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Badlands 2014 wrap-up and 2015 workshops

September 26th, 2014

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We just finished our 2014 workshop in the South Dakota badlands. This is one of our favorite venues. The light was pretty great, and we had more cloud situations than usual, along with the added bonus of the best sunrise clouds we’ve ever seen at the Big Badlands overlook. The bald skies were essential to capture the strong side light and the other worldly blue hour light at dawn and dusk. The many moods of the badlands were in full display!

Aside from the great group of people and non-stop photo ops, I had a personal processing breakthrough  blogged HERE and, at least to me, apparent in the gallery from the week. 

The images are a mix of my Nikon D810 and my Fuji XT1. Infrared image made with a converted Fuji XPro1.

We leave tomorrow morning and should be home Saturday evening, gearing up for a busy October. Speaking of October, we are expecting one of the best Falls in a while for our Oct 5-9 workshop in NH, we have a couple of openings remaining. It’s coming up soon, so if anyone has an uncontrollable urge to join us, please contact Susan.

Price Freeze for 2015!! We will be holding the price line for 2015!

Prices will be posted on our newly updated website coming soon! (Watch this space)

March 29 – April 2     Charleston, SC (10 person limit)

April 5-9                      Charleston Digital Edge workshop (5 person limit)

April 19-23                  Great Smoky Mountains Digital Edge (5 person limit)

May 4-14                     PORTUGAL TOUR! (12 person limit)

June 18-27                  Icelandic Odyssey (12 person limit)

August 16-20              Palouse Great American Landscape workshop (10 person limit)

Sept 13-18                   Badlands N.P., SD (10 person limit)

Sept 27 – Oct 1            Maine Lighthouse Tour w/ top Maine photographer,  Jack Kennealy  (10 person limit)

Oct 4-8                        Fall in New Hampshire (8 person limit)

Oct 14-18                     Acadia N.P., ME

More in the works…

For information on any of the workshops, or to register, please contact Sue.

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


p.s. New news from Topazlabs! “Impression!” Pretty cool and an outstanding tool to add to our creative palette. Discount available!
Get it HERE: http://bit.ly/1p3DNuW




Road Ramblings from the Badlands

September 21st, 2014


Being a professional jazz musician for over 20 years before my photo career ( I still play, by the way ((drums), I tend to see numerous parallels between the two pursuits. Aside from the tools of the trade, the thought process or lack thereof and ways of not thinking and just reacting are remarkably similar.

When the Monty Alexander Trio would play at the Showboat in Silver Spring, MD, many, many moons ago, I would go. I was a huge fan of piano trio and, and in particular, drummer, Jeff Hamilton. I would put up Jeff in my humble abode when they were in town. As a “captive,” I would pick his brain about how he did what he did behind the drums. His style was deceptively simple, but not really. What he played was technically easy for me, but the essence of what he played, the feel and depth of emotion wasn’t there. Then, about 5 years went by and I was playing one of Jeff’s great calypso rhythms, and I felt like the beat became wide and deep. I was playing exactly the same thing, but it felt different. It appeared to just happen. After all that time of playing, and not quite knowing why my sound didn’t have the gravity of Jeff’s….after all that time, it just happened. After years of thinking, trying, analyzing, practicing…..instantly….there was depth, weight, and something to grab on to. I know this probably sounds esoteric, but recently, within the past two weeks, a similar experience happened in my image processing. At least, it feels that way to me. 

Dig it…

In the past several years, a young crop of really great photographers have appeared on the scene. There are many: Joe Rossbach, Ian Plant, Richard Bernabe, Justin Reznick, to name only a few. All of the sudden, I saw a huge disparity in my processing and theirs. I don’t know if it’s the computer generation, where their software skills are much more facile than my generation, or whatever it was…..it was interesting to me and I was on a quest to figure out why there was that much of a difference and what I needed to do to elevate my processing techniques.

Immediately, I realized that it was the same paradigm as the aforementioned drumming story. So, I buried my head into masking techniques, layers, different plugins, blending techniques, etc., until my head was swimming. Just like practicing an instrument, I just kept processing images in my “spare” time, trying everything I could think of, fine tuning what appeared to work and discarding or modifying things that did not. It felt like I couldn’t quite get the look I wanted in synch with the look I was seeing in my imagination. Then, on this trip (before our Badlands workshop) I felt the same breakthrough feeling I felt as a musician. The image I was seeing in my imagination and my ability to process it snapped into registration. Now, I know that there is no “this is it” moment, as we and everything we do is a constant work in process, but it does appear that I’ve crossed a processing rubicon, and hopefully, will continue to evolve.

The lead image is a result of what I’m talking about. Has anyone else had a similar experience?

Constant circumspection and introspection, a sense of humility, self awareness, and a completely open mind is essential (I think) in one’s quest to create images that reflect a uniquely personal view to which we all aspire.

Here’s a pre-workshop gallery. As always, our personal shooting drops off dramatically during our workshops. We look forward to what is a predicted variable weather week for our group.

Have a great fall!

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



Shooting close to home (infrared)

September 8th, 2014


Working on my iPhone book project, booking seminar dates, endless minutia, left me with a case of cabin fever.

I had to send my XPro back to Lifepixel to fix an issue. As usual, the service was great and I get my XPro back within the week. So, noticing that there were some incredible clouds happening, I took off with only my Fuji infrared system (XPro and lenses) and made some pictures, all within 5-10 minutes from our house. As this area gets more and more built up, these open areas may begin to fade away, unfortunately.

