Monday Missive – September 5, 2016


There’s a world of difference between focusing a lens and focusing attention.” — John Paul Caponigro, in “The Power of Abstraction” on Craft and Vision.

“The paradox of the flawless record

If your work has never been criticized, it’s unlikely you have any work.
Creating work is the point, though, which means that in order to do something that matters, you’re going to be criticized.
If your goal is to be universally liked and respected and understood, then, it must mean your goal is to not do something that matters.
Which requires hiding.
Hiding, of course, isn’t the point.
Hence the paradox. You don’t want to be criticized and you do want to matter.
The solution: Create work that gets criticized. AND, have the discernment to tell the difference between useful criticism (rare and precious) and the stuff worth ignoring (everything else).”
Seth Godin, Sept. 4, 2016


– Creating shadows for photoshop composites
– Long Exposure Photography
– Night Photography
– Adjusting contrast without changing saturation
– Personal Photography Projects
– Capturing emotions and moments
– 19 tips
– Adding background texture
– Trees
– Mushrooms


Visited the Liberty Ship John W Brown off of Keith Ave in south Baltimore. Played with my 14 mm lens

Bayscaping (Butterfly Garden) Redux

To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting in an ordinary place…. I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.  — Elliott Erwitt

I first talked about Bayscaping — landscaping for habitat using native species — in April 2013, with an update in August of that year.  Well the garden has come along with fairly robust stands of Joe Pye Weed, Swamp Milkweed and butterfly weed and others which should attract numerous insects.  [Last year I mostly got a huge crop of aphids.]

Two years ago I saw 8 monarch caterpillars, but last year — nothing; very disappointing, but there was national concern about a huge kill of monarchs due to bad weather at the wrong time.  Hopefully this year will be better.  So far just some red and black milkweed bugs, that were not photographed.

Because I enjoy macro photography, my original intent in starting the garden was two-fold:  Provide a convenient (right outside my backdoor) location for macro photography of flowers and bugs and eventually to teach a macro class out of my home studio. So to start using it productively, I plan to update this blog post approximately weekly with at least 1 image per week (yeah, I know, not terribly ambitious, but hey, its summer and I’m retired).

May 29, 2015, mid-afternoon


D200, 55 mm micro-Nikkor with 1.4x Tamron Teleconverter, f/5.6, 1/640 sec, ISO400. Butterfly weed.


Milkweed Leaf Beetle, D200, 55 micro-Nikkor w/1.4X Tamron telextender, f/8, 1/125, ISO 400

Pretty warm, didn’t see too much, mostly those gold-bodied flies, so I shot some butterfly weed buds. Went back out an hour later and found this gaudy milkweed leaf beetle.







June 1, 2015, mid-afternoon

Experimented with a used 55 mm micro-Nikkor I bought earlier this year with a 52.5 mm Nikon extension tube (PN-11) that may have been made specifically to achieve 1:1 with this lens.  The tubes have their own foot, increasing the stability of the camera/lens on the tripod.

June 10, 2015D800E, ISO 400, f/16, 55 mm micro with 52.5 extension tubes.

Butterflyweed has opened.


55 mm micro-Nikkor with 14 mm extension tube on D800E


Behance Portfolio Review

The fear of being laughed at makes cowards of us all. – Mignon McLaughlin

On Saturday I participated in a Behance Portfolio review hosted by Chris, Jon-Michael and Breck at The Bindery in southwest Baltimore. Behance is an Adobe program/website for sharing your work and getting feedback. Like many other sites, there are buttons for people to follow you and like your work.  The differences are that this site is targeted to creatives that use Adobe products and provides an option for “work in progress” so that you can get feedback as you work. This portfolio review is completely supportive of that concept. It isn’t necessary that you have a Behance account or portfolio to participate, and you can just link to your own website or come just to participate. Participation is free.

There were only five of us and the hosts: Clint, Meagan, Vicky, Rachana and me. It was a pleasant evening (Chris supplied beer, chips and dip — thank you Chris), and a very supportive and positive group. It was also diverse:  I did photography, Vicky is the producer for codebass radio, Clint is a junior at MICA and a really excellent illustrator, Rachana is an exceptional Indian artist and Meagan is just getting back into creative work after several years as a care giver. Each of showed some portion of our work or explained what we did and got feedback from the others.

After we talked about our work, Jon-Michael, Breck and (a little reluctantly) Chris shared their work. Jon-Michael does fashion, commercial and portraiture, Breck does retouching, great composites and HDR, portraiture, fashion and fine art. Chris is semi-retired from band photography. All of them had great portfolios, and as the photographer among the guests, I probably benefited the most.

