My Impressions of the Canon 1Dx

I’ve been feeling limited by my gear for shooting sports for a while now, especially for the games under the lights at night (football, soccer, lacrosse), and some of the indoor sports (swimming, water polo) where it is difficult to get good clean action shots under high ISO conditions.  For many shots, I had to run the images through added noise reduction software before I could share them.  I decided to try out Canon’s top of the line camera for sports, the 1Dx to see how much more upgraded equipment could do.  I rented the 1Dx for a weekend from along with a Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 zoom lens with the intent to shoot high school football on Friday night, and a swim meet on Saturday.

I picked up the equipment from Fedex on Thursday and immediately set up the camera based on tips from Peter Read Miller on how he uses the camera ( as well as from my own experience in shooting the Canon 7D.  I’ve learned it can pay dividends in image sharpness if you micro-adjust your camera and lens combinations, so I ran some tests with all the potential lenses I would use and set them up with the 1Dx.  One nice feature that the 1Dx has over my 7D is that there are two micro-adjust settings for each lens, one for the zoom end of your lens, and one for the wide angle end.  The 7D only has one setting so you have to decide where on a zoom lens to do your adjustment.
Some of my positive impressions on the 1Dx after shooting it for a weekend (over 3,000 images):

  •    Amazingly fast and accurate autofocus!  I shot using the Sigma 120-300mm lens at various times with the Sigma 1.4TC, the Canon 2.0TC, and without any teleconverter at all in low light and the camera responded and locked into focus in an instant under all three conditions.
  •    Incredible high ISO performance!  I was able to shoot very clean images at ISO 10,000 which were much cleaner and sharper than my 7D at ISO 3,200
  •    Tons of customization options in the menu, although I only explored what I needed for the weekend.
  •    Generally great ergonomics.
  •    Dual CF card slots and the ability to change how you write your files to the two cards.
  •    Fast burst rate!  The difference between the 8fps with my 7D and the 12fps with the 1Dx was very noticeable in the images I shot.  With the 7D, I’ve had many bursts where one frame is just a fraction of a second before the peak of action while the next frame was just after the peak action leaving me wishing for that one in-between frame that I did not have.  With the 1Dx, that frame I wanted was captured!
  •    My keep-rate for images improved for both football and swimming.  The downside of this is I now have more good images to sort through after the game!
  •    The Mode dial is moved into the menu and you can customize which modes are active.  With my 7D, one of the more common shooting errors I run into is accidentally changing the mode dial while moving around the field, moving it to a menu makes this error not possible.


Some of my negative impressions of the 1Dx:

  •    I typically use the spot meter option in my shooting.  The spot meter option on the 1Dx seems to be highly sensitive as compared to my 7D with the exposure meter jumping all over the place as I made minor composition adjustments.  I did not feel comfortable with using the meter to set my exposure and for monitoring exposure changes as the sun faded.  After a couple of exposure errors, I changed it to Center Weighted metering which seemed to stabilize the numbers to where I was more comfortable with the outputs.  The meter itself is moved from the bottom of the viewfinder to the right hand side which I did not like as much although that opinion could change over time as I became accustomed to the new location.
  •    The Shutter wheel is extremely easy to spin and it seems to be located a little closer to the shutter button than my 7D which made it easy to accidentally adjust the shutter speed while moving up and down the sideline, an error that rarely occurs for me with my 7D.  Couple this error with my lack of confidence in the highly sensitive Exposure Meter when set on Spot Metering, caused me a couple of exposure errors with the camera where I lost several shots.  Rather than monitoring the exposure meter in the viewfinder, I switched to watching my actual shutter speed and aperture to make sure it had not changed from what I had set it at since I was shooting in manual and the light was fairly constant once the sun set.  I later learned after the game that the menu has an option to lock both of these dials during shooting which would solve this problem for me.
  •    The camera has six scenarios for the focus system for adjusting to different types of action.  I shot Scenario 4 throughout the weekend which worked very well for football and swimming, but it did not seem to yield any improvements for me over my 7D with my diving photos.  It is possible another setting would demonstrate improvements, but I’ve found that diving is difficult to maintain focus on since for a couple of reasons, I try to keep a consistent (somewhat wide) composition so that I can show some reference to where the diver is in relationship to the board and the water.  This makes the diver a smaller percentage of the field of view than for either my typical football or swimming photo, and likely more difficult for the camera to track.  The diver is also making major movements vertically, and also moving closer to the camera as the dive progresses which makes it difficult to keep in focus at f/2.8 which is needed to let in enough light to keep a fast shutter speed to freeze the diver.  The area in focus or DOF for a 200mm lens at f/2.8 is less than 1 foot deep from the best shooting position on the pool deck so it is a challenge to maintain a good focus throughout the entire dive.
  •    Price:  I can clearly see the value of this camera as compared to my 7D where it is easily a 2x to 3x better camera and I would be readily willing to pay that much more for it.  The problem is it is priced as a 4.5x premium camera as compared to the 7D, so I debate the value proposition versus the cost of this camera in trying to decide is it worth it?

