Photo Tips and Stories (Page 10) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 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.

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Post Date: 11/5/2019 6:30:00 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 10/29/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 10/9/2019 11:39:33 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 9/11/2019 9:06:42 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 9/10/2019 8:00:00 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 9/2/2019 9:05:38 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 8/31/2019 10:48:36 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 8/31/2019 9:53:49 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 8/30/2019 12:24:50 PM ET   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.

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Post Date: 8/16/2019 9:02:19 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 8/14/2019 12:00:00 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 8/1/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 7/25/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 7/20/2019 7:29:11 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 7/14/2019 3:12:02 PM ET   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

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Post Date: 7/10/2019 5:55:20 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 7/7/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   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.

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Post Date: 7/2/2019 12:46:56 PM ET   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
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Post Date: 6/1/2019 11:20:58 AM ET   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
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Post Date: 5/29/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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