Category Archives: Weekly Column

A weekly column featuring various images, locations, photographic techniques, and projects

Some Place WARM!

It’s been a very cold week in central Ohio with temperatures in the teens during the day and single digits at night so I couldn’t help thinking about being some place warm like a nice beach!  As I write this, it’s 16 degrees and snowing outside.


Sanibel Island Florida sunset with a Fisherman – Click image to enlarge


My thoughts drifted to the warmest place I’ve been recently which was Sanibel Island in Florida when Lisa and I were there on vacation back in October 2012.  As I mentioned in a previous post, we had a great time in Sanibel.  We were walking along the beach one evening and were treated to the beautiful sunset you see above.  As we watched the sun sink below the horizon with some nice clouds hanging above the horizon we could tell that it would be a very colorful sunset.  Of course, I had my camera with me just in case there was anything interesting to photograph.   Fortunately, just ahead of us was a fisherman standing in the surf and beyond him two other people throwing out nets so I was able to include them in my composition.  The next image was taken a few minutes later and is very similar but in this shot a very cooperative seagull landed not too far in front of me and positioned itself nicely so I could include it.  Believe it or not, both of these images were taken hand held!!  Without today’s low noise, high ISO capable camera sensors and image stabilized lens technology it would not have been possible to capture sharp images like these, hand held in such low light.  Both images were captured with a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, and a Canon EF 24-105mm f/4 IS (image stabilized) L lens.  Camera settings for the first image were 1/80 sec at f/11, focal length 75mm, ISO 1600, and 1/50 sec at f/11, focal length 75mm, ISO 1600 for the second image.


Sanibel Island Sunset with seagull – Click image to enlarge


Just looking at these images again make me feel nice and warm… doubt the cup of hot tea I’m drinking right now probably helps too!


You can see more of my photography of Sanibel Island in my Sanibel Captiva Island gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Also posted in General Photography Tagged , |

Ansel Adams

I am a big fan of Ansel Adams and I’ve been reading a new book about Ansel and his photographs titled “Looking At Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man” by Andrea G. Stillman.  I’ve learned a lot from Ansel’s teachings and photography so I thought I’d use this post to talk about him briefly.

Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico by Ansel Adams – Click image to enlarge

Ansel Adams (1902 – 1984) is America’s most honored photographer and is best known for his stunning black and white photographs of the American West and Yosemite National Park in particular.  His ability to pre-visualize a particular scene and then print it the way he had visualized it was unsurpassed.  Ansel was also one of America’s most influential and effective environmental advocates.  His persistent advocacy helped expand the National Park system, and laid the foundation for the park system we have today.  He has an extraordinary body of published writing – his autobiography, picture books, technical manuals, articles, and lectures.  Today, almost 30 years after his death his photographs are very popular and still reproduced on calendars, posters, and in books.  In 2006 a print of Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico made in December 1948 sold at a Sotheby’s auction in New York for $609,600!  Among his many credits, Ansel developed the Zone System with Fred Archer as a way to determine proper exposure and adjust the contrast of the final print.  He was elected a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1966 and in 1980 President Jimmy Carter awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States.  Ansel’s photograph “The Tetons and the Snake River” has the distinction of being one of 115 images recorded on the Voyager Golden Record aboard the Voyager 1 spacecraft.  Amazingly, Voyager 1 is now more than 11 billion miles from Earth, still partially operating more than 35 years after launch and is nearing interstellar space!  Ansel’s lasting legacy is helping to elevate photography to an art comparable with painting and music, equally capable of expressing emotion and beauty.

Regarding  the book,  “Looking At Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man,” Andrea Stillman worked closely with Ansel for seven years in the 1970’s as his executive assistant at his home in Carmel, California.  For the book Andrea selected 20 of Ansel’s photographs based on whether it was one his best, whether it had a compelling story, preferably told by Ansel, and did it illuminate some facet of his life – either personal or artistic.  She then developed a chapter around each.  10 of the photographs are considered his greatest such as Moonrise, Hernandez, New Mexico, Monolith: The Face of Half Dome, and Clearing Winter Storm.  With this book, Andrea wanted to bring Ansel to life and to encourage people to look at his photographs anew.  In my opinion she succeeded brilliantly.   Each chapter is filled with interesting information about the particular photograph it discusses and gives a fascinating insight into the story behind the photo.  Chapters 9 and 1o about Clearing Winter Storm, and Moonrise, Hernandez are wonderful.  Chapter 9 about Clearing Winter Storm chapter includes a diagram Ansel drew to guide him in printing it.  Chapter 10 about Moonrise, Hernandez has a picture of the original negative and various prints Ansel made over the years showing how he worked to achieve a print equal to his original visualization of the scene.   The book is excellent and I highly recommend it!

Clearing Winter Storm by Ansel Adams – Click image to enlarge

One of Ansel’s many defining gifts was his ability to approach new things with curiosity and enthusiasm.  Ansel saw the digital photography revolution coming.  A year before in died in a May 1983 interview with Playboy Magazine, Ansel gave his thoughts about the future of photography, he said:

In electronics, the technology we have now can do far more than film.  As the world’s silver resources are depleted, these new technologies are particularly important…..Electronic photography will soon be superior to anything we have now.  The first advance will be exploration of existing negatives.  I believe the electronic processes will enhance them.  Then the time will come when you will be able to make the entire photograph electronically.  With the extremely high resolution and the enormous control you can get from electronics, the results will be fantastic.  I wish I were young again!

I believe that if Ansel were alive today he would have fully embraced digital photography in every way.  Given the techniques Ansel used to develop his negatives and make his prints; mixing various chemicals, dodging and burning, using different papers, etc., he did in the “chemical” darkroom what we can now do on our computers using the digital darkroom and we have more control today than he ever dreamed possible.

Below is my first view of Yosemite Valley in May 2008.  While maybe my image isn’t quite up to Ansel’s standards, my first experience seeing the valley was just as exciting and special as Ansel’s was in 1916!

Yosemite Valley by Jeff Sagar, May 2008 – Click image to enlarge

If you’d like to read more about Ansel Adams and his photography, I recommend the following resources all of which can be found on the world wide web.

Ansel Adams: An Autobiography

Ansel Adams: A Biography by Mary Street Alinder

Looking At Ansel Adams: The Photographs and the Man by Andrea G. Stillman

Ansel Adams in the National Parks by Ansel Adams

Yosemite and the High Sierra by Ansel Adams

Yosemite by Ansel Adams

Ansel Adams: Examples, The Making of 40 Photographs by Ansel Adams

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Everglades National Park

With the support of many early conservationists, scientists, and other advocates, Everglades National Park was established in 1947 to conserve the natural landscape and prevent further degradation of its land, plants, and animals.  Protecting 1.5 million acres (2,400 square miles) Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.  It is an unparalleled landscape that is home to many rare and endangered plant and animal species like the manatee, American crocodile and the elusive Florida panther.  It has been designated a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, and Wetland of International Importance, significant to ALL people of the world.

Lisa and I only spent part of a day in and around the Everglades and given the size of the park we were only able to see a very small part of it.  However, even a few hours spent there was worth it.  There is no other place on Earth like it.

I am not an experienced wildlife photographer (I’m working on it), but I was very excited to have the chance to photograph all the fantastic birds, alligators and other wildlife in their natural habitat.  I’m very pleased with this shot of an American Alligator (shown below), it posed very nicely for me!   The shot was taken on Lake Tafford, about 40 miles southeast of Fort Myers, Florida which is not part of Everglades National Park.  We were in an airboat and came across this adult alligator which was maybe 10 feet long.  Using my Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II L lens with a Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 280mm on a Canon 5D Mark III body I was able to completely fill the frame with the alligator’s head.  Although not considered a “wildlife” lens, the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 IS II L in combination with the 1.4x extender works well if you aren’t too far away from your subject.  Alligators prefer freshwater, but will sometime enter more brackish water (water that has more salinity than freshwater, but not as much as seawater) or even saltwater for short periods of time. What a menacing look….I would not want to meet one of these in the water face to face!


American Alligator – Click image to enlarge


Red Mangroves thrive in subtropical areas so they are very common along Florida’s coastlines in brackish water and in swampy salt marshes.  Because they are well adapted to salt water, they thrive where many other plants fail and create their own ecosystems.  As you can see in the image below, Red Mangroves are easily distinguishable through their unique prop roots system.  The prop roots suspend it over the water giving it extra support and protection.


Red Mangroves of the Everglades – Click image to enlarge


I managed to catch this wonderful Great Blue Heron right after it lifted out of the water.  I would guess its wingspan was about 6 feet.  I was fortunate to be on the right side of the boat and had a clear view of it as it lifted into the air and flew to my left.  If you look closely you can see water droplets falling from its legs.


