The Erie Canal–West Bound From Lake Onieda to Buffalo (Part Two)

Well I suppose I could say that this was more of the same, and to an extent that would be true. Following the Erie Canal is just motoring along a lazy river with some curves and stretches of long straight canal with nothing to see but Cottonwood Trees and banks lined with fallen trees and other debris caused by the heavy spring rains and flooding.

However, one of the things that has been most interesting about this portion of the trip has  been a look at Americana, those small towns along the way that have made the trip so interesting. We have slowed down in many of these towns to wait for the Canal’s many lift bridges or to spend the night. We have seen home grown Home Town Celebrations in towns such Fairport or Spencerport, NY. You have all seen these small town celebrations and have been part of them at one time or other. The thing that struck me most about these events was that we found ourselves welcomed into these town and others as well by the cities themselves because they opened their arms to the boaters on the Canal and give boaters nice park-like surroundings in their cities with free power, showers, clean restrooms and in some cases even free clothing washers and dryers. These amenities are provided in the hopes that you will spend your money in their town and recommend their town as a stopping place to your fellow boaters.

Many of these towns and villages were established in the 18th century by those that help build the Erie Canal. We found that parts of the Canal were being worked on in 1817 which was possibly before the development of the steam shovel.

One of the most interesting Locks that we passed through was the last lock, number 34. It was interesting in that it was a double lock. There were four sets of doors, but the first three sets separated the two chambers which lifted the boat some 25 feet each time. The fourth set of doors was a second set which were on the outside of the West end of the lock which acted to assist in holding back the water from the Canal which is 50 feet higher than the East end of the lock.

Tomorrow, we will start to put the Mast back in the boat, not so sure how long the whole process will take, but inserting the mast into the boat doesn’t take but a couple of hours. It’s putting all the lines and cables back in their place as well as reconnecting all of the electrical that will likely take the most time.


The Erie Canal–West Bound (part 1)

Enterance to the Erie Canal

Today is day five on our west bound voyage on the Erie Canal. We left Albany on Sunday and have been making steady progress on the Canal to the tune of about 35 miles a day. The first lock is the Troy Federal Lock which is pictured below.

Troy Federal Lock 1

This is a typical lock that you would find on the Erie Canal, usually associated with a dam. Prior to June 1st, there were parts of the Canal that were closed due to heavy rains and flooding. There are parts of the Canal that are also part of the Mohawk River and there are parts that are just manmade straight sections of canal. There was one Lock that was rather interesting, in that instead of being associated with a dam and having the typical swing open doors, this Lock had a solid door that lifted to allow entrance and was built right into the side of the hill. Photos of Lock 17 below.

Lock 17  The Gate starts to raiseThe Gate Raises More    The Lock With the Supprise Inside Entering Lock 17

As you can see the door is massive.

Yesterday we were just east of Lake Oneida, NY and there were some very shallow portions of the canal that they were dredging. We got down to one place were the water was 2.5 feet under the keel. total depth was less than 8 feet.

Today we crossed Lake Oneida and proceeded westerly back into the Canal towards Buffalo. We are docked right next to Lock 24 at Baldwinsville, NY., the lock is right in the center of town.

Sailing On The Hudson And Removing The Mast

It’s now the end of May and we are just south of Albany. The sailboat has been at the Shady Harbor Marina for about ten days. Bill and I flew home on the 23rd of May because Bill’s Mother-in-Law was to pass at any time. Bill arrived back at the boat today and I will join him in the morning. We are about a day away from the Erie Canal and should enter the Canal on Sunday or Monday.

The Erie Canal is 166 miles long from Albany to Buffalo. We hope to go between 30 and 40 miles per day, but a lot depends on how how many of the 38 locks we are able to get through without much delay.

Here are a couple of shots of us sailing on the Hudson with the Spinnaker sail.

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Below are a few shots of the process of taking the Mast out of the boat and rigging it for the trip through the Erie Canal.

Port Rigging Staysail RopesJib Ropes Boom Attachment Bolt Preparing the Mast Full Mast RemovalForward Mast Support More Mast Prep Aft Mast positioning

Up The Hudson River–New York City To Albany


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On Tuesday, May 13th, I flew from Cleveland to NYC. We spent the morning provisioning the sailboat for our trip up the Hudson River. The purpose of the trip is to reposition the boat from Bradenton, FL to Traverse City, MI. We spent the afternoon sailing around the Statue of Liberty and Lower Manhattan Island. We were docking at the North Cove Marina, which is right across the street from Ground Zero and the new World Trade Center.

