Find Out Where the Bumble Bee Went
My site-related work consumes most of my time and I gave up trying to process all of my images long ago. After looking at all images and selecting down to my favorites, I just save all of the remaining RAW files and focus on processing my favorites and those that have other immediate value.
Recently, I carved out time to go through my youngest daughter's fall soccer pictures. I had decided to share one with you and had the selection narrowed down to 3 images (out of thousands).
Of the three images, two happened to be adjacent in a burst and one had an extra element of interest, a large bumble bee flying into the scene. Usually, I remove inadvertent insects from my sports photos. But, as I was editing the next image in that sequence, I noticed Mikayla's left cheek appeared differently colored/shaded and ... then I noticed the bee flying backward just below her ear. The bee had flown into her cheek, leaving an indentation and then bounced off. The 1D X II's fast frame rate caught that and I was amused.
Here are some of the qualities I like about this image:
Both the ball and the player's eyes are in the frame and the eyes are in sharp focus. That the entire player's body is within the frame is also often-desired. With the original image framed somewhat loosely, cropping allowed optimal composition.
Desirable is that the player's body position is open toward the camera and all limbs are visible (an arm or portion thereof did not go missing behind the body for example). All limbs stretched out indicates fast action – as do both feet off of the ground. If the athlete has long hair, the position of that hair can add to an image.
A positive is that the background is both strongly-blurred and very colorful. What is in the background can often be determined by your position on the sideline. While there are a lot of bad backgrounds at sporting events, the team's bench will often provide some color for you. Also, your height above the field makes a difference with the background pushing farther away when a low position is used (and the athlete appears large). The strong blur seen here is courtesy of the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM Lens combination.
For a sporting event, the lighting seen here is excellent. The photographer cannot choose game time and mid-afternoon, with a high-in-the-sky sun, can have terrible lighting. If the sun is bright, there will be hard shadows in the frame and especially under a clear sky, heat waves can spell disaster for image sharpness. If the sky is cloudy or the sun has set, dark conditions require a high ISO setting which means lots of noise. On this afternoon, the conditions were perfect. There were just enough clouds to diffuse the light, but not enough to require a high ISO setting. The non-directional lighting meant that I could set up optimally for both the background and for the expected direction of the game play.
With this share, I wrap up my fall 2017 soccer season. And, Mikayla is safe from the bees for a few months.
600mm f/4.0 1/1600s ISO 400
Lighting the Princess – Going Simple High Key for the Prom
With 9 students planning to arrive for prom pictures within a short period of time, I had to be ready. The entire week preceding the big day was extra cloudy with lots of rain. The forecast for the Saturday afternoon shoot was calling for clouds with a 30% chance of light rain. Clouds would be perfect for afternoon outdoor lighting, the grass was very green and the new spring leaves on the trees were a great color for a background, but that chance of rain required a studio setup be on standby.
White matches everything, so ... I went with white this year.
Setting up for a high key white background is not hard nor is it expensive. If shooting partial body portraits, a white wall, white reflector or white foam core can work well as the background. For full body portraits, rolled paper is often the best option and it works great. Savage Widetone Seamless Paper Background is what I use.
To hold the rolled paper in place, a background stand (I have Impact and Manfrotto brands) is needed. The rolled paper slides onto the top bar of the background stand and rolls out onto the floor to the front (get another person to hold the background stand up while unrolling the paper as the stand could easily tip over during this step). I gaffer tape the paper to the floor to keep it from rolling back up and clamp the roll of paper to the top bar to keep it from further unrolling.
