Drama from Steptoe



Just when we thought the show was over for the night, this happened. It pays to stay, you never know what will happen. Sometimes its a bust, sometimes its a blast!

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Wrong time, what do you do?



When we arrived at this location, it really was not the right time of day to include the barn. The sun was behind the barn leaving the front side in shadow. It would have been nice to have some light on the barn, however, the sky was working and so were the cloud shadows raking across the fields. I also liked the fence leading to the barn. So, rather than be discouraged, I began working the scene. As I looked back on what I took, I made 10 different compositions. I went in tight, I included more, I waited for the cloud formation to change, I waited for the rolling shadows to change. I finally settled on this spot with just part of the barn. My first composition included two windows. It felt a bit static, so I included three in my next composition. Then I waited until the roof of the barn would sit in blue sky rather than white clouds. Last but not least, I waited for the cloud shadows to roll through the image to give depth. In the RAW file the front of the barn was indeed dark, however, I knew I could work on this in post. Once again, Perfectly Clear was applied first and then I worked the file further in Lightroom and a bit more in Photoshop along with Nik Viveza.

I’ve posted and alternate composition below just for fun. While it does not have the nice cloud shadows in the field, I do like the lines created by the fence, grain and dirt.

If you did not see my recent post about Perfectly Clear, I think its worth a look. Click here.

Don’t forget we are heading back to Death Valley, Valley of Fire and a night in Las Vegas with Chuck Kimmerle in February.  Spots are filling up for this unique opportunity to spend time with a master b&w photographer. Chuck is great fun to be around too! More information is available on my tour page.




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Glider Ride and Red Mohawk


My friend Tom Tauber had promised a ride in a glider awhile back. We were finally able to find a day that worked. What a blast!! Tom had a GoPro camera, so I took a few video clips of the event which can be seen by clicking on these links.  Me in the Glider #1 ,  Glider Ride #2,  Glider Landing #3.




On the way home I stopped at a gas station to fill up and met Geoff. I had my Fuji 56mm 1.2 lens with me, so I gathered the courage to ask if I could get a couple of shots. We ended up having a delighful conversation where I learned he too is a photographer. I only wish I had a bit more courage to ask him to pose a little differently as I really wanted to get a side shot that would show the mohawk better.  None the less, another example of always having gear with you.  Sure am loving the 56mm Fuji lens.  I’ve never had 1.2 glass and man that creates bokeh!  Fun!


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Perfectly Clear Plug-In

Perfectly Clear is not an image enhancement plug-in. Rather, Perfectly Clear is an image optimization or correction plug-in. It should not be thought of as your “creative” editor, this is what Nik, Topaz, Alien Skin and OnOne are for. Perfectly clear has a very different purpose. Its job is to overcome the limitations of your camera and sensor technology.  And it does this on the pixel level. So, rather than apply Perfectly Clear after your RAW or creative processing, it is recommended that you run your un-edited RAW files through Perfectly Clear first, and then do your “normal” enhancement to achieve your creative look if you desire.

Lets take a look at a few examples that should help you understand how Perfectly Clear works and just how powerful it really is.

The first image below is what the RAW image looked like straight out of camera with no adjustment whatsoever. Pretty drab and flat. (remember you can click the image to make it bigger and then scroll through all images.)


The next image has been run through Perfectly Clear using the “default” setting while making just a couple of tweaks to the exposure and contrast sliders. There are not many sliders in Perfectly Clear, so not much to worry about. (see screen capture below) The mulit-patented technology behind the scenes is doing a very good job. It is important to let Perfectly Clear work on the un-edited RAW file (meaning all sliders zero’ed out). It does a better job and will never clip or blow out shadows or highlights if you do. A pretty big difference!




For the last image, I felt the Perfectly Clear version was a tad bright, all I did was use a Curves Adjustment layer to bring down the mid tones and then add a slight “S” curve to enhance the contrast just a touch.


Lets look at another, this from the streets of Havana. Again the first image is an un-edited RAW file.


Next is the file run through Perfectly Clear. This time the difference is more subtle as the RAW capture from the Fuji is pretty good to start with. Still, look at the color of the car, the pink on the walls, the tones in the street and the overall depth that PC gave the image. It feels more alive to me.


And the last image below was created in Alien Skin Exposure 6 as a creative old film look from the Perfectly Clear optimized file.



One last example. When I processed this image two years ago, I blended two exposures to get what I needed. This time with Perfectly Clear, I used just one with better results. The first image is the RAW file unprocessed. 



And the next with Perfectly Clear applied using the “fix dark” preset and then tweaking the exposure and contrast sliders just a touch.  Wow!  I’d say that is a big improvement. And please notice the true colors. I really appreciate that Perfectly Clear does not alter my colors, in fact it restores them to what they should be!  



