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Wednesday, February 29, 2012


Fire in the Woods, Columbia MO

The sky started to combust as Nini and I were hiking with the dogs along the cliffs overlooking Grindstone Nature Area.  I thought we'd have a view of the sunset from our vantage on the cliffs, but we were in a new area and I was totally wrong.  I headed off-trail toward the colors and ultimately found this clearing in the woods.  It wasn't the best spot for photographing the sunset but this was one of the best sunsets I can recall in Columbia and it was amazing to watch the colors change and ultimately fade away.

This is a six exposure HDR.  With a single exposure I was able to capture the gorgeous colors of the sky, but everything else in the frame was completely black.  But when I was standing there, witnessing the sunset, I could see beautifully colored light washing over the three layers of leaves: in the distance, on the low brush and in the foreground.  Using multiple exposures I was able to create a more accurate, yet still far from perfect, match with the reality that unfolded in front of my eyes.  HDR photography doesn't always work out this way, and can be used to create unrealistic looking photos as well, but in this case I think it helped a lot.

Daily photo: Feb 3, 2012, taken Jan 30, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


Leaf Falls, Columbia MO

I named this little bit of white water on Hinkson Creek "Leaf Falls," since the leaves create a mini-waterfall.  We've been spending a lot of time at Grindstone Nature Area getting our dogs back in tip top shape after being spoiled rotten by Paul SR. while we were away in India.  Thanks Dad! ;)

This is a single exposure.  I used a circular polarizer to give some visibility to the creek bottom in the foreground and to reduce the glare on the white water that was even more blown out than it looks here.  I also used a neutral density filter to cut out six stops of light, allowing me to use a 25 second exposure.

Photo taken Jan 29, 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012


Exhale, Columbia MO

Big Red does not wait to exhale.  He came running up the trail from behind me, huffing and puffing plumes of breath all along the way.  He had just finished romping through the woods after a squirrel and was catching his breath while looking for his next friend to chase.  I already had my camera set up on the tripod taking multiple exposures for an HDR photo of this trail in the morning light.  I was about to ask Big Red to kindly move out of my frame, when he turned to the side and exhaled a perfectly backlit breath.  He stood still enough for a moment to allow me to capture him and his breath at 1/40th of a second.  He's such a good boy!

This is a three exposure HDR.  If you're curious about my field process for HDR photography you can read a little about it in the caption for my previous daily here:

Photo taken Feb 1, 2012

Sunday, February 26, 2012


Angel Boy, Columbia MO

Big Red sitting on guard in the sun at the end of our bed.  Isn't he a handsome boy?  We have lots of nicknames for Big Red and not all of them are very flattering.  But in this photo I think he resembles "Angel Boy," the nickname I use most when he's behaving like a perfect angel (very rarely used nickname).  And the light was so beautiful on him that it could have been shining down from heaven directly.  Fitting for an Angel Boy.

I really like to use natural light.  In this case I wish I would have turned up the ISO a stop or two and increased my shutter speed so I could get a sharper image handheld at this range.  But I'm quite happy with this exposure.  I have not converted many photos to black and white in recent memory and this is one of the first I've tried using Lightroom3.

Photo taken Jan 28, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012


Purple River Majesty, Rocheport MO

Nini and I took the dogs to our new sunset location the night before last and were lucky to see a beautiful Missouri River sunset.  This little sandbar is just below the Katy Trail outside of Rocheport Missouri.  The Katy Trail is a 240 mile state park that runs along the old M.K.T. railroad line (Missouri-Kansas-Texas).  To access the sandbar you have to climb down a steep dirt cliff, but there are plenty of tree roots to help lower yourself down.  The dogs were down in a skip and a jump.  One passer by said, "How in the heck do I get down there?  That's the best beach in Missouri!"  We had a fun time watching the sunset on the best beach in MO.

Friday, February 24, 2012


Symphony Palms Sunrise, Havelock Island, India

I was very lucky to wake up early and witness a stunning sunrise during the low tide at Beach #5, also known as Govind Nagar Beach.  It was one of the most beautiful sunrises I can remember seeing.  I highly recommend the Symphony Palms resort which is as close to the beach as you can get without a tent.  There is a constant cool breeze blowing through shady palms; a nice retreat from the 80 degree temps and hot sun.  In addition, the restaurant at Symphony Palms is excellent, and serves the coldest beer in the Andamans.

