Adventure Photos with Dark Matter Preset

You know what makes a great social distancing activity? Editing photos. I’ll often play with old images from time to time but now it feels like its one of the few options I have to entertain myself while I try to spend more time in the house and away from other people.

I’ve tried applying my new “Dark Matter” preset to a several non-Winston photos and the results speak for themselves. With the right image, this preset is just awesome for creating a moody, artistic feel that’s a little bit old film but still contemporary, and I’m totally digging it!

John hiking along the top of Cascade Mountain in the Adirondacks last summer. Ricoh GR III, 1/1000s, f/5.6, ISO 200, handheld.
John riding in a local “Bike for Bovines” xc mountain bike race fundraiser two summers ago.

First New Preset of 2020: Dark Matter

I have been doing so little photography lately. Winter in southern New Hampshire has been pretty pathetic so far, and we’ve been busy putting time and energy into other things. I really wish I could work a full time job that is only four days a week.

I did manage to create a new Lightroom preset I’ve been enjoying. Dark Matter is a high contrast matte black and white preset with heavy vignetting. It works really well for darker colored subjects on a light background (ie: Winston). I built in some exposure compensation, so its also ideal for scenes that are overall dark where you want your subject (more or less towards the center of the frame) to stand out.

RAW photo SOOC.
With “Dark Matter” preset applied and some selective radial filters.
SOOC with zero adjustments made.
Dark Matter preset applied, no other adjustments.
SOOC, hence the flying mosquito that hasn’t been cloned out.
With Dark Matter preset.

I’ve really become a fan of presets as a way to expedite my editing and post processing. I tend not to use them very much on nature images, but for portraits they can be super helpful in helping me decide which direction to go with processing. If I’m shooting assignments or otherwise in a situation where I need to bulk edit a lot of images at once and want them to have a consistent feel, presets are huge time savers.

Photography is no longer my livelihood, but I always consider it a fallback skill if I ever become miserable with my work or we need to relocate and I can’t secure a job in my professional field right away. After focusing much of my photography career on nature and sports photography I’ve learned that those are really difficult genres of photography to make money in, and I could see myself gravitating towards a career as a pet photographer or maybe even photographing couples and weddings (gasp) in the future. Should I ever go that route, I think presets will become a valuable part of my work.

Camera Gear Blowout, Pt 1

Well I’m finally organizing our “spare room” which is also my photography storage room and it turns out I have a lot of gear I don’t use on a regular basis. We have a super big life event coming up, and it means I have more need for money and space and less time to find a way to use my unused photo gear, so it’s time to unload and find these items new homes. All items are available for local pickup (southwestern NH/southeast VT, many items are also listed on New Hampshire Craigslist) or I will ship them at the buyer’s expense (buyer to pay shipping and PayPal fees unless otherwise noted).

Side note: Have any of you ever experienced a sentimental attachment to your cameras? Kinda sad to see these Canons go, but I’ll feel better knowing they are being enjoyed by someone else rather than just taking up space on my shelf.

Canon 5D Mark II

Canon 5D Mark II in very good used condition. Body is very clean with few finish or wear marks. Comes complete with original box, charger, cables, manual, unused camera strap, etc. All items included are shown in photos. I will also include an extra battery. $450.

Canon 1D Mark IV

Canon 1D Mark IV pro DSLR camera with integrated vertical grip. Excellent used condition with minimal wear marks. Had a new shutter put in about 2 years ago and has not seen much use since. Comes complete with original box, charger, cables, manual, etc. I will also include an extra battery. $950.

Delkin Devices Fat Gecko Mount

Delkin Devices Fat Gecko Gator Camera Mount and Delkin Devices Fat Gecko Extension Kit, both brand new in original packaging. These clamp devices are super strong and ideal for securely attaching your DSLR, mirrorless, or small video cam to various objects. These retail for $33.68 and $24.99, respectively (total value $58.67). I would like to sell both together for $40.


Older model GorillaPod, I believe this may be the original model. Versatile tripod design allows it to be attached to multiple objects. Strong enough to hold a modest point-and-shoot camera or small mirrorless. Still works, I just don’t use it. $10.

Giottos MH 1004 Mini Ballhead

Giottos MH 1004 Mini Ballhead, perfect for mounting a small point and shoot camera to a standard tripod.Screw hole has some rust, as shown in photo. This ball head is missing the micro screw adapter, so works for a standard tripod or will require you to pick up an adapter for a smaller screw. $10 PayPaled/shipped.

SOLD Original GoPro Hero SOLD

Original GoPro Hero action camera with waterproof housing, windscreen back, and extra battery (2 batteries total). Does not include memory card (takes a standard SD card) or cables. FREE, buyer just pays shipping (unless it’s less than $5 then it’s on me). I can’t make any guarantees as to the condition, but if someone else can use this then that would be great!

Think Tank Digital Holster 50 v2.0

Excellent condition. I’ve used it once, for a half mile walk around my neighborhood, and it pretty much looks brand new except for a penny sized smudge on the inside panel. I’ll also note zippers seem to not be as smooth as other bags I have, but I think they have always been that way. Current model. Retail is $89.75, asking $65. Stock photo shown.

F-Stop Kenti Bag

In like new condition with rain cover. Malibu blue color. Discontinued item. This bag listed for $245 plus $19 for the rain cover, sold separately. It is a very well-designed bag made with excellent materials, I just already have one that fills this niche and I don’t need two. Specs on the F-stop website are no longer available, so here are a couple of reviews I found:
Stock photos shown. Asking $150.

I also have a brand new Ameristep Doghouse Blind (mossy oak camo) in its original box that I’d love to sell locally (it’s a bit big to ship). I bought it to use for wildlife photography but never had land I could set it up on, so it hasn’t been used. $50.

Once I sell some of these items I’ll add a few additional items currently stored either in our basement or at my mom’s house in New Jersey, including a Rode microphone, Bogen video tripod, original NatureScapes Skimmer, and a few different bean bags. I also have some OLD film cameras and lenses (Yashica, Canon) and a Nikon N65 if you like collecting vintage cameras.

Please email me with any questions or if you’d like to purchase anything.

Do you use Lightroom Presets?

Lately I’ve been playing around with Lightroom presets. Presets are a series of saved edits, so that you can apply the same adjustments to multiple images with a single click (similar to using a filter in Instagram). I’ve found I really enjoy them for speeding up my workflow and helping me preview different ideas on an image before investing a lot of time in editing. I generally don’t treat presets as a one click edit – most images still require individual tweaking to really look their best – but they definitely save me time.

I started off buying a few preset packs before starting to create my own presets in Lightroom. Now I find myself using the presets I designed way more often than the purchased ones. Here are three images I shot today, alongside edited versions that started as presets.

Original image imported into Lightroom.

With “Mud” preset.

Quick Lightroom edit that started as the “Mud” preset. Note I haven’t made any Photoshop adjustments to this.

Original image imported into Lightroom.

With “More Matte” preset.

Quick edit of the “More Matte” preset. All Lightroom, no Photoshop!

And the final example from today’s shoot.


With a preset called “Vintage Gold.”

Final first round Lightroom edit.

These three presets are all ones I designed myself. The edits of these images took maybe 10 minutes – for all three! Presets are a huge timesaver, and I’ve really enjoyed incorporating them into my pet portrait work. Note that WordPress doesn’t seem to do a great job with compression of these images, so the edited images lack a bit of pop, which is much more apparent when viewed through a different application.

Do you use presets? If so which are your favorite?

So Much Good Stuff!

White-tailed deer at sunrise at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge. Photographed 3/27/19. Canon 5D Mark IV, Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS USM, 1/640s, f/9, ISO 800, handheld from car.

I just got back from nine days in Colorado where I got to test my new 5D Mark IV camera. Having a new camera and getting away from everyday life was so inspiring, and I’m really excited about some of the images I took on my trip AND all of the awesome potential of this new camera. Up until a few weeks ago, I was shooting with a 5D Mark II (released September 2008) and a 1D Mark IV (released October 2009), so having a body that isn’t 10+ years old is awesome. The dynamic range, high ISO capabilities, autofocus, and other features (such as WiFi and in-camera HDR) blow away my older bodies, and I can see myself getting out and doing even more shooting once I get better used to how the new camera handles and functions.

I took more than 1000 photos on my trip so it will probably take me a few weeks to get through all of them. Keep an eye on my Instagram for new images from the trip and check back on the blog and photo journal on my website for more about my experience with this new camera and a full trip report in the future.

