Monday, July 15, 2019

0 Local Wildlife and Alaska Trip Continued

Over the last week or so, I have not taken too many new photographs. I have spent a lot of my free time fishing with my brother, and I have also been working on going through more photographs and videos from my Alaska trip. I’m hoping that I will be able to put out the time lapse videos in the next post. I am trying something new with them and I have never edited videos before. I have two time lapse videos that I took on the cruise. They are different then the first one I did because I was on a moving boat during these. So there was a lot more motion because of the movement of the boat. But I’m hoping they will be interesting enough.

On several occasions I took my camera with me when I was fishing, but I only managed to take about 100 photographs during those trips. I did manage to photograph a rabbit the one night, but it was getting quite dark. The photograph has a lot of noise in it, but I still wanted to post it. I also spent some time trying my luck at macro photography. I was using my Canon 6d mark ii with my fathers Tamron 90mm macro lens. I did struggle some to get parts of the tiny critters in focus. The auto focus on the lens can be a bit weird, and it does not always want to work the way you would hope. So I used a lot of manual focus towards the end of my macro session. I did manage a couple of photographs. I did like the photograph I managed of a bumble bee, and I also had some luck with dragonflies.

My plan is to spend some time this weekend out and trying to get some wildlife photographs. I will most likely head out to the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area or some other local areas. Hopefully I will be able to get there around the time when the sun is coming up. I would love to photograph wildlife in some great lighting. Hopefully the weather will cooperate.
During the last week I started to go through the pictures I captured on my cell phone during my Alaska trip. I took a lot of photographs on my iPhone, and I figured some would be good. I know the mega pixel count is lower but it was really the only chance I had to capture some of the areas. Because almost all the photographs were taken on the buses, trains, planes, and boats through the windows. So I had to shoot through glass and I figured my cell phone would be easier to press up against the glass to try and minimize glare. I did manage to catch some amazing scenery, so I wanted to share them. So all the pictures below were taken with my iPhone.

I hope everyone enjoys the photographs. Until next time.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

0 Alaska Cruise

Seward Alaska
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/400s Manual exposure
Overall, I really enjoyed my trip to Alaska.  It was even more awe-inspiring and beautiful than the pictures and videos I had seen.  I don’t think that photographs and videos could really capture some of the amazing places that I got to see.  Even though I truly enjoyed my trip I am not sure that I would take another cruise.  There were some aspects of the cruise that I did not enjoy.  I was very happy that I did not experience any sea sickness. I however was not a fan of the small amount of time you have off the cruise ship.  I believe that I would have preferred to spend more time in each location.  I also did not like the fact that it seems like their main goal on the cruise ship is to separate you from as much money as possible.  It was just really annoying.  I went to Alaska to escape and enjoy nature, but sometimes it was very hard to because there were so many people in the ports.  In every port there was at least 2 cruise ships,  which made it extremely crowded.  I believe that I would rather go somewhere where it is away from the cruise ships and more isolated.  But this trip was by far the most incredible views that I have ever seen, and it was an absolutely amazing vacation.

My plan for the next few posts is to break down everything I got to experience on my trip, and all the wildlife that I did get to see.  I don’t plan on including the travel day to anchorage, or the travel day out of Vancouver.  They were rather uneventful days.  I hope everyone enjoys seeing the pictures and hearing the stories.

Leaving Seward Alaska
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 100, f/11 @ 1/50s Manual exposure

Day 1:  Anchorage Alaska to Seward Alaska

The first day I boarded a bus at the hotel and took a very lovely trip down route 1, along the Turnagain Arm.  It was very different than anything I had ever experienced.  They have very large tidal changes, and the tide was out while we drove by.  Also the water is filled with silt due to the glacial runoff, and that gave the water a very distinct color.  The road for the most part parallels train tracks and the water.  Due to it being my first time experiencing Alaska I believe that I was just in shock at how beautiful the views were.  It was a long bus ride but it passes very quickly because of the amazing views.  I just didn’t want the ride to end.  Basically, you are at sea level and looking across the bay, with huge snow-capped mountains in the background.  Your eyes are constantly hunting for the next view, or the next animal to show itself.  I did see a lot of bald eagles along the shore fishing, but I get to experience that a lot at home.

