Canon 100-400 II Coming?

According to Canon Rumors a new Canon 100-400 is going to be released soon. This has me thinking and looking into my archives. Why you ask? Because as a nature and landscape photographer part of my kit includes a 70-200 2.8 IS II. This lens is one of the best lenses Canon makes and it's the sharpest lens I own. So looking through lightroom at my past images where I use the 70-200, approximately 93% of those images were shot at 100mm or greater. More than half of those included a 1.4x teleconverter. I've used it to photograph bears, eagles, deer, elephant seals and other subjects like flowers, bees, and various macro style images. Most of the time I have it maxed out at 200mm. With the 5DIII I can focus at f8. This means I could use a 100-400 with a teleconverter, giving me a range of 140mm-560mm. The 70-200 is a killer lens but I feel a 100-400 would better fit my style and would help more with the wildlife aspect of my portfolio, which is basically what I was using the 70-200 for anyways. There is downside to the 100-400. It's a variable aperture lens, meaning 4.5 is the widest it will go. The 2.8 on the 70-200 is great for low light wildlife photography. If you know anything about wildlife, they like early morning and late evening when the amount of available light is low. The other option is a 200-400 but thats a little out of my price range and would be a pain to lug around on a backpacking trip.

I'll wait to see the price and the MTF Chart, but I do believe Canons latest lens offerings are tops in the business. Nikon, (which uses Sony sensors) and Sony have been producing awesome results with the high megapixel sensors, but Canon has been crushing it with lenses. If the rumored 100-400 is anything like the 70-200, 24-70, and 16-35, I will be selling my beloved 70-200.

Great Smoky Mountain National Park Photographers Guide

Great Smoky Mountain National Park is the most visited in the national park system. This is due to the location of the park, it's accessible for all ages and abilities, and the cities of Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge offer many activities for the tourist type of visitor. On my most recent trip I stayed in a log cabin in the hills above Gatlinburg. I avoided Pigeon Forge like the plague because it's very much like Las Vegas. Not my scene. Gatlinburg is not much different just smaller and closer to the park entrance. Great Smoky Mountain National Park has no entrance fees. From what I was told, it's because the property was donated to the park system and in that turnover part of the deal was to keep the park free to the public. It's a nice little bonus for the visiting public. The first thing to keep in mind when headed to The Smokies is realize that it's very crowded. The hiking trails are busy even shortly after daybreak. I was on several hikes just after the sun had risen and people were already on their way down the trail. On the way back to the car it was a steady line of hikers heading into the wilderness. This was the case for a short 3 mile round tripper at Grotto Falls and a longer 8 mile round tripper at Ramsey Cascades. It's the busiest park by far I've been to and it wasn't peak season! I can't imagine what it's like in the summer!

The park has many iconic scenes that photographers must see. On the top of my list was Clingmans Dome. The view is fantastic! Sunrise is a great time to capture the backlit layers of mountains and hills, but a decent sunrise is always a crapshoot. According the the park service, over the last 50 years man made pollution has decreased visibility by upwards of 80% during summer and 40% in the winter. That's crazy! I witnessed it first hand. Even though there were no clouds the haze clearly blocked out the rising sun. Out of the 5 sunrises and 5 sunsets I witnessed only two is what I would consider "normal". The others were ruined by haze and pollution. Plan on trying to get a good sunrise or sunset several times before one decides to make an appearance.

Other than Clingmans Dome, must see locations include The Roaring Fork Motor Trail, Newfoundland Gap, Little River Road, The Greenbrier area, and Cades Cove. The roaring fork motor trail and greenbrier area was my favorite for photographing the rivers. The best overlooks are New Foundland Gap overlook, Clingmans Dome and Morton overlook. There is a lot to explore with opportunities for all seasons. Winter is probably the least desirable. Snow will fall but normally doesn't stay around long at lower elevations and even at higher elevations, like Clingmans Dome, they only see an average of around 70 inches of snowfall a year. So if you are the outdoors type or if you are a tourist type who likes shopping, craft and art fairs, and unique stores, The Smoky Mountain area is a good choice. If you want more seclusion, privacy, and a backcountry experience, I would recommend a different park.


Smoky mountain sunrise photo from Clingmans Dome

Fall Is In The Air- Where to Photograph The Fall Colors

Fall Colors are popping up all over North America and depending on where you are in the country depends on the peak of the season. Here in Northern Michigan we are near peak and a week or two away for peak near the shorelines of the big lakes. Fall comes and goes in a blink of an eye, but it's often one of the most photogenic times of year. Here are (in no particular order) my favorite places to photograph fall colors.  

