The Digital Photo Guy

Faster Horses, Younger Women (with Guns)

by on Sep.02, 2014, under Articles, Lightroom, Meetup, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Photoshop CS2/4

Good Golly, Miss Molly, It’s Been Two Months

I can’t believe I haven’t posted in two months! All the usual excuses apply including a 2+ hour presentation I prepared for the Desert Caballeros Western Museum show, West of Center 2014. I spent about 40-50 hours preparing my presentation on Compositional Style. You can find an article about the presentation HERE.

Some of you may remember the Tom T. Hall song “Faster Horses” from which the title of this post has been blatantly ripped off. If you don’t know, the full refrain is, “It’s faster horses, Younger women, Older whiskey, More money.” Last week, I had an opportunity to photograph an MSA (Mounted Shooters of America) event. The light was high and harsh but I managed to make the following photos. The women were the most fun to photograph.

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The first image is SOOC (straight out of camera.) The rider hit a barrel and the horse was highly annoyed. The rest were processed in LR4, exported to Topaz Adjust 5 and “tweaked” using the Spicify preset as a starting point and brought back to LR4 where some were given a final tweak using the HSL panel to tone down the green background. The 5th image of the horse with all 4 hooves off the ground and visible muzzle blast was the only one where I did some PS4 trickery. The muzzle blast was in the previous frame where the horse’s legs were in a less dynamic position. I “cut & pasted” the muzzle blast from one photo to the other. I didn’t feel that was cheating since the two frames were in sequence during a high speed burst.

I handheld my Canon 7D with the 70-200/4L set to Aperture Priority and ISO 200. The AF Point Selection was set to expanded and I moved the zone left or right depending on the direction the horse was moving. The AF Shooting Mode was set to AI Servo so the lens would constantly update focus as the rider moved. For more details about these AF Modes, follow this link.

Beware of “Gurus”

Recently, I’ve overheard people advising beginners to “do it this way.” I’d caution anyone, newbie or advanced, to be wary of people who claim their way is the right way. As most of you know, the answer to most photography questions is, “It all depends!”

Upcoming Photoshoots

In mid-October, I’ll be headed back to the Eastern Sierra for my annual shoot. This year, I intend to concentrate on Sky Rock around Bishop and arches in Alabama Hills. I’ll go to Bodie if there’s snow but otherwise plan to stay south of Mono Lake. As always, feel free to contact me if you want to join me.

In November, I’ll be at Arizona Shootout, a nude & glamour workshop in the desert near Wickenburg. I’m not going to embed a link to the site because it contains nudity but if you’d like to join me, Google is your friend. The cost is ~$350 for both Sat & Sun or ~$175 for either day. These are Playboy level models with lots of experience and some top glamour photographers.

In late Dec or early Jan, I hope to make it back to Whitewater Draw near Douglas, AZ to photograph sandhill cranes. The schedule isn’t yet firmed up but stay tuned for details. While in the area, I’ll also go to Bisbee to photograph more hippies and cool art.

In February, I hope to make the 7th Annual Lake Havasu Rockabilly Reunion to photograph a boatload of pin-up models.

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Homeward Bound

by on Jun.28, 2014, under Articles, Composition, gear, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing

Miscellaneous Photo from Past 6 Weeks

Surviving 6 weeks in a 25 foot RV with a wife and an 18 lbs cat has been an interesting experience. Amazingly enough, we’re all still talking to each other and no one has tried to kill anyone else! “T” the Cat is so ready for this adventure to be over so he can get back to his catio on the back patio where he can survey his kingdom. Tomorrow (Sunday, 6/29,) Mary’s retreat is over so we’ll meet up in Petaluma, CA for the ~800 mile drive back to Wickenburg. I had planned to stop in Oatman, AZ to photograph wild burros but Mary (and T) pointed out the temps will be in the low 100s. I’ll plan Oatman for a winter visit.

I went back over the ~1700 images from the trip and found several that could benefit from PP (post-processing.)

