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 Tuesday, November 5, 2019
This image was one of my Katmai National Park goals. I wanted a straight-on, tightly-cropped bear face image and the image shared here was my favorite from this trip.
 
The bear was huge. The September coat was beautiful. The pose was almost perfectly straight-on with some catchlights in the eyes. The water drops falling from the bear's snout show that it is active. No, that is not lipstick and yes, it is looking at me. Fortunately, these bears like the taste of salmon and not that of people.
 
I could have made use of a 1.4x extender behind the Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens for this image but didn't have time to install it. Fortunately, the Canon EOS 5Ds R resolution is so high that this heavy crop still has adequate resolution. A Wimberley Gimbal Head made controlling the large lens effortless and sitting on a small stool makes the time with the bears quite comfortable.
 
Picture yourself sitting alongside a remote creek in Katmai National Park filling memory cards while photographing these giant bears catching salmon, playing, fighting, etc. That's the opportunity I had and that is the opportunity you have in September 2020! Plan on joining me for the Brown Bear Chasing Salmon, Remote Katmai National Park, Alaska instructional photo tour.
 
Plan to increase your wildlife photography skills while capturing portfolio-grade images on this bucket-list-grade trip! Learn more here.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 11/5/2019 6:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, October 29, 2019
After getting to the Vessel, located in Hudson Yards near the Jacob Javits convention center in Manhattan, New York City, getting in is the next step (though photographing the exterior of this structure is also fun) and getting in requires a ticket. Vessel Tickets are free, but they must be sourced for a particular entry time slot. Tickets are available online, beginning 14 days in advance, and on site (though they can sell out). Reasonably-priced Flex Pass tickets are available up to 6 months in advance and permit one-time entry at any time on that day. If making a big effort to get to this location, it might be worth spending a bit to get this ticket.
 
Once inside, plan on walking a LOT of steps with 2,500 of them available in 154 flights connected to 80 landings. Even when circling the Vessel at the same level, one must go down and up stairs almost continuously.
 
From a compositional perspective, the higher the shooting position (the more stairs you climb), the more that stairs and landings are seen in the compositions (as you are inclined to shoot more downward at higher levels). The lower the shooting position, the more that the copper color and reflections tend to be seen. The hexagonal shapes created by the flights of stairs and landings appear largest when photographed with a level camera. A wide range of focal lengths can be used, but ultra-wide-angle focal lengths are really fun to use here. The 15mm focal length was not too wide and I would have used wider if I had it available (the Canon EF 11-24mm f/4L USM Lens would be especially fun here).
 
Note that this is a "Tripods and selfie sticks are not permitted" location. I didn't have a problem with the selfie stick limitation but would have much appreciated having a tripod to work from. A small amount of (sloped) space available on hand rails enabled use of a Really Right Stuff TFA-01 Ultra Pocket Pod and that along with a BC-18 Microball worked very well, though very close attention was required to ensure the rig did not tip over the edge. There is a conventional round handrail throughout the structure, but it is lower than the sloped edge rail, making the RRS clamp I had along unworkable due to the obstructed view.
 
I love symmetry in compositions and while this structure makes symmetry available, it is a challenging pursuit. My advice is to frame the scene as symmetrically as possible or make it look like you didn't try to do so. Either can look great, but a nearly symmetrical image can appear sloppy. Centering the camera on a landing (watch the floor and railing tiles for centering clues) and ensuring that it is level is a good start to obtaining symmetry. Fine-tuning may still be required and even if great care is taken in the field, fine-tuning may still be required during post production.
 
This location can be photographed at any time of the day. However, the later the night got, the more I liked the results. The black sky allowed reflections on the structure to pop. Aircraft (a police helicopter is landing in this image) and vehicle lights can be streaked through the frame after dark. Fewer people were visiting and the longer exposures permitted by the darkness allowed the people still there to be erased via their movement. Using strong ND filters is a good mid-day option for obtaining long exposures. Especially on the higher levels, there are vibrations from people walking, especially when going up and down stairs. Long exposures can be surprisingly sharp when the vibrations are a short percentage of the overall exposure.
 
Another strategy for removing people from the composition is to capture multiple images, later blending them to show portions of the frame without people. Perhaps visiting on a bad weather (think cold, rain, etc.) weekday might gain solitude. Additional options include embracing the naturally occurring people and taking someone along that you want in your photo (environmental portraits).
 
If the sun is visible, capture it peeking through the structure using a narrow aperture to create a star effect (wide aperture lenses often work best for this). I planned to capture the sunset in the background on this afternoon but ... heavy clouds canceled that show.
 
The elevator rails will likely end up in your wide-angle images, so use them compositionally. Try centering the rails and also angling them through the side of the frame. Observe the buildings in the background varying as the structure is circled. Give consideration to what they look like in the composition. The blue lights shining upward from the bottom of the structure can be utilized in the frame. In this case, a narrow aperture turned them into a rather wild-looking bright blue star.
 
I managed to spend 4 hours at the Vessel before a phone call pulled me away from the fun. The take-home from this shoot was very good and it was difficult to select one image to share.
 
The image I've chosen here simply would not be the same if captured at 16mm. I carried the Canon EOS R and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, the only combination I ended up using, along with some other options in a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L. This backpack was perfect for this need.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
15mm  f/16.0  30s
ISO 100
6696 x 4464px
Post Date: 10/29/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, October 9, 2019
I had attempted to photograph the historic Crystal Mill twice. On the first (not very serious) attempt, a navigational error prevented success. On the second attempt, heavy rains prevailed and even the jeep service would not take me to the mill. With the end of the Rocky Mountain National Park photography workshops aligning with the normal peak fall foliage time in Marble, CO and the airline ticket price home being significantly lower one day later, I opted to make another attempt at photographing this mill and routed the itinerary through Marble one more time. This time, success was achieved.
 
Getting to this location requires driving a very-rough 4x4 road or a very long hike. My rental Suburban checked the 4x4 box but I was advised that it was questionably long to safely make the trip. Yes, the rental company's damage insurance coverage was in place but I still needed to be able to get to the airport and after driving up the first section of road, I opted to park the SUV in an area just large enough to clear the road. The hike remaining hike was between 4 and 5 miles and quite scenic.
 
This trek started mid-morning and the mill was reached at around noon. Upon paying the access fee ($10 enables access beyond the cable) and scoping out the available shot locations, it was obvious that the light would be better later in the afternoon (as expected). Also, the crowds were heavy at noon, another unfavorable aspect of photographing at this time of the day. With a very early AM flight scheduled, a very short night at the hotel was promised (about 2.5 hours of sleep) and a nap seemed like a good plan. I hiked past Crystal City, a ghost-town-like area featuring historic rental cabins and a store, and upon finding a sloped rock with my name on it, (sort of) slept for a couple of hours.
 
Upon returning to the mill, I found the crowds much lighter. The sky had filled with clouds that created an even light and clouds prevailed for most of my remaining time there. I didn't mind the even lighting that the clouds created but the clouds in the background were usually in direct sunlight, creating a huge dynamic range. After shooting many HDR captures, the clouds parted momentarily and I was able to make (only) one single image with direct sunlight hitting the mill while using this camera and lens. The cloudy sky images were nice, but this direct sunlight image was my favorite.
 
For this hike, I could take two cameras and two lenses in the MindShift Gear BackLight 18L. The Canon EOS R and Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens made the cut and delivered excellently. A Breakthrough circular polarizer filter was used to cut reflections and increase saturation. a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and Really Right Stuff BH-40 Ball Head provided the support for this image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 10/9/2019 11:39:33 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, September 11, 2019
With a forward head tilt and relaxed ears, this bedded whitetail buck looks cute and cuddly, presenting an image perhaps ready for a child's storybook. But, make no mistake, this is a huge ball of muscle ready to violently fight anything it thinks poses a threat to its interests (that right-side G4 tine required significant force to break off). This buck knows exactly what the doe bedded nearby behind it is doing and if another buck moves in or the doe moves away, this big bad boy will be up in a flash.
 
Very positive was that this bedded buck provided a wide range of poses for us, including head rested solidly on the ground, a large yawn, and ears perked in attention.
 
I'm not often a fan of a downward camera angle when photographing wildlife and in this case, getting down to the buck's eye level using a fully-retracted monopod made complete sense. This low/level angle provides a more distant background that can be strongly blurred with a 600mm f/4 lens, allowing the subject to clearly stand out against an even very distracting background. With the subject being stationary, the distance and alignment could be selected and varied. In this case, the leaves on the ground provide a solid base for the image. The large tree trunk on the left and the small tree trunk on the right provide a frame for the subject.
 
Wildlife photography is a great source of stories and this situation brought back a memory from the year before. I was in Shenandoah National Park photographing a different bedded buck from a reasonable distance when it suddenly bolted straight toward me. I jumped behind a tree just as it went past a short distance away. Fortunately, it was not racing after me but instead after a doe. I just happened to be in its path.
 
The shot of adrenaline took a little time to wear off, but the memory is a fun one.
 
Want to photograph these awesome animals and create some stories this fall? Sign up for the "Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park instructional photo tour.
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/400s
ISO 900
7791 x 5194px
Post Date: 9/11/2019 9:06:42 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, September 10, 2019
I'll not likely ever repeat a shot similar to this one captured on a fall evening in Rocky Mountain National Park.
 
Photographing multiple animals (vs. a single animal) significantly increases the compositional challenge and especially with a 600mm lens in use, having all of the animals in the plane of sharp focus, especially at f/4, is a big challenge. At this moment, these three subjects aligned themselves nicely for me at this moment. The number 3 is meaningful to this discussion in that an odd (vs. even) number of animals often works best compositionally (note that it also works well in landscape photography and in landscaping).
 
When multiple animals are in the frame, interaction between those animals usually increases the image's appeal. If you look carefully at this photo, you will see a quite humorous interaction occurring. The bull is licking the cow who is showing us her shocked face. The cow's yearling is looking intently at the behavior, seemingly very interested in what is happening. The yearling facing the opposite direction somewhat completes a circle (while a portion of the circle of life plays out). Icing on the cake is that the head shadows of the cow and yearling are showing facing each other on the side of the bull.
 
There are two openings remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour, one for each week. The time is rapidly running out, but it's not too late for you to join a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals and the beauty of RMNP. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 9/10/2019 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, September 2, 2019
Where there is smoke, there may be drifting! Kinetic friction expert Ryan Litteral leaves a plume of smoke behind his high-powered Formula Drift car while painting new lines on the street.
 
When shooting a fast-moving subject at a relatively long shutter speed (for panning blur), the sharp image rate is typically low. Increasing the number of keepers is the Canon EOS 90D's fast 10 fps continuous shooting speed, a highly-welcomed upgrade from the 80D.
 
In this example, I was evaluating the 90D AF system's ability to select the desired focus point using Auto AF point selection (all 45 AF points active) and ability to select the correct focus distance with a fast-moving subject. The results were very good with the AF point switching nicely while I attempted to track the car in the viewfinder.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
120mm  f/11.0  1/80s
ISO 100
5391 x 3594px
Post Date: 9/2/2019 9:05:38 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, August 31, 2019
Can the Canon EOS M6 Mark II with the optional EVF-DC2 electronic viewfinder be used to capture fast action moving from side-to-side? While the EVF has a slight display freeze when each image is captured, I was able to keep up with the drift cars while using this one.
 
Highly advantageous for capturing sports action is this camera's 14 fps continuous shooting rate and the latest version of Canon's Dual Pixel CMOS AF is also very high-performing, up to this task.
 
How does this little camera handle larger lenses such as the Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens used for this image? Canon's latest tiny M-series cameras are surprisingly easy to use with larger lenses such as this one and the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens I was using to photograph action on the track. As when using DSLR cameras, the left hand controls the lens and the right grips the camera. There is not as much grip real estate on the M models, but the design provided is adequate for this use.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
90mm  f/10.0  1/50s
ISO 100
6732 x 4488px
Post Date: 8/31/2019 10:48:36 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
The rear tires on a Formula DRIFT (Formula D) car do not last very long and when there are only a few fast-moving cars participating in the action, short photo opportunities followed by long breaks become the schedule. The safe method of photographing this and similar subjects is to use a fast shutter speed, freezing the action for a sharp image. However, frozen action does not (usually) ideally convey motorsports action. Thus, I opted for shutter speeds long enough to result in a low success rate.
 
While I promptly deleted a lot of my images, I only needed a few images from this event and I wanted them to have a very strong panning blur. That plan worked.
 
Using a circular polarizer filter often brings substantial improvements to photos taken mid-day and a Breakthrough X4 CPL was used for this capture. To get a longer shutter speed under bright sunlight without going to an extremely narrow aperture (diffraction being the issue), a 2-stop neutral density filter was stacked behind the CPL to block additional light. Because the gear being introduced and evaluated at this event was unknown prior to arrival, I chose to take a set of large-sized filters along with a stack of step-up filter adapter rings to provide versatility and one was used for this image.
 
This is Dustin Miles turning right to go left and leaving tire on the track. The Canon EOS 90D with its fast 10-fps continuous shooting rate is a great choice for capturing fast action.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 8/31/2019 9:53:49 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, August 30, 2019
A Lamborghini Huracan AND a Kelly Moss Porsche 911 in the same garage? Those two cars are worth about as much as all of the camera lenses below the Conowingo Dam on a fall weekend. Yes, this is a dream garage and yes, there was drooling. With a 2.5-mile Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta just outside, my only question was "Where are the keys?!"
 
On this big day of test shooting, the Canon EOS 90D performed superbly, as its heritage leads us to expect. This is a superb general-purpose camera choice and while this particular scene did not challenge it, the subjects outside on the Michelin Raceway Road Atlanta track provided a greater challenge, one which the 90D also met.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/5.6  1/80s
ISO 800
6960 x 4640px
Post Date: 8/30/2019 12:24:50 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, August 16, 2019
It was just another typical rainy weekday in Ricketts Glen State Park. It was the perfect time to take my favorite ultra-wide-angle zoom lens and landscape camera body, the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens and Canon EOS 5Ds R, for a hike.
 
I am not aware of this cascade having a name, but I always find it photo-worthy. It is hard to go wrong with a series of lines leading into the bottom of the frame and the leading lines in the rock are the big draw to this location.
 
Camera height is something a photographer usually has some control over, at least within their physical reach ability or the height of their tripod if such is being used. When photographing flat water (pond, lake, ocean, slow-moving river, etc.), a higher camera position will often provide a higher percentage of the frame being filled with water than a lower camera position IF a similar overall scene framing is used. For example, photographing an ocean from a standing position with a level camera will result in far more water percentage in the frame than doing the same while lying down at the edge of the water due to the angle of view across a flat surface. Often, supporting that big IF requires that the camera angle be changed and camera angle also plays a role in determining how much of the frame is filled with water. A downward-tilted camera can include more water than a level camera.
 
The key is to find the right balance for the scene you are photographing and there may be multiple right answers. Work with a scene until you can find no more camera positions that work well. Then move on.
 
The small waterfalls seen here do not qualify as flat water, but there is still a lot of near-flat water in this scene. The right balance for this image was using an ultra-wide-angle focal length positioned with enough downward angle to show a significant amount of water and low enough to gain the right perspective to emphasize the foreground rock lines.
 
I don't always take the time to photograph this cascade, but especially with the wet rock bringing out strong color (saturation aided by a circular polarizer filter), I couldn't resist stopping on this day.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 8/16/2019 9:02:19 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, August 14, 2019
Rarely does photographing wildlife subjects (and human ones also) at eye level not work well. Bull elk are very large animals, but when they bed down, a standing position may yield a downward camera angle. While I don't always mind a downward camera angle, it is frequently not my first choice. So, when they go down, consider taking the camera down with them. A lower position increases the likelihood of catchlights showing in the eyes.
 
It was raining lightly during much of the time I spent with this bull. There are a lot of benefits for photographing wildlife under cloudy skies, but such images typically have relatively low contrast and often respond nicely to a small contrast increase during post processing. A slight saturation increase is another adjustment that frequently helps images captured under heavy clouds.
 
There are now two openings remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour, one for each week. It's not too late for you to join a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals and the beauty of RMNP. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 8/14/2019 12:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, August 1, 2019
My favorite camera mode is manual mode. But, when lighting conditions are changing rapidly, it is often helpful to get the camera involved in the decision-making process via auto exposure. When using auto exposure, most often I'm still using manual mode, but with auto ISO being selected.
 
In auto exposure modes, the camera must be able to guess the proper exposure, or close enough that the result can be adjusted to perfection during post-processing without detriment to image quality (increased noise for example). When photographing deer, a subject rather neutral in relative brightness, in their natural environment, the camera often gets the auto exposure right. Wildlife photography is usually very challenging, involving unpredictable action and fast camera work, and having the camera take care of the exposure can make the difference between getting a great shot and getting nothing. With the exposure being determined by the camera, I can focus on getting the shot.
 
When the camera can guess the exposure with good accuracy and auto ISO in manual mode is being used, the shutter speed alone can be rapidly changed as needed to produce a sharp image. For example, if an animal that has been in fast motion (requiring a fast shutter speed) pauses and stares at something while motionless, a quick roll of the top dial can increase the exposure times to allow lower ISO settings be taken advantage of.
 
One thing I need to focus on is not getting too close to my wildlife subjects. While getting close enough to wildlife is a common challenge, being over-successful, getting too close, can sometimes be an issue. Wildlife subjects often need some space around them in the frame, some breathing room. Getting closer means a stronger background blur, but in this case, it meant not enough breathing room around the mule deer buck. Fortunately, Photoshop helped me increase the canvas size, adding some background to the perimeter of this image.
 
Another teaching point illustrated here is the catchlight in the buck's eye. In practically all images containing an eye, catchlights will add positively to the result, giving sparkle and life to the subject. Catchlights can be created with flash lighting, but when photographing wildlife, the sun, or at least the bright sky, is my favorite catchlight source as it usually provides the most natural appearance.
 
For catchlights to happen, something bright, often the sun/sky, must be able to reflect in the subject's eye. Think about the animal's rounded eye reflecting such and the camera angle needed for that to happen. The subject's head position can make a difference with a raised head increasing the chances for catchlight reflections. Your position can also make a difference. The lower your position relative to the subject, the more likely you are to get catchlights reflecting the light source. When the sun is the catchlight source, the lower the sun, the better the odds are that it will reflect in the eyes. The more exposed the sky is, the better the likelihood of a reflection.
 
In this example, I had a catchlight. However, with just a slight amount of the sky reflecting in the top of the deer's eye, it was a weak one. Using an exposure adjustment layer in Photoshop, I added a mask that was entirely black (not affecting the image) except for the little catchlight and then slid the exposure adjustment slider slightly to the right to increase the brightness, affecting only the catchlight. This tiny adjustment made a noticeable difference in the final result.
 
I'm always looking for an entertaining or at least unusual behavior to capture in wildlife images. This buck's large rack added points to the entertainment factor, but its behavior was rather boring — it was mostly feeding. While smelling the small plant is not dramatic behavior, it does speak to this animal's keen sense of smell and its ability to communicate in this way. The huge rock behind the buck provided an out-of-the-norm background for the image and the position of the antlers allowed all of the points to be seen. Thus, this image was my pick from this session.
 
A reminder: there is only one opening remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour in Rocky Mountain National Park. While elk are our primary subject, we'll be opportunistic, taking advantage of other wildlife that avails itself as illustrated here.
 
Consider joining a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals. Photographers of all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • Filled/Wait List: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 8/1/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, July 25, 2019
When a great animal is found, staying with it can lead to great images. Sometimes, it can lead to a lot of great images.
 
When photographing wildlife, the stay or go decision is often a tough one. The subject in front of us may not be entertaining for relatively long periods of time and the thought that a better opportunity may be nearby runs through our minds. On this day, staying was the right decision.
 
There is only one opening remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour!
 
Consider joining a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • Filled/Wait List: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 7/25/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, July 20, 2019
It started out innocently. After verifying firsthand that Mount Evans was closed due to snow and ice, despite it being summer, we decided to explore Guenella Pass. Traveling the entire previous day gave Brittany a strong desire to go for a hike and she didn't have to expend much energy convincing me to take that option.
 
The plan was to explore the nearby alpine tundra from trails leading from a parking area near the top of the pass. We grabbed a backpack, some water, snacks, and rain shells and set off on what we thought would be a mini-adventure. Carrying the Canon EOS 5Ds R with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens mounted (primarily for wildlife) and a Nikon Z 7 with a Nikon Z 24-70mm f/2.8 S Lens mounted (primarily for landscape) seemed to be an ideal set of gear for the planned short hike.
 
While hiking, Brittany continuously wanted to see what was over the next ridge. In this location, deception reigned and the answer to the what is over the next ridge question is always another ridge. Still, we kept asking the question until having climbed mostly rock and snowfield over 2,400' (730m) up in roughly 3.5 mi (5.6km). Unintentionally, we found ourselves on top of a very high mountain.
 
The view at the top of the 13,800' Table Top Mountain was spectacular. What Brit was feeling from the altitude ... was not nearly as pleasant.
 
Unfortunately, we needed to promptly go back down and couldn't spend much time on top. Fortunately, Brit found the mental fortitude to get some great photos despite the altitude sickness but she didn't feel good until after a nap back in town.
 
While I was not as strongly affected by the high elevation, I definitely should have left the 100-400 in the SUV as it gained a lot of weight on this hike.
 
See the distant thunderhead cloud looming over Brittany's head in the image? That was another reason to go down quickly. That storm brought us near white-out snow conditions for a short period of time during our descent, adding to the day's story.
 
While photography is great for storytelling, going on photo adventures is a great option for creating stories.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/11.0  1/200s
ISO 100
8256 x 5504px
Post Date: 7/20/2019 7:29:11 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, July 14, 2019
I spotted this lone bristlecone pine tree on my first drive up Mount Evans. The uniquely shaped tree alone on the side of the mountain begged to be in an image and on the last day of this trip, I made that pine my sunrise subject.
 
A clear sky does not hold promise for an amazing sunrise or sunset, but what can be counted on is the opportunity to incorporate a great sunstar into the image.
 
To create a sunstar from a point light source requires a narrow aperture. The narrower the aperture, the bigger the sunstar is the rule. I often select f/16 for these types of images as the effects of diffraction are usually tolerable at this aperture, even on the highest resolution cameras. A downside to using a narrow aperture with the sun in the frame is that flare effects are increased, especially from lenses with high element counts. Whether or not the flare shapes are attractive and desired may be a personal preference. Also note that, in general, wide aperture lenses create the largest sunstars.
 
Nikon Z 14-30mm f/4 S Lens' f/4 aperture isn't terribly wide and in this case, I opted for f/22 to get a larger and more attractive (including stronger points) star. I don't like the softness that diffraction creates at f/22 so the portion of the frame without the sunstar in it was merged from an f/11-captured frame. I captured a 5-shot bracket (varying by 1 stop) at each aperture setting and opted to use a brighter f/11 image for the foreground.
 
The other property a clear sky can promise is a very warm light immediately after the sun rises or immediately before the sun sets and the warm first or last light of the day raking over a scene is often welcomed from a landscape photography perspective.
 
