Chasing Dollars

South Rim Horse Chase | Beebower Productions

So you want to be a professional photographer.  It’s expensive, right?  You buy high-priced gear like cameras and lenses. You purchase a computer and photo processing software.  You find  a studio or workshop plus some advertising.  And you might want to throw in a few photo classes and some insurance.   That all adds up really quickly.

But I bet you’ve never considered the cost of actually taking a photo.   We’re giving you a peek behind the scenes this week and sharing what Dad actually paid to create some of his favorite photos.

Producing these images is more than just snapping a photo.  Dad choreographs these photo events like a ballet.  They require photo assistants, wranglers, land permit fees, modeling fees, props, expensive camera gear and travel expenses.

Big Budget Shoot

We’ll start with the South Rim Horse Chase.   During the peak of Dad’s Western shooting in the early 2000s, he dreamed up a simple action shot of a cowboy roping horses.  Executing that shot would be anything but simple and definitely not cheap.  

Dad hired cowboy extraordinaire Red Wolverton from the Wolverton Mountain Movie Ranch to coordinate the horses, the wranglers, the roper and handle safety issues.  Red lived in southeastern Arizona and knew just the spot to shoot this action packed scene.  He negotiated fees with the owners of the King Ranch at Mendoza Canyon.  The day of the shoot, Red showed up early to create a temporary corral and a chute made out of orange construction fencing.  

Meanwhile Dad made preparations from Dallas.  He hired a photo assistant to accompany him to Arizona.  He arranged with his brother (and business partner) to run the studio in his absence.  He packed up gear, bought the film and drove west.

Then it was show time.   Red’s wranglers moved the white horses through the corral and to the chute.  Dad only had four passes to capture the action of the cowboy roping the white horses.  Timing was everything.  Plus he needed to finish the shoot in one day to keep costs down.  

He succeeded!  Then he roared back to Dallas to get the film processed and scanned at his professional lab.  So the South Rim Horse Chase’s price tag included:

Red Wolverton’s Services


King Ranch Fees


Photo Assistant Fees


Travel Expenses


Film Processing & Scanning


Grand Total


The bottom line would be much higher today due to inflation.  Have we shocked you yet?  Yes, these old West puppies were pricey.  

However, during this time, Western images sold like hotcakes in the advertising world.  Dad, through his fabulous stock agency Sharpshooters, would make enough in sales to cover his next Western shoot.  He continually re-invested in the business.

Mendoza Canyon Pack Horses | Beebower Productions

Back to the Canyon

Next up, Mendoza Canyon Packhorses.    This shot didn’t require coordinating action, but it Dad needed two photo assistants.  One ran the fog machine in the background of the photo and the other assisted Dad with film loading, moving equipment, etc.

Again Dad brought Red on as the photo coordinator.  Red scouted locations, settled on the King Ranch and negotiated the fees.  He provided the horses, the pack gear and was the cowboy in this shot.

Dad paid travel expenses from Dallas to southeastern Arizona for himself and two assistants, plus film and processing back in the city.  He also would need scans and duplicates made at the lab.

Mendoza Canyon Packhorses comes in well under the massive South Rim Horse Chase budget but the bill still packs a big punch:

Red Wolverton’s Services


King Ranch Fees


Photo Assistant Fees


Travel Expenses


Film Processing & Scanning


Grand Total


Whooping Crane Taking Off | Beebower Productions

Wildlife vs. Westerns

How does shooting wildlife photos compare to the super expensive Western photo events?  Animal photographs also carry a big price tag, although not the staggering amount of the Westerns.  Photographers must find the wildlife, travel there and, in many cases, pay fees to access the land where the animal lives.

A couple of years ago, Dad decided to photograph the endangered whooping cranes near Port Aransas, Texas.  Whooping cranes forage in marshes and shallow water for plants and animals like mollusks, fish and frogs.  One of the few ways to get close enough to photograph these birds, even if you have a 400mm lens or longer, is by boat.

So Dad hired Captain Kevin Simms with Aransas Bay Birding Charters to take him out one cold February day.  When I say hired, only three passengers went out on the Jack Flash—Dad, my Mom and her friend.  That cost a pretty penny.  But it was worth it. Captain Kevin got Dad to the right spot for some spectacular photos without the hassle of shooting of around 10 other semi-serious photographers all vying for the same image.  That can get pretty ugly.

