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).  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Icelandic Highlands

We just wrapped up our 2nd epic tour of Iceland.  We had a great group of participants and in spite of some challenging weather, we got to see and photograph a lot of great locations.

The image above was taken in the Icelandic Highlands on a day with light rain and 60 mph winds.

We always rent 4x4 vehicles so we can take our clients into the Highlands.  While Iceland offers much for the photographer without going into the Highlands, our clients agreed unanimously that going to the Highlands was essential and the long rough ride on the Icelandic "F" roads was well worth the extra expense and effort.

Friday, August 28, 2015

The Ohio State Reformatory at Mansfield - Caveat Emptor

Last weekend Denise and I took a road trip with a couple of other members of our Meetup to the Ohio State Prison at Mansfield.  

It's a wonderful old building that looks more like a castle on the outside than a prison.  We had signed up for the "photography tour" at a cost of $150.00 per person.  Never having been there, I did not have any concerns and was looking forward to the experience.  Denise and I do tours at places like Eastern State Penitentiary and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and while the pricing is comparable,  both of these other places provide additional value for the money.  It could be freedom to work with minimal interaction with other tourists or access to places that are off limits to the other guests.  But in any case we have always felt there is extra value in paying more than the average tourists.

That changed this past weekend.  We arrived and stood in line with others who were paying $9.00 for general admission.  When it was our turn we paid $150.00 a person and was told to follow the tour route.  That translated to having to wait between 5 and 10 minutes at nearly each shot waiting for the tourists to be out of the shot.  Sometimes I elected not to take a shot because I just got tired of waiting the the people to get out of the way.

To be fair to Mansfield we did go during the summer busy season and after we expressed some concern about being over charged just because we had tripods, we were told they could take us to some places that were not part of the tour.  By that time we were just over it and wanted to get back on the road for the several hour drive that was ahead of us.

If I had it to do over again I would have left the tripod in the car and just shot at a high ISO and used the vibration reduction feature on most of my lenses.

So if you decide to go, I recommend that you go off season and get a clear understanding of what you get in exchange for your hard earned dollars!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Iceland Awaits

After almost a year of planning, Denise and I are soon to head back to one of our favorite places on the planet!   We are leading a group of photographers on a tour of what we think are the best locations in Iceland.   While we have seen much of what Iceland has to offer during our previous trips and tours, we know that much more remains to be discovered.  So we are spending 5 days exploring the north of Iceland before our group arrives.

The photo above was taken in the Westfjords at a waterfall called Dynjandi.  It’s a beautiful and stunningly large waterfall in a very remote location.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

So Worth the Hike

The view above is from Tibbet Knob in the George Washington National Forest, basically the sister hike to another favorite of mine, Big Schloss.  Both hikes are pretty easy if you're in good shape, but throw in hot and humid conditions and the hike is a little harder than I want to admit.

This past weekend, part of the reason for hiking was to get out with Rudy, our recently adopted Labrador.   But even during the middle of the day I wanted to also make photography part of the reason for being there as well.

The panorama above is handheld and stitched in Photoshop.  I shot it with a D200 converted to Infrared by LifePixel.  Using the Infrared is a great choice when the conditions are too harsh for color photography.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Frederick Photowalk

This past Saturday we hosted our first photowalk of the season.  We held it in Frederick, MD, a great little town with a very vibrant old town section.

Photowalks are a great way to stretch your creativity.  Personally I try to find shadows, colors, textures, shapes, reflections and anything else that catches my eye.

It's always cool to see what others see, so check out our meetup page and view the gallery of photos submitted by our participants.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Guest Blogger

I'm a guest blogger on the Hunt's Photo and Video and I share my love and brief experiences with the new Lensbaby Velvet 56.

