Photo Tips and Stories (Page 8) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Sunday, June 14, 2020

Much is said about using photography to tell stories, but another great aspect of photography is creating stories. I'm not talking about deceptive reporting and the like, but setting the goal to be photos, and enjoying an adventure unfolding, the story, while capturing them.

There was an exceptionally long off-trail hike in north-central PA involving a couple of deep canyons and lots of waterfalls that I had been planning to take for a long time. The schedule for this spring looked favorable for making that adventure happen, and I selected what appeared to be the perfect waterfall photography day. The weather forecast indicated full cloud cover and some light rain could be expected.

Then my youngest daughter asked if she could go along, and after my enthusiastic, positive response, I was then asked if three of her friends could also come along. After warning them over the duration and exertion this hike entailed, all were set on going. All four of the girls were distance runners, so I expected they were physically up to the hike. They were advised to bring the appropriate gear and supplies for an entire day that could include rain, and I welcomed the additions to the adventure.

We arrived at the start location late in the morning, and a beautiful waterfall greeted us a short distance into the forest. I hurriedly set up the camera (four girls were waiting for me), established the right settings, and captured some nice images. We then bushwhacked, rock-hopped (including creek crossings), and hung on the side of very steep terrain for, according to my daughter's Garmin watch, three miles until we arrived at another impressive waterfall. I captured more images, and we ate lunch.

That was the last time the camera came out of my MindShift Gear BackLight 26L. The rain started and quickly exceeding the forecasted slight-chance volume. The sky became very dark, and the rain didn't relent until it was nearly dark out.

Waterfalls require a cliff for the water to fall over, large falls require big cliffs and the falls that we continued to encounter had larger-than-needed cliffs. Getting around waterfalls meant moving downstream a distance until the wet sides were climbable (without ropes). How steep were the canyons, and how much time did we spend on them? At the end of the adventure, the girls were complaining that their arms hurt more than their legs, a sure sign that a good adventure happened.

At about 8 miles into the hike, a key landmark was missing. I had spent hours researching the hike, but this missing landmark was a key to finishing the hike as planned. There was no signal to locate ourselves via a smartphone, so I relied on a previously downloaded topographic map and a conventional compass to continue our route. While I knew we wanted to go east, I was not precisely sure how far north we had traveled. If I didn't guess correctly, we could miss the canyon we needed to find. Hedging enough to be safe, we walked southwest across the vast, densely forested, flat mountaintop. Note that walking through such terrain under a cloudy sky without a navigational aid is a sure way to get lost.

About 2 miles into the compass-directed portion of the dark and rainy adventure, the girls were becoming nervous, and one member of our team was staying immediately behind me. Eventually, we encountered a swampy area with a little flowing water, and I relented to traveling due east following that flow as the water had to be going down into the canyon we were hunting.

After a considerable distance down the steep mountain, we arrived at the targeted creek. While there was some relief among our group, deep, forested canyons are dark, and the what if we don't make it out before dark question began to be raised — repeatedly. I assured the group that we would light up the dark (I like the Black Diamond Spot 325 Headlamp BTW), and that we had the supplies necessary to make it out.

Still, the challenge of hiking the sides of the waterfall canyons increased while the light levels decreased. Finally, I declared that everyone had to begin wading across the streams. Yes, building rock bridges was fun, but it was time-consuming, and darkness was approaching.

Amazingly, we arrived back at the first waterfall at the precise time I had guessed to the group to expect to return. My distance estimate was not quite as accurate, with the Garmin indicating 13.1 miles of distance with 3,500' (1.07 km) in elevation change. The excitement brought on by the accomplishment and relief hitting the girls simultaneously made the adventure worthwhile, and all were ready to sign up for the next adventure. Interesting is that the next day their arms were sorer than their legs — due to holding onto trees and rocks while navigating the steep terrain.

No girls were harmed in the creation of this image, but photographically, the adventure was not so productive, with most of the waterfalls being from the sky. However, I know where some great images are, and will likely return for at least a partial repeat hike.

What will your story be? Use photography as a purpose for creating a story!

Here is one of the last photos I captured on this journey: Girl on a Waterfall Adventure.


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Post Date: 6/14/2020 6:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Sean's recent Filming an ISS Transit of the Moon article reminded me to check for an upcoming locally-viewable International Space Station transit. Amazingly, there were two ISS solar transits scheduled for the next week, with my back yard being the perfect location for the alignment I wanted for both transits.

