Sunday, October 22, 2017

"Creating Stunning Reflections" by Steve Gettle

As a photographer I find reflections to be a fun and artistic tool, offering many creative possibilities. For this reason, I am always excited when the opportunity arises for me to include them in my compositions. From the viewers perspective, reflections add interest to images by challenging their visual perception.

Being a nature photographer, the reflective surface appearing most often in my images is water. When water is perfectly still it takes on a magical mirror like quality that is very beautiful. In situations like this I often like to create images that celebrate the symmetry between the main subject and its reflection, as in this image of a Blacksmith Plover from Africa.

When creating images like this I make every effort to keep the image clean and simple, working hard to eliminate anything in the composition that will detract from the symmetry.

This next image is from a canyon in Utah. It celebrates another type of reflection I like to play with, which I call a “light reflection”. For this composition, I have included a shaded section of stream. Reflected in the water of this stream is a red rock wall that is fully lit by the rising sun, creating a beautiful stream of molten gold. Surprisingly I often use a polarizer when creating images like this. Which seems counter-intuitive because polarizers are often used to remove reflections but in this instance I will use the polarizer to intensify the colors. I look through my camera as I rotate the polarizer until I get the effect I like.

For this image of a Wood Duck pair created in Ohio I have combined both principals. In addition to the duck’s reflection we also have a reflection of sunlit foliage reflected in the water around them which adds a serious “punch” of color to the background. To maximize this effect, it is important that the sunlit reflection be reflected in a shaded part of the water.

When creating images of reflections changing your perspective either higher or lower will often have a big impact on the quality and position of the reflection in your final image. So find the elevation which creates the best reflection and composition then make your image. Also on a technical note, when I am making images like this I tend to stop the lens down a bit more ensuring I can keep both the main subject and the reflection itself sharp.

Good Luck and Good Light!


Over the course of his 30-year career, Steve Gettle has spent countless hours creating hundreds of thousands of photographs capturing nature’s beauty around us. Steve’s images communicate his love for the wildlife and the wild places of our world. He has had his images shown in many exhibitions and publication.  Steve especially enjoys sharing his knowledge through both private and group location-based experiences focused on individual nature photography development in once-in-a-lifetime locations.

Wilderness Images
The Nature Photography of Steve Gettle
8877 River Valley Ct.
Brighton, MI 48116
Office 810-231-8118
Fax 810-231-8119

Steve will be teaching "Frozen Moments: High Speed Nature Photography" on Saturday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:  Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Saturday, October 14, 2017

"Targeted Adjustments for Creative Results" by Bob Marin

There are several excellent image-editing programs that can be used to produce great images.  When I want to go beyond the usual image editing, I want the more powerful features of Photoshop.  For this article, I will describe my workflow - how I use Camera RAW and Photoshop CC to edit images.

Since I shoot exclusively in RAW format, my workflow starts in Camera Raw where I click one of my saved presets that I have created.  These establish the starting values for the following:  White Balance (As Shot), Clarity, Vibrance, Saturation, Point Curve, Sharpening, Noise Reduction, Lens Profile, and Dehaze.  Then I evaluate the image to see if the chosen preset gives me a good starting point.  Next, it  is the time for critical adjustment of White Balance and tonal balance - Whites, Blacks, Highlights and Shadows adjustments in that order.  I usually leave the Exposure and Contrast slides at zero.  I am disciplined to use the right meter mode and compensation when needed so I rarely need an Exposure adjustment and I prefer to leave Contrast adjustment for a later Curves adjustment.  Once I am satisfied with these basic adjustments, I move on to more exact adjustments of elements within the image.  For these edits, I’ll use Photoshop.

One of the most valued Photoshop features is the ability to use layers.  This yields a non-destructive workflow that can be altered at any time without any destructive effect on the original image.  A layer can be the original image (the actual image pixels), a duplicate of the image, a different image, a “Fill” or “Gradient” layer, or an “Adjustment” layer.  Each layer can also have a layer mask – some are added as soon as the layer is created or you can add a mask later.  Layer masks allow one to make minor or very sophisticated and targeted adjustments.  A layer mask can also be used to block image ingredients that are not wanted.

This is a good time to mention some restrictions.  If you are preparing an image for a Creative competition, you can charge on – there are few restrictions.  Just make sure that all the image ingredients are your original captures.  Most applies equally to a Pictorial competition with, perhaps, holding back on wild extremes (for example use of unnatural or abnormal colors).  If you are considering submitting your image into a Nature competition, the story is quite different.  Only very basic adjustments to a nature image are allowed.  Know where your image is headed and know the rules.

To demonstrate a layer mask, let’s use this image of a tiger.
We can add a “Black & White” adjustment layer to extract the color and convert to a monochrome image.  This also automatically adds a “Reveal All” layer mask.  The mask is filled with white.  When working with masks the saying is: “White Reveals and Black Blocks”.  To demonstrate, let’s turn our tiger into part white tiger and part normal tiger – think of it as a tiger with a split personality.  By painting with a black brush ON THE MASK, we restrict the adjustment layer to only those areas where the mask is still white.

