Posts tagged ‘F. M. Kearny’

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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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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FIELD TECHNIQUE: Let’s Be Careful Out There Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

A shutterbug is washed out to sea by a sudden wave, while precariously perched on a precipice during a storm. Another is mauled by a grizzly after snapping a closeup of its cub. We’ve all heard stories like these of photographers putting themselves in harm’s way just to get a shot. I, however, choose not to go out like that—opting instead to place my equipment in the line of fire. Of course, I don’t want to lose that either, but it is better than the alternative. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Nature to the Rescue Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

I’ve never strayed too far away from the boundaries of straight photography. It’s not that I have anything against digital manipulations; it’s just that I’m not an expert at it. I consider my Photoshop skills to be intermediate at best.

In addition to nature photography, I also shoot urban images of New York City. I submit these photos to an agency that does a terrific job of licensing them to a number of large-mural and high-end wall art manufacturers. However, after each submission, my editor would ask for more—not more images, but something more than traditional photography. He explained that the trend today is for photos with texture, and straight photography doesn’t sell as well as it once did. The texture can be any type of pattern that is combined with the main image. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: The Magic Hours, Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

S_121Most nature photographers know that the best light of the day occurs during the first and last hours of sunlight—sunrise and sunset. During this time, the sun is low on the horizon, and its light travels through more of the atmosphere, creating brilliant shades of red, yellow and gold. For that reason, photographers fittingly refer to this time of day as the golden (or magic) hours.

I was recently in Atlantic City and captured “bookends” of the same day on the beach. In the morning, I shot a photo (above) of the sun rising above the Atlantic Ocean. When shooting directly into the sun, it’s best to use manual exposure. Auto modes will go haywire in this type of light. Although it’s been said many times before, some advice bears repeating: Never look directly at the sun in the viewfinder. This is especially true if you’re using a long lens, which will, of course, magnify the sun’s intensity. A spot meter, which measures a small portion of the frame, is also helpful. I spot-metered a clear area of the sky next to the sun, then locked in that exposure on manual. Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE – Avoiding the Tourist Trap, Story and photographs by F. M. Kearney

Vacations are a great way to get away and de-stress. However, I often find myself stressing even more. While I try to be mindful of the fact that I’m on vacation and not on assignment, I can’t seem to leave home without my camera gear.

With only a limited amount of time, I worry about getting the shot. Where are the best locations? When and where does the sun set and/or rise? How can I best secure my equipment in the hotel room?

On a recent trip to Antigua, West Indies, I was focusing on a bevy of tropical treats that don’t normally grace my lens. It’s easy to get sloppy and fall into the “tourist trap.” You want to shoot everything, but end up shooting not much of anything worthwhile at all. Slowing down and actually seeing your subjects, as opposed to simply looking at them, can make all the difference in the world.

Pride of Barbados Caesalpinia pulcherrima (Fabaceae) Antigua, West Indies

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FIELD TECHNIQUE: Add a Flash of Color, Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

There are several ways to add more color to your photos. Nowadays, that usually involves any number of amazing things that can be done in post. But if your computer skills are lacking or you’re old school and prefer to create your masterpieces in-camera, there is a quick and easy method for adding a touch of color using flash gels.

Many methods are available to attach gels to a flash head. I use a LumiQuest FXtra Gel Holder that attaches to the head via Velcro strips. There are lots of colors to choose from, but you’ll probably want to use the red gel to get the most realistic results. Also, if you are shooting flowers, look for those that are white or light colored for more impact.

kearney-top-rightkearney-top-leftThese before and after images of Peruvian lilies show what can be done when the red gel is applied lightly. You want to add only a hint of color, not completely change it. Even if your flash is set to “Fill,” dial down its power output to about -0.7. This is very important when using the red gel, which can be overpowering if not kept in check. When just the right amount of color is applied, you will create the illusion of early morning or late afternoon light.

As with most subjects, flowers look best when lit at an angle. This will add more depth and eliminate that direct, flat-light look. Take the flash off-camera and hold it either to the left, right, above or below the subject—whichever position produces the most dynamic result. To maintain TTL-flash capability, use a remote cord, such as the Nikon SC-17. If the winds are calm, try a double exposure and aim the flash at opposite sides outfitted with two different colored gels for each exposure. In the winter, some pretty interesting effects can be created on icicles, and you don’t have to worry too much about the wind.

kearney-bottom-rightkearney-bottom-leftFlash gels can be effective on many other subjects as well. I wanted to add a splash of color to the bare spot on the tree on the right (above). I used a 50mm lens but zoomed the flash to 70mm in order to avoid discoloring the leaves. This created a natural-looking color that balanced nicely with the leaves on the ground.

Both the lilies and the tree were shot in overcast light, which tends to give off a bluish cast. Normally, this is easily resolved by changing your white balance to “cloudy,” which will give the image a warm amber tone. The only problem is that it’s applied to the entire image. The red flash gel is a great way to apply this tone to select portions of the scene.

You don’t need to be a Photoshop guru to add a little more color to your photos. Not only can it be done easily in the camera, but it can be done in a flash!

F.M. Kearney is a fine-art nature photographer specializing in unique floral and landscape images. To see more of his work, visit www.starlitecollection.com

 

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Working the Subject, Story and photographs by F.M. Kearney

 

If there was ever a Superbowl for floral photography, it would most likely be held in April. Flowers are blooming almost everywhere you look. Framing these little wonders of nature is usually a straightforward decision of using a vertical or horizontal composition. Occasionally, however, you may come across a subject that refuses to play nice and be placed in a neat little box.

Before you actually begin shooting, it’s a good idea to walk around first and survey the scene for the most promising subjects. This tight cluster of white Easter lilies in a botanical garden eventually caught my attention.

KearneyDL-311 Read the rest of this entry »

FIELD TECHNIQUE: Bringing the Field Indoors, Story and photos by F.M. Kearney

March is an interesting time of year. Spring flowers have yet to bloom, and most of the winter snow has melted. It can be slim pickings as far as nature photography is concerned. One option is to bring a little bit of nature indoors. Buy some flowers at a local florist and let your imagination run wild. I don’t have an actual studio, so I used a container to hold the flowers, a few tripods, some flashlights and a mirror.

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