky. In fact, the more I think about it, the two usually go together.

True, even without the sidelight, I could have "made an image".

Ahh, you just have to push a button ...

But I didn't "see" the image in my head, until I walked around, and saw the light on his face.


I knew I had something there ... I just needed to work at it.

I "talked" to him, ah, the best I could, and "asked" if I could take his picture ... You know, a smile, and hold up the camera, and say, "Photo"?

It's not brain surgery.

He gave a nod.

That was that.

Then, of course, he probably freaked out when I started clicking away ... I'll say I took fifteen, twenty, images as he worked, clicking away ... Never said another word.

He worked. I worked like a madman. Quick.

Know what you want, and know how to get it. Very important.

Checked my exposure. Checked my "highlights". Shot some more. Up close. Backed off a bit. Checked my edges. Shot again.



Quick, quick, quick ...

I had to control the "hot spots", or the highlights.

Keep the highlights under control and let the shadows go black. You know, like shadows.

The meter wants everything to be "medium". No highlights, no shadows.

As an artist, you don't.

You want, in this case anyways, contrast. You want whites, you want blacks. You don't want everything gray, or mid-toned.

That is the secret.

The secret of photography. Or painting. The secret to art.

The secret to giving a 2-D image, that 3-D look.


I got it, I got out of there ... As I remember, I wasn't in there long.

I gave a nod, and said thank you. Yes, in Spanish. I was in Peru. In fact, I was at the Equator, to be exact.

His shop, and a few others, were in this little park that was on the Equator.

I do remember that.

He was used to having tourists walk in, and I'm sure, take his picture.

At least I hope they did. I mean, look at that light ... He was working in a perfect studio.

Perfect light.

Side lighting.


The side lighting brings out the texture. Period.

His face.

His work.


Find side lighting, and you have an image.

It changes the image, makes the image. Simple as that.

Painters painted with it, photographers just took over, and continued the process ... Think Rembrandt.

I believe even he would have stopped, and asked if he could "take a picture." That is, if he would have been at the Equator, and seen this before him.

Well, he would of, at least, asked him to stop by his studio one day maybe. Oh, and bring his whole loom, or whatever it is you call this "thing" ... I don't know how good he was painting on location ...

But anyways, you get the idea ...




With light and texture, you have an image. Now, all you have to do is go out and find it. Make it.

And no, you don't have to go to the Equator.

That was just an extra bonus ...




Two On, Two Off

This is what it comes down to ...

Two days with my mother, two different doctor appointments ...

I had to get away ...

Two days up in the woods.

Two different worlds.

What made it all work, was that I received my new Goal Zero Solar Panel via UPS early Thursday morning.

Not that I needed an excuse ...

I will say it out load.

Doctors drive me nuts. Period.

And I'll also admit I don't like going to the doctor. Period.

And it really drove me nuts when I was called back to the room where my mother was.

She is getting a shot. Why would they come and get me?

They had a question for me ...

What medicine does my mother take?

Say what?

Like I know ... I said, "A lot". They weren't pleased.

I just put them in the little pill box thing and make sure they are gone the next time I fill it up.

I can pronounce one of them ... I told the doctor, and his two nurses ... I was pleased I could get one right ...

Anyway ...

When I got the solar panel, I knew what I would do.

Two days on, two days off ...

I packed up my Element and headed to the hills. True, I had to stop at FairValue and pick up my two cans of meat -- Ahh, I bought Turkey! Well, one can anyways ...

A first.

And two cans of fruit. Plus a bag of dried apricots, and some peanuts.

I had water ... I was set.

Two nights.

I took one camera ... My Nikon D500. And of course I had my little Nikon something ... SO1, or some such strange thing.

The tiny, white, camera I keep in my glove compartment for, well, for trips to the woods, for one thing. Perfect.

The big tripod with it's "sidekick".

My Goal Zero battery ...

And my I-Pod shuffle ...

My phone ...

And my fan ...

Got there much later than normal, but I'm anything but normal ...

Holy crap.

"My Camp" was littered with beer bottles. Broken beer bottles.

And more crap.

I have extra trash bags in my "cooler," that I don't use as a cooler. I have all "my stuff" in it ready to go ... Trash bags are just one of the many items stored inside.

I needed them.

I filled up two of them.

Then I got my camera and tripod out ...

Attached my Nikkor 300mm f2.8 lens.

Got out the solar panel and hooked it up to the Goal Zero Sherpa 50. Very simple. Plug the cable from the panel into the battery, and ... Well, sit there and watch the sun do it's thing.


I have no-clue. It works, that's all I know.

I just have to "chase the sun" ... You know, kind of like being a photographer.


In the woods it is a trip ...

I have one clearing, I just have to play "Ring Around the Circle" ...

That's the bad news.

The good news is, with a panel this large, I don't have to run very long.

I like it.

It charges my Goal Zero Sherpa 50 rather quickly, which in turn, charges my camera batteries, i-pod, and cell phone.

Works for me.

Yes, I have smaller, more portable panels, that I've used for years, but come on ...

Bigger is better. Right?

In this case, yes.

It comes with a stand that keeps it at 45 degrees to the sun ... Something about that being a good thing.

Easy. Too easy ...

OK, that was one part of the trip ...

Playing with new toys.

The second thing was that I got my tripod a new camo combination. The legs, and the "sidekick" that works as a gimbal head ...

I've written about it before. It works great.

Thing was, the lens is all wrapped up in a LensCoat, military digital cover, as are the legs.

But there was the whole black tripod head (Kirk BH-1), and the "sidekick", sticking out like a sore thumb.

No longer ...

Wal-Mart to the rescue. 

Official military digital camo duct tape.

Yeah, really. I kid you not.

Duct tape. Digital camo duct tape. Perfect. Military approved. Works for me.

I wrapped everything up, and was set.

Great way to spend the weekend.

And yes, I actually took some images ... You know, to test everything out. Nature photography, with a 450mm lens.



Yes, to some, it might be the "wrong" lens to be shooting landscapes, but, to a retired college photography instructor, and a Marine, it was priceless.


I carried it all down to the road ... One of these days I'm going to weight it, you know, just for fun ...

You know the drill: LOOK AT THE LIGHT.

What is the light hitting? That's it. Set up the tripod, look ...

Pan back and forth ... Looking. wait for it ...

Got it.

One leaf.

One big, green, leaf thing, lit up by the sun.

That's it ...

Did I mention 450mm?

Yeah, it gets you close.

That close. That big. That green. That shape ... Shapes.

Green Zen. Green and Black Ying-Yang.

Yeah, last week it was the dog's face, this week , a green leaf.

Zen baby!

Shapes. Green and black.

Or is it black and green?

You choose.

I chose the image, and to tell you the truth, it makes no difference to me, which way you see it.

Works both ways.

But, I know. Our human brain wants to make sense of such things, and tells you that, yes, it is a leaf, so, that means green and black.

The "subject" is green, the background is black. Green and black.