Here is an image of the layer mask and the effect it has on the image.

Looking at the mask, you can see some important attributes.  The white area allows the adjustment layer to be active while the black areas restrict or blocks the adjustment and the image remains in full color.  Note the fuzzy edges where the use of a soft brush allows a more subtle transition.  Also note the circle of black that allows the natural eye color to show.  The same is true for the tiger’s mouth.

Here is another example (and its layer mask) where the background layer (the actual image) has been made an active layer by double clicking on the image layer in the layer window.  This allows you to add a new background layer below the image layer.  In this example, I filled the new bottom layer with a subtle dark green color. Next, I added a “Reveal All” layer mask to the image layer.  Now when you paint with a black brush on the mask you will block (or rather, eliminate) the distracting elements in the background and leave a cleaner image with higher impact.


You can also use this approach in another way.  For example, let’s sharpen the butterfly but nothing else.  Start by duplicating the image layer and then apply the desired degree of sharpening to the new duplicate image.  Now apply a layer mask to the sharpened layer.  If you use a “Reveal All” layer mask, paint everything black except the butterfly, or use a “Hide All” layer mask and only paint the butterfly using a white brush.  Here is an image of the “Hide All” layer mask that was used above to reveal the sharpen butterfly.

Once you have created a working layer mask, you also have a selection.  Just right click the layer mask and choose the option “Add mask to the selection”.  If there was no selection active before you took this step, you will now have an active selection of the image that is ‘revealed” by the white area of the mask.  Since you needed the layer mask to creative the desired changes to your image you can appreciate the fact that the selection comes virtually free.  And, you do not have to save the selection for as long as you retain the mask, access to the selection is still there.  Now the question becomes “What can I do with it?”

We have been using layer masks to achieve targeted adjustments.  You can also use a layer mask to add an additional image element to another image, or you can use the selection to copy an image element to paste it into a different image.  These are just different ways to achieve the same result.  In some cases one or the other method will be best – it depends on what creative result you are trying to achieve.  Also, there will be times when a more accurate, tighter selection may be required.  We’ll end this discussion with a final example of where you can go from here…

Bob Marin started his photographic hobby at an early age right after earning a few dollars and visiting a pawn shop that had an Argus C3 in the window.  Serving the government led him to Germany (land of Leica) and the hobby got a lot more serious. Earlier years, as well as now, were spent mainly on strict Nature photography.  However, creative allows one to strike a balance.  Bob had early influences through CACCA and a friend, a Lithographer, who introduced him to Kodalith, Diazachrome and 3M Color Key ... the magic began.   This may all sound foreign in today's digital age, but Bob has dug into the depths of Photoshop, and the Creative Life got easier!!! No more toxic and smelly chemicals. 

Bob Marin will be teaching "Techniques for Creative Images" on Sunday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"Understanding Your Camera's Light Meter" by Keith French

Once considered a fundamental skill in photography, reading and interpreting your camera’s light meter has nearly become a lost tool in the world of digital photography.
Today’s digital camera’s, whether in the form of a phone or an actual stand alone camera have some pretty sophisticated light reading abilities. Especially when compared to what professional photographers had at their disposal just a short 15 years ago.  With the increase in light sensitive materials and other physical components used to transfer the information of reading light to a digital or electronic signal, came the much more sophisticated algorithms for interpreting that information and creating a solution in the form of great dynamic exposure (a perfect balance between the light and dark portions of the image based on all the settings chosen by the photographer)

My experience as a camera store owner while teaching budding photographers how to improve their skills was that the light meter was the last thing many of these “students” of photography wanted to learn about. I cannot be sure exactly but I think because when they shot on AUTO, they only needed to worry about catching the moment, and composing it in the view finder and the camera took over making many decisions for them.  And rightly so, the decision process going into making a great image is layered in a thought process of “Yes – No – Do This”  check lists that eventually become nearly automated in our own brain as we grow in our skill.  While developing this skill many photographers heavily rely on the automated shooting modes like AUTO or PROGRAM of their camera.  Some never grow past this, others eventually realize as they advance in their learning and gain a more developed eye for details that they need to have more input into the thought process of creating that image.

That is the artist I’m reaching out to.  This learning process has somehow been reversed. The light meter, and it’s very close relative the histogram, are the only components of the camera that are actively communicating back to you. The operator of a very complicated and highly capable devise, otherwise known as a camera. To further appreciate that description pick up a Kodak Brownie at a garage sale and disassemble it. You’ll see it’s not much more than a small “shoe box” of a device still capable of creating world class art in the hands of an individual who has learned to read and capture light. That device didn’t have a light meter. So the individual had to spend hours, if not years mastering light. Today you have an open book test in front of you every time you set up an image. The answers are all right in front of you, all you have to do is interpret the data and make a few decisions. Mastering the light meter will save you hours in post processing, teach you how to better read light, and give you the control you’ll enjoy having when setting up and creating that perfect image in a highly dynamic lighting situation.

So where is the light meter in your camera?  Chances are you have looked at it numerous times and looked right past it. It’s usually in the bottom of your viewfinder or screen in live view and it looks similar to this:

I have added the red arrows and the text so you know what it is telling you, but there it is.

