Yeap, that’s the outside temp right this moment at the office and I love it. And you guessed it, I’ve been tossing out the window boiling cups of water. Love that sound! But back to photography. This is a great time to be working with critters, especially big game and birds at a bird bath. Steam is a great source for interesting photographs. Steam can come from breath, hot springs or simply from a heated bird bath. You can photograph the breath like you see from the moose, or the collection of the steam on the critter like the Bison. When you see that breath or you see those frozen crystals on the fur, the viewer of the photo though in the warmth of their home, know it’s cold out and that’s the goal. But here’s the trick to this whole thing.
Steam, be it a vapor or frozen (when than it’s ice), the only way you can see it is when it’s against something dark. And that’s the trick to some, basic staple to me. Backgrounds! Backgrounds are everything but even more so in this situation. For example, there are no photos from my bird baths here to illustrate my points. That’s because not until this summer, could the backgrounds around my bird bath be manipulated to be dark. They’ve always been white snow so I’m racing to get this posted and back behind the camera to see if my plans work. But you can look at the left side of the Bison photo to see what I’m talking about. The frozen hot spring steam almost disappears with the white snow background.
Some are thinking, “That’s too cold for me!” Here’s the trick for that. First, shoot from the inside of your home. Next, shoot from the inside of your vehicle (what I did with the Bison). Lastly, limit your time outside (what I did with the Moose). Figure out what you need for DoF, Exposure and everything else and set that in the warmth of the home / vehicle and then when you head outside, you can wear thick gloves so all you need to do is be able to depress the shutter. Keep in mind that you’re not going camping in the -10 (but that is fun too), you do have that warm interior to get back to so make the shot while you can. Well, gotta get back to my bird baths. Stay warm out there!
Oh yeah … remember that breath you’re trying to capture and how it turns to ice at these temps? DON’T breath on your camera’s eyepiece, you’ll have the same problem to the point you can’t see. I use the Nikon DK-17A Anti-Fog Eyepiece to help with this problem.
We woke up to a dusting of snow which by sunset, turned into about five inches. It’s now ten degrees and tonight it’s supposed to get down to -4, so things are looking good. And by the afternoon, the birds started to show back up in the feeders and bird baths. So we’re making progress. With all the big winds, the feeder protected from the wind was the most popular and sad to say, not even photographable. On the bright side, with all the activity at that feeder, our neighborly Red-shafted Flicker which normally feeds there decided to go to the other side to feed. Lucky for me!
I had the gallery all set up to go, D4, 800f5.6, SB-910 powered by SD-9 shooting through the Wescott Rapid Box Octa triggered by Pocket Wizard but there was this one little shaft of light, this one little glint in the eye that, well, I didn’t want to ruin with flash. I have the Function Button on the D4 programed to disengage the flash for just such occasions. And just when I got the lens trained on the Flicker, a Sharpie flew through the property which made the Flicker freeze (didn’t want to become a meal itself). This was important because even though the snow was bouncing what light that was available, my shutter speed was still only 1/6, f/5.6. I took some shots and then wondered if I could go tight on just the eye. I attached the TC.25e giving me 1000f/7.1 (1/5sec) and got one click off when the Sharpie left the yard. Seconds later the Flicker went back to feeding before I could move closer physically for the shot. So while I didn’t get “the” shot, at least we made progress in the right direction. Sharon’s grateful for the snow too, maybe now I’ll stop bouncing off the walls to shoot.
The entire gang from our Yosemite Adventure wanted the shot of the tree over the rock. I said Olmstead Point was the place to go. Once there, they said, “Where’s the tree?” so i turned and pointed up, up the mountain. And before you could say Half Dome (which we shot at sunrise), up the hill we went. Two folks unknown to me until we got down, had sever fear of heights. But when it comes to getting the photo, even that didn’t stop them from climbing to the top as well. I went up with minimal gear, D4, 18-35AFS & 16Fish knowing two things, I wanted the big vista and was shooting B&W (also, I was going up so less was more!). In the background is Clouds Rest & Half Dome, so this is the lang of big vistas and B&W! The dome behind Olmstead Point itself is a picture rich area so we shot all the way up and all the way down. With the sun just coming over the horizon, it offered us many great opportunities, this is just one of them.
