I'll be posting some random thoughts here about my photography: my travel plans, technical information behind some images, stories about how certain pictures were captured, etc.  The timing of the postings will also be random as my priority is capturing new images rather than writing about existing ones.  I hope you will feel free to comment on any of my postings and I appreciate you taking time to read my entries.



Psychology Building

April 18, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

During my last visit to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, I visited the Psychology Building to photograph the Center Court. I found this to be an interesting area with its lines, colors and geometric shapes. Here are a few of the pictures that I created with my Nikon D850 camera and the Nikon 14-24 2.8 lens:

Psychology BuildingPsychology BuildingCenter Court of the Psychology Building (1970) at 603 E Daniel Street on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, Illinois on February 8, 2018 Psychology BuildingPsychology BuildingCenter Court of the Psychology Building (1970) at 603 E Daniel Street on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, Illinois on February 8, 2018 Psychology BuildingPsychology BuildingCenter Court of the Psychology Building (1970) at 603 E Daniel Street on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign, Illinois on February 8, 2018 The D850's silent mode made it easier to shoot in the environment. I was set up near some students who were studying. When using the silent mode in live view, the camera makes no sound whatsoever. I had to keep checking to make sure that the images were recording on the memory card!

Travel and Leisure Magazine

April 14, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

It was a thrill to see one of my photographs featured in a full page of this month's Travel and Leisure magazine! I captured this photograph of the Palouse during my "Great Western Loop Road Trip" last summer.

Palouse in Travel & Leisure magazinePalouse in Travel & Leisure magazineTravel & Leisure magazine's April, 2018 issue featuring my photograph of the Palouse from the summit of Steptoe Butte in Steptoe Butte State Park near Colfax, Washington on July 25, 2017 Until just a few years ago, I had never heard about the Palouse. While planning for this long road trip, I was looking for an interesting location to visit between Spokane and Crater Lake National Park. I decided to stay in Colfax, Washington to photograph the Palouse region of eastern Washington. During my stay in Colfax, I drove to the summit of Steptoe Butte three times--twice for sunset and once for sunrise. The haze from the local forest fires diminished my results from the two sunset photo shoots. But, luck prevailed for a few minutes just after sunrise one morning--and I was fortunate enough to create one of my favorite images of the trip.

Surprising Sale

April 10, 2018  •  6 Comments

You never know which pictures are going to sell through the microstock agencies. Several years ago, I captured this picture of a stop sign on the side of a school bus. I uploaded it to Shutterstock...it passed inspection...and sat for more than 8 years at the agency with little to no activity.

Yesterday, someone purchased this picture for $350. My share of the commission was $85.

"Vestrahorn Mountain" Wins Photo of the Day!

April 07, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

This morning, my "Vestrahorn Mountain" picture won Imaging Resource's "Photo of the Day". CLICK HERE to view Imaging Resource's Photo of the Day page.

This photograph was captured in February during my trip to Iceland. I posted a blog entry about capturing this image during a sand storm.

This marks the 50th time that one of my photographs was recognized by Imaging Resource as its "Photo of the Day". A photographer is limited to one winning entry per month, so this series of winning images stretches back more than four years. Click here to view all of the winning entries over the past few years.

Vestrahorn MountainVestrahorn MountainImaging Resource's Photo of the Day for April 7, 2018

Photography at the Polls

April 01, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

On March 20th, I walked over to the Faith United Methodist Church in Orland Park to vote. This church has been my polling place for many years.

This time, after I voted I peeked into the church for the very first time. I was surprised by the interior. Based upon the exterior of the building, I thought that the church would be quite small...and certainly not of this circular shape.

So, I asked if it would be OK for me to grab my camera and capture some photographs of the church. My request was granted...and I was able to get the church lit up for the photos.

At first, I attached my Nikon 14-24 lens and rotated the lens to its widest focal length--14mm. Here's that picture:

Faith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist Church at 15101 S 80th Avenue in Orland Park, Illinois on March 20, 2018 Then, I attached my Sigma 15mm fisheye to the camera to go even wider:

Faith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist Church at 15101 S 80th Avenue in Orland Park, Illinois on March 20, 2018 Of course it's personal preference, but I prefer the fisheye perspective. The frame extends to the edges of the pews rather than cutting them off and the fisheye emphasizes the roundness of the interior. I find that interiors such as this--with rounded edges--are ideal for the fisheye in that it minimizes the distortion that the fisheye introduces.

After a short while, I tried a different composition in the hope of introducing more depth into the frame. I left the fisheye lens on the camera:

Faith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist ChurchFaith United Methodist Church at 15101 S 80th Avenue in Orland Park, Illinois on March 20, 2018 Again, it's all a matter of personal taste, but this last picture is my favorite of the three.

