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Charleston 2016 workshop series epilogue


Charleston 2016 workshop series epilogue

We just finished our annual Charleston Creativity workshop series. Our Visual Artistry workshop followed by our software intensive Digital Edge workshop were both attended by great individuals, inquisitive and eager to learn. Aside from the photo ops at beautiful, photo rich locales, the quality of the people make these events most enjoyable for Sue and me.

We are constantly researching new locales, and after 20+ years of photographing in the area and building relationships, we are working on new and very cool locales for our 2017 workshops.

Our 2017 dates are the following:

Visual Artistry:  March 26 to 30
Digital Edge: April 2 to April 7

Email Susan for more information and to register.

We added a day to our Charleston Digital Edge to be able to visit more places and to more fully cover processing techniques, including pro tips, luminosity masks, B&W processing, infrared, and more.

The lead image is a color and infrared blend, optimized using Topaz Impression, luminosity masks, and contrast adjustments in photoshop. CLICK HERE for all software/hardware discounts.

Here’s a compilation gallery from our Charleston Creativity Workshop Series, 2016.

We’re looking forward to a couple days of personal shooting and possibly attending the WTA in the area!….and getting out to visit a jazz club or 2 before heading home, then to the Smokies for our Digital Edge workshop, April 24-28 (only one spot left).Please email Susan if interested in joining us at this great location at a prime time of year!

We have only a few openings in our 2016 workshops. Please have a look!

Keep an eye out for our next Visual Artistry Newsletter, coming soon! 

That’s it for now!

Get out there and make great images!

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


p.s. please consider sharing (see below!)

Random thought: Discussion Point

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I just posted this image from our Smoky Mountains winter shootout on FB and thought it was a pretty nice image. Then, I noticed three problem areas:

  1. No opening in the fence for the eye to enter the scene.
  2. The predominant two sheds are merged.
  3. There’s a large area of white foreground.

Q1: Does the image work? Why or Why not?

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


re-re-re-re-re-revisiting the Lonaconing Silk Mill

re-re-re-re-re-revisiting the Lonaconing Silk Mill

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After over a year hiatus, I went back to the Lonaconing silk mill with a couple dozen friends over the weekend. It’s always been fun, and this weekend was no exception. People came from as far away as Seattle, Maine, NY, NJ, VA, and PA!

I was curious as to how the long break would affect what I photographed and how I processed. The Lonaconing Silk Mill (a.k.a. as the Klotz Throwing Company) is and probably will be a photographic mecca for as long as it’s standing. The weather was perfect. A light rain over the entire weekend rendering a soft, glowing light through the silk mill. And a few of us went over to the Cumberland Scenic Railway station, which is a very photogenic location, especially at dusk

This is at least my 20th visit shooting there and the possibilities for image making remain unlimited.

I found myself shooting simpler and darker in a great many images. For some reason, I was reminded of the quote by Jack Wilkinson, “Seeing simply is seeing significantly.”

Here’s a small gallery from the weekend, all made with the Nikon 810 and an array of Nikkor lenses:

I’ll be going back to continue my evolving study of the silk mill. But before that we head to Charleston for two workshops (Visual Artistry and Digital Edge), then to the Smokies for our spring Digital Edge workshop, before returning home for a brief time. Then to the 20th anniversary MARS event in Cape May followed by Geneva for a Visual Artistry workshop and Creativity Seminar

Check out our 2016 schedule. Please contact Susan for any questions, more info, and to register!

We’ll be conducting a workshop in Nova Scotia, summer 2017. Email to be placed on our notification list.

Let me know if you have any questions about how the gallery images were made.

Spring is upon us! Get out there!

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


p.s. Please share!


Iceland 2016 – Summerama #1 (B&W)

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Iceland 2016 – Summerama #1 (B&W)

Recently, I have found the beginnings of my B&W voice. I have a long way to go, but am pretty excited about getting deeper into the process and finally finding a processing pathway that makes sense to me. 

Images from Iceland were prime raw material with which to experiment and to re-imagine. The use of tightly targeted selections and masks opened the door, beginning with becoming aware of and liberally using Tony Kuyper’s Luminosity masks. It is possible for one to create luminosity masks in PS from scratch, but for a few bucks, one can buy the TK actions and have all the work done for you. Then all that is left is learning how to apply them to targeted selections that you want to affect. Check out the Tony Kuyper actions HERE. Highly recommended!

Our Iceland Summerama tour/workshop, July 10 – 19, 2016 is on the books and has only a few open spots.

