Heart of Autumn

17 Oct

Greetings from the highlands of North Carolina!

After putting together a training video last week in Virginia on how to capture the unique beauty of early autumn, I’m excited to have now arrived at higher elevations here in North Carolina for another training video, this time providing tips for shooting peak color!

And boy has peak color arrived!

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Heart of Autumn
Upper Creek Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
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To download Heart of Autumn as a desktop background, click here to subscribe to Lenspiration updates. It will be featured in the next Latest from Lenspiration update.

A Behind the Shot video giving the surrounding story and artistic details about how this shot came together will be available to PRO Members in the next PRO Report. If you missed last month’s Behind the Shot video, PRO Members can click here to watch that.

And, of course, the training videos about how to capture the fall colors that I’m putting together right now will be available to PRO Members soon! If you are not already a PRO Member, click here to sign up today!

Here are a few more shots from our first afternoon in the mountains:

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Finding Fall Color on Old Rag Mountain

11 Oct

Fall is coming! And yesterday I had the opportunity to go on a quick hike with friends up Old Rag Mountain, one of the most strenuous yet beautiful hikes in Virginia.

I’d been looking forward to this hike for a few weeks, and was expecting some autumn color to be prevalent in the Shenandoah at higher elevations.. Perhaps not peak color, but being early October, I figured the colors would be coming along pretty well.

Well, it was obvious when we arrived that peak color hadn’t arrived yet. Everything was still quite green. So green, in fact, that it didn’t look like October at all! They say the fall colors are coming on a little slower than normal this year.

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This can be a little discouraging sometimes, expecting one thing and getting dished out something else. But instead of being discouraged, I wanted to try my hand at utilizing a few different techniques I had been meditating on recently for capturing the unique beauty of early autumn. So far, I’d come up with 10 of these techniques and this was my chance to put them to the test. And I was amazed at how they helped me find the autumn-looking pictures I was looking for!

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These shots may not provide the same peak-fall-color feelings that would be easily captured when the leaves are actually in peak color, but I think it’s fun to be on the lookout for what most other people won’t see. It’s a way to make the most of being at the right place at the wrong time. Each of the early-fall-color feeling photos above represent at least one of these 10 techniques. And I look forward to sharing these techniques in the next Making The Most Of Your Vacation video episode, so PRO Members stay posted!

The Man Behind the Video Camera

07 Oct

Thought you might enjoy this little teaser my brother Jonathan threw together for me the other day! 🙂


Jonathan loves to travel just like I do except his artistic bent is toward videography. We complement each other very well so we’re often going places together. It’s a lot of fun! You should check out his growing YouTube channel. He’s currently taking a fantastic, hands-on course though Motion University (if you’re into videography it’s worth checking out!) and he’s the mastermind behind most of the video-related things you see here on Lenspiration. Looking forward to enjoying the fall colors with him on some travels coming up in October!



Are You A Lenspiration Calendar Fan?

06 Oct

If so, you’ll be excited to know that the 2017 Lenspiration Calendar is now available! For this one, I chose hymns that feature the theme, Come, Praise the Lord with Me, based on John W. Peterson’s 1987 hymn so masterfully arranged by The Wilds.

Do you notice any major changes other than the typical updates to the hymns/holidays/dates/photos?

2017 L Fan Ad

You guessed it! It’s now a spiral bound calendar. Big upgrade here. A change I’ve been wanting to make for a long time. And it’s finally here!

But that’s not all. Here’s a complete list of what has been upgraded:

    New: spiral binding for a more professional appearance and smooth folding
    New: matte paper on the bottom half of each spread for easier writing
    New: 100lb cover stock paper throughout for unmatched durability
    New: increased size to 9×12 for a bigger impression and more room to write

I’m really excited about this calendar! And while new things are wonderful, you’re probably asking what the price tag is. . . . Well, I decided not to upgrade that. Thankfully, the one thing that hasn’t changed about this calendar is the price. The price will stay exactly the same as it was last year as long as you order before Christmas. After that, the price will increase. So you should have plenty of time to order early!

    • Click here to buy small quantities on the Staddon Family Store ($10/calendar)
    • Click here to buy quantities of 10 or more on the Lenspiration Store ($5-$7/calendar)
    • Click here to add your own content for a Personalized version of the calendar

And oh, if you aren’t a Lenspiration calendar fan . . . I suppose every fan wasn’t a fan at one time or another. Let me know if you have any questions about the calendar by leaving a comment!

A Few Quick Critiques

05 Oct

Here are a few tips for you to enjoy from the latest PRO Critique webinar! I know it’s only 5 short minutes taken from the hour spent in critiquing the PRO members’ submissions, but I’m sure there’s something you could pull from it anyway:


Join the PRO Membership to submit your own pictures for critique. Or, if you’re already a PRO Member, click here to submit your pictures for the next webinar on October 18.

On the Edge of the Plateau

30 Sep

Bear Rocks is a widely recognized symbol of West Virginia wilderness and a frequently photographed scenic area in the state. Last week, I had the opportunity to spend an entire day photographing this well-known landmark on the eastern edge of the Dolly Sods Wilderness plateau. After shooting the sunrise from Bear Rocks, my brother, a friend and I hiked 12 miles out and back to the western side of the Dolly Sods Wilderness to do some scouting and to simply enjoy an incredibly beautiful day hiking in God’s creation.

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Edge Of The Plateau
Bear Rocks Preserve, West Virginia
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While the sunrise and sunset at Bear Rocks were beautiful, some of my favorites shots surprisingly came from mid morning, as we made our way from our sunrise location to the car for a snack of a breakfast. This particular area of outcropping rocks really attracted me. If you just walked by, you couldn’t see the unique formation and balanced appearance of this particular rock unless you climbed down in close. Only from this particular perspective did it appear that the larger rock on top appeared to balance on the smaller ones below it.

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I spent a little bit of time working with the scene and sorta liked including a little more of the surroundings to give the scene more of a sense of place.

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And, of course, it’s always fun to try to shoot each scene vertical as well. I experimented with different foreground rocks but this was the only one that seemed to keep the foreground simple.

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The “balanced” rock wasn’t the only thing to take pictures of though. I couldn’t help but take this shot of my brother taking a picture of me; my wide angle lens and intentional framing makes the pile of rocks above him appear to be precariously placed, providing an almost intentional “out to get him” sensation. Of the grouping of three rocks, notice the shape of the one on the left . . . see how it’s the same rock as the one setting on the right of two horizontal “balanced” rock shots. Lens angle, perspective, and distance make all the difference in the world in composition. And it’s easy working with rocks because no one would ever knows the difference that distortion creates.

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This last shot is from from basically the same spot, only looking another direction. I wanted to incorporate a sunburst to add some flare to this location. But to my eye, the sun was just in the wrong place to really be able to include it in a compelling image.

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I think I like the angle of this one better, the one I chose for the desktop background. You can download it as your desktop background if you Subscribe to Lenspiration Updates today. It’ll be the featured image in my next Latest From Lenspiration Update.

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Help Make Lenspiration’s Free Content More Helpful For You

24 Sep

I love to blog . . . if it has to do with photography, I’ll write about it!

But what good is it to blog about photography if it isn’t helpful for other photographers? The blog is my outlet for providing observers like you with regular, useful, free content. But I don’t only want to write about things that I am excited about . . . I want to write about what is really, truly helpful for you.

So, could you help me know what’s helpful for you by taking a minute to fill out this survey?

What would you like to see more of on the blog? What kind of posts are helpful for you? Answer the questions below to help us bloggers know how to make our blogs more helpful for you!

Click here to take the survey

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The Powerful Influence of Visual Media to Change the Course of History

19 Sep

As a photographer, the opening paragraphs of a political news article I read the other day really caught my attention. It put into words what I had always perceived to be true but had not yet ever tried to articulate.

During the very first nationally televised general-election debate in the United States—the showdown between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in 1960—it is said that Kennedy looked great and Nixon looked terrible, and that this visual difference had an unexpected electoral effect. Theodore H. White described in his hugely influential book The Making of the President 1960 that “sample surveys” after the debate found that people who had only heard Kennedy and Nixon talking, over the radio, thought that the debate had been a tie. But those who saw the debate on television were more likely to think that Kennedy—the handsome, tanned, non-sweaty, poised—had won.

This data can’t necessarily be proved, but from a modern perspective, the only surprising thing about his findings is that they came as a surprise. And to quote the author, “Today’s electorate has decades of televised politics behind it, from which one assumption is that of course images, and their emotional power, usually matter more than words and whatever logic they might try to convey.”

So hence a culminating observation: “The most accurate way to predict reaction to a debate is to watch it with the sound turned off.”