You also need to under stand the 4 modes you have available as far as light meter settings go. In other words, where is the meter measuring the light? 

Here are 4 examples of relative measuring:

The area in blue is where the camera is “looking” when it reads the light and provides you feedback via the light meter.

Having the right setting and following it’s advise takes you from this:


 to this:
 Now I’ve been on social media, and I’ve seen plenty of images where the general public lauds praise on the former image, but you don’t need to have too discerning of an eye to see the difference.  It’s was an easy setting change from one metering mode, in this case Evaluative, to Partial.  Of course knowing to make this setting change ahead of time saved a lot of post processing corrections.

So much money has been invested in research and development by the manufactures of your devises you use to make images that you may want to consider understanding why, especially if you are looking to take your skill and presentations to the next level. Eventually a few quick decisions, and setting adjustments as you approach a scene or activity and you are on your way. It doesn’t have to be hard and the manufactures went out of their way to make it as simple as they can so you use it.  Unfortunately the process in which many have learned photography bypassed this tool altogether. 

At CAPS we are going to unpack the light meter modes, explain it, show samples, and explore the light meter in your devise. Getting the proper exposure to this old film shooter means getting it right in the camera, so I can spend more time shooting and less time post processing.  

Keith French has been a full time professional photographer since 2001 with an extensive background in several types of photography dating back to 1984.  His years as an owner of a full service retail camera store, Photo/Video studio, and commercial color and B & W photo lab, gave him a unique look into the full circle of the photographic industry. Buying and selling equipment and accessories, hosting and teaching photography classes and workshops, shooting and printing, combined with his time as a United States Marine Corps Aviator and the travels that were associated there. Keith has a well-rounded repertoire of photographic experience on 4 continents and 3 oceans.

Keith currently runs workshops with Tony Reynes and Out of Chicago

Workshops:  Hands On Photographic Workshop

Keith French will be teaching "Get the Right Exposure, Understanding Your Camera's Meter" at CAPS-Chicago Area Photographic School on Saturday, November 18th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Winter Light-Getting the Exposure Right by Joe Rakoczy

Forget what the calendar says. For Upper Midwesterners winter arrives early and leaves late. The further north you travel around the Great Lakes, the longer winter sticks around - and the better the opportunities are for photographing ice and snow.

Winter can transform the landscape beautifully.  Snow covering tree branches and blanketing the land can appear magical. The solitude and quiet can be stunning.  You may find yourself all alone in spots overrun with people in warm weather months.  (And vice versa, if there’s a winter festival on a frozen lake or a dogsled race through a forest.)  And, of course, there are no mosquitoes (or ticks, or horseflies, …)

While winter days are shorter, the sun stays lower and the longer daily periods of   “photographer’s light” can lead to outstanding photography. Skies are often a deeper blue. Textures can be more pronounced.  Even on cloudy days, a blanket of snow creates a massive light reflector that better illuminates trees, rock faces, buildings, people and animals.

But among the challenges of winter photography, capturing that winter light and properly exposing for snow and ice while still revealing important detail and texture in the snow and other elements within your image, ranks as one of the toughest. 

Mid-day sunny conditions, glare off snow, and backlit ice, can fool your camera’s light meter into underexposing images, resulting in unappealing dull, dark or gray tones.  Why does this happen? Your camera’s meter is designed to capture an average medium gray exposure at normal camera exposure settings. If your camera’s viewfinder is filled with a completely black subject like a non-reflective black wall, without upping either your aperture (using lower f-stop) or lowering your shutter speed or decreasing your ISO/sensitivity, your image will be a middle gray instead of black.  Same goes if you aim it at a completely white wall. 
So you need to find a way to take control and override or “trick” your camera’s meter into getting the exposure you want.

Shooting in Raw instead of only JPEG, makes much more sensor data available (as indicated by Raw image files being much larger than JPEG files), enabling you to correct many image exposure and color rendition problems in post-processing.   So for serious photography we recommend you shoot in raw (plus JPEG).  Note that virtually all raw images will require imaging editing on the computer using raw conversion software such as available from your camera’s manufacturer, or in Photoshop Elements, Photoshop, and Lightroom.    

But whether or not shooting in raw, getting the best image capture in-camera is the way to go, assuring you the best opportunities for creating excellent images.

Listed below are some things you can do - individually or in combination - toward getting a correct exposure of snow and ice scenes.

By the way, for our more serious winter landscape photography we typically shoot using tripods with our DSLR cameras set on aperture-priority mode (camera “A” mode setting). Typical aperture setting is our lens’ “sweet spot” f-stop setting (aperture yielding the sharpest focus), which is about f11, or for more depth of field, f16 or f18.

Increase exposure   While many/most modern cameras with multi-point metering (e.g. 51 point matrix) often achieve fairly accurate snow scene exposure, if most of your viewfinder is filled with bright snow or there’s a lot of glare anywhere in the frame, you’ll need to – and this seems counterintuitive - increase your exposure from what your camera gives. Set your exposure value compensation (EV +/- button and slider) between ½ to 2 f-stops higher than your camera indicates.  In playback/review mode, immediately look at your LCD screen to check your exposures and re-adjust the EV compensation accordingly if necessary.

