How To Achieve Sharper Images

We have gotten so used to looking at images on television, in newspapers and on smart phones that it’s often a shock to see a truly sharp print at an exhibition. A sharp image can dazzle the eye so unexpectedly that we may feel we’ve never really looked at things that way.

That’s why professional photographers and serious hobbyists devote considerable thought and energy to achieving the sharpest image possible. Here are some things to keep in mind if you want to achieve a sharper image.

Continue reading at Adorama Learning Center.

Sand dune - White Sands National Monument, New Mexico
Receding lines, using a very small aperture of f/22 plus converting the image into black & white give this image a sense of sharpness and great depth. Shot with a Fujifilm XT-1 with 10-20mm Fujinon lens.


Stan Hywet Garden in Akron, Ohio
Sharpness is created with a very small aperture of f/22 and the lines of the pathway. Shot with a Hasselblad with a normal 80mm lens at f/22.


Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
I spotted this meadowlark as we were driving so we stopped the car to assess the situation. (Stopping the car always helps.)To get maximum sharpness in this image, I locked my long Nikkor 28-300mm telephoto lens between my driver’s side window and the car frame to minimize camera shake and I focused very carefully. Luckily, the bird was a very cooperative subject and didn’t move. I didn’t want the background sharp so I used f/5.6 with my lens at 300mm.


Trinidad, Cuba
Receding lines. V shapes on path and on wall (left). Fast shutter speed (1/500sec.) to freeze workman’s motion gives this image sharpness and appearance of great depth. Fujifilm XT-1 with 18-55mm Fufinon lens set at f/11.


Death Valley National Park, CA
I stopped the car, framed the shot through the car window and used the curve in the road to lead into the frame. The multiple colors and the receding rounded hills have the appearance great sharpness and depth. Nikon D800 with 24-70mm lens at f/16.


Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico
Creating a high contrast of light and dark gives the image clarity and depth. The slight diagonal line running from right to left help create a better sense of depth. I focused on the point 1/3 into frame from right and used a tiny aperture of f.22 to give this image clarity and drama. Nikon D800E with 28-300mm Nikkor lens.


South India
Insisting that the subject not move was critical. The subject wasn’t sure where to look so I asked him to look directly into my eye. I waited patiently for the “right” expression on his face, using the time to focus accurately on the subject’s eye. A small aperture of f/11 and the warm background helped keep the subject’s white stubble and mustache sharp.Nikon D800E with 24-70mm lens.


Bosque del Apache National Wildlife refuge, New Mexico
Again, I stopped the car — feeling lucky to be at the right place at the right time. However, having my camera ready and close by and set on burst mode with a super fast shutter speed (1000/sec.) was not luck but good planning. Nikon D800E with a 28-300mm Nikkor lens set at f/5.


White Sands National Monument
Mindfulness and photographic seeing were necessary to craft this composition. Optical deception, large and small wiggly receding lines plus the decision to convert into a moderately contrasty b&W was helpful. Including photographer on right was brilliant. Hand held. Shot with a Fujifilm Xt-1 with 10-20mm Fujinon lens at f/22.


Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona
Making sure I did not get too close to the wall of this slot canyon was important. If I got too close to the wall and focused on the front part of the wall I would not have enough depth of field to get the background sharp. The receding curved lines on right and left of frame and the lightening of the image on both the right and left side helped me create a decent composition. Camera on tripod. Shot with Fujifilm XT-1 with 10-20mm Fufinon lens at f/22.

Holiday Parties: How To Capture The Good Times

The end of the year is filled with celebrations — Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s, office parties, and more — and that means a busy time for shutterbugs. We all want to capture those fun-filled moments with our cameras. Just like the holiday parties themselves, planning is the key to success. Continue reading at Adorama Learning Center.

Aerial Photography: Alaska

A few years ago, we traveled to Alaska to visit the state’s numerous national parks — eight in all. As we planned our trip, we realized that only three of the parks — Denali (which we had been to before), Kenai Fjords and Wrangell-St. Elias — were reachable by road. And even those are so huge that we wouldn’t get to see much of their interiors unless we ventured further by boat or air. (Denali NP, which gets the most visitors, offers organized bus tours and allows private cars into the campgrounds but no further except by foot.)

Since we were determined to experience even Alaska’s most remote national parks, we booked boats and flights so we could see more of these magnificent wild areas and photograph them. In all, we took nine flights to explore five of Alaska’s most remote national parks: Kobuk Valley, Gates of the Arctic, Wrangell-St. Elias, Lake Clark and Katmai NP. We got to them on small planes of various sizes, including bush planes that can land on water.

Continue reading at Adorama Learning Center.

