Tag: Photography


Favorite Podcasts

      Podcasts and Audiobooks have been around for a long time. For me though, they’ve become an essential part of my daily routine for the last few years. Audiobooks are the primary way I consume books since I spend a lot of time driving around for my day job and for weekend adventures and photography.  However, podcasts share this time and that’s the focus of this writing.  I thought this to be a timely piece since I’ll be leaving for vacation for a couple weeks and I need to stock up on podcasts and books to listen to!

     If you can think of a topic, I’m sure you can find a podcast about that subject. The possibilities are endless. Being a tech junkie, I find myself drawn to the technology and photography related podcasts a lot; but I do love a lot of what I call more Lifestyle and story driven pieces.  I’m constantly adding and trying out new ones, but what you’ll see here is what I currently have on at the time of this writing!

 First page of podcasts on a GS3 phone. East Meets West, This American Life, Hired, App.Net, The Digital Story, Martin Bailey Podcast, Tips From the Top Floor, The Instance, Android Central, PhotoNetCast, Lifehacker, Extra Time Radio.
First page of podcasts on a GS3 phone. East Meets West, This American Life, Hired, App.Net, The Digital Story, Martin Bailey Podcast, Tips From the Top Floor, The Instance, Android Central, PhotoNetCast, Lifehacker, Extra Time Radio.
 Page 2 of Podcasts - Triangulation, Sword and Laser, This Week in Photo, Digital Photo Experience, Improve Photography, The Verge, The Moth, This Week in Google, This Week in Tech, All About Android.
Page 2 of Podcasts – Triangulation, Sword and Laser, This Week in Photo, Digital Photo Experience, Improve Photography, The Verge, The Moth, This Week in Google, This Week in Tech, All About Android.

Photo Oriented…

Tech Oriented…




Since I am an Android user, the apps here are for the Android OS.  There are some great ones for iOS as well, but I haven’t used iOS in a few years so I’m not up to date on what’s good!  The three below are all fantastic apps and well worth the purchase price. I have purchased all 3 at one time or another. Some of them have lite versions for free, but if you enjoy an app, support the developer and show them some love.

  1.  Pocket Casts (My current one you see) – created by Shifty Jelly 
  2. BeyondPod  – created by BeyondPod Team
  3. DoggCatcher – created by DoggCatcher 

So there you have it…

     Those are the podcasts I listen to on a regular basis. As I mentioned, I am constantly adding more and listening to specific episodes of some that I find to have interesting topics or guests.  Check out the entire Twit Network along with Frog Pants Studios for  a TON of great podcasts spanning many different genres. I highly recommend clicking the links in this post and checking them out to see if there may be one that you’ll love!

What do you listen to?  Post some names and links so I can check them out.


A Weekend of Photography

Over Memorial Day weekend I was lucky enough to spend the majority of my time out and about in nature with some great friends and other photographers!  Being primarily a landscape photographer, it is always a blast hiking, biking and photographing the beauty nature has to offer.  To end it all, I was able to visit some family and take a few photographs of the newest addition to our family, my niece Kacie.

Being on the coast, I usually have to drive a fair bit to get to the waterfalls and other areas but that’s never a problem since I get to listen to podcasts, audiobooks and music to pass the time and get me pumped up for shooting!

The weekend entailed a few different places…..

  • Opal Creek Wilderness area
  • Scotts Mills Park
  • Abiqua Falls
  • Silver Falls State Park
  • Visiting family! 

Continue on to see my favorite pictures from the trip! Click on each image for a lightbox view for better detail.

Opal Creek Wilderness


Opal Creek is an area that I’ve been wanting to visit for a while now. It always sounded so beautiful with a good variety of stuff to shoot.  It was definitely an incredibly beautiful place with some fantastic colors throughout.  To get here, you start with a 3 or so mile hike to a place called Jawbone Flats.  The flats is basically a small area with some cabins that you can rent which will put you much closer to the center of everything around.  You’re not allowed to drive to these cabins, so you have to hike or bike.   

In this case, I met up with a couple friends Saturday morning and we biked in.  Being the out of shape guy I am, it was quite tiring, but a lot faster than hiking in.   We are able to do some short hikes to the beautifully colored water, some great rapids and waterfalls mixed among a beautiful forest area. There is plenty more to see including some old growth forest, more waterfalls and such but those were a bit further than we were wanting to go for this trip, and one of the bridges crossing the creek has been washed out and never replaced to my knowledge.

