hiking in sedona arizona

Sedona, Arizona Hiking
Photos and Preferred Gear

I’m always told how lucky I am to live in a beautiful place. Living in Sedona gives me some wonderful chances to make images that are just a bit different than others. Different is good. It attracts attention because of the red rocks and scenery. BUT, the beautiful view does not guarantee a beautiful photo. It only ensures a superb photo opportunity.

It’s about light, composition, shadow and more

I often remind people to remember that it is about the light. It’s about the composition. It’s about the shadows. It’s about all of these things and more. All of these items when appropriately assembled into frame take a beautiful scene and make it memorable. Do I always accomplish this? Hell no! But, lots of the fun is in the trying.

Here are a couple of images from hikes a couple days ago. These are from Bell Rock Vista in the Village of Oak Creek just south of Sedona where the red rocks reaching to the heavens begin. Think of the Grand Canyon upside down.

red rocks single exlosureHere is the middle exposure from a bracket

With the image above we have detail in the shadows and the highlights, but overall it appears flat and relatively uninteresting even though it is a beautiful subject. I photographed a five-stop exposure bracket because I knew there wouldn’t be enough exposure range in a single capture due to the deep shadow area and the sunlit highlights.

bracketed image processedUsing two separate exposures and blending with Aurora HDR 2018

Post-processing Rocks!

The processed image above was more as the eye would see it. The eye’s pupil opens and closes depending upon the amount of light it is viewing. We have more detail and color in the shadow areas and better color and detail in the sunlit area including the sky. In my opinion, the image only begins with the capture in camera. Post-processing is necessary to complete the vision and to show the scene as the artist wishes it.

sunlit flowers photoTiny flowers with a skim of sunlight caressing the blooms

See the Light

The flower image shows how just a small shaft of the sun can highlight a subject and break it away from the background.

My shooting kit for a general walkabout hike is the Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0 . I also have a * Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 20 belt pack with some extension tubes (used on the flower image above) and an extra battery. Also, sometimes I’ll have an extra lens or two.

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

* I’ve had this camera bag for over five years and use it constantly, and it hardly shows any signs of wear and tear.


art show opening first friday

First Friday in Sedona
Featured Artist at The Gallery of Modern Masters

I told you I had some news… And here it is.

I’ll be the featured artist at The Gallery of Modern Masters for the month of September. First Friday in Sedona will mark the opening of my new work being displayed. September 7th you are invited to join us for some wine and light hors’ dourves from 5 PM til 8 PM.

There will be new pieces on display for the first time. It turns out I must be in my ‘Gold Period’. Most of the new imagery features golden tones. Didn’t really think about it it just kind of turned out that way. Must be in honor of the fall season. I chat with Tom Taback of KAZM about my art and process for its creation. You can listen to the 20-minute KAZM Radio show Tech Talk from August 28th below.

 Tech Talk on KAZM August 28, 2018

canvas prep for new show at gallery of modern mastersNew work being prepped for Gallery of Modern Masters Show

Friday, September seventh 5 PM – 8 PM
Gallery of Modern Masters
671 State Route 179
(Hillside Sedona)
Sedona, Arizona 86336
928-282-3313 Toll-free 888-282-3313

Yours in Creative Photography,      Bob

porto guest post ken macadams

Porto, Portugal – Guest Post
by Ken MacAdams

Ken is a traveling man and uses Lumix gear during his travels. Ken will share some of his travel photography and stories here on Successful-Photographer as he has in the past. Ken’s camera of choice is Panasonic’s flagship stills camera the Lumix G9 with the Leica DG Vario-ELMARIT Professional Lens, 12-60MM, F2.8-4.0

Heeeeere’s Ken!

Porto is a coastal city in northwest Portugal known for its port wine and stately bridges.  In the medieval riverside Ribeira district, narrow, hilly cobbled streets wind past merchants’ cafes and houses.  Close by is the Dom Luis I Bridge, a double deck metal arch bridge that was designed by Gustav Eiffel, the same man who designed Paris’ famous Eiffel Tower.  Spanning the River Douro between the cities of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, this unique bridge offers great views of the river and city.  You can walk across either level of the bridge, but most of the activity takes place on the streets adjoining the lower level, or riverside. 
porto brider photoDom Luis I Bridge. The bridge was designed by Gustav Eiffel. Rabelo boats in the foreground.
All Photos in this post © 2019 Ken MacAdams
While on the Vila Nova de Gaia city side, or south side of the river, we turned down Avenida Diogo Leite, a street paralleling the River Douro.  This street is lined with a multitude of sidewalk cafes, and numerous wine tasting establishments.  Settling in at one of the sidewalk cafes, we enjoyed the views of watercraft plying the River Douro, with the hillside city of Porto in the background.
photo by ken macadamsCafes and housing in the old Riberia district, Porto.
While history tells us it was the Romans – early conquerors of this land – that introduced the first grapevines to this area, it was the Brits who championed port.  The significance of the wine producing Douro area dates back hundreds of years.  When England was at war with France in the early 1700’s, English merchants began importing wine from this region, for the deprived English wine drinkers of French wines.  British importers realized the need for a smooth fortified wine that would not only appeal to English palates but would also survive the trip to London.
Cafes and housing in the old Riberia district, Porto.Wine Cellar
Port wine is typically richer, sweeter, and higher in alcohol content than unfortified wines.  This is caused by the addition of distilled grape spirits to fortify the wine and halt fermentation before all the sugar is converted to alcohol, and results in a wine that is usually 19% to 20% alcohol.  The grapes aren’t grown in Porto itself, but in the region extending inland up the Douro River Valley.
To be continued next Friday. Porto, Portugal – Part Two
ken macadams head shotKen MacAdams – I grew up with a darkroom in my basement…so all the old film skills were my friend when digital came on the scene.  Funny thing happened…photography just got more interesting as digital posed new challenges!  While I loved the characteristic sounds and smells of the old wet-process darkroom days, I wouldn’t go back!”