Funny how that works.

Funny how cameras work. How exposure works.

In reality (if there is such a thing), the background is NOT black.

The background is more green leaves, some kind of vine, that runs amuck among the trees ...

Whatever it is called - Not Kudzu, but something like it ... It is, indeed, not black. It is green.

Just like the leaf in the image. Green to black ...


Magic, I tell you.

Light and shade.

You know ... The camera can only give you one.

Or the other.



What do you (the artist) want?

You are in control.

Well, you should be, anyways, although we all know, that isn't always the case.

I wanted green shapes, which in turn, gave me black shapes.

Shapes to play with. Shapes to play off each other.

That whole Zen thing ... Art.

One exposure.

The "wrong" exposure, as far as the camera is concerned, but the "right" exposure, as far as I'm concerned.

Minus. You know the drill ...

The one shot, from that little adventure, that makes up the game I play when up in the woods, on a beautiful day, with a camera and lens, any camera, any lens, in my hands.



Which leads me to my third image ...

Now, remember, I mentioned one image ...

Yeah, we both know that's not going to happen ...

I take many, many, many, many images.


Which is tough on my batteries ...

Which brings me full-circle to the need for solar power.

Funny how that works.

At least for this Blog, it seems to work.

But to tell you the truth (reality?), I really didn't need to charge my camera batteries ... I have two running things. They last a LONG time.

About 300 per battery. I checked, and I still had 16% on the one, plus the spare.

No worries.

No, but I did need to charge my cell phone, you know, so I can be connected to the "real world". You know how much I am on that thing ... Ha!

And my Goal Zero battery pack, which I had used the night before to charge up my camera batteries in the first place ...

I wanted a low Goal Zero battery so I could charge it.

I love it when my last minute plan actually works out. 

I used the panel to charge my Goal Zero battery, my phone, and my I-pod shuffle thing, and not in that order.

Music. Gotta have my tunes ... Hey, it gets dark around 8pm ...

So, it all worked out great.

New solar panel. A new, BIG, solar panel. Check.

Camo-tripod thingys. Check.

Two nights up in the woods. Two, COOL, nights, up in the woods.


I didn't need my fan (battery powered).


Two bags of old beer bottles - GONE.


And yes ... I now have a list of all my mother's little pills in my wallet.

And yes, I still can't pronounce all but one of them ...

Now, they just better not ask which pill is for what ...

Good luck with that one.

Now, that would be perfect.



Plaster Sunrise

I kid you not ...

Today I did two things: Wrote about taking images of nothing, and went through my cameras, camera bags, and gear ...

One about nothing, the other about everything ...

And while I was checking out my Nikon D40x with the 18-55mm lens, I took one picture.

Just checkin' ...

I took one image. I pointed the camera up at the light, saw the color fade away to nothing, and ...

Took an image of nothing.

An image of the light without the actual light. You know, the whole glass thing with the lightbulb behind it.

The light.

No, I didn't want the subject (the light), I just wanted the light ...

You know, the light from the light. That was my subject.

Not the ceiling. Not the plaster with the little dot thingys ...


Light makes the image; is the image.

Light makes the plaster, the dots, the shadows ... Light MAKES the image.


Can you take an image of nothing?


And no.

Yes, you can click the button, and come up with a black rectangle.

An image of nothing. It is possible.

But you know what I mean ...

The above image is an image of something. Yeah, no kidding. Every image is an image of something. Even that black rectangle is an image of, well, a black rectangle.

That is the game. That is how it works.

You press the button, and if your battery is juiced up, you will get something. You will get an image.

This is an image of a plaster ceiling. Period.

Add light ... It becomes art.

Light, color, texture, shadows.

Not plaster. Not a ceiling.

Look at it. Go ahead, look at this image again.

Light to dark, with every tone in between. From white to black, with orange and yellow thrown in for good measure.



Sheer joy.



The hardest part of teaching college photography, or photography in general, is vision.

You can go over all the aspects of the camera, The Three Buttons, my Three Rules, even the on/off switch, lenses, tripods, cable releases, you-name-it, but getting anyone to "see images" is something that is not covered in the camera manual.

Seeing images goes beyond seeing subjects, seeing "things". That is the easy part. Over the years my students took images of dogs, cats, kids, cars, trucks, trees, flowers, and even forks (when push came to shove).

Too easy.

Well, no, I take that back ...

Back in the day, I was up on Grandfather Mountain during their big ... Well, I can't think ... Oh wait, got it.

The Highland Games.

People, action, costumes, food, drinks, animals, more people, people throwing things, people singing, people having fun ... You get the idea.

I was going crazy walking around, talking to people, photographing people, having a great time ...

A gentleman walked up to me, and I swear, while I was clicking away like crazy with all this stuff in front of me, he asked me what I was doing, and mentioned that he was a photographer too, but he couldn't find anything to photograph.

I was like ... Well, I was kind, and said something nice, and walked away. Are you kidding me?

That next semester, guess who shows up for the class? I kid you not. I knew I had my work cut out for me ...

Turns out, most of my students were in the same boat ... Seeing images is hard for many people.


Now, remember, I'm not talking about taking pictures. No, EVERYONE can take pictures. Ahh, you push a button ... Come on!

Seeing images is different. I always talk about taking (ahh, making) an image of NOTHING. Nothing but light, shape, form, contrast, lines, color, and texture, just to name a few.

Not so much about what the subject is, but what it is made up of ...

Graphic design. Graphic elements.

What makes up the subject ... That is harder to see.

It all starts with light.

Without light, there is no image. Period.

Start with light, and see what it does to the subject. And yes, light can be the subject. That easy.

With this image, I was up early and at The Wright Brother's Memorial. That is key ...


Nice subject, been there many times ...

Nice light, pre-sunrise.

Put them together, you have something. That is a given.

Too easy.

The Greek word, photography, means painting with light. Period.


I was at the memorial making images as the sun rose ...

Beautiful. Light. Color. Heaven.

I shot like crazy ...

Then I noticed the light on the blocks. As the sun comes up ...

Look down.

The light hitting these blocks of rocks, which form lines, lines that curve. Again, lines, and graphic elements that make up the walkway to the monument, that make this image.

Something we walk on.

Something we overlook.

Most people, me included, come to the monument to see the monument. Period. Makes sense.

We overlook the walkway to the monument. The sidewalk. The path. The, I don't even know what else you could call it. It is not the monument.

It is NOT the subject.

That is, until the sun comes up and "paints" the path, "paints" the rocks ...

Paints them with light.

And where you have light, and a subject, you also have shadows ... The absent of light.

Light/dark. The Ying/Yang of photography.

Ying/Yang, which forms lines ... Lines that curve. Lines which forms shapes ... Which make photographs.


Light it, and you have an image.


Anything. Light anything interestingly (key), and you have an image.

Now, in this case, I did nothing.

Well, except get up and out before the sun ...

And that's all you have to do.

There is an old newspaper photography quote about "f8 and be there".

Newspaper photographers had to be there when something happened, and they just wanted the "event" to be sharp and in focus. As long as you were there, any "middle of the road" aperture would be fine.

f8 and be there.

Now, to tell you the truth, I don't remember if I was at f8 ... Wait. You know me, and I know I wasn't at f8. Without looking, but knowing me, I know I was at f16, the camera mounted on a tripod, and most importantly, I was there!

f16 and be there.

Hey, I'm not a newspaper photographer.

I was shooting with a tripod. I wasn't worried about camera shake, shutter-speeds, or anything else, except getting all those stones in focus:

Great Depth of Field.

I wanted EVERYTHING in focus.

I got everything in focus. Wide-angle lens, f16.

"Big Number, Big Depth of Field".



Stones lit by the sun. Sharp stones lit up by the sun.

What is my subject? Rocks? Squares? Lines? Light? What?

What is this an image of?

You tell me.



I hope I really don't have to explain this one to you ...

Ahhh, look at this face!

I was like, what? Really? I couldn't believe that I was lucky enough to have this dog enter my viewfinder as I was photographing my little Labor day Weekend Picnic out on the Outer Banks.

I had to take a second look ...


Black and White.

Ying and Yang.

Dog Zen.

I was like, zoom in, and get that face ...

Make that connection of Ying Yang.

Graphic design doggy style. I zeroed in on the graphic design of the face.

He loved to play fetch ... With his owner, and with my nephew's daughters after awhile ...

All right in front of me ...


In and out of the water ... On the shore, tennis ball, stick, whatever ...


Back and forth ... One of the girls, the younger one, would grab ahold of him and hitch a ride back to shore as he brought back whatever it was he was fetching ...

We all had a great time.

Great dog. Great kids. Great day.

I shot and I shot ...

Like the good 'ol days. Black and White. Half black, half white ...

And the curved line ... Like, are you freakin' kiddin' me?


I love it.

I have no idea what his (or her) name was, but for me, easy:

Girl? Ying.

Boy? Yang.

Easy. Simple.



Or is it White/Black?

Either way, perfect.

Great model.

Great face.

Great Zen.

Black and white, and it is in color.





I like taking pictures.

I like taking pictures of people.

I like light.

I like graphic elements within my images, such as a nice S-curve ...

I like smiles.

I also enjoy smirks ...

Or the hint of a smirk. Or is that a hint of a smile? I'll leave that up to you.

Knowing her, I know what I think it is, but I won't say it out loud, or in writing.

No way.

All I know is that I like these two images ... These faces. Portraits. Pictures. Images. Whatever you want to call them.

Labor Day Weekend at the OBX.

In fact, I think this was Labor Day. A picnic on the Sound Side "out back" behind Jockey's Ridge. S-Curves, sun, sand, smirks, and smiles ...


The hair ... No, the S-curve of the hair, that is what caught my eye, made me zoom in.

Get Closer.

When I see a shape ... Any shape, I tend to emphasize it within the image ... It caught my eye, I want it to catch your eye. Zoom in. Move in. Do something that shows off what it is that made you take the image in the first place.

True, in this case, with this face, it could have been a couple of things, such as the smile, the glasses, that face, and even my reflection in her glasses, but to me ... The S-Curve.

Not so much the hair ... I didn't notice the hair. No, I noticed the S-curve, which of course is the hair, but that is not the point.

S-Curve first.

Hair second.

Graphic Shape.

OK, and the smile ... Another form of a graphic shape.

Even better. I'll take it.

And did I mention color?

I should have.

I did.

Both images are images of color.



Two girls, four colors.

Two smiles. Or two semi-smirks, or two semi-smiles ... I can't figure out which.

Two girls. Four colors. Two great faces.

Perfect. Too perfect.

Perfect portrait pictures.

Even better.


Deva-Vu All Over Again

I spent the Labor Day Weekend on the Outer Banks with family and dogs. 

Very nice.

For the first time, like ever, I think I spent the first three or four days out there without lifting a camera.

Yeah, really.

But once I did get into the camera bag, things began to come into focus.

The first thing was a Labor Day  Beach Picnic. Perfect. I just sat around, took pictures, and got some sun.

My nephew has three children, one boy, two girls. Models. They had a good time in front of the camera and I had a good time behind it.  They played with mom, dad, and grandma, and I took photos.

Then, I actually did get up before the sun and got out to Avalon Pier for sunrise, like I have many times before ...

No sunrise.

Well, yes, of course, there was a sunrise, but I never saw the sun. Too many clouds. Nice blue/gray morning at the pier. Not bad.

Gave me a chance to get used to my new, used, Nikon D7000 cameras. Both of them.

The same, only different, than my old Nikon D90.

Everything was right were it always has been.

Sort of.

I got them set-up pretty good and it was like second nature ... The buttons, the controls, the feel ...


No problem.

Then I began to get up and out before dawn ... Bodie Island Lighthouse was next.

The closest lighthouse to me. Quick and easy. I ALWAYS make it out to this one lighthouse.

I have photographed it for years. Twenty years now, I think. 1997. OUR STATE magazine runs an island issue every year - Or at least they did, and I made one trip every year during my Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter Break from school.

Then I started to take my college classes out there at Easter Break for a week. We rented a house and did nothing but photography for a week. Twenty of us running around with cameras ...

That is the first time I remember seeing Bodie Island Lighthouse's  reflection in a little pond that forms in the field when it rains ... You know, about three inches deep.

Back when pine trees were also across the street from the lighthouse ... Again, back in the old days.

It is a rare sight ...

And a great chance to get a unique image of the lighthouse.

Something different.

I also miss having the pine trees there, they were a nice "framing tool" that I used for many years. I really don't know why they removed them, but they did.

I am glad to see that the little pond still forms, although I must say the mosquitoes are something else ... Bad near the lighthouse, worst near, or in this case, in the "pond".

I got a few shots and got out of there. Fast.


Worth it though, always worth it.

Pre-sunrise color, top and bottom.

Like I said, worth every little bite.

I knew the second I saw the image on the LCD that I would crop it. Both the top and the bottom.

One long, skinny, image of the lighthouses ... That is how I envisioned it. A long pan-o-rama  of the lighthouse(s).


That is how I cropped it, once I got back and got it into Photoshop.


I photographed it, I envisioned it, and I cropped it. That easy.

Not what I saw, but what I felt. What I wanted.  What I envisioned.

First, I was just happy as a pig eatin' poop, to get the image in the first place. I have only see this little "pond" once before. Can't remember when, but it had to be about ten years ago. Yeah, something like that. I had the college classes out there and it rained ...

And second, when I first saw the image, for some reason, I "saw it" as a cropped image. I don't really know why, I just did.

Funny how that works.

Ansel Adams referred to it as "pre-visualization" ... Seeing the final image in your mind before you ever "print it".

Now, true, I did teach B/W printing back in the day, but I haven't printed an images in many years. No, I don't print anything any more.