So, I went over to my customary polling place to vote in this year's primary election and walked away photographs of another church. This was the 204th place of worship that I've photographed. Click here to view a listing of the first 203 locations.

The Sand Storm

March 28, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

During most of my time in Iceland, the wind was gusting and the rain was blowing--sideways rain.

Late one afternoon, as we were driving to Vestrahorn Mountain (in the Stokksnes peninsula in Southeast Iceland near Hohn), the sky started to open up. Vestrahorn Mountain is one of the most beautiful landscapes I have ever seen. It reminded me very much of the Grand Teton mountain range. Vestrahorn is unique in that there is a black sand beach with sand dunes along the Atlantic Ocean in the foreground. It makes for a world-class landscape location. I was relieved that we were going to have an opportunity to photograph Vestrahorn with some light. Unfortunately, as sunset approached the sky became too clear--no clouds at all.

The SUV had a sticker indicating that the rental company was not responsible for wind damage to the doors. The wind is so strong that one has to be very careful when opening a door. It's easy for the door to get caught in the wind. The wind is so extreme that our guide, Tony Prower, would park in such a way that the wind would be blowing from the front of the car to the back--to help avoid having the door swing open too quickly.

Tony parked the large SUV near the sand dunes. He warned us to wear eye protection. I assumed that he was concerned about the sun and glare off the beach. However, his concern was with how much sand was blowing in the gusting wind!

I left the SUV to start shooting by the sand dunes. Fortunately, the wind was blowing at my back--or this photo shoot would have been impossible. Sand was blowing everywhere. Without glasses, the sand would do major damage to one's eyes. Trying to stabilize the camera was a challenging task. I tried my best to block the wind by positioning the tripod in front of my body about chest high.

Changing lenses was not an option. Sand was getting into everything--my hair, my ears, my eyes. It was getting into the knobs of the camera and the tripod legs. I tried to keep my lens facing away from the wind as much as possible as I was concerned that the sand would damage the front element. The sound of the wind was deafening. I felt like I was fighting a war just to capture a few pictures.

It's such an incredible location that I kept shooting until the light was gone. Here are a couple of pictures from the photo shoot:

Vestrahorn MountainVestrahorn MountainVestrahorn Mountain in the Stokksnes peninsula in Southeast Iceland near Hohn, Iceland on February 22, 2018. Note that this is a composite image--a blend of the picture of the mountain range with a picture of the sky (and reflections) from earlier in the photo shoot. Vestrahorn MountainVestrahorn MountainBlack sand dunes in front of Vestrahorn Mountain on the Atlantic coast in the Stokksnes peninsula in Southeast Iceland near Hohn, Iceland on February 22, 2018

Once we returned to the hotel, I took the tripod into the shower with me to rinse the sand off. I also used an air blower to remove the sand from the camera body.

Microstock Earnings through February

March 22, 2018  •  5 Comments

My monthly microstock earnings surpassed $1,000 during February. Monthly revenues were up about $30 from last month, but fell $60 from February of last year.

Shutterstock reported its highest monthly earnings in nearly a year. Dreamstime posted its highest earnings in more than a year.

I continued adding images to my Alamy portfolio, but haven't had an image sell since early December.

I look forward to having my cumulative earnings pass the $75,000 milestone next month!

Following is a summary of my monthly earnings:

Next Up...Newfoundland!

March 19, 2018  •  6 Comments

Now that I've returned from Iceland, planning is already underway for my next trip. I plan to drive from Chicago to Newfoundland this summer.

This will be a 28 day road trip that will cover nearly 5,000 miles. I will spend 9 nights in Nova Scotia and 10 nights in Newfoundland. Once I reach the western shore of Nova Scotia, I'll drive my Prius onto the ferry. The ferry will take 17 hours to cross the Atlantic before reaching eastern Newfoundland. Later, I'll return to Nova Scotia from eastern Newfoundland. The return trip is a 7 hour ride. I'm hoping for calmer seas than what the ferry experienced in this video:

The logistics involved with planning this trip was more complicated than for my past road trips. In addition to making my usual Hampton Inn reservations, I had to make arrangements with 8 separate B&B's in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. I also had to make reservations for the ferry (for both me and my car) to get from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland and back. I have rented a cabin for the 17 hour overnight trip to Newfoundland.

