One Bird Photo - Ten Bird Photo Tips

As an instructor, I try to give as many tips as possible on my photo workshops. I like to do that on-line, too.

Here's an example: one photo - ten quick tips. You will find more detailed tips in my on-line class, Master the Art and Craft of Bird Photography.

1 - Expose for the highlights - shoot with your highlight alert and histogram activated.
2 - Look for separation - isolate the subjects in a scene.
3 - Focus - make sure the eye is in sharp focus.
4 - See the light - make sure the eyes are well lit.
5 - Use the AI Servo (focus tracking) mode - this mode tracks moving subjects for sharp shots.
6 - Set your shutter - for birds-in-flight photos, use a shutter speed of at least 1/1000th sec. For swimming bird photos, use a shutter speed of at least 1/250th sec.
7 - Pay attention to your aperture - make sure what you want in focus is in focus.
8 - Sharpen selectively - don't sharpen the entire image. Sharpen only the main subject (s) in your photograph.
9 - Crop creatively - crop out boring areas of the scene.
10 - Know your subject - knowing/understanding animal behavior will help you get great shots.

Explore the light,

What's New?
My 36th book:
Creative Visualization for Photographers.


Casper "Old West" Photo Workshop Roundup: We made "not specializing" our "specialty"

Howdy Pardners,

I'm just back from my Old West Photo Workshop in Casper, Wyoming – organized by my friends at Wyoming Camera Outfitters. What fun we had making pictures, processing our images and making new friends. That's the way we do it on all my workshops.

Here's my roundup – photographs and tips – from the workshop. As you will see, I taught several different photo specialties: working with models (and horses), indoor lighting, composition, HDR imaging, action shooting, creative composition and landscape photography. We also covered image processing in Lightroom and Photoshop, as well as working with plug-ins.

As I told the workshop participants, "My specialty is not specializing. Try it, you'll like it!" Yes, they took my advice and all did a great job!

Okay, let's check out some images and tips.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens. I used fast lenses in the Wonder Bar because I was shooting in relatively low light. Lighting: Three Westcott Spiderlites in soft boxes (diffusion panels removed for maximum illumination). Tip: Light the eyes and focus on the eyes, even when taking wide-angle shots. As a general rule, if the eyes are not well lit and in focus, you've missed the shot . . . unless you are looking to create a sense of mystery in the photograph, in which case the eyes can be hidden or closed.

Above: That's me shooting. We positioned the Westcoot Spiderlites, left and right, for fairly even lighting. A third Spiderlite was positioned off camera at the rear of the bar to partially illuminate the background. Photo: Carol Vipperman.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 28mm f/1.8 lens. Same Westcott lighting set-up as in the previous behind-the-scenes image. Tip: Look for separation when you compose an image. Notice how all the models – and the horse – are separated.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Same Westcott lighting set-up that was used for the opening image in this post. Tip: Remove some of the reality from a scene by removing the color. When you remove the reality, an image can look more creative and artistic.

Above: Behind-the-scenes shot showing the lighting for the previous photograph. Tip: Set up your lights and leave them be. Then, move different subjects into basically the same position. That technique cuts down on the number of variables in making a photograph. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III,  35mm f/1.4 lens. Natural light. Tip: See eye-to-eye and shot eye-to eye – so that the person looking at your photograph relates to the subject.

Above: Wonder Bar. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 35mm f/1.4 lens. Natural light and Westcott Flex daylight-blanced LED Light Panel. Tip: Balance natural light with added light to make a shot look like a natural light shot.

Above: This behind-the-scenes shot shows the making of my "Cowgirl with Guitar" photograph. The Westcott Flex daylight-blanced LED Light Panel was positioned to illuminate the subject's face. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Fort Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Lighting: Rick Sammon Light Controller and Tote (which features a reflector and diffuser) by Westcott. Tip 1 (left): Use a reflector and/or diffuser to compress the brightness range of a scene. Tip 2 (right): Get the subjects involved in the shoot - and the fun.

Above: That's Canon's Cal Ellis (left) helping me control the light for the workshop students. Photo: Susan Sammon.

Above: Fort Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Tip: Pay attention to shadows. Shadows are the soul of the photograph.

