Ramblings of an Amateur Photographer

How many is to many?

As I go through my photos from Iceland, I am thinking about my workflow. Thinking about that makes me consider my organizational scheme. I have been thinking about this for quite a while. I would like to come up with some new, more efficient way of editing, storing and sharing my images. I sat down and noodled around with a few things with my wife. I'd like your opinions!

Baseline: I use Lightroom, I looked around for some other alternative, but I am comfortable with Lightroom and can work with it fairly quickly. I REALLY wish they would change the fact that you can't easily share catalogs over a network. I use two primary machines. First is our network file server and storage. Second is my laptop with a docking station also acts as my desktop. I felt I had to do this rather than get a desktop because Lightroom isn't mobile enough to work across a network file system. I only use it for storage / editing and looking at images quickly after import. I don't use all the other tagging / metadata / searching features. I am just not that disciplined to put those in as I import.  

When we think of photos, we think of them in two basic categories and two basic tags. Category 1 is where was it taken or by place / location (Iceland, Costa Rica, Alaska, Outer Banks, etc). Category 2 is by event (Holidays, Birthdays, Weddings, etc). When it comes down to it, we only think of them in those two categories. My wife brought up, that she would like to tag things in two ways; by people in the photo or the year it was taken. In general, we don't think about the year. Heck I can't barely remember what happened last month, let alone what year. When I think about our trip to San Diego, I know we went to San Diego, but the year... it was in 2000 something... 

The second dilemma is how many photos to share from each type. Enough to tell the story or to remember things hat happened, but not enough to bore everyone to tears.  We've all sat through someone else's photo log of their trip to East Nowhere USA, with an endless stream of photos that you want to drink that bottle of rat poison they had in their medicine chest while you looked through while in the bathroom... you know you've done it. I digress. I have been told that while showing my photos in the past, 5 seconds is to short. Poking and asking around, I think 7 seconds between photos is a good average duration. A slideshow should last no more than 10 minutes (before that rat poison shakes starts sounding good). 10 minutes is 600 seconds divided by 1 images every 7 seconds is about 85 images. At most I think keeping 100 images is the max.

With that said, my image count from Iceland is about 900 images. Some of those I will turn in to time lapse. I don't shoot 7 shot brackets (like my friend Jim, maybe if I did I would be half as good as Jim). 

I am now looking at trying to figure out where to share them. I have looked at Google Photos, Flickr, Apple Photos and SmugMug to name a few. None of them do exactly what I want. I like Apple Photos for the sync across devices and slideshows, but stinks for importing those images fro Lightroom. Google Photos and Flickr has some ease at importing the images. Google Photo syncs my file folders for me and leaves the directory structure in tact, but the slideshow / viewing the images stink. Anyone have a good workflow for sharing images?  I am ruling out Instagram and Facebook as sharing mechanisms. FB is ok, but I am weary of the terms of service. 

Oh, the image above is from an arch in the rocks. We noticed the waves would come in and create a big splash. I timed the splashes (look long enough and you can find the pattern) and waited for the early morning glow to light up the hole. 




Trip notes from Iceland

Day 1 - We started off ok. Picked up a couple of cars and got everyone packed up. About an hour outside of Reykjavik, one of the cars started to have problems. The Blue Car Rental drove us an upgraded car with GPS to use. Fantastic service. Once we started out again, we hit Seljalandsfoss Waterfall first. IT was a bit of an ice rink, but not a bad way to start the trip. We stopped at Iceland Erupts to watch the video about the volcanic eruption in the south of Iceland in 2010. This is where the weather started to turn on us. A beautiful day started to turn rainy. Our next stop Skogafoss. Another small ice rink, we got out of the car and it started to really get rainy. No shots to be had. We headed out to Vik for a little shopping at the Iceland Wear factory store. The night was spent at the Guesthouse Steig.



Day 2 - An early morning shoot at the Reynisdranger black sand black and sea stacks. Right about sunrise, the clouds started to sock us in. We then headed for the Jokulsarlon (Glacial Lagoon, Jokul mean Glacier in Icelandic and Sarlon means lagoon). It’s at the base of the Vatnajokul glacier. Vatnajokul is also the name of a pretty good beer (a little sweet) that only comes out of the region. I wish I could ship some back home. We did make a stop at the Fjallsárlón Glacier Lagoon on the way. This is where things could have gotten ugly if we didn’t have a couple of 4 wheel drive vehicles. The entrance isn’t and F road (mountain road), but it was snow covers and pretty hairy.  Two other vehicles got stuck and we spent a good hour trying to help them get out, without any luck as they were buried up to the axles. This did increase our Karma Quotient. After a late check in at the hotel, we decided to start looking for the aurora, we spotted it almost as soon as it got dark. Out we went for an amazingly long auroral treat. From about 9:30 pm until we start shooting at 12:30 am it kept getting better. We made it down to the Ice Lagoon (30 minutes from where we spent the night) before it clouded up. We cashed in our Karma points. I think it was the best aurora I have ever seen.



