The Great Journey in Photography

Posts tagged “wildlifeHD

Crunchy Thin Shell

Brown Pelican takes flight

OK, so I am going to get all technical on you today. Recently I heard a very informed person mention the Brown Pelican was not hurt by the chemical DDT which was banned back in the ’70’s. While this is technically true in that the birds themselves were not effected by the chemical in the environment, there was, it is thought, a significant impact on the population. I thought another person duped by clever manipulation of the facts. Rather than making the birds sick the chemical is thought to cause significant thinning of the egg shells (about 12%) of many bird species including the Brown Pelican. After a moment of satisfaction on my part, the informed person caught himself and stated just that, but then went on to say that even the thin shell theory is subject to debate. That led me think it may be true that the evil chemical DDT did not cause the thinning of the egg shells either. Let’ take a closer look.

On Nov. 17, 2009 the Department of the Interior removed the Brown Pelican from the Federal list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. The 29 page document goes into great detail about the measures taken to help the Brown, population changes, and even the impact of global climate change, but I did not find any reference to DDT or any other toxin once thought to be the primary cause of threatening the existence of the Pelican. During the time of protection many steps were taken to support the birds, creation of natural habitats, responsible management of oil spills were 2 large factors. Not only did the government take actions to stop the things leading to population decreases but created factors to increase populations. It worked. Still I thought it odd the main culprits not referenced in the document. A little more research uncovered some facts about DDT and the impact on egg shells.

First of all DDT actually has no effect on the eggshells is in fact thought to be a compound known as DDE (Dichlorodiphenyldichloroethylene) a by-product of DDT that is stored in the body fat of raptors and waterfowl. There is a measured correlation of DDE levels and shell thickness but also there is conflicting data. For example the Brown Pelican shells improved with the removal of DDT from the environment but after 40 years of the chemical being banned, California Condors still suffer from thin shells. It is thought that 6-10 years is required to flush traces thought the environment. It is even admitted the DDE damage is a hit and miss effect completely unchanging many bird species, in particular domestic breeds.

So yeah it is subject to debate, not only if it causes shell thinning but also how the DDE is introduced to the birds that are impacted.

You can own your own full resolution of todays photo for just 99 cents. It is part of the iPad application Wildlife & Nature Wallpapers. Download it today.

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Of Least Concern

least concern pigeon-1

“To be the business or interest of”, that is how Merriam -Webster defines the word concern and the conservation status of many birds is called “Least Concern”. Obviously that means that there is no concern or danger of that type of bird disappearing from the face of the earth. Ironically, the moniker also translates in another way. It seems as though the common birds draw least concern from those who photograph them. It kind of makes sense in that it is believed to be more of a challenge to make images of birds that are hard to find but in reality isn’t that just matter of patience or having the ability to purchase air fare to travel to where the bird is in promising numbers? The question being, does that make one a better photographer? It may indeed be rightfully so but it seems as though the more money spent making an image the bigger the treasure and that for some least concern falls on the common bird.

I like to photograph these pigeons but they are plentiful in my area and so I seldom show pictures of the pigeons. I never think about whether or not they are common to other people in other parts of the world, they are just the same old pigeon. The pigeon is not super easy to photograph, no bird is, either. Reality is that if you can make a nice sharp picture of any bird it is in its self an accomplishment. Believe it or not there are many very accomplished photographers out there who do not have a prayer of making a bird image on the fly. Photographing the pigeon is not as easy as it would appear either, for one thing they often bob their head back and forth making it hard to get real sharp eyes, a common characteristic of some raptors.

If you follow this blog regular you may notice that we have had some rain the past few weeks and that background has come back to the normal green and Fall colors it is supposed to be. A little late in the season but I will take everything I can get :).

One thing that is of great concern to me is sharing the latest version of my iPad application Nature and Wildlife Wallpapers. Get it at theApp Store today.

