Last-minute Gifts from The Guild

Last-minute Gifts from the Guild for the Holidays

This is my last-minute gift to you!

I’m offering a gift code on Fine Art America for 25% off any artwork on my FAA gallery between today and December 24th. So if you have thought of giving a gift of artwork then this is a perfect time.
Photography Prints
The code is HLXVCD which you can put in as you are filling in the purchase.

~ Jeff Folger


15 Winter Photography Tips

Spring Thaw!

New England winters are awesome! Winter is my favorite season, and my favorite time to shoot. It is such a rewarding season for photography. The light, morning and night, is often incredible. Sunrise and sunsets are at easy-to-shoot hours. Transformations of landscape happen overnight. That said, it pays to be prepared. Being just 15 minutes from a car can turn into a scary situation if the weather turns quickly, or if you have what would have been a small accident in warmer weather.

Winter Photography Tips

1.  Dress for the season. Okay – this seems silly. This is New England. Winter is cold. Very cold. If you are out shooting, even from a vehicle, dress for winter. Dress in layers. No cotton. Invest in good waterproof winter boots.

2. Rethink what’s in your bag. Simplify. Hauling a fully loaded camera bag on winter hikes is tough. When hiking I often only carry a body with a 16-35mm or 24-105mm. Adding a small prime for variety and portraits. Make it easy.

3. Be careful with tripod legs. Jamming them into a settled snow bank fully extended can flex, overstress and break them. Try not opening them fully.

4. Look for winter abstracts! They are everywhere.

Atlantic Ice

5. Warm your batteries. Keep batteries in waterproof bags close to your body. Nothing is worse than hiking 30 minutes, or 3 hours, to a shoot, only to find yourself with drained batteries.

6. Gloves. Spend time finding good gloves. For the past several years I have worn one pair of windproof power shield gloves in all weather down to 20 degrees. They were my perfect gloves. Unfortunately some critter decided to nibble several big holes in each glove last summer. I am on the hunt again for my perfect glove.

7. Subtle light is great light!

New Ice in Hopkinton NH

8. Invest in a rain/snow cover. They can be had from under 10 bucks to over $500. Spend a little to protect your gear, then get out shooting in the snow. Nothing better!

9. Watch your footprints! After a fresh snow it is so easy to rush into a new scene looking for the perfect composition… only to discover you have just trampled the snow in your perfect composition by rushing into the new location. Slow and easy win the race.

10. Be extremely careful around open water, moving water, on ice . . . always. The ocean as well. What is slippery rock in other seasons can turn virtually impassable with a thin coat of ice. Invest in whatever winter traction you need to stay safe. Microspikes are permanently attached to my winter shooting bag.

11. Late sunrise, early sunset. There is no easier season to be a landscape shooter. Prepare. Get there early.

Canterbury Shaker Winter

12. The ocean – sea smoke. Frigid time to shoot, but so moving!

13. Overexpose – expose to the right! When shooting snow scenes, use exposure compensation to push your expose a stop or so toward overexposed, without blowing highlights. Digital camera meters read everything as 18% gray. Your camera will try to make your white that same gray. Fix it in the field.

14. That said, shoot RAW! If you don’t, why? Simple RAW conversion is easy these days, and memory is cheap.

15. Warm your camera slowly. If you have been out for several hours in a cold environment, leave your camera in your bag for several hours indoors to let it slowly warm up. This is a simple way to avoid water condensation inside your body.

Get prepared, and get out and shoot this winter. Post your winter images on the NEPG Facebook page. I’d love to see them.


~ Scott Snyder


Lucky versus being good, one in the same?

Jeff is on Twitter if you’d like to follow along with him

Are you lucky or do you just consider yourself good?

The two are intertwined and very rarely am I one without the other. Being good means I have learned my craft and my camera, to the point I can create images that I plan on making. When I shot weddings I could look at a venue and see possibilities. I saw what I wanted the end result to be and my experience and technical capabilities allowed me to make the pictures that I saw in my mind’s eye.

Full red moon rising over Salem harbor as seen from Salem's Winter Island

Full moon rising caught me off guard, Purchase this image!

Lucky versus being good in landscape photography

The reason for being in the right place at the right time is always a part of what we do. How many photographer bio’s or art pages states: “I never leave home without my camera” or something similar?

