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Lots of excellent surfers were out on Saturday at the Juno Pier surf spot in South Florida. Hurricane Irene left plenty of great waves in her wake. Waves of this size are not a regular occurrence in South Florida so everyone comes out, surfers, observers and photographers…I had a great time watching and shooting. Pura Vida!

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier on Saturday in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Lots of surfers came out to the Juno Pier to surf the waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Lots of surfers came out to the Juno Pier to surf the waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Lots of surfers came out to the Juno Pier to surf the waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Lots of surfers came out to the Juno Pier to surf the waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Big waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves at the Juno Pier brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing at the Juno Pier in South Florida on waves brought by Hurricane Irene.

Riding the great surf brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Riding the great surf brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Good conditions brought lots of surfers out to ride the waves brought to Juno Beach Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Good conditions brought lots of surfers out to ride the waves brought to Juno Beach Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Good conditions brought lots of surfers out to ride the waves brought to Juno Beach Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Good conditions brought lots of surfers out to ride the waves brought to Juno Beach Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

The conditions were great for photographing the surfers that came out to ride the waves left in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Photos of the surfers riding the waves brought to South Florida in the wake of Hurricane Irene.

Great waves came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Great waves came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Yikes!

Yikes!

Great waves for surfing came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Great waves for surfing came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Great waves for surfing came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Great waves for surfing came rolling into South Florida compliments of Hurricane Irene.

The surf action was non stop at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

The surf action was non stop at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

It was non stop action at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

The surf action was non stop at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

It was non stop action at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

It was non stop action at the Juno Pier in Florida thanks to waves brought in by Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Surfing the great waves compliments of Hurricane Irene.

Lots of great surf was brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Lots of great surf was brought to South Florida by Hurricane Irene.

Surf's Up!

Surf's Up!

Just in case you want to shoot some of your own pix, here’s what I used. A Canon 5D Mark II body with a Canon 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L zoom lens, a tripod (monopod would be better) and a polarizing filter to bring out the color of the water. In some cases I added as much as one full stop of exposure to compensate for the polarizer. I shot in shutter priority mode, and used iso settings between 160 and 300, that gave me f stops between 5.6 and 9 depending on the shot.

You can see more of my work, photography, art and design at my website, G2GVisions.com, and at my Fine Art America Artist website.

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winter sunset watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen at fine art america.

Winter Sunset Watercolor Painting by Michelle Wiarda

Are you an artist or photographer that wants world-wide exposure? If so, read on.

If you haven’t heard about Fine Art America, fineartamerica.com, check it out. Fine Art America is an online art gallery marketplace that is constantly growing. As of today there are 50,560 members. Here are the latest stats from their site. “There are currently 1,168,080 fine art prints, photo prints, paintings, sculptures, drawings, and other works of art available for sale on FineArtAmerica.com (including 1,253 new pieces which were added today).” Fine Art America was founded toward the end of 2007 by Sean Broihier as a forum to connect artists with collectors and other buyers, and to put the business side of their career on “autopilot”, so they can devote more time to creating art. He is said to refer to FAA as his life’s work. Thank you Sean!

You can see it’s also a great place to network with other painters, photographers and visual artists of all kinds. They comment on your work, you comment on theirs, you can have discussions, send each other messages, and you can see what is selling, what others are doing, and what is new. You can sell your original work, and/or beautiful fine art prints of your work reproduced on canvas, or on a variety of fine art papers. You can also choose from a wide array of frames, and an even wider assortment of mats. As you make your choices, an image of your artwork is shown with the mat, frame, or canvas style applied.

If you are a member, or you have checked it out,  you know how amazing it really is. You upload your work, and FAA handles the business side of things for you leaving you more time to create!

I found the Fine Art America website by clicking on a beautiful image of an osprey, the bird, that a friend of mine shared with me on Facebook, (thank you Lauren!). I noticed that the photographer had many images posted on Fine Art America, and his work was beautiful. I decided that if it was good enough for this excellent photographer, it would be good enough for me. Sure I was somewhat skeptical, Fine Art America offers so much to artists, that it seems too good to be true.

