Category Archives: Photography Tips

My Bokeh Garden

Can a change of perspective affect the way we feel about things in life?

I’m enjoying a cup of coffee in my hammock trying to check in on my feelings about the dandelions that have taken over our backyard. What is true is that I can not win the battle with this plant. It is also true that I can have what ever feelings I choose to about this situation.

I can appreciate the absolute and total success dandelions enjoy as they dominate the grasses, cultivated wild flowers and the corner of our yard where we try to grow food. I notice the impressive shape shifting this species displays throughout its life. It arrives on the scene in Spring with broad lush, edible, detoxifying leaves. Then, tiny hard buds poke up through the middle. Suddenly, overnight, the stems grow tall, sending up a green sphere that one morning opens up into a bright cheery yellow cushion. The honey bees love this and stay busy collecting pollen from the carpet of yellow blooms. It is fascinating to notice how the plants open their flowers each morning and close them in the cool of the evening.  Then, one day, the yellow flowers close in on themselves for the last time. Inside their closed cones, they get to the business of creating a puffball of seeds, each equipped with its own propeller-like parachute.

This morning, sunlight shines through those puffballs so beautifully. I see a bokeh garden. Bokeh is that beautiful artistic effect that occurs when a camera’s lens renders points of light as out of focus blurs. I can’t resist when the light is so beautiful. Coffee can wait. It will only take one seed-scattering gust of wind, or the sun to rise a little higher in the sky and the whole effect will be lost. I grab my camera and start to play among the dandelions.

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Also posted in Bokeh, Dandelion, Missoula, Photos of the Day, Wild Edibles Tagged , , , |

Rising and Shining…On the path to star trails

Learning to photograph star trails….Day 1

I’ve been spending lots of time thinking about getting up the nerve to try shooting star trails. (It’s hard enough to get up for sunrise, let alone go out in the dark night and wait forever for the Earth to spin us right round the North Star!) On a recent night, the sky was black and clear and full of stars. It would have been the perfect opportunity to shoot. But, I didn’t have all the equipment. What I still needed was a way to trigger the shutter remotely so that, while on “bulb” setting, there would be no camera shake. On my last trip into town, I bought the Canon RC-6 remote trigger. A quick test of the equipment proved that, indeed, I’d be able to shoot on “bulb” for the necessary long exposure needed.  Now, all I needed was another clear night. It’s been so warm lately that the Earth and Mountains have been working together to blanket the valley in fog.  Fog is beautiful, don’t get me wrong. But it’s not going to work for star trails.

Early this morning, the sky looked clear so I thought I’d give it a practice run.  I knew it was too close to sunrise to get any really long star trails. For this first attempt, that was fine with me. I just wanted to prove to myself I could shoot a “pin point” star shot and a “star trails” shot. They both require such different settings. With the light coming quick, I managed to get one shot that showed stars moving, starting their trails of light. I held the shutter open for 75 seconds, f2.8, ISO 400.  You can just barely see the trails starting. I think that if I start late at night and give it more time and slower ISO I could get a better result.

Since the sun was coming up anyway, I stuck around to get some images of our biggest star spraying pink rays across the sea of gathering clouds.

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Also posted in Night Photography, Photos of the Day, Star Trails, Sunrise

Come to the Free Lecture on Animal Photography

I’ll be presenting a free lecture on Animal Photography at the Rocky Mountain School of Photography on Februrary 18 from 7-9pm. They are located at 216 N. Higgins and the lecture will be in Studio B. This will be fun! Hope to see you there.

What kind of animals do you like to photograph? Lions, and tigers and bears? Or maybe cats and dogs? How about birds and bees? Pam Voth will share stories from the field and some valuable techniques she’s learned from years of photographing animals – both wild and tame. Animal photography requires a delicate balance between infinite patience and lightning speed. Learn how to use the elements of light, composition, depth of field and timing to express your own vision with your animal photography.


Click here for more details.

Here are a couple of segments from the Wake Up Montana show with Terri Elander that ran Monday morning.

On Part 1, scroll ahead to 2:34 for the start of the segment.

On Part 2, scroll ahead to 3:09 for the start of the segment.

Also posted in Dog Photography

Magic Words: Tips for taking great photos of your dog

When I arrive at a dog’s home for a photo session, I’m greeted with lots of energy.  Many dogs are so excited about me being there, they wag and wiggle, show me their favorite toys, peak inside my camera lens, check their food bowl, ask nicely for a belly rub or suggest a good scratch right above the tail. I’m happy to oblige, of course. All of this rigorous greeting and getting to know each other leads to a lot of panting. And pictures of panting dogs are fine, but a few of these go a long way. What I really want to get are shots that show more facets of a dog’s personality.

So, how to get a dog to close her mouth? Say some magic words. Usually anything that starts with “do you want…” and ends with a noun or verb will get her to slurp in her tongue if only for a quick second. And this is just enough time to snap the shot.

I’ll ask a dog’s person what her magic words are before the shoot begins so I have my secret arsenal ready if I should need it. Invariably, Missoula dogs will snap to attention when asked if they want to go to their favorite off-leash area, like Bark Park? Water Works Hill? Jumbo? Saddle? Blue Mountain? River?

Missoula dogs are also ready to say yes! to any of their favorite activities like Hike? Swim? Fishing? They also love any suggestion they’ll get to ride in a Truck? or Boat?

Kamukin visited me from out of town so she didn’t know Missoula dogs’ magic words. She came with one of her own….Frisbee?

Around our house, just the word “do” would get an immediate yes! But, that’s the price a dog pays for living with a dog-loving photographer.

What’s your dog’s magic word? Next time you are snapping a photo of them, try this simple trick and let me know how it goes by leaving a comment below.

Also posted in Dog Photography, Dog Town, Dogs, Missoula, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , |