Photo Tips and Stories (Page 9) RSS Feed for Photo Tips and Stories

 Sunday, February 16, 2020

There are not many animals that are pure white but those that are often have beautiful sharp black accents

This was an easy shot for the Canon EOS 5Ds R that, despite 50 MP of resolution, does seems not to seriously challenge the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens. The combination was perfect for Mount Evans.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
400mm  f/8.0  1/2000s
ISO 400
9492 x 5792px
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Post Date: 2/16/2020 4:02:13 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, February 3, 2020

Just another stellar Shenandoah National Park sunrise and being there was the hardest part of capturing this image (being there was not hard either).

This is single exposure image (not an HDR) captured with the red channel being nearly blown on the histogram. At that brightness, this just-before-sunrise scene provided adequate detail in the shadows for Capture One to brighten them while darkening the highlights slightly for improved balance. The f/8 aperture maximized sharpness, minimized peripheral shading, and provided very adequate depth of field. ISO 100 was selected for its low noise attributes. Nothing in this scene was in motion except for the very-slow-moving clouds and the 0.4 sec. shutter speed used for the final scene brightness was easily adequate to stop all motion.

Saturation and contrast were added to this image but this sunrise was so dramatic that the amount of both adjustments was only slight. Auto white balance delivered a cool-toned image and warming it slightly proved helpful.

From a composition perspective, the options were limited in this scene. Moving a short distance would not change the scene much and moving a large distance meant the view would be completely obscured. Thus, selecting the right focal length became the primary method for inclusion and exclusion of elements.

Old Rag mountain, the highest peak shown, was my primary subject. I wanted the foreground layer (trees) included as a base for the image and liked the curvature this element showed, partially encircling Old Rag and its trailing mountain range. Keeping this horizon straight seemed obligatory in this case but how high the horizon was in the frame was left for personal preference. The height selected here seemed to create a nice overall balance.

The remaining area of the frame was filled with color in the sky. While most of the color in the sky is in the frame, a significant amount of the frame is filled with color.

Though this image is uncomplicated, it was one of my favorite Shenandoah National Park landscape images from last fall.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 2/3/2020 10:56:53 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Fish out of water. A female pink salmon races away from a massive brown bear. Just a normal day in Katmai National Park.

This could be an image you captured. Contact me ASAP to sign up for the Brown Bear Chasing Salmon, Remote Katmai National Park, Alaska instructional photo tour!

Dates: Thu, September 17 to Fri, September 24, 2020

Contact me to sign up!


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 1/28/2020 10:31:42 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, January 19, 2020

It had been two years since I photographed this bull elk and he was #1 on my list of subjects to find on this trip to Rocky Mountain National Park. He didn't let us down.

This year, Mr. Incredibull was a 7x7 (referencing 7 points on each antler) with remarkably long G3s (the third point on each side) and long swords (G4s, the fourth point on each side). This morning found the huge elk in my favorite meadow, with short grass and a clean background ideal for photographing in.

While the Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens is not the ultimate choice for blurring the background (compared to the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens for example), it's zoom range has very strong benefits. The 600mm prime does not do 500mm, the focal length needed for this image.

This bull was not moving fast and permitted a large number of images to be captured. I chose this one as a favorite in part due to the leg position, showing nice separation and a bent front leg conveying a sense of action.

I like as many tines as possible to show in antlered animal images. With this bull's head tilted up, the tail of the left antler is hidden by the body. However, I'd rather capture the desirable bugling pose and there is not much that can be done about partial missing antler in this situation. One tine is hidden on the right antler but the shadow brings that one to light. Antler shadows are great.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 1/19/2020 11:23:43 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Like most wildlife photographers, I'm opportunistic. Photographing moose wasn't the primary plan for this trip but when this bull showed up, our group didn't question what we were going to photograph next.

I most often encounter moose just before dark and the wide aperture of the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens was very welcomed this evening. The working distance this lens provides is another benefit for photographing moose. Moose are one of my least-trusted North American animals and this one had just locked focus on me.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 1/15/2020 10:01:08 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 25, 2019

For many households, Christmas brings with it many decorations with a tree being the primary one. Installing the tree is often a large job, the result is generally beautiful, and capturing memories of the annual tree is worth the small amount of effort required to do so.