Here's a preliminary itinerary for this journey:

Day 1: Toronto, ON

Day 2: Quebec City, QC

Day 3: Saint John, NB

Day 4: Halifax, NS - Halifax skyline, Citadel, Halifax Library

Day 5: Peggy's Cove, NS - sunrise and sunset at lighthouse

Day 6: Lunenburg, NS - architecture and waterfront between Mahone Bay and the Blue Rocks area

Day 7: Lunenburg, NS - architecture and waterfront between Mahone Bay and the Blue Rocks area

Day 8: Pictou, NS - Pictou harbor

Day 9: Whycocomagh, NS - Cape Breton Highlands National Park, communities between Mabou and the causeway

Day 10: Sydney, NS - Louisnbourg fortress, Iona, Bras d'Or Lake

Day 11: Ferry from Nova Scotia to Newfoundland (17 hours)

Day 12: St. John's, NL - colorful houses of St. John's, Cape Spear lighthouse

Day 13: St. John's, NL - Signal Hill, Ferryland lighthouse

Day 13: St. Mary's, NL - Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve

Day 15: St. Mary's, NL - Cape St. Mary's Ecological Reserve

Day 16: Bonavista, NL - Village of Trinity, Tickle Cove Bay, puffins at Elliston

Day 17: Bonavista, NL - Bonavista lighthouse, Dungeon rock formation

Day 18: Rocky Harbour, NL - Gros Morne National Park

Day 19: Rocky Harbour, NL - Gros Morne National Park, Western Brook Pond fjord

Day 20: St. Anthony, NL - fishing village

Day 21: St. Anthony, NL - Vikings settlement

Day 22: Channel-Port aux Bosques, NL 

Day 23: Sydney, NS - ferry from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia (7 hours)

Day 24: Bangor, ME

Day 25: Augusta, ME - state capitol

Day 26: Albany, NY - state capitol

Day 27: Cleveland, OH - Cleveland Public Library

Day 28: Orland Park, IL

The Northern Lights

March 15, 2018  •  Leave a Comment

I recently returned from a trip to Iceland. Click here to view my favorite images from this trip.

One of the things I hoped to see while in Iceland is the northern lights--or the aurora borealis. Unfortunately, it was raining and overcast during much of my time in Iceland.

One night, while staying at the Hotel Smyrlabjorg in Skalafell, the sky opened for a short time and the northern lights made an appearance. Our guide, Tony Prower, was monitoring the aurora forecast and also had a view of the northern sky from his hotel room. Just before 11pm, Tony started knocking on our hotel doors so that we could get outside to capture photographs of the aurora.

This is the picture that I captured just steps from the hotel:

Northern LightsNorthern LightsNorthern Lights or Aurora Borealis from the Hotel Smyrlabjorg in Skalafell, Iceland on February 22, 2018

The strange thing is that even though I captured this picture, I really didn't get to see the northern lights. Although the camera's sensor recorded the aurora, it wasn't visible to the naked eye. I did see a white cloud that appeared to be brighter than it should be at night. But, I didn't see the green color. And, most of the people around me couldn't see it either.

I was pleased to capture the photograph, but it was a little disappointing that I didn't get to see the northern lights with my own eyes!

I do very little photography of the night sky, so I asked Tony what settings he would recommend. He said to start with ISO 1600 with a relatively wide aperture (I chose f/3.2) and to see if the shutter speed would be less than 30 seconds. The shutter speed for this shot was 25 seconds.

About 20 minutes after I captured this image, the wind picked up again to its customary 35 mph and clouds quickly covered the sky. It snowed for the next few hours. We never saw the northern lights again. Then again, I never saw the northern lights to begin with!

Sharpness Throughout

March 11, 2018  •  2 Comments

I commonly use focus stacking to extend the area of sharpness within a photograph. This picture of the Beckman Institute of Advanced Science and Technology at the University of Illinois is an example of a simple two frame blend to render the photograph sharp throughout:

Beckman InstituteBeckman InstituteBeckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at 405 N Mathews Avenue on the campus of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Urbana, Illinois on February 8, 2018

In an image like this, my goal is the render both the foreground object as well as the far more distant building in sharp focus. The foreground object is very close to my lens...the tripod legs were touching the edge of the disk. To accomplish this, I captured two photographs...one focused on the foreground object and the second on the building. I later blended the two exposures in Photoshop to achieve sharpness from front to back.

Another method is to use a smaller aperture (f/22, for example) to extend the focus area. However, this foreground object was so close that even a narrow aperture wouldn't render everything sharp. Additionally, sharpness tends to fall off as the aperture becomes smaller due to diffraction. Also, unless your sensor is super clean, f/22 will reveal every single dust particle and make removing all of those spots a more tedious post processing exercise. So, I dial in the sweet spot for my lens (usually about f/8) and focus stack multiple frames. That way, I have the best of both worlds--the use of the sharpest aperture for my particular lens and an extremely wide area of sharpness.