Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2014 Jeff Wignall.

"Vision without execution is hallucination."

Thomas Edison

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Just Published: Read My Benjamin Von Wong Profile on DP Review

Recently I've begun writing for the wonderful DPReview website, certainly among the biggest and best photo sites in the world. My first published piece is a profile of the amazing young Canadian photographer Benjamin Von Wong. Ben is not only an incredibly talented, creative and hardworking artist but he has quite an inspiring story to tell: he quit his day job as a mining engineer just over two years ago and in that short time has won client and fans all over the planet. His behind-the-scenes videos, showing how he creates his amazing images, have had nearly two million views on Youtube! Ben's photos are a wild mix of surrealistic vision and hyper-reality and he uses every creative device at his disposal, including walls of fire, elaborate costumes and sets and a broad range of very talented models and actors. But what will blow you away most of all is the fact that the vast majority of his images are created right in front of the lens--there is almost no Photoshop!

My DPReview profile will run in two parts and the second part will publish on Mach 15, 2014. Also, be sure to check out Ben's own site for galleries of his wild photos. By the way, the cool photo here is a self portrait by Von Wong--photographer, visual engineer, storyteller...and fire spitter! (Photo Copyright Benjamin Von Wong, courtesy of the photographer.)

Friday, December 20, 2013

Good news: jeffwignall.com is back online

After a long sleepy online nap of about a year, I finally decided to re-launch my main site jeffwignall.com. I had taken it down for several reasons. One reason was that I was extremely unhappy with the host (a horrible company whose initials are "NS"). Since then I have found a terrific hosting company called Fat Cow based on the recommendation of a friend. Fat Cow offers some great and very cheap hosting services and a great web-creation software called Weebly.

One of the other reasons that I took my site down was that it had more than 100 free tutorials posted there and I decided that, in addition to the fact that a lot of them were getting outdated, I also wanted to *sell* some of the information found in my tutorials as part of ebooks. In the next year I hope to begin a self-publishing venture where I can teach photography via ebooks and have total control over the content and appearance of my books. I don't know if a single soul will ever buy one, but it will be a fun experiment. And, better still, I'll own the company. I am also considering starting a series of online digital photography classes with critiques, etc.

Yet another (and I think important) reason that I took my site down was that I just wanted to put more space between my life and the cyberworld. Every day it seems like the Internet becomes more and more like George Orwell's Big Brother from 1984 (a book that is on my list for rereading this winter--I hope I can find my old paperback copy!) and it felt good to be less entangled for a year. In fact, I think it's a good idea for anyone that doesn't depend on their site for income to shut their site down now and then for a few weeks or a few months or, in my case, a year. Yes, I lost a lot of ground in my search-engine standings, but who cares? I know how to get it back and that is all that really matters.

So, I'm not sure how much useful information will be on the new jeffwignall.com (right now it's pretty much just a resume) but I will find interesting things to write about and ideas to share. And soon, on this blog and on my site, I'll introduce my new book that is coming out in the spring, being published by Ilex Press in Europe. I'm very excited about the book and I can't wait to see it!

Happy Christmas, War is over (if you want it) and I hope you'll join me in welcoming the return of the sun on Saturday!

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Photographic Issue #20: I wrote the entire issue!

If you're headed out to the newsstand soon, keep an eye out for Petersen's Photographic, Issue 20--I wrote the entire issue from cover to cover. The issue features profiles and portfolios by eight master photographers that I interviewed about their specialties--why they chose them, how they've managed to thrive in the very competitive photo business and what they love about their work. Each of the photographers also shares a lot of inside secrets about how they do such incredible work. Really, this issue is like a master class in magazine form. The photographers included (and their specialties) are:

Janet Loughrey: Garden photography
Ron Niebrugge: Alaska wildlife
Jill Reger: Classic and antique cars
Brian Oglesbee: Fine art photography
Jon Van Gorder: Food photography
Greg Hartford: Maine landscapes
Derek Doeffinger: Wilderness waterfalls
Steven Hyatt: Architectural/church interiors

The reproduction in the magazine is superb and there are no ads so the magazine is 100% editorial content. It's a super issue and the editors and production staff did a fantastic job. I couldn't be happier with the look of the magazine. You can read two sample articles from the issue on the Photographic site. By the way, I'm about to finish a brand new book and I'm pretty excited about how it came out--so I'll post more about it soon.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Harvest Moon over the Housatonic River

This is an in-camera double exposure shot this past Wednesday, the night of the Harvest Moon. Both exposures were shot with a 70-300mm Nikkor lens on a Nikon D90 body. I first shot the moon at 300mm (450mm on my D90) and, remembering where I  had place it (in the upper left slightly), I then recomposed for the boat shack and made the second exposure using the same lens but set at a wider focal length. Both shots were made on a Manfrotto tripod.

