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Your Mind’s Eye

30th November 2013

It May be too Limiting

What do you visualize of when you hear someone say that they are going to visit Colorado?

Most of us already have a picture in mind even before that person finishes his/her sentence.

It doesn’t matter if they are visiting New York City or Texas, Paris or Timbuktu. And of course it doesn’t matter if we’ve never before visited that place. We’re all influenced by our mind’s eye – the previous information and images that we’ve associated with that particular place.

This past year I visited Colorado on several different occasions.

As I reviewed a few of the photos taken during my visits, I found it interesting to see how these photos aligned with my idea of “Colorado” images.

These three photos contains what I most closely identify with Colorado: mountainous, snow, lots of wildlife.





Colorado, being a large state has quite varied terrain. So as not to shortchange Colorado, I wanted to take a few photos that expand my preconceived notion of the state.

These stacks of hay in Del Norte show that there’s plenty of farming and ranching here.

I believe that the yellow trees are aspens growing near Cortez – part of the high plains desert.

This leafless cottonwood tree sits close to a nearby stream near Salida – running water is another trademark of Colorado.

So I keep telling myself: don’t fixate on the “mind’s eye”. I tell the photographer in me to keep eyes wide to everything when traveling. Colorado is more than the Rockies, New York City is more than the Statue of Liberty, Texas is more than the Alamo and Paris is more than the Eiffel Tower.



Written by: Arnie Lee





eBook Giveaway

27th November 2013

FREE – any of our seven Stay Focused Guides

These books are for photographers who want to solve common shooting problems with their DSLR. They were originally available as 4-color printed books through book and online stores and sell for $22.95 each.

You can download the PDF editions now free of charge.

Each chapter shows you how to adjust the camera settings for turning a problematic “before” picture into a top notch “after” photograph.

They’re written for the following DSLRs***.

o Canon XS

o Canon XSi

o Canon T2i

o Nikon D40

o Nikon D60

o Nikon D3000

o Nikon D5000

*** If you have a different camera, I encourage you to download a copy and follow along since the techniques are very similar regardless of the make and model.

There is no obligation, but if you’re so inclined we’d like you to subscribe to our newsletter which brings you tips, techniques, reviews and lots of other “things photographic” from Stay Focused.

To get your free download, please click here.



Written by: Arnie Lee





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Oops. Saved Again!

26th November 2013

Why I use filters instead of lens caps

In my photography early days, I was a faithful user of lens caps. Whenever I wasn’t shooting, I would snap the lens cap onto the lens. I considered this a safe way to care for my equipment. Of course, most of us also enclosed the entire camera inside its companion leather case. Yes, we were very protective of our precious equipment. And yes again, I spent a lot of time looking for misplaced or buying replacement lens caps.

When I acquired my first SLR at age 14, I quickly fell out of the habit of using lens caps. I may have inherited this trait from my photography mentor for whom I worked while still a student. John explained that removing a lens cap required too much time when you are trying to capture the action.

Instead, I began to using a filter on the lens to protect the front glass element. The filter prevents dust and dirt from accumulating on the lens surface. And the filter is easier and safer to clean. To this day I use either a high quality UV or Skylight filter for most of my shooting.

Now that digital cameras have replaced film cameras I also notice that leather cases have all but gone out of style. I see very few them of them these days. But I do notice that many photographers still use lens caps to protect the glass in front.

I’m not here to make a political case for or against lens caps, only to suggest that filters offer more than dust protection for your lens. In addition, they can protect the front lens element from nasty scratches.

Here’s my latest proof. I was carrying this camera into the house when it slipped out of my hand and onto the floor. As you can see the filter is shattered.

Of course my heart missed a few beats as I watch the camera as it hits the floor. However, after removing the filter I can see that the front lens surface remains untouched.

In spite of the fall, the camera is working perfectly. Apparently the lens barrel took the brunt of the fall so I’ll have to repair the lens’ electronics.. But the glass is still pristine.

This isn’t the first time that I’ve had a mishap such as this. Actually, this is the third time that a filter has saved the front glass element of one of my lenses. This alone tells me that I should keep on buying filters for each of my lenses.


Written by: Arnie Lee







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The Small Stuff

23rd November 2013

Sometimes it’s the little things that count

I love being outdoors enjoying nature. And I’m an ardent admirer of landscapes and scenery.

