Category Archives: Blog

How To Photograph the Wild of National Parks

By Jenn Gidman. Images by Cecil Holmes. (source:

At least twice a year, Cecil Holmes says farewell to home base in Huntsville, Alabama, and heads out to Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. While he’s there, he also makes the four-hour drive to Yellowstone National Park, where he complements the wildlife and landscapes he photographed in the Tetons with the geysers and geothermal pools (and yes, more wildlife) found in Yellowstone.

While photographers can find different attractions to document in the parks depending on the season, Cecil enjoys the late spring for his national park adventures. “These images were all taken in June, when there’s still snow on the mountains, the temperature is warming up a bit, and the crowds haven’t built up yet,” he explains. “Plus, as the snow melts and it starts getting warmer, the wildflowers come out in full force.”

This time around, Cecil packed his Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 VC G2 and SP 150-600mm VC G2 lenses to ensure he could capture every photographic opportunity the parks threw his way. “In the Tetons, the 24-70 is the perfect landscape lens,” he says. “And the 150-600 is indispensable as a compact wildlife lens. I’ve got everything I need to document the entire trip with just these two tools.”

Here, Cecil walks us through seven images he took on his latest trip, as well as how he used the lenses to capture them.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 150-600mm at 500mm, F/8, 1/500th sec., ISO 1400

Park regulations in Yellowstone mandate that visitors stay at least 25 yards away from most of the wildlife (it’s four times that for bears and wolves). But what’s fantastic about the 150-600 lens is that when you’re photographing an animal the size of an SUV, you don’t need to get terribly close to get a full-frame image of it.

In this case, we happened to see a group of bison on the side of the road and jumped out. I had my camera on auto ISO (and I usually shoot everything in Aperture Priority), so I set the aperture for F/8. The camera selects the shutter speed based on the auto ISO, so I set the auto ISO to a maximum range and then indicated to the camera I wanted a minimum shutter speed of 1/500th sec. It adjusted the ISO based on the light from that point. That’s really the best way if you’re doing a “run and gun” approach as you’re cruising along, because if you have too slow a shutter speed and the bison moves, it will ruin the shot with motion blur.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 150-600mm at 550mm, F/8, 1/500th sec., ISO 500

In the late spring, the pronghorn, or American antelope, starts to shed its winter coat. That’s another reason I love taking pictures in the Tetons at this time of year, because you can track down a lot of these creatures hanging out with that ragged coat look. Some of them may have already shed most of their coats; others still have their coats hanging off the side of them. It makes for awesome images either way.

I tried to place some of the grass and reeds in front of the pronghorn in the frame as an appealing visual element. When people think of wildlife photography, they often think strictly of the animal in front of the camera. But for a more compelling photo, it’s important to incorporate as much of the animal’s environment as possible. I was able to blur out the foreground a bit, as well as the background, which gives the photo a bit of three-dimensionality and makes my subject pop.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 150-600mm at 600mm, F/8, 1/250th sec., ISO 800

At the Teton Raptor Center near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, birds are brought in to be rehabilitated. People call from all over Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana to report injured birds, and the goal of the center is to eventually release them back into the wild, if they get better.

We attended a birds of prey show here, and it was a controlled environment where we could get fairly close to the raptors. They bring each bird out every two or three shows so it doesn’t get too stressed. I’d never been to a show like this, so I brought along my 150-600. I decided to put it to best use by stepping back a bit and capturing some tight headshots.

This photo was of a bald eagle named River, in what one could call its teenage years, before it had lost its brown feathers and morphed into the white eagle we’re used to seeing. It had just dipped into a bathing pool and was trying to dry off, which is why its feathers look so ruffled. The crisp sharpness of the 150-600 allowed me to capture every detail in every feather, and I blurred out the background to get that eye-catching color contrast of brown and green.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 24-70mm at 24mm, F/8, 25 sec., ISO 100

This photo of Moose Falls along Crawfish Creek wasn’t a planned shot at all. We were just driving down the road right before sunset when I saw the sign for it; we didn’t have a lot of time to capture the remaining light. I said, “OK, if we get out of the car and hear water, we’ll grab our gear and run down; if we can’t hear the water, that means it’s too far and we won’t make it.” We got out and heard the water, and it turned out the falls were only about a tenth of a mile from where we parked. It was flowing really nicely, as the park had had a huge amount of snowfall this winter—meaning lots of corresponding snow melt creating lots of full rivers and streams.

Typically when you’re shooting waterfalls, light is your enemy—you don’t want very much of it, because you want a longer shutter speed to get that smooth, creamy effect in the water. The light was really starting to fade at this point, so I used a 25-second exposure at F/8. If I’m photographing a waterfall in the daytime, I’ll shoot at F/16 to get a lower shutter speed, but in this case I didn’t need that low shutter speed— I needed to get my aperture open enough to get a shutter speed that wasn’t going to be minutes long. The 24-70 really came through for me in this low-light situation.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 24-70mm at 24mm, F/16, 1/80th sec., ISO 100

The Grand Prismatic hot spring is one of the most photographed geothermal attractions in Yellowstone. Many photos of it that you see from above are taken from either a helicopter or plane, or by people who hike the trail that overlooks it. But when you’re right down there with it, it’s challenging to shoot—it’s not nearly as impressive as when you’re seeing it from up high. Plus, if you’re photographing it on a nonwindy day, the steam emanating from it will just rise and hang in the air. You want a little wind to blow the steam around a bit.

