Red on the Rim

Author: Greg McKelvey

The Mogollon Rim, stretching from near Flagstaff to New Mexico, is more than a unique topographic and geologic feature.  It’s forests are home to numerous, albeit hidden Mountain Maple and small groves of Aspen trees.   Not the grand vistas surrounding the San Francisco Peaks and nothing like the New England hardwood forests, the Rim Country does have fall displays to fill the portfolio of any professional photographer, publication amateur enthusiast.  The question is where are they?

Take a Sunday fall drive on the USFS 300 road, and you will likely pass yellow flames of aspen, some even with ponds to capture the reflections.  The occasional sighting of small red maple trees is evidence that there is more. Some experienced folks know of a few isolated red and orange maple groves, many just below the Rim.  A few experienced photographers hike Horton and See Canyons for wonderful fall displays.  The more one explores, the more one finds.  Makes sense, yet not all that easy for the visitors.

Google Earth offers a shortcut that may well enhance the probability of finding exceptional fall shots!

Google Earth is a free program that uses the most up to date satellite imagery available.  Open the program and find your house and likely you will see your car in the driveway.  As they add new imagery, they do not discard the old!    With satellite data back as far 1992, their historical record of images may well capture a place at that unique time.  Such is the case in the hunt for fall colors in parts of the Mogollon Rim.

Note the difference in the image taken in June 2014 over the intersection of the Rim Road 300 and USFS 84 and the images captured in October, 2012.  See the red?

Perhaps not evident until zooming closer (see below).  The Mable and Aspen show on USFS 84 are known to many, often photographed and worth a revisit each year.   What was not evident is the extent of these colorful trees.  I have visited this location for more than 10 years , yet until I saw the  October 2012 Google Earth capture, I did not know how far I could find special color.  Mind you these are not the grand vista, yet are wonderful walks in the forest where my camera never stops clicking.

Red on the Rim 4

Note individual red trees.

To find the stack of images that Google Earth stores:

  • Open Google Earth
  • Navigate to a National Forest near your
  • Zoom in a bit to see roads and familiar places
  • Click on the date in the lower left hand side of the display next to Tour Guide a clock and find the 1992 button (this would be the oldest image on file).
  • Click and it opens a time slider at the upper left.
  • Slide to the right looking at the dates. Earlier images are in Black and White while many are taken in summer.
  • Surf and slide until you find the time of year you plan to do your work.

In the case of USFS 84 maple / aspen grove, the image from September 2010 and October 2010 shows nothing, but October 2012, wow the forest lights up.   From that base, we have found and visited locations,  some with splendid foregrounds and colorful skies were we would not have known to look.  I want to explore a new place each year, and I have a robust list of fall color locations worth checking.

Hey this might work in other places for other subjects.   Who knows?  I think I see carpets of wild flowers on one May image so far from a road that it not well photographed??

Greg McKelvey is a participant at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Capture Your Moment: Macro-Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Macro- Photography” Session.

Macro Photography - Glass Frog

Bruce takes photographs of small things because they are beautiful, and he can only really appreciate how beautiful and unique they are by having an image to look at. It is almost impossible for him to see the scales that make up butterfly wings or the pollen on a bee’s legs without viewing a photograph.  He never really appreciated the intricacy of a dragonfly’s eyes or the interweaves of a bird’s feather, again until he saw a close-up photograph of them.  There is an incredible WOW factor when he looks at images that show the pieces of the natural world that he has never seen before. Even though many of his images of small things may never be published, it is through these images that he better appreciates the beauty of the small pieces of our world.

Macro Photography - Moth

Macro-photography is normally defined as “taking photographs of small items and making them larger than life size”.  This definition, for most photographers, is too limiting.  It can be defined more simply as “close-up” photography, allowing photos of less than life-size subjects to be included.

Macro-photography is unique from other forms of photography in that it requires the use of different types of equipment than landscape, portrait, and most wildlife photography.  It also requires some different skills than other forms of photography. The cameras are the same, but only through the use of specialized lenses and other equipment can the photographer take photographs at 0.5X and it is even more complicated as we attempt to photograph at magnifications greater than 1X.

Macro Photography - Gecko

In the “Macro-photography” learning session, you will learn all about the specialized equipment, techniques, and art of macro-photography.  Bruce’s hope is that after you digest all of that information, you will better understand how to use the cameras, lenses, and associated equipment to open up the special world of macro-photography.

To read the post on Bruce’s other learning session, “Hummingbird Photography,” visit our Capture Your Moment page.

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this, please visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

Listen and Learn

Author: Amy Horn

Since I was young, I remember hearing some version of the saying “listen and learn” from my parents. They would be happy to know that I have finally taken their advice. Probably not what they were thinking, but I have found listening to podcasts to be a great learning opportunity for photography.  Since I live in Flagstaff, a mid-sized mountain town, and travel frequently for teaching workshops, presentations and photography, downloading podcasts keeps me entertained on the road. Using the common Bluetooth features in newer cars, my days of searching for clear radio stations is over… the podcasts come in crystal clear. Of all the podcasts I have listened to my favorites are Photofocus, Improve Photography and This Week in Photo.

