It was another gorgeous morning at the Tetons. We were amazingly fortunate to have killer mornings every morning with none of them being the same. This morning was in particular gorgeous as the clouds danced around the peaks and the light played pick-a-boo. The K&M gang were really into the morning and asking tons of questions which is perfect! Well, I was bouncing around from camera to camera helping and realized I was missing the shot! I’m there to help not shoot but when it’s this gorgeous, I wanted a few of the clicks myself. Then it came to me so I ran off to the van and into my camera bag and came bag with the PERFECT solution. The CamRanger which I just acquired and wrote about worked brilliantly! I could walk around and help folks and then looking at my iPhone, see when the photo looked good at my camera, click the button and capture the shot. Ya, the CamRanger activates the LiveView and than broadcasts that to your device so you can see exactly what the camera is seeing. It worked great! There is only one, small, slight issue. To fire the iPhone, you need the use of your finger and this particular morning, it was damn cold!
Note to self … next time, stay in van, let CamRanger & camera deal with the cold.
I have a real photographic fascination with Aspen Trunks. First, I don’t very often get to them in the fall when they are at their best. And I nearly get to them in the fall when they are wet. In the fall when they are wet, you have less leaves so you can see more of the trunk and when wet, the elbows where the branches have broken off with time turn black. White is the dominant color, black brings the eye to the vertical lines and then with the right hint of fall, you add in the warm tones. What you see above is what I’m looking for and like. How did I find it? I think that’s the trick. First, you’ve gotta find a grove you can shoot into. Working off a road works because the road often is the avenue into the forest. Next, overcast soft light really helps. Next, shoot with a long lens, anywhere from 200mm to 400mm (I shot this with 800mm). Lastly, focus on either the left or right edge of the grove and slowly, slowly pan to the other end. Look in the viewfinder as you pan and if there is a photo there, it will smack you right between the eyes as you pan. The mind’s eye is really good at that, when you let it tell you when all the elements come together. Finally in post, in ACR, bring the black slider down making the blacks darker. That’s all the finishing that was done. That’s how this photo was taken.
When we first arrived in the Tetons, there was quite a bit of fall color even though it seemed we were well past peak. But we kept finding great patches of color up to yesterday. It brings up the question, how much fall color do you need to have in your photo to say fall. We all love the rolling hillsides a blaze with color, this requiring the perfect season and your perfect timing. I don’t know about you, but scheduling my travels a year in advance, making everything line up can be a challenge. So can we say fall without the blazing hillside?
Here are two simple methods of doing it. The first is getting down low and fill the frame with backlit color and include the sun. Shooting with the D4 / 18-35, I got down low, closed down the aperture to f/22 and went click. Than, and this is the important part, I went into ACR and brought up the shadows and brought down the highlights. The color in the middle tree is nearly gone, the tree on the far right of the frame is naked but with that sunburst in the upper right corner, the mind’s eye fills it in and we have great fall color. Another method is to find just the right sprig of color and work with it. The bottom photo is an example of this. In a forest that was mostly stumps, this one little bit of fall color remained alongside an old barn. To optically extract it the business on the right side, the sky in the top right corner, I shot with the 80-400. I used a tripod in this case because I cranked the DOF way up to get the closest leaves in focus as well as the barn side. And than with the resulting low shutter speed, I needed the tripod as the wind tried my patience. But just that hint of color makes the mind think of vast fall color. While our color is slipping away, get out and make the most of what we have left, it will brighten your winter that is just around the corner.
We are amazingly fortunate to be photographers! There are many things the can knock the wind out of our sails. From technology to park closers, but being photographers, story tellers, if we push past is all, than the wonders that is our wild heritage not only comes to life in our viewfinders, but in the imaginations of those who view our photographs! On our K&M Adventure that just finished in the Grand Tetons, Kevin & I had an amazing group of shooters who moved past this all and were rewarded with what can only be described as the photo gods best rewards! Use your spirit and camera to inspire and change, you can make the difference.
