Fall Leaves and Filters

Backlit Smoky Mountain Ridges

It’s fall here in my hemisphere, so it’s the perfect time to use filters. At this time of year I pack my kit with polarizers, and ND (neutral density) filters. Additionally I also add a graduated neutral density (grad ND) filter. And new to my kit this fall is my didymium filter. This is sometimes referred to as a red color intensifier, or a color enhancer, and it’s affects on fall leaves is sublime.


These filters are great to use in all photography in general, and help make blue skies bluer, and puffy clouds puffier. When it comes to fall foliage, a polarizer reduces shine on leaves, especially wet leaves. 

Mingus Creek, Great Smoky Mntns National Park

ND Filters

Neutral density filters help me with reducing the amount of light that reaches my camera’s sensor. Because of this reduced light, a longer exposure is required. I created my photo “Mingus Creek” using a longer exposure and ND filter. The bright fall colors provide a nice contrast and dynamic element to the moving, blurred creek water. I used a three stop filter for this shot, since the creek was already mostly shaded, and my shutter was set at 1.5 seconds. I also used a tripod for this long exposure shot, since it’s impossible for me to hold perfectly still with an open shutter for that long.

Cades Cove Methodist Church

ND Grad Filter

I use an ND Grad (graduated) filter when the sky is brighter than the ground. If I tried to meter the exposure for the ground, then the sky would be overexposed. Then, if I tried to meter for the sky, the ground becomes underexposed. A graduated filter is designed so that everything is correctly exposed, to balance the ground or landscape light and the sky. The problem with using these filters is getting the graduation line placed in the correct position. It’s important not to place it to low or too high, while trying to align it to the lighting in a scene.

A Smoky Mountain Lake

Didymium Filter

My didmyium filter is my secret weapon with autumn colors. I use it to enhance and intensify the reds hues in the changing leaves. The effect it has on fall foliage is outstanding! All the warm hues become accentuated, while the greens and blues remain unchanged. This filter is also known in some circles as a color intensifier.

So basically, that’s some of my fall foliage secrets, that and finding inspirational landscapes. When purchasing filters, I recommend buying quality glass. Spend as much as your budget can bear, because lower quality glass will show lesser results in your photographs, one way or another.

There’s still opportunities for fall foliage photographs happening around. Don’t miss out on the pizzazz of autumn colors. The above filters will help capitalize on the show that nature puts on with the deep hues, and tones!

Light and Love, Leslie



Kelby Worldwide Photowalk

 I was a photographer that walked in the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk on October 6th. My group met and mingled in the little Mississippi River town of Grafton Illinois. Although these walks have been happening worldwide for the past eleven years, this was my first time participating. Kelby created the event as a means to benefiting the Springs of Hope Orphanage in Najuru, Kenya. Here’s a link to the website for more information, https://worldwidephotowalk.com/

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign…

 Since this was my first photowalk event, I didn’t know what to expect. I knew from what I’d seen online that many photographers who participate prefer Street Photography. I make no claims to being a someone who shoots that genre, but I decided that I’d go into the experience with an open mind. As it turned out, I learned that I could just be myself and shoot the images that make me happiest. That loosened me up to just enjoy the experience. I met and conversed with folks who live in the town of Grafton, walked down pathways that visitors were traveling, and for a few brief moments even became a wedding photographer!

Just Married!
A Private Moment

 When it comes to making images, I have a tendency to be a bit of a loner. It’s not that I’m anti-social, I just usually go solo on my adventures into photo making. It helps me to concentrate and ‘see’ things that I otherwise would miss. But, that’s what pleasantly surprised me about being with my group on Saturday. We were a band of six, and given the size of the town, that was a perfect number,.. small but mighty. I had the time and opportunity to be alone, but also enjoyed being with the others too. That’s a good thing, because it pushed my boundaries a little bit further out.

