Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Software Review: FastPictureViewer Professional

I recently scored a nice Black Friday deal on a shiny, new Acer Aspire One A0722 netbook, in part to be used for image storage/backup on photo trips. An important piece of functionality I wanted this netbook to have was the ability to quickly browse any raw images stored on it. After much research of both free and not-so-free software packages, I settled on the FastPictureViewer Professional image viewer. It isn't free...it isn't even cheap, but it really excels in the areas I need it to. That is, it speedily allows me to flip through images stored on my not-so-high-powered netbook. So far, this combination has been so much better than my Epson Viewer (my current storage/backup device in the field) that I doubt I'll utilize that much anymore.

FastPictureViewer Profession v1.6 screen snapshot

For those looking for both a fast viewer combined with at least a basic image processing component...your search continues. I wasn't, as I don't have any desire to process images on a uncalibrated netbook screen anyway. That's a task that's always reserved for my workhorse desktop PC back in the office where Lightroom and Photoshop reign supreme. FastPictureViewer is special purposed as a speedy viewer that I find extremely useful for the following reasons...

1. It views most major raw formats (important because I own more than one manufacturer's camera)
2. One can quickly check for critical sharpness at 100% view.
3. There's full time access to histogram and exif information (which can be quickly toggled on and off).
4. It shows images in all subfolders when a folder is opened.
5. There's easy culling out of rejects or copying of keepers to a separate folder.
6. Quick rating and adding IPTC data to images (I don't know if I'll utilize this personally, but it's there).

Monday, November 21, 2011

Holidaze Print Sale

Would you like to give a unique gift to a nature loving special friend or family member this holiday season? Or are you looking for an excuse to give yourself a well deserved gift for the holidays? How about a crisp, vibrant print from one of any number of spectacular locations in the Desert Southwest or Rocky Mountains? Well, you're in luck as I've decided to have my own Black Friday sale this year on my Explore The Light website. Only I've extended Black Friday all the way to Christmas Day! What this all means is that there will be a 20% discount on all unframed prints ordered through my site from November 25 through December 25. Just enter coupon code ETL4Holidaze when checking out your order. Pretty darned easy! And if you ask nicely, I may also extend this to any ColorBox mount order as well! This is my way of thanking customers and followers of my work for their past support. I appreciate it very, very much!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Also Follow Me On Google+

You can now follow my crazy antics over at Google+ (Google's answer to Facebook's social networking site). Ok...maybe my antics aren't all that crazy...maybe not even interesting...but I'm there nonetheless!  So you may ask why Google+ and not Facebook? Well, I don't have a good answer for that. I already have a personal Facebook page that I rarely ever tend to and I wanted to start over fresh with a more business related page dedicated to photography. So I decided Google+ would provide me that fresh start.

Anyway, you can link to my Google+ page by clicking on the gadget over on the right hand side of this blog or simply follow this link. While I still intend to post major announcements and events here, more of the day-to-day stuff will be posted over there. Hopefully you find it worthy of checking out periodically!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Finalized Art Show Schedule For 2011

Hey all! I just recently put the finishing touches on my 2011 Arizona art show schedule so I thought I'd take a brief moment to share. It all kicks off this Labor Day weekend when I'll be showing my work at the Flagstaff Art In The Park festival. My complete schedule for the remainder of the year looks as follows...

Flagstaff Art In The Park - Sept 3-5
Sedona Arts Festival - Oct 8-9
Artfest Of Scottsdale - Nov 19-20
Bell Rock Art Show (Village Of Oak Creek) - Dec 17-18

I hope any fans of my work living in or visiting any of the above locations during the listed time frames can stop by my booth and say hello! My work on display ranges anywhere from 8x10 matted prints to 30x45 canvas and metal prints. The metal prints, in particular, have to be seen to believe!

Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 8, 2011

San Juan Mountain Wildflowers

I recently returned from my annual pilgrimmage to the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado to hike, photograph, and just generally enjoy this year's wildflower spectacle. This year I was accompanied by friend, and fellow photographer, Steve Flowers from the Phoenix area. Steve and I have hooked up on a few adventures now and I couldn't have asked for a better companion on this trip. We both ticked off a couple of entries from our photographic "bucket list" when we decided we'd do a couple of short backpacking trips...the first in the Sneffels Wilderness to take in the incredibly scenic Blue Lakes area and the second to the renowned wildflower hotbed that is Ice Lake Basin near Silverton. Both of these trips were to be done as two night base camps incorporating hikes to the surrounding scenic locations for our morning and evening shoots.

