Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Photo of the Day

How you compose your photograph and what is in the background are key elements you have to consider if you want to make the best possible photograph. I was working off a tripod shooting a 180 mm macro lens with a 1.4 extender attached. This native wildflower is called Daisy Fleabane, a member of the Aster Family. I photographed this tiny beauty at the Watershed Nature Center located in my hometown of Edwardsville, Illinois. I used another native wildflower, a Brown-eyed Susan, as a background to add to this shot.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

I photographed this Little Blue Heron early Sunday morning at the Edwardsville IL. Watershed Nature Center. It is great to see the herons and egrets returning to the nature center. It must mean warm weather is here to stay.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Open Road

I have the itch bad! The open road calls to me and it is a very strong force. Sitting in an office or being cooped up inside just drives me absolutely crazy at times. I am happiest when I am traveling and seeing new sights and exploring new regions. I am blessed to live in a country that has such a large and diverse geography. I have said it before, and I will say it again. Two of my very favorite words are "Road Trip"  I always want to know what is around the bend, over that mountain, or through those woods. Where does this road go? What new experiences will I have? It is a truly powerful pull for me. So when I see photos of the open road I start daydreaming and planning my next trip.

Have  great weekend


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Photo of the Day.

I was photographing White Pelicans along the Mississippi River near Alton IL. very early this past sunday morning.  There had been some clouds, and the morning sunrise light was very diffused. I had a 500mm lens with a 1.4 converted attached giving me 700mm of focal length to reach the pelicans as they flew along the river. Suddenly the sun came through a break in the clouds and created some beautiful light. Well my wide angle lens was back in the car so I only had a few moments to try something creative. I framed this shot using the cables of the Clark Bridge.   

Monday, April 4, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is an HDR photograph I did recently. The scene is a wooden walkway over the water in  the Japanese Gardens located in the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis. This was a 3 bracketed exposure and then processed in the NIK HDR Pro software.

Clicking on the photo will open it much larger in a new window so you can view it better.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is an HDR Photo that was taken just a few minutes before sunrise this past Sunday morning after a overnight spring snow. This is the Watershed Nature Center where I live in Edwardsville IL.

Clicking on the photo will open it larger in a new window for better viewing.

Have a great weekend!


Watershed Nature Center

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is a photograph I took during live fire training exercises that involved several area fire departments where I live. An old farm house out in the country had been donated for them to use and then burn down. After weeks of interior smoke and live fire training, the house was finally burned down in a controlled burn.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is a photo that a took inside a fully involved house fire. The house was being burned for live fire training exercises. These three fire fighters were instructors that posed for me after lighting the living room on fire so a hose team could come in and put it out.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Photo Of The Day

Ft. Jefferson is located about 70 miles west of Key West Florida in the Dry Tortugas National Park. The fort was started before the civil war and was one of the largest coastal forts ever built. Due to continued improvement in modernizing artillery, the fort was obsolete before it was even completed. A must see place if you ever go to Key West Florida.

Ft. Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is a Polar Bear I photographed at the St. Louis Zoo. He had just broken the surface of the water after a swim and started shaking off the excess water

Polar Bear - Urus maritimus

Monday, March 14, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This is a HDR photograph I did of an abandon and crumbling building I did in Jerome AZ. Jerome is an old mining town that sits high up in the mountains. The mine is closed and the town has serious mine subsidence problems and is literately sliding off the mountain in places. The town has become a haven for artists and there are quite a few unique shops and galleries. I was just walking the streets when I passed this building. I took a 3 exposure bracketed series hand held. I used a Canon 5D Mark II and a Canon 24-105 mm f4L IS lens. Since I did not have a tripod I dialed my ISO up to 800 to have a high shutter speed on all three of the exposures to minimize camera shake. The bracketed photos were processed in the NIK HDR Pro software.

I have no idea what used to be in this building but I loved the architecture. If you click on the photo it will open larger in another widow.

Unknown Abandon Building, Jerome AZ.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Photo Of The Day

The Malachite Butterfly - Siproeta stelenes, has black and brilliant green or yellow-green colors on the uppersides and light brown and olive green on the undersides. It is named for the mineral Malachite, which is similar in color to the bright green on the butterfly's wings. The Malachite is found throughout Central and Northern South America, It's distribution reaches as far north as Southern Texas and the tip of Florida.