Bride and her ‘Posse’

  At the end of the afternoon, we all met at a local ‘Oyster Bar’ restaurant for a debrief and dinner. This was my absolute favorite part, because I got to know everybody a little bit more. It was rewarding to just relax and enjoy birds of a feather talk with folks who see life through a wide spectrum of lenses. I hope I get the opportunity to be on a photo shoot with them again sometime. They’re good photographers, and really good people too. Win/win! Check out their work by following this link; https://www.facebook.com/groups/1129537113878003/

 All in all it was a fun activity that brought us together, and shines light on a great cause. It’s also great way to explore a city or town in the company of others. If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend that you give the Kelby Worldwide Photowalk a go… you’ve got a whole year yet to the next walk!

Looking Forward, Looking Back
Mississippi River Lighthouse Echoes
Harley Momma crossing by ferry.

Light and love, Leslie







Photography Journals


Current Photography Journals

 I started writing in my ‘Photography Journals’ a while ago, and I’d like to share some of the benefits that have occurred because of writing these notes in my journals. I started keeping my notes as a direct result of reading a ‘self-help’ book. The opposite of inspiration happened. My spirit was crushed for a while. According to this celebrated author, my photography dream would never come true. I wanted my money back!

 I put my dream on the back burner, and continued my love for photography. This led me to reading interviews, and watching videos from successful photographers. I’d grab onto an uplifting quote and say to myself; “Oh, I need to write that down someplace!”. It wasn’t long before my little notes of encouragement were starting to pile up.

So I created a better way to refer back to these shared gems of wisdom, my journals. I now have journals for different topics. One journal is for ‘inspiration’ and quotes, and it also contains vital parts of interviews that resonated with me. Another journal is for ideas and creativity, where I record notes on places I’d like to revisit or new destinations to investigate. The third journal is where I keep notes on my photographs and shoots where I feel that I could have improved. It contains everything from working with better light and camera settings to moving my camera to a different viewpoint or composition. This has helped me, and writing these things down helps me organize my thoughts so they don’t get lost.

 I didn’t know when I started my journals that all these things would help me become a better photographer. I stumbled into what others might have already known, and I wish that I had recognized it sooner. Dorothea Lange, one of my all time favorite photographers once said; “A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera”. I’ve pondered that statement for decades. Yes, of course, there’s the obvious interpretations. However, I also suggest that keeping a photography journal helps one define what and how one sees. This helps one see better with a camera. Ultimately, we make photographs based on what our mind sees, and we then try to capture that feeling with the camera. 

“Shoot what you feel!”

 As far as that book goes, well, that author is entitled to his own opinions. Defining success is up to each person, and it looks diverse and different to each one of us. Stay true to yourself, stay true to what you feel and what you’re passionate about. Do what you love, follow your heart!

Do you journal? I’d love to hear from you if you do!

Light and Love – Leslie


Perseid Meteor Shower 2018

The Perseids meteor shower, with all the hype and rage swirling about the event, lured me out into a fallow section of a soy bean field into the wee hours of early morning. Did I mention the wee hours? So, there I was at 10:30 PM, surrounded by learned Astronomer types, crops, and howling coyotes, with my eyes well adjusted, and my excitement and expectations set high. As the minutes ticked away, and the temperature dropped and the dew point climbed, I was forced to ponder my fashion choice of cargo shorts and cotton graphic tee. By 12:30 AM I was shivering, so I trekked back through the long wet blades of grass to my truck to retrieve an old windbreaker jacket that I had pressed into service as a cargo tarp. It was then too that I came to ponder the value of my Merrell hiking boots, since my feet were soaking wet inside the Nike’s I had worn instead. On the return walk to my tripod and folding chair, I became really grateful for those red and green beam flashlights I’d bought last year,..they were still at home in my gear pack. As I approached my tripod, I grabbed one of it’s three wet legs, and made sure my camera was still aimed at the Perseus constellation (where the meteors would be coming from) I was grateful I had made the back and forth stretch to my Colorado relatively unscathed. I could now feel the warmth starting to radiate from my tattered jacket, so I said a little silent prayer, thankful for it’s presence. It was time to settle back in for the continuing meteor show, so I sat down.. in my apparently sodden chair! Seconds later one of the learned star gazing guys shouted; “Oh, there’s goes a great one!”, as we all jumped to our feet to click our camera shutters. When I say “we all”, I actually mean me, since the rest of the photographers were using their remotes. Oh, I have a remote too, but it was keeping my red and green beam flashlights company at home! There at my tripod I stood at the ready, anticipating the next blazing coppery streak across the sky. Sometime around 1:45 AM another of the guys yelled, “there overhead!”. It was a magnificent blue streaker, perfect in it’s brilliance. It was also not in the direction that my camera was pointed. I continued my stand at my camera, despite the chilly temps and my trembling legs and wet backside. By 2:30 AM the entire group had folded, literally folded up their gear, and schlepped everything back to our vehicles. I’m sure they were all as excited as I was to get back home to our warm dry computer chairs to inspect our images! By 4:00 I had reviewed my images and processed my best shot through Photoshop! I was so proud, red streaking light! It’s the best image I’ve ever captured, … of a plane in the 2:00 AM early morning sky!