At the same time I thought, why not check it out? What did I have to lose? FAA offers a free account, but for a mere $30 a year, you get an unlimited number of uploads, your own free website, a bunch of marketing tools and widgets, visitor tracking and comment info, and so much more. You can see daily and weekly visitor totals, and you get to see where your visitors come from, and they are all over the world. How exciting is that? Through FAA you can start a blog, e-mail your clients and potential clients beautiful newsletters for FREE (just take a look at what Constant Contact charges for that service), put a shopping cart on your site from FAA that works right there within your own site, post a notification on your Facebook wall each time you upload a new piece of artwork, and your uploads show up in Google search engines almost immediately. All of this is included for a mere $30! Amazing and hard to believe. Here’s a link to my Fine Art America website so you can see what a deal this is. Michelle Wiarda Artist Website.

I joined Fine Art America about six months ago. I decided to write a blog about my experience with Fine Art America, but I didn’t want to do that until I sold something and got paid for it.

A couple of months ago I received an e-mail from FAA congratulating me on the sale of a print of one of my pieces. It turned out that a friend of mine made the purchase. I thought, perfect, now I can ask her about the quality, timeliness, and presentation of the print. She assured me that she was totally pleased with the entire experience right down to the delivery of the product.

Several weeks later I sold another print to someone I don’t know. Again, I received an e-mail from FAA notifying me of the sale. The following month I received a check in the mail for my share of the proceeds from the sales of my work. I can say, I have been full circle with Fine Art America and I am happy to recommend FAA. I am a Fine Art America advocate, and I tell as many people as possible about it, both artists and buyers.

maine lighthouse watercolor painting image.

Maine Lighthouse, one of my most popular paintings on Fine Art America.

One very important caveat, you must upload excellent quality images, if you don’t, Fine Art America will not print your orders. If you do a little research on Fine Art America, you will find that there are some people complaining about Fine Art America, and putting it down saying the artwork is bad and more silliness just because Fine Art America demanded that they give them a professional quality image to work with. I should hope that the good people at Fine Art America would make sure that an image is excellent before printing and delivering it to a buyer. They’re doing me a favor by making sure that the prints that I sell are of the best quality! I guess the complainers don’t trust the experts to decide what is acceptable for printing and what is not. Oh well, that’s their loss.

Santorini watercolor painting by michelle wiarda as seen on fine art america.

Santorini, another of my watercolor paintings that gets a lot of views on Fine Art America.

In order to upload your files they must be in .jpg or .png format, and they can be up to a maximum of 25 MB, and I cannot stress enough that they must be of professional quality. Once your image is uploaded you add the title, and keywords to it and an area is provided for you to write a little something about the piece. Fine Art America also offers a unique zoom feature that potential buyers can use to see the quality of your image easily. You can set up different galleries of your work according to content, style or whatever you want. You can rearrange your pieces as you wish. You can edit them, share them or remove them if you want to. You choose your pricing, and the format and sizes you want to offer, and FAA does the rest. I might add that they do not overcharge for their mats, frames, canvases or cards. The prices are very reasonable. I really cannot say enough good things about Fine Art America. Please feel free to add your comments, and experiences with Fine Art America here.

Go ahead, join today, 50,560 of us can’t be wrong (and are happy we did)!

Here are the images that I’m pleased and grateful to have sold through Fine Art America.

complete lovely mayhem a digital painting that i sold through fine art america.

Complete Lovely Mayhem, this is a digital painting that I sold a print of through Fine Art America.

Marblehead Lighthouse photograph, by michelle wiarda.

Marblehead Lighthouse, fine art photograph by Michelle Wiarda sold through Fine Art America.

Join Today, You’ll Be in Business in No Time! Happy Selling!

Websites for Photographers

adobe illustrator wear and tear texture tutorial image.
I see this worn, distressed effect used all over the place lately. It’s not new, it just seems to be hanging on. I discovered this easy, easy way to recreate this distressed look and a lot more. So here it is, short and sweet. I used Adobe Illustrator CS5 this time, I was also able to recreate this effect in Illustrator CS3 too.

Step One: Set your type (I used Arial Black for this example). You can use a shape instead of type if you want to.

step one image adobe illustrator texture tutorial

Step Two: If you’re using type, convert your type to outlines; select your type, then go to Type; Create Outlines.

step two adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Three: Add color as desired. You can give the outlined text a a stoke too if you like. The shape has to be filled in order for the effect to work.

step 3 adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Four: Choose an image of a texture that you want to use. The image must be at least as large as the shape you are distressing. I used an image I shot for this example. It’s cracked pavement. If you don’t have any texture images you can get some really good images from Wetzel Company, Inc. Wetzel offers great, copyright free, background, texture, and pattern images for use in Photoshop, Illustrator too. GrungeTextures.com offers free high-res textures for digital art and graphic design.

