Train Photos Now Available

Over the years, I’ve accumulated a number of photos of trains and railroads. I’ve often been asked to make them available for sale. To meet the demand, I’ve created a gallery of photos of steam locomotives. Prints of these photos are available for sale in three sizes:

  • 8-1/2 X 11″
  • 11 X 14″
  • 16 X 20″

Feel free to browse the images and if you are interested in one or more prints, write me via the Contact page.

On Building a Good Life

My most recent book, On Living Well: Reflections on Creating a Good Life, has just been published on The book, a collection of wise thoughts and aphorisms from many sources, is both a personal manifesto and a guide to creating a life of integrity and wisdom.

To live well—to have a good life—is a goal most of us seek. But what does it mean to have a good life? Is it, as is often believed, a matter of sating desires, amassing possessions and riches, or seeking personal enjoyment? Or is it about serving higher goals and reaching beyond pedestrian pleasures to contribute to the society of which we are all a part?

Drawing on the observations of wise observers across the ages, this volume argues that to live well means pursuing higher purposes, goals larger than personal satisfaction, and values that can give our lives meaning more lasting than simple pleasures.

Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor and Stoic Philosopher whose Meditations have inspired readers over many generations

Achieving a good life is not something that simply happens. Instead, like all worthwhile things, a good life must be constructed deliberately. Its building blocks are many. As this volume shows, much valuable advice about creating a good life can be gleaned from the writings of wise persons from the past. Drawing on a wide range of traditions, the advice collected herein constitutes a valuable set of guideposts to inform a journey to make one’s life a good life.

Four Steps to Better Post-Processing

I’ll frankly admit that in the past I’ve failed to use a steady, and studied, approach to post-processing my images.  My practice, such as it’s been, was to make changes that looked good and seemed somehow better than the original.  The problem, of course, is that while this practice sometimes leads to pleasing results, it’s random and unpredictable.  Since I’ve set no clear goals for my images, my approach has lacked discipline, order, and, ultimately, effectiveness.

I figured there must be a better way.  And as it turns out, there is.  Several resources have led me toward a more practiced and reasoned strategy for enhancing my images in post.  First of these is Guy Tal’s essay entitled “Obsession, Joy, and Torment” in his recent book, Another Day Not Wasted.  Tal argues that color and luminance, which are processed in separate parts of the brain, can and should be used expressively.  As he says, the purpose of editing images is “to elicit some meaning, rather than just to illustrate an appearance.”  In other words, both color and luminance, if thoughtfully managed in post, can enhance the meaning conveyed by an image, rendering it more than just a pretty picture.  Tal’s essay inspired me to seek out practical ways to portray such deeper meanings in my images.

Marc Muench’s recent book, The Art of Luminosity, is a valuable resource on post-processing techniques.  This short volume, available for free from the Muench Workshops web site, examines how to capture luminosity effectively in camera and then how to manage it when processing images.  Muench gives good illustrations of the way he edits images of different types, and they’re both inspirational and instructive as a guide to altering luminosity levels to achieve more effective results. 

Another excellent resource teaches color theory, how different colors affect the brain, and how to use them to best advantage.  It’s See It: Photographic Composition Using Visual Intensity, by Josh and Ellen Anon.  This book, the best on using color I’m aware of, does for color what Muench does for luminosity. 

The question then becomes how to apply this information to my images.  Drawing on these resources, I developed a set of practical actions to help me reveal more meaning, the purpose set out in Tal’s provocative essay.  I’ve boiled them down to four steps.  I’ve applied them here to images I made while participating in Irene Hinke-Sacilotto’s fall color workshop in the New River area of West Virginia.

A small waterfall on Glade Creek in Babcock State Park, West Virginia, before cropping.
The same image after cropping to remove unnecessary areas from the edges of the image.

I start by examining each image to visualize the concept I wish to illustrate.  Visualization may be an overworked term in photography, but it’s basic to creative work.  What it amounts to is this: I must have a clear idea of what I want each image to achieve.  Of course, visualization needs to start before the shutter is tripped.  A poorly conceived image is difficult and probably impossible to recover in post-processing.  There must be good material to work with.  But if I have good raw material, I then need to imagine how post-processing can enhance my meaning and bring it into clear focus for the viewer.  This step is neither easy nor quick.  But it’s important that I take the time to establish a clear conception of what I want to achieve.  Only after I’ve done that can I usefully proceed to subsequent steps.

As I visualized this scene on the New River, I knew that I wanted to contrast the broom sage in the foreground with the softly-flowing rapid in the center and the reflections of the trees on the opposite bank at the top of the image. I increased the luminosity of the white rapids, darkened the water at the top, and sharpened the image to highlight the weeds.

The question naturally arises, how do you carry out a visualization process?  Are there some practical steps you can take to facilitate it?   Can the process be structured so the chances for achieving clear concepts are increased?   Guy Tal comes to the rescue.  In another essay entitled “The Mindful Photographer“ he urges taking time to meditate to prepare the mind for openness to creativity.  But recognizing that this will not work for all photographers or in all situations, he suggests some alternative practices that are as valid for visualizing in the studio as they are in the field.  First, he suggests making a visual inventory.  In post processing, this means clarifying your impressions about the image, identifying things you like, those you don’t, where it’s strong, where it can be enhanced.  Then, conduct a second inventory, this one emotional.  What is your emotional response to the image?  How does it make you feel?  How can the image be altered to bring it into better alignment with what you felt when you pressed the shutter?  Take your time in making these inventories.  If need be, write down your observations, as they will guide your editing.  Then, after you’ve completed the inventories, use them to build a roadmap for making changes to the image that will bring it into line with what you noticed and what you felt.

Once I have a plan, I’ll look at cropping the image.  Although I try to crop in-camera as much as possible, some creative decisions may be needed in post to focus attention on the most important elements in the composition.  Also, if I plan to convert a 3 X 5 full frame image into a different aspect ratio, such as the one needed for a 16 X 20 print, it’s best to do that cropping now.

The initial image of a waterfall on Glade Creek before cropping.
The same scene after cropping slightly to emphasize the whirlpool effect of the water. Additional editing to this version sharpened the details somewhat.

Then I turn to luminosity.  My visual inventory will have identified any distracting zones that draw attention away from the principal subject.  Usually these are bright spots.  But dark areas might also need to be brightened to reveal details important to the overall conception.  After fixing these problem areas, I’ll make subtle adjustments to luminosity throughout the image to enhance my compositional concept.  The intended result is an image that avoids unwanted intrusions, emphasizes the subject I wish to highlight, and is complementary in luminosity throughout.  Though I want well-balanced images, I don’t want images that are bland or, worse, muddied.  Instead, depending on the subject, broad ranges in brightness may be desirable.  The goal is to use luminosity as a creative and expressive tool to enhance the image’s underlying mood as I conceived it in my visualization.

This scene of Sandstone Falls on West Virginia’s New River was characterized by early morning fog over much of the falls. I visualized that as a critical element in the concept I had for this image and in post-processing it I lightened the fog to make it more prominent. I then darkened the water at the left to create greater contrast with the white water in the falls and the hanging fog. A sepia treatment gives a somewhat nostalgic look to the scene, as though it were an old postcard.
My concept for this image was for the leaves on the tree to stand out against the darker foliage in the background. To achieve this, I increased the luminosity of the yellows in the leaves and darkened the greens slightly to create more color contrast.

Finally, I turn to color.  Adobe Lightroom and other post-processing software packages allow local adjustments to the hue, saturation, and luminosity of individual colors.  These controls let me bring out the tones I saw when I captured the image or those I now wish to reflect in implementing my current visualization.  Color adjustments are intended to emphasize the principal subject and reinforce the image’s overall composition.  However, because the human brain makes different emotional responses to individual colors, the color adjustments I make will also affect the deeper meaning the image ultimately conveys.  I need to keep this in mind as I work with the colors. This is when the emotional inventory can help me interpret my feelings about the scene.  How I approach the use of color will affect the mood evoked by the image.  My visualization will guide me in rendering the colors as subtle and subdued or vibrant and intense.

My goal for this image of the Glade Creek Grist Mill in Babcock State Park was to put attention on the mill in the background and the waterfall in the foreground. I did this by cropping the image to emphasize these elements. But the red leaves were also important to the image, and they seemed dull. To rectify this, I increased the red saturation and luminosity to give it greater emphasis. The challenge was to emphasize the red without making it unrealistically vibrant.
I wanted this detail of the rapids in the New River to be both sharp and to reflect the vibrancy of the colors I visualized. I chose a higher shutter speed to stop the action. In post-processing, I lightened the white of the rapids and deepened the remaining tones to create both contrast and bring out the bold colors in the scene.