An attempt to capture an image of the Perseid meteors

Ultimately I’d like to stress the following point, despite the tenor of this blog post. Any adventure that involves other photographers who are also seeking to capture images and doing it together, is a good time! It’s always fun to be among ‘birds of a feather’. We rejoice together at our successes, and laugh together at our mishaps, goofs and failures. We learn from each other, and push each other to beyond the boundaries that hold us back. It reminds us that we’re not doing any of these pursuits alone, that we are all photographers, and enjoying our art and work is what keeps us creative. “No man is an island”!

Light and Love – Leslie


Adventures to the Rio Grande Gorge


Route 64 along the Rio Grande River

 Recently while on a trip to the Taos region of northern New Mexico, we decided on a whim to go White Water Rafting, something I’d never done before. We had settled on a half day trip since I was new to the activity, and since the nights were in the mid 30’s, we felt the afternoon would offer the better water temperature conditions. I made reservations with New Mexico River Adventures in Embudo New Mexico, https://www.newmexicoriveradventures.com, a company that has been guiding river trips for well over 25 years. We were not disappointed with our choice, and I highly recommend their services. It was a blast, and I believe that a part of the fun of the float was our upbeat, entertaining guide, Liam. Liam related many interesting things about the Rio Grande River, and pointed out some landmarks along our journey. For instance, as we were floating by a big boulder named Baby Huey, he told us that it had rolled down the mountain, bounced off the road, and landed in the river just a couple of years before! I mean it was big, like railroad engine big!

  After our rafting trip, we set off for the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge. To get to the bridge from Embudo, we drove route 64 which passes through Taos. Taos is an interesting city, filled with adobe style buildings trimmed in turquoise or red, and is home to creatives from all walks of life. I can only think of one word that fits Taos perfectly; charming!

Route 64, Taos NM
Turquoise trimmed adobe buildings..

McDonalds, Taos,… adobe style

 We continued on route 64 heading west, until we crossed over the Rio Grande River Gorge by way of the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge… At 650 feet, the bridge is the second highest U.S. Highway System bridge, and is the fifth highest bridge in the United States. But beyond all those facts, it’s just plain awesome, because of where it is and the view! We were definitely going to walk over the bridge! Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of heights, but I wasn’t going to miss out on this opportunity of a lifetime. It was high, especially looking over and down below, but it was so cool and worth the intimidation factor. We stood there in wonder, taking in the awesomeness that the tiny Rio Grande River below had created. Really, what more does one say after taking seeing something so spectacular?! Still speechless!

650 feet above the awesome landscape wonder of the RIo Grande Gorge

And don’t miss our YouTube highlight reel of this day’s great adventure…, just follow this link for 1:41 seconds of fun! www.youtube.com/watch?v=fqHiE6iWTac

Light and Love, – Leslie

Richard Bernabe Photography Workshop in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Backlit Smoky Mountain Ridges

  Last October I attended a Great Smoky Mountains National Park photography workshop with the renowned nature, wildlife, travel Photographer Richard Bernabe, https://www.richardbernabe.com/workshops/. In the weeks leading up to this trip, I told my friends that I was going on a trip of a lifetime.  That was a true statement at the time, because I had never attended a photography workshop before, and it had been at least 20 years since I had spent any significant amount on a vacation.