So here’s where the money went:

Travel Expenses


Boat Charter


Grand Total


That’s certainly better than the South Rim Horse Chase budget, but still a big chunk of change.    The whoopers, however, paled in comparison to Dad’s next photographic quest, hummingbirds.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird at Yellowbell Bloom | Beebower Productions

Madera Madness

Dad traveled to Madera Canyon, Arizona to capture this broad-billed hummingbird’s photo. Madera’s known as a birding hot spot, especially during the spring and fall migration season.  You could see up to 15 different species of hummingbirds not to mention rare birds like the elegant trogon in a trek through this mountainous area.

We stayed the Santa Rita Lodge’s cabins, one of three lodging possibilities in the canyon.  Since the closest town is down the mountain, you save time staying at the lodge plus they maintain feeders that bring hummingbirds in droves.

Before he left Dallas, Dad created a special five-flash light ring and a two-flash backdrop for this shoot to ensure all of the feathers glittered on the birds and the wing action was frozen.  That meant he bought the wood, hardware, paint, foam core and five new Canon Speedlite flashes.  

Dad saved money by using me as a photo assistant.  We purchased hummingbird feeders and several native potted flowers to help attract the birds to our cabin.  

Using all of these items, we created a photo set just for hummingbirds behind our cabin.  Here’s how the costs break down:  

Travel Expenses


Santa Rita Lodge (4 nights)




Hummingbird Photo Gear


Grand Total


As you can see, photography isn’t a cheap business.  Capturing amazing images requires a great deal of work and money on the photographer’s part.  

By now you may be wondering how on earth do photographers make any money?  I find the term “starving artists” very useful.   However, there are a couple of ways to recoup the money invested in a photo.    But we’ll have to save that for a future blog.

Now that you’ve gotten a glimpse behind the costs in photography, what do you think?  Will you be jumping into professional photography any time soon?  I think Dad’s happy with his choice to pursue photography even if it meant skipping a few meals out because he was a starving artist.  

8 Steps to Better Photos

Mountain Lion and Dogs | Beebower Productions

Growing up I was surrounded by photography.  From Frito Lay chip shoots to old West horse stampedes, my Dad and Uncle Gordon lived, slept and ate photography.  I loved looking at their work.   I’d study Dad’s pictures like Mountain Lion & Dogs and wonder how he got a mountain lion and dogs to cooperate for a photo.  (I later learned it was a stuffed mountain lion, but those dogs sure thought it was alive.)

As much as the subjects of his images fascinated me I quickly realized photography, from my child-sized eyes, looked really complicated: lighting and f-stops and technical junk everywhere.  I didn’t really like technical junk.  It gave me headaches.  No, I decided, journalism might be more my style.

It wasn’t until my high school years that I suddenly got shoved into photography.  I was working as a freelance writer at a local weekly newspaper.  The staff photographer wasn’t available to take pictures for my story.  Dad suggested I learn to shoot my own photos and write the story.  That would give me two marketable skills.  (Wise man since we’re now in business together.)

Who knows why, but I jumped in with both feet despite my old feelings toward the profession.  Suddenly I was in a race to learn how to take really good photos before I headed off to college to study, gasp, photojournalism.

Naturally I turned to my two favorite photographers, Dad and Uncle Gordon.  Here’s what I learned from them over the next four years:

1) Study great photos: 

It should come as no surprise if you want to be good at something you study the masters.  Back in the dark ages before the Internet, I actually looked at magazines well known for their top-notch photography.   I spent hours pouring over each issue of National Geographic and it’s companion Traveler.  I soaked up the library’s photo book collection.  Dad and I visited art museums to study paintings and photographs.

Today it’s so easy to study great photos it’s not funny.  The Internet is rife with photo galleries, photographers offering online classes and e-books.  You can follow photographers on Facebook, exchange tweets and build a gallery of top-notch images to study on Pinterest.  Often you interact directly with the photographer because many have their own websites and respond directly to your comments and questions.  So hunt for great photos and learn all you can from studying them.

2) “CSI” photos: 

Don’t just look at great photos, pull them apart or “CSI” them.  How did the photographer use light in the photo?  Was it available light or a flash?  What direction did the light come from and why is that important to the photo?  Is there more than one light source such as available light and flash?  When you take the time to study a photo there are clues like shadows and catch lights in people’s eyes that can help you determine light sources.

