Friday, September 27, 2013

Get out of my head!!

Yes, I said it, get out of my head, no, not you guys but that image that's been stuck in there since my session with Randy and his 2010 Challenger.

The above photo is what started it.  I don't normally do the "touchdown" dance over a photo but I really like this one.  The mood was great, the ground was nice and wet, which lent itself to some great reflections and with the magic of Photoshop, I was able to create some movement in the clouds (it was a pretty still day).  Awesome, right?  Well, not so fast my friend.  This isn't the shot, yes, I like this one a lot but all the while taking this photo, I had visions of the city of Tampa skyline in the background, the hood down and that feeling of watching over the city.

As an artist, I'm at a slight disadvantage when I get these visions.  Why?  Mainly because my only artistic talent is what I can accomplish with my camera, I can't paint, I can't draw and you don't want to hear me sing (just ask my wife :) ) .  So what's a guy suppose to do?   How do I get this vision out of my head?  Honestly, every time I looked at Randy's car, it would pop back in my head , taunting me , daring me to find a way to make it happen.

I've found that the best way to deal with these things is to go back through your old images and see if you can find a spot that might work for your vision.  I was in luck, back in January I had taken some photos of some Mustangs from the room of the Tampa Bay Times Forum parking lot.

That's pretty close to what I was looking for, now all I had to do was convince Randy that we needed to get this out of my head and into my computer (there's a Billy Ocean song in there somewhere, isn't there?).  After explaining what I wanted to do, Randy said yes , let's try to pull this off.

So we did.

Thank you, Randy for helping me get this out of my head.  :)   Now, if I could only get all these cars out to Nevada and the Valley of Fire, I could get the other thousand or so shots that are stuck in my head out.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I don't blog nearly as often as I should so I really do appreciate everyone's patience.  My regular website is down right now but don't fret, I still have my Fine Art America site, facebook, twitter and google + sites all active.

@rorymadstudios on Twitter

Saturday, May 4, 2013

For a new look, change the prespective.

I photograph a lot of cars and generally most of these are photographed from a position pretty close to the ground.

For me , it was always "How low can you go?".  Which is a cool prespective but it's also one that gets used a lot by a lot of different photographers.  If you want your work to standout, you have to be different, right?

So instead of getting the view from the angle like above, I switched things up and started shooting from the back of the car, like the images below.


A fresh prespective can give you a whole new fresh look.  To go a step further, I decided to get up off the ground (no taking naps on the job!!)  and get up in the air for these next few.

Don't be afraid to try something new. 
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, it's much appreciated.  If you have any questions I can be reached at or on Facebook by clicking on the badge on the top left of this page  and you can find my site at .
Have a great week everyone :)
Warm regards,

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cars and HDR

These are just two of my favorite things as the song goes.  If there is a Car Show in the Tampa Bay area on a weekend morning or night, chances are you see me, my camera and my tripod there capturing as many cars as I can in HDR. 

What's HDR you ask?  Well, some of you already know but for those that don't, I'll give a quick explanation.  HDR stands for High Dynamic Range.  Sounds pretty fancy and high tech doesn't it?  I guess in a way it is but it's really not that complicated. Photographers measure light in stops.  Our cameras have sensors that detect the light and can if you wish adjust the shutter speed of the camera to give you an even exposure based on the information the sensor receives through the amount of light the lens lets in.  Most cameras are capable of capturing 3 to 4 stops worth of light, your eyes can see between 11 and 14.  You'll notice this difference more in the highlights (bright areas) and shadows (darker areas) of your non HDR photographs.  HDR is a two step process, the first is capturing the scene (taking the photographs).  I 9 times out of 10 will take 5 exposures of the same scene each exposure is 1 stop over or under exposed from the previous.  (+2 +1 0 -1 -2).  By capturing the scene in this manner, you are exposing for both the highlights and the shadows, this means that once you have loaded the 5 exposures into your HDR software like Photomatix or HDR Effex Pro to name a few, you will now have details in those highlights and shadows that you didn't have previously with just the single properly exposed image. 

Here's an example of a 0 exposure (properly exposed according to the camera's sensor shot). This photo is straight from the camera, I haven't done a thing to it.

Here's an example of what the HDR of the same image looks like , saved directly from HDR Effex Pro without any adjustments in Photoshop.

As you can see there's is a lot more detail and vibrance in this image now.  Below is what the final image ended up looking like for those that are interested.

As you can see, there's a lot more contrast, vibrance, saturation and reflection in the image.  This why I take the extra time to shoot HDR, it's why I lug the tripod around and why it takes me some time to process my images.