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These top four were various rock formations around Bishop and Big Pine. The first two are, obviously, HDR using Photomatix Essentials. The last two are SOOC (straight out of camera) with cropping, levels/saturation/contrast adjustments and sharpening. I’m still trying to go easy on HDR because, deep down, it feels like cheating.

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The above three are from the Laws Railroad Museum near Bishop, CA. In lieu of HDR, I’m trying more BW and I’m finding more images that “feel” like good candidates for conversion. In the above trio, I think the last two might also work as BW. I plan to try that when I get home.

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The last two are mules from Bishop Mule Days. The light colored mule seemed to have such deep, expressive eyes that looked right through me. The big, brown guy was a handsome mule who seemed curious.

All photos were processed in Lightroom 4.4 with HDR taken out to PhotoMatix. Some were also processed in Topaz Labs Adjust 5. The first 2 were made with a Canon 7D and 24-105/4L while the rest were with a Canon 5D Mark II and 24-105. The belts at Laws RR Museum photographed with my Canon EOS-M mirrorless. I’m beginning to love that camera and will try other lenses in the future.

Wickenburg Photography Group Summer Unmeetings

The Wickenburg Photo Group is dormant during the summer but I’ve been trying to schedule activities to keep members and potential members involved. These blog posts are meant to give people ideas for photo trips as well as techniques and gear. If you have any questions, feel free to post a comment.

On Saturday, July 19 from 9AM to Noon, I’ve scheduled a model session at the Wickenburg Art Center. The model is Chy Von Sweets, an alternative-style model who does Pin-Up, Rockabilly and High Fashion. As you can see from her portfolio, she’s a mix of Bettie Page, Punk and Vogue. I’ll have my backdrop and lights for anyone who wants to try studio model photography. The cost is $20, payable via PayPal at

On Saturday, August 9 from 1PM to 4PM at the Desert Caballeros Western Musuem, I’ll show you how to define and develop your own compositional style. To quote Ansel Adams, “The so-called rules of photographic composition are, in my opinion, invalid, irrelevant and immaterial” or, more succinctly,There are no rules for good photographs, there are only good photographs.” I’ll, hopefully, demonstrate how you can stop worrying about rules and start making good photographs.

Finally, in September (date TBA,) if there’s enough interest, I’ll conduct a 2-3 hour printing seminar at Wickenburg Art Center. I’ll haul my 45 lbs Epson 3880 printer to the center and demonstrate how to prepare your photos for printing and how to fix common printing problems.

The WPG meetings start again on Monday, October 6 from 6:30PM to about 9PM depending on the agenda. We’ll send out an e-blast agenda to WPG members in Sept.


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Waterfalls and Wildlife

by on Jun.22, 2014, under Articles, Composition, gear, Monday Morning Tips

Twin Falls at Newberry National Volcanic Monument

By this point, I was tired of volcanoes and lava so I was looking for something different. Twin Falls isn’t particularly spectacular but it was a fun diversion. To quote Edward Weston, “I see no reason for recording the obvious” and the scene from the viewpoint was as obvious and pedestrian as I could imagine. Hopping over a low parapet, I originally intended to reconnoiter a few yards up the side of the waterfall but quickly realized I didn’t have the proper tools for getting my gear up to the pool beneath the falls. So, armed with only my Canon EOS-M, I clambered my way up about 150 feet to the base of the falls. Not having my tripod with me, I couldn’t simply slow the shutter speed to blur the water. Instead, I tried something unorthodox by setting up for a three frame HDR in Tv (Shutter Priority.) This varied the aperture for each frame, varying the DoF (depth of field.) In PhotoMatix, I created the HDR, ticking the “Remove Ghosts” option. That removed the ghosts on stationary elements like the rocks caused by camera shake but couldn’t remove the DoF blur caused by the different apertures. Bottom line, the water isn’t quite as soft and creamy as a 3-5 second exposure but it’s pretty good. The first image is my favorite but there’s something I like about the second. The third is simply “interesting.”