Day 3 - A later start due to all the excitement from the night before. I looked at the weather / aurora possibilities and decided to have us move hotels back to Vik. The day was a cloudy day and we didn’t get the beautiful light we got on day 2. On the way back to Vik Chuck and Susan spotted a couple of Caribou on the hill. So of course Chuck had to pull out the 600mm lens and snap off a few shots. Everyone in the car is taking an assist on the shots. We also stopped at the Svínafellsjökull Glacier. What an amazing sight. Deep blue of the glacial ice jutted out into a frozen lagoon. On the lagoon we spotted a tent city. We think they were filming a movie or TV show. It’s where they film Game of Thrones and Interstellar. We then headed off to our hotel in Vik, the Guesthouse Katla. We had diner at the Sudur-Vik Restaurant in town, which has good pizza and steak sandwiches before retiring for the evening (or so we thought). Jim, Chuck and I decided to head out to see if we could spot the milky way and maybe the aurora. We set up an aurora watch for the night, anyone who spots them would knock on doors and wake people up. About a mile down the road and we spotted them. Running back to the hotel to tell the others we headed back out and were treated to a second night of amazing activity.



Day 4 - After checking out we headed to Dyrholaey for early light. These are the cliffs where the puffins come to roost starting in May. The light was pretty nice and not a bad place to spend the morning. Matt & Chuck tried their best to get washed away by the crashing waves, but they are still with us. ;)  We decided to swing by the downed DC-3 on the beach, even though it was bad light. I wanted to see the potential for night shooting and light painting. We then drove down to Skogafoss to see if we could get last light on the waterfall. As it turns out, there is a small mountain in the way and last light on the waterfall hits about 2 hours before sunset. Since we couldn’t get good late light on the falls, we drove back toward the hotel. The light was getting nice, so we stopped back at Dyrholaey and catch it over the water. We had a great meal of arctic char at the Volcano Hotel. We went out later that evening due to a slight glow we thought might be the aurora. It was, but it was much to windy & cold and the aurora was not as intense as it had been.  



Day 5 - We awoke to fairly heavy winds. After talking with Johann, we decided the tour to the ice cave would have to wait. It was a nice day to spend a down day. We did go to the Icelandic history museum at Skogafoss.



Day 6 - After a nice easy breakfast at the hotel, we mounted up for a mini adventure with Johann to the glacier. We went across the glacier Myrdal Jokull, near the volcano Katla.

The story goes that Katla was an evil witch. She lived in the valley where a monastery was built. The local bishop though that there was good in Katla, so he was trying to convert her to good. Katla created some magic britches (pants) from the souls of horses that would make her as fast as the wind. She lived on a small plot of land and had a shepherd named Bardi that would tend to her sheep. One day as the Bishop was going to take Katla to a wedding, Bardi told her one of the sheep was missing. She told Bardi, if he didn’t find that sheep, something evil would happen to him. Frightened, Bardi knew that Katla had some magic britches, which he could use to find the sheep. So he “borrowed” those britches and searched high and low until he found the lost sheep. He placed the britches back exactly where he found them. When Katla came home, she was sure that Bardi wouldn’t come up with the lost sheep and was surprised that he did so. When she went into the bedroom, she noticed the britches were out of place and was outraged, because she knew exactly what Bardi did. In the middle of the night, she killed Bardi and put his body in with the food stores. That winter as food was running low she was frightened that they would find the body and punish her. As they came for the food stores, she put on the britches and ran like the wind toward the glacier. She knew she would be caught, so she threw herself into a canyon on the glacier to hide. Shortly after, the canyon gave rise to a terrible flood and flooded the valley. People figured that due to her hot nature she became a volcano under the ice, which caused the flood. Which is why the volcano is named after her, Katla. It is still active to this day. The locals figure it’s overdue to erupt and have evacuation plans in place in case it does.

On this glacier is where they filmed latest Star Wars movie (and rumor has it, then next one will be filmed in the same place). As we drove across the glacier, we came closer to what looked like a crack in the mountain. This turned out to be a very pretty ice cave. Not the easiest thing to get to, but it was within walking distance and we had fun photographing it. After getting our fill of the ice cave we took a short detour to a large cave then back to the hotel. We then traveled to our next nightly stay. I rented a small house that slept 10 people (easily). After unpacking we drove the 40 minutes down to the lobster restaurant (Fjorubordid). It’s not cheap, but it was fantastic. Richard and June drove Matt and Diana toward the Blue Lagoon as the rest of us headed back to the rental house.