Once you’ve chosen your image, open it in Photoshop, and increase the contrast a bit, and lighten the image if it’s very dark using Image; Adjustments; Brightness Contrast. This will help the texture show up better in the next steps. Save and close your image and go back to Illustrator. Although, not all images will require this step, and it may not be necessary at all given the colors you choose.
step four adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Five: In Illustrator, Go to File; Place, and navigate to the texture image file you have chosen. Scale your texture image as you wish, making sure it will cover the area of your type, or shape. (It is best to have an image that is bigger than your shape, you don’t want to increase the size of your texture image because it’s a raster not vector, and you will lose resolution).

step five adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Six: Now select both the type or shape, and your texture image. Open your Transparency panel (Window; Transparency), then open the fly out menu on the right, and choose make opacity mask.

step 6 adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Seven: Check out your Transparency panel, while both items are selected and you’ll see two image icons. One is your type shape, the other the texture mask. You can click on the texture mask icon in your Transparency panel, and using the direct selection tool, (A), you can move the texture image around as you wish to get the effect that you want.

step seven adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

Step Eight: You can select Invert Mask in your Transparency panel for a result similar to this. Notice that you can click on either your mask image or your original shape from within the panel, be sure to click on your original shape in your Transparency panel when you’re done to get out of mask mode (if you don’t you won’t be able to select anything else). That’s all there is to it.

step eight adobe illustrator texture tutorial image.

You can have a lot of fun with this method by layering textures on top of each other, masking shapes with texture images, and using a variety of textures and patterns. This look is useful for a lot of different applications from logos, to page layout, or posters, video, DVD interfaces. You name it. Your imagination is the limit! Experiment and see what you can do with it.

examples of texture transparency mask applied to various objects image.

Valuable info for all freelance, I prefer to say, CONTRACT photographers, designers and artists.

Ninety percent of small businesses fail within the first two years. With few exceptions, working for free is the fastest way for freelance photographers to

via 12 Excuses for Shooting Photos for Free — and Why They’re Bogus.

photo of dunes in provincetown massachusetts.

A photo of beach dunes taken with a Canon EOS 10D digital camera.

My OpenSky store is alive and kicking! So let’s get started. I want to introduce you to a product that is a perfect solution for someone who loves shooting photos, and wants more versatility and creative options than a point and shoot camera offers.

I am a huge fan of Canon cameras. I purchased my very first Canon SLR (SLR=single lens reflex, it means you’re looking through the lens rather than a viewfinder) camera at the beginning of my first year of college, it was a Canon TLB film camera with a 50mm lens. I don’t believe I consciously chose Canon at the time for any reason other than that’s what the store I shopped at offered. Thankfully, the decision to go with Canon cameras and lenses, many, many, years ago, has proven to be a good one. I’ve owned lots of different Canon cameras since then. As Canon developed new technology, and my budget allowed, I upgraded my current Canon camera. I gave in and went digital only when Canon made the first digital camera I could afford. That was the good old Canon EOS 10D. I still use it, and it’s nearly 10 years old and going strong. I can honestly say I have never had a single problem with any of my Canon cameras or equipment.

All of the photos on my site www.g2gvisions.com, and this blog, were shot using Canon cameras. From my Canon F1n LA Olympic Edition film camera, my Canon PowerShot SD630 (point and shoot), which I purchased 5 years ago and carry around in my handbag, to my most recent Canon purchase, the incredible Canon EOS 5D Mark II.

Check out this Canon EOS Rebel XS 18-55IS Kit, it’s a perfect entry level Canon SLR digital camera. Get lots of the same features the pros enjoy with this incredible camera, which is Canon’s lightest and most compact EOS Digital SLR to date. Visit my OpenSky store at my website, www.g2gvisions.com/openskystore.html

canon eos rebel xs digital camera image.

The Canon EOS Rebel XS Digital Camera

If you’re looking for a great way to get into working with a SLR camera, and all of the cool creative options that go with using one, then start out with this kit, it’s a perfect setup to get you shooting right away. Since it’s a Canon product, I can whole-heartedly assure you that this is a high quality product. If you have questions about this Canon EOS Rebel XS 18-55IS kit, or any other Canon lens or accessory, send me an e-mail at michelle@g2gvisions.com. If I don’t know the answer, I’ll certainly make every effort to get the answer for you.

Now back to the Canon EOS Rebel XS 18-55IS kit, it comes fully loaded with many of the features offered on much, much higher priced cameras. From its 10.1-megapixel CMOS Sensor, Canon’s DIGIC III processor, simple, easy-to-use controls, compact design, huge 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and Live View Function (this cool function lets you see the image you’e shooting right there on the monitor so you don’t have to hold the camera to your eye), to the Canon 18-55 IS zoom lens, the IS stands for image stabilization, it’s totally a beginner’s dream come true. If you’re on the edge about whether or not to purchase this camera, I say, go for it, I chose Canon many years ago and I have not looked back. I recently got a Nikon advocate to switch to Canon once I showed him all the great things that my Canon EOS 5D Mark II can do!

Just look at this impressive list of facts and features.

• 10.1-megapixel CMOS Sensor
• Canon’s DIGIC III processor
• simple, easy-to-use controls
• compact design
• a 2.5-inch LCD monitor, and
• Live View Function
• Auto Lighting Optimizer for highlight/shadow control
• Picture Style settings for in-camera color, contrast, and sharpness control
• High-speed, wide-area 7-point AF with center cross-type sensors
• Excellent performance with 3.0 fps continuous shooting and burst rate up to 514 Large JPEGs (until memory card is full)
• Large 2.5-inch LCD monitor with Live View Function
• EOS Integrated Cleaning System
• Compatible with compact SD and SDHC memory cards
• Compatible with over 60 Canon EF/EF-S lenses and most EOS System accessories

Included: EF-S 18-55mm 1:3.5-5.6 IS Lens, Wide Strap EW-100DBIII, Video Cable VC-100, USB Interface Cable IFC-200U, Battery Pack LP-E5, Battery Charger LC-E5, EOS Digital Solution Disk and Instruction Manuals.

Special! 25% Off! From August 10th through August 16th, use coupon code EXCITE25 and you’ll receive 25% off any product on OpenSky! Visit my OpenSky “Candy” Store today! Michelle’s OpenSky Candy Store

Feel free to e-mail me with questions, the products that I endorse are products that I think are high-quality, and are worthy of taking the time to share them with you. Best of all, when you buy at my OpenSky shop, each and every purchase you make is completely GUARANTEED! You may return any purchase, for any reason, in its original condition, within 1 year for a FULL REFUND. And we’ll pay for the shipping! What could be better than that!?!

Don’t forget, order by August 16th, and use the special coupon EXCITE25 to save 25%!

By the way, send me your Canon camera photos and stories. E-mail me at michelle@g2gvisons.com. Not only would I enjoy them, but I’ll post your shots and stories here on my blog to be enjoyed by all!

Happy shooting!

If you are looking for a good time on Cape Cod check out the Hyannis Whale Watcher. It’s a trip you will remember.

photograph of people watching whales at stellwagen bank.

Watching whales from the M/V Whale Watcher

photo of the hyannis whale watcher boat in barnstable massachusetts.

The Hyannis Whale Watcher Jet Powered Boat

Last week I took a ride on the Hyannis Whale Watcher Cruise, for the second time. www.whales.net. The whale-friendly (no propellers), water jet propulsion cruiser leaves from Barnstable Harbor (Cape Cod) and shoots you right out to the whales. If you like speed, you’ll enjoy the ride. We passed by the beautiful Sandy Neck lighthouse and cottages on their barrier beach at the mouth of the Barnstable Harbor. That view is incredible itself. I was so inspired last time I went out that I created a large, digital painting of the Sandy Neck Lighthouse. You can see it here.

photo of the sandy neck lighthouse barnstable harbor massachusetts.

Sandy Neck Lighthouse and Cottages, One of the Northeasts Most Beautiful Barrier Beaches

Once we were out of Barnstable Harbor and in the open waters, the jets kicked in and we were whisked out to the Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary. I sat outside at the stern and watched the power of those engines pushing the water. Unbelievable. It felt a bit like flying.

photograph of the wake created by the jet propelled hyannis whale watcher boat.

