HDR on Florida Beach Scene by Duke Miller

by Duke Miller

Beach Scene by Duke Miller

Beach Scene by Duke Miller

This is one of those shots that just comes along thanks to dumb luck in terms of timing.

I make it a habit after a cold front goes through, which was the case on the 28th of December, to head out to our beach and try to get some drama out of the sunset. The great clouds and a choppy Gulf of Mexico usually serve up some cool scenes. We all know great landscapes have foregrounds for depth, interest, perspective, whatever. I usually try for including some birds, couples walking, whatever.

As luck would have it, that afternoon, some artistic sand sculptors crafted this cool dragon in the sand, complete with waves. Voila! A foreground, some waves, great clouds, and a setting sun.

Dragon Beach Scene by Duke Miller - Before post production

Dragon Beach Scene by Duke Miller – Before post production

Therein was the challenge: The vagaries inherent in susets when it comes to light just didn’t do this one justice above. Cue the HDR preset in my Nikon D300, then set the lens to infinity, turn off auto focus, set the bracketing to five frames, frames, one EV apart, and pull the trigger. You never know exactly when the light is going to be just right, so I just keep firing as the sun dips behind the horizon. In post, I used Nik HDR Efex PRO plug-in for Lightroom, then threw in a dash of variable neutral density, popped the clarity and vibrance a bit, and adjusted the temperature to give the dragon that golden hour glow.

Not your everyday sunset shot, and just in time for the Chinese New Year, which happens to be the Year of the Dragon! EXIF data: Nikon D300, Nikkor 16-85mm VR lens at 16mm at f/11, ISO 100. No shutter speed since it’s an HDR.

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Photography op – on the water – Western North Carolina — Date changed

Media Attention to Photo op in Western NC

Media Attention to Photo op in Western NC

This event has been moved to May 10, 2014 – everything else is the same. Interested in this program? Send an e-mail to Bob Grytten for places to stay…




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St. Augustine is the place for Great Bird Photography

Great Egret, Breeding plumbage, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, FL, Bob Grytten photo

Great Egret, Breeding plumbage, St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, FL, Bob Grytten photo

The St. Augustine Alligator Farm, St. Augustine, FL is a unique place to photograph nesting rookeries up close. A wooden walkway winds around areas behind the Building providing a safe area for Native wading birds to build their nests. Below is a reprint from their website to better get an idea for a visit.

All the dates will provide excellent opportunities to photograph all phases of bird behavior. However, once the doors open at 9AM be prepared for some possible movement on the walkway from the pitter patter of feet. The way to beat this problem is to buy a photo pass as you then will be let in at the side gate at 8AM. The other way is to shoot with fast lenses and higher ISO’s – although a normal lens is often all that may be required. This is a nature photographers dream… and don’t forget the Gators and Crocks!

Wading Bird Rookery

Native herons, egrets, ibis, spoonbills and wood storks seek the security of our Alligator Swamp to roost and raise their young. With hundreds of alligators swimming beneath the oak branches, the birds know their young are safe from tree-climbing predators. Our wooden walkway allows for incredibly intimate views of Florida’s magnificent wading birds on their nests. Photographers achieve award-winning shots here every year. Visit from March through June to see the most nesting activity with the birds in full breeding plumage.

Click here for information about our Photo Contest >

ROOKERY BLOG: http://www.alligatorfarm.com/rookery
The Rookery Blog includes status updates and natural history information about the native bird rookery at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. The natural alligator swamp area of the park attracts hundreds of pairs of wading birds that nest literally feet away from the boardwalk. This blog contains a plethora of nesting activity data so photographers and bird watchers can best plan their visit.

Regularly recorded rookery updates are also available at (904) 824-3337 ext. 23

Typical Rookery Schedule – Arrive with the birds!

