Thursday, January 1, 2015


Sometimes it can be difficult to get the correct color balance of a photo.  It is important to get it right before you begin to post process your image. The following tutorial will help color correct an image utilizing the white point, black point, and mid-tone gray areas.

Open an image, any image you choose but select one with contrast and color. Contrast is the difference between black and white in an image.  High contrast will show the full range of darks to lights and colors while low contrast will not show a lot of difference between darks and lights. Think of a picture of a scene taken in the fog, the difference could be somewhat muted.  

However, this color correction will work on any image but some adjustments will be more predominate or noticeable than others. After you have your image open create a duplicate.   Go to Layer > Duplicate Layer.  Another way is to Right-click on the Background copy and select Duplicate Layer.

Once you click on the duplicate layer menu the Duplicate Layer Window will open and will allow you to rename the layer or go with the default which in this case is Duplicate Copy.

On this duplicate copy I enlarge the image to 100% and search for any sensor dust spots showing up on the image.  This can be done in LR or Bridge's Camera Raw prior to opening in Photoshop. I have noticed sometimes when removing spots through Bridge that it can leave a halo type effect around the spot I removed, that is why I prefer to remove in Photoshop using the "Spot Healing Brush". Don't forget to select the "Content Aware Option" on the "Option's Bar". You can also use this layer to remove any unsightly objectives, like trash or a lone tree branch in the corner of the image.

Next I want to deal with any noise in the picture.  I use NIK Define to remove any unnecessary noise in the image.  Any adjustments you make to the image can magnify imperfections in the image, like dust spots, so clean them up before you proceed.  I use NIK Define for noise removal because it shows you where the noise is in the image.  It will allow you to remove the noise globally or paint the noise reduction in specific areas only.  Use whatever noise reduction program you have.  The NIK Suite was bought out by Google and is relatively inexpensive from back in the days when I bought it.  Regardless of which module within the NIK Suite you use it will put each adjustment on a separate layer. In my opinion their Sharpening module and Black and White module along with the noise reduction module are some of the best out there and easy to use and manipulate.

Your layers menu should look like the image to the right if you used NIK Define, which as I mentioned, puts its
adjustments on a separate layer. If you use Photoshop you can apply noise reduction on the background copy layer or create a new layer which combines the background layer, and the background copy layer, into a separate layer before running Photoshop noise reduction.  To do this on a PC hold down the CTRL + ALT + SHIFT Keys and then click on the “E” key.  On a MAC , COMMAND+OPTION+SHIFT+E. Photoshop will merge all of the layers into one new layer and insert it at the top of your layers stack. It also leaves all of the layers below alone so you can still go back to them if you need.  For purposes of this tutorial put you noise reduction on its own layer to make it easier to follow along.

Next we want to add a Curves Adjustment Layer. You can add this layer through the menu drop down window, by clicking on the “Layer > Create New Fill Layer” or by clicking on the “Adjustment Layer Icon” at the bottom of the layers panel, (It is a circle that is half white half dark.) or a third option from the “Adjustments Panel” if you have it open and viewable.  If this panel is not visible go to the “Windows Drop-down Menu” and click on “Adjustments”, this will open the adjustments panel.  

I assume that most people have a workspace area already set up if using Photoshop but if you don’t, go to the "Window’s Drop-down Menu" and under the “Workspace” option select “Photography”. This is a good place to start. You can add to this by opening up other options from the "Window’s Menu" and then save the workspace under your name.

Open up the threshold layer by clicking the “Threshold Icon” in the Adjustments Panel or go to Layers >New Adjustment Layer >Threshold. (This will split image between black and white).  At this point you should have five layers: 1) Background Layer, 2) Background Copy Layer, 3) Noise Reduction Layer, 4) Curve’s Layer, and 5) the Threshold Layer.

Go to the Threshold Histogram and move the slider all the way to the left and then move it back towards the right until the first signs of black appear in the window. (You may need to enlarge the image to see the black area to insure you get the black anchor point on it.)  

Right Click the Eye Dropper in the "Photoshop Menu Panel" and select the color sampler tool. (Sample size 3X3 from the "Option Bar") Now mark the black area with the color eye dropper tool. This sets the black spot in the image.  Note this labels this mark as #1. This action will also switch between the properties window to the info window. (See Threshold diagram picture above).  Click on the properties tab within the Threshold Properties Window, top left to return to the Threshold window histogram. 

You will need to do the same thing to mark the white point.  Move the slider all the way to the right and then slowly move the slider back to the left until the first black area appears.  Again using the color eye dropper tool, mark the white spot. This marker should be labeled #2.

Before we go any farther lets address what happens if we click on the wrong spot or we miss the anchor all together?  Just try again but remember each time you use the color dropper it labels the new
spot with a different number.  For example if you repeat the process to get a better white spot then the new number will be labeled # 3 instead of number #2.  You will have three markers now but you are only going to use two, number #1 for blacks and now number #3 for whites.  You can also deactivate the Threshold Layer, then right click on the anchor you want to remove and then click delete, then re-activate the Threshold Layer and add a new anchor point.

Now turn off the Threshold layer by clicking on the “Eye” immediately to the left of the layer.  Drop down to the curves layer. Zoom into the image so the black and white anchor points are easier to see.  When you click on the curves layer a Properties Window will open.  Make sure that the “Properties Tab within this window is selected”.

