Wednesday, November 20, 2013


  Last evening I had a phone conversation with my brother Jim. Now if you know me, you know that this is not a rare occurrence. Jim and I talk all the time, especially since we both share the same passion for photography. I usually call Jim when I have been somewhere neat or got an opportunity to do some unique photography and we share techniques, thoughts on equipment and other photography related things.
  Last night's conversation was a bit different, however. Granted, it started like most of our calls, but took a turn when I started talking to him about something that had happened to me over the past few days
  For the first time in a very  long time I was experiencing happiness. Most friends and family who are close to me know that the last year has been pretty rough for me. Due to multiple circumstances, that I won't delve into, the happy times have been few and far between and definitely didn't experience a long term engagement.
  Photography over that year has been a valuable outlet over this time and has provided tremendous relief and up until the past few days, I thought great reward. I had sold prints, started a business, taken portraits for individuals, teams, leagues, etc. I even rediscovered my first true love of photography in Sports Photography which was kicked off by getting a couple of games down on the field at the University of Tennessee football games. I have made it a goal of mine to get into the sports photography business with either a wire service, newspaper, web site, etc. and am going to try and achieve this in the next 2-3 years. Pretty exciting.
  As I explained to Jim on Tuesday night, though, 2 great experiences over the last few days have completely changed my outlook on what is truly rewarding about photography.
  Sunday morning I posted the image you see above on both my Facebook and Google+ streams title "ELATION". It was my favorite shot from a day of just casual shooting at Hiwassee College's Homecoming basketball games. I was excited about the shot because I captured an emotional part of the Lady Tigers' close win on the day. I got 45 likes on FB and that is a good day for one of my pics but it was nothing compared to what happened that evening.
  A young lady named Nikki Dean reshared my image with a headline that read:
"Precious Memories. Thank You Jerry Denham". You see Nikki is the young lady #10 with her back to me in the shot catching/embracing the other girl in the shot. She considered the picture a "precious memory". Never has one of my sports images been called anything like that before.
  A few minutes later, another young lady named Haylee Morrow reshared the same image with this as her heading:  
"My favorite picture from all the years of playing basketball! I just love this and Nikki! Thank you to Jerry Denham for this awesome picture"
  Haylee Morrow just happened to be the other girl in the picture that Nikki Dean was embracing. What I didn't realize I had done was capture a powerful, emotional moment between these two girls that lifted my picture from being a good image to being something completely special to these two girls. 
  What an incredible feeling. 
  The very next night I captured this image:
     Now I happen to know #32 Caston Moses here in this picture and his family. He goes to school with my daughter and she is a cheer leader for Caston's Vonore Middle School basketball team. 
  He had just had a fantastic individual game as well as his team outlasting their opponent in 3 overtimes for a victory. As close as this game was I definitely wanted to capture some emotion on the Vonore team whether it was dejection from a loss or jubilation from a hard fought win. Luckily, it was latter. When the game finished Caston walked away from the huddle and let out this big yell and I just happened to have the camera pointed at him to capture it.
  Like the shot of the girls from the Hiwassee game, I was excited about this shot because of the situation and capturing that decisive moment of victory for Caston.
  That night, when I posted my pictures from the game, I singled out this one and tagged his dad, Greg.  Although I had captured a really good shot of Caston early in the game taking a jump shot, Greg made the emotional attachment to this image because it anchored a somewhat breakout game for Caston and one that Caston was caught up in emotionally as well. Greg messaged me and thanked me in the same way that the young ladies from Hiwassee had done the night before.
  So when I was talking with Jim on Tuesday the happiness I was feeling was not from making a sale, getting tons of "likes" or +1's, or awesome comments. What it turned out to be was that my happiness was a bi-product of making other people happy. It felt and still feels tremendous and has carried over til today. I have been a new high that I haven't experienced in a long time. 
  Now I know that the true reward of being a photographer is not only capturing the moment but capturing a moment where someone can see the picture as something more than just a picture.
  Gosh what a feeling.

Saturday, June 22, 2013


ISO 200, f/16, 1/6 second, 10mm
After patiently waiting through complete cloud cover the skies opened up and gave us some awesome light and rays over Round Bald.


ISO 100, f/20, 2.5 seconds, 10mm
  Wednesday's sunrise was one of the most beautiful that I have ever seen. It is primarily due to the view we were looking at on Round Bald in the Roan Highlands.
  One of the neat things about Round Bald was the long grass that was covered and highlighted by the heavy dew. I was completely soaked within 5 minutes from walking around in it. That was the only drawback. When the sun started to crest the mountains on the far horizon, that dew started catching that light and created some magical highlights against the green grass. It was just awesome.
  I positioned myself next to this group of rocks that were engulfed by the grass and the rocks captured that same light as well. It was just a complete epic light show in the sky and on the ground. With the fog-covered valley separating the two, I don't think it could have gotten any better.

Friday, June 21, 2013


ISO 200, f/16, 1/6, -0.3EV, 10mm

  Our last destination on Richard Bernabe's Roane Highlands First Bloom Workshop was just up the Appallacian Trail from Round Bald on a gathering of rocks that made for some neat compositions looking to the north, south, and especially looking back west toward Round Bald from where we had hiked from.
  We were on these rocks for at least 3 hours watching nature do it's thing. When we first arrived, the cloud formations toward the west for sunset were incredible and we were expecting epic light. Somewhere around 7:00-7:30 the gray clouds we watched approach for an hour or so finally overcame the scene and we were completely engulfed in cloud cover giving us doubt of seeing that epic light.
  The 4 women our group of 11 gave up on sunset and started their way back to the parking area. About 20 minutes after they left the clouds parted like Moses parting the Red Sea. Just in time for us to see the ladies hiking their way up to Round Bald. Richard let out a couple of large WOO-HOO's and we could hear the ladies laughing across the way.
  Our patience paid off. We ended up seeing some terrific light and cloud formations directly over Round Bald and the setting sun.
  The entire time we were on these rocks I found my favorite composition in front of these few rocks that seem to all be pointing in the direction of the sunset and Round Bald with Rhododendron blooming just the other side of them. I made sure and rushed back over and capture this sunset in this spot and luck should have it that right above it everything seemed to converge right where these rocks were pointing.