Of course, one can't talk about hiking and photographing in these mountains during monsoon season without bringing up the weather. In short, it was cool, wet and altogether unpredictable...exactly what we were expecting! It rained every day on the trip with the exception of the day we drove in. I guess it was nice that we were able to ease into the trip with a nice dry camp near the Blue Lakes trailhead that first night. The clear sky, calm winds and rushing waters of the East Fork of Dallas Creek created a sense of calm that we wouldn't often get to experience for the remainder of the trip.

East Fork of Dallas Creek about 10 feet from my tent...sweet!
The first morning started just about the same way as any other backpacking trip has for me. I get everything ready, pack my gear into the backpack and hoist it on my shoulders to see how it feels. Hmmm....kinda heavy!! Damn that camera gear! Then I get on the trail and start up the first of many steep uphill sections...holy crap! I'm huffing and puffing and the air I'm breathing seems like it has to be every bit as thin as what Everest climbers experience near the summit. Through all my heavy breathing I'm trying to think of how to tell Steve what a stupid idea this was and that I was heading back to Ridgway in search of a good, stiff Bloody Mary!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spring In The San Juans - Art Show In Flagstaff

I recently returned from a week long trip to the San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado. The purpose of the trip wasn't actually photography driven this time. It was more of an anniversary trip for my wife and I as we were married out in Durango Mountain Resort three years ago. Of course, there was no way I was going to keep my camera in the bag over the entire week so I judiciously picked my moments in order to stay in the good graces of my better half!

Wilson Peak Framed - Alta Ghost Town near Telluride

 It helped, for the most part, that the weather conditions during most of our stay were better suited for activities other than photography. Windy and clear conditions ruled for most of the week and I held my photography addiction in check fairly well as we hiked, rode horseback and visited with friends in the Durango area.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Entering the Art Show Circuit

One of the reasons for my incredibly busy spring is that I've made the decision to enter the art show circuit this year. I've chosen this route over showing at local area galleries in an effort to both maximize my profits from print sales and to have more control over the marketing of my images. Of course, going this route definitely requires more work and initial expenses over the art gallery option. There's much research to be done to determine how to best display your wares (requiring the purchase of a tent, display walls, bins, etc., etc.) and the building up of an initial inventory. Then there's all the research and uncertainty that goes into which shows you should apply for and the agonizing wait to see if you've been accepted by the jury process. To make matters worse, a beginning artist can not even apply to a show until they have finished creating a show-ready display, complete with inventory, as all art shows require a picture of an artists fully stocked tent display with their application.

My Art Show Display
I'm not quite ready to share many of my thoughts and decisions that have gone into preparing for the art show circuit because, quite frankly, I haven't even done a show and have much yet to learn (the school of hard knocks will undoubtably come into play here). Perhaps later in the year I'll discuss this topic after I've had a couple under my belt. What I would like to do now is announce my current show schedule. It is as follows...

May 28 - 30 (Memorial weekend) -  The Bell Rock Art Show in the Village of Oak Creek, AZ
July 2 - 4 (Fourth of July weekend) - The Flagstaff Art in the Park Festival
October 8 - 9 - The Sedona Arts Festival

I hope to add another show or two to this schedule later in the year and will announce those as I do. But until then, I hope to meet any Arizonans reading this at any of the three shows I've listed. The first show is now less than two weeks away and I can't wait to get started with this new endeavor!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Soggy Columbia River Gorge

Well, better late than never for this trip report. I spent the better part of five days in late April with Phoenix-based photography buddy, Steve Flowers, hiking to and photographing the magnificent waterfalls found mostly on the Oregon side of the Columbia River Gorge near Portland.   Let me tell you, being the desert dweller that I've become, it was a fantastic change of pace to experience the soggy, neon green filled gorge and its thunderous array of waterfalls. Only in Yosemite have I experienced such a congregation of enormous waterfalls in such a compact area...although the gorge definitely has it beat for sheer numbers.