Bracket exposures  Take multiple shots over a range of exposure settings in 1/2 or 2/3 f-stop increments.  Many camera models have automatic bracketing allowing you to preset your camera for uniform shooting of three, five, seven or nine total shots at different exposures. Bracketing this way just about guarantees you’ll get at least one good exposure.

Use your histogram  In playback/review mode, check your image’s  tonal/luminance histogram on your LCD screen.  The histogram is a graph showing dark tones on the left and light tones on the right. Adjust exposure value (EV) compensation {the button for it has this symbol: +/-} and reshoot if necessary to keep the curve to the right but without climbing the right side wall, which would indicate hot spots/blown out details.

Use your spot meter  Most DSLRs have a spot meter camera meter function allowing you to take a light reading off a single small area within your frame instead of the entire frame.  Choose a point that’s in the same light as your subject and that’s approximately a medium gray like a lighter part of a blue sky, or a medium toned tree trunk, jacket or backpack/camera bag.  Either hold the exposure button down if your camera has one and take the shot, or check the reading and switch to manual mode to set the same settings.

Use an 18% Gray Card This is pretty much and adjunct to the previous tip. Buy/borrow a gray card from a camera store. Hold it in approximately the same light as your subject and shoot at the same settings as the reading off the card.

Shoot in HDR (high dynamic range) For very high contrast lighting conditions where the camera can’t capture the wide range of tonal values within the scene (as indicated by not capturing the entire histogram curve within its boundary walls), shoot in HDR. Using a tripod or other support, bracket exposures as described but save the exposures and use them in HDR software such as Photomatix Pro, Nik HDR Pro, or Photoshop.  Some modern cameras allow for in-camera HDR shooting and image processing.

Shoot Raw Repeating it again here for emphasis: shooting in raw affords you the widest exposure latitude and best white balance adjustment capability in post-processing.

Using the above camera techniques should lead to getting the exposure you want.  Keep in mind though that they all globally affect your images.  With many of your images you may find yourself having to selectively tone down or brighten certain areas using image editing tools. 
Side Note: Going retro - in the pre-digital days of film cameras, if your camera didn’t have a light meter or you didn’t have a handheld meter, or its battery died, you might resort to using the Sunny Sixteen Rule. (Remember with film there is/was no instant gratification image playback/review mode. You’d generally have to wait days to see if you got a correct exposure.) This rule of thumb was fairly accurate.  For sunny day brightness with harsh shadows, and your camera set at f16, and no light reducing filter on your lens such as a polarizer, you’d shoot at a shutter speed of 1 over your ISO (it was ASA back then).  So if your ISO was 100 you’d try shooting at 1/125 second (1/100 wasn’t a standard setting) at f16.
Copyright ©2017 Joe Rakoczy

Joe and Marie Rakoczy are avid photographers and especially enjoy cold weather photography. They’ve produced a number of travelogues as well as several educational programs. Both are TOPs in CACCA winners and Joe was the recipient of CACCA’s 2016 Wanda Crystal Award for photographic and artistic excellence.  Marie was the first PSA Chicago Chapter recipient of the new PSA Portfolio Award.  Their articles and photos have appeared in several publications, including an article about winter photography entitled "The Magic of Lake Ice" in the December PSA Journal.

Joe and Marie will be presenting "Winter Up North" a how to prepare for and photograph the beauty of winter at CAPS on Saturday, November 18th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Social Networking, Social Media and Bird Photography by Al Alvis

     My first attempt at bird photography was a trip to the Mississippi River to photograph the eagles in flight. I was a very experienced photographer, but had never tried to shoot birds in flight before, let alone under the freezing conditions that I was about to encounter. I mentioned my upcoming outing to a friend and he gave me some contact information to a photographer who was very familiar with the subject , the location, and the conditions. After a couple of e-mails and a brief phone conversation, I felt that I had received the guidance that I needed. Some things I was already familiar with like high-speed  continuous shooting and automatic  focus tracking. He suggested some settings in the focus tracking, shutter speeds that would be appropriate, and shooting in manual mode metering off the water. I had not shot in manual mode for a while, but that and all of his other suggestions enabled me to have a very successful shoot. Without his advice, I am sure that I would not have nearly the number of keeper images.  I enjoyed it so much, I made the trip out two more times that winter.
     A few months later, I purchased a new telephoto lens, and I was eager to try it out. I remembered a forest preserve where I had seen ducks before. I grabbed my camera with shiny new lens attached , and headed out. I had a pretty lucky day and got some shots of a loon, a horned grebe, and a couple of very enthusiastic geese. But my luck didn’t stop there. My photography life was about to change. As I was leaving, I rounded a turn on the west side of the lake and noticed a gentleman there with this very large and heavy looking tripod. Mounted on top, was camera with an enormous lens attached with paint peeling off of it and looked like it went through a war. Clearly, this was an experienced bird photographer. I couldn’t resist the urge to stop and strike up a conversation with him. He showed me some areas along the shore where certain ducks were known to gather, showed me some of his photographs, told me of a few nearby birding locations, and mentioned a website called IBET, where birdwatchers posted bird sightings and their locations.

