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Memories of Safari West

White Rhinos

In the late 2000’s I bought my first “big” camera – initially a Canon 30D digital SLR (Single Lens Reflex) from Keeble & Schuchat, a large camera store on California Avenue in Palopho Alto which closed back in October 2016.

As I was getting back into photography and learning my way around, I discovered a podcast and blog from a writer and photographer named Derrick Story. At the time I came across him, he was working for O’Reilly Publishing where he wrote books on photography. In parallel he was developing his own business as a commercial photographer, blogger, podcaster – and workshop host.

In 2010, I became interested in one of the fall photography workshops Derrick was offering which was going to include a visit to Safari West, a private wildlife preserve located outside of Santa Rosa, California. I had taken a few other photo workshops earlier that year but this one with Derrick at Safari West was a real highlight. I captured some of the very best wildlife photographs I’ve even taken during that weekend workshop! Here’s my earlier post from 2010 where I wrote about it!

Early this morning I opened an email from Derrick announcing his upcoming 2024 photography workshops. The last one he’s doing next year is going back to Safari West – and reading that and looking at his description of that workshop brought back these memories of mine!

Derrick’s a great teacher. I’ve taken several other workshops with him and recommend them highly!

iPhone 4S iPhone 5 Nik Software Photography Photography - Canon 5D Mark II Photography - Canon PowerShot S100 Photography - Nikon D600 Photomatix Pro Photoshop

Lessons from 2012: What I Learned about Photography

Opera House - Sydney - 2012

Last year on New Year’s Eve I posted my thoughts on what I’d learned about photography in 2011.

Looking back on it, I think 2011 was perhaps the steepest slope in my photography learning curve – it was a remarkable year.

This year, my photography has continued to progress – but perhaps not quite as dramatically as that year of 2011. Looking back on it, I think I’ll remember 2011 as “my year” – when I seriously began moving beyond “snapshots” into serious photography. Here are my highlights of 2012 for my photography.


Last year I mentioned paying more attention to getting the image right in capture. What’s proven to be most important about that is slowing down – and “working the subject” in the moment. For me, it’s a struggle between my right/left brains. I need to force myself to flip between the more critical, analytical left brain and to get into the more creative right brain. I’m finding this easier to do – the more I shoot in the field, the more aware I’ve become of the flip.

I still worry a lot about getting the right capture – applying all of my left brain analytical skills to that task – but try to flip modes over to my right brain where I worry less about those details and just be creative. In my experience, I’ve begun to de-emphasize the gear and technique and emphasize the “in the moment” aspects – which are almost always surprising – and which I find delightful. Those shots add a lot to my enjoyment of photography.


Once again in 2012, Doug Kaye and I did several 1:1 photo walks around the Bay Area in 2012. These are always special – we pick a venue but let the experience take us where ever it does – at least once a month.

There’s nothing better that doing this kind of shooting – it’s great fun with a great friend and always a delight. As I mentioned last year, these photo walks are a “learning accelerator” for me.

One of my personal favorite photo walks was one we did early in 2012 at Pigeon Point Lighthouse. The light was very special that day – and one of my images ended up being the cover shot for my Portfolio 2012 photo book.

Photo Workshops

I benefited greatly from several photo workshops this year.

Perhaps the most valuable was the Eastern Sierra Fall Colors workshop that Doug and I attended led by Michael Frye. I’d never been to the other side of the Sierras – and seeing the colors in the fall in the company of Michael was amazing. A wonderful experience. I’m a big fan of Michael’s – having taken a private one-day workshop from him in Yosemite with my son David back in the fall of 2010. He’s a great teacher!

Earlier Doug and I enjoyed the Sonoma Coast Workshop led by Derrick Story. We’ve both taken several weekend workshops from Derrick – and learned a lot from each one. This time we headed up to Fort Ross – and had a great time shooting in wonderful light – plus doing a model shoot on the beach at Bodega Bay.