 Upstream view from atop a bridge that spans Opal Creek.  You can see where the creek gets its name from the beautifully colored water. It's very inviting!

 SawMill Falls along Opal Creek. This waterfall is right where an old saw mill used to operate and one can assume, where its name originated from.

I had a Cokin P series filter set with a few other filters and accessories for it that I lost to the creek while taking the shot above.  I was able to climb up some rocks to get a slightly different vantage point than the easy one with no problem. On the way back down is when the filter holder fell into the water and floated out of reach before I could get down safely with my camera to snatch it.  Luckily, it’s a fairly inexpensive set of items to replace if I choose to do so. Was it worth it to lose that stuff while getting this shot?   I don’t know, it’s a beautiful view, but with a little more care, I probably could have left with everything in my possession. 

Scotts Mills Park


Scotts Mills county park was our meeting place before heading up the road to Abiqua Falls.  Marty (one of the friends and photographers) wanted to shoot this park before heading out and thought it would be a good meeting place and he was right!

There’s not much to shoot overall, but there is this pretty cool looking waterfall of sorts with some man-made aspects and interesting rocks all round it.  I arrived earlier than our planned meeting time since I didn’t sleep well the night before and was able to catch just a glimmer of color from the sunrise. 

 Small waterfall at Scotts Mills County Park along Butte Creek with some great and interesting man-made aspects to it.

Abiqua Falls


Abiqua Falls is easily one of the best waterfalls I have been to.  The hike through the forest, along the creek bed all to open up in this beautiful area of column rock and a gorgeous waterfall in the middle.  It’s not the easiest to get to, but definitely worth the trip.  It starts with a pretty rough drive down a road for about 2.5 miles or so.  I highly recommend a 4×4 vehicle or at least one that has higher road clearance.

Once you get to the trail head, it’s only 1/2 mile hike or so to the waterfalls, but don’t let the distance fool you. It’s a fairly steep hike through the forest down to the creek bed.  There are plenty of steep areas that have ropes to help you climb up and down.  Once you get to the creek bed, you’ll walk upstream a short distance, but this short distance requires climbing over, under and around numerous fallen trees and over loose rocks. 

As you get closer you hear the waterfall from a good distance, but you can’t see it until you round the last corner and opens up into this amazing area you see below! 

 The beautiful Abiqua Falls showing off a great water flow this time of year.

 Abiqua Falls from a lower perspective showing some of the rocks along the creek.

After leaving Abiqua, we headed for Silver Falls State Park.  We continued down a road passing some great looking forest areas only to come to a locked gate. So we had to turn around and lucky for us, the car leading the way had a photographer in it who convinced the driver to pull over to photograph the forest with some great light and fog throughout. 

 Fog in the forest creating an eerie but beautiful feeling and that's what I wanted to create with this image.

Silver Falls State Park


After Abiqua Falls and a quick lunch, we headed over to Silver Falls State Park.   This is a very well known state park that’s home to a lot of waterfalls. Most famously known for 10 or so falls along it’s trails that are pretty easy to access if you’re willing to walk the distance.  One of the unique aspects about this place are a couple of the waterfalls you are able to walk behind which is always an interesting experience if you’ve never done it.

 Double Falls at Silver Falls state park.  Above the big waterfall you can see just a tiny bit of the upper falls.

 A waterfall at Silver Falls state park.

 A view from under some of the rocks that you can get to from walking behind the waterfall.

 A more traditional view of one of the waterfalls at Silver Falls state park.

 A view from directly behind the waterfall. Taken rather quickly to avoid all the spray from the water.

Family to end the weekend

In addition to all the beautiful outdoor nature I was able to photograph this weekend… I was also lucky enough to photograph the newest addition to our family. My niece Kacie!

She was 6 days old when these were taken and really did not want to sleep at all for us while we were trying to do a shoot.  The shot with her eyes closed only lasted a minute or so, but was long enough to capture that pleasant and peaceful look on her face. 

 My niece Kacie having a curious look on her face.

