5 Steps to a Successful Photo Workshop

Vancouver Skyline from a photo workshop

Vancouver skyline and convereted to b/w using Nik Silver Efex Pro. Olympus OMD1MII 1/500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 18mm

To start off my summer right, I attended the Vancouver Island Arizona Highways Photo Workshop with photographer, Shane McDermott. This workshop offered it all: wildlife, macro, landscape, and waterfalls on Vancouver Island. Although I have attended workshops before both as participant and instructor I decided to create a list of pointers to make the most of a workshop.

  1. Prepare – Be sure to read all the information given to you by the trip leaders. And more importantly, read it in a timely manner. You will need the correct shoes and clothes based on the temperatures. If you need to purchase these items, you may need time to break in something like water proof shoes/boots. Also, research the locations. Get familiar with where you are going, this will help you know what to expect. If you have the chance, arrive early or stay late. I arrived in Vancouver 2 days before the trip and enjoyed spending time on Grandville Island that wasn’t on our itinerary.

    bald eagle photo from a photo workshop

    Bald Eagle preparing to dive for a fish. Olympus OMD1MII 1/2500 sec, f/5.6, ISO 400, 200 mm

  2. Gear – Plan early if you need to rent or purchase gear for the trip. Practice packing your gear to make sure it fits in your bag. Remember, you will need to carry your own gear. Before the Vancouver trip, I had tendinitis issues in my left wrist which made operating my tripod’s ball head difficult. So, I purchased a used pistol grip tripod head for the trip to ease my pain.
  3. Meet new people – Even though I knew several of the participants on the trip, I made a point of getting to know everyone. At each meal I ate with different people and the reward was hearing the interesting stories from the other participants.
  4. Be flexible – Prior to the workshop we received an itinerary but to provide us with better shooting scenarios, Shane altered it. Shane is familiar with the area and locations and always had the participants experience in mind. I tend to be a schedule follower, so this concept was hard for me. But, I learned to relax and enjoy the locations and photograph what captured my eye. Prior to the trip, I thought I would shoot mostly macro (like I often do), but found myself shooting many landscape and wildlife photos too. It was a freeing experience to not worry about a tight schedule.
  5. Ask Questions – As an educator, I often see students hesitant to ask questions. But, on a trip like this, you
    yellow flowers captured on a photo workshop

    Olympus OMD1MII 1/640 sec, f/4.0, ISO 1250, 100mm

    have dedicated time and money to get there, so make the most of it. Even if you think your question is silly. Shane answered every question in the field and in the classroom. He volunteered additional information and created a strong learning environment. I asked about his photo processing workflow and he showed us without hesitation.

So, when you sign up for your next workshop, or as you prepare for one, keep these pointers in mind to make the most of your photo workshop. Find out about more workshops by visiting ahpw.org.

Posted in Photographic Techniques, Workshops

5 Tips for Travel iPhone Photography

Brooklyn Bridge shot with an iPhone

Brooklyn Bridge

Summer travel is a perfect opportunity to use your iPhone or mobile camera for photography. Here are a few tips that might help you while traveling.

Limit Zoom

The zoom on an iPhone (not the iPhone Plus) is equal to a digital zoom. That means that it is not optically getting closer, just cropping in tighter. So, move closer to the subject! If you must crop in, do it in post processing for the sharpest image.

Person in subway

Slow Shutter App


Your headphones are for more than just hearing. Did you know your headphone volume button triggers your shutter button? Many people push the round button on the iPhone screen to trigger the shutter, but this can cause camera shake. So, to get the best possible image, trigger the shutter with the headphone volume button. Using the headphones this way allows you to not appear to be taking photos. Hold the camera closer to the body and bystanders will see you playing with your phone not taking photos.


The mobile phone is so easy to view different angles, so get down low or raise it up high for a different perspective. A simple change can be from shooting the same subject horizontally versus vertically. Create completely different photos using perspective, work your subject and don’t settle on the first image.

NY ArchApps

There are so many wonderful apps for mobile photography and many are free. Two of my favorite free apps are Snapseed and Polarr. Both of these apps allow for global and selective adjustments from basic exposure to extensive filters. For artistic touches, the Glaze app offers great watercolor and sketching filters. Give them a try, a little post processing can add that extra touch.

Central Park

Central Park using Hipstamatic.


