Category Archives: General

Loose Ends and Random Thoughts

“Haunted By Waters” Spruce Flats Falls, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee

The image above was taken in April of this year in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. This is an excellent example of what I try to teach my students when photographing waterfalls: We are not taking a portrait here. We are creating a landscape image with a waterfall as one of the elements. Walking up on the rocks and filling the frame with the waterfall would have been an easy thing to do but the end result would have been boring and banal. This composition includes the waterfall as a crucial element – as well as the primary focal point – but the image has an elegant visual design that goes beyond being just a portrait or documentary photo. Primarily, the flow of the stream and the placement of the rocks below the falls gets the eye moving back and forth through the frame giving it a dynamic quality that a static portrait would lack.

“Haunted by Waters” is a new addition to my Smoky Mountains Galley and depending on the conditions, is a location we will be visiting on the Smoky Mountains Autumn Workshop in October.


Speaking of workshops, there are two new workshops listed for the first quarter of 2014. For the 4th straight year, Ian Plant and I are leading another tour to Patagonia on March 10 – 19.

For the very first time, I am offering a Winter in Yellowstone photo tour and workshop in February that will combine the very best winter landscapes with wildlife photography. Jackson Hole professional wildlife photographer, Jared Lloyd will be my partner on this trip.

I’m sorry to announce that Arches and Canyonlands, Utah in November is now full, as is Acadia in October. Joe Rossbach and I still have a few openings for the Tetons in September so let me know if any of you have questions about this trip.

Photographer Christina Donadi has written a detailed review of my Smokies workshop from this past spring. Check out the rest of her blog for more excellent photography!


Last week I was listed as one of the top 100 travel photographers in the world for 2013 by ChiliSauce, a travel blog in the United Kingdom.  When I made the announcement on Facebook and Twitter, as a courtesy to the the owner of the blog, I made the announcement with a controversial preface: the words, “For whatever it’s worth…..” This was met by more than a few emails and private messages by annoyed fans and followers. Most began with a mocking, “For whatever it’s worth….” and eventually got around to making the point that I was not being grateful or gracious about the “honor.” For whatever it’s worth, you’re acting like an ass.

Look, this is not merely false modesty on my part. I do appreciate being listed with at least 99 other very accomplished photographers. But the list is just one person’s opinion and there are some very conspicuous names missing as well as some people I’ve never even heard of. So that’s what it is, one person’s opinion and that’s about what it’s worth. Sorry to offend.

So now I’m off to Africa for two weeks. I’ll try my best to post some crappy phone images here as well as a report or two on how I’m doing. Be sure to Subscribe to Earth and Light to keep up with my  latest travels realtime.

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Here Comes The Rain Again: Tips For Shooting in Crappy Weather

Angry Bird: Drenched Cattle Egret in St. Augustine, Florida

I went down to Florida and it rained. No this wasn’t your refreshing spring shower variety either, it rained 12 inches in 72 hours – most of it sideways.

As I mentioned in a previous post here, bad weather is often welcomed by landscape and nature photographers for all the reasons you’ve heard over and over again. Bad weather can inject drama and mood to your images and then there’s the soft, diffused light that comes with cloudy skies, etc. And all of this would indeed be true. But sometimes bad weather is just a royal pain in the ass. I’m sorry, but there’s just no better way to put it. Last weekend’s rain would be one of those times.

During our bird photography workshop in St. Augustine, we managed to dodge the heaviest rain and got some photography in during the lighter showers and brief lulls between the squalls. Yes, productive photography can be done during light or moderate rain and it won’t kill you or your camera. Here are a few tips on how to manage rainy weather photography:

1) Keep yourself as dry and comfortable as possible. It’s difficult to think creatively when you are feeling miserable. A waterproof shell and pants helps keep you dry and happy, otherwise you’ll look and feel like our friend, the angry bird.

2) Use a rain cover over your camera to keep it as dry as possible too. In light rain, I really don’t worry too much about my camera getting wet. Most modern DSLRs handle light rain without any problems short of submerging it (the same cannot be said of saltwater, however). Still, if you need some piece of mind consider one of the following products: Think Tank’s Hydrophobia, Lens Coat’s Rain Coat, and the Vortex Storm Jacket. A shower cap, on the other hand – complementary at most hotels, works just as well.

I just don’t like working when I don’t have an unobstructed, intuitive feel for the camera and all its controls. The cover is always in the way and I can’t concentrate on what I’m trying to do. Therefore, in the rain I prefer to shoot naked.

3) Use your lens hood. I’ll admit that this lens accessory is one I rarely use, but it does keep drops off the front element of the lens – a major annoyance when shooting in the rain.

