Field Techniques

A Thanksgiving Get Together by Gordon & Cathy Illg ©

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

A Thanksgiving Get Together

By Gordon & Cathy Illg

The day before Thanksgiving we took a short drive hoping to see some bighorn sheep. Maybe it was because we were already in holiday mode, maybe it was just nice to lie in bed on a cold morning. Whatever the reason, we ended up sleeping in and eating a leisurely breakfast. By the time we made it to the Waterton Canyon trailhead it was already 11 a.m., and we had a couple of miles to walk—not exactly the behavior we endorse in our wildlife photography lectures. Do as we say, not as we do.

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

© Gordon & Cathy Illg

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UAVs AND AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Story and photography by Ralph Bendjebar

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, have been in the news a lot lately, not always on a positive note. Reported sightings near airports, sport stadiums and large crowds or urban settings have caused alarm and consternation from public officials and the FAA, which has led to negative and (sometimes) alarmist coverage from news organizations. Of course, the problem lies with inexperienced and reckless users rather than with the exciting technology these UAVs offer for the gathering of unique and useful images and footage.

Tanzania-31503

Using a drone in Tanzania.

As an avid landscape and wildlife photographer with a background in commercial aviation (my day job), I became intrigued with the possibilities of utilizing UAVs. They can be fitted with stabilized cameras to record images and footage not otherwise obtainable except at great expense with manned fixed-wing aircraft or rotorcraft. The rapid technological advances that enabled adaptation of this technology to small UAVs from their larger military cousins have produced capabilities that rival ground-based camera systems. The latest is the DJI Phantom 3, which allows stabilized 4K footage and 12 MP DNG files. It also provides full camera control through a controller-mounted tablet. The DJI Inspire 1 Pro is fitted with a MicroFourThirds (MFT) sensor that takes 4K video, 16 MP stills and has the unique feature of interchangeable lenses. Thus the capabilities for capturing exciting and memorable footage and images have become a reality.

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: The Moon in the Morning

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

T-138I enjoy shooting early on winter mornings. Besides capturing the beautiful light that occurs just before sunrise, I’m unencumbered by the masses of casual photographers and sightseers that tend to venture forth later in the day. Sometimes, however, I find that I’m out a little too early—long before sunrise or even the magic light of the day.

In the Northeast, too early means little more than bare branches dominate the scene. What initially might seem like a bleak subject, bare branches can reveal a multitude of creative options. Also, if the moon is out, it will shine like a beacon in the darkened sky and add even more interest to the shot. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Be Careful What You Wish

Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

Harriman State Park landscape shot with a fisheye lens.

Harriman State Park landscape shot with a fisheye lens.

 

A slight departure from my usual fare, this article is less about technique and more about a personal account of my first encounter with “real” wilderness.

Living in New York City, or any large metropolitan area, and choosing to pursue a career in nature photography can sometimes be an uphill battle. Local parks and botanical gardens are fine for floral portraits and intimate landscapes, but if you desire to capture anything resembling true wilderness, a venture beyond the confines of city limits is definitely required.

I’ve always longed to shoot images of unspoiled, snow-covered landscapes. One winter, many years ago, I decided to take a trip to upstate New York after a heavy snowfall. Like most city dwellers, I don’t own a car, so I took an early-morning bus to Harriman State Park. Located just 30 miles north of the city and encompassing more than 46,000 acres, it’s the second largest park in the state. I had been to this park many times in the past, but I always went to the populated Bear Mountain area on the east side. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Capturing the Holiday Spirit Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

Photographing outdoor holiday decorations is fun. It’s even better if you don’t have to deal with hordes of tourists tripping over your tripod. Probably best of all is when the decorations are in a natural setting that most tourists (and residents) don’t know about.

In addition to the annual, world-famous lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree in New York, there’s also the lighting of a slightly smaller display in Central Park. Each year, a flotilla of 13 trees is launched on a tiny “island” in the less-visited, northern section of the park. When I first saw it years ago, I actually thought it was a real island. I shot it at night and used the usual combo for best quality, i.e., low ISO and small aperture. As you may suspect, the results were less than successful. Although I didn’t detect it at the time, the subtle but constant movement of the artificial island ruined every shot due to the long exposures.

That was in the days of film when you were locked into a single ISO setting for all the pictures on the roll. Thankfully, today’s digital cameras are much more versatile. Not only can you change the ISO at will, but the resulting noise at the higher settings is much less than what you would have gotten with film. Additionally, more detail can be pulled out of the highlights and shadows due to their greater dynamic range capabilities. If the contrast is too strong, however, you may need to turn to HDR software.