Above: Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. ISO 10,000. Tip 1: Shoot for the peak of action. Tip 2: Don't be afraid to boost your ISO. It's much better to get a sharp shot with a bit of noise than a blurry shot with little noise. One of the reasons I use the Canon 5D Mark III is the relatively low noise at ISO settings. When I have noise, I reduce it with Topaz DeNoise, listed on my Save on Plug-ins page.

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Seven-stop, hand-held HDR image processed in Photomatix. Tip 1: Want to master HDR? Learn how to shoot from inside to outside - where the contrast range is extreme. Tip 2: Process your HDR images in Photomatix. Click here to get a discount on Photomatix. 

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Seven-stop, hand-held HDR image processed in Photomatix. Tip: Have fun with HDR!

Above: Junkyard outside of Casper. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Detail shots help to tell the story of a location.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Before you set up multiple lights, see what you can do with one light. The photograph above is a one-light photograph. To soften the image, I applied the Duplex filter in Nik Color Efex Pro.

Above: One of the advantages of using a constant light is that you can see where the shadows fall before you shoot. Tip: If you want an interesting portrait, don' light the entire subject.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip 1: When using mirrors, the background can make or break a shot. Tip 2: Focus carefully. Here I focused on the model's reflection in the mirror.

Above: Our simple lighting set-up for the previous photograph. I positioned the light for maximum illumination of the subject's face.

Above: Backwards Distilling Company. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: When it comes to composition, try this technique: The name of the game is to fill the frame. Of course, dead/negative space works, too. Learn more about composition in my KelbyOne class, Composition, the strongest way of seeing.

Above: That's my friend Dinty Miller, owner of Wyoming Camera Outfitters, assisting with the lighting. Like all the model shots taken at the Backwards Distilling Company, we used only one light to illuminate the subject.

Above: HDR at the Trailside. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 14mm lens. Tip: Make sure you capture the entire dynamic range of the scene when shooting HDR sequences. I needed seven exposures (three stops over and three stops under the average setting, in addition to the average setting) to capture the entire dynamic range of this high-contrast scene. Note the bright sky in the left of the frame. This image was also processed in Photomatix.

Above: Sunset on the range. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: When the sky is interesting, place the horizon line at the bottom of the frame, and vice versa.

Above: Late afternoon landscape. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. Tip: Use foreground elements to draw the viewer into the scene. For more landscape photography tips, check out my on-line class: Master Landscape and Seascape Photography.

Above: Range rider. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 70-200mm f/4 lens. Tip: Use AI servo focus (focus tracking) when photographing fast-moving subjects.

Above: Freemont Canyon. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens This is one of my favorite reflection images from our Freemont Canyon shoot. Tip: When it comes to reflections, it's OK to place the horizon line in the middle of the frame.

Above: Freemont Canyon. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-105mm IS lens. Tip: Shoot close-ups of reflections, too. They make interesting abstracts.

Speaking of reflections . . . It's fun reflecting on the comprehensive (and intensive) workshop. It was not only a rewarding photographic experience, but a wonderful personal experience. I feel as though I have made new friends, for life. I will miss them all – until we ride again.

I hope to see you someday on a workshop

Shoot me an email if you are interested in my 2016 Caper workshop.

Explore the light,

What’s New?

My 36th book: Creative Visualization for Photographers.

... and

My on-line learning center, where you can download my e-books, including, Get Motivated and Stay Inspired.

Happy Father's Day - We are a part of everyone we meet


Happy Father's Day to all the dads out there!

Those of you who know me know I enjoy quotes. Here is my favorite: "We are a part of everyone we meet." I know that's true.

Want proof? My dad, Robert M. Sammon, Sr., was a photographer, getting me started, along with my mother, in photography with his cameras and in his basement darkroom. But more important, he was a good dad - which I try to be. Everyday. I am very glad we met.

You might want to keep that quote in mind as a dad . . . and as you go through life meeting people. I sure do. You may have more of an impact on someone than you realize.

Here are just a few of the things I learned from my dad:

 1) It takes a lot of peanuts to feed an elephant. My dad, who lived through the depression, encouraged me to make, and save, as many pennies as possible. This is sound business advice. Pennies add up, quicker than you might imagine.

Want to feed the elephant? Sign up for as many affiliate and associate programs as possible. Get into as many on-line sales opportunities as possible. You can make a few peanuts on the internet. :-)

2) Even the President of the United States puts his pants on one leg at a time. My dad was telling me that we are basically all the same. He was offering me encouragement: If one man can do it, so can you.

