Posts tagged ‘field techniques’

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






Juniper tree at Canyonlands National Park

Canyonlands National Park, Utah.


When reading this short essay, remember I have no plans to abandon color photography. My feelings are that both mediums have their place. Some images are better represented in color and others in monochrome. The principles of photography carry over to both methods. The only difference is in certain images, the lack of color and the power of monochrome can stand out when applied correctly. I also prefer to use the term monochrome rather than black and white. When viewing a black and white image, we are really looking at shades of gray, not just black and white.

When we think of monochrome photography we almost always think of Ansel Adams, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Minor White, Robert Frank, Paul Strand, Dorothea Lange and Edward Weston, just to name a few. We think of powerful images delivering a story clearly transmitted to our brains. We think of monochromatic images going back to the acceptance of photography as an art. Thank you, Mr. Stieglitz!

Alabama Hills and Sierra Nevada Mountains

Alabama Hills and the Sierra Nevada.



Color film was actually developed in the mid-1800s but due to the primitive nature of the products, colors faded from the prints quickly. Just before 1900, if one had the money, one could buy the proper equipment to make color images. Only the very rich could afford to play in this process.

In 1935, Kodak brought to market Kodachrome. However because of the expense compared to black and white, color processing was not the norm until the 1970s, just 50 years ago! Interesting enough it was Polaroid who introduced the first instant color film in 1963. By 1970, color film was the norm for most “snapshots.” However, black and white film was still used by some photographers for the aesthetic nuances that it offers.

It was common for black and white photographers to do their own developing and printing. Color film was dramatically improved, but black and white photography continued to be used as a different method to tell the story, in unusual and powerful ways.

West Fjords Waterfall, Iceland.

West Fjords Waterfall, Iceland.



Today I strongly feel that deciding to eliminate color, as an option in telling our story through photography, is a choice not to be taken lightly. It is important to decide, even before the photograph is made, if this image is a possible candidate for monochrome. I have made many images where color is actually a distraction from the strength of the image itself as well as subtracting from the meaning I am trying to convey.

Form, as well as texture, can be brought out in monochrome much stronger than in color. In monochromatic photography we are using our eyes and brains to look at the form of a subject, the texture of the subject, and not confusing ourselves with trying, at the same time, to decipher and process color.

When making color images we think about brightness, hue of color and more. With monochrome images we are only dealing with shades of gray. This is one reason why monochrome images can be exceedingly more powerful than color if produced correctly. Again, the process starts before the camera comes out of the bag.

Photoshop, or any type of computerized monochrome processing that we may be working with today, parallels what Weston and Adams did in the darkroom years ago. In many ways, monochromatic photography can exceed the power of color both in emotion and how the image is viewed and interpreted.

Sea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon.

Sea stacks at Bandon Beach, Oregon.



When working in monochrome consider using tone, brightness, texture and contrast within your image to tell the story and communicate your feeling. Consider that complementary colors like red and green can often look the same in monochrome. If the textures in a monochrome image are identical they become hard to differentiate. Using different textures within an image in monochrome is another way to bring out the feeling from the start. I find differentiating the depth of field of a subject in monochrome photography is more important than if photographing in color. Making one part of the image sharp and the other out of focus can really accentuate the image.

Using these concepts and techniques will get you on the path to seeing in monochrome and being able to deliver images with significant value, but there is much more to learn about making quality monochromatic images. Understanding the Zone system, proper processing technique for monochrome, as well as perfecting your printing technique are all important.

interior of old barn in Palouse, Washington

Inside an old barn in the Palouse.



Guy Tal’s Guy Tal’s ebooks on Creative Processing Techniques

Ansel Adam’s “The Negative,” originally published in 1981



Jack Graham has been a Professional Photographer and Photo Workshop Leader for over 20 years. For more information, and to view his portfolio, visit To read additional photography articles go to

HAVASUPAI REBORN, by Kerrick James


Havasu Falls and Rainbow

Havasu Falls and Rainbow

The landscape of the Colorado Plateau is ephemeral, a changeling, although to beings with short life spans this land seems immutable, a constant. But in canyon country stunning changes can occur in a single afternoon, altering the course of a stream, stranding a waterfall, even creating a new unheralded cascade. Thus, it has always been in Havasupai, named for the people of the blue-green water.

