“Lighthouse: Maine; A Photoshop Twist

“Lighthouse: Maine; A Photoshop Twist

Lighthouse: Maine Coast at Sunset

A Lightroom / Photoshop Video

I recently rediscovered this image from a shoot I did in Maine a few years ago. I really wanted this image to work, but after trying it several times it just didn’t have the snap I wanted.

A few days ago, I was revisiting that shoot for a client and found the image. It suddenly dawned on me what I had not been able to do before. I needed a focal spot of light in that otherwise dreary flat ambient.

By deciding to play up the lighthouse and give it a sense of lighting itself, the shot came alive. Some of my P52 folks wanted to know how I did it, so I prepared this video. I hope you enjoy it.

I am not a Photoshop guru.

The shot as it was made. Super flat light, yet I just knew there was an image hiding in that capture. I just wanted it to reveal itself to me and one day – it did.

Processed in Lightroom and Photoshop. This is what the image needed all along; a focal point for those leading lines and something to bounce the lovely soft sunset light.


Announcing Lighting Essentials V4

Announcing Lighting Essentials V4



Here we start the new year with a bang… a big bang.

Lighting Essentials has always been a quiet site for a select group of serious photographers and that will not change. However, I have decided on some new content ideas for the upcoming year.


A couple of years ago I traveled around the country giving lighting workshops to photographers on long weekend sessions. It was rated as one of the best 13 workshops in the world by the readers of Photo District News, and I had a blast doing it. Meeting wonderful people and doing photography for full days at a time was a very exciting time.

I am putting the workshop online. One assignment per week.

The assignments mix learning and creativity and all of the work is based on my “Subject Centric Lighting” approach to working with lighting. Students can start and stop at any time, and there is no charge for this class.

Although one assignment per week will be added, there will be lots of peripheral information added.

The goal is for the photographer to be able to understand how light works, and what light to use to produce the look they want to achieve.

This is NOT a ‘put the light here and shoot’ workshop, although there are some technical points that should be followed. This is a comprehensive approach to lighting that will give any photographer a solid base / intermediate knowledge of lighting.

Class starts on January 2, 2017. And again, it is free.


This will be an ongoing part of Lighting Essentials. It is a critique and lighting discussion of some of the best shots from my Project 52 Pro group. We will deep dive into how the images were made with lighting diagrams and BTS shots to explain how they were done. This will be an incredible experience for any photographer who is thinking about going pro in the commercial world.

We will most likely not be discussing a single wedding, senior, baby, maternity session for the entire year. That is consumer photography and it is not what I know. I only teach the stuff I know and don’t go near the stuff I don’t know. Besides, at last count there were slightly more than a million places to learn about wedding photography. But not here.


I plan on kicking ass, taking names and doing it again in this area. Look, if you want to go pro, it is really goddam hard and it is necessary to dig deep and find ways to get stuff done.

This will be a mix of assignments, research, and business acumen. This is for a select group of course, and you will do the selecting yourself. There is also no charge for this.

Photographing Chocolate: A Sweet Challenge

Photographing Chocolate: A Sweet Challenge


Photographing chocolate is very challenging. For one thing, humidity and temperature can play a big part in what the chocolate looks like. And chocolate is very susceptible to damage from fingerprints, casual bumping against other product, and time.

Working with chocolate to make it look great is what we worked on with this Project 52 assignment. I chose these 11 images to show a cross section of the work the students did on this difficult assignment.

Cover image by Terri Queen.


Soft ambient from the back with a little kick from the rear-right bring these ridges of chocolate alive. The perfection of the chocolate is revealed by well thought out lighting.


Notice the beautiful lighting on the different types of chocolate. Dawn used a large light from above with carefully placed fill cards to keep the dark tones readable.


Super soft lighting and wonderful composition show off these rare, exotic chocolates with fruits and nuts. A very large, diffuse light source in close to the subject creates this look.


A frame within a frame helps create a bit of mystery for these specialty chocolates. A large light source in close to the subjects presents a wonderfully soft light that helps fill the shadows.


A small drip of chocolate on a white pear is a beautiful treat for the eyes. Melissa used a very soft ambient light to create this image. The liquid like highlight in the chocolate help sell the difference in textures.


A single light helps define the textures of this simple chocolate cupcake. Using a gradient surface allows the highlights atop the chocolate swirls to look even more glorious. A small shiny fill to the front opens up the cake toward camera.


Yep, that is chocolate wine. I haven’t tried it yet, but it is on my list. Kurt’s lovely lighting and beautifully shot bottle helps show off the candies all about the surface. The small splash light behind the bottle and glass help keep them front and center.


Chocolate in a very simple form. Strong backlight, and a specular on the surface of the pan leads our eyes to the chocolate ball. Styling to include the chocolate powder helps keep us focused on the subject.


A colorful display of fancy chocolates lit gently from behind with a softbox behind a little kick of light from the front for fun.


Shallow Depth of Field helps to present the textures of these fine chocolates, while giving us a pleasing composition.


For the last time this year, I am running this very popular class on Black and White Portraiture. Lots of information on shooting people and converting the images to monochrome (black and white, sepia, toned etc…).

Please check out the page for a lot more information.

If you love still life photography as much as I do, you may want to check out this 8 Week Still Life Class. It is one of the most popular I offer and it will be the last time I do this in 2016. We take a deep dive into the structure, techniques, and styles of still life photography.

Please see this page for more information.

Back to Work… Again

Back to Work… Again

I was truly disappointed that my Alaska trip was cut so dramatically short. I didn’t expect it, and I was not really ready to give up on that idea. (I will do it next year, or the year after if I have to.)

The back pain forbade me doing any camera work, or walking even, so I had a terribly wasted August/September. I couldn’t even sit at the computer for nearly 6 weeks.

Physical Therapy (yea, Foothills Sports Medicine and Lori, my Physical Therapist) worked me back to a good spot. In fact, I feel better than I have in a long, long time. Sometimes these things can creep up on you and what you think is normal is not.

When I finally got the go-ahead to become physical again, I wanted to shoot more than anything. Once before in my life I had taken a forced hiatus from shooting and a young lady started me back on the shooting path. It was only logical that Briana work with me again to get me motivated to make images.

We spent a morning together driving and shooting and laughing. It was great catching up with her, and it was really fun to shoot again. There was so much I wanted to do – still want to do.

I decided to go old school on this trip, so all I brought was my Nikon Df and an 85MM lens. I also packed a Lumix DMC Z540 for snaps. No lights, stands, reflectors and such. Just natural light, a model, and a camera.

I had a blast, and we made some images I really like.

I hope you do as well.

July Portrait Challenge Entries

The 8 Week Portrait Classes had a July challenge of a “summer portrait”. Winner was decided by photographer Nick Giron, a very good portraitist himself.

Here are the entries:

Off to Alaska


AUGUST, 2016

Daily updates at Phoenix to Fairbanks website.

I decided last August that this year I would do something big, something challenging. When I told my wife I wanted to do something to really get back in touch with my creative side, she said, “well then, what do you want to do?”

“Ride a motorcycle to Alaska”, I blurted out, expecting her to dissuade me.

“You’ll need a motorcycle first”, she said, and the next weekend found us looking at bikes together. She has been so supportive of this trip / adventure that I can only realize further why I married her nearly 40 years ago.

Thanks, Marian.

So today I am off. Bad back, stiff left leg and all.

I will be updating from the road at www.phoenixtofairbanks.com and will be back to this blog when I return the first week of September.

See you all then!