This dome is polished smooth from the same glacier creating Yosemite Valley. The pines that find a crack to germinate and grow all have great character. This is one of the larger ones so the combination of it and granite, well make for a photo. So with the 18-35AFS attached shooting at 18mm, I bent down and took the shot. It’s truly one of those, “I was here shots” at best. Boring! I knew that there was a photo here, had to get it out. What was it lacking? First was the sun, it wasn’t helping. Close the lens down to f/22 and then move so it was just peaking through the tree, we’d get the starburst. OK, with that I can change position and use the shadow as a line for the eye to move through the frame. To do that, I need to go wider so the 16Fish replaced the 18-35. OK, making some improvement but we can do better. OK, gotta nice boulder, small but it works. Lay on the granite face, get close to the boulder in the left corner (knowing I was going to light it in post) and move so the sun was peaking through the tree and wham, a photo was born. There are those times when you know there is a photo but the first click just doesn’t work. Those are the times when you gotta dig down and ask yourself what’s not working and do the dance. Because your heart knows a photo exists, you’re in there somewhere.
Like my good friend likes to say when we’re out shooting but there is nothing to shoot, “We’re sucking dirty pond water!” And that’s how it is right this moment at the office with NO snow! I have the new shooting gallery all set up and ready to go, D4, 800f5.6, SB-910 powered by SD-9 shooting through the Wescott Rapid Box Octa triggered by Pocket Wizard but not ONE bird to point it all at!
With no snow, there is plenty of free water, the main attraction for birds in the winter (free water is water that is not frozen). At the same time with no snow cover on the ground, there is plenty of food that’s easy picking. Lastly, the weather hasn’t brought the birds down in big numbers so the bottom line for Moose’s photographing birds from his desk is, sucking dirty pond water.
You might be wondering why there’s flash in this formula. One of my favorite shots is of this dirt common Cassin’s Finch (making the uncommon out of the common). This male’s red cape comes to life in this bluish light of snow by the kiss of flash. The Octa is to make the light source much bigger than the subject so YOU don’t see the light. It’s big and soft which matches the falling snow. Oh snow, please, snow!
When you’re out shooting, you have two options, shoot or don’t shoot. Since I put a high premium at being out, I see it as we only have one option, shoot. That means that if the weather sucks, finding photo opps priority hasn’t change. Nothing drives me more nuts that when photographers say, “if only the weather was better.” Since we have no control over it, it is like all variables we must cope with once we leave our homes to go shooting. The huge down pour I talked about in Worst Weather post left a tremendous amount of water on the ramp, go figure. So even before the sprinkles had stopped, we were out shooting. With gray skies, it’s time to look down, not up.
Armed with the D4, 18-35AFS & 70-200VR2, Jake & I started looking for those shots not otherwise possible on a good weather day. The first photo is all Jakes, he saw it as I was looking for just the “clean” shot. I had blinders on. The reflection of both the B-17/clouds was so much better than reality (no hangar) is why reality is smaller in the frame than the reflection. i waited for the crowd to have the design element and color combo that you see before I took the shot. Had to wait for a couple of boys jumping in the giant puddle to stop as well (I wanted to join them). The photo of the B-29 came from the stories from my dad of the planes on the ramp at Clark during the war and the giant culverts along the ramps to drain them off from the constant down pour.