Statue of Liberty Lower Manhattan World Trade Center

On Wednesday morning we departed NYC and headed North up the Hudson River. We found that there is quite a lot of traffic on the river, barges, pleasure craft, fisherman and lots of floating debris. We passed by all of those ritzy places in upper Manhattan, some destruction from Sandy and as we went “Up The River,” we passed by the real Sing Sing New York Correctional Facility.

_DSC6755  _DSC6760_DSC6782

We spent Wednesday night at Croton-on-Hudson, a nice little town about 30 miles north of NYC. We spent most of today, Thursday the 15th with low clouds, fog and rain. The weather report for Friday is more of the same.

Feeling Lost? Let a Blogging Roadmap Lead You to Success

When I was thinking about what I wanted to write about this month, I remembered about this post I had seen on and thought that there might be at least one poor sole that is out there just wondering “How Do I Get Started, and What do I Write about?”

Written on 1/23/2012 at 6:05 am by Guest Blogger

This guest post is by John Davenport of

It’s been said countless times in the blogging world that in order to be successful we need a plan. But how do we create this plan in a way that will help us reach our goals?

Do we scratch it onto a piece of loose paper?

Do we grab a crayon and write it on a napkin?

Do we create a text doc on a PC and save it in some folder filled with hundreds files?

No. We create a roadmap.

When I first started blogging I had one goal in mind: to grow my audience. I was a nobody (and still I pretty much am a nobody) in this busy world of blogging, but I want to be a somebody, someday. So I created a roadmap to get there. You should too!

Recognizing the problem most new bloggers face

What’s the problem we all face when we start out blogging?

Too many great ideas at once.

We’ve all been there, right? That first idea pops into your head, and then another, and then, oh my, you’re already thinking of redesigning the layout of our blog, but you also have that ebook you want to start, and you’re supposed to have a newsletter out at the end of the month! Your to-do list keeps growing and growing and there’s no end in sight.

Every new blogger who does any amount of research on how to gain blogging knowledge has certainly found themselves here at ProBlogger; the problem is that it’s too good a resource!

Every day there’s a new post telling us to do something with our blog. Maybe what to do if your niche blog fails to make money, or that you should have built a newsletter opt-in box before you published your first post.

Regardless of what we’re learning, these posts always will generate new ideas for us to apply in our own blogs—I mean, that’s what they’re there for, right?

When it comes to planning your blog’s future, we need to put all this information in an organized spreadsheet that we can glance at. This way, we’ll and know exactly what we need to get done in January and what will be done by October.

Creating a roadmap

Organization is probably the most vital skill in the blogging world. You might not have to have all your papers in line and all your photographs in perfectly named folders, but your plans should be organized.

This is precisely where a blogging roadmap will come in handy. You might ask, “John why do I need a roadmap? Won’t a simple to-do list do the same thing?” Here’s my answer.

A roadmap gives you:

  1. an organized layout
  2. a clear-cut timetable
  3. accountability (optional).

Let’s break this down a bit further shall we?

A list is a great way to start your roadmap, but ultimately you’ll want a plan that’s visual. When we have multiple projects spread across many months, if not years, a simple list can become an overwhelming thing to look at. At that scale, it’s definitely not informative.

So, sure, a list can be a great starting point, but at some point it’s necessary to break that list into chunks—I broke mine up by yearly quarters—that reflect the things we want to accomplish in a given timetable. To give you an idea, here’s a screen shot of my 2011 – 2013 roadmap

What you want to make sure you do when you create your roadmap is to spread things out. You don’t want to have a roadmap that ends next month: you’re building your blog for the future. So let’s make sure we plan things accordingly.

Once your to-do list is in roadmap form, you’ll have a few years of targets planned. Now you’ll be able to visually see how all your blogging efforts fit together and ultimately, that will help lead you to successful growth.

How? The clear-cut timetable gives you the ability to predict when you need to buckle down and get your work done on a specific project. For example, if you want an ebook ready to be published by Q3 of this year, you’d better start the final draft by the end of Q2, and the pre-marketing campaign sometime in early Q3.

