Spring is time for Cactus Blooms…and a new camera

Author: David Halgrimson

It is spring and everyone is taking and posting images of the beautiful cactus flowers currently in bloom. I guess I just have to join in and share a few of my own but with a little twist to the story.

Cactus 5

I normally shoot Canon and know my equipment quite well. However we photographers are never happy just using the same equipment over and over, where is the challenge in that.

So I bought a new camera, not new new but new to me, a Sony NEC 5N. This is a small mirrorless and viewfinder-less camera with amazing abilities. It does all the major things we look for, shoots RAW, has aperture, shutter, manual as well as all the canned settings, i.e. scene mode, video and much more. It also has interchangeable lenses. The problem is, it works completely different than my Canons so after reading the printed manual, very general, the provided PDF extended manual and a third party full detail manual, I was on my way.

Two things I discovered right off 1) using the LCD monitor to compose, check settings and focus is not too easy in bright sun and 2) using the Control Wheel to select menu items and items within the menus is not easy. Trying to rotate the wheel vs. press the wheel, two separate options, takes finesse and creates much frustration.

But that said, I took it in hand and headed out to walk the neighborhood looking for cactus flowers. I used an 18-55mm 3.5-5.6 lens, shot in RAW and aperture priority and here are some of the images. Not all are as sharp as I would like but that’s me still learning and not the camera.

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

No Need for All the Subject All the Time

Author:  David Halgrimson

It is not always necessary to get all of a subject in the image. Many times high impact and interest can be achieved by getting real close and focusing on a small part of a subject. This works with plants, animals, buildings, people and anything you shoot. The best way to do this, if possible, is to get physically closer rather than shooting from afar and then cropping in post processing. Make sure when getting close that you stay safe, safety first in my book. There are many ways to get close, moving our feet closer, climbing up, stooping down, moving left or right some times lying down and there is also the use of a telephoto lens. Always consider the subject, is it at your normal eyesight, is it down near the ground, small animals, is it swimming, is it tall or in a tree? Where ever it is take that into consideration when composing your shot and when possible get to the best angle.

Here are a few examples of getting in close.

For the duck, I was on my bell_MG_0763y next to the shore.

The Zebra I was stand a little over him._MG_6020


The Ostrich I was a little below but in a vehicle so could not change my position_MG_5950

The Spider, close with a macro lens and a little above to get the eye but at a safe distance just in case it didn’t like me._MG_5449


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

Time to get Artistic and Grungy

Author: David Halgrimson

On a not too recent trip to Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge in New Mexico on an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop I gathered many images of birds and landscapes over a weeks time and I wanted to create an image depicting the great experience and the wonderful birds. But…now what? Well I had been taking an online class in Grunge Photography, if you have not heard of it, Google it; you will see some cool stuff.

After looking through my many images I put on my creative hat, it’s not very big but growing, and decided to use a number of the images from the Bosque del Apache shoot. I decided on 5 Bosque images and a couple grunge images I had taken of some weird wall and rusted metal. BTW, part of doing grunge is seeing and taking pictures of crazy things like cracked cement, rusted metal, and broken glass, anything to use as a background or overlay all to blend with other images.

I created my image in Photoshop but it can also be done in Elements and maybe other software that I don’t know about. The technique uses extensive use of Layers, Blend modes, Masks and Brushes. The idea is to layer one image onto another, selecting a blend mode that combines the two followed by using masks and brushes to hide or reveal parts of the two images followed by layering in another image and doing the same thing, followed by another layer and another and so on.

My final image is a combination of seven images, twelve layers (some adjustment layers) and seven masks. Preprocessing of each image also needs to be done as each image should be ready to go into and fit the composition. For example I flipped a couple of the bird images so they would be flying into the image not out of the image. I also added three text layers for “The Birds of Bosque del Apache” as I wanted different effects for parts of the text.

Tree Finished

This is not an overnight process; it takes time, thought, trial and error, doing, and undoing. I probably have fifteen hours or more on this image not counting the hours put into taking the class. I found it to be well worth the effort and if interested check out Photoshop Artistry at https://fineartgrunge.com/grungecanvas/.

All the images used and the final image are here to see.
David Halgrimson is a Trip Leader for Arizona Highways Photo Workshops.

Conquering the Creative Block

Author: David Halgrimson

Have you ever gotten to the point where your creative photo eye just does not see anything? I have had my own dry spells, photographically that is. We look and look and even try a few shoots and it just does not feel right. Well sometimes we need to just take a break, relax take the pressure off and it will come back. Other times it is better to drive or force yourself to get up get out and find something to take pictures of.

In one case the Arizona Highways Photo Workshops group gave us volunteers a challenge, for seven days go out and just shoot one thing and only take one shot. For me, I thought well where would I go do that and how could I find seven different things, interesting things, over seven straight days?

I decided I would see what I could find right around my home, inside and out. These were right in my front and backyard and I never really saw them before.

So just do it, give yourself a challenge, pick up your camera and get out there. You will be surprised, as I was with the number of images right around your own home.


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

On the Street

Author: David Halgrimson

While on an AHPW to Missions and Pueblos of Santa Fe and Taos, I had the great experience and idea of taking portraits of people on the street or at events we visited and attended.