How to Lighten Up Your Camera Gear

As a professional photographer, I always wanted to use the best equipment. Quality was foremost and quantity was not an obstacle. I had cabinets full of Nikon, Canon, Olympus, Hasselblad, Rolleiflex and Sinar cameras with an assortment of lenses to go with them.

But over the years, I faced more and more situations that required me to limit my equipment. There were weight limits on some flights, especially on small planes going to remote places. Or I had to hike into a location and could only carry so much. Or I was taking a trip with many stops and I wanted to simplify my load. And — I’m sure this is familiar to some of you — lugging a lot of heavy gear just wasn’t fun any more. Usually, I just took less of the equipment I had. But as I began replacing gear, especially after cameras went digital, I started looking at lighter models that still lived up to the quality requirements I had. Continue reading at Adorama Learning Center.

Exploring Acadia National Park and Coastal Maine

The coast of Maine is one of the most dramatic, rugged locations on America’s Atlantic shore. A good chunk of that coastal expanse, plus adjacent mountains and cliffs, were pieced together to create Acadia National Park, the first national park east of the Mississippi River.

While it’s a great place to enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding and boating, it’s also a wonderfully challenging location for photographers. Here, within a relatively small area — its nearly 50,000 acres make it the fifth smallest national park in the system — you can find a diversity of landscapes: 26 mountains including the tallest on the east coast; 26 lakes and ponds; 17 stone bridges; a sand beach; a lighthouse; and a fjard (not quite a fjord!).

Here are some tips to help you come home with striking photographs of this wealth of visual riches.

Focus on Flowers: Backgrounds

Flowers are so inherently beautiful that it takes extra effort to create a photograph that is even more striking than the flower. When I began photographing flowers, I basically took what I call “floral mugshots.” They were reasonably accurate but they didn’t say “Wow!” Gradually, I learned how to take better images of flowers.

One of the most important things I realized is that the flowers are just one element of the image; the rest are its surroundings, especially their backgrounds. How you handle those backgrounds can make the difference between a dull and a divine shot. In this article, I’ll discuss a variety of situations you’re likely to encounter in your flower photography and how you can best handle them using your DSLR. Continue reading at Adorama Learning Center.

Photographing Incredible India

When people hear that I’ve been to India at least ten times, they often react with disbelief and say something like, “Isn’t it awfully poor and crowded?” Undoubtedly, there are areas of poverty and the big cities can be crowded — but those things can be found all over the world. What I’ve found in India is a unique mix of architectural marvels, fascinating people and displays of bright eye-popping colors that are made to be photographed.

If you’re curious and daring enough to venture a journey to India, here are some pointers to make it a photographic success.

Landscapes of the American West: A Photographic Guide

With the 100th anniversary of the national parks, this is a great time to visit some of the amazing landscapes found in the American West. Between us, we’ve spent time and photographed in every national park in the system and we can definitively say that few landscapes — in the national parks and beyond — are as awe-inspiring as those found in our western states. And who can resist taking lots of pictures?

Here are some pointers to help you bring back images you’ll be proud to share.

Tips for Shooting Cuba: A Photographer’s Guide

For photographers, there’s no time to waste to capture the special character of Cuba and its people before things change. Now that Cuba is no longer off-limits to Americans, a steady stream of visitors is coming to this Caribbean island less than an hour’s flight from Miami. Expectations are that the stream will soon be a flood, with the likelihood that this sleeping beauty will awaken and soon be transformed by globalization and the forces of homogeneity.

Having led three photography tours to Cuba in the last year, here are some of my suggestions for serious shutterbugs, posted on the Adorama Learning Center site.

What’s New


Dear Fellow Shutterbug,

A belated happy new year and wishing you a successful 2016 photographically.

I have a great line-up of workshops coming this year with more of an emphasis on travel and nature destinations, though flower photography is still very much in the mix.

The spring months will feature a workshop in Key West, Florida; a return to Texas for their glorious wildflowers; a great opportunity to photograph Holland at the peak of its phenomenal bulb bloom; a wonderful chance to visit and photograph four the best public gardens in the mid-Atlantic region; and a new twist on Cuba that will bring us closer to its people and let us visit iconic locations in Havana and beyond. (I’ve run two photo trips to Cuba in the last year and learned a lot about what works and what doesn’t so you can benefit from my experience.) And that’s just the beginning.

I’ll be back in Chicago twice this year. First, I’ll be there in July with a brand new exploration of the fabulous Chicago Botanic Garden plus four other amazing gardens in the vicinity, all at the peak of their summer bloom. Then I’ll return in October to offer a multi-faceted program consisting of a lecture, a workshop and a symposium on digital flower and nature photography. Lots of learning in Chicago this year.

