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

How to Get Better Wildlife Photos

By Amy Horn

I have dreams capturing wildlife photos on an African Safari. It’s not in my travel plans yet, but if I get the chance, I want to be ready! If this is an experience you are planing, you may want to prepare too. How do you prepare for such a phenomenal experience? Practice. This sounds obvious, but do musicians perform without practicing? No, they don’t. So, if you have a trip planned to photograph wildlife, practice locally to master the technique and your equipment. Here is an example of practicing: in a Nature Photography class I teach at NAU, I took my students to a local pond to photograph waterfowl. The waterfowl are accustomed to people and are not easily startled so this gave the beginning wildlife students a little more time to get each shot. I challenged them to capture images in flight and static scenarios. After spending 90 minutes at the pond they had a much better handle on reading behaviors of the waterfowl, settings on their camera to use and being prepared for the fast movement. Keep practicing and focus on the following techniques for stronger wildlife images.

  1. Know your camera – Our cameras are amazing. Whether you own a DSLR, mirrorless or even a mobile phone camera, know your gear! The drive mode on your camera captures a burst of photos giving you several images to choose from. Set the focus for your subject. If the birds are in flight, use continuous focus and select several focus points. The camera will assist you in finding the subject. Some cameras offer focus tracking. Research your camera by reading the manual or watching videos on your manufacturer’s website to select the best settings for wildlife.
  2. Be ready – If you are chimping on your LCD panel viewing your last shot, then you will miss the shot right now. Keep your finger on the shutter and the camera up to your eye. There is nothing worse than missing the shot!
  3. AvocetComposition – We connect more with wildlife images when we are at their eye level. So get low and focus on the eyes. If your wildlife is moving, always leave more room in the frame in front of the animal so that they can “move into the frame.”

Whether you have an African Safari planned or want to capture other wildlife, have a little fun at your local pond to master your equipment and camera techniques.

Amy Horn is an Instructor with Arizona Highways PhotoScapes

iPhone or “Real” Camera? Which is better?

Author: Amy Horn

Have you ever wondered what is the difference between an iPhone image and a “real” camera image? Well, here is the test. I was waiting in a Northern Arizona University parking lot for students to arrive for a field trip and I noticed ice. For those that don’t know me, I love capturing images of ice. Instantly, I grabbed my iPhone 7 and built in camera app, placed the phone about 2 inches away from the ice and captured several photos. I still had a few minutes before leaving with the students, so I grabbed my new Olympus OM-D E-M1 MarkII with the 12-100mm lens (sensor equivalent 24—200mm). I zoomed in to 100mm (200mm equivalent) and stood about 12 inches above the ice and shot several images. Both shots were taken with non-macro lenses and here are the comparison images:

Both images are straight out of the camera. You might notice a slight difference in white balance from the different systems auto white balance. Unfortunately, I did not compose the images identically, but, can you tell which image is the iPhone image? Take my iPhoneography/Smart Phone photography class to learn the answer. Not really! The image on the left is from the iPhone and the image on the right is from the Olympus. When I examined these images close up, I have to say the only difference I saw was the white balance! Decide for yourself and compare your smart phone to a “real” camera. Sometimes that mobile phone can be quite a powerful option.

It’s not too late to join Amy in her iPhoneography/Smart Phone Photography class March 25! Follow the link to register.


Amy Horn is a lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. View her current teaching schedule at or

Instagram: amyhornphotographer
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Zoo Photography – Shooting Through Fences

Author: Amy Horn

Capturing images of zoo animals should be easy. After all, they are waiting for us to take their photo in their enclosures. But the trick to capturing great zoo photos is to capture a photo that doesn’t look like it was taken in a zoo. To get these strong shots, you don’t want to see fences or food bowls and you want to capture expressions of the animals, otherwise your images will look like snapshots. So, here are five tips to improve your zoo animal images. To keep this simple, I have focused these five tips on enclosures with fences:

Tips for photographing wildlife in fenced enclosures:

1. Long lens
2. Wide open aperture
3. Background
4. Shadows
5. Patience


1. Long lens – Use a long lens to blur out the fence in the foreground. Focal lengths from 200-400mm are great lenses to use in zoos. It isn’t as simple as just using the long lens though, you also need to position your lens as close to the fence as possible. So, lean in, zoom and shoot. As you setup your shot, you will want to pay attention to light hitting the fence. If there is light on the fence you are shooting through, that light may become a reflection in your frame. Try to shoot through an area of the fence that is in shade.