Does this mean you are just lucky?

You always bring a camera with you so you may be “lucky” or simply ready for the unexpected. This is an aspect of being good at what you do. Based on your experience you see the event [image] and you are prepared to take advantage of the situation.

Right Place, at the Right Time

To me this is 20% luck and 80% experience. Last summer, I ran a store in Salem (The 4 corners of New England) on the Pickering Wharf water front. Each day I would bring along my camera and 95% of the time it sat on a back table unused. But one day in early August I started to get mobile weather alerts about a line of heavy rain squalls moving down through Essex County.

I started to check my camera to make sure I had a CF card in there because the possibility for severe weather passing my way was good. As every “Good” photographer will tell you, Bad weather is an opportunity for great photos. Being on the waterfront and Salem’s tall ship, the Friendship tied up along Derby Wharf, I was hoping for some great elements.

Storm squalls pass the Friendship with ominous dark clouds and rain showers

Storm squalls pass the Friendship


Soon I was rewarded with ominous, dark thunderheads passing quickly over head. I locked  my front door, walking over towards the ship. The winds were whipping pretty good and I took shelter in the leeward side of Captn’s seafood restaurant. A good-sized rain squall was passing all by itself on the other side of the Friendship which is what you see here.

I love the dramatic nature of stormy weather. Apparently people agree because I went home and the next day started selling greeting cards to my customers who lover the stormy nature of the scene.

BUT!  The story doesn’t end there!

Experience tells me that if I’m “Lucky” the sun will break out through the clouds or since it was after 4PM maybe even under the cloud deck.   This was to be one of those days when many factors come together to make me “Lucky”.

The storm was fierce but short lived and the sun did indeed come out low in the sky. This means I may have several options.

  1. First I could have a Rainbow
  2. Next a dramatic sky with late afternoon warming light
  3. Possibly a red sky sunset with the clouds lit by the setting sun.

What I got was 2 out of 3!

I did get a small rainbow over the Friendship but I also had the smoke stacks of the power plant and the composition didn’t thrill me.

I saw a Partial rainbow over the Friendship but the rainbow didn't really fully materialize

Partial rainbow over the Friendship

I walked around for a while and the light started to turn a golden hue and the thunder heads were still very evident but had become brighter and shades of white, also lit by the late afternoon sun.

This turns out to be the best shots of the day. The golden light with the vibrant blue sky and the billowing white thunderheads over the Friendship and the tide was mid level so I had a beautiful reflection of the sky, clouds and ship.

The late afternoon sunlight bathes the ship in golden light which contrasts with the blue of the sky and water.

The storm clears and the ship is bathed in golden light

The storm clouds moved south towards Boston so the reflected light off the clouds over the ship never materialized. I went home and worked the images and made cards of this to sell in the store the next day also…

Lessons learned

The take-away is that being lucky by itself isn’t really enough.  You MAY! get an image here or there that gets people’s attention but you also have to learn to recognize the opportunities which comes down to experience.

Being in the right place at the right time is the first part, then “Knowing” how to take advantage of the “opportunity” is the other side of it.

I don’t always plan for a given shot, instead I will grab my camera and go to the seashore,  downtown, or Cape Ann, (pick your pleasure here) and see what inspires me.

So when I hear someone say “I’ll never be that good!“, I’m mystified. I can’t speak for everyone but when I started out, I had trouble focusing on the right subject. My composition has always been pretty good but over the years I’ve taken hundreds of thousands of pictures and most were… Less than perfect! How do you build the experience to “know” how to take advantage of a situation? Practice!

Today’s cameras make it so easy but you still have to read the manual, read magazines or take seminars. Either way you slice it, none of the great photographers simply “Knew” how and what to do but with experience they learned. The same way you are learning.

They used their experience with luck (preparation) to create their perfect image.

Which are you? Lucky or good or better yet… both?

Jeff”Foliage” Folger
View my work on Fine Art America
I’m on Twitter as @Foliage_Reports for everything New England
I also Blog about the fall foliage in New England so if you have planning questions or just want to see my beautiful photography of New England fall foliage.
I also have my Vistaphotography Fine Art and Stock Photography.

Images in this article are available in my online gallerys

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Pseudo-HDR Pans

How can you get more sharpness, depth-of-field, resolution, and dynamic range than you’re entitled to get?  You simply violate “the rules” and work some Photoshop magic.

