ppa district competition bonus

Professional Photographers of America

Southwest District Competition – Photographic Open Results

Professional Photographers of America supports photographic education in many ways. One of those is through the Merit and Degree program. Two of the degrees are image based on that you need to earn thirteen Merits plus another twelve Merits for service or education in the industry.

On the way to International Photographic Competition (IPC) is a proving ground called the Districts. The country is divided into five different Districts of which I am a member of the Southwest District. They recently completed the judging, and I earned Merits for all eight of my entries. Additionally, I received an automatic Loan Collection image for scoring 95 or above. Another image will be judged for Loan when IPC commences August 5th through 8th at Gwinett Technical School just outside Atlanta in Georgia.

I’ll share my images here except for one that will be judged for Loan Collection as the judges are not to have access to any unjuged photos.

Last light image‘Days End’ – A spectacular sunset on the red rocks in Sedona viewed from Hwy 179.
A slightly different version of this image is available for sale through the Gallery of Modern Masters in the Hillside Shopping area. Day’s End will be automatically accepted into the PPA Loan Collection at the final judging in August because it scored above a 95.

Pash in the juniper treeA capture of my Muse Pash Galbavy who is an incredible artist who is in love with nature. She is a life model, mask maker, performance artist and so much more. Other images from this series with Pash are also available through Gallery of Modern Masters. This image earned a Merit score

image3While in Nashville at last year’s PPA convention I hoofed it out to the bridge to capture a night shot of the skyline along the river. This image also earned a Merit score.

PPA 2nd place ribbon southwest districtThis image will represent the Non-Event album which scored a 92. I can’t share the images from this until after judging for the Loan Collection in August. It scored second place in the category.

These are the Photographic Open Category images. In the next couple days, I’ll share my Artist entries with you.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

meet scoot

Meet ‘Scoot’

and the visit to the Blooming Mesquite Tree

Here’s my new best friend ‘Scoot.’ Scoot makes it possible for me to move about as I work to rehab my Iliopsoas muscle. The scooter is there for a bit of support when the pain in my a** gets too intense. But mobility leads to some possibilities.

walker photoMeet ‘Scoot’ My new best friend for a while.

I broke out the Lumix FZ2500 because of its range and all in one 24-480mm f2.8-4.0 Leica DG Vario-Elmarit lens. This is the first time I’ll have a camera in my hands in over a week. Can you say withdrawal?? I had asked my wife Holly to bring a camera to the hospital to document some of the things going on around me. Too much pain, not enough sleep and worrying about the camera being in a hospital environment. My wife told me I was nuts to even think of doing that, once again proving that my wife is the smarter of the people in our marriage… and I was wrong again.

Onward to day’s walk to the end of the driveway. I made it under the mesquite tree and was pausing for a break. Lo and behold I was enjoying the soft fuzziness of the yellow blooms against the beautiful blue sky. Off the get the camera and an excuse for a bit more exercise.

mesquite shadowGoal. The shade under the mesquite tree at the end of the driveway.

Once underneath the blooms, I started looking for some interesting compositions.

mesquite tree bloom imageThe sharp yet soft bloom of the mesquite against the Arizona blue sky.

bee in mesquite blooomA pollinator visits the yellow bloom

I guess I’ll have to be creative find images within this 100-foot circle until I can begin to range further.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob

health issues

Have I Got a Story for You

I made plans for getting solidly back on my blogging stories, ideas and creative photography ideas.

You’ve heard that expression about making plans and hearing God’s laughter? That’s what got in the way this time. It wasn’t for lack of performance in posting or finding material and ideas to share. It was a bit of a health hit.