Help the Christmas tree photo from the start by selecting a great looking tree that fits nicely in your space. "Great" is as seen in your eyes. We have a tall ceiling over our tree's location and our tree height is limited to what I can haul home and make stay upright in the tree stand. Another limitation is that the top of the tree must be reachable using only a step ladder (scaffolding is not an option) and with our space not being large in width, it is nice to have enough space to be able to walk around the tree. The kids always want taller and the parents always want shorter. The parents can better tolerate taller if narrower enters the equation. With a narrow tree, height becomes easier to manage (except for the road clearance issue faced when hauling it home across the back of the SUV's Hitch Haul).

When decorating the tree, ensure that the strands of lights are all the same brand and model, or at least that all of the strands share the same bulb color and brightness. I learned that lesson a few years back when I needed to combine multiple exposures to balance out the brightness differences of our dual-brightness tree.

Do you have windows in the frame with your tree? If so, consider photographing during the blue hour which is really the blue minutes as there will likely be only a couple of minutes of ideal exterior brightness to balance with the indoor light levels, giving your images that extra wow factor. Shooting through that ideal time period will ensure the perfect minute is captured. You likely photographed a tree in the same location at the same time a year ago. Reviewing the EXIF information from a prior year's perfect photo will provide a close estimate of the perfect time for the blue minute shot this year. Then ensure you are set up and ready for that minute to arrive.

While reviewing images from prior years, look at the angles you captured to learn what works well and what doesn't. Repeat and avoid those compositions as makes sense. Also, check the camera settings used for the previous images for guidance on this year's camera settings. Note that changing out strands of lights can change the needed settings due to differing brightness.

Often, turning off all of the lights (or at least the brighter ones) in the house, aside from the Christmas lights, will result in the ideal lighting. If there are windows in the image, watch for reflections in those. Block any problematic reflections (such as the numbers on the microwave display) and take advantage of positive ones (such as the Christmas lights). For the image shared here, a couple of Post-It Notes were placed over the thermostat display. Note that double-pane windows may create double reflections.

With only the Christmas lights providing illumination, the environment is dark. While I like to use a wide aperture lens, I don't use a wide aperture for the Christmas tree photo. Stopping a wide aperture lens down to f/16 or so makes each light into a little starburst and stopped down wide aperture lenses tend to produce the best stars. The narrow aperture also makes it easy to keep the entire scene in focus.

Unless your lights are far brighter than ours, you can expect to need a long exposure at f/16. I usually use 30 seconds and sometimes bump the ISO up modestly to keep from having to wait for even longer exposures. Thus, a tripod is needed along with either a remote release or the self-timer used. I don't mind if the individual lights become slightly blown (pure white), but if an extra-bright decoration is in the frame, I will sometimes exposure bracket with an additional image captures.

Long exposures raise another problem for some of us. While most Christmas tree displays will be motionless, they may not always be perfectly so. Unless your Christmas tree is on a concrete floor, there is likely the potential for the floor to vibrate at least slightly when walked on. Hanging ornaments will likely be the first indicators that the floor has vibrated and if swinging, they will be blurred in 30-second exposures. Planning this shoot for when the rest of the family is not home (or is in bed) is a good idea. You might need to stand very still behind the camera for a couple of minutes before capturing the shot.

Think about the camera angle. A completely level camera is often desired for interior photography such as this and adjusting the camera height and distance from the tree provides the composition desired.

For this year's tree photo, I opted to use the Canon EOS R and RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens. The R's 30 MP resolution was very adequate for my needs and the RF 15-35 delivers impressive image quality. In addition, the 15mm focal length was very attractive for this image capture — and it became even more attractive during post processing. Despite being very careful to level the camera, I still managed to get a slightly tilted (0.6°) image. Straightening an image requires cropping (or creating missing details) and the 15mm angle of view gave me just enough additional angle of view to make that adjustment comfortable. Note how little barrel distortion is showing in this uncorrected image.

As soon as the perfect light was captured behind the windows, I pulled the couch and ottoman out of the way and pressed the shutter release of a second camera that was already set up, providing a completely different image.

From my family to yours, we wish you the merriest, joy-filled Christmas ever!


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/25/2019 8:29:26 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, December 23, 2019

When first arriving at a beautiful waterfall, it usually seems obvious to frame it nicely and press the shutter release. After getting that basic (though often important) image on the card, it is time to look for variations and these often incorporate foreground elements.