In the “Curves Layer Window”, on the left side, will be three eye droppers, the top one for black, the middle one for mid-tones and the bottom one for whites.  Click on the black eye-dropper to the left of the curves properties window and then click on the black anchor point on your image.  Remember this is the first point we created and it was labeled #1.  Now click on the white eye dropper in the curves window and then click on the white point, the one labeled #2.  We have now set the black point and the white point on the curves layer.  Now we need to set the Mid-Tone point.

Make sure the Threshold Layer is active.  Now click on the curves layer.  Go up to the Layer’s Drop down menu tab and select new, then layer. When the “New Layer’s Menu” opens, click OK.  Now go to the “Edit Drop down menu and select Fill.  When the Fill Window opens click on contents and select 50% gray and click on OK.  You should have a grayed out image now showing in Photoshop.  Go to the blending mode and select “Difference”.  If your screen now looks wild with psychedelic
colors you are okay.  Now activate the Threshold Layer by clicking on the Eye Icon then double-click on the Threshold Icon between the Eye Icon and the white layer mask.  This will activate the Threshold Properties window.  Slide the arrow in the properties window all
the way to the left until the histogram in the properties window turns completely white.  Zoom in on the image and then slowly move the slider to the right until black appears. Because we want to mark the mid-tone area we may need to move the slider far enough to the right to get a larger selection area. Once you have a good patch of back go to the tools menu and select the color sample tool again then mark a patch of black.  

This will be your third color marker and should be labeled number
#3.  Turn off the Threshold Layer then go back to the curves layer and select the middle eye-dropper and click on the color marker labeled #3.  Now deactivate the 50% Gray layer.  The mid-tone anchor point might have the greatest impact in your overall color adjustment. If the color is off you may not have gotten a good mid-tone selection.  If you need to you can delete this Mid-Tone Anchor Point and repeat the process selecting a different area of the image. 

At this point let’s take a look at the before and after effects by holding down the alt key on a PC and clicking on the Eye-Ball icon next to the Background Layer. Continue to hold down the alt key and click again. Toggle this back and forth to see the before and after effects. If your image looks good you can now delete the Threshold Layer and the 50% Grey Scale Layer.  These will only take up space and you don’t need them because any adjustments made by these layers have been applied to your curves layer. If you don’t like the overall affect you can delete the curves layer and start all over.  

Well there you have it.  I have found this to be very helpful in attempting to get the right color balance for some images. This is not a cure all sure fix for every image as you may want a specific color tent to an image.  Case in point:  If you want to give a winter landscape a colder look adding a cooler temperature may do the trick.
Prior to opening in Photoshop I usually adjust for Lens Correction and Remove Color Aberration in the RAW Converter, in my case Bridge but for others Lightroom.  I then take the image into Photoshop to run the color adjustment, flatten all layers, and save as a tiff file.  I will then reopen in my RAW Converter and begin my post processing work flow.

Please feel free to share this with others and you might want to print it out for a follow along reference.  I first learned of this technique from Jimmy McIntyre on You Tube.  

I learn a lot from watching tutorials and am grateful that there are so many photographers out there willing to share their knowledge and Photoshop skills.  Jimmy offers a free set of down-loadable luminosity masks actions and he also sells some great video tutorials.  

I am a hard copy kind of guy who believes that training is enhanced if you can see it, then read it, and finally practice it with a reference next to your key board.  For this reason I have practiced this technique using my own images and have put it into a written document.  If you would like to see Jimmy’s video on this subject just follow this link.  Color Correction by Jimmy McIntyre

After performing this action I continued to post process my image adding contrast, brightness, texture, and some sharpening. Here is a before and after of the image I used in this tutorial.



If you would like a pdf of this tutorial please contact me and request a copy by e-mail at

John Gilbert (Photo Travel Journal) (Display Gallery) (High Resolution Photo Gallery) (Social Gallery)  (Social Page for Photography)

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Great Mirrorless Camera Autofocus Shootout! (GH4, X-T1, A6000, E-M1)

I am thinking about my first mirrorless camera and so have been checking out the various video reviews on them.  I have it down to either the Sony a6000 or the Fuji X-Ti.  Although I don't shoot a lot of video I think I should consider it before my final decision.  Price wise the Sony a6000 is on sale so it is vary tempting but Sony's selection of fast lenses is limited.  The Fuji X-Ti has a better selection of fast lenses. There are a lot of pluses and minus about both and I won't go into them here but check out the Camera Stores in-depth review of both cameras as well as searching You Tube for additional reviews.  Do you own one of these cameras? If so I would like to hear from you.  Based on this video the Sony a6000 is the winner in the mirrorlwssvideo category.

Saturday, November 22, 2014


Grand Canyon 2014
Travel Journal by John Gilbert

Day 1-10/23/14: Flew from St. Louis to Phoenix, AZ. Left Saint Louis at 8:00am arrived at 9:00am.  Three hour flight with a two hour time change.  Desert like area.  Lot of cactus. By the time we got the car and got on our way it was around 3:07 Central Time and 5:07pm Pacific. Traveled Highway 17 north and then took scenic route 179 through Sedona. (Click on images to see a larger view)

Day 2-10/24/14:  Took the day to scope out the Grand Canyon.  Took cameras but did not plan any photo shoots other than what I could capture hand held.  We rented a couple of bicycles for the day and road to Yaki Point which is the eastern section of the south rim of the Canyon.  On our return we rode to the Grand Canyon Village.  This section of the rim bridges the east “Kaibab Rim Route” with the west “Hermit Road Route”.  The Grand Canyon Village houses the mule barns and is the location for Bright Angel Trailhead, the mule trail to the bottom and the Colorado River.  The scenery is beautiful and truly is a wonder to behold.