Malachite Butterfly - Siproeta stelenes

Monday, March 7, 2011

Blue Morpho Butterflies

One of my favorite places to photograph is the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly House located in Chesterfield, Missouri. In the winter months when it is nasty, cold, and drab outside, it is hot and humid in the tropical interior of the butterfly house. In March every year they have "March Morpho Mania" For the month they add thousands of additional Morpho Butterflies to their normal inventory.

Achilles Morpho 

Interesting Facts about the Blue Morpho Butterfly:
The Blue Morpho butterfly is a tropical butterfly found in Central and South America.

This Blue Morpho butterfly can also be considered to be one of the biggest butterflies seen, their wingspan measures 5 – 8 inches in width.

Its characteristic blue wings are extremely beautiful to look at. The brilliant blue wings are not really brightly colored for the female Blue Morpho butterflies.

Female Blue Morpho butterflies have a dull blue with brown edgings for their wings. They also have white spots in the blue area.

At birth, the caterpillars are reddish brown in color. They also have green colored patches on the back area.

The undersides of the wings of the Blue Morpho butterflies have a dull brown shade. This brown color is dotted with many eyespots.

When this butterfly is spotted flying, it is one of the most beautiful sights one can ever imagine. The flapping wings create a fine blend of the bright blue and the dull brown colors and the flashing colors create a beautiful effect. 

Common Morpho Butterfly

It is frustrating to get good open wing spread photos of the different species of the Morpho Butterflies. Their underside wings are a dull Brown color with eye spots, and this allows then to blend into the vegetation very well and hid from predators. When the Morpho lands they generally immediately close their wings up to blend in. I have very few good photos of Morphos for all the hours I have spent in the butterfly house. You have to be very quick to catch one that is opened up.  

Friday, March 4, 2011

First Impression NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.0

The other night I download a free trial for the NIK Software, Silver Efex Pro 2.0 I have been doing my conversions to B&W in Adobe Photoshop CS5 and this allows me quite a bit of flexibility and control over the final outcome. I have been wanting to try The NIK software for converting color photos to B&W. I have read many reviews on it, and it is considered by many to be the best conversion software available.

I scrolled though a couple folders of photos I had and grabbed a photo that I had never processed or used before. This is a photo I took at the state capitol grounds in Nashville TN. A statue of Stonewall Jackson that is on a side of the capitol building overlooking the city. A harsh midday light and not much though put into the shot as I was really walking around try to find a good angle to shoot the capitol building. I processed the photo in CS5 and then took it into the Silver Efex Pro conversion software.

Processed in Adobe CS5

So like most men, I did not bother to read the directions, help file, or getting started guidelines. I just started moving sliders and playing around. I am somewhat familiar with the NIK software,  and now use their HDR Pro software. They have numerous presets to give you a wide choice of looks to your photo with one click. Or they are a good starting point to then allow you to tweak it to your taste. I have a lot to learn to get a handle on this software but found it allows amazing control of the image. Numerous vignettes and edge effects allow you great creative control.

Processed in NIK Silver Efex Pro 2.0

After playing around for about 15 minutes and trying all the tools, sliders, and effects, I created this B&W image from the original color photograph. In my humble opinion, it looks much better as a B&W. It still is not all that good of a photograph, but with more knowledge and practice, I am sure I could make some further adjustments to enhance it further. The NIK website has live web training and video tutorials for all their software products. On my first try I am really impressed with this software. I am sure I will be adding this software to my toolbox. 

Clicking on the photos will open them much larger in a new window.

Have a great weekend,


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Photo Of The Day

This was a photograph that I thought looked much better when it was converted to a B&W. This barn sits along a country road that was once far outside the city. The urban sprawl will soon turn this farmland into another subdivision. This was a massive summer storm that was moving about 30 miles per hour.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Photo Of The Day

The spring flowers are pushing through and will be blooming very soon. I took these Tulips that were fully developed but had not yet opened up at the Missouri Botanical Gardens in St. Louis, Missouri. I used very shallow depth of field to create the nice soft out of focus background.

Friday, February 25, 2011


I love to photograph Sunflowers. A field of giant sunflowers allows you to create so many different types of photographs. When I go to a sunflower field I usually end up trying to use every lens in my bag and create various compositions and effects with the varied focal lengths. Hoping to travel to Kansas this summer where they have amazing sunflower fields. These are some of my favorite sunflower photos that I have taken so far.

Have a great weekend!


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Photo of the Day

Well I had presidents day off on Monday and was going to bum around St. Louis all day and just take photos. The weather was cold and rainy so this forced me to think about going indoors. Well I stopped at one of my favorite places, the St. Louis Zoo. Due to the weather the zoo was virtually deserted and most of the animals that were suppose to be outside were inside or in hiding. The zoo has an amazing carousel that is located outside with all the animals being wild animals insread of the normal carousel horses. So I stopped and did some bracketed shots and processed them in the NIK HDR software.  I love how the HDR software can take a fairly bland set  bracketed photos and turn it into a piece of artwork.

St. Louis Zoo Carousel

Monday, February 21, 2011

Photo of the Day

It is Presidents Day, and a holiday for many people in the U.S., including me. So with a day off I planned on spending the entire day in St. Louis bumming around doing photography. There are many great attractions and locations in the St. Louis area good for photography. Many are free or very reasonably priced to get in to. So I got up this morning and it was raining with the weather predicted to only get worse as the day goes on. This cuts down my potential list of places to go to try and do some photography. On my indoor list of places is the orchid show at the Missouri Botanical Gardens. With it being a holiday and crummy weather outside I am sure it will be mobbed. To make matters worse, they have a very restrictive photography policy there and do not allow the use of tripods or even monopods. They have to do this due to the small space, narrow isles and crowds. The light is a mix of natural skylight and artificial light. A difficult challenge to get good photos. My Canon 180 mm macro is to difficult to hand hold and get sharp shots. In the past I have used my Canon 70-200 mm f2.8 L Image Stabilized lens. This generally allows me to get some decently sharp shots under the right conditions. So here are a few past photos from past orchid shows.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Photo of the Day

For me, certain subjects or scenes just seem to look better in Black and White. This is a railroad only bridge that crosses the Cumberland River in Nashville TN. I photographed this at 16 mm and had the camera at at ground level to really emphasis the rails. It was a cloudy overcast day, and this helped keep the tonal range well within the cameras ability to capture it all in a single exposure. It looked decent in color, but when I converted it to a B&W in Photoshop CS5, this allowed me to control each color channel separately and make the sky more dramatic than it looked in the color version.

Have a great weekend!


Tracks Across The Cumberland

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Perfect Camouflage

Many creatures in the animal world have evolved over time and developed themselves to blend in with their environment. This is usually for protection, but sometimes predators use it to conceal themselves during a stalk. I am fascinated by these creatures and how they have developed and used their appearance. I think the most intriguing evolution designs are found in the insect world. I was photographing the other day in the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly House in Chesterfield, Missouri. I photographed a butterfly that has developed a near perfect camouflage.

When I showed this photograph to several people, there comment was "It looks like a dead leaf" Exactly! Look closer. Meet the Malaysian Dead Leaf Butterfly. When this butterfly opens up and flies, the topside of his wings has a beautiful color pattern. When it lands and closes up, it blends in so well it is almost impossible to detect. I watched a dozen people walk right by it and no one noticed it. Even while I was photographing it people stopped to ask what I was taking a picture of. I had to point it out and they had to get very close to even make out that it was a butterfly.

Just one more example of nature's amazing creatures.

Malaysian Dead Leaf Butterfly

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Majestic Bald Eagle.

I love many different types of photography, but I seem to really have an addiction for eagle photography.  Raptors fascinate me, but eagles are what I spend more time chasing and trying to photograph more than any other bird. The Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, our national bird, is the only eagle unique to North America. I am sure being our national symbol has had a lot of influence in my feelings, but having watched them for so many hours has only deepened my fascination of them. During the winter you can find me prowling the banks of the Mississippi River near my home to find the many eagles that migrate down from the north to find the open waters of the river to feed. Occasionally I get lucky and get a decent photo every once in a while. There does not seem to be nearly as many eagles this year as there have been in he past, but there are still enough around to keep me out there.

Bald Eagle Taking Flight

Bald Eagle riding an ice floe down the Mississippi River

Immature Bald Eagle sitting on the ice

 Alton Grain Elevator reflected in the water as an Bald Eagle rides the ice

Bald Eagle watches the surroundings from a high perch

Portrait of a captive Bald Eagle

Friday, February 11, 2011

Photo of the Day

One of my favorite places to take photos of animals is the St. Louis Zoo. A world class zoo that is free to the general public. A great zoo for photographers as most of the exhibits are well designed, open and spacious for the animals. With good technique, many times you can isolate the animals and make the photo appear as if it was taken in the wild. On this day I took my 70-200 f2.8 L IS lens with a 1.4 extender attached. The weather was pretty cloudy and overcast, so I dialed up to 800 ISO and shot this hand held at f4. 1/750 sec. shutter speed at 280mm of focal length, with +1/2 exposure compensation.