The grandaddy of all the falls in the gorge is Multnomah Falls, which is one of the largest year round waterfalls in the U.S. at 620 ft. In the spring, the pure power of the falls is incredible. Photographing it is very problematic though due to all the spray in the air. Another factor making photography difficult were the crowds. The falls is right along the scenic road that runs along the Oregon side of the gorge and access is just a few steps from the parking lot. This translates into a copious number of visitors milling about the vicinity. Quite frankly, my time spent here was far from the highlight of my trip, despite the beautiful setting. I enjoyed the solitude I found at some of the lesser visited, but still spectacular, falls that required a bit of hiking to see.

Multnomah Falls

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Exploring Death Valley

Given that winter has been almost non-existent (save for one December storm) in the desert southwest, I decided it was time to quit grumbling about it and go somewhere warm! Death Valley National Park in southern California had long been on my "must-see" list and I figured it was time for a visit. I figured since I'd be driving all that way (about 7 hours from Sedona), I'd make a side trip to the Alabama Hills Recreation Area on the eastern slope of the Sierra Nevada Mountains as well. The Sierras have also been high on my photographic bucket list and was time to pay them a quick visit.

Death Valley is actually a fairly recent member of the national park system...it was designated so back in 1994. Before then, it was bequeathed national monument status back in 1933. When it became a national park, the amount of land protected was increased. So much so, that it immediately became the largest national park in the continental U.S. (there are larger parks in Alaska). Because of its enormous size and remote location, a fair amount of planning is required to successfully photograph it...especially for a first time visit. One thing's for sure...don't expect to be able to do a quickie day trip here. The closest major city, Las Vegas, is almost a three hour drive. That's six hours spent before even seeing the park. Plus, many of the major sights within the park require anywhere from a half hour to more than two hours of drive time between them. That's a prohibitive amount of driving in my book. At least a one overnight is a necessity. I chose to spend four days in the park on this trip (with a fifth day spent at Alabama Hills). One would need to spend weeks here to really experience everything the park has to offer.

The main claim to fame in the park is that it's the hottest place in country. Triple digit temperatures are the norm from May through a good part of October, and can top out at over 120F! Needless to say the summer months are not the time to visit! Another is that the park contains the lowest point in the country (and second lowest in the western hemisphere) at 282 ft below sea level in the Badwater Basin. A common misconception of the park is that it's nothing but desert. So wrong! There are multiple mountain ranges present in the park with the Panamint Range being the largest. Telescope Peak in the Panamints rises to over 11,000 ft and can be viewed from the Badwater area. That's a lot of vertical relief in such close proximity!

Ok...enough of the background information concerning the park and on to my particular adventure! Probably the best way to tackle this is in the form of a day by day travelogue. So here goes....

Monday, January 31, 2011

Above The Rim

Ok...the title doesn't mean that I'm playing basketball again!! :-) It actually refers to the Mogollon Rim, an extended escarpment that forms the southern boundary of the Colorado Plateau. This escarpment runs across a large section of Arizona beginning southwest of Flagstaff and extending through the White Mountains near the New Mexico border. Thanks to a fellow Sedona area photographer, Fred Parsons, I recently had a wonderful opportunity to fly over both the Mogollon Rim and the Sedona area with a glider pilot Ted Grussing.

Aerial View of Coffee Pot Rock, Wilson Mountain and the distant San Francisco Peaks

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photography Tip: Shoot For The Moon

With the current full moon cycle now at its peak, I thought it would be a good time to discuss my various strategies and thoughts about incorporating the moon into landscape photography. Surprisingly, it's something I only do very occasionally because, to really do it right, it usually takes a good deal of planning (more on this in a bit) and I often have other things going on that interfere with that. Sure, sometimes you simply luck into something decent, but that doesn't happen very often. To up your odds of success you really need to research when and where the moon will be rising (or setting) and then determine what type of subject can be included with it in your composition. Let's face it, nearly everyone has gotten their longest telephoto lens and shot only the moon, but really making an interesting photograph requires other subjects in your composition. The moon, when incorporated into a landscape image, is most effective when used as an accent to an already interesting scene.

