Thursday, June 18, 2015

Russ and Chelsea

The last couple of weekends I have had the pleasure of spending time with this couple.  Capturing the moments and details of their special day has been nothing short of a fantastic experience.  I normal try to pick a couple photos from the day to display, but since it was over a two weekend timeframe I have more photos that I know what to do with.  So here are some of my favorites from the wedding and reception!  

Congratulations again to the Bride and Groom!!!

Please select the photo to view in a larger gallery!  That way you get to see all of the awesomeness!

Saturday, May 30, 2015


I've been caught up in so many other things that I have neglected my blog for the last couple of weeks.  A friend of mine said there were some ducklings messing around in a pond that had been drained close to his office, so I had to go have a look.  I'm sure glad I did.  These little guys were really enjoying the safety and freedom the secluded area provided.  There was plenty of grass and moss to feed them for a while.  They were hopping in and out of the water and exploring.  Jumping in the mud and blowing bubbles all under Mom's watchful eye.  One thing I noticed is they sure do like the mud.  View more of the little guys on my website  Thanks for looking! Enjoy and share!  Thank you again to Derrald for showing me the little guys and letting me try your bazooka.  You can view his photos at

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Family Sessions

Had the opportunity to photograph a young man recently celebrating a birthday.  All photos were taken in natural light at one of my favorite locations to shoot family photos.  He has one of the best smiles and personality to boot.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Filter Painting

It has been a little while since I had the time to sit down and actually gather my thoughts long enough to write something on my blog.  It is nice to be able to put some thoughts down on paper (or computer if you will).  Something I have been wanting to do for the past couple of months is write a post about something I really enjoy doing.  I have stated in the past that I have always enjoyed photographing sunsets.  Sitting there watching the sun leave the horizon puts thoughts at ease if only for a moment.  Listening to nature, the rustling of leaves, the wind whistling through branches of the leafless trees, birds chirping, provides a calming effect.

One way I make the experience more enjoyable is a technique of using filters to increase the exposure time of your shot.  This way you capture all of the movements associated with the setting sun and clouds as they pass.  Having said that, I usually only come back with a handful of images due to the length of time it takes to capture the photo, but the quiet of sitting and listening is worth it.  I don't know how many of you are old enough or have caught reruns of a show on PBS I use to watch called "The Joy of Painting with Bob Ross".  When I was growing up I use to watch it just before I took a nap and being out during a sunset reminds me of that show.  So quite and peaceful.  Yet, when the day is done you have something beautiful.  This is why I call my long exposure sunsets, "Filter Painting".

Once I am home and have viewed what I captured that day, I then begin the fun part of the picture taking experience, Post Processing.  Most people do not like this portion of the picture taking experience, but I really enjoy it.  In fact, I see many photographers skip this portion all together.  I shoot all of my photos in RAW format.  This means that the file you have contains all of the RAW data from the photo and you can use it as you will.  If you shoot JPEG format, the camera cooks the image for you in the cameras processor and spits out what it thinks your photo should look like.  I like the control I have over my images in RAW.  This way, I can make the photo how I saw it when I was there not the way a computer decided it should look.  I usually take 20 minutes a photo when adjusting landscapes.  You really have to pay attention to the details of the photo.  If you happen to over look something, blowing it up on print will bring out your mistakes and landscapes more than not are going to be printed large.

Enough talk for the day, here are a couple of my recent Filter Paintings.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Winter's Last Chance

I wrote this a couple months ago but for some reason never actually published it.  So here you go.

Winter is winding down and that's a good thing.  I am looking forward to warmer temperatures and color.  One thing that the winter does offer is a chance to see some amazing ice crystals.  You really have to look close to see the intricacies of the little crystals, but if you get down close enough they are beautiful.  Last winter I took tons of snowflake photos and never really got anything that wowed me that much.  I had a backlit snowflake that I thought was pretty cool, but everything else was mediocre in my eyes.  Saturday provided an opportunity to see a couple snowflakes and they were perfect.  It wasn't too cold that they were just frost pellets.  The air wasn't warm enough for rime to form.  So I went outside for a couple shots.  Fifteen minutes is about all I had to get something since the sun was setting and it was getting pretty dark.  It is very hard to see and focus on snowflakes through the lens in the first place, let alone in pitch black light.  Working with millimeters of focus depth makes taking multiple exposures a must.  I usually take between 7 to 20 shots of each flake and then focus stack them in photoshop to get a, hopefully, great looking snowflake.  Another problem I was running into with this little shoot is the plexiglass I was using.  I left it out pretty much all winter in anticipation of being able to shoot snowflakes.  Month after month of not having great snow, I gave up and let it sit.  The ice had formed on the surface an when trying to brush it off, I scratched it.  Now that may not seem like a big deal to the naked eye, but once your get down really close it makes a noticeable difference.  A little touch up was needed to clean that mess.  Anyway, here are a couple of flakes I happened to capture.  Thank you for looking!

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Sunset show!

The sun was setting on a lovely Sunday evening.  The skies appeared clear when I left the house and I thought about taking a sunset with pure sun rays.  Approaching the lake I noticed a very cool looking cloud bank was developing in the north.  The bank was moving quickly and I wasn't sure if it was going to get there before the sun set.   I decided to go the rest of the way and take a chance that I would get some great colors.  Glad I did.  The clouds arrived just as the sun moved into the horizon and made for some pretty spectacular colors.  It was a great scene and I am glad I was there to capture it.  Hope everyone is having a great day.  Enjoy!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Ominous Outlook

Dreary days bring out some of the best clouds during daylight hours.  They are very pretty to look at, but are very difficult to photograph.  Many times, I have tried and failed to take a picture and have it look the way I saw it with my own eyes.  I imagine a day in the future where the dynamic range of a digital sensor will be up to par with the range the human eye can see.  I imagine that camera will cost a pretty penny, but it would be a very awesome tool to use.  Having said that, we use the tools we have to make the best of what we see.  I have witnessed many times photos of trees stretching into the shadowy clouds giving a very ominous view of the world.  I haven't really tried anything like this in the past, but with my wife's urging, I ventured out to see what I could capture.

