2009 Website Newsletter – Issue 1


VOLUME 6, Issue 1


Missouri Botanical Garden Book Cover
Missouri Botanical Garden Book Cover

During October I traveled to St. Louis to help launch a new book, Missouri Botanical Garden: Green for 150 Years, published by Missouri Botanical Garden Press. This 240-page book, edited by Elizabeth McNulty, Director of Publications and Visual Communications at the Garden, has more than 400 illustrations, including 70 of my color photographs of the Garden and many rare illustrations from the Garden’s collections. Dr. Peter Raven, President of Missouri Botanical Garden for more than 35 years and a Time Magazine “Hero for the Planet”, contributes an introduction to the book. Missouri Botanical Garden, founded by English immigrant Henry Shaw in 1859, is the oldest botanical garden in North America and has grown to become a world-renowned research institution as well as a travel destination for more than 800,000 visitors each year.  Signed copies of the book, which retails for $29.95, are available from this website: http://ianadamsphotography.com/cgi-bin/ImageFolio42/imageFolio.cgi?action=view&link=_Books&image=MBG_150_book_cover_small.jpg&img=&tt=

I’m working on several new book projects. The most current is an update of my earlier book, The Art of Garden Photography (Timber Press, 2005). The new book, which will have many new images and much more information on digital cameras, will be published in late 2009 or 2010 by Timber Press.

2009 Wild & Scenic Ohio Calendar

Browntrout has published their 2009 Wild & Scenic Ohio, Ohio Places and Ohio Nature calendars, featuring my photography. Additional information on these calendars, copies of which may be purchased from your local booksellers or from www.amazon.com or www.browntrout.com, is available in the Gallery section of this website.


The Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, Ohio will host a Winter Ice Photography Workshop on Saturday, January 17. After a classroom session with tips on winter photography using digital cameras, we’ll hike through the woods to Stebbins Gulch, a deep canyon with frozen waterfalls and icicles up to 30 feet long. You’ll need warm clothing and waterproof boots, and the hike and scramble in and out of the gulch can be quite strenuous, but the reward, if conditions are seasonably cold, is some of the best winter ice scenery in northeast Ohio. This workshop isn’t for beginners – you should have a basic understanding of photography and be comfortable using the controls on your digital camera. There will also be an evening review session at Holden on Wednesday, January 28 to share and critique participants’ photos taken during the workshop. Call Vonna Zahler at (440)-602-3833 to register for this workshop, or visit Holden’s website at:


For many Ohio gardeners, winter is a time to review nursery catalogs and plan gardening projects for next spring and summer.  You can also hone your gardening skills at the  Central Environmental and Nursery  Trade Show (CENTS) on January 25-28 in Columbus, Ohio.  I’ll be conducting a 3-hour Digital Garden Photography Workshop for CENTS participants from 1-4 pm on Sunday, January 25 and a 1-hour program, Your Garden Photographs: What to do with Them, on Monday, January 26.  For more information on CENTS, visit their website at:


Bird's-foot Violets, Shawnee State Forest

Late April and early May is a great time to visit Shawnee State Forest in Adams and Scioto counties, west of Portsmouth in southern Ohio.  In early spring, wildflowers abound in this hilly area, which is often called the “Little Smoky Mountains” of Ohio. Migrating songbirds fill the woods, together with some early butterflies.   This is the setting for Flora-Quest, scheduled for May 1-3, 2009.  Based at the resort lodge at Shawnee State Park, a variety of speakers and local naturalists and guides will provide presentations on the area’s flora and fauna, together with guided hikes throughout the state park and forest. I will be conducting a one-day digital nature photography workshop, with the emphasis on photographing spring woodland scenics, wildflowers, and butterflies, and the program will include a half-day shoot in the Shawnee State Forest. I’m also honored to be the keynote speaker for Flora-Quest: My presentation will be A Photo Tour of Ohio’s Natural Areas. For more information, visit the Flora-Quest website:


Another one-day Holden workshop, Photographing Trees, on May 9, will provide tips for photographing the beauty and variety of trees with digital cameras, followed by an afternoon field session to explore Holden’s woodlands and display gardens in search of images of tree buds, flowers, bark patterns, and emerging spring foliage. We’ll meet again on May 20 from 7-9 pm for a review and critique of photos taken during the workshop. This program is designed for beginners and intermediate photographers. Call Vonna Zahler at (440)-602-3833 to register for this workshop, or visit Holden’s website, listed above.


