Steal Nothing But Photographs

There be Whales Here! (Juneau, AK):

"Captain, There be whales here"!  Maybe it's the nerd in me but every time I see reference to a hump-back whale I think of Mr. Scott declaring that two  whales were beamed aboard the Enterprise in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  The plot where Mr. Spock and the rest of the team race back in time to capture some whales to keep an alien probe from destroying earth.  If that doesn't make you think that these amazing creatures are important, then just go on a Whale Watching Excursion with Juneau Alaska outfitters "Gastineau Guiding".  After an awesome rainforest hike with biologist/naturalist "Van" who had some serious Alaska wilderness Kung Fu, we boarded a custom build whale watching boat with our guide Lindsey and Captain Scott (Ironic, I know) who got us in the thick of things with Whales, Sea Lions, Bald Eagles, and more Whales.  Here are the images I captured on the excursion.  Don't forget to click on the images to see them full size on your monitor!

The hike began in the wilderness where we go up close and personal with Alaska's rainforest.

Alaskan Rainforest (D3S, ISO800, f/6.3, 1/100th seconds, 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

We saw some awesome Flora/Fauna and learned all about its uses by the First Nations people of Alaska from Van:

Juneau Flora/Fauna (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/500th second @ 14mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

The beach-combing with Van and Lindsey allowed us to enjoy the Juneau shore:

Juneau Shore Pano (D3s, ISO1600, f/2.8, 1/8000th second @24mm through Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8)

Then after a short bus ride to a loading ramp we boarded the boat to find some whales.  Lindsey was amazingly knowledgeable about anything living in the waters around Juneau and made the ride interesting while Scott did some whale recon on the radio to the other boats to find some whale action.

We found these lazy sea-lions on the way out, where we learned the difference between sea-lions and seals.  The eagle was a nice touch hired by Gastineau  Guiding to make the scene more "Majestic" :).

Bed and Buoy (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 320mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Then we got to see what we came for, humpback whales galore!  At one point when I was looking through the D3s at about 320mm I saw at least 4 blows from whales.  It was awesome!

Flukes on the Horizon (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @ 150mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

There was one little calf who I think Lindsey referred to as "Smudge" because of the smear on the underside of his flukes that spent as much time out of the water breaching as he did under water.  An amazing show!

Breaching (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1000th second @340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Whale Dancing (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/800th second @ 110mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Belly Flop (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/1250th second @ 180mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

Flukes Galore (D3s, ISO800, f/4.8, 1/640th second @ 340mm through Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8 with 1.7x adapter)

It was an amazing adventure made even better by Lindsey, Van, and Scott of Gastineau Guiding and thanks to Disney Cruise Lines.

Until the next image theft,



Photogs Note:

Shooting whales is a lot like shooting action sports.  The trick is to keep your lens zoomed close to maximize your field of view and keep both eyes open to expand it even more.  When you see some action, be ready to zoom all the way in so you can capture the barnacles on their fins!  I keep track of my shutter speed while in aperture priority (A mode on Nikon) because I want to keep my depth of field as shallow as possible.  It's probably not a big deal on a cloudy day like this one but on a sunny day you could end up with a camera at f/8 or greater if you let the camera adjust aperture.  Not a huge deal when on the open ocean but this photog isn't as religious about keeping my sensor clean so at f/8 I end up cleaning a lot of dust spots off the photo which sucks.  However, you could easily put it in shutter priority (S mode on Nikon).  Either way keep your shutter speed above 1/500th of a second because you don't want any breaching whales to be blurry.  I also make sure that I put the lens in VR mode if you have it and set it for "Active" since you're on a pitching boat.  

All that being said, don't ruin the moment by spending the whole time looking through the viewfinder.  What I missed out on while getting these shots is seeing Julie and the boys enjoying the moment.  Something that really is more important than capturing images.  I screwed up but you don't have to.  We photographers sometimes forget that we need to spend some time watching the people you love enjoy the experience that you have provided too.  It's not all about getting the shot, you have to live and love a little too....


