Life on Life’s terms continues

Well it’s been 3 weeks and the “Beast” (our affectionate term for our 5th wheel) is still in the shop, currently we are waiting for a new compressor for the refrigerator to come in so we can finally get back on the road. We have spent a moment or two sulking and complaining about our current situation but more often than not we are just making the best of it, being grateful for family that has hosted us these past three weeks without a single complaint or “hey when the heck are you leaving?” and finding photo opportunities where ever we can.

We made a few visits to the St. Augustine Alligator Farm, we purchased the yearly photographer’s pass for $89.95 which allows us access to the rookery at 8 am and the ability to stay until sunset, in addition to supporting the good work of the Alligator Farm. We came at a great time as it’s baby season at the rookery, so cute and so much fun to photograph and observe.

The rookery poses quite a few challenges for photographers, to start with it is relatively small and even during the photography pass holders only hours it can get quite crowded.

There’s so much activity going on that you need to learn as a photographer to focus on a subject and not get distracted by all the activity, and at the same time be aware of your surroundings and be prepared to make a quick change so as not to miss a wonderful opportunity for an image, no easy task to master.

Another challenge you will encounter is very distracting backgrounds and foregrounds. The rookery area as mentioned is fairly small and does not provide easy opportunities for soft compressed backgrounds that as nature photographers we like very much. It requires constant vigilance in checking your camera angle, your backgrounds, scanning the image area for distracting elements and making adjustments.  

In the image above of the Snowy Egret the background was darkened in post production using NIK/Google filters. I used Viveza and selected several control points and decreased the brightness of the background, in doing this I lost some of the fine feathers on top so when I brought the image back into PS I added a layer mask to the Viveza layer, chose a soft brush, changed the opacity to about 30% and painted the fine detail of those feathers back in.

The blue sky created a pleasing background for Roseate spoonbill below, just as he landed on the perch.

For the family of Great Egrets a tight crop was chosen to minimize some of the distractions and an aperture of f8 to keep all 4 eyes in focus and at the same time adding as little depth of field to the background as possible.

One of the things we love about nature photography is all it’s challenges, it’s never the same and there are so many aspects of it that as photographers we have no control over. We don’t control our subject, the light, the backgrounds or foregrounds. We can only control how we as artists can create the images we want under the circumstances nature gives us and boy is it fun.
In addition to visits to the Alligator Farm we’ve had some backyard fun in Live Oak with a few beautiful Red-headed woodpeckers.

Wildlife photography is kind of like life; make the absolute best of what you’ve been given. Spend more time enjoying and conquering the challenges and less time complaining about them and things have a way of ending up new and beautiful.

Life on Life’s Terms

Life doesn’t always go the way you plan it,  almost 3 weeks ago we set out in our Montana 5th wheel to begin our lives as full time RV’ers. We made it to Live Oak Florida and stopped to visit Bill’s sister Vicki, she was kind enough to let us park our trailer on her 5 acre property and she hooked us up with water and electricity for a week while we got ourselves organized. Well the week went by fast and it was time to say goodbye and move a bit further south, not gonna happen, we were all set to leave and we noticed the slides on the Montana were not closing properly and the more we opened and closed them the worse it got. We made the first appointment we could get, 5 days later, then another week and a half passed before we were able to get our warranty company to approve the repair and now it will be at least another week for parts to  come in and repairs to be made. Not exactly as we had envisioned our first few weeks of life on the road, but life is best lived on life’s terms otherwise you will be disappointed most of your days.

So what is there to photograph in the Live Oak area? We found a few subjects: In this image below Bill decided to photograph this boat and palm tree as an HDR combining 3 images and then I processed it with a bit of a edge to it to add to the feel of the boat.
On our way back to Bill’s sisters house we passed this house and Bill knew he had to go back at good light and photograph it, again he chose HDR to create the image he had envisioned when he first saw the house.

Inside was just as interesting and also processed as an HDR
One last look at the house; Bill decided to use a compositional tool called framing to add additional interest to his subject, I think it worked really well, it’s my favorite image from this series.
And of course we found some wildlife to photograph as well. This barred owl was difficult to photograph as the background was very bright and the owl was in the deep shade of the forest, so I exposed for the owl, the more important element, and let the background overexpose and then toned it down a bit in post production.

We will continue to look for subjects while we are stranded in Live Oak Florida and continue to be grateful for relatives like Bill’s sister Vicki who graciously put us up while we wait on repairs. Photography is a lot like life, of course location and subject matter play their parts but your perspective is what will make or break you.

