Winter is coming and hopefully with it, lots of the white stuff. Snow is a marvelous background or stage for photographing wildlife in so many ways. One that I recently pointed out is its great light bouncing qualities. It makes shooting critters anytime of the day a no-brainer. Next, it cleans up the world so nicely, making lots of the natural world’s clutter disappear. One of its greatest gifts though is its ability to set the stage for our photograph.
There is no body who sees a photograph of white sweeping across the landscape who won’t know it’s snow. That in itself is huge! Talk about easy story telling, put the white stuff in there and you can say it’s winter in a heartbeat. And with it being white, anything you stick on it will visually pop without any problem. That’s huge too! The three photos here, the Coyotes in Yellowstone, Polar Bear on the edge of the Beauford Sea or Dall Sheep in the Yukon territory demonstrate this. The “subject” in each one of these photos gets smaller and smaller yet, you can’t help but to see them. You don’t need long glass to make these types of images come to life. You’ve just got to see them and get past having frame filling subjects but let the whole world into the frame.
This brings up for many I’m sure the question of exposure. There is some really old, really bad advice out there on this topic but like anything photographic, YOU must find what works best for you. Personally, when shooting snow I don’t automatically do anything with my metering. Using modern cameras with meters connected to computers, I don’t find an issue so it comes back down to what it is you want to communicate. I’ve written about this before, if you wanna find out more, head here. The biggest trick of all if simply getting out in the snow because once there, the whole winter wonderland opens up and the photographs seem to be endless!
I’ve mentioned a few times, there just is no book, PDF or website providing the recipe for cropping into elements in a photograph. I am always thinking about this since it is such a commonly asked question. I’m always trying to find the image or set of words that would aid. While shooting “Sentimental Journey” a week ago, I mentally thought of something that might, might just help some of you some of the time (that’s real committal of me, isn’t it?).
The crop in these two images follow on of the basic types of composition called Informal Balance. Informal Balance is when one side of the image is bigger/bolder then the other side. But in this case the crop is based on this basic composition principle. In the top image, the crop into the fuselage of “Sentimental Journey” is supported by the smaller element in the frame, “Made in the Shade” on the right. In the bottom image, the nose of “Sentimental Journey” (with its nose art) is much bigger in the frame then the engines with their props (strong diagonal line). Not that you’re always going to find elements that line up like these, but perhaps if you think of Informal Balance, it might help when you crop into your subject.
Photos captured by D3x, 24-70AFS
Clouds can quite often make or break a photograph. When it comes to taking “dead space” and bringing immense drama to that space, clouds are hard to beat. This morning at the AZ CAF wing is a prime example. “Cripes A’Mighty” was pulled out for us to photograph. The skies were pretty good so placing the P-51D Mustang wasn’t a challenge, no bald which gives a photographer lots of possibilities. So the drama was provided, that part of the equation filled in. So with the easy part done, what next? How do you maximize the clouds?
Background is everything in my photography, it sets the stage. But this begs the question, sets the stage for what? The what is an essential question you have to ask yourself because it might be the subject or just part of the subject. The first shot I set up to take had that gorgeous light reflected on side the P-51D. The subject was the P-51D and the what in this view is that reflection. The problem with the background with this “what” is they conflict. The sky has just as many bright elements as the side of the Mustang. I do like the added element of the DC-3 in the background. Yet still, this is my least favorite view of the three.
I love the drama in the positioning of the Mustang in this shot. I’m not so thrilled with the “dull” light on the fuselage. This really conflicts with the drama on the left side of the sky. Worst yet is the blue patched in the clouds on the right side. These three elements visually conflict with the mind’s eye too much for me. While better then the top image, it’s still not strong enough to be put out as a photo I like.
So it’s not hard to figure out that this is my favorite of the three. The question should be, what does is have or not have when compared to the others. It starts with a background, a sky with clouds that is pretty even visually. The ratio of lights and darks and their placement doesn’t compete with itself, it’s just there. Next, the reflection on the side of the Mustang is pretty harmonious with the background. This makes it easy for the mind’s eye to bounce back and forth without any type of visual competition. And what this angle has the other two don’t is the name on the nose of the Mustang. The mind’s eye just loves type and while it’s small here in this thumbnail, in a print is will suck the eye right in. So in a long winded recipe of what’s going on in my mind in such a scenario as this, there you have it.
Photos captured by D3x, 24-70AFS
Being able to stress over what to blog five days a week is just one of the blessing this profession provides, but the wonders we’re so fortunate to see and chase with our cameras has to be one of the best. May you and yours have a marvelous day and all the good will of the day chase you all year long!
And now for a serious moment.
Our home is in a forest and fire is a constant threat. That goes with the territory so keeping the property maintained and “cleaned” up for fire hazard is a constant summer / fall job. Part of that is trimming the dead limbs up to 8′ about the ground. We actually take that mark higher on our property, up to 15-18 feet except for one tree, #2. Yeah, we have numbered the trees on our property. It’s real simple, if Sharon says, “The Coops is on the tree,” I have no clue where to look. But if she says there’s a Coop on tree 1, I know exactly where to look. Tree 2 is right outside our office window and is the tree my 600mm is pointed at when I’m working at my desk. So when it comes to limb trimming, don’t you touch my tree 2!
Those limbs are the perches my subjects perch on. No perch, no photo. Here’s a classic example why shot a few years back. It was a dry year, we had very little snow on the ground but if you look at the bottom of the limbs, you’ll see the snow is filling in the shadows. That light is filling in the belly of this Douglas Tree Squirrel making the photo possible. It’s really no more then a “cute squirrel” moment that lasted only a few seconds (which is why you should always have your camera and at the ready). But with the image size, light quality and the cuteness, these images sell really well. Everyone loves a cute squirrel. Now when I look at the bottom photo, I always think of something Jake said when he was real little and real cute and everyone liked to take his photograph. He would hears the clicks and see the lens pointed at him and say, “Make them stop daddy.”
I just received this email from Nik…how cool is this?!
Happy holidays! we’re running our annual Black Friday/Cyber Monday special for our direct customers. The promotional pricing shown below runs from 11/23 – 11/28. Use promo code – moose
Dates and time:
* 11/23/11 at 9am PST to 11/28/11 12 am PST
* 20% off individual Nik Software products
* $100 off Complete Collection for Lightroom and Aperture
* $200 of Complete Collection Ultimate Edition
Now you can have this power in your photo finishing!
Sharon & I were just talking about print sales in 2011. We are simply amazed just how fortunate we are in how many folks have purchased prints. At our last DLWS in Moab I was thinking the same way so to say thanks to those folks, I gave them all a 24×30 print which they took home with them. Sharon & I were talkin about how we could say thanks for everyone for such a great year. So we came up with this little something. Between now and Dec 10th, our gallery prints are half price (S&H extra)! Now being a good capitalist, I’ll sell anything and in this case, that means that any image you see like here on the website, over on our Moose Aviation, in my book Captured, any of those images can be printed and sent to anywhere in No America for arrival before xmas. You can head here for ordering info, just remember to cut the price in half. And THANK YOU for making 2011 such a terrific year!
Ah, the first snow of the season that will stick has fallen, winter is on! I love shooting critters in the snow for many reasons. They have their thickest fur, densest feathers, most of the time they are all puffed up to stay warm giving themselves the “I’m full and pleased” look. It is also easy to photograph them. I have learned over the years what patches of snow to NOT remove as it acts like a natural reflector so flash fill is not required. No matter the time of day, the snow bounces light up and makes getting snap shots easy to take. All you need are the critters!
Attracting critters in the winter is real simple, food and water is all it takes. When it comes to food, suet works great because it is such high energy but even better, it doesn’t freeze. Lastly, suet hangs so snow doesn’t collect on it and even if it does get wet, it’s fat so it won’t spoil. We do put out seed but it’s a pain to keep clear on some days. Water is the best, it’s free and brings in everything critter from birds to mammals. The only trick is to keep it from freezing. There are bird bath (some even solar powered now) heaters which draw no power really and keep the water just a couple degrees above freezing. This “free water” as it is called is vital to critters since they still need to drink especially in the winter.
Now if there is a trick to this when it comes to photography, it’s putting up food and water so you have a shot. That means watching backgrounds! Now I tend not to shoot the critters at the feeders and baths, but when they come and go to them. In the top shot, this is the suet post, you can see the suet cage in the lower right corner of the frame. I hung it this way because the Clark Nutcrackers (who you see here), Steller Jays and woodpeckers love to land and argue about who gets to eat. I needed a beefy branch for all that activity. But it’s the line of birds waiting their turn at the offerings that I love to photograph the most. The bottom shot is a favorite from this spring (birds are missing from our feeders right now ). I love the light and the gesture. You might be saying, “There’s a stick going through its head” and you’re right. If you showed me this image I too might make a joke about the skewered brains. But for some reason, it doesn’t bother me here which doesn’t make it right, I just like it. So with Thanksgiving just around the corner, remember to be thankful for the wildlife we have about and remember to set them a place at the table!
Photos captured by D3x, 600VR
I’ve had a whole bunch of emails today asking basically, “Is that for real?” The paint job on the nose of the Lone Star Flight Museum’s P-47D “Tarheel Hal” simply can’t be missed. Now I am waaaaaaay behind in getting images processed from the last couple of weeks air to air activity. I had 16 fights in the last two weeks and everyone of them produced a treasure trove of killer images. Getting those images processed, out to the pilots, articles off to mags has put bags under my eyes. It has also prevented me from doing a ton of research on “Tarheel Hal.”
I do know though it is an accurate paint scheme for the pilot from WWII. You might ask like I was thinking that such a paint scheme might make you a bigger or better target. Once you get in the air and see it though you realize it makes it no more visible and as such, better target. I’m dying to read more about the pilot though, if his plane was this colorful, how colorful was he?
Photographically, you can see some of the shoot I did with “Tarheel Hal” in the vid I posted earlier today. The Moose Cam, a Coolpix S9100 got knocked at the end of the shoot so I didn’t get much of the P-47D on vid. The top shot is a basic nose shot. When flying towards the sun you can get this great disk blur and the P-47D creates a great one! The shutter speed was 1/60 which is what creates that blur. The bottom photo, the shutter speed was 1/200. The bottom photo is called a “dirty” profile since the P-47D has its landing gear down. That is intentional and all part of getting the whole story.
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII w/TC-17e
The thrill of working with a WWII bomber and fighters is like no other, especially meeting them in their environment, the skies!
Just finished my talk at Google and had a helluva an audience! I think when I asked my dear friend Mike Wiacek what he thought summed it up best. “The parts I listened to were great!” Friends! I totally changed up my presentation and did aviation, wildlife and landscape, all in an hour. We had a great day and thank all the folks especially those for standing in the back since there were no chairs, for sticking with me. Remember, photography is all about sharing!
Ya baby, I’ll be at Google (San Jose, CA) tomorrow talking about my favorite topic…..photography. Just what exactly am I talking about? I only have a clue but I’ve not made the show yet. That’s right, while I drive over to the Bay Area today and spend some time with our good friend David Cardinal (creator of DigitalPro) I’ll put the show together in my head. I can tell you that it will be a show like I’ve never done before because heck, if you’re going to be presenting at the home of innovation, sticking with the norm just won’t do. So if you’re in the neighborhood, I believe I go on at 1PM and hope to see you in the audience!
Sharon & I have just finished a five week road trip in which all but one day, I was teaching while shooting. I enjoy that a lot but your mind is never truly, fully on your own photography. You never get to really go inside and have a good conversation with yourself and talk through a photograph. I thought I might go past the 2mil mark for digital files in my entire library this trip, but didn’t think I’d fly by in such grand fashion coming back with over 1.8TB of images for the 5 weeks. Wow, that’s a lot of clicks. Wow, that’s a shit load of images to finish (all landscape and aviation, no wildlife )! And the very last day of our road trip was my day to do my photography for my own projects. It was simply an amazing day where all the months of planning came to be and executed to the T as planned. That rarely ever happen! What a rush, what a high!
Then we came home where there was a home to vacuum, dogs to walk, snow to move and mail to open. The day before I was chasing planes through the clouds and the next, the office. One thing I have never gotten good at in all these years is coming down from such photographic highs. Don’t get me wrong, I love home, it’s my favorite place to be and this time of year with a fire in the evenings, it’s great. But being a road warrior, I no sooner get home then the itch comes to be back on the road. The one thing I do once I get back home is to get the “work” done so I can “play” as soon as possible. The first work thing actually starts on the road. That’s getting all my images edited, filed and numbered so all I have to do is dump all the files on the network. That’s the work, the office organization stuff. Then comes the play. That’s taking those images and finishing them, printing them and sharing them. So now I’ve been home a day and the work is done and I’ve started the play and I’m feeling a little better. It might just be me but after great shooting, coming down is hard to do!