The shot above was taken with the Velvet 56 at the Lonaconing Silk Mill a couple months ago.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A Fleeting Moment

Last Friday Denise and I arrived in Davis, WV just in time to be greeted by significant rain. I was making Denise drive so I could work on my motion abstracts when suddenly the sun pops out before it stopped raining.  Without missing a beat Denise proclaims there must be a rainbow somewhere.  I started looking around and sure enough there was one behind us over the Canaan Valley Wildlife Management area.  We quickly turned in, jumped out, and started shooting.  

From the time the sun popped out to the time the rainbow disappeared was about 5 minutes.  These moments are fleeting and knowing our gear allowed us to jump out and start shooting.  If you have to fumble with your gear you just might miss some opportunities.   

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Palouse Year 3

In a few days Denise Silva and I will be heading to Washington for our Palouse Photography Tour.   This is our third year doing tours in the Palouse. For those who don't know, the Palouse is the largest wheat growing region in the country.   The landscape is full of rolling hills, barns and my personal favorite, lots of old trucks.  

We are looking forward to working with a great group of participants, several of whom have done other tours with us.  We can't wait to see what they create!

During the last 2 years we have mapped thousands of miles of country roads and, believe it or not, we will be scouting some new areas in the days before our participants arrive.  I already know the week will fly by.  Did I say fly?  Stay tuned to this blog to see what that means.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sweet 35

I must admit that not all items in my camera bag get equal use. It has been a long time since I used the Lensbaby Sweet 35 lens, at least it feels that way. But before I go on, I must digress.

I have been a Nikon Shooter for close to 10 years. I know the buttons and controls in my sleep. But during the last couple of years many of my friends have been making the switch to the Fuji X system. It's small, lightweight, the quality is stunning and finally it got to the point that I could no longer ignore the Fuji. So about a year ago I made the plunge and purchased the XT-1 and several lenses. Ever since I have been having a love and hate relationship with the Fuji. I love the Fuji because of all the items that I listed above. It's just sometimes the controls are not intuitive to me. This has caused me to fumble at times when I should be in the moment. I'm sure most of this could have been avoided if I had locked myself in a room for a day and read the horrible little manual that seems to accompany any camera regardless of cost.

Let's get back to the the Lensbaby. I have no idea what the market share is for the Fuji X- Series cameras, but at this point it must be small enough that Lensbaby has not opted to make a lens specifically for the Fuji. So I obtained an adapter from FotoDiox (on Amazon) and it has sat in my camera bag for the better part of a year, that is until last weekend. I decided to finally try the adapter and the Lensbaby. It was wonderful, and once I was looking through the viewfinder it was the same as it has always been. The experience was seamless. I'm not sure when I will reach for the Lensbaby and Fuji combo, but I'm sure it won't be a year.

The final image was processed using MacPhun Tonality Pro.   For a discount on all MacPhun products use the discount code "ROADRUNNER".    Clients of Road Runner Photography Tours are eligible for a 10% discount on Lensbaby products.  Contact us for the discount code.

One last thing, the image above was shot at the W.A. Young & Sons Machine Shop in Rices Landing, PA on one of our recent meetups.

UPDATE: Rumor has it that Lensbaby will be announcing a version of their lens for Fuji cameras.  Stay tuned...

Friday, May 8, 2015

Meet Macy

Last weekend we hosted our 2nd annual Light Painting Workshop at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum.  Looking for something a bit different, I started asking the staff if anyone wanted to stick around and model for us.  Macy was kind enough to volunteer and she even found an old dress.  I’m heading back to the Asylum in July for a daytime photo tour.  Check out the Asylum’s website if you want to join me.

The rest of May is super busy for Denise and myself, besides hosting Meetups, we will be heading to Palouse at the end of the month for our photo tour.  Thanks for taking a moment to checkout my blog.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spring Finally Arrives

After a colder than normal winter spring has finally arrived here in Virginia.  I shot this image a few days ago during one of our meetups.  We have a busy meetup and tour schedule during the next few weeks but I hope not to miss the tulips.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Win a Trip!