Great Blue Heron – Click image to enlarge


You can see more of my photography from the Everglades in my gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Also posted in National Parks Tagged |

Sanibel & Captiva Islands

Sanibel and Captiva are barrier islands that lie a few miles off the west coast of Fort Myers, Florida.  My wife Lisa and I recently vacationed there and had a wonderful time.  To the credit of the residents and friends of the island, they have protected the island from over-development and have kept it from becoming another high-rise, fast food tourist trap.  About 45% of Sanibel has been set aside for the preservation of natural habitats by organizations like the Nature Conservancy.  Over 5,000 acres on the bay side of the island is the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, named in honor of the Pulitzer prize-winning political cartoonist and wildlife system pioneer Jay Norwood Darling.  The rest of the island is privately owned but is subject to the laws of a strict Land Use Plan. With the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve less than a 2 hour drive from Sanibel, this whole area of southwestern Florida is a wildlife photographer’s dream!  Add to this beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and shell covered beaches (the beaches of Sanibel and Captiva are considered among the best shelling areas in the world) you’re in a photographer’s wonderland.

The week Lisa and I vacationed on the island just happened to coincide with a week of special events held annually at the J. N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge called “Ding Darling Days.”  One of the special days closed the refuge to all vehicular traffic so you could walk or bike all the trails without any cars around.  We took advantage of this opportunity and rode the 8-mile round-trip Wildlife Trail through the refuge.  We saw numerous birds including the Roseate Spoonbill, Great Blue Heron, Little Blue Heron, White Ibis, and a Reddish Egret.  We were amazed at how close we could get to the birds without them flying off.  The Yellow-crowned Night-Heron below was feeding along the edge of the water and we had just watched it eat a small tree crab.  I was about 10 feet from it when I got this shot.  Serious wildlife and bird photography usually requires a long telephoto lens in the range of 400mm – 800mm to properly fill the frame with often small and distant subjects.  These lenses are very expensive so I was very happy that some of the birds let me get close since I was using a moderate telephoto Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom lens!


Yellow-crowned Night Heron – Click image to enlarge

In addition to all the wildlife, the sunrises and sunsets are spectacular on Sanibel and Captiva.  From where we were staying on the island, the sun rose directly behind the city of Fort Myers so all the buildings were silhouetted on the horizon and along with some nice clouds to reflect the beautiful light of the rising sun, the sunrises were wonderful.  The image below was taken the morning of our last day on the island, and was the best sunrise of the week.


Sanibel sunrise – Click image to enlarge

One final thought if you plan to visit the island….it’s a wonderful place to relax, enjoy the beach, bike, sightsee, and eat great food especially in mid-October after all the summer tourists have gone.  However, there is a very tiny biting insect called a “no-see-um” that you need to know about.  They are worst at dawn and dusk and their bites cause itchy red bumps that last for days.  Lisa and I have been home almost a week and the itching has finally stopped and the bumps are starting to go away.  We had some good insect spray which helped a little but wasn’t greatly effective.  We found out too late from some local islanders that a coating of Avon Skin Soft applied to all exposed body parts will keep them from biting.  Be sure to get some Benadryl spray or hydrocortisone cream, either will relieve the itching!

To see more of my photography of Sanibel and Captiva Islands as well as Everglades National Park, please visit my gallery here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Central Ohio Metro Parks – Part 2

As a continuation of my post on Metro Parks a few weeks (found here), today I want to feature Battelle Darby Creek and Highbanks Meto Parks.

We are fortunate here in central Ohio to have a great Metro Parks system that is strongly supported by the community.  The Metro Parks system was originally established in 1945, and today is made up of 16 parks with more than 175 miles of trails, 26,000 acres of land and water in 7 central Ohio counties.  Each year more than 6 million people visit the parks to escape the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives to discover and experience nature.


Big Barby Creek – Click image to enlarge

The image above is a view of Big Darby Creek, a state and national scenic river from which the park gets its name.  Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park is the largest Metro Park in the system with a little over 7,000 acres of prairies, fields, and forests and 18 miles of trails.  Big and Little Darby Creeks are noted nationally for their tremendous diversity and abundance of both aquatic and terrestrial plants and animals.  The creeks are home to about 100 species of fish, and 44 species of freshwater mussels.   To find out more about Battelle Darby Creek Metro Park, visit their website here.


