A Great 100 yard Photowalk!

Broadway Street Bridge, Little Rock captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

Bedford Camera has his marvelous event going on this weekend, their Photo Expo in Little Rock. I was very fortunate to be invited to speak last night and then lead a photowalk this morning. It was a complete joy to do both as these are marvelous, passionate photographers hungering to learn more. How so? They got up and joined me this morning at 06:00 for a photowalk along the River Walkway. It was to be just a 90 minute walk. With the classes that started at 09:00 and the incredible heat and humidity, besides being my favorite time out shooting, it just made sense. And in those 90 minutes, we might have gotten only 100 yards but they were a great, 100 yards!

Na, there was no amazing photographic opportunity that kept us in place, just a real teachable moment and a group of very willing and open minded visual storytellers. What you see above it the Broadway Street Bridge. It has some elegance to it but the skies, they couldn’t be any balder if you tried. How do you make a click of it bringing some drama to the engineering? That what we explored for 90 minutes. The photo on the left was taken at 06:31 and on the right at 06:51. There is just 20 minutes and -1 stop difference (photo on right was shot at -1) between the two technically. But visually, there is quite a distance. And that’s what made the morning so great as we talked through the technical and mental hoops to jump through for each photographer to bring their own drama to the moment. It was a great morning and I was honored to be amongst such a great group of folks! And for me in this humidity, I so welcomed a great 100 yard photowalk!

Fall is Just Around the Corner

Alaskan Range taken 08.10 captured by Z 7 / 24-70f4

It seems like a real disconnect but yeah, head towards the top of the globe and you’ll find summer winding down and fall start to make its presence known. The Moose will soon be shedding their velvet. The big game is growing the last of their winter coats. Bears are starting to think about hibernation and are porking down all the fat they can find. And the landscape and the light starts to take on that warmth that is so inviting. While Alaska is having one of it worse wildfire seasons this year, there are still many gorgeous locales just screaming for you to come and visit. A killer way to see and photograph this splendor is to rent a RV in Anchorage and then just drive north stopping where the mood strikes you. Now’s the time to plan it for next month because any later and you might just find yourself in winter’s first snowfall! I hope to see you up there!

Yeah … Not So Innocent!

Immature Rufous Hummingbird captured by Z 9 / Z400f4.5 w/Z1.4x

Our hummers are very seasonal here at The Ranch, seeing our first normally in the middle of May and the last one the middle of Sept. We have one or two adults at the start of the nesting season and not until the kids are out do we have a dozen or so buzzing about. We have fives species that visit us, the Anna, Black-chinned, Allen’s, Rufous and the sweet little Calliope Hummers here. We had none the first year here so we feel fortunate for those here this summer. We do most of our attracting with plants which definitely love all the attention they receive, from us and the hummers. We do have three feeders at opposite ends of the property. And as you might imagine, each one has been claimed as the sole property of one hummer. We’ve seen that “owner” change a couple of times. The feeder I set up to photograph at belonged at first to a Calliope, then it changed hands to an adult, male Rufous. And now there is an immature Rufous male and he is the funnest hummer I’ve photographed!

One of the great things is he’s not shy, not one bit! I’m right at the MFD of the Z400f4.5, about six feet away from the feeder just standing there with the Z 9 / Z400f4.5 / Z1.4x on a tripod with the SmallRig Fluid head (on a side note, the Z400f4.5 is a fabulous lens! Sharp, fast, light, I’m loving it!). This little guy is pretty darn smart, or clever, or devilish depending on your point of view. In his taking “ownership” of the feeder comes defending his new territory. He will occasionally sit on a nearby perch and swoop down on an intruder but he prefers to “hide” right behind the feeder and ambush interlopers! There is a period around 08:00 when the sun comes through the feeder striking him as he hovers in wait and creates a really cool light on this devilish little guy.

He will just hover there in place behind the feeder which is great for photography. The Z 9 in Auto Area AF animal eye-detect locks on faster than I can see it appear in the viewfinder. The 20fps burst catches a whole lot more hummer photos than the “empty” images I was use to. At times, the little Rufous will perch on the chain holding the feeder in wait. It occasionally will drink itself, but for the first hours of daylight, it’s full on guard duty. Then there are the times he hides hovering right alongside the Z400f4.5 to the right. Trying to figure out how to get that photo. He’s quite the character. We don’t have a name for him yet (but thinking Sly) but he sure has filled the void of the nesting House Wrens which now travel about The Ranch in a pack of seven.

I hope you’ve having the opportunity to photograph hummers this summer! These photos are using the KISS method, just using sunlight. If you need to use flash which I typically do, remember I posted this video that goes through my entire rig. Though the rig has now changed, all the basics are the same. Well, back out to my new little friend. He’s such a character but yeah, not so innocent!

It’s the Southwest Magic Time!

Monument Valley view captured by Z 6II / Z24-70f2.8
August is an amazing time to be at Monument Valley. It’s my favorite time of the year! Yeah, it’s hot but it has the great afternoon thunderstorms that make it come to life. That’s my first tip. Next, always beat the sun up and be sure to see it depart each day! There is plenty of time at highnoon when a nap during the hard light works great. Another tip, have a second body on a tripod shooting a time lapse 24hrs! Lastly, take control of your white balance, 9k is your best friend!

Capturing the Rain

Kodiak Brown Bear family captured by Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS

Rain is a part of our experience outdoors photographing critters. Often though, we either run from it or curse it. It’s not very often we embrace it let alone try to tell its side of the story. In Alaska, rain is part of the summer which is why in part it is so green. The critters there including the Kodiak Brown Bear go about their day rain or shine like normal. On this particular afternoon, I wanted the gloppy Alaska rain to be as much of the story as the bears. There are two challenges with this goal, both are technically. Keeping the gear “dry” while showing the rain in the photograph. Both are actually easily once you think it through.

As for the gear, my rule of thumb is, if I can stand the rain, so can my gear. The Z 9 / 800f5.6AFS are old hands at working in the rain. You just need to “blot” your gear dry to keep water from pooling. The gear is not hiding under the towel or some cover, it’s hanging out there just like me. You blot with a clean, dry, white towel so as to not force any moisture in places it shouldn’t go. And in showing the rain, it’s a highlight so making it appear, you need something dark behind it. Then depending on the size of the rain drops and how fast its falling, you dial in the shutter speed for the “blur” you want and that makes it appear in the photograph. And with that, you photograph a rainy day in the Kodiak Brown Bear world. It’s all about capturing the rain.

How Much Land in Landscape?

Sapphire Mountains captured by Z 9 / Z24-120

It is called landscape photography after all, but do you wonder how much “land” you need to tell your story? When I shoot with others, they often look through my viewfinder and come away saying, “You’re including just the sliver?” I asked myself long ago the question of how much land I need to say landscape and in finding my answer, I found myself raising the camera higher and higher when … now that’s the part of the equation that’s a challenge!

The Bitterroot Mountains captured by Z 9 / Z70-200f2.8

There tends to be three elements in the viewfinder that I need in considering how high to raise the camera minimizing the land. The sky, the light and color seem to play the biggest part in the equation. You might think that when looking at the sky, clouds need to be present for this to work especially since my two examples have clouds. But actually I do the same thing with bald skies if the photograph is going to be a B&W. That’s because the natural gradation of a bald blue sky when turned into a gray tone can be incredibly stunning. But yes, generally clouds are part of the frame. But not just any cloud. Often there is a “unique” light, color and density that if you were there in person, would make you look up and that’s kinda the point. When the sky, the mood, romance, the vibe tell you to look above the land is when raising the lens makes sense to my visual storytelling. It is something to consider when telling your viewer the vastness of the world you’re exploring with your camera. You might just ponder, how much land in the landscape?

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