Archive for the ‘Impressive Places’ Category

Map of CAPTURE Quebec Covered Bridges

When I went to Quebec in February, I scouted out quite a few covered bridges. Not all of them were exactly picturesque at the time of year I visited, but they all had great potential for various seasons and weather conditions. We only visited two of the five I mention here during the CAPTURE Quebec workshop, but I thought I would share their locations with anyone who might happen to be traveling through the area with a camera in better weather than when I passed through. This Google Map shows where all of them are located exactly and what I liked about each one of them.


I am considering putting together maps like this for the many amazing places that I have had the opportunity to travel to currently and over the past few years. I do a ton of location research for my photography excursions and feel I really should be sharing the results of my research with other photographers. The maps would be specifically  geared toward helping photographers know what photo ops are in the vicinity wherever they may be traveling. For myself, even on family vacations, I simply wish I had a source to go to to get a photographer’s perspective on specific spots to stop “along the way”. Would anyone else out there find maps like this to be helpful? Is there any more info I should include then what I have already included in the Covered Bridges of CAPTURE Quebec map? For a test run, here are the five bridges that are listed on the map:

Eustis Covered Bridge
Eustis, Quebec, Canada

9191_Eustis Covered Bridge-Waterville-QC_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

Milby Covered Bridge
Milby, Quebec, Canada

9199_Milby Covered Bridge-Waterville-QC_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

Mont Orford Covered Bridge
Mont Orford, Quebec, Canada

9679_Mont Orford-Quebec-Canada_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1-80 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

Narrows Covered Bridge
Stanstead, Quebec, Canada

9389_Narrows Covered Bridge-Stanstead-QC_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 6.3, ISO 100

Drouin Covered Bridge
Waterville, Quebec, Canada

9206_Drouin Covered Bridge-Waterville-QC_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1-160 sec at f - 9.0, ISO 400

For a more comprehensive list of covered bridges in Quebec, you may find this link helpful.

4 Differences Between an OK Image and a Great Image

I distinctly remember the feeling of awe that came over me as I drove into the valley where June Lake lay in the shadow of the south-central Sierra Nevada foothills. With just a short bit of time in the middle of the day to check it out, I wanted to see what the area was like. Reaching the shore, I took my time to enjoy the mountain scenery, the September breeze coming off the lake and the warm sun blazing overhead. I greeted an elderly couple enjoying the same setting over a picnic lunch on a large piece of driftwood on the pebbly shore.

6040_June Lake-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 45 mm, 1.6 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

Yes, it was an enjoyable place to be (exact location), but going through my pictures now, there aren’t many worth processing. This shot above is really the only one that stands out to me from that location, but it still isn’t good enough to use as an example image for a project I am working on. And yet, just a few days after visiting June Lake, I took another shot of another lake that became one of the first to be added to my Top 25 favorites from 2013. Why? What’s the difference? What made the first shot “unusable” while the second shot took first place in my portfolio almost immediately? Here is a list of differences between the two images that give great insight into why the second image below works better than the first:

1. Balance of Visual Interest

Look at the first image from June Lake. Where does your eye go? First to the mountain, right, then perhaps to the green water. But there’s nothing in the water to keep my eye moving around in the picture. It goes back to the mountain (or mountain range, perhaps) and, finding nothing else of more interest, it wanders off the image. Now look at the second image below. It’s a sunrise over Emerald Bay on Lake Tahoe, California (exact location). The first thing that catches my eye is the island, or perhaps the circle of water surrounding it. Then my eye jumps to the intense color in the sky where the sun is coming up. Then, after finding nothing of great interest in the abstract pink and purple clouds in the sky, it goes back down to the island and the circle of water. After circling the island again, my eye goes back to the intense color in the sky.  The island and the bay are of great visual interest, but it’s balanced with another element that feeds the eye with something else of interest, helping the eye to bounce back and forth, staying within the image.