The year will wind down with a few favorite destination workshops. In September, by popular demand, I’ll be taking a group on a photo adventure called “Landscapes of the American West,” which will explore some of this country’s prime western locations, including Arches and Canyonlands National Parks, Monument Valley and much more. I haven’t offered this trip in quite a while so don’t miss the opportunity to come along.

Then in November, I’ll be returning to Big Bend National Park and in December, I’ll be offering “Birds and Landscapes of New Mexico” following our sold-out expeditions to these locations last year.

Scroll down to read more about all these offerings. I hope you will join me at one or more of these exciting opportunities to learn, have fun and meet wonderful people who share your interest in photography.

All the best and hope to see you soon,

Allen Rokach

Upcoming Workshops


To view additional images of these destinations, check “New Shoots” posted to the right.

SOLD OUT — March 4-6: Key West: Color and Light: a weekend photography workshop that explores the unique charms of this South Florida destination; sponsored by the Key West Art and Historical Society; for details, click here.

SOLD OUT — April 7-10: Wildflowers of Texas: a 4-day photography workshop in the countryside around Brenham, Texas; sponsored by the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden; for details, click here.

April 25-May 5: Storybook Holland: an 11-day travel photography experience that will take participants to the best locations for capturing Holland’s vast expanses of bulbs at the peak of the spring bloom; for details, click here.

May 16-20: Photographing the Great Gardens of the Mid-Atlantic Region: a 5-day photography exploration of Chanticleer, the Winterthur Estate, Longwood Gardens, and Mount Cuba Center; co-sponsored by Chanticleer Pleasure Garden and Mount Cuba Center; for details, click here.

SOLD OUT — May 27-31: Cuba: Incredible Havana and Beyond: a 5-day travel photography workshop that will concentrate on fascinating locations in Havana and Vinales; this portion is sponsored by Key West Art and Historical Society; a 3-night optional extension will explore the countryside and historical towns around Cuba; for details, click here.

July 11-15: Photographing the Great Gardens of Chicago: a 5-day photographic exploration of five spectacular gardens in and around Chicago at the height of the summer bloom; sponsored by the Chicago Botanic Garden; for details, click here.

September 16-26: Landscapes of the American West: an 11-day landscape and travel photography experience that will take participants to the best locations for capturing the dramatic beauty of the American West; for details, click here.

October 14-17: A Weekend of Photography Programs at the Chicago Botanic Garden: an evening lecture; a 2-day flower and garden photography workshop; and a symposium on business techniques for aspiring nature photographers; all sponsored by the Chicago Botanic Garden; for details, click here.

October 22-29: Big Bend National Park: an 8-day photography experience that explores the natural wonders of this evocative off-the-beaten-path Texas national park, plus excursions to the nearby towns of Marathon, Alpine and Marfa, TX; for details, click here.

December 2-9: Birds & Landscapes of New Mexico: an 8-day photography workshop that combines the Basque del Apache Wildlife Refuge and White Sands National Monument; sponsored by the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden; for details, click here.

Key West: Color and Light: March 4-6 (SOLD OUT)

Sponsored by the Key West Art and Historical Society


This digital photography workshop begins with an evening lecture on “The Power of Natural Light” to awaken your sensitivity to the beauty of all kinds of natural light.

Then we will have two days of intensive photography at the most iconic locations around Key West, as well as some little-known gems. We will concentrate on creating distinctive images built around color, shape, line and texture, making strong visual statements using these abstract elements of design. In the end, each participant will have a rich portfolio of images of this charming, picturesque and spectacular island.

We’ll be out in the field at sunrise and sunset to get the most interesting light. In between, we’ll have time for instruction in techniques you can apply immediately that focus on problem-solving, helping you hone your individual skills, and working with smart phones and iPads.

In addition, in our daily review sessions, we will explore ways to improve and fine-tune our images working with today’s amazing but simple after-capture applications, including instructions on the “Rokach effect,” which allows you to give your photographs an impressionistic cast. For more information, click here. THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW SOLD OUT.

Wildflowers of Texas: April 7-10 (SOLD OUT)

Sponsored by the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden


We’ll be returning to the Brenham area of Texas, a prime spring wildflowers destination, for this popular 4-day digital photography workshop. We will go to several locations, including private ranches, to find the best places for photographing the eye-popping array of bluebonnets, coreopsis, Indian paintbrush, Texas wine cups and other colorful specimens which blanket wide swatches of the landscape here. We’ll be photographing at sunrise and late afternoon to sunset with time in between for instruction on the finer points of digital photography, including after-capture techniques; review sessions; and personal exploration of the local towns. This workshop sold out last year so register early. For details, click here. THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW SOLD OUT.

Storybook Holland: April 25-May 5


It’s been a few years since I last offered this very special foreign travel photography workshop. So don’t miss this chance to join me as we focus on Holland’s amazing extravaganza of tulips and other bulbs at prime locations in the Dutch countryside. We will also explore several of Holland’s charming and colorful villages.

You’ll be amazed by the acres of beautifully planted bulbs at the Keukenhof Gardens and a countryside blanketed with tulip fields. You’ll be delighted by the canals of Giethoorn and the iconic windmills around the town of Lekkerkirk. Visits to wonderful private gardens will complete your rare photo experience.

Our trip is geared to the needs and interests of photographers. Our group is limited to ten participants so you will get personal attention and one-on-one assistance throughout the workshop, whether you need advice on choosing the right lens, using the right settings, making the most of available light, adjusting to various kinds of weather or creating exciting compositions with color, texture and lines. Along the way, we will make time for review sessions to learn from each other’s images and develop our skills using easy after-capture techniques.

I invite you to join me on this spectacular photographic journey. For a detailed itinerary and additional information, please email me at [email protected]. To hold your space, your deposit of $1,000 is due by February 10.

Photographing the Great Gardens of the Mid-Atlantic Region: May 16-20

Co-sponsored by Chanticleer Pleasure Garden and Mount Cuba Center


This unique 5-day flower and garden photography workshop gives you the chance to develop your creative and technical skills while exploring four spectacular gardens: Chanticleer, the Winterthur Estate, Longwood Gardens and Mount Cuba Center.

Instruction will be geared to the special features of each garden and the needs and interests of all participants. We have special permission to enter each park at sunrise and we’ll be able to stay in the gardens until sunset to make the most of the beautiful low light. We’ll have at least two field outings each day with the emphasis on composition, color and clarity of purpose. In our daily review session, we’ll find ways to improve our images and enhance them using today’s amazing after-capture applications.

All instructional and review sessions will take place at The Mt. Cuba Center. Lodging arrangements can be made by contacting Allen at 646-519-1751 or [email protected]. For more information and to register, click here.

Cuba: Incredible Havana and Beyond: A Photographic Adventure: May 27-31 (SOLD OUT)

Sponsored by Key West Art and Historical Society

Optional extension from May 31-June 3


With relations between the United States and Cuba on the way to normalization, the things that make Cuba so visually rich and culturally interesting are likely to be transformed as an influx of tourists brings development and standardization. All the more reason to get there soon, before Cuba’s character changes.

During our basic journey — four days in Havana and one day in Vinales — we will visit and photograph some of Cuba’s UNESCO World Heritage sites; districts with historic colonial architecture; cobblestone streets and picturesque port areas lined with fisherman and vendors of all kinds; small art studios and cultural shops; open air markets with handicrafts; tobacco and other plantations with typical farming families.

The optional 3-night post-trip extension takes us to two of Cuba’s prime UNESCO World Heritage sites in Cienfuegos, with its French flavor, and Trinidad, one of the most beautiful towns in Cuba. In addition, we will venture into natural areas of great scenic beauty to experience Cuba’s mountains, waterfalls and beaches.

This photographic adventure has been arranged with an agent who has long experience running trips to Cuba and has all the necessary permits and approvals. It will include the full range of Cuba’s people, places and culture with enough time for meaningful photography and many opportunities to interact with local people. To add to our immersion in local culture, we will be staying with Cuban families with appropriate space to offer us comfortable lodging and breakfast. In addition, we’ll meet artists, writers, musicians and dancers.

For full information, click here. THIS WORKSHOP IS NOW SOLD OUT.

Photographing the Great Gardens of Chicago: July 11-15

Sponsored by the Chicago Botanic Garden


This intensive 5-day flower and garden workshop offers a unique opportunity to visit and photograph five magnificent gardens in and around Chicago at the height of the summer bloom: the Chicago Botanic Garden; the Bahai Temple gardens in Willamette, IL; the Lurie Garden in Chicago’s Millenium Park; Mettawa Manor, in Mettawa, IL; and Cantigny Park in Wheaton, IL.

Through lectures, daily field sessions and individual consultations, participants at all levels of photographic experience will receive in-depth instruction on the technical and aesthetic aspects of digital flower and garden photography: understanding composition; working with natural light; representing garden design; using selective sharpness; choosing the best lens for your purpose and much more. During daily review sessions, we will emphasize problem solving, improving our images and creative after-capture techniques using todays amazing software applications. As an added bonus, we will have access to the grounds of all gardens at sunrise to capture the special qualities of early morning light.

For more information and to register, click here.