Magic of the Histogram


DUBUQUE — The Dubuque Camera Club invites all tri-state area photography enthusiasts to a free photography presentation on Monday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. The event will be held at E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center in the Mines of Spain Recreation Area.

“The Magic of the Histogram” will showcase the work of Henry Matthiessen III, a professional photographer and artist with a studio in rural Elizabeth, Illinois. Learn how to use the built-in histogram on a DSLR camera to give your photography more impact.

“Ultimately, the overall purpose for using the histogram is to stretch out the dynamic range as far as you can.”

— Henry Matthiessen III 

Matthiessen, originally from Chicago, thinks of himself as an artist first. “I’m using my camera as a paintbrush,” he said. He shoots in digital, using two Nikon D700s, one on a tripod, and the other handheld. After a shot is taken, the camera’s histograms show the visual distribution of tones.

“Ultimately, the overall purpose for using the histogram is to stretch out the dynamic range as far as you can,” Matthiessen said. “I’m pushing the limits of the sensor in the camera to get it as dark and as light as I can, on both ends.”

Magic of the HistogramFREE photography presentation. Monday March 18th at 6:30 p.m. Mines of Spain nature center.

During the presentation, Matthiessen will share his original landscape photography from the Driftless Area as well as images from a photo expedition he took to the Black Rock Desert.

He explained how he gets his inspiration: “My formula for shooting is I that see light first, then composition. The third element is manipulation. It’s 1-2-3, so if I don’t have the light, I don’t even pull out the camera.” 

By manipulation, he’s not talking about post-processing. While his workflow includes both Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop, he never significantly alters an image.

Instead, Matthiessen uses other strategies to give an image more visual appeal: choosing an angle, or positioning the subject in relationship to the entire composition; or dodging and burning to bring out the highlights or darken other areas.

“I’m all about dramatic, high impact lighting,” he said. “I want you to look at that picture and stop in your tracks.” If the elements in a picture don’t balance, or clash, the impact on the viewer is lost.

“When you create a picture, you deliver emotion,” he explained. “That’s what an artist does. You have to be specific to guide the eye to that emotion, let them feel that emotion.”

It’s possible for a photographer to be technically adept, be able to spin the numbers with his equipment, yet be unable to make the viewer cry. That intensity is what you should be seeking.

Art is influential to Matthiessen’s photography. He spent time studying the paintings of the masters at the Art Institute of Chicago. Rembrandt, Monet, and romanticism painters have inspired his landscapes. He took his first art class around age 10, and picked up the camera around age 15.

“I’ve always shot, along with doing other forms of art,” he said. “I’m an artist first. Photography is my ‘A’ medium for capturing the Driftless Area and the Mississippi Valley.”

A few years ago, he left a career in the Chicago corporate world and moved to the Galena area. Stoned Art Studio, located within the dramatic hilltops and wooded valleys of rural Elizabeth, Illinois, opened in the spring of 2016.

Matthiessen is the founder of All River Road Talent (ARRT), a Galena area artists’ group. He co-organizes the Scenic Art Loop, a 113-mile self-guided tour of studios and galleries in northwest Illinois, along with photographer Amy Laskye of Amy May Photography. He also leads individual photography workshops and mentors high school students in photography.

In addition to being a professional photographer, he creates stone oil lamps. You are sure to run into Matthiessen at regional art fairs such as the Millwork Night Market, theNorthwest Illinois Art & Jazz Fest in Stockton, or at DubuqueFest each May.

“To be an artist, you have to be bold, daring, first, and different,” Matthiessen said.

Put this free photography presentation on your calendar and plan to join us!

The Magic of the Histogram. Monday, March 18, 2019, starting at 6:30 p.m. at the nature center in the Mines of Spain.

For more information:


Wild Bird Photography

On Thursday, January 10, 2019, three members of the Dubuque Camera Club gave a presentation about Wild Bird Photography during a meeting of the Dubuque Audubon Society. The meeting was attended by about 40 people. Joe Tollari, president of the local chapter of the Audubon Society, gave some opening remarks about the evening’s presentation. He also encouraged people to attend the Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch this weekend. Three photographers from the club shared their bird photographs. The first photographer, Ken Kiss, gave biographical information for all three presenters:

Ken KissOwls, Woodpeckers, and Local Birds. Ken played a few owl calls and shared his original photos taken at Mines of Spain, Linwood, Mud Lake and in a few local backyards. Birds pictured included the Great Horned Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Long-eared Owl, Barred Owl,  Red-headed Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Bobolink, Kestral, Woodcock, and many more.