More complicated than the background setup is the lighting and the balancing of the lights. I typically start my light balancing setup with the camera exposure settings. With powerful strobes in use, I have a lot of flexibility even at the lowest noise ISO setting of 100. With the EOS 1D X Mark II and similar-resolution full frame cameras, I generally start with f/11. This aperture gives me a lot of depth of field, keeping much or all of the subject in focus along with room for error (it is rare to get an out of focus portrait at f/11) without compromising image sharpness to diffraction. Note that, when using a solid-colored background such as rolled paper, there is little benefit to blurring the background via a wide aperture. A 1/160 shutter speed is about as fast as I trust the PocketWizards to trigger the first strobe and for the rest to optically trigger while the shutter is fully open, so that is what I go with. The f/11, 1/160 and ISO 100 combination is generally enough to overwhelm any ambient light present.
For lighting with consistent requirements, manual flash settings are ideal and ... the only option I have with my Elinchrom Digital Style studio monolights (Elinchrom ELC Pro HD Flash Heads are the current models).
For the high key background, I place a softbox-fitted strobe on each side of the paper with the power set high enough to blow out the background in the selected exposure (but not higher than necessary as flare could become an issue). I was tempted to place a 4x8' piece of clear Plexiglas on the floor under the subject to better reflect the bright background, but ... I feared that the parade of subjects flowing through my studio would not be kind to this relatively-expensive piece of plastic's useful lifespan.
To keep the background reflection from strongly influencing the lighting on the subject (a wrapping light the softens the transition from subject to the background), the subject should be positioned well in front of the background. The subject to background distance was about 10' (3m) in this example.
Prom is all about the dress (or tux) and a 54" octagonal softbox angled just slightly downward and directly at the subject from camera-left created an even light emphasizing the dresses. This light was adjusted to the output needed for proper dress brightness with care taken to not overexpose the dress as reducing brightness during post processing can reduce the background's whiteness. A 24x24" softbox on a Manfrotto boom was positioned above the subject to light their head with the appropriate brightness setting used for that.
While it takes multiple lights to effectively create a high key effect and light the subject, the light sources do not have to be studio strobes. I have done the same many times with Speedlites and constant lights, can also be utilized. And, the background does not have to be pure white as long as your background lights are bright enough to make whatever color is available bright enough. I've even shot high key corporate portraits using a light-colored wallpaper background. Hit it with enough light and it turns white.
Umbrellas can be used in place of softboxes.
By the time my first subject arrived (my own daughter was first and about 1 hour late), the day was bright, sunny and unfavorable for lighting in my preferred outdoor locations. It didn't take much thought to know that the indoor option was best.
With the lighting and camera settings all dialed in before any subjects arrived, I was able to take lots of photos in a short/compressed amount of time.
The Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM Lens is an excellent portrait lens and 70mm is just wide enough for comfortably shooting full length portraits in my studio space. The just-arrived Canon EOS-1D X Mark II was my camera choice for this shoot. This scenario was a walk in the park for this camera.
80mm f/11.0 1/160s ISO 100
White-tailed Deer Fawns in Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park
I love close, frame-filling wildlife photos, but I also love wildlife photos that show animals in their environment. Getting close enough to fill the frame with an animal is often quite challenging, but I often find environmental images even more challenging to obtain. Another thing I love is a challenge and the environmental wildlife portrait challenge one was one I took on during a recent photo trip to the Big Meadows area of Shenandoah National Park.
Be in the Right Location
Location selection is a big part of environmental wildlife portraits. Basically, you need to photograph wildlife in an environment that invites the type of photos you desire. I would not describe the scenery of all locations that hold wildlife as especially photo-worthy and the tighter-framed option works better in these less-desirable landscapes.
Just as important as a photogenic landscape is that wildlife, or more specifically, wildlife that interests you, is in the location. Location selection resources have never been more readily available. Simply search your favorite image sharing site for the subject that has your interest. Then determine where that image was captured.
Timing for Photography
With the location selection made, timing the photography in that location can be done. If you want fall-colored leaves, there will be a week or two out of the year that needs to be targeted. If baby animals are on your list, there will be an ideal time, likely in late spring.
For the example I share here, I knew that early June was a good time to photograph fawns and I knew that Big Meadows in the heart of Shenandoah National Park was a great place to find them. SNP scenery is very nice, though as with most locations, it can be challenging.
See the Image Coming
Within the chosen location, wildlife cannot be controlled (unless baiting, calling, etc.), so a photographer must work with the animals wherever they decide to be. Learning wildlife behavior goes a long way to set up the ideal shot, but wildlife is generally unpredictable. While locating wildlife, visualizing ideal shots will keep your mind focused on upcoming opportunities, including those that may present themselves at a later time.
The key for this white-tailed deer fawn image, in addition to being in a good location at the right time of the year, was thinking ahead. The deer were moving in a general direction and I knew that the white tree trunks in front of ferns and fronted with tall grasses were coming up on their route. The shorter green grass foreground would be ideal and I surmised that these fawns and their mother may pass through this location.
Be Ready with the Right Gear
I was partly right. The mother went slightly off-angle, but the fawns cooperated briefly by walking, broadside, in line and both within the plane of sharp focus, right into the scene I visualized. I was ready.
Under 10 seconds. That is how much time the fawns spent in my scene. That is both extremely short and very long. I had very few other decent opportunities that lasted longer, but 9 seconds is not much time to capture an image of wildlife in motion even when standing (head and ear angles were constantly changing). This was one of the last frames captured before they turned different directions and leaped off to explore somewhere new.
The 1D X Mark II was in manual exposure mode with Auto ISO selected. The light levels were changing rapidly due to clouds and both deer and grass are kind to autoexposure, making Auto ISO a great choice. The adorable fawns were running/leaping/frolicking constantly, so I was using a 1/1600 shutter speed most of time. It is usually better to have more noise due to a high ISO setting than to have a motion-blurred subject. With the fawns slowing down and with their distance being greater than usual (their movement was crossing individual sensor pixels at a slower rate), I quickly rolled the shutter speed down to 1/800. Auto ISO took care of the exposure adjustment, immediately selecting a lower noise level ISO 1000. High speed burst mode with Case 1 AI Servo AF and a single AF point placed on the lead fawn worked ideally.
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens combo performed impressively on the entire trip. While this lens has many benefits (including incredible sharpness), being able to zoom to ideally compose a scene, especially one with multiple animals, is a big one. Though this image does not take in a wide, grand landscape, it includes enough surroundings to qualify for at least my own definition of environmental. At 362mm, this lens could be set to an even much wider angle. However, I didn't feel that additional surroundings were going to be positive additions to the image. I had enough angle of view at the chosen focal length.
I'll talk more about the 1D X II's amazing frame rate and why it was so important for this location in another post, but ... I made full use of the 14 fps. Just to clarify, there really are two different fawns in this picture. This particular frame taken from a burst captured both in nearly identical positions. Upon a quick glance, my daughter suggested that I may have clone stamped the second deer into the image. I assure you that was not the case – there really were two fawns there. The slightly different leg positions are the biggest clue.
The 1D X II's AF system performed especially well in the tall grasses the fawns were commonly found in and was ready when the fawns started leaping and playing.
Note that I used a monopod exclusively for support on this trip. While a tripod provides better support, a monopod is faster to use. With only one leg to retract or extend and with no leg angles to set, I could quickly move into positions and set up, a key to getting many of the images I captured on this trip. A monopod also means less weight to carry around. The wildlife I was shooting required shutter speeds fast enough to avoid motion blur, especially with the support of the monopod.
Seize the Opportunity
Be ready to take advantage of all wildlife photo ops made available to you. Even if focused on the environmental images, take the tighter-framed images when availed to you. Wildlife photography is extremely challenging and no opportunity should be passed on. Having a mix of subject framing will make a portfolio or gallery appear more complete.
362mm f/5.6 1/800s ISO 1000
Shenandoah Black Bear
Catchlights in a subject's eyes are usually desirable in a photograph. A bright reflection in the eye creates a sparkle that brings the subject to life. While this applies to human subjects, it also applies to wildlife subjects.
