Welcome to (The Occasional) Photo Tip of the Day! Please also visit my main site jeffwignall.com. Text and photographs Copyright 2016 Jeff Wignall.

“The best way out is always through.”

Friday, November 6, 2015

One of my cats enjoying her summer perch

As far as I can tell no one reads my blog anyway, so from now on I'm just posting photos that I like. So much easier than writing!

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Monday, August 17, 2015

Queen Anne's Lace and backlighting

Don't you just hate it when you step outside to catch a breath of fresh summer air and you see photos that have to be taken? It happened to me the other day. So back inside I went, grabbed the camera and the tripod and spent an hour photographing the incredible crop of Queen Anne's Lace that has taken over my yard this year. I think it's just a wildflower, but no idea where it came from. I have probably 100 plants in my yard. My favorite method of photographing flowers like this: strong backlighting and a black background. I darkened the background in editing a bit. I shot these with a 70-300mm Nikkor with an extension tube, but I'd kill to have my old 200mm Micro Nikkor back. A prime lens is a bit slower to work with because you have to adjust your distance instead of the lens' zoom, but the sharpness and clarity of a prime lens are generally far superior. The lesson here: don't go outside unless you want to take some pictures--they're everywhere! Please visit my main site. There's a gallery of close-up flower photos there, too.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Fly Delta!

“Effective immediately, Delta will officially ban shipment of all lion, leopard, elephant, rhinoceros and buffalo trophies worldwide as freight,” according to a statement by Morgan Durrant, a Delta spokesman. “Prior to this ban, Delta’s strict acceptance policy called for absolute compliance with all government regulations regarding protected species. Delta will also review acceptance policies of other hunting trophies with appropriate government agencies and other organizations supporting legal shipments.”

Way to go Delta.

(Photo from Google Image Search, photographer not credited. Please correct if you know the photographer.)

Friday, July 10, 2015

To Black and White, or Not to Black and White

It's been a long, long time since I did any "real" black and white photography and I kind of miss all those years when I worked with black and white film. For probably 10 years black and white was my primary means of expression. I had a darkroom in my basement since I was in my teens (my father, a photographer, taught me how to develop film when I was about 10 years old) and later I worked for several newspapers and so shot dozens of rolls of film a week at times. I probably spent more time in the darkroom than out of it. And I loved it. Just me, the radio, cigarettes (in those days, no more), coffee and my darkroom. It was the best.

Today the only black and white work I do is converting digital images to black and white in Photoshop (did you know that all digital cameras capture their images as black and white data?). The process is very easy, you just select that option from the layers-palette menu and then you can adjust the tonality based on the original colors in the scene (choosing to lighten or darken reds or yellows or blues, for example). You can convert an image with just a few keystrokes and it's a lot of fun.

I shot this image of an old building not far from my house. It was once a famous costume museum on the grounds of the American Shakespeare Theatre believe it or not. (Thus the title of this posting.) I really like the color version a lot, but I think the black and white variation is interesting, as well.

Which do you prefer? Please don't forget to stop by my main site jeffwignall.com

Monday, June 1, 2015

McDonald's Drive-Thru Photo Opps

I got in a slow line at the McDonald's drive through thru this week and fortunately had my camera next to me in the front seat. I'd noticed some interesting shapes in the back of this building on past visits and so I was happy to get in a slow line. The late-afternoon lighting was great and the saturation of the colors and the combinations of highlights and shadows and the very bold and graphic shapes were just great fun to explore. I shot about 20 frames in about four or five minutes. I had such a good time shooting that I know I'll have to go back. The food is pretty awful (the tea is great, oddly enough), but it's a visually exciting and colorful place to shoot--maybe they can attract more business by inviting photographers to shoot their buildings, lol. I shot all of these images with a Nikkor 18-70mm zoom lens; most of them were shot at a pretty wide-angle setting. I shoot in RAW 100-percent of the time, but did virtually no adjusting on these shots in post--what you see here are the frames exactly as shot. I didn't even crop them (I rarely crop). Also, I drive a van, so I'm up higher than you would be in a normal car, I think that helped a bit. You never know where you're going to find good photo opps, so keep your camera or your cellphone camera handy. Once the line started to move I had to stop shooting and I was pretty disappointed. Who knew I'd be hoping for a slow drive-up lane from now on?

Please visit my main site jeffwignall.com.