I made accountability an optional advantage in the list at the start of this discussion, and that’s mainly because some people like to be more secretive about their overall plans. But if you do choose to publish your roadmap, your readers will know exactly what you’re planning and when these things will take place. This means that you’ll be more likely to meet your deadlines, so that you keep your readers happy. But regardless of whether you share the information or not, with a roadmap, you’re always accountable to yourself.

Planning ahead is key when you’re the only one driving your blog. You don’t want to get lost and you certainly don’t want to drive off a cliff. So make sure you create a blogging roadmap, and never leave home without it.

Do you already work off a blogging roadmap? What’s your major goal for 2012?

John Davenport is an avid amateur photographer and blogger. He shares daily photographs on his blog

How To Use Bracketing In Your Photography

By Bill Jones (this article is a reprint of the article posted on The Photo

Many people consider bracketing to be an option for advanced photographers only. However, it can be a tool that anyone can make use of in order to create the perfect image. It is not hard to learn how to bracket an image, and once you start using this tool, you will likely find yourself turning to it over and over again.

Would you like to learn more about bracketing and what it can do for your photography?

Just what is Bracketing?

If you have never heard of bracketing before, then your first question may simply be, what is it? This tool gives you more control over the exposure of your image. It actually makes use of three different images of the same subject. In essence, you will take one image at the exposure that you think is correct, an image a step below that exposure and an image a step above that exposure. In this method, you will have a much better chance at getting the absolutely perfect image.
How do you use bracketing? Different cameras have different control options, so you will need to learn about each of them in order to determine which you will need to use with your own digital photography.

The Type of Bracketing

There are different types of bracketing and not all cameras will allow for every single one of them. You will need to learn which of them will be correct for your camera and your digital photography. There are three main types of bracketing that digital SLR cameras will allow:

Exposure Only
Flash Exposure Only
White Balance Only

Some cameras will have different options. For example, the Nikon brand includes something called Active D Lighting feature and Nikon cameras will allow you to bracket this for more detail in the shadows and highlights.

In order to learn how to use bracketing, you will need to experiment with these different types. Flash bracketing can be useful when photographing close subjects so that you can make sure you get an image that is not washed out or too dark. Exposure or white balance bracketing can be useful with all types of images so that you can get the best color, the best contrast and the overall best image.

Bracketing Step By Step

Now that you have a better understanding of how bracketing works, you must be wondering how to put it into action. For a while, you may find bracketing to be a little confusing or overwhelming. However, the more that you use it, the more familiar you will become with it. Once you are completely familiar with bracketing, you will be ready to use it in almost any image that you take. Here are the steps that you will need to take in order to put bracketing to use.

1. Choose the type of bracketing. As mentioned, you may have choices for your digital photography depending on your camera.

2. Choose the number of bracketed exposures that you want. Different cameras give you different choices on this. The Canon brand will give you simply the option of the most popular bracketing of three images. The Nikon brand and some other brands will give you the ability to choose many different bracketing options, including anywhere from 2 frames to 9 frames.

3. Choose the increments for bracketing. If you are trying to fine tune an image, you will want to select a very small bracketing increment. If you want a wide range of choices, then you will want to choose a bracketing increment that is much higher. For minor adjustments, consider choosing 1/3 stop. For major adjustments, you could choose bracketing up to 1 stop. Different cameras will allow for different bracketing increments as well.

4. If you have a Canon DSLR, then you will have the option to set the zero point. This means that your camera will create an image with absolutely the best automatic exposure based on the camera’s own metering system. The zero point will be the image of which all the other images will bracket around.

5. Taking the picture. You have two different choices for taking the picture. You can take the picture in single shot mode. When you do this, you will need to press the shutter release for all of the bracketing images. If you do not want to do this, then you could choose to change your camera to burst shot mode. When you do this, you will be able to hold down the shutter release and take all of the bracketed images in one burst.

6. Reset your camera. When you are done with the bracketing image, you still need to take one more step. That would be to turn bracketing off. Your camera will not turn off the mode automatically and you could end up ruining future images.

Autumn Photography
Autumn Photography
Autumn Photography
Autumn Photography

Using Bracketing with HDR

As mentioned in another article, your camera will have something called HDR, which is a great help to digital photography. HDR stands for high dynamic range and it simply means that your camera sensors will have a greater range of exposure for even more fine tuned images. In order to make use of bracketing with HDR, you will need a photo editing software like Adobe Photoshop. With this method of bracketing, you will make use of your camera’s full exposure range in order to take several pictures. You will then import the image into the editing software and use the software’s tool to merge. This tool will be called Merge to HDR in Photoshop.

