Christmas Party Portraits

December 7th, 2010 by admin

If you're a photographer, chances are, your friends and family have become very accustomed to seeing you with a camera.  As a matter of fact, if you're like me, then they might even think there's something terribly wrong with you, or perhaps wonder if you're sick (mentally or otherwise) if you show up to any gathering and don't have a camera with you.  I've been toting a camera around with me everywhere I go for so long now, that I've sorta become the de facto staff photographer for any social gathering.

This is actually a good thing though, because its a low pressure way to experiment with different techniques while not worrying about actually upsetting paying clients.  Sometimes though, you might feel that slight pinch from your friends and family expecting top quality work (since you're a photographer) but really all you want to do is snap a few photos of the event and have a good time.  Ever happen to you?

Ice Abstracts

December 7th, 2010 by Mike Moats

As we enter into the first phase of winter here in the northern regions of the US, we find less and less to shoot outdoors.  The colors have all disappeared and the plant life has wilted and faded away until next spring.  Once the first week of December arrives, I look forward to heading to the local creeks and shooting  ice abstract.  These images that you see are produced in the very first stages of freeze at the edges of the creeks.  In this newly formed ice you will find interesting patterns and unique natural designs. With each winter day the cold adds new layers of ice causing the ice to turn white and erasing these creative designs, so being out there at the first ice is your best chance to shoot these cool abstracts.

A long focal length macro lens (150mm to 200mm) works best as you will be shooting from the bank of the creek and need that longer range to reach the subjects and fill the frame.

You will be shooting at low angles and to increase my depth of field to bring the whole design into sharp focus I use the higher f/stop numbers in the f/22 to f/32 ranges.

Look for designs that have a lot of interesting swirling lines

Holiday Wishlists From Our Favorite Photographers

December 3rd, 2010 by Matt Dennison

Editors' note:  We thought for this Holiday Season we'd poll our photographer friends to see what would be on their wish lists.  From our local pals to worldwide celebrity shooters, here are their picks.  We're sure you'll find some great ideas here!

Rick Sammon

Rick Sammon

Rick is a Canon Explorer of Light and probably the most famous guy we know, so we'll start off with him!  You can check out Rick's blog with a new address at

  1. Signed 19×20 inch print of Chris's Fire Mist Crane shot at Bosque
  2. "I Shoot RAW" t-shirt. XL.  Funny!
  3. PowerEX 8 Cell battery charger.  I need to keep charged at all times.
  4. Dust-Aid Sensor Cleaner  Keep clean.  Enough said.
  5. AquaTech Sensory Gloves  XL  Up here in New York, a necessity.

James Shadle

James Shadle

James is the Publisher of, an extensive resource site and lively forum for bird, nature and wildlife photographers.  When James isn't working on BPN, you'll find him leading workshops on his boat, the Hooptie Deaux.  You can check out James's site here.

  1. Lensbaby Composer for Nikon.  Makes me see in a different way.
  2. Datacolor LensCal.  You'd be surprised how many of your lenses need calibration.
  3. Think Tank Hydrophobia for 300-600mm Lenses.  The best raincover made!
  4. Nikon SD-9 High Performance Battery Pack.  Makes my flashes recharge much faster than I do!
  5. AF-S Nikkor 600mm f/4 ED VR. The big gun.  Nothing else to say.


John Batdorff

John is a frequent contributor to our blog, and we run photo contests with him as well.  Splitting his time between Montana and Chicago, John is an active blogger and conducts workshops.  You can view his site here.

Salvaging a Barred Owl

December 3rd, 2010 by Alan Murphy

D3, 400, ISO 640, f4, 1/250 -1.0 EV

I wanted to share this image that I processed 95% in ACR (Adobe Camera Raw CS5).
The image is full frame and was shot in very harsh light. The image on the left is converted from Raw with no adjustments.

I used the adjustment brush to tone down the over-exposed right side of the Owl and also to bring out more detail in the shadow side of the Owl, and the dark background.

