Backlight – New Zealand



Sheep are everywhere in New Zealand. There were a few on the bus that would yell, SHEEP every time we saw some. Josh Cripps, our guide and generally great person, is a pure landscape guy and did not understand how important it was to stop at some point to photograph the sheep. Well at least not until there was a mutiny, verbal threats and lots of screaming from a few unnamed (Lola, Terry) participants on the bus! All in good fun of course. This stop seemed like the perfect place with the distant hill in the background still in shadow, the light behind the trees creating beautiful backlight and SHEEP!

I’m selling my Nikon AF-S 70-200 2.8 VR. This is VERSION 1 of this lens which means on a full frame sensor you will see some vignetting in the corners. On a cropped sensor which it was designed for, it works perfectly! It has be used but is in great shape. A steal for $800.00 plus shipping. Box, hood, and carry bag it came with included.

Posted in New Zealand Tagged , , |

You Bring Your Good Time With You


I am just back from co-leading a tour to one of our most popular and favorite locations, the Palouse. We chose the week we did to photograph the amber waves of grain during the height of the harvest. Well, the weather in the Palouse has been unusually hot this year, the harvest was pretty much done by the time we arrived. During our meet and greet session, we always cover items like, stay hydrated, use sunscreen, be courteous, car pool, etc. This year we added a new rule, wisdom from Dan’s Mom, “you bring your good time with you.” I also added a concept I speak about often in my lectures, beware of expectations. With these two ideas firmly in place, we went about photographing the “harvest.” On a day where we had 106 degree heat, I did a processing session, before I started, I spoke to the group about how wonderful they were. How they truly had brought their good time with them and it showed. We were battling some difficult heat and hazy conditions, yet they were having a blast and making extraordinary images! No grumbling from anyone, in fact quite the opposite. So, next time you encounter conditions that are not optimal, beware of expectations and remember Dan’s Mom and her “you bring your good time with you” wisdom. I promise you’ll have a much better time.

Today’s image is from an abandoned grain elevator. I pay homage to Chuck Kimmerle on this one. Yes, I know I’ve broken a sacred rule of composition, do you care? Does it bother you? Obviously it does not bother me, I posted the image.

Posted in Abstract, Chuck Kimmerle, Palouse Tagged , , |

More Thoughts on Art and Competition



The positive response to my previous post tells me people are interested in the topic of art, photography and competition. I’d like to add a few more thoughts.

First, for anyone who might think otherwise, make no mistake, I believe camera clubs offer great value, especially to beginning to intermediate photographers. My friend Chuck Robinson feels the same way. This is what he had to say about his club experience. “I joined our camera club when I first got started into photography.  I wanted to meet people with similar interests and learn more about photography.  I ended up befriending some great people who are awesome photographers and I did learn a great deal through these friendships.  I enjoyed the competitions at first because I thought it was a way for me to gauge the growth of my photography compared to others that have been shooting way longer than I.  I felt that it also pushed me to become better.  As a novice photographer at the time, I felt that it was beneficial to my growth”  I agree with Chuck, his feelings mirror many others I’ve spoken to about their club experience.

Chuck goes on to say, “Nine years later my feelings have changed. Today, my personal view is much different. A little over a year ago, I was becoming frustrated in my photography.  Although I did very well in the competitions, I felt that the comments from the judges from month to month were all over the map. Now I can take constructive criticism, in fact, I look forward to it.  But some of the comments were just ridiculous. More importantly, I felt like I was creating images just to win competitions and I was becoming very frustrated and lost sight of why I wanted to create images in the first place. I was losing my desire in photography. I was chasing what I thought someone else would think was a winner.  I had to stop and regroup and distance myself from the club. I feel so much  better now that I’ve done that”  This too, is common feedback and emphasizes my concern with competition. 

I am currently traveling with my tour partner Dan Sniffin. We have been conversing about the value of camera clubs and the feedback to my last post. We even called Cole Thompson as someone shared with him a Facebook link with some of my comments regarding this subject. We all arrived at the same conclusion. Getting people to think about what and why they are creating images is important and healthy.

Second, In no way am I advocating that everyone who owns a camera or is part of a camera club should ascribe to my way of thinking. There are some who enjoy competing, winning points, pins, ribbons and plaques. If this is what brings you joy, who am I to say otherwise? For instance, I have a friend Gunther Riehle who is one of the highest ranking PSA nature photographers in the world. His work is stunning, yet follows a different vision and the guidelines of PSA. I am simply suggesting that following your heart or your vision could bring a different level of joy or satisfaction. Or as my friend Dewitt Jones says, another right answer. Let me share a two stories that might illustrate what I’m trying to say.

I was on the first day of a fall weekend photography workshop. The colors were astounding, the conditions could not have been better. A participant came up to me and said, “I am going to go home.” I asked if I had said something that offended her, had I done something wrong?  She said, “No, its just I am not finding what I came for.” She then shared that she had a competition at her camera club and her expectation was to find a particular image that she could win with. Rather than find another right answer, a different and maybe better answer, she went home. Isn’t that sad?