4) When not worrying about getting yourself and your camera wet, look for some unique photo opportunities in the crappy weather. Reflections off wet surfaces can offer creative options that fair weather doesn’t provide. Backlit raindrops are yet another. The image above is a good example of that.

5) Have dry cover nearby. Don’t leave yourself exposed to a torrent of a downpour. If you are going to photograph in the rain, plan on having shelter that is relatively close in case the bottom falls out of the rain clouds. This makes infinitely more sense if there is a chance of a thunder storm in the forecast.

6) Dry your gear as soon as you return to your home or hotel room. Storing it while wet just invites mold growth in the camera and lenses.

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The Spine of Time

The title, The Spine of Time is borrowed from a book by Harry Middleton, On the Spine of Time, which chronicled Harry’s journeys through the Smoky Mountains as a young fly fisherman. It was a very influential piece of work in both its writing style and its infusing in me a desire to explore the Smoky Mountains as both a hiker and angler. The words from chapters such as Bagpipes on Hazel Creek, Mountain Stones, and Deep Creek Time are still with me today when I visit the Smokies on my frequent photography trips, even though it’s been well over ten years since I’ve read the book. It’s still in print today and in my opinion, no better word picture of the Smokies has ever been written. The image above is dedicated to the late author, because as I was creating this photograph the title immediate sprang to mind.

Today I am making the 3-hour drive to the Tennessee side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and will be spending the next 10 days there. Before leaving, I uploaded a new gallery to my website which showcases some of my favorite Smoky Mountain images.

Smoky Mountains Collection

I hope to add to this collection upon my return.

I’ve also updated the Earth and Light Collection as well, so please take a look when you get the chance. I hope to soon add to this collection as well if I can ever find the time.

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Recent Interview: Patagonia, A Photographer’s Paradise

Cordillera del Paine

I recently conducted an online interview with Dan Moughamian, an author of books, videos, and articles on Adobe Photoshop and Photoshop Lightroom, as well as many plugins from Nik Software, onOne Software. He also runs the popular and informative Colortrails website, a great source for photography news, tutorials, photographer interviews, and inspired art.

We discussed a little about my history with Patagonia, what makes it so special, my recents trips, and even the food.

You can read the full interview here:

The dates for the 2014 Patagonia workshop have been announced and we have already begun accepting registrations. More info here:

I’m headed out to the Smoky Mountains later this week, then Florida and Namibia, Africa in May. Stay tuned to this blog for updates from these locations!

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Gear List 2013

Fitz Roy Massif, Argentina

As pointless as I think this is, people still want to know what gear I’m using on a day to day basis. I do understand why folks ask and I always try to answer patiently and politely. Still I desperately want to explain – if time allows – that if you want to become a better photographer and artist and you believe the answer lies in what camera brand or lenses other photographers are using, you are looking for answers in all the wrong places, my friend.

I’ll give an inspired presentation on personal vision, light, and composition to a group of photographers and all anyone wants to know afterward is “what camera I used to takes those pretty pictures.” I always oblige (with or without the requisite lecture), they thank me, smile, and walk away. They beleive I just helped them in some way. but I know I did no such thing.

So without further delay, here’s more unhelpful information, by popular request.

EQUIPMENT LIST as of 01/11/13

Canon EOS 5D MarkIII camera body

Canon EOS 5D MarkII camera body

Canon EOS 7D camera body

Canon 16-35 f/2.8L lens

Canon 24-105 f/4L lens

Canon 70-200 f/4L lens

Canon 100-400 f/4.5 – 5.6L lens

Canon 500mm f/4 USM lens

Canon 24mm TSEII lens

Canon 90mm TSE lens

Sigma 105mm Macro lens

Canon 580EXII Speedlight (2)

I own at least a dozen tripods of various brands and vintages but my primary tripod at the time is a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L

Really Right Stuff BH-40 ball head (2)

F-Stop Tilopa and Sartori camera backpacks with small and large ICUs

Singh Ray 77mm and 82mm circular polarizers

B&W 77mm 3-stop, 6-stop, and 10-stop neutral density filters. Singh Ray 82mm 5-stop neutral density filter.

Canon RS-80N3 and TC-80N3 remote release cables

Really Right Stuff camera and lens plates

Dozens  of Sandisk Extreme Pro CF cards (16GB and 32GB sizes)

Gepe Card Safe waterproof and shockproof CF cases

MacBook Pro computers (2), 23″ Apple Cinema Display, iPad, Photoshop CS6, Lightroom 4, InDesign, Dreamweaver, PhotoMatix, Helicon, various plugins….

Drobo Hardrive enclosure with 4TB capacity

Several Lacie portable drives in various sizes

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