The small crescent moon included in the frame just above the left side of the pine tree was a bonus for this image.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 7/14/2019 3:12:02 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, July 10, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
If you're like me, after having purchased the 5DayDeal Complete Video Creators Bundle (especially over multiple years), you may have a ton of LUTs (Look Up Tables) that can be used to color grade your videos and images. For instance, the last time I counted, I had over 600 LUTs sitting in a folder on my hard drive. Unfortunately, sifting through my LUTs to find one that's appropiate for a specific video/photo project has has been a painfully slow and tedius process, requiring the of application of each LUT individually within the software editor for preview purposes.
 
Thankfully, there's a better way. A Swedish software designer has created an excellent (and free) program – Bulk LUTs Previewer – that allows for fast and easy previewing of your locally stored LUTs.
 
How Does Bulk LUTs Previewer Work?
 
It's really simple.
 
  1. Open the program and click "Import" to point Bulk LUTs Previewer to the image you'd like to use as the sample. I'd suggest using a small resolution image as a full-resolution image will make the previews load significantly slower.
  2. Click the "3D Luts" button and navigate to your folder containing the LUTs.
  3. Click "Generate" to generate the LUT previews.
Bulk LUTs Previewer Screenshot

How to Apply a LUT in Photoshop
 
Once you've found the LUT you'd like to use, here are the steps for applying the LUT to an image in Photoshop.
 
  • Open your image and add a Color Lookup Table adjustment layer.
  • In the Properties panel of the adjustment layer, click "Load 3D LUT..."
  • Click the "Load 3D LUT..." option and navigate to the appropriate LUT.
While the sofware is free, I highly suggest donating to the author (using the "About" menu option) to encourage the software's further development (I did).
 
Download: Bulk LUTs Previewer
Post Date: 7/10/2019 5:55:20 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, July 7, 2019
Untimely was that Mount Evans and the other high peaks in the Colorado Rockies were the recipients of a summer snowstorm that dumped up-to-2' (that's right, feet, not inches — 0.6m) of snow the weekend just prior to my Monday afternoon arrival, closing the mountain for the first two days of my trip. Weather is one of the many reasons for planning more time at a location than seems necessary and for this trip, 4 days was definitely not too long.
 
There is often a photographic upside to bad weather and in this case, that upside was snow available for inclusion in both the foreground and often the distant background of images. Adorable baby mountain goats in snow works for me.
 
Bonus points are awarded for images having all of a wildlife subject's feet visible. Very often subjects are in an environment that does not allow the feet to be completely visible (grass in a meadow for example). This little kid (what a baby goat is called) was racing around and conveniently opted to run over this rock (it's what all kids do, right?).
 
I have a tendency to frame my wildlife images too tight and the base image used for this shot was vertically tighter than I liked. Fortunately, I had another image in the burst sequence that permitted a vertical panorama to be created, giving my kid some breathing room.
 
While I would like the Canon EOS 5Ds R to have a higher frame rate for wildlife photography, the images it creates are simply awesome, especially when a lens like the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens is in front of it. I lugged a 600mm f/4 with me for the duration of this trip but used it very infrequently due to extremely high winds at the over-14,000' (4,267m) elevation making subject framing too difficult. That issue along with 400mm being often sufficient at the top of this mountain meant the 600 spent most of the week in the SUV. The 100-400 allowed capture of environmental wildlife portraits as desired and that technique was definitely desirable at the top of this mountain.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/8.0  1/2000s
ISO 400
8688 x 6312px
Post Date: 7/7/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, July 2, 2019
If you are a bull elk, there comes a time in life when you are mostly alone during the rut. The other bulls your size have become your enemies and the larger bulls are going to beat you up if you get too close to the herd. You become referred to as a satellite bull.
 
While this bull is relatively large, he is no match for those having the cows. Bigger is usually better in terms of bull elk subjects, but I cannot resist photographing the smaller bulls in the right scenarios.
 
While I often seek sunlight from my back when photographing wildlife, the animal looking directly into the sun often works well from a lighting perspective. In this case, I was aligning a non-distracting background (that happened to be in the shade of a cloud) to help the elk prominently stand out in the frame.
 
There is only one opening remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour!
 
Consider joining a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • Filled/Wait List: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 7/2/2019 12:46:56 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, June 1, 2019
When the fog is present, contrast is significantly decreased and heavy fog can reduce visibility to very short distances. While in Shenandoah National Park for two days in the spring, heavy fog was the only visibility I had. The dozens of turnouts and trails designed to show off spectacular views of the mountains and valleys far below all had the same view. White fog.
 
When this happens, one option is to find close subjects. With close subjects resulting in less light-scattering fog between the camera and subject, good color and contrast is retained. The large patches of bright green ferns were one such subject that always catches my attention in the spring in Shenandoah National Park. Fog scatters light in all directions, creating very even lighting even deep in the woods.
 
The one problem remaining was a light breeze. Some of the ferns I was photographing were waist high. With a big sail and a small stem, these ferns moved in even the lightest breeze. I would rather the slight motion blur in the lower left fern blade not be there.
 
Options for dealing with the subject motion were limited. Embracing the movement and allowing the subject to become blurred is an easy one. Results vary when using this technique.
 
Waiting for short breaks in the breeze was option I worked on. Taking many shots was another, trying to catch a fern at the end of its motion.
 
Making shorter shutter speeds available by increasing the ISO setting is another good option. This option results in increased noise in the image, but sometimes a scene can be captured at a low ISO for the stationary subject and then at a higher ISO setting to keep the moving parts stabilized. The two (or more) image can then be stacked during post processing with only the in-motion portion of the frame being shown for the high ISO capture.
 
Using a narrower aperture offers the same shutter speed advantage with reduction of DOF being the penalty.
 
A last method I was working with involved placing small temporary Y-shaped twigs at the base of the closest ferns (the ones moving across the most pixels) to help stabilize them. A Wimberley Plamp is a good tool for this purpose.
 
Moving farther away from the moving branch and/or using a wider focal length make the moving subject smaller in the frame which means they cross over imaging sensor pixels less rapidly which means they are sharper in the final image.
 
Remove the light-cutting circular polarizer filter can help establish faster shutter speeds, though this is not often a good choice for landscape photography. While on the fog topic, note that CPL filters very significantly cut through fog. The difference can be very noticeable. Rotate the filter to turn on or off the fog effect, obtaining the look you want.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
16mm  f/11.0  1/4s
ISO 400
5760 x 3840px
Post Date: 6/1/2019 11:20:58 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, May 29, 2019
Credentialed access to a 4 hour concert in a 15,000-seat indoor stadium seemed like the perfect opportunity to give the Canon EOS R and Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens a workout while the mostly high-energy performers also got a workout.
 
When photographing low light action, one historically had to choose between a moderately wide aperture (f/2.8) in a zoom lens and an ultra-wide aperture (f/1.4 for example) in a prime lens. With the RF 28-70, you can have both a wide aperture and a zoom focal length range. While some prime lenses still have the wide aperture advantage, the RF 28-70 f/2 L lens bridges the divide and, especially from an image quality perspective, is an outstanding option for low light needs including concert photography.
 
The spot lights happened to be on the singer (Ledger) in this image, allowing a very clean ISO 800 with a shutter speed adequate to stop most of the motion at f/2. Other images were captured at ISO settings as high as 6400 where the 1-stop advantage this zoom lens has over most other zooms makes a considerably bigger difference in image quality.
 
At concerts, the location of the action is often unpredictable and changing fast and that means focal length changes are required, ideally fitting for a zoom lens. Yes, some prime lenses could have given me another 1-stop lower ISO setting, but I would have minimally needed multiple cameras to cover the same range and often the performers were moving so fast that the shot would have been long gone by the time the cameras were swapped. Shooting wider and cropping later is an option, but lower resolution images are the result.
 
Also great for fast moving subjects was the R's touch and drag AF. With the left hand adjusting the focal length and the right thumb moving the focus point as needed for ideal framing, the EOS R was an ideal choice.
 
Every shoot teaches new lessons and here are a few concert photography tips from that night.
 
First, if photographing with a media pass, know without a doubt which gate you are supposed to enter through and be ready to politely ask for a additional opinions when the first person(s) thinks they know the different gate you are required to enter through. This saves walking half way around a stadium to the shipping and receiving area and waiting for a security guard to make a series of phone calls to figure out what you already knew and send you back to the other side of the stadium. If opting to ignore this advice, strongly consider arriving at least 1 hour early.
 
Also if photographing with a media pass, make sure that you have a signed copy of that pass (minimally on your phone) with you because the media reps for some reason may not have your name on the list. If offered a label with your name handwritten on it, request a lanyard because your camera strap is going to peel the label off within 10 minutes of your arrival, leaving you without the pass. Minimally attach the label to something that avoids the peel-off risk.
 
While your media pass may specify where you are supposed to photograph from, the media pass may not have been updated since the 360° stage was implemented. The specified locations may not exist and those working the show may have no clue about the topic or even how to get to the floor from the entrance level. Arrive early enough that if the instructions do not align with reality there is time to figure out where you are permitted to go without negatively impacting the show (it is probably not being performed for you).
 
Oh, if the tour is promoting a 360° stage, just get a ticket and leave the camera at home. Within seconds, the performer can be a basketball court distance away and even two cameras with complementing zoom lenses are not adequate. Compounding the problem is that you will have backs toward you for at least 270° of the stage.
 
I'll add these notes to the concert photography tips page.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
28mm  f/2.0  1/500s
ISO 800
4480 x 6720px
Post Date: 5/29/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, May 24, 2019
This bull had just lost a fight over a harem of cows and headed for the hills. His rack was larger than that of the opponent, but the opponent's body was larger and that is where the battle strength comes from.
 
Capturing this image was primarily a matter of repeatedly getting out in front of the bull and properly predicting where it would enter a clearing at the right distance for the big prime lens I was using. As you will notice from the camera settings for this image, it was quite dark when this image was captured. The pursuit started under cloudy weather that deteriorated into light rain.
 
I still have one opening remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour in Rocky Mountain National Park (or get on the 2020 waiting list). Consider joining a small group of photographers (all skill levels welcome) pursuing these awesome animals and other wildlife and landscape opportunities in this great park!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 5/24/2019 11:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, May 17, 2019
The timing was perfect for a visit to Ricketts Glen State Park. The new beech tree leaves were coming out with their light spring green color looking great. It had rained a significant amount the prior day and the forecast was for rain all of this day.
 
Waterfalls, of course, thrive on rain, rain saturates the landscape, rain requires clouds and clouds ensure even lighting, and also helpful is that rain keeps the (smarter?) potential park visitors at home and out of images. On this day, I had the Falls Trails completely to myself until I was hiking out near dark.
 
Rain also makes photography a bit more challenging. I was wearing Gore-Tex clothing (boots, pants, and jacket) that kept me completely dry. At least dry until I overheated a bit while hiking up out of the canyon at a fast pace with quick-drying clothing resolving that problem quickly after I was back in the car. I carried a large umbrella to work under (awkward but very helpful) and had a microfiber cloth readily available to wipe water drops from the front of the lens. When shooting waterfalls, a microfiber cloth is often needed regardless of the rain situation. Note that nano-coated filters are easy to keep clean and easily worth their additional cost on days like these. The camera and lens were in an inexpensive rain cover that I was evaluating and that is now on the to-replace list as it was not "waterproof", leaving the camera and lens wet enough that a towel was needed (get a LensCoat RainCoat). This is an example of when weather sealing can save the day.
 
The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens were the only camera and lens that came out of my BackLight 26L on this day. It was the perfect combination for this image and all of the others I wanted. Also in the backpack was an EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The BackLight's rear access meant that cameras could be swapped without setting the backpack down on the very wet ground and without taking the rain cover off.
 
I've mentioned that I rely on my tripod for personal support at times and this was one of those. Working up onto this ledge over wet rocks was not easy and a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Carbon Fiber Tripod saved me from a serious fall when my footing broke loose. The ledge position meant that the lower tripod legs were planted rather far below me, making every inch of the "Long" length of this tripod very useful. Saving my images by cutting reflections and increasing saturation was a Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter. Had I forgotten this filter, I would probably have just turned around and gone home.
 