Why would you want to do this? Have you ever noticed that in certain situations, part of the image will be very dark or very light no matter what you do? You can use this type of bracketing to get the right exposure on the light parts and then the right exposure on the dark parts. By combining the two, you will be able to create the perfectly exposed image overall.

Bracketing can truly be a powerful tool once you know how to use it. You will find that you can get better images and better exposures for those images on a regular basis.

Composing Dynamic Landscape Images



I found this Post on Digital Photography School and really wanted to share it with you all. If your into learning, everything there is to know about, Landscape Photography then you will really enjoy this article. It’s a bit long, but well worth the read.

A Guest Post by Todd Sisson from and author of our Living Landscapes eBook – a guide to taking stunning Landscapes.

As a landscape photographer I am constantly seeking that next X-factor shot – an image that leaps from the screen or page and demands the viewer’s attention – preferably attention of the favourable variety.

If you spend an hour or two on a photosharing site like Flickr viewing landscape images in un-curated groups you will note that a very small percentage of the total image population stands out from the crowd.

However, if you view a carefully curated collection of top-shelf landscape images you will probably start to notice some themes appearing. Certain visual cues and devices appear across multiple images – there will often be subtle commonalities between these attention hogging photos.

In many instances these images will possess the qualities of what I consider a dynamic landscape image.

What is a Dynamic Landscape Image?

Summer Storm, Queenstown New Zealand. An example of a dynamic landscape image. To maximise the number of dynamic elements in this image I locked this composition off in the field and shot multiple images. The best of about five wave-action frames were then blended together to form the final image.

There is no dictionary entry that defines a Dynamic Landscape Image* – heck, there’s not even a Wikipedia entry – so it is a somewhat personal interpretation.

To my mind, a dynamic landscape image is one that in some way conveys the energy and scale of the natural world. Dynamic images also often seek to breach the confines of their 2D medium by inferring a sense of depth – many truly dynamic image have an almost 3D quality about them.

*As far as I am aware, the term Dynamic Landscape was first popularised by the late Galen Rowell – one of the most influential American landscape photographers of his generation. Rowell used the term to demarcate his work from the somewhat literal colour landscape photography that dominated the early 1970′s. Although he was certainly not the only photographer employing these principles in his work, he appears to have been an excellent self-promoter and the term is somewhat synonymous with his name.

Dynamic Composition

Composition is the backbone of all great photos – dynamic or otherwise – but it is essential in the creation of a truly strong landscape image.

I feel that the goal of a successful composition is to draw the eye into image and hold it there for as long as possible – which is seemingly, a maximum 15 milliseconds these days*. The following image is an example of an image that I feel achieves this objective.

Sunrise Over The Moeraki Boulders, Otago New Zealand. Seascapes lend themselves to the creation of dynamic landscape images.

This image combines all of the elements that I feel comprise a Dynamic Landscape Image:

  • Leading or converging lines
  • Interesting perspective
  • Visually interesting foreground elements
  • Visually interesting mid-ground & background elements
  • Vivid colour or incredible light
  • Vision-locking tonal control
  • Suggestion of movement

It is important to note that not all dynamic landscape images possess all of these factors. In fact, it is depressingly rare to have it all come together in one moment. It must also be stated that what follows is not a recipe for creating great images. Photography can only be practised as an art when personal interpretation is injected into the process – only use this information as a guideline for evolving your own images.

So let’s have a very quick look at each of these Dynamic Landscape factors.

Leading Lines & Converging Lines

One of the simplest ways to draw a viewer’s attention into an image is to use converging or leading lines. Converging lines have been used by painters for centuries to create the illusion of depth within a 2 dimensional medium.

This is why photos of wharves, roads, and rivers make such successful photographic subjects. Although many consider such subjects to be cliches, I strongly council my workshop students to shoot them heavily to build an awareness of the power of a line in an image.

Leading lines not only draw attention into the image, they can also help to hold the eye within the confines of the image.

Check out the crudely overlaid wharf image below combines the strong converging lines of the wharf with secondary supporting lines in the water, hills and clouds.

