"Hopeful Moment" - Backlit Snow Showers on a Winter Hillside, Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia

I learned a valuable lesson while taking this image. I travelled all the way to the mountains of West Virginia with the hopes of photographing intimate ice patterns. However, the previous days had not been quite cold enough to form much ice. The weather forecast called for partly cloudy, and without any ice to photograph, subjects were hard to come by. I didn't let that tamper my mood. I decided to continue exploring and just have some fun. To be in the moment. As I drove down a gravel road I discovered the scene in the photograph. A beautiful snow shower and winter pines backlit by a mid-afternoon sun. The lesson? Forget the weather forecast. Forget having an itinerary of what to photograph that is set in stone. If I had known that there would be no ice, I very likely would have never driven three hours to get to West Virginia in the first place, and that would be a damn shame. When photographing, try to remember what it was like when you first picked up your camera. Remember the time before you became just a little jaded. It's a hard lesson to follow, and one that I will likely relearn over and over throughout my life. I look forward to it.

"Hopeful Moment" - Backlit snow showers and winter pines on a hillside in Monongahela National Forest, West Virginia.

About the Image: I utilized my 70-200 to zoom in on the hillside while still providing a sense of scale and to include many snowflakes in the image. A longer lens might have looked nice to show off the pines, but I would have lost the oppossing diagonals as well as the nice gradient of light from bright in the upper right and darker in the shadows elsewhere. Additionally, I made sure to use a high enough shutter speed to freeze the motion of the snow.

Techs: Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 113mm. 1/1000th second, f/5.6., ISO 400. Tripod.

"Autumn Bonsai" - Three Trees on a Foggy Autumn Day, Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia

This autumn I was lucky enough to travel to West Virginia, New Hampshire, and Maine. During that time, I was able to create a lot of images that I'm really excited about. To start things off, here is an image of some beautifully figured trees on top of Dolly Sods during a rainy and cold morning. I've been trying for a decade to get this type of image up on Dolly Sods! It's much harder than it might seem.

"Autumn Bonsai" - Three trees on a foggy autumn day, Dolly Sods Wilderness, West Virginia.

About the image: By putting on my big boy pants and hiking over a mile into the cold bogs of Dolly Sods, where at times, the water was about a foot deep, I found this cluster of trees out in the open. It was just what I needed to create a simple and pleasing composition. The way the tree on the left leans slightly towards the left and the one on the right leans slightly right creates a sense of movement and flow within the composition. Additionally, the bright red blueberry bushes at the bottom of the frame provide a nice anchor. Once I got the composition dialed in, the rest was simple. I used a low ISO of 100 to reduce any noise, an aperture of f/16 to provide enough depth of field to cover front to back, and let the shutter speed settle at 1/2 second, which was fine since there was no wind.

"Silently into the Night" - Sunset Along the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

With a tropical depression moving up the East Coast last week, clouds billowed to the east while the sky remained completely clear to the west. Hey, that seems like the perfect recipe for a colorful sunset! 

"Silently into the Night" - Sunset along the Potomac River, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

About the Image: The sunset itself is the star here, but I made sure to focus on the foreground as well. The small cascade worked well, providing a sense of movement. I used a polarizer in this image, but made sure to only polarize about half-way. I wanted to kept some of the reflections, which picked up bits of the rich magenta sky. Always remember to think about your polarizer setting instead of just going for max polarization, as a little glare can sometimes be a good thing by giving the image more depth. 

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 10-22 @ 10mm. 2.5 seconds, f/9, ISO 200. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Winter Kaleidoscope" - Ice Patterns with Reflected Sunset Light

Forget about "Snowzilla", I was more excited for the single digit lows a few days before the big storm hit us. I ended up exploring two new locations, Theodore Roosevelt Island, and Rock Creek Park, in search of exciting ice patterns. I don't know how, but every year I stay jazzed up about Capturing new images of ice. It's a bit like a treasure hunt, you never know what you're going to find. 

"Winter Kaleidoscope" - Ice Patterns with Reflected Sunset Light, Rock Creek Park, Washington D.C.

