extension tube close-up photography

Extension Tube Macro Photography

OK. Extension tubes don’t necessarily equate to macro photography. But, they can let you focus very close, and in some cases, you can replicate macro photography. Getting in close and showing people things that won’t be noticed by the naked eye can get you some excellent images. If you are not officially into macro photography but want to play, extension tubes are the way to go. Let’s call this close-up photography!

A true macro lens can be anywhere from $700 and up new. A set of extension tubes goes from $7 to $229. I don’t recommend going with the absolute cheapest as the builds seem to be a little rough. (I’ve tried) I’ve found a great set of tubes for about fifty bucks. Vello extension tubes are a great cross in build quality to performance. You can see them here. Vello Micro 4/3rds Extension Tubes

Some examples from a recent hike below

close up flower photoAll flowers in this post are smaller than the size of my fingernails.  All Images Photographed with the ** Lumix G9 and the 12-60mm Leica DG Vario-Elmarit f2.8-4.0 lens w/ Extension Tubes

two flower blooms close-up imageTwo images blended together to extend the depth of field.

If I were working the flowers, I would be on a tripod and automatically bracket my focus for subsequent stacking in post-production. In this case, I focused on the front flower and then on the back flower bloom and used Photoshop Layers to blend the two by hand with a mask.

flower bloom close-up photoAn example of the camera settings. For this image – 1/100th sec F11 ISO 800

If you want to go full macro and you are in the micro four-thirds camera systems, I find some beautiful results with the 45mm Leica DG Macro-Elmarit f2.8 lens. BTW, as this lens is a 90mm (35mm equivalent view), it also makes for a nice head and shoulders portrait lens. Dual use is always a winner in my book!

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

** Lumix G9 Camera is on special for $200 off regular MSRP (not sure how long this will last)

excire search

Excire Search – Lightroom AI software

My friend, Skip Cohen who you may know from Marketing Monday here on Successful-Photographer, is working with a new software company that uses artificial intelligence to help you find your images in Adobe’s Lightroom. I don’t use LR, so I’m going to share a video with Suzette Allen who shows a demo of how this software works. It’s pretty freaking amazing. Remember in Suzette’s video she has never keyworded her catalog!!

suzette allenSuzette Allen’s Video on her first look at Excire software

Excire Search Pro is an AI-based plug-in for Lightroom that identifies image content without the need for keywording. If you are interested in checking out Excire, please visit the website, www.excire.com read the system requirements and download the trial.  Please note that the product is currently available for Lightroom Classic CC, and not the cloud-based Lightroom CC.

excire features bannerExcire features banner

The Excire Search Lightroom plugin is a high-performance search engine that runs locally on your computer and does not require any cloud services. After installing the plugin and initializing your Lightroom catalog, you are ready to perform some useful search tasks.

To search by example, you select one or more reference images, and Excire Search will then automatically and quickly generate a Lightroom collection with images similar to the selected reference images.

Search by keyword you select a keyword, such as “beach,” and Excire Search will then automatically and quickly generate a Lightroom collection with images of beaches. Excire Search provides 125 well-structured keywords that will help you sort your photos.

Search for faces; you start the intuitive face-analysis interface. Here you may choose between various options such as one, two, or more faces. You can then refine the choices by choosing an age group (Baby/Toddler, Child, Teenager, Adult, Elderly) and gender (Female, Male). You can further constrain the search to find only faces of people who smile.

The above search functions can also be used in combination to narrow the search down to the desired photos quickly. Besides providing efficient search results, Excire Search will let you better interact with your images and have fun: many customers have reported the joy of finding photos they thought had been lost in the complexity of their Lightroom catalog.

There’s also a pro version with even more features.

Happy searching!

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

PS – FYI I am not an affiliate for Excire, so I’m sharing this ’cause I think it will be a big help to LR users in finding images in their catalog.

family portrait

World Record Family Portrait


Know thy client.