Look for these lines whenever you are shooting – they are almost everywhere.

The Wharf at Frankton, Queenstown New Zealand. Shoot ‘cliched’ subjects like wharves and roads until it hurts a little. The pain is just your visual muscles growing stronger. Shooting man-made lines will teach you to look for more subtle lines in nature.

Although the wharf is the primary leading line device in this image there are a number of leading lines present in the water, hills and clouds. The darker reflected lines in the water help hold the eye in the central region of the frame.

Interesting Perspective

As a photographer you are an artist not a forensic documentarian. You get paid the mega-bucks and live the champagne lifestyle to show your audience something a little different – that is your raison d’être.

Hence I rarely find myself shooting at my natural standing position. For some reason, compositions seem to get more dynamic the closer you are to the ground/mud/ snow/ice-encrusted cow turd – it’s just the way it is.

This is especially apparent when using an ultra-wide lens. Subject matter becomes incredibly diminutive and interesting leading lines really lose their visual power when viewed from 5 or 6 feet high – so try getting uncomfortably close and low.

Aim high also. Look for ways to gain elevation to find that privileged viewpoint – I find that this often works really well when shooting telephoto lengths for some reason. Try scrambling up banks, standing on cars and sitting on your wife’s/husband’s shoulders (sans tripod) in an effort to find an interesting perspective.

Paddock Bay, Lake Wanaka New Zealand. Getting uncomfortably low in this instance dramatically altered the perceived form of the rock on the lower right of the frame. B y moving about I was able to create the satisfying impression of the rock ‘interlocking’ with the reflection. Note the strong leading line formed here also.

Foreground Elements

I believe that a dynamic image almost always possesses a strong foreground element, or elements, that complement the greater scene.

Take a sunset/sunrise for example. Sure, spectacular light makes for great images, but personally photos that contain nothing but vast expanses of super-saucy red clouds do little to engage me as a viewer.

The best dynamic images typically have a strong point of interest in the lower half, or foreground. This is your visual entree into an image. If your foreground element happens to include leading lines you are quite possibly onto the much vaunted money-shot.

Lupin(e)s, Fiordland New Zealand. Yeah, this is cheating – foreground elements don’t come much easier than this. That aside, keen observers will note the subtle converging lines formed out of the lupin pattern. This was accentuated by deliberately placing a bloom in each corner and leaving a little empty space at the bottom of the frame. Sunstars make an exceptional background element (segues niftily to my next point)

Visually interesting Background Elements

I often compose back to front. Firstly I will find the subject of my image, say a spectacular sunset playing out on mountains, and then I will run around like a deranged prison escapee in search of a foreground element to complement the background.

It is very much a balancing act – defining who or what element gets to play the lead role in your composition. Ideally the background is where the eye should gravitate to and the foreground should pick up a gong for best supporting actor.

Milford Sound, Fiordland New Zealand. The star of this image is the dramatic light playing out in the clouds over the eye- catching form of Mitre Peak – the foreground & mid ground elements are critical supporting parts of the whole composition but don’t hog the lime-light.

Unusually, I didn’t scramble to find a foreground element for this image – I staggered. Four minutes earlier I had been happily sleeping in the back of my truck – my alarm went off and I saw this – panic ensued….

Vivid Colour or Incredible Light

By now it should be obvious that I have some un-checked colour-dependancy issues. I love colour*, especially natural light shows. However, I feel that vivid colour needs to be kept in balance and be a part of the overall composition. Too often I see images that rely solely upon dollops of super- saturated colour.

For a dynamic landscape image to work, balance must prevail. Hence I attempt to avoid filling the frame with too much colour (yes, there is such a thing – see below).

*I am even partial to the American version – colour.

Sunrise from Mt Taranaki / Egmont, New Zealand. In this image the main act was the rapidly dissipating beams of sunrise goodness and the rich colour in the clouds. Lens choice and composition mean that the sunrise colour is just one component of the image. I often like to keep dark forms in my images (anathema to the HDR readers amongst you) as a counterpoint to the extreme lightness of a sunset/sunrise. I find the dark hills here quite mysterious in contrast to the sunstar and clouds.

Too much colour. This was one of the most intense sunrises that I have ever witnessed. I should have just sat and enjoyed it – this is just too much colour for my tastes – it looks un-realistic. This shot has actually been partially de-saturated in an effort to tame the colour.