 The workshop began on a Thursday afternoon at 3:00 PM, and after some brief introductions we all car-pooled off following behind Richard’s car in our four assorted vehicles. Of course with it being late October, and being the Smoky Mountains, it was overcast and drizzling when we arrived at our first destination.

 As we all piled out of our vehicles, I scanned the group making quick assessments as to where I fit in with this new group of photographers. Some appeared to already know Richard, and I learned over our time together at a group dinner that evening, that indeed, they were repeat participants. About half the group had been through other workshops with Richard before. This fascinated me, and I pondered the idea of why people would repeat? I’d soon learn why!

Richard’s Tree

 The following two and a half days were nothing short of incredible! With Richard guiding our path, each and every stop we made was more breathtaking then the last. I’d seen beauty in nature before, but witnessing it through the eyes of a photographer with a respected and illustrious career, brought a heightened sense of purpose to my photography, and beauty to me personally. As an example, we had a sunrise shoot scheduled at Ocanoluftee Outlook.  We arrived there in time so that we had the prime spots for our tripods and gear packs. It was very dark, windy, and so cold that hand warmers were the hot commodity! As the morning sky started to lighten and the mountains before us went from black to dark greens, the excitement, expectations, and urgency for getting the shot grew. The eastern sky lightened more, and Richard began shouting out his get ready countdown. And then after all the build-up of anticipation, the sun peaked over the mountainous horizon, spilling glorious colors of ambers, peach, and subtle yellows across the sky. I fired my shutter off to what seemed like a million frames, I didn’t want to miss one second of this glorious show! My face seemed to be getting colder at one point, so I put my hand up to my cheeks to add a little warmth, which is when I noticed that my face was wet. The event had been so moving and visually spectacular for me, – that I hadn’t realized that I had been weeping!

Sunrise at Ocanolufftee Outlook

  Every stop after that was just as inspirational and appealing. We went to waterfalls and rapids, tall straight tree tops, Clingman’s Dome for a sunset, and a section of the Cades Cove Loop. If one needed assistance with composition, and in some cases camera settings, Richard was there to help and guide. He shared skills and techniques that were new to many, including one experimental technique involving a longer shutter exposure and dragging the camera while the shutter is open. I’m ashamed to say that I didn’t display a very excited demeanor over this technique, but have now grown rather fond of the results of those images… My apologies Richard!! I hope you’ll forgive my short sightedness on that one?

Tall Straight Trees
The woods are lovely…
Capturing SunStars

Another moment that was compelling for me was at a waterfall. It was down a fairly steep trail with slippery rocks and roots to step over. I had backed off, thinking that the vantage point was beyond my navigating skillset, given my particular challenges of bad knees, etc. I happily watched as the other photographers made their way down to the waterfall in groups of no more than two at a time. As everyone else had had their turn, I heard Richard call out my name. I responded by saying that I didn’t think I would be able to handle the trail. Richard’s response? “Absolutely not, I don’t take no for an answer!” So together we made our way down and back up that trail, while he instructed me on where to put my feet, and how to use three points of contact as I walked. And guess what happened? I shot some of the best images of my life! I was never in danger, and he patiently walked me through my apprehensions. Woohoo!

Smoky Mountain Waterfall
Richard helping with composition
Richard offers advice
One of the spectacular waterfalls
The darkening gray blue sky at Clingman’s Dome before a sunset…

 Thank you to all the workshop leaders out there that are willing to share their knowledge, and guide those that need a little push, or help those to find their focus. Before my workshop experience, I had called it a once in a lifetime trip, and it was! I discovered things within myself as a photographer. I pushed my envelope of what was challenging to my comfort level. I learned skills and techniques that has improved my outdoor nature images. I gained great friends through the camaraderie of car-pooling and shooting together. We still stay in touch through social media. And, I have come to realize that it wasn’t a once in a lifetime trip, I’m planning to go on more workshop trips in the future. It was however, a life changing trip. I see the world differently through my camera lens now. I returned home a totally different, improved, renewed photographer.

