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Photography

How to Photograph Wildlife

August 5, 2016

Taking photos of wildlife can be a tricky business, as you’ve probably discovered. First of all, you’ve got to find the animal you want to photograph, and when you do find it, you have to be careful to not scare it off. But there are ways that you can minimize this possibility.

Here are ideas that can help you avoid this problem, especially when the animal is near you and can see you – and also hear the sounds you make. Some of these ideas are obvious, but others may be more subtle.

Clothing. Wear drab-colored clothes – those that blend into the environment: dark green, black, etc. Some people think that animals can’t see color, but research has shown that most animals, including birds, can see color.

If the animal you’re trying to photograph sees a color that’s not normal to its surroundings, it will pay attention to the out-of-place color (your red shirt, for example) and probably run or fly away. For more information about color and animals see http://www.colormatters.com/color-matters-for-kids/how-animals-see-color

Roseate Spoonbill landing

Roseate Spoonbill

Sound. This is crucial: In their environment, usually away from human civilization, wildlife hears only the sounds of nature (wind, rain, etc.) and communication calls among their own species (and perhaps other species). “Unnatural” sounds, such as human sounds (and noises produced by humans), can cause wildlife to go into alert status, look where these sounds are, and then run away from the sound source.

Many animals have excellent hearing and research evidence shows that unusual sounds can stress them, especially if those sounds are loud. Therefore, animals will be attentive to sounds photographers might make, so it’s a good idea to be as quiet as possible when setting up camera equipment. For a comprehensive review of sound and animals, see “The Effect of Noise on Wildlife: A Literature Review” http://www.wfae.net/library/articles/radle_effect_noise_wildlife.pdf

White Pelican flying away

White Pelican

Motion. I’ve found that “slow motion” is the best approach to photographing animals, especially if you’re trying to get a little closer to an animal that’s known to be rather “jumpy.” My technique is walking very slowly with my camera gear, hesitating every few steps and freezing my motion.

Animals (especially birds) are very sensitive to motion, but they feel less of a threat when your movements are very slow. Stopping your motion every once in a while is very helpful. You just can’t be in a hurry to take photos.

Zebra Butterfly on penta flower

Zebra Butterfly

Smell. This might seem like a minor topic for taking photos of wildlife, but it’s already known that some animals, especially the larger ones, can detect human smell (which is very strong – ask any dog) from a a considerable distance (bears are the champs, as they can smell food, and perhaps humans, from up to 18 miles away). However, there’s a lot of research on animal smelling abilities that still needs to be done.

Nevertheless, I would chose to photograph upwind from the larger animals, where my smell probably can’t be detected. For more information about animal smell detection, read http://largestfastestsmartest.co.uk/animals-with-the-best-sense-of-smell-in-the-world/

Female black bear in tree

Female Black Bear

Photographing with groups. I suggest you avoid photographing wildlife with a group of photographers. Several photographers can frighten wildlife, especially if anyone in the photography group moves around quickly and/or talks loudly. An exception is when the animal is some distance from the photography group, for example, when the group members have to use long telephoto lenses. Chances are good that the animal can’t hear the group or see them clearly.

Taking photos from your car. If you’re driving and notice an animal you want to photograph, roll down the car window and shoot the photo. Many times the appearance of just the car doesn’t seem to bother the animal. Time and time again I’ve noticed that an animal will run or fly away as soon as you get out of your car and start setting up your photo equipment.

Just a final word: Be careful with the environment! Photographers often forge their way through delicate areas in the woods to capture a perfect photo. In doing so, sometimes they unconsciously tramp on insects, delicate flowers and grasses, or break bushes and tree limbs.

Sony RX100 IV Sample Photos

January 11, 2016

Lizard Head Pass, CO taken with the Sony RX100 IV

Click here: First 12 images are RX100 IV images

I’ve owned all four Sony RX100 cameras: models 1, 2, 3, and 4. I haven’t kept all of them. When a new model appeared, I bought it and then sold the previous model. All have been great, pocketable cameras, and I’m always amazed at the clarity and color accuracy of each camera. After using all of them, I’m convinced that Sony found just the right combination of the camera’s processor, sensor and lens. These three units work beautifully as a team. I’m especially impressed with the distortion-free Zeiss telephoto lens.

The Sony RX100 cameras from versions 1 though 4 have offered various improvements; some are small, others are more substantial. For example, models 1 and 2 are quite similar, but model 3 has more features than the previous cameras and the photos are somewhat clearer.

Click here: First 12 images are RX100 IV images

But model 4 is the best. It’s more effective than model 3 in low light: It’s almost noiseless at 800 ISO, and noise is very minor at 1200 ISO. The burst mode is 16 frames/second compared to model 3’s 10 fps, and the shutter speed limit has been raised to 1/32,000/second (vs the 3’s 1/2,000/second). Also, the video has been upgraded to 4K (but I still prefer my Canon 7D Mark ll for shooting videos).

The Sony RX100 lV photos below were taken hand-held, and a polarizing filter was used for some of them.

Clearly, the Sony RX100 lV still is king of pocketable cameras. The photo quality compares with some larger, more expensive cameras. Being able to produce such excellent photos with a convenient camera is an incredible plus for both professional and amateur photographers.

Mac Preview Alternative

September 22, 2014

Hey guys: If you’re disgusted with Preview, the slow Mac photo viewer, try Lyn (lynapp.com). I ran across this little gem while searching for a Preview replacement.

Lyn is intuitive: After you install it, just drag your photo folder (raw, or almost any other format) directly from your camera’s card (or your desktop) to the Lyn icon in your app dock. Lyn then will open almost immediately with your photos installed and ready to view.

Here’s a screen shot. Notice the basic editing bar on the right.

Lyn Photo Previewer

An information bar for each photo can be displayed. Now that’s something I find really useful! See the screen shot below.

Lyn Photo Previewer

Among the other features I like: You can trash photos within Lyn and you can send your photos directly to email and social media.

Lyn has a 15 day trail period, and after that, the cost is $20. The company upgrades it on a regular basis – something I’ve learned to appreciate.

Give Lyn a try!

Florida Female Softshell Turtle at St. Marks Wildlife Refuge

June 5, 2014

Florida Female Softshell Turtle

While driving in the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on the Florida Gulf Coast, I noticed a  large Florida female softshell turtle (sometimes called a “bottle-nose” turtle) alongside the road. I stopped to make a photograph and discovered she was laying eggs in a hole that she had dug out from an ant nest! She was not afraid  of me, so I was able to take closeup photos. I used my Canon 5D Mark III and a 100mm macro Lens for these shots. I Like using the macro lens at the full 100mm because it’s tack sharp.

Florida Female Softshell Turtle

Softshell turtles (a skin covers their shell) are large; the females sometimes growing over 24 inches. The males are much smaller – around 12 inches. The females lay 9 – 24 eggs in the spring months (March though July). Both male and female turtles are very fast runners and also fast swimmers. They’re carnivorous and spend most of their time in the water. With their snorkel-like noses, they’re a comical sight!

Sony RX100 and RX100 II

April 17, 2014

There’s been a lot of interest in Sony RX100 ($549) and RX100 II ($700) cameras over the past year. These cameras are small, well-made, and full of features.

Reviewers give excellent ratings to the Sony RX100 and the RX100 II, but many people are asking about image quality when these cameras are used in the “real world.” They also ask, “Is the RX100/RX100 II good enough to be my only camera?

I can understand why these questions are asked so many times, as formal reviews mostly describe the performance of the camera in a lab, and sometimes only hastily taken photos are included.

I own both versions of this camera and have taken many photos (see below) over the past year. The photos were taken with the RX100 II, using jpg mode with the camera set to aperture. The photos were “touched up” just slightly in Lightroom.

Here are my conclusions/recommendations (both cameras):

  • Without a doubt, the image quality is excellent, much better than other small non-DSLR cameras I’ve used. The Zeiss lens and 20.2 megapixel sensor are responsible for this.
  • I’ve found that the f-stop range of 2.8 – 8 produces the best image quality, which is typical for a small sensor camera with a bright (f1.8) lens.
  • The jpg mode is first-class. It does a great job of selecting the right settings for a scene. Personally, I don’t think you need to use raw mode (unless you want to make major post-processing changes to your photos).
  • The telephoto lens (28 – 100mm) is very handy – I use it a lot.
  • Because of its size, the camera is great for just walking around and taking shots. But like any other camera, you’ll need a small tripod if long exposures are required.
  • I strongly suggest that you become familiar with, and use the camera’s basic manual settings, especially aperture setting.
  • Video is quite good, but not for professional filming.
  • There are accessories that make the camera more useful. I’ve found the electronic viewfinder, lens adaptor (for polarizer, neutral density filters), and finger grip to be the most worthwhile.

Yes, image quality certainly is outstanding and yes, the RX100 or the RX 100 II could be your only camera. But keep in mind that they’re not replacements for quality full-frame DSLR cameras.

st. marks national wildlife refuge

Pickles beachside cafe

Seaside florida apartment shop

squirrel eating nut in tree

 

My GoPro Survived

May 22, 2013

One of my friends owns a new Mustang Boss and wanted to race it at a local SCCA event. I loaned him my GoPro Hero and he attached it to his front bumper, somewhat to the left of center.

When his turn came to race around the pylons, he was doing great until he got a little gung-ho with the accelerator pedal and spun off the track. Wham! He smashed dead center into a telephone pole – not hurting himself but caving in the front of his new Mustang.

Boss 320 Mustang

Wrecked Boss 302 Mustang

The Mustang was declared a total loss, but my GoPro wasn’t. It only suffered a crack on the case lens area, and the case latch broke. The video camera itself was fine; it recorded the entire crash, which is something my friend didn’t enjoy viewing!

GoPro 2 Case

Smashed GoPro 2 Case

  GoPro-2 Camera

Beat up GoPro-2 Camera

 

 

Cameras are not Human Eyes

March 26, 2013

 

mossy boulders

Mossy Boulders in Roaring Fork, Great Smoky Mountains

Photographers know that cameras don’t take photos that accurately represent the colors, lighting, textures, etc. of a scene. By “accurately represent,” I’m referring to what the human eye sees. The human vision system is incredibly complex, and cameras can’t reproduce the subtleties in images that we see with our own eyes.

Currently I’m working on an iBook about the Great Smoky Mountains. I’ve taken a number of landscape and nature photos that will be incorporated in this book, and I want these photos to faithfully represent the “real” Smoky Mountains. Realizing that my cameras only can produce “facsimiles” of the scenes I chose to photograph, I have tried, through post processing, to approximate what I really saw when viewing those scenes in person.

I wanted my viewers to get the feeling that they’re in the Smokies, viewing a scene in real time. My criterion for this was to create some depth in my photos and adjust their lighting, color, contrast, and sharpening to match what I remembered in my “eye” view of the scenes. While post processing my photos I was careful not to over-process them, since that certainly would take away from I saw with my own eyes.

Here’s a sample of my personal “eye view” of a scene. This photo, taken in April 2012, is the beginning of the trail that leads to Grotto Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains. I post processed it to the point where I believe it’s a very close rendition of what I saw in April.

Grotto Falls Trail

Grotto Falls Trail

Looking at the photo, I get the feeling that I could step into it and begin my 2-1/2 mile uphill hike to the falls!