Since the inception of Road Runner Photography Tours we have frequently raffled spots on some of our tours. This May however, we are doing something we have never done and frankly have never seen anyone else do either.  We are planning a weekend photo tour in one of our favorite areas of West Virginia and the only way you can attend is to win a spot on the tour.  That’s right, every spot on the tour will be given away to randomly selected winners.

If you want to enter for a chance to win one of the 6 spots on the tour you need to head over to this page;

If you want to increase your chances of winning a spot on the tour it’s easy.  You just need to share the custom link that will be made available to you after you enter.  You can share this link with friends directly via email or you can use the buttons to post the link on your favorite social media site.   Each time someone enters using your link, you will get an extra entry into the contest as well.

Let’s just imagine for a moment, that you don’t want to win. I know I’m having trouble imagining that you would not want to win.  But you can still help your friends win by registering and sharing the link with your photo friends.  Imagine how grateful they would be if they won a spot because of your help!

Full details are available on the contest page.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Entrance to the Underworld

Entrance to the Underworld

Its not as menacing as the title would suggest.  But the image above shows the entrance to this year's ice cave under the Vatnaj√∂kull Glacier in Iceland.  Getting to this location required driving over miles of frozen tundra, steams, and even a lake.  It would have been impossible to find this on our own.

Each year guides in Iceland start searching for Ice Caves in November.  This cave is only accessible when it's not raining.  The runoff from the glacier runs through this cave and the day before it was partially flooded according to our guide.  This cave was located at the base of the glacier where the ice meets a lake below.  In the summer you would need a boat to get back to this spot.  Three years ago the guide told us they could not find any caves.   It was obviously a bad winter for the guides.

The experience of being under the glacier was incredible; patterns in the ice, rocks embedded in the ice for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

Iceland is incredible in the winter.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day from Road Runner!

When you are mostly a landscape photographer it's kind of hard finding images that are suitable for a day filled with romance.  I was recently going through my collection of images and found this one from Henryton State Hospital, which has since been demolished.

It's the best I could do...

Happy Valentine's Day!!

Monday, January 5, 2015

Quality vs. Quantity

I'm going to start with a question.  What is more important, quality of work or quantity of work?  What I mean by this is what if you took a week long trip and only got one portfolio quality image?  Would the trip be a failure or a success?  The answer to this question of course depends of your point of view.

Sitting on this side of the computer I have a front row seat to the internet just like you.  Now you can look at websites like 500px and generally you will see examples of stunning work from a variety of photographers.  Or if you go over to Flickr you might see someone post dozens or even hundreds of pictures from a particular trip or event.  There is no right answer to this question, its like many things in life, a matter of opinion.

As I finish my 2nd decade as a photographer, with a 20 year break between decades,  I find that I value quality.  In my mind this is the only possible choice.  When you go to a gallery or art show you see a few pieces from a particular artist at best.  Artists have always been forced to be selective when it comes to showing their work. But with the advent of the internet and nearly unlimited online storage, it takes us back to the days of sitting in front of a slide projector as your neighbor shows you 200 shots from their vacation.  Did you fall asleep before the show was over?  You have to be older than 40 to appreciate comparison.

It's not my intent to be critical of others in this space but let's think a minute.  If you post 100 pictures from a particular place or event, how many people will loose interest before looking at all of your images?  Or how many will judge your ability as a photographer not by your best image, but by your worst?  The fact is we all take lousy images.  I could show you thousands, but then you would not be inclined to return to my blog.   I think it helps if you can develop the ability to be your toughest critic.  That does not mean that you should not show your images and have pride in your work.  You should!  I think the art of photography is a journey and not a destination.  Personally I hope to be a better photographer as time progresses.  Part of that process is being critical of my work and introperspective on how I can strive to improve.

In regard to the blog image above.  It was the only worthy image from a full a day of shooting motion abstracts.   The rest were just not that good.  But my happiness with the one image far overpowers any possible disappointment with the hundreds I had taken that day that no one else will ever see.