Or as I think of it, too lazy to walk closer, is a simple technique using long glass and its properties to extract the photo. This can be in many ways, this is just one of them. While not everyone’s cup of tea, I saw a photo long ago like this that has really stuck with me and I keep working on getting my own. The foreground and subject is the winterized Aspens which in themselves can be a very interesting subject. The background are willows that are at their peak of fall color. By using a long lens, in this case the 800mm, a very small slice of the scene is photographed. No, these are not perfect but they are the closest I’ve gotten in years of what I remember and I live them. Here’s the flip side to this, if I don’t push myself to keep looking for that “perfect” shot and fail along the way, then I don’t fail. If I don’t fail, than I won’t learn to make the better shot. In this case, I like the light, love the background color but the aspens themselves, one is too busy the other, to heavy on one side of the frame. Lesson learned, copy light, copy background color, need less branches and more character in small diameter trunks. Now, if I can only remember that combo.
Yeap, the Nat’l Parks are closed but they are still OUR lands to enjoy and love, even if behind closed gates. That’s what we did today and the Tetons put on one helluva show for us! Yeap, we have clouds and you all know how I love them. Sunrise was a fin shoot and really with what was provided for us, darn simple. This is a simple click, D4 / 18-35 pointing up to have just a mere slice of foreground and letting the clouds suck you in, down and around. Post processing was no more than ACR and Perfect Suite 7 B&W. Even if the park were open, I would have ended up at the same locale because the Tetons and the clouds with a whole bunch of passion determined where we shut, not a shutdown.
It was late in the afternoon, dinner was done as we’re out heading over to where a griz was grazing. The wind was still blowing, gusts earlier that day hit 60knt on the gauge but it didn’t keep the bears or us inside. Now I was walking as I normally do with the 800, D4, Gitzo, Wimberley over my shoulder with D4, 80-400 on a Vulture strap also on my shoulder as we walked single file through the meadow. As you might know, I have the 800mm wearing a LensCoat. On this particular venture, I had the Hoodie on the 800mm covering the front element as well. all I was really pleased about because the sand was blowing bigtime! So we leave the beach and crest the small knoll and a gust of wind hits and the takes the Hoodie off the lens. I retrieve and keep on going thinking really nothing about it.
Three hours later finds us down on the other end of the beach walk back towards camp after photographing this great family group, a mom and three spring cubs. Well the wind had picked back up keeping our heads down as we walked. It was so bad the sand was sticking to the chapstick on my lips! Depending on where we were, the gust of wind would hit us with sand causing us all to protect our gear a little more than normal. Well, a huge gust of wind hit us again and this time, it took the Hoodie again. Man, can that Hoodie sail! Before we know it, it’s traveled the sixty feet to the waterline. Than another gust of wind hits it sending it out into the surf. Did you know them things float! Did you know that the part that hugs your lens barrel is a great sail? Well, I didn’t but I do now! I think that Hoodie got back to Homer across the inlet before I did. All I know if I’m Sooooo glad I have LensCoat protecting my gear. The stuff works! Oh, the bear photo above? They could care less about us or the wind or my Hoodie sailing across the inlet. It just kept on moseying on down the beach.
Dear Moose Cruise folks; I’ve not forgotten you, it’s only been a couple of days and I’m just now getting back in the office. Like I offered, the finishing videos will be posted here in the next couple of days. Honest
I made it home long enough to see our Aspens that ring our meadow turn yellow. I’ve not seen that the past few years. I have lots to catch you all up with, hope to get it going this week. I wanted to start by posting a photo of home that I can see while I’m on the road the next week. This is a real simple click with Sharon’s Nikon V2 w/10-30. It’s really a great little camera that she pounds shooting stills and video. Nikon just introduced the Nikon 1 AW-1 “underwater” camera (a sample I’m told is on its way to me). Nikon states,
From outdoor adventures to family events, don’t miss a moment with the world’s first waterproof, shockproof, interchangeable lens camera*. The Nikon 1 AW1 is built for life with astonishingly fast autofocus, rugged construction and an intuitive interface. From the epic to the everyday, it delivers high-quality images.
I have to admit, a mini “Nikonos” really has me intrigued if it produces the same quality as Sharon’s V2, I’m in!
I’m right the with you, I’m dying to get them all out! But as life would have it (kinda my fault since it’s how we planned it), we no sooner got home from AK and we’re back on a plane heading to NYC (and blog late because United wifi not turned on).
Traveling in AK in the fall by bush plane is truly one of the simple joys of life. But you’ve gotta take a deep breath when flying by bush plane, not because of the plane but because of delays. In our case, we were delayed getting into the lodge by two days by 50knt winds out of the west. Then there was a window and with two aircraft, Cessna 207 & 205, we safely landed at Hallo Bay. Seeing griz from the air as we came into land on the beach was great, I’ve missed that site. After getting planes unpacked and gear stowed, we took care of some housekeeping and than headed out to shoot. We were in Homer on our way to dinner when we got the call to fly, it was that late in the day. So we left the Hallo Bay Camp for a short walk to see our griz neighbors. We had barely left the camp when we came upon this bruin. With just the D4 / 80-400VR3 on a Vulture strap with the fading light, I raised the ISO to 1600 to make a couple of clicks. Photos like this I use to just keep track of individuals as I get to know a population. Being that I plan on haunting Hallo Bay, I want to know the neighbors.
They are calling the flight and I’ve got to run. And I really need to get the story out … tired of all the “bear eat me” myths out there. The truth while boring is still the truth. mtc …
With 50knt gusts, first dusting of snow on Mt Yak and the flocks of Emperor Geese winging their way south, there is no doubt the season has changed. Alaska this time of year is unpredictable and gorgeous! In our modern life with internet, cities and cars, the spirit of the wilderness is often missed by most. This if for no other reason is why I love being a wildlife photographer. It’s a simple journey back to basics.
Our time at Hallo Bay, Alaska was nothing short of magical. It was also very typical of any wildlife adventure where you plan a year in advance to photograph a critter that has no calendar. We were anything but skunked during our time with as many as seven individual bears photographed in any given day which included mom with three spring cubs. And while being at point blank range with a griz eating barnacles is way beyond way cool, that’s not really the point when we venture out. And it shouldn’t be the only goal of your photography with any critter.
Those of us so fortunate to be on that beach, in that meadow or on that mountain slope with our wild heritage need to strive for perfection in capturing the story. This doesn’t come overnight (in my case still on going after 30yrs) but in that journey, we capture the stories that grab heartstrings and that’s why we continue to do it. And in sharing those stories, our photos, with others we bring back a small slice of what it is to be a wildlife photographer. It permits all to step back a moment from our every day lives to journey back to basics. It brings into our lives the spirit of the wilderness.
After three weeks, we’re finally in route heading home with 22k new images. To say we are incredibly fortunate is an understatement and right now, I’m really feeling the pressure to share all the stories. But the reality is, I can’t get them all out fast enough in enough ways to say … wow! After Photoshop World, we went right to the Reno Air Races, their 50th and man, was it incredible! All the fun, racing, shooting and a first for me, daily entries took that 8 days and condensed them it seems to a heartbeat or two. I’ve not even told you the story about the “Great Rain” or the rest of the story of Peterson’s Flying Circus (THANKS to all who dropped by and left a bunch of dead presidents!!!). But because of that experience, Jake, Brent & I are creating a whole new website / gallery / teaching zone (mtc on that). Phew, just thinking about the week makes my head spin! With our trip to AK right after Reno, our duffles were packed the week before and left in the truck because we went literally from Stead Airport to Reno Airport to fly to Alaska.
I’ve been looking for this location in Alaska for bears for twenty years and we’ve finally found it! Hallo Bay is without a doubt an epic location for watching, observing and photographing grizzly bears (yes, we’re takin a 5 folks there August 2014)! It is a wilderness camp, you are surrounded by bears, wolves and birds and there is NO ONE anywhere which includes phones and email! I don’t have enough words to say it all, hoping I have the photos. I’ve been writing notes like a mad man to remember it all as I go through all the images. I hear the call for our flight, it’s time to head home where I hear we had our first dusting of snow at the house. Those folks spending the weekend with us at our Photoshop for Shooters class are in for a great weekend with great scenery and a new story and photo or two!
I’m in Alaska with griz of course. It’s fall which means on the road. Sharon and I left home two weeks ago and won’t see it again until Thanksgiving. We are very fortunate to be able to see so much of our grand planet and share what we find with you! Currently, we’re up in magnificent Alaska working with one of my favorite critters, grizzly bears. Since you’re not able to be here with me, I thought I would share some of my thoughts on planning my 10 days here with you.