200m Medley Relay
Overall, I extremely enjoyed shooting with the 1Dx as it is an awesome camera, and I would love to own one.  The worst part of the whole weekend was when I had to pack it all up and ship it back to!  It is on my wish list for future gear, once the value situation is a little easier to handle.

200m Individual Medley 2013-10261DX_9992

Posted in Equipment, Sports, Technique Tagged , , , |

Fall Sports – Indoor Action

The fall indoor sports, volleyball, water polo, and swimming offer the advantage over most of the field sports in that a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens will cover most of the action with a few exceptions.  You don’t need the 300mm or 400mm lenses, although there may be situations where they would be nice to have.  The lighting at these indoor venues may be better or worse than your football or soccer fields at night, hopefully better lit, but don’t count on it!

Zeeland West Volleyball

I was pleasantly surprised to find the main gymnasium where volleyball is played is at the local school where I shoot a lot is well lit.  I have the flexibility to shoot anywhere from f/2.8 to f/4.5 and still maintain at least a 1/500 second shutter speed.  The facility also has an indoor running track on a second floor above the gym floor which is ideal for setting up a remote camera which I have done and where I’ve captured some great overhead action shots at the net.  As a sport, volleyball can be shot from many angles to capture the action, from on the floor next to the court at the net to behind the end lines and even up in the stands.  The sport lends itself to both nice low level and high level action shots.

The back and forth action makes it difficult to capture shots with both teams on a regular basis except for plays at the net so my suggestion is focus on one team at a time.  Locate yourself so you can capture the players face, the ball, and the action.  The sport has a pretty good rhythm with generally 2 or 3 hits on each side of the court before the ball moves to the other side, so you can anticipate some of the action and set up a good composition.   Your keep rate will be higher when shooting further back, but I really enjoy a good action shot from the floor looking up at the players.  Watch for the net throwing off your focus, especially if you are shooting at f/2.8!

Volleyball action at the net.

While the light at the gym where I frequently shoot is good, the light at the pool is marginal at best.  I am pretty much always shooting at f/2.8 at the pool in order to barely hold a 1/500th second shutter speed.  My ISO is maxed out on my camera to do this.  The images come out with noise, but I normally run my pool shots through an extra step using a post-processing noise reduction program which helps somewhat.  I’ve found that the light in the pool is not balanced in that there is slightly more light coming from the spectator side of the pool than the bench side so my shooting is pretty much limited to the spectator side in order to take advantage of that slight light advantage.

Zeeland Girls Varsity Water Polo

For water polo, I have been able to effectively use a remote camera set up behind one of the goals.  It will get sprayed with water, especially from bounced shots so if you set one up, make sure the body is protected!  Also, frequently check your lens for water drops and clean as necessary!  I set the remote camera up on manual focus and pre-focus at a distance that I believe that the most important action will occur.  Shooting through the net will confuse your camera’s autofocus so it is best to go manual in this situation.  For swimming, I’m still experimenting with the use of a remote camera and so far I have not found an ideal location for it.  The starting block area is the obvious first place to consider, but there is a LOT of activity in this area which is a problem for setting up a remote camera.