Havasupai, the mythic side canyon hidden well to the west of the South Rim summer mayhem and adjoining Grand Canyon National Park, has always been near the top of my favorite locations to photograph. I’ve been lucky to shoot this desert Shangri-la a dozen times since the late 70’s, with a progression of cameras from 4×5 to 67 Pentax to a variety of digital formats. For years I blithely assumed that the interwoven terraces of travertine below each of the three great waterfalls, Havasu, Navajo, and Mooney, would always be there to compose as one of the most artistic foregrounds imaginable.

Havasu Falls in autumn

Havasu Falls in autumn.

But in the mid-90s a major flash flood swept the canyon, ripping out the majestic rills of travertine, and though they grew again over the years they never regained their prior perfection. In August of 2008 a nearly catastrophic flood changed the course of Havasu Creek, turning secluded Navajo Falls to dust. But the perennial waters are yet lovely beyond belief, turquoise except during storms, and paradise has slowly been reborn.

My spring 2013 hike to Havasupai was a desire to see how the fabled canyon had recovered, how the familiar waterfalls had fared, and to explore the two new falls gifted us by that epic event, five year’s past. What I found was still pure magic, with scenes both grand and intimate, and wondrous beauty to photograph everywhere you turn. Of course, being an adventure shooter, I had to spice it up, so I brought a kayak. Really.

Havasu Falls in warm spring stormlight

Havasu Falls in spring stormlight.

We all grow as photographers over the years, seeing more acutely and sharpening our technique. But Havasupai seems somehow to offer the gift of extra time. Here the hours feel slower, richer and allow for reflection. In several languid days you can shoot the falls from dawn shadow light throughout the long day into starlight, as I did. And then you can do it again and again, doing variations of exposure (to fine tune the action and detail of the flowing waters) discover new compositions, and so much more.

For example, I had always dreamed of shooting Havasu Falls under the stars, lit by moonlight. But on this trip the tight canyon walls blocked the half moon, so I combined my warm LED light with a standard cool LED wielded by a friend, and over three nights finally made the images that had haunted my dreams. Patience is key with light painting. I liken it to burning and dodging in the darkroom, adding to and withholding light from your canvas of pixels, only you’re playing in real time and space. The exposure equation is complicated by fast diminishing light in the twilight sky above the falls, and by the constant adjustment of both ISO and actual exposure time.

Havasu Falls and starry sky

Havasu Falls at night.

My favorite Havasu Falls star images were shot in the range of 30-45 seconds at f/5.6, at ISO 800, with 12-14mm focal lengths on my Pentax K-3. You can shoot from the trail above the falls or beside the falls, but be wary. When shooting near the falls the spray can precipitate calcium carbonate on your front lens surfaces, and your eyeglasses too. I use older UV filters to protect the delicate lens coatings, and bring a hand towel to wipe off the persistent water blowing your way. An ounce of prevention is worth, well you know the rest! And obviously this requires a quality tripod matched to the combined weight of your camera and lens, plus a release to do long exposures. LED lights and extra batteries complete the kit, and all you need then is a clear night sky to make some magic.

Fern grotto below Mooney Falls.

Fern grotto below Mooney Falls.

Just to the left of old Navajo Falls was a green misty watery groove we called the Grotto. A small but realistic slice of Hawaii concealed in the parched Southwest, it was overwhelming in both beauty and mystery and is now forever gone. Luckily, fate gave us Rock Falls and New Navajo Falls, and these are actually the first waterfalls you’ll see as you hike the dusty trail down from the village of Supai. New Navajo Falls is well off the trail, but has a decided edge in grandeur over Rock Falls, which is more approachable and easier to shoot. Plan to spend a early morning here, catching the warm reflection of the dawn light off the sheer canyon walls on the cool blue waters of Havasu Creek, with intensely green water plants adding to the color palette.