We switched to Digital Photography at the college around 2006, something like that. No more B/W enlargers, chemicals, and hangin' out in the girls bathroom loading up film canisters.

Oh, yeah, that was interesting.

Now, I just crop them the way I want them, and put them on my website.

If I want something printed, I take it to Wal-Mart. Period.

Yes, if I do want something printed, I "work on them" in Photoshop first, and then take the file with me to Wal-Mart and let the machine do the rest.

Like I said, I don't print very many.

But I love to crop. Too easy. Very easy.

Crop it the way you want it. The way you "saw it" ... Envisioned it.

Anyway you want. Whenever you want.

It is art.

Your vision, your way.

That simple.

Well, except for those darn mosquitoes ...

Whew ...



Moving Shapes
Still Images

I got a new camera and lens today. Had to check them out, so I went for a walk.

Another Nikon D7000 with the battery pack. It is in excellent shape, just like the first one I bought.

See, I retired, and wanted to up-date from my old, trusty, but somewhat outdated, classic, Nikon D90 (still love them though).

So now, I have two Nikon D7000, both with the battery packs (extra batteries).


Pretty much like the D90, but, you know, better.



The lens I bought was a 70-300mm in great shape. One of the new "G" lenses, but ... Slow ... (f4.5-6.3) but hey, these new cameras are so much better with the higher ISO settings, no problem ...

Nice sunny day, ISO 200, open up the aperture, fire away.

Oooopppps ....

Won't fire ... What? Auto focus turned on ... Oh, the lens doesn't have a button on it ... No VR button either ...

Oh wait. I don't think the lens has a motor built into it in order to focus ... The camera has to do it ...

OK ... Change to the D90. Nope.

D500.  Yes. New lens, new camera, makes sense.

"Same generation" (my term, not Nikon).

Yes! Perfect.

Even better ... Instead of five, or six, or whatever, frames per second with the D7000 (faster than the D90), I now have ten frames per second.

Time to play.

Downtown Hudson. City Hall.

The flag ...

I have this thing about photographing flags ...

Have for over thirty years. I believe it has something to do with being an American ... Being in charge of the Flag Detail while in the Marines over in Japan, and being a photographer for the U.S. Army while in Germany ... You know, something like that ...

And the colors ...

And when the wind blows, the ...


Ten shapes per second.

Blowing in the Wind.

Yeah, I like the song too ... You know (if you are old enough), Bob Dylan.

Now, with a camera that rips off ten frames per second, I had a riot.

Well, once the wind picked up that is ...

But, you know me ... I waited.

Wait for it. Wait. Wait ... Then fire away ...

Two-hundred forty-five images of red, white, and blue ...

And more blue.

Sky blue. The color of the sky and the shape of the sky within the image ... Magic. In fact, VERY important to the overall image.

I refer to something like this as:

Emotional Nuance.

That "little" something that "makes" the image. You know, that ... That little accent. That little "something" ... 

Color. Curves. Triangles. Waves. Lines. Shapes. Repetition.

The red, white, and blue(s) ...

Now, besides that, and what made it all special to me, is what you can't see here.

It is what I saw while shooting it ... What I experienced in the viewfinder ...

Frame after frame, ten frames per second, flashing in front of my eye ... It was like one of those little "flip books" you made as a kid ... Or, in my case, tried to make.

Flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip, flip ...

Ten flips per second.

I can actually remember thinking that it looked cool while taking the pictures ... A moving picture show within the viewfinder ...

Now, I have been doing this awhile, but I can't remember ever seeing this before; not quite like this ...

I guess there is a difference between, what? 4.5 frames per-second (D90), 5 or 6 frames per- second (D7000), and 10 frames per-seconds (D500) ... I won't even go into my other cameras ...

You get the picture (get it?).

A BIG difference.

Moving pictures ...

These are only two ... Two still images of a moving subject.

Funny how that works ...

That is why I take pictures. There is always much more than the end results - The image, or images.

In this case, two hundred and forty-two images ...

Much more.

It is all about seeing the images, taking the images, the moments clicking by ...

Two hundred forty-two moments to be exact; two hundred forty-two images.

Moving shapes, still images.


The        Space Between

Yes, The Dave Matthews Band. I stole it. No, really, I just borrowed the title from one of their songs for this image.

The Space    Between ...

I also stole (borrowed) it from one of the articles from Outdoor Photographer ... You know, Columnist William Neill. He wrote about it, I am listening to the song as I type, and, well ...

The image.

I shot this about a month ago at South Mountain State Park while waiting for some former students to show up for a little get-together.

I have fished this stream for the past twenty something years ... This is "my" stream. My place.

This is also my image. My vision. My style. My art.

One of the first things I can remember learning about photography, art, whatever, was ... OK, let me think ...

I was working at N&W Camera in Augusta, Georgia ... So, it was 1984.

I learned this way back then ...


My photography students can tell you ... "Keep It Simple Stupid".

That's it.

Art 101.

Keep it simple ...

In doing what I do best, I kept it really simple, and short, and dropped the "stupid" thing ...

You know, to keep it even simpler.

And shorter.

Keep it Simple.

If I taught anything since 1984, that would be it. Not my THREE RULES. Not MY THREE BUTTONS. Just this ...

Keep it Simple.

That is art. That is photography.

That is this image.

A stream (with trout in it), and a tree (with trout below it).

That simple.

Yet look at how complex it is ...

Complex Simplicity.

Another one of my concepts that I have talked about, like forever!

In fact, I THINK I actually came up with this one all by myself. But I know, in actuality, I didn't.

I couldn't.

True, I can't remember reading about this term, hearing this term, this phrase, whatever ... No, I don't think I stole it from any European Neanderthal cave painter, Renaissance artist, photography icon, or modern day artist of any sort ...

No, I think I came up with the term myself. The concept, on the other hand, I KNOW I stole from someone, everyone.

That is how you become a photographer, an artist.

Everything you have ever seen, done, experienced, or even thought about, is what makes you, YOU.

The person. The artist.

I am a photographer because I drove a motorcycle. Period.

I am a artist because I took pictures while on motorcycle trips. Period.

I received my first camera while on my first cross-country motorcycle trip. It is that simple.

I knew nothing about cameras.

I knew nothing about art. Well, except about getting kicked out of art class, and that you can't color outside the lines ... You know, all the art I learned in school (before getting kicked out, that is).

And about that whole Space Between thing ...

Look at the space between the green leaves in the image above ...

No really, go ahead, I'll wait ... Scroll back up ...

That space makes this image ...

The contrast.

The contrast in color. The contrast in light and dark. The contrast in texture.

The contrast in the space between.

The difference in the space between.


The Zen in the Space Between ...

Oh Boy.

Now that is art. That is a whole class, no, make that a whole semester, during my graduate school days ...

My gosh, I am an artist! If I can come up with the above paragraph, that nails it. Finished. Done.

The cycle is complete.