Luckily, I had just enough breeze so that the steam was moving. I was standing right on the boardwalk next to it, and I got down and put my camera as low and close to the pool as I could get it without actually touching anything—you don’t want to scald your equipment! I was trying to capture a sunstar (you can see the sun poking out from behind the cloud in the upper right), but I wasn’t able to get it. Because of that, and because the light wasn’t great, I decided to see what would happen if I turned it into a black-and-white photo. That changed everything. It created a mood I wasn’t seeing in color, and it brought out the textures, patterns, and contrasts of the pool and surrounding area.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 24-70mm at 24mm, F/8, 1/200th sec., ISO 100

The Morning Glory hot spring is one of my favorite pools to visit in Yellowstone. It’s not very big, maybe about 20 feet wide, and the boardwalk there puts you right along the edge of it. I took about three or four shots at 24mm vertically and then created a panoramic composite. I was finally able to capture that elusive sunstar, and the clouds in that vibrant blue sky added to the overall effect as well.

It’s essential to use a polarizer for an image like this. If you don’t, you’re going to get reflections off the water and won’t be able to see all of those colors and details beneath the surface.


© Cecil Holmes. Tamron 24-70mm at 24mm, F/16, 0.3 sec., ISO 100

While the shot of the Morning Glory Pool was my favorite photo from Yellowstone, this photo of the John Moulton Homestead was my favorite from the Grand Tetons. The morning I took this photo was horrible. It was raining when I woke up, but I figured I was already awake, so I went out anyway to see if I could get anything. I thought maybe, at the very least, I’d get some lightning shots over the mountains.

Right at sunrise, sunlight started to peek out and hit the barn. And then, for about three minutes, this amazing double rainbow appeared that stretched from the John Moulton Homestead to the T.A. Moulton Barn about a quarter-mile down Mormon Row. After that, the sun disappeared and it was gloomy for the rest of the day. Only about 10 photographers were out that morning to witness it, as opposed to the 30 or 40 who might usually be out and about. For someone like me who doesn’t live in the area, this was a once-in-a-lifetime deal.

To see more of Cecil Holmes’ work, go to

An Eye For Birds

Words & photos by Olympus Visionary Scott Bourne and Birdwatching Magazine. (source:

Join Olympus Visionary Scott Bourne and Bird Watching Magazine on a photographic journey – learn pro tips, techniques, styles and tools. Take your bird photography skills to the next level and download this multi-part series.

You will learn:

  • Why it’s important to shoot at eye-level
  • The one part of the bird that must be in focus
  • The best backgrounds for portraits for birds
  • Why studying bird behavior is a critical skill for bird photographers

Click to read the tips!

Shot with an OM-D E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. 1/160 sec, f/2.8, ISO 800.



You will learn:

  • Behaviors to watch for that signal a bird is about to fly
  • Why you should shoot with the sun and wind at your back
  • The benefits of shooting in manual mode
  • How to get your lens to focus faster

Click to read the tips!

Shot with an OM-D E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. 1/1500 sec, f/11, ISO 200.


You will learn:

  • Why you should not look for owls but listen for them
  • How to approach an owl once you find it
  • Where to go to photograph owls when you’re just starting out
  • Why you’ll need a flash
  • The best settings for your camera
  • A top-notch camera and lens for shooting owl photos

Click to read the tips!

Shot with an OM-D E-M1 Mark II, M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO. 1/1000 sec., f/5.6, ISO 200.


Olympus Visionary Scott Bourne is professional wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He was one of the founders of This Week In Photo, Founded and is co-founder of the new Photo Podcast Network



Pet Rescue Photography

Words & photos by Olympus Gallery Moderator, Amanda Strozeski. (source:

Are you passionate about photography? Do you love dogs, cats, or bunnies? There are many shelters and resuces throughout the country who would jump at the opportunity to have a photographer donate time to help photograph animals looking for their forever home.

Many times when you see an animal at a shelter, the photos are blurry and the animal looks sad. It can be hard to picture their true personality and imagine them in your home, as part of your family.

When you see these photos, they tend to be “intake photos.” These are photos taken when a new animal comes in as part of the intake process, along with other paperwork, and is used to help identify them. If a shelter does not have a relationship with a photographer, these can be the only photos available to promote them online. In the visual world we live in, social media and smartphone apps are the main way these animals are promoted to potential adopers: PetFinder, Adopt A Pet, Facebook, Instagram, and shelter websites are king!

Below is an example of an intake photo of a sweet Chihuahua, and a photo I took of her a few days after her intake. While her inake photo is blurry and shows her “behind bars,” her rescue portrait shows her clearly – she pulls you in with her large, reflective eyes and the beautiful bokeh created by an F1.2 prime lens helps blur out any background distractions.


Left Image: Smartphone photo taken at time of intake; Right image: OM-D E-M1 Mark II | M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO | 1/400sec | F2.5 | ISO200

Below is a real life example of dogs on the website Adopt A Pet. 

They are all from my resident shelter. Some of the dogs have had their portraits taken, but others were so new that I had not met with them yet. We will sometimes post dogs with their intake photos before their rescue sessions, so that we do not lose any time promoting them to potential adopters. 

If you were scrolling through – which dogs would catch your eye?


A rescue shoot will most likely be different than other portrait shoots you may have done in the past. Shelters are very utilitarian spaces. They’re designed to house and care for animals – and a dedicated, clean space to take photos is not vital to the health and well being of their charges. 

If you’re photographing outside, especially in a more urban setting, there may not be many green spaces to be found. There are often fenced-in areas outside, where dogs can meet with potential adopters and get some exercise – these are good options for outdoor photographs. I find that creating bokeh with a prime lens can help you blur out a lot of the background distractions.

Remember to work with the sun! A dog, or other animal you’re photographing outside, will have different eyes than a person. If there is direct, unfiltered sun, their eyes have a tendency to go all black and you lose the emotional connection that will come through eye contact. Try positioning them under a tree or in shade.

When I’m doing an indoor shoot, I have some basic gear I take with me:

  • Backdrop Paper: I use Savage Seamless paper, and have a variety of colors. I use a very inexpensive backdrop stand for my rolls.
  • Lights: I use continuous lighting, a studio kit made by Savage Universal. Whether you use strobes or continuous lighting, you will need some light source. You can bounce an on-camera flash behind you, or using white posterboard as well. Be sure to bring a power strip, because you never know where the nearest outlet may be!
  • Small Rug: I have a very inexpensive white shaggy rug that I use to lay on the ground, since some dogs do not like the paper. Many rescue photographers have material that looks like a hardwood floor that they use as well.


My main shooting location is in the laundry room of the shelter.
First time assistants are surprised that the photos they see online were taken in this unconventional space!

The ideal setup for photographing dogs at a shelter is to have two assistants. These are almost always volunteers at the shelter. They have an understanding of the animals, and have built up personal relationships with them. One of the assistants will hold the leash and help position the animal. You will be able to edit the leash out when you’re making other edits to the photo later on. The second assistant should stand behind you, and get their attention over your shoulder. There are a few ways to get the dog’s attention, so that they will look at the camera:

  • Food: If you hold a treat, or shake or crinkle a bag of treats, a dog who is food motivated should look in the direction of the treat. Be sure to check if the dog has any food allergies before giving them the treat – some dogs you may meet experience grain allergies, and would get an upset stomach from a biscuit type treat.
  • Toys: If you squeak a toy and the dog is play motivated, you will be able to get them to look in the direction of the noise. Make sure they do not oversqueak the toy, and this can make it quickly lose its effect on the dog and can sometimes scare more timid subjects.
  • Attention: Some dogs, like my dog at home, just want praise and attention from their human friends. Just talking to some dogs will help get them to look in the right direction.

If you are photographing cats, they are often in free-roaming rooms. You can set up an area with a backdrop indoors, or you can follow them around for more candid photos. It is still helpful to have a volunteer standing behind you, to help draw their attention with a toy.

Captured with OM-D E-M1 Mark II | M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 | 1/200sec | F5.6 | ISO200


Think: Focus, focus, focus. Especially when working with dogs, but with cats as well, their noses and eyes are further apart than it would be for a person. You will always want to make their eyes the focus point, and not their nose. If you are shooting with a small aperture and a prime lens, this is vital. It’s always disappointing when you get a shot of a happy animal, but their eyes are blurred and their wet nose is in focus instead. 

With rescue portraits, good photographic composition is great. But it’s more important to create a photo where the dog is making an emotional connection with you and the camera.

My first step when photographing an animal for the first time is to let them get near my camera. They may smell it, because it is new and unfamiliar to them. Making them comfortable with the camera will help make this a more positive experience for them, since they will already be stressed from being in the shelter since it a new place, filled with many other animals.

There are many tricks of the trade I’ve picked up along the way – and some tricks that I’ve figured out with the help of my OM-D E-M1 Mark II:

  • Get on their level. Meet them and position yourself to photograph down where they are. This helps build trust with the animal you’re working with.
  • Give them a break. If they’re getting anxious or shutting down, or are too excted, have the volunteer walk them away and bring them back. Having a moment of playtime can also help them work off some excess energy and let them focus more on the task at hand.
  • Pro Capture Mode is your new best friend. If you have Pro Capture on your camera – use it! If you’re working with dogs, they are in their kennels most of the day. So when they come out, they don’t want to sit still and pose for a photo. They want to play and burn off some energy. So using a combinating of focus tracking and Pro Capture Mode will make sure that you never miss the moment you want.
  • Try out Silent Shutter Mode. If you are working with a dog that is scared, or is uneasy around new people, having a strange metal camera in their face will be intimidating. If they hear the “click, click, click” of your shutter, that will make it even more indimiating for them. By turning on a silent shutter, you’ll be able to photograph them without adding that extra stress.
  • Use your articulating LCD screen. This will let you get at different angles physically, but still be able to see if you’re getting the shot you want. And by using your LCD to pick a focus point and take your photo, your face won’t be disappearing behind the camera and breaking the connection you’re building with your subject.


Captured with OM-D E-M1 Mark II | M.Zuiko ED 45mm F1.2



Since social is the lifeblood of adoption, one way to help get your photos noticed is to use seasonal theming.

For example, using red backdrops around Christmas can create a seasonal effect. I’ll use some inexpensive bags and boxes as decoration. Try pink for Valentine’s Day, green around St. Patrick’s Day, and black for New Year’s Eve. You can use overlays and text on your image to help as well.


Left Image: OM-D E-M1 Mark II | M.Zuiko ED 45mm F1.2 | 1/160sec | F1.6 | ISO200 ; Right image: OM-D E-M1 Mark II | M.Zuiko ED 45mm F1.2


So – you want to help! But how do you go about starting to donate your time for rescue portraits?

Just reach out – I find that email or a Facebook message can be the easiest way, or you can stop by on adoption days to speak to someone in person. Just a few short years ago, I did not own a camera and had never imagined spending my weekends working with shelter animals. It can be hard. You will see sad stories and meet many sweet boys and girls you’ll wish you could bring home with you. But when you look back on all of the lives you’ve affected – it’s all worth it!

These are some of the shelter animals I photographed in 2017!



Amanda is a professional animal rescue photographer, Featured Photographer for Savage Universal, and a member of HeARTs Speak, a non-profit for rescue related artists. She moderates the Olympus User Photo Gallery and recently spoke on rescue photography at Imaging USA 2018. Amanda also also a social influencer for a variety of well known brands and runs the popular pet Instagram account @itsmisterbarclay.


Words & photos by Olympus Visionary, Alex McClure. (source:

Before dawn on January 31, 2018, sky gazers will have the chance to witness a rare celestial event not seen since 1866. The second full moon of the month (called a BLUE MOON), in the closest position of it’s orbit (known as a SUPER MOON), will enter Earth’s shadow to produce a “BLOOD MOON,” a dramatic moment when the moon turns a reddish color.

