• Norway
  • Norway
  • palouseheader

    Palouse Fields

    Sunrise taken in the Palouse area of Washington state.

  • nyheader

    New York City

    Long Exposure Photo Taken From Brooklyn Bridge Park, NY

DJI Phantom Quad

Hey everyone. I’m in Indianapolis today getting ready for my Lightroom 5 seminar. If you’re attending please make sure you come up and say hi. I’ve got one coming up on Wednesday in Columbus, OH so you can still snag a ticket if you’re around. And don’t forget next week is Photoshop World. Okay, on to the topic…

I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people on if/when/how I’ll use a quad copter in my landscape photography. The DJI Phantom has been getting a ton of buzz lately. I’m friends with lots of people that’ve been using them and I see their photos posted online just about every day. And you hear plenty of people talk about how the copter is a “game changer” for photographers and videographers. I definitely think it is. Footage and photos that once required thousands of dollars (if not tens of thousands) of equipment and helicopter/jib rentals, can now be done for hundreds of dollars. We actually used one on our latest Photoshop World movie that debuts next week, and without it, the only way to capture footage even close to what we got would have been hiring a helicopter. It really is amazing at how they’re changing things.

Will I Use One?
Right now, the only use I have for a quad copter is to mess around with my kids because they dig RC (remote control) stuff. Personally, photos from that high up don’t grab me. Here’s a story. I went parasailing with my kids this past summer. I remember thinking it would be great to bring a camera up that high and take photos. But when I got up there, I realized that, while it’s beautiful from up high, from a photography perspective it just didn’t grab me.

Why I Don’t Like Photos From Up High
First, remember this is all a personal preference for me. The way I see it, photos from that high up take away all foreground. They take away the depth that I try to get with my landscape photos. Foreground. Middle-ground. Background… these are all things I’m looking for in my compositions. So when you take that away, in my opinion, you have a postcard. And postcards aren’t bad mind you, but they’re just not what I’m looking for in my work.

A Postcard?
I use the term “postcard” because that’s what a certain type of photo makes me think of. It’s a photo from some vantage point up high that let’s you see everything around you. They’re not bad mind you. They’re actually great to share with some one who’s never been to the place before. But what I’ve learned about myself (and judging from the stats on my personal portfolio and what people like to view), these photos don’t seem to connect. Again, this is just me, but I’ll take a photo down low with a strong foreground in it, any day over the photo from up high.

Oh, and by the way, I have many postcard photos. Here’s a few.

Bergen, Norway

Balestrand Norway

I’m not saying these photos aren’t nice. But I can’t help it. They just don’t do “it” for me. They’re great for photo books of my trips, and they’re definitely not throw-aways, but it’s not a photo I’d hang on my wall. In fact, the photo above was about an hour hike uphill while I was in Norway. So I had some time invested in it. I was excited, drenched in sweat, moving quickly to get there because I couldn’t wait to see what it looked like. When I got there, I snapped off a few photos and realized it just wasn’t what I was looking for. So I quickly hiked down before the really good sunset light, got in the car, and went off to a place closer to the water.

Balestrand, Norway

So Does That Mean I’ll Never Use One?
I’ve learned way too many times that saying “never” always comes back to bite me. So I’ll leave it that, as of right now, I have no interest in incorporating them in to my landscape and outdoor photography work. Believe me, I want to. I LOVE RC stuff! I’d love to be able to justify buying a quad copter (or better) and a bunch of gadgets to go along with it, but right
now I don’t have a use for it. Will that change? What I’ve learned about myself is that I’m usually wrong ;-) So yes, it’ll probably change. Or not. Who knows? :-)

So what’s your take? Already have a copter? Thinking of buying one? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for stopping by. Have a good one!

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A few weeks ago I posted that I was a guest on TV show called “The Home and Family Show”, and giving some photography tips. The show airs on the Hallmark channel and it was a blast. It was actually my second time on the show, (I was on in Dec. of 2012) so I wasn’t as nervous this time either.

Anyway, we pre-recorded my tips earlier in the day and then talked a little about them later on in the show. The photo examples came out great, and if you shoot portraits outdoors (and even indoors for a couple of the tips), then check out the video below.

Have a good one!


Last week I posted a photo I took in Breckenridge, Colorado. In the post I had mentioned that I didn’t know the area and that I got somewhat lucky in picking an area to shoot from. Well, I got a message on one of my social accounts that asked about how I even go about scouting for a location to shoot from. So I thought I’d write a little about it here. These are as much tips for scouting someplace you’re not familiar with, as they are tips on what you can look for when you arrive at a place you’re not familiar with.

My Breckenridge Trip Is A Good Example of Not Knowing the Area
See, my trip to Breckenridge is a great example of not knowing an area and trying to find someplace to shoot from. If for example, I showed up at Moab, Utah that’s a different story. There’s a ton of info around on where/when to shoot. But not so much for where I went. So here’s a few things that I run through in my mind whenever I go someplace unfamiliar.

1. Research online – The absolute first thing I do whenever I know I’m going somewhere is visit 500px.com and do a search for wherever I’m going to visit. Not only will you see some of the best-of-the-best photos, but there’s often stories, locations and sometimes even maps of where the photo was. It’s a great community and it’s definitely the first place I start. From there, I’ll do a Google search and also stop by Flckr.com. It didn’t help much for my trip, but it’s absolutely where to start.

