Photographing Local History – Skansie Netshed

Posted March 25th, 2015 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink
Skansie Netshed

Skansie Netshed in Gig Harbor, WA.

Creating artistic photos of my home town of Gig Harbor, Washington is one of my favorite things to do. I love capturing the rich heritage of my town and finding different ways to represent its local icons.

One of the more important families in the history of Gig Harbor was the Skansie family. They were boat builders in the early 1900’s and produced over 100 commercial fishing vessels and ferries. Their original netshed still stands along the waterfront. A few years ago, the Gig Harbor Historical Society was able to secure funding to refurbish the Skansie Netshed and open it to the public. Their work helped beautify and preserve this classic building.

For this image, I waited for a day with puffy clouds in the sky, then took my Nikon D800 down to the waterfront with a single lens, the Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8. I kept my kit light and decided to leave my tripod at home. I shot a few compositions of the building, then decided the best look for the given light was a tight crop with no other distracting elements such as buildings or boats. The D800 has an incredible dynamic range, so I exposed a single image to hold detail in the clouds. In Lightroom, I pulled out a bit of shadow detail then sent the file to Nik Silver Efex Pro to convert it to black and white. After the conversion, I brought it back to Lightroom to do the final crop.

Here’s some more information from the Harbor History Museum’s blog:

For more information on the remaining 17 netsheds in Gig Harbor, follow this link:

17 Netsheds Remaining in Gig Harbor


Pictures from 2014 Tanzania Photo Safari

Posted November 25th, 2014 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

This year’s Tanzania Photo Safari was one of the best we’ve ever run. We photographed just about everything possible during our adventure and had a blast along the way.

My kit this year included the brand new Nikon D750 and I’m proud to report that it performed like a champ. This camera is a winner as far as I’m concerned and I kept commenting to my participants how much I enjoyed having it along on the adventure. Highly recommended.

Here are a few pics from the trip. Enjoy!

Lion in tree

Young female lioness in a tree. Tarangire NP, Tanzania. Nikon D750, Nikon 200-400mm f/4.

Hippo waking up from a nap. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D750, 200-400mm f/4.

Hippo waking up from a nap. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D750, 200-400mm f/4.

Lion cub

Lion cub in the morning light. Ngorongoro Crater, Tanzania. Nikon D750, 200-400mm f/4.

night herons

Flock of black crowned night herons. Ngorongoro Crater. Nikon D750, Nikon 200-400mm f/4.

White rhinoceros

White rhinoceros in Ngorongoro Crater. Nikon D800, 200-400mm f/4.

Leopard cubs.

Baby leopard cubs at sunrise. Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm f/4.

Lion at Sametu

Male lion at the Sametu Kopjes, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D750, 200-400mm f/4.

Drinking lions.

Pride of drinking lions at the Sametu Marsh, near the Sametu Kopjes in Serengeti National Park. Nikon D750, 200-400mm f/4.

Blue Monkey in tree

Blue monkey in tree. Lake Manyara National Park, Tanzania. Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm f/4.

Maromboi tent

One of our luxury tents at Maromboi camp, Tanzania. Nikon D750, Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8.










Blue-footed Booby as the Hunter

Posted September 24th, 2014 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

The Galapagos Islands are known around the world for their diversity of wildlife and unique animals. One of the more unique birds in the area is the blue-footed booby. They are known for their bright blue webbed feet and funny mating dance where they sway from side to side, lifting their feet high into the air. Even though the blue-footed booby has a range extending from the Gulf of California down through Peru, the Galapagos Islands and Ecuador have capitalized on their presence and made the bird species famous.

blue-footed booby on rocks

The blue-footed booby is an impressive hunter. You’d never guess by their somewhat silly looks and their bright blue feet.

