Tuesday, December 30, 2014

My Favorite Blog Posts of 2014

As 2014 comes to a close, I have a few things to share with you.  The first is this list of my favorite photography-related blog posts from this year.  The next will be my favorite photos of 2014 (from my own collection), coming in the next few days.  Following that, I'll share my favorite photography milestones from 2014.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

My First Book Cover!

Just last month, I hit a new milestone in my photography:  my photo is on the cover of a book!  The Unofficial Guide Color Companion to Walt Disney World is, as the title suggests, a full color guide to the happiest place on earth, published by Touring Plans.  A number of my photos taken around the parks and resorts appear on the cover and inside the book.  What's more, I'm in good company.  Some of my favorite Disney photographers, including Tom Bricker, Cory Disbrow, Matt Pasant, and Joe Penniston, all have photos in the book as well.  My interest in photography first grew out of admiring photos taken around Disney World by these artists and others on Flickr, so it was an honor to have my work featured alongside theirs.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Check Out My Guest Post at Digital Photography School!

The Ahwahnee at Night

I recently wrote a guest post over at Digital Photography School about how to use layer masks to conquer difficult exposure and white balance situations in Photoshop when HDR won't cut it.  Learn how I processed the above photo and many others with a step by step tutorial!

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Thanksgiving on Cape Cod

A couple weeks ago, I was on Cape Cod with my family for Thanksgiving, and I got a lot of photos I've been excited to share.

Battle of the Pies

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Through the Glass Holiday Gift Guide 2014

Is there a lens in one of those boxes?

Are you still looking for holiday gifts to get your photographer friends?  Or maybe you've been asked what you want this holiday season?  This list has items to suit many budgets and photography styles.

Monday, December 1, 2014

I'm Having a Cyber Monday Sale...and It Lasts All Week!

Oops!  Silly, me, Cyber Monday is almost over, and I haven't blogged about my sale yet!  Luckily, though, it lasts all week.  Save 30% on prints and products over at my portfolio website through December 5 by using code "samcybermonday" at checkout.

Here's just a small samples of photos you can purchase:

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

8 Tips for Photographing Spectacular Sunrises

Good Morning, Idaho Falls!

I’ve been photographing sunsets for years. Sunsets are gorgeous because the light is more diffuse and pleasing, and a bonus point is that they generally occur at an hour when most people are still awake. It wasn’t until the past year that I got into photographing sunrises. I actually think sunrises are much better than sunsets for a couple of reasons. First off, there are far fewer people around, so you can enjoy the scenery much better. Another added benefit is the gorgeous fog you tend to see at sunrise. A huge drawback to photographing sunrises is that they occur so early in the morning. That being said, photographing sunrises shows your audience that you’re serious about your photography and willing to go the extra mile to get a nice shot. Here are some tips for making your sunrise photo session a success:

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

6 Reasons I'm Not Switching to Mirrorless Yet (and Why I Will in the Future)


I'm a self-proclaimed gear-head.  I'm constantly evaluating whether I have the best equipment for my price range and for what I want to do with my photography.  Lately I've been reading more and more posts from photographers who have switched from DSLR to mirrorless cameras, either full frame Sony or a crop sensor option such as Micro Four Thirds or Fuji.  I myself use a Samsung mirrorless camera, but it's not my primary camera (it's more of a "throw in my purse" camera).

Every time I read these articles praising the virtues of mirrorless, I want to be convinced to make the switch.  The thought of lightening my gear load by several pounds and creating a more portable kit is very enticing.  The charm of looking "legit" with all my big heavy gear has long worn off for me.  If I were to switch, the only current offering that fits my needs is the Sony a7, a full frame mirrorless camera.  Unfortunately, though, I'm just not ready to make the switch yet.  Here are six reasons why this photographer is sticking with her DSLRs.  To be clear here, I'm comparing Canon DSLRs with Sony full frame mirrorless cameras, because that's the brand that comes closest to fitting my needs.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Equine Advocates Photo Trip

Last weekend, I went with my photography club to Equine Advocates in Chatham, New York.  Equine Advocates is a sanctuary for horses that have been rescued for a variety of reasons.  My friend Terry of Soul Expression Photography was kind enough to arrange this meet up.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Ode to the Canon 135L