Have a great weekend!


Cheetah - Acinonyx jubatus

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Photo Of The Day

In the midwest we have experienced the hardest winter we have seen in many years. With the jet stream passing directly over us, we tend to get more freezing rain and ice than snow. A recent ice storm coated everything with a quarter to half inch of pure ice. I saw this Robin trying to feed on the ice covered berries in a tree. The problem was trying to get a grip on a perch. The poor Robin really struggled to maintain a grip on the icy perch.

A cold slippery grip

Monday, February 7, 2011

St. Louis Carousel in HDR

I have recently started working with HDR software. HDR software has improved immensely in the past couple years. HDR still draws criticism from a lot of photographers, but I think it is here to stay. For me, certain subjects really look great in the over the top surreal look HDR can create.

On Friday morning I went to the Missouri Botanical Gardens Butterfly House in Faust Park. I had intended to do some macro butterfly photography. Well my bad luck streak struck again, as I found out they were closed for maintenance until the next day.  So I had to switch gears and think of something else to photograph. Located inside a climate controlled building near the butterfly house is the restored St. Louis Carousel.   The carousel was built by the Dentzel Company of Philadelphia in the 1920's. The carousel was installed in 1929 at the Forest Park Highlands. When the Highlands burned to the ground in 1963 the carousel was the only thing left standing.

The carousel was purchased by a private individual and donated to the St. Louis County Parks. The carousel was operated at Sylvan Spring Park until 1980. The carousel was restored to it's original beauty and moved inside to Faust Park in 1987.

I went over to the carousel building and shot numerous bracketed shots to do some HDR processing. These were all done in the NIK HDR Pro software.

If you click on a photo it will open larger in a new window. This allows you to better see the amazing colors and detail that can be brought out with HDR software.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Photo of the Day

One of the biggest problems I have is sometimes trying to identify what in the world I just took a photograph of. I have always considered myself to be an avid outdoorsman, and fairly knowledgable about identities of many of the plants and animals I saw. When I really got back into photography and started photographing the birds, mammals, insects, and plants in detail, I wanted to be able to correctly indentify them. It is pretty embarrassing to take a good photograph of something and then not know what it is. I soon learned I was not nearly as smart as I thought I was. Even though I had been to Florida many, many times in my life, the first time I went as a passionate nature photographer I photographed this strange looking bird on the beach at Lovers Key State Park. The problem was I had no clue what it was. So when I got home I started looking through my numerous bird books to try and identify it. I soon got it correct and had my first photograph of an American Oystercatcher.  You see, we do not get those in Illinois, and it does not resemble anything close to what flies of those millions of acres of corn fields.

 Entomology,Orinthology, Botany,or Biology were not my fields of study. What I did do when I should have been studying is probably better left alone right now. Needless to say, I still often struggle to identify the many species of living things I photograph. The good thing is I do like to read, and the internet is a great resource for finding things faster than looking in outdated books. I have a lot of sites bookmarked on my computer to help me now.

Cute Little Bird taken on Ft. Myers Beach

I am pretty happy with this photograph that I posted today. The problem was it took me a while to correctly identify this little bird. I took this on Ft. Myers Beach in Florida. I was out there in the late afternoon to shoot shore birds and pelicans when I saw this little guy flitting around in some driftwood. At the time I was using an 800mm lens that I had on loan from Canon Professional Services. I backed up until I could get him in focus and then tried to track him and get some good photos of him. This was another new species for me that I had never laid eyes on that I could recall. This little bird is fast and does not sit still for more than a split second. It took quite a few shots before I thought I might have one or two decent photos of it. It sat in my archives for a long time because I was never able to identify it correctly. I assumed it was some type of Viero due to it's markings and the circle around it's eye. But after closely looking at all the vieros and studying where their ranges are, I concluded I was incorrect on that identity.

On my most recent trip to Florida this past December for some bird photography, I was in a Barnes and Noble Bookstore looking through Florida field guides and finally got the correct ID of the bird. So what is this cute little bird?