Before and After: Winston in the Snow

Lately I’ve been doing a lot more experimental photography and editing techniques. Yesterday morning, I woke up to softly falling snow and decided to go shoot some photos at a park near our home. When I went to leave the house, Winston was clearly ready to join me on my photoshoot, so I decided to take him along for the adventure. It ended up being a good thing because the best photographs I captured were of him.

I’ve been following the work of several pet photographers for a while, and I really love the artistic outdoor dog portraits some of them have perfected. Usually it is a gorgeous dog, posed beautifully surrounded by a bokeh-licious, creamy, dreamy out-of-focus background with gorgeous flare or selective vignetting accentuating the subject. While I definitely am far, far away from perfecting my own take on the technique, I’m pretty happy with the first edit of this winter portrait of Winston taken during today’s walk.

Here’s the straight out of camera original:

And here’s my edited version:

Here I started with leveling and cropping the image, then doing some exposure and white balance corrections. From there I added a radial filter in Lightroom to mimic some solar flare and did some selective contrast enhancements to the dog, then exported to Photoshop, removed the leash, and added then another radial gradient. I ended up bringing the image back and forth between Lightroom and Photoshop a few times to tweak the color and make selective adjustments; there are just certain functions I feel that Lightroom does better than Photoshop and vise versa, and also I feel more comfortable making certain edits in one program vs the other. I have never attempted to add flare (or a highlighted background area) to am image before; I feel like my technique still needs some work, but I also don’t think snow covered trees is the easiest background to add this effect to. While I don’t think this shot is going to win any contests anytime soon (and it’s not even close the the level of work of some of the pet photographers I have been following), I’m pretty happy with the end result!

Before and After: Calling Red-Winged Black Bird

Sometimes, the biggest adjustment you need to make to an image is to crop it. Such was the case with this photo of a male Red-winged Black Bird, calling from the top of a phragmites frond.

Like most photos, I did a few tweaks to exposure, contrast, and shadow/highlights. Here I brought out the shadow detail on the bird quite a bit, but most of the rest of the scene looks similar to the straight-out-of-camera image (above). The one big difference is the crop. At this location, I wasn’t able to get very close to the birds, so shooting with a 1D Mark IV and 300mm f/2.8 with a 2x TC on still left me with the subject much smaller in the frame than I’d like. Because the detail in the original was good and I nailed the sharpness, exposure, and other settings, cropping the photo significantly still left me with a high quality image, just one with better composition and a larger subject.

The end result (below) is a big improvement.

Before and After: Aftershock

The first step to any good edit is to critique the original image. In this case, there were a few things I really liked about the image – the backlit flying grass for one – and a few things that needed to be fixed, such as the too bright highlights and lack in detail in the soccer player’s jersey, as well as the bright reddish spot in the upper left corner. Obviously the goal of post processing is to make the image look the best it can, so when possible correcting the image’s flaws is the way to go. In this case, I brought down the highlights and whites, selectively darkened the red spot just a touch, and added a slight vignette to the entire image. I also enhanced the part I liked – the backlit grass – by adjusting the curves, clarity, and saturation of this part of the image.

One of my favorite tricks/tools is to use the Darken/Lighten Center filter available through the DXO Nik Collection Color Efex plug-in. I really like this tool because it gives you quite a bit of control over the vignetting effect and tends to make the transition between dark and light areas really smooth. One of the biggest perks of the tool is the ability to set where the center is; I find this invaluable when working with a subject that is slightly off center, as I often want the subject in the brightest area of the photo. Since composition rules often dictate that the subject is not dead center, having the ability to adjust the placement of the brightest part of the image, even just a tiny bit, often makes a big difference in how the final image is perceived.

#LCSharks, Landmark College, Landmark Sharks, athletics, backlit, grass, kick, soccer, sports
Aftershock : Prints Available

Blades of grass glow in the evening sun after being kicked up by a player on Landmark College’s soccer team.

Blades of grass glow in the evening sun after being kicked up by a player on Landmark College’s soccer team.


Naming Strategies for Photography Workflow

If you aren’t custom naming your photos when you import or copy them to your archive, you are setting yourself up for trouble. The default file naming structure of most photo capture systems allows for around 1000 unique image file names before they start to repeat; eventually the 1001st photo you take on your device will have the exact same name as the first photo you took. Some cameras allow you to custom name the file in camera, but I generally find it easiest to rename all of the files upon import into Lightroom.