About the Image: I've photographed this particular flavor of ice a few times before. Always from above. Always in shadow. The shapes are cool enough, and make for a decent image of repeating triangles. I strive to move forward creatively, though, and photographing these patterns from the top in flat light just wasn't cutting it. As I moved around the scene photographing other bits of ice, I noticed that the warm light of sunset on a distant hillside was casting some lovely, lively, light onto the ice. Especially so when I placed the camera very low to pick up the reflections. It looked beautiful to my eye, but how could I record this with my camera and keep the depth of field large enough to render the entire scene in focus from such a sharp angle? Not even f/32 resulted in a sharp image, so I decided to do a focus blend. With my lens at f/11, I changed focus slightly over the course of 8 images, from front to back. Later, I utilized Photoshop's focus stacking tool to piece them together into one sharp, perfectly focused frame.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 + 500D Closeup Filter. 0.3 seconds, f/11, ISO 100. Focus Blend. Tripod.

"A Striking Image" - Great Blue Heron Hunting Minnows in Fort De Soto Park, Florida

Capturing a decisive moment such as this can really add a lot of movement to an otherwise still wildlife photograph. Subjects such as slow moving herons and egrets are perfect  to practice on. By utilizing a tripod to compose for the body of the heron, one must simply choose a high enough shutter speed (1/2500th second in this case) and hold down the shutter button when the action begins. Higher frame rate cameras are certainly beneficial here, but you can get by with about 5 frames per second or so quite well. 

About the Image: Using a slightly higher ISO of 400 here was important to quicken up the shutter speed a bit to 1/2500th second. In hindsight, I probably should have chosen ISO 800 as 1/2500th is right on the edge of capturing such a quick movement sharply. However, it did work out in this case and I'm glad it did! Additionally, I chose an aperture of f/7.1. instead of wide open to add a bit of depth of field in case the heron's head and eye moved slightly out of focus during the strike. Exposure was quite straight forward, spot metering the blue water at -1 exposure compensation let everything fall into place. In regards to composition, I let the heron sit quite far to the right to not appear too centralized and to allow space for water droplets to fly up on the left. Those flying drops of water add movement and are an integral part of the composition. They also look damn cool, and I wouldn't want to miss out on being able to include them in my image!

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/2500th second, f/7.1., ISO 400. Tripod.

"Lying in Wait" - An American Alligator Peering Through Foliage at Water's Edge, Everglades National Park, Florida

I feel like a fantastic Euro-fotog posting this image. Wildlife Photographer of the Year, here I come! Seriously though, isn't it interesting how common this technique of shooting through foliage to create dreamlike blurry-edged wildlife portraits is among the European photography community, and how it doesn't seem to be utilized nearly as much elsewhere (like here in the United States)? By the way, please don't take that the wrong way. I admire those guys. I admire the hell out of them. It's an inspiring, beautiful, and artful technique. Here is my humble contribution.

"Lying in Wait" - An American alligator peers through foliage at water's edge. Everglades National Park, Florida.

About the image: By using a relatively long 400mm lens with low depth of field I attempted to create some kind of primal fear within the viewer as if the alligator were hunting them. I quite like gators, so it doesn't really work on me, but then I like snakes too. Weird, I know. Anyways, I carefully selected an aperture of f/10 here to keep the foliage out of focus, while trying to get as much depth of field as possible so that at least some of the snout was reasonably in focus. If I had shot this image at f/5.6., the nose would have been much softer. Unacceptable soft. Additionally, the foliage would have been more uniformly green without the subtle changes in tone that is made possible here by bringing them in focus just a touch with a slightly smaller aperture.  

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 400 f/5.6. 1/50th second, f/10, ISO 800. Tripod.

"A New Chapter" - Light Shines Vividly Through Morning Fog, Adirondack Park, New York

This is an image that I've sat on for 2 years. I've always enjoyed looking at the RAW file and remembering that morning. The warmth and intensity of the sun blasting through the morning fog, the way the dew and spiderwebs lit up like little gemstones hidden among the forest, the smell of damp spruce and marshland. Moments like these are so simple, so common in nature, and so completely necessary to experience. I hope that I never take these moments for granted!