Overall, it was a great day in Ricketts Glenn SP. I'll likely be sharing more of the images captured on this day at some point.
 
With 24 named waterfalls, including some of the most photogenic falls around, Ricketts Glen State Park is waterfall photography heaven. I spent over 45 minutes capturing a variety of compositions of this falls alone and finally forced myself to move on, leaving some options for another day. If you are interested in photographing with me here, I need to know. This will likely be the destination for an upcoming waterfall photography workshop!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 5/17/2019 8:20:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, May 7, 2019
A whitetail deer's ears are extremely perceptive. So good is their hearing that they have the practical equivalent of eyes in the back of their heads. The buck in the foreground, with ears turned back and raised high, is essentially "watching" the buck in the background while looking the other direction.
 
The buck in the background is using his ears for another purpose, to communicate threat. While his ears are also turned back, the big difference is that they are laid low. The threatening laid-back-and-low ear position is not unique among deer and should serve as a warning to wildlife photographers if the warning is being directed toward them. Buck in rut frequently use this communication technique with other deer.
 
Another communication strategy deer and other animals use is the raising of their hair. In a moment, a buck can go from having a sleek, normal-appearing coat to appearing huge and fuzzy with every hair (thousands per square inch) standing straight out (imagine what humans could look like if we possessed that skill).
 
Always be looking for that something extra in your images and when photographing wildlife, communication is one such extra that can take an image to the next level. Another extra illustrated in this image is the incoming buck's raised front leg. This shows action.
 
This scenario pictured here unfolded quickly and capturing the action was the first priority. The image that showed the best juxtaposition of the two bucks was not as well-balanced in the frame as I wished, cutting off some of the trees on the right side. Fortunately, another image in the sequence included more of the right side of the scene and stitching the two images together allowed the full set of trees to be included, creating a natural frame.
 
There is still room to join me this fall for the "Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park Instructional Photo Tour. Stay for the entire time and I'll pick you up at/near the Dulles International Airport.
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
"Whitetail Fawns and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, June 9 to Wed, June 12, 2019 and/or Wed, June 12 - Sat, June 15, 2019
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
1 opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
Filled: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
Wait List or Sign Up for 2020.
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/500s
ISO 2200
8910 x 5476px
Post Date: 5/7/2019 10:29:47 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, May 4, 2019
The tips of elk antler tines are polished for a reason. During the rut, bull elk thrash the ground with their antlers and in addition to the tine tips becoming whiter, this practice often results in grasses and other plants hanging on the antlers. Sometimes the haystack is large enough to impede vision.
 
There is only one opening remaining for the September elk in rut photo tour. Consider joining a small group of passionate wildlife photographers pursuing these awesome animals. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 1 Opening: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019
  • Filled/Wait List: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28, 2019
  • Sign Up for September, 2020
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
"Whitetail Fawns and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, June 9 to Wed, June 12, 2019 and/or Wed, June 12 - Sat, June 15, 2019
 
Fall Landscape in Acadia National Park Instructional Photography Tour
 
Tue, Oct 15 through Sun, Oct 20, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 5/4/2019 10:21:25 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, May 3, 2019
When photographing a symmetrical subject, either take the time and effort to make it perfectly aligned in the frame ... or don't come close to doing so.
 
An image of a symmetrical subject that is perfectly symmetrically framed (or at least nearly so) usually looks great. An image of a symmetrical subject that appears intentionally non-symmetrically framed can also look great. It is when an image of a symmetrical subject is almost symmetrically framed that it appears you have made a mistake.
 
Some symmetrical subjects are far more forgiving than others. A tile floor is typically symmetrically unforgiving and note that any geometric distortion in a lens increases the in-camera alignment challenge. Another challenge is slight asymmetry in the subject.
 
This image appeared ideally aligned in-camera, but it still needed to be adjusted slightly in post-production to finish off that task. I thought I had the image ready to go when Sean mentioned that the monument was not quite perfectly straight. Measuring structure positions in Photoshop made it appear straight with some subject asymmetry showing at the bottom of the monument. A tile was lifted by a noticeable amount on the right side and the left side had stone showing on the outside of the perimeter drain that was not showing on the right, both creating optical illusions of asymmetry. I decided those fixes were needed and made some other adjustments (sometimes these small projects take on a life of their own). After revisiting the image a couple of times, I decided that Sean was still right and adjusted rotation slightly to move the image closer to perfection.
 
In this image, Abe Curland of B&H is carefully aligning his shot of the Empty Sky Memorial in Liberty State Park, NJ. The lines in tile flooring provide valuable assistance for finding center.
 
In light of the Should I Get the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III or EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens? article just posted, I'll mention that this image could have been equally captured with the less expensive Canon EF 16-35mm f/4L IS USM Lens. The Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens was my choice for this trip because I was shooting from a tripod and wanted larger-sized stars to be created from the city lights during the blue hour and after dark. I was pulling a Think Tank Photo Airport Security rolling case around the city, so gear weight was not an issue.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 5/3/2019 9:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, April 30, 2019
In addition to presenting danger, this large Pennsylvania mother black bear was looking for danger, a move that often includes a pause that gives a photographer time to carefully focus, compose, and shoot.
 
At this distance, the bear was not close to fitting in the 600mm frame. Keeping the bear's head in the frame is the primary compositional goal and shooting vertically with a sideways pose meant that a large portion of the frame was empty. Fortunately, the mamma bear's second-year cub was moving in and added interest to the empty portion of the frame.
 
As I had no control over either subject, this result depended on situational awareness along with a bit of serendipity. Time spent in the right locations increases the chance of serendipity.
 
While the bright gray background may appear studio-like, it was courtesy of a heavy morning fog between the subject and the distant background.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s
ISO 2800
5504 x 8256px
Post Date: 4/30/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, April 28, 2019
An easy way to get a unique photo is to find a unique subject. I have seen a lot of different antler abnormalities, but this buck sported a new one.
 
Antlers are very strong, but deer frequently break their tines and even main beams, especially when fighting. However, the broken tine or beam nearly always breaks cleanly, detaching immediately, never to be seen again. Or, often due to injury, antlers grow in abnormal directions. This buck's right antler was broken off under the skin, dangling from the skin keeping it attached.
 
When photographing animals, I like to see separation between the legs and especially like to see one of the front legs stepping forward, showing action. I'll rarely complain about wildlife photography lighting when there is a setting sun behind me with the catchlight in the eye adding life to the animal.
 
What will this buck's next rack look like? I hope to find out this fall. Want to join me to photograph these great animals in Shenandoah National Park?
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/1600s
ISO 320
8006 x 5338px
Post Date: 4/28/2019 6:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, April 27, 2019
Welcome to Island Pond, located by Red River Camps in Deboullie Public Reserved Land of T15-R9 in the North Maine Woods. That this location is a nearly 1-hour drive from the grid and paved roads should help set the scene. Along with natural beauty, what you get here is a dark sky and at this time in August, a beautiful view of the Milky Way and the annual Perseid Meteor Shower.
 
Aside from the effort required to get to this location, this was a very easy image to create.
 
  • Mount the camera and lens on a solid tripod
  • Manually focus the lens on a bright star using fully-magnified live view
  • Adjust the composition as desired with the camera leveled for roll
  • Dial in a manual exposure of f/1.8 (use your widest available), ISO 6400 and 30 seconds (a stretch)
  • Set the camera to its high-speed frame rate
  • Plug in a remote release
  • Capture a test image and verify that it looks good
  • Lock the release button down (press down and slide forward)
  • Return later
The camera continuously captures images, hopefully with perfectly-positioned meteors in them. These frames can also be made into a time-lapse.
 
After setting up the first camera, you have plenty of time, so set up a second camera the same as the first, capturing a different composition.
 
On this night I had three camera setups with four of what I consider the best night sky lenses available. One of the cameras was a Nikon model and the only Nikon-mount star-capable lens I had along (not a Nikon model) showed a serious image quality problem, leaving two cameras in operation.
 
I mentioned that the 30-second exposure was a stretch and that is what happens to the stars at this focal length, exposure duration, and imaging sensor pixel density combination. They get stretched.
 
A blur is created when details in an image move across pixels on the imaging sensor, regardless of the reason why that happens. As we all know, due to the earth's rotation, stars are moving across the frame when the camera is in a fixed position. The longer the exposure, the more they are magnified (longer focal length lens) and the higher pixel density the imaging sensor has, the more that star blur will be visible at the pixel level.
 
Note that when final images are viewed and compared, the imaging sensor's pixel density-caused blur becomes equalized. For example, if you are printing at 8" x 12", the pixel density factor no longer matters in regards to the star trail blur created by two different resolution, equal-sensor-sized cameras.
 
Also, note that not all stars move at the same rate relative to the camera position. For example, the North Star (Polaris) does not move at all. If you are primarily including the northern sky in the frame, you might be able to use longer exposures than if your camera was directed west, east or up. There are star blur rules that can be helpful, but photography skills rule. Analyze your results as soon as they are captured and make adjustments as needed.
 
I mentioned having 4 of my favorite star lenses along with me. They are my favorites, but the perfect star lens, at least from a lens in the realm of affordability for most individuals, does not exist. All lenses have at least some issue keeping them from reaching perfection and corner performance is typically their biggest limiting factor.
 
This image was captured with the Sigma 14mm f/1.8 DG HSM Art Lens. It is a great choice for this purpose.
 
For star photography, ultra-wide angles are helpful for taking in a greater area of the sky and allowing longer exposures before star trails become visible, though ultra-wide angles produce rather small stars. Ultra-wide apertures (that produce sharp enough image quality to be used) create a brighter image in less time or at a lower ISO setting. The Sigma 14mm Art lens has those two features.
 
The worst case: even if the entire night's shoot was a failure, just hanging out under a starry sky would be totally worth the time and effort.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 4/27/2019 8:27:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, April 26, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
As I have gotten older, I have come to appreciate the many benefits of being well organized. Why is that? Far too often, I have experienced the consequences resulting from not being very well organized or thorough in my planning. And that's an ideal segue into the following story.
 
Our small family was planning on spending the long Easter holiday weekend with some friends and their two kids in Gerton, NC (about 17 miles southeast of Asheville, NC). As I contemplated what photography equipment to bring, my wife advised me that the Honda CRV we would be taking was going to be very full, so I needed to "think carefully" about how much camera equipment I brought along. Typically speaking, I like to bring the kitchen sink, so to speak, when photography is on the agenda. But in this case, there wouldn't be room in the car for the I-maaaaay-use-that type of gear I typically bring along.
 
Knowing that the gear I packed had to be versatile enough to capture indoor/candid portraiture as well as landscapes/waterfalls didn't make the job any easier, especially since I wanted to also bring some off-camera flash gear to take formal portraits of our hosts' kids (as well as my own, possibly) if given the opportunity. So, here's what I packed into a medium-sized photography backpack the night before we set off:
 
I knew I wouldn't be shooting enough to exhaust the two camera batteries stored in the camera's battery grip, so there was no need to bring the LC-E6 battery charger. I considered bringing an LCD Loupe and a rocket blower, but there wasn't enough room in the bag and I thought I could make do without them.
 
In addition to the backpack, I also stowed the following lighting gear in another part of the automobile:
 
At this point, sharp-eyed observers might have noticed a vital omission from the items I packed if I wanted to use the off-camera lighting gear. However, I didn't notice what I had forgotten until we were all eating dinner the first evening of the trip. For some reason, I was going through the gear I had packed in my head when it hit me. I turned to my wife and said in astonishment, "I forgot to bring my radio trigger and the 5D III doesn't feature a pop-up [master] flash. The off-camera flash gear I brought is completely useless."
 