Now in the perfect world with the perfect weather for whatever you had previsualized, these photos probably would not have been on your shot list. The sunrise surely hadn’t unfolded as we planned by any measure but that’s how it goes. But then again, the images we came back with were in reality more of one of a kind from an otherwise common subject. And whenever you can take the uncommon of the common, there are good odds you’ll come out ahead. So when the weather isn’t exactly what you had planned, head out just the same with an open mind and make the most of the light at hand.
make for the best photography! My rule of thumb is, if I can handle the weather, so can the camera. In this case though, we needed the assist of a big ass hangar. It was Sunday of the Wings Over Houston airshow. As is normal, we got to the Texas Flying Legends Museum hangar well before sunrise to get to work on the sunrise shoot. Driving to the airport, saw the lightning in the distance and looking at my favorite lightning app, RadarCast, I saw a whole lot more was heading right for the airport. We pulled in, got our gear into the hangar and the skies opened up, oh my, did they let loose!!!
The hangar doors were wide open and chairs set up, SOP. Grabbing a hot cup of coffee and watching the run rise behind all the aircraft with friends is a simple joy, but that wasn’t going to happen this morning. Within minutes, the rain was coming down so hard, it was bouncing up off the tarmac and bouncing into the hangar pushing us back at least ten feet and making us partially close the hangar doors. The heavens were putting on one helluva show, lightning bouncing every which way. As is typical pilot nature, I turn to see everyone standing under the wing of the Shrike even though we were all in the hangar. Then I see Jake setting up his camera … it was one of those Duh…. moments!
With the D4 / 80-400VR3 set up, I focused on the FG-1D Corsair parked right outside the hangar. It was to be the sunrise shoot but that was scrubbed at this point. What you see here are the photos taken during this time. They are 15sec exposures with all the lighting a combination of lightning and vehicles driving past. The rain pouring so hard created what appears to be ground fog and the long exposure with all the mixed light did the rest. No two images look anything like the next other than the Corsair which didn’t move.
What if there was no hangar? In this case, if I couldn’t find a wing to stand under, me and my gear would have been tucked away in the truck still. Those times when I can work in the rain, I don’t cover the gear with anything. I do have with me a dry, white towel that I will BLOT my gear dry (never, ever wipe). The thing is this, whenever you have a camera and you wonder if, follow that if especially in bad weather. If you wonder if there is a photo there, go for it! The least that might happen is, you delete that if. And the most, you’ll have a photo to always remind you of that wonder of nature you were able to capture in that click. The worst weather does produce some of the best photos!
Our fall B&H Photo / Lexar Moose Cruise was just a blast with a boat load of great folks! There was a father/daughter pair from Australia who were all smiles as we cruised. Now Chloe caught my attention right from the start. Now you might be looking at Chloe’s photo above (which is really cool) and thinking, “Photoshop” but such is not that case. And that’s how Chloe caught my attention.
Here, you can see one of the photos in the LCD and below, you can see Chloe’s technique. Yeap, the photo is a reflection that she creates on the surface of her iPhone and in one click, makes the photo. Now when I was across the deck looking at what she was doing, it really, really, really had me scratching my head. So I walked over and asked and got an education. Chloe’s smile the whole time she was shooting is what really told the whole story and whenever you see a photographer smiling like that, you know only good things are coming forth. Chloe, I applaud your creativity!
There is a magic to the color of white when you find it in landscape photography. The eye grabs on to it and than takes every other color in view and puts it on a higher level. Working the hoar frost in Yosemite, the icing lining all the meadow grasses along with the ever changing mist made for simple killer images. Standing on the edge of the meadow, shooting in with the D4 / 80-400VR3, we simply looked for the pattern that worked and shot.
I don’t profess to have the answer, but at least for my own photography, I have a hint. I’m using as an example these two photos with the simple topic, fall color. When it comes to telling the story and keeping it simple, quantity comes into play. Quantity comes in many flavors, quantity as in percentage of area and quantity as in sheer numbers. We can use either one of these by themselves or in combination but that danger is the lack of or over use of the subject. And I think the answer I like to use in solving this question is your imagination. I think that the more we can tap into the viewer’s imagination, the less we can have of the subject and still smack them between the eyes with the subject. The more the imagination, the more the storytelling takes over. Both photos were taken D4 / 58f1.4AFS so they are “normal” and they both have the same subject. But they both have different quantity. Which brings the subject to life? It’s for you to answer in your own photos.