This is NOT an article on being sloppy and fixing it in Photoshop. Instead it describes a way to use modern digital tools to quickly and easily produce images you simply can’t get by taking a single shot. I use the term Pseudo-HDR Pans here. However, there are various embodiments of this concept with different names but with a common element of combining two or more images.

When I teach my classes how to shoot and stitch panoramas I give them a set of “rules”: use a tripod, use manual focus, use manual exposure, and lock-in your white balance. However, Photomerge in Photoshop and other stitching software has gotten so good that you can violate most of these rules much of the time. Given this fact, you can use rule violations to your advantage. I violated 3 of the above 4 “rules” when I made the Pseudo-HDR Pan below. (I did use a tripod.)

Let’s consider various aspects of a composite image in turn.

East Branch of Great Brook

Pseudo-HDR Pan Example
East Branch of Great Brook

Increased resolution

Taking two or more images and combining them in a stitched “panorama” gives both a wider field of view and an image with potentially much more resolution than a single image. To my way of thinking “panoramas” don’t have to be long and short, they can be tall and narrow, or even square. You could shoot 4 images in a 2 x 2 matrix or you can make horizontal or vertical “skinny” panoramas by photographing in either the landscape or portrait orientation. You have a lot of flexibility. Photomerge in Photoshop or other programs will handle these situations easily. The photo below is composed of 12 individual shots. Why? This was a spur-of-the-moment jaunt so the widest lens I had with me was 38mm on a crop frame camera.  I needed multiple shots to get it all in.

Danbury Bog

Danbury Bog
12-shot “panorama”

Sharpness and depth of field

Almost all lenses are sharpest a couple of stops down from wide open – typically around f/5.6 or f/8. When you have a scene with significantly magnified near subjects, a middle ground, and important details in the background, you have a dilemma.

Polypodies along Bicknell Brook

Polypodies along Bicknell
Focus Stacking Example

If you shoot at f/8, you probably will not have enough depth of field to keep everything in adequate focus. But if you stop down to f/16 or f/22 and focus say a third of the way into the scene, you might be able to achieve adequate sharpness throughout the image but these apertures will yield less sharpness than you would get at f/8 if depth-of-field was not an issue.

The solution to this is to put your camera on a tripod and take three or more photos manually focusing at different distances in the image. You can then merge the three images semi-automatically in Photoshop. Simply load them all as layers, select all the layers, go to Edit>Auto-Align Layers and then Edit>Auto-Blend Layers and presto you have an image with excellent depth of field and sharpest. Some people call this technique “focus stacking“. I did this with 5 photos for the image on the left. Click the image to view it larger and observe the sharpness throughout the image. The polypody ferns along Bicknell Brook were less than 2 feet from my lens.

Dynamic range

A scene with great contrast – lots of brights and darks – may have more dynamic range than can be captured in a single image. One way to deal with this is to put your camera on a tripod and shoot multiple photos at different exposures. For example, you might take three photos with exposure compensations of -2, 0, and +2. You can then use HDR software in Photoshop or third-party programs to blend the three images thus compressing the contrast range. But there is another way, as described below. No “HDR Software” was used for any of the images in this “Pseudo-HDR” article.

Putting it altogether

So now we are ready to violate a bunch of rules and combine all of these factors to quickly and easily achieve a great image. A tripod certainly helps in this situation but it is possible to do what follows hand-held in some situations. Sometimes the light or the world is changing so fast that using a tripod is not practical.

Consider a typical scene with something very close to the camera that is fairly dark, a middle ground, and a background which typically could be very bright – like the sky. You need to shoot this scene quickly because the dramatic light is quickly fading, your family is getting impatient, or the Sherpas and the rest of the group are continuing to trek uphill oblivious to the great image you are creating.  What do you do?

Set the camera on Aperture Priority with something like f/8 (the old “f/8 and be there” advice), use Auto Focus with the focus points located appropriately for each of the series of images, and shoot away. Since you are of course shooting raw, White Balance doesn’t really matter – either Auto or some fixed WB will be fine. If you are going to make a square or vertically oriented photo, hold the camera in the landscape orientation and shoot a series of images from the bottom up.