Day 3-10/25/14:   Today we set out to drive the east rim of the Canyon also known as Desert View Drive.  Another beautiful morning.  Our first stop was at an over look on Desert View Drive.   It was early morning and the sun was just beginning to rise.  I wish we had some cloud cover but it was a clear sky with shades of yellow, blue, purple, and pink hues as part of the sunrise.  After capturing a few images we continued on and stopped at Grandview Point then it was on to Moran Point. We took a break to tour the Tusayan Museum and Ruin. Next was Lipan Point, then Navajo Point and finally Desert View.  This drive is not heavily traveled but one that yields awesome panoramic views of the Grand Canyon (

Day 4-10/26/14: Today was the day to hike Hermits Rest Road Rim. There are three section to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, The Village Route, Kaibab Rim Route, and the Hermit Rest Road.   A system of shuttle buses travel a restricted paved road that runs parallel to the rim hiking corridor. Although vehicles are restricted there are bus links at every viewing point.  This allows hikers to get off the trail at designated points and be shuttled back to their starting locations.  The Hermits Rest Road Rim section is approximately 8 miles long one way.  (

We parked at the Village section and took the shuttle to the beginning of the Hermits Rest Road.  Our first overlook, Trail View Point was .7 mile from our starting location.  Here we took a series of stairs down the Canyon to the observation area.   For some reason climbing back up those stairs was a workout but remember the higher altitude puts more pressure on the old lungs. (
We got back on the rim trail and proceeded another .7 mile to Maricopa Point.  Every point is a photo opportunity.  Now the pros would scope out the area for a day or two and pick that one spot for a dynamite picture.  Remember this was my first trip to the Grand Canyon so I want pictures of it all for my travel gallery.  On my return trip I will pick out that magic spot and concentrate on getting a magic capture.  I must admit that I am well please with my first pictures which can be seen on my gallery at in the “New Photo” folder.  From here we hiked .5 mile to Powell Point.  I switched to a Nikon 16mm wide angle lens.  Using a tripod I set up and took a series of shots.  My aperture was set at f/13 to give some depth-of-field with my ISO at 200.  I varied my shutter speeds to create my bracketed composures.  This lens can have a bowed or distorted appearance, which can be corrected in the RAW Converter.  However by positioning the lens to align with the horizon I was able to compensate for most of the lens distortion.  This was a moderately easy image to blend due the clean separation of the sky form the canyon.  It was at this location that we came upon a young couple getting married, naturally I fired off a few shots of the wedding party and sent them the copies.

The next overlook was Hopi Point and only .3 mile along the rim. Between Hopi Point and Mohave Point the rim trail has places that are 3 to f feet wide and a straight drop over the edge to the canyon below.  (Insert _JMG5975)  Continuing our rim hike we arrived at Mohave Point after .8 mile.  Each of these points represented a photo opportunity and a water break.  From Mohave it was 1.1 mile to the Abyss and from Abyss to Monument Creek Vista was another .9 mile.  There was a bench on the rim trail overlooking a panoramic view of the canyon so took a 30 minute break to eat our pre-packed lunch.  Time to go and our next leg of our journey was a 1.7 mile stretch to Pima Point.  From here we headed toward the last leg of our hike which was 1.1 mile and uphill to Hermits Rest.  If I do this again I will start my hike at Hermit’s Rest so that the last few legs of the trail are shorter between observation points.

Day 5-10/27/14: We went to Page, AZ to photograph the Lower Antelope Canyon. (AC) and Horse Shoe Bend. (HB). Antelope Canyon required us to hike 1/4 mile to entrance, then descend three stories into the Canyon.  There is a lot of fine sand in this area which can be very slippery on the rocks.  Used Ken's Tours as recommended by Trip Advisors.  The Photo Pass was $48 and good for two hours. You are on your own but Watch you watch because it is $20 for each twenty minutes of overtime.  The competitor has group photo tours but I would not recommend it because in the canyon there is limited space to set up.  The regular tour groups are not allowed to have tripods.  They allowed me to follow the group tour in and I had no problem setting up my tripod to get a specific shot. Because this was late in the season and probably the last group for the day, the group I as following took their time and I was able to follow behind without losing contact with them.   Awesome experience and the Navaho guides were excellent and knew all the right spots to get a great shot.

Next it was on to Horse Shoe Bend.  It was a short drive from Antelope Canyon.  This was a ¾ mile hike.  The first leg of this hike has a moderately steep elevation probably made moderate by the deep fine sand.  The approach to the actual bend is open and panoramic.  After cresting the first hill it is all downhill thereafter and yes lots of sand.  On the final approach to the bend I became cognizant of my surroundings and the drop off that I was approaching.  Having a height phobia I had problems with this but was not leaving without a picture to show that I had been there.  So I did the only sane thing I could do.  I crawled on me belly to get to the edge.  No tripod for me, no way was I going to stand on the edge of that cliff looking down 1,000 feet.  This was going to strictly be a hand held capture in a prone position.   Well I have been there!  I have capture the scene! And I absolutely am NOT going back!  Well at least I don’t think so anyway. 
That night it was back to the rim for some star photography.  This was a first for me and a learning experience. 