Amazing. We all know the pen is mightier than the sword. But who would have guessed what would rise up to be mightier than the pen? The camera. And the warrior who unassumingly stands behind it’s powerful influence on the minds of men in the world of politics.

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The Subtle Difference of HDR

15 Sep

I tinker around with HDR merging every once in a while, but I’m seldom pleased with the results. Like, even after merging a series of photos together, I still feel like I’m limited with the amount of detail I can pull out of the highlights and shadows. All too often, I feel like I could get the same result (if not better) using a single RAW file as I would in a multi-file merge.

But then I ran into a situation where I think I discovered the reason why HDR may still be necessary sometimes. Scouting for pictures the morning after the Green Lake Conference in Wisconsin two weeks ago, I came across this tree that really stood out to me. The curve of the trunk, the buckled root, the branches emanating distinctly, and the bright, pre-dawn glow in the center of it all beckoned me to pause and consider. It was the perfect setup for sunrise. And, silhouetted up against the sky, it was a perfect subject for an HDR merge.

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Notice the detail in the leaves? The smooth look of the water? The lack of grain in the shadows? The softness of the sky? It’s on the verge of surreal, but it still retains some integrity of realism. And I think all these elements point to what makes HDR better than the developing of a single RAW file sometimes. The shot above is the merge of 9 different exposures, encompassing the entire dynamic range. I had plenty of freedom with the sliders in Lightroom.

The following image is a processed version of just one of the shots I took for the HDR merge. Almost identical (which continues to prove to me that multi-image HDR merging truly isn’t necessary most the time) but not retaining the same level of definition as it’s HDR counterpart. I think HDR, when used properly, is still an excellent choice for those ultra-high-contrast situations one might find themselves in.

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Finding the time to break away and spend time behind the camera like I was able to on that morning in Wisconsin is not easy. There always seems to be something more important to do. In fact, a PRO Member recently asked, “Do you have any tips on balancing photography with work, family, daily tasks and time with the Lord? I’m finding it challenging to fit the photography studies in!” I can totally relate to this question! Do you? If so, and you’re a PRO member, then head over to the newly released PRO Report to read my thoughts on the subject in the front page article, Finding Time For Photography Amidst the Busyness of Life.

What We Learned On The Green Lake Photography Team

08 Sep

I just got back from the last ACTION photography workshop of the year in Green Lake, Wisconsin. Like the five other homeschool Conferences from over the summer, it was a blast! Here are some of the photos we took over the week and what we learned in shooting them.

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This is our group shot, taken out by beautiful Green Lake. This campus was a great spot for a Conference! What I learned in this shot was that I really need to clean the glass on my lens more often. I think there were some smudges on it that translate as bluish tinges across the image in various places that were very difficult to remove in LR. If I wanted to really use this picture for anything, I’d have to take it into PS.

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This shot was taken during the ice-cream fellowship on Thursday night. The fact that it was after dark, the only light was a yellow street lamp, the group was seated in a circle, and that there was nothing around for me to stand on to get a higher perspective, made this a very difficult situation to photograph. But I like challenges. So I grabbed my 580EX speedlite, lifted the white bounce-card, flipped down the diffuser panel for complete frame flash coverage, set the focus, lifted the camera as high as I could above my head, shot a few experiment shots, and then asked the group to look up at the camera for the final shot. The Gradient Tool, Radial Filter and Highlights slider helped even out the lighting in post. And of course it really helped that the boy in the front gave me a really big smile too.


This is the group shot of the entire Conference. To keep glare and lens flare eliminated completely, it really helped to have the guys behind stage turn off the main stage lights.

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This is the CI leadership team group shot. I really should have chosen a spot that didn’t have dappled light. But I think it’s better than a shot indoors.

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This is a shot of the COMMIT girls at craft time. Simply addressing the girl by name (name badges are really helpful) and asking her to smile at the camera really helped this shot stand out from the norm.

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Since I was the only “guy” on the photography team, I was mainly in charge of shooting the ALERT Cadet challenge. When I arrived at this particular activity, Captain Warner requested I get a good shot of this special needs kid participating in the River Crossing activity. It was my challenge to capture—all at the same time and during a fast moving event—a clean background, excited expression and a perspective that would show what made this such a heart-warming shot . . . an angle that showed the fact that this kid with no arms was still able to be as involved as everyone else.

We took hundreds of pictures, and there are a million and one things I could say about them, but time fails me. I guess you’ll just have to come to an ACTION next year to learn all there is to learn about event photography!

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