Day 7 - We headed out and drove the golden circle. The golden circle is the most popular route in Iceland. It’s not very far from Reykjavik and they bring tourists by the bus load. The golden circle consists of Geysir, Faxi waterfall, Gullfoss (the largest waterfall in Iceland) and Thingvellir (Iceland Parliament was established there in 930)  and Kerid (a volcanic crater lake). We bypassed Kerid and Thingvellir. A little farm where they made their own ice cream is where we ate lunch and Domino’s pizza for dinner. It was very cloudy and started to snow as we went to bed.



Day 8 - We awoke to no road. The snow had fallen and the wind obstructed the road. This is the second time on this trip that I am glad we rented 4x4 vehicles. The truck in 4 wheel drive made short work of it until we could get to a plowed out area. I am glad we decided to leave a little early for the airport. We did meander along the way and flew home that night.  


Packing for Iceland

This is a list of gear I put together for a 8 to 10 day winter trip to Iceland.


4x Sock Liners - They help with the moisture and add a layer of warmth. If it’s too warm, take them off

4x Wool Socks - These will keep your feet warm

1x Hiking boots / Snow Boot - It’s worth a little money to get a warm pair of waterproof & insulated boots. Look for 200-400g of warmth. Carolyn and I both bought Keen boots.

1x Ice Cleats - I didn’t use them at all, but Carolyn did a couple times. For the cost, if it turns icy, they are worth the protection. Make sure you get your “size".

1x Comfy Shoes - Sneakers or something else that is comfortable to walk around the hotel or town in. Boots are great, but I don’t want to wear them all the time.

1x Overshoes - Seems like a splurge, but they will come in handy on the black sand beach. They are optional.


4x Long Underwear pants - Heat Keep is the brand I have, they are thin but they are super warm.

3x non cotton pants - You’ll wear thermals under them most of the time. Get something that will wick and dry quickly if they get wet. NOT JEANS!!! Exercise pants, I usually get mine at Target. You’ll be wearing snow pants most of the time.

1x pants - For going out to dinner.

1x Snow Pants or Snow Board pants - I brought 2 pairs but only really needed 1.

Underwear - TMI but I use ExOffico travel. You can wash them in the wink and they dry super fast.

1x rain/wind pants - Frog Togs or some other cheap brand. Hopefully we don’t need them, but it’s good to have them. Get a size larger and make sure they fit over snow pants.


4x Long Underwear Shirt - Again I use Heat Keep. Thin and very warm.

4x Comfy non cotton shirts - Something you can wear in layers

1x sweater / sweatshirt - An additional layer you can take off

1x Winter Jacket - Down or some other synthetic.

1x Rain Jacket - Frog Tog or if you have a rain jacket that will fit over your winter jacket.


1x Glove Liners - This will add an extra layer of protection. I have several different pairs and kinds. I am always looking for a good set. *I have NOT purchased the liners on the Amazon Wishlist, but they look really good

1x Gloves - I am always on the lookout for gloves that work with Photography. It’s one of the reasons I use glove liners, so I can take off my gloves and still have my hands protected. Get something warm and waterproof. The gloves I like currently I bought in the airport in Iceland (66North).  *The gloves on the Amazon wish list were recommended to me by Jack Graham. I have not tried them.

10x Hand Warmers - Hot Hands or something similar. Always pays to be a little warm.

Head and Neck:

1x Wool Buff - I like buffs because they are versatile. I can put them over my ears or around my face. Choose a good scarf if you don’t like buffs.

1x Windproof Buff

2x Hats - Warm beanie or fur lined. Warm is the key. I usually have 2 and will wear them both if I need to. Then again, I really like hats (not baseball)

1x Ear Muffs - If you hats doesn’t come over your ears make sure you bring ear muffs.

1x Motorcycle goggles or Wind proof sunglasses - It's windy, having something to protect your eyes is a good idea. The reason I don't say to bring snow goggles is they end to be big and get in the way. 


Obviously I don’t need to say it *grin*

Camera gear:

1 regular tripod & 1 small tripod - Since I bring 2 cameras, I bring 2 tripods, that way I can set up 2 time lapses at the same time if we get a nice aurora.