Slacks road is a pretty cool valley area right off of rte32. Hopefully, the ground may not perc test or may be a bit too hilly on which to build.

Springfield Hospital, now called Springfield Hospital Center, is a mental health facility. Newer buildings have been added to the Hospital Center, but the old original structures are still there. There is no interior photography.

Following are a few images from about an hour of driving around within a few minutes of our house.

Many digital infrared photographers are aware of the notorious “hot spot” in the middle of the frame created when using some lenses. If you are getting the hot spot, you’ll need to try different lenses. On the Fuji system, the Fuji lenses that do not create the hot spot are the 14mm, 23mm, 35mm. On my Nikon system (converted D300), the 16-35 and 28-300 work well, not producing the hot spot.

ISSUE: I purchased the Metabones adapter in order to use Nikon lenses on the Fuji X system cameras. The adapter works like a charm on the non IR converted cameras (XT1 and XE2), but does not work on the infrared converted XPro 1.
I can’t imagine that the sensor is the issue, but it may be. I’d appreciate any feedback on this issue?

UPDATE: In the shooting menu > red label #3 > Shoot without lens must be turned ON. Before sending the camera back for repair, this was set to ON, but was reset to OFF during the repair. A subsequent conversation with good friend, John Barclay, directed me to that setting which, after turning back ON, allowed for using the Metabones.

REMINDER: After getting a repaired camera back from the company, almost all of the settings are reset for some reason. DO NOT use the camera before checking and resetting your settings.

I’ll be doing a Topaz webinar on Tuesday.

We leave next Monday for our Badlands workshop, beginning our very busy last quarter of the year.

That’s about it for now.

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


Process – Texturized color infrared

August 19th, 2014


I’ve had some interest in this particular process. So, here’s the big picture view of the process. But, ultimately, you’ll need to jump in the pool and splash around to see what works for you.

Recently, I’ve been playing around with two of my favorite effects, color infrared and texturing, then blending the two.

The above image is the final output, but here’s the original raw file:


The red tint is the color RGB file, which can be quickly gotten rid of if processing a traditional black and white infrared. Just take the image into any B&W conversion software to create traditional IR. However, the super color conversion from LifePixel enables one to add some color back in to the infrared image, for example, adding a blue sky to a traditional infrared image.

But, taking this image through the Kromagery photoshop action (free), begins the process of creating a faux color IR.

NOTE: This is NOT channel swapping, which is something else altogether. More on that later.

After adjusting the cyan hue to blue and adjusting the red, yellow, and magenta saturations to taste, here’s that output:

lone tree

Now, some people stop here. I do too, on occasion. You can see numerous examples online, however, this is a bit harsh for me, especially the stark, cool colors.  To me, this is still pretty much raw material.

Using Dr. Brown’s paper texture panel and importing my Flypaper August Painterly texture set, I analyzed the image in terms of image color and texture color, and looked for the right blend of textures to soften and modify the color palette. First, I used Nik’s Viveza to selectively color the grassy area to a soft pale green by playing with the green adjustment, then with the hue slider. I masked out a couple of the textures (I used 3) to a moderate opacity to bring out the green a bit more. I left everything else alone.


So, with infinite adjustments available to us, how do I know when an image is finished? 

Ans: It feels right.

Special shout out to Mark Hilliard for his help and influence. Check him out on his infrared FB page.

That’s about it from Wall, SD. Back on the road tomorrow.

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



The Last Picture Show

August 17th, 2014


I’m not getting any younger, but god knows I’m trying. One of the only benefits of moving through life is that one accumulates more and more material upon which to draw.

I was walking around this old, abandoned farm, in the middle of nowhere in eastern WA. First, I was aware of the stillness and profound quiet as I got out of the car and got my camera together. As I began to walk around, I became keenly aware of every sound: hearing the heels of my cowboy boots (no joke) crackle as I strolled along the gravel road,  the intermittent soft breeze, a single dragon fly, the sound of old sheet metal as it gently flapped in the wind, then when I stopped and the breeze stopped, utter silence and heat. I was reminded of all of the old dust bowl movies I’ve ever seen, then Peter Bogdanovich came to mind. Ring a bell? The old abandoned structures, the heat, the hollow emptiness reminded me of his 1971 movie, “The Last Picture Show.”

So, I photographed with the feel of that movie in mind.

I felt like I was photographing like a location scout taking stills for the movie.

I had no intent of converting to B&W, but after trying one B&W conversion in MacPhun’s Tonality Pro just to check it out, I processed every image in Tonality Pro and a little photoshop work. It’s really great and is becoming one of my prime B&W conversion options. Check it out HERE! Just click on the logo and there’s a discount attached. Highly recommended!

Anyway…if you’re so inclined, here’s a couple of YouTube videos from our time before, during, and after our Palouse Workshop/Tour. The music is by Aaron Copeland so you may want to crank the volume back a notch.

Palouse #1

Palouse Panoramics

We’re back on the road today. We should make Billings by sundown.

See ya online,


P.S. We have a few last minute openings in our Fall Color Riot New Hampshire workshop

P.P.S. Registrations are open for our Aug 16-20, 2015  Palouse Harvest/Rural American Landscapes workshop

P.P.P.S. For both of the aforementioned workshops, please contact Susan for more info.