Today's Guest Blogger: Linda Cullivan

I met Linda Cullivan – and her husband, expert Maine lobster chef and boat captain Mike – a few years ago at a seminar in Plymouth, MA. Since then this dynamic duo have participated (and I use the word participated because they really participate) on my Alaska, Iceland, Bosque del Apache and Florida workshops  – and they are coming to my "Croton Creative Workshop" this fall.

Like many of my workshops participants, Linda and Mike have become my friends. These guys are not professional photographers, but they sure do make professional-quality images.

When Linda casually showed me the last photograph you see in this post, I asked her to write a guest blog post – because I wanted you to see her work. Here goes and thank you Linda!

My friend Rick Sammon asked me to write about an image I recently took of a pileated woodpecker family.  I love birds, and pileated woodpeckers are one of my favorites.  

In the seven years I have been photographing, I did not have any good images of this beautiful woodpecker. 

When a friend called to tell me of a pileated woodpecker family two hours south of where I live, there was no hesitation.  I hopped in the car and drove down to find the nest.   

The directions were good and it didn’t take long to find the site.  I set up my tripod with my camera and Canon 500mm lens with a 1.4x extender and waited. 

There were three young woodpeckers in the nest, and I took a number of shots of them. The day was bright although there were plenty of trees for shade.  I set my ISO to 400 and shot in aperture priority at f/8.  I wanted to make sure I had all the birds in focus and those settings gave me enough of a shutter speed to accomplish that.

It wasn’t long before one of the parents flew into the seen to feed the young.  I managed to get a nice shot of one of the parents flying in to the nest, as well as a nice image of the father feeding the young birds.

There was a group of about a dozen photographers and we "chimped" and showed each other our best images.  It was a great way to spend a few hours.  It wasn’t until I got home and downloaded my card that I found what turned out to be my best image of the day – the image you see below, which is the image Rick "flipped out" (his words) over. 

I’d been happy with everything that I had taken but this image really made my day!

Here is my advice:  Learn from the best, shoot as much as you can and follow your passion.  Combine practice and hard work with a bit of luck and you can get an image that makes your heart sing. It happened to me!

• • • • •

Thank you Linda for sharing your work. Until the next lobster dinner!

Explore the light,


P.S. Here's a photo of Linda and Mike that I took on my Iceland workshop. Great couple and great fun!

Today's Guest Blogger: Wayne Bennett

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Digital photography has opened up a world for many of us that has changed photography as we knew it. For those of us who grew up shooting film, especially slide film, the digital revolution was a change that many of us thought we would never make, but we made the change and have adjusted to it well.

Those photographers who never had the pleasure of working with film missed an adventure in image making.

The cameras we use today are so sophisticated and the sensors are so good and the meters so accurate, that you really don’t need to understand anything except how to look through your viewfinder and push the shutter button…then voila!…an image appears. If you don’t like it… press delete, and start again. Pretty easy. The images can be very good…most of the time.

If you are faced with extreme lighting conditions, most meters, regardless of how accurate and sophisticated they are, don’t always live up to your expectations. This is where I feel digital photography, if it has shortcomings, falls short.

In the days of film, exposures for the most part were made manually. You had to understand how your camera worked and what adjustments you as a photographer had to make to get the exposure you wanted.

Most of today's cameras do have a manual mode (M), the mode where you make all the decisions and don’t let the camera make them for you. I am a firm believer that all serious photographers, regardless of what their goals in photography are, should have an understanding of this mode. You may never make an exposure using the manual mode, but if you need it, you know how to use it. You need to know how to override the defaults of your camera, so you can create the images you want… repeatable images.

The purpose of this blog is not to preach, but to illustrate a point in image creation. The opening image was taken in Melbourne, FL at the “click” ponds adjacent to the Viera Wetlands. In the early hours of the morning, before sunrise, you sometimes have to be on the west side of the ponds, because that’s usually where the birds congregate before flying off to “greener pastures” to feed.

Unfortunately, you’re facing east and you have to contend with the rising sun and shooting into the sun is tricky at best. Fortunately, there is a tree line to the east of the ponds, which keeps the sun at bay for a short period of time. In the winter months, when he sun is to the south and rises lower in the sky, the reflections in the water can be very dramatic, as they were this particular winter morning.

The dilemma I faced was…the wood storks were in shadows, so even though the reflection on the water was beautiful, the side of the wood storks I was on was not illuminated enough to get a good image of them without blowing out the water…that is, if I used a programmed mode.

 So what do you do when you are faced with this situation? Do you walk away and try again another day? Or, do you go back to your basic camera knowledge and try to get a viable image by overriding what the camera wants by making all the settings yourself to compensate effectively and get the image you want. To me the answer was simple…let’s make it work.

The arrangement of the storks in the water with the reflections was magical. It was simple, yet the fact that the storks were not in a straight line created the tension that made the image more magical. It was not your classic lineup of birds with the equal and opposite reflection.

When shooting wildlife and birds I normally spot meter in aperture priority mode, so I can get a more accurate exposure of my subject. So, I switched my camera to manual mode and spot metered on one of the birds, knowing that if I was in manual mode and spot metered and overexposed the bird it would give me a global overexposure, but an overexposure that I was controlling.

My end result was that the birds were lighter than they appeared to my eye, but so was the water and the resultant image showed what I envisioned in my minds eye. Yes, there were some trade offs, but the ultimate image was what I wanted. Had I spot metered using the aperture priority mode or any other programmed or semi-programmed mode, I could have maintained the color in the water, but would have lost he detail in the storks, so the trade off was worthwhile in my estimation.

Regardless of how sophisticated your equipment is, you will run across that occasional lighting situation that your camera cannot handle. This is where your knowledge of manual exposure can be invaluable.

For more of my work, please visit my site.

Wayne Bennett