Since the bird's right eye was in shadow, and his right eye was in full sun, you can see the different size of the eyes. After balancing the light with processing, I felt both eyes should be the same. I used a small brush in “liquify” (under “filters”) to resize the eyes. Credit to Mike Gray for showing me the “adjustment” tool.

I love that each new version of Photoshop is saving more and more images that I used to throw away :-)

You can read more about Alan, browse his images, and learn about workshops here.

When the Sun Ignites the Steam by Rick Sammon

December 2nd, 2010 by Rick Sammon

Hey Gang,

I first met Chris Klapheke, founder/owner/operator of Outdoor Photo Gear, during a workshop I was co-leading in December 2008, in Bosque del Apache, New Mexico. We met during the event that Chris eloquently describes below, and exquisitely illustrates above.

I was new to the area, but Chris had been there several times before.

Day one of the workshop: Not only was I freezing, but I needed some help with finding the best shooting locations. Chris took me under his wing, so to speak, and helped me, and all the members of the group, get some knockout images.

Chris is a humble dude. You never hear him brag about his photographs, yet he is one of the best outdoor photographers I know. Recently, I asked him to jot down a caption for the image you see here. Well, Chris is the kind of guy who goes above and beyond in everything he does (most recently when it comes to customer service at Outdoor Photo Gear). Below is the “caption” that Chris sent me.

• • •

My alarm clock went off at 4:30 am in the Super 8 motel in Socorro, New Mexico. A sleepy little town about an hour south of Albuquerque, Socorro is the gateway town to the Bosque del Apache national wildlife refuge.

At 4:30 in the morning in Socorro in December, it’s darn cold. Fumbling awake, I checked the temperature:  12 below zero. Great. No, wait a minute—Great! Yesterday was a nice warm day in Bosque, with plenty of sun. That means, with this brutally cold morning, that any water that was shallow enough to warm up would be emitting a rare substance in the desert winter—steam.

When you get a nice warm day and a shivering cold morning, you can have steam rising from some of the ponds in Bosque. And when you get that steam and a clear sunrise, you have a chance to capture one of the “holy grail” shots from Bosque —birds in a golden mist of light.

UPS Profiles Outdoor Photo Gear in Company Newsletter

November 30th, 2010 by Matt Dennison

Editor's note:  Last week UPS profiled OPG in their Air Group newsletter "The Launch" which goes out to 7000 UPS Air employees worldwide.  We are thrilled to be included and have reposted the article below.

UPS helps photo gear retailer move into international markets.

Louisville-based online retailer Outdoor Photo Gear relies on UPS to help give picture-perfect service to its customers around the world. Clients include pros and hobbyists, from photographers heading to Africa for a photo safari to shutterbugs shooting in their back yard.

“We invite our customers to capture their world, wherever it may be, and bring it back to us through their images,” the company’s Accounting and Customer Service Manager Kim O’Neal said.

“To us, ‘outdoor’ photography encompasses all types of photography: wildlife, nature, avian, landscape, travel, journalism, adventure and event photography,” said owner Chris Klapheke, who is an avian and nature photographer.

Outdoor Photo Gear has been a UPS customer since February 2009. The company has more than 1,100 products for customers to choose from and is continually adding more to its inventory, according to O’Neal.

The e-commerce business carries products from tripods, reflectors and rain covers for camera gear to camouflage photography blinds that cover photographers and their gear, allowing them to view and photograph wildlife without being seen.

John Batdorff’s Black Friday List

November 28th, 2010 by John Batdorff

Is Black Friday almost over already?  If you’re looking to buy something practical or just fun for your favorite photographer in the family, then here are a few favorites. You will notice a lot of these suggestions are from my sponsors and for good reason. These folks make quality products and have great customer service. I won’t buy cheap products nor will I recommend companies with questionable service, so I'll try to steer you folks towards companies I know and like. Anyway, here’s a list of things I currently own and really enjoy using.

