The Great Journey in Photography


Augmented Reality Update

A quick note to let everyone know that testing is going well for the inclusion of augmented reality for three of my applications. I have a few screenshots to share. Please allow me to apologize in advance for the quality. It turns out making the screenshots is more difficult than I had expected. Rest assured that it looks much better on your actual iPhone or iPad.


You can learn more and download my apps at the link below.



Augmented Reality Coming to Photography Apps


Coming soon to the iPhone and iPad augmented reality becomes more powerful and will bring a new dimension to the three photography related applications I sell. Specifically, the next version of the iOS operating system, version 11.3, will include vertical plane detection in it’s ARKit framework. What that means for all you non-nerd folks is that your phone or tablet will soon be able to detect walls and place objects on them like paintings and pictures.

For the free Nature & Wildlife Pictures app, users will be able to use AR to preview the for sale images in a variety of frames and sizes in their own homes, on their own walls before making any purchase. Get it Straight and Canvas Art users will be able to use their edited images to mount in a variety of frames and sizes so they can see what their completed art looks like on the wall before going through the time and expense of printing the image.

Augmented Reality was first introduced to the iPhone and iPad in September of last year. At that time horizontal plane detection was fully functional and placing  virtual objects on floors, table tops, and counters was all the rage. I have been testing the vertical experience since it has been available and I can say it works quite well and as soon as the feature is available to the public new versions of my apps will be released. I am anticipating this to be in about 4-6 weeks.

You can download the Nature & Wildlife app or Get it Straight app today.


Seattle Stickies


Seattle Stickies is now available on the iOS app store. They are available as a free download to all iPad and iPhone owners for a limited time.

It is a collection of Messages stickers celebrating the landmarks and culture of Seattle and the Puget Sound. Great for residents and travelers. These stickers are made in the distinctive canvas art style. Help celebrate the art and culture of all Washington by using these free stickers today.



Get a High Resolution Copy of This Image For Free


Version 3.1 of Nature & Wildlife Pictures is now available with many new images and performance improvements. NWP is a free download with most of the 60 downloadable images available at no additional cost including the one at the top of this post. There are also additional images available for sale.

Among the other improvements the app now allows image purchases on both the phone and iPad and the entire process is more robust and informative to the user. Previously purchased images are now shaded in green on both the phone and iPad and allows users to easily restore purchases they have already paid. This version is also translated into Spanish and shows local currency rates for all countries.

Nature & Wildlife Pictures is a free download for all users so if you enjoy the pictures you see on this blog you will love the application.


Get It Straight


Do you know what camera makes the most pictures in the world? It’s not a Cannon or Nikon, the camera that makes the most images around the world is the camera built into the Apple iPhone. But you probably knew that already. The thing is, good cameras on good phones are a great way to make images. Granted there will be no great bird photography on a smart phone in the foreseeable future, but because high end smart phones have so much computing power it is very possible to take high resolution images, edit them, and store or share them all from the same device with quality comparable to expensive DSLR cameras.

The last couple of years I have made a lot of pictures with my iPhones and often they are just fine after the edits I can make right in the Apple Photos application. But, there are times when I make a panorama or architectural photo and there is the lens distortion we see on most wide angle shots. You know what I am talking about, trees that are at an angle or windows that are not straight. It is common and easily fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop but I became really bothered that I needed to send images to the evil Adobe to make just one edit. I set out to build a better way to fix that distortion right on the phone and even better right in the app where the photo is stored. That led to the birth of Get It Straight tagged as The missing link to mobile photo editing. That’s because I really do believe it provides the one editing feature the native application does not have.

The standalone application offers users the ability to import images from many sources, adjust the horizon, adjust the perspective, set a crop, export and share the edited image. As a Photos Editing Extension users are able to jump into the extension while editing the image and adjust the horizon and perspective while making all the other light and color edits the application offers.

Get It Straight is available for a one time price of $1.99USD on the app store for iPhone and iPad. You can download it here.

It’s Been a While

Washington12-18-2016 (122 of 134)It has been a while. To get every one caught up, I have been working as a photographer the last few years but not in any capacity that allowed me to travel or shoot wildlife. It was sort of like a commercial CSI role, lots of documentary photos and technical writing. That gig has ended for now.

I am now pleased to announce that I have moved to the Pacific Northwest and I am back on the hunt in a wildlife rich environment. While I am out photographing birds and other wildlife regularly the nature of this blog is going to be different than in years gone by. I don’t plan to publish new instructional posts but will repost older relevant tutorials. I will not post on weekly basis either, in all honesty that is just too demanding and does not have enough payback to make it worthwhile.

Some of you may remember that in addition to photography I am also a software developer. I am pleased to announce that over the past couple of years I have created a number of nature or photography related applications and the Diary of a Birdshooter blog will be home to those applications with content and tutorials to help the users of the applications.

Defining Moments

Photo by Chris Gardner

Photo by Chris Gardner

Back in the day, on a job long since gone I was told to lie to customers. Not a one time thing to get out of a jam but as a matter of policy. A matter of policy when some extra effort on behalf of other workers would have eliminated the temptation to lie in the first place. That was a defining moment for me, they way the order so easily left the senders mouth, no hesitation, no level of discomfort or angst. I knew that I no longer wanted to be associated with that business or the person running it. For better or worse it is the moment that put me on the path to where I am today.