Monday, May 4, 2015

A foggy day on the Housatonic River

Just a foggy day on the Housatonic River in Connecticut. I shifted the color balance for each using the white balance setting during the RAW conversion process--one of the reasons that I always shoot in RAW. One of the nice things about the start of spring is that there always seem to be a few interesting days of dense fog.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

My interview with Michael Grecco is live on Motion Arts Pro Daily

I'm pleased to announce that my interview with the wonderful photographer and filmmaker Michael Grecco has gone live on the Motion Arts Pro Daily site to mark the release of his new Panasonic-sponsored film "Forever Young" (there is a link to it from the interview). I'm sure that you have all seen Michael's iconic celebrity still portraits and it's nice to see this ambitious new short film from him. It was a lot of fun to delve Michael's very creative mind and to study his work so closely--and it was a great pleasure to interview him. (Photos: Steven Martin photo by Michael Grecco and shot below of Michael at work on the set of "Forever Young." Both: Copyright 2015 Michael Grecco.)

Thursday, March 26, 2015


Not the sharpest photo I've ever taken, but I decided to haul out a lens I haven't used in a long time: a Sigma 400mm f/5.6 APO. I shot this photo of a coot on the Housatonic River in Connecticut using that lens with a 1.4x tele-converter (also Sigma). Coots are a real challenge to shoot because they just never stop moving, they are like perpetual motion machines when they're in the water--and they are small and fast. I was close enough to the riverbank that I found shooting from my van with the lens resting on a rolled up sweater in the window frame was the simplest solution. I shoot on a tripod about 95% of the time, but sometimes you have to improvise and being up high in my van gave me a good vantage point. I had to sharpen this quite a bit in Photoshop and it's still not blazingly sharp. I think the slight softness is due to the motion of the bird and the extreme focal length (with the 1.4x) more than the quality of the glass: on a dx Nikon body the 400mm is 600mm effectively and with the added 1.4x tele-converter, it's a whopping 840mm. It's a been a great winter/early spring for birding in Connecticut.

Friday, March 20, 2015

So long winter!

Today marks the last partial day of winter: spring starts at 6:46 p.m. on March 20th. And for all of us in New England who have endured one of the worst winters in recorded history, may I just say: Good riddance! Not that we don't love you winter, you were fun to photograph, but let's have some fun shooting spring for a change. Of course, there is snow predicted for today here in southern Connecticut--so we will begin with a white first day of spring. In the meantime, here's a shot from my bathroom window about two weeks ago with a haiku I wrote on March 19th. Happy spring.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Neck Banding Geese: What do you think?

I posted this photo on Facebook a few days ago just to show what a banded Canada goose looks like and there was an immediate firestorm about the way the goose has been tagged. Ornithologists and other environmental scientists use bands/collars like this so that they can spot and record the goose at great distances, so that they don't have to capture or even get close to the bird. In that respect it is a good thing for the goose.

But many Facebook readers thought this method of tagging was cruel to the goose--even though it's been in use for decades. What do you think?

Banding is used to track geese and other birds so that scientists can study their movements, habits and habitats. By knowing more about where the birds travel and when, they are better able to know which habitats need the most immediate protection--a good thing. But still, many bird lovers are apparently very upset at the method used to mark these geese.

And I'm sure that the geese (who feed on grains and small bits of plant matter, not fish) are able to eat and drink normally. I have no idea if the collars hurt the geese in any way. As one reader pointed out, the collar may not be as tight as it seems: geese (and all birds) puff up their feathers a lot in cold weather to stay warm and so the collar may look tighter than it really is. There are many types of banding on birds (this goose also has a small leg band on its right leg--look closely) and they are all authorized by this organization.

Leave a comment if you have an opinion or if you know something about banding/tagging of birds and geese. And, by the way, friend me on Facebook if you want, always happy to have more friends. Please be sure also to visit my main site. (Photo made with a Nikon D90 and an 80-300mm Nikkor lens.)

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Frozen Long Island Sound

These photos were taken from the shore of Long Island Sound (in Connecticut) on Sunday. I've lived near the Sound for a long time and have never seen it this frozen before. As much as I dislike the cold, I'm finding that frozen waters of the Housatonic River (see previous posts) and the Sound are just beautiful. And the colors in the sunsets have been amazing too. Below is a shot of the dunes against the twilight sky.

Friday, February 20, 2015

More photos of the frozen Housatonic River

Here are some more views from the frozen Housatonic River in Stratford, Connecticut shot earlier this week. The show above was taken from the shore looking town the marshes in the town of Milford. The river at this point is probably at least a quarter mile wide and that thin sliver of water you see in the center is the channel--just barely wide enough for a single fishing boat to get through the ice.

This is the view from Bond's Dock, the local fishing dock. It's about 100 yards (just a guess) back to the shore and it's frozen solid. Normally it's water right up to that bank of rocks you see in the center top of the shot. 

