Author: Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

A N   I N T I M A T E   E X P L O R A T I O N    O F     I C E L A N D

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

You may have dreamed of traveling to Iceland, as I did for years, longing to photograph its incredibly diverse landscape. A plethora of images had tempted me for a decade

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

or longer, enticing with massive waterfalls, glowing sunsets and noble Icelandic horses. Admittedly the allure of this magical country is hard to resist. As recently as a few years ago I had a powerful ambition to capture all the ‘iconic’ shots so often published of Iceland, but over time something in me changed. I’m not sure exactly what it was that altered my perspective, perhaps it was a number of factors. I noticed that my interest had shifted towards photographers that were creating more subtle, unique compositions and capturing the hidden elements of a scene, as opposed to the more obvious, grand shots that have almost become common now. I also became weary of what I perceived to be a rabid pursuit of ‘epic’ light. I do not mean to imply that there is anything wrong with photographing ultra-dramatic light and conditions, we would be remiss as photographers if we did not. Unfortunately though, the message often conveyed is, “If there isn’t a flaming sky, stay home” or even worse, “If there isn’t a flaming sky, just paint one in later with Photoshop”. Despite the general popularity and initial impact of these ‘sensationalized’ images of nature, I felt there was something missing. That approach to landscape photography left me feeling jaded. It is to the point now when one posts a photograph depicting spectacular light that they run the risk of their audience automatically assuming that the saturation slider was pushed too far to the right, or some Photoshop processing trick was executed. The viewer usually doubts, even if only sub-consciously, that the conditions represented in the photo ever existed. Often in today’s culture of digital nature photography great liberties are taken when processing files, pushing them far beyond the realm of reality. We’ve labeled this ‘artistic expression’ and moved on. I became more certain with each passing day that there was something forgotten, something overlooked…

Waiting for our attention, beyond all the hype about towering waterfalls and blazing sunsets, there is a quite landscape.

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

It was with these thoughts on my mind that I arrived in Iceland and began my quest to capture the beauty of this land from a fresh perspective. My first impression was that none of the photos I’d seen could do this amazing country justice. The photographic potential of the landscape in Iceland is staggering, at nearly every turn I found inspiration and elements that caught my eye, begging to be photographed. Since this was our summer photography tour we had nearly 24 hours of light each day making for nearly endless opportunities.

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

One of the great benefits of this ‘midnight sun’ is that the ‘golden hour’ stretches into multiple hours and the window for soft light during sunrise and sunset has a much longer duration. Due to its proximity to the polar circle and location in the center of the vast Atlantic Ocean the weather changes frequently. Some days we would awaken to bright sunshine and a soft breeze and another day troubled, stormy skies with 60 mile per hour wind gusts. Regardless of the weather, the landscape is enchanting, and from a photographer’s perspective it is paradise. Glaciers, icebergs, volcanoes, lava fields, geysers, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, meadows, flowers, birds, horses, beaches and the mighty ocean, what’s not to love?

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

We visited many of the iconic locations throughout Iceland, but you might not know it looking through my Iceland portfolio. I wanted to shoot what resonated with me personally, not what garnered recognition or would get lots of attention on social media platforms. Much of the time this approach worked well, other times it meant visiting an iconic location and finding nothing that caught my eye but the obvious composition. When this occurred I’d set my gear aside and drink in the beauty surrounding me, capturing mental memories of the scene to enjoy forever.

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

My one regret from our tour is that it did not last longer. Thankfully I’ll be back in 2016 to lead our Iceland Photography Tours in January and February where we’ll experience Iceland decorated in winter’s embrace and then again in July for our summer tours in July. I can’t wait to return and hope that a journey to Iceland is in your future as well, it’s truly an unforgettable experience.

There are stunning waterfalls everywhere in Iceland… be sure to look beyond them and find all the other beauty this land holds for those who seek it out.

Enjoy a hi-res gallery of the images from this article in my Iceland Portfolio. 

© Nathaniel Smalley

© Nathaniel Smalley

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome. Nathaniel is a nature photographer and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Macro iPhoneography

Author: Amy Horn

wide to macro

My neighborhood has a wonderful display of garden flowers and I love to photograph flowers. So, on my daily dog walks I carry my iPhone and a macro lens to capture the beautiful neighborhood color. Here are a few things I learned while using my iPhone for macro work.