This is the first in a series of posts where I'll share why I love some of the lenses I use.  This first post focuses on what is one of my all time favorite lenses, the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

10 Things I Saw at the Saratoga Downtown Business Association Fall Festival

A Magician on Broadway

A photographer buddy and I decided to head downtown to photograph the goings on at the Saratoga Downtown Business Association's Fall Festival.  The Fall Festival is a family-friendly day-long event with entertainment, costumes, and fun for the kids.  I'd never been before, so there where a lot of things that caught my eye.  Here are ten things in particular that I saw:

Friday, October 24, 2014

Copyright Infringement: 25 Myths About Sharing Images Online (Plus 4 Ways to Use Images Legally)

Casey's No Copycat!
Casey's no copycat!

Anyone who shares images on the internet has a responsibility to know what's legal and what's not legal.  This is especially true of businesses and organizations.  Unfortunately, though, far more people are uneducated about copyright than are.  I can't even count the number of times I've had businesses or organizations use my photos without my permission, and then claim they weren't doing anything wrong because they gave me credit and/or they found it on the internet.  What's worse is that I'm hardly alone in this; nearly every photographer I know has had to deal with copyright infringement at some point.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Manchester, Vermont and the Fall Foliage

A Barn in Vermont

Over Columbus Day Weekend, I took a day trip to Manchester, VT.  The fall colors were just about at peak, and I grabbed some shots of the mountains along the way.

Monday, October 6, 2014

5 Reasons to Upgrade to Full Frame…and Five Reasons Not To

I know the full frame vs. crop sensor (usually APS-C sensor or micro four-thirds sensor) debate has been done ad nauseam, but it seems to me like there are a lot of photographers still confused on the differences between sensor sizes.  What I've attempted to do in this article is succinctly state and describe the five major pros and five major cons of shooting full frame.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Cierra's Senior Portrait Session

Through the Glass - Photography by Samantha Decker: Portraits &emdash;

It was such a pleasure shooting Cierra's senior portraits yesterday afternoon!  Here are some of my favorites!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Old Sturbridge Village

Back in August, I went to Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts with my photography club. OSV, as it's abbreviated, is a recreation of an early 19th century New England town.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

My Summer of Sunrises

Two Horses, Two Riders

Summer 2014 was the Summer of Sunrises for me.  I had always preferred sunsets, simply because they occur at an hour when I'm usually awake.  I never realized how superior sunrise actually is until this summer.  That's not to say that I never saw a sunrise before this summer, I just never really took it in.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer 2014 at Saratoga Race Course

It was a whirlwind summer. This summer I spent a lot of time on my photography, and with the Saratoga Race Course practically in my backyard, I took to the Oklahoma Training Track, the main track, and the back stretch to photograph horses in a variety of different environments.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

California Trip Part VI: Napa Valley

All summer long, I've been blogging about my trip to California. First about Truckee and Lake Tahoe, then Bodie Ghost Townthe Mammoth Lakes area, Ahwahnee Hotel, and most recently the rest of Yosemite National Park. Today I'm going to share photos from the last leg of my trip, Napa Valley.

Dog on Board

Monday, August 25, 2014

Back to School!

Now that summer is almost over, I will return to my full-time profession, teaching, after labor day.  This morning I went into my classroom to set it up, and I just happened to bring along my 6D, 17-40 and 50mm lenses, along with my tripod.  What I ended up with was a little time lapse.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

California Trip Part V: Yosemite National Park, Continued

In previous posts, I've shared my photos from Truckee and Lake Tahoe, Bodie Ghost Town, the Mammoth Lakes area, and most recently the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park.  In today's post, I will share photos from the rest of Yosemite.

The first area of Yosemite that we visited was Tuolumne Meadows.  While it doesn't have the stunning vistas that many areas in the valley offer, it does have some neat geological features, such as the soda springs, which reminded me of Yellowstone National Park.

Soda Springs Cabin in Yosemite National Park

This wooden enclosure was built by Jean-Baptiste Lembert to protect the Soda Springs from grazing animals.

I rented the new Tamron 150-600mm lens to bring with me on the off chance that I might see a bear.  I knew that I wouldn't see any grizzly bears like I had in Yellowstone last year, and I also knew that bears are much less plentiful in Yosemite than they are in Yellowstone, but I would hate to have seen one and been unprepared.  Well, I did not see one, but lucky me, I saw marmots, deer, birds, and chipmunks.  Oh well, at least I got a good work out carrying around the lens.

Tenaya Lake Through the Trees

We stopped at Tenaya Lake just long enough to snap a few photos (including the neutral density long exposure below), but most of our time was spent in the valley.

I highly recommend the moonlit Valley Floor Tour to anyone visiting Yosemite. As a photographer, I was worried I wouldn't have enough time to set up my tripod and take photos, but the tram stopped in several locations. At some of them, you can't get off the tram, but if you work quickly, you can set your tripod up on the seat and take a photo from there (space allowing), and you can actually get off the tram for a few minutes at Swinging Bridge and Tunnel View. Aside from the opportunities for photos, the experience is way more fun than driving around at night in a car because you get to experience the open air while a park ranger tells you a little bit about your surroundings.

El Capitán at Night

Above is El Capitán, with the trees in the foreground illuminated by the lights on the tram.  This was taken from the tram, with my tripod set up on the seat.  This is one of the places where the tram stopped, but we weren't allowed off.  Below is Tunnel View.  Here, we got off for about ten minutes so I had plenty of time to set up and take a few shots.

Tunnel View by Night

The View from Swinging Bridge

Above is the view from Swinging Bridge, another location where we got off the tram.  Below are two trees illuminated by the lights on the tram.  I took this from the tram just before we got going again after stopping at Swinging Bridge.

Trees Under a Yosemite Moon

Above is a tunnel right by Tunnel View, and below is the other side of Swinging Bridge.

The Moon Shines Down on the Valley

Yosemite's Gates of the Valley at DuskI decided I really wanted to go to Valley View for sunset.  I was not prepared for how hard it is to find. It's about a 30 second drive from the Ahwahnee, but it's not marked, so unless you know where it is, you will keep driving by it.  Finally, after going by it about 3 times, I was able to locate it.

Yosemite Church at Dusk

This church was another item on my bucket list.  Dusk and a wide angle lens offered the perfect conditions under which to capture it.

The Mariposa Grove is about an hour from the Ahwahnee, but definitely one of the main attractions at Yosemite.  Here you can see some impressively large Sequoia trees.

The Grizzly Giant is one of the more popular trees.

The Mariposa Grove is really close to the Wawona Hotel, so we headed there for lunch and then to visit the adjacent Pioneer Village, which features old buildings that have been moved to one central location to educate park guests on the history of Yosemite.

Hodgdon Homestead Cabin

The View from Glacier Point

Glacier Point offers arguably an even more incredible view of the valley than Tunnel View.  I especially enjoyed being able to view the Ahwahnee from above.

Clouds Over Tunnel View

When we passed by Tunnel View on our way back from Glacier Point, the clouds were gorgeous, so I had to step out for a long exposure photo.

I chose Sentinel Bridge for a classic sunset.  The light rapidly changing over Half Dome was quite a site!  I was surprised it wasn't more crowded than it was.  There were plenty of photographers there, but I was still able to find a spot to set up.

Sunset from Sentinel Bridge

The Light on Half Dome at Sunset

It was really hard to leave Yosemite, but up next was Napa Valley!  Stay tuned for my final post on this California Trip!

Tools I used to create the photos this post:  Canon EOS 6D, Canon EOS 60DCanon EF 17-40mm f/4L USMCanon EF 50mm f/1.4 USMCanon 24-105mm f/4L F/4.0L IS EF USM AF Lens, Manfrotto 190XDB Tripod, Manfrotto 496RC2 Ball Head, B+W 77mm 3.0 ND 110 Filter, B+W 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter, Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD, Adobe Photoshop CS6

Saturday, August 16, 2014

California Trip Part IV: The Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park

In previous posts, I've shared my photos from Truckee and Lake Tahoe, Bodie Ghost Town, and most recently the Mammoth Lakes area. Today's post will feature photos I took at the Ahwahnee Hotel at Yosemite National Park. This hotel is so spectacular that it gets its own post! A subsequent post will feature other photos I took around Yosemite.

Peering into the Ahwahnee Great Lounge

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