Using the tools you have handy…


Using the tools you have handy

Answer: A Smart Phone or Tablet !

The “before image”

PT Reyes Wreck_bow

Not long ago I was with a client on a workshop out at one of my favorite locations, Point Reyes National Seashore. One of the first places I take folks is to this old boat, aptly named the “Point Reyes”.

I have been photographing this old boat for almost 20 years now and in the last year it has been disintegrating rapidly. I fear it won’t be long before it is no longer photogenic nor a good teaching tool. I will sincerely miss this “The Old Girl” when the time comes.

The reason I take folks to this location is to discuss various techniques such as composition and looking for textures, shapes, and tonalities. All integral parts of making an image.

As I was talking about this my client was having a somewhat difficult time “seeing” what I was talking about. Which is to say exactly why we were here!

Recently I discovered the usefulness of my iPhone as a learning tool in the field. In fact now I WIFI my client’s images to either my phone of iPad to instantly critique images in the field real time….

In an attempt to “show” what I was talking about, I made an image using my iPhone 6. I did a quick edit in the phones app and showed it to him and “Boom!” he saw what I was talking about. Literally within seconds the concept was delivered.

The rest of the day was fantastic! I watched him make incredible images and gained a faithful client whom I happily consider more a “Friend”

You can use your Smartphone or Tablet as a great in the field tool to not only help you envision a scene but capture a damn fine image too!

Here’s what he was shown…. Note all the objects of the lesson: Shapes, textures and tonality…

PT Reyes Wreck_bowBW








The Zoo – a great place to practice!

Tiger eyes

The Tiger’s Eyes

The other day I took a client to the San Francisco Zoo to practice  photographing animals. My client has an upcoming trip to Africa and will be taking a photo safari. Since it is a once in a life time event for him he was looking for tips on how to be the most effective he could be.

African Crane

African Crane Crown Plumage

I covered the various concepts and techniques with him and we had a great time. To name just a few….

  • Fill the frame
  • Focus on the eyes
  • Concentrate on particular attributes of the animal
  • Use a fast shutter speed (high ISO if needed to increase shutter speed)
African Crane

African Crane Plumage

In addition to his practicing, I was able to squeak out a few of my own images that you see here. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do every time I’m at the zoo.

If you’d like to join me for a few hours and pick up some tips visit my website under the “Workshops” tab. The tabs are on the right of this screen.

Join me! I go to the San Francisco Zoo most Wednesdays where I hold a Free Camera Walk!!!!!



Photography Workshop – California’s North Coast & Giant Redwoods Forest

June 3rd – 6th 2014

2 Spaces Left!
Ladybird Johnson Memorial Grove

Ladybird Johnson Memorial Grove

This is always a fun and popular photography workshop. From the little hamlet of Trinidad to the south Oregon coast, we’ll photograph the fog drifting through the lush redwood forests and beautiful sunsets along the coast. Typically the Rhododendrons are blooming at this time of year! Wildlife abounds in the form of Elk and birds. The local harbors and beaches are full of photographic opportunities as well.

Catering to small groups of up to six participants, I will challenge you to see things in a different way and help you capture stunning images.

Enhance your skills in your artful photographic evolution!


Lodging:  Lodging is not included in this workshop. I will be happy to recommend locations upon request. There are many options in the are available including camping.

Transportation: Workshop participants are responsible for their transportation during this workshop. During the workshop we will carpool as much as possible.

Fern Canyon Waterfall

Fern Canyon Waterfall

Meals: Each participant will be responsible for their own meals. We will stop so that everyone can stock up on sandwiches, drinks, snacks, etc.

Price:  $495 per person

More info…gear and other stuff: Click here
Note: Participants should be healthy and mobile enough to walk at a leisurely pace off pavement for some distance (1 to 2 miles). You should also consider the weight of your gear and how you carry it.

Trinidad Beach Sunset

Trinidad Beach Sunset

When nature gives you lemons…make lemonade!


I made this image while conducting one of my photography workshops yesterday at Point Reyes National Seashore. Although I had planned a sunset shot sometimes fog on the horizon nixes what can be a great moment. However all is not lost. Instead you can change your concept during the image taking process and envision it as a dramatic black & white. This was a 30 second exposure using a 10 stop ND filter. I used a limited application of contrast adjustment using dodge & burn techniques. A final step was to add a little vignetting. Keeping detail in the rocks with a smooth silky water was my plan.

I’ll file this in the “When nature gives you lemons, then make lemonade!” category….

Be sure to check my workshop listings for updates on this and other opportunities to learn how to make great images.  Workshop listings…


So How’d You Get That Shot?

Before The Storm

Oxbow Bend, Teton National Park Wyoming

Often I am asked at shows and gatherings how I got a particular photo. Well the answer is a mix of things. I do quite a bit of planning before going to an area to photograph. Checking with various sources on the internet, I find the sunrise and sunset times for areas, check with other photographers for their experience and information as well as checking with locals whom I have befriended while visiting those locales. I will also check for weather conditions for that time of season, anything that may give me a “leg up” on my ability to at least be in the right place at hopefully the right time. Once on location I will be looking for the right composition but most importantly the right light. Light conditions can make or break a good photograph. Preparation is the key. Conditions, equipment and safety, all play a key role. I have to admit though, with everything listed above in place, serendipity plays a big part. You never really know when that opportunity will present the “finger print shot” as I call them. Thus generating the question, “how did you get that shot?” The photo shown here was taken at Oxbow Bend in Grand Tetons National Park. I had done my preparation before the trip from the San Francisco Bay Area and had already gotten some really nice shots. In the afternoon a storm was coming in and I was heading back to Jackson Hole to my hotel when I decided to just stop and “take it all in”. I was the only one there. As I ate the last half of my sandwich and what was left of my coffee, I was listening to the ducks splashing in the water with that muted sound and overall silence as the snow was just moments away from falling. All of a sudden a small pinhole opened in the clouds to the west and a bright, almost flashlight like beam, began shinning on the aspen grove across the pond from me. I grabbed my camera and took ten hand held shots and then it was all over. As fast as it came, the light was gone. Literally 3 minutes worth. I drove back to the hotel in a rather hard snow storm content in just having been to there to see such a wonderful sample of Mother Natures beauty and kindness.