Day 5-10/28/14: Breakfast in Williams at Pine Country Restaurant.  Took scenic route 89A through Sedona.  Stopped at overlook to shop with Navaho venders.  Took pictures of cactus plants just outside of Phoenix.  Check in at a motel and rested up for the return flight back to St. Louis and the drive home.  I definitely want to go back and I want to drive all the way even though it will be a 24 hour drive.  Next on my bucket list is Zion, Bryce, and Archer’s National Parks.  Please visit my galleries at and  Thanks!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014


By Sean Bagshaw[1]
Translated into Print by John Gilbert[2]

 In this tutorial I am going to show you how to make a Photoshop action that will create a soft proofing version of your image prior to printing. This will help insure that what you see on your monitor will hopefully match want is printed.  Basically we are going to use Photoshop to simulate what an image will look like when printed on a certain type of paper.  We can speed hours post processing an image to look the way we remember it, but when it comes time to print, well our print copy does not look like the processed copy on our monitor.  Different papers interact differently with inks, printer pixels and resolutions do not match the image on our monitor.  Sometimes we need to tweak our image by making a few additional adjustments to get it to print as closely as possible to what we see on our screen.  We need the ability to compare our screen image with a print proof.  In this tutorial we are going to create an action to compare the two.

 Let’s open an image.  This image has been processed by me and saved in a tiff format.  All the layers I created to arrive at this final output are preserved in the tiff file. 

 In addition I add, as a final layer, a “Levels Adjustment Layer” set to “Screen Blending Mode”, with a 50% opacity, because I know that my printer has a tendency to print darker than what I see on my monitor.  So I want to click on the eyeball icon to activate this layer.  If you do not have this layer on your image you should create one before now.

Let’s begin.  First we want to store this action in a separate folder in our actions panel so go to the action panel and select create new folder.  Let’s name it “Soft Proof Action”.  Once we are ready to begin recording our steps, we will click the “new action button”.  This is going to create a new action in our newly created Soft Proof Folder. 

 The first soft proof we are going to create is one for Premium Luster Photo Paper.  You can create different actions for different types of paper. Different papers have different print profiles which will require you to make adjustments for a specific paper profile.
We are just about ready to start the action.  Once we click on the action button a red circle will light up at the bottom of the Action Panel to indicate that we are recording.  Everything we do from this point on will be recorded.  Ready? Click the action button.  The first step is to record a duplicate of our image.  Go to the Image Menu and select Duplicate.  In the Duplicate Image Window, check the merge layer box and click on “OK”.  You should now have the original photo opened in Photoshop with all its layers and a copy of that image with all the layers merged into just a background layer. Toggle between the two images to see the original with all its layers and the copy image with only a background layer.  At this point let’s close the original image file.  Remember when asked if you want to save the changes select “no” because we don’t want to save it with the lighten layer activated.  

 Next let’s duplicate the duplicated image.  When the duplicate dialog box appears be sure and tweak the name. It will probably automatically assign the second copy as copy2 but if it doesn’t then add the number 2 next to the word copy so that when we click on OK it does not ask me if I want to over-write the existing file.

At this point we have two duplicate files open in Photoshop, copy2 and copy.  I want to be able to see both copies at the same time in my window. Go to the drop down Window’s menu, select arrange, and then 2 up vertical.  (Windows>Arrange>2Up Vertical) .Right now you should be able to see two images side by side. 

 Remember we are still recording but you can close the actions panel to give you more viewing capabilities. Next we want to apply the premium luster photo paper profile to one of the images, let’s apply it to our first copy.  

From the View, drop down menu, select Proof Setup, then Custom. (View>Proof Setup>Custom). A “Custom Proof Condition” window will open.  In the “Device to Simulate dropdown menu select the paper type you want to simulate, in this example we are going to select the Epson Styles Pro 4900 Premium Luster Paper. 

I use an Epson 4900 printer and I print on luster paper so that is why I selected this option.  You will need to select the paper type that matches with your printer brand so you get the correct paper profile. Also select Relative Chromatic rendering from the rendering intent box.  This seems to give the closest look at what we want to see. Put a check mark in the Black Point Compensation Box, and finally check the Simulate Paper Color under the display options section of this custom proof condition window. 

It has been my experience as well as others that Photoshop tends to be a little heavy-handed when it's simulating the paper color so keep that in mind. Warning your simulated proof may look worse on the screen than it will when you print it.  Click okay.  Immediately you can see the simulated print version (copy) and the monitor version (copy2). The simulated copy is much duller, flatter, lower contrast, and a little bit cooler (bluer) then the screen image.  If we printed this out at this point it is going to look a little worse than it actually would.  Remember sometimes Photoshop can overdo it a bit and the results would not match the monitor version.  
Our goal is to get the simulated copy to look as much as possible like our screen copy2.  We need to increase contrast, increase saturation, and add a little bit of luminosity brightness.  We may also need to warm the simulated copy image a little.  These additional adjustments will help get it ready to print. Remember we will apply adjustments until we get the print version (copy) to match the monitor version (copy2).
First let’s create a curves adjustment layer. (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Curves). We will use this to brighten our print image (copy) Now add a marker to the curves line in the shadow area to anchor the darks and mid-tones, then pull the top part of the curve line up to add some highlight luminosity to our print image.