Watching a booby hunt is great fun because the entire process is very dramatic. Their hunting method is called plunge diving, which means the birds fly in circles above their fishing grounds, then suddenly turn and aggressively dive towards the water. Immediately before hitting the water, they fold their wings back and plunge into the sea with a loud thunk! They hit the water at speeds up to about 60 mph and can go to depths as far as 80 feet under the surface while chasing their prey of sardines, mackerel, flying fish and anchovies. They often eat their prey under water, then pop to the surface to continue hunting.

Photographing the sequence of a hunting blue footed booby is quite challenging. Since you never really know when they are going to turn and dive, you end up panning left to right with their movement for quite some time. Then, somewhat suddenly, they stop their forward flight and arc over to dive directly into the water below. Their flight pattern transitions from normal forward flight at 15 mph, to almost a full stop, then to rapid acceleration in a vertical dive at speeds of 60 mph. For the shots below, I configured my camera’s autofocus system in continuous servo, then work very hard to keep the main autofocus point directly on the flying bird. Obviously, it is extremely difficult to keep the AF sensor on the bird throughout the dive, so I like to use Dynamic AF (21 point) or Group AF for additional help from the camera’s intelligent AF sensors.

Because the bird moves so fast, I like to frame the images slightly loose in the camera, then crop them later in post processing. In the case of this sequence (below), I shot these with my Nikon D800, Nikon 200-400mm f/4 and Nikon 1.4x TC. I handheld the camera so I could respond quicker to the bird’s movements. I also used a fast shutter speed of 1/3200 second in order to freeze the motion for the sharpest picture possible.


Here, the blue-footed booby has identified its prey below and is preparing to dive.

blue-footed booby arc

Here, the blue-footed booby has arced over and started its dive towards the fish below

blue-footed booby

The dive begins. At this point, the blue-footed booby is flying about 15 mph.

blue-footed booby

At this point in the dive, the blue-footed booby is flying about 45 mph and is still targeting the fish underwater.

blue-footed booby tuck

Just prior to hitting the water, the booby tucks its wings. When it does hit, the wings are fully swept back and the bird looks just like a torpedo. It hits the water at 60 mph with a loud thunk.

blue-footed booby splash

The final image is the perfectly circular splash as the booby disappears under the surface in pursuit of its prey.





Night at the Races

Posted August 5th, 2014 by   |  Photography  |  Permalink

A few nights ago I took a quick trip to South Sound Speedway with my son and my father for a boy’s night out. The goal was two-fold: have a great time with the guys and create some compelling racing images.

track pano

Panorama of the South Sound Speedway. Nikon D800, 24-70mm f/2.8. Shots processed in Lightroom 5.6 and then stitched together in Photoshop CC 2014.

The grandstands are set up quite a ways back from the track, so creating clean images of the race cars was actually pretty tough. Because the fence obscured the track on the near side, I knew I’d need to capture the cars as they passed the advertising banners on the far side of the track. Rather than try to crop out the banners, I decided to include them in the image for better overall color.

race cars

Race cars at 1/30 sec and f/5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.4x TC.

I wanted my shots to convey motion, so I deliberately chose a longer shutter speed of 1/30 second to 1/50 second. Since I was using my 70-200mm f/2.8 with a 1.4x teleconverter, I expected quite a few blurry shots as I panned with the cars. I set the camera for continuous frame rate and fired off a series of 5 shots each time the cars passed in front of the advertising signs. By the time the night was over, I had rattled off over 1,000 pictures, but less than half or 1/3 of them were sharp enough to use. The rest were a blurry mess because of the long shutter speed.

Street stock class at sunset

Street stock class racers at sunset. 1/15 sec at f/5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1.4x TC.

The most difficult part of getting shots like these is learning to pan with the motion. If your move your camera at a faster or slower angular rate than the cars, then you’ll get pronounced blur in the cars. If you move at exactly the same rate as the cars, then they will appear sharp while the background will appear blurry. As long as something on the car is sharp, then you’ve done your job well. Even if you have multiple cars in the scene, as long as one of the cars is sharp, then the photo is going to work.

car crash

Car crashes are always a part of auto racing. Here’s a crash at turn one, just after the start of the race. I composed the shot to include the sunset and then relied on the D800’s excellent dynamic range to pull out details in the highlights and shadows.

