Archive for the ‘Tips and Techniques’ Category

Coomon Loon (Gavia immer) Lake SImcoe, Barrie, Ontario, Canada

Common Loon

Here are a few recent images that I have captured during this pandemic. All but the Common Loon were photographed n my backyard. The Common Loon was photographed on Lake Simcoe near Barrie, Ontario at first light. Arriving at first light not only ensured killer light but also meant I would have the location all to myself as most folks do not get out to take advantage of the sweet light at sunrise.

Each of the songbird images were created from my photo blind that is set-up in my backyard at a birdfeeder adorned with attractive perches for natural looking photos.

Every image in this post was photographed using the Nikon D500 and Nikkor 200-500mm VR lens with a wide open aperture of f5.6.

During these times of social distancing and self-isolation consider creating your own backyard birdfeeder set-up to see what you might be able to capture. It can be a great way to practice bird photography skills with common species, try new techniques,, and to just have fun and feel good. To guide you through the process of creating simple set-ups from which to photograph garden birds please take a look at Andy Rouse’s Wild Angle -Episode 2 by clicking here.

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)

Song Sparrow


White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)

White-crowned Sparrow


Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)

Male Red-winged Blackbird



Female Brown-headed Cowbird


Chipping Sparrow (Spizella passerina)

Chipping Sparrow


Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula)

Common Grackle

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Today I am pleased to announce the release of my 3rd eBook; WILD PLACESExploring the Creative Process of Landscape Photography.

WILD PLACES – Exploring the Creative Process of Landscape Photography is not a book about the technical aspects of landscape photography. It is about the thoughts and decisions that were made, in-the-field, to determine what to include or exclude from the frame to convey visual beauty. Slowing down and making conscious decisions to control the visual elements within the environment will assist you in creating photography that entices the minds and emotions of viewers.

Wild Places features a collection of 110 photographs from Ontario and beyond that will inspire you on your next excursion into wild spaces, as you explore the artistry of the land. Extended captions that correspond to each image provide discussions on the composition, applicable filter selections, and many other useful tidbits of information.

I am often complimented after presenting my various programs for being  an engaging speaker who shares inspiring imagery while explaining various tips and techniques in a way that can be understood by all levels of photographers. This eBook is characteristic of attending one of my photographic presentations.

Price: $20 CAD

To purchase your copy of Wild Places please click here.

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La Palma Glass Frog – unedited RAW Image File

The above photo is an unedited RAW image file of a La Palma Glass Frog that was photographed at our popular “Dart Frogs of the Amazon Rainforest Photographic Workshops” with a Nikon D500, Nikon 105mm Micro Lens, and a Nikon SB400 Speedlight mounted on a Wimberely F-2 Macro Bracket. While the flash-generated spectral highlights are well controlled and their is minimal debris to clean-up on the Monsterra leaf, used as a prop, there is one thing that bothers me about this photo as presented. What is that? I do wish that I had switched to the vertical orientation to best represent the frog’s pose on the leaf, however, all is not lost and my wish can be easily achieved with a few simply steps in Photoshop.

After making some initial edits to the image in Adobe Camera Raw the image is brought into the Photoshop interface as seen below.

La Palma Glass Frog Photoshop Interface with the Crop Tool selected and the Content-Aware box checked

Once the image is opened in Photoshop I select the Crop Tool and the Ratio option from the drop down box in the upper left corner of the interface. When using the Ratio option you can select the exact pixel dimensions that you want to use. In this case I entered the pixel dimensions fro a vertically oriented image photographed with a Nikon D500. With crop dimensions now in place over the image I simply drag out the corners of the crop for the desired look and position the frog where I want it to be within the frame. Before I click the check mark to perform the desired crop I check the Content-Aware box. By doing so Content-Aware will fill in the black areas outside of the actual image area to match the surrounding elements. In this case it will fill in the sliver along the bottom and the larger portion at the top. The natural indent of the Monsterra leaf will be fixed later with a simple quick mask removal technique.

After performing the above mentioned steps, the optimized image file for the vertically oriented La Palm Glass Frog image can be seen below. In this situation the Content-Aware did an amazing job of replicating the leaf to fill in the areas that were outside of the image. The Clone Stamp tool was used at varying hardnesses to evict the flash generated spectral highlights and debris on the leaf surface. The lower left corner of the image where the indent of the Monsterra leaf was creating a distraction was fixed quickly and effortlessly by utilizing a Quick Mask. To learn more about using Quick Masks and other techniques to easily optimize image files take a look at APTATS 1 & 2.

La Palma Glass Frog – Optimized Image File


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On Tuesday November 14 at 7:30 p.m. I will be presenting my Ontario & Beyond: Wild Places Wild Faces program for the Photo Arts Club of Newmarket Camera Club at the Newmarket Communtiy Centre and Lions Hall located at 200 Doug Duncan Drive in Newmarket, Ontario. Non-members are welcome to attend the presentation for an entry fee of $5 per person. The presentation features tons of Ontario related imagery and info for those looking for new places to explore within our province as well as destinations that are further afield such as Cayman Brac and the Amazon Rainforest.

Hope to see you there 🙂

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Red Rock Point on Georgian Bat in Killarney, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec Nikon Polarizing Filter

Red Rock Point on Georgian Bat in Killarney, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm
ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec
(Nikon Polarizing Filter)


I recently was reading about an interesting technique for creating water blurs on Moose Peterson’s blog. This technique works wonderfully for river scenes, waterfalls, and along lake shores or oceans. In the image above of beautiful Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay the waves were crashing quite nicely and I was able to create a nice scene with the waves rolling in. I did want to create an image with a much longer exposure, however, the time of day would not permit such an exposure and my 10-stop Neutral Density filter was back in the car. Since I was suffering from nagging lower back pain I was not about to make the trek back to the car to get the filter. Then I remembered the article that I read about utilizing the camera’s multiple Exposure feature to create the blurred look to water imagery. I set my Nikon D800 to the Multiple Exposure feature and dialed in a six frame exposure. Below you can see the effect of this technique. Do note that due to very blustery conditions there is some blurring to the trees as a result of the wind.


Multiple Exposure of Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay in Killarney, Ontario Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec 6 Frame Multiple Exposure (each frame has the same f-stop and shutter speed)

Multiple Exposure of Red Rock Point on Georgian Bay in Killarney, Ontario
Nikon D800, Nikon 80-400mm VR lens @ 80mm
ISO 50, f32 @ 1/5 sec (Nikon Polarizing Filter)
6 Frame Multiple Exposure (each frame has the same f-stop and shutter speed)

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Male American Toad (Bufo americanus) chorusing in pond at night.

Male American Toad (Bufo americanus) chorusing in pond at night.

I have been quite busy these last few weeks, with little time to get out for fresh images. This week with our night time temperatures being relatively warm I had to head out in search of some photos of chorusing toads, which I could hear far off in the distance. Since the ponds behind my home were destroyed a couple of seasons ago I now must travel further a field for images. I have located another productive pond about 15 minutes from my home, so I drove there a couple of nights ago. The toads were being most cooperative as song filled the air.

When I photograph frogs and toads at night I will use a head-lamp as well as two tiny flashlights attached to the flash head with elastics, these are used for focusing at night. Another useful way to use external lighting to assist with night-time focusing is to use a small clip-on flashlight and fastening it to sturdy elements within the pond such as that of a dried cattail stem. By doing so you can aim the light quite accurately to assist with the focusing. This is exactly what I did to photograph the toads in this blog post.

Small clip-on flashlight secured to dried cattail stem.

Small clip-on flashlight secured to dried cattail stem.

Often I have noticed that the toad’s colorations can vary greatly among each specimen that has arrived at the pond. I was delighted to find this specimen with it’s lovely golden yelow tones.

American Toad (Bufo americanus) in pond at night

American Toad (Bufo americanus) in pond at night

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A Waterfall Along the Nottawasaga River, Organgeville, Ontario

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario

The above artistic rendering of a small waterfall located along the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario was created using the Photoshop plug-in Topaz Simplify, which is available from Topaz Labs. I visited this waterfall a few years ago and have had the image sitting on the back-burner ever since. This evening I decided it was time to optimize the image file and play around with creating a painterly-like version of it as well. Below you will see the original version of this lovely, secluded waterfall.

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River. Orangeville, Ontario.

Secluded Woodland Waterfall on the Nottawasaga River near Orangeville, Ontario.

In other news: the May issue of the Creative Photography E-Mini-Magazine (The Mini-Mag) is now available on-line here. This wonderful, absolutely free, on-line creative photography magazine is published monthly by Denise Ippolito. Do check out this magazine that is full of useful and creative tips and to see the latest froggie article by yours truly click here.

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A Large Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

A Large Male Bullfrog on Horseshoe Lake, Parry Sound, Ontario

I created this bullfrog portrait last summer on Horseshoe Lake near Parry Sound, Ontario. The easiest way to create such images of bullfrogs is to do so from a canoe. Bullfrogs are generally quite approachable and will often tolerate you sliding up beside them in a canoe. By using the Live View mode on my Nikon D800 with a Nikon 105mm Micro lens attached I was able to hand-hold the rig just above the water’s surface for a low perspective – the lens hood was actually dipping into the water slightly. When you photograph frogs in the water from such low perspectives you will be able to get the accompanying reflection. To ensure that I am holding the camera square with the world I place a double-bubble level in the camera’s hot-shoe, alternately you could activate the virtual horizon feature while in the Live View mode. It is also advisable to use auto-focus while doing so as the last thing you need to worry about while leaning over the edge of your canoe is focusing the lens manually.

I am eagerly awaiting this season’s Bullfrog photography on Horseshoe Lake as I will be experimenting with the Sony RX100 in an underwater housing for a completely new perspective on froggies.

Please do click on the image to see the larger, sharper version.

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Johnstone's Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog with HighLight Warnings

Above you see a photo of a Johnstone’s Whistling Frog that I created in Port Antonio, Jamaica. This was the first image that I created of these lovely little frogs during my stay in Jamaica. Being excited at photographing a new species I forgot to check my camera settings before clicking the shutter. When I scrolled back through a couple of the frames to confirm my exposures were correct I realized my error and immediately dialed in the correct settings but the frog jumped away. I was left with this image, which on the camera’s LCD screen was showing what appeared to be blown-out highlights (note that in the above image I made adjustments in ACR to mimic what I was seeing on the camera’s LCD screen – the highlight warnings on the camera would have been black instead of red as shown above).

Directly below is the same image as it opened in ACR. You can see that the highlights are not too bad after all. The red highlight warnings seen here red here are the flash generated spectral highlights, which are indeed blown-out with no detail whatsoever.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog in ACR inter-face

Now look at the optimized image file below. After making the required slider adjustments in ACR I was able to recover a great deal of detail in what the camera originally indicated was blown-out and lacking detail. I then opened the image in Photoshop and using a series of Quick Masks and Clone Stamp Tool applications addressing the flash generated highlights.

Johnstone's Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Johnstone’s Whistling Frog, Port Antonio, Jamaica

This is why I do not delete photos, in the field, as seen on the camera’s LCD screen. I always wait until I am editing a trip’s images when back home at the computer.

Please click on the images to see the larger, sharper versions.

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Ghost Crab_5271

Ghost Crab on San San Beach, Port Antonio, Jamaica

Above is an optimized photo of a Ghost Crab captured on San San Beach in Port Antonio, Jamaica. These crabs are relatively easy to photograph but you do need to remain very still. Often they will disappear into their tunnels in the sand if they detect the slightest movement made by a ‘potential predator.’  In this case that was me, but by lying on the sand motionless this crab soon emerged again to forage on the beach for food. As the crab began moving further to my left I found it difficult to contort my position on the sand to suitably follow it and wound up creating the image below with the crab practically walking out of the frame. How did I fix this composition? I used a series of quick masks, layer masks, move tool, and some touch-up work with the clone stamp tool to create the optimized version. I learned how to perform such fixes to such images by reading Robert O’Toole’s APTATS 2. APTATS stands for Advanced Photoshop Tips and Techniques and for $30 is well worth the investment. Final tweaking to the image above was performed by using Nik Software’s (now Google) Viveza 2 and Color Efex Pro’s Detail Extractor filter.

Ghost Crab_5271_RAW Capture

Original RAW Capture of the Ghost Crab

Sigma Scholarship Contest Note:

Only one month left to enter Sigma’s Scholarship Contest. Please click on the link in the sidebar of the blog for more information on contest rules and how to enter. Best of luck to all entries!

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