Correct & Create With Plug-ins. Save a few bucks, too.

Plug-ins for Lightroom, Photoshop and Aperture can be used to add an artistic flair to images. The creative possibilities are endless. Above I used two filters in Nik Color Efex Pron 4 – Bi-Color User Defined and Image Borders – to create a more artistic rendition of the image below.

One of the cool things about Color Efex Pro 4 is that you can add filters. Try it, you'll like it.

Plug-ins can also be used for image correction. Below I used the Spificy filter in Topaz Adjust to open up the shadows, as well as to add some color to the sky.

Below is my original image. As you can see, the shadows are blocked up and the sky is dull.

To get a discount on all Nik products and to check Topaz and some of the other plug-ins I use, click here.

Explore the light,

Guest Blogger Rob Dweck Shares His Creative Vision

Today's guest blogger is Rob Dweck, a wonderful photographer (and person) who assisted me at the California Photo Festival.

Take it away Rob.

Every one of us has something that inspired us to pick up a camera and get into photography. For me it was a natural extension of my love for nature and the outdoors. There was no better way to spend my free time than to lace up my hiking boots and spend a day on the trail where I could turn off the phone, forget about the day job and relax as I took in the view from the top of a mountain or a long stretch of sandy beach. Wanting to bring some of that experience home with me, I bought a little point and shoot camera and snapped photo after photo as I hiked through some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth. I returned home and downloaded my photos expecting them to look like what my eye saw and…disappointment.

The truth was I had no clue what I was doing. The dial on top had several modes for different types of shooting, but I couldn’t find the Ansel Adams mode. It quickly dawned on me that I needed to learn what I’m doing if I wanted to bring home more than just snapshots. So I read books, watched videos, practiced, practiced and practiced some more. In the ongoing process of shooting, learning and making lots of mistakes, (a big part of my learning process), I found a new creative outlet that has brought me more joy and gratification than I ever imagined possible. What started as a way to bring home a bit of nature’s beauty, is now an ongoing process of artistic expression. 

Like so many photographers, I started out by going to many of the iconic locations that have been photographed gazillions of times. I was happy to get my “me too” shots, but after shooting enough of those, I wanted to do more than re-create someone else’s photo. On a recent trip to Glacier National Park, I got the classic sunrise shot from the Wild Goose Island overlook, and after the golden light faded from the peaks and the hoards of other photographers packed up and left, I saw some other possibilities.

Seeing the movement of the clouds, I knew that a long exposure would capture that movement as streaks fanning out across the sky. With the sun already fairly high in the sky, I knew that the only way to get a slow enough shutter speed was with my 10-stop neutral density filter, which I attached it to my lens to get a 5 minute exposure. I converted the file to black and white and created an image that was much more compelling than the classic golden hour shot I made 25 minutes earlier.


One of the reasons I love doing long exposures is that it allows me to capture movement in a way that otherwise goes unseen by the naked eye. I used my trusty neutral density filter in this photograph of Maligne Canyon to get a 141 second exposure that blurred the water into a silky smooth flow that wouldn’t be possible with a shutter speed of just a few seconds.

Not being a photojournalist, I’m less interested in faithfully recreating a scene than capturing the essence of a scene or how I felt when I was there. Getting creative with filters and camera settings is one way to accomplish that, experimenting in post processing is another way. I shot this photo in Vernazza, Italy during twilight to capture a more ambient and peaceful perspective on this small town. During peak season, the town is overrun with tourists and the partying continues into all hours of the night. I wasn’t interested in capturing that aspect, so I chose this vantage point from a hillside, and then added a subtle glow effect using the Glamour Glow filter in Nik Color Efex pro. This gave the image a slightly ethereal look that more closely matched what I was feeling at the time.

But there are times when everything comes together and I want to capture a scene exactly as it appeared. That was the case in this photo when the outlet stream of Rodeo Lagoon in the Marin Headlands was unusually still and provided a perfect mirror for the cloudy sunset sky.

With the extreme dynamic range of the scene, I knew I’d need to bracket several exposures and use HDR to capture it all. I composed the shot and placed the camera on the tripod, but something seemed to be missing. The shot needed one more element. A little patience paid off and as soon as the surfer walked by, I quickly fired off three bracketed exposures. Even though the surfer is a small part of the frame, it made the shot. I processed the three exposures in Nik HDR Efex Pro to re-create the scene as my eye saw it that night.