Remote goal camera for Water Polo

In both water polo and swimming, the action can be tough on your focus system with flying water all over the place.  I’ve never had a keep rate so low after a shoot as I did after my first water polo match and my first swim meet!  Be prepared to be disappointed with the low number of good shots, but be delighted when you do capture one!  Swimming is a challenge since for each stroke, there is only one really good location for capturing that great shot that shows the swimmer’s face and their swim stroke.  For freestyle, that is normally to the side, and even slightly behind the swimmer capturing their face as they breathe.  The problem is they breathe only once every two or three strokes, and if they are in a tight race, they may change what side of their body they breathe on so that they can get a better look at the competition!  You may plan to capture the a swimmer breathing on their right side on the return leg, but if they switch to the left on that final leg so that they can keep an eye on their competition, then you are out of luck for that event unless you were lucky enough to capture a good shot early in the race!

Posted in Uncategorized

Fall Sports – Football and Soccer

My evolution as a sports shooter continues this fall with a new season of sports.  I first started shooting sports seriously this spring with hockey, lacrosse, baseball, softball, soccer, water polo, golf, and track and field.  This fall brings opportunities in football, swimming, tennis, volleyball, cross country, and more golf, soccer and water polo, quite a smorgasboard of sports and shooting conditions to choose from!

First Quarter Football light shot at 1/400 sec f/11 at ISO 1600.

First Quarter Football light shot at 1/400 sec f/11 at ISO 1600.

My favorite fall sport has to be football.  I played it in high school and college, and I also spent a couple of years coaching high school football and I loved it.  It is great to get back on the sidelines with a camera to both see and feel the game up close again.  The great thing about shooting football is you can anticipate the plays and be in a great position to capture the action as it occurs.  It is a ton of fun to see a trap block open up a hole and you find the ball carrier in the middle of that hole running towards you and all you need to do is press the shutter to capture it!  The challenge of shooting high school football, especially on a Friday night consists of two parts.

The first is the light conditions are changing significantly during the game as you start in daylight conditions, and end up relying completely on the stadium lights as the game goes on.  While I normally prefer to shoot in manual mode, during the time frame when the light is changing the most, I like to shoot in aperture priority letting the camera track and adjust to the changing exposure conditions.  I just need to watch the shutter speed so that it stays fast enough to freeze the action, generally 1/500th of a second or faster.  Once the camera starts dropping below 1/500th, then it is time to bump the ISO up so that you can maintain a fast shutter speed.  Once the sun has completely set and the game is completely under the lights, I then switch back to manual mode so that the camera does not unnecessarily slow down the shutter speed to compensate for the dark backgrounds.  If your composition has too much dark background, your camera will attempt to compensate for it by slowing your shutter speed down to add more light.  If you allow this, it will over expose the players on the field and create blur from any movement by the players.

4th Quarter light shot at 1/500 f/2.8 ISO 6400

4th Quarter light shot at 1/500 f/2.8 ISO 6400

The second challenge of shooting football is the expense of the long and fast lenses needed for shooting night games.  For a day game, a good telephoto lens that allows you to both shoot wide to capture most of the action, and zoom in to capture an individual player’s face from the sideline can be purchased for around $1,000.  For a night game, however, the economics is very much different.  The “standard” sports lens that most photographers start with is a 70-200 mm f/2.8 lens.  Depending upon the manufacturer, this lens will run from $1,000 to $2,500 and it works well for most action, but it is not long enough for those really tight single player face shots under most game conditions, unless you want to deeply crop your photo.  The next step up is a 300 mm f/2.8 lens which ranges in cost from $2,000 to over $8,000 per lens, and if you want to reach out with a 400 mm f/2.8 lens, that will set you back over $10,000!