Contrast that experience to this story. Dan (tour partner) and I were scouting for our spring Smoky Mountain Tour last year. When we arrived, he said to me, “John, don’t worry if I don’t shoot much. I’ve been to the Smokies a number of times, I’ve got all the images I need. I’m going to just relax. I have no expectations for this trip. I’ll just shoot when something moves me.”  Normally Dan would go on a trip and have a “shot list.”  Not this time, he was going to be open to what moved him, spoke to him and inspired him. Guess what? He produced the best work he has ever produced from the Smokies. His success was so good, he did the same thing in the Palouse a couple of months later with the same results.

These stories capture the essence of what I was hoping to express in this and my previous post. I am simply suggesting an alternative approach.  A more contemplative approach, where you are open to whatever turns your head and will create based on what makes your heart sing.

Posted in Cole Thompson, Inspiration Tagged , , , |

Art is not a competition


I don’t know about you, but lately more than ever I sense for many, photography has become a competition. Facebook, Google+, Twitter, and Instagram all feed us images in what feels like a never-ending stream. Sites like 500px seem to promote competition for Likes. I’m not sure this is healthy, at least for those aspiring to do more with their photography.

Back in ancient times when I used film, I felt more connected to the subject than the technical aspects of photography. When photographing, I was immersed in the experience, many times not seeing developed images for a week or more. Without Facebook, there were limited avenues to share images. The focus was on the experience and image making.

Digital photography and the “internet” offer value, especially for learning. But, I fear they have changed the “focus” to immediate gratification, and foster competition. I have no desire to participate! I photograph because it feeds my soul. I love and cherish being in the moment. And that is what separates the average photographer from the great ones. Connection. Connection to the experience, connection to subject, connection to others, life, etc.  The photographers I admire, Dan Sniffin, Chuck Kimmerle, Cole Thompson and Guy Tal to name a few, all speak or write about it, and live this idea. They are not out to make the next wall hanger or to achieve front page status on 500px. No, I believe they are more interested in being part of, and connected to, the experience of photography. The images they create are a by-product of that intimate connection. When I look at their images, I sense this connection and feel I am looking at a part of them. Don’t misunderstand, I am human. I enjoy having others like what I do. I just don’t want that to drive my photography. So my question to you is: Where are your boundaries? Is this something you’ve consciously thought about? Is it even important to you?

Posted in Inspiration Tagged , |

Tuscany & Venice Through Their Eyes

Once again, it’s time for “images through their eyes.” This time from our recent tour to Italy. I think you will be amazed at the quality of the photographers on this trip!  Remember to click on the links to view more of their fine work.  Enjoy!

Barry Wolf – Belvedere: We had gone to Belvedere the previous morning but there was neither any fog nor nice light. We decided to return the following morning because the weather forecast was favorable for fog. The forecast was accurate because we were greeted by fog everywhere. It was one of those magical mornings that you hope for and was an experience that I’ll never forget not only because of the location but the great group that I was with.

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Laurie McCormick –  This is one of my favorite images because I love color, reflections and capturing the essence of place.  ‘Life in Burano’ I believe has all three ingredients and gives the viewer a small peek into the lifestyle of the people who live on the Island of Burano, Veneto Italy.  Facebook  Check out Laurie’s National Geographic “Your shot” gallery here too!



Louise Shoemaker – A Solitary Stroll—I wandered off the edge of the map and got thoroughly lost in a neighborhood far from the busy tourist streets of Venice, and came back with this.  It reminds me that every photograph doesn’t have to be extravagant or dramatic.  It speaks to me because it is understated and quiet, and it evokes that part of Venice where residents simply live their lives.

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Mark Stevens –  While others went off to capture the iconic “Belvedere” image, I choose to stay at the IL Rigo that morning and walk the dirt road to the north. I was confident that something would present itself to me and that I would be able to capture it to my satisfaction. This is a four shot stitched panorama made with a Canon 6D, 70-200mm lens, combined in PS CS6.  Website

_84A7553 Tuscan pan 5  b  border copyLinda Russo – This image of St. Marks Basilica, in the Piazza San Marco, I like in particular because I’m not familiar with night photography and quite honestly I was surprised that I captured what I saw in my camera’s viewfinder.

My Nikon D810 camera was on the tripod and during the long exposure, my friend Linda K and I had to block people from walking in front of the camera. I took multiple images, but this one I like best.

The reflection in the puddle of water adds balance to the composition and creates a more dazzling image.  I think this one is a keeper!
Pat Sweeney – This stands out as my favorite for two reasons: It speaks ITALY to me with it’s vivid color, it’s agelessness and it’s food.  Secondly, working in soft focus (Fuji XT-1 in-camera) as well as square format was a new experience.  Stepping out of the box was challenging and lots of fun!
Robin Harrison –  She told me she was especially fond of the two rainbows we were treated to on this trip and thus this is one of her favorite memories.
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Dan Sniffin – Co-Tour Leader – I can’t say that this is my “favorite” image from our tour.  But I know that the simpler the subject is, the easier it is for a viewer to understand the intent of the maker.  Here, it is easy to see that this is a study of color, textures and shapes, with the shadows adding a strong serendipitous element.
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Posted in Italy, Tour, Workshop Tagged , , , |

Yellow – I’m back!