Then I spent a week in hospital

I won’t get into too much detail about what has me knocked on my ass at the moment. It is an unusual thing. I had an abscess that went septic on my iliopsoas muscle. It’s one of those muscles that runs through your butt area.

iliopsoasHere is what Wikipedia shares about that muscle. “The iliacus originates in the iliac fossa of the pelvis. The psoas major unites with the iliacus at the level of the inguinal ligament and crosses the hip joint to insert on the lesser trochanter of the femur. The iliopsoas is classified as an “anterior hip muscle” or “inner hip muscle”.” This causes an amazing amount of pain. I am now on rehab road trying to get the pain out and mobility back in. This happening while I need to infuse liquid antibiotics via a pick line three times a day.

Enough about that.

This was a reminder to not take even the simplest things for granted. I had all sorts of plans and ideas and I guess the universe has asked me to slow it down a bit.

Message received!

I am working on some new blog posts as I also work on the recovery process. Just sent you guys a great deal on the purchase or upgrade of Skylum’s Aurora 2018 HDR software. (see details here only good through Sunday) Remember that using the code COATES will save you an additional ten bucks!

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

aurora 2018 hdr

Aurora 2018 HDR Software Deal

I’ve found the Aurora HDR software to be the cleanest in creating images with a full range of tones and not having to fight the halos that often come with processing HDR files. Not a fan of the what used to be the ‘HDR Look’ but love having a full range of tones avaialble when the situation calls for it.

Skylum is having a sale on the software and upgades. The deal you see below can be sweetened by adding my code COATES for an additional ten bucks off.

aurora hdr deal logoAurora 2018 HDR Deal 


Aurora HDR 2018 + 10 sets of proffesional brackets for the lowest price ever!

Current users of Aurora HDR 2017 may upgrade for $39 ($29 with my coupon code);

New users can purchase Aurora HDR 2018 for $79 ($69 with my coupon code);

OFFER AVAILABILITY: Now through Sunday, May 20th.

  • Aurora HDR 2018 – The most advanced photo editor for Mac & Windows.

  • 10 sets of proffesional brackets.

    Don’t forget to use my coupon code of COATES to get the additional ten bucks off.

    Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

spring flowers

Spring has Sprung

Spring is an excellent time of year to go out and about in our neighborhood in Sedona. Color is starting to splash itself in the form of flowers in many areas. Watching for the cactus to start popping their colorful blooms out of their calloused, thorny, green shells.

In the meantime, some spring blooms have hit the street.

purple and lavendar flowersPurple Robe flowers that were crawling out from under a fence. In the post-processing I dipped into Skylum’s Luminar 2018 Jupiter version. I made a copy of the layer then opened Luminar. This allows for adjustments to be made ‘after the fact’ using a mask.

purple robe flowersAnd, of course, I’ve got to play a little. Moving the camera in different directions with a bit of a slow shutter speed can lead to some exciting captures.

flower stripe background imageOf course, then you can take that to an extreme with time exposure and faster movement. This could be utilized as a background or for an album design element

plaid flower backgroundUsing Photoshop, we can get a bit more depth and dimension by replication the layer, rotating it and changing the Blend Mode of the top layer.

flower plaid background imageWhich give lots of options as many Blend Modes give other versions that feel different

And as Russell Brown says, “But, wait there’s more!

flower background optionsHere the Layer is rotated, and a drop shadow is added.

I think you get the idea. We can take a simple shoot with a few flowers and with the help of a little imagination while making the photographs and adding some spice in post-production there are many variations on a theme.

All images were captured with the Lumix G9 flagship stills camera and the 100-400mm Leica Vario-Elmar f4.0-6.3 lens a combo that is becoming very familiar to me. The more I use the G9, the more I like it!

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

texas school

Texas School

The Best Little Photography School in the World

I spent last week in Addison Texas attending Texas School. This was my first time at this week-long orgy of photography education. It is intense. You spend a week with a single instructor getting a deep dive into their techniques in creativity. It was a blast.

The class I choose to attend was with Richard Sturdivant. (Check out Richard’s work and his tool shop) Sturdevant brings an artist and graphic design background to create composite images that transcend photography. To say I learned a lot would be an understatement. Richard’s use of tools in Photoshop is an eye-opening experience. New tools. New techniques. New ways of looking at the world to enhance reality into fantasy with a hyper-realistic look.

