A Cool Website for Predicting Sunsets/Sunrise: SunsetWx

There is now a website that can reasonably predict whether a sunset or sunrise will be good or not in your area. This is not an exact science, obviously, but the site does use an extensive, in-depth algorithm that considers certain meteorological factors that go into creating a good sunrise or sunset: clouds, cloud types, cloud altitude, humidity, barometric pressure changes, etc.

SunsetWx is the first site of which I know that attempts to predict the quality of a sunrise or sunset. On the main map (only available for the United States, I’m afraid), the warm colors indicate there is a good chance there will be a quality sunrise or sunset in your area. Cool colors mean you should plan on sleeping in. Landscape photographers, take a look. It’s better than guessing.


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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 could 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 last best chance to catch the lights for a while. Here’s a good article on Yahoo Travel on the disappearing aurora.

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


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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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