I was capturing a recurring family portrait of a family that is still growing. Having photographed Josh and his family previously on several occasions I knew that attention spans, especially with the younger children (as almost always with those two and under) would be short. This knowledge led to the decision to do a studio shoot vs. going on location.

josh fmaily portraitHere’s the final family portrait. Framed 20 inches

Basically when photographing families the time you have with them is dependent upon the shortest attention span of a single person. Knowing I’d be working with a ten-month-old and a two-year-old I felt the chances for a long session had short odds. I planned accordingly.

I was correct.

The secret is getting the final image as quickly as possible. One of the advantages of working in our digital world is if you are working on a set with consistent lighting, camera on a tripod and a good memory of who has already given you a good solid expression and body posture you can composite a final image with good emotions and body posture by all.

Josh, his wife and five children had an appointment for ten o’clock on a Saturday morning. The clock struck ten  and they are working thier way into the studio, changing a few clothing choices and brushig hair. The usual final prep before the camera work begins.initial photograph10:08 AM everyone is preened and ready. First exposure made. Family roughed into position.

Family portrait beginning meltdown10:11 AM 10-month-old, and moments later, two-year-old basically melt down. Session over but I know there’s a solid family image to be had with a bit of post-production work.

layers palette from fmaily portraitLayers Palette with a couple of swapped people

Is this an award-winning family portrait. Probably not in a competition setting, but it is a winner in the family memory and documentation.

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob


five favorite quotes – marketing monday

Five Favorite Quotes – Marketing Monday by Skip Cohen

This is the perfect post to kick off a new week, and while I can take almost no credit for the material, that doesn’t change how much I enjoy sharing quotes that are relevant to so many different aspects of our lives.

For years, I pretty much stopped reading for pleasure or my own personal growth. I was so wrapped up in what I do every day that reading just seemed to be an extension of work. My wife Sheila helped me snap out of that and I read a lot more than I used to and doing my best to make it authors and topics outside of photography. It sounds so stupid to suggest the obvious, that reading can create inspiration, but so often it’s just a simple one-liner that hits home.

skips five favorite quotesSo, I thought it would be fun to share a few of my favorites here on Successful-Photographer. I don’t care how good a year you might be having or how positive a person you are, everybody has had to deal with their fair share of challenges.

  • From Mary Kay AshWe must have a theme, a goal, a purpose in our lives. If you don’t know where you’re aiming, you don’t have a goal. My goal is to live my life in such a way that when I die, someone can say, she cared.
  • From Mark Twain: Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.
  • From Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA:  Only those who are asleep make no mistakes.
  • From motivational author, Wayne Dyer: When you dance, your purpose is not to get to a certain place on the floor. It’s to enjoy each step along the way.
  • And one of my favorites from Gandhi: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

No matter how tough a year you’ve had or what challenges in life have been thrown at you, you’ve got to make the time to focus on a little inspiration every day. Most of us take a daily vitamin – well, think of it as a vitamin for your soul. I’m hoping one of these five quotes might just get you thinking differently about some aspect of your business and your goals.

skip cohen headshot
Skip Cohen has been involved in the photographic industry his entire career and previously served as President of Rangefinder/WPPI and earlier, Hasselblad USA. He founded SkipCohenUniversity.com in 2013. Skip is a co-host for “Mind Your Own Business” and “Beyond Technique,” webcasts through Photofocus.com, writes for several publications including Shutter Magazine and is actively involved in several advisory boards for non-profit organizations.

art study

Phoenix Art Museum – Study

Madame Koch & Her Children

madame koch placardOil on canvas Madame Koch & Her Children – by Julius Rolshoven

For the last several years I have been spending quite a bit of time at museums studying the art of painting. This includes color theory, composition, techniques for creating reality and more. I do this to try to make my photography art stronger. For those that don’t know I am pushing into the art market with my work. I now consider myself a ‘Lens Based Artist.’ I’ll be exploring different paintings and ideas in future posts.

‘Lens Based Artist?’ You might ask, “What the heck is that, Bob?” All of my source imagery comes through the lens of a camera. But then there is a divergence from photography as I mix, match and manipulate the files. More on this in future blog posts.

