Photo Tips, Photographing Birds – Florida, USA

Little Blue Heron by Duke Miller

Little Blue Heron by Duke Miller


Action Bird Photography

by Duke Miller


Our residence in Florida has a deck at the edge of a lake from which these shots were taken of a Little Blue Heron. The Little Blue is about half the size of a normal heron and actually bluer than it’s larger relative. Recently, this one was in a feeding frenzy, which I was able to capture from above as he literally danced atop the water grabbing whatever got in the way of his beak.


Littl Blue Heron #2 Duke Miller

Littl Blue Heron #2 Duke Miller

Prior to this shoot, I experimented with numerous shutter and aperture settings.  The number one priority is shutter speed; no less than 1/1000th sec. to freeze the motion. Remember, not only is the bird moving, but I’m also panning the camera at a high multiple exposure rate. The  Auto ISO function, which adjusts the ISO to whatever value it takes to properly expose across a wide range of varying light conditions, is a great help as well.  Setting the camera to Continuous Focus and holding the camera’s AF button down at all times is important for getting sharp exposures.

I do my best to concentrate on the eyes at all times I don’t mind if the depth of field is a bit shallow in these instances, because it gives a sense of motion, which I don’t find objectionable. (If DOF is critical, you’d shoot Manual instead of Shutter Priority, setting the speed to 1/1000+ and the aperture to suit your desired DOF. In that instance, noise could become an issue, since Auto ISO will be pushing the upper ranges of the camera.) Because these birds have white feathers, I like to shoot at -2/3EV to insure detail at the high end.

Little Blue Heron #3 Duke Miller

Little Blue Heron #3 Duke Miller


Nikon D800e, f/5, -2/3EV, 1k/1250th sec, Shutter Priority, Nikon 70-300mm VR at 255mm (full frame), Auto ISO, Focus Center Weighted. Post with Lightroom 5.5.

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Spotlight on Photo Workshops – Don McGowan, Spring 2015

Great Smoky Mountains National Park Spring TN/NC
Townsend, Tennessee
Mar 28 – Apr 3, 2015
Tuition:  $1295
Participants: 8

TrilliumGrandiflorumIII am, first and foremost, a photographer of the Great Smoky Mountains and have been photographing professionally in them for over twenty years. For five of those I served as the staff photographer for Friends of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I have hiked nearly all of the nine hundred miles of maintained trails of the Park and backpacked extensively in it. This Park is the back of my hand, and more than almost anything, I love sharing it photographically and otherwise with anyone I can. We will spend a week exploring the streams, early spring flowers, high country, spring atmospherics and light of this most-visited national park of all.

PurchseEarlyLight2014-10-20-6Spring in the Smokies is a time of new beginnings as winter loosens it grip on the hills and streams. As the buds turn to blossom, it becomes more than obvious why it has been suggested that it might well should have been named “Wildflower National Park.” The streams themselves are alive with the bounty of winter’s rain and snow, the gift of the “rainy season.” As the forest comes to life the green begins to creep slowly up the mountainsides like a living carpet. Cooler and warmer air masses mix and mingle producing cloud forms of exquisite beauty and fogs of moody presence. The light itself seems rarefied, lighting the landscapes below. In a Smokies spring morning the entire world seems fresh and new, and photographically pristine. In a Smokies spring the pulse of creation is not only felt, it is also seen.    MiddleLittle2014-04-17-5

About Don McGowan…

I grew up in the rolling piedmont hills of Georgia, the child of farm children and the grandchild of farmers. My earliest memories of the natural world are informed by this heritage.

As a teenager, much of my time was spent exploring the forests, wetlands, and river valleys of the northern and central parts of my native state. Later, during undergraduate and law school, my range expanded to include the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee, as well as the swamps of the southeastern coastal plain.

DonMcGowanPhotographerDon McGowan, PhotographerAs I moved into my working career, I discovered that rather than wanting to spend less time in Nature, I wanted to spend more; and a small SLR camera to document my travels became an integral part of my outdoor gear. Like most of my friends, my understanding of photographic technology was quite limited. My images, likewise, reflected this shortcoming; but making them was fun, and even if I did not completely understand how I had obtained them, I knew that I wanted to keep at it.