Here’s my naughty or nice list:

$10-30 range

1. Think Tank Cable Management 10 Organizer—I love these things.  I have my back-up batteries, battery chargers, and pocket wizards all organized in these slick little pouches. And if you’re really Type A, you can get a label maker and slap some labels on them to keep everything seriously organized.
2. Composition: From Snapshots to Great Shots—sure I’m a little biased on this one since I contributed a chapter, but this is an excellent book written by Laurie Excel. I’ve had a chance to go through the entire book, and it really has a lot of great tips and the photography is amazing.

The Wand Doesn't Make The Magic

November 24th, 2010 by Theodore Stark

When was the last time you went to a magic show? For some, it may have been last weekend. Others, it may have been a bit longer. Besides the rabbit coming out of the hat, the most identifying of items used by a magician is his wand.

So let me ask you… do you think the quality of the magic show is based on the manufacturer and model of the wand?

Me neither.

This is not a new argument. Nevertheless, it is one that needs to surface from time-to-time, as we seem to lose sight of what’s important.

Bird Photo Tips with Chris Klapheke by John Batdorff

November 23rd, 2010 by John Batdorff


Tufted Puffin, Pribiloff Islands, Alaska

I would like to introduce everyone to my good friend Chris Klapheke. Chris is an avid bird photographer and has been gracious enough to spend a little time with us this morning to answer a few questions. So here we go…

John: You have some amazing bird images. What is the toughest part about getting a great shot?

Chris: There are a lot of things that go into a successful avian shot.  But no matter what style shot, I think the most important factors are planning and visualization.  If you plan well, the execution of the shot is relatively easy.

Let’s start with visualization. What is the shot that you want? Do you want a bird on a perch? If so, what kind of perch? Would you like the bird singing or eating? Do you want a bird in flight? And so on. Of course, the shot you want will change depending on the bird and your shooting environment, and will develop “on the fly” (pun intended) during your shooting time. However, it’s important to place a visualization in your mind’s eye.

Once you visualize your shot, planning takes over. To me, the top avian shooters, like Alan Murphy or Arthur Morris, constantly produce stellar images because they plan.

“Planning” incorporates a whole host of factors and objectives. For the image itself planning can include:

  • Light (of course!)
  • Wind direction
  • Background
  • Type of shot
  • What kind of bird
  • For the mechanics of getting the shot itself, planning can include:
  • Habits of the bird
  • Staging area for the bird
  • Food for the bird
  • Type of perch
  • Skittishness of the bird (do you need a blind?)
  • Lens size
  • Many other factors come in to planning, but you get the idea.

Let’s take a real life example.

Black and White Contest Winners Announced

November 22nd, 2010 by John Batdorff

I want to say this was probably the hardest Black and White contest I’ve ever had the privilege of judging. Before I announce the winners I want to remind everyone that I enter contests every year and guess what? That’s right, I don’t always win. I know can you believe it…;)  If there’s one thing I’ve learned from not only entering contests but judging them is this: we look at every image based upon composition, exposure, etc., but in the end, to be very truthful, it’s very subjective. Either an image speaks to a judge or it doesn’t. I have to come to terms with this when I submit my own work for contests and I hope everyone here understands the same.  Moving forward…

I want to thank everyone for entering and as always there are no real losers. As a matter of fact, I would say everyone was a winner because your work has been seen by well over 12,000 unique visitors!  This truly was the best Black and White Photo Contest with the most talented artists to date.

I want to thank my partners for helping me put together a great contest and for donating killer prizes for our winners.

Black Rapid for donating a strap of your choice.  Black Rapid is the only strap I use on my camera…Period!

Outdoor Photo Gear for donating Nik Software Silver eFex Pro. Outdoor Photo Gear is simply the best when you need expert advice!

Drum roll please….

The winners of the Second Annual Black and White Photo contest are:

Portrait Photography

Saeed Rezvanian- Portrait Days



Steve Silverman-  The Tin Man

Still Life

Peter Rose- English Country Tea Time

Congrats to the winners.  Please feel free to email me so that I can arrange delivery of your prizes.  I want to thank everyone once again for entering.  It was just a wonderful contest with some amazing images.   Keep posted because this Wednesday I’ll be updating my blog with the honorable mentions. 

Thanks again, John