Want some more encouragement? Read Real Magic by Dr. Wayne Dyer:

Real Magic: Creating Miracles in Everyday Life 

3) Hard work pays off. My dad never really said that, but he was a great example of that philosophy. 

I vividly remember one snow holiday in the early 1950s, when it used to snow heavily in New York, when he put on his hat, coat and buckle boots (which I don't think they make any more) and walked a few miles to the train station – while it was still snowing. He had an important meeting in New York City that he could not miss. He always wanted to do the best job possible. His hard work paid off. He died a few years ago at age 92 in his own home, and could still afford to live comfortably. What more could you ask for?

So my friends: work hard and save those peanuts.

Again, happy Father's Day! 

Rick Sammon
Proud son of Robert M. Sammon, Sr.


Top 10 Reasons to Attend The Telluride Photo Festival

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I hope you can join me this fall at Telluride Photo Festival in beautiful Telluride, Colorado. Here are the top ten reasons why I think you will love the event.

10. I am running an awesome workshop: Ghost Towns, Waterfalls and Landscapes. Don't miss out on the $100 early registration savings! Photographers attending my small-group/big-learning workshop also received my Nature Photography Lover's Bundle ($30 value) which is listed in my on-line store.

10a) I'm also giving several seminars at the festival – with lots of new photographs (a few below) from my recent travels.

9. Great Photo Opportunities in the Region - There are 4 National Parks less than a half day drive of Telluride: Mesa Verde near Durango; Arches National Park and Canyonlands in Moab; the Black Canyon of the Gunnison near Montrose. Venturing a little further is the Great Sand Dunes NP, Monument Valley, Capitol Reef NP, Ship Rock, Goblin Valley SP, Kodachrome Basin SP, Antelope Canyon, Bryce NP, Zion NP and Hovenweep NM—all within a day’s drive.  

8. Outdoor Adventures - In addition to incredible photographic opportunities there is hiking, biking, fly-fishing, paddle boarding, yoga, 4WD tours, glider rides and much more.

7. The Town - Telluride is a preserved historical mining town set in a box canyon. The town is surrounded by 14,000 foot peaks in a mind blowing setting (I still get awestruck by the beauty—and I’ve been here for 15 years). This small town loves playing host to visitors from around the world with great hospitality.

6. Epic Autumn Foliage - Telluride has some of the most spectacular fall foliage in the country. The festival is timed around the peak of the fall colors. It’s a color display of oranges, reds, yellows against blue skies and snow capped mountains.

5. Breathtaking Landscapes - The San Juan Mountains are often compared to the Swiss Alps. It is some of the most scenic country in the continental United States. The San Juan Mountains should be on everyone’s bucket list.

4. Intimate Gathering - The festival is still a relatively small one in which there is a spirit of camaraderie among those who attend. The festival serves as a chance to meet those that you may only know via social media or the phone. Life long friendships have been a result of those that have attended the festival.

3. Portfolio Reviews - Here is an opportunity to get your work in front of some of the top photo editors, agencies and companies and get your name known. Portfolio reviewers come to Telluride in the hope of harvesting new talent.

2. Networking - Meet some of the most influential people in the outdoor photography industry from professional photographers to industry representatives. You also meet other photographers that can become mentors or friends to help you with your career.

1. Educational Programming - The TPF prides itself on the workshops, speakers, seminars, panel discussions, and portfolio reviewers we bring to the festival representing some of the most respected companies in the photographic world. There have been several seasoned professionals that have mentioned that they gleaned new insights from the programming at the festival.

I hope to see you in Telluride - at my workshop and at my seminars!

Explore the light,

What's New?

My 36th book: Creative Visualization for Photographers

And . . .

My on-line learning center, where you can download my e-books, including, Get Motivated and Stay Inspired.

Day 6: Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips

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Today is the last day of the series here on my blog: Six Days of Africa Photo Safari Tips.

I am running this series in preparation for my 2016 Botswana/South Africa digital photography workshop.

We will get up early for our game drives (above), so you can get great photographs of back lighted subjects (below). I'll help you with exposure.

Our expert guides will put us in the best position for our photographs (below).

When you are in the best position, you can get the best photographs (below).