Below is an image I took a number of years back (in my formative days as a photographer) when I first visited the Sedona area. I was photographing Cathedral Rock at Red Rock Crossing at a time when the moon happened to be passing over the monolith. I did not know it was going to be there as I didn't do any research on it. All I knew is that I had to try to incorporate it into a composition.

Moon Over Cathedral Rock - Sedona, Arizona

This attempt failed, in my mind, for a number of reasons. First all, the composition seems very forced. The moon is way too high above the formation which results in too much negative space (in the form of the clear blue sky) to make for an effective composition. Also, the moon is too small to really make much of an impact anyway.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Recap of 2010

Well another year has passed us by so it's time for my annual list of top 25 favorite images for 2010 (in no particular order). It's been an absolute blast getting out and shooting the areas represented in this collection. I feel blessed to be given the opportunity to embrace such beautiful scenery on a regular basis.

Given the economy, 2010 has proven to be another difficult year for many of us, myself included. Fortunately, despite these woes, I continue to grow my photography business. Nature photography is a tough, competitive business as it is (even in good economic times), so I'm thankful for my increasing revenue and I'd like to thank each and everyone out there who's supported and helped me over the past few years. I also look forward to an exciting and prosperous 2011!

Without further ado, here's my top 25...

Top 25 Images Of 2010

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Arizona Experiences Its First Major Winter Storm

We've just gotten a little way into winter and already there's been some pretty crazy weather all over the country. Blizzards, bitter cold, flooding rains, tornadoes....you name it, it's been happening so far. Here in Arizona, we've just experienced the first major winter storm of the season and it really wreaked havoc in the northern half of the state. Heavy snow closed many of the major arteries to northern Arizona for almost a couple of days. One to two feet of snow were common in the high country and that was followed by bitter cold. There was even a dusting of snow in the mountains surrounding Phoenix!

Winter In Sedona

Here in Sedona we received only a few inches of snow, but it sure was purdy sitting on the red rock formations around town. I spent the day immediately after the storm photographing those and then made my way up Oak Creek Canyon to the West Fork area. By the time I got up there, I was astounded by the amount of snow I saw. One report I heard stated that the upper reaches of the canyon received 16 inches. I surely couldn't refute that and was ecstatic to see all the wet, heavy snow draped on all the cottonwoods and sycamores. I took a short, but exhausting hike into West Fork Canyon to check that out. Talk about incredible! And to my surprise, I was the first to make it over the rather treacherous first creek crossing. My reward for that was beautiful untracked snow that I could include in my compositions.

Wintry West Fork Canyon

Once I heard that the roads heading north had opened up, I gathered up the wife and dog and headed to the Grand Canyon. I had always wanted to photograph the canyon after a snowstorm and now I'd finally get the chance. It also seemed like a cool location to ring in the new year. What caught us by surprise though, was the bitter cold that we encountered. By the time I finished shooting the last sunset of 2010, the temperature was already below 0. By the time the first sunrise of 2011 came to being, it was -24 degrees!! Not quite what I signed on for! At least the bitter temps kept the crowds to a minimum.

The Last Sunset of 2010! From Yavapai Point.

Despite the cold temperatures, the wintry canyon was absolutely beautiful. Sure, I didn't get the epic conditions that can happen right as a storm is breaking, but I couldn't complain about the conditions I did get to witness over my three day stay either. For those epic conditions, I figured that I'll have to get to the canyon before a storm hits and wait it out. Next time!

Morning Light On The Canyon - From The Rim Trail Near Yaki Point.

My best words of advice for any photographer visiting the canyon in the winter months is this...get away from the major overlook areas! In the winter months, the access to roads and trails can be rather limited. When I visited, the road to Hermits Rest was closed indefinitely. Thus all the sight seeing tourists congregated to the those overlooks that were still accessible. Even a short walk along the Rim Trail (which connects most of the overlooks in the western end of the park) will afford you some measure of solitude. Plus all the snow covered cactus, gnarly trees and shrubbery make for great foreground material.

Wintry Canyon - From The Rim Trail Near Mather Point.

To see more shots from my latest winter outings around Arizona, check out this link...

Winter In Arizona