International Space Station Solar Transit Schedule

Sean's How to Photograph an International Space Station Lunar Transit article was directly applicable, with a solar filter being an additional requisite.

Only the sun was going to be illuminated in the frame, and the space station is especially small. I combined the longest focal length lens combination I have, the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens and Sony FE 2x Teleconverter, with the highest resolution ILC camera available, the Sony a7R IV. This combination was then mounted to the most solid tripod and head in my kit, the Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head on a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Carbon Fiber Tripod.

The ISS moves across the sky very rapidly, leading me to select a 1/2000 shutter speed to avoid motion blur. With the transit duration predicted to be a mere 0.52 seconds, timing the shot was crucial. From testing, I knew this camera with a V60 SDXC card loaded would capture an over-four-second burst before the buffer filled. At just under two seconds before the transit start time, I pressed and held the release button on the Vello ShutterBoss Remote Switch.

The a7R IV's high speed+ mode netted three images that included the ISS in front of the sun. That count seemed a little weak in the composite (the space stations were "spaced" too far apart), so some additional space stations were cloned into the final image.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 6/10/2020 7:17:54 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, June 5, 2020

by Sean Setters

Bruce, a site visitor, forwarded us a post by weather.com – ISS Crosses in Front of the Moon Captured in Rare Video. Coming across the weather.com post, Bruce had been reminded of an article we posted 2 years ago offering tips for photographing the International Space Station as it crosses the moon. And after seeing the video, I was eager for my own opportunity to film the ISS transiting the moon.

As luck would have it, an ISS transit of the moon visible from a location near me (about 1/2 mile away) was scheduled to occur the very next evening at 10:44 PM Eastern Time. With a calendar entry set to remind me an hour before the event, I was ready to narrow down what gear to take.

As the Canon EF 300mm f/4L IS USM is the longest telephoto lens I own, using it was an easy choice. But my previous experience photographing an ISS transit with a 300mm lens left me wanting for a longer focal length/closer view. Since then, I had picked up two key pieces of gear that would help me get a more magnified view of the moon in my video – a Canon EF 1.4x II Extender (predecessor to version III) and a Canon EOS R.

But how would an EOS R help me get a more magnified view? The 4K crop factor (1.75x), a bane to those who desire ultra-wide angles of view, is a big benefit when one is focal length deficient for a particular endeavor. The setup left me with a manageable 725mm equivalent focal length (300mm x 1.4 x 1.75).

Unfortunately, a limitation of utilizing 4K for capturing the event would be the 30 fps frame rate. I seriously considered setting the camera to high frame rate recording (120 fps), but the camera can only record at a max resolution of 720p in that mode and movie cropping (to provide a similar magnification) is unavailable. In other words, I was faced with a choice of either capturing high resolution video at a higher magnification or lower resolution video at a lower magnification but with a 4x faster frame rate (useful for creating a slow-motion effect). In the end, I opted for shooting in 4K to record the moon as large in the frame as possible with a resolution that would enable me to scale the video with decent quality.

Because it was so close to my home, I arrived at the shooting location only about 15 minutes before the event. I set up my Induro tripod, attached the EOS R to the tripod's Arca Swiss Z1 ball head, and proceeded with adjusting the camera settings accordingly. Up until that moment, I hadn't yet decided on what shutter speed strategy to use. Typically speaking, your shutter speed should be set to a reciprocal of double the frame rate (for 30 fps video, a 1/60 sec is optimal). However, I at that time I wasn't absolutely certain that I wouldn't want to slow down the 30 fps video a bit in post. Knowing that the transit would occur very quickly, I was concerned that if I did slow down the video, the ISS's fast motion would leave little of its detail remaining if using a 1/60 sec shutter speed. However, using a much faster than twice-the-reciprocal-framerate shutter speed can lead to an unnatural look. In a spur of the moment decision (and with transit time quickly approaching), I set my camera to the following settings to gain the desired exposure while maintaining a near multiple of my 30 fps frame rate: f/6.3, 1/250 sec, ISO 100.

About a minute before the transit was scheduled to take place, I hit the record button and anxiously awaited the ISS's crossing. Roughly a minute after the event time, I stopped the recording. Even though I had been watching the moon throughout the recording, I never saw the transit take place until I was processing the video in Premiere Pro a short time later.