From my first day in Grad school (1991, I think) when ... Oh, what was his name? The head of the department? Dr. Somebody ...

When he placed an African art piece thingy on the big table we were all sitting at, and started in about something to do with art, and I was like, "Say what"? "What is he talking about"? ...

Blah, blah, blah ... 

From then until now ...

That is art.

Seeing The Space Between ... The shapes, lines, colors, textures, contrast ...

That simple. That complex.

And the thing is, I knew that, but never really thought about it, once I actually learned it, that is.

That is art. That is becoming an artist. When you see, but don't think.

When you walk up by a stream that you have seen for years, and make an image, without really thinking about all the space between, the contrasts, the art ...

You just take a picture. Like you have thousands of times, hundreds of thousands of times, and never, ever, actually think about all that you are seeing and doing.

It is what you do. Who you are. Why you are there (NOT fishing).

Why you do what you do. Why you make (not just take) the images that you do.

And it is NOT  about the tree.

And it is NOT about the stream.

It is ALL ABOUT ...

The          Space           Between.

*** Got it! Dr. Mulvaney. The Head of the Art Department.



Lord Help Me

I collect cameras. Have for years. About thirty years, something like that.

One or two here and there ...

$5.00 here ... A gift there ...

Pretty low key.

At first.

Now? Not so much ... I have written about it before. 8"x10" wooden view camera (not too low key), 4"x5" Speed Graphic, several from my friend's
grandfather, dating back to WWII, and my uncle's donations, etc ...

The Polaroid SX-70 (a classic), from a yard sale while living in Germany (or was it Korea?), the Lego Camera from, yeah ... Adorama, several cameras from my college students over the years, and on and on ...

And me just hunting them down, all over the country, while driving back and forth across the United States over the years.

Thrift stores, and yard sales, from across this great county of ours.

Oh, and Russia.

Can't forget St. Petersburg, where I found the best rangefinder cameras I own ... German rip-offs like only the, then Soviets, could  have come up with. 

They are fake Leicas, called FED, in The Mother Country. Those are the initials of the head of the Secret Police, back in the day.

Stolen from the Germans during WWII. Yeah, really ...

Sitting here typing, I can count eighty-three (not counting my cell phone; its a phone), and that is just in the living room. And I might of missed one or two on the TV stand thing; they go way back ...

Then, there is up-stairs ... Ahh, maybe -- Wait, I'll go up and actually count them.

It might take awhile ...

OK. Fifty nine.

And remember, that does NOT include my "working cameras", the digital cameras I actually shoot with, day-to-day ...

No, those are not part of "The Collection". No, they are all in bags, and put up on a wooden shelf, in a way that only makes sense to me.

Yeah, I just cram them in there any way I can. Three shelves, stuffed full of LowePro (and a few other brands) bags of various size and shapes.

Over twenty-five DSLR cameras, all but one ... Nikon.

One lone, Canon DSLR, you know, from when I taught college classes, and some poor, lost, child showed up with "That Other Brand". I wanted to pretend I knew something about them ...

Then there are the non-DSLR type cameras ... The Point-n-Shoots, a couple of ... Well, I don't know what you call them ... Mid-range, non-DSLR, types of cameras, and ... 

My "favorite" -- The Nikon AW110, all-purpose, waterproof, camera that I don't leave home without.

Then, lets see ... Three or four other small, point-n-shoot cameras I kept at the middle school for years ... All set, and ready to go.

Cameras. I have a bunch of them.

So, what does all this have to do with the above image?

Oh Lord, not another one?

Yes, I was in one of the antique stores in downtown Lenoir, with my mother, looking for a  "new" reclining chair for her apartment, and ...

Yeah. There it was, in the "Back Room" (used to be the "Discount Room", but not anymore) with no price tag on it ...

That drives me nuts. Because, of course, once you pick it up, and take it out front, they KNOW you want it, and so ...

No. They wouldn't do that.

I asked. The lady at the desk then had to call the owner. Yeah ... She wasn't home.

She asked me for my phone number, but I just said I would check back with her ... No worries.

I'm not a big "Phone Person", as most of you know.

It took a week or so, but, once again, I found myself downtown Lenoir, with my mother, looking for that darn chair again (We finally just went to BIG LOTS, and bought her one. And yes, it fit in my Element) ...

And so I stopped in to see what ridiculous price they put on this old, beat-up camera, that I had never heard of ... LORD.

No, that's the name of the camera ... LORD.

It is right on the front of the camera ... I have no idea where it is made, or how old it is ...

Duh, I should of Googled it. Hold on ...

OK. "A lesser know Japanese camera company dating back to the mid-fifties".


Mid-1950s. Like me.

Well, except for the whole Japan thing. Although, I did live there for two years, you know, back in the day ... Mid-1970s.

Twenty years after the fact.



Are you kidding me? Five bucks? I thought for sure they were going to lay it on me, they had me just where they wanted me ... They knew I must be crazy to want a camera nobody had ever heard of before ...

Lord help me!

I got away with a ... Well, you know, an old camera from a company I had never heard of before.

Just what I wanted to pay for it ... Oh, yeah, I had to pay the taxes, but mom was there, with her little coin purse thingy, you know, another artifact from the mid-1950s, that nobody has ever heard of ... Gotta love it.

One more for the collection.

Headed over to Asheville tomorrow to pick-up another one ...

I was there last week picking up a few lenses for some other old cameras I have, and noticed they had an old film camera that I used to have years ago ... The Minolta 202.

Now I just knew I had one upstairs, or somewhere ... I had both the 101 and the 202 at one time. I mean, that I actually shot with back in the 1990s ... While I lived in Fort Sheridan, near Chicago.

Nope. I checked when I got home, and found out I have two Minolta 101 cameras, no 202.

Two Minolta 101 cameras?


So now, back I go to make things right with the world.

See, I am buying all the camera models I have owned over the years, but sold to buy newer models ...

Something I no longer do.

You know ... For the sake of My Collection.

Just one more ... I just gotta have it.

What good is the Minolta 101 without the Minolta 202?

Yeah, you understand, you get it ...

I knew I wasn't the only one ...

Lord help me.


Slow it Down

I "always" keep my shutter speed up there when shooting wildlife.

Stop the Blur. Keep it Sharp. Stop the Motion. Freeze the Action. Open-Up the Lens. Use the Fastest Shutter Speed Possible.

Just do whatever it takes to keep the main subject sharp. 


OK. I can do that.

I have done it for years.

I follow orders. I'm a Marine.

Until I wasn't.

In case you are not sure, I got out of the Marines in 1979.

2 Mar 79 (that's how we do things) to be exact.

Ahh, like, last century ...

But I still follow orders. Most of the time. You know what they say ...

Once a Marine, Always a Marine.

Just older. And slower. And fatter. And ...

Well, anyways ...

I was up in Pulaski, NY sitting in front of an osprey nest for a total of about three days ... Give or take.