We can see that brightening up the highlights also increases the contrast a little bit too much.  So we are now going to bring up the shadows by pulling up on my dark and mid-tone anchor point just a little bit to maintain the contrast but also bring up the overall luminosity of the image.  It can be slightly different for every image so you may have to make adjustments accordingly. By clicking the layer on and off you can see the before and the after what effect your adjustment is having.  
The next thing we need to do is bring back some lost saturation so let’s add a hue saturation adjustment layer to bring up the saturation. (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Hue Saturation) Don’t overdo it, increase the saturation slider to about nine or ten.  

We can't bring back all the lost color because there are some colors in the screen image that are just out of gamut for printing based on our paper selection.  Bottom line there are some colors that we will not be able to reach but we can get closer 

The final thing is to combat the cooling or bluing of some of the colors in here that premium luster photo paper has.  To do that we are going to use Photoshop’s photo filter and add a warming filter #85 layer.  (Layer Menu>New Adjustment Layer> Photo Filter)
You may need to turn down the opacity on this layer a bit.  You should be able to see that the two images still don't match perfectly but if we look at where we began, by holding down the Alt key and clicking on the eyeball layer icon next to the background layer image, we can turn off all the other adjustment layers to see where we started.  Repeat this step by holding down the Alt key and click on the eyeball layer icon next to the background layer image again to turn all the layers back on.
 You can toggle back and forth to see the before and after adjustments you’ve made.  We can see that we're now getting our image much closer to what we wanted and so it should now print closer. In fact now we can go back up to the View Menu and toggle the “Proof Colors” on and off to see the before and after. You could also click CTRL-Y to toggle the Proof Simulation on an off.  So without the print simulation turned on our adjustments really pump the image up, probably more than our intent but it should print looking closer to what we see on the monitor. We can’t get the print version to be identical to the monitor version because of the range of gamut’s of the monitor verses our paper selection.
We can now stop recording our action.  Open up the action pallet and hit the stop button and stop recording because essentially we are done.  (Windows Menu> Actions or Alt + F9)
We now have an action that will create a soft proofing anytime we want to soft proof a print using Premium Luster Paper.  All we need to do is run the action to get to a point where we are close to printing.
To test our action close the two views and then go open our original or a new image, then add a “Levels Adjustment Layer” set to “Screen Blending Mode”, with a 50% opacity, because as I stated above my Epson Printer has a tendency to print darker than what I see on my monitor.  Once I hit play, the action will go through all the steps, it'll flatten the image, close the original master, create the duplicates, and now all I need to do is go to window, (Windows>Arrange>2Up Vertical) arrange the two copies vertically so that they are side by side, then close the action panel and here is my image with the profile simulation applied and here's my comparison image.  
We can see that all those adjustments have been applied and we can go in and fine tune them if we need to.  Once we have the image looking as close to the monitor version as possible, close copy2 but don’t save it. Click CTRL-Y to turn off the simulation.  Next size the simulated copy for print and do any print sharpening that is necessary before sending it off to be printed. This is how you create an action that will make your soft proofing go much faster and you can actually produce a whole series of actions for different paper types so that whatever paper you're going to print on you can just do a single click on the action for that paper type and automatically get set up with a proof for printing.
I hope you find this helpful and it saves you some time.  I use to print and adjust, then print again and adjust again until I got it the way I wanted.  If you don’t own your own printer, test this by having a smaller print printed by an online printing service or by a local printer or even a friend. 

 “I have spent hours watching Sean’s video and converting it into a printed version for my personal use as a follow along guide.  Sean has a whole series of video tutorials for processing images using Luminosity Masks. (Click here to be taken to his web site.)  I highly recommend them.  Sean’s videos along with Tony Kuyper’s TKActions Panel for Luminosity Masks (Click here to be takento Tony’s web site.) will be the best investment you make and will improve your post processing by 100% Plus.  John Gilbert”

[1] Sean Bagshaw You Tube Tutorial Click to view (Ctrl+Clcik)
[2] John Gilbert: Translated into a pdf document but using his pictures and printer profiles after creating this action based on Sean Bagshaw’s tutorial.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


"Capture The Moment-Relive The Experience"
With John Gilbert

On June 6, 2014 my friend Niala and I set out for another trip to Yellowstone.  This marks our fifth trip to Yellowstone to date.  Each time we go we try to stay in a different area of the Park.  This year we opted to stay just outside the northeast gate in a little town called Cooke City.  This would afford us the opportunity to concentrate our efforts in the Lamar Valley as well as Mammoth Spring which is just south of the north gate located at Gardiner Montana.

The first day we drove, 810.52 miles and over twelve hours starting out at Jefferson City, Mo with our first overnight stop at Wall, South Dakota, also home to the Badlands. Our route was west on I-70, took the I-435 by-pass to avoid Kansas City traffic, then north on I-29 and finally west on I-90 to Wall.  Once you get to I-90 the speed is 80, four lanes all the way, and limited access and traffic.  I should mention that while traveling I-90 we did go through Iowa and it was here that we pulled off the road to capture a picture of an Eagle nest with juveniles in it.

We made good time and arrived in Wall around 5:00pm Mountain Time.  We stopped at the Badlands to stretch our legs and snap a picture or two.  Behind us were two friends Sharon and Eddy Tuschoff who were also headed out west to Yellowstone.  We all gathered that evening for dinner in Wall and to plan out our tour of the Badlands the next day.

At this time of year the Badlands were plush with green grass and the colors amazing.  We have been here before when it reminded us of a desert.  This was a great day for wildlife photographing, Big Horn Sheep, Prairie Dogs, Bison, Meadowlarks, and the coveted Burrowing Owl. (Figure 1).  

