Tag Archives: North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens, Second Edition

I’ve just finished writing and assembling my newest ebook project, a second edition of my Great Smoky Mountains: Behind the Lens. So how is this version different from the first?

– More content (80 pages versus 42)

– Optimized for mobile devices and retina screens (hi-res, horizontal format, sized to fit the iPad)

– New locations, new essays, and more images

– Map of the Great Smoky Mountains with marked locations

– Same low price of $7.95. Wait, that’s not different.

For more information and how to buy your own, follow this link.

Just like the first edition, this ebook chronicles many of my favorite images from the Great Smoky Mountains. With each image there is a personal essay that gives some insight with regard to the photographic process I used, my personal experience when the image was created, or information and history about the location. You’ll learn more about landscape and wildlife photography, you’ll have a better understanding of the Smoky Mountains, you might cry, you might laugh, you might accidentally spit coffee all over keyboard.

Below is a sample of the book’s 80 pages. It’s really really hard to read so you might want to buy and download a full-sized copy for yourself. Enjoy!

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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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Great Smoky Mountains Creative Photography Workshop

Only three more spots open for the Great Smoky Mountains Creative Photo Workshop this coming April 14-17. There are more details here and you are free to contact me directly for more information or to ask any questions you might have. See you in April!

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Creative Slumps

It is going to happen to you. The uninterrupted flow of new, original work and ideas is going to dry up. And when it does, it’s going to hurt – mostly your ego, but it will hurt nonetheless especially if you make your living creating.

The good news is that these episodes are only temporary, even if they don’t seem temporary at the time. The bad news is that you don’t know when they are going to end. Tomorrow? Next week? Next Year? Waiting for new ideas and inspiration to return is agonizing. Trying to force something to happen is fruitless. It’s a frustrating, lonely place to be for a creative professional.

This has happened to me a few times during my photography career, with some episodes more severe than others. Either I was inexplicably no longer inspired by the driving force of my work – nature, wilderness, wild places and the wild creature that inhabit them – or the inspiration was still there, but I couldn’t find any new or original way to express it. Since emotion and establishing emotional bonds to my subject are critical, the former concern is much more debilitating than the latter.

I’ve found that the best way to combat these creative slumps is to try something completely new and different. The key is to do something – create something. The very act of creating is often what primes the pump and gets the flow of new ideas and concepts moving again.

Green River Gorge, North Carolina
Canon 40D, Canon 70-200 f/2.8, 1/800 second @ f2.8, ISO 800

So what if photographing people or whitewater sports is not “what I do.” The above image is the product of a hike I made down North Carolina’s Green River Gorge in the winter of 2007. I almost didn’t bring my camera on this trip. I was, after all, a nature and landscape photographer and the light was bad, there was no snow on the ground, the trees were bare, with the landscape a mosaic of uninspiring browns and grays. I was also in the middle of one of those creative slumps and didn’t feel very productive or creative anyway.

But as I watched and photographed the kayakers barrel down Gorilla, an infamous set of “rapids” that punctuates this treacherous stretch of whitewater, I was creating. I was having fun and problem solving too. For example, it was relatively dark in the shaded areas of the river, yet I needed fast shutter speeds to freeze the action. I experimented with high ISOs, slower shutter speeds and panning, slower shutter speeds without panning, etc. Nothing serious, nothing expected of me, no pressure to create or to do anything. I was just having fun and experimenting with my camera, not unlike my formative years when I was first learning photography.

Consequently, this experience got me excited about trying this new stuff on my nature and landscape images as well. Without even thinking about it, the slump was over and it ushered in one of the most productive and creative periods of my professional life. All it took was trying something new and starting to create once again. Just create.

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Featured Workshop: The Outer Banks Experience, March 8 – 10, 2013

It’s that time of year to begin planning my workshop schedule for next year. The 2013 workshop schedule is almost complete except for the additions of Saint Augustine, Florida in May, Acadia National Park, Maine in October and another great Smoky Mountains, Tennessee workshop in late October as well. There might be a few surprises thrown in at the last minute but, for the most part, that just about does it.

The featured workshop this month is the Outer Banks Experience on March 8 – 10, 2013. There is a good reason why I come back to the Outer Banks of North Carolina year after year: It’s an amazing place to photograph with sand, water, and sky in almost every direction, four lighthouses, and prolific pelagic wildlife.

If you have ever wanted to come to the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras, North Carolina for photography, this is the time to do it. If you register before January 1, 2013 and mention this blog post when you register, you will receive a 10% discount on the tuition. You can get more information and register here.

Here are some images from past workshops in the Outer Banks and Cape Hatteras National Seashore. Enjoy!

Friendly Pelicans

Currituck Lighthouse Staircase

Currituck Sound Sunset

Snow on the Dunes!

Light and Sand

Cape Hatteras Lighthouse with Star Trails

The Lonely Shore

Frisco Pier

“Banker Horse” on the Dunes

The Guardian

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