Here is an example of one of the projects which the class worked on.

finished imageMy finished piece from the class project.

A photo session was shown using MoLights which can change the way you photograph subjects that have movement. A post will follow specifically about that. In the photo session, the model was asked to perform, and these lights fired as fast as the camera could fire. With my Lumix G9 that means twelve frames per second. NO misses!

Photos were made of a couple of models in a period dress, and stock files were shared. Each student worked with the images with a base of instruction but each finished piece produced was different. It’s kinda like when you give ten photographers the same subject, and you’ll end up with ten different interpretations.

Below see some of the working pieces from the project. There were tons more, but you get the idea.

model one imagemodel two image


backgroundLook at the final image and see how many elements were added from the image directly above.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

go pet friendly part two

Go Pet Friendly – Part Two

Here’s a follow-up to the post from the other day about shooting an author’s photo and some support images for a book project. Amy Burkert and her husband Rod are on the road searching and researching pet friendly travel venues and a book is being written about traveling with pets as an addition to the Go Pet Friendly website

One of the images was the whole crew and the thirty-seven foot Winnebago with which they travel the country. Lighting conditions were a bit on the contrastly side with high sun and shade under the awning.

go pet friendly winnebagoGo Pet Friendly home on the road and the family that lives there.

I used two Paul C Buff White Lightning X-3200 lights to control the contrast of the scene. The main light was fitted with a thirty-six-inch Octabox and the other was used for fill with a thirty by sixty inch foldable softbox camera right. A couple of braketed exposuers were made to get a lighter exposure on the tree that was in shadow to bring back some detail that would have blocked up otherwise.

The lights were powered with Paul C Buff Vagabond Mini battery packs. Portable power comes in very handy on location as it keeps from dealing with cords. It makes it easier to position lights exactly where you would like them to be.

Amy also wanted to show off her ‘children’ Ty and Buster.

amy and her dog tyAmy and her dog Ty pose for a portrait

amy ty and busterAmy, Ty and Buster pose in front of the RV

Images captured with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 12-60mm G LEICA DG VARIO-ELMARIT PROFESSIONAL f2.8-4.0 lens

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

go pet friendly

Go Pet Friendly – Book Session

I don’t often share my commercial work on Successful-Photographer. I probably should.

So I will.

I received a call from a pleasant voice asking about a photography session for a book cover. Images needed would include an RV, two people, and two dogs. The owner of the friendly voice is named Amy Burkert. She and her husband Rod have been on the road for about six years traveling the country in an RV, looking for pet-friendly places and sharing their findings via their blog https://blog.gopetfriendly.com 

The main photo Amy for which Amy was looking was her back cover author’s image. Especially for the book, she has written, the image should make her appear open, friendly, and inviting while telling a bit of her story. I always ask plenty of questions before coming up with a plan for the capture.

What is the layout of the book? Do you need a horizontal or vertical photo/ Have you considered your wardrobe? What background would you like to have, studio or environmental? What story do you wish to convey?

amy at the wheel of the winnabagoAmy at the wheel of the thirty-seven foot Winnebago

After all the questions were answered, we ended up with Amy behind the wheel as she does most of the driving while they are on the road. There wasn’t a lot of room for supplemental lighting which made me reach into my bag for LED lighting bricks from Fiilex. With three of the bricks, I was able to add some fill light and get some background separation. These battery operated lights are color and brightness tunable and can be tucked into tiny spaces.

I choose a high angle from which to shoot to enhance Amy’s friendly and open feel. When the subject is looking up in an image it makes the viewer feel they are looking down on the person. It didn’t hurt that the camera likes Amy and she was entirely comfortable in front of the camera.

I supplied a horizontal and a square version of Amy’s portrait. Additional support images were made of the RV with Rod and the rest of the crew including the two dogs Ty and buster which I’ll share in a future post.

