October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month


With my last new image for the month, I am hoping to make more people aware of the importance of regular mammograms. If discovered early enough, a woman can beat cancer. I did not know this, until witnessing it firsthand. It made me realize how important it is to share this message.

The gathering at North Lake takes place at sunrise, during fall in the Eastern Sierras. I arrived here while it was still dark, and was greeted by an early season snow storm. Using my headlamp to navigate the area, I quickly found a spot to set up, just before the place became overrun with photographers. The storm broke for a short time during sunrise, allowing for a small window of opportunity to capture some High Sierra Mountain light.

Keep Tahoe Beautiful

A summer sunrise sheds light to awaken a beautiful lupine field at Lake Tahoe

The day’s first sun rays awaken a beautiful lupine field, during a summer sunrise at Lake Tahoe.

Recently I experienced one of the most beautiful scenes I have witnessed, while photographing wildflowers at Lake Tahoe. However, even with the excitement of capturing new images, I could not ignore the sadness I felt during my visit here.

Not that long ago, this particular view could not be experienced. The recent record-low snow pack has resulted in a dramatic drop in Lake Tahoe’s water level. Due to this fact, both locals and visitors could now experience the immense beauty of an area once completely under water.

Standing in the middle of all this, taking in the breathtaking show, my goal was to photograph the beauty. However, my biggest hope is that the coming winter produces a large enough snow pack to return Lake Tahoe to a healthier level.

Landscape Photography During a Storm

Storm Light at Lake Tahoe

Two sayings speak to this shot. First, the one about a picture can’t do a scene justice. Standing there in the driving hail, witnessing multiple lightning bolts was quite the experience, but as hard as I tried I could not capture one bolt. The main part of the storm cleared right at sunset, so I was disappointed by the lack of color in the sky; however I was happy to come away with one shot from this quick but memorable trip.

My decision to shoot at Lake Tahoe was based purely on the storm in the forecast, and the chance of it clearing at sunset. This brings me to the second saying that came to mind. Be careful what you wish for…Yea, right!

Essential Gear

  • Rain jacket with head cover
  • Water proof footwear
  • Water proof cover for photo equipment
  • Keep a set of dry cloths in your car so you can change after the shoot

*Breast Cancer Awareness*Reach Out*

A colorful dramatic sunrise at Natural Bridges State Beach, in Santa Cruz.

A colorful dramatic sunrise at Natural Bridges State Beach, in Santa Cruz, California.

*Breast Cancer Awareness*Reach Out*

I wanted to do something different, and share a story with my latest image.

Just over a year ago a mother moved to the U.S. to be closer to her son. For years and for various reasons she had not taken the time to make any medical appointments. Now in the U.S. she was encouraged to take better care of herself and sign up for a medical plan. This led to her having a routine mammogram followed by a biopsy, and then being diagnosed with breast cancer. Learning that she had breast cancer was a shock and very scary; however in this case the fortunate thing was the cancer was detected early, at stage one. The oncology doctor scheduled the woman for the necessary lumpectomy surgery, and after some recovery time and tests it was thankfully confirmed that the woman had beaten breast cancer.

I hope by writing this short story, I will be able to reach out to someone who will think about reminding their wife, sister, daughter, girlfriend and of course mother to have regular mammograms. This is so important and means a lot to me. Cancer is a very hard word to hear, but if caught early, the chances of survival can increase enough to save many lives.

Before Sunrise, Emerald Bay

Landscape Photography Twilight LE Technique

One great benefit of having some interest in the sky during sunrise or sunset is the opportunity to photograph a scene at different times, and be able to come away with more than one acceptable image.

On this particular morning, there was very nice cloud cover above Lake Tahoe. Hoping to make the best of the situation, I set up to photograph not only at sunrise, but also just before and after sunrise. I also used different filter techniques to photograph each moment, so I could capture multiple effects. For this image I used a 10-stop ND filter, to show the effect of streaking pre-sunrise clouds above Emerald Bay. When shooting in the direction of the sun, I like to use a long exposure to obtain this streaking cloud effect just before sunrise and also after sunset, through twilight.