Big Island Hawaii (Green Beach):

If you ever get used to south point and decide to leave, you can hike 3+ miles up the seashore, through dunes, into sandblasting 30mph winds, and arrive at the most amazing beach. Green Beach at South Point (Ka Lae) is one of two green beaches in the world and the Grants have visited one! The other is in the Galapagos and is a place that is on our bucket list.  I'll get straight to the images....

This is without a doubt one of my favorite images from the trip:

You gotta Click Here to see this baby full size!

Green Beach (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, HDR, through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)


Its hard to tell from the image but the entire beach is nestled into a bowl of some type of Volcanic Sandstone.  You can see the green of the beach (From the Olivine in the sand) if you look to the left side middle of the photograph.  Its hard to tell from the wide angle of the image but the beach is about 150' down from the top of the sand dunes.  You climb down this natural stairwell in the wall of the beach to get to the waters edge.


The Natural Stairwell (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, 1/250, ISO125 through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)

The Grant Boyz weren't really happy about the hike in.  I hiked at least one mile and climbed about 150' of elevation with Wyatt on my shoulders.  At one point JD was walking with a scowl on his face and both hands were in fists.  I recommend walking in and riding out so that you can see the interesting features of the shore on the way there.  I think you can tell from the image below that the Grant Boyz "Let it Go" and had fun!

Boyz on Green (D3s, ISO125, f/5.6 @ 14mm, 1/500th sec, through Nikkor 14-24mm Lens)


The current washing out of the bowl of the beach is pretty strong so I wouldn't let the kids swim here.  This is pretty much at the end of the world here and I didn't want to risk someone getting into trouble.  Get sucked out of here in a rip current and your next stop is Antarctica!

I cannot wait to steal an image of the other Green beach in the Galapagos!




Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Image Restoration):

I grabbed an old army image of my Uncle Bill Wayne off of facebook and restored it.  He was killed by mortar fire in Vietnam years before I was born and I never had the pleasure of meeting him.  Everything I have heard about him has been that he was an amazing young man that served his country with the same passion and commitment that he had for his family.  I figured that such an amazing young man that was taken from us too soon in the prime of his life deserved a picture that was not weathered and aged.  It was an honor to restore his photograph.  Spending an hour with him at my PC made me feel as though I almost know him, even though we never met.

God Bless you Uncle Bill Wayne.

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Restored

Uncle Bill Wayne Grant (Fallen Hero / Paratrooper) Before

Photoshop is such an amazing tool!

I hope you enjoy!


High Speed Train Window Self Portrait:

I was shooting one of the L Trains while in Chicago and when it went by I saw a brief flash of my nuclear green shirt in the window.  I decided that on the next pass of the train I was going to try and capture my portrait in the window of the train.  Obviously setting the D3S at a shutter of about 1/2000th and blasting away at 11 frames per second would be pretty easy.  However, to get that shutter speed in this low of light would have required a super high and grainy ISO.  The solution was to pan on the train window as it was going by.  Here is the result of the effort....

Train Window Self Portrait

Train Window Self Portrait (D3S, ISO800, 1/30th, f/2.8 @ 56mm through Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8)

Click on it to see it full size on your monitor.  I'm the ugly dude with the green shirt holding the camera.  Kate and Wyatt were collateral's in my image!  🙂


Until next time...



Hiking, Boyz, and Black & Whites:

I was born way too late.  I think black and white images have a certain character to them.  Add the texture of tree bark, rocks, and sky and I absolutely love them.  The boyz and I went hiking today and I managed to steal some portraits of them along the way. 

Balance Beam

Balance Beam (D3S, ISO 400, 1/160th, f/5.6@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)


Cliffside (D3S, ISO400, 1/60th, f/6.3@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

JD on the Trail

JD on the Trail (D3S, ISO200, 1/4000th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Natural Bench

Natural Bench (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4@50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

Tree Throne

Tree Throne (D3S, ISO200, 1/1250th, f/1.4, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

And of course, the gratuitous color shot just to remind me that it wasn't 50 years ago....