Mid February
– The first pair of Great egrets arrive around Valentine’s Day.  More are close behind and begin nest building.
Late February- Great egret pairs continue to arrive, along with some Wood storks. The Greats start to lay eggs.
Early March – Great egrets and Wood storks continue to flock in.
Mid March – Most Great egrets are incubating eggs.  The Wood storks begin to lay.
Late March – Great egrets chicks start hatching out.  Most storks incubating eggs.  A few of the Snowy egrets, Little blue herons, and Tri-colored herons start arriving.  The Snowys waste no time and immediately lay eggs.  Roseate spoonbills are nest building.
Early April – Wood stork chicks start hatching.   Great egret chicks are starting to get to a good size.  Snowys, Little blues, and Tri-coloreds are laying eggs.  Cattle egrets start showing up.
Mid April –. The Green herons start nesting within the park (not the rookery).  Still lots of displaying birds of every species.
Late April – Rookery is mass chaos.  Snowy chicks start hatching. Wood stork chicks are screaming constantly.  Great egret chicks are pretty big.  All of the smaller species have arrived.
Early May – There are chicks of every species in the rookery at this time, but still displaying from all species with the exception of the wood storks.  Green heron chicks hatching out within the park.  Spoonbill eggs due to hatch soon.
Mid May – The Great egret and stork chicks are giant.  There are chicks of every size from every species.  Many species still continuing to display.
Early June – Nothing has even fledged yet.  The displaying has started winding down but there are still birds on eggs.  Chicks everywhere.
July – Fledglings are everywhere.  Displaying is over.  Still a few nests with smaller chicks.
August- Season is over and we prepare for hurricanes.

- Komodo Dragon Exhibit
- Land of Crocodiles
- Maximo
- Python Exhibit
- Red-ruffed Lemurs
- Wading Bird Rookery
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Camera & Water don’t mix, unless…

Back in the days when film was the only way to capture images, I was using a shallow draft watercraft to reach those special places that only birds and a few people knew about. That prompted the article below, so rather than retype it, it is shown in it’s entirety. Updated comments appear below that… especially in view of the upcoming April 11& 12, 2014 Photography on the Water brochure program.

Today, even though the digital platform is upon us, nothing has changed regarding photography on the water – except for technology. You can buy waterproof cameras for a fraction of the cost of housings to keep them safe. You can even find point and shoot waterproof cameras that are pretty darn good. In fact, the one I own is smaller than that old pack of cigarettes, does 1080  video and is very smart.

But I still love my long lens with great glass and my favorite digital camera body. And, we have found an ideal item made by Sea and Summit to use on kayaks to help keep the water out. For canoes and open craft you may still want to refer to the above article.

The item I’m about to discuss fits on top of the kayak, has plenty of room for my 80-200 f/2.8 with body attached and is pretty safe from the normal bits of water when kayaking.
When I see something worth photographing, I simply wipe my hands with a towel, slide the zipper open and retrieve the camera.

Camera housing for kayakThe Sea to Summit Solution Gear Access Deck Bag pictured here also has an seperate internal dry bag (red in the picture) for added protection should it be required. It’s a $79 item and if you can’t find it at Headwaters Outfitters, Amazon.com should have it.

Part 2 -

Sea to Summit bag on Kayak
Sea to Summit bag on Kayak

Next, shooting from the kayak requires some additional preparation on our part. Essentially, how to best hold the camera. The best way is like you would hold a gun – the barrel of the lens in the palm of your left hand with the right hand on the camera body, finger on the shutter release ready to shoot. For a greater discussion click here http://digital-photography-school.com/how-to-hold-a-digital-camera.

Give us a call with more questions, and comments (see below) are always appreciated.

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Composition – keeping it simple

Winter Daybreak, Blue Ridge Parkway by Beverly Slone

Winter Daybreak, Blue Ridge Parkway by Beverly Slone

Thanks to Lens Lugger Beverly Slone for these wonderful examples of composition.

We often try to cram too many things into a single image. Too often that only creates confusion. Simpler is better. In the first image here, placing the tree off-center invites the viewer to smoothly enter into the image and the wispy clouds add a subtle but interesting touch to the scene. Also, while it might seen redundant, one of the elements of design, color, is used to dramatically draw attention to the sunrise.

Low horizion accentuates the broad open expanse of sky — that was certainly the feeling on this cold early morning at the top of the Western NC world at 5,000 plus feet elevation on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Technically, the long depth-of-field of f/18 in this image, assured the tree would be sharp as well as the sunrise. Of course, as the amount of early morning light would only allow 1/60 of a second exposure, tripod is required to make sure any camera movement is minimized.

Ice Climbing Western NC by Beverly Slone

Ice Climbing Western NC by Beverly Slone

Communicate with the audience.

Of all the images we have seen, this one hits the mark. The angles of the subjects legs shout action, as does the outreaching arm with climbing tool.

One thing often overlooked – the facial expression of the climber adds significantly to the emotion that a strong image conveys. And good exposure – detail in the light areas, as well as the dark areas, sharpness in foreground, are also pluses.