For many, taking pictures of strangers, especially if you have to ask them, is a bit daunting, scary, nerve wracking, you name it and it is for me as well. You have to get in a mindset that when you see someone who has a great look you are going to do what you have to to get the shot. There are more than one way to get candid street shots, one is to be try the shot without the person knowing, a bit sneaky, and another is to walk right up and ask. The behind the scene shots can be a bit more candid but are more difficult as you can’t just stand in front of them and hold the camera to your eye. The directness of asking will give more control, at least a little, of the shot, yet it is not as candid. Whichever you choose get out of your comfort zone and do it, it can be very rewarding.

On this trip I choose both ways but mostly to walk up and ask. Most of the responses from the people were, “what for?”, “why”, “who are you?”, “where are you from?”, “what are you going to do with the pictures?”, “what do you want me to do?”. My answers were simply, “I like your look”, “your hat is great”, “you have great eyes”, “just because”, “my name is”, “I am with Arizona Highways Photo Workshops”, “I love taking pictures”, “great shots might go in competitions”, “just do what you were doing” etc. No one turned me down and we had some great conversations.

1) The first gentleman I met at Pueblo of Acoma and he agreed without question. The sun was behind him and I used a Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75mm.


2) The second gentleman was walking along the street in Madrid NM, he was a bit shocked but agreed. The hat the beard the rough face all worked great. Canon 5D Mark II with a 24-105 lens at 75MM.


3) Next up was this girl, she was looking in some shops in a small part of town and when I first spotted her I thought, “there’s a great look wonder if she would let me take her picture” then chickened out. Saw her again later and kicked myself in the posterior and asked. Once again a shock, “why?”, “great eyes and the hat.


4) This woman was selling hats in Santa Fe and the person I was with was buying. When I asked she was surprised and not so sure but agreed. I had to shoot fast as I knew she would not pose long. Canon 5D Mark II 24-105 lens at 105mm.


5) Next up, we were at the Taos Pow Wow and I saw her a couple times and finally decided to ask, again, “why?”, who are you with?”. I loved the light spots coming though the hat onto her face and the great eyes.


6&7) The next two were a little tougher, they were standing together I decided to shoot them from afar, that was almost a big mistake. For my first attempt I used my Canon 7D with a 70-200 lens so I could shoot far across a field, whoops, got caught.  One of them put feathers up in front of his face then lowered them and motioned to me with a stern looking finger, no not that one, to approach him. So I did, he asked who I was what I was doing and what was I going to do with his pictures. I told him who I was, who I was with and that I wanted the pictures for personal use. He then asked if I was going to sell the pictures and that he was looking for a photographer from a previous time who was selling pictures of him and he was not happy. I assured him I was not going to sell his pictures and after some more discussion he and his partner agreed to let me take their pictures. It was a bit intimidating but all worked out and I later found out he was the Warrior Chief.

8) This lovely lady was watching the Pow Wow dancers and I first took a shoot from her side but decided I wanted a more frontal shot, so once again decided it would be better to ask. Same reactions along with “what do you want me to do?” and I said just do what you are doing and ignore me. After taking the shot I talked to her and gave her my business card and told her to email me if she would like a copy of the image. Never heard from her but love the shot. Canon 7D with 70-200 lens at 200mm.


9) This shot was taken at the Taos Pueblo in one of the Indian homes where they were selling art crafts created by the local Indians. I was buying a turquoise ring and this gentleman  was giving me a critique of  the ring. We had a long discussion, too long for this article, and then I asked if I could take his picture. The lighting was the best of all as it was coming in from a doorway camera left but it kept changing because clouds were passing by. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 73mm.


10) Finally this interesting guy, he owned an old defunct gas station on highway 68 along the Rio Grande river between Taos and Santa Fe. The place was great, full of old gas station memorabilia inside and out and he was supper interesting. I wanted to catch him in his environment so we shot outside with a background full of his stuff. Canon 5D Mark II with 24-105 lens at 24mm.


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

Make the Best of It

Author: David Halgrimson

_MG_0721 SmallOn an Arizona Highways Photo Workshop, Missions & pueblos of Santa Fe & Taos this July, our group was at the Abo Mission ruins of Salinas Pueblo National Monument. It was late evening and there had been rain in the area, lots of rain and when we decided to leave for our hotel, the only road in or out was flooded, no _MG_0668 Smallgetting out for awhile. There was a ranger there with us and he said it would be about 15 – 20 minutes for the water to lower enough for us to leave, so of course we waited. After 20 minutes the ranger told us it was going to be quite a bit longer. Because it was getting dark we decided to shoot the ruins and stars above. Not only did this turn out to be a great shoot, there was also a thunder storm to the north, far enough for us to be safe yet take photos of the spectacular lightening show it was displaying. By accident this turned out to be one of the highlights of the workshop as everyone was able to get some great shots of the ruins and the lightening show.

This is a great example of what can happen when out shooting and things turn sour and not look in your favor. So look around, be open and make the best of it. Be sure to be safe, don’t take unnecessary chances, i.e. the thunder storm was far away and we could not be harmed, so when out there be open to opportunities that present themselves.

To get the lightening shots I used a TriggerTrap, a cord that connects the camera to a phone, in my case an iPhone. The camera is then controlled with an app that has a _MG_0723 Smallnumber of features from Timelapse to Shock and Vibration sensing. I used a Press and Hold option with the camera set to Bulb mode. Because there was very little to no ambient light I could press the button on the iPhone and hold it, which opened the shutter, until the lightning struck then let up, then held it down again and again. I did this many times over a twenty minute period. Because we were so far from the storm I was able to get the storm and the stars above the storm. Camera settings were Bulb, ISO 1600, f/4 and from 12 to 48 seconds depending on how long it took for the lightning to strike. It was great fun and the app worked very well.

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

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.