Lone maple leaf – Click image to enlarge

Fall has arrived in central Ohio and the image of a lone leaf floating in a small creek along the Dripping Rock Trail in Highbanks Metro Park seemed appropriate.  Even though we’re only 5 days into the fall season, the trees are already starting to show some color.  The blue sky 75 degree days and cool crisp nights are a welcome relief from the hot, humid 90+ degree days we had this past summer.  Highbanks is named for its 100-foot high shale bluffs that tower over the Olentangy State Scenic River.  The park has 11 miles of trails that take hikers through oak-hickory, and beech-maple flood plain hardwood forests.  Highbanks is also rich in Native American history.  The park contains 2 Adena Indian burial mounds and a prehistoric earthwork.  To find out more about Highbanks Metro Park, visit their website here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Muir Woods National Monument

Giant Redwood of Muir Woods National Monument – Click image to enlarge

Muir Woods National Monument is a remnant of the ancient coast redwood forests that covered many northern California coastal valleys before the 1800’s.  In 1905, local San Francisco businessman William Kent and his wife Elizabeth Thacher Kent bought 611 acres along Redwood Creek to protect one of the last uncut stands of old-growth redwoods from logging.  To ensure permanent protection of the redwoods, the Kents donated 295 acres of the land to the Federal Government.  President Theodore Roosevelt created Muir Woods National Monument in January of 1908.  President Roosevelt suggested naming the area after Kent, but at Kent’s request it was named after the famous conservationist John Muir, thus the name Muir Woods National Monument.  Thanks to the inspiration of John Muir and the generous gift of the Kent family, 104 years later we are still able to experience this ancient old-growth forest.  Today we are entrusted to protect this awe-inspiring place for future generations.

I have the good fortune to have family living in Mill Valley California, and for my visit to Muir Woods I was able to hike to the park from their house!  The Coast Redwoods are the tallest living things on Earth, the tallest in Muir Woods is over 252 feet and is at least 1,000 years old.  To walk among these trees is truly a humbling experience, and my images do not do these magnificent living things justice.  It is of the utmost importance that we preserve and protect these trees and other natural resources that cannot be replaced.


Sunbeam through the Redwoods – Click image to enlarge


If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Central Ohio Metro Parks

We are fortunate here in central Ohio to have a great Metro Parks system that is strongly supported by the community.  The Metro Parks system was originally established in 1945, and today is made up of 16 parks with more than 175 miles of trails, 26,000 acres of land and water in 7 central Ohio counties.  Each year more than 6 million people visit the parks to escape the hustle and bustle of their everyday lives to discover and experience nature.  For nature photographers, it’s wonderful to have all these parks with almost unlimited photographic opportunities available without having to travel very far!  In today’s post I feature images from Slate Run Metro Park and Inniswood Metro Gardens.

Restored 1800’s era covered bridge – Click image to enlarge

The image above is of a restored 1800’s era covered bridge in Slate Run Metro Park taken in the fall.  With the name “Slate Run” you’d think that the land beneath the park was slate rock, but the early settlers mistook the dark soil for slate.  It’s actually shale, a softer rock made from clay deposited millions of years ago.  The park covers 1,705 acres and has about 12 miles of trails that take you through open fields, forests, ravines and grasslands.  The park also features the Slate Run Living Historical Farm where visitors can learn about and help with chores on a working 1880’s farm.  To find out more about Slate Run Metro Park, visit their website here.

Below is an image from Inniswood Metro Gardens and is taken from inside the Herb Hut looking out into the surrounding herb garden.  I like the picture within a picture effect of this composition as you look through the circular window covered with vines out into the surrounding garden.  It reminds me of the round doors and windows of the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional Middle-earth described in his “Lord of the Rings” novels.

Inside the Herb Hut look out – Click image to enlarge

Inniswood Metro Gardens is set within a scenic nature preserve and features many special gardens filled with beautifully landscaped flowerbeds, rock gardens and lawns.  The park boasts more than 2,000 species of plants, specialty collections of hostas, daffodils, daylilies, and several theme gardens including the rose, herb, and woodland rock garden.  To find out more about Inniswood Metro Gardens, visit their website here.

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

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Ohio Farm Sunset

Like many places in the USA this summer, central Ohio has been very hot and dry.  At last count, we’ve had 4 100+ degree days for a total of 43 days with temperatures over 90 degrees, WHEW!  We’ve been lucky in my area and have gotten some rain from a few late afternoon pop-up thunderstorms that passed over us.  Unfortunately there haven’t been very many nice sunsets with clouds turned red, orange, and pink by the setting sun, but this past Saturday we were blessed with just such a sunset so I thought I’d share it with you.


Rural Ohio Farm sunset – Click image to enlarge

This scene is of a farm in southern Union County Ohio surrounded by many acres of soybeans just a few minutes after sunset.  While driving in the area one day I spotted it and made a mental note that it might be a good location for a sunset shoot!  I got there about 30 minutes before sunset and as I looked at the scene I could tell that the sun would set right behind the farm houses from my vantage point.  The sky had nice puffy clouds that were already beginning to show beautiful pinks, oranges, yellows and reds.  The sky is what I wanted to emphasize in my image, but I had to decide how much of the rest of the landscape I wanted to include.  I could show the whole dynamic range of the scene using graduated neutral density filters or HDR processing techniques, but with acres and acres of soybeans in front of me, showing a lot of detail in the soybean field would really distract from the beautiful sky.  I finally decided to show just a little detail in the soybean field and the farm buildings.  To accomplish this I used a combination of several graduated neutral density filters for a total of 6 stops of filtration to maximize the sky’s colors and give the soybean field and farm buildings just enough exposure to show some detail and the warm glow of the sunset.