Planes: B-17G “Sentimental Journey,” T50 “Bamboo Bomber,” F2G-2 Super Corsair “#74″
Photos captured by D3x, 70-200VRII w/TC-17e
Sharon likes hangar hanging because she gets to fly, this time going up in a Stearman. Schweeet!
If you follow the blog then you know my thing for the F2G-2 Super Corsair. I was very fortunate to not only spend a bunch of time with the Super G but also with the family who brought it back to life, the Odegaards. To say thanks, I’ve sent them a whole bunch of prints over the year. Well, I wanted one for myself, a special one I could share with others. So my good friends at Image Wizards worked their magic and made this giant print of the Super Corsair from Reno this past sept. I took the print with me to AZ and got Bob to autograph it. And it was fitting, he signed under the wing of the Super G. It’s such a simple pleasure, the print, but it makes such a huge impact. Share your moments, share your prints! Thanks Bob!
One of the really cool things about the AZ Wing of the CAF is the ability to hang around the hangars. I do it all day long! There is always something going on with aircraft, that’s the obvious photographic finds. But it’s the people who come to visit the Wing that are the real find. We have meet and become friends with many, most being vets from WWII. They come to see their old friends, the aircraft, and share some of their stories with their family. Well Monday we were hangar hanging with our good friend Bob at his Super Corsair when a docent came over and asked Bob is this 91yr old vet could sit in Stang, Bob’s P-51D Mustang. The gentleman flew them during the war. Without hesitation, Bob said yes and bounded over to Stang to assist. With camera in hand, I followed.
The gentleman hearing he could, started to approach the Mustang when he broke down. The memories came rushing back, what exactly they were, what his experience had been I don’t know but they were powerful. His family grabbed the gentleman steadying him. Bob then asked if the grandson would like to get up into the cockpit, experience a little of what his grandpa had long ago. Smart grandson, he was up and in in a heartbeat. After a little while grandpa had regained his composure and was being helped up into the cockpit. Once in, you could see he was back home, memories came rushing by and were communicated in his face mainly with big smiles. I asked if I could take some pics and they said yes with a very quizzical look on their faces.
Then I told the son and grandson to hop up on the wing for a quick portrait which they were happy to do. Then they all came off the wing and once grandpa was back on the ground, the emotions over came him again. And this is not uncommon in the hangar to the Wing or any time warbirds are out in public. To the men who flew them, they are more then just metal.
This is the reason I always have a camera with me when hangar hanging. After the family had finished with the Mustang and grandpa was back to telling stories, I passed them my business card telling them to contact me, I’d send them prints. Grandpa got all tearie eyed again. Odds of them all being together and with a P-51D again are pretty slim, the photograph though will always remind them of that moment. And that’s what photograph is all about!
Photos captured by D3s, 50f1.4AFS
So then I tied it all together. Blowing the first 30min put the pressure to come up with an image that worked. Using the same reflected light off the wall, Walt was joined for a couple of minutes to make this shot. Same narrow f/2.8, lens selection and light and it was a slam dunk. Now if I had a week, I could have created a set, let it with a ton of flashes and come up with a really cool shot. But I didn’t have a week, I didn’t have an hour and knew I didn’t have the skill set to do anymore then what you see. So I went with what strengths I do have and made a click I really like. For Moose, it’s not a bad people picture. Can’t thank the members of the Arizona Ground Crew Living History Unit enough for a great morning!
I listen VERY carefully every time Joe is teaching flash. The one thing he stresses that 99.9% of photographers miss (they are locked into numbers) is start with ONE light. Since I already acknowledged my short coming, I stuck with this basic precep, one light and I went with the sun. I also took this to the reinactors and went to working with just one. The light was killer and it was perfect, it was reflected light from a white wall. This giant light source was perfect and Walt was the perfect character actor!
Now I was in my zone with the light so then I just put my finishing touches to the photo. I went down low, shot at f/2.8 and let Walt do his thing. This is the file right out of the camera, not a single thing done to it in post. When I do this and see these kinds of results then I know I made the right call at the camera. Reflected light on a character, perfect!
Photos capture by D3x, 70-200VRII