And that’s how I got the shot….

I will be posting more such photos and how they were shot in
future articles. Comments and questions are always welcomed.

…and please don’t forget to check out my workshops

Thanks for visiting!


Two new Workshops and a Camera Walk Scheduled for August

I’ve added a “Free” Camera Walk and two Mini Workshops to my calendar!

On Friday August 3rd from 10 am to 5pm I will host a free of charge Camera Walk at the San Francisco Zoo. We will spend the day photographing the bears, birds, bugs, and whatever comes in front of our lenses.

On Saturday August 11th from 10 am to 9 pm I will host a 1 Day Mini-Workshop at the Point Reyes National Seashore. Highlights will include the wreck of the Pt Reyes, a fishing boat beached in Inverness; the lighthouse at lands end; various beach scenes and dunes, and last but not least we will visit the resident Elk herd out on Pierce Point.

The following weekend, on Saturday August 18th from 3 pm to 10pm I will host another Mini-Workshop, this time in San Francisco’s famed Presidio. We will photograph beautiful old buildings, canons, the Golden Gate Bridge and if crowds permit, Fort Point. We will then work our way to Baker Beach and catch the sunset on the Golden Gate Bridge from the ocean side view. We’ll then take time for dinner and then head over to the Palace of Fine Arts to photograph its stunning beauty at night.

Check the Workshops link on the right column of this page to get more info

I would love to have you join us – please contact me to reserve your spot as space is limited to 6 people for the workshops and 8 for the Camera Walk.

Until then Cheers!


ps And don’t forget, I have another workshop coming October 17-19 “Falls Colors” In the east Sierras

Make your images “different”…

The age of digital photography has allowed for an explosion of images worldwide and the emerging talent is phenomenal. As a landscape photographer I think about how to make my images stand out from all the other similar photographs flooding the world.
I frequently have this discussion with my workshop co-leader, Bill Langton. We in turn bring it up to our participants when leading workshops in the field.When taking our own scouting trips we often find many photographers all lined up in the early dawn waiting to take pretty much the same shots. It’s not uncommon to stand amongst 50+ fellow photographers, many of them pro’s, all of whom will have very similar compositions. Surely there are some individual techniques each are employing but overall the similarity will be there. When you consider how many will try and sell those images, the competition is pretty much self generated and intense.

So what can you do? Quite a bit actually….
It starts with giving some thought to what you want ahead of time. Certainly imagination and an having an “eye” helps, but planning and visualization can go a long way.Before going into the field I often will peruse the internet for photos taken in the area I plan on visiting. My goal is to get ideas and vision from those before me, and yet not to copy them. Second, I use many tools such as Google Earth to pick out locations from where to get a perspective of, as an example, a mountain range to shoot. Next I will use other sources to determine sunrise and sunset and how those times will relate to the chosen location. I consider the weather. An overcast condition, Nature’s great ND filter, can yield saturated colors without harsh lighting. Often bad weather, particularly clearing storms or a even break in a storm can add beautiful light and drama to a scene. An added benefit is that most “fair weather” photographers are heading home and you can have the scene pretty much to yourself. On one trip I found myself in late fall in Glacier National Park for three days and never saw another soul….that’s priceless!
This methodology is not without risk. I’m referring here to safety preparedness. If you are going to be in such areas and at “off” times (anytime really), you must take precautions so as not to become a statistic. I carry enough food, camping, communication and first aid equipment to take care of myself for quite some time.So what else can you do….a lot.
  • Instead of always standing upright and taking your photos, try getting closer to the ground or conversely get higher if you can in order to get a different perspective. Put something interesting in the foreground. Take your time…
  • Go out at an “off” time. The image of the Golden Gate Bridge (the most photographed icon in the world) in this article was taken at 3 am. Just me, all by myself…might be similar images out there but this one is unique!
  • After taking a wide angle shot, put a longer “zoom” lens on your camera and “drill down” into the scene. You’ll be amazed at the compositions within the “big picture”. Alternatively put a macro lens on and really get intimate with your subject. I went crazy one day using a macro on some poppies where I was only concerned with shapes and textures. The result was you didn’t readily know it was a photo of a flower! Check out these examples….
  • Can you visualize the scene in Black & White? You can develop that talent. It opens yet another whole world of photography.
The tactics and techniques are endless, just use your imagination. That’s what art is about isn’t it?
Of course we haven’t even touched on post editing. That’s where you can really go crazy and get
creative. I will write about that in a future post….Lastly, a big consideration would be to take one of the many photography workshops (mine included) that are available. You can choose a workshop to fit your style and budget from the thousands available worldwide.I hope this brief article has peaked your interest in looking at taking your photos in a different way. The possibilities are endless!
Give me a shout if I can be of any help and answer your questions.Cheers!
…you can find out more about John’s Workshop Series here