The last image I posted from Ricketts Glen State Park, On the Ledge at R. B. Ricketts Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park, illustrated the use of interesting rock in the foreground of a waterfall image. Another great waterfall composition strategy involves finding an attractive cascade below the primary falls. Moving in close to those lower cascades increases their relative size, balancing their overall weight in the image.

With good water flow (it was raining on this day), R. B. Ricketts Falls turns into a double falls with streams converging into the pool at the base of their falls. The camera position utilized for this image combined the white water of twin cascades to create an X-factor.

As I've said before, one has to work hard to have a bad day at Rickets Glen State Park but conditions made this an especially great day at this awesome location. The Breakthrough Photography circular polarizer filter was a crucial part of the kit on this day, cutting the reflections left by the wet conditions, leaving richly saturated landscape that provided inviting photo opportunities everywhere I looked. The Canon EOS 5Ds R and the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L III USM Lens were the only camera and lens that came out of my BackLight 26L on this day. They were perfect for the needs encountered on this day.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/23/2019 10:03:16 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 19, 2019

Just because the skies are white doesn't necessarily mean that they should be kept out of the frame. While cloud-covered white skies are sometimes welcomed, especially for the broad even light they provide, they are not usually my favorite for image backgrounds and I often avoid the inclusion of white skies in image backgrounds. However, they can be used to create a sometimes-desirable pure white high key background.

Getting this background is not difficult. Simply find a good subject and align it with the white sky. Note that your camera's meter will want to make a white sky grey (especially if the subject is a white goat) so some positive exposure compensation (or a manual exposure) will likely be needed for such images.

On this day, my daughter and I were chasing mountain goats high in the Rockies and as you have already figured out, the skies were white. The thick cloud cover meant that we could photograph the goats from any angle offered to us without concern for shadows but any sky in the photo was going to be white. Getting into a position that allowed the entire background to be sky and allowing that background to become pure white created a nice portrait.

The versatile and optically-impressive Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens was a great lens to have for this trip. It was the only lens I used for photographing the goats.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

 
Camera and Lens Settings
124mm  f/8.0  1/1000s
ISO 2000
8688 x 5792px
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Post Date: 12/19/2019 10:13:01 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Using a new camera often brings acclimation factors and despite having used the Sony a7R IV for a couple of months prior, I was still acclimating to this camera's enormous 120MB uncompressed RAW file size. We were staying ahead of this big old 12-point buck and it finally cooperated perfectly, walking toward us with the sun was at our backs. While capturing images of him approaching, I was greeted by the memory card full message in the viewfinder.

I had filled a 256GB memory card just as the perfect scenario was unfolding. While another memory card was immediately available, the pause was just long enough to miss the pinnacle of the action. Ironically, the workshop participant shooting next to me filled his Nikon D850's 256GB card at almost the exact same second. While we missed some images, the humor of it is realized and that memory is at least of some value. The lesson here is to monitor card capacities closely — or buy cards with enough capacity to outlast any use given to the camera.

Fortunately I had some good pictures from this buck encounter. When the buck was farther away, I preferred a horizontal camera orientation, keeping more of the grass field in the frame. As the deer approached, the horizontal framing became too tight and switching to the vertical orientation shared here made complete sense for the vertically shaped subject.

The vertical vs. horizontal camera orientation is a choice we are always making. Sometimes the choice is easy and sometimes it is not.

One consideration is how the image is going to be used and which orientation is required for that use. If your goal is to get the image on a magazine cover, going vertical is a good choice. Another big consideration is the aesthetics of the scene. Some scenes look better in one of the orientations.

If the horizontal vs. vertical orientation choice does not have a straightforward answer, shoot both. It is often easier to decide when using a computer display and keeping images shot in both orientations may be the right choice.

While the Sony a7R IV's uncompressed RAW file size has required some acclimation, it has not been hard to acclimate to this camera's 61 MP resolution.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/17/2019 10:38:29 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Sunday, December 15, 2019

by Sean Setters

Whether for Christmas/Hanukkah, Independence Day, Memorial Day, Labor Day, Veterans Day, MLK Day, or in this case, Thanksgiving, holiday events offer exciting opportunities for documenting family traditions, personal relationships, physical development, and all the joys togetherness brings.

This Thanksgiving, I filmed my family throughout the day, focusing much of the camera's attention on my 14 month-old daughter, Olivia Jane. My hope is that she will enjoy watching videos such as these as she matures, with an eager fascination to see what life was like long before her long-term memory kicked in.

Of course, there's a ton of video filming options available, and while my own video kit is continuously evolving, the following items were what I used while filming that day:

Having only purchased the Canon EOS R about a month before Thanksgiving, this event was my first experience producing video with the camera. Overall, I came away impressed by the camera's performance. The EOS R was just small enough to allow the battery grip to be used with the DJI Ronin-S Gimbal, a feature I appreciated as I didn't have to continuously watch my battery levels throughout the day. Of course, using the battery grip increased the size/weight of the setup, but I didn't find use of the battery grip to be burdensome, especially as filming was limited to relatively short segments throughout the day.

As I don't have any RF mount lenses yet I defaulted to my favorite EF-S/EF-series lenses, the lenses I have historically utilized while filming with a gimbal – the Canon EF-S 24mm f/2.8 STM and Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM. Why use two of Canon's most inexpensive lenses for filming video? Because 1) they're small and light, 2) can be swapped out for one another with very little need for rebalancing the gimbal, 3) their optical performance is surprisingly good, 4) the f/2.8 aperture is wide enough allow for relatively low ISO use when the shutter speed is set to 1/60 second (twice the frame rate of 30 fps), and 5) the lenses' STM AF systems do a very good job transitioning focus between subjects when the camera is set to a subject (face) tracking mode. Note that because the full-frame camera gives me a 38.4mm full-frame equivalent angle of view while using the EF-S 24mm STM, I set the camera to crop mode while using the EF 40mm STM to provide a noticeably different angle of view.

In a previous video, I had used lavalier mics with a couple of Tascam DR-10L Micro Portable Audio Recorders and really enjoyed the results, but this larger family event necessitated the use of a different audio recording solution as I needed to record a number of people. This need motivated my newest audio recording acquisition – the Deity Microphones V-Mic D3 Pro Shotgun Microphone. Looking online, you'll find numerous videos hyping this microphone's performance and value; the hype is well deserved. This is an excellent shotgun microphone, it is reasonably priced, and I'm really glad it's now part of my kit for run-and-gun applications.

So, those are the items I'm now relying on to record family videos in addition to the occasional for-hire filming request (the Tascam DR-10Ls also come in handy for the latter) and are certainly worth consideration when documenting your own family's memories.

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Post Date: 12/15/2019 7:00:00 AM ET   Posted By: Sean
 Saturday, December 14, 2019

Everyone loves lighthouses and lighthouse images, right? After awaking to a 4-something AM alarm for three days in a row, I was finally treated to some morning sunlight at the Bass Harbor Lighthouse. While some cloud drama would have been welcomed, the white sky created by the solid cloud cover present on the previous two mornings was not as photogenic.

When the sky is clear at sunrise/sunset, there are some expected parameters for landscape photography. One is that the first/last light will be very warm in color and another is that pastel colors will show in earth shadow and the Belt of Venus above it low in the sky opposite the rising/setting sun. These two parameters combine very nicely.

I don't always require myself to use a completely level camera (tilt and roll) for landscape photography but did so in this case, primarily to keep the sides of the lighthouse from leaning. Adding to that compositional constraint was the desire to have the reflections availed by the foreground tidal pool included in the frame. The lighthouse reflection was the primary interest and it was very tightly framed between the surrounding rocks, further limiting the camera position to within that narrow line. With the rocks being indicative of the Maine coastline, having them close and emphasized seemed logical and led to this final camera position.

Should circular polarizer filters be used for all landscape photographs? While CPL filters are easily my most-used filters and I very frequently use them for landscape photography, this was a time when using the effect provided by this filter was a detriment to the final look. Cutting the reflections on the rocks and in the tidal pool created a dark, flat, lifeless look to the foreground rocks and water, detracting significantly from the result. It didn't take long to determine which look was preferable.

Wet dark-colored rocks absorb a lot of light even without a CPL filter and two exposures were combined to ensure that details were retained in those rocks in the final image.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/14/2019 9:38:05 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Friday, December 13, 2019

These two brown bears are having a heart to heart in a salmon stream in remote Katmai National Park, Alaska.

Notice the high contrast of the splashing water? Camera AF systems also notice splashes and will often jump to focus on any bright water drops in front of a subject. In this case, the splash was well below the focus point and not an AF issue.

The Christmas special offer on the Brown Bear Chasing Salmon, Remote Katmai National Park, Alaska instructional photo tour is still in place. Sign up along with a spouse or friend and save $500 on the second admission price for this bucket list-grade trip.