And this is the view looking from shore back to the dock where the shot above was taken from.

I've learned something very interesting through this very harsh and brutal winter and this is that getting out and shooting it, just tossing the camera's in the van and being a part of it makes it a lot more tolerable than simply hiding from it. My temptation is always to turn up the heat, make tea and hide indoors, but I'm actually enjoying this winter a lot more because I'm out there photographing it. Also, the birding has been phenomenal on the river this winter because so much of New England is frozen solid that the birds are heading to areas of open water (like the mouth of this river) to find food and company (and yes, birds do seek out the company of other birds, especially in harsh weather).

Please do me a favor and share this blog. I've been doing it for five years now and I'd like to see the numbers grow a bit. All the info here is free, so pass it along.  And you can sign up at right to get the blog in your email (and there are no ads of any kind in the emails).

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

When rivers freeze...the mighty Housatonic River

We've been having a very brutal winter here in New England as you probably know if you're been watching the news and certainly know if you live here. I live near the Housatonic River, a major New England river that starts in western Massachusetts and flows about 150 miles to Long Island Sound. I've lived here most of my life and I have never seen it this frozen before. The channel that you see in the middle photo (immediately above) was cut early this morning by a fishing boat heading to work in the Sound (I shot these later in the day). In order to get out of the river, it was using a crane to bang a large metal cage on the ice and break a path.

In the top photo, everything you see that is frozen is normally river--and a tidal river at that. If you look carefully to the right, you can see the bank and the frozen marsh grass. The shot below is a field of broken ice (probably created by the fishing boats) and some of those shards are big enough to stand on. I don't like cold weather much, but I have to admit that getting out there and being in it and photographing it is a lot more fun (and encouraging) that hiding from it. I used plus-1 stops of exposure compensation to keep the snow from underexposing and I shot all of these without a tripod, which is unusual for me--there simply was no safe place to plant a tripod.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Officially sick of winter!

I've lived in New England all of my life, I know what winter is and what enduring a long one can be like. But this winter is one to beat the band: too much snow, too cold (with wind chills going to -35F in parts of Connecticut tonight) and just never-ending. Every one here is officially sick of winter. That's my street, by the way, and the guy in red is a neighbor who actually seems to enjoy the snow. I've been busy covering almost every window in my house with towels and blankets just to try to keep in some of the heat! Thirty-four days to spring! Can't wait!!!

Oh, by the way, this is supposed to be about photography, so here's the tip, lol: See if you can find a nice primary color, like red, to shoot against all of that white stuff. As you can see, the red really pops when it's surrounded by snow. And keep your camera in a ziplock when you're not shooting--mine got covered in snow while I was shooting these!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Simple Steps for Creating Bold Silhouettes

Silhouettes are very striking because they reduce your subject to a bold shape set against a plain (and hopefully attractive) background and they leave no doubt about your creative intentions. Creating silhouettes is simple and in most cases your auto-expsoure system will create good silhouettes for you if you just set up the right conditions for the shot. Here are some tips for creating interesting silhouettes:
  • Silhouettes are created by placing an opaque (non-transparent) subject in front of a bright background, so look for bold solid subjects set against a bright surface--water in the case of the shot shown here.
  • Look for colorful backgrounds. To make the shot here, I was stalking the shores of a river at dawn while the golden light of the rising sun turned the surface of the river a pretty pastel yellow. Sunset and sunrise skies also work well, but so do brightly colored walls, a sunlit field of grass (picture a rusting tractor against a field of yellow hay) or even a sandy beach (a palm tree against bright white sand, for example).
  • Keep the background as simple as possible. If you're photographing a boat in silhouette against the sunset, for example, try to keep the background completely plain--just the sky. 
  • Avoid "merges" where the primary subject might merge into a dark part of the background. Again, in the shot above, while I used some rocks as secondary shapes, the heron is positioned against a plain colorful background--you can easily trace the contour of the heron and even some of its feathers.
  • Set the exposure for the background. That's the big secret of shooting silhouettes: placing a dark subject against a bright background and exposing for the bright area. Just let your camera set the exposure and don't try to compensate in any way for the foreground and you'll get a crisp silhouette without any effort. You can always enhance the contrast a bit using simple editing software. 
Exposure info: The heron was shot with a Nikon D90 body mounted with a Nikkor 70-300mm zoom lens and exposure (in the RAW format) was: 1/60 second at f/8 at ISO 640. The camera was mounted on a Manfrotto tripod. Scroll down to some other recent postings to see more examples of silhouettes.

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