Rock Falls, Havasupai, Arizona

Rock Falls, Havasupai Reservation, Arizona.

After exploring both of the new Navajo Falls and the gem that is Havasu Falls, cinch up for a bit of adventure, the cliff trail down to Mooney Falls. This winding, steep trail descends 200’ through travertine passages and then hold on to the steel cables the last 70’ to terra firma. A mid-size photo backpack will fit through the maze but don’t forget your tripod as you’ll need it for the intense falls experience below. I’ve shot Mooney Falls as a pure scenic many times, so this time I carried down my inflatable kayak, and drafted my friends to paddle the pool below the falls. Not for the faint of heart, but on a hot summer afternoon you’ll never be cooler or more invigorated!

I photograph cities and destinations for many clients, but my heart truly lies in showing friends exploring the natural world, and the challenge I made to myself was to get the wild spirit of the place and the kayaking into some key images. Never have I heard of someone kayaking the waterfalls of Havasupai, and Havasu Creek, and many questions were posed as to where we were going from here. I was tempted to say down the Colorado River to Yuma, but that was too tall a tale to spin, even for me!

Kayakers below Mooney Falls

Kayaking below Mooney Falls.

Truth is, whether you hike, ride the horse or helicopter (yes you can), into the wonderland of Havasupai, plan to stay at least two full days. Four is better, as you won’t want to leave. Bring plenty of camera batteries and memory cards, as there’s nowhere to tank up on electrons unless you stay in the Havasupai Lodge in Supai. It’s a long two miles from the village to Havasu Falls and the campground is well sited as a base to photograph the major falls. For reservations, contact the tribe at

The water is Havasu Creek is a constant 72 degrees, perfect from mid-spring to mid-autumn, but chilly to cold in the winter. Summer afternoons are warm to hot, but the creek is always there, as it has been for countless millennia, to cool your body, thrill your soul and create future wonders in a faraway canyon in the high desert of the Southwest.


Kerrick James has worked as a travel journalist around the Pacific Rim and throughout the American West for 25 years, writing and shooting features for publications like Arizona Highways, Sunset, EnCompass, Natl. Geo Adventure and may others. Although his first love is adventure travel, he’s shot and covered all aspects of destination travel as well. He’s also taught nearly 50 photo workshops for Arizona Highways and his own private label, KJPhotosafaris. View his work at and


Low Light Visions by Nevada Wier

© Nevada Wier 2014. Kerala, India: Fire dancer, Theyyam Festival. Canon 5DMarkIII,    Canon 16-35mm f/2.8,   1/125sec at f/3.5,   ISO 1600 Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash not fired.

© Nevada Wier 2014.
Kerala, India: Fire dancer, Theyyam Festival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/125sec at f/3.5, ISO 1600
Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash not fired.


Nevada is one of the featured keynote 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


Images and Story by Nevada Wier

Photographing in low light is particularly challenging, but immensely satisfying — if you can overcome the difficulties. However, it is these kinds of situations that stimulate me as a photographer. I know that it is these times when it is more possible to create what I call a “snowflake photo”: one that no one else has in his or her portfolio. So I seek out the difficult light and perspectives. Of course, that also means that the chance of failure is high; I have to work extra hard in these situations. I am on alert, paying attention, anticipating the action and seeking out whatever light is available.

One is definitely constrained by the quality of their equipment. Sorry, an iPhone is not going to be the camera of choice for photographing at night or inside a hut lit by a candle – unless you are going for an abstract with high noise. Many digital camera sensors are not able to produce a relatively noise-free image at an extremely high ISO. Unless you have a top-of-the-line camera that can handle 1600 ISO or more, the highest exploitable ISO for most cameras ranges between 400–1600 ISO. Another limiting factor is the lens. If you are using a zoom lens that has a minimum aperture of f/4.5, it is going to be problematic. Not only will you not have a fast enough shutter speed, the lens will not be able to quickly and accurately focus in dim light. And, it is critical to pay attention to the focusing. During the day in strong light focusing quickly is easy and accurate; it only takes a quick press of the focus button to be accurate (I use the back * button on my Canon for focusing and to set a specific focal point). In low light it is important to squeeze the focus button until you see the focus alert signal in the viewfinder. Sometimes I have to use manual assist. Occasionally I need to shine a flashlight on my subject so I can focus.