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Our next stop was Lassen Volcanic NP. Any more volcanoes or lava and I was going to toss my cookies so I made landscapes at the Bumpass Hell parking lot inside Lassen. The first was my favorite. I also made a version with lens correction to reduce the lens distortion in the background but I still preferred the original. I love textures but, as you can see in the second photo, I’m not very good at it. I believe this is due to my compositional style which I’ll explain in my August 9 presentation at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum. The third photo is a composition where color is a key element. It’s one of those things that came to me as I peered through the viewfinder.

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These last three are examples of PDL (pure dumb luck,) aka, why one should always carry a camera. The osprey were at McArthur-Burney Falls SP in CA. I love ospreys and tried to make some photos of this pair with one or two chicks. This wasn’t my smartest move but, as regular readers know, I’m a firm believer in doing dumb things to learn. This nest was a good 500-600 feet away, across a canyon. I dug out my Canon 300/2.8L plus Canon 2X TeleConverter and threw on the 1.4X TC for good measure. On a crop sensor Canon 7D, I had an effective 1344mm focal length. With such a jury rigged setup, capturing clear images is, as I stated in the beginning, PDL. While the 300/2.8L is one of Canon’s sharpest lenses, adding the 2X and 1.4X teleconverters has a noticeable effect on IQ (image quality.) Further, even on a Gitzo 3530LS, Markins ballhead and Wimberly Sidekick, the slightest breeze or movement will induce blur. These are the two best out of nearly 100 frames.

Finally, at Clear Lake SP, I wasn’t expecting much so I had my standard setup, a Canon 5D MkII and Canon 24-105L with the Canon EOS-M in my vest pocket. As we crossed a bridge, a doe and her two fawns casually walked toward us. I was so surprised I only had time for two shots before they ambled off through the brush. Almost all the critters at this park were amazingly tame.

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Cowboys, Cowgirls & Art Deco

by on Jun.08, 2014, under Articles, Composition, Lightroom, Monday Morning Tips, Photo Editing, Workshops

Oregon is a Fun State

We’ve been stuck in Klamath Falls, OR for the past 4 days while our toad (towed vehicle) is repaired. The 1993 Geo Tracker has been bulletproof but, after 21 years, things are bound to fail. This time, the electronic ignition control module died at Crater Lake so we towed it into Holmes Four Wheel Drive in KF. They diagnosed it ASAP but the part was nowhere to be found locally. Hopefully, the correct part will arrive tomorrow, Monday, 6/9 and we’ll be able to get back on the road. In the meantime, we’ve been parked at the Klamath County Fairgrounds where I photographed cowgirls competing in barrel races. Here are a few of the better photos.

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I ran the flag bearer through Topaz Labs Adjust and added a crinkley border just as an exercise in using TLA. Let me know what you think. The 2nd photo is titled, “Her mane looks better than mine!” I like the expression in the horse’s eye. The 3rd was the eventual winner. You can see how hard her horse cuts the corners. I love the girl coming off the saddle in the 4th. The focus and intensity is awesome in the 5th rider and I was happy to get the bull with all four hooves off the ground.

Crater Lake

Before arriving in KF, we were at Crater Lake. It’s hard to make a photo that doesn’t look like the gazillion other photos taken by a gazillion other tourists so I did what I could by making a panorama of reflections on fairly still waters.


Prior to that, we were at Junipers Reservoir RV Park outside Lakeview, OR. That was a beautiful place. The park is inside an 8000 acres working cattle and timber ranch. I got a chance to photograph some ranch hands rounding up and driving cattle to a different area. For the first time in my life, I want to learn to ride a horse so I can keep up with the cowboys instead of driving my 4WD through brush. Of course, modern cowboys are different from cowboys of old. One was talking on his cellphone while driving cattle.