Did the photographer use the Rule of Thirds or leading lines in his composition of the photo?  What part of the composition works or doesn’t work?  Why?

Look at the whole photo.  Does it make a point or tell a story?  How did the photographer accomplish that?

If the information’s available, study the choices the photographer made with the ISO, f-stop, shutter speed and lens focal length.  How do those things contribute to stopping the action, the grain in the photo, sharpness or blurriness, overall message or feeling of the photo?

Studying these elements of a photo will give you a better understanding of what makes a good picture. To progress even faster, give yourself assignments to improve on specific techniques (see number six!).

Dad’s Mastered His Camera | Beebower Productions

3) Master your gear: 

Nothing screams amateur more than a photographer who doesn’t know how to change the f-stop or attach his camera to the tripod.  When you go out in the field using your camera, lens, flashes and tripods should be second nature.  You shouldn’t even have to think about it.  Practice until you master all aspects of your gear.  

By doing that, you’ll be able to concentrate on composing and lighting your photo rather than finding that little button that allows you to cut your flash output in half.

4) Find a mentor: 

Very few of us are born with top-notch talent oozing out our pores.  Most of us had to study, practice and work very hard to become good at what we do.  Many of us also had mentors that spurred us on and challenged us beyond what we thought possible.  I had two-my Dad and my Uncle Gordon.

Your mentor could be a teacher, a fellow photographer or family member.  Just find someone who takes amazing photos and wants to pass that passion and knowledge on to you.  Then take your time together seriously.

5) Take a class: 

Some of us learn best in a classroom setting and other prefer hands-on learning in the field.  I assure you there’s a class or workshop out there that fits you.  Thanks to the Internet there are so many opportunities to learn about photography it should be pretty easy to find a class at a university, a community college, an online class or with a professional photographer leading a workshop.  

Why bother?  A well-done photography class pushes you to learn faster than you might on your own, gives you new ideas and connects you with other photographers in your area.  You can get those burning photography questions answered and bounce ideas off of your new compadres.

My Own Photo Assignment | Beebower Productions

6) Give yourself a photo assignment: 

So you studied great photos, ripped them apart, found a mentor and took a great class.  Now it’s time to practice all you’ve learned.  Focus on mastering one aspect of photography at a time.  For example, learn how to really shine at lighting your subjects.  

Depending on your type of photography (fine art, photojournalism, portraits, etc.) that lighting assignment might look a bit different.  For example, I studied on-camera or hand-held flash techniques as opposed to studio lighting because most of my newspaper assignments required shooting on the fly.

I date myself here, but one of my early assignments was learning how to manually focus on moving objects.  (Gasp, no auto focus!)   My Dad drove his van around town looking for folks riding bikes and running.  I hung out the passenger window with my camera attempting to focus while the van and the subject moved.  We did that one over and over and over.  Sigh.  But eventually I got.  Our drive-by shootings did the trick.

So pick an aspect of photography basics and begin practicing until you learn it so well you could do it in your sleep.

7) Open yourself up to constructive critiques: 

Nobody likes to hear how they did something wrong.  But in an ever-changing field like photography, your career stalls if you’re unwilling to listen to critiques and advance your techniques.   

There’s always something new to learn, so build a thick skin, put your work up on the bulletin board and ask your fellow photographers to give you the good, bad and ugly.

During my time at Mizzou (University of Missouri) we did just that every week.  A group of about 15 folks ripped your photo apart for about 10 minutes and then moved on to the next victim.  It was painful at first, but as I began to see the value of what folks were saying rather than thinking they were attacking me, I really learned a lot.  My photography improved faster than it would have with an adoring crowd.  (Make no mistake that Dad and Uncle Gordon were quick to point out the good, the bad and the ugly too, but it’s different when it’s family critiquing!)  

Choose your forum carefully.  You want to make sure the critiques come from folks who really know what they’re talking about.  Again, the Internet really helps open up the critique choices.  

I’d highly recommend a website developed by my friend Gary Fong.  He used to be the Director of Editorial Graphics Technology at the San Francisco Chronicle and now runs the Genesis Photography Agency.  Gary also helped develop the We Are Photographers website.  Wouldn’t you know, Gary and his cohorts offer a “Photo Gauntlet” where folks submit their pictures for review.  Check it out at

8) Stay up on the latest developments: 

As I mentioned before, photography changes in the blink of an eye.  I remember film and slides from the early years of Dad’s studio.  Heck I shot them myself.  You also had to process film in a darkroom, not the desktop.  

