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Cotton Coulson

January 16, 2016 — Leave a comment

Sisse Brimberg and Cotton Coulson on assignment in the Arctic

Apologies in the long gap since I last posted a story. We took an unscheduled break after the tragic loss of colleague and close friend Cotton Coulson , who helped establish this blog. It is still hard to process the loss and perhaps the best tribute to our wonderful friend and  talented photographer is to post a selection of his images. In a following post I will link to a article about Cotton, which wife Sisse Brimberg helped to write and is a great tribute to our much loved friend and colleague.  God speed Cotton…










Leica Mon M9_120412_0416


Cotton Coulson died May 27, 2015, while on a diving expedition off the coast of northern Norway. See more of his and Sisse Brimberg’s photography at


Thanks for all the great feedback on images from Tymlat village. We then traveled further north and called at Lorino.

We enjoyed another warm welcome on the beach, where I again shot series of portraits from this remote corner of the world. As you may have seen in the last post, this is where I worked with Ralph Grizzle and his son Alex to shoot the short film featured a couple of days ago. I hope you enjoy the window into this wonderful part of the world.

We hope to be back here again next year with Silversea Expeditions and will keep you posted on dates. I would be great to take you along on the next adventure!


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A quick photo update for my recent trip to the Gulf of Mexico…   We has spectacular clouds but the dynamic range was challenging for even my Nikon D800, so as with the recent shot of dawn in Camden Harbor, I bracketed (5 shots at one stop intervals), but this time shot handheld as I was on a moving ship and using a tripod would have not created matching shots and would likely have transferred vibration form the engines. Fortunately the Nik HDR program did a wonderful job of removing any ghosting ( details that don’t quite align in the shot ), as well as doing a B&W conversion.


The lesson was to consider using HDR even if you can’t use a tripod or monopod… the results can be great!



HDR Sunrise over the Gulf

HDR Sunrise over the Gulf

I took a trip on the Maine coast over the weekend hoping to get some good wildlife shots and to photograph the tail end of hurricane Arthur. As it turned out, the storm produced a lot of rain but not the waves I had been hoping for. What I should have done is head inland to photograph waterfalls.

With the help of a friend that has a boat at Owl’s Head, I instead took a tour of some sea bird colonies and the islands of Mussel Ridge. Although the storm not to produce crashing waves, the swell did make for challenging shooing conditions, especially as the overcast weather produced very flat light. This is not great for photography and more importantly made it hard to see submerged rocks. The wildlife sightings were good, as we saw at least twelve bald eagles, but could not get close enough for good pictures. But it certainly was a great experience being out on the water!

A couple of times the light did come good as the sun momentarily broke through the clouds. Luckily one of these moments was as we passed by Two Bush Lighthouse. While it would have been great to get great images of the bird and seals that made the trip very worthwhile, I am very happy if I come back with one good image…. The lighthouse delivered that moment.

Two Bush Lighthouse

Two Bush Lighthouse


Special thanks go to boat skipper Bill Long for sharing his favorite locations, good company and a great morning on the water


Technical notes

Due to the swell, boat was in constant motion so I kept the Nikon D800 cranked to ISO800. This enabled me to shoot at 1/500th sec and F5.6, removing any camera shake. The single shot was then processed through HDR Pro. Normally I would shoot multiple images to create an HDR photo but the program can process a single image by creating an under and over exposed version from the RAW original. This has the extra advantage of removing any movement between shots, especially useful when shooting from a moving platform like a boat, where it would have been impossible to line up multiple images. The B&W conversion was also done through HDR Pro.

One of the great things about digital cameras is the ability to push the limits in terms of the images that you can capture. Not only can you change ISO and white balance as you move between locations but you can also easily combine images to stitch together panoramas or capture details that would not be possible with a single exposure. HDR (High Dynamic Range) has become a well known technique and is often used to retain details from the highlights to the shadows in a scene that exceeds the normal range that a camera could capture.

I just returned from shooting dawn in Camden Harbor in Maine. Although I was mostly shooting video with my D800, I grabbed a few still images just as the sun was rising. The straight image is pretty unremarkable due to the huge difference in the lighting between the still shaded harbor and the sky. But seeing potential of the scene, I shot a series for HDR.

Camden Harbor Sunrise Single

Camden Harbor- Single Exposure

I have a love of black & white images and find that combining HDR with a B&W conversion gives great results. But be warned, there is no instant gratification with this technique and just as it was back in the film days, the final result only appears once you start processing the images. There are also dangers involved if you get too carried away! More often than not, to my taste, HDR images appear over done, what is known as overcooked. Its a personal choice and you may love this look pulling out the detail, so apologies if you prefer the first version of this shot!

Camden Harbor Sunrise OC

HDR- Overcooked


I combined 5 exposures using HDR Efex Pro, part of the Nik Software Collection. One correctly exposures and two either side, each in one stop increments, over and under exposed. The software first combines the images taking out ghosting (where elements of the images may have moved e.g. a blowing flag), color aberrations etc… Then comes the dangerous part. Once you have saved the combined images, the HDR version appears but you can dial in different amounts of the effect including tonal compression, saturation, detail etc. To make it easy, HDR Efex Pro  shows you a selection of versions with different variations. If you are tempted to go extreme or just use a preset, you end up with something like the photo shown above. Again… you may love this version!

I first check the various recipes for the image that HDR Efex Pro suggests, select the one nearest to the look I want and then play with the settings to give some fine adjustments. This gave me this version with a less dramatic look, but a greatly enhanced dynamic range compared to the single image.

Camden Harbor Sunrise Color

HDR- Adjusted image


This adjusted image is much more pleasing and more like what the naked eye would see. Not content with this, I also did a black and white conversion. Normally I would do this through Nik’s Silver Efex but actually selected the B&W version directly through HDR Efex and was quite pleased with the results.


Camden Harbor Sunrise

Camden Harbor HDR Black & White


The final decisions come down to you. You can add more or less detail in the highlights and shadows, play with saturation or do the black and white conversion. If not over used, HDR can make for a spectacular image, so go out and give it a try.