Beach #5 offers stunning blue and green colors due to the shallow water (see previous posts).  During high tide it is only about five feet deep for the first 100 meters or so, most of which is exposed at low tide. The low tide reveals some excellent rock formations and sand patterns, and creates some nice reflection pools for photographing the sunrise.

I asked several locals in Port Blair where they had seen the most beautiful scenery in the Andamans, and without fail, every single person said Havelock Island.  If you're into beaches, I can't imagine any more beautiful than those on Havelock.

This photo is a single exposure taken with a circular polarizer.  On a full frame body such as my 5D a circular polarizer can create extreme light falloff in the corners of the frame, so much so that the very tips of the corners are totally black at wide focal lengths (of course this depends on your camera, focal length and the thickness of your polarizer and other filters).  I added some vignette to help it blend in without having to crop too much.

The staff at Symphony Palms recommends booking your room three months in advance in order secure a cottage close to the beach, although they are all within a three minute walk of the beach.  You can visit the Symphony Palms website here:

Photo taken Jan 9, 2012

Monday, February 20, 2012


The Boat at Beach #5, Havelock Island, India

This old boat was tied to the tree for the two days we were on Havelock Island. It doesn't seem to get much use these days, but it sure makes for a great photo op. Any time I had some free time to take photos on the beach I always found myself coming back to this boat.

The shallow waters at Beach #5 make for a beautiful mix of blues and greens. See my previous post for more info about Beach #5.

This is a four exposure HDR. This is a case where I really don't see any alternative to HDR given the extreme lighting contrasts that were present at the scene. The water color is accurate. If you visit this beach you'll see for yourself.

Photo taken: Jan 9, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012


Gentle Beauty Beach # 5, Havelock Island, India

The bright midday sun doesn't lend itself to long exposures, but I brought my ND filter and circular polarizer so that I could slow things down a bit and capture the soothing motion of the sea.

Beach #5 is not the main attraction on Havelock Island, and is usually overshadowed by the far more famous Radhanagar Beach (Beach #7), which is considered one of the best beaches in the world. I would have to agree that Radhanagar Beach is the best for swimming, as the water gets deeper close to the shore, the sea floor is free of rocks, and the beach itself is long and wide, offering plenty of space to find a private spot to hang out for the day or camp overnight on the beach. In addition, Radhanagar Beach offers a stunning view of the sunset.

But Beach #5 is more ideal for photographers wanting to get a shot of the colorful waters prevalent across all of the Andaman Islands. Two factors make the colors pop at Beach #5. First is the shallow water, which creates the turquoise and green colors for the first 200 meters or so, giving way to the blues of the deeper waters further out. Second, and more importantly, Beach #5 faces Northeast, allowing photographers to shoot away from the sun and preventing the colorful water from being blown out by the sun's harsh reflection. Radhanagar Beach on the other hand, faces West making it difficult to capture it's beautiful green and blue colors except for a few hours early in the morning. So if you want to get the colors at Radhanagar Beach, you have to go early the morning. The catch, however, is that it does not provide any view of the sunrise, which many photographers are eager to shoot, and is quite stunning at Beach #5. See this sunrise and I think you'll agree.

Daily photo: Jan 11, 2012, taken Jan 9, 2012


Chidiya Tapu Sunset, South Andaman Island, India

Chidiya Tapu, also known as "Sunset Point" and "Bird Island," is one of the best places to see the sunset after flying into Port Blair, the main hub of the Andaman Islands.  The beach is located on the furthest Southern tip of South Andaman Island 25 kms South of Port Blair and takes about 45 minutes to get there by car (or over an hour by bus).  The road traverses through dense jungle/rainforest that opens up along the coastline in a few places.  There are "beware of crocodile" signs along the way, and the sign on the beach at Chidiya Tapu reads "Beware: Crocodile Infested Beach."  We didn't see any crocodile during our three days in the Andamans, and no one we met had seen one either, although our drivers said they do see crocodiles every now and then.

While Chidiya Tapu is probably the best sunset spot accessible from Port Blair, the horizon is obstructed by the hills of Rutland Island across the bay.  As a result, the best colors come out about 30 to 45 minutes after the sun dips below the hilly horizon.

This is a six exposure HDR and these were the last six shots I took before heading back to Port Blair.  The exposures range from one second to 30 seconds in one stop increments.

Photo taken Jan 8, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


I'm so lucky to have this angel to be my valentine every year!  This photo is from Nini's house in Hazaribagh, in the state of Jharkhand, India.  Isn't she pretty?  I used a small reflector to create the catchlights in her eyes and spent about 15 minutes processing this photo in lightroom.  Overall, it's pretty simple when you have a beautiful model!

Photo taken Jan 4, 2012

Tuesday, February 7, 2012


My favorite photo from our recent trip to India.  This one makes all of the gear and time spent studying portraiture worth while.  This is Nini's grandmother Dadi, and she is too amazing for words.  I'm so happy to have a few good photos of Dadi in my collection now, some from this trip and some from when she visited the states in the fall of 2010.  To me this photo is priceless, and I would gladly pay any price for a photo of my own grandmother just like this one.

I used one light for this portrait, a speedlite in a softbox in front of Dadi and to the camera right, lighting Dadi from just short of a 90 degree angle (maybe 80 or 70 degrees).  I always start with one light, usually a softbox like this, and then add additional background, hair and fill lights or reflectors.  Usually I like the results with one light the best so I make sure to spend a lot of time shooting with one light at the start.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


Ever been to Hazaribagh in the state of Jharkhand India?  It's a small town by Indian standards, but I love it there.  When I'm travelling in India people are always asking me how I like it and what part of the country I like the most.  I always say Hazaribagh and most people have either never heard of it, or say something like, "I can't believe you went to Hazaribagh, Indians don't even go there."  But I love the small town pace and hospitality, and of course my amazing family that lives there.

From left to right, Kaushik, Dinesh and Paul.  In total I've spent about a month in Hazaribagh over the last few years and I've never seen a cloud in the sky.  But on this day it was quite cloudy and I knew there could be a nice sunset.  So I convinced my father in law to let the three amigos climb up to the roof for some sunset photos.  Kaushik is Nini's brother and Dinesh is the handy-man of the house.  The three of us are always getting into trouble when I'm in town.

This is a three exposure HDR.  The selective de-ghosting tool in Photomatix has opened a whole new world of HDR portraiture.

Friday, February 3, 2012


The view from a hilltop in Rajgir, a holy town for Buddhists.  We made a quick one night trip to visit Nini's Aunt and Uncle during our trip to India in late December 2011.  You can see the row of tour busses carrying mostly Japanese and Korean buddhist travelers.  The main road was completely swamped with people wanting to see the holy hot springs where Buddha himself once bathed.  I much preferred the view from the hills and the fertile valleys beyond.  It was amazing that in one minute I was on the road below, stuck in a traffic jam and breathing fumes with thousands of others, and 10 minutes later I was on top of the hill, all alone, taking in this beautiful view.  Everyone was amazed that I could run up the hill so fast!  I was amazed no one else wanted to do the same!

Thursday, February 2, 2012


On December 22 2011, my little sister and I went out and photographed the Holy Family Shrine near Gretna Nebraska.  The Holy Family shrine is located about 20 minutes West of Omaha on Interstate 80 and is clearly visible from the interstate.  Look for exit signs on the interstate that will lead you right to it.  The chapel is a stunning combination of glass and wood designed by famous architect E. Fay Jones, an apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright.  To find out more about the The Holy Family Shrine you can visit their website here.

This is a seven exposure HDR.  There were serious halo problems around the top of the shrine that took a lot of time to fix and I'm still not totally satisfied with it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012


The golden morning light diffusing down through the trees and reflecting on Hinkson Creek.  Grindstone Nature Area is full of beauty.  This was about an hour after watching an awesome sunrise with Big Red on the cliffs.