I shot hundreds of images ... And no, I won't bring up the fact that my new camera shoots at ten frames per second again ...

But it does.

I shot a lot.

And speaking of speed, with my new Nikon D500, I also went with Lexar cards ... Yeah, something new for me.

I have used SanDisk since I first got into digital over twelve years ago. CF cards, then SD cards, then the newer (at that time) SDHC cards.


Unless I bought something else.

Which I did.

But, you know, I like SanDisk.

But with the new camera, I bit the bullet, and went with the new 16 GB ... wait! No, the new 32 GB Lexar XQD card.

Yeah ... 32 GB! Are you kidding me? I even surprise myself sometimes.

First off, what the heck is a XQD card? Never heard of it. Sounds weird to me. But this is 2017, what can I say? I joined the 21st Century.

And get this ... The camera also supports a SDHC card. Two different slots. One for the XQD card, and one for the SDHC card.


And yes, just to keep everything simple, I went with the Lexar 32 GB SDHC card as well. You know, I didn't want to jinx anything.

Bad karma.

Me? The 4 GB King, going big time. 32 GB? Crazy. Totally wild.

Do the math. Eight times more data. I like this new math stuff ...

Now that I'm retired.

How do they do that? The 32 GB SDHC card is the exact same size as my old 4GB cards ... Magic, I guess.

True, this new XQD (I have to look at the card, which is right in front of me, every time I write down those three letters) is a bit different ... Larger (and fatter, I mean, thicker) than the SDHC cards, but smaller, and thinner than the CF cards. Again, weird.

Something about speed ... Sounds good to me.

Write-Speed. All I know is that it is fast. Faster than my D300, or the newer D300S, which this camera replaced (It took a LONG time!).

Glad I wasn't in any hurry. 

Fast. Faster. Plus, a little faster than that, if that is possible.

It is.

OK, it is fast, we got that.

Faster, as in focus. Faster, as in write-speed, which to me, means getting all that darn digital stuff, whatever it is, onto the card, and moving on to the next image ...

That fast.

Period. Move on. Keep shooting. Hold that sucker down ...


And I see the results in these new images ...

Combine that speed with continuous focus-tracking, and it is ... You know, FASTER.

Faster focus, faster write-speed, and sharper images. Magic.

I have used the older model cameras for so long, I am, and I'm not making this up ... As I'm writing this, Neil Young is on my TV Music Choice singing "Like a Hurricane" ... Singing about "Being blown away"!


I'm blown away, alright, by how well this new camera works ...

"Like a hurricane".

Look at this image.

After a few hundred images shot at wide-freakin'-open, I said to myself, "Self, close that puppy down, let's go for the Notion of Motion effect."

Blur the subject. Well, no ... Blur some aspect of the subject, like, the moving parts of the subject, but keep the rest of it sharp, you know, so you can tell what it is.

Have SOMETHING sharp ...

Stop action/Blurred action.


There is a fine line between The Notion of Motion, and being blurred. Or blurrrrrrred. Or, just plain, out of focus.

Or being a bad shot. Crap. Period.

Walk that fine line ...

Shoot. Close down your lens. Shoot again. Go from f5.6 to f8. Or even f11 (bigger number, smaller opening). Yes, you can try f16, f22, whatever you got.

You got it, try it. That simple.

But, like most things in life (except owning cameras), use moderation.

Or not.

Try it, you just might like it. If not, delete it, and keep your mouth shut, no one will ever know how wild you really are.

I was just going to go, check the numbers, and give you all the data ... Shutter speed, aperture, ISO, lens length, etc ... The Data for this image.

But, you know me, heck with that crap, it means nothing, unless you were right there with me, in that light, with that lens, with that ISO, that aperture, my tripod, etc ...


That's another reason I retired, but don't get me started ... Just let me teach.

Oh wait, we're talking about osprey ... And photography. And cameras.

Just go out, use the gear you have (that is ALWAYS the best gear), and shoot away.

Try different setting. Its cheap. See what works for you, at that time, in that light, with that lens, that aperture, that tripod (or not), etc  ...

That's how it works.

That's how you play. That's how you learn.

That's how  I got this shot, this image ...


Play with your aperture to get the shutter speed you want. The shutter speed you think will give you the effect you want. Change it. Shoot. Check the results. Shoot again.

And yes, wait until the action is over until you "chimp", or review, your images!

Shoot now, look at results later.

That said, just shoot. Be in the moment.

Photo Zen.

I didn't even know I had this shot, until I got home, and went through the images on the computer.

Hey, I never saw my slides (that is film, in case you were wondering) for a week or so, it won't kill you.

That said, yes, shoot, look, adjust, shoot some more ... No worries.

It's not like I'm there looking over your shoulder ... Shoot, shoot, shoot, worry about me later.

After awhile, you'll forget I'm even there ...

Motion in a still image ... After all these years, it is still magical to me.

Crazy really ... The osprey's eye is sharp, the body is sharp, the wing tips are not sharp, they're, like, MOVING (but they're really not, it's a STILL image)!


Glad I thought about breaking all those weird rules ...

Magic happens.

Try some magic the next time you are out shooting, just be sure to obey all the rules ... For a little while anyways.

Or not.




Green and Black 

Woods tend to be green.

The trees are green. The ferns are green. The grass is green.

The woods surrounding my Uncle's Camp are green.


Well, no. Really they are green and black.

Light and shadow.

Light hitting green plants, and black shadows where the light does not hit the green plants.

Black and Green.

Green and Black.

My Uncle's Woods.

Up-State New York, just South East of Mannsville, NY, just inside Northern Oswego County. Up on Tug Hill, surrounded by State Forests ... An island of manicured woods, within, you know, regular woods.

Nice place. Nice woods.

But you know that, well, if you have read my BLOG before, you know that. I have been staying up there for a week, or so, during the summer, for years now.

I drive up Hessel (yes, one "L") Road, past my great-grandfather's, then grandfather's, house, through the woods, go straight through an intersection (like in the middle of nowhere!), and then turn right onto a no-name path, through some tall pine trees ...

Not a road really, but by now, a path ... A single lane path ... Two tire tracks through the woods, the tall pines ...

Drive past his original camp, The Red Camp (1970), through a little gate, past a large clock, through a small little stream (when it rains every day), past his real camp (The Blue Camp), past the large yellow, A-Frame, with the little metal fence and arched gate out front (Yes, you guessed it, The Yellow Camp).

Just past that, the next right, is where I "camp". Park really. I just stop, and park. Then take a few minutes to transform my Honda Element (The Element Camp, if it ever really did have a cool camp nick-name, which it doesn't) into my living quarters, and then I walk over to the next building, across a nice mowed yard ...

"The Work Camp". The one with the mailbox out front.

The place where everything revolves around. The Work Bench. The Wood Stove (trash can for everything that burns), the small Gas-Refrigerator, and cupboards after cupboards of tools, and more tools ...