Having a consistent naming strategy for your photos can drastically improve your workflow and organization. It is important to choose a name is unique and will continue to be unique as you continue to shoot photos. Be sure not to set yourself up with a system that becomes obsolete as soon as your archive contains over a set number of images, or one in which the identifiers used to distinguish your photos become easily repeatable, therefore eliminating the point of having files with unique names.

I rename all my photos using a unique timestamp based system. Every file name starts with KP (my initials) and then contains a six digit date stamp followed by a hyphen and a six digit timestamp and single digit sequence number. It makes for a really long photo name (16 characters in all), but ensures that all of my photos end up with unique names and allows me to easily combine images from the same shoot that were shot with different cameras. In the event that shots were taken simultaneously (such as if I was shooting a time lapse with one camera while shooting handheld with another and both shutters went off at the exact same time) I could end up with two files with the same name but I have yet to have that happen.

deciduous leaves, duckweed, pond, Hamilton-Trenton Marsh, New Jersey
Deciduous Leaves and Duckweed : Prints Available

Fallen deciduous leaves and duckweed floating on the surface of a pond in the Hamilton-Trenton Marsh.

So, for example, the filename for the photo above is KP070927-0825050. This means the photo was taken on September 27, 2007 at approximately 8:25am, and since it is the only photo I took then, it will have a unique filename. I use the YYMMDD date sequence for naming because it keeps all of my files in chronological order; I also use the 24 hour day for my timestamp for the same reason. The seventh digit after the hyphen is the sequence number, which comes in handy when I am shooting at a high frame rate.

Most photographers prefer shorter file names; sixteen characters really is a bit excessive. I use this method because I have photos that span over a wide range of time and subjects, and this one method can be applied to all of my photos regardless of when, where, or why I shot them. The disadvantage of this system is that the name doesn’t really tell me anything about the photo; if you asked me what I took a photo of on September 15, 2007 I’d have no idea what that was, but I could easily find it in my catalog.

For photographers who are a bit more specialized, choosing names that have some connection to the subject can be helpful. For example, a wedding photographer may choose to use the last names of the couple as part of the file name, someone who shoots primarily landscapes might include location, and someone who shoots project or assignment work may use the name of the client as part of the name. You can really be as creative as you want; the key is that all of the names are unique and won’t be repeated.

Lightroom makes it easy to custom rename files easily and quickly. I rename all of my files upon import, but you can easily rename files after the fact as well. I’d give you instructions, but with Lightroom changing all the time you are probably best off finding a YouTube video or looking in the Adobe forums for the recommended current method of using Lightroom to rename photos. Once you set up your naming structure, you can save it as a default setting and almost never think about it again. For example, whenever I import new photos they are automatically placed in a folder according to the date they were taken and renamed according to my date and timestamp based system. This makes the process of copying, importing, and organizing all of my photos quite easy, and then when I need to find them later I can locate the original file within just a few seconds.

Coming up with a timeless naming and file organization strategy that can grow with you is the first step to a well organized photo database. Even if you aren’t using Lightroom or another photo management software program and don’t have the ability to add metadata or keywords, making sure each photo of yours has a unique name and follows a consistent naming structure will set you up for success as you grow and develop as a photographer.

Before and After: Glowing Fern

North America, Shenandoah National Park, USA, United States, VA, Virginia, blur, close-up, dreamy, fern, ferns, green, plant, shallow depth of field, soft
Glowing Fern : Prints Available

The feathery fronds of a green fern leaf shimmer in the soft forest light.

The feathery fronds of a green fern leaf.


“Glowing Fern” is one of my favorites. For starters, I love ferns, partially because I picture them as part of the landscape of forest with a thick canopy of dense leaves and the forest floor covered in a rich carpet of moss and ferns, and this is where I imagine fairies would live. So part of me associates ferns with magic, and the all green color scheme and soft focus of this shot really make it seem more magical, which fits the subject perfectly.

The original straight-out-of-camera image is a little more boring. But all it needed was some brightening, a tweak with curves, and a subtle diffuse glow filter applied to soften the image and make it have that ethereal, glowing, magical quality. And voila, the final image, shown at the top of this post, is easily one of my favorites!