bosque del apache wildlife refuge part five

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge Part Five

This post is the final in this series from a very productive shoot at the wildlife refuge in New Mexico. The refuge is a very target rich environment for making bird images. The scenery wasn’t bad either! Let’s talk about creativity just a bit more. I saw a lot of photographers while I was there. And except for gear difference such as long lenses, I believe most photographers there were getting pretty much the same photo.

Why would I say that? Check out the photo below of the scene at almost every location in the refuge. What do you see?

photographers at bosque del apacheTake a careful look. Every camera is at the photographer’s eye level.

I saw this ALL the time. To obtain a different look to your images, you need to look at things from a different viewpoint. I spent a fair amount of time on my knees, sitting on my butt and getting the camera off of the tripod. Look back through my past posts, and I think you’ll see lots of variety. Bosque Pt 1 Bosque Pt 2Bosque Pt 3 Bosque Pt 4 Changing the height that you shoot from can have a dramatic effect on what is in the background of your subject.

I also heard a lot of motor drives at 8-15 frames per second going off. Motor drives can be helpful when tracking moving subjects or quickly changing background and lighting conditions, but I would see that happening when a photographer was shooting a relatively stable subject in constant light. Save yourself from extra editing time on the computer, Turn off the motor drive when you don’t need it.

sandhill cranes with reflection photoTaking a lower angle allowed for the reflection with the grassland environment in the background.

scenic photo bosque del apacheHad to be on my knees to get the composition of the reflection where I wanted it placed.

sandhill cranes in flight photoGenerally, a gimbaled tripod head would be needed to capture solid images of birds in flight. With new gear and in-camera stabilization improvements, more creativity is possible. The Sandhill Crane images were captured handheld with the Lumix GX85 and the Lumix 100-400mm lens (200-800 35mm equivalent) lens fully extended.

Excited about possibilities as I push this camera and lens combo even further.

See what you can do to differentiate your images from others at every chance you get.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob



bosque del apache wildlife refuge part four

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge – Part Four

Getting Artsy

When photographing a specific subject or area I always shoot for good solid captures at the beginning. After I know I’ve got some good work ‘in the can’, I see what I can do to push the creative ‘Artsy’ side. Here are some of those images.

Let’s look at some tracking flight images with the shutter speed set to a slow speed in this case most were at 1/250th sec. Images were captured handheld with the Lumix GX85 and the Lumix 100-400mm lens (200-800 35mm equivalent) Most were with the lens fully extended.

sandhill cranes photographed at takeoffSandhill cranes photographed at takeoff panning with slow shutter speed.

_1060178This technique adds lots of movement and an abstract feel to the images.

post processing added to this imageFurther into the art arena using additional post-processing techniques. MacPhun software Focus CK was used to bring more attention to the flight of the cranes.

sandhill cranes at bosqueCropped SOOC (straight out of camera) 1/40th SEC shutter speed.

sandhill crane art photoImage from above worked with additional post processing.

canada geeseCanada Geese on a flyby 1/1600th SEC shutter speed.

Experiment. Push. Play. Don’t be afraid to get an imperfect result in camera. Playing can lead to more interesting and personal image creations.

Let me know what you like, or don’t care for, in these images. I have an inquiring mind!

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob




tuesday painterly photo art – dorff

Tuesday Painterly Photo Art – Arica Dorff

I met Arika when she was on a road trip creating images for her pet photography business. She was passing through Sedona, and I had the pleasure to make her acquaintance and discovered her pet art painting. I love the expression of her pet portraits and the feel of her art. I think you will too!

Here’s Arika.

“I got into digital pet paintings using Corel Painter after I sold my pet photography studio in Las Vegas, Nevada. I had my studio for nine years and always wanted to offer my clients the option to have their portraits enhanced to a painting, but I never had the time to devote to learning the art. Specializing in painting pets was a natural decision for me since working with domestic animals, and their awesome owners had been my niche for my entire photography and teaching career.