Blow! (D3s, ISO400, 1/640th, f/3.5, 50mm through Nikkor 50mm f/1.4D)

All images were shot with ambient light and converted to black and white using Nik Silver Efex 2 with minor sharpening and vignette added in the new Lightroom 4.  Make sure you click on the images to see them full screen on your monitor.

Photogs Note:

Incidentally, this is the first time I've bolted the old Nikkor 50mm f/1.4 prime onto the D3S.  After shooting exclusively through my new Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8 for the last 2 or 3 months, I'm a little disappointed in the sharpness of the 50mm wide open. There may be a 24 or 35mm f/1.4 prime in my future! I hear it is RAZOR sharp.  If your gonna have an f/1.4 lense you gotta shoot it there.  If it doesn't make you happy, UPGRADE!  Dang Nikon Acquisition Syndrome is hard to cure!


Naughty Grant Boys (Warning – Christmas Card Spoiler):

The axiom of being a photographer is that there is this personal expectation to one-up yourself each Christmas with a more cute and creative image for the annual Christmas Card.  Added to that is the expectation from everyone else that the image contains a picture of the Grant boyz.  Here is this years attempt at both! 

Naughty Grant Boyz

Naughty Grant Boyz (Merry Christmas 2011)

Merry Christmas and Enjoy!

Warning: Chemical Engineering / Environmental Satire:

I know that many of you tree-hugger types may find this image offensive and it is still true that bio-fuels and "renew-ables" are still all the rage in Washington when it comes to energy source selection but I decided to go old school with this years Christmas photo and get back to the energy solution basics with good old fashioned COAL.  The kind that Naughty kids from all over the globe have been getting for centuries.  Giving the boyz a mason jar of Trans-Esterified Soy Bean Oil (Biodiesel) just didn't seem to fit the tradition of the season.

Please be warned if you decide to give your naughty kids COAL for Christmas with the expectation that you will save a few dollars on the Holiday budget you may be in for a surprise.  When the democratic run EPA found out that I was doing this shoot in a Non-Attainment area and a metropolitan city, I was notified by certified letter that I had to submit an Air Permit application to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources stating that I would not exceed the maximum concentration of CO2, NOx, SOx, Particulates, Ozone, Organics, Lead, and other heavy metals emissions as defined by the NAAQS.  The consulting fee's alone required to read and understand the local regulations and the expertise and software required to calculate the emissions plume exceeded my intended holiday budget by almost $200,000.  Plus, I was going to have to get an indentures waver from my sub-division for the 150' tall addition to my chimney because of the low stack temperatures required to meet said low NOx and energy consumption guidelines.  This massive stack is necessary to insure that my emissions would not endanger any tax paying Missouri voters and guarantee that they end up in Illinois where they are far too broke from enthusiastically preparing a jail cell for their past Governor  to afford the bureaucracy necessary to deal with such environmental shenanigans. 

Thus, I just settled for the above quick image of the Grant Boyz and had a HazMat team whisk the offending materials off to the closest membrane lined hazardous materials landfill.  Even though the materials were mined from the ground in the first place........


First Day of First for my First:

Today was the first day of first grade for my first born.  I walked in behind with the intent to steal an image and when he noticed I was following, he turned and said, "Dad are you coming in because I'm NOT in Kindergarten anymore".  My first born is growing up.  Seems like just yesterday that he was a baby, laying on my chest snoring away fast asleep.....

First Day of First

First Day of First (D3S, ISO200, f/2.5, 1/400th, through 50mm f/1.4 Nikkor)

I captured this image in the shadow in front of the school with some soft light falling on him from the sun behind a cloud.  I thought his nuclear blue shirt would look pretty cool with a little coffee colored sepia in Silver Efex Pro 2 so I ran it through there and added a touch of vignette.  Sharpened and posted with Adobe Lightroom. 

Remember, you can click on the image and it will enlarge to fit your screen....