Sometimes I use flash but not for a primary source of light, rather to pop color or stop the action with a slow shutter speed. A flash is always a secondary source of light. I usually go to the highest ISO that I am comfortable using and on my Canon 5D MarkIII I rarely go above 1600 ISO; if I can I much prefer to stay at 800 ISO or lower. I photograph primarily on Shutter Priority, but in low light I sometimes switch to Aperture Priority when I want to stay at a wide-open aperture. However, I do like slow shutter speeds (and I’m not afraid to hand-hold at ½ sec. or slower) in combination with flash, either for panning or having a flash stop the action within a blur, so there is sharpness within a sense of motion. I carry a number of different gels for my flash so the flash outputs blends seamlessly with the ambient light. I usually keep my white balance on Daylight unless there is an abundance of red, and then I use Auto (red is a difficult color to desaturate, it tends towards purple).

I make sure my exposure is absolutely perfect; better too light than too dark. I constantly check my histogram. At a high ISO you do not want to have to lighten your image in post processing and expose ugly noise. Honestly, I rarely use a tripod. I don’t like to walk around with them. The photographs I’m showing you on this blog are all hand-held. In fast moving situations it is difficult to use a tripod, and in crowds – forget about it! Knowing how to use flash appropriately is a big key to success.

Barranquilla, Colombia. Carnival.

© Nevada Wier 2014. Barranquilla, Colombia: Carnival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/50sec at f/3.2, ISO 1600.
Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.

I mentioned earlier that it is important to anticipate so that one can be in the front of a crowd. I am used to “wiggling” myself into a good location. There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive, but I don’t want to end up in the back of a huge crowd.

I expect a lot of failures; in fact I mostly have failures in these kinds of situations, as they are technically and often socially difficult. However, all I need is one great image! I try as many shutter speeds as possible; depth of field is not a critical concern to me at these times. I try slow shutter speeds with or without panning, usually with the flash on. I turn the flash off and work with natural light. I try everything! I always say, “If you don’t try, you don’t get”. And, often what one gets is that magical snowflake image.

Bagan, Myanmar: Ananada Festival.

© Nevada Wier 2013. Bagan, Myanmar: Ananada Festival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/100sec at f/4, ISO 1600.
Aperture Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.


Nevada Wier is a multiple award-winning photographer specializing in the remote corners of the globe and the cultures that inhabit them. Her journeys have her crisscrossing the world in search of compelling travel experiences and images. To read more about Nevada, view her extraordinary photography and get information about her photo workshops and tours, visit her website at


Photographing Water in Motion by Jennifer Wu


Iceland waterfall - vertical

Iceland waterfall: Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, Shutter speed .6, ISO 100. I used a polarizing filter. Smooth effect. © Jennifer Wu

Text and photos © Jennifer Wu

Photographing moving water at varying shutter speeds produces different looks, from a silky effect to frozen detail. When photographing the ocean surf, waterfalls, streams or any moving water, I often bracket the shutter speeds to create a variety of results.

In the vertical waterfall image in Iceland, above, the water appears smooth and gauzy. The horizontal image of the same waterfall, below, presents more detail, permitting more shape with enough blur to endow the shot with a sense of motion. I like both effects, so I vary the shutter speed to get more or less detail. When bracketing the shutter speeds, review each image on view screen to judge the results.  If you see silky water with no detail where it is all white, move to a faster shutter speed. If there is too much detail where the water looks like ice, use a slower shutter to add enough blur for a velvety water effect.

Iceland waterfall - horizontal
Iceland waterfall: Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, Shutter speed 1/10, ISO 100. I used a polarizing filter.
More detail in the water with a faster shutter speed. © Jennifer Wu


Shutter Speed Choice:

How fast or slow the water is moving is a factor to help decided shutter speed for the amount of blur or detail. A slow versus fast moving stream will have different effects at the same shutter speed. In addition, wider-angle lenses show less apparent motion compared to a telephoto from the same distance.

Several factors to help decide the shutter speed:

  • The flow rate of the water – slower shutter for more blur with slow moving streams
  • The amount of blur or detail you want – slower shutter for more blur
  • Distance to the subject – the water flow appears faster the closer you are
  • Focal length of the lens – slower shutter for wide-angle lenses for more blur

Waterfalls all fall at the same rate weather they are a faint stream or large waterfall. They gain momentum with the distance. The air resistance is the only factor that will effect the rate of water falling.

I photographed the waterfall in Iceland while leading a photography tour with Jim Martin. In the horizontal image, I used a .6 second shutter speed for a satiny effect, while the vertical image has a 1/10 shutter speed to show more detail.

waterfall detail with rainbow
Yosemite waterfall with rainbow. Using 1/125 of a second or faster with a medium telephoto lens helps stop the action on a waterfall and give it some detail. Photographed with the 70-300mm lens at 244mm, f/11, 1/250 second, ISO 200.
Polarizer used to enhance the rainbow. Be careful as you can make the rainbow disappear when completely polarized. © Jennifer Wu


In Yosemite, 1/125 of a second contributed some detail in the fast moving waterfalls. By contrast, I prefer 1/15to 1/30 of a second to smooth the slower moving water on the floor of water the valley.

Use a really fast shutter speed to stop the action of moving water. For waves at the ocean, I use around a 1/1000 of a second to get the detail in the splash.  Each droplet freezes.

In the next examples, the ocean images have a 10 to 13 second exposure to blur the water, transforming the surf into a fog.

Morro Bay rocks and surf, 10 second exposure.
Morro Bay rocks and surf, Canon 5D mark II, 24-70 mm lens at 24 mm, f/16, 10 seconds, ISO 100.
I used a 3-stop neutral density filter and a polarizer to smooth out the ocean surf. © Jennifer Wu


Tripod: Using a STURDY tripod will be necessary for the slow shutter speeds. They are still a good idea for higher shutter speeds as they aid in fine-tuning the final composition. Keep in mind it is often windy at the base of a waterfall or around the ocean surf. Weigh down the tripod if necessary to avoid vibration or tipping.

Exposure: when taking a photograph, I decide whether the shutter speed or f/stop is the most important and set that first. Normally, I use manual mode and set the shutter speed first, followed by the f/stop.  Next, I set ISO, ideally the native ISO for the camera, such as ISO 100 for Canon, or 200 for Nikon. Native resolution produces the least noise.  If the shutter speed is too slow, I raise the ISO to the proper exposure.  Finally, I add a filter, as discussed below.

Shutter Speed:  In order to get slow shutter speeds for the satiny effect, try photographing in low light conditions since full sun may demand too fast a shutter speed for slow motion. For example: photograph at low light near sunrise or sunset on sunny days, with the subject catching the first or last rays of light. Exposure it easier when he water is in the shade; be aware that your color temperature will change, shifting toward blue. Overcast conditions work well most of the time.

Filters: Using a polarizer will reduce your shutter speed time by about two f-stops. Turn the polarizer to see the effect on shiny rock surfaces and note how the reduced glare reveals detail and form. However, be careful when using a polarizer so as not to take out desired colorful reflections. Neutral density filters (not graduated neutral density filters), grey in color, will reduce the light to the sensor, allowing for a slower shutter speed.

Morro Bay sunset, 13 second exposure
Morro Bay sunset: Canon 5D mark II, F/16, 13 seconds, ISO 100.
I used a 5-stop neutral density filter to obtain the softness of the waves. © Jennifer Wu


Ideas: Water in all its forms is a dynamic subject open to many approaches. I like photographing streams in the shade with green leaves reflected onto streams in the afternoon (Yosemite’s Fern Spring is good for that). Photographing along Yosemite’s Merced River at sunrise provides the opportunity to capture the warm reflections of the mountains in the river. Fall colors, the leaves lit with sun and the water in shade reflect leaves, is a perennial favorite.

