Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Too Much of a Good Thing

As I write this blog people in the mid-Atlantic states are digging out of a historic snowstorm.  This time the predictions were amazingly accurate with almost a week's warning prior to this historic storm.  At the start of the storm I was hopeful that we would get a nice snow, but not so much that I could not get out and make some images.  By the time the weekend was over we had well over 2 feet of snow. Getting out to make images in the fresh snow was not an option this time.

So instead of getting out to make some images, I have been stuck behind the computer working on presentations, website updates, and of course doing some image processing.

The image above was shot 2 years ago in Maine.  During that trip there was only about a foot of snow as I recall and getting around was pretty easy compared to the leftovers from the current storm.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Panoramas aren’t just for Landscapes

Panoramas are often an effective way to showcase the grandeur of a vast landscape.  A photographer can often show more in a wide aspect panorama, instead of just stepping backward or using a wide angle lens.  I love shooting panoramas in the great outdoors but I also find ways to use this technique on other types of photography as well.   In the image above I shot 5 vertical frames of the lobby inside the former Women’s Auxiliary Building at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.   I used a Nikon 14-24mm lens at 14mm on a full frame sensor.   While that lens has a very wide field of view, it was not wide enough for me to capture the entire scene in one shot.  

Back in the film days you would use a special camera such as the X-Pan.  This was a camera that used 35mm film and would expose the image at 24mm x 65mm, instead of the traditional 24mm x35mm that is typical for 35mm cameras.   Ten years ago I dreamed of owning an X-Pan, but the price of the bodies and lenses was prohibitive.  Many used 35mm film cameras have become fairly inexpensive but if you look around a used X-Pan is not one of them.  The only advantage I can think of today where a film camera such as an X-Pan would have the advantage over digital is with a fast moving subject.   Slow moving subjects such as clouds and water work just fine for digital panoramas.  

So if you want to start shooting panoramas with your digital camera you will need to learn a little about Parallax.  Really Right Stuff has a great tutorial on their site.   My panorama rig is from Really Right Stuff and while not inexpensive, in my opinion the quality is the best and worth the investment.  There are less expensive options for a Nodal Slide and other assorted gear if cost is a factor.

Years ago I had two or three programs I used for assembling panoramas, because when one program failed to properly stitch the panorama, another program would often do the job.  But in the last few years Photoshop has gotten so good at this feature I have not needed the other programs when I switched my processing from a PC to Mac.  So today all my panoramas are assembled in Photoshop.

Some cameras (including my Fuji XT-1) will shoot handheld panoramas, but the results are not always precise and in the case of my Fuji, it saves the result as a Jpg file instead of a RAW file.   I occasionally use the panorama feature on my Fuji, but when the shot really counts I use my tripod and panorama rig to get it right.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

I Have Been Meaning to Share

The picture above is from a trip to Scranton Lace Factory in 2014.   I have a folder where I save images that I plan to share or blog about and just realized this image is almost a year old and it has never seen to light of day so to speak.

Scranton Lace Factory is located in Scranton, PA.  The company was founded in 1890 and the factory was closed in mid-shift  sometime in 2002.  The site has been undergoing cleanup for the last several years and I know the owners have big hopes for redevelopment of the site.

It was a great location to shoot,  but suspect the best shots were from a time when the site was truly abandoned.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Smokies Wrap-up

A couple of weeks ago we wrapped up our Fall Foliage Tour in the Smokies.  Temperatures were great during the day and cool evenings produced some fantastic fog.  Overall fall color was a little late this year, but we were able to get peak color on the last days of our tour.  This made for happy photographers!

Next year Denise and I will be doing our fall color tour in the Finger Lakes region of New York and we are super excited to share this new destination with our clients.

Speaking of next year, to celebrate Nature Visions Expo were are offering a discount on our 2016 tours until the end of the month.  Come visit us at Nature Visions or sign up on our website.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


On my way down to the Smokies for our Fall Color Tour I stopped along the way to check out some old cars.  Most of the cars were in a field with grass almost as tall as me, so I did not get to shoot most of the cars.  But I was treated to a tour of the owner's restoration shop.  She commented that some clients are skeptical because the shop is pretty old and not very fancy.  I told her I totally understood because some people incorrectly attribute a great picture to the type of camera used.  At that point I knew we understood each other.

I think she was skeptical when I said I wanted to shoot this Chevy from the 30's.  After all it's in primer.  But I loved the shape of it and the spot lighting.

By the way I did see one of their completed vehicles and it was beautiful.

I used Topaz Star Effects on the lights.  If you would like to try Topaz Products in your workflow check out our discounts page.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Cape May and the making of Lemonade

We just finished our annual Cape May Photo Tour weekend and as usual we had a great group of talented and energetic photographers.   Cape May is such a wonderful venue that even though we arrived 2 days early to scout the locations, we still did not cover all of our favorite spots!  

In regard to making Lemonade.  That’s a term of art that I use to illustrate how to deal with the challenges that photography can sometimes present.   The shot above was our first stop with the tour group last Friday evening.  The access to this point is very narrow allowing for only one photographer at a time.  I needed to get my tripod in the water to get the reflection and wanted to show the shot to our clients as an example of one of the possible shots from this location.   Considering that I had 10 people in line behind me, I just took a quick snap and on the back of the camera everything looked fine.   When I started to process this shot I realized that while I had the foreground sharp, my depth of field was not sufficient to render the lighthouse as sharp as I would have preferred.  So I used a couple of Flypaper Textures to give the shot a different feel and I think with the use of textures the importance of sharpness in the image becomes less important.  

I also use and recommend the plugin “Dirty Pictures” from Totally Rad Software for managing and working with Textures in Photoshop.

We are planning to do our annual Cape May Weekend next year a littler earlier so we can photograph the iconic Cape May Boats that line the beach!   Registration is open and it’s not too early to secure your spot on this tour… .   If you want to keep up with all things Road Runner, please join our Meetup and our Mailing List(on the right side of the page).

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

West Virginia Wrap Up

West Virginia Wrap Up

A couple weeks ago we finished our West Virginia Fall Color Tour.  This makes the 3rd year in a row we have had the pleasure of sharing one of our favorite fall color locations with our clients!  As usual West Virginia did not disappoint.  This year the mid-Atlantic was being blasted by heavy rains and some of our clients were questioning if we should cancel.   Our research suggested that West Virginia would be on the outer limits of this storm and we felt this could possibly make for some great photography.  As a practice we try not to shy away from bad weather.  While the safety of our clients is always upmost in our mind, we also want them to go home with epic images!

This fall we were treated to beautiful color, nicely flowing waterfalls, great clouds, and even a nice rainbow over Blackwater Canyon.

We are skipping fall color in West Virginia next year in favor of Fall Color in the Finger Lakes Region of New York.   But our Meetup is planning on doing what is fast becoming our annual camping and star party trip to Spruce Knob and hopefully we will find time to perhaps put a waterfall weekend on the calendar next spring.   If you want to keep up with all things Road Runner, please join our Meetup or our Mailing List(signup on the right side of this page link).