© arika dorff photographyHad to put this photo of Lola right up front! Check out the bling! © Arica Dorff Photography

© arika dorff photographyLola before. Arica is often working from cell phone images supplied by her clients

Getting started I reached out to two well-known pet painters whose work I admired and I had the opportunity to train with them one-on-one. Their process of turning a photo into a painting is completely opposite of each other, and I quickly realized that, like any other art form, there is no right or wrong way to do things. Working one-on-one with artists you admire, along with online tutorials, is what I recommend to anyone wanting to learn Corel Painter. Painter is much like Photoshop in the sense that they are both incredibly powerful programs but not something the average person could sit down and use with ease without some training and understanding of how the software functions. If you are a Photoshop user, I’m sure you can recall your beginning stages of learning and how you wanted to throw your computer out the window because you couldn’t accomplish what should have been a very simple task. Or maybe you accidentally hit something on your keyboard, and now nothing is working properly. I’ve been there too. So save yourself a headache and invest in training and tutorials when learning Corel Painter and getting started will be fun!

© arika dorff photographyTasha – Makes you want to say AWWWW. © Arica Dorff Photography

© arika dorff photographyTasha original capture.

As portrait photographers, we make decisions every day regarding lighting and how we want the light to fall on our subjects. But when I started painting I realized that shadows were something to which I never gave much thought. I would just light my subjects the way I wanted, and the shadows were naturally just wherever they were. Well, when you hand paint a background in like I do for most of my paintings (as opposed to enhancing the current background in the portrait) your full-length subjects would be floating on the background if you didn’t anchor them with a shadow. Such a simple concept, but not something I ever gave much thought to until I had to create my shadows.

Painting also forced me to pay more attention to the direction of where light was coming from, which is useful when creating dimension and depth in your backgrounds. Notice how most of my backgrounds have a lighter area near the animals face, this lighter area always coincides from which the direction the light is coming. The opposite side of the painting is always a darker shade which represents the natural fall off of light.

© arika dorff photographyEmma – Great expression © Arica Dorff Photography

© arika dorff photographyEmma Before.

Pets eyes are my favorite part of every painting (okay wispy stray hairs might be an equal favorite), but the eyes are what makes the paintings come to life. When doing digital paintings, I often use the existing photo and just enhance it with detailed brush strokes. But not with eyes, I always paint in the eyes freehand. Step 1: Paint in the eye color. Step 2: Paint in the black pupil. Step 3: Paint in the white catchlight – make sure it’s on the same side of the eye where the light is coming from!  Step 4: Paint in the counter catch light area with lighter highlights to bring the eyes to life.

Since I’ve done some teaching in the pet photography world, I’ve had a lot of people asking me to train them on digital pet paintings. I currently offer one-on-one screen sharing training sessions, and I’m working on putting together a downloadable video tutorial. For the photographers who don’t have the time or desire to learn to paint, I offer a wholesale option where I send them the digital artwork for them to brand and print for their clients (as opposed to my retail customers who I present with canvas gallery wraps).

© Arika Dorff PhotographyCooper – © Arica Dorff Photography

© arika dorff photographyCooper – Before.

Digital Pet Paintings have been an awesome way for me to stay connected with the pet photography community, pet owners who I love to create cherished art for, and I get to do it all while hanging out with my pup and working from home!”

Check out more of Arica’s work.

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

PS – If you are someone who is creating Painterly Art with photography as a base, or know someone who is,  and would like to be featured here on Successful-Photographer get in touch.




bosque del apache wildlife refuge part three

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge – Part Three

The refuge is quite beautiful in and of itself even without the birds. I made sure to capture images of the landscape as a subject all of its own. Here are a few scenes from the area.

bosque del apacheEven though there are Cranes in the foreground, this is more about the landscape than the birds. Made with the in-camera panorama feature of the Lumix GX85.

sunrise at bosque del apache photoSunrise just after the Sandhill Cranes made their ascent leaving the pond for the day to forage in the cornfield.

bosque del apace scenery photoLots of layers in this landscape.

bosque del apache landscape photoReflection in the bend.

sunrise reflectionsReflections of sunrise among the grasses help tell the story of the environment.

I always try to tell the complete story of an area even if the main reason for the trip, in this case, was for the Sandhill Cranes and other wildlife of the Bosque del Apache.

Follow the previous posts here. Part One.

Find Part Two here.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob



sunday photo/art quote – okeeffe

Sunday Photo/Art Quote – Georgia O’Keeffe

I’m a fan of some of O’Keeffe’s iconic images of flowers, southwestern landscapes and of course flower studies. I don’t like everything she created which I found out when tracking down her images in various museums and books. But that’s OK.

Heck, I don’t necessarily like everything I create!