Views of this unique lunar eclipse will vary, with totality only visible to those on the west coast (see viewing details here to see what to expect in your area). Even if you aren’t in the path of totality, you can still shoot and enjoy the Super Blue Moon! Check out these tips from Olympus Visionary Alex McClure to prepare yourself for capturing this spectacle.
Pick a shooting location with clear skies. The last thing you want to be is in a place that develops afternoon clouds, so be sure to check the local weather reports.

Photo taken with an OM-D E-M1 & M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7, 0.4 sec, F6.7, ISO 100.

Use a tripod! A stable platform is very important when shooting the moon. The longer the lens, the more support and stability is needed. You will have to slow your shutter speed down as the moon gets darker and changes to orange and then red colors. I also like using the Olympus RM-UC1 remote cable release to keep the camera from moving.

Editor’s Note: Using the O.I. Share App to remotely trigger compatible cameras will also keep your camera from moving.
Shoot with a telephoto lens that is 300mm or longer. Try using the M.ZUIKO 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 lens, the M.ZUIKO 40-150mm F2.8 PRO + MC14 1.4x Teleconverter (resulting in 210mm in coverage = a 35mm equivalent of 420mm) or the M.ZUIKO 300mm F4.0 IS PRO + MC14 1.4x Teleconverter (resulting in 420mm in coverage = a 35mm equivalent of 840mm!).

When it comes to shooting the moon, the bigger the lens, the better!

Moon over Flatiron, shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 & M.Zuiko 40-150mm F4.0-5.6, ISO 100.

Monitor and adjust your settings during the different phases of the lunar event. As the moon begins traveling across the night sky, it’s moving at a rapid rate of speed, so you need to start your shooting at around 1/640 second, F6.7 and ISO 200. As the moon gets darker, make sure to lower your shutter speed and raise the ISO. When the moon goes dark, you will have to open your aperture all the way up; with the M.ZUIKO 75-300mm that’s F6.7, but with the M.ZUIKO 40-150mm F2.8 PRO and MC-14 that’s F4. You will also need to bump your ISO up to around 4,000 and slow your shutter down to 1/10 second, depending on your lens. Lastly, as the moon comes out of the Earth’s shadow, you will need to do the opposite for your settings; remember to raise your shutter speed and lower the ISO.

Shot with an E-M1, M.Zuiko 75-300mm 4.8-6.7, F6.7, 1/10sec, ISO 4000.

Take multiple shots of the moon going in and out of the eclipse. Taking multiple shots ensures that you can create a composite post-production image that shows the total lunar transformation throughout the event.

Composite shot with the Olympus E-M1 & M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7. The start of the eclipse 1/640 sec, F6.7, ISO 200 & Blood moon, 1/10 sec, F6.7, ISO 4000.

Try using your camera’s specialized features to help you capture the drama of the lunar cycle. For instance, try using Focus Peaking (recent model PEN and OM-D cameras) and Zoom Magnifier to focus on the moon.
Alex McClure, an avid photographer for over 30 years, joined the Olympus Trailblazer program in 2013. Alex works to achieve his stated goal to “make beautiful photographs that inspire and motivate people” through his nature, commercial and fine art photography.

Holiday Pet Photography Tips

Words & photos by Olympus Gallery Guru & Rescue Photographer, Amanda Strozeski. (source:
Click images in this post to enlarge.

During the holidays, people love to photograph all of the family and friends they hold dear. For many people, this includes their beloved pets. Taking pet photos can be a struggle – they can move around even more than children, but without the ability to understand when you say, “Just one picture – say cheese!” Here are some tips to make your pet photography easier:

For many animals, especially those who you may have recently brought into your family, a camera and the sound of a clicking shutter is a new experience – and may be a little scary. (Think of a child getting their first photo taken on Santa’s lap at the mall!) If you can, let them see or smell your camera before taking photos for the first time. Even if you’re taking casual photos at a family gathering, and not specifically dedicating time to capturing memories of your pet, it will make “camera time” a more positive experience.


If you’re photographing a dog, they move around – a lot! Be cognizant of your shutter speed. A higher shutter speed will give you less motion blur, but a lower shutter speed will capture movement – like a quickly moving tail.

Focus is very important when photographing dogs and cats, because their eyes and nose are not always going to be in focus at the same time. You should make their eyes your focus point, especially when you are shooting with a prime lens. Capturing the clarity of their eyes will create a portrait you can connect to, while focusing in on their nose can create a more artistic effect.

As with any portrait, prime lenses are a great option for keeping the focus on your subject. I find 25mm to be an ideal focal length for photographing pets, since it allows you to shoot close to your subject. Depending on the size of your shooting space, a longer prime may not allow you to get the type of shot you are looking for.

If you’re hesitant about getting the settings just right for a fidgety subject, or are having someone else take the photo of you and your pet, you can set your camera to iAuto. If you’re more comfortable, try shooting in P or M to have more control over your shot.


We already know to make sure to focus on their eyes – but another element that will bring pets to life in your photos is to make sure to get catch lights in their eyes. This means the reflection of a light source. When shooting indoors, this can be from an open window, indoor lighting, or a flash.

When shooting outside, catch lights usually come from the sky. Direct sunlight can sometimes cause eyes to be totally in shadow, so try to find filtered light. This can be shooting in a shadow – but my favorite option is to shoot where tree branches will help filter direct light and create shadows, while still letting light in.

If you are using a flash indoors – like the FL-900R or even the FL-LM3 included with select PEN and OM-D cameras – try bouncing it on the wall behind you. This will help the light from being too harsh.

If you’re looking for more detail and pronounced catch lights, you can also find inexpensive studio lighting to help – even when you already have natural light. I tend to shoot indoors with my LED portrait lights and soft boxes.


There are a few distinct ways to think about photographing your pet. One style is to photograph them without pre-posing them. Show them naturally interacting with their environment – playing with a toy, snuggling up on the couch, or happily taking a treat from a family member.

Another style is a posed photo. Some pets look into the camera perfectly and give you a happy smile – while others aren’t the biggest camera fans. There are many poses to help you get the best shots no matter what kind of pet you have. Posed photos can be more challenging with animals who have not mastered the “sit” or “stay,” who are very active, or who struggle with confidence. One way to overcome this is to try holding a treat or squeaky toy in one hand, or have a helper do this over your shoulder. Much of the time, they’ll look right at the incentive and you’ll get the shot!
Some other ideas:

  • If your pet is a ham, use it! Eyes are the window to the soul, and it’s beautiful when they make direct eye contact with the camera.
  • Shooting with another human family member is a great way to get your pet at ease and stop them from wandering about. It’s always a good shot to show them sitting on a lap, or next to a person on a couch or the floor.
  • Try to get on their level for some of your photos. This will give you more freedom in terms of what angles you can capture, and often makes the pets feel more at ease.

Burst shooting will also be your best friend! With OM-D or PEN cameras, you’ll be able to shoot in bursts of at least 8 frames per second. By utilizing burst shooting, you’ll maximize your chance of catching the moment you want. If you have the E-M1 Mark II, you can shoots in bursts of 60 frames per second. You can also utilize its Pro Capture mode, to ensure that you catch the exact frame you want – with up to 14 frames preceding it.

An “ugly sweater,” knit cap, or even a fun holiday themed costume – your pet will either love or hate these fun photo additions. If you do have a pet that’s into props – like my dog is – have fun with it! Let them be in the Ugly Sweater photo – they’re part of the family!

But if your pets don’t gravitate to them naturally, don’t force it. You’ll be able to tell that your pet is uncomfortable, and that’s not the kind of holiday memory you’ll want to keep. Focus on other ways to bring the holidays into your photos. Think about the backdrop instead! There are many non-obtrusive ways to get some themed elements into your shot without alarming the subject. A beautifully decorated tree, roaring fireplace, festive blanket, holiday themed toy or snowy yard will give you the theme you want without making photography a negative experience for your furry friend.


A great photo can be hindered by busy elements, like leashes. You should always have your dog on a leash when shooting outdoors – and in many states it is illegal not to – but there is an easy way to remove dog leashes in Photoshop. If you select sections of the leash with the Lasso Tool, and then hit “Delete,” it will take elements from around the leash and blend the selected area with them. Be sure you’ve selected “Content-Aware” in the Fill > Contents window. This is the default option in Photoshop CC.

If you’re not comfortable with programs like Photoshop or Lightroom, there are many apps you can use on your phone. I recommend FaceTune and Snapseed – or even the editing functionality in social apps like Instagram. You can easily sharpen your photos, change the highlight levels, and increase brightness.

Enjoy this one-on-one time and have fun with your furry friend!



Amanda is a professional animal rescue photographer and a member of HeARTs Speak, a non-profit for rescue related artists. She moderates the Olympus User Photo Gallery. Amanda also runs the popular pet Instagram account @itsmisterbarclay.

Landscape Photography Tips

Featuring professional photographer, Tony Sweet. (source:

When you think of landscape photography, chances are the images that come to mind are the awesome vistas—something from Bryce Canyon, Yosemite or Mojave; maybe the Badlands, the Adirondacks, the Everglades. You know, the big stuff.

But landscape photography is also about the components of the big stuff, as well as the textures, colors and details of small slices of outdoor life.

Tony Sweet brought this to our attention when we asked him if he’d be interested in talking with us for a story about landscape photography.

“Sure,” he said. “But what kind of landscape do you want to talk about? A grand landscape, a tight landscape, a macro landscape?” Tony does them all, and we found that by working out definitions and differences, we came up with variety and opportunity.

It was liberating to realize that once you get outdoors, the landscape is anything and everything you want to make it, and once you think of the landscape that way, it becomes a lot more accessible than, say, just a vacation destination. “The landscape can be two miles from your backdoor,” Tony adds, driving home the point.

Which is pretty much how he started out. “It was all ‘nature photography’ then,” he says. “It took place outside, and that was it. So I went to the Cincinnati Nature Center—a few ponds, trees in the water, good reflections, and to me that was the landscape. Then I went out west—different places, bigger things—but the die was cast from that beginning: I photographed outside, where there were no people, and it was beautiful. It could be a local field with a few trees and great light. The photographs depended on what I made of them.”

He learned it was okay to interpret the grand places, but he didn’t have to be limited or constrained by feeling that he had to go to those iconic locations.


So if “the landscape” is pretty much everywhere and everything outdoors, what do you look for to make effective images of all that variety?

“Light,” Tony says without hesitation. “See the same scene in great light and lousy light, and it’s like you’re in a different part of the world. If you want to do it right, whatever it is, you have to get the light right.”

For Tony, who conducts a series of nature and landscape workshops, the right light starts with scouting. “You have to know the time and the circumstances that will give you the best light. The issue is not where the action is, it’s when.”

Which means, get out of bed. Early. “I see it all the time at the workshops,” Tony says. “Once the participants get to the location, they’re fine; fired up and ready to make pictures. But I’ve got to get them there plenty early to get the great light. They have to be there at first light, and that can mean getting up at three, four, five in the morning. Some people have a hard time doing that, but that’s when the pictures happen.”

Of course you can shoot the late light of afternoon, but, as Tony says, “It gets darker a lot quicker than it gets brighter, so morning will give you a lot more time to shoot various levels of light than sunset will. At sunset, the light’s great and then it’s gone. In the morning, you have more light slowly showing up to work with, from pre-dawn glow to sunrise. That’s why in the morning long exposures work better. Morning is quality shooting time.”

