And the Winner Is....

During my recently concluded Charleston workshop I offered a challenge to my clients. There was a fountain in the downtown area that looked extremely hard to shoot-many walked right past it. The shot was difficult at best and I knew that if I made it a challenge most of the participants would put forth a greater effort. As the complaints kept coming in- that the scene was hard and it wasn’t interesting…I started telling them that the prize would be huge, never letting them know just how huge it was, until everyone was finished shooting the fountain. I then announced that I was offering a free spot on my upcoming Olympic Peninsula workshop (TBA -soon) for the winning image.

To be honest, on my workshops when I offer prizes for shooting challenges, they are never this big, but I wanted them to dig deep and really try; I also wanted to tell them all about my upcoming workshop since I was busting at the seams. I can’t wait to get out there next month and scout. I am giving a presentation to the Olympic Peaks Camera Club, Sequim, WA . I know a few of the members; everyone is welcoming me to the area with open arms and they will be assisting me in my scout-since some of the members know the area like the back of their hand.

Back to the contest, Scott Young (the winner) really tried both in the capture and in post processing, I was rewarding the effort more than the image but they did not know this and are probably just now finding that out. My thoughts are this: If you are going to take a photo-it should always be your very best, or there is no reason to even take it. Every image should be your best foot forward—-always!!!

Some of the workshop participants were not inspired by the subject and did not enter and that is ok. You need to be inspired. My challenge inspired some of the clients to look harder, work longer, dig deeper—and that is what it was all about.

Scott shares his post processing steps for anyone that is interested. The before and after image are included below. He did a great job! Click on each image to see the full version.


1. Initially, I had no idea how to approach the assignment, which seemed impossible to me. My first inclination was to try to do a zoom blur with the fountain at center but those looked terrible. I was lucky to find an angle where I could use the iron "fence" and vines to frame the fountain and leave most of it showing through. It bugged me that I could only get substantial leaves on one side but, because of the angle, there was no way to get around that without a lot of messy cloning. 

2. I did normal processing on the single raw frame in PS Camera Raw. 

(The next steps I have mostly learned from Denise's e-books and lectures and some trial and error)

3. Next I applied Topaz Simplify (BuzzSim preset) at 40% opacity to "soften" the feel of the fountain, vines, and iron fence.

4. Then I applied Topaz Impression (Davinci Sketch I) to the image to isolate the fountain and vines from the distracting elements around them.  

  • I have found that using the "Masking" controls within the preset,  I can tweak the coverage of the vignetting effect of Davinci so I used that to include more of the vines at top and bottom. 

  • Using the preset "Color" controls I changed the "Overall Saturation" slider from -1.0 to +.15 to bring back the colors in the central area of the image (fountain and vines)

  • Once back in PS, I used a layer mask to further tweak the coverage of the Davinci effect and to emphasize the fountain/vines in the center. I applied the Davinci effect at 100% opacity except for the masked areas. 

5.  In the original image the rising sun caused the fountain to have a "peach" color cast, which I liked, but I thought it was better to have the color of the fountain match the color of the vines so I used the Image-Autocolor control to return the fountain to the natural gray tones. I hated to give up that peach color, though!

6. The last thing I did was to add a "Levels" adjustment layer, brightened the image, and then used an inverted layer mask to only increase the highlights of the white water cascading and pooling in the fountain base. 

In reading back over this it sounds like a lot but I use these particular filters, pre-sets, and masks frequently so I can do them pretty quickly.  

To see more of Scott Young’s images from Charleston, check out his gallery HERE.

Wildlife Photographic Magazine -article and cover shot-congrats Jim Fennessy

My longtime friend and new client Jim Fennessy won an honorable mention award from the National Wildlife Federation with the bear image (on the right below). He also has a different bear image (on the left below) featured as the cover photo for Wildlife Photographic, his article about his bear experience has also been published in that article. Huge congrats and so proud of my friend!!! Below in Jim’s words are how to access a free copy of his article ( I copied it from his Facebook page). To see more of his work, check out his new website.

Several of my other clients have won awards in this competition and other competitions, if you would like me to share your image and story and you were on one of my workshops when you captured the shot-I would be very pleased to share with my readers.

And now from Jim…

My Brown Bear image is the cover of this month's Wildlife Photographic Magazine ("WP"). My article on Coastal Brown Bear photography is also included, starting on page 14. This bear workshop was my introduction to real wildlife photography, and the workshop was as good as it gets. There is a link at the end of the article to this bear workshop, and other great workshops, from my workshop leaderDenise Ippolito
WP is published for viewing on an IPAD or Android tablet. Unfortunately, it only works on tablets, and cannot be downloaded to a PC. It will work on a mobile phone, but the articles read much better on a tablet. WP was generous enough to allow me to share my publication, and 3 months free membership to WP, with my friends. The publication is great, and I highly recommend it. To view my article and get this 3 month free subscription to WP for your IPAD or tablet, just follow these directions:
Download Wildlife Photographic from the Apple App Store or on Google Play on your mobile device or tablet.

