Category Archives: digital photography

Blake Rudis Zone System Express 4.0 Review

Take your photo processing to the next level

It’s a constantly evolving process to improve my workflow. Blake Rudis created a great system that allows me to achieve great results in an efficient and improved method. The Blake Rudis Zone System Express 4.0 allows me to use tools in Photoshop 2018 in an optimal way.

Blake’s system is a workhorse that delivers consistent results every time. The system is more than just a Photoshop plug-in. It comes complete with examples and the theory behind the various options. The lessons are designed to be used from the beginning to the end. The lessons are complete, concise, and easy to understand.

There is a broad array of tools to assist you with achieving your artistic vision for your images. Many of them are useful tools. Blake’s ZSE 4.0 provides a solid foundation towards achieving your artistic vision.

Calla lilies in bloom

Calla lilies in bloom

The above photograph was made several years ago but never completed until I used Blake’s ZSE 4.0 in post-production. The System is an essential part of my workflow. If you want to take your work to the next level, I recommend ZSE 4.0.

keep it moving

“Life is short, wear tropical shirts.” ~ Marc Lampe

Sand fences, Seabrook Island, South Carolina

Sand fences, Seabrook Island, South Carolina

Let’s take a quick look at some of the things that I’ve done recently, some of the things I’m working on, and some of the things I want to do.  Barely a sentence into the post and I already need a sidebar comment.

Sidebar: If you are one of the language police and think that I could have found a better term than “things” then you should think of a more suitable word and mentally substitute it wherever needed.  For that matter, if at any point in this post you think I should have used different language or could have constructed a better sentence or could have written more concisely, please just substitute your “improvements” where needed.  Think of it as me helping you keep your skills sharp.  My gift to you.

When I first started writing this post, my cursor was not visible.  It may be a small thing but it’s disorienting when I don’t know where the letter will appear when I type.  It’s back now and I feel a lot better.  Technically, that could have been a sidebar statement but you can overdo the sidebar if you aren’t careful.  Not you specifically but “you” in a more collective sense.

At the beginning of this month (June 2010 if you happen to read this at some later point in time) I took a trip to South Carolina.  Specifically I stayed in a lovely place on Seabrook Island with a view of the ocean.  Prior to leaving for the trip, I entered five photographs in the 2010 Annual Photography Competition at the Gadsden Museum of Art.  The rules of the competition required the entries to be in simple black frames and is the entry was matted, the mat had to be plain white.  They also required an electronic copy of the photograph as it was before it was processed to insure that people were being honest.  The photographs also had to be taken within the last three years.  For the first time, they added a classification for “professional photographers” which is what I chose, if you’re wondering.  Even though I am a harsh critic of my own work, I think I entered five strong photographs for the competition/exhibition.  According to the literature from the Gadsden Museum of Art, the exhibition will be from June 14 through July 24, 2010.

The trip to Seabrook Island was just what I needed, both for relaxation and for a new environment to photograph.  Over the course of my life, I have probably been to the beach in excess of fifty times.  Those trips were to the Gulf Coast, so this was my first visit to a beach on the East Coast and the Atlantic Ocean.  Adjacent to Seabrook Island is Kiawah Island.  Any attempt I could make to describe the beauty of the area would fall woefully short.  However, I have a large number of photographs (most of which have not been processed) that will help convey some of the natural beauty of that area.  The photographs that will be available for public viewing will be in a new gallery (Coastal Photography) on my photography site.  I plan to return and stay longer.  It felt like home.  My plans are to write a post about the experience in South Carolina but for now, just know that it was a beautiful place and I enjoyed my time there.

It should be noted that this post is the first one written from my new home office.  It’s still a work in progress but I can actually work in my own space.  For the first time, my printer and my computer are located in the same room and are connected directly to each other.  The previous arrangement had my desk and computer on the ground floor and my printer upstairs and I was connected via a shared connection through my notebook computer.  It may seem like an obvious solution but trying to get my own space in the house was not an easy task, at least not in my world.

The improvements to the photography site and the blog are not 100% complete.  Stay tuned for more enhancements.  The changes to my Twitter page are complete.  I welcome you to subscribe to all of my sites.

Last year I photographed the 4th of July fireworks display in Chelsea, AL.  This year, maybe a different location and hopefully improved results.  Since we are on the topic of summer activities, it is a great time to get fresh, locally grown fruits and vegetables.  Pepper Place Saturday Market is a wonderful place to buy them if you live in the Birmingham, AL area.  For those of you that don’t know me, I love fresh tomatoes.  OK, maybe it’s bigger than that, more like an addiction, an obsession.