Shooting fall soccer is similar to football in that you start out in the daylight, but finish up the game under the lights.  The difference is with soccer is that the play is not as easy to anticipate as football, the action is moving from one end of the field to the other and back again much more frequently than in football so it is harder to keep in an ideal location for shooting.  If anything, a good telephoto lens is more valuable in soccer than it is in football so that you can capture the action at the far end of the field.  The other challenge with soccer is that the fields do not seem to be as well lit as football fields so your exposure window is even more limited.  In a well lit high school football field, I might be able to maintain a f/3.5 or f/4.0 aperture under the lights and still keep 1/500th of a second, but on a soccer field, I find myself at f/2.8 and struggling to hold 1/500th of a second with a good exposure.  The one advantage that I’ve found with soccer is that it is easy to set up a remote camera behind the goal to capture some of the action around the goal – something that you can’t really do on a football field do to the risk to your equipment.

Second half soccer action on October 9th, 2013 shot at 1/500 sec f/2.8 at ISO 6400

Second half soccer action on October 9th, 2013 shot at 1/500 sec f/2.8 at ISO 6400

In my next couple of blog posts I will share some of the lessons from shooting indoors for volleyball, water polo, and swimming; and another post on the other outdoor sports, golf and cross country.

Posted in Equipment, Sports, Technique Tagged , , , |

Headshots and Portraits

What’s the difference between a portrait and a headshot?

Taylor-4bStudio- 019

  •  A headshot is typically just head and shoulders and has a plain, or out of focus background so that the attention is on the person’s eyes & face.
  • A portrait can be a close up, but can also show more of a person’s environment like where they work: an office setting, a boardroom, an architect or general contractor at a construction site, a veterinarian with animals, an artist in their studio. It paints more of picture as to what the subject does.

Why do you need a headshot?

  • First Impressions Count!  How do you want to be seen by the world? Do you want to make a good impression on people who meet you?  Did you know that often people will now “google” you if they know they are going to meet you, and also after having just met you so they can learn more about you?  Your headshot is often the first or second impression you make, and as we all know – first impressions are very long-lasting.  Most people want to be seen as friendly, confident, approachable and trustworthy, and a good headshot will create those impressions.   First impressions are vital because you know how quickly people click away from a site if they’re not interested. There are too many voices screaming for potential clients’ or employers attention so you want your first impression to be a solid one.  A solid first impression can lead to job or business opportunities.  A headshot is just as much about WHO you are as what you look like.
  • You need to develop your own Brand Image!  People spend more time looking at photographs on your website than at your text.  People study faces.  When potential clients come to your website, they will study your face and see if they like you or can they trust you. You should be recognizable by your headshot, it should represent you as you are seen most of the time.  If you are active on social media (and who isn’t anymore), it’s important to have a headshot that reflects well on you.  It’s recommended that you use the same image across all social media platforms to create consistent look and start building “brand recognition”.  In addition, people are less likely to click on a profile if it is missing a photo, and less likely to believe a blog or a comment posted by an anonymous avatar.   2013-0731IMG_1125
  • It Conveys Confidence and Professionalism!   People tend to do business with those they know, like and trust. Having a professional headshot helps people feel like they know you before you’ve ever even met.  If you are a professional, you definitely need a polished professional looking image to convey your level of professionalism. If you are using a cropped picture from your last vacation or night out  as your professional headshot, you might be sending the wrong message.  This picture should be the same one across all your social media, on your website, your marketing collateral, if you use one on your business card, your email signature, job proposals, in submission to contests, speaking engagements, that sort of thing. A polished, headshot taken by a professional photographer conveys, well, professionalism, your professionalism, whether you’re in a suit or not. Photographers are trained to bring out your personality in the picture. That’s what you are paying them for. They know the right angles, the correct head tilts and all the secret tips for making you look great.

Why use a professional photographer?

  • It’s the light!  We’ve all seen poorly lit, cell phone shots where the person’s face is in deep shadow or it has no detail with bright dappled sunlight blowing out all the features.  A professional photographer knows how to use the light.
  • It’s the background!  You want a clean and uncluttered background for your headshot so the focus is on you!
  • It’s sharp!  If we can’t tell it is you in the photo then it creates doubt on if it is really you or not.
  • It’s You!  You want a headshot where people will recognize you from your photo.  You want a natural expression that shows that you are friendly, confident and approachable.
  • It’s Fun!  Shoot with me and you will have a good time.  The best headshots come from natural expressions, not posed smiles, so I will be creating an environment to bring out these expressions in you.