2. Prominent Subject

In the first picture, I’m not sure if the lake or the mountain is the main subject. The mountain is grabbing for my attention, but the color in the water is so vibrant. The mountain has greater “visual mass” but it’s subdued in the background, blending in with it’s surroundings. The lake also has visual mass, but there’s nothing of interest in it except for the color, and color in and of itself makes a poor subject. In contrast, the island in Emerald Bay stands out in stark contrast against the reflective water around it. I immediately know what it is and it anchors my eye in the picture. There’s something to come back to after my eye has journeyed through the rest of the picture looking at the other interesting elements. It’s a magnet that keeps my eye in the picture.

3. A Sense of Depth

I tried to create depth at June Lake by adding the tangled shrubbery in the foreground. It helps, but it’s not enough. There’s nothing that really suggests that some ground is further away than any other ground in the image. Perhaps the pine trees decreasing in size from the lake shore to the base of the mountain could indicate this, but they are so far away and do not play an integral part of the composition that they are hardly noticed. The static knowledge that mountains are larger than shrubs is the only cue telling me that they are farther away, but that’s not what a photographer should rely on to create depth. In contrast, the second image has many cues that suggest depth. The pine trees in the foreground are very distinct and contrast in size very quickly with what the viewer knows are pine trees in the middle ground. Secondly, atmosphere between the foreground hills and background mountains give the distant objects a lighter color cuing depth in the viewers mind immediately. This, coupled with the multiple layers of lake and land give a much better sense of depth than the first image.

4. Time of Day

It’s obvious that these two pictures were taken at two totally different times of day. At June Lake, everything is flat; two-dimensional-looking due to the direction of light. There are no words to describe the advantages of being at Emerald Bay at a more visually interesting time of day. I about froze to death to get it, but coming away with a shot like this made it ultimately more enjoyable than relaxing on the shores of June Lake in the middle of the day. Time of day makes all the difference in the world.

I’m looking forward to covering these concepts in more depth during our day on Advanced Composition at CAPTURE Quebec later this month. Today is the last day to get the $50 Early Registration Discount, but registration will stay open until the class is full. But with only 1 spot left, I can’t guarantee how long that will be!

Tools for Planning a Photo Shoot

1574_Linville Falls-North Carolina-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 0.5 sec at f - 16, ISO 50

I remember this dramatic morning at Linville Falls, North Carolina, as vividly as if it was yesterday. I was scouting for the 2013 CAPTURE North Carolina workshop and had never been to this location before. However, I was pretty confident of where I wanted to go and when I wanted to get there by using a few scouting techniques. I was still at the very beginning of the scouting process, but I knew my chances were high for a good shot if the weather cooperated, which it did, thanks to the only One Who controls the weather. But how did I know? Paul Burgess, a good, Christian photographer friend of mine who also loves to write about photography, put together this great article on tips and tools for Photo Shoot Planning that will help you make the most of any given location. Enjoy!

Comments on a Few Masterpieces

I have my desktop background set to cycle through my latest wallpapers. Yesterday, I got to thinking that they were starting to get a little repetitive, so I figured it was time for another batch! The first two new ones, Glimpse of Grandeur and Chapel in the Valley were taken during my excursion out to California last September. California is an amazingly varied state, and I enjoy every chance I can get to explore it. Beyond Yosemite, I also got to spend a lot of time taking pictures with a friend by the name of Jonah while I was there. Though we were only shooting together for a weekend, I challenged him to shoot for 12 masterpiece compositions. Well, he worked hard at it and you can view what he came up with in this Google+ album! Encourage him with a few likes and comments on the pictures you like. When you’re finished, come back and download these masterpieces to adorn your desktop.

Glimpse of Grandeur
Download as Desktop Background

6315_JAS_Yosemite NP-California-USA W

Tunnel View is an incredibly popular overlook in Yosemite National Park! Even in the off-season of September, there were tour busses pulling in and out all day long. But it was amazing what happened after the sun set and things started to get dark. The people vanished. Everything became perfectly silent. One could actually enjoy the wonder of the incredible view. With a tripod and a long exposure, I feel like I came away with something that sadly few tourists will ever experience.  I also experimented with the WB Color Shift setting on my camera to pull out the pinkness of the evening atmosphere. Read more about this technique in this well-defined article.