It's not about taking a photograph of a car for me, it's about creating a piece of art with what I have photographed.  Anyone can run around a take nice looking photographs of cars and people at these events and some of these photographers are absolutely amazing with the camera but for me, I want a canvas I can create something unique and special with and that's what HDR gives me and that's why I go through all the extra steps to create the artwork I create.  Nothing makes me happier than hearing that an owner of one these amazing cars or trucks wants a print of what I have created.  That's one of the best compliments any photographer can earn.

Thank you so much for reading my blog, if you have any questions I can be reached at .   If you would like to schedule a photoshoot of your car or truck, let me know, I'd love to discuss it with you.  :)

Warm regards,
Michael White

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The story of an Owl, Osprey, Peacock and a Tortoise

No, this isn't a blog about a race.  It's about our adventures at Kapok Park and Moccasin Lake Park in Clearwater, Fl.  First off, let me tell you that yesterday was an absolutely beautiful day, slight wind, mid 70's.  You couldn't ask for a better day to go out Owling. 

We arrived at Kapok Park around 11am Saturday morning.  I wasn't really sure what to expect, the park is in the middle of a residential area in Clearwater.  Don't let that disuade you from going, it's a wonderful park with lots of winding pathways and boardwalks.  We saw lots of different birds including this Osprey.

While I do enjoy watching all the birds at the park, we were there to find the Great Horned Owl family.  It's a mating pair with 2 offspring. We found that the regulars at the park are all very nice people, if you ask them where to look, they will give you a general area and even aid in the search.  I found the male adult owl fairly quick with a little guidance.  He was by himself across the creek from the rest of the family. 

After searching for a bit , we found the other owls all perched in their tree.  Here's a photo of the two offspring owls.

Getting good photos of these amazing birds was difficult.  They are high in the tree against a very bright sun.  These were taken at a +2 Exposure Compensation on my camera.  I had to add in some fill light in Photoshop as well. 

I was really happy that we decided to go yesterday, if we had waited a few weeks, I think the babies would have been fully fledged.  That would have meant that they would have been on their own and probably would have left the area. 

Here's a family portrait of Mom and the two babies.

This was taken while laying on my back looking straight up into the canopy and the sun. 

Here's another portrait of just one of the babies by himself.

Our next stop is Moccasin Lake Park, it's a closed in park that requires an entry fee, it's $3.00 per person , which seems to be a fair price. 

The park itself has a small nature center where you can learn about some of the animals and repiles you may encounter on the trail.  I was a bit disappointed that we didn't see a real Moccasin during our visit. 

We did however, see a Gopher Tortoise, infact it headbutted me.  They do this during mating season to demonstrate they the Alpha Male.  We were told that they might be a bit aggressive (they wander the park freely), if we stand still you might get headbutted but it won't hurt and it didn't.  It was actually a pretty cool experience.  I had no idea they would headbutt one another in the wild. 

While all of this was going on we were visited by a male Peacock.  What an amazing display he gave us with his brightly colored plumage. 

All in all it was a great day.  If I had to pick one park over the other it would be Kapok, nothing beats photographing and observing Owls in the wild. 

Thanks again for reading my blog, if you would like to see mroe of my work you can head over to

Warm regards,

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Circle B Bar Reserve, Part II

This is one of my favorite places to go photograph wildlife.  You never know what you're going to see when you get there.  Today, I was on a mission though.  I have been heading out to Circle B for quite a while now in search of the elusive Barred Owl (it's always been elusive for me although others have photographed them there.).   The fledgling has left its nest to start its life away from Mom and Dad.  I didn't get a chance to photograph the little fellow before he left.  I did however get to photograph Mom or Dad earlier today and what a thrill that was. 

I love owls so any chance to I get to photograph one, I'm in hog heaven.  As I waited for Mom or Dad to show up at the nest, several other Photographers wandered by, all of them confirmed that they baby had left this past Friday.  I have to say that this news sucked, I had found their nesting spot and yet agan, they have eluded me.  Most of the other Photographers were heading up the trail towards Marsh Rabbit Run, since I had just come from there I decided to head the opposite direction, maybe I would get lucky.  

As I arrived at the clearing where the bench overlooking Lake Hancock is I heard a faint hoot, then another and then an even more faint answer.  Ok, I have a shot at this, I just need to be quiet as I walk so I can listen for more hoots.   As I approached the boardwalk area, I heard a really loud hoot and I knew I was in the right place.  As I crossed the boardwalk I heard a commotion coming across the trail toward Shady Oaks, then I heard the flap of wings and as I looked up , I saw the talons of a Barred Owl bearing down on me.  Whatever had flushed the owl out of its perch had done so in my direction.  My day had come, I was going to finally get the shots I wanted of this elusive bird.  I think I spent the next 45 minutes working my way around the trees on the lake trying to find a good angle.

