Valley of Fire

Photographic Journey

  • Fri, 09 Jul 2021 21:40:49 +0000

    South Africa – Safari Workflow
    Night 1 at Marataba Conservation Camp – SO MUCH TO LEARN!

    I read, I planned, I watched and I read some more… Then I had to learn and find what worked for what I had and what I could bring with me. Workflow while on a Safari in a remote area is different. Early mornings and early evenings with limited technology to what you can bring can strain a “typical” workflow.

    My intent was broken down into minimizing complexity and maximizing security. The last thing I wanted was the memories of a trip of a lifetime being lost due to a bad decision or confusion.

    On my workstation at home, I have 2 computers, 3 monitors, clear and well laid out peripherals with backups happening automatically of all computer based data. During a safari? Not so much.

    The basics behind my workflow were to shoot images to dual (XQD / SD) mirrored slots in my Nikon D850. That would give me immediate field “backup”. I chose to use 64GB cards so that any major or catastrophic failure would be minimized to a few hundred images. With XQD Cards (and now CF Express) remaining fairly pricy and not many issues with SD Card speeds, I chose to use a 1 to 1 ratio through 2 cards each trip out. This allowed me to safely shoot nearly 1,200 images per drive.

    I brought 24 SD Cards and 2 XQD’s. The SD’s were all pre-formatted in the camera body and placed in a Black Pelican carrying case. Once full or once the game drive was complete for that session, they were write protected and placed into a Red Pelican carrying case.

    The XQD card was copied to a 2TB SanDisk Extreme SSD storage drive and that file was then imported into Adobe Lightroom via “Cope with DNG” on a 13″ Apple MacBook Pro.

    Once I verified that the original image was on the SSD Drive and the DNG file was imported into Lightroom, the XQD card was put back into rotation with an in camera formatting.

    Although it may sound complex reading through it, it isn’t much of a variation of my typical workflow other than the permanent storage on the SD Cards.

    In the end, it worked well and there isn’t much I would change other than more XQD cards to put into that rotation.

  • Wed, 09 Jan 2019 14:50:19 +0000

    You don’t need to spend a fortune…
    minnehaha iiiTaken with my RX100M3 Point & Shoot Camera – Built in ND Filter on a small Gorilla tripod

    This images wasn’t captured on a full frame DSLR or Mirrorless camera.  It wasn’t shot with a Carbon Fiber Tripod with a handmade stainless steel ball head or a integrated remote trigger.  I get this question quite a bit and most assume that without spending thousands on a room of lenses and camera bodies, that framable images aren’t possible.

    For personal photographs that are “framable” art for your home, there are so many amazing choices in hand held / point & shoot cameras.  There are certainly varying ranges that you can spend as well.  Even your iPhone or Android based phone are getting to the point where you can capture amazing images, edit them “in phone” and publish them to various social media AND print physical photos that are more than suitable for framing.

    I personally have two of these options in my “bag”, my iPhone 8 Plus and a Sony RX100M3 Point & Shoot camera.

    The RX100M3 has gone through several iterations that Sony continues to produce starting with the M1 in 2012 and most recently the M6 (June of 2018).  In my very short opinion, if you don’t do much in the way of video, the M3 is nearly a perfect P&S camera. The latest M6 announced lost the low end aperture of 1.8 now starting at 2.8 and jumping quickly above that with even the slightest zoom off the base 24mm. (it does however zoom to 200mm)

    The M3/4/5 also contain a built in 3 stop ND filter that is easily accessible and automatically deploys in Shutter Priority mode when the exposure calls for it.  (not the same as placing a 3-Stop ND Breakthrough Photography filter on the end of your lens, but effectively equivalent!)

    With all of that, there are limitations of the sensors and quality.  RAW vs. jpg for one will allow (or restrict) your ability to do any meaningful post processing.  The best iPhone images will top out at 16×20 and some will be pushed too far at even that size.  I have 9′ images that came from my D850 and with post processing a few that could be printed with great quality up to 20′ wide.  As I’m sure that you can imagine that there is really NO reason for an everyday image to have that level of detail.

    In the end, just have a camera with you, take pictures that engage your mind and spirit and if something comes out great, put it on your wall to enjoy!

  • Mon, 31 Dec 2018 21:14:01 +0000

    “That was photoshopped…”

    … or “Did you use a filter on that?”

