Category Archives: General

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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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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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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