The fact that there are sections of her work that don’t do anything for me shows is that she was not afraid to experiment and try new techniques and explore new ideas. My guess is she would not have created the iconic pieces if it were not for her pushing through her boundaries of comfort.

okeefe quote“I’ve been absolutely terrified every moment of my life – and I’ve never let it keep me from doing a single thing I want to do.”  Georgia O’Keeffe

Fear can keep us from being successful.


In Sales, being afraid to ask for the order.

In art, being afraid of what other MIGHT say.

In life, worried about what MIGHT happen.

Our minds are trained and conditioned to play out worst case scenarios. It’s a defense mechanism that served humans well when we lived in cave-man times when fight or flight was essential to the survival of the species. We have moved beyond the need for that type of thinking as a species.

Push forward. Try something new. You never know what you might accomplish if you push through negative thinking.

This advice doesn’t mean you should ignore the ‘little voice’ that warns you of potential problems. That can save you lots of grief. Take the voice with a grain of salt and don’t let it paralyze you.

Here’s one more quote to round out this post from, I believe, Michael Jordan. “Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try.”

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob



bosque del apache wildlife refuge part two

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge – Part Two

You can take a peek at part one on the Bosque Wildlife Refuge shoot here.

Made four total trips into the refuge which included a couple of sunrises and sunsets. Here’s a tip I’ve found to be handy when photographing in the same location multiple times. Download the images you capture as soon as you can for review. When you have a look, you can tell if any settings need adjustment. Nothing worse than making the same mistakes two days in a row and not finding out how you might have improved until you get back home. I’ve been a pro for over twenty years, and I still find slight improvements can be made when making images in the same location on subsequent days.

Let’s look at some tracking flight images captured handheld with the Lumix GX85 and the Lumix 100-400mm lens (200-800 35mm equivalent) Most were with the lens fully extended.

sandhill crane in flightSandhill Crane in flight over the corn stalks.

sandhill cranes in flightFlying into the corn field getting ready for landing.

sandhill crane photoWings are flared to slow ascent.

sandhill cranes in flight photoOpposite synchronization of wing position. Mountains in the background with just a streak of sun add interest to the image.

sandhill cranes in flight photoTaking off from the cornfields heading toward the nighttime gathering area in the pond.

There are many ways to capture a different ‘look’ to a wildlife photograph even though the subject matter is the same. In this case, the subject is Sandhill Cranes, but all the photos have a different feel. The different look is accomplished with a change in position of the subject. Using a different background. Changing the crop can make quite a difference also.

I’ll be sharing more options and possibilities for differences with the same essential subject in subsequent posts. I look forward to hearing your thoughts as I move through this series of with the Sandhill Cranes.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob



bosque del apache wildlife refuge part one

Bosque del Apache Wildlife Refuge – Part One

Talk about a target rich environment! Possibilities for incredible wildlife photography abound. The scenery, a variety of birds, and combinations of the two make for a great time photographing in this wildlife preserve about one and a half hours south of Albuquerque, New Mexico near Socorro. Learn more about the Bosque here.

This was my first visit, and I already look forward to returning in the future. Sandhill Cranes are a favorite bird for me to photograph. I have worked with them on the Gulf Coast of Florida. I’ve never seen groups this large. Since they are tanking up from traveling, they are pretty relaxed. They are chomping on rows of corn grown for them. The ponds are just the right depth for them to overnight and makes for interesting photographs as they fly in and out at dawn and sunset.

Let’s take a look at the photos.

This was one of the very first pictures I made when we got to the refuge. I am always trying to show the behavior of the animals when making images to add interest. Because I had previous experience wit the Sandhills, I recognized that this bird was about to leap. The fact that the other two birds are at the end of its wings was serendipity. Not the best time of day for photographing but we were checking out the area.

sandhill cranes at bosqueJumping Sandhill Crane

sandhill crane flybySandhill Crane on a flyby through the field.

Sandhill Cranes in the cornSandhill Cranes in the corn field planted for the migration as a feed stop.

corn field with craneGetting ready for landing in the corn field.

bob coates photo by dennis chamberlainBob Coates (hey that’s me) Original photo made by my shooting partner on this trip, Dennis Chamberlain. Dennis is an incredible photographic artist. You can see some of his work here. (PS – I arted-up Dennis’s photo so don’t blame him for how it looks!)