And speaking of processing, I actually produced two versions of the video. The one below is the first option I produced. The ISS's fast motion and shape reminded me of an Imperial TIE Fighter from Star Wars, so I thought the dramatic music seemed appropriate:

However, knowing the cinematic-style music may not be for everyone, I created the second version (featured at the top of this post) with different music. I recommend watching the embedded videos full screen on the highest resolution setting using the largest display available to you. Otherwise, you may not be able to see the transit in the normal magnification portion of the video.

So which version do you prefer? Let us know in the comments.

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Post Date: 6/5/2020 6:02:09 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, May 30, 2020

That is a lot of stairs.

I previously shared a Hudson Yards Vessel image (with a longer story) but decided to add another to the RF 15-35 gallery. The Vessel is full of symmetry, and the elevator provides an eye-catching contradictory element. In the other Vessel image shared, using the elevator rails compositionally was suggested, and this image illustrates that suggestion. Aside from some background subjects and incidentals, the elevator rails are this image's only non-symmetrical element, and being different stands out.

Being different also makes the Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens a standout.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
15mm  f/16.0  10s
ISO 100
4444 x 6720px
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Post Date: 5/30/2020 9:22:26 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, May 9, 2020

Bryce Canyon National Park is awesome and Bryce Point is a great location to photograph this canyon from. This vantage point has a complete view of the Bryce Canyon amphitheater with good lighting both early and late in the day. This image was captured just before sunset with the warm late day light reflecting into the scene from the back-lit pinnacles.

Sometimes we don't get it right when we first process an image. Usually, the older the image is, the less likely we got the processing right. As our skills increase, our older work does not seem as good as it once did, and that was the case with this image.

Significant underexposure was the issue I grew to dislike the most. Truth is, I'm not really sure what I was thinking when first processing this image, but I later prefered a much brighter brighter exposure (while still managing the highlights).

Check out our full list of Stuck at Home Ideas for Photographers.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
105mm  f/10.0  1/40s
ISO 100
5616 x 3744px
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Post Date: 5/9/2020 8:59:54 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, April 29, 2020

by Sean Setters

Over the past several months I've been bolstering my video-specific kit, and those acquisitions have made a big impact on the overall quality of the home movies I'm able to produce. And each time I create one of these movies, I'm immediately reminded of the home movies my parents shot with their VHS (and then MiniDV) camcorder – shaky, with terrible sound quality, and completely unedited – the catalyst for my desire to produce videos my family will actually enjoy watching a decade (or two) from now. That's my hope, at least.

To be perfectly frank, I'm not sure if our current situation will become the "new normal" in the years ahead or if this is a once-in-a-generation type of event. Regardless, now seemed like a great time to shoot another "Day in the Life of Olivia Jane" video (previously produced version here) to document our family's life while in social isolation. To record the video embedded above, here's the gear I used:

To film video, a camera is of course required. Not long after my daughter was born, I added a Canon EOS R to my kit to gain the advantages of eye-detect AF, and it has proven to be a great investment from both a stills and video perspective. All of the gimbal shots were filmed with the EOS R + EF 40mm f/2.8 STM with the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro Microphone + windscreen in the hot shoe. Of course, the windscreen wasn't necessary indoors, but I opted to balance the setup with the windscreen on and leave it there so I wouldn't have to rebalance the gimbal when adding it for any outdoor shooting.

The tripod-based shots were captured with the Canon EOS 7D Mark II and EF 300mm f/4L IS USM + 1.4x II Extender (outdoors) or EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM (indoors). Speaking of the tripod, the Benro A373T Tripod and Manfrotto 502AH Video Head proved to be an excellent choice for this video and my overall filming needs in general. Note that I attached the SMALLRIG DBC2506 Quick Release Clamp so that I could quickly affix my camera to the tripod when desired, and an extra clamp with a plate attached to the bottom of it (which in turn is clamped into the SMALLRIG clamp) provides the ability to use a tripod foot plate that's turned 90-degrees from the camera's while also allowing for enough vertical camera clearance to properly balance the rig using the fluid head's mounting plate. This setup was particularly handy when switching between the EF 300mm f/4L IS USM and 1.4x II Extender combo and shorter lenses.

