Lightning Storm At Sunset Is Chosen as Contest Finalist

Lightning Storm At Sunset Is Chosen as Contest Finalist

ViewBug has awarded my Lightning Storm At Sunset photograph Contest Finalist in the “500 Stormy Clouds Photo Contest.”

This photograph makes an incredible gift! Order a gallery quality print or canvas-wrap up to 40″ x 60″ from my website and get 25% off. Use coupon code BP516 at checkout.

Prints and wraps are produced for me by White House Custom Colour and shipped directly to you!

Here’s how to order a print or gallery-wrap of Lightning Storm At Sunset:

  1. Go to the image on my gallery.
  2. Click the small shopping cart icon below the photograph, on the bottom-right.
  3. Select the purchase option in the “BUY THIS IMAGE” window.
  4. Click the tab on the upper-right to select Prints or Products.
  5. Select the size and number of prints you want.
  6. Click “Add to Cart.”
  7. When ready, click “Check Out.”
  8. Click the “Coupon Code” link, add BP516 in the “Enter code:” box, and click the “Submit” button.
  9. Click “Check Out” to complete your purchase.


Get 150+ of My Most Popular Photographs for Only $9.99

Get 150+ of My Most Popular Photographs for Only $9.99

MSP Images gives you a royalty-free license to over 150 of my most popular photographs, including landscapes, sunsets, nature, & more. New version 2.2 is now available on the App Store.

With my MSP Images app for iPhone, iPad, iPad Pro, & iPod touch, you get over 150 of my most popular images. You’ll get a personal use license to all the photos. Save any or all of the images to your photo library.

MSP Images iPhone 6s Group
MSP Images app on the iPhone 6s

Download special coupon codes for big discounts on prints ordered on my website. You can even access the website in the app. These huge discounts are available exclusively to users of MSP Images.

Simply tap on any of the images and MSP Images will save them instantly to your photo library. From there, you can use them for any personal and non-commercial use, including your device’s wallpaper, printing, sending to your computer, & more. All the images are provided at a resolution of 2,048 pixels (longest side).


  • Over 150 of my most popular images for your personal use
  • Royalty-free images
  • Free of watermarks or logos
  • Save any or all of the images to your photo library
  • Use the images as wallpaper, prints, or any other personal use
  • Download special coupon codes for big discounts on prints from my website
  • Built-in web viewer lets you browse gallery and purchase prints and gallery wraps (canvas) with your special discount
  • Full support for iOS 9 multitasking

Get MSP Images on the App Store


My ‘Thunderstorm Over the Gulf Of Mexico’ is a Winner!

My ‘Thunderstorm Over the Gulf Of Mexico’ is a Winner!

I’m thrilled that my Thunderstorm Over the Gulf Of Mexico won Contest Finalist in ViewBug’s Climate Change Photo Contest!

I took well over fifty shots during a late afternoon in early September, as an incredible line of thunderstorms moved in.

Thunderstorm Over the Gulf Of Mexico
Award winning photograph: Thunderstorm Over the Gulf Of Mexico

I was excited by the evolution of this line of storms and how the rain created a misty appearance on the water.

This was an HDR image composed from three exposures:  -1⅓ ev, ⅓ ev , and 2 ev. I used Photomatix Pro to build a tone mapped image from the three shots and then did a little bit of Photoshop to remove some dots that the raindrops on my lens added to the image.

To get a print or gallery wrap (canvas) of this image at a 25% discount, enter coupon code BP516 at checkout.

Get my app MSP Images for your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, and get this plus another 149 of my best photos for your personal use. You’ll also get really big discounts on prints and gallery wraps with the app! Get it here:



Painting With Light Redux

Painting With Light Redux

Adding Excitement to a Dull Photo in Photoshop

Here’s a technique I use often to add interest to an otherwise dull photograph and draw attention to its subject, without making it look “Photoshopped.”

First, let’s take a look at a shot I took of a fantastic Gumbo Limbo tree at Windley Key Fossil Reef Geological State Park near Islamorada, Florida:

Gumbo Limbo Tree unprocessed (‘before’ image).

It’s a potentially dramatic image, shot with a ultra-wide 10mm lens to show all of the tree’s forked limbs with the sunlight filtering through the canopy. The problem is that the tree itself is underexposed and lacks much of the reddish coloration I saw when I took the shot.

I could have used the HDR technique, which I discussed in a previous post. However, I did not think to do so at the time; and, I only took this single exposure. I also could have used Adobe Lightroom or Photoshop to increase the exposure or otherwise brighten the image. But, that would have blown out the rest of the image, making the leaves, branches, sky and sun overexposed.

So, what to do? How about selectively brightening the subject!

Here’s how to do it using only one additional layer in Photoshop and a little skill with the brush:

The Workflow

  1. Open your image in Photoshop.
  2. Make sure the Adjustments panel is displayed and click on Exposure to create a new Exposure adjustment layer. As you can see, the adjustment layer comes with its own layer mask.
  3. In the Exposure adjustment properties panel, increase the exposure using the slider. You’ll see that the entire image is brightened. This is OK for now. Adjust the exposure slider until the subject looks close to the way you want it to look. Don’t worry about getting this exactly right. With this technique, you can go back at any time to adjust the Exposure adjustment layer!
  4. Now, press Command-I on your Mac (Ctrl-I on your PC) to invert the layer mask that was created for you. The layer mask will now turn all black, thus completely hiding the adjustment layer you just created.
  5. Select the Brush tool from the Toolbox or press B. Choose a soft-edged, medium-sized brush from the Brush Picker and set the Opacity to somewhere between 25% and 50% (experiment to see which works best).
  6. Press D to set the foreground/brush color to white.
  7. Using your mouse or trackpad—a Wacom tablet is a much better solution—begin to paint on the areas of the image you want to add the extra “light” to. Start with one stroke at a time, so as to not overdo it and to avoid making the photo look like it was “Photoshopped.” The areas you paint will show as white “holes” in the layer mask, thus, allowing the Exposure adjustment to come through.
  8. You can change the brush size and opacity as you go. Remember: go easy. You want a natural look.

Here’s how my Gumbo Limbo photo looked after I applied this technique (plus some additional processing to enhance the sky, canopy, colors, and other elements):

Same image using the described Photoshop workflow along with some additional processing. Purchase a print or gallery wrap canvas of this image.

One of the benefits of this technique is that you can go back to the Exposure adjustment panel and change the exposure level if you like at any time! As an alternative to creating an Exposure adjustment layer, you can create a Curves Adjustment layer. This will give you more control over the effect you want to achieve, but can be a bit more complex.

Experiment with different brushes and opacities. It will take some time to get good at this, but it’s worth it. You’ll love the results!

Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico With Rain Shower

Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico With Rain Shower

How I created this award winning image

During an incredible sunset on the west coast of Florida, I was amazed by the lone cloud formation in the foreground and how it added depth and interest to the scene. Then, when part of the formation started to rain out, I knew it would make an interesting photograph.

This was part of a shoot during this amazing sunset that included over a hundred exposures. I started shooting the sunset at 7:40pm and ended at 8:12pm EDT. This photo was late in the sunset at 8:01 pm EDT on August 27, 2015. I shot this from a balcony, 100 feet above the beach at Naples, Florida. Coordinates: 26°15’41” N 81°49’29” W.

The equipment I used for the shot

  • Canon EOS 5D Mark III
  • EF16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
  • Manfrotto MT055CXPRO3 Carbon Fiber Tripod
  • Manfrotto Ball Head
  • Canon Timer Remote Controller TC-80N3


The final HDR image was composed from five exposures from-2v to +2ev. I used manual focus and aperture priority mode.

Here are the five photos I shot and used to create the final image:

The longest of the exposures was 8 seconds. The shortest was 0.5 seconds. This gave the image an unusual and dramatic look, capturing and blurring the motion of the clouds and rain.

I used Photomatix Pro to build a tone mapped image from the five shots using a preset that I’ve perfected over the last few years. Then, I did a little bit of Photoshop to remove some dots that the raindrops on my lens filter added to the image.

The result is a dramatic sunset image with soft pastel-like colors and good detail at the same time.

The final image

Sunset Over the Gulf of Mexico With Rain Shower
Rain on the horizion from winged cloud at sunset over the Gulf of Mexico

Yellow Blossoms Up Close

Yellow Blossoms Up Close

I took this photograph of these spectacular yellow blossoms at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida. I used a macro lens and ring flash for the capture and set camera to manual mode. Exposure: 1/250 sec at f/32. Canon EOS 7D, EF-S60mm f/2.8 Macro USM.

This is a great image at any size and will look great on your wall!

Get prints in sizes up to 30″x45″ or gallery wrapped canvas ready to hang right here. Click on the shopping cart icon at the bottom of the page.

Taken at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens
Yellow Flowers taken at Morikami Museum and Japanese Gardens

Gallery Wrap Canvas Products Now Available

I’ve just added Gallery Wrap Canvas as a purchase option on my website.Gallery Wrap Canvas by Michael Stebel Photography

Gallery Wraps of my work are inexpensively priced and are ready for hanging. I’m offering sizes up to 30″x40″. These are produced using Fine Art Canvas and will have a depth of 1-½”.

My Gallery Wraps are finished with sawtooth hangers and corner bumpers without any paper backing.

Visit my website today!