2 Bodies (Fuji obviously) *wink*

Lenses to cover 14mm to 200mm. You might get to see some seals on the ice, but I wouldn’t bring a long lens for that. NO PUFFINS, sorry to early in the year for them.

Batteries & chargers - Iceland is on 220v so make sure your chargers are good with that (most are).

Filters, intervalometers & such - you know the drill and your camera.

I am bringing 12mm, 14mm & 18-135 plus Fuji XT1 & XE1 (unless I can borrow my nieces’ XE2).

Anti Fog Wipes - Good for the camera lens/filters, but also good for your glasses.


The wall outlets look like this. Iceland uses European 220V Type C and Type E/F sockets.

I use a Monster Cable travel outlet power strip. It’s rated for 110-220. I then attach a converter (US to European) to it and plug everything into that. That way only need 1 or 2 US to European converter plugs.

Cell Phone:

If you have Verizon & the right phone, it will work over there with the International Package. Or if you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can pick up a Sim card at the airport for cheap. My iPhone 6 & Verizon JetPack both work with my Siminn SIM card I picked up at the airport. Getting a SIM card is cheaper than the rates you'll pay to most wireless providers.

Swimsuit & towel:

Pack one, you never know where we may end up. There are lots of geothermal swimming holes. Bringing a micro fiber towel or two is also a good idea. You can wipe off your camera gear whilst venturing near a waterfall.

Rather pack to be warm and have to shed it, than to under pack. If you are going to make sure anything is warm, make sure it’s your feet. If we have to stand out in the snow, the feet are hardest to keep warm.


Planning for Iceland

I am planning for an Iceland trip with a group of photographers. The folks I am going with are some of the best people I know. 

When planning for a trip, you really need to understand a few things.

  1. The location or locations you will be visiting. I really think that you should have some good references or have been to the location at least once. 
  2. The number of people who are going. This helps determine how many hotel rooms or where to stay. For example, with 9 of us going, I needed to be creative in where we are going to stay. You can't exactly be "nimble" when you need 4 or more rooms. 
  3. The weather of where you are going. In our case, we are going the first week of March. It'll be cold but not as cold as you might think. It's more likely to rain than snow. The one thing you don't hear about Iceland is how windy it is in the winter.
  4. Driving distances & times. I tend to think of driving from place to place in a sense of time rather than distance. I take "published" routes and usually triple them for the photographer factor. For example, from the Airport in Keflavik Iceland to Vik, Iceland (on the southern coast), Google maps says it'll take 3 hours. I know from being there and knowing the great people I'll be with that it'll really take about 9 hours, due to frequent stops to make images.
  5. Have a packing plan. You will inevitably be asked, "what should I pack?" It's a good question and an answer like "I don't know", I feel will make people loose confidence in you and your abilities to take them to some great places. Always have an idea of what to pack, clothes, camera and extras (knowing Iceland uses 220v round plugs, I can relay that to other folks). At the end of the day, they will pack and decide for them selves. It's only a guideline.
  6. Be willing to take suggestions and help. Also be willing to make suggestions and help. It's a two way street. I learn something every time I go on a photo trip. 
  7. Make loose plans, always have a back up and be flexible. Sometimes things don't work out as planned, mother nature will toss in a curve ball and so will other photographers.

I am using this upcoming trip to plan a photography tour in the future.

Stars in the Smoky Mountains

Clingmans Dome - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Photoshop Edit

Clingmans Dome - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Lightroom Edit

One of the classes I am going to teach at the Great Smoky Mountain Photographers Summit is going to be editing night time landscapes & stars photos. I am constantly refining my process on editing my images. I found a process using Photoshop that works well for me. However, I like to edit my stuff quickly, which is why I use Lightroom for most of my editing. With photos of the Milky Way, I have found that it doesn't quite yield the results I would like. Above, you'll see two images. I edited the first with my Photoshop process and the second with my Lightroom process. Lightroom doesn't quite give me the fine tuning I need to get a nice look in the dust lanes of our galaxy. I will most likely teach both (time permitting) at the summit. 

I enjoyed scouting out possible locations with my buddy Jim Begley at Clingmans Dome, joined by Jerry Esh in Cades Cove. If mother nature allows, I think we're going to have a great shooting location for some night time stuff at the summit.

I set up two cameras, a Fuji X-E1 with a Rokinon 8mm and a Fuji X-T1 with the Rokinon 12mm lens on it. These were taken during the Perseid meteor shower, so we set up an intervelometer and let it go. If you ever do this, remember that the dust cloud of the Milky Way (I know we are traveling in the Milky Way, but let's not split hairs) is moving, so you need to constantly check to make sure you are still framed correctly.  The last shot was taken with the Fuji 10-24mm lens. I find this a nice lens for daylight hour landscape photography, but for night time stuff, it's not up to the task. You can see it's a little hazy and not crisp. Not my best shot, but I added it as an example.

