Friday, April 22, 2011

Wildlife Photo Shoot part 2

This is my second post about the nature area I discovered on the Virgin River.  For this trip I planned an early morning trip.  I knew the sun would rise behind me and the sun would highlight my subjects.  I had initial success, but I will save that photograph until near the end.  So let's begin.
This is not much of a photograph.  I saw these birds and started sneaking up on them.  My technique is walk toward them at a slow pace until they stop feeding.  Then I stop and wait until they go back to feeding.   I wait a little while and then start walking toward them.  I keep repeating this until I think they have had enough and are about to fly.  I then stop and photograph what I can.  Sounds good on paper doesn't it.  They were actually being quite calm but then I made a mistake.  I raised my hand to scratch my head hit my sunglasses and knocked them to the ground.  I said "Bye ya'll" to them as they left, and bent to get those &^@(*^&$ glasses.  ISO 5.6, 1/500, ISO 100.

Sometimes though you expect to shoot birds, and it is sand that catches your eye.  There is something about the texture and the design that just fascinates me.  I am certain there is a restaurant in Vegas inspired by sand (see post below).  Anyway it was the sand that caught my attention.
F18, 1/50, ISO 100

F4, 1/1250, ISO 100

F22, 1/40, ISO 100  I kinda like the claw prints.

This is the restaurant I think is sand inspired.
F2, 1/25, ISO 800

This next photograph caught my eye, but I had a difficult time with it.  There was something missing.  I actually left it and took the above sand photographs and returned.   
F18, 1/50,ISO 100
I looked again and then took this photograph.  These are the blades of grass in the background of the first photograph.
F18, 1/50, ISO 100
I prefer this photograph to all the others.  

THis is one of the first photographs I took.  It is of Cinnamon Teal as they take flight.  I had been using my sneak technique, but I got too far into their comfort zone.  The zone, different for each animal, is the closest distance an animal will allow you to get before leaving town faster than a cat leaving a hot tin roof.  
F5.6, 1/1000, ISO 200
THis photograph was taken hand held with a 400mm lens.  THe significance is that the longer the lens the more it is subject to camera shake.  To overcome the bad effects of shake a fast shutter speed is needed then add birds in flight and the shutter speed had better be cranked up.  I am proud of the shot.  

This is one of the final photographs I took.  As you can see I am fairly close, and definitely inside the comfort zone.  In my previous trips I knew this to be a hangout for ducks.  I approached cautiously taking off my backpack, and checking my cameras settings.  I got down on my stomach.  Yes I did!  You weren't there, and shouldn't argue with me.  I inched forward on my stomach as my shirt, and pants filled with sand.  I got into position, and started shooting.  After about 10 minutes one of them spotted me, and it was off to the races.
F5.6, 1/1000, ISO 200

-Don't drop your sunglasses
-The longer the lens the faster the shutter speed needed.  In fact some say that you should multiply the mm of the lens to compensate.  Example: 100 mm lens will need a shutter speed of 1/200.  I'm not so sure, but the longer the lens, the more caution is needed.
-Be prepared to fill you shirt and pants with sand.
-Look for what it is that makes the photograph. The blades of grass in the shot above. 

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Wildlife Photo Shoot part 1

The Virgin river flows through Mesquite.  This past winter the Virgin river flooded taking a number of homes and damaging two golf courses.  It also cleared out the dense undergrowth along its banks, and created some pools of water.  The other day I walked there.  I discovered a natural park with numerous birds.   I returned a few days later with a camera in hand to scout more throughly.

I shot this:

and this:

And this
I didn't think I would get a photos at all.   I was just wanting to check out the sun, see how close I could get to the birds and where they were hanging out.  I had gotten ready for my expedition by attaching a 400mm lens to the camera.  It is my longest telephoto lens.  To photograph I wanted to accomplish two primary goals freeze action, and isolate the subject.  So I set the camera to its lowest f-stop 5.6 which gave the shallowest depth of field.  This would help to isolate the subject against a busy background.   I also wanted a fast shutter speed.  I figured that any opportunity would be a moving subject.  I decided to try 1/800.  In order to achieve the  shutter speed I choose ISO 400.  This was the lowest ISO I could set and still achieve the shutter speed.  

I walked for a while and suddenly the mallards in the first photograph took flight.  I lucked out they circled me several times.  In the next 2 minutes and 30 seconds I took 32 photographs.  It would have been more but the sun was setting.   As they circled in the direction of the sunset they would be in the shadow and underexposed.  The lesson is to approach the subject with the sun behind you.  There is another lesson the time of day.  The hour just before sunset and the hour just after sunrise usually give the best light.  I walked home after the sun had set.  

The second two photographs have a couple more lessons.  
This is the first shot I took in the set.  Those are Cinnamon Teals in the foreground.  There is also a little guy to the left of the American Avocet (thanks Dottie).   Well If I would chosen a a smaller f-stop (f11-f22), maybe, just maybe I could have gotten the teals in focus and improved this shot immensely.  But, I have this thing for birds like the Avocet.  I just focus on them.  Later, I realized that the Teals were there and got the shot I posted of them.   The little guy to the left of the Avocet flew before I could feature him.  

So here are my lessons
- Get ready.  Decide your camera settings, and the equipment needed.
-Hour before sunset and sunrise provide excellent light.
-Learn from my mistake.  Do not focus one thing and see the whole.  THe opposite is also true do not focus on the whole and forget about the parts.  
-It is usually better to approach with the sun behind you.  


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Light outside the camera

Shutter speed, ISO, and F-stop control light in camera, now the rest of the story.  There are more light sources outside the camera than there are purchasers of the Sport Illustrated swim suit issue.  Let's see; turn on or off the light, open/close the blinds, turn on a monitor, light a match, and then a candle, reflection of the sun off tin foil, oh that flash on the camera, car headlights, or a mirror.  All of those are light sources and I have not even scratched the surface.  There has been more written on this than there are sources.  If you think I'm gonna talk about all this junk in detail, then you think I would walk against traffic on the strip in Las Vegas.  Cabbies would kill you in a second.  Well anyway there are a lot of light sources, and a lot has been written about them.  I am going to discuss briefly discuss the reason this is important and then discuss the use of flash.  

Cameras do not see the way we do.  We can see details in the shadows and bright sunlight, but cameras can only see one or the other.    This explains why there are parts of a photograph overexposed and parts underexposed or visa versa.  The picture of the flower below illustrates the point.
There is not a backdrop used in the photograph.  The flower was in bright sunlight, but the background was in shadow.  The camera could not see the shadowed area because the camera was set to see the flower.  If the camera had been set to see the background the detail on the flower would have been overexposed.   The lesson here is that you can't have it both ways.  If you want to shoot both the shadow and the light  then either more light needs to be added to the shadows or the lighted area needs to shaded.  This is the reason so many different light sources are used.  

The most used source of artificial light in photograph is the flash.  It is also the light source I see misused the most.  There are three misuses of the flash I'm going to discuss.

The first problem is understanding the lack of flash power.  I frequently see pics like this: 
The wall is lit, but that is me in the shadows.  There is just not enough light, because the flash is not strong enough.  You would be better off to try a higher ISO and a slower shutter speed.  Unless you find me that ugly and then the photograph would have achieved your goal.  By the way if the flash will not light me then it will not light up an auditorium.  Those graduation pics will light the bald spots on the back of heads, but Johnny or Sue will be in darkness.  Those on board flashes light up from 6 to 12 feet.  That's all folks.  Here is a pic adjusting the ISO, shutter speed, and F-stop.   Sometimes the flash just doesn't cut it.
Here is another problem. 
Yes I have looked better, but that is not the deal here.  It is that blob of light.  All you young ladies taking that pic into the mirror.  Well it has gone to the ugly.  Not as bad as me of course but none the less.  The same thing will happen if you try to shoot through glass.  It will be ugly.  Control your selves do not do it.  If there is glass between you and the subject there will be ugly.  The same thing will happen if there is glass behind the subject.   Again, try turning off the flash and adjusting the ISO, shutter speed and F-stop.