Images were made with the Lumix GH5 and the Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 Lens

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

having a muse

It’s Good To Have A Muse

muse2/ mjuːz/ noun 1.a goddess that inspires a creative artist, esp a poet
Word Origin: from Old French, from Latin Mūsa, from Greek Mousa a Muse

Having a fellow artist who encourages you to explore new areas and ideas within your specialty is a fabulous tool to supplement your creativity.

Meet Pash.

She is my muse.

pash gabalvy musePash Galbavy – Learn more check out her website 

Pash is a life model, dancer, mask maker and performance artist. Her tagline is ‘Masks, Movement, Modeling and More.’ She often is performing new concepts and pushing boundaries that inspire and inform new work for me. Just yesterday Pash asked if I would cover a life posing event for her with her artist group. This day would find Pash and her group at the gallery of John and Ruth Waddell in Cornville, AZ. The Waddells have created a magical space with bronze sculptures dancing and cavorting around the property. A truly magical area that Pash enhanced with her interaction while the artists sketched and drew their interpretations of the scene.

pash in a pose at waddells galleryPash in a pose integrated with John Waddell’s bronze

Pash PosingPash asking me to photograph and document her event had me make this image

cutout of pash and sculptureWhich led to me isolating some areas in moving toward a new piece of art

pash waddell working imageWorking sketch experimenting with beginning textures

pash galbavy art pieceA picture I am currently calling ‘Merge’ (working title)

Images such as this are put together utilizing multiple photos of textures blended using Adobe Photoshop Layers, Color Modes, Blend Modes, and Masks. I sometimes will experiment with ten to twenty different versions before settling on a final image. This one is getting pretty close.

Images in this post were captured with the Lumix G9 and the Leica 12-60mm f2.8-4 lens.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob


blackwater national wildlife refuge part three

Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge – Part Three

If you have followed my work for any length of time, you know that I enjoy moving my work into a more painting-based look. I have taken a term I heard from Julianne Kost and adopted it for my new business. “Lens Based Artist.” I have decided to start promoting my more art based images and have begun gallery representation and selling my work as art.

More on that in future posts. (things are starting to take off. YAY!)

Back to Blackwater images and the post-processing. Here are a few photos of which I have played using the PhotoSynthesis process I have been working on over the years.

geese in flight art bob coates photographyGeese in Flight. Love the wing positions and pattern of the birds in the sky.

I worked on this image on the plane while en route back to Arizona from my speaking engagement in Maryland where the images were captured. My seatmate was fascinated by the process, and I talked him through my thinking as I worked on the photo. There are several layers of multiple images blended using Adobe Photoshop’s blend Modes and masks. The geese in flight created their art with all the different wing positions. I was able to capture their flight using the **Lumix GH5 and the Leica 100-400mm lens. The reach of this lens with the stabilization in the camera are making captures such as this easier than ever.

heron art bob coates photographyGreat Blue Heron on the shoreline.

After working on the piece and adding layers of textures, I pulled the image into Skylum’s Focus CK (part of the Creative Kit or available as a stand-alone) to add a bit of selective sharpness to the subject and vignette and slight blurring to the rest of the image. I use this tool in the Macro setting quite often. I could do the same thing directly in Photoshop, but it would take much more time and many more steps to accomplish the same thing. Plugins are very handy. I decide whether to purchase plugins based on how often I perform specific techniques. When I find the plugin saves me the time or makes it possible for me to do something I would not be able to accomplish otherwise, I buy.

heron in flight art imageHeron in Flight – All images are © Bob Coates Photography – All Rights Reserved

I don’t think any of these images are ‘ready for prime time’ as yet. I think of them as sketches testing ideas and pointing to the direction I wish to go.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

** I’ll be using the Lumix G9 in the future for most of my wildlife shooting. Designed with the stills photographer in mind, it adds 6 1/2 stops of handholdabilty (GH5 has 5) along with a better grip and button design for still photographers.