A little further along on the bus trip we passed through Portage.  We crossed a couple of bridges, and the driver let us know that coming up on the left side a humpback whale had gotten stuck on the shore and died, within a couple of days.   There were a lot of eagles around but I did not see any bears at the time.  It was a unique experience, but I would much rather see them alive.  It did however, give everyone a reminder about how harsh and unforgiving Mother Nature can be.
Once we arrived in Seward, we boarded the cruise ship.  That night around 7 pm we departed from the port and I spent a lot of time on the upper deck photographing the views.  I did manage a glimpse at a Humpback whale while leaving the port, but no one else seemed to see it.  I thought maybe I was seeing things at that point.  But later on in the trip I did point out whales and other wildlife and other people confirmed my sightings.

Headed out to Sea
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 100, f/11 @ 1/30s Manual exposure

Day 2:  Out to sea and the Hubbard Glacier

When I awoke on day 2, as far as the eye could see there was nothing but water.  For the majority of that day there was just vast empty seas.  While at dinner that night, I pointed out two Killer Whales outside the window.  Everyone around was very excited to see them.

Hubbard Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 200, f/11 @ 1/250s Manual exposure
After dinner the ship was arriving at the Hubbard glacier.  The problem was, that it was raining and the fog was very thick.  I spent several hours up on the upper decks trying to photograph anything.  It was quite a scary experience because you cannot help but think about the Titanic, as you hit small chunks of ice and they bang off the ship.  You are basically driving though an ice pack on your way up to the glacier.  With the visibility so low, we had to get very close to the glacier just to be able to see it.  From where we were you could not even see the top of the glacier, it was just pure fog.  During our pass by the glacier, chunks of the glacier broke off about 8 to 10 times.  I did my best to capture pictures of this happening.  I know that glaciers are melting, but I did not think I would see the glacier give way that many times in a short duration.  I think that maybe because it was raining, or because the ship got so close, that might have caused more to break loose.  None of the other glaciers that I saw on the trip had anything break loose while I was there.  Although the weather was not great for viewing the glacier it was still a wonderful experience.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/500s Manual exposure

Day 3: Icy Straight Point and Hoonah Alaska

Icy Straight Point, was the first and only time that we had to tender to the dock from the cruise ship, because there was another cruise ship in port.  It was not that hard though.  You basically just get on smaller vessels and they take you to the dock.   Due to there being two ships in port it made Icy Straight Point very crowded.  They only have one welcoming building and it was packed full of people trying to get to their excursions.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
Our first excursion of the day was a whale watching tour.  This was one of the best tours on the entire trip.  We got to see a lot of different wildlife and it just made for a great day.  Some of the species that we got to see on the trip were humpback whales, sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bald eagles, porpoises, and a lot of gulls and terns.  I did manage a few photographs of the humpback whales, a sea lion, and a harbor seal.  For a while we were next to a mother and calf humpback whale.  Which I had not experienced in a long time.  The first time I saw humpback whales was in Maine when I was a child.  There were also a lot of sea lions hanging around with the whales.  I missed a few opportunities at close ups of the smaller animals because they got so close to the boat that I could not shoot through the other people on the boat.  For most of this trip I did not get a position along the rail of the boat.  So I was shooting over the top of most of the people.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 100, f/5.6 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
In the afternoon after the whale tour, we took a bus out into the wilderness for our bear tour.  We did not manage to see any bears, but we did see some Sitka Black-tailed Deer and a Red Headed Woodpecker.  Overall, the wildlife on this tour were so far away that I could not even manage a picture with my 600 mm lens.  The coolest thing that we saw during this walk was the amazing little trees.  The walkway crosses through forest and almost boggy like terrain.  Their growth was stunted due to the harsh conditions, but some were hundreds of years old.  After we got back to the bus I realized that I should have been photographing the trees, but I guess I was just too intent on seeing a bear.  So I really had nothing to show for this trip.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 125, f/6.3 @ 1/500s Manual exposure

Day 4: Juneau Alaska

Mendenhall Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 320, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure
In Juneau the first excursion we were on was a trip to the Mendenhall Glacier.  The bus ride out was rather enjoyable, and we saw a lot of bald eagles along the route.  The only problem was due to the time crunch we only had about 45 minutes to enjoy the glacier.  I wish we could have had more time to enjoy the views.  The other cool thing was, that it was not very busy when we arrived.  So it was relatively peaceful, until a little later after more buses arrived.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 200, f/6.3 @ 1/400s Manual exposure
Since the area around was on the water, there was a lot of wildlife around as well.  At one point I went off alone and somehow got away from other people.  I had a barn swallow land on a wooden railing in front of me.  It was quite a cool experience because the same bird had been dive bombing other peoples heads who had been around.  But once I was alone and relatively still and quite, he came and landed right next to me.  He stayed there and stared straight at me.  He didn’t seem to mind me at all though because he did not fly off, even while I changed lenses to my 150-600 mm sigma lens.  It seemed like he was curious about me.  I managed a few photographs of him before a noisy group of people came over to take a picture in front of the view.  They were just so oblivious, that they didn’t seem to care about how much noise they were making and the swallow flew off.  It was a very cool experience and I had never seen a swallow with colors like his.  He was just an absolutely beautiful bird.