Of course, "completely useless" was a bit of an exaggeration, as I could still use the flash on-camera and bounce it off a neutral colored surface if shooting indoors. But in essence, forgetting the tiny radio trigger meant that I had packed several of the items in vain, a frustrating revelation to say the least.
 
Thankfully, the first floor of the house where we were staying had a large bank of windows that provided ample soft light in the family/dining room and kitchen areas of the house, as evidenced by the picture atop this post and the one below.
 
Easter 2019 Gerton NC Trip 2

Next door to our weekend home was an old abandoned house. It was the kind of location that made me miss having the ability to use off-camera flash, but we found a few areas to utilize the light that was available.
 
Easter 2019 Gerton NC Trip Abandoned House 1

 
Easter 2019 Gerton NC Trip Abandoned House 2

So while my lack of proper planning certainly left some photo opportunities on the table (or at least impove on what could be captured with available light), it certainly wasn't a devastating mistake (this time).
 
However, the mistake did get me thinking about how I could avoid a similar issue in future photography outings. The simplest solution – a checklist system – seemed to be an adequate solution to the problem. Of course, there are many types of photography, with different subjects requiring different types of gear. With that in mind, I've put together a few sample checklists that you may want to use as starting point when packing for your next photo adventure.
 
Always Bring
 
  • DSLR/Mirrorless Camera(s) with at least (1) lens, memory card(s) and a sufficiently charged battery (or batteries)
  • Color calibration target (i.e., ColorChecker Passport)
Portraiture, Natural Light Checklist
 
  • General purpose or prime lens
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Filter wrenches
  • Reflector
  • LCD loupe
  • Camera strap
Portraiture, Flash Checklist
 
  • General purpose and/or prime lens(es)
  • Flash(es)
  • Extra flash batteries
  • Proprietary flash trigger (for flash units with built-in receivers)
  • Radio Trigger (or Transceiver)
  • Radio Receiver (or Transceiver) for every flash + backup
  • Triggering cables
  • Hot shoe/cold shoe adapters
  • Extra batteries for trigger/receiver
  • Light Meter
  • Flash gels
  • Light stands
  • Super Clamp and Justin Clamp (for attaching the flash to different surfaces)
  • Umbrella swivels
  • Modifiers - soft box, umbrella, beauty dish, grid
  • Sand bags
  • Neutral Density filters (useful if flashes are not capable of high-speed sync)
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Filter wrenches
  • Gaffer tape
Landscape/Cityscape Checklist
 
  • General purpose and wide-angle lenses
  • Tripod with head (ensure the camera has the appropriate plate/means for attaching to the head)
  • Neutral Density filters – variable, 10-stop and/or graduated
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Filter wrenches
  • Rain cover (for both the camera and the camera bag)
  • Intervalometer (if not a built-in feature of the camera)
  • LCD loupe
Architecture/Real Estate Checklist
 
  • Camera with high-end exposure bracketing
  • Ultra-wide, wide angle and/or tilt-shift lens
  • Tripod
  • Possibly off-camera lighting gear (see "Portraiture, Flash")
Sports Checklist
 
  • Camera with advanced AF, light flicker detection, fast continuous burst rate and a large buffer
  • General purpose and telephoto/telephoto zoom lens
  • Monopod and/or camera strap
  • Circular Polarizer
  • Filter wrenches
  • Rain cover (for both the camera and the camera bag)
  • LCD loupe
Make your checklists now so that they're ready when you need them, and keep your lists updated as you find additional items necessary for your particular endeavors. Doing so will help you avoid forgetting a vital piece of gear and the resulting embarrassment/frustration caused by the slip-up.
Post Date: 4/26/2019 9:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, April 25, 2019
While it is always great to photograph a beautiful sunset, better is to find a way to create sunset images that are different from the hordes of others in my archives. A silhouette often makes a good sunset image differentiator, adding a little something to the image, and in this case, a tiki torch hints at the location the image was captured at.
 
Note that sunsets do not always have to be in focus. To mix things up a bit, I decided that I wanted the tiki torch and its flame to be sharp with the background going out of focus. Thus, a wide aperture was selected. The wide aperture had the secondary purpose of enabling a flame-freezing shutter speed.
 
The composition decisions for this image were made primarily for overall balance in the frame. The tiki torch is dark and heavy, so placing it near the center was helpful for balance. I wanted the torch flame in the frame along with the other flame, the sun, along and the color surrounding it was another subject of primary interest. With the latter seeming stronger than the prior, moving the tiki torch slightly to the right seemed to make sense. Keeping the perimeter of the frame clear of lines often helps keep the viewer's eye in the frame.
 
As the flame was changing rapidly, I captured a burst of images and later selected the flame shapes I liked best.
 
The Canon EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens are a perfect walkaround combination. The camera and lens used to capture this image were on loan, but I eventually added this pair to my personal kit.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
88mm  f/4.0  1/400s
ISO 100
6720 x 4480px
Post Date: 4/25/2019 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, April 24, 2019
For wildlife photography, timing, in a variety of ways, is critical.
 
The time of the year is one timing factor. In Shenandoah National Park, spring brings bright green foliage and these adorable whitetail fawns.
 
Another timing factor is where the animal is at the moment it is photographed. That timing involves determining (guessing) where the animal is going next, determining an ideal photo position in that path, being the right distance away for framing and composition purposes, and being ready when (OK, if) they get there.
 
This time, the timing worked and this image of a fawn against a bed of green was the reward.
 
Often, wildlife looks best when photographed with a camera that is level for both tilt and roll. The tilt part means getting the camera at the animal's level and when the animal is small (and not at a higher elevation than you), that means getting down low. Photographing from a low position is not always the most comfortable, but the effort is usually worth it and the images taken with a downward angle are often deemed not good enough after some level captures are on the card.
 
In this example, the low green foliage permitted a level position, but a compromise is sometimes needed if visual obstructions become an issue.
 
Fawns are constantly moving and a monopod lets me adjust the height very quickly while trying to photograph them.
 
There is still room for you on the "Whitetail Fawns and Much More", Shenandoah National Park Instructional Photography Tour. All skill levels are welcome!
 
Sun, June 9 to Wed, June 12, 2019 and/or Wed, June 12 - Sat, June 15, 2019
 
Email me at Bryan@Carnathan.com to sign up or ask questions!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 4/24/2019 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, April 23, 2019
Unless you are a local, Bowers Beach in Bowers, DE, referred to as sleepy fishing village (population about 335), is probably not on your radar. That this town and beach border the Murderkill River, north of Slaughter Beach, surely does not help spur interest.
 
Exploring with a camera is one of my favorite things to do and late on this day, I ended up on the very peaceful Bowers Beach at low tide. With the Delaware Bay drawn back, the low angle light emphasized the ripples left in the sand. Those ripples consumed my attention for the last hour of direct sunlight.
 
The Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens mounted on a Sony a7R III were perfect for walking around the beach. For each image, I selected an aperture that would keep all details in the frame sharp (commonly f/11) and focused roughly 1/3 into the depth of the image. I varied the focal length, the camera height, and the camera's up/down angle while trying out a variety of ripple locations on the beach.
 
When the right set of ripples are found, there seems to be endless compositions available. That of course creates a selection challenge during post processing. For this set, I simply picked one image I liked and archived the rest of the RAW files.
 
Images of patterns are seldom among my most-liked social shares, but ... I love them. They are great for interior decorating and they work very well as backgrounds for various media.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
28mm  f/11.0  1/50s
ISO 100
7952 x 5304px
Post Date: 4/23/2019 7:30:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, April 21, 2019
It was an early morning in Crested Butte, Colorado and the sky was dark, heavily overcast and quite uninspiring. Then the clouds rolled away and suddenly there was bright light bringing life to the fall-colored aspens.
 
I was primarily shooting with the Canon EOS R and RF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens this morning. As there was adequate light, shooting this combination handheld permitted rapid and significant location and composition changes as dictated by the rapidly changing light.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
58mm  f/8.0  1/100s
ISO 100
6720 x 4480px
Post Date: 4/21/2019 6:05:51 PM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, April 3, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
My wife, Alexis, rarely asks me to take a photo for her. She is generally satisfied with documenting everyday life with her smartphone, so when she asks me to photograph a particular subject, I usually take notice and fulfill the request as soon as possible. But I admit to dragging my feet a bit when my wife noticed one of her aloe plants blooming and said, "You should take a picture of that."
 
Personally speaking, I didn't find the aloe plant's bloom to be very intriguing, which is probably why I didn't immediately rush to photograph it. It doesn't feature colorful petals or otherwise interesting elements that typically make blooms ideal photographic subjects. To my eye, the aloe bloom's shape reminds me of a tall, thin pine tree, a not-very-compelling subject, especially considering the background context provided by my back yard (again, not very photogenic). However, when my wife sent me a reminder the following morning, "You should take a pic of that aloe bloom!," her use of an exclamation point was a clear sign that she was very serious about the suggestion. So, I dropped what I was doing to satisfy her request.
 
To photograph the bloom, I moved the aloe plant's pot from the back porch to a spot in the yard where sunlight would be hitting the bloom but not the background, allowing me to use the difference in luminosity to make the subject stand out. With the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro mounted to my Canon EOS 5D Mark III, I also used a wide f/2.8 aperture and a distant background to further accentuate the subject/background separation. Other than moving the plant (which was actually quite cumbersome and somewhat heavy), the image was relatively simple to capture. I proudly sent her the result of my efforts, having precisely fulfilled her request.
 
Aloe Plant Bloom Sean Setters March 2019

Her reaction, "Where's the rest of the plant?," left me a bit perplexed.
 
First, she hadn't asked for a photo of the plant with the bloom. She had twice asked for a picture of the bloom. Plus, from my perspective, the plant doesn't change very much day-to-day. If she wants to see the plant, she can just open back door and walk the 10 paces to its home on the porch. The bloom was what made the plant different from its typical appearance, that is what she asked me to photograph and that is indeed what I documented.
 
But that's not what she – in this case, the client – wanted. And if I had been more inquisitive from the get-go, I would have had more context and could have discerned exactly what she desired in the image. As it turns out, this particular aloe plant used to be her grandmother's who passed away a couple of years ago. And in all the years her grandmother owned the plant, the family had never known it to bloom. So while the bloom was indeed special, the plant itself garnered feelings of great sentiment, giving the bloom much more important context.
 
After realizing exactly what my wife wanted, I dragged the plant into my studio for a formal portrait session involving three studio lights, two shoe-mount flashes and my favorite mottled gray collapsible background. So why not photograph the plant outside? Because the increased camera-to-subject distance would require an increased subject-to-background distance to achieve a similar background blur, and the background distance, in this case, wasn't variable. I was already using nearly the full width of my backyard when I photographed the isolated bloom; photographing the whole plant would have left the backyard – including my neighbor's house and fence – too recognizable.
 
The resulting studio image can be seen below.
 
Aloe Plant with Bloom Sean Setters March 2019

She was much happier with my second attempt at capturing "the bloom."
 
Of course, the initial failure to capture what my wife really wanted did not have devastating consequences as I was able to rectify the situation with another (more complex) photo shoot the following day. However, the lesson learned from this ordeal is quite clear, and it will surely pay more tangible dividends down the line. Don't take seemingly simple requests at face value; always dig deeper to ascertain the precise needs of your client, potentially avoiding the wasted time, effort, frustration – and dissatisfaction – resulting from not fulfilling those needs the first time around.
Post Date: 4/3/2019 7:30:55 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, March 20, 2019
The rut is the perfect time to get great bull elk poses. This bull was without a harem but staying close to a larger bull that has one. These satellite bulls are constantly watching for their opportunities to move in.
 
What is the best technique for composing an image of an entire animal? While this answer can quickly become complicated and is situationally dependent, a simple strategy that often works is to center the entire animal in the frame and open up to the side it is looking toward. In this example, the elk is looking almost straight at me, but with its head angled slightly toward the right of the frame, adding weight to that side, I positioned the elk slightly to the left of center to create an overall balance.
 
Picture yourself here! As recently shared, I have added a second week for the Rocky Mountain National Park workshop. Photographers at all skill levels are invited to join!
 
"Bull Elk in Rut and Much More", Rocky Mountain National Park
 
  • 2 openings: Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21
  • Possibly 1 opening: Sun, September 22 to Sat, September 28
  • Wait List or Sign Up for next year
Contact me to sign up!
 
Photographers at all skill levels are also invited to join me for these tours:
 
"Whitetail Fawns and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, June 9 to Wed, June 12, 2019 and/or Wed, June 12 - Sat, June 15, 2019
 
"Whitetail Buck in Rut and Much More", Shenandoah National Park
 
Sun, November 10 to Wed, November 13, 2019 and/or Wed, November 13 - Sat, November 16, 2019
 
Contact me to sign up!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 3/20/2019 7:56:33 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, March 13, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
During their visit this past weekend, my wife's parents bought us an orchid that now resides on our dining room table. While we often have an orchid around the house, the intriguing pattern on this particular orchid's blooms along with its conspicuous location meant that it wouldn't take me long before I was motivated to drag it into the studio to see what I could do with it.
 
In terms of difficulty, I'd rank orchids in the medium range as far as flowering subjects go. I find flowers with deeper structures to be more difficult to capture in a captivating way, but the unique shapes found in orchid blooms, along with the blooms close proximity to one another, can make them challenging to photograph.
 
So what trait makes an orchid an excellent subject for the budding (pun intended) flower photographer? In a word – longevity.
 
Typically speaking, an orchid will bloom once or twice a year and those blooms will last anywhere from 2-4 months. To put that into perspective, a rose bloom typically lasts only about a week (to be fair, though, some rose plants bloom repeatedly). Even the low end of an orchid's longevity range provides a busy photographer with ample opportunities to photograph the plant before its blooms disappear. In fact, one of the busiest photographers I know often uses orchids in the sample photos of his reviews.
 
For the image atop this post, I used a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 USM Macro Lens set to f/8, 1/160 sec, ISO 100. I captured 19 incrementally focused frames using Magic Lantern's Focus Stacking feature (use Magic Lantern at your own risk – the Canon EOS RP has a focus bracketing feature built-in). The lighting was provided by two radio triggered studio lights placed to the left and right of the camera (the right one was behind the subject) with gridded strip boxes.
 
For a larger resolution version of the image, check out my Flickr photostream.
Post Date: 3/13/2019 8:30:30 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, March 12, 2019
For easy portrait lighting, simply find a window without direct sunlight shining through it. In this example, the model is holding a sheer curtain over the window to eliminate background distractions that would otherwise be visible behind her.
 
While it may seem that the ultra-light, compact, extremely affordable Canon EOS RP would not make sense behind the large, heavy, ultra-high-end Canon RF 28-70mm f/2L USM Lens, this combo worked extremely well together. Servo AF with eye-detection was used for this entire shoot with near-perfect results.
 
Save money on the camera to make the lens more affordable? Save weight in the camera to offset some weight of the lens?
 
Camera and Lens Settings
70mm  f/2.0  1/125s
ISO 100
6240 x 4160px
Post Date: 3/12/2019 7:53:05 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, March 10, 2019
These adorable little fawns were playfully bounding all around and then stopped in an ideal location to check me out. Few animals are cuter than whitetail fawns.
 
With the fawns beyond the idea 400mm range, it was great to have the 1.4x extender available with only a throw of the switch. There would not have been time to mount an external 1.4x extender in this situation.
 
Are you joining me to photograph these beautiful creatures (and likely black bear) in "Shenandoah National Park this June? We'll have a great time looking for these subjects, learning photography, and more than a little gear talk is likely. Also check out my other Instructional Photo Tours.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
560mm  f/5.6  1/1250s
ISO 2000
4057 x 2704px
Post Date: 3/10/2019 7:05:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, March 7, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
With the sun shining, not a cloud in the sky and the local vegetation finally awakening from its wintry slumber, I thought it would be a good time to venture out with my Super Color IR-converted EOS 7D to see what I could find. Not wanting to stray too far from home, I ended up at a nearby defunct dairy farm where – fun fact – they filmed a couple of scenes from the movie Forrest Gump. One of the greatest things about having a camera in your hands is that it feels like a you have passport for exploration, sparking the impulse for embarking on new adventures.
 
Unfortunately, my exploration on this day revealed that the area is not as scenic as it was at the time the movie was filmed. A nearby dike failed many years ago flooding the low-lying areas with salt water, killing many of the trees such as the one above, the catalyst for my spending a few minutes capturing its curvy branches in isolation against a distant background and rich, blue sky. I had originaly planned on desaturating the yellow tones so that the vegetation would appear white (the more traditional IR look I had in mind when setting off from my studio), but doing so resulted in the tree no longer standing out as well, so I instead opted to leave the grass and shrubs yellow after switching the red and blue color channels (more IR image processing in the IR Conversion Review).
 
You can find a higher resolution sample of this image on my Flickr Photostream.
Post Date: 3/7/2019 9:05:31 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, March 6, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
Years ago, you could expect good reasonable customer service from almost any photography gear manufacturer. Today, however, that isn't necessarily the case. Therefore, we like to draw attention to companies that offer more than just great products, but seem to go above and beyond the competition to support their customers' needs.
 
Today's case in point: Matthews Studio Equipment.
 
Backstory
 
I recently posted an image of a surfer taken at nearby Tybee Island. While I experienced many technical difficulties during that session, one thing I didn't mention was what I noticed as I loading up the car and getting ready to leave. After brushing the sand off the Matthews Maxi Kit Steel Stand I had been using, I placed it in the trunk of my car. As the light stand hit my trunk, sand started pouring out one of the legs. That's when I realized an end cap on one of the light stand's legs was missing. After all of the frustration I had endured throughout the session, I didn't really feel like combing the beach to find my missing end cap. Regardless, back to the beach I went.
 
The rising tide which had been encroaching on our shooting location shortly before packing up had erased the telltale signs of the exact spot where my light stand had been. There was no hope of finding the relatively small plastic end cap, assuming it had been lost on the beach and not somewhere else before I had arrived. I gave up after only a few minutes of aimless searching.
 
Once I arrived home, I immediately put a ring of gaffer tape around the leg that was missing an end cap to alert me of the missing accessory which could result in a scratched surface if the stand were used on certain types of flooring. While doing so prevented me from using the stand on a floor where it may cause damage (wood, tile, etc.), the gaffer tape obviously didn't fix the problem. What I needed was another end cap.
 
My Experience with Matthews Studio Equipment's Customer Service
 
When I called the Matthews Studio Equipment phone number, an operator answered the phone and asked which department I would like to be connected with. First off, an actual operator answering the phone was a refreshing change from the typical automated answering service that I end up screaming at in vain before my call is finished. I told the operator my problem, and she politely said, "You need the parts department. I'll connect you now." Well, that was easy enough. Unfortunately, with Matthews Studio Equipment being in California, it was roughly lunchtime when I called and no one answered. However, the mailbox message requested that I leave my name and phone number and that someone would call me back, which I did.
 
Fast forward to the end of the California workday (5:00pm their time, 8:00pm Eastern Time) and I get a call from Stuart in the Matthews Parts Department. I told him that I needed the end cap for a Matthews Maxi Kit Steel Stand, part #387485 because one of mine was missing. He said, "Ok. I have a few of those right here. What's your email? I'll need you to send me your mailing address."
 
At this point, I'm a bit confused. I realize the plastic end caps for my light stand are probably not an expensive accessory, but I'm wondering when he's going to tell me the price of the items, how much shipping will be and how exactly I will pay for the desired gear. I assume all the details will be in the soon-to-arrive email. A few minutes later, Stuart's email arrived with no subject line and a simple "Hello" in the body, to which I replied with my address and the following:
Just let me know how much I owe you and the preferred method of payment and I'll make it happen.
His reply came the following morning right as the California workday began.
Hello Sean
 
I will mail these out to you today free of charge. No payment needed.
 
Have a good day
Again, I realize these end caps (they sent a set of 3) weren't expensive items. In fact, shipping them to me likely cost as much (if not more) than what a company might typically charge for them. But that's not the point. When you purchase high quality products from a well-known and well-respected manufacturer like Matthews Studio Equipment, you get the type of customer service that their reputation is built upon. Yes, their equipment is priced a little higher than its competitor's products, but you'll likely find dealing with Matthews' customer service to be easier/more pleasant than dealing with the customer service department of a competing (cheaper) brand based in different part of the world. And even if those other brands offer similar customer service, it's highly unlikely that a replacement part coming from – for example, Asia – will arrive as quickly as one coming from California (for USA citizens, at least).
 
My replacement feet arrived a few days later. My light stand is now whole again, and I take comfort in knowing that Matthews Studio Equipment's reputation for excellence and commitment to its customers is well earned.
 
For your light stand and other studio equipment needs, Matthews gear should be at the top of your short list. They'll take care of you.
 Saturday, March 2, 2019
Just add water, because water usually makes an image better.
 
I was staying ahead of this bull and his harem in a large meadow for perhaps 30 minutes when we arrived at a small pond that I didn't even know existed. At the other side of the pond (my side) was a tall, steep bank down to a stream at the bottom. While determining if this bull's nose-up threatening pose was meant for me or the cows he was tending, I captured a large number of frames with the 600mm focal length quickly becoming too long. Just as I was about to go down the bank, the bull turned back to the cows and the opportunity stayed alive.
 
It was a hot morning and the elk were cooling themselves in the water. Especially fun was that some of the calves were using their hooves to splash water onto their backs. It was an awesome experience.
 
Due to additional interest in the Rocky Mountain National Park Instructional Photo Tour, an additional set of 2019 dates has been added. Can you go from Sun, September 15 to Sat, September 21, 2019?! The rut should be going strong. Let me know ASAP!
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
Post Date: 3/2/2019 8:38:48 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, February 27, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
Being a surfer enthusiast in Savannah, GA is a rough life; the waves found along Tybee Island (the nearest beach) are rarely conducive to "hanging ten." Such is the story of Dagny, someone who loves to surf but rarely finds conditions here favorable for her pursuit. On this day, however, the waves were "ok" and Dagny had just finished about an hour of surfing along a nearby shoreline. She had obviously been having fun. I, on the other hand, had been plagued by one issue after another since arriving at the beach at 9:00am. Let me explain.
 
When I arrived at the south end of Tybee Island to meet Dagny at 9:00am, there was a fairly dense fog along the shoreline. Dagny wanted to do some surfing but also wanted a picture, so the first question to answer was, "Which do we do first?" Since the waves were looking good to Dagny and the fog was looking questionable from a photographic standpoint, I told her to go ahead and surf and I would signal to her when I was ready to start shooting. This would allow me time to scout out a suitable location, set up my lighting gear and hopefully give the fog some time to clear. In hindsight, telling Dagny to hit the waves ahead of our shoot had another great benefit; it allowed me time to methodically work through the problems I was destined to face without having an increasingly impatient subject stare on with resentment for stealing her away from the best waves of the day.
 
When shooting at the beach, I generally prefer to transport only the items I intend on actually using to the sandy location. This approach lessens the amount of cleanup necessary once the shoot is finished. However, a downside of this technique is that if technical issues are experienced, one is required to go all the way back to the car to retrieve backup items. As I would come to realize, that's a pretty major downside.
 