Thursday, June 6, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.6 seconds, -0.3EV, 16mm
  Boy, you just can't beat a morning that involves hey rolls, an old barn, sunrise light, and fog. Yep, believe it or not, I had all of these converge into a fantastic, yet quick morning of photography.
  Instead of driving to Vonore and shooting on the way to work like I normally do, I took a detour towards Sweetwater in hope of finding some hey rolls on old 68 highway. Luckily, at the old Taylor barn, the field was littered with rolls and a little bit of fog in between the trees in the background. the sunrise was slightly blocked by clouds was diffused enough to not overpower the scene but create enough nice light against the gorgeous clouds. It was a perfect scene.

Sunday, June 2, 2013


ISO 100, f/22, 0.6 seconds, +0.3 EV, 10mm
  Since acquiring a wide angle lens I have made it a point to re-visit places that I have taken shots of before just to see what the new lens can do for new compositions.
  This afternoon I made the trek down River Rd to see what 4-6 inches of overnight rain did to the Tellico River. Wow! Completely swelled up the Tellico River and turned into a brown, muddy mess.
  After driving roughly 12 miles down the road and finding a few neat cascades to shoot, I made my way back to Bald River Falls. As I thought, directly in front of the falls was completely covered in spray as if it was raining. The spray did not carry over to the parking area side of the road though, leaving a decent composition with a small grouping of trees splitting the Bald River in two before it joins back together under the bridge and dumps into the Tellico. 
  At 10mm focal length, the two form leading lines up to the falls from the bottom corners. Wouldn't have been able to capture it that way with my old 19mm lens.
  Normally, the water coming over the falls is just white and beautiful. Today it was brown with mud but pouring heavy over it. You can see the heavy spray coming off the falls to right as well.

Sunday, May 19, 2013


ISO 100, f/16, 0.6seconds, 10mm
  Normally, when I'm out photographing waterfalls, the shining sun is detrimental to getting a good image of the water. This morning, however, I stumbled upon a scene where the sun made everything magical.
  The biggest part of my morning in Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was spent trying to keep water from getting on my gear from falling rain and drips off of overhanging branches. I thought I was gonna get to photograph falls all day long from the cloudy skies.
  At about 10:00am though, the sun poked it's head out of the clouds and seemed to ruin my waterfall expectations. I gave up and got in the car and started my way out of Tremont. On my drive out I noticed a huge grouping of butterflies on the ground next to the road and I pulled over to try and capture a photograph.
  When I parked, I happen to notice some fantastic rays of light shining down through the canopy of trees on the Middle Prong of the Little River. With all of the rain that fell, when the sun started shining, it burned off the wet rocks, grass, and trees that were wet from rain. This burning off created a mist and when the sunlight strikes the mist, magic happens.
  I immediately forgot about the butterflies and scurried to find a composition to capture the sun's rays.
  The scene got better as I got closer to the water. Soon working where the rays formed a fan-like formation in the center of the river with the green, moss-covered rocks and trees with golden sunlight and shadows contrasting on them making a wonderful foreground around them.
  I did go back and shoot the butterflies, but they failed in comparison to seeing this light.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


ISO 100, f/16, 3.2 seconds, 10mm
  As usual, my plans for the evening changed dramatically. My intent was to drive into the Smokies after work and shoot some pictures. Everything went well til I stopped at Maryville's Wal-Mart to grab some new pants for the my son's graduation tomorrow night. I also grabbed some new hiking boots due to the fact that I forgot to put mine int the car this morning. They were starting to wear a bit anyway so I welcomed the opportunity to buy a new pair.
  When checking out of Wal-Mart, however, the lines were extremely long and it seemed like forever to get out. This set my mood back a bit.
  I then noticed a large grey cloud pushing it's way toward us and it looked like I would get wet. This was also a drawback considering I still had at least a half hour of driving in front of me depending on where in the mountains I wanted to go.
  I ended up losing my interest in going to the mountains. This was sad and very unusual. So I drove back towards home. I stopped at my new second home, River Rock Bar & Grill, to eat some dinner. As I was eating I noticed that grey cloud completely miss and then dissolve away from the area. So I missed out on some great skies over the mountains for some shots.
  The whole time I was at River Rock I was noticing how nice the light was and kicked myself several times for not tripping the shutter at something.
  At about 7:30 I started my way home. The skies were still gorgeous so I drove back roads hoping to catch some of this light on a couple of wheat carpeted fields I've noticed the past few days.
  Sure enough I found this wheat filed next to this barn that the roof had slightly fallen in. With the neat wheat as a foreground and the awesome sky as a background, I used the barn to connect them both and it all tied together.
  So I didn't waste my beautiful sunset after all.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.6 seconds, -1EV, 10mm
  This morning was a morning for a couple of firsts.
  To start it off it was the first time I have ever driven into the North Carolina side of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park past the Clingman's Dome split off on Hwy 441. Back in March, when I was going to start my trip to my buddy John Deas' house in South Carolina and then on to the Outer Banks, I was trying to figure out someplace to stop along the way to John's and shoot pics. John suggested that I go by Mingus Mill. Mingus Mill is right at the end of the National Park on 441 before entering Cherokee, NC. This sounded like a great idea except I found out that the highway was closed past Newfound Gap for a landslide. I instead drove through Gatlinburg, TN to the Roaring Fork and did some shooting in the rain.
  This morning I was going to get up at 3:00am and drive to Clingman's Dome and catch sunrise from there. I just couldn't force myself to get up that early though. After finally pulling myself out of bed at 4:50, I decided I would drive to Mingus Mill since the road was back open to through traffic.
  Turns out the North Carolina side of Highway 441 is absolutely gorgeous! Caught some great light at Oconaluftee Overlook, took some shots of some roadside waterfalls, and then arrived at Mingus Mill around 7:00am and after doing some photog'ing there, wish I had gotten out of bed earlier and gotten there in better light. What a great place.
  On my way back to good ole Tennessee I stopped at several small streams. At one, when I was leaving, I noticed my second first of the day. There were several Elk grazing in a field just off the road. It was the first time I had seen any of the Smoky's Elk and was very surprised by them. If the setting had been better, I would have taken some shots of them, but the field was boring so I just marveled at their size and beauty and went on my way.
  Had a great morning on the other side of the mountains and due to it being a lot closer than I thought will be back in the future to do some more exploring. Until then, I hope you enjoy my shot of Mingus Mill from this morning.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