The fist shot below was taken with a Nikon D300 using a Nikon 70-200mm F2.8 VR1 lens, the second shot was taken with the same setup using a 2x Kenko teleconverter.   As you can see the lighting conditions were very harsh, there was some direct sunlight behind the own as well as greenish light reflecting off all the leaves, it really made this a lot more of a challenge than I had orginally thought it would be.

All in all, I am pretty happy with my first Barred Owl photos and can't wait to go back when I get my Nikon D800 and take another crack and finding them. 

As always, thank you so much for taking the time to read my blog , if you like what you see in my blog please don't hesitate to leave a comment or head over to my site at

Warm regards,

Saturday, October 29, 2011

High Key HDR

I am hopelessly addicted to HDR Photography and have been for quite some time.  One of the things that I struggle with in HDR is developing my own style.  It's tough trying to stand out in the crowd.  There are a lot of awesome HDR photographers/artists out there and one could easily fall into the trap of adopting one of their styles but I didn't want to go that route, I wanted my work stand out and be different.  This is when I started experimenting with High Key HDR and to be honest, it's not really high key in the sense that I'm shooting in a studio with a white backdrop and light source aimed into the background. 

Here's an example of what I am talking about.  This is the image that I submitted for my photo during the Scott Kelby Worldwide Photowalk for the St. Petersburg, Florida walk. 

It's a completely different look from my normal HDR images.  The white vignette sets it apart from a lot of work you see on a daily basis with HDR and really photography in general.  When most people think about a photo with a vignette, they immediate think about dark edges with a lighter interior.  My thought was that I could accomplish the same goal by lightening the edges.  The purpose of the vignette is to draw the eye to the center of the photograph.  So to be unique, I decided to use the white vignette and this is the first image I have used this style on.  This image was also chosen as the best image from that Photowalk location and I can't even begin to tell you how proud and excited I was to have had my Hotel HDR image chosen. 

So anyway, that's enough about the why, let's take a look at the how. 

I usually will use 5 exposures to create an HDR image.  So my exposure values are normally -2 -1 0 +1 +2 (a minus value is underexposed by that many stops and a plus value is over exposed by that value, so a -2 is two stops under exposded and a +1 is one stop over exposed).  Now, once you have your exposures, it's time to prepare your images for the HDR process.  I do this by opening them in a group in Adobe Camera Raw (you can use Lightroom as well).  I make a few adjustments and then save them globally over all 5 images so every image has had the same exact adjustment made to it. Then you  use your favorite HDR program to merge them into 1 image.  My tool of choice is Photomatix Pro 4.0 from my friends at HDR Soft ( ).  I've tried several different HDR programs and Photomatix Pro just seems to work the best for me , you can use any of them that you are comfortable with and still get great results. 

Here's an example of what my Photomatix settings might look like.

You can make these settings anything you like , if you are happy with how your image looks, hit the process button , save it as a 16bit tiff and then open it back up in ACR or Lightroom. 

When I open it back up in ACR (or Lightroom for those that use it instead of ACR), I will adjust the contrast, black levels , vibrance, clarity and noise reduction before opening the file up in Photoshop CS5. 

The image below will give you some idea of what I will normally do before opening my .tiff file in CS5.

These settings are what I used for this image, I usually play around some in ACR and get the image looking the way I want it to before moving on to the next step.  There's no right or wrong here, you're the artist , it's your style.  Go with what works for you.

Once inside CS5, I will normally copy the layer by using CTRL-J or CMD-J , then I will fix any blemishes, do some levels adjustment and clean the image up a bit.

For this photo, my  next step was using the Topaz Adjust filter and selecting Spicify and adjusting the image from there to get more detail.  This again is subjective, it's up to you to make the image look the way you want it to prior to doing the High Key effect. 

Now, the High Key effect is normally my next step from here.  It's done in two stages, the first stage is in OnOne Phototools.  Here's a screen shot of the preset I saved for this so you can get a feel for which filters were used. 

The important part of this image is the filters that are located in the stack.  You can see that image on the right side of the screen shot is starting to take on that High Key look.  I sometimes will adjust each of the filters listed in the stack for opacity , again that's entirely up to you and the look and feel you are after.