After scouting out a good location on the beach, I went back to my car in a [relatively] nearby parking lot to plan out my gear needs. At that time, it was still quite foggy and I was unsure if it would clear completely before we started shooting. I decided that limiting the amount of space between the subject and me would be a good idea for optimal contrast. Therefore, I opted for a Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens on my Canon 5D Mark III instead of the Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM Lens I had originally planned on using.
 
Backup #1 [Lens]: Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens (for Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM)
 
To allow me to shoot at my max flash sync speed (for these studio strobes, that's 1/160 sec), I put a 4-stop neutral density filter on the lens knowing that it wouldn't be enough density to allow me to use a wide-open aperture at my base ISO (100), but it would allow me to use a wider aperture than I would have been able to without the ND filter in place.
 
I'm always leery about using a softbox and/or umbrella on the beach because, even with sand bags in use, the large surface area of those modifiers can cause significant problems when wind is added to the equation. However, I love the soft light I get with softboxes and umbrellas, so they are generally my first choices if the weather allows for their safe use. The beach wasn't as windy as it has been in the past, but... I still didn't think it was a good idea to attach what amounts to a sail to my light stand. Therefore, I opted to mount a Mola Demi Beauty Dish (with Opal Diffuser) to my White Lightning X3200 studio strobe, powered by a battery pack. The 22" diameter, sturdy metal modifier has proven to be a solid choice in the past in windy conditions, so I was glad I brought it.
 
Backup #2 [Modifier]: Mola Demi Beauty Dish (for Medium/Large Soft Box or Parabolic Umbrella)
 
After transporting my light stand, studio strobe, beauty dish, battery pack, power cord, radio trigger with cord and two sand bags to the beach, I plugged everything in, turned on the battery pack/strobe/radio trigger and pushed the "Test" button on my trigger to fire the strobe.
 
Nothing.
 
Ok Sean, let's work the problem. Are the trigger and receiver on the same frequency? Yes. Am I sure I turned on the trigger? It doesn't appear to be blinking (a sign that it's on). I pressed the receiver button again (which should trigger the strobe in addition to turning the unit on), but nothing happens.
 
"Ahh, the batteries in my receiver are dead."
 
So, off to the car I went. While I did have some extra batteries in the car, I chose instead to grab a different radio receiver as the batteries are somewhat difficult to replace in these things. And, back to the beach.
 
Backup #3: Radio Receiver #2 (for Radio Receiver #1)
 
With the new radio receiver plugged into the studio strobe (and blinking), and everything powered on again, I hit the test button on my trigger and... again, nothing. However, a quiet moment between the waves and various beach sounds reveals a barely audible beeping coming from my battery pack. It doesn't usually beep, so my guess is that it's trying to tell me something (later tests would reveal that my battery pack's battery had just failed). Once again, it's time to go back to the car with a nearly 20 lb battery pack so that I can return with its replacement (an identical unit).
 
Backup #4: Battery Pack #2 (for Battery Pack #1)
 
After returning to the beach with the new battery pack, plugging everything back in and turning everything back on, I hit the test fire button on my trigger.
 
Nothing.
 
This is getting old. At this point, everything I've replaced has been a validated problem. The radio receiver's batteries were dead and the unit was replaced with a working one. The battery pack's battery had failed (even though it had been charging all night). Now, even with those issues resolved, my strobe still wouldn't fire. In one last Hail Mary attempt, I dragged my White Lightning x3200 back to the car to replace it with a Whilte Lightning Ultrazap 1600 that I had also brought along.
 
Backup #5 [Studio Strobe]: White Lightning Ultrazap 1600 (for White Lightning x3200)
 
After returning to the beach with the new studio strobe, I once again plugged everything up, turned everything on and hit the test fire button.
 
Success! The flash fired just as Dagny was walking to our shooting location. She needed a break from surfing, and her timing could not have been better.
 
Camera settings for the shot atop this post were f/3.2, 1/160 sec., ISO 100 (with a 4-stop ND filter).
 
The fog had mostly cleared by the time this image was taken, so I wouldn't have technically needed to use the Sigma 50mm Art lens in place of the Canon 135mm f/2L, but I liked the view I was getting at 50mm, so I think it worked out for the best. I performed basic edits in Adobe Camera RAW and changed the color tones of the highlights and shadows and, after importing to Photoshop CC, I used the Content Aware Move Tool to reposition the three birds for better framing (they were originally more spread out and lower/closer to the left edge of the frame). I also used the Content Aware Healing brush to remove a very long zipper pull that was flapping in the wind.
 
If you'd like to see what it was like on the shoot after all the problems had been worked out, check out this behind-the-scenes video.
 

This was one of those shoots where it seemed that everything that could go wrong did go wrong. However, having a backup of everything (I also had a backup camera along) meant that I could deal with the problems that cropped up and ultimately capture an image that I was very proud of. When shooting on-location, do yourself a favor – bring a backup of every vital piece of equipment you're taking. You'll often find yourself falling back on one of your backups. And someday, you may find yourself needing a backup for everything.
 
A larger version of the image can be seen on Flickr.
Post Date: 2/27/2019 10:43:57 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, February 24, 2019
When photographing non-voice-controllable subjects, the potential of capturing all subjects in the frame with good body positions decreases exponentially with the number of subjects.
 
With a single subject, capturing a good body position is sometimes challenging but often not too difficult to accomplish. Add a second subject and the challenge doubles and it doubles again when a third subject is in the frame. While not every subject in the frame is required to have the ideal pose, it certainly helps when all have one.
 
I had been hanging with these big boys for several minutes. When enough distance separated them, it was not too hard to find individual subject poses worth photographing. When both bulls were in the frame, good opportunities became scarce with the second bull often becoming a distraction to the first.
 
Photographing groups of animals includes increased challenge, but that challenge serves to make the rewards of success higher.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
600mm  f/4.0  1/160s
ISO 640
7667 x 5111px
Permalink: Double Bull Elk
Post Date: 2/24/2019 7:19:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 19, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
Holidays offer great opportunities for gift giving and flowers, although possibly a bit cliché, are still very often appreciated, which is why a bouquet of flowers has been sitting on our living room hutch since Valentine's Day. But while flowers are intended to be enjoyed by the recipient, there's no reason why we as photographers can't take advantage of the beautiful subjects at hand to add some colorful floral images to our portfolios.
 
A few evenings ago after my wife had retired for the evening, I took her bouquet into the studio to try one of my favorite techniques for photographing flowers – focus stacking. After perusing the options available in the bouquet, I settled on a type of flower that I've photographed before, a type of Peruvian lily. The colorful, elongated spots found on the leaves as well as the easily visible inner structures of these flowers make them ideal candidates for photographing.
 
I set up my Canon EOS 5D Mark III and Canon EF 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM + 36mm extension tube on a sturdy tripod and Arca-Swiss Z1 ball head set to f/9, 1/160 sec, ISO 100 and tried several compositions with the Peruvian lily that caught my eye. A studio flash on each side of the bouquet provided the light required for a proper exposure at those settings, and Magic Lantern's Focus Stacking feature was used to increment focus for the focus bracketed images. After capturing all of the variations, I brought the images into Canon's Digital Photo Professional to see which one (or ones) might work well for further processing. Finding a series that I really liked, I opened the relevant RAW files in Helicon Focus (my preferred focus stacking software), compiled the images and output the result as a DNG.
 
Looking closer at the result in Photoshop CC, I realized that I hadn't captured enough depth-of-field in my focus bracket to fully cover the parts of the plant I wanted in focus. As such, instead of having crisp lines in places where I wanted to emphasize details, I had soft transitions that didn't seem to meld with the rest of the focus stacked image.
 
From a photographic standpoint, my attempt at a pleasing focus stack image was a failure. But then I had a moment of inspiration.
 
My wife is a huge fan of impressionist paintings. In fact, not more than a couple of weeks ago she insisted we see (aka, dragged me to) the impressionist art exhibit that was showing at the Jepson Center for the Arts ("Monet to Matisse: Masterworks of French Impressionism"). The nice thing about impressionism is that crisp details are not a notable quality of the creative movement; in the case of my image, I could use impressionism to hide the major flaw in my image. Keep in mind, rarely is an image made visually palatable if you have to "save it in post." But in this case, it seemed to work just fine.
 
After searching for several years for a Photoshop plug-in that could convincingly turn an image into a painting, I finally found Topaz Impression and never looked back. It's been an excellent find and has opened up a new door for monetizing my images. Or in this case, just saving one.
Post Date: 2/19/2019 9:16:33 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Tuesday, February 5, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
A friend of mine, Maria, who has recently become interested in photography asked if I would accompany her on a sunrise shoot. As it had been much too long since I had photographed a sunrise, I eagerly agreed. Of course, when when I awoke to my alarm clock well before sunrise on an otherwise lazy Saturday, I was considerably less eager to set off for the sunrise shoot. But, I was ready when Maria picked me up about 45 minutes before sunrise.
 
I had advised Maria to use The Photographer's Ephemeris to scout out possible locations she'd like to use for the sunrise shoot. We are fortunate to live in an area of the country that provides vast views of the sky with interesting, varied landscape options (the Atlantic Ocean, marshes, rivers, fields with oak trees, etc.) with only a short drive required to arrive at any of them. Unfortunately, time had gotten away from Maria; she had not researched any options before arriving at my door.
 
So, we drive a short while before coming to a small town, Thunderbolt, about 5 miles southeast from downtown Savannah along the Wilmington River. After seeing a nice looking dock on the right side of the road (before the upcoming overpass), I suggested we stop to photograph it before the sunrise. As we were walking the short distance to a clearing with a good vantage point, I noticed how striking the glow of the covered dock looked against the rich blue of the sky. "Blue hour," as it's commonly referred to, is the time just before sunrise and just after sunset. This time presents especially good opportunities to photograph landscapes, seascapes and cityscapes (as well as many other subjects) set against the deep blue color and hint of warm sunlight that often graces the sky just before sunrise.
 
Sunrise came not long after this shot was taken, but clouds obstructed its view making us very glad to already have our blue hour photos in the bag.
 
My advice? Take some time this week to shoot a sunrise. Even if the circumstances prove to be less than ideal from a photography perspective, the experience may prove fulfilling from a personal one. There's just something refreshing about a sunrise.
 
The shot above was created using a 7-shot exposure bracket, edited in Aurora HDR 2019 and Photoshop CC.
 
Gear Used
 
Post Date: 2/5/2019 7:47:02 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Sunday, February 3, 2019
This mother black bear had sent her cubs high up into a large pine tree and was searching for food. She kindly paused and looked in my direction at a break in the bright green foliage.
 
There are many ways to compose a wildlife image and each scenario can be different, but a technique that often works is to center the animal in the frame and then open up the frame in the direction the animal is looking. In this case, the momma black bear was looking straight toward me and its near-centered position works well. I left a slightly more room around the bear on the right side as there is a very slight head turn and the tall green plants on the right helped balance and frame the image.
 
The color, or lack thereof, of black bears is a challenge for cameras' auto exposure systems with overexposure being the frequent outcome. A manual exposure is often best.
 
Joining me for the Shenandoah National Park workshop this June?
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/4.0  1/640s
ISO 4000
3533 x 2355px
Post Date: 2/3/2019 7:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, January 31, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
Several years ago I started snapping pictures of various objects with unique, interesting looking textures and patterns which I would place in an appropriately named "Textures" folder on my hard drive. The purpose of this folder was to have a personal collection of images I could pull from whenever I wanted to create an image with an overlay. And while I don't utilize the images in my textures collection very often, I'm really glad that I have texture/overlay options available whenever an image looks like it would benefit from an additional layer of interest.
 
Below are just some of the images in my Textures folder. Looking at the file names, they were all likely captured on the same outing with the camera.
 