When I’m hiking the scented woods, the winding trails, the golden meadows or the salty seashores, my eyes are usually drawn to the big things – the rolling hills, the roaring rivers, the jagged mountains, the immense forests.

But every so often something tiny, delicate or ephemeral catches my attention. I’m not deliberately seeking out the “small stuff” but somehow they make their way to the front of my lens as I attempt to duplicate the emotive feeling that I get from seeing them.

Yellowstone NP

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton NP

Goldfield, AZ

Reno, NV

Mammoth Hot Springs

Rocky Mountain NP

Glacier NP

Maybe after looking at a few of these up close photos, you’ll have a better understanding of how transitioning from the big stuff to the little stuff can change your point of view in a hurry.

Written by: Arnie Lee







Another Amazing Feat of Nature

The story goes that hundreds of years ago herds of antelope grazed on the grounds where natural forces carved an assortment of narrow passages through the sandstone to create what native Americans call Tsé bighánílíní or the place where water runs through the rocks.

This sacred Navajo monument is commonly known as Upper Antelope Canyon. This slot canyon is a phenomenal site to experience and photograph.

Since Antelope Canyon is a Navajo Tribal Park, access is is granted only through one of five guide services that operate from nearby Page, Arizona which is also home to the Glen Canyon Dam. I chose to take an extended 2-1/2 hour photographic tour.

I’ll illustrate my visit with photos that show you the scale of the passageways and canyon walls in relation to the size of an average visitor.

This is one of vehicles used by our tour operator. The ride from Page to the canyon entrance takes about twenty minutes.

Notice the vehicle’s sizable off-road tires.

The canyon entrance is at the end of a long, sandy road, hence the need for off-road, four wheel drive transportation.

The road is actually a wide channel that serves to drain the watershed for a large part of northeastern Arizona.

With five tour operators, there is a steady stream of visitors coming and going.

This is the parking area immediately in front of the entrance. My experience was that each of the tours was well organized.

Judging from the size of the two photographers here, you can gauge the narrowness of the pathways in the slot canyon.

The color of the canyon walls varies greatly. Here the opening at the top of the wall is quite wide so it lets in a lot of bright light.

The pathways are very level making it easy to walk on the hard packed dirt surface.

You can see that the walls jut out randomly along the pathway. As you are walking, you need to take care not to bump your head or appendages.

The coloring is quite different here. The dim lighting accentuates the texturing of the rocks.

The widest part of the canyon is a cathedral-like alcove near the entrance.

Here the canyon opens to about 30 feet wide and the walls are simply splendid.

For anyone interested, I chose the 2-1/2 hour photographic tour from Antelope Canyon Tours. The cost was $80.

Before this visit, Antelope Canyon had been on my list of “must see” places for several years. Now that I’ve experienced this enjoyable place, I am again thoroughly impressed by Mother Nature.


Written by: Arnie Lee





A Single Photo is Just a Split Second in Time

A few weeks ago I traveled to Yellowstone to view the wildlife and scenery before the cold and snow arrived. Unfortunately, I chose to visit at the same time that our government decided to shutdown the National Parks.

The scene went something like this: As I passed through the north gate at Gardiner, MT at 7:30am on October 1st, the park ranger informed me that Yellowstone would be closing at 8:00am, just about 30 minutes from now. Having just entered the park, I was temporarily elated to think I’d have the entire place to myself.


My plan was to drive southward to Norris for some hiking in this amazing geyser basin.

As I approached Nymph Lake, I was awed by a lone bison foraging near a mountainside of steaming fumaroles.

I immediately pulled off the road onto the shoulder and grabbed my camera. Here’s the shot.

But my stop off here didn’t quite end after taking this photo as you’ll soon see.

Bison at the Fumaroles


In the above photo, the bison was standing about 150 yards away across the main highway.

As I stood next to my car, the bison slowly troded towards the area in which I was standing. You can see the asphalt in the foreground.

The bison didn’t stop there, he kept coming towards me. I always adhere to the “wildlife ethic” of not approaching animals, but this was the reverse situation.

From the above photograph you can’t tell that there were already six or seven other autos parked on the shoulder.

These visitors had already spotted the bison and were admiring the dramatic view.

Little did we all know that the bison wanted to admire our autos. She strode right over while all of us wisely gave her plenty of room to wander.

She remained just feet from me for several minutes.

So as not to disturb her, I stood very still and captured her portrait. I shot over the hood of my auto to keep some distance between the two of us.

As it turns out, this bison was the mother waiting for her calf. The calf was also across the road, but out of sight. He came hobbling over to mom a few minutes later.

When they were reunited, they walked off along the tree lined path. The calf had a very visible injury to its rear leg.

Here’s hoping that he’ll make it through the winter.

After I lost sight of the pair of bisons, I hopped back in the car and continued driving southward. Little did I know that most of the viewing areas and parking in Yellowstone would be barricaded with orange cones including the Norris Geyser Basin due to the government shutdown. There went my hiking plans.

Was I disappointed? Yes, but not depressed. Having stopped at this and several other roadside areas in the park was still exciting and exhilarating both emotionally and visually.

The single photograph “Bison at the Fumaroles” is but a split second during my visit to Yellowstone. Along with the other photos, these five split seconds actually add up to much more than the fifteen actual minutes that I spent near Nymph Lake.

I don’t think I can put a number on the amount of enjoyment this stop off brought me during this visit to one of my favorite places.


Written by: Arnie Lee







PhotoPlus Expo – Redsnap

19th November 2013

High Speed Photography and More

As I was walking the aisles of the PhotoPlus Expo, an impressive photo caught my attention. It was a stop action of a glass bottle as it was shattering into hundreds of small pieces.

I was at the booth of a company named Triggertrap and they were showing off its Redsnap trigger. This device is unique in that you can use one of several sensors to trigger your camera or flash.


This is the Redsnap.

It accepts interchangeable sensors: laser, sound, infrared and lightning. It has three outputs to connect up to three cameras or flashes.

A sensor snap into the top of the unit. In this photo, the sound sensor is attached which was used to trigger to sample photo of the breaking bottle.

this photo from Triggertrap website

These are a pair of laser sensors. A laser sensor can trigger a camera when the laser beam is broken.

The Redsnap can also be set to take timelapse photographs.


The good news is that this looks like a promising product.

The bad news is that the Redsnap is not yet available. Triggertap has been raising money to build and distribute the Redsnap through a Kickstarter campaign. The goal was to raise £50,000 but they surprisingly raised £290,000.

I learned that the electronics and enclosures for the Redsnap are now being finalized. Small production batches will be available for Kickstarter contributors beginning in December and January and full production is scheduled to begin about May of next year.

Retail prices have yet to be determined. For more information go to the Triggertrap site.

It looks like an interesting accessory. I hope to review one when they become available.

Written by: Arnie Lee







“Easy” Scenery

Sometimes it seems like you have to really work hard to capture the photograph that’s been bouncing around your head for a long, long time.

Then, there are other times when you hardly have to work at all.

For my two selected scenes below, I think that anyone with a camera couldn’t miss capturing great photographs of these two gorgeous places.

Both were taken in the Grand Teton National Park area this past October. The first was taken at the Jackson Lake Overlook and the second at Oxbow Bend.


This panorama shows you an overview of the area at the Jackson Lake Overlook. You’re looking at a pretty dry Jackson Lake in the foreground. Ordinarily, it’s covered with water but at this time of the year it’s quite depleted in this part of the lake as water has been released during the Spring and Summer months into the Snake River for irrigation of farms in adjoining Idaho.

Most of the scenic areas in the Tetons are well known to all of the visitors. So when I arrived at the overlook there were already a group of photographers in various stages of picturetaking.

This day was quite overcast which added a dramatic feel to the Tetons.

I didn’t have to do any hiking, climbing or setting up here. I walked ahead about 100 feet towards the edge of the lake (dried at this point) and calmly admired the majestic view, waited a few minutes for the clouds to position themselves in front of the distant peaks and clicked.

No muss, no fuss to get this photo. I’m sure that these other visitors had as easy a time as I did capturing this scene.

The Teton Range Looking South



This panorama shows you the view at Oxbow Bend. Here the Snake River makes an abrupt turn creating a pretty water foreground view with the Tetons in the distant background.

Yes, this too is a popular place. It’s one of the busiest places in the park and on this day there were dozens of visitors with loads of photographic equipment just itching to get their keepers.

These photographers are standing along the shoulder of the highway that runs though the park.

For this photograph, I walked about 25 yards down from the highway to a place closer to the level of the river. But that was about all the work that I had to do here.

On this Fall day, the sun was shining over the river and brilliant trees making everything sparkle. The thick, billowy clouds were perfectly positioned behind the Tetons. All I had to do was click-click. The scene was “picture perfect” – perfect for anyone to record the beauty.

Mt Moran from Oxbow Bend, Fall 2013


It’s not always necessary to hike five miles uphill in 100-degree heat to capture that iconic gallery wrap. There are plenty of places that lend themselves to “easy” scenery. And easy doesn’t have to mean a “me too” photograph, a little patience and variation can help you set your photos apart.



Written by: Arnie Lee







The Rest of The Story

I’ve been wanting to visit the iconic Horseshoe Bend for many years and I finally had my chance a few weeks ago.

As its name suggests, the Colorado River makes an abrupt 270 turn in the shape of a horseshoe. It’s located downstream from the Glen Canyon Dam and Lake Powell near the city of Page, AZ. Drive 5 miles south on US89 from Page and you’ll see a gravel parking lot. From there a half mile hike on a moderately sloped dirt trail brings you to the overlook.

I arrived late in the day and found quite a few onlookers and photographers awaiting the sunset.


The overlook is about 50 yards across and provides a wonderfully wide view of the river – both upstream and downstream. The Colorado sits below the jagged cliffs about 1000 feet down.

These spectators are standing pretty close to the edge of the cliff. And while I love the scenic surroundings, I am not a big fan of steep cliffs so I made it a point to stay behind this couple.

There’s plenty of room to accommodate dozens of visitors without feeling crowded.

As you can see these photographers had lots of space in which to set up their equipment while waiting for the sun to go down.

From this vantage point, the cliff on which they are standing looks safe…….

However, in this next photograph I’ve stepped away from the edge so that you can see the rock platform on which they were positioned.

These people are a lot more brave than me. I couldn’t bring myself to stand next to them. I wasn’t about to stand just inches from the cliff’s edge that drops down by a thousand feet. No, not this photographer.

So how did I get this unobstructed view of Horseshoe Bend?

As Paul Harvey would say here’s “the Rest of the Story”.

My shooting position was immediately to the left of the four photographers with tripods. To take this photograph, I laid on my stomach and carefully crawled to the edge of the cliff. My camera was safely hanging from my neck by its strap.

Since I had a very wide angle lens (15mm), I first took a deep breath to get some courage, leaned over the edge, calmly composed the scene in the viewfinder and finally snapped about three shots.

So there you have it. By itself, this Horseshoe Bend photograph certainly doesn’t tell the story behind it. To inject a slight bit of humor here, let me say that I’m not afraid of heights, only of falling from them. I wasn’t going to leave the overlook until I had my shot. A little dirt on my clothes is the price that I had to pay to get it.

Written by: Arnie Lee







Stop Lens Cap Loss

Honestly, I’m not a big fan of lens caps. In the field, I don’t want to remove the cap, put it in a pocket for safe keeping and then be get prepared to shoot. Nor do I want to dig it out of my pocket and put it back onto the lens.

Instead I’ve made it a habit of buying a good quality UV filter for each of my lenses. The filter is to protects the lens front surface from dirt, grime and scratches. I feel a lot more comfortable cleaning the surface of the filter repeatedly rather than the surface of the lens itself. To be fair, this is my preferred way of shooting and I know that not everyone subscribes to this way of working.

So how did we get into this round-about discussion about lens caps?

At the PhotoPlus Expo last month as part of my reporting I received a Press Kit from show management. Inside were a few sample accessories courtesy of the exhibitors.

One was these gifts was the Hufa S, a lens cap holder. Last week I took a few minutes to look at this product.

This small and clever accessory is made of hard plastic that’s fully covered with a soft rubberized material. The Hufa easily attaches to your camera strap without having to disassemble the entire setup. Instead the strap slips through the slots and is ready to use in seconds.

WHen you remove your cap from the lens, you simply slip it beneath the large clip. The clip places enough pressure to hold the cap regardless of its size.

Here you can see how the Hufa S attaches to the camera strap.

You can adjust the position of the Hufa S further up or down along the strap so that it won’t interfere with your handling of the camera.


There are actually two models: the Hufa and the Hufa S. The Hufa attaches to wide camera straps that are often found on camera bags. The “S” model shown here is for the narrower camera straps. Each model is available in three different colors: black, red and white. They are affordably priced at $10 each.

If you’re interested in buying one, please visit Hufa Holder.



Written by: Arnie Lee







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