    We see this all too often and it really shows that so many haven’t really understood photography for too long.  The no-filter, no PhotoShop crew that believes that there is something inherently better in an image that (they believe) has not been manipulated in any way.

    ArcolaSlow shutter speed – over 4 minutes!!  Is that “Photoshopped”? 😉

    I read this nearly every day on images created by incredible photographers (and on my images as well).  What is interesting is that those making the comments are missing the fact that photography is not simply a press of a button and every instance comes out the same.

    Now I understand and appreciate, that many photographers push their “as seen through the camera” artwork.  It is great for marketing and creates the “image” that these photographers are somehow in amazing places at just the right time as the individual acquiring their work.  It “sells”…

    Ok, on to the discussion points!

    Digital vs. Film –

    Many are very quick to comment that “before digital we shot film and what you shot was what you got!”  Um… wrong!  Why then were there 100’s of film types with various ISO’s and different saturations by different manufacturers.  I shot Fuji Velvia 50 almost exclusively for anything non-human above the water and Ektachrome for UW images (and oddly, used flashes and red filters there due to the suppression of red wavelengths) For portrait photography I loved Kodachrome while I could get it and at times switched over to photo-negative shooting as well.  All of that JUST covers the file in this argument! Printing was (is) also done on different papers, with different dyes with dodging and burning and different chemicals.  All resulting in a better image (without Photoshop)

    Cameras & Sensors –

    Every camera that is available from any manufacturer is going to capture a scene differently.  12MP, 24MP, 48MP… all different.  CMOS, CCD, Foveon and other sensors.  Pixel demosaicing… it goes on and on!

    Did you know that the sensors themselves “interpret” the color transition over their surface?  That is, each pixel on a sensor only reads one color, so it look to its friends next door to really figure out what color it is “seeing”.  Also, there is something going on where red pixels are not welcome as there are far fewer red sensing pixels on most sensors that green or blue!?  Again, it’s a computer deciding what you see and thus what it thinks the best version of the image should be!

    Jpg vs. RAW

    Algorithms; you hear this all of the time, but anyone shooting images in the jpg format is really seeing images as the cameras firmware “believes” the image should be portrayed.  That’s right, its “manipulated”, i.e. “Photoshopped”, right there in your camera!!  Try taking 5 different point-and-shoot cameras out, take the same exact picture.  Not one will match any of the other 4!!  The cameras imaging firmware will do its best to not only capture the scene, but it will do all that it can to make the scene appealing.  (they need to sell cameras after all).  Each manufacturer has its leanings with respect to saturation, contrast, clarity etc., and they are all different.  All resulting in a better image (without Photoshop)

    So what is RAW format?  “My camera has it but the images come out flat and boring!” RAW format in its simplest form is just that, the image captured by the sensor of the camera in its raw form with no in-camera algorithms, no color management added etc.  It is the raw data of the image that the camera saw through the lens.  It is the ONLY format that I shoot in.  (actually, I’m a Nikon guy, so I shoot in NEF which is then converted by Lightroom when I import the files into my digital studio). I then apply the color correction (typically Adobe Landscape), curve modification (scene based) and lens corrections that are needed to best represent the scene that I am looking to share!


    Ever heard of optical compression?  Take a 500mm lens and take a photo of a house with the moon behind it.  The moon is going to look HUGE!!  Get really close to the house and take the same picture so that the house is the same size and the moon will be a blip in the background.  Image manipulation, plain and simple.  Wide Angle, Natural field of view, Telephoto, Macro and even phase-shift lenses manipulate the end product in a way that is more appealing.  All resulting in a better image (without Photoshop)

    April Frost-2Macro Lens (Nikon 60mm 2.8D Micro)

    Camera settings

    Why have cameras always had at a minimum the 3 basics, Aperture, Shutter Speed and ISO settings?  To manipulate the image to a more appealing result without the use of Photoshop!  Do you need to make the primary subject stand out, wide open aperture will make the subject jump out from an out of focus background.  Need to capture a fast moving subject with a crystal clear image?  Super fast shutter speed.  Its dark out, High ISO…  All resulting in a better image! (without Photoshop)

    Wrap it up soapbox guy…

    The thought that an image is inherently better because there was no filter or not subject to post processing in Lightroom/Photoshop/On1 etc. is simply naive as to the history of image creation. Photoshop (Lightroom, etc.) provide the photographer to achieve most of these results in post processing without the headaches of the film based past!  I still shoot 4×5, Medium format and 35mm film with just about every camera that you can think of and some that you likely didn’t know existed!


    Photoshop is NOTHING MORE than a digital darkroom!  People that are skilled with its tools will do nothing but create a pleasing image that represents what was in front of them when they pushed that little button.

    Ok, so can it be overdone? Absolutely!  In the Instragram/Facebook world of marketing and likes, it is clear that over saturated images of specific scenes garner much more attention that a high quality, artistic image.  But those will not sell and you will never see them hanging on a wall in a prominent location to be enjoyed.

    My own images have very clear metrics that are so telling that it modifies my complete marketing approach!  Oversaturated, pink sunrise/sunset images CRUSH the metrics on social media.  I have NEVER sold a single image of a pink sunrise or sunset.  Not ONE!

    Using Photoshop as a just that a Digital Darkroom and Studio is nothing more than selecting a film type, print paper and processing details in the past.  Images have always been “Photoshopped” and always will be, and the skill today is no different than the skill in the past to present an amazing end product.  Only the technology has changed.

  • Sat, 17 Feb 2018 15:37:08 +0000

    What we see vs. what the camera see’s…

    So many times you hear “that’s been Photoshop’d” or simply “its not real”…  Well, that’s all true with 99.9% of images that you see or buy out there today.  The fact is, any camera that is shooting a JPEG image is taking the raw data and applying color corrections to make the scene look like what the camera thinks it should look like.  So yes, they are all “photoshopped”!

    Ansel Adams would spend hours in the darkroom “dodging” and “burning” his images to get the perfect balance that he was looking for in his images.  Clearly this was LONG before any digital options were available.

    The issue is that a camera can only capture a singular perspective of a scene.  Our eyes adjust nearly instantaneously when looking out over the hoodoos of Bryce Canyon or the varied geological colors of the grand canyon.  Our eyes shift in what they allow in as the darks of the canyons are viewed and then “stop down” when we raise our gaze to the bright clouds lit by the setting sun… so, here comes “Photoshop”

    Here is a raw image that was taken with my Nikon (91.37 MB file, 8256 x 5504 pixels).  In this image, the camera captures all that it “sees” and does nothing to “Post-process” the image… this is ONLY what the camera sees, not what it “thinks” it sees.

    Lafayette Morning ii raw

    This is NOT what I saw that morning… it is the best setting (from my perspective) to capture the focus of the scene, which on this day was the sunlit clouds of the sunrise.

    So, for fun, I asked Lightroom to tell me what it “thinks” the photo should look like.  So, with a click of the “Auto” button in the develop module – a slight bump in exposure, a little drop in contrast, an increase in shadow detail, big drop in highlights, a slight bump in Whites, a little drop in Blacks, and a touch of added vibrance and saturation, Lightroom says “this is what the image” should look like.

    Lafayette Morning ii auto jpg

    Again, not what I saw that morning, but certainly better than the “RAW” version.

    So, into Lightroom I go and start with the RAW file.  Every photographer or artist or whatever you would like to call us has a “Workflow” that they utilize to get to an draft image.  After those sequenced steps, then the art takes over. What does the artist like? What does the artists collectors like?  Will this be a “show” image or a “Gallery” image.  Is this an attention getter for online advertising (if so, blow the crud out of saturation and vibrance, get as much pink in there as possible and make absolutely certain that contrast is kicked!!)  Same image, different perspective.

    For this image, my end goal was simply sharing online through my Facebook and Instagram feeds and various groups.  So.. here is where I landed.

    Lafayette Morning ii

    This is how my mind remembers that morning.  Is it any different than a painter recapturing a memory?  It is real, no doubt about that.  I do not add objects or colors to my images, but I do manipulate the underlying color spectrum to get to that memory.

  • Fri, 13 Oct 2017 19:53:47 +0000

    So, what’s in my bag?

    As I share with my collectors, other enthusiasts and even more-so, people who are looking to get into photography, one of the questions that is nearly inevitable is “What kind of camera do you use?”

    Oddly, with photography you would think that would be a simple response and one that is given quite often is “The one you have with you!”.  Or the ever popular “It isn’t the camera, its the photographer!”.  While both of these responses certainly have some merit, the first is limited to a behavior of always having your camera with you and the second is certainly subjective. But both are 100% correct! This is my stuff that I am comfortable with. Some of it is pushing 30 years old and still producing amazing images!