ISO 400, f/16, 1 second, 10mm
  I always seem to find myself drifting back to the same places I have shot before. Take tonight for example. I finished umpiring my softball game in Tellico Plains early so I thought, I'm in Tellico already, let's go shoot some pics on the Tellico River. So I did.
  After stopping at a couple of lesser known waterfalls just past Baby Falls, I made my way to North River Rd. Once I am on N River Rd I always find myself at The Boils.
  Now I have photographed the Boils dozens of times, but tonight I had my new 10-24mm Tamron lens that I picked up from my buddy Curt Fleenor. I am so in love with this lens. The extreme wide angle creates so many new compositions. Not just that I can fit more in the frame, but anything up close in the foreground is slightly magnified and is really accented. This held true for the fresh-water grass at the bottom of the image in this post.
  The colors are rich and amazing with this lens as well. Can't wait to visit some more familiar spots with this lens.

Sunday, May 5, 2013


ISO 200, f/11, 1/2 second, 10mm
  One thing about taking photographs on the Roaring Fork Motor & Nature Trail in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, you can never run out of different things to take pictures of. There is an endless amount of cascading waterfalls and green, moss-covered rocks. Then if you get tired of those, which I never do, there are old home places, wildflowers, and lush green forests.
  And then, you can go to a place you've photographed before and try and find a new angle to shoot it from. The photo in this post is an example of that. In March, on my way to the Outer Banks to shoot pics with my brother Jim, Curt Fleenor, & John Deas, I stopped along the Motor Trail in the rain and snapped a shot of this waterfall from downstream. Yesterday, on a photo jaunt with Alex Banakas, I climbed up around and on top of the falls and was pleasantly surprised at the view and how great the water looked from beside it.
  Even with a 10mm wide angle lens I had to piece together a 3 shot panorama to fit the entire scene in.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013


ISO 400, f/20, 1 second, -0.7EV, 10mm
  My friend Alex Banakas has said a couple of times, and I paraphrase, "eventually, when photographing waterfalls, there comes a point when you just have to get in the water. Jerry's point is very quick."
  Alex is absolutely right. Normally, I am very quick to get my feet in the water to get the shot I want of a waterfall. I commit myself to try and get something unique and different from the guy who stands on the dry shore and shoots from there. If the shot I want requires me to get wet, I do. When my mother visited us a couple of years ago, I remember being chest deep in the North River trying to achieve the shot I wanted. I know this sounds idiotic with  $1000 worth of camera equipment standing in that water with me. To me it's worth it though. Otherwise I will take the same shots that everyone else does. Not to mention that in the warm summer months it feels really good.
  Saturday, when I was braving the rain in the Cherokee National Forest at Lowry Falls, I didn't feel as though I stuck with my commitment to go that extra mile to get that special shot. Sure, I got my feet wet once standing on the rocks in the middle of the stream, but there were so many other opportunities to improve on my composition by getting in the water and I just didn't take that step.
  The good part is, I live close enough to these wonderful set of waterfalls to go back this evening when the rain is long gone and sunshine lighting up the forest. One positive from it raining all day Saturday & Sunday, the water level in the creek was twice as large as it was Saturday. Spots where there was about an inch of water flowing over the rocks had at least 2 inches and flowing very fast. It was really nice. With the sunshine lighting up the forest backgrounds for me, it was an ideal waterfalling session.
  And today, I was committed. Using tree branches and moss-covered rocks to anchor myself, I waded into spots that I neglected Saturday and was rewarded for the effort.
  This shot was the last I took at the falls this evening and was by far the most fun to get. I used a fallen tree to anchor myself and wade out into a strong current to get in front of this little step in front of me. To be honest, it was 80 degrees today and after climbing up these rocky trails, the water felt fantastic as it splashed my ankles.
  The overhanging, curvy tree in the background kept me from trying to get a better angle Saturday thinking it would block the waterfall in the background. It actually did just the opposite and formed around the falls very nicely.