Studio- 014When should you update your headshot?

  • As soon as your look drastically changes (if you cut your hair, dye it red, grow a beard, shave your head) or within 1-2 years, whichever comes first.
  • If your industry, job or position changes and you want to convey something different.
  • You want to look like the person in your headshot, so people recognize you when they meet you in person.
  • If you have distinguishing facial features like obvious freckles, a scar or wrinkles and those are all completely airbrushed out, that’s going to be immediately noticed by people who know you and those you meet. Its okay and mostly expected to have your image airbrushed a bit, you just want to make sure it’s not overdone.

Posted in Portrait, Technique Tagged , , , , , , |

Special Offer for June and July!!!


Now through the end of July, I will be offering FREE Headshot and Portrait shoots.  That is right, FREE!  The only catch is this offer is valid only at my Zeeland Studio location. 

I’ve recently added some Paul C. Buff strobe lights and modifiers and converted the walkout basement into a studio and I want to work out all details with this new gear before I charge anyone for it.  If you have anywhere from 20 minutes to 90 minutes free during an evening or weekend, let’s set something up!  You will receive 3 edited files from the shoot that you can use however you like, and you get to pick which images to keep.  If you have additional images that you like, the cost will only be $25 per image. 

This offer is only valid at my Zeeland Studio location for the month of June and July, 2013.



Posted in Uncategorized

AHL Hockey Shoot with the Grand Rapids Griffins

I would like to start right off by thanking Kyle Kujawa and the Grand Rapids Griffins Hockey Team for allowing me the opportunity to shoot the game on Friday night versus the Milwaukee Admirals at the Van Andel Arena.  I had a GREAT time shooting the game and it was awesome to see the play up close.  I learned quite a few things so I thought I would share some of those lessons.  There are some that I can’t really share, like adjusting to the speed of the game and anticipating the action, but there are others, the preparation and technical details, that I can and will try to share.

I started off shooting from the box between the benches right on the ice for both the warm-ups and the first period.  I had to be in the box before the players took the ice for warm-ups so I had plenty of time for preparation.  My first task was to check out the arena lighting and to my relief, the Van Andel Arena is well lit.  I checked the exposure all along the boards and across the ice surface and my exposure varied +/- 1/3 of a stop all the way – AWESOME.

The next step was to set my white balance.  I set a custom white balance using the ice, first while the lights were about half-way up in intensity, and again later when they were at full power.  I did notice a difference between the two settings, so make sure the arena lights are at full power when you set your custom white balance.  I had two camera bodies with me, so I set the white balance on both.

With the highly reflective and white ice surface I could not rely on the camera to set the exposure at all, so I set my cameras on Manual, with Aperture at f/2.8 and shutter speed of at least 1/500 of a second.  On my main camera, a Canon 7D I had my 70-200mm f/2.8 lens with ISO of 3200, and on my second body, a Canon 40D I had my 24-70mm f/2.8 lens with the ISO on H: 3200.

With my 7D, I found that I had plenty of light to use smaller apertures increasing the depth of field in my images.  I shot for a while at f/5.6 and still maintained a shutter speed of 1/500, while at f/4.5 I could shoot at 1/800 shutter speed and at f/2.8 I had shutter speed of 1/2500.

The combination of a 70-200mm lens on one body and a 24-70mm lens on another body proved to be very flexible while shooting down on the ice.  The 24-70mm lens was great when the action was in tight right in front of me, while the 70-200mm was perfect when it a little further out.  For the second and third periods, I was shooting in behind one of the goals next to the goal judge so the 70-200mm lens worked great for action from just inside the near blue-line till about the far blue-line.  It would have been nice to have a little more reach at this point for action on the other end, but not at the loss of flexibility of pushing the 70mm on the short end out even more.  With the excellent lighting in the arena, I had plenty of pixels for cropping the shots from the far end of the arena.

Here are a few of my favorite shots from the night:

I really like how #25 Jalle Jarnkrok seems to be having a ton of fun with the puck during the game!