Clingmans Dome - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Lightroom

Clingmans Dome - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Photoshop

Newfound Gap - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Photoshop

Clingmans Dome - Fuji X-T1 - Rokinon 12mm - Lightroom

Cades Cove - Fuji X-T1 - Fuji 10-24mm - Lightroom

Smoky Mountain Morning

I have been asked to be a speaker at the first annual Great Smoky Mountain Photography Summit. The all-star cast at this first summit is amazing. I have been truly blessed to be asked to speak. I came up this weekend for several reasons. First, my photo friends were meeting and it's always a blessing to get together and go out shooting with them. Second, there was a meteor shower, a new moon and clear, dark skies all happening at once, in the same place. For a night time photographer, that's almost like winning the lottery. Third, I was asked to lead a night shoot during the summit, so I wanted to scout out a couple locations. I'll post more about that in an upcoming post. 

This morning we headed up to the Foothills Parkway in Tennessee. What a fantastic place to go for sunrise. If the conditions are right, it makes it even better. 

We could hardly believe our blessings when the sun and fog cooperated and played for us. The light shown through and bounced off the top of the fog that was accumulating in the valley below. What an fantastic sight to behold. What made it even better is spending it with my His Light photo friends. Each one a fantastic photographer and an even better person. 

SD cards (UHS I vs UHS II)

I recently purchased a new Lexar Professional 64 GB SD card for my Fuji X-T1 camera. Why? Because it is a UHS II card. I know I am starting out talking greek. For a long time camera used Compact Flash cards to store images on because they were very reliable and fast. SD cards we used, but until recently they weren't as reliable and not nearly as fast. In the last few years there have been advancements in the technology to make reading and writing to these cards faster. Some manufacturers have chosen other types of cards in order to try and get reliability and speed, but it's kind of like VHS vs BetaMax. Somebody is going to win and SD cards are very common place. Recently there has been a jump forward in SD card technology. Basically version 1 (UHS-I) and version 2 (UHS-II). At the time of this blog post, only 3 camera manufactures take advantage of UHS-II (Fuji, Panasonic and Samsung). So why is it better? In one word, faster. The Samsung pro card I have been using was pretty fast. I speed tested both cards using Blackmagic Speed test on my Mac. Nothing "official" mind you, but enough for me to make up my mind. 

I purchased a Kingston dual port USB 3.0 that reads UHS-II cards. I used it (seen above) against the built in SD port on the side of my Mac Book Pro. Here's how things turned out.

Read / Write Speed Test

Someone did a quick test and put it on Youtube, comparing a UHS-I card in an X-T1 to a UHS-II card in the same camera. I performed the same basic test. I used both cards in my camera. I set my camera on manual focus, ISO 3200, F/2.8, 1/500 sec, high speed continuous mode, RAW & spot metering. I held the shutter button down for 5 seconds before releasing it and waited for the light to go out on the back of the camera. The Samsung card started to slow down & buffer around 3.5 seconds in and stopped writing to the SD card at 22 seconds. The Lexar card stopped buffering around 3.3 seconds in and stopped writing to the card in around 18 seconds. Not a huge difference.

What about the price, you might ask?  As of today (Aug 6, 2015), Amazon has the Samsung Pro card for sale at $39.99 and the Lexar card for $44.95. There is a faster Lexar card that is double the price. I think for the price difference, I'll start investing in the UHS-II cards, but I'm not going to run right out and swap my cards over right away. I am glad I bought the new card reader, however, I may buy another one to stick in the bag for that price. It reads both SD and micro SD cards.  


Jupiter and Mars Alignment plus Fuji 4.0 update

On June 30th, Jupiter and Venus will be closer in visual appearance, than they have been in more than 2000 years (last seen around 2 or 3 BC, folks). Scientist think this is what may have been the Star of Bethlehem. Either way, look to the West an hour or so after dark. They will be low on the horizon, so an unobstructed view is key. I tried taking images last night, but we had a haze and clouds and a few trees I didn't see in the dark. I'll try again tonight.

Photo tip, if you are going to try and take shot of the planets, you don't want to use your normal star photography methods. It's more like photographing the moon. The sun is bouncing off them, just much further away from us. Pull out that long lens (I am using a 300mm Nikon with a converter on the Fuji). Bump up the ISO to around 1600 - 3200, open up the aperture (f/2.8 or f/4) and start with a shutter speed of 1/4th and work it from there. Take a lot and keep moving the camera. you can image stack / focus stack in Photoshop later. 


Fuji came out with the X-T1 update last night bringing the firmware to 4.0. If you have a Fuji, I am sure you have read about it. However, don't go looking for the update on the Fuji USA site, it's not there (yet). Make sure you have a topped off battery. I am still playing with it, so no reviews yet. I found it on their regular site here.

Doing what it takes, again

I decided to show up to a photo workshop that my photo friends were putting on. Several of my friends were there and it was only a couple hours from the house. Grandfather Mountain, North Carolina is one of the nicest places to go make images. Sometimes to make images, you need to do a little "real world" editing before you take the shot.  

Right in the crook of the log in the water was a bunch of branches and leaves that got caught up. It just really bugged me. I knew there was no way I was going to be able to use Photoshop to clone it out. So I had to do what it took to get rid of it. I climbed out on the rocks, got soaked and removed the crud. Boy I am glad I did. Of course my friend Jim Begley had to take an image of me doing it.  -See the first Doing what it takes

Items food banks need most

It's always good to give to a food bank. I came across an article posted by one of the members of our church. Here is a summary from it that explains the top 20 things most food banks need.

  1. Canned meats: Think beyond tuna & soup, which food banks get tons of. Instead go for canned beef, canned ham, canned chicken, canned salmon. Or hearty ready-to-go meals like beef stew and chili with meat.
  2. Canned vegetables: Everyone donates green beans. Instead, give potatoes, carrots, spinach, peas or any other veggies your family likes.
  3. Canned fruit: Not pineapple. This is the most commonly donated fruit. Any other fruit, particularly those in fruit juice without extra sugar, would be great. Dried fruit works too (raisins, etc.)
  4. Boxes of rice (bags can tear)
  5. Low-sugar cereal like plain Cheerios or Raisin Bran
  6. Peanut butter
  7. Instant oatmeal, instant grits
  8. Cans of beans
  9. Pasta, pasta sauce
  10. Biscuit mix, or any mix you only add water to
  11. Cans, cartons or boxes of powered and evaporated milk
  12. Snack items for kids to take to school: juice boxes, applesauce containers, granola bars
  13. Diapers in sizes above newborn, plus wipes
  14. Toiletries: toothbrushes, soap, toothpaste, lotion, shampoo & conditioner, Chapstick (consider someone living outside this time of year)
  15. Feminine hygiene products: unscented pads will be most universally used, not tampons
  16. Spices like cinnamon, oregano, basil, salt, pepper
  17. Sliced bread. It’s got a long shelf life but always goes immediately.
  18. Bags of apples or potatoes. Ditto.
  19. Chocolate. It’s not a necessity but just a pick-me-up that I would sure appreciate, especially when it comes time to fill stockings.
  20. Consider donating reusable shopping bags. It takes a lot of humility for people to come to a food bank and since they’ll likely be walking home or taking public transportation, it’s nice to at least blend in.

Fuji Announces Extension Tubes for X-Shooters

First, what are extension tubes (one might ask). Extension tubes are inserted between the lens and the sensor. Second, why would you want them? To get closer to your subject for detailed macro work. There is a little bit of skill that goes into using extension tubes properly. 

Fuji is coming out with an 11mm & a 16mm tubes. I doubt they will be sold as a set, like most of the second hand tubes that are out there. They have electronic contacts, so autofocus and aperture sill still work. 

Check out the announcement: (content copywrite by Fuji)

His Light Workshop - Great Smoky Mountains

We are having a great time with our workshop participants here in the Smoky Mountains. The weather report calls for snow on Saturday morning. We are hopeful to get both snow and some fall foliage in one shot. We seem to get some of the best folks on our workshops. We have a great time with good fellowship as well as learning galore. The critique sessions have been well received. To find out more about upcoming 2015 workshops you can go to Bill Fortney's workshop site

Sunset at White Sands National Monument

Fuji X-T1 f/11 1/8 sec ISO 200 55-200mm @ 200mm

Jim Begley of WoW Photos HDR asked me to join him on a little photo scouting trip around New Mexico. We're looking for good locations in case we ever want to bring a photo workshop to New Mexico. It is such a fantastic state. We were truly blessed with some amazing sites. I'll share more as I get them edited. For this shot we walked about a mile from the parking lot to try and eliminate foot prints in the sand. A very hard prospect. I used the Fuji X-T1 with the 55-200mm lens at 200mm. 