The wake created by the water jet propellers that flew us to Stellwagen.

If you like photography and wildlife you will really enjoy the challenge that whale photography presents. I brought along my Canon 5D Mark II and my Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L Series zoom. I set my ASA to 320 so I could use a fast shutter speed and still get decent depth of field. Most were shot at 1/1600 at f6.3, f7.1 and f8. It seems to have worked. The whales and water are dark in color for the most part so you have to compensate for that too. I added between one third and two thirds of a stop more exposure in most cases.

The crew know their whales and they know where to find them. We had whale visitors within moments of arriving. We saw lots of Humpback whales on the day we went out so we learned a lot about them. They got their name from the hump on their backs, just in front of their small dorsal fin. Humpbacks are baleen whales, meaning they have no teeth, but they have baleen plates made of the same material as our fingernails (keratin). The plates hang from the whales upper jaw and allow the whale to filter its food from the water. Humpback whales can be 35 to 50 feet long and weigh between 25 and 40 tons, and they’re mid-sized whales. The underside of the tail, or flukes, is like our thumb print, no two whales have the same markings, making it possible to identify individuals and track them.

photo of a pod of humpback whales at stellwagen bank.

A pod of three humpback whales came by.

We learned that the Humpback whales that we were seeing spent the winter in the Caribbean where they breed and birth their young, their calves weigh about a ton, and are 13 to 15 feet long. Talk about labor! The Humpback whales travel up from the Caribbean in the spring and they hang out in the Gulf of Maine from late spring to early fall. They spend the entire time feeding. That’s why they’re up there—to eat. They eat krill, herring, mackerel, and other small schooling fish. They have to eat enough during their months up north to get them through the lean times in the Caribbean where there is little food.

photo of humpback whale mother and her calves.

Humpback whale mother and calves.

photograph of humpback whale mother and her calf.

Humpback Whale Mom and Calf

photograph of a humpback whale tail.

Humpback Whale Tail - Beginning a Dive

photograph of a humpback whales tail as he begins a dive.

Humpback whale diving below the surface.

photograph of a humpback whale tail with water streaming off of it.

Water streams off the whales tail as it lifts out of the water for a dive.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail showing its unique markings.

Humpback whale tail showing its unique markings that identify individuals.

photo of a mother humpback whale and her calf.

Humpback whale mom and her calf.

photo of a humpback whale diving right next to our boat.

A Humpback whale diving right next to the boat.

Some of the whales came right up beside our boat. They seemed to be really curious, even playful. They were lolling around on their backs, lifting their heads out of the water to get a look at us, slapping their fins on the surface, they were acting like they were genuinely happy to see us.

photo of the underside of a humpback whales tail as the whale dives below the surface.

Humpback whale tail showing its individual colors and markings.

closeup photo of a humpback whales blow hole.

Humpback whales blow hole. It looks like a giant set of nostrils to me.

photograph of a humpback whales white pectoral fin or flipper.

Humpback whale flipper, or pectoral fin. They can be up to 15 feet long and up to one third of the whales body length.

photo of the fins of a humpback whale as it lays on its back on the surface of the water.

This Humpback whale came up beside the boat floating around on his back. These are his flippers.

a photograph of a humpback whale flipper slapping the surface of the water.

One of the Humpback whales was playing around near the boat and showed us a nice flipper slap.

Humpback whales have lots of bumps on their heads. Each of these bumps, called tubercles, contains one hair. Scientists believe that these hairs are used as a sensory device.

photograph of humpback whales head showing the tubercles that are used as a sensory device.

Humpback whales head showing the bumps or tubercles, each having a hair, that the whales may use as a sensory device.

photo of the research vessel the mysticete with a whale beside it.

The Whale Center of New England owned Mysticete research vessel.

photo of a pod of at least three humpback whales.

A pod of at least three Humpback whales swam by us.

Here’s a Humpback whale waving his flipper at us as we head back to the harbor.

photo of a humpback whale lifting its flipper as if to wave goodbye as we left.

Humpback whale waving a flipper as if to say goodbye as we turned to leave.

Please protect the welfare of our whales, dolphins and porpoises for their future and ours. For more information visit the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society at www.wdcs-na.org.

