Search Results for: macro

Annals of the Probe Macro

These are three variations on an image created by pointing my macro probe lens straight down on a parfait glass. I put a crystal ball in the parfait glass, and placed the ensemble on a light box. The lens extended down into the parfait glass, and close to the surface of the crystal ball—where the rim of the glass and the reflections in the ball created a mandala-like structure.

Parfait Mandala 1 © Harold Davis

Parfait Mandala 2 © Harold Davis

Parfait Mandala 3 © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Featured on Macro Photography Live Chat Show

I am featured on episode #46 of the lively and entertaining Macro Photography Live Chat Show. Click here for the YouTube replay of the episode featuring my work recorded recently. 

Pale Garden © Harold Davis

Pale Garden © Harold Davis

On the hour-long show, my interlocutor, the enthusiastic Janice Sullivan, and I had a wide-ranging discussion. One topic covered was my Artist Statement, which I haven’t looked at in quite a while. It was so cool to take a look at this with fresh eyes and be able to say: Yes, this is me. This is what I aspire to be as an artist. Harold, you keep on truckin’!

Tulips X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

Tulips X-Ray Fusion © Harold Davis

If you haven’t seen any of the videos of my presentations of my work, here are some that might interest you:

The Art of Photographing Flowers for Transparency (B&H)

Black and White in the Digital Era (2017)

A Creative Palette of Possibilities Using Topaz (2018)

An oldie-but-goldie (from 2009): the KQED-TV segment showing me at work!

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

Degrees of Translucency © Harold Davis

Posted in Photography

Review: A New Lens for Harold (the Irix 150mm “Dragonfly” macro)

Piercing the Iris Veil © Harold Davis

I photographed these close-ups of flower petals (image above: an Iris; image below: the petals of a Gerbera from behind) with a new lens, the Irix 150mm f/2.8 “Dragonfly” telephoto 1:1 macro. For a telephoto macro, this is a relatively inexpensive lens (about $600 recently at B&H). Apparently, the Irix lenses are designed in Switzerland, and manufactured in Korea.

The lens comes in a nice box, with a useful hard pouch for storage, amenities such as two rear lens caps and a nice lens hood, has a functional tripod collar with an Arca-mount foot that lets you switch from horizontal to vertical and back again, and is handsomely finished. It appears solidly made, with good materials in the right places.

That said, I did have a build quality issue with the first one I ordered from B&H, so I had to send it back for an exchange. I won’t go into details about what the problem was, except to note that it was a show-stopper (if you need to know, drop me an email). The build-quality issue suggests that if you buy one, make sure you buy from a reputable source, test it thoroughly during the return period, and send it back if necessary.

A complaint about the lens design is that it lacks a manual aperture ring, at least in the Nikon F mount (I haven’t tried the Canon or Sony E mount versions, so I can’t verify that this holds cross-platform, but it probably does). The expectation is that you are going to set the aperture using the camera.

This is a serious drawback in a lens that is likely to be used in technical circumstances, as is the case with a telephoto macro. In particular, if you use the lens with a bellows or an extension tube that has a manual diaphragm coupling (not an uncommon scenario with a lens of this sort), the only way to change the aperture that I could figure out is to dismount the whole lens-and-bellows, put the lens (or another lens) on, then reset the aperture, which will stick even after the lens is remounted on the bellows.

Somewhat counteracting this complaint, a nice bonus feature is a solid focus lock. This is useful when the lens is on a tripod and pointed downward, and you want to make a long exposure without having the focus slip.

This is a sophisticated, solidly built lens. According to the manufacturer, the aperture mechanism includes 11 rounded blades, designed to create pleasing bokeh (background blurring). The manual focus mechanism is solid and lends itself to precision. The lens has been weather sealed at key points.  

Again according to the manufacturer, “The optical design consists of twelve elements – three of which are made of super-low dispersion glass (ED), another four of glass with a higher refractive index (HR), and the whole arranged into nine optical groups. Thanks to this construction, we obtain an close to zero distortion (at a level of 0.1%).”

Folks who know me well know that I collect macro lenses; in fact, I have been called “the Imelda Marcos” of macro lenses. I think I’ve lost track of how many I own, and I’m pleased to add this Dragonfly to my collection. It fills a gap between my Nikkor 200mm f/4 macro and the Nikkor 105mm and Zeiss 100mm macros. Subjectively, I think it beats the Nikkor 200mm (which only focuses to 1:2 rather than the 1:1 of the Dragonfly) in terms of sharpness, although it may not be quite up to the Nikkor 105mm or Zeiss 100mm. Even here, the modern design and coatings help with the comparison, and I like the extra reach of the 150mm focal length.

Probably the closest comparable lenses are the Canon 180mm macro (which won’t help Nikon users), and the Sigma 180mm telephoto macro, which by reputation is a great lens (I don’t own one), but considerably more expensive than the Irix.

So enough technical talk and comparison of other macro lenses. What I really think is below the image.

Gerbera Petals © Harold Davis

What Harold really thinks: First, both the images that accompany this story were made with the Irix 150mm f/2.8 “Dragonfly” stopped down to f/32. Obviously, these results are pleasing, with limited diffraction considering the small aperture, and I am happy to own this lens. I expect this to be a go-to telephoto macro lens in situations in which this specialized optic is called for.

Disclosures: None. I have no relationship whatsoever with Irix, and bought the lens with my own hard-earned cash money.

Posted in Equipment, Flowers, Photography, Reviews

A Trio of Tulips (and Macro Lenses)

Phyllis came home with a beautiful bouquet of tulips, and this morning I photographed them on the kitchen table. Warm morning sunlight lit the flowers from behind with a glow. I could control the light using the adjustable blinds on the kitchen windows, and also by moving the placement of the flowers so they were in and out of sunbeams.

Inside the Tulip C © Harold Davis

This is the tale of some pretty flowers, nice natural ambient light, and three different 85mm lenses. To start with, I had my heavy-duty RRS tripod on the floor so I could bring the ballhead to the right height to get into the tulip blossoms from beneath. I mounted a 50mm extension tube with a tripod collar onto the ballhead. 

My first image, Inside the Tulip C (above), was made using my Zeiss Otus 85mm at f/16, focused as close as it could go on the extension tube.

Inside the Tulip B © Harold Davis

To make the next version, Inside the Tulip B (above), I swapped my 85mm Zeiss Otus for the 85mm Lensbaby Velvet and photographed wide-open (at f/1.8). Essentially, I was trading optical perfection for perfection in impressionismo! The Lensbaby Velvet makes a very different image stopped down (to f/16) in Inside the Tulip A (below)—note that the point of focus was the same for both the ‘A’ and ‘B’ versions. It’s worth mentioning that this lens has macro capabilities, so (combined with the extension tube) I was definitely working at a greater magnification ratio than in the ‘C’ version.

Inside the Tulip A © Harold Davis

Since I’d already had fun with two different 85mm lenses, I decided to try a third, my Nikkor 85mm tilt-shift macro. As I’ve noted before, this is a fully manual lens, without even automatic diaphragm control—you need to press a button to manually stop the lens down when you are ready to expose.

Combined with the extension tube with the macro capabilities of this lens you can really get pretty much into microscope territory. But is too much ever enough? I added a +4 close-up filter to the front of the lens, focused on the small central indent in the tulip petals, and stopped down to f/45 (as an “adjusted aperture” this records in EXIF data as f/64 by the way).

Tulip Petal © Harold Davis

Since this is a monochromatic image (in orange) and more about the patterns it presents than the coloration, I decided to try a black and white conversion, shown below.

Tulip Petal in Black and White © Harold Davis

All-in-all, a fun morning was spent photographing tulips up close and personal. There were some other things on my lists to accomplish, but I have learned (when I can) to relax, let go, and let art!

Posted in Flowers

New Iris Macros

I’ve been having fun with some photography of a kind I haven’t done in a while: relatively straight macro photography of flowers. The photography is straightforward (as I explain below), but the aesthetic goals are a bit different than the last time I tackled photographing Iris in this way (for example, in Winged Iris): if my work is going to be confused with Georgia O’Keeffe, I may as well consciously try for a painterly effect.