From there we took the bus back to the Mount Roberts Tramway.  We were rather disappointed with this excursion.  Due to the crazy long lines we did not get a lot of time at the top of the mountain to see the view.  We also did not get to walk many of the trails, so it is possible that we missed the best views.  But from the main area the best view is blocked by the Tramway building.  The most disappointing part was the wait to get on the Tram.  We waited in line over an hour and a half just to get up the mountain.  There were 5 cruise ships in Juneau on the day we were there, so it was extremely crowded.  Once we arrived at the top of the mountain we basically had to wait in another line to come back down.  We waited about 45 minutes to come back down the mountain.  The ride up and the ride back down, each take about 6 minutes, and that is the best part.  At least from what we were able to do, due to the time crunch to get back to the cruise ship.

Headed Towards Dawes Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 160, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure

Seal Pup and Mother
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 320, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure
After leaving Juneau in the early afternoon, we traveled to the Dawes Glacier.  Near the glacier I spotted a harbor seal pup and mother near an iceberg.  I did manage a photograph but it was basically directly below the cruise ship.  I was on the 13th deck so they were very small, and the angle was terrible.  But I think it still made for an interesting photo.

Dawes Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 50, f/8 @ 1/160s Manual exposure

Dawes Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 50, f/8 @ 1/160s Manual exposure
Cliffs near Dawes Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 640, f/11 @ 1/200s Manual exposure
Waterfall near Dawes Glacier
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 1600, f/13 @ 1/400s Manual exposure

Day 5: Skagway Alaska

In Skagway we had also booked two excursions.  The first excursion was the White Pass railway.  I would highly recommend this trip to everyone.  The views from the train are stunning and unreal.   Most of the photographs from the train I took through the glass with my smartphone but I still had a blast.  I never wanted this ride to end because it was just spectacular.

Yukon Bus Overlook
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 160, f/5 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
Once we arrived in Canada, the train was checked by border patrol for a few minutes and then we boarded our bus, which met us at the top of the mountain.  From there we were on our way to the Yukon Suspension Bridge.  Once we arrived at the Suspension Bridge we hopped off the bus and walked through the gate.  We had about an hour to see the views which seemed like enough.  The trails are short and when you get off the bus you are basically almost on the bridge.  This is another excursion I would highly recommend because the views were beautiful.  Also they had a shop with some food and souvenirs.  If you are scared of heights you might be scared to get on the shaky extension bridge, but it is well worth it.  The excursions that we took in Skagway were the best from the trip, and the views topped everything that we saw on the trip.  When you are leaving the Suspension bridge they will also stamp your passport if you would like.  So it was the first stamp in my passport.  On our way back to Skagway on the bus, we saw a yearling black bear.  It was jumping over a guardrail and seemed like it wanted food from the passerby.   Which is disappointing because it probably means that someone had fed it in the past.  It was the only bear that I got to see in Alaska.

Yukon Suspension Bridge
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 400, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure
Yukon Suspension Bridge
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 500, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure
Yukon Suspension Bridge
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 50, f/11 @ 1/25s Manual exposure

Day 6: Ketchikan Alaska and Misty Fjords

New Eddystone Rock
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 1250, f/11 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
In Ketchikan our excursion was a boat trip out to the Misty Fjords.  The trip there is long, but they gave out soup and local smoked salmon to try.  They also sell food on the boat.  On the trip the scenery was amazing.  On the way out to the Misty Fjords you stop to view an active bald eagle nest.  Also, you will pass by New Eddystone Rock, which is a volcanic spire rising out of the water.  You also, will see plenty of other wildlife in the Bay including whales, seals, sea lions, porpoises, and eagles.  Also on our way to the fjords we experienced about 3 to 4 different rainbows.  It was raining, but also sunny in the distance, which led to the rainbows.  Once at the fjords you will be boating quite close to the near 3,000 foot vertical cliffs and waterfalls.  Due to the depth of the water they can get really close to the walls.  The only problem was that it was pouring rain when we arrived at the fjords.  So I was having to shoot a few pictures and then head for cover.  Due to all the rain though, the waterfalls were running great.  We were told that not everyone would get to see them running like they were.  It was a stunning view.  I just wish I could have captured more pictures.