What started out as a way for me to document my journeys has evolved into a continuous process of seeing light and capturing it in an artistic way. I learn something new every time I shoot and would like to leave you with five things to consider the next time you pick up your camera.

1.    The camera doesn’t see what you see. Know what it can and can’t do so you can use it to re-create your vision.

2.     Patience, perseverance and persistence are the keys to many successful images. You may need to visit a location several times to get the shot you want. 
3.    Only include what’s necessary. If something in the frame doesn’t enhance the image, it will probably be a distraction. Eliminate it by zooming in, shooting from a different position or cloning it out in post processing if necessary.
4.    Don’t let reality limit your imagination. Unless you’re a photojournalist or on a specific assignment, you do not have to faithfully re-create what you see. Let your imagination run wild with the camera and with post-processing.
5.    Be safe. I’ve seen photographers get in some very dangerous situations to get a shot. No photograph is worth your life.


• • • 
Thank you Rob for sharing your vision. You have a wonderful eye - and spirit. I hope to see you at the 2012 California Photo Festival.

Explore the light,

Digital Delray Days - A Great Way to Spend the Day

I am happy to announce the launch of my Digital Delray Days – a series of one-day, fast-paced and fun-filled digital photograph workshops in beautiful Delray Beach, Florida. 

• Dates: January 30, January 31 and February 2, 2012. (These sessions will be held after my Florida Photo Caravan.)

• I'll be giving a free lecture on the evening of  February 1.

• Each session is one day long: 8 AM to Noon and 1 to 5 PM. The same workshop will be given each day. (Hang out after the workshops for happy hour!)

• I'll be your photography and Photoshop instructor.

• The groups are limited to 8 – for up-close and personal shooting and training with me.

• I'll teach HDR, model, street, outdoor, flash, reflector/diffusers, and beach photography. Yes. You will leave the workshop with a very good understanding of your flash.

• In December, I will review your portfolio on line and give you feedback. I'll need a link.

• We'll have a digital darkroom session, so you'll see how to enhance your images. I will offer some tips, tricks and techniques.

• Cost is $149 and includes: Workshop fee and a copy of two of my books: Exploring the Light and Field Guide to Digital Photography.

• All meals, hotel and transportation are on your own.

• We'll be based at the Colony Hotel in Delray.

• Skill level: All... but you must know how to find your pictures on your laptop.

You'll need:
• Your camera, lenses and flash.
• Tripod.
• Laptop with card reader.
• Loaded on your laptop (in addition to Lightroom, Photoshop or Photoshop Elements): Photomatix or HDR Efex Pro. Also: Topaz Adjust. For a discount on Photomatix and HDR Efex Pro, see my Creative Plug-ins page.

To learn about HDR photography, check out my iHDR iPad app.

I hope you can join the photo fun in Delray.

If you have any questions, shoot me an email.

For an application, email Susan Sammon.

Explore the light,

P.S. Here is a behind-the-scenes shot taken in the room where I took the opening pictures for this post. Ahhhhh, the wonders of HDR photography!

Have a Heart

Have a heart: If you have the choice to be right or kind, be kind.

And speaking of hearts, here are two of my "heart" shots. I photographed the heart on the sidewalk in Amsterdam, and I photographed the upside down heart in St. Augustine.

I used Topaz Adjust/Spicify on the bicycle shot. I used Nik Color Efex Pro/Photo Stylizer on the pier shot.

For info on the plug-ins I used, click here.

Be kind,

P.S. If you have a heart shot, please share.

Are Two Light It Apps Better Than One?

Last September, my friend Scott Kelby introduced Light It, a cool digital magazine that's available through iTunes as an iPad app. I'm lovin' it!

Scott's app/digital photo magazine is geared toward serious photographers who want to master their lighting techniques. 

Last year, I launched my Light It! app. I have an iPad and an iPhone version. 

Although I teach advanced techniques on my Master Your Flash workshops, my app is geared more toward the novice who is just getting into lighting - flash, strobe, natural and so on. So, Light It! is a basic lighting app - which is why basic is in the title :-)

So... light it your way!

Explore the light,

For all my apps, click here.