Surf's Up


I shoot with a Fuji X-T1 as my primary camera now. I love this camera for the weight (if nothing else). I owned Canon and Nikon before this camera. I still own a lot of Nikon lenses, so I picked up a cheap Nikon to Fuji X mount adapter for it. Using this adapter, you give up auto focus. With focus peaking on the Fuji, I don't mind giving it up. I recently picked up a Nikon 300mm F/4 ED-IS lens for it. The shot above is the second shot I have even taken with this lens. I need practice, but what a lens / camera combo. On JPG high burst, I'd put this up against most set ups in this class. Would I shoot pro football with it? Not sure, but I would love to try :)  


It was daylight, so I really didn't need a tripod, but on an upcoming trip I want to pack really light. We are going for a canoe trip down the Colorado river, so I need something very versatile. I picked up a TrailPix. The TrailPix will allow me to convert my hiking poles into a small tripod. It's stable enough to work (a 2 second delay after pushing the shutter release stopped the shake) without adding a ton of weight. I was rugged enough to hold the Fuji X-T1 with the 300mm lens on it (about as much weigh as I would ever put on it). I would still use my heavier duty Induro or my Benro Travel flat tripod (great for packing in a suitcase).

You can see how far I am away from the beach. My guess is at least 100 yards.

His Light Faithful friends workshop at Shaker Village KY

This is my 3rd time at Shaker Village. A nice place to visit, but once you have been there a couple times, you kind of run out of steam.  So why did I go? The friends I have made on the various His Light Workshops all converged in that one location to just be together. I have talked about the fellowship before, but until you go on one of these trips, it's hard to understand. This is one of the most caring and giving groups of folks I have had the privilege to get to know. I love them all, like brothers and sisters. They help fill me back up, when I am feeling empty. Not everyone could attend, but I am sure glad a whole bunch of them did! A Man Named Jim Jelly-Beans-1 marbles Sad Flower wine glass

Alaska - Bald Eagle (captive)

Bald Eagle

This is a captive shot. This bird was in a cage (however, we did see a lot of eagles) with a missing wing. The light was amazing and I took with with my Fuji X-T1. The only processing is to crop it. I shot it in Velvia / Raw camera setting.

Top 10 Photo Workshop Tips

  1. Bring plenty of memory cards and make sure they are pre formatted. There is nothing like getting someplace to find out that you still have stuff on your memory cards. Having enough memory cards will allow you to pocket them after each day or location. Every day I shoot on a new card. That way if one gets lost or ends up corrupt I don’t loose the whole trips worth of shooting.
  2. Download your cards every day & bring a back up drive. Not only do I use a new card, but I download them on to my computer every day and also on to an external hard drive. The computer stays with me on the plane and the hard drive goes in my suitcase. Call me paranoid, but I know that I have all of my shots.
  3. Keep you batteries charged! Always have a spare battery on you and charge them every day. You never want to be caught with a dead battery. It’s the worst feeling in the world when you are sitting there watching a beautiful sunset and all the other photographers shooting it because your battery is dead. Hopefully some kind soul will have your brand and a spare, but never count on it!
  4. Know your camera. I don’t mean you need to know what every function and button does, but at least know the basics about your camera. We all have a lot to learn (especially me), but at least know the basics.
  5. Learn about the weather and be prepared for it. I always pack a little something extra for cold nights. I keep a hat and a pair of long under ware packed with me. they don’t take up that much extra space and I know I have them. You would be surprised on how often I’ll don an extra layer. It sucks being cold in the field. I almost always expect the weather folks to get it wrong by 10 degrees. So I pad into my packing for that.
  6. Bring a GPS for your vehicle and know how to use it. I have one on my phone and it comes in handy more often than not.
  7. Pack snacks and stay hydrated. All to often people are surprised when they don’t have dinner at a certain time. Sunrise and Sunset are usually the best times to shoot, which are right in the middle of dinner and breakfast. It’s a photo workshop, not an eating workshop. Sure you cane expect to have a good breakfast or dinner after you are done shooting, but it might be hours between them and the next meal. Alway carry some nuts or snack bars with you. They can take the edge off. Also stay hydrated! Drinking plenty of water has so many good side effects. Yeah, you might have to wander off into the woods to take a bio break, but it eats ending up in the hospital because of dehydration.
  8. Come to a workshop with a willingness to learn. Don’t be “that” person who thinks they know everything. If you are coming on a workshop in the first place it’s assumed you want to learn something. I learn LOTS of things every time I go. I learn a great deal from the attendees and love every second.
  9. Be flexible and have FUN! The instructors are doing their best with what they have. Often times thing happen that we can’t foresee. Mother Nature doesn’t cooperate, the county decides that it’s the perfect time to shut down the road for maintenance or you even see something out of the corner of your eye as you drive by and think, that would be awesome to shoot in this light. Have fun with it. It’s your workshop and only you can affect your mood about it.
  10. Follow the light. Sometimes you need to know when to shoot and when not to. If the light is bad, it’s going to be a bad shot. So don’t shoot it, admire it, but don’t press it. If you see something with great light, shoot it. I have come away from many workshops with images of “Why did I shoot that again?” and “WoW, I wasn’t expecting that, but I really like it!”
  11. It’s a like a baker’s dozen, I had to add one more. Know your limits. If you don’t think you can hike up that mountain, don’t give yourself a heart attack trying. Let everyone else go ad find something else to shoot. Often times you’ll find something just as interesting. If you don’t think you can make it to a morning shoot because you need rest, then sleep in. It’s not worth killing yourself and wrecking the rest of the trip. I have CPR and First Aid training, please don’t make me use it!