Vision-locking Tonal Control

I am tempted to trademark this term – it sounds like a mind-control experiment deployed by shady branches of the US intelligence community.

Basically all I am referring to is the phenomenon of vignetting.

The eye is drawn towards lightness within an image, particularly near the centre of frame. Furthermore, the eye is restrained by darkness at the edges of the frame.

When employed deftly, the viewer’s eye is gently drawn into the image by lightness and held there by the darker edges of the image.

Look at all of the images above and you will see this technique in use. Often this happens in- camera just by virtue of the composition and through use of ND grad filters. However, I will often darken the top edge of an image in post and even add a subtle vignette as the last thing I do. Weird Cloud formation & Road to Nowhere. Alexandra New Zealand. In order to achieve vision-lock here I painted in a brighter layer near the central portion of the image. A little vignetting was added to further enhance the effect.

Suggested Motion

Suggested motion, by way of blur or frozen motion is not always an achievable, or desirable, element to utilise within an image – but it can add another layer of dynamism to a composition.

Don’t just get locked into shooting long exposures either – frozen, or partially-frozen motion can convey movement just as well as a long exposure in some circumstances (see the first image, Summer Storm, for an example of this).

Moeraki Boulder, Otago New Zealand. Long Exposure motion blur creates a dynamic tension between the static boulder and the relentless sea. Note the other dynamic ingredients added to this image – interesting perspective, use of colour, vision-lock, foreground/background interest.

Can Dynamic Landscape Images be B&W?

Absolutely. There are many thousands of truly incredible B&W dynamic landscape images. No style renders texture and contrast better than B&W – at it’s best it is magnificent.

In order to compensate for their ‘lost’ colour Black & Whiters will often apply industrial grade quantities of Vision Locking Tonal Control (that’s why vignette sliders to go -100) and rely heavily upon strong graphical elements such as leading lines (you will find a lot of B&W photos of wharves and sewerage pipes heading out to sea).

I would show you an example of this, but I am mono-challenged. If you want to see B&W Dynamic landscapes at their best check out the work of Mitch Dobrowner & Hengki Koentjoro.

So Are All Good Landscape Images ‘Dynamic’?

Not at all. Stunning images can be made by avoiding almost all of the techniques that I have just espoused in this essay. Dynamic Landscape composition is just one style of landscape photography.

In fact, many of my favourite images by others are beautifully composed static, flat compositions. These ‘static’ images respectfully comply with the two dimensional constraints of the photographic medium and rely upon a separate set of visual devices in order to ‘succeed’.

Want to learn more about Landscape Photography? Check out Todd’s eBook Living Landscapes: a Guide to Stunning Landscape Photography.

Todd & Sarah Sisson are full-time landscape photographers based in Central Otago New Zealand.

Their work can be found as fine art prints & canvas prints at Todd also offers private and group photographic tuition. They can be found on facebook, Google Plus and twitter.


This is a republication from a blog post on that I thought might stimulate some thought in each and everyone of us to think about where creativity comes from and how we achieve that creativity.

Many would agree that artful photography requires a fair amount of creativity. But is creativity something you’re born with? Or is it a process that takes hard work and dedication?

A few experts say anybody can be creative–it’s just a matter of finding something you’re interested in, something that inspires you, moves you, makes you think and want to create, then getting to work and doing it:

“Being a powerful creative person involves letting go of preconceived notions of what an artist is, and discovering and inventing new processes that yield great ideas. Most importantly, creators must push forward, whether the light bulb illuminates or not.” –PBS Off Book

The process of being creative and the factors involved, from taking ideas from others who have inspired you and transforming or combining them to come up with your own remixed version, collaborating with other creative minds, and being able to understand yourself and others.

Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D. Cognitive Psychologist, says it’s not a simple left brain/right brain distinction; people who are more open to combining different associations from various brain networks tend to be more creative.

Preparation: Lots of brain activity in areas associated with attention and deliberate focus.

Incubation: Where you let it go. Research shows that when you let your mind wander away from the task, when you return to it, you have more creative ideas.

Illumination: The stage of insight, where the connections subconsciously collide, then reach the threshold of consciousness.

