Control Your Background

October 17th, 2011 by Steve Gettle

When people look at my work, one of the questions I get asked more often than any other is how I get such nice backgrounds. The answer is I work very hard to control the backgrounds in my images. I like to get nice monochromatic, out of focus backgrounds because this type of background makes my subject stand out. These monochromatic backgrounds are also free of distractions that would pull the viewer’s eye away from the subject of my photograph.

The way I achieve these backgrounds is by making sure that there is separation between my subject and the background. This separation renders my subject sharp, and makes the background a nice out of focus blur. It also gives the image a sense of depth.

For the image of the Cedar Waxwing accompanying this post, the background is a line of trees 50 yards behind the bird. I shot this at f8 which is enough depth of field to cover the bird and its beautiful perch. But at f8 the trees are rendered as a completely out of focus blur of color.

Browse Steve’s images, read his blog, and learn about his workshops at his site

In Memory of “The Tree”

October 13th, 2011 by Bret Edge

Nothing in nature is permanent and I know that. Still, when I arrived at Skyline Arch on Tuesday to introduce some guided clients to my favorite spooky old tree in the entire Moab area, my heart sank. Lying on the ground next to the trail was The Tree. It wasn’t standing defiantly against the ages, its weathered limbs guarding access to Skyline Arch. No, it was on its side, clearly dragged off the trail with broken branches scattered about the red dirt like bleached, gray bones. No dignity, no respect at all.

I don’t know what I expected to happen to The Tree when its roots no longer dug deep enough into the earth to anchor it securely against the elements. Frankly, I don’t think I ever imagined I would live to see it fall. Over the years, The Tree and I developed a relationship. I’d show up once in a while with the goal of creating an incredible image and The Tree would laugh at me, sending me away dejected each time. The photo above is my best attempt at a portrait of this beautiful but curmudgeonly old companion. Not bad, but certainly not the exquisite piece of art I’d envisioned.

2011 Black and White Contest Winners Announced

October 10th, 2011 by John Batdorff

The 2011 Batdorff Photography Black and White Photo Contest ended up garnering our largest, and most talented set of entries yet. This year I decided to up the ante and ask five judges to join me in selecting our top three photographers. The judges were asked to select their top ten images and rank them based upon composition, technical quality, creativity and overall impression. As you can imagine, it was quite a commitment and not an easy task to sort through nearly 900 images. I think my good friend Lew Bendell, APC Co-founder, said it best, “To narrow it down to 10 was incredibly difficult and at times kind of heartbreaking. I think this speaks to the quality and breadth of entries…” I couldn’t agree with Lew more.

I want to say a couple of things before we announce the winners:

First, a major hats off to all of you who entered. I appreciate the time and effort you put into your entries. I know first-hand what it’s like  to enter a contest and it means a lot that you took the time and effort to participate in what has become one of the largest B&W contests in the United States. I want you to know, regardless of your standing, your work has been potentially seen by over 20,000 visitors.  That means opportunities to shine and be discovered!

Secondly, to the sponsors: without your support this wouldn’t be possible. Finding top quality, FREE to enter contests are rare, and with the support of APC, Black Rapid, Outdoor Photo Gear,  BorrowLenses, Digimarc, Peachpit, and Nik Software we’ve been able to put together one heck of a contest that continues to grow each year. Remember, many of the sponsors are providing discount codes for a limited time, so make sure to check out the winners page to get those codes.

Lastly, thank you to the judges. I know this was difficult and each of you put some serious time and effort into selecting your favorites. Your honest, unwavering dedication to selecting these photos enriched the process and provided a quality selection process for our winners and honorable mentions.

Without further delay, today’s winning entries can be found on this page!

Vanguard Tripod and Head – Awesome Price!

October 6th, 2011 by Mike Moats

I was at a photo conference in July, and got a first hand look at this great combo from Vanguard, who is just coming out with a new line of tripods and heads.  I was really impressed with Vanguard’s quality at this price. You will not find a better set-up for macro at $219.95. I will be posting a review of this tripod soon, with images of the system in use in the field.

I contacted my friends at Outdoor Photo Gear, and they picked up the Vanguard and put together another Macro Kit for me.

List price on these items separately is $290.00, but I and OPG put together the Mike Moats Vanguard Macro Kit for you at a discounted price of $219.95!

Check it out here at Outdoor Photo Gear

Here is what it includes!

Vanguard Alta Pro 263 AT Aluminum Alloy Tripod with Multi-Angle Column
Vanguard SBH-100 Ball Head
Guide To Macro Composition ebook by Mike

You can visit Mike’s blog and learn about his workshops here:  Tiny Landscapes

Mike’s eBooks are available in the OPG store here:  Mike Moats

Harvest Mum

October 5th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito



Harvest Mum
Image © 2011/Denise Ippolito Photography


I used the same Brushstroke texture that I shared with everyone the other day. For those of you that missed it I have included the link below. I also used Fractalius to give the image some webbing and glow. In Photoshop I used Equalize as an Adjustment to the image. I also cropped a little placing the center of the mum in relatively the ROT position. Finally I got around to posting a Mum!

Here is the brushstroke link:

You can see Denise’s website at

Brushstroke Knock Out Rose

September 29th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito

Brushstroke Rose

Brushstroke ~ Knock Out Rose
Image © 2011/Denise Ippolito Photography


I went out to a garden center the other day to photograph mums. I had been thinking of photographing mums and I couldn’t wait to get my hands on some. As it turns out I couldn’t resist the Knock Out Roses that were hanging out in the back taking second stage to the more seasonal flowers. This often happens to me, I get side tracked by something that catches my eye. The soft coral colored blooms with the golden yellow centers just begged me to photograph them.

