A little blog about a wildlife shoot. Not sure what is the black thing across the swallow footage, probably camera strap.
aircraft, airplane, albatoss, aviation, B17, bird, history, Midway, Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, National Wildlife Refuge, photo, photograph, photography, plane, Tillamook Air Museum, wildlife, workshop
As someone seriously pursuing professional photography, photography workshops are a bit different. If I had the money and was an amateur photographer, I imagine I’d be going on a ton of them. As a pro, I believe in continuing education heavily, but the selection process gets much more stringent.
The first selection criteria, is the workshop teaching something I really need or want to learn and I think I’d do much better with some hands-on learning than an online course or something. Also, the ability to arrange the hands-on training without paying someone else comes into play.
The second criteria; does the workshop have arrangements, such as special access to subjects or travel plans that it’s certainly worth it to pay someone else to arrange rather than set it up yourself. An idea that is similar to hiring a producer for a commercial shoot.
From these criteria, I certainly haven’t participated in many workshops, but when I have, they have been fantastic experiences.
The most fun thus far, has been my trip to Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge. This trip was light on the instruction, assumption was that participants pretty much knew what we were doing. There was an instructor available for any help needed, but it was a freestyle setting. At the time, when I was a part time photographer and full time food quality lab technician, my focus was wildlife photography. I’ve always loved history though and thus, the combination of the great seabird photography with the history on the island was very exciting.
The days were full of excitement, yet very relaxing. We’d get up before dawn and walk over to the Clipper House, a nice French bistro themed around the Pan Am Clippers that made Midway the second stop on their flights across the Pacific. The food was fantastic and the service friendly and humbling as I don’t know that I’ve ever seen anyone work as hard as the two ladies that worked the dining area. Then it was off to shooting. The wildlife was so easy to find and approach that we were able to fulfill any plans we made within an hour or so, thus we came up with a lot of different ideas to try in a week’s time. Then lunch would roll around, so it was off to what used to be the old Navy mess hall. Here the food was a choice of typical American, such as Hamburgers, or authentic Sri Lankan cuisine. I tried a lot of different fabulous curries.
After lunch, most of us took a nap through the harsh light of midday. Then we finished the day off with some more shooting and dinner at the Clipper House immediately after sunset.
All of this shooting and eating fun was topped off with great times with a bunch of people with similar interests, but diverse backgrounds. We had a WWII Navy fighter pilot, a woman who watched the attack on Pearl Harbor from her yard, and a Swedish woman who was not at all interested in photography but was there as she wanted to bird Midway but thought photographers would be better company since she wasn’t a lister. We even ran into the Secretary of the Navy who was on a tour of ex-Navy bases in the Pacific. It was fascinating to listen to one of his bodyguards, a fighter pilot during Desert Storm, swap war stories with the WWII fighter pilot in our party.
Now, my big plan for this summer is a different sort of workshop; Madras A2A X. This is a workshop to teach us some of the skills of air to air photography and provide a general experience built for photographers at a local airshow. It is heavier on the education than my earlier Midway trip; fortunately since I need to learn some things about planning shoots like this and related safety issues. Since I’ve become a full-time photographer my focus has shifted more to vehicles and people and photographing them together, so this is well targeted. My favorite vehicles are definitely vintage aircraft.
The second slide show here is from the Airshow of the Cascades from 2013, the workshop will be built around the 2014 show.
If you’re interested in this sort of thing I suggest you strongly consider this workshop. If you’d like to see some images from our instructors and organizers, the Facebook fan page for the workshop is a great place for that, https://www.facebook.com/madrasa2ax.
In the month of July I made a return trip to my favorite dragonfly location, Freeway Ponds Park in Albany, Oregon. I did everything the same as I did on Nature Photography Day, but since it was a little later in the summer, was able to photograph more dragonflies.
Battered dragonflies seemed to be the order of the day, I’m not precisely sure what the deal was, but it seemed that many dragonflies had spent the night down in the grasses, this isn’t necessarily unusual, but apparently when they started in the morning they started flapping their wings before they got out of the grasses and tore up their wings. This provided for the opportunity for extreme facial close-ups. I was sad to see these dragonflies self-destruct, but photographers must take advantage of the situations presented to them.
If dragonfly images were more marketable, I’d probably bore you to tears with them.
Take a closer look at the gallery of dragonflies.
Earlier this year, my stock agent gave some suggestions of BLM lands that might be productive. My favorite spot along the Oregon Coast, Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area, was on this list. Thus, when I saw an article in the Statesman Journal about how there was a pair of Peregrine Falcons nesting right along the parking lot for the visitors’ center, I knew I had to get out there right away.
When I got there, it turned out the falcons had already fledged. This made the photography a little more difficult as it made the location of the falcons a little less predictable. However, it was early after fledging, so the youngsters were still entirely dependent on the adults for food. The fledglings would rest on the cliffs in the vicinity of the visitors’ center and the adults would periodically bring in gulls for them to eat.
In fact upon our arrival, within minutes we found an adult eating on a nearby cliff. He did leave within minutes, but I decided to wait around in the exact location for a little while. In under a half an hour we saw some fledglings and an adult flyby a few times. Then while watching a gull soar on the obstruction currents off the cliff we saw another bird quickly dive in and hit the gull. This contact lasted only briefly and I missed it, but prepared myself for another opportunity. The faster bird wheeled around and dove in again on the gull. Everything was happening so fast, that I wasn’t sure what was going on, or if this faster bird was a Peregrine. However, given the situation with the fledglings needing so much food and the family not venturing far from this location, I thought it was a good bet that this was one of the adult falcons trying to catch a meal. Thus, I swung my 400mm f/2.8 with a 2x extender on it around, focused on whatever it was that was going on, and held the shutter release down at my 1dMkIII’s highest frame rate.
It was only after it was all over and I did some chimping on the view screen that I saw that this was indeed a death struggle between an adult Peregrine Falcon and a fledgling Western Gull. The falcon had the gull by the neck but the gull was still conscious and struggling trying to bite the falcon. The falcon for its part was trying to bite the gull near the brain stem.
This first experience of the shoot was the most exciting, but the next two days were all good.
This post is considerably more issue related than most of my posts have made lately. It is inspired by an opportunity I think is on my horizon to photograph an animal in the wild that doesn’t always happen.
The issue in question, is it better to photograph an animal in the wild than in captivity? I’ll say right up front, my opinion is that it’s definitely “better” to photograph wild.
However, I do feel there is a place for captive shots. I do feel the photographer has the obligation to consider the conduct of those caring for the animals to determine if these are ethical shots to make. Admittedly, I was once less enlightened on this matter, although, I never did believe in blanket use of captive regardless of conditions.
I feel that the place for the captive photos comes from the fact that many species would hardly appear in print if it wasn’t for photos made in captivity. This lowers awareness of the species in the public, which I feel is a negative.
I can certainly, understand all of the negatives associated with captive photos. Today, my stance is that animals should only be photographed in captivity when they are in captivity for conservation, rehabilitation, research, or education. The fee you pay should be part of funding the cause. I once photographed captive wildlife under other circumstances, but will not do so going forward. The captive Red-tailed Hawk pictured above was part of an educational program.
The final image is of a wild Bobcat, an animal I initially thought I’d only be able to photograph in captivity, but have been able to photograph in the wild a few times.
I enjoy Fern Ridge reservoir as a photographic destination, despite the many disparaging remarks you’ll hear about the location in the Eugene area. Of course, most of these disparaging remarks are from folks who want a great place to swim and ski and the things they’re complaining about are precisely what us wildlife photographers love; namely marshy shorelines. Specifically the state wildlife areas on some of the shores make a great destination.
I have used this location to teach the insect photography workshop I once taught.
If there is one complaint I have it is that the walking trails are primarily the dikes for water control and these are covered with large rocks. This is a minor quibble and primarily means protect your ankles while walking there because there is a decent chance of twisting them.
I have primarily made macro images there, but there are good bird opportunities also. I once saw a Peregrine Falcon feeding on a Yellowlegs there, unfortunately this took place too far away for any good images.
Please take a look at a variety of my macro wildlife images.
I can hardly believe that I’m going to be writing about a city park as a place to photograph in my blog. Stanley Park isn’t your typical city park, however.
Located in Vancouver British Columbia, it is huge. There are many more opportunities to shoot than most city parks. The opportunities cover a wide range of topics too. There is wildlife, cityscapes, and cultural details.
I am a duck fanatic, so you will notice there are many duck images in the slideshow. Ducks weren’t my primary goal, but I couldn’t control myself when I saw Goldeneyes approaching within a few feet. I don’t personally like feeding wildlife, other than perching birds, to photograph them. However, I have no problem with taking advantage of birds that others have habituated. There are plenty of opportunities that are made difficult because people have made wildlife nervous.
Anyhow, if you are in the area, I highly recommend that you stop by.
Above I have a slide show running of what are my most successful images from a business perspective. I find it amusing that two of these images are so successful. To be sure I am happy about it. My point, is that it is impossible to predict what your clients will like. Thus, I’d suggest that within the broader area of your specialties, photograph everything. Some of my specialties include wildlife, aviation and historical artifacts. Thus, it is very useful to photograph everything that falls under these categories. I originally did this because as a wildlife/conservation photographer I thought it was important to tell the story of all the animals. Later, I discovered that there’s no predicting how an image will be used and thus business wise it makes sense to photograph tons of different things too (with some limiting on this to maintain your “branding”; we hear a lot today about the pitfalls of generalization in this business, keep this in mind.) Now, I wouldn’t recommend traveling across the country and spending tons of money to photograph some odd thing that you don’t feel would ever be used, but if you traveled to a location for a different reason and the opportunity presents itself for the other item, capitalize upon it.
By the way, if you didn’t guess it was the Dickcissel photo that I felt confident in its usefulness at the moment of the shutter release.
Today I thought I’d discuss a bit about the post processing techniques behind my new portfolio.
The first step is choosing the right photos. For the high-key shots it is necessary to have a mostly light photo with some detail on your subject being dark and just the inverse of that for the low-key shots. I find that this leaves a fairly wide selection for the high-key shots, but I could only get side-lit shots to work well for the low-key.
After choosing the photo comes the fun part. In Lightroom, right click on the photo and choose edit>edit in Silver Exex Pro2. For the high-key shots I start with the fine art high key preset. I immediately delete the border, I’m not a big fan of borders being hard-baked into my image files. Then I apply one of the white border vignettes. Then tweak the settings to accentuate the overall light feel to the image, while making the detail in my animal adequate. This might mean amplifying the blacks or often a little localized editing using control points. For example, place a very small control point on the eyes and increase contrast and structure to taste.
For the low-key shots, I use one of the lens-falloff vignettes. Tweak the image to get a mostly dark image with some part of your subject light. If detail falls too dark on the subject, use a control point placed on the dark side of the subject and increase the structure. This brings out the detail on that side without lightening it too much. You then might decide to increase the brightness as well, but I typically don’t. This increasing structure on the dark side works similarly to detail extractor in the new Color Efex Pro4 plugin – my favorite filter in that plugin.
Another very important thing to remember is your choice of the color filter to use in Silver Efex Pro 2 has a big influence on this effect and can get you a long way to where you want to be in just one click, remember to experiment with them.
I keep forgetting that this would make a great blog subject. I seem to have this tendency to write about new discoveries of mine and I’ve been going to Finley for quite awhile now. Then I remembered I haven’t written about it here.
William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge is the headquarters unit of the Willamette Valley National Wildlife Refuge Complex and is located just south of Corvallis, OR along 99W. It is one of my favorite photography locations and the reasons range from its proximity to my home to the diversity of habitats and subjects there. Finley not only hosts great wildlife, but also historical landmarks, expanding the photographic potential into the realm of architecture from the typicl wildlife refuge, wildlife, landscapes and macro. Further, if you are strictly interested in the nature subjects, Finley offers woodland, prairies, savanna, and marshes for making images.
Another cool thing for photographers, Finley is named after one of our own. William L. Finley was an important conservation photographer in the early days.
Take a look at the official site.