Snow-covered branches frame urban landscape of Central Park, New York, NY.
Story and photos by F. M. Kearney
Making a subject stand out is the primary goal of all photographers. There are a number of ways to accomplish this and your subject matter will usually dictate the best method. Common techniques may include special lighting, subject placement, extreme angles or contrasting colors. If you delve into the world of digital imaging, your choices will be virtually unlimited. But, if you prefer to keep your images looking as natural as possible, you may want to stick with the in-camera methods.
One of my favorite ways to highlight a subject is to place it within a natural frame. This might consist of leaves, flowers, bushes … just about anything nearby that you can find to encircle your subject. In the opening photo above, I used the snow-covered branches to frame the distant buildings in this Central Park winter scene. Besides serving as decorative foreground elements, they were a great way to cover up the dead space of a white, featureless sky.
Still debating whether you should come to NANPA’s Nature Photography Summit and Trade Show, February 21-23 in Las Vegas? Here are five compelling reasons to pull out your credit card and start making reservations. And, hey, there’s still time to get pre-conference pricing . . . but only ‘till midnight, Sunday, January 20th.
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.
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
“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 →
“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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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.
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.
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 →
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 →