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.



"Big Four Bridge" Wins Photo of the Day!

February 24, 2017  •  1 Comment

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

This image was captured during my last road trip through Three Southern Cities. I recently wrote a blog entry about capturing this photograph in the rain in Louisville, Kentucky.

This marks the 38th time that one of my photographs was recognized by Imaging Resource as its "Photo of the Day". Click here to view all of the winning entries over the past few years.

Big Four BridgeBig Four BridgeImaging Resource's Photo of the Day for February 24, 2017

Microstock Earnings through January, 2017

February 22, 2017  •  1 Comment

Earlier this month, I posted a blog entry about how the timing of the reporting of microstock earnings has changed. Now that iStock doesn't report monthly earnings until three weeks or so after month-end, I won't be posting my microstock earnings until later in the month.

This morning, iStock finally reported earnings for January. So, I've updated my earnings report.

The good news is my earnings from iStock were stronger in January than they've been in quite some time.

My overall earnings approached $1,200 for the month and surpassed last January's earnings by about $120.

Following is a summary of my monthly earnings. I'll report back again in late February:

Blending Moments in Time

February 20, 2017  •  2 Comments

During my January trip to Oahu, I captured a sunrise at Waimanalo Beach in Honolulu. It rained throughout my hour long drive to the beach in the dark. I arrived at the beach well before sunrise. The chances of getting to see the sun through the thick cloud cover seemed bleak.

About fifteen minutes before sunrise I started taking pictures. For the first picture in the sequence I set the camera for a long exposure. The long exposure helps to smooth out the water.

Just before sunrise, the clouds cleared enough at the horizon to allow the sun to appear. I captured a second exposure right at that moment. For this exposure, I dramatically underexposed the shot so that the sun wouldn't completely blow out that portion of the sky. I also selected an aperture of f/20 for this frame to help reveal the sunburst.

A few minutes later, I was thrilled to see that the sunlight was radiating into the clouds above. The golden reflection in the water also made its appearance. So, I captured a third exposure to include these critical elements into the scene.

Finally, I captured a fourth exposure of the darker clouds in the sky. Here's the final image:

Waimanalo BeachWaimanalo BeachWaimanalo Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 20, 2017

And here's a basic illustration of how the four exposures were used within the frame:

Waimanalo BeachWaimanalo BeachWaimanalo Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 20, 2017

I used Photoshop to blend these four images. Basically, each of the exposures is placed onto its own layer. A black mask is applied to each layer and then a white brush is used to reveal the appropriate segments of each picture. Of course, it's important that all four pictures are aligned. My camera was secured to a solid tripod during the entire photo shoot.

Without using the power of post processing, I would be limited to selecting just one picture to capture the scene. I would probably select the frame when the sun first appeared on the horizon. To help illustrate the power of blending the moments in time, following is the file (straight out of camera) of that one picture. Of course, I would do some basic adjustments (i.e., brightness, contrast, etc.) to this file--but without using multiple exposures I would lose the smooth water and the light rays on the clouds. For me, the light rays on the clouds is the most important element of the photograph!

Waimanalo BeachWaimanalo BeachWaimanalo Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 20, 2017

Oahu Photos -- Distribution by Lens

February 16, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Nearly every time I return from a trip, I'm asked about which lenses I used to capture the images. At the end of a trip, I like to look at the distribution of shots by lens. Here's how it looked for my January trip to Oahu:

The Nikon 500 VR got more action than usual due to the subject matter. I needed all the focal length that I could get while taking pictures of the surfers at the North Shore. Of the 72 pictures captured with the 500mm lens, 22 of them were taken with the 1.4x teleconverter attached--giving me a focal length of 700mm for those shots. I also used the 500 VR for several of the portraits that I captured at the Polynesian Cultural Center.

The Sigma 15mm fisheye saw very limited use. But, I'm glad I had it for one shot in particular. It is the only lens that I own that provides a wide enough view to include the entire House of Representatives chamber in one frame:

Hawaii House chamberHawaii House chamberHawaii State House of Representatives chamber at 415 S. Beretania Street in Honolulu, Hawaii on January 24, 2017

I used just one camera for the entire trip--the Nikon D800. I've been using this camera for just about 5 years now. That's an eternity in the digital age of photography. Yet, the Nikon D800 is still state of the art. It is as capable as practically any dSLR on the market today. I'm hoping that Nikon introduces a new camera in 2017 that will even better meet my needs. It's Nikon's 100th anniversary, so many people expect to see an innovative product announced sometime this year.