2. Wide open aperture
– Using a long lens is only half of the formula for shooting through fences. The second half of the formula is to use a wide open aperture. Setting your aperture at f/2.8 or f/4 for example, will blur the fence in the foreground. If the animal is touching the fence, you won’t be able to blur out the fence, so start shooting when the animal is several feet away from the fence. Combine this with the long lens and your fences will be unnoticeable.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, but baboon is too close to fence.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, but baboon is too close to fence.

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, now baboon is several feet away from the fence

f/5.6, 1/2000, 400mm, now baboon is several feet away from the fence

3. Background – Now that you have the technical aspects of a strong zoo photo, it is time to finesse the details of the shot and that starts with the background of the image. Can you see fences in your frame? How about food bowls? Are there sticks or trees creating unnatural attachments in your frame? Move yourself around the enclosure to omit these items from the background or foreground. Shooting from a higher angle can minimize the amount of background in the photo and shooting from a low angle will accentuate the animal and minimize the foreground. Using both of these techniques will create an image focused strictly on the animal and omit other distractions.

4. Shadows – Every enclosure is unique and shadows in the enclosure can be your best friend or your worst enemy. If the shadow is positioned behind the animal, your image will pop due to the juxtaposition of contrast. However, if the animal is sitting in shadows cast from fences or other distracting elements, the image doesn’t work because the viewer can see the fence shadows and these shadows are not natural.

f/5.6, 1/1250, 400 mm but shadows from fence do not complement photo

f/5.6, 1/1250, 400 mm but shadows from fence do not complement photo

5. Patience – This last tip is patience. Patience is what brings the image together. Whether you can be patient enough to sit for hours or minutes is up to you. If the animal is sleeping, come back later and often they will have moved to a better location in the habitat. If a docent from the zoo is nearby, ask them when these animals are most active (feeding times always wake animals). If the animal is awake, be patient and wait for an expression. Capturing images of sleeping animals is nice, but not as interesting as images exhibiting behaviors.

f/5.6, 1/500 sec, 300mm and patience for behaviors.

f/5.6, 1/500 sec, 300mm and patience for behaviors.

Patience.... This image was number 18 of 20.

Patience…. This image was number 18 of 20.

That’s it. Five simple tips to improve your zoo photography! If you want personal attention you can always join me on my zoo workshops at the Wildlife World Zoo, February 25 or at the Arizona Sonora Desert Museum on March 11. Happy Shooting!


Amy Horn is a Lecturer of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Instagram: amyhornphotographer

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Photo tips for Bearizona

Author: Amy Horn02_16 Bearizona-6900

Imagine driving your car through a forest in Northern Arizona and viewing wolves,bear, bison, donkey and many more animals. This unique experience is what you will find at Bearizona Park in Williams, Arizona. The park is divided into two main areas, the drive thru park and “Fort Bearizona” where you can stroll through winding walkways to view more bear, fox, bobcat and other North American animals. It you are thinking of visiting Bearizona, here are three tips to better photos.

  1. Upon entry to the park, most cars head straight to the drive through area. In this area, you drive from habitat to habitat looking for wildlife. Hopefully you can spot all 13 bear! A long lens with a focal length of 200mm or larger is your best chance at capturing a great photo. On occasion, animals are on the road, but most often they are off eating, sleeping or walking in the wooded areas so a long lens is crucial. Drive slowly and if you pull off to take photos make sure you leave room for cars to pass you. Something you might not think about is the impact your tinted windows will have on your photographs (for safety, windows remain closed). I found my window tinting gave me an underexposed image by more than one stop. To compensate for this boost your ISO or open your aperture to add more light. Vehicles can repeat the loop as many times as desired to capture the animals in their different behavioral activities.

02_16 Bearizona-6920

  1. At the end of the drive thru area is a parking lot for Fort Bearizona. Fort Bearizona is a small area of animal habitats including multiple bear enclosures, javelina, bobcats, a raptor flight (March – Nov only), petting zoo and several more species. At these enclosures you can take advantage of the close proximity to the animals and use shorter lenses. I recommend focal lengths from 50-300mm to capture these critters. The bear enclosures separate the bear by age and those juvenile bear love to climb the trees. If you don’t see any bear, be sure to look up!
  1. Three times daily the “Wild Ride Bus Tour” loops through the park. In case you were busy driving the loop earlier, riding the bus will give you a chance to photograph the animals. The best seats are closest to the driver and, of course, by a window. The reason seats by the driver are best is that the driver will feed some animals and they trot right on over to the bus.