I found my mojo, at this Great Smoky Mountains National Park workshop. I was looking for an opportunity to jump start my inspiration. I felt like I had exhausted the boundaries of home through many hours of shooting. I was challenged to find different ways to photograph the familiar that would be inspirational to myself and others. I found all of these things and more. I offer up a huge thank you to Photographer Richard Bernabe . I am enriched!


Light and Love- Leslie



Yuneec Drone Crashed- What goes up, sometimes comes down, hard!


I crashed my drone, or UAS (Unmanned Aerial System) or UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle). Whatever one cares to call it, I still crashed it, and my once nimble but now mangled Yuneec Typhoon Q500 4K drone had suffered the effects of gravity. The body was damaged, having fractured in two places on one rotor support wing, and there were 3 stress fractures lines that became evident upon closer inspection on the body. Three of the rotor blades were shattered into unspeakable fragments, yet oddly one was still perfect. I suppose it could have been worse considering the 40’ fall. There was also the “onboard 4K camera” and 3 axis gimbal that had smashed into 4 pieces, -I knew that that was going to be an expensive loss or repair.

With all candor, I’ll say that I felt very defeated when it happened. I quickly snatched up all the scattered bits, and hastily retreated into anonymity. Crestfallen, I couldn’t understand what had gone wrong, and all I could focus on was the cost of the loss. Realizing I had the choice to either grow from this experience or remain literally “shot down”, I began researching through the internet and You Tube about the topic of “drone crashes”. There is certainly no shortage of materials to explore!

I’m so glad I made the decision “to grow” from this experience. My exploration of the internet revealed that there are many, many drone pilots that crash their UAV’s, even the top “pros”. There’s even an expression “if you ain’t crashin, you ain’t flyin”!  I found out that my encounter with wind and a tree is a common scenario. This boosted my self-confidence again, and I pushed further outside my boundaries by joining forums. Within one Yuneec forum group I discovered an entire thread dedicated to the repair of a CGO3 camera and gimbal system. Possessing a modicum of technical skills, I set about making the repairs myself. I carefully followed the instructions, and then hoping for the best, reconnected the repaired camera system to drone body. I powered up the control station, and then the drone itself, and waited expectantly for good results. Shazam! The control station displayed a video feed, and the camera was responding to the commands to move upward and downward. Once I determined that the camera was working again, (possibly the most expensive element to the UAV itself), I ordered a new drone body as a back-up plan. I had learned through my reading that one could “bind” a new drone body to the control station.

With renewed determination, I then progressed on to repairing of the drone body itself. I first confirmed that all four rotor motors were working correctly, and responding to the control center. Seeing positive results there, I then collected the shattered pieces that I had collected, grabbed a super-glue bottle, and set about gluing the body back together. I reinforced all the shattered joints after the gluing process with a combination of “FixIt Tape” and “Duct Tape”. I also counter weighted the opposite side, mirroring the tape applications so that the drone would not be out of balance. Then I waited…. 48 hours of waiting, “cooling my jets” so to speak, allowing the bonding elements to become firm and durable. Finally, I attached four new rotor blades, fired up both the control station and drone, and ever so delicately I lifted off. I am overjoyed to say that my drone is now airborne once again, and “flying the friendly skies”!

I’m grateful for my dad, a true renaissance man. He was a 30 year retiree from Grumman Aircraft Corporation. When I was a kid, he would occasionally take me to the Grumman Wyandanch Plant where F-14’s were manufactured. Dad taught me to be a capable individual, to be “good with my hands” and tools, and that with enough propulsion anything will fly!  Maybe that had something to do with my efforts and desire to make repairs,… but then again maybe not. Maybe it’s more that he instilled in me a sense of not accepting failure! Whatever the case you may encounter, don’t accept defeat. Don’t let a mistake define you. Instead grow from it, and then get back out there, “spread your wings and fly”!