The Photofocus photofocuspodcast covers a variety of topics from new technologies to photographic techniques through professional interviews with working photographers. Videographer and photographer, Richard Harrington publishes this podcast three times a month and utilizes other professional photographers to conduct interviews as well. Whether you want to learn from Joe McNally, Lindsay Adler or any of the Photoshop Dream Team, Photofocus has the interview. This podcast is full of inspiration and information for beginners to advanced photographers wanting to stay current in the field. The Photofocus podcasts’ generally air for an hour and their website offers additional videos and resources free to the


The Improve Photography podcast, hosted by Jim Harmer, has grown drastically in the past months by adding additional pro photographers to their podcast for a
round table discussion and branched out with additional podcasts each week covering portraits, thoughts about photography and my favorite the “photo taco” podcast.
Although the music in the photo taco podcast is more energetic than what I like, each podcast is approximately 10 minutes long covering simple concepts in a short time frame. These audio discussions are targeted to a large audience and beginning photographers would really benefit from many of their topics. Improve Photography podcasts generally last no more than 40 minutes and the website offers additional courses ($) and articles to advance photographic learning.

The third podcast I listen to frequently is This Week in Photo (TWIP). TWIP has recently branched out with additional podcasts hosted by other professional photographers covering street photography, weddings, Photoshop/Lightroom, travel, gear, family, and twipthe weekly roundtable discussion. This network airs a wealth of knowledge in a variety of different subjects. Frederick Van Johnson, founder/host, invites different photographers weekly for the roundtable discussion and includes “picks of the week.” These picks highlight anything related to photography from books to apps to gear.  TWIP podcasts average an hour or more in length and the topics range from beginner to advanced. The website offers a member only option with additional learning available but all podcasts and show notes are free.  The show notes include links to resources discussed in the podcast.

All of the above podcasts are downloadable from their respective websites or iTunes. If you like listening to podcasts while driving, walking or cleaning the house then download one of these podcasts (or check out different ones) to “Listen and Learn” about photography.

Amy Horn is a professor of photography at Northern Arizona University as well as an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

A Big Night for the Moon Part II

Author: Beth Ruggiero-York

In my last blog post, I gave you the details and timing of the upcoming lunar eclipse. In this post, I’ll help you get started with the process of photographing a lunar eclipse.

Photographing a lunar eclipse is easy and fun. No special filters or glasses for your eyes are needed as with solar eclipses. It is safe to watch the moon eclipsing with the naked eye. The choice of lens for the lunar eclipse will depend on your composition. If you want an image of just the moon without any landscape/foreground features, then the same technique as shooting the full moon rising applies— use your longest lens, preferably mounted on a crop-sensor camera, with a teleconverter. If you don’t have a crop-sensor camera or a teleconverter, that’s okay. Just use your longest lens.

Lunar eclipse

If you want to shoot the lunar eclipse with a foreground, then a wider lens is needed. The objective of this type of image is to include context with the eclipsing moon, such as an interesting building, cityscape, natural landscape. Start with an ISO of about 400 at your widest aperture and take test shots ranging from 5 to 30 seconds. Of course, the moon will appear as a much smaller element in the image, but it will still stand out depending on placement of the other elements of the composition.

For answers to all your questions about night photography, check out my new book, Fun in the Dark: A Guide to Successful Night Photography.

Beth Ruggiero-York  is an instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Capture Your Moment: Travel Photography: Domestic and Abroad

Joel Wolfson will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Travel Photography: Domestic and Abroad” session.

CYM Travel Photography

Most of Joel’s best selling work is travel photography.  He faces special challenges when traveling, and those who also travel to capture images are familiar with these challenges. One of the biggest ones is that we are limited on time in any one place so we don’t have the luxury of ideal lighting or weather. Add to that the differences in language and culture when traveling abroad, and you have your work cut out for you to capture top notch images.

One of the best ways to deal with this is research ahead of time.  Make use of bookstores, libraries, the internet, appropriate exhibits in your area, or any other means of familiarizing yourself with your destination. This way you not only have an idea what there will be to photograph and how you might tell your stories, but it will also give you inspiration which is a key element for a creative endeavor like photography. For overseas travelers, having researched the culture and knowing a few words of the language will greatly decrease frustration and equally increase your success rate of great images.

Look for a future post about Joel’s second learning session, “Essential Plugins for Post Processing” and for more information on the individual sessions visit our “Capture Your Moment” page.

For more information on Joel and to subscribe to his email list, click here.

Joel Wolfson is a photographer and instructor for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like these visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.

Capture Your Moment: Hummingbird Photography

Bruce Taubert will be presenting two learning sessions at Arizona Highways Photo Workshops’ 30th Anniversary Symposium.  Here’s more about his “Hummingbird Photography” session.

Broad-tailed Hummingbird male. Payson, AZ

How do you take a stop action photograph of a 2 inch long, fast flying hummingbird whose wings beat in excess of 60 times each second?  After you figure that out make sure that the background has a pleasing out of focus look and get the hummingbird to feed on a colorful flower.  Well, you cannot just sit next to a beautiful flower in hummingbird habitat and wait for the perfect moment; you need to set up an “outdoor hummingbird photo laboratory”.

The outdoor lab consists of three to five flashes set at a reduced power, an artificial backdrop, a few light stands, one hummingbird feeder, and normal camera gear.  The feeder attracts the hummingbird so that the photographer knows exactly where it is going to eventually fly.  Flashes set with reduced power go off at a faster rate (at 1/16 power the flash duration will be approximately 1/20,000 sec.) and stop the blur of the birds wings.  The artificial backdrop is set about 5 feet in back of the feeder so that the background does not turn our black.  After the hummingbird is accustomed having its portrait taken replace the feeder with a nice flower and when it feeds on the flower take a photo.  Keep the flower “salted” with sugar water to entice a returned visit.

The only issue with taking stop action, high-speed hummingbird images is getting over the very short learning curve.  In other words, just get out there and do it!  You will have the opportunity to at the “Hummingbird Photography” session!

Look for a future post about Bruce’s second learning session, “Macro Photography.”

Bruce Taubert is a photographer for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

For more information and to register for sessions like this visit the AHPW’s 30th Symposium website.