It seems like so long ago, but in reality digital didn’t become “affordable” for the most photographers until the late 1990s.  It was a big deal when I was given a digital camera for my job in 2000.  A stern-faced boss told me under no circumstances was that camera ever to be scratched.  Otherwise I owed the company $20,000.  Today you can buy a far nicer digital camera body for about $7,000.  The times are a changing.

Staying up on the latest in photography isn’t just about the cameras and lenses, although that’s certainly enough.  It covers flashes, tripods and gear, techniques, software, computers and printers.  It’s enough to make your head spin, but if you want to have that competitive edge you have to put in the research and practice time.  

So there you have it.  Eight ways to improve your photography at warp speed.  By doing these things I not only learned enough to earn a degree in photojournalism, I actually built a solid portfolio and got a job when I graduated.  

What things have helped you become a better photographer?

From Capture to Canvas | Our Top 3 Post-Production Tools

Buckboard Cowboy | Beebower Productions


Adobe Photoshop first hit the markets in the early 1990s.  At the time, Dad was shooting film and paying a retoucher to correct any problems in his photos.  (See my earlier blog post about Photoshop here)   His advertising clients were happy, but Dad saw the writing on the wall.  He knew he needed to learn how to use Photoshop A.S.A.P.  

The photo industry was changing quickly. After exhausting my short supply of Photoshop knowledge Dad signed up for an actual Photoshop class where he learned more than the basics of retouching.  

Photoshop did have a steep learning curve, though.  There were and are so many tools and tricks that Dad spent hours practicing on photos. He also had to buy better computers that could handle the enormous RAM requirements from Photoshop.  But it was worth it.  His newfound knowledge and tools kept the clients coming back for more shots and gave him a competitive edge. 

When one of his commercial advertising clients wanted to shoot a patterned couch for an ad, Dad solved the nasty moray pattern problem with Photoshop.  Prior to Photoshop there wasn’t much you could do to eliminate moray patterns that were caused by a combination of the lens and film issues.   With Photoshop, you could add a slight blur that left the product still in focus, but eliminated the moray.  Problem solved.  Everyone was happy.

Photoshop saved photographers time and money because they didn’t have to reshoot or pay retouchers.  But Photoshop also opened other doors for Dad in his Western shooting.    

Dad had lots of old West photo ideas floating around in his head.  Many of them required intense cowboy action in scenic locations.  Sometimes the two parts didn’t work together due to photo restrictions at the scenic location or just the expense of transporting cowboys and animals to the location.

Photoshop changed everything.  It gave Dad freedom he hadn’t experienced before.  He could shoot pieces of a photo and then blend those pieces together in Photoshop to create one image.  Dad was no longer was limited to the traditional one-shot photo.

Take, for example, his photo Buckboard Cowboy.  Dad photographed the sand dunes in Utah, the tumbleweed in Tucson, the sky and the mountains in various Arizona locations.  Then he shot Red Wolverton and his buckboard at the Wolverton Mountain Movie Ranch in southern Arizona.  

Red was actually driving down a sandy hill he created at his ranch. Dad merged all of the pieces to create a dramatic buckboard ride.  The image floating around in Dad’s head now came to life in a way not possible before.

You can see that Photoshop had a major impact on Dad’s photography.  Coming from the commercial advertising background, if Dad could “dream” up a photo he could create it in Photoshop.

So what are the down sides to Photoshop?  As I mentioned it does require a significant time commitment to learn Photoshop.  But it allows artists to create amazing images, control color, sharpen a photo and do a myriad of other things.

Another negative is really more of a caution.  You can over do Photoshop.  There are so many whiz-bang things Photoshop can do, it’s easy to go overboard.  You know what I mean.  Some photos just look fake because the artist used over-the-top color or didn’t blend the layers leaving a halo around the subject.  

Dad tries never to loose sight of the point of the photo.  In his Buckboard Cowboy image the point was to convey an intense ride in a precarious situation.  Adding more flying sand around the buckboard might be cool, but adding too much of a good thing can be a distraction from the focus of the photo.