Car racing at sunset.

For this pic, the sun was filtering through the trees and the infield was filled with haze and smoke from all the racing. The original image looked like a sepia-toned picture, so I took the shot and fully converted it to sepia tone in Lightroom 5.6. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, 1.4x TC, 1/40 sec at f/6.3.

racing in the USA

One more shot with the American flag for good measure.






US Navy in Puget Sound

Posted July 14th, 2014 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

Washington State’s Puget Sound region has hosted US Navy bases for more than 120 years. The first US Naval Station started in 1891 at the current Puget Sound Naval Shipyard location in Bremerton, Washington. Since then, the Puget Sound has been home to submarine bases, naval air stations, carrier bases, ordinance support and underwater testing grounds. One of the neat things about living in the Puget Sound is that we commonly see Navy ships, war planes and submarines juxtaposed against our beautiful landscape. Here are a couple of shots I took the other day from a location on Whidbey Island. We were able to watch and photograph the USS Nimitz and a Navy submarine as they headed out to the Pacific Ocean through Admiralty Inlet.

USS Nimitz passing through Admiralty Inlet with Olympic Mountains in background. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, TC14-E II.

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) passing through Admiralty Inlet with Olympic Mountains in background. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, TC14-E II. The Nimitz is based at Naval Station Everett and is a part of Carrier Strike Group 11.


US Navy submarine at dusk passing in front of Port Towsend and the Olympic Mountains. Nikon D800, 70-200mm f/2.8, TC14-E II.


Tawny Eagle Camera Gear and Processing Info

Posted January 28th, 2014 by   |  Photography, Wildlife  |  Permalink
Tawny eagle

My new favorite bird in Tanzania is the tawny eagle. Read the story to find out why.

I received a lot of questions on the details surrounding the photography of the tawny eagle featured in the January 2014 newsletter. Here’s one of the questions from a reader and my answers.


I attended your lighting class in Houston last November.

Could you please tell me how and with what you shot the birds below? In particular, what lens, camera, settings, venue and degree of post-processing?

I am evaluating a new Nikor 70-200 f4, to see if it gives sharper focus than my 70-300 f 4-5.6. I have made some indoor and outdoor shots at 200mm for camparison and can discern a very slight improvement with the 70-200 f4. I am torn between returning it to B&H (I’m within 30 days) and applying that money toward a 200mm or 300mm prime. Of course, that would mean lugging more glass around. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.



Hi Chuck –

The pics were taken with my Nikon D800. I used a Nikon 200-400mm f/4 with the Nikon 1.4x TC II-E teleconverter. I processed each of these in Lightroom 5 and only adjusted five sliders:
1. White Balance (shot was originally a bit cool because of the overcast lighting conditions)
2. Highlights (down to keep information in the white feathers)
3. Shadows (up to pull out detail in eyes and under wings)
4. Clarity (up to add a small amount of local contrast)
5. Vibrance (up to give the colors a tiny pop)

Total time in Lightroom 5 was probably 30 seconds or less.

Regarding lens choices, if you are serious about doing bird photography, then you’ll need to get out to 500mm or longer. Most serious birders use 600mm or 800mm or longer. If you go with a prime 300mm, then I recommend the 300mm f/2.8 and the Nikon 2.0x TC III-E model. That will get you out to 600mm and still be somewhat affordable and somewhat portable.