"A New Chapter" - Light shines vividly through morning fog in Adirondack Park, New York.

About the image: This image seems straight forward, but there is a bit going on behind the scenes. I took note of the prominent tree tops and ensured that they appeared evenly spaced, while also not coming too close to the edges of the frame where they would have given the image a truncated appearance. I also ensured that the beams of light through the fog started in the top right and shone down diagonally to the left. For the exposure, I made sure to not let the highlights of the leaves clip and blow out, and let the shadow fall wherever it wanted. I increased the contrast slightly during post processing, but otherwise did little to the image.

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 135mm. 1/40 second, f/13, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"More Than Ghosts" - Morning Sun Reflected in the Ausable River, Adirondack Park, New York

In a way, this image is a ghost still lingering from a distant trip to the Adirondacks 2 years ago. Like a lost loved one, it will always remain with me. This was a journey of hardship and growth. Just outside Saratoga Springs at highway speed, my vehicle was struck by a tractor trailer. As I veered off the road, time stood still. I watched every bit of glass break around me like an oddly peaceful silent movie. My car rolled twice and finally came to rest. Gathering my senses, I crawled out and realized that my body was still in tact. I guess you could say that I was lucky. Determined to continue, I asked the police officer to drop me off at the local Enterprise to rent a vehicle and continue my trip. It would have been easy to go home. Hell, it would have made sense to go home. Sense, however, was the last thing I had or desired after surviving that ordeal. I wanted to live life to my fullest possibility. I wanted to connect to nature in my raw emotional state. I took nothing for granted. I grew as a photographer, and became a more patient and grateful human. In the end, I am happy that I was able to live through such an experience. It truly changed my perspective.

"More Than Ghosts" - Morning sun reflected in the Ausable River. Adirondack Park, New York.

Techs: Canon 50D, 70-200 f/4 @ 70mm. 1.3 seconds, f/16, ISO 200. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Weary Eyes, Opened Wide" - Sunrise overlooking the High Peaks of the Adirondacks, New York

"One last cast". That's what my uncle Bruce would say when we were out fishing on his boat. That one sentence symbolized his passion for fishing as well as a desire to always keep trying. Sometimes, we would make 20 "last casts". And guess what? During those last casts, we sometimes even caught a fish! Trying just that let us achieve our goal. In photography, too, pushing just a little harder or staying right up until you need to leave is always worthwhile. When I created this image, I had already spent a week in the Adirondacks and to be completely honest, I was exhausted! I was contemplating leaving the night before, but decided to stick around for one for morning. Boy, am I glad that I did. While overlooking this lovely stream meandering through a marsh, leading eventually towards the High Peaks themselves, the sky lit up with gorgeous rays of warm light. Next time you are out on a trip and want to call it quits, try to remember this lesson for yourselves. It isn't always easy, but it's always worth it. Make one last cast.

"Weary Eyes, Opened Wide" - Sunrise over a marsh overlooking the High Peaks. Adirondack Park, New York.

Techs: Canon 50D, Canon 10-22 @ 19mm. 1 second, f/11, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia

It's funny how our tastes and tendencies change as we mature. I would have never posted the following image as a younger photographer. As time has passed, however, I've become more confident in what I like and am perfectly willing to present an image to the public whether I think they will like it or not. Why wouldn't I have posted this image? Because the heron is looking out of the frame. The #1 rule of "proper" wildlife photography is to have the subject looking into the frame. It just works better for the composition. Everything feels right, harmonious, and natural. Well, rules are meant to be broken as they say, and I find that the heron looking out of the frame here creates some tension in an otherwise perfectly peaceful and calm scene. Are you afraid to post images when you aren't sure if they will be received well? Comment and let me know!

"Silent Chorus" - Great blue heron alone in fog, Great Falls National Park, Virginia.

Techs: Canon 7D, Canon 70-200 f/4 @ 200mm. 0.4 seconds, f/14, ISO 100. Polarizer. Tripod.