Photographer Arrives.  Gear Doesn’t.

Gate checking photography gear when flying.

Having to gate check check your photography gear is a traveling photographer’s nightmare.

Have you heard about the award-winning professional photographer who lost $13,000 worth of photo gear while flying from Chicago to DC?

Gate agents at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport insisted that photographer Michelle Frankfurter gate check her carry-on roller bag, which was full of her equipment.  After arguing and pleading her case, and against her better judgement, she complied.

Somewhere between leaving the gate at O’Hare and arriving at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC, the bag disappeared and has not been found.

Most US airlines cap baggage liability at $3,500.  What’s even worse, Frankfurter’s photographer’s insurance had lapsed!

We’ve all heard horror stories about lost luggage or damaged contents.  There’s even been a You Tube music video about an airline breaking a musician’s guitar!  How can you prevent it happening to you?

We all have our own strategies for traveling safely with our gear, and there is a whole range of roller bags and backpacks designed specifically for air travel.  I have a photo backpack that’s compatible with airline carry-on size limitations.  While I’ve seen gate agents requiring passengers to check bags, I’ve never seen them make people check reasonably-sized backpacks.  I have frequent flier accounts and airline credit cards with the two carriers I most often use, which allow me to board before overhead bin space gets scarce.

But what do you do if you have more gear than can fit in a backpack, or if your gear is too heavy or bulky?  What’s your travel strategy?

One other thing: Insurance.  Pro photographers rely on their gear to make a living.  No gear equals no income.  Losing your equipment can be catastrophic for amateurs, too.  Do you have insurance on your gear?  Are you aware that your homeowner’s policy may not cover all your gear?  Did you know that NANPA members can get special rates on equipment, professional, travel and health insurance?  Sign in to the members’ area to learn more.

Being a little OCD about insurance can be a life saver in a situation like this.

From the Archives — Which Lens Should I Bring?

Ed. Note:  Today, we offer another blog post from our archives.  Hank Erdmann prepared a good discussion on how to choose a lens when headed out for a photography session in the field, and it’s nicely illustrated with his photographs.  This post originally appeared about two years ago.  DL

 

"Peninsula Snow Sculpture" © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4x5)

Peninsula Snow Sculpture © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4×5)  

Story and Photos by Hank Erdmann

“What lens should I bring (into the field) with me?”  This is a question I hear many, many times a year while conducting tours, classes, and workshops. While I joke about this, often saying: “well, all of them.” To an experienced photographer, the question on the surface seems silly. To be truthful however it is a very valid question, on more than one front. While I usually address the issue up front in classes before we hit the field, I and other experienced photographers should be more aware that this is not as obvious as we think it is. Continue reading

Which Lens Should I Bring?

"Peninsula Snow Sculpture" © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4x5)

Peninsula Snow Sculpture © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4×5)

Story and Photos by Hank Erdmann

“What lens should I bring (into the field with me)? Is a question I hear many, many times a year while conducting tours, classes and workshops. While I joke about this, often saying: “well, all of them”. To an experienced photographer the question on the surface seems silly. To be truthful however it is a very valid question, on more than one front. While I usually address the issue up front in classes before we hit the field, I and other experienced photographers should be more aware that this is not as obvious as we think it is. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Beyond the Perfect Portrait

Story and Photography by D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

 

 

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. Continue reading

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

Story and Photography 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.

 

 

Photographing the Unseen by Sebastian Kennerknecht

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) gray morph male in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Bay Cat (Pardofelis badia) gray morph male in lowland rainforest, Tawau Hills Park, Sabah, Borneo, Malaysia © Sebastian Kennerknecht

Using SLR Camera Traps to Photograph the Unseen

Text and Images by Sebastian Kennerknecht

How do you photograph an animal so elusive that the biologists studying them have never even seen the species themselves? The answer is simple: SLR camera traps. Photographing wildlife with a camera trap seems easy in concept. Place a camera trap in the wilderness, let it sit there, and have it take amazing pictures while you relax at home. This isn’t quite the case. One of the hardest parts about camera trap photography is getting your set-up to work like you want it to. The camera and flashes have to be ready to take a picture at a moment’s notice, but it also needs to conserve batteries enough to last for an extended period of time. And then everything has to be safe in a serious down drench. Continue reading

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. Continue reading

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  www.naturephotographysummit.com

 

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.

© 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.

© 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.

© 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 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 www.nevadawier.com.

 

Photographing Water in Motion by Jennifer Wu

 

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

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: 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

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.

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

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, 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

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: 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

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

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 www.jenniferwu.com

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 www.naturephotographysummit.com