Many people know Rob Sheppard as the long-time editor of Outdoor Photographer. While still associated with that magazine as a contributing editor, Rob is also a photographer, author, naturalist and nature photographer, speaker, workshop leader, editor and videographer. He has worked to hone his craft to best present the natural world he loves to others. That world includes everything from a bee in his native plants garden to a visit to a national park. Rob has written and photographed a lot of books and magazine articles. What is most important to him about these projects is knowing that he has helped people become better photographers and gain an improved connection to nature. Rob has received a NANPA Fellow award. A short list of some of the books Rob has authored: Landscape Photography: From Snapshot to Great Shot, Magic of Digital Landscape Photography, The Magic of Digital Nature Photography, National Geographic Field Guide to Digital Photography, The Power of Black-and-White in Nature Photography and Reports from the Field (an iBook). See more on Rob at his website, www.robsheppardphoto.com and his blogs, www.natureandphotography.com and www.mirrorlessnature.com. Read the rest of this entry »
Images and Text by Nate Chappell
Photographing hummingbirds in flight in countries like Ecuador and Costa Rica with natural light or with just one flash can be very difficult. The reason – most of these birds live in the cloud forest where there isn’t much light due to both shade from trees and cloud cover. One solution for this, which creates beautiful flight shots, is a multi-flash hummingbird setup. By setting up several slave flashes set to 1/32 or 1/16 power around a hummingbird feeder or flower you can produce stunning images of hummingbirds in flight. The reason is that the flashes are actually synching at speeds of 1/8000 to 1/12,000 of a second changing the effective shutter speed from what is on your camera – let’s say 1/200 sec to the lightning fast speed of the flashes synching. The key to this is having the flashes produce all of the light, otherwise you will be mixing ambient light and flash lighting. In that case the 1/200 sec shutter speed will affect the image by causing blurring in parts of it. So you need to have your camera’s exposure set to at least -3 or -4 stops below the ambient lighting.Another helpful component is to have an artificial background – often a large printed photograph held a few yards behind the mutli-flash setup.
The camera settings I typically start out with are working in manual mode, ISO 400, f/22 and 1/200 sec (Note: you need to keep your flash below it’s maximum normal synch speed). In a dark environment this will get you a few stops below what the ambient meter reading would be. The high F-stop helps get both the hummingbird (sometimes hummingbirds) and the flower in focus when working at close range. Hummingbirds are quite tolerant when feeding so while your flash set up may scare them away at first, they will come back.
As far as equipment, any intermediate zoom or telephoto lens works well. I often use the Canon 300mm f/4. Zooms like the Canon 100-400mm or Nikon 80-400mm are ideal as you can zoom in or out depending on how large the hummingbird is or if there are multiple birds. Some photographers prefer to use a fixed 500mm to maximize detail. I am always on my tripod, aimed at the feeder or flower. That way, I can quickly fire off a round of shots if a bird approaches. You also need an on-camera flash that has manual settings. Even though the flashes are at 1/32 or 1/16 (they all need to be set to the same power) I am often at 1/64 on my on-camera flash. We use Nikon SB-26 flashes for slave flashes. I know that sounds strange when I say that I am a Canon shooter. The nice thing about the Nikon SB-26’s is that they will synch automatically with any flash – it doesn’t matter whether it is a Nikon or not, and that means we don’t need any other wired or wireless triggers. This allows participants on our tours to photograph with their normal cameras – Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc. – as long as they have an onboard flash with manual setting capability.
We typically use six slave flashes. We place five around the hummingbird feeder and use one to light up the background. The flashes are set at varying heights so that both the bottom and top of the birds are lit up. They are set anywhere from two feet to five feet from the hummingbird feeder, with three on one side and two on the other side. You can use lots of different light stands to hold your flashes. Although fairly expensive, I prefer Manfrotto 6.75’ light stands. They are sturdy but short enough to fit in a normal sized duffel bag which isn’t overlong for international flights (folded up they are a bit longer than two feet). I use Novoflex Neiger 19 mini ballheads to attach to the top of the flash stands and hold the flashes. They are around $50 each. I have tried much less expensive mini ballheads but they break easily and don’t give me the ability to move the flash head as easily as the Novoflex Neigers. After some hummingbirds have started to come to our feeder, I will remove the feeder and hold a flower in place with a Wimberley Plamp. I insert sugar water into the flower with a syringe. This allows us to get photos of the hummers feeding at flowers. If the activity dies back down, I will put the feeder back up to get birds coming in again.
