photo workshops

Creative Storytelling with the Canon G5 X

Creative Storytelling with the Canon G5 X

New Year's Eve 2015 – It was the last day of a wonderfully rewarding year for photography. In the past 12 months I had worked super hard – leading 12 photo workshops, recording three new on-line classes, giving 13 seminars, recording 24 podcasts, publishing my 36th book, and photographing in Iceland, Provence, the Palouse, Bosque del Apache, Alaska, Telluride, South Beach, Canyon de Chelly, Mesa Verde, Old Car City and Fossil Rim Wildlife Center.

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No Other Old Car City Photo Workshop Offers This Much!

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Above: Old Car City. Model photography is included in my October 2015 Old Car City/Southeaster Railway Museum photo workshop. Canon 5D Mark III, 17-40mm lens.

Registration is open for my October 2015 Canon EOS Destination Workshop: Capturing the Classics: Old Cars and Antique Trains. I can't wait to return to Old Car City and the Southeastern Railway Museum - both of which are located outside of Atlanta, GA.

I'll be teaching: composition (the strongest way of seeing), "croposition" (combining composition with cropping), storytelling,  lighting, HDR – and how to use reflectors, diffusers and speedlites when photographing a model.

My friends from Canon will be there to loan you the newest cameras and lenses (including fish-eye lenses and super-wide-angle lenses) to photograph some of the oldest cars in the country. You will also have plenty of time to process your images – for our group slide show/critique session. And, you'll even get to make a print or two on Canon printers.

No other Old Car City photo workshop offers this much. In addition to the teaching, model session, processing and printing, each workshop participant will receive an autographed copy of my three favorite books: Creative Visualization for Photographers, Exploring the Light and Travel and Nature Photography. In addition, everyone will also receive a free download code for two of my on-line classes: Master the Art and Craft of Bird Photography and Master Landscape and Seascape Photography - both available in my on-line store.

All participants will also received an SD card loaded with Perfectly Clear (see my Plug-in page) for both Lightroom and Photoshop. Thanks to my friends at Athentech for your support!

Total value of these items is over $250.

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Above: Lounge car, Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 15mm lens.

Here's a look at some of my favorite photographs from my previous trip to Old Car City and the Southeastern Railway Museum.

The lounge car photograph (above) and the mail car photograph are HDR images, created in Photomatix. I recommend Photomatix for this workshop. You can get a discount on Photomatix on my Save on Plug-ins page.

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Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. 

I removed some of the reality from my images in this post either by using a fish-eye lens, by altering the true color of a scene, by applying a plug-in, by shooting HDR, by selectively blurring parts of an image –  or by using a combination of all these techniques.

I can show you how to apply digital enhancements during the workshop. Of course, I'll show you how to get awesome in-camera shots, too.

Above: Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

About removing some of the reality from a scene: When we remove some of the reality from a photograph, the photograph can - but not always - look more artistic.

Photoshop, Lightroom and plug-ins make creating artistic images relatively easy - if you have a creative vision. 

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Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 24-70mm lens.

On my workshops I stress light and composition, the topics of my two latest classes on Kelby Training. The picture above (taken on my previous workshops) of our model Hanna (she's coming back for this workshop) illustrates the benefits of shooting on an overcast day, when contrast is low. It also illustrates creative composition: shooting at an angle creates a sense of depth in an image, the Bel Air insignia adds a sense of place to the image, and shooting at eye level helps the viewer of the photograph relate to the subject.

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Above: Old Car City. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens. Effects added with Nik Color Effects Pro. Several Photoshop CS6 enhancements.

Above: Old Car City.  Like abstracts? You will find them in pealing paint and in rust at Old Car City.

Another element of photography we talk about on my workshops is the importance of cropping. In the above photograph, the extremely tight crop (I know it's extreme) emphasizes the fins and tail lights of this cool Caddy.

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Above: Southeastern Railway Museum. Canon 5D Mark III, Canon 17-40mm lens.

Yes, the railway cars and old automobiles are awesome subjects. But hey, I especially enjoy photographing people on location. That is why I was so glad our model Hanna is returning! 

I hope to see you at Old Car City and at the Southeastern Railway Museum - where we not only make good pictures, but where we also have a ton of fun.

If you can't make that workshop, all my workshops are listed here.

Explore the light,

If you have any questions about this workshop, or any of my workshops, give me a call at 914 271-6132. Note: I'm in the Eastern Time Zone.

"Out of Chicago" Brings Together the "In Crowd"

Today's guest blog post is by the talented, dedicated and enthusiastic Chris Smith, founder of the Out of Chicago conference. Take it away, Chris.

I am always nervous to write for Rick's site. He has been my biggest supporter and mentor. From the first time he convinced me to lead a photo walk, to Out of Chicago growing into a full-blown conference, Rick has always been there to help. Thank you, Rick . . . and I am super excited that you will be speaking at the 2016 event.


2015 marked the second year of the Out of Chicago conference. What started as a fun get-together for a few of my photography friends has turned into an event beyond anything I could imagine. In 2014, 15 of my photo friends taught classes on how they shoot. In 2015 I was able to convince Elia Locardi, Bryan Peterson, Juan Pons, Valerie Jardin, Thomas Leuthard, Bob Davis, Jim Harmer, and 24 other amazing photographers to teach what they do and lead photo walks around the city. It was an unforgettable weekend in Chicago.

There is something special about the Out of Chicago conference. I don't know what it is. But I've never seen so many photographers this excited about photography in one place before. Maybe it's because we're not only learning from the best photographers in the world, we're out on the streets of one of the greatest photography cities in the world. The conference venue is in the heart of Chicago, walking distance to the best photo locations in the city.

Some highlights: Photographing the Chicago Riverwalk with Juan Pons. Leading a photowalk with Elia and Naomi Locardi. Leading a photowalk with Jim Harmer. Hanging out with instructors and attendees at the after-party. Teaching my classes on photographing Chicago. Meeting my photography idols. Giving out cameras and lenses as prizes from our sponsors. Meeting so many photographers that I've only known through social media and the internet.

Sometimes I think I'm dreaming. Our 2016 lineup includes some of my absolute favorite photographers. You know at least one of them. The 2016 lineup is headlined by Rick Sammon, Frederick Van Johnson, Jimmy McIntyre, Bryan Peterson, Mike Moats, Jim Harmer, Valerie Jardin, Karen Hutton, Rob Knight, Corwin Hiebert, Derrick Story, Levi Sim, and a whole bunch of people yet to be announced.


Save the dates for June 24th-26th, 2016. For a limited time, we are doing a pre-sale. Save $200 off the full conference price and pay only $199 for the full conference registration. Click here to sign up. It will be another special weekend.

• • • • •

Thank you Chris for your kind words and great post. I can't wait to attend the event!

Explore the light,

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

Canon EOS 5Ds Quick Field Test

Click images to enlarge.

At 9 AM this morning I took my Canon 5Ds, which arrived last week, for a field test. The location: The Chuang Yen Monastery in Kent, NY - which is about 30 minutes from my home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York and one of the locations on my Rick's Backyard Photo Workshop. Hey! I hope you can join me someday on this workshop, which I run twice a year. You will learn a lot and have a lot of fun. I promise.

My main goal for this quick test was to check out the sharpness of the files from this whopping 50.6 MP digital SLR - because one of the main reasons I choose a camera is image sharpness: I want/need the cleanest possible image. This is especially important, to me, when shooting in low-light/low contrast situations – which is why I chose this location for my test.

I created the opening HDR image for this post from a seven-stop, automatically bracketed sequence. To get the seven stops, I changed the Number of Bracketed Exposure from the default setting of 3 to 7. Setting AEB (Automatic Exposure Bracketing) is fast and easy with this camera. Note: you cannot set AEB when the camera is set to built-in HDR - and vice versa.