Figure 1 Burrowing Owl
Sharon has been here before and capture the Owls so she knew just where to look for them.  In years past we have searched for Big Horn Sheep will absolutely no luck but this year was to be an exception.  We came across a herd of them lounging along the peaks of the Badlands. (Figure 2)

Figure 2 Ewe with lamb 
By noon we were ready to continue to our next leg of this trip, Sheridan, Wyoming.  This is the entrance to the Big Horn Mountains which we crossed on our first trip back in 2006 and again in 2010.  We wanted to drive this scenic route once again heading towards Cody, Wyoming.  This second leg of our trip was only 313.16 miles/5 hours 18 minutes.  We had time for a stop along the way and Sharon suggested we visit Big Bear County USA. Bear Country USA, is located 8 miles from Rapid City, features the world's largest collection of privately owned black bears. It is a 3 mile drive through this spectacular wildlife park nestled on 200 acres of Black Hills beauty where you'll see black bears, grizzly bears and over 20 other species of North American animals like buffalo, reindeer, wolves and Big Horn Sheep.  This is not your typical driving tour because dozens of adult beer are roaming freely.  No you can’t get out of your car and windows are to be rolled up.  Well we lowered them just enough and long enough to click off a few pictures.  After the driving tour, we walked around Babyland where lots of baby bears frolic in open compounds in the outdoors. (Figure 3)
Figure 3 Black Bear Cubs
We made it to Sheridan, WY with time to spare so we visited the city and made our way to another dining experience.  The next morning we began our trip across the Big Horn Mountains.  This drive consists of 58 miles and the altitude ranges from 4000 ft. to 13,165ft above sea level.  The temperature was dropping with snow/freezing rain in the forecast and I was anxious to make it across this climbing, winding road with numerous switch backs before we ran into bad weather.  Well by the time we got to the highest peak it was spitting snow and the temperature dropped down to 32 degrees. (Figure 4)

Figure 4 Big Horn Mountains
It was on this drive that I spotted a couple of Moose grazing on the side of the road.  Naturally we had to stop for a photo-shoot.  We were unable to contact Sharon and Eddie who were behind us to tell them of our find because in this part of the world there is no phone reception.  We continued on not wanting to linger too long in the mountains because like I said it was cold, the temperature dropping, and lightly snowing.  We hadn’t driven very far before we spotted a small gathering of Moose in a patch of willows eating to their hearts delight.  Yep time for another stop and another photo opt but by this time we had driven far enough down the mountain to escape the freezing temperatures.  There were at least eight of them and they were not the least concerned about our presence.  Add to this little or no traffic so we had this group of wildlife to ourselves.  (Figure 5) 
Figure 5 Bull Moose
We continued our drive and continued our descent down out of the mountains stopping along the way to let the brakes cool off.  We had a 10% downward grade and all though our brakes did not smoke we sure could smell them.  It was low gear and pumping the brakes all the way down. 

Coming out of the Big Horn Mountains we stopped at the Big Horn Canyon Visitor Center and decided to take a detour and see the Canyon.  The area is noted for its Canyon, Big Horn Sheep, and Wild Horses.  It also has a long and large desert type Dirt bike area. Rather large mountains with a lot of young people putting their bikes through some paces.  The Canyon was awesome with rich earth tone colors.  It was a beautiful day with large Cumulous Clouds draped with a blue background.

We arrived at Cody, WY around 4:15 pm and took a break before driving our final leg to Cooke City along the beautiful Chief Joseph Scenic By-Way.  This is another one of those winding, climbing, switchback roads but not as steep as the Big Horn Mountain Road.  Again due to the time of year the grasses were a plush green inviting us for a stop or two along the way to get some great landscape shots.  The earth in this area is a rich red and surrounded by all the green grass made for a dynamite picture.  (Figure 6) 
Figure 6 Chief Joseph Scenic By-Way
On June 9, 2014 we made it to Cooke City right on schedule and checked into our motel.  Cooke City is noted for its winter sport of snowmobiling.  The roads out along the Beartooth Highway are closed during the winter.  Snowmobiles are brought in by the hundreds for rent as tourist climb into the snow packed mountains.  There were still some for rent and we were told they would be there for a couple more weeks as the mountains had plenty of snow left.  I considered it but opted for the park instead.  Final leg of our trip was 223.48 miles and 4 hours, 17 minutes from Sheridan, WY to Cooke City, MT.  I am not taking into account the time we lost while stopping to photograph along the way.

Monday June 9, 2014 we headed out into the park, destination, Hayden Valley, LeHardy Rapids, Tower Junction and Breakfast at Roosevelt Lodge.  In the mornings you will see the herds of Bison everywhere and on both sides of the road and even on the road.  They are conditioned to vehicles and photographers but make no mistake these are wild animals and as a visitor to Yellowstone and their home, it is imperative that we give all wildlife space.  Obey the rules and keep your distance.  If you want close up shots of these American Treasures, than buy a telephoto lens.  Remember if you cross their space and they react to protect themselves and or their young, you may be putting them in danger of being euthanized.  We have a responsibility to protect these animals for future generations so remember tomorrows KYDs and Keep-Your-Distance.  