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Bleak Critique

Coopers hawk at Bolsa Chica Reserve

Last week I lamented the fact that I did not like the two images I was presenting and that at times there can be overriding factors as to whether an image is worthy of publication. I didn’t like the photos because they were of poor quality in my opinion. The stuff was worthy of publication because it documented strange and unusual occurrences. Today lets take a look at the hawk image and first focus on why I think it is of poor quality. There are three things that I don’t like about the image, what do you think they are? Take a moment, look at it, and make a note of what you think is wrong.

coopers hawk in the yard-11

420mm f4 250iso 1/60sec

OK pencils down.
Lets review.
First the image is not as sharp as it should be. True that, but exactly why is it not so sharp? Shutter speed is indeed quite low we all have to agree, crop sensor, 300mm with a 1.4x teleconverter says I need around a 1/500sec shutter compensate with the Nikon VR vibration reduction and maybe one could push the speed down to around 1/125sec. So it is simple, not enough shutter speed. But wait, look close and you will see the feet of the hawk are quite sharp. Oh you might say, in that case the depth of field is just too shallow because the head is not nearly as sharp as the feet. Nope, I won’t go into the detail here but given the distance math proves the focal plane should have both the head and feet in focus, in fact the head and feet are very close to being on the same plane in the first place. The real culprit does go back to shutter speed but it about movement related to the scene not the camera and lens. a theory that I have yet to confirm or deny it’s that many bird and raptors in particular quickly oscillate their heads as part of their focus mechanism. It makes sense in that it would help aid in-depth perception to have more than one perspective to reference in your vision. In any case, it is important to remember that movement in the scene is in no way effected by and VR, IS, OS, or any other optical stabilization offered by the camera or lens. Movement in the scene also is not in any way effected by the focal length that is being used, so if you scene requires a minimum shutter of 1/160sec that is it, no further math involved, and no way to get around it.

The key to making the sharpest possible image at extremely low shutter speeds is to make a lot of images. Set that frame rate as high as it will go and burn a bunch of images but it also increases the chances that it will capture that very brief moment when you the camera and lens are free of movement as well as the subject in the scene. Yeah it really works. When in doubt drop the hammer and chances are pretty good the will be a sharp one in the group.

Another thing I don’t like about this photo is the background, in a word it sucks. Even though it is nice and blurry there is a pattern in the background and that pattern is the tell-tale curse of the chain link fence. It is fairly easy to eliminate chain link fence infant of your wildlife subject but behind is another story. In this case it was at an effective focal length of 630mm shooting wide open at f4 fence about 15 feet behind the subject. As you can see it is nice and blurry but the pattern of the chain link is visible. Because this fencing is often coated with a bright galvanized finish it usually contrasts with the rest of the background, overly bright if in sunlight or dark in shade. Removing the unwanted lines is more difficult than it appears in Photoshop also, so don’t think it is easily fixed problem.

Lastly, I just don’t like the colors. It is OK I suppose but there is a sharp contrast between the ground and the rest of the background. It creates a horizon line with a hard transition from tan to green. We are in the midst of a severe drought this year and much of the foliage is off-color. Normally this time of year that chain link fence would not even be visible, it would be covered in green and gold making a sometimes spectacular background. Mother has given us a difficult situation and the is only one good way to handle that, try different perspectives. Go higher or lower than the usual comfort positions and always be mindful of the back ground.

Today I am also including one of my favorite hawk pictures so you won’t feel cheated on a good image for another week :). Thank You for stopping by, I hope my little reminders and failures help you and your photography.

Please, don’t forget you can download the latest version of my iPad application Nature and Wildlife Wallpaper below.

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Look at Me, I’m a Creative!