In terms of audio capture, I previously mentioned that I used the Deity V-Mic D3 Pro on the EOS R. In addition to that (and the cameras' built-in microphones), I also used two Tascam DR-10L Portable Audio Recorders – paired with tiny Polsen PL-5 microphones that were hidden on my wife and myself – to capture audio while using the telephoto lens + extender or when I wanted to include myself in the scene (we started using the Tascam recorders just after the planting scene). Also listed in the gear list above is the Zoom H2n, which I used to record an outdoor track (with birds singing) which I used as ambient sound for the scene where my wife and child are walking down the sidewalk (the lav mic didn't seem provide enough ambient context). For editing the video, I used Adobe Premiere Pro.

So that's my current setup for recording home movies. Are there any other pieces of gear you find vital for such projects? Strongly prefer a different video accessory than what I'm using? Let us know in the comments.

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Post Date: 4/29/2020 6:02:05 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Thursday, April 16, 2020

This old buck has its eyes on the doe it is pursuing.

I like some animal leg positions better than others. In this case, the lifted-high front leg and corresponding raised back leg show that the deer is in motion. When I have the mental wherewithal to time image captures with the ideal leg positions, I do. When I don't, that is what a fast frame rate is for.

While the beautiful early morning sunlight gives the image a warm look, the frost-covered whiskers indicate the true scenario. This was a very cold day. While I was functionally challenged by the heavy gloves (and my breath freezing on the camera), the Sony a7R IV worked flawlessly in these low temperatures.

It only takes a short amount of time with a great subject in a great scenario to generate a large selection of good images. Selecting a single image to share from such a situation becomes the next challenge. I opted to share two images (for now) of this buck, the other illustrating the lip curl behavior.


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Post Date: 4/16/2020 9:45:14 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, April 13, 2020

A colorful image requires a colorful subject. Where do you find a colorful subject? Look no further than your local candy store (or candy aisle in the supermarket). As a generalization, candy not sold in individual wrappers is brightly colored – eye candy inviting consumption. Another benefit to this subject is that it is usually not expensive – and that you get to eat it after you are done photographing it is a benefit that cannot be overlooked.
 
To arrange the candy, I simply dumped it into a large dish and pressed the top level. Finding the right composition of the randomness was a bit more challenging. Most options worked, but in general, I liked when the candy not fully contained in the frame was mostly out of the frame. The color of the eggs could have been arranged, but I went with the default as-they-landed pattern.
 
Lighting this subject was easy. Rogue FlashBender Softboxes were mounted on a pair Canon Speedlite 600EX-RT flashes that were sitting on the floor on opposite sides of the dish. The flashes were supported by their shoe stands and their heads were directed straight up. A hot shoe-mounted Canon ST-E3-RT triggered the flashes. The result of this setup was an even, soft light across the entire dish. I was able to move closer or farther away and could photograph at various angles with no change to the lighting.


I originally shared this image many years ago, but with the just-passed Easter holiday potentially providing this subject and with the candy isle likely full of discounted options, I am re-sharing to illustrate one of our Stuck at Home Ideas for Photographers. No special equipment such as a macro lens is required to create an image like this and lighting options abound.

The kids may not be happy to see you take their candy, but just ensure them that flash does not hurt candy (use caution with hot lights) and that you will return it soon.

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Post Date: 4/13/2020 10:50:51 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, April 11, 2020

Water in the shade with a reflected subject in the sun is a great photographic scenario. Add maple trees in their peak fall color to that background and the opportunity value increases significantly. That is the scenario that can be found in the fall at The Tarn in Acadia National Park.

The number of composition opportunities at this location is a bit overwhelming and changing continuously as the sun rises and the wind ebbs and flows. Selecting an image to share from the hundreds captured is the resulting challenge.

This is an example of telephoto lens being ideal for landscape photography. Most often a 100-400mm lens is in my landscape kit and on this day it was the excellent Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens. Many of my favorite landscape images have been captured within the range offered by this lens.

Here is another selected image from The Tarn.


 
Camera and Lens Settings
100mm  f/11.0  1/25s
ISO 200
7952 x 5304px
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Post Date: 4/11/2020 8:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, April 3, 2020

A cow elk gives her calf a bath while standing in a lake in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Long telephoto lenses were meant for times like these. This was a scenario where I couldn't get any closer – wetter was not an option I was willing to accept. Not only did this lens's 600mm focal length make the animals substantial in the frame but the f/4 aperture created a blurred background even at this long distance, making the subject stand out.