 A very rare moment during our shoot when Kacie had her eyes closed. It didn't last long though!

 Kacie lifting her head on her own with a determined look on her face.

It was definitely a fun filled and busy weekend.  Couldn’t think of a better way to spend a few days, except maybe if there was a Portland Timbers game in there somewhere. Which I was able to watch in my motel the first night. 

Let me know what you think of the photos and these places! Have you been there? want to visit?  Have any stories and places you’d like to share? Post away! 

If you enjoy these posts and my photography, be sure to click the Subscribe button at the bottom to get email updates when I post new content!


Making of – Ona Beach Sunset

Hello everyone!

Today I wanted to try something a little different than usual for me. I’ve recorded a screencast of my editing on one of my favorite photos. I’ve also included a link to download the files I started with straight out of camera.  This is a bit longer of a post than usual, but it goes more in depth into how this specific image was created, the software I used and the effects within those pieces of software.  The video itself is about 7m 27s long from beginning to end, with a more detailed description written out here in the post.

The software/plugins I used for this image are

All of these programs have free trials that you can test if you do not own them. I highly recommend every piece of it, but I would not be able to live without Lightroom and Color Efex.

I’ve included the 3 original files that I start with at the beginning of the video if you would like to download them and follow along or just do your own edit and see what you come up with. These are in the DNG format and straight out of camera.  Click the link here to download the zip file containing the 3 raw images.  http://db.tt/i9MqE4YB

 These are the 3 original exposures taken directly from the camera and are the files included in the download link above for you to use.
These are the 3 original exposures taken directly from the camera and are the files included in the download link above for you to use.

Creating the HDR image…

My program of choice for creating an HDR is Nik HDR Efex Pro2. To get things started, I selected the 3 exposures I was wanting to use and exported them into HDR Efex. For some reason, to send the images over into HDR Efex, you need to open the “Export to” and then choose HDR Efex as opposed to most other plugins where you select from the “Edit In” menu.

The first window you see pop up is where you select the image you want as a reference image for ghost removal.  You can choose to not have any ghost removal, or in increments of 20%.  Knowing that I wanted to have the water from the longest exposure visible, I chose the right hand picture from the top of the window, and you see the preview change. You can adjust the amount of ghosting until you’re happy with the look. In this case, I left it at 100%.  The slider below the preview image adjusts the exposure of the preview only, this will not affect the image creation at all.  On this same window, you can correct for Chromatic Aberration and the alignment of the images.

After you select the ghosting options you want, you click the “Create HDR” button on the bottom right and your HDR is created in a short amount of time and you are taken into the main part of the program to do some stylizing and other options.  On the left pane you can select from a good variety of presets in a few different categories and you’ll see a small thumbnail preview of the effect.  Feel free to play around with these all you want and you can always reset back to the default blend by selecting the Default preset.  Once you do a few images, you’ll get a feel for what presets you like and you will be able to select them rather quickly.  I usually pick between 3 or so options, and rarely will I pick a different one.

My top 3 choices tend to be

  • Deep 1
  • Deep 2 (used for this image)
  • Dark

Of course you have the large preview of the image in the center, and many more options over to the right.  On the right you have a lot of control over nearly any element of the image you would like.  The preset you choose on the left will adjust the options over on the right, but you can override each option if you wish.  For my workflow, I normally just play around with the Depth, Detail and Drama under the HDR Method portion. I don’t do anything with the color adjustments as that comes next in a separate plugin.  When I’m happy with the look and tonal range of the highlights and shadows, I save my image and back to Lightroom it goes as you see below.

 3 exposure HDR image being sent back to Lightroom for further adjustment.

Color adjustment

This is where most of the major changes happen to the look and feel of the image. Another one of my go-to plugins is Nik Color Efex Pro 4.  Nearly every image I create, whether it be a landscape or a portrait makes a run through this software. This is another plugin that can have such drastic effects on your image. It’s very powerful for full image adjustments or localized adjustments using what Nik calls U-point technology.  

On the left pane you’ll find the different effects you can use. It can look a bit overwhelming at first since there are a lot of options, and when selecting one, you often see a huge change to your image.  This will take some playing around with and seeing which effects you like. You’ll quickly find your favorites after using it a couple of times.  

My favorite adjustments are easily the following.