That workshop is filling up fast! Here's why – from a few folks who have signed up:

Eric McCartney: There are several reasons why I’ve signed up, but the biggest factor has to be Rick Sammon, quite honestly. I’ve always wanted to go to Africa; it’s been on my radar for more than two decades. I so thoroughly enjoyed the Fossil Rim experience and I learned more about photography and in particular about photo processing in just a couple of days than in months, if not years, of practice. I can’t begin to imagine what a real African safari would be like so to have the opportunity to learn from the best, whom I also consider a friend, can only be an amazing experience. I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.

Diane Eubanks: Well, as the workshop "record holder" I could say that I am just a slow learner ;-). But the truth about what keeps me coming back to Rick's workshops is his great teaching skills, his style of photography and processing, and the fact that I feel very "safe" while in his company. Susan Sammon is an incredible organizer and is always making sure everyone is taken care of and that no one is left behind. Rick and Susan make an awesome team. Africa has been on my bucket list for a long time. I can't wait to see what Rick and Susan have in store for us all!!

John and Evelyn Davis: It boiled down to knowing you and a Botswana photo workshop being on our bucket list.

Dave and Cheryl Wilson: We signed up for many reasons:
– We’ve always wanted to see the amazing animals in Africa.
– We don’t seem to be getting any younger.
– I love photography, and I'm tired of taking the same old Northern California photos.
– We need some adventure in our lives.
– I want the best photography teacher I ever met: my friend Rick Sammon.

Mark and Donna Burdette: An African safari has been on our bucket list since we created it. We are attracted to your safari in Botswana
 and South Africa because we participated with you at Fossil Rim, and found your style of teaching and encouraging participants to be very helpful. We also like the idea of this region in Africa since it seems safer than the northern and eastern regions of the continent, while still allowing the variety of animals and experience that we want. Also, we like the small group nature, and the fact that you have teamed up with Kevin who also seems to have lots of experience in this type of safari. Also, after checking the camps online, it seems like they are of the high qualify that we would want and expect. But, mostly, we wanted this one because you and Susan are going along.

Chandra and Gregg Brooks: A photo safari to Africa has long been a dream for us, but when you consider a trip like's not one where you want to come back with an average snapshot you could take at a zoo. What's that they say - go big or go home? Going to one of the premier game reserves, Mala Mala, with a reputation for incredible sightings of the Big 5 upped the ante. The chance to combine dream location, a small group size and learning from Rick with all of his talent, experience and inspirational teaching style - well, this is simply the opportunity of a lifetime.

• • • • •

Check out my Beauty of Botswana gallery to see more my favorite photographs from my two previous trips to this wildlife wonderland.

Also check out my on-line class: Capturing the Wild: Safari Photography. You can use my tips for making great pictures on a photo safari and at a wildlife park.

Today's tip: Be prepared with the right photo gear. All my gear is listed on My Gear Page.

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Two camera bodies - so you can always have a telephoto lens and a wide-angle zoom lens at the ready. Currently, I am using Canon 5D Mark III cameras.

Telephoto lenses:
• 100-400mm zoom - for distant wildlife;
• 70-200mm f/4 zoom - for closer wildlife;
• 200 - 400mm IS with 1.4x teleconverter;
• 400mm DO lens with 1.4x tele-converter - for even more distant wildlife.

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Wide-angle lenses:
• 17-40mm lens - for landscapes;
• 24-105mm IS lens - for landscapes and environmental portraits;
• 15mm fish eye – for behind-the-scenes shots.

• Tiffen polarizing filter - to darken a blue sky and to reduce reflections on water

• Two battery chargers - for fast battery charging between game drives;
• Storm Jacket - to protect your camera from rain and dust;
• Blower - to keep your sensor clean;
• Head-mounted flashlight - for hands-free shooting on early morning and night drives;
• Plenty of memory cards.

All this gear does something very important for you on your photo safari: it helps you tell the whole story of your experience - as opposed to only taking lots of close-ups photographs of the animals.

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I hope to see you in Botswana or on another one of my workshops.

If you like the composition of the photographs in this post, and if you want to learn how to make the best possible exposure, check out my Kelby Training Classes on my On-Line Classes page.

If you can't make an Africa photo safari, I offer wildlife photo safaris at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center in Glen Rose, Texas. That's where I took the photos above. Shoot me an email for 2016 dates.

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Explore the light

This post sponsored by Adorama - great gear at great prices.