Monday, November 12, 2012


I consider myself an artist with a camera. One of my favorite creative outlets through my photography is to create abstracts. And, one of my favorite ways of doing this is by making the common uncommon. Here is an example I'd like to share with you.

I was with a student recently on a 1-day photo field trip. We took a break for brunch in a quaint cafe in the Colorado mountains. Before we went inside, I stopped outside on the deck and told my student that I would show her how to create total abstracts. I pointed at a collection of colorful glass-blown decorations sitting on a ledge. They all had cornucopia-type designs to them, with lots of colors and soft designs.
So here is how I did it. Step 1: I first decided on a piece that had a lot of natural light behind it, to bring out the colors. Step 2: I then tightened up on it, i.e., zoomed in until I pretty much filled my frame with the piece. Step 3: I changed my focusing to manual so I could have total control of my focusing points. Step 4) I focused back and forth, while at the same time changing my f/stops to create different "feels" to it. Step 5) I used my depth of field preview button to see exactly what the outcome would look like. My shutter speed was irrelevant, as I had my camera on a tripod.
Of the three different images I created, I liked this one the best. Try it--it's fun!


Saturday, October 20, 2012


Peyton Manning was interviewed recently after a stunning come-from-behind win. His team had won a game, but it wasn't easy. He said something to the interviewer that relates, surprisingly, to photography. He said they (the other team) had taken away part of his game plan, so "I had to take what they gave me."

A couple of weeks ago, I got up before 5:00 am to leave for Rocky Mountain National Park. What was my game plan? I was hoping for snow on the mountains (I had heard 30% chance), yellow aspens, and nice reflections in the lakes. I got none of that. Nature took away my "game plan"-- I could see that as I passed Estes Park. But, I told my friend, who had come along that day, "What I'm looking for isn't coming together for me. But, as you know, I'll find something." My friend, who has witnessed my approach to photography and my techniques many times, quickly replied, "Yep."

So, I took what nature gave me, but I had to look for it. Enjoy.
Questions about what you're looking at, or how I found this image? Visit me and write to me at

Friday, October 5, 2012


A True Idiom in Photography

The scene was Rocky Mountain National Park, in the summer of 2012. I was In the middle of my 3-day “Finding Fine Art In Nature” photo workshop, sponsored by Rocky Mountain Nature Association.

During my workshops, we walk around a lot, talking and looking for “that shot.” I kept telling one of my students, I’ll call her Sue, “I hope we see some mushrooms.” They are hard to photograph because they grow small and don’t like crowds. Sue told me she would be on the lookout for them.

After several hours of instruction, we started walking around popular Bear Lake. All of a sudden, I saw a dark, wet area in the shadows among a grove of trees.
I told Sue that it might be a likely spot for mushrooms. She walked ahead of me and yelled out, “Eli, I think I see one!” Sure enough, there were actually two little modest orange mushrooms just enjoying the coolness of the shade and nearby stream. I immediately told Sue that she should go first---she should try to photograph it first before I captured it.

I began telling Sue about the challenges she was up against. Composition, depth of field, and exposure were going to be the key elements to consider. I walked Sue through every step of the way, beginning with the most difficult part—composition. She was definitely the dedicated and committed student type—she had her tripod. I watched her spend several minutes adjusting her tripod legs, as well as her own, to get low enough to photograph the small colorful mushrooms.

I could tell she was really struggling to get down that low to find the right angle. It was extremely wet in the area, so I looked around and found a large piece of wood and took it to Sue for her to sit on. She did, and continued to twist and shout, as she committed her body to do the virtually impossible. After several minutes of watching her inch her body left, then right, then a little higher, then a little lower, I told her, “You look like a contortionist Sue.”  “I feel like one,” she jokingly responded.

When she got her shots, she asked me to look at them on her camera monitor. I complimented her on her images, and for doing what it took to get that one shot. She definitely paid for what she got.

I asked Sue to summarize that one particular lesson. She was quick with her answer, which I’ll paraphrase. “This made me realize how important it is to do whatever you have to do to get it right.” She thanked me for walking her through each required photographic step, and for being patient with her.

Sue learned that, in photography, you have to work to get what you want, but that you do get what you pay for. And she paid for it. I, on the other hand, learned that truly dedicated, committed students of photography understand that they have to go beyond just “point and shoot”. And that is what separates the “wilbes” from the “wannabes.”

Oh, and this is what I paid for that afternoon in that marsh-like spot with Sue.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


I was recently asked in one of the many classes I teach around the Boulder/Denver, Colorado area, "What would you say is your signature?" He, of course, meant what am I known for? What sets me apart? That is a very good question. My answer was, "I am an artist first; photographer second."

I stress this point in my classes and workshops, as well as when I make presentations to local camera clubs. I create my images in my head; in my imagination, way before I decide what my composition will be, what f/stop I'll choose, or my exposure. I start with my final image in mind, then work backwards to create it.

In this case, I saw this really neat original historic Conestoga-type wagon in front of the museum in Breckenridge, Colorado. Imagine this: there are tons of people walking around the public, pedestrian-friendly area in front of the museum. The wagon is partly covered by nearby aspen trees, but very visible from one side. The wagon itself is photo-worthy, but my artistic tendencies took over and I extracted only a small but artistic portion of it--one of the front wheels surrounded by late summer flowers over the Labor Day weekend.

I studied Impressionism during my art days in college. One of my "signatures" is my creation of impressionistic photo images. I use several techniques to accomplish this, including double exposures. Enjoy my Impressionistic wagon wheel.


Wednesday, August 15, 2012


One of the three most important elements of a great image is composition.What should I include? What should I exclude? Should it be vertical, horizontal, or diagonal? How do all the elements best work together? What's my main subject? What about the background? What about my subject in relation to the background? And the list goes on.

