A Montana Style Thunderstorm

July 12th, 2011 by John Batdorff
Madison Mountain Range Lightening Storm BW

Madison Mountain Range Lightening Storm BW Version


The one thing you can always be guaranteed when you’re living in the mountains is amazing thunderstorms. We’ve lost power for nearly half a day, my wireless router was fried by lightning, and at one point in time during a huge and very close lightning storm I was instructed we were going to downstairs to sleep. I guess there was a pretty rational fear of a tree dropping on the cabin (seeing as how one crunched my car last year). Yep, we’ve had some excitement in these here hills!

I did manage to take advantage of all this weather and get a fun shot of a lightning storm taking place on the Madison Mountain Range. The storm rolled in around 10 p.m. and created a light show that would have put Pink Floyd to shame. I don’t own a lightning trigger, but I decided to have some fun with some long exposures anyway. Using my tripod, cable release, and 24-70mm lens, I took several exposures but finally settled in f/6.3 at 93 secs.

Practice, Practice and “Know your Ax”

July 8th, 2011 by Jack Graham

“Practice does not make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect”. …………….Vince Lombardi

I have a degree in music. I was a professional musician in and around New York City until 1989. In 1989, I played over 175 “dates” and made a considerable amount of money. 1989 was also when it was “Been there, done that” time in my life. That’s when I really moved into photography and used this medium to express myself, much like music.

To be a good enough musician to make it, one must practice, practice and then practice some more. You had to “know your Ax”, as we musicians used to say. The musicians local 802 directory in NYC was as big as a phone book. You had to be a good player to make it there. I still practice every day, but now with my camera.

Being just OK is not enough in music, or really any art form, to make it. In music, there are lots of great players at every turn, looking to take your job. All the silks you need come from wood-shedding and continued learning. Photography is no different.

As part of my photography workshops I constantly preach that we need to be able to get around our cameras, know each function button and what they do like the back of our hand, that way our right brain or creative side can function at capacity. This takes practice. Unfortunately, I see folk buying expensive equipment, myriads of software, the latest lenses etc., all looking for that “magic pill” that will make it all fall into place. Sorry folks, it does not work that way. It takes practice. I used to enjoy seeing the younger guys coming into the music store on 48th Street in NYC trying out new mouthpieces, thinking that a new mouthpiece was the Holy Grail. When I play my trumpet today; I still use the old Vincent Bach,Mount Vernon 1C (for you trumpeters) that I’ve used since high school! Believe me, it isn’t the mouth piece. It’s not the new gear that we have available today. Its practice and honing your skills.

Blasting Highlights

July 7th, 2011 by Denise Ippolito

I learned this technique from Arthur Morris. He first showed it to me in Florida and I was fascinated by the results. He advised the following: set the lowest ISO; set the aperture between f/16 and f/22; turn off AF and focus manually; an exposure between -1 and -2 stops should look pretty good but there will by necessity be lots of blinkies as the bright spots and starbursts are specular highlights.



Mute Swan ~ South Cape May Meadows, NJ
Canon1D Mark III, 100-400 mm lens, 1/1000 sec. at f/20, ISO 200, Exposure compensation -1
Image © 2010/Denise Ippolito Photography

Got A Cluttered Background? Insert Your Own

July 6th, 2011 by Mike Moats

Every macro photographer will run into a great looking flower with character, but the angle you want to shoot at has a horrible clutter background and you can’t do anything about it. All is not lost, you can insert your own background. Photograph and print your own backgrounds and just place them behind the flower. Now some may say that’s cheating, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.

Here is how you do it. For a green background find a grassy field or even the grass in your backyard. This is how the subject looked on my first background shot.

Now just turn the focus on your lens till it becomes out of focus and a solid color like this. Now I have a nice solid green background.

Induro CT414 Carbon Fiber Tripod Meets Nature Photography

July 4th, 2011 by Maxis Gamez

Editor’s note: Welcome Maxis Gamez to the blog! Hailing from Sarasota Florida, Maxis is an active bird photographer and workshop leader. Maxis loves great gear, and will be providing us reviews of equipment that he uses in the field. You can learn more about Maxis, view his images and scout his workshops at his website GVisions.org.

It’s no secret. Many nature photographers are curious about the new heavy duty, yet affordable 8X CT tripod series from Induro. During this review, I’ll talk about the largest tripod Induro has ever offered and how it performs in the real world. If you have seen my images or have participated in my workshops, you’ll know that I’m not a casual shooter. I photograph in mud, saltwater, beach sand and everything else you can think of and my tripod comes along with me. Therefore, I need a tripod that meets my needs and can withstand my style of shooting!

The new 8X CT-Series of Induro tripods are the strongest, most stable tripods ever offered. A wide stance cross-braced magnesium alloy spider, ultra-light 8X layer Carbon Fiber legs, oversized center column lock and enhanced leg angle locks, contribute with up to 35% greater stability, rigidity and higher load capacity. The new 8X CT-Series also includes interchangeable rubber feet and stainless steel spikes, a tool kit and deluxe carrying bag and strap.

