Tag Archives: ebook

New Earth and Light E-store

The new Earth and Light E=store has officially been launched, although it is, and will be, a work-in-progress for quite a while. There are lots of things happening behind the scenes with new videos, phone and tablet apps, tutorials, plus 2 or 3 new eBook additions every month. Things will be changing quickly over the next few months so bookmark the site and check back often.

The site address is www.earthandlight.biz. Hope to see you there.

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Essential Composition: Leading Lines

The following is an excerpt from my upcoming e-book, Essential Composition: A Guide for the Perplexed. I’ll make an announcement post here on June 12, the date of its release.

I’m sure you’ve heard – or perhaps you’ve uttered it yourself – that it feels as if you can “walk right into” a certain photograph. What characteristic gives the viewer an invitation to be pulled into the image and become a participant in it? More often than not, it’s the successful use of leading lines.

The use of leading lines is powerful compositional tool that helps the photographer “lead” the viewer’s eye and attention toward the focal point of the image. Lines also help give an image structure and establish flow and direction, keeping it from becoming visually static.

Leading lines control and manipulate the visual experience by pulling the viewer on a dynamic journey through the scene in the very specific way that the photographer intends; near to far, up or down, from corner to corner. All the while, the viewer’s eye is moving, stopping only when it reaches the photographer’s pre-designed, intended resting place. The lines can be horizontal, vertical, or diagonal, straight or curved, literal or merely implied. As long as they are purposeful and meet the intentions of the photographer, they can be useful in giving the image dynamic flow.

The release date of Essential Composition: A Guide for the Perplexed is June 12 and will be available for download in the Earth and Light e-store.


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Fire on the Mountain

Nature and landscape photography is as much about being at the right place at the right time as it is about composition, depth-of-field, shutter speeds, or any of the other conventional mechanisms that go into making a photograph. Light is ephemeral and fleeting, as are the seasons, human emotions, and where we happen to be sitting or standing at any one given moment. The tenuous intersection where place and time converge is where the photographer tries to be, or at least anticipates being, in order to capture a singular, evanescent moment in nature that stirs the soul.

Instead, we nature photographers often find ourselves at the right place but wrong time or the right time but wrong place. Like a slow-witted mallet driver in a game of cosmic Whac-A-Mole, we’re seemingly always a step or two behind the elusive light, or worse yet, perpetually guessing wrongly. Desperation soon sets in and one day you’re muttering about why you didn’t take up something less psychologically taxing such as bird watching.

Yet this was my mindset on day four of a five-day photography trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park a few years ago in late June. I was none too jazzed about my rather pedestrian portrayals of mountain streams and forest intimates taken during noonday cloud cover, and although there was some excellent light each sunset after the early evening thunderstorms rolled through, I had little to show for it. The transitory and unpredictable nature of clearing storm clouds, fog, and mist left me either socked in on some high, windy ridge or it was clear-sky city – all while a technicolor sky was on exhibit not too far away.

On day five, I had car trouble: something to do with an alternator, but I don’t quite remember exactly. The weather pattern that day was identical to those previous: temperatures in the 80s, humidity, clouds in the afternoon, a passing thunderstorm. If the accepted script was to be followed, there should be clearing just before nightfall. But what to make of my inert car now taking up space in a Cherokee service station? Meet Bynum.

Bynum is a local mechanic, probably in his upper thirties, thin, red hair and beard, wearing blackish-gray acid wash jeans and a fluorescent green Ghostbusters tee shirt. He’s just delivered the disappointing news. The part my car needs won’t be in until Monday and considering it’s Saturday, I’ll likely miss out on any shot at a sunset that evening.

Bynum, however, is curious about my high-tech-looking photo gear and says he likes pretty pictures as much as anyone, so he offers to drive me up the mountain to watch me do what I do. He says he has no plans and he’s more than happy to oblige. I reluctantly accept.

During our drive to Newfound Gap, I vent a little about my frustrations over the previous few days. He seems to understand.

“Well, ya know what the Chinese say about these sorta things, don’t ya?” Bynum asks in this thick mountain twang.

I simply stare at him without any reaction.

“When the water’s high, the fish feast on the ants. But when the water’s low, the ants feast on the fish.”

He looked at me for a reaction, smiled, then we both began to laugh. We didn’t speak again until we arrived at the top of the mountain.

As mist rose from the high mountain ridges and the sky was transformed into fire, it appeared as if the tide had indeed turned and it was my time to do the feasting. Bynum watched from a respectable distance with a fixed expression of bliss across his face.

We stayed well past dark and I photographed the changing light until the last shade of color faded from the sky.

This is chapter Fire on the Mountain from my new eBook Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens. To read more like this, you can order the book here

Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens










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High and Wild

My upcoming e-book, Behind The Lens: Great Smoky Mountains, was originally planned as a November 1 release. Due to my extremely busy schedule, however, it will not be ready for the 1st, but instead will be available sometime mid-month. I just returned from a ten-day Smokies trip and now I leave for Zion on Wednesday for another ten days. No rest for the weary, as they say.

In order to whet your appetite for what’s to come, here’s another teaser from the book. Some of these short essays are all about photography and some about the personal anecdotes behind the images. As you will soon read, this essay is from the latter category. 