Verification: When you think about your audience and craft the message so it’s best received by people, basically, you package it in the right way.

creative process

Author Julie Burstein says creativity is a process and that you have to expand your capacity for uncertainty. Actually, Burstein offers up a few tips on how to be creative:

  • Expand Your Capacity for Uncertainty
  • Develop Your Own Tools and Prompts
  • Understand How to Work
  • Keep at It

She says that one of the key elements is what the poet John Keats called “negative capability”: the ability to stay in a space where you don’t exactly know what’s going to happen next, the willingness to chase down ideas, and the understanding that not all of your ideas are going to lead somewhere–but that the experience of pursuing an idea will influence the next idea.

Do you feel as if you were born creative? Or is it something you’ve learned along the way?

“At the end of the day, if you keep pushing, you can eventually get some place that is beyond what you thought was possible.” –Kirby Ferguson, filmmaker

Five Minutes to Realistic HDR using Lightroom and a 32-Bit Plugin

I am a big proponent of Lightroom and having a really fast and efficient workflow so when I read this article I felt I needed to share it, it was posted on the Digital Photography School Blog.

A Post By: Keith Cuddeback

Easy Peazy HDR in Adobe Lightroom to make realistic HDR images!

HDR photography used to be time consuming, difficult to learn, and required expensive software. Recent new technology now allows anybody, even beginners, to make perfect HDR in less than 5 minutes – while eating a bowl of ice cream. It’s that easy!


Using Adobe Lightroom for HDR

Just wait until you see how awesome this is!

The Perfect HDR Workflow takes place completely within Adobe Lightroom 4 or 5, a very robust, yet inexpensive, state of the art software. There is also an inexpensive plugin you will need. It’s made exclusively for Lightroom by the smart Photomatix people and is the secret sauce which makes this workflow possible and so elegant. It’s called “Merge to 32-bit HDR plugin” and is available for $29. They also have a trial version available so you can test it out first. These are the same people who make the world’s leading HDR tone mapping software, Photomatix Pro. So, take comfort, there’s no smoke & mirrors in this HDR workflow and you’ll be working with the best software available today. At the same time, your photography will now blow away 95% of the HDR images which are still being made using the old, harder to learn, HDR tone mapping process.

Notice, you don’t need to own Photoshop or endure the pain & suffering of learning how to use Photoshop to do this method! This, in itself, is huge and a welcome departure from the way HDR photography is typically done.

Advantages of 32-bit HDR Processing

The process I’m going to show you is technically called 32-bit HDR processing. The Perfect HDR Workflow is just my name for the particular workflow I designed with the beginning photographer in mind. My criteria was that total cost be under $150 US, which immediately rules out Photoshop in the workflow. Another requirement was that it be so easy that even a beginner can learn to make extraordinary HDR photos in minutes.

The advantages of the 32-bit process are:

  • It’s fast
  • It’s inexpensive
  • It yields realistic looking images
  • It’s very easy to learn

HDR doesn’t have to be complicated anymore. In fact, the Perfect HDR Workflow obliterates the complex technical barriers of making outstanding HDR which used to exist. Now, anybody with a digital camera and the desire can play a much bigger game when it comes to HDR photography, can do this!

Are you ready to see how it’s done?

Five Minutes to Perfect HDR

Here we go. Start with the three bracketed RAW images right out of the camera (you can download these for free if you want to follow along):

Easy realistic HDR in Lightroom

-2 shot at: ISO 200, F8, 1/1500

Easy realistic HDR in Lightroom

0 exposure shot at: ISO 200, F8, 1/350

Easy realistic HDR in Lightroom

+2 exposure shot at: ISO 200, F8, 1/90

In less than 5 minutes you’ll end up with an HDR photo looking like this:


Start your stopwatch:

The first thing you want to do is create the 32-bit image. With the three RAW files selected in Lightroom, right click and in the dialog box which appears, select “Export>Merge to 32-bit HDR” as shown below.

Screen Shot 2013 11 23 at 10 17 57 AM

A new dialog box opens up where you choose your options for merging the RAW files (see image below). Always choose to “Align Images” and then one of the alignment options. If your three photos were taken handheld, select the alignment option “by matching features”. When you shoot on a tripod, you would chose the other option, “by correcting horizontal and vertical shifts”.

If there are moving objects in your scene such as: cars, people, clouds, trees, or anything else – select “Remove ghosts” and the software will usually do a great job of producing a non-blurry merged image, with no ghosts. For this landscape photo, nothing was moving so this option was not selected.