Surfin' USA

February 12, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

During my last road trip to California, I had an opportunity to photograph some surfers. My first attempt was near the San Clemente Pier. The light was good and the surfers were relatively close to me. But, most of the surfers were having trouble staying on their board and didn't look particularly balanced. I don't know anything about the sport, but I knew that I wasn't seeing much action.

After a while, one of the better surfers approached me. He told me the more advanced surfers were at a beach further south. He recommended Lower Trestles because professional surfers were practicing there for an upcoming competition. The only downside was the beach is about a mile from the parking lot. The distance wouldn't ordinarily be an issue for me, but walking part of that distance in loose sand wasn't much fun with the 500mm lens over my shoulder.

I enjoyed watching the surfers at Lower Trestles. Even to my untrained eye, it quickly became apparent that the surfers were quite talented. One surfer in particular, stood out. I was later told that his name is Jeremy Flores. He is ranked as one of the top surfers in the world and came in from France for the competition. Here's one of the pictures that I captured of him:

Jeremy FloresJeremy FloresJeremy Flores from France, one of the top surfers in the world, at Lower Trestles at San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente, California on August 7, 2016

I also captured some images of another surfer who stood out to me. Later, I learned that his name is Masaki Kobayashi.

Masaki KobayashiMasaki KobayashiMasaki Kobayashi surfing at Lower Trestles at San Onofre State Beach in San Clemente, California on August 7, 2016

One of the challenges that I faced was my camera. I use just one camera these days and that's the Nikon D800. It's a wonderful camera (particularly for the main subjects of my trip--architecture and landscapes), but it's not designed for action. The camera creates high resolution pictures--and those take a while to push through the camera. As a result, the frame rate during a burst is very slow. During this photo shoot, I took just one exposure at a time and hoped that my timing was good enough, and lucky enough, to capture the right body position, expression and peak action. With a faster camera, such as Nikon's new D500, the chances of coming away with a strong image increase due to the frame rate. It's more likely to get the right shot when you have 10 chances in a second.

In any event, I was pleasantly surprised with the pictures that I came away with that day while using my Nikon D800. Of course, I would prefer a faster camera body for surfing. But, I don't shoot surfing often enough to justify the purchase. My hope is that Nikon will soon offer a successor to the D800 which will include a faster frame rate as well as other improvements. I've been shooting with the D800 for five years now and anticipated that the new camera would be announced last Fall--but that didn't happen. Hopefully Nikon will announce a great new camera for the year of its 100th anniversary (2017)!

To view more of my surfing photographs, please CLICK HERE.


Shooting in the Rain

February 06, 2017  •  1 Comment

During my most recent road trip through "Three Southern Cities", I stopped in Louisville for a couple of nights. I arrived in Louisville late in the afternoon and walked over to the Big Four pedestrian bridge for some pictures of the skyline. My early research, using Google Maps, indicated that the bridge could be a promising spot for a good composition of downtown Louisville with the Ohio River.

Unfortunately, my research wasn't accurate. From the bridge, most of the city was blocked by two other bridges. Despite walking the entire length of the Big Four Bridge, I wasn't able to find a composition worthy of activating the shutter. The bridge itself is an interesting subject, but it was so crowded with pedestrians that I could hardly even set up my tripod for a shot. I ended up walking back to the hotel with nothing--and that was a shame because the sunset over the city was stunning!

The first lesson here is that it pays to do some advance scouting. Had I been to the bridge earlier in the day, I would have known not to position myself there at sunset. There is a much better vantage point for the cityscape on the Indiana side of the Ohio River...and it's much easier to access. But, I arrived in Louisville late in the afternoon and didn't allow enough time for proper scouting of this shot.

The good news is that I was staying in Louisville for the next night as well, so I had a chance to learn from my mistake. The challenge with the next night is that there wasn't the same dramatic sunset. In fact, it was raining most of the night.

I drove over to the vantage point on the Indiana side of the Ohio River and captured this photograph in what was light rain at the time:

Downtown LouisvilleDowntown LouisvilleDowntown Louisville and the Second Street Bridge from across the Ohio River in Jeffersonville, Indiana on November 8, 2016

Then, I drove over to the Big Four Bridge. My hope was that the rain, which was becoming increasingly more intense, would keep most of the pedestrians away. In the end, this picture of the bridge was much better in the rain than it was the night before. The rain cleared the scene of people. It also added some mystery to the shot with the fog around the lights. I also like the colorful reflection on the concrete floor. In my opinion, the rain helped make this image far more interesting.

Big Four BridgeBig Four BridgeBig Four Bridge on a rainy night at 101 River Road in Louisville, Kentucky on November 8, 2016

The rain was coming down pretty hard while I was taking pictures on the bridge. I used a simple tool to protect my camera and lens--an umbrella!

Microstock Earnings Through January

February 01, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

Moving forward, I will be posting my monthly microstock earnings later in each month. Beginning this month, iStock stopped reporting earnings on an ongoing basis. Instead, iStock will provide a report of earnings on about the 25th of each month for the prior month's activity. So, rather than post earnings early each month, I will be sharing this information on approximately a one month lag.

Excluding iStock, my earnings for the month of January amounted to $952. For the four agencies that reported earnings, the amount in total is comparable to the prior year. Every indication points to iStock making a dramatic decrease in its commission structure--to the point where it will no longer make sense for me to upload images to iStock. It's a shame for photographers, but the microstock industry is heading in a downward spiral for compensation for contributors.

Following is a summary of my monthly earnings to date (excluding iStock). I will provide another update later this month once iStock reports January earnings:

Different Perspectives

January 25, 2017  •  2 Comments

While shooting the grand staircase inside the Colorado State Capitol, I took the time to walk around and view the staircase from various perspectives. Following are pictures of the same staircase from different positions:

Colorado State CapitolColorado State CapitolStaircase in the rotunda of the Colorado State Capitol building at 200 E Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado on July 24, 2014

Straight On

Grand StaircaseGrand StaircaseGrand Staircase in the Colorado State Capitol at 200 E Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2016

From the Side

Grand StaircaseGrand StaircaseGrand Staircase in the Colorado State Capitol at 200 E Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2016

Vertical From Above

Grand StaircaseGrand StaircaseGrand Staircase in the Colorado State Capitol at 200 E Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2016

Fisheye from the Side

Grand StaircaseGrand StaircaseGrand Staircase in the Colorado State Capitol at 200 E Colfax Avenue in Denver, Colorado on July 18, 2016

Horizontal from Above


"Geisel Library" Wins Photo of the Day!

January 17, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

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

This unusual looking structure is located on the campus of the University of California-San Diego in La Jolla, California. The library was name in honor of Theodor Seuss Geisel--better known as Dr. Seuss.

This is the fifth picture from my Missions of California Road Trip to win a photo contest.

This marks the 37th time that one of my photographs was recognized by Imaging Resource as its "Photo of the Day". Click here to view all of the winning entries over the past few years.

Geisel LibraryGeisel LibraryImaging Resource's Photo of the Day for January 18, 2017

Scripps Pier Photo Shoot

January 15, 2017  •  Leave a Comment

While visiting San Diego during my California Missions road trip, I planned a photo shoot at Scripps Pier. This experience would test my patience like no other photo shoot.

Since this was a scene I definitely wanted to capture, I arrived on site about 2 hours before sunset. I wanted to ensure that I could set my camera up in a certain position (dead center to the pier for perfect symmetry) before other photographers secured that relatively small area on the beach. My first challenge was parking. After driving around for 15 minutes, I finally found street parking a few blocks from the pier.

I arrived on site about 90 minutes before sunset. To my surprise, there was already a small crowd of photographers set up right where I planned to be! About 12 photographers with tripods were clustered in a very small space. After I explained that I drove to San Diego from Chicago and had just one night to capture this picture, one of the photographers was kind enough to allow me to set up right next to him--so that the tripod legs were practically intertwined with my camera positioned approximately a foot above his.

Now that my camera was positioned where I wanted it, it was just a matter of waiting for about an hour for the light to develop. Just as the light was beginning to improve, a photographer stepped in front of all of us to hold a photo shoot with a family! Fortunately, our small crowd of photographers protested loudly--so she blocked the view for only 10 minutes or so. After that, it was just a matter of waiting for other people to stop walking through the frame.

Since I was shooting very long exposures, I wasn't overly concerned with people walking through the frame--as long as they kept moving. The exposure was so long that they wouldn't make an impression on the sensor, unless they stood still for too long. And, they usually stood still for too long.

While shooting a three minute exposure, a curious man stopped in front of us (about 2 minutes into my exposure). The crowd of photographers packed in so tightly attracted his attention. So, he started shooting pictures of us with his phone--and with a flash. Having him shooting flash pictures right into my lens from four feet away ruined any chance I had of capturing the scene in the optimal light.

By now, the clouds were covering up the sunset! Most of the photographers in the group were disappointed with the lack of a sunset and ended up not taking any pictures at all. Since I was only going to be at Scripps Pier that one time, I kept shooting. I figured that I would create a black & white photograph if necessary. But, my hope was to be able to coax some subtle colors from the scene during post processing. Here's the final image:

Scripps PierScripps PierScripps Pier at 8648 Kennel Way in La Jolla, California on August 7, 2016