After creating several straight shots I did what I often do, I shot some blurs and some abstracts. After I studied the rose I realized that the one sepal is what was captivating me so I decided to make that the highlight of my image. Then I saw a piece of wood nearby that had all kinds of lines on it. I “pruned” the rose bush and put the bloom on its side across the board and got on the ground to photograph it. (I don’t recommend doing this at garden centers- this center belonged to my good friend) I liked the idea of the textured background but it needed something more. In Fractalius I added a glow treatment to the rose along with an accented edges filter in Photoshop. I also found this fantastic free texture called “brushstrokes” the other day and I felt it would be perfect for my rose. See the link below. I used the soft light blend mode and revealed a bit of the rose from beneath. I know the colors are a bit saturated but I just loved the old world feel and the bright colors mixed together.

Free Brushstroke:

You can see Denise’s website at

PowerPax Battery Caddy Review and Video

September 28th, 2011 by John Adkins

Powerpax Battery ManagementChances are, if you’re a photographer, you probably have dozens of AA batteries lying around. These days it seems like everything photography related uses them (if you’re lucky), from speedlights, to radio triggers, to light meters etc etc. I know I have at least around three dozen batteries, all of which are rechargeable, and it can be a chore to keep them all organized and together.

I have tried every method and product imaginable for storing and keeping my batteries organized but have now found a product I truly love! Chris at Outdoor Photo Gear tipped me off to the PowerPax Battery Caddies. These little guys are a breeze to use and take up little to no space. What I really love about them is that I can keep groups of four batteries together, in a small and compact, secure device.

These caddies are made of a hard, durable plastic and aren’t much bigger than a set of four AA batteries in your hand. The batteries simply pop in through the bottom of the case and snap into place, ensuring a snug fit. They won’t fall out, due to the design of the case, however you can easily pop the batteries out with one hand, which if you shoot weddings or other venues where you need to reload batteries quickly, this feature can save valuable time. When on an assignment, I always carry at least two sets of AA batteries in my pockets and up until now, I felt like I had aliens growing out of my legs due to the size of the battery case. But with these new caddies, you don’t even notice them in your pockets.

Sunrise Wonders and Wonderful Waterfalls in Mt. Rainier

September 26th, 2011 by Rick Sammon

Day one of the Mt.Rainier workshop that I am co-leading with DPE podcast co-host Juan Pons was spectacular. Here are a few of my shots – and a few tips.

Above: Expose for the highlights. Move the histogram to the right – but make sure you don’t have spike on the right. Also, get up super early to capture the sunrise. You can rest when you are dead. :-)

Above: Use slow shutter speeds to blur moving water. Start with a 1 second exposure and then try 2, 3 and 4 second exposures.

Working Close to Home

September 23rd, 2011 by Steve Gettle

No doubt about it, outdoor photographers love to travel to new and exciting locations to capture the subjects they love. But truth of the matter is that most of us can’t be jetting all over the globe whenever we want. Most outdoor photographers I know are able to take one, two, or maybe three major trips a year. Sadly, I also know many photographers that only use their cameras when they are on one of these major trips.

But I would argue that those same photographers are missing one of the greatest locations available to them… their own backyard. Most of us live within a short drive of a local park or piece of undeveloped land where we could practice our craft. There are many benefits to working an area near your home. One of the greatest benefits is simply the ability to be out working more often. It is impossible to make great pictures if you are not in the field working. Another important benefit of working close to home is the ability to go out on a moment’s notice, say when the lighting is really nice, or during unique weather conditions. Also, you can get to know a smaller piece of land and its inhabitants more intimately. You can make sure you are there when the cardinals nest in that bush, or you can photograph that patch of wildflowers when they are at their peak.

Competition in Nature Photography

September 22nd, 2011 by Robert Rodriguez Jr.


Trees in Silence, Hudson Valley

“In a world filled with metrics and bestseller lists, it’s easy to decide that everyone is your competitor and easier still to worry about your rank. Worry all you want, but if it gets in the way of your art or starts changing your mission, it’s probably a mistake.” – Seth Godin

This great quote captures much of what I have struggled with over the years, and how I think about the whole issue of comparisons these days. Competition is rampant in landscape and nature photography – it seems there are always contests to enter, and endless ways to compare ourselves to the “competition”.

Just visit any art fair (or worse participate in one) to experience this first hand. The endless “I can do that” or “is my work good enough” really misses the point of it all. If you have something to say, then it should measure up against what you have said in the past. If it’s not making an impact, then it’s time to improve your vocabulary, or practice your story telling. Comparing our images to others doesn’t take into consideration many important variables like skill, dedication, practice, and most crucial personal experience.

If you allow your  perceptions of where you stand in the overall “rank” of photography to guide your creativity, then you’ll never develop your own vision. Is there a shortage of photography in the world today? Not by any stretch of the imagination – in fact we are over saturated with imagery. I would argue that what is in short supply are original voices willing to tell their stories about what inspires them.

Don’t worry about competition, worry about whether you are getting any real responses to your work – often that comes when you forget about what everyone else is doing.

Check out Robert’s website for images, workshops, webinars and more:  LINK