This mother black bear (I know that she is a mother because she stashed her 2 cubs high up in a huge hemlock tree 100 yards/m or so behind her) was hunting for food in the woods in Shenandoah National Park. The woods were quite dark due to a heavy tree canopy, but there was a small clearing in the direction the bear was headed. I moved ahead of her and positioned for what I envisioned being the ideal situation that could develop ... and the bear was unusually cooperative.
The clearing of course had an opening with sky visible. Sky, especially the sun if the sky is clear, is bright and can create the desired catchlights. However, the angle on the eyes still must be correct to get that reflection.
A key point here is that bears generally walk with their head hanging down low and a downward viewing angle on animals' eyes seldom results in a catchlight. This is another good reason to get level with (or even below) your animal subjects, increasing the likelihood of catchlight reflections being created.
The other issue created by the head-down walking is the that bear's head falls below most of the beautifully-rich-green plant life in this area. While a bear back showing above the green plants may be interesting, visible eyes are usually required to pass for a keeper image for most serious bear photographers.
So, in order to see the eyes in this location, I needed the bear to look up. In a case where I couldn't have planned things any better, this bear hit the clearing, stopped and looked around.
This was a randomly moving animal. Though it was not moving fast, it was moving most of the time and its was a bit unpredictable, including making 180° direction changes at times. I had the camera in M (Manual) mode, but was using the camera's autoexposure system via the Auto ISO setting. With these settings, I could simply roll the top dial to get the shutter speed I thought I needed at any moment.
If the bear stopped walking (though even then it was always moving its head from side to side), I immediately took insurance shots at confidently-fast shutter speeds and then quickly began shooting bursts at longer exposures in attempt to get some even higher-grade images without motion blur (the longer shutter speeds resulted in lower ISO settings for lower noise). The 1/250 setting used for this image is not close to stressing the capabilities of this image stabilized lens at 560mm on a monopod (used over a tripod for setup speed), but the bear was still moving some. Fortunately, the 1D X II image quality is extremely good at the auto-selected ISO setting of 2500 used here. When the bear began moving, I quickly rolled the top dial to get an action-stopping shutter speed again.
The vibrant green foliage in Shenandoah National Park works very well for wildlife images. The wet bear hints at the recent weather conditions. There had been dense fog and a considerable amount of rain and as the 1/250, f/5.6, ISO 2500 camera settings hint, this image was captured under heavy cloud cover.
Though this bear appears to be lit by flash, no flash was used. The lighting is all natural ambient light. The bear's position in the opening meant that just enough cloudy sky was visible to brighten the scene and create a nice sparkle in the bear's eyes.
So, those are some lessons from a momma black bear. Hopefully you found something said here to be applicable to your own photography!
560mm f/5.6 1/250s ISO 2500
Ovenbird with Ruffled Feathers
One of the keys to getting good wildlife photos around the house is of course having wildlife around the house. With even small yards able to attract wildlife (especially birds), the next key is having a camera with a good wildlife lens mounted and ready for immediate use when the wildlife shows up.
The incredible combination of the 1D X Mark II and EF 200-400mm f/4L IS lens has been taking on this duty for me recently. I have had a very high number of black bear sightings this spring (most frequently after the sun sets), and the range of focal lengths this lens has, including up to 560mm with the built-in extender, along with the f/4 aperture has been valuable.
On this rainy Wednesday, it was an ovenbird that made my day. This bird is typically found deep in the forest. While they tend to be low to the ground, the light levels there are dismal. On this day, heavy cloud cover provided reasonably bright and very soft lighting at the edge of the forest where this bird happened to be. The wet conditions provided a saturation boost and some tiny water droplets on the bird. The situation was ideal.
I quickly grabbed the camera and lens combo, threw the switch to place the extender in the optical path and went into action. I worked into a position that gave me an attractive background with a clear view of the bird, initially a profile. While I captured some ideal profile images, the bird began hopping into different positions and in this one, the tail wind ruffled its feathers. I'm still undecided between which of the two poses I like best, but decided to share this one as it appears more lively.