Nature Challenges                                                                   Lets not underestimate when we’re in the field in changing conditions, with rain or snow in our face, with freezing fingers and uncooperative equipment — sometimes our task seems daunting. By controling what we can, we go a long way to assuring success in a shoot. Good protection for feet, fingers, etc. is important. Making sure batteries are fresh, etc in our equipment, leaves us free to, simply, release the shutter.

ice Design by Bevely Slone

ice Design by Bevely Slone

Our  final image incorporates elements often overlooked but important. The triangle formed in the upper right section of this image – the ice and the two edges of the frame. It’s a captivating element. The patterns formed by the natural ice cycles and rough formation of the rock wall – White on Black. When all these forms come together, a perfect storm. Just point and shoot.

So, using Lines, Shapes, Forms, Textures, Patterns, and Colorelements of composition follow elements of design.

Two Recommended References:
Learning to See Creatively by Brian Petterson
Images, Designing effective pictures by Michael Freeman

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Marketing Photography That You Like To Take…

Hikers, Gr. Paradiso, Italy bob Grytten image

Hikers, Gr. Paradiso, Italy – Published in Mountain Living Magazine
Bob Grytten image

Eliminate The Negative

           Through the years I’ve observed several marketing mistakes that emerging stock photographers make. Here’s a checklist of them, so that you can see what to avoid:


           Creative people tend to produce their product first and then attempt to find a market for it. This is a recipe for disaster. The Boulevard of Broken Dreams is strewn with bodies of creative people who never learned: “Find the market first (in the subject focus or interest area that you like to work in) and then create for that market.”


           When you try to be all things to all people in the publishing world, the photobuyer’s reaction is: “No one can be that good!” Discover your photographic strength areas, and go for them. Become a specialist in one or a select few subject areas. If wild horses can’t pull you away from your subject area(s), you’ll succeed. You’ll fail or get bored if you focus on racing after those markets that ‘pay well,’ putting subject matter in second place, rather than putting your attention to the subjects you love to shoot.


Service Berry, By Bob Grytten

Service Berry, By Bob Grytten

           Writers rarely publish their poetry, and even more rarely get paid for it. Don’t expect your ‘artsy’ pictures to sell. Consider them your poetry. Ask yourself next time you’re taking (making) a picture, “Is this for sale or is it for soul?”


           Many creative people are known to move to a new address every few years. Photobuyers shy away from the wanderer, the vagabond, no matter how talented they might be. Buying photos is a business and they want you to be businesslike in their dealings with you, and that means being ‘reachable’ two days before deadline. Make sure you maintain a stable, dependable email address and cell phone number. If you use a business card, change the address and phone very time you move.


           If you appear to be ‘just starting out,’ photobuyers will pass you on by. They don’t have the time to hold your hand or “train” you. They’d rather spend their time with someone who is “hassle-free.” You should give the appearance of looking like a pro. As Muhammed Ali, the famous boxer, once said, “If you aren’t a champion — fake it.” Your first step is to correspond with professional-looking emails or with quality stationery, labels, and envelopes. That will help entice the photobuyer to set your material in their “priority TO DO” folder.


           The controls on cameras today make it nearly impossible to take a technically poor photo. Photobuyers expect technical excellence from you. And it should match their particular guidelines. No matter how excellent your image may be, if it does not meet the reproduction quality expected by the printing and publishing industry, you’ll fail.


           Do your homework. Know what your strengths are, and then photograph in those areas that you love best, where you ‘speak the language’ of specific photobuyers who need photos in those areas. They will welcome your knowledge and your photographic expertise and deep coverage of the subjects they need. Do your homework to find such buyers through Google or specialized search engines. You’ll find scores of powerful directories awaiting you, listing photobuyers who, at this moment, are searching for your talent, special skills, and subject coverage that matches the content needs (the theme) of their publishing operation.

- – - – - – -

As an editorial stock photographer you are going to find much more enjoyment when you are photographing subject matter that you like to take. Learn more about how to sell those pictures at PhotoSource International and the PhotoSourceBANK, Pine Lake Farm, 1910 35th Road, Osceola, WI 54020 USA. Rohn Engh is director of PhotoSource International and publisher of PhotoStockNotes. E-mail: info@photosource.com; Fax: 715 248-3800; phone: 800 624-0266; www.photosource.com

Published with permission from Rohn Engh, PhotoSource International www.photosource.com

If you are interested in marketing your photography, we would like to hear from you — Contact Bob Grytten at

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Moving Water – Nags Head, NC – How I did it…

by Charles Johnson

Fishing Piert, Nags Head, NC by Charles Johnson

Fishing Piert, Nags Head, NC by Charles Johnson

…to receive the full benefit of this image click on it, then use the enlaging tool — it cool!