Carefully check the first couple of exposures in the camera’s viewfinder. If you notice blown-out highlights in the sky you will have to adjust the in-camera exposure. Another option is to attach a neutral density grad filter to your Big Stopper filter. This will eliminate blown-out highlights,

Landscape Photography – Looking at the Whole Picture

Now I am Free

Landscape photography can be all about catching a beautiful or dramatic fleeting moment. However, there are also times when a photographer is presented with an opportunity to take the time to look at a particular scene and determine the best way to capture an image which conveys a specific look or feeling. In this instance of looking through the camera’s viewfinder, a landscape photographer is looking at the whole picture.

In this image of the dead tree at Botany Bay, I had enough time to compose the image exactly the way I wanted, so I could convey the feeling of motion I felt, and the different texture effects that were being created, within the frame.

I was able to take several different exposures of this scene, before carefully reviewing each shot once I returned home. I decided that this 4-second exposure best conveyed the elements of the whole picture I witnessed while photographing this scene.

Image Stacking for Landscape Photography Part One

Zerene Logo

Just four images needed to be stacked to create this image

Just four individually focused exposures were needed to create this image.

Typically used during post-processing of macro photography, Zerene image stacking software processes multiple images taken of a single composition to create a completely in-focus output image. Being a Landscape Photographer, I was curious if this concept would work for the type of images I capture. After using Zerene focus stacking software, I am now convinced that I am on to a really good thing, and in part one of my review I will explain why Zerene Stacker can be an invaluable tool for much more than just macro photography. I have added “Part One” to this review title simply because I have used the software to process just a couple of images so far. I intend to photograph and process more images using Zerene Stacker, which will allow me to fully illustrate the software’s limitless potential, in this field. First lets take a quick look at the Zerene Stacker interface.

The Home Screen where you begin by adding files (images) to the current project

The Add Source Files dialog box will appear, from where you will simply select and upload images from the location they are saved in. The number of images uploaded for each project will depend on the number of focus points you have photographed of that particular scene. I recommend a series of at least three shots, at different focus points when photographing a landscape. One advantage of using focus-stacking software for landscape photography is you will not need to take many shots to process a completely sharp image in Zerene Stacker, for most scenes. This means that after a short learning curve, you will have the ability to process images with more impact in just a short amount of time.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Image files are now loaded into the current project

For this project I have selected twelve images, which are displayed here as a single image stack. Clicking on any of the twelve image files listed in the Input Files column on the left, will bring that file to the top of the stack, making it the visible file. Next, select Stack from the task bar. Here, you will discover that there are two image stacking options from which to choose from, each based on creating an output image using a different processing algorithm. These are PMax and DMap. I found each method capable of producing different results, and therefore, experimentation is the best way to determine which method will produce the best output image for you. Read a detailed description of both stacking methods here. DMap versus PMax 

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Output image ready for the magical Retouching Tool

Once the all important stacking step is completed, it is time to use the program’s Retouching Tool. With just a little time and concentration, this is where you will eliminate any artifacts and image-stutter, which are a result of moving elements in the scene such as clouds or in this case lupines blowing in the wind. For this step you will need to magnify both images. I use a setting of 100%, which allows me to easily see details, while quickly scrolling through all parts of the image. Each file on the left of the screen represents each individually focused shot. Simply match the best focused shot with the area of the image on the right you are using the Retouching Tool. The tool itself is very easy to use. Just like the Paintbrush Tool found in Photoshop and Lightroom, simply brush over any area that has been effected by movement or wind. When zooming into the lupine image, I was able to see and correct several areas effected by motion-stuttering. Using your mouse, you can easily control the size of the brush area, on the fly. Once you have finished retouching the image, go to Edit>Commit Retouching. Your image will then appear in the column at the left of the screen, under Output Images “Retouched.” Not all projects will require retouching. For example, the image near the top of this review of the tree and Half Dome includes features that were not affected by wind or movement, during the time it took to capture the series of shots needed. For some reason this screenshot did not record the Retouching Tool Brush. Click here Landscape Tutorial Page  and look at the forth image to see an example illustration of the Brush Tool in action.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Save Output Image(s) Window

Save Output Images will open the output options window. From here you will choose the output file size and type that matches the workflow you typically use. My preferred settings are to save each new image as a TIFF file, at 300 ppi. Next, chose a location on your computer where you wish to save the new file. This will be the location where you will open your stacked file for further post-processing such as color correction and sharpening.

Click on screenshot to enlarge

Click on screenshot to enlarge


Detailed product information and support can be found here: FAQ Page  Tutorials  Support
Zerene Focus-Stacking