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Creative Processing – Reshaping Lower Antelope Canyon

• Creative Processing – Reshaping Lower Antelope Canyon

















There is just not enough time to go and to return to the many places in this country that I find  visually stimulating, ripe for creative interpretation, inspirational, and spiritual. Even though most great areas that the average person can get to are overshot and sometimes need a person to direct traffic in the parking lot, each of us has the tools available (with a little imagination) to take an overshot subject and completely reinterpret it.

Lower Antelope Canyon is such a place. I’ve haven’t been to the slot canyons for about 5 years, but often go into my images from AZ and will let my mind wander over the files until something catches my eye.

I didn’t recall ever noticing the color image (above). On the surface it’s an average subject for a slot canyon, weakly composed, but with interesting layers of light.

My first impulse was to make selections and affect the color/ contrast of each selection to create depth, but then it became clear that B&W was the way to go. The B&W version had more punch, but the same weak composition.

I chose to reshape the image. After all, there’s no point of reference; no horizon line; no orientation. FYI, a great deal of the images seen from lower antelope are shot almost straight up. This image was shot pointing the camera upwards 75 degrees.

Here are the processing steps, assuming that you have a working knowledge of photoshop:

Step 1: I  dramatically warped the image, clicking and dragging the upper left and middle part of the image towards the left. This removed the black shadow and created more dramatic lines and flow.

Step 2: I rotated the image slightly to the left, being careful not to clip the upper right corner graphic.

Step 3: Many areas were selected and saved, addressing each region separately to create separation between the rock layers.

Step 4: Used the radial tool, in the Camera Raw Filter, to create a light path through the middle of the frame, darkening the corners.

Step 5: The dark corners needed to be lightened a bit. I used the dodge tool in PS to slightly brighten those corners.

Step 6: In order to add luminosity to the brightest area of the rocks, I used the dodge tool to lighten the middle rock flow.

Step 7: Finishing up, using Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity actions, I added the Orton effect to the highlights only, then cropped up a bit from the bottom.

Step 8: Sharpened for web. (Tiff file not sharpened until print output)

The visual impact of the optimized file is more profound than the original RAW file, with greater drama and a sense of depth.

I always find that each time I go back to an image bank and reprocess a file, the image deepens or I know more quickly when it’s not worth it.

Drop a line if you have any questions.

We have a few openings in our 2017 Workshop Schedule. If interested, please CLICK HERE.

Thanks for taking the time.

We’re off to the Smokies tomorrow for our Smokies Winter Shoot Out.

Spring is not far behind!

See ya online!






Cuba 2017 Epilogue

Cuba 2017 Epilogue:

For our seventh trip to Cuba, a lot of changes were rumored, including staying in casas instead of hotels, as the big travel agencies seem to have most of the rooms blocks. So, I didn’t know what to expect there. Because of the new travel laws, people were flying in from many places. I didn’t know how the increased tourism would impact our locations or our photography experience in general. That’s why I was slightly relieved when we had a few cancellations to give us a smaller more manageable group, and more flexibility if need be.

So, how did it go?

Everyone arrived at about the same time in Havana, which was a relief. The group dynamic was good from the start.

The apartments were from good to outstanding. The location was on the Malecon. Great view. Constant warm breeze. Lots of windows.

Having been here 6 times, I wanted to shoot and process a bit differently, a bit more of a distressed (aka grunge) look. It was a personal project, after the needs of our clients were met. My co-teacher, Andrea Phox was great, as usual.

The night we got there, waves were breaking over the Malecon, which is always a treat to observe and to photograph.

The following morning, we had wet pavement following the storm reflecting the multi colored street lights. Good omens.

Here’s a gallery from the trip:

Here’s a few things I learned this year:

  1. Not as much panhandling. I think that they are so overwhelmed with tourists photographing them, that they just gave up. I still ask permission to take their images. 
  2. Because of the dramatic increase in tourism, there are food shortages for the Cubans.
  3. New hotel construction is everywhere.
  4. There is an overall sense of revitalization and optimism.
  5. The cobblestone streets of Old Havana w/ outdoor cafes could have easily been in Georgetown (Wash DC).
  6. There was a dramatic increase in diesel motor coaches throughout the Island.
  7. We’ll need to adjust our travels to less touristy locales next year.

We are looking forward to returning to Cuba January 8 – 17, 2018

We are limiting our group to 6 clients, which gives us the most mobility and flexibility.

Please contact me: tony@tonysweet.com for more questions and to be placed on our notification list, or to register.

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!


Winter Infrared

• Winter Infrared

Since my re-emersion into infrared about a year ago, I’ve shot infrared in myriad conditions throughout the year and am discovering how the angle of light, quality of light, weather, and time of year affect the image. Always on the lookout for a different approach, I was surprised at the way infrared handled winter in the Smokies, 2016.

For example, the green leafs on the rhododendrons are green throughout the year, as in the lead image. It’s also worthy to note that the water flows strongly in Feb, as the snow is beginning to melt down the mountain and rain is not uncommon, which will further swell the streams for outstanding water photography. I added a 6 stop Singh Ray MorSlo filter to get a 30 second exposure.

Image #1 – The infrared turned the sparse green leaves to white. With the slightly glowing snow (infrared), the scene has more of a winter feel than the color image.

Image #2 – The infrared dramatically increased cloud detail.

Image #3 – The green stubble on the settlement image appears to be snow in infrared, including greater cloud detail.

Image #4 – The long infrared exposure accentuated the  glowing reflections on the water’s surface and in the bright areas at the bottom of the falls.

We have an emergency opening in our Feb 5-9 Smokies Winter Shootout. Please contact Susan for more info.