Tips for keeping the lens dry:Use a lens hood to keep spray off the lens. Carry a hand towel or pack towel to dry the camera and tripod when you return to the car from the shoot.Use a chamois cloth to wipe the droplets off the lens. Chamois are used to wipe cars dry and it works just as well on the lens. If you are in heavy spray from waterfalls, the ocean or from rain, it is helpful to carry a small sized soft absorbent pack towel to wipe the lens of most of the water, then use the chamois as it will otherwise get soaked too fast and become useless.

Tips for cleaning sea spray: First, use an air blower (not canned air) to remove any bits of sand or dust that might scratch the lens.

Next, wipe down your camera and lenses with a damp cloth to clean off the salt from the sea spray. Do this as soon as possible.

If you do get sea spray on the front element of the lens, use some lens cleaning fluid on a wipe or tissue and use that to remove it. Use lens cleaning solution and do not use abrasive or solvents. Wipe in a circular motion from the center outward. Do not put fluid directly on the lens. If it is very misty, bring the fluid and wipes with you to the ocean.

Another option is using a UV filter when at the ocean to protect the front element of the lens from the salt in the sea spray and you can clean the filter after the shoot in the same way as mentioned above.

Clean the camera eye-piece in the same way if it is needed.

Have fun photographing moving water and creating inspiring images!

Smooth Wave, Morro Bay, 0.4 second exposure

Smooth Wave, Morro Bay, California: Canon 5D mark II, 70-300 mm f/4-5.6 at 135 mm, f/22, 0.4 second, ISO 100. © Jennifer Wu


Jennifer Wu, a professional photographer since 1992, is best known for her nature, landscape and night photography. Jennifer was named by Canon USA to the elite group of photographers, The Explorers of Light. View more of her work and check out her book and workshop offerings at

Jennifer will speak on “Nature’s Elusive Beauty” in one of the breakout sessions 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 

Interpretive Nature Photography: Art and Nature

by Jamie Konarski Davidson

Multiple exposure of fern in spin

Ferns – Multiple exposure with spin to highlight patterns and texture.

What does interpretive nature photography mean? Nature is nature, art is art, and never the two shall meet, right? For some, perhaps this is true. But only for those who have never walked in the woods, sat in a flower garden or watched the sun meet the day or settle in for the night. Or for those who have never stopped long enough to explore a dandelion or to watch a butterfly break free of its chrysalis. Nature IS art, in its finest and purest form. Capturing this essence is what nature photographers live for. It is what makes us unable to imagine doing anything else. It is what brings me peace, healing and joy. It is what pushes me as an individual to be present in the moment and to slow down long enough to see and feel and connect.

So, how do we do this and what do the results look like? Most of us begin our photographic journey with our eyes, hands and mind — seeing something, grabbing the camera and figuring out how to set the camera correctly. This is natural, as we need to see our subjects and to learn how to use our equipment to capture the moment. The sticky piece in this equation is “correctly.” True, technical knowledge is necessary. What is missing, and what makes our work express the “art in nature” is vision and heart. When we see and connect at the heart level, our work begins to shine, and what we share with the world resonates at a deeper level than a pretty picture. Read the rest of this entry »

Balancing Flash and Ambient Light by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Image by Charles Glatzer

Text and photographs by Charles Glatzer

When I hear someone say, “I hate flash images,” it typically tells me they feel uncomfortable or do not fully comprehend how to use flash effectively.  Many people state that they can always tell when flash is used as the images have a “flashed” look to them. By this they mean that the subject appears overly bright and unnaturally lit within the image. By applying varying levels of flash output, we are able control the degree of subject illumination independent of the ambient light. Keeping the flash and ambient exposure separate in your mind will help you better achieve your goal.

The image of the heron on the nest (above) is a good example of how I use flash to balance ambient light. Here are the steps I took to make this image using flash.

1. First, I used my in-camera spot meter to check the yellow background highlight and I set my exposure 1.3 stops above the mid tone (in this case, my exposure was 1/250 sec at f/8 at ISO 200).

2. Next, I focused my lens on the subject and read the distance scale on my lens (in this example, 10 ft). Since my flash was on the camera, the flash-to-subject distance was the same as the lens-to-subject distance (10 ft).


Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

Where to check the focusing distance on your lens.

3. Then, I set my flash to manual mode, which allows me to control the flash output independent of the exposure. I used the Select button on the back of the flash, turning the dial to place the black bar even with the subject distance. (Note: Strobes will vary by manufacturer. Some use buttons, others wheels, or a combination of both to alter the flash output.) Altering the flash output moves the distance scale, and that is what you are concerned with at this point. Do not be concerned if the scale says 1:1 or 1/128. Just make sure the distance appearing on the scale (10 ft in this example) is the same as the focus distance on your lens (10 ft).


Where to look for the focusing distance on your flash.

A few examples of where to find the focusing distance on your flash. Flashes set to manual.

TIP: When you zoom to alter your lens focal length, the flash will also zoom to evenly illuminate the field of view. If you take a given quantity of light and squeeze it into a narrower or wider area, the output of the flash (known as the guide number) will vary. Thus, you will need to adjust the flash power each time you change the focal length of your lens. I suggest you manually fix the flash zoom to the widest focal length you plan on using. No worries if you are shooing a fixed lens.

If all other factors remain constant (f/stop. shutter speed, ISO and background illumination), both the background and the subject will be perfectly illuminated.

If you want to get a firm grasp on how to use flash effectively, consider taking Charles (Chas) Glatzer’s STL Tech Series Flash Seminar. Chas’ work has been celebrated internationally with over 40 prestigious awards for superior photographic competence demonstrated through photographic competition, advanced education, and service to the profession. His images are recognized internationally for their lighting, composition, and attention to detail and have appeared in many publications worldwide including National Geographic, Outdoor Photographer, Popular Photography, National Parks, Discover Diving, Smithsonian, Professional Photographer, Birder’s World, Birding, Nature Photographer, EOS, Digital PhotoPro, and many more.

Visit to learn more. 

Photographing the Nighttime Landscape by Roman Kurywczak

by Roman Kurywczak

night photo of Park Avenue, Arches National Park

Moonlit Night at Park Avenue, Arches National Park. Sigma 12-24mm lens @ 12mm, f/4.5, ISO 100, exposed for just over an hour. Photo by Roman M. Kurywczak

I have been photographing nighttime landscapes for about 20 years now, capturing images of star trails like the one pictured above with good success (even in the film days). The arrival of digital cameras and their high ISO capabilities has allowed me to push the boundaries of nighttime landscape photography and allowed me to capture the milky way and stars just as we see them. I released my e-book on that subject in February 2011 but wanted to revisit some of the images I had captured with the Sigma 12-24mm lens. The above image is the newest version of my cover shot, but this time the illumination you see is from just the moon. A rock solid tripod and ballhead are a must for this genre of photography. A wide-angle lens is also a must; the Sigma 12-24mm lens is now my lens of choice for my Canon 1D Mark III bodies. For those of you with crop sensors, the 10-20mm F3.5 EX DC HSM should be your go to lens, but keep in mind that any wide angle lens will work (Tip: you should be around 20mm max on a full frame sensor with the settings I will be providing). Read the rest of this entry »

Water in Motion by David DesRochers

Ausable Rapids

Ausable Rapids by David DesRochers

Text and photography by David DesRochers

Ever since I was a young boy growing up in New Jersey, I loved being around water. Whether I was exploring the Rahway River near my home in Union or playing on the beach in Seaside Heights, I was fascinated with the power of moving water. It is only natural that I am still drawn to rivers, lakes, and oceans as inspiration for my photography.

I caught the nature photography bug on a trip to Glacier National Park in the year 2000. I returned home with only a few “keepers” but I knew that exploring our natural world was going to be part of my life for as long as I could hold a camera.

Early on, I photographed popular subjects such as water falls and sunsets over the ocean and tried to emulate photos I had seen. I was pleased with my result but my image looked a bit cliché. I began reading photography “how to” books and looking at photos by the masters of nature photography such as the late Galen Rowell, Art Wolfe, and David Muench, just to name a few. One lesson I learned was to slow down and spend time seeing the landscape before trying to capture its beauty. This approach helped me go beyond the obvious and I began capturing images of the “hidden beauty” within the landscape that most photographers were passing by.

