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.