Pair of Sandhill Cranes

Today I am wondering just what  is creativity? Maybe a more appropriately what makes a person a creative? A term that gets bandied about is “I am a creative” almost as if it is a statement of ones IQ score. I am sure there are some definitive definitions of the phrase in the job market and if there are any of those boasters that are in fact speaking about their employment, Stop It, you have a job, we get it. I suspect though that most if not all the self-proclaimed creatives out there say it as reference to their state of being and it makes me wonder just what is a creative? It must be a poet, a writer, a musician, a big idea maker, that makes sense, creatives who make the world a better place. They create stuff we all live for and we are all grateful for their genius. I look at architecture on a daily basis and those masterpieces are created by architects and engineers who, last I checked, are not poets or artists and are thought of as the mathematical right side brain lot yet some architecture is the most creative efforts on earth.

I would say that the least creative person I have ever known would swear on a stack of bibles that he in fact lives and breathes creativity. In fact that person is a delusional slave to dogma taken to an extreme as I suspect is a common trait among self-proclaimed creatives. Could it be that just because you want to be creative, make you a creative? The second least creative person I have ever known, myself sits here before you earning a living writing, taking pictures, and, wait for it, creating software! I never considered myself as  a creative, in fact I never really thought about it until I started hearing the phrase on a regular basis a year or two ago. I never thought that going over the rule of thirds in my mind hundreds of thousands times qualifies to be a creative, could never have imagined that holding a phone in one hand doing simple addition and subtraction and more complex math, pencil on paper, with the other is really being creative.

One of the cute little ironies of the creative life is that it is usually considered taboo “take the easy way” or the path of least resistance, one must sweat, bang heads, pour out their blood for the craft, literally be one step away from death in order to produce the best product, yet everything has to flow. Don’t deny it the word flow is used all the time and the essence of that coveted principal is nothing but a path of least resistance. Be it wind, light, liquid, electricity, in nature everything that flows is in reality just taking a path of least resistance. How cool is that. I guess the ultimate in creativity would be to make water flow uphill? Not really, that’s just crazy.

Maybe I am missing something, like that has never happened before, but maybe creativity is just a synonym of hard work.

Thanks for stopping by everybody. If this is your first time visiting the blog thanks again, I usually write about photography technique etc. but often get into a philosophy session about life because we all have that in common and usually relates to nature and photography in many ways. Download on of my iOS apps too please.

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Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers

Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers

It is a little bit of preaching to the choir but today I wanted to mention the update to one of my iPad apps that was released this week and give thanks for the response it has had. Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers is an iOS application that went through a complete make over in that it has become just what it says it is, some nice photos included in the price of the app. The previous versions followed a model that called for packing as much features as possible, most of which only do an average job. Just like the operating system the app runs on NWW has gone through a thorough cleaning eliminating all the fluff and drilling down to do just one thing. The number of photos included in the app has been increased from 9 to 51 and all those images are full resolution and downloadable for users to use at their leisure as long as it is for personal use. It is a bit of preaching to the choir in that I presume that most of you readers are photographers in your own right and thus already have your own images, but I do think it is relevant in that this is really a way to sell our images and I bet a bunch of you would like to do just that right about now. Am I right?

In addition to making the images developing and marketing a mobile application requires a tremendous amount of skill and dedication and hiring some one to do it for you can be expensive but places like the Apple App Store are far-reaching and NWW is being seen by a lot of people who otherwise never could know about it. There is flexibility in the store too because in addition to the purchase price I can also attach a premium to certain images and users can purchase images based on size and usage as need be. If you are spending all kinds of money at a place like Smug Mug and noticing that they make no effort to reach out on your behalf you may consider putting some images out in the form of an application.

In the few days that the NWW update has been available I have had the best response of any application I have had to date. Thanks to everyone who bought or updated the app this week and to anyone who may be on the fence about buying I can tell you that the price is an introduction, in the coming weeks pricing will change and many of the images will no longer be available for free. Stay tuned in the coming months as I keep everyone up to date and show just how well Nature & Wildlife Wallpapers performs and adapts to the market.

Thanks again everyone. Learn more about NWW below.

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Epic Fail

Crowned Sparrow on a wire

The plan this week was to have some video and a few stills of Brown Pelican antics that were made with the GoPro Hero 3 camera. I needed to test out the camera for another project I am working on so I figured I would try out some wide-angle video for birds. I had a good plan I knew where I wanted to mount the camera. one static spot on a rock near the waterline where Browns routinely dive for fish and also mounted atop the 300mm f2.8. I had scheduled 3 sessions figuring one of them would wash out leaving 2 good attempts to get some footage. One of the big attractions of the Hero 3 is the applications available for the iOS devices that allow you to control the camera remotely. The first morning I set the Hero 3 up in my backyard the first thing I noticed was there was a very long delay in the video to the iPad, I also saw that it indicated a low battery after I had just charged it. A short time later the camera was dead. After charging it and checking the battery it was non responsive. Checking online there seems to be a number of complaints with the same issue. I tried a couple of “tricks” to get it working but no luck. Sorry Go Pro you are a No Go, I will be looking for other solutions in my project.

Plan 2.
I have some old gear I need to sell to help finance the new years planed expenses and what can sell photo gear better than some nice photos made with said gear, plus I wanted to make sure everything was in good working condition. Even my newest gear is old and that is why I am selling off a bunch of it. To get better equipment. It is painful using the oldest stuff, cameras and lenses I once thought to be really good no longer cut the mustard and results are frustrating. I wonder about the photo above. It is not an image that I consider to be good. The day I made that picture I had numerous beautiful scenes to set up upon and I did and I waited and waited and not a single time did a bird come into view. my best shot was this little sparrow on a wire. Bird on a wire is not a classy scene in high-end bird photography and I kind of wonder why. Is it because it is supposed to be easier to make or is it supposed to be ugly? Honestly, I find neither to be true. I actually like a bird perched on a nice rusty piece of barbed wire, it highlights the whole foot area of the bird which can be complex. Anyhow this image is not great quality either, too much contrast even though the light was pretty good.
Not a great way to close out 2013, “epic fail” as the kids would say.

Thanks for stopping by everyone, I really appreciate having a chance to share my thoughts and images with you and 2014 is going to be a great year. “Epic Not Fail” right?… “Epic Fail-Not”? Whatever!

 


Fall Color

Sparrow

490mm f6.3 500iso 1/60sec

Just a quick message today everyone. It’s Fall and the season is all about the colors. Even here where many of the trees and foliage are green year round, you can easily find colors of the season if you look for them. Incorporating the colors of Fall into your bird images not only makes for a pleasing picture but also gives context as to when and where the image was made. Even if you are shooting out your kitchen door into the backyard like me today, include the color of the season. You can’t go wrong.


Ready Set…. 2

American Wigeon

500mm f8.0 250iso 1/640sec

The week before last I ran down the lens choice and a couple of other things to take to Alaska. One of the things that helped drive the decision to go with the Tamron was the Nikon D800 Digital body. At 36 mega-pixels the D800 has a lot to offer with the big files and incredible low light performance and in theory should work very well with the slow Tamron 500mm lens. I should be able to crop away and or compensate for any vignettes and boost sensitivity enough to keep the shutter speed high enough for the slow f6.3 aperture at 500mm.. I am renting the D800 though because I just could not bring myself to buy last Summer, and that is because of  the one huge limitation, shutter speed. The D800 is just too slow to be a well-rounded camera body that I can use day in and out. I want to wait for something better to come along. For special uses like huge portraits and close low light situations the D800 will shine I am sure and that is what it will be used for.

The other really big item to prep is weather protection. This morning the place where I am going to be is 37 degrees with rain forecast for the next 5 days. For a Southern California boy that is simply brutal. Preparing to handle the elements is probably the biggest challenge of the entire adventure. Lenscoat makes wet weather protection  at reasonable prices and there is also the bit pricier Aquatech. I already use lenscoat covers so I am going with their pro series camera and lens cover. I am sure it will work just fine. My body is another story. I didn’t know what to buy, I know I don’t have what I need sitting in the closet short of some thermal underwear and hiking boots. I turned to Amazon for two reasons. First, a lot of the clothing I need is hard to find in retail stores in Southern California, and if you can find it, overpriced. Second, there are reviews to guide me towards the higher quality products. To my surprise cold weather clothes are more affordable than I thought. Boots, pants, gloves, headgear and a nice supply of warmers came in at less than $300. Less than what I budgeted. Making my buys during the hottest days of Summer helped too, I am sure.

 

Thanks for stopping by everyone. Stop by next week for another fun installment of Diary of a Birdshooter.


Moving Pictures

Since most of the hoopla about shooting video with DSLR is starting to die out a bit, I thought it would be a good time to start looking at making some videos. I spent most of my writing time editing this week so I have very little to add. Next week I will most likely share a couple of tips I picked up. For now I present a video made with the Nikon D300s with the 300 f2.8 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter. Quality is not great but I really want to start shooting at long focal lengths and this has an effective length of 630mm. Soon I will have a much better video camera and I am sure the quality will improve.


Shameless Self Promotion

Snow Geese at Bosque Del Apache

800mm f5.6 320iso 1/500sec

Wait a minute! I have shame. No, not shameful but I have shame. I went to Catholic school so I am pretty sure I have a double dose in fact. I think many people have a hard time warming up to the notion of shameless self promotion, many are most comfortable when they don’t draw any attention to themselves. But that is in conflict with making great bird photos and getting others to see,enjoy, and maybe even buy them. So do we desperately search for painless self promotion? Sure we do, just look at all the websites and services that claim to promote your brand in exchange for your money. That begs the question: does any one do shameless promotion on your behalf? Not so much. Right?

I am currently in the process of dropping the Smug Mug service this month because I can’t justify the price. They don’t do anything to promote your work. I have been there for years paying the maximum fee and there has been no attempt to promote products. The interface is OK, main appeal is a shopping cart but setting it up is complicated and time-consuming. Spending hundreds of dollars and a cut of every print sale for a shopping cart is not that great, and besides, I am really looking for shameless promotion.

Flickr. What can I say about Flickr? I have heard “if you want a hug go to Flickr”. Once the hottest thing in town Flickr was the place a photographer had to be. There were plenty stories of photographers and artists getting work through the service but also many a stolen picture  that started public life on the service. That was back in the day though, as time passed Flickr became a has been and today is in the process of reinventing its self. Probably not going to end well as the official purpose of a social site is now data mining, where you are the product not your product.Grab a hug and move on.

500px and G+? Yeah, they are great places to be if you need other photographers to see your work. There is value in that, but you have to know that other photographers have zero interest in buying or promoting your work. Good for networking but not for selling or promotion.

Bottom line is unless you are a miracle worker or wealthy enough to hire an agent you will have to warm up to the idea of shameless self promotion. The two best ways to get your brand out in the internet are to a) build your own website and b) use a popular blogging platform like this one. You own website will be totally under your own control you can even have a shopping cart if you wish. The biggest drawback is that it takes views to get views. Somehow you have to drive some traffic to get a high enough Google or Bing ranking to be noticed. Good content and design helps a lot. On the other hand, popular blog platforms like WordPress generate a lot of views and rank well right off the bat. Combine the two and you will get your best results. Keywords and tags are vital too. The can make, and I firmly believe, break you. Be sure to keyword every photograph and every blog post, keyword your website with your specialty and location because that will help those who want you find you.

OK- So those are a couple of tips for navigating the web to get your images noticed. Next week I will look at some vintage self promotion and why it still works.Wildlife HD

Thanks for stopping by everyone, don’t forget to download my iPad application if you haven’t already. Wildlife HD is available in the iTunes store worldwide. Spanish edition is coming soon.