On Chimping, Chomping and Choking

Over the past fifty years I’ve worked with hundreds of photographers, from rank novices to exceptional pros. I have also led photo workshops and tours for many hundreds more. In each of these settings I get to observe photographers working landscapes, taking portraits, creating moods, you name it. So, I think I’ve earned the right to make some comments and suggestions on what I’ve observed. Here goes and please, if you recognize yourself in these tongue-in-cheek descriptions please do not take offense. Maybe just think of it as fake news or alternate facts.

World’s Best Fifty Beaches

Since I’m a travel photographer and writer, I was asked to nominate my favorite beaches for a compendium that is published online and that gets worldwide media attention. The results were just released to much fanfare. This website polls lots of travel professionals to determine the world’s 50 best beaches, so I guess I shouldn’t feel guilty about weighting the contest with my biases.

For my money, a beach isn’t really for sunbathing, swimming, relaxing or building sand castles. My ratings for a beach revolve around one simplistic notion; is it absolutely great for photography? I’m sure that I’m probably the only reviewer who makes his picks with so narrow a focus, but hey, they asked.

As it turns out, a couple of my picks made it to the final list of the Top Fifty. That’s probably because those very same places offer much more than just photo opps. I rarely notice that, though, since I’m usually at those beaches at sunrise or sunset.

In fact, I admit that it’s probably kinda sad that beaches, for me, serve such a utilitarian purpose. So, here’s my goal for 2018. Between sunrise and sunset I will make a determined effort to enjoy just relaxing on one of those “50 Best Beaches”. Yes, just relax. I can see myself doing that already.

Hmmm, those images I just took at sunrise, maybe I should upload them into my computer. I should really be cleaning my lenses right now. Whoa, maybe I should look at the beach from another camera angle…

Love Can be Cruel, Indeed

Note: all images here were taken by me over the past several decades.

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, and not only because of the glorious foliage, nor the crisp, cool weather. Since I’ve been a child I have been fascinated by one insect above all; the amazing and complicated Praying Mantis. And every fall they put on a display that can only be described as awesome. The only problem is it involves love, deceit and cruelty. Reality show, anyone?

Nightmare Hotel

I generally do not consider myself a scaredy-cat, afraid to take prudent risks. The operative word is prudent.

On a recent trip to Peru, I happened to look up as we drove down a rural road. I noticed a group of climbers scaling an absolutely vertical cliff face. Wanting to see where they were climbing, I pulled over. And much to my shock, I saw this.

Fixing Fine Art Print Curling

One of the most frustrating things we encounter when fine art printing is the pesky issue of print curling. This happens at the end of the paper roll or even if you print sheets and leave them lying around in your home.

I put up a video on Youtube showing how to make your own anti-curl device that we use here in our studio. We also have an accompanying article on Moab’s website (NOTE: Moab fine art paper is one of our sponsors).

If you print your images, I hope this is helpful.

Printing a Fine Art Panorama

As a Moab Master Photographer, our studio regularly gets questions from readers and clients about fine art printing. Last week we received a particularly interesting question, which I’d like to share with those of you interested in printing panoramic images. I think that my assistant and Master Printer, Bob Boyer’s, response goes a long way to explaining some fine art printing concepts that we employ here in our studio.

The Latest & Greatest: Nikon D850

Let’s get one thing straight from the get-go. I am decidedly not a gear-head. I never do reviews of photo equipment in which I delve into performance curves, charts and statistics, most of which I believe is entirely besides the point.

What I want to know - and what I try to tell my readers - is does the darned thing work as it should under the conditions we will experience in the field. Note my emphasis here.

In any event, this is just a first impressions blog. I’ll have a more detailed review after I’ve had a few months of shooting experience with it under widely divergent field conditions.

In the Hand

I just received my Nikon D850 last week. First the physical characteristics; when I picked up the D850 I immediately noticed that it feels great in the hand. The grip is sculpted better than in the D810 for a firmer hand hold. In fact, for the past five days I haven’t yet located the UpStrap I removed from my D810, so I’ve had to shoot without a strap. I never feel as if the camera will fall out of my hands. Not only is the grip sculpted, but the materials used to coat the camera gives it a non-slip grip.

If you already own a D810 or D800, you will automatically adjust to the D850. There is nothing revolutionary about the 850, more like evolutionary. The ISO button is now a stand-alone on the upper right side of the camera, which I really like.

The addition of a function button on the left hand rear column of buttons is appreciated as well, so we now have an extra, easy to access customized function button.

New with the D850 is a rear touch screen. Just inputting my copyright info turned the chore into a breeze rather than a frustration. However, see Negatives below

I also love the focus toggle button which allows one to move thye focus point quickly with the thumb (see negatives, below)

I saved the best physical change for last. The 850 has an articulating screen. Finally. Landscape shooters will really appreciate that addition. However, why on Earth Nikon did not engineer it to articulate in the vertical direction is beyond me. My medium format Fuji GFX articulates in both directions. Why is it that Nikon is always a day late and a dollar short?

Functional Things

Just a few functional issues before I run. The increased 7 frames per second rate is welcome for those of us who shoot wildlife. I’m really looking forward to making use of that frame rate when I lead two safaris in Tanzania and Uganda in June 2018.

Focus acquisition with the D850 is lightning fast and highly accurate, even in poor lighting conditions. I see an immediate, if subtle, increase in dynamic range, very welcome even though the D810 was quite good. Coupled with the 45MP sensor, I find the D850 files to be very pleasing, even more so than the D810, which itself was a huge improvement over the D700 or even the D800, in my opinion.

I did try out the built-in focus stacking. It works very well, sets up easily and does a reputable job.

The like the thought put into the button placement and to the on-screen info that can be customized. Since I have been shooting Nikon professionally for decades, I have to say that the D850 fits like a pair of gloves. New gloves, that is, meaning I have to get a bit more experience with it before I declare them comfortable.


I do have a few negatives that I’ve bumped into in just a few short days. The most frustrating one is the focus screen. On my Fuji GFX, I can move the focus point to anywhere on the screen. Not so with my D850. The D850 still retains that middle of the screen swath of focus points that is incredibly frustrating, especially when I switch from my Fuji system to my D850. I have been railing about this to Nikon for years.

I already mentioned the fact that the articulating screen does not incorporate vertical tilting. Come on, Nikon!

Another “bug” is that the touch screen only works with some functions. Why not finish the job? How about a software upgrade ASAP?


If you are already a Nikon user, then the D850 is a worthy successor to the D810. However, if you already have a D810, you should not feel any urge to upgrade. I’m not convinced the $3,300 price tag is worth it.

The Joys of Printing

Another of our day-long Fine Art Print workshops recently ended. I’d like to share some observations about it, our clients and us.

Recommended Photo Books

Each summer I try (emphasis on “try”) to carve out time to catch up on my photography reading. By that I mean actual hold-in-your-hands, turn-the-pages kinds of photo books that have been sent to me for review. Over the course of the next few months I’ll report to you about some books that I think you should know about.

Is There a Portfolio in Your Future?

Closeup of Portfolio Box

We recently completed a 3-day workshop for advanced amateur and professional photographers to help them create their first professional quality fine art portfolios. My hat is off to Norm Arnold, Jim Harris, Lew Rothman and Jeff Wagoner, who spent an intense few days focused on culling, critiquing, post-processing (again and again), printing, sorting, sequencing and finally assembling their art into a coherent and beautiful narrative.