Kevin McTagueBirds of Southern Texas. Kevin shared a collection of his original bird photography from the Rio Grande Valley. He captured the photos during a stay at Santa Clara Ranch in the southern tip of Texas (near McAllen). Birds included the Long-billed Thrasher, Green Jay, Golden-fronted Woodpecker, Painted Bunting, Verdin, Pyrrhuluxia, Road Runner, Black Vulture, and the Crested Caracara

Ron TiggesThe Dance of the Hummingbird.  Ron shared the visual results of a day spent at a private residence near White Pine Hollow doing flash photography of hummingbirds.  Since their wings move so rapidly, unless these birds are perched it is hard to get clear photos. A shutter speed of 1/15000 would be mathematically appropriate; however, the setting is impossible with an ordinary camera. Ron set up an external flash on a tripod near the nectar feeders, using infrared AF assist, shooting past sundown to get some great images of these active little birds.

Thanks, gentlemen, for another terrific photography presentation!

The Dubuque Bald Eagle Watch will be held at the Grand River Center in the Port of Dubuque on Saturday, January 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. The Dubuque Camera Club along with many area nature organizations will have informational tables. Whether or not you  are a club member, please stop by to chat! This is a free, family event. Live bird/raptor presentations will be held throughout the day. Click here for a schedule.

Nov. 19, 2018 – Storytelling in Wildlife Photography

On November 19, 2018, Dubuque Camera Club member Andreas Exner gave a presentation on Storytelling in Wildlife Photography. Thirty people attended, including both familiar and new faces.  Club president Ron Tigges gave a brief overview of the club and introduced our presenter.

Andreas shared a slide show of wonderful bird, wildlife and landscape pictures, as well as his tips for success as a wildlife photographer.  You can see more of his photography on his website at

Andreas is originally from Germany and now makes his home in the tri-states. As a relative newcomer to the Mississippi Valley, he is appreciative of the diversity of life it contains. “In the Mississippi Valley, you have access to nature areas very easily,” he said.

Red Fox Pup, photographed by Andreas Exner

He tries to use his passion as a wildlife photographer to create awareness. We need to make a commitment to protecting habitat so that future generations will have these opportunities too. 

“If we just create a little habitat around our homes, the animals will come to us,” Andreas said. The advantage is that you don’t have to travel far to take storytelling pictures. He displayed many excellent bird photos taken not far from his front door.

Photographers also need to act ethically so that our subjects are not harmed. To the oohs and awes of the audience, he displayed a couple of fox den photos and the story of how he took them. “It’s very important not to endanger the wildlife that we photograph,” Andreas said.  

Captured: Behind the Lens of a Legendary Wildlife Photographer by Moose Peterson

“Don’t go home too early” is also one of his secrets.  If you are patient and know the biology of your subject,  you don’t need an expensive, long lens.  Sometimes, when you think you haven’t gotten anything, you simply need to switch to a new subject. For instance, if the bird you are seeking proves impossible, take a photo of that butterfly. 

Successful photos have three ingredients: light, gesture, and color.  Photos without these qualities go right in the trash can. And don’t frame the bird or frog too tightly: “Including habitat in the photo makes it part of the storytelling,” said Andreas.

He shoots with a Nikon D750. He takes advantage of today’s sophisticated auto-focus. To avoid noise, he rarely raises the ISO above 400. He likes to experiment with black and white, especially in landscapes. So you don’t miss shots, remember to look behind you!

Andreas displayed a couple of dramatic Bison pictures, including one in black and white. And no, he didn’t lie down in front of a male bison! Some animals can be dangerous. His photographs of Bighorn Sheep were taken from a distance.

The car often makes an effective blind, and birds aren’t bothered, until you actually open the car door. He uses this strategy at Green Island, one of his favorite photography locations in the area. He mentioned a few other top wildlife photography locations, in Iowa as well as in the western U.S.

Occasionally, on an overcast day or in dim light, Andreas uses a flash. He displayed an awesome flash photo of a Flying Squirrel on a tree trunk, taken by chance with only a few moments to grab his gear. He said that a hint of flash can also bring out the color of a bird’s feathers.

Lastly, to be successful as a nature photographer, always ask yourself, “What’s my subject?” For instance, if you want to photograph Bald Eagles, the Mississippi River at Le Claire, Iowa, is very popular.  During the question and answer period at the end of the presentation, the photographers in the audience offered a few other tips and location suggestions.

Thank you to Andreas Exner!!! We enjoyed so many beautiful natural images during his presentation on storytelling in wildlife photography.  Also thanks to everyone who attended!

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Dubuque Camera Club, or in updating your membership, please fill out the club membership application. You can mail in your dues or give your application to a club officer at any meeting.

January 2, 2018 Meeting Notes

Are you interested in joining the Dubuque Camera Club? Membership is open to anyone in the tri-state area with an interest in photography. You may complete the membership application and bring it to any club meeting.