Ken has always loved to travel, so when he made a common connection with the fact that either a long day pounding the streets of some foreign city, or shooting the last dance at a wedding,  a good part of his physical weariness came from lugging around my big heavy DSLR.  That’s when he started looking at alternatives – and ended up selecting Panasonic Lumix Micro Four Thirds gear.
Ken is rarely without a camera, and the next great photo travel experience – whether local or abroad – is always in the back of his mind!  A longtime resident of the Four Corners, and when he’s not out on the road, he enjoys some of the great outdoor opportunities found here – mountain biking, hiking, and Jeeping.

silver and bronze medalist at IPC

Silver and Bronze Medals Earned in PPA

Bob Coates of Bob Coates Photography is honored by peers and jurors for high-quality photography

Sedona, AZ – Bob Coates was named a Siler and a Bronze Medalist during Professional Photographers of America’s 2018 International Photographic Competition. Coates’ work will be on display at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta, Georgia, Jan. 20-22, 2019. This International Photographic Exhibit will be held in conjunction with Imaging USA, an annual convention and expo for professional photographers.

bob coates photo

Bob Coates of Bob Coates Photography

A panel of 32 eminent jurors from across the United States selected the top photographs from 5,073 total submitted entries at Gwinnett Technical College in Georgia. Judged against a standard of excellence, 2,622 images were selected for the General Collection and 513 (roughly 10 percent) were selected for the esteemed Loan Collection—the best of the best. The Loan Collection images will all be published in the much-anticipated “Loan Collection” book and over 365 selected General Collection images will be published in the “Showcase” book by Marathon Press.

PPA medalist photoTwo new medals came in the mail this week from PPA!

The level of the award is determined by how many of those four images receive the highest possible honor: acceptance into the PPA Loan Collection, which is displayed at photographic exhibitions, conventions and other photography events. Coates was named a Silver Medalist in the Photographic Open Category, meaning that one of his four merited images entered the PPA Loan Collection. Coates was also a Bronze Medalist in the Artist Category with all four of his submitted images earning a Merit score.

About PPA:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA) is the largest international non-profit association created by professional photographers, for professional photographers. Almost as long-lived as photography itself, PPA’s roots date back to 1869. It assists 30,000 members through protection, education, and resources for their continued success. See how PPA helps photographers Be More at PPA.com


musician photography

Studio Photography of a Harp Musician

I enjoy working with creative people. It’s a blast. Creative folks tend to bring an extra little something to the photo session. I was working with Sedona musician Peter Sterling the other day. He had some specific thoughts on the session we were photographing for some headshots and CD cover art.

Once an idea is put forward, then it’s time to tweak the lighting to create the mood and feeling needed. We started with a high key background then went to a low key background with more dramatic lighting.

One of the first images from the session. * setup described below harpist photoHarpist Peter Sterling

Above and below are unretouched photos on a high key background. Peter was an excellent subject as he made excellent eye contact with the camera and was easy to get relaxed. He made my job pretty easy!

peter sterling harp player photoI liked this one as a different look but wasn’t thrilled with the foot pad and stool. I wanted to crop in but it has a very casual feel, and it keeps growing on me.

photo of peter sterling harp music performerMoved to a black background and worked on a more moody look. Peter asked me to retouch this one, and I like it a lot! ** the setup described below

photo of peter sterling harp music performer black and whiteWhen I do final retouching for artists, I always include a black and white version. This is often way better than sending off a color image and letting the newspaper or magazine do the conversion.

* White seamless backdrop with a Fiilex 360ex Variable LED light with 24×36 inch softbox as main light (camera right) Camera left another light with a smaller softbox used as fill.

