Alan & Linda Detrick Photography LLC

Images, web galleries, gardens and the photo world of Alan and Linda.

New season, new equipment

Posted on | June 9, 2011 | No Comments

I started this blog way back in April.  Somehow, the rain stopped, the weather warmed up, the flowers and gardens took off and it was June before I knew it.

Even though I photograph during the winter, it takes a few spring shoots before I get comfortable with my routine. I need to consciously slow down and think about each image. I determine what caught my interest and how best to capture that image while considering all the technical details. Later in the season, most considerations come automatically but the first outings of spring are filled with opportunities for mistakes. This year, a few pieces of new equipment added yet another challenge.

The first day I was in the garden at 7:00am. It was 34 degrees with gusting wind. While I studied the instruction manual for the new camera body when it arrived, some of the buttons did not do what I thought they should. So, with cold hands, I turned the pages of the Canon manual looking for information on exposure compensation, histograms, info screens and how to change the focus points.

Trying to read camera manuals in the cold is not my idea of a good time. But early in the season is the time to get comfortable with a routine, especially if you have new equipment. Later in the season, when there are lots of possible subjects but less time due to the lighting conditions, you don’t want to waste valuable opportuities while thunbimg through the camera manual. The only thing worse is not having the manual!

I have been out frequently since that first day. The cob webs are gone and the new equipment is exciting. I still have the manual with me but I haven’t referred to it in days. Now I work on adding images to our library and developing a few new demonstrations for the photo workshops.

Linda and I have had an extremely busy April and May.  We traveled to gardens in NJ, NY, Ct, Va. and Pa. so far this year shooting for a new project. We were interviewed and featured in a two page spread in 201 Home, a regional magazine. I had the opportunity to judge the Gardening Gone Wild May photo contest (  The entries were terrific and the comments very rewarding.  Be sure to take a look – you might enjoy entering.  We also wrote an article on macro photography for the July issue of Birds and Blooms magazine ( ) that just arrived in our mailbox . Our gardens are overrun with weeds but we are catching up with them in our spare time.

Next week I’ll post a few images from this spring.

Don’t forget our photography workshops this year:

September 30 – October 2nd: Chanticleer Garden, Wayne,PA., Weekend Master Class with admittance by portfolio review. This is the seventh year that Roger Foley and I have taught this popular workshop . We have lots of repeaters and are already receiving portfolios!

October 9- 15th: Maine Media Workshop, Rockport Me. Linda & I are returning to do another week long Macro workshop. This class will give you all the tools you need to get comforable shooting quality macro images. It is a week of intense photography loaded with laughs and good times. Join us if you can.

Opportunity in Unexpected Places

Posted on | March 10, 2011 | No Comments

In February, Linda and I had the opportunity to visit family in Naples,Florida. It was a welcome respite from the record snow in the northeast.

After a trip to the newly established Naples Botanical Garden, I noticed a nice selection of  plants in bloom around the entrance to our condo.  It turns out that Christine, who lives in the ground level condo, is a knowledgeable gardener. We had a nice conversation as she explained that  every plant was chosen as a host or nectar plant for butterflies. “We had two monarch butterflies emerge from their chrysalis last week and currently have three monarch caterpillars in the garden.”  Christine explained.  Up until that day, I planned on getting up at dawn to travel to do some nature photography and there was plenty of opportunity right at my doorstep. I cancelled the dawn trips and set my sights on getting a good selection of monarch image files.

Each day before and after our sightseeing outings, I looked for the caterpillars and tried to find a photo opportunity. The milkweed plant they were feeding upon was next to the stairs making tripod placement difficult – even with the long reach of the 180mm macro lens. Next, finding a subject in a good position with decent lighting was hit and miss. The constant breeze felt nice but made the shutter speed an issue. A small flash unit would overcome the shutter speed problem but also add harsh shadows.

The first day, only the head of one of the caterpillars was visable as it munched away. It wasn’t the typical caterpillar shot but was what was available. Between the stair railings and the windows of the condo in the background, getting into position was difficult. Out of sixty or so exposures from the first session, I kept four that I was happy to call mine.

Over the course of a week, I had four shooting sessions. At the end of our stay, I had caterpillar head shots, full length caterpillars and a few adult Monarchs. All were good additions to the library. Opportunity and patience were rewarded just a few steps from the front door.

Winter Landscape

Posted on | January 30, 2011 | No Comments

The northeast is having a record white winter. As of the end of January, it ranks in the top ten for one month’s snowfall in Central Park in New York City. We have already received over fifty inches. That’s a lot of snow! My preference is about 6 inches of the light fluffy stuff, no wind and clear blue skies. Unfortunately, all the snow this year has buried many of my favorite winter images. The large amount of snow also makes getting around with camera gear that much harder. I did, however, manage to capture some images during the first series of snow storms.

One of the first places I visited early this winter was Skylands, the New Jersey State Botanical Garden ( in Ringwood, NJ. When I arrived, I drove around the gardens (where permitted) to see if parking the car in one of the designated parking lots and lugging the camera equipment in the freezing cold made sense. A few ornamental grasses, one shrub still with its red berries and a possible arbor shot made the decision easy.