  1. All of photography is about capturing the light reflecting off your subject. So, even with an iPhone, you want to find quality light. Cloud cover is one of the best lighting situations with soft diffused light. What you want to avoid is low light with an iPhone. In low light situations, your images will have with noise and grain from the small sensor.
  2. With all macro photography, wind is the enemy. Even a fast shutter speed will create a blurred image in a macro environment. In Flagstaff, mornings are less windy than afternoons. So, I always photograph in the morning.
  3. Macro Lens. There are many macro lenses for phones out there to purchase but my favorites are the ones that clip on quickly. If I have to take off my phone case or twist something on I will not use the macro lens. These macro lenses do let you get very close – less than an inch away from your subject!
  4. Burst mode. Even if the flower is very still, I might move slightly. The best option for success is to shoot in burst mode. If you have never used burst mode on an iPhone before it is so simple.
    Macro clip on lens

    Macro clip on lens

    Just hold the button down. Multiple images with be captured. Be careful though, I once held the button down by mistake and in no time I had 100 images! Many people use burst mode, but don’t realize it because when you view the images, you only see one. Apple stacks the photos and you can select the one(s) you want and delete the rest. Here are three screen shots from the photos app. The first one indicates I captured a burst of 5 photos. After choosing edit, I can select some of the images. When I click “done” I see the options to keep everything or keep my favorites. If I choose to keep my favorites, then my favorites are visible into the photos app as individual photos.

flowersIf you become a serious macro iPhoneographer, you may want to invest in a bluetooth trigger. This small unit connects with your iPhone and releases the shutter on your camera (your headphones can do this too). I find sometimes triggering with one hand and holding the phone with the other gives me more success. I have fun taking photos whether it is with my iPhone or my big DSLR and

iPhone remote trigger

iPhone remote trigger

any photo I capture are opportunities to practice!

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and teaches Photo 101, Photo 102, iPhoneography, iPad Workflow and Flash Basics for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or


Getting the Shot: Shutter, Exposure and Post-Processing

Author: Michael Greene

IMG_0781-McCloud-Creek-2-FLAT-copy-2-blog3This  capture is of the McCloud River located in the Trinity-Shasta National Forest and this tutorial is about how I crafted the finished product. After a notoriously dry winter, the watersheds in Northern California were running low, especially for the season. For this shot, the lack of water actually worked to my advantage as a massive flow would have made the scene either too dangerous to capture or less aesthetically pleasing.

A short down climb to a precarious, yet relatively safe ledge was necessary for this shot, which was photographed around 10 am on a cloudy morning. I used a circular polarizer to reduce the glare in the water as well as the foliage. During processing, I hand blended for dynamic range using three successive shots at F/16 and ISO 50, which were taken in manual mode. F/16 is my go to aperture setting for my wide angle lens as it gives me the best depth field while retaining the resolution comparable to some of the larger aperture settings.

ISO 50 was selected because I was looking to achieve specific shutter speeds for my picture. The three shutter speeds used on my Canon camera were: 1/13, .3, and .8. The middle exposure, which I used as the base for my image, encompassed most of the rocks and forest as well as a portion of the water. The 1/13 of a second exposure was used primarily for the highlights beneath the small falls and rapids where clipping usually occurs due to the concentrated and the swifter moving portions of the water.


The longest exposure was for the darkest parts of the sculpted rock most notably in the foreground. Processing was completed using Lightroom 6 and Photoshop CC 2015. Once my initial RAW edits were completed, the images were imported in PS, stacked on top of one another in layers and then hand blended to achieve proper dynamic range.

For me, the capture of a scene like this is mostly intuitive as creating pictures like this was the reason I first got serious about photography over 10 years ago. Processing usually requires more work and for this image it involved some trial and error as I originally tried to edit the picture using only two exposures. (This may be possible with some of the newer digital cameras with better sensors, but my camera is over 6 years old) If this type of photography interests you, but you don’t feel comfortable with the technical aspects of capture – keep practicing it will become more natural over time and with repetition. Happy shooting!

Michael Greene is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and an avid nature photographer.

Patience is the name of the game

Author: David Halgrimson

Anyone who is a photographer already knows that landscape and wildlife photography takes time and lots and lots of patience. If you are looking to work in these areas with your photography here is a little lesson, time and patience go hand in hand as it takes patience to spend the time to get the shot.

While on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop in Yellowstone NP in January 2010 with photographer Henry Holdsworth we wandered in the Norris Geyser Basin with our group during midday, not typically a great time of day for landscapes but in this case with the rising steam from the geysers it was spectacular.

As we walked along the boardwalk into the basin my eye was caught by a number of pine trees that would poke in and out as the wind blew the steam around. At times there would be a fair view of the trees and other times it would be nearly opaque.Image 1

Not only was the steam an issue, the light kept changing as well. As the rest of our group proceeded into the basin to shoot I visualized the shot I wanted. So I waited, and shot, and waited, and shot, and waited until finally the steam opened up and the light hit just right.  It was the shot I was hoping for.