Eagle River Alaska - Eagle River is one of the most scenic places in the fall season. Its a nice town just north of Anchorage. As you can see by the photo below, it's hard to beat snow covered mountains and the colors of fall.



Eagle river alaska photo


Grand Teton National Park - Grand Teton National Park is one of the best places for fall photography. Not only will you get the colorful aspens and the Teton Mountain Range, but you will likely see some wildlife willing to pose in front of the beautiful fall foliage.

grand teton moose photo


Ricketts Glen Pennsylvania - As you can see by the photo I was a bit early for peak color, but Ricketts Glen State Park remains my favorite state park I have yet to visit. It reminds me an awful lot of the Columbia River Gorge. The hiking loop has several picturesque waterfalls to go along with the babbling brooks and streams.

ricketts glen fall photo



Northern Michigan - I guess I'm a little bit bias here, but one of the best places to photograph the autumn colors has to be my home state of Michigan. The country roads, lakes, tunnel of trees, and so on. Just driving around on the back roads will be a photographers dream. The whole state is covered with a sea of oranges, reds, and yellows. It's hard to beat that!


This is just a small list, there are many great places to photograph, some of which I have yet to visit. So wherever you are, go support the local parks small towns, farms, and photograph the beautiful fall colors.

Fall road photo

Fall reflection photo




Behind You!

Behind You! No, I'm not trying to scare you, I'm trying to remind all nature photographers (myself included) to not lock in on a singular subject when out in the field. It doesn't always have to be behind you either. It could be anywhere besides your main subject. When the magic hour comes don't make the mistake of photographing a singular subject! The lighting conditions often better suit a different subject. In my early years as a photographer I would setup my tripod, wait for the conditions to be right, and photograph solely focused on the main subject. Overtime I have been able to overcome this bad habit. On my most recent trip to Ludington State Park I witnessed this firsthand. There was a meetup or photography group and they were there to photograph the Big Sable Point lighthouse. There were about 6 participants all of which had their cameras facing the iconic lighthouse. Over time I've made it a habit to look around to see how the light is falling on other subjects. As I looked all around me I was presented with a scene of a gnarly weather system moving over Lake Michigan. When I turned my tripod 180 degrees to face the opposite direction of the lighthouse they all looked at me like I was crazy. Then they all looked at what I was photographing. Soon the entire group had turned away from the lighthouse and began photographing the scene below. I can't say for sure if the group would have changed their subject focus if they hadn't seen me change my focus, but it's worth saying that every participant changed focus after they discovered a "better " scene than the lighthouse

My whole point to this article is to look around. The light might fall better on a different subject. Even when you're in Yosemite photographing an iconic subject like Half Dome, the light might be better behind you! I know it sounds like an easy concept, but unless you are thinking about it, I bet you'll forget, I know I have many times!

A very blue with a hint of purple storm moves across Lake Michigan of the shores of Ludington State Park.


Ludington State Park In Ludington Michigan

Ludington State Park is located on Michigan's west coast just north of the city of Ludington. The park is rather large and one of the biggest parks in the mitten state. It has miles of sandy beaches and a few different campgrounds. It's a very popular place for RV's but also has a "backcountry" campground. The main attraction besides the beaches is the Big Sable Point Lighthouse. The Lighthouse was main reason I wanted to visit. During a holiday weekend it's wise to book your campsite well in advance. I booked in May for labor day weekend and the campgrounds were already getting full. I ended up booking a backcountry site at the Jackpine campground, which they classify as "rustic". It's about a mile hike into the campground but it's down an old gravel service road that leads to the Big Sable Lighthouse. It has a well pump for water and a couple outhouses. The hike is very easy. So easy in fact people bring wagons and bikes to haul their gear. This meant dealing with "backcountry campers" with radios, portable grills, young children, and coolers full of alcohol. It didn't really make for the peaceful weekend I was hoping for, but none the less it was halfway to the lighthouse I was there to see.

The Big Sable Point Lighthouse is one of the best lighthouses I have seen to date. It has a distinct look and is very photogenic from both sides. This makes it a great subject for sunrise and sunset. Big Sable Lighthouse is surrounded by dune grass as far as the eye can see and sits right on the shores of Lake Michigan. The scene below made the trip worth it. I would love to go there again on a non holiday weekend to enjoy the surroundings with a little more quiet. Our camping neighbors were up to the early morning hours causing a ruckus, this made the trip rather unpleasant, but if I took that part out the equation the surroundings and the park was great!


Big Sable Point Lighthouse taken from the north side of the lighthouse as the sun was setting. The light was good but only lasted a few moments before the sun was hidden by the clouds. Would love to photograph this location again at sunrise/ sunset to get some more color in the sky.