We arrived at Hayden Valley and parked next to a couple who had a spotting scope.  They were excited and shared their scopes with us so we could see a black wolf among some Bison on the side of a mountain.  It was too far away for a photograph but I enjoyed seeing my first wolf of Yellowstone.  Several places rent these scopes so the next time I will either rent one or buy one.  Hayden Valley is a good place to see predators in action but it may have been too late in the morning for us, at any rate it wasn’t happening on this particular day.  After several hours we headed to LeHardy Rapids.  We have been to this location several times in years past.  This is a good place to see Pelicans riding the rapids. (Figure 7)  
Figure 7 Pelican Landing
The park has built a very nice walkway with several lookouts along the shore of the river/rapids.  Next it was on to Tower Junction and a short walk to Tower Falls.  This is also a good place for a restroom break and a visit to its General Store for a cool drink and snack.  We headed back to Cooke City and yet another trip across Dunraven’s Pass and its snow covered peaks.  You climb across the mountains here on numerous switchbacks.  There is an area near its peak where the trees are black and bare from a previous fire.  With snowcapped mountains as a backdrop and snow covered grounds beneath their towering height it makes for a beautiful photograph.  Be there when the sun is on its rise and the snow has a crystal effect and the trees look like pillars of silver.

On Tuesday, the 10th, we headed back into the park.  Today the Bison herds of Lamar Valley had moved to lower ground so they were close to the road, on both sides of the road and even sparing with one another on the road.  It was a good year for calving.  Grazing among the Bison you will also see Pronghorn.  One stretch of the road was restricted from cars pulling over, parking, or from exiting your vehicle or even hiking due to a she-wolf and cubs being in this area and crossing the road on a regular basis.  We were told this was done so as not to stress out the mother.  Needless to say we looked but never saw her.  Our destination was Mammoth Springs to photograph the Mineral Terraces (Figure 8) as well as visit Sheep Eaters Cliff in search of Marmot. 
Figure 8 Mineral Terraces
We made it to the terraces by 10:00am so we still had good light since it was really only 9:00am by the sun.  Got to love Day-Light Savings time if you are in to early morning photography.  We stopped at a ranger station and learned that there was a Great Horn Owl nest just across the street from them in a cluster of trees.  The ranger further stated that the parents were probably in trees near by watching over their young which had just left the nest.  With camera in hand I began walking the area looking up into the trees.  The trees were in full foliage but luck was with me because I spotted an adult right over head on a somewhat low branch with no obstructions.  Naturally I focused took a test shot and then began clicking away, while standing in the middle of the street.  Cars be damned I was not moving until I had my shot. (Pictures of this Great Horn Owl can be seen at  Go to the “New Photo” tab click on it and then select 2014 Yellowstone.) Next we visited Gardiner, MT corporate office, to the Yellowstone Association:  Met with the employee manger to learn more about living and working in the park.  Next year I hope to be doing just that. In this area is just one of the many water falls that grace Yellowstone.  We visited Undine Falls once again for a photo shot.  It’s great to visit this park at different times of the year to see the many changes it goes through during the seasons.

I want to start this paragraph off by telling you that we stayed at the Super 8 in Cooke City,  Clean and comfortable but not outstanding.  However, just next door to us and right below our window was the “Bear Claw”, a bakery that made from scratch, every day, fresh pastry’s, breads, and even breakfast.  Just one visit and we started out each morning with breakfast and a few cookies and bear claws to take into the park with us.  This place introduced me to Eggs-Benedict over fresh salmon.  It is Wednesday and we planned to meet up with Sharon and Eddy to visit the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone Canyon.  If you get there at the right time and on a sunny day, usually between 9am to 11am, you can capture a rainbow at the base of the falls in your picture.  It was a short hike to the south rim trail and a view of the falls from along the canyon ridge.  Along the way we met a Marmot on the trail. 