Dates: Thu, September 17 to Fri, September 24, 2020

If this trip is calling you, I need to hear from you as soon as possible. Contact me to sign up!


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/13/2019 2:24:15 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Looking for a lens to carry while hiking? You likely want a compact and lightweight model but do not want to substitute image quality to get those properties. The Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens and its sibling 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens are great choices and both are quite remarkable lenses overall.

This afternoon in Acadia National Park found the 17-28 RXD along with a Sony a7R IV in a MindShift Gear BackLight 18L on top of Bald Mountain anticipating a great light show at the end of the day. Unfortunately, that show mostly did not happen. The weather forecast did not hold true and as can be seen in this image, thick clouds ruled the sky.

Just when we thought there was no hope for seeing a sunset, a tiny hole appeared in the clouds and awesomeness shined through. I dropped the tripod into the nearest location that looked compositionally promising and shot a several frame bracket, ensuring that one image had bright foreground detail captured at f/11 and the darkest of two others had a tiny bit of color remaining in the sun. The latter two images were captured at f/22. While f/22 results in softer image quality than f/11, it delivers a larger, better quality starburst effect and the clouds nicely hide the softness in the portion of f/22 capture used in the final image. Note that changing the aperture changes the starburst including the orientation of the star points. When bracketing such images, be sure that most of the images containing the starburst are captured at the same aperture to avoid an awkward appearing composite.

By the end of the first bracket capture, the warm sunlight was no longer reaching the foreground and after a second bracket at a slightly adjusted camera position, the sun was completely cloud-blocked again. The foreground lighting was better in the first set of images and cropping those from the bottom gave me a result similar to those captured in the adjusted camera position.

I seldom use ISO settings above 100 when photographing daylight landscape but you will notice that a setting of 800 was used for this image. Along with the heavy clouds came very strong winds and I was estimating the exposure duration that could be tolerated between gusts. The Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head held solid and I probably could have used longer exposures — though sun time may not have permitted that.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/11/2019 9:27:16 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, December 9, 2019

On this day's schedule was giving some great gear a workout and the Sony a7R IV and Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens combination were chosen. These were packed in MindShift Gear BackLight 18L along with a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod with a BH-40 Ball Head mounted and the very early AM hike to Dream Lake ensued.

I don't like to be the second person at a popular location and some may say that I arrived too early for this one. The extra time ensures adequate setup time with some starry sky photography included. The extra time also means that very warm clothes were needed, especially with the wind often encountered here.

I love perfectly still water surfaces in the shade and the mirror reflections those surfaces create. This morning did not provide such and the mentioned wind was relentless.

Between reviewing long exposure, high ISO image captures and the light becoming bright enough for the foreground rocks to be visible, this composition was settled on. I wanted the closest round rock centered between the mountain peak reflections with a clean border around it and the other foreground rocks. The camera was leveled for both roll and pitch. I seldom want a camera that is not leveled for roll when photographing landscape and in this case, I also chose to avoid an upward or downward camera angle that would have caused the straight tree trunks to tilt inward or outward respectively. The focal length was selected to be inclusive or exclusive of details in the scene and the camera height was selected for the final composition. The color balance disparity of the warm first light of the day hitting the mountain mixed with cool shade in the valley below is natural and I love it.

The final image is the result of combining two images using manual HDR blending. As is often the case, those exposures were different with the sunlit areas captured darker (f/11, 0.4 seconds, ISO 100) and the shaded areas coming from brighter settings (f/11, 30 seconds, ISO 200).

As you likely noticed, the longer exposure is dramatically longer and includes a 2x-brighter ISO setting. This exposure was needed to compensate for a 6-stop Breakthrough Photography X4 ND filter (great gift idea) being used. The longer exposure this filter permitted allowed the water to be smoothed, averaging out the reflection details in the lake surface ripples, giving the mountain reflections some definition. A third image (another darker one) was pulled in because some of the trees were less motion-blurred than in the primary image.

The aforementioned gear all performed excellently. It was a superb choice for this event. Of course, the bottom line is that Dream Lake and its rocks rock!


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/9/2019 9:43:45 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Thursday, December 5, 2019

Smart people told us long in advance that the planet Mercury was going to pass in front of the Sun for many hours on 11/11/2019 and that the transit was going to be visible across a huge swath of the world, including my location on that date, falling during my Shenandoah National Park Workshop.