And the last image below was finished with Lightroom only. I used the adjustment brush for the sky, shadow slider to open up the shadows a bit and the highlight slider to reign in the brights.  A touch of vibrance and clarity and I was done.




Armed with this new knowledge, the first thing I will be using on my images is Perfectly Clear first. Is it perfect software? Does it work perfectly every time? No, there have been a few, very few images where I did not like the result. 

You should know that you can batch process your images using Perfectly Clear. This makes a lot of sense when you have a lot of images from a a specific shoot like a wedding or portrait session etc.  And you can create a preset in Perfectly Clear that can be applied to the entire set of images that are being group processed. This is a huge time saver and another big benefit of this plug-in.

I would suggest this VIDEO on Youtube for more details about batch processing using Lightroom. And this VIDEO is an excellent overview of what Perfectly Clear does and why.  

If you can’t tell, I’ve had a paradigm shift about Perfectly Clear after learning what is really going on and when to use it in my workflow.  I highly recommend it!  Click on this link to give it a try and SAVE 20%.

Posted in Perfectly Clear Tagged |

New Zealand Tour – Red Barn in the Palouse


New, New Zealand Tour announced. Yes, after being pushed and prodded (Thanks Eli!), we are going to New Zealand in April of 2015. Details can be found on the bottom of the TOURS page.  Because of the way things tend to happen with our tours, we already have 9 signed up, leaving only 3 spots. So, if you have interest in the South Island of New Zealand you might want to act swiftly! 

The blog image is another from our recent Palouse trip. We’ve driven past this barn numerous times and have never stopped. This time the clouds were strong and there were sheep pouring out of the barn door.  I pursuaded Dan to stop so I could make a quick capture out of the car window. Glad I did as I love the pastoral feeling of this classic Palouse scene.

In my next post I will discuss the Perfectly Clear plug-in and what I’ve recently learned. This plug-in is pretty powerful and does much more than I realized. 

Posted in Palouse, Tour Tagged , , , , |

New Tour Announced for 2015!

Eastern Sierra_2014Feb01_0142

Due to popular demand, we are heading back to the Eastern Sierra region to do another B&W focused tour with Chuck Kimmerle. I know, I know, why would a legend like Chuck want to hang out with the rag tag duo of Barclay and Sniffin?  Good question, I don’t know, but we are thrilled that he has agreed to join us again. We will start in Las Vegas as this is a great place to fly into. We will photograph the wonderful Gehry building on the outskirts of town, then spend a few days in the Valley of Fire and finish in Death Valley for a few runs into the Mesquite Flat Dunes. Details can be found on the TOURS page.  If you have interest in this tour, I would encourage you to sign up quickly. It will fill up fast.  

We will be announcing the rest of our 2015 tours very shortly so stay tuned or sign up to receive notice of any blog post I make.  You can do this on the blog home page at the bottom right.

The blog image is from our trip this past February in the dunes.


Posted in Chuck Kimmerle, Tour Tagged , , , , , , |

When the light is right. – New Singh-Ray Website!



When the light is right, I find my images require little to no post processing. This image was taken about 15 minutes before the sun set over my shoulder. The light was soft, gold and simply amazing.  All I did was use my Singh-Ray warming polarizer and then post processing was minimal. In fact if I wanted to, I could have used the jpeg straight out of camera that the Fuji produced. 

Speaking of Singh-Ray, Bob (Singh) has launched a terrific new website today. I am honored to be part of this new site with a featured “pro” gallery. For a limited time you can save 10% on any filter you purchase. Or save 15% on suggested packages from leading pro’s like Tony Sweet, Nevada Weir, Cole Thompson and Brenda Tharp. The website address is the same as it has always been,  www.singh-ray.com.  I think you’ll find the site much easer to navigate and full of useful information about how, why and when to use filters. I only use Singh-Ray filters, why would I buy great glass and compromise it with anything but the best?

I still have the Canon 180mm Macro lens for sale.  $900 free shipping.

Posted in Palouse, Singh-Ray Filters Tagged , , |

The Palouse does B&W – Lenses for sale




In the most recent issue of Lenswork, I was pleased to see a folio of work from the Palouse. It struck me as odd at first as I see the Palouse (with the exception of a few images) as a place that needs to be photographed in color (see color version below). But the images in the folio and a subsequent discussion with a few friends, inspired me to reconsider my position. So, back to our recent conversation about “why and when B&W.”  I said in that post, I tend to think about removing color when I want you to focus on the graphic nature of an image. I remove the distraction of color to reveal the essence of the subject. This image its all about graphic elements. The lines and texture in the barn, only shooting part of the barn, and then the shadow and light play in the wheat field. When I moved beyond my expectation that color is a must and analyzed this image, I realized indeed it does work in B&W. Now to be like Chuck and Cole and learn to see this in the field! 

If you missed my recent Topaz webinar, it is now live on YouTube here.    I will add a link on my Tutorial page too.