Image 2

I worked the shot for forty five minutes, staying in one spot and trying to stay warm in very cold weather.  The final result was well worth it.  The steam parted revealing snow-capped trees jutting out from the landscape.

Image 3

Photography is  kind of like fishing, if you think you have the right spot then it just takes time and patience to catch the big one.

David Halgrimson is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Shooting exotic places…close to home

Author:  Vicki Uthe

The other day, after a monsoon rainstorm in Flagstaff, my 10-year old granddaughter and I wandered down to the local park. We had been to the playground earlier that day and wandered over to the pond where she discovered a family of American Coots. Dad was preening himself on a log while Mom was chasing around her brood. It was mid-day so we vowed to return at sunset.


We hung out indoors for the afternoon while lightning and rain did its thing. At around 5:00 pm I grabbed my 100-400 mm lens mounted on my Canon 7D and my granddaughter and headed back out. We went straight to the pond and found Mama sitting on her kids. Every now and then a little orange head would pop out only to disappear moments later.

Eventually Mama Coot became comfortable enough with our presence that she let her little chicks run amuck. Turns out she has five. Earlier we only saw three. The lighting was beautiful at that time of day and I didn’t have to go very far to get some great shots of nature. These four images were gathered in a 90 minute time frame within a mile from my home.


The moral of the story? Don’t wait for big exotic trips to get out there and shoot. There is a lot to be seen right in your own backyard. And if you practice there, you will be even more ready to shoot when you DO take those exotic trips.

Vicki Uthe is a trip leader with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Cibeque Canyon Falls

Author: Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

Cibeque Canyon Creek is located on the White Mountain Apache Native Reservation. Road access to this spectacular canyon waterfall is not difficult, yet for some reason it remains relatively unknown. Start by purchasing a tribal lands permit at the Circle K gas station in Globe on SR60.

From Globe take SR 60 72 miles into the heart of Salt River Canyon. As you approach the rim of the Salt River Canyon SR 60 switch backs for several scenic miles offering extraordinary views into the depths of the canyon. Once you approach the bottom of the canyon at river level you will see a visitors center on your right just before crossing the bridge. Definitely stop, it is worth a visit!

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

Just after crossing the bridge you will see a pullout and road to your left, take it! This is Apache Road 1 which leads to directly Cibeque Canyon Trailhead. Of the dozen or so times I have traveled this road it has always been in good condition, suitable for most two wheel drive cars. Stay on this road for approximately 4.5 miles at which point you will come to a creek crossing.

Do not cross the creek unless you have a high clearance four wheel drive vehicle. Fortunately the trailhead is just on the other side of the creek, so if needed park your car before the creek crossing and wade across the creek which is only knee deep, of course unless flood waters are present. There is a large gravel pull indicating the trailhead on the right after crossing the creek.

Once at the trailhead, the hike into Cibeque falls is about 2.25 miles. The locals have told me it is only a one mile hike to the falls but my GPS told me otherwise. The visibility of the trail depends on the time of year. In the summer or fall the trail is quite obvious and well established due to use. However in the winter or early spring after snow melt and flood waters the trail is heavily obscured or completely gone. Either way, the trail often seems broken or discontinuous as it criss crosses the creek numerous times on the way to Cibeque falls.

© Shane McDermott

© Shane McDermott

You will get your feet wet, this is unavoidable! If right from the start you wear shoes you don’t mind getting wet, the whole hike will be more efficient, safer and enjoyable. Leave about 1-1:30 hrs. to reach the falls. I found early morning light to be best for photography, which means you must reach the falls before direct sunlight begin to penetrate the canyon. Also be sure to bring lots of water, snacks, sunscreen, bathing suit and towel. This is a great place for swimming as well.

Shane McDermott is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops and a frequent contributor to Arizona Highways Magazine.

Spot Removal: Cloning vs Healing

Author: Christina Heinle

One of the great tools in Adobe Lightroom is the spot removal tool.  There are two brushes within the spot removal tool, Clone and Heal.   While similar in nature, they act differently and understanding the difference changes your results.

The basic difference between the clone and healing brush is the clone stamp tool copies pixels while the healing brush blends surrounding pixels.

While editing a picture I noticed the top of the lightest is blurry.  It wasn’t a specially windy day that would cause that much motion;  on closer inspection I saw there was a netting causing the blurred look.


Changing my view to 3:1 I was able to see the netting which I wanted to remove.


Using the spot removal tool with zero feather, I drew a line across the top of the light.  You can see the healing tool makes a muddied mess of the pixels blending everything together.


On the other hand, if you compare the healing tool to the clone tool where the clone tool strictly copies and replaces, the results are much cleaner.


If you have trouble deciding which tool is best, you can always try both and determine which tool gives you the best results.



Christina is a trip leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  To see more of Christina’s work visit