Here’s some feedback on the gear that I used. I was testing out the Lumix 100-400mm lens with the Lumix GX85 to see how it would hold up to not being on a tripod. I’ve always tended to photograph birds in flight handheld because I could track their movement better but would often end up with more tossers than keepers due to blur. The dual image stabilization rocks! Total change with this gear. I’m very excited about the number of images I got that were keepers with this rig. You’ll see more of those in the next couple days.

Yours in creative Photography,     Bob

macintosh tip

Tip – Target Mode Macintosh Computer

Today’s post is brought to you by the letter “T.” The first three people who get in touch with me with the number of “T’s” that appear in this post get a 1/2 hour coaching session on the subject of your choosing.

When on the road I download images to my laptop computer to check on photos especially when experimentation with new techniques is involved. Such was the case this past week when I photographed sandhill cranes at Bosque Del Apache Wildlife Preserve in New Mexico.

sandhill crane photoWhen photographing wildlife, especially when tracking birds in flight, you can be capturing lots of frames from testing shutter speeds, focus, and experimentation for special effects.

Upon return from a shoot like this, rather than download all the images from the camera cards all over again I start the computer up in Target Disk Mode. When in this mode the laptop is recognized as a hard drive when connected via a Firewire, USB, Thunderbolt, and transferring the files can be done pretty quickly. Saves extra time too as I’ve already been culling the duds and misfires and lightly processing some of the images.

target mode laptop imageHere’s what your screen looks like when it is Target Mode. That little icon rides around on your screen.

Target Disk Mode is easy to do. Click the “Startup Disk” icon and click the Target Disk Mode button to restart your Mac in Target Disk Mode. You can also enter Target Disk Mode by rebooting your Mac and holding down the T key as it boots. Connect your Mac via a Firewire or Thunderbolt cable.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob


range cafe albuquerque

The Range Cafe – Albuquerque New Mexico

sometimes you just find an environment that is a target rich for making fun photographs. I found one such place while in Albuquerque, New, Mexico while presenting my PhotoSynthesis program for the Professional Photographers of New Mexico.

The decor in this place is a hoot with a painted panorama that is disgorging three-D cows, trucks, and other goodies. Meanwhile other parts of the restaurant display blasts of color and neon goodness. (You know that I like neon right?)

Here are a few images from dinner last night. All were made with the Lumix FZ1000 an east comfortable camera to keep on hand that will cover almost all possibilities. I used the built-in HDR setting to help with some of the challenging lighting situations. The next camera in the FZ line is now out with even more features. FZ2500

neon clockNeon rimmed blue light clock face with a red background. Love it!

cows from mural at range cafeA mural that has pink and blue cows jumping out of the painted panorama is not something you’ll come across every day.

trucks from muralA highway comes out of the mural with multi-colored painted trucks. Way cool!

classic neonClassic neon sculpture is part of te Cafe decor

A restaurant with unique decor, fun furniture, colors that dance and light fixtures that take you to the moon and the stars can be found in Albuquerque. Oh, and I didn’t mention the namesake part of the decor which is antique toy ranges and stoves from the 50’s and 60’s.

range cafe business cardFind the Range Cafe here

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

sunday photo/art quote – eggleston

Sunday Photo/Art Quote – William Eggleston

I share today’s thought from Eggleston who was one of the pioneers of the move to recognizing color photography a true art form. Remember as photography grew throughout the years any change to the medium was met with derision and skepticism. (can you say digital or Photoshop boys and girls??) As technology adds possibilities to processing our vision we get blowback from those who feel there is cheating going on… My personal feeling is can you get the image that is in your head output to another medium such as photo paper, metal or canvas or any material that helps tell the story the way you want it told. How you get there doesn’t matter to me.

Onward to the quote.

william eggleston quote

“You can take a good picture of anything. A bad one, too.” Willaim Eggleston

I share this idea with many people when I tell them I am a photographer and live in Sedona, Arizona. I almost always get this comment. “Oh, Sedona that’s a great place to be a photographer!” I always reply that yes Sedona is a beautiful place it’s not what makes for good photography. I’ve seen plenty of crappy photos of Cathedral Rock and I’ve seen some exquisite photographs of peppers and other ‘non-beautiful’ subjects.

We photograph the light. We photograph the shadows. We do it with composition and thought on color and juxtaposition of subjects within the scene.

I leave you with this thought. Are you taking (making) a good picture today?

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob