Western Carolina Landscape Photography, Part 2

More from our Thanksgiving trip to western North Carolina. I love some of these landscape photos and will include them in an “Autumn” stock gallery soon!

Friday morning we decided to leave the property and hike to a waterfall out in the Nantahala National Forest. The drive was supposed to be a manageable 16 miles one way but was actually a harrowing journey around winding mountain roads and hairpin turns that lasted two and a half hours round trip, and we didn’t even hike.

About 20 minutes into the drive, both dogs started drooling and pacing, looking green around the gills. Not too long after, the yellow lab barfed in the backseat.

It’s not a vacation unless someone gets car sick. Glad to report we checked that box.

Once we realized what we had gotten ourselves into, we turned around and set out to fully explore our hiking trails close to home.

They didn’t disappoint.

And with a photogenic stream, fall colors, and a well-placed picnic table en lieu of a tripod, we were able to get some family portraits too!

Western Carolina photography

Last but not least, a gem on the way home. We rounded a bend in the road in South Carolina and caught this view. Amazing.

Where did you spend Thanksgiving 2016?


Western Carolina, Part 1

This year for Thanksgiving we loaded three humans and two retrievers into the pick up truck and drove 10 hours to western North Carolina.

We found the Woodlands Vista cabin on AirBNB, a cute little three-bedroom two bath situated on 53 acres of wooded hiking trails and trout ponds located in the Blue Ridge Mountains and…it was pet friendly!



We brought Thanksgiving dinner with us (pre-cooked from Copeland’s in Jacksonville) which left us all kinds of time to hike and chase our dogs and soak up the beautiful fall weather.

There is nothing cozier than a roaring fire.

And a taste of local decor.

Western Carolina photography

Or a boy and his dog. 🙂

How to make Infographics for your Blog–for free!

how to make infographics for your blog for free


Hey everybody!

I have a tutorial for you today explaining how to use PicMonkey -my favorite online photo editing tool-to design infographics for your blog and social media accounts–for free!

In 11 minutes (or less), I’ll show you how to transform a stock image into an engaging piece of visual content for your blog or social media platforms.

No time to watch the video now? Here’s the cheat sheet:

  1. Grab a photo of your choice. (If you like the one I used, you can download it, along with the rest of the gallery, here.)
  2. Crop to your liking
  3. Add an overlay
  4. Add text
  5. Add your watermark
  6. Save to your computer
  7. Share!

Interested in the step by step? It’s right here:


If you give it a try, leave me a comment with a link to your social media post. I’d love to stop by and see what you made! 


View more galleries [here] and shop products [here]

Disclosure: I’m a big fan of PicMonkey! (and why this page contains affiliate links.)


make infographic using PicMonkey

How to Photograph Fireworks (tutorial)


how to photograph fireworks pin

Since I only get to practice my firework photography skills a few times per year, I find myself frantically trying to remember my set up at the last minute each time.

So, to make life easier in the future, here is a recording of what I did to get the firework shots this Fourth of July and a few notes on improvements that I can try next time. (disclosure)

How to Photograph Fireworks: Equipment Needed

 How to Photograph Fireworks: Camera Setup

The secret to successful firework photography is leaving your shutter open a reeeeaaallly long time while simultaneously minimizing camera shake. Mystery solved!

Here’s how to do it:

Place the camera in BULB MODE. Since I shoot on a Canon, bulb mode is one of the choices on my settings wheel. Bulb Mode allows you to have complete control over how long the shutter remains open, allowing the camera to capture and record movement for longer periods of time. (HINT: this is how to shoot photos of streaky car lights too!)

Streaky car lights on the Main Street Bridge, Jacksonville, Florida


The problem with shooting in bulb mode–or having the shutter open for a long period of time–is the risk of camera shake. Any shake or vibration will cause the image to blur, whether it’s during hand-held shooting or by depressing the shutter release by hand while the camera is mounted on a tripod.

In order to get nice crisp photos while shooting in bulb mode, we MUST stabilize the camera. Even with the image stabilization technology available in lenses today, it’s necessary to invest in a tripod and remote shutter release. (HINT: when using a tripod mount and remote shutter release, remember to turn OFF image stabilization in your lens. The technology that prevents shake while the camera is moving can cause the image to blur when the camera is completely stable.)

How to Photograph Fireworks: Camera Settings

ISO: 200

f-stop: 12

Focus: infinity

Firework photography calls for an ISO around 200 because although the night sky is very dark, the fireworks themselves are super bright. A lower ISO yields better results. Before the fireworks display started, I set my camera to focus on infinity with an f-stop to 12 to allow for a wider field of focus.

My biggest complaint with my images this year is that I shot them from inside an office building, 17 floors up. While the bird’s eye view does provide an interesting angle, the reflection on the glass from inside the building seriously interfered with the quality of the images. No matter how much I healed and cloned in Lightroom, I can still see a few streaks and that is disappointing.

All in all, I’m pretty happy with the results this year but you be the judge! Take a look and let me know! And tell me…how was your firework photography this year?

Jacksonville Fireworks July 2016

Jacksonville Fireworks July 2016

Jacksonville Fireworks July 2016

Jacksonville Fireworks July 2016

View the entire gallery here:

or download here: