We are having a great time in Colorado! The weather has been spectacular, with a light dusting of snow on the mountains happening a couple of days ago. High temperatures have been in the 70’s and lows in the 30’s. We just finished the workshop for Group A, and Group B arrives this evening for more great adventures in magnificent Rocky Mountain National Park.
We have been through one heck of tough year and a half due to this pandemic. It has certainly been a nightmare for many of us, especially those of us who own and operate a small business that requires interaction with people, like mine.
The last thing we wanted was to see our COVID-19 numbers rising dramatically as they are today.
Different people are choosing to deal with this pandemic in different ways. For me, in MY business, I am always going to do what I can to respect the fact that we CAN make choices to help reduce the spread of this virus such as wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands, and get vaccinated. Disregarding these guidelines has led to greater spread of this virus and its continued mutations, and thus a greater burden on society, hospitals, individuals, and businesses. Therefore, the in-person photography classes I am currently offering require wearing masks when in my studio and we distance our tables apart. In our destination workshops, we are following CDC and local safety guidelines.
And I believe we are at a threshold where any NEW classes I add will have to be online classes only, at least until we see where this pandemic is going.
I am hoping my small business can make it through this latest round of pandemic crisis. We’re most definitely feeling the impact on our business now. If you know anyone who wants to learn more about photography or they need a photographer, please send them my way!
For my upcoming classes that still have openings:
Online Interactive Course: Photography Essentials Levels 1+2 Class Start your photography learning here! Or take this course as a refresher on the important fundamentals of photography. Learn important photography essentials! Up to 9 hours of learning in this interactive online webinar course! Monday/Wednesday Evenings November 1,3,8,10 2021 – Four Sessions SAVE $40 IF YOU REGISTER BY OCTOBER 1ST!
Photography 201 – Expand Your Photography Skills This is a sequel to my Photography 101 class. Currently it is scheduled as an in-person class but we may be switching this to be online instead. Beginning Nov2nd. If you are interested, sign up online! Just note that this may be switched to become an online class instead of in person!
2021 Fall Photography Fundamentals Workshop This is an expanded version of Photography 101 held at a beautiful resort ranch in the Texas Hill Country on the Guadalupe River! The group size is small and our classroom space allows excellent social distancing and we’ll be doing a lot of fun photography around this beautiful ranch! This is a GREAT escape from the COVID-19 mess in Austin! October 27-31, 2021.
Texas Bird Photography Ranch Workshop Sharpen your photography skills in bird photography at a wildlife ranch near Uvalde, TX. Our group size is limited to just 5 photographers. Only one space left. Sunday-Tuesday October 17-19, 2021.
I sure thought we were getting beyond this pandemic, but it looks like the best we can do is deal with what happens and do our best at helping keep each other safe. PLEASE LET ME KNOW IF YOU WOULD BE INTERESTED IN MY OFFERING MORE ONLINE CLASSES AND WHAT YOU’RE INTERESTED IN! Contact me at email@example.com
One aspect I have loved the most about photography really goes beyond the picture-taking. I have loved the experience… An excuse to get up at 4am to head up to the side of a mountain to wait for the sun to rise on a new day… To encounter wildlife splashing in a lake… To explore and wander and discover some of the beauty of this amazing world. Equally meaningful to me has been the experience of meeting so many wonderful people who also have a love of photography.
I have loved the adventure of it all. If you have lost your inspiration in your photography, I encourage to focus your attention to those things that excite you and you find rewarding. We aren’t all nature photographers. We aren’t all portrait photographers. What we bring to the art of photography is our own unique perspective on life. Reflect on the things you love the most and do more of that, whatever that is! That’s part of the secret to staying motivated to continue to learn and grow and strive to be better at your art form, whatever it is.
For me, what keeps me going is the adventure in it all, and I love teaching and helping other photographers grow in their skills, so that is where I focus a lot of my energy these days.
Reflecting back on what I have loved most about my life and photography, I find it’s not really just about the photographs. Rather, it has been the experiences that went along with those moments with my camera, family activities, the wonderful people I have met, new friendships made, the sights I have seen and the places I have experienced, and the memories that were made along the way. The value of the photographs, for me, really is to serve as a reminder of the blessings I have experienced in my life.
Every photograph is a two-dimensional snapshot of a moment in time, but there is a rich and deep story behind each image. What was happening at that moment? Who is in the photograph? What were we saying to each other? What compelled me to take that photo? Where was I? What was I doing there? Why was I sitting on the side of that mountain waiting for the sun to rise? Who was with me? How did I feel at the moment when I clicked the shutter? All that remains from that moment is this image I created and the memories I carry with me.
Then, over time, the memories fade, the deeper stories are lost, and we hand over this set of photographs to our next generation. And yet, the photographs still matter. They become like a keyhole in a door we can peer through, into another world, a world in the past. We can’t step through that door to go into the past, but we can at least peer through the keyhole.
Several years ago, I scanned some old black & white photos of my family, from way back, before I was born. My brother, Ken, said they were photos from a family reunion in Grand Lake, Colorado. I couldn’t ask my mom or dad since they passed away years ago. We weren’t quite sure of the specific location of those photos, and I certainly had no memory of the time since I was not born yet.
After a lot of detective work, I found a clue in one of the photos that had a blurry out-of-focus sign in the background. That led me to some Google searches that ultimately led me to some answers. I then went to Google “street view” and was able to explore further. I found with absolute certainty where the cabins were located! I was so excited to piece together these parts of the puzzle that were long lost.
When I was in Grand Lake recently, I was able to visit those very cabins! Although I’ve been to Grand Lake many times, I had no clue that my family stayed there around 65(ish) years ago. It was so exciting to find the cabins! I now had established a connection to a specific place where my family had enjoyed the mountains of Colorado and swam in the beautiful lake. Knowing a precise spot where my mom and dad and brother had been so many years ago changed how I saw the area. I almost felt like I was stepping into another dimension when I stood in the very spot where my dad stood over six decades ago. It was like a sacred moment for me. I am deeply grateful for this gift the photographs gave me.
You just never know how much someone in your family, many years later, may cherish a photograph you create today. The person who might appreciate it the most might not even be born yet… perhaps a son, or daughter, or grandchild, or brother, or nephew…
OR, it might not be a family member who is grateful for the photographs you take. When I was photographing the cabin there in Grand Lake, I spoke with someone there who knew the owner. He asked me to text him the old black & white photo of the cabin, to share with the owner. The owner was so excited to see the photo!
We were in Colorado this past week, leading our Rocky Mountain Summer Photography Workshop! The weather was spectacular and we had numerous photo opportunities to capture beautiful images of landscapes, waterfalls, lakes, rivers, subalpine meadows, chipmunks, squirrels, marmots, birds, coyotes, deer, elk, moose, and big horn sheep. This is truly a photographer’s paradise in Rocky Mountain National Park. The trick is knowing how to photograph this magnificent park in the right way, knowing the right times, to be at the right places in the summer and fall for the best light and best opportunities to photograph wildlife, and knowing the right camera settings to use for various locations. This is what we offer in our Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops!
This year’s workshops are SOLD out, but… here’s the web page with information about these workshops for 2022. Registration is NOW OPEN!
My dear friends, I am pleased to announce publication of my new book, available on Amazon in paperback and Kindle versions. It isn’t a book about photography. It’s a book about life.
The book is entitled “Grateful Moments – A Journey with Mom“. I am releasing the book now, in honor of Mother’s Day and I am donating 50% of the royalties I receive for the first 6 months of publication to the American Cancer Society.
Sixteen years ago, my mom had a tough battle with a rare form of cancer in her final year of life. I devoted a lot of time helping her, and with me being a writer, I created a blog, as a way of journaling about the experience, the good moments, the hard moments, and some of the lessons learned. Many people said I should publish what I wrote into a book, because they related so much to the insights I shared, seeing a bit of their own experience in caring for an aging parent.
The blog no longer exists, but I finally took the time to transform what I wrote into this new book. It is a very transparent and intimate account of the pain, struggles, sorrow, faith, fear, and yet moments of gratitude I experienced in those last months of my mom’s life.
As I say in the book: “Grief is another form of love. It is what love looks like after someone you love dies. It is a moment. It is a season. It is a state of being. It is life under a dark cloud, trusting that one day the sun will shine again. This book is my personal journey through grief and loss, sharing some lessons learned and an affirmation of the importance of living with a sense of gratitude for the life you are experiencing right now. Even in the challenging times, find the beauty in the moments you are given.”