Big Wave in Delray Beach

This is amazing for Delray Beach.

A group of young surfers heading into the ocean.

Surf's Up!

This weekend in southeast Florida was unusual in that we had waves, big 5 to 6 foot waves. Exciting stuff for all of the surfers in our area. This only happens once or twice a year, and only when the weather is just right. The weather was just right this weekend and people were loving the big, crashing waves. They were such an incredible color too, it looked like they might have gotten some of their color from the sand they picked up as they came roaring toward the shore. That picking up sand business is not such a good thing, the erosion has been out of control this weekend too.

Big waves in Delray Beach.

The wind is blowing the tops right off of these waves.

Of course I had to head out to the beach with my camera, and big, heavy 100-400mm lens which let me get in pretty close on the surfers and the surf. I had to shield my lens from the salt, the wind was kicking up pretty good out of the north. I actually just pulled the bottom out of my camera bag (it was a small one) and used it to semi-protect my lens from the onslaught of salt. Even though my camera and lens are weatherproof, I try not to abuse that. In fact, it’s a very good idea to clean your camera and lenses when returning from a shoot at the beach. You don’t want to leave all that salt on your equipment.

A surfer catches a great wave in Delray Beach on Sunday.

One of the many great waves to be had this weekend.

Surfer riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida

There were lots of waves for everyone.

A surfer riding a wave.

Another great ride on the unusual waves in Delray Beach Florida this weekend.

Surfer catching a wave at Delray Beach Florida.

The waves just kept on coming this weekend.

A surfer riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

Look at the color of these waves. Incredible.

A young boy riding a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

This young man is quite the surfer dude.

I can’t seem to go anywhere that an osprey might be without seeing one, so I’ve included some pix of a young male osprey that circled by me several times on Saturday and another one came by on Sunday. What a beautiful sight silhouetted against the deep blue sky.

We had a really great beach weekend. The surf looked more like Daytona Beach than Delray Beach, ok, I’m pushing it, but one can dream!

Check out the sights for yourself!

The view looking south on Delray Beach.

The view looking toward the south on Delray Beach.

A surfer catches a ride on a wave in Delray Beach Florida.

Waves, Waves, Waves!!!

A male osprey flying along the shoreline.

This osprey was busy cruising for some chow.

An osprey overhead looks down at my camera lens.

This osprey took a moment to check out my camera lens on his way by.

A young girl on the shoreline checking out the surf.

A young girl on the shoreline checking out the surf.

A surfer is hidden by the spray from the wave he's riding.

Whoooooshhhh!

The spray is still hanging in the air as this wave crashes down.

The spray is still hanging in the air as this wave crashes down.

For me, I found it to be easier to choose a home and buy it, than it has been to try to choose decent, long-lasting studio/location monolights for photography!

How on Earth is one to make a decision?

I really had to walk away from the computer and stop looking at all the variables, and information and comments out there on this subject. It’s a very, very personal subject for many photographers. After all, it is the paintbrush one uses in photography. I know I like to have the best watercolor brushes I can afford to create my watercolor paintings.

I have been so busy for the last four days, yes—four days, researching studio lighting. Lighting that isn’t too much light, or too little for my needs. What do I need them for you ask? To shoot my watercolor paintings, so I can make giclées, to create unique fine art photographs, to shoot product, and stock photos, with the occasional studio style portrait, one or two people, head and shoulders, or outdoors with pets. The lights need to be portable. I’m not ready to get batteries to take them to the beach, but down the road I want that to be a possibility.

I’m looking at purchasing two monolights, total 1000ws or less for now. I want something I can grow into, rather than out of. That said, I talked to a few photographer friends, got their opinions and I headed off to check out what I could learn but doing research on the web. Good idea, and huge mistake. I am now, totally undecided.

By the way, I have only looked at opinions from buyers in comment sections at retailer sites, or at reputable photography forums and the like. I also watched a lot of the lighting demo video on the web made by some real pros, that helped me see many of the products in action. I checked my pro photo mags reviews and such too.

I have narrowed my choices down to Elinchrom, Photogenic and Calumet monolights, and the kits offered. There are many more great lights out there, but for me, these work. I did manage that much after reading as much info as I could absorb in my four days of research. Let me say first off, the kits that include the lights, umbrellas, stands and all, according to the comments and reviews I’ve read, leave people wanting more. They don’t seem totally satisfied with their purchases. Some portion of the kit is sub par in almost every case, and will need to be replaced. I also didn’t really want the umbrellas that most of the kits offered, I would replace them with octagonal and rectangular softboxes anyway.