     I went on to that site and found a place called McClaughry Spring Woods which was pretty close and noted as a good place to find migrating warblers. Off I went. When I pulled into the parking lot, guess who I run into? Yes, the same gentleman. So now he knows that I was paying attention and was serious about bird photography. He shows me some of the spots and explains which birds have been seen and where, then, he says, “follow me.” We get in our cars and drive a short distance to a place called Camp Sagawau  Environmental Learning Center. He introduces me to the naturalists and director of the facility and gives me the grand tour. This is a place for bird study. There are numerous feeders around including hummingbird feeders, nectar feeders and oranges for the Orioles, nest boxes for Bluebirds and Tree Swallows, bird houses for the Wrens----it’s a bird paradise!!!  All courtesy of the Chicago Park District.

     As it turned out, he became my mentor. He taught me what time of year and where to look for different species of birds, what time of day to be there and what time to leave, the names of many, many different types of birds, how to tell the difference in sexes, and their habits and mannerisms. He taught me about front lighting and where to be at certain times of the day.  He introduced me to Gimbal heads and teleconverters. Everything!
The point here, is, that even though I was a pretty good and experienced photographer, every different  category of photography has its  own challenges,  and when you are first starting out photographing a new subject, nothing beats one-on-one training out in the field . Learning from someone with real experience can save you lots of time and frustration, possibly even saving you from giving up on the subject, when all you needed was a little guidance.
     After  a while, it was time for me to “leave the nest,” but continue learning. You will find that birders and bird photographers are very eager to tell you about their bird findings and locations, The conversation goes like this “Good morning. How’s it going. See anything interesting?” Then comes the trading of information."  I saw some Yellow-rumped  warblers  over at McClaughry this morning” “Oh, thanks, I’ll check it out. The Indigo Buntings have showed up at Camp Sagawau." And so on. This is how you find out where the birds are. Before long you have a list of which locations to go to and what time of year you go. You also make friends and build a birding social network.
     I have a few people that I keep in contact with via email, text message or phone calls to let them know of photo ops for birds and they do the same for me. Just a little text message “Hey the swans are out at Lake Catherine” or “There have been some Scarlet Tanagers showing up at Sagawau.”  So, this is my social network for bird photographers.
     Where does the social media come in? I already mentioned IBET for the daily posting of bird sightings.  I have found a couple of useful educational websites. “Secrets of Digital Bird Photography” is a little older but very complete and accurate information. Another one that stays a little more up to date is “Mike Atkinson Bird Photography.” Many people use Facebook in their networking posting photos and usually locations. I am a big fan of FLICKR  the photo sharing site. It is another outlet for your work and it is interesting seeing other photographer’s work as well. I belong to several groups. Two of my favorites are smaller groups. OUTSTANDING BIRD PHOTOGRAPHY  is international and you will see stunning images that will give you inspiration. ILLINOIS BIRDER’S FORUM PHOTOS is just for our state and a good place for bird identification and locations.  Really handy for identifications is a phone app called “I-BIRD PRO.”  It is not free, but worth it.
    I am, by no means, an expert on bird photography. I have done much research on the subject and countless glorious hours in the field. My mission at our CAPS school is to just  pass on as much information as I can in my allotted time. Call it payback for all the people that have helped me along the way.

     Al Alvis is a self-described photography addict who has been involved with photography since the wet darkroom days back in high school.   He has been doing presentations revolving around photography for over thirty years with topics including black and white, landscapes, macro, portraits, composition and lighting.   His favorite field is nature and, for the last four years, almost exclusively, bird photography.   

Flickr:  al alvis’s albums | Flickr     

Al will be presenting, "The Mechanics and Art of Bird Photography" on Sunday, November 19th.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Monday, September 11, 2017

Mobile Photography Updates for Photographers by Jerry Hug

Mobile Photography in the hands of a professional or highly skilled amateur photographer is now raking in accolades around the globe.

Dr Russell Brown from Adobe recently used only an iPhone on a trip to the Antarctica. His images were published and exhibited by a major photographic supplier of printers and supplies. Fine Art Photographer Tony Sweet sells his iPhone images at the same price as those taken with his big boy Nikons. The list goes on.

What is Mobile Photography? The use of iPhones and other Smart cell phones, electronic pads like the iPad where you can: 1.Take the photo, 2.edit the images, 3. save the stored the image and 4.immediately share with the world via the internet.

How to get started?
1. Learn how to use both the given automatic and all of the manual controls of the camera on the mobile devices. (Just like any other camera.) There are technical skills and creativity needed as in any photographic venture.
2. Find out what are the best photo applications (apps) to use for shooting and editing the images.
3. Use the cell phone camera by always having it with you and ready to use. More great images were lost except for that image in our mind because we never had a camera ready to shoot. Use our editing skills in Photoshop and other editing software and use the same techniques with apps in the mobile devices.