#25- Calle Jarnkrok leads the Griffins on the attack as #28 Tomas Jurco and #29 Landon Ferraro head up the ice

This next shot is one of a series I took of #27 Tomas Tatar as he drove hard to the net to get open for a shot on goal.  The whole time his eyes were wide open showing his intensity and focus.  Tatar did get open in front of the net and a teammate fed him the puck, but unfortunately he was not able to score.

#27 Tomas Tatar (LW) drives to the goal with intensity as he works to get open for a pass from behind the goal.

I liked the great graphics on Griffins Goalie Tom McCollum’s helmet as he takes a brief break during the game.  I also liked the great separation from the background and capturing the water drops falling from his helmet.

Grand Rapids Griffin goalie #30 Tom McCollum taking a break during the action.

Thanks again to Kyle and the Griffins for a GREAT experience, and I hope I can do it again! If you would like to see more of my shots from this game go to my Smugmug gallery Grand Rapids Griffins
Posted in Sports, Technique Tagged , , |

Water Polo!

I recently worked out an arrangement to shoot varsity sports at Zeeland West High School, which is bringing me close to some sports that I have never played and I’ve only seen as highlights on tv during the Olympics.  One of these new sports for me is water polo, and this post will be about the techniques I used and how I approached the shoot.

The entire arrangement came together very quickly, so I did not have much preparation time.  I had a quick 2 minute view of the venue a day or two prior to the shoot and then I spent an hour or so reading the rules of the game so I had an understanding of the action, and I was fortunate to find an explanation written by a referee which covered the rules of the game trying to explain it to a typical high school parent new to water polo, and also covered the referee’s positioning around the pool, very important for me to understand as I did not want to get in their way at all!  As a photographer you need to understand not only what the players will do, but also all of the supporting officials will be doing position wise so you can remain out of their way!

As I said earlier, preparation time was minimal for this shoot.  I actually drove home during lunch to pack up my gear for the shoot that evening.  After work I drove home, a quick change and grabbed my gear and headed to the pool.  I did not have much time before the game started other than to tell that the lighting was going to be a challenge.  For my main camera I have a Canon 7D with a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens.  I was okay with this setup, but I was also hoping to use my backup camera, a Canon 40D with a Sigma 150-500mm f/5-6.3 at ISO 1600, but this combination clearly would not be fast enough to shoot at the pool with existing light.  Perhaps next time I will put my 85mm f/1.4 lens on this camera for some close range shots, or even set it up as a remote if I can find a good safe location.

While packing I knew I would have to worry about the white balance, but my grey card was no where to be found, so I set my camera to AWB, Aperture f/2.8, and a shutter speed of 1/500 second so that I could freeze the action.  I set the ISO to Auto since I did not have time to check out the pool exposures from one end to the other to see if the exposure was consistent or not.  In looking at the exif data from my images, the ISO was consistently at 3200 except for a couple of scoreboard shots where it dropped to 2000.  I did lighten up most of the images in post 1/2 to a full stop in Aperture, so next time I shoot water polo, I will likely choose a fixed ISO setting so I have a little more control over the camera exposure and image brightness.  In addition to brightening the images in post, I also ran them through Nik Software Define module to reduce any noise from the high ISO levels.

In addition to the technical challenges of shooting indoor water polo, I also had to break a very old training habit.  For every sport I have ever played, coached, or watched, coaches always stress “play till the whistle”, but as a player that means you play hard, but you can relax after you hear the whistle.  In water polo, this does not apply, the action continues without a stop in play.  To simplify, the referee’s whistle is either awarding possession, changing possession, or awarding a foul, but in all cases, play continues!  Even if a foul is committed, the player who committed the foul has to swim to a designated corner for a specific time while the play continues.  I found myself trying to check out my images on my camera each time I heard a whistle, but then I realized that I was missing some action!  It took a few whistles, but I finally broke through all that old training to kept looking for new action.

Play starts with each team lined up at their own goal line and on the first whistle the teams race for the middle where the ball is dropped by a referee.  The team with the fastest swimmer gets possession!

