Posts tagged ‘wildlife’

Multi-flash Hummingbird Photography by Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

A Sword-billed Hummingbird (left) and a Chestnut-breasted Coronet battle over a hummingbird feeder. © Nate Chappell

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.

Velvet-purple (left) and Buff-tailed Coronets in Mindo, Ecuador. © Nate Chappell

Velvet-purple (left) and Buff-tailed Coronets in Mindo, Ecuador. © Nate Chappell

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

Chestnut-breasted Coronet - Guango Lodge, Napo Province, Ecuador. © Nate Chappell

Chestnut-breasted Coronet – Guango Lodge, Napo Province, Ecuador. © Nate Chappell

Observing an Osprey’s Pursuit by Robert Strickland

© Robert Strickland

© Robert Strickland

Images and Text by Robert Strickland

I recently observed one of the greatest nature shows I had ever witnessed. I was over at a subdivision near my home, which has good-sized pond. I was there to photograph water birds and other water fowl that frequent the pond. While I was setting up and watching for subjects, I kept hearing an Osprey cry out. I soon discovered him on the top of a tree just across the pond from me.

As I was focusing my eye on him, he swiftly took off and climbed high above the pond. The osprey suddenly went into a hover, staring into the water below. Finding nothing, he started flying around in circles, and then went back into a hover, moving side to side, hovering, and then going around in circles. After a few moments, he did a free fall toward the water. I immediately swung my camera to capture the aggressive splash and watched him fly off with a fish. However, the fish he picked was much too big and he could not immediately get it out of the water. He was stranded with his wings spread, trying to stay afloat with a huge fish in his razor sharp talons. After a few moments of struggling, he was airborne and flew off with his catch. However, he only got to the edge of the pond because the fish was so big.

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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 http://www.shootthelight.com/ to learn more. 

South Texas for the Wildlife Photographer by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Painted bunting by Jeff Parker

Images and text by Jeff Parker

The desolate landscape of the South Texas Brush Country doesn’t look like much, but the biodiversity makes it one of North America’s best places for wildlife photography. It definitely ranks high on my list!

Scientists classify South Texas as a “semi-arid, sub-tropical” region. The result? Lots of wildlife! That includes a large number of bird species living at the far northern edges of their ranges.

Many—e.g. Kiskadee, Green Jay, Audubon’s Oriole, Couch’s Kingbird—are known as “South Texas Specialties.” And spring migration dramatically boosts the number of photogenic subjects that fly your way. By the end of April the summer breeders, such as Painted Buntings, Varied Buntings, and Scissor-tailed Flycatchers have arrived.

The best photography occurs when the animals grow hot and thirsty and flock to water to drink and cool off. Painted Buntings, in particular, really like their baths! This makes late-May and June prime photography time in the South Texas Brush Country.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Out in the Flint Hills by Scott Bean

Text and Images by Scott Bean

Talk about landscapes in Kansas and a lot of people are going to think of the stereotypical image of Kansas – one big flat wheat field. Kansas certainly does have some flat regions, especially in the western half of the state. Kansas also has a lot of wheat fields – which are beautiful in their own right. However, Kansas has a number of unique landscapes that may surprise a lot of people. The Flint Hills are one of the unique physiographic regions of Kansas. They are an especially interesting area as they contain some of the last large contiguous areas of tallgrass prairie. The interesting topography of the Flint Hills and the flora of the tall grass prairie combine to make for wonderful photographic opportunities.

Wide open views and gently sloping hills are characteristic of the Flint Hills. I like to use a wide angle lens to try and capture the sense of space and the unique shapes that can be found out in the prairies, but short to medium telephoto lenses are also useful to bring in details of the hills and focus attention on the lines and textures of the region. Magic hour light can really bring out the contours and shapes of the hills, and sunrises and sunsets are often full of amazing colors.  Read the rest of this entry »

Nature’s View – Top Secrets of Bird Photography, Story and photographs by Jim Clark

What the Pros Don’t Want you to Know

With the professional bird photographers hot on my trail, I’m going to reveal, right now, the top secrets of bird photography. I’m ready to sacrifice myself for the betterment of every one of you who want to photograph birds. All are welcome, but if anyone asks, I had nothing to do with this.