In 1993-94 a sequence of totally unforeseeable events occurred that changed my life completely and forever and put me on the path that I now travel. I came to an understanding that being a professional nature photographer was exactly my purpose in being here, and each day since that time that is the trail I have followed.

Here is the essence of what I have learned:

The images that we make are the reflections of our heart. From the moment we are born, and even sooner, we begin to receive impressions from the world around us; and, from those impressions, questions begin to be answered: What sort of place is this? Is it safe, or no? Does it mean me good or ill? What is this thing called beauty and how can I know it? What part do I play in all of this?

At some moment in time, the impressions begin to coalesce into pictures, the world takes on form, we become aware of elemental design; and these things stand before us within a context of light and shadow that is constantly changing. We see this with our eyes, in our minds, and within the core of our being. And we respond.

For some, the response is a verse, a song, the lines of a story; for others, it takes on shape and form: a bowl, the mouldings of a sculptored body; for me, it became a photograph. For I have found over the years that I best connect with the world through the creation of images; and I best share that expression – my love of this earth – through the eyes of a camera and lens.

For Registration go to EarthSong Photography

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Folly Gras – Mardi Gras, Folly style: Great photo opps

We’re in Charleston, SC with clouds, but warmer than the mountains – welcome relief  and to be in the 60’s today. Learning of the Folly Gras – Mardi Gras Folly style, we head back to Folly Beach.

Follygras, welcome models by Bob Grytten

Folly Gras, welcome models by Bob Grytten

It wasn’t long before we find our first story in a picture – two guys dressed for the occasion… I sort of motion with my hands to get their heads together. They smile and oblige. Thumbs up and they go back to their revelry…

On these occasions almost everyone wants to have their picture taken, but I still ask. Sometimes, though, I shoot the candid first then ask – just in case.

Follygras, Bulldog with Beads by Bob Grytten

Folly Gras, bulldog with Beads #2 by Bob Grytten

Next, we just cruise the length of the event for anything special. There are  dog’s of all descriptions, but when we saw this guy we knew it would be a winner…

My first shot of this guy was nice, but once I got all the images

Follygras Bulldog with beads #1 by Bob Grytten

Folly Gras bulldog with beads #1 by Bob Grytten

processed I knew the one looking straight on was the strongest.

Things are heating up…




Couple at Follygras by Bob Grytten

Couple at Follygras by Bob Grytten

I found this mask and asked them to move closer. I then cropped it so their eyes were at points where Thirds Rule would intersect.

I’m using my Nikon18-200mm lens. It’s my go to for street photography because of its almost unlimited focal length, plus it’s pretty sharp. The above bulldog that I liked was actually part of a street scene; but, so small it had to be cropped and enlarged a bit.

We stopped to eat at the Crab Shack and got a

Colorful at Carb Shack by Bob Grytten

Colorful at Crab Shack by Bob Grytten

high table outside – perfect shooting perch.

These guys were so colorful. Couldn’t resist.




Four at the table by Bob Grytten

Four at the table by Bob Grytten

Here’s a foursome that we shared a table with, all live nearby. It was so crowded…





And finally a short video clip which better conveys the mood. They hold this event every year…

If you go …

The edge of America. Just 15 miles from downtown Charleston, Folly Beach is its own universe – with its own sense of time, enjoyment, and a laid back, friendly energy that has earned it the lifelong affection of locals and visitors alike. Its wide beaches, solid surfing, eclectic neighborhoods, and community of locally-owned restaurants and shops make it the perfect place in which to revel, relax, and reconnect.

Folly Gras Parade
Held every February. Come and enjoy Mardi Gras, Folly style with the annual Folly Gras festival and parade.

Folly Beach History
1934: George Gershwin takes a beach vacation at 708 West Artic to write the classic musical, Porgy & Bess.

Morris Island Lighthouse
1876: The Morris Island Lighthouse was built. Today, though it’s light no longer shines, it stands approximately 300 yards off shore, as a beloved historic landmark.