For the first shot the lens focuses on the lower part of the image and the meter exposes properly for it. For the second shot the camera will focus further into the scene also exposing properly for that area. As you continue up, the process continues to produce three or four or more images each focused and exposed properly for their own region. Since you are shooting digital, it costs nothing to overlap a lot.

Individual "as shot" Images of Horseshoe Bend

Individual “as shot” Images of Horseshoe Bend

On the right are the three images I shot this way (with a tripod) at Horseshoe Bend in Page, Arizona. The ground on the bottom image is about 4 feet away, the Colorado River is 1000 feet below, and the sky is well …

But the exposures are all very different. So we need to do a little work blending them before we merge them. I use Adobe Camera Raw from Bridge, but a similar process could be done in Lightroom. Open all of the images in ACR and set a uniform White Balance for them. Then adjust each to closely blend with their neighbor. Typically I would open up the Shadows in the darkest image and turn down the Highlights in the brightest image, somewhat compressing the contrast of each image. From here it’s a simple matter to trigger Photomerge in Photoshop and let it do its magic. Quite often that is all that is required. Sometimes one needs to add a Masked Curves Adjustment Layer clipped to a single layer to adjust the tonality somewhat.

This process resulted in the image of Horseshoe Bend below.

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend

Below are the four individual “as shot” photos that I combined to create the Pseudo-HDR Pan at the beginning of this article. If you study them you can see how the camera created a middle-of-the-road exposure for each particular framing. It is a bit hard to believe something decent could come out of this mess.

Four Individual photos for image at top of page

Four individual photos for image at top of page

Here is a brief slide show of some of the images I created in the last year using this Pseudo-HDR Pan technique.

Cottongrass Marsh below Firescrew.jpgBeaver Brook Falls.jpgBench near Clark Pond.jpgDevils Garden Arch.jpgFarm and Mount Sunapee.jpgFarm from Trask Road.jpgStocker Wetlands.jpgStone Creek Butte Aglow.jpgSugar River along Paradise.jpgSun over Havasu Canyon.jpgSunset at Lower Garnet Camp.jpg

~ Jim Block


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Winter Nights, Winter Lights: Holiday Season Photography

New England Village Winter Scene

Blue lights on the common, Templeton, MA


With another autumn in the books and winter fast approaching, the upcoming holiday season offers a wealth of photo opportunities with a distinct New England character. The region’s many town commons, village greens, and other attractions such as lighthouses, covered bridges, and other historic sites are ideal subjects, especially when adorned with distinctive displays and lighting. The possibilities are often as close as your own town center. From a marketing perspective, these images are often popular with local businesses and residents.

Blue Hour

Winter moon over Nubble Lighthouse

Full moon rising over a festive Nubble Lighthouse.Blue Hour

My favorite time of day to photograph these scenes is the twilight ‘blue hour.’ At this time the dark blue or lavender sky offers an ideal backdrop for scenes with snow and light displays. One benefit to shooting at dusk is that this lighting is reliable regardless of the weather, whether it’s clear or dull overcast. Though the period from sunset to full darkness lasts roughly an hour, the window for prime conditions at a given scene generally lasts just a few minutes. As is the case when shooting in all low-light situations, be aware that the image on your camera display will often look brighter than the actual image. For this reason it’s best to start early, shoot throughout dusk, then pick the best in post-processing.


Winter evening at Jaffrey Meetinghouse

Historic Jaffrey Meetinghouse and Mount MonadnockComposition


When composing the image, look carefully for unwanted elements such as power lines, traffic, and street lights. Sometimes the latter can add to an image, but at other times they may be distracting highlights. In many instances you can creatively compose your image and use foreground subjects such as a bandstand or trees to block lights or wires. Exposure times obviously increase as the light decreases, and if traffic and headlights are an issue you may have to carefully time when you trip the shutter or increase the ISO for a shorter exposure.


Smith College Winter Evening

Paradise Pond and falls on the Mill River, Northampton, MA.

Snow Scenes

The best time for shooting these scenes is as soon as possible after a snow storm, when the pristine snow offers a clean image. As we all know snowfall varies considerably throughout New England around the holiday season, and there are no guarantees what conditions will be. If there isn’t any snow, zoom in on the displays or head north – chances are there will be snow somewhere in New England!

~ John Burk


John Burk is a photographer and author of books and guides related to New England. See his Amazon page for more information. 
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