And in one corner, the gas-generator. Plus, a small, no, make that a not so small, gas-heater (Whoa, that works fast!).   A weed-eater. A chainsaw. A bow-saw. A pair of "nippers" ...

A case of beer. Bottles of water.

And several spare-parts, to all the above mentioned tools ... And, most importantly, a table, with four chairs, smack-dab in the middle of the whole thing ...

Camp. The Work Camp.

Picture yourself there in July.

If you look out the windows, you would see ... Green.

And black.

Light. Shadow.

Light hitting green stuff, black shadows where the light is not hitting green stuff.

That simple.

Oh, and quiet.

But you can't see quiet. Sorry, got carried away there.

And quiet. But again, you know what I mean ...

All you hear is quiet. Except for when my uncle and I are talking.

And if we aren't sitting there talking?

OK, maybe a few birds ...

But all you would really hear is the new, old looking, well used, weed-eater, just wailin' away, hour after hour ...

And an old, no, I mean, really, really, old lawn mower, transformed into just an old "tractor" (by removing the whole mowing thing from underneath) just running around, hauling loads of brush to the 
burning piles, up near the old burning cart thingy, which is set up, just off the "road", at The Work Camp.

Those are the sounds of the woods, my Uncle's Woods, when he is up there, and it is not raining. 


Gas-powered power tools, for grown men, and his nephew (For a week anyways).

If I show up, and he is not in, or at, the Work Camp by some chance ... I just stop, and listen.

Oh, he's got to over there, by the old Phone Booth (Yeah, a real phone booth). Or, he must be really out back, by the Road Sign, or no, he must be out by the bench on Bullshit Hill, weed-eatin' the Lower Forty.

That is how it goes ...

"Past the South Jefferson Road Sign, turn left, past the  Chinese Statues, over by the Brass Kettle, next to the Gnome, and his little bridge" ...

So on and so forth ...

Directions: From Point A to wherever my uncle happens to be working at any given moment. 

That is how you find my uncle.

Follow the sound of the weed-eater.


When he leaves for the night, and I am not following him around the woods (I drive the "tractor", he walks), I follow the light ...

I was going to write, "The sound of light", but no, that's not right.

No, I just follow the light.

I look for light and shadows. Green and black.

I make images.

I look for images.

Green, and black, images.

Speaking of which:

First image (Top Image): Green Lines.

I saw these when I was looking out the door, while listening to my uncle's stories ... They are lined right up with the door, and "my" chair.

Light and shadow. Green and black.

The teacher in me wants to write:

Green is to Black, as Light is to _________? 

But I'm retired now, so I'll just go ahead and tell you.

Green is to Black, as Light is to Shadow.

Which takes us to the second image: The green, hostas plant thingy (Did I spell that right?) ...

This is just off the side of the back porch of The Work Camp.

The light was getting low in the sky, shining right onto the green plants ...

Green lines.

Green shapes.

And their shadows ... The black.

"The Negative Space".

Never overlook what is NOT in your image. Very important. In fact, it is often just as important as what actually is in the image.

A green plant (something) and the black shadow (nothing).

Green (and black) Zen.

Which brings us to the third image ...

I was showing my uncle my new Nikon D500 (and explaining that it is the first, real, new, brand new, camera that I have bought in  thirteen years), and he asked me, "What makes it different from the other, older, cameras you own"?

He knows I have LOTS of "old cameras".

Good question (He has LOTS of good questions).

I told him.

"Speed" (I have lots of clever, one-word, answers).

And as I said this, I let 'er rip ...

The camera, that is ...

Ten frames per-second. Just like that ...

And this is just one of the resulting images (Ahh, there were more than ten, trust me).

I just pointed the 900mm lens out the door (towards the light), and fired away ... You know, for the sound effects ... Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam. Bam ... For a few seconds ... Bam. Bam. Bam ... 

Never looked to see what I was actually pointing at (the poach railing, with the yard, and ferns, in the background) or cared.

The sound, baby, the sound ..................................

Then I looked down, and saw the resulting images ...

Green, abstract, swirls of light thingys ... A bunch of 'em ... Green, green, green ... Swirls.

Abstract, Green, Light Swirls, Art.

I loved it. My uncle thought I was crazy ...

But he knew that already. He knows me.

He knows my passion. He understands my passion.

He gets me.

He is the one that helped me build my Camera Obscura a few years ago, and has given me a few cameras for my collection over the years ... He was an antique dealer, and silver-plater for most of his life, he knows passion ...

He's an artist.

Like me.

Except he smokes cigars.

I don't.

Although ... After a week up in the woods with him, I must admit, I did begin to smell like one ...

But, it keeps the mosquitoes away.

Really. True fact.

But only if I stay inside the building ... Outside?

All bets are off. It is a War Zone up there ... All that rain. Standing water. Heat.

Look at the Light. Get Closer. Shoot lots of Images.

And ...

Run like Hell.

Back to the "Work Camp" and its smell, its odor.

Its protection.

Ahhhhhhhhh ... The Work Camp.





The Eye

I made it to New York!

My sister had to come down to watch after her adorable grandchildren, so I had the chance to drive up to Richland, NY to photograph my osprey nest just outside of town.

Did I say my? My nest?

Sorry ... Their osprey nest. I have been photographing this nest for the past, what? Five years? Seven?

The past few years.

You know ... Time flies while you're having fun.

Oh, and I also spent a week in my Uncle's camp up in the State Forest just outside of Mannsville, NY.

You know about that too ...

Same thing. I have been staying up there for a few years as well ... But, that is another story ...

I believe I told you about my new (like, BRAND SPANKIN' NEW) Nikon D500.



For someone that mainly shoots with the Nikon D90, it is literally like night and day.


Ten-frames a second, fast.

Fast focus. Oh, and actuate. Fast, actuate, focus ... BAM!

I like it.

That is why I took it up there. The nest. The osprey. The osprey landing in it's nest.


Did I mention ten-frames per second?

Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast. Fast.

Faster than you can read that ...

That fast.

OK, you get the point.

I was in New York ten days (yes, that fast!) ... It rained, like, eight. Clouds. Rain.  More rain. Clouds. Rain.

"Partly cloudy. Chance of rain."

EVERY day I was up to camp.


But, before that ... First two days at my sister's house in Richland, no images.

I went to the nest ...

I, well ... I didn't do much.

I found out that there was one chick. It was BIG by the time I got up North this summer, but it wasn't flying yet.

Yes, another photographer stopped by ... Like, the first time ever! He brought me up to speed. He shot with a Canon (white lens) with a camo lens cover from inside his truck ... The "regular" camo, I was in the Marine Corps, so I went with the military digital camo that is all the rage (well, to me anyways) ...

I didn't even haul out the big gun ... The Nikkor 300mm f2.8 with the 2X converter, mounted on a big Gitzo tripod.

Naw ... Clouds. Like, covering the whole sky type of clouds ... Gray skies.

I took a few shots with my Canon D60, with its little bitty 18-135mm lens.

