Wednesday, November 25, 2020

HAPPY THANKSGIVING

 


It spite of the very tough year we have all been enduring, it is helpful to stop and consider all the things we have to be thankful for. It will vary widely from person to person, but regardless of any hardships or illnesses that you and your family have faced, there are still some good things to be grateful for.

For many of us, we will not be celebrating in person with family and friends this year. But we can still share the meaning and emotion of the day with them via Zoom or Skype or FaceTime calls. Even though life is not normal right now, we can still make the day the best it can be. Rather than despair over what we do not have, revel in what we DO have.

And we all have 2021 to look forward to. Surely it will be a better year than 2020. I hope to see you at an in-person workshop or trip when it is safe to travel again. Until then, I hope you will be safe and healthy, and find a bit of happiness in each day.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

TECH SPECS  1/400 sec at f/9, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens set at 330mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ball head and Wimberley Sidekick.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them."  -- John F. Kennedy 

Friday, November 20, 2020

Alaska Autumn Splendor

 


I hope you are enjoying a taste of autumn. Autumn in Alaska is my favorite time to be there. The tundra bursts with color, the wildlife is in full mating attire, and you can see and feel Mother Nature at its finest.

This male caribou was beautifully positioned in colorful tundra with a distant mountainside as a backdrop. He was content to pose for awhile, and our shutters were doing a rapid-fire dance.

Some wildlife photography tips:

- try to show all four legs if possible

- make sure there is good sharpness in the eye(s)

- with dark fur, it helps to set your camera on +1 Exposure Compensation; that generally will provide good exposure of the dark tones and prevent them from showing too much noise

- use rapid burst even if the animal is not moving much;  you will be amazed at how many variations you will see in your images for head position, eyes open or closed, legs positioned well or poorly, and other tiny changes that can make or break an image.

TECH SPECS  1/640 sec. at f/8, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x extender for an effective focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Winter is an etching, spring a watercolor, summer an oil painting, and autumn a mosaic of them all."  -- Stanley Horowitz


Monday, November 16, 2020

Nose Dive

 


This bald eagle in Alaska was doing a full speed nose dive to grab a fish. Eagles are amazing to watch. They have intense focus on their target, are incredible flyers and hunters, and have the gift of speed. They can turn on a dime and grab a fish that you do not even see.  

Photographing them is exhilarating and exhausting because the action is non-stop and constantly changing. 

This was a misty day onboard our boat, and the mist added an almost painterly quality to the background. The eagle looks almost pasted on against this classic Alaska background, but this is exactly how it was, no Photoshop used. I did use Lightroom to bring out the dark tones in the feathers, and to saturate the color of the beak and talons.

I took several thousand images over the course of an hour or two. With this kind of action, you have to shoot constantly in order to not miss the chance of getting great shots.

Today I am also experimenting with a new logo. It is a complete departure from the old one, and I would love to know how you feel about it. Let me know either way - love it or not. But I sure hope you love it! I designed it over the past few days.

TECH SPECS  1/1600 sec. at f/9, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Eagles come in all shapes and sizes, but you will recognize them chiefly by their attitudes."  -- E.F. Schumacher

Monday, November 9, 2020

Don't Overlook The Ordinary

 


The lowly dandelion. The scourge of manicured lawns, BUT a great photo subject. Its small elements combine to create a beautiful tapestry of texture and softness. Shooting straight down provides a symmetrical circular composition that, when you really study it, can deeply engage the eye.

This black-and-white conversion was done in Lightroom. Stripping away the color in the image enhances the soft starbursts radiating from the center outward. And it allows the textures to be more enjoyable.

Note in the TECH SPECS below that this was shot with a very long lens. It is a technique that I love - it creates a macro effect for subjects that are somewhat far away. 

So the next time you are seeking some exciting photo subjects, don't go for the clearly beautiful. Look for the unusual - weeds, or plants that are shriveled and finished for the season, or the last gasps of autumn's flowers. Take your time, REALLY look at the options before you, and seek subjects and compositions that stretch your imagination and your creative eye.

TECH SPECS   1/2000 sec at f/8, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens with Canon 1.4x III extender for an effective focal length of 560mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see."  -- Dorothea Lange  

Monday, November 2, 2020

Alaska Under Attack - Again

 


Once again, Alaska is under attack. This time it is the incredibly important Tongass National Forest in southeast Alaska. It is the world's largest intact temperate rainforest, known as America's Amazon. Effective this week, the Federal government will be lifting decades old protections and will allow logging companies to build roads and cut and remove ancient growth timber, some as old as 1,000 years.  

This vitally important area covers 9.3 million acres of forest, and is home to bear, eagle, and salmon. This huge and ecologically vital area is said to absorb at least 8% of all the carbon stored in ALL the forests in the lower 48. Experts say that rainforests are the "lungs" of the planet, and the Tongass is the lungs of North America, according to the Washington Post. It has been called "America's last climate sanctuary." 