    What do I use?  Here is a rather exhaustive list:

    • Nikon D850
    • Nikon D810
    • Nikon 70-200 2.8 FE
    • Nikon 80-200 2.8D
    • Nikon 16-35 4.0
    • Sigma 50mm 1.4DG ART
    • Nikon 60mm Micro 2.8D
    • Nikon 24mm 2.8D
    • Sony RX100M3
    • Nikon 35ti
    • Mamiya 220
    • Nikonos V (w/24 and 35mm Lenses)
    • iPhone 8+
    • DJI Spark Drone
    • MindShift BackLight 26L – This is my bag!
    • Manfrotto 055 Carbon Tripod
    • Acratech GP Ball Head
    • Breakthrough Photography X4 ND6 & ND10 Filters
    • Breakthrough Photography X4 UV Filters
    • Breakthrough Photography X4 CP Filters
    • MIOPS SMART Remote trigger
    • SMDV-RFN-4s Remote trigger
    • Apple iMac for social media and marketing
    • Apple MacBook Pro 15″ 2017 for post processing
    • LG Ultrafine 4G 21″ display
    • Apple iPad Pro
    • Adobe Lightroom
    • Adobe Bridge
    • Adobe Photoshop
    • Wacom Intuos PT-451

    Those are the primary items that get regular use.  I have all of my images printed by a 3rd party printer with full color matching on calibrated monitors.  I do have a small Canon printer for test images and such.

    That is the list that works for me and certainly doesn’t mean that you need that much stuff, or that you can’t have a completely different portfolio of tools at your disposal.  That is what works for me.

    As always, if you have any questions, please reach out and ask!  Happy shooting!

  • Wed, 31 May 2017 14:38:42 +0000

    Getting off the ground – filtering through thousands of images

    So, you are thinking of “going live” with a photography business?

    Come back soon for details of how I filtered through 55,000 images and thousands of strips of film and slides to review.  I ended up with just over 2,000 in my “active” portfolio and the remainder went to archives.


  • Fri, 07 Apr 2017 23:41:27 +0000

    Getting your photography business started – a base level primer

    Getting things organized, cataloged, choosing a name, choosing a domain host, choosing a web provider… and you haven’t even touched the business side of things yet!!

    We’ll go into each of these in laters posts, but to start, I thought it would be interesting to create a short bullet list of the “minimum” that is needed enable a photographic journey. (assuming you want to make some side cash with this amazing hobby)

    From personal experience, there are steps you can take early on that will make your life much simpler in the long run.  But here are the “steps” that I took to get to a point where I could “turn” my photography passion into a business. (I’ll go into more detail for each of these in individual blog posts)

    • Take photos – you will need these!  😉
      • seems simple, but always have one camera with you.  Anymore that is simple with the inclusion of cameras in phones that beat the digital capabilities of solid point & shoot cameras of just a few years ago.
    • Review your “current portfolio” – you don’t want everything in a few steps
      • for me, that meant sifting through over 55,000 digital images and thousands of strips of film and slides
    • Choose your photo management and editing system
      • although you can always change later, it isn’t as easy as it seems
    • Get the “Business” started
      • LLC, DBA, Licenses, COA, Sole Proprietor, EBT… if you don’t know these acronyms or how they might effect you… slow down!!  you need to know this stuff to stay out of trouble later
    • Choose your marketing approach
      • you will need a website – tons of options, I have my preferences
      • physical gallery?
      • social media
    • Build your website
      • what to display
      • how to display
      • how to sell
      • how to collect payment
    • Build your social media accounts
      • Facebook
      • Instagram
      • Pintrest
      • Twitter
      • WordPress
      • … more based on market
    • Build content
      • good to have about 6 months of content
        • new gallery images
        • blog posts (technical and story)
    • Continue shooting images
    • Continue editing images
    • Clean website
    • Clean and prep social media launch
    • GO LIVE!!!

    Clearly, much of this is done in parallel and can be done at different speeds.  If you take some time and pull up the typical photography website with images for sale, you will see what it looks like if not done properly.

    If I had to put a number on things, this will take in the range of 250-500 hours of time and the costs can range from a low end of nearly free to well beyond the $1,000 mark just to get to the starting line!

    There are literally hundreds of thousands out there and you “job” is to stand out.  To become what they aren’t, to display your artwork with a story that can’t be ignored, to people that can’t ignore it.

    Good luck and check back in frequently to see what is new.  I’ll be looking at some new Breakthrough Photography filters soon as well as going into detail on the above start up points.



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