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It Just Clicked – Exposure The Foundation of Good Photography

Sorry it’s been so long since our last blog, we’ve spent the last few months preparing to sell our house and get our Montana 5th wheel ready to be our new home on wheels for the next few years. What an undertaking it has been, over 30 years of living in the same home it was at times overwhelming deciding what to sell, what to keep, what to donate and what just needed to be thrown away. The hardest part of this whole new phase of our lives, was by far, saying goodbye to dear friends, neighbors and family. But as one good friend pointed out it’s not goodbye it’s just see you later.
So enough about us; lets get back to some photography.

In our last issue we were speaking about getting the exposure right; understanding the relationship between iso, aperture and shutter speed and how important that relationship is in allowing the photographer to make creative choices in how their images are presented. Today we are going to discuss how do we determine a correct exposure in the first place.

Contrary to some popular beliefs one of the first things we want you to do to learn how to determine a proper exposure is to take your camera off all those program modes and put it in manual. If you learn how to use your camera in manual than you will be able to fully utilize your various program modes. Many people think its the other  way around, I’ll use program and automatic modes and then I’ll learn manual. Trust us, put your camera in manual mode and lets get a proper exposure.

So we’re in manual and our image is composed the way we want it, our meter is set to spot (at at the moment this is a somewhat arbitrary choice – we’ll talk about metering modes in another post) so what’s next. Well the first thing we need to do is understand how our camera’s meter works. All meters in cameras are reflective meters, meaning that they measure the light reflected off our subjects and they want to make everything 18% gray or neutral, the problem with that is that most things do not reflect light at 18% gray and different colors reflect more or less light – so by nature our cameras will over expose blacks and under expose whites and we certainly don’t want that, so what do we do? Well we have to make adjustments by adding or subtracting light based on the understanding of our reflective meter. So lets say we have an image of a black or dark bird, if we null the meter (set in in the middle 18% gray) then as we mentioned before our meter will, in trying try to make the bird 18% gray, over expose the blacks. So knowing this we now need to subtract light (to compensate for our reflective meter over exposing or adding light) by one of our 3 variables in the exposure triangle, (iso, aperture or shutter speed). How much light will depend on the subject. Look at your histogram (image below shows where you will should see the blacks, shadows, mid-tones, highlights and whites represented) and see where the blacks and shadows are recorded in your image, are they to the left side of your histogram yet not climbing up the wall? If not  adjust your exposure by a 1/3 of a stop (either adding or subtracting depending on where you started) and then look again continue to do this until your shadows have detail. Once you practice enough you will be able to look at a scene and know approximately how much light you will need to add or subtract to properly expose your image, you will of course tweak it  to get the exact exposure you desire.

Looking at the photo above we can see that by subtracting light (in this case a stop and a half) from our meter’s null or zero point we have created a properly exposed image of a dark bird. The dark/black colors are to the left on our histogram without clipping rendering us an image with details in it.


Our Passion
Photography is our passion and sharing our knowledge with others is our pleasure.

We delight in learning and inspiring others to learn new ways of capturing the world through the Eye of our Camera. How can we inspire you today?

  • “When people ask me what equipment I use – I tell them my eyes.”
In our next issue: Some more exposure tips
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Get out of the cold

Winter in the northeast is a great time to get out and photograph landscapes, urban scenes,  and wildlife but if your fingers are frozen, your subjects have dried up or the clouds are making for gray  & wet weather you can still enjoy some fun and fascinating photography. Get out of the cold and go indoors to a museum. Museums are a great place to experiment with lenses, try some new techniques or just have some photographic fun. It’s always wise to go online or call ahead to the museum you are planning to visit and find out about their policies on photography and equipment allowed. Some allow tripods, some charge extra for tripods, some do not allow tripods and some allow no photography at all. Each museum will have its own rules so again be wise and find out in advance to avoid disappointment.

Most museums do not allow flash photography and museums tend to be dimly lit so you will be dealing with low light situations. The use of a tripod or monopod (if allowed) will help tremendously when photographing in low light. A higher ISO will most likely be needed do to the usual low light conditions of most museums. We always use the lowest possible ISO for the conditions we are shooting in to eliminate or minimize noise. In addition, especially when tripods or monopods are not allowed, you will need to use a fast enough shutter to avoid camera shake. Many times you’ll need to be shooting at a wide open aperture to let as much light in as possible this can cause problems due to limited depth of field. As always you have to weigh the conditions you are in and the utilize the exposure triangle to give you the best possible results for the image you want to create.

The light in museums can change from daylight to tungsten, to mixed light and back again so white balance really is important to pay attention to, especially if you are shooting in jpeg. We recommend shooting in raw so that you can adjust the white balance after the fact if you’re not happy with it. In addition you have the full power of a raw capture to allow you to make better post production adjustments.

In the image above taken at the Gothic Chapel in the Cloisters in Upper Manhattan Bill used a fisheye lens to give a unique perspective to his image.

The image below taken at Eastern State Penitentiary in Philadelphia PA is an HDR image combining three images, processed using Photomatix .

