Articles from: June 2011

Embrace The Twilight

This week’s guest blogger is Elijah Goodwin,  Elijah is a writer, photographer and scientist from Falls Church, VA

So many times I’ve been photographing at a location, and when the sun sets most of the other photographers leave.  Or conversely, most photographers show up at a location in the morning after the sun rises.  It really surprises me.  Don’t get me wrong;  I love having these beautiful locations all to myself during the best parts of the day.  But I can’t help but wonder; why do so many nature photographers give up on potentially the best light of the day and the times when wildlife are the most active?  Are you embracing the twilight?  Maybe it’s time you should.

Civil twilight occurs twice a day and is defined as the period between when the sun is 6 degrees below the horizon and sunrise, and again between sunset and when the sun sinks 6 degrees below the horizon.  More importantly for us, it defines the edges of visible light; when terrestrial objects and the horizon can be clearly distinguished, despite the lack of direct sunlight.  Often the color in the sky is most intense 10-20 minutes before the sun rises or shortly after the sun sets, particularly if you are lucky enough to get a day with moderate to heavy cloud cover, but clear at the appropriate horizon.  The light show during this time period can be absolutely magical.  Will it be magical every single time?  When is anything ever certain in nature photography?  On the whole though, the extra effort and time is worth the images you’ll capture, and you’ll get to enjoy the sights, sounds, and relative peace of nature, regardless of whether the light show is spectacular, nonexistent, or somewhere in between.

Twilight is also generally a time of increased activity for wildlife.  Nocturnal animals are finishing their night’s wanderings or stirring from their daytime rest.  Crepuscular animals are at their most active and even diurnal animals often have spurts of intense activity during these times.  With the increased high-ISO performance of recent digital cameras this offers an ideal opportunity to get action shots of great species, in great light.  But don’t neglect the low-ISO settings either.  If your target animal happens to be one that stands still for long periods, like the heron above, you can capture unique environmental portraits.  This is also a great time of day to experiment with motion blurs or abstracts using slow shutter speeds, or go for a silhouette against the colorful sky.

What are some technical considerations for capturing images at twilight?  Well, first off, you need to know when and where to be.  Many internet weather sites will give you the times of civil twilight for a particular location, but there are several apps that will give you much more information.  My two favorites are Sunrise Sunset Pro ($1.99) and The Photographer’s Ephemeris (, which not only gives you astronomical times, but overlays the directions of these events on a satellite image of the location and is available in a desktop version (free) and universal app ($8.99).  Next, with the long exposure times often necessary, you should be using a tripod, cable-release or self-timer, and mirror lock-up.  Finally, if your camera has decent long exposure noise reduction built-in, consider using that or a post-processing application to clean up some of the noise inherent in long twilight exposures.

Now, set that alarm a little earlier and/or tell your partner you’ll be home late and start taking advantage of the loveliest times of day for nature photography!

A Sublime Endowment

We are pleased to once again have Mollie Isaacs and Mary Lindhjem from Awake The Light as our guest bloggers!

There is no question that the pursuit of photography is a grand adventure. We are all on the same journey: chasing the light, creating artistic extensions of our vision, crafting our images to the best of our ability, experiencing those rare and special gifts Mother Nature bestows.

The art of photography is unique. There are those who claim it is not a true art, that the image is manufactured by the camera and, most recently, the computer. While it is true that it is a technical art, the camera is simply a tool, an extension of our creative spirit. The camera is a lifeless, mechanical, but highly technical machine capable of capturing light via light-sensitive receptors, either via a film emulsion or a sensor. It does not produce any art. It only records the light.

The art of photography is produced by the photographic artist, YOU. You are unique. You view the world differently than all others. Your perception of luminance and color are distinctly different than your peers. Your sense of order, or lack thereof, is singular. All of the experiences that have fashioned you into the adult of today will influence your photography, your art. Embrace it. Use your assets to your best advantage with respect to creating images. It is important to know and understand the principles of composition and the components of good photography, but it is equally important to know yourself and be able to express your unique personality through the medium of photography.

This image, taken in Upper Antelope Canyon outside of Page, Arizona, is my artistic impression of a sacred Navajo site. Whenever I am in the canyon, I am in awe of the power and beauty of Mother Nature, and my hope is that my images contain some measure of the feelings that I experienced when there. The harsh, exterior sunlight filters down from a narrow slot high above and gets transformed deep in the heart of the canyon. The warm tones of the sandstone come alive and speak loudly to any who are still enough to listen. The ray of light is invisible until the wind people carry the dust of the ancients upward to the light.