It is a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher - Polioptila caerulea . I would have never gotten that one in a million years of guessing. Here is a link to get a little more information on it.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Photo of the Day

We all have photographs that we wish we could have done a better job capturing them. Even though they are not technically great, we cherish them because they have a special meaning or significance to us. This is one of a series of photographs that fit this catagory for me.

Yellowstone wolves attacking a bull elk
In mid June of  2009, I was visiting Yellowstone National Park. As per my usual luck, the weather had been pretty gray and cloudy most of the precious few days I had to visit. Late one afternoon I was making my way toward the West gate when I saw something running across the vast meadow off to my right. Wildlife sightings in Yellowstone usually bring traffic to a standstill on the narrow two lane roads, and the scene that was unfolding cause a major traffic stoppage. Although they were extremely far away from the road, it was apparant that three wolves were in hot pursuit of a male elk.

I have watched countless televison specials, movies, and videos of scenes like this, but I had never witnessed one in person. There is no comparison. While watching and trying to photograph this I actually got goose bumps. The elk jumped into a small stream to help slow the wolves down and not allow them to attack him from the rear. The Black wolf who is running from a charge by the elk in this frame can clearly be observed wearing a tracking collar in other shots. He also appeared to be the dominant wolf and lead the numerous attacks on the bull elk.

Trying to photograph this with the equipment I had was a real challenge. I was shooting a Canon 50D, and the longest lens I had was a Canon 400mm f5.6 fixed focal length lens. A super sharp lens but at f5.6 not great in low light. With that lens on they were still to small in the viewfinder so I had to add a 1.4 extender to now give me 560mm of focal length. Sill not enough, but it was the best I could do. The issue was this canceled out the auto focus on the lens and pushed it to an f8 minimum apeture with no image stabilization. Afraid I would miss the action if I tried to dig out my tripod or monopod, I just braced against my vehicle and fired away. Trying to manually focus and track moving creatures at over 500mm is not easy.   At ISO 400 I was able to get 1/1000 second on some frames at f8. I ended  up with about 20 usable frames from this amazing event. I really wished I had a better body and much bigger lens, but you just have to do the best you can with the equipment you have. None of them are great, but I cherish them and this was the highlight of this trip to see something like this.

So now you want to know the rest of the story, right? Well the elk made several attempts to get out of the stream but was forced back in by the wolves. After standing long enough to catch his breath and gather up his resolve, The bull elk charged out of the stream and went on the attack and charged at the wolves. He really went after them hard and made them turn and run. They decided he was to much for them to handle and they allowed him to trot off. But no sooner did the elk leave and I saw the wolves zero in on a lone mother bison with a young calf off in the distance. I tried to track them to see what would happen but lost sight of them behind some trees. I knew without protection of a herd, they might be able to seperate the calf from it's mother. The cycle of life is often not very pretty to watch, but it is necessary.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Photo of the Day

This is one of my favorite shots that I have processed in the NIK HDR Software that I have been experimenting with. Taken this past October while I was at the Grand Canyon, the weather for that visit had been terrible. Gray days with heavy clouds that obscured the sun totally. The HDR software allowed me to pull out all the detail and color possible.

South Rim, Grand Canyon

Monday, January 17, 2011

Photo of the Day.

I am still working with the trial version of the NIK HDR Software. I am posting 2 photos today to show the power of HDR to create really compelling photographs. I was using a Canon 5D Mark II that I had on loan from Canon Professional Services. I used a Canon 16-35 f2.8L II lens on a tripod to take an automatic 3 shot bracketed exposure from my camera. The scene is the Bartlett Reservoir located in the Tonto National Forest near Cave Creek, Arizona. The setting for the auto bracketed exposure was for the camera to shoot a best guess exposure with the camera at 100 ISO, f16, and evaluative metering. Then the next exposure will be 2 stops under exposed, and the third exposure will be 2 stops over exposed.  Focus is set manually, and the camera is set to continous shooting mode. Use a cable shutter release and hold it down until the camera has taken all three exposures.

The first photo I am posting here is the best guess exposure straight out of the camera with no additional processing. 

Best guess single exposure JPEG file

HDR Image after processing

Even processing the best single exposed RAW file in CS5 will not give me the detail and tonal range I was able to do with the HDR software. As I have stated before, I like doing HDR from the natural look all the way to the craziest stuff imaginable. It just depends on what you want to do. It will take a lot of practice, failues, trial and error, and much more learning, but I am afraid I am a true HDR convert. Now when I look at a subject or scene to photograph, I will also consider the possibility of doing it as an HDR.