Category Archives: Photographic Techniques

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

Also posted in Workshops

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.

Also posted in Inspiration 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

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.

Also posted in Before/After, night photography

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 If you are interested in learning from me, signup at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.


Also posted in iPhone, 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


Also posted in iPhone

Background Basics

08_13 Bonneville-7267

When I get excited about capturing a photograph, I sometimes forget the basics about the background and that is to eliminate the distractions. A busy background will make the viewer lose interest. In these examples I will explain how I eliminated the busy background to capture stronger images.

The first examples are from Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats September 2013. This was one of the first runs of the morning and Lobello Racing was “backing up” their record. The day before this belly tank hit a top speed for their class and rules state they08_13 Bonneville-7259have to hit that same speed the next morning to “own” the record in the books. These images were shot at the start line with beautiful morning light, but there are many distractions with people and cars in the background. So, I opted to walk around to the rear of the belly tank to see the view. I could not capture the driver’s face, but I created an image that looked like I was alone on the salt with Lobello Racing and an official. Now viewers will feel what it is like to sit on the start line.

To read more, head on over to the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Blog where I show another example of simplifying the background using flowers.

Also posted in Inspiration

Morphing Manhattan

Liberty square tiny planetWhether it is going to museums or art websites, I learn more about light and creativity through the art and photographs I study. I have found installing a new app on my iPhone or iPad sparks my creative juices as well. For instance, on a recent family trip to New York City, I installed a new app to my phone: Rollworld. This app creates tiny planets, rabbit holes or morphing videos from the in app camera or using images from your camera roll. Let me explain.

  • A tiny planet is when the two ends of the photograph are stretched in a circular manner to meet so the sky becomes the outer edges of this circular photo.
  • A rabbit hole does the exact opposite. The sky becomes the center of the photo.
  • Morphing video is a moving picture that takes the photo from point A to point B. Any photos you create whether it it s a tiny planet or a rabbit hole (or both) can then turn into a morphing video as it transitions from one state to another.

RollworldThe Rollworld app offers many customizing functions to invert, balance, spin, smooth transitions, zoom, scroll, and offers a randomizing effect. Shake the phone or push the button and you will see a new creation each time. Creations are limitless. When you find something you love, export it to several social media sites or to your camera roll and choose the resolution (up to 3000 x 3000 pixels).


What I learned when using Rollworld app. I found images with a fair amount of sky or water worked well. With my long flight home, I created several versions of an image to see what I liked best and found that to be very entertaining as well. If you are looking for a fun app to show your creative side download Rollworld for free. There is an in app purchase if you would like to export the videos. But all image processing is free!

If you are interested in more iPhone/iPad tips and tricks, sign up for her iPhone and/or iPad course through Arizona Highways Photo Workshops at You can also follow her at


Also posted in Before/After, iPad, Technology

iPad on the Run

Processing images at the track meet.

Processing images at the track meet.

I love my iPad. There may be some tablets that do these same tasks, but I began on an iPad and it is what I know. Last Saturday, my son was running in a track meet in Phoenix and since I love photographing sports, I contacted our Flagstaff newspaper to see if they had anyone covering the meet. With such a tight budget, journalists are rarely sent out-of-town. So, I was told I could send in photos and with the coach’s report of highlights of the day, they would try to publish something. Track meets are long. So, after 7 hours of shooting and 300 action photos of the athletes, I talked to coach and reviewed the results of the day. It was time to select the photos for the newspaper. This is when I began my iPad workflow….

To read more, head on over to the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops Blog where I explain how simple it was to use my iPad to process and submit images for publication. Or join me on June 20, 2015 in my iPad Workflow for Photographers workshop by signing up at

Austin Horn setting his pace in the 3200 m race.

McKenna Bryce moving on to the finals in the 100 m hurdles.

McKenna Bryce moving on to the finals in the 100 m hurdles.

Also posted in iPad, Technology, Workshops

Photographing Liquids

I am so fortunate to have several weeks off for winter break and this year I made a very long list of photo projects to tackle. Not unlike my every day lists, I did not complete that tall order. However, since I am going back to work in a little over 48 hours, I thought I should take a look at what I did accomplish and select a few to post. The photos I spent the most time capturing included mixing liquids. So, here are a few of my “Favorite photos of Winter Break.”

Oil & Water 1






To capture an image like this, you need a clear dish elevated with something of color beneath it. I rested a clear 9×13 inch pan on two chairs and set up my tripod so that the camera was facing straight down. A single off camera flash lit a Christmas napkin placed below the clear dish creating this blend of colors. After swirling a little bit, I started taking my shots. In the photos below, I have two more versions of Oil & Water using different colors of paper or foil beneath.

Oil & Water 2 Oil & Water 3






The last set of images comes from mixing milk, dye and dish soap.  The dish soap reacts with the dye in a peculiar way in that the dye moves away from the dish soap. I saw a YouTube video of this reaction and gave it a try. After the dye did it’s trick, I slowly wove a stirring stick through the mixture to create strong lines. Using my CamRanger allowed me to tether wirelessly for these images.

Milk & Dye Milk & Dye 2






Also posted in Inspiration