Once I was on location, finding the best trees was a difficult task.  Once I found some strangely fingeresque trees, I placed my camera in position and began snapping away.  I tried all types of angles and determined that vertical photos showed what I was seeing the best, but I had to have the camera very close to the ground.  So I laid down beside the camera and let the magic happen.  I shot a couple with one lens.  Then switched over to the fisheye for a little different effect.  It provided a unique perspective that I feel has been missing in the photos I have seen.  I really enjoyed photographing this scene and will definitely have to go back to see what other interesting things I can find.

Friday, February 20, 2015

LAB Color adjustments

Something I forget to examine when working with sunsets and outdoor photos in general, is whether or not LAB effects will bring out anything to make them better.  The last couple of sunsets, I decided to do a little experiment and see if there was something I could do to make them even better.  LAB adjustments can make the photo pop, but the adjustments have to be done tastefully because they can really over saturate your photo if your not careful.  Here is an example of what LAB can do for a photo.  The photos were taken 20 seconds apart with the one of the left being first.  It also is the one I treated with a light touch of LAB.

This technique is done in photoshop by converting the file to LAB color mode.  Find the image tab in the top menu, select mode, then LAB color.  It will flatten your image if you have layers open so beware.  At this point, I like to duplicate my image layer so I can adjust the opacity of it when I have completed the adjustments.  The next step is to open your curves adjustment window.  I don't use the curves adjustment layer since I have used it this way in the past.  Old habits I guess.  Anyway, the first step is to select the "a" channel and move your curves line like shown.

Next step is to move your "b" channel line as shown.  You can see how your image is saturating and changing contrast as you adjust your curves.

The last adjustment is to your "lightness" channel.  Move the adjustments as this.  The top adjustment will bring down the highlights of your photo while the bottom point will lower your contrast.  I like to play with the bottom point a little depending on my view for the photo I am working on.  

Depending on how you like the color and saturation, you can adjust your opacity to taste.  Lastly, you will want to convert your image back to RGB color to make it readable on web and other services.  To do this, go to your image menu on the top, select mode, and RGB color.  This again will flatten your image if you have made any layers.  

That's it!  You have completed your LAB color adjustment for your photo.  Here is another example of what LAB color can do for a sunset.  Click on any of the photos for a large view.

Painting the Sunset

Over the past month, I have been working to increase my portfolio of sunset shots.  They seem to be a very popular and who doesn't like to look at a sunset.  Most people take a sunset photo, possibly do a quick edit, and throw it on Facebook for the world to see.  Unlike most of the photographers, I have taken time to plan.  I plan on the location that I will shoot the sunset to give the best possible surroundings.  I also have chosen a place that I can visit on a regular basis.  This location has what every good sunset photo should contain, elements in nature.  Idealy, you should try to avoid having man made items in the photo, but it is hard to find a location without something built by man in a city.  Therefore, I use ultra wide angle lenses to minimize any man made objects that may be in the distance.  In addition to working hard to avoid having man made objects in the scene, I have tried to make sure I always have water or something else interesting in the foreground.  Since there are no mountains to be found in Nebraska, I will try to employ water in my sunsets for the foreseeable future.

One main thing that I have tried to do to differentiate my photos from everyone else's is long exposure photography.  This requires use of filters to add to the length of time your camera shutter can stay open.  Various filters provide different lengths of time which you can use to your advantage.  Most neutral density filters come in three, six, and ten stops.  A circular polarizer will provide you two additional stops, but are not great for shooting with wide angles.   I try to use a larger stop filter at the beginning of the sunset and then switch to a middle of the road stop filter as the sky gets darker.  An example of why I do this would be if your exposure was metered at having a 1/60th of a second shutter, stick a ten stop neutral density filter on the lens of your camera and you can now use a shutter speed of 16 seconds.  This get a little tricky as the sun is going down because you have to extend your exposure time every picture and guessing what your exposure would be is challenging without a light meter.  The risks you take and the time you invest are definitely worth the rewards if you nail your exposure and your subject is appealing.

Photographing sunsets is a very peaceful experience when shooting long exposures.  Regular shooting, you are snapping away always looking for the right picture.  Long exposures, you must plan ahead since you are going to be sitting there awhile.  The part I enjoy the most is after the shutter button is pushed and you get to sit and listen to nature as your minutes pass.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Snowy Days

Snowstorms, while they provide beautiful scenery, they are horrible to drive in.  Waiting almost the entire winter season for a good snowstorm, we were finally blessed with a doozy this past week.  Heavy wet snow combined with freezing temperatures over night left travel in pretty bad shape.  So much so that school was called off twice in one week.  This gave a great opportunity for family fun and some needed winter scenes.  The snow was deep and plows had trouble keeping up, but some of the side roads were cleared earlier than usual.  I decided to see what was around and get some wintery photos for fun.  Here were a couple of my favorites from the recent storm.

From the Standing Bear Lake area

 Some panoramas from the Standing Bear area.

I photograph these set of trees every snowstorm.  I think they look like silhouettes of people.  Growing like a little family every year.