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Lens Lugger Artist Rick Hills is in the Spotlight – Makes Cover of Rapid River Magazine

Asheville Artist Rick Hills is in the Spotlight

February 11, 2015 | Leave a Comment

Fine Artist Rick Hills Makes Cover of Rapid River Magazine


Fine artist Rick Hills is on the cover of this month’s Rapid River magazine. Rapid River Arts & Culture Magazine is the largest and oldest arts publication in Western North Carolina. In his interview with Rapid River, he said,” “It’s getting out and observing the things that are happening around you that matters—the smell of the pines, the crunch of the forest floor beneath your feet, the cloud that appears, seemingly out of nowhere—this is how God speaks to me, through His creation…”

Currently Rick specializes in a wonderfully colorful form of art called “Pochoir” (po-shwah). Rick’s pochoir based artwork utilizes leaves and plants as stencils to create bold outlines with strong signature colors.


Rick lives in Waynesville and it’s his close proximity to Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Blue Ridge Parkway that fuels and inspires his personal “art” walks. According to his interview is frequently on his walks by his three collies Sugar, Lily, and Toppie.


From his interview “His connection to his surroundings deepens as he returns to favorite locales again and again, in every season and at different times of day, coming to know them intimately, as you might come to know a lifelong friend.

It becomes a kind of conversation—one in which he listens to the silence, absorbs its wisdom, and carries it home to his studio to bring life to his paintings.”

Asheville artist Rick HIll's Pochoir artwork

“Hills graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in fine art, then began a 30-year career as a festival artist, combining his love of art with his love of travel. He had the opportunity to explore most of the US and finally settled in the beautiful North Carolina mountains.”

Pochoir is also an old French word that means ‘to sparkle’… and as you can see Rick’s pochoir pieces are truly something unique and different than other painted works.

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Daybreak Multimedia with Ray Lynch music from Deep Breakfast

If you enjoy the mountains with morning mist, you may enjoy this piece. Ray Lynch provides the perfect mood for this 5AM shoot from the Blue Ridge Parkway, as the sun rises over Waynesville, NC.

The musical piece is “Falling in the Garden” from the album Deep Breakfast  used with special permission.  You may wish to turn the volume up a bit…

Enjoy  — Bob Grytten

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More on Tips in design using photography tools by Jerry Stone

Here are my latest images, done on my set-up. Hope this is what you are looking for.
Photo by Jerry Slone

Photo by Jerry Stone

Shooting pictures with a candle is fun, and great for honing your camera skills. You get a greater feeling of achievement with a still life or table top set-up, because “YOU” have created the entire image, as opposed to recording the greatness of nature.
Control of the ambient light in the room is critical to achieve the lighting balance that you are trying to present. Use your imagination in the use of lamps and reflectors.
The use of Camera RAW is a big advantage. Because it allows you to utilize the full dynamic range that your camera can produce for your presentation. The candle is very bright in relation to the surrounding scene, thus creating a high dynamic atmosphere. You don’t want the flame to be completely too,too bright, or blown out, but it wants to be very bright. But, again, it’s your creation, use whatever guidelines that make you happy with your image.
HDR is also helpful in some instances, but be careful, as HDR has side affects that can be harmful. By it’s nature, HDR produces excessive digital noise in the darker and shadow areas of your image. This digital noise is accumulative.
The use of wider angle lens in close, will make your scene deeper and further away. Where as longer or telephoto, from further back will compress the scene. shoot the scene with both and review your results. This is very helpful learning the traits and eccentricities in your lens. Varying the height of your tripod for different angles of view, will also have an big effect on the composition.
Stopping your lens down to f-22 will give a star burst effect to the flame, if you desire.
I’ve found it beneficial to take notes of each series of shots. I then process my shots for review and most times, return to the set-up and make further adjustments and more shots.
Photo by Jerry Stone

Photo by Jerry Stone

The use of the graduated filter in Photoshop or Adobe Raw Convertor is a powerful tool in this type of work. You have more control with the filter in A.R.C.
Side lighting of folds or ripples in the cloth background can produce interesting lead-in lines.

With or without a candle or principal light source, you can create dramatic images from everyday objects with creative lighting.