A small gun. Pistol really.


But it did give me a nice gray exposure ... Something like 18% gray, to be, sort-of, kind-of correct.

Gray. No, I won't even go into the details about the other 49 shades of gray that were in the sky that day ... That week.


So, after two nights on the couch at Nancy and Dan's house, off to the woods I went.

And, like I said ...

"Partly cloudy, chance of rain".

I spent six nights, seven days, up in "MY ELEMENT" and ... Well, worked with the chain saw one day. One time.

Really. Too wet when it rained, and too wet after it rained, to do any work in the wet woods.

I did take him to Watertown and Adams one day ... You know, to pick up his medicine. Just like with his sister, my mom, down here in Hudson/Lenoir.

Now, I did burn a nice pile of branches that my uncle had piled up for me, you know, to have a hot meal a couple of those nights, but that was about the extent of work we got accomplished that week.


Oh, that, and, well ... Talk.

And ask questions that we couldn't answer ... (which Jennifer was so kind to reply to ...). Our "Google It Girl".

Yes, my "dumb phone" works up in the woods ... I even talked to mom one time, if I stood in just the right spot and ... Well, moved here, moved there. But, it worked, that's all I can say.

My brother? Not so lucky. Not so much. I tried everything, but just had to text. That's all that worked.

Anyway ...

Drove back down to Richland after a great week with my uncle. Did I mention it was quiet up there at night?

No? It is. Like crazy quiet ...

Well, I'll talk about that next time ...

Back to our little feathered friends along the Salmon River ...


Blue sky.



Up goes the tripod and lens ...

Wait for it ...

OK, they were all out and about.

The chick, was, like, as big as the parents, and out flying around like he had been doing it for all of, what? A week?

Love it.

I can never tell who is who ... But you already know that.

Flying, landing, flying some more ... Calling out. Waiting.

Ten frames per second.

To give you some idea of what I was going through, my old, trusty, D90 shoots at, what? Four? Four frames per-second.

My D300, and D300S, shoots at eight. I almost forgot. I have peed my pants over that, for what? The past few years ... Seven? Eight?

I don't know. A long time.

So, there I was ...

One of the osprey comes in, fire away! I just held the shutter release down ... One-one thousand, two-one thousand, three ...

Get real!

Four. Five ...

Do the math ...

Ten. Twenty. Thirty. Forty. Fifty.

Fifty shots in five-seconds. Five times one, bring down the zero ...

What comes after peeing your pants?

That fun. That fast. That quick.

Let 'er rip ...

Blue sky. Osprey. Ten frames per-second.


I have images ... Oh, and did I mention I had the camera set to continuous focus? Yeah. The camera/lens tracks the bird while it is in motion ... Go figure.

Welcome to the 21st century.

Ten, FOCUSED, images of an osprey landing at it's nest, or in this case, taking off, from it's nest ...

Wait! I mean, fifty. Fifty, well focused, images ...

BAM. BAM. BAM. And on, and on, and on ...

Here are a couple of images ... Well, two anyways.

Two images that say all there is to say about why I bought a new camera.

True, the lens is nice, and I have covered that before ...

But, it does deserve some attention.

The first shot is as it came out of the camera ... "The Digital Negative".

No crop. No nothing.

Of all the images, and there were a lot. BAM! I liked this one.

The moment. The wings. The framing. The eye ...

Just taking off for another flight ...

Not the chick. That I know. The male or the female parent ... Which?  I have no clue.

I got a bunch of images of this particular take-off ... And this one shot caught my eye.

Well, the osprey's eye, but you know what I mean ...

I even zoomed in on the back of the camera, right there along the road, to see what my mind's eye wanted me to see, if I had a 900mm, f5.6, lens for an eye.

I don't.

My left-eye, that is. I shoot with my left eye.

And, I just thought of this, it is the bird's left eye as well ...

I have no idea what that is all about, but, well, anyways ...

I zoomed in on the display screen and saw what I wanted to see, but couldn't.

The eye.

Under the wings. Framed by the wings.

And it is SHARP. In-focus.

That is the lens.

The whole "framed by the wings" thing? That is the camera. The focus. The speed.

The moment. A moment frozen in time. Forever.

The lens. The camera.

It takes two to ... No, I'll just stop there ... My mind works in strange ways. Always going for the pun, the clever catch-phrase of the day, the one-liner ...

It always has.

You should of heard me in sixth grade. Eighth. A senior? Oh, please ...

Even worse, years later (there was a twenty year gap) ... In MY classroom. It got worse as the years flew by ...

In the middle school, AND, at the college.

"It takes two to Tango" ... There, I said it. Sorry, I couldn't resist.

But I digress.

Once again ...

The lens and the camera.

The glass and the motordrive.

That is what this shot, this image,  is all about.

Big glass (900mm) and big burst speed (again, TEN frames per second).

Now, true ...

Ten frames per second is not the top-of-the-line, earth shattering speed ...

I know.

I had a student in my class once, with a Nikon D3. Ahh, something like, twelve frames per second ...

A machine gun.

Or, was it fourteen? Whatever, it was FAST!

Remember, this is me. School teacher. RETIRED school teacher.

Four frames per-second for the past, what? Thirteen years? Eight frames per-second for the past two? Three?

The speed, and the sharpness, of this new camera just blows my mind.

Now, the second image ... Oh, wait ... I have to mention ... Did you notice the claws, I mean, talons?


But, back to the second image ...

The EYE.

That is just a very small portion of the original (top image), 20 mega-pixel file.

Like, cropped big time. I just dug in there and cropped ...



That is technology. That is a new camera. And yes, a great lens.

And the speed. Not top-notch, cutting edge speed, but, pretty darn close. Pretty darn good.

I'll say it one more time ...

Ten frames per-second.

With super-fast focus. Tack sharp.

Together, they made for a really great time up in Pulaski, sitting on the tailgate of my Element (with a pillow, of course) ... Just waiting. Watching. Waiting some more. Hoping. Wishing. Coaxing.

"Fly osprey fly" ... Please? One more time.

So I can pee my pants ... One more time.

Wait for it ...

Tee-Hee ...

That good. That fast.

Glad I could finally retire.

But no, I will have to wait a few more months for that ... Heck, I have "retired" every year for the past twenty-four years ...

For a couple of months anyways.

No, it won't be until October, when I am down on South Georgia Island, looking through my viewfinder at, what? Half a million Emperor Penguins, that I will really, truly, comprehend the fact I'm retired.

Really retired.

And no, I won't need 900mm of glass, or that ten frames per-second speed ... They are close, and they are slow (on land, anyways).

No, I won't be worried about that. I will be worried about that whole peein' my pants thing ...

The Falkland Islands, South Georgia Island (NOT Georgia, as in The United States. No, no, much, much farther south), and Antarctica. Three weeks.  

Then, and only then, will I know that I'm really retired. 

October? November? During the school year? Not during Easter, or Christmas, or Summer Break?

No way.