If I were to label my 2012 photography learning, it’d be labeled Post-Processing. I’ve learned so much this year about how to take an image and make it into something I really enjoy. Lots of new tools have been part of that process for me – including the suite of Nik’s tools, Photoshop, Lightroom, etc. I’ve come to respect the Topaz tools for their ability to simplify and amplify images. And a huge set of learning came from the Lab color techniques of Dan Margulis and, simplified, Lee Varis. A workshop with local expert Mark Lindsay also had a big impact on my awareness of these techniques. 2012 was a great year for my post-processing skills – and I look forward to learning and applying them in 2013.


In 2011, I began creating my portfolio – for the first time. This year, I continued to add to it – such that there are now several hundred images in that portfolio.

This year, I wanted to focus on pairing that huge collection down to what I might consider “my best” – but I failed to do so. A goal of mine in 2013 is to try to do that – to distill my work down to 40 or so images that I consider my best work – out of the 400+ currently in my portfolio culled from the ~30,000 images in my Lightroom library. I’m always amazed at how the great photographers in history are judged on the basis of such a small set of their life’s work in photography. We went to see a Walker Evans exhibition at Stanford’s Cantor Art Museum this year – about 70 photographs represented his lifetime of work in Photography.

In November, I began working on a photo book with my most interesting work from 2012. I used iPhoto again this year to build the book – and the results came out looking great. I gave several copies to family members as Christmas gifts. Here are the photos I used for the 2012 photo book.

Online, I continue to enjoy Google+ where the community of photographers is very strong and engaged. After each of our photo walks, Doug and I typically share a few of our favorite shots on Google+. Flickr continues to be another valuable resource – and the iPhone app update that Flickr made late in the year brought a lot of fun back to using Flickr on the go.


I’ve been living a digital life with my photography – meaning that I’ve only been sharing bits of images online and doing very little printing of my images. What printing I’ve done this year has been using either Apple’s iPhoto books service or, for individual prints, Costco’s in-store printing.

I realize this is the next and, perhaps, final step for my work – completing the capture to print workflow. I’m looking forward to adding printing to my photography skills in 2013!


2012 was a different year for my photography – a more serious year and one more focused on both the details of capture but, perhaps more importantly, on the world of post-processing.

I’m looking forward to the new photography experiences and learning coming up in 2013 – including some radically new venues like Havana and Death Valley. Should be fun and rewarding!

My 2012 Photography Resources

See my Cool Tools page for my current list of recommendations. One major change this year was the purchase of a Nikon D600 2 – my first new DSLR in several years.


Just Back from the TDS Fall Photography Workshop

White Rhinos

I’m just home after spending yesterday and today at Derrick Story’s Fall Photography Workshop up in Santa Rosa. Derrick – who has a delightful photography blog at The Digital Story and a great weekly podcast available in iTunes – spent these two days taking a group of eight students through a wide variety of photography topics.

This was my third or fourth photography workshop in the last year – and it was far and away the best. Derrick’s hit on a near perfect combination – setting, topics, involvement with other students, unique photographic opportunities – along with some great instruction. Yesterday, for example, we spent about 4 hours in class and then left for a 3 hour photo shoot at Safari West – here’s my Flickr set from that adventure – and see the pair of white rhinos above kicking up some dust! Click here to see our group after our safari (that’s me on the left)!

Today, after a few hours of workshop instruction on portrait photography and the use of flash, reflectors, diffusers, etc., we set out to work with two models who helped us learn much more about outdoor portrait shooting. This was a really unique and valuable experience for us – as we put our new skills to use out in the field.

Somewhat amazingly, all of us in the class were Canon shooters – and we were all roughly at the same level – which made for a near ideal instruction environment. We were also all Mac users – and although we split between Aperture (most) and Lightroom (a few), again we were roughly at the same level.

If you’re interested in a photography workshop that’s among the best, you might want to sign up to be on Derrick’s reserve list for future workshops. He’s planning several for 2011 – and I can’t recommend them highly enough! To be added to the notification list, contact him via email: