Free Downloadable pdf Coming Soon!

Foggy Sunrise — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Beginning soon, the first in a series of small portfolios, focused on a single theme, will become available for free download. The initial folio will be from the continuing project of photographing North Carolina’s Jordan Lake (including the image above), with additional folios of differing themes to follow from time to time without any particular schedule. In order to receive an email notification when a new folio becomes available, you’ll have to sign up by filling in your email and click the Subscribe button below. Once enrolled, you’ll receive an email notification when another folio is available for free downloading through this blog. It’s that simple. If you’re already signed up for blog notifications, you don’t need to enroll, you’re already included.

Wildlife in the Landscape

Pronghorn — Grand Teton NP © jj raia

Almost five years ago on a trip out west to neighboring Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks, I ran into a photographer who happened to be a Nikon Ambassador. We had just failed miserably in attempting to photograph the first rays of sunlight on the Tetons from Schwabacher’s Landing (along with dozens of other photographers), because the peaks were completely blocked by low hanging clouds and there wasn’t much to see. We talked for a while, and the conversation eventually turned to photographing the wildlife in these two parks because he was about to lead a workshop that included photographing the wildlife there. And he said something interesting that has stuck with me since then about certain compositions in wildlife photography. He said, “The world doesn’t need another perfectly exposed and perfectly focused, full frame shot of the front face of a bison, or any other animal for that matter!” He said he now concentrates his efforts more on the wild animal within its habitat; a kind of environmental portrait.

Non-Abstract Abstracts

Reflections No.1 — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

Not too long ago, a short discussion in the blog was devoted to the idea of a Non-Abstract Abstract as a simple way to describe a particular type of image that has managed to find its way in front of the camera quite often over the years. In the past, I generally referred to them as “Natural Abstractions”, but have also seen them referred to as “Natural Extractions” or simply abstracts, and I’m sure there are many other monikers for this type image taken directly from a landscape. It’s difficult to provide a specific definition since a descriptor is better suited to convey an understanding of just what is meant by this term.

Trio of Trees


It seems that when one of our photographs is considered successful by our own definition and standards, if afforded the opportunity, we often attempt to relive that success by revisiting the same location to hopefully produce another successful image. But it is nearly impossible to be at the same location and have a duplicate set of circumstances (atmospheric conditions, lighting, season, etc), as when the original image was created. And even if the location is nearby, one that’s easily accessible on any given day, and conditions are pretty much identical, replicating that image might not be as easy as first thought because, you will be a different person on the day of the second encounter with the same photographic subject.

Stages of Seeing

© jj raia

For those of us who are blessed with the sense of sight, we are able to look out into the world and see what surrounds us; it is truly a gift that we all too often take for granted. For the most part, sight is used simply as a mechanism to maneuver through our lives, getting from place to place, performing tasks, or simply indulge in the pleasure of reading. There are no limits since we can turn completely around 360º and perceive what lies in any direction. We notice and recognize the objects before us, not really giving much of our attention to them. But when we observe, we gather much more information from what we see, more of the details and differences, which then might internally register with us, such as how a particular person among many can be singled out as someone we actually know.


Tree Bark — Yates Store Road © jj raia

Inspiration is an important motivator in making any kind of art; it’s what gets the creative juices flowing regardless of its origin. It may originate from among our own ideas or thoughts, or from beyond, where something or someone has triggered an internal response which almost requires us to create. Whether your pursuit is painting, writing, sculpture, music or photography, to mention just a few, what drove you to take up the tools of your craft, and begin to form that inspiration toward its physical manifestation, is a uniquely powerful force; one that speaks directly to you, and possibly no one else. And once the message has been received, it can’t be denied and will gnaw at you like an unscratched itch, until it is finally acted upon and satisfied.

The Significance of Luck

Foggy Sunrise No.2 — Jordan Lake, NC © jj raia

To be a better photographer, stand in front of better stuff.”

Jim Richardson – National Geographic photographer

Only five days into the new year and I was wondering if the string of good luck from the previous few months would continue. For successful landscape photography, good fortune plays a significant roll, and cannot be overstated. I’m not referring to the “seeing” of smaller subjects that would make fine photos, but rather the conditions encountered at a particular location while looking for a wider, more grand view of things. This past October, on a trip to North Carolina’s Outer Banks, conditions were excellent to make good photographs of the ocean almost every day. Plenty of clouds provided subjects in the sky on which the colors of the morning could be painted, which in turn reflected those colors onto the sheen left by the surf, and the ocean itself. With a blank, blue sky, the same scene would have been uninspiring, seriously lacking any drama, and may have caused the camera to remain inside the bag.

Winner Announcement

SouthPoint Abstract © jj raia

In a recent post, an offer was made for a free, limited edition print simply by entering your name and selected image in the form at the bottom of that post, with the winner’s name picked from a hat today in a video during the inauguration of our new president. However, since readers can determine the number of applicants by simply looking at the image above, that selection became unnecessary.

Intimate Encounters — 2020

Ridgelines – Cowee Overlook — BRP, NC © jj raia

There is a general feeling throughout the country, and I’m sure throughout the world, of some measure of relief and joy that 2020 is finally behind us, and looking forward with hope and anticipation to improving circumstances as we progress through this year. It’s a time for us to reflect on these past 12 months, identify and give thanks for our blessings, and do all we can to make this year healthy for not just ourselves, but for everyone.

I hope that this final video of photos taken this year will encourage folks to take notice of the under appreciated people and little things in our daily lives, and realize they are more deserving of our thoughts and attention. I also hope that, after watching through to the end, and listening to the music, your spirit might be lightened a bit from the darkness we have endured for what seems like such a long time, that you will feel as uplifted and joyful as I did when making these photographs, and that it might serve as a few moments of escape from time to time when needed. Even the simple exercise of putting it together has helped me feel encouraged about the prospects the future holds for us. I pray it will bring that same feeling to you…

j.j. raia

Click the photo to go to the video