I get questions about this topic quite often, so I thought I’d write some thoughts on this topic.
First, note that the answers you get for this question will probably depend on who you ask. If you ask a camera salesperson, remember their job is to sell camera gear. I’m not saying that is bad thing. Many might steer you in the right direction on what you could purchase that will best meet your needs. But let’s step back a bit from the presumption that you need to buy new camera gear, and first assess what your real needs are.
I know slick marketing of all the great cameras and lenses will have you drooling over the ads (if they’re effective, they’ll make you feel like you “just have to have it”). And then if you see your photographer friends with their latest new camera gear, that might just make you feel like you simply must upgrade what you have to be just like them. Or maybe you received a “stimulus check” or you are getting money back from the IRS this year, and that money is “burning a hole in your pocket” and you’re anxious to spend it. Again, I encourage you to pause and first assess your situation.
Know What Problem You Are Trying to Solve
Sometimes the problem with your photography may be a limitation imposed by your camera gear. It might be an issue of some technical limitation, or maybe it is just too heavy or bulky. But many times the problem may be due to you not knowing how to use your camera most effectively, and upgrading the camera might not solve the problem at all.
Here are some reasons an upgrade might be in order:
First of all, make sure the problem isn’t YOU. Get to know your camera really well and how to best to use its features to manage exposure settings, aperture, shutter speeds, ISO, metering, focusing, etc. For example, if you are always getting shots that aren’t very sharp, you need to figure out if it is a problem with how you are using your camera. Upgrading a lens or camera body won’t necessarily fix that. Maybe the upgrade that is needed is YOU. First, upgrade yourself to be the best photographer you can be with the equipment you have. THEN, from there, assess what other improvements might be necessary.
Image sharpness issues might be due to your choices in how you use the auto focus system of your camera. Get to know that really well. Then, if it turns out that you are doing a great job with focusing and managing depth-of-field and your images still aren’t sharp, also make sure you aren’t having issues with motion blur due to vibration introduced by hand-holding your camera. You can manage that by ensuring properly fast shutter speeds or using image stabilization offered by various manufacturers under various trademarked names.
Some cameras have image stabilization built into the camera body, and others have it built into the lenses, and some offer a hybrid combination of camera and lens cooperating together to stabilize motion blur. If you have a camera that only implements image stabilization in the lens, and you happen to own a lens that does not support image stabilization, that might be a great reason to upgrade to a lens that supports this feature. Or upgrade to a camera/lens combination that offers even better stabilization. This is potentially a very big deal in getting sharper shots. Or the alternative is to just ensure you are using faster shutters speeds to avoid the motion blur problem entirely. That is the cheaper alternative, but still, having good image stabilization is a huge plus, often well worth the extra $$.
The latest generation cameras have more advanced focusing systems, with more focusing points, more “cross type” focusing (meaning the focus points can discern detail sharpness horizontally and vertically), better tracking features, and some brands offering automatic detection of faces or eyes, and depending on your circumstance, that might be of great value to you. It just depends on the type of photography you do. If you just shoot studio portraits, the demands on the autofocusing system are not nearly as great as shooting birds in flight, for example.
Sometimes your images might seem to always be a bit “soft” no matter what you do to ensure sharp shots. It could be a problem with your lens. Not all lenses are equal. Some are sharper than others. If the problem is due to your lens not being as sharp, this might be a very compelling reason to get rid of that lens and upgrade to something better (usually meaning a higher price lens).
Sometimes you might find your current lenses never seem to have a wide enough view of the world, or maybe you can never get close enough to photograph that bird in the tree, or maybe you never can focus as close as you want to. This would suggest it is time to figure out what lenses you should get rid of, and what new lenses you might want to buy, going more wide angle, or more telephoto, or maybe getting a macro (close-focusing) lens. There are so many options out there, and every photographer’s needs are different.
Maybe you frequently shoot in low light environments, and you are constantly finding your camera doesn’t do well in those environments. That could be a very compelling reason to upgrade your camera to one with a higher ISO capability and perhaps better dynamic range (ability to record details in highlight and shadow areas). This is often a pretty big deal and one of the more practical reasons to upgrade a camera body.