After a trip to the Glacier Lagoon (Jokulsarlon), unique to Iceland with the black sand beaches (and crowds), we work out of 2 locations off of the beaten path. The “Beaten Path” being defined as iconic locations populated by non-stop tour buses unloading non-stop walkers through the scene. This trip is the biggest bang for your image making buck as it never gets dark, only dusk. Hence, the possibility for great image making is non-stop.

Over the last couple of years, Iceland has become one of the top photo destinations in the world. As a result, the already limited hotel space has become very tight. Being on top of this, Focus on Nature has reserved rooms several years in advance.

We will be processing and critiquing during our Icelandic workshops and we will be happy to share whatever we know.

The following images were shot with B&W processing in mind. 

As always, thanks for taking the time and feel free to EMAIL with any questions.

Oh yeah! For the more spontaneous out there, we still have an opening in our Smokies Winter Shootout, Feb 21 (one week from tomorrow!) contact Sue if interested!

We’ll see ya online.


p.s. Next blog: Iceland 2016 – Summerama #2 (Color)

p.p.s. Please Retweet below…

Random Thoughts: When great becomes commonplace

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Random Thoughts: When great becomes commonplace

I remember years ago, after submitting images for an article, a phone call from my editor. “Please….no more slot canyon shots. Please…”. I was disappointed, but I understood.

For several years after the slots got “discovered” by people with their new DSLRs, slot canyon and desert southwest images were all over the internet. That’s when the handwriting was on the wall, from what I could see. Images that were inaccessible to all but the most dedicated photographers and requiring specific, finely honed skills, were becoming a matter of googling locations and punching in GPS points. Exposure knowledge became adjusting exposures until the histogram was as good as possible.

Just to clear the air, this is not necessarily a bad thing. GPS points are good and helpful. Exposure by histogram adjustments is easier, although a little slower, than knowing and metering tonalities.

It is certainly valid to want to replicate great images. It’s a way that we all learn. And it’s certainly ok to stop there. A great many people are satisfied replicating great images. One of our jobs as workshop instructors is to get people to the right place at the right time and that certainly includes many iconic locations. However, as human beings, it’s almost impossible to do exactly the same thing over and over again without beginning to stray in a more personal direction. The further one strays from what has been done, the more originality emerges.

How do we begin to move in a direction of more originality? More creativity. To stand out from the crowd.

It’s important to realize that we are in a time when exceptional and even great images are expected and have become commonplace. One only has to troll through photo sharing sites like Flickr, 500px, SmugMug, ViewBug, etal, to get a sense of how much incredible work is out there by a great many people.  The secret weapon we all have is our imagination, aided by software tools to greatly modify our work, enabling us to create more personal and creative images, to stand apart from the crowd.

Here’s an example: Mt. Kirkujfell in Iceland

I made this image 3 years ago after seeing this in a travel brochure and insisting that our workshop group go there.

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Since that time, images of this great place have exploded in every quality of light, every season, all weather conditions, star trails, with aurora, and probably some with E.T., Elvis, and Big Foot in there!

There were dirt roads up to the top of the falls where one could camp, if desired. In the past few years, there is now a parking area for motor coaches and people walk almost non stop up to the falls, making it an exercise in patience to get a desired shot. Again, nothing wrong with this as it is merely a sign of the times, and the more people experience these places, the more likely they are to help to preserve them.

The test for us, is to find our voice in the sea of great photography.

Search for different angles, which is at times, easier said than done.

Use different lenses.

Use long exposures.

Important: Learn how to use software to create what you feel or see in your imagination. 

Upon returning to Iceland in subsequent years, I did long exposures (1-4 min) from different angles, walking down to the various water levels.


Then from the same location a year earlier, I shot a 6 image stitched pan, which is a lead image on the GoogleNik website.

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We will, of course, continue to take workshops to this great location, and will encourage and help our clients to see this incredible venue in a unique way.

The seeming unlimited number of great color images from the most exotic places on earth has moved me more and more into black and white interpretations. The expressive and creative opportunities are unlimited in B&W.

Here’s the lead image original and re-imagined in B&W:



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The Most Important Thing in photography is to enjoy the experience.

A successful photograph is one that you like.

There’s always room to improve and everyone’s aspirations are their own. Some people want to photograph Delicate Arch and some want to photograph Delicate Arch at night with an 8 hour star trail. It’s all about what you like.

It’s easy to get intimidated by the voluminous amount of spectacular photography online, but ultimately each of us only has one competitor, and that’s ourselves. I just want to be better than I was last year. If your goal and your focus is to be a better photographer than you were a year ago, the amount of mind numbing great photography out there will not be intimidating in the least. It won’t even be an issue.

That’s about it!

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


P.S. Please have a look at our 2016 Visual Artistry Workshop schedule.
Contact Susan for more information.

P.P.S. Our Creativity Seminar is now available for digital download.



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