My tradition is to close each post with a music link.  It’s not the link that’s the thing (yeah I used the word “thing” again), it’s more sharing a mood and maybe new music for some of you.  This post, there’s no link but I still want to share song recommendations.  Summer is a time to kick back and relax.  From the late, great Otis Redding, three timeless songs, “Try a Little Tenderness”, “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, and of course “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”.

every day is earth day

“Be the change you want to see in the world.” ~ Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

On Thursday morning, I will be driving to Cherokee, NC to attend a NANPA Spring Regional Event.  The location is in the Great Smoky Mountains.  From the advance material for the event, the photo tours will be in a variety of locations and elevations.  A change of scenery will be good for both my spirit and my photography.  The views will be spectacular whether I am at the higher elevations or in the lush valleys with beautiful flowing streams.

It would be easy to go into descriptions of those areas, but that’s what I hope to do with the photographs from the trip.  My challenge is going to be to take the time to “see” what is around me and try to capture the beauty with the camera.  Taking a lot of photos is a solid practice but being selective about what to shoot is key.  Some basic guidelines I try to follow on every shoot include:

  1. Be aware of what is in the frame, many great shots can be ruined by an object that wasn’t noticed
  2. Look for interesting perspectives, don’t shoot everything from a standing position, don’t hesitate to sit on the ground or move about to find an interesting perspective
  3. Pay attention to the edges of the frame, sure you can crop later but try to avoid taking photos without regard for the edges because you can crop later, recompose the shot if possible
  4. Notice the separation of objects in the frame, sometimes a step to one side or another, or changing your angle can make all the difference in how the objects in the shot relate to each other
  5. Bracket each shot, what you see with your eye and what the camera records are often not the same
  6. Shoot a scene in a variety of aperture settings, variances in depth of field can be subtle but very important to nail the shot you want
  7. Remember you are painting with light, bright and dark areas can present some difficult exposure issues, be prepared to make adjustments if possible, in some cases you might need to note a location and shoot it at a different time of day
  8. Be considerate, if you are with a group, don’t hog a great spot or obscure the view of others around you, polite goes a long way
  9. Have fun, your feelings are transferred to your images, take time to find the “wow” and shoot that

Note to self: The above list is for you to remember, don’t get out there and just start snapping away.

The short list above is probably included in recommended practices in many photography articles and publications.  Every now and then, I need to remind myself about the basics.  Is the above list all encompassing?  Of course not, I hit some high spots.  Photography as an art involves paying attention to detail.  It’s easy to become overwhelmed in a new location and forget the basics.  It’s also easy to become so comfortable with a location and forget the basics.

reflection of spring at Turkey Creek

reflection of spring at Turkey Creek

In the shameless promotion section of this post, some of my work at Gerry Daniel Photography was fortunate enough to have a feature that was shown on “Wake Up Alabama” this morning.  My sincere thanks to Rick Jackson for creating the feature, to the team at “Wake Up Alabama” for the air time, and to CBS 42, the local CBS affiliate in Birmingham, Alabama for allowing Rick to produce the segment.  It was filmed at Turkey Creek Nature Preserve, a land tract that is part of Alabama’s Forever Wild Program.  There are a number of these beautiful natural areas that have been designated as “Forever Wild” and there is a list of others that are being considered.  Alabama has an amazing variety of terrain, wildlife, plant life, and unique ecosystems.  We have abundant waterways throughout Alabama.  Keeping the waterways fresh and clean is an ongoing effort by a lot of dedicated people throughout Alabama.  Other photographs from Turkey Creek can be seen in the Turkey Creek Nature Preserve gallery.

Let’s go with something that has a good rhythm. The song is “Tightrope” by Yeasayer from the album “Dark Was the Night” which was released in February 2009, features a variety of artists, and will benefit the Red Hot Organization – an international charity dedicated to raising funds and awareness for HIV and AIDS.


“Don’t confuse fame with success. Madonna is one, Helen Keller is the other” ~ Erma Bombeck

Stagnation is overly harsh and doesn’t accurately describe my recent struggles with photography.  Restless and confined are probably closer to what I have been feeling.  If you add my usual amount of self-criticism, throw in a number of loose ends as I try to learn how to get my photography off the ground,  the cascading effect presents a challenge.  No doubt, I will find myself in this spot a number of times if I want to keep evolving as a person and an artist.

Reader: “Thanks for sharing, Gerry.  That was so touching, informative, and inspiring.”

Me: “Relax, I could have written that opening paragraph a lot of different ways.  It’s my blog, I get to do the setup.”

Reader: “Yeah well, I’m the reader and that whole stall thing you do where you fill space on the blog post makes my butt tired.”

Me: “Your butt’s always tired.”

through the windows

through the windows

Yesterday afternoon, I took some steps to change my regular, obsessive, structured process of shooting.  Wait for it…I shot everything hand held, no tripod, no cable release, no mirror in lock-up mode, and not preset bracketing.  Take that!  I was out there, totally winging it, walking the edge of the razor.  I know what you’re thinking, “What a rebel.  Did crowds gather to watch the wildness of that activity?”

All I can say is that you can expect more renegade shooting.  Deal with it.

Nature photography will always be important for me and will always be part of my work.  As I have been going through the redesign project for Gerry Daniel Photography, Gerry Daniel Photography Blog, and my Twitter account (renegade_photog), I am moving towards a broader description of my work.  The sites are being redesigned through the services of photoKandy and the project is going very well.  Branding, a professional site design, and SEO (search engine optimization) are important elements to any business and the new design will go a long way towards helping me in those areas.

textures, shapes, and wrinkles

textures, shapes, and wrinkles

The song for this post is titled “Fame” from the album titled “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings” by Citizen Cope.  If you are someone that enjoys a good song with good lyrics, this one could be for you.  If not, then it’s for me because I like it, a lot.  I am not now and may never be famous, fame isn’t really a goal.  The song deals more with the factors in our society (America in particular) that focus on fame.

son’s gonna rise

“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” ~Confucius (551-479 BC)

It’s easy to get caught up in the details and a lot of time can be consumed by details.  Monday morning was the last time I took a photograph.  Luckily, I took quite a few so I have some images that have been waiting for me.

baby blues

baby blues

Work continues on the face lift for my online sites.  Photography is like any other business, you have to adapt, you need to be sure you have a solid foundation, and you need a plan for where you are going.  If you don’t plan for change, the chance of survival becomes more difficult.

Editor’s note: In another life, in another job, it was not unusual for someone to note that I often state the obvious.  I plead guilty but to state the obvious, you have to at least be able to see the obvious, that aspect is lost on a lot of people.

This is a song that I like a lot from an artist that I enjoy.  The title of the song is “Son’s Gonna Rise” from the album titles “The Clarence Greenwood Recordings” by Citizen Cope.  He has a little help on the song by a guitarist that you may have heard, a guy named Carlos Santana.  I’m trying to bridge the gap between the more current music and some of the older music (Trixie, I heard you).

always like this

“The reason people find it so hard to be happy is that they always see the past better than it was, the present worse than it is, and the future less resolved than it will be.” ~ Marcel Pagnol (1895-1974)

dew on the pansies

dew on the pansies

Monday (4/5/2010) was a nice opportunity to capture some early splashes of color in the early morning light.  Many of the flowers were coated in a fine mist of morning dew.  Processing a photograph isn’t difficult or particularly time consuming.  Part of my regular work flow when I am shooting is to bracket each shot.  My camera is set for three shots in a set.  In situations with an abundance of light, I’ve found that when my DSLR meters at zero EV (exposure value), it can often be overexposed and the highlights are blown (bright white or light areas with no detail).  My first shot is at -1 EV, then -2EV, then at 0 EV.  In addition, I find it tough to know exactly which depth of field (DoF) is going to be the shot I like the most.  Depending on what I am shooting, I will know what I want in focus and what I want out of focus (this is DoF for the anti-jargon crowd), but subtle differences can make a differences in a particular shot.  So that means that I will shoot at various settings for the aperture to manipulate the DoF.  All of this means that it’s common for me to have 12 shots of the exact same scene.

ADHD alert: At this point, the non-photographer and/or easily bored person has either stopped reading, fallen asleep, skipped down to the photograph, or is clicking the song link.  Yeah, I know but there’s a lot of traffic in my head.

The photograph (shown below), before processing, is a very crisp, clear image.  Somehow, I saw it more as a painting and went for that look.  It’s my photograph so I get to choose how I want to present it.

flowers painted by the morning sun

flowers painted by the morning sun

In all the rush of recent weeks, I had forgotten to add a member link to the Alabama Rivers Alliance.  I am proud to support their efforts and be part of the group.  A permanent link has now been added to the blog for that organization.

The song for the post is titled “Always Like This” from the album “I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose” by Bombay Bicycle Club.  Give it a chance, it’s a fun song.


“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf.” ~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

The weather is getting warmer, flowers are blooming, and spring fever is everywhere.  Well, pollen is everywhere too, but there’s always a trade-off.  The early morning light is one of my favorite times to shoot.  The dew this morning was like a fine mist, no large droplets.  This photograph of pansies will give you an idea of how it looked.  Click on the photo to see the image in a larger size with more detail.

pansies covered in morning dew

pansies covered in morning dew

The featured song for this post is “Shadows” from the album “Still Night, Still Light” by Au Revoir Simone.  Go ahead, listen to the song, you know you are curious.

A new edition of the Gerry Daniel Photography newsletter was sent out last night.  If you would like to receive a copy of the email, just let me know and I will send it to you.  You can sign up for the newsletter by clicking the “Subscribe To Newsletter” link on my photography or by clicking the link in this sentence.  The trick is that if you want the one that was sent yesterday, you will have to let me know.  Otherwise, I will just think you are a new subscriber and you will get all of the editions that follow.

Speaking of subscriptions, please subscribe to this blog.