Floating Christmas tree display at sunset Harlem Meer in Central Park New York, NY (HDR compilation of 5 images)

ISO 400, f/8

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Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait” by D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

 

Wildlife Photography ”Beyond the Perfect Portrait”

Text and Images by D. Robert Franz

For many aspiring wildlife photographers capturing beautiful portraits of their favorite birds or animals in the wild is often their primary goal. This is certainly an understandable and a worthwhile endeavor. When I began photographing wildlife over thirty years ago, I was inspired by the striking wildlife photos of Leonard Lee Rue III and Erwin Bauer. I carefully studied how they used the light, controlled backgrounds, and placed their subjects in the frame to create pleasing wildlife portraits. I pursued the perfect wildlife portrait relentlessly and over time accumulated a large collection of. As time passed I became less and less satisfied with my wildlife photography. I desired more evocative images with impact. I felt as though I really needed to elevate my images to a higher level. I will discuss some of the methods I’ve used to achieve that goal and continue in my evolution as a wildlife photographer.

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

Red Fox (Vulpes fulva) © D. Robert Franz

A sure way to take your photography to a new level is to capture your subject in action and intense subject action can lead to a once in a lifetime photo. Capturing extreme subject action in still photography has never been easier. Most camera systems now have excellent autofocus capabilities which allow you to acquire focus of moving subjects. Modern digital cameras can now effectively utilize a higher ISO which allows you the ability to use high shutter speeds that were never before possible. Many cameras have frame rates of ten to twelve frames per second. This gives you the ability to capture the peak dramatic moments. Control of your shutter speed allows you to depict motion in a number of ways. Using a slower shutter speed can give your subject a bit of movement which helps depict motion whereas a high shutter speed will freeze everything. When the action starts fire away.

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

American elk or wapiti © D. Robert Franz

Dramatic weather also can lead to dramatic images. Falling snow, rain, fog and even wind driven sand can add interest to the wildlife image. Many photographers tend to avoid photographing in extreme conditions so when you capture images in such conditions they will be unique and that is highly desirable. Photographing wildlife when snow is falling is perhaps my favorite adverse environmental condition to work in. Dressing yourself as well as your cameras for the conditions allow you to work comfortably. There are some technical difficulties to overcome when the snow is falling. Autofocus becomes difficult. The heavier the snowfall the more likely the camera will attempt to focus on the falling snowflakes rather than your subject. I use a combination of autofocus and manual override of focus to achieve good results. Your camera will have a tendency to underexpose images during snowy conditions so using manual exposure or dialing in a plus compensation during auto exposure is required.

Exceptional light leads to exceptional images. The old adage of keeping the light source over your shoulder for a good photograph, while applicable in certain situations, is quite limiting. Most often now I try to capitalize on dramatic or unusual lighting situations. Today’s cameras allow me to get out earlier, stay out later and even photograph at night. Side lighting, backlighting, spotlighting and silhouettes are also great lighting techniques that help make your images stand out. The ability of today’s cameras to pull detail out of shadowed areas of an image while maintaining correct exposure on the highlights opens up many possibilities as well. With the advancements made in flash photography and the availability of infrared camera traps, never before seen behaviors and habits of nocturnal wildlife is another new and exciting genre of wildlife photography.

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Mountain Lion in Yellowstone National Park © D. Robert Franz

Spectacular surroundings will lead to spectacular images. Early in my career I used to adhere to the axiom of “less is more” in wildlife photography. I tried to isolate my subject from any distracting elements. While this is still a great approach for the perfect portrait I now find myself searching for a great animalscape. When you strategically compose wildlife in an already fine landscape image you create an image that will stand the test of time. These days I never go into the field without a second camera with a shorter lens attached, such as a 70-200mm, slung over my shoulder. You don’t want to miss a chance to capture a memorable animalscapes, as they don’t come around often.

Remember, always be looking for exceptional light and be ready for action. When it occurs take advantage of it. When the weather turns bad, wildlife photography can be good. Break out your camera and make the best of it. Find landscapes with wildlife in the scene to create memorable images. With this methodical approach to wildlife photography you can take your imagery to a new level.

Robert Franz has been a professional nature & wildlife photographer for over 25 years. With degrees in wildlife management and geology he has extensive knowledge of the natural world. During his productive career he’s published over ten thousand images and nearly two hundred magazine covers. In 2007 Digital Photography Magazine proclaimed Robert as one the worlds best wildlife photographers. Having a long standing love for the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem Robert and his wife Lorri moved to Cody Wyoming in 2003. For more information on his photo tours and nature photography visit http://www.franzfoto.com.

