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Ellis Island Photo Tours- a look to 2017

Empty Sky memorial

Years ago, when I would tell my mom that I was going to photograph at a local venue, her reply would always be, “Haven’t you been there before?” And my reply to her reply would always be, “Well, yeah, mom, but it’s always different.” This went on for years.

After visiting Ellis Island 8 times now, I’m more excited than ever to go back and to share this historic place with others. Our tours for 2016, except for our October photo tour, are full. And we are planning dates for 2017, beginning in April.

Here’s a gallery from our July and September tours….oh yeah, and the really cool thing is that we are allowed to bring tripods and shoot at our leisure for an entire day in the non-public areas of the old hospital (accessible on Hard hat tours), including areas that are not at all accessible to the public. Pretty cool. The artist JR has an installation, which adds greatly to the experience!

The hours are from 0700 until one hour before closing.

The price for photographing in this totally unique place is $750, 70% of which goes to the Save Ellis Island foundation, and is deductible. A letter is sent out at the conclusion of the event for tax purposes. So, we have a nice trifecta: Get great and unique images; support and help restore a piece of our history; and get a tax write-off!

If you want to get in to our October 23, 2016 (next month) tour, email me.

If you want to be placed on the notification list for 2017, email me.

Please forward to anyone who you think may be interested.

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


p.s. oh yeah, check out our previous Ellis Island blog post

Ellis Island Photo Tours

• Ellis Island Photo Tours


September is our third photo tour in this incredible and historic site, in cooperation with Save Ellis Island, where w2008-approved-logoe have unprecedented access to non-public areas and can use a tripod for maximum image quality.

After one posting, we had enough interest to almost fill 6 months (one tour/ month) w/ 10 people per tour. Currently, we have only a handful of openings for the remainder of this year:

Oct 23 – 1 opening

Nov 6 – 2 openings

Dec 4 – 1 opening

We are also building our list to resume the tours March, 2017.

If interested, please drop a line for more info and/ or to place your name on our notification list.

Following is a small sampling from our last two visits: 

That’s it for now. Looking forward to getting the iPhone 7 tomorrow!

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


Badlands 2016 Epilogue

• Badlands 2016 Epilogue


Our South Dakota Badlands 2016 workshop is history and was an extraordinary cloudscape week. Being one of  our perennial workshops (20 years), we are still surprised and uplifted at how the light touches this great land. The spirituality is palpable, especially at Sheep Mountain (in the south unit), where the lead image was made.

The lead image is the culmination of many years of working this scene waiting for the right conditions. This year, the clearing storm, moving clouds through the blue sky, and the late afternoon light shaft on the formation came together for the 4 minute exposure, using a 15 stop neutral density filter, to finally get the image I was seeing in my imagination.

The first image that made a deep impression on me many years ago was an infrared image. I didn’t know what it was or how it was made, but it’s what I wanted to do. My move into the invisible world of infrared has dramatically increased this year to where about 1/2 of my work is infrared. This work will be featured exclusively in our next blog.

We are always thrilled to have optimal conditions for our workshop clients and this year the Badlands were stellar. Following is a gallery from our 2016 Badlands workshop.

Badlands 2017 dates are Sept 10 -14, 2017. Please email Susan to register and for more information.

After 20 years of shooting and conducting workshops here, we always look forward to returning and sharing this great place with our clients. Aside from photographing, we have daily critiques and processing tips, along with always being available in the field for questions, help, and personal instruction.