We had some high, fast moving clouds and that got me to wondering. I’ve seen some marvelous images of very blurred clouds by static subjects. With the clouds I was seeing over our heads, I wanted to see if I could do the same. So we headed down the Merced to a classic view of El Capitan, I mean, can’t get more static that that big ass piece of rock! To get the shot, it’s the same basic formula as blurred water, you need a slow shutter speed so the fast moving subject blurs during the exposure. The question is, how slow and how to get there. With water, I have a pretty good idea where to start, but not a clue with clouds. You see, I’d never done it before but thought it was a good time to. Unlike water, the clouds are going to be lit by the sun, so extreme measures were required. Call in the, wait for it … Big Stopper!!! (you should be hearing that word reverberate on your computer right now).
Shooting with the D4, 18-35AFS and Big Stopper, (all on a tripod of course) started by composing the scene. This is important for besides the obvious, you need to set the focus and determine shutter speed. Once that is done, set the camera to manual focus, remember the shutter speed (aperture doesn’t change) and set camera to Bulb. Using this really cool app my bud Scott Kelby turned me on to when we were shooting at Lake Tahoe, NDTimer, you then calculate the shutter speed you need shooting through the Big Stopper. For example, it an original shutter speed of 1/13, NDTimer told me (and very accurately) I needed to use 1:18 exposure. How accurate is it, really? Within 15min, everyone else owned NDTimer and was using it. It’s that good! Unlike water, getting cool shots of blurred clouds is not really a slam dunk just because you have moving clouds. I don’t have a formula yet in my head, but with these tools, it’s pretty easy so I’ll keep playing with it until I do.
Oh man, what a week! It was simply a killer time in a gorgeous place with some down right really nice folks! Good food, laughs and photography sure does make the time fly. We had just one “moody” time in the valley so I took the group up to Glacier Point. Normally this time of year, the road is closed due to snow so regrettably while no snow, we had access. By the time we arrived at Washburn Point, the skies and light were perfect. The evening held a ton of promise for an amazing show. The clouds were wizzin by which always means great sunsets in the Sierra. When we finally arrived at Glacier Point itself and were in place, the wind and completely died and left the clouds stacked up and dark on our heads. It went from great to, OK at best but we still made the most of it. One of the best parts of the whole time was being with folks who had never experienced Yosemite or Glacier Point before. To see how big their eyes got when they looked over the edge, it was priceless! Another simple click made the the COOLPIX 7800
I had such promise. We were out shooting heavenly bodies when the first little puff of cloud floated in over edge of the valley. By the time we headed up the avenue of the giants, the scuz had settled in. When that happens (which causes the light to flatten out), I turn the lens to the trunks. I love design patterns in trunks especially in Yosemite where we have pine and cedar, naked and with lichens. All one has to do than is find the patterns that please your eye and shoot.
The shooting is pretty straight forward. Shooting with the D610 (which is doing a great job) and 80-400, I point in the general direction where I see the pattern and than with eye to the viewfinder, fine tune the pattern. What you don’t see in this photo is the yellow caution sign, happily removed in ACR. There was also a color cast from the dark, blue light, also removed via ACR. Otherwise, it’s a simple click making a little timber in the scuz. And yes, I love this type of photography!
By our best accounting, this will be my 100th trip to photograph Yosemite Valley. I’ve been there more times than that, I’m speaking of just going to make images. You can look at the first photos of Yosemite from the 1800s and than ours and Half Dome looks like the same rock. El Cap is still the biggest big ass piece of granite. So if you’re heading to a locale to the 100th time or just the second time, how do you keep your images fresh? Even more important, how do you grow your photography and come back with better images?