Most folks rarely need to upgrade their camera to be able to create images with more megapixels. This is a lesser compelling reason to upgrade a camera, but there might be some circumstances where you need the added resolution, but note you will need to also ensure you do super-accurate focusing, minimize any blur due to hand-held camera movement, and have the very best quality lenses, or having those extra megapixels will not matter very much!
Maybe you also want to shoot video and your current camera does not do a good job with video. That would be an obvious reason to upgrade.
Perhaps you’re finding your camera and lenses are just too heavy or too bulky. If that is the case, you might look at other lens or camera body alternatives that might be smaller or lighter. You might look into cameras in the “micro four thirds” category, offered by Olympus and Panasonic.
The super high-end cameras may look fancy and attractive and will surely impress your photographer friends, but often you don’t need the top-of-the-line camera to take outstanding shots. So, while you might be ready to upgrade, remember the money you spend on the camera body, might mean less funds available to spend on lenses or a flash or a tripod or camera bag. Even if you have almost unlimited funds available, buying the top-of-the-line camera still might not be right for you as it might be heavier or bulkier, so take that into consideration also.
Maybe your camera is aging a bit and it is just time to upgrade to take advantage of some of the many features offered in the newer cameras. Cameras are rated to have a certain number of shutter actuations as their expected “shutter life”. Some cameras are rated at 100,000 and some are rated at 150,000 and some at 200,000. Camera “age” is not just measured in years. It is measured in shutter actuations. A camera could be just a couple of years old, yet be way beyond its shutter actuation life if it was used a lot. (Keep this in mind if you purchase a used camera.) You can find software online that can assess how many times your shutter has been fired.
You can always upgrade to a different brand of camera or from a cropped sensor to a full frame sensor. Note there are compatibility issues you’ll need to keep in mind. Some lenses (Nikon DX, Canon EF-S, Tamron DI-II) are designed to only work on cameras with cropped sensor (such as APS-C sensors) and won’t work on a full frame camera, so if you upgrade to full-frame, you may have to upgrade your lenses. Or if you move from a DSLR to a mirrorless camera, you will have to buy an adapter if you want to use the same lenses. Or if you move from one brand to another, you may not be able to just upgrade your camera. If an adapter is available, you could possibly use the same lenses OR you may have to buy all new lenses.
I could probably come up with some more suggestions if I thought about this more. This is what I came up with “off the top of my head.” Feel free to email me with your questions related to this topic! Send an email to and I’ll post your answer on our blog!
We are SO much looking forward to our Summer and Fall Rocky Mountain Photography Workshops!
ONLY ONE SPACE LEFT IN SUMMER AND IN FALL!
We are down to our final few days when you can sign up for the Summer Workshop and take advantage of our $200 Early Registration Discount (ends May 1st)!
Some great benefits of joining us on our photographic adventures into Rocky Mountain National Park :
We’ll be going into the park at the best times to get the best light for landscape photos and better wildlife photo opportunities.
I have many years of experience in leading photographers into this magnificent national park.
Since I operate my photo workshops within the National Park legally, my business conforms to all park requirements and we have permits that allow our group to enter the park whenever we want without having to make reservations weeks ahead through their “Timed Entry Permit System” that vacationers must use. This is a huge advantage! 🙂
Here are more reasons to join us… the many photo opportunities and adventures you’ll enjoy with us!
That’s a pretty common question! While it is tempting to buy cameras with more megapixels, you won’t see all that much difference in the resulting images. Yes, is\f you jump from 20 megapixels to 60 megapixels, you might see an improvement in tiny details and you have more “crop room”, but remember you pay a price for that since you’ll need larger memory cards and more hard drive space to store them. Ultimately, in many cases, you really won’t see that much difference in your photographs. What matters more in terms of camera features is the dynamic range of the sensor, ISO range, and low light performance. Those factors are the more important features to pay attention to when considering buying a new camera.
Also, if you go with an ultra high megapixel camera, you’d better make sure you have lenses with excellent optics to even have the resolving power to record the finer details on the sensor. Also you’ll need to even more carefully manage your focusing, aperture, depth of field, and shutter speeds to ensure you get sharp shots. A slightly out of focus shot or a shot with unintended motion blur will not be sharper by simply recording the blurry image on a higher-megapixel sensor. 🙂
Do you have any questions about photography? Feel free to ask Kevin!
Send an email to and he’ll post your answer on our blog!
Kevin Gourley Photography Workshops, Austin, TX – Austin Photography Classes