What is in the ovenbird's mouth? Good question. One item is an insect leg, perhaps from a grasshopper. The other is unknown, but perhaps a piece of moss or similar.
On this day, having a camera and lens ready to use for wildlife gave me a nice set of photos out of a very brief encounter with circumstances aligning nicely. The entire session only took a few minutes out of my day. Be ready and when opportunities arise, make the effort to go after them.
560mm f/7.1 1/200s ISO 2500
Dirt Track Racing
Sprint car racing and other dirt track events provide great photography experiences with easy access. Check out the Dirt Track Racing Photography Tips page to learn much more about this topic. The 1D X Mark II and EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II make a great combo for this event.
59mm f/4.5 1/250s ISO 3200
White-tailed Deer Fawn holding Branch, Shenandoah National Park
The Canon EOS-1D X Mark II is an amazing camera, but I continue to use the Canon EOS 5Ds R a considerable percentage of the time. The primary benefit of the 5Ds R is its incredibly high resolution. Lighter weight, especially without the battery grip installed, is another advantage.
When planning my fawn photography trip to Big Meadows in Shenandoah National Park, I expected the higher resolution to be my preference and packed a pair of 5Ds R bodies along with many spare batteries. I also packed the 1D X Mark II, with expectations for this camera being more for additional in-the-field experience in support of the currently published review.
The Big Meadows meadow is thick with vegetation. Thick patches of thigh-high briars are found throughout and grass covers much of the balance of the meadow area. The grass is not exceptionally thick, but it sends stems and seed heads up rather high and there are few openings void of the tall grass.
While somewhat attractive, these seed heads create problem. The fawns are short – shorter than the grasses. While the fawn may be easily visible, a very high percentage of my fawn photos include a grass across an eye or blocking enough of the fawn's face to detract significantly from the image. With the sun at my back, the ideal lighting for wildlife photography, the grasses created shadows directly on the fawns and the shadows were just as detracting as the grasses themselves, creating double trouble. With careful timing, images could be captured when the fawn passes between the grasses. That is if the fawn was moving slowly and if the wind wasn't blowing.
The problem was that the fawns were seldom still or moving slowly and the grasses move in even the lightest wind, making accurate timing nearly impossible and even challenging with the fawn standing still. Compounding the problem was that grasses close to the camera were not so visible in the viewfinder, but they still contributed to a noticeable contrast reduction in the image. There are a lot of things to concentrate on when photographing a randomly moving animal (focus point selection to mention one) without having to keep track of blowing grasses and their shadows. Shooting from a higher position than ideal (ideal being level with the subject) was often helpful in getting above some of the grasses, but ... the 1D X Mark II's fast frame rate delivered a much greater number of keeper images than the 5Ds R was capturing.
Capturing images at 14 fps, there was often the right combination of body and grass positions in at least one of the frames from a burst. Or, subsequent frames captured so quickly could potentially allow portions of one image to be composited with the other, such as for removing an offending blade of grass.
I'm not sure if this fawn was playing or experimenting with a new food, but it was adorable for sure. I held the shutter release down for the short period of time it was holding the branch in its mouth. While I captured well over a dozen images, only one image gave me a clear view of the fawn's head.
Grass was my #1 nemesis in Big Meadows and was responsible for the delete button being pressed on thousands of images, but the 1D X II ensured that there were plenty of great shots remaining in the keeper folder.
Overall, the success of my three days in Shenandoah National Park was largely due to the 1D X II's capabilities. Even when the grass interfered visually, I was impressed at how adept the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II was at focusing on the fawn. Foreground obstructions are notorious for grabbing AF's attention, but very frequently the 1D X II figured out that the fawn was the real subject and remained locked onto it.