Its time to clean house as I am shooting primarily with my Fuji gear. I have a couple of lenses for sale.

Nikon 28-70 2.8 –  This is the predecessor to the current 24-70 2.8.  This is a SOLID lens in excellent condition.  It comes with the leather case.  $600.00 – SOLD!

Canon 180mm Macro in excellent condition.  The Canon macro lens to own. I honestly hate to get rid of this lens but its finally time. I thought I had the original box but can’t find it at the moment. Time to clean the basement and find it!  $900.00

I’ll pay shipping on either lens.






Posted in B&W, Palouse Tagged , , , |

Beware of expectations


My tour partner Dan Sniffin learned a valuable lesson over the course of our last two tours together. His story is worth sharing as it illustrates a point I make in my presentation, “Discovery & The Creative Choice.”  And that is to beware of expectations. Up until the Smoky Tour this spring, Dan has typically arrived with expectations. He might say something like, I want to find a lone tree in fog or I am looking for such and such situation. Then during the tour and even the pre-tour, he would be focused on finding such. This time, as Dan arrived in the Smokies he said to me, “John, I have no expectations on this tour. I just want to relax and whatever happens, happens.” And guess what? Dan produced what I believe to be some of his finest work. And, he produced more “keepers” than on any other tour we’ve done together. Next, he arrived in the Palouse a few weeks ago and said, “John, I’ve shot in the Palouse 10 times, I’m not sure I’ll be doing much shooting. I’m going to relax but if I see something, I’ll get a camera out. If not, thats fine too.” Guess what? Yup, once again Dan produced stellar images and more of them than any other trip to the Palouse.

What is the point? By removing expectations and by being open to what was being given to Dan, he was actually able to see more! I would suggest that you don’t try and force images to fit an expectation you have. Rather, just be still and let the images come to you! Beware of those pesky expectations. You know, the expectation to come home from this trip with 10 “keepers.” Or, I saw these killer images of Iceland on 500px. Now I have to go to Iceland to make similar images. These kind of expectations can be dangerous and can potentially influence your “seeing” in a negative way as you’ll be under pressure to succeed against false or unattainable expectations. As evidenced by Dan’s success, it is much better to relax and be open to whatever right answer presents itself.

Todays image is from the Palouse. We had been out chasing late light and a storm. We finally stopped on a road where there is a wonderful red barn scene. We waited and waited for the light to come through the thick clouds behind us to light up the barn. Then it came, lasting for less than a minute. The problem for me, was the red barn didn’t have enough clouds above it when the light came. So, I searched for another right answer and found this! I love the streak of gold light and the tremendous clouds. So glad I followed my own advice for once and did not stay focused on the expectation we had of shooting the red barn in last light.

If you’re not following Chuck Kimmerle on his blog you should.  His latest post about light is excellent. www.chuckkimmerle.com/blog/


Posted in Inspiration, Palouse Tagged , , |

When and why B&W?

At the end of my recent Topaz webinar, someone asked a good question. How do you know when to convert an image to B&W? I gave an answer, however, since then I’ve been thinking more about it. I have an answer, but, I’d like your input. I’m curious to know your thoughts on this subject. Here is my current answer, which I’m sure will morph and change over time. B&W needs to be a purposeful choice. One does not just tap the “V” key in Lightroom to convert it and then walk away. It should be done with a bit more purpose. Typically I ask myself, what role does color play in my image?  If it is important, I will most likely keep it color. The image below is a good example. For me, the color is a very important part of the story in the Palouse. The yellow canola, the red barn, blue sky, green wheat.  All big players in the overall composition. Yes, this is the same red barn seen in the distance in my last blog post.


 Here is another, where color plays an important role. I just don’t see this Gehry building in B&W, however, the building in LA is a different story. The panels are all silver making for great conversions. See below.




If color is getting in the way of what I am trying to portray, express or show, I will remove the color so the design, graphic, or emotion is more discernible. These images come to mind as examples. The door at ESP does not have much color to begin with so it makes sense to remove it. And the B&W choice does a good job of drawing the eye to what is important, the shadow. The “god-rays” scene is all about the rays and the conversion makes that clear. The dunes are all about line, rhythm, shape, shadow and light. As such, the color just gets in the way. With people, when we remove the color we see into the soul of the person.   





Eastern Sierra_2014Feb01_0118



Sometimes an image works in both color and B&W and simply creates a very different emotion/reaction. I posted such an example this spring from the Smokies. I share it here again to make my point.




My suggestion is to make your B&W conversions with purpose. Don’t make B&W images for the sake of creating another B&W image. Not all color images convert succesfully to B&W.

Enough from me, I’m interested to hear what you have to say.

“With color we look at the photography, with B&W we look into the photograph.” Anonymous 


Posted in B&W Tagged , |