Waterfall at Misty Fjords
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 6400, f/8 @ 1/320s Manual exposure

Rainbow headed towards Misty Fjords
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 160, f/8 @ 1/500s Manual exposure

Day 7: Out to sea

Day seven was spent mostly out in the ocean as the ship headed towards Vancouver, British Colombia.  The next morning we departed the cruise ship and took a bus tour of Vancouver.  This was not a great trip.  The first part was beautiful, as they took you through Stanley Park.  It had some amazing Redwood trees which made the start of the trip very cool to experience.  But the rest of the tour was of the city of Vancouver and it did not interest me.  Also we were not scheduled to leave Vancouver until the next day, and the problem was that the tour was dropping you off at the airport.  So be careful if you book this, because you will need to get transportation to your hotel.  It turned out to be less of a problem than we thought, because we went to the bus stop and the first shuttle was going to our hotel.  So we jumped in and went to the hotel.  The next day we departed from the hotel and took the morning flight out.

Mountains in the distance
Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Canon 24-105 mm f/3.5 - f/5.6 Lens, ISO 125, f/11 @ 1/320s Manual exposure
Overall the trip was remarkable and I would love to go back to Alaska. The trip lived up to most of my expectations and then some.  I did not get to see a brown bear, so I know that I will have to head back one day, hopefully soon.  I have other places I would like to visit, but Alaska will always be on my list.  I hope this post was informative, and if you plan on taking an Alaskan cruise please read about some of the excursions and my experiences on them.  Until Next Time.       

Friday, May 24, 2019

0 Preparing for my Alaska Trip

I have not had much free time lately to take many photographs. I have been busy preparing for my trip to Alaska, and doing a lot of spring work on my bonsai and seedlings. So far only my Japanese Black Pine seedlings have germinated. I am concerned that my Japanese maple and Tamarack seeds have failed. I am still praying that they will germinate, but it is not looking good. I have also purchased two small Japanese Maples trees in the last couple of weeks. One is an “Orido Nishiki” Japanese maple and the other is an “Emperor One” Japanese maple. I re-potted them into slightly nicer pots with my bonsai soil mix. My plan is to let them grow vigorously for the next year and then decide what I want to do with them. My plan right now is to propagate them via air layering or soft cuttings that way I have more trees to work with. Also, then I will not have to start from seeds. Which takes substantially longer than starting from cuttings or air layering's. My biggest concern was leaving my trees during my trip. I really did not have anyone reliable to water them. So, I went to the store and purchased a water hose timer, and a sprinkler head. I tested the system last night and it seemed to work well for what I have. All the trees had adequate water from it. My only concern is that with fluctuating temperatures it is hard to judge how often they need to be watered while I’m away. So hopefully I will not overwater or underwater them. I do have someone to check on them in case the water system fails, but hopefully everything will be ok. I have no plans of using this system except while I am away.

Besides my trees taking up a lot of my time lately, I have been purchasing a lot of new equipment and necessities for my trip.  I will try and post about all the new equipment that I purchased, and I might review some of it after the trip.  I think Alaska will be able to put everything to the test.

Today I did take a trip out to the Bashakill.  I believe that I probably had a couple of usable photographs from the trip but I am not going to have the time to post them before I leave tomorrow.  Once I am back from Alaska in about 10 days I will do my best to post those photographs, and all the photographs from my trip.  I am really excited about this trip and I cannot wait to share all the photographs.  Until next time.    

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

0 20 Wildlife Photography Tips

The natural world around us is full of potential subjects to photograph. If you are anything like me, taking a few hours each week to enjoy them is a great way to unwind after a busy week. No matter, if wildlife photography is your niche or not, these are 20 tips to help elevate your images.

  1. Know your equipment

In wildlife photography, the best photographs come from the action packed moments which only last on average 5-20 seconds. If you are unfamiliar with your equipment, camera settings, or the abilities of the lenses you are using, you will miss out on the best opportunities. The images that you do manage to capture will either be lackluster, or you will have missed the shot.

You must at least know:

  • The shutter speeds at which you can obtain sharp images with your equipment.
  • How to quickly change focus points or focusing modes.
  • What your camera and lens Image Stabilization gives you.
  • How high you can push up the ISO and still get an acceptable image.
  • How to make most of the necessary adjustments to exposure and focus settings without lifting your eye from the viewfinder.