So, where are good places to do multi-flash photography? The answer: Anywhere there are plenty of hummingbirds! Ecuador and Costa Rica are two of the most popular locations. Ecuador has over 150 different hummingbird species. On a tour with stops at a few different lodges, it’s possible to get good images of about 30 species. At some of the cloud forest lodges there are literally hundreds of hummingbirds buzzing around. In the United States, Southern Arizona is probably the best location in terms of the number of species. In the Eastern United States, you can also get great action with Ruby-throated Hummingbirds, particularly during migration. My wife, Angie, is from Ecuador so we lead bird photography tours and spend some time there each year. We also do multi-flash photography on our Trinidad and Tobago tour and on our Arizona workshop. You can see some of the stunning birds we see and photograph in the images here. All of these images have placed in the NANPA Showcase within the past few years. And, a participant on one of my private Ecuador tours even took an image that was an award winner in this year’s BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year birds category! To see more info on our tours and workshops see www.trogontours.net
In last month’s column in From Photography to Filmmaking, we started to think about sound and how sound can help to shape and craft our story. Today, I’d like to expand on that a bit more and walk you through how I put together the audio for my latest short film from my project Filming Florida.
I spent the first few weeks of the year filming and photographing in south Florida and spent four or five mornings working in Sweetwater Strand in Big Cypress National Preserve. My latest short film explores the transition from night to dawn in the swamp. When I was filming this particular piece, I went about things a little differently since I was also using this as an opportunity to test out a bunch of new equipment. With all the testing of a new camera, I was not focused on recording audio. As a result, two days before the planned release of the film, I had a fully edited film, but it didn’t have any audio to go with the visuals. This afforded me a very interesting exercise–setting out specifically to record audio that matched the visuals for the film. I’m not saying that this is the best way to do it, and in fact I’d much rather capture high quality audio while I am filming, but it was a valuable experience. Take a moment to watch the film and then I’ll walk you through my approach.
Some members of my family were trying to decide between turkey or roast beef. Others were already thinking about dessert. My only concern was how long the perfect conditions outside were going to remain that way.
It was December 25, 2002, and I was enjoying Christmas dinner. It had been snowing for most of the day, and a couple of inches of thick, heavy snow had coated everything it touched. This was the first official “White Christmas” New York City had experienced in several years. Throughout the evening, I found myself constantly leaving the holiday festivities to look outside. I hoped that the magical conditions would hold out until I could get out and photograph. I was not disappointed. Read the rest of this entry »
by Fred Perrin
Compared to challenges nature photographers often face and embrace in their work, creating and publishing a quality book has never been easier. You have the images, likely enough to publish a hundred coffee table books, so what’s next?
This article summarizes what you should know when considering, designing and publishing a photography book.
Before we get to that, let’s review a common book printing question today. Should I print my book digitally or through a traditional offset press? Which is best for me?
“Best” is relative to many technical, artistic and personal variables. Years ago, for professional image quality, digital cameras fell short, yet today they deliver outstanding results. Similarly, the print world has seen impressive advancements in digital press technology. Which is best? Depends. With higher quantity book runs, traditional offset printing remains an “ultimate quality, more options, and lower cost per book” home run. At the same time, print craftspeople using the newest digital presses can print lower book quantities with outstanding quality. Do your homework. If you aspire to deliver trade publishers’ coffee table book quality, does your intended printer print these books? If not, have you reviewed samples of their work? Be careful and inquisitive. There are printers printing books on digital devices much like an office copier, charging as much or more than some book printers printing books on million dollar digital offset presses. There is a quality difference. If you’re unsure of final book quantity (and most book publishers are), ask your book printer to quote multiple book quantities (e.g. 100/250/500/750/1000+) comparing traditional offset and digital prices, and provide samples of both. Depending on your book quantity range and the printer’s press options, you will quickly learn where digitally printed or traditionally offset printed book quantities are attractively or unattractively priced. You must also consider quality bookbinding, but we’ll reserve that for a follow-up article.
- Have a book concept. Tell a compelling story – don’t just show photographs.
- Showcase unique images – avoid repetition.
- Are you a photographer or a graphic designer? If you’re a photographer, hire a professional graphic designer.
- Hire a professional editor.
- If you choose to personally design your book:
- Review and compare published books similar to your concept.
- Consider and compare font sizes and page layouts before beginning design. Design only when you have fine-tuned your intended layout(s) to your (and more importantly your intended audience’s) satisfaction.
- Calibrate your monitor. Printers can provide kits that help measure a monitor’s accuracy at which point you may need to calibrate your monitor using a colorimeter (prices start around $100).
- Ask your printer for a cover design template (based on your book specs).