There are two very important factors in planning to photograph griz the way I do, one if photographing griz’s story and the other is the Cessna 207. You have to have the right gear to make the photo but you can’t bring the kitchen sink because of the 207. You need that lens and body but you’ve gotta think of useful load and CG (center of gravity). The 207 might take off from your basic runway, but it will be putting down on a dirt strip, commonly called a beach. So with those two very important factors in mind, this is the gear I have with me:
What’s the logic in this selection? The 800mm, there is no logic, I just wanna to shoot with it more. Now it might afford me the opportunity to get the up close and personal shot that does come along at times, but it won’t be my primary lens. My primary lens is the 80-400 that will be a on second body hanging from my shoulder (800mm always with me on a tripod). Using the Vulture Strap, I can easily have it with me all the time. The 18-35 is for landscapes and general shots and the 16Fish is for the flight to and from the lodge and perhaps the big landscape if it might present itself. The flash is for portraits of folks and interior lodge shots. And other than charger, cords and cleaning kit, that’s all the gear I have along. For me, that is going real light but for this trip and for me, it’s all I need. The last piece of must have equipment are hip boots! You walk a lot and often in mud, creeks and marsh and hip boots make that all possible. Often, I’ll take a knee and shoot low, hip boots are great because they keep your pants from getting wet. So, that’s the basics and where I’m at. There will be, as you imagine, a whole lot more coming but for now, you’re up to day where I’m at.
The desert is such a magical place especially when you look, I mean really look. When the monsoons are blowing through, they take on a kaleidoscope of colors as the miracle of water brings new life as summer takes its last bite at heat. Photoshop World is held in Las Vegas in September which is a drive from our home due east and then when coming home, directly due west. The route covers some amazing desert and desert ranges and it never fails to produce memorable images. Of course, they are memorable to us because we love the desert and the drive. The trick, to make the photo to help you fall in love with it.
There are a couple of critical elements needs to make this happen. The first are brakes, that means not that they are working on your vehicle (which is required no matter what) but that you have the time to use them. When traveling, stopping to take a photo takes time and that fact often stops folks from stopping. Next, you need to have your camera in your lap, or really close, so you can shoot out your window fast if need be. On this day, I shot with the D4, 18-35AFS & 80-400VR3, having all three right next to me. Then for me personally, I’m looking at the shadows, the blacks which define the shape, texture and visual depth. Those three elements are what I like to use to get you to fall in love with the desert. When it comes to finishing, I did my usual playbook, CC ACR and than Perfect B&W. With time being the key, the rest is simple, at least I hope it’s simpler with this because, I can’t help you with the time.
There we were in the metal junkyard in Chuchill, Canada. Then from nowhere a Merlin takes to the air cacking at a crow and chasing it out of the area. In June, that’s a sure sign they are nesting. Merlins are a funny little raptor, they tend to nest on the ground in the Arctic. I’ve seen Merlin for the last 30yrs but I’ve never had glass on one long enough to get better than what looks like a dust spot on the sensor. Here was an opportunity that even though less than ideal (shooting in a junkyard with the sun high overhead), it was better than what I had had, nothing. I had no shots in my conventional or digital files of Merlin.
The last 12 month, the #2 question I’ve been asked has changed. It was, “What’s the best f/stop?” but now it’s “How do I get better?” We have known units of measure, inch, ounce, miles per hours, kilowatts, but there is no known unit of measure for … better. If you can’t get a photo sharp, than just getting sharp images is better. If you can’t get “proper” exposure, than just getting a good exposure is better. If you’ve never photographed a subject before, having images of that subject that are sharp, exposed well and recognizable, are better. But once you get past these basic stepping stones in photography, how do you measure better? How do work towards being better from what YOU think could be better? Seriously, what’s better? I’ve asked some folks when they were shooting if what they were doing was making the photo better. The overwhelming response was, “I think so” but when they looked at their images they said, “I don’t know if they are better.” Hard to know without some unit of measure.