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The photo of the 2 cows crossing the trail is titled, “Quick, while he’s not looking!” The last 2 photos are SYFs (small yellow flowers) covering a field near the reservoir. Notice how each uses a different compositional style. Be sure to attend my lecture at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum on August 9 from 1 to 4 PM to learn how and why I composed both.

Art Deco in Klamath Falls

At first blush, KF appears to be a down-on-its-luck, podunk town but we found a vibrant Old Town area that has been revitalized through art and culture. The 10 block stretch of beautiful art deco buildings is bookended by 2 wonderful museums, the Klamath County Museum at the north end and the Favell Museum of western art at the south end. A 3rd museum between the two, the Baldwin Hotel Museum, is reportedly another excellent venue but we didn’t have time. There was a bustling Farmers’ Market as well as numerous restaurants in that 10 block stretch. We ate at the Thai Orchid Cafe and were suitably impressed with the taste, quality and prices.

What most caught my eye were the amazing art deco buildings along this 10 block area. I don’t know if the buildings were restored or facades were applied after the fact but they were beautiful.

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We got to the Farmers’ Market around noon and several of the vendors were already on the verge of being sold out. As for the buildings, I wish I had my 17-40/4L but all I had was my 24-105 on the Canon 5D MkII and my EOS-M mirrorless. I didn’t even have my tripod with me. However, the Lens Correction tool in Lightroom 4.4 got a workout with these photos. I simply liked the “Hot & Cold Water” sign on the Crater Hotel. The last was simply a photo that made me laugh.

The thing that I most enjoyed about KF is that everyone is pleasant and polite. I know it’s not nice to stereotype but I was blown away when a tattooed, skinhead wearing a heavy metal T-shirt opened the door for Mary and me, smiled and said, “Have a great day!”

Model Shoot on July 19 at Wickenburg Art Center

Remember to reserve your spot for the WAC Model Shoot. Chy Von Shweets will be our rockabilly, high fashion model (think Bettie Page with tattoos meets Vogue.) The shoot is $20 in advance to pay the model for gas, makeup supplies and lunch. There will be room for just 6 photographers. If you’ve been interested in studio work, this is a low-cost way to see if this is for you. You can send the $20 via PayPal to

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Score! Sky Rock & 13 Moons Petroglyphs

by on May.29, 2014, under Articles, Composition, Monday Morning Tips

I Found Both Sky Rock and 13 Moons

I’ve been in Bishop, CA for about 2 weeks for Mules Days (more on that later) and to try to find Sky Rock. In the process, I had hoped to find other interesting sites/subjects for future photo expeditions in the Eastern Sierra. Some days, Lady Luck just showers you with her kindness!

Sky Rock is one of the few upward facing large Native American petroglyphs (petroglyphs are carved into stone while pictographs are painted onto stone.) It’s location, while not secret, is guarded by the locals who don’t want to see more artifacts stolen or vandalized. Several years ago, huge pieces were actually sawn out and stolen. The feds recovered the petroglyphs but damage to the original sites has been irreparable.

After studying many, many photos of Sky Rock and triangulating known landmarks visible in the photos, I narrowed down the search to an area about 300 square meters. I figured it would take 2-3 days of clambering over boulders the size of my RV to find it but Lady Luck smiled upon me. It took longer to drive to the area in my 4WD Tracker than to find it. After parking the Tracker, I flipped a coin and headed off in an arbitrary direction. Hauling my butt up a huge boulder, I saw Sky Rock within 30 minutes. Of course, finding it and getting to it are two different things. Once I got to it, I couldn’t climb up the 10 foot, 70 degree rock face. Actually, I could have but the price of failure was quite high so I made the strategic decision to retreat to Bishop in search of some climbing advice.

Ty at Eastside Sports in Bishop was a fountain of knowledge, delivered in a low-key, easygoing manner. He answered all my newbie questions about rock climbing without laughing for asking, “Are ropes marked so I know which way is UP?” or “After I climb up, do I always have to climb DOWN?” I walked out with a pair of Five.Ten approach shoes recommended by Ty. If you’re ever contemplating rock climbing, get the right shoes! The shoes recommended by Ty made me feel like I had monkey feet. They gripped the rock surface and gave me extra confidence.