At this time, major legal challenges are being mounted by environmental groups, and I certainly hope they succeed. According to experts interviewed by the Post, there is no strong economic reason for logging, nor is there a compelling biological or cultural benefit. This move by the Federal government and logging companies puts many things at risk. All 5 of Alaska's native tribal nations are opposed to this land grab. It will jeopardize even further the deteriorating environmental devastation Alaska is experiencing from global warming, plus other moves by the Federal government to lease Alaska lands for private business interests. These moves will negatively impact migratory animals and their habitat, put native tribal Alaskans at risk, and speed the destruction of our last great frontier.

I encourage you to get more information on all the environmental issues putting Alaska at risk. As you know, Alaska is one of my favorite places. I love the land, the people, and the animals who thrive there.

The photos above were taken in the Tongass National Forest in the summer of 2019. It is a huge, vibrant, and magical place.

TECH SPECS  1/1600 sec at f/7.1, ISO 800. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAYS QUOTE: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world;  indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  -- Margaret Mead

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Just Received Some Exciting News

 


The annual international competition of the Professional Photographers of America is going on this week. And I just received the exciting news that two of my images have been selected to be part of the exhibition. It is always a high honor to be selected.

Even though I have been competing in various competitions for several decades, I never know which images will do well. When entering any competition, you always have to swallow hard and hope for the best. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't. 

The egret image on the left was titled "Peek-a-Boo" and was taken at the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine, FL. It was a lucky shot, with this wing position lasting only a fraction of a second. Thank goodness for cameras with rapid burst!

The bird-of-paradise shot was taken at Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania. I used a Topaz filter (set at low opacity) to add some texture that provided a slight artistic finish. 

Both images have been extensively cropped and processed in Lightroom. 

So now I can rest easy for awhile until the next competition!

TECH SPECS   Egret - 1/1250 sec at f/5, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 227mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.     Bird-of-Paradise - 1/640 sec at f/3.5, ISO 800. LensBaby Sol 45 lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE  "Winning and losing are both very temporary things. Having done one or the other, you move ahead. Gloating over a victory or sulking over a loss is a good way to stand still."  -- Chuck Knox


 


Friday, October 16, 2020

Great New Filter - Test & Review

 


I was asked by Gary Farber of Hunt's Photo and Video to test a new, long-awaited close-up filter.  And it is a winner! 

If you love macro but do not have a macro lens, OR even if you do have a macro lens but want to get in even closer to your subjects, this sweet filter is just the thing. And the price is right! The official name of this filter is the Promaster 5D Achromatic Close-Up Lens, and it comes in a variety of sizes to attach to most lenses.

Long ago and far away, there were a couple of superb close-up filters made by Canon and Nikon. It was a simple matter of just attaching the filter onto any lens, and you instantly had an inexpensive macro lens that could get you in close for beautiful shots. Over time, those filters were no longer made, and that was a sad day for many of us.

Fast-forward to today, and I'm happy to report that those types of close-up filters are once again being made, now by Promaster. As many of you know, I rarely recommend any gear or software, and when I do it is ONLY after I have tested it, like it, and then use it myself. And I REALLY like this filter.

From the moment you take it out of the box it is clear that it is a well-manufactured, quality product. For me, the optical quality of any filter is critically important, and this one passed all my tests with flying colors. 

I tried it on a variety of subjects, and was happy with how it performed on all counts:

- Optically it is first-rate. There was no degradation of image quality that I could detect, and colors were represented accurately and clearly. 

- It was very easy to attach it to my lens. Just screw it on and you are ready to shoot. 

- It does not interfere with your ability to autofocus. Focus remained quick and precise.

- It does not cut light transmission through your lens.

- All of your normal camera controls work as they should. The filter does not interfere with any of your normal camera functions.

And as if all that was not enough, Hunt's Photo and Video is making these filters available at a very attractive price. You can view and purchase the filter at the special discounted price by clicking on this link

As with all macro shots, when you are in close to your subject, Depth of Field is very shallow. That is one of the charms of macro to me. I love the soft look, with just a small area of most importance being sharp. If you prefer macro images that are sharp throughout, there are some good focus-stacking software options available. While I do not use that sort of software, I have some colleagues who get good results with that approach.

So if getting up-close-and-personal with flowers and other macro subjects appeals to you, this filter is just the ticket. If you do get one,  let me know how you like it!

And a quick word on Hunt's Photo and Video - I have been buying much of my photo equipment from them for over 10 years. I have found them to be easy to work with, very professional, friendly, and fast. Gary and his crew are first-rate, and are always there if you have a question or need something special. I like buying from real people whom I trust to handle their camera gear properly, and to ship it well-packaged. I trust them much more than a faceless mega-supplier, and their prices are very competitive. If you have not dealt with them before, give them a try. You will find it a refreshing change.