  • Brilliance/Warmth
  • Polarization
  • Contrast Color Range
  • Detail Extractor

You can see major changes with each of the effects during the video.  You’re not always going to want such drastic changes, nor are you going to want every effect across the entire image.  This is where the right pane comes in.

On this pane, you adjust the different options for each effect you choose.  For Brilliance/Warmth, you see a Saturation, Warmth and Perceptual Saturation slider.  Saturation does exactly what you’d expect and simply increases the saturation of your colors. The Warmth is your temperature and makes it warmer or cooler.  I tend to be drawn more towards bright, warm vibrant colors so I typically increase the warmth a tad as you see in the video. 

Perceptual Saturation was introduced in version 4 of Color Efex pro.  This isn’t a simple saturation booster as it works differently and is best left described by Nik software themselves.

They state… 

Perceptual Saturation is a new setting in the Brilliance/Warmth filter in Color Efex Pro 4. This is different from the Saturation filter in that it doesn’t increase the overall saturation of the image. Instead, it affects the hues and their complimentary color in the surrounding colors to increase the perception of additional saturation.

You will need to find a look that you’re happy with, as these items are very subjective. I like the look across the entire image so I didn’t use any control points (selective adjustments) for this effect. Once you’re happy with that  particular filter, you click the “Add Filter” button and you’re then able to select the next effect/filter you want.  If I had to pick just one effect to use, it would be this one and I really love the way it brings out the greens and oranges on the rocks more than anything else.

Pro Tip – Change your effect sliders from one extreme to
another a couple of times so you can see the entire range of what it’s doing.
Then dial it back to where you’re comfortable.

The next filter in this image I used was Polarization. This does what most would expect and really affects the blue skies more than other parts of the image. It does have subtle effects on other parts if you watch closely, but most drastically in the sky.  I usually like the way this effect changes my image, so I leave this one effecting the entire image as well.  There are some subtle changes here and nothing to big, but I think it adds to the photo.

Contrast Color Range, like many others can change the look and feel of your photo very easily.  Simply sliding the top Color slider back and forth, you can see how it changes.  This filter is fun to play around with and can create some awesome effects and changes when balanced correctly.  Spend some time and adjust all 4 of the sliders available to you to gain the look you’re after.  Again, I like the look this has across the entire image.

Detail Extractor… some of what this filter does can be achieved with tone mapping in your HDR creation, but I prefer to use this in Color Efex instead. It’s more comfortable for me and easier to select specific parts of the image for it. As I do with most of the effects I apply, I will change the slider from one extreme to another.  While doing so, looking closely at different parts of the image and not just the image as a whole.  I’ve never used this effect across the entire image.  You will see that I use the Control Points (U-point technology) to apply this effect in specific areas.  To add a control point, select the + sign that sits next to a Control point icon below your effect sliders.  Then drop the pin on the part of the image you want to add the effect to.

With this image, I used 2 control points. One on the top of the rock in the foreground and one around the sun.  You can adjust the size of the affected area and the opacity of that particular control point.  I enjoyed the effect at stronger levels on the rock, but not as much on the sun. You can see the sun gets some weird contrast in the colors there, so I was able to adjust that by changing the opacity on that control point only.

Pro Tip – Uncheck the boxes for the effects to see the image with/without that effect applied. This is great to do on a final pass to make sure you’re happy with the edits.

Lastly, I used the Skylight Filter. This filter isn’t always used, but I did like what it did to the colors and glow on the rock in the foreground.  it was a bit to much for my liking in the sky, so to have only the rock (and nearby surrounding area) affected, I used another Control Point. 

You can adjust any of the filters again by simply clicking on them on the right pane. Now that we’re done in Color Efex, we save the image and it gets imported back into Lightroom for any further adjustments you may want to do.

Below is the image that we just finished up and sent back into Lightroom.

 The photo after adjusting the colors and effects in Color Efex Pro4 software.

You may be able to see some dust spots in the sky, and what looks to be water drops on the filter that I was using when taking this shot. The water is apparent on the shadowy part of the rock on the right side of the frame.  There is also a small piece of white shell on the lower right.  The next step is to remove these items that I don’t want in the frame, and for that I kick the image over into PhotoShop.

These edits are very simple on this image and I just use the Healing Brush to click and remove those spots. Adjust the brush size for the water spots, take a final glance over the image, then close Photoshop and save it back into Lightroom again.

After looking at the image for a few minutes during this process, I could tell that I wanted the sky to be just slightly more orange/red to better match the color on the front rock.  Open up the Develop module in Lightroom, scroll down to the HSL/Color/ B&W, select HSL (should be selected by default) and now I can adjust the Hue of specific colors.  To pick certain colors that your mouse hovers over, click on the little circle/pin at the top left of that menu.

Then move your mouse over to the area that contains the color you want to adjust. You will see the colors on the right highlighting as your mouse passes over them and when you have the one want highlighted, click with your mouse and drag up or down to adjust the hue. This will adjust the hue of that color across your entire image.  I wasn’t going for a big change, just a tad adjustment.  Only thing left was to lower the exposure just a tad and then level out the horizon ever so slightly until I felt I was finished and ready to export the image for sharing.

Here is our final image after all of the editing! This one you can click on to view a larger view of it.

 The Final and completed photo after all of the editing

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading and watching the process I went through on editing this image. I am really happy with this and is one of my personal favorites. Not everyone will like it and that’s perfectly okay! We all have different tastes and I enjoy seeing how other people create their photos, even if I see the image going in a different direction. That’s the beautiful thing about Art, it’s all subjective and we create to fit what we see in our own minds.

I’d love to hear what you think about the image itself and my process.  Better yet, if you downloaded the files and followed along or created your own version, post a link so I can check it out!


And the Winner of the 20″x30″ Metal Print is…

Congratulations Al Dee Sollinger!! 

You are the winner of the Metal Print Giveaway. All you have to do now is get in touch with me to let me know what photo you want and where to ship it! You can email me via the form on this site or directly at zach@zblackwood.com

I want to thank everyone for their entries, the help of spreading the word and above all else the very kind compliments from everyone.  Definitely made my day and made this worth while!  Perhaps there will be another one down the road as well.

For those who did not win, thank you again for entering and prints are still for sale, at newly reduced prices over on www.zlbphotography.com.  There is a completely automated process where you can choose various sizes and prints such as Metal, Canvas and prints on a beautiful lustre paper.  If there are other mediums, sizes and more custom options needed, don’t hesitate to get in touch with me and we can work something out!

If you want to keep up with my latest work, you can keep an eye here on this site and blog or follow me on the social networks listed.  I seem to be most active on G+ but do generally share all the “good” work everywhere!


Enter to win a 20×30 Metal print of your…

Ever wanted to see what a metal print looks like on your wall?  Now’s your chance to win a huge 20″x30″ metal print of your choice!!

This give-a-way will be running from today, March 19th through the end of the month Sunday March 31st ending at midnight PST. The winner will be announced on April 1st. No, this is *not* a trick, this is a real free give-a-way for a beautiful metal print that will add a great decoration piece to any home.

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below on this post with a link to where I can follow you on any social network! be sure to share a link to this give-a-way as well.  It’s that simple!  Be sure to include a name since I can’t award this prize to “anonymous”

You can find a share button at the bottom of this post or copy the link here

If you are the winner, you can choose any one of my pictures that you’d like. To browse a good selection of my photographs, CLICK HERE.  The pictures are not limited to what’s on that page. If you find a photo of mine that is not on that page, let me know and we can use that one!

Even if you don’t win, you can visit my purchase page here if you find one you’d like to order.

You can follow me on most social networks, and who knows when I’ll be having another one of these!

Follow me with the links below!

I have been made aware of a couple issues when trying to comment from a mobile device.  At this time I am not sure what is causing it or if it’s something that can even be fixed on my end, but I am looking into it.  The problem seems to be on iOS devices when using the Safari Browser, and also on some Android devices when using the stock browser. It does work when using the Chrome mobile browser.  

When you attempt to make a comment and click the “Post Comment” button, a small window should appear asking you to enter your name, email and website (optional), or allow you to login with Facebook, Google etc….  The issue is when that window does not appear. Disabling popups doesn’t appear to make a difference as it’s not truly a new window.  If at all possible, try a different browser and see if it works, or of course using a laptop/desktop will work too.  If you are having the issue with non-stock browsers, let me know! The more information, the better.

The Fine Print

This contest is open to U.S. and Canadian residents only.  If you are announced as the winner, you will have 72 hours to make contact with me. I will do my due diligence in trying to contact the winner as well, but if we fail to do so a new winner will be chosen. 


Help Portrait Oregon 2012

Another year of Help Portrait!  What a great way to give back to the community and make a lot of people very happy.  We expanded to 3 locations this year instead of the previous 2. The cities we held events in were:

  • Newport
  • Waldport
  • Lincoln City

We were able to serve 370 people this year!!

At the first location I attended, we were able to serve a good number of families.  We had two photography stations and two print stations setup so things ran rather smoothly.  We were able to spend some quality time talking with these families and getting to hear their stories.  The majority of these families had never had a family portrait taken and they were so excited to have one taken.  There’s no way to describe the feeling that you get when you hand them their portrait and seeing the joy on their face.

 One of our stations at the smaller location this year. That's me taking the first initial shot where they hold up a card with their name and a number we provide to keep things organized on the computer.
One of our stations at the smaller location this year. That’s me taking the first initial shot where they hold up a card with their name and a number we provide to keep things organized on the computer.
 The parents wanted a shot of their two little boys and this is the one that they picked to take home with them!  They slowly started to tip over to camera right and we were able to capture these great expressions before having to intervene! Don't worry, no one took a tumble.
The parents wanted a shot of their two little boys and this is the one that they picked to take home with them!  They slowly started to tip over to camera right and we were able to capture these great expressions before having to intervene! Don’t worry, no one took a tumble.

Here’s a couple stories we were told when talking with a few of the families recorded by the volunteers at the event.

A mother and her kids came in a bit later on in the day. Sort of unlike the others, they have had some family portraits taken, but not by a professional, and years ago. In recent years, the father in the family would not allow them to have pictures taken. Since that time, he had left the family. The mother was just so happy and excited they were now able to go and get some awesome family photo’s. After seeing them printed, you could just see the joy in her eyes when looking at the pictures and her kids. A real family photo that they can keep forever!

 The story to the right goes along with these two great people!
The story to the right goes along with these two great people!

An older couple, together for a few years now, were so much fun. They kept making fun of eachother and how they looked in a very playful way. You could tell that they were in love and really adored eachother. I have a thing for old couples. No idea why, but it’s just plain awesome to see that so late in life. Neither of these two have had a picture taken together apart from their cell phones. We were able to provide them with a couple pictures that they were surprised how happy with them they were.

 Here's the boy on his 5th birthday holding his little sister!
Here’s the boy on his 5th birthday holding his little sister!

A younger mom and her kids came in and it happened to be her sons 5th birthday! They also have never had a family portrait done. The mother wanted a picture of them, and then one of just the two kids. After snagging a couple cute pictures of the kids, we asked the boy what this meant to him. He told us “this is special to have a picture with my sister”. How awesome is that?!

We provide some snacks and coloring books for the kids as well. We are considering expanding more options to keep people entertained while waiting such as a Photobooth or more organized games for the kids. Always looking to improve upon the experience for everyone involved.

 Our print station for one of the locations. We had two monitors setup for much easier viewing when the families come over to pick out their favorite pictures.
Our print station for one of the locations. We had two monitors setup for much easier viewing when the families come over to pick out their favorite pictures.

It was another fantastic year.  You walk away with such a great feeling that even the following Monday… yes Monday, there’s an extra spring in your step.  I strongly encourage everyone to find some way to give back and help those in need. Help-Portrait is a small way of doing so, providing a service many people have never been able to receive for any number of reasons.  Find a location near you, they occur year round all over the place. If there isn’t one near by, get one started and start looking for volunteers right now!  You don’t need to be a photographer to participate in these either.  Just need a good attitude and a desire to give back.  If you are into photography, a bit timid, or anything, this is a fantastic way to get some help from quality professionals in a controlled, relaxed and fun atmosphere.

If you want to see some more behind the scenes shots you can check out the gallery by clicking here. Help Portrait 2012.  If you want to visit the local Help Portrait page for this area you can visit  Help Portrait Oregon

Feel free to comment below or send me any questions you may have about our location, this event or anything at all.