Don’t Believe Everything You Read

Screen capture: geography quiz question.

Last night I got sucked in to doing a U.S. Geography quiz (link below). I got every answer right until I came to this question: “This western state shares a border with west Kansas, and has its highest mountain peak at 6,800 feet, and the lowest valley at 3,317 feet below sea level?” As you can see, I was given four answers to choose from, Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, and Arkansas. The question and the answers are all wrong. Note that the quiz used a photo of Colorado mountains as a hint.

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Graceland University Graduation, May 1, 2022

Graceland University Graduation, Lamoni Iowa.

It was my happy privilege to photograph the 125th Commencement at Graceland University in Lamoni Iowa. Graceland is a special place. Both of my parents, my brother, and one of our children went to Graceland. I put together a selection of photos to post here, including all the picture taking after the ceremony. Click on any image to see a somewhat larger version.

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You Can Create High Quality Digital Images of Analog Prints, Even if You are Traveling

Doris. The digitized copy of an original print.

You can create high quality, high resolution digital images of analog prints, and you can do it on the road without having a flatbed scanner and computer with you. You probably have everything you need with the possible exception of a couple of small, inexpensive accessories (less than $10 each). This article will show you what to do, step by step.

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Series: Channeling My Inner . . .

This series of articles is devoted to several photographers and one painter that inspire me. Some of them I have known for decades. Others I have discovered in the last few years. Books by and about them line my bookshelves. Each article has examples of my work and their work. That does not mean I am as good as they are. But I keep trying. Their work has somehow become a part of me. We can all learn from people who do such outstanding work.

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Happy Birthday, John Muir!

John Muir

John Muir

Today is John Muir’s birthday! He was born April 21, 1838. He had a profound influence on how Americans viewed our wild lands and his influence led to the establishment of many of our National Parks and other protected lands. He was nicknamed “The Father of our National Parks”. Tomorrow, April 22, is also Earth Day, so I am combining the two in this article.

Here are photos from some of my favorite national and state parks along with quotes from John Muir.

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The Best National Parks to Photograph in Spring

 Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park. Texas.

Ocotillo. Big Bend National Park, Texas.

Which national parks are at their very best in the spring? If I could go on a fabulous spring photography trip to the national parks of my choice, all expenses paid, which ones would I pick? Here are my choices, grouped by state from west to east. This list includes the favorites I have been to and want to go back to again, plus the ones I haven’t seen and most want to photograph.

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Saturday Night Dance Performance at Graceland University

Dance Performance, Living Art Studios and the Graceland Gadets. March 19, 2022.

The dance classes at Living Art Studios in Lamoni Iowa teamed up with the Graceland Gadets for a dance performance Saturday night at Graceland University’s Shaw Auditorium. A large and appreciative crowd thoroughly enjoyed the evening. The Gadets alternated numbers with the dance classes. As the last indoor performance of the year for the Gadets, individuals were given awards for the year, and all of the senior Gadets were recognized.

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Searching for a Photo Location

Western Scrub-Jay
Western Scrub-Jay, Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife, Fremont California. January 9, 2014.

In late February I set out to find the location of my best Western Scrub-Jay photos, taken January 9, 2014. Why? Partly out of curiosity and partly because photo editors are asking for GPS coordinates of the nature and wildlife photos they might publish. 8 years ago my serious cameras did not have built in GPS units.

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How To Set A Custom White Balance on Your Digital Camera

Jennifer before and after setting a custom white balance.

To get the most accurate colors your camera is capable of creating you need to set a custom white balance. Every camera does this a little differently, but it involves taking a picture of an 18% gray card (or something pure white) and using that photo as a standard to create a custom white balance setting. I will show you the process with a Canon camera, but other brands should be somewhat similar. Check your camera’s manual for specific instructions.

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MARTIN LUTHER KING – “I have a dream” – text

Martin Luther King Jr.
Martin Luther King Jr.

Today is Martin Luther King Day in the United States. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born January 15, 1929. He was a Baptist minister and a prominent civil rights advocate. King was the youngest person to receive a Nobel Peace Prize when it awarded to him in 1964. He was assassinated April 4, 1968 in Memphis, Tennessee.

One of his most famous speeches was delivered at the Lincoln Memorial August 28, 1963. Often referred to as the “I have a dream” speech, it is one of the most significant and powerful speeches of the 20th century. A portion of the speech follows. Links to the full speech and an audio file are at the end of this post.

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“Vincent” (Starry, Starry Night) by Don McClean

Vincent van Gogh lived a tortured life. He suffered from poor health and struggled with depression. He spent occasional periods of time in psychiatric hospitals. In an angry confrontation that ended his friendship with artist Paul Guaguin, he famously severed part of his own left ear with a razor. He ultimately took his own life with a gun shot wound to the chest at the age of 37. During his life he was considered a madman and a failure. Appreciation for his art did not happen until after his death. He is one of my favorite artists. Don McLean wrote this beautiful and haunting reflection on his life. Paintings by Van Gogh were added by “wysty67”, the creator this video.

Snowy Owl Photography: Solving A Photo Problem (And the Right Way to Exit Your Vehicle)

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

When I am traveling with my highly trained and high paid photographic assistant it is his job to remove trash barrels when they are in the way, cut down trees that spoil my view, run out into the meadow and scare off the cow elk that are in front of the bull elk I want to photograph, rip boards off of old barns that don’t look quite distressed enough, pull on the whiskers of a sleeping cougar to wake it up, and cut down utility lines that are obstructing a clear view of my subject. But he wasn’t with me on this trip due to sitting in jail over a minor incident in Yosemite. So I had a challenge on my hands that I had to solve myself.

I am kidding, of course. The prior paragraph was inspired by really crazy things a few photographers do but shouldn’t be doing.

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Snowy Owl Photography: Control the Background for Better Images

Snowy Owl, Photo Location 1

Snowy Owl, Photo Location P1

A simple change of background can turn a disappointing wildlife photo into a great one. Professional wildlife photographers think about backgrounds all the time and do everything they can to improve the background. Less experienced wildlife photographers are so excited to find an interesting creature that they give the background precious little thought.

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A Snowy Owl Photo Expedition

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

What is a Snowy Owl expedition really like? This article is your chance to find out. Join me for a two day photo safari! I give you tips and photo suggestions along the way, and you get to see how I prepare, plan, and adapt on a photo trip. I tell you what went right and what went wrong so this is also about what to do when things don’t go according to plan.

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How to Find and Photograph Snowy Owls

Snowy Owl Sightings, January 2022

 

Winter is your opportunity to photograph Snowy Owls. When it is cold enough and there is enough snow cover, snowy owls move down into the northern U.S. The colder it is the farther south they move. If conditions are right, don’t delay. If the winter turns warmer the snowy owls will head back north.

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Lens Apertures, f-stops, and Depth of Field

50mm lens, aperture blades at f/8.

Almost every lens has a more or less round “aperture”, the opening that lets light through to the sensor or film. Most modern lenses have aperture blades that open and close to change the size of the opening. You can see the aperture blades in this photo. Larger apertures obviously let in more light in a given period of time and smaller apertures let in less light in the same period of time. The size of the aperture opening is one factor that determines the exposure. Just as important, the size of the aperture helps determine the depth of field in each image.

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Step By Step: How to Get Blurred Backgrounds with an iPhone

Using portrait mode to blur a background.

How do you make your subjects “pop” by blurring the background when you are using an iPhone? To get the maximum amount of blurriness there are several step involved, most of them after you click the shutter. I will take you through the process, step-by-step- complete with illustrations. I used an iPhone 11 for this step by step guide. If you have a different model the options and screen layouts might look different.

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