I am considering a return to Rocky Mountain National Park in September. Let me know if you want to be part of this trip!


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Post Date: 4/3/2020 12:08:06 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The most difficult aspect of capturing this sunset image was being there. Once in location, wait until the sun is nearly set behind a distant mountain, use an f/16 aperture to create a sunstar (but not lose too much sharpness to diffraction), select a shutter speed that nearly blows the red channel at ISO 400 (I had been running and did not have a tripod), compose for the foreground, sun, and clouds, focus roughly 1/3 into the frame, press the shutter release, and get that great feeling of knowing that a beautiful scene was part of the evening's take-home.

On this mid-July evening, I timed a trail run with the sunset and the clouds and slightly hazy summer sky cooperated to provide great color. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens, small and light enough to not pose a physical limitation, was also getting a workout. This lens has the core general-purpose focal length range needed and it handled this scene nicely.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr (and the foreground appears brighter in the larger size).

 
Camera and Lens Settings
24mm  f/16.0  1/40s
ISO 400
7952 x 5304px
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Post Date: 3/31/2020 8:52:34 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Life has become crazy for a vast number of people as I create this post and the fragility of life has become more real. Know that the time we are in is a temporary one. As always, hold onto Faith and make the most of the situation.

If temporarily unemployed, you suddenly find yourself with a huge amount of time available. Even if still working but from home, you no longer have commute time in your schedule. While relaxation has some value (I keep telling myself that), I challenge you to stay motivated and make good use of your extra time.

Kid Portrait

Shoot the Kids

If you have kids, they are extremely important to you but finding time in overlapping schedules is often a major obstacle for photographing them. Your schedule and their schedule have likely been cleared, green-lighting this project. I promise that you will not regret having the images and your kids might find it of value to share the pics on their social media (market that usage to get their buy-in).

Shoot formal portraits ranging from full-body (slightly wide-angle to normal focal lengths) to tight headshots (telephoto lens), find brightly-colored clothing and props, go wild with lighting, photograph them doing something they are passionate about, make them go out and get some exercise while you work a run and gun approach to catch them in action, etc.

When the kids lose patience, move to the pets — or consider including the pets to extend the kids' patience.

Bryan Carnathan

Shoot yourself

Perhaps your Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media profile pictures are lacking in quality? No need to hire someone for this — go into full selfie mode. Consider photographing yourself doing something you frequently do such as exercise (which should always be part of your routine) and consider using an exposure long enough to create some motion blur as motion is a minimum requirement for exercise.

Canvasback Duck

Shoot Something Different

If birds and wildlife are your thing, try shooting architecture. If you are a portrait photographer, try wildlife. Browse Instagram, Flickr, etc. for ideas. Now is a great time to learn to shoot video. Perhaps the portfolio you build from this experience will open new doors.

Love Is Patient

Shoot with Something Different

A lot of the fun of photography is using new gear and that is a valid reason to try another brand camera. This is a great time to try a mirrorless camera model. Tilt-shift lenses are very educational (and useful).

A new season is coming and now is a great time to research the gear you need to capture it. If unsure about your future with that gear or you can't afford to buy it, go big for a small cost by renting something. It is super easy to order a camera, a lens, lighting gear, etc. from Lensrentals and have it show up on your doorstep.

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Number 1 Sample Picture

Shoot from New Heights and Angles

Shoot from positions that require you, your tripod, and/or minimally your camera to go into positions they are not normally used in. This may be from up high, down low, very close, very far, etc. Go for a walk with your camera with a self-imposed limitation such as "All images must be captured within 6" (150mm) of the ground.

I know, that electronic viewfinder level not showing all green makes us perfectionists hesitate to press the shutter release but sometimes it is OK to take a not-gravity-level photo. Consider imposing a limitation on the angle of the camera such as angled 45° downward, tilted 45° sideways, or both.

Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens Architecture Sample Picture

Shoot Your House

Think like a real estate photographer and photograph your house. Shoot the exterior during the blue hour. Stage and photograph the interior with an ultra-wide-angle lens, timing the shooting with exterior light levels if relevant for your space. Then market yourself to the local real estate companies.

Moth

Shoot Something Small

Especially for a macro lens, there are unending subjects available.