In the realm of wildlife photography, one measure of better is bigger. A bigger subject in the frame must be better. The Merlin is in the top frame but you can’t see it. The middle frame, you can see it but the trunks on the left isn’t helping. There is no doubt there’s a Merlin in the bottom frame. But what is better between the three? What might seem odd to you, these images are arranged in the order I like the best to least, the top my favorite and the bottom the least. Yes, I’m stacking the deck here but I want to make a point that hopefully will make you think. All three images were taken with the D4 / 800AFS w/TC-25e (effective 1000f7.1) so the increase in size comes from my feet, not glass. And better, what’s the measure for me, here, with these three images? Personally, sharp and good exposure aren’t a measure for better, it comes from story telling. In these three images, the top images tells more about the biology of the Merlin and therefore a story. No bigger than your basic jay, when they don’t want to be seen, they aren’t going to be seen. Could I get “better” images?” Not from this opportunity but perhaps in the future. What would make the next images better? For me, better story telling. Ultimately, I would like to have an image like I’ve seen from others, a Merlin on a branch in a spotlight of sun with a dead bird in its grasp. Hey, a guy can dream, right? And perhaps that should be our measure for better. Rather than some technical unit, some other’s idea of better, perhaps our “better” should come from our dreams. It’s doesn’t answer the question, but perhaps you might think about the question in a different light. What is better?”
The Rim Fire is a beast (4th largest fire in CA History) that has taken on a life of its own. Our prayers are with all the ground and air fire fighters fighting it along with all that have been affected by its anger. Many have reached out to us asking if we’re OK. We are grateful for your concern but we are about 40 miles away from the fire. It’s about 37 miles west of the ridge you see in this photo which is behind our home. The Sierra is dry, dry, dry an fire is a major concern and while we had one just a 1/2 mile away this past week from a lightning strike, it was dealt with quickly. Keep all those involved in all the firefighting in your prayers, they perform a thankless task on our behalf!
I called out the directions and Kevin being Kevin, just followed them. I kept telling the group we were going to see Ms. Piggy. Now if in Hollywood, such an adventure wouldn’t be thought of as odd. Up in the tundra of Churchill, Canada, odd is putting it mildly! We’re there in May to photograph birds, not some Muppet character. We make the turn and leave the main road (which is dirt) and take another dirt road. We “run” through the snow patch on the road, get past the junkyard dog, we bumped down the rock strewn road and barely make the left that brings us up to a semi “parking” area. They look around and then I point up the boulder ridge and there is a gasp in the car. That’s because one wouldn’t think a C-46 Commando could “blend” in the tundra. Ms Piggy as it’s been called as long as I’ve been heading up to Churchill is an old cargo plane that landed a tad short of the runway.
There are many things that are very cool about Ms Piggy, one being is you can see it from the road and at quite some distance. But someone has to point it out the first time otherwise, this big “bird” does just blend in. Another thing is when you walk the wreckage, it appears like the plane was just “dropped” in place and didn’t “crash land.” Here’s the story of the crash:
This is a crashed C-46 aircraft that was operated by Lamb Air. She is found on the scenic route road along Hudson Bay shortly before it ends, close to the Institute of Arctic Ecophysiology. She is called Miss Piggy because she was able to hold so much freight and once did have pigs on board. On Nov 13, 1979 she was flying a cargo of 1 ski-doo and many cases of pop for the Arctic Co-op from Churchill to Chesterfield inlet. She lost oil pressure in her left engine shortly after departing Churchill. The crew of 3 tried to return the aircraft to the Churchill airport. They clipped hydro poles with one wing just before the IAEP lab and crash landed on the rocks there. 2 of the 3 crew were seriously injured. Investigation of the failed engine only revealed small metal chips through out. Her original paint of white and red with the Lamb Air markings has been painted over with gray for a movie
I really don’t know how many hundreds of photos I have of Ms Piggy, but I have more now. The clouds were perfect when I first said, “Let’s go photograph Ms Piggy” (wish I had a picture of the faces in the van when I said that) but once we arrived, well, you see them. But I was thinking B&W the entire time which is also partly why I picked the time of day. Shooting was really straight forward, D4 / 18-35AFS. The metering was straight forward as well since the D4 does so well in these situations. Then in the DD, it was ACR and Perfect B&W using the InFrared moving the Blue and Yellow sliders to modify the default. And in case your were wondering, yes, I was dying to do some stupid post about this was the plane we took, rough landing and the like but hey…