It Just Clicked – Getting the exposure right – why it’s so important

Exposure is the foundation of any good image, it determines not only the technical side of your image – how light or dark your tones are rendered but also the creative side of your image – how you want that image presented artistically. By using numerous combinations of ISO, shutter speed and aperture (The Exposure Triangle) we can create the exact same exposure yet have very different artistic representations of our image. In order to choose which artistic representation we want to express we must first understand the relationship between our ISO, shutter speed and aperture.


Creating your image!
In the image above, Augie a captive Eurasian Eagle Owl was taken at one of our Nature Photography for Women Workshops. Gen wanted to blur the background as much as possible so that the bird would pop. She chose ISO 800 shutter speed 1/160 aperture f6.3. The image was shot with a Nikon D4 and a 500mm lens on a tripod. The light was getting very low in the sky so Gen chose the higher ISO of 800, shutter speed of 1/160th was as slow as she could go without getting too much blur from movement. (you can see in his ear flaps that there is a bit of movement) And finally the aperture of f6.3 allowed her to get both eyes sharp and still blur her background. So once she determined the correct exposure (ISO, Shutter Speed & Aperture) then Gen needed to decide creatively how she wanted her image to look. Knowing how to control the exposure allowed Gen to create the image she wanted. (There are other factors that control depth of field in this image including the size of the lens, subject to background distance and camera to subject distance which we will cover at another time)
Creating your image!

In the image above of the Marshall Point Lighthouse, taken on our New England Lighthouse Workshop, Bill wanted to create an image with great depth of field so that everything from front to back would be sharp. Photographed with a Nikon D4 and a 24-120mm lens at 24mm Bill chose ISO 400 shutter speed 1/250th (camera was handheld so Bill wanted enough shutter to avoid camera shake) and aperture f11. By choosing f11 he achieved his desired results of an image sharp from front to back. (There are other factors that control depth of field in this image including the size of the lens, subject to background distance and camera to subject distance which we will cover at another time)

Creating your image!
In the image above Grace Scalzo photographed the white pelican sitting on a rock outcropping. While it was a nice scene, Grace found that the breaking waves and resulting spray were what made the picture. However as a still image, it lacked motion. So after determining an exposure by spot metering off the whites of the bird, she adjusted her settings to not freeze the water, but rather to blur it. This was accomplished at 1/15 sec, f18 and iso 100. It took several tries to get the bird’s eye sharp at this slow shutter speed and long focal length (600 mm) . The end result achieved Grace’s goals, especially showing motion because she understood the relationship between ISO, shutter speed and aperture and used them to create the image she wanted.

If you want to learn to control your exposure so that you can create the image you desire the following classes would be a great start! Click on the links below and begin creating the images you want!

Nature Photography for Women  and the Winter Education Series with classes on Exposure , Image Critique and Composition are being offered jointly by First Light Photography and Grace Scalzo Photography. Join Grace & Gen for one or all of these workshops, to sign up today call 516-965-3097 to register and take control of your images!
Our Passion
Photography is our passion and sharing our knowledge with others is our pleasure.

We delight in learning and inspiring others to learn new ways of capturing the world through the Eye of our Camera. How can we inspire you today?

“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist”
Pablo Picasso
In our next issue: More about exposure
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It Just Clicked Volume 3

Welcome To Volume 3

“It Just Clicked” 

We already know we share some common interests. We all have the desire to explore, experience, create, and preserve forever natures beauty and its creatures through our images. As well as capturing the many precious moments life has to offer through family, friends, and experiences. Or simply put, we share a love of and a passion for photography. Our goal with
each issue of “It Just Clicked” will be to share articles, tips and insights that will raise the level of and challenge us all photographically.

With over 60 years of combined experience Bill Rudock & Gen Benjamin bring with them a diverse portfolio of images, knowledge and a passion to share it all with you. So join us each issue as we explore our world photographically and experience

Life’s Greatest Adventures Through The Eye Of Your  Camera

Photographing waterfalls

Photographers love to photograph waterfalls; whether it’s their incredible power or amazing beauty there is something about them that captivates. It’s no wonder that they are some of the most photographed natural features.

On a recent First Light Photography Workshop we traveled to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. The “GAP” boasts hundreds of waterfalls and is a waterfall photographer’s paradise. We set out to capture some of the most photographic falls the “GAP” has to offer.

Factory Falls is a waterfall located in the George W. Childs Park. It is one of many favorite falls Bill Rudock, Master Photographer and First Light Photography founder and workshop leader likes to photograph with his clients. It is a short walk from the parking lot which makes it easily accessible to all.