Rose

Bring a flower in from your garden. If your garden is bare, perhaps a neighbor would trade one of their flowers for a much-longer-lasting print. Or, perhaps you can buy a subject.

Candy

Go through your cabinets and drawers looking for interesting subjects that could include noodles, candy, utensils, etc. Find colorful art supplies such as crayons and pencils.

Hint: if it comes in a box or bag and is in your cupboards, it might make a great pattern subject. Consider photographing one unique small subject among a significant amount of similar subjects.

Hint 2: Avoid eating too much of your subject until the project is finished.

Hint 3: This is a great time to learn lighting including with flash.

Hint 4: Try focus stacking.

Condensation

Hint 5: Try strong white balance adjustments.

Blurred Pansies

Shoot Blur

Everyone loves a lens blur and an easy way to get artistic is to intentionally blur a scene by making it out of focus. I often shoot intentional focus blurs when testing lenses and sometimes I like the results enough to keep them. Shooting these blurs will teach you how to approach a scene differently with the structure created by color and contrast taking over the frame.

Consider going really crazy with zoom blurs. Use an exposure long enough to allow you to turn the zoom ring a noticeable amount while the exposure is being captured. A tripod will usually improve these results.

Attach your camera to something moving. Use an exposure duration that is long enough to make the scene blurred with, ideally, whatever the camera is attached to remaining sharp. If lacking a good mounting platorm, simply hold the camera in front of a colorful scene and, while using a long exposure, pan the camera left and right to create a sea of color. Note that a Neutral Density Filter may prove vital for achieving exposure durations necessary for optimal results.

Include something very close in the foreground that adds blur to an otherwise-common-appearing subject such as a person (please do not block their face).

Tilt-Shift Lens Blur

Consider using a tilt-shift lens to create interesting blurs.

Bear Cub Picture

Shoot Sharp

Focus calibrating cameras and lenses can be time-consuming but the adjustments can be worthwhile to make. Go through your kit, shooting a Datacolor SpyderLensCal or other focus calibration aid and fine-tune your combinations to perfection.

Loon Picture

Shoot for the Background

Find a background that works superbly with the focal length you are using and then find an attractive subject to place in the foreground for a sure win. Sometimes different lighting on the subject and background can create a look that stands out.

New York City Tribute Lights Sample Picture

Research Your Next Shoot

Determine what subject you want to photograph, determine where and when is optimal for that subject, and make plans to be there with the right gear. Utilize apps such as The Photographer's Ephemeris and Photo Pills to determine the alignment of the celestial attractions.

Milky Way, Rocky Mountain National Park

Sign up for a workshop going to a location that interests you. Enjoy the anticipation of capturing your planned image(s).

Kure Beach Fishing Pier

Improve an Image You Already Shot

Re-post-processing is a thing. Hopefully your photo editing skills are improving and likely you captured some great images in the past that could now be re-processed for better results. Perhaps some challenging images you didn't attempt processing are now within your capabilities.

Now is a great time to learn a new software application. Consider adding Photoshop & Lightroom, Capture One, and/or Luminar (use coupon code THEDIGITALPICTURE to get a $10.00 discount) to your kit and skill set.

SmugMug

Share What You Shot

If you are not already maintaining a portfolio site, now is a great time to set one up. I use SmugMug and highly recommend their service which optionally includes selling. Plans start at only $48 per year and a 14-day trial is available.

Consider taking your marketing/professionalism to the next step by purchasing a personal domain name and hosting for it. Through experience, I can tell you that there are a lot of bad web hosts out there. There are also some very good ones and an inexpensive host I have grown to trust is InMotionHosting. SmugMug can also utilize your custom domain name with their hosting.

If you already maintain a portfolio site, this is a good time to remove the lower-grade images still there. Your skills are surely improving and some of those old images are no longer reflecting your abilities.

Printique

Print What You Shot

You now have time to create that family or trip photo book you have been putting off. Perhaps it is time to put some of your prints on your walls. Consider metal prints — they are awesome and you don't have to select or buy a frame. Also not requiring a frame and loved by most are canvas prints. Printique (formerly AdoramaPix) is one of my favorites.

Backup What You Shot

You have a backup plan that includes secure, remote off-site storage, right? If so, make sure that those backups are current. If not, fix that problem ASAP. WD My Passport external drives are a great option.