Zeeland West HS Varsity water polo team lined up at their own goal line for the start of the game vs Grandville HS.

Play can be physical at time as players battle for the ball or position.

Two girls varsity water polo swimmers battle for position and the ball.

Scoring is fairly frequent as this game ended with a Zeeland win, 10-3 over Grandville. 

Posted in Sports, Technique Tagged , , , , , |

New Prices and Sports!

New session prices have now been posted, take a look and book a session!

I am also starting to shoot sports.  I plan on shooting photos at the Grand Rapids Griffins hockey game this Friday, and I will also be shooting some local high school sports with Zeeland West High School.  I’m excited to be starting these new opportunities and I am looking forward to some fun times!

My sports images will be posted on a Smugmug site I am creating at so athletes and parents can purchase any of the images directly from that site.  Since anything purchased there will be handled through a different print lab, and I will do only minimal retouching, the pricing for sports images will be different than for my portrait work.  I hope you understand the reasons for this.

Posted in General, Sports

Joshua Tree

It has been a while since I’ve posted to my blog, but it is not for lack of content!  The day after Christmas I flew out to Las Vegas and then drove down into Arizona to visit some family members, Pete and Carol, as well as Bill and Mary who spend the winter about 25 miles away across the border in California.  It was great to visit with them both, but one of my objectives was to spend some time in Joshua Tree National Park.  After breakfast with everyone except for Pete (he had a tee time at the local golf course), I drove down to Joshua Tree and set up camp at Jumbo Rocks Campground before heading right back out to capture some images.  It was good that I went straight to the campground as the place filled up even in winter!

Here is a shot of a Joshua Tree that was up in some rocks above my campsite. I like the puffy clouds in this shot giving the whole scene a little more character.

Jumbo Rocks area of Joshua Tree National Park

One of the more unique areas of the park is Cholla Cactus garden which I visited shortly after sunrise on my second morning in Joshua Tree. This version of cactus is known as “jumping cholla” since it so readily attaches itself to the unwary passer-by.

Cholla Cactus Garden

I was hoping to get some nice shots at Barker Dam, but the prolonged drought in the area has dried it all up. I hiked along the Wall Street Mill Trail and shot a few HDR images of the abandoned cars, trucks, and mining operation. My favorite shot of the hike is this B&W image of an old truck. I like how it is shown in its environment with the wispy desert clouds in the sky above it.

Abandoned truck on the Wall Street Mill Trail

I think my favorite shot of Joshua Tree was one I took on the 3rd and final day of my visit before dawn. It is cold in the desert at night, especially in the winter. At the campground the temperature at night was in the 20’s and it was not uncommon as I moved down into the valley that the temperature would drop into the teens. This morning the thermometer in the rental car showed 11 degrees as I waited for the sun to come up. While waiting, I captured this night image of desert, rocks, stars and Joshua trees. The shadows are caused by the setting full moon.

Joshua Tree at Night

Posted in Landscape, Travel

Great Smokey Mountains National Park

I’ve spent the last two years serving as Chairman of Michigan Trout Unlimited, a non-profit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of Michigan’s coldwater resources.  Each year the national organization holds a meeting in a different part of the country, and this year the meeting was held in Asheville, North Carolina.  Since I had never visited the Great Smokey Mountains National Park, I decided to take a few extra days vacation to visit the park.  I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to the park.


Some of the highlights included trips to several waterfalls including these two, Indian Creek Falls which is a fairly easy hike, and Grotto Falls, which is a little more challenging hike.


Indian Creek Falls, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Hiker at Grotto Falls, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Also in the park you have some outstanding views of the Smokies, such as these three from Clingman’s Dome showing the Smokies in the daylight, at sunset, and at sunrise with fog in the valley’s.


Great Smokey Mountain National Park as seen from Clingman’s Dome

Final Moments of Daylight, Sunset at Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park

Sunrise at Clingman’s Dome, Great Smokey Mountains National Park

I hope you enjoy this small sample of what you can find in Great Smokey Mountains National Park and I hope you have the opportunity to visit the park in person.

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