Sunday, April 28, 2019

Golden Glow

Moving water is great fun to photograph. The changing shapes of the water as it courses downstream over rocks can provide an infinite variety of abstract shapes and interesting colors.

This was a beautiful sunny day with blue sky and sunlit trees reflecting in the stream. A slow shutter speed helps to enhance the flow of the water and smears the colors a bit.

HINT: When photographing moving water, try a variety of shutter speeds since you never know what will work best. Better to cover your bases rather than to get home and be disappointed that the shutter speed was either not slow enough to create the look you wanted, or so slow that the scene looks too mushy for your taste. Start at about 1/4 second and then slow the shutter down from there.

This image has been modified in Lightroom to bring out the latent colors. Here is the original RAW image.
Notice that it looks very gray with low contrast. This is a typical look for RAW images before they have been modified in Lightroom or other software. ALL images need some sort of tweaking in post-production in order to bring out the colors and contrast. If you look carefully you can see the blue and gold colors, but they are quite muted. It almost looks like a gray film was placed over the image. Again, this is the typical appearance of a RAW image in its original state.

The image was modified in Lightroom to create the final version. Admittedly, the final version was significantly boosted to punch the colors and to improve the contrast. BUT the contrast slider was NOT used. I suggest never using the Contrast slider in Lightroom since it can cause more harm than good. It is better to use the Whites and Blacks sliders to improve contrast since that allows you to control each one independently.

This image required only 9 quick and easy steps to bring out its latent beauty.
1. Highlights slider moved to -38 brought out more detail in the whites at the top of the image.
2. Whites slider moved to +34 increased the brightness of the whites.
3. Clarity slider moved to +30  improved the mid-tone contrast.
4. Saturation slider moved to +68 improved the richness of the colors.
5. Luminance slider moved to +30 (in the Details section) was used for noise reduction.
6. Yellow Luminance slider moved to +91 (in the HSL section) brightened the yellows.
7. Blue Luminance slider moved to +8 (in the HSL section) brightened the blues.
8. Yellow Saturation slider moved to +57 (in the HSL section) to richen the yellow tones.
9. Blue Saturation slider moved to +28 (in the HSL section) to richen the blue tones.

The numbers listed are specific to this image, and always vary on an image by image basis. It is best to experiment with the sliders on your own images to see what changes work best for each different image.

1/2 sec. at f/22, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II lens on Canon 5D Mark III body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff bullhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "If I saw something in my viewfinder that looked familiar to me, I would do something to shake it up."  -- Garry Winogrand

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Reflecting Warm Morning Light

Warm light and reflections help to create a feeling of calm in this image of a Great Egret. These graceful birds are exciting to photograph, and the perfect reflection makes it twice as nice.

Early morning light and late afternoon light are warmer than mid-day light, and can add a nice touch to some images. It is very subtle in this shot, with just a bit of warm light in the background and a tiny touch of it along the left side in the water. The tone of the warm areas matches perfectly with the color of the egret's bill, so everything ties in well together. And the cool white of the bird is a nice counterpoint to the warmth in the background.

1/1250 sec. ar f/5.0. ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 263mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Life is ten percent what you experience and ninety percent how you respond to it." -- Dorothy M. Neddermeyer

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Bluebell Pink

Bluebells are early spring bloomers and do not last long. That is why seeing them is such a treat. There is a small patch of them that grows in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and I go in search of them whenever I am there in the early spring.

When fully bloomed they are the classic blue color, but the small buds are a beautiful pink until they mature.

When photographing flowers I always look for a line or compositional element to make the image stronger. I tipped the camera slightly when making this image in order to introduce a diagonal line to add interest and create a flow from upper right to lower left.

It is also crucially important to keep an eye on the background. A clean background that falls somewhat out of focus helps to direct the eye to the flowers and eliminates any distractions that might be in the background. I prefer shallow depth of field when photographing flowers, and most often use an f/stop of around 2.8 or 4.0. If I am working very close to small flowers I might go as high as f/5.6 but rarely higher than that since that will begin to show the background in sharper focus.

Whenever possible, I find a subject that has a natural background of leaves or other existing foliage. Since I want all my images to be natural in appearance, I never use any "added" backgrounds like dark cloths or colored papers. Once you put your mind to it and practice a bit, you can almost always adjust your position so that a naturally existing background is all you see behind the subject.

I also prefer to work in open shade, or areas with little or no direct sunlight. I like a soft look and try to avoid harsh shadows or bright sunlight.

This is the perfect time of year to find beautiful flowers blooming in parks, gardens and maybe even your own backyard. So get outside and see what beautiful images you can create!

1/320 sec. at f/4.5, ISO 400. Canon 100mm f/2.8L IS macro lens on Canon 5D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "The fact that I can plant a seed and it becomes a flower, share a bit of knowledge and it becomes another's, smile at someone and receive and smile in return, are to me continual spiritual exercises."  --Leo Buscaglia

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Water World

We live on a planet that is 70% water. But photographing water can be a difficult subject. How do you shoot it, how do you expose for it, how do you portray the water as a moving, living thing?

There are no hard and fast answers to any of those questions. As with beauty, a successful water shot is in the eye of the beholder. But there are some tips that I want to pass along to you.