  1. Know your subjects

Wildlife photography is all about capturing interesting actions and behaviors of the subject. In order to accomplish this, it pays to be able to predict the subject’s behaviors. Some species are easier to predict than others. You should research the subjects that you plan on photographing. You should see when they are most active, what behaviors they typically exhibit, and see what habitat they prefer the most. That way you can head out to the right spots to see them. By doing this you will be prepared, and will be able to make the most out of your time. Knowing your subject can be the difference from being ready to capture the shot or missing it completely. You need to sit with your subjects and watch them, learn from them, and wait for the proper moment.

  1. Know your location

Knowing the location that you plan to photograph will put you leaps and bounds ahead of the rest. Knowing your location gives you a better idea of what the weather will be like and how it will impact your light and your subject’s behaviors. Knowing the location also gives you a sense of comfort. You will not need to worry about getting turned around, or lost. You also won’t hesitate to adjust to your surroundings and relocate for a better angle, because you know exactly where you are. Knowing your location, its weather patterns, and the subjects that frequent the locations will give you the upper hand and help you improve your chances for great images.

  1. Know and Break the rules

There are some basic rules and fundamentals of good photography, and then there are some rules that find application mostly in wildlife photography. This is not a complete list of the general rules.

Proper exposure:

For many new photographers, getting the proper exposure is the biggest challenge they face. Most of the time letting the camera do the work for you turns out fine, but there are some times when the camera needs a little help. For instance very bright light with white subjects. Knowing how to give your camera the help it needs is the key to getting the proper exposure of your subject. The best way to tell if you have the proper exposure is by using the histogram.

A histogram, is simply a graph showing the brightness levels of pixels in the image. The right side of the graph represent the bright pixels, and the left side of the graph represents the darker pixels. Pixels representing the midtones are in the middle of the graph. A histogram runs from left to right, showing values from 0 or black, to 255 or white. The height of the histogram represents how many pixels are recorded at the given brightness level. The most important aspects of the histogram that you should be most concerned about are the left and right edges. Any pixels as bright white or pure black would be pushed to the edge of the graph. Unless it is intended pixels pushed to the edge can indicate an exposure problem. This is because the image will be clipping the highlights or shadows resulting in pure blacks or blown out whites.

Since a histogram is simply a representation of tonal range of the given image, there is no right or wrong histogram. The histogram will change based on the tone of the image. A high key image would show the pixels mainly to the right side. A low key image would show the pixels mainly to the left side. An image with a wide tonal range would show pixels across the entire histogram. In post processing if you want to be able to get the most out of the pixel data it is important to capture as many pixels across the range as possible. If you have pure blacks or blown out whites you will not be able to manipulate the image as well, because the color data in those areas is lost.

Rule of thirds:

The general rule for proper composition is the rule of thirds. Where you divide the frame into a 3x3 grid, and you normally place your subject on one of the intersection points. The theory is that if you place the points of interest in the intersections or along the lines that your photograph becomes more balanced, and enables the viewer of the image to interact with it more naturally. Using the rule of thirds helps to move the viewer’s eye around the image more naturally.

In landscape photography it helps to keep the horizon line of your image along the horizontal lines of the grid. That way the landscape takes up just the bottom third of the image with the sky taking the other two thirds, or the landscape takes up two thirds of the image and the sky takes up the other third. Thus making the image more balanced.

Eye Contact:

Photographing wildlife is not the same as photographing a landscape or inanimate object. Your wildlife subject has eyes, and our natural tendency is to make eye contact. As a result, capturing the eyes effectively is essential to a great wildlife image.

Making eye contact with the subject helps the viewer connect with the image. It is also very important that the eyes are the focal point of the image. This is what you should be focusing on with your camera and it needs to be sharp. If it is not, it will not be an effective portrait of your subject. It is also important that you capture the catch light. This is the little reflection you can get in the eye of the subject. Without it your subject does not look lifelike. It also can be helpful to get at eye level with the subject, but I will cover this further down in tip 8.

To take this subject further it normally helps to have a good head angle in relation to the camera’s sensor. The head angle should be at least perpendicular to the camera sensor, but ideally it should be turned a few degrees towards the sensor. Which would then untimely be facing towards the viewer, thus maintaining eye contact.

Once you know the most of the basic rules of photography you can break them. If you always follow these rules your images will look just like everyone else's. These are just some of the general guidelines but going outside of them can make your images stand out.

  1. Lighting

It is no surprise that light is the most important factor in all forms of photography, but it is especially important for wildlife photography. In order to take amazing pictures you need to know how to use light to your advantage. Often light is not ideal or the light is sweet but it is in the wrong direction in relation to your subject. Shooting into light can be tricky and that refers back to rule 1, and knowing how to properly use your equipment.