Watch this space for our next blog: Badlands Infrared

Oh Yeah!! Before I forget! Check out our St. Simon’s Island, GA Seminar, Nov. 12-13

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



The unexpected: keeping an open mind

The unexpected: keeping an open mind

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We got our group to the old Texaco car lot in the Palouse on a bright overcast day and everyone was pretty stoked to photograph, as was I. After instructing everyone on the lay of the land, everyone scattered, taking their images. I went to get a few grab shots, took a camera and a fisheye lens, hoping to get something a bit different. The lead image was the first image taken. After checking the image on the camera, I immediately saw that I grabbed the “wrong” camera: my D800 infrared camera. After the initial shock of seeing an unexpected image, I took a step towards the car to change cameras. Just one step. It immediately hit me that, if I wanted something different, this was certainly one way to get it. So, I proceeded to shoot only infrared on the cars. After seeing myriad images of this place in color, light painted, using iPhone, using lens baby, HDR’d to death, I got excited about this happy accident.

This must have been meant to be an infrared trip, in general, as I repeated this happy “mistake” several times during our workshop.

Just a reminder to go with the flow of an unexpected turn of events. You never know where it will lead.

Our Palouse June 4-8, 2017 Spring workshop is on the books and we are now accepting registrations. Please email Susan for more info and to register. A 2017 Palouse harvest workshop is in the works.

We off to Bandon Beach, OR for a week of R&R and to scout for a future workshop.

Next workshop is on Whidbey Island, WA, Aug 24-28…..we have a space available…

That’s about it for now!

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


Palouse epilogue and a personal note

Palouse epilogue and a personal note

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We have just concluded our Palouse Harvest 2016 workshop and we had a tremendous and flexible group of photographers. And were very lucky to have great light the entire week. 

An image blog post will follow in a few days, as we are packing go to San Francisco in a couple of hours, but this is the first year (after 20) that I’ve left the Palouse in a slightly down mood.

The incidents of “photographer” ignorance, inconsideration, and sense of entitlement have exploded, and many farmers are unhappy with photographer and workshop leader conduct.

At least one classic scene has been restricted because of rude behavior by photographers and camera owners, and there is disgruntlement among the locals. People speed  through the idyllic dirt roads in search of “the shot.” Families live on these roads, kids and pets are going through their lives in a carefree (as it should be) way, and then some chucklehead comes flying down the road. For what? Most of these “great” shots never get beyond social media.

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but here’s what it’s not worth:

  1. It’s not worth trespassing.
  2. It’s not worth making kids playing on their dirt road a life threatening experience
  3. It’s not worth disturbing families 
  4. It’s not worth forcing farmers to close off photo ops due to aggressive, offensive and rude behavior.
  5. It’s not worth walking all over crops, costing the farmers money.
  6. It’s not worth driving around like crazy people.
  7. It’s not worth offending people.

I was asked to take down a post of a lesser known structure by a local photographer, even though I didn’t say where it was, because it would cause leaders and others to drive around like maniacs trying to find it, and then would most likely trespass to get their composition. I agreed and took it down immediately.

So, it appears that responsible photographers, who have made pictures here for many years, and lead workshops and tours, are in a position to help smooth things out a bit, by leading by example.

Here’s what we do:

  1. Whenever we pass a farm on a dirt/gravel road, we slow to 10 mph.
  2. We always stay off of private property, even plowed fields, even stubble fields.
  3. We never shoot close to where there is work going on.
  4. We ALWAYS ask permission to photograph on private property.
  5. We ALWAYS ask permission to photograph on private property.
  6. We are always polite and deferential to the residents.
  7. We drive slowly on dirt roads.
  8. We park as far off of the road as possible to allow for passing farm equipment.
  9. We always work in stealth mode, being quiet when working around where people live.
  10. Whenever possible, we get addresses and send a picture to the farmer.

Just because there is not a “No Trespassing” sign does not entitle you to walk on to their property. Aside from public paved and dirt/gravel roads, every piece of land in the Palouse is owned by someone, i.e. private property

We are here at the pleasure of the farmers who keep many of these structures viable for us to photograph. We are not entitled to photograph on their property without permission.

Considerate photographers and tour leaders are on the cusp of losing the support of the farmers, who make this such a wonderful place to photograph.

Please forward this to all of the photographers you know.


Tony Sweet

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