Chapel in the Valley
Download as Desktop Background

6591_JAS_Yosemite NP-California-USA W

As I was working on an IBLP Calendar a few years ago, someone submitted a picture of the most picturesque little church I had ever seen. I loved it so much that I looked into the details to see if I could find out where it was taken. I do this a lot with pictures that really stand out  to me; if you don’t know where the beauty is, how can you expect to shoot it? Plus, a particularly intituling vista or subject might be right along the way of normal travel plans. Obviously, I didn’t know much about Yosemite at the time because that little church is probably the most photographed church in the United States, but after seeing that submission image, I always had in the back of my mind that it would be fun to photograph church. Well, now I have a few shots of it too. And who knows! maybe no one ever thought to get the perspective I got! Kinda doubt it, but still, I like the nestled away look achieved from stepping away to get a less tight perspective on the building.

Winter Light
Download as Desktop Background

9037_JAS_Salem-West Virginia-USA W

I took this picture just the other night. It was a pitch black evening and taking pictures was the furthest thing from my mind . . . until I walked outside and saw this tree in the light of a spotlight. You see, we turn on the spotlight every-once-in-a-while to see if it’s snowing after dark. Well, that night, the snow was sticking to every single branch unlike normal so the tree caught my eye differently than it ever had before. I keep surprising myself with the truth that there are good pictures to be had everywhere, at any time of day and under any circumstance regardless of initial perception.

If you would like to download Winter Light as a desktop background for free, sign up for Latest from Lenspiration updates. I give away one free wallpaper per update. If you would like to receive access to the other two wallpapers, along with my entire collection of wallpapers from the past, you can make any purchase on the Lenspiration Store.

Top 25 from 2013

After taking some time to go through my 2013 archives this week, I finally decided on my top 25 favorite images from the year! Though Ansel Adams said, “Twelve significant photographs in any one year is a good crop”,  I couldn’t seem to get them cut down down that far. I guess I’ve got a lot more to learn . . .

But praise the Lord for another awesome year of photography! Looking back over the year and seeing God’s hand in getting the CAPTURE workshops started makes me look at 2014 with more anticipation than I think I’ve ever felt at the beginning of a year before. Check out the Workshops page to see the incredible locations that God has opened for CAPTURE 2014. It’s the opportunity for you to begin creating images exactly like my top 25 from 2013!

And if you haven’t seen the Top 25 from 2012,,here’s the link.

Where We Went in Kansas

8444_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 11, ISO 100

I can’t believe it’s been over three weeks since we finished up CAPTURE Kansas! But I didn’t want it to slip by without giving a few more details about how it went. Taking “wow” pictures requires a whole lot more than just visiting “wow” locations. You have to be there at the “wow” time! In fact, lots of “wow” pictures aren’t even in “wow” locations. It’s more a matter of being there at the right time of day: sunset, sunrise, and the golden hours! So, what do you think we did during the workshop? Whatever it takes, I do everything I can to make CAPTURE unique by utilizing these most photogenic times. Keeping that in mind, here’s a brief overview of where we went and what we did at CAPTURE Kansas:


After spending Wednesday evening getting to know each member of the team and discussing what it means for photographers to be zealous unto good works and have a Biblical standard in their work, we got up bright and early Thursday morning to start learning hands on in the field. We arrived at this old, abandoned, 1878 home down an old dirt road before sunrise and began experimenting with the different metering modes on our cameras. A friend of the Lindsay’s owned the property and gave us permission to walk around freely to get whatever perspective we liked.

8043_Near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 11, ISO 400

Just a ways down the road was an old barn that offered some more country subjects during the latter half of the golden hour. The Lindsay’s also knew these folks and said the only prerequisite for letting us shoot on their property was that we had send them our pictures afterward. We were happy to do so. Smile

8086_Near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 65 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 4.5, ISO 400

That afternoon we talked about the Exposure Trio, the benefit of using each of the manual modes, and how to use your settings to get exactly what you’re looking for in a shot. To watch the sun go down and the moon come up, we paid a relaxed visit to the Old Stone Church just outside of Maple Hill.

8103_Maple Hill-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 100


After practically freezing to death the morning before, everyone dressed more warm for our second morning out. We found ourselves an old country road off the Native Stone Scenic Byway where there were a lot of objects that would offer good silhouettes for sunrise. It was a great time to experiment in Manual mode again and I began to introduce the basic ideas behind good composition.

8184_near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 85 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

The sun pierced through the clouds only for about half an hour that morning, so the clouds soon blocked any beautiful light. This made our next stop, the Kansas State Capitol Building, the perfect place to go. Here we had ample opportunities to practice looking for shapes and compositional elements not normally found in nature.

7893_Topeka-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 3200

We edited pictures a lot that afternoon, plus time for a a nap, a session or two, and lots of critique. It was still cloudy come sunset so there wasn’t much of a golden hour. But when the sun did reach the horizon, all we had to do was step outside there at the Lindsay homestead and take a few on-location snap shots.

8295_Near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 100


Saturday was our last day. It was pretty hard to get up, but it was well worth it. The sunrise in combination with the mist rising over Lake Shawnee created the best color we had seen all weekend! And a real answer to prayer that was. A thick layer of frost also made for uniqueness as we shot in the gardens close by.

8346_Topeka-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 32 mm, 0.6 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

That afternoon, it warmed up and we made the hour drive out to the Flint Hills area. We stopped at Deep Creek Falls at Pillsbury Crossing to practice shooting long exposures.

8427_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 45 mm, 0.6 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

Our finale location was the Konza Prairie Natural Area. It was the most off-the-beaten-path location that we visited. There are no words or pictures to properly describe the awe that one felt standing in that vast prairie of blowing gold!

8492_Near Manhattan -Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-30 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 200

So next time you are in the Topeka area, you know where to go! Just make sure you go during the golden hour. And one thing is certain, we’ll be out there next year during CAPTURE Kansas 2014! To stay posted for when the actual dates will be announced, sign up for the Latest from Lenspiration e-mail updates on the Subscribe Page.

The Color of Kansas

Glow of Sunrise

8331_Topeka-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 105 mm, 1-25 sec at f - 22, ISO 50

God answered our prayers for beautiful sunrises and sunsets every day of the CAPTURE Kansas workshop last week! In fact, the last sunrise of the workshop was far beyond what I expected. I scouted Lake Shawnee beforehand and wasn’t overly impressed. However, it was the only good lake in the area so I decided to go there during the workshop anyway. God surprised us big time with mist and interesting subjects to photograph!

Trees of Autumn

8200_Near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 5.6, ISO 800

One of the neat things about landscape photography is that you can get good pictures almost anywhere you go. The road above was just a random road we saw off the Native Stone Scenic Byway. The key was that we were there at the right time. Not only the fall colors, but catching them at sunrise is what made the difference.

Calm After the Storm

8297_near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 88 mm, 1.0 sec at f - 16, ISO 100

We almost didn’t go out to take pictures of the sunset on Friday evening because it had been cloudy, rainy, and even snowy all day long. However, God allowed the sun to pop out for about 5 minutes right as it reached the horizon. Just enough to light up the sky with incredible color! I have found this to be a common phenomenon on rainy days.

CAPTURE Kansas ended on Saturday night. Sunday morning found me on an airplane on my way to Florida. Taking a break from photography related things, I’m spending this week with a team from the Institute in Basic Life Principles to help with a prison Journey to the Heart at the Marion Correctional Institution near Ocala. If it’s related to ministry, it’s something worth being involved with!

Capturing Kansas

8098_near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 4.5, ISO 400

We are having a great time here at the CAPTURE Kansas workshop! We shot the sunrise at an abandoned home built in 1878 and spent some time at an old, abandoned barn close by learning all about metering modes and exposure compensation. During the afternoon, we learned how to organize your photos, how to make post-processing adjustments in Lightroom, and how to shoot in manual mode by understanding the exposure trio. We then spent the golden hour shooting the Old Stone Church with a full moon rising behind it after sunset!