The best times of day to photograph wildlife are called the golden hours and the blue hours. The golden hours are the periods shortly after sunrise and before sunset. During this period the sun is at its warmest hue, casting rich colors across the landscape and providing a dramatic backdrop for your subject. The blue hours are the period before sunrise and after sunset. During this period the hue is normally a blueish color, and also provides a great backdrop for your subjects.

11:00 am to 4:00 pm is the period when the harshest light occurs. So, it is not an ideal period to photograph your subject. For the best lighting of your subject it is best to avoid these hours. The exception is on overcast days. This does not mean that you should not take pictures during those hours. Getting a picture of the action no matter what the lighting is still better than not getting the picture at all.

The key to this tip is not to just get their early enough or late enough to shoot during these periods, but to use the light creatively in your shots. A photographer who can play with light and use it to highlight the features of their subject will produce much stronger photographs than those who do not.

  1. Shoot wider / Shoot closer

Many photographers get fixated with focal length. Even I had an obsession with always getting a longer lens. For instance, my purchase of a Bower 650mm-1300mm lens. I was fixated with always being able to get more reach with my lens, in order to be able to pull the subject in more and more. The problem with this is that it isolates the subject from the background to often resulting in the subject looking like a captive subject. This could be what you are trying to do but it is often better to shoot wider, in order to get a better idea of the environment your subject is in.

Obviously if you are trying to produce portraits of your subject then you probably are looking to get closer and isolate the subject from the background. You can also try and get really close to subjects to get a more abstract composition of your subjects.

The other problems that typically come with more focal length is higher f-stops. Typically larger lenses have higher f-stops meaning they allow in less light. Normally you should try and find a lens with an f/4 or less f-stop but f/5.6 is not terrible. Once you start getting towards f/8 and larger it is just not going to be very useful. This is because for wildlife photography you typically also need to use high shutter speeds to capture your subject. In order to accommodate both high shutter speeds and high f-stop’s, you would have to increase your ISO to the point where it would introduce to much noise to make a good photograph.

  1. Are multiple subjects better than one?

If you have a good view of more than one subject of a species then you should probably stay for a while. If you have one subject the interactions and behaviors could be good to capture, but if you have two subjects, your chances of experiencing interactions increases. Obviously the more subjects you have the more you’re increasing your chances at photographing interactions between them. In my opinion photographing the interactions between your subjects is normally better than just photographing the one subject. It normally makes the image much more interesting to look at.

  1. Get down

The point of view of a wildlife photograph is very important. You should try to get at the subjects eye level or even lower. Doing this, brings the viewer of your image right into the scene and brings the viewer down to the subject’s perspective. This also helps with getting the eye contact of your subject. If you take the picture from your eye level all the time, you will most likely be always looking down on your subjects. This view is the standard view that most people take pictures from. Obviously in some situations you will not be able to get lower. For instance, if you are not allowed out of your vehicle, or should not go outside your vehicle, you will be stuck with that one perspective. For flying subjects it can help to get to a raised area, or an area where the subjects will be flying at your eye level. Again this is not always possible but being at eye level with the flying subjects leads to better pictures in most cases.

  1. Patience

Modern life happens at a break neck pace. We are always in a rush, but in wildlife photography good things come to those who wait. Anything can happen at any time, but most things only happen rarely. At least they don’t correspond with the exact time that you are in that specific spot. It is one of the hardest things to grapple with out in the field. If you are not seeing anything in one spot you are more likely to move, than continue to sit there. But you don’t know if moving is the best option. Sometimes sitting in one place and waiting for the animals to come to you is much better. It is like hunting. Sometimes it is better to just wait than it is to stalk your prey.

What a photographer normally shows you on their website it the best of their work. They do not show the hundreds and thousands of pictures they took that do not work out. All the wonderful pictures that they have on their websites took a lot of time and effort to get. It does not show you the hours that they sat out in blinds or walked trails. You can sit out in a blind all day and not see anything. It just takes a lot of patience and persistence to follow through. If you want to capture action, you must watch and wait. If you are lucky, you will be able to capture that brief moment that makes a great image.

Another important lesson in patience is not to snap off a photograph too soon. In some cases the animals can hear your camera’s shutter release. In these cases you could scare them off. So you will want to wait for the right moment to snap the photograph. Because more skittish animals will run off and you may only get one chance.

  1. Telephoto

There is no question that a long lens is a vital part of any wildlife photographers gear. Telephoto lenses play a couple of important roles. The first important role is magnification. A lens over 400mm will make the subject appear much closer, and take up a large portion of the frame. This allows you to focus more on your subject and cut distracting elements out of the frame.