Scan What You Shot

Still have prints and slides hanging around? Don't wait any longer to digitize them. I used the predecessor to the Epson Perfection V550 Photo Film and Document Scanner to digitize my old prints and the kid's artwork and still use it to eliminate most of my paper receipts.

Ricketts Glen State Park

Learn to Shoot Better

Learning is worth intentionally interrupting work for and the decision to spend time learning during a forced interruption is a no-brainer. Our Photography Tips page is a good place to start. Professional Photographers of America (PPA) has made a huge set of free online classes available.

Laptop

Upgrade your Computer and Home Office

You have been tolerating that old, slow computer for long enough. It is time for a change and you have time to set up a new system, migrating your images and workflow. A faster system will save you valuable time later and a more reliable system will save more than time. I have been using Dell XPS computers for about 20 years.

While at it, if kids are involved, upgrade all of the systems. Education is extremely important and making learning easier will encourage that practice.

Is your printer adequate? A wireless printer makes life much easier in our house.

If spending a significant amount of time sitting, the ergonomics of your chair become very important. Check out the full range of home computing necessities at B&H and Amazon.

Do you enjoy music while at your desk? A quality sound system can make a big difference.

During a time of change is a good time to drop bad habits and start new ones. Hopefully something just said has stirred your creativity and motivation. Move in positive new directions. This world is a better place with you in it — carpe diem.

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Post Date: 3/24/2020 10:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, March 21, 2020

It is so hard to get kids to smile nicely but apparently, even animal kids have this problem. What was this black bear cub thinking? What induced it to bend its nose sideways? I have no idea, but I love humor in wildlife images and am always looking for it.

A second cub is facing the opposite direction in the background and the side of the mother bear can be seen along the left edge of the frame.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 3/21/2020 1:42:22 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, March 20, 2020

A university administration building had caught my eye. It seemed a perfect subject for the Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens I was reviewing and photographing it was on this evening's to-do list. During the blue hour is a great time to photograph architecture and starting with a shooting direction away from the sunset provides the earliest brightness balance between the building lights and the sky. As the sky darkened, the light balance on the other side of the building, looking toward the sunset (brighter sky), improved and that was the direction the camera was facing for this image capture.

To get a level camera for this perspective required fully extending the Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod legs and positioning the feet as close together as possible without risking stability. The camera was well above head height but the tilt LCD enabled proper leveling and composition. The low geometric distortion of this lens makes it a great option for photographing subjects with straight lines along the edges of the frame.

This was a single RAW image (not an HDR) captured with the brightest areas of the image somewhat too bright. In post, utilizing the Sony a7R IV's excellent dynamic range, the highlights were pulled back and the shadows were boosted for a balanced appearance.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 3/20/2020 7:46:11 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, March 19, 2020

The "Which software should I use for image editing?" question hit the inbox so I thought I'd share the software I am using with you.

If processing Canon RAW images, I use Canon's Digital Photo Professional (DPP). While this software is not as feature-filled as other options, it is easy to use and more important is that it produces very good image quality, including very good color. That this software is free is a strong positive feature.

The huge industry favorite is feature-packed Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop is included in the Adobe CC Photography Plan required to acquire this software. I process Nikon images with Lightroom and finish most web-bound images with Photoshop.

I use Capture One for editing Sony RAW images. This is well-designed software and when I last compared results, Capture One produced noticeably-better-looking noise patterns in Sony images than Lightroom. The Sony Express version is free.

Another app growing rapidly in popularity is Skylum Luminar.

Nikon and Sony both offer free image processing software but I find both challenging to use.

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Post Date: 3/19/2020 1:31:28 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan

No, post-processing was not used to create that perfectly-placed shadow. Outdoor photography is often about being at the right place at the right time. On this day, my timing was about perfect for the shadow of a large university field house to fall across the lanes of the outdoor track next to it, shading all but the first lane.

Also aiding in emphasizing the "1" was the perspective. With the 20mm lens positioned closer to the "1" than the other numbers, the "1" becomes the largest in the frame and therefore the most prominent. Everyone loves number "1" and there are far more uses for an emphasized "1" than any other number.