When the composition is good, the viewer knows it. Most viewers don't say, "Wow, great composition!" It just feels right.

Sometimes, when I simply cannot get what I want, I try to get it as close as I can, knowing that I will end up cropping the image later--after all, we're stuck with a rectangle canvas called the viewfinder, and not everything fits perfectly within those four corners.

This scene was one of those difficult images to "get." The factors that contributed to the difficulty was the low light around the small stream, the size of the mushrooms (about 3/4" in diameter, if that!), and the location of the mushrooms. My tripod and I looked like contortionists before it was all over!

After several attempts at repositioning my tripod, I finally got something that worked for me. I wanted the small mushrooms toward the lower right-hand corner of the frame--the old stand-by Rule of Thirds, plus they were facing left. I also had to position myself in just the right place. I wanted to place the running water behind the mushrooms in order to separate them from the background. The light blues of the running water behind the orange of the mushrooms made for a good color combination--and, the color of the water really made the mushrooms "pop."

I was with a student at the time, during one of my 3-Day Rocky Mountain National Park workshops. It took both of us several minutes to find the right composition, best focus for our purposes, and exposure.   

The lesson here: If it's worth creating, it's worth the time (and physical abuse!).
Don't take pictures; create images.



Friday, June 8, 2012


Zoos have come a long way during the last several years. However, some animals are still behind cages. They're now much larger cages, but still cages. And, unfortunately for photographers, cages have chain link fences, which can pose problems for us. Solution? Well, we can't tear down the fences, but through careful use of f/stops and focusing, we can make them virtually disappear.

Here is one example. I was photographing "Hank" at the Denver zoo, who, along with his other roommates, is behind this giant, enclosed chain link fence/cage. Hank was several yards from me, perched on a tree branch, and the fence was 3-5 feet from me. I was shooting at 300mm.

I used my tripod (yes, even at zoos), set my f/stop setting at f/6.3 (shutter speed was at 1/60). By doing so, not only did I convert the background to a backdrop, but I also eliminated the fence/cage. Can you see it? If you try really, really hard you might be able to notice--but it became part of the background--almost invisible. Try it. You'll amaze yourself. Have fun at your local zoo!

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Scenario: I had seen many photos on-line of this famous natural arch in Utah, in Canyonlands National Park, called Mesa Arch. I'm sure some of you have seen photos of it too. At early sunrise, the underside of the arch lights up in this awesome orange/red color, which is nothing other than light from the early sun light being reflected on the underside of the arch as it is reflected from the face of the cliff below.

Preparation: I went to the arch the day before my plan to "shoot" it. My purpose of scoping it out beforehand: to know exactly how to get to it and how much time it would take--I didn't want to miss that magical early sunrise timing; see what challenges I might have; pick my #1, #2, and #3 spots from which to shoot--I knew there would be other photographers there; get a feel for what f/stop I would need; check out focusing challenges; etc.

Exhibition: I got up at 4:15 that morning (it was a 1-hour drive); when I got there, very early, there were already six photographers there! Luckily, my #1 spot was still barely available. I had to sort of squeeze in between two other photographers, but right at where I had picked my #1 spot the day before. I put on a warming (81B) filter to warm up the colors even more so; I already knew from the day before which lens was going to work for me (my 17mm-50mm); I already knew my composition, so I got that set; I took my lens/camera off auto-focus and manually focused at a point I thought would give me the best depth of field (at f/32). I took a couple of test shots to get a preview of my depth of field, exposure, color, and composition. So, I had all the key variables in place. The only thing left was wait for the sun to do its thing with that famous arch, knowing that I was going to bracket my shots--always a must when shooting high contrast scenes.

Technical prep:  f/32; 17-50 lens; manual focus; camera sturdy on tripod; composition set; warming filter; bracketing.

                                  Final Result (very little fine-tuning afterward)

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

(or how to not fight your exposure meter)
When I find lighting situations with high contrast, rather than worry about how I'm going to properly handle the wide range of "stops" within the scene, I take advantage of the wide range to give me more artistic images. I don't try to replicate life, but interpret it.

For this image, instead of using my matrix metering (which would have "flattened" out the lighting and color), I spot metered off the foreground flowers, then bracketed around that reading in order to get that "in your face" color with a subdued backgrond. If I were a painter, this is the effect, the feeling, I would want to convey. This image is on my website. Enjoy.

I call this "Out of The Shadows."


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Slide Shows and Workshops

First, I am really looking forward to my upcoming intensive 3-Day photo workshops in Rocky Mountain National Park in Estes Park Colorado: July 5-7, "Right Brain Photography." August 9-11, "Finding Fine Art In Nature." To register, or for more detailed information on these workshops, visit These workshops are sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association. 

I have been busy lately taking my latest "traveling show" on the road. I have been getting a lot of interest and curiosity about my slide show called "Impressionism and Surrealism Through Photography." I majored in Art for three years and fell in love with those two art movements of the late 1800s and early 1900s. In my slide show, I share several images that represent how I translate those two art movements through my photography. I have two more free shows coming up. You can get more information through my website ( March 29th at 7:00 at the Boulder, Colorado main library; April 5th at 7:00 at the Mamie Eisenhower library in Broomfield, Colorado.

I will also be showing my "Ten Years In Colorado" slide show on May 18th at Front Range Community College in Westminster, Colorado. It will be in the format of "The Best Hits of...." I will show several of my personal favorite images which I have created since I first arrived in Colorado almost ten years ago. See my website for more details.

                          Here is just one image which I will be showing in both slide shows.

Contact me with questions, comments, or to just drop me a line:          720-251-1775