My first thought regarding photographing this event was that I could take a picture of the Sun anytime and simply use the paint brush tool to drop in Mercury planets wherever desired. While the result would look fine, it wouldn't be nearly as fun or as phsychologically rewarding as experiencing the event firsthand and capturing the real thing. Photographing the Sun is easy and a little black dot in front of it was going to be equally easy to capture so, I packed the required solar filter for the trip.

The Sun was not going to be our primary subject on this day, we didn't have time to shoot throughout the entire many-hour transit, and the cloudy sky made photographing it challenging during the few times we attempted to do so. Still, I wanted to show the entire transit in the final result. To fulfill that goal, I pieced a number of images together and then duplicated a Mercury planet to fill in the entire path across the Sun.

While the Mercury transit does not rise to the level of amazing as the recent solar eclipse, it was still fun to see and photograph.

When photographing the Sun, everything else in the frame is black unless there are clouds being brightly lit while darkening the Sun enough to even out the dynamic range. With black periphery being easy to create during post processing, framing the Sun a tightly as possible becomes the goal. Still, the Sun will not come close to filling the frame even at 1200mm, the longest most photographers will use, on a full frame camera. In a focal length limited scenario, higher pixel density on the imaging sensor means more resolution remaining after cropping and the Sony a7R IV has that. The Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens and FE 2x Teleconverter were used to gain the 1200mm focal length.

Among the many images captured were some with a cloud-caused fiery haze surrounding the Sun. Adding some of these images into the Photoshop stack provided the option of including the haze in the final image as shared here.

Here is a question for you: Since I watched Mercury transit the Sun in an electronic viewfinder, did I really see it?


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/5/2019 11:20:19 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Wednesday, December 4, 2019

It is generally much easier to photograph deer in a field or meadow than in the forest where tree trunks and branches create obstructions and chaotic backgrounds. However, the forest is where many deer spend large amounts of their lives. Heading into the forest may reduce the odds of getting good images but the increased challenge makes a successful in-the-forest image more rewarding.

While a 600 f/4 lens is an awesome choice for obscuring a distracting foreground and background via blur, the narrow angle of view can be challenging to use in the forest due to the obstructions. A farther away view results in a higher chance of trees and branches being in the way. Despite having a Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS Lens with me in Shenandoah National Park, I mostly used the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens. The images this lens makes are hard to beat and once one acclimates to 600mm f/4 images, it becomes difficult to be satisfied with anything less.

All 600mm f/4 and similar lenses are very expensive but the high price has one advantage: it is a barrier of entry, making it harder for those without such a lens to compete with those having one. In a world with an unimaginable number of images being captured daily, this lens' image quality is a differentiator and those able to make the investment should frequently make use of their advantage.

I was working ahead of this buck (with a somewhat unusual drop tine), looking for openings it might pass through. He came into this opening and cooperated nicely, looking toward the camera. After quickly capturing a few images with the currently-selected focus point, I changed the focus point to a more optimal position in the frame and captured another burst of images before the buck turned its head. I selected the image with the best deer pose (both ears forward and looking toward me) and stitched another of the images captured using the other focus point for a slightly wider overall image.

This image was captured on a bright cloudy day. Clouds act as a giant softbox, eliminating the harsh shadows often encountered in the woods. Images captured in cloudy weather often appear slightly cool and low contrast is also normal for images captured under cloudy skies. Adding a small amount of contrast and saturation and warming the color balance slightly brings the image to life.

The increased challenge, increased reward concept applies to many genres of photography. Welcome ways to increase your challenge!


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/4/2019 9:10:41 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Rocky Mountain National Park is very scenic but some locations within the park have better environments for elk photography than others. Elk go where they want to and little will stop them from doing so, but I have some favorite locations and usually will pursue the elk found in these. This elk was in one of my go-to locations, featuring a low, clean foreground and rocky mountain base in the background.

Elk are very large animals and that means relatively long distances are required to fit them in the frame of a long lens (and for personal safety). Longer subject distances mean increased depth of field and that means the background will be less diffusely blurred. The 600mm f/4 focal length and aperture combination creating a three-dimensional effect that makes the subject stand out from the background is especially valuable when photographing large animals such as elk.

After seeing how sharp the Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS Lens was (and experiencing how light it was), I opted to use this lens behind the ultra-high-resolution Sony a7R IV for all of my late summer and fall wildlife photography.