2. Ask the locals – Ask around. As you check in to your hotel, ask the person at the counter if they know of any places to take pictures (I did which is how I even got pointed in the direction I went). Cab drivers can be great (and not so much, so be careful). Valets, your servers at meals, bartenders, people behind the counter in local stores, you name it. Ask around. The only thing I’ll warn you of is sometimes people want to point you to something that’s special to them or their town. They may not know what a “great” landscape photo spot is. So, let’s say you’re in a town with the oldest post office in the country. You may get pointed there by some one who is proud of that, or even has a great-great-great uncle’s roommate who helped build that post office. So try to be as specific as possible as to what you’re looking for. Point them to the mountain, lake, forest or whatever it is you’d like to have in your photo and ask if they know a good place to photograph it from.

TIP: Blog reader, Roger Trentham, left a great comment below. He said another reliable place to look for shooting locations is a camera club. A quick Google search should find any local camera clubs and an email to them may turn up a cool shooting location and even a buddy to shoot with. Thanks Roger!

3. Find a foreground element – This is one of the most important. As you’re out driving around, or even when you arrive somewhere for the first time, look for a good foreground. Once you know where the good light is going to happen, you’ve got to try to find a foreground element to include in the photo. I’m not going to say that every photo needs a strong foreground, but man does it help. As you look around, look for something to include in the foreground of whatever you’re shooting toward. Earlier in the week we had gone snow-mobiling, tubing, and drove around to a few different areas. As I drove, I was on a constant lookout for a cool looking fence, rock, lake (most were frozen), stream, tree, bridge, etc… Anything that I could put in front of the mountain range in the distance. Here’s a couple of examples. I really like the fence shot and I think it could have been strong, but there were a bunch of footprints along it that ruined the pristine view of the snow.

(click to see larger)



3b. If tip #6 doesn’t work, then put your zoom lens on and look for something cool. I did this when I saw some really great light hitting the mountains. I wasn’t in a place with a great foreground, so I figured I should at least capture what I could.


4. Drive around! – One of the things that helped me the most when I was in Breckenridge was driving around. If you’re on vacation, chances are you travels will take you to dinner, breakfast, or some place outside your hotel. Use that as a chance to look for places to shoot. If you can have some one else drive, then do it so you can look around without worrying about driving. If you’re like me, you may get carsick ;) but at least you’ll be in one piece :)

5. If You Have to Pee, Use That Time Wisely - Okay, you’re gonna laugh at this one. And it really had nothing to do with peeing. But all week long, I woke up early. At first it was because my sleep clock was 2 hours ahead of Colorado. By the end of the week, it was because I had to pee :) Sorry, I know… TMI! I can’t help it. I can’t sleep past a certain time before I just have to go.
Anyway, every morning when I got up I’d look out the window to see where the sun was and what it was hitting. I could also check the clouds and see when any color started to happen so I knew better when I had to be out shooting. I did this a couple of mornings and I already had a little bit of an idea of the area I wanted to be shooting toward. If you’re not up early, or out late, ask some one who is.

Breckenridge Sunrise

6. Look at postcards – If you’re visiting a touristy area, look at postcards. See if there’s anything that catches your eye. You don’t have to shoot the exact same photo, but it may give you a starting place, or at least a conversational piece with some one around you to get started on finding a cool place to shoot.

7. Move Around – I can’t stress this one enough. I was able to come away with 4-5 different photos because I moved around and changed lenses. Don’t grow roots and sit in the same place. You’ll come back with the same photo and, as many of you have already found out, your first ones are usually the best. Have a plan when you get there. Pick a spot you want to be at for the best light. Then, as soon as the light changes or the sun comes up move quickly to somewhere else. As soon as you grab a photo or two from there, move again. And again, and again. If you can shoot from 3-5 different locations as soon as the sun comes up, you’ll walk away with a much better chance of a having a good keeper and maybe even several from your shoots.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a good one!


I just got back from spring break skiing in Breckenridge, CO with the fam. I guess one of the benefits of traveling a lot for work, is that you build up some frequent flyer miles to take a trip here and there. Anyway,I thought I’d post a photo from the only time my DSLR made it out of the bag. I was there for 6 days and my camera bag/tripod sat in the corner of the room (taking back seat to skiing) for the first 5 :) Then one morning I woke up early, looked outside and saw some decent clouds, and decided to go shoot.

Actually, if I’m being honest, I went back to bed first. Then I laid there for about 10 minutes, knowing I wouldn’t actually sleep at this point, because I’d be wondering what kind of sunrise I’d miss. So I got dressed (warmly), grabbed my gear, got in the rental car and went out for a chilly 7°F sunrise shoot.

(click to see the photo larger)
Breckenridge Sunrise

Photo Info:
Camera: Canon 5D Mark III
Lens: Canon 70-200 f/2.8
Aperture: f/8
Shutter: 1/20 sec.
ISO: 100
Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-33 and BH-55 Ballhead

I really had absolutely no idea where the sun would come up, as I hadn’t been up that early since I was in Breck (I think that’s how the cool kids say it ;) ). It’s always hard shooting in the mountains because sometimes sunrise/sunset is a bust, because the sun comes up behind a mountain. And by the time it actually gets over the peak, the good light is gone. But I found a location that looked pretty decent, (and I got somewhat lucky) in that it caught some early light.

Sadly, I’m back in the swing of things. I had a great week watching my kids tear up the slopes (not bad for FL kids either), and we returned with all bones and limbs intact. Have a good one!