Light and Love- Leslie

The Milky Way and Astrophotography

Astrophotography and specifically photographing the Milky Way is not an easy pursuit. In my opinion however, there are very few photographs that have as much existential impact as  a landscape at night- set against the backdrop of the endless galaxies that make up the Milky Way. This is one of the biggest factors for me that makes the adventure such a rewarding experience. The extreme landscape scenario presents a whole different game, and pushes the equipment/gear to extremes also.

Learning to shoot within the limits of the equipment you have is a great exercise and opportunity and it’s a phenomenal tutorial to push one’s own limits beyond the comfort zone. After a few times of night shooting you’ll become more familiar with your equipment and learn the limits of what you can do with it. Then if one is inclined, they’ll be a better understanding of what direction to go if one wants to make upgrades.

I’m anxiously awaiting the arrival of early summer, so that I may begin again my efforts to improve upon my attempts of shooting the Milky Way. There is an infinity of room for improvement. It’s a humbling pursuit,… in so many ways!

Light and Love, – Leslie

Cades Cove- Great Smoky Mountains National Park


Original Log Cabin and fencing in Cades Cove


One of my favorite stops along my journey through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was at Cades Cove. The Cove is a lush valley surrounded by the Smoky Mountains, and settled within its confines one finds many of the original old log cabins and barns from the early settlers. There are also churches and an old grist mill.

Navigating through the Cove was easy because of the 11 mile one way loop access road. I visited in late October and there was little traffic present, but in the spring, summer and fall months the visitor traffic increases. Thankfully, the park services has provided “pull offs” along the route for visitors to stop to enjoy the landscapes.

This section of the GSMNP (Great Smoky National Park) for me at least was redolent. Everywhere I looked I felt the echoes of the families that farmed this land before “eminent domain” removed them from the farms that generations before them had worked. There’s a stillness there, a solemnity that evokes respect for its history. Although I love the GSMNP, and all it offers visitors today, I am also conflicted by how history played out for the people that called the Cove home.

At the turn of the 20th Century life had changed from farming to more of a logging core. Large logging companies created the job industry for many residents. As is the nature of logging effects, the results was extensive deforestation. This resulted in the states of North Carolina and Tennessee purchasing land to create the National Park. Eventually as land was being bought up, Cades Cove was combined into the land purchases. One might expect that the preponderance of occupants refused to sell their land. In the end, the Tennessee General Assembly granted the Park Commission authority to seize the properties within the boundaries. A shining example of “eminent domain” at work within our National Parks. Like I stated earlier, having been aware of this history, I found Cades Cove to have a melancholy ambiance.

On the day of my visit in October, the valley was still and snowy. Although I didn’t personally witness the abundant wildlife, I know it was there, and what it meant to so many in history that depended upon it for survival.

I left Cades Cove in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park enriched as a Photographer because of the things it shared with me, but what’s more what it instilled in me!

Light and Love,- Leslie

Arcadia Valley and Ozarks of Missouri

I had the great fortune of camping the last week of June in the beautiful locale of the Arcadia Valley in Missouri. Anytime I get to go camping, I’m automatically in my happy place, so imagine my excitement to be camping where I was surrounded by beautiful landscapes. As a Photographer, I was overwhelmed with the breathtaking scenery and the amazing opportunities for landscape photography. Every stop I made, I was inspired by “eye candy”. I had to pace myself, remembering that I would have a full week to capture every image my heart desired! My shutter finger was busy, and I was grateful that I carried with me two camera batteries.

If you’ve never been to the Ozark’s Arcadia Valley, I recommend that you go, especially if you enjoy Americana subject matter, and historical landmarks. Even if you’re not a photographer, the imprinted memories in your minds eye will last a lifetime!

Johnson Shut-ins from the top of the mountain.
Alley Mill National Park
Mammoth Springs, Arkansas
Falling Spring

I hope to return again someday to capture more images, and perhaps a shoot time in a different season of the year. And the best part is, there are still more locations that I didn’t get to shoot. So the next time, I’ll push a little deeper into the Ozark’s and discover more hidden gems! I can hardly wait, but good things are worth waiting for!

Until the next adventure- Light and Love, Leslie