Here are links to the lenses I refer to above:

Nikon 300mm f/2.8

Nikon 200-400mm f/4

Nikon 500mm f/4

Nikon 600mm f/4

Nikon 800mm f/5.6

Nikon TC-14E II

Nikon TC-20III E


Seattle Street Photography

Posted January 21st, 2014 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink
Minecraft dude

Dude showing off for the camera near Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA. Nikon D800, 14-24mm f/2.8

My family and I took the day off yesterday for Martin Luther King Day and headed to Seattle for some food and street photography. The atmosphere in town was extremely festive, especially given the fact that the Seattle Seahawks just beat the San Francisco 49ers for a chance to play in this year’s Superbowl. We had one of those rare winter days in Seattle where the sun was out, so the streets were packed with people outside enjoying the atmosphere.

My photo kit for the day was a Nikon D800 with a 14-24mm f/2.8 and a 70-200mm f/2.8. I used my Peak Design Capture system so my camera was out and ready for whatever photos presented themselves. Whenever I walk around with my 70-200mm f/2.8, people always ask about it and want their photos taken with it. The dude shown above was hanging out with his buddies at a park bench and they called me over. “Hey! How far can you see with that thing? There’s a bald eagle way over there on the top of one of those buildings.” This guy said that I needed to take a portrait of him with the eagle in the background. We bantered around for a while, talking about random things, then he said, “Ok, take a pic of me here. It’s going to be awesome. NATIVE PRIDE MAN!” Then, he flashed some Native American hand symbols and acted up for the camera.

I shot the pic with my 14-24mm so I could keep the image close and intimate. Back at my computer, I processed the image using Adobe Lightroom 5. I decreased the saturation a bit while increasing the clarity and vibrance to create a grungy look to the scene.

I think my favorite thing about this photo is his buddy in the background, just staring at the camera with intense eyes. Love it.

Here are a couple more pics from yesterday’s shoot.

Street performer

This street performer was serenading the lady, while her male companion tried to laugh it off. Pike Place Market, Seattle, WA. Nikon D800, 14-24mm f/2.8

Ferris wheel

Seattle Seahawks 12th Man flag and Seattle’s giant ferris wheel. The distortion in the ferris wheel comes from trying to stitch together 9 images taken at 14mm. I was very close to the wheel and just getting it all in the panorama required a lot of pixel warping.



Watson Lake, Arizona

Posted October 28th, 2013 by   |  Photography, Travel  |  Permalink

Just outside the city limits of Prescott Arizona is a beautiful reservoir named Waston Lake. The area is special because of the granite boulders that jut prominently out of the water and form an alien-like landscape. A few weeks ago I took a group of photographers to this area for a beautiful morning sunrise. We had a wonderful time shooting reflections, rising steam and blue skies.

All of these images were taken with a Nikon D800 and a mix of lenses including the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8, Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 and Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8. I processed them in Lightroom 5 and used a mix of Nik Software plugins for a few of them depending on the specific image.

Here some images from our morning adventure.

Watson Lake

Rising steam over Watson Lake.


Watson Lake

Granite reflections in Watson Lake.

Watson Lake

Granite Creek dam at Watson Lake.

Watson Lake

Balancing rock at Watson Lake.

Watson Lake

Watson Lake sunrise.

Watson Lake

Granite reflections in Watson Lake.

Watson Lake

Sunrise through the mist at watson Lake at sunrise. Prescott, Arizona.






Photographs from Northern Arizona During Government Shutdown

Posted October 19th, 2013 by   |  Photography, Travel, Workshops  |  Permalink
Cathedral Rock

Cathedral Rock and Oak Creek at sunset. Sedona, Arizona.

Last week I ran a photography trip through Northern Arizona for the Nikonians Academy called ANPAT 13. The ANPAT is the Annual Nikonians Photographic Adventure Trip and is designed to be a fun gathering of Nikon shooters sharing in the joy of photography.  This year, we had a total of 25 people come in from all around the world including Europe, Canada, Mexico and the USA.

The photography plan I initially put together was to spend a few days shooting in the Sedona, Arizona region, then the remainder of the trip in the Grand Canyon, Arizona region. Throughout the week-long photo tour I had also scheduled us to photograph numerous regional National Parks, National Monuments and Forest Service areas. About a week before our departure, it looked like the USA federal government was going to shut down, so I began scrambling to find other locations to photograph outside of government parks. This proved to be a ton of work and I was getting nervous because I had 25 photographers who were counting on me for a great photo tour. All of my hard work in setting up permits for the National Parks was soon going to go to waste.


Classic Ford pickup truck at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

After pulling out most of my hair and turning my remaining hair gray, I was able to put together a new itinerary that included private lands, indian lands and a healthy dose of Route 66. We traveled to many places I otherwise would have never considered such as Seligman, Oatman, Chloride, Page, Winslow, Prescott, and Flagstaff.

The good news is that nature and travel photographers are a resilient bunch and everyone was willing to go with the flow. Although we traveled to different areas than we expected, we still created wonderful images. I’m proud of our group for continuously striving to create great photographs, even in the face of a government shutdown.

Here are a bunch of images from last week’s ANPAT 13 to Northern Arizona. All were taken with a Nikon D800 and lenses varying from the 14-24mm, 24-70mm and 70-200mm.


Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona.


Watson Lake, Prescott, Arizona.

Watson Lake at sunrise. Prescott, Arizona.

Meteor Crater

Meteor Crater and passing storm near Winslow, Arizona.

Shell tanker truck

Shell tanker truck at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Semi truck

International semi truck at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

1937 Ford

1937 Ford pickup truck at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona


V8 hood ornament at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Tow truck

Old tow truck at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Rusty vehicles

Rusty junk yard vehicles at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Eat dust

Race car at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Rusty cable

Rusty cable at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona


Twenty Two at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona


Old Harley Davidson motorcycle at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona


Dentist office at the Gold King Mine in Jerome, Arizona

Sedona sunrise

Sedona at sunrise from Airport Mesa

USA flag

USA flag at sunrise, Sedona, Arizona at Airport Mesa

Blue hour

Blue hour in Williams, Arizona.

Route 66

Classic Route 66 scene in Seligman, Arizona.

Police Seligman

Classic Route 66 scene in Seligman, Arizona.


Ronnie and the Seligman actors. Route 66.

Burro in Oatman

Burro in Oatman, Arizona.

Burro desert

Wild burro in the desert, Old Route 66, Arizona.

Old shack

Old shack at the train depot in Chloride, Arizona.

Love birds.

Love birds (Bob and Pat) and Coca Cola at the Route 66 Cafe in Williams, Arizona.

Bell rock sunrise

Bell Rock and meadow at sunrise. Sedona, Arizona.

Bell Rock

Photographer Don Patterson creating an image at Bell Rock. Sedona, Arizona.

Bell Rock landscape

Bell Rock and juniper root. Sedona, Arizona.


























New Orlando and San Diego Nikonians Academy Workshops

Posted October 3rd, 2013 by   |  Photography, Workshops  |  Permalink

Nikonians Academy Logo

Check out our new Nikonians Academy workshops in Orlando/Kissimmee, Florida, scheduled for January 9th – 12th, 2014. Also, I have upcoming workshops in San Diego, California this December 12 – 15, 2013 that still have seats available. Our workshops are some of the best in the business and I guarantee that you’ll learn more than you expected to. These classes are known for their hands-on learning style and small class size. Check them out. Hope to see you there.

Orlando/Kissimme Schedule:

Jan 9 – Master the D800/D4 In Depth 1
Jan 10 – Master the D600/D7000/D7100 In Depth 1
Jan 11 – Master Adobe Lightroom In Depth 1
Jan 12 – Master Adobe Lightroom In Depth 2

San Diego Schedule:

Dec 12 – Master the Nikon D600, D7000 & D7100 In Depth 1
Dec 13 – Master Nikon iTTL Wireless Flash, CLS
Dec 14 – Master Adobe Lightroom In Depth 1
Dec 15 – Master Adobe Lightroom In Depth 2

Sign Up Now Here:

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