- You can work in RGB (Red/Green/Blue) up until you select your printer at which point you should convert RGB files into CMYK (Cyan/Magenta/Yellow/Black). Printer profiles for printing on coated paper are available for this (example: GRACoL2006 Coated1v2). Note: When color images are printed on paper the effect of the paper causes the images to look slightly darker because a computer screen emits light rather than paper which reflects light. Converting images to the GRACoL profile on its own does not simulate this effect. You can use the Proof Colors option in Photoshop to simulate this effect when printing on coated paper.
- Review and understand book manufacturing formats, options and material specifications. Once you have an idea of book size and format, page count, paper, cover, and quantity range, request a quote. Don’t worry about future quote revisions based on changing specs and/or trying to hit a price point. This is part of the business.
- If you are personally scanning slides, make sure your scans are of the highest quality. Send test scans to your printer for review and proofing to avoid discovering at press that your images are not at their best.
- Send hard copy proofs as a guide to your printer especially if you will not be present at the press when the job is run (called a Press Check). You should also request proofs to see and compare to what is expected at press.
- Sewn binding provides higher book quality and longevity.
- Proofread, proofread, proofread (and not just by you). Errors are easy to miss – even for big publishing houses – but, once printed, impossible to erase.
- Consider crowd funding to help pay for your book.
- Design in RGB (can cause issues at press which prints CMYK)
- Personally scan images unless you have a high quality scanner (by printing industry standards), you know what you’re doing, and you’ve tested your scans through your intended printer.
Good luck with your book! I hope this article is helpful. If you have any book production or publishing questions, please contact me anytime by email at email@example.com.
Fred will be one of the featured Breakout session speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit www.naturephotographysummit.com.
Fred Perrin began his career as a Kodak Technical Sales Representative for Professional Photographers. Fred has received honors from The Professional Photographers of Canada as Craftsman of Photographic Arts (Scenic/Nature Photography) and his lithographs have been presented to sixty world leaders by the Government of the United States. Fred is now VP of Marketing & Business Development for Friesens, North America’s premier book manufacturer. Friesens customers include many of North America’s most prominent museums, art galleries, publishers and photographers. Company Website: books.friesens.com
*Pat and Rosemarie Keough detail their experience in printing and binding their beautiful book on their website at http://keough-art.com/tome_passion.php.
Many people know Peachtree Street is in the center of Atlanta—both figuratively and literally. But even residents are largely unaware of Peachtree Creek, an urban waterway that runs through local neighborhoods into the Chattahoochee River. The watershed includes 2,000-year-old ruins of an Indian village, Civil War battlements, Atlanta’s busiest interstate highway, Emory University, the Center for Disease Control, affluent neighborhoods of Buckhead and Morningside and diverse communities.
Unfortunately, like many urban waterways, the Peachtree Creek watershed has been under appreciated by residents and suffers from years of misuse. Stream banks are covered with invasive species of plants such as privet and English ivy. Trash is gathered by rainwater and flushed into the stream. And communities have lost their connection with the water.
The South Fork Conservancy was formed in 2008 to protect the South Fork waterways and lead development of a pedestrian-friendly nature corridor encompassing 25 miles of winding streams and natural areas. The conservancy has mobilized community and governmental organizations with long-term vision and a series of projects. Read the rest of this entry »
Images and Text by Sean Bagshaw
As outdoor photographers, we work in conditions beyond our control. Fortunately the unpredictable, whimsical and surprising elements of weather and landscape are also what can make it so engaging and fulfilling. Attempting to photograph the landscape in its defining moments has lead me to some formative life experiences, experiences that have taught me to look closely, wait patiently, see deeply and appreciate fully.
Consider an autumn photography trip I took several years ago. Excited by the promise of fall color and dramatic skies, I crossed Oregon, bound for Montana and Idaho. 1,200 miles later I arrived at Glacier National Park on the edge of an approaching storm. Hunkered in my van, I was buffeted by high winds and rain for four days, during which I was able to take photos for perhaps an hour or two. I never did see any of the famous peaks or glaciers on that visit.
Undeterred, I headed south in hopes of better weather. In the Sawtooth Range of Idaho, low cloud cover and snow kept the mountains hidden for all but a few minutes of the next four days. Windblown rain spotted my lens and blurred the aspen leaves in my low light exposures. During the long stretches of time alone in my van, I read, scouted locations, and studied the landscape and weather. I got up before dawn in order to be ready if the sun broke through. It didn’t.
The mountains were still shrouded when my time came to an end. As I drove back across the high desert of eastern Oregon, the skies opened for a brief moment, but by morning the clouds were back and it was snowing.
Despite the lack of photographs I had to show for my effort, I returned feeling invigorated and inspired. I was not ready to be indoors quite yet. The day after arriving home, I decided, on a whim, to make a quick visit to the upper Rogue River (just an hour’s drive away). After days of being immersed in gray, I was caught off guard when one of the most brilliant sunrises I’ve experienced illuminated the sky. For the rest of the day I hiked and I photographed bright fall foliage along the river in perfect soft light. On that single day I took more images than the previous nine combined, including one of my all time favorites. Those ten days will be with me forever: the cold, the gray, the quiet, the slow, the subtle, and finally the brilliant and unexpected.
Contrast that experience with the autumn photography trip I took to Colorado recently with my friend, Zack Schnepf.
The fates of weather aligned very differently for us. In two weeks we saw everything from cloudless, 80-degree days to thunderstorms, snow and 20-degree mornings. With some careful planning and a lot of luck we managed to consistently be in the right place at the right time. With such a string of ideal conditions we were working at a hurried pace and shooting continuously. We were even happy to see low clouds, drizzle and flat light one afternoon so we could justify a few hours off to take a shower and get to bed early. The photographs we took tell the story of the trip better than anything I can write.
These two autumn photography experiences will always provide welcome memories. One was solitary, slow paced, introspective and moody, building to a grand finale. The other was very social and frenetic, with little time to reflect as the light and landscape of each new scene somehow eclipsed the one before. Most photography trips fall somewhere between these two extremes. Given the choice I would no doubt opt for perfect conditions every time. But, fortunately, we don’t get to choose the conditions. When the photography is less than optimal we have an opportunity to slow down, put the camera away for a while and just watch and listen. Even though we don’t know when or how, if we are patient and present, nature will eventually show us something wonderful. This excellent unknown is why I will always go outside and take photographs.
Sean Bagshaw is an outdoor photographer and photography educator based in Ashland, Oregon. He spends as much time as he can in the field on a quest for magical light. He can be found sleeping in his truck or on the ground, stumbling around in the dark, eating bad food and avoiding showers. He is one of six members of the Northwest based PhotoCascadia team. You can see more of his photography and find out about workshops and video tutorials at www.OutdoorExposurePhoto.com and www.PhotoCascadia.com.
Part IV: Personal traits for capturing a sense of place
The final piece in capturing a sense of place in our images is using the personal traits we possess as nature photographers to document an area in such a way that the viewer feels what you felt as well as seeing a well-photographed image.
Capturing a sense of place is not easy to do, and for many nature photographers, the process of doing it effectively takes years. Becoming skilled at the technical aspects of photography is important: know how to read light, use the right exposure, understand how the camera operates, etc. But equally important is the individual photographer’s personal response to a moment in time and how he/she effectively captures it on film.
I tell the students who attend my workshops that becoming skilled at the technical aspects of photography should take no more than 365 days. That’s one year. The most challenging aspect of our craft and the one that takes a lifetime to become proficient at is the ability to capture compositions that speak from the heart. If we can’t feel the sense of place in the images we take, then how can we expect the viewer to sense it? Read the rest of this entry »
Images and text by Todd Amacker
One of North America’s most biodiverse forests, the longleaf pine forest of the Southeast, is missing from 97% of its historic range. As a proud Southerner, I’ve spent a great deal of time ambling through pine forests in the Florida panhandle. Recently, I’ve made an effort to use my photography and my words to portray exactly what has disappeared along with the forests themselves.
There are a lot of treasures in longleaf pine forests that make them special, both aesthetically and scientifically. It all starts with the longleaf pine tree itself, Pinus palustris. It’s resistant to fire, and that’s important when frequent fires sweep through the understory and flames lap at the trees’ exteriors. Layers of specially evolved, crusty bark protect its delicate innards. It is actually unhindered fire that gives life to the longleaf ecosystem and contributes to its aesthetic beauty. Because of the fire, the undergrowth is burned away and you can see between trees. (This is quite refreshing for forest enthusiasts, as most forests hamper your ability to enjoy the view.) Read the rest of this entry »
Among the many areas of our great nation popular with nature photographers, few surpass the vicinity of Moab, Utah, for a wealth of iconic subjects in a concentrated area. Just a stone’s throw away from the heart of this high desert gathering place are two of the national parks that give Red Rock Country its name: Arches and Canyonlands.
Famed Arches National Park boasts more than 2,000 arches, a greater collection of red rocks in one place than perhaps anywhere else in the world. These fascinating forms are never static. Surprise Arch was discovered only as recently as 1963, while Wall Arch just collapsed in 2008. These marvelous natural sculptures start as depressions in a freestanding stone wall or “fin.” Add just the right mixture of wind, rain, and freezing and thawing temperatures working on the soft Entrada sandstone, and you get a hole or “window.” Let the erosion process percolate for a few more centuries/millennia and some of these windows will morph into full-fledged arches. Inevitably, however, these great stone sculptures will collapse. Read the rest of this entry »