The camera did all of the exposure work for me (halving the exposure for each of the two frames), but I did set the camera to -1 stop of exposure compensation to keep the shot somewhat on the dark side (mainly to hold detail in the moon). I shot the scene in RAW (as always) and adjusted both exposure and color balance a bit during editing.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Fun experiment: In-camera multiple exposures

I haven't post anything here in a long time largely because I've begun writing a new book and so have been spending a lot of time doing research. Also, July was so godawful hot here in New England that I couldn't work in my office (which has no a/c).  I have been shooting a little, mostly experimenting with different creative techniques. The shot here is the result of an in-camera triple exposure of several different bottles and a blue wine glass (shot in natural light on my back porch). The multiple exposures are pretty simple on my Nikon D90--you just set it to the multiple-exposure mode (in the menus) and then tell it how many exposures you're going to make. The camera automatically adjusts the exposure based on the number of exposures you're using to make one frame.

In the old days (film) you had to trick the camera into making in-camera multiples by pressing in the film rewind button so that the film didn't advance when you cocked the shutter and  you had to be bery careful to keep the tension on the film tight or it shifted slightly and  you ended up with overlapping frame. Using digital cameras to make multis is certainly world's easier! All that I did between exposures was to change the composition or zoom the lens or slightly shift my angle of view. This shot is pretty much right out of the camera--that green background color is just the green of my backyard. See if your camera has the mode, it's a blast.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Mute Swans Struggle to Survive in Connecticut

The other day I was sitting down by the river with a friend and a family of swans glided up to where we were sitting. I was really surprised to see this brood of 14 cygnets bracketed by the two parents. The  trouble was that they came so close I couldn't widen my 70-300mm zoom out wide enough to take in the whole family--I had to cut the adults in half. Kind of looks like you could join the two adults up to make one complete swan. But it's OK, I just wanted a snapshot to record this nice family. Normally swans lay odd-numbers of eggs, so I was surprised to see an even number of babies. Perhaps something happened to one, or perhaps there was a straggler that I didn't see.

There used to be a ton of swans near me in Connecticut, but the state passed an "egg addling" law that allows for the shaking of swan eggs to destroy the babies. This is done because the duck hunters complained about the way that swans "attacked" the ducks they were hunting. This from the people that want to shoot the ducks and eat them.

It sickens me that the state took the side of the hunters and not the swans. The year before the law passed I would commonly see dozens of swans in a 10 mile drive up the river. Now I see almost none. It struck me as odd (very odd) that the year that the bill was passed, suddenly dozens of adult swans also disappeared. What happened to them? Swans don't migrate, so where did all of the adults go?

It's a damn shame when the lives of such beautiful animals are wiped out so that a tiny group of people can have their selfish way. Thousands of people are denied the joy of seeing these majestic and beautiful birds so that a handful of hunters won't have to deal with swans. (And hunters will tell you that swans are not a native species--but neither are the starlings in your backyard!) And, by the way, I am *not* an opponent of hunting for those who use the food to feed their families--but I am vehemently against an entire population of swans being destroyed when there is no hard science to back up the claims of the damage they are supposed to cause. And, as any biologist will tell you, when you try to wipe out a species like this in a limited area the breeding goes into overdrive. The egg-addling program is creating the problem they were seeking to solve.

I'd like to see the numbers of how many swans are left in Connecticut and the rest of New England but because of the economy there is probably no staff collecting this important data. If you happen to know someone who is going to school for wildlife biology, perhaps you could suggest a swan study as a class project.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Greg Hartford's Acadia Magic

If you've been thinking of taking a summer vacation in New England but haven't decided on a destination yet, let me be the first to suggest a visit to Acadia National Park on Mount Desert Island in Maine. Acadia was the first first national park east of the Mississippi and it's really the crown jewel of wild New England places. The park includes a 27-mile scenic drive that provides some of the most spectacular, rugged and pristine ocean views anywhere on the planet. From sandy beaches to sheer granite cliffs, this park is amazing and the drive will provide a front-row seat to all of this beauty.

One of the nice things about the drive is that there are lots of places to pull over so that you can get out and explore and take pictures to your heart's content. You can really travel at your own pace--even when it's relatively crowded (and it is pretty busy in summer, trust me). If you want to leave the crowds behind, however, there are also 45 miles of "Carriage" roads that are open to bikers and hikers, as well as another 115 miles of hiking trails. The vehicle fee to get into the park is just $20/week--a bargain.

Photographer Greg Hartford has produced a wonderful site about the park called AcadiaMagic and it's the perfect place to start planning your trip. Greg is a lifelong resident of Maine and has spent much of his photo career capturing amazing photos of Acadia. Greg's photos are just beautiful and they'll give you a great appreciation for the beauty of Acadia. In addition to all of the stunning photography, Greg has also put together an extremely informative site for travelers--easily the most comprehensive site about Acadia on the web. There is a ton of information on dining, lodging, shopping and sightseeing.

If Greg's photos don't inspire you to want to visit Acadia, nothing will. I'm not sure if he gives private photo tours or not, but you might want to ask him--contact info is on the site. (Photo courtesy of Greg Hartford. Copyright 2013 Greg Hartford)