So, if you are up for a unique experience with wildlife, check out Bearizona Park in Williams, AZ and don’t forget your long lens.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.  Join her in the upcoming zoo workshops at Wildlife World Zoo and Arizona Sonora Desert Museum or view her current schedule at or

On Thin Ice

Author:  Amy Horn

The overnight temperatures in Flagstaff on average have been below 20 degrees Fahrenheit for the past few weeks, so it is no surprise that Francis Short Pond is covered with thin ice. The ice has been different thicknesses but the first day I went to capture ice photos, the ice was not even an inch thick. So, I had to be creative on how to capture the intriguing ice bubbles I spotted just off the shore. I knew I couldn’t stand on the ice, but I hoped it would hold the weight of my camera. So, I setup my gear (tripod, Nikon D600 and 105mm macro lens) on the dry land and carefully set it on the ice.

Photo 3

I was a little nervous setting thousands of dollars of gear on the iced, but the ice held as you can see in Photo 1 and 2. When my heartbeat returned to normal, I realized my lens was not parallel to the plane of the subject. I would not get sharp photos if I didn’t make a change. Reaching over the ice from dry land, I adjusted my camera’s lens plane and then slid the tripod over the ice bubbles. I was using live view, but could barely reach the lens to focus from the side of the pond. I snapped a few shots with my shutter release then brought the tripod back to dry land to view the shots. The shots were in focus, but not the composition. Then I remembered my CamRanger. It was in my camera bag. A CamRanger is a wireless solution to capturing and viewing images (among other great features). The CamRanger would solve my problem.

Photo 2

I plugged the CamRanger into the camera’s USB port and used a Tether Tools Rock solid smart clip with hot shoe adapter mount to stabilize it on the camera. I opened my iPhone wifi settings and found the CamRanger wifi signal. Next, I opened the CamRanger app and turned on live view. Only a few short minutes at 19 degrees passed and I was ready to place my tripod & camera back on the ice. With the CamRanger, I could remotely control my camera through focus and exposure and preview the composition. As long as I could reach a tripod leg, I could rotate the camera on the ice to capture the composition I desired. I even used the CamRanger focus stacking feature to capture a series of images that I could stack when I got home. Photo 3 is a single capture from the CamRanger setup. This was so much fun, I forgot my gear was resting on thin ice or that it was below 20 degrees!

For more information on a CamRanger or Tether Tools mounts, please visit Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or

Mobile Editing with Photoshop Mix

Author:  Amy Horn

In my opinion, mobile editing is not a laptop but it is using an iPad to edit photos. So, on all of my travels I only take my iPad and recently I discovered a great application to editing on the run, Adobe Photoshop Mix. Not only is Photoshop Mix easy to use, it is a free download for Adobe Creative Cloud users. So, let’s take a look at my workflow. A few weeks back, I photographed ice on a frozen pond. When I returned home, I downloaded my images to Lightroom on my PC and created a collection of these images to synchronize with Lightroom Mobile. Now, my ice images were available anywhere I carried my iPad. A few hours later, our family took off on a weekend road trip which gave me time in the car editing my photos.

So, I opened Lightroom Mobile and selected a photo to edit. The image I am showing here is an image I thought I would throw away. When I first captured the image, I neglected to notice the branch in the frame. Once I studied my composition, I captured several more images without the branch. But instead of throwing this image away, I realized I really liked the curve at the bottom of the ice and decided it was worth editing. This particular edit is more than what Lightroom can do, so I chose the export feature of Lightroom Mobile and selected “Copy to Photoshop Mix.” Just like that, Photoshop Mix opened with my image ready to edit. That was pretty cool.

Original Ice image

Zoomed in image cloning tool in Photoshop Mix

The app has a simple overview screen with icons and descriptions to make it user friendly. I chose the healing button and then the clone stamp tool. With a quick tap on the screen where I wanted to steal from and then another tap on the screen over the branch, instantly part of the branch was gone. I continued to apply the clone stamp tool until I had removed the branch from the photo. In a matter of one minute or less, I had a “cleaned up” version of my image to evaluate. If I decided this image is a keeper, I will probably complete a final edit using Photoshop on my home computer, but since I was in a car and didn’t have my computer with me, this was a great solution. The best part of using Photoshop Mix is the seamless transition back to Lightroom. In my editing screen I chose the exporting icon and selected my favorite option, “Save to Lightroom.” Of course, I could have saved to my camera roll or many other options, but, just like that, my edited image was returned to Lightroom Mobile. Saving to Lightroom Mobile is synonymous to saving on my home computer since all of these photos synchronize instantly. Mobile editing doesn’t get much better than this! If you are a mobile device user, Photoshop Mix might be a great solution to your editing needs. Now I can edit on the go and know the image is safe on my home computer.

Finished image

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University and an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops. To see her current schedule view or