Always hike with a camera at ready.  Yep I got a shot of the Marmot.  It was a beautiful day with nice clouds for the backdrop.  Sharon and I decided to continue our hike to Artist Point to photograph the Lower Falls.  Eddy and Niala drove the cars and met up with us at the end of the trail.  This is a fantastic hike.  Good, clean, cleared path.  Trail rating would be moderate, although there are some switchbacks that are quite strenuous in their climb.  The trail travels along the Canyon on top of its bluff.  The colors are amazing with the rich sandstone and red rock coloration.  Along the way we saw an Osprey nest on the north side of the Canyon Bluff,   lots of birds, and thank GOD we did not meet any Grizzly along the way even though there was a sign warning hikers of their presence in the area.  The lower falls is probably one of the most photographed sites in the park.  (Figure 9) No matter how many times I visit this location and photograph it, I can always take another picture of this photogenic view.
Figure 9 Lower Falls-Artist Point
Between the four of us we had met a lot of photographers who were gracious enough to share wildlife sightings they had seen or heard about.  We were told of black bear and her cubs prior to Tower Falls and a Badger den at Slough Creek in the Lamar Valley.  Sure enough we got some great shots of a Cimarron Bear and some opportunities of the Black Bear and Cubs.  Traffic was backed up along the road and the ranger was nice enough to allow us to photograph the bear and cubs but they were adamant that we all kept our distance.  The bears had been in this area for several days going from one side of the road to the other to feed.  The mother, nor her cubs, were intimidated by all the people are their clicking cameras.  We made it to the Badger den which was not hard to find just look for all the photographers with their big white lenses.  We too joined the group, setting up our tripods, and spraying ourselves with some repellent, the mosquitoes were bad since we were close to a series of ponds.  Like everyone in the group we settle back for the wait.  Those who had been there all day informed us the mother was out hunting for her young.  Sure enough a couple of hours later she emerged over the hill carrying a ground squirrel in her mouth.  We were all located across the gravel road but still she hesitated upon seeing us but quickly made her way to her den and the family awaiting her. (Figure 10)
Figure 10 Badger with kill
Thursday June 12th was another beautiful day day in the park.  We worked our way back into the park and stopped off at Slough Creek where the Badger was because Sharon had told us that further on down the gravel road were several ponds with Yellow-Headed Black Birds.  Sure enough they were there along with the pesky mosquitoes but we were not to be detoured from capturing these beautiful birds on film or in our case on a digital sensor.  Definitely worth the visit. As we continue into the park Niala reminded me of an Osprey nest that Sharon had seen a couple days earlier so that was our next stop.  I spotted an adult flying through the canyon so we set up our tripods, got out our longest lenses and snapped on a teleconverter.  While we were there shooting a family arrived with two children one of which was a young man around 14/15 years of age.  He approached me with his Nikon camera and kit lens of 18-200mm in hand and wanted to know what we were looking out.  I told him and pointed out the nest but he was having trouble locating it.  They blend into their surroundings amazingly well.  I let the young man look through my camera to give him a point of reference.  We stood here with all this big equipment yet this young man was thrilled to be in the park with his rig.  While I continue to work with this kid, Niala struck up a conversation with his dad and learned that his dad used to be a photographer in the military and his mom was into wildlife photography as well shooting with a Canon and 300mm lens.  The dad was getting back into the sport and this was becoming an annual event for the family.  OK well I wanted to make this kid’s day and since he was shooting with a Nikon interchangeable lens camera I let him attach his camera to my tripod mounted lens.  I was shooting with a 300mm with 1.4 teleconverter on it.  That would give him a reach of 420mm.  Add to that his cropped sensor of 1.5 for a maximum of 630mm.  The first words out of his mouth were WOW.  After taking several pictures he thanked me several times as did his dad.  One of the great things about photography is being able to help others,  Niala and I never pass up an opportunity to offer to take a couple or family photograph, using their cameras, if we are near and they are taking a portrait to capture their visit or the moment.  This trip was no different and we offered our services several times, always with a grateful thanks from the subjects. 

Continuing on we stopped to photograph black bear on the road to Mammoth but the highlight of this day was a Grizzly Bear feeding on an Elk carcass some 300 to 400 yards from the road.  When we arrived and finally found a place to park, we began shooting a pair of Sand Hill Cranes close by the kill.  This is one of Niala’s favorites and my first opportunity to photograph these birds.  Sharon and Eddy were there and we all settled in on a hill just off the road to wait for the Grizzly to come out of the woods to feed.  Other photographers told us he was feeding about every two hours and it was time for him to come out.  Visualize if you will about 50 people with long lens and tripods setting on the side of the road and you can imaging the pandemonium we were creating with traffic.  Add to this that about two miles down the road a construction crew was doing road repairs.  Well the bear came out as did a Park Ranger who informed us that we had 15 minutes and then we would have to leave.  In that fifteen minutes I probably shot about 400 pictures of the Bear as he came out of the woods and made his way to the Elk carcass which was lying in a creek. (Figure 11)   We concluded the day by coming upon a Coyote feeding on his kill.
Figure 11 Grizzly at Elk Kill
Friday morning Niala and I headed east on the Bear Tooth highway to photograph some very large cascades and water fall.  Later that day we all got together again to hike to Trout Lake.  It was an uphill hike with steep grades in sections of it.   I was able to photograph some trout swimming up stream from the lake.  This area is frequented by Grizzly Bears.  On our way back to Cooke City we came across the Black Bear and her three cubs.  The cubs were in a tree and the mother was sleeping beneath it.  No good opportunities this time.

Saturday we got up early around 5am to allow us time to have breakfast at the Bear Claw CafĂ© prior to heading home.  It was a beautiful morning with some cloud cover and a full moon. (Figure 12)
 I set up to attempt to capture the shot.  During breakfast the owner’s husband called from Mammoth and told his wife a major snow storm was headed our way.  
Figure 12 Moon Over Montana
We finished breakfast and hit the road.  I wanted to get over the Chief Joseph Scenic By-Way before the storm hit.  Half way into the mountains we saw the storm moving in.  The clouds were grey and dense in their cover.  We learned from Sharon that it was a heavy storm. 

We made it to the eastern part of Nebraska where we ran into two major storm fronts one to our south and one to our north and both moving in the same easterly direction as us.  At one point we pulled into a gas station just in time to avoid a hail storm.  We decided to go ahead and get something to eat when we heard on the local news that severe tornado warnings were in the area.  It got really dark but Niala thought we could get ahead of the storm so resumed our travel.  All I can say is I have a new respect for nature.  The heavens were full of energy lighting up the skies with a vengeance.  It was another 10 miles down the road before we gave up and pull off and got a motel for the night.  We later learned of numerous tornados which touched down in the area where we had been.  The rest of our drive was uneventful and we made it back to Jefferson City ahead of schedule.  The final tally, I took 2,611 pictures and I have processed 65 of them.  We drove 2,694.32 miles to and from Yellowstone and another 500 miles in the park.  It took us 21.5 hours to drive from Jefferson City, MO to Yellowstone National Park.  

If you would like to see more pictures of our trip please visit  Go to the “New Photo” tab click on it and then select 2014 Yellowstone.  Thanks for stopping by and please, become a follower to this Blog.