Grant 50th Wedding Anniversary:

We had a wonderful celebration in Kansas City this past weekend celebrating my parents "Golden Anniversary".  They renewed their vows and committed their lives to each other for another 50 years.  There was plenty of family and friends in attendance and fun was had by all.  Click on the image below to see the rest of the images.

The Renewal of Vow's

The Renewal of Vow's

It was a wonderful thing to see my parents marry again and a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life.  Not many people get to witness such a momentous milestone and two peoples lives.  I imagine that they were both just as anxious and nervous as they were when they were just kids getting married.  One thing had obviously changed however, their love is much deeper now after being together in goodtimes and bad, sickness and health, poverty and wealth.......

It was an honor to get to capture their images during this event and a greater honor to be their son for 43 of those years.  Admittingly, I think I may have been a contributor to a few of those goodtimes and bad!  Now if I could have kept Dad in his tux long enough to do a portrait session with him.  Thirty minutes after the ceremony he was outta that thing.  I'll have to get them together this fall for an outdoor portrait session and everyone is much more comfortable.

Until next time.....


Classic Jim and Irma (Photo Restoration):

When I was in KC last weekend, I spent several hours digging through some old photographs that my mom and dad had stashed in a storage bin under their bed.  My mission was to find some old photographs that I could scan for use in their 50th wedding anniversary invitation.  Although most people have a wedding picture of their parents, my mom and dad were special.  They didn't mess around with a typical wedding.  They were so in love that they got married along side the road next to a 4H sign.  Although a very cool story, not so cool for photographic memorabilia.  I did manage to scan the following image which was in pretty bad shape.  The photograph had been cut down by my mom and carried in her wallet for over a dozen years.

Lovebirds (Circa 1960)

Lovebirds (Circa 1960)

Here is the original image that I had to work with.  As you can see, very faded, a lot of blemishes, and a poorly composed leaning building in the background.

Jim and Irma (Lovebirds) - Original

Jim and Irma (Lovebirds) - Original

I also thought this image of my old man was pretty typical of a super-cool 21 year old in 1954.  Layed back swagger, cool car, cool hair, cool cuffed pants and all.....

Jim Cool (1954)

Jim Cool (1954)

Both images were scanned from a photograph that was less than 3" on its longest side.  Both were pretty faded and had numerous scratches.  I dropped them into Photoshop CS5 and used a combination of the healing brush, clone stamp, content aware fill, noise reduction, sharpening, curves to gain contrast, and added some duotone to keep it vintage.  I then exported it to On-Ones resize (The old Geniune Fractals) and upsized the images to 8" wide.  After that, a quick trip to Photoframe for a little edge jazz and they were ready to upload.  Here is the original Jim Cool I started with.

Jim Cool Original

Jim Cool Original

As you can see, photoshop is awesome for restoration of images.  Also, it should go without saying that I did NOT take the original images!  🙂



Photographic Assistants Birthday….

Friday was my lovely wife Julies birthday (I won't mention the age here out of fear of death) but I wanted to acknowlege it here since she still hasn't accepted my friend request in Facebook.  🙂  This December will be our 15th year in wedded bliss.

The Photo Assistant

The Photo Assistant

Happy Birthday Jules!

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Extreme Cycling – JD and Wyatt Style (Fun w/ One Light):

The boyz and I hit a local parking lot on Friday afternoon and I think I rode about 3 miles in a 200' x 200' space.  It was pretty fun.  We raised JD's training wheels in preparation for his first solo and are working on getting Wyatt used to his "Big Boy Bike" so we can start hitting a few exercise paths instead of church and office parking lots.  I had the camera in tow and managed to steal the following images.

Wyatt's Ride (D3S, ISO200, -2/3EV, f/2.8 @ 1/6400sec Through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

Wyatt's Ride (D3S, ISO200, -2/3EV, f/2.8 @ 1/6400sec Through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

JD's Ride (D3S, ISO200, -1/3EV, f/2 @ 1/5000sec Through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

JD's Ride (D3S, ISO200, -1/3EV, f/2 @ 1/5000sec Through Nikkor 85mm f/1.4)

 I love Wyatt's "FOX Mountain Bike Gloves".  He is ready to rip some trails, when he finally ditches the big wheel and goes big boy bike all the way. 

