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