All 2017 Visual Artistry Workshops are HERE

Here’s what I use and why:

D300 Super Color conversion (590nm) from Lifepixel.com – enables creation of color infrared as well as B&W. Adding  higher nm filters, e.g. 650, 720, 830 nm required the use of Live View. 

D800 Standard infrared (720nm) – my main camera for 90+% of my infrared work.

Singh Ray I-Ray 690nm infrared filter, (discount code – sweet10) for use on my D810 color camera, creating true infrared images. May require a little longer exposure.

Most used lens for infrared and in my general photography is the Nikkon 24-120 f/4. It does not create a “hot spot,” and is a great range.

The Hoodman HoodCrank (discount code TSD10) to keep attached to the D300 when using a filter, so that I can see the Live View without holding onto the Hoodman.

Solid tripod, Ball-head for nature, cable release.

Although software can, on occasion, create excellent infrared, it’s rare that it looks as good as a converted camera or filter.

I know it’s almost Christmas, but after new year’s, spring is here almost immediately!

Now is a good time to start considering adding a converted camera and/ or the Singh Ray I-Ray filter.

Sue and I wish everyone a Great Holiday Season and a safe, healthy, and prosperous 2017.


Film days are over…not.

Film days are over…not.


Like many of us, when we fully moved into digital, followed by an inundation in processing software and techniques, I forgot I ever took a transparency, although I have numerous filing cabinets filled with pages of slides (approx. 300,000). I always felt that film was too noisy and blocked up, even during film days. But, I’ve recently had another look…

I really loved the clean sharpness achieved in Digital, but began to have the same  feeling as film producers and video producers. There is a feel with film that is more organic.  Now, I’m not returning to film shooting. Not going to happen. Besides, I’ve been there and done that. The issue with film scanning was the laboriously long process and the immense amount of dust, resulting in a LOT of cloning. I am currently having great success and fun reviving and rediscovering my transparencies through what I call, for the sake of brevity, CameraScans. It’s a made up term that is easier than constantly saying, “Using the D810 to photograph transparencies with the use of a copy stand.”

During photographing transparencies for a current book project, I went back to some of my favorites. 

Here’s my set up: Copystand (check any used equipment seller), Lightbox, D810 and 105mm Macro, Macro rail to fine tune camera height. Slides on a few chocks to elevate and backlight the transparency and to not pick up imperfections on the lightbox surface, and cable release. I use Live view for composition. Pretty basic and the files are 70mb.



Here’s a few befores afters:

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Most of the time, average processing will get the job done, depending on how good the capture is.

The final image of the Swirl had some major work done: I used Edit > transform > warp to reshape the bottom edges of the frame. I then increased contrast and saturation for more drama. Afterwards, I fine tuned the shaded and sunlit areas using selections and luminosity masks.

So, for those of us with  filing cabinets, shoe boxes, drawers, paper bags, loose slide pages….whatever your chosen method of slide/ negative storage, those images can be salvaged, scanned (photographed) with a hi res camera and simple set up, to resurrect old work, which may be much better than you remember. As I look back, some of my best work is on slides. I’m sure many of you are in the same boat. So, consider taking a winter walk down memory lane and create and reinterpret digital files from your slides.

Let me know if you have any questions.


From the Dept. of Shameless Self Promotion:

Check out our 2017 Visual Artistry Workshop series

Finishing work on my ebook, Fine Art Nature Photography, vol. 2
Please email me to be notified when available.

Our Ellis Island Photo Tours will pick up again Spring, 2017
Please email me to be placed on our notification list (and for details).

That’s about it!

Have a great Thanksgiving and be careful out there!

Thanks for taking the time,





Acadia Fall 2016 epilogue

• Acadia Fall 2016 Epilogue

Acadia lake

We took a hiatus from Acadia for the past three years, opting for different venues. Returning to Acadia to conduct our workshop, one of my first locations when I started in this business, felt great. The color was excellent and still coming in when we left. I wish we could have stayed a bit longer, but we had to be elsewhere for a presentation the next day.

The subject material is varied and endless, and the weather tends to be a bit volatile, giving us some nice breaking waves, blue skies, and puffy white clouds.

The national park’s centennial brought a bit more people than usual, so we looked around for some off-the-beaten-path locales. Although, not having been to Boulder Beach for many years because of the large amount of people being there at dawn, I went down at 0430 to, hopefully, be the first one down there. I was, but was quickly followed by large group 5 minutes later. It will probably be a little while before venturing down there again.

In any event, everyone had a great time. We avoided the crowds a great deal of the time, and were lucky with light and with wave action.

Here’s a small sampling (more to come) from our week in Acadia:

Random thought: It appears that through the years, the emphasis has changed. Initially, nature photographers enjoyed being out in nature, being alone and undisturbed. With the advent of digital photography and the internet, hoards of camera owners, iPhone owners, and iPad owners come to these great places for the sole purpose of getting an image to post on Instagram. That’s all fine, but it makes being at these spiritual locations for solitude and spiritual recharging a bit difficult.

One of our missions on this and other workshops in national parks is to out maneuver the crowds to give our clients the best, uncluttered nature experience possible.

On this workshop, we found solitude for our group in a few out of the way places, like small, hidden blueberry areas and less frequented coastal areas, and more remote parts of Cadillac mountain.

We look forward to sharing this great place with our clients again next year.

Our 2017 Acadia Fall workshop dates are Oct. 10 – 14, 2017.

Please email Sue to be placed on our notification list and to register.

Watch for our latest newsletter coming soon!

Thanks for taking the time and we’ll see ya online!

oh, yeah, almost forgot…all long exposures are made using Singh Ray filters: 5 stop Mor-slo, 15 stop Mor-slo, VariND (when purchasing, use the discount code sweet10). Singh Ray. More discounts are HERE.


p.s. It’s a beautiful fall!! Get Out There and make some Gr8 pics!


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