For about 30-45 minutes after sunset, the sky changes every minute and you just never know what you might see so don’t pack up your gear and leave too soon, the show might not be over!  The second image below was taken about 30 minutes after sunset, and in it you can see some unusual faint orange-red beams of sunlight against a darkening sky.   Not more than a minute or two after I took this image all the color was gone.  I really enjoyed nature’s show and was glad I made the effort to go out and experience it.  It was a very peaceful and beautiful end to the day.


30 minutes after sunset – click image to enlarge

If you have any questions about this website or my photography, I’d love to hear from you.  Please click here to email me.

Also posted in Photographic Technique Tagged |

Tennis anyone?

USA’s Serena Williams – Click image to enlarge

My wife and I are big tennis fans so this past Tuesday we travelled to Mason, OH. (just north of Cincinnati, OH) to take in the Western & Southern Open tennis tournament.  The tournament, played at the Lindner Family Tennis Center is a top tier tour stop for both the men and women of the ATP and WTA tours.  All the top players like Roger Federer, Andy Murray, Serena Williams and Sam Stosur were there so if you like tennis and photography, this is the place to be!

This tournament and Cincinnati have quite a history.  Since 1899, just 25 years after the first recorded playing of the sport in the United States, tennis tournaments have been staged in Cincinnati, and what is now known as the Western & Southern Open is the country’s oldest professional tennis event still played in its original city.

Having attended the tournament for a number of years, I had a good idea of where I’d be shooting from so I knew what lenses would be the best to use.  Except for Center Court and the Grandstand Court, all the other courts are smaller so a zoom lens with a focal length range of 70-200mm is perfect.  For the Center and Grandstand courts a 300mm lens or longer is best.  Having carried around 2 lenses all day at the tournament in the past, I knew that 2 lenses get really heavy by the end of the day so this year I opted for a lighter load and only carried one lens, the Canon EF 300mm f/4 IS.  I was also excited to give the 61-point auto focus system on my Canon 5D Mark III a workout, and it was impressive.  Out of almost 1000 images there was only “one” slightly out of focus.  I used “Case 2” of the 6 available AF Configuration Tool Prests.  Case 2 is set up so that even when a subject momentarily moves from the selected AF points, the camera will continue to focus-track the subject.  The camera will also continue to focus-track the subject even if another object gets in the way.  This is prefect for tennis.  For the most part, I set the camera to aperture priority mode (Av) with an aperture of f/5.6, ISO at 400 and shot away.


Great Britian’s Andy Murray, currently ranked #3 in the world – Click image to enlarge

You can see more tennis images from the tournament my Tennis Gallery here.  If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

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Middle Prong of the Little River

Cascade and rocks along the river – Click image to enlarge

On the Little River Road in Great Smoky Mountains National Park going towards Cades Cove about 100 yards west of the intersection of the road from Townsend, TN., (known as the Townsend “Y”), take a left turn at the sign pointing to the Smoky Mountain Institute and you’ll enter the Tremont section of the park.  Many people visiting the park miss this area completely since they are on their way to Cades Cove, one of the Park’s most popular spots.  I think the Tremont area is one of the most beautiful areas of the park, and definitely should not be missed.  If you want to escape the crowds in Cades Cove and other popular areas and treat yourself to a little solitude and great photography, this is the place!


Boulders in the river – Click image to enlarge

On your left will be the Middle Prong of the Little River, and you’ll immediately see many opportunities for great photography.  Stay on this road and after about 2 miles the road turn to gravel.  This is where the best photography begins.  Take your time once you reach the gravel road because there are many “photo ops” along the river.  The best light is during the morning or evening “magic hours” or on an overcast, foggy, misty kind of day.  Make sure you have a polarizing filter with you, it will be needed to control reflections and saturate colors in the foliage.  The gravel road ends after 3 miles with a beautiful elevated view of the Middle Prong that you see below.  This image was taken in October 2011.


Fall along the Middle Prong of the Little River – Click image to enlarge

You can see more images of the Middle Prong of the Little River in my Great Smoky Mountains Gallery here.  If you have any questions about this website or my photography, please click here to email me.

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