I shot the grasses and the berries and walked on down the road to look at the lighting on the arbor. It had sunlight just touching parts of it with the background bathed in the beautiful late afternoon sun. Usually, I look for side or back lighting to add interest and texture to a scene, but in this case, the front lighting really worked. To my eye, the difference of the quality of the light, from the shadowed side on the left to the warm winter sunlight on the right, captured the winter scene perfectly. I first shot it with a wide angle lens. It didn’t work. There was a road piled with snow that became too pronounced in the bottom of the frame. If I raised the frame, there was too much sky. I put on a 70-200 zoom lens, crossed the road and walked up on a hill. (I am sure that the people walking by were wondering what in the world I was photographing.) I was able to find a happy medium where the forefront, the arbor, the background and the sky balanced.

Not every landcape scene needs to be shot with a wide angle lens. This landscape image  shot with a telephoto lens matched my vision and made the cold walk worthwhile.

Dates to Remember:  March 8: Perennial Garden Club of Washington DC  in McLean, VA,  June 12: Workshop at the Frelinghuysen Arboretum in Morristown, NJ, September 30 – October 2: Master Photography Workshop at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, PA, October 9 – 15: weeklong macro workshop at the Main Media Workshops in Rockport, Maine.

Choosing A Digital Camera

Posted on | January 17, 2011 | 1 Comment

Linda and I gave a program recently for the Short Hills Home Garden Club at the Cora Hartshorn Arboretum ( ) in Short Hills NJ. During the Q&A session, one of the attendees asked for advice on purchasing a new camera. I realized this is one of the most frequently asked questions – at programs, via email or from people who have read my macro book. I thought it might be of interest to include some of the considerations that are important when buying a camera.

First, it is a good idea to  decide how you are going to use the images. For example, are you going post your photos on the web or are you going to make prints? If so, what size prints will you need? If you are a writer and use your images to illustrate your text or the images are going to be used in magazines or books, that also needs to be considered. Once you have decided the end use, decide whether or not you want the ability to change lenses (a DSLR camera) or if a point and shoot will fill your needs. At this point, figure out what the budget is and see what cameras you have to choose from. The last act and one of the most important in my mind, is to actually hold each camera. Play with the different choices to see if the size of the camera as well as where the buttons and dials are located comfortably fit your hands.

Notice that my big concern after determining the needs and budget is not the brand or the number of mega pixels but instead how the camera handles. To be honest, all the current digital cameras have amazing technology. The differences within any price range or among brands are not major. Most cameras are loaded with features beyond the requirements of many professionals. In the end, however, if holding a camera isn’t comfortable and if the controls are awkward to use, it doesn’t matter what the specs are.

Over the holidays I got to practice what I preach. A cousin called me to get advice on buying a new camera for his wife and I offered to go shopping with him. We established that she wanted a DSLR with two lenses and decided upon a budget. This narrowed the selection down to a Canon or a Nikon package. Both had very good reviews and were exactly the same price. Because it was a surprise, we couldn’t make sure they would fit his wife’s hands but we could play with them ourselves. The nod went to the Canon because all the controls were placed within easy reach of our fingers. The Nikon had some controls that even our larger hands found difficult to use.

A few days after shopping with my cousin, a friend, whose garden I shot many years ago, called to say she lost her camera and wanted to buy something to replace it. When I mentioned making sure it was comfortable, she went “WOW, I never liked how my old camera felt in my hands.” She did not need a complicated camera with multiple lenses but she still needed a “point and shoot” that fit not only her needs but her hands as well.

The serious amateur or professional can easily adjust to new camera bodies but for someone just starting, the layout and handling of a new camera can be a stumbling block. So before buying a new camera, pick it up and have the sales person explain the controls and what they do. See how it feels and if its layout makes sense to you. If not, don’t be afraid to ask to see another possibility.

Ever See a ‘Beltie’ from Galloway?

Posted on | December 14, 2010 | 1 Comment

One day while Linda and I were exploring the Rockport, Maine area, we noticed some unusual looking cows grazing in a field. They looked as if someone painted a stripe of black, then a stripe of white and then another stripe of black. A four-legged Oreo cookie if you will. We subsequently found out these cows were Belted Galloways or ‘Belties’. Originally from the Galloway province of Scotland, they are the star attractions at Aldermere Farm (, the longest continually operated herd of Belted Galloway cattle in the USA and a highlight of the Rockport/Camden area of Maine.

As much as I wanted to spend time capturing the Belties images, Linda & I were here teaching a macro class at Maine Media Workshops. Luckily, the photo gods stepped in to help. One afternoon as we were returing from a shooting session with the class, we noticed a group of photographers lined up along the Belties field. They were the macro students not able to pass up a good photo opportunity. Just to be social, I grabbed my camera and tripod and joined in the fun. Then on the last day of class, one of the students complained that he had missed the Belties.This was just the excuse we needed to make a mad dash to photgraph them a second time just before sunset.  If you are in the area, don’t miss the opportunity to visit this unusual farm.