There are times when, you don’t even have to think about this question. All it takes is a blessings from the photo God and you have the amazing weather, the amazing light and you’re in the right place at the right time. With no other effort or mental strain, you’ve got the shot. And of course, we plan our trips, at least I do, putting the odds in our favor for this to occur. But as we all know, no matter how well we plan, there are times when you end up with bald skies and naked trees, no water and too many public. That’s when we dig down to stay fresh.
Your first option, chase the light. Often this means leaving the obvious in search of the unobvious. I head for the shadows, at Yosemite in the fall / winter, that means going to the south side of the valley or in the forests. Why? Here, stray beams of light or light bounced off those massive granite cliffs on the other side bring to life a photo otherwise not doable. Ya, you miss the grand sweep photos that scream Yosemite like this shot of El Cap as a storm breaks above, but at least you are still making great images.
At the same time, I switch up lenses. If your’e shooting wide, go long. If shooting long, go normal, force the view in the viewfinder to change to change your view. This tends to bring on more experimentation which leads to failure and failure, leads to success. For example, the clouds are thin and scattered, rather unattractive but are screaming by. Perhaps put on that Big Stopper and point the lens up to blur the clouds going by the granite walls.
This next week, we’ll be shooting in Yosemite for what we think is my 100th time in The Valley and I can’t wait! And that is probably the best answer to keeping it fresh. Having a passion for photography, for the location, knowing that it only takes that one click you can share that says you LOVE where you were and what you did is all it takes. Never settle, always push and give yourself a break with the knowledge that some times the bear gets you and some times you get the bear is what photography is all about. See with your heart, tell your story with your photograph and it will always be fresh!
Sharon & I are taking a small group of photographers to Monument Valley 10-14 March, 2014 to photographically explore a magical world. You will arrive in Flagstaff, AZ which is the airport we will be picking folks up from and taking them back to. Transportation to & from the airport as well as for the week is provided. We are staying at The View and have the best rooms reserved giving those who want to, the opportunity to do time lapse / stars trails (and we’re there to teach you how) as well as sunrises and sunsets. We have no set agenda, that’s one of the trademarks of our workshops, we chase the light but that will over the course of the workshop take us to Monument Valley at the very least. If you’ve seen any of my Kelby Training videos, Romancing the Landscape, then you know that I not only have an intimate knowledge of Monument Valley, but many who call it home are dear friends. That get’s us some amazing photo opps.
The price for instruction & transportation (once in Flagstaff) is $2095. Half is due on registration and the other half is due 30 days out. Information for reserving your room will be provided once you reserve your spot in the workshop. Lodging & food not include in the price.
What do you need for the workshop? Utmost is an adventurous spirit! We’ll be up early and out late shooting and in between, we’ll be learning, laughing and working on images. This will be the most laid back, jammed packed workshop you’ve ever been on! Computers & camera gear are highly recommended and a packet will be sent to you with specific information some time prior to the adventure. Limited to 6, now full, call 760.924.8632 / 661.204.1506 if you’re up for the adventure in the land of the setting sun!
K&M Adventures is taking on the the elements with a winter Oregon Coast Adv, 19-23 March, 2014! This magnificent region is one Kevin & I have journeyed to and photographed many, many times. The coast in the winter is a spectacular photographic playground as Mother Nature chisels away at the rock! As you might notice, I think it’s a great place for B&W and is the same region featured in my Kelby Training Black and White Landscape Class. You’ll wanna fly into Portland on the afternoon of the 19th (by noon) and fly out on the 24th (after 2pm). We’ll pick you up from the airport and escort your around until we take you back to the airport. That, along with instruction are all included for the price of $2195 (limited to 7). We spend from breakfast until last up together shooting, eating, shooting, digital darkroom, laughing and other things you just can’t imagine! Which means you might find yourself in front of a subject you never imagined. (Unlike our other Adventures, there will be a lodging change half way through the trip. Lodging not included in the price). And after those long days, you want to kick your shoes off and relax. Give the office a call 760.924.8632 and we’ll get you all signed up!