Iris Petals © Harold Davis

Iris Petals © Harold Davis

To make this photos, I placed the individual Iris on a black background, and lit them from the side using sunlight. I photographed with my Zeiss 100mm f/2 macro lens, to which I added a Nikon PN-11 52.5mm extension tube so I could get close enough.

Iris Translucency © Harold Davis

Iris Translucency © Harold Davis

There are so many wonderful and creative ways to tackle flower photography. It is fun to have this as my “job,” and get to come up with new approaches to the glorious and sexy subject that the flora around us presents. I hope if you have followed the flower photography stories on my blog, read my book about flower photography, and perhaps viewed my Photographing Flowers online course that I’ve given you some ideas how you might creatively approach photographing flowers.

Blue Iris

Blue Iris © Harold Davis

 

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Flower Macros

Echinacea Pink Double Delight

Echinacea Pink Double Delight, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Flower macros are a personal subject that I return to over and over again with great joy. The photo above is an Echinacea Pink Double Delight that I photographed just after a recent rainstorm.

The daffodil in the sunshine (below) is from early 2008. I found the RAW file recently when flipping through my archives, and decided to have some fun converting this simple, sunny image.

Daffodil

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Zeiss 100mm f/2 Macro Lens

Gaillardia, Papaver, and Iris

Gaillardia, Papaver, and Iris, photo by Harold Davis. View this image larger.

Briefly noted: I bought a Zeiss Macro 100mm f/2 ZF Makro-Planar T* Manual Focus Lens to use with my Nikon D300 and experimented with some flowers. This is a remarkable lens with its precise focus, brilliant color rendering, and delicious bokeh.

Not, however, for the faint of heart. It’s heavy, expensive, and completely manual. Even thinking of auto-focusing this grand piece of glass would be sacrilege. The lens is made by Zeiss in Japan, but the documentation explains that the optical technology was developed for the movie industry.

To get exposure settings to work on the D300 in Aperture-preferred or Manual mode (forget about fully Programmed automatic), you need to create a non-CPU lens listing with the focal length and aperture of the lens. You can enter this info using the Non-CPU Lens Data item on the Tools menu of the camera. If you have multiple non-CPU lenses that you use, you can program the Function button (not normally used for much else) to allow you to use the Command Dial to switch between your non-CPU lenses. In other words, if you don’t tell the camera about the lens, it doesn’t know anything about it (unlike the lenses from Nikon and other 3rd party vendors that speak directly to the camera-that-is-a-computer).

Unbearable Lightness of Iris

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Do Flowers Dream?

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[Each image: Nikon D300, Zeiss Macro 100mm f/2 ZF Makro-Planar T* Manual Focus Lens, four combined exposures from 1/2 of a second to 2 seconds at f/22 and ISO 100, tripod mounted. Bottom image is inverted to create the black background and post-processed in Photoshop.]

Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Photography

Macro Photography and Mental Health

I’m slowly recovering from a nasty bout of bronchitis. Feeling sick makes it hard for me to enjoy photography. So fooling around with macro photography of flowers in my garden shows that I’m feeling better physically, and mentally as well.

I tried to capture the cone flower (above) from an unusual angle. The red dahlia (below) is a great macro subject because of the pattern of the petals. I liked the light shining through the petunia (far below), and the striking green of the stamen in the center of the flower (you may need to view the flower at a larger size to really see this).

These three macro photos were tripod mounted with my Nikon 200mm f/4 macro lens at f/36 with moderately long exposures (between 1/8 and 1/2 of a second each).

Now, when you see me doing water drops in the morning, you’ll know I’m really feeling fine!

Red Dahlia

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Petunia Neon Rose

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Posted in Flowers, Photography

Macro Photography with the Nikon Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit

I recently bought a Nikon Close-up Speedlight Remote Kit to try out adding flash capabilities to my macro repertoire.

The kit comes in two versions. The R1, which is what I bought, is intended for dSLRs that already have a flash, such as the D70 or D200. With the R1, the on-board flash serves as the master controller, sometimes called a “commander,” that sets off the two supplied SB-R200 flash units via wireless.

In contrast, the more expensive R1C1 kit is intended for Nikon SLRs that don’t have a built-in flash (such as the D2X). The R1C1 kit essentially adds an independent SU-800 wireless commander unit to the contents of the R1 kit.

Both kits are full of little gizmos, and come in a nice leather case fitted with wonderful little compartments, if you are into that kind of thing (as I am!).

Despite a daunting array of minature components, and instructions that are essentially unreadable, it turns out that there’s not too much involved with basic operation of the close-up speedlight kit–and a great deal involved with sophisticated use of wireless speedlight components.

The basic operation is to mount a ring using the filter screw of one of Nikon’s macro lenses (it’s probably most commonly used with the 105mm macro, but since my 105mm macro is in the shop for repairs I tested it with my wonderful 200mm f/4 macro). You mount the SB-200 flash units on the end of the ring, set each strobe to Group A and Channel 3, and power them up. Next, pop the on-board flash up, and add a dingus to the flash shoe of your D70 or D200 to prevent in on-board flash from misbehaving while it functions as wireless “boss.”

Set the camera to aperture-preferred metering, select an aperture, and you are good to go. Focus–personally I never use auto-focus with my macros, I don’t think it works all that well–and shoot. Whether the aperture you selected lets in enough light depends on (besides the aperture) your distance from the subject, the quantity and positioning of the speedlights, and the ambient light levels. The only real caveat is that at least with my 200mm lens this setup isn’t manageable without a tripod.

Which leads me to a brief digression on why sophisticated use of this kind of setup is complicated. First, you are likely to want to get one or both units off the camera. You can handhold them, or mount them on their cute little stands. In the long run, lighting a macro composition with flash is like lighting a theater: with great control comes great responsibility. If you really want to get into this kind of work, you’ll probably want to acquire a couple of additional SB-R200 units, and likely some “big Daddy” SB-600 and SB-800 units as well.

If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know that I’ve been photographing water drops lately. Outdoor photography of water drops with the speedlight kit has one great advantage, and one big disadvantage. The good news is that you don’t have to worry about your subject moving in the wind, the bane of the outdoor macro photographer (since even slight movements are amplified when you get up close). The duration of the flash is the duration of the exposure. However, not only is the flash the duration of the exposure, it is also the light source of your composition (in addition to ambient light, depending on where you set the aperture). This means that those lovely reflections you see in the minature water drop probably won’t be in the flash photo you take–and it is hard to tell in advance what will be there (even the LCD viewer can only give you a general idea with this kind of work).

The photo at the top of this story was taken with the R1 speedlight kit, my D70 and 200mmf/4 macro mounted behind a 36mm Kenko extension tube, all on a tripod. One of the SB-200 units was mounted on the ring at the end of the lens, I handheld the other unit off to the left. It’s this second unit that causes the burst of light you see on the water drop. The aperture was set all the way down at f/40 (the camera picks a nominal shutter speed of 1/60 of a second, but the actual exposure duration is that of the flash).

In contrast, this photo of a cymbidium orchid on my front porch was taken the day I got the kit, with both SB-200 units mounted on the front ring in the default position. I took the photo at night, at f/22, and there was essentially no ambient light, which explains the dark image background:

Wet Cymbidium

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This extreme close-up of a poppy in my garden showing the texture of my poppy was also taken with the straight macro rig.

Poppy Emerging

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The poppy close-up that I blogged recently is another example of the impact of mounted both strobes on the front of the lens, and shooting without any other attempt at creative lighting (scroll to the bottom of the story to see the shot created with flash).

The really exciting thing about macro strobe photography is that you can capture subjects in motion. (Hummingbirds, here I come!) This water drop at the end of a twig was blowing around in a high wind. No way I could have captured it with a long exposure:

Twig Water Drop

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Pretty soon, at least if you are like me, you’ll want to start fooling around with the elements of the macro speedlight kit to see how you can use them more creatively than the out-of-the box strapped to the end of the lens approach.

This photograph of desert rose quartz was taken in my little macro studio area, with the two speedlights off-camera on their stands, and using colored filters that come with the speedlight kit to cover each flash. One flash, nearer and on the right, was covered with a blue filter. The other unit was positioned back and behind and to the right, and covered with a red filter. You need to note that the photo shows individual grains of sand between the quartz to see how close this image is.

Desert Rose Quartz

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Further along the experimental garden path, with this photo of an iris leaf, I placed the strobe units off-camera beneath the petal. So the photo is lit by ambient light and the light coming through the petal. Probably, an iris petal as never seen before!

Iris Leaf Pattern

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Posted in Flowers, Photography, Water Drops

Monster Art Nouveau Lens Baby Orchid Macro

I’m just so in love with these orchids, as I’ve said it is a slippery slope. I don’t want to become like this couple who lived in the same building with us in New York. Their entire life was centered on an orchid room. Somehow they managed to grow a jungle in a place that was one step up from a tenement. I think I’ll stay obsessed with photography–and Phyllis and my kids and the mountains and writing and designing web sites and programming and and and. Orchids will just have to be one of those hidden passions on the side. So please don’t tell anyone. My orchids can be our secret, too!

Orchid Detail VI

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Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Lensbaby, Photography

Working that Lens Baby Macro



Yellow Greeting Red, photo by Harold Davis. Click to view in large size.

A reader writes:

I’ve read your piece on photographing the lobelia flower with your lens baby, as well as the item you refer to with more information about this set up, and I still don’t get it. Could you please be a little more explicit?

OK. There’s nothing like a straightforward request, and the whole Lens Baby thing is pretty straightforward. But, before I get started, another photo:

Green Spikes

You get a Lens Baby from Lensbabies.com. It costs $150 plus shipping for the Lens Baby 2.0, and you need to specify the lens mount (Nikon or Canon and some others). The Canon version provides some exposure automation (I think), but there is absolutely no automation with the Nikon version.

Here’s another photo:

Centered

The macro kit for the Lens Baby consists of two glass filters that screw on the end. One is +10 and one is +4 diopters, and you can stack them together to get within 2-3 inches of your subject. These filters will run you another $29 bucks and come with absolutely no documentation. They do arrive in a sweet little carrying pouch that says “Lensbabies” in a kool typeface. (You gotta love this kind of packaging, elevating form far over function, as all of us visual people do from time to time!)

Here’s another lens, baby macro:

Lobelia 2

The Lens Baby itself has no ability to focus. Essentially, you have a “sweet spot” towards the center of the thing that is more-or-less in focus, and all the rest of the image is sweetly and pleasantly blurred.

The exact location of the sweet spot is impacted by a couple of factors. First, the end of the Lens Baby is flexible and bellows-like, so you can bend it around. This changes both the size and location of the sweet spot (although I’ve found that the way the photo comes out looking does differ from the way I see things through the viewfinder, through-the-lens viewing or not). In other words, chance and its guardian angel Sarah Dipity (serendipity) play a role with Lens Baby photos.

Here’s another photo:

Under the Flower Sea

The other factor that influences focus also influences exposure. The Lens Baby 2.0 comes with a bunch of different magnetic rings that you plop into place inside the barrel of the Lens Baby lens. (The Lens Baby comes with a little tool that allows you to easily remove the rings.)

These rings set the aperture of the lens. The smaller the opening in the magnetic ring, the smaller the aperture, and–to some extent–the greater the apparent sharpness of the Lens Baby due to higher depth of field.

At best, how sharp are we? Not very. That’s not the point of the Lens Baby:

Viola

As a practical matter, once you have the macro filters in place, particularly if you are using both of them, you probably don’t want to be bothered with changing the aperture rings (you’d have to take the macro filters off to change the aperture ring). I find myself using the Lens Baby “wide open” with no aperture ring, since it’s not the point of the thing to be sharp, and with the widest aperture you are most likely to get acceptable results hand holding in the part of the image that is sharp (because the wider the effective aperture, the faster the shutter speed you can use).

Yellow Belly of the Flower Beast

So, all the photos that accompany this story were taken with my Nikon D70 mounted with the Lens Baby, no aperture ring, and both +4 and +10 macro filters. There’s no focusing, and no exposure automation.

What you have to do is set the camera to manual (M on the dial for those of you who are acronym tone-deaf). The only control you have over exposure is setting the shutter speed.

Flower V Dance

The photos that accompany this story were taken at shutter speeds between 1/60 and 1/200 of a second in overcast, but bright, conditions. But trial and error is required. You’ll also need to review the results on your LCD display as you take the photos, and give praise for the bracketing inherent in the Raw format.

Having set the shutter speed where I guestimate it ought to be, the process of taking one of these photos is pretty intuitive: I get close, wiggle the Lens Baby, and when I like what I think I see, press the shutter release.




Posted in Bemusements, Flowers, Hardware, Lensbaby, Photography

Back to the Macro



Coreopsis, photo by Harold Davis.

You can take the boy out of the macro, but you can’t take the macro out of the boy!

On my recent trip there were great stark desert landscapes and autumn aspens on the eastern Sierra slope (I’ll soon be posting some of these), but not much in the way of close-up opportunities.

So today I grabbed Phyllis, the kit, and a picnic and headed over to Blake Garden for a little lunch and photo-macrography.

Yum!

White Rose
Red Rose
Chrysanthemum
Painted Leaves


Posted in Flowers, Photography

My New Macro Lens



Marbles 3, photo by Harold Davis.

I’ve been having lots of fun playing with my new AF Micro Nikkor 105mm f/2.8 macro lens.

Actually, the lens isn’t new – I got it used on eBay, but it might as well be new, since it is in perfect condition.

This is a beautiful lens. It may be the finest macro lens I have ever owned, and the statement includes my years as a photo pro back in the days of film. I’m so excited to own it!

One of the cool things about it is that it gets out of the way of itself. Meaning, the 105mm focal length has a 35mm equivalence of 157.5mm on the Nikon digital SLRs, so this is a moderate telephoto. You can be a nice distance from the subject of your macro photos.

Here are some more marbelous macro photos (yuck, yuck!) taken with this great lens:

Marbles 2

Marbles 1

Posted in Hardware, Photography

Up Close and Personal Flowers

For me, photographing flowers is a form of worship, and a way to be in touch with my own spirituality. This has ed to fairly straightforward photography. I use (carefully observed) morning sunlight. The camera is tripod mounted. I use a macro lens and extension tube, with the lens stropped down. Nearer my flower to thee!

Let the sunshine in © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Orange

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Orange © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Purple © Harold Davis

Pom Pom Chrysanthemum Purple © Harold Davis

Posted in Flowers, Photography

Master Photographer Panel with Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro on Saturday

Phyllis and I are proud to present Master Photographer Panel with Jennifer King and Alan Shapiro on this coming Saturday (October 10, 2020) via Zoom. The tuition for the event is $19.95, with all proceeds going to the NAACP Empowerment Funds.

Image credit: © Jennifer King

Jennifer King is an internationally acclaimed photographer, writer, teacher and speaker. Click here for her website.

Alan Shapiro’s macro work can be seen throughout the entire hospital set on ABC’s The Good Doctor, in the launch campaigns for the Apple iPhone, filling walls in Bose stores and Ritz Carlton Hotels worldwide, in addition to hanging in numerous private and corporate art collections. His tabletop and food photography can be seen in publications including Martha Stewart Living, Real Simple and Saveur. Click here for his website.

Following the presentations by these great photographers, Harold Davis will moderate a panel discussion open to your questions. Come expecting to be inspired and entertained!

Image credit: © Alan Shapiro

The session will be recorded and posted to YouTube, but please consider enrolling (and paying the tuition) even if you won’t be able to attend the live event. All proceeds will be going to the NAACP Endowment fund, and if you are interested in the panel, it would be great to have you contribute.

Click here for an upcoming benefit Master Panel with Ann Belmont and Bryan Peterson, and here for our schedule of webinars.

Posted in Photography