400mm f/4.0 1/500s ISO 2500
The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM Lens is Here – Time to Unleash the Ponies
The Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III Lens is all about speed and fast-moving subjects ideal for the 400mm focal length are scarce in my location right now. The race cars are all being re-built in preparation for the next season. With a layer of snow on the ground, outdoors sports are in the off-season. The ski slopes benefit from the snow, but the closest is hours away. The horses, however, are always ready for some galloping and provide a convenient subject for an AF performance testing session.
This American quarter horse's name is "Nugget", as in "gold nugget", referencing the coat color. "Gold" also reflects the parent's perspective of what it costs to keep a horse. The positive in this investment is that the kid's have had to do most of the horse maintenance work, teaching them responsibility and how to work hard. The horses are of course fast and fast makes them good focus performance test subjects. An added benefit of such testing is some nice pics of the kid(s), as long as the camera and lens perform well of course.
And to that matter, the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II and EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III Lens combo performed stellarly. They performed so well that they created a bit of a problem. It took forever to go through the well-over-2,000 images captured in this session as most were keeper-grade. With a great camera and lens, one's brain needs to be retrained to be OK with deleting really nice images. I keep telling myself that.
With steady lighting conditions (solid clouds), the setup for this shot was easy. Using manual mode, the shutter was set to 1/1600, a setting that I know works well for freezing galloping/cantering horse and similar action. The aperture was set to f/2.8 to let in as much light as possible and to create the strongest background blur possible. Having the shallowest depth of field possible also emphasizes the AF precision. The ISO was then adjusted until the snow was slightly overexposed, causing the brightest areas to blink while reviewing test images on the LCD. With the exposure locked in, I could concentrate on composition.
The AF mode was of course set to AI Servo (continuous) and the top-center AF point was selected with the surrounding points assisting (the horse bounces a lot, making it difficult to keep a single point on the rider's head).
While this camera and lens combination is handholdable, shooting it from a monopod is still more comfortable (especially for long shooting sessions) and doing so made tracking the subject easier.
Nugget was not moving very fast in this frame, but I liked the heavily-clouded sky in the background, making the subject pop with a bit of a high-key look.
Note that snow is a great reflector and gives images a different look, usually in a positive way.
I'll share other images of this horse in fast motion in the review.
Some of these images will show another way this lens can make the subject pop – by strongly blurring the background.
Ear Cleaning at Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park
Sometimes, it's all about the ears. The white-tailed deer mother cleaning its fawn's ear in the bright green grass of Big Meadows, Shenandoah National Park was just too cute to not share.
As I have mentioned before, photographing white-tailed deer in Big Meadows is very challenging. Though I took a lot of photos in my few days there, some quickly stand out over the rest to me. In addition to the cuteness factor, I liked this frame for a couple of reasons. The first is because of the relatively evenly colored bright green grass framing and strongly-contrasting the animals – but not obstructing them. I also like the balanced overall position of the animals. And, all the eyes are sharp.
One of the big challenges to photographing moving animals is often keeping the proper AF point(s) selected and when an animal changes direction, the proper AF point may be on the opposite side of the viewfinder. If the primary subject's eyes are not in focus, the image will likely end up in my recycle folder. This means that keeping the selected focus point(s) on the primary subject's eyes is more important than maintaining ideal subject framing. Getting both right is the goal of course, but I am more likely to delete an image because the eyes are out of focus than because the framing isn't perfect. Cropping can often solve the latter issue.
While I concentrated on keeping the ideal AF point selected and placed on the subjects (the doe's nose in this case – to keep both sets of eyes in focus), the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II's high speed burst mode took care of catching the frame of what seems like the ideal ear position in both animals.
Seeing and capturing too-cute moments like this one feed the addiction!
400mm f/5.6 1/640s ISO 800
Angry Pennsylvania Black Bear in the Rain
The 600mm focal length may not be the best for creating a sense of presence for the viewer, but ... it certainly helped me to distance myself from this bear's presence. And, I think the bear did a nice job of creating a presence all by himself.