During 2007, I decided to sell my manual-focus Nikkor 500mm f/4-P lens, and purchased Nikon’s new 200-400mm f/4 Zoom Nikkor lens.  Since I was using a Nikon D2x camera, this lens provided the equivalent of a 300-600mm full-frame 35mm lens, with sophisticated exposure metering,  very fast autofocus and Nikon’s most advanced  VR-II vibration reduction system for image stabilization.  Adding a 1.4x TC-14E Nikon teleconverter boosts the lens to the 35mm equivalent of a 420-840mm f/5.6. The lens is a little smaller than a 500mm f/4 and is extremely sharp.

Although I have enjoyed using the 200-400mm Zoom Nikkor for occasional wildlife photography, for which it is ideally suited for most subjects, I’ve been even more impressed with the lens as a tool for landscape photography. The photograph below, taken at sunrise at the Jeffrey Point birding lookout at The Wilds in southeast Ohio, is a good example.  The image was made in September, 2007 with  my Nikon D2x and 200-400mm Zoom Nikkor plus a 1.4x Nikon TC-14E teleconverter, providing an effective focal length of 550mm, f/11 at 1/80-second, at ISO 100.  There are more than fifteen distinct ridges visible in the photograph, which I converted from color to black-&-white using Photoshop CS3. My approach is to fine-tune the raw color image in Adobe’s ACR raw converter, then use Image>Adjust>Black and White to convert the color file to B&W.  I preview the B&W photo using each of the Preset conversion options, select the one I like best, then  adjust the individual color sliders to further fine-tune the photograph. Although the color version also looks fine, the B&W version has more contrast and an elemental aspect that I prefer for this kind of landscape photography.

Sunrise from Jeffrey Point, The Wilds
Sunrise from Jeffrey Point, The Wilds, Muskingum County, Ohio

Because of the heavy long focal length lens and the high magnification associated with this type of  photography, it’s essential to have rock steady support for the camera and lens.  This means using a sturdy  tripod. I use a Gitzo G1348 tripod with a Kirk BH-1 head and a Really Right Stuff custom-built tripod plate for the  200-400mm Zoom Nikkor, plus mirror lock-up and a cable release.  The 200-400mm Zoom Nikkor allows  Nikon’s Vibration Reduction to be used when the lens is mounted on a tripod, and this facility is indispensable for the slow shutter speeds needed in early morning light combined with a small f/stop to provide adequate depth-of-field.  In addition, I press down with my right hand on the body of the lens to further dampen any wind movement while gently squeezing the cable release.

Trees Near Hartville, Ohio
Trees Near Hartville, Ohio

The photograph above was taken after an early winter storm had left a layer of ice on these trees and farm fields near Hartville in northeast Ohio.  I used my 70-200mm Zoom Nikkor  and my new Nikon D700 camera at a setting of 200mm, ISO 200,  f/9 at 1/125-second, plus a circular polarizing filter to intensify the blue sky. Because of the flat terrain, there isn’t as much compression of the subject planes as in the first image of The Wilds, but the 200mm setting provides a nice juxtaposition of the distant line of trees with the trees in the foreground.