Another defining moment, one for bird photographers, is the day one puts down the money to own a top-notch lens. Back in the day that was pretty clearly defined, a top-notch lens was simply considered to be the longest lens the camera manufacturer makes with only a few exceptions, but today that is different. With skyrocketing prices and a flood of third party lenses that suspiciously all get rave reviews that step forward gets cloudy. Stay thirsty my friends, in the end the moment is clear-cut and a well defined moment, all be it a very expensive one.

I have a friend that I met a Bosque del apache a few years ago. He recently made the decision to plunk down the funds for a new Nikon 500mm lens and then put the effort into learning the lens and his photos have never looked better. Today I present for the first time a photograph from another photographer, the hard to find Green Jay from Chris Gardner. Thank You Chris!

You Don’t Say’s

Say's Phoebe

I’m not the kind of guy that keeps track of all the different birds I encounter. I’m not that guy even though apps like iBird Pro make it very easy to keep track of sightings. After a while though, you just don’t see many new species of bird without making plans to do so with a trip to a new place. I doubt that it is a bird I have not seen before as it is rather common but it is a bird I have not noticed or specifically photographed and that is kind of cool. With a moderate amount of rainfall here in Southern California everything is once again turning green, something we have not seen in a very long time.It made for a fun afternoon shooting and discovering the new bird.

You can’t tell from the image above but the bird I am writing about is the Say’s Phoebe an unremarkable and common bird that just happened to stand out in the fields of green, but still something new is fun to see.

Say's Phoebe 1

Patterns, Arcs, and Circles

turkey vulture at bolsa chica

200mm f6.3 200iso 1/1250sec

Contrary to what some people believe birds don’t generally fly for the fun of it. As far as I can tell and all things being equal, they would just as soon remain stationary. Food, shelter, saftey, and procreation are a birds motivation in life and all of their flying time serves one of those needs. They are creatures of habit and are always going to perform repeating patterns in flight. They like to fly along a shore line for example, and you will often see birds carry twigs on the exact same route when nest building. I know of one osprey that has a favorite fishing hole and most every day that bird can be found sitting on a branch above the hole waiting for the right fish to come along then swoops down to grab it.

Generally, they will also take off and land into the wind. That tells us that most birds very seldom fly in straight lines. All birds are going to circle around the nest at some point or follow the curves in the shoreline or river bed looking for food. Soaring birds always make circular patterns. Use this to your advantage, set up and track from profile all the way to head on and get a series of images. Many cameras acquire and track focus much better when the subject is moving across the field of view rather than straight at you. Using that technique will make things easier for the camera to do its job.

Background, Background, Background

Raquet Tail roller at Sandiego zoo-1

300mm f4 200iso 1/50sec

The one thing that will always make or break a photo is the background. Second to the subject the background is the single most important feature that must appear in every photograph. Most of the time the photographer wants to have the background blurred out as much as possible. This allows the viewer to concentrate on the subject which presumably is in focus. I always hear that a good photographer should buy a really fast lens and shoot at a wide aperture to get great blurred backgrounds, also known as “bokeh”. That is great advice but in the world of avian photography it is more complicated than that and I will try to explain a couple of things that have worked out for me in getting pleasing backgrounds.

There are also times when you need to have the background in focus and essentially it becomes the main subject. Take for example a bird silhouette against a sunset or moonscape. This may sound like a fairly easy, straight forward type of photograph but there are some important things that have to happen in order to get both your bird and background in focus.

Just to illustrate how big a deal the background really is, look at the image at the top. It is one of my favorite pictures of a Raquet Tailed Roller from a trip I made to the San Diego Zoo. Now look at the image below. That is the same bird on the same branch taken less than a minute apart. Look at how awful that background is. You may think that one of these images has some clever Photoshop work done to it. Well I am here to tell you that I am not that clever. The whole secret to getting that more pleasing image was to take about a half step closer to the subject and a couple of steps to the left. That is all a product of being mindful of both the subject and the background.

Raquet Tail roller at Sandiego zoo

300mm f4 200iso 1/60sec

  • Always be mindful of both your subject and the background. It is very helpful to search for the background you want in a target rich area and then wait for the birds to come into that background area. It will take experience to know if the background you want is an area where the birds will want to go but just remember that birds are creatures of habit, if they do it once chances are they will do it again. Be careful of branches, twigs, and hotspots. Some of this stuff can be photoshoped but it is always better to get it right in camera.
  • The ratio of focal distance to the distance between the subject and background has the most profound effect on the detail of the background. This is true when using any super telephoto lens especially when using a crop sensor camera. So, if you are looking for that super blurry background you want to be as close as possible to the subject and have as much distance as possible between the subject and the background. conversely, if you want the subject and background to be in focus you will want to have some distance between yourself and the subject and also stop down the aperture as much as possible.
  • Don’t be too concerned about the aperture settings effect on the background. Typically I  only concern myself with aperture settings in regards to the subject. I set it so I will get the detail in the birds where I want it and no more. When using a lens 300mm or more at close distance the depth of field is going to be very shallow anyhow.
  • Search for complimentary colors. If you have all those other things working for you the background will very often be just a swath of color. Try to choose colors that will compliment the subject. For example, one of my favorite photos is a white egret  against an all blue background caused by the ocean.
  • Try to get the background lighting similar to the lighting of the subject. Doing a high key or dark background is very dramatic but a little goes a long way and in general you will want to have the whole scene evenly lit.

Those are my few tips for getting pleasing backgrounds. Thanks for reading and I hope you comeback soon.

Thanks for stopping by and please remember you can always get a copy of my iPad application Wildlife &Nature Wallpapers from iTunes below.