The bear has apparently experienced trauma in its life as it is missing the bottom of its right front leg and one of his canine teeth is broken. Although such an accident would be enough to make any bear angry, I really don't know for sure if this one was angry or not. But, saying that it is angry sounds more dramatic and people seem to like drama these days. And, almost universally, animals lay their ears back when angry, helping to justify the thought.
The EOS-1D X Mark II has been very reliably focusing on the bears' eyes (bear noses often get in the way of this) even in bad weather conditions and this camera and lens combination easily erased the distant background, making the bear the unmistakable subject.
600mm f/4.0 1/640s ISO 1250
Twin White-tailed Deer Fawns, Shenandoah National Park
Most of the time, images of wildlife approaching are better than those of wildlife going away. The problem is, where the wildlife is going to go is not always predictable. It is much easier to follow wildlife than to stay ahead of it.
These incredibly-cute twin white-tailed deer fawns were with their mother and she was meandering through the woods, feeding in a seemingly random manner. I was constantly adjusting my position, trying to be in the right place as they passed through a potentially good scene.
When I saw the adorable little fawns headed for a fern-bordered clearing, I immediately saw the potential image and moved into position. I couldn't have requested a better direction, though they came through very fast. With the Canon EOS-1D X Mark II in high speed burst mode, I was able to capture a string of images as they came through. The fast frame rate afforded me the opportunity to be quite selective, choosing my favorite body positions. This one stood out to me for the symmetry in the fawns' stride along with their head positions.
Photographing in the woods with direct sunlight reaching through the canopy makes lighting very challenging. The giant overhead softbox that a cloudy day creates resolves that problem and this day had been perfect. There was direct sunlight in the early morning, providing great warm lighting in the fields of Big Meadows. As the sun rose and the lighting cooled, cloud cover rolled in and provided great light for photographing in and near the woods all day long. This image was captured at 2:39 PM on a late spring day.
But, just because the lighting is good does not mean that the animals will be there. Deer typically feed early and late in the day and finding them mid-day can be challenging. Many photographers don't feel that mid-day is worth their time. Perhaps I'm not that smart, but ... this mother had two hungry little ones to feed and was in need of additional meals. I was out hunting for subjects and our paths crossed.
As I've mentioned before, a monopod is faster to setup and adjust than a tripod and the monopod was a key part of my kit on this encounter. Being able to set up fast enabled me to position myself closer to where the fawns currently were, making the ideal position prediction more accurate.
Another fawn photography tip I'll share is the timing for fawn photography. You will probably agree that fawns are their cutest just after birth, before they grow very rapidly. But, newborn fawns are not as active as those a week or two old. The newborns stay hidden in their beds a significant percentage of the time, making them harder to photograph. If your time is short and you want your encounter rate increased, consider timing your photography trip for a week or two later than you would for just-born fawns.
400mm f/5.6 1/500s ISO 2500
Sprint Car Racing
Looking for great access to photograph a car race? Your local dirt track may hold that key for you. Sprint car racing and other dirt track events provide great photography experiences with typically easy access and lots of freedom. Check out the Dirt Track Racing Photography Tips page to learn much more about this topic.
70mm f/4.5 1/250s ISO 2000
Alert Whitetail Fawn, Shenandoah National Park
Whitetail fawns are cute and curious – and they are bundles of energy (when not sleeping). This one abruptly stopped after leaping around, intently watching something of interest.
Alert poses are one of my favorites for wildlife with the ear position usually being ideal. From a compositional standpoint, the direction of the gaze adds weight to the side of the frame being gazed toward. That means this fawn works well being positioned toward the left side of the frame to provide overall balance. Of course, the beautiful SNP spring green landscape nicely compliments the colors of the fawn.
Fawn photography at this location can make use of all available telephoto focal lengths, from short telephoto to the longest super telephoto focal lengths available. The flexibility offered by a zoom lens has its advantages and, in this case, the Canon EF 200-400mm f/4L IS USM Lens' built-in 1.4x extender was especially helpful.
