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…

Practicing what I preach

The morning (last week) I started this post I was photographing South Tufa at Mono Lake in 26 degree temperatures. It’s hard to believe that less than three weeks earlier I was wearing a tank top, shorts, and flip-flops while photographing orchids in Hawaii. And later today I’m off to Moab, Utah. I’d taken my Hawaii workshop group to Lava Tree State Park, long a personal favorite spot…

The limitations of human vision

Visual “Truth” is more relative than real “Is that the way it really looked?” What photographer hasn’t heard that question by skeptical viewers? For years I used to feel slightly defensive when answering, as if my honesty was in question. Now I simply try to educate the skeptic. Without getting too philosophical, it’s important to understand that, like the camera’s, the human view of the universe is both…

Secret locations (and why they should stay that way)

As a professional photographer with a pretty large social media following, I get a lot of questions from complete strangers. What camera (or lens, or tripod, or whatever) should I buy? What were your settings for this picture? Did you use a filter? What’s the best time to photograph such-and-such a location? Because I don’t believe there should be secrets in photography, I do my best to answer…

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…

Playing the hand you’re dealt

In family Hearts games when I was a kid, I loved to “shoot the moon” (tremendous reward for success, extreme cost for failure). But simply wanting to shoot the moon wasn’t enough to make it happen, and I didn’t really start winning until I learned to separate my desires from the reality of the moment—I know now to evaluate my cards when they’re dealt, set a strategy, then…