And yet another problem:
Notice the wrinkles in the forehead, the slits where eyes belong, the crinkled nose, the shadow of the leaves on my head.  This happens frequently with the subject looking into the sun.  The photograph is ugly.  Turn the subject so they face away from the sun, or place them in the shade and turn on the flash    
Oh, look how handsome he is now.  Well he isn't looking at the camera, but what do you expect?   So there you have it sometimes in doors you should turn the flash off.  I know everyone and their brother has told you inside use the flash, but try it.  Going outside, hey, try turning the flash on.  Inside flash off, outside flash on.  This isn't always going to work.  Most of the time flash inside will work, and no flash outside will work, but consider the situation.  SO before you shoot think flash on, flash off; flash on, flash off .  thanks Miyagi


Saturday, April 9, 2011


Well I was going to post about light sources outside the camera, but Lou and I went to Yosemite.

Let's start at the beginning, packing.  They were predicting weather from 20's to 70's.  Packed wide range of clothing.  I grabbed two cameras, and a video camera.  I got every camera battery I owned, flash gun, tripod, monopod, two camera bags,  flash cards, bag full of AA batteries and set it all aside.  The aside thing was the problem.  When we returned from Yosemite the tripod, monopod, and flash cards were still setting aside.  I forgot them.  We got most of the way there before I discovered the mistake.

Folks I can overcome a lot of problems.  I can get by without tripods and monopods.  I consider myself resourceful, but lack of flash cards renders a camera useless.   BUt, Lou fed Best Buy into the GPS and  it told us exactly how to get there.  No sooner than Lou had finished doing it than that little voice said turn right.  Lou was doing about 65 on an interstate in the outside lane.  We watched as the exit disappeared, and listened as that infernal machine said recalculating.  Anyway I got the needed cards, and lost about an hour.

As we got closer our anticipation grew.  The road became crooked and the mountains we could see had snow on them.  It was not long before there was snow on the side of the road.  There were more and more turns on the road.  The snow got deeper.  We traveled on and the snow got deeper.  Then there was the sign: Chains Needed.   Now Lou and I heard of people needing food, clothing but Chains?  Just then I looked out the window on my side of the car and all I could see was snow.  It had to have been 3 feet at least.   We were committed and continued on.  We now also knew why the sign was there.  Other drivers before us had found themselves in the same predicament and had created the sign asking others who had chains to share.  THis only lasted for a short time before it got worse.   OK I am exaggerating.  THe road did stay clear, but you should see the snow removal removal equipment.  Those machines could clean snow from the antarctic.  It was at least 3 foot of snow in places.

Finally we turned a corner, went through a tunnel and :
f8, 1/500, ISO 100
SO I start through my lenses, and knew instantly that I needed a tripod.  I was laying in a puddle resting my camera on rock wall to hold it steady.  From this point forward we were treated to beauty everywhere we looked.
f8, 1/500, ISO 100
Lou and I have collected waterfalls for years and this was a treat.  We could hardly wait to get settled, and start some serious explorations.  We registered at Curry Village and headed to our tent cabin.  I did not know it at the time but everywhere in the park they give the Yosemite temp and the Curry Village temp.  Curry is always colder by about 10 degrees.  There is a considerable difference between 30 and 20.  It is colder.  I'm getting ahead of my story though.  Let me show you our tent cabin.

Now let me get back to the cold.  It was cold in those tents there was no heat.  We slept in pants, long johns, socks, t-shirt, shirt, and sweat shirt, sleeping bags with liners and still froze. 

By the way did you see the snow next to the tent, and those puddles actually had large mouth bass in them.   THe green box next to the door was a bear box.

Oh noo!! I'm not kidding.

f5.6, 1/640, ISO 400

The next day we bought a tripod and sleeping bags.  THe bags kept us pretty warm, and the tripod sucked.  It did serve the purpose.

The next morning we got our first treat:
f5.6, 1/1250, ISO 200

Then another
f18, 1/50, ISO 100

Then another
F9, 320, ISO 100

One of Lou and I

f5.6, 320, ISO 800
Well anyway we had a great time, and we have a bunch of photographs, new sleeping bags, a tripod that sucks, and great memories in spite of the cold.   Beauty just seems to over come discomfort.    You will have to wait to see more pics until I up date the web site.