Hello Bob,

Attached is a picture taken last November while on a trip to the Outer Banks. Information follows:

Early Morning -- Nags Head Fishing Pier Consider the contract between the dark, hard pier pilings and the light, soft ocean waves. Required long exposure (1.5 sec) to blur/soften the waves, so therefore the minimum lens aperture of f/22 and minimum camera ISO of 100 were used.

In addition, a polarizing filter not only reduced the reflections from the wet pier pilings, but also helped increase the exposure time. A secondary benefit of the small aperture is a large depth of field. Camera is a Nikon D300, 38mm lens setting.

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Ice Patterns – How I did it

by Diane Jettinghoff
Ice Patterns by Diane Jettinghoff, Jackson County, NC

Ice Patterns by Diane Jettinghoff, Jackson County, NC

Hi Bob;

This image was taken 1/8/14.  Stream frozen over in our deep freeze and now slowly melting the surface.  Took at a slow speed, 2 seconds, at f/32 set on Manuel with 0EV.  Very shady location.

Diane Jettinghoff, Jackson County, NC

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Mountain Ice – How I did it…

Mountain Ice, Onion Mountain, NC by Charles Coburn

Mountain Ice, Onion Mountain, NC by Charles Coburn

by Charles Coburn

Two days after last Christmas I decided to go up Onion Mountain to hike up to the top and see what winter had to offer.

Before I came to the trail head I encountered ice formations on the side of the mountain. What caught my eye and intrigued me was the contrast of the ice against the rock face of the mountain--it just stood out.

I was shooting with a Nikon 70s with a Tamron 70-300mm macro lens. A focal length of 70mm gave me the angle of view I wanted, and an aperture of f/8, shutter speed of 1/80, and ISO 200 gave me the exposure I wanted. I knew this would be the image I wanted in black and white, so the conversion was made in Lightroom. So much for there being "nothing to photograph in the winter".

Chuck Coburn, Franklin, NC USA

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Street Photography —

Lady with Flowers, Perugia, Italy by Bob Grytten

Lady with Flowers, Perugia, Italy by Bob Grytten

We’re on our way to a class and all of a sudden I spot her across the piazza. Is she waiting for a bus?, selling flowers? – she’s holding some flowers. Anyhow, up comes the camera, zoom out the lens. “Click.” Perugia is a bustling place. Students, tourists, people on their way to work. I walk hurriedly toward where she’s standing. “Poso photographie, Senora,” I smile. “Si,” she responds. Up comes my camera again – this time, ten feet in front of her. Just as I’m about to squeeze off the shot, her head turns toward the camera. Darn, I’m thinking. I like the more candid shots. I do another. “Grazie, Senora,” I thank her. She nods.

I hate pointing my camera at people just to capture the culture. How would I like it? Something inside doesn’t feel right – yet, I love those cultural Icons – natural, unposed – the story that’s told by those facial lines, gnarled hands, weathered expressions. For me, that more approaches the 1,000 words. So, I like to do a grab shot first then ask permission, in the language of the country, if possible.

With my Lady with Flowers image, I wouldn’t have expected those kind eyes, that simple smile – hidden from me, during the split second the viewfinder goes blank as the mirror slaps up. It’s hard to express that kind of reward. But getting the permission is also everything.

San Rocco De Camogli, Italy

San Rocco De Camogli, Italy

Being in another culture is more than just looking at churches or museums. Both Carol & I prefer to sit at a sidewalk cafe or seek out a back alley where the culture expresses itself. It’s what the picture says that is more important, in my view.

Sometimes, I sort of go undercover, using a wide angle lens to cover my interest in a shop keeper that I might just squeeze into the frame while pointing the camera away from them directly. I still like to get their permission, later, if they become the  object of the image. If they’re just a part of the scene it’s less important, and sort of fun.

Learning to say “may I take your photo?” in another language does not have to be difficult.

Boy with Pizza, Saorge, FR

Boy with Pizza, Saorge, FR

On a last minute trip to Greece, I befriended a Greek traveler and asked how best to do it. Just hold your camera up he said and ask “Photographie?” “They’ll get the idea,” he said. The word “photographie” actually originated in Greece. Photo means “light.” Graphie means “word.” Writing with light or Communicating with photos.

This blog was inspired by a post from Rohn Engh’s Photo Letter PhotoSource International issue this week. For more information about doing Street Photography, go to Candids Are Legalhttp://www.photostocknotes.com/psn

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