Sincerely,

Jim Clark, uh, I mean Ansel Wolfe Lepp.
P.S. You never heard this from me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Photography from Your Car by JP Bruce

Sandhill crane photographed from my car!

Sandhill crane photographed from my car!

Text and Images by JP Bruce

Do not let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do. – John Wooden

Having trouble with mobility? Can’t cover the distances you used to? Rough terrain look too imposing to try? Whether this is permanent or temporary I wrote a book to show that you don’t have to give up your photography due to this limitation. I had polio as a two year old and have needed a brace and crutches for mobility since then, so I have learned how to adapt. I want people with and without mobility limitations to see that quality photographs can be made while staying in or near a vehicle.

There are many advantages of photographing from your car. The car can transport you to many places in a short time. Many animals are used to vehicles passing on the road and will ignore them so your car makes a good blind. Your vehicle is a solid base so with the addition of a support such as a beanbag or window mount you eliminate camera movement (remember to turn off the motor!). As a bass fisherman I used my boat as a large tackle box. Now, as a photographer I use my car as a huge camera bag. I have all my equipment available without worrying about weight, so I’m ready for any photographic opportunity. Read the rest of this entry »

Revealing and Reveling in the Beauty of Native North American Bees and Wasps – Story and Photographs © Clay Bolt

Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eye

A Metallic Green Bee (Augochloropsis metallica) visits a Black-eyed Susan.

Since Niall Benvie and I first developed Meet Your Neighbours in 2009 I’ve seen my fair share of amazing, beautiful and sometimes bizarre creatures. From the beginning, I’ve worked almost exclusively in the land that surrounds my home near the Southern Appalachians in upstate South Carolina, USA. Rather naïvely, I suspected that after a short period of time I would begin to run out of subjects to photograph but nothing could be further from the truth. Seldom does a day go by that I don’t see a creature or plant that I’ve never seen before in the wild, anywhere! As Piotr Naskrecki points out in his fantastic book The Smaller Majority, “Over 99% of life on Earth is smaller than your finger.” It’s little wonder then that the careful observer will be awarded with a lifetime of discovery.

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Bird Photography at Mono Lake by Marie Read

Wilson's Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA

Wilson’s Phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) flock at South Tufa, Mono Lake, California, USA

Story and Photographs by Marie Read

Mono Lake is one of California’s most photogenic locations, a well-known destination for landscape photographers worldwide. Bizarre rocky spires called tufa towers punctuate the waters and shoreline of this desert sea, while the snow-capped Sierra Nevada forms a spectacular backdrop to the west. The well-kept secret is that Mono Lake and its surroundings are great for bird photography as well.

Mono Lake’s alkaline, highly saline water supports no fish, but it teems with brine shrimp and alkali flies, providing food for numerous breeding birds, including California Gulls, American Avocets, and Snowy Plovers. Osprey nest atop the tufa, commuting to and from freshwater lakes nearby for fish for their young. Around the lake sagebrush scrub, pinyon-juniper, and conifer-aspen woodlands support many other birds. I’d like to share some of my favorite bird photography spots. Read the rest of this entry »

NATIONAL PARKS: Katmai National Park, story and photo © Jerry Ginsberg

Alaskan brown bear (grizzly) with a salmon at the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Alaskan brown bear (grizzly) with a salmon at the Brooks River, Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Katmai National Park is best-known for its three prime attractions: bears, bears and more bears. Within Katmai’s borders lie several spectacular mountains, such as Mt. Douglas volcano and Four-Peak Mountain, as well as scenic creeks, rivers and lakes that are seasonally teeming with salmon. While brown bears draw the majority of visitors, salmon draw the bears. Read the rest of this entry »

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