Rivers and Streams

I use this approach when I photograph landscapes that include moving water. A common approach to photographing rivers, streams and waterfalls is to include the entire landscape. Wisely using the elements of composition, this approach can result in compelling photos. But, don’t stop there. After you’ve taken your standard waterfall shot, look closely at small areas within the water fall and stream. As the water tumbles over the rocks and boulders, interesting lines and shapes will begin to reveal themselves as shown in the image of the Ausable River in the Adirondacks.

My goal is to try to capture as much detail in moving water and it’s easy to lose that detail by exposing too long resulting in featureless blown out areas in your image. To get that soft flowing look that still has detail, I find that ¼ of a second shutter speed is a good starting point. The photo of the Ausable River Rapids (above) was shot at f/18, 1/5 of a second, ISO 100. Of course, the lighting conditions may require you to adjust your settings. Review your first few images and change your shutter speed as needed to get the result that you are looking for.


The next time you visit a scenic coast line or even one not so scenic, consider passing up the temptation to compose a typical sunrise or sunset photo and take a closer look at the ever changing artistic designs created by the approaching waves. The giant waves of Hawaii offer one option (see the work of Clark Little for some real inspiration) but even the quiet waves of Cape May, New Jersey can result in a unique image.   Position yourself on a jetty or in the water and pan along with the waves as they approach the beach. The Wave photographed at sunset in Cape May, New Jersey was capture from a jetty using my Canon 7D and a 28-135 MM lens set at 95 MM and f/6.3, I found that a shutter speed of 1/8 of a second provided a nice balance of sharpness and motion blur.

The Wave

The Wave by David DesRochers

If you are blessed with an intriguing ocean side composition with great light, try using the receding surf to add your own leading lines. Select a wide angle lens and set your tripod as low as possible. The waves should move past your position (yes, it’s OK to get wet). As the water begins to recede back into the ocean, push your shutter release. A shutter speed of 1 to 4 seconds, depending on available light and the speed of water will create streaks that will lead the viewer’s eye to the center of interest in your composition. A 4 or 6 stop neutral density filter may be required to achieve the desired results. The image from Rialto Beach in Olympic National Park was taken with a 1 second exposure at f/16, ISO 100. A word of caution, make sure you keep an eye on the approaching waves and be prepared to lift your tripod in the event that a unexpected large wave attempts to knock you and your camera over.

Rialto Beach

Rialto Beach by David DesRochers

Be Safe and Be Inspired

The most important thing to remember is to be careful when photographing water. I discovered on more than on occasion that my lenses and cameras do not perform very well after following me into a local river. Wet rocks are a real danger so move slowly and carefully. Keen Sandals are comfortable during the hike to your location and they provide traction as you walk across rivers and streams. Worried about getting wet? Don’t be. Just bring a change of clothes and a towel and dry off when you return to the car.

Photography is a very personal endeavor and each of us must develop our own vision and style. The ever changing nature of water can provide inspiration and you will find endless opportunities to create those unique images you can truly call your own.

See more of David’s work at David also conducts photography workshops at New Jersey Audubon’s Scherman Hoffman Wildlife Sanctuary.

NATURE’S VIEW: High Dynamic Range, The Natural Way, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

Marsh Landscape 05162014 Fishing Bay WMA MD (c) Jim Clark

Marsh Landscape, Fishing Bay Wildlife Management Area, Maryland

Or, why I never get to take an afternoon nap during my photo shoots

In the film days of yore, I always counted on an afternoon nap during my photo shoots on nice sunny days. The high contrast of a sunny afternoon proved too much for film to capture details in both the highlights and shadows. Since I didn’t want to shoot under those conditions, what else was I to do but check the inside of my eyelids?

Thanks to digital technology those napping times are over, but I can’t complain about this new digital stuff. The one advancement I love that has raised the playing field in nature photography is high dynamic range (HDR). Read the rest of this entry »

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