Taking photos:
1. Hold the Phone/Camera still for good sharp photos.
2. Quick Access Using the Left Swipe.
3. Manual focus by touching the screen on the most important spot to focus in the image.
4. AE/AF Lock.
5. Use the HDR feature in high contrast situations. (iPhone users – I recommend VividHDR app as a better solution then the built in HDR.
6. Shoot Using Burst Mode to catch moving subjects.
7. Use the Volume Buttons and your Apple Headphones for another shutter button. Follow the light for the best images and less editing. (Professional Photographers can now shoot RAW files on the iPhone and edit the RAW images in Lightroom Mobile and then send these images to their computer via Adobe’s service.)

Taking a photo of a small child or pet that keep moving? No problem! Shoot a 10 second video of the moving (child or pet) for iPhones or iPads use the Vhoto app and harvest of the best single image(s) that you want. The example of the pet dog was only edited by cropping.

Editing images in your mobile devices has been made simple, fast and with quality tools like Photoshop and Lightroom by using the free app “Snapseed”. If you have a workflow that works on your computer, do not change your procedure for Snapseed. If you are new to photo editing, try the very basic editing tools already in Photos on your devices.

Snapseed will give you more powerful tools with no cost and large learning curve associated with Photoshop and Lightroom. Getting started with Snapseed – there are built in tutorials in the app. You need WiFi for the tutorials. There also are many free tutorial in YouTube. (I have extensive notes and suggestions on my Speaker Notes 2017. Email me for a free copy at

Masking in Snapseed? Yes, checkout the YouTube Snapseed masking demo by Rad Drew.
Jerry Hug, APSA

Website:  JERRY HUG — Unique Photo Images

Flickr:  Jerry Hug | Flickr

Jerry will be presenting "The Latest and Greatest in Mobile Photography" at CAPS-Chicago Area Photographic School on Sunday, November 19th. Besides giving updates and tips and trick using Snapseed, High Dynamic Range shooting, Jerry will also demo printing from a smart phone wireless and how to make still photos move and other fun tricks in Mobile Photography.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Benefits of Being a Macro Photographer by Mike Moats

You don’t have to travel far for macro
Macro subjects are everywhere. You can find them at the local parks, in your own yard, and even inside your home. I have four great parks within twenty minutes of my house, and probably sixty percent of my images are photographed in those parks. A few of my best selling images were shot in my backyard. Most people have flower gardens in their yard, so they can walk outside their home and shoot. This close convenience saves on fuel, wear on our vehicles, and time when we just have an hour or two available. In the winter here in Michigan, I do most of my shooting indoors. I buy flowers from the local florist and also go online to order from websites that sell feathers, mounted butterflies, sea shells, and slab agates, all of which can be arranged into artistic compositions.

Subject matter changes every month
With the four seasons, we have an ever-changing environment month by month and sometimes day by day. I can revisit the same areas every couple of weeks and find new subjects. It is a constant cycle as nature transitions from life to death. Depending on where you live, your seasons may vary and the environment may be totally different from the rest of the country. Learn about the subjects and life cycles of the plants and critters in your area, and make sure you are in the field when subjects come into season.

Shoot any time of day
Landscape and wildlife photographers have limited control over lighting and tend to shoot in the early morning and late evening which offer the best light. Because of the small subject’s macro photographers work with, we have the ability to control our light by using diffusers and reflectors, so we can shoot any time of the day. I carry a 12” diffuser which I use to control harsh overhead light from hitting my subjects, and a 12” silver/gold reflector for bouncing light into shaded areas of a subject. I will occasionally hand hold a special LED box light that is tuned for daylight to add light where needed.

More Creativity
One of the challenges for a macro photographer is working with depth of field. Because we are shooting very close to our subjects, the depth of field is very shallow causing out of focus areas in our photos. The closer we get to the subject, the less that will be in focus. We can use this shallow depth of field to our advantage in creating artistic compositions. If you like soft focus dreamlike images, shoot in the lower f/stop range and use this shallow depth of field to produce some beautiful artwork. If you have a subject with interesting lines and textures, you can set your f/stop to the highest numbers in order to bring everything into focus. We have the ability to cause everything in an image to be in focus as well as to use a shallower focus range for creative effect.

Your own personal art
The ability to create personalized art is an important benefit. Every image on my website is an original. These subjects were present for only a brief moment in time, until the environment erased them forever. None of my images can be reproduced again because the subjects do not exist anymore. Mountains, rivers, and lakes exist day after day and can be photographed over time by many photographers. Because my subjects have been eliminated by Mother Nature, the photographic images now exist as my own originals.

Each year, more and more photographers discover the benefits of macro. The internet has allowed us to display our images on the many websites geared to nature photography; macro is growing and becoming a very popular pastime. Take some time and explore all the local parks and your own backyard. Enjoy the fun and unique experience that macro photography provides.