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The first 2 images are HDR of Sky Rock with Mt Tom (I think) in the background. Both were made with a Canon 5D MkII and 17-40/4L on a Gitzo 1228 tripod and Cullmann ballhead. The first is my favorite. The only thing I couldn’t control was the weather so I had to make do with thin, wispy clouds. I hope to return in the fall when there should be a better chance for storm clouds and dramatic lighting.

The 3rd photo is 13 Moons. I hadn’t spent as much time researching 13 Moons and didn’t have much hope of finding it but read a tip on one site that proved to be just what I needed. After finding Sky Rock, I was able to quickly find 13 Moons (after wasting 30 minutes looking in the wrong direction!) By this time, I was worn out so I hiked out to 13 Moons with only my Canon EOS-M. This is the only photo that came close to not being a snapshot.

The 4th photo is what I call Redneck Rock ‘Riting. It’s near 13 Moons and, on a quick glance, might be mistaken for more petroglyphs. However, close inspection shows the center of each mark is blackened with gun powder burns where some yahoo shot a pattern into the rock. This sort of thing makes me a strong believer in forced sterilization and capital punishment for idiots.

The 5th photo shows the price of failure in rock climbing. It’s only about 6 feet down but falling would probably break a few bones and death wouldn’t be out of the question. I hope to have more dramatic photos next year when I visit Toroweap after taking climbing lessons. I want to hang over the edge of a 3500 ft drop into the Grand Canyon to make photos with a different sight line.

The last photo is Mary climbing up through a hole between 3 rocks. She said she used muscles she had forgotten she had! This was on the way back from Sky Rock to our Tracker when we zigged where we should have zagged. The area is NOT for the directionally challenged.

Bishop Mule Days

This was a blast! I found mules, donkeys and burros to be much more intelligent and interesting than horses. The best explanation I got was that horses are like dogs, they can be trained to do just about anything but mules are like cats, they want to know what’s in it for them! All the photos I made were pretty much snapshots so they haven’t yet been processed. If I find any that have merit, I’ll post it in the future.

Cerro Gordo Ghost Town

Located about 75 miles south of Bishop, Cerro Gordo is an old silver mining town at 8000 feet after a 7 mile, 4WD road. There weren’t many interesting shots this time of year but I hope to return in late November when the caretaker says first snow usually occurs. Anyone who wants to join me, you know the drill.

All in all, it’s been a terrific trip so far. BTW, I also learned a new word from the ranger at the Bishop station. He said they avoid giving out too much info about the location of petroglyphs and other cultural artifacts to “chippies” because of the damage and littering they cause. I, of course, asked, “What the heck are chippies.” He replied, “Children of hippies.” Seems they think it’s cool to commune with nature as long as they can do it their way with bottles of sports drink, boxes of energy bars (granola, of course) and lots of “good stuff” to smoke, carelessly discarding matches along the way.

Wickenburg Photo Group Model Shoot

FYI, I have a model signed up to pose for us on Saturday, July 19 from 9AM to noon at the Wickenburg Art Center. We’re going for a rockabilly style (if you don’t know what that is, this may not be your thing) and cost is $20 per photographer, 6 ‘togs max. Send me an e-mail if you want to attend.

West of Center Presentation

Assuming my submissions are accepted, I’ll present a 3 hour lecture at the Desert Caballeros Western Museum on Saturday, August 9 from 1PM to 4PM. My topic this year will be “Compositional Style.” This presentation diverges from the usual “Rule of Thirds,” “Golden Mean” and other composition “rules.” In fact, I’ll start with the premise that composition has no rules. I’ll show how my own style evolved and how you can define your own style by noting what influences your photos. Hope to see you there.

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