Despite the cold weather, 16 people attended the post-processing workshop on January 2, 2018. We briefly reviewed the submissions in two categories: Digital Nature and Digital Black and White (Submissions to the other categories were not yet available).

Photographer and club member José García shared some of his Photoshop techniques on a portrait and a couple of landscape images. Some of us brought laptops, were given the image files, and tried to keep up. Jose uses Adobe Camera Raw, Raya Pro, and Nik, in addition to extensive manipulation in Photoshop.

“The key to editing is to make it natural,” he said. “We want to enhance the picture.” On portraits, he uses a variety of techniques, including masking, filters, blend modes, and the spot healing brush when needed.

“Black conceals; white reveals,” suggested Ron, about masking in Photoshop. When you’re editing an image, you have to start with a vision of what you want.

Then José combined two identical winter landscape photos. One shot was exposed for the highlights; the other for the dark tones. “It’s very important to align, because even when you are using a tripod, sometimes you can move a little bit.” He used channel masking to combine the two versions.

To shoot stunning landscapes like this, José uses a gradient filter over the camera lens. The darker color at the top of the filter makes a more dramatic sky. He also uses a polarizer to photograph reflections in water.

We have a number of excellent photographers in the club, so the audience commentary was also insighful.

For instance, General Bob pointed out that many of the tasks that were being demonstrated can be done more quickly in Lightroom.

Andreas said he prefers to work with Smart Objects in Photoshop: “When it is nondestructive, I can go back and change what I don’t like.” There have been improvements in the rendering engine, so it no longer will balloon the file size.

Ron pointed out that the Photoshop file export process has also improved: “They keep getting better and better at sampling the image and recreating data from nowhere.”

The consensus was that everybody needs to download the Nik Collection while it is still free. This software suite has just been purchased from Google by DxO.

The final recommendation of the evening’s workshop involves using RAW files. Several of the photographers in the room are fully convinced that this is important, particularly when your goal is to create beautiful prints. After all, file backups and storage have become less expensive. “If you use a compressed file, a JPG, there are many things you cannot do,” said Jose.

Thank you to José for sharing his image editing expertise!

Other news:

  • John Leicht has been appointed club treasurer. This is an important volunteer responsibility, especially with the convention coming up next year. Thank you for stepping forward!
  • Laurie Helling had a photo selected for publication in Images of 2017, a magazine which appeared in the Dubuque Telegraph-Herald on Thursday, January 4, 2018. Congratulations, Laurie!
  • A photo by Bob Felderman was selected as a third place winner in the Keep Iowa Beautiful photo contest. Here’s a news story about the contest results. Congratulations, General Bob!

Are you looking for a contest to enter? The National Audubon Society is accepting submissions for their annual photography contest. The quality of photography entered is very high. Here’s more information.

Upcoming Meetings:

  • Our next meeting will be on Monday, January 15 @6:30 p.m. The agenda will be a flash/Speedlight workshop.
  • Please visit our table at the Dubuque Bald Eagle watch on Saturday, January 20 from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. A few people have volunteered. Remember, club members have the option to bring prints to sell. Contact Ron or Jennifer in advance if you plan to do so. Visit the Dubuque Audubon Society website for more details about the day’s events.

Spring Planting in Dubuque County, Iowa. This photo by Gen. Bob Felderman was awarded third place in the 2017 Keep Iowa Beautiful photo contest.

March 20, 2017 Meeting Minutes

Submitted by Jennifer Tigges

We had special guests for our March 20th meeting.

About 20 club members were in attendance along with a few new or potential members. Because of the new members, club president Ron Tigges went over what the N4C is and a bit about the submissions and judging. Also, the perks of being in the club:  patches, ability to be in shows, two parties per year and more.

Scott and Kris Kelly of S. Kelly Photography were in attendance. They have 13 years of experience in portrait photography  and are very involved in PPI (Professional Photography of Iowa), which meets twice a year. The next PPI meeting is in November  2017 with national speakers.

Steve Kelly from ACI (American Color Imaging) was our guest speaker of the evening. He brought many samples along. He described various types of prints using different materials and textures. White base and natural base is available for metal prints. We will be doing metal prints for the upcoming Dubuque Museum of Art exhibit in August.

ACI has a commitment to quality and getting your prints correct. They offer color correction, proofing, calibration prints and more. They even have an event pics area on their website where you can upload and people can purchase from,  and then they drop ship if you want to sell through ACI. Email Steve at or phone 1-800-728-2722 ext 2104.

We may be setting up a tour of the facilities in the future. ACI is located in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

April Submissions – all information on the new submission guidelines are at the bottom of our website competition page.

April 3, 2017 – Returns/submissions. No Pictorial submissions. Double Travel submissions.
April 17, 2017 – Judging Pictorial category.

Club members – remember to join our Facebook Group!