Back to the study of art.

I have viewed this image numerous times, and perhaps you can help me a bit. No matter where I stand all eyes in the painting follow me around the room. I have a feeling there is a name for this phenomenon but I haven’t been able to find out what that is. If you know, please chime in.

painting of madame koch and childrenPainting of Madame Koch and her Children at Phoenix Museum of Art

child  imageChild – The Older

child in paintingChild the Younger

madame koch painting detailMadame Koch herself

I thought that it was the position of the eye within the eye socket that was the cause of the effect of following you around the room. As you can see from the close crops that the eyes are all in different positions. I find this perplexing. This is quite a large painting, and I’m not sure if that has anything to do with this effect.

If you have any ideas on this, please let me know!

Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

ppa ipc

International Photographic Competition – 2018

I have been just outside Atlanta with the Professional Photographers of America (PPA) helping to judge the International Photographic Competition (IPC). Since Sunday afternoon I have been working with some of the best photographers in the industry scoring entries for PPA members to learn and earn.

ppa ipc bannerPPA International Photographic Competition

I am honored that I can be part of this system. Lots of work! Lots of rewards! The work is sitting at attention from Sunday afternoon through Wednesday at midday. The bonus is being in the presence of, and studying, incredible photographic images and then sharing thoughts and ideas with incredible photographers on how an image should score and why. Having to formulate the words to share with fellow jurors, and listening to, and processing their ideas, and coming to a consensus on the final score an image receives is an education in itself for the people participating.

The process itself is education. Prepping images for competition, getting feedback through the challenges that occur during the competition and the critiques that follow all make for a growing experience for photographers that participate. I feel that imaging competition has helped me immensely in becoming the photographer I am today.

I encourage PPA photographers to ‘get in the game’ and don’t stand on the sideline thinking that, ‘I’m not good enough, I’ll wait until I’m better to enter.” You enter the competition to become a stronger image creator and awards, Merits and degrees will follow.

Just as an FYI. I still participate in the competition to continue my growth even after twenty years of entering.

ppa resultsHere are my results from this year’s competition.

If you would like to see larger sizes f these images, you can check these two links.



Yours in Creative Photography,       Bob

PS – if you have any questions about the process give me a shout!

red rocks sedona

Red Rocks of Sedona – Part Two

Since I have started back to hiking through the red rocks in Sedona once again, I’ve had a great time making images that show the best part of hiking. For these images, I was using the Lumix G9 and the 12-60mm  Leica DG VARIO-ELMARIT f2.8-4.0 lens. This combo has a substantial reach and weighs in about three pounds which is hugely manageable on trails that are considered wilderness by the forest service. Wilderness trails mean clambering over, up and down medium size rocks, so the weight is a factor.

P1035779_600pWilderness area trail photo of the back side of Courthouse Butte – Sedona, AZ

bell rock trailAs the trail moves toward another iconic feature called Bell Rock

juniper photoMeet my twisted friend the juniper.

Lots of interesting junipers litter the sometimes otherworldly landscape of Sedona. Fun fact – the seeds need to pass through a bird to germinate.

This from an article on Lubbock Online by ELLEN PEFFLEY who taught horticulture at the college level for 28 years, 25 of those at Texas Tech, during which time she developed two onion varieties. She is now the sole proprietor of From the Garden, a market garden farmette. You can email her at gardens@suddenlink.net.

“The fruit botanically are cones but, unlike pinecones that are dry and open, the fleshy and fused closed scales of juniper resemble berries, thus the reason fruit of juniper is usually referred to as a berry. Berries mature over 18 months, at first green and turn a dark-blue purple or bluish color as they mature. Berries are visible during the winter months. Each berry develops six triangular, hard black seeds, which are eaten and scattered by frugivorous birds.