“See the same scene in great light and lousy light, and it’s like you’re in a different part of the world. If you want to do it right, whatever it is, you have to get the light right. You have to know the time and the circumstances that will give you the best light. The issue is not where the action is, it’s when.”


Finding a favored landscape near you gives you the benefit of a quicker early-morning journey, and the advantage of being able to get there year-round to catch the changes the seasons bring.

“The same landscape scene in four seasons is a great, under-shot project,” Tony maintains. “There’s a field, with a great tree, two miles from where I live. I can look outside, see that things look pretty good, drive over and wait to see what happens. It’s not an iconic spot; it’s a spot for cool pictures. A photographer told me years ago: ‘Shoot where you live.’ ”

Tony took the advice to heart: 20 percent of the photos in his first book, Fine Art Nature Photography: Advanced Techniques and the Creative Process, were taken within 90 minutes travel from his home.

Near or far, the landscape photos he takes are marked first by “the right light,” then by the classic elements in the scene that make the most sense to him and the composition: textures, colors, juxtapositions, contrast and perhaps most of all, the shapes found in nature—circles, squares, lines—and the things that connect to those shapes.

“I look into the scene to see what the elements are offering me and what I can do with them: s-curves, leading lines, repetitions, patterns, rules of thirds. Some people in my workshops look for trees and go from there. There are no rules; it’s all about what attracts you. And then, why does it attract you? The answer to that will help you frame and compose your picture—or pick out from the larger scene the essence of what it is you want to convey.”

That last point is important: what you see in front of you isn’t enough. Pick and choose, zoom and crop, get a high or low angle. This is where landscape becomes a macro landscape, an abstract landscape, a landscape of elements. “The negative of that,” Tony says, “is returning to the same thing, the same elements all the time. You want to develop a style, not a repetitive approach.”

The Nikon D810 is Tony’s major landscape camera. “Incredible resolution,” he says. “I can creatively crop into the big scene to get all the detail I want.” His lens choices range wide and far. “The most important thing is to realize that not all landscapes have to be taken with wide-angle lenses, because not all landscape images are the big picture.”

Ninety percent of his most recent landscape photography of the American west have been taken with the AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR—”because I was ‘pulling in’ smaller parts of a large landscape, essentially reducing the big picture to one of details by making selections from the big picture. I do this especially in situations of overlooks, where I’m looking down on something. Wide angles? Sure, but mostly when I’ve got a foreground subject of interest, or I’m into shooting tighter scenes.”

The gear, especially a new lens, will make its own suggestions.

“There’s a shot I want to make in the Botany Bay wildlife preserve in Charleston, South Carolina,” Tony says. “There’s a tree in the water that we all shoot—we walk down the beach with a 24-70mm lens, great light of dawn or a little later, and we get a great shot. But I want to stand off about half a mile with the 200-500mm and try to get the huge fireball of the sun coming up behind the tree. I’ll need timing, position, the lens—all that to make it work—but that’s the goal: to do something different with a familiar location, to make choices to alter the landscape in the frame.”

  1. The earlier you get there, the more time you’ll have to let the light play with the scene.
  2. Sidelight on a scene serves to separate elements.
  3. Not all landscapes have to be taken with wide-angle lenses.
  4. Pick and choose, zoom and crop, get a high or low angle.
  5. You don’t always need to travel far to make great landscape photos. Look in, or near, your own backyard.
  6. Search out the stalwarts of composition: s-curves, leading lines, repetitions, patterns, Rule of Thirds.
  7. But remember, there are no rules; it’s all about what attracts you.


Tony is a Nikon Legend Behind the Lens.

Tony’s photography is published worldwide in every medium and is represented by Getty Images. His iPhone photography is represented by Aurora Photos. Tony’s images are also used by Nikon, MacPhun, Singh Ray, Alien Skin, Topaz, Lensbaby and others for national ad campaigns.

Tony has authored five books on the art of photography: Fine Art Nature Photography (’02), Fine Art Flower Photography (’05) Fine Art Nature Photography: Water, Ice, Fog (’07), Fine Art Digital Photography (’09) and HDR Photography (2011). He and Master Photo Workshops have co-produced four photography DVDs: Visual Artistry, HDR Made Easy, Visual Literacy and Flower Photography Artistry, as well as an iPhone instructional video series.

The first book in his Fine Art Nature Photography eBook series, “Creative Techniques and the Art of Self Expression,” was just released.

Creating Silhouettes in Photography

Words & photos by Olympus Visionary, Mike Boening. (source:
Click images in this post to enlarge.

Creating silhouettes in photography is a great way to explore the drama in your environment, wherever you are. The contrast and lack of detail in a subject creates a mystery for the viewer, which can be beautiful and mysterious. They are easy to make and fun to look for the next time you’re out with your camera.

The key to making an effective and interesting silhouette: you must first focus on the subject; it is much more important than the actual technical skills involved. The simpler a subject the better, when looking to capture great silhouettes. You want a pronounced shape because you will not have much detail on your main subject. Outlines of bodies, hats or recognizable items are always a plus.

If you pick a subject that is blocky or boring you may not have what you are looking for. Usually one person works much better than a crowd because of the overlapping bodies may look very unusual. For those shots that might work with two or more, like a kissing couple, try to shoot it just before the contact is made so the heads or faces don’t blur into one large block in the image as an example.

The key technical parts of making a silhouette are all about backlighting. You want the background to be so bright that it overpowers the foreground and the side or shape of your subject. A great time to achieve this on the streets is when the sun is rising or setting because it’s the lowest in the sky at these points of the day. That will always help light your subject from behind. It’s not easy and you have to think about what you are seeing because it does differ from the type of photography you may normally be performing.

Let’s talk more about subjects to select. Something memorable and simple like I talked about above is the first part of selection. The second is the shape. An image taken straight on may not work. Try to have the subjects off to their sides or in a profile. Remember the shape needs to be distinct. Keeping your subject away from other items in the picture always helps. If you take an image of a person leaning on a building it may just all blend together and not possess the type of shapeful subject you were looking for.