Sunday, April 28, 2013


ISO 400, f/20, 1/2 second, -0.3EV, 10mm
  I have left no doubt over the past few years that my favorite professional photographers and the source of inspiration for my photography are Ian Plant and Richard Bernabe. Their styles are very similar and incredible and both are great at sharing their vision and techniques.
  Richard Bernabe has claimed that he has a long-time love affair with the Great Smoky Mountains and conducts workshops there in both the spring and fall. One of his incredible images from the Smokies is Tremont Fall. I have passed by the spot where he took this shot 5 or 6 times over the past few years and even though I tried to capture a winter shot from that spot this winter, have never came up with anything that I've liked and didn't want to do a carbon copy of Richard's shot.
  Friday morning I found myself standing at this spot again, which is almost at the very end of Tremont Road before the Middle Prong Trail Head. Even though it is springtime instead of fall, the view from the road is still breathtaking. I snapped off a couple of shots from the same angle as Tremont Fall but knew I had to try and get a unique image.
  In the bottom of Richard's shot you can see a large rock that has scattered leaves all over it. I elected to climb down and stand on that rock and get a low, in your face angle at the gorgeous cascade right in front of it.
  The cascade sitting large in the foreground with the sunlit, spring green trees in the background worked out perfect. I now had my unique view of a great iconic shot by Richard and was extremely happy with it.
  Below is my springtime shot from Richard's vantage point.
ISO 200, f/16, 1/13, 14mm

Saturday, April 27, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.8 seconds, 10mm
  I had the day off on Friday and after dropping my daughter off at school headed directly to Tremont in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I stopped a couple of times along the road and took some shots and then when I reached the end of the road, took off down the Middle Prong Trail.
  The Middle Prong Trail is a converted railroad line from the last logging camp in the Smokies. The trail starts where the Middle Prong of the Little River begins and follows the Lynn Camp Prong with waterfall after waterfall along the way. It is one of the easiest trails in park and extremely beautiful.
  Unfortunately, by the time I arrived at the trail, the sun was already up and shining down creating hot spots on all of the waterfalls. I was lucky enough, however, to climb down to this small shelf waterfall just below Lynn Camp Falls just before the sun created too much havoc with the water. The sun did help the green of spring shine in the background and provide a nice sunburst for the scene.

Thursday, April 25, 2013


ISO 200, f/5, 1/200, 105mm
  One of the main staples of Spring in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are the Dogwoods blooming. Thousands of people flock to the Smokies in the spring just to capture these beautiful flowering trees.
  With the cool weather that we have been having in the past few months, the Dogwoods seemed to be a week late or so blooming but have now exploded all over and especially in Cades Cove, the primary location to view and photograph them.
  While I was taking this shot, another former Michigander and I were standing along the loop road in Cades Cove just marveling at the color of both the sun striking the flowers and the green and blue background from the trees and mountains in the distance.
 If you ever get the opportunity, I highly suggest getting to Cades Cove in the spring to witness the blooms of the Dogwoods and other flowers and trees. It is quite an incredible time in the Smokies.

Monday, April 22, 2013


ISO 400, F/10, 180 SECONDS, 10mm
  Well, it's been a while since I've posted on blog site. The reason has been because an anonymous person has been using it to post comments trying to draw attention to his/her site. They didn't have anything to do with the pictures I was posting or anything that I was writing about on the blog.
  Hopefully, to put a stop to this I have deleted all of his comments and then made any further comments moderated by me in an email notification to approve or disapprove. I hate the inconvenience of this for my friends that actually come on the site and comment on the blog itself, but it is the only way short of deleting this one and creating a new one to try and stop all the nonsense.
  My picture that I have posted on the blog is of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse in the Outer Banks, NC. We (Curt Fleenor, John Deas, my brother Jim, and me) were there trying to capture star trails around the lighthouse. The full moon was really adding a new curve to the process by coming up over the Atlantic Ocean to the east. I wanted to see what kind of image could be created by going to the opposite side (west) of the lighthouse and eclipsing the moon behind it. It ended up being a very cool and unique shot. Especially with the clouds flying by and being lit up by the moon behind the lighthouse. It was so bright that the lighthouse was even somewhat lit up in it's own shadow.
  Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment if you like.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013


ISO 200, f/20, 1/5 second, -1EV, 19mm
This corner in the Middle Prong of the Little River was a great place for shooting a few different types of things on Sunday morning. This tree that overhangs the river with a weeping willow type branch was too good to pass up. The sun shining in from the left to create some contrast was great as well. A little Dreamland effect from OnOne's Perfect Effects 3 Free and viola

Sunday, March 10, 2013


ISO 400, f/11, 1/5 second, 19mm
  You know sometimes you just have to break the rules.
  Most of the time I try to keep the horizon of an image level in the frame. Today I got a bit "crazy" and while shooting this awesome tree in Tremont of the Great Smoky Mountains this morning I couldn't help myself. Wanting to accent the tree I cranked over the tripod head so it would reach from the bottom left to the top right and stretch the entire length of the frame. The Middle Prong of the Little River running under the tree is slanted quite a bit, but I really like the way this works with the tree.
  Something that I've learned is that no matter what anyone else thinks of your image, as long as you are happy with the outcome, that is most important thing.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013


ISO 200, f/20, 1/5 second, 19mm
You filled me with confidence, but you blinded my eyes
You tricked me with visions of paradise
Now I realize, I'm Snowblind

 No tricks of visions of paradise in Tremont in the #greatsmokymountainsnationalpark on Sunday. Just pure winter wonder and beauty. Fresh snow and a roaring Middle Prong of the Little River create a different type of beauty that doesn't occur at any other time of the year that I have seen here.

Monday, March 4, 2013


ISO 400, f/16, 1/4 second, +1EV, 19mm
  Tremont was definitely a winter wonderland yesterday. Overhanging trees that usually show off the green moss that covers them were balancing an inch or two of snow and reaching a bit closer to touching the swelled Middle Prong of the Little River.
   Climbing around on the rocks was a bit tense. Not only did I have to contend with the wet rocks they were covered with frozen snow and were extra slick and dangerous. Couldn't get to normal vantage points as well from the extra water in the river.
   Was an incredible sight to behold where ever I got to stand and point the camera.