Your only limited by your imagination.
Ole Jer.
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Jerry Stone’s quick set up for still life photography

Bob, hope this is useful.
Jerry Stone image photo set up

Jerry Stone image photo set up

I can comment on the set-up.
  • I set up a temporary table top set-up in my Florida room, that I can set up & take down, with minimum effort and time.
  • This is ideal for still life’s, flowers, macro and any other small studio type work.
  • It’s great fun, and good practice.
  • I use a glass top table, covered with a large dark blue table cloth, with one end tethered high on a wall.
  • I have a large piece of glass that I lay on top of the cloth, to use when I want reflections.
The Florida Room is ideal, with all of the windows and vertical blinds, I have good control of the ambient light.
I use several light sources, candles, Kerosene lamps, or one of my favorites a LED flashlight. A 16 X 20 mounting board is a great reflector.
Cut glass, crystal items, shinny brass objects are especially nice, especially when taken on a piece of glass, to create reflections.
With the cloth background, you can have folds or ripples that you can create, in the cloth, with side light, they create interesting curves, lead-in-lines and other interesting effects.
It’s easy to shoot from many camera angles, f stop settings and lighting conditions. I make a lot of RAW exposures.
I’ve found that the “live view” setting on the camera to be extremely valuable with a set-up like this, in honing my skills in looking at the entire picture, instead of concentrating on the subject.
With a set up like this, you are only limited by your imagination.
Ole Jer.
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The Everglades – Where Wonders Only Whisper by Bill Lea, guest Blogger

FL Alligator by Bill Lea

FL Alligator by Bill Lea


In the first line of her classic 1947 book, The Everglades: River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote, “There are no other Everglades in the world.  They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known.  Nothing anywhere else is like them…”  

However, since its discovery the Everglades has always endured the negative stigma, which goes along with the word swamp – “disease infested,” “hideous,” “monstrous,” “diabolical,” “God-forsaken,” “obstacle to progress,” “enemy of civilization,” “worthless,” “poisonous,” “repulsive in all its features,” “unredeemable,” “evil,” and more.  In the 1840’s Florida’s first state legislature deemed it “wholly valueless.”  The 1904 governor-elect Napolean Bonaparte Broward referred to the Everglades as a “pestilence-ridden swamp.”

Lacking grandiose mountain peaks, spewing geysers, and tumbling waterfalls, Everglades National Park was eventually established to protect a fragile ecosystem of incredible biological character and diversity.  A discerning eye will reveal the beauty of this mix of tropical and temperate flora combined in an array of habitats.   

Today, when people “picture” the Florida Everglades they often envision the iconic “river of grass” or sawgrass prairies so characteristic of the area.  Yet there is so much more to this wondrous place!  Other environments or habitats within the park include pine rocklands, mangrove swamps, coastal prairies, estuaries, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, dwarf cypress prairies, and the Southeastern Saline Everglades.

When I think of the Everglades – I smile.  Puffy clouds drifting over a sea of sawgrass give birth to glorious landscapes.  Soft gurglings of an American bittern, the exotic scream of a lone limpkin, and the deep bellowing of a distant gator all speak volumes of the greatest freshwater marsh in the world.  Yet, at other times, a haunting silence shouts the wonder of this vast wilderness.  I listen; I watch and learn; I feel the magic.  Not everyone sees nor experiences the spiritual revelation.  A quick drive-through will certainly not reveal it.  Some find it monotonous.  One author wrote, “It tends to look a bit yucky…”  Even the trained eye of a visiting National Geographic editor failed to recognize its beauty – how sad.  For the first time ever, the splendor of tall mountain peaks, grand waterfalls, or mighty glaciers did not drive the establishment of a national park.  The unique and diverse biological qualities showcased by temperate and tropical flora and fauna – the complex ecosystem along with all of its extraordinary life – begged for – no, demanded – the creation of Everglades National Park.  

When I think of the Everglades, I think about the rugged people who once inhabited this land.  It was a hard place – definitely not for the feeble.  A 1947 Saturday Evening Post account proclaimed the great abundance of mosquitoes in the Everglades.  It told of windshield wipers used to clear a swarm of the persistent insects and the resultant blood oozing down the glass.  When an interviewer once suggested to notable author Marjory Stoneman Douglas that the Everglades might be a rather inhospitable place, she snapped back:  “Well, they ARE inhospitable!  People are not supposed to live there.  It’s too buggy and too wet.”

When I think of the Everglades, I think of its intrinsic values.  Yes, I cherish the birds, alligators, prairies, dwarf cypress, sounds, and big sky, but I am equally moved by patterns, textures, colors, and the inner-workings of all its life.  The grand scenes are incredible but to the discerning eye, subtle beauty abounds and astounds throughout the Everglades – where wonders only whisper.

Reprinted from The Everglades – Where Wonders Only Whisper                                            by Bill Lea
Author & Photographer

Bill Lea & Chris Norcott will be offering an Everglades Photo Tour into the Everglades National Park
Homestead, Florida
March 5-8, 2015
Fee: $795
Escape the winter weather and join nature and wildlife
photographers Chris Norcott and Bill Lea as we explore
Florida’s Everglades National Park. During the photo
tour Chris and Bill will show you some of their favorite
locations in the park where you will capture incredible
scenic images ranging from dwarf cypress trees draped
in fog to fabulous sunrises along Florida Bay or the
mystical wonder of a tropical cypress swamp.

We will also be photographing an array of wildlife subjects
including alligators, osprey, a host of wading birds, and
much more – many so close you can literally touch them –
but we won’t! Find a copy of Bill’s book
for a sample of possible
Everglades subjects we will be photographing.

The photo tour begins Thursday evening (March 5th)
and concludes on Sunday afternoon (March 8th).
Participants will be responsible for travel, lodging, and
meal expenses. A variety of lodging is available, but
we recommend the Holiday Inn Express where a block
of rooms has been reserved for us at a reduced price.

Participants will
be required to sign a liability waiver since we will be in
the wild photographing nature, which obviously poses
some inherent risks.
305/247-3414 – Group Code “LEA”
To register contact Bill at:
or Chris at:

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Jerry Stone Image – How I did it and why I’m active in photography

Lens lugger Jerry Stone has another reason for being so active in his photography, and he let’s us in on his techniques…

“I shoot a lot. Spend about 4 hours a day in Photoshop. Consequently I come up with a lot of images. I belong to a local camera club, Port Orange Camera Club, and get to use only about two to three prints a month. So I’m always looking for some outlet for all of these images that I process.
One the main reasons that I’m so involved is, I have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and my neurologist wants me to keep my mind busy and active. He thinks that Photoshop is ideal for stimulation. Marie has been encouraging me to post my work on-line, with Facebook, and I just started. The other day, I selected about 100 of my most recent images, downsized, and converted to jepg and I’ll be adding one a day to Facebook, or until someone complains. 
…Ole Jer.”
Jerry Stone image settings: Canon EOS 5DMarkII, 400mm lens Aperture Priority, f/6.7, 1.45 sec, EV+1.5, matrix metering,

Jerry Stone image settings: Canon EOS 5DMarkII, 400mm lens Aperture Priority, f/6.7, 1.45 sec, EV+1.5, matrix metering,

“This image was taken up in Gainesville, at The Butterfly Rainforest. Used a Canon 5D mk II with a 400 M.M. lens with an extender, f 6.7 and 3200 ISO to get a shutter speed that I could use, was still very low, but I got lucky. I wasn’t worried about noise, as the noise reduction software in CS 6 the raw convertor software is great.

No tripods are allowed, so you have to  rest your camera on a railing or something. Taken early in morning just after they watered the plants. Shot in camera RAW, processed in Photoshop CC. Was taken back in October before it got cold. It’s a great place to photograph butterfly’s, but the temperature must be above 70 degrees, for the butterfly’s to fly.

I just noticed the Lens Luggers Facebook site. I’m new to Facebook, my wife got me started interested recently, and I’ve decided to post an image a day on my site.     …Ole Jer.”

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Photographing the Great Egret. “How I did it…” by Duke Miller

White Egret by Duke Miller

White Egret by Duke Miller

We counted nine species within a hundred yards the other morning. So, while I used to search pretty far and wide for bird pics, now I grab a cup of coffee, my D800e, 70-300mm Nikkor VR (usually locked in to its 200mm focal length) and fire away.

We recently relocated from Anna Maria Island to Perico Island, just across the bridge from Anna Maria and a few miles due east of Bradenton, FL. Our villa is on a small lake in the middle of the island with a deck on the lake’s edge.

I set my camera to Shutter-priority at 1/1000 to help freeze the action and Auto-ISO Sensitivity Control set to ON. For this photo of a White Egret landing along the water’s edge, the 1/1000 shutter pushed the aperture to the maximum f/5.3; the camera automatically set the ISO to 5000.

I then processed the image in Lightroom with the aid of some Nik Software filters.

Footnote: Most of these birds head north about the same time we head back to Maggie Valley in early April. Smart birds!

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