A final down side to Photoshop is the cost.  Until recently, you purchased the software outright for about $600-700.  Adobe now sells Photoshop as a monthly subscription.  It can range anywhere from $10-$70 a month depending on the package you pick.  Some photographers aren’t too happy about this.  Dad and I still use our older versions of Photoshop because they still work.  

For the pro or semi serious photographer, Adobe makes Photoshop Lightroom.  This program contains many of the tools that the regular version of Photoshop offers, but not the full package.  A lot of professional photographers use Lightroom to manage large quantities of images and do basic editing on location.  Lightroom runs anywhere from $76-135.

For the beginning or hobby photographer another option is Adobe Elements.  Elements allows you to do a nice range of photo corrections: manage color, correct red eye, stitch photos together and move objects within the photo.  It runs about $60.

Neither Dad nor I have used Lightroom or Elements; however, the reviews we’ve read suggest both programs are a pretty good investment.  We’ve never regretted the money spent on Photoshop.  To get the skinny on all three programs visit

Longhorn Roundup | Beebower Productions

Ultimatte KnockOut

Dad loves Ultimatte KnockOut.  It cuts objects out of photos like greased lightening and it leaves no clues behind.  It even takes the shadows behind the objects into the new composite.  Dad first learned of Ultimatte in the late 1990s.  Like many of Dad’s tools, Ultimatte harkens back to the movie industry.

According to the Ulimatte website, “Petro Vlahos is a Hollywood special effects pioneer who developed the color-difference blue screen process for the Motion Picture Research Council…today Ultimatte users are able to create completely seamless composites which preserve fine details such as hair, smoke, mist, motion blur and shadows…The total realism achieved allows for the creation of scenes that would otherwise be too dangerous, impossible and impractical.”


Longhorn Roundup Blue Screen | Beebower Productions

Sounds like a program after Dad’s own heart!  Ultimatte combined with Photoshop allowed Dad to create some amazing photos like Longhorn Roundup.  Dad shot the cowboy action sequence in this composite photo at a ranch in Colorado.  He shot inside a corral, but 16’ blue screen panels surrounded the entire corral. The blue screen makes it easy for Ultimatte, functioning as a plug-in to Photoshop, to cut out the cowboy and cattle seamlessly.  Dad then placed these characters in an image he shot at Big Bend National Park in Texas.

Ultimatte really shines when you need to cut out a subject with intricate details like a hummingbird wing.  It quickly and accurately creates a selection in half the time it would take Dad in Photoshop.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird at Mexican Cigar Bloom | Beebower Productions

Dad shot a black-chinned hummingbird against a green screen background.  Ultimatte cut the bird and flowers out quickly.  Then Dad dropped a more pleasing background into the image using layers and blending tools in Photoshop.  This would have been tedious project without Ultimatte.

When Dad first started using Ultimatte about 15 years ago, the software out shone Photoshop’s selection capabilities.  But in the last couple of years, Photoshop caught up to Ultimatte.  There’s no need to buy two programs unless you own an older version of Photoshop. 

The down side to Ultimatte is two-fold.  You must have a computer with an enormous amount of RAM to run both Photoshop and Ultimatte.  When he bought the program years ago Dad added an additional 10 gigs to his Macintosh.  So that’s an added cost.

Second, Ultimatte isn’t cheap.  The plug-in runs about $700.  That’s an additional $700 beyond Photoshop.  Dad, however, has easily made back that investment with the images he’s sold over the years.  For the beginning to semi-serious photographer we’d recommend just purchasing the latest version of Photoshop for one whopping payout of about $120-$700 depending on the options you choose.

To learn more about Ultimatte Knockout visit their website at

Perfect Resize

As with many of his tools, Dad discovered Perfect Resize when one of his commercial advertising clients need a small photo blown up large for an ad campaign.

Photoshop is a great tool, but if you take a small file and try to enlarge it, a couple of things happen.  You loose sharpness and you gain noise (strange graininess created by the software “guessing” what should be in the extra spaces).  This isn’t Photoshop’s fault.  It’s just a natural result of taking something small and making it large.

Nonetheless your photo looks less than stellar.  Enter Perfect Resize.  Dad decided to give it a try because he had nothing to loose in his situation.  It was nothing short of amazing.  Dad was happy.  The client was happy.  The enlarged image looked just as sharp and crisp as the original photo.  Dad had a new tool in his arsenal.

So how does it work?  According to the folks at On One Software, it contains fractal-based interpolation algorithms that create the enlargement data.  What that mumbo jumbo really means is you can blow it up really big without loosing sharpness or detail.

As Dad said, “I don’t know what tricks they have in their bag, but it really works!”

The program functions as a plug-in to Photoshop.  You simply open the image in Photoshop, choose “File” and “Automate” and then “Perfect Resize”.  The program then takes you to the Perfect Resize screen where you select the width and height you’d like.  Hit apply and you’re done.

Broad-Billed Hummingbird at Mexican Cigar Bloom | Beebower Productions

We use Perfect Resize to make photos for our clients everyday.  A great example is The Great Horse Chase.  It was shot on 35mm film and the Photoshop file is a mere 10”x18”.  However, we offer the image as a whopping 30”x40” canvas wrap.  The details are crisp and sharp despite the giant jump in size.  That’s all thanks to Perfect Resize.

There is one thing to keep in mind if you buy the software.  Perfect Resize won’t make your images sharper than you shot them.  It just prevents fuzziness from creeping in as the image is enlarged.  So you still need to shoot for technical excellence in the field.

Perfect Resize is much kinder to your pocket book than Photoshop.  You can buy the latest version for a mere $150.  It also works with Photoshop Lightroom and Elements.

You can get the details at

So there you have it, three of Dad’s favorite pieces of postproduction magic. 

What tools have you found that help process your photos?

Are We There Yet? (Part 3)

Lighthouse on the Rocks | Beebower Productions

Shed Some Light

You’re probably wondering if this trip is ever going to end.  Dad’s epic photo adventure through Northern California, Oregon and Washington state lasted six weeks.  Up and down the mountains, to the coast and over the river the little Mouse House (the folks’ Casita) rolled.  Today we’ll explore Oregon and Washington’s treasures before heading home to Texas.  (Yes, Jimmy we’re almost there!)

The Umpqua River Lighthouse stands on a bluff near the Umpqua River on Winchester Bay in Oregon.    It’s surrounded by a caretaker’s house, other buildings and a black fence.  It’s really not all that picturesque, but it has an interesting history.

The first lighthouse was built on the sandy banks of the river in 1857.  Apparently no one realized the river flooded during gales and when heavy storms hit the mountains.  The foundation gradually wore away until the whole thing collapsed in 1864 while the workers were taking apart the iron lantern room.  The workers barely escaped with their lives.

The Lighthouse Board wised up and built the next lighthouse on the bluff in 1894. It stands 64’ tall and still uses the original Fresnel lens that provides both red and white flashes of light.  At one point the lighthouse was an active Coast Guard station, but it’s now run by the Douglas County Parks Department.

Fascinating.  But it didn’t change the fact that the lighthouse lacked a certain photographic punch that Dad wanted.  However, he had an image in mind.  He just had to capture the pieces and then he could put them together in Photoshop. 

First, he eliminated as many of the buildings as he could and the fence surrounding the lighthouse by leaning over the fence and shooting low with a wide-angle lens.  This gave the lighthouse a looming quality because wide-angle lenses distort straight lines.  This distortion is neither good nor bad.  It just depends on the photographer’s intensions.  

In this case, Dad liked the distortion created by the wide angle.  You’ll see the base of the lighthouse seems to be quite large in relationship to the top of the lighthouse.  Those lines draw your eye into the photo.

Dad also photographed some interesting rocks in the area.  As he said, “They forgot to build the lighthouse on top of rocks that looked cool, so I helped them out.”

He already had a blue sky at home in his photo stockpile, so he was able to merge the three pictures together to produce his unique interpretation of Umpqua Lighthouse.

Photo Lesson

Sometimes it’s necessary to eliminate background objects that can ruin your photo.  You can do that while photographing or in Photoshop.  Here Dad worked to find an angle and a lens that would cut the “noise” so the lighthouse “popped” out of the photo.  He then used Photoshop to create a rock base and add a blue sky to further enhance the image.

To plan your visit to the lighthouse visit

Haystack Rock, Canon Beach, Oregon

After leaving the lighthouse, the Mouse House rolled on to a very famous West Coast icon, Haystack Rock at Canon Beach.  This monolithic rock sticks up 235’ above the water and serves as a home to nesting sea birds as well inspiration for artists.

At low tide you can actually walk out to the rock, although climbing the rock is forbidden.  Dad photographed in the morning as well as at sunset. That’s when things got interesting.

Dad was mulling over his recent sunset photo as he was walking back to his van when he suddenly noticed a big dog running toward him.  It wasn’t on a leash.  The closer it got, the bigger the Doberman looked.  

Dad stopped in his tracks when it became apparent that the owners had no control over the animal whose focus was locked on to Dad like a heat-seeking missile.  Quickly taking stock of his gear, Dad formulated a plan to whack the dog with his Gitzo tripod.  Yup.  That should do it if things got ugly.

Right about that time the Doberman noticed a couple walking their small dog near Dad.  The Doberman was torn.  Camera guy or little dog?  Camera guy or little dog?  Hmmm…

Thankfully we’ll never know which one the dog would have chosen because his absentee owners finally caught him and put him on a leash.  It looked like Dad and his photo were saved at the last moment.

Haystack Sunset | Beebower Productions

Photo Lesson

Always be aware of what’s happening around you.  While it’s important to focus on the details of taking your pictures, you never know when a rampaging dog or other animal may take an unusual interest in you.  In a pinch your photo gear can double as a weapon.

To learn more about this classic sea stack at Canon Beach (minus the Doberman) visit

To learn about places to take your well-mannered furry friends at the Oregon Coast, check out this post:

Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge

The next stop on the epic photo journey held great promise.  Dad hoped to find hundreds of wintering waterfowl like ducks, geese, swans and cranes in the 5,300 acre Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge near Ridgefield, Washington.   

Alas, the birds had flown the coop about a week earlier.  Timing really is everything with wild animals.  By timing, I mean the wild animals keep their own schedule.  Even though they were supposed to hang around a week or two longer, they decided to check out early.  Despite that disappointment, Dad gave it his best shot.  He spent several days combing the refuge looking for pictures.  

One day he found mom and dad geese with their goslings out on the water, but he couldn’t get close enough even with the equivalent of a 800mm lens. Canoeing is not allowed at the refuge, so even with a super long lens photographing waterfowl would be challenging.  

Dad did see several hawks and a bunch of nutras eating along the shores.  Sometimes everything comes together to give you an easy shot.  Other days nothing works out.  It was cold, rainy and he was having trouble finding clean shots to showcase the birds and animals.  If he’d had more time at the refuge, perhaps he would have found those winning shots.

Duck | Beebower Productions

Photo Lesson

Some things sound better on paper than in reality.  This refuge probably has plenty of wintering birds, but Dad missed them by about a week.  There’s no way to really know if a location will work photographically without checking it out in person.  Sometimes you win and sometimes you loose.

You can find out more about Ridgefield at

Waterfalls Galore

Heading east, the folks traveled along the historic Columbia River Highway, a part of the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area.  This road is loaded with waterfalls.  The first stop was Multnomah Falls, a mere 611’ foot drop from the top to the bottom.

Unlike many waterfalls, this puppy runs year round thanks to underground springs at Larch Mountain.  Because it’s easy to access and always flowing this is a busy, busy scenic point.  Another challenge is the Benson Bridge that runs smack dab in the middle of the falls (photographically speaking).    In order to show both tiers of the falls, you have to include the bridge, well at least until you decide to Photoshop it out of the picture if you are so inclined.

Multnomah Waterfall | Beebower Productions

Not too far down the road is Horsetail Falls, not to be confused with the falls from last week of the same name.  This Horsetail Falls is 176’ tall and not nearly as crowded as Multnomah.  Photography is much easier here.

These two waterfall photographs are nice, but Dad really took them for their “parts”.  As I mentioned at the lighthouse, Dad used his stockpile of parts to create his own version of Umpqua.  You just never know where these waterfalls might turn up next. 

Photo Lesson

Always keep your eyes open for photo “parts”.  Dad will often take pictures of things like skies, waterfalls and forests.  Alone the pictures may not be so impressive.  But he uses them to create fantastical photo illustrations.  

Horsetail Waterfall | Beebower Productions

Happy Independence Day!

Happy Fourth of July from all of us at Beebower Productions, Inc.!

We put this video together to celebrate America’s amazing beauty and history.


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