Mike Moats is one of our main speakers.  He is a stunning Macro Master photographer and an award winning artist who has an unparalleled ability to capture nature close-ups.  His incredible photography shows us what lies beyond the surface of things we see every day: flowers, leaves, water, trees, rocks and shells are transformed into brilliantly detailed pieces of art.  
website:  Mike Moats | Award Winning Macro Photographer | Sterling, MI

Mike will be speaking on "The Art of Creating Successful Macro Images" on Saturday, November 18th.  Then  on Sunday, November 19th he will be doing a mini macro boot camp workshop.  There will be tables set up for you to photograph and practice macro photography.  Mike will be there to assist.  So bring your camera and have fun.

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home

To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Milwaukee Art Museum Abstracts by Angie McMonigal

A few weeks ago I spent an afternoon at one of my favorite buildings - the Milwaukee Art Museum designed by Santiago Calatrava.  When I teach, people often ask if I revisit locations I've previously shot and the answer is a definite yes!

There are many reasons why:
  • The way you see photographically evolves over time and what stands out from one visit to the next may change.
  • The way the light interacts during various times of the year to various times of day, whether the sun is shining or there's a cloud-cover affects how you see the structure.
  • You may choose to use a different lens which affects how the details of building line up and what stands out.
  • And your mood may be different which can greatly affect how you see things.

On this particular visit, I mostly photographed with my telephoto lens (70-300mm), which I haven't done here before.  While details are often my focus, they stand out differently using a longer lens like this than my usual 24-70mm.  The image above is from the parking garage.  Then here are a few from the exterior:

Lastly a few from the interior:

Angie  McMonigal moved to Chicago more than 15 years ago and has been exploring the city with her camera ever since. Raised in a small town in Wisconsin, she approaches the urban environment with the spirit of someone who grew up surrounded by nature, finding moments of meditative calm in terrain that is always transforming. Focusing more frequently on bold architectural details rather than sweeping cityscapes, her photographs celebrate those unexpectedly iconic elements hiding in plain sight. From landmark buildings she distills the essential lines and textures that frame the city. McMonigal sees these structures as actively shaping, and shaped by, human activity; they are never mere backdrop. Steel and brick towers are presented as quilts rich with history, solid structures soar with soul, and concrete edifices echo the lofty ambition of planners and dreamers.

An award-winning fine art photographer, Angie’s work has been internationally exhibited and published. Her photos have been showcased by galleries in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and other destinations. Publication credits include National Geographic, Departures, and SHOTS Magazine. She has received awards from the International Photography Awards (IPA) and Prix de la Photographie Paris (Px3), among others.

Angie will be speaking at CAPS- Chicago Area Photographic School on Saturday, November 18th on "Architecture Photography: A Renewed Perspective."

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home
To register go to:   Chicago Area Photographic School (CAPS) 2017 | Summary | powered by RegOnline

Monday, August 14, 2017

The Four Levels of Learning by Rick Sammon

The Four Levels of Learning
Rick Sammon

In looking at the opening photograph for this post, which I took while teaching a photo workshop in Provence, France, you may say something like, “Rick is a pretty good horse photographer. It’s cool that he got a shot of those horses, along with their reflections, running through a pond at sunrise.”

Well to be honest, I took the photograph in a very well set-up situation, and that image is a processed version of the third image below.

In looking at that image, as well as the work of any professional photographer, it’s important to remember this: most pros show only their best work. Believe me, I have tons of outtakes, not only from my Provence shoot, but from many shoots.

So it’s important to remember that when you look at an image, you usually don’t know all the effort that went on behind the scenes to make it – and how much that image was processed. Processing is a very important part of digital photography, for some, like me, it’s equally as important, or even more important, as image capture. That is not new news. Ansel Adams, perhaps the most famous landscape photographer of all time, spent much more time in the wet darkroom working on a photograph than he did taking one. Yousuf Karsh, perhaps one of the most famous black-and-white portrait photographers, also spent more time working on a print in the wet-darkroom that he did photographing his famous subjects.

The idea here is that it’s not always a good idea to compare your work to the work of others. It can be discouraging if you are not getting the kind of images you see in books, magazines and on the web.

It’s also important to remember that all pros were amateurs at one time, and that they followed a path – sometimes referred to as the four levels of learning – to becoming a pro.

I first learned of that path from one of my photo workshop students, who learned of the concept from Gordon Training International, an organization that published a paper called, The Four Levels of Competence.

Here is that learning path, one that I followed (not only with my photography, but with my music). Follow this path and you will see that you are not alone in “your quest to be your best” as I call it . . . in everything you do. 
1.  Unconscious Incompetence. We don’t know we are not good.

When we first get into digital photography, we take some shots, look at them on the camera’s LCD panel, and say something like, “Hey, that’s cool. I did that!”

One reasons is that the image-capture process is fun. It also provides instant gratification. Another reason is that everything looks good on the small screen.

Another reason is that, at this level of learning, just don’t know what makes a “good” photograph: exposure, lighting, composition, subject and, of course, the mood and feeling of the image.

Although this photographed captured a wonderful moment in Provence, it’s nothing more than a snapshot: the horizon line is titled, there no separation among the horses, there is too much dead space in the frame, and the picture lacks impact.

2.  Conscious Incompetence. We know we need help.

The second level of learning can creep up on us, or hit us like a ton of bricks. Either way, realizing that we need help and have potential is the first step in becoming a good photographer. We have hope! We can read books, attend workshops, take on-line training courses and so on to get help. We can also help ourselves, simply by taking more pictures.