Sunday, March 3, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 1/4 second, 19mm
  The best laid plans are filled with good intentions.
  This morning, my plans and intentions were to go to Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to capture some of the snowfall that we had gotten over the past 2 days. As I turned right onto Little River Rd to head that way the gate just past Tremont Rd to Cades Cove was closed and could not go that way. This was the first time I have ever seen this road shut down.
  With access to the cove blocked I turned down Tremont Rd with hopes that it was not closed as it had been the last time I tried to got there when it snowed. As I approached the Smoky Mountain Institute at Tremont the gate was open and I was able to continue on. WOO-HOO!
  As it turns out, being blocked from going to Cades Cove was a blessing in disguise. The further I traveled into Tremont, the deeper the snowfall was and the more beautiful the Middle Prong of the Little River became. Places I had photographed in the fall, summer, and spring were totally different now with 4-6 inches of snow on the ground and swelling streams. It was amazing!
  As the sun rose the blue skies were very prevalent as well with wonderful puffy white clouds floating all through them. What a great scene.
  Today's post is from one of the many parking areas along the road where I really loved the way the snow-covered pines, blue skies, and white clouds all merged together. I liked the way the road curved through the scene and only when I was processing the image did I noticed my own tire tracks leading in from the bottom left of the frame to mirror the roads curve. Bonus!
  Way more shots to post from a gorgeous morning in Tremont coming soon.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 2.5 seconds, +1 EV, 19mm
This morning's sunrise was beautiful. I took this at work around 7:15.

Monday, February 18, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.8 seconds, -1 EV, 19mm
   Just down from the Newfound Gap Parking area is a different pull off that has a gorgeous view straight down the opposite valley. I've learned that the sun sets right in the center of this valley and when we were on our back had to stop and catch some pics from this spot.
   Unfortunately, there weren't any clouds to enhance the sunset color but the orange and pink layers against the white covered mountainside looked beautiful just the same to me.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


ISO 6400, f/2.0, 1/2500 second, -0.3 EV, 85mm
  Something I have never done is explain my post-processing of my action shots from basketball, cheerleading, football, etc. I have actually learned quite a bit in the past year about composing, capturing, and processing sports/action shots and thought I would share what I have learned and how I have applied it.
  First and foremost, if you are interested in getting better action shots, I highly recommend following Scott Kelby. He is one of the most highly acclaimed sports photographers around and a Photoshop guru.
  Back in June I watched Scott's Tips For Shooting Sports video clip at the Google Plus 1 year anniversary conference. This absolutely changed my approach for my sports photography.  I will not dissect the entire video, but there were a couple of things that clicked the light bulb above head to the ON position.
  (1) To get Sports Illustrated / ESPN The Magazine type shots, you must be shooting at at least 1/1250 second or faster. This struck me as gold. Even though you can still get decent shots at slower speeds, they won't be as crisp and sharp as when you shoot at these speeds or faster.
  (2) Scott says that those magazines only take 2 types of pictures and print them. Action shots, but only if they have the ball in them (or puck if you are shooting hockey). Without the ball you really don't know what's going on. Holy Cow, I'd never thought of this before but it is so true. The other type of shots are of emotion. The thrill of victory or the agony of defeat.
  I have applied these two tips to everything I have shot in sports this year. I won't even post a sports shot if it doesn't have the ball in the shot and making sure I am shooting at 1/1250 or faster has made my shots so much sharper.
  Alright so when I shoot in a gym, I shoot with my Canon EOS Rebel T3i & my Canon 85mm 1.8 USM lens. I my initial settings automatically start at shooting in Aperture Priority set at f/2.0. I set my ISO at 6400. My camera has a special function that can bump this to 12,800 but I prefer it at 6400. If you are shooting with a Canon 5D Mark III, 1DX, or the Nikon equivalents this number goes up and you can shoot at smaller apertures and reduce the noise. I also set the White Balance to Auto and shoot in RAW so I can adjust it in post.
  Sometimes, as with the shot I have posted at the top of this post, I have to adjust the EV (Exposure Compensation) down so that I can get the shutter speeds I want. This can cause the shot to be slightly under exposed. Unless it is just really dark, Adobe Lightroom can pull the exposure out in post-processing though.
  I only use the center focus dot of the 9 that my camera has and set the Autofocus on AI Servo. This is for tracking moving objects and is very much a necessity. I also use the custom functions to set the focus button to the Star button on the top and back of the camera. This allows the tracking to work and the shutter button to be free to push as you focus. Makes for following and shooting the action much better.
  OK, now I will go into the post-processing of the image that I have posted above.
  What you see here is the opening Develop screen in Lightroom. You can look up at the histogram in the top right corner and see that it is pushed to the left which indicates that it is under exposed. You can also see all of the menus underneath the histogram. This shot was a pretty simple edit so we won't go into too many of these.
  The first thing I do is crop the image. The red circles in the pic above show both the crop command and the toggle that adjusts what crop factor you want to use. I have been cropping everything at an 11" x 14" ratio but that is just a personal preference.  When I shoot, I tend to take everything at a portrait orientation because people are taller than they are wide and I can fit more of the subject in the frame. This usually forces me to crop the image later. Notice the ball is in the shot and I kept a portion of the defender in the shot as well. This shows that he is about to make his move with the ball.
  After cropping, I select the BASIC editing bar and do just that, basic editing. The first thing is to adjust the White Balance. Most gym lights cast a yellow or orange hue so I have to lower the temp (WB) to try and get a normal lighting cast.
  I then bump up the exposure and you can see the histogram slide to the right. Make sure not to over expose and blow out the whites of the uniform. Sometimes I will catch the gym lights in the shot and the histogram won't completely come off of the right edge but just make sure the subject is not blown out. If there is a bit more, adjust the Highlights and White levels to knock down the exposure as well.
  Slight adjustments to Contrast and Clarity for sharpening and crispness are all that I had to adjust for this shot and that is all that I used the BASIC BAR for.
  If you zoom up on the face (which is where I always zoom to at this point) you can see the digital noise in the shot that is the product of shooting at high ISO settings. Under the DETAIL Bar you can do additional Sharpening (just slightly) but most importantly you can adjust the Luminance Noise settings. With the Noise settings I will not run the slider above halfway. If you do you run the risk of blurring the sharp edges of your shot and getting an almost fake look to the player. It is a fine balance between the noise and sharpness of your shot so it is a personal preference but pay strict attention to it.
  The above pic shows the shot after noise adjustment.