The bull in this photo was moving across the meadow in front of us and this great rut-characteristic chin-high pose was my favorite. The other images captured in this sequence provided a small additional amount of background that, with the lack of distracting details, I later decided to merge with the original image, creating a panorama. With the 61 MP resolution provided by the a7R IV, I didn't need the additional pixels. Moving back and cropping would have been easier from a post-processing perspective but moving back would have resulted in a missed opportunity in this instance (and the original framing would have been fine). Note that this capability likely exists in some of your images — be cautious when deleting the lesser images.

Images captured under a cloudy sky, including this one, usually readily accept some contrast increase and a modest amount was added to this image.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 12/3/2019 12:28:28 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Monday, December 2, 2019

Not having thumbs makes catching and handling slippery salmon very challenging for bears and very entertaining for those photographing the action. This bear is deploying one of its catching techniques, pinning the fish down for an easier bite.

What caught my attention in this photo is the colorful salmon tail splashing upward.


I'm getting into the Black Friday/Cyber Monday spirit with a special offer on the Brown Bear Chasing Salmon, Remote Katmai National Park, Alaska instructional photo tour. Sign up along with a spouse or friend and save $500 on the second admission price for this bucket list-grade trip.

Dates: Thu, September 17 to Fri, September 24, 2020

If this trip is calling you, I need to hear from you as soon as possible. Contact me to sign up!

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Post Date: 12/2/2019 11:44:19 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, November 30, 2019

Sony a7R IV and Epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way The Sony a7R IV and Sony FE 24mm f/1.4 GM Lens teamed for an epic Rocky Mountain National Park Milky Way on this September evening. While chasing elk in rut was our top priority during the RMNP workshops, photographing the night sky was also on the to-do list and a clear RMNP night sky never fails to wow us.

For the Milky Way to reach down close to its reflection requires the reflecting surface to have little obstruction above it. Large bodies of water have distant shores and that distant perspective usually results in lower shoreline sky obstructions. Small bodies of water are more likely to have a calm surface than large bodies but trees and mountains typically get in the way of the little-obstruction requirement. Mountains often bring elevation gain that tends to bring reflection-erasing wind.

This particular small mountain lake is set high enough for the southern view to open up to the sky while being protected from the wind for the perfect combination. I love pointed spruce treetops and always welcome their great character on the horizon. Reflections can be counted on to double the value.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 11/30/2019 9:53:35 AM ET   Posted By: Bryan
 Saturday, November 23, 2019

One of my favorite subjects to photograph is the Milky Way. The required long exposures provide plenty of time to simply watch the spectacular sky show (unless I'm running two cameras), taking in the awesomeness, and the pictures captured are usually among my favorites. I was blessed with the opportunity to photograph the Milky Way from several top-notch locations this year, including during the Rocky Mountain National Park and Acadia National Park workshops. The image shared here was captured from the coast of Acadia NP.

Seldom can the reflection of the Milky Way be seen in an ocean as the water movement completely blurs everything during the required long exposure. However, tidal pools are often still and can make great reflectors (though not at high tide) for a variety of coastal photography needs including reflecting the night sky. Adding value to this particular tidal pool was the low surrounding rock with good character, adding jaggedness to the rock line and its reflection.

To photograph the night sky, I usually want a wide-angle lens with an f/2.8 or wider aperture available with sharp wide-open image quality. The Canon RF 24-70mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens, with an EOS R behind it and a Really Right Stuff TVC-24L Mk2 Carbon Fiber Tripod and BH-40 Ball Head under it, met those needs superbly.

Photographing the Milky Way is easy and very addicting. This image was captured using the 2-second self-timer feature with settings of f/2.8, 15 seconds (longer exposures increase star trail length), and ISO 6400 (with a low amount of noise reduction applied). I opted to brighten the result a bit in post and brightened the foreground by an additional stop for a single-image HDR. Just after sunset, the sky still had some color in it and a slight saturation increase (+1 in DPP and +7 in PS) made those colors pop. Auto white balance was used. Increasing contrast via an S-curve adjustment always makes the Milky Way stand out.

As I was searching through the over-a-thousand images captured with the RF 24-70, selecting a few to share in the review, this one stood out as my favorite and thus I'm sharing it with you here. Add the RF 24-70mm lens to the list of good night sky lenses.


A larger version of this image is available on Flickr.

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Post Date: 11/23/2019 1:49:25 PM ET   Posted By: Bryan
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