As with the majority of landscape photography, photographing waterfalls requires the use of a good sturdy tripod and head. Most photographers will only need to purchase one tripod in their photographic career so we recommend that you don’t pinch pennies on this piece of equipment. Take your time and research the major brands and choose the

tripod that’s right for you. The carbon fiber tripods are more expensive but the lighter weight is really appreciated when caring your equipment long distances. It also helps when traveling by plane as extra weight in your luggage can get expensive. Tripod heads can be a little more difficult to choose and many photographers will need at least two heads, one for landscape and one for larger lenses. Just as with any piece of equipment research the tripod heads online and decide which ones fit your budget and your requirements. For landscapes Bill is using a Really Right Stuff BH-55 Full size ball head.

To create the image above Bill set his Nikon D4 on his tripod and placed it on a small ridge of the river bank just north of the falls. The camera height is set as close to the midpoint of the falls as possible so as to not have to tilt the camera up or down which can cause distortion. Bill’s choice of lens for this image was the Nikkor

18-35mm Wide Angle Zoom set at 35mm.

The aperture was set to f:22 for two reasons, the first being that it gave good depth of field to ensure sharpness from front to back of the image. And secondly even more important it forces a slow shutter that creates that soft silky look to the

water. ISO was set for the lowest prime number which on the D4 is 100. This setting helps get the slowest shutter speeds and will also produce less noise and capture more dynamic range in the image.

Metering waterfalls can be tricky. They are always white and on a sunny day can pick up reflections which will give to false readings. To avoid incorrect readings the image was spot metered off the rocks immediately on the right side of the falls. They were the best mid tones in the frame which is why they was chosen. The base exposure was f:22 at ½ sec.

After all this careful planning Bill was unable to create the image he had envisioned. It was a sunny day and the sensor could not pick up the entire dynamic range of the scene; highlights were blown and the shadows had no detail.

The solution was to create different exposures and merge them in post-production with HDR (High Dynamic Range) software. Bill used 5 exposures with two stops difference between them.

It Just Clicked our monthly blog post

Our responsibility as nature & wildlife photographers

As nature and wildlife photographers we are privileged to experience a side of nature that many people do not get to see. We have seen grizzly cubs frolicking and playing, great horned owlets learning how to navigate their environment, snowy owls resting in the dunes before they begin their hunt for food, red fox kits exploring their world, juvenile skimmers learning how to skim, a moose cow guarding her young calf, a cheetah mom desperately looking for prey and so many more wondrous experiences too vast to list here. Each time we are out with our cameras and get to witness and photograph the beauty, the simplicity, the wisdom and sometimes even the cruelty that is nature we realize that it is a privilege and we have a responsibility to do no harm. As the hikers saying goes “take only photographs leave only footprints”. 


Living in such a populous area as Long Island the threat to wildlife is great. Loss of habitat and food has already put an unjust burden on the wild that live here with us. When we change an animal’s behavior for our own gain or from our own ignorance we do even more damage to that animal. Feeding wildlife is especially damaging to them. When wildlife begins to see people as a food source they often lose their fear of people and can become a nuisance and aggressive, many times they are destroyed because of it. The National Park Service describes feeding wildlife “as a form of animal cruelty” No photograph no matter how spectacular is worth harming the subject in the process. Even with good intentions feeding an animal that you think is unable to hunt for it is still detrimental for them. If you feel the animal is in jeopardy call a wildlife rehabilitator, they are trained in assessing, catching if necessary and providing for the animal in a way that will allow it to be released back into the wild when possible and when not providing an environment for that animal to live. Here are a few Long Island rescues to keep as reference

WINNOR   Evelyn Alexander Wildlife Rescue Center    Volunteers for Wildlife   &   The STAR Foundation


The fragile balance that nature has struck up is already in grave jeopardy. Let’s not, especially as nature and wildlife photographers, do anything to add to that. Instead our images can serve as the vehicle to enlighten, inspire and educate others to enjoy and protect our natural world!


What about baiting?

It’s not our job or place to decide your values; many wildlife photographers bait their subjects, especially owls and raptors, to create better and more plentiful photo opportunities. Some photographic workshops employ the practice of baiting to ensure their paid clients repeatable behavior. But we need to stop and think; does this non-natural practice change the animals behavior in a way that causes them stress or harm? If the answer is yes or even maybe than the next question should be, is the photograph really worth the price of doing harm to our subject?  We hope for you, as it is for us, the answer to that question is no. Let’s not risk the wellbeing of the wildlife by baiting them for the sake of getting a better photograph. Instead challenge yourself to become a better photographer and achieve those amazing images through skill, patience, perseverance and a little bit of luck. Always we must think first of the animals welfare. North American Nature Photography Association establishes the following guidelines for ethical behavior NANPA Ethical Practices .The Nature Photographers Network goes even further with their code of ethics found here Nature Photographers Network Code of Conduct specifically listing avoiding the practice of baiting.

Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it.

Henry David Thoreau