The Sony FE 20mm f/1.8 G Lens is very fun to walk around with, letting your creativity take over. The results from this lens are quite impressive.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
20mm  f/11.0  1/80s
ISO 100
9504 x 6336px
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Post Date: 3/19/2020 8:13:19 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, March 10, 2020

I was there to photograph mountain goat kids but the bighorn sheep also showed up and the lambs were totally adorable.

The Canon EOS 5Ds R and Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens combination were perfect for this capture.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
227mm  f/8.0  1/600s
ISO 2000
8688 x 5792px
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Post Date: 3/10/2020 8:09:11 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, February 27, 2020

I'm evaluating Canon EOS-1D X Mark III images, selecting a few for inclusion in the review, and thought I'd take a moment to share an image of another amazing-looking duck, the American widgeon. The goal of this short trip to the Chesapeake Bay, in addition to testing the 1D X Mark III in the field, was to photograph canvasback ducks. Like most other wildlife photographers, I'm opportunistic and it wasn't hard to be attracted to the beautiful American widgeon. The colors, patterns, and shapes of this bird's feathers are incredible.

Again, I was sitting in very cold water just upriver from the Chesapeake Bay wearing chest waders (and a heavy layer of fleece insulation under them) to enable a low camera position. The Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head held the big lens and mostly submerged under the Wimberley was a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/27/2020 2:24:21 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Do you like your bird images cropped tightly or do you prefer some breathing room around your birds?

I shared a canvasback duck image earlier today and mentioned that I was struggling to decide which of two images I liked better. While that topic is fresh on my mind, I thought I would share the looser-cropped image and get your opinion.

Which image do you like better? The composition with the closer duck filling a greater percentage of the frame or the more-distant duck showing more surroundings?


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/25/2020 2:20:41 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan

The Canon EOS-1D X Mark III arrived mid-afternoon and immediately the battery went on the charger. Setting up the camera came next (didn't wait for a full battery charge) and shooting the noise test followed. Late-night packing ensued and the road trip started the next morning.

The goal of this trip was to give the 1D X III a workout and the Chesapeake Bay ducks seemed a good choice.

One of the challenges I frequently encounter when photographing ducks is selecting the correct focus point(s) in time to get an image before the duck changes direction again. Those webbed feet can make 180° turns very fast but the 1D X III's new Smart Controller is a game-changer in DSLR focus point selection. Simply slide a thumb (even with a glove on) across the AF-ON button's Smart Controller feature and the AF point moves in the same direction. Keeping up with the ducks is now considerably easier thanks to the Smart Controller — this feature is awesome. I'm now less-satisfied with my other DSLRs.

When photographing ducks, I seldom appreciate a downward camera angle. This means getting the camera down to the level of the duck which becomes complicated when the duck is swimming. Sitting in the low-40-something-degree-F water just upriver from the Chesapeake Bay wearing chest waders (with a heavy layer of fleece insulation under them) was the option selected. Obviously, the camera cannot go right on the water level, especially with saltwater sometimes having splashing waves, but getting into the water helps reduce elevation.

Another aid to a flatter camera angle is using a long focal length lens. The longer the focal length used, the farther away the subject needs to be for proper framing and to frame a farther-away subject requires the camera angle to be raised, creating a closer-to-level shooting angle.

Prior to leaving for this short trip, I had a number of accessories sent to me for testing.

Holding the camera and lens in the river was a Wimberley WH-200-S Sidemount Head. The Wimberley Tripod Head II (full gimbal head including the cradle) is an awesome choice for holding a big lens. This head is very solid but the Sidemount version is even more rigid, weighs less, consumes less space, and provides a better handle (such as for lifting the tripod out of the river). The only downside to this side-mount head is that some lenses, primarily very large lenses with high-profile tripod feet, may not be perfectly centered over the head. This slight offset didn't seem to matter in my use with a 600mm f4L lens. My cradle will not likely see any future use.

Mostly submerged and holding the Wimberley Sidemount tripod head was a Robus RC-8860 Vantage Series 5 Carbon Fiber Tripod. This solid, heavy-duty tripod was a superb solution for anchoring (literally in this case) a 600mm f/4 lens on a pro body. I continue to be impressed by the quality of the Robus products, especially for the price. They are great values.

I might share another Canvasback photograph with you soon as I struggled to select between this one and a looser-framed shot (and many others). The warm lighting on this duck is from a setting sun and the blue water color is courtesy of a blue sky.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/25/2020 10:23:14 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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