Our group was behind me working a different curve. I rounded the corner and was gifted this scene. I was prepared for this chance encounter. The camera was already on my tripod and was pre-set with an ISO of 200 and an f/stop of 22. The intensity of the light would dictate the shutter speed. Since I was tripod mounted, the shutter speed was inconsequential. Had I not been prepared to quickly capture the scene, it would have vanished into my memory without being recorded. All I had to do was quickly compose the shot and focus the lens. Mother Nature had done all the rest. It was indeed a sublime endowment.

We wish you many gifts along your photographic journey. May you delight in the odyssey and know that the object is not in the final destination, but in the enjoyment you experience along the way.


Technical Data: Shutter Speed: 2.5 sec. Aperture Setting: f/22. Exposure Compensation: -1 EV. ISO 200. Lens: Canon 17-40mm at 40mm. Camera: Canon EOS-1D Mark III. Tripod: Gitzo with Arca-Swiss Monoball Head.

A Creative Camera

This week’s guest blogger is Greg Daily.  Greg is a member of the Manassas-Warrenton Camera Club and President of the Expo! 


On a Sunday afternoon about a month or so ago I went to make a phone call on my cell phone and soon realized that no matter what I did the buttons on the phone did not work. The phone was a couple years old and I knew that I could upgrade with my current cell phone provider if I was to renew the contract. I was not in the market to purchase a smart phone but after hearing about all of the cool things you could do with photography I soon realized that it might be the right thing to do. So I made the leap and purchased the iPhone.

 As I was driving away from the store and for about a week or two later I had buyer’s remorse. I thought to myself why did I pay so much for a phone when I could have gotten one for free? The salesman did however tell me that I could return the phone within a 30 day window for a small restocking fee. Well needless to say, thanks to Tony Sweet I still have the phone and returning it is not an option. Tony introduced me to and showed me some of the apps he was using,  I love it now especially for all of its photographic capabilities. It is amazing what I can do with this phone and the pictures that I have been able to produce.

For those of you who are unaware of this new technology and what the iPhone and apps can do I created a list for you. Well this list is just the tip of the iceberg to give you a flavor of the capabilities of the phone.

You can do all of the following within the phone if you download just a few apps:

  • HDR
  • Panoramic images
  • Slow the shutter speed down and take long exposures
  • Take 20 or more photos in less than a second.
  • Take photos in a RAW format.
  • Create layers, masks and edit photos in multiple applications.
  • Exposure Compensation
  • Set a self timer.
  • Take photos with fairly high resolutions


Once I found out that the phone can do some really cool stuff I started to get excited. At first I downloaded a few free apps and thought it was good enough. I soon realized that to do some of the really cool things I was going to have to spend a few bucks. But the reality is that many of the apps are only $.99 or $1.99 so you are not going to break the bank.  I made some realizations and some mistakes along the way and I am sure I will be making more.

 My first mistake was to assume that if I liked the picture on the led screen of the phone it was good enough to share. Boy was I wrong! I sent an image to a users group and those that viewed it on their iphone thought it was great but if it was viewed on a larger monitor it looked really bad, it wasn’t sharp at all. The image I really liked was a 20 shot HDR image stitched together into a panoramic. Problem was I did not use a tripod for my phone. Yes that does sound funny but they do have tripod holders for these phones and I would suggest using one. It looks kind of silly especially when you have a big boy camera, i.e. digital SLR around your neck. And this brings me to another point. In the past when I have been out taking pictures with my “big boy camera” people noticed and ask all kinds of questions and also as a courtesy made sure that they didn’t walk in front of the camera. When taking pictures with the iPhone, I am somewhat ignored, which could be a good thing, however people are not as courteous and have more of a tendency to walk out in front of me when I am taking a picture.

 So my final words are to embrace the technology and get on board because the train is moving fast and you do not want to be left behind.  

 The above photo was taken with my iPhone at the Hylton Performing Arts Center (Location of the Nature Visions Expo) with an app called Bracket Mode ($1.99) and then the image was converted into an HDR photo using Pro HDR ($1.99). Once the HDR image was created I used an app called Auto Painter ($.99) to make the photo look like a painting and then blended it with the original photo using Iris ($1.99). The next step was to create a third layer in Iris called (Craqulure). I then took the layered image and used Dynamic Light ($.99)to create the final image. All of this was done in less than 5 minutes.  

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