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South Dakota Badlands 2015, a 20 year journey.

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We just got in from our 2015 South Dakota Badlands NP, Visual Artistry workshop. We love September in the Badlands and had a very talented and creative group for this trip. The temperatures this year were perfect, as were the conditions, which were widely variable. It drives home the importance and the great opportunity for growth which comes from visiting the same place frequently.

For most of the last 20 years that we’ve visited and taught at the park, I thought that I came away with some of my best work. Every subsequent year, I thought the same thing, including this year. And I’m sure next year, I’ll feel that will be some of my best work from the Badlands. That’s the process. I look at work on slides (what??), shot 20 years ago and I wince.

One of the great advantages of revisiting a location is that we naturally tire of taking the same image over and over (in most cases) and start looking deeper into the location, hence we begin to look deeper into ourselves. We begin to look for different subjects, different angles, different formats, different techniques, different lenses, and to shoot familiar locations at different times of day. This is precisely why we revisit many of our workshop locations. Aside from learning our locations intimately, we are able to help our clients look a bit deeper, also.

I finally decided to get serious about infrared on this trip, so I purchased a D800 from Ace Photo just before leaving. Ace sent it to LifePixel (scroll down page) for conversion. LifePixel sent it to our motel in Wall. I also purchased the great Nikon 24-120 to use with the D800. All of the infrared images were shot with that combination. The resolution and dynamic range was immediately apparent, making me wonder what took so long…

Here’s an extensive gallery from our image rich South Dakota Badlands 2015 Visual Artistry workshop:

Here’s a few event notes:

Contact Susan to be placed on our 2016 South Dakota Badlands workshop notification list. 

Our New Hampshire fall color riot instructional tour is coming soon and we just had an emergency cancellation, so we have ONE SPOT available for this great trip. Please contact Susan for more information and to register.

Our entire 2016 Visual Artistry workshop series will be online shortly.

The 1st annual Smoky Mountains Photography Conference is coming, Oct. 28 – Nov 1. 

I’ll be presenting on the Nikon School stage at PPE in October (landscape/macro). Details TBA.

 That’s about it for now. We have tons of office work to get done in a few days before heading up to our Maine Lighthouse Tour, NH, then Cape Cod, etc!

To our West Coast friends, we’ll be conducting Creativity Seminars in San Francisco and in San Luis Obispo following our Santa Fe workshop with the great Bobbi Goodrich (ONE space remaining).

Have a great fall everyone and we’ll see ya online!


Please feel free to share at the link below.



Madeline Island Magic



On the day the Palouse workshop ended, we packed and headed to northern Wisconsin.

The Madeline Island School for the Arts is a new venue for us, although I’ve wanted to get up to Lake Superior for a while. The first time at a location to teach without a few days to scout kinda freaks us out a bit, however, that’s how it worked out. It pretty much maxes us out in a hurry. It’s an infrequent routine. Our last long distance back-to-back workshops were about 10 years ago.

 The owner, Charlie, took Sue and me on a quick tour of the hot spots, so we had a little help getting around, then we had a few students from previous years who were most helpful to pick good locations. After the first day, Sue and I went out during the breaks to look a little deeper. There is a ton to do on Madeline Island, WI. We have just scratched the surface. We’ll be getting there much earlier next year, June 27 – July 1, 2016. To inquire further, the course is listed on the Madeline Island School of the Arts website.

Following is a small gallery from Madeline Island:

There are great opportunities to use the negative space for texturing, water and clouds for long exposures, light painting, backlit dawn waterscapes, misty mornings, incredible sea caves, and applying creative software techniques. It’s easy to get around and the photo ops are myriad. Pretty cool.

We look forward to our 2nd MISA workshop next year. Please email Jenna for info and to register.

Thanks for taking the time,


P.S. Don’t forget to check out our product discounts, including Singh Ray filters!

P.P.S Please click the link under here to share. Thx


Palouse Harvest and Wildfires



The road to Steptoe

My first visit to the Palouse was over 20 years ago, but this was the first time that the wildfires were a factor in image making and, to be honest, breathing. There were about 100 wildfires in western WA state, where Colfax was situated, about in the middle of the activity. There were no direct fires in Colfax, but any good quality light was short lived.  So, when not in good light (most of the time), images were “brought in” during processing, which worked by adding contrast, using white point/ black point, and/or by using the new dehaze filter in Lightroom. However, on one day, before the workshop, it was like a dust bowl storm. We could hardly see the road to get back to Colfax, and we got absolutely no keepers from Steptoe Butte or on ground level that day. No one has ever seen anything like it. We gave up and came back in dark smoke 4:30 in the afternoon.

They haven’t had a drop of rain since May, as of a couple of weeks ago.

During the workshop we were very lucky with light with the exception of one sunset trip to Steptoe Butte.

When Sue and I get to a location about 5 days early, in most cases, we scout extensively, figuring out Plans A, B, C and try to imagine scenarios where we may have to vacate a desired location for a plan B location. So, our very first outing with the group on Steptoe Butte was unshootable. The weather called for overnight wind and with the fires, we had a 50/50 chance of the wind blowing the smoke out…..or the wind blowing more smoke in. The latter occurred and we hightailed it off to a workable location of hay bales, which we nick-named, “The runway.”

Anything less than optimum conditions used to freak me out, but I’ve begun to view less-than-peak conditions as a challenge and since then, have been more successful, and more importantly, our groups have been more successful and were able to get excellent images in less than excellent conditions.

Here’s a small gallery, most of which were made on our scouting trips.

My most used lens was the Tamron 150-600, but we look forward to getting the New Nikon 200-500 w/TC14 later this month.

All images were made with the Nikon D810. My lens kit are Nikkors: 14-24mm, 24-70mm, 70-200mm, 105mm macro, 15mm fisheye, and the aforementioned Tamron 150-600mm.

Also, I found the Enduro GIT505XXL the most stable platform I’ve ever used and despite the added weight (but, not bad), is my landscape tripod of choice.

I’ve photographed in the Palouse over the years in spring and in the harvest. The soft pastel of spring and the austere, graphic feel of the harvest fields are both a thrill to photograph.

Our Palouse Harvest, August 7-11, 2016 is on the books.
Please contact susan@tonysweet.com for more info.

Our Palouse Spring, May 22-27 (dates approximate) is in the works. We will know soon, but we are taking names for our notification list. Please email susan@tonysweet.com.

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


p.s. Next post….Madeline Island Magic


The Confessions of a fickle 14 yr old school girl

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OMG! I loooove my Nikon D810! The 36mp are all my new BFsF!!

Oh. My. God.  The new Fuji mirrorless is so liiiiight and the color is sooo rad….

The Sony AR7 is my new fave….I can’t WAIT to, like, sell everything and get it!!

The Sony AR7II???  Hellooooooo.  I’m, like, freaking  out over here!!!


That’s about how the last 18 months have gone, flip-flopping like a fish on dry land, as fickle as a 14 year old school girl, driving Sue a bit nuts, chasing the latest thing in search of god knows what.

I’m not the only one going through this ongoing transition trauma. I hear it often from pro and amateur friends alike.

Here’s my bottom line: After an 18 month flirtation with the Fuji X system, which is excellent, by the way. And then, setting my sights on the Sony AR7, then the AR7II, also an excellent system…..you know what?
I’m a Nikon guy. I am.

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For the first time in a few months I brought only my Nikon system on the road, to the Palouse, and its like riding a bike. Everything was instantly intuitive, quick, and easy.

• I forgot how easy and intuitive the on-camera controls were to operate on the Nikon.

• My fingers don’t hit buttons by mistake, as is the unfortunate case with the smaller mirrorless cameras…then I have no idea how to get back to where I want to be, occasionally missing a shot.

• I definitely miss the multiple exposure (10) function not included on the mirrorless cameras.

• I miss the image overlay function not included on the mirrorless cameras.

• The 36mp resolution is still eye popping by comparison…..however, there’s the new Sony 43mp AR7II, which is definitely impressive. But, how much resolution do you really need? 36mp is the upper limit of my tolerable file size, not wanting to order a new hard drive every few months. 

• The new smaller, lighter, and ergonomic Nikon D750 at 24mp is great and is more than enough file size for anything. With the new line of smaller and lighter (slightly slower) lenses, the D750 and other similar Nikon cameras are comparable to the mirrorless systems with their new 2.8 glass.

• The main mirrorless attraction, given comparable file quality, is weight. We all like that. However, the trade offs for the weight saving in features, including the ease of operation and ruggedness in very adverse conditions is unacceptable to me. My D810 and lenses have been subjected to an immense amount of dust on this trip to the Palouse with no issues whatsoever. I’m not sure if any unsealed mirrorless system could hold up under intense heat, dust, water, and extreme cold for a protracted period of time.

So, I’ve actually made a decision.

For my professional work, it’s the Nikon D810 and an infrared converted D300.

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Tripod Update:

It appears that I’m going in a different direction with my tripod selection, also. After years of the lightness quest, I’m going heavier. I just got the Induro GIT505XXL. It goes as high as my much lighter Gitzo 3540XLS, but is noticeably heavier. Why, you say? Well, first off, it’s my tripod of choice when working out of the car. It’s not a hiking tripod. But, it is easily the most solid platform I’ve worked on. From the moment I place the camera on the tripod, the solid feel is palpable. Also, we’ve had several days of blowing dirt and a major dust storm. The legs still open and retract smoothly with no grit, completely sealed against the elements. Impressive!

So, that’s about it sports fans. I can finally stop tossing and turning in my sleep, losing weight by not eating, and can keep some money in the bank.

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





NECCC/ Geneva, and the calm before the Palouse

Buttermilk falls

Buttermilk falls

We just got back from the NECCC event immediately followed by our event at Hobart College for the PPSNYS in Geneva, NY.

We’re a bit tired, but had a great time with friends and, of course, it’s always great to share photography. I didn’t shoot a lot, actually not at all at NECCC in Amherst, MA. There was really no time between presentations, book signings, visiting friends and spending time at vendor’s booths, all of which was most enjoyable. 

However, in Geneva, things were a bit different. Although a “school” situation, it functioned pretty much like one of our Visual Artistry workshops: morning shoot, process time, class time/critiques, evening shoot. It was my first time back to Geneva in 8 years! It really didn’t seem like it as everything seemed so familiar, but it was.

This year, we dug a little deeper into the local scene with the help and advice of several friends. After record snow falls, this was the highest water level in 80 years! We found a lot of cool stuff to photograph and creatively process. Actually, enough cool stuff to run a Finger Lakes Visual Artistry  workshop in the spring of 2016, so please watch this space as we firm up details and exact dates. This is a particularly image rich area that I’ve wanted to explore for years and look forward to at least 1 visit later this year to scout deeper into the area.

Here’s a small gallery of images from Geneva and the surrounding Finger Lakes region:

This is only a small sample of what’s available to photograph, but it does require a little driving and extra scouting on our end, but we really look forward to getting our Finger Lakes workshop on the schedule soon. Please email Sue if you would like to be placed on our email notification list.

After the normal flurry of last minute work, we’ll be heading to the Palouse for our second fall harvest workshop next week.

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


p.s. Visual Artistry Newsletter coming soon!

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