Photog's Note:

I was shooting for some dramatic (I kick butt on my bike) kinda light.  I went with one SB-900 gelled with a full cut of CTO and locked it into a Photoflex Extra Small Octodome nxt and remote fired it with the new Pocket wizard mini TT1, Flex TT5, and AC3 controller.  The thing about these images for those of you who shoot flash is that the Sync is at 1/5000 and 1/6400 @ f/2.8 in BROAD DAYLIGHT!  That is absolutely unbelievable.  With the Nikon creative lighting system you are pretty much limited to 1/250 sec.  This shot would have been virtually impossible without the Hyper-Sync capability of the Pocketwizard Flex TT.  I can't wait to try this out on some high speed mountain bike action out on the trails!  I think the full cut of CTO was a little warm.  Nothing I cannot fix in photoshop but I left it as a reminder to use a 1/4 or 1/2 cut next time.  Enjoy!


Happy Valentines Day!

I hope everyone has a very Happy Valentines Day!  The following image is what you get when you ask a 3 year old boy to say, "I Love Girls!".....

Say, "I Love Girls"!

Say, "I Love Girls"!

Wyatt is such the little charmer....


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Best of Missouri 2010:

This weekend was the annual "Best of Missouri" and "Shaw Art Festival" at the Missouri Botanical Gardens.  As always it is an excuse for yours truly to eat all kinds of crap and take a few pictures along the way.  My personal favorites were the Merbs Bionic Apples, the Jalapeno Chedder Summer Sausage, and numerous samples of hand crafted cheeses etc.  This year I also had JD as my second shooter with the D80 to make sure that I didn't miss any opportunities to capture some images.  Since I find myself longing for the colors of fall and the tree's have just started to turn here in St. Louis, here are a few colorful substitutions for you....

D3S, ISO200, 1/1600th sec and  f/2.5, through a Nikkor 50mm.

D3S, ISO200, 1/1600th sec and f/2.5, through a Nikkor 50mm.

There were plenty of vendors selling virtually anything you could think of.  I thought this display of peppers was pretty cool.

D3S, ISO200, 1/250th and f/2.5 through a Nikkor 50mm

D3S, ISO200, 1/250th and f/2.5 through a Nikkor 50mm

Here is an image of JD doing his first fine art nudes shoot.  He loves the camera and has a very good eye for a little guy.  He is going to be a much better photographer than his dad if I can help it.

D3S, ISO 200, 1/1250th sec, f/2.8 through a Nikkor 50mm

D3S, ISO 200, 1/1250th sec, f/2.8 through a Nikkor 50mm

After 5 hours of running around like a wildman, I managed to finally catch Wyatt sitting still and managed to steal the following portrait.  I like the texture in the image.

D3S, ISO 200, 1/640th, and f/2 through the Nikkor 50mm

D3S, ISO 200, 1/640th, and f/2 through the Nikkor 50mm

I converted the above image using the new 64-bit version of Silver Efex Pro which was FINALLY released this week after waiting for over a year.  I'll close the images with one of my favorite features at the garden, the reflecting pond with the wonderfully colorful Chihuly globes floating among the lilly pads.

D3S, ISO200, 1/8000th sec, and f/1.4 through a Nikkor 50mm.

D3S, ISO200, 1/8000th sec, and f/1.4 through a Nikkor 50mm.

I never get tired of the colors and the contrast between the huge lilly pads and the blown glass.  They won't be out forever, once the cold hits, they will be put away for the winter.

Until the next image theft.  Enjoy!