So that leaves one to go out there and look for the best lights here, and the best softboxes there, and the best studio stands and backgrounds from over there. Now that’s all good too, but can you do it for a price close to that of the kits? Not really, but you can get close. Being a member of the National Association of Photoshop Professionals (NAPP) helps a lot here too. $99 a year, gets you a great informative magazine and access to product discounts, tutorials and way more. Info from Scott Kelby’s blog helped me a whole lot in this decision-making process too.

After about a good 30 to 40 hours of research, here’s what I’ve decided. I want something that has consistent color output, something that will last a long time, is durable, not too heavy, something that offers enough power, but not too much power for my space, and I want a decent modeling lamp, I read that 100 watts just doesn’t cut it. I do not want to be one of those that realizes about a month into the purchase that I should have spent that extra $500 bucks on what I really wanted, rather than settling for “affordable”. Nothing is a deal if you want to replace it six months after you buy it.

That decided, I went on to read about radio slave systems for the lighting, now I’m real interested. No cords for “Gracie” to trip over, that’s me, of course, ten years of ballet lessons and I’m still a klutz. It’s a good thing that all three of the manufacturers I looked at offer radio control of some kind.

One manufacturer offers a unit mounted on the hot shoe of your camera that apparently has too high a profile and it sticks up in your line of view. Remember now, this is according to consumer comments I came across. Range is another issue, I don’t need to shoot from 1500 feet away, or the next town over, so I think I’ll be good without that. So now I want to find the biggest bang for the buck in a quality, well-designed,  built in radio control unit, without having to buy more transmitters and transceivers, and adapter cords and so on. So, in my humble opinion, and for my needs, the EL-Skyport from Elinchrom wins for ease, design, and dollars. Although I do think the LiteLink radio option with the Calumet Travelite lighting is to be considered as well. It plays well with the PocketWizard too. Decisions, decisions.

I went on to look at the flash variability specs on these brands because it’s important to me to be able to have the widest range I can get because I plan to use these lights in lots of different scenarios. It seems to me that the Photogenic Solair wins in this category with the widest range. 8 f-stops. I really wish there were more comments and reviews from users out there about the Solair lights.

I then looked into how well each of the brands were for color consistency as one reduces the output of the light, according to the comments out there, even though I found a lot of people very happy with the Photogenic lights, many more were really happy with their Elinchrom Style 600RX lights. Again, I did find it hard to find a lot of comments and reviews about the Photogenic Solair lights. I don’t know why that is, but they do seem to be a contender. The “constant color” sounds so nice to me as I have spent hours with color correction people when working for clothing catalogs and doing color correction myself, and I know how long that process takes. I’d rather have my original shot consistently “right there” from the start, rather than having to spend hours in Photoshop “fixing the color”.

One more thing, the Photogenic Solair lights at 500ws weigh a little less than the Elinchrom Digital Style 600RX lights. Both are just under 6 lbs.

After vacillating back and forth, I’ve decided, I think, to buy the Elinchrom Digital Style Combo 600RX two monolight kit that includes only the lights, and EL-Skyport system.

Now on to the stands. There are millions, really just way too many! I like those rolling light stands, Avenger makes one called the “Baby Roller”.  Now this looks like one that ole “Gracie” might not be able to trip over. With the radio controlled lights, there will only be one wire, the plug. Yes! I chose the Avenger Century C stand for the other light. The C stand is another to keep “Gracie” out of trouble.

On to light control. I read that the Elinchrom Rotalux Octa softbox rocks, I also read that some don’t like it. It’s not too expensive so I think I’m going to get the Mini Octa softbox, which is a 39″ model. I also like the 14″ x 35″ Rotalux Mini Recta softbox from Elinchrom. I did learn that Chimera makes some fabulous light banks and when I’m able, monetarily, I’ll look into those too.

Reflectors are a necessary accessory too. I haven’t put any time in on researching them, that’s next. For now I will make due with white foam core and black cardboard.