500 Rule

500 Rule This week over on The Snake Tips I critiqued an image that someone sent in about photographing the stars. In that post I talked about when the stars will start appear to "move or streak" while taking night time shots. Before you take the shot you can use the 500 Rule to approximate the maximum tile you can have your shutter open. It's also known as the 600 Rule and either can be used, 500 is a little more conservative. Remember it's just a starting point. Broken down you divid 500 by the "true" focal distance of your lens. The true focal length is the length after the crop sensor (Canon crop factor is 1.6 & Nikon {and Fuji} is 1.5). So for my 8mm Rokinon fisheye on my Fuji I can keep the shutter open for a max of 42 seconds before I start to see streaking in the stars. Is there math around this? Sure there is. Do you really want to see it? If so go to Star Circle Academy.   I found it interesting, but I am a bit of a math geek.

Light Painting


I had the good fortune to hang out with Dave Black at our His Light Workshops Shaker Village workshop. Dave is funny, kind, a great educator and just a fantastic guy. I know we'll hang out more in the future.  We did a lot of light painting in this workshop. Light painting is when you take a scene, expose it so that it's almost black. Then take a flashlight or other light source and only illuminate those objects you want your viewer to focus on. I am certainly going to be doing more of this in the future!

His Light Workshops presents New Orleans 2014


This will be our first workshop without Bill. We are hoping that it will be a great success! I've been researching and have found us a great hotel deal in the French Quarter. New Orleans, Louisiana – May 7th – 11th, 2014 Limited to 12 Attendees $995. Workshop Fee Leaders: Jim Begley, Chuck Barnes and Snake Barrett

Come join us as we travel around the iconic southern port city of New Orleans. We’ll hit the streets of the French Quarter taking images of the architecture, music and street scenes. Boarding a streetcar we will head for the Garden district to make photos of antebellum mansions and pristine gardens. We’ll stand on the steps at Jackson Square, sipping Cafe Au Lait or hot chocolate, eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde as we wait for sunset.

Even though we won’t be in the city during Mardi Gras, we will get to visit the largest working warehouse for storing and creating the fantastic floats that adorn the parade routes. Taking a short ferry ride across the great Mississippi River at night, will give us the opportunity to photograph the city lights.

We’ll stay on the edge of the French Quarter at great hotel. We don’t recommend that anyone rents a car, as parking is at a premium. We can walk to the French Quarter and hop streetcars to any other locations.

Come join us and as they say “Laissez les bons temps rouler” (Let the good times roll)


We take reservations as people contact us, usually by email or phone calls,  that they want to be included in one of our events. However a reservation is not complete until we receive the information below and a Deposit.

DEPOSITS – The deposit amount is specified with each workshop and it is due at the time of the actual booking of a workshop.  Your space in the workshop is not reserved until your deposit is received.  The full balance is due 60 days before the event.  If we do not receive the balance at that time we reserve the right to give your spot to the next person on the wait list. The deposit is $300.

You can mail a check of $300. to: Bill Fortney /His Light Workshops 160 Whirlaway Trail Corbin, KY   40701

If you cancel your workshop the following applies:

  • If cancellation is received at least 90 days prior to the start of a workshop, you will get a full refund, when we fill your space.
  • For cancellations received 31-89 days prior to the start of a workshop the deposit will be forfeited, but can be applied to a future workshop.
  • Cancellations received 0-30 days prior to the workshop, all deposits, and workshop’s fees will be forfeited.  However, 100% of forfeited funds can be applied to a future event.

If His Light has to cancel an event, all funds are completely refunded.

For space availability please reach me at: or call:  (606)-528-6119  Home Office   or   (606)-344-0455  Mobile phone