A telephoto lens also compresses your depth of field. Long lenses are particularly good at blurring foregrounds and background, making the subject stand out from their surroundings. The magnification of the long lens allows you to isolate the best part of the scene from side to side. The shallow depth of field allows you to isolate the subject from front to back.

  1. Macro

Macro photography is extreme close-up photography usually of very small subjects like insects, in which the size of the subject in the photograph is greater than life size. The ratio of the subject size on the sensor to the actual subject size is known as the reproduction ratio. Likewise, a macro lens is classically a lens capable of reproduction ratios of at least 1:1. Macro photography can be a lot of fun and the images that you produce can be amazing. They can allow you to see things that you would not see with the naked eye. That is what makes macro photography so intriguing. It allows people to see a world that they didn’t even know existed.

  1. Clean backgrounds

What is happening in the background can make or break your shot. Busy and cluttered backgrounds can quickly become muted. Elements of human activity such as fences, can ruin the authenticity of a shot. For small bird photography please do not shoot birds on feeders or other man made items, it does not make for a good shot. For wildlife photography natural backgrounds always look the best.

  1. Don’t over edit

Editing is where images often come alive and become more impactful for the viewer. But, over editing a photograph can make it appear unnatural. High dynamic range is most often better left alone. Your best option is to only make slight changes to sharpness, exposure, color palette, and saturation. It also helps to photograph in RAW that way you have more data to work with.

  1. Depth of field

Getting lower down can help you implement this in your photographs. By being at the subject’s level it can thin out the plane that needs to be in focus. If you use f/4 or lower you can drop areas of your foreground and background into a stylish blur. By lowering your f-stop you are widening your aperture size, which results in a shallower depth of field. Doing this can help to make your subject leap out of the image. You can also use this technique to frame your subject with blurred out foliage which can lead to more dramatic images. If you raise your f-stop you are narrowing your aperture size, which results in a deeper depth of field. This can be helpful to increase the amount of area that is in focus. This is normally used when you want to see what is in the foreground and background of your subject. Also higher f-stop numbers are used a lot in landscape photography to get the entire landscape in focus.

  1. Sharp Images

To take a sharp picture of wildlife with a telephoto lens, you will need to use fast shutter speeds. A general rule of thumb is to set your shutter speed to at least as fast as the length of your lens. So, if you are shooting a 500mm lens, you will need to use a 1/500th of a second shutter speed to create a sharp image. But the faster your shutter speed the better chance you will have with producing a sharp image. Even the smallest camera shake can cause a blurry image. You may not even realize how much you are moving holding a large and heavy lens combo. When possible, you should use a tripod to stabilize your camera. If you cannot, you should brace off of something instead. At the very least you should keep your arms in as tight to your body as possible. Sort of like how a ballerina spins with her arms in tight. The closer your arms are to the center of your mass the less they will move, thus reducing camera shake. Also most lenses are at their sharpest a stop or two down from wide open. That means if your fastest aperture of the lens is f/4 you will normally get sharper images around f/8. But this is not always practical since it will cut down on the amount of light that it allows in.

  1. Blurred Images

Animals always seem to be in constant motion. Images that show this movement in the form of a motion blur can be effective. Creating a good motion blur requires some experimentation.  1/60th of a second is more than slow enough to show sufficient motion blur for moving animals. Sometimes with flying birds you want to show the motion blur in the wings. This can be accomplished with speeds under 1/400th of a second normally. For blurring moving water I would recommend using about a 2 second shutter speed. The longer the shutter speed in this case the smoother the water will look.

There are two main types of motion blurs. One where you have a steady camera and the subject is moving. Like most of the examples above. Then there is motion blur caused by moving the camera. Often called a panning blur. You typically move your camera in this case to stay even with the moving subject. This creates an image with both the background and the moving parts of the subject to be blurred. These can be very tricky to pull off, but when done correctly can be beautiful.

Whenever you are playing around with slow shutter speeds. Remember to always set you shutter speeds back to a normal range for getting sharp shots when you are done. There is nothing worse than turning on your camera to capture a split second shot and your shutter speeds are set so low that you miss the shot. So always make sure that you set your settings back when you are done.

  1. Weather

Don’t be afraid to photograph in bad weather. This is one subject that I am just learning. I used to always think that rainy days or snowy days were days that you should just stay home. I always had a fear of getting my equipment damaged during bad weather. I have since purchased some equipment to cover my camera and lens combo. You can also stay in the car, or use other forms of cover. Rainy and snowy days can lead to dramatic shots of animals and the experience they are having during bad weather. Freezing the action of rain drops and snow can make the background more exciting as well. The other reason to embrace bad weather is that a lot of people stay home, so the photographs that you do manage to capture will look very different giving your images a little edge. Other weather factors like wind and fog can also play a vital role in your images.