First, if you want to show the motion of the water you will need a slow shutter speed. How slow is always the next question, and the answer is "it depends." Generally a MINIMUM shutter speed of about 1/4 sec is required, and often a much longer shutter speed of a few seconds is needed to show the flow and movement. Always keep in mind that the slower the water moves, the slower your shutter speed needs to be if you want to show its motion. Fast moving water, especially when it is moving across your field of view, requires a shorter shutter speed than slow moving water that is moving either toward you or away from you.

Second, my preference for time of day is either early morning or late afternoon / evening. The light is generally softer and warmer than in the middle of the day, and that gives a more dramatic or romantic look to the image. This image was made about half an hour before the sun set behind the hillsides near the back end of this view. It was a clear day, so both the blue sky and the greenish-yellow leaves reflect nicely in the water.

Third, to maximize your chances of getting a slow enough shutter speed, it helps to set the ISO at 100. In very bright lighting situations you can use a neutral density filter to help you slow down the shutter speed when needed, but when shooting in the early morning or late afternoon you can generally get a slow enough shutter speed without resorting to any filters.

Fourth is lens choice. I generally use a wide angle zoom lens for moving water in streams and waterfalls. But you can use a telephoto zoom for closer shots of water moving around rocks or other details that you want to concentrate on.

So with these basic ideas you can go out and start creating some beautiful water-based images, or improve on the skills you already have.

0.3 sec (3/10s of a second) at f/22, ISO 100. Canon 24-105mm f/4L IS II on Canon 5D Mark II body. Gitzo tripod with Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "When life places stones in your path, be the water. A persistent drop of water will wear away even the hardest stone."  --Autumn Morning Star

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Macro - Or Is It?

Macro of flowers allows you to create beautiful close-up images. But sometimes you might not have a macro lens with you, or might not even own one. Or perhaps a flower is too far away and you just can't get any closer. What do you do?

Easy - use a telephoto lens to bring the flower in close, as I did with this trillium. It might look like it was taken very close to the flower, but in fact it was more than 10 feet away from me and was shot with a 100-400mm lens set at 400mm.

It is always fun and educational to experiment with lenses that are not "supposed" to be used for a particular purpose. Generally a long telephoto zoom lens is used for wildlife, and a macro lens is used for close ups of flowers, insects and other small subjects. But be bold and experiment with your lenses to see what they can for you. You might just surprise yourself!

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

TODAY'S QUOTE: "All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better."  --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Monday, April 8, 2019

An Unexpected Honor

You've seen this image before. I've posted it a couple of times since I was honored that it was selected for several different awards this year. And just this morning I received notification from the North American Nature Photography Association (NANPA) that it is showcased on the Home Page of their website. You can see it at this link

It was a great honor to have it selected as one of NANPA's Top 100 images in its recent competition, and now again to be highlighted on its Home Page.

This image was shot aboard a small boat in the Inside Passage of Alaska on a moody, misty day. The action was fast and furious as the eagles zoomed in to catch fish. My entire group was mesmerized by the aerial acrobatics these imposing birds can achieve. I shot thousands of images over the course of the afternoon, and of all of those, this is my favorite.

The eagle is in sharp relief against the mist and dark trees. Its sharpness against the soft background really makes it pop.

You can read more about this image at this link

I have been a NANPA member for quite awhile and find it to be a very worthwhile organization. It does many good things for its members, including offering free Webinars, plus workshops, scholarships, and more. If you are not familiar with NANPA, check it out.

1/1000 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II lens set at 140 mm on Canon 7D Mark II body. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "May the wind under your wings bear you where the sun sails..."  -- J.R.R. Tolkien, from "The Hobbit."

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Great Hair Day!

Funky. Punky. Shake it. Don't break it. This is a fun, unique, and maybe even artistic shot depending on your point of view.

This Great Egret in St. Augustine was sporting long, flowing breeding plumage when a light breeze came up and created this unusual "hair-do." I was lucky to be there at just the right time. It was also a stroke of luck that he was perched on a high branch with the clean, overcast sky as a backdrop.

When I took the shot I did not realize that it would become a favorite of mine from the trip. The high key look, with a white subject against a white sky, and the only touch of color being the slight tonality in the feathers plus the orange bill all combined to create a simple yet unique image with nice flow of the feathers.

You never know what will present itself when you go out shooting, so it is best to always be ready for whatever comes your way. It is best to be as comfortable as possible with your gear so that when the unexpected happens before your eyes, you can quickly lift the camera and get the shot.

The St. Augustine birds trip held a couple of weeks ago was so popular that I will be repeating it in March 2020. Dates are not firm yet, but it will be sometime during the last week in March. In addition there will be an extension available to photograph more birds in the Tampa Bay Area in early April. No commitment or payment is needed at this time, but if you are interested and want to get on the list, please email me as soon as possible. Once dates are firm I will contact you and you can register at that time.  For details on the recent trip, click on this link

1/1250 sec. at f/11, ISO 1600. Canon 7D Mark II body with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L lens set at 400mm. Handheld.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "And forget not that the earth delights to feel your bare feet, and the winds long to play with your hair."  --Khalil Gibran