The late day light was soft and yummy as I rounded the corner and found this wonderful scene waiting for me. Yes, cars are probably over photographed in Cuba, but come on, tell me you wouldn’t have stopped?  Seriously, would you have passed this up?  Didn’t think so. Another take below.

Sorry for the lack of posting in the last few weeks.  The cycling accident banged up my fingers and knuckles and its been hard to type!  All is healing nicely and I’m good to go again!

Thank you to all who came to one of my three lectures at the NECCC Conference. Wow, what a great event that is. So well organized with a plethora of choices in classes you can attend. Lots of great teachers too. Very grateful to have been part of this wonderful annual event.

My most recent Topaz webinar is now available to watch at your leisure here.

My most recent Perfectly Clear webinar is now available to watch here. 


Posted in Cuba Tagged , , , , |

Day Lily – Lensbaby Sweet 50 Optic

Its been awhile since my last post. With the 4th of July holiday, I figured it was a good time for a break. That break got extended as I had a pretty serious cycling accident. I’m happy to say that I am healing well and on the road to a full recovery. So grateful for all the support and prayers expressed on Facebook! THANK YOU! 

The Day Lily’s have been “turning my head” this year. I can’t stop making images of them.  This time I used my Lensbaby Composer Pro with the Sweet 50 Optic. I love this!


Posted in Lensbaby Tagged , , |

New Zealand in their eyes

Today I continue my series of posts that feature recent tour participant images. These images are from our April trip to New Zealand. Remember to click on the links to view more of their fine photography. 

Louise Shoemaker –   Having difficulty finding appropriate subjects at the site of the Moeraki Boulders, I was disappointed by selfie-taking tourists and footprints in every stretch of sand and cold winds and flat light.  So I had begun the trudge back to the bus, when a member of the group pointed to the area of the beach I had just scouted and said “Look at THAT!” So I turned around and looked and walked back and looked again.  This is the next photo I took.  It reminds me to look, then look again, and give my eyes the time to see


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Ken Arnett – Our evening at Curio Bay was overcast and moody, with fabulous waves extending over the dark coastline.  It seemed perfect for long exposure blending!


Curio Bay

Dan Sniffin –  I was drawn to this image due to its simplicity of design — and visualized smooth water with contrasting  textures of the rock..  Although both color and B&W versions worked well I felt that the B&W version best suited the subject.


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Terry Schroeder –  “New Zealand was a really rich visiual experience from start to finish, and I came back from the trip with some landscapes that I consider keepers. But landscapes are high on the list of things I’m still learning. Although this particular image might have been taken almost anywhere, it offered the opportunity to compose and shoot in my “comfort zone”.  For me, it will always be a strong reminder of the companions on the trip, the places we went, and a host of other New Zealnd images that please me almost as much as this one.”



Victoria Porter – This type of irrigation equipment is everywhere in Wyoming and Montana where I grew up and I’ve tried to find a scenic shot that included it for years. I find it somewhat fascinating to see, especially when it is in action as it sometimes creates miniature rainbows in the spray. When our group went to photograph elephant rocks, I spotted this scene on the roadside a short distance from where our bus was parked. So after photographing several views of the elephant rocks, I wandered back down the road to capture this scene. I like how all the elements came together to create a pleasing composition: colorful fields, cows, irrigation equipment, and the cloudy sky.




Fine Art America:  <<< photographic art for sale
Posted in New Zealand Tagged , |

More Lensbaby 56 Images – Interview – Topaz Webinar

Topaz Webinar Today

Today, I will be presenting another webinar for Topaz.  Be aware there are 2,000 signed up and only 1,000 can be on at one time.  If you really want to attend, you’d better log in early!

Candid Conversations with Jo Johnson 

My friend Jo Johnson invited me to spend an hour on the phone with her.  She has a wonderful blog series called Candid Conversations.  She has interviewed a number of fine photographers and decided I was next!  If you’re interested, you can read it by clicking this link.





_DSF9086Lensbaby Velvet 56

The images above were shot with the Lensbaby Velvet 56. I really am enjoying this wonderful lens! The middle flower image has a low opacity layer of Topaz Impression applied to it.  I will cover this idea in my webinar later today.


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Somewhere Over The Rainbow


This image was made in the front yard of the agraturismo where we stay in Tuscany. We had just returned from a long day. It looked like the shooting was over so we headed “home.” Then, as we came to dinner this happened! Needless to say, dinner took a backseat for about a half hour. Even the owners of the agraturismo said this kind of situation does not happen too often. It was pretty special. Both the light and the double rainbow.

A reminder about my Topaz Webinar next Tuesday June 30th at 5PM est.  You can sign up by clicking this link.   I hope to see you there!


Posted in Italy, Topaz Software, Webinar Tagged , , , , , |