Chris also gifted each of us with his distinctive, high quality Write Notepads and we ended the evening with a really interesting tour of the printing presses, which brought back some memories for me having taken print shop in high school, and surprised me at how much I remembered. This Behance portfolio review was really worthwhile for networking and meeting other creative people in the community and for the feedback and support we received.


Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. – Confucious

I did some more work on fall “foliage” using the Meet Your Neighbors approach before I left. As part of my final presentation, I put up these three “quadtychs” at a volunteers meeting and let the volunteers vote on which ones they liked best. Everyone had three votes by putting sticky dots on the images they liked best. It could be three votes for one image, two and one, or one each.

The sunflower on the top left of the first image got by far the most votes with 33 out of 131 votes (25%). The Illinois bundleflower on the lower right of the second image, got the second place with 18 votes (14%). The big bluestem on the lower left of the last image came in third with 16 votes (12%). Runner up was the heath aster, upper right on the 3rd image.

Photographically I have been a little slow getting back up to speed once I returned home. Driving 21 hours in 2 days, catching up on mail and stuff, and just taking some time off to read science fiction and think about the last two and half months. Just ready to get going again, and we get hit by Sandy. Lost power at 8:50 pm on Monday, and still no power. Still spending time at the library. I like libraries, but I hoped to work from home when I got home. Things will settle soon. Hope you had a Happy Halloween!

Getting published

Make a plan.
Whether you’re engaged in your creative life professionally or simply as a vehicle for personal growth, I recommend you make a creative plan. If you do this, you too will find both your productivity and fulfillment will increase, in a way that’s meaningful to you. Having defined what you need to accomplish, your unconscious will go to the work of fulfilling it, generating many ideas over time. — John Paul Caponigro

I certainly cannot claim to be an expert on this subject, but do have a little experience, and I am near the baseline. I got an email from Vickie asking for help on getting published and trying to get paid for her photography. Rather than saying “I’m no expert” I provided what insight I could, according to my own experience. I hope others find it useful as well.  This is what I told her:

Vicki –

There are many ways and places to publish your photographs depending on your interests, the type of photography you do, and how hard you want to work. Many people use Flickr, and some magazines and art directors look there when they need images. But Flickr is huge, and the chance that you will catch that kind of attention is relatively small.

You can also establish your own website and/or blog. I use InMotion hosting for both. I think it costs about $85 per year; you can download both gallery and blog (WordPress) applications. I also have an account at which is even less expensive, somewhere around $28 per year. If you want to get serious about selling your work, you should establish your own presence on the web. That said, I should note that I have never sold directly from my web site, but it serves as a photo resume and portfolio for people who might be commercially interested in my work.

Most of my sales have come from small art fairs and to friends or co-workers. has many listings for art shows and fairs across the country and links to the sites of these art fairs for details and applications. I think that CaFe is another similar listing. Jury fees are usually $25-30, but booth fees range from about $35 – $450. I print and mount my own work to save money and remain competitive, and to get exactly the results I want. I also do cards, but it is hard to make much money as cards usually sell for less than $5. Artist’s coops are another opportunity if there is one in your area. Usually there is some contribution to start, they take a portion of proceeds, and you need to gallery sit. You can also call private galleries and arrange for a portfolio review to see if they are interested in your work. Some wineries also host artwork.  Art fairs are also a possibility where you have the greatest control.  Although most are juried, if your work is reasonably professional, you will be accepted.  If not, perhaps you need to re-think.

Depending on your interests you can also submit to various publications directly. If you like to photograph images of fall colors for example, calendars may be a good opportunity. If you live in a small town, you might speak to your local newspaper publisher about travel or lifestyle photography.

Alyson B. Stanfield offers a free artist newsletter that focuses on Art Marketing; you might consider signing up. I hope you find these suggestions helpful. Good Luck!

Back at Moab

In my heart I will be an explorer naturalist until I die. — Edward O. Wilson, Naturalist

I am back in Moab, at the Sorrel River Ranch, a luxury destination, about 17 miles outside of Moab.  I will be teaching classes and accompanying tours to Arches and hikes to a local canyon (Fisher’s Tower) to talk about photography.  A “Meet the Artist” session yesterday went fine; people seemed engaged.  There was a small group of guests, but it seemed more intimate and friendly than the average gallery opening.

In addition to Arches National Park, the Ranch is right on the Colorado River, so there are about 17 miles of red rock cliffs and several recreational areas with camp sites in the area.  I went to Fisher’s Tower this morning, and although it was overcast, I caught a break in the clouds just after sunrise.  On Friday, there will be a photo hike to the same area.

I hope that there is a good signup for the classes later in the week.  This residency is an experiment for both myself and the Ranch and we will have to see how it goes as the week proceeds.