Let’s look at the new features:


  • Wide Stance Cross-braced Magnesium Alloy Spider: This feature alone provides an excellent core system stability and support. While I’m not a big fan of the tripod base, I must say that I adapted to the new magnesium alloy spider style base with ease. After all, if the tripod is more stable with the new magnesium alloy design, I’m happy!

Pixel Sunscreen V2.0: Computer Laptop Sunshade

June 30th, 2011 by Matt Dennison

Ever have trouble seeing your laptop in the bright sun?  The Think Tank Pixel Sunscreen is the answer!  Check out this new video from Think Tank.

You can find the Think Tank Pixel Sunscreen in the store here.

View the Think Tank Pixel Sunscreen Video Transcript

The Think Tank Photo Pixel Sunscreen Version 2.0 is a collapsible laptop sunshade that blocks peripheral light, allowing you to see your computer display in bright conditions.

Begin by pulling the shade from the attached mesh enclosure. The shade will automatically spring open.

Place your laptop on the non-skid surface. Cords and cables can be routed through the openings on the back and sides. Small items can be placed in the inner mesh pockets while you are working.

The dark cloth can be simply attached to the corresponding hook and loop when additional darkness is needed.

The top of the Pixel Sunscreen can be temporarily lowered by attaching the strap from the top edge to the hook and loop closure on the underside of the shade, and providing additional protection in wet or dusty conditions.

To fold the pixel sunscreen, begin by removing all objects from the interior. Hold the shade with the opening facing down, placing your thumbs on the corresponding outlines. Slowly twist the sides inward, beginning with the right-hand side. As you fold the left side over the right, the other sides will automatically fold inward. Bring the sides together to form a flat disk. Stretch the mesh enclosure around the edges to keep the Pixel Sunscreen folded.

For more information about any of our Think Tank Photo products, visit Thinktankphoto.com.

What’s the Difference Between Lightroom’s Exposure and Brightness Settings?

June 29th, 2011 by Bret Edge

Lightroom (and Adobe Camera Raw) are generally very user friendly and certainly don’t require as much time and effort to learn as Photoshop.  However, some of the controls have ambiguous names.  Today I will de-mystify the Exposure and Brightness controls.

I’m often asked by guided clients and workshop participants what is the difference between the Exposure and Brightness settings.  Here’s my take on it:

Moving the “Exposure” slider to the right increases the overall brightness of an image, impacting brighter tones the most.  Moving it to the left decreases the overall brightness while again impacting brighter tones first.

Adjusting the “Brightness” slider primarily effects mid-tones within an image.  Moving it left will darken the overall image, with most of the effect being visible in mid-tone areas.  Moving the “Brightness” slider to the right will lighten the overall image, with most of the effect visible in the mid-tones.

Where’s Fuzzy?

June 28th, 2011 by John Batdorff

The eggs in the flower box

I’ve lived in Chicago for nearly 11 years now and I’ve come to appreciate the little surprises the city has to offer this small town boy. But, last week things took me by surprise.

I wasn’t thrown off by the $4.75 a gallon gas at the local gas station last week. Nor was I surprised when I was in downtown Chicago visiting with my sister and her Girl Scout troop when 3,000+ NUDE cyclists rode down Michigan Avenue protesting the use of fossil fuels. Sure, that one took me wee bit longer to explain to my daughter than the $4.75 gas. But nude people and high gas seem like a normal day here in Chicago.

Instead, what took me by surprise was when I went to water our flower boxes on the back deck and found our poppies had been torn out and replaced with four jumbo sized eggs!

We left the nest alone over the weekend the culprit finally made herself known…a female Mallard duck. I’ve seen a lot in the city but I have yet to deal with this — especially on my watch!

The culprit — a female Mallard duck

Rogue 3-in-1 Grid Review!

June 27th, 2011 by John Adkins

ExpoImaging has come out with a cool new modifier for speedlights called the Rogue 3-in-1 Grid.  These are the same guys that brought us the Rogue Flash Benders for speedlights which are essentially snoots, gobos, bounce cards and flags all rolled in to one customizable shaped modifier.  For photographers who like to pack light, you can't beat the small size and portability of this latest series of flash modifiers.

The Rogue Grid is a really nice system because it has three different grid sizes in one small package.  These grids come in 45 degrees, 25 degrees and 16 degrees spreads that have a somewhat soft-ish fall off to the edges, unlike using a snoot.  This system comes with the two grids (stacking them makes the third grid), the grid holder and a cool little bag to carry the system in.

Photo Tips – Shooting from a Kayak

June 24th, 2011 by Jerry Monkman
The bow of a kayak and moored sailboats at sunrise in Portsmouth Harbor in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. (Jerry and Marcy Monkman)

Sometime you want to take pictures without your feet on the ground. Here are some tips for keeping your gear safe while shooting from a kayak.  In this video, New Hampshire based conservation photographer Jerry Monkman explains how to keep your camera gear safe while shooting from a kayak.

Check out Jerry's fall Cape Cod workshop here:  Eco Photography