Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Back on the Water

Victoria, Reagan, and I ventured out onto Morro Bay again with the wonderful crew of Orchid Outriggers ( The outriggers performed beautifully even with me at the controls, of course, the controls (a paddle) are somewhat rudimentary compared with those of the Hornet or Super Hornet. Regardless, we paddled at 2-3 knots for a few hours touring almost the entire estuary.

Once again the birding and photography were spectacular. The highlight of the day was when a flock of brown pelicans began dive bombing a school of small fish surrounding our outriggers.

We are close to finalizing the photo/lab courses we will run in conjunction with the Orchid Outriggers folks. Look to the website ( in the very near future for more information.

Morro Rock

Shooting up close.

He's coming right at us.

Great Blue Heron

Otter hanging out just right of the boat.

-All photographs by Marc Schulman

Monday, August 27, 2007

Printing, Printing, Printing!

Friday ended another successful week. Charles Cramer led "Digital Printing for the Fine Art Photographer." As "Printing" in the title implied, we put the lab printers to the test. By Friday afternoon, the count was roughly 326 prints (for the math challenged the average was over 20 prints per student.) For those that haven't been around in a while we have the eight 2400s, the two 3800s, the two 4800s, and the 7800 running. All of the printers saw use. Final image output ranged from 5 x 7 up to 24 x 36. Not bad.

Of course, before anyone could think of printing, we spent two and a half days learning Charlie's favorite Photoshop techniques. He is the absolute master of "Curves" and did a great job passing on his skills. Wednesday afternoon, the class began to work on their own images using the material from earlier in the week. Excellent photography combined with sound Photoshop work and constructive criticism from Charlie and the class created some truly stunning images.

Charles Cramer will be back next year to do the whole process again. The 2008 schedule will be out soon so check the website often.

As a heads up, we are traveling to Las Vegas soon for the Photoshop World conference sponsored by NAPP ( There is still time to join us. Stop by the Lepp Institute booth to chat with our instructors and register for some incredible giveaways.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Another Great Week

Frank Lavelle just finished up "Realizing Your Photographic Vision." Everyone enjoyed a great week of shooting, editing, and "big-screen" critiques. Overall, the whole class saw tremendous progress taking the Lavelle Rule of Thirds to heart. For those unfamiliar, Frank challenged the class to capture images that devoted 1/3 to the subject, 1/3 to the photographer, and 1/3 for the viewer.

It was great to get outside and shoot. As somewhat of a difference, not a single minute was spent on Photoshop. Instead, technical knowledge (presented in a very approachable teaching style), technique, and composition were the focus.

We shot almost every subject imaginable from the local farmer's market to dramatic ocean-side cliffs to an alley decorated with hundreds of thousands of pieces of used chewing gum.

Frank will be with us again next summer and we cannot wait for his return.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Calling All Bird Lovers

This post will absolutely appeal to any and all bird lovers out there, whether classic birders or nature photographers. As some of you may know the Morro Bay Estuary is one of the premier habitats for birds, both migratory and non-migratory, on the West Coast. Over 250 bird species call the 2,300 acre estuary home.

I had the privilege of spending four hours on the water with Marc Schulman, the owner of Orchid Outriggers in Los Osos. Marc operates a fleet of nine outrigger canoes. The design is his modern take on the classic Hawaiian outrigger. The craft are about 17 feet long and exhibit superb control, speed, and stability. Those of you who have ever been frustrated trying to take pictures from a kayak or canoe will appreciate the outrigger design. The inherent stability of the craft generates a very steady platform from which to shoot.

Our tour began as we launched from Baywood and headed west into the estuary. I cannot adequately describe the ease with which we entered the quiet, wondrous environment. Another point that I cannot overstate is the absolute dryness of the trip, safe for photographer and camera gear alike.

We encountered an extensive list of wildlife throughout the tour. Although I will focus on birds, we also saw leopard sharks, harbor seals, and bountiful fish. It is not uncommon to also see deer, sea lions, kangaroo rats, bobcats, and many other animals.

The birding and photography was awesome! I have never dreamed of access like that provided by the outrigger canoe. Marc, acting as propulsion and guide, positioned me to shoot gigabyte after gigabyte. The system is almost perfect. Both guide and photographer scan for wildlife and then after it is sighted (or if experience has shown wildlife will be in a certain spot) the guide positions the outrigger as the photographer sets up. For me, Marc kept the bow of the outrigger pointed at the intended subject and either drifted by or closed to as close as ten feet from the animal.

The list of birds we sighted and photographed is too extensive to list here. The highlights for me were a peregrine falcon (we closed to 20 yards and shot for 15 minutes), an osprey or sea-eagle, brown pelicans, huge white pelicans (a flock of over 70 birds), great egrets, snowy egrets, night egrets, and large great blue herons.

Bottom line, the trip was incredible (non-stop birds and wildlife for hours) and right here in our own backyard.I encourage you to visit Marc at to learn more. In addition, the Lepp Institute will be pairing with Orchid Outriggers to hold photography workshops centered around the estuary. A simple plan we are creating for locals will be a two-day seminar: one day to shoot on and around the water and a second day to catalog, optimize, and print at the Lepp Insitute's digital darkroom. We will announce class dates soon. For non-locals, our 2008 schedule will include week-long workshops with multiple days on the water.

Take care and hope to see you soon.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

In Summary....

The week was a success!

Last Friday finished five hands on days with Randy Hufford. The class was a rousing success and we look forward to a great relationship with the Huffords as well as our new sponsors. We have additional pictures of the days one and two as well. Some of the post might be a recap but we thought it worthwhile.

Hands On!

Each student made their own 18 x 24 set of stretcher bars on which to frame their canvas. Randy and LIDI got the materials and away they went!

Better Light visited LIDI for a couple of days with their scanning back technology. Like you read about in the blog previously, a student put up their original watercolor and oil work on a copy stand. Illuminated by two huge 5000 K lights, a Better Light scanning back "shot" the art. After a couple of color management tweaks, a digital copy of the art was ready to print. The technology was so impressive, one of our students from Australia purchased a Better Light scanning back on the spot.

Proofing it!

In order to ensure accurate reproduction and monitor to print color accuracy, we set up a small proofing station. The station consisted of an Eizo monitor and a GTI Graphic Technology desktop proofing booth.

Stretching it!

After they printed out their 24 x 30 canvas, the students coated it with PremierArt Eco Print Shield to protect and seal the print.

After the second or third coat of sealant dried, each student mounted and stretched their own canvas. They had the choice of doing it by hand, or to use the stretching machine. Hal and I are looking into getting a stretching machine to make it available for more classes! It is just too much fun and very easy to use!

While students were waiting for their canvas to dry or were done stretching, they started to print out images on Epson's Velvet Fine Art Paper and also some papers from Premier. After they came up with a nice print, they used a Dual Edge Ripper that gives a hand torn look to your prints. Some of them adorned their prints with gold foil or just mounted them on black foam core for framing.

Finishing up!

Randy included some finishing techniques using an embellishing gel to give a more textured look to certain areas of the work. This helps the giclee print achieve texture and "strokes."

This was, without a doubt, the most hands on workshop we have ever held and we look forward to doing many more of these!

If you are interested in finding out more about the week, the sponsors we used or about Randy and Becky, give us a call to request a sponsor list or ask us detailed questions!


Look on our schedule soon for more Randy Hufford classes coming up in 2008!