This may seem like a lot of work.  And frankly, it is.  But capturing raw images is less than half the process of creating high quality images with sensitivity and meaning.  Thus, to achieve my hoped-for impact, I will need to give my images thoughtful and careful attention in post processing.

A Trip Backward in Time

I recently had an opportunity to visit and photograph the little town of Thurmond, West Virginia. Tucked deep into the mountainous region in the New River Valley central to the state, it was once a thriving center for servicing the mammoth and frequent Chesapeake & Ohio coal trains that traversed the rails through this beautiful but rugged countryside. With a population now totaling five, it has virtually become a ghost town. For all that, it retains many of the symbols of a bygone era, including the black layer of cinders laid down decades ago by the giant steam locomotives that once hauled freight through the town and stopped here to replenish their coal and water loads. Several classic brick structures are reminders of the vitality of this once-bustling and still charming railroad town.

“All around the water tank waiting for a train,” as the 1929 Jimmy Rodgers song had it. In Thurmond, this is pretty much what you get, a siding, an abandoned coaling tower, and a few brick storefronts, also lifeless. But no water tank, which was long since removed.
The signal is red and there’s no train in sight. One is promised in the next hour. If you’re into train watching, the waiting game is familiar. This time, no train made an appearance and the signal remained red.
We’re 391 miles from home. But where’s home?
The bank was once a central institution in the town. The hotel that had also graced the trackside is no more.
Wow! Three percent? Can I still get that?
Dinah, blow your horn!
Now this bank had character!
The signals show there’s plenty of rail traffic through this double-tracked territory that lies alongside the New River.
A parting shot as we leave Thurmond and return to more populous areas. It’s appropriate, perhaps, that this epitaph to a dying town is an ad for a coffin maker.

Fall Fungi

I was tempted to title this posting “A Fungus Among Us,” but that’s so trite I opted for something plain vanilla instead. Regardless, what I present here are some photos of toadstools and other fungi I recently made. These were all made in late September at Moosehead Lake, near Greenville, Maine. The rains brought out a plethora of fungi of differing types and colors and shapes. I had a fantastic time making these images and could have spent hours exploring the woods and side of the roads for more examples. Clearly, the fall colors are not limited to leaves!

I have no idea what their names are, whether they are poisonous, or anything about them at all. If any of you is a specialist in fungi, I’d love to be enlightened. Otherwise, enjoy this brilliant display of one of nature’s autumn wonders.

These sweet little toadstools were growing on a fallen log
The wavy shape of this toadstool caught my eye
These highly colorful toadstools were everywhere; they grow to a large size
Here’s another of the same variety that has expanded to maybe 8-10 inches in width; the day after I took this, the edges had curled up like a bowl and it had captured a pool of water from the rain
Here is another grouping of the same colorful toadstools
This toadstool was growing from a dead birch tree trunk
A growth of fungus on the side of a dead log
Another grouping of delicate toadstools that look good enough to eat, if only you dared; would they make you shrink in size, like Alice in Wonderland? Or would they simply make you disappear?
Sometimes they just look good in black and white

A Rose is a Rose

I was out shooting a bed of roses recently. I was using my newly-acquired Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens for Z-mount cameras. I am still testing this lens, but am quickly coming to love it. As these photos will show, it is an extremely sharp lens and is capable of showing very tiny details very crisply.

Here are my recent images. All were taken tripod-mounted. All are heavily cropped so not only are they close-ups, but they are small parts of close-ups. They represent the tiniest details I can photograph easily with this camera and lens.

My intent was to make extreme close-ups and use selective focus to highlight parts of the roses that have interesting graphic and color possibilities. As a result, they are not representative of rose blossoms taken as a whole but are, I hope, good artistic expressions of shape, line, color, and detail that are interesting from a graphic perspective.

Let me know what you think.

Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/125 sec., f/2.8, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/100 sec., f/4, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw. This image was cropped very tightly. If you look carefully, you can see both the tiny drops of morning dew on the edges of the petals but also extremely tiny drops within those drops. This lens is scary sharp!
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/200 sec., f/2.8, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/125 sec., f/3.2, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/160 sec., f/4, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/125 sec., f/3.2, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/125 sec., f/3.2, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.
Nikon Z7, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 lens, 1/100 sec., f/3.5, ISO 64, tripod mounted, edited in On1 Photo Raw.

More 105mm Photos

I was out early this morning, while the light was still soft, making images in the garden of a home where we are staying. These are some of the images I made. All were made using the Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera with the newly-released Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens. This lens is quite sharp. It’s reputed to be the sharpest 105mm lens Nikon has ever made, and they’ve made some legendary lenses in that focal length. I’ve owned several over the years and I can’t disagree with that statement. In addition, the lens is surprisingly light for its size and it operates very smoothly.

Rose blossom, Nikon Z6, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens, 1/200 sec., f/4.5, ISO 640

Hydrangea blossom, Nikon Z6, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens, 1/250 sec., f/5.6, ISO 640, processed in Adobe Lightroom and Nik Viveza 3

These lenses are hard to get right now, due to a computer chip shortage affecting the industry. If you can get one of these lenses, you won’t be disappointed.

Rose blossom, Nikon Z6, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens, 1/400 sec., f/4.5, ISO 640, processed with Nik Silver Efex Pro
Buddha statue, Nikon Z6, Nikon 105mm f/2.8 S lens, 1/250 sec., f3.2, ISO 640

Testing the 105mm Lens

In June, Nikon began releasing its new 105mm macro lens for its Z-mount mirrorless cameras. The lens was touted as being sharper and as good a lens as Nikon has ever made. As a photographer who likes shooting close-ups, I was eager to get my hands on one as a replacement for my F-mount 105mm lens. But not so fast! Although Nikon issued the lens in late June, supplies were very short due to limited computer chips needed for the lens. And, demand for the new lens was very high. As a result, the few that were available were sold out quickly, with no more on the near term horizon.

I went to my usual supplier and was told the lens was “coming.” I contacted a number of other suppliers to get on their waiting lists. Finally, in a desperation move, I checked the Best Buy website. Bingo! Not only did they list a lens in stock, but they had a second one for my friend, who was also looking to buy one. Three days later, they arrived at my local store!

Naturally, I’m eager to give the lens a tryout. I haven’t had much chance to do close-up photography with it, but the lens is also good for general shooting and portraits. What follows here, then is a set of early images–grab shots from my travels–that show some things I found interesting, all made with the new Nikon 105mm f/2.8 Z-mount lens and a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera.

All of these photos were made hand held. I’m impressed with both the speed and the sharpness of this lens. I plan to make a lot of good use of it.

A simple shot of a mundane subject, a garden hose, but the bright color and the circular forms attracted my eye. 1/640 sec, f/4.0, ISO 400.
A metal park bench in Bellingham, Washington, whose structure I found appealing. 1/8000 sec., f/4.0, ISO 400.
A ball of brightly colored yard in an antiques shop. 1/60 sec., f/3.0, ISO 400.
Ready for a game of hopscotch. 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 400.
A glass of water at lunch. 1/60 sec., f/3.0, ISO 400.
I thought this scene of a woman hauling a large fiddle was amusing. 1/125 sec., f/8.0, ISO 400.
The iron ring on an old hitching post. 1/400 sec., f/3.5, ISO 400.
The bumblebee feeding on a flower was cropped from a larger image but still shows good sharpness. 1/125 sec., f/7.1, ISO 400.

Photographing in the Cascades

The Cascade mountain range is located in the northwest portion of Washington State.  The portion of this region contained in Whatcom County is largely organized into three national land management areas.  The central region, which incorporates the snow-capped Mount Baker, is the Mount Baker Wilderness.  The second and largest area is the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.  The third and smaller area is the North Cascades National Park.  Only two roads lead into the area and allow viewing from the highway.  State route 542 is a scenic road that crosses the northern portion of the national forest, leading to Mount Baker from the north.  Farther south, route 20 leads through the North Cascades National Park and allows views of Mount Baker from a distance.  Because so much of the area is wilderness, interior access is only possible in most places by hiking trails.

Mount Baker, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington. Photo made with the Nikon 70-200mm f/2.8 Z mount lens handheld.