Mid-point Evaluation

You only get one chance. You have one journey through life; you cannot repeat even one moment or retrace one footstep. It seems that we are meant to inhabit and live everything that comes toward us. – John O’Donohue

I am now slightly more than halfway through the three awarded residencies for this year (Rocky Mountains, Petrified Forest, and Homestead) and it is probably time for a little reflection on what I have accomplished and what opportunities I may be missing. A private week long workshop/residency at Sorrel River Ranch in Moab, UT next week will give me a shot as some scenes in Professor Valley, as well as another shot at Arches.  (Big Cypress Swamp in Florida is scheduled for early next year.)

I left home on August 8: What have I accomplished in the last 6 weeks?

I have taken approximately 4500 photographs primarily distributed between the two parks with residencies and several nearby parks (Arches, Mesa Verde, Canyon de Chelly). I have driven 4600 miles, spent $655 on gas and almost $3000 in total.

Geographically and culturally I have developed at least a superficial understanding for parts of Colorado and Arizona, and a slightly deeper feeling for two major national parks, particularly the smaller Petrified Forest. Looking at pictographs of the various southwestern Pueblo peoples I have felt some of the mystery, their generally peaceful way of life, and a little sensibility for their culture. A visit to the Georgia O’Keefe museum in Santa Fe was interesting and really points out that I should spend much more time studying art in general and not just photography.

My Rocky Mountain project, to compare current scenes to archival photographs of the same scenes from the time of the Park’s dedication, found nothing major: basically the Park has been successful in preserving the environment and habitats, but was interesting to me personally. I will prepare a report for the Park on the project based on the powerpoint presentation I gave as part of my public interaction deliverable. Participation in the BioBlitz and some discussion with folks from iLCP was exciting, and Clay Bolt’s “Meet Your Neighbor” is a possible future direction for at least a part of my photography. Reviewing the RMNP images, I think that I have developed a reasonable body of work representative of the season, this particular year, and the more readily accessible areas. What is missing but was at least theoretically possible, is a much better survey of fauna and flora, and views from some of the higher individual peaks, although I did find the alpine/tundra areas impressive and photographed several times, I still feel it is superficial, but also limited by the season. I am preparing an “ecological composite” image for the Park, but I am not really satisfied with its artistic merits (comments on the work in progress below are welcome) and will probably offer the Park a choice of some individual images as the required submission for one piece of art.

Colors and shapes dominate my photography at Petrified Forest. Yesterday evening in the Painted Desert, the contrast between the blue sky, red butte, and nearly black shadow was very striking. The layering of eroded cliffs at Blue Mesa and dawn across the desert are all valuable personal experiences. Perhaps the most urgent need is to evaluate what I need to add to the Petrified Forest work while I still have the chance. I would like to capture at least some wildlife. I think I also want to do more work from the desert floor, rather than looking down from the canyon rims.

Professionally, I was in the right place at the right time to participate with a reporter and picture editor from a major eastern urban newspaper on an article on colors that might lead to some photo credits and a little cash. There may be an opportunity for a guest submission to an Albuquerque gallery and an article about my residency was published in the Estes Park Gazette. Adding additional residencies to my resume is a good thing (acceptance seems to range from less than 10% at RMNP up to at least 25%) as is adding extensively to the geographic extent of my portfolio.

(Take these map locations with a grain of salt.  Although taken with a Nikon GPS directly connected to my camera, it showed locations in Montana and South Dakota, places I haven’t been.)

Over the next five days, I need to spend more time talking to Park Rangers and getting ideas on what I have missed. Comments on what I have done, what you would like to see, and your ideas are welcome.




Sorry I have been so inactive – Hopefully these images will make up for it.

Sorry I have been so remiss about updating.  I can rationalize that it is two miles each way to get email access, and the room I work in is a mail room that doesn’t really lend itself to creative thinking.  Nevertheless I am grateful that the Park provides internet access at all.

I have been doing a lot of shooting at Petrified Forest.  The shapes and colors are fantastic early and late, but the colors are washed out midday.  I think that Blue Mesa in the southern part of the Park will turnout to be my favorite area.  There is a trail that leads down into the canyon and you can wind your way around the layered buttes – it is like Alice in Wonderland – huge multi-colored buttes towering over you and around each corner. I went in the evening yesterday, but morning seems to be better.

The historic Painted Desert Inn (which is now just a landmark and no longer functions as an inn) is right across from where I am staying.  Two great trails start there:  the Rim Trail runs parallel to the road right at the rim of the canyon, giving a great view into Painted Desert (good morning light).  The Wilderness Trail runs right down into the Painted Desert, which in this area is a Wilderness area, meaning no vehicles, pets or facilities: only great view and colors.  I walked down to the canyon without camera, but didn’t stay long because it was getting late, but did shoot later from part way down the trail.


