How well do you know your camera?

By Amy Horn

Ice focus stacked imageAlmost a year ago I changed camera systems. Sold all my Nikon gear for an Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and it has been a fun year learning new features on this camera. The two I use most are focus bracketing and focus stacking. The focus bracketing feature programs the camera to take up to 999 photos and it adjusts focus from near to far on the subject. Of course, a tripod and shutter release are



Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.

Afterward I plug the images into Helicon Focus to stack the images. Here is an image of frost from a stack of 53 images using this feature.


Focus stacking on the Olympus camera is similar to focus bracketing in that the camera is programmed to capture images from near to far but it will only capture eight images with this feature. The bonus of this stacking feature is the camera stacks the eight images and processes a final stacked .jpg in camera! The image of Queen Anne’s Lace is an example of a .jpg using this feature.

Another feature I enjoy using is the double exposure setting. With this feature, I capture one image and before I capture the second image, the viewfinder displays the first so that I can place the double image where I want. This is an image from Gold King Mine, Jerome using the double exposure setting.Double exposure image

There a few other features I have yet to explore on my new camera and I will get to them. Do you have features on your camera that you don’t use or didn’t know you had? For me, learning is fun and if it gives me an excuse to play with my camera, I don’t complain!


Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes


By Vicki Uthe

Easter is coming up in a couple of weeks and it is a fantastic holiday for shooting, especially if you like color as much as I do.

Apparently my household doesn’t color eggs as often as I think we do because I only have two years of examples. But that doesn’t matter. This is a blog about inspiration so YOU get out there and find those eggs and baskets and colors and YOU get some images.

This bowl of eggs was sitting on our kitchen counter. I set up a tripod so I could shoot in low light without camera shake. You could spend an hour just shooting this bowl and changing around the eggs to find the best lines, forms and color combinations.  Of course changing the  angle is also also an option as I did below.

Seriously, this makes me want to color eggs this year just to have a photo session.

One year we got a hold of a box of egg color that had faces and hair in them. That was a fun shoot!

So, this Easter, get with the kids and/or grandkids and color some eggs! Then get out your camera and have some fun. I did!

Happy Shooting!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Las Vegas – So Much to See (and Photograph!)

By Megan P Galope

Most people I talk to either love or hate Las Vegas. Many dread having to go there on business, with all of the people and noise. But Vegas is a great place for photography, with so many different options for subjects. Do you like to take photos of people? There’s no better people watching than Vegas. Is night photography your thing? You can’t beat all the lights on the strip. If you’re lucky and have a good view from your hotel room, you can even take photos from there.

Photo from my hotel room

If you like to photograph flowers, the Bellagio flower garden is a must. It changes periodically, so you never know what you’ll find.

Peacocks made from flowers in the Bellagio flower garden

The flower garden is a perfect place if you enjoy macro photography.

Flowers in the Bellagio flower garden

The Bellagio is also great for the massive water display out front and the Chihuly ceiling in the lobby.

The lobby of the Bellagio with the Chihuly glass ceiling

Once you’ve had enough of all the lights and noise, Red Rock Canyon is just a short drive away. It’s a beautiful area with many hiking trails, or you can just drive through and look around.

Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas

So the next time you go to Vegas, be sure to bring along a camera. You’ll be surprised with all of the photographic opportunities!

Megan Galope is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

Twitter = @megangalope                                                                                                          


By Vicki Uthe

I spent last spring break in Panama with my beautiful wife Ellen. I have nearly two thousand images to sort through and I hope you are as excited to see them as I am to share them.

I’m going to begin this blog with where we left off in Panama, on the San Blas Islands of the Guna Yala, an indigenous tribe in Panama’s Caribbean Sea.

When I first downloaded the images I was extremely disappointed that I wasn’t able to capture the true color of the blue green water surrounding the islands.  And then I figured it out. In Lightroom, in the Develop module, right below Basic, is a tab marked HSL / Color / B&W.  I clicked on that, scrolled down to Saturation, clicked on the little cross to the left, took it over a color I wanted to enhance and wah-lah! saturated colors! MUCH more like the colors we experienced on the islands, even with cloudy skies.

This is the image after I worked on it.

Here is another before/after example with the beach, palm trees, water and sky.

The following images all were enhanced using the same tool. You also have a choice of enhancing the Hue and Luminance, all of which can give you results closer to what you actually saw.

I know I spent the few days we had on these islands pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

The colors were so amazing and vibrant. I was so glad and relieved to discover I could convey those colors in my images.

In order to do this, though, you have to shoot in RAW, not JPG. As one of my favorite photographers puts it, imagine you have a bucket of pixels and information (that’s RAW) as opposed to a cup. That’s JPG. RAW gives you much more latitude when it comes to post processing your images. It will also use up more of your memory card so be sure to use big enough ones that you won’t run out on a shoot.

There are other post processing softwares out there, I happen to use Lightroom for organizing and post processing.

Don’t be scared, switch that camera to RAW and give yourself more creative options when post processing your fabulous images.

Happy Shooting!!

Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

White Sands, NM

By Vicki Uthe

In September I had the opportunity to trip lead a photo workshop with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops to White Sands National Monument outside of Alamogordo, NM. We flew into El Paso from Phoenix, stayed the night, collected our participants the next morning and drove the 90 minutes to Alamogordo. We had the opportunity to shoot three sunrises and three sunsets with class and critique time during the day. If you’ve never been, it’s worth the trip. It’s about a six hour drive from Phoenix ,or almost eight from where I live in Flagstaff, AZ.
Alamogordo hosts a two day hot air balloon festival each September and we try to coordinate this trip with that festival. It was a bust this year as they couldn’t take off in the sands due to high winds. It was beautiful and unique nonetheless.
This was our initial hike into the dunes. We passed this sign, much like you would see at Grand Canyon,  warning people to take enough water and emergency supplies should you get lost. White sand in all directions can become very disorienting.
What initially struck me the most was how much the sand looked like snow. They actually have sand plows that push the sand like a snow plow would to clear the roads.
At first glance the only life one sees are these yuccas. They are beautiful but what you don’t see is the ten foot trunk hidden in the sand dune. The top we see is the plant trying to stay above the sand for sun exposure to do its photosynthesis thing.
I was intrigued by the seed pods at the tops of these plants. I put my fingers in one and took out a few seeds but felt many more. I snapped one off and poured it out and was amazed at how many seeds came out of it.
Shooting at night is not my favorite thing but I was pleased at how this one turned out. We had arrived at the park early, before sunrise, and had some time to shoot in moonlight. Clearly a tripod is needed.  It’s best to shoot with a wide lens, wide open, high ISO and experiment with how long. It will depend of if you want star trails or not.
Shadows are always fun to shoot, especially early or late when they are long.
This is one of my favorites. I love the simplicity of it. I just happened to be walking in the area between the dunes and looked up. The lines and blue sky struck me so I SHOT it!
The white sands are a great place to play with black and white since color isn’t always the highlight. It can be more about shadows, textures and lines.
I say that and then shoot this one with just a splash of color. This is our esteemed photographer, Suzanne Mathia, trudging through the sands in search of students to check in on. I like putting people in such images to show a sense of scale.
Sunsets are best if you have clouds. We were blessed on this day.
A rainbow!! Can you see it?
I found this to be a random image. I think it is a Cottonwood leaf, but there were no trees to be seen.
Life in the desert is always hard to find as most animals come out at night when temps are more reasonable. These black beetles were everywhere. In the mornings I found them mostly on these white flowers.
Walking along one day I happened to look down and see this bright orange moth. The contrast was cool.
Here’s another colorful bug of some sort. So odd to see them just out there in the middle a sand dune, not even near plants.
I also found this guy, but he was deceased.
Our attempt to shoot the launching of hot air balloons in the white sands was a bust due to winds. But winds gave me other opportunities to shoot…like this kite.
These flags were flying at the balloon festival. At first I thought the one on the right was a fancy New Mexico flag…until I realized it was a bacon and eggs New Mexico flag. Ha!
Back lit flags are always cool. I love the bright colors.
So that, in a nutshell, was my four-day workshop at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. I hope it inspires you with ideas for places you visit on your travels.
Happy Shooting!
Vicki Uthe is a Volunteer Photo Guide with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes


By Hal Tretbar

The other day I was having lunch at the Velvet Elvis in Patagonia when I had an Eye-catcher moment. There it was: a shaft of light hitting the table next to us. It grabbed my eye and before I could look away I had my cell phone out to record the interesting light and composition.

Random House Dictionary defines an eye-catcher as a thing or person that attracts attention. For me it has to be something unusual to get my attention.







This was a very difficult exposure because it was so high contrast. The brilliant back light was illuminating the silver colored utensils on a dark table. If I exposed for the bright light I would have no detail in the shadows, so I just under exposed one stop and played with the image in Photoshop.

Nokia  Lumina   ISO 100   f2.2   1/701 second








When I returned to my car in the parking lot, I saw the mid day sun bouncing off of this wheel’s shiny rim. The reflection hit the shadow between the cars and illuminated the parking stripes. Interesting lighting and composition, I thought, and out came the cell phone.

Nokia    ISO 100   f2.2   1/370 second

It was late in a winter afternoon in Flagstaff. I came out of the door and my eye caught the setting sun peeking through the trees to spotlight the melting ice pile. My Nikon was handy so I set a small aperture for depth of field and to make the sun’s rays radiate.

Nikon  600  ISO 160   f22   1/150 second

Most eye-catchers for me have to do with unusual lighting but not always. One day I was sitting in the patio with nothing on my mind.  Then I looked at the sky. The interesting clouds caught both my eye and my brain. Wow, I thought, that really is a mare’s tail. The cell phone was ready to get the best shot of the wispy patterns.

A mare’s tail is defined as a long narrow cirrus cloud whose flowing appearance somewhat resembles a horse’s tail.

Nokia    ISO 100   f.2.2   1/935 second

So be ready for that moment when your eye catches something really interesting and dramatic. Grab your camera or cell phone and have some fun.

Hal Tretbar is a trip leader with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes.

Before and After Image

By Amy Horn

During a recent visit at the Wildlife World Zoo in Litchfield Park, AZ, I captured this monkey photo in mid-afternoon light. I loved the moment when the monkey walked across the log, but didn’t feel the mid-afternoon light added to the photo. I couldn’t go back later, so I thought about what would make a stronger image. First, isolating the monkey from the background would help the animal to stand out. So, I used the Adjustment Brush in Lightroom and increased exposure while decreasing clarity, this evened out the exposure and softened the background. Next, I converted the image to black and white using Nik Silver Efex Pro. The “fine art, high key, framed” preset gave me the look I wanted. And like that, I transformed a mid-afternoon light into something better! Follow the process through the images below.





Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes