The Great Journey in Photography

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Seattle Stickies

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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.

 

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Get a High Resolution Copy of This Image For Free

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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.

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Get It Straight

GISImage

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.

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The Golden Moment

Snowy Egret at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve

420mm f5.6 250iso 1/1,250sec

Every time I have a sunset shoot there is always a Golden Moment. After most of the action has settled down and most of the birds have wandered off for the evening comes the golden moment. Look around, the light is weak but the colors are most saturated to the eye. It will only last a few minutes. Look around and often you will find a lone bird, maybe fishing or just hanging out. Make that your last salute to the day and I bet you will get a bunch of keepers. A couple of things to remember though, the light is always very weak so make sure you check any exposure compensation settings in the camera and always have support available because you will probably need it. Try to make portraits during the golden moment because birds in flight are not only sparse but are a lot more difficult to make.

One more quick tip. Many DSLR’s have a fine tune function. Nikon calls it “AF Fine Tune” and Cannon says “Micro Adjust”. These features are to compensate for any Front/Back focus problems. There are devices to check for focus problems but a very cheap and straight forward way to check is to take repeated photos of newsprint at a variety of settings, compare them and obviously use the one that is best. I have not to date deeded to make any adjustments for lenses but I have made a very slight adjustment on a lens and  tele-converter combo. When adding a TC the chances of errors is increased because the lens is now passing its data through a second connection and another device. With time and wear I think the ability to adjust the focus plane can be a valuable tool. If your camera supports it give it a check, you just might get yourself some sharper images.

Thanks for reading. I hope you enjoyed todays photo Snowy Egret in “Fortress of Solitude”

You can see more photos of mine here.

And don’t forget, those of you with iPads can download my Wildlife application Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers and get some free high resolution images for just 99cents, while it lasts.

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Good, Bad, and the Ugly

Great Blue Heron in Flight

300mm f4.5 250iso 1/2000sec

There is nothing blue about them. They are white, gray, black, and even some yellow and green but no blue. I’m talking about the misnamed Great Blue Heron. I guess one could say that the light grey takes on the look of a bluish gray but that is stretching it in my opinion. Great Blue is the largest of the Heron family and is considered a coastal wading bird, they are common along the East and West coast and in the Southern states of the United States.

Great Blue Heron Feeding Young

500mm f6.3 250iso 1/160sec

The photo here with the adult feeding the young has special meaning to me as it was the first series of images I made of the Great Blue Heron. It was also the first time I photographed at 500mm focal length. The lens was a brand new Tamron 200-500 on an old rickety tripod and ballhead. The scene was actually quite dark with the sun at my back completely covered in clouds. Shutter speed was down to 1/160 or below and I was pretty much holding on for dear life trying to keep the camera steady watching the young pop up from the nest from time to time when all of a sudden the adult circled above my head and came in for a landing. I was in the right place at the right time and got one of the more memorable images of my life. All the feeding was over in remarkably short order and in moments the sun was completely obscured and fog rolled in. How did I know to find these birds? Well that part was pretty easy. In the parking lot of the reserve I followed the guy with the most expensive gear. Yup, he hiked in before sunrise about a mile with me trailing him, he set up and waited and I set up right behind him and waited, he didn’t say a word, I didn’t say a word. Many other photographers came by took a few shots and wandered off and not a single one of them got the feeding shots that we both did. Sometimes ignorance really is bliss and it pays to play follow the leader when you don’t know what you are doing.

I have photographed the Great Blue Heron many times over the years and in spite of their size they can be rather challenging to shoot. Every time out I do better than the time before but still I am often disappointed. Perhaps I trick myself into thinking that it is easier than it really is and get lazy about it all. Big slow-moving birds that have neutral colors, what more can you ask for?  They tend to be shy and separate themselves from humans on a three-dimensional level (they always want to be higher or lower as well as distant) and that makes things extra tough. When they are hunting or hanging out in a tree these Herons will stand perfectly still for long periods of time so there is never a rush to get the shot just realize that you are going to be at a distance. The best literature I have read about photographing the Great Blue Heron is located on Moose Peterson’s website and rather than trying to repeat what he wrote I will link to that post and let you enjoy it in all it’s glory here.

Great Blue Heron

500mm f9 250iso 1/750sec

It may just be bad memory but I think I am drawn to the Great Blue Heron from a sinister cartoon character in my childhood. Sometimes they just look like they are pondering some evil deed.

You can see more of my pictures at www.ronboyddesign.com