Panning for Gold

Posted on | December 2, 2010 | 1 Comment

I watched as one of our Miscanthus sinensis ‘Morning Light’ ornamental grasses turned from summer green to a beautiful autumn gold. Every time I passed by, I would look for the best angles and anticipate my shot. Plan A was to wait until it was at peak gold and capture an image of the afternoon sun streaking through the plant. Unfortunately, by the time the color was peak, the garage threw a shadow across much of the plant. The original image of afternoon sunlight cascading through the golden branches was not possible. I had to find another approach – a plan B. Maybe I could capture the motion of the inflorescence moving in the sunlight while keeping the lower stalks sharp. This time the wind did not cooperate and plan B was scrapped. On to plan C. Why not try panning (moving) the camera to capture a blurred image of the golden hues of the grass.  Only a small section of the plant was in sunlight but the narrow view of a 300mm lens isolated that area. I set up the tripod and held the camera body in one hand and the tripod collar on the lens in the other hand. I did not have any serious experience in panning so different routines were tried. First I moved the camera straight up and then attempted the same motion in reverse: starting at the top and moving straight down. The camera was also moved up and down on an angle. The last variation involved moving the camera both before pressing the shutter and then while the shutter was tripped. I checked the lcd and histogram to get a feel if any of the  approaches would yield usable images. Using a small f stop (f22)to get a slow shutter speed, I shot until the sun was gone.

As the flash card downloaded into Lightroom, I broke into a smile. Surprisingly, a good  number of images looked to be keepers. I was amazed at the variety of images from my first experiment in intentionally moving the camera to create blur.  While the orginal the image hoped for in plan A failed, I found a new creative approach for my garden photography. Three of my favorites are shown here.

October Workshops

Posted on | November 23, 2010 | No Comments

October 1-3 was the sixth annual master workshop that Roger Foley and I conducted at Chanticleer Garden in Wayne, Pa. Admission was by portfolio review and class size was limited. The workshop started Friday evening and ended Sunday afternoon. In between, there were three shooting sessions, two class review sessions, lectures, demonstrations and lots of fun. As always, we had a very good group of eager open minded hard working photographers.  Of course, being at Chanticleer (’t hurt. We were in the gardens shooting at sunrise on both Saturday and Sunday and sunset on Saturday. We talked photography non stop. Roger took this class picture (copyright Roger Foley) Sunday at lunch. What a great weekend!

Ten days later, Linda and I took off for Rockport, Maine to give a week long macro photography workshop at Maine Media Workshops (  For over thirty-five years MMW has provided the creative environment for photographers from around the globe to spend a week or more working on their craft. The support staff from teaching assistants, on campus housing, cooks, tech support (they even calibrate your laptops for you) and drivers allows both teacher and students to concentrate on capturing images and improving their photography. Our macro class had students from California, Texas, North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Maine. Mornings were dedicated to class reviews and lectures. Each afternoon we traveled to gardens, nature preserves and/or tidal pools for one on one work in the field. Mealtimes on campus offered added opportunity to interact with other classes. Before we knew it, the week had passed and we were saying good bye to new friends. Linda & I had so much fun teaching at MMW we had to keep pinching ourselves. Even better, MMW has asked us to return to do it all again next year October 9-15, 2011. If you want to spend a week with people who share your passion and every waking hour is filled with photography, think about taking a class at Maine Media next year. We would love to see you there!

While I do not do any shooting while I am teaching, I did manage to get in a few moments behind the camera after class. This image of Camden, Maine viewed from atop Mount Battie will give you an idea of the beauty of the coast in October. Also, if you go to the MMW website and click on photography, you can view some of the students’ images from the macro class.

Dates to keep in mind: Short Hills Garden Club, NJ lecture January 10, 2011; Perennial Garden Club of Washington DC lecture March 8, 2011; Frelinghuysen Arboretum, NJ workshop June 12,2011; Maine Media Workshops October 9-15, 2011

Garden Writers Association symposium in Dallas, Texas

Posted on | October 8, 2010 | No Comments

Linda and I took a few days in late September to attend the Garden Writers Association convention in Dallas. The symposium started on Friday afternoon and ended with a banquet on Monday evening. Each day began at 7am and finished sometime after dinner. They were filled with education sessions as well as visits to public and private gardens. On Saturday, we visited the Dallas Arboretum ( ) and were privileged to enjoy a very special dinner hosted by the garden. This image is one of a number of the arboretum’s water features. At the Monday banquet dinner new directors were named, awards given out and honors bestowed. Roger Foley, with whom I teach the Master class at Chanticleer Garden, won the best photography book award. Friends Cathy Barash and Bill Thomas were named Fellows of the Garden Writers Association. Linda and I were honored to be presented with the GWA highest award. We were inducted into the Garden Writers Association Hall of Fame: two of twenty four so honored since 1981.

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