Last decision….a good light meter. I really like the Sekonic L-358. Lots, and lots, and lots, of good comments out there about it. They say it’s accurate and reliable and well made. I’m sold. For fans of the PocketWizard, compatibility is easy. You can add an accessory that will let you fire your lights without removing your transmitter from the hot shoe of your camera each time you want to meter your lighting. The Sekonic looks like it’s fairly straight forward and intuitive to work with to me, and many buyers say the same. Now, when : ) I have an unlimited budget, I will go for the Sekonic L-758C Cine Light Meter, that’s really hot!

Oh and backgrounds, I think I’m going to go to Calumet for these, they have a good looking heavy duty stand for paper. I don’t have a space to use a wall mount or I would go for that. I did find stronger seeming background stands, but for my needs the stands Calumet offers should do just fine. Or maybe I’ll do a bit more research. I’m over it, but obsessed. For now, I think I’ve made my decisions, or I hope I have, until I run into a devastating comment regarding one of my choices, and the indecision will start again.

I just thought I should throw this out there for anyone else that might be suffering the anxiety associated with the purchase of a decent, quality lighting system and the necessary accessories. I really hope the time I put in can help others too!

And if any of you out there has anything to tell us all about this, go for it, we’re listening. Knowledge is Power!

Now back to doing what I love, enough research. I’ll let it all marinate for a few days.

Take care all!

My friend Janet and I went to the water’s edge, wine glasses in hand, Sunday evening around 7pm to wait for the moon to rise. As I set up my photo equipment, the sky was just starting to turn that really great cobalt blue color that it gets right before dark sets in.

The moon was due to rise at 7:07 and we didn’t see anything until our friend Marlene called us over to a spot where you could see through the Australian pines, and there it was….big, beautiful and amazing. It was already 7:21 by then.

Check out the cool shot of the American flag and the moon. Janet worked hard to try to get that flag to fly and it did.

It was so nice to slow down and enjoy all that nature had on display for us Sunday evening.

For those that might be interested;

I was using a Canon 100-400 mm f4.5-5.6L series lens on my Canon 5D Mark II body, I had it mounted on a tripod and had to use manual focus, auto focus only worked for the super close ups.

Most of the shots were hit or miss. I tried different exposures until I got the ones I wanted. Even though, it was impossible to get detail in the moon and get the reflection of the moon on the clouds. I had to overexpose to get the clouds, which ends up blurring  the moon somewhat, and underexpose to get detail in the moon. I decided to combine a properly exposed shot of the moon with a good exposure of the overall shot. That worked.

The early shots, with the dark blue sky were shot at 1/40 f5.6 -1EV. The night shots were 0.5 sec at f7.1 and 0.8 sec at f5.6.

Moonrise-IMG_9224-v2

The Full Moon on October 4th.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon rising and losing it's yellow orange color.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

The full moon behind the American Flag.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

Photo of the moon as it rises higher in the sky and reflects on the intracoastal. Great clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.

In this photograph the moon has risen above the clouds.

I just had to share this with you.

I needed a break from working on the computer, so I walked down to our little slice of unspoiled nature along the Intracoastal Waterway with my camera and telephoto lens. Within minutes I saw so much, I just stood there and shot photograph after photograph while the parade went by, it was like watching a Mutual of Omaha Wildlife Show. :  ) It was about 4:30 in the afternoon, so it was getting close to supper time in the bird world.

Look at what I got. I shot a common tern, several pelicans, a male osprey (he looked young, I wonder if he was migrating???), and a female osprey coming in for a landing.

The (young??) male osprey that flew overhead really upset our local female osprey, Koko. Her alarm call was going full blast. My next mission is to use my camera to shoot some video of her. She’s got a great voice. It must be shared.

Here are my flying bird photos, they were shot at 1/800 with f5.6 to f6.3 using a Canon 100-400 f4.5-5.6L series lens on a Canon 5D Mark II body. I’m happy with the results I get with this lens camera combo, it’s the best yet. These photos have been cropped so you can see the details better. I hope you like them.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

Photo of pelicans flying overhead.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

A close shot of one of the pelicans.

This is the male osprey that flew by

This is the male osprey that flew by

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

Another shot of the "young" male that flew over.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

The female osprey, I call her Koko, comes in for a landing.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

Another in a series of shots of Koko coming in for a landing on her perch.

A common tern flew overhead.

A common tern flew overhead.