8031_near Dover-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 50 mm, 1-40 sec at f - 11, ISO 400

8073_--_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-125 sec at f - 8.0, ISO 400

8138_--_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 200 mm, 1-250 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200

8168_--_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 5.0 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

Looking forward to another great day tomorrow!

A Rainy Day

7828_St. Marys-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 5.0, ISO 400

Despite the fact that it rained most the day, I went out scouting anyway! I love the Kansas countryside. And I love it more with each passing day. I didn’t really think I would, being from West Virginia, but the wide open prairie of golden grass dotted with lonely trees and crossed with miles of fences and dirt roads has an appeal to it that one could never find out east. It’s the hardest thing to capture, though. It’s a challenge. And I like that!

7806_St. Marys-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-40 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

The Lord has been answering many prayers. Someone else signed up for the workshop today! Imagine that. Practically 24 hours before the workshop starts, someone signs up. It’s up to 4 attendees now, and I praise the Lord for each one of them. Another answer to prayer is a vehicle that the Lindsay’s grandparents graciously let me use to do my scouting this week! I love it. It rides so smoothly, takes the gravel roads well, and is a reminder that God will take care of our every need.

7824_St. Marys-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 1-20 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

It’s much more hilly out here then I thought it would be! They still make the roads straight though. Smile

7815_St. Marys-Kansas-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 73 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 400

A Place Called Alabama Hills

I didn’t have much time for planning out the next day. It was 10:00 at night and I was leaving bright and early the next morning for a week of vacation and scouting for future CAPTURE California workshops! Where should I stop tomorrow?

I knew what route I would be driving so I Googled for photographic sunset locations in the Lone Pine/Bishop area. A place called Alabama Hills stood out to me. Had I heard of that place before? Let me think, where had I heard that name? Oh, yeah! I think it was an article I read years and years ago in an Outdoor Photographer magazine. Or maybe it was some photographers blog I was following way back when. At any rate, it was far enough back that pretty much all I can remember was thinking that I wished I could be there, but had to dismiss the thought because of how unrealistic it was that I could actually be there.

But now, here it was, literally a five minute drive from where I was going to be traveling the next day. Only God could have planned that! I wrote down the directions (though I didn’t need to, because all I had to remember was to turn left at the only stop light in Lone Pine) and went to bed praising the Lord that he was going to allow me to see a very special and unusual part of His infinitely creative creation!

Standing Alone

5729_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 40 mm, 1-200 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

Randomly positioned boulders were very common in the Alabama Hills. To get the dark blue sky I kept my shoulder toward the sun and used a circular polarizer. To get the warm color in the rocks, I simply planned my picture-taking time to be in the late afternoon.

Color in the Desert

5765_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-60 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

Though it was late September, it was not necessarily the fall season that caused the plants to look so colorful. It was the fact that they were back-lit. Back lighting is the most difficult lighting to shoot, but I was able to use it effectively by breaking the strength of the sun by positioning it behind the tree branches. A very narrow aperture accomplished the pleasing star burst effect.

Sun Mist

5844_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 165 mm, 1-800 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 200

This is one of my favorite shots! It’s back lighting again only without the sun in the composition. Exposing on the shadow side of the rocks caused the background hillside to look overexposed producing a fantastic or mystifying emotion.

Triceratops Remains

5787_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 28 mm, 1-100 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

The most difficult thing about shooting in abstract locations like this is to remove distractions and keep things simple. There are a million things screaming for attention. Even this odd rock formation required a lot time to find a position that would keep it from blending into the background. 


5928_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-50 sec at f - 4.0, ISO 250

This shot works because of a compositional concept called One-point Perspective. We’ll learn more about these sort of things at the CAPTURE Kansas workshop next week. It never ceases to amaze me how things can grow in places as desolate and arid as the Alabama Hills. It’s yet another manifestation of God’s great ingenuity! He can make anything happen. “Commit thy works unto the LORD, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3

5726_near Lone Pine-California-USA_Canon EOS 5D Mark II, 24 mm, 1-320 sec at f - 11, ISO 200

That’s my little rental car with Mount Whitney in the background, the tallest peak in the lower 48 states. It stands as a backdrop for the entire Alabama Hills area.