   That was pretty much it for this image. Depending on the shot there can be adjustments to color vibrance and saturation if you want it is all a personal preference.  
  There are a lot of photographers who are much more experienced post-processors than I am that can probably give you more and better tips. I am definitely no pro at this and will continue to try and improve my whole sports photography work flow from camera to print. My advice to anyone is to shoot, shoot, shoot and then experiment with post-processing as much as possible. The UNDO button is a wonderful thing.
  Hope this helps someone with some ideas and problems.

Sunday, February 10, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 1/3 second, -1 EV, 19mm
  Spent this morning in the Cherokee National Forest with Alex Banakas photographing the sunrise at Turkey Creek Overlook on the Cherohala Skyway and then shooting waterfalls along River Rd.
  Alex had some prior family commitments that had him leave about 10:30. When he dropped me off I drove back towards the start of River Rd and stopped at a wonderful spot that I have shot at many times.
Normally, I wouldn't have dreamed of taking this shot with the sun striking the water but the photography rebel in me was determined to take a shot here. I stacked a polarizer, 3 Stop ND, & a Graduated 3 stop ND filter on the lens and bracketed a set of shots.
  I was sitting on a large rock to take the picture and right where the water broke off of the rock the water was a teal color that just beautiful.

Saturday, February 9, 2013


ISO 100, f/16, 1/12 second, -1 EV, 19mm
Who can resist taking a shot of an old red barn?
On my way to Athens, TN for a TSSAA softball meeting this morning I ran across this fantastic old red barn on Highway 11 just as you get into Athens. The sun was just peaking over the tree line in the background so I took advantage of it and used the flare from it to frame the left side of the image.
Had to take a couple of shots to eliminate the glaring spots of sun flare all over the image.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 1/4 second, -1 EV, 19mm
  Normally, the rocks you see posing perfectly still for me to take their picture are covered by the lake water. Between October and April, however, the TVA lowers the water levels from the dams to conserve energy. Don't know how or why, but they've been doing so for the entire time this lake has been in existence.
  After work today, I saw a stellar sunset forming with the gathering of streaking white clouds to the southwest. With no wind blowing the chances for reflections of these clouds on the lake was going to be awesome.
  I made my way into downtown Vonore to the boat ramp by the baseball fields with the intentions of getting the dock at the ramp as a foreground element against the reflections.
  When I got down by the water though I looked to the left and noticed the rocky shoreline left baron by the low lake levels. My plans changed completely. As a matter of fact, I never took a single shot with the dock in the frame.
  The sun was still shining bright when I started and made for some neat bright gold light against the rocks with bright blue sky contrasting them. Soon though, as the sun went down, the streaking clouds became more prominent on the horizon and the reflections more exaggerated by the dark water. It was just incredible.
  The shot in today's post was by far my favorite of the evening. I positioned myself on top of one of the other rocks to get a vantage point to have the rocks lead the eye to the explosion of the clouds on the horizon reflecting  around them.
  Didn't really have to do much processing on this image. Darkened the shadows a bit to help make silhouettes of the shore in the background. The rest was just some sharpening and vibrance adjustments to help it pop.

Sunday, February 3, 2013


ISO 400, f/20, 1/60 second, 25mm
  The sun was shining when I arrived at Cades Cove yesterday. Was really hoping for a heavy frost again and once again was disappointed there was none. There was some snow still lingering in the mountains though. With the sun shining bright against the snowy Smokies it made for a great panoramic scene in the very first field I came to

Saturday, February 2, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.3 seconds, 19mm
   This Oak just off of Hyatt Lane in Cades Cove shows off it's personality after sheding it's leaves. I elected to walk around and photograph it from a different angle than usual. This is actually facing back towards Hyatt Lane. The winter clouds were forming and looking very ominous in this direction.
   Great morning in Tremont and Cades Cove this morning.

Thursday, January 31, 2013


ISO 100, f/11, 1/30, 19mm

A week ago last Saturday my flight to Orlando got canceled at 9:10am and they didn't get me rescheduled until 5:45pm that same day. I had to kill time so I drove back home. On the way home the frost that had settled from the night before was starting to melt and turn to fog with the morning sun.
As I passed by this truck between Greenback and Vonore, TN I noticed how the sun was shining through the fog behind it and had to stop and shoot it. I tried to get low and capture the frosty grass in front of the truck as well.
Converting to black and white just seemed the way to process it.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


ISO 400, f/16, 90 seconds, 21mm
  Back in September, Tim Owens and I got up extremely early to go to Newfound Gap to shoot the sunrise. Just before we got to the Newfound Gap pull off we found this spot where the full moon was shining bright opposite the sunrise.
   We had to stop and take a few shots. Before we knew it, we noticed the fast moving clouds overhead were creating some neat effects with long exposures against the shining moon.
I was intending on trying to get a "moon" burst through the trees when we noticed the halo the clouds and moon combination was creating around the pine trees. It was awesome!

Sunday, January 27, 2013


ISO 800, f/11, 0.6 seconds, 28mm
Today I was sitting around and felt like I was doing myself a dis-service by not getting out and shooting any pics. Missed a fantastic frosty sunrise this morning due to not feeling quite well and I regretted it very much.
So around 2:30 this afternoon I decided I wasn't going to stay in the house anymore. I ended up not getting to River Rd til about 4:30 so I only had around a
n hour to find a spot or two and take some shots.
Once again I managed to find some spots I had not photographed before. It took some clever maneuvering to get to the river bank but was well worth the effort.
This neatly patterned rock was so cool to catch the raging river running by it.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 120 seconds, 19mm

From the World Showcase at Epcot. I know this is an iconic shot by Trey Ratcliff but Couldn't resist taking it when I saw it. This is looking across the lake from the World Showcase back at Spacestation Earth (the big golf ball) just after sundown.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


ISO 100, f/16, 1/15 second, 24mm
  I wonder what Dory is telling Crush right here? Possibly, what a great sunrise we were treated to this morning.
  Got to drive over to Disney's Art of Animation Resort early this morning and photograph some of the fantastic statues that they have planted all over the resort. It was quite fun. I have to thank Ali Elhajj, Scott Thomas, and Gene Bowker from over on Google + for helping me figure out where to go to find some neat things to shoot at Disney. Would have never went, or even known of this resort if they hadn't clued me in.
  For those of you who have not been to DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida I highly recommend this resort if you have young kids. All of Disney's resorts have a basic theme to them. This one is based on the successful animated movies that Disney has made. It is split up into 4 separate areas: The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Cars, & The Little Mermaid.  Each area has play areas for the kids, pools, and photo spots throughout the quads between buildings that have these enormous statues of the movie characters.
  I have to hand it Disney. I've been here for conferences and on vacation 6 different times and even though everything is overdone and it is pretty expensive at the parks they do a great job of making sure that a family can have a great time even if they never step foot into one of the theme parks.
  These themed resort hotels are a prime example. The first time I took my family with me on one of these conference trips, we were here an entire week and only went to the Animal Kingdom park while we were here. While I was at my conference during the day, my family spent a lot of time at the pool, which had water slides and play areas to keep them occupied.
  When my day was over, we'd go over to Downtown Disney or Boardwalk and eat,  shop and just sight see. 
  I guess I could never get tired of this place. It brings out the child in all of us. I just wish I could have brought my daughter, Jocy, with me on this trip. The last family visit here was when she was not even 2 years old yet and haven't been able to get her back. She would love it here and really enjoy the theme parks as well as the themed hotels.

Friday, January 18, 2013


ISO 200, f/32, 3.2 seconds, 70mm,
  Took the afternoon off to try and capture the unbelievable amount of water that is flowing from the 5 days of rain and snow we have had in East Tennessee this week. I went to Bald River Falls and tried to photograph it but the spray from the falls kept me from getting a clean shot without water drops on the lens.
  So after shooting along the river on River Rd I was on my way home when I noticed some beautiful reflections on the water on Highway 165 going back to Tellico Plains.  I pulled off and mounted the 70-300 lens on the camera to get some close up shots of the reflections on the water.
  Then I tried something different. I focused on one of the trees that lined the bank of the river and exposed for the tree with the brightly colored water in the background. Holy Cow! I loved the results.
  Turning the polarizing filter to get a bright reflection really enhanced the color as well as the white water created by the turbulent water. Love these type of abstract type images.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 4 minutes, 19mm
  We have had 3 straight days of rain in East Tennessee this week. It has been absolutely dreary and ugly. The rivers and streams have been swollen and flooding everywhere.
  When I got to work this morning the rain had somewhat subsided for a while and I could see some low, fast-moving clouds moving across the lake. This looked so cool to me so I grabbed my gear and ran out to the dock to try and catch a long exposure.
  When I got to the dock, I noticed that the rain had lifted the water levels to the point that the water was up even with the dock. Even in the spring time, when the lake is at it's highest, the dock sits 5-6 feet above the water. I have never seen anything like it in the 13 years I have been working here.
  I set the camera up and decided I would start out with a 4 minute exposure to gauge the light. About 2 minutes into the exposure rain started falling in very small drops. I was worried that it might ruin my camera so this 4 minute shot would be the one and only one I would take.
  When the shutter finally tripped at 4 minutes and I looked at the LCD, I was both happy and disappointed. It was still slightly underexposed and would have loved to take another shot at 6 minutes to get a bit more light.
  I was happy, however, that the two outside lights that were mounted on the building behind me had shined an amber light on the scene that I really liked. Photographers that shoot a lot at night call this light pollution but it is just a term that means it isn't natural light.
  Lightroom helped me bump the exposure up and and fine tune things and I cropped out a bit at the bottom of the image that was distracting.

Monday, January 14, 2013


ISO 400, f/20, 1/2 second, -1 EV, 19mm
"To me, there are three things we all should do every day. We should do this every day of our lives. Number one is laugh. You should laugh every day. Number two is think. You should spend some time in thought. And number three is, you should have your emotions moved to tears, could be happiness or joy. But think about it. If you laugh, you think, and you cry, that's a full day. That's a heck of a day. You do that seven days a week, you're going to have something special." - Jim Valvano

