A New Perspective

The Eleventh of November, Canyonlands National Park USA

I purchased Canon’s new ultra wide-angle zoom, Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM,  a couple of months ago but until yesterday, never had the right opportunity to use it. This is a specialty zoom lens that’s best equipped for tight places where you need an extremely wide angle of view without too much distortion (I was originally thinking slot canyons and forests). For most wide-angle landscapes, any focal length wider than 16mm diminishes the background too much for my tastes.

In this case, I wanted to include the entire tree in the image frame but I could only back up so far because of a large rock that obstructed my movement. An ultra wide angle lens was needed. Yeah! I finally found the right situation for my unused and expensive lens.

At 11mm, the image shows almost zero distortion or curved horizon. Simply Amazing! The quality and sharpness of the image, as well as resolution, are up to par with other Canon zooms lenses too.

The Eleventh of November
Canon EOS 5D Mark III
Canon EF11-24mm f/4L USM @ 11mm
1/13 second @ f/16, ISO 100

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Last Chance to See Northern Lights?

2016 might be the last best chance to catch the aurora borealis in a decade.

If seeing the aurora borealis (otherwise know as the northern lights in the northern hemisphere) is on your lifetime bucket list, then next year might be your last best chance to catch the eerie celestial display for quite some time. According to scientists, the current 11-year solar cycle is quickly winding down and next year might very well be the show’s final act for nearly a decade.

The auroras (both northern and southern) occur when highly-charged electrons from the solar wind interact with elemental gasses in the earth’s atmosphere. These particles stream away from the sun at speeds of about 1 million miles per hour and follow lines of magnetic force generated by the earth’s iron core, flowing through the magnetosphere, an area of highly-charged electrical and magnetic fields. Each atmospheric gas produces a distinct color: green is oxygen up to 150 miles, red is oxygen above 150 miles, blue is nitrogen to to 60 miles, purple is nitrogen above 60 miles.

The sun is now just past peak in its current 11-year period, Solar Cycle 24, meaning the number of solar flares and the electrons they produce will begin to wane until the next cycle begins. This winter might be the best chance to catch the lights for a long time. Here’s a good article on Yahoo Travel on the disappearing aurora.

Some of the most popular places to see the aurora are Alaska, northern Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Iceland.

In February of next year (2016), I will be leading a photography tour and workshop to Iceland with Epic Destinations and aurora hunting will be a centerpiece of the trip (also  winter landscapes, ice caves, seascapes, etc.). As of this writing, there are still 2 open spots available (UPDATE 10/24/15: This tour is now sold out).

Iceland Winter with Epic Destinations: Aurora borealis, Ice Caves, and Winter Landscapes in the land of Fire and Ice.

As the sun’s activity begins to wane over the next few years, I know I will be spending some extended time in Iceland this winter.

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Vignettes from Iceland 2015

Here are a few sample images from my latest trip to Iceland, the first time I’ve visited during the autumn season. The opportunity to capture fall colors was better than I could have imagined, but then again, there really is no bad season to photograph this magical country.

These were captured while leading an Epic Destinations photo tour and workshop with two talented co-instructors, Sarah Marino and Ron Coscorrosa. I’ll be making a return visit to Iceland in February and this time the focus will be the aurora borealis, ice caves, and snowy winter landscapes.

The Reynisdrangar formations in black and white under stormy skies.

A water abstract from the giant waterfall, Gullfoss.

The aurora borealis dances over mighty Skógafoss. Above and to the right of the waterfall, you can also make out a hint of a moon bow as well.

Brilliant fall color above the Hraunfossar waterfall in western Iceland.

Colorful autumn colors in late September.

The coastal seastack formations of Reynisdrangar near Vik, Iceland. At low tide, there were no dramatic waves or rushing water so I opted for a series of long exposures during the best light of the morning, this one 30 seconds.

The sea arch at Dyrhólaey, Iceland. Dyrhólaey literally means “the hill island with the door hole” which an obvious reference to the conspicuous arch.

Hraunfossar, Iceland

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Master Composition Class for Landscape Photographers

Here’s the short YouTube promotional video for the composition class at KelbyOne. To watch the entire class with all the lessons in their entirety, please use this link:


The course was filmed along the Blue Ridge Parkway of North Carolina over five days in early May of 2015. Enjoy!

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Packing for a month in Alaska and Iceland

In a just over a week, I’ll be headed out on a month-long photography journey to Alaska (Katmai National Park and Preserve for brown bears chasing the final salmon run of the year and the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for polar bears) and Iceland. Considering everything that needs to get done before departing on a trip like this, I got ahead of the curve by packing all my photo gear first. But before putting it all away for good, I thought some of you might be interested to see what I take on a trip like this. So here it is…in all it’s unglamorous glory.

Canon EOS 5D Mark III body
Canon EOS 7D Mark II body
Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM lens
Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM lens
Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM lens
Canon EF 24-70mm f/4L IS USM lens
Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM lens
Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT
Really Right Stuff TVC-34L tripod
Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head
WH-200 Wimberley Head Version II
Kinesis F169 Large Grad Filter Pouch
Lee Filters: Big Stopper, Little Stopper, 3-stop ND, polarizer
Giotto Rocket Blower
CF and SD digital media
Extra batteries and charger
Lens clothes and small dry bags
Gura Gear Bataflae 32L Backpack

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