Here’s the photograph from which I created the opening image for this chapter. Some beginning photographers get a picture like this and are pleased with the results. Photographers at the Second Level of Learning, however, ask: How could I have made a better in-camera image, and/or how could I process this file to create a better image?

Simple cropping, a bit of cloning, and then warming up the image (by boosting the reds and yellows in Lightroom), was all that was needed to improve this file.

3.  Conscious Competence. We know we are good.

Knowing we are good is a good feeling, for sure. But it takes a lot of hard work to get to this level of learning.

But how do we know we are good? Well, others may tell you that they like your work, they may buy your work, or you may get hired for an assignment. More important, however, is that you know (as opposed to think) you are good. You can’t fool yourself, which some people do unintentionally, when they are at the First Level of Learning.

Here are the reasons why I feel as though this is a good photograph
  1. All the horses’ heads are separated. In photography, separation of the elements in a scene is very important, as you will read in the Making Order of Chaos – Separation chapter.
  2. The highlights, the brightest part of the scene (horses’ heads) are not overexposed and washed out.
  3. There is space in the frame into which the horses can “run.” That space is very important in action photography.
  4. The horses heads are not “decapitated” by the horizon line,” which oven happens in the photographs taken by photographers at the First Level of Learning.
  5. The fast moving animals are sharp in the scene, thanks to the 1/2500th second of a shutter speed I used to freeze the action. I also set my Canon 5D Mark III to AI Servo focus, which tracks the subject right up until the moment of exposure.
  6. And finally, the two horses in the middle of the image have their front legs out of the water in a perfect running position. In horse photography, the position of the legs is very, very important.
All that said, I have called this image one of my best “dumb luck shots” in my presentations. Many elements came together, including one I will share with you at the end of this post, to make this a favorite image of mine.

When it comes to “dumb luck,” however, it is important to remember these two expressions: 1) Luck favors the well prepared. 2) If I had the choice of being good or lucky, I’d rather be lucky.

4.  Unconscious Competence. This is the level that we all want to reach in the things we care passionately about. We don’t really have to think too much about what we are doing . . . we just do it!

This is “it” when all that we went through in Level One, Level Two and Level Three come together and we can just shoot and get a high percentage of great images, and at the same time envision the creative possibilities that await us in the digital darkroom.

The rollercoaster ride of making picture is not over; we will still have creative ups and downs. But being on that rollercoaster is much more rewarding than being on the merry-go-round of being satisfied with pedestrian images.

As a brief aside, that rollercoaster/merry-go-round analogy can be applied to our lives, too. It’s easy to ride the merry-go-round, but the rollercoaster is much more exciting.

Many well-known musicians are at this Fourth Level of Learning. When it comes to jazz musicians, for example, when they are jamming with other musicians, they are not thinking about what key they are in (like the exposure in a photograph), what notes they are playing (like composition in a photograph), the importance of space between the notes (like separation in a photograph) and so on. They are just doing it, exactly like we need to do when it comes to photography.

One of the keys in getting to the Forth Level of Learning is practice. That includes getting to know your camera controls so you can make exposure and focus decisions in flash, just as a jazz musician knows how to improvise – even in the dark.

Knowing my camera controls, understanding some basic lighting and exposure techniques, and knowing some digital darkroom techniques, helped me get this image of a horse running on the beach at sunrise.

I think it’s important for photographers to be honest about what went into the making a photograph, so other photographers, as I mentioned, don’t compare their work to the work of others. What’s more, and this applies to my Camargue horse pictures, a photographer should not create the impression that any photographer can go to a location and simply take, while touring around, the same kind of pictures he or she takes.

Here is a behind-the-scenes snapshot that shows just one of five Provence cowboys who was helping my workshop group make pictures. These cowboys ran the horses toward us for three days at sunrise and sunset, so we all had a very good chance to make good pictures. I, and my workshop co-instructors, acted like movie directors, basically setting up a scene, which was great fun.

That is something else to keep in mind. There is a big difference between taking a picture and making a picture. You can do it, too.

When I teach digital imaging, I mentioned that simple cropping and envisioning the possibilities that await us in the digital darkroom. With a simple crop, and by adding the BuzSim affect in Topaz Simplify, one of the plug-ins I use, I was able to turn my behind-the-scenes snapshot into a creative image, one that looks more like a painting than a photograph.

Good luck in your journey along the path of the Four Levels of Learning. Never give up, and remember what the Buddhist say: Learning is Health.

See you in Chicago!

Rick Sammon is one of our main speakers.  He is a Canon Explorer of Light and award-winning photographer who loves his day job.  He is a tireless, prolific and inspirational image-maker who is called by some "the Godfather of Photography." Rick's enthusiasm for digital imaging is contagious.  He is a man on a mission - a mission to make digital photography fun, creative, exciting and rewarding for others.  He will be speaking on Sunday, November 19th on "Creative Visualization for Photographers."

To see the entire schedule of classes go to: or click here:  Home