I don’t know if it is the light, the structure or the adobe brick, but there is really something special about the remains of these ancient communities. Looking out from the  Long House pueblo down a canyon that probably hasn’t changed substantially in 900 years, even with a crowd of people around, you could almost imagine yourself as part of that community, waking to the quiet of the canyon and thinking about getting adequate water or weeding your little patch of squash and beans. One thing I learned that I hadn’t anticipated was that at the back of the cave was a water seep, probably one of the reasons it was selected.  Apparently, water seeps through the sandstone above the structure until it hits an impermeable layer of shale, which forced it out behind the buildings.

At Antelope Canyon, you can see round “kivas” which are believed to be ceremonial areas.  In some canyons there were apparently communities as large as a thousand people.

The actual rooms where people lived were actually quite small, even given that stature was generally smaller than modern day people.  Although a few people may have lived to as old as 60 years, average life span was probably closer to 30.

Breeding usually started young and mortality from childbirth was high. Also, they ground corn into flour between two stones (mano and metate) and their flour had a lot of sand in it, which ground down their teeth relatively quickly.  

An important part of the Native American cultural record are petroglyphs scratched or pecked into rock faces.  Most are on cliff faces, but this one was on a boulder sitting on the ground off of a dirt road in Kane Canyon. It shows a birth, which is apparently uncommon; animals and hunting more generally are depicted.  Like these from inside Arches National Park.

The southwestern native American evolution of cultures is really fascinating and worth a visit if you should ever get a chance.


Rocky Mountains to Arches

From the mountains to the desert.  Returned for a second time to the alpine area.  At the top of the Tundra Trail going up from Rock Cut, it was like being on the top of the world. The tundra fell away in all directions, with huge puffy clouds seemingly just above your head.  With the high altitude it was difficult slogging uphill.

Forest Canyon overlook also had some really good views.  

Terra Tomah mountain bordered the canyon with Hayden spire, and an adjacent glacial cirque. The cirque was smaller, and I couldn’t get as good a picture, but here are the mountain and spire.







From the mountains to the desert of Moab, Utah at Arches National Park.  It is all about the light here.

But the best light might last only five minutes.  Delicate arch is to the left; this was taken from the high overlook.

The gossips are lit in the morning, but here they were in shadow from another butte, while the surrounding area was lit with early sunlight.  You can see where the light just catches the “head” of one of the gossips.



Heading to Mesa Verde tomorrow.


Day 2

Understanding must move with the flow of the process, must join it and flow with it.
—  Frank Herbert, Dune

Left Wednesday morning 8/8/12 as scheduled.  Made it to London, OH that night and on to Columbia, MO tonight.  I am a little surprised that I am not impatient with the driving, or having difficulty staying alert after driving all day.  I guess that having made the commitment to drive for 3-4 days there is no sense getting impatient because the delays are minor relative to the total trip.  I am excited about getting to RMNP and at this point I am making sufficiently good time I may have an extra day in the area.  Any recommendations for locations in the Denver area to photograph before going on to RMNP?

An Encore Career

“A beginning is the time for taking the most delicate care that the balances are correct.” —  Frank Herbert

I am starting this blog as I begin a new chapter in my life. Newly retired, writing these thoughts out will help to define the remainder of my life journey.

This blog is primarily about my photographic journey, but I hope it will be about more than just taking pictures. The directions I take reveal what is important to me and how I perceive the world. It is also a transition from having a job where expectations were defined by others or my understanding of those expectations, to having sole and complete responsibility for how I spend my time. Thus it is also a case study on retirement. Not least, with a Ph.D. in ecology and more than 20 years with a state environmental agency, I hope that through my photography and more directly, I can continue to make a contribution to conservation of natural areas, wildlife habitat and species diversity.

In a little more than a week I will be heading to Colorado to begin the first of four artist residencies I have been awarded by the National Park Service. The “journey” will be quite literal for the next six months as I travel to Rocky Mountain and Petrified Forest National Parks, Homestead National Monument and Big Cypress National Preserve in Colorado, Arizona, Nebraska and Florida, respectively. A private residency in Moab, Utah between Petrified Forest and Homestead also seems likely.

During this time, I hope to better define my photographic vision and style, and set the stage for a second career that combines artistic perceptions with technical skill and ecological knowledge.  I will not always have web access, but hope to post at least three times per week.

I hope my family, friends and colleagues will follow my journey, and what follows, and share their thoughts with me as I go down a new road. If my photography is at all successful, perhaps they will vicariously share the beauty of sunrise on the mountains or desert, the marvel of diverse animals, and the wondrous complexity of natural systems across the country.