Now that you have some great photos, you need to back them up. Install the Google Photos App and your images back up automatically. Another option for Adobe CC users is Adobe Lightroom Mobile. From the mobile device, add a new importable folder from your camera’s camera roll. Then, the images captured on the phone add automatically to LR Mobile. Lastly, on your home computer under the collection “From LR Mobile,” view your cell phone images. Most importantly, find a system that works for you and get your phone photos backed up.

If you want a hands-on lesson on iPhoneography, sign up for a class at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Posted in iPhone, Technology, Uncategorized Tagged , , , , , , |

My Backyard

Bug on dandelion

1/2000, f/2.8, ISO 200

A few months ago, I changed camera systems to an Olympus mirrorless camera (OMD1 Mark2) and I looked forward to spend quality time with my camera. Sometimes I think I need a grandiose trip for photography, but really all it takes is a location and some time. So, I spent a few hours in my backyard. Using only my 60mm macro lens and Vanguard Veo tripod I jumped in to capture the small details of my backyard. I didn’t find the best light, so I grabbed my diffuser for the overhead sun and in the afternoon clouds rolled in to diffuse the light.


Dandelions were the first item to photograph. The delicate details and proximity to the ground provided a great challenge with my new gear. I setup my tripod, camera and shutter release to find a small bug on one of the dandelions. I quickly adjusted my field of view and captured photos of this guy. With the camera on the tripod, one hand was free to hold a diffuser over the subject. This softened the light and gave me a more even exposure. After a few minutes, I removed the camera from the tripod and handheld a few shots. Of course, I switched the camera to burst mode. I prefer burst mode when handholding the camera because it increases my chance of sharp images in the case that I move while shooting the image. Next, I was in search of ladybugs.


1/1250, f/3.2, ISO 200


Our plum trees were full of ladybugs. I did try the tripod, but the ladybugs moved so fast, I chose to handhold my camera instead. The focus point was a single point on the head and again I used burst mode to capture sharp images.

bumble bee

1/125, f/5.6, ISO 800

After ladybugs, I stuck with the bug theme and saw the bumblebees pollinating our chives. A handheld camera was again the best solution for these fast-moving insects. Luckily, the clouds rolled in which provided soft even light. I knelt on the ground and kept moving with the bees until I got several photos that pleased me. My favorite image was when the bumble bee looked straight at me! Now, I find myself checking out my yard several times a week looking for other things to shoot. A few days ago, I noticed bees pollinating our red hot pokers so I got out there and captured more images. If you are ready for a photo project, just get out in your own backyard. It is important that you have fun and spend time with your camera.

Posted in Inspiration, Photographic Techniques Tagged , , , |

No Diffuser? Use a Grocery Store Bag

The spring wildflowers this year have been stunning in the Phoenix area. Since I was in Phoenix for a weekend, I insisted on photographing the wildflowers. The White Tank Mountain Regional Park was closest to where I was staying, so I went out at first light and found the poppy covered hills. I drove part of the park loop and found a short path that lead to poppies. I set up my tripod and macro lens and was ready to shoot. The sun was rising and quickly illuminating my shady spot with direct light creating harsh shadows.


I reached for my diffuser to soften the light and realized it wasn’t in my bag. All I could find in my camera bag and was a white grocery store bag. If I tore the bag, it would become a full square piece of white plastic. I held the plastic between the sun and the flowers. The result – instant shade!  If the bag was a color other than white, it would cast the bag color on my flowers. Luckily, white is fairly neutral and did not cast a color on my flowers. Now, if I had been photographing a larger area, the plastic bag would not have worked. Because I used a macro lens and only had a few flowers in my frame, the bag shaded the entire area I was capturing in the camera.

Take a look at the images below: Image A was in full sun and Image B was using my plastic bag diffuser. If you look closely, you can see the difference in light on the background poppies too. So, if you find yourself without a diffuser, grab that white grocery store bag and shoot away!

Photo of wildflower poppies in full sun

Image A – Full Sun

Photo of wildflower poppies with diffused light

Image B – Plastic Bag diffuser

Posted in Photographic Techniques Tagged , , , |

Creative Mobile Photography

For those who know me, know that I use my iPhone camera quite a bit, I call it iPhone photography. So, when my family went to Catalina Island a few weeks ago for a short trip, I decided to take only my iPhone. Of course, I brought my clip-on lenses which included wide, macro, and telephoto lenses along with a circular polarizer. Shortly after arriving, we were at the beach and I was searching for my first shot. After a quick discussion with my son, I unscrewed a wide-angle lens from the clip and held it in front of the camera. The first image was not perfect, but after placing the lens about 6 inches in front of the camera, I captured a good image. I learned that if I held the lens too close, the camera would focus only on my hand or only in the distance and not through the lens. I did experiment with each of my lenses, but was happiest with the use of the wide-angle lens.  So, think outside the box and try something new…you never know what you might create!