Tap 'Subscribe' on our app home page

Tap 'Current Subscribers' from the drop down menu

Enter code: wp3mth3004

Norway Trip Report

I am finishing up with my group in Norway. Our trip was based around aurora and snow covered mountains. We had only 2 shooting sessions with the aurora as weather would have it. Even though the trip was not filled with aurora skies, we did have some gorgeous landscapes and photo opportunities. We may have one more chance tonight…fingers crossed!

Our accomodations were small red cabins that had a central living room/kitchen combo with fireplace. Each bedroom had an ensuite bath. We had two drivers/guides with us at all times, and we travelled in two large vans. The roads here were icy and snowy and you had better be a good driver to attempt driving here as the roads are also very curvy and narrow.

We didn’t have a lot of dinner options as many of the restaurants close early due to lack of business. However, our lunches/brunches rocked; each one being unique and flavorful. We also did our share of shopping as most of the stores had beautiful woolen goods.

The temperatures here in Norway were always cold but most times they were bearable; with the exception of a few outings where we had bone chilling cold.

On our first morning we went to Hamnoy, Lofoten Islands to photograph in the pre-dawn so that we could capture the play on the blue tones and warm lights emitted from the small red houses in the iconic fishing village. We revisited it in hopes of a great sunrise.

We also photographed ice trimmed fjords and beaches as well as other small fishing villages. Our group was truly great, everyone got along beautifully and that made the trip even more fun. Below is a sampling of what we photographed during the tour.; for most of them I showed two versions from each location. I have many more images to sort through—just no time.

Japan Trip Report

My Japan workshop has just finished up and I am back in Jersey, but only for a few days as I fly to Norway for my first Northern Lights-Norway workshop in Lofoten. Paul and I had a very nice group of talented photographers. They all seemed to get along well and I look forward to seeing them all again. Our guides were on point once again, making sure that every one of our needs were met. In addition to the outstanding photo opportunities we ate some fantastic food!

Our first stop was at the monkey park before heading to Hokkaido. In Hokkaido, we photographed Red-crowned crane, Whooper Swan and Steller’s sea eagles in Rausu. Our guides took us to photograph 2 of the most adorable Ural Owls, a single gorgeous Eso Red Fox and much more. In addition to our regular schedule we scouted a couple of new photography spots during our trip. They both worked out quite well so they will be added to our main itinerary for our 2020 Japan in Winter Photo Tour. If you’d like to join me, you can find out more about the workshop here. One of the locations was a secret beach, it was much better than the Jewelry Ice Beach that we visited last year. There were lots and lots of larger chunks of ice on the beach. Also, we shot at a new spot for fighting eagles on a frozen lake that turned out to be a lot of fun.

This year I worked on some tighter shots as I brought along my Canon 600mm II lens with my Canon 1.4 and 2x teleconverters and got in extremely close for some nice high-key images. I also concentrated on more landscapes instead of just birds in flight since I have so many already.

We didn’t have white out conditions this year but we did have a snow day at the monkey park and it snowed twice for the cranes. Our early morning Lake Kussharo visits were fun and we also had a chance to do some evening shots with the swans; the entire group loved that—including me.

It’s funny how on my very first visit to Japan I felt a bit homesick while I was there. Now, each time I leave, I can’t wait for my return visit.  Below are some of my favorite shots from the trip. You can see my entire Japan photo gallery HERE.

Greetings From Greece!

My Dalmatian Pelican Photo Workshop is coming to a close. I had the very best group of talented, hard working photographers ever and we were blessed with excellent conditions. Our guides were fantastic-as always! We had many different photographic situations, as well as lighting conditons that allowed us to create a nice variety of work. On one of our days we took a trip to Bulgaria and had a beautiful lunch at a very nice, quaint restaurant; BTW, the cappucino was delish and I had two cups!

We spent time at Lake Kerkini, photographing from both the shore and from small fishing boats. We worked on pleasing blurs, fisheye images, flight shots, portraits and so much more--it was sheer overload. On our only rainy afternoon we spent time doing image review, Photoshop, texturing, slide programs and a processing jam session.

Below are a few of my faves from the trip. I hope you enjoy viewing them as much as I enjoyed captruing them. Click on the images for more info and to see a larger version. I’ll be sharing more as time permits.