  I have always come to tears when I hear this speech by Jim Valvano. If you don't know Jim Valvano, he was a NCAA Champion basketball coach at North Carolina State University and then a color commentator for ESPN before losing his life to cancer. He was always laughing and joking and enjoying life and didn't let something like cancer change that about him. He gave this speech shortly before he died.
  The last few months have propelled me into trying to approach life more this way. Don't get me wrong, I can't come close to understanding what Jimmy V went through with cancer but his words and attitude can carry over to any troubles or hurdles you have to go through.  I have learned to appreciate everything that is important to me a bit more.
  I have learned that I have a tremendous family and some fantastic friends.
  I have also learned to appreciate my surroundings a bit more. The beauty of the fall in the Smoky Mountains. The calming roar of a river or a waterfall. The glory of a sunrise or sunset. I appreciate it all a little more now.
  The title of today's post is a perfect example. I WAS HERE!
  I went on a small hike yesterday. My first hike of the new year. It wasn't an extremely strenuous one but it was invigorating.
  I drove to Bald River Falls and hiked the Bald River Gorge trail above the falls and down behind it. I have been there several times but yesterday was like I had never been there before. The water was raging. It was overcast, and even sprinkled some rain on me which felt good on a warm 65 degree January day, perfect for photographing moving water.
  I stopped about a 1/2 mile into the gorge at The Suislides. A multi-tiered waterfall that is just awesome. I have been to photograph this waterfall 2 or 3 times and always tried to get my usual composition slightly downstream with a smaller cascade up close and large in the frame with the bigger falls in the background. I have never been very happy with the results though.
  Yesterday, while I was walking around, I noticed this neatly shaped rock in font of and to the left of the main waterfall and really liked the way it almost took the same shape as the waterfall behind it. When I got close to it, I found that someone had carved into the rock "I Was Here". Not only did this make the foreground rock a little more interesting, it kind of put an exclamation point on my new attitude towards nature and life in general. And I got a shot from the Suislides that I really liked.
    I WAS HERE! I experienced this and it was awesome!

Sunday, January 13, 2013


ISO 400, f/20, 1.3 seconds, 19mm
  Spent a great morning in the Cherokee National Forest today. I stopped along River Rd a few times and shot some cascades that I haven't shot before and then hiked into the Bald River Gorge for some waterfall shots along the Bald River.
  The very first stop on my trek involved scaling down a rocky hill side to the banks of the Tellico River. There was a lot of water in the river and the flow was awesome. This new spot featured a small shelf cascade that zig-zagged across the river. I had never been here before and wondered to myself why I hadn't. Might have been because I didn't notice this spot due to smaller water levels. The important thing is that I stopped there today.
  When I processed this, I ran a set of brackets through Photomatix Essentials and noticed the dreaminess that the image took on with the HDR process. The only thing I did not want is to make it look overly fake. Lightroom accomplished this very well.
  More to come from my exploration this morning.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


ISO 320, f/20, 1/3 second, -1.3 EV, 24mm
  One thing that I love about living in East Tennessee is that no matter what time of year it is, I can always find a gorgeous landscape to point the camera at. Even in the heart of winter when the leaves have fallen the mountains, rivers, lakes, foothills provide numerous opportunities for photography all year round.
  Back in December, while playing with a Canon 5D Mark III, the sunset along the Tellico River in the Cherokee National Forest was amazing. I found myself standing on a bridge that crosses the river and it allowed me to pull a reflection off a still moving part of the river. The setting sun struck some nice orange/pink light on the clouds that were moving very fast overhead.
  This is actually an in-camera HDR from the 5D Mk III on the Natural setting. Love the details and color the HDR pulled from the scene.
  So if you live in East Tennessee, don't stay in the house in the winter time just because there aren't any leaves on the trees. The leafless trees have a new personality when they don't have leaves and the landscape here allows for some great photography all year long.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 0.8 seconds, 19mm
  It's not often that there are boats moored to the dock at work when I get there in the morning. This morning there was and it made for a nice foreground against a gorgeous sunrise, the first of 2013 that I've gotten to shoot.
  When I arrived at work I had thoughts of taking shots of the sunrise but I had also thought the peak color had gone by because it usually does after I've taken my daughter to school and made the way to work.
  About 10 minutes after going in the building, however, there was a tremendous pink light that bathed the entire sky. I knew I had to backtrack and take some shots. It was 20 minutes to 8:00 and I had enough time before work to get a few frames in.
  Well I did catch some of that pink light, but not the intense light that I saw through the window at work. It was still a beautiful sunrise and this test boat tied to the floating dock at work provided me a wonderful break in the reflection. Beings that it was the heart of winter the water levels are down and I was able to walk out about 20 feet on to dry land that in the spring and summer will be under water. It helped get a unique angle at the dock that I haven't shot before.

Monday, January 7, 2013


ISO 100, f/20, 1/3, 19mm
  Something I learned while photographing in Cades Cove yesterday was that without their leaves, the trees there have kind of a personality.
  Alex Banakas and I had the intentions of catching some early morning fog on the trees and bushes there but Mother Nature did not cooperate. Instead of frost, we were treated to cloudy, gloomy skies and damp conditions. Not really prime photography weather. We made the best of what we were dealt though.
  I made this an opportunity to shoot more in black and white than color with the blown out sky and colorless landscape.
  Along Sparks Lane we really noticed this pair of trees and instead of photographing them from the usual angle on the road like I did in the fall with Sparks Lane Fog, we walked into the adjacent field. I really loved the angle from here. Standing slightly downhill from the trees, I was able to isolate the pair of trees above the foggy mountains in the background.
  In post-processing, I was able to pull the gray details out of the cloudy skies as well. Even got some unexpected color out of the green grass. This allowed me to keep it in color instead of the brooding black and white I expected.
  One thing that was really cool about being in Cades Cove for the first time in winter conditions was being able to see into fields and forests that are normally blocked by leaves and foliage. It will make coming back in the spring very exciting to explore from these angles with the leaves back on the trees.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


ISO 400, f/5, 1/40 second, 19mm
  One of the main things that I was intent on photographing yesterday when in Tremont of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park was the heavy frost that has been settling on everything the last few days.
  After I shot the images for making yesterday's post I noticed this large log that was extending out over the river and that it was coated with that frost. I also noticed this really neat patterns on both the tree and the bark and especially at how the bark was scattered along the tree.
  The tree was oddly colored as well with a more tan and dark brown other than the usual gray I was noticing on everything else. So I maneuvered the tripod and camera right down close to the tree and opened up the aperture to get a shallow depth of field. This made for a sharp shot that captures the detail of the frost as well as the bark and trunk.