 

 

 

 

Shooting the Mums Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney ©

As one of the year’s last flowers to bloom, chrysanthemums offer a last chance to hone your floral photography skills before winter and the following spring. That is, of course, if you live anywhere in or near the Northeast.

Mums are fun flowers to photograph. They come in many different colors and styles, allowing for a variety of creative options. Some of the most common are garden chrysanthemums, which usually grow in neat, tight clusters of similar colors. A popular technique is to move in close and fill the frame with them. You’ll want edge-to-edge sharpness, so use a small aperture opening for maximum depth of field.

CM-17a Read the rest of this entry »

NATURE’S VIEW: The Chattering Songbird of the Salt Marsh Story and photographs by Jim Clark ©

In an earlier column I gave praise to the seaside sparrow, a species common to the salt marshes of the Atlantic and Gulf coasts, but rarely sought after by nature photographers. This column is on one of my all-time favorite songsters: Cistothorus plaustris, the marsh wren, a denizen of freshwater and tidal brackish marshes with robust stands of bulrush, cattail and cordgrass.

The marsh wren is every bit as inconspicuous as the seaside sparrow, but two qualities make it stand out. It is curious as all get-out, and it loves to sing.

Marsh wrens have to figure you out, and they will approach as near as arm’s length to do so. Even when you can’t see them, they are likely watching you; sometimes closer than you think.

Marsh Scene 4 HDR Nik NX2 05292015 Blackwater NWR MD

The domain of the marsh wren, Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, Maryland. © Jim Clark

 

The other giveaway is its song. Once you hear the marsh wren’s bubbling repertoire of chattering melodies, you will have little trouble recognizing it on future ventures into its wetland domain. A marsh is not a marsh without the wren’s enthusiastic and rapid chatter resonating throughout the tidal landscape. And this little feathered ball of dynamism not only sings during the day, but also at all hours of the night. Read the rest of this entry »

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review by Aaron Baggenstos

Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens Field Review
Wildlife Photography in Alaska
By Aaron Baggenstos

I was recently given the opportunity to field test the new Nikon AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR Lens in Alaska, one of my favorite places for wildlife photography and a place where I lead several photography tours each year.

I am extremely impressed with this lens. I’ve demonstrated a few of my favorite new features in the video review below including images, video, and time-lapse. Thank you for watching and I hope you enjoy this review.


About Aaron Baggenstos:

Website: www.AaronsTours.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AaronsPhotoTours
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/NaturePhotoTutorials

Aaron Baggenstos is an Award-winning professional wildlife photographer from Seattle, Washington. Aaron specializes in leading photography tours and workshops in Alaska, Yellowstone, and the Pacific Northwest including Canada.

His photographs have been recognized by National Geographic, Nature’s Best, and the Audubon Society. Most recently, thirteen of his images were chosen for the final round in the prestigious 2015 BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year.

Aaron’s new limited edition coffee table book Pacific Northwest Wildlife is available at retailers ranging from Barnes & Noble to Costco and on Amazon.com. His two previous books Wildlife of Juanita Bay and Wildlife of Lake Washington were instant regional bestsellers and all display Aaron’s awe-inspiring wildlife images.

In the Fall of 2011 Aaron co-hosted two episodes of the hit PBS television Series “Wild Photo Adventures” with Doug Gardner which aired internationally on PBS.

Along with guiding tours and instructing photography workshops over 100 days a year, Aaron also enjoys public speaking and presenting slideshows. To date he has spoken at multiple Audubon chapters and birding groups, National Wildlife Refuges, book stores, and other local interest groups.

Through his work Aaron hopes to inspire others to photograph, enjoy, and take action to protect, local and worldwide ecosystems.

 

 

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Autumn Colors in the Digital Age, Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

The morning started out under foggy conditions in the New York Botanical Garden. The autumn colors were at their peak, but they looked somewhat subdued as they disappeared into the mist. By mid-morning, the fog had almost completely dissipated and the sun was struggling to make an appearance. As I approached a couple of Japanese Zelkova trees, I noticed that a thick stand of bushes that used to be there had been completely cleared. This allowed me to view the trees from a totally new angle, which had previously been inaccessible. I positioned one tree directly behind another one—making the one in front appear as though it had far more branches than it actually did. From a wide-angle, ground-level perspective, I was able to include much of the colorful background. Also, the trees on the far left and right leaned inward just enough to create the perfect framing elements.

The sun wasn’t quite at full power yet, but it was strong enough to create some areas of high contrast. I did an HDR compilation of five images (+/- 2 stops, 0) to balance out the difficult light.

Fall foliage Japanese Velkova tree New York Botanical Garden (HDR compilation of 5 images)

Regular HDR

 

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