If you want more ideas, join me in my Mobile Photography class through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops on March 25, 2017 – sign up here!

Posted in iPhone Tagged , |

Splash of Spring

Photo composite, "splash of spring"

Splash of Spring

For the past 4 years, I have been capturing macro images of flowers, water, oil, and ice. Using my Nikon 105mm macro lens I capture liquid images with splashes, solids and mixtures of splashes and solids. But since March, I began a project on combining these images. Curiosity was the impetus of this new image title “Splash of Spring.”

This composite (combination of more than one image) began with a thought of “what if I combined a liquid drop with a flower?”  The daffodils in our yard had recently blossomed, so I cut one and photographed it from multiple angles. Then I started thinking about how to combine them. My original idea was to have the milk drop explode out of the top of the daffodil. I searched through my milk drop images and found one that had potential. And the image to the right was the disappointing result.

First unsuccessful composite of "splash of spring"

First composite

I went back to the drawing board by moving the drop until I found the perfect placement. I rotated and resized the drop until it was on top of the bottom petals of the daffodil. I had an exciting new plan.

This needed to be a clean composite, so I used masking techniques to remove the bottom petals of the daffodil. Then, I “cutout” the drop and drug the layer to the flower image placing my “drop” petals at the correct angle. I copied the original daffodil flower base and elongated it to fill in the base that was hidden by the original pedals. The last step was to add a hue/saturation colorized layer to the drop and match the yellow tones. Once all the layers were in position I added a few final touches: adding shadows to the newly formed daffodil flower base and I added an additional random drop. Overall, I had 30 minutes of photographing the flower and about two hours of Photoshop-ing to create my finished product.

In the next few months, I plan to complete a few more composites like “Splash of Spring” with flowers and drops and hope to have a full portfolio to show.

Beginning images for composite "splash of spring"

Beginning images for composite


Posted in Before/After, Compositing Tagged , , , , |

Just Shoot

By Amy Horn and Vicki Uthe

One way to becoming a better photographer is to shoot more images. For a few years now, my good friend and Arizona Highways Photo Workshops trip leader, Vicki Uthe, and I schedule a photo outing a couple of times a year. We want it to happen once a month, but our schedules don’t always mesh. Luckily, this past week we both had a morning to meet so we drove to Jerome, AZ for some photo fun. With handheld cameras we hit the streets early morning while the town was still quiet. We walked one loop, changed lenses and walked the loop again. The light changed so drastically we found ourselves shooting completely different subjects on the second loop. Vicki is a Canon shooter and I own Nikon gear and we found ourselves using one of two lenses: Vicki: 11-16 mm or 100 mm macro Amy: 24-120 mm and 105 mm macro. Even with similar lenses and walking together, we captured very different images. We processed our images separately and agreed we would each submit a few of our favorites.


Jerome_April_2016-9992 Jerome_April_2016-9987








Horn_Jerome-3 Horn_Jerome-4







By mid-morning we moved on to the Jerome State Historic Park, Audrey Headframe Park and then to our favorite location, the Gold King Mine. At the Gold King Mine the sun was directly overhead creating harsh shadows and flat light. But if you haven’t been there, it is a place you won’t want to miss! We both used our macro lenses to find those small details and the best light. After processing our images we only had one of the same subject – the red truck with the bullet hole window. Vicki shot it from the outside and I shot it from the inside.


Jerome_April_2016-0103 Jerome_April_2016-0072 Jerome_April_2016-0121






Horn_Gold King Mine-2 Horn_Gold King Mine

Horn_Gold King Mine-5








Red truck, Vicki’s shot, then Amy’s shot


Horn_Gold King Mine-6






Next time you want to practice, grab a photo friend or join us on a Meetup and shoot! Even if it is harsh light, take the challenge to make the most of the light.

Amy Horn is a lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. View her current teaching schedule at ahpw.org or horndesigns.com.  Vicki Uthe is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Posted in Inspiration Tagged , |

Lively Lights

lively lights blur lively lights blur

The holidays have passed, but at Flagstaff’s Little America Hotel the seasonal display of lively lights continue to illuminate the property. I wanted to spend time photographing the lights earlier in December but my never ending list of “to-do’s” kept me away. Now that the new year is here, I knew my days were numbered capturing these lights. So I met my photographer friend a few days ago and we spent an hour in the cold weather gathering a few shots.