** Black seamless backdrop and lights as above but adjusted for more drama. A 5-inch Fiilex Fresnel attachment was added to another light for the background

Images were captured with the Panasonic Lumix G9 and the Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm f2.8-4.0 lens and processed in Adobe Photoshop

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob


tough challenges marketing monday

The Tougher the Challenges the Better Your Skill Set Will Become
Marketing Monday by Skip Cohen

Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors.

sailors racing photoRacers sailing photo by Bob Coates Photography

It’s an old African proverb, but the more I read it, the more I’m in awe of how much these seven words say. They sure seem to fit everything we learned over the last few years about business.

Think about it. From a challenging economy to keeping up with technology, to social media and increased competition, you’re working harder than you’ve probably ever worked in your life.

What’s exciting to me is the new energy focused on marketing. Years ago we used to laugh because Don Blair would get a thousand people in a posing and lighting program with a few cute models and I’d get ten people in a marketing workshop and five of them were relatives! Today, every marketing, business, and workflow program is packed, and people are taking notes.

One thing I have noticed is those photographers who tell me they’re having a good year. They always add a comment of, “But I’ve never worked so hard in my life.” Further discussion always brings out new things they’re doing regarding diversity in their business, skill set, and the products/services offered.

Scuba diving is a major passion of mine, and I remember a dive when I first started, in horrible water. We had 6-foot swells, and we were in a small boat – I was diving with my buddy, Bob Nunn. The captain looked at us and said, “If you guys can dive in this you can dive in anything!” I came off the boat green, and Bob left breakfast a half mile off the Florida coast, but it did make us better divers. It also gave us something to laugh about.

Well, as an industry we’ve survived a roller coaster of challenges over the years, but the keyword is survived. The proverb says so much that to keep talking about it becomes trite. The point is we’ve all learned to sail in rough water, and as a result, we’re better sailors!

Give yourself a pat on the back – your passion for photography is alive and well, and you’ve got more tools to make this last quarter pretty remarkable. The goal is for you to THRIVE, not just survive!

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.

lens based artist

Lens Based Artist

It’s been a little tough to get blog posts up and out lately. Our Internet provider has been having some problems and being downstream of those problems has led to slow to non-existent connection to the world. For that, I apologize.

Sometimes you don’t realize how much time is spent connected to the Internet, and how dependent we are, until you don’t have access. This is probably a good reminder for me. In the meantime, it has affected my workflow a fair amount. (that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!)

That said, I have some news to share and a new way to connect so you can hear it. (using the hotspot on my phone)

As you may know, I heave begun working toward moving my photography business to the conceptual art market. I’ve even started a new brand and will be slowly transferring my marketing to the art side. I heard Julianne Kost mention the term Lens Based Artist and it resonated with me. I’m still a photographer and probably always will be but the art I’m producing is far beyond capture and simple processing of a photographic image. It is only the beginning.

lens based artist logo graphic

Here’s my new logo.

Here is an example of the type of imagery on which I am working. You may recognize some of the techniques from classes I have taught over the years, which I call PhotoSynthesis. It uses multiple images, Adobe Photoshop layers, masks, blend modes, brushes and more to create the final art piece.

french horn art image bob coates photography“Horn in F” – PhotoSynthesis Lens Based Art

lens based artist shirts bob coates photography

New shirts with embroidered logos. Made by Queensboro

Shirts are already embroidered. A wax seal has been created to help set my signature apart. Vehicle signage is being designed. And I have an opening at an art gallery as Artist of the Month which I’ll let you know about later.

Yours in Creative Photography,     Bob

PS – You get $20 off when you use this link to get your own embroidered shirts from Queensboro



loose ends marketing monday

Loose Ends – Marketing Monday by Skip Cohen

Okay, gang, we’re down the to the wire and the fourth quarter, complete with some substantial seasonality, kicks in next month! It doesn’t matter what kind of year you’ve had to date, great seasonality for most photographic specialties is about to start.

loose ends logo

So, the question is, how many incomplete ideas, loose ends, are on your desk, or bouncing around in your head. Loose ends are all those projects you’ve procrastinated about, and they range from mending fences with your adversaries to cleaning up the back room of your studio. Relax, I’m not suggesting you need to clean it all up today, but what a kick to put all your loose ends down in a list and then start checking them off one at a time.

Remember, half the battle is beating procrastination, and we all do it. We put things off waiting for the shoemaker’s elves to come in the middle of the night and clean up the mess. Sadly the only elves who show up are the Keebler Cookie guys, and they only add to your belt line!

I found a great quote from Orison Swett Marden (spiritual leader from the 1800’s)

“A lobster, when left high and dry among the rocks, does not have sense enough to work his way back to the sea, but waits for the sea to come to him. If it does not come, he remains where he is and dies, although the slightest effort would enable him to reach the waves, which are perhaps within a yard of him. The world is full of human lobsters; people stranded on the rocks of indecision and procrastination, who, instead of putting forth their own energies, are waiting for some grand billow of good fortune to set them afloat.”

Okay, get out the pad of paper and make that list…I did mine a few minutes before writing this post, and while I’ve made no progress, it’s at least a start! I am however craving a bag of Keebler Cookies and a lobster…go figure.

skip cohen headshotSkip 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.

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.