TECH SPECS  1/200 sec at f/4, ISO 1600. Promaster 5D Achromatic Close-Up filter on Canon 70-200mm f/4L IS lens set at 70mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.  

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better."  -- Albert Einstein


Friday, October 9, 2020

Autumn Is Here

 


Autumn is arriving in most parts of the country. Hard to believe it is October already, and in spite of these surreal and troubling times, the time has passed quickly for me. While it will be a while longer before our lives return to something resembling "normal," we are muddling through reasonably well. I am certainly looking forward to a better 2021!

Photographing moving water is one of my favorite things, and the streams in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park are among my favorites. While they are not the dramatic waterfalls of Yosemite or Yellowstone, they are lovely, and for me are a visual representation of the power of both stability and renewal. The meandering flow of water over ancient rocks is a testament to the power and resilience of nature.

While I rarely use a tripod, it is an essential tool when photographing moving water. The easiest way to convey the feeling of flow when photographing moving water is to first start with a low ISO. I generally use ISO 100 or 200 so that I can get good Depth of Field with a small aperture of about f/16 or f/22, and a slow shutter speed of anywhere from 1/2 sec up to several seconds. I always try a variety of shutter speeds since I never know exactly how much motion will appear in the image, and what look will work best for a particular shot. Remember that as you change your shutter speed, your aperture will change as well (unless you prefer to shoot on manual settings in which case you will need to change both the aperture AND the shutter speed). By the way, I recommend setting your camera on Aperture Priority. 

For many of us, getting away to far flung places is not in the cards just yet. So this might be a good time to review older images in your files and look for hidden gems. You never know what you might find!

TECH SPECS  3 seconds at f/22, ISO 200. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Nothing is softer or more flexible than water, yet nothing can resist it."  -- Lao Tzu

Saturday, October 3, 2020

Smoky Mountains Sunrise

 


I came across this sunrise image that I took in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park about a year ago, and wanted to share it with you.  It was a very misty, cloudy morning and the dramatic scene only lasted a few minutes. The thick mist hanging in the valleys is what gave the Smokies its name.

As with all sunrise shooting options, you never know what Mother Nature will provide. I have been in the Smokies many times, and sunrise is always a big unknown. Sometimes the fog is so thick that you can barely see a few feet in front of you, and no photograph is possible. At other times it is too clear, and the drama that you hope for never happens. But on this particular morning, even though we never saw the sun actually pop up over the horizon because of the thick mist and clouds, we were treated to this spectacular sunrise with shades of purples and yellows. 

When getting up early to shoot sunrise, it is best to plan to arrive at least 45 minutes before the officially stated sunrise time. The sky begins to get light about an hour before sunrise, and often the best shots happen before the sun actually breaks the horizon. 

I like to prepare my gear the night before so that when I arrive at the location, it is a simple matter of setting up my tripod, attaching my camera, and then waiting for the hoped-for show to begin. I use Aperture Priority, pre-set my camera to ISO 800, and the aperture at about f/16. The shutter speed will set itself, and will be very slow in the pre-sunrise hour. As the skies begin to lighten, I change the ISO as needed, first to 400, and then sometimes to 200. 

Setting the aperture to f/16 or smaller (f/22 or f/32, depending on the capability of your lens) gives you the best chance of getting the entire scene in sharp focus. In low light situations, like pre-sunrise, it is hard for your lens to autofocus properly, and it can also be difficult to focus manually as well. An aperture of f/16 or smaller gives you better Depth of Field which will help keep the scene sharp even if you miss the focus slightly.

Now that sunrise is later than during the summer months is a great time to get out there and get some great sunrise shots! You do not have to get up quite so early, and if one day does not provide you with a great sunrise, perhaps the next day will.

TECH SPECS  2 seconds at f/22, ISO 200. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens set at 76mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Every day a million miracles begin at sunrise."  -- Eric Jerome Dickey 

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Virtual Trip To Antarctica

 


Penguins are amazing in the water and comical on land. These Chinstrap Penguins were standing on the edge of a low cliff overlooking the snow-covered mountains beyond. It appears that while one was enjoying the view, the other was squawking about something unknown to us human observers. 

When they walk, they are gawky and somewhat clumsy, but the moment they hit the water they are transformed into sleek and beautiful swimmers. I hope to return to Antarctica once the world is safe for travel again, but for now a virtual trip is the best we can do.

TECH SPECS  1/1000 sec at f/11, ISO 400. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 400mm on Canon 7D MarkII body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Penguins are the most human of all birds, which may be why people love them. They're cute, they stand upright, and they look like they are wearing tuxedos."  -- Shia LeBeouf