The first series of images I captured was using blur to my advantage. Yes, I intentionally captured images out of focus. Extending my Nikon 24-120 mm lens to about 100 mm, I manually focused (or defocused) to get the effect I wanted. The live view on my camera was essential for this technique even though the battery depletes faster. I forgot my shutter release, so I set the camera on a 2 second timer and of course, had my camera on a tripod.

lively lights bokeh lively lights zoom pull

To read the rest of the article and see how I captured two more techniques, head over to Arizona Highways Photo Workshop blog.

Posted in Before/After, night photography, Photographic Techniques

Thin Ice

By Amy Horn

Blog, thin ice

Blog, thin ice (photo 1)

The overnight temperatures in Flagstaff on average have been below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few weeks, so it is no surprise that Francis Short Pond is covered with thin ice. The ice has been different thicknesses but the first day I went to capture images, the ice was not even an inch thick. So, I had to be creative on how to capture the intriguing ice bubbles I spotted just off the shore. I knew I couldn’t stand on the ice, but I hoped it would hold the weight of my camera. So, I setup my gear (tripod, Nikon D600 and 105mm macro lens) on the dry land and carefully set it on the thin ice.

I was a little nervous setting thousands of dollars of gear on the iced, but the ice held as you can see in Photo 2 and 3. When my heartbeat returned to normal, I realized my lens was not parallel to the plane of the subject. I would not get sharp photos if I didn’t make a change. Reaching over the ice from dry land, I adjusted my camera’s lens plane and then slid the tripod over the ice bubbles. I was using live view, but could barely reach the lens to focus from the side of the pond. I snapped a few shots with my shutter release then brought the tripod back to dry land to view the shots. The shots were in focus, but not the composition. Then I remembered my CamRanger. It was in my camera bag. A CamRanger is a wireless solution to capturing and viewing images (among other great features). The CamRanger would solve my problem.

CamRanger on thin ice

CamRanger on thin ice (photo 3)

CamRanger on thin ice

CamRanger on thin ice (photo 2)

I plugged the CamRanger into the camera’s USB port and used a Tether Tools Rock solid smart clip with hot shoe adapter mount to stabilize it on the camera. I opened my iPhone wifi settings and found the CamRanger wifi signal. Next, I opened the CamRanger app and turned on live view. Only a few short minutes at 19 degrees passed and I was ready to place my tripod & camera back on the ice. With the CamRanger, I could remotely control my camera through focus and exposure and preview the composition. As long as I could reach a tripod leg, I could rotate the camera on the ice to capture the composition I desired. I even used the CamRanger focus stacking feature to capture a series of images that I could stack when I got home. Photo 1 is a single capture from the CamRanger setup. This was so much fun, I forgot my gear was resting on thin ice or that it was below 20 degrees!

For more information on a CamRanger or Tether Tools mounts, please visit tethertools.com. If you are interested in learning from me, signup at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


Posted in iPhone, Photographic Techniques, Technology Tagged , , , |

Sunday Stroll with an iPhone

Hipstamatic App processing

Hipstamatic App processing

Are you looking for an opportunity to take more photos? Then grab your camera or iPhone and take a walk. That’s what I did. Not long ago, I took to the streets of Flagstaff on a bright Sunday morning for a stroll to our weekly Farmer’s Market. Shopping for locally grown vegetables was my main focus, but I grabbed my iPhone for the trip as well. Whenever I use my iPhone I try to give myself a goal.

Today’s goal was to create images using the Hipstamatic app. I love the coloration Hipstamatic adds to photos mimicking analog cameras. Since I was shooting in full sun, this would be the best application to create interesting photos. And, if you get distracted with shopping and forget to use the Hipstamatic app; the free Snapseed app is a great substitution.

Nothing beats a Farmer’s Market when looking for something to photograph. The fresh vegetables, the flowers, even the local pets made the morning a fun photo shoot. And, I even came home with dinner. Just remember, you don’t need a grand trip to practice photography, just a Sunday stroll.

IMG_8732-c74.JPGIMG_8735-c89.JPGiPhone 2015-08-09 08-c71.35.33.JPGiPhone 2015-08-09 08-c89.35.06.JPG


Posted in iPhone, Photographic Techniques