Sean's Textures Folder

There are lots of everyday items that can provide an interesting texture for an image overlay. As evidenced by the screenshot above, wood, tree bark, gravel, tiles, fences, concrete/pebbled sidewalks, brick walls and mud/dirt are just a few of the options that are likely only a short walk away from your front door. If it's a rainy day, you might consider photographing all the interesting textures and patterns that are right inside your home. Old/crinkled paper, patterned fabrics and wallpaper are just a few of the indoor options I can think of.
 
So which awesome image did I use to create the texture in the image above? That would be this one.
 
Sean Setters Pavement Texture

From a photographic point of view, the image above is as lackluster as a photo can be. It's a snapshot, and the subject (old pavement) is quite boring on its own. But when you adjust its levels/contrast in Photoshop, the difference between the light and dark areas is accentuated and the pattern becomes much more interesting.
 
Processing the Image
 
To get the image above, I added the texture layer to the top of my already-edited portrait photo in Photoshop CC and proceeded through the following steps:
 
  • Changed texture layer blend mode from "Normal" to "Linear Burn."
  • Added a Curves adjustment layer to the texture layer (using ALT+dragging the adjustment layer over portrait layer to create a clipping mask so that the adjustment layer only affects the texture layer).
  • Adjusted the texture layer's blending properties (by double clicking on layer) so that it would not appear in the darkest areas of the underlying portrait layer. By ALT+left clicking the "Blend If - Underlying Layer" slider adjustment, I feathered the blend.
  • Added a mask to the texture layer and lessened its visibility over parts of the face using a black brush at various opacities.
To see a larger resolution sample of the image, click on the picture atop this post.
 
Do you already have a textures collection? If so, what items have you saved in it that I didn't mention above?
Post Date: 1/31/2019 9:50:17 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Friday, January 25, 2019
The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III Lens is all about speed and fast-moving subjects ideal for the 400mm focal length are scarce in my location right now. The race cars are all being re-built in preparation for the next season. With a layer of snow on the ground, outdoors sports are in the off-season. The ski slopes benefit from the snow, but the closest is hours away. The horses, however, are always ready for some galloping and provide a convenient subject for an AF performance testing session.
 
This American quarter horse's name is "Nugget", as in "gold nugget", referencing the coat color. "Gold" also reflects the parent's perspective of what it costs to keep a horse. The positive in this investment is that the kid's have had to do most of the horse maintenance work, teaching them responsibility and how to work hard. The horses are of course fast and fast makes them good focus performance test subjects. An added benefit of such testing is some nice pics of the kid(s), as long as the camera and lens perform well of course.
 
And to that matter, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III Lens combo performed stellarly. They performed so well that they created a bit of a problem. It took forever to go through the well-over-2,000 images captured in this session as most were keeper-grade. With a great camera and lens, one's brain needs to be retrained to be OK with deleting really nice images. I keep telling myself that.
 
With steady lighting conditions (solid clouds), the setup for this shot was easy. Using manual mode, the shutter was set to 1/1600, a setting that I know works well for freezing galloping/cantering horse and similar action. The aperture was set to f/2.8 to let in as much light as possible and to create the strongest background blur possible. Having the shallowest depth of field possible also emphasizes the AF precision. The ISO was then adjusted until the snow was slightly overexposed, causing the brightest areas to blink while reviewing test images on the LCD. With the exposure locked in, I could concentrate on composition.
 
The AF mode was of course set to AI Servo (continuous) and the top-center AF point was selected with the surrounding points assisting (the horse bounces a lot, making it difficult to keep a single point on the rider's head).
 
While this camera and lens combination is handholdable, shooting it from a monopod is still more comfortable (especially for long shooting sessions) and doing so made tracking the subject easier.
 
Nugget was not moving very fast in this frame, but I liked the heavily-clouded sky in the background, making the subject pop with a bit of a high-key look. Note that snow is a great reflector and gives images a different look, usually in a positive way. I'll share other images of this horse in fast motion in the review. Some of these images will show another way this lens can make the subject pop – by strongly blurring the background.
 
A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.
 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/2.8  1/1600s
ISO 400
3648 x 5472px
Post Date: 1/25/2019 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, January 24, 2019
by Sean Setters
 
Before I delve into my new appreciation for the 35mm focal length, let me first explain why I've never really savored using the 35mm focal length (until now). Typically speaking, I'm either shooting portraiture in a studio with a small, carefully selected backdrop or outdoors where my goal is to minimize any background distractions. In these situations, longer telephoto primes (or a 70-200mm f/2.8 zoom) are helpful in capturing a frame filling subject while blurring the background to oblivion. But there are times when a larger scene needs to be documented, such as when the subject's environment provides a desired context.
 
This past December my wife and I spent a weekend in Atlanta celebrating Christmas with my extended family before heading off to New Orleans for two weeks to celebrate Christmas with her family. For both trips, I packed the following camera and lenses (as well as a few accessories) in a Lowepro shoulder bag:
 
You probably noticed a pattern in my selected lenses – they're all primes. While packing, I reasoned that most of my photographic opportunities over the holidays would be indoors, often in relatively low light situations. The wide apertures available in these primes meant that I wouldn't have to rely on a shoe-mount flash to obtain my desired image brightness level while employing action stopping shutter speeds at low-to-moderate ISOs (for optimal image quality).
 
In theory, having a wide range of focal lengths covered sounded reasonable. In practice, however, I used one lens about 95% of the time – the Canon EF 35mm f/2 IS USM. And that got me wondering, "Why does a 35mm prime lens work so well for holiday family photography?"
 
Abby Holding OJ Christmas 2018

A 35mm prime lens provides an angle of view that can highlight a subject while providing vital environmental clues that give the photos context. The background blur a 35mm lens prime lens is capable of helps to isolate the subject, yet the background is still more or less recognizable enough to place the subject firmly in that particular scene. And when it comes to family holiday photography, background details such as the decorated tree, food and other family and friends in the room help to document the holiday spirit that resonated at the time.
 
Vicky Christmas 2018

The 35mm lens distorts subjects less (with the same framing) than a 24mm lens, especially when your subject is placed near the edge of the frame. And while a 50mm lens can be used for holiday photography, the relatively small rooms I was photographing in and the close proximity of my subjects meant that a 35mm lens simply worked better for capturing the bigger picture. The highlight of the trip was Alexis' family's decorating of the Christmas tree. For them, the tree decorating event is bigger and celebrated more fervently than Christmas Day, and my 35mm prime lens helped me capture it all.
 
Vicky Phone Christmas 2018

Besides holiday photos, a 35mm prime lens can be extremely useful for wedding, indoor event, documentary and street photography, predominately for the same reasons as listed above. The birth of my daughter was another instance where a 35mm prime was one of my most-used lenses over a several day period. While I may not have been a huge fan of 35mm prime lenses in the past, a 35mm prime has quickly become one of the most important – and most used – lenses in my kit.
 
If you don't already have a 35mm prime lens in your kit, now would be a great time to investigate the options found below.
 
Relevant Information
 
Post Date: 1/24/2019 8:14:06 AM CT   Posted By: Sean
 Wednesday, January 23, 2019
My apologies if I missed an important keyword in that title.
 
Regardless of what the event was named, the show was spectacular. I hope that you were able to take it in and, even better yet, photograph it.
 
The sky visibility forecast for everywhere within a long drive provided little hope of this eclipse being viewable. Unexpectantly, the problem, remnants of a significant winter storm, began to move out just in time and the sky started to clear about an hour before the eclipse began. With the full moon peeking out of breaks in the clouds, the hope became strong enough to warrant the effort to photograph the event and I scrambled to put a plan into place.
 
Also seeming to meet the definition of spectacular were the near-zero-degree (-18° C) temperatures accompanied by very strong winds those of us in much of the east/northeast US were required to endure for 5 hours (some short indoor warm-up breaks were taken). Admittedly, the temperature made shooting through skylights from inside the house a very attractive option, but donning many layers and going outdoors became the plan. While the skies cleared beautifully for the full eclipse, the wind remained an issue and wind is an especially big stability problem when photographing with a large, long focal length lens. Setting up next to a solid fence significantly aided with this issue and also took some of the bite out of the wind chill.
 
The composition plan was easy. The moon was going to be high overhead and that meant incorporating foreground elements in the frame was going to be very challenging, so making the moon as large in the frame as possible was the choice. That meant 1200mm, a combination of a 600mm f/4 lens and a 2x teleconverter.
 
For a solid base, the UniqBall IQuick3Pod 40.4 Carbon Fiber Tripod with spiked feet installed (for use in snow) was perfect. Simply stick the spikes into the ground and use the IQuick3Pod's leveling base feature to quickly level the tripod head platform. A gimbal head makes using big, long lenses easy and the Really Right Stuff FG-02 Fluid-Gimbal Head is awesome (the RRS PG-02 is also excellent). With a level base, the gimbal-mounted lens will always be level with only tilt and pan adjustments, both very simple to make, requiring attention while tracking the moon. It is much easier to keep a tightly-framed moon centered in the frame with a gimbal head than with a ball head. Shooting at a strong upward angle can be a challenge with a gimbal mount as the camera body can impact the tripod before a high-enough angle is reached. I'll talk more about that issue soon.
 
Looking through a viewfinder with the camera directed at such a hard-upward angle is tough, but the D850's tilt LCD made subject framing easy in this situation. An angle finder is another great option for shooting upward.
 
What is the best exposure for photographing a lunar eclipse? That depends mostly on the varying brightness of the moon and that changes by season and it also changes during the eclipse. When the moon had direct sunlight reaching it, f/8 (my max aperture with this setup), 1/200 and ISO 200 with a -1 EV adjustment in post worked well. During this time, I opted to capture brackets of up to 9-stops to use for adding as much detail as desired to the dark portion of the moon during post processing. A Vello ShutterBoss II Timer Remote Switch made vibration-free capture easy.
 
Once the moon was completely in the earth's shadow, it became very dark and 1200mm exposures became very challenging. The blood moon image in the center of this frame was captured at f/8, .6 seconds and ISO 6400. Getting tack sharp details from a subject that is over 221,000 mi (356,000 km) away does not happen and these settings do not help.
 
Photographing the lunar eclipse brought back great memories of the 2017 solar eclipse (a bit ironic is that event occurred in extreme heat for many of us). A similar post-eclipse scenario now faces those of us who photographed it. We have a large number of images capturing the entire eclipse progression and want do something with them. While each individual eclipse image may be great, likely none of your friends want to see all 300 (OK, 800) of them. The friends will be interested in a partial eclipse image or two and perhaps one from totality, but then eyes glaze over and they start checking their Instagram account. Creating a lunar eclipse progression composite is a very logical way to tell the full eclipse story in a single, interesting image.
 
The method for creating the lunar eclipse progression composite is the same as that shared in the How to Create a Solar Eclipse Phase Composite Image article (skip the HDR part). The arrangement options for such a composite vary greatly. The left-to-right option shared here works well, but this unique ultra-wide aspect ratio is a bit awkward to share online and will not typically be as easily viewable/displayable as closer-to-square arrangements.
 
Also ultra is the resolution able to be created from such a composite. This one measures 52000 x 5500 pixels for a 286 MP (over SmugMug's max file dimensions limit I learned) final image (the .PSD weighs in at 3.19 GB) looking for a long hallway wall to be displayed on. Those not able to frame the moon tightly in-camera can crop heavily and still have a high resolution result from the composite technique.
 
Sure, getting images requires some effort. Getting to bed well after 2:00 AM means being tired the next day and it took about an hour under the covers to get my core temperature back up. But, at least a day or two later, only the rewards remain. The memories of this lunar eclipse, with the images to buoy them, will remain a lifetime.
 
What is the subject calling you right now? Get motivated and go for it!
 
A larger version of this image (it needs to be seen much larger) is available on Flickr or my SmugMug site.
 
Did you photograph the recent lunar eclipse? We invite you to share your images and tips below.
Post Date: 1/23/2019 8:00:00 AM CT   Posted By: Bryan
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