I used my Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 Fish-eye lens and my ISO was set to 160. My camera was set on a tripod.

I processed the series of images in Photomatix.

Above: To check the sharpness of my HDR image, I zoomed in on the two small sections of the original image you see here. Sharp and clean, as expected. And . . . keep in mind the statues are soft in and of themselves.

Above: Here's another set of images that illustrates the clarity of the images from this camera – as well as the sharpness of the Canon EF 14mm f/2.8L lens. ISO was 160.

When I zoomed in (right image) the original file not only revealed good detail, but I noticed something I had not seen before: a small carving of a Buddha in the headdress of the larger Buddha.

I used Live View for this shot, as well as for the previous shot. I like the camera's Live View feature because it tells you to Press the Set Switch for AF. Kinda cool. Speaking of cool, here's a cool feature of the 5Ds: Mirror Lockup . . . with the option of choosing a delay from 1/8 second to 2 seconds after pressing the shutter release button. Want to get the steadiest/sharpest shot? Go for mirror lockup!

And speaking of clean, I used the in-camera Long Exposure Noise Reduction feature to get an extra-clean shot.

Above: To digress (from the Buddhist temple but not from cropping) for a minute, being able to crop an image for an end-result image with more impact is important for me. Why? Sometimes,  I simply can't get close enough to the subject. Cropping gives me (and you) a second chance at composition - so the 5Ds gives me even greater cropping possibilities.

I grabbed the shot above on the right with my Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-300mm F/4-5.6 IS USM lens (set at 300mm) while on safari in Kenya. I shot quickly because I did not want to miss capturing the leopard's intense stare. Cropping my image produced a photograph with impact.

Learn more about composition in my KelbyOne class: Composition - the strongest way of seeing.

Above: Continuing on quest to test the camera's image quality, I photographed these small (maybe two inches high) Buddha statues. This is a hand-held shot taken with my Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM lens. My ISO was set at ISO 500. When I zoomed in on a statue near the middle of the frame (my focus point), I could clearly read the writing under each statue.

Above: Here's another 14mm lens shot. Above the painting you'll see just some of the 10,000 Buddha statues that surround the main statue of Buddha. I could not ask for a sharper image.

Above: After my quick indoor, low-light/low contrast test, I headed home to check my results – but not before making this image. I set my camera to the HDR mode and then chose the +/- 2 EV setting and the Art Vivid mode. Here, the in-camera HDR worked beautifully. In much higher contrast situations, I use Photomatix to process my images.

Well, that's my quick Canon EOS 5Ds field test. There are many other camera features I want to test, including the AF system. But that will have to wait. My son is home for a few weeks and I want to spend as much time with him as possible.

Speaking of time, for someone as hyper as I am, the review time of the images is noticeably longer than with my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, which I used for the leopard image. That increased time is especially noticeable when it comes to in-camera HDR. But heck, everything in photography (and life) is a trade off, and I'd trade a few extra seconds for awesome image quality any day.

That said, my Canon 5Ds will probably be my camera for landscape, portraits and subjects that don't move – although at five frames per second, it's fast enough to capture all the action I need to capture.

I'll probably still use Canon 5D Mark III as my main camera for action shots. I used that camera and the Canon 200-400mm IS with built-in 1.4x teleconverter for this shot of two lions mating in Kenya.

Above: Here's a shot taken with my Canon 100-400mm IS lens (new model). ISO was 400. I converted the image to black and white in Lightroom.

Again, I hope you can join me someday on one of my workshop. Lots of shooting, lots of processing and lots of fun.

Explore the light,
Canon Explorer of Light

What's new? My new (and 36th) book: Creative Visualization for Photographers - which features lessons on Composition, Exposure, Lighting, Learning, Experimenting, Setting Goals, Motivation and more!

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.