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Basic Tips for Photographing the Moon

Click images to enlarge.

The moon, regardless of whether it’s a supermoon or just a plain ’ole full moon makes a great subject to capture because you know it’s going to be visible every month. So, if you don’t get a great shot, just try again.
The moon can be photographed using a DSLR camera and zoom or super-telephoto lens and even super-telephoto COOLPIX cameras. One tip for increasing the apparent focal length of your lens on an FX or Full Frame Nikon DSLR is to set the camera into DX Crop mode. This will add the 1.5x crop that using a DX format Nikon DSLR would have done, giving you extra reach.

By the way: if you’re thinking of getting a new Nikon DSLR or lens, let us know you saw this blog post. You’ll receive a free camera sensor cleaning when you make the purchase with us. That’s a $60 value!

If you’re using any of the PSAM exposure modes, set the camera’s exposure manually or use program or shutter or aperture priority. You may want to underexpose the image to ensure that the detail of the craters on the moon’s surface aren’t blown out. Bracket exposures to find the ideal one for your taste. Using Spot metering will also help you get the correct exposure for the moon, which will be the brightest part of your image. Use a shutter speed of at least 1/15 second or faster since the moon actually moves pretty fast across the sky. Set the focus to infinity and if your choice of ISO allows it, set the aperture to f/11 or f/16.
Select COOLPIX cameras such as the Nikon P900 feature a Moon Scene Mode. Select it and the camera will optimize the settings, focusing at infinity, in the center of the frame. You may also want to use a tripod, and if you do, remember to set the VR to OFF in the setup menu. Don’t have a tripod? Brace yourself against a sturdy object or place the camera on a sturdy surface and use the Vari-angle LCD to compose the image.
Photographing the moon along with the foreground landscape can be tricky because of the wide dynamic range. Exposing for the foreground might cause the moon to be overexposed, and exposing for the moon might cause the foreground to be too dark. In this case the optimum solution may be to create a multiple exposure or composite. If you’re using a wide-angle lens and the moon is a small element, it likely won’t cause the overall image to suffer if the moon is blown out with no visible details.
There are a few ways that you can add the moon to another image for a more interesting composition. One of those techniques is by using the Multiple Exposure function that is incorporated into select Nikon cameras. (Check your camera’s User’s Manual to see if your camera has this feature.) Some Nikon DSLRs offer Image Overlay in the camera, which is another way of compositing two images together.
Yet another technique is to photograph the moon and the landscape as separate images and combine them together using an image-editing program. Use the same focal length that you shoot the landscape with, when you photograph the moon, for the most realistic look in the final composite. It also makes the actual compositing easier to do.
Other ways to get creative: set the Picture Control in the camera to B&W since the moon against the black sky is pretty much a monochromatic image. When doing so, try adjusting the red filter in the monochrome setting, which will give you more of a punchier tonal difference or higher contrast between the blacks and whites.
Use some of the fun effects that are built-into the camera for a unique view. Shoot video as you zoom into your shot, or experiment with time lapse of the moon’s movement across the sky.

  1. Select an aperture of f/11 or f/16.
  2. Use a shutter speed of at least 1/15 second or faster since the moon actually moves pretty fast across the sky.
  3. Set the focus to infinity.
  4. Use Spot metering to help you get the correct exposure for the moon, which will be the brightest part of your image.
  5. Set the camera’s exposure manually and underexpose the image to ensure detail of the craters on the moon’s surface. Want to use the camera set to programmed exposure? Just use the exposure compensation to underexpose the image for a correct exposure. Either way—bracket your exposures.

Taking a Great Sunset Photo

Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Peter Baumgarten
. (source:
Click images to enlarge.

I can’t resist a great sunrise or sunset. I’m a real sucker for those amazing colors at the bookends of the day. But the reality is that sunset shots are a dime a dozen. So how do you get yours to stand out from the rest of the crowd?


Gorgeous sunset colors are certainly appealing, but they are definitely not enough to maintain your viewer’s interest. Think of the sunset as the backdrop to your photograph. What you place in front of those colors is the important thing.

Good photographs don’t just happen. They are a combination of four things:

  • Planning
  • Composition
  • Camera Settings
  • Post-processing


When you are ready to capture that amazing sunset, arrive early to the location you plan on shooting at. I usually try to get there at least an hour before the sun sets. This allows me ample time to:

  • Scout around for the ideal spot
  • Check out any points of interest I may want to include
  • Plan out a set of shots
  • Get my camera and tripod set up properly
  • Clean lenses and filters


One of the things that I love most about being a photographer is the power to control what other people see. As I compose my next shot I decide what to include in the frame and what to leave out. At times this is easier said than done, but if I can’t eliminate a distracting element I won’t take the shot. The worst distraction for me is power lines, but there can be many others – a parked car, people where you don’t want them, branches in the way, and the list goes on. Arriving early can give you the time to adjust your vantage point and hopefully eliminate these unwanted elements.


Including a natural frame in your image can add depth to the photograph and anchor your main subject. The examples below help illustrate ways of including a frame.



Once the sun goes down it is time to pull out the tripod. You are now entering the territory of slower shutter speeds. My Olympus cameras have excellent image stabilization capabilities and can cope with being hand-held at speeds as slow as 1/2 second. I trust my camera to deliver good results hand held, but the real reason I use the tripod is to force me to slow down and focus on composition. That’s what really matters.

Of course some of the best colors occur 15 – 20 minutes after the sun has set when the sky has noticeably darkened. Now you might be using shutter speeds as slow as 30 seconds or a minute. There is no camera that can be hand-held for that length of time. I also use a shutter release cable or if you have a wireless camera you can trigger your shot using your smart phone. This helps to avoid camera shake when you take the shot and ensures better clarity.