We stayed for several days in the charming hamlet of Glacier, Washington, located at the mid-point of route 542.  Driving this road took us through forests of tall and often moss-covered trees, alongside the Nooksack River, and up the foothills of 10,700-foot Mount Baker.  We paused at Nooksack Falls for photos of the impressive rapids there, then climbed higher and higher toward Mount Baker along narrow, twisting roads that tested our nerves.  We reached the ski lift area at Heather Meadows, which afforded a good view of 9100-foot Mount Shuksan, which is situated in neighboring North Cascades National Park. 

This vase of flowers brightened the morning at the local bakery. This shot was made handheld.

We took our time making photos, using a tripod for most shots.  Though I had both a wide angle and telephoto lens with me, at the distances we were shooting, I was able to make most of my landscape images with a 24-70mm zoom lens.  I’m generally pleased with the resulting photos.  My principal regret is that I was unable to make any time exposures of the rapids so the water would appear as a frothy foam.  I thought I had packed the neutral density filter I needed to achieve this effect but discovered at the scene that I’d failed to pack it.  In addition, there was not enough time to make all the images I would like to have created.  But then, when ever is there enough time?

Nooksack Falls, Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest, Washington
The intriguing menu at the Heliotrope Restaurant in Glacier, Washington.
What in the world is a boat doing in the middle of the Cascade Mountains? And a derelict one at that? It just goes to show that there are photographic subjects to be found everywhere, if only you look for them.

Shooting Glacier National Park

I made a recent trip to Glacier National Park, both for family sightseeing and, of course, making a few photos I hope are sufficiently good to share. 

Getting There

The real purpose—and the heart of the park—is the famous Going to the Sun Road, which runs across the western continental divide and through the Rocky Mountains just south of the Canadian border.  The first challenge is being able to drive that road.  To do so requires both a park pass, which can be purchased at the gate, and also a pass to drive the Going to the Sun Road.  The National Park Service is limiting the number of cars that can drive that route daily in order to keep the numbers of tourists manageable and the experience good for all visitors.  The passes cost $2 and can be purchased on line.  The problem is getting one.  They are made available daily at 8:00 Mountain Time and each day’s allotment is snatched up in a matter for 2-3 minutes.  It requires coming back on successive days to try for a pass, and a bit of luck, to get one.  Fortunately, my friend and traveling companion succeeded.

Lake McDonald, Glacier National Park Montana


Because our room was on the west side of the park, we drove through the park from west to east.  Since we traveled in the early afternoon, the sun was mostly at our back for eastward-facing photos.  However, by the time we arrived at Saint Mary Lake and the iconic Wild Goose Island location, we were facing into the sun, which made for difficult conditions for that highly desirable photo.

Our drive from Great Falls to Eureka, where we stayed, was in hazy conditions, due to the smoke from numerous wildfires spread across the west.  Fortunately, the smoke conditions were somewhat relieved once we got into the park, and they did not impair our photos significantly.

Glacier National Park, Montana. I failed to record all of the locations I was photographing, so I don’t know which mountains these are.


Because many of our photos were made during quick stops at pull-off locations, most were made handheld.  However, I took a small Peak Design travel tripod with me and used it on several instances to help stabilize my 70-200mm lens.  Most of my wider images were made with a Nikon Z6 mirrorless camera and the 24-70mm Z mount lens.  However, I had just purchased the 70-200mm f/2.8 Z mount lens prior to leaving and was eager to give it a tryout, which I did on several occasions.

Lake McDonald, at the Lake McDonald Lodge, Glacier National Park, Montana


I purchased a 15-inch Lenovo L440 Thinkpad for editing photos while on travel.  I use Adobe Lightroom Classic to manage my photo catalog and do initial processing.  After that, I relied on a variety of packages for editing: On1 Photo Raw, Nik Viveza and Color Efex Pro 4, and Silver Efex Pro.

Glacier National Park, Montana. Here’s another location I did not record. This is poor photographic practice!

The Images

Some of my better images are shown here.  You can judge for yourself whether I have been successful in capturing some of the beauty of this magnificent park.

Wild Goose Island, Saint Mary Lake, Glacier National Park. There was enough smoke in this backlit scene that it did not render well in color. I converted it to B&W using Nik Silver Efex Pro.