Noise reduction is usually necessary in HDR photography, however, I recommend not using the “Reduce noise” option which the plugin offers up. Instead, you are better off using the noise reduction built into Lightroom. So, leave that unchecked, as well.

Moving down to where you choose how the resulting 32-bit file is saved. I recommend simply combining the file names and adding a suffix like “32-bit HDR” so that, at a glance, you know that is the 32-bit file you want to work with in Lightroom.

The final dialog box selection you want to make is; “Stack with selected photo.” It’s so easy and elegant how this plugin makes your HDR workflow when this is selected. After the 32-bit file is created, the plugin automatically imports it right back into Lightroom and places it neatly next to the original RAW files. This keeps my OCD mind happy. Leave the final two options unselected then click the “Merge” button.

Here’s what the dialog box should look like

Screen Shot 2013 11 23 at 10 18 08 AM

In a few seconds, your newly created 32-bit file appears in Lightroom and looks something like this:

Screen Shot 2013 11 23 at 10 20 14 AM

Okay, well that’s not too pretty! That’s because this is a 32-bit file which your computer monitor can’t correctly display. But Lightroom 4 or 5 can process it, so let’s do that.

We’ll be working mostly in the Basic panel of the Develop module in Lightroom. The first step is to simply click the “Auto” button which gives you Lightroom’s best guess at the right setting for the image:

Screen Shot 2013 11 23 at 10 20 25 AM

It’s already looking much better. But let’s take it a step further!

Adding Your Artistic Touch

Now it’s time to add your personal artistic mark on your photo! At this point, you take over the processing manually to create an HDR image that is most pleasing to you. There are no right or wrong settings. However, my 5 minute process to Perfect HDR does follow some general guidelines so let me show you how this image evolved for me.

Working in the Basic panel, you first will reduce the “Highlights” (slide it left) and increase the “Shadows” (push it to the right) sliders until the image looks best to you. Then you might adjust the “Clarity” to a slight positive value, which adds local contrast between pixels. It makes the HDR photo “pop.” Please be careful not to push clarity too far right. My advice is to keep it below 30, for now anyway. Now let’s jump out of the Basic panel.

For just a couple of quick automatic adjustments, open up the “Lens Correction” panel. I recommend that you always check the box to “Remove chromatic aberration.” Also, you may want to straighten your horizon and/or vertical lines using the “Upright” adjustment tool. Here is what the “Lens correction” panel looks like when you make these simple adjustments:

Screen Shot 2013 11 23 at 10 24 24 AM

Now, go back to the Basic panel to finish. Set the white and black points as shown in the video below. The other sliders in the Basic panel can then be fine tuned to your taste and that’s it! Woooo Hooooo, done in less than 5 minutes! You’ve just made your first Perfect HDR photo! Send it to Mom and your friends and be ready to receive their adoration!

Watch The Full Perfect HDR Workflow Video

In the video below, I show the complete processing of this image including how to set the white and black points correctly. It’s easier to show some of the steps in a video, rather than try to describe it all in written form.

Try the Perfect HDR Workflow

If you want to give the Perfect HDR Workflow a try yourself right now, you can download my RAW files of this image for free. Get the free trial download of the merge to 32-bit plugin from the Photomatix website. The plugin you want is the last item on the page. Install the plugin with your copy of Lightroom 4 or 5. Then follow along to get the hang of the Perfect HDR Workflow and find out for yourself how easy this really is! If questions come up, I hang out on Google+ every day and you are welcome to circle & chat with me there or on my blog.

Become an HDR Wizard

Next time, in Easy Peazy HDR in Lightroom Part II, we’ll take this image further using the other panels of the Develop module in Lightroom. I think you’ll be amazed at the power and control you have using Lightroom to process your HDR photos. It’ll be like you’ve evolved into this unstoppable HDR Wizard!

Focusing using the Back Button

I saw this on Facebook, someone had shared it with us and found it so helpful that I thought I would share it with you all.

We all use the push the shutter halfway down to focus, but there is a better way to get the job done. By setting up our cameras to use the back button, we allow the camera do lock in our focus or keep focusing with just a push of the button and still have full control of the shutter at the same time. This might even help us more when we are using a remote trigger when shooting on a tripod. Here is the link to Steve Perry’s You Tube Video.