Natural Order

I’m often asked if I placed a leaf, moved a rock, or “Photoshopped” a moon into an image. Usually the tone is friendly curiosity, but sometimes it’s tinged with hints of suspicion that can border on accusation. While these questions are an inevitable part of being a photographer today, I suspect that I get more than my share because I aggressively seek out naturally occurring subjects to isolate and emphasize in my…

All Wet

Last Monday seemed like the perfect day for a poppy shoot in the foothills. I had the afternoon wide open—with the California media buzzing about this year’s “superbloom,” plus a forecast promising ideal conditions (calm wind and thin clouds), I couldn’t help dreaming about my own images of poppy-saturated fields. What could possibly go wrong? Getting on the road proved a little more problematic than…

Macro in Spirit

It’s poppy season in California, and this is turning out to be a banner year. I’ve already enjoyed one nice poppy shoot, but things are just getting started in Northern California so I hope there are more to come. When I photograph poppies, I don’t always use my macro lens. Even though my objective is similar to what I’d accomplish with a macro lens—a…

Creative Selective Focus (revisited)

After a winter that didn’t seem like it would ever end, spring has finally arrived in California. With poppies springing up throughout the state, and the dogwood bloom right around the corner, this seemed like a good time to update my Creative Selective Focus article. In this day of ubiquitous cameras, automatic exposure modes, free information, and powerful processing tools, taking a good picture…

Wild about wildflowers

I’ve given up trying to predict California’s wildflower bloom. There are a lot of theories about the conditions that cause a great wildflower bloom: wet winter, early rain, late rain, warm spring, wet spring, and so on. For each condition correlation you can cite, I can cite an exception. So now I just cross my fingers and wait to see what spring delivers. Well, it turns…

Among the wildflowers

Last year, a busy spring schedule and mediocre wildflower bloom conspired to thwart the wildflower photography I love so much. Vowing not to let that happen again this year, a few days ago I packed my gear and headed for the hills with fingers crossed. My goal was a familiar canyon off of Highway 49 in the foothill Gold Country south and east of Sacramento. This would be the…

Going for bokeh

  In this day of ubiquitous cameras, automatic exposure, and free information, a creative photographer’s surest path to unique images is achieved by managing a scene’s depth. Anyone with a camera can compose the left/right/up/down aspect of a scene. But the front/back plane, a scene’s depth, that we human’s take for granted, is missing from a two-dimensional image. Managing depth requires abstract vision and camera control beyond the skill of most…

Customize your camera

A recent mishap forced me to replace my Canon 5D Mark III (a story for a different day). A quality backup and good equipment insurance made my accident no more than a minor inconvenience, but setting up my new camera this morning reminded me of a few camera settings I consider equal parts essential and obscure (or taken for granted). So essential that I…

My photography essentials, part 2

A couple of weeks ago the editors at “Outdoor Photographer” magazine asked me (and a few other pros) to contribute to an upcoming article on photography essentials, and it occurs to me that my blog readers might be interested to read my answers.Here’s my answer to the second of their three questions: What are your three most important non-photo pieces of gear that you rely…

A rite of spring

Today it’s gray and wet in Sacramento, a refreshing break from our ridiculously warm and dry winter (sorry, pretty-much-everywhere-else-in-the-U.S.). Usually by the end of February my thoughts have turned to spring, but this year I find myself feeling a cheated of winter (and wishing the rest of you would have shared). As miserable as it can be, I’ve always loved winter photography—not just snow…