Sycamore Tree Near Dover, Tuscarawas County, Ohio
Sycamore Tree Near Dover, Tuscarawas County, Ohio

The photo above of an American Sycamore tree near Dover in Tuscarawas County, Ohio was taken a couple of hours after the Hartville image.  The sycamore tree was sunlit, but the hillside in the background was in deep shadow, creating a strong tonal contrast. The tree was at least a quarter of a mile from my location at the edge of a country road, but a 350mm setting on the 200-400mm Zoom Nikkor  with my Nikon D700 allowed me to eliminate the sky and other distractions and isolate the tree against the dark hillside, using an ISO of 200, f/9 at 1/125-second.  I took vertical and horizontal versions of the tree composition.

Tulip Trees, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Tulip Trees, Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Ohio

The final image is a more abstract interpretation of a group of Tulip trees photographed along a trail in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in northeast Ohio.  The lighter, central tree is the closest, followed by the tree on the left and the more distant three trees on the right side of the picture.  I made this image several years ago using my Fuji GX680 6x8cm view camera, equipped with a 250mm lens, on Fuji Provia 100 film.  The tricky part was positioning the camera so that the tree trunks were tightly grouped and all the background around and behind the trunks was eliminated.

These four photographs share several attributes.  First, they were all taken with a long-focus lens, which serves to compress the subject planes.  The extensive tree ridges shown in the Wilds photo extend for several miles, but the view shown in the scene appeared as a tiny sliver of the distant horizon to the naked eye.  Similarly, the juxtaposed tulip tree trunks depicted in the last photo were a very small section of the woodland vista seen by the eye as I hiked the trail along the Ritchie Ledges in Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Second, the primary subject matter in each of the photos is trees. In my home state of Ohio, any distant views of the natural or rural landscapes will almost certainly include trees, but I find the diverse shapes and textures of the trunks, limbs, bark, leaves and flowers of trees to be equally appealing as subjects for more intimate photography.

Third, although each of the photographs was taken and post-processed in Photoshop as a color photograph, I’ve chosen to convert them to B&W because I feel that a monochromatic representation makes for a stronger photograph in each case.  By eliminating color, the intrinsic tones and shapes of the trees are  emphasized.

Opportunities to create these “high compression” landscapes occur throughout the Buckeye State, though images like the misty sunrise taken at The Wilds require elevated viewpoints that are more likely to be found in the hill country of southeast Ohio than the flat lands of northwest Ohio.  In the western  United States,  the mountains, canyons and desert terrain provide infinite opportunities for high compression landscape photography.


Notwithstanding the dire predictions for the economy during the next year or two, I’m working hard to schedule new photography seminars and workshops, line up new book projects and other photography assignments,  market my stock photographs and color prints, and visit some new locations to find interesting new subjects for my photography endeavors.  I would like to thank my clients, family and friends for your support for my photography efforts during 2008, and I would like to wish you all a happy, healthy, productive and peaceful year in 2009.

Ian Adams

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hello Ian,
    I was delighted to receive your current newsletter. My life at this point is tied closely to home as mom has dementia and isn’t as mobile. Haven’t worked since Easter and am trying to find something to do from home. Difficult as I don’t really trust the internet too much.

    Your photos in this letter are wonderful! I have always loved b&w. Much luck to you in 2009 I think it will be tougher until around August or so before anyone notices any slight improvements.

    Happy New Year.

    Jan Tuttle

  2. Hi Ian,

    great photos on this page! You truly show Appalachian Ohio in your Wilds photo the way I have it in memory from my childhood. Thank you for this photo. If anyone has a doubt to the amount of ridges in SE Ohio this photo will dispel it.

    Have you ever traveled out on state route 78 between McConnellsville and Glouster Ohio? There are some peaks there with fantastic views also! Claims the highest elevation in Ohio. Just be careful driving on 78, way curvier and steeper than the road to Cumberland. You catch 78 at Caldwell off 77 south or off route 33 in Athens county at Nelsonville.

    I wonder if the Wayne National Forest Service commissions any photographic work? You might want to contact them. http://www.fs.fed.us/r9/wayne/contacts.html

    Keep up the great work!


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