We’ve had a number of calls asking about our K&M Adventures for 2014. Well, we’ve had a bunch of past participants that had so much fun together (and you know who your are buds!) that they had K&M create custom Adventures just for them. With only so many days available in a year to offer them, that’s why you don’t see the many listed. So, here’s your opportunity to join us.
Photographers are challenged by all they read about Depth of Field and how to apply what they’ve read. Personally, I still prefer to think of it of how I was taught it back in the dark ages, Depth of Focus. You might want to get our FREE iBook Photography FUNamentals if you’re feeling frustrated by DoF. At the moment, I want to talk about DoF and infinity. While in science, infinity has one meaning, in photography it’s much easier to visualize. All you have to do is set you lens to infinity and look through the viewfinder, you’ll see what is and what isn’t in focus. In this example, the Tetons are miles away from the camera and whether shooting with a wide angle (above here using a 18-35AFS) or long (below 80-400), closing the lens down to gain DoF is a waste of shutter speed. Infinity while mathematically has DoF, in practice, you gain nothing.
This is photography so of course, there are caveats. In both of these photos, there is nothing else between the camera and the subject that we want in focus. For example, in the top photo, if we put a person in the foreground to take their portrait, than yes, DoF matters very much. Shooting with a wide lens, DoF is pretty simple. Shooting with a long lens, DoF can be a challenge. But I’m not talking about that. I’m talking about the subject being at infinity and the belief that shooting at f/32 is going to help with the sharpness. It will not, you can shoot at f/5.6 as these were and be good to go. You can test this for yourself and I hope you do. It might help you move down the DoF road and make it work for you. In this case, opening up the lens, having a faster shutter speed and just a tad more fun.
“It’s so cool, he’s still here and drilling” read the text I received from Sharon while still in the Tetons. All of the Aspens on our property have gone bare with fall except one. Our biggest Aspen still has green leaves and that’s the only reason I can figure we have a new buddy in the yard. This immature Red-breasted Sapsucker has been in the yard for over a week now, never really leaving what we now assume he feels is his tree. The sapsucker get their name from their drilling “wells” in living trees so the sap pools and runs out. They drink this nectar and eat the insects that are attracted to the sap. Hummers love these natural feeders as well, but ours have all headed south. You can see our buddies progress as he rings the trunk. Does it kill the tree? Surprisingly, no. He’s a really cool little dude, you can walk right up to the tree and look up and watch him, he doesn’t flush.
On the photographic side, sapsuckers and woodpeckers can be a challenge since they are often high in the tree. In this particular case, if I were trying to photograph him from the ground, I wouldn’t do it. The angle up is just too much for a nice angle. But I am able to shoot across to our buddy from our 2nd story deck. With the D4 / 800AFS with its TC-25E at 1000mm I could get the image size you see. The key here is the use of flash. Using the Wimberley F-9 Flash Bracket for Head Version II to hold the SB-910 (powered by Nikon SD-9 with a Better Beamer (shortened SC-29 connecting it all), I shot. When our buddy was on the right of the trunk, it was much easier to meld the flash and ambient light. When he was on the left of the trunk, the use of flash is much more apparent. Why is that? The mind’s eye sees the brightness on the back of the sapsucker and expects a shadow. The combination of the light of the flash and the bounce off the trunk, fine tuning flash exposure for the left side of the trunk took longer than our buddy gave me. On the right side, it was a simple click. The whole time, I’m using CS e4 which permits me to set the ambient light exposure compensation and flash exposure compensation independently and that is critical for my style of shooting. While you’re reading this, I’m back out on the deck with our buddy. I have a small window each morning to shoot as the sun rises and leaves the trunk. mtc