I have a unique, limited opportunity for you: I'd love for you to join me for "Whitetail Fawns and More", a Shenandoah National Park Instructional Photo Tour. Our goal is to photograph these beautiful little creatures along with many of the other great subjects found in Shenandoah National Park while actively learning photography skills. Read the just-linked-to detailed description to learn more.
560mm f/5.6 1/1600s ISO 2000
Whitetail Fawns – Cutest Animals on the Face of This Planet?
What is the cutest animal on the face of this planet? Whitetail deer fawns are at the top of my list. These adorable fawns decided they were going where I was and I was thankful that I could zoom out wide enough to keep them in the frame while they were going.
In the field, scenarios can change fast and keeping photography strategies simple can mean the difference between getting a good photo and getting nothing. That said, selecting an exposure must always be part of the strategy.
Most North American deer are brown and brown is a friendly color for a camera's auto exposure algorithm (unlike the color of most black bears). Green is another friendly AE color and that is the most-common background color at Shenandoah National Park in late spring. Thus, I commonly use AE when pursuing this subject with little need to monitor changing light levels.
Though using AE, I am still using the camera's Manual mode with Auto ISO providing the brightness adjustment. The fawns are often in fast motion, so I want control of the shutter speed being selected with a fast speed being normal. When the subject pauses, I roll the top dial to select a longer exposure, resulting in a lower (less-noisy) ISO setting being automatically selected.
The aperture setting works similarly. If I have a single subject, I can roll the aperture value to a wider setting, again with the ISO setting being reduced and a stronger background blur created. If multiple subjects become part of the composition or I decide that the background should be more recognizable, I simply dial in a narrower aperture.
There are obviously many more factors that go into a wildlife image capture but having a solid exposure strategy that works in many scenarios helps keep the strategy simple. Currently, turning my mode dial to Custom Mode 3 instantly provides this setup.
222mm f/8.0 1/800s ISO 2500
Spring in Shenandoah National Park Brings Fawns, Ferns and ... Black Bears
This mother black bear had sent her cubs high up into a large pine tree and was searching for food. She kindly paused and looked in my direction at a break in the bright green foliage.
There are many ways to compose a wildlife image and each scenario can be different, but a technique that often works is to center the animal in the frame and then open up the frame in the direction the animal is looking. In this case, the momma black bear was looking straight toward me and its near-centered position works well. I left a slightly more room around the bear on the right side as there is a very slight head turn and the tall green plants on the right helped balance and frame the image.
The color, or lack thereof, of black bears is a challenge for cameras' auto exposure systems with overexposure being the frequent outcome.
A manual exposure is often best.
Fawn in Spring Green Flora, Shenandoah National Park
For wildlife photography, timing, in a variety of ways, is critical.
The time of the year is one timing factor. In Shenandoah National Park, spring brings bright green foliage and these adorable whitetail fawns.
Another timing factor is where the animal is at the moment it is photographed. That timing involves determining (guessing) where the animal is going next, determining an ideal photo position in that path, being the right distance away for framing and composition purposes, and being ready when (OK, if) they get there.
This time, the timing worked and this image of a fawn against a bed of green was the reward.
Often, wildlife looks best when photographed with a camera that is level for both tilt and roll. The tilt part means getting the camera at the animal's level and when the animal is small (and not at a higher elevation than you), that means getting down low. Photographing from a low position is not always the most comfortable, but the effort is usually worth it and the images taken with a downward angle are often deemed not good enough after some level captures are on the card.
In this example, the low green foliage permitted a level position, but a compromise is sometimes needed if visual obstructions become an issue.
Fawns are constantly moving and a monopod lets me adjust the height very quickly while trying to photograph them.
There is still room for you on the "Whitetail Fawns and Much More", Shenandoah National Park Instructional Photography Tour. All skill levels are welcome!
Sun, June 9 to Wed, June 12, 2019 and/or Wed, June 12 - Sat, June 15, 2019
Email me at Bryan@Carnathan.com to sign up or ask questions!