  1. Tell a story

In any type of photography the best images tell a story. In wildlife photography a simple image of a subject in its surroundings can really tell a story. An interaction between two subjects or more can be even more intriguing. Always think about the species that you are photographing and the environment that they live in. Then consider how your image can tell the full story. For instance a polar bear in a snowy plain can give you the feelings of isolation and harshness. It can really showcase what the bear goes through to survive in that habitat. It tells a story.

  1. Respect the wildlife

Your top priority as a wildlife photographer is to do no harm to the animals and the environment you are photographing. Nothing upsets me more than seeing people chasing animals around or leaving their trash behind. Where I live it seems like people think that wildlife management areas are great places to dump their trash, because there are less people in the area at night. It is very upsetting to see that people have dumped garbage in these areas, or any area for that matter.

Animals should always have a route to escape. Don’t corner them in. You need to pay close attention to their behaviors. If an animal begins to look agitated it is better for you to back off.  Whenever an animal flees, it means that you got to close to it. Every time this occurs you are causing the animal additional stress, so don’t cause it.

Always follow the rules of the places that you are photographing. Stay on trails, and respect the other people in the area. Don’t be the person who walks in front of other peoples photographs or goes off the trail into a closed area. Eventually if we do not police ourselves, someone will and will eventually restrict us from using these areas.

  1. Enjoy it

By this I mean you need to be in the moment, and don’t get caught up to much with the technical issues and settings, that you don’t take in the moments that you are witnessing. We need to be more mindful of the privilege that we have of spending time in nature. What is the point of taking all the pictures if you do not enjoy the time you are spending out in the field? So be mindful of what is going on around you and really enjoy the time you have, and the amazing things that you will get to see.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

0 Water Like Glass

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 400, f/11 @ 1/250s Manual exposure
Last Sunday, my brother, and I spent the evening out at the Bashakill Wildlife Management Area.  It was still raining when we arrived, but it was starting to clear off.  Within about a half an hour, it finally stopped raining.  The Bashakill had some fog that was lifting and the sky was dramatic with storm clouds.  The wind was so still that the water was like glass.  It was truly stunning.  I did not have my tripod with me, but I did manage a few handheld photographs of the landscape.  We spent some time on several trails, but none produced any opportunities.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 400, f/6.3 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
Most of our opportunities came on Haven Road and from the parking area north of haven road off Route 209.  From the parking area north of Haven, I was able to photograph some Canadian Geese in flight and a pair that was content with standing out in front of us.  The water was so still that it basically mirrored them.  So, I was quite happy with the photograph that I was able to get. 

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 640, f/6.3 @ 1/500s Manual exposure
The landscape shots that came out the best, was a shot looking towards Haven Road.  The dramatic sky coupled with the late evening hours made the picture pop.  I was happy with the way the picture turned out.  The only thing that could have improved the shot, would have been using a tripod.  I would have been able to use a 100 ISO if I had brought my tripod with me, and that would have cut down on the noise.  I guess I learned my lesson from not wanting to bring my tripod.

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 1250, f/6.3 @ 1/400s Manual exposure
I also managed a photograph of some fungus growing on a log.  At the time, I was not thinking that the picture would turn into anything usable.  Once I got it back and onto my computer, I was surprised with the intricate patterns.  I wish that I had taken the picture using a macro lens to really pull out the detail.  But I only took the image with my Sigma 150-600 mm lens.  I do know where the log is, and I plan on making a trip back to see if I can get better images of it. 

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 640, f/6.3 @ 1/400s Manual exposure
With sunset approaching we had to start heading for home, but before we left the Bashakill we decided to go back and check Haven Road one last time.  This worked out well, because one of the Mute Swans was right along the road.  I was a little worried that I would scare it off, but it did not seem to mind that we were there.  I did not get out of the car, so I assume that helped. 

Canon EOS 6D Mark II & Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0 - f/6.3 DG Contemporary Lens, ISO 250, f/6.3 @ 1/400s Manual exposure
Due to its proximity to the road I was able to take a lot of pictures.  I must have snapped off over a hundred photographs in a matter of minutes.  It was not doing too much, except for swimming back and forth.  It also chased off the Canadian Geese that were around, but they just swam off, and they did not really fight or anything.  Overall the trip was great, and I really look forward to the next one.  Until next time.