“A word for the word jar: frugivorous, defined by Merriam Webster as fruit-eating. Fruit is the preferred food for frugivorous birds, which swallow the fruit whole, digest the fleshy scales, pass the hard-shelled seeds through the gut and disperse the seeds. This is why seedling junipers pop up in unusual surroundings.”  http://www.lubbockonline.com/life/2017-01-09/peffley-juniper-berries-sought-birds-food-flavor-base-gin

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob


good old days – marketing monday

           Ever Think About the Good Old Days? They’re RIGHT NOW!

Marketing Monday by Skip Cohen

Looking for great quotes from Zig Ziglar, a typo in Google took me into Ziggy Marley! Sometimes we stumble on the greatest little gems when we least expect them! I love what I found:

“I don’t have to wait to realize the good old days.” Ziggy Marley


That says it all. The good old days are right now, and I can’t help but think we all spend too much time missing so many of the moments in our own lives. Photographers are hired to capture those spontaneous moments. A great wedding photographer has the responsibility to be the eyes and with video can even be the ears of the bride and groom. A great portrait photographer is hired to capture the personality of the subject. Landscape photographers stop a sunset, a fish mid-stream, again moments out of time that can never be repeated.

The list goes on and on, yet so many photographers, miss the most significant moments in their own lives with their families and friends. They’re so caught up in worrying about the business they fail to enjoy the most important part of their lives, the reason they’re working in the first place – to enjoy life!skip cohen headshot

Ziggy’s right, why wait to realize the good old days?

Skip Cohen has been involved in the photographic industry his entire career and previously served as President of Rangefinder/WPPI and earlier, Hasselblad USA. He founded SkipCohenUniversity.com in 2013. Skip is a co-host for “Mind Your Own Business” and “Beyond Technique,” webcasts through Photofocus.com, writes for several publications including Shutter Magazine and is actively involved in several advisory boards for non-profit organizations.

best photographer

Named Best Photographer 2018 – Kudos Entertainment Magazine

A surprise again that the readers of Sedona’s local weekly entertainment magazine made Bob Coates Photography the 2018 winner of Best Photographer.



Thanks so much to the people of Sedona for voting me in! And, thanks to Kudos (The Good Life) entertainment magazine/newspaper for holding the contest.

Yours in Creative Photography,        Bob

red rocks

Red Rocks of Sedona, Arizona

I am incredibly fortunate to live in a picturesque area filled with red rocks, blue skies, and bounteous wildlife. I carry a camera with me wherever I go. I used to try to do this in the past but found myself parking my camera when I wasn’t officially working because the weight was uncomfortable. As a Panasonic Lumix Ambassador, I find that I have a camera with me at all times because the gear is lightweight and gives me the quality I need.

bell rock sedona arizona photoPath down to Bell Rock in Sedona made with FZ2500

My quest for lighter weight gear was prompted by my wife Holly who pointed out that I was hauling thirty-five pounds of photo gear with me on personal trips. When I said, “What’s your problem? You aren’t carrying it.” She replied, “Neither are you as you often leave the gear in the room because it is so uncomfortably heavy. My wife is a brilliant woman who knows how to pierce my sometimes thick skull.

courthouse butte sedona arizona imageCourthouse Butte – Images processed with Adobe Photoshop and Skylum’s Luminar 2018 **

Today I’m featuring the Lumix FZ2500 which is a prosumer camera. It can do almost everything as it is an all-in-one with a zoom range of 25-480mm and tons of features. The FZ2500 is a little under 2 1/2 pounds. The beauty is that it can focus in macro mode almost as close as you can get the camera to the subject. With the built-in f2.8-4.0 power zoom lens, it has a reach of 480mm optical. That’s a long way!

closeup courthouse butte sedona arizona photoDetail of Courthouse Butte

One more thought is that many times a crop of the photo can be much stronger image and tell the story in a better fashion. Here’s square crop of the top photo in the post.

bell rock sedona arizonaA stronger rendition of the top photo with a square crop.

Yours in Creative Photography,    Bob

PS – Take ten bucks off Luminar or other Skylum software with the coupon code – COATES