Goin’ Fishin’ (Digital Fine Art):

I started out the morning with my 5 year old, a fishing pole, a fisheye lens, and a great sky in hopes of catching a few fish on "Day 3" of my vacation.  Two years ago, all it took to invoke a pirahna like frenzy in the pond behind my house was a small can of Green Giant whole kernel corn.  It's not so great these days.  Probably a bi-product of the frequent visits from the Herons and Painted Turtles that live here.  The bounty from today's outing was one very tiny two inch long Bluegill with the attitude of a Koho Salmon on a spawning run plus a little warm morning light, illuminating the location perfectly.

Goin Fishin (D3s, ISO 400, 1/1250sec, -1 2/3EV, f/22 through the 10.5mm Fisheye)

Goin' Fishin' (D3s, ISO 400, 1/1250sec, -1 2/3EV, f/22 through the 10.5mm Fisheye)

I would say that a happy 5 year old, a perfect morning, catching a fish, and stealing a fantastic fine art image was a quadruple score in my book.

Photographers Note:

When I saw this image develop in front of me, I knew that it was going to have to be a Sepia if I was going to capture the warmth of the image.  It was one of those pictures that you know will be special if you can find a way to NOT screw it up!  From experience, I also knew that the addition of a very mild application of Matt Nicolosi Firenze Textures, and some slight sharpening, curves, and vignette in photoshop would give me an heirloom quality fine art photo of my oldest boy.  There was NO attempt to get it right in the camera on this picture.  I would need a subtle bit of flash from the speedlight to do that, which was safely on the kitchen table 300 yards away.  The key here was to NOT blow out the sky.  "Please, do not blow out the sky" I said to myself.  I didn't take my eye away from the camera as I rolled the EV down to minus 1-2/3 to keep from blowing out that beautiful god sky we were blessed with this morning.  I cranked up the f/stop on the fisheye to f/22 not for depth of field but in an attempt to get that slight starburst of the sun that the fisheye is known for.  It is just barely visible if you look hard enough in the brightness of the sky. 

This is what I love about "Stealing" not only the perfect photograph but the perfect memory.  There is so much more to this passion than just a great image.  This obsession is about being in the right place to capture JD fiddling with his fishing reel instead of getting the same "Cheese" image I have captured so many times before.  If you look ever so slightly along the treeline reflection in the water, you can just make out the bobber, floating ever so softly on the ripples.  Similar to the relationship I have with such a fantastic little boy in my life.  I have to remember to be thankful that there are no rip tides or currents here, just tiny ripples.

Sorry for the blathering of a proud father....



Vintage Image Restorations (Grandpa Grant):

I took  on a few image restorations.  The first image was one of my grandfather sitting in some gardens somewhere.  The photographer (who is unknown) had inadvertently cut off the bottom of the frame, including grandpa's feet.  I resized the image and extended the bottom to add his foot back, cleaned up the minor damage to the print, sharpened the mildly soft photo, and saturated the colors.  Total restore time was about one hour.

Grandpa Grant (Before)

Grandpa Grant (Before)

Grandpa Grant (After)

Grandpa Grant (After)

The next image of my Aunt Mary Lee was in pretty tough shape as you can see.  I repaired the damage, added some contrast, sharpened and resized slightly.  I think it turned out pretty well considering the softness of the image and extent of damage.  These are the really fun ones to do.  Total restore time was about 2 hours.

Aunt Mary Lee (Before)

Aunt Mary Lee (Before)

Aunt Mary Lee (After)

Aunt Mary Lee (After)

The next image is my Uncle Morris Grant (Mary Lee's Husband) taking the checkered flag while racing dirt track.  This image was pretty easy to clean up since it really was a matter of repairing the minor damage, doing some noise reduction, sharpening, and adding vignette to add focus to the action.  Total restore time was about 15 minutes. 

Racer Morris (Before)

Racer Morris (Before)

Racer Morris (After)

Racer Morris (After)

All three images were processed with Adobe Lightroom, Photoshop CS5, Imagenomic Noiseware, and Nik Silver Efex.  I think the results were pretty good. 

If you have some old photo's that you would like to preserve, send 'em my way!