This is the equipment that I shoot with and the settings I typically use:

  • Olympus OMD E-M1 or E-M5 Mark II
  • Olympus M.12-40mm PRO lens
  • Aperture Priority Mode
  • RAW and jpeg file format
  • ISO 200 (a low ISO produces a cleaner image with less noise than a higher ISO setting)
  • Aperture f/8 to f/22 depending on how much depth of field I want
  • Shutter Speed – In Aperture Priority the camera chooses the shutter speed. Since I am using a tripod for most shots the actual shutter speed doesn’t matter much unless I need to freeze some action.


If the settings I’ve mentioned in the above section make you break into a cold sweat, don’t worry about it. Every camera has a Sunset Scene Mode that will do all the thinking for you. When I purchased my first digital camera I regularly relied on this auto mode and got some great results. As a matter of fact if you are new to landscape photography generally, I urge you to focus on the composition and let the camera worry about the exposure. Just don’t use it as a crutch for too long. Push yourself to learn how to control the exposure.


Nothing is more disappointing than spending your evening shooting that amazing sunset, and then, upon uploading you discover that they are all out of focus. Follow these steps to help avoid that disappointment.

  • Focus on your point of interest. Usually it is fairly close to you.
  • Use a fairly small aperture (f/11 to f/18). Aperture helps control your depth of field (how much of your image is in focus).
  • Typically we want our landscape shots to be in focus throughout the image. A smaller aperture can help guarantee that.
  • Be warned however, smaller apertures mean longer shutter speeds, but more importantly can lead to diffraction of the light.
  • Use a tripod.
  • Use a shutter release cable, wireless Smartphone app (like OI.Share) or a 2-second time delay. As you press the shutter release there is a good chance that the camera will move slightly, even if it is solidly attached to a tripod.


I regularly get asked, “Do you Photoshop your work?” The short answer is “Yes.” The longer answer is: I use Adobe Lightroom more than Photoshop for adjusting an image. Typically I will only work with overall exposure by adjusting the ‘Curves’ in order to improve the overall contrast in the image. This helps brighten the colors of the sky.



Peter has been a dedicated Olympus shooter for over 30 years, and he has found a way to combine his passion for photography with his love of teaching to develop photography and graphic design courses at the high school level.
Blog: Twitter:@creativeisland4

9 Tips for Memorable Vacation Photos

Words and photos by pro photographer & Olympus Visionary, Anne Day
. (source:
Click images to enlarge.


In addition to taking fun snapshots of your family, try to establish shots of where you are and what gives you a feeling for the place. I was on a vacation in France and when everyone went inside after a long day at the beach, I took a picture just to remember what the place felt like with nobody there. Nothing remained except the chairs and towels we had left there. I used the PEN E-PL1 with the M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f3.5-5.6 II R at ISO 200 with the pinhole art filter because I like the way it renders color.


I shot this picture using the PEN E-PL3, ISO 400, 1/8 sec, f/9 – with the on camera flash. Dark night and fire are difficult to photograph but I wanted to illuminate the girls’ faces a bit more than what the fire was allowing for. By using a slow shutter speed, I was also able to capture the boats and water in the background. The show shutter speed also captured the shadows of the flames on each of their faces. Overall, I like the naturalness and spontaneity of this image.


Fireworks pictures can be boring but if you shoot at a slow shutter speed you are able to capture some ambient light. An exploding firework in a black sky picture with nothing else in the photograph is not interesting. If you have foreground and some color in the sky, the photo opportunity gets more interesting and using a slow shutter speed is the best way to enhance the picture. In this case, it was so dark that I also needed an ISO of 1600. The slow shutter speed also enabled me to capture the wind blowing the sparks, which gave some movement to the image.


I caught my neighbor on a summer afternoon in a pensive moment behind the screen door. I used the Pinhole filter on the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens, 1/80 at f/3.2 to let me concentrate on her face as opposed to the background.


I know I just said that a portrait doesn’t always have to include a smile, but sometimes it is what makes the picture. This little boy had just caught a crab and his smile tells the whole story. And somehow, the crab shape and his smile are the same! I shot this with the OM-D E-M1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens ISO 200, 1/250 second at f/5.6. I wanted to see the background but didn’t want it to be so sharp as to fight with the main subject.


This scene is a place I have driven by dozens of times and honestly, it’s rarely interesting. But when a storm was blowing and the light was crazy, I illuminated just that part of the hill where the barn is. I shot this from my car. Take advantage of the amazing light you can get in a storm. This was shot with my OM-D EM-1, M.Zuiko ED 12-40mm f2.8 PRO, ISO 400, 1/80 sec., f/6.3.


This picture was shot with the TOUGH TG-3, which is shockproof and waterproof. I was in the water with this girl and she came up from a dive. Because I had the TOUGH I was able to capture the image without any fear of getting the camera wet. I usually always have it with me there because there is no other way to capture the excitement and movement of being underwater.


I tend to get bored by sunsets but every once in a while, I get a shot of the moon that I love. This was last summer’s super moon. If you expose for the moon your foreground will go dark. If you expose for the landscape then the moon will turn into a white hole. The OM-D E-M1 has a double exposure mode so you can take two shots and blend them together. Or, you can do what I did and take two separate images and blend them together later in your processing software. Either way, your moonscape is much nicer if both the landscape and the moon are properly exposed.


The best camera is the one in your hand when something amazing is happening. I captured this picture of my son on vacation at a lake as the light was perfect. Without a camera though, I would not have been able to capture the moment.



Olympus Visionary Anne Day is a veteran photojournalist, portrait, wedding and architecture photographer and writer based in New York City and Connecticut, but she will tell you her favorite subjects are her family members. Her well-respected work has appeared in TIME, Newsweek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Fortune, Vogue and other publications.