High and Wild

I hit the trail just before 2:30 in the afternoon with hopes of bagging a sunset from the summit of the Chimney Tops. I had just performed some exhaustive searches on the Internet for sunset images from this location but could not come up with a single example.  I thought that was strange. The trail to the Chimneys was one of the most popular hikes in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, so why the conspicuous lack of the seductive sunset photo? This fact made me all the more determined to capture one, even if the possibility of being the first to do so was far too improbable.

If there were any omens, bad signs, or warnings of impending trouble on the real or metaphorical horizon, they were opaque to me at the time. The sky on this late spring afternoon was a rich shade of blue with billowing cumulous clouds drifting benignly over the mountaintops. The warm sun, coupled with a refreshing steady breeze through the 80-degree air, made for ideal hiking conditions. It was, if nothing else, a bit too perfect.

The hike to the top was strenuous, but not overly difficult either. Over its two miles, the trail gained 1350 feet to an exposed double-capstone knob with panoramic views in every direction. Recent heavy rainstorms, however, had washed away the rocky trail that allowed relatively easy access to the eastern side of the pinnacle. This was the first obstacle I encountered as well as first sign of trouble.

I opted to scale the exposed, rocky pinnacle head on by performing some semi technical, hand-over-hand climbing for about 30 feet until I reached the summit. Getting back down in the dark would be a problem, but with sunset yet several hours away, it might as well have been an eternity. The view was stunning and I was too mesmerized to care at that moment.

As I blissfully ignored that problem another one was quickly developing. Dark storm clouds were accumulating over the higher mountains in the east and heading my way. I knew the exposed knobby summit would be a dangerous place to wait out a lightning storm, but I also hated the thought of the difficult climb back down as well. I sensibly chose to retreat to the base of the capstone anyway until the storm passed. I left my tripod on top and began the slow, deliberate climb back down, blindly feeling for each foothold as the thunder became louder and the winds more intense.

When the heavy rains finally hit, I had descended but a mere a third of the rock’s total vertical distance. I reversed course and climbed back to the summit, since going up was faster and easier than going down and I certainly did not want to be clinging to the almost vertical rock during the height of the tempest. Once back on top, the storm was picking up intensity and lightning flashed in every direction. I wedged myself into a rock crevice for protection but it was of little value. I was vulnerable and the storm was right on top of me.

I soon experienced a very strange physical sensation. My skin began to tingle. Glancing down at my bare arms and legs, a sickening feeling came over me. Every hair was standing straight and upright. I knew what that meant, and I knew it was a bad sign. For an incalculable amount of time, I closed my eyes tightly and clenched every muscle in my body, bracing for the inevitable that fortunately never came. The rain finally abated and the storm moved on, leaving me only in a very frightened and wet state.

As the sun  slowly dropped toward the western horizon, the sky and clouds from the storm’s remains bounced a beautiful magenta glow over  the mountains. The light show capped a perfect ending to an unforgettable experience. I was euphoric – and relieved, not so much by the sunset itself, but  by the entire expereince.

After carefully descending the wet summit rocks by moonlight, I scrambled down the steep, shadowy trail to my waiting car. I promptly treated myself to a cold beer.

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Available November 1, The Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens

My new eBook, The Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens will be available for purchase form my e-store November 1 if all goes as planned. I am still finishing up the final chapters and re-writing a few others.

As yet another tease, the following is a short introduction to the book. It should give you a good idea as to the flavor and tone of the writing.  It’s been an absolute blast to relive the moments behind my favorite Smoky Mountains images as I’ve sat down to write this over the past 2 months.

Author’s Introduction

You could say my love affair with the Great Smoky Mountains all began with a single fish. Well, it was no ordinary fish. It was a handsomely colored brown trout that had just slid through my fingers and back into the cool waters of Deep Creek near Bryson City. It was only my second or third visit to the Smokies and on this occasion, I brought with me a fly rod and a box containing a dozen or so homemade dry flies.

 It was a sunny morning in early May and nature was decked out in all her springtime splendor. The mossy rocks were greener and more vibrant than I had remembered before; the wildflowers more profuse; the water clear like gin. I was also under the spell of a book I just happened to be reading, Harry Middleton’s On the Spine of Time. I desperately wanted to connect to those mountains and this visit was partly the result of that desire. At that time in my life, like Harry, I made connections to most places and people primarily through fly fishing. 

 I made a better than average cast to the head of one of Deep Creek’s long, slick pools and the trout slowly and deliberately took the fly with such an air of innocence that it almost made me feel guilty about my deception. It appeared we were now both hooked, but in my case, it was for life..

 I would eventually become a professional landscape and nature photographer, which I still am to this day. I travel the world with hopes of catching the most epic light cast upon the most dramatic of landscapes this planet has to offer. It’s with the most anticipation, however, when I can visit these mountains, with a camera instead of fly rod, in order to reconnect to these landscapes once again.

Please see more of my photography work on my photography website.

As you can see, this will be a very personal book about a very special place to me. It’s much more than just a how-to book, although I will describe how I captured many of the photos. Rather, it’s mostly about the places themselves, personal anecdotes and stories behind the scenes, and my thoughts about it all.


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