The next thing I do after committing the changes in Phototools is to make another copy of the Phototools layer (CTRL-J or CMD-J on a Mac) use the Topaz B&W filter (I've been very impressed with this filter, Topaz did a great job with this product).

I use the Opalotype Collection setting to get the look and feel I am after.  I will also make some adjustments to the image using the Finishing Touches menu on the right.  See the screenshot below.

By adjusting the sliders in the Vignette drop down menu, I can achieve the look and feel I am after.  Once I am done with this, I will hit OK and adjust my image from there in CS5.  I end up using Levels and BW Filter to get my final image the way I want it. 

Here are some more examples of my High Key HDR images.

If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to either post them here or email me at  .  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog , you can find more examples of my work at  .  You can follow me on twitter @rorymadstudios and on Facebook RoryMad Studios .

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland , my favorite park.

I've visited quite a few of the state and local parks in Florida over the past 5 years.  My favorite used to be Myakka River State Park in Sarasota, Fl.  Great park with great amenities and still one of my top 5 parks in the state.  Recently though, I have been spending a lot of time at Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Fl.  While the amenities might not be up to the standard of a Myakka River State Park, it'll blow you away with its abundance of wildlife and that's why it's now my favorite park in the state. 

This entry is about my adventure today at Circle B Bar Reserve.  It started out like any other day at the park, I parked my car in the main lot by the Nature Center and headed out on Shady Oak trail.  My goal today was finally find where the Owls are at this park.  I've searched and searched but to no avail, I have yet to see an Owl out there but I do they know they exist there, I just haven't been fortunate enough to stumble across them yet. 

The walk through Shady Oaks Trail was pretty uneventful until I looked up in the sky and saw a juvenile Bald Eagle soaring overhead. I found this to be pretty exciting since it was the first one I had ever seen in the wild.  This was going to be a great trip to Circle B, I could just feel it.

On my previous trip, I had found a very large bee hive about 30ft up.  Yes, I was looking for owls but stumbled upon this huge hive so I took some photos.  (see below).

This was a really cool find and I was very happy to have seen it when I did.  See, last week we had some terrible storms come through the area and there was a decent amount of damage at the park.  When I made it out to the tree this hive was in, it was gone. 

As I walked around the tree completely oblivious to anything else around me, I heard a grunt, a fairly loud grunt.  I froze.  As I took note of my surroundings I saw a Sal, she was about 10ft in front of me, which is way too close for my comfort.

She glanced at me a few times but never really cared much about my being there.  I was starting to get comfortable again with my surroundings when I caught a glimpse of something to my left, which put me between the hog and the new comer, again, not exactly the best spot to be in.

I hesitated for a moment before taking a few photographs, all I could think about is "I hope this Betterbeamer I'm using doesn't piss it off".  This is my first encounter with a wild Bobcat and at the time I thought I was between it and its prey, although I wasn't sure how a Bobcat was going to take out a grown Hog.   After a few moments the Bobcat moved off , occassionaly looking back in my direction to see what I was doing.

At this point, my heart was racing, I wasn't completely sure what was going on and I had to keep an eye on the Bobcat and the Hog.  Again, I started to feel a little better about the situation as the Bobcat moved further and further away.  I still thought it was strange though that it was stalking a full grown Hog.  Maybe there were other Bobcats in the area?  That didn't seem right either as I was somewhat sure they didn't hunt in packs.

A few moments passed and I started watching the Hog.  Some other photographers walked past and I pointed the Sow out to them.  They came over and started looking around the tree the Hog was by and a few moments later the Bobcat experience started making a lot more sense.  The Sow had piglets.

I guess the Sow never saw the Bobcat, she didn't seem very nervous and really didn't pay me any mind other than the occassional glance and snort.  I'm not sure what I would have done had the Bobcat charged in to try to pick off a piglet, heck at the time the Bobcat was there, I didn't even realize there were sleeping piglets close by and the Sow didn't seem to view me or the other photographers as a threat.  

About 20 minutes later, the Sow gave up on foraging and moved her family off towards the lake.


What an eventful first half hour or so at the park.  I can't wait for my next visit, maybe I'll break out the bird blind and sit under one of the shady oaks and wait for the action to come to me.

As always, thank you for taking the time out to read my blog and if you would like to purchase any of my photography work, you can find it at (redesigned site as well, I might add ). 
~ Michael

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About Me

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My name is Michael White and I'm a